Ahh. It’s finally here. The long awaited season of spring.
And while we may be rearing to go, some of our horses might not be nearly as excited. But who can blame them after a lazy winter spent munching on hay?
Before you saddle up and head out to a big show, weekend trail ride, or another event, it’s important to be prepared. And by prepared, I mean, your horse should be legged up. Hopefully, you started that process a month or so ago, but if not, it’s time to begin!
When not in regular exercise, our horse’s muscles lose tone and strength. Blood circulation slows. Ligaments and tendons can grow tighter. It’s the same as what happens to us when we binge on Netflix and popcorn over the winter.
But now that it’s spring, here are three tips for legging your horse up:
1.) Start slow. For the first week or two, I suggest mainly walking. Ride some easy trails, around the pasture, or even alongside the road (if your horse is used to that sort of thing). But walking will get those muscles warm and loose and help prevent overexertion and injury as your horse is getting back into the swing of things. After several days of walking, move up to a trot (you might find that you need this slow transition, too!), and then, finally, up to a canter or gallop.
2.) Be consistent. Riding your horse once a week isn’t going to do much for him. Instead, develop a schedule, maybe riding for two days, taking a break, and then riding two more days. Four days a week is optimal at first. As your horse gets into better shape, you can move up to five or six days a week.
3.) Incorporate hill work. If at all possible, ride your horse up and down hills. This is a great way to build muscle, tendon, and ligament strength and it’s also a fantastic cardiovascular workout. Again, start by walking up and down hills, but as time goes on, you can move up to trotting and cantering (only going up though!)
Legging your horse up will take a minimum of four weeks, and six weeks might be a better target to shoot for if you plan to compete in speed or jumping events. But during this process, you’ll find that you will get in better shape along with your horse. It’s really a win-win situation!
Happy riding and feel free to share your best legging-up tips in the comments below.
**Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as an owner/barefoot trimmer and certified equine acupressure practitioner. She hosts the blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse, where she regularly shares information on barefoot, equine nutrition, and holistic horse health. Once an avid barrel racer, Casie now enjoys just giving back to the horses who have given her so much. Follow Casie at www.casiebazay.com.