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Conditioning - Laying down a good foundation

ďDo you not know that in a race all runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training...Ē 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 New International Version - The Bible

No matter what your beliefs concerning the bible are I have found that it carries much wisdom and truth, even in the field of training horses. Whenever one aspires to compete in a breed circuit they become an athlete in training. If you are starting a colt or bringing a horse in from the pasture after a seasonal rest, prepare yourself for a month of conditioning. The foundation to any good training program is conditioning.

Why conditioning?

First, it dramatically reduces the occurrence of soreness and injury due to over exertion. When athletes are prepared physically and mentally for technical training the process is quicker and more rewarding with less injury. This brings about a much more compliant and happy equine athlete. If you donít believe this I challenge you to go run, without your horse, an average course of a pleasure class (remember keep your head tucked and shoulders back). Repeat 8 times. How do you feel? Any soreness, strain? fatigue?. Do you want to do it again?

Secondly, it builds muscle and reduces fat. This seems to be basic knowledge but it amazes me that some people would rather try to change a horses diet than give them the exercise they need. This is important for both pleasure and halter conditioning alike. You can sculpt a horses body for itís intended use.

Finally, it gives a horse a job. This reduces mental anxiety due to boredom ( which will help in getting weight on hard to keep, high energy horses) and builds a working relationship with your horse. The more you work together the better the finished team will perform.

A basic conditioning regime

A training week is 5-6 sessions. It is best to complete a training week within a 7 day period. However, I know how busy life can get. So complete 5-6 sessions before moving to the next training week. The more dilligent you are to get your horse in shape the faster you will achieve your goal.
Before starting make sure to check your horses resting heart and respiration rate. This you will use as a reference to gage your horses' progress. It would also be wise to have your veterinarian give a clean bill of health prior to starting any training program.

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