Just like with any animal, horses need exercise to stay healthy. Most people own horses to ride, whether for work or for fun. However, occasional riding alone is not necessarily enough for a horse to live an active, healthy lifestyle. There are many factors that go into a proper exercise routine for horses.
First, it pays to understand the nuances of your horse. Some breeds may need more exercise than others, for example. The age of your horse will also contribute to its exercise needs, as older horses may have less energy and ability than younger ones. Additionally, illnesses or other physical conditions may limit the amount of exercise a horse should or could do.
The kind of exercise and the length of time you exercise your horse is also important. Horses need at least 30 minutes of exercise each day, with one hour or more being preferable. If a horse is kept in a stable at all times, it will need more exercise. A lack of exercise can lead to health conditions, such as circulation problems and swelling of the legs. These conditions can become quite serious over time, so it is essential to spend no less than 20 minutes per day walking your horse at a steady pace.
Another factor you should consider with regards to exercise is how much food your horse is eating. As horses go through stages of more or less intense exercise, the amount of food they are given needs to also scale. Many horses become accustomed to eating a hefty diet after working all day on a ranch or competing in events. However, as these horses age, they will need to slowly transition back to a diet that is more suitable to a lower-intensity lifestyle.
Similarly, horses that are in poor physical shape cannot suddenly go from sedentary to constant activity. Just like with humans, building muscle strength and endurance comes over time. A sedentary human wouldn’t suddenly do 100 pull-ups, for example, so you can’t expect horses to be able to go from staying in stables to trotting for hours. Don’t be afraid to challenge your horse, but understand the point where a workout becomes painful and do not go that far.
It is easy enough to get horses exercising if you remain patient and are committed to staying on top of an exercise regimen.