Is Your Horse Fit For Hunting?

With the hunting season nearly upon us, thinking about your horse’s fitness is extremely important. A fit and well- conditioned horse will have reduced chance of injury and a higher chance of looking and feeling great at the end of the season.

Experts recommend that a period of eight weeks is needed in order for a horse to be brought to peak fitness safely, giving your horse’s body time to adjust to the fitness regime. Ensuring that your horse gets some good distance and miles on the clock before the first hunt of the season is therefore essential.

The general health of the horse will also play a vital role in fitness development; each horse must be treated as an individual and can be influenced by various different things-

How fit the horse currently is
How fit the horse has been previously
Any injuries that the horse has had
The horse’s age

Most fitness regimes can be broken down into three distinct stages. Stage one is slow work in order to harden up bone and tendon and it is vital that the first stage is never rushed. This is a period of slow conditioning and working on a stable or firm ground will tone up the muscle in preparation for the next stage.

Stage two is to build up strength, stamina and the basic level of fitness.You can increase the walk to a trot and can also include some canter work. Shortening your stirrups for the cater work will allow your horse to use his quarters and back more freely too. Introducing some gentle slopes at this stage is a great way to increase fitness level.

Some faster work can be introduced for stage three and some jumping to help improve agility for both horse and rider. Short schooling sessions might also be a good idea at this stage.

Sample fitness program

Week 1
20mins roadwork in walk each day

Week 2
Roadwork can be increased to 30-40 minutes per day

Week 3
Increasing roadwork to 60mins each day and introducing some hill work.

Week 4
Extend the hacking time to 90 minutes per day and on suitable ground, include some trot work.

Week 5
Exercise can be increased to two hours daily including trotting hills and some gentle schooling.

Week 6
You can increase the time spent schooling and some canter work can be introduced on suitable ground.

Week 7
You can increase the amount of time spent cantering, including some canter hill work and you can introduce some jumping.

Week 8
Continue with the current work and include some stronger canters or a controlled gallop.

Before you decide to put any fitness program in place, getting the farrier and dentist out and ensuring that vaccinations are up to date is crucial in order to give your horse the best chance, as the hunting season can be very hard on our horses.

Happy Hunting!

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