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Michael Dym, V.M.D.
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Dr. Michael Dym
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How Much Should I Exercise My Horse?

Without adequate exercise, your horse could lose muscle tone, gain excess weight, and become more prone to injury when they do engage in physical activity. Even if you do not use your horse for work or competing, you can stick to a regular exercise schedule to help them maintain healthy body condition.
Before starting a new exercise routine, you may need to see a farrier and a veterinarian to ensure your horse is in shape to work out.

How Much Should I Exercise My Horse?
At the very minimum, aim to exercise your horse three times per week for at least 20 minutes.
Naturally, a horse that is stabled most of the time will need more exercise than a horse that is turned out to pasture for hours a day. While turning your horse out provides some exercise, it’s still important to incorporate interactive exercises to both deepen your bond and ensure that they’re getting their heart pumping.
There are many ways you can exercise your horse. Regardless of your exercise regimen, you’ll always want to start with a light warmup. Walking for just 10-15 minutes stimulates blood-flow to your horse’s muscles. Another 10-15 minutes of a trot, then a canter, can be enough for a horse that is just starting to become active.
Monitor your horse’s pulse before and during exercise. Always give your horse a cooldown period after exercise to allow their heart rate to return to normal.

Stepping Up Your Horse’s Exercise Regime
Depending on your goals, whether you want to take longer or more frequent rides, build your horse’s topline, help them lose weight, or participate in sports, you’ll need to go at your horse’s pace. While you start to incorporate longer cardio exercises, also remember to work on your horse’s flexibility and muscle tone.
You can strengthen your horse’s topline and core muscles by riding up and down hills. You can also try pole work, in which you lay down a series of poles for your horse to walk over.
Horses also benefit from stretches like the popular carrot stretch, in which you use a carrot as a lure to encourage your horse to bring their head to their sides and down between their legs.
Finding new ways to exercise your horse not only helps them stay fit, but also provides mental stimulation and strengthens your bond. Even if your horse does not participate in sports, continuing to challenge them with different activities keeps them healthy and happy.