Factors to Consider When Preparing Your Horse
Horses emerge from a stall or a pasture in a very specific state of mind, body and emotion. Just like us, every day is a new day. You can never take for granted that your horse comes out in a particular way on any given day. Your job is to tune into your horse so you can get him ready for the day’s task at hand.
So how do you know when your horse is ready to perform at his best?
Consider these three factors:
1. Physical readiness in his body is the first preparation piece. A horse’s muscles must be warm in order to do athletic activity or they risk physical injury. A warm-up that starts at a walk and progresses to a trot and then to a canter is good. A simple rule of thumb is to get a light sweat on your horse’s neck and hips. Get his body warm to your touch.
2. Mental/emotional focus is a second preparation factor. Some horses may be prone to looking around or shying from tractors or blowing flags. A great way to get a horse to focus is to walk him in a small circle several times or flex him while walking … and then give him a slack rein and let him relax down. The rule of thumb here is to give the horse something to do that he knows so he can focus his mind on a familiar action … and then let him relax. Depending on the horse, you may have to do this many times over before you feel he is totally focused. Also a systematic pre-ride ritual is a great way to get a horse ready for a performance. In addition, when your horse’s energy level is more “down” he will focus more readily.
3. Energy level is the third preparation factor. How down does your horse need to be to perform at his best? More “laid back” horses need less exercise to release excess energy than a high-strung horse. Knowing how long to ride and how to design the exercise routine are key ingredients in getting your horse’s energy state just right … not too tired and not too fresh. Once the ideal energy level is reached, trotting is a great way to maintain that just-right level.