Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Patience, Long Slow Distance Important for Conditioning Horses for Competition - Full Article

by: Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service
March 21 2009, Article # 13821

Horses on vacation since October or November, when the owner stopped riding, can't be expected to perform the way they did in the fall. It's important to get their cardiovascular systems as well as their bones, muscles and tendons back in shape before pushing them to their maximums.

Vacations are great for relaxing and recharging, but in just a little more than three weeks at rest, a horse can start to get out of shape. "You have to realize that your horse is not in the shape that he was in when he went on vacation," said Steve Jones, M.S., associate professor and equine specialist for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service. "There's not going to be much change in three weeks, but after that you'll start having a fairly rapid decline if they're not doing anything."

Jones would prefer to ride his horses just about every day, and because of the year-round clinics Jones handles through his job, he does ride more often than many horse owners. But with daylight savings time and winter weather, he finds that it's usually dark in the morning when he feeds them before work and then it's dark in the afternoon when he gets home to feed them again--and that makes it hard to hit the trail.

"You'll be surprised how life can interfere," he said. "I haven't been on a horse in about three weeks now and I'm having withdrawal. Mine have been on vacation--which every once in a while they need--but I do I ride year-round and I keep them in pretty good shape. Still, I'd hate to know that I had to ride one all day right now because I don't think they're in that kind of shape."


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