While a dressage horse might be a different sort of “fit” than an event horse, there are still parts of any program that should be dedicated to developing strength and fitness in the horse. Not only will your horse be more mentally inclined to work hard for the rider, but his muscles will also be better developed for the task.
So how can you tell if your horse is fit?
To answer this question, we recruited the help of Dr. Ashley Taylor-Zion, an equine veterinarian with Sports Medicine Associates of Chester County in Pennsylvania. Dr. Taylor-Zion has worked with horses of every discipline, ranging from Olympic event horses to pleasure horses.
“One of the biggest determining factors for horse fitness is body condition and muscling,” Dr. Taylor-Zion explained. “We see a lot of different horses at various stages of their career, and we look at body condition and performance history to determine where they should be with fitness and what can be improved.”
It’s a bit easier to determine fitness for an event horse or a racehorse, she says. Cardiovascular training is already a key part of these horses’ fitness programs, so a heart monitor can tell a lot about their level of fitness. However, for horses that are not reaching those higher levels of heart rate, there are other factors to consider.
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