Are you planning to have an equine vacation soon? If so, make sure your horse is fit to handle the taxing camping and trail riding activities before you go. During your trip, you will most likely want to spend as many hours as possible in the saddle so as to be able to see much of the countryside. You therefore need to do yourself and your horse one big favor - ensure that the two of you are fit enough for the riding vacation.
If your horse is overweight or under-conditioned, his body will be very vulnerable to the effects of a heat stroke, saddle sores and other injuries that can be caused by equine fatigue. To avoid these eventualities, it is recommended that you put your horse in a sensible conditioning program that will help make your excursion a more pleasant experience for both of you. Such a program should start about 6 to 8 weeks prior to the trip.
Help your horse build endurance by trying interval training exercises on the trail. First, trot on level ground for 5 to 10 minutes before following that with 3 minutes of walking. Repeat this throughout every trail ride as you gradually increase the amount of time spent in trotting. Add in a few light hills after the first week of the exercise or so.
Monitor your horse's progress using a quality equine heart monitor so that you can know when he is working too hard to the detriment of his health. Although your horse’s heart rate is subject to age, weight, fitness, body temperature, as well as illness and injury, generally, a healthy adult horse's heart rate at rest is between 30 and 40 beats per minute. On the other hand, his aerobic working heart rate will range between 100 and 140 bpm.
CAUTION: If his heart rate rises beyond 180 BPM, it is time to slow down!
When it comes to your own personal comfort, you can make a number of adjustments.
Consider using a sheepskin seat cover for your saddle for extra rider comfort without having to sacrifice any "feel" of the horse. You may also want to use a water bottle holder that fits snugly to the pommel or saddle cantle so that you can have your drink of choice right there at your fingertips whenever you need it.
If your feet start going numb after many hours in the stirrup, try using a closed-cell foam stirrup pad. And don’t forget to lengthen your stirrup leathers a notch higher so as to make up for the additional height. Remember to dismount for a walk down the hills once in a while. This will, in addition to giving your horse a break, also prevent your own leg muscles from becoming sore.
Image source: flickr.com
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