Whether or not your horse put on extra pounds during the winter months, thoughtful consideration of a good reconditioning strategy is important to regain stamina and prevent injuries. Perhaps you have already started short walks and low-intensity exercises. It makes sense to start out slow and most horse owners know that. This guide will give additional physiological concepts to understand and monitor as you begin reconditioning your horse (or horses) after winter.
Before beginning a reconditioning regimen, there are two things you should do that will help start your horse off on the right foot.
- Get your horse evaluated by a veterinarian and a nutritionist. Both will be able to offer the best suggestions specifically for your horse and their current health state.
- Know your horse’s normal TPR (temperature, pulse, respiration), otherwise known as vital signs. Write them down. If you have more than one horse, keep a chart on hand with this information. We’ll next address why this is so important.
Knowing your horse’s normal TPR rates is useful for monitoring his progress and limitations while getting back into shape. Equine veterinarians recommend doing a TPR assessment before and after each exercise during reconditioning training. The veterinarian can show you how to easily assess these vitals. The image below shows normal equine TPR ranges, ideal rates during activity and the TPR ranges that should alert you that your horse has reached his limit!
Now that you know how to monitor your horse’s vitals and physical endurance level, you can confidently guide him through some reconditioning exercises.
As previously mentioned, starting off slow is best after months of little-to-no exercise. Begin with five minutes of walking/trotting, adding more time each day. With the right diet and exercise, your horse could be back in the game in just a few weeks!