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  • Writer's pictureLouise Stobbs

Horses are not sports equipment

Its getting to that time of year where the summer feels within touching distance, the ground is finally (hopefully?) drying up and we’re much more motivated to do things with our horses. 🌻

It can be tempting to make the most of the weather and fill our diaries with outings and clinics and all of the things we love to do, but just take a moment to think if your horse is really ready to partake in those activities comfortably.

It is not unusual for horses to have very minimal work and turnout over the winter, it is also not unusual to see those same horses out jumping and doing the “fun stuff” within a few weeks of being back in work. There is this misconception that because horses are so big and strong they are perfectly equipped to be jumping and galloping around, but they are not designed to be ridden, we need to condition them slowly and thoughtfully for the work we’d like them to do if we want to avoid problems.

It was common practice on a big yard I used to be on to take the horses to the beach or the gallops and race around for a few hours, which sounds like a lovely thing to do. But these horses were maybe ridden twice a week and would do one lap of canter round the school on a good day. Taking a completely unfit horse out and galloping them around is not only unfair but highly likely to result in injury and soreness. 🐎

I was recently out on a XC course and watched some young girls being encouraged to jump their very tired ponies again and again and again even though they were clearly struggling to even maintain a canter, got to make the most of the outing? If your horse feels tired, stop jumping, even if the trainer is pushing, you need to be the advocate as you'll be the one who has the accident.

It is so easy to misconstrue anxiety and stress for excitement, horses that are full of adrenalin feel fitter than they are and its easy to push and think they’re really “up for it”. They’re still going to feel very fatigued and sore at the end of it. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

We also need to take into account how tiring and stressful travelling can be for horses, balancing in a moving vehicle is hard work. So if your horse isn’t used to going out and about and is only used to being ridden for 30 mins twice a week, maybe think twice before going to that weekend clinic and riding for 2 hours every day. 🥱

I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad for wanting to do fun things with their horse, but fun for who? We need to stop normalising treating horses like this. If you want to do these fun activities but aren’t prepared/able to put the training in so that your horse is capable of doing them comfortably, then maybe try a bike. 🚲 🤷🏻‍♀️

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