Daily Exercise

ALEX: Daily exercise of a horse is predetermined by what you’re going to be doing with that horse. I being a retired race horse trainer, is those horses would appear to pretty much do something 6 days a week. Other horses used in other disciplines, if it be a hunter and jumper, a roping horse, or a cutting horse, there’s going to take less activity. It really depends on the breed, the discipline, and that activity that you’re involved in. That’s where, obviously, working with a trainer will help you decide how much exercise your horse needs.

Like Steve was saying about his horse, RJ, who’s a roping horse, he rides him 2 to 3 days a week, and then he might rope every other weekend. In between that, the horse could be turned out in the field, he could be lunged on the lunge line, or let out in arena forum to just romp and play, and be happy, and everything’s fine. There are certain disciplines and breeds where you need a certain fitness level, and that’s roping, that’s cutting horses, and that’s barrel racing horses. There is a certain level of fitness you have to get to. That’s something that’s not learned overnight, that’s something that should be worked with with a trainer to determine what needs to be done on a daily basis, a weekly basis, and also a monthly basis. What you don’t want to do is take your horse and enter into a competition when he’s not at the right fitness level.

Some disadvantage from not getting your horse out of the stall enough is that you probably will lose some fitness level if it’s a competitive-type horse. The other part of it is probably from a mental standpoint; if they don’t get enough activity, they get agitated, they’re going to be hard to handle, it’s not conducive to having a happy horse. I think from a health standpoint, I think there’s some concerns that being in the stalls too long, their legs can stock up, they can get inflammation.

STEVE: One health concern in particular is that if you have a horse that you’ve been utilizing regularly and all of a sudden you cut down on their activity level quite significantly and they’re on the same amount of diet, they store a lot of glycogen, a lot of energy products in their muscles. When you bring them out, and if they haven’t had regular conditioning, what happens is they will release a lot of lactic acid right away and this could irritate large muscle groups, especially over the lower back and in the hips. What we see is these horses get extremely stiff, their muscles get really inflamed and really, really hard, and they don’t move very well. It’s known as Tying-Up Syndrome or Azoturia. A common or layman term for it is Monday morning disease. The reason why is because you basically have a horse that you keep on this heavy diet and he’s been on routine of working out all of a sudden, you got a bunch of carbohydrates stored up in him and you take him out and you take the same level, it’s not such a good thing. They cramp up. It’s probably now analogous- to a full-body cramp, and when they get that, it’s pretty serious; it’s a pretty big problem.

ALEX: It could be very serious as well, though?

STEVE: Yeah, it could be life-threatening. The biggest problem you have is when you release a bunch of breakdown products from the muscles, you release what is known as myoglobin that can filter through the kidneys and you can create tremendous problems with their kidneys as well, and it could be a health-threatening situation.