Whether you’re getting ready to get back in the saddle this year, or want to be ready for your upcoming shows, these seven ways to get fit can help you to become a more effective horseback rider.

There’s no denying the fact that equestrians are athletes. As athletes, we need to get as physically fit as possible. When riders are physically fit, they are better able to control their bodies and communicate with their horses. Riders also stand a better chance at staying on the horse during a buck or spook, thanks to their muscle strength. Finally, physically fit riders can be more effective than unfit riders.

With so many benefits to being a physically fit rider, what are you waiting for? Consider these seven ways to get fit for horseback riding.


Go Running

Running can be a great activity for horseback riders. Running strengthens your leg muscles, and by concentrating on your posture while you run, you can also use the time to train yourself to sit up straight and keep your shoulders back.

As a bonus, running is a cardio activity, which can improve your breath control.



Go Swimming

Swimming is a relatively low-impact activity that provides an excellent workout. Swimming is ideal when you have an injury that won’t hold up to higher-impact activities, like running.

Swimming, even just for a short time each day, can build up your strength and endurance without taking a toll on your body.



Take a Bike Ride

Consider heading out on a bike ride as another way to get physically fit. Bike riding can help to develop your leg strength, especially if you find some hills to ride up.

Just don’t forget to wear a helmet!




If you have mountains or great hiking trails nearby, grab a friend and head out for a hike. Hiking develops your muscle strength and can help to improve your balance as you work your way over different terrain.

Make sure to bring along water and snacks, and wear appropriate shoes.




Don’t forget to include a good amount of stretching with your exercise regimen. Always stretch before and after exercising to reduce your chance of injury and to keep your muscles limber.

Remember to stretch before and after you ride, too – stretching before a ride can make a big difference in your comfort and effectiveness during the ride.

Be sure not to forget the equestrian’s favorite stretch – stand on stairs, drop your heels down, and let your weight drop down into the heels. Do this stretch religiously and you’ll be better able to drop your heels down in the saddle.



Do Specific Exercises

Don’t forget to include some specific exercises meant to target the muscles that you use most as an equestrian. You’re sure to benefit from exercises that target your core, such as planking. You can also use balancing exercises to improve your balance.

Even the simple act of lifting hay bales or water buckets can help to build your strength.




You’ll love this tip – ride. As you’re trying to improve your fitness, focus on also riding more often to become a stronger rider. Make a riding schedule and stick to it. Too much for one horse? See if there’s another horse in your barn that would benefit from some exercise and offer to ride him as well.

The more that you can do to get yourself physically fit, the better a rider you’re likely to become. Plus, you’ll feel good about yourself and parts of riding (such as keeping your leg secure or getting into two-point) will become easier.


Choose the perfect body clip style for your horse, from fully bare to barely there.

You feel a sense of dread as the days start getting shorter. The air has a distinct new chill to it, and right on cue, your horse sprouts a longer, thicker coat with every passing day.

If you plan to exercise your horse at least moderately over the winter, you’ll have to deal with lots of sweat and time-consuming process to cool him out and dry his hair. If this sounds like your situation, you may want to consider body clipping.

| Prepare to Blanket |

Before you think about body clipping, consider how much time you can commit to blanketing. If you board, you must have reliable help to puff off your horse’s blanket or warm days and put it back on when temperatures dip at night.

If your horse lives at home, will you be around to change and remove blankets when needed? A horse wearing a blanket on a warm winter day can overheat and sweat, and if he is partially clipped, the wet hair can cause a chill when temperatures drop again.

You will always need at least two blankets – one lightweight turnout and one mid or heavy turnout. Many people opt to have all three, including at least one hood if you fully clip the neck.

Hunter Clip – A hunter cut leaves the legs and head unclipped.


| The Art of the Bath |

The No. 1 key to a good body clip is a clean horse. There is no shortcut here – your horse needs a bath to get clean down to the skin. a light sponge-down or rub with a towel will leave too much dirt and dust just below the surface, which will dull your clippers in a heartbeat.

Wait for a warm day or use heated water to really scrub your horse with shampoo down to the skin, and rinse thoroughly. Continue rinsing many times as needed until the water is running clear.

The dirtiest part of a horse tends to be on top of the hindquarters, so if you plan on clipping this area, pay particular attention. You may even want to take a second pass with the shampoo and hose.

When finished, allow your horse to dry completely before clipping. apply a light mist of silicone coat polish to help the clippers glide through the hair.

Blanket Clip – A blanket clip is like a trace with the neck and chest fully clipped.


| Tools for the Job |

Whatever you do, don’t attempt to clip with dull blades or underpowered clippers. You will regret it! If using rechargeable clippers, you may want to have a spare battery or extra set of clippers to swap to when your charge runs low.

If using one set of clippers for the whole job, always have at least two sets of blades on hand. Body clipping wears them down quickly, and clipping with dull blades takes at least twice as long – plus the blades get uncomfortably hot for your horse. Have a screwdriver handy if needed to switch all the blades.

Finally, you’ll need clipper oil and a brush to clean the blades. Blade wash and cooling spray are optional, but will make your life easier when you’re deep into the job and the blades are frequently too hot to continue. A quick dip or blast from the spray and they’ll be ready to go again without waiting.

Keep clipper oil, cooling spray, and a spare set of blades handy.


| Get Clipping |

If your horse is not accustomed to the larger noisier nature of body clippers, switch them on and let him feel them through the back of your hand against his shoulder. If he’s okay with the feeling, start clipping on the shoulder, going against the hair grain with the blades flat and parallel to the horse’s skin.

The neck and shoulder are best to do first, since the hair comes off easily and horses are usually comfortable being clipped here. However, your horse may be ticklish around his flanks and under his stomach, so be extremely careful when you get to this point in case he decides to kick out.

Unless you will be showing, it’s best to leave the leg hair intact for all partial body styles.

Trace a line along the muscling at the top of all four legs early on to “sketch out” where your clip will end. It’s helpful to have a buddy handy to hold your horse’s front leg up and out while you clip the loose skin around the girth area and elbows.

Trace any other borders before you continue (saddle pads, flanks, etc.). You can use chalk or masking tape, or just walk back and forth comparing the sides from a front view to make sure borders are even.

Trace Clip – Trace clips can be high or low; this one is high to allow more cooling.

Take breaks periodically if your horse gets antsy. It could be that the blades are getting too hot, so feel them with your hand frequently, and allow them to cool to a comfortable temperature before continuing.

Finish off with a smaller set of clippers to buss off the “beard” under your horse’s jaw and any other stray shaggy hairs or clipper track lines that were left behind.

Full Clip

Just remember, the only difference between a bad clipping job and a good one is the two weeks it takes for the hair to grow out a little!

| Choosing a Haircut |

If you pass the blanketing test, it’s time to decide how much hair to take off.

  • FULL CLIP: Clipping from head to toe is usually reserved for horses that compete throughout the winter, as it is a challenging job and leaves no protection whatsoever against the elements.
  • HUNTER: The next stop on the spectrum is a hunter clip, which leaves hair on the head, legs, and often the saddle area as well. Popular among foxhunters, it leaves some leg protection but otherwise requires the same fastidious blanketing routines as a full clip.
  • BLANKET: The ultra-versatile blanket clip leaves the same hair as the hunter, plus a “quarter sheet” of fur over the loins and hindquarters. All the important sweating areas (neck, flanks, girth area) are clipped, but your horse’s back has the extra warmth of his winter coat. Blanketing can be slightly more minimal, although still very important.
  • TRACE: The trace clip is perhaps the most popular partial clip, seen on many cold-weather racetracks and in barns where horses live outside all winter. Your horse may still sweat a bit, but the clip acts like unzipping a jacket, removing hair along the jugular and sweaty areas like the flanks. You can clip a high or low trace, depending on your horse’s situation.
  • STRIP: The strip clip is the most minimal clip style. It removes the hair along the underside and the neck and chest, extending to the girth area if needed.

Aaannnd just for fun.

Blanketing Tips for Your Horse

Blankets are primarily used to shield horses from varying weather conditions and climates. Providing your horse with the best fit, comfort and protection is vital to your peace of mind. The right blanket choice will help to regulate your horse’s body temperature and maintain a healthy condition.

There are 5 main types of blankets:

1. Turnout Blankets and Sheets

Using a turnout blanket or sheet will help protect your horse from harsh weather conditions such as cold, rain, wind and snow, keeping him warm and dry. There are various levels of protection and warmth available in turnout blankets, and you should consider you horse’s living and grazing conditions, the outdoor temperature, your clipping routine, weight, age and exercise level before purchasing a blanket.

2. Stable Blankets

Horses who are clipped and living indoors will benefit from a stable blanket that will provide warmth because he is unable to move around freely to generate his own body heat during colder months. Lighter weight stable blankets can also be used to help keep horses clean who mainly live inside.

3. Mesh Sheets

Mesh sheets will help prevent horses from becoming irritated by flies and midges in the summer months when they are spending more time outdoors, allowing them to relax and enjoy their grazing. These are essential for horses who are allergic to insect bites.

4. Summer Sheets

Horses that are turned out in warmer weather will benefit from a summer sheet with ultraviolet protection. With a high cotton content, they are more naturally breathable to keep your horse cool in the sun and they also help to prevent coat fading, keeping your horse clean and dust free.

5. Coolers

Generally made from wool or fleece, coolers are used after exercise, typically in colder weather, to help regulate your horse’s body temperature and prevent it from dropping too rapidly while he is cooling down.


One of the most frequently asked questions has to do with blanket weight. More specifically, horse owners want to know which weight blanket to use for certain temperatures. This is a tough question to answer because every horse is different, Weatherbeeta has put together a chart to serve as a starting point.

Keep in mind that this list does not take into consideration wind chill or precipitation, so you will need to factor those in to your decision. This is particularly important for horses who are clipped and/or live outside.

In general, you want to keep your horse warm, but you don’t want him to sweat. It’s healthier for him to be a little cold than too hot because the evaporating sweat can make your horse even colder.

Information for this article provided by Weatherbeeta North America.


The 4th of July is one of several holidays and events throughout the year celebrated with fireworks, parades, and numerous other festivities that can send horses into sensory overload. How do you keep your equids calm and safe during these holidays?

We recently asked owners to share their tips and experiences for keeping horses safe on the 4th of July. Here are some of their top tips, as well as advice from The Horse staff.

Stay Aware of Events in Your Area and Communicate with Neighbors

Be aware of scheduled firework displays in your area and neighborhood. Some areas have special ordinances in place, while others might not.

“Two years ago my next-door neighbors had a party and shot off fireworks from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m., nonstop,” said Jenni Johnson. “They are legal here. (My horses) don’t mind a few but by the end of that night we were all pretty upset.”

Chani Atrieadies said her neighbors give her about a 30-minute notice if they’re planning to use fireworks. “This gives me time to bring (my horses) in if they aren’t in already and a chance to grab my chair and bug repellent to go watch the show,” she added.

“I voiced my concerns to city officials,” said Kay Frederick.

Muffle the Sound of Fireworks with Static Noise

“We typically keep our horses in the barn and turn up the radio and fans to help drown out some of the loud noises from fireworks and nearby parties,” said Jennifer Whittle, TheHorse.com’s web producer.

Get Horses Accustomed to Loud Noises

Horses accustomed to loud noises might not have as severe a reaction to the loud noises. “We have cannons and guns firing near us twice a year at a Confederate cemetery, so fireworks are not a problem,” said Sandra Church.

Keep Horses Inside or Sheltered to Avoid Spooking and Runaways

Provide shelter away from the overhead crackling of fireworks.

“My boys have a run-in, and I place lots of hay in there so the sound is muffled, and so they can eat,” said Mary Bodane.

“My horses are behind tall trees,” said Marli Parker. “It is better if they hear but don’t see. I also have hay available. Chewing helps them relax.”

Secure, safe fencing is also important. “I make sure my electric fence is good in working order up to and during the holiday to ensure my horses know the fence is hot,” said Michelle Anderson, TheHorse.com’s digital managing editor. “In my dry region, that means keeping the area around my fence’s grounding rods damp to make sure the electric circuit is complete.”

Calming Agents and Sedatives

A few readers also mentioned using calming agents or herbal remedies to help keep horses calm.

Erica Larson, news editor of The Horse, consulted her veterinarian about keeping her gelding—who is on stall rest as he recovers from suspensory desmitis—quiet during fireworks so he doesn’t re-injure his ligament. “Fireworks haven’t been a problem in the past, but since Dorado will be the only horse in the barn during the night, my veterinarian prescribed a sedative for use if he seems agitated,” she said.

Know Your Horse

Some horses are more sensitive to firework displays than others. “My horses could not care less,” said Julianne Alley. “We have literally shot off fireworks over their heads and they didn’t flinch. I’m grateful that they are like that, because dealing with panicked horses on a small acreage is not easy.”

Others shared less than pleasant experiences with fireworks. “I lost a mare to colic the day after the fireworks,” said Kim Farmer.

However you end up celebrating July 4th, we hope it is a safe and enjoyable experience for both you and your horses!


By: Leslie Ballard

Say what you want about the “haves” and the “have nots” in the horse world, all equestrians are united in one key fact: no matter how much a horse cost, or how fancy their name might be or how much money their riders have won, all horses are capable of reverting back to nature at the worst possible time.

That’s why even experienced horsemen are occasionally left shaking their head when a “seasoned” performers balks in the in-gate, washes out in the warm-up, or throws a tantrum when loading onto the trailer. Some horses are just naturally wound more tightly than others. A spooky, anxious horse in the close confines of a barn or show grounds poses a risk not just to those around them, but to themselves. So it’s critical for horsemen to understand the root cause of consternation.

So what can you do about an especially anxious horse?


Vet it out

When a horse acts out, it’s easy to write it off as “bad behavior”, “rider/trainer error”, or a just a reaction to something they see or hear. Often times horses will take the opportunity to let you know when they are dealing with discomfort or pain. If there’s no apparent lameness, it could be an internal issue like gastric ulcers, a nutritional/metabolic deficiency, or a even a toothache. Before you think about the training process, have your horse fully vetted to ensure you aren’t exacerbating an issue.

Reinforced foundation

Is there something in particular that seems to trigger anxiety? If you can pinpoint it, you can begin to address it.

Also, consider going back to the basics. Even experienced and advanced athletes can benefit from revisiting simple exercises they mastered long ago. Perhaps a shot of confidence is just what they need. Every training session is an opportunity to further establish trust—the key to any horse/human partnership.

You are what you eat

For most equine athletes the basic pasture-hay-grain diet is a good base but not enough to maintain metabolic stability. Nutritional deficiencies impact behavior and overall health, which is why it’s important to add supplements as needed to maintain balance. Supplementing essential vitamins and minerals will not only help balance the diet, but can have a major impact on behavior. There are products on the market that can replenish these essentials while providing natural calming effects.

For instance, The Perfect Prep Calming System delivers a full spectrum of supplements that are safe and legal under USEF guidelines. The products range from daily additives like Perfect Prep Training Day to stabilize blood sugar levels, to pre-performance pastes like Perfect Prep EQ Supreme, which provide a natural calming effect and peace of mind (for you and your horse).

“When my clients ask me to suggest a calming product for their horses I always recommend Perfect Prep’s calming system,” says Dr. Alex Emerson, DVM, a sport horse specialist based in Wellington, FL. “The variety of their system of formulas means that it can be adjusted to meet the need of every horse and rider.”

Wait, are you suggesting I drug my horse?

Absolutely not. We are not talking about powerful tranquilizers here. The active ingredients in the Perfect Prep formulas are largely endogenous and naturally present in the horse, so there’s no reason to expect negative effects on metabolic function. If you want to ride a robot, perhaps you should look into getting an Equicizer.

It’s never a good idea to give your horse anything without knowing exactly what it contains. So let’s take a quick look at what’s inside Perfect Prep supplements:

These products contain essentials like magnesium which naturally relaxes

the muscles and, along with vitamin B, helps ensure the nervous system is in good running order. As an essential amino acid, tryptophan delivers a natural calming effect better known to us humans as the “post-Thanksgiving dinner siesta”. Taurine, an essential sulfonic acid, stabilizes blood sugar.

“When a horse reacts to a fright stimulus in his environment, his flight response can quickly deplete his metabolic resources often producing an anxious horse,” says Dr. Bryan McNabb, DVM, partner at Lebanon Equine Veterinary in Lebanon, OH. “Perfect Prep formulas can quickly replenish these essential vitamins and nutrients safely, providing instant anxiety relief.”

Eh, I prefer to lunge my horse before a competition to get the edge off.

That’s a popular method and can certainly be effective, but there’s a very fine line between the right amount of warm-up and going overboard.

“Excessive lungeing and riding in preparation for an event is common in the performance horse industry often causing unnecessary injuries to the horse,” Dr. McNabb cautions. “A naturally acting nutraceutical calming product makes great sense to me.”

Lungeing should be done for the purpose of enhancing focus, not creating physical fatigue. A tired body does not necessarily mean a focused mind.

Nutritional deficiencies can be the source of behavioral problems, which is why it’s important to add supplements as needed to maintain metabolic stability. Think about yourself when you get ‘hangry’. Grab a Snickers, they say, and enjoy a jolt of instant relief…until your blood sugar comes crashing back to earth and you want to curl into the fetal position. Would you want to go out and jump a course feeling like that? You would probably look for an escape route, too.

Bottom line

There are a number of factors that can cause a horse to get overly anxious. For naturally hot horses like thoroughbreds, it’s unfair to expect perfect behavior and response all the time. But it’s critical to the health of your horse (and everyone around them) that you seek out the root of the problem and address it, rather that’s through a change in training tactics, lifestyle, nutrition or all of the above. Above all else, take the time and effort to fully understand your horse and build a trusting partnership.

When it comes to horses, some things are simply unavoidable. Good, solid horsemanship is not.

All content is for informational purposes only. Contact your local veterinarian if you have any questions regarding the health of your animals.



By: Eleanor Kellon, VMD

Frozen lumpy ground can make any horse look lame but if the horse has insulin resistance there may be more going on.

The first thing to do is rule out foot pain from unforgiving ground conditions, rather than from laminitis. All horses have difficulty negotiating uneven frozen ground and their frogs and soles can become bruised. If this is the issue, all of the horses will be affected to similar extents. They will be obviously more comfortable, if not normal, in their stalls, on mats, or even on a smooth barn aisle.

The horses with true winter laminar pain will also be more comfortable off uneven frozen ground, but remain obviously lame. The lameness often appears suddenly and can be quite severe. One laminitis expert has stated nothing is more difficult to treat than winter laminitis.

These horses often have a history of prior laminitis problems, or at least a suspicion of insulin resistance/equine metabolic syndrome, but this is not always the case. Some horses have a history of winter laminitis that strikes the same time every year and is resistant to all efforts at treatment until one day in early Spring it suddenly goes away.

Winter laminitis can strike with no change in diet or management. The pain is often severe, but the feet are not hot as they are in classical acute laminitis cases. The digital pulses may or may not be elevated. Radiographs tend to remain stable in most cases, without major changes with rotation or sinking. NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories) like phenylbutazone, which are commonly used any time there is foot pain similar to this, have no positive effect.

The body’s normal response to cold is to constrict blood vessels in the periphery to reduce heat losses but in insulin resistant (IR) horses the reaction appears to be exaggerated. The role of the potent vasoconstrictor endothelin-1 in IR is well-documented. The first study investigating the role of endothelin-1 in laminitic horses looked at it in starch-induced laminitis. The most recent study confirmed that endothelin-1 is involved with laminitis due to elevated blood insulin.

With normal insulin sensitivity inside a blood vessel, the endothelial cells, when exposed to insulin, produce nitric oxide and dilate. If the cells are insulin resistant (and not responsive to insulin) they constrict under the influence of endothelin-1. A normal horse with normal circulation can adapt to the cold and will open and close vessels to perfuse areas before they reach a critical low oxygen level. IR horses have pre-existing damage—even though it may be micro-damage—to the circulation in the feet and there are higher levels of endothelin-1. Cold triggers a reduced blood supply severe enough to cause pain.

Protection against the cold is therefore the first step in combating winter related hoof pain. Horses should be protected from high winds, rain and snow. They should be blanketed, wear leg wraps to warm the lower legs and lined boots. Effective lower leg wraps include standard polos and cottons, leg warmers or even fleece lined shipping boots.

This helps, but for some horses it’s not enough. If your horse ends up with laminitis even after blanketing and wrapping, supplements to enhance blood flow may help. Herbal products known as “adaptogens” promote healthy stress responses and may be very beneficial. Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is a good one to use because it also strongly supports vascular nitric oxide production, which improves blood delivery to the extremities and feet. Jiaogulan can be given twice daily.

Amino acids like arginine and citrulline may also be very beneficial in promoting good blood flow to the hoof. Arginine is the precursor to nitric oxide which is a vasodilator. Citrulline is converted to arginine after absorption. Taurine has been found in a recent study to improve insulin sensitivity. L-glutamine is also useful to support antioxidant glutathione and carnitine derivatives to support horses with neuropathic pain and help with insulin sensitivity.

It can be confusing when the horse looks like a typical laminitis case but without the heat and high pulses. Inadequate blood supply makes perfect sense and relief is rapid if you warm the feet and legs and support circulation.


All content is for informational purposes only. Contact your local veterinarian if you have any questions regarding the health of your animals.


About the Author

Eleanor Kellon is the Staff Veterinary Specialist for Uckele Health and Nutrition. Dr. Kellon also offers private nutritional consultations and online courses through Equine Nutritional Solutions. Find out more at www.drkellon.com.