Protecting our horses is a big part of our responsibility as riders and trainers. Because “fitness” is our best defense against injuries to them, we need to study it.
Webster’s Dictionary is not much use in defining fitness, and Wikipedia is no better. In the absence of any help from these sources, I define fitness to mean our horses are physically and mentally capable of performing their tasks without undue stress or fatigue.
I will talk about the mental preparation of your horse in future columns, but this month I want to discuss his physical preparation. I am old-fashioned about this; I do not think there are any shortcuts to fitness. Physical fitness takes a long time to develop, and it involves a great deal of effort. At the same time, if you make the effort, I promise you will never feel such a sense of pride and satisfaction as when your horse completes the cross-country at your destination Classic and pulls up obviously thinking, “Is that all you got?”
Along the same lines, my father used to say, “A good horse, well trained, will jig home from a three-day event.” I have seen it and I have done it, and to this day I remember my elation at feeling my horse after a serious competition, still well and obviously full of himself. These are worthwhile goals, and we need to start now to produce fit, sound, healthy and cheerful horse