Training is necessary to improve performance. In a useful training you go to the limit, you keep it there for a while or you even go a little further and then you go back to the relaxation. This can be an endurance effort, but also a bend. Just by teasing the muscles a little, they get better. Provided you give them enough recovery time.
In terms of recovery after exertion, a horse needs more time than a human. Up to three days after a hard workout. While a person usually is ready again after a day. That has to do with the differences in digestion. A horse’s fiber-rich diet is slower to digest than our sandwich or energy drink. That recovery speed cannot be artificially accelerated with miracle drugs.
If you want to train a horse properly, it is wise to make a plan and keep track of how it goes, so that you can make adjustments. There are plenty of handy systems for this, but a normal notebook also helps. It is important to progress gradually. Regularity and structure ensure that a body can adapt to what is being asked. There are people who leave a horse for a week and then suddenly take him on an intensive three-hour hack, with a lot of canter and gallop. After which they leave him again for a week. A horse is naturally a better athlete than us, so it can handle that performance. But such a peak load is an attack on his body. You also get that effect if you keep a horse in the stable for 23 hours per day and then let him work hard for one hour per day. Apart from the undesirable aspect of welfare, it is unhealthy. How would you feel if we locked you up in a small bedroom and then take you to the running track once a day for an hour of training?
Play the big muscle quiz. Do you know the answer to the questions? (Read the answers here tomorrow!)
1. What percentage of the horse’s body consists of muscles?
2. Can you influence all the muscles of a horse?
3. How do you get a horse to gain more muscle?
4. What kind of nutrient is needed for muscle building?
5. Is it useful to feed a horse before training?
6. How many types of muscle cells does a horse have?
7. What type do you want for an endurance horse? And a jumping horse? And a dressage horse?
8. What happens to the back muscles if the saddle does not fit properly?
9. What is muscle pain?
10. Do horses have muscle pain in the same way as we do?
11. Is there any point in giving a horse an energy drink?
12. What should you do if a horse has a muscle injury near the fetlock joint of his left front leg?