Many of us lament that we need to lose weight, get in shape, and tone up-especially after a long, cold winter. We may also gripe that exercising is boring or find we don't enjoy a good workout day after day.
Those of us who love to ride often complain that we never have time to do ground work, so our horses' basic manners are sorely lacking.
And those of us who own young horses may grumble that we don't know what else to do with our weanlings, yearlings, and 2-year-olds beyond daily care and teaching them some basic ground skills.
I'd like to suggest that we can solve all these issues-and have fun doing it. The name of the game is "equi-cizing." But heed this warning: This is an addictive activity. It will attract your friends….
Make Your Horse an Urban Citizen
According to a nationwide survey of 2,748 American pet owners in 2006, more than 52% of dog owners take their pets with them while exercising, and 74% said they consider their pet's health to be a major reason for including them in a regular fitness regimen.
However, most horse people never consider taking their horses out for a walk or a run around the neighborhood. We tend to think that we have to ride our horses to provide them with exercise.
Equi-cizing-taking your horse with you on a long walk or jog-is an excellent way to spend quality training time with your horse. It offers many opportunities to improve ground manners and increases your horse's exposure to obstacles and situations that can help him become a solid partner. Equi-cizing is also a great way to help you both get in better shape.
Share the Perks!
- Spend quality time with your horse during walks and runs.
- Get in condition, build muscle tone, and lose weight.
- Break up monotony and develop a positive attitude by getting out and about.
- Improve your horse's leading and ground manners.
- Despook your horse to everyday activities and noise.
- Get to know your neighbors and do a little PR for horse ownership.
- Invite your friends so they can share the benefits.
You might not think that a mile or two of daily walking or trotting will improve a horse's physical condition, but it certainly will-very few horses walk or trot that far on their own in a short, focused period of time, especially when kept on small acreages.
That distance will assist you with your own conditioning as well. Getting in shape and toning your own muscles will make you feel vibrant and strong. In turn, equi-cizing will increase your self-confidence and positive attitude in other aspects of your life. The psychological benefits to the human cannot be overstated.
You may see some attitude improvements in your horse, too. Many horses actually start looking forward to this leading workout-getting out to see the neighborhood and doing something different from being ridden. Some people report that after they have been equi-cizing, some horses pay better attention to obstacles and terrain when they are being ridden.
The walking workout allows you to meet your neighbors in a positive and more approachable manner. The old adage about "meeting people is easier with a puppy on a string" holds true because many people-especially children-will want to meet your horse and pet him. You are acting as a representative of the horse industry, so take a few extra minutes to speak with your neighbors and make new friends. Be sure to offer any cautions or instruction for approaching your horse in a friendly, positive way. You don't want to scare anyone, but you certainly don't want your neighbor to get her toes stepped on either.
A more subtle effect of the workout is your horse's increasing respect for your leadership and space. Your leading confidence will also build as you refine your ground handling skills. Equi-cizers often report that their improved awareness and leading skills transfer well to other day-to-day activities with their horses.