A collage of several different horse riding disciplines.

Cross-Training Your Horse: Improve the Body and the Mind

By Sue Beth Bunn, Activities Committee

Are you bored of riding 20-meter circles or wondering how to help your horse gain more flexibility and stamina? Maybe it’s time to add a new discipline to your training routine. Human athletes, while specifically training in their own sport, will add CrossFit, lift weights or run to become stronger, increase stamina, and reduce the risk of injury. Horses that are cross-trained become more well-rounded and reach higher levels in their sports.

What is Cross-Training?

Cross-training with your horse involves expanding into another discipline to aid in the development of new skills and to work different muscles. Cross-training allows your horse to use and strengthen their muscles in different ways. Have you ever thought of introducing your Show Jumper to Foxhunting? Dressage training may be just what a Mounted Games or Polocrosse mount needs to become more supple and balanced. Trail obstacles can be a fun change of pace for an Eventing horse to challenge his mind and build confidence. And distance riding increases stamina in horses of all disciplines.

Benefits of Cross-Training for Horses

Cross-training is the foundation for a long and successful career for your horse. Incorporating different disciplines into your routine reduces repetitive motion injuries and breakdown of the horse’s muscles, ligaments, and joints by finding a variety of ways to work the same muscles without doing the same movement day after day. Horses can also experience improved stamina, strength, coordination, and soundness with cross-training. Cross-training in different disciplines helps improve your horse’s awareness of their body and teaches them how to use different parts of their body in ways that are beneficial to their performance.

There are mental health benefits for your horse, as well. Working on the same movements over and over can create mental stress for your horse, as well as physical stress to their body. Varying your horse’s training prevents boredom and sourness and can improve their attention span and attitude. Horses tend to be more willing to participate when their training has variety.

When you put your horse in new situations, you expose them to the unfamiliar. Being exposed to a variety of situations makes your horse less spooky and more confident to handle anything they may encounter. You can’t expect your horse to be confident in new places when they see the same things all of the time.

The benefits of cross-training are not just for the horse. As a rider, you can enjoy a mental break and gain a fresh perspective when experimenting with something new. Keeping things fresh and new can breathe life into your daily training routine.

Choose a Variety of Equestrian Disciplines

When choosing your cross-training disciplines, you need to look at the areas your horse may be lacking and find a discipline that incorporates these skills. Cross-training doesn’t have to be complicated, but should be an activity your horse enjoys.

Pony Club offers education in eleven different mounted disciplines. Try something you’ve always had an interest in!

For more information, visit www.ponyclub.org and mouse over the “Membership” menu item and then click on “Disciplines.”

Did You Know?

USPC offers mounted and unmounted opportunities and education in 17 different equine disciplines. Pony Club truly can be “where it all begins” for you to explore new ways to enjoy your mount and have him enjoy his work. Challenging yourself and your horse to try something new is a great way to improve your seat, coordinate your use of aids, and create better balance. Your horse will enjoy the break from the daily grind of repetitive training.

Over the next few months, USPC will be sharing interviews with several top athletes in many different disciplines. Check out the Pony Club communication and social media channels for discussions of the benefits different disciplines offer your horse, the importance of creating variety in any training program, and how several top trainers were first introduced to their discipline and found their passion for it.

This article about cross-training was originally published in the Fall/Winter 2022 issue of Discover USPC magazine. Read more content from that issue.

Page generated in 0.544 seconds. Stats plugin by www.blog.ca