The idea of ‘cross training’ is thrown around frequently in the horse industry, but often without a solid definition. Let’s clear this up now.
Cross training is engaging “in various sports or exercise especially for well-rounded health and muscular development” (1).
This literal definition explains why it’s not always easy to have a cut and dry explanation of cross training for horses. Each horse specializes in different sports within the industry, therefore how cross training fits into a horse conditioning plan will look different for each animal.
Examples of Equine Cross-Training
- Jumping a dressage horse through a course or through pole work once a week to improve the awareness of their foot placement.
- Working a show jumping horse on a hill to strengthen their hindquarter muscles.
- Taking a cow horse to a dressage lesson to improve their connection over their back.
- Exercising a barrel racing horse on an aquatic treadmill to increase musculature and fitness level.
- Hacking a horse out for longer periods of time to improve endurance.
- Any other way to get your horse doing something different away from their normal!
Why cross train your horse?
Cross training can be beneficial for the mind of both the horse and the rider! Getting horses out of the arena and out of their routine may help prevent horses from becoming sour to their usual work. Changing things up can keep horses on their toes and looking forward to what they will get to work on the next day (2,3).
There are also several physiological reasons cross training can be beneficial in a horse conditioning program.
One of the most important physical benefits of incorporating different methods of exercise while conditioning your horse is improved cardiovascular (heart) health (4). This can improve your horse’s ability to do more difficult work or to work for longer periods of time before becoming fatigued.
Additionally, cross training can help reduce the risk of injury. Constant stress that comes with the same type of exercise over and over again can lead to extra force and damage on bones, joints, and ligaments (4).
By adding different types of exercise into the fitness plan, strain can be removed from the overworked bones and joints, so they have time to heal and become stronger.
Additionally, it can help increase muscular strength in important muscles throughout the body such as the hindquarter and back. This improved strength can help reduce the risk of injury and improve performance (3).
Take Home Message
Now you know that cross training includes any exercise that is out of your horse’s normal sport. Cross training can be used to help prevent a horse becoming sour to work and keep work fun for both horse and rider. Cross training can also improve horse fitness and promote cardiovascular, skeletal, and muscular health.
In addition, to ensure that all your good training techniques are fully taken advantage of, add Medical Muscle to your barn’s toolkit. This supplement is a comprehensive muscle performance and recovery supplement that helps your horse reach his fullest potential.