Great thread!! Something close to my heart.. and my thighs...
How to keep horses fit, and stay fit enough myself to be able to do it without forcing them to lunge etc...
Before horses, I would go on what I called power hikes, where I would jog as far as I could and then walk, then jog, then walk, and so on. I was younger then but the concept is still good I think!
I do this, but running is not so good for me, so often I power walk with Sunrise. At first it was a bit of a drag (literally!
) because her walk was too slow, and her trot too fast.. but then I turned it into fun for her, with lots of praise and the occasional reinforcement, and taught her to be responsible for keeping the line loose at all times. That meant that she had to walk, trot, walk, trot, walk, trot, while I kept up the same "racing walk" pace. At first I had to cue her, but then she caught on by herself, and she'll begin trotting as she gets to the end of the rope behind me, and then slow to a walk when she's getting to the end of the rope in front of me. The spinoff is that it REALLY improved her trot, from being quite high headed, to being nice and slow and rounded... thousands of transitions!
We've also done lots of ponying. Still pony Harlequin a bit. I try to get them out for at least a four km journey at least twice a week. And let them gallop twice a week..take them over to the field in the evening when they're up for it, and arrange the grouping so that there's a couple of energetic horses together with a more energy concious model, and they'll all usually do a ten or fifteen minute gallop and play.
And for the rest it's just the training that I do beside them.
Although I am teaching Sunrise to trot poles now.. using R+ as a motivator, and gradually chaining things together so she can do a couple of rounds before I need to reinforce her. In the begining, I reinforced for just walking over a pole.. then only for walking over a pole without hitting it (biggie for her!
), then for walking two or three poles.. then only if she trotted.. etc. She goes looking for poles now, so that's working out well.
Something Ella has done with Harlequin, which is great for his confidence training too, has been to take him for walks up the driveway, loose, give him a little picnic when he gets there, then race him home. (about 150 metres each way.. ) Some days they've done that ten times.. so it adds up.
My husband was taking Footprint slow jogging with him for a while, four times a week, training for Marathon and triathlon. That was GREAT! She was the best she's ever been.
It's a bit of challenge isn't it, to be creative and non-pressuring about this, but make sure that they get what they need. I do feel that beyond making sure the feed is low enough in sugars, restricting food intake is not the best way to weight control. So exercise is really key..
I have not sought the horse of bits, bridles, saddles and shackles,
But the horse of the wind, the horse of freedom, the horse of the dream. [Robert Vavra]