Fitness: Did you know it isn’t just for people?
Horses, like humans, need to build muscle (which takes a long time to gain, unlike fat), flexibility (key to avoiding injury), stamina (athletic power) and Endurance (the ability withstand exertion) if they are to be successful athletes and stay sound.
I fear too many novice and casual riders (heck, professional do it, too) forget horses aren’t naturally in shape for being ridden. I suspect many injuries would be avoided in horses if we took the time to make sure our horses were conditions for whatever was being asked of them.
Conditioning a horse means a lot of work for his person or trainer. It is exercise and proper nutrition routinely. It initially means slow and consistent work. It means increasing the work and flexibility of the horse over time.
You cannot purchase a former pasture puff and take him on a 3 hour trail ride the next day if you have a care for his well-being. You also can’t take a flabby horse used to a 15 minutes walk in the ring once a week and ride him in the ring 3 days in a row for half an hour at the walk, trot and canter and be a considerate owner.
Also, please do not forget, conformation affects what a horse can do. All horses cannot perform at the same level no matter how much or well you condition them; this is where having a basic, working knowledge of how a horse is and should be put together, matters
Some additional reading for moving forward with a conditions plan and extra knowledge: