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The secrets behind getting your horse competition fit

The summer competition season is fast approaching and whether you have big dreams of making it to HOYS or just want to get to your first ever competition you have to ensure that both you and your horse are ready. But where do you start?

In this post we will discuss:

  1. How to come back from a winter off

  2. How to improve your horse's fitness and performance

  3. What’s the most important exercise to add to your horse's routine?

So let's start with the first step in any fitness routine, assessing your horse's current fitness. This takes into account any injuries (past or current), the amount of time off and what work your horse did previously or is currently doing and also their general condition such as weight and energy level.

I find the horses generally fit into 4 categories:

  1. Injured or just recovered in which case they need to see a vet physio for a professional rehab plan

  2. Out of work where they have had an extensive period off and need to start from scratch

  3. In work but not yet fit or have areas where they are struggling e.g. stiffness where again consulting a vet physio will help to rule any underlying conditions

  4. In work and fit but ready to take the next step into maintaining fitness

So let's take a deeper dive into some of these areas.

First let's look at- How to come back after a winter off

This is where most of our out of work horses will fall. But it’s important to remember that if your horse has had this time off due to an injury then you need to seek professional help before trying any of the techniques mentioned here.

For those who have had a long break the first step for both them and us as riders are to get back into a routine of working. I suggest you start with some groundwork such as in hand walking, long-reining or gentle oval lunging. These may seem a little simple or boring but they are a perfect way to keep track of your horse's progress and monitor them for any areas you need to improve.

You can also start your horse off with a core fitness program. Core fitness is the key to our horse's topline and being able to be ridden without developing back pain. If you want to know more about creating a core plan for your horse check out my webinar all about it here (

But my favourite exercises to get started with are:

  1. Ab lifts

  2. Cavaletti

  3. Tail pulls

But what about the next step? Once your horse is back into the routine of work and has gained some core strength you can start riding again (if this is something you’re aiming for). Start with some walk hacks and build from there. I love to add in puddles, inclines, declines and some gentle schooling.

But what about if you just want to improve fitness and performance?

This is where most of our in work horses sit. They are in regular work but you want that extra sparkle to take them further in competition so what’s missing?

I would urge you all to get started with a core plan (see above) but if you’ve already done that and are looking for something else then there are a few options.

If your horse struggles with limb movement e.g. they don’t lift their feet when they collect or struggle with extension or tight turns for example then you can create a whole-body plan for your horse. More info on that here (

But my favourites to get you going are:

  1. Cavaletti.. again I know

  2. Baited and leg stretches but please consult a vet physio first so you have the correct technique

  3. Adding in more variety to your schooling or hacking such as gallop tracks, jumping, XC schooling or show practice runs

So you’ve probably figured out what I believe the most important thing to add to your horse's routine is by now.

For me the most important part has to be the core exercises they ensure your horse is working correctly and boost their topline giving them the perfect look and strength for any competition.

I’d love to hear how you get on so please let me know, and if you need any further help you can contact me at

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