I had the pleasure of listening to Becky Hart present a couple weeks ago, and she described a rigorous training schedule she follows that consists of 6 days of both undersaddle and walking work. She mentioned that three days spent at a walk can often be completed using an "exerciser" that a lot of the top folks invest in.
This is certainly not me - I'm a newbie to the sport, but still interested in taking some tips from her conditioning plan. So here's my question: I can ride about twice a week, and have access to a hot walker at my barn. Could I use the hot walker to condition/exercise my gelding at a walk on the days I don't ride?
I live in Texas, so the idea of a machine working my horse for me during the summer months sounds amazing
Does anyone else use hot walkers or exercisers as part of their conditioning regimen? What are the pros and cons?
What do you think the maximum amount of time a day/per week a horse should spend on one?
A few things to keep in mind:
When Becky talks about her conditioning program, she has very specific goals in mind that go way beyond simply finishing an endurance ride. She will most likely go to WEG with No Repeat, and in general, trains harder because she rides harder.
It is not necessary for a "regular" mid-pack endurance rider, or even Top Ten, to invest in a walker. I have a great little mare and we do very well but I don't use any additional tools besides riding even though I have access to a Eurociser. BUT, my mare is out 24/7 on a 90-acre hilly pasture with a small herd that roams all day long and that makes a huge difference.
If your horse is not out all day and cannot walk around freely, and you can't add a third or fourth day to your riding schedule, you may want to look into using the walker. However, you need to make sure that your horse uses it correctly or you just create issues: until they learn, they often stick their head up but you need them to be "long and low" to stretch and strengthen their back. So whoever supervises your horse during this exercise needs to be able to correct this.
A regular hot walker is SMALL. The diameter of the circle is tiny compared to those free exercisers. The typical hot walker only has a 40' diameter (and any usually less!). A free exercise is usually a 60-70' diameter (and sometimes larger).
The benefits you get on a larger circle are going to be greatly diminished on the small hot walker.
Aelfleah Farm, Scurry, Texas
BLUE STAR Arabians and
Arabian-influenced Sportponies www.aelfleahfarm.com
the hot-walkers I've seen make the horses walk very slowly in a very small circle in one direction only. I would worry about the tight circle in one direction causing physical problems. I would also worry about the mind-numbing boredom inflicted on the horse if walked for a long period of time on one of these machines.
I also wonder if exercise taken on a machine carries over to real movement- for example, a lot of people are surprised to find that running on a treadmill does not really condition them for running in real life.
It would probably be better to improve the horse's turnout- some people have managed through the use of clever fence placement to create turnouts on even small acreage that basically force the horses to walk for miles every day to get from the gate to the water to the shelter to the food and back again. Contruct some hills if you don't already have them for a bonus muscle workout.
I would say it depends a bit on the walker. The one at the barn where I work is slightly larger than a 60' round pen. It is enclosed and covered and is has several "box stalls" in it that the horses go in so they aren't tied to something. You can then set the direction and the speed. It is definitely something that a horse needs trained to. Now the horses that use it aren't endurance horses they're dressage horses but it is a huge benefit to them. They also get daily turnout and riding.
Personally I would be looking at anyway to get more saddle time in or turnout before I went to the walker but if it's what you can do, then it most certainly better than only hanging out in a stall all day.
“While the rest of the species is descended from apes, redheads are descended from cats.” Mark Twain
I think this is a STOOOOOOOOOPID idea of a hot walker. I do not care WHO said this.
Aelfleah is right on spot.
Tiny circles are NOT a good thing at all for any horse for exercise.
For ***big*** circles I would attach 2 lunge lines together and lunge my horse over a varied terrain in my pasture. I did not use this as a total conditioning thing, just and every now and then thing. Just to get the horse out and a bit of exercise and he had FUN doing this!
I also bushhogged trails in my pasture and rode those. I did incorporate circles but NEVER that small. Big ones going around the corners.
Here we go: those idiot parelli people they mess the horses legs up by making them go in teenie tiny circles. I would NEVER purchase a parelli horse for those green horns (and the ones who call them pro's in the parelli dynasty) over doing a horse in teenie tiny circles over and over and over times a million due to their stupid fear to just get on and RIDE
the poor horse. How can this not hurt their legs with the tiny circles, and constant stop and turns.