“How often should I ride my horse?” This is a question that many riders of different types and levels ask, so here are some guidelines we thought would be helpful, in three parts because there’s lots to talk about!

First it’s important to note that, with horses, very few rules are set in stone about stuff like this. How often and long you should ride your horse(s) depends on quite a few factors, such as:

  1. How old is your horse?
  2. At what level of training is he or she?
  3. What are A) your discipline and B) long- and short-term goals for training, showing or various other achievements?
  4. What is your horse’s temperament—i.e. is he a “hot” wannabe racehorse, a lazy donkey or somewhere in between? Is he quiet or excitable?
  5. At what level of riding/fitness are you?
  6. Where do your horses live (i.e. box stall, large paddock, field, etc.) and/or how often do they get turned out to stretch their legs and exercise on their own?

But before we get into too many specifics, some general advice: To simply maintain an average level of fitness—not performance levels—a horse needs to be exercised (walk-trot-canter) three times a week, for about 20-30 minutes. Trotting builds muscle and cantering builds lungs/cardio.

Horses by nature are designed to be on their feet nearly all the time and on the move most of the time. In the wild they move as they graze across much larger distances than we give them in even our largest fenced turnout fields. So keeping them cooped up in a stall means we need to exercise them more to make up for the unnatural amount of time they spend standing still.

Of course, the natural rhythms of the seasons here in Colorado partly dictate how hard we work our horses. For several reasons, we tend to slow down in the winter and ramp up in spring. Lots of polo players give their horses the winter off, altogether! (Read our advice on how cold is too cold to ride.)

All of that said, different horses require different levels of exercise, as do different riding disciplines. In our next blog, we’ll talk about the impacts of age and training level on how often you should ride.