Book Review: 33 Strength and Fitness Workouts for Horses

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By Jec Aristotle Ballou

Trafalgar Square Books, 2024, ISBN 9781646011865, 132 pages; hardcover, Reviewed by Tania Millen

Publication date: June 2024

Reviewed by Tania Millen

Riders often focus on training their horses to do specific movements such as those needed for dressage, show jumping, cutting, reining, or myriad other sports. However, focusing on teaching skills rather than increasing strength and fitness can lead to potential unsoundness or a shorter competitive lifespan.

Jec Aristotle Ballou believes that lack of fitness reduces performance and “a well-prepared body can do incredible things.” Her new book, 33 Strength and Fitness Workouts for Horses, is based on the premise that well-designed workouts can help horses remain sound and healthy over the long term.

The first section of the book describes how to use it and who it’s for. Ballou writes that fitness relies on intensity, frequency, and duration, not just doing a bunch of exercises. She explains how to build more complete baseline fitness using groundwork routines — something that is often forgotten in the haste of starting young horses. Baseline fitness is generally achieved after horses have been exercised three or four times per week for at least 25 minutes over six weeks.

Ballou then provides numerous strength and endurance exercises for horses that already have a fitness base. The variety of exercises allows riders to “change it up” every two weeks so that their horse’s muscles continue to develop, and their fitness doesn’t plateau. Extensive photographs help explain the exercises while helpful tips keep riders on track. Some exercises require poles; others a simple elevated platform (bridge or pallet) or slight incline, but minimal equipment is needed.

The text is accessible; readers don’t need a scientific background to understand the concepts. However, for those keen on deeper understanding, Ballou does a great job of explaining exercise principles and how different exercises build fitness in one of three systems: cardiovascular, strength, or coordination/proprioception.

Full workouts are also provided so that riders can structure their weeks and months to achieve both fitness and competitive or skills-based goals. The benefits of every workout are summarized along with tidbits of information about how the horse’s fitness will increase. The “how-to” sections are excellent, with clear descriptions of what to do. Brief success stories are also scattered throughout, offering inspiration and real-world examples of how riders have used the exercises.

All told, this is a must-have book for every rider’s tack locker. Whether you’re fitting up a youngster, rehabilitating an injured equine partner, or looking for a competitive edge, this book will make it easy to create fitness plans. Just follow the workout “recipes” and reap the benefits of a sound, healthy, happy horse.

Read an excerpt from 33 Strength and Fitness Workouts for Horses

Read more reviews here.

Book Review: 33 Strength & Fitness Workouts for Horses

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