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How to Build Endurance in Your Performance Horse in 4 Easy Tips

Last updated on February 4, 2024

How to Build Endurance in Your Performance Horse in 4 Easy Tips

buckskin barrel horse and blonde woman

Not sure HOW to build endurance in your performance horse? Are you questioning whether you really need to? Let’s set the scene: You’ve packed, prepped, practiced, and prayed. Now it’s your turn to make your run. You do your part, have great hand placement, and stay balanced in the saddle. Your horse knows their cues and handles the ground well. But when you round the last barrel and head for home, your trusty steed seems to run out of fuel shortly after turning the third barrel. You lean up and urge with a smooch and a few kicks. Maybe even encourage with an over-under tucked away for such a time. 

But still, nothing gives. Each stride leaves a touch of disappointment as you know this is NOT as fast as your horse can go. Knowing better than to think your equine partner would quit on you intentionally, you resolve to get to the bottom of the issue and truly figure out what gives. Why is your horse running out of steam? Why are they lacking the endurance and last burst of speed others seem to have?

Sound familiar? Well, then it’s safe to say your horse needs to increase their stamina. But HOW do you build endurance?? Are you just doomed to run out of gas before the finish line, or is it something that can be fixed? Have no fear; there are ways to increase a horse’s endurance level and do better at future competitions!

How to Build Endurance in Your Horse With 4 Easy Steps

1. Build the Correct Muscle Fibers

Horses- like people- have what we call “slow twitch” and “fast twitch” muscle fibers. Think of “slow twitch” as the muscle fibers that help in long-duration, fairly low-intensity exercises. Marathon runners who need to go slow and steady for insane distances have more slow twitch muscle fibers. Fast twitch muscle fibers are the kind that give explosiveness in high-intensity, short-lived activities like short-distance sprinting. 

For a deeper dive into the differences and necessity of these muscle fibers, check out this article from Kentucky Equine Research.

Even though we have both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, and NEED both, the ones that athletes intentionally develop should align with their sports and goals. 

Unfortunately, we as trainers and riders can easily get into a rut and forget to develop our horses’ muscles in accordance with their sport. 

There was a time that I had a horse “running out of gas” only to look up and ask, “How often am I sprinting her?” Turns out it was only when I RAN her. No wonder her get up and go, got up and went. 

If you find that your performance horse lacks the last push sprint before the finish line, consider incorporating some sprint workouts into your horse’s weekly or bi-weekly exercise schedule. 

2. Consider Your Horse’s Range of Motion

Much like humans, horses need to be able to “stride out” to cover ground and ultimately move faster. When was the last time you REALLY watched your horse move? Is your horse stepping up under themselves all the way? Are their shoulder muscles freed up, allowing them to reach out all the way? Are their stifles, hock joints, and the muscles surrounding them limber? 

Just like not every human has a long stride, neither does every horse. However, keeping your horse’s muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments in pristine condition and appropriately stretched will help them run at THEIR top potential. 

3. Fueling Horses Properly Builds Endurance

We often ask if our horses are consuming enough calories, but we also need to ask if they are also consuming the right kind of calories. Just as a professional football player who needs good fast twitch muscle fiber function does not fuel his body solely on mashed potatoes, you cannot expect your sprinter performance horse to excel on only CRP quality grass hay. Yes, forage is undeniably essential to a healthy gut. But top-tier equine athletes must also consume the “meat” of the equine diet: a high-quality alfalfa and a high-quality grain (and enough of it)!

quote graphic about proper caloric intake for horses

4. Use the Right Supplements

Gone are the days when a splash of Redcell over a random percentage sweet feed is enough to win. Equine athletes are getting increasingly more and more competitive. With the advances in event-specific genetics, breeding, and professional-grade therapy equipment widely available, competition is getting more and more fierce.

With the increase in competitiveness comes great advancements for the sports, but also a need for horse owners to be on top of their supplement game. 

Some of our proven favorites are:

  1. Foundation Daily Detox and Nutrack Digestive Support as base supplements for ALL horses- competitive or not. In a nutshell- this combo helps to keep toxins from building up and helps to maintain a healthy, happy, balanced gut. 
  2. Cissus Quadrangularis promotes joint health by aiding in the regeneration of soft tissues and providing pain relief. 
  3. Product X is also a favorite of professional Barrel Racer Ali Armstrong and endurance rider Shelley Sutherland. Giving it to a horse for several days leading up to a competition improves their fitness levels and stamina. Bonus: it does not test. 
  4. In the Zone calming paste helps a horse to be focused and not waste valuable energy on nerves and jitters. It relieves the horse’s stress without zapping them of energy.

Now You Know How to Build Endurance in Your Horse 

Building your horse’s endurance isn’t going to be an overnight success story. But if you pay attention to their correct muscle building, gaining flexibility, and nutrition, you will start seeing more explosiveness where it is needed the most. And don’t forget to incorporate some high-quality, all-natural supplements from Animal Element to get your horse to the next level. You can order straight from our website, or hit up your trusted local dealer!

how to build endurance in horses synopsis. Blonde woman riding a buckskin horse around a barrel