The equine horse walker

walker

Horses from all walks of life can benefit from exercise in the walker

In the wild, horses would roam over open distances, sometimes walking up to 50km per day. With domestication, horses are obviously restricted from this consistent freedom of movement. While we would all love to turn our horses out into massive paddocks where they can move around freely all day, the reality is that that luxury is not available to all livery yards and owners. With the rising cost of properties and monthly maintenance, very few yards these days are situated on plots where vast paddock space is available. Owners of competition horses also opt to turn their horses out into smaller paddocks so as to reduce the risk of paddock injuries. Sometimes we also struggle to find time to ride with our busy schedules. With all these restrictions comes the need to supplement this lack of natural exercise, which is why so many yards across the world are turning to horse walkers.

How does it work?

A horse walker is an automated system in which horses are divided through fixed partitions that rotate at a chosen speed, thereby exercising the horse at a consistent pace. Horse walkers are great for balancing out movement deficits and keeping horses in athletic condition as well as physically healthy. Exercise in the walker promotes healthy blood flow and growth, especially in young horses.
Horses who are exercised on a daily or regular basis often remain fit, well-conditioned and supple in their bodies. Horses are often exercised in nothing more than a pair of boots and a halter, although some may choose to fit their horses with side reins or a lunging aid if they want their horse to walk in a frame.

What kind of horse benefits?

The exercise that a walker provides is not more or less suitable to any type of horse. Even yearlings or retired horses can be exercised in a walker, as it is a mild form of exercise that is completely natural for horses and does not place any strain on their joints. Horses of all sizes are also seen exercised in the walker, from Miniature horses to heavier types.

Horses recovering from an injury can especially benefit from work in the walker, as they are exercising on a flat and even surface at a controlled speed. The walker sessions can be timed according to the horse’s individual needs. The walker is recommended as rehabilitation exercise, especially for horses transitioning back to regular work.

Sport horses

Horse walkers are costly, and while the benefits pay off in the long run, smaller yards with less capital often can’t afford to install a walker. For this reason walkers are more commonly seen in luxury livery or competition yards. Racehorse and eventing yards across the world also find the walker to be beneficial in maintaining daily fitness in their horses.

Professionals all over the world swear by the horse walker, not only for keeping their horses in good physical condition but also for warming up and cooling down. Sessions are typically set at 30 minutes, however, the walker can be set at customised intervals. A 15-minute walk before and after a schooling session is perfect for promoting blood circulation, opening the blood vessels, and preventing any problems that come with incorrect cooling down.

walker

The walker’s footing should be even and kind on the limbs, making rubber flooring ideal

Footing

It’s important that the surface is level and well maintained so that your horse exercises on an even surface that does not create potential for injury or tripping, for example. Equine rubber surfaces are the most ideal to install in a walker. If you opt for sand footing, it should not be too shallow or deep as this could lead to softened or hardened tendons.

Dr Catrin Anker of Belmondo, a German flooring company that provides ideal equine solutions, recommends the Belmondo rubber flooring for horse walkers. “Rubber flooring is an investment at first but it pays back over time,” says Dr Anker. “The surface provides very good slip resistance for wet or dry conditions.” Dr Anker explains that even footing is especially important for horses recovering from injury. “The mats stay low-maintenance for years, and the surface is very easy to clean.”

The full article appears in the February issue (119) of HQ > Shop now.