Training Exercise Machines

The purpose of exercise machines for horses is to create controlled movement.  This is useful when winter prevents turnout or traveling, and there is no turnout at competition events.  They are also helpful in recovering from injury, and the movement needs to be controlled while stress is applied to the healing injury.

These machines are commonly used as cool-down devices after a hard workout.  Back in the day, we used “hot walkers,” people who walked the horses until they were cool.  The machine that turns in a circle around a central point is also called a “hot walker.”

Some treadmills can angle up to provide an incline.  As with human machines, this adds stress to the movement and can be used to strengthen the leg tissues.

Many have added an electric jolting device that prods the horse to keep the hot walking machines moving when there is a stubborn horse.  These should be used with caution.  An attendant should be close by with all machines, especially when training a horse to the device.  Kill switches should be easily accessible or activated automatically when a horse stumbles or falls.

In the 1970’s I remember watching Thoroughbreds hooked up to a hot walker after their workout.  There were only four equally spaced around it.  The machine was about 50 yards (70 meters) from the barn and slightly below it.  One horse didn’t want to be there and would stop.  The motor would continue to spin against the rubber belts that drove the arms connected to the horses.  The result was burning the belt against the pulley on the motor with premature wear and damage to the belt, but the horses would not be moving.  To counter this, the lazy trainer would pick up his BB rifle (a low-powered and air-powered gun to send a small round projectile through the air) and shoot the horse in the rump.  This would startle the troublemaker, and all would start walking again.  This is NOT what I mean by attending to the exercise machines.

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