Halter Horse Conditioning with Ross Roark
What is leading halter horse conditioner Ross Roark’s secret weapon?
AQHA Professional Horseman Ross Roark has trained and shown more than 100 AQHA world champion halter horses.
His secret weapon for fitting and conditioning halter horses may be the ground under his feet at his West Texas ranch near Andrews.
“We’ve got the best sand in the world right here,” Ross says, and he uses it to strengthen his halter horses’ legs, build their muscles and increase their stamina.
Gradually Introducing Halter Horses to Conditioning
Andrews is about 30 miles from the New Mexico border. The nearest large town in Texas is Abilene, about 170 miles to the east. When horses first arrive in Andrews, they might never have worked in the sand before, so Ross starts off easy.
“I want to build their shins up where they can handle it,” he says. “I don’t want a horse to get shin-sore. I’ll start out the first week or 10 days ponying maybe every other day to get those shins built up. After that, I’ll run my hand down and feel those shins, and if they feel like they’re good, we’ll start every day.”
How Much Should a Halter Horse be Conditioned?
The amount of everyday exercise differs according to the horse and the desired effect, Ross says.
“There are some horses that can go eight minutes and some 25-30 minutes,” he says. “I increase time to increase muscle development, and I increase depending on the caliber of show that’s coming up. Through the summer, we may not work them as hard because of the temperatures. In the winter, we may work them longer. It depends on the individual. I’ve had horses that I worked Monday-Wednesday-Friday, and they stayed in good shape. Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday, they went outside for turnout and free exercise for an hour. Then there are horses that I’ve had that I had to work twice a day.”
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