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Should a sport horse be kept differently from a leisure horse?

Regularly the question comes up whether a certain advice also applies to a sport horse. After all, a sport horse is different, right? Or is it? Are there things you need to pay extra attention to with a sport horse or can you keep a sport horse the same as a leisure horse?

What is a sport horse?

Horses are naturally fit athletes who cover an average of 15-18 km a day. And then they also graze in the meantime, which means they have to cover large stretches in trot/canter to cover these distances. Many horses are labelled sport horses, when in reality they are trained for an hour/two hours 4-5x a week. But quite honestly, this in itself is not that intensive for a horse at all. We see a sport horse as one that is trained/ridden at a high level in competition.  This is from the sub top onwards. A horse competing at M jumping is not directly more intensively ridden than a "leisure horse" that goes into the forest several times a week for several hours. Therefore, be critical about where you classify your horse. Of course, your horse may have been bred for sport, but that does not mean it is a sport horse. In general, we can say that the vast majority of kept horses fall under recreational horses that occasionally go to competition.

Physically no difference between sport horse and ordinary horse

A horse high in sport has the same physical system as any other horse, except that its muscles are better developed and its stamina is better. A horse high in sport generally has better overall fitness. But the digestive tract from mouth to arse is exactly the same as that of the Fjord competing in a riding lesson or the kwpn'er around the corner serving as a companion horse. So in terms of nutrition, the needs of a sport horse are exactly the same. Feeding 20 hours a day in small portions spread throughout the day, as high in fibre as possible and preferably unpacked hay.

A sport horse needs conspecifics too

Horse owners often fear injuries to their horses, leading to them being kept alone in a paddock/land. While social contact is one of the most important aspects for a horse. A horse should be able to cuddle, frolic, run, rest or whatever with a companion. And not just over a wire or through the bars of a box wall. But they should be able to physically, if they want, stand against each other. That relieves stress, gives safety and security. And the risk of injury is many times lower when horses are outside for whole days, with each other, than when they only spend an hour a day outside in a fenced environment without challenge and companionship.

Many big names prove it can be done!

Fortunately, more and more well-known riders/amazons are proving that a sport horse is also an ordinary horse. These horses are outside, with conspecifics and get unlimited hay/grass. They are allowed to be horses, enjoy mutual friendships and also go out for a sociable ride. And these riders "simply" compete at international level. These horses can be dirty from the mud, are not stressed and still have the energy to perform fantastically. So it is possible! Would you also allow your sport horse a real horse life?

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