Owners often worry about the safety when using exerciser machines. If you choose the right machine and take sensible precautions, you can enjoy its many benefits without injury to your equine partner.
Here are 10 safety tips for horse exerciser safety.
1. Going Free-Style
The European type of horse walker, such as the EuroXciser, is a safer alternative than the traditional version. The horse is not tethered, with his head held in an artificial position, which can result in injuries to his back and his hocks.
He can’t get hung up on his lead rope and won’t feel restricted or try to break loose by pulling on it, stalling the machine and upsetting his equine companions.
Because he is allowed to move naturally and with freedom, he relaxes quickly into his exercise routine, and develops more correct muscling.
2. Sufficient Room
Choose a horse walker that offers a generous amount of space for the horse to move in.
With a machine such as the EuroXciser each horse has a work area of at least 30’ or more in length and 8’ in width. These measurements prevent him from feeling claustrophobic and panicking, and he has plenty of room to turning round in when you change the direction of rotation.
3. Nowhere to Get Stuck
Particular attention needs to be paid to the construction of the outer and inner walls of the walker.
They should be high enough to prevent the horse from being able to jump out, be very strong, and have no gaps big enough for him to get his legs, hooves or head stuck.
Here are examples of safe fencing, with the added advantage that individual panels or planks can be easily replaced.
The dividing partitions between each horse should have no areas where a horse’s hooves (or any other part of his anatomy) can get caught.
Lightweight and easily removable metal frames containing wire grids and a rubber base are ideal. A good example is the EuroXciser partition: horses are not only physically safe between them, but can also see their equine buddies on the walker and relax.
These frames can be connected to a fence charger, which is extremely useful if you have horses which persistently lean against the back panel and disrupt the work flow.
Another safe choice of partition is neoprene rubber, perforated to allow air flow and reduce overall weight. They are soft on flying hooves, but their one disadvantage is that they cannot be charged.
4. Smooth & Safe Engine
Especially for a horse not use to an exerciser, or of a nervous disposition and easily upset by loud noise, a quiet engine is a real bonus. Using a inline geared motor allows for whisper quiet operation, and not agitate a horse with unfamiliar noise. These type of drive trains also more reliable and require little maintenance.
5. Stopping in an Emergency
An emergency stop button on the outside controller is essential.
Knowing the walker can be stopped immediately if necessary will gives you additional peace of mind.
In order to relax in his work your horse must feel secure and comfortable going round the track. One of the biggest ways to keep him safe on the horse walker is good footing.
You never want to exercise your equines on a concrete surface. It’s easy for them to slip on, is hard on their hooves and can cause severe concussion injuries. Concrete becomes even more dangerous when covered with droppings or rained on.
The footing you choose should provide sufficient traction and absorb impact. Excellent choices include soft sands with rubber additives.
Rubber mats underneath the footing add extra cushioning. They should allow adequate drainage and be properly secured so they don’t move under the working horse.
7. Spotless Track
Regular clearing of manure and other debris from the track keeps it clean and safe for horses to work on.
No matter how good the footing, your track will lose its ability to absorb impact if it becomes worn. At this point your horse will derive considerably less benefit from being on the walker and may even suffer injury to his ligaments and tendons.
For your equine partner to stay safe on the exerciser, drag your track regularly. This will level out the footing again and retain the correct mixture of materials, if you’re using more than one.
Moisturizing for Maximum Impact
A certain amount of moisture in the footing will maintain its ability to absorb impact.
It also reduces the quantity of dust produced by the horses as they go round the walker, and keeps them safe from respiratory problems caused by inhalation of the particles.
A good proportion of water to footing volume is 5% – 10%.
8. Slow Introduction
How you introduce your horse to an automated walker plays a big part in how well he’ll take to this form of exercise and will affect his safety.
He should not be placed in it alone: put one or two equine pals on there first. Then allow him to watch them quietly go round before you lead him into an empty partition behind a horse he’s comfortable with.
Accustom him to the machine in walk, and take your time teaching him how to turn around when it stops.
Don’t leave him on it alone after his work session, and take him off before removing his friends.
9. Sans Halter
It is less risky if the horse doesn’t wear a halter on the free-style exerciser.
Just as it is preferable not to leave him in the paddock with one on, it’s a smart safety measure to remove his halter as he goes into his space in the walker.
Wearing a halter may make him easier to lead off the exerciser initially, but once he’s used to it, he’ll soon let you put it back on when you want to take him out again.
Horses should never be left on the horse exerciser without someone keeping an eye on them. This ensures that immediate assistance can be given if an emergency should arise.
Place the walker where you can see it as you go about your daily horse business. The horses will also find their sessions more interesting if they can see activity going on around them, and they won’t feel abandoned on the walker.
Plus, you won’t forget they’re on there!
Taking these precautions will help keep your equine safe on the horse exerciser and allow you to take advantage of the many benefits this machine has to offer.