Conditioning Halter Horses: Schedule Matters

Conditioning Halter Horses: Schedule Matters

Daily schedules can help balance out horses’ looks and attitudes.

Mike McMillian, halter horse trainer, in straw cowboy hat (Credit: Bee Silva for The American Quarter Horse Journal)

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The American Quarter Horse Journal logo

Sitting behind a big oak desk, Mike McMillian could be mistaken as the CEO for a Fortune 500 company.

He may dabble in accounting for bookkeeping chores from time to time, but mostly he designs step-by-step halter horse programs for his customers.

Halter Horse Care and Conditioning

Mike McMillian applies hoof black to a halter horse

Mike McMillian's attention to detail is evident at home and in show-day preparations.

The most important part of keeping halter horses on track is to constantly evaluate them. Look at the horse every day, or at least two to three times a week, to see if he is losing or gaining weight, putting on hair or getting too hyper. Re-evaluate your horse regularly because they change with growth patterns and times of the year. Constantly readjust your exercise and feeding schedule to achieve that optimal look and attitude for your horse.

Mike McMillian’s daily halter horse routine:

4:30 a.m.  Mike feeds all the horses.

7:30 a.m. Begin the cycle of exercising the horses. The routine for each horse is:

  • Put on leg wraps and neck sweats.
  • Exercise each horse for a prescribed amount of time.
  • Remove leg wraps, leaving the neck sweat in place.
  • Hose feet and legs, clean out hooves.
  • Tie horse in stall with neck sweat still on (maximum for one and a half hours).
  • Untie horse and remove neck sweat and replace sheets or blankets.

Noon.  All horses have been exercised.

1 p.m. Begin cycle of grooming all horses. The routine for each horse:

  • Brush with rubber curry to remove sweat and dirt.
  • Vacuum horse.
  • Brush with soft brush.

4:30 p.m. - Horses are fed.

Trainer-Client Relationships

The guy who pays the bills is boss. Don’t mandate what the owner does with his or her horse, Mike advises fellow trainers. A trainer’s job is to help guide customers but leave the decision up to them. If owners take their horses home, work with them to keep the horses in their routine, encourage the owners to keep them at close to the same amount of condition, with about the same about amount of exercise and the same amount of feed.

Why should my halter horse be on a schedule?

A horse that is on a scheduled program has fewer health problems and is generally happier because he knows what to expect every day.

There are people who keep their horses at home that can be as competitive as any trainer. Some people simply want to have their horses at home and enjoy them, rather than leaving them with a trainer all the time.

Either is fine. But if these owners win, it’s because they have spent a lot of time at it, and they’ve studied their lessons. People do not put successful programs together overnight; it’s a learned skill.