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  • Writer's pictureAndria Massie

Supercharging Your Performance Horse: Unleashing the Power of Supercompensation

Updated: Aug 25

Many horse owners miss a trick when it comes to training performance horses for events. Today, I’ll share a game-changing tip with you: Train smarter, not harder! How? Supercompensation.

Trust me; I've seen firsthand how incredible horses can be when trained with super compensation in mind. In this article, I'll uncover the fascinating concept of supercompensation and how it can take your horse's performance to the next level.

By Andria Watson-Massie, Equine Physiotherapist Massie Veterinary Services

A reining horse in the show pen sliding to a stop
Trainer Paul Myers and 2019 stallion, Guna Get MyShine On

What is Supercompensation?

Supercompensation is a training principle that refers to the remarkable phenomenon where, after a period of intense exercise, the body recovers to a point above its original level of fitness. This is due to the body's natural ability to adapt to stress. This principle works for developing top athlete performance horses and recreational riding horses.

When a horse engages in training, it undergoes stress, leading to temporary fatigue and a decline in performance. However, with adequate rest and recovery, the body's adaptive response results in a unique rebound effect - Supercompensation.

Let me put this in a much simpler way - Supercompensation states that if the workout-to-recovery ratio of a horse is good, the horse becomes stronger than it was before the workout.

This physiological phenomenon lies at the core of optimizing athletic performance in equine athletes, and once truly understood, can produce amazing results in horses.

Three Phases of Supercompensation

In order to achieve the supercompensation phase, there are some fundamental principles to follow:

A reining horse in the show pen
Trainer Paul Myers and 2019 stallion, Guna Get MyShine On

Progressive Overload Training

Progressive overloading involves systematically increasing the intensity and workload of your horse's training over time. Performance horse trainer Paul Myers develops top reining horses and understands the importance of Supercompensation in his program, "I use a gradual adaptation of training load variations in my training routines. This helps to not overtrain my horses and build their stamina, strength and skill while reducing the risk of overexertion or injury. I am consciously aware, moment to moment, of what I’m asking my horses in training to do, and each step they take is monitored towards their success.”

Implementing progressive overloading requires a keen understanding of your horse's individual capabilities, as well as careful monitoring and adjustment of the training regimen. The entire process is straightforward. First, we expose a horse to a stimulating training load where it is subjected to a greater level of exercise than it is accustomed to. We use variations in intensity, duration, and frequency of workouts to keep the body adapting and improving. Without a variation in training load, your horse's fitness improvement may reach a peak and stop increasing.


Just as we humans value work-life balance, our beloved horses deserve the same consideration. The recovery phase is vital because it allows the horse's body to repair the strain from the previous overload phase. Rest and a healthy diet are essential to recovery, but it's also important to note that recovery doesn't mean doing nothing.

To optimize recovery, incorporate light training and gentle movements such as a relaxed walk, trot, or canter. This helps to warm up the muscles and enhance blood flow which in turn removes lactic acid from the body.

The timing of recovery is critical. If you give the horse too much time to recover, the benefits of overload training may diminish, and supercompensation will not be achieved. Conversely, rushing into new overload training without allowing sufficient recovery time can lead to overtraining, resulting in reduced performance and potential injuries.

After the recovery phase, the training process resumes, and the cycle repeats. Achieving a balanced work-rest ratio is essential for maximizing training outcomes.


Now, this is the time to reap the rewards of the entire training regimen. This is the phase where the horse's body has not only recovered but has also surpassed its original level of fitness. During Supercompensation, the horse's muscular and cardiovascular systems are enhanced, making them stronger to handle greater workout challenges. As a result, there is a temporary peak in performance that exceeds the horse's previous baseline.

However, it's essential to remember that the supercompensation effect is not permanent. If the body is not stimulated further after this phase, the supercompensation will fade, and the horse's fitness will return to its pre-supercompensation level. This typically happens within about a week. To capitalize on the benefits of supercompensation, you have to be consistent with training.

Below is a practical, week-long training schedule I often use to get impressive results:

  • Day 1: Light training and establishing your horse’s baseline fitness.

  • Day 2: Heavy training. Introduce more challenging exercises to build a training overload. For instance, if your horse is used to walking or trotting, introduce short intervals of cantering or lateral movements.

  • Day 3: Light training. Engage in light exercises and activities that promote blood flow and reduce muscle tension like taking a country hike. This day is also ideal for assessing your horse's progress. Observe any improvements in their performance, behavior, and overall well-being, and look out for potential injuries.

  • Day 4: Rest and proper feeding.

  • Day 5: Light training to prepare your horse for another session of intense workout. By this stage, the supercompensation phase has kicked in.

  • Day 6: Intense training. Now that your horse is adjusted to the increased workload, it's time to increase the overload. On these days, plan more challenging training sessions. You may focus on exercises that target specific areas of improvement in your riding discipline. Moreover, you should alternate workout sessions (such as arena/flatwork/jumping/poles/trail riding) to challenge different muscle groups of the horse.

  • Day 7: Light training.

Here’s a calendar you’ll easily remember. This is just a general overview; it should be tweaked before implementation.

Key Considerations

  • Throughout the week-long training, prioritize your horse's well-being and listen to them. If you notice signs of fatigue or discomfort, adjust the training routine accordingly and provide additional rest. Additionally, ensure that your horse has access to fresh water, a balanced diet, and suitable shelter for optimal care.

  • The optimal workload for a horse depends on its fitness level, age, and breed. As seen in the timetable, a good rule of thumb is to start with a low level of intensity and gradually increase it over time.

  • The optimal recovery period varies based on your horse's fitness level, training intensity, and experience. Heavier training sessions generally require longer recovery periods. On average, plan for 2 to 3 days of recovery time after training (especially for performance horses), which is why I introduced more light training sessions.

  • You should keep track of improvements in your horse by using a heart rate monitor. Other tracking devices like the EquiClip are also very helpful to access and record balanced work on both sides of the horse.

Supercompensation is an invaluable tool for maximizing your horse's performance potential. By striking the right balance between challenge and recovery, you can unlock your horses’ hidden abilities and watch them reach new performance heights.

Want to learn more about supercompensation and how it can help your horse? Leave a message for me below.

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