Many riders at this time of year will choose to let their horses have a holiday as for many disciplines, the season has come to an end. But what should you do once you decide your horse has enjoyed enough time off and it’s time to bring them back into work? Here we bring you some key points to remember when you go about bringing your hairy, four-legged beast out of the field and back into civilisation.
Remember that all horses come back into fitness at different rates, so take these points as a rough guide and tailor it to your own specific needs.
Your horse’s fitness programme should start strictly in walk in straight lines wherever possible. Road work is though of by many as the best method for getting horses fit and also allows tendons to strengthen gradually. This helps to give your horse the best chance of maintaining soundness as you up the work rate in later weeks and months.
Start off by walking on level terrain for up to 30 minutes per day, gradually increasing this up to an hour over a three-week period, steadily introducing hills as the weeks progress. Don’t be tempted to pick your horse up into a contact immediately, but instead slowly encourage them to stretch forwards and over their backs to build up strength and elasticity.
After three weeks you should be able to introduce trot work, up and down hills and in the arena. Introduce tight turns and circles slowly and fully implement transitions where possible.
After two weeks trotting you can begin canter work. Try to keep out of the saddle when you do so in a two-point position and don’t ride anything tighter than big circles to begin with to help prevent injury.
After about 10 days of gradually building up canter work, you should be ready to start jumping. Keep fences small to begin with and we would highly recommend using a neck strap as horses can find this part of their fitness plan particularly enjoyable!
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