It is always a good thing to let our horses have a little time off after show season. Horses appreciate the relaxation time but more importantly, the mental break. However, preparing your horse for show season takes time. You cannot expect your horse to be back to full strength after only a couple weeks of riding. Your horse will need just as much time to get into shape as he or she had to get out of shape – meaning, if they had 8 weeks off, they will need about 8 weeks of consistent work to get back to tip-top shape. Rushing this process can be too much too soon. This may cause soreness or injuries, which can cause your horse to become unwilling. Here is a workout routine to help you avoid such problems:
- Take it slow. Start your first week by simply walking, trotting and loping. You should only be doing a little bit of trotting and loping with lots and lots of walking incorporated into your ride.
- Your horses may be a little resistant after some time off so you want to work on the basics: bending from side to side, counter-bending, flexing at the poll, moving your horse’s hips and moving off of leg pressure. There are plenty of exercises that can work on all these things – get creative!
- After walking for about 10-15 minutes, you may begin trotting around the arena. Don’t push your horse too hard but you want to get his or her respiration rate up and maybe see a little sweat behind the ears. After this, go ahead and walk your horse and get his or her respiration rate back down. Repeat this process going the other direction. You can use this same technique at the lope.
- End your ride with lots of walking and relaxation. You can include some more bending and flexing as well.
The goal of the first few weeks is to refresh your horse’s memory and then build up some strength and stamina. Be fair to your horse; remember you are working him “out” not “up.” Getting back into shape is a long process, but if it is done correctly, it can save you a lot of time in the long run.
To learn more about getting your horse back into shape check out http://www.extension.org/pages/26936/conditioning-horses-for-performance OR http://www.thehorse.com/Free-Reports/View.aspx?n=conditioning-through-the-seasons-spring-and-summer&id=234