The weather's been miserable, the trails impassable, and you can't remember the last time you had a decent ride. Mentally, you're more than ready for a nice day-long outing with friends. But physically, you're not up to the task just yet--and, in all likelihood, neither is your horse.
If, for the past few months, he has been ridden less frequently, kept indoors longer and had his activity generally restricted, he has probably gotten a little out of shape, too.
Whether a horse has been laid up because of illness, injury or weather extremes, the challenge of bringing him back to fitness will be influenced by:
- The length of his time off Horses retain some conditioning without work for a period of about 6 weeks. To bring your horse back to his previous form, figure on a week on a fitness program for every two weeks he's been off. More than six weeks off, and you'll have to start from scratch.
- His general condition A horse who is too fat, too thin or has been weaken by disease or injury requires careful handling. He'll tire more quickly and recover more slowly, making him more prone to physical injury and mental burnout.
- How much turnout time he enjoys Studies have shown that horses turned out in large pastures with companions will log around 10 miles a day simply grazing, trotting across the field, cantering down a fence line and interacting with other horses. Twenty-four-hour turnout simulates the horse's most natural environment and will help horses achieve and maintain a good overall physical and mental condition.
This section was excerpted from the article, "Return to Fitness," in EQUUS in May 1999.