Getting over the winter doldrums and ready to spring back into the saddle?? Be certain to ease your horse back into work. With the warming weather it is easy to jump right in... perhaps not so easy for your horse though if s/he has had the winter "off" to be a pasture potato. This may not be so easy for yourself either. Remember, before "springing" to action take the following into consideration:
· Introduce exercise slowly and gradually (be sure to take into consideration your horse's overall condition- weight, age, health, hoof, soundness)
· Build up his stamina and conditioning slowly.
· Warm him up before working under saddle
· Walk before trot. Build that up too. (consider using cavalettis and as his conditioning improves, work to a trot and hill work. Add more time in increments and be consistent. Don't work him for 20 minutes on Monday and Tuesday then leave him for 2 weeks and expect him to work for 30 minutes the next time. Be considerate.)
· Watch for signs of fatigue before they happen. Do NOT overtax your horse
· Be sure to cool him down properly
· Don't be fooled by his willingness, or yours. This is the plight of so many "weekend warriors." If your horse has been standing in a pasture all winter, don't pull him out on Saturday and force him into a strenuous 3 hour ride – use common sense and think of his overall wellbeing.
· Pay particular care to the very young (3 ½-4 yo) and older horses. The younger horses are still in the process of strengthening their musculoskeletal system and may be easily injured. Stop before overloading his skeleton and he shows significant signs of fatigue.. Slow and steady speeds at more miles will build a more proper foundation for a young horse then hard, fast speeds. Again, I stress, do not over-fatigue your horse. Slow and steady is also a better way to recondition the older horse. Take care to pay heed to their endurance, flexibility, and comfort. They may have arthritic joints and past injuries which may improve with regular exercise.
· Add massage/bodywork into your routine. Use your curry, stretch him out. Set him up for success. (often times muscular aches and pains are not noticed or seen easily. They may manifest themselves as stiffness, sluggishness, refusals, poor attitude. Behaviors that are a result of pain are NOT training issues yet are often times assumed to be. Unlike humans, horses cannot verbalize their issues and concerns with words, therefore, resistance and "sourness" is a way in which they are attempting to communicate to you. Don't dismiss this as laziness or surliness.)
In what ways do you begin reconditioning your horses? Please *SHARE* and *COMMENT* we'd love to hear from you**Inez