During the winter months, many horse owners can find it difficult to keep their horses in work unless they have indoor facilities or the weather stays kind. Now the time of year is arriving where we are starting to plan the season ahead and thinking about bringing the horses back into full work. So, here’s are our five top tips for bringing your horse back into work.
Slowly but Surely – After time off, it is not uncommon for horses to be excited and keen, however, this should not be mistaken for fitness – it wouldn’t be out of the question for the horse to experience muscular soreness after returning to work. Introducing the horse back to exercise after a winter break should be done very gradually, preferably not on a sharp, windy day! The frequency and intensity of exercise should then be slowly increased to avoid more serious muscular fatigue such as tying-up. This should also be partnered with a thorough warm up and cool down. After all, we wouldn’t proceed to run 10km after no training or warming up!
Variety – A varied workload should be taken into account at all times of the year to avoid boredom. A range of hacking and schooling is a great way to keep your horse entertained – introducing pole activities into your schooling, if possible, will also keep interest and add a bit of extra fun into the day!
Keep Hydrated – An increase in exercise will in turn increase the horses need for water so clean, fresh water should be made readily available at all times. It is always advisable to provide those in a harder level of work with electrolytes when profuse sweating occurs. Horses are unable to store these salts so if the horse is not in need of replenishment, the electrolytes will simply be excreted.
Does he need more? – When horses are coming back into work after a rest period, their diet should also be reviewed. Whilst in rest, some owners will have reduced the horses’ calorie intake to avoid the horse becoming overweight. However; when returning the work, the horse may benefit from an increase in calories to avoid becoming underweight and also so they have enough energy for the desired workload. When introducing a new feed, this should be done gradually increasing up to recommended amounts handful-by-handful over a period of 7-10 days.
The Good Doers – If your horse is a good doer and coming out of winter looking a little too well, achieving a calorie deficit is key for weight loss. This means that the horse will be consuming fewer calories than he is burning off and increasing exercise will encourage the body to use its fat stores for energy causing required weight loss.