Fitness Plan for Horses by Rupert Batting
The following fitness plan is what I do with my horses to bring them back into work after an end of season holiday of about 6-8 weeks. Please remember that horses come back into fitness at different rates so make sure your plan is specific to your horse. This is particularly important when bringing a horse back from a serious injury, specially tendon or ligament, when the early stages of your fitness plan need to be done slowly and in consultation with your vet and trainer.
- Start with one week on the horse walker, starting at 20 minutes and increasing 5 minutes every day.
- Then the same with riding, starting at 20 minutes and building up at 5 minutes a day.
- Walking doesn’t have to be done on roads, it can be done on grass tracks or arenas, but hacking out makes it more interesting for the horse.
- After about two weeks you can start walking up some hills, as this will help to build muscle on your horses back end.
- When walking try and encourage your horse to walk with his neck out and slightly lower to build muscle over his back, you can also do some lateral work like leg yielding and shoulder-in. This is also a good time to practise things like halts and rein-back.
- You can stop increasing the walking duration when you get to 50 minutes.
- After four weeks of walking then you can start trotting, only for 5 minutes in total and do it in short stretches, not all at once. Try to start with straight lines and don’t pick the horse up too much.
- Slowly increase the trotting each day for two weeks until you start cantering.
- When you start cantering do it out of the saddle and in big circles.
- After about a week and half of cantering you can have you first jump, nothing too high and for the first session I would recommend jumping from trot and having a neck strap!
While your horse is coming back into work, feed a low-energy forage based diet with a vitamin and mineral supplement such as Think Complete or Think Pink. Most horses will not need any additional energy in their diet until they start cantering and working in the school.