Long Winter Break? Reconditioning Your Horse for Warmer Weather
If you have ever competed in sports or trained for some type of competition, you know how hard it can be to get back into the swing of things after taking time off. After a few months of no training, it is clear your body is no longer in peak condition and you must work to get back to where you once were. The same goes for your equine athlete if he or she has not been worked during the frigid winter months. With spring approaching, the time has come to get your horse back into shape but there are a few things you should know to make sure your horse is not at risk for injury.
After months of almost nothing but standing and eating, your horse’s conditioning is essentially lost. It is best to inspect your horse to make sure he or she is in good health before exercise. Check hooves for proper condition and muscles for any tender areas that need to be addressed. Make sure to also check your horse’s respiratory system. Horse’s with infections, coughs or nasal discharge should not be exercised because they are more prone to exertional rhabdomyolysis.
If everything is in order, the next thing you should do is longe your horse to understand its new exercise tolerance. Start with a short 5-10 minute period of walking with at least one change in direction, then ask for a trot. Make sure to stop exercise if your horse is unwilling to trot, begins to stumble or breaks a sweat. If everything goes well, repeat this same sequence with the added weight of a rider and tack, increasing the intensity and duration of the workouts as your horse becomes more comfortable.
While reconditioning your horse, it is very important not to overwork him or her. This can be easy to do especially if your horse is eager to exercise. Mistaking eagerness for fitness can cause muscle soreness or injury in the days after working out.
One of the most important things to consider when reconditioning your horse is their feed. Your horse’s feed should be adjusted according to their present body condition as well as nutrient requirements for the newly increased workload. However, adjustments should be made slowly as too abrupt of a change in feed can lead to digestive upset or colic. Substituting 20-25 percent of your horse’s feed each day will allow your horse to adjust without causing any problems.
Reconditioning your horse is all about discipline and patience. You must stick to your workout program while keeping a close eye on your horse and how he or she is reacting to the increased workload. This combined with a balanced diet specific to your horse’s body condition will ensure quick and healthy reconditioning.