When you are thinking of going out and about with your horse, you really need to make sure that he or she has been working and is fit enough otherwise you can cause injuries like a damaged tendon or sprained ligament, or simply a gall or pulled muscle. We need to think about their bodies and how they work as, like us, they need to slowly work towards the job you would like them to do.
But, before we get going on how to get your horse fit, you need to think of the things that need checking and to be sorted so that your horse can get going and work to his or her best ability. If your horse has been off work for over a month and out in the field, you need to give them a thorough checkover.
It might be a good idea to bring your horse in for a little while and get him used to being away from the herd, or if you know a horse is difficult by himself bring two horses in together and it will make the work easier. You can slowly separate them over a period of time and get them used to coming into a stable alone if your routine demands it.
Once you bring the horse in you can check him over for any lumps and bumps. Also, check the condition of his shoes and if possible, get the farrier out and sort out a set of shoes that would be ideal for the work he is going to start to do. Some horses have their hind shoes taken off when they are resting, and some have the whole set off. So, a visit from the farrier is a must once you start on road work.
WITS is an acronym for worming, inoculations, teeth and shoeing. These are all areas that need checking along with a good physio or chiropractor.
Worming. It is a good idea to make sure that you have wormed your horse before you start to get him fit. If he has been out 24/7, he might be changing his routine and food, so worming before you start is necessary. It is a good idea to get a worm check on your horse’s dung as this will help you identify the worm burden, so you are able to understand what is happening in his gut and what type of wormer you may need to use. Checking with your vet can be a good idea if you do not know what to use as there are a lot of different types of worms and you may need to use certain types of wormer at certain times of year. There are several different types of worm counts that can be bought at the local saddlers or you can get them from your vet.
Inoculations. It is a good idea to get the annual flu and tetanus injections done before your horse is in full work, then it will not interfere with their work. You need to get the inoculations done within the year of the last injection otherwise you have to start again. This would mean having the first inoculation, followed by another (the second primary inoculation) 4 – 6 weeks apart and then another (the first booster) at six months. Then you need to have the annual booster done within 365 days of the previous jab. It is a good idea to give horses a day off after they injections as it is better for them not to sweat for 24 hrs, after they have had their inoculation. These inoculations are also required for most equestrian centres and race courses, and you will not be allowed on site with out your horse’s passport and proof of the inoculations.
Teeth. Getting their teeth looked at is a good idea as they have been out and about eating grass for a couple of months. This will also allow you to have an even, pain free contact to work with. You should get your horse’s teeth looked at between 9 and 12 months. It is a good idea to talk to your dentist when they come and check to see what they recommend for your horse. Dentists should be on the British Veterinary Dental Association (BVDA) list so that you know they have been through the correct training and apprenticeship.
Shoes. Like I mentioned above, it is a good idea to get the horse’s shoes done. Farriers take part in an extensive apprenticeship for five years, and can be found at www.farrier-reg.gov.uk/find-a-farrier. There is a great saying ‘No foot, no horse’, farriers are a great help in keeping your horse on the road and someone can help you when something isn’t quite right with your horse.
All the above things need checking along with your tack. A horse can change shape when they are out of work and you will need to keep an eye on the areas where the saddle and bridle sit so that you do not get any rubs. A saddler usually likes to check your horses saddles as least every six months.
As we have said above it is also a good idea to have a chiropractor or physio, all chiropractors and physios need to be registered with their relevant governing bodies and you need to get your vets permission to have your horses looked at.
Once you have done all of the above you can get going and start to get your horse on the road. I have written a 12-week fitness plan for an all-round horse that can be adapted for either your hunter, eventer, dressage or show jumping horse.
When thinking about what you are going to do with your horse it is a good idea to sit down and work out the different disciplines you are interested in and what you would like to do. It is good to keep your horse’s work varied as they will keep fresh in their minds and enjoy their work. For example, allowing dressage horse to hack out and also have a little jump. Grid work is good for balance and improving the power in muscles. It does depend on each horse as everyone is different. Finding a good routine for you and your horse will keep you both happy.
When we set our goals and think about the competitions that we would like to do with our four-legged friends, we need to consider both ours and their fitness. In this blog, I will put together a 12-week program that will give you an outline to competing in a British Eventing BE80, BE90 or BE100 class.
The program will start as though your horse has been resting. If your horse has been off due to injury as a rule of thumb you would allow a week of walk for every month your horse has been off work. This would be something to take into consideration if your horse has had a tendon issue or something like that.
Please note that our first four weeks work is in the walk and that when you start building the trot work up, it should only be for half a minute slowly building up to 2 mins. This trot should be rhythmical and of an even tempo, not blasting along. This will help your horse keep his or her balance and work through their whole body.
You can change around the schooling with poles, or if your horse needs more x-country schooling you can add it in. Also, if you like you can add some fast work to the cross country. It all depends on your horse and what you need to work on, some horses need more flat work training, and some need a little more jumping.
Also, some people give their horses Sunday off and work through the week. It is all up to the time you have available and which day is better for your life and work. It is better to start with a ride out and then add the stronger work in as it can give a horse chance to get his work in. Also, only jump a couple of times a week and only do fast work two times a week, giving your horse either the day off after or a 20 min school and 40 min ride out.
If you horse is dressage horse, or a show jumping horse, you might find that you do not need to do so much fast work and you can adapt the training sessions to include more pole work and different exercises. Remember, every horse is an individual and working with them to see what makes a happy healthy horse is what is primally important.
|1||Day Off||Road work 20 – 25mins.||Road work 20 – 25mins.||Road work 25 mins.||Road work 25mins.||Road work 30 mins.||Road work 30 mins.|
|2||Day Off||Road work 30 mins||Road work 30 mins||Road work 40 mins||Road work 40 mins||Road work 45 mins||Road work 50 mins.|
|3||Day off||Road work and uphill work in walk 50 mins||Road work and uphill work in walk 50 mins||Road work and uphill work in walk 55 mins||Road work and uphill work in walk 55 mins||Road work and uphill work in walk 60 mins||Road work and uphill work in walk 60 mins|
If you have been riding your horse for 3 – 4 times a week at mainly walk you can start here.
|Day off||Road work and up hill work in walk 60 mins. Start building up trot to 2 mins.||Road work and uphill work in walk 60 mins. Start building up trot to 2 mins.||Road work and uphill work in walk 60 mins. Start building up trot to 2 mins.||Road work and uphill work in walk 60 mins. Start building up trot to 2 mins.||Road work and uphill work in walk 60 mins. Start building up trot to 2 mins at a time.||Road work and uphill work in walk 60 mins. Start building up trot to 2 mins.|
|5||Day off||Road work and up hill work in walk 60 mins. Start building up trot to 3 or 4 mins||Introduce 20mins schooling and 40 mins ride out.||Ride out at 60 mins including trot sections of up to 3 – 4 mins.||20mins schooling and 40 mins ride out.||Ride out to 60 mins including trot building the trot sections up||Ride out 30 mins, school 20mins and 10 mins cool down|
|6||Day off||One hour ride out with bursts of trot and canter.||20 mins schooling and 40 mins ride out.||One hour ride out with work trotting and cantering up hill||15 min warm up, 15 min grid work and 30 min ride out||30 min ride out, 20 min schooling and 10 min cool off.||One hour ride out including work in trot and canter up hills.|
|7||Day off||One hour ride out increasing hill work in trot and canter||20 min schooling and 40 mins ride out.||One hour ride out increasing trot and canter work.||10 mins warm up, 20 mins grid or jumping work and ride out for 30 mins||30 mins ride out, 20 mins schooling and 10 mins cool off||One hour ride out, with trot and canter up hill.|
|8||Day off||One hour ride out, start slow canters over undulating ground.||20 mins schooling and 40 mins ride out.||One hour ride out increasing work on the hills||Ride out and some jumping or grid work.||20 mins schooling and 40 mins ride out.||Ride out with more hill work and slow canters up to 4 mins.|
If a horse has been out at different disciplines over the winter start here.
|Day off.||Ride out with up to 3 – 4 min canters||20 min schooling our jumping and 40 min ride out.||Evening dressage and our combined training.||Schooling or jumping depending on what you did yesterday and ride out||Ride out with stronger canters up to 4 mins.||One hour ride out with trot and canter.|
|10||Day off||Ride out with hills and trot and canter||20 mins schooling and ride out for 40 mins.||Cross country schooling||Schooling 20 mins and ride out for 40 mins||Ride out with a stronger canter up hills.||Ride out with trots and canters over undulating ground.|
|11||Day off||Ride out with hills, strong trots and canters.||20 mins schooling / or jumping and 40 mins ride out.||Evening competition, dressage or jumping.||20 mins schooling and ride out with hills.||Ride out with faster canters ¾ speed. Into the bridle.||20 mins school and 40 mins ride out.|
|12||Day off||Ride out with canters up hill ¾ speed.||20 mins schooling and ride out for 40 mins.||Possible evening competition or jumping.||20 mins schooling and 40 mins ride out.||First 80 m or 90 m eventing competition.||Day off and check tendons and legs.|
Article by Sam Goss BHSI/PCCHL5. MSc Coaching Science
Tel: 07875 311983