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Bringing Horses Back Into Work

Bringing Horses Back Into Work


IS YOUR HORSE BEING TREATED LIKE AN ATHLETE?

This is an issue that can have major implications on a horses performance and soundness and what I am talking about is correct fitness work prior to the season or when bringing a horse back into work.

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By Amanda Wilson | Saturday, 14 July 2018

In my coaching and at competition, I see many horses that have just been pulled out of the paddock and are expected to jump several rounds or spend a whole day being sat on while at an A&P show or a ribbon day among other expectations of ours. The majority of these, especially at the start of the season, are either overweight with no fitness at all or are underweight with no muscle cover and so are very weak across the topline.

 

What happens when we do not take into account our horses fitness and condition, (and the rider also) is that the horse is suddenly being asked to perform strenuous work with no muscle to hold them together, whilst also carrying the weight of a rider and because of this they are suddenly much more prone to strains and tear of their bodies. Their joints will end up taking most the strain but the horse’s spine is where most of my concern lies. Without correct topline (muscle covering on either side of the spine) the horse has nothing to support the weight of a rider and will be much more likely of hollowing their backs and working upside down, causing all sorts of damage over the horse's body. Muscle strains, ligament and tendon damage general internal damage is also a risk you take when you don’t take into consideration your horse’s fitness.

 

This is the structure we sit on when riding. Without correct muscle cover, the horse's topline will be weaker and they will likely struggle to hold the weight of a saddle and rider, causing the horse to hollow their backs and risk potential spine damage as in https://theformula.co.nz/The-Vault/The-Vault-Details/kissing-spine-the-invisible-trauma.

 

You might not see it in the beginning; a random stop here or there, a little head nod or a little tight in the hamstrings but in a year or three years or two owners later when it’s no longer your problem, the horse will likely start to break down. Instead of lasting till their golden ages like they should, they are suddenly off the circuit at 11 years old or slamming on the breaks and no longer happy to jump the heights it once did.

 

No matter what discipline we compete in, or what level we compete at, our horses are athletes and should be treated as such. It does not matter if the horse is jumping 50cm, or going on x3 hunts a season or jumping Grand Prix, what we are asking them to do is unnatural and we need to consider the implications of what will happen to their long-term well-being and soundness when we neglect our responsibilities in making sure they are properly conditioned and fit to do what we are asking them to do.

 

Correct fitness and condition is so important to a horse's long-term well-being.

 

In my stables, it takes 6-10 weeks to have my horses fit enough to compete at their first show. For the first two weeks, I only ever walk and trot them (being ridden or lunged) for 10-25 minutes – working on a slow trot and then riding forward into a big trot and back again. For the first week they are not asked into a contact but by the second week, I will start asking them to round up. At this stage, I also introduce the farm where we have a one hundred meter incline that we trot quietly up and walk home (this ride takes 25 minutes). By the third week, I introduce canter but I DO NOT sit on their backs much at all because my horses are too weak at this stage and by sitting I will encourage my horses to hollow and work incorrectly. I also do not expect them to canter small circles. Usually, my canter would be 1-4 minutes on each rein (broken up) and nothing more. By the fourth week I will sit and start asking more canter work and by the fifth week, I will start introducing jumps.

 

When I bring my horses into work they are in superb condition with good fat and natural muscle cover which means I have a great foundation to build on. Having a horse that is thin when it comes into work means it will be much harder for them to gain correct topline and so they are much more likely of breaking down and wearing out during the season.

 

These photos show our Team WS stallion, Carpaccio TWS, when he arrived from Belgium and then several months later after correct conditioning and fitness work. We did not begin any fitness work with him until he had put on 80 kilos and then we slowly introduced walk and trot work on the lunge for several weeks before he was ridden under saddle and slowly asked more. Asking a  horse to work when they are as weak and unfit as the photo above is likely to cause long-term damage to their structure and mental wellbeing yet I see many horses out on the curcuit looking like this. 

 

If you look at any horse competing at the top level in Europe you will never see poverty lines or starry coats or weak types. Those horses are looked after so well. They get correct fitness work, correct nutrition and feed programmes, well-fitted saddles, massages and more and because of this, they are much more sound in brain and body when asked to perform. That is my goal with my horses and I think should be a goal for any owner. We owe it to the horse to make sure they are sound and happy for years to come.

 

 

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1 comments on article "Bringing Horses Back Into Work"

Paula

Best of luck with your blog

It looks amazing

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