Getting back onboard
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Getting back onboard
BY WENDY TALBOT ON 15 JUNE 2020
If you are planning to bring your horse back into work after time off during lockdown it pays to be prepared and to take things slowly, not just for safety’s sake but for your horse’s health and athletic longevity too.
More haste less speed
You will undoubtedly be excited about getting back on board during these long balmy summer days but remember that your horse has been happily chilling in the field with his friends. He may not share your enthusiasm and his grass belly and lack of muscle tone will mean that he’s not in the best shape for instant work either!
Lack of muscle and extra weight mean extra pressure on joints, tendons, ligaments, respiratory and cardiovascular systems, so it’s crucial to take things slowly and build fitness gradually, over six to eight weeks.
If you turned your horse away without shoes you will need to check the state of his feet and organise a visit from your farrier. Depending on the quality of your horse’s hooves and the ground on which you are planning to ride you will probably need at least a pair of front shoes. Every horse is different so it’s best to have a chat with your farrier to devise the most suitable plan.
Struggling to do up that girth? Rather like the waistlines of some of us during lockdown your horse’s middle may have expanded by a centimetre or two! Reduced muscle tone and increased fat may also mean that your saddle doesn’t fit as well as it should. Unfortunately lockdown means you may not be able to organise a visit from a saddler but you can watch a helpful series of short videos from the Society of Master Saddlers here .
If your horse has missed a dental check-up during lockdown it’s a good idea to try and book an appointment with your vet or Equine Dental Technician, as soon as you can. This way you will know that your horse is comfortable in his mouth before you start to ramp up the exercise.
Walking in hand
If your horse is safe and sensible to lead, walking in hand could be a good first step for both of you. Remember to wear a hat and gloves and use a bridle for control. Walking round the arena several times on each rein, or round the field will help to build the first steps of fitness and can be a good way to re-establish your routine and ‘working’ relationship with your horse.
In the saddle
The British Horse Society recommends a six to eight week fittening plan:
Week 1 – 20 minutes of walk work, ideally moving in straight lines on a level surface