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May 11, 2016
A Horse, Of Course
Summer may mean vacation for us, but it usually means work time for horses.
With the kids out of school, and longer days, there’s more time to ride. And ride we do.
In far too many cases, we ride too much. Horses which have not been conditioned to mild work are not “fit” for the onslaught of trail rides, horse shows and other equine events which accompany summer vacation. They are quickly overworked, and infrequently given the needed rest.
Kids (and adults) get so busy having a good time they forget to provide sufficient rest periods. They become overly-tired, and then they get cranky and miserable.
The same thing happens to horses. They become overly-tired, and they get cranky and miserable. (This is not usually a condition brought on by a lack of the horse’s common sense.)
Activity of any kind produces chemical waste within a horse’s body. The chemical wastes are toxins produced by the burning of fuel, and used body tissue. When activity is moderate, the excretion of toxins and the supply of more fuel, oxygen and body-building substances easily keep pace. But, when the work is beyond normal there is a buildup of toxins and eventual overloading.
The horse accustomed to three or four short afternoon rides per week is going to suffer in several ways if he suddenly finds himself working all-day, every day.
Within a matter of days the horse is probably going to be muscle sore. Muscle soreness is brought on by long periods of continuous work, or short periods of work more strenuous than normal.
Muscle soreness often leads to strained and sprained tendons and ligaments. These injuries are often caused by tissue fatigue.
If the horse doesn’t become lame, he certainly becomes cranky and “barn-sour”.
Muscle soreness, sprains and “barn-sour” horses are as common each summer as trips to the beach, sunburned and bored kids.
The way to avoid the problem with horses is to plan a little conditioning program which includes plenty of rest.
The horse should be given gradual increases in exercise. An hour a day for the first two weeks of summer, plus a day off each six days, is recommended. As the horse becomes adjusted to the new work program, it can be expanded. But, it must be expanded slowly.
The average pleasure horse probably shouldn’t be given more than one and half to two and a half hours of work each day. And, that work should be interspersed with rest breaks of ten to 20 minutes.
A trail ride can be fun for both horse and rider if the distance and terrain are moderate. If the horse is allowed to walk most of the way, he’ll come back in two hours as healthy as he left.
During all “rest stops” it’s advisable to loosen the cinch or girth, and give the horse a chance to relax.
Upon returning to the stable, a nice cool-water bath and a walking period is an excellent end to a good ride.
Groom the horse thoroughly, and then put him away. And once the horse is stalled or pastured, leave him alone. Leading the horse around, or grooming him excessively isn’t restful; it’s annoying.
The horse should have plenty of good quality forage, only be fed supplements if needed to meet nutrients lacking in the forage, and free choice salt. Fresh, clean water should be available at all times.
A program of work with plenty of rest is a good way to enjoy a horse and still keep him healthy during the summer.
How you get kids to rest during the summer, I have no idea!
Get yourself fit and ready to ride – take the online course: Fit To Ride. Visit www.equinestudiesinstitute.com to earn certification as a horse trainer, riding instructor or stable manager.