Getting a Horse “Fit” after a Long Break

To bring your horse back to a state of fitness, you should start with slow work, mainly walking and trotting the first two weeks, then adding some canter work the third week. By the fourth week, you can start muscling up the quarters and improving the horse’s wind by trotting up a long, gradual incline that has good footing–about three or four times up the incline three times a week. It’s surprising how fast you can get a horse fit with this easy regimen. You can also do a little jumping at this point, doing gymnastics one day a week and practicing on single lines another day.

If you are into Eventing, your horse will need to be fitter than the normal show horse, and your work regimen will be a little different. On the fourth week, you can begin to practice over single cross-country fences, and on the fifth week add some gallop work–about one minute of gallop two times a week–while doing the work on the incline on other days.

From here on, devise a schedule based on the demands of upcoming competions, keeping in mind that your horse should be fit enough to have clear, rather than foamy, sweat when it is in hard work, whether it is showing or eventing. The horse should also have an increase in muscle and a decrease in its “hay belly” as it becomes fit. Finally, the horse’s wind should be sufficient so that the animal doesn’t seem to struggle to get enough air during hard work. Once you observe these physical signs, you know your horse is ready to compete.