My horse has been acting very sour since about two weeks ago, for absolutely no reason. He's 4, and has been in pretty consistent work since I got him last April. He gets a week off here and there when I go away, but otherwise, he works 5-6 days a week. I ride anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and it's mostly trotting with some canter here and there, so it's not super strenuous BUT it's still work.
He's been acting like a jerk, I can't help but wonder if he just needs some time off because nothing else has changed in his routine. He doesn't have great turnout and it's been measly all winter especially, so maybe ponyboy does need a break.
Do your horses get vacations? How do you know they need them, and how long do they get off?
Bubba and Leo have had almost 9 months off...but of course its because I'm pregnant.
But I normally give a little over a month off between Thanksgiving thru New Years. When they were showing and stabled at a show barn, I paid for extra turnout time. I still went out everyday but instead of riding, I would do more turnout, light groundwork, or just easy fun stuff...like trail riding them on the weekend. I pulled Leo's shoes and reset Bubba with regular shoes instead of expensive show shoes during that time.
They were always better after the break and progressed faster.
I always figured it was like a nice long vacation for us. If you worked hard every day all year you'd be burned out and pissy too.
He's been working 5 to 6 days a week since he was 3, for 30 minutes to an hour per ride, and you're wondering why he's suddenly sour? He's probably sore! He's still a baby, and he's not done growing yet. That's a lot of work for such a young horse.
I have a 12 year old OTTB who I show in pleasure (english and western). At any rate, he typically gets time off from the last show (end of October-February). I pop on him occasionally walk/trot, or go for a hack on the trails. Other then that he gets to relax and be a horse for a while. I'm just bringing him back into condition slowly now (this winter has been brutal). I think the time off does him well. He comes back into shape quickly, and we're refreshed and ready for a new show season.
I let my show horse down in the winter. I'll still ride him and work him, but not 5-6 days a week like usual. More like 1-2 if the weather is good. This year I stopped working him as hard during October-Novemberish and I'm just now kind of starting to work him a bit more. (But still not that much, the weather is really unpredictable right now.)
This is where its important to listen to what your horse is telling you. There are no hard and fast rules. My show horse is 23 years old. He is still going strong because we don't give him time off. He doesn't work hard and only a few days per week but those few days per week are very important for him. We do lots of long and low and encourage him to get his back up and use his hind end. Without that he gets very stiff and sore. With it he just keeps trucking along.
With a baby or a sore horse I would absolutely give them time off but only after getting a vet check so I knew what I was dealing with. Just turning them out for a couple weeks won't hurt most things but it could hurt a mild suspensory strain for example.
Also I would mix up your training routine. That is too much drilling. 5-6 days a week of trotting/cantering work is going to turn even a sound horse mental. Hack out at least 2 days a week, spend another day or two doing patterns or something else interesting/fun like trot work out in a field, and do the long sets of flatting in the ring 2 days a week. Make it interesting for him. My TB would lose his marbles on your schedule, too tedious.
My guys always get some time "down," in the winter, if not totally off. I ride some, but lightly, for half an hour out on the trails. I pull shoes, they grow coats, and we wait for the snow to melt. We are all fresher for it in the spring, though I hate not riding as much in the winter. I do think it is good for the horses to have a break.
I'm lucky if I consistently get in more than three days a week of "work" on my horse (though he usually gets at least that much between me and giving a couple of lessons).
That said, winter sucks, and it becomes obvious after a while that he's getting bored and sour in the indoor if we do too much of the same sort of work over and over again. So we have to mix it up. I've started teaching him to jump so we're not just doing flatwork all the time, or we'll make up patterns to go through with poles and barrels and stuff. Or, we'll ride outside, on the various little driveways the farm has (because those are usually not muddy and icy for very long, even if the trails/fields are).
I agree with the others that he's probably bored of drilling and possibly sore. Have you had his saddle fit checked recently? All that work could have changed the shape of his back (more muscle) and it could be not fitting him well anymore.
I give mine a 5-6 week stretch of time off, usually in November/December. The weather here usually sucks anyhow, and that gives me plenty of time to get them back in shape for upcoming spring shows. Usually by the 4 week mark they are driving me insane because they are obviously bored and start getting into all sorts of trouble.
My 5 yo mare only started serious work in September as a 4 yo. She gets half a day turnout at the trainers but she will be coming home in the spring for a couple of weeks turnout. She's not sour and loves working but she is still a baby. Trainer and I both feel it will be good for her. We will do that off and on throughout the year and see how she goes. She won't lose anything fitness wise.
I know this is backwards but I'd rather keep them going through the winter when turnout is crap and give them time during the good weather so they can enjoy it!
COTH, keeping popcorn growers in business for years.
"I need your grace to remind me to find my own." Snow Patrol-Chasing Cars. This line reminds me why I have horses.
Not complete time off... but I do back off for about a month or two in the winter and then again in the summer. So instead of riding 4-5 days a week, I'll cut it back to 2-3.
This year I had some really crazy things going on in my life starting the end of Oct and they have just finally settled down a bit. I decided in late Dec when I was struggling to make lessons or even just make it out to the barn at all during the week to have my trainer ride my horse one day a week (Wed) and I would go out on the weekends for sure and possibly one other day during the week if I could. I also have a friend that takes lessons at my barn that wanted some more saddle time so we found a day that worked for both of us (Thur) that she could ride him lightly whenever she could make it out there.
I wasn't sure about the set up at first as I thought I would really miss riding him as much as I had been but it has been great. This winter has been brutal here and it's nice that I didn't have the pressure to try and make it out there after work during the week.
I also don't ride as much in the heat of the summer (late July-Aug). I don't do well in heat and I don't have the means to go before work or late in the evening during the week (if I go, it has to be right after work). And of course that is the hottest time of the day that time of year so I do "back it down" just a bit.
I guess my horse and I are definitely more fair weather creatures. Plus I think it's good to give him a mini-vacay 2x a year. And sometimes life just happens and you can't get out there.
I think I'll do the same set up again next winter (Jan/Feb). It's nice to have the trainer do a mini-boot camp w/ him for me. And my horse is the kind that needs to stay in at least light work year round or he gets really stiff from being out of shape (has previous injuries). So it has worked out well for me.
Our horses go to their last show in December and don't start back up until the end of April so they get most of the winter off. The kids take them out and ride around bareback in the snow and just play. Makes for relaxed, willing horses come Spring.
Lapeer ... a small drinking town with a farming problem.
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My horses have always gotten a good part of the winter off, because where I board there's no indoor...so darkness and snow prevent us from doing much riding. I think it's good for both of us, it keeps riding a joy rather than a task.
No vacations. Best thing for my horses (mid aged and young) is to keep on moving...
Why let them sit? They age just as fast as we do so I don't like wasting their time on pasture puffing for no reason... They will have time for that when they retire.
Sometimes, yes, but only if the work is varied, both in activity and intensity. From what hte OP said, it sounds like this horse is working hard (for it's age) every day.
OP, turn your horse out for a bit if you can for a few weeks. Blanketed if necessary - the idea is not for him to stand and shiver. Get the physio out at the start and also get his teeth checked. let his body recover and then bring back into work.
Try and mix the variety of the work and also the intensity, then Ozone has a point - some horses just like to be worked and as the get older it is sometimes necessary to work them consistently.
Just something I was thinking about and wanted to comment on:
My horse has been acting very sour since about two weeks ago, for absolutely no reason.
Italics are mine. And that's not actually true. There is some reason, it's just not obvious to you right now. Horses don't just suddenly have a change in attitude because they want to screw with you. There's a reason and I suspect it's a soreness/boredom issue, especially if turnout has been flaky. You might also consider the possibility of ulcers.