Bringing a horse back up to speed after pasture time
Just looking to get some thoughts/opinons/ideas....
My situation is this. I am currently deployed and will be home sometime this Spring/Summer. Even though I am very excited to get home and start riding again, my 7 yr Draft/TB gelding will have been "sitting" for 10 months. Granted he is on 24 hour turnout, but still, for a guy his size I don't want to just throw him right back into a training regimen. Just looking for some opinions on those who have dealt with something like this before. I tend to err more on the side of caution and maybe go slower than I should, I just want to make sure I can get back riding without causing any injury or irritability.
A few years ago, I sent my event horse out to pasture for a sabbatical (he was having a lot of behavioral issues that we couldn't get to the bottom of, physically). He was out for 9 months.
When I brought him back to work, I started by just taking him for walk hacks. I let him tell me how much he felt up for (that was more for the brain than anything). We started with walks of about 20 minutes, and over a couple of weeks were up to about 45 with a little trotting here and there. By about 4 weeks, he was doing 45 minutes to an hour of w/t/c hacks and feeling good. We added in ring work and some jumping at 6 weeks...he did a training level event at the end of that. He could have gone around xc twice.
Now, keep in mind this was a SMALL TB who had already been prelim fit when he went on sabbatical. He was ALWAYS a horse who if you looked at funny, he would get super fit. Fitness was never an issue with him.
Another story: we had retired an Irish Sport Horse gelding when he just wasn't staying sound anymore (kept injuring himself in the pasture, and those injuries got the better of him). He lived out for 18 months until his caregiver could not keep him anymore. He came home, and one day my boss (his former rider) and I were watching him trot across the field. The guy was SOUND. As a project, we gave him to a teenager in the barn to learn how to fit up a horse and, if he stayed sound, he could be her schoolmaster at BN and N. We went VERY slow. She hand walked him for a couple of weeks around the farm. Then we taught her to ground drive, and she ground drove him in the ring and around the farm for a few weeks (ground driving to encourage him to use his back and start building a topline without putting too much pressure on his wonky stifle). She climbed on at about 4 weeks and walk hack him another 4 weeks. Then, treating him like a soft tissue rehab horse, we added in trots, starting with 5 minutes, and adding 5 every week. We did that for a month, then added in canter. We probably started this project in December. She jumped him the first time I believe in March. Granted, we missed time because of bad weather, but we were VERY deliberate and careful with him.
Again, this was a horse who had been intermediate fit, and had a long career as an eventer and show jumper before he was retired. He was also 7/8 or more TB. The deep base of fitness helps, as does the TB.
So, anyway, I would say, USUALLY, a sound horse of any breeding, should probably be able to return to full work (real flatwork, jumping, etc), after 6 to 8 weeks of slow, methodical building. Start with walks of about 20-30 minutes, gradually adding in more terrain. After a couple of weeks, slowly add in trotting, then some canter. You can never go wrong with MORE walking, and bonus points if you are able to walk and trot on a hard surface, like a hard packed gravel road (that will build up the soft tissues). Encourage good use of the top line to help build that up.
Thanks guys!!! This definitely gives me some starting points!!! He has the tendency to be a little stiff when he first starts work for the day, so I plan to go a little slower with him. I'd always rather be safe than sorry!! Lucky for me I will be getting back around Spring/Summer and the days will be longer