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Time off for horses.

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  • Time off for horses.

    With a zillion trillion things to work on with my horse it's VERY hard to give him time off and rest. How much time off for a low level eventer do you guys give after show season, which is over here in the midwest. I only have one horse so when he is off, I am off. I think that's my concern as well because I need the work more than he does!

  • #2
    I always give Bravo time off after being in training and showing. I think it's so good for their mind. I also like him to just be a trail horse at times too. Just leisurely strolls with other horses where there isn't much being asked of him. I think it really helps them focus on their work later.

    Originally posted by riderboy View Post
    With a zillion trillion things to work on with my horse it's VERY hard to give him time off and rest. How much time off for a low level eventer do you guys give after show season, which is over here in the midwest. I only have one horse so when he is off, I am off. I think that's my concern as well because I need the work more than he does!
    Chris Misita
    www.hiddenvalleyfarms.net Home of Bravo and Warrick!
    To dare; progress comes at this price. All sublime conquests are, more or less, the rewards of daring.
    Victor Hugo


    • #3
      My horse doesn't really get any time "off" for the winter. Show season down south is almost year round, but... we usually don't show between Nov and Feb at least.

      I do cut back on my riding, mostly cause it's too cold or wet, but he doesn't get like a month straight off or anything. We spend a lot more time doing hills and trail riding and back off a smidge on the drilling.

      I know some people think that horses NEED some time off, and I would agree if they are heavily campaigned, but... for me.....we only show once every other month usually, so I don't feel like his brain is fried. Plus, he is out 24/7 and gets to be a horse the 22 hrs a day I'm not messing with him, so I figure... he's good to keep working through it


      • #4
        I'm in the midwest, and I don't ride my horse when it is under 15 degrees (even in the indoor). That gives him plenty of time off every winter, and he always come back fresh for the season. I also cut down my riding from 6 days a week to about 4 during November, December, January. It just makes my life easier with the holidays and such.


        • #5
          My horse also gets time off in the winter when it's too cold (less than 15 for me) too dark or if I have no footing. So that means she gets a lot of time off in January. It's dark when I get out of work so I try to ride before work so there are days when the footing is frozen in the early mornings and I can't ride because of that.


          • #6
            I think it depends a lot on the horse. We have one particular horse who our vet has told us under no circumstances is he allowed to vacation anymore (aging horse with mileage and a lot of wear and tear). Rest is actually the worst thing for him. That being said, that doesn't mean we have to drill him every day in the dressage ring and in fact he'll probably do lots of hacking over the winter.

            Our horses all generally get a lighter load this time of year, especially between now and New Year when everyone is busy with the holidays. I am changing my normal vacation time this year for my horse, partly because of a clinic in a few weeks and partly because he gets crabby after a few weeks of vacation. So, instead of sitting from now until New Year, he's got a lighter workload, will (hopefully) hunt some (the weather seems set against it for us), and just play more that work. He'll get the two weeks off after the clinic and then just play and hack and hunt (weather permitting) for a few weeks. So, less REAL vacation time but very little hard intense work.


            • #7
              Agree with yb-- it depends on the horse. Taco has a history of getting himself into trouble when he has time off. He also seems to get bored and restless, even on lots of turnout. So I keep to a routine of riding, but scale back the intensity of the sessions.
              Taco Blog
              *T3DE 2010 Pact*


              • #8
                I tend to ride less days a week in the winter but continue riding. Riding 6-7 days a week was pretty necessary when we were showing and conditioning but it was difficult to schedule! Riding 3-4 days a week all winter gives the horses a little break and helps save my marriage! I try to vacation in the winter too (so that it doesn't conflict with horse shows ), so that will be a good 10-14 days off for the horses too. I would go insane though if I didn't ride for a month or two!!
                5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO - you're on course!


                • #9
                  My horse gets time off every time she goes lame, which is frequent with such an accident prone horse. If I ever go a full year without lameness I do spell her for a few weeks before and during Christmas (when I'm out of town for 2 weeks anyway). Then I bring her back into work slowly. It seems to really benefit her to have that time off, even though I only do 1-3 shows/year.

                  One thing I did notice was that the first week she has off, nothing changes. By the end of week two she looks rough--her body is "resetting." By the third week she looks fantastic (considering she's lost some muscle). When I start riding her again she comes back so well, and we really get a lot accomplished. If I can, I try to catch ride other people's horses from time to time during that time frame to both get miles on different beasts and to keep myself fit enough. It's actually not a bad system! We're just coming into form as indoor schooling show season kicks off, and by the time XC courses open and clinics get going we're already going strong and improving. We carry that momentum into show season, after which we work on a few more issues that popped up during the season before winding down around Thanksgiving and spelling at Christmas.


                  • #10
                    Every horse is different (as everyone has said!) but my horse has showed me, with GREAT regularity, that when I'm really banging my head against a wall with him over some training issue - learning flying changes, suppling to his stiff side, jumping a certain kind of fence - the single best thing I can do is give him some time off. Granted, he was going advanced and was showing from Feb-May and Aug-Oct, so he was doing a lot of hard work during the season and I usually didn't just up and stop the season because we were having an issue with one thing. Instead, we'd drill on the problem, butt heads, fix it some but not make it great. But at the end of the season, invariably, giving him time off (which, for him as a mellow, older horse was 2 weeks totally off and untouched, plus 2-4 more weeks long-rein hacking with no demands on his brain) was the best thing to wipe the slate clean on whatever issue we were butting heads. He always came back from his vacations happier and more game.
                    I evented just for the Halibut.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by riderboy View Post
                      I only have one horse so when he is off, I am off. I think that's my concern as well because I need the work more than he does!
                      Being out of the saddle, and/or giving your horse some easy hacks, doesn't mean that you can't work on "you" as a rider.

                      If you decide to turn your horse out for a few weeks (or months), spend that barn time doing other useful horse stuff. Read that equitation book, or watch that DVD, that you never get around to. Hit the library and catch up with the whole last year of Practical Horseman, Equus, etc. Do a one-week or two-week trial at a local gym, or take your riding lesson budget and purchase a drop-in fitness pass for yoga/pilates/aerobics classes. Audit a clinic, practice your wraps, give your tack a thorough cleaning, etc.

                      If you keep your horse in work but opt for less mentally stressful work for your horse, that's prime time to work on your own form in the saddle. Drop the stirrups, work on your jumping position, do a "form ride" where you constantly audit your position from head to toe and back up, etc. Work on your eye over fences by trotting over a ground pole--easy for the horse, hard for you. Work on your horse's free walk and stretchy circles--again easy for the horse, hard for the rider. Get someone to video tape your ride, then spend the "next" day that you would have spent riding at home, watching the tape very carefully and figuring out how to improve.
                      Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/


                      • #12
                        I'm a big believer in giving horses a mental and physical break, and it just so happens that for me November and December are the ideal time to do it--work gets very busy, there is no more daylight, and I don't have an arena, so there you are: time off.

                        Bonnie usually goes to my trainer's for the winter, after her 6-8 week fall break, and I don't really feel like she loses much in terms of training. Fitness, yes, but that's because I've still never had a reason to get her hard fit and so she doesn't keep a level of fitness like other horses who have been kept at a higher level can.

                        One exception would be an older or arthritic horse, who might do better if you keep them at some level of steady work just to keep things lubricated. Even then, I like to give them a break from schooling and drilling and might just do some long hacks a few times a week, then bring them back into work after this sort of mini-break.

                        Bottom line for me, I have never regretted giving a horse some time off. The reality is, it is not always something I have control over. So I don't sweat it. I have to take care of the dang critters day in, day out, so time off from riding doesn't mean I don't have "horse time".
                        Click here before you buy.


                        • #13
                          My mare has gotten several breaks that were involuntary on my part and were the result of my job or her lameness.
                          Each one was at least 3 weeks of no riding at all. She always came back happier, fresher and mentally much better. In the future, any year where she does not have time off because of circumstance, she will get at least 2 weeks off (totally off) as part of an actual plan. Any improvement (by me or her) lost by my not riding was far outweighed by our ability to make progress because she was mentally more ready after a break.
                          But each horse is different and I do not think the same apporach would work with my gelding.
                          There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.(Churchill)


                          • #14
                            I think every horse needs some version of time off. Depending on the individual, it could be anything from just backing off on the number of times per week you ride, to just taking longs hacks every day, to straight up throwing them in the pasture and not touching them for several weeks.

                            My guy seems to benefit from some time off. Since we do the lower levels and didn't have a terribly rigorous show schedule this year, he's not really getting an extended break. After our last show of the season I backed off on how hard I worked him, but I still rode. Then he tweaked his stifle a bit so I went a month just walking and trotting with a little canter thrown in, but pretty much just stretching and long and low the whole ride. After he was better and we picked up the pace a little, he felt better than ever when we're jumping, and he has continued to do so since. I'm firm in my belief that the time off is just as good (if not better) for them mentally as it is for them physically.

                            He just got a 5 day break since I left for Thanksgiving, and he'll probably get a week around Christmas. So, while I'm not setting aside a designated "off" period for him, I have significantly backed off the work load and focused more on trying to make myself stronger in the saddle. But from my experience he does better staying working (he gets very bored when he's not working) lightly through the whole winter. I say play it by ear and tailor it to your horse.
                            God forbid that I go to a heaven in which there are no horses


                            • #15
                              My intermediate horse started giving me some troubles that was effecting both our confidence this spring. He was just starting to be like "p!$$ off! I don't want to work" and it was not working out well. He even started pulling stunts durind dressage which he almost never did. Like taking off spooking trying to buck me off... fun...

                              So due to work and moving I have actually given him almost 6 months off. He worked 4 days a week for a few months late summer, early fall and did a training and prelim CT and went xc schooling where he was on fire. He's hacked a few times since schooling early november... I have every confidence that he'll come back better than ever next spring after his vaca.

                              Some horses need the time off, some don't. He is one that does.


                              • #16
                                Tess just got a two week vacation, because the barn dog ran into the side of my knee. It was too painful for me to ride for a week. Then, I got the stomach flu and was unable to ride for several more days.

                                We will be going on a trip in January, to celebrate my DH's retirement, so I will miss another week of riding then. Tess stays in good condition, because of a very large hill in her pasture. She will probably need a few weeks of dressage work to become supple again, but that is fine.

                                As Jn4Jenny said, now is a good time to work on you. You can do this out hacking. Before I got sick, I was working on re-learning to sit the trot. I had started doing exercises without stirrups and upper body stretches to help with my dressage position.

                                So, in answer to your original question, I don't think that you have to throw your guy out in a pasture for two months. Maybe just cut down on the number of days that you ride. Go on trail rides and have some fun with him.
                                When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!


                                • #17
                                  Since I went back to work my lower level eventer has had way more vacation than she should have and it shows. She lost a bit of condition and had a fairly pissy attitude about going to work when I'm finally able to ride. I had been riding 4-5 days a week down to once or twice on a weekend. I get home in the pitch dark and having to haul out to ride, it wasn't happening. This is a horse that needs constant work with maybe two days off a week at the most. It's not all arena work, we do trail rides as well but I think the riding through the winter is going to be severely curtailed and that will make things tougher come spring.

                                  If your horse can come back from vacation at the same place where you left off, then go for it. Some just can't take a lot of time off.
                                  Yogurt - If you're so cultured, how come I never see you at the opera? Steven Colbert


                                  • #18
                                    Ours for the most part get full-on vacations at the end of the season: pull the shoes, throw them out in the field, let them get fuzzy and dirty and fat. Most of them really enjoy it (we have a couple who need to have a friend in the field with them to relax) and it's good for them to regroup, recharge, heal anything nagging, etc. My prelim horse had five weeks off after his one star last year; he'll have about a month this year, depending on weather and timing. While not a perfect fix, I think they come back well from it: our usual program is 3-6 weeks off, then a few weeks or a month of walking/hacking before they go back to work. The amount of time off, coupled with legging them back up slowly and thoughtfully seems to not only help bones/joints/muscles/brain, but also gives us a chance to regroup and think about the season past and the one to come.


                                    • #19
                                      I have never really done the same thing two years in a row! My horses do always get a period of time each year either totally off work or being ridden with less intensity.

                                      This year my horse gave himself a break from the beginning of July to the end of September. First he had some minor, although still very annoying, soundness issues. Then the equine dentist found a fractured upper molar which required surgery. Last year he gave himself the month of November off with a pulled muscle from a freak accident with his blanket.

                                      Anyway, this year he had his time off over the summer so he is in regular work now. Plus it doesn't get super cold here, and we have an indoor that stays fairly warm inside.

                                      He is super quiet so that wasn't a problem. I could probably not ride him for a year and ride him bareback on the first day. He got fat though, and he is a stocky horse so it's taking quite awhile to get him back in shape.
                                      T3DE Pact


                                      • #20
                                        My horse is in his teens and has been on a regular work schedule almost all his life, and doesn't seem to understand why he wouldn't be in work. What's wrong he's not getting the usual human attention???

                                        Replacing real training with short quiet rides keeps him feeling wanted and appreciated, and helps maintain his joints. It's good for me as well. And sometimes some grooming and a chat satisfies his need for a regular routine and to feel important to humans, without 'work.'

                                        Every few weeks throughout the year he gets 'mini-vacations' of 3-4 days off, completely off. This has helped refresh his mind without worrying him. But about day 5 of no-work he becomes a little anxious he's been forgotten (even though he sees people caring for him.) A grooming session will help reassure him, though.

                                        He is on daily turnout and spends most non-riding daylight hours with his herd in the pasture.

                                        The regular schedule of turnout and some-form-of-work keeps him happiest. Competing and short quiet hacks both count as some-form-of-work.

                                        I think if during his younger years this horse had been on a yearly schedule of time-offs of 30 days or more, that would be a good plan as well. As he gets older I've thought about gradually to increasing no-work periods and have him feel happy about them. But - his joints are much more comfortable to him if he is getting even a little work.