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Days off - the work is getting more demanding

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  • Days off - the work is getting more demanding

    Hi everyone,

    I have gotten to the point with my horse where he is just an absolute pleasure to ride. His training is coming along wonderfully; stretching into the contact, adjustability in his outline (from collected to REALLY stretching over his back into a loopy, engaged outline). Anyway, my point is, it has taken ALOT of riding to get him to this point; every day, one day off. He is a short muscled horse, very compact, short back. I find that riding him every day of the week is best, even if one day is just a hack, so my "off day" usually means lots of love, but still a walk under tack (NO arena work).

    My question is this: Now that I have him to this point, and we are REALLY starting on the harder work (he is my jumper and we are now able to introduce more complex grids and higher fences (1.10, 1.15), giving him a day off for his muscles to recover is definetely in the cards. However, I want to know what this day off actually does for them PHYSICALLY, in a more in depth explanation. I get the mental day off, but what is the cycle of repair?

    I am eager to know.

    Subsequently, leg care would be my next logical question. His legs are extremely clean, and I am crazy about taking excellent care of him (this is my forever horse). Linament is great, but slapping it on and saying it is a benefit is not really my train of thought. I have been giving him leg massages with the linament after every ride. I take about 20 minutes, five per leg. Am I nuts? Increasing circulation is what helps with repair, non?

    Sorry for the novel. This is my first horse and he is just so special. He is full irish draught, with lines back to King of Diamonds on pop's side. Although not a grand prix prospect, he IS EXTREMELY scopey at 1.0, 1.10, 1.15 and possibly 1.20. He free jumps bigger, but I don't have the kahonas. Point being, he is very special.



  • #2
    "day off" is very subjective - does it mean no riding but 24x7 turnout? No riding but 20 hours in a stall? Walking for 30 minutes, along the lines of what you do?

    Movement is stretching, movement is contracting, movement helps sore muscles work themselves out.

    Working muscles for the purpose of building them involves tearing them down a little - enough to cause repair to create a larger muscle, but not so much you cause work-stopping damage. Alternating amount collected work, with LSD work, with jumping, on various days, incorporating loose rein hacks, doesn't work the same muscles in the same ways, so they are able to repair themselves. That "day off" allows for more repair.
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


    • #3
      In a 24 hour period, he is only stalled for about half of that. He gets 9 hours turn-out, then four hours a day with me. One hour schooling with 15 mins before and after stretch work. Then, usually a nice loose rein walk in the fields to clear MY head from a hectic work day.


      • #4
        It sounds like you are doing great! The really personalized TLC you put into him is probably doing more than you know. It will later, too. When you ask him to "dig deep" he relies on track record of your great relationship with him and does it for you.

        I'd give you one thing to think about and one more PITA bit of work.

        To think about: Tailor your days off to how he feels in mind and body. I think the really good trainers work this way. They have a long term plan, but they work on whatever the horse presents to them that day. Vary your routine as well so that when you put him in cross-ties he looks forward to what's coming next. If he looks forward to hard work, great. If he starts to look a little worried then that's the day you "fake him out" with a bareback walk around the farm. Or tack him up, take him to the arena (the job site), strip him and let him roll and play.

        As far as the physical part, a day off after a jumping school is common. Some also do that after a day of working on collection-- the kind of work that slightly tears down big muscle in order to build more with rest. Other horses appreciate turn out after that work or a day of very light stretching. I'm a big fan of letting them roll. "Poor man's chiropractic"-- it can really help a horse to be given the chance to use his body in a really different way after he has been warmed up and asked to hold muscles in contraction. If the beast is a little mentally tense, I might even put him back in his paddock dirty-- just let him be a horse. See "faking him out" above.

        The other thing you can add is some cold hosing after you jump. It's a PITA and something most of us would like to skip. It doesn't get skipped for the expensive horses. I used to take my cheap, hilly billy little hunter to a creek after our jumping schools. I'd park him in a deep section that was above his hocks/knees and chill. He dug it and it was good for him. His legs were/are clean and this horse never had a soft tissue injury. Ever.
        The armchair saddler
        Politically Pro-Cat


        • #5
          Thanks mvp. I never really thought about the "letting him just be a horse" part. He is very pampered. Letting him loose in the arena is a bit of a worry for THIS horse in particular because he goes nuts. The last time he was out to play, he over-reached and grabbed the bulb of his heel. Yum. Sooo, I have to be careful. It's odd with him; he is excellent, but quite the hot head under certain circumstances; I know him well enough to channel it into productivity, but I am fairly sure in the wrong hands he would be a disaster.

          I love the idea of switching things up based on my "read" of him. There are times when he looks at the arena door and doesn't want to walk forward. So, I will take note and change plans accordingly. I can TOTALLY see him with a WTF face. He is very smart and is a real thinker; that's what I adore about him.

          Seems like I am doing what I need to keep him happy and sound. With a few more of these tips added in, I think my recipe for success will work. Off to ride!



          • #6
            More turnout would be my preferred option here. Movement wards off stiffness.

            As you start jumping more and bigger you will have to give him more time off. Jumping is weightlifting. Often a schedule of flat day, jump day, day off, hack day, repeat works well.
            "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
            The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


            • #7
              If turnout is limited though, that "day off" in ET's post would be much better substituted for a long walk, either in-hand or under saddle
              The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


              • #8
                Turn-out isn't really limited, especially for around here. He is out starting at 7am, and during the summer, stays out till 9pm. In the colder months, they come in at about 3:30, but that is still much more than most places around here.

                Thanks for the advice guys. This would not be a "top of mind" question if it weren't for the fact this horse is like an air fern. Keeping him fit is a chore, he is just such an easy keeper. He is fed as per the nutritionist, low glycemic index; even though he does not have cushings or is IR. I treat him as such because he is a big horse. No harm, no foul.


                • #9
                  It's awesome to see someone concerned about the mental and physiological issues associated with work, rest, and "day off"
                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                  • #10
                    Ask your vet, but for what I remember, it takes muscle tissue some 48 hours to repair, that is why most trainers don't do hard work any closer than every two days.

                    Your vet should be able to show you some book chapters in their books touching on this you can read.


                    • #11
                      yep, that's why body builders don't work the same muscle groups 2 days in a row. One can still work hard more than 2 days in a row, but the concentration should be on different muscles or different uses. It's hard to not use all the muscles in a horse when working hard, but by rotating among using fast-twitch muscles (ie speed work), and slow-twitch (collected work, hills, etc) and jumping and the light hack day, you can get pretty much the same thing accomplished in the rest/work cycle.
                      The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET