For most Equestrians, the Christmas and New Year period is a great time to give our horses a break after a year of hard work in and out of the competition ring. Although for some 2020 wasn't as big of a year as any prior to it, it's still vital that we give our horses and ourselves a break to reset and refocus for the new year ahead.
As we are all settling back into our routines after the festive season and planning to bring our horses back into their own work routine we've created a list of tips as provided by riders all around the world about how to best go about easing them into their routines again.
1. Slow but steady
When bringing your horse back into work, starting with short sessions, in a slow paced manner on a regular basis is the way to go. Depending on your horse and yourself, you might find lunging them the first few sessions for 10 to 15 minutes is a great way to get their joints moving and get any excess beans (aka energy) out of their system before adding a rider to the equation.
From there, you can increase your sessions to work under saddle or perhaps some long reining. Ensuring you are including lots of walk, transitions, trot and some canter.
2. Don't forget to stretch
Like the feeling we get after we haven't worked out for a few weeks then hit the gym, our horses also get soreness and muscle pains when they have had a break from being ridden. To help reduce post-exercise pain and increase their muscle recovery, instead of just hosing and putting them back into the paddock why not opt to give them a massage with horse liniment cream or some carrot stretches. Alternatively, you can also invest in hand held massage guns or massage rugs or pads.
3. Don't expect them to be the same horse
They've had a break, their not as fit, not as fast and not as agile as they were those weeks or months ago when you last rode. Don't expect them to be the athlete they were before their break, and don't expect yourself to be the same rider either. Treat each session and ride as a chance to work on the basics and to build on your foundations to become even better athletes for this years competitions or adventures.
4. Mix it up
When competitions start up again it's easy to fall back into the routine of riding to compete, not riding to have fun. Take these first few months of the year to explore ways to mix up your horses routine. Wether it be going for a trail ride, riding out in the open, trying out a new local arena or even working to add in more ground work and other mentally stimulating activities.