Updated: Mar 15
Now that the silly season is behind us and the show season is soon to be in full swing, we have been bringing in our slightly chubby ponies from the paddock to get ready for work. And we know that many of you will be doing the same. We often get asked about how to bring a horse back into work after a break who is normally quiet and trust-worthy but is now an overly exuberant fire breathing dragon.
Getting on a well fed, fresh horse can be a risky business but there are a few things you can do to make the whole process safer giving you and your horse a much better experience.
1. Take your horse off high energy feed such as grain, hard feeds, pellets, lucerne hay etc. and feed only roughage for at least 2-3 days if not 1 week before attempting to work your horse. Make sure you increase the amount of roughage your horse gets during this period to minimise weight loss.
2. Lunge it, free jump it, long rein it, put it on a walker if you have one. One of the best ways to get yourself injured is to get straight back on a horse after a break without working it from the ground first. Work your horse on the ground until it’s gotten the silly out of it’s system and it’s demeanour is relatively calm. If your horse is still bucking and carrying on, don’t expect it to go any differently with you in the saddle. Your horse is not ready for you to get on. It may take one or several days or longer before your horse in the right mindset for you to get on.
3. Once you feel that it is safe to get on your horse, get on in an enclosed area if possible or have someone hold your horse for you until you feel happy to go by yourself.
4. Take it slow. It is best to have low expectations of your horse when bringing it back in to work. It is unrealistic to expect your horse to go as it was before it’s break. Depending on how much time off your horse has had, his fitness will be reduced or down to zero. The tasks that he found easy before will not necessarily be easy for him anymore. Focus on relaxation and rhythm in your rides until this is easy again for him before asking your horse do more difficult things.
5. Once your horse has proven itself to be sensible, start bringing it back onto its normal feed. If you start seeing that fire-breathing dragon again, drop the feed back off.
If you don’t feel confident enough to handle your horse while he is fresh and on his toes, to work your horse through his excitable behaviours, or if your horse’s behaviour/demeanour is not improving no matter how much ground work you do or work towards relaxation and rhythm, it might be best to seek some help from a professional to get you and your horse back on track. Don't hesitate to give us a call if you have any questions. Good luck with those chubby ponies and stay safe!