There are many books and articles about bringing your horse back into work after months off due to illness, injury or a change of circumstances. They talk about building fitness slowly, building muscle and aerobic fitness. But what about a short holiday? How fit is a horse after a week or two off? And how quickly can you return to full work?

Some say horses won’t loose much fitness from a fortnight’s holiday, provided that they aren’t on box rest and they’ve the opportunity to move.  I’m a little sceptical…after a fortnight’s holiday, I definitely feel less fit and able to perform.

Due to work and home improvements Abbey’s had over 10 days off and I’m bringing her back into work gently. Not as slowly as I would if she’d had a month of more off, but we’re certainly not starting back where we left off.  

I maybe being overly cautious but asking too much too soon increases the likelihood of injury and she’ll regain fitness more slowly than if we take our time. Don’t get me wrong, we won’t hang around but I will listen to her and give her the time she needs to rebuild muscle.

For this first week we’ll concentrate on a long and low, encouraging Abbey to engage her core and strengthen her topline. We started on Saturday with a hack around the little block. I am lucky with Abbey, I don’t think twice about hopping on after 10 days rest and heading out. Yes, she’ll be a little fresh but that’s about the worst of it.

Sunday we took to the school – as you can see in the video, it takes her a little longer than usual to settle but persistent “c’mon Abs, lets do some work!’ eventually gets through. 

The aim for the session was to get Abbey going forward into the contact, working through from behind and over her back. I wanted to feel her bend around my legs – which is why I added a little lateral work.                   

All in all we did about 25 minutes in the school and another 10 minutes walking on a loose rein around the fields. Cooling off is incredibly important, especially when bringing a horse back into work. If it’s too short, muscles get tight and rebuilding strength takes even longer.

Abbey had Monday off. Rest is one of the most important parts of training – it’s when the body starts to rebuild the muscle that’s been torn through exercise.

On Tuesday, despite the horrendous weather, we had a lesson. Working on similar things, Sam had us leg yielding in and out on 20m – 10m circles in trot. Abbey got quite tired, quite quickly so we cut the lesson a little short. 

Today I popped Abbey on the lunge with the intention of letting her stretch. Unfortunately 40mph gusts meant she spent 20 minutes running around like a paranoid chicken. Unable to relax, the exercise was worse than pointless, it was building all the wrong muscle and teaching her all the wrong things. So we called it a day.

Abbey not impressed by the howling wind rattling the fence behind her!
Abbey not impressed by the howling wind rattling the fence behind her!

The weather is equally as horrid tomorrow, so I’m intending on giving her another day off (or going for a short hack if I can find a friend to go with). Hopefully Friday’s forecast is a little better and we can get in the school.

Plans for Saturday include something fun and aerobic, maybe a short jumping session or interval training around the fields. Again I will listen to Abbey and stop before she gets too tired.  Sunday we will probably hack. Then it’s a day off on Monday which should mean she’s feeling fresh and ready for Tuesday’s lesson.

And that’s how we will continue. I anticipate Abbey will be close to her previous fitness in about 3-4 weeks.