A rational and conservative protocol for bringing a horse back into work after a break is imperative for maintaining soundness.
The cardiovascular and respiratory system take approximately two months to return to full capacity, whilst the musculoskeletal system can take longer.
My recommendations are very conservative and are based upon a gradual, steady increase in work. If your horse has not been ridden for 2-3 months I recommend the following :
- 20-30 minutes of walking, 5-6 days per week for the first two weeks. No trotting.
- After two weeks of walking only, gradually add 5-7 minutes of trot broken into 1-2 minute segments.
- The trotting should only be done after 10 minutes of warm-up at the walk.
- All rides should finish with a 10 minute walk to cool down.
- Conservatively increase the workload by adding 10% of time at a specific gait each week. eg. if you are walking for 20 minutes and trotting for 10 minutes then you can increase this to 22 minutes of walk and 11 minutes of trot the next week.
- Add 2-4 minutes of canter after 3 weeks of riding.
These recommendations are conservative and the process may be accelerated in some cases depending on the fitness level of your horse, how long a spell they had and if they were injured prior to the break.
If your horse has had 2 months off work, then you should expect 3-4 months of re-training to regain the fitness it had prior to the break.
A careful and conservative approach to re-training will benefit the long-term soundness of your horse.