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Bringing Your Horse Back: A Guide to Reintroducing Your Equine Friend After Time Off

Bringing Your Horse Back into Work after Extended Time Off

As a horse owner, you may encounter situations where you’re forced to put your horse’s work on hold. Be it a long-term injury, rest and rehabilitation, or a sudden change in your lifestyle, bringing your horse back into work after extended time off may seem like a daunting task.

But with proper planning and slow-and-steady implementation, you can help your equine friend return to work safely and positively.

Preparing Your Horse for Work

1. Hoof Care

Before you jump back into work, it’s essential to take certain steps to prepare your horse. Start with getting your horse’s hooves trimmed, checking for any cracks or chipping that may have occurred during extended turnout periods.

A good hoof doctor will assess your horse’s hooves and provide the necessary trimming or shoeing recommendations.

2. Dental Check-up

It’s also essential to get your horse’s teeth checked routinely, especially after time off.

If your horse has not had dental work recently, schedule an appointment to ensure that they are in good oral health. Proper dental work can make your horse feel more comfortable and perform better.

3. Physiotherapy or Massage

Physiotherapy or massage can help your horse’s muscles recover from the time off. A bodyworker who is knowledgeable in the equine anatomy will help to identify any discomfort or missed muscle loss.

They can also help alleviate discomfort through targeted massage and stretching.

4. Veterinary Check-up

Before you begin work, a routine check-up by a veterinarian is important to ensure your horse is healthy and ready to start their work regimen.

If any changes in diet or medication are required, your veterinarian can provide the appropriate instructions.

5. Tack and Saddle Fit

Finally, make sure your tack and saddle are fitting your horse well.

Weight loss or gain during resting periods can change the horse’s shape, affecting the saddle’s fit. It is essential to ensure the equipment you will be using is comfortable and safe for your horse.

Starting Back into Work

1. Gradual Introduction

It’s essential to start back into work gradually and consistently. The goal is to build back up to the horse’s previous level of work slowly.

2. In-Hand Work

For the first few weeks, the primary focus should be on in-hand work, which allows you to assess your horse’s level of fitness and the condition of the horse’s limbs. Adequate ground training in advance can help identify issues such as lameness, loss of balance, or pain in the early days, preventing further damage.

3. Long, Slow Distance Work

Long, slow distance work is excellent for building up your horse’s strength, stamina, and cardiovascular fitness. Initially, start with walk work for short periods, gradually increasing the horse’s time out each day.

From there, add trot work and then controlled canter work, incorporating frequent breaks in the early stages.

4. Discipline Specific Work

Discipline-specific work should be introduced gradually and with care, focusing on the horse’s physical and mental preparedness. Don’t be too quick to expect that your horse can pick up where they left off, patience is key. Choose flatwork and gymnastics that allow for flexibility so that you can adjust as the horse’s fitness level increases.

5. Lunging and Hill Work

Introducing lunging work and hill work and using appropriate aids and equipment can help establish balance and core strength.

Safety Measures

Safety always comes first in any horse-related activity. Ensure that you wear an appropriately fitted helmet while riding and always ride with a spotter or trainer when reintroducing more advanced movements.

Be mindful of the horse’s fitness level and your surroundings. Gradual interval work and frequent breaks are necessary to prevent injury and encourage recovery.

If your horse shows any signs of unease or discomfort, decrease the day’s activities and evaluate your horse’s condition throughout the week.

Managing Expectations

Many horse owners can become too eager and set unrealistic expectations for both themselves and their equine friends. After extended periods off, it’s crucial to be patient and realistic concerning your horse’s fitness, strength, and any expected timelines.

If possible, work with a coach or experienced rider to set realistic goals and expectations for your horse as they come back into fitness. Establishing tangible, achievable goals can help both you and your horse see the progress being made regularly.

In conclusion, bringing your horse back into work after extended periods of downtime can be a daunting task. However, with the proper planning and approach, the process can be manageable, safe, and most importantly, enjoyable for both owner and horse.

Take the necessary steps to prepare your horse for work, start gradually and consistently, ensure safety measures always are taken, and manage expectations with realistic goal setting. With patience and perseverance, you can help your horse reach its previous levels of health and performance.

When it comes to bringing your horse back into work after an extended time-off, it’s essential to have access to accurate and reliable resources or experts who can help guide your efforts. We have gathered a few resources that horse owners might find useful when getting their horse back into work.


Podcast Episode

Podcasts have become a fantastic source of learning and entertainment in recent years. If you’re someone who prefers listening to audio rather than reading, then the Horse Radio Network’s “Horses in the Morning” podcast is perfect for you.

They cover a wide range of topics and frequently host experienced trainers and riders who provide valuable insights into the industry.

An episode titled “Returning to Work After Time Off,” published on July 30, 2021, covers a variety of topics related to bringing your horse back into work, including conditioning, common injuries, diet, and handling horses that have been off for an extended period.

The episode features renowned equestrian Coach Tonya Johnston, who provides valuable advice on returning horses to work and how to manage expectations for both horses and riders.

Equestrian South Australia Recommendation

As an organization dedicated to horse sports, Equestrian South Australia has made recommendations for owners bringing their horses back into work after a long break. They advise that owners take plenty of time to reintroduce horses to work gradually and consider an individualized approach for each horse.

Their resource recommends monitoring their horses body condition score closely, track their progress, and take into account the age, breed, and discipline of the horse. They suggest beginning the work program at a lower intensity than before the break.

Workouts should be kept light and slow initially, with a combination of walking, leading, ground work, and ridden hacking. Along with their advice, any owner would benefit from the support of an equine professional or experienced trainer as they reintroduce their horse back into work.

Petplan Video Series

Petplan Insurance has created a video series designed to help horse owners deal with rehabilitation and recovery, including broaching the tough subject of When Its Time To Retire Your Horse. However, their advice on bringing your horse back into work after an extended period is also incredibly valuable.

In their video, “Bringing Your Horse Back into Work,” they provide an in-depth guide to bringing your horse back from an extended period off, discussing various factors like fitness levels, body condition score, diet, and exercise routines. They also touch on the importance of monitoring your horse throughout recovery and ensuring that progression is gradual and constant.

The Horse Article

The Horse magazine is an incredibly informative resource when it comes to a wide range of horse-related topics, and it doesn’t disappoint when it comes to helping horse owners reintroduce their horses back into work after an extended time-off.

One article titled “Getting Your Horse Back in Action After a Layoff” covers the steps owners need to consider, including having an equine vet examine your horse’s overall condition, reassessing and adjusting nutrition to accommodate the horse’s reduced workload and gradual reintroduction of any work.

The article also covers the importance of monitoring the horse’s progress throughout the entire rehabilitation period. Understanding the horse’s physical state and the gradual steps needed helps owners plan out the horse’s reintroduction schedule in the right way.

By taking it slowly and being patient, horse owners can guide and help their horses regain their former abilities safely and soundly.

In conclusion, bringing a horse back into work after an extended period of time off can be a trying and challenging experience.

However, with the correct information and a well-thought-out plan, bringing your equine friend back into work can be manageable, safe, and even an enjoyable process for both horse and owner alike. The resources provided above are invaluable in guiding you through the transition back to work.

From informative websites, podcasts, videos, and articles by industry-leading experts, there is plenty of information available to help guide you. In summary, bringing your horse back into work after an extended period off can be a challenging experience that requires patience, planning, and proper execution.

Key steps to prepare your horse include routine dental work and physical therapy, assessing the fit of the saddle, and ensuring the horse is healthy. The transition should then start gradually with in-hand work, long slow distance training, discipline-specific work, and safety measures like helmets and spotters.

Managing expectations and setting realistic goals can prevent frustration and keep the horse’s progress consistent. Utilizing informative resources like podcasts, videos, and articles can help guide you through the horse’s reintroduction.


-What should I do if I notice discomfort in my horse during the reintroduction period?

Decrease the day’s activities, monitor your horse’s condition throughout the week, and adjust slowly. Consult with your veterinarian if necessary.

-What is the recommended pace to reintroduce my horse back to work?

Take it slowly- starting with in-hand work and walking, gradually increasing their time out each day, before adding trot work and then controlled canter work.

-Should I consider working with a coach or experienced rider before reintroducing my horse back into work?

Yes, enlisting the help of an experienced trainer or coach can be beneficial in establishing realistic expectations and helping you set achievable goals for your horse.

-What’s the primary safety measure to keep in mind when reintroducing my horse back into work?

Keep safety at the forefront by ensuring that you wear an appropriately fitted helmet and ride with a spotter or trainer when reintroducing more advanced movements.

-What is the recommended approach when reintroducing discipline-specific work?

Gradually introduce gymnastics, flatwork and be mindful of the horse’s physical and mental preparedness. Choose exercises that allow for flexibility and adjust as the horse’s fitness level increases.

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