The unconditioned horse
A good build-up of the training is important when your horse hasn’t worked for a long time. This could be because of an injury or because he was staying at the pasture for some time. Exercise physiologist Carolien Munsters provides advice.
- Start with riding or lunging 2 to 3 times a week for about 20 to 30 minutes. If you choose to lunge your horse, you do not necessarily have to use side-reins. Carefully observe your horse. For some horses lunging without side-reins is sufficiently intensive. However, do make sure that your horse uses his body well and is not just trotting around. For other horses, using long-reins or side-reins is recommended.
- Start every training session with a warm-up of 5 to 10 minutes walking, followed by short periods (a few minutes) of trotting, alternated by going back to walk for some moments of recovery.
- For young horses or unconditioned horses cantering is considered to be a power training. In the beginning you should canter your horse for about 30 seconds. Slowly increase the frequency of the canter reprises OR the duration of the canter reprises.
- Between the training sessions, you should schedule active recovery days which can be pasture or paddock time, ground work or walking on the lunge. On a recovery day your horse should definitely not be stabled the whole day.
- Take your time to build up the training. If a horse has not been exercised for a long time, or hasn’t been conditioned at all, it can take some weeks up to a few months before you can ride him 4 to 5 times a week for 30 minutes.
- Make sure that your horse is allowed sufficient free movement in addition to the training sessions. For example, put him out in a paddock with younger or more active horses or give him some toys. If you exercise your horse for an hour but it is stabled for the remaining 23 hours, your training will not have any effect.
To help you get properly started, Dr. Carolien Munsters has developed a training scheme for the first 4 weeks that you start training (again).
Example training scheme ‘Unconditioned horse’
by Dr. Carolien Munsters
Unconditioned = a horse that has not or hardly been ridden or lunged for some months (<1 x per week)
- Do you want to expand the scheme? Make sure you repeat every training at least 2 to 3 times before you intensify the training.
- Choose by training type how you want to intensify it; make sure you do OR and not AND AND (i.e., sometimes you add an extra interval to the trot sections, so you go to 5 x 2 min trot, and only 2-3 training sessions later, for example, you extend the duration of the canter sections to 4 x 40 seconds of canter). Small steps are essential here.
- Then, vary in duration and frequency. For example, 4 x 2 min trot = total 8 min trot. The next more intensive training can be 5 x 2 min trot (total 10 min trot) or, if you want more endurance just go to 3 x 3 min trot (total 9 min). Both trainings can be a good continuation of your training program, depending on your horse and what fits best at that moment.
It is important that your horse enjoys the work. Make sure that you vary sufficiently. If possible ride your horse and do not lunge too much. Use cavaletti exercises every now and then or ask someone to go hacking with you.