Conditioning your horse after a break0
Chances are if you live in Canada, you are going to experience a cold winter at some point. Even if you are lucky enough to have an indoor arena, you have probably experienced those weeks (or even months) of not riding. However, when the temperature starts rising again and show or trail riding season starts coming up, if your horse has not been in regular work, you will need to develop a routine to get back into it in order to reduce the risk of injuring him in the process. Imagine your first day at the gym after a long break. You may be all gung ho, but it’s best to work up to where you want to be slowly to avoid injury.
It may be a good idea to have your vet out to perform a complete physical exam to ensure there are no bumps, or lameness issues that could be aggravated in the conditioning process (much like you would consult with your doctor before beginning a new diet or physical activity routine).
Conditioning is not just about how far or fast your horse can go before breaking a sweat or start to breathe heavy. You need to work on a number of different body systems such as the cardiovascular system, muscular system, supporting structures, temperature regulating system and the central nervous system. Everything that you do should be done gradually. It can take up to 4-6 months for adaptations to take effect. Start off with low impact exercises such as walking and gradually increase time and speed (never both at the same time).
If you have a solid conditioning foundation, you will probably find that not only do you have a reduced risk of injury (and therefore less time having fun riding), but you will probably notice that you have a happier horse since he it will be easy for him to do the job at hand.