Last Updated on February 21, 2022 by Allison Price
Learn more about how to bring horses back into the workplace. Adam Cummins is the Centre Manager at Penny Farm Rescue and Rehoming Centre. He offers expert advice.
We are aware that there is a large number of ponies and horses who work at World Horse Welfare’s Rescue and Rehoming Centres. This makes it important to create a plan specifically for each horse. This blog will focus on three types of horses that might be returning to work after a break: horses that have been ridden for a while, horses that are starting to re-enter ridden work after completing a rehabilitation program, and horses who are all-rounders but have had to take a break from work due to injury.
Retraining young horses
When bringing a horse back to work, it is important to do a thorough health check. This should include checking their feet and teeth. Young horses can change their shape quickly so it is important to check their teeth and tack. It is not a good idea for young horses to associate work with discomfort and pain. Make sure that everything fits correctly and that the experience is positive.
While it’s good to have a plan, keep in mind that horses are unique and every horse is different. What worked for one horse may not work for another. Your horse is the best judge of your plans for getting back to work. Be flexible and willing to listen to your horse. Horses may need extra time or, in the cases of young horses, might not be able to pick up something as fast as you thought.
It is important to go over every step again when bringing a young horse into work after a break. Ours at Penny Farm starts with lunging and long-reining. Next, we move on to lying a rider before getting back on the horse again. Although it may sound tedious, it isn’t as time-consuming as starting from scratch. This ensures your youngster is confident and happy throughout the process.Revisiting every step of the backing process is vital when restarting youngsters
Planning a program to get your child back to work is key. It’s important to include variety. This is especially important for children. You can make sure they are happy with their work by making it interesting and different. This will help them not only to be interested in the job, but also to check their teeth and feet before you start your programme. It’s important that they have turnout time as part of their daily routine, even if it’s in a sandpen rather than a paddock. Horses are no exception to this rule.
We tend to work our horses three to four times per week with our young horses. This is enough to keep them interested and keeps them engaged. We ensure they get a mix of hacking and school time – sometimes, just walking can be enough for them in their early years. Some children need to be accompanied by another horse for a while in order to gain confidence. This is especially true for hacking.
After rehabilitation, bringing a horse back to work
It is important to ensure that your horse is ready to work again after a rehabilitation from injury. Are they completely recovered from the injury? Are they strong enough to handle the injury? Do you expect to have behavioural problems as a result? Do not hesitate to seek professional help if you are unsure about any of these issues. It’s better to get started on the right track than to try to fix problems later. Do not be concerned about what others might think. Your horse is yours and you will do everything you can to make them happy.
A rehabilitation program may involve a horse being brought back to work. This is because many horses have worked before and want to return to that job. If this is the case, and you have a goal in your mind, ensure that you include it in your plan. Also, be prepared to adapt to your horse’s needs as they change.
Long-reining doesn’t have to be for children. It can also be very useful for horses in rehabilitation. They gain strength and confidence without having to deal with the extra weight of a rider. It allows you to get a good view of your horse’s behavior, which can help you identify any issues and adjust the program accordingly. Long-reining is physically taxing, but you can still take your horse out on the road. As long as your horse’s brakes and steering are working properly, you are able to do so. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to seek expert assistance. It could be a great way to get your horse back to his full strength and fitness.Long-reining can be a vital part of a rehabilitation programme
Horses on rehabilitation programs can benefit greatly from in-hand work. A chartered physiotherapist can advise you on the best exercises for your horse. Working with horses from the ground allows you to see what they are doing and can help you spot if they are taking the easy route. Horses can be just like us and will do anything in the easiest way possible. This might not be how they need to exercise.
You should give your horse as much time as possible at each stage and include plenty of variety when you get to the point of starting ridden work. Gentle hacking is a great way for your horse to get back under saddle and can also help keep them mentally on track. You may find that your horse will benefit from a combination of in-hand exercises, long-reining and ridden work. A physiotherapist can help you decide what is best for your horse.
Re-inserting an all-rounder in the workplace
Before you start working with your horse, make sure to do a thorough health check. An established horse can be trained to fitten to your desired goal. However, you should not hesitate to modify this plan to suit your horse’s needs.
Your horse’s diet and routine should be suitable. Most horses can eat a fibre-based diet, regardless of how hard they work. It is important to have turnout time and that they have access to grass and hay whenever they are not being worked.
Don’t give your horse hard feed if they are overweight. This will only make them feel a little more energetic. Our team is happy to offer advice on how to continue access to forage for horses whose calorie intake has been reduced for weight management.
The basic fitness plan should take six to eight weeks. It starts with two weeks of walking in walk. You can gradually increase the slow trot work by adding short periods, starting around three to four week. This will depend on your horse’s response. Around week four to five, we would introduce work into the school – but this is not schooling. You can start to add steady canter work around week five or six, and then gradually increase this.Hacking is a great way to keep your horse interested in their work
Remember that horses are all different. This process can take up to six to eight weeks depending on how long your horse has been off and what stage they are at. Also, whether or not they need to lose weight and gain fitness. Your horse should return to work happy, healthy, and sound.
Important points to keep in mind when you bring your horse back to work
The key points, regardless of the horse’s category, are:
- Before you start any work with your horse, make sure to do a pre-work health check.
- You can create a plan to get your horse back in work. However, it is best to be loosely structured.
- You should keep your horses doing a variety of work. This is true for all horses regardless of age, education, or fitness level. Your horse should enjoy their work. Therefore, mental stimulation is as important as their physical fitness.
- You should feed your horse properly – leisure horses can do well on a fibre-based diet. Fibre should make up the majority of any horse’s diet regardless of how skilled they are. Do not give your horse extra calories, which can turn into energy. It will only make things more difficult.
- When bringing your horse back to work, you cannot take shortcuts.
- If you are unsure, seek expert assistance – it is better to get things moving right away than to try to fix problems later.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!