Horse being exercised at the walk with the Pessoa lunging system.

March 27, 2014

Refresher course for the horse

Spring is here and we’re all riding more than we were a month ago! Some of us are going to start showing, while others will hit the trails! If you’re wanting your first outing to be successful, it may be a good idea to give a refresher course to your horse before you leave your place.

Some horses have had the winter off, and although they may be broke/trained/bombproof, they may act a bit silly on the first or second rides.

Just be easy and maybe extra tolerant with the horse, especially if he hasn’t been ridden for several months, because his muscles have lost tone, his joints may be stiff, and quite frankly, he may not want to come out of vacation just yet!

I always suggest that if you’re not going to ride in the winter, at least lunge or do some other ground work exercises with your horse, just to keep him moving. If you can’t even do that, I’d suggest that you lunge (includes long-lining, driving, double-lunging) your horse for a few times before you start riding him in the Spring, just to get his body moving and his mindset toward work. The picture above shows a horse being exercised at the walk with the Pessoa training system.

Then you can start riding him and getting him supple for your first outing of the Spring. Before you actually do take him off your property (or wherever he lives), I always suggest that you ride him in other areas of your property: maybe a different paddock, a little trail, neighboring farm, etc.

If this is an older “been-there-done-that” kind of horse, he should pick up much faster than a younger, less experienced horse. For the green horses, I suggest that your first outing of the year be as low stress as possible: if showing is the intention, maybe go to a very small schooling show; if trail riding, go to somewhere close by and ride for 1 hr only. That way you slowly bring your horse back to a working-mindset and body-set before expecting too much from him. It takes time and patience! That would be the safest way to start your Spring riding successfully. Have fun!

Fernanda Camargo

Posted by Fernanda Camargo

Fernanda C. Camargo, DMV, Ph.D., equine extension professor at the University of Kentucky, came by her affection for horses naturally while growing up in Brazil. Her great-grandfather was one of the breeding pioneers of the Brazilian horse breed Mangalarga in the early 1900s, and her grandfather raised and raced Thoroughbreds in Brazil for more than 50 years. After receiving her veterinary medicine degree from the State University of Londrina, Brazil, Dr. Camargo followed her passion for horses to Lexington in 2001. She completed a Ph.D. in equine pharmacology and toxicology at UK, where she has been specifically involved in the development, creation and validation of several analytical methods for the detection of pharmacological compounds in equine biological fluids. As equine extension professor at UK, Dr. Camargo’s major focus is Equine Youth Extension and the 4-H Horse Program, which is one of the largest 4-H programs in the country. She develops and delivers educational materials and activities for the county extension agents, horse owners, volunteer leaders, parents and 4-H youth. In addition, she contributes to the adult equine extension program by delivering educational programs related to horse health. She also teaches equine health and disease and equine anatomy at the Equine Science and Management programs at UK.

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