Pushing Too Far?
Yesterday I had the most amazing 'trail ride', but looking back I'm worried I might be pushing my horse too fast. He's approx. 20 years old, a Quarter Horse, and in the last 2 months(ish) I've been bringing him back into work after a year+ of almost no work.
I've been riding most days each week at least a half hour of walking, trotting and cantering with hill work to help rebuild his muscle.
Our first 'trail ride' was earlier in the week, around 4kms(2.5 miles) of only walking. I made sure to give him a couple of days to recuperate, before doing a short (1km or so) ride followed by the one I'm concerned about.
All up, it was probably around 8kms (5 miles). Mostly walking, but a bit of trotting. He got a bit of a break in the middle when I stopped in at a friends place and he had his saddle off for about 30 min, but then we spent probably an hour walking and trotting around the roundyard playing games with their son and his pony. All up, it took around 4 hours start to finish.
He doesn't seem to be adversely affected, but he's a good old boy and I wouldn't put it past him to just suck it up and deal with it. Should I cut him right back, or am I fine to continue the way I am?
And just to break this all up, here are some shots of him and his spiffy trail riding hairdo (he sweats a lot, and this helps cool that side of his neck).
Pretty mane before the ride.
Slightly ragged and tired after the ride.
I'd be more concerned if gullet of saddle is not pressing into his withers when you are mounted, as it looks awfully low without a rider?
I would always keep in mind that your horse is older when riding.
I think you're being reasonable. Sometime, a bath with a nice linement helps when you get back (summer where you are, right?, so still warm)
your horse looks really well built.
I'd try to keep your work more even. Does he live in a stall? If so, give him about half an hour of just grazing or cool walking so he doesn't stock up after you ride. if he lives in the pasture, I doubt he needs a few days to recuperate, maybe light work the next day, but giving a horse several days off after hard work could cause respiratory problems when you go out again. as long as he wasn't breathing too heavy, wasn't showing signs of pain, etc, he should be fine with continous conditions. Just be mindful, and know your horse. He's beautiful!
I'd get back on him and ride him for a good hour, just walking, again today. Then bath, liniment, grooming and loving on him. Same again tomorrow, add 1/2 hr, keep on every day and those 4 hr trips on the weekend won't phase him. I rode one old boy til he was 30 before he decided he wanted to retire and we rode all day long when we went out. He'll tell you if it's too much, he's sore or tired. Trust your horse.
I think you're doing fine with him. Just remember that having him stand around and do nothing after a more vigorous day is as likely to make a body sore as doing too much. So long as he's not dragging at the end or lame or back sore the next day, you're okay. Horses are tough, some won't complain, and I too worry that I might over-do it on my boy, but if he's the only horse you're riding, you're unlikey to make him too sore without doing the same to yourself.
Thanks everyone. I didn't ride yesterday but I did today and although I felt that he may have been a bit stiff in the front, my mother claims that she couldn't see any signs of him limping, nor could I when she rode him.
He doesn't get stabled although I do have stables that I could use. I prefer to leave him in the paddock. Today he even cantered down the paddock of his own accord, so I guess he can't have been feeling too bad.
I didn't even think about how he might tighten up after so much exercise. He typically gets Fridays off (I usually work that day) so I might start easing him up on Saturday, go for a big ride early in the week, and then ease him down again.
It's good to know that I haven't pushed him too hard. He seemed to enjoy it really, apart from the hills that lead to home. But I don't know anyone that likes walking up hills. But honestly, he breathes hardr when I trot/canter him in the paddock than when we were riding that long.
Thinking a horse will let you know when it's had enough is a misconception. Granted some will but with most horses the brain says keep going even when the body has difficulty keeping up. When you triail ride, you should allow him to graze for a few minutes every half hour as the older ones don't digest protein as well as the younger ones.
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