How often and how long should a horse be ridden? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 31 Old 02-11-2016, 11:37 AM Thread Starter
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How often and how long should a horse be ridden?

Couldn't figure out if this belonged in training or horse health so I put it in here since it really is a newbie kind of question.

My daughter and I share a horse. He will mostly be ridden for pleasure, but she wants to show him in walk/trot classes next summer (my daughter is 10).

How much should be be ridden to be properly conditioned? As in how many times a week and how long? I feel he could be more fit. I don't think he's fat or anything, but I'd like him to be in good shape by spring and so I'd like to set specific goals. We often do short rides because it's very cold and/or because we're practicing a specific exercise (we have a coach come in once a week to work with us). I once posted for 45 minutes off and on, but often we keep the rides fairly sort (about 30-45 minutes including warmup and cooldown). We currently ride about 3-5 times a week.

Lunging the horse when we aren't riding is also an option. He's also out from about 9 am to about 6 pm every day in a fairly roomy paddock with three other horses.

Here's a photo so you can get an idea of his level of physical fitness. Keep in mind he's very shaggy because it's winter here and we don't clip him.
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post #2 of 31 Old 02-11-2016, 11:46 AM
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I went to a seminar this past weekend at one of the universities that has a fantastic equine/ veterinary program. I learned that most of us are totally underworking our horses. This particular lecture focused around how much to be feeding in relation to work, but I learned that "light work" for the average quarter-type horse is 45 minutes to one hour of "high heartrate" exercise once a day. An easy way for us to judge is by seeing how much sweat is produced. A pretty sweaty horse after an hour ride, basically. That's considered light work.

People run into problems when they try to put the horse right into work when it hasn't been doing anything for months. They do need to be brought into work slowly. Now for your guy, I don't think he would have any problem pushing a little harder and you making him work harder or longer.
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post #3 of 31 Old 02-11-2016, 11:51 AM
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Its not so much how often you ride or for how long you ride but what you do when you ride that makes the real difference
A horse that's turned out for at least a few hours a day - and I mean on a decent sized paddock that he can easily move around in at trot and canter - doesn't need as much exercise every day as one that's stabled 24/7.
If you're working him for an hour a day with a fair amount of trotting and cantering and possibly some longer trail rides once or twice a week he's getting enough to cope with what your daughter wants to do
If you get him too fit he might get too 'buzzy' for walk trot classes - but that can also depend on the temperament of the horse and what you're feeding them
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post #4 of 31 Old 02-11-2016, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by jaydee View Post
If you get him too fit he might get too 'buzzy' for walk trot classes - but that can also depend on the temperament of the horse and what you're feeding them
I want to add/agree with this. The more athletic the horse becomes, the more "horse" you tend to get. That can be a good, or sometimes bad thing. And again, it's not always the case. But that's why it's very important to keep their feeding plan in check as their fitness changes.
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post #5 of 31 Old 02-11-2016, 12:22 PM
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I only trail ride, as the arenas are not close enough to ride in much, and are often waterlogged. we go out for usually about 1.5 to 2 hours, walk trot, up and down mild hills. the horses are almost never tired. the last ride we went on we trotted every location that was feasible (except where I begged for a break due to my back hurting). it was 1.25 hours of almot non-stop trotting on the trails. this time, the horses were a bit tired, finally. i was exhausted.
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post #6 of 31 Old 02-11-2016, 12:54 PM
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I personally think most pleasure horses are over fed and under worked.
I try to ride 3-4 times a week and usually 1 12 to 2 hrs and when I ride by myself it is mostly trotting with short walks in between. If I ride with some one else maybe a little more walking. I don't think this is much at all for a horse to handle, in fact I often think I should be riding more and the horse is certainly capable of it.
If you start out slowly and build up gradually I think Harley can take whatever amount of riding that you have time for. Arabs have amazing endurance and stamina.
my first horse was a standardbred and he did at least 15 to 20 hrs a week and when I wanted to visit friends for a holiday I had no trailer and couldn't leave him home so I rode 85 m to their place, 50 the first day and 35 the second and then back a week later and he was fine. I have to say he was in great shape though.
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post #7 of 31 Old 02-11-2016, 01:25 PM
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I think your thought process needs some slight tweaking...

How much time and how often does your daughter need to ride, to ride well and without exhaustion {in this case cold numbness} setting in...
She {your daughter} needs endurance training, usually our horses are much better conditioned than their riders.

jaydee has it stated correctly....
"Its not so much how often you ride or for how long you ride but what you do when you ride that makes the real difference"
I also feel it is not how long you ride but how intense is the workout!

I have ridden horses for 1-2 hours and they were "worked" and I have ridden horses for 20-30 minutes and they were "worked"....
Dripping, labored breathing, heart racing, head hanging...spent of energy and gave their all...

It is the activity, it is the degree of difficulty the horse endures doing that activity and the sustained length of time of increased heart and respiration rate that can dictate and should dictate the workload presented to the animal.

As you have read previous posts and comments made...
The longer you ride, you lunge or anything where the activity level is sustained the longer you will need to do all or some of those activities to "work down" a horse...they get more fit and conditioned just as we do...
Those comments made referring to this are very true.

Bring your horse back into work slowly as the weather allows, you will be fine as you are riding currently.
A walk/trot class, or two or three is not a strenuous activity level that if you are riding this winter you need to constructively "condition" for....
You are referring to about 10-15 minutes of walk and trot time during the class, that is all...
Now if you were going cross-country endurance riding that is and would be different.
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post #8 of 31 Old 02-11-2016, 03:48 PM
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Our hunting horses used to get a minimum of 2 hours hard work 6 days a week, with one or two days a week out hunting all day. They were fed well and some would be a little like riding a ticking time bomb when they first came out of the stable. Those that were going to show during the summer would get 'loosed down' and rested for a month and then back in lighter but still regular work, they'd be like riding a different horse, so much quieter.
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post #9 of 31 Old 02-11-2016, 04:05 PM
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Ultimately, I think it depends on the individual horse and what exactly you want to achieve with them.

Being I primarily barrel race, I need my horses to be in top physical condition, and have plenty of "air in their lungs".

In the spring when I'm trying to get the horses back into shape after having the winter off, I definately try to ride every single day. I start their workout program gradually and build on it. Once they are in shape, a typical workout on the trails is 1/2 mile warm-up at the walk, followed by 4 miles (or more) of alternating and randomizing trotting and loping, followed by 1 mile cool-down at a walk.

Once or twice a week depending on our hauling schedule, I will breeze them (let them run full-speed full-blast). They really tend to get into running shape when we start competing and hauling on the weekends.

Once or twice a week we will do exercises in the arena, whether it's reining, jumping, or slow work on the barrel pattern. Usually the sessions are around an hour, but could be more or less depending on what I wanted to accomplish that day. If they "get it" right away, then we'll stop and be done, even if it only took 20 minutes.

Red tends to fire harder in his runs when I ride him every other day when he is good and legged-up and in the middle of the season. Shotgun is still fairly young so I don't expect him to perform at his top yet; but I suspect he will also be an every other day horse.

Red has calmed down a lot the last couple years. Years before, I would definately need to ride him every day to keep a more level head on his shoulders.

My horses are turned out 24/7 on pasture, so they are allowed to move freely throughout the day.

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It is not enough to know how to ride; one must know how to fall.
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post #10 of 31 Old 02-11-2016, 04:12 PM
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I certainly agree that most horses are over fed and under worked. That is why there is so much trouble with IR and laminitis.

Horses that are fully fit for hard and fast work are usually on a lot of hard feed and the worse time for riding them is when they are three quarters fit, this is when they are most spooky and can act like there is a gremlin under every leaf. Once fit they are much more sane!

Ponies in the riding school did an average of three hours a day six days a week as we had a boarding school rode with us during the week. This was often out on the trails and plenty of hills to keep them fit. Nothing was overweight, all lived out and several were still happily working when in their thirties.

When they came in for work they all got a hard feed, a handful of oats and a double handful of chaff. Ditto at lunch time and always hay there for them to eat.

Out on the trails they would, in a day cover over 14 miles in the three hours working, they barely ever broke a sweat.
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