This month has been very quiet for me as the horses have been on their last month out in the field. I have written out a big plan for my event season and how I am going to bring Dude and Jet back into work. I will be focussing on Dude first as he has been off since May 2016, so will be a little fresher and more excitable when I bring him back into work. It is important to bring your horse back into work from a break slowly, especially if it is after an injury as is the case with Dude. My main reason for bringing Dude back into work very slowly from his time off due to injury, is to prevent his injury flaring up again and also to slowly introduce him back into work and not scare or over phase him.
For the first week of Dude being back in work I will be lunging him, using a bungee and a pessoa, for 15-20 minutes. These training aids are to start building up his top-line muscle again as he has lost it all due to being out of work, before I ride him under saddle again. Lunging him will also help him relax more in his work before I ride him again. It is good to change things up when you are bringing a horse back into work, so I will be in-cooperating ground poles and raised poles to keep him interested and stop him getting bored. I will also sometimes lunge him in a roller, and sometimes in his saddle, as he may be a little fresh under saddle as he hasn't worn one for over 9 months!
Every time I lunge him in his first week back in work I will lead him up to the mounting block and make him stand for 1-2 minutes, just to get him familiarised with standing at the block, so that when I go to get on him for the first time, it isn’t such a shock for him. This is a good trick to use as if you just expect the horse to stand by a random block, especially when they have been out of work for as long as Dude has, they could get confused and may not stand as well as you would like them to when you need to mount them.
After Dude’s solid week of lunging to create the basis of building his muscle back up, I will then ride him again. Only get on your horse if they feel comfortable and are safe under saddle when getting on them for the first time in a while. I will of course be wearing a hat, but will also put my back protector and air jacket on as Dude is a huge horse, standing at 17.2hh, so I want to be as safe as possible. I will first lunge him for 5-10 minutes just to remove the excess energy he may have. If he is calm and settled once I have got on him, I will walk around the school a few times, but for the second week of bringing him back into work, I will mainly be doing roadwork. Walking out on the roads with short trots, helps to strengthen their tendons and is also a good way to desensitise a horse like Dude, who has been in a field and not seen much else for the past few months. The first time I take him out will be around close roads to my yard and I won’t go very far, I will also bring my mum with me, driving closely behind for safety, just in case anything was to happen.
During his second week in work I shall in-corporate roadwork, with some light schooling in walk and trot, while still lunging him in the pessoa twice a week, increasing the duration to 25-30 minutes to slowly increase his fitness.
For Dude’s fourth week back in work I will start to include bridleways on our hacks in trot and go out for a bit longer to increase his workload. Providing how well behaved he is I shall also start canter work in the school, starting slowly and increasing the use of canter. Towards the end of the fourth week I shall start pole work in canter and increase his hacking to include hill work in trot and canter. Hill work will help to increase his back end muscle and help his fitness. Once he is calmer cantering out on hacks I shall increase the canter work and start interval training using my cross country stop watch and keeping track, so I can record how well his fitness improves.
I am hoping to be back out competing him by this April! I am planning Ascott-Under-Wychwood as our first event of the season on the 16th of April. He will need to be in full walk trot and canter work, and I will also jog his memory on lateral work and make sure he is test ready before then. I will also slowly introduce jumping from single fences and combinations to gridwork and courses. I also have to take him cross country schooling a few times to improve his fitness and build up his confidence again, over XC fences. As he is a very lovely horse and isn’t bothered by much, I am hoping that it won’t phase him and we’ll be back competing in no time! I am aiming to compete in BE90’s until he has gained at least 2 double clears and then move him up to BE100 and depending on how he is going, take him round a Novice by the end of the season.
I will make sure to keep you all updated on social media and in my monthly blogs. I am also planning on vlogging Dude’s progress while I bring him back into work using vlogs/video diaries on my YouTube channel. I hope to post 3-4 videos per week to show everyone what we get up to and how he is progressing and also to share my experience of bringing him back into work.