As the weather starts warming up, and it continues to stay late longer, many riders are going to pick up riding again after a long winter break. It is tempting to just go out and ride all weekend when the temperatures rise, but remember if you haven’t ridden all winter you as well as your horse are probably a little of condition for a long ride. For this reason it is important that you and your horse ease back into a riding routine.
Horses are natural athletes; however, when we ride them, we ask them to exert themselves more than they normally would. If you just pull your horse out of the pasture and ride him hard for hours, it can leave him sore. This in turn can make him grumpy the next time you go to ride. I like to start getting my horses in shape with short 40-45 minute rides the first week. During these rides I do a lot of bending, flexing, walking and trotting with a little loping thrown in. Over the next few weeks I increase my riding time and increase the amount of time I spend working on loping, lead changes and other strenuous maneuvers. I may even allow my horses a day off here and there after a particularly hard workout. The day off would consist of some light ground work and maybe a little riding with only flexing, bending and walking.
It is also important to get yourself in shape for riding. An overweight rider is more of a burden to your horse. And if you are already in pretty good shape, riding requires the use of muscles that aren’t necessarily used in other exercise routines. Riding requires a tremendous amount of core strength to help maintain your balance. Also if you haven’t ridden in a while a long ride will leave you stiff and sore.
After winter filled with cold days and little activity, you need to start your horse off slow in the spring. Begin conditioning your horse with short rides to start, then build up to longer rides. By doing this you and your horse will be less likely to suffer injuries or soreness. You horse will then find your riding sessions more enjoyable, and he will be more willing to do what is asked of him.