Horse Health

Returning to exercise

Most veterinary surgeons will recommend increasing exercise slowly after a long period of rest. If the rest period is less than one month, then cardiovascular fitness will not have significantly reduced. In this case, start to build exercise slowly and extend walking work over the period of a week. This may be all that is necessary before previous exercise levels can be reinstated.

If a horse has had an extended period of confined rest it may be necessary to provide further paddock rest before commencing ridden work. However, for those horses who are likely to respond excitedly to the freedom of a paddock, it may be better to commence with a period of in-hand and/or ridden exercise. Alternatively, turn the horse out into paddocks of gradually increasing size. In some cases sedation may also be useful.

The use of a horse walker, which provides exercise in tight circles, may create extreme stresses in each limb and lead to the recurrence of orthopaedic problems. Therefore, in hand or straight-line exercising may be preferable, but this requires more time and effort from the owner.

There are no hard and fast rules as to how to re-introduce a horse to work - it will depend on the horse, the handler and the injury. A lack of compliance with the agreed re-training protocols will almost certainly result in a failure to return the horse to exercise in the intended time.