Getting a horse fit and energetic

squidsin

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My new horse Angel is adorable, but lacks any kind of muscle tone and gets out of breath walking up hills (we have a lot of hills round here). I took her jumping yesterday and although she's a fantastically honest horse and jumps everything, she has no impulsion going into the jump so we cat leap over, which isn't that comfortable for me! I lurch forward and it feels very unfluid! She hasn't really done much for a year, so that's none of this is surprising. Any thoughts on a feeding/training regime? At the moment, I ride four days a week - it's a bit of a struggle to ride on Tues/Weds/Thurs as those are my work days and I have a long commute, but I'm going to try and do at least one evening in the indoor school - and we do a bit of schooling and a bit of hacking. I was thinking of starting with short hacks (half an hour) in walk or 20 mins of schooling in walk and trot, and building up from there. Feed-wise, she gets half a scoop of speedibeet, half a scoop of chaff, her balancer (the Top Spec one) and some carrots twice a day, she is in at night and has two huge haynets. So not exactly a high energy diet, but on the other hand, I don't want to blow her mind with high concentrate feeds and have a fizzy yet unfit horse! On the plus side, I can hack her out secure in the knowledge she won't do anything silly as she doesn't have the energy!
 

MrC

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Having her fit and muscled will make a massive difference. Personally I would get rid of the balancer and get a good vitamin supp instead.

I would do two days hacking including some interval training, a day of schooling on the flat and a day of schooling over poles both flat and raised but not jumps if four days is your availability. That should more than cover any fittening you need to do. The muscle comes from them being used correctly so speaking to an instructor maybe once a week would be a good idea or once every two weeks :)
 
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Skib

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As Jessey says - Hacking - just on and on - and in walk, gradually building up over the weeks - but that is hard in winter if you are working and evenings are dark. Could you get a sharer to hack her? Trouble is that when I hack I do what the horse needs - even if it is only walk. And again last week, even tho I pay to hack, if one of us is riding a horse that is coming back into work, I adjust accordingly.
The worse thing is if you do go a slow, careful hack and then someone else takes that same horse and rides it fast and furious.
And when my share came back from 6 months off, I didnt walk her (only walk) for as long as 6-8 weeks.
 

carthorse

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I'm with Jessey - walk work for 6-8 weeks. The fact that you've got hills is brilliant as they're great for walk work, and make sure it is walk work, not plodding around on a long rein. March, and get her bum under her! In the school use walk to work on flexibility & responsiveness, so plenty of turns & transitions & you could also do some pole work to encourage her to pick up her feet. I wouldn't be considering jumping at this stage.

Diet wise I wouldn't want high energy at this stage - walk work isn't made easier by having them bubbling over. What's her weight like? That sounds quite a lot for a horse that is only in light work, though the type is right. Too often people try to feed for energy & just produce a fatter & lazier horse.
 

squidsin

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Thank you! I was thinking mainly walk work too, with a bit of trotting, and focus on getting her moving forward.

She's definitely not overweight - not skinny but it's hard to condition score her when she's a bit poor (not that she's underweight either, just lacking any tone.) She LOVES her food! She can guzzle a haynet in about half an hour! She's up to date with worming and has had a five stage vetting and bloods so there's nothing wrong with her, she's just unfit.
 
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squidsin

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As Jessey says - Hacking - just on and on - and in walk, gradually building up over the weeks - but that is hard in winter if you are working and evenings are dark. Could you get a sharer to hack her? Trouble is that when I hack I do what the horse needs - even if it is only walk. And again last week, even tho I pay to hack, if one of us is riding a horse that is coming back into work, I adjust accordingly.
The worse thing is if you do go a slow, careful hack and then someone else takes that same horse and rides it fast and furious.
And when my share came back from 6 months off, I didnt walk her (only walk) for as long as 6-8 weeks.

I wouldn't like anyone else to hack her out at the moment - that's my job while I get to know her. I'll just have to do a load of walk work in the school!
 
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Jessey

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There is so much you can establish in walk, you can have a very productive schooling session while never breaking a trot :) I'll bet you'll come up with loads of exercises to get her forward, flexible and really tuned in to you which is a great foundation for your new relationship :)
 

squidsin

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There is so much you can establish in walk, you can have a very productive schooling session while never breaking a trot :) I'll bet you'll come up with loads of exercises to get her forward, flexible and really tuned in to you which is a great foundation for your new relationship :)
Very true! And walk is often neglected as a pace in dressage - me and Roxy are rubbish at it - so it's a good foundation to start with.
 
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KP nut

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In terms of jumping: she was ridden by novice kids who gave her very conflicted 'go'/'no stop' messages when approaching fences as they got nervous jumping. We had exactly the same issue with Oscar . He - like most horses I guess - jump far better when they are able to travel forward. But nerves meant that he was made to trot into jumps, and if he ever did see a stride and increase his impulsion, the girls would hang onto his head to pull him back. So he lost rhythm and fluency jumping and chipped in little strides, cat jumped often etc as he just did not know what was expected. The same thing is probably the case with Angel. She was also only ever jumped out of trot and with kids who probably hung onto her mouth if she ever travelled forward more freely.

To get over it with Oscar now they are more confident, we have focused on really riding forward and lengthening his stride, eg with canter poles before and after fences to get him jumping more fluently out of his canter stride.

In terms of fitness, she may lack muscle bu cardio-vascularly she should be ok. When I did that 7 mile farm ride with her, she was full of running all the way round. Lots of long canters and lots of jumping efforts with no problem at all. And she has done multiple pleasure rides up to 12 miles. She has been hacked out regularly all year and has not been out of work at any point. Plus it's hilly round here too. So I would wonder why she is struggling tbh.
 

squidsin

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In terms of jumping: she was ridden by novice kids who gave her very conflicted 'go'/'no stop' messages when approaching fences as they got nervous jumping. We had exactly the same issue with Oscar . He - like most horses I guess - jump far better when they are able to travel forward. But nerves meant that he was made to trot into jumps, and if he ever did see a stride and increase his impulsion, the girls would hang onto his head to pull him back. So he lost rhythm and fluency jumping and chipped in little strides, cat jumped often etc as he just did not know what was expected. The same thing is probably the case with Angel. She was also only ever jumped out of trot and with kids who probably hung onto her mouth if she ever travelled forward more freely.

To get over it with Oscar now they are more confident, we have focused on really riding forward and lengthening his stride, eg with canter poles before and after fences to get him jumping more fluently out of his canter stride.

In terms of fitness, she may lack muscle bu cardio-vascularly she should be ok. When I did that 7 mile farm ride with her, she was full of running all the way round. Lots of long canters and lots of jumping efforts with no problem at all. And she has done multiple pleasure rides up to 12 miles. She has been hacked out regularly all year and has not been out of work at any point. Plus it's hilly round here too. So I would wonder why she is struggling tbh.

She does need regular jumping to regain her balance and rhythm - the cat jumping will be ironed out! But although she's obviously a bit out of practice, she's very honest and she was definitely shattered by the end of the session. She does seem flat to me. Maybe it's to do with the move and change of scene and season and owner - hopefully it's nothing viral.
 
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