Our weekly exercise routine
This is our weekly exercise routine for our horses since forever. Our horses never burn out over the season (we might) and their jumping improves from Spring to Fall, season to season. We do a lot of ground work and despite having showjumps and courses at our finger tips, we jump maybe once a week at home for most horses with our main focus will be grid work to apply what we do on the flat to over a fence and then on to a course. While this routine is simple, it is far from the same ole, same ole and each horse will have something we are working on to improve to create the next building block to bring them to the next step and they understand so they never forget.
This is written out as day of the week, starting after a show day, typically on a Sunday. If they have a show day during the week and are the type of horse that a day off suits better, then they get it. You get the idea. It is just a high level view and then individualised for every horse’s needs.
Breakdown of our exercise routine
Day off, if the day permits, we try to get them out in the paddocks.
A day off and time out encourages rest. Promotes that safe environment plus everyone at the yard need a day off too.
Hack out on the roads. Mainly walking and a bit of trotting up the dead end as our local riders will know (a quiet country road going nowhere, except to the end and then turn back).
Hacking on roads helps keep their legs and bones stay strong. Bone needs resistance to strengthen which you don’t get on soft surfaces but avoid flat out trotting on roads, this will pound their joints and cause concussion which can damage. Always trot in a controlled manner for short distances and back to walk which can be more relaxed if it is safe.
Flat work begins and to start off, we focus a lot on transitions, keeping things steady, engaged and finding that rhythm. If a horse is struggling with balance with a rider, we will often lunge so they can strengthen up without the weight of a rider on their back. Whether in the saddle or on the lunge, up and downward transitions are very important. Finding the pace in which your animal feels balanced and work up their strength and stamina there.
For strengthening the back and core muscles to promote engagement and balance, we do have a whitaker balancing rein but just as easily, you can use a tail bandage tied securely either side to your girth. This encourages the horse or pony to work from behind, build up their back muscles and engage their core. Make sure to warm them up first and start with just 5 mins either side in walk and trot to build them up.
More ground work, often using poles on the ground for exercise and get the horse listening. Again, different exercises with poles at walk, trot and canter. We can also do grid work for the ones who need it.
This is more typically our jumping day. Either course of fences or grid work. It varies on each horse and what routine works best for them.
If this isn’t a show day, we typically would do either an extra flat work day early in the week and push the other days forward by one or stick to the previous routine and just do a flat day before the show on Sunday. Every horse is different, some do best with little work before a show to conserve their energy, others need to be worked or they will be too spooky. Knowing your horse or pony and their needs is key. It is a partnership.
Show day. Early in the season, we always give extra time for those who might not be too familiar with the lorry and avoid starting the day with fights or under pressure. Same at the show, we like to get the horses out early and keep to that calm routine they are used to all week long. Doesn’t always happen of course but we do try.
This forms the basis for your exercise routine. Each week, have a focus you want to work on with your horse or pony and add the elements into your normal routine in order to build from week to week.
If you would like to know more about why a having a good exercise routine is so important, check out 'Getting Your Horse or Pony on the Right Routine'.
Thank you so much Emer. Have to say I’m really looking forward to more of your tips and stories!! Yes, I’ve read the whole shebang… Found it really interesting and definitely will be
Putting the tips and ideas into practice.
If sometime you would like to do a piece on feeding, that would be interesting. For example feed for the competition horse and for us mere mortals, fed for the all-rounder!
Oh and another idea would be when to call the physio, the dentist, vet etc!
Grooming tips might be a good idea as well 🤪
General stable management 🤪🤪
Thanks a million again and the very best of luck with your horse and the blog! Looking forward to your next article!!
Jaynie Regina, you will have me full time at this! lol
I’m hoping to pull in some others and getting the kids involved too. Nothing better than kids writing for kids with a bit of guidance plus they are getting super excited about it. I got some ‘team notebooks’ yesterday.
Since I treat horses as well as riders, I could write a book on that but definitely on my list for topics. I really need to make videos though for a lot of that stuff and I need to find someone to record. Plus I should have my own horse in soon for a guinea pig. Lots of idea, so little time lol.
Thanks again x
This is fantastic and a great foubdation as I always struggled with guilt that I am not doing things right.
For me, I have a new horse and am struggling with time to get the work in. So, is there a recommended number of days for a non professional (like me) where I still would like to do the odd show but also like to do general all-rounder stuff?
Oh, how long should you spend doing the schooling or even hacking?
The tail bandage idea is fantastic. How tight should you have it and how long should the schooling be with it?
Thanks a million, really love this blog 😁😁
Thanks a mil Regina. Really glad you found it useful.
Emer here so I’m in the same boat as yourself (non professional, odd show, general all-round). A lot depends on the ages and temperament of the horse of course but I always strive for getting them out of the box for as long as you can manage. Of course it is easier have a standard routine in the yard then when you work a job and possibly have a family to juggle with. Saying that, I would create a routine for yourself so you can balance out a week for yourself. If you know it is impossible to get everything in on a Wed for example, then that becomes you and your horse’s day off. Like a class or appointment, have days that are ‘work’ days. Even 1 or 2 days that are your lighter days for daily stuff and as if you had an important meeting that day, you don’t say yes to other stuff on those days and focus them for getting a good session with your horse. Life has a tendency get in the way if we aren’t careful so creating a simple outline routine based on this to fit in with your our life is a good idea.
Re how long, min 30mins work and maybe 5+ mins walking warm up and cool down either side. Around 40+mins for a hack too. Ours always get out in the paddocks too for an hour if weather allows. 24hrs stuck in a box is a long day so the loner they are out of it the better.
Really glad you like the tail bandage idea. I used it before I started ‘borrowing’ Mark’s. You want it just tight enough not to be slipping around at the start but not digging into the muscle. Always warm up about 10mins on the lunge either side before putting it on. Then I would start with 5mins either side. Go with what your horse looks relaxed with. If their back if stiff of weak, just start with asking them to walking and relax with it on. If they are tensing up, they won’t build up the muscle but just stiffen themselves some more.
Thanks again for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated and more to come.
PS: Did you see the other blog on why routine is so important? ‘Getting Your Horse or Pony on the Right Routine‘