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'.