Thursday, September 29, 2011


I'll just be honest: I don't really believe in giving horses days off. The way I see it, nothing I ask them to do is all that inherently hard or foreign for them and they spend 22 hours a day eating and sleeping, 1 hour being groomed and petted, and 1 hour actually moving around. Who needs a break from that?

However, I'm starting to re-evaluate my views a little bit. I feel like Izzy and I are actually starting to advance enough that the things I'm asking her to do are building new muscles and maybe even getting her a little tired. While that's good, it also needs to change our work schedule a little bit.

For example, when I have a really brilliant dressage ride one day, I feel like she's just a little slower and backed off the next day. Not off, not stiff, just a little slower, which would be consistent with her being a bit body sore from moving things that didn't used to move.

At this point, I'm specifically talking about dressage. Obviously, our jumping isn't exactly pushing her yet.

Yesterday we had an absolutely brilliant dressage ride.

Today I didn't know what to do. I'm too tired (long uninteresting story) to set jumps or ride terribly well, and yet I hate to give Fattypants Mare a day off.

We compromised on groundwork--we did a little lunging and some ground driving, which was very fun. Izzy had to work a little mentally, but it also allowed her muscles to relax and heal for a day.

Am I completely off my rocker? Do your horses get (intentional) days off?

PS I took an absolutely adorable picture of Izzy geared up to ground drive, but apparently forgot my camera cable at home. So sorry.


  1. lol, Laz lives a life of "DAY OFF" even when 'working' so no for us. ;) I do think it's smart to change up the exercise drills daily though and keep their muscles forever changing, same way our workouts should vary.

  2. My horses definitely get days off when they're in full work. During the week we alternate between dressage schooling, jumping schooling, hacking and fitness work (hills/interval training) so they're using themselves differently each day. I never do the same thing two days in a row.

    I think a day off is important to give the horse a chance to mentally rest and physically recover, including building new muscle. My horses are turned out 24/7 though - if they were stabled I would replace the off day with another hack to stretch them out.

    That said, I'm bringing mine back into work, and in these early stages (walk only) they don't need a day off. They get them, though, because I am a bit time-short and disorganised!

  3. I give my mare at least one day off per week- sometimes more if it's been a particularly strenuous work day for me (I work in therapeutic riding and spend my days walking around with students) or the weather is abysmal (we only have an outdoor arena). I try not to let our conditioning schedule TOTALLY dictate my life, haha!

    That said, if it's a day I don't really feel like riding, but feel guilty about letting G have the day off, I usually take her on a light hack for an hour or so. We go in a large field near our barn and walk, trot, and canter in both directions. I feel like it's beneficial for her to have a relaxing ride, and it definitely seems to help her with spookiness issues.

  4. Lucy gets at least one day a week off, sometimes two. If she jumps a lot or jumps high, she gets her legs treated with liniment and then the next day off. She's still young and I don't want to fry her brain or her legs. I also do not do intense ring work two days in a row with her. If we have a lesson or I actually buckle down and make her work on the flat one day, we'll go on a nice easy hack the next.

  5. Absolutely. Both guys get days off, it is a rule for me. I look at it this way -- when I am riding, I am training, which means I am challenging them and asking them to do things they would not normally do. A little bit more, a little bit harder, a little bit rounder, a little bit higher.

    Brain sour, ring sour, work sour is what results when there are no vacations.

    When they come back, be it a day or a month, they are ALWAYS better and looking forward to what comes next.

  6. I could give you the short answer or I can describe my answer. Since you asked nicely, I’ll give you the long way.

    Coming from an exercise physiology standpoint, when you are exercising (using muscles/cardiovascular work) the body needs a day off. Physically tissues need to be rested to heal and be replenished with nutrients. When you exercise your body burns calories, electrolytes, vitamins, deoxygenates blood cells from muscles, and is mentally draining. This is the same for horses. Now, in the wild horses are designed to move around all day, and only when needed run very fast for a short period of time. They do not canter for a half hour in a frame, pick their legs over poles and balance a rider. Of course, we have bred horses to be more how we want them to be, to have the endurance for what we want them to do. Still, they are not machines. Their body is made of flesh and blood, just as ours is. Ever had a muscle cramp? Don’t you think yours has to? And something I’ve always wondered, do mares get PMS??? I am sooo sorry for riding my mare when she has cramps if she does!

    The typical race track way of handling days of is this: Before a young horse starts breezing they get at least one day a week off, sometimes 2, if it was behaved and is growthy. When the horse starts breezing they will have their day off after their breeze, and train the next day just jogging (light). After a race the horse will just walk in the barn for 3 days. Three days off completely, no jogging, just hand walk. If a horse has a fever, for every day the temperature was high is a full week off.

    Now when I ride the non-racers, I ride for a reason. I ask them to do things, move forward, be flexible, ect. It is exercise, so they get a day off. I like giving my horses 2 days off a week, but some need to stay in 6 days, one may be a lunging day or a trail day, just something to break it up.

    What I want to know is, when is my day off!!! Well, thanks to my broken next I’ve had lot’s of time (though I still am out to see the horses :D )

  7. Well I do give days off, weeks off and even months off sporatically. The days are for like other said the need to rest physically but mostly to rest mentally. Especially with a green horse that may not be straining their body all that much but every ride in training is a strain on their brain. There are times I have found even a week or two then coming back at it makes all the difference in the world. Then there are the months off that are usually dictated more by the weather but also they have been good for both of us to reflect, refuel then restart.

  8. On a good week, my horse gets out 4 to 5 days tops and only 2 of those are typically rigorous rides. It's hard to work full time and own a horse and have a life and be motivated to make each ride count for something as far as the training progression goes. I think a horse needs at least one day off/week to rest mentally and physically. I think a hard day should always be followed up by a lighter one most of the time as a reward for a job well done and a thank you for the effort and energy expended.

  9. I like to give my horses at least one day a week off. Not for any particular reason; I just do.

    Why don't you take her for a nice hack after a dressage day??

  10. My horse gets 1 day off a week intentionally, but when life interferes he often gets more days off. However, I usually go see him and groom him on his days off and hand graze him for awhile or take him for a walk down the driveway (gravel.. to toughen his feet). I think the day off is important for their brain and helps them not get burned out. I want him to be able to have a day to himself where he does whatever he feels like, which is usually trying to play with the other geldings in his pasture, which they reject. So then he runs around on his own and controls the times the rest of them eat and drink.


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