Welcome back to Part Two of reintroducing your horse back to work! In Part One, we discussed the essential steps to ensure your horse’s health and readiness for work. Now, it’s time to drive into the nitty-gritty of designing an effective exercise program to rebuild your horse’s fitness and confidence.


Before starting any exercise, it’s crucial to warm up your horse’s muscles properly. Begin with gentle stretches to loosen up their muscles and promote flexibility. Incorporate these stretches into your routine before training for a successful

Carrot Stretches

Limb Stretches


1. Lateral Bending

 1. Forelimb Stretching (Forwards and Backwards)

 1. Sternum (Trunk) Lift

 2. Bowing Stretch

 2. Hindlimb Stretching (Forwards and Backwards)

 2. Lumbosacral Lift (Butt Tuck)

 3. Extension Stretch

 3. Shoulder Flexing



Weeks 1 & 2

Walk Work

During the first two weeks, focus on rebuilding your horse’s stamina and muscle tone with gentle walking exercises. Aim for daily sessions for 20-30 minutes, gradually increase the duration as your horse adjusts and their fitness increases. Incorporate a variety of terrain, including flat surfaces, hills, and soft footing, to engage different muscle groups and promote balance.


Weeks 3 & 4

Trot Intervals

Introduce trotting intervals into your horse’s routine during weeks three and four. Start with short bursts of trotting interspersed with walking breaks to allow for recovery. Begin with 5-10 minutes of trot work per session, gradually increasing to 15-20 minutes as your horse builds strength and endurance. Focus on maintaining a steady rhythm and encouraging forward movement.


Weeks 5 & 6

Canter Transitions

By weeks five and six, your horse should be ready to incorporate canter work into their exercise program. Start with simple transitions between walk and canter, focusing on maintaining balance and rhythm. Begin with short bursts of cantering on straight lines, gradually increasing the duration followed by introducing circles and figure eights to further challenge your horse’s balance and coordination.


Weeks 7 & 8

Interval Training

As your horse progresses through the program, it’s time to incorporate interval training to further enhance cardiovascular fitness and endurance. Designate specific intervals of faster work, such as trot or canter sets, followed by periods of active recovery at a slower pace or walk. Start with short intervals, such as 1-2 minutes of faster work, followed by 3-5 minutes of active recovery, and gradually increase both the duration and intensity as your horse’s fitness improves.


Weeks 9 & 10


Introduce variety into your horse’s exercise routine by incorporating cross-training exercises. This could include sessions of lunging, hill work, or pole exercises to engage different muscle groups and prevent boredom. Cross-training also helps to improve your horse’s overall athleticism and coordination, contributing to their overall performance and well-being.


Weeks 11 & 12

Progressive Challenges

As you approach the end of the reintroduction period, it’s time to gradually increase the difficulty of your horse’s workouts. This could involve incorporating more advanced movements, such as leg yields or shoulder-in, into their flatwork sessions, or introducing small jumps or gymnastic exercises for those involved in jumping disciplines. Pay close attention to your horse’s response and adjust the difficulty level accordingly to ensure they continue to progress safely and confidently.


Remember, consistency and patience are key when reintroducing your horse to work after a period of rest. Listen to your horse’s feedback, monitor their progress closely, and be prepared to adapt your plan as needed to meet their individual needs and capabilities. With careful planning and attention to detail, you can help your horse regain their fitness, confidence, and enthusiasm for their job.


Happy riding!

April 26, 2024 — Greg Grant Saddlery