Asked September 13, 2015, 2:32 PM EDT

If a horse is fit and healthy, how long should you ride him, (In a walk, trot, canter.) How often should you walk him out? For 1-2 min, or more like 10?

Hillsborough County New Hampshire

1 Response

The horse need to be brought into good riding condition gradually, not suddenly, to prevent injuries.

Here's a conditioning approach espoused by the Upper Midwest Endurance and Competitive Rides Association (UMECRA). The entire program would not be necessary for the average horse owner who doesn't plan to compete in competitive trail rides or endurance races, but following what UMECRA suggests for the first three weeks could be beneficial.

Week 1--Start slowly, especially in the spring. Perhaps do some longeing and ring riding. On Days 2 and 3, go for a pleasure ride on an easy trail. On Day 4, rest. Starting with Day 5, continue with up to 45 minutes daily of walking and slow trotting. Back off if the horse shows signs of stress.

Week 2--Keep workouts easy and interesting. Intersperse trail riding with ring work and longeing. By midweek, you should be able to ride up to one hour, slowly. On shorter rides, begin asking for some extension of both the trot and walk. Vary terrain with easy hills, but don't overdo it.

Week 3--Two one-hour workouts should be done under saddle this week with the first being about five or six miles. The second one-hour workout, a day later, should be shorter and faster with some extended trotting and a little cantering or loping. Then allow a day of rest and longe the following day. By the end of the week, seek to cover seven miles in one hour.

This basic conditioning program should have most horses fit for trail riding or performing in about three weeks.

After a workout, always walk your horse back to the starting point. This does two things--first, you don't have a horse which wants to race back to the barn, and second, he'll be cooled out when you get home.