Giving them a break - is it a must?

Tootsie4U

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Aug 19, 2002
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Just asking a general question about how often and why you give your horse a break from work?

I've been going with Bonfire for over a year now, and all he's had is a week & a half break this August. He doesnt seem "over done" but how important is it to step back and just quit it for awhile? Does age, breed, discipline affect that decision?

Would you give your horse a break at all if they didnt seem over worked or mentally stressed with their routine? If you do give them a break, is it based more so on the convenience (ie. over winter) than a need? After coming back from a break, how long does it take for them to get back into the swing of things? Do you ever find that they lost some of their training in the time they were let out?

Sure, every horse is an individual but Im just looking for trends :D

A break at this point has always seemed like a giant step back, like I am risking loosing important ground, but I have just started to think that maybe I should give Bon the winter off and take that time to ride some school masters and just work on me. (My purpose in this post :D)
 

Mehitabel

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i think that the reason you have had bad luck with giving him a break before is that he wasn't really working with you - he wasn't wanting to do it so a break just reinforced that it was nicer for him in the field! whereas now, he is working with you a lot more and from your recent posts he is enjoying it and it's altogether more positive.

you've not rushed him, so i don't think he will go loopy from carrying on lightly. on the other hand, a break over winter may well give him the time to assimilate all he's learned and come back fresher in the spring. it's not really something i'd like to recommend either way given bon's not being mr uncomplicated!

i have seen plenty of ponies and horses, especially the very talented ones, who have really needed that break to catch up mentally.

it varies with us, what we do. petal had a break because she was in foal when i broke her in - we did about 6 months and then she had a year off until the sprog was weaned. then a year later the accident happened and she had another 3 years off!

i think if they're started younger - 3 rather than 4 or 5, it's more important, especially if they're a slower maturing breed like the natives are. our guys are still growing and filling out at 6 or 7, so if they're started at 3 then they do need some time to grow in peace and grow up mentally before being asked to compete or do serious work.
 

MelanieD

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I've given my 5 year old a break recently, and some things seem to have improved after the break. I'd only had her a month and she was very green, she had the basics like squeeze means go faster and pull on reins means stop (although she did have a few opinions on when she wanted to listen to the reins). After a month of being ridden she was just getting the idea of leg yields (important since I hack out on roads all winter) and the correct aids for canter instead of a really big squeeze. She had almost 4 weeks off between my holiday, lost shoe, weather etc. and I was really worried she'd have forgotten everything. I was surprised to find that the work on leg yield and canter had actually improved after some time off. She has a tendancy to be a bit silly if she's not been ridden even for a few days so was a bit full of it after the time off but she setteled down quickly and there were no temper tantrums as interesting as the ones when I first got her.
 

shandy84

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Hiya,

I fully advocate giving them a break. I have an arab x hannovarian filly and she has grown up so much physically and mentally having had the whole summer off. She hasn't been fully backed almost as we had a saddle on her and bitted her up etc. and she was going so well we see it as a treat having time off to play and grow up a bit. So my advice would be to finish his working time on a really positive note. As soon as you get that you're onto a winner. My filly has just started being walked out and lunged again and she's going well if anything she's too game and excited about being in work, so it's a real plus for her as it's made her appreciate her work because it hasn't been forced and it's something she looks forward to.
 

Cochise

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Jun 3, 2002
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Yes definitely! Although this year time out for Cheeky has mainly been due to injury and improper fitness preparation. Cheeky is a 8 year old appXTB, mainly does everything I can do with him and competes. I usually plan when my competitions are, weather conditions and riding conditions etc as the basis of when he has time off. Lately he has had 2 months off as he doesnt feel one hundred percent to me. It is planned for me to bring him back in this week with a strict fitness plan. (Lots of walking!) I have planned this according to National champs next March, not jumping and only working on dressage.
As for your original question, I do think it is a good idea for young horses such as Bonfire to have some time out. Don't think of it as a step back. Horses don't forget everything you know!
As long as its a substantial enough break that it really is a break, and you follow a good fitness plan to get them back in to work he should be fine. Besides, what kind of work do you do with him? Does he get out of the arena often? Go out hacking etc? Perhaps it may even refresh his mindset to give him a wee break. Good luck!
 

Wally

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My own personal horse would get a day a week off or so, but since all ours are out 24/7 they don't really need a break as such. They please themselves 22 hours of the day, humour us for a couple then go back to being horses. But it's a one horse one rider situation.

Having said this the horses who get the learners and the trekkers get a long holiday at the end of the summer. They go out onto the side of the hill and us humans keep well away so they can be horses and just chill out. I can see them from my kitchen window and so long as they are moving from place to place we just leave them. If they are by the fence when we drive up the road we may stop and see if they want to chat otherwise they have to have a people free time out after so many different people on thier backs all summer.

I think youngsters too need a break from things so long as you are happy lessons are going in. We turned Sæla away fro a year when she was 5 as she was such an air head. After the winter off she came back into work and has never looked back.
 

helenc

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I think it's important for some horses to have a month or so off. As already said, youngsters in particular benefit from a break after their original backing & after some basic training. I don't think they forget what they've done but you must take into account that if they have been turned out for a month then they will be nowhere near as fit when you bring them in as when you last rode! This is not only important as far as what speed you go & how long you ride them for but also for how they are carrying themselves & the exercises they can do!

I also think that competition horses should be given time off, they have a really hard job & it takes its toll unless they get a good break. Most but not all are kept in 24 hours a day (especially racehorses) apart from a couple of hours being ridden & maybe 30 minutes on a horse walker per day so this can by quite mind numbing for an intelligent sports horse!

As far as my own horse goes, she's only getting ridden at weekends at the moment + she lives out so can please herself most of the time, therefore I won't be giving her any more time off!