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You always read about Top horses having their holidays, where they get a bit of time off from their usual routine. This may be being turned away and doing absolutely nothing, or it could be simply no schooling or competitions for a while. Whatever type of break these horses have, it is fairly well recognised that horses competing at that level need a break. However, does the everyday ‘pet’ horse need a holiday?
This post comes from the idea that, due to multiple factors (although mainly Scottie’s self-inflicted injuries,) Scottie has had the past 4 weeks being a rather fat field ornament and was ridden for the first time again yesterday. I really hadn’t wanted for him to have this much time off. But that is just how things have worked out the past few weeks. This morning I also read an article on Horse & Hound this morning about how to give your horse a holiday and it got me thinking that hopefully this time off will have done Scottie some good. And I don’t just mean allowing his many injuries to heal, but done his mind some good too.
Although it’s far too early to say that this time off will have done him good and help us improve, I am able to look back at our experiences from last year. Last October Scottie had virtually the whole month off sitting in a field, with maybe the odd lunge (but I can’t actually remember lunging him in this time…) This was because we had a few issues with our saddle, which had caused a very sore back and struggled to find a new saddle which fit. Yes he could have stayed in regular ground work. But to be quite honest, his field was a long walk from the yard and I didn’t want to do that walk twice just to lunge. So I thought it might do him some good to have some time to chill while we waited for a saddle.
When we got back into work, we made a lot of improvement. Yes this could be down to actually having a saddle which fits. But I think it is also that Scottie was mentally in a better place after the break. He enjoys having a job, but there are days where he would really rather not work, and days where he really fancies it. And he tells you which mood he is in by either putting his head straight into the bridle and opening his mouth wide, or by standing at the back of his stable and/or needing coaxing to open his mouth for the bit. After the time off he was a lot more willing to do some work and our schooling improved because of this.
So although the past 4 week’s holiday was unplanned, I’m hoping it will be a benefit to us like it was last year. I have been pushing him a bit more recently to really improve our canter, which he has done amazingly! So really, in hindsight, I think he needed and deserved, the break to have some down time. Although next time I think I will put some back overreach boots on to make sure he keeps using those bum muscles in the field!
But this brings me back to the original question of this post which is, do most of our horses need a holiday? And this question is really hard to answer as there are so many variables. To start with, there are some horses who do simply not cope well without being in work, or you might not have the turnout to let them stretch their legs. But even if you have a horse which could cope with a holiday and the facilities to give them one, do they NEED one?
My personal opinion is, if they are happy hackers, ridden a couple times a week with the odd session in the school or jump and a fairly natural life style, no, they probably don’t need a holiday. I think it’s only once they are in the school a few times a week and actually working to improve them, not just exercising them, or out competing regularly, that they might need a break to let their minds relax. But that’s just my opinion on it.
Do you give your horses a break? What do they do normally and on holiday?