I need to get my horse back in shape.  I just bought her and she hasn't been ridin in 4 years.  I got right on her and she didn't care so far we have walked and trotted but that's it any more ideas?

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Hills.  Start off at a walk on the gentler rises.  Find steeper hills, walk those too at first, both going up and going down.  On steep hills it is important to keep the horse headed straight up and down hill.

When your horse feels ready start trotting up hill.  Again start on a gentle slope, then graduate to the steeper hills.  Continue walking downhill.

Then you can start the canter.  IF your horse will let you rate his speed it is possible to canter downhill but the horse must let you control the speed.  Until then just walk down hill, it is safer for you and your horse.

It is all right to trot downhill on a gentle slope, but on the steeper slopes it is better to walk.

This type of work will strengthen her hind end and build her endurance.  In a few weeks of this hill work you should see more muscles! 

We go on lots of trail rides and lots of steep hills up and down up hill she wants to trot so I let her. 

When conditioning a horse who  has been inactive or just coming off of an injury.  Walk and trot 15 minutes each gait on the flat for a few days.  A week of gradually increasing the time you spend at the trot.  Check your horse for signs of distress.  Monitor heart and breathing..  After a week of walk trot add a collected canter to the routine.  Depending on your discipline and level gradually increase in increments of 15 minutes added canter and finally gallop if you are eventing, playing polo or doing another physically demanding sport.

A couple of miles of work out by the second week is usually sufficient for most lower levels of competition.

Thanks everyone.

A wise old man said to me once "Trot the condition on, and canter it off". Interval training is the best way to condition your horse. Start off with 3x 3 min trot-walk intervals and every couple of days for the first week increase one interval, bit keep it at 3mins. Before you start check what your horses resting heart rate is, when you've gotten to 6x 3min intervals  check to see how long it takes for the horse to get back to that resting heart rate. If they are getting back in that range in 1 min, then you can start 4min intervals and so on.

I dont canter my horses at all until they are up to 6x6min intervals and then only 1 min at the end of each 6min  interval. They do canter work in the flat and jump training but dont need canter work in the fitness work, it only wears them out.  

Keep in mind warm/hot weather is coming. So whatever your horse has been used to doing up till now, either work them in the early morning when it is coolest, or if later in the day, take it easy and watch their respiration. it takes a few weeks for them to get fully conditioned. Of course be sure they are fully hydrated before you start, have extra salt available, even loose rather than just block salt, and cool them out properly when done. Always lots of fresh clean water available for summer. If they are a little overweight, they will have less heat tolerance, so again maybe look at early in the day work and proceed carefully.

I agree with everyone. Start off slow. Walk 20 mins on a hard surface to toughen up the joints and increase bone density for a couple of weeks and gradually introduce trotting intervals (not on a hard surface). The process should take about six weeks just to get your horse to a fairly average level of fitness where it can do periods of walk, trot and canter on a trail ride of about an hour. Of course, fitness can depend on the age and breed of horse. And keep in mind that it takes muscles just to have a rider on a horse's back and the slower you go about getting your horse fit, the sounder the horse should stay.

Give her plenty of exercise on a leading rein so that she walks as far as you can manage. You could also ask friends to take her along on a leading rein when they go for a ride. Once she's happy going out for several miles at a time, you can ride her a little each day.


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