The holiday is over – now back to work!

January 21, 2021 11:13 am by
Posted in Jayne Ross, News

Here we are in 2021 and boy am glad last year is behind us – I wish you all a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Under normal circumstances the open horses, such as Twinshock Warrior (Supreme HOYS 2019) and Casino III (Riding Horse Champion HOYS 2019) would have been turned away at the end of October and would still be on their holidays until mid-February.  However, 2020 was bizarre.  The horses were in training when COVID came along and by the end of March, early April they were back out in the field. So, this year the older horses are already back in and the work has started early as it will take longer to get them back in shape after such a long holiday.

The younger horses had a couple of weeks break over Christmas as we have kept them ticking over for the last couple of months.

After a prolonged time off, it is important to take time to build up muscle tone, harden their legs and get them fit. Ours have been doing nothing but playing in a field and it takes time to get a horse back into shape to avoid injury. They will have 4 or 5 weeks of road work, hacking out (on and off road) and hill work.  The older horses love this and enjoy the routine. I think it is all very well for horses to be out doing nothing but sometimes they start to feel somewhat abandoned – even though ours are out in groups of 3 or 4 most are ready to come back in.

We won’t be working the older horses in the school during this time because the experienced ones know what they are doing; it’s all about easing them back into work, getting them back together, toned and fit. It is just as easy to school them out on a ride, working them in an outline and maintaining a rhythm.  We are lucky to have fantastic hacking here, so they quietly get back into work without even realising it! We don’t trot them on the road but can trot and do hill work on tracks without the risk of splints or jarring their legs.  Having the ability to hack out is especially useful with horses who don’t like doing a lot of schoolwork and it is important to consider each of your horse’s temperaments when working out a training plan.  We never drill our horses and make sure we vary their routine. Even the younger horses that will have some work in the school because they had less time off, benefit from learning out on a hack.

The only horses that went back to their owners for a holiday were the Stennett family’s novice hack Dartans Valentine and Tony Reynolds and Michael Cook’s two mare’s KBF Crescendo (Daphne) and CSF Cummer Paradise (Audrey).  Audrey is retired now and in foal to dressage horse L’Espoir. Daphne and Dartans Valentine are now back and in training.

Another important aspect of easing back into work is feed.  Whilst turned out the horses just had really good grass and haylage if needed. They have been on such good grass they look amazing so now we are very carefully introducing hard feed as their work increases.

All the horses get a thorough MOT so the farrier is booked (the horses have their shoes off during their time off), the dentist will be out shortly, and their backs have been checked.  They have also been wormed – some enjoyed this more than others!

We will start clipping shortly with those who have only had a few weeks holiday tackled first because they will be back into work quicker. The others are left until they start getting hot when working – they start off with lots of walking and the weather can get very chilly at the moment.

One or two of the small hacks don’t need clipping so they get rugged up and will lose their coats naturally.

The horses get groomed every day as soon as they come in but won’t be properly groomed and strapped until after they’ve started to tone up more.  Of course, show preparation grooming increases the nearer we get to the season. We don’t bath a lot at this time of year because I don’t like to get them too wet during mud fever season.  If we really have to then we let them dry off and only wash their feet if at all possible.  When clipping we leave their legs on because it can give some protection against mud fever and cracked heels.

We are hoping that one or two of the younger horses will get out to do dressage competitions and see a bit more of the world – COVID allowing.  We have done some sponsored rides with them at the end of last year and hope to do a few more.

With the more experienced horses we will get them out to shows as soon as we can.  Some dates are beginning to trickle through, and we are planning as if we will have plenty of dates going forward. Quite what format shows will take, whether there will be many county shows, the RIHS or spectators we don’t know yet.  Whatever happens we will be ready to go and if there is one thing I have learnt from 2020 is to just go with the flow…