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Take Breaks To Get The Most Out Your Ride

Take Breaks To Get The Most Out Your Ride

Editor’s Note: Heels Down Mag asked riders to tell us what three things they think everyone should do every ride. Our editorial team selected five finalists’ essays, which are being published this month. One winner will receive an EIS COOL shirt  ($92 value).


By Sarah Craig

Ask 100 riders what their riding routine is and you’ll get 100 different answers. Riding
routines begin with pre-ride prep and doesn’t end until the horse is properly put away. Three areas that are a part of my riding routine no matter what horse I am riding is ground work, breaks during the ride, and a thorough post-ride grooming session.

Ground To Tack

Before the rider puts a leg over their horse, they should do ground work. Ground work
allows the rider to assess how the horse is doing. Is he feeling frisky/calm, focused/unfocused, crabby/happy? It is also an opportunity to make sure that the horse is not stiff, sore, or lame. For the horse it is a chance to get into “work mode”. When the horse is focused on the rider, some of this time can be used to work on new movements from the ground.

My two mares do not like flexing and bending their bodies to the left. This gives me a chance to work on this area before I actually am riding. I don’t prescribe to one form on ground work, what I do depends on my horse. I have one mare who is always lunged before I ride. Depending on her mood, it might just be for a few minutes at the walk. Other times she needs to work at all three gaits. When she is focused, we then work on bending and flexing exercises. My retired geldings get a quick hand walk for their ground work.

Take A Breather

During the ride, it is important to give the horse mini-breaks. This time allows the rider
a chance to evaluate how the ride is going so far and to come up with any adjustments that should be made. These breaks are also important for the horse as the release of pressure that a break gives a horse rewards him for the work he has done so far. The breaks I give my horse include free walking and standing. Free walking allows the horse to stretch out the muscles that he has been using. It helps prevent muscle cramps and damage from overuse.

Standing gives the horse a chance to almost completely rest. Both methods allow the cardiovascular system to return to normal before it is stressed with more work. This part of the routine helps keep the horse mentally fresh and willing to keep working.

See Also
Indoor Season Is Here. Don’t Be A Jerk In The Arena

Post-Ride Relaxation

Every ride session should finish with a thorough grooming of the horse. While the rider may be tempted to untack the horse and either put him directly back in his stall or out to pasture, post-ride grooming is important to the health of the horse. While brushing the barrel of the horse, the rider should notice the pattern of the sweat marks left by the saddle. The sweat marks tell where the saddle might be rubbing the horse.

Post-ride grooming is also a good chance to feel for any heat, bumps, or tender spots on the horse. For the horse it is a nice after-workout massage. Post-ride grooming rewards the horse and gives the rider a chance to notice any issues before they worsen.

While every rider has their own riding routine, there are certain elements that should be in all of them. For a ride to be successful, there needs to be some type of pre-ride ground work, breaks during the riding session, and a post-ride grooming. These fundamentals of a riding routine allow the rider to be more in tune to the horse and gives the horse positive feedback for the work they do.

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