The leaves are beginning to turn in the Pacific Northwest, marking the coming of Fall. For many, this is a busy season of returning to the routine of daily life, but for horse owners, it usually marks the winding down of competition season. Transitioning your horse from a heavy competition training schedule to lighter work can be a rewarding time, but it can also place a different set of stressors on the animal.
When routine changes, horses can become bored, anxious, and even depressed. The changing of the seasons and decreased workout schedule can also cause a disturbance in their circadian rhythms, altering their sleep habits. And as the Fall weather moves in, many horses spend significant time in stalls, restricting movement and impacting their digestive and circulatory systems. Luckily, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure your horse’s transition goes smoothly:
Slow and Steady – The best way to transition a horse into a rest period is to do it gradually. Take about two weeks to make the full transition, making the workouts less intense each session. When you’ve reached those two weeks, make sure to keep your horse’s muscles working throughout the down time by asking for small sessions of work at least twice a week. Not only will this assist in continual fitness and soundness during the off season, but it will also contribute to an easier transition back to pre-season training when Spring approaches.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat – Keep a routine for your horse as much as possible, horses feel secure and thrive under repetitive schedules.
Give Your Horse A Job – If you have a horse that loves to work, it is important for his mental soundness that he continues to believe he is working during his rest period. This might mean an easy hack through the trails or playing around with fun ground training. A horse that loves to work can feel abandoned and confused when his work schedule diminishes suddenly.
Encourage Sleep – make sure your horse has a comfortable place to lie down, as horses do most of their REM sleep lying down. Check to see if your horse has experienced REM sleep by noticing any shavings on his upper body or looking for other indicators that he is laying down.
It’s All About The Feed – Make sure you take into account that your horse’s feed may need to be altered if he is going from consistent heavy workouts to a rest period.
MASSAGE THERAPY – Equine massage therapy has been proven to greatly assist horses during these transition times. It not only improves your horse’s muscular health, but it also enhances their digestive, immune, circulatory, and nervous systems. It can benefit your horse’s mental soundness as well, alleviating boredom, anxiety, and depression. The benefits of equine massage truly are staggering, and it allows the horse to transition seamlessly between seasons.