Just like human, horses need a vacation. You’ve probably seen countless advice columns saying that human burnout is real, especially with everyone working from home and having our schedules so out of wack. While horses don’t report to a 9 to 5, although that would help with the bills, they still need just as much time off as us!
I found yet another article about the off-season of showing and it inspired me! In my experience, horse trainers rarely introduce the off-season as a time for reduced exercise. If anything, they argued that it was a great time to work on training before the next show season!
Which makes sense, of course you want to improve. But, I think we should look at it from a physiological and psychological perspective, too. Overwork leads to injuries. This is a simple phenomenon. If the horse (or consider it for your body) is working 6 days a week non-stop, they will get tired and find themselves depleted with energy and focus. An exhausted horse leads to an injury-prone horse because of overworked muscles.
Long story short, your horse can do with a month of time off. It’s good for them.
So, what does that time off look like? It certainly doesn’t mean they can’t work at all! Just turn that into a period of time where you have fun. Hack, trail ride, spend time doing things you both love. Like the article states, reducing exercise is also a good option.
While time off is good, thought, we want to be cognizant of maintaining fitness. It would be a shame if you gave your horse months off and they significantly decreased their muscle mass, cardiovascular strength, or their suppleness. Horses take about 2-3 months of absolutely no work to drastically lose their muscle. The key here is to find a balance.
That’s where massage and other forms of bodywork can help. Sports massage does an excellent job of restoring muscles (releasing tension and maintaining muscle vigor), while also creating a soothing experience for the horse. Combining bodywork with reduced exercise could prove an excellent regimen for a horse on vacation!