Exercising in winter

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I have a 17yo ISH that I’ve only had one year, last winter I hacked her out 1-2 times a week, however since then she has been diagnosed with arthritis in her front two knees caused by competing with her previous owners (see pics for her arthritic knees).

This year I’m contemplating on not riding her through winter as the only place I can is on the roads as I don’t have an arena and the fields would be churned up if I were to ride her in them.

I don’t want her injuring herself on the roads or causing any more injuries… I live up North, Cumbria where the winters are harsh and it doesn’t stop raining.

I’d feel bad for not riding her but I also want to keep her fit, maybe lunging 15 mins 1-3 times a week.
What are people opinions on working horses in winter, I don’t compete her and she is more of a spoilt family member than a pet 🥰?
 

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Hacking on roads would be better than lunging as that can cause more stress to arthritis in the joints, where would you lunge if you don't have an arena?
I absolutely second this. Lunging can put an enormous strain on the joints. So hacking quietly on the roads would be far more beneficial.
 

paddi22

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I wouldn't lunge a horse with those issues at all. I'd even prefer handwork or inhand work to keep it in work. Unless a horse needs to be in work over winter, I tend to just give them the winter off. If she was mine I'd just handwork or hack around field edge on days that ground was good.
 

SOS

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Normally arthritis is better with movement. I would definitely forget the lunging for a horse with those issues, and 15 mins a few times a week won’t get her fit anyway. I would hack out on the road, don’t pound her, go on the verges and use tracks when you can. Straight lines and hills are good for horses!
 
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Hacking on roads would be better than lunging as that can cause more stress to arthritis in the joints, where would you lunge if you don't have an arena?
I absolutely second this. Lunging can put an enormous strain on the joints. So hacking quietly on the roads would be far more beneficial.
The lunging would be done in a certain area of the field as it is always dry, whereas riding all around the field would churn it up.
The only issue with hacking on the roads where I keep her is the roads are sheltered by trees either side and they don’t usually freeze up and don’t thaw easily so there it’s kite slippy.
 
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I wouldn't lunge a horse with those issues at all. I'd even prefer handwork or inhand work to keep it in work. Unless a horse needs to be in work over winter, I tend to just give them the winter off. If she was mine I'd just handwork or hack around field edge on days that ground was good.
I keep her inside at night in winter as she always ends up horrifically cutting her legs from slipping on the mud and the only shelter in the field when it’s wet and windy are the trees. In summer and good spring weather she’s out 24/7.
I’d prefer not to ride her on the roads just cos of the condition of them, they’re even slippy in summer, in winter they’re horrific.
Does it make a massive difference when you don’t work yours in winter, my horse hasn’t been properly worked in a few years with her past owner but Since I bought her last November I just lightly hack her 2-4 times a week in spring/summer.
 
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Then just ensure good daily turnout on the days you can’t ride.
Gentle consistent work is often best for arthritis, unless you have the luxury of 24/7 turnout?

if in doubt be guided by your vet, but I would also avoid lunging if it was my horse, and hack out when conditions allow.
My horses are out 24/7 in summer and good spring weather but in winter and autumn they’re in at night because they end up cutting themselves from slipping on the mud. They get at least 12 hours outside a day in winter anyway and their stables are rather spacious enough to wander constantly
 

dorsetladette

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I wouldn't lunge a horse with those issues at all. I'd even prefer handwork or inhand work to keep it in work. Unless a horse needs to be in work over winter, I tend to just give them the winter off. If she was mine I'd just handwork or hack around field edge on days that ground was good.

I would also be hacking or long reining around the perimeter of the fields when the ground allows.
 

stangs

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Can you go for some gentle hacks around the fields? If not, there's plenty of ways of keep her moving without lunging, which is strenuous for the joints: long reining, in hand schooling, taking her for a walk. Equally well, could you take her out for in hand hacks? Play it by ear, depending on what the road condition's like, and, if you're worried about her injuring herself on the roads, what about buying some knee pads?

Generally speaking, I don't think riding is necessary for an arthritic horse; you can keep her moving without having to ride.
 
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Can you go for some gentle hacks around the fields? If not, there's plenty of ways of keep her moving without lunging, which is strenuous for the joints: long reining, in hand schooling, taking her for a walk. Equally well, could you take her out for in hand hacks? Play it by ear, depending on what the road condition's like, and, if you're worried about her injuring herself on the roads, what about buying some knee pads?

Generally speaking, I don't think riding is necessary for an arthritic horse; you can keep her moving without having to ride.
I’ve never actually tried long reining and tbh it sounds better than riding her on the road or lunging her.
This is my exact thought, she’s 17yo so not extremely old but she’s still a tiny bit stiff in her front two knees and she does love being ridden but sometimes (in winter) she just can’t be bothered so I want to exercise her another way, she loves cantering around the field and always plays so she’s not such an old gal!!
What’s the best way to start long reining her?
 

flying_high

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The lunging would be done in a certain area of the field as it is always dry, whereas riding all around the field would churn it up.
The only issue with hacking on the roads where I keep her is the roads are sheltered by trees either side and they don’t usually freeze up and don’t thaw easily so there it’s kite slippy.
Are you in the UK? I think it isnt typically below freezing that much of winter. If you hacked 4-5 times a week on all the non frozen days, and did in handwork or long reining or ground work on the dry bit of your field on the frozen days, that should keep her mobile and muscled. If she is shod do you need road nails for the road hacking?
 

stangs

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What’s the best way to start long reining her?
What I do (disclaimer, this isn't a BHS method, nor a classical method, and it presumes your horse is reasonably sensible) is I use a lunge line and a saddle. You clip the lunge line to one side of the bit, and tie it to the other, having threaded it through rolled up stirrups (that way there's no need for a roller). Then I position myself to their side rather than behind, if I don't know how they'll react, and try to get them walking on just with my voice. If you have any particular commands that you use with her generally (like clicking at her, or a "brrr" or saying "walk on"), use that. You can flick the reins lightly at her sides too, or, if she's really not getting it, you could ask someone to lead her for a bit while she's getting used to it. And lots of vocal praise so she knows she's on the right track.

To start with, focus on getting walk-halt transitions sorted and don't expect turning to be particularly fine tuned!
 
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Are you in the UK? I think it isnt typically below freezing that much of winter. If you hacked 4-5 times a week on all the non frozen days, and did in handwork or long reining or ground work on the dry bit of your field on the frozen days, that should keep her mobile and muscled. If she is shod do you need road nails for the road hacking?
It gets below freezing up in Cumbria where I am and the wood around the stable means the sun doesn’t get on the roads so it stays frozen.
I start early and finish work at 5:30pm during the week so the sun has already set unfortunately which is why I’m looking for another option to exercise her as it’s dangerous on the roads.
Ooo road nails, I’ll have to have a look for some, what would you recommend?
 
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What I do (disclaimer, this isn't a BHS method, nor a classical method, and it presumes your horse is reasonably sensible) is I use a lunge line and a saddle. You clip the lunge line to one side of the bit, and tie it to the other, having threaded it through rolled up stirrups (that way there's no need for a roller). Then I position myself to their side rather than behind, if I don't know how they'll react, and try to get them walking on just with my voice. If you have any particular commands that you use with her generally (like clicking at her, or a "brrr" or saying "walk on"), use that. You can flick the reins lightly at her sides too, or, if she's really not getting it, you could ask someone to lead her for a bit while she's getting used to it. And lots of vocal praise so she knows she's on the right track.

To start with, focus on getting walk-halt transitions sorted and don't expect turning to be particularly fine tuned!
Fabulous, thank you sooo much!!!
I will have to try this!
 

Gloi

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If the roads are slippery even without ice either ride her barefoot which might work if she is just lightly hacking or get boots which are still less slippery on roads than shoes.
If you keep her shod frost nails will stop her slipping but might jar arthritic joints. You don't have to look for frost nails, just ask the farrier, preferably beforehand so he'll have some with him.

Longreining I never thread the reins through anything until they are established in their work. If for some reason they spook and spin it is then easy just to get them on a circle. With the reins through stirrups or turrets If they spook they can end up facing you and pulling back which pulls the rein backwards on their mouth and you can end up in a real tangled panicking mess. Ideally start in an enclosed area with a good surface so you aren't sliding about on mud. Maybe hire an arena a time or two.
 
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I'm Dun

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Just give her the winter off. Her workload is very light anyway, so just be really careful when starting hacking again in the spring. Theres no need to be finding ways to exercise her so long as he has lots of turnout
 
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