How quickly do horses lose/regain fitness?

Joined
12 June 2017
Messages
51
Just had a run of (minor) bad luck with my horse, resulting in about 4 weeks of box rest. He's gone out in the field today, thankfully! Normally he's out in the field all day every day, bar a couple of hours every morning for breakfast and hay.

It just got me wondering how quickly horses lose fitness in box rest circumstances? And how quickly would they regain it on 24 hour turnout? Obviously will not be doing anything drastic with him any time soon, but I'm curious...

TIA
 

paddi22

Well-Known Member
Joined
5 December 2010
Messages
4,468
depends on age of horse and if it has any existing conditions like arthritis etc. and also the type and breed. any tbs i have seem to pop back into fitness very easily, the heavier types take longer.
 
Joined
12 June 2017
Messages
51
Sounds logical. So an 11 year old sport horse would lose less fitness than, say, a 16 year old draft? But lose less fitness than a 4 year old TB or Arab type?
 

paddi22

Well-Known Member
Joined
5 December 2010
Messages
4,468
Yeah its an interesting one, there's so many factors. If they are turned out they keep fitness more, but native types will not be as active as, say, tb types, who might run around more. If the turnout if big and hilly horses can stay fairly fit. If it's a tiny turnout paddock where they stand and eat hay, then less so.
 

mule

Well-Known Member
Joined
27 October 2016
Messages
3,653
Location
Ireland
Even if the hot bloods lose fitness they regain it so quickly.
I wonder though, with those types, is there a temptation to rush through the fitness work? What I mean is, if the horse gets fit easily will some people be inclined to skip some of the long distance slow work and jump forwards to cardio?
 
Joined
12 June 2017
Messages
51
I think that skipping long distance slow work could be put down to either temptation or ignorance - I'm not sure how many of the horsey people I know that would be aware of the best way to fitten a horse. Or maybe they know inherently, but couldn't tell you outright? With so many variables going towards it, you'll get people who err on the side of caution, and people who throw caution to the wind...

I'm more of the cautious type - mine was in for most of 4 weeks, and has gained a bit of weight but not too much. He's now out in a large hilly field with plenty of others, and he's quite an active type. I won't be able to ride until the weekend anyway, but I will be in a group lesson on Saturday and hacking on Sunday. I won't expect or ask too much of him, certainly nothing like I expected before the box rest, and I won't be expecting him to hack too far or go particularly quickly. I expect that he will want to go fast, however!

There's the other issue - how many people are led to jump into cardio work because their horse wants/decides that fast is the best pace, for whatever reason, and they go with what the horse tells them?
 

The-Bookworm

Well-Known Member
Joined
25 December 2018
Messages
527
Location
A field
Depends how fit they were before the box rest and why they were on box rest.
As a rule of thumb I like to do three weeks of walking before I do anything else. That first week may even be longreining followed by three walking.
I have a laid back route that would carry on with the walking for six months unless you suggested trotting!
 

TPO

Well-Known Member
Joined
20 November 2008
Messages
2,240
Location
Kinross
There is a difference between doing nothing ie unridden and being on box rest.

I think it's under appreciated just how much core strength is lost with box rest. If you think how weak we feel after a few days bedridden then multiple it. I think it was an episode of Rudall Rides with Izzy Taylor when she discusses her new appreciation for the affect of box rest after being bed bound when she injured her back.

Reintroducing turnout and then long reining (if sensible type) before the same amount of time off spent in walk (approx. Depending on previous fitness and reason for being off etc). So if 4wks have been spent as good as stationary in a box then 4wks walk work (starting 15mins and building up) before progressing with normal fitness work.

I haven't been on a yard yet where I've seen anyone do proper fitness work. Walking is too boring and people will lunge over hack without realising the stress that lunging causes and the fitness required to do it correctly. People talk the talk but within a fortnight they are trotting and having "sneaky" centres and jumps.

There is a really good old book (70s?), named something like Getting Horses Fit, on Amazon that's something like 80p that breaks down the walk work and how to build up from that.
 

mule

Well-Known Member
Joined
27 October 2016
Messages
3,653
Location
Ireland
There is a difference between doing nothing ie unridden and being on box rest.

I think it's under appreciated just how much core strength is lost with box rest. If you think how weak we feel after a few days bedridden then multiple it. I think it was an episode of Rudall Rides with Izzy Taylor when she discusses her new appreciation for the affect of box rest after being bed bound when she injured her back.

Reintroducing turnout and then long reining (if sensible type) before the same amount of time off spent in walk (approx. Depending on previous fitness and reason for being off etc). So if 4wks have been spent as good as stationary in a box then 4wks walk work (starting 15mins and building up) before progressing with normal fitness work.

I haven't been on a yard yet where I've seen anyone do proper fitness work. Walking is too boring and people will lunge over hack without realising the stress that lunging causes and the fitness required to do it correctly. People talk the talk but within a fortnight they are trotting and having "sneaky" centres and jumps.

There is a really good old book (70s?), named something like Getting Horses Fit, on Amazon that's something like 80p that breaks down the walk work and how to build up from that.
Must have a look for that book. It sounds useful.
 

Aimeetess

Active Member
Joined
24 April 2013
Messages
595
My gelding went from being ridden 4 days a week and pretty fit, to 6 weeks box rest and the muscle loss was unbelievable. I could notice it almost by the day, hes being turned out again now and starting to look slightly better already I think just from walking around all day, but stood in a stable 24/7 any muscle tone just flies off.

I now find my gelding is very tired when hes out for the entire day as hes been use to standing still doing nothing for 6 weeks so they must loose a lot of muscle in that time frame.
 

The-Bookworm

Well-Known Member
Joined
25 December 2018
Messages
527
Location
A field
They do yes.

I think comparing box rest to our bed rest | at home rest is a good comparison. We would feel tired and need time to get our strength and energy levels back again.
Even a bad cold/ virus can leave us feeling weaker than usual for a while.
I wouldn't want to be giving anyone a piggy back for the first week or so while I try and get myself back on track again.
 
Joined
17 January 2019
Messages
39
Agree with many comments above, it really depends on the horse. I reckon if Mo Farah and I were both on bed rest for the same amount of time he'd still be 10 times fitter than I could ever be and gain his full fitness back 10 times as fast! My eventer (TB type) was on small flat paddock rest for 6 weeks and bounced back very sharply, infact, she was back out eventing by the end of the season. Conversely, my young heavy warmblood was on box rest for 16 weeks and 6 months down the line we are still struggling with getting her back to where she was. I respect that their circumstances were different but I believe their age, existing fitness level, health issues and build has so much influence.
 

The-Bookworm

Well-Known Member
Joined
25 December 2018
Messages
527
Location
A field
What I mean is, if the horse gets fit easily will some people be inclined to skip some of the long distance slow work and jump forwards to cardio?
Depends some people skip it because they don't know they are meant to have done it.
The times I see people cantering a horse in the first week of it being backed with only a few days under saddle in place is fairly common.
 

Auslander

Well-Known Member
Joined
13 November 2010
Messages
9,644
Location
Berkshire
I think that skipping long distance slow work could be put down to either temptation or ignorance - I'm not sure how many of the horsey people I know that would be aware of the best way to fitten a horse. Or maybe they know inherently, but couldn't tell you outright? With so many variables going towards it, you'll get people who err on the side of caution, and people who throw caution to the wind...

I'm more of the cautious type - mine was in for most of 4 weeks, and has gained a bit of weight but not too much. He's now out in a large hilly field with plenty of others, and he's quite an active type. I won't be able to ride until the weekend anyway, but I will be in a group lesson on Saturday and hacking on Sunday. I won't expect or ask too much of him, certainly nothing like I expected before the box rest, and I won't be expecting him to hack too far or go particularly quickly. I expect that he will want to go fast, however!

There's the other issue - how many people are led to jump into cardio work because their horse wants/decides that fast is the best pace, for whatever reason, and they go with what the horse tells them?
I'm a little confused here! You say you're the cautious type, and that your horse has been on box rest for 4 weeks - then you say he won't be ridden all week, but you're doing a lesson on Sat? If he's been standing in the stable for a month, you need to get walking, and do a week or two of steady walking before even thinking about upping the work.
 
Joined
12 June 2017
Messages
51
I'm a little confused here! You say you're the cautious type, and that your horse has been on box rest for 4 weeks - then you say he won't be ridden all week, but you're doing a lesson on Sat? If he's been standing in the stable for a month, you need to get walking, and do a week or two of steady walking before even thinking about upping the work.
Haha, I can see how that would come across as confusing! To be clear: he was out and therefore moving around and walking himself. I did ride in that lesson on the Saturday, but my instructor and I were very clear on the way in which I would be participating, and did work in walk where other riders were trotting and cantering exercises on the flat. As much as that seems like a waste of a lesson to some, I still wanted to take part because it is part of his normal routine that I wanted to get back to, and he really benefits from the company of other horses while he is working in any capacity. Hacking out alone would have been a problem, and going into the school alone (at that point) would have resulted in much spooking and sideways motion at speed!

It's been three weeks since then, however, and he's coming back nicely. But rest assured, while my post was confusing, I still listened to the words of the wise from the good people on this forum!
 

9tails

Well-Known Member
Joined
20 January 2009
Messages
3,926
Even if the hot bloods lose fitness they regain it so quickly.
I wonder though, with those types, is there a temptation to rush through the fitness work? What I mean is, if the horse gets fit easily will some people be inclined to skip some of the long distance slow work and jump forwards to cardio?
Some people will do as they please, regardless of recommendations.
 
Top