Spring will come, even to Vermont. We have about 3 feet of snow on the ground, and it is still cold–either side of zero–most of the time, but the warm(er) weather is supposed to show up soon.
So it’s time for an important reminder to those of you who haven’t been able to ride all winter. Even though your horse(s) have been getting out and running around, that doesn’t mean they’re fit for riding. The horse’s back was never intended to carry weight, so hopping on him on the first nice day and going out for a couple of hours is going to cause serious damage.
To be safe, start with 20 minutes a day and increase 5 minutes at a time to an hour, (you can do twice a day (spread out) after you reach 1/2 an hour) then increase 10 minutes at a time to 2 hours. Then, within reason, you’re home free. Very young or very old horses need more time, and should start at 10 minutes.
You should know that many of the horse’s leg injuries, especially behind, originate in the horse’s back from the extra weight of carrying a rider. The risk of injury increases if you aren’t staying centered, so that your weight shifts from side to side, or you bounce on his back at the faster gaits. Bad hands, which cause tension, can also lead to injury. So improving your riding may cut down on your vet bills! And will certainly make your horse happier.