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Fitness Schedule/Days Off

When planning your horse’s fitness schedule is it better to have two days in a row off or one day off, one working, the next day off, and the next working?

Depends on the horse. The one I have currently turns into a monster if he gets two days in a row off, so I try not to do that. I generally ride six days a week but I try to alternate hard and easy days.

My OTTB has always thrived on work - mentally. The more I ride, the better he is. I know that sounds simplistic, but it really works for him. I just dont want him too fit, I’m no longer as athletic as he is.
As a nurse I work, Fulltime, 3 12 hour days a week. For him, the best schedule was this:
Twice daily on my days off, am and pm. Not a long work out, some as short as 15 mins only, some as long as an hour and a half. All different but with simple relaxation and flatwork as a foundation. Some trails, some trailer loading, some dressage, some push cows around quietly. So usually only 2 days in a row off, then he’d work 2, off 1, work 3, etc. Rarely did we gallop, he’s just not trustworthy there yet.
The more he did, the easier it was to get back to business after 2 in a row off.
Now I’m restarting my fat little wildman. He stresses out so much about potential wrong answers.

short and frequent really seems key for both of mine.

I think bodies in general do best if they keep moving. I don’t think alternating days on/off is beneficial. I prefer a steady schedule with hard days and easy days mixed in (i.e., don’t go all out for six days in a row, but mix in hacks and stretchy ring work with more intense schools). If you’re only doing 5 days a week, I think I would be most inclined to do three days on, one day off, three days on, then five days on, two off, but I also have a horse that goes feral after two days :stuck_out_tongue: When he was in serious competition work, he did 6 days in a row, with hacks and hard work, and usually galloped on the sixth and a day off after gallop day. That worked well for us, though some horses do better if they hack after a gallop and then have a day off.

It really depends on your level, the horse, and when you’re planning on peaking.

I am assuming (maybe incorrectly) that you are not conditioning for UL?

If that is the case, base it on your horse. Non-UL work advice below:

One of mine did best in a 6-7 work days - he would have 3 very easy days (as in just hacking at walk) interspersed between ‘work’ days. Most horses do best when they are moving.

If they are going to have a day off, make sure it is a day off spent outside, preferably 12 hrs or 24/7. Standing around in a stall all day is not a ‘day off’ for the horse and does not improve their performance. Makes for a stiff horse.

I find for most of mine the best schedule is an intense day followed by a low intense day, followed by intense, etc; you don’t want to go all out for three days as this can make a horse very sore, but you don’t want to have multiple easy days in a row either.

Interval days (as in interval work) should always be precipitated by an easy day - most people will do interval training on day 1, 3 and 5 of the week.


“While some of your workout sessions should challenge your horse to perform at a higher level, it is the time between these sessions when his body actually undergoes the adaptations necessary to improve. Depending on the nature and intensity of your workouts, full recovery can take anywhere from a few days to a week or more.”

It’s an interesting subject. I’m not completely up to date, but I know that in the 90s the protocol recommended by exercise physiologists was 2 days off (with turnout, walk ride and/or hand walking) for muscle recovery. Many of us have probably experienced this after a big exertion: sore the day after, but even worse on the second day.

I worked at a good training stable for dressage and the horses there all got two days off per week.

I sometimes give two days off and sometimes one – 2 after an especially big effort, but not without ensuring all-day turnout and maybe a hand walk or short 20 min walk under tack. Competing and then abandoning your horse for a few days is such a bad idea and I’ve seen it done. Common sense will tell you that it’s best to keep your horse moving even while resting: if I were to go running beyond my fitness level and then stay in bed until I loosened up, I might never loose up.

Also (and I do go on about this) a good walk warm up is so important and so often neglected by amateur riders (which I sure am) in a hurry to get to the workout/fun portion of the ride. The horse I ride comes out stiff sometimes and I make a point of a minimum of 20 minutes warm up walk even if he’s come from the pasture, but I’ve discovered that 25 minutes of walking gets me a horse that’s ready to go on a contact, stretch, and work. If you want a sound horse for the long term, paying attention to conditioning, warm up and recovery is where it’s at. It makes me sad to see horses going lame that perhaps would not have with more careful conditioning and warm up.

My guy gets one day off a week. And its never the same day, depending on my schedule and if I have an appointment it varies.

His work before his day off is always flat and his work after his day off is flat. I never like to jump before a day off or after a day off. The intensity of his work truly depends on how he’s feeling that day and what I’ve been doing all week. Depending on when my lesson is and how he’s been working.

He’s an OTTB, get fit easily, but has a great work ethic. Our biggest struggle has always been flat work, never good enough to win, and he loves to be behind the leg, he gets locked, so a lot of lateral and forward work is done no matter what.

I jump about once a week, depending again on how he’s been going. Some weeks we need to jump twice, but I prefer to stick to once. He doesn’t need to overly jump, he’s 13 and knows his job for Training level.

When my horse does an event she normally gets the next two days afterwards off. She is out 24/7 so I know she’s keeping herself as limber as possible. Considering that if I workout hard enough to be sore it will take at least 2 days to feel normal I feel like this is a solid plan for her.

I will also do rest day, then bareback hack, then 2nd rest day if that’s how my schedule works.