There may be a number of reasons for wanting to increase rides on your horse to twice a day. You might be preparing for show season and want to get them in shape. Maybe you just want to keep their fitness up throughout the year. The good news is that for most horses an extra ride a day will not be a problem!
Will it Hurt a Horse to be Ridden Multiple Times in a Day?
Horses’ bodies naturally keep moving throughout the day. Upper-level competition horses are ridden a couple of times in a day and are kept on strict workout plans. Lesson horses are often ridden multiple times a day as well. Unless your horse has an injury or is getting old, they should be fine to be ridden more than once in a day. If your horse is out of shape, then it is best to start out slow and build up their workouts over time.
Exhaustion occurs in most equestrian sports, but it is more frequent in events that require sustained endurance work such as endurance racing, three-day eventing, trail riding, and hunting. Exhaustion is also more likely when an unfit, unacclimatized, or unsound horse is exercised. 1
Create and Follow a Fitness Schedule
A great way to keep track of your horse’s progress and make sure you are not overdoing it is to create a fitness schedule for them. Write out exactly what you plan to do with your horse each day so you go into your rides with a plan. Make sure to include a variety of activities and rest days. Keep flexibility in mind as well. There may be days where your horse seems more tired than normal, or maybe you rode a little more than you planned. In these cases, you can either substitute in some low-intensity activities, or do your originally planned ride at a slower gait, like a walk or slow trot.
At the end of each week, or every few weeks, you can assess how your horse is progressing. Then, you can increase or decrease the workload depending on how well they are doing. Don’t be afraid to take a step back and slow things down if needed.
Start with Shorter Rides
When adding a second ride in a day to your horse’s routine, a good way to start is by making the rides shorter than normal. If you normally ride for an hour at a time, break it up into two half hour rides at first. You can build it up into longer rides from there if desired. Also, you can start out by adding a second ride every other day instead of daily to gradually build up their workouts.
Add a Lot of Walking to Their Workouts
A great way to build up your horse’s fitness is to add extra walks into their workout schedule. This can be done by going for trail rides, or hacks around the property. Even hand-walking your horse will benefit them greatly. Walking helps to build fitness, and is generally easier on their muscles than faster gaits.
Use a Variety of Activities to Keep Your Horse Engaged
It is recommended to not focus on the same thing in every ride. Change up the game plan and be sure to include things your horse enjoys doing. This will keep things fresh for them. If they are doing the same thing over and over again, they are likely to get bored. Some horses may even become sour if they are forced to work a lot without any activity that makes them happy. The best way to keep your horse engaged and happy is to provide them with a variety of activities. If you are focused on a lot of arena work, then mixing in some trail rides could be a great change of pace. Obstacle courses are another way to keep your horse engaged instead of just going in circles around the arena.
Know Your Horse’s Limits
Your horse relies on you to decide when the ride is over, but they do their best to tell you if they are tired and have had enough. Being able to tell when your horse is close to reaching their limit is much more ideal than waiting until they are already there to call it a day. Injuries are more likely to happen when a horse is tired or over-worked. It is always better to cut your ride short than to push through when they have reached their limit for the day.
Watch out for Soreness
Keep a close eye on your horse, especially when increasing their workload. If you notice any signs of soreness, then they may be overdoing it and need to take a couple steps back. Check their legs for any swelling or warmth, and be aware if their gaits feel off at all while riding. It may be a sign that they just need a break, or it could be the start of an injury.
Make Sure They Get Time Off Each Week
Just like with humans, it is important to give your horse rest days so their body can recover. Even horses that are in excellent shape and get worked regularly need days off in their schedules. Horses who do not get at least a day or two off each week are more likely to suffer an injury, or become sour toward being ridden. It could be helpful to pick one or two specific days each week for your horse to get a rest. This way it is part of the routine and you do not have to worry about forgetting, or keeping track of when their last day off was.
Whether you are building up your horse’s fitness for show season, or need to break your rides up throughout the day for your own benefit, it will not harm your horse to be ridden more than once in a day. Make sure to take it slowly when increasing their workload to avoid injury. And always add in some activities they enjoy to keep them happy!
Research sources used for this article:
- Foreman, J. H. (1998). The exhausted horse syndrome. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Equine Practice, 14(1), 205-219.