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5 Top Tips on Bringing Your Horse Back Into Work From Harry Whittington Racing

Under the latest advice from the government, BHS and British Equestrian, riding can now resume - horray! There have been a number of people who turned their horses away for the initial lockdown period as well as some who limited their horse's work to lunging or hacking to follow the advice in place at the time. This means some horse may have had almost 7 weeks off work, which is a considerable length of time. 

It is so important to consider the fitness levels of your horse, not only to reduce the likelihood of him suffering an injury. Gradually increasing your horse's fitness ensures you are following the current guidance to work within the fitness and capabilities of you and your horse, avoiding increasing the risk of putting additional strain on the NHS at this time.

We wanted to bring you some help on this topic - who better to ask than Cheltenham winning trainer Harry Whittington and his team? Below, Harry shares 5 top tips for bringing a horse back into work so you can have him back to full fitness as efficiently as possible.

1. Work on building your horse up to full fitness very gradually starting off with slow, steady work. It traditionally takes 9 weeks of cantering before a racehorse is fit and ready to run in a race. Broken down this consists of 12 weeks if you include road work and up to 15 weeks if you include the walking exercise to start with, which we like to do. Happy hacking!
2. Roadwork is a great way to get your horse started. It is vital to have the consistency of a flat, hard surface to help strengthen the horses’ legs ready for faster work. We are very fortunate to have quiet roads with good steep hills around the yard which we can hack to. We like to make the most of these by starting off all the horses who come back off from a break, having gone on the walker each day for a few weeks, they then going up and down the roads each day, building up the length of time you're riding and the distance you cover as you go. There are some really helpful apps you can get on your phone if you want to be specific with this.
3. Introduce hill work if you have access to one! We have a long stretch of road which goes up a gradual hill very close by to the yard. We find this is fantastic for building up their topline and other key muscle groups. So if you do have access to a hill for this stage, in particular, it is very beneficial.
4. Use this time to get yourself organised with vaccinations, dentist, shoeing, worming, etc. as soon as your horse comes in from a break then you will be set to carry on when your horse is fit enough to compete or whatever you have planned. We work on syncing all of our horses up onto the same pattern each year with vaccinations, worming and dentist in particular, as it really helps things run a lot more smoothly. 
5. Find a pre-season routine to suit your horse specifically taking into account all factors such as age, previous injuries, how much time they have had off, your long term goal, etc. 1 to 1 focus on each horses’ regime is paramount to get the best of them and getting them to reach their full potential.

KBIS are one of the largest independent horse insurance providers, offering all types of insurance for the equestrian. During the coronavirus pandemic, our staff are working from home to keep them safe. Our phone lines are still open, please call 0345 230 2323 to speak to a member of the team to discuss your insurance needs. Our products include horsebox and trailer insurance, breakdown insurance, personal accident cover, liability insurance and horse insurance including a wide variety of veterinary fee options. You can get a horse insurance quote online or call 0345 230 2323.