My dhorse is now back on the road after 6 months off for sarcoid treatment. He's not been lame at all, just unrideable so there is nothing wrong with his legs/feet or anything.
I need to get him fit again, and was wondering what sort of regime would work well. He has dropped a significant amount of muscle from his neck and hindquarters and is also getting on a bit (rising 17) so I want to get him back into shape. I don't have access to a school so it's just hacking round. Do you have any ideas as to a specific programme that would get him fit and muscled up again.
Normally I would just walk for a couple of weeks and then introduce short trots and build up from there, but we've never had such a long lay off before and I don't want to rush him into anything.
I think what you've got planned sounds absolutely fine. I'd let him bimble along for the first few days and then ask him more and more to carry himself. Don't ask too much of him, but I'm sure he'll be fine. I'm guessing he's been ambling around the field all summer - it's not as if he's been immobile.
We built up from five minutes walk to about half an hour and then gradually added a few minutes trot each day. That was the theory, the reality was two strides of walk (just across the road) and then several of CANTER with me silently screaming 'nooooo you will injure yourself you freak', or not that silently actually. He was just very happy to be out I think!
Anyway under more assertive riders the gradual increase of a few minutes each day had him v fit and jumping again in six weeks. Our vet swears by road work, couple of miles walking on road each day, rather than in school for this sort of thing.
A lot depends on the horse. I hate to say it, I tend to do a lot less walking time if my Dales has had a holiday than with a thoroughbred. I should say here that the Dales is a comedy lunatic (think the shrek donkey as a stallion) so if I let him go a few strides and then having proved his all round manliness he's usually saner....but none of it is very text book. Anyway, as a general rule though I'd expect to walk for a month or so building up from 5 -10 mins to half an hour and possibly slightly more as he's older. Then as everyone else suggests then add in short trots and then short sessions in the school and soon you'll be there! Good idea to keep him walking out and also to play it by ear. I've ended up taking horses supposed to be out for 20 mins for double that, simply because to have turned around at the 10 min point to go home might have resulted in some unscheduled brisk canter work - therefore I've had to find a loop to do instead!
But be careful where though. Make sure the ground is not too hard to soft or bumpy...and might be an idea to have a natural end, like a hedge at the top of a slope, so you don't have to rely on your own brakes.
..but also careful with that too as I once got pissed off with round a field on a hunter I was trying out for a friend with a view to buying for a riding school. Couldn't use hedges as brakes- was too scared he'd jump them. We didn't buy him!!