So, with the schools all broken up for summer and everyone and their uncle off on summer holidays, it got me thinking about whether horses, like us humans, need regular holidays?
The summer Eventing season is in full swing, which means that I am busy busy busy at work, and finding time to ride and train Sharp is tricky...Long hours at work means that I need to be extremely organized and dedicated to riding Sharp too. I started feeling very tired and run down, and was really looking forward to my week off in July, and it got me thinking, Sharp had been a bit more argumentative in the school lately, and I wondered if some time off would do him some good? I knew it would give me a bit of a break so thought it would be a good idea to give him a week or so off. Thinking back, I couldn’t actually remember when I last gave him time off that was more than 2 days in a row!
When I lived back in South Africa, and ran a yard, I had plenty of horses to ride, so giving Sharp a week off here and there when he needed it was easy, as I still had other horses to ride. However, since he arrived in the UK in March 2016, he is the only horse that I have to ride, and I couldn’t recall when he last had a holiday, apart from his beach holiday whilst in quarantine in Mauritius. Now Sharp is quite an interesting horse, and giving him time off in the past, I have had to monitor just how long, as his busy brain gets bored quite quickly, and when Sharp gets bored, he gets naughty! So, I decided that as he hadn’t had a holiday in over 3 years, I would try to give him 2 weeks off, as this coincided with him getting his flu booster as well!
The first week went well and Sharp seemed to be enjoying his time off, just out in the field and grazing, but come day 7, his bolshy playful side started to show! He would burn off his extra energy by cantering round the field and leaping in the air, setting all the other horses off! Leading him in from the field was also rather eventful most days, so it was back to the drawing board, and time to think of how he could still have a holiday but use up some of his energy too. I revaluated and decided that as he’s had a full week off of work, I would give him a week of hacking every other day, so still light work, but enough to keep him ticking over and his playfulness in check, whilst still not being worked in the school. This worked nicely and once the second week of his ‘Holiday’ was over and we tacked up to go in the school, the session that he gave me was phenomenal. Sharp’s Holiday had revitalized him and he came back better than ever – leading me to believe that he really did need a bit of R&R!
During Sharp’s holiday, I posted on social media what I was doing, and the post was met with conflicting views. Some people give their horses a week off in July and November and found that it really helped, and the horse came back refreshed and better than ever. Whilst others were very keen to state that horses really didn’t need a holiday and that it could do more harm than good. To be honest having given Sharp the time off, I truly believe that all horses would benefit from a holiday every now and then, whether it be for 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months.
Horses aren’t machines, and Competition horses are athletes, they work and train hard. Sharp works 6 days a week most weeks, 3 hacks and 3 times in the school. However, he is NOT a machine, and I refuse to treat him like one. I ensure he always has at least 1 day off a week, and that the work is varied, to keep him interested. But just like us humans who enjoy some down time from our busy work lives, looking forward to the summer holidays where we can get away for some good old R & R in sunnier climes, don’t our faithful equine friends also deserve the same?!