Well it's been a while! Getting my business off the ground, doing many renovations, cleaning and building, has kept my husband and myself extremely busy since April. The Conway Daily Sun was kind enough to let me come back to writing my column after a short hiatus. Thank you CDS.

I hope everyone is getting through this long, very cold winter. But the days are getting longer, and hopefully before long we will all be getting our horses back in shape for some great riding. It is hard for many horse owners to get their equines back in shape after the winter.

If you don't have access to an arena it can take some effort to get our horses trail ready. After having four or five months off due to cold, no trail access, or ice, we have our work cut out for us muscling up the horses. Due to the limited time most of us have because of our hectic schedules, we tend to want to get out and just hit the trail for an hour or more when the opportunity arises. We feel rejuvenated and relaxed! The horses probably not so much! We might not take into account the shape our horses may be in. They look good, plenty of flesh, and they have been romping around all winter through the snow, they can handle an hour hack, right!

Well most horses tend to stand around quite a bit during the winter. If you keep them stalled during bad weather, for days at a time, they could be even more out of shape. Getting them back in condition for riding may take a little more time than you think. It will take some time to build up their lung capacity and get their muscles back in shape. If we get them back to work too quickly and for too long a period of time, they could end up with injuries that could lay them up for quite some time. The best thing to do is start back slowly; work them for 30 minutes, three days a week.

Walking for at least 10 minutes to ensure their muscles get warmed up and stretched out. Trot for 5-7 minutes, back to walking for 5 or 10 minutes, trot again for 5-7 minutes, and then be sure to cool them down at a walk for a couple minutes. If their chest feels warm or sweaty it may take longer to cool the horse down. Begin this exercise plan for the first two weeks, increase riding time and days as the horse gets back in shape.

If your horse is really out of shape or has gained quite a bit of weight during the winter, you may even consider starting out with just some ground work for the first two weeks to a month. This way they do not have the extra work of carrying the saddle and rider.

Donna Mori is a certified instructor/natural horsemanship trainer and owner of Amori Stables. You can contact her at www.amoristables.com or (603) 662-9079.

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