How Much Is TOO Much For The Young Horse?

Ask any one, in any equestrian discipline, and get a different answer from all.

I’m looking at longevity, building muscle and stamina (In a gentle way for a coming 5-year old.), strengthening tendons, and providing enough weekly training for steady blood flow and stimulation in the hooves and legs.

I really don’t think there’s a clear-cut formula.  Endurance, Eventing, and Race Horses often focus too hard on the muscle and stamina part.  Glowing dressage stars focus too much on lengthy trot sessions in the arena.  Self proclaimed experts have little write ups all over the Internet.  Lame horses still line up in barns everywhere.

My biggest worry is doing too much with Valiosa, not too little.  She’s got many years to develop.  If I could, she’d be doing a lot of trail walking, but the opportunity is not there for it at this farm.

So, I make sure not to ride her 5 days per week, always providing one day of light work without the saddle.  Most days, she barely breaks a sweat.  Today, she did a few jumps on the lunge line and had the opportunity to canter on her own quite a bit.

Other times, she might have a solid lunge session with side reins.  Sometimes just a super short time in the arena with just a halter and the lunge line like here –

jog day

Those days I just let her trot very easy, encouraging her to stretch down on her own.

But first – have to fly the kite a bit.

easy day off

She lives out 24/7, and is generally lazy.  Yes, seriously.

My kite



These are screen grabs from a short video of the trot.  I’m saving it so that, hopefully, later when I look at it I can see how much better her trot has gotten.  More swingy. Ground winning.  All shashey.  (Positive thinking here!)

canter departure
Canter departures, so much bettah’ when U’r full of bucks.

She can look really nice just finding her own balance just like this.

easy trot

Penny for your thoughts – if you don’t have access to huge summer pasture turnout, do you still rest your little budding dressage mount for weeks on end in the summer?  Or go with a lighter 3 days/week schedule?



10 thoughts on “How Much Is TOO Much For The Young Horse?

  1. I think it is all dependent on the horse and thier own personality. My grey mare Jo requires day in and day out work, while my last gelding was the same guy whether it had been a week or a month since I worked him last. I say trust your gut and follow your instincts. Valiosa will tell you when enough is enough. ❤


  2. I agree that some hacking would be nice for her. But as you have said you do not have access to that. Can you walk her around the property at least? What about some pole work( 2 poles on a 20m circle, walk, then trot and alternate walking and trotting). Sometimes a change like that can give them some variance in their work. But it sounds like you have the right priorities to not over work and over stress.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, there is very short, limited areas to walk around the property, so when there’s opportunity for that we definitely do it! Pole work is also a good idea. We tried it earlier, and I didn’t have anything substantial for her to respect enough to lift her feet. But now, after teaching her some very low key jumping, it’s time to try some gentle pole work again for variety!

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  3. I love that she has 24/7 turnout. That’s SO good for mind and body. My only thought would be that lunging can be hard on the joints. All that turning…and also the uncontrolled leaping sometimes…it is a judgment call. I don’t tend to lunge young horses all that much. Depends on the horse and what they need, but I don’t do it more than 2x a week at most. Bigger figures are better, changing direction frequently, with frequent stretch breaks and lots of variety. Repetitive motion is where the injury seems to come in. Especially with Spanish horses, you do not have to drill anything in the training, so think of it as conditioning and weight training. Vary it and do short sets with reps. She’ll get stronger.

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    1. Agreed – Tight, tight little turns, especially at a forced tempo, creates wear and tear. I sometimes jog, and even run very fast with her in the canter, so that we can use pretty much the whole arena.
      She has about 1 lunge day per week now. I wish I could counter act it with a lot of slow walking, just straight forward, on a firm surface at least a couple of days per week…
      Tomorrow we have a morning outing scheduled – I’m planning on taking advantage of all the different options there!


      1. That’s perfect, using the whole arena! And you are fit enough to run with her, that’s wonderful 🙂 I’ll bet she loves that! I agree that lots of walk work would be great. Well, no place is perfect and you do what you can. Walking and trotting over poles may give you something like hill work (helping her to engage her abdominal and hind quarter muscles). Valiosa looks like she is developing really well, so I think you are on the right track!

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  4. I think it really depends on the horse’s personality, and how quickly it learns. I am a believer in consistent light work, with plenty of time for the horse to be a horse, for young horses. They often let you know when they are ready for more.

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  5. She’ll tell you and given you’ve written about, it’s obvious you’re looking for signs that you are doing too much. In the wild she’d be walking 12 miles a day, it’s more the turning, tight circles and working in a overly advance contact (which you don’t!) etc that will push her too far.

    Can you let her off the lunge? From your pictures, your arena looks enclosed…some of the best ‘light’ or ‘non’ work days I’ve had with Abbey have been spent introducing her to new objects that she might see around an arena and out hacking – from flower pots, umbrellas and balloons to ‘bridges’ (flat sheets of wood) and ‘water’ (blue tarpulin) that I ask her to walk over. It’s been really interesting seeing her reaction and it’s helped develop the trust in our relationship.


    1. Great reminder of some stuff I’ve had on our to do list, but haven’t yet gotten to. This week, pulling out the tarp – thinking I can make a little “water jump” with it and other stuff.
      She’s been off the lunge at this barn several times. Yes – it IS indeed enclosed. However, it is a unique set up in that it is entirely surrounded by a pasture containing an older gelding I also care greatly for.
      He gets completely riled up as soon as she is let off, cantering around and tearing off his shoes etc. Not kidding here! It’s been a while since I let her loose, since she tends to get wild for some time, and then putting the gelding in trouble…
      Once heat sets in (a couple of more weeks.), he’ll be out 24/7. I might put him away for a short time then, and see what she and I can do off the lunge line in the indoor… 🙂


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