There are three rules:
Rule One: Prioritize Calisthenics
In just 20 minutes per day at least four to five times per week, you can achieve worthy results. In fact, research at Michigan State University demonstrated that by performing dynamic mobilization exercises every day, laid off horses were able to maintain nearly 80 percent of the tone in their spinal stabilizing muscles compared to horses in full riding training. Begin your 20 minute calisthenics session with these maneuvers.
Rule Two: Prioritize Movement
This rule comes with the caveat to emphasize creativity as movement can take a variety of forms. Without a riding or training program, there are still lots of ways to bring more movement to your horse’s day. Too many riders falsely assume their horses move around in the paddocks more than they do. A good rule of thumb is to rely on turnouts for your horse’s mental health, but not always for his physical well-being; most horses move around less than we think, and in most cases this movement is erratic rather than continuous. Circulating blood, oxygen, and gas molecules around the body helps flush toxins and inflammation that otherwise collect in joints.
Rule Three: Log Re-Entry to Training
Allow at least six weeks of consistent (three to four days per week of training) but mellow exercise for the horse’s baseline cardiovascular fitness to adapt. To avoid injuries, increase the horse’s workload by no more than ten percent every two weeks. Remember that workload can be increased by duration or by intensity of effort, but not both at the same time. So, for instance, after three weeks of easy 30 minute rides and longe line workouts, you could either add longer training sessions over the next week OR you could continue with 30 minute sessions but add exercises that would increase the intensity of effort by roughly ten percent, such as riding on different surfaces, obstacle patterns, and canter transitions.