AskHQ: Fresh

Q: What is the longest I can leave my horse unworked without him getting fresh?

A: This is a difficult question to answer, because so many factors come into play: feed, turnout, breed, way of going, temperament etc. Some horses are no different even after a few weeks’ holiday, and others are impossible after only a few days off.

A horse on a high-concentrate diet is likely to be more highly strung and can therefore accumulate a lot of energy in just a few short days. This means that you can probably only leave him off for two to three days without him getting overly fresh. A horse on a low-concentrate diet on the other hand, is less likely to be fresh, and may be able to left for at least a week without any real issues. If you know you won’t be able to ride your horse for a while, possibly due to holiday or injury to you or your horse, it is worth discussing cutting him food with your equine nutritionist or vet, so that his energy levels are more in-keeping with his immediate work level. Remember, however, that cutting the food does not reflect immediately. It can take up to a week from the time of cutting the food to the time of effect.

The type and time of your horse’s turnout can also affect his energy levels. If your horse spends little time turned out in a small paddock, he is more likely to build energy, as he is unable to expend that energy in the paddock. Horses who are turned out all day in big paddocks are less likely to be highly strung, because they are constantly moving while grazing. Big paddocks also mean that your horse can trot and canter around if he’s feeling energetic. Paddock mates can also be great, for encouraging horses to move and expend their energy. Horses enjoy their time turned out and it’s physically and mentally healthy for them, so be sure to allow them as much time out as possible.

Some breeds are hotter and more energetic in general than others, meaning that they can’t be left for as long as some of the colder breeds.

At the end of the day you need to know your horse’s own way of going in order to predict how long you can leave him without work.