Winter break : keep your horses healthy

How do you keep your horses fit and healthy?

Our Antarès riders, Maxime Livio and Zazie Gardeau have taken some time out to tell you how they keep their horses in good shape over the winter break after a busy season.

Maxime Livio looks back at his record from the past season:

«The season began quietly but was pretty good. This year, I regained the level and goals that I hoped to reach » :

  • 2 CCI5* top-ten finishes (8th at Luhmuhlen on Végas and 5th at Pau on Vitorio).
  • Api hit the performance levels that we hoped he would, winning in the CCI4* and coming 6th at the European Championships, just missing two medals!
  • I was also training quite a few horses this season, including one that showed his teeth with a top-three finish in CCI4*L (Carouzo, at Pratoni).

The rest and recovery process for the horses (how and for how long):

« It’s difficult to give any set rules as each horse recovers differently but overall, CCI1* and 2* horses rest for a week, while 3*S horses need 15 days, 3*L one month, 4*S, 15 days and 4*L horses, one month.

Some horses need light, non-strenuous exercise during their rest periods (turns on a lead rope, stretching, walking) to help them recover and maintain muscle tone.

This applies to horses that have been conditioned by the work they do and this helps them to recover.

By contrast, other horses, like Qalao need a rest from riding. They can spend a month on a walker, in the paddock and grooming.

The priority is keeping a close eye on things, even during the preparation period. The horses must feel pampered and you’ve got to look out for all those little knocks. »

Tasks to maintain the horses:

« This is stage two, after rest and recovery. It’s also specific to each horse. Generally, 80% of the time, you should focus on working, comfort and trust (80% rhythm and attitude for the comfort of the horse and the remaining 20% in movements to mechanise the horse, which are not so comfortable).

This must be related to conditioning exercises that must maintain a specific level (canters, short gallops) to keep the horse’s body ready to work prior to the preparation period. »

2022 season goals:

I’ve got several:

  • « I’d really like Vitorio to go to Badminton if he’s ready, as this would be the first time I compete there.
  • I’d also like Api to go to the World Championships in the second part of the season. So, I’m not going to start too early. I’ll try to do a 4 to 5-month season, building up just once with that goal in mind.
  • I think I might ride Végas in CCI5* late in the season, either at Bicton, Maryland or Pau.
  • It’s a key season for all the horses that are coming up and they’re going to be superstars in the years ahead! I have 7-year olds turning 8, 8-year olds turning 9 and Carouzo who’ll be 10. They are all horses that will compete in CCI4* events during the year and must start delivering on all the hope that I’ve invested in them. »

Fun fact or recommendation to finish with, to keep horses in good condition during this winter break.

« I think we need to remember riders too. To give you an idea, stirrups are banned in January at the stables. All the riders remove the stirrups on all the horses for canters, walks and work on the flat. We only put them back on for jumping as not all horses are suited to jumping without them. It’s quite an important period for the riders to build their strength back up. It’s the best way to properly dose the amount of work the horses do as it’s physically demanding for the rider. So, we’re less stringent with the horses and they gradually get back up to speed while we get back into the swing of things to start the season in a good position, which is an essential for horse riding! »

Zazie Gardeau looks back at her season:

« I’m really happy with my 2021 season. I came 3rd in the French Pro 2 Championships at Pompadour, on César. We won our first CCI3* short event at Saumur, came 2nd in the CCI2* short at Jardy and won the CCI2* long at Lignières last week.

I won the CCI3* long at Vairano, Italy, riding Udine and we competed at the European Championships for Young Riders this summer in Sweden. »

The rest and recovery process for the horses (how and for how long):

« In our sport, our season finishes in November and we generally take a 3-month break from competition. I let my horses have about one month’s holiday before they start winter training. When I say, “holidays”, I mean walking, days spent in the pasture, short outings on a rope or unleashed, plus plenty of carrots! »

Tasks to maintain the horses:

« When I start working with my horses again, I do it gradually, including stretching sessions and pole work in my weekly training programme. This helps me build muscle strength and keep the exercises fun. »

Goals for 2022:

« My main goal for 2022 is to qualify for, and compete in, the European Championships for Young Riders that will held in Hartpury, in June. »

Fun fact:

« I spend a lot of time on foot with my horses, massaging them, taking care of them and sometimes playing with them untethered. When the season’s in full swing, I have less time for these things so I try to make the most of winter to reinforce our bond. »