I’m approaching week two of riding Cutty, Johnny’s coworker’s 7 year old overweight Quarter Horse. The horse has been a real treat to work with, as he’s reasonably intelligent without being devious or evasive. He’s also sensible and while he doesn’t try as hard as I’d like him to, he seems to enjoy getting things right (and the lavish praise that comes with it).
He is really fat. I’m aware that Quarter Horses are rounder, wider animals than the lanky and lean Thoroughbreds I’m used to. I’m also aware that it’s not good when a horse has fat deposits on his neck. On the Henneke scale, I’d say he’s a solid 7 (fleshy): “Crease down spine; ribs have fat filling between them; tail head spongy; fat deposits along withers and neck and behind shoulders.”
Cutty’s people want simple things for him. They want him to learn to neck rein, understand moving away from leg pressure, and get fitter.
I’ve been hired to ride him 5 days per week. Here’s the weekly schedule I’ve developed for him:
Day 1: ~40 minutes flatwork (10 minute walk warm up, 5 minutes walk up and down steep hill, 6 minutes trot work, 5 minute walk break focusing on lateral work, 5 minutes trot work, 10 minutes cool down)
Day 2: ~45 minutes flatwork (10 minute walk warm up, 10 minutes walk up and down steep hill, 5 minutes trot work, 5 minute walk break focusing on lateral work, 5 minutes trot/canter transitions, 10 minutes cool down)
Day 3: ~50 minutes flatwork (10 minute walk warm up, 5 minutes walk up and down steep hill, 10 minutes trot work, 10 minute walk break focusing on lateral work, 5 minutes trot work, 10 minutes cool down)
Day 4: Off
Day 5: ~45 minute trail ride down the road and back to the barn
Day 6: ~45 minutes conditioning work (10 minute walk warm up, 5 minutes walk up and down steep hill, 5 minutes trotting, 3 minutes walking, 5 minutes trotting up and down steep hill, 3 minutes walking, 5 minutes trotting, 10 minutes cool down)
Day 7: Off
As you can see, Cutty is doing lots of walking. I like walking. It helps him become fitter without stressing his legs and feet. I can communicate more clearly with him at the walk, because I’m not busy trying to keep a regular rhythm (like at the trot) or help him not fall on his face (like at the canter/flail). I especially like walking him up and down the very steep hill in his pasture, because he really has to use his muscles on the way up and his brain on the way down.
I incorporate neck reining into every single turn at the walk; he pretty much has the concept down and only needs a gentle reminder now and then. Lateral work at this point is leg yielding from the quarter line toward the rail. He is reluctant to really move his hindquarters over much, but grudgingly does so when I give him a kick.
Cutty is feeling better already- his trot work is slightly more energetic and he appears to be less exhausted at the end of our rides.
He was very brave on our trail ride. He lives down a very quiet road in a rural place, which is ideal for getting him away from home. Cutty was excellent while I opened and closed the property gate from his back, and some of the leg yielding and neck reining came in handy. He handled a couple of cars, a person on a lawnmower, and several loose dogs with aplomb. He gave an above-ground swimming pool kind of a funny look, but without any silly behavior. What I was most pleased about was his attitude: he didn’t rush toward home or spend the ride calling to his pasture mate or the neighborhood horses. Cutty just went down the road like he’s done it a hundred times.