Spring Training for the Gaited Horse
While a horse may seem especially frisky and energetic in the spring, be aware that all that energy doesn't necessarily mean they're in good condition for long, hard rides. It's easy to overdo things in the spring, which may result in many months of total layoff.
We're all familiar with the fact that horses who have not been used for riding over the winter months need to be worked back into good condition gradually. This is even more true of the gaited horse, who has had all winter to 'deprogram' and 'decondition' their gait muscles while running at liberty. The younger the horse, the more slowly the rider should plan to take his or her spring training program.
If a horse is over the age of six, and been ridden regularly for several seasons, it will condition up much faster than a three, four or five year old animal. By this time the gait is probably well established as well, so you'll be up to speed in a relatively short period of time. However, if you're accustomed to riding a certain gaited horse for long distances and/or at speed, it's easy to take the horse's abilities for granted, and overdo in the spring. Be sensitive, and try to imagine the difference between your condition when you're working with your body full time, and after you've taken several months off to play couch potato. I have one nice mare with so much heart that I have to always remain vigilant, as she would no doubt work herself to death if I weren't careful to prevent her from overdoing.