Active rest or complete rest

Active rest or complete rest

How do you know if you should choose active rest or full rest? It's not always easy to know, as it depends very much on the horse and its conditions. All horses need some form of rest to recover both physically and mentally, especially young horses. In order to avoid injuries that can occur due to excess energy, it is important to find a solution that suits your horse. We at Healthy Leathers will help you find this below. 

What does complete rest mean?

Full rest means that the horse only walks in the pasture, possibly also in the riding machine depending on the circumstances, and then just fiddles with. Take the time to brush the horse with all the brushes in the back box, stretch or cuddle them. Take the opportunity to do all the things you don't really have time for in your everyday life with your horse. Clip them on that spot by their mane until it actually stops scratching. You can also walk your horse, both to get them moving and to socialise. 

What is active rest?

Active rest, where the horse is primarily resting physically from riding, may include walking, riding machine, lunging, light reining or other low-intensity work put on. Low-intensity work put on can include working your horse at the walk and even the trot. For example, you can walk through the entire dressage program or lay out a course with fences on the ground you are going to walk over. Trotting your horse long and low is also a great way to stretch your body. Working the horse in this way is good if it is easily stressed by rest and handles excess energy poorly. A stressed horse with too much energy can injure itself and pick up bad behaviour. This type of horse rarely requires hard work to gain peace of mind, but mostly to be activated and allowed to think.

Choice of rest

So how should you choose between active rest or full rest? Here we point out some things to keep in mind:

Horse behaviour and body


How does the horse handle rest? Does your horse become stressed and so energetic that it risks injury? Or does it take it in stride and seem to enjoy it? The first thing you look at is how the horse reacts to being in complete rest. If you have a new horse that you don't know very well, you simply have to test yourself and be sensitive to any stressful behaviour. There is a difference in how horses run in the pasture, for example. If the ears are pricked, your horse is bucking and galloping with a neutral neck position, it is usually running for joy. If you notice the horse galloping tense, tucking its bottom under itself and running away from something with a high tense neck and whipping ears, it may be a sign of stress. You will also often notice when you bring the horse in if it feels like it is trying to run away from something or if it is just happy.


How does the horse's body react to rest? Does it get swollen legs or poor stomach function? Some horses, especially middle-aged to slightly older horses, can have physical problems from resting. For example, they may develop swollen legs, a bad stomach and/or stiffness. Horses are designed to be in constant motion and therefore their bodies may have difficulty processing certain things when at rest. These horses should at least straight 20 minutes a day, preferably twice a day if possible, to avoid serious problems. 

Rest length

How long should the horse rest? If it's 3-4 days, most horses can get a full rest. If a horse is resting for 1 month, it may need an active rest as the rest period is relatively long. A tip here might be to alternate the first week with riding every other day, low-intensity interspersed with other low-intensity work. Then the horse could perhaps have two weeks of complete rest and then in the same way as it was stepped down, step up the last week.

Type of pasture

What access do you have to pastures? If you have large, nice pastures where the horse can move around more, resting may be an option. In larger pastures, the horse naturally moves more on its own and can then release its energy. However, if you have smaller paddocks or paddocks with a poor surface, there is a risk that the horse will become very stagnant and an active rest may be a better option.

Conditions and riding facilities

What are your conditions to activate the horse in an easy way? Do you only have riding facilities outside? This can then be affected by weather and surface conditions. For example, if the riding arena is frozen and the nearest riding school is some distance away, your only option may be to give your horse a full rest. If you have good riding trails out in the woods or similar, that's a great place to give your horse active rest. Again the question comes, what are your circumstances? Is your horse nice to ride out? Do you work all day so you can only ride when it's dark? Conditions like these can put a spanner in the works for those with horses that take weekend rest poorly. In that case, try to go to the riding arena a few days a week as much as possible, at least so that the horse can get some energy out.

Tips if you choose complete rest

If you are giving your horse Healthy Leathers supplements and are going to give it a complete rest, you can halve the dosage of the product you are giving. This is because the horse's joints are not subjected to the same stress during complete rest. However, some horses can get galls in their legs from standing still a lot, which impairs circulation. In this case, it may be beneficial to continue giving the full dose of your Healthy Leather product to optimise recovery of the joints.

Chondrogen 100Pro is a good support product during rest. This is because it contains several components that promote the production of joint fluid and the supply of nutrients to the cartilage.

Tips no matter which rest you choose

The choice between active rest and complete rest can therefore be difficult, the most important thing is to listen to your horse and its needs. Here are some tips to take with you into the rest period, whatever type you choose:

  1. Remove all concentrates that provide energy. You can either gradually taper it off the week before your horse goes to rest or slowly switch your horse to a low-energy feed.
  2. Do exercises in the stable aisle and/or box. You can stretch the horse with different exercises and also work on communication using exercises in the stall. 
  3. Take the dentist out to the horse, vaccinate, vet check and/or take the equine therapist out for example. You can read more about this in the report Taking care of your horse