Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Objects in Mirror are closer than they Appear"

The ground is snow covered and the footing isn’t fit for much unless you have skis on, but I am making my game plan for the 2010 ride season. Before I looked ahead, I had to assess where I had been…a look in the rearview if you will. Did I accomplish my goals? What did the conditioning schedule look like? Where were the gaps in my program? What do I need to change?

So for today, I will outline my goals and tally the numbers… the review of those will come in a follow up post , as time is a bit tight.

My goals for 2009 were pretty straightforward:

1) Continue to build on his responsiveness to aids
2) Lateral work, lateral work , lateral work ; to develop the muscling and structure to carry himself and a rider correctly. (this will always be on going as part of our training)
3) Continue with steady dressage lessons to improve my communication with JB, and develop discipline in him, working towards collection and lightness.
4) Finish one 25 mile ride in competition with JB, successfully with no health or soundness issues.

I began to calculate my miles out and realized I had not been very good about tracking things accurately. I am not sure what happened but I think part of it was that my focus was not really on getting miles, at least not early on. I remember taking JB out on the first couple of spring rides out and I realized , rather quickly , that I had a few “training” issues that JB so kindly presented to me. More than once, I ended up hand walking him home because of his behaviors and once, I sustained a kick in the shin when I was trying to adjust a hind boot. To me it was more important to have a well disciplined horse to ride, and handle/ I did not want to become known as the endurance rider who rides that “cute but out of control horse” To add, I was dealing with a stallion at the time and I knew I had better get things handled pronto…so, it was at the point I decided, I would address those things early on, at home, in the arena, and worry about miles later..

Back to the numbers....

I am not sure that I can really count the hours we worked in the arena as “conditioning” . My initial thought was I shouldn't but then I thought.. why not? While a good endurance horse has to be aerobically fit, with a strong heart and lung capacity, he also needs to have the opportunity to developed the musculoskeletal system, in order to carry himself and a rider over many many miles. Without a good foundation in strength, structure, and muscling, horses risk more injury and/or a shortened career. While it’s not a guarantee, it’s my belief that correct lateral work, and ground work excercies a nd time spent doing dressage, can only improve the horse and rider long term. So, for fun, I decided to give myself some credit for that.

The next obstacle I ran into was just how to give myself credit. It’s difficult to give arena work miles….

Here is what I ended up doing: I know I can cover 2 miles in 30 minutes with JB and while I know that number is conservative, I did not want to inflate anything. We’ll call it ....RSD (really slow distance). I used that as my guideline. Each 30 minute session was about 2 miles of conditioning or 1 hour of arena work was approximately 4 miles.

Since I intermixed the ride time in the arena with actual miles , atleast once in a while, I took an additional step and broke out between actual miles and Arena miles.

**Of Note:
May- I am pretty sure I probably rode more than just twice in this month but I did not record any additional since I didn’t have the data and therefore, I only recorded the two days.

June and July- These two months are kind of tricky so I had to use an average here. On one calendar , I did mark down that I rode an average of 2 x per week in the arena with a few weekend easy trail rides for June, In July, I have journal entries that indicate that I began upping my endurance miles, but didn't actually record these miles... (must have been a time thing) . So I improvised. I calculated 16 arena miles ( 2x week at 30 minutes each= 4 miles /week) and 12 trail miles,(4 miles each, 3 times that month). These numbers are probably on the conservative side but, again , trying to avoid inflation.

Here is what we accomplished, give or take:

Month Arena Miles Actual Miles
February- 8 0
March 4 19.5
April 38.5 7
May 5 0
June 16 12
July 16 12
August 10 42
September 4 102
October 12.5 40
November 12.5 0

TOTAL 126.5 234.50

Combined, it 361 miles...not too shabby....

So, did we accomplish our goals? I can honestly say we put a good dent in them. I accomplished #4 for sure and still tickled about how well JB did on that ride. We continue to take dressage lessons and JB is really coming together in the lateral work and flexion department. He is getting softer and softer in the bridle.

I have some additional thoughts on the numbers /miles that I will share in another post.

In the meantime, 2009 will absolutely go down as a very successful year for JB and I.

Feel free to comment on your thoughts/opinions of counting arena time, or what you think of the conditioning that we accomplished.

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