Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Conditioning, Compromises and Questions

How do I make compromises and keep an endurance horse in shape?
Riding and training for endurance is a huge commitment, especially in the time department. It seems that a large number of people who are really serious competitors in this sport have the luxury of time to commit to it. I am not one of those, especially right now. As Spring weather is arriving, I am going a bit crazy. I work full time (+) and, until May, I am also going to school. Time in not in my favor but I still want to keep my thumb on JB’s fitness level. We are slated for a limited distance, our first ride of the season, the weekend of July 17th. By May, school will be out, but until then, riding time will continue to be limited. So how do I accomplish my goal? and keep my sanity? (I do need at least a few hours of sleep)

For now, I am just trying to do as much as I possibly can because I am a firm believer that doing a little is better than doing nothing at all. But how little and how often? Can I realistically keep a horse fit enough on these time restraints to be ready for my first ride of the reason on July 17th? I’m planning to do the limited distance. I had hoped to have both JB and Maggie ready for this ride so I could ride one horse each day, but that is one compromise I have already come to terms with. I am only going to be able to have one horse ready and that needs to be JB.

Here’s my Plan: I would love to get some feed back.

Session 1:
From now until Mid May – 8-10 miles rides on Saturdays and Sundays, every weekend. Two days a week of 1 hr sessions in the arena of trotting/cantering and dressage exercise. It seems this would at least serve to keep JB legged up and in halfway decent condition.

Session 2:
May 15 – July 12- I can probably manage a ride 2 evenings a week consistently of 8-10 mile from home (since it’s the work week and I won’t have time to haul anywhere after work) and then either Saturday or Sunday as my long day in the saddle away from home. Maybe 15-20 miles, depending on the terrain.

Here are my questions:

For session 1, would 8-10 mile rides back to back from now until May be too much if it’s fairly flat (at 7-8 mph trot)? JB seems to have handled 6-7 mile rides really well right out of the gate a few weeks back after being off for 3 months.

For Session 2- Is one weekend day of longer miles enough when combined with the shorter rides during the week?

For my goal of the July 17th ride, What’s too much? What’s not enough??

Am I being reasonable in my goal to have him sufficiently ready for that date?

Also, to keep in consideration, JB tends to be of the “hardy” sort and seems to recover from a long day in the saddle quite well. In fact, I can see him excelling at multiday rides more than one day 100 milers…but I also don’t want to take advantage of that fact and risk over conditioning.

I realize so much of this depends on the individual horse, but I am looking for guidelines from those of you with the experience that I lack. So, please… share some of your thoughts, experiences, suggestions.


Tammy Vasa said...

Your commitment to conditioning inspires me. Spring is just not happening here. It is cold, damp and cloudy which has made my attitude much of the same! I long to ride, but just don't have the gumption. I am not doing any distance rides in the immediate future, but do need to get three horses conditioned for a family trip to the mountains. Will the sun ever shine???

Anonymous said...

I struggle with this problem also, work surely does interfere with my riding!
My first ride is weekend after next and I have been worrying if my mare is ready or not. Riding time has been limited since Jan 1. We did a 25 in Oct. and then had 2 months off over the winter.
I think my mare has stayed in better condition than I have, so I will probably be sore after our ride but she weill probably be just fine!
I finally decided to go for it when I found out the holds are in camp, (for some reason this just made me feel better- I don't really know why).
Anyway, I decided just to go really slow and take the max time if needed and to think of this as a training ride.
I would think your tentative ride schedule would certainly have you ready for a ride in July- I think horses can return to fitness faster than us humans, especially if they have been fit previously.
Karen W.

Jonna said...

@ Tammy-Thanks, glad my posts help someone! We have been blessed with an usually mild winter (el Nino?) and that always helps in the motivation department. I know what your feeling though and yes, the sun will shine!!
@Karen-two months doesn't seem too bad and if she is an arab, I hear that they tend to keep their fitness quite well. Mel over at Boots and Saddles has helped relieve my worries about how much is really needed. She has a post on her site about it but the main point is that once you have a horse in pretty good condition, the riding needed to be done isn't as much as one would think, assuming your goal is to go for a middle of the pack ride and not to set any records or go for high point awards! I fall into that category myself! I will be happy with a mid to last pack spot and atleast within time along with a sound healthy horse. Best of luck at your ride. I am sure you'll be fine!

LadyRider said...

I love the look of your JB . . . He's fabulous. I can't comment on your conditioning schedule as I've never done competitive trail. Have you checked with your vet or a vet who knows the conditioning needs of a competitive trail horse? Of course, each horse is different . . . and your horse will tell you how much he can take if you listen with your heart.

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