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> I realize that all horses are different, but in general what is
> overconditioning the horse?
There's two types in my mind. The ones who are just worn out
and dull, and then there's the "oops I made him lame". I've never done
the first, but certainly did the 2nd.
The biggest mistake is to think that when you work your horse he get
stronger. This is not the case. When you work him you damage muscle,
bone, tendon...in tiny amounts. Then, when you give him an off day he
repairs the damage and then REINFORCES those areas to prepare for further
damage. If you don't work him, he won't need to repair or get stronger,
but if you don't rest him between workouts you just keep increasing the
damage till they break. I think of a hard ride as sort of shocking his
system. Then I turn him out and just picture all the work his body is
doing to react.
When I started back in 1987 there were lots of training programs on paper
out there. Most involved riding 5 days a week. My work ethic told me
more is better and if I rode day after day the reward should be greater.
Instead my horse kept straining tendons, ligaments, etc and having to
have 6 months off. I finally learned to take it easier. By the way,
when I met the people who wrote out those programs I found out none of
them actually followed them!
I can honestly say that I could take practically any horse I know who
gets ridden much at all and do a reasonable 25 safely...if I'll give him
a week or so off afterwards. On the other hand, you could train lots of
horses heavily for a month and do a 25 and they'll go lame. If I'd made
the rules it wouldn't be that way, but nature never asked me.
I ride every other day when in training. I may get in 1 to 1.5 hours on
Tues. and Thurs...usually at least one of those high intensity, "blowing
him out up the mountain", which means just walking a mile, then trotting
a couple of miles, then hitting the bottom of the mountain and letting
him rip to the top. (wouldn't do this on a horse I was starting with )
When we get there we quietly turn around, walk down the mountain then
trot home. Saturday will be maybe 5 1/2 hours with slow climb up
mountain and a decent trot/ canter around the top. No huge hurry. Taking
it easy on bad footing. But, like Stagg, once he's competing in the
Spring I barely get on his back in between. Just ride a little to keep
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