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arena conditioning

When I first tried endurance, I had no idea what conditioning, or even endurance, really meant (still learning, by the way).  My horses were boarded, and ride trails meant trailering.  However, with my first limited distance Rock Creek Ride outside Vancouver, Washington, I was an enthusiatic "endurance" fan.  After reading every publication available at the time, especially Paulo's Endurance Riding, it seemed to me that one common denominator was to ride ones horse consistently.  An hour of trotting in the arena every day was more valuable than three hours once every three or five days. 

Eventually I moved on to a place where I have lots of trails, but now I have no arena or wash rack.  The horse I conditioned for limited distance on my program of riding everyday for at least an hour was in excellent shape by the end of the season.  We expanded the program to include going out on a trail I found not too far from the city (Olympia, Washington).  Although I still rode only an hour, I extended the length of the trail as the mare improved in her ability to handle it.  I still use that principle in conditioning today.  It is better to ride an hour everyday, than to ride several hours sporadically.  (This doesn't mean, however, that I am currently in a situation to do this; one adapts to the condition at hand.  Now, I ride on  weekends and not during the week.  Obviously my horses are not well-conditioned and not capable of doing long or fast distance rides.)

I'd think that an arena can be made to replicate some conditions:  obstacles to trot over, tires to walk through - the type of things I've judged children in 4-H having to maneouver their horses through and around.  Being on the trail is more interesting and usually more challenging.  It is up to the rider to bring  challenges to the arena work.



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