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[RC] Training/conditioning a 5 y.o. - k s swigart

Kathy R. said:

I was wondering if anyone who has gone through this could give me their
opinion on whether this is too aggressive a training schedule or not.

If you ask me, your conditioning schedule is in many ways
not agressive enough and in some ways it is too agressive.

The assumptions I am taking (because I think they are what
you have stated) is that 

a) the horse IS already broke to ride so you aren't asking
about if this is a good way to saddle break a horse.

b) you want an opinion about the conditioning aspects of
this program, not the schooling aspects of it.

c) the horse has enough room to get about, frolick and play,
etc. all day every day and has a playmate to do it with.

That being the case you get virtually no conditioning
benefit from any of this:

Starting at 2 miles walk/trot 3-4 days per week with a 10 mile walk only
ride on Sat or Sun.

The horse is getting more conditioning playing at liberty
all day every day than she is getting from this.

Depending upon how long the lesson is (1 hr???) and if the
instructor is putting you and the horse through its paces
(walk, trot, canter, turn, stop). You will get more
conditioning benefit from this:

Dressage lesson 1 per week in addition.

If you are planning to start your walk/trot at this pace:

Increase 1 mile per week walk/trot not increasing speed, pretty much just
keep going until we are doing 10 miles in over an hour and a half

That would be a pace of 10 miles in 90 minutes, i.e. a 9
minute mile.  So your first 2 mile conditioning session
would last all of 18 minutes.  If you ask me, starting an
endurance horse conditioning program by riding it for 18

And the only conditioning that you will get out of going for
a 10 mile walk (no cardiovascular conditioning and no
musculoskeletal loading to speak of) will be teaching the
horse to be out for a long time.

So, unless I wanted the schooling benefit of it, I would
skip the walk/trot for 2 miles part of the program. And
unless I wanted to just teach my horse that we go out and
spend hours on the trail together and just enjoy each
other's company, I would skip the 10 mile walk only part of
the program.  So while there are some schooling benefits,
the conditioning benefits are virtually nil.

Assuming fairly level terrain (not totally level, but not up
and down steep hills either).

If you want to get any conditioning benefit, I would a)
decrease the number of conditioning days from 4/5 (3-4 days
of walk trot and one day of long walk) to just 3 days of
conditioning, and I would start out trotting 2-4 miles on 2
days a week and then go for a 10 mile trot/walk (notice I
don't say walk/trot, since it is trotting with some walk
breaks, not the other way around) and work your way up IN
DISTANCE, not speed, from there.

Additionally, and this will put me in the minority, _I_
would also include some cantering in the work, but if you
are doing canter work in your dressage lessons and you don't
feel comfortable cantering on the trail...or you want to be
conservative, you don't absolutely HAVE to do this (unless
you intend to canter at the LD ride, in which case you had
better be conditioning for it in advance).

So, now you know where I think your conditioning schedule
isn't agressive enough.

Here is where I consider it to be too agressive.

Then stay at the 10 mile mark but start decreasing how long it takes
get down to 10 miles in 1 hour over a couple weeks
ride 10 mph for an hour 3 days a week for 2 more weeks

There are plenty of experienced endurance riders who
regularly condition at 10mph (myself included); however, I
wouldn't recommend it to somebody who is sufficiently
inexperienced to be asking the level of questions you are
asking and it is possible to condition an endurance horse
for a long and successful career without ever doing so.  If
I were you, I would start increasing my distance to 15, 20,
25 miles before I started increasing my speed to 10 mph.

Yes, this does mean that you will have to spend more and
more time in the saddle instead of less and less....but that
will give you the opportunity to get that bonding benefit of
spending lots of hours on the trail with your horse, and it
will give your horse the opportunity learn that endurance is
about being out on the trail for a long time :).

Oh yeah, and if I were you, I would practice what you are
learning in your dressage lessons out on the trail.  Going
out and doing distance on the trail isn't just about

Orange County, Calif.

 Do a 25 mile endurance ride.

Just be sure that you don't do the 25 mile endurance ride at
a speed higher than you have been conditioning at. So if you
plan to do a 25 mile ride at 10 mph, then you had better be
conditioning at that speed at home....and you need to have
been conditioning at that speed for longer than a few weeks.

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