ridecamp@endurance.net: Starting the Young Horse

Starting the Young Horse

Wendy Milner (wendy@wendy.cnd.hp.com)
Wed, 10 Dec 1997 11:05:15 MST

I've started a few youngsters in endurance riding, and this
is my schedule.

For the first 3 years, they run free on a big mountain pasture.
They learn how to balance themselves racing up and down uneven
ground. They play with the herd and learn to be horses.
They also get plenty of ground lessons, how to tie, be groomed,
feet trimmed, etc.

At 3 the first "riding" lessons start. Getting used to all the
equipment, advanced ground lessons, walking over and around things,
being ponied into new surroundings, ground driving, lunging with
purpose (not just running in circles).

At 3.5 I'll actually get on their backs. I've got a great dressage
trainer/instructor who understands about endurance riders. He gets
the youngster for about 6 weeks. During this time they are ridden
about 1 hour per day, in the ring and in the field when ready, 5-6
days per week. I'll ride and train along side of him. Then baby comes
home and continues weekly lessons with the trainer.

Between 3.5 and 4, there is usually a gap of 2 months when all the horses
are just running around on a cold snowy mountain. Dec and Jan are
too cold for *me*.

At 4, more or less, I'll start with light trail work. One or two days
a week, the youngster will get walking and trotting on the mountains.
It might be a short ride of an hour, or a longer ride of 2-3 hours.
But it is very slow. Training is getting used to the surroundings,
trail manners, carrying through the dressage training onto the trails.
There will be one day a week of a dressage lesson. All the basics,
none of the "fancy" high level stuff.

At 4.5 or so, depending on the mental attitude of the horse, I'll take
them into a slow limited distance ride. I might do 2 rides during the
4th year. Training here is "listen to me, not the other horses."

At 5, I'll evaluate the horse and decide if they are ready for heavier
training. They still get a day a week of dressage training. A bit
more advanced - up to training level:-) dressage. They still get a
day or two of trail riding, but now, adding in just a bit of speed or
longer distances. And all get turn out on the mountain.
I'd start with a slow limited distance ride, and move up to the same
speed or slower 50.

At 6, I'll evaluate where I want to be and decide if the horse is
ready to get me there. And train accordingly.

Each horse is very individual, and as the trainer, you must customize
your program to fit the horse.

If I were starting an older horse, I would probably start with the
4 year old program, and move up as the horse's condition allowed.

With Dragon, we went through the 3 year old program twice. Once at
3 and again when he hit 4. His little brain wasn't quite up to the
program. Physically, he's ready to go. So now, going into year 5,
I'll start the 4 year old program. The brains of these guys are
just as important as their bodies.

The horse will tell you when they are ready to move up a level.
On physical conditioning, the horse's bones are not ready for hard
training until they are 5. Arabs keep growing till they are 7 or
so. You can walk forever and not hurt them. You can start
with some concussion and watch carefully, this would be trotting
on hard surfaces (like my rocky trails, or hard packed roads).
But at the first sign of lameness, even if only minor, back off.
If you use a heart rate monitor, you'll know pretty quick when you've
conditioned the heart, and can move up.

One set of numbers I've heard:
It takes 5 years to condition the bones.
It takes 3 years to condition the hard tissues (tendons and such).
It takes 3 months to condition the heart.
It takes 3 weeks to condition the sweat. (If you are changing from
a dry to wet climate.)

With the youngsters, slow is much better than rushing anything.


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Wendy Milner HPDesk: wendy_milner@hp4000 Hewlett-Packard Company e-mail: wendy@fc.hp.com Mail Stop A2 Telnet: 229-2182 (898-2182 as of Nov 1.) 3404 E. Harmony Rd. AT&T: (970) 229-2182 (898-2182) Fort Collins, CO, 80528-9599 FAX: (970) 229-2038 (898-2038)

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