Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Conditioning My Lower-Level Event Horse

I read SB's Teach me Tuesday asking how everyone gets around to practicing everything they do. She really aimed it at multi-discipline riders, which I don't really consider myself, but it got me thinking.

When I was a kid I'd show in whatever sounded good that my mom would drive me to. Now I'm focusing on eventing because I'm riding with an eventing coach. I might drag myself back over to jumper land, but to be honest? Eventers are nicer. And Mo seems to like it. So for now, this is what we're doing.

Anyway, of course eventers are a bit multi-disciplinary because they/we have to prepare for three phases, but that's not the same as "I event and I barrel race and I foxhunt etc". I think that's fine, if that's what you wanna do with your horse, but it's not how my mind works. I like to focus on one thing and do that thing well. I TOTALLY ENTIRELY GET having fun doing a variety of things with your horse. But, you know. Different strokes.

Right now, Mo is eventing at Elementary/Baby Novice (same thing, just depends what you're entering). I expect he'll move up to Beginner Novice this fall if all goes according to plan. Then in the spring we'll do an outing or two at Elementary, bounce back up to BN (or just start at BN, depending, again, on how the spring goes). He will likely be going Novice by summer and Training in the late fall season--provided he's sound, we can find the appropriate competitions at which to move up, and I have money. I also think next year we'll do some recognized events.

So this is the conditioning/training schedule I'm using at the moment that I think will carry us through BN and into Novice. Note that I only ride five days a week (maybe we'll get up to six when we're looking at Prelim). All of schooling days include a 5-7 minute trail ride, some days at the beginning, some days at the end. Right now Mo tends to get weekends off, because this is M's schedule and it works better for us to be on the same plan.

Monday: Walk for 20-30 minutes. We do 30 minutes when we're walking out with M's Training horse. We do 20 when we're on our own or with her Novice horse.

Tuesday: Dressage. He gets some time to warm up, and then I ask him for 20 minutes of focus (with walk laps when he needs them). If this is a lesson, he might have to focus a little longer.

Wednesday: Jump. At this point, this is always a lesson, although M doesn't care if I jump on my own. But I want her eyes on the ground. So this is often a 45 minute ride, start to finish, including warm-up and cool-out. Plenty of chances to catch his breath. Mo might stop here or there but he's actually pretty easy to jump--easier, by FAR, than Red--so there's no need to drill. We're also not putting the jumps up above 2'6" much because that's the correct height for him to learn on right now. And there's absolutely no need for me to prove to myself or anyone else how high he can jump. I know in my guts that this horse will be able to jump the moon when he's ready. I also know that if I scare him I'll be spending a year trying to get his confidence back. So low jumps that are easy for him while he learns how to answer questions like in and outs, bending lines, angled fences, spooky fill. This is working.

Thursday: Walk or light dressage. It depends on how hard the jump school was on him the day before, how generally well-behaved he was, how hot it's going to be, what's coming up on the weekend, etc. Today he had a great jump school and it's going to be hot tomorrow so he'll walk. Plus there's nothing on the calendar this weekend (and even if there was, I'd probably walk him tomorrow).

Friday: Dressage (Essentially the same as Tuesday in expected duration. I try not to do the same exercises, though. Thoroughbreds don't like to feel they're being drilled) OR trot/canter sets in the meadow with M and her Novice horse (this is not because he needs to get fit, but it's good for his brain).

So most days, I'm not on his back longer than 30 minutes total. When he moves up to Novice, I'll take the trot/canter sets more seriously and do them once a week, and his walk days will go up to 30 minutes. When he moves up to Training, I'll add 20 minutes of walking to the end of every ring school and his walk day will go to 40 minutes, and the trot/canter sets will be of longer duration. We'll cross the Prelim conditioning bridge when we come to it.

So that's what I do for Mosey. Red, honestly, gets hacked two days a week and flatted two or three days a week at this point. My work schedule has been crazy lately so he's getting the short end of the stick, but he's fit enough to go to some dressage shows if I find any for him, and if I decide to start jumping him again for real I'll figure it out. I'm hoping the job stuff calms down as the days get shorter so I have time to keep two horses going.


  1. You are so organized. I'm impressed.

  2. sounds really similar to my general approach - tho i frequently end up jumping twice a week (in rides that also involve a bit of focused flat work). and trot/canter sets are missing from my routine... should probably fix that!

  3. Thanks for sharing, sounds like a great plan! I'm definitely stealing some of it for my baby eventer that I'll be riding next year :)