View Full Version : Keeping your eventer fit, sound & happy - what is your program?

Jan. 13, 2011, 12:41 PM
I've decided to spend some time on the 'dark side' with my TB. Coming from H/J/Eq land, there are several new variables in the typical competition routine. Footing changes, weather, physical demands, to name a few. I imagine that there are many parallels between the two disciplines, and the ultimate goal is a sound horse, but I would like to familiarize myself with 'what works for eventers.' I'd love to hear what people of all levels have to say, good horsemanship is good horsemanship. There have been some recent threads on eventing in extreme weather, hard footing, and even saddle pads, that I found informative. Does anyone pony their horse for trot sets? Sure, you might not have to do a lot if you're at BN, but you must have some sort of routine, particularly to prep for weather? How many times do you jump vs dressage school? How many events do you do, how much time off do you give your horse off after a short or long formant competition?

I personally think it's very beneficial to hear what works for others, and what doesn't, so that you are able to make educated decisions in your horses best interest. Looking forward to the responses :yes:

Wee Dee Trrr
Jan. 13, 2011, 01:45 PM
We walk. a lot. :)
Hacks, trails, walking bareback in snow, etc. Before and after every ride I walk for about 15-20 mins. On days coming back from a break in riding all we do is walk.

I ride TBs and recently only Beginner Novice through Training level. The TBs know how to canter/gallop and they are easy to condition. So I go low impact and walk to get them fit and keep them sound. I've had very good results with this.

(my last TB won "Best Conditioned" at a Training 3 Day Event and we did not do any trot or canter sets. Just walked for up to an hour twice a week.

Every rider/horse is different. This is what I prefer. Good luck. Hope you get some suggestions that fit with you, your horse, and your program.

Jan. 13, 2011, 04:10 PM
My schedule varies bc im in college and that sometimes interferes w/ riding. Generally 5-6x week. generally i ride for about an hour give or take depending on what our goals are for the day. My guy is a 13 yo QH who thus far has not had any major soundness issue. I will jump 1x wk sometimes 2 I do prob 3-4 days of dressage work and 1 'hack out day'.( I dont even jump every week though.. we do more dressage/hacking out than heavy jump schools) Hack days generally have a long walk.(actually as the above poster said I too start all my rides w/ at least 15 of walk)of 30min-45 plus another 30 of w/t/c. I do not have a ring so most of my work is out in the fields. For lessons and bad weather I trailer to a local barn w/ rings and jumps. My advice is to take it easy, you dont need to be pounding them to be fit for BN. If you are having a good length ride (not the 20 minutes walk trot a few laps and canter once ea. direction ride) id say 5-6 days w/k depending on the horse he should be fine for the basics if you are just starting out! good luck and have fun :)

As far as breaks after my last event of the season my guy had 2 weeks of hacking and then about a month off. ( bad weather and a lot of school work made this a necessity but it has been really good for him and he came back really refreshed!) He has been back in work now for about 2 wks. I take it slow bringing him back, but am surprised at how much muscle/fitness he retained.

Jan. 14, 2011, 11:14 AM
One of the things I think is REALLY important is to get out of the ring and get out on uneven and varied footing. So important for soundness, balance, mental adaptability, adjustability, etc. Walking is awesome and builds a lot of fitness when you are not looking.

Jan. 14, 2011, 01:33 PM
For most horses, the delicate balance between sound and unsound in conditioning doesnt come into play until Prelim or later. Depending. Most horses stay fit and sound below those levels with a few weekly w/t/c hacks over varied terrain and a little time spent on trotting and cantering in the field.

When I was conditioning my 19 year old for his first Prelim, I did everything I could to spare his front legs because of his age and build (downhill front heavy QH, though he had no soundness issues). I tried to alternate my gallops with hills, so instead of galloping every week, I would gallop every other week and canter/gallop up hills in between. If you are lucky enough to have access to good hills with good footing, you can cut a lot of the pounding of flat gallops. I also did lots and lots of walking, almost every day I would supplement my daily ride with 1-3 hours of walking after.

I always spend my winters on the roads prepping for the soft ground in the spring, but people who live in different climates with different footing would have different necessities in that department.

Jan. 14, 2011, 03:18 PM
We walk. a lot. :)
Hacks, trails, walking bareback in snow, etc. Before and after every ride I walk for about 15-20 mins. On days coming back from a break in riding all we do is walk.

I ride TBs and recently only Beginner Novice through Training level. The TBs know how to canter/gallop and they are easy to condition. So I go low impact and walk to get them fit and keep them sound. I've had very good results with this.

(my last TB won "Best Conditioned" at a Training 3 Day Event and we did not do any trot or canter sets. Just walked for up to an hour twice a week.

Every rider/horse is different. This is what I prefer. Good luck. Hope you get some suggestions that fit with you, your horse, and your program.

I have been so frustrated because that's all I've been able to do, and I felt that I was not accomplishing anything, although it worked wonders with my retired horse. up literally until the day before he passed, we walked.

Thank you - you have no idea- you made my WEEK!!

Jan. 15, 2011, 09:55 PM
Well not sure if I qualify as an eventer as we have yet to do our first event (hoping for April doing BN). We do tons of trails and do wtc when on the trails. Not uncommon to go on 1.5 hour plus rides with varied terrain to include hills, jumps, and water. We are doing a bit more arena work lately since she is going to have to do dressage! Anyway Maresy is athletic, full of go, and seems happy with the many trail rides that she gets to go on. Today was a local vineyard which included giving pony rides to the young and middle aged! If Angel doesn't pan out as an event horse, I can have a pony ride business!!!

Jan. 16, 2011, 09:05 AM
Walk, walk and more walking...like others said. My hunt/event horse does one jump lesson a week, one other day flatting in the ring and the rest of the time we are out hacking. We walk and trot and a little canter all over the universe. We are often out for at least 90 minutes. And without real trot or gallop sets, he finished up a hard 4 hour hunting day with run to spare, was totally fine the next day (I was nearly dead). I use him to pony the young horses. Sometimes he goes out twice. Sometimes we do a jump lesson, go home and pony a baby and I am on him for 3 hours. I spend a long time on his back but NOT going in circles. Our flat schools are short and to the point as he is a big guy and those circles are brutal on their hocks. Last year I kept two horses at an indoor to keep them going through the winter and by the end of the winter I had two horses who needed time off and a bunch of rehab. Never again. All that ring time was not a good thing. They have their shoes pulled, they are out 12-14 hours a day in my rolling fields unless there is freezing rain coming down and starting the first of March we will go back to hiking the hills. They stay fit, sound and carry a really nice top line. And they are always fresh and happy to work. I am very lucky to have good ride out with a whole lot of good footing, hills and dirt roads. I believe in dirt roads...long walks and trotting when they aren't rock hard, make for hard bones and strong ligaments and tough feet. I think this routine could probably take them through Training at least which is all I will ever do, if that.

I feel like another important piece of keeping my horses fit and sound is the turn out situation. I have 4 horses at home that are very peaceful together and they meander quietly up and down my rolling pasture all day. There are no steep hills but it isn't flat and there is very little galloping about. I feel as though they carry a lot of fitness with little stress because I am fortunate enough to be able to set up this situation.

Jan. 17, 2011, 07:52 AM
Since I don't know what you current routine is it's hard to tell how different it will be but even for lower level events it's REALLY important that your horse be fit enough that it's easy for him. While there's no need for him to be ready for a * right now, making sure he's almost over-fit for his level is important.

Get out out of the ring at least once if not twice a week, if he has a good jump school once a week and the other days you can be in the ring you will be OK, especially with a TB. Not sure how many days a week you ride now, but more is better.

Horses can work a lot harder than we give them credit for, and since they are only working for a couple hours each day, they don't really need a day off - 23 hours of each day is already off, especially if they are turned out as much as possible. Like 24/7.

I don't actually schedule days off because they happen - my job gets in the way, or the weather (I don't ride in thunderstorms), lost shoe - things happen.

All this fitness will mean he stays sounder longer - legging up - walking on hard surfaces- is really good for the tendons and ligaments and doesn't pound their joints. And this time of year it's often the only thing you can do. Make sure he's marching and using his back and topline. Since you're in MA you should have plenty of terrain to go up and down. Do this all winter - even if it's just weekends and getting fit come spring will be easy.

You will need to get some XC schooling in, but don't make it into a gigantic to-do. It's a group outing with some jumps - there are a few threads on this here too. Make sure he understands ditches, and going into water. Go with someone who has some experience, and keep things small until he figures it out.

As far as after a competition? I usually am the one needing a day off, not the horse. She worked a total of about 90 minutes tops - I'm the one who ran around all day walked XC twice and stadium once!

And welcome to the dark side!

Jan. 17, 2011, 10:35 AM
You've gotten great replies already, and Hilary has said most of what I would say, but I'll add a couple of points anyway.

I do pony horses, but only when bringing them back from injuries, or on days when they can't be turned out and I have to get all of them a bit of exercise in the indoor. If we're not turning out, it's because the weather is horrid! Otherwise, most eventers (unlike polo players) will spend time in the tack getting their horses fit. It's how we create a bond with them and get fit enough ourselves to not handicap them on course.

I have an OTTB, so mental fitness is a bigger issue than physical fitness. It can be hard to get my mare to settle down for dressage when she's ready for XC, and equally hard to contain her enthusiasm (read "speed") when we have to do stadium. So getting her to focus calmly is a big challenge. What I discoverd when preparing for my first ever T3D was that more time in the saddle got her in a better place mentally, too. So my New Year's Resolution is to begin the year as if I were preparing for another T3D. Which I will do as soon as the weather breaks.;)

I highly recommend Jimmy Wofford's books especially Training the Three-Day Horse and Rider to give examples of schedules.

And welcome to the dark side!

Jan. 17, 2011, 11:17 AM
At one place I worked, we had a lot of upper level horses and all of them went on trot sets a couple days a week. We trotted one horse and ponied another and trotted either ok a long trot or a short trot...idk how long either was but I think the long trot took almost an hour and the short trot took about 20-30 minutes. The horses mostly just did the short trot. If they were conditioning for an fei they did the long trot more often and also did gallop sets at the end of a short trot. The horses were jumped once or twice a week and at the very end of conditioning for an fei would do a short trot before jumping. The horses were all in great condition from the trots plus their regular work...a hard dressage school helps condition them too!
Welcome to the dark side :)
ETA: the main reason we ponied was because 4 of us (3 working students + trainer) did 20-25 horses every day...it makes it a lot easier when you can do two horses at once with that many :) not everyone ponies but that's why we did.

Jan. 17, 2011, 12:43 PM
Lots of good advice already.

I have big horses and have done a T3d and preliminary, so I do condition right from the start. With a TB of course you can do much less...

but, I think if you are new to eventing yourself, you really cannot overdo the "riding out" portion of the program -- it'll really help you and your horse adjust!

At many events we are not only running cross country but also warming up for dressage and sometimes SJ on uneven ground that can be muddy -- some events have groomed footing for D/SJ and some do not.

SO ride out as much as possible!

As others said, walk, walk, walk, walk. Can't do too much of that.

My weeks in the winter are generally 1 jump school (or one every other week, often), hacking out whenever weather allows, and moderate ring work the others. I shoot for 6 days a week but it is sometimes 5.

They are turned out 24-7 in a huge hilly field and I agree with the others -- that makes a big difference.

During competition season I do try to jump once a week but it doesn't always happen. Dressage probably 2 or 3 days, riding out the rest. Dressage in the field when footing allows. I give them the day off after the event, and I don't generally do more than 1 every two weeks -- for a grand total of maybe 6 a year.

For getting started at BN I do think you should build in a conditioning day, so that you and your horse will get comfortable going over terrain and rating your speed and all that good stuff.

You will be plenty fit if you can work up to doing 3 5 minute trots with 2 minutes in between, followed immediately by 3 3 minute canters with 2 minutes walk in between.

Hills, longer trot sets, and more speed and time in the canter work can all be added in as you go up the levels.

And, yes, I do pony when I don't have time to do both. At one point I had one horse going novice and the other preliminary. I'd tack up the prelim horse, grab the other one, do some walking, then do a long trot set -- about 15-17 minutes in, I'd unhook the novice horse (this is in their field, luckily it is huge) and keep going for another 15-20 with the prelim horse.