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View Full Version : Building topline and fitness (plus a brag picture!)



Meredith Clark
Jan. 11, 2012, 03:48 PM
I'll start out with the brag picture (https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc7/406624_10100745928385388_5705150_58737336_84400432 8_n.jpg)

How do we look???

Anyway... I'm trying to keep Juice going all winter so we'll be fresh and ready in the spring to compete. He had all fall off because I was student teaching and sort of fell apart. He lost a lot of weight and ALL of his topline. We're addressing the weight issue well and he's gained a lot back, but he still has no topline which makes him look skinnier than he really is.

I need some suggestions and a plan to get him fit. We're planning on doing Novice so he obviously doesn't have to be super fit, but I want him to be in good shape regardless of the level we're doing.

What I have:

*a large out door with jumps
*a small indoor (but big enough to keep riding when the weather gets icky)
*a HUGE hill and open fields that I can use all winter until the crops start growing again

I took him out to do hills today and he was ok as long as i did the one close to his field, he got a little hot if I took him too far away and since I was riding alone I didn't want to risk him dropping me! :eek:

I need more than "go do hills" because i really don't know how long to do hills or how many days to do hills. I don't want to over work him but it's been about a month and I feel like I'm not working him enough!

Any tips?

THANKS!

Heinz 57
Jan. 11, 2012, 05:12 PM
Go do hills. :lol:

That said, if you have the time and the daylight hours I like to throw in a quick hack towards the end of most rides. We had a sloped field that was just around the barn from the arena and we'd go do a couple circuits each way at a trot and canter, nothing hot and heavy, but he already had a good sense of balance and wasn't a naughty boy about it.

I also like a lot of long & low and cavaletti work. I tend to incoporate a number of different activities into each ride, rather than one specific focus for each day - but you could certainly do things that way. We might do some long and low as a warmup, work on some lateral work and then throw in a short jump session or some cavaletti, followed by a long and low hack through the field, spending no more than 15-20 minutes doing any one thing.

Xanthoria
Jan. 11, 2012, 05:33 PM
How much work you should do depends on so many things:

1. how fit your horse is now
2. how fit he needs to get
3. what breed he is (Hotbloods can get over-fit quickly, coldbloods will need much more work and time)
4. how long is your hill (got a GPS?)

You can come up with all sorts of timed schedules, but as you say, a horse going Novice doesn't need to be readyf or the Olympics. I suggest going for a trot up your big hill, and seeing how he feels at the top.

Blowing hard, sweating bullets, barely made it? Takes the entire way back down to recover? OK, perhaps break up the hill trot with one or two walk breaks for the next few weeks, doing the hill 2-3 times a week. Then trot the whole way again and see if he can do it with less stress.

If he jogs up and recovers quickly, you could mix it up: trot/canter/trot sets. Canter/halt/canter. Go up twice. Three times. Canter up, trot down. Trot up slooooowly, very low frame - feel the burn! Just keep an eye on how tired he gets and how quickly he recovers.

I had a TB going Novice a few years back and a 2 mile long hill. We trotted up it 5 days a week before or after dressage, the last 100 feet in canter, just cuz. He looked like Rambo by the end of a summer doung that. :D

lcw579
Jan. 11, 2012, 06:10 PM
I'll start out with the brag picture (https://fbcdn-sphotos-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-snc7/406624_10100745928385388_5705150_58737336_84400432 8_n.jpg)

How do we look???



Was that from Sunday at Fox Crossing? I was there with DD.

retreadeventer
Jan. 11, 2012, 07:50 PM
Mere, get an inexpensive heart rate monitor, we bought one on Ebay for $45. It's the kind with a watch for a human. It works on horses just fine, especially if sweaty by the girth.

What you want to do is something sort of as a baseline -- lunge 15 minutes say, or trot 5 minutes around your little indoor, or trot 10 times around your big jump ring, or let him trot up the big hill halfway or so. Then stop, check the heart rate. By comparing each of those baseline exercise sets, you'll be able to tell WHICH is working him hardest. Then take that info, and build on it; if the hill work is the hardest, then be sure to increas that particular exercise area slowly, and gradually. If one of the other exercise sets doesn't particularly open him up then make sure to create difficulty, and physical extertion by adding something. I find canter-halt, walk-canter transitions particularly taxing...

And keep track of the numbers. It's fun to see improvements!

And do not forget lateral work, always and forever, move those haunches around, confirm the shoulder in both directions (don't have to sit, I post all the time and do lateral work).

I love my little heart rate monitor, I have learned a lot from it about my horse's fitness. I often use it in the barn when it's quiet just to see how they are at rest when there's no stress, etc.

But if you want a quantitative way of knowing what is really working you have to involve a little backyard science...
jmo...

barnworkbeatshousework
Jan. 11, 2012, 10:04 PM
Mere, get an inexpensive heart rate monitor, we bought one on Ebay for $45. It's the kind with a watch for a human. It works on horses just fine, especially if sweaty by the girth.

What you want to do is something sort of as a baseline -- lunge 15 minutes say, or trot 5 minutes around your little indoor, or trot 10 times around your big jump ring, or let him trot up the big hill halfway or so. Then stop, check the heart rate. By comparing each of those baseline exercise sets, you'll be able to tell WHICH is working him hardest. Then take that info, and build on it; if the hill work is the hardest, then be sure to increas that particular exercise area slowly, and gradually. If one of the other exercise sets doesn't particularly open him up then make sure to create difficulty, and physical extertion by adding something. I find canter-halt, walk-canter transitions particularly taxing...

And keep track of the numbers. It's fun to see improvements!

And do not forget lateral work, always and forever, move those haunches around, confirm the shoulder in both directions (don't have to sit, I post all the time and do lateral work).

I love my little heart rate monitor, I have learned a lot from it about my horse's fitness. I often use it in the barn when it's quiet just to see how they are at rest when there's no stress, etc.

But if you want a quantitative way of knowing what is really working you have to involve a little backyard science...
jmo...

:yes: I agree, this gives you something tangible to work with, allows you to measure progress as you plan your goal.

yellowbritches
Jan. 11, 2012, 10:46 PM
To build his topline:

hills. Sorry! But it does! Lots of walking- MARCHING- on the aids and STRAIGHT (Especially going DOWN). Walking is hard...he'll have to push. I do like them to stretch down as we MARCH up. I think that helps. Marching down is good, too, but more up in his frame. I used to serpentine a short, wide hill (it was probably 50 yards up, but 100 yards across the face). Hard work! You can also do things like leg yield up. I would start with 10-15 minutes at least a couple of times a week (weather and footing permitting) and build from there. If you can spend some time every day, even better.
LOTS of stretchy, long and low work. The old adage of "they have to go down before they come up" applies here. If you spend a lot of time over the winter putting him low (correctly) and doing lots of stretchy type work, in all three gaits, his back will get nice and strong.
Cavelletti. Fun, easy, and a great strength building exercise. Start with them on the ground, but as he gets stronger, you can raise them. He can also be lunged over cavelletti.
Gymnastics, gymnastics, gymnastics. This is weight training for horses. If you don't have Jimmy's book, get it and use it.
Lungeing with a Pessoa rig, neck stretcher, or low side reins. This was recommended by my vet when trying to build a horse with a sore, atrophied back (he had back issues) top line up. It DOES help, and it gives you something different to do when you're stuck in the indoor for days/weeks.
Hacking, hacking, hacking, and more hacking. Easier said then done this time of year, but this is often an overlooked strength training option. Hacking with a purpose (no mosing about at a lazy stroll), over uneven terrain, up and down hills, etc, is very good for their bodies (in strength and fitness) and minds.As for fitness, if you do these things with any regularity and ride/work him 4-6 days a week, and he is a full TB (which I believe he is), he should be PLENTY fit enough for novice come spring. I find that MOST TBs do just fine with just regular schooling and hacking to go novice and training and even, for some, prelim. You should also see a big improvement in his topline if you stick with these things. Especially the riding long and low (A LOT!)...if you have the patience to commit yourself riding him long and low for several weeks (at least a month, I'd say), throw in some hills, cavelleti, and the occasional gymnastic, and I think you'll see a HUGE difference in his topline. :yes:

retreadeventer
Jan. 11, 2012, 10:47 PM
Amanda, how did you do the indents and bullets?

yellowbritches
Jan. 11, 2012, 10:50 PM
PS- Stay off his back as much as you can for the winter, especially if you're sitting trot is sketchy. Post the trot, stay light in the canter, practice your two point/galloping position A LOT (I have a friend who SWEARS by riding in two point whenever she isn't doing some form of schooling). Let him move his back by not sitting into him too much and too often. The stronger his back gets, the easier it should get to sit later on.

yellowbritches
Jan. 11, 2012, 10:50 PM
Amanda, how did you do the indents and bullets?
There's an option for it at the top of the reply box.

LoveMyCharlie
Jan. 11, 2012, 11:14 PM
I wasn't going to post a reply because I'm still in training for my guys first show but man these posts were crazy helpful!
OP I'm having the same issues with my guy and hills are your friend! And I hope you have great luck and an awesome show season :)

purplnurpl
Jan. 12, 2012, 09:11 AM
beefing him up with some good feed and weight gainer will help a whole lot.

the posts here are great.

lunging with them in the deep frame is important if he lunges well.

And then I second riding in only your jump saddle for a while. stay up and light for the canters. keep him low and working over his back.

1 season off should not cause so much loss of muscle.
I just gave my guys 2 months and put them back to work over the holidays. They are already ready for a jumper show.

Horses do not lose fitness as quickly as people so I'm willing to bet the lost of mass do to too low a calorie intake is what you are really dealing with.

I use a horsie height tape measure and I do 3 measurements on my guys each week to monitor size changes.

at the wither (girth)
at the biggest part of the belly (gut)
and the lower back/stifle (flank)

Toby went from 204 to 216 at the belly during his break!! :lol: In 3 weeks of a few rides a week he's back down 8 cm or so.