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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar. 26, 2007
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    Default conditioning time; or how quickly do they lose fitness?

    sorry, a little long...

    The last two years, I've done spring conditioning very conservatively, as my horse was coming back from hock surgery. However, the hock is completely healed now, so I feel comfortable pushing him more. My two-part question is: how quickly do you find your endurance horses losing fitness during the winter; and considering 3 months off, what is the shortest conditioning time you would feel comfortable with before attempting a ride?

    Background: My horse was well-conditioned through November. We completed a flat, sandy 50 in 6.5 hours with all As at the final vet check, and he pulsed down to 48 at each hold in the time it took me to take off his saddle, go over him once with a sponge, and walk him over to the vetting area. I then rode him 1-2 times a week (10-20 miles total each week) through early January, but then snow and ice have prevented me from riding at all until now.

    I expect to be able to start riding again this weekend, but I will only be able to ride for a week and a half before I am out of the country for 2 weeks, so the week and a half won't count for much.

    I'm planning to do the 50 at Foxcatcher in mid-April, and I'd like to do a slow and easy 30 the last weekend in March as a warmup, but I'm wondering if that's wishful thinking.

    In your experience, would that be pushing it to expect him to do an easy 30 after only 3 weeks of conditioning, having had 3 months with limited or no riding, and then do a 50 three weeks later? Now that I'm typing this out, it sounds like a lot...
    RIP Victor... I'll miss you, you big galumph.



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec. 20, 2000
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    1,122

    Default

    That sounds reasonable to me. If you were doing 10-20 miles a week with him up until last month and can ride a few times this month, thats not much time off. An easy 30 miler is not tough for a seasoned endurance horse to do.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug. 28, 2007
    Location
    Triangle Area, NC
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    Default

    I'm not an endurance rider, but my horses are worked for about 90 minutes, 5 days a week. I think it depends on the horse
    Recently my horse had a week off due to a work trip, then a week because of weather. There was no picking up where we left off. It's the end of week one and 60 minutes he's exhausted.
    My horse is slow to gain fitness and quick to lose it. Ironically, i'm the same way
    www.destinationconsensusequus.com
    chaque pas est fait ensemble



  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan. 12, 2004
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    No. VA
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by BigHorseLittleHorse View Post
    I'm planning to do the 50 at Foxcatcher in mid-April, and I'd like to do a slow and easy 30 the last weekend in March as a warmup, but I'm wondering if that's wishful thinking.

    In your experience, would that be pushing it to expect him to do an easy 30 after only 3 weeks of conditioning, having had 3 months with limited or no riding, and then do a 50 three weeks later? Now that I'm typing this out, it sounds like a lot...
    An easy 30 after 3 weeks of well planned "return to shape" conditioning for a horse that has already done a successful 50 is certainly doable.

    Foxcatcher is almost all rolling slopes and hills - very pretty, grassy, with nice woodlands....but very little chance for muscle rest. Are you doing the LD or the endurance there? Either way, make sure a fair amount of your conditioning is on the same type of terrain.

    Good luck!



  5. #5
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    Mar. 26, 2007
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    Default

    I'm planning to do the endurance at Foxcatcher. I've done the LD there the last two years, so I know the terrain, and luckily my trails are the exact same thing -- rolling hunt country without a flat spot in sight.

    Glad to know I'm not crazy to do a 30 after 3 weeks of conditioning. I'm so used to erring on the side of caution with this horse because of the hock rehab; it's hard to change that mindset! But he proved at the 50 that he's ready...
    RIP Victor... I'll miss you, you big galumph.



  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan. 12, 2004
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    No. VA
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    You must live in Unionville's Cheshire Hounds countryside! Gorgeous area, lots of rolling pastureland. Droolworthy!



  7. #7
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    Mar. 26, 2007
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    I wish! I ride the Radnor trails -- similar terrain, but lots more road crossings, so it's harder to keep a consistent pace. Luckily I still have an 18-mile loop to ride...
    RIP Victor... I'll miss you, you big galumph.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan. 12, 2004
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    No. VA
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    Default

    Amazing! I used to board (a million years ago!) at Edgemont Stables - right across Rt. 3 from Radnor Hunt territory near Plum Tree (??) Rd, and hunted with Radnor for several years.

    Back then the territory was wide open with lots and lots of huge farms and you could ride all day on the open fields. The houses started moving in at about the time I left. It certainly has changed over the last few decades!

    Cheshire county is a fabulous place to condition. Yummy territory!



  9. #9
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    Mar. 26, 2007
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    I see the hunt sometimes on the weekends, and I wonder where they ride! They must have permission to hunt some of the private properties, because most of the public-access trails are awfully narrow and close to roads to ride at speed...
    RIP Victor... I'll miss you, you big galumph.



  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan. 12, 2004
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    No. VA
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    Default

    The hunt does cross private land, jumping fences to get in and out of those properties. If I remember correctly (from talking with old hunt friends that live up that way) Radnor's territory has lately been getting squeezed way too tight. Properties getting subdivided and big houses being put up owned by suburbanites who don't understand the share-and-share-alike hunting mentality. Sad. I was told Radnor has moved into some of the old Brandywine Hunt territory to help extend their territory.

    At least you aren't too far from Cheshire, or from Fair Hill, to train. Just a short trailer ride away. Those two places are simply gorgeous.



  11. #11
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    Mar. 26, 2007
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    For shorter rides I also go to Valley Forge Park -- love the big open spaces there for doing long canter sets, and we get some bomb-proofing in the bargain! Never know what you're going to see there...
    RIP Victor... I'll miss you, you big galumph.



  12. #12
    Join Date
    Feb. 19, 2008
    Posts
    57

    Default RE: Holding Condition

    I have a more liberal view of how well horses hold their conditioning. Dr Jim Baldwin, who is well known in the Endurance community, says that any reasonably healthy sound horse on active pasture routine can complete a 50 mile ride in under 12 hours. Note "complete" not "race".

    In June of 2009, I injured my sciatic nerve and did not get on a horse until mid December. Between then and Blazing Saddles, a flat good surface ride in Mississippi, I rode my horse a TOTAL of 35 miles or so This was riding on steep rocky hilly trails, and some flat trotting and cantering too. We finished the 50 just fine. So my horse, who is on 40 acres of hilly pasture held decent condition for 8 months. We finished about 2 hours slower than his normal speed in great shape.Instead of thinking of it as a race or competition, we treated it as a 50 mile training ride.

    My younger back up horse entered a 50 in March, and completed well also. He had a TOTAL of about 40 miles of riding in a 9 month period. Again we went nice and easy, and finished strong.

    To me, the key is if the horse is out on active pasture, and has not gained a lot of weight, and if the trail is equal to or less in difficulty than the home trails, you should be fine. If your horse has gained a lot of weight, and you are trying a deep sand trail or steep hill trail when you train on flat firm trails, you are likely going to have a wreck.

    Paul N. Sidio
    KMA Chazz Piper
    VA Southern Gentleman (General Lee)
    Spokane MO



  13. #13
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    Well, we did it! At least the first part, the LD. Due to weather and other logistics, I actually only got about a week and a half of riding (probably less than 40 miles total) before this weekend. I went there with the mindset that if he felt tired at the hold, I would pull him.

    It was cold the night before (mid 20s) and only in the high 20s at the start, but the sun was shining, and it felt quite nice out. I took his rump rug off after the first 5 miles or so. The terrain was perfect, flat and sandy (NJ pine barrens). I rode a conservative first loop, and he came into the hold feeling strong and pulsed down nicely. So we went back out again, and if anything, he felt even stronger for the second loop. We did quite a bit of slow canter, and he was still pulling on me a little as we came into the finish. He pulsed down well again and finished with mostly As at the vet check.

    He seemed quite tired when we got home last night, but he was eating and drinking well. Today he looks like this...

    http://pets.webshots.com/photo/21066...01268642HSWyRT

    (he's the gray on the right )
    RIP Victor... I'll miss you, you big galumph.



  14. #14
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    Jun. 11, 2004
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by psidio View Post
    I have a more liberal view of how well horses hold their conditioning. Dr Jim Baldwin, who is well known in the Endurance community, says that any reasonably healthy sound horse on active pasture routine can complete a 50 mile ride in under 12 hours. Note "complete" not "race".
    I would think the key is how you define "active pasture routine." 40 acres of hilly pasture is more than most of us have.

    My horses are on pasture 24/7, but the "pastures" are fairly flat and only about 5 acres each. Trust me when I say, they don't move around alot and when they do, 90% of the time is at a pokey walk.

    However it is my understanding that one of the biggest dangers for an endurance rider is over-conditioning, not under-conditioning.

    I know with polo ponies, once they reached a certain level of fitness, we excerised them very little -- just enough to keep them limber. Instead they "played them fit," -- in other words, they stayed fit simply by playing 1-2 games per week.

    I would think it would be the same for an endurance horse?



  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jan. 7, 2009
    Location
    New Zealand
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    217

    Default

    Yep, over conditioning is a real risk. You see it at the end of the season, horses looking fatigued, loss of condition, HR not dropping - not to mention lame!

    Remember to give your horse a day off for every 10-12 miles he does - plus extra calories and electrolytes to replace those he's sweated off, and rest the muscles. I use 25 milers to keep my ponies fit and we often do 50 milers with 3 weeks interval. The rest of the time we muck about, lol.



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