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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep. 27, 2010
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    SE PA
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    Default hunter fitness + possible breathing issue?

    I went to my first show of the season this weekend and came to the realization that my mare is pretty unfit. Due to space restrictions at home I am unable to do a lot of continuous cantering. I know I need to up my workout intensity and length of time at home - as well as trailer out to my friends ring about once a week for harder workouts with more cantering. She is a big girl and quite lazy. The exact opposite of my other horse who could go for hours on end with next to no conditioning. What should I strive for? As in, how often should I be riding, for how long and at what pace? We are just starting 2' courses in hunters.

    Also - I noticed at the show for the first time that after cantering she was breathing pretty heavy. To me it sounded like she was blowing out pretty hard a few short times and then she would settle down. I attributed this to not be fit enough. I rode her again last night and pushed her much harder then normal and again she was breathing "heavily" - the thought of a breathing issue popped into my head. The only one I really ever heard about was "roaring", after a quick google search I found that it is more of a wheezing sound and on the inhale. I am pretty positive her's is on exhale - reminds me of trying to breathe out your nose after running a distance you haven't been conditioned for (again linking to her being unfit). Opinions?



  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun. 10, 2009
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    Default

    How hot is it there? High temps can get them breathing heavy pretty quickly. When my horse looked like he might have a respiratory issue it turned out to be anhidrosis (not sweating enough). So is your horse lathered and dripping sweat when the other horses are? Or is she just a little damp? I'm not saying this is the only option or that it's definitely your problem--just something to consider.



  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun. 17, 2001
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    down the road from bar.ka
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    What is your time frame for at home schooling? How long trotting? How long cantering? And, please, with a WATCH so you can time it.

    What is the time frame for your warm up?? How many warm up fences?? How many trips over fences did you do???

    Without this information about specifics, can't claim it is a breathing issue or just general fitness.

    Will say that I always worked up to trotting for 20 minutes WITHOUT a break. Walking for 5 minutes and then cantering for 5 minutes (longer then you think without that watch) each way with a short walk on reversing. Did that before I considered the horse (and myself) fit enough to start schooling over fences or go to a show.

    I have an idea you asked for alot more at the show then you do at home.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.



  4. #4
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    Sep. 27, 2010
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    SE PA
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    Quote Originally Posted by findeight View Post
    I have an idea you asked for alot more at the show then you do at home.
    Mostly likely. We only did a w/t, w/t/c and two 2' courses. At home I usually only ride 25-35min. Total probably 5 min cantering, then probably 15min trotting or so. I usually pop her over 4-10 fences. And I ride her 4-7 days a week. More towards 7 now. Im in SE PA and it has been pretty hot the last two weeks (finally got cooler) - so I bet I wasn't in the saddle as long as I thought. My schooling area is very small and hilly so continuous cantering can be tricky and doing a line is impossible.

    I think I hit a wall because my gelding is perfectly fine keeping fit with the above schedule and going to shows and doing two divisons of 2'6. And last year I was only doing flat classes with the mare and she was perfectly fine - but obviously it was less demanding.



  5. #5
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    Jan. 25, 2011
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    Southern Pines, NC
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    Quote Originally Posted by HGem View Post
    Mostly likely. We only did a w/t, w/t/c and two 2' courses. At home I usually only ride 25-35min. Total probably 5 min cantering, then probably 15min trotting or so. I usually pop her over 4-10 fences. And I ride her 4-7 days a week. More towards 7 now. Im in SE PA and it has been pretty hot the last two weeks (finally got cooler) - so I bet I wasn't in the saddle as long as I thought. My schooling area is very small and hilly so continuous cantering can be tricky and doing a line is impossible.

    I think I hit a wall because my gelding is perfectly fine keeping fit with the above schedule and going to shows and doing two divisons of 2'6. And last year I was only doing flat classes with the mare and she was perfectly fine - but obviously it was less demanding.
    NOT trying to bash on you or anything at all, so please don't take it that way.

    You have GOT to step up your game in the conditioning department. You can't reasonably expect your horse to perform well at any level with such little conditioning. She's an athlete, she needs just as many and just as intense workouts as human athletes need.

    Even though I do straight jumpers, I normally keep my horses on a 3DE conditioning schedule similar to one Jimmy Wofford outlined in an issue of Prac. (don't shoot me for altering it! I said SIMILAR. )

    In an ideal week, my guys get worked about an hour and a half for 6 days, one day off. We flat two days, jump 2, and hack two. (In my older, seasoned horse's case, we only jump once a week or even every other week. He does trot poles and cavelletti, and straightness exercises using little fences).

    Flat days for appy would involve: lots of figures, tidy w/c & c/w transitions, improving lead changes, lengthenings, collection, lateral work, etc, along with some stretches.
    For my emerald green TB: circles, basic figures, bending, suppling, work on rhythm & relaxation, etc.

    Jumping days for appy: low gymnastic exercises, complicated and technical but low courses, work with cavalletti, etc. (we do school at 3'6+ about twice a month, but I try not to jump his legs off. He's older and he knows his job, no need to).
    TB's jumping days: trot poles, beginning grids, integrating our flat work into our jumping, single jumps and simple lines, cavalletti.

    Hacking days for appy: trot, canter, and gallop sets to improve wind. We do a quick warm up in the ring then go right out and don't walk until we are in sight of the barn again. Up and down hills, we trot and canter. I'm lucky in that my barn backs up to a massive equestrian-friendly state park, so we have MILES of trails and tons of flat fields to go gallop in.

    The state park is very hilly (it's centered around a mountain, lol) but it does have some nice, long, flat places in the valleys.

    Hacking days for TB would mainly be walking right now as he's still getting used to trails and such. Some trotting hills and such.

    As an example of how fit my appy was from this type of program, coming off of a few weeks of light work: we went on a THREE HOUR all t/c/g hack with a friend. We went around a field that is about a mile in perimeter probably 4-5 times at a FULL gallop (disclaimer: we know how to gallop correctly and in control. We also checked out the footing thoroughly. DON'T go out galloping unless you know you can remain in control and stay comfortable at speed, and unless you have checked out the footing thoroughly). After about a 5 minutes of slow cantering and trotting, he was back at normal wind.

    Now, he does have good wind anyways, but he was also in WICKED good shape.

    Obviously, this has to be adjusted some depending on what kind of shape the horse is in to start with, and the horse itself. It would probably not be wise to take my TB on a gallop strip and let him fly right now. Or really even a slow canter in the open, he's not ready for that yet mentally.

    Again, not to bash on your schedule at ALL, but just giving an example of mine.

    Another disclaimer: Yes, I work my horses HARD. But if they're saying they're ready for a break, they get one. We do have a week or two throughout the season where they get a mini-vacation. I'm tough, but I'm also careful to make sure I don't kill them.
    I've heard there's more to life than an FEI tent and hotel rooms, so I'm trying it.



  6. #6
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    Jun. 17, 2001
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    That's a little ambitious for a Show Hunter and maybe a bit too much 6 days a week unless she is going on a Hunt or hunter pace or something.

    But any conditioned show Hunter ought to be doing 40 minutes of real work-trot and canter 4 times a week plus jumping once or twice weekly for 20 minutes in addition to the flatwork, not instead of. Hacking out another day would be good. All these days of not enough cardio work are unproductive and counter to even human conditioning protocols in preparing for a competition.

    But Appy is right, you need to step it up. 25-30 minutes with only 5min at the canter does her no favors...and neither does ring riding 7 days a week and daily jumping without perfecting the flatwork. Do course work and excercises with at least 15/20 jumps twice a week-after all, 2 courses at the show is 16 jumps + warm ups.

    BTW, don't you like a day off??? Horses get ring sour quicker then a 10 year old gets to hate school-try to mix it up and give her some downtime.
    When opportunity knocks it's wearing overalls and looks like work.

    The horse world. Two people. Three opinions.



  7. #7
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    Jan. 25, 2011
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    Southern Pines, NC
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by findeight View Post
    That's a little ambitious for a Show Hunter and maybe a bit too much 6 days a week unless she is going on a Hunt or hunter pace or something.

    But any conditioned show Hunter ought to be doing 40 minutes of real work-trot and canter 4 times a week plus jumping once or twice weekly for 20 minutes in addition to the flatwork, not instead of. Hacking out another day would be good. All these days of not enough cardio work are unproductive.

    But Appy is right, you need to step it up. 25-30 minutes with only 5min at the canter does her no favors...and neither does ring riding 7 days a week.

    BTW, don't you like a day off??? Horses get ring sour quicker then a 10 year old gets to hate school-try to mix it up and give her some downtime.
    Like I said, I'm a conditioning freak lol.
    I've heard there's more to life than an FEI tent and hotel rooms, so I'm trying it.



  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep. 27, 2010
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    SE PA
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    Default

    I appreciate the no bashing

    And yes, I realized I need to step it up. Which is why I was asking for routines. Imagine a normal sized show ring: cut it in half (or aprox 3 lunging circles), add a slope to it and some unevenenss. That is what I have to work with. It is very hard to canter continuous circles in. I have been trying to trailer her to my friends ring once a week (for major canter work and jumping) - but time and money are a bit tight (which is why I am trying to sell the gelding).

    Like I said above, what I am doing is what I did for my gelding for years of showing 2'6 stuff. He never got ring sour (though we did do some trail riding) and never had issues with fitness. He's a freak though - complete energizer bunny. Completed a 5 hour fairly intense trail ride (with little conditioning) last weekend and still had pep in his step at the end! And last year the mare was fine with that routine showing on the flat - but obviously she needs more for jumping! So that is what I am going to be doing, was just hoping you guys could give me some ideas for good routines/workouts. Thanks
    Last edited by HGem; Jun. 15, 2011 at 01:56 PM.



  9. #9
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    I would say at the very least, you need to up the cantering. Trotting's nice and all that, but you don't see a lot of it in the o/f classes. And cantering is still not jumping, but I think your horse should be fit to at least 15-20% more cantering than you would do on any day showing (that means o/f classes, hacks and warm up).

    She may still be a bit out of condition for jumping, but at least its not jumping and cantering that are wearing her out.
    Definition of "Horse": a 4 legged mammal looking for an inconvenient place and expensive way to die. Any day they choose not to execute the Master Plan is just more time to perfect it. Be Very Afraid.



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