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  1. #1
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    Default Horse fitness to move up the levels

    Under the assumption no horse is perfect, what kind of fitness considerations did you have to take for various horses with whatever their weaknesses to move up the levels?


    My TB naturally wants to collect and move in a very uphill manner. However, he doesn't have the natural strength a warmblood would. I ride him 6 days a week if possible and we work on lateral work, changes within gait, all the various standards to help him build strength. It has taken him over a year since he started trying to build the strength to really hold himself in a medium/extension. He's still continuing to build strength, and of course I expect they will continue to improve as he does so. His working and collected gaits have recently developed a new elasticity as carrying himself uphill has become easier for him.
    How long I ride depends on him. In January he started to get strong enough to hold himself more uphill, but was also clearly working hard to get there. My rides were typically 30-45 minutes, edging toward the lower end of the range, because he was obviously finding the effort he was putting in challenging. Now that the work we were doing is easy for him, I've started adding just relaxed galloping (around the 200x170 arena - unfortunately trails aren't an option now w/ dog attack issues in the neighborhood) and it is helping his elasticity and relaxation even more. We're up to typically riding around an hour, more depending on how I can handle the heat as he is as ready to go when we're done as when we start.

    I have had people say "Why would you want your horse so fit?!" because he can get explosive in difficult situations, and I guess theoretically if he were less fit he wouldn't. I'm more of the opinion he has to learn to behave in those situations, too, but if I dumb down everything at home we're never moving up levels whether he behaves or not, because he won't be able to carry himself like he's supposed to.
    My horse is a dressage diva so I don't have to be.

    Quote Originally Posted by katarine
    If you have a fat gay horse that likes Parelli, you're really screwed



  2. #2
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    Oct. 13, 2006
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    The psg tb gelding at my barn is monster fit! But she does not ride him that often... Maybe 4 times weekly... I noticed she does mostly lateral and focus on straight work more than 5 billion circles she does a few different transitions within on the straight and then lateral for softening.

    His back is a tabke top and she uses less tempo and more swing. He is the most fit ive seen recently even of all the horses ive watched including wbs
    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~
    http://www.off-breed-dressage.blogspot.com/



  3. #3
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    Oh yeah and Carl Hester commented once that the tense horses or hot horses need shorter rides and more of them... So thirty min is plenty..

    Our horses are bred with the endurance just need that muscle to sustain
    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~
    http://www.off-breed-dressage.blogspot.com/



  4. #4
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    Feb. 24, 2011
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    It all varies from horse to horse. Some horses gain and maintain conditioning very well, while others don't.

    Every horse I've owned has been ridden four to seven days per week, for half an hour to an hour. These rides are always dressage focused and hard work for both of us.

    Aside from these rides most of my horses go on trail rides (once or twice per week, weather permitting), or a nice gallop, or a bit of jumping. Usually these rides are done after our training; occasionally I'll go back to the barn later on. These are always "just for fun" and rarely longer than 15 minutes or so.

    They have all made steady progress up the levels. A 3 year old horse that is part of a good training program should be a solid PSG mount by the time it's 9... barring any unforeseen tragedies/set-backs of course.

    Many riders are way too easy on their horses.



  5. #5
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    Aug. 14, 2004
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    "Many riders are way too easy on their horses."

    Do you know this is *the* most challenging thing in my journey to be the best rider/trainer i can be?

    i am a wuss and have the hardest time asking for enough..... i always worry that i am going to hurt them or they aren't strong enough or trained enough.

    i drive my trainer NUTS with this!

    anyone know how to get over this? (maybe i should start a new thread)



  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by TickleFight View Post
    It all varies from horse to horse. Some horses gain and maintain conditioning very well, while others don't.
    I know it does, so I'd really like to know HOW it varies from horse to horse, why, etc.

    I'll repeat myself:

    Quote Originally Posted by netg View Post
    Under the assumption no horse is perfect, what kind of fitness considerations did you have to take for various horses with whatever their weaknesses to move up the levels?
    My horse is a dressage diva so I don't have to be.

    Quote Originally Posted by katarine
    If you have a fat gay horse that likes Parelli, you're really screwed



  7. #7
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    Oct. 13, 2010
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    Eden Prairie, MN
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    It sounds like you are off to a great start and have made a lot of progress already. I've ridden Arabs and TBs at higher levels (3rd-PSG) and, while it takes more strength work than most WBs, it is definitely possible if you're doing it correctly. It sounds like you are off to a good start. I would recommend, however, taking more of an "interval" approach to your training, both within the session and within your week. So you would do something challenging, like half steps, then let the horse swing forward in a little lengthening or medium trot (but maybe you're already doing this, I don't know). Then back and forth, back and forth. I would only do this, at most, 3 days per week, as the recovery phase is just as important as the training itself. I started doing this after working with a personal trainer myself-I only strength train 2 days a week, too. Believe me, it makes a difference!

    I also wouldn't listen to the people telling you to not condition your horse because it will make him hot, you are totally right on that. That is "common belief", but doesn't have much basis is science. I've found with my super hot Oldenburg that she does better with harder strength training sessions 2 days a week with long lining later in the afternoon, then lighter sessions like long and low or gallops/hacks the rest of the days, up to a total of 8 sessions, 6 days per week. She's also turned out 24/7. She still gets hot and explodes sometimes, but it's not as terrible as it used to be when she was just under saddle. The hormones released with exercise have an anti-depressant and pain relieving effect on the body, in addition to many other benefits (for horses and people), so exercise is typically calming. A hot TB needs to be worked a lot-that's what they were bred for! To deny that would be to make him do something against his nature, which will make him unhappy (I'm really glad you let him gallop, too). To control explosiveness, I've found it's better to work on suppleness and obedience than trying to get the horse tired (relaxation can't be forced). When hot horses are tired, they typically act like toddlers and get cranky. And you will need that energy at the higher levels, just directed differently.

    And be patient! Rome wasn't built in a day:-)
    Good luck!!



  8. #8
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    Proud owner of one Lunar acre! (Campanus Crater, The Moon)
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    As with people, I think two work outs per day is better than one long one. Do something relaxing, but that also works the muscles in an aerobic fashion early in the day, then do collected "muscle building" work at night. Short, half hour ride each, but this way the horse gets fit and doesn't begin to resent the work because it's too much all at once.

    If you can't do twice a day all the time, a couple times a week is enough to really increase their stamina and strength while keeping them fresh.
    "Relinquish your whip!!"



  9. #9
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    Mar. 8, 2009
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    Montreal, Qc
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    I have to change my schedule a bit right now because while my horse is quite muscled enough to do the job, what she needs is more cardio!

    So I need to go out in the field and open her canter!



  10. #10
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    Oct. 13, 2006
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    Quote Originally Posted by alibi_18 View Post
    I have to change my schedule a bit right now because while my horse is quite muscled enough to do the job, what she needs is more cardio!

    So I need to go out in the field and open her canter!
    Thats the fun part!

    We are just working on our short game... I have been told to slow it down a bit over and over and over and I am finally taking the advice SIGH

    Slow, with more lateral, and more transitions...
    ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~
    http://www.off-breed-dressage.blogspot.com/



  11. #11
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    Mar. 24, 2010
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    Quote Originally Posted by beckzert View Post
    I would recommend, however, taking more of an "interval" approach to your training, both within the session and within your week. So you would do something challenging, like half steps, then let the horse swing forward in a little lengthening or medium trot (but maybe you're already doing this, I don't know). Then back and forth, back and forth. I would only do this, at most, 3 days per week, as the recovery phase is just as important as the training itself. I started doing this after working with a personal trainer myself-I only strength train 2 days a week, too. Believe me, it makes a difference!

    ...

    A hot TB needs to be worked a lot-that's what they were bred for! To deny that would be to make him do something against his nature, which will make him unhappy (I'm really glad you let him gallop, too). To control explosiveness, I've found it's better to work on suppleness and obedience than trying to get the horse tired (relaxation can't be forced). When hot horses are tired, they typically act like toddlers and get cranky. And you will need that energy at the higher levels, just directed differently.

    And be patient! Rome wasn't built in a day:-)
    Good luck!!
    I do try to do interval as you've suggested - but thank you for the reminder. Sometimes I want to focus too much on one thing than another, and have to remind myself of this!

    As for him - he is VERY relaxed at home. However, he is typical of TBs in that he carries tension in his body, and even what seems relaxed has new levels of relaxed and soft in his body that I keep finding. Work definitely helps him relax more - it helps ease the tension, rather than amping him up and making him more tense. Asking him to stop and wait when he has tension is what makes him get less relaxed and have problems.
    My horse is a dressage diva so I don't have to be.

    Quote Originally Posted by katarine
    If you have a fat gay horse that likes Parelli, you're really screwed



  12. #12
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    Oct. 13, 2010
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    Eden Prairie, MN
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    Quote Originally Posted by netg View Post
    I do try to do interval as you've suggested - but thank you for the reminder. Sometimes I want to focus too much on one thing than another, and have to remind myself of this!

    As for him - he is VERY relaxed at home. However, he is typical of TBs in that he carries tension in his body, and even what seems relaxed has new levels of relaxed and soft in his body that I keep finding. Work definitely helps him relax more - it helps ease the tension, rather than amping him up and making him more tense. Asking him to stop and wait when he has tension is what makes him get less relaxed and have problems.
    I feel your pain. It's easy for me to remind other people to do things, but sometimes hard to remind myself when I get hyper-focused on getting something perfect.

    I've found the same thing with hotter horses. I sometimes warm up in a gallop (after walk and trot). It kind of clears out the cobwebs, and then I'm able to actually ride a mentally engaged horse rather than one that is busy demonstrating her amazing flight reflexes to the ghosts in the corner of the arena.



  13. #13
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    Oct. 19, 2009
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    Ontario, Canada
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    What I've found to be helpful for building fitness is to work hard in the ring until the horse is showing signs of getting tired (ie. working harder on simple things, needs more reminders to carry himself, maintain the bend etc) and then head out for a walk/trot with maybe a little canter hack for the same length of time spent in the ring. This was typically 40min each (the ring time included the walk, and the hack was mostly walk as it was also the cooling out period). I was quite surprised at how quickly my horse's fitness improved.

    Right now I find that my horse needs more strength to maintain the rhythm and balance in the extensions and he's happier doing them out in a field or down the road. This helps him mentally, and if it takes 40m to snap into the extension rhythm and balance we don't have to worry about turning less than 10m later. As he gets stronger he'll find the snapping point more easily and be able to maintain the extensions comfortably in the ring as well.



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