I was reading the article earlier about trot sets and what frame to ride your horse in, and I thought it would be interesting to see what format you condition your horse in for a specific level.
(For example, how long do you trot, insert walk breaks, and add galloping)
I use to be more precise and set a timer starting with 8-10 minute trots with 2 minute walking, x 3 with 2 sets of 5-7 minute canter/hand gallop for my Novice horse.
I'm now at a smaller facility, and count laps around the paddock.
I actually don't count or do intervals very often at all. We cross train with my BFF, who does 50-mile endurance racing. So we might trot for 3 hours in the sandhills. Or, like for this weekend, spend 3 days climbing up and down mountains. I walk and trot as many hills as I can get my hands on, I do a ton of CORRECT transitions on the flat.
Since I am riding N/T on an OTTB now, I don't need gallop work and strength training is farrrrr more important than endurance until we start getting ready for our long formats, although that will probably take him about one day, LOL. That horse can go all. day. long and never get tired.
Is your horse heavy? My TBs, past and present, would be dragging me around everywhere, all the time if I did that much for novice!
Toby is going prelim (hoping for a CCI* in the fall). He is ridden six days a week. Two days dressage, one day jumping (usually, not always, and sometimes he jumps twice), two days hacking/trots, one fitness day. I also try to hack at least 20 minutes after every school (doesn't always happen). He is REALLY fit (probably fitter than I need) but he looks like a million bucks and EVERYONE is raving about how he looks, and he feels the best ever *touch wood* so, I won't fix what ain't broke!
Fitness day is either 3 5 minute trots with 2 minute walks (how I was taught, but I'm moving away from that) OR a sustained 15-20 minute trot (kinda depends on what my gallop buddy and I feel like). I then do 3x4 minute canters with 2 minute walks. Speed averages about 450mpm, probably, with some slower bits, and occasional faster bits. This is PLENTY for my guy (I may bump one interval up to 5 minutes). When we get 6 weeks out from the targeted 3 day, we'll start ramping up a lot more.
I added in a trot day recently because the coach I do the majority of my jumping with now is very big into them, and I was feeling a little guilty sitting in lessons while he and my lesson mate (who's going Int/Adv) talk trot sets So, instead of hacking two days (which are often very long hacks with lots of hills), we trot with purpose. 15 minutes with a 5 minute walk, then another 15 minutes. This is probably more than adequate for us right now.
There is no right way to get fit. My last horse got fit for a LF prelim three day by galloping up a very straight hill (took about a minute) once a week. Towards the end, we did it twice. I through in the occasional "traditional" canter sets, especially so I could get some speed work in for steeplechase. He was VERY fit.
When Nicola Wilson cliniced here over the winter, she said that she has no good gallops, so ALL her horses (even the Team horse) march up and down a very steep but short river bank. No one would say her horses aren't in good form.
You have to make the best of the situation. I did my hill because while we were surrounded by acres and acres of fields, they were oddly broken up (an asphalt drive here, a steep ravine there) and it was a lot of around and around and around. I was doing 7 and 8 minute intervals toward the end....I think I'd go about 10 times around!
Do what works. If your horse is fit and happy and sound, don't worry too much.
I occasionally do 15 minutes trot and 3, 3 minute canters (occasionally gallops) just because my horse enjoys it, but frankly he's crazy fit without any specific conditioning work. Generally we just do ring work, and just go outside on trails or a hilly field for fun. It's very, very difficult to find the bottom of his energy level unless we do a hard dressage lesson, and even then he's just mentally tired. Fortunately he doesn't get hotter or harder to ride when he's fit, so I don't mind that he's naturally fit
If we ever did prelim we might need to do fitness work, but that will never happen so I don't bother.
Dressage makes my horse tired in a completely different way. But it is like weight training versus cardio. 45 minutes of a HARD dressage lesson can make him feel cooked....but he'll still pull my arms out at the end of xc.
Typically I don't do much for a Novice horse other than ride them consistently, but I have mostly Thoroughbreds so they stay pretty fit off regular work. My current Novice horse is doing trot sets, mainly to get him out of the arena and forward. He's doing a 10-12 minute trot 1x week utilizing the longer part of the uphill as much as possible to help strengthen his hind end.
My older horse that I am trying to bring back into shape is using interval sets; we started with 3 3min trots with 2min of walk between, and we're building up from there.
The QH I ran Prelim with I usually felt like I did nothing but fitness- he was doing a 20min trot one day a week, and then a gallop day once a week- usually a ten minute trot as a warm up, and then two to three five minute gallops, with the last 30-45 seconds sprinting.
I guess the point of all of that was that it depends on the horse and what exactly I'm targeting/what kind of fitness work that particular horse needs. Just a long-winded way of explaining it, I guess
Hacking is also a big part of fitness- by Prelim, the horses were out 1 1/2-2hrs hacking at least one day a week, in addition to hacking out before/after each ride.
I'll agee with yellowbritches that dressage can be a great fitness tool as well- the horse I was schooling Second Level was fitter than some of the horses that I was doing targeted fitness work on, just from the intensity of the dressage work!
Thanks, I was not specifically interested in just Novice, I've cut down on my 'conditioning' days, and we do spend a lot of time just working in dressage. We jump once or twice a week.
The horse I am competing right now is a conn/tb. He's very quick and strong cross-country (in good ways), but dreads conditioning even if I wait until the evening when it's cooler.