Pony was finally getting fit to really do an LD. We were figuring things out, had done an 18mi ride in decent time. And now I've not ridden him in 6 weeks.
I work full time. About 50 hrs a week. I have a 1yr old and a 3rd grade stepson. Step son usually has he that ends up taking him all night. I've spent the last 3 weeks either travelling or working very late.
No more potential rides till the fall. But I need help maximizing my riding time. Help!!
It's really hard to find the time (that "silly" work thing gets in the way, doesn't it? / and what about all these hours of homework for elementary age kids, really? shouldn't they be out helping out with chores?).
The "good" thing about endurance conditioning (at least the way I was taught it as a young rider) is you don't need to ride *that* often. I mean, you do need to ride regularly, but I was always taught that it was better to have 3 & 1.5 + hour rides/week than ride everyday for 40 minutes. (as a comparison, my eventing OTTBs need to be worked multiple times a day for short periods of time). And somehow when you factor in tacking up, grooming, etc, it might be easier riding less often - but longer - than trying to ride every day.
What kind of conditioning program do you follow?
Depends on the breed and individual horse, but some of them can maintain fitness on very little conditioning.
When I had to move my Arab an hour away from my house, I was worried about only being able to ride on the weekends and maybe one weeknight. After a winter of basically not being ridden at all, at age 18 he was fit enough to do 30 miles after only about 5 weeks of 2 days of dressage (30 minutes each) and one 10-15 mile ride per week. After doing the 30, he did a 50 three weeks later and was so fit he pulled like a freight train for the first 25 miles before finally settling down.
So if you can get in one long ride per week, that might be enough for your horse. I think a lot more people overtrain than undertrain...
I had been riding maybe 3 times a week. A short ride during the week (ex - 6 miles at a fast trot), then 2 other rides. I tried to do longer rides on weekends but that wasn't always possible. Long rides were 10 to 12 miles but would take about 2 hours total out of house time. Horse also needs shoes but prefers being barefoot, if you get my drift, and the farriers here are so horrible that I'm also the farrier. We have 6 horses total, 3 who need shoes.
Kiddo doesn't have a lot of hw, just likes to drag out what he does have. Dh handles that, but its hard for him to watch the baby and fix dinner while doing it.
Some folks don't find the time, at least not for a few years until their kids are in school most of the day and they're able to finagle their work schedules to allow riding time. But if the spouse isn't supportive of the horse thing or the work schedule isn't flexible, and weekends are crazy with kids' activities.... you just have to either scale back, or make that rigid schedule that Guilherme mentions -- and do not let yourself get guilted out of it. :-)
DH is VERY supportive. No issues there. He just insisted we buy a big LQ trailer actually. He rides too, just not competitively.
Horse gains fitness easily. We did the 18 miles in 2:45 after a sporadic 6 weeks of conditioning that was broken up by bad weather. Tried a 30, pulled after 23 miles in 5 or 6 hours (terrain was much hillier than expected, I didn't want to push him once I realized that). And I've ridden once or twice since then.
I'm worried about training too fast, but with my limited time the faster rides just fit better. I'm worried about pushing him too much, especially after that 30 mile effort, so I think I'm not using the little time I do have wisely.
Work schedule will never be very flexible, but I'm soon making a change to teaching, so at least I won't get stuck at work till 7:30 pm with no warning, and I'll have more holidays.
LittleHorse, what kind of schedule did you follow? Like how long, how fast, for your rides?
I agree with everyone who says to have a fairly rigid (riding) schedule and stick to it. Pick one night during the week for a shorter ride or dressage, and one weekend morning where your family has to deal with things on their own for a few hours. That is enough time to get your horse fit if you change it up a bit every weekend: fast but shorter ride one week, hill work the next, then a longer but slower ride, etc. When in doubt, ride slower for longer.
My two short rides per week were arena work for about 30 minutes each (all I had time for after cleaning the spring mud off Mr. Pigpen). We spent lots of time on stretching, long and low, and lateral work at a walk and slow trot. Sometimes if I had time I would take him for a short walk around the neighborhood afterwards.
Then I made sure I had the time for one long ride on one of the weekend days, when I did not have to feel rushed. We trailered about 20 minutes to a local park that has FANTASTIC trails -- a mix of open fields and singletrack through the woods, with long rolling hills that are perfect for conditioning. Oh, and about 10 miles of gravel roads to use if everything was mud, which it often is around here in the spring. I really think it was the quality of the trails that made the big difference for him -- the place I had been previously had lots of trails, but you couldn't do long, uninterrupted trots because they went through people's backyards. You can't beat long stretches of trotting for building wind.
On the long rides, we started out with an even mix of walk and trot for about 10 miles, then each ride we increased either speed or distance (never both on the same ride), until by the 5th weekend (5th long ride) we did 15 miles at a working trot (about 8-9 mph for my guy), with short stretches of walk and canter mixed in. That got him plenty fit to finish a flat, sandy 30 in under 4 hours ride time (not including holds). The 50 we did 3 weeks later was at the same park where we train, so it was quite hilly, and he did the first 25 miles in about 3 hours, pulling hard the whole time
Caveat: He has always fitted up easily and maintained fitness well. He had been in competition until the previous November and had about 3 months off, so it's not like I was starting from square one. YMMV Oh, and he's an Arabian and was 18 years old at the time, just for context.
For endurance conditioning, I 've pretty much always only ridden one day a week. For 25s, if you can go out for at least a couple of hours and cover about 12 to 16 miles or so, and your horse handles it great, you should be fine for an LD. Actually, once your horse is an established 50 miler, that's generally enough riding for 50s.
The other days per week, I try to go for a little trail ride or arena work one or two days per week, but if it doesn't happen, its ok.
The exception to this would be if I was starting a horse from scratch...a young one or older, out of shape horse...then it would be better to ride say every other day or so, to build a good foundation. But if your horse is in pretty good shape already, once a week should be fine for an LD.
I call those the "blur years," when the kids are young and you are so busy that the next thing you know they are asking for the car keys. Your time is truly not yours at this point in your life, so don't be hard on yourself about not having time to ride a lot. When my son was young, I had a job with flex time, which allowed me to ride twice during the week. When he got a little older, I would pay one of the barn kids to babysit him while I rode. We got our own place when he turned 6, so that made things much easier. Enjoy your child as he/she will grow up much too fast!
Yes, that makes it harder, building up from nothing. But you said you got up to 18 miles about 6 weeks ago, right? So he's probably still got some of that fitness -- I wouldn't consider that you're starting from scratch at this point. I think if you can get him at least a little bit of exercise once or twice a week and then do one long ride once a week (if you can fit that into your schedule), it probably won't take too long to start seeing results. If you don't have time to ride on the shorter days, even longeing or free longeing in an arena can be beneficial. Turnout can also help if they get some exercise out there -- a hilly pasture can help them build fitness on their own, if that's an option for you.