Friday, May. 31, 2024

The Program

Most of the country is in the middle of a nasty heat wave, and we in the Mid-Atlantic are particularly broasted. My grass is brown, my ground is hard, and my days are starting earlier and earlier to try and get horses done in the coolest part of the day.

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Most of the country is in the middle of a nasty heat wave, and we in the Mid-Atlantic are particularly broasted. My grass is brown, my ground is hard, and my days are starting earlier and earlier to try and get horses done in the coolest part of the day.

It’s frustrating, not because this isn’t normal for Virginia weather, though admittedly about a month earlier than we’re used to. It makes for long days—I’m on my first horse between 5:30 and 6 a.m., and I’m teaching until 8 or 8:30 p.m., but with a big gap in the middle of the day to have a little snooze, or get some office work done—but that’s par for the course.

The frustration is that all of my plans for Ella’s fitness camp are totally out the window.

Hillwork? No way—the ground is like concrete, and I can’t subject her legs to that. Conditioning sets? Sort of, but the air is so heavy, even first thing in the morning, that her lungs crap out before her muscles do. A nice long hack out after work isn’t feasible—no horse will cool down when the heat index is in the 100s. And it just isn’t fun to ride in this weather.

All that said, we soldier on. Ella’s modified boot camp involves a “movement of the day” plan—one day it’s pirouettes, the next day half-pass zigzags, the next day piaffe/passage, whatever. I try and keep our workouts a hefty length—45 minutes, give or take—but with lots of walk breaks. I still can’t get the hyper horse-show energy that I love, so I have to inspire her at home, but she’s getting stronger and fitter and more adjustable. It’s four weeks to Gladstone, and there’s hope for us yet.

Midge and Fender are on modified assignment. Midgey is going SO well, just preposterously well, that I’m working him every other day. Seems silly to spend him in the off-season. We do a gait of the day, alternating between trot/piaffe/passage work and canter work, with hacking and stretching days in between. I keep expecting him to be a screwball after a light day, but he actually gets better. Amazing. I will be picking up the pace at some point, as Midge was invited to Gladstone to demo the new Developing Grand Prix test for 8-10 year old horses, and that is, you know, kind of a big deal, and kind of a big step for a horse who’s done a handful of Prix St. Georges tests and cannot, if you want to get technical about it, execute every movement IN the Developing Grand Prix test. Details, shmetails.

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Fender, too, is coasting a little. Four to five days of ring work and nothing else is hell for a baby horse, but it’s really the only option at this point. We’ve done some hacking out, too, but he’s got a little not sweating thing going on, which I’m working with my vet about, so I’m trying to keep his workouts brief and in the shade of the indoor. He’s going well, just getting strong enough to hold all of his parts up simultaneously.

Colleen, my saddle fitter sponsor and friend, watched him go yesterday and said “It’s like his hind legs are stronger than everything else on his body.” Exactly. Every now and then he has about eight strides of spectacular, and then it all falls apart, but those segments of good work are becoming more frequent.

And my own fitness program has been interrupted, both by weather and a little injury. I tweaked something (that’s the medical term, naturally) in my back about two weeks ago, around my SI (funny, as that’s a common dressage horse injury), and while it doesn’t hurt when I ride, it hurts when I walk, and it’s excruciating when I run. I’ve had four good days in a row, but doctor’s orders say no running until it’s been better at least a week, and honestly I can’t even begin to fathom running right now in the heat, even late at night.

Instead, I made a fun discovery. A neighbor has a “Swim Gym,” a small pool with an adjustable current. Most people use them to swim in, but this one has a panel in the back that you can run on. So I crank that baby up to about a kajillion knots and start running. I have to go longer in order to get my heart rate up like I would running on the ground, but it’s totally non-painful, and it’s COOL and WET, which is fan-freaking-tastic at 1 p.m. If only I could work the horses in there.

LaurenSprieser.com
Sprieser Sporthorse

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