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Stamina in the dressage horse

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  • Stamina in the dressage horse

    I have a young horse, turning 8 next week, who is currently showing second level. I feel that he is quite fit, but when it comes to showing, he seems to settle for just "ok" in the ring. He can be "up" in warm-up, sometimes scooting when horses canter near him, but that adrenaline doesn't seem to carry over into the ring. I always blamed it on the heat, but he showed yesterday at NEDA where it was quite cool and breezy. After just a 30 minute warm-up, he was cooked. I had nothing for lengthenings in trot or canter (we were showing in the 1st level championships). He was good in the ring and did everything I asked, but without pizazz! Any thoughts? Do you think this is a training or a fitness issue? Thanks all.
    Mirror Image 2001-2007

  • #2
    Both!
    You will have to work on fitness, see if is diet is appropriate as well and work on getting more 'pizazz' in his attitude thru good training.

    Working on quick, effective transitions, a lot, and within gaits.

    And you'll have to work too on your ability and desire to 'show off'!!!!
    ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

    Originally posted by LauraKY
    I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
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    • #3
      Interesting question....
      you said 'the adrenaline' doesn't last past the warm up...
      If the horse is 'nervy' (as opposed to 'nervous') he may actually be running out of gas by the time you get in the ring. That will just take time and lots of showing to settle the nerves so he doesn't use himself up so quickly.

      However if you are, without realizing it, asking more of him at the show than you do at home....it may be a simple fitness issue.

      I think schooling at home can unconsciously devolve into practicing one or two movements repeatedly with a lot of breaks in between, and not actually requiring the horse to be in self carriage for the whole ride.
      * <-- RR Certified Gold Star {) <-- RR Golden Croissant Award
      Training Tip of the Day: If you can’t beat your best competitor, buy his horse.
      NO! What was the question?

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      • #4
        Are you sure he was tired, and not just sucked back in the ring? I've found that if the warmup is bigger than the dressage court, horses are more willing to be forward.

        Maybe play around a home with how much warmup you need in order to put in a good test.

        I think it is vital to know just how much warmup you need.

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        • #5
          Also, do you cross-train?

          Some horses do not "think forward" enough. Taking them out for a nice gallop can help this. Interval training will build stamina, if that's the problem.

          Cross-training can include trail riding, cavalletti work, jumping, interval training, gallops, even doing a little cow work -- team penning or some such.

          Keeps the horse's mind fresh!

          Only you can figure out if your horse really plays out after 30 minutes of warm-up, if the work bores him into lethargy, or he is sucking back at the show for some reason.

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          • #6
            I hit a pretty serious conditioning/endurance issue in my guy's training when we started to seriously work in third.

            For us, it ended up being about nutrition. We were hitting a wall at the same time and not progressing physically, though he was mentally.

            Are you doing more work at shows? At home we usually warm up a certain way, then get down to the 'meat' of the day's training... At a show we tend to warm up WITH the meat--so we're ready for the test.

            Might be worth a look at diet as part of the fitness. Adequate protein is pretty crucial when you really start the upper level stuff. And they actually need *some* carbs too, despite our current fascination with finding the lowest NSCs possible...

            May have nothing to do with it at all. Just thought it could be worth mentioning.
            InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs
            ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

            Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)

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            • #7
              Maybe play around a home with how much warmup you need in order to put in a good test.

              I think it is vital to know just how much warmup you need
              I totally agree with ToN. My trainer also said the most important thing you need to confirm in the warm-up is your half halt
              Humans don’t mind duress, in fact they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary. –Sebastian Junger

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              • #8
                I'm with BeasMom on this one. Had the same issue with mine and it wasn't just stamina per say, but lack of 'forward thinking'. I started hunting with him and taking him on country hacks with lots of hill-work. My YO also changed his food to slow-release energy stuff(custom mix). He has a lot more spark and is more brave,bold (yet careful) in strange, new places. I may be wrong but a lot of dressage horses get bored and silly when doing too much arena work. Maybe also think about varying the places he works in. You can do almost everything you need for second level on a grassy field, away from home. Also, could it be nerves? You're stiffening and indirectly holding back and not allowing him to be expressive (I do that)
                You see a mouse-trap. I see free cheeze and a challenge

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                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Thank you everyone for your thoughts. There is a lot to consider. Having come from an eventing background, I have always wondered if this horse should gallop. Unfortunately he is deathly afraid of jumps, so that is out of the question. I had never intended to event him when I got him, but was hoping we could jump a little on the side. Not a favorite

                  A big issue I have with him, which has gotten better in the 3 years I've had him, is that we work alone at home and the warm-up at shows can get him quite nervous. The more we show, the better he gets. He lives at home with my retired event mare but I don't have anyone else here to ride with. By the time we get to the dressage ring he is so glad that horses aren't running over and into him that I think he just runs out of gas....mentally and physically. Don't get me wrong, he has been great in the ring since day 1 and has done very well, now through 2nd level. I have never been unhappy with him in competition.

                  He can be quite a different horse at home sometimes. This last week with the weather change in the Northeast (cooler at nights) he was almost unrideable. He's got quite a good spook in him! It's hard to believe he is a Hannoverian, as he acts more like a TB. I think his diet is good, but I will certainly take another look at what and how long I do things at home. I may be short changing him because of my own time schedule. I have put a lot of effort into my own fitness, because we were both unfit at the start, but he may be one that needs to do more to get more....and maybe twice a day.

                  Willow&Cal....I don't disagree.....he may just need a change of scenery and a good gallop. For me it's difficult working full-time to find enough time, as I would have to travel to gallop or hack. Our season is pretty much done, with the exception of a schooling show to ride 2nd 4 before the tests change for 2011, but I'd like to get a game-plan now rather than wait until the spring. Nerves for me........absolutely! My husband doesn't get it! I have run some of the biggest events on the East Coast in my career through Intermediate, including what used to be the traditional 3-day events. He can't believe that I am at all nervous for a dressage show!! I don't know why? I'm very competitive, but still get so ill the morning of a show??
                  Mirror Image 2001-2007

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Big Spender View Post

                    .....he may just need a change of scenery and a good gallop. For me it's difficult working full-time to find enough time, as I would have to travel to gallop or hack.
                    I work full-time too and ride at home alone too. Do you have a field you could gallop in? I do 3 days in the sandbox and 1 out in the field doing gallop / trot intervals. This sounds kind of silly, but I pretend we're galloping cross-country so I vary the galloping with more collected canter and some just all out fun gallops!! We both really enjoy it and it has helped with his fitness.

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                    • #11
                      By the time we get to the dressage ring he is so glad that horses aren't running over and into him that I think he just runs out of gas....mentally and physically
                      this is an issue with my young horse especially when we have to share the warm-up with upper level horses. It will get better with more exposure.
                      Humans don’t mind duress, in fact they thrive on it. What they mind is not feeling necessary. –Sebastian Junger

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                      • #12
                        I admire all eventers and SJ'ers. I poop in my pants at the thought of immovable obstacles. Pity you don't have access to outride country where you are but you could always make a plan to truck him out as much as you can. I totally get the full-time work and ride dilemma, I battle in this department as well. Is there anybody else who can work him for you while you're at work, maybe an instructor or friend? Country riding is good for spooking as well, it exposes them to some hairy situations and teaches them to be more level-headed. Whatever happens, you sound like you're doing everything to help him out.I hope he settles down and builds some stamina at home for next season. Holding thumbs
                        You see a mouse-trap. I see free cheeze and a challenge

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