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Last post...I promise. Conditioning ideas, picture!

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  • Last post...I promise. Conditioning ideas, picture!

    Okay. I've searched through the conditioning threads, but really want specific ideas for my guy.

    Background: 9yo Arab/QH gelding. 15.1h. Very brave, floaty, athletic (not at this very moment..) and my upper-level dressage friends describes him as "definitely having the aptitude for dressage". He LOVES to jump. Or at least used to. We were up to 3' before we had to move.

    Horse (Bailey) has been a pasture puff for going on two years, and hasn't been ridden consistently due to several factors, mostly distance. When I lived in the same state, I was 40 min away working 60 hours a week. Then I moved to VA for six months.

    We have no arena, so everything we do is in an open pasture (aka, in the cold. yay Kerrits winter breeches) and we have large fence posts to use as ground poles.

    I know he definitely needs to build up a topline, as his muscle tone has dropped significantly. However, what are some opinions on his overall condition? This pic was taken in Dec; he has dropped a bit of weight (thankfully) since. I just need some guidance on *what* to do with him to help get him moving/stronger/back in action.

    I realize they aren't the best pictures, but they're all I've got lol. The jumping is from back in '08 during our college equestrian team days. It's just to show that he actually *can* jump. My goal is to be competing at BN/N by next fall...
    runnjump86 Instagram

    Horse Junkies United guest blogger

  • #2
    He's cute! He looks pretty good. They can always look better, but at least you aren't starting with a horse who has totally let himself go.

    Honestly? The best thing you can do (as I'm finding out!) is HACK! I made the decision a few weeks ago to hack out as much as possible with Toby while the weather and footing hold out. Because he missed about 8 weeks (6 of which was on stall rest with only tack walking in the ring) due to some injuries, he won't be getting a winter break, but I don't want to start schooling dressage endlessly just yet as we still have decent footing and weather...we still have a long winter ahead to get stuck in the indoor! So, we're hacking. A lot. We do different things. Some days we go for long walks, some days we add in trot and canter and play with his lateral work and transitions. Some days we do trot sets. But, as much as possible, we stay out of the ring and get out in the open. The uneven terrain, hills, and just general work of hacking is making him SO strong. He's been doing this 3 weeks, and yesterday during our 4th jump school/lesson post injury, I could not believe how powerful and strong he felt. It was terrific!

    He's not the first I've experienced this with. Several years ago, my horse at the time had had 9 months of vacation to see if he could get his head back on straight. When I brought him back to work, I hacked him for a solid six weeks. He was incredibly fit by the end. He did a dressage school and a jump school then went training level...and pulled my arms out, and was asking for more by the end of the day. Hacking does AMAZING things.

    Otherwise, trot poles, lots of long and low work, transitions. Good flatwork does a lot to get a horse strong. Remember that they have to go down (stretchy work) before they come up. So, ride him in a good, proper long and low frame (being sure he is still pushing from behind and using himself) as much as you can stand it.


    • #3
      I agree that miles and miles and miles of trail work is the best thing. And I don't mean moseying along at the walk. ;-)
      Life doesn't have perfect footing.

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      • #4
        A walk does not have to be moseying as most dressage riders know. A good pick up walk, up hills and extended with head down is an excellent muscle builder. Additionally it encourages the horse to work muscles and tendons that could be damaged with quicker work on an unfit horse and will allow for a greater amount of control over the body once you are confident that he is able to work at that level.

        One of the most important considerations is how you are able to gage the horse's fitness, and are you confident that you can tell the difference in the horse as the fitness level continues to climb in an upward trajectory. Long, low and slow is the rule at the beginning of any work. It stretches the muscles and allows for increased safe aerobic work later. That and the proper feed increase/change for the level.

        I just took a quick look at the pictures, he is very slack in his muscles so take it slow as you go. You have a very good base as YB said, but he definitely has no real definition in tone. Lovely horse but he is a little upright in the pasterns so be careful, take a look at your trim angle also, pictures sometimes create optical illusions so just a word of caution here as his left front looks clubby and the same side hind looks flared.
        "We, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit." JFK


        • Original Poster

          His left front has always been clubby. A few years ago I was working with two REALLY good farriers, and we honestly had him as close to normal as possible. It was AMAZING. I kick myself for not taking a picture...anyway, one of those same REALLY good farriers was also an extremely lazy BO who would rather coyote hunt than work on his client's horses. He threw the club foot shoe the day before I had to leave for two weeks, and I *told* him about it, making sure to write a note. Two weeks turned into a month; I come home and he has ripped three shoes off, had NO toe, and was lame as could be. Furious? I think so.

          ATM I'm working with a decent farrier. In my area, its like pulling teeth to get one to come do your horses. I like him because he does a decent job, makes sure he's not lame, and shows up literally the day of or the day after I call, which right now is the best thing I can ask for. Once we move, his feet will be under much better care. This picture was also taken when he hadn't been trimmed in almost 9 weeks (I had just gotten back from VA and mom wasn't able to catch him for his 6 week trim).

          We have been hacking out and doing light work over ground poles. My problem is I trained him to have that hooky, Arab-y headset when we were planning on showing HUS. Oops, my bad. So long and low is definitely a new concept lol. He is smart; in the three good rides I've had this week he has really caught on to working into the bridle and not just tucking his cute little head. Thankfully I had some really awesome trainers when I was growing up, so ever since day one he has been taught to work off his hind end.

          Thanks everyone!!
          runnjump86 Instagram

          Horse Junkies United guest blogger