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"conditioning" for the lower levels- PH article

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  • "conditioning" for the lower levels- PH article

    Just read the last PH Wofford article. Usually, this man is as close to God as one can get in my eyes. But this article kind of "half-halted" me for a few reasons.

    First- what I agree with. Fitness takes time. Period (ask my muffin top). You gotta put in the time- and you need the time.

    But....he is advocating canter work for the Nov horses- and frankly, most Nov and I dare say Training horses can do all he says in a good dressage lesson. (at least the ones I take!).

    No where does he have the get out there and hack....different terrain, different footing. No where is there that solid road work that I feel really does everyone a bit of good. Yes, TIME! But as far as getting the tendons, ligaments and hooves in good shape, I just don't see anything better.

    It also does a brain (human and equine) a lot of good. Get out there- scare up a few turkeys, the UPS truck, the kids on the trampoline. Yes, can be...dicey, but once you get thru a few of those moments, show stuff will seem like child's play.

    I guess I am thinking that creating a plan that is SO regimented removes us from what I consider the beauty of the process. Getting to know your horse, following what they need, how they feel and getting to really know them by riding them- a lot.

    I am entering a world now where I will work hours that are not at all conducive to riding in perfect daylight. I will cater to someone else's schedule for me, so I can cater to my horses. I got up to prelim on my previous horse without ever doing canter sets (and he was one well conditioned animal- never did any soft tissue damage save a twisted shoe once) because we were out on the roads daily. getting him over fit would have been...ahem...a really big problem!

    I don't know- but...what do you think? Does saying that Nov horse need to canter 2 times their average course seem okay? Maybe I am getting old.... (Wait! I am!!!)

  • #2
    I will have to run into town this week and pick up a copy and read this.

    But, it sounds like I probably agree with you.

    One thing I have to say is that my horse would be stupidly, completely, overly fit if I did canter work with him for novice and training....and probably even, to a degree, prelim! He's little, he's full TB, you look at him crossed eye and he gets fit, and he already has a big, deep base of fitness from his previous life on the track. I LIKE being able to rate my horse at novice, thank you very much!

    So, what do I do? Walk....a lot (we clocked 7 miles on dirt roads on Wednesday this week). He does his flat work, and gets his jump school. We might go trot around the fields once a week, now that the footing is acceptable. Our neighborhood is hilly, so we get lots of long walks up good hills. Occasionally we go and play in the xc field (which is basically a big hill side), so even if we're just playing on the flat and not jumping, he's still using his body to balance and the balancing is making him STRONG.

    He is stupidly fit with that "program." He had a big jump school on Thursday (after walking 7 miles the day before). It was 80 degrees out, and we couldn't even get him to breath hard.

    I love Jimmy and hang on just about every word he says...but, for whatever reason, I've always thought his fitness plans (like the ones in the back of THE book) were a bit much. If I had followed his one star plan for Vernon, he would have been ready for Fair Hill three star!!! As it was, he dragged me all the way around Phase C at our three day.
    Amanda

    Comment


    • #3
      Well, to improve the canter you need to canter. Applicable to both horse & rider. I have not read the article, but unless he is stating that the purpose for cantering is explicitly to build wind, I can see no reason to disagree. I've seen far too many 'lower-level riders' unable to get off their horses back, when they are sitting they are pumping away, and lacking some fundamentals that would hopefully fall into place with some additional canter time. I can expand this to riders at the UL as well. When one rider is having a horse routinely stop & they spend lots of energy on that dressage school, trotting in 20m circles...or constantly hitting the back rail on a 3' fence because they are coming back too soon...or always getting a funky distance - fix the canter & it will appear. It's all about the canter

      (and I include myself! When I am out of shape, I can't maintain the canter I want - pull, chip, nag, chip...Flyer! Angry pony, face-plants rider...)

      Comment


      • #4

        I'm doing BN (hopefully N by the end of the year).
        I have a very regimented program I try to stick to.
        I do 4x 5min trots and 4x 4min canters (w/ 1min walks) twice a week. 2 dressage rides. 1 hack. 1 variable day.
        My horse is stupidly fit ...but he's quiet [relatively. for him anyway. quieter.], and he needs to be tired out on a regular basis to stay that way. I don't just do it for fitness, that's a nice bonus though.

        He hasn't done regimented work for the past couple weeks because I was out of town and then sick w/ the flu, so someone's just been hacking him for me. Already he's getting fat and going crazy.
        I haven't yet read the article.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Well, of course! Eventing is based out of the canter. But don't you canter in your dressage schools? Aren't you doing that already?

          Don't you school here and there outside over logs?

          He is saying that you do "conditioning canters". Not canter to improve the canter (which we do when we jump, or school on the flat- or at least try to improve it!)

          Clearly he says sets.

          He does say toward the end (after a page turn or 2, so have lost most readers) that the horse will get fitter as the season goes on so does not continue to need the conditioning schedule per se.

          I guess I think getting outside (Ah, my old USPC mantra coming back!) and riding OUT on will do wonders toward getting one ready to run (Dare I say it? you're really slowly cantering!) a Nov or Tr course.

          Much like a dressage guru said...any horse should be able to jump 3'. I say any horse that can go out and do a hard dressage school, a XC school and a trail ride that goes for a solid hour or so is more than capable of doing a Nov or Tr level event.

          I guess I wish the emphasis was on enjoying your horse and having fun and not worrying about a 3 x 3 min canter sets 2 times a week.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by supaflyskye View Post

            I'm running BN (hopefully N by the end of the year).
            I have a very regimented program I try to stick to.
            I do 4x 5min trots and 4x 4min canters (w/ 1min walks) twice a week. 2 dressage rides. 1 hack. 1 variable day.
            My horse is stupidly fit ...but he's quiet [relatively. for him anyway. quieter.], and he needs to be tired out on a regular basis to stay that way. I don't just do it for fitness, that's a nice bonus though.

            He hasn't done regimented work for the past couple weeks because I was out of town and then sick w/ the flu, so someone's just been hacking him for me. Already he's getting fat and going crazy.
            I haven't yet read the article.
            That is more than I did for a long format prelim three day.

            To each their own, but no thanks for my guy.
            Amanda

            Comment


            • #7
              Haven't seen the PH article, but did get one priceless bit of insight in the discussion at JW's Ocala clinic in January. When he developed his conditioning plans, his horses were stabled with little or no turnout. So a day "off" meant standing in a stall for 24 uninterrupted hours. Eliminating those days of standing still put a stop to a high rate of colic he was having among his horses.

              With that insight, I find myself looking at his conditioning schedules differently, and not worrying about the number of days "off" my horse gets (mostly due to other demands in my life) since he lives outside and gives himself plenty of walking and the occasional extra gallop set chasing his buddies around the field.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by yellowbritches View Post
                That is more than I did for a long format prelim three day.

                To each their own, but no thanks for my guy.
                Really??? I've been told before I do a lot, but that surprises me.

                He's a horse that needs to work every day, and not just piddle around on a 30min hack. I have 2 other horses that don't get nearly as much work as he does.
                It works for us, as long as I keep up on it.

                Edit to note - If at all possible I do sets "out and about." In between & behind the paddocks, along the (dirt) roads, around the edge of the property, etc.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  FR- Well, in that case, yeah, I get that. Every horse needs OUT- under saddle, being a horse out in a field for at least an hour a day. Thanks for that insight! Since I am watching my mud covered ponies out(standing) in their field! I tend to think of pasture horses and their schedules of tag and chase the young horse to the gate.

                  Amanda, I thought the same thing! If I did that with my horses, their fitness would go THRU THE ROOF and I would be continually trying to stay in front of the curve ball of his Fitness vs. My life. At this point in my life, my life wins.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by supaflyskye View Post
                    Really??? I've been told before I do a lot, but that surprises me.

                    He's a horse that needs to work every day, and not just piddle around on a 30min hack. I have 2 other horses that don't get nearly as much work as he does.
                    It works for us, as long as I keep up on it.

                    Edit to note - If at all possible I do sets "out and about." In between & behind the paddocks, along the (dirt) roads, around the edge of the property, etc.
                    Yes. Really.

                    When planning for the three day, we worked backwards from xc day of the three day. Six weeks out, he did 3x5min trots and (usually) 1 gallop up THE hill (it was VERY steep and took about a minute to get from bottom to top). We did that every 7 days, unless he had an event, then that was counted as a fitness day. 2 or 3 weeks out, we did that every 5 days, and the last handful of times, he went up twice. Occasionally, I substituted the hill for canter sets (we did three sets, ranging from 5 minutes to 8 minutes, depending on where we were in the relation to the three day), however, our footing was very hard that summer and I wasn't going to pound on his legs. The footing on the hill was great, so it was my go to. One time we had to do sets in the indoor because it poured down rain for a few days and no where was good enough.

                    He also hacked, a lot (w/t/c), did 2 or 3 dressage schools a week, and usually one jump school. He was VERY fit at the three day...if I hadn't have biffed it at the 10th fence, I'm very certain he would have finished with plenty left in the tank. It took MONTHS to get him less fit.

                    He was a smaller TB (16h), built for long distance (big, deep heart girth, big wide chest). As it was, he was practically unrideable the last couple of weeks before the three day. He was coming out of his skin. My normally VERY sweet, mild mannered, quiet, fearless buddy was a stark raving mad lunatic!

                    My new horse needs busy work, but he does NOT need canter sets. He is smaller than Vernon (15.3) and built more like a greyhound, but also has a very deep heart girth and wide chest. I do lots of long, slow fitness on him (which I also did on Vernon when he was at this stage in his career), which people often overlook. I typically ride him 6 days a week, but if I did any real amount of "fitness" work (as in trot and canter sets), he would be unfit to live with. We walk a fine line with him...not enough work, and he is a horrible person to be around. But too fit, and he is completely diabolical. I have to be able to stay one step ahead of him.
                    Amanda

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by supaflyskye View Post

                      I'm doing BN (hopefully N by the end of the year).
                      I have a very regimented program I try to stick to.
                      I do 4x 5min trots and 4x 4min canters (w/ 1min walks) twice a week. 2 dressage rides. 1 hack. 1 variable day...
                      Like yb, that was my conditioning program for CCI*s (with a jump school thrown in). I assume your canters are very slow?

                      I agree that until prelim, typical 1 hour arena work can get most horses fit - not that you want to. However, that is what we have to do given that outside is not always doable in winter.

                      I think with BN-T conditioning is more long hacks in the setting sun and playing in the paddocks. At these levels training is the BIG thing (if you are planning on the horse going higher up the levels) and gives plenty of fitness in the short format world. The courses are WAY shorter than they used to be.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Before Fair Hill CCI** last year our guy was doing one day of fitness work a week (3x7 canter sets) and then one jump school, 3 flat schools and one hack day and a day off. He was MORE than fit enough and was miserable getting let down for the winter because he was so fit. My training horse will do 3x5 trot sets at the beginning of the season but he's a chubby boy and doesn't get too sharp off fitness work.

                        JME. But for most of the horses in our barn, real canters don't begin until Prelim and then theyre only doing 3x4's. Everyone hacks out at least once a week though.

                        Comment

                        • Original Poster

                          #13
                          I'm glad to see I'm not alone in this thinking. I got a bit concerned! Has this part 4 years changed things that much?

                          ( as for my personal fitness, I need the 4X4 on my own two feet!)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            So, I'm going to disagree a bit....

                            (Caveat before I even get started: NOT talking about full TBs. Totally different story. So what YB and annikak say is, I am sure, right on the money there).

                            I have big horses. The first one was an ID/TB x, probably 50-50 at best, pushing 18 hands and fairly heavy. Took him through Training. The 2nd one, still my main competition horse, is a beefy 17.2 h warmblood. Did a T3d on him and have run Prelim a few times. The 3rd is a draft cross (only a 1/4 draft but still a solid boy at 17 h), run through Training and is now a first field foxhunter.

                            For the past 10 years with all of these horses, I have stuck to a basic regimen:
                            To be fit to run Novice in warm weather (whatever "warm" means that month), at OT, with gas left in the tank, they do 3x5 trot sets and 3x3 canter sets, on terrain, at least once a week. They live out 24/7 in a huge hilly field and get hacked on terrain as much as possible, including typically one hack per week that is 1.5-2 hours and includes some brisk canters and trots.

                            To be fit to run Training at 470 mpm in "warm" weather, they do 3x5 trots and 3x4 canters.

                            For the T3d I did some 5 min canters with speed intervals, and I began doing a long trot set of 25 minutes. For Prelim I did 5 min canters and (on a different day) a trot set of 35 minutes. Embedded in a 2 hour walk hack.

                            I totally agree that this is overkill for your average TB. For a crossbred, heavier horse, I have a number of years of experience to tell you it is not overkill. It is also, I believe, imperative for your average ammie rider to spend a serious amount of saddle time cantering/galloping on terrain, rebalancing, half halting, accelerating, etc. Sets accomplish this as well.

                            I hear what you guys are saying, but having ridden with Jimmy on and off at clinics for several years and this year on a monthly basis, I detect a certain change in his approach -- I think he acknowledges that the audience in his T and below clinic sessions, and in his Practical Horseman articles, is NOT the upper level rider. It is probably someone who needs the time riding cross country, and it may well be someone who rides horses more like mine than the typical upper level horse now, or the prototypical long format horse of yore.
                            The big man -- my lost prince

                            The little brother, now my main man

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              A serious, curiosity driven question: What do you do when you don't have "an outside" to go out and condition in? For many boarding barns in this area, there just isn't a lot of turnout space/fields/parks to go ride in. What do you do then?

                              (I love reading Wofford's articles, even though I don't event, I think he transcends disciplines...and he's fun and honest!)
                              Proud member of the "Don't rush to kill wildlife" clique!

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Just retread Jimmy's article. Suggest you do as well, all the way through.

                                First he is speaking of a horse who was let down over the winter and needs to be put back into condition
                                Second He emphasizes walk, trot and finally a slow canter
                                Third He notes once fit AND in competing, your competitions OFTEN replace your conditioning canters.

                                It is up to you to monitor your horse's fitness and adjust your rides accordingly.

                                He also notes all schooling should be balanced, as in don't spend all of your time conditioning to the detriment of dressage and/or jumping, etc.
                                "Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
                                Courtesy my cousin Tim

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by asterix View Post
                                  So, I'm going to disagree a bit....

                                  (Caveat before I even get started: NOT talking about full TBs. Totally different story. So what YB and annikak say is, I am sure, right on the money there).
                                  I'm right there with you asterix. I always find your insight on conditioning the big boys extremely helpful

                                  Originally posted by Calvincrowe View Post
                                  A serious, curiosity driven question: What do you do when you don't have "an outside" to go out and condition in? For many boarding barns in this area, there just isn't a lot of turnout space/fields/parks to go ride in. What do you do then?
                                  After giving my horse three weeks off over Christmas, I had six weeks to get him Training fit before we left for Aiken. I trailered him off property twice a week. Once on Friday afternoons a long walk/trot hack, once on Sundays to a state park for gallop sets. My walk/trot hack place is less than 10 min from the farm. Unfortunately my best place for gallop sets is over an hour up the road.

                                  Last summer I did my "gallop" sets in the paddocks. It's hard to get up a ton of speed, but you make do with what ya got.

                                  Originally posted by fooler View Post
                                  Just retread Jimmy's article. Suggest you do as well, all the way through.

                                  First he is speaking of a horse who was let down over the winter and needs to be put back into condition
                                  Second He emphasizes walk, trot and finally a slow canter
                                  Third He notes once fit AND in competing, your competitions OFTEN replace your conditioning canters.

                                  It is up to you to monitor your horse's fitness and adjust your rides accordingly.

                                  He also notes all schooling should be balanced, as in don't spend all of your time conditioning to the detriment of dressage and/or jumping, etc.
                                  I'm looking forward to reading the article, I haven't seen my PH in the mail yet.
                                  The big guy: Lincoln

                                  Southern Maryland Equestrian

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Yep, asterix, I totally hear you on the big guys. I have ridden a big guy at training...he galloped way more than my little TBs ever did to be fit enough. And when we had a client a few years ago with a HUGE boy she wanted to take training, it was your program we based his fitness work on (training for that horse was like his Rolex!). This is why when someone asks a fitness question, my first question is "what type of horse are we talking about?"

                                    As with everything in horses.....it depends

                                    Calvin, I would try and get out of the ring as much as possible, even if that just means riding around the pastures. Haul out, if you can, when time allows. You can always do sets in the ring (mind numbingly boring), but it doesn't give you all the benefits of riding out on natural terrain would.
                                    Amanda

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Our canters are pretty slow for the most part. We do short gallop sets now and then to mix it up.
                                      With him, the point at which he's "too fit" is very very high. Generally, opposite of some horses, the fitter he is the quieter and nicer to be around he is ...unless he's off for several days. Like I said, the physical fitness is a nice bonus, but we do the conditioning for his mental fitness. He's the only one of mine that needs it.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I've had to condition my guy for the move up to training. It's not much, but I felt it really helped him.. In fact, I don't think I did quite enough.

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