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Fitness work and footing- Manicured vs Uneven

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  • Fitness work and footing- Manicured vs Uneven

    I've wondered about this a little bit off and on over the years. Yesterday, while hacking with Toby, I was scouting new places to gallop him this year, to give us some more distance. I have to do that this time of year before the hay gets too high so I can spot and learn to avoid holes, big rocks, and the like. But otherwise, I've always just galloped on what I've had...usually big open fields with some roll to it, or straight up some big hill, or whatever. I won't gallop if it is super hard or super wet, but otherwise, I use what I have available.

    But around here, we're lucky enough to have tracks that we can haul into, Jackie Mars' big mountain gallop, and a few other manicured options.

    So, my question is, in the scheme of things, do we think it is better for a horse's soundness to "stress" them a bit on less than ideal going on their regular fitness work, or is it better to protect them with manicured footing during their regular work? I have no idea, really, either way. I know lots of sound and unsound horses in either scenario. There may not BE a right or wrong.

    I know that I make conscious choices in my HACKING for Toby. I hack him a lot on our roads to help build up his soft tissue. When we hack out-out (fields and woods) I don't avoid tricky, trappy places, though I DO avoid deep, bad mud, or places that might unnerve either of us. I think both things are important to his soundness and longevity. I don't know about the galloping, though.
    Amanda

  • #2
    Well my opinion isn't worth two cents, but here is it. I think the corner stone to soundness in fieldhunters or eventers is trot sets including road work. Since you've already said your doing that, I think your meeting the number one priority. I think galloping on what you will (riding on is probably a good idea though. I'd utilize a manicured track when field conditions weren't suitable but not to replace the fields and hills.

    Comment


    • #3
      I agree you should work across all types of condition within reason. All of my trot work is done on trails in the woods or across pastures.
      A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.

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      • #4
        There's a difference between imperfect and bad footing. Imperfect can be fine and even preferable: my horses all walk on the roads every week to help firm soft tissue and build their base; they do trots and canters out in fields with hills and small knobs and the like; and they hack out on trails or through backroads that may be occasionally muddy/rutted/hard. But they don't trot or canter on rockhard ground, nor do they sludge through thick tendon-tearing mud if I can do anything to help it. I'm much more likely even to sub in a trot or canter set in the big outdoor ring rather than try to trot in something muddy or rock hard (luckily, most of our fields are old turf so stay pretty springy even in the summer).

        Particularly for a Prelim and under horse, I just don't think you need to do enough fitness work that I'd really be worrying about hauling out to a "manicured" track. Granted, I tend to have TBs who tend to get and stay pretty fit, but all of mine spend most of their legging up work on regular fields and roads and do fine.

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        • #5
          Given a choice...speed work more on manicured. But then there are not many horses which truly need speed work. I don't consider canter sets really speed work (if you are at 400-450 mpm).

          Speed does damage so no need to increase the risk of it on uneven or even just imperfect footing if you can avoid it. My horses take enough risk on that blasting around their fields!

          But slow work...absloutely needed to build up strength so should be done on roads and more uneven terrain. And I agree that there is a difference between imperfect and bad footing....bad footing is to be avoided.

          And while I see fox hunters (some--not all) blast through footing that I wouldn't walk through with no harm.....no way would I be so lucky. And an injury from that takes you out for the season or good anyway so not sure I would want to increase my risk of it by doing speed work in that sort of situation. Horses do need to learn to deal with different types of conditions but some things the risk outweighs the benefit.
          ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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          • #6
            In work presented at the Welfare and Safety of the Race Horse, Bramlage, laid out a very good case for exercising horses on a VARIETY of surfaces to sufficiently train and condition the skeleton, tendons and ligaments. In other words, you can gallop hundreds of miles on manicured footing and never train the skeleton/tendons/ligaments to withstand galloping across a field.

            Yes, uneven, crap footing should be avoided. However, to get ANY tissue growth and development, you HAVE TO DAMAGE it (catabolic functions stimulate anabolic). Thus, pounding on hard ground will help develop bone ligament and tendon to a point, but soft ground will aid muscular development.

            The balance is to ALWAYS have a series of down days for the horse to heal and create new tissue or remodel the current. It is the old adage, easy days always follow hard. That is actually why having months off in the winter is very beneficial to the soundness of the horse.

            To answer your question directly, it is about the full distances worked rather than the actual footing. Bramlage showed data that a work out of 35 furlongs of race and timed work outs over 2 months had a 4 times increase in stress fracture risk as compared to one that only did 25 furlongs.

            Personally, I do my gallops on the same footing etc. as the XC courses. Generally, it is firm to hard. I limit the number to at most once a week.

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            • #7
              I don't have groomed footing near me, but the footing is decent and not too deep. I would like manicured grass galloping lanes, but this is not a perfect world and I do most of my conditioning on four wheeler tracks, so sand that has been pressed down. It isn't deep, except in some small areas and even then it is relatively firm. I am lucky that I have access to miles and miles of this and a groomed sand trail in the park next door.
              I am on my phone 90% of the time. Please ignore typos, misplaced lower case letters, and the random word butchered by autocowreck.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by RAyers View Post
                In work presented at the Welfare and Safety of the Race Horse, Bramlage, laid out a very good case for exercising horses on a VARIETY of surfaces to sufficiently train and condition the skeleton, tendons and ligaments. In other words, you can gallop hundreds of miles on manicured footing and never train the skeleton/tendons/ligaments to withstand galloping across a field.

                Yes, uneven, crap footing should be avoided. However, to get ANY tissue growth and development, you HAVE TO DAMAGE it (catabolic functions stimulate anabolic). Thus, pounding on hard ground will help develop bone ligament and tendon to a point, but soft ground will aid muscular development.

                The balance is to ALWAYS have a series of down days for the horse to heal and create new tissue or remodel the current. It is the old adage, easy days always follow hard. That is actually why having months off in the winter is very beneficial to the soundness of the horse.

                To answer your question directly, it is about the full distances worked rather than the actual footing. Bramlage showed data that a work out of 35 furlongs of race and timed work outs over 2 months had a 4 times increase in stress fracture risk as compared to one that only did 25 furlongs.

                Personally, I do my gallops on the same footing etc. as the XC courses. Generally, it is firm to hard. I limit the number to at most once a week.

                I think some of this is also an individual definition of manicured. I consider most xc courses that I currently see to be on manicured footing. Yes it is grass, but often a worked track. Not extremely unlevel (in terms of ruts) and fairly well prepared. Especially when compared to the footing hunting--which can have holes, change rapidly, and basically be more unpredictable. While I do know of some eventers that go so far as to condition on an actual track...that is typically only done when the footing outside is so bad that they can not gallop on the grass...and one is hoping that there is rain before the event.

                For me, it is often more of an issue to make sure I practice my dressage on unlevel footing (both rutted and sloped) as that is what I'm likely to get at a lot of events for dressage....either in the warm up or also the ring!
                ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **

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                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  For me, it is often more of an issue to make sure I practice my dressage on unlevel footing (both rutted and sloped) as that is what I'm likely to get at a lot of events for dressage....either in the warm up or also the ring!
                  This made me laugh! We're doing dressage on grass this weekend, so I took Toby out in the field today to do a little flatwork. Oy, I think he's forgotten how to do that. Guess where we'll be spending the week?! Thankfully, this is the first week the footing has been consistently good enough to go out there.

                  Interesting discussion. Seems like my gut and general way of doing things follows most of you all's thinking. Our "gallops" aren't horrible, but definitely imperfect.
                  Amanda

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    A thread that is full of good sense. My small contribution is that working a horse on rough ground is not necessarily about fittening the body but sorting out where the legs go, improving balance and making the horse think quicker. So both surfaces are beneficial when mixed up a bit.
                    "Good young horses are bred, but good advanced horses are trained" Sam Griffiths

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      RAyers beat me to it as usual. You have to stress a system to build it. And what you perceive as strengthening soft tissue is actually damaging it, then allowing it to heal stronger, that's how it works physiologically.

                      I make a point to work on all types of surfaces and generally AVOID manicured areas. I have no need to do galloping sets, we might have a little gallop just for fun, but otherwise, I work at all gaits on all surfaces within the parameters of safety.
                      Life doesn't have perfect footing.

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                      • #12
                        Lucky enough to have a farm w/ training track right behind me. So for long format horses all speed work, steeplechase speed & learning correct speed- riding measured m/m to the 1/2 second.
                        Don't gallop set most training level & under, they get fit enough w/ just schooling/hacking & jump schools.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Reed, did the study address how much time after the stress is needed -- i.e., how many days "easy" or "off"? or hours?
                          Proud & Permanent Student Of The Long Road
                          Read me: EN (http://eventingnation.com/author/annemarch/) and HJU (http://horsejunkiesunited.com/author/holly-covey/)

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