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Conditioning a draft cross for cantering

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  • Conditioning a draft cross for cantering

    Hi all! I am brand new to eventing after 14 years of trail riding my 2 Thoroughbreds. A lot of people didn't like trail riding with us as we were galloping a lot and jumping every log we could find! haha But I always wanted to event so in Dec., I purchased a 7 year old mare that is 17.2 hands, gorgeous and had been started in eventing. She is 25% Friesian, 25% Belgium, 37 1/2% Thoroughbred and 12 1/2% Quarter horse. She can trot for days and has a really nice trot.

    We are taking jumping lessons once a week and dressage lessons once a week from a great trainer in KC. I ride her 2 other days per week and we are working on building up endurance. We do hill work (mainly running up a hill) and lots of galloping . I also set up a jump at my barn and we gallop that but slowing her up to a canter is a struggle. She can canter maybe 30 seconds tops and then it takes a tremendous amount of leg and encouragement to keep going. This is noticed especially in our dressage lesson as she starts pooping out toward the end (45 min into the lesson which is understandable).

    I assume the best way to build her endurance during the canter is to slowly start cantering longer and longer periods. We are also working on getting a bit of weight off and changing her diet . She is on 7 day a week turn out, great grass hay and 2 pounds a day of Enrich 32 (which is a recent change). She is also just starting on Smart Energy, Smart Muscle Endurance, Tri-Amino along with a few other basic supplements.

    I might add that when we go to a cross country clinic and she sees that field and the other horses and knows why we are there, she is prancing on a tight rein the whole time! She loves the cross country stuff so I know there is hope. The gallop is just easier for her than a canter. I'm going to try to post a pic. This is my friends daughter riding her in a little English class a couple of months ago:
    "Punch him in the wiener. Then leave." AffirmedHope

  • #2
    I have a draft cross too and canter had to be trained for him. Hill work is great but not at a gallop. To build those butt muscles you've got to walk up those hills. Maintaining the canter on a draft cross has two challenges (I can think of); not being balanced enough to use the hind end (draft types tend to be heavy on the forehand and light on the back end) and not having enough strength in that back end. Hill work tends to help in both places. The gallop is easier for Fella too -all on the forehand.

    JMO of course.
    Paula
    He is total garbage! Quick! Hide him on my trailer (Petstorejunkie).

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    • Original Poster

      #3
      WALKING the hill!! I didn't think of that! Good point!
      "Punch him in the wiener. Then leave." AffirmedHope

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      • #4
        I've owned two drafties for lower level eventing and dressage. I completely agree that walking is the ticket. You would not even believe how much of a difference it will make if you adjust your riding schedule so that you're walking for at least an hour a few times a week. This can include hills, but you'll see a difference even without.

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        • #5
          You mention A LOT of galloping around. What level are you doing? I think that some lower level people get enthusiastic about fitting up their horses because they see the big kids do it. Have you spoken with a trainer about how fit she needs to be?

          Since you spend so much time galloping have you spent any time cantering? If you take off galloping up hills and around fields then your horse might have no idea there is a slower gear and probably struggles with the muscle fitness needed to canter especially in a small ring.
          http://weanieeventer.blogspot.com/

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          • #6
            Muscle fitness or strength is exactly what I was thinking. That sounds like a need for basic strengthening. Lots of transitions between gaits in your flatwork, stretchy trotwork, anything to help her gain strength in her topline so she can carry herself.

            Also, gridwork or even just canter bounce poles set short enough to encourage her to round and canter, not race through them.

            QUOTE=enjoytheride;6969719]You mention A LOT of galloping around. What level are you doing? I think that some lower level people get enthusiastic about fitting up their horses because they see the big kids do it. Have you spoken with a trainer about how fit she needs to be?

            Since you spend so much time galloping have you spent any time cantering? If you take off galloping up hills and around fields then your horse might have no idea there is a slower gear and probably struggles with the muscle fitness needed to canter especially in a small ring.[/QUOTE]

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              Originally posted by enjoytheride View Post
              You mention A LOT of galloping around. What level are you doing? I think that some lower level people get enthusiastic about fitting up their horses because they see the big kids do it. Have you spoken with a trainer about how fit she needs to be?

              Since you spend so much time galloping have you spent any time cantering? If you take off galloping up hills and around fields then your horse might have no idea there is a slower gear and probably struggles with the muscle fitness needed to canter especially in a small ring.
              Ok, little embarrassed here......uh, Pre-BN. Being half draft, I noticed she wore out fairly quickly on a small portion of a cross country during a clinic so we started galloping in progressively longer intervals this week really. The pooping out in the canter has just been noticed last week at the end of a lesson when she was being asked to canter and she would but the minute you let up on your leg at all, she would slow down to a trot. It would take a lot of effort to get the canter back but the minute you weren't giving encouragement with your leg, she would trot again. Finally, I pooped out. After doing some research, I see this is something we will need to work on. My goal is a day of hill work (walking!) for an hour, 2-1 hour lessons (on separate days), a conditioning day where we work on cantering transitions and maintaining a canter and 1 day of work in the arena with trot poles and small jumps. Trying for 5-1 hour rides per week. Does this sound like a decent plan? As for my fitness, I am fairly fit and not flopping around but am increasing my fitness level as we speak. I too am on a plan!
              "Punch him in the wiener. Then leave." AffirmedHope

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              • #8
                I've evented a draft cross through Training and have lots of experience with big horses generally.
                As others have said:
                1. Walking. lots of walking. Hills great.
                2. Hind end not as strong as front end -- perennial draft cross issue when young. My previous horse, a belgian/old/tb cross, started this way but ended up very balanced. My new horse, perch/tb cross, is going through this issue now. Lots of hind end strengthening exercises, including trot poles, transitions in gaits, etc. This takes time! Give it at least a few months.

                3. For conditioning, be systematic. Items 1 and 2 will give your horse (over time) a better ability to hold the canter from a muscular point of view. From an aerobic point of view, start by getting a baseline. Can you trot, on terrain, 3 sets of 5 minute trots, with 2 minute walk breaks in between? If that seems easy, add 3 30- second canter (NOT gallop) sets, with 2 minute walks in between.

                Gradually increase the length of your canter sets (doing them after your trot sets). For beginner novice, if you can do 3 3 minute canters with 2 minute walk breaks, following the trot sets, you should be fine. Make your canters work for you -- balanced, responsive to changes in your position, etc.
                The big man -- my lost prince

                The little brother, now my main man

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                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Originally posted by asterix View Post
                  I've evented a draft cross through Training and have lots of experience with big horses generally.
                  As others have said:
                  1. Walking. lots of walking. Hills great.
                  2. Hind end not as strong as front end -- perennial draft cross issue when young. My previous horse, a belgian/old/tb cross, started this way but ended up very balanced. My new horse, perch/tb cross, is going through this issue now. Lots of hind end strengthening exercises, including trot poles, transitions in gaits, etc. This takes time! Give it at least a few months.

                  3. For conditioning, be systematic. Items 1 and 2 will give your horse (over time) a better ability to hold the canter from a muscular point of view. From an aerobic point of view, start by getting a baseline. Can you trot, on terrain, 3 sets of 5 minute trots, with 2 minute walk breaks in between? If that seems easy, add 3 30- second canter (NOT gallop) sets, with 2 minute walks in between.

                  Gradually increase the length of your canter sets (doing them after your trot sets). For beginner novice, if you can do 3 3 minute canters with 2 minute walk breaks, following the trot sets, you should be fine. Make your canters work for you -- balanced, responsive to changes in your position, etc.
                  Perfect! Thank you all!!
                  "Punch him in the wiener. Then leave." AffirmedHope

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                  • #10
                    I had a Perchy/TB cross gelding, and he had a great gallop but no canter at all.

                    It took a LOT of time. His major issue was that his breakover behind had to be kept WAY back. Your horse might be different, but he had no canter (and a sore back) unless his toes behind were snubbed pretty short, with the toe on the shoe set back some.

                    He also needed a LOT of conditioning to be able to keep up- he could walk all day, but he was nothing at all like a TB to get wind-fit. But if you are thinking along the BN lines, you have LOTS of time before you need to be thinking about any 3 mile gallops, with jumps!

                    I really like the 'walk the hills' advice- perfect for strengthening what needs strengthening.

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                    • #11
                      This is going to sound weird, but....dressage. Lots and lots of it! Over time it made such a huge difference in my guy because he had to learn to use a different set of muscles in developing a GOOD BALANCED canter.

                      George Morris says practice doesn't make perfect... perfect practice makes perfect! Along those lines, I don't think letting your horse gallop around on his head his going to help when it comes to a 45 minute dressage lesson. Asking for short bits of push from behind is going to help strengthen the right muscles. I agree with everyone who says to walk up the hills, that should also help build up the right muscles.

                      For what it's worth, my draft cross completed a long format Training last fall...and he is ALWAYS pooped at the end of a 45 minute dressage lesson Best of luck!
                      The big guy: Lincoln

                      Southern Maryland Equestrian

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                      • #12
                        Looong, slowwww distance is your friend. Especially with a horse who has a conditioning hurdle like many drafty types do. Lots of active walking, trot sets...for eeeverrrrrrr....
                        Life doesn't have perfect footing.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by enjoytheride View Post
                          You mention A LOT of galloping around.
                          By the time I read through all the comments, all my suggestions were taken! You aren't really going to need to gallop much to run BN. So don't practice so much galloping. Walk hills, eventually introducing occasionally trotting (trotting well, not scrambling) up the hills, transitions, work over solid poles on the ground == set at a comfortable distance for your horse (don't go with what they recommend for Olympic thoroughbreds for distances between the poles).

                          I would suggest you don't think of "canter work day" as "conditioning" day. Let your trot and walk hills be conditioning. You want your canter works to be focused on GOOD canter, not LOTS of CRAPPY canter (forgive my simplicity). Better to get a really nice, balanced 20 strides of canter each lead, than to "hold" the horse in a poor canter for 20 minutes. Quality, not quantity.

                          My now old mare is 1/2 Belgian 1/2 TB, 17.1hh, 1620 pounds, 87" blanket! We had trouble making the time sometimes, but that was more due to me being a weenie back then, than her running out of steam. She scored above 60% at First Level at straight USDF shows (not bad considering we didn't work on dressage every day). She went on to be a wonderful first flight field hunter for me. Have fun and good luck!
                          http://www.facebook.com/pages/Easy-K...22998204542511
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                          I can ride my horses without a sharps container.

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                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Thank you all for your suggestions. Today was the first day we put them to work. The hill that we normally ran we now walked up. That head went down and she engaged her butt and we plogged up that hill. It is a decent grade and took 40 seconds to complete. Back down the hill and up again. We did this cycle 6 times (my goal was 10 but this was the first time) and she started to really slow up at the end. Perfect I thought! There is the starting point. The next time I will ask for 7 cycles. Martha, i think that is a good suggestion. Hill work and walk trot sets one day, nice collected canters, for however many we can do correctly on another. Hills and cantering on the same day may be a bit much until we get more fit. Yeah!! We have a plan!!
                            "Punch him in the wiener. Then leave." AffirmedHope

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