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Teaching Young Event Horse To Gallop

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  • Teaching Young Event Horse To Gallop

    I would be interested to get opinions on teaching a young horse (BN/N level horse in first year of showing) how to properly gallop and build up the necessary muscles. The horse I am currently working on is a 7yr old 1/2 hanoverian 1/2 TB mare. I have a good system for gallop sets and interval training for horses doing training level and up. But, I am trying to find a medium line with this lower level horse since I want her to build up her galloping muscles but don't want to have to be doing "gallop sets" on this young of a horse. One, there is no reason to use up her legs this early in her career and two, I don't want a too fit BN/N horse.

    Going on the basis that a prelim horse should approximately be able to do 3, 5min gallops do yall think something like 3, 30sec gallops building up to 3, 2min gallops sounds reasonable? Gallop pace about 400/450mpm with 2-3min of walk in between. 15-20 min of trotting total also on that day.

    For the record I am on sandy/turf footing in SC with some low rolling hills but not much.
    Would appreciate your input, thanks!

  • #2
    I find that you DO have to teach WB and WB crosses to gallop, while their TB cousins, even the ones who didn't race, seem to get instinctively (which, since they are born to run, makes sense). I like to take the ones who don't quite know how to gallop out with a horse who does. Letting them gallop along side one who gets it usually helps teach them how to really stretch down and go.

    Once they get it, I'll occasionally include an easy "gallop" in a hack or go out and play at galloping with them, just so they can practice and have some fun and because I often feel that the horses who don't need to gallop for fitness (like these lower level babies) sometimes NEED the gallop to help stretch out their muscles and loosen up. It is amazing how they feel in the dressage after they've had a fun gallop day. BUT, I don't make anything serious of it. I don't schedule gallop sets into their weeks, and I don't do it with a ton of regularity. Just every now and then when the weather and footing permit it and they feel like they could benefit. Like you said, there is no reason to put the extra mileage on their legs (the best fitness work for a young horse is lots of long, slow hacks), and they just don't need to fitness. Make it just a fun, extra thing to do with them to help them practice.


    • #3
      There are two different issues here, "How to" (which for the heavier horses, as yb said, may literally include "oh, I didn't know you could DO that!"), and fitness. She's given you a good answer on the former...

      I have had 3 heavy horses now -- a huge 17.3 ID cross through Training, a 17.2 h WB through prelim, and now a chunky 17h draft cross currently going novice and hopefully moving up to Training soon.

      I have found that these horses DO need regular fitness work to successfully go Bn/N. My warmblood was positively drooping, trying to trot, wiped out, the first time I took him Novice -- I found out later his previous owner had never done any fitness work on him. By the end of that SAME year he was one of the best conditioned horses at our T3d, but it took a lot of time and effort.

      I do keep a pretty strict schedule -- for Novice, my guys need to be doing 3x5 min trots followed by 3x3 min canters. They do NOT need speed, just a nice novice pace. 400 mpm is overkill right now.

      For Training it's 3x4 mins canters, bump up the speed a bit.

      I do this every other conditioning day; the other is a long trot and a long walk hack. So they don't "gallop" exactly, and they don't do it more than once every 7-10 days.

      But if I am not religious about it, yes, they can struggle even at novice..
      The big man -- my lost prince

      The little brother, now my main man


      • #4
        even after the fact for me...

        I think this is a smart question, one that I wish I had enough knowledge to ask when I was riding/competing my DWB/appendix QH cross...and THEN, had wise people like asterix and yellowbritches amswer...Buddy ALWAYS had time faults because he truly didn't know how to gallop. Add to that equation, because he is built a bit downhill, long-backed, and has a very heavy neck, I always felt he was going to summersault at any moment going even at Novice pace (we did 5 Trainings! - VERY scary feeling at Training we never made time)...

        thanks for the question - and the answers....
        ~ it no longer matters what level I do, as long as I am doing it..~ with many thanks, to Elizabeth Callahan


        • #5
          If you have the EVENTING USA magazine from May/June, there is an interview about conditioning with Stephen Bradley on the T3DE page. In short, he is very focused on long trots vs. canters/gallops with young horses. To go Training, he suggests that horses are accustomed to going for 1- 1.5 hour hacks where they trot for 30-45 minutes (can be broken up in two or three parts). I am getting ready to move up to Training and my horse can do 3x10 minute trots easily.

          As you correctly suspect, you are not so much conditioning wind by doing this as tendons and ligaments.

          Bradley also advocates incorporating canters as part of jump schools. Read the article, it's helpful!

          The article also has a link on this page:

          Last edited by CookiePony; Sep. 18, 2009, 11:09 AM. Reason: link

          Taco Blog
          *T3DE 2010 Pact*


          • #6
            For those less then handy gallopers, if they truely just don't understand how to gallop we make it all about fun for them. We won't do trot/canter sets because they get bored and that doesn't help with getting them to lengthen their stride and really open up if they are getting tired. We hack extensively at the walk (we are on hills.....steep hills), and that gets them fit for up through prelim just having the occassional trot or canter and a good 1 to 1.5 hour hack (I know it's much different for people that are on flat). For teaching gallop we will go out with a buddy that has a good open gallop and let them have a run across the ridge or through the grove of trees. They start out short strided and not really going anywhere, but it's amazing how much the try to match the horse they are with, and actually do relax and let go of their backs to gallop on. When you do slow gallop sets they aren't really learning how to gallop, more just canter faster for a period of time.


            • Original Poster

              Thank you for the responses.

              Cookie Pony: I have read Stephen's article and gained a lot from it. Actually have it tucked in my "horse binder" to review :-).

              I do think some of my girls lack of galloping skill may have something to do with her WB side but a lot of it I believe is simply lack of doing and muscle strength. As I have sat here and thought about it, by the end of her show season last year she definetly was more comfortable galloping (duh mom!I've been running XC and schooling!, LOL).Now, we are prepping for the fall show season and most of her work has been flatwork, SJ gymnastics, trot sets, etc. For the record, I may have given the wrong impression with her being 1/2 WB. She is very light. You can tell she has something in her other than TB but she is very compact, up hill, people relate her to a sports car.

              Rambling here but again, I think her lack of galloping skill is partially due to her not having an instinctive feel for it (though we do plentying of "playing" at our farm with nice fun stretches to gallop for the fun of it) as well has not having the confidence in her body to be able to hold it.

              I may not implement a strict galloping program for her but it would be benifiical to both of us to meter out 300m, 350m, etc and learn what that feels like on her and work on establishing a consistent gallop rythem.

              As with any young horse, her canter is her weakest gait anyways so it makes perfect sense the gallop is not developed yet either. Thanks again and any thoughts/suggestions, please feel free to share!

              Final question...what type of "frame" would you ask her to be in at this stage of her training? We eventually want them to gallop uphill but I don't want to ask for too much but don't want to let her learn to gallop on her forehand (aready there) either.Also, how much rein pressure?


              • #8
                Yesterday I was at my vet's farm. We had a discussion about why "warmblood" people wait SO long to train their horses.

                This Doc raises race horses who are well on their way to a second career when you consider your horse a "baby" While running 2 yr olds is a bit early waiting to 7 or 8 is late. I have broken some WB crosses whose owners told me the WB's mature later (not true) I find the "Work Ethic" missing.

                Try to let your hose find its inner baby and play a bit at the gallop. You may find THAT moment when your horse will suddenly say --"I didn't know I could go this fast!" reward that thought


                • #9
                  At this stage in the game mine wouldn't be in any frame. I keep enough contaact to not get dumped if the trolls come out of the grass to try and eat us, but other then that I brace my knuckles just in front of the wither and let them have at it. It is mostly just the horse needing to learn where their balance is, not time to change it yet. I have seen very few actual downhill pulling gallopers, that tends to be brought on by bracing on behalf of the rider.


                  • Original Poster

                    Outyougo: That is interesting you were just having that discussion with your vet. This is the first WB cross I have owned though I have worked with many 1/2 and pure WB's before. My mare was broke later in life due to her owner's circumstances (private breeder who bred and raised her, casual lady ride who intended to do more with her but as can easily happen, her family kept needing to take precedence over her limited time) Finally decided to sell her and sent her to trainer so when got her a little over a year ago she has been in "work" for about 4 months.

                    I understand your point and the lack of work ethic but on the flip side I have seen too many horses burnt out at a young age. Expecially TB's that have raced then turned right around into another career. I am so pleased that my mare is fresh, loves life and work and is sound since she had time to "be a kid".She has more work ethic b/c its not the humdrum of work she has been doing for years on end. Its fun! Certaintly, I think the age they have to "grow up" is different for each horse and it is not set in stone. Regardless of differing opinions it is a good subject to be aware of.


                    • #11
                      I was somewhat shocked to find how much more conditioning I have to do on a BN pony vs. my OTTB, even though the pony is (at least...who knows) half Arab and I figured he came with built-in endurance. Most of it, I think, is a strength issue, so I've addressed it not very much with asking for speed and much more with some of what people have mentioned - long hacks including road work at the walk; trot sets; hills; and in the ring, lots of transitions and lateral work appropriate to his degree of education (weenie lateral work ).

                      We've also schooled quite a bit of xc this year, where I did not worry about pace at all, just balance and engine. The one time we were timed we came in at only 270 mpm, although it was on a hilly course where we did lots of trotting, and we stopped to play in the water.

                      Experiments inviting any transition within the canter (either speed or length of stride) were hysterical. Working canter: da-da-dum, da-da-dum, da-da-dum. Now, let's try to GOGOGO!!: exactly the same da-da-dum, da-da-dum...I would sit up there and giggle.

                      ...So I figured, he doesn't know he has that gear, but I didn't worry about teaching it - my goal was just for him to do his first BN this fall. Lo and behold. The week of the event, we went on one last xc school, and he just offered to open up. At the event he did the same!

                      My TB, albeit he knew for sure how to gallop, incurred many many time penalties - for being SLOW - all the way through N, and I think some even at T. He had balance at the trot, but his canter was always tough, let alone his gallop. He was either low and pulling, or running like the proverbial bat out of hell, so on course we took things slow to maintain some semblance of control. It wasn't until we started doing serious conditioning work to get ready for P that he really got better. I wish I'd begun building his strength earlier. Sure enough, when he got strong, he discovered several really nice cruising gears in between bouncy sj canter and all-out zoom.

                      So FWIW I'm trying to say that, given you're doing the things they need to make them capable, sometimes they will tell you when they're ready to gallop, without you having to "teach" them per se!
                      Talk to the Hoof


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by sch1star View Post
                        sometimes they will tell you when they're ready to gallop, without you having to "teach" them per se!
                        Yup, my IDSH is 'ready to gallop' : a) when we're foxhunting & the pack takes off for the chase and b) when we're accumulating time faults at our usual pace on XC with my spurs in his side, and we finally make the first turn toward home. Otherwise, he needs to be 'taught' how to gallop
                        Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it ~ Goethe


                        • #13
                          I agree 100% with what asterix is saying (and have to remember to pick her brain for ideas for our new client and her BIG guy), but will just add that I don't think that warmblood immediately means heavy. The Han/TB cross I rode was pretty big and needed serious fitness work for training level, but our Old/TB looks and acts like a TB (he did need to be taught to gallop as a baby, though, but has foxhunted, so learned a lot from that, too). He may not be quite as easy to get fit as our full TBs (especially the ones with any race training), but he stays in pretty great shape for Training level with some trots and hills and a couple of sprints up our "big" hill once every 7-10 days. If he's competing regularly, he gets way more of his fitness from that than anything he does at home (he has a lot of miles on his legs, so we avoid jumping him when we can).

                          However, his new stablemate, who is a BIG draft cross is already doing equal amounts of work as the Old/TB cross, and is just going novice right now (and I'm still not convinced that's enough). We will probably treat him like a prelim horse to get him fit for training.

                          So, in that rambling message, the point was some heavier crosses are actually heavy and need a routine like asterix mentioned. But others are so thoroughbredy that you have to go easy on how much fitness you actually put into them! Each horse is an individual. Some light horses need more than you think they do. Just pay attention to your horse, really.


                          • #14
                            It depends on the individual. I have a WB cross... I did not need to teach this horse how to gallop. He has one of the best gallops that I've ever sat on....naturally. Just balanced and ground covering...and he LOVES to go and has from the moment that I green broke him.

                            Honestly, I've personally never "taught" a horse how to gallop..just to teach them. During their conditioning training when they were moving up the levels I worked on their galloping skills....and all my horses that needed help were full TBs and a few were off the track. It isn't really a breed thing (although that is part of it) but a balance and way of moving first....and/or a ridablity issue second. The horses with a natural up hill canter (and a ground covering one) from the get go are the easiest...there is nothing really to teach with them, just to get them fit and work on ridability. If they do not have a good canter or are very up and down....then i think you first work to improve their canter and only work on the "gallop" when you are at a level that you have to gallop (training and above)...then you work on it through your flat work and in your conditioning work outs.

                            At this stage...if you are just at BN/N...just work on your dressage and use that time to build up their strength. It will carry over.
                            ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


                            • #15
                              what a great post!

                              I love it! Just yesterday, my 4yo 'galloped' for the first time under saddle! (Except the times when he has bolted on me, which is not the same thing--the bolt is faster but the stride is short, legs going a hundred miles an hour, and his head is waaaay up in the air.)

                              I had been finding it so odd that this horse, who I would canter on a 1/2 mile track, would do just that, canter along on a loose rein. Doop de doo. He is half TB!! What the heck, where is that fire?? His dressage canter is way more forward!

                              But yesterday, I took him in the trails and we popped over some x-c fences. Instead of coming to a walk out of the woods and onto the track, I kept the forward canter. Then he just let it rip! It was awesome!

                              But half way down, I think he spooked himself and then turned it into a bolt! It was really funny. I was just glad he gave me the gallop.