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Fitting up horse on 15-20 minutes a day? Ideas?

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  • Fitting up horse on 15-20 minutes a day? Ideas?

    I recently started a new full-time job, and as a result my riding time has been diminished. If I finagle things at work (come in early, take short lunch) I can leave a little early so I can get home and ride before dark. However, thus far I've only managed to snag about 20 minutes of daylight, between driving home, changing clothes, catching horse, and tacking up.

    My mare and I are confirmed at Novice and plan to move to Training this year. She's been mostly out of work since December, due to holidays and weather. I don't plan to event until April this year, but I want to start getting her fit, both for our planned USEA schedule and for local shows that are taking place in the next few months.

    So, with limited daylight/riding time during the week, what are the most fitness-intensive things I can do?

    I am limited temporarily (I hope!) by the fact that we have had 8+ inches of rain over the past three weeks, so most of the places I would ride are sloppy right now. I do have access to hills (when dry), trot poles, and a dirt road with decent footing.

    I've been doing mainly w/t work on my dirt driveway, working on suppleness, transtitions, lifting the back, etc.

    I think I'll try the new JW exercise in PH, but I'd love other ideas. I know it may be hard to really build fitness this way, but I want to maximize the time I have. When daylight savings comes, I shouldn't have this problem any more!
    Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck; some nights I call it a draw. -- fun.

    My favorite podcasts: Overdue, The Black Tapes, Tanis, Rabbits, How Did This Get Made?, Up and Vanished.

  • #2
    I hope that as the winter progresses you will have more time and better weather as it simply isn't possible to get a hrose fit and ready to gallop with that amount of time to ride. This is the leading cause of breakdowns and accidents, horses (and riders!) that are not fit enough. The body simply doesn't hold up unless a certain amount of long distance fitness training is done. I think one of the most beneficial fitness training is interval training. I also think LONG hacks at a good, forward trot ( i.e. 30 - 45 minutes) goes a long way towards building wind and strengthen and hardening legs, as well as getting the horse used to varried terrain.


    • Original Poster

      It's definitely a temporary thing; like I said, when daylight savings comes it won't be an issue. I'm just trying to get her fitness work started so we can do some local shows in the next several weeks, before the time changes.
      Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck; some nights I call it a draw. -- fun.

      My favorite podcasts: Overdue, The Black Tapes, Tanis, Rabbits, How Did This Get Made?, Up and Vanished.


      • #4
        There was a similar thread a few weeks ago about 20-minute workouts. It was not exactly the same because the person in question had an arena, but there's still some great ideas here:

        I triple ditto that thread's suggestion of riding in the dark. Can you point your car headlights down the driveway?
        Head Geek at The Saddle Geek Blog http://www.thesaddlegeek.com/


        • #5
          What you're doing right now is probably the most you can do. If you can augment with longer rides on weekends that will help enormously. The hill work is good too.

          I would echo the other comments not to attempt Training Level until you are able to have a couple of months of longer regular training time. Neither you nor your horse will be fit enough to handle the longer and more difficult course. Better to wait to move up until the fall when you are strong and confirmed than to risk an accident or unsoundness.

          You do not want to be galloping down to the second to last jump on your first Training course on a tired horse and most likely with a tired rider.

          Jimmy Wofford's book has some good conditioning recipes in it that may be of help.

          For yourself, try doing that 20 minutes in short stirrups (even a couple of holes up from your x-c length) and don't let yourself sit down.
          If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


          • Original Poster

            Clarifying for those concerned: I will be moving my horse up to my trainer's barn when the time changes, so I'll be working with her to determine when I'll be ready to event. And we're starting with a few Novices before we move up.

            Thanks for all the ideas!
            Some nights I stay up cashing in my bad luck; some nights I call it a draw. -- fun.

            My favorite podcasts: Overdue, The Black Tapes, Tanis, Rabbits, How Did This Get Made?, Up and Vanished.


            • #7
              I would disagree with some of what's being said here. Honestly, I think an overly fit horse can be a big issue at Novice and Training, and if anything, folks tend to do too much. Of course, it depends on what you're starting with, but there's no reason to think you can't get done what you need to get done while you've got her at home. Think also about riding in the morning - I find it's light by 7 and if you have an electric light in the barn to feed/tack up by, then it's easy to get one ridden and still have time to shower and get to work (lay out all your clothes the night before).

              My first question is what kind of base of fitness does your horse have to start with? Two weeks off or so since December isn't a dealbreaker by any means if you're starting with a TB who stays pretty fit just doing laps in his stall. Second, are you trying to increase your horse's base of fitness, or just maintain where you are? Third, what kind of turnout does your horse get - is she out farting around or is she in a small paddock? Fourth, what do you want to do when? If you're only planning to do a Novice level event in late April, you have a lot of time; ditto if you want to go play at some local dressage shows or do a few 3' or 3'3" jumper courses. All of these affect your plan.

              Here's what I'd do for a TB or fairly equivalent horse who was comfortably going but not particularly fit, given your schedule, if I was aiming to do a Novice level event in a couple of months. First week back, I'd hack with a purposeful walk up/down the dirt road for my 20 minutes, and throw in a couple of light flat schools. Those walks can be very useful for getting a horse legged up. If you want to work on your legs, jack your stirrups up and stand up. You'll feel it, I promise. Next couple of weeks, keep one long walk/hack one day on the weekend, and add a baby jump school or a longer flat the other day. The horse can have one weekday off, and the other days you can hack on the road a couple of days, and then flat the others. Even in 20 minutes you can get a lot of very good work done - think purposefully. The days will be getting longer and you'll gradually be able to build up just fine to a decent flat school or trot down the road. By the time you're ready to shift your horse back to your trainer's, she should be plenty legged up and good to go with a nice base and lots of time before your moveup.


              • #8
                The ability to get a horse fit depends heavily on the horse's breed and the amount of work they are currently getting.

                I have ridden (mostly) OTTBs... and 20-30 minutes of work 4-6 days a week keeps most TBs fit enough for Training. In my opinion. I did a training 3 day last summer with no gallops. Not one. We went on long walks instead and did our normal routine. Did I mention we won best conditioned horse?

                Do what you can for 20 minutes, long and low w/t, driving, lateral work, etc. When it gets nicer out ride more. That's my strategy, anyway.
                Yes, I ride a pony. No, he would not be ideal for your child. No, he is not a re-sale project...