Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Back in the Saddle: Endurance Conditioning

Once in a while, I'm glad to be wrong.

Last Tuesday, I was sure I'd re-torn the ligaments in my ankle that I damaged playing tennis nearly 13 years ago. My goal of tackling Aaruba's first Limited Distance (LD) race in late May seemed doomed. After years of delayed preparations, I was not amused.

To my surprise, however, my ankle improved much more rapidly than anticipated. (I credit this partly to my "flegan" diet and partly to the intensive ice treatment to which I subjected the sprain for three days following the injury.) Yesterday evening, I stuffed a well-braced ankle into a boot, saddled Aaruba, and headed out for a condition- ing ride.

In deference to my recent concerns about overtraining, we kept mostly to a walk, with just enough trotting to boost our average speed to 4.2 mph.

Note: If you are mathematically challenged, you can learn how to convert pace to speed here. Or, have the computer do it for you.

An advantage of early Long, Slow Distance (LSD) work is that it gives me plenty of time to practice "arena work" on the trail. Aaruba's and my current focus is on vertical flexion and collection. These are particularly good activities to practice in the latter half of the ride, thanks to the built-in impulsion of moving toward home.

On the ground, Aaruba's vertical flexion is lovely. Yesterday, however, he took up rooting when I asked from the saddle for more than a moment's flexion of his poll. I let him experiment with the behavior, simply continuing to ask him to give to the bit until he gave up pulling and flexed instead, upon which he received an immediate release.

By the end of the ride, he seemed to have decided rooting wasn't worth the trouble, but as Aaruba is young and his topline and quadriceps weak, I expect to spend significant effort on basic collection over the next few months...unless I'm lucky enough to be wrong again.

1 comment:

Crystal said...

First of all, nice picture! You have such a pretty seat.

I wanted to comment, because I think it is slightly relevant, that I have always found long road/trail rides excellent training time for dressage. This may seem counterintuitive to some, but I have found it really effective. Long rides provide plenty of opportunites for natural training exercises, and the interest of being out and about will keep a horse attentive and listening long after they might have grown bored in the arena. I like to do most of this training in the middle, or towards end of the ride,after the initial excitement has worn off, but leaving plenty of relaxation time on the road home.