Wednesday, October 22, 2008

How to Condition a Horse for Endurance: A Collection of Resources

I promised in this post to provide a list of my favorite resources regarding equine endurance condition- ing. Below are links to some of the articles I returned to time and again while creating a conditioning program for Aaruba's first year in the sport. (For those who'd like to see the day-by-day details of my horses' endurance conditioning logs, check out the sidebar of The Barb Wire blog.)

Conditioning Program Resources

Conditioning for Your First Endurance Ride -- This 2001 article from the Southeast Endurance Rider's Association provides suggested workout schedules for three months of conditioning toward a first Limited Distance (LD) ride. It includes approximate heart rate recoveries you should expect, as well as other concise details that made this one of the resources upon which I relied most heavily in designing Aaruba's early conditioning program.

Four Month Endurance Conditioning Schedule -- This schedule from Cypress Trails breaks 12 weeks of conditioning for a moderately-paced LD into 2-week intervals. Though brief, it includes some advice worth remembering, such as, "Don't ever increase speed and distance during the same training ride."

Tips and Hints for Endurance Riding -- This resource from Old Dominion Endurance Rides, Inc. offers general advice about the first three months of conditioning. Their schedule is a bit less conservative than my own, stating that a horse should be ready for an easy LD within 2 months instead of 3 months, which is a more common recommendation.

Related Resources

Is Your Horse Fit? The Physiology of Conditioning -- This document is more scientific than the others, so pour yourself another cup of coffee before diving in. If you're serious about conditioning, I highly recommend periodic reviews of this article from Alberta, Canada's Department of Agricultural and Rural Development, as it explains the events taking place in your horse's body as it undergoes preparation for endurance work.

American Endurance Ride Conference -- The AERC website is, of course, a fantastic resource for all things endurance. The "education" tab will direct you to numerous resources, including the Rider Handbook that I all but memorized during my years of waiting to become involved in the sport. Chapter Six of the Handbook includes some excellent conditioning information, including a recommendation that you spend 6 months preparing your horse for its first LD.

Preparing the Endurance Horse -- This document appears to be the transcript of a verbal presentation made by Eric Hought. As such, it's a bit difficult to read, but I review it periodically because I believe it contains some good advice. Though Hought addresses conditioning in general terms, he focuses on training for endurance, that is, preparing the horse mentally as well as physically. Hought suggests a very conservative method, stating that 1.5 - 2 years is reasonable for preparing for a first LD. If you want to read more about training for endurance, check out Jim Holland's Articles 1-9, which provide numerous, valuable recommendations that I have applied in training my own horses.

Have you ever wondered exactly how endurance riders log their miles? I'll share my (rather nerdy) method in an upcoming post, as well as the (possibly more practical) methods suggested by other riders.

In the meantime, feel free to comment with your favorite resources for equine endurance conditioning programs. I'm always looking for more to update this list over time; I'm particularly interested in articles about conditioning up from LD and endurance, maintaining fitness in the off season, avoiding overtraining while building fitness during a busy ride season, and other topics less commonly addressed in resources designed for individuals just getting into the sport.

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3 comments:

Shana said...

Great post! I will be diving into those links over my holiday vacation season. :)

Jonna said...

Thanks for the great resource links. Some I have already seen, but others are new material that I am anxious to read up on. Now that winter is bearing down upon us here in Northwest Montana, I am faced with riding in the cold and the dark if I have any hopes of maintaining any level of condition. That being said, I am off to buy some new thermals!!

ellescee said...

Your timing was impeccable! I just had emailed a bunch of links to my newbie husband last night about conditioning and nutrition! I didn't know about a few of those, even in my meticulous combing of the internet during my "data-gathering" years (which, technically, I'm still in).

Thanks for the great resource!

Elly