Saturday, October 18, 2008

Log On: Sample Endurance Horse Conditioning Schedules

Nearly four years passed between the day I learned of the sport of endurance racing and the day I first set hoof on the conditioning trail. During those years, I devoured books, websites, forums, and articles on the subject. I studied AERC and FEI rules, scrutinized veterinary advice, and pondered opinions about everything from tack to nutrition. As Aaruba's training progressed toward readiness to begin conditioning, I concentrated my research efforts on the specifics of preparing a horse for the physical effort of endurance racing.

Though I found many excellent sources offering general advice about conditioning, including some guidelines regarding mileage and speed in the first four months of conditioning, I searched in vain for that which I most craved: sample records detailing the conditioning efforts of actual endurance horses at varying levels of fitness. This lack inspired me to include Aaruba's Conditioning Log in the right hand sidebar of The Barb Wire blog. Consolation's Conditioning Log will appear there very shortly.

Now, I don't claim to be an expert. I've just completed my first endurance season. I've accumulated all of 155 AERC miles, 50 of which are Limited Distance. However, I don't think I qualify for blind-leading-the-blind status, either. I continue to refine my conditioning schedule in accordance with ongoing research, and I try to keep you posted on my successes and mistakes so we can learn together.

I hope that my conditioning logs will serve as one of many references, especially for beginning riders in need of concrete examples. Of course, my way is not the only way, nor is it necessarily the best way. It certainly won't work for all horses, all riders, or all situations.

I tend to err on the conservative side, being that my primary concern is for my horses' longevity in the sport, but I've suspected myself of over training at times. I prefer a highly goal-oriented, calculated approach that involves a lot of planning and spreadsheets. This is a strength, I believe, but it can be a weakness as well. Though it's important to progress through a series of planned workouts, gradually building speed, strength, and endurance in an intentional manner rather than throwing a casual armful of workouts at the horse and hoping they stick, it is equally important to allow yourself and your horse some flexibility.

Horses, like people, have good days and bad days. Listen to your partner. Go faster or slower, longer or shorter if necessary. Observe him carefully and try to determine the cause of his shifting energy level or mood. This is the single most important piece of advice I can offer: Have a plan -- but ride the horse and not the plan.

In an upcoming post, I'll share links to my favorite resources on equine endurance conditioning. In the meantime, feel free to comment with your favorite conditioning tips or even a link to your own conditioning log. I'm always in the market for new ideas!

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Related Posts
How to Condition an Endurance Horse: A Collection of Resources
Rider Resource: Endurance Conversions Chart
Rider Resource: Endurance Conditioning Log
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7 comments:

One Red Horse said...

Congratulations! You have received the "I Love Your Blog" Award...go here to pick it up: http://babayagasmirror.blogspot.com

Thanks for your wonderful blog!

Cherie

Simrat said...

Tamara, do you use a heart rate monitor?

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Hi Simrat! I don't use a heart rate monitor...at least, not yet. This is partly because I haven't wanted to put the money into one, partly because I watch other riders and see what a pain the monitors can be, and partly because I don't want to rely overmuch on a machine to read my horse for me.

I've read up on heart monitors and I want one. I think it would be educational and very useful for interval training. However, I think I'm a better horseman for spending at least one season with only my "horse sense" to go on. In fact, I may spend the first year on each, individual horse sans monitor. I can't think of a better way to get to know my horse inside and out.

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

What a cool surprise, Cherie! Thanks so much! :-D Tamara

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

I should add, Simrat, that I do use a stethoscope to check recoveries after (and sometimes during) long or hard rides.

Spartacus Jones said...

I find your training logs very interesting and helpful.

I thinks it's rather similar with human conditioning. I've found it can be quite different to hear someone expound on what to do ideally, theoretically, and then see what they actually DO in the gym!

Preaching is easy; it's the practicing that's tough.
:)

sj

Tamara of In the Night Farm said...

Hi SJ -- Yes, it's all about commitment. You have to work the plan.

Back in April, I wrote a post called Applied Physics, in which I discussed commitment in terms of inertia and momentum. I still believe everything I wrote. ;-)