Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A Simple Method of Conditioning the Endurance Horse

Perseveranceendurancehorses - Full Article

Francois & Laura Seegers, Perseverance Arabian and Endurance Horses
17 OCTOBER 2012

We are frequently asked by people who are interested in taking up endurance, or who have bought a horse from us, how they should prepare their horses for an endurance ride. There are many different ways to condition horses. The good methods have this in common: a slow beginning, a steady build up of distances ridden, and later, gradual increase in training speed. Too fast, too soon, too often, leads inevitably to injury.

We used this simple program ourselves for many years before we began riding our horses without shoes. It’s a straightforward system that we learned more than 20 years back from another experienced endurance rider at a day seminar when we began doing endurance. The principles are much older than modern endurance sport, and don’t change with fashion as they are based on the physiology of the horse. We have taught this method to many riders with good results. It is a method of slowly preparing the novice horse for his first endurance ride, but also for giving the advanced endurance horse a good start after a period off work. There are many more sophisticated training techniques that we won’t discuss in this article. Once a horse has completed this initial program, other techniques can be applied. This simple foundation will only help the other training techniques give better results.

You don’t need to use this program. Endurance has plenty of experts and each one has their own method of getting horses fit. But if you don’t know where to start, you can use this program with confidence, it has been proven. It can prepare a healthy novice horse to complete 80km slowly. (Don’t have any illusions of winning, for that you need a whole lot more time and work, and besides you have a 16 km/h speed limit on novices). It builds a good foundation of fitness, that can be developed from there. Also by using it, albeit in shortened form, on the same horse at the beginning of each season, the horse will only get stronger and tougher.

WARNING: The method is easy to understand, but not easy to apply, especially Phase one. I am referring to impatience. Few people will find the Walking Phase easy, but it is a good lesson in self-control and therefore worth more than gold to the endurance rider. Remember, the method only works if it is correctly applied. Do not skip Phase one.


Conditioning: Working the horse to become strong enough to complete endurance rides without damage.
Hard work/ workout: This involves hard work where you ask the horse to put in a greater effort than he is accustomed to. Typically, 20 minutes after the workout the horse’s pulse will be higher than you are used to. That means you have stressed it.
Recovery day: On these days you allow the horse to recover from the stress. Exercises you can do are twenty minute lunge sessions (ring work) at a steady trot, schooling, a gentle hack or outride, etc.
Rest day: Typically a Sunday. No work at all.
Exercise: The level of work that does not stress the horse. It just maintains the fitness.


The beginning of a Long Slow Distance ride
The time it takes for various body tissues to adapt and condition, are as follows:

Heart and lungs 3 months
Muscles 3-6 months
Tendons and ligaments 6-12 months
Hooves 7 months
Bone 1-3 years

NB! A horse can be got fit enough to go fast in a relatively short period, but will not be conditioned to withstand injury. Only after 3 seasons of endurance (provided he had no serious tendon/ligament injuries) will he be thoroughly conditioned to be ridden hard and competitively.

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