Why is adequate conditioning so important?


The sport of distance riding is “more” than a day on the trail.  Endurance riding is an extreme sport and requires a huge effort and energy expenditure from your horse.  Failing to prepare your horse for the job at hand will ruin your horse for the sport (risk of metabolic issues, lameness, exhaustion, and worse), as well as very likely ruin you for the sport.  It is important to keep in the forefront of your mind that you are the driver (not your horse) and over time to build your horse up to traveling on conditioning rides a little faster than you intend to compete.   A horse new to the sport?   It is going to take time and patience to get there.  Talk to a mentor!

Example:  If you plan to turtle your first 25 mile LD you will have a total ride time of five hours, meaning you must average 5 mph.  This means 5 mph over all, so your moving speed will need to be above in order to not go overtime.  If you have a gps that gives you average speed, go out on a conditioning ride, and  look at your average mile per hour for a 10 mile ride with water stops and sponging.   Stop and replace a boot, or adjust your tack, watch your average drop, drop, drop.  

This is not a mandate to go ride the heck out of your horse, but to make you cognizant of the time ticking away and help you to avoid some pitfalls through proper conditioning of your horse.   So how might you take that training ride up a notch to keep your average completion speed within completion range?  Take advantage of the flats on the ride to pick up the pace a bit.  A horse’s trotting speed can vary, as slow as 4.5 mph up and onward to 6-12 mph.   That is not to say “push your horse to its trotting limits” but rather to gradually, over time, build your horse until its natural trot is somewhere in the middle range. Have those gears working so that your horse is able to rate at your desired speed or slightly above on your training rides.  If you have done your homework you will be able to compensate for those water stops, boot and tack adjustments along the way without having your average speed plummet.  The closer you are to minimum average speed the more likely you will go overtime (especially if you take a wrong turn).  So if you are going to turtle a 25 mile ride try to get at least one of your conditioning rides each week up to a snappy 6-7.5 mph average.     In the middle range you’d be covering 10 miles in about 1 hour and 32 minutes.   You would not be training to ride an entire ride necessarily at that average, but it gives you a conditioning goal to gradually build up to.  Once you’ve mastered it (meaning your horse can do that, and pulse down in well under 10 minutes after) you have added a tool to your conditioning arsenal that will allow you to pick up the pace on a competition loop if you suddenly find you need to make time.  To not prepare by conditioning you set your horse up to be overtaxed, overtime, or over ridden.

There is a great primer on getting started at Perseverance Endurance

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