Conditioning for the first LD
A conditioning plan is just that. A plan. Conditioning an equine athlete is truly high individualized and any program to fit up your horse is intended only as a framework to give a starting place. Your horse’s time line may be longer, and depending on the breed of your horse fitness may be maintained for shorter or longer periods of time. The most important thing to remember is to not short cut the conditioning regimen as the cardiovascular system will come to fitness quickly, while bone, tendon, cartilage will take much longer. So the horse will “feel” like a race horse, but will not have the mechanical structure to support the work. Take your time. For some (writer included) the conditioning process is the most fun of all ☺
You will ride your horse at a walk daily for an hour a day on flat to rolling terrain. This may include arena work, walking over poles, or pleasure riding through woods and fields. Give the horse one day off this week. Be sure you feed plenty of clean hay, & free choice salt.
Distance total for this week: 15-20 miles over the course of 5-6 days.
This week you will begin introducing the trot into your program. Walk 5 minutes, trot 5 minutes, repeat, repeat, repeat. Work for an hour three times this week, with an off day in between. On one or two off days add some lunge work, over poles, obstacles, ground work, increasing your horses flexibility and working the thinking side of the horse’s brain. Be sure your horse has one day to just be a horse. At this point and moving forward you may want to add a low protein concentrated feed to your horse’s ration to maintain weight and feed the work. Remember on non-ride days to reduce the feed . Feed should fuel work.
Distance total for this week: 17-20 miles over the course of 5-6 days.
Three rides on your horse this week. Alternating walk & trot increasing your time spent out on trail. The purpose is to increase either speed, or distance, one or the other. Not both at the same time.
Distance total for this week: 17-20 miles over the course of 5-6 days.
Two rides this week at walk/trot intervals covering 10-12 miles each ride. Two days do some fun arena stuff or lunging.
Distance total for this week: 20-24 miles.
Ride two 12 mile rides this week at walk/trot intervals and add one session of hill climbing at the walk. Give the horse a day off between rides.
Start walking less, and trotting more. A one hour session weekly working on flat terrain alternating trot, canter in short sessions. A one hour ride focusing on a good working trot with little to no walking, and a long slow distance ride of 15-20 miles (4.5-5 mph).
Total Distance this week: 25 miles
This week you continue to push out your trotting distance covering 15 miles one session, and another day 10 miles. On the 10 mile day really work the trotting. Your goal over time is for the horse to trot most of that 10 miles and only walking in places you have to for the safety (muddy bogs, creek crossings, steep uphills/downhills). Lunge your horse or do ground work on a few off days.
Total Distance this week: 25 miles.
From this point forward you will work the horse at about three times weekly until you get to your first Limited Distance ride (completion ride of 25 miles). So now you wish to maintain and enhance the work you’ve already done. You will do a one hour session climbing a long steep hill, a one hour session of sustained flat trotting covering about (7 miles in an hour over easy terrain), and a 15 mile ride at 5-6 mph (covering the distance in about three hours ). Here you will maintain fitness. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Back off the hard work one week ahead. Reduce the concentrated feeds. Do some short pleasure rides or short arena session, or lunging.
Plan to completenot compete. Your horse is most vulnerable to metabolic or mechanical injury right now. Remember that discussion about tendons and cartilage? Let’s not break your horse and pour all that hard work down the drain. Plan to ride your first several Limited Distance rides somewhere at or near the back. Make your horse think he’s at “just another conditioning ride.” By the end of the first season your horse will have built into a strong athlete. You will use those first year LD rides as the springboard to finish building your endurance horse.

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