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Ask The Readers – 5th February

With less than a month to go before the start of the 2013 season, our first “Ask The Reader” question is…

What fitness regime and exercises are you using to ensure your horse is fit and ready for your first event?

To share your answer with us please leave a comment on the article using the box below.  We will select some of the more interesting answers which we will post below:

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  • Hi there

    I’m not quite up and running with a full training plan yet due to bad weather and dark nights however I have been keeping my horse ticking over in the winter by doing a bit of show jumping at the weekends.

    I am aiming my 9yo ISH for the move up to Novice this year but we need to get a few more runs at BE100 under the belt first before I will feel confident we are ready – It will be a first for both of us and I don’t want to mess it up!

    Anyway I use a heart monitor fitted to the girth but you don’t really need to. I just like my gadgets!

    I start out in the arena at home, its a 25m by 45m and as the roads can be dodgy the arena allows me to build up fitness in safety – although its quite boring!

    I start off with 5 minutes walks to walk up. 2 minutes of trot (T), 1 minute of walk(W) (change rein -cr) then 2 minutes of trot, 1 minute of walk, 1 min canter (C), 1 min walk then to cool off we do 10 mins walk. This is not strenuous for the horse at all and I find the heart barely goes up at this level!

    I then build it up to something like:

    Warm up; 5m T; 1m W; cr; 5m T; 1m W; 5m C; 1m W; cr; 5m C, 1m W; 5m T, 1m W, cr; 5m T, 1m W, Cool down.

    Sometimes I find the 1m walk is too long (when following the HR monitor) and I find that I end up working out how many circuits of the arena we do instead of time as I’m often without a watch! it takes a minute to walk the arena (my boy is slow!) and approx 4 circuits in canter make up a minute.

    To make it more entertaining I do end up putting in smaller circles and poles to go over but all this work is in the two point seat to get my own muscles built up for xc riding.

    Once the weather improves I start hacking and taking him for gallops up hill. I think hill work is the best for fittening.

    I have done the arena interval training with a friend and for walking and trotting we did side by side, but in canter we started at opposite ends of the arena as it was a bit easier.

    Anyway happy for suggestions to make it more fun!

    My first event is early April so I’m hoping to get cracking soon and start proper training with 6 weeks to go.

  • thanks KMTF – I’d be interested to see if others who are restricted to an arena at the start of the season follow a different plan to mine as its my main worry about eventing. I’m paranoid that my boy is never fit enough to be pushed and we usually gather 6-8 time penalties at BE100. I do ride away from the fences and I hope that we will get faster naturally but I just hate pushing him to go faster as I’d like to keep him long term and don’t want to risk injury.

    Last season was a washout for me as we aimed to do a good season at BE100 but 9 events were cancelled in succession. I see a run at an event as being a good fitness tool so we lost all of those runs. On the cancelled days I did take him out to gallop but you can’t really replicate easily a show environment – a 2 hour journey, warm up for dressage, doing the test, warm up for SJ, jumping the SJ, then XC warm up and then the run round XC, bit of standing around in between and then the 2 hour journey home.

    Looking forward to reading replies!


  • Having a fit horse (and rider) is key for success eventing. However, often I feel people do too much fitness / fast work with their horses. A horse preparing for Novice might need to start fast work about 3 weeks before an event with such work every 4-5 days. For horses working at BE100 that are getting regular school work and hacking I feel no more than one or two pieces of fast work are required. At BE90 level my horse would be fit enough without any fast work.

    Fast work itself add wear and tear to horses so should not be over used. Also there can be some very fresh horses at early events! Obviously there are always exceptions a slightly less blood horse may need more work than a TB.

    I am currently Preparing my mare to novice event in the first weekend in March, although a slightly heavier boned warmblood she keeps herself fairly fit. She is currently schooling for an hour, hacking including trotting up hills and competing in SJ and dressage.

    The ground with us is waterlogged and we have no gallops. At the moment I am happy with her general fitness and have increased the hill work out hacking. I will probably box to the moors and be happy if I can get two sessions of fast work in and at least one if not two cross country schooling sessions. If at the end of the day she is not as fit as I would like due to the conditions then the first event will be taken a little steadier preparing for the more important events later. My aims are currently focusing on Intermediate in late March and the first two Novice runs are just tools to help me get there and prepare.

  • Thats interesting S-J

    I know what you mean about doing too much, and I paid the price of this a couple of seasons ago when I qualified for the BRC champs at Aston Le Walls as I came off my horse due to his mind being completely blown as he was so fit.

    The problem is up here in Scotland is that its so hilly you can’t really expect a horse that is being ridden say 4 times a week for an hour schooling with a little bit of roadwork to be fit enough to run round a BE90.

    Obviously I’m looking at an ISH like mine rather than a TB as i do see some TB’s making light work of it. I also see alot of stockier horses coming through the finish totally puffed.

    Will make sure that I don’t do too much, but I’m paranoid that my boy is never fit for the gallop so try to work on that. He is never stupid at an event so often not really that fresh.

    I guess its finding the right balance?