Conditioning – Just Riding?
You would think that it is just about riding your horse and getting them and you fit enough to complete the ride. But there is so much more such as, finishing the designated miles in the designated time limits, with excellent metabolic recovery rates.
I am no expert, I am a trail rider, while good prep for endurance, especially if you ride regularly, more than just the weekends. Although if that is when you can get out for the longest rides, then that is when you can. Those conditioning times during the week could be anything. Such as jogging with your horse, going on long walks together or an hour of arena work.
I have never been as concerned about a horse drinking as I am now. So, I have been learning more about the horse’s pitfalls when it comes to water consumption.
I recently learned that a horse’s thirst triggers are fairly weak, significantly weaker than a human’s. This is an issue because a horse will be working, sweating and losing their hydration. They need to drink on the trail and ideally every time they are offered a drink.
Some horses, like my retired trail horse, Dixie, would take a drink every time it was offered. Unless the ride was so short that she didn’t break a sweat. On the trail, back at the trailer, she was what I thought was a good drinker. So while Dixie, would readily drink whenever offered, my new horse, Gracie, doesn’t seem inclined to accept water when she should be thirsty, even though I’m thirsty myself.
To entice our horses to drink, we need to provide free-choice salt and minerals at all times. Additionally, during exercise, adding electrolytes can help trigger their thirst response. I’m still learning about electrolytes and their optimal use. So I won’t delve further into the topic to avoid providing inexperienced information.
Snacking on the Trail
I was taught to never let your horse eat while riding. Although I was never a hard and fast keeper to this rule as I got older. Now I am told that while we don’t want our horses randomly stopping to snack on the trail. It is necessary to have your horse eat while you are out there to help keep their gastrointestinal tract operating optimally, even while under heavy work.
How Many Miles?
I always thought that an endurance rider and their horse would need to put on a lot of miles to prepare for a 25 or even 50 mile Endurance ride. This is completely untrue! What I am learning is that it is the quality of the miles as well as the number of them. The quality is far more important than the volume. So during the week when I can, I can take Gracie for a ride around the 4 mile block once or twice. Then take in a 5-7 mile ride a couple of times over the weekend.
When it comes to conditioning a horse they can get into condition and stay in a fit condition far easier than we can. So these short quality rides help build a well conditioned horse that will be able to do a 25 LD (Limited Distance) Endurance ride. Then could do it all again the next day without skipping a beat if it were asked. Which is what my mentor says is an indicator that you have done a good job in preparing your horse.
In a little over a month Gracie will have been here a year. When she arrived she was obese and was recovering from a very large abscess. So as you can imagine her feet in the front needed some intervention. We gave her the time she needed, put her on a strict diet that I thought for sure would make her hate me. Then we waited and the pounds began to shed off of her. Then I started working with her on the ground, hand walking and showing her the neighborhood.
I was able to start riding her a bit towards the end of the season when her feet were on the mend. Since then I have been waiting for this riding season to get underway. So I can see what kind of horse I have ended up with.
Each time I take her out I realize more and more how lucky I was to have this little mare come into my life.
She started out refusing to load in a trailer, now she is almost loading herself. Next, the deadly fear of cows!!!
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