When conditioning your horse, it’s important to understand that you won’t maintain the same pace as you would in a race. We recently embarked on a conditioning ride, averaging around 4 miles per hour. This exercise was designed to give us a feel for setting a pace during longer trail rides.
Establishing a suitable pace is crucial for planning rest periods for both you and your horse. It involves gauging the distance you need to cover within a specific timeframe without overexerting your equine companion.
During our training session, my mentor emphasized that this exercise was more for us riders than our horses. Horses are exceptional athletes and quickly reach and maintain fitness levels far surpassing humans.
On a typical trail ride, the average speed hovers around 3 mph, with some faster walkers slightly exceeding this pace. However, certain factors like terrain and individual horse capabilities can influence the speed. In endurance races, the average speed ranges from 4 to 5 mph, which may not sound incredibly fast, but it’s faster than most horses’ walking speed. While we don’t train at that pace, we attempted to maintain an average of 4-5 mph over a 7.5-mile trail, and we succeeded.
From this experience, I realized that it was quite a rigorous pace. Comparing it to a similar ride I did in 2019 when I was in poor shape and heavier, I recovered much faster this time around.
Gracie, my horse, has short legs but a sturdy build like a tank. Riding a horse with shorter legs during a demanding day like that was quite an experience. On the other hand, my trail partner Sandy owns a 15.3 hand Paint horse with longer legs. According to her app, she had 128 transitions throughout the ride. However, riding Gracie, I had over 330 transitions, mostly between walk and trot. Believe me, transitions can be incredibly tiring!
Conditioning your horse requires finding the right pace, understanding their capabilities, and adapting to the demands of the trail. It’s a challenging but rewarding journey!