Now that it feels like spring and the footing is starting to cooperate, it’s tempting to go out for a good gallop and just shout in delight about the end of winter.
Freedom is a horse that keeps a base fitness level at all times. He’s a fidgeter who is constantly on the move. The challenge with him is to contain that energy.
This spring I’ve been helping a friend leg up her horse with the goal of hunting. Curly is the opposite of Freedom. She loves to eat and is perfectly content to sleep in the sun. I can empathize with her life strategy. She is round. And she puts just enough energy into her daily activities. I know that once in the hunt field her adrenalin would kick in and she’ll want to go full tilt. But that wouldn’t be good as Curly had a check ligament injury last year — she needs to fight against her natural inclinations and be fit before the fun starts.
That means lots of slow, long miles.
Legging up a horse takes patience and a plan. Especially when that horse is Rubenesque and short of breath.
For Curly, it started with lots and lots of walking. We walked up every hill I can find and we walk at brisk pace. My goal is at least 30 minutes every time I come out, working up to an hour.
After she can handle the walking without breathing hard, then comes trot sets. Two minute intervals are a good start. We start with four trot sets (8 minutes) during a 30-45 minute ride three times/week.
During the next week we’ll aim for four trot sets of four minutes each (16 minutes), over 45 minutes.
By week three Curly should be able to handle five trot sets of four minutes each (20 minutes total) plus two canter sets (two minutes each) in a 45 minute ride.
By the last week, our goal will be twenty minutes of trotting and 10 minutes of cantering.
The good news is that I should be fit by then too!
Trotting is very good for endurance but she needs canter sets too.