Friday, January 29, 2010

ABC Retreat - Part II

So, like I said - John Camlin spoke to us about conditioning the event horse. He had a LOT of really good information for us, including a sample conditioning timetable for a Training 3-Day event.

First off, he said, most people don't ride enough. (Keep in mind we're talking about conditioning for eventing.) He told us we should be riding six days a week, which quite a few of the girls in the group already did. Not me! I usually ride 4-6 days a week, with 5 being a pretty common number. I have started increasing my riding time and have been doing pretty well with lessons, but it's still hovering around 5.

He said that the first thing he does when he walks up to his horse is check the horse's legs. You need to know what they look and feel like normally, what they usually look and feel like after a gallop. If you are this familiar with your horse's legs, you can detect minor problems before they become big issues. I thought this was great advice - for example, Pandora's legs in general but her left hind especially have some lumps and bumps. I know they're there, but I should probably be more familiar with them so I can tell if a new one appears!

On that note, it's also important to know your horse's resting temperature, pulse, and respiration (TPR) and their recovery rates.

Speaking of recovery rates, we talked a lot about interval training. The purpose of intervals is to stress the heart, then let it level, then stress, level, etc. You're working towards a faster recovery rate, conditioning your horse so he's not running on empty by the time you're done with XC. You are also getting familiar with your horse's form of 'normal,' a theme that cropped up again and again. If you are used to doing intervals with your horse, you know when he's starting to get tired on course and you can back off. John told us a story about a horse he was riding who, about a third of the way into the course, just didn't have the gas he should have. John let the horse cruise at a bit of a slower pace for a bit, and after a minute or so, the horse found his second wind and really kicked it into gear.

Gallops are important to do at home - even, and especially, for the horse who gets crazy galloping on course. If the only time he ever gets to gallop is when he's out on course galloping and jumping, of course he's going to be wild! You need to teach the horse to gallop at home. You're teaching the horse how to go fast in a constructive way, building strength. To that end, you can't just let your horse lollop around on the forehand at Mach 10. Gallops should be balanced, and the horse should be willing to respond to aids to slow down.

He said if you don't have room to gallop, you can work on your interval training by trotting up hills. Though your horse does need to learn to gallop, one of the biggest points is to do the interval training by getting the heart rate up. You can get their heart rate up by trotting up hills, too.

One really cool thing he talked to us about, which I'd never heard before, was figuring out your horse's ratio for respiration to pulse. Unless you have a wicked awesome HR monitor like Stacey ;), you need a good way to check pulse while you're conditioning - and hopping off between gallop sets to check recovery time isn't the most efficient. John said if you pay attention and check P/R several times after intervals, you can figure out a general ratio for your horse. So you can measure respiration from the saddle by watching or feeling, then run it through your simple math (R times 2 plus 5 I think is what John said one of his horses usually was?) and get an estimate of pulse.

Very cool.

We also talked a little about reconditioning after time off. He said the biggest mistakes people make are underestimating the power of walking, and beginning to jump too soon.

All of his information was very interesting and practical. I think his lecture was my favorite of the day, probably because it was so closely tied in to eventing. I really like when we get real-world information that I can go home and work into my life. I've been trying to go out for long hacks on the road whenever I can, since it has some nice hills. It's way too soggy out here to even be thinking about gallops yet, but we've just started reconditioning anyway.

That's all for now. I'm working on another post - where I could use some thoughts from you - on something I've been chewing over for awhile now. After that you'll get the next installment of the ABC retreat.


Leah Fry said...

Great post. I need to pay more attention to my horses' legs, even though I don't do anything near as strenuous as what you do. It's still great advice.

Val said...

That is great advice and sounds like an interesting seminar to attend. I always give my horse a once over before I take him from the paddock. I can usually notice even a small scrape within a few minutes of greeting him. It is also nice down time so that your horse does not feel like machine being brought to work as soon as you put the halter on. Great post! I look forward to the next one.

Andrea said...

Good info! I want to see that timetable for conditioning for a T3DE!

Guess I've got that checking legs thing memorized... seems like all I ever do anymore is run my hands up and down her legs!

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