Conditioning…Or a Lack Thereof

Endurance is a relatively “easy” sport to prepare for: get the miles in over the terrain you plan to compete on. Yes, there are a ton of intricacies that go into such a simple plan, but all in all there really isn’t that much more to it. Ride a lot on as varied a terrain as you can find.

I took my endurance conditioning very seriously and laid out strict plans in the weeks leading up to a race: how many miles at what pace on which days over which terrain. Life got in the way a bit, but in general I was pretty good at keeping to it. The nice thing with endurance, the way I did it anyway, was that I only needed to leg Gemmie up within a certain period of time for a specific race and since I only did 2 races a year that left a large chunk of time to toodle around or not ride at all if I couldn’t fit it in without adding more stress to my life.

Now that I am attempting to try my hat at eventing I am finding that my approach is…um…well..not very good at all.

For simplicity sake I am going to take out the fact that there are really three different sports to train for all at once and just focus on the fact that there is a lot to learn. This sport isn’t about just getting the miles in (and before someone goes and gets their panties in a big old twist, I do fully understand that endurance isn’t just about getting the miles in, but well lets be real..it kind of is), it is about learning, improving and perfecting a million skills all at once. In both the horse and rider.

Not riding Gem in two weeks prior to my lessons last week was stupid. It was necessary for my mental survival over the last two weeks and enhanced by my current lack of riding space at home, seriously dude mow the freaking weed pasture already!, but while in the past a two week hiatus could easily be made up for with a little bit of extra time out on trail, I found out the hard way that two weeks off isn’t going to get either of us anywhere now.

The thought struck me when I was watching YL ride her and noticed how incredibly unbalanced and out of shape for this she truly is. Yes, she can trot and canter down the trail for 50+ miles, but carrying herself in a deliberate and careful manner while not falling all over herself on the circle is a much different skill and one she is not currently fit enough for.

The point was driven home even harder when I took her cross country. Now, I’ll give myself a small break and admit that Gem is a totally different animal out in the open versus in the arena, but I highly doubt my warm up and subsequent ride would have gone anywhere near as well had we not just had a lesson two days prior. Riding her more frequently not only gets her energy out, but helps to solidify the concepts I am trying to get her to learn.

One day a week on the trail was sufficient in endurance for us to finish with all As and mid pack on pretty much any distance. The things I changed for the 100 were the pace and length of the conditioning rides and how far out I began to leg her up, but I still rode on trail once a week only. This just isn’t going to work in eventing. I am going to need to ride her more often even if it is for only a half an hour to work on halt transitions or walking or whatever. It is a big shift from my norm and hopefully some things will smooth out in my life to allow for it in the near future. The biggest thing is the guy mowing the darn field so I can ride at home again.

It is interesting though. I shifted my focus to eventing due to a perceived easier ability to do it. No more 45 minute haul one way to a trail head and 4+ hours spent on trail. I figured an hour spent riding at home would be an hour away from the kiddo instead of an all day trail excursion. While that is true on a pure time basis, the fact is that overall I actually need to be spending at least, if not more, time in the saddle for eventing versus endurance. It is still easier for me to do. Even when I trailer to RB to ride in the arena it is still only a 30 minute trailer ride and kiddo tends to love to come along and dig in the various arenas or walk the small trail looking for snakes, turtles and spiders. Hubby doesn’t mind coming because he knows it is an hour of riding time versus 4+ and we all generally have a great time. I just need to kick myself in the pants a bit to do it more frequently to set us both up better.

16 thoughts on “Conditioning…Or a Lack Thereof”

  1. I definitely notice the differences in training between these two disciplines. I hear you on endurance pretty much just being Do All the Miles on All the Terrain – it really is focused on Time and Miles. What I really like about the difference of training for eventing though is that the length of the training rides doesn’t have to be as great; frequency is more important. With my schedule, especially since the move, I don’t have time to go ride 90+ minutes multiple times a week. I’m fitting in 30-45 minute rides pretty regularly for 3-4 days/week with Grif right now. We focus on dressage/flatting 2 or 3 days and jumping for 1 or 2. We focus on certain skills each time and build on them as time goes by. I like the short and sweet nature of these rides right now. I do long for some lengthy conditioning rides, too, but my schedule just doesn’t like ’em right now.


    1. I need the dude to mow the weeds in my riding field. It is getting really annoying to not be able to ride over there and I hate riding in the pasture. I would just do it, but he bales it for his cows.

      I 100% hear a on the schedule not permitted those long conditioning rides. I do miss the time out on trail, but until life smooths out it just isn’t going to happen. A few 30-45 minute rides a week will work beautifully once I have my riding space back.


  2. I know zip about endurance, but yeah, training for horse trials seems like it’d be much different. To me, and only having one horse, I sometimes get conflicted about what I want to work on because there’s so much- accuracy in dressage? Combinations for SJ? Galloping over terrain? I find it’s easier when I plan it out on a calendar- Type A and all that jazz. And even if it doesn’t completely stick, due to weather or life or general pony jerkiness, at least I’m able to balance it out a bit better.


    1. It fascinates me that a horse fi tfor one job looks so different than one for another job ie: a dressage fit horse versus and endurance fit horse or eventing fit horse. Its really cool to see how their bodies change for their work


  3. honestly there is only one way to refine and improve upon technique in horse and rider: plain old regular practice. there’s no escaping it or faking it if you want to see improvements on the flat and over fences.

    luckily, this doesn’t necessarily mean fitness in the same exact way as endurance (for instance, i’ve purposefully kept charlie slightly unfit bc he doesn’t need to be at full giant TB strength before he’s more confirmed to my brake aids). true cardio fitness doesn’t honestly really matter until like… novice. esp if you have an arab – they’re basically always “fit” enough to run for five minutes lol.

    the horse’s conditioning to respond appropriately and promptly to a leg or hand aid, or to carry themselves in balance, is not the same thing as the horse’s conditioning to travel 25 miles in a short amount of time. often short but purposeful schooling sessions can be sufficient for developing the practice and strength in the horse to carry themselves appropriately for the starting levels of eventing. it doesn’t have to be intense, or even a full hour! in fact i rarely school charlie for more than 45min outside of lessons. it can be very simple: a short ride devoted entirely to practicing transitions. or to practicing figures. or to a little of both. sometimes even just getting in the saddle to go through the wtc paces in 10-15 minutes can be sufficient for reminding the horse that there’s a specific way we like to see things done now.


    1. I’m not trying to fake it or escape hard work. In fact, quite the opposite as I learn what does and does not work for my horse and me in this new discipline. The only thing I have to go on is what has worked for us in the past in other endeavors and modify that. This entire post was admitting that my approach isn’t working and isn’t right and what I need to do to change that.


      1. oh of course – none of the above was suggesting otherwise! i’ve loved following along as you’ve been making this transition with Gem and your hard work definitely shows in how well she’s responding to your lessons. it’s cool to see!

        mostly the above is the mantra i tell myself every day even when i’m tired or don’t really feel like it. that if i want it, i gots ta go do it. and sometimes i help myself feel better about that by promising myself that it doesn’t have to be like… crazy intense or whatever. that at this stage in charlie’s training, i can just chip away at little pieces at a time and it still makes a positive difference. so long as i’m consistent!


  4. It’s funny- Carmen is quite fit now but even she struggles with my asking her to carry herself for longer periods of time. It comes with time and once Gem gets the ‘muscle memory’ it will be easier for her.


  5. I am the WORSE when it comes to riding but often I tell myself even if it hot or whatever to just tack up and hop on. If get 20-30 minutes in the saddle i am thrilled. I often don’t jump on my own but the other day I even popped over a couple fences just to prove I could on my own.

    I know i am never going to be one of those people who are going to ride everyday an hour or more but if i get on, half the battle is won. AND I dont have a kid.I dont know how you moms do it 🙂

    I love Gem and am very excited to see how far you guys will go!!


    1. Moving the horses home was supposed to make it easier to ride more often but I’ve lost my riding space for the time being and it is driving me crazy.

      It is very hard to juggle kiddo, work and a hobby but I don’t know what I’d do without riding. I’d go insane.

      Gem is a character for sure. If you ever find yourself dying of heat in SC you are welcome to ride her!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I do too. It is just a gross mess of weeds. I don’t even see how cows would eat it. Plus my dogs keep coming inside full of burrs. If I wasn’t worried about ticking off the landlord I’d just cut it myself


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