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How Do I Extend My Rides?

Sounds like a silly question, I know. Just ride longer! Ah…but there is more to it than that.

A rider I respect probably more than anyone else told me when I first got Gem to go into every ride with a single goal in mind. End when you reach it. If that takes two hours, so be it. If it take five minutes, ditto.

It stuck with me and is something I’ve always done with Gem whether that was out on the conditioning trail (pick my set pace and distance and even if everything felt amazing and was going super don’t be tempted into adding on just for the sake of adding on) or in the arena. I pick a goal for that ride and end when I reach it.

But….

Lately it has turned into really short rides. The jump school I did was only 20 minutes total. She was being so good and jumped everything I asked that it seemed redundant to keep asking her. What was the point? She wouldn’t be learning anything at that point and it only left room for her to misbehave or for her to answer the question wrong and it seemed counter productive to keep going.

The thing is that I want to ride for more than 20 minutes. Not only for our fitness levels but because I love riding.

So what do I do?

We are working on the basics right now. Bend, straightness, easy jumps to convert her from her old default of always saying no to her new one of always saying yes. Not too long ago she wasn’t jumpable because she wasn’t rideable. For her to go into it and not say no or be squirrelly a single time was a big huge deal.

I’m trying to meld my belief of stopping once the lesson is learned with my want to ride for longer than it takes me to tack up.

Part of this rambling issue is also my fear of pushing her. She is so fun to ride when she wants to be. Once she gets pushed past that point it is really no fun at all and honestly pointless since everything goes right out the window and she is no longer rideable.

Like in the lesson. The first half she was awesome and we got a lot accomplished but then she got tired (see the whole issue above about only riding for 20 minutes) and she shut down and the entire second half was fighting her and trying to get her to just trot nicely once again. No fun. Not productive.

So when I’m on my own and she is acting the angel and everything is unicorn farts and skittles, I don’t feel the urge to push beyond that and ask for more. I save that for the lessons. Of corse this means Gem is super fit for riding for 20 minutes only. Not useful either.

I guess after all that rambling I’m just trying to figure this new behaving and rideable Gem out. I want to ride for an hour. But I also want that hour to be productive and not turn into a major fight.

I go into the ride with a goal: ride an exercise from the jumping book or jump through a small course or whatever. On days Gem is being a saint, she gets it on the first few tries and then I stop. What else should I do? Add in another exercise? Work her more even though we have accomplished our task for the day? Since everything right now is centered on straightness and bend it seems odd to accomplish that one way then turn around and ask her to do it another way.

Any and all suggestions are welcome! I’ll ask Trainer next time I see her, hopefully at a xc school this weekend if the ground dries out enough and the course is open, too.

Thanks!!!

15 thoughts on “How Do I Extend My Rides?”

  1. can you just do some trot or canter sets to eat up some time? (I only ride 20-30 minutes on my own but I am bored in 10 minutes usually LOL) But for lessons I do ride longer.

    Can you hack out around your fields after your 20-30 minute right?

    I am so glad Gem is being so good though!! Who would have thought last year you would have your own arena with lights and be able to ride so much! 🙂 And i may need a Nash fix soon. Just saying 🙂 Groundhog just said 6 more weeks of winter, i may drive up and kill his useless self 🙂 HA HA HA

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    1. Huh. You think I’d have thought of that but nope. I swear I’m half brain dead. Riding in the fields would be perfect. Work hard in the arena and then go do trot and canter work in the fields.

      If I don’t have a very specific plan of attack I’m done in 10 minutes too. I force myself to wear a watch when I ride. I feel so accomplished then look at my watch and it has only been 15 minutes.

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  2. I was going to suggest the hacking out as well. It’s a change from the ring, and you can still focus on softness and straightness and making sure her feet are going exactly where you want them, just with fun field views. I like to serpentine and use trees and bushes as targets.

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  3. I was going to suggest going on a hack or field ride too after you finish your goal 🙂 I think it gives them a nice mental break but also keeps them working.

    Another thought (it may or may not work with your riding schedule bc I know you’ve mentioned here it can be limited with work) is set aside specific days to work on just fitness and other days be finished after the 10/15/20 minutes of perfection. But have your goal be 3 minute trot sets, or whatever, and plan to ride an hour like you did for your endurance days when you picked a specific distance to ride. I would probably ride those days in the field anyways bc riding circles in the ring can be dull but it gives you a longer goal to work on for more riding time. I do like the pick something to work on and ride until you get it concept bc I think the horses can understand what they’re asked and will learn quicker to do what you want.

    Hope this helps! Glad rides with Gem are getting easier!!

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    1. I ride 2 days a week and try to do one flat and one jump. Sounds silly to only ride twice when you have everything at home but with work and the kiddo it’s what I can do right now. I think I’ll start finishing with a nice jaunt around the fields.

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      1. It’s not silly to only have 2 days to ride even if the ponies are at home!!! I really do think it’s easier to ride (in some ways and obvious lots of factors!) if you board somewhere closish to home bc if you have a spare hour it can be spent riding vs having to use that spare time to feed the horses. But it’s also worth that free hour to spend lots of quality time with the ponies, even if it is just feeding them!!! So I totally feel ya and I don’t have near as a busy schedule as you probably do with work and Wyatt!!

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  4. honestly i’m with ya on having a lot of rides where about 30 minutes in i’m feeling like “well, ok we did what i wanted and there’s not really anything left to do here!” but i also have been trying to get in longer rides while not pushing the horse too much.

    one concept stacy westfall talked about in her jac series (a favorite youtube series of mine that i’ve watched a few times now) was switching between “mental” and “physical” training cycles. so we might start a ride with ten minutes of just walking – physical. but towards the end of that low key warm up (charlie…. needs a lot of walking for where his body is), i’ll start adding in more mental aspects. like adding in different types of turns and figures – larger and smaller circles. maybe starting to ask for a step or two of lateral movement. nothing intense, just sorta transitioning from a purely physical cycle to thinking more about focused work.

    then we’ll get into trotting which can also have plain old physical components (re: trot sets or hacking the fence lines) as well as mental components: figures, spirals, lateral stuff like leg yields (best way to learn this stuff is to just start trying!), ground poles, weaving around stuff, playing with transitions on a circle, etc et.

    for me at least, thinking about cycling between physical vs mental work helps me avoid burnout or getting stuck in a fight – and allows me to think about changing the subject or focus of our work while still reaching the length of ride i want.

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  5. We’re in up-the-intensity mode, so we’re also trying to find ways to stay occupied during longer rides without burning out. What I’ve been doing is focusing on lots of transitions (L mentioned that one of her goals is to hit 100 transitions per ride and I’m so totally stealing that). It’s a low impact way to keep Frankie’s attention while building strength- often the transitions are within the gait as we lengthen and collect. If he starts anticipating/jigging, I just change the frequency of the transitions.
    Other days, I ask a little less of him technically as I work on myself for longer periods of time- working without stirrups, practicing dropping and picking up my stirrups at every gait, improving my posture in the sitting trot, extending how long I can hold my 2-point, etc. I try to mix up the days where we focus on his workout vs focusing on mine.

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  6. I’d look at your riding schedule and set some days up as conditioning rides – where you don’t ask too many fancy questions, no jumping, and just work between gaits, trot sets- canter sets- sprint sets (slow trot, than fast trot etc). Those rides as she builds fitness will get progressively longer. Then when the weather is better/sunnier enjoy those long hacks out.

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