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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

September 17, 2008

Conditioning a Horse for Distance Riding

I was reviewing my folders of "endurance stuff" this morning, and reading the various formulas for conditioning a horse. Thought I'd post up this one, which is pretty easy to follow (do not know the original author and has been slightly modified). This training program assumes that you have a moderatly fit horse that is up to a five mile trail ride three times a week, and moves forward from there.

WEEK 1: (3-4 times per week) Warm up for 20 minutes at the walk, then add trotting until the horse is slightly winded, back to the walk to recovery, back up to the trot. Repeat for 30 minutes, cool down. (Purpose is to gradually build up the horse's ability to maintain a sustained trot). This portion of the training could easily be performed in a large arena if necessary and could be used as schooling excercise for one hour on days that you could not hit the trails throughout the training program.

WEEK 2: (3-4 times per week) Warm up, then walk & jog 5 miles in one hour. Each day increasing the speed, but not the distance. Use arena on days you can't hit the trail.

WEEK 3: (3-4 times per week) Warm up, then ride 6 miles in one hour. You should by this point be able to maintain sustained trotting. Do one session of long slow hill climbing.

WEEK 4: (3-4 times per week) Warm up, then ride 7 miles in one hour. One day each week do some slow hill climbing (find a really long grade to climb or repeat shorter ones).

WEEK 5: Ride 8-10 miles once (previously said in one hour, consensus is that is too fast too soon) this week. Ride 2 times this week on just extending the trot on the flats, work at getting it fast, smooth, and sustainable over 5 miles.

WEEK 6: Ride 15 miles one time this week. Rest day. Interval Training with 1/2 mile gallops vs. walking cool down for 2 repetitions, then a Rest day. Ten miles fast.

WEEK 7: Ride 20-25 miles one day in about 4-5 hours. Interval training with 1 mile gallops, cool down, one mile gallop, cool down twice this week. Arena work to supple one day per week.

WEEK 8: Arena work, brief interval training every other day, one day per week trot 5 miles.

COMPETITION WEEK: Easy jog for five miles Days 1, 2, 3, rest day 4, travel day 5, compete on the weekend.


  1. If any of you have any good training /conditioning programs please share here with others! Your comments are welcome~EG

  2. Hi -when I start out with a new one I usually start with working them at a trot for ten minute intervals getting their HR over 100. For some horses that may mean trotting on the flat, and others on a gentle incline. I'll trot them watching to keep their HR over 100 and after ten minutes slow to a walk or stop and see how quickly they drop back down. I like them to drop to 60 or less within two minutes. If they do then I'll walk a bit and do another ten minute section with getting the HR up and keeping it over 100. If they don't, then I'll stick to a few more rides where I'm not pushing them to go more than ten minutes at a trot at a time. Eventually I like to work the horses all up to being able to trot for at least 40 minutes with a HR 100+ and then the 60 or less recovery w/in 2 minutes.

    The next most important thing to remember is to ride similarly to how you've trained - I've seen lots of riders who have never trotted for ten or twenty minutes straight get carried away during an actual competition and trot all the way to the first vetcheck several miles without giving the horse a break.

    Some other advice I was given once years ago from Julie Suhr - is to allow your horse to walk at least ten minutes of every hour. Not necessarily ten minutes at once, but maybe trot for ten and walk for two or three, etc.

  3. When I was getting started, I looked and looked for sample conditioning logs -- as in, actual miles and speeds used by real riders on real horses. Didn't find any.

    So, I've included Aaruba's conditioning log on my blog. It's in the sidebar. Hopefully, it'll be useful to somebody out there. :-)

    The conditioning program in this post seems a touch hurried to me. 8-10 mph for an hour in week 5? Hmm.

    But, my way ain't the only way! ;-)

  4. Tamara,

    Wish I could remember where I got this one from...I have a hard copy but don't remember the source. I think you are on target with your comment on the speed at the five week point. I have another program that is a four month program, will be posting it up. Today I'm just trying to get the guts to climb back on. Very bruised, sore, and stiff since my unplanned flying dismount. Appreciate the feedback! ~EG