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

October 7, 2009

Looking at various ideas for training and conditioning

Specifically: Fartleks, Interval Training, Negative Splits, & Cross Training.

Fartleks: Also known as Speedplay consists of short bursts of speed, lasting 1-3 minutes, followed by an in motion cool down, repeated up to six times in a session. Hillwork can be incorporated into this type of training to build wind, and to train those fast twitch muscles to become more tolerant of anerobic activity. For our purposes I see it like this...say you have a one mile training loop consisting of a flat, a moderate grade, and a moderate decent. You have warmed your horse up for at least 15 minutes, you shimmy down the hill, you trot the flat, and you canter the moderate uphill grade, back into the trot and then the walk down the hill. (Lap 1) heart rate should drop to within normal limits, and then you repeat. It would only require about a single mile training loop with varied terrain. Your session lasts a total of one hour, cool down, you are done.

Interval Training: I really like interval training. Basically walk a little, trot a little, canter a little, walk a little, trot a little, canter a little. It is different from Fartleks in that it is a slow consistant, continuing session lasting 2-3 hours. I've tried this the last two times we've been on trail and Phebes did very well. I even took it so far as to count strides, and switch about every 25-50 strides. Her heart rate stays very low doing this, and we still make very good time. Pretty easy on the rider too :)

Negative Splits: Riding the first half of your ride very conservatively, saving energy for the second half of the ride which you move out. Because Phebes is "hot" at the beginning of any type of ride I have been unable to get this worked out. In the future though I can see it being part of our training process.

Cross Training: For us it is a day or two either having a lesson, or practicing the lesson. Giving her mind and body a break from the rigors of trail work, and getting her to soften, and use her mind, as well as different muscle groups.

As we move into cold weather I expect I'll be going back to the beginning again. Continuing lessons and working towards a better horse overall. If you are interested in any of these training methods there is a ton of information out there on the web, just do a keyword search and add endurance horse behind the keyword. KYTITA! ~E.G.


  1. I lOVE Farlek training. When Running that is. Never used it with the horse. How I did the running farlek training was - pick a landmark in the distance and run at a fast/uncomfortable/but doable pace until I reached it. Then walk or jog slowly until COMPLETELY recovered. Repeat for the duration of the work out. It was fun and broke up the run. I liked using landmarks instead of time because then I didn't keep looking at my watch.

    I see interval training as my "normal" long run or ride protocol. Walk/trot/walk/trot over and over. When I run I do walk/run/walk/run over and over.

    I would add one more workout to your repitore (again, used in running, don't know much about horses....) that is the TEMPO run. When running this a run where you run faster than normal, but you can keep up the pace. For example. I can run 5-10 miles at a comfortable pace and it's easy - I don't get winded. For my tempo run I might run 3 miles at a pace that is 1-2 minutes faster than my easy run/interval run pace. It's a fast but comfortable pace done over a shorter distance. Make sense? So, if rides are usually done at a walk/trot or slow trot, I would see this work out done at a continuous fast trot.

  2. Should add to previous comment that the fast trot, but the workout would be shorter - if I was doing 10-15 miles on a hrose on the weekends, maybe a 5 mile tempo ride would be appropriate?

  3. i use Negative splits and will ride NO other way! they are amazing! we start a ride around 15th (say 45 people start) and we pass the people who left the start hauling a$$, their horses looking like they just rode 100 miles instead of the mere 15. once the last VC comes, around mile 40, we are normally in like 5-10 place, and are horses are still stomping at the ground while the front front FRONT runners, somewhere like 35 min. in front of us, their horses are lagging! I LOVE LOVE LOVE negative splits, and plan to ride Tevis in the same fashion (hmmm, but which pen to start in)

    Im not to crazy on Fartleks, they just don't seem to work for me :( but I do let them canter the flats, and some VERY GRADUAL uphill stuff. The canter gets their aerobics up and it also teaches them to cary themselves correctly. The other benefit of the canter is it makes them also carry your weight (so sit down in the saddle, i want to 2 point most of the time) In the trot, 1/2 the time your in the air...

    Hmmm, that was longer than I though it would be!

  4. Zach,

    If a person is to use Negative Splits for an LD, what would be your strategy? You ride longer distances, but surely from a completion point of view this should conserve energy and reduce lactic acid buildup in the muscles? I'm honestly blown away with the completion times on LD's and am mind boggled on how to get a horse performing at that level, and if you do perform at that level are you risking soundness for speed?

    Right now I'm plainly loving walk, trot intervals (mostly because I'm a fat old lady and this is easy on my bones). Walk, trots are also helping me to build confidence in this rather flighty horse, as we don't keep speed long enough to get into too much trouble. But! We won't stay at this level forever, at least I hope not.

    Mel, I can barely fathom running 10 miles. I've never had the cardio fitness to run even in my teens, or to swim *gasp* (heart valve thing) but I sure envy those who can do it and still breathe at the same time ;) You guys will either appreciate this or think I'm seriously batty...but I stuck Phebes heart rate monitor on ME a few weeks ago post ride. She was at 60 bpm / rider 167 bpm !!!

  5. I remember Fartlecks as well, from track. We usually ran on the road from one telephone pole to the next. Then walked, then ran as fast as we could. Going miles wasn't really that bad. Unless you had a hill to run!

    This coming wednesday is the KY Cup (FEI pre-ride for the world championships next year). I may go if the weather is good, and if I can get my father-in-law to baby sit. I know a couple people who are riding and a couple more who are working and a couple more who are watching. My former Shagya's full brother will be doing the 100. And Stormy's previous owner will be in the 100 as well.

    Michelle Detmer