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

January 21, 2011

Spring is coming...spring is coming....repeat after me....spring is...

Another miserly storm huffed through southeastern Indiana yesterday. This laid down a fresh undercoating of ice, topped with 4-6 inches of fresh snow. Phebes at feeding time last night was wet and shivering. We put her up with a belly full of warm wet mash, some alfalfa and grass hay. Though I hate wishing my life away I do long for the end of winter. It wears on me. So I took out a pile of various sources on conditioning in case some newbie to the sport should also be grinding their teeth with the weather and would like to look at conditioning programs. Please take note that these ALL COME WITH A DISCLAIMER because what works for one horse will just as likely not be particularly good with another. The primary goals are base fitness, long slow distance, and endurance (as in ability to hang in there while continuing to work at aerobic heart rates). Now comes the SECOND DISCLAIMER. I am a newbie too. I've done a lot of blogging because I started from scratch with an unridden horse. Even though I've been here for awhile I only have about five total LD notches in my belt. All programs assume a well broke horse that is being ridden, in good weight, with no underlying medical issues.

Let's start with a very short synopsis of the version from the AERC.
0-90 days
Begin by riding 2-3 miles at 5 mph several days a week, if your horse is getting this easily, then double the mileage. Stabled horses should work five days a week, horses that live in a pasture setting may work three days a week (rest days in between work days). Do two 30 minute sessions a week doing arena schooling as a warm up prior to riding out. Work in hills one of your sessions each week going easy on the downhills.
90 Days to Nine Months
You will gradually increase your mileage once every week on your LSD day (not speed,just distance). Twice per week you will work on a shorter faster ride to gradually increase the horse's aneorbic threshold. These short fast sessions should only be for half an hour. You can substitute a hill session for one of the short fast rides. As you push into six months of training begin to train the horse to trot carefully downhill. Don't over do it. If you have it available to you train in sand, water, mud, rain, sun, and heat. Watch your horse's weight, condition and attitude, if something is, and regroup. A full copy of the article is available in the Endurance Rider's Handbook, Chapter Six, pages 25-33.

The next one is from Fitness for Horse and Rider by Jane Holderness-Roddam, again my condensed synopsis which is written for eventing, but then seques into endurance. For the full monty check out the book from the libary.
Week one: walk the horse 1/2-1 hour daily for six days.
Week two: walk the horse 1-1.5 hours daily for six days.
Week three: walk & slow trot the horse for 1-1.5 hours daily for six days.
Week four: walk and slow trot 1-2 hours each session for six days.
Week five: Take it to the trails for one hour walking and trotting, twice a week arena/flatwork.
Week six: Hit the trail for 1-2 hours, flatwork 2 times week.
Week seven: Challenge the horse with hill trails 1 time this week, begin to incorporate a session of fast work once a week, and flat work once a week.
Week eight: Trails with hills once, intervals once, schooling once.
Week nine: Trail work at a good trot for two hours, schooling one hour, intervals for one session.
Weeks ten, eleven, and twelve are pretty much repeats of week nine.

For an LD Add two more weeks of extra fitness work, for 50 miles 7-8 weeks of fitness work, for 75 miles eighteen weeks of fitness work, for a 100 mile 20 weeks of extra fitness work. (Pretty vague, huh?) Jamming it through my brain matter I'm looking at the this as basic work if you already had a "base" on your horse. So If you had done several LD's during an eight week period you would likely be ready to move on up to a higher mileage assuming everything was going well with the horse each time.

Next up is Nancy Loving's Go The Distance, pages 98-99

Step One: More or less walk/trot an hour every other day keeping the horse's heart rate between 100-140 bpm. (Distance 5-6 miles).
Step Two: Slowly increase your mileage each week, working towards a conditioning "goal" of no more than 30 miles a week. As the distance goals are met, and the pace becomes easier, you step up the speed, but not the distance for brief periods taking the horse into anerobic heart rates of 170 bpm by incorporating hillwork into the training.
As training progresses the horse should be fit to work at a steady 8 mph pace over level terrain 3-4 times a week.
Step Three: Now begin planning conditioning on a two week cycle, with five workouts per two week period. Four of the rides will be short (an hour) at speeds up to 10 mph with a heart rate between 110-150. The fifth ride is long and slow 10 miles working up over time to about 18 miles at a pace 5-6 mph.
I like her program, which seems more within the real world case of working people getting it done. But please read and digest her full section on it rather than relying on my "short version" of it and don't argue with Nancy. I think she is a solid reliable source for the newbies of the distance world.

This one was written by John Thomas, DVM, from Competitive Trail Ride Clinic & Seminar, my spin on it follows:
Week 1: Ride 1/2 hour daily, rain, sun, or whatever working on a forward walk, time the walk for one mile and record it in a note book. Also include your normal arena work this week working on all gaits.
Week 2: Daily you will ride the horse for 1/2 hour by walking ten minutes and trotting two minutes until you have used up your 1/2 hour. Rain, sun, wind, whatever, ride the horse.
Week 3: Again you will ride daily but you will alternate 1/2 hour sessions with 1 hour sessions. Ride a measured mile at the trot and record the time it took in your notebook.
Week 4: Ride an hour a day and extend the trotting periods, add in some hills. Canter the horse for 1/2 mile once this week.
Week 5: Ride 10 miles one day(trotting 1/3 of it) over rolling terrain. The other days trot for 10 minutes, walk for 5, repeat three times, then cool down with a 1/2 hour of arena work.
Week 6: On the weekend ride 15 miles of hilly terrain in three hours. Ride an hour the other days splitting the walk and trot time.
Week 7: Ride five times total this week. Travel 2 hours at a 6 mph pace. Mid week gallop for 1 mile, walk 3-5 minutes, and then gallop 1/3 of a mile.
Week 8: Repeat week 7 but lengthen the second gallop.
Week 9: Ride short and fast three days a week, with suppling exercises on the days in between, on the weekend ride 25 miles (here it gets dicey he has us riding it at the trot or canter which I feel is too much for a new horse starting out and sets up race brain from the start). The training progresses from there moving on to sprints of up to two miles, and by week eleven has you topping out at 12-15 mph!!! The whole way...HOLY MOLY !!! But he does slow us down to 9 mph for hot weather. I was with him up until the end, but just my opinion and we all know that I ride slower than the itch. Dr. Thomas (God rest his soul) must have liked to race.

Next up is a sample program from The Endurance News, October 2010, page 25. I like this as a beginner's program because it is doable, workable, and conservative. It takes you to the fifth week, then you are on your own.
To start you will ride three days a week, jogging 5 minutes, walking 3 minutes X's 5 (for a duration of 40 minutes), day two you will jog 3 minutes, and walk three minutes x's 5 (for a duration of 30 minutes), day three you will jog 5 minutes/walk 3 minutes X's 4 (for a duration of 32 minutes). The program progresses slowly from week one until by week five you are trotting 5 minutes/walking one minute and repeating it ten times. You just continue stretching out the trotting with short walking intervals until you have stretched out your trail distance to about 12 miles covered in two hours, then 20 miles in four hours. This is a good beginner pace for a horse starting the sport. Since you are only riding three times a week, you can throw in the long ride on the weekend, do hill sets once during week, and a good schooling session, and still get there.

I have at least three or four more programs lying in front of me. But now let's look at some things that a "real" endurance rider (vs. a book) sent to me who shall go un-named and anonymous ☺.

Anonymous #1: Rode their horse for six miles at a nice trotting clip on the road twice a week for the first five weeks. (no reason you could not substitute the trail if your horse is more agreeable there). The next two weeks the rider rode hill terrain of 8 mile 1 x per week, and 10 miles of flat trotting 1 x per week. Next up was a slow 25 mile LD. (so this got the job done for a completion in 7 weeks), then back into training at 12 miles 2 x per week until the next 30 mile LD with a week off to recover, then riding 8-10 miles 2 x per week at a good clip until the next LD. This rider used a heart rate monitor, took notes of heart rate to assure that the horse was at no time being over-ridden. For a horse that already has a reasonable fitness base this program agrees with me as long as I was pointed to single day LD's. You are never pushing for unreasonable speed, just a nice getting it done pace.

Anonymous #2: Ride four days a week. Ride 10-15 miles at 6-10 mph twice weekly, interval training one day a week, hill training one day a week. Basically riding every other day. Move out fast on the flats (think fartleks). Once every two weeks go really long 25+ miles at a more easygoing pace 5-7 mph. Ride training rides as fast as you intend to ride on competition day (either on purpose or *ahem* by accident), doing less is not fair for the horse. (Here let me interject that this person has taken a horse to some very prestigious rides and done quite well, with many BC's, top fives, and winning ride times.

Last but not least (well-- maybe) this is what our program would (sort of) look like heading towards our first LD this year after having a nice base last year.
Week one: walk/trot an hour X 3 days, 7 miles on the weekend.
Week two: warm up, trot, cool down an hour x 2 days, 10 miles on the weekend.
Week three: warm up, trot, cool down an hour x 3 days, 13 miles on the weekend.
Week four: 30 minutes of intensive hill climbing with a warm up and cool down = 1 hour x 1 day. An hour of intensive trotting x 1 day. 15 miles on the weekend of LSD.
Week five: 30 minutes of intensive hill climbing with a warm up and cool down for a total hour x 1 day. An hour of schooling at the walk, trot canter x 1 day, and 18 miles on the weekend LSD.
Week six: Hillwork 45 minutes x 1 day, interval work x 45 minutes 1 day, longing 1 day, and 20 miles on the weekend broke into a 10 mile/10 mile segment with rest in between (think lunch!).

Once we have 20 LSD miles the approach will go towards back to back training days on the weekend to simulate our goal of riding multi-days before we actually get there for an LD.

Weeks seven-whenever: Hillwork once a week, schooling once a week (lesson will be inserted here and I will ask for a very intensive lesson), then on the weekend 10/15, 10/20, 10/25, or something along those lines with some rest days thrown in as needed.

That is it. I'm not going to pull back the curtains and look out the window right now. I know what is still out there...though I must drag on my boots in a bit and face up to cleaning the stalls with the bitter windchill, to find my way to the barn I will have to open my eyes and look at it. Yes, spring is coming, spring is coming, repeat after me, spring is coming.


If you have had a winter layoff, feel free to add your thoughts on how you intend to go, or throw snowballs at the plans. We do afterall have too much time on our hands, yes?


  1. Wow - lots to weed through here. THANKS for taking the time! I keep meaning to sit down and plan a training schedule for this spring, but I guess its good I haven't because we wouldn't be able to stick to it anyway. So between what you have posted and what I have at home, hopefully I can come up with something that works.

    I sure was hoping for lots of time this spring to get Doc in condition, but I'm thinking we'll have more like 7-8 weeks if we are lucky. I might have to skip Chicken Chase if the weather doesn't get more cooperative soon. Though I have been taking Doc with me when I go on my jog/walks 2-3 miles 2x/week and a riding lesson every other weekend - just haven't been able to do it this week with travel and the weather. But I need to get to doing more riding. :-)

  2. Lida, how is Doc doing? I caught where he was off last week? What did you decide to do?


  3. Pack up the fam and move to Reno. I am super smug about this new long range forecast I just saw:

    You read way more widely about endurance than I do - have you seen any second-year training programs? Right now I'm tentatively shooting for 3 days a week, 5-10 miles at a time, with some optional longer days. The Reno Endurance Bloggers Coalition* is possibly going to get together tomorrow for 18 miles - I hope it happens!

    We've also got the NEDA rides - they're like mini-endurance rides. 10 or 20 miles, one or two loops, a cursory p&r check at the finish, good endurance training environment. They're usually once a month, all year. I can work those in for mental training for Queen Spazzy.

    *me, ~C, Zach, and another non-blogger.

  4. Doc is just his usual offness when he is not fit. But he is not bouncing back in the summers like he used to so I think it is time to get him checked out and see what I am dealing with. I imagine some degree of arthritis, but it would be good to know and if there is more I can be doing for him I'd like to at least know what our options are.