Some conditioning theory from the folks down-under.
I found this blog/instructional on conditioning the beginner endurance horse today at Perserverance Arabians
IMO it is one of the best, clear, concise beginner instructional guides on the topic that I have found. So often, a book, or a blog, or even a mentor/contact can only give you a starting place. The author of this particular piece is very clear on what to do, when to do it, and how long to do it. Probably the only area of disagreement for me was the use of quite a bit of lunging at some points, I’m just not a fan of it, though I do use it when I can’t do anything else, and I’m working with the horse’s mind, more than extrapolating some type of physical benefit necessarily. I worry a little about the stress on the legs doing too many tight circles. It’s just a “me” thing. Their use of it may be correct… The cantering phase may be a little ambitious and early, but then I’m too conservative sometimes and can barely make a cutoff time. I do believe a typo says a 50 mile (80KM) in 5 to 6 hours actually was meant a 30 mile. Keep that in mind.
That said! It’s a good starter point for a newbie. Especially Phase one and two. The program breaks down into four phases, walking, trotting, cantering, building reserves/tapering.
Phase One program begins with 4-5 sessions per week of walking, building up gradually to 2-3 hours per session, in all terrains. Rocky, roads, dirt, sand, hills, whatever you can throw at it. It is low-intensity work, builds muscle, bone, tendon, and adapts the horse to being “out there.” The bonus is it teaches the rider some patience and persistence. For the time pressured rider, just plan on 48 hours of walking doing 4 / 2 hour workouts a week/for six weeks to total up the 48 hours. Towards the end of phase one you can add some trotting short distances to prepare for phase two.
Phase Two of the program is 4-6 weeks of trotting with 3-4 workouts per week, always warming up 15 minutes by walking, then moving to the trot. You build gradually until the horse can trot up to 2 hours without a break. Rider works on getting from the horse a relaxed, rhythmic, but forward moving trot, with the expectation that the horse will develop a stronger trot over time, not immediately.
Phase Three of the program involves cantering. The goal is to bring the horse up in cardio/respiratory fitness, and to canter rhythmically, and rate its speed. The horse has 5 sessions of canter/every 14 days. Always a warm up and cool down period and trotting between canters to clear lactic acid from the muscles. Build the cantering up slowly over the 4 week period until the horse can alternate trot/canter for a total of 2 hours. This IS NOT SPRINTING, but a relaxed, loose rein canter. The horse gets 2-4 recovery days between each phase three work session depending on how the horse feels and energy level.
Phase Four lasts for one week and is for tapering training down in preparation for the first endurance ride. Reduce feed concentrates during this period significantly, for the week prior to a competition light work only (short pleasure ride, short schooling session, no speed work).
***This was only a short synopsis of the article. Please follow the link and read the article in its entirety. Kudos and credits: Francois & Laura Seegers, Perseverane, October 2012.