endomondo · physical fitness (horse)

Adding Wind, Not Just Strength

I don’t always claim to be the quickest off the mark. Case in point: last week, I was hacking out bareback with one of the barn working students, and M., the assistant trainer, joined us by trotting up the hill. She was riding one of the really talented upper level dressage horses, an Andalusian, and commented at the top of the hill that “I can feel his heart going pitter-patter!”

That started a slow burn thought in the back of my head. This is a horse that’s schooling all the Grand Prix movements, and is right now gaining strength to refine his piaffe and passage. He is in superb shape. But his wind – his aerobic capacity – needed work, hence why she was out with me in the field.

I’ve been doing so much work on building strength with Tristan; 90% of the work we’ve done for the last 3 weeks has been at the walk. He’s responding to it well. His walk is more energetic, and he’s building some muscle. But I’ve been totally neglecting his wind.

So last night we incorporated some quick sprints, too. We started out with a walk around the field, with some short trots up hilly areas. Then we went into the outside ring and worked for about 10 minutes on trot and canter, getting him supple and keeping him forward and even. He can be tricky in the outdoor ring, and he showed that last night when a horse down in the barn kicked its stall and he tried to bolt for the barn. I got him back in a few strides and he settled in to some nice work.

Note to self: remember to stay deep in the saddle! Far too easy to prop out of the saddle and leave the re-gathering to my hands alone when he gets strong like that.

Then we walked around the field again, and from the bottom trotted and then cantered up the hill. Aha! He felt strong and capable, and even pulling away a bit, but he was breathing so hard he was almost roaring. His muscles were more than capable of the work; his lungs were behind the ball. Interesting!

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