So it's been a while since I've been in the saddle. I've just moved out of home and juggling that along with work and the horses it's been a struggle. But I've just agisted my horse closer to my new house so I'm ready to get back into the swing of things.
I was just after some help from the more experienced people on here to come up with a good training program that will get my horses fitness and skill back up ready for me to start competing again.
Coming up with a day by day or week by week plan would be ideal. If you have any suggestions it would be so helpful.
My horse is a 10 year old TBXClydie and has been out of work for about 4 months.
What I've always done when building up fitness from nothing is to start with lots of hacking and a bit of lungeing. I usually do something along the lines of:
1 week (meaning five days on, two days off, preferably giving the two days off together eg a weekend so they don't get too stiff) of ten minutes mixed walk and trot work on the lunge per day. I build up the number of minutes of trot to walk as the week goes on, e.g. Two minutes walk, thirty seconds trot, one minute walk, thirty seconds trot, thirty second walk each rein to start, then increasing slowly to one minute walk, one minute trot, thirty seconds walk, one minute trot, thirty seconds walk, one minute trot, thirty seconds walk over the week.
1 week of an hour active walking under saddle plus ten minutes lungeing per day
1 week of an hour active walking under saddle including short trot bursts plus ten minutes lungeing per day. Within this week, be building up the distance and number of trot bursts under saddle.
Take two weeks to build up the amount of trotting, introducing short bursts on small inclines if possible, and build up the hack length to an hour and a half per day. Keep up the lungeing, but you can be starting to build up the number of minutes towards 15/20 (always depends on how your horse is feeling, don't push them to tiredness) and introducing short bursts of canter on the lunge, building up over the two weeks to maintaining thirty second or so of canter (canter on the lunge asks quite a lot of an unfit horse, so avoid sustained periods of cantering).
By this point, your horse should be reasonably trot-fit. I always like to build trot-fitness well up before bringing in canter work, as they can carry themselves and you better in the canter if there is already a decent level of fitness there.
From here, I do the same in canter as in trot: start with introducing occasional short bursts, and over three weeks build up the frequency and length of these bursts, and begin to introduce hill work in canter as well as increasing hill work in trot. Once you start cantering out on hacks, drop the lungeing, and slowly increase hack length to two hours.
So, eight weeks to build up to a reasonably fit horse. For cross-country fitness, you need to then carry on building up the amount of cantering you are doing, but either way your horse is now plenty fit enough to be thoroughly schooled now ready for competition. I like to had a horse pretty fit before I ask questions of it in the school, otherwise fitness is usually your limiting factor. Some people would take less time than this to build up fitness, but once you come out of it you will have a happy, fit and far from school-sour horse who is ready to work, or be introduced to jumping and galloping fitness conditioning regimes. Obviously this level of buildup would;t be necessary in a happy hacker, but for building up young horses or ones that have had a long time off this is how I bring them back to fitness for competition. It works well starting in August/September, ready to have the horse arena-ready for the winter and to start schooling when the evenings are dark
All of this is obviously a guideline, and very dependent on you reading your own horse to see how well they are coping. If your horse seems very fatigued for more than a single day at a time (odd tired days are allowed, if they aren't too bad) then just back off what you are asking for and take a little more time over it. Also, if your horse's base fitness is higher and finds it all far too easy, then you can build up a little quicker until you reach your horse's tired point - when they come back from work and feel like they've worked hard. A lot depends on reading your own horse.
Hope this helps some, as a guideline idea for building up fitness. And remember to build up his feeding as you train - you want plenty of energy.
Edit: Something to think about as well is that you are building up fitness for competition for next year, so think about having six months to eight months of fitness building in total. It's all about slow build up, and judging how your horse is feeling with regards to the work.