Preparing for my first competitive trail ride! Tips & Tricks!?
I'm preparing to train for my first competitive trail ride. Since my horse is fairly out of shape...ahem...very very out of shape...I wanted to take it slow and easy. I just bought her about 2 weeks ago, and we're still getting used to each other, so for the next 4 weeks or so, I'm going to be working on exercises for respect Clinton Anderson style. I have this book that I've read, and used on another horse with much success. This horse is already a lovely horse, but she clearly doesn't have any idea what groundwork is, and I believe that groundwork is important. Why not start from the bottom up while building our bond? So anyway, I plan on working through this book over the next 4 weeks before training for the ride. (I also have to wait until hunting season is over to legally (and safely) ride the trails near my barn.
My horse is a 9 year old quarter horse mare who has been trail ridden and started in reining. She seems to spook easily, and I don't know if it is because she's in a completely new place for the first time in her life, or if she's always been kind of spooky. Either way, what better way to get over scary things than to do a lot of trail riding.
My logic is, I want her in better shape than what she would need to be for the ride, so I'm taking it slow and steady. (I need to be in good shape too) I made up a schedule because I'm a type A weirdo that likes to know when everything happens.
Goal: 2-3 day trail ride at 25-40 miles a day
Here's my schedule:
--Short trails: 3-4 times a week to get used to the idea (1 hour a day)
--Moderate trails: 5 miles a day 3-5 times a week within 2 hours
--Intermediate trail rides: 5 miles a day 3-5 times a week within an hour
--Trail rides: 7 miles a day 3-5 times a week within an hour
--Trail rides: 10 miles a day 3-5 times a week within 2 hours
--Trail rides: 15 miles a day 3-5 times a week within 3 hours
--Trail rides: 20 miles a day 3-5 times a week within 4 hours
--Trail rides: 25 miles a day 3-5 times a week within 5 hours
--Trail rides: 25 miles a day 3 consecutive days within 5 hours
--Trail rides: 30 miles a day 3 consecutive days within 6 hours
--Trail rides: 35 miles a day 3 consecutive days within 7 hours
--Trail rides: 40 miles a day 3 consecutive days within 8 hours
--Continue 40 miles a day 3 times a week until competition
Also, list of basic trail things to keep me safe while riding alone
***tell someone where I'm going before I leave***
-cell phone (on me, not my horse)
-wasp spray (as a weapon)
-sunscreen (I'm the palest, freckliest person on Earth)
-map of conservation area
-sponge on a string
Please don't make too much fun of me for my detailed schedule, I'm a scheduler and it just makes me feel better to know how things are supposed to go, and it gives me something to stick to. :lol:
Any tips/tricks for competitive trails, both preparing for them and riding them?
Any important items I'm missing?
I am assuming you will be doing NATRC type of competetive trail rides.
If that is the case, I think you are over working your horse. Conditioning for endurance, Maybe, but way more than you need to complete CTR.
My horses did very well at CTR when we rode 6-7 hour ride on saturday and 2 evening rides of 1-2 hours during the week. Then I would attend a CTR every other weekend and complete the 40-50 mile weekend.
Your week 13 training will be plenty. No need to try and do the week 20 stuff.
Muscles need time to rebuild after your tear them down. You don't need to be doing 3 consectative days of 30-40 mile rides at trotting speeds.
I think you would be better off doing the LSD rides 3 times a week and spending other days working on the horsemanship or control goals. Remember CTR has two judges. One for conditioning and one judge for horsemanship skills.
Even marathon runners who compete in 26.2 marathon races, don't run that far everyday in training.
So...take it easy on my plan. Got it.
What exactly are LSD rides? Also, I'm interested in endurance riding, but so many people say you need a long, lean machine to do endurance riding. If I were to train like that with my quarter horse, do you think I would be able to finish a 25 to 50 mile endurance ride? I know Arabs are supposed to be the way to go due to blood vessels near the surface for quick cooling, and slow twitch muscle fibers. Is it stupid to use a bulky horse for endurance, or is it possible with rigorous training?
I'm definitely going to do a few CTRs before I really look hard into endurance. But I'm curious if it's possible. My goal would be to finish, not to place. I just think it would be a neat experience.
As far as horsemanship, what kind of things do judges like to see, aside from overall control of the horse? My girl easily moves hindquarters and shoulders in 360 degree circles, sidepasses, and has awesome breaks (when she wants to, which is definitely a place we're going to be working on)
LSD = Long Slow Distance This is what builds the hard tissue of an athlete. Tendons, ligiments, bones. It is also the tissue that takes the longest time to get conditioned.
The soft tissue is faster to develope. ie lungs, heart, muscles. It's also the faster to loose conditioning.
Any distance competition will require the development of both tissue types. Most distance competitors follow a LSD training program so that both tissue types get conditioned.. Basically instead of going out and doing a few short wind sprints that will develop heart and lung tissue. You are better off doing Long slow distances that develop the over all conditioning of the horse. Fast walk - slow trot kinda stuff vs cantering and faster gaits.
I firmly believe any horse with proper conditioning can finish an endurance race. But certain breeds will be better built to win those events. Your quarter horse may not be built to win those kind of races, but with conditoning he can complete them. As long as you understand this and work your horse at a speed he can handle, you can go and enjoy those endurance types of competition, But you probably won't be bringing any ribbons home. But I have seen Quarter horses do very well in CTR.
The advantage of the arabs is they are thinnly built, Allowing more muscles to loose heat faster than a heavily muscled horse like a quarter horse. They also have larger lung/heart in relation to their total mass than some other breeds.
Each judge will find obsticles for the CTR that they judge. Depending on whats available, they could ask for anything that demonstrates horsemanship skills. Here in my part of the country, The judges always liked to try and find natural vs contrived obsticles. i.e. side pass over to a tree and tie a ribbon on. Put on a rain slicker while in the saddle. Mount the horse with out it moving. or a variation of that, Pretend that you have a broken arm and mount your horse while not using the injured limb. Often they hid and watched you pass natural trail obsticles such blow down logs in the trail, crossing water, going up or down steep banks to see how centered you stayed. I've been asked to back my horse around a tree while keeping a hand touching the tree all the way around. So being able to get your horse to move off leg aids, to back, to go forward thru unfamilar objects all come into play.
CTR is a great place to learn before going on into endurance. You will learn to camp with your horse, to read your horses biometrics. Respiration, heart rate, capillary refill, hydration etc. So you know when your horse is becoming stressed. Most CTR rules don't allow any medications or treatments and since you ride multiple days, any soreness will show up. ie. filling or stocking in the legs. or soreness in the loins. Endurance riders will often pack their horses legs in clay poultic and wrap them after a ride to prevent filling. Not allowed in CTR.
CTR is at a slower speed and shorter distances, ( 20-25 miles per day 40-50 mile weekends vs 50 mile one day endurance race) So you learn to manage your horse. Endurance doesn't have a horsemanship judge. You can have a pretty rank horse, as long as he is fast you can win. In CTR, its the combination of conditioning and horsemanships skills that will win.
Doing an Endurance ride is on my life-goal list, not my 2013 goal list. My mentality about endurance is that it would be awesome just to finish one for the experience of doing it. Maybe after a couple years of consistent CTRs I'll enter in an endurance ride.
Thanks again for your help!
I recommend going to the AERC website. Under the education link, there are excellent articles with detailed conditioning schedules that are very helpful.
Also learn your horse's heart rate, resting and working.... get to where you know his recovery rate too. This will aid in monitoring progress of fitness and conditioning needs.
Finally, while I only carry about half of the items on your list, one thing I do consider a must-have item when trail riding is my camera.
Ride safe and have fun!
Oh... and one more thing.... I like to have electrolytes on hand (I prefer blackstrap molasses & celtic sea salt w/ minerals to make a slurry) if I have really worked my horse in the heat.
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