Winter Trail Rides?
I have been thinking... If my lease owner allows, I would like to do an Endurance race. However the only problem is, her boy is very out of shape. I thought maybe doing trail work would be the best way to get him into shape?
Is it safe to do trails in the winter? Is there anything extra I should worry about aside from the normal winter riding precautions?
If he's really out of shape, make sure to give him time to get into shape before you ask too much. http://www.olddominionrides.org/EndurancePrimer/11.html has a lot of good information. One of the biggest challenges you may face is that he's may overheat easily to start with because his body has to adapt to get rid of heat efficiently, which is going to mean you have a hot, wet horse that takes forever to try and must be kept from getting a chill or tying up in the cold. If you watch him and ease him into it, you should be fine, but I wanted to bring it up as it's easy to forget how hot they can get when it's so cold outside!
My good friend told me that generally speaking, it take a year or two to get a horse into shape for full-distance endurance since their feet and bones take so much longer to adapt and condition to the task than their heart, lungs and muscles. Too much too soon ends up in lameness. Just finishing a limited distance might be a good intermediate goal you can accomplish sooner though!
Oh ya! Limited distance would be great! Thank you for the information!
I would just advise that you keep a close eye on the footing. I'm not sure what the weather is like in your area but around here, the ground is often frozen and if it happened to freeze when it was muddy, then there can be areas of frozen/torn up earth with sharp points where the mud froze. Even the hardest hooves cannot stand up to riding on that for very long before they start getting cuts and bruises in their soles.
Also, if your area is prone to ice, try to stay away from areas where you know water collects on the trail.
Long Slow Distance is a great way to start conditioning your horse. Start with just walking ( at a brisk walk) for a couple of hours, after a few rides and you see that the horse is handling the 7-10 mile trail rides, Add some trots in a couple of stretches of the ride. After a month or two, you can extend those trots to more of the ride.
Soft tissue, ( muscles, lungs, heats) do condition much faster than hard tissue( tendons, ligiments and bones) But long distance trotting is great for building bone mass and harding up the hard tissue.
If you get out several times a week and work at it, By summer you should be able to do an endurance race. Don't expect to win or be in the top 10, Ride your race and enjoy the experience, observe the vets and learn to care for the horse.
You may also want to look into a CTR, They are shorter distance, slower pace, but a good place to get your horses started in distance events.
I think I will look into ctr. I think working with that before diving into a full fledged endurance race would be great. The only problem is my lease is a TB... I told my lease owner about my goal of doing endurance and she said arabs and light boned horses are great for endurance.
CTR=Competitive Trail, correct? O.o
Anywho, my QH-typey TB mare could easily do competitive trail in the shape she's in now (ridden at least twice a week on a small ride).
If I conditioned her and actually rode, rode instead of relaxing on the trail (and it wasn't complete mess right now), I'm sure she could manage limited distance with no problem, and maybe even place on a good day.
The horse doesn't really need to be all thay competitive at a sport to have fun with it :p
While Arabs and lighter horses are the general for endurance, I'm sure the right TB could manage to occasionally place depending on the competition at the ride.
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CTR = Competitive Trail Ride. There are numerous organization that sponsor events. Look to see what organization is close to you. NATRC.ORG is one that I used to do.
CTR has all horses cover the same distance at the same speed. Kinda like a road rally, Finish too early or too late and you are out of the game. They usually do 50 miles over a Weekend, So 20-25 miles on Saturday and the same on Sunday. Novice classes usually move out at brisk walk, Open riders will be expected to have some distances of trotting. So it's not to terrible tough on the horses.
Unlike Endurance CTR will have a Horsemanship judge that will ask you handle some obstacles during the ride. Most organization try to stay traditional, and have you deal with the kind of obstacle that a trail horse would encounter in your area. Around here, we are crossing logs, creeks, steep hills, maybe side pass over or put on a rain slicker while in the saddle.
You have vet judge looking at your horse 3-4 times a day, It's a great opportunity to see what vets are looking at and learn from them how to care for your horse.
Thank you! That seems like a lot of fun!
Eee! So excited!
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