Worried I am asking too much of him...
Okay to preface, I first became interested in endurance last year. At that time I went out and specifically purchased a horse for endurance - a mustang with wonderful gaits, that could go forever. Problem was, he was super lazy and it was exhausting just keeping him moving. I ended up leasing him to a wonderful lady who just trail rides him.
Meanwhile I had gotten very attached to my 13.2h grade pony gelding...and decided to try conditioning him for endurance. So I have been working with him for the past month, but I have my concerns about him as well. He has a great mind for endurance - he has lots of go, is quite brave and will try his heart out for you. However from the start he has always seemed to tire faster than my other horses and although he has definitely become more fit over time I worry that I am just asking too much of him. Some days he does better than others (though, as I said, he still seems to tire easily) But others, like tonight, after just a bit of trotting (maybe about 5 minutes?) and then about 10 minutes of walking, he was still panting. (I don't recall him breathing that hard ever before and it really had me worried). I am concerned that I am just asking too much of him. I am no featherweight to begin with, and I fear that even with lots of conditioning he just isn't cut out for endurance (or even limited distance rides). It breaks my heart because I am so bonded with him, but I don't want to hurt him.
I do have one other horse that I have always thought would be good for endurance. When we go trail riding, he is always the one that wants to keep going, even when all the other horses tire. He is a 16.2h Appendix QH...he WILL be 19 yrs old this year, but you would never know it from the way he acts (leaping and bucking in the pasture). At this point I am considering using him for endurance (for a few years anyway) as opposed to my pony. My husband does not want me getting any more horses and I don't want to push my pony...
Ponies are more likely to struggle with the distance simply because they have to put more energy into moving those legs along than a taller, leaner horse. However, every horse is individual and you have to judge them based on their traits alone, as it seems you're doing. There could be a few things going on here:
You could be asking too much too soon. How have you built up his distance and speed? Did you jump right in or build layer upon layer. Have you been checking his vital signs, particularly heart rate, all along to see if he's actually achieving the benchmarks for conditioning and hasn't been coming in fatigued? Have you added distance and/or speed one at a time and in small increments? If so, did there come a certain distance where he struggled more than he did before after even after a week or two of steady conditioning at that distance? Have you been adding speed when you should have been adding distance?
The option, of course, is that he's just not cut out for endurance. If you've been very precise and methodological in your conditioning, and there's nothing else wrong with him, he may just not be able to do it.
Glad you gave up on the mustang - you just CANNOT sit there pushing a horse for 25+ miles! It would be miserable! And the Appendix sounds like a fantastic horse for endurance. Many horses compete into their 20's! Granted, most of the ones around here are Arabs, but I think your horse likely has a few years left in him, especially if you're only doing LD's with plenty of time in between rides.
That's not to say ponies can't do endurance - I know quite a few juniors that ride them and do quite well. Each horse, rider, and situation is unique!
Best thing you can do is listen to your horse and your gut. Your know them better than anybody. If that voice in the back of your mind is saying its too much, then it's too much. You can either back off and try conditioning more slowly and see how it goes or else realize not every individual wants to go a distance.
Thanks everyone. I am going to back off a bit and work my pony more lightly from now on. We'll see how it goes:) If he can't do it, it's no big deal. I love him either way:) I will probably work on getting my Appendix back into shape as well. I took him out today and was reminded just how amazing he actually is. We got lost and were out there longer than intended, but he's a machine. My sister's mount (a 17h Hanoverian/TB) is technically in better shape as he is ridden about 3 times a week but despite the fact that my boy is smaller and was carrying nearly twice the weight, he showed much more stamina....barely breathing when the Hanoverian was huffing and puffing. :D
Have you gotten blood work done on him? That sounds odd if only after 5 0r 10 min. he is already panting. Good luck on your other horse though!
I haven't, though I do plan to talk to my vet about it when I see him again (which should be in a couple of weeks as we have vaccinations/coggins due). When I told my sister (a training level Eventer) about everything, she pointed out that it really is a miracle that he is as sound as he is anyway...he has only been back under saddle since March after recovering from sweeney shoulder. She agreed that I should just take it slow for now.
My other horse is doing great so far though:)
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