Conditioning your horse

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Conditioning your horse

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    04-07-2011, 07:25 PM
Question Conditioning your horse

How do you guys condition your horses for trail riding? I'm going to be doing competitive trail riding with my Peruvian Paso, Connie, and she's not very fit from the winter, so I want to start conditioning her for this summer's events!

Do any of you have ideas for good exercises? What do you do one your own horse? How often should I ride her? Also, is there any special feed requirements? I'm also looking for an endurance saddle that's pretty cheap so if anyone could give recommendations, that's be great! Thanks!!!
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    04-07-2011, 07:44 PM
Green Broke
Do any of you have ideas for good exercises?

Trotting is an excellent exercise. Lots of trotting. For CTRs, you need down backing, turn on the forehand, turn on the haunches, and sidepass. If you can do those four things, you can literally do 95% of the obstacles. That back must be clean and straight, with as little rein contact as possible.

Do some "dressage patterns". Circles, squares, triangles... Back to freshman geometry. Do spirals, serpentines, and the like to limber her up and make her strong. Walk, trot, and canter poles. A good trail horse knows their feet are attached to their bodies. Walk hills, and eventually trot hills.

What do you do one your own horse?

I assume you mean, "on your own horse". I do CTRs with NATRC.

How often should I ride her?

Ideally, five days a week. A minimum of four. Once you get her conditioned, only three times a week are required.

Also, is there any special feed requirements?

Only if she starts losing too much weight and looking ribby, losing her coat shine, or similar problems. My horse is on Omagatin right now to keep her weight stable and gets some alfalfa.

I'm also looking for an endurance saddle that's pretty cheap so if anyone could give recommendations, that's be great!

What do you ride in now?
    04-07-2011, 07:48 PM
I would do a lot of trotting. It helps to build muscle and conditions her.
    04-07-2011, 08:08 PM
Thanks! I don't know if i'll be able to ride her 4 days a week, yet... maybe closer to summer. I'll definitely work on the pattern things with her this weekend and take her out on the trail. We have lots of hills around here so it shouldn't be a problem to get her working on those! I also need to work on backing up. Do you have any exercises to help with backing, turning on forehand and haunches, and sidepassing? We really need to work on that.

Right now I ride in an ordinary western saddle... isn't uber comfy so i'm thinking about getting an endurance saddle. Any reccomendations?
    04-07-2011, 09:51 PM
Green Broke
First, does she already know how to sidepasses, TotH, and TotR? If she does, you'll have to teach her these on the ground first. I can go into greater detail if she doesn't know.

Backing I'm pretty sure she knows. Start on the ground. You should be able to stand in front of her, walk forwards, and say back. She should respond by backing at straight, without any pressure from the lead rope. Carry a dressage whip and tap her between the legs until she starts to back if she at first doesn't respond. Never touch her with your hands or use halter pressure unless necessary. Once she is backing nicely on the ground (this both helps undersaddle training and judges will sometimes ask for backs on the ground), you can move undersaddle.

Ask very, very lightly, and only ask for one step at the time at first. First, use only the verbal cue "back" and recline your body. If she doesn't respond, pull lightly on the reins. She may not respond immediately, but soon will get annoyed with the mouth pressure and back. Release your reins to slack. Gradually ask for more and more steps. With each step, release all rein pressure. Soon, when you say back, your horse will back with a verbal cue and continue backing until you say woah, no rein pressure necessary to keep her moving backwards. Judges LOVE that. It keeps your horse happy (no head flipping or gaping) and looks NICE.

This may sound very basic, but going back to the basics with something like this works miracles. Trust me.

After you have a good, straight back, back though everything. Stop randomly on the trail and back. Back up hills. Back through creeks, over tarps... If you can do it frontwards, you should do it backwards too. Judges love to ask for you to back over strange stuff.

To keep her straight, use heel pressure significantly behind the girth if she goes astray to push her hindquarters back into the proper position. Once you get your TotF, you should be able to back patterns, like Ls. You should be able to change directions while backing with no problems. Soon, you'll be backing beautiful squares and triangles.

I actually ride in an English saddle, so I can't really help with the endurance saddle situation... The Western saddl will probably have to go though. How heavy is it?
    04-10-2011, 10:32 PM
I don't know how to sidepass. She might but I don't know how to ask for it so i'm not sure... what's TotH and TotR? Wow, I really need to study up on some things!! I'll work on backing for now though. My western saddle's probably around 30-35 pounds... don't know exactly.
    04-10-2011, 10:55 PM
Green Broke
TotF = Turn on the forehand. I didn't mean to put an R instead of an F.

TotH = Turn on the haunches.

Try and see if she'll sidepass. There are multiple ways to ask. Most people teach it by tightening your left rein and kicking with your left foot behind the girth to sidepass right.
    05-02-2011, 03:40 PM
Hi, Nice to see another Peruvian Horse on the trails! I do distance riding with my 8 yr.old Peruvian Mare. Every year I have to start from scratch conditioning her as I live in Wisconsin and can't ride for a couple months.. Anyway, I start her at a walk. Walk, walk walk. Then during the second week I start out at a walk and then to a slow Paso Llano. That is usually their favorite gait. Not to much to soon. I ride about 5 days a week. When you can ride for 6 to 8 hrs. A day without to much fatigue you will be ready to do the long rides. It usually takes me about a month. And I never push her. She lets me know when she is ready to give me more. As for the side pass... Easy.. Stand in front of a good fence, Slight pressure on the outside rein {If she is neck reins..} as well as light nudges with the outside boot. As soon as she even takes 1 tiny step, release the pressure and pat her. Then repeat. Soon she will get it. If she does not neck rein but instead direct reins, use your inside rein with only a little pressure and a little boot nudge with the outside leg. Always do both sides. She will probably do better going right then left or visa-versa... Just like people. You may have to Good luck.
    05-04-2011, 09:01 AM
Originally Posted by Brighteyes    
Try and see if she'll sidepass. There are multiple ways to ask. Most people teach it by tightening your left rein and kicking with your left foot behind the girth to sidepass right.
Just to add to this sidepass instructions, I also like starting the teaching of a sidepass while facing a fence or barrier of some kind so the horse doesn't have anywhere to go but the direction you want. It's a way of ensuring that he can get it right.

Also, I've noticed the best way to condition is just to go riding. Find local trails and ride them until you find your horse starting to get tired. Bring her home, rest, and then go out again the next day, or if he's really tired wait a day before going out again.

I work at a Dude Ranch and we bring the horses out for 1 hour rides usually 2-5 times a week in the spring and work up to 2-4 1hr rides a day for the summer months. As you notice them building muscles, you will also notice that the amount of time you can spend riding will lengthen before your horse gets tired.

Riding circles and figure eights will also help with flexibility and building muscle.
    05-06-2011, 11:38 PM
For a saddle maybe try an aussie saddle. I have heard a lot of people use them in endurance. I just got a used syd hill and it has to be the most confortable saddle I have ever sat in.

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