Hill Work - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 07-04-2020, 11:38 AM Thread Starter
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Hill Work

I have been trying to get my horse into better shape. She's not fat or anything, but she's not the fittest horse either. She's getting ridden about an hour or two almost every day on steep, hilly trails (no arena).

What's better for fitness: walking, trotting, or cantering up hills? I never go faster than a walk down hills, though.
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post #2 of 10 Old 07-04-2020, 01:55 PM
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I was always told that trotting work is far harder than any other gait for a horse...
Doing that on a grade...that much harder for the cardio.

Are you saying you think your horse is not fit because you don't see massive muscle mass?
Does your horse blow hard after you've been riding nonstop for about 10 minutes?
Does the horse not sweat more?

Not every horse makes mass muscle but will have long, lean muscle mass such as you see on a Thoroughbred versus the more bulky of a Quarter Horse.

However, some of those things, such as not blowing hard, sweating excessively are the marks of a horse in good physical condition..
Just like a human who is physically fit it takes a lot more to push them past their fit condition to get them sweating and breathing hard is true for your horse....horses are athletes too..

However, if you are saying your horse is not fit because no matter what you do the animal not sweat that is something very different and needs immediate exam by a vet for Anhidrosis ...the name for not being able to sweat and it can be deadly if left untreated.
Know which it is you are asking for and watching for signs of...
...
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post #3 of 10 Old 07-04-2020, 02:49 PM
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My motto was 'Never waste a hill!'

A few years back the big fad forfitness was interval training where you worked a horse on the clock. Two minutes walking, three minutes trotting one minute walking and then three trotting.

The idea is that you work the horse to a point of it puffing, then ease it down to allow the breathing and pulse rate to recover, just before it does, it is pushed on again thus strengthening the heart and lungs.

I never got into this in that I never worked to th clock, I would ride the horses out, come to a hill and we would trot up it. If they were just coming into work and soon were puffing I would walk and then when breathing was normal trot on again. Whilst doing this I realised I had been doing interval training for years. I just called it getting the horse's fit!

Once they were trotting all the way up the hills I would repeat at a canter.

One circular ride I did regularly would take me 1 3/4 hrs when they were first in work, when they were fit it was only 45 minutes as most could be done at a canter and they were hardly blowing at all. This did mean I was also cantering them downhill.
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post #4 of 10 Old 07-04-2020, 03:21 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by horselovinguy View Post
Are you saying you think your horse is not fit because you don't see massive muscle mass?
Does your horse blow hard after you've been riding nonstop for about 10 minutes?
Does the horse not sweat more?

However, some of those things, such as not blowing hard, sweating excessively are the marks of a horse in good physical condition..

However, if you are saying your horse is not fit because no matter what you do the animal not sweat that is something very different and needs immediate exam by a vet for Anhidrosis ...the name for not being able to sweat and it can be deadly if left untreated.
Know which it is you are asking for and watching for signs of...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Foxhunter View Post
My motto was 'Never waste a hill!'

A few years back the big fad forfitness was interval training where you worked a horse on the clock. Two minutes walking, three minutes trotting one minute walking and then three trotting.

The idea is that you work the horse to a point of it puffing, then ease it down to allow the breathing and pulse rate to recover, just before it does, it is pushed on again thus strengthening the heart and lungs.

I never got into this in that I never worked to th clock, I would ride the horses out, come to a hill and we would trot up it. If they were just coming into work and soon were puffing I would walk and then when breathing was normal trot on again. Whilst doing this I realised I had been doing interval training for years. I just called it getting the horse's fit!

Once they were trotting all the way up the hills I would repeat at a canter.

One circular ride I did regularly would take me 1 3/4 hrs when they were first in work, when they were fit it was only 45 minutes as most could be done at a canter and they were hardly blowing at all. This did mean I was also cantering them downhill.
Most of my ride is at a walk, like out of the two hours that I ride, less than five is trot/canter combined. So, yeah, I need to trot/canter her out more. I can't really tell if she is sweaty because it's so hot or if it's due to work (I know it's technically both). There's only one hill that I feel comfortable trotting/cantering her up. It's flat grass. On the trail, there's roots, rocks, stumps, holes, slippery leaves, etc... I don't feel comfortable going any faster than a walk on those hills.
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post #5 of 10 Old 07-04-2020, 05:46 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Seeker6 View Post
Most of my ride is at a walk, like out of the two hours that I ride, less than five is trot/canter combined.
There's only one hill that I feel comfortable trotting/cantering her up. It's flat grass. On the trail, there's roots, rocks, stumps, holes, slippery leaves, etc...
I don't feel comfortable going any faster than a walk on those hills.

Then based on what you know your terrain is you ride on...
You can only go at a gait you are comfortable at and the horse is safe moving across the terrain at...
I guess if you only have one location where you feel comfortable going faster, making laps in that area is what you need to figure out.
I think though to look at this like a mountain highway...
You don't go straight up or down but with many turns and switchbacks..allowing more challenges, incline controlled but lengthened and safer footing possibly for the horse to work on.
Or if going up/down straight is the only way...
Up at a trot, down at a walk, a working walk where the horse can also build muscle tone...then turn and go back up...
And again, just because you walk does not mean your horse is not fit...lower impact aerobic exercise is kinder to joints but still accomplishes the goal of "fit".
...

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #6 of 10 Old 07-04-2020, 07:06 PM
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[QUOTE=horselovinguy;1970883927]I was always told that trotting work is far harder than any other gait for a horse...
Doing that on a grade...that much harder for the cardio.

I have always thought that trotting was easier on a horse that travelled a lot of miles than cantering. I am thinking of Standardbreds that were originally used to travel distances and they were either trotters or pacers ( I know pacing is not trotting but it is a two beat gait, just lateral, not diagonal).
In trotting a horse pushes off with two feet and lands on two feet which I would think is better than landing one one foot.
It would be interesting to find out what others think about this.

I rarely ever canter up hill, unless it is very steep, if not a steep hill I prefer them to walk up but trotting is ok if a little steeper as I don't want them to rush up or down hills and ours are not that steep so they can do them a little slower.

I do a lot of trotting when out riding so if it is a gait that is harder on horses, I guess mine get pretty fit.

I do notice when schooling i can do a fair bit of trotting without the horse getting winded but shorter periods of cantering, can get the horse sweating more and they need a walk break to catch their wind.
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post #7 of 10 Old 07-04-2020, 07:24 PM
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Good points Woodhaven...
Maybe what I was told is not accurate...


Anyone know...not opinion but know fact which is the better way to condition the horses cardio?
Way to build stamina?
Way to make muscle strength...

Open for factual information to enlighten all of us...especially the original poster who is wanting to make her horse fit.
...
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post #8 of 10 Old 07-05-2020, 12:55 AM
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If you want to build stamina, trot for LONG distances. I used to ride in a place that had nicely manicured trails. There were lots of smallish hills, and it was so heavily wooded that one could often not see what was around the next corner. So, cantering long distances was impossible/unsafe. But we did try to trot on the long stretches that weren't too hilly. I cannot abide trotting down hill!


As to other hill work. having a horse 'pause' going down a hill, come to a stop, and then ask him/her to actually back UP the hill is really good for their balance and their hind end.

The converse; asking them to stop part way up a steep hill, back a step or two, then restart up a hill.


Two years ago , on a week long trail ride of nearly 100 miles of rough trails/roads, I really came to an appreciation for strong horses really are, and how agile they can be on hills, if they are used to it.
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post #9 of 10 Old 07-05-2020, 03:16 AM
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A good steady trot is the pace to get a horse fitter, yet in the wild herds rarely trot a lot!

As for footing, it is surprising how sure footed horses are. Trip with one foot and they have three others to keep them vertical.

Having watched many YouTube videos of working horses out on rough ranges moving cattle all times of the year, has made me realise that horses have to be tougher than tough,

Watch Apache Cowboy where they are capturing maverick cattle. The recorder, Sky, has a marvellous horse, Eagle. The ground they gallop over is nothing but rocks. Makes me shake my head at how the horses take no notice of them, the only thing they will try to avoid is prickly cacti.

Twice I have seen horses go down, one slipped into a gully and was stuck upside down, Sky roped a hind foot and pulled the horse over. The other was a much more dangerous situation when a horse went down at a gallop and fell onto the rider (rotational fall) could have been very nasty for the rideras he was pinned under the horse which was going to struggle to try and gain its feet. Quick thinking from Sky and again a hind leg was ripped and the horse pulled off the rider.

Going down a steep hill it is best to keep them going straight, that way if they do slip they will sit on their butt and slide until they regain footing.

Riding for two hours mainly at a walk can be very hard on their backs as the rider is never out of the saddle.
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post #10 of 10 Old 07-05-2020, 12:45 PM
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Foxhunter, when I got my first horse back about 60+ years ago, one thing my father told me (he was raised on a farm and in those days everything was done with horses) that when going down a steep or slippery slope always keep the horse going straight as if they lose their footing they will slide and recover but at an angle, lose their footing and they go down. One of those words of wisdom that I never forgot.

I do a lot of trotting when out riding, I find that a lot of walking is hard on my back and knees, so I can understand it being hard on a horse's back as well) but I can trot for miles no problem. Of course the horse gets a little walk break in between.

Something that comes to mind when I was out riding with friends a couple of years ago. We came to a steep hill, not too long but wet and very steep. The rider behind me was not that experienced and I was talking over my shoulder telling him to keep his horse straight on the hill and just then my horse slipped and went down, lucky I came off away from her. Just goes to show you should be paying attention to your own horse at these times.
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