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Discussion Starter #1
My mare and I have done hunter paces before, but we didn't do them at a fast enough pace, we basically had to walk most of it because of some team mates who wanted to go slow the day of (for reasons beyond their control), so as a result we were VERY behind pace. Anyway, this year 2 of my best friends and I are planning on really competing in them, at the true "hunter pace" which is mainly trotting and cantering, with some walking at certain points of course, but anyway is a lot faster than what we did last year.

Sooooo we have 10 weeks (the hunter pace is on Memorial Day) to get ready and get our horses conditioned. What do you think would be a good schedule for conditioning our horses and what should we do (trotting, cantering, how often, for how long, etc.), when building up to the 10th week? We're all SO excited about it but want to make sure our horses are in tip top condition and ready to take this thing head on! :D
 

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I would think one good long semi-challenging trail ride once a week would be more than enough. Something with hills, woods, areas where they have to be careful with their feet (rocky areas and such), and places where you can canter a bit would put enough muscle on them and condition them to the point where they can do a 10 mile hunter pace without any problems. Those things are so fun!
 

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I find interval training to be very helpful in conditioning.
 

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I conditioned Leia by taking her on a big trail ride once a week and riding her on hills. That helped a lot. :)
 

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HITS, you train the same way for Hunter Paces, as you would for Eventing :)

Hack, hack, hack, hack and then when you are done with hacking, hack some more. lol.
 

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remember to work on three things

building muscle
increasing endurance
strengthening tendons & ligaments
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Yes I will definitely be hacking a LOT when the ground is drier, but right now the trails are a MUDDY MESS!! So I'm trying to think of a workout plan for INDOOR for now :) Any ideas?

My friend said that someone who does Endurance races told her to do 20 mins of trotting, 10 walking, 20 trotting, 10 walking etc...any thoughts?
 

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Riding on the trail for one day a week won't cut it for your horse to be able to mostly trot and canter a 5-10 mile hunter pace course, if you want to be competitive. You should to strive to ride as often as possible, every ride builds up your horses stamina and muscles, but be careful to not over do it. For every day of training, your horse gains fitness, but for every day off your horse looses those days of training. Think of it as a bank account and if you put in 7 days of riding and take 7 days off your horse is back to zero. However, riding 7 days a week isn’t recommended and will be too much on your horse. Every other day, or about 3-4x a week is a good number to strive for. For example, ride Monday, Wednesday, Friday, then give your horse Saturday and Sunday off (plus Tues, and Thursdays off). Another thing you can do is on days where your not riding you can lunge your horse, or instead of riding, 20-30 minutes of lunging in the ring is beneficial. This is also a solution if you are pressed for time on a given day. Walking and trotting/cantering in the ring is a good idea on and off, but 20 mins on and off will get very boring for you and your horse, especially 3-4x per week. Add some jumps, and use things like ground poles. You are still conditioning but you are also teaching other things to your horse like balance and stride. Try to be outside if you can, (I know, I hate mud too!) but just walking outside will keep your horse interested, even if it's just down the road (providing it's safe!). A challenging trail ride as one of the sessions is also a good idea, and gets your horse out of the ring and onto terrain that you are likely to encounter during the hunter pace. Also, if you can, go to where the hunter pace is going to be held and get a feel for the terrain and try to mimic that in your horse’s training. I also recommend if you can, check out the course a day or two before to see how the terrain is holding up. However, I don’t know if previewing the course is permitted, depending on how serious the particular event or course is.
You may also want to look at your own fitness. If after you ride, the next day you are sore and with time it doesn’t seem to get any better, you may want to start your own exercise routine. Walking or jogging/ running on days you don’t ride are beneficial, as well as some small weight training. I like to walk at least 3 days a week, or run and it builds leg muscle, and I just feel better in every aspect of my life.

Please keep in mind that I am not a professional, but I too am starting to condition my horse (and myself!) for hunter paces and this is close to what I am doing, so I hope it helps.

Also-Sorry if you’re a conditioned/more advanced rider and if some of this seems like a no brainer, but I just figured I put a base out there for people to think about and build on no matter what level they are.
 

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Yes I will definitely be hacking a LOT when the ground is drier, but right now the trails are a MUDDY MESS!! So I'm trying to think of a workout plan for INDOOR for now :) Any ideas?

My friend said that someone who does Endurance races told her to do 20 mins of trotting, 10 walking, 20 trotting, 10 walking etc...any thoughts?
That's interval training (though times vary depending on person and horse) :] I also incorporate a bit of cantering and (when the horse is in better shape and outside) some galloping into it. Note, I do it for cross country conditioning. Also, when you can get outside, trying to find some hills to do it on would be a fantastic idea ;] Hill work > all. Lol.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Riding on the trail for one day a week won't cut it for your horse to be able to mostly trot and canter a 5-10 mile hunter pace course, if you want to be competitive. You should to strive to ride as often as possible, every ride builds up your horses stamina and muscles, but be careful to not over do it. For every day of training, your horse gains fitness, but for every day off your horse looses those days of training. Think of it as a bank account and if you put in 7 days of riding and take 7 days off your horse is back to zero. However, riding 7 days a week isn’t recommended and will be too much on your horse. Every other day, or about 3-4x a week is a good number to strive for. For example, ride Monday, Wednesday, Friday, then give your horse Saturday and Sunday off (plus Tues, and Thursdays off). Another thing you can do is on days where your not riding you can lunge your horse, or instead of riding, 20-30 minutes of lunging in the ring is beneficial. This is also a solution if you are pressed for time on a given day. Walking and trotting/cantering in the ring is a good idea on and off, but 20 mins on and off will get very boring for you and your horse, especially 3-4x per week. Add some jumps, and use things like ground poles. You are still conditioning but you are also teaching other things to your horse like balance and stride. Try to be outside if you can, (I know, I hate mud too!) but just walking outside will keep your horse interested, even if it's just down the road (providing it's safe!). A challenging trail ride as one of the sessions is also a good idea, and gets your horse out of the ring and onto terrain that you are likely to encounter during the hunter pace. Also, if you can, go to where the hunter pace is going to be held and get a feel for the terrain and try to mimic that in your horse’s training. I also recommend if you can, check out the course a day or two before to see how the terrain is holding up. However, I don’t know if previewing the course is permitted, depending on how serious the particular event or course is.
You may also want to look at your own fitness. If after you ride, the next day you are sore and with time it doesn’t seem to get any better, you may want to start your own exercise routine. Walking or jogging/ running on days you don’t ride are beneficial, as well as some small weight training. I like to walk at least 3 days a week, or run and it builds leg muscle, and I just feel better in every aspect of my life.

Please keep in mind that I am not a professional, but I too am starting to condition my horse (and myself!) for hunter paces and this is close to what I am doing, so I hope it helps.

Also-Sorry if you’re a conditioned/more advanced rider and if some of this seems like a no brainer, but I just figured I put a base out there for people to think about and build on no matter what level they are.
Very thorough post, thanks! :D I may start running again (just to drop a couple lingering holday lbs haha!) but luckily for me, I'm never sore the day after riding, even if it was a serious ride with jumping...I used to compete in Triathlons so I'm in pretty good shape ;-)

My horse, on the other hand, was a bowl of overweight JELLY a year and a half ago when I got her haha! She's come a loooooooong way but I'm always looking for ways to build up her endurance to make sure she doesn't get too strained in the hunter paces. So you say you're training as well? That's awesome! Where are you from/what is the terrain for the hunter paces in your area like?

I agree with everything you posted though -- the last thing I want is to make myself and my horse bored! Sometimes I like to just put stuff like a tarp or other strange unknown item on the ground and then work around it, over it, etc. to get her more used to things being out of place and unusual :)
 

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Depending on the training level of you and your horse. Trotting the burms of back roads is a good alternative to ring work and slogging through mud. You can also pace it off with a car and when your horse can walk and trot 10 miles without being exhausted/sore the next day then you have a good base line. If you intersperse the trotting intervals and long trotting rides with canter intervals, some hill work and actual trail rides as the weather gets better you are set. The key is to not go out and ride 10 miles every time you ride. But every week or so to get a baseline of where you are is a good idea. But don't push it. Once your horse starts to tire even a little bit, turn around and head back or head home at an easy walk. The key is to build fitness not burn them out or hurt them. If you can only do 4 miles one week, train another week and go for 5. It's a process so remember to test your horse but not go overboard. And above all have fun. If you're having fun the horse will too, if you make conditioning a boring and tiring experience you will find a sour horse soon.
 
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