Time to Tighten Up

As we’re heading into our busy fall, I’m thinking hard about how to make sure Frankie is ready to tackle every adventure feeling fit and healthy. I’ve gotten pretty good at managing his workload at shows so he doesn’t get too tired – he never does more than 2 classes a day, and we stick to 1 when possible – but the clinic we’re signed up for does have a roughly 90 minute slot. I definitely don’t want to be the pair that’s losing energy halfway through, so conditioning is the name of the game!

I feel like this angle is EXTRA unflattering but yeah he’s a real chonky boi right now

To do that, I’m trying to increase the length of our rides. My lessons once a week are obviously a full hour, but historically I’ve let myself get lazy with our other rides. I’ve been making an effort lately to help increase both of our fitness levels by pushing a bit harder (within reason) and this is roughly what I’ve come up with:

Lesson 1x a week. Hoping to transition back into private lessons on Fridays this fall as the show season slows down a bit – maybe even this week? A full hour private lesson vs full hour group lesson is quite different in terms of duration of work. And I do miss those private sessions where we can really drill into the specifics of what Frankie needs from me to be better.

Honestly I kinda desperately need some dedicated attention so we can look like this again

Training rides 2x a week. These happen mid-week and to be fair I do need these days at home to get schoolwork done. These tend to not be hugely long sessions since AT has plenty of horses to get done. They’re more targeted at tuning up his sensitivity and getting him to work really correctly, which is more of a weight-lifting exercise for him. I then usually manage to undo all this hard work from week to week, but that’s fine we don’t need to talk about that.

My trainer can literally make my horse go around a course this big looking happy and confident so yeah big fan of what she’s doing with him

Conditioning rides 2x a week. I’ve been keeping up with our hill sets with some degree of success when weather cooperates for us to get out in that field. We’re up to 6 sets up the long steep hill, and I think we can comfortably add a 7th the next time out. He’s definitely sweaty and puffing by the end, but less so than when we started. It’s also a long enough walk back down to the bottom that he gets solid recovery time between sets. I also kicked off trot set days, which are the most boring thing ever but super helpful. After the first couple sets Frankie likes to offer some great stretch, so I think these days will be a great mental break for him to stretch out and metaphorically jog on a treadmill for an hour (with regular breaks, of course).

Off to the right is the hill we use, it’s nice and steep and goes on just long enough that Francis hates me by the time we reach the top

Practice rides 1-2x a week. These days are more for me than for Frankie, and these are really the ones I need to extend. Our dedicated practice days tend to feature pole work, focus on improving our lateral work, tons of transitions, and getting Francis super tuned in to me. These days he’s so dang good at his job that I tend to ask, get the right answer, and want to let him be done because he was a Good Boy. I need to get more creative about offering breaks in different ways without being done so we can continue to improve our stamina while reinforcing those skills.

Note to self practice rides are for more than just bopping around on a loose rein

This puts me on roughly 4 times a week, which is proving to be fairly attainable with my school schedule these days! Francis also recently got his hocks and SI injected, is getting a massage next week, and has been seeing the chiro regularly. I’m hoping that with some help from my trainer during the week, this schedule and support will help him feel his best for our busy schedule of fall outings coming up through the end of the year!

8 thoughts on “Time to Tighten Up

  1. Amanda C 09/17/2019 / 10:06 am

    The key to long trot sets are a solid Spotify playlist. I’d be bored AF all the time without mine.


    • hellomylivia 09/17/2019 / 1:46 pm

      Yes lesson learned, I definitely need to have something to listen to next time haha


  2. Stacie Seidman 09/17/2019 / 10:45 am

    Sounds like a very solid schedule! I’m certain you and Frankie will be fit as fiddles for the fall season!


  3. carey 09/17/2019 / 12:46 pm

    I’m focusing on Mo’s fitness more now, too. He’s not getting any younger and the more he works the better he feels/looks/is. I have specifically been told by trainer that I need to ride him longer, more conditioning. #1, this means I have to BE ON by 7 if I want to fit in 45-60 min ride before work. I stick to the conditioning rides on my days, and let my leaser hack or lesson or play with Mo on his.
    Our current schedule is:
    Trot-Set-Tuesdays (aka Torture-Tuesdays) where we do 10 min of trot, 2 min break, 10 min trot, 3 min break, 10 min trot (and if I really got it together and ACTUALLY got on at 7), 5 min walk and another 10 min trot. I work on different things in each 10 min interval: warmup, bend, circles; extended and collected; lateral work; me-focus ( 2 point, no stirrups) with lots of stretchy trot thrown in as reward for good work.
    Wed is play day with K (usually ground pole lesson or running around the back arena).
    Thurs is either 10 min walk 20 min trot/canter (2 min trot, 2 min canter, 2 min trot, etc) 10 min walk. This gets him pretty tired by the last couple sets of canter, but switching every 2 min keeps it interesting. The other option is hill/trail work, depending on our braveness. Last week, i made him go down and up the hill then we did stretchy trot/canter in the arena, back down and up the hill, more stretchy trot canter in arena.
    Friday I try to jump. Shorter ride, only 30 min, but it’s 30 min of jumping.
    Saturday is 1 hour of walking under saddle.
    Sunday is K day, jumping lesson or trail.

    I’ve been working on this for a couple months now, and MOSTLY sticking to our ride schedule. I can feel his fitness improve for sure. But then at the show, he’s SO PUMPED he kinda over does it in the first class and forgets we’ve got 3 more days to jump. I think the answer to that is to show more. Then he won’t be so totally freaking excited when we do finally show. 🙂


    • carey 09/17/2019 / 12:47 pm

      Wow, that’s like a whole novel. Sorry 🙂


      • hellomylivia 09/17/2019 / 1:47 pm

        I am so glad you posted that novel, I’m def stealing some of this!!! I’m definitely still on the learning curve of the best way to incorporate some of these conditioning rides, so it’s amazingly helpful to see the specifics of what is working for you.


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