If you’re like me, you’re in a funk from this time change and crazy weather. It takes me months before I get used to it getting dark at 5:30 and it makes it even harder to get the barn and ride on a consistent schedule between the holidays and running a business as well. And of course it doesn’t help when it’s suddenly 40 degrees outside too! If I’m not out of the house by 3 at the latest, I feel like the day is gone as it will soon be dark (not to mention the horses get fed at about 4pm since the time change). So, I find myself trying to get on track and one of the ways I’m going to do so is to create a training plan. This will allow me to plan for the future and determine what I need to do to get my horse on track for show season come this spring.
It’s recommended that you work on a training program 30 days at a time. This will allow you to set short and realistic goals for the month and you’ll be able to determine what you need to continue working on the next month. When setting these goals and determining your plan, you need to answer a few questions:
1. What do you want your horse to learn?
2. What exercises can you perform to teach these movements?
3. How much work should be done per training day?
4. Is it enough work?
You also need to be flexible in your goals and be willing to adjust if things don’t go as planned. For instance, the weather really disrupts your plan or you/your horse are just having an “off” day. Keep in mind that if you also work with a trainer, you can include those lessons in your plan as well.
If you work with a trainer, collaborate on a plan with your trainer. This is particularly useful if you keep your horse at home and haul in for lessons. Together you can create a plan to keep you on track in between lessons.
Include Days of Rest
Every athlete needs to include at least a couple days of rest during the week. It’s preferable if those days are spread out somewhat. For instance, Monday and Friday if you have a lesson on Saturday. Days of rest allow your horse time to be a horse and for his muscles to recover and grow. You may need to adjust rest days depending on how fresh your horse is after a day off.
It’s also a good idea to include groundwork in your training plan. This can be at the beginning of each ride or you can devote a full training session to it. Groundwork is particularly good if you’re getting a horse back in shape after a long lay off.
Obviously you’re going to need to adjust your plan based on your discipline. If you jump, you’ll need to work a couple of jumping days into your plan along with flat days. If you’re a eventer, you’ll need to work in some cross country. If you’re a reiner, you’ll break your planning into days that work certain aspects of patterns or specific maneuvers. Cutters will choose times when they want to work the flag or work on live cattle.
The ideal plan will include 4-5 days of riding time and you will start with 20-minute rides of mostly walking with 3-4 minute trot sets. As your horse gets fit, you’ll increase the length of your rides, adding longer trot sets and working in canter sets as well.
Here are some samples.
These are just a few samples to get you thinking about how you can schedule your weekly training rides and expand them throughout the month to prepare for show season or while incorporating show season into your training program.
Contributed by: Valerie Mellema, Founder of Gray Horse Publishing and Marketing