As we’ve been gearing up for Coconino, Henry’s conditioning schedule has gotten more intense. Besides just needing to be fit enough for the addition of the roads and tracks and steeplechase phases of the N3D, he’s also running Training the first week. Another level up means faster speeds and longer courses. Add to that the complication of being at high altitude, a long trailer ride, and competing two weeks in a row – if anything I’d like for him to be overfit. It’s not a good feeling to be sitting on a tired event horse.
I never used to do much galloping on this horse. He’s a TB, fitness comes naturally to them, and Novice level isn’t exactly taxing. But this spring we’ve added in a gallop day, and stretched out the length of his long trot day. He’s up to 45 minute long trots (which is boring as shit, in case you’re wondering), and 3 sets of 5 minute gallops at about 400mpm. There are a lot of long walks involved too, and trot sets. We still have to bump up the gallop speed a bit over the next month to 450mpm, but otherwise he’s pretty close to where he needs to be.
Aside from his two conditioning rides a week, his regular rides have also gotten longer. Usually I’ll tack on a long marching walk to one of his dressage rides, or do some trot sets before we start dressage work. He doesn’t jump much, but when we do jump those rides always stay short.
Holly Hill was his first real test since we’ve started upping the conditioning, and it was quite warm and very humid by the time we ran cross country. Typically those are his absolute worst conditions, where he struggles to get enough air and is generally just kind of flat and dull. That wasn’t the case this time though… he spent most of the course pulling my arms out, was barely breathing hard by the time we were done, and was totally cooled off by the time we got back to the barn. He was still chipper and happy and bright, more like he’d just gone for a jog to the mailbox rather than running 400mpm for 5 minutes. I still had a lot of horse left for stadium. Definitely plenty fit, not that that’s necessarily saying much at Novice.
His body has started to change too. He’s getting that lean but strong look of a real event horse. Luckily the fitness hasn’t seemed to affect his rideability much (knock on wood).
I, on the other hand, need to get my butt in gear. I’ve been doing a lot of this:
and it shows. So now that the days are getting longer I’m back on my bike to commute to/from work, and adding a couple of runs a week. The running makes me want to kill myself and everyone around me, but it must be done. I just have to keep repeating to myself “this is for Henny, this is for Henny, this is for Henny”. Anyone want to volunteer to run 20 feet in front of me with a pizza box? That would help a lot.