It’s been doing nothing but RAIN here all week, thus I have not actually sat on my horse since Monday, thus I now cannot think of anything but sitting on my horse. When I went to bed last night it was storming. When I woke up this morning it was storming. Currently the radar looks like this:
So I have no idea when I’ll actually ride again, I’m bored out of my mind (to the point where I’ve been CRAFTING, wtf), and I’ve had nothing to do all week but ponder. Like for real, I spent 15 minutes this morning wondering why it’s called a “pat” of butter before I finally googled it. What else do I have to do that was more important than learning the origin of that term? Nothing. Literally freaking nothing.
Anyway… one of the things I was thinking about was ride time. As in how long you spend actually riding your horse. As an eventer this can be a very “well it depends” subject for me, because, well… it greatly depends on what we’re doing. Conditioning rides can easily be an hour plus, but dressage rides could be as short as 25 minutes. Charles de Kunffy (and thus my dressage trainer, who is a CdK protégé) believes pretty strongly in the fact that anything more than 30-45 minutes is not good for the horse mentally. CdK has said “What you can’t accomplish in a 30 minute ride is for tomorrow.”.
Our dressage lessons are 45 minute blocks, with several walk breaks thrown in. I always get on and walk for 10 minutes before we start, so I end up being on for about an hour or a little under, with only about half of that being actual work. I try to stick to the same thing in my dressage rides at home, and sometimes if Henry is being particularly good I won’t even school him for that long. If he gives me good work right from the beginning, I try to reward that and not continue to hound him for moremoremore. I have no desire to ruin his naturally good work ethic or fry his brain (which, let’s admit, is delicate enough already). Sometimes if I need to log more saddle time, like if I’ve missed a conditioning ride for whatever reason or if the work session itself ended up being short, I’ll just throw a hack on to the end of the ride. More saddle time, but no mental pressure.
For jump sessions it’s pretty much the same. We warm up, sometimes with a long 15-20 minute trot if I’m trying to add some conditioning, and then jump a few courses. Sometimes we just do pole work, or canter a couple of low fences to work on rhythm/my eye/position. My jumping rides are generally pretty short too though, pretty much never more than 30-45 minutes.
The only exception to that general time frame, for me, is conditioning rides. Those tend to be long and low trots, or trot sets, with canter sets thrown in. There’s lots of walking before and after, and sometimes I just do a long 30 minute trot framed by 15 minutes of marching walk before and after. It depends on the temperature, the ground, what we’ve got coming up, and what else we’ve been doing. It’s a pretty rare occasion though when I am on him for more than an hour to hour and fifteen minutes. Those being things like group lessons, trail rides, XC schooling, etc. They tend to be either low pressure or have a ton of walking time, though… it’s not just a big block of work.
And of course, Henry is a mature horse, in regular work, and he’s an eventer. If he was a young horse or had a different job, the ride structure would look different. I’m excited for my Seaver girth sleeve to get here though so I can start tracking all this stuff (and heart rate!) via an app instead of just in my head.
So I’m curious, fellow equestrians – how long do you typically ride for and why?