The last thing I want to talk about in this conditioning series before I go into time frames and exercises is the format of a typical riding session.
I use this riding session format - groundwork, mounted warm up (flexing etc..), work out, & cool down in all my riding. (There are other articles on this website that deal with each of these topics in more detail.) There are timeframes and exercises in each of these areas. (Please see side bar.)
As you develop your own custom riding session to suit your needs, we need to keep in mind that a riding session needs to give the horse time to warm up their muscles, remove stiffness&resistance, have a work out to increase knowledge, skill & confidence and then time to cool the muscles, have sufficient recovery time and have an enjoyable end.
Not to mention preventing any injuries due to over strain. After all... that's why we're conditioning. (It also keeps the horse wanting & enjoying to be ridden.)
The format is used in all seasons but this article will focus on a winter riding session which means we simply factor in the cold weather .... And doing so means adding extra time for all the components of the winter riding session.
You can also get a sense of this by referring to my article Body Control Foundation Reining Index that I did last year.
0. Grooming & Tack up & Stretching before riding
1. Groundwork - see side bar for a list of exercises
Round pen, longeing, Warm up on the ground, etc.. Groundwork exercises during handling& in the round pen are what make up most (if not all) of the riding/working session during the very beginning of any conditioning.
It will decrease once the horse is able to handle the exercise&skill and as the riding part of workout increases since the horse will be in shape for it.
I always do groundwork exercises while handling & riding. Sometimes that is all I am able to do especially in the wintertime. I do a lot of groundwork in my barn in the wintertime (it's handy).
Clinton Anderson also states that he does a lot of groundwork before getting on a horse who's been off for a while. "If your horse has had a break in training, spend several days doing only groundwork before getting in the saddle bc his mental attention and physical fitness aren’t going to be up to par. Lunging for Respect is a great exercise to get your horse’s feet moving and to get him using the thinking... side of his brain. Once you’ve gained his respect, then you can move on to riding!"
2. Warm Up Mounted (& Groundwork) - see side bar for a list of exercises
Warm up muscles and remove resistance by flexing , bending, lateral work, etc..
Introduce warm up flexing exercises on the ground in an enclosed area or round pen first during groundwork. Gradually increase the warm up as the horse is able to do their groundwork exercises and not be too tired. I always do a warm up. The warm up in the beginning stages of any conditioning will be during the groundwork. The mounted warm up will start when the riding part of the conditioning starts.
Body Control Longeing is a big part of this. Longeing is introduced as part of the warm up and groundwork exercises. The horse would have to be really out of shape to not include longeing and only be able to do free longeing.
See the PREVIOUS ARTICLE section on the side bar to look further into these exercises.
3. Work Out (Riding Session) - see side bar for many exercises
Here is where the riding portion of the 4 stages of conditioning are done. Again, you can refer to the previous article section on the side bar for a list of exercises.
4. Cool Down & End On A Good Note
Cooling out the horse, doing a basic horse health check, reward the horse for a great ride & put them away happy until next time. (Gayle Ecker, Managing Director of Equine Guelph gave a great lecture at the Grey Bruce Farmer's Week Horse day, January 2009 on the Horse Health Check. See the link for more details).
I feel that this is such an important part of the riding/work out session. Not only is it important to end on a good note, cool the horse out, do a health check... but also to leave them happy until next time. It's so important to develope team spirit and a sense of 'try' in the horse (& the rider too!).
So for the last article of the series, I will give my planned conditioning program to get Lady back in shape for the spring.
Stay warm! If you have any questions, need help, or want information on my fun, innovative approach to things, please contact me. Information package available.
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