2016 has come and gone, and we are now well under way with 2017. Like many other years 2016 absolutely flew by with a whirlwind of great opportunities and awesome experiences. And now, after a bit of a mental and physical break for both Breaking Boundaries and I, it is once again time to sit down and prepare for 2017!
The coming days will involve evaluating the 2016 season, planning 2017 competition dates, and developing a workout schedule for Breaking Boundaries. Developing a schedule for your horse is a very important component to ensure that you are ready to tackle the season. Your workout schedule needs to include all components of your competition; dressage, show jumping and conditioning for cross country. How much of each that you do will depend on your own horse’s strengths and weaknesses. This is where an evaluation of your 2016 season will come in handy. Some horses may need to spend some time tuning up their show jumping skills while others may need to have an extra flat school or two per week. All event horses, however, should spend time conditioning in order to be fit. The amount and type of conditioning that needs to be performed will depend on how easily your horse fits up and what level he is going to be competing at. For example, Breaking Boundaries will begin conditioning in the next couple of weeks starting with trot sets (since he has had a considerable amount of time off) and working up to gallop sets closer to the start of his season.
So how do you determine when you need to start conditioning? The simplest way to determine the answer is to first decide what your competition season will look like and work backwards. While the first competition is very important to determine when they need to be fit by, the whole season is important to make sure that our horse will be able maintain his fitness level throughout the season and avoid a burn out. In general conditioning can be broken down into two periods; the Preparatory Period and the Competitive Period.
The Preparatory Period is broken into two sub periods; the General Preparatory and the Specific Preparatory. The General Preparatory usually lasts 4-6 weeks and is the time that is spent building the base of the conditioning. This may involve quite a bit of walking and then introducing trot sets and low intensity flat and jump schools. This is considered a period of low intensity and high volume workouts for the horse. Since many of us are conditioning in the Canadian winter, the snow can actually be your friend to easily increase the intensity of a conditioning ride by making your horse walk through deeper snow! The Specific Preparatory begins to focus on more skill specific workouts with an increase in intensity, also lasting 4-6 weeks.
The Competitive Period is then broken down into three sub periods; The Pre-Competitive, The Main Competitive and Tapering. The Pre-Competitive period is generally a 4-6 week period prior to the first competition during which the volume of the workouts remains high and intensity continues to increase. More fine tuning skill workouts will likely be introduced, and more intense and specific conditioning workouts will begin. The Main Competitive period is a time of maintaining fitness and skills within the competition season with a maintained intensity but usually reduced volume, allowing for rest days. The Tapering periods are times within the Main Competitive period in which the horse is given anywhere from 3-10 days off or with light hacking only. These are incorporated into the Main Competitive period, usually after a big competition, to allow the horse to rest and avoid burn out.
By planning out and working backwards from you Competitive Period it is relatively simple to develop a timely and appropriate workout schedule that incorporates all aspects of necessary training!