-- Posted by DunPony on Oct. 9, 2001
How do you get a
horse fit to race?
I have an Arab on livery and the owner is getting interested
in arab racing. She can't ride at the moment so I would
do all the prep work, but don't really know how to go on from
basic fitness. The only info I can find is for point to
points, but we would be on the flat, over shorter distances.
She isn't aiming to conquer the world but he will need to be
fit enough to do the work. Any suggestions?
-- Posted by JanetGeorge on Oct. 9, 2001
Your basic fittening is basically the same but geared to
what it is fitness for. So if you're fittening for
endurance riding or hunting - long hours in saddle at slower
paces - your fittening work will mean hours at slower paces.
Racing - you're looking for far shorter periods of greater
effort so after the very basic (a couple of weeks of an hour a
day, mainly walking and trotting) you do short canters
followed by short period of walk then another short canter.
The length of the work period actually gets less but the speed
increases. With racehorses, racing on short distances
(up to 1200 metres say) they would do 2 x 600 metre gallops at
racing pace each week. On the other days, it might be 2
days doing 1200 metres at half-pace, and two days doing 1 mile
of trot and canter.
If you want to build fitness for peak activity over very short
distances (say quarter mile) then interval training (short,
sharp exercise followed by walk until heart rate back to
normal then another short, sharp etc.) Test of fitness is
the length of time the heart rate takes to get back to normal
after the same amount of exercise. So you don't increase
the distance or speed travelled - but the rest (walk or
trot) periods decrease in length.
The real test is the eye and 'feel' of the trainer - different
horses need different variations of work, intensity of work
etc for dozens of reasons - ranging from horse that is
naturally good doer/greedy - down to horse that stops eating
the moment it has to make any real effort; and horse's
natural heart rate (horse with naturally slow heart rate will
get fitter quicker/stay fitter longer than horse with rather
faster natural heart rate.
My NZ TB had a resting heart rate of 36 and when half fit he
could do a 2 mile cross country at speed and the heart rate
would go up to 46.
My quarter Clydesdale had a resting heart rate of 46 and even
when fully-fit a 2 mile cross country done far slower than the
TB would push his heart rate up to about 80 - but it would
drop back to normal very quickly.
A horse who is too fit may go 'over the top' and get stale -
so doesn't race well - a horse who is not fit enough, will run
out of steam at the wrong moment. It's a horribly
complicated business and one where KNOWING the horse and
judging it's needs on a day to day basis is the real skill.
There is no way of producing a standard regime that will
suit all (or even most) horses.
-- Posted by TF1 on 12:33 pm on Oct. 9, 2001
From my experience (which I'm afraid is limited to NH
horses i.e. shortest distance 2m)
Getting a horse fit for the first time takes longer than
bringing a previously fit horse back up to it's peak as you're
obviously building muscle for the first time not just
reconditioning muscle. Basic fitness is pretty much the same
for any discipline.
You would need to look at about 6-8 weeks walking, starting
off at 1/2 hr then increasing to an hour. Start introducing
trotting and hills and aim to be able to happily do 1 1/2 hrs
of decent hill work interspersed with plenty of trot and your
horse able to do this recovering fairly quickly. This will
build muscle and strengthen legs, tendons, ligaments etc.
Start introducing canters starting longer and steady and then
introducing shorter sharper ones. By now your horses muscles
and tendons should be well able to cope with this new stress.
Interval training is your best bet and there are plenty of
books and people with opinions on this who carry it out to the
letter. You'd need to work out a programme to suit your horse
and it's all related to heart rates and recovery times. It's
now used for eventers, sj, endurance: pretty much all
Sure there will be loads of people after this post with
opinions that vary widely but that is the regime we used for
our NH horses. Some horses get fitter quicker than others,
some can take more work than others and some need more feed to
do the work you're requiring.
Don't forget you'd need to feed a high energy feed once you
start the canter work, you need to be aware of the restrictions
on various medications in the run up to a race (no bute or
similar, no antibiotics, even some wound sprays would show up
on a dope test) and some feeds would get you in trouble.
Hope this helps as a starting point anyway.