Olympia, Washington 98508
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Conditioning - cont. Page 2
Week 1 - Free lunge in a 60í circle (if you donít have an enclosed area use a lunge line but big circle). Work 10 minutes each way. During this time I assess gait irregularities, current condition, breathing abnormalities, habits, conformation deficits, mental aptitude and attitude. Be sure to protect lower leg with splint boots or polo wraps.
Week 2 - Assuming that if any problems were spotted, they were explored, diagnosed and corrected we can move on. It is during this week I start bitting the horse up. Start relaxed. Encourage the horse to drop its head and move forward. I use a halter and two lead ropes going from the side buckles of the halter between the front legs and tied together just behind the withers. Place a loose keeper around the neck and lead ropes to prevent the horse from stepping on the lead ropes when it drops itís head real low. Tie ends of each lead rope together so there is just enough pressure to keep poll level with withers. Nose should not be behind the vertical. Work an average of 10 minutes each way pushing forward in a working trot. (working trot means that the stride of the hind foot will be landing directly under or just ahead of the midpoint of the horsesí barrel) A 40í circle is sufficient. This exercise focuses on the muscle layer just behind the withers and encourages the horse to suck up its stomach and push forward with its hind end. This is important for any horse that either has been having back problems or will have high demands on its back.
Week 3 - Start applying more pressure to draw lines (move horse to a smooth snaffle if it is not fighting draws) keeping head level but encouraging more arc to neck. If your horse is still testing the draw reins continue with this exercise using the halter. You can always lift a horses head/neck by pushing forward. So if your horse is low or behind the bit and is not leaning onto the reins you need to work in a smaller circle with more impulsion forward. This will work you as well as the horse sometimes. Stay in a working extended trot. Working in a 30í-40í circle. Average time 15 minutes each way.
Week 4 - Move to a bitting rig or working saddle. Apply side reins to bridle and tie to a midway point somewhere between itís elbow and withers. If your horse is intended for english bit up slightly higher. Flex horse toward its chest. Even pressure on both sides. If your horse has a definite strong side tie so that head and neck bends to the inside of circle going the weak direction. Work in a 30í-50í circle in an extended trot. Wind horse into a 30í circle then push away and ask to increase their pace out to a 50í circle every other revolution. As you wind your horse in it will naturally have to slow down then, when you ask it to speed up it will have to engage its hind quarters and get under themselves. This then is conditioning the animal so that when we get on we can achieve that nice "round" balanced pleasure horse frame we are trying to achieve. Total time 20-30 minutes.
Always watch for fatigue, excessive labored breathing, lameness or soreness. After each session be sure to walk out until respiratory rate goes back down to normal. It is a good idea to know your horses resting heart and breathing rate so you know when your horse is properly cooled down. If your horseís heart rate has not returned to itís resting rate within 15 minutes you need to back off the intensity and working time by 5 minutes each way, then build back up. Once cooled, rinse off any sweat, wipe off excess water and brush coat flat.
OK now your horse is ready to go into finish work. If a horse is broke I will ride 2 days a week and condition 3 days for two weeks, then I switch that around to ride 3, condition 2 the latter half of the month. On conditioning days depending on what is needed I will free lunge, bit-up or lunge on a line. I always alternate riding and conditioning days. For colts not yet under saddle this is where we start long lining and driving, the second half of the month I start to get on. Wahoooo!
If you have any questions feel free to write or call I will be glad to answer them.
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