Friday, March 9, 2012

Now and then there's a Schmuck such as I

Have you ever asked your horse to back up a hill?   

I did, a couple days ago, before the pouring rain yesterday and today's fierce wind and snow squalls teamed up to keep my streak of riding one day in a row alive.

This is the cover of Jec A. Ballou's book.
I backed Hudson up a hill for about 10 steps, at the end of our trail ride, and she did not like it one bit.  She let me know this was very hard for her, maybe too hard.  Maybe I should start with five steps.

It was an exercise I read in the book that has completely changed my view about how to condition a horse.  If the author, Jec Aristotle Ballou, is correct, I have been doing it all wrong. 

My husband bought me her book, Equine Fitness (even got her to sign it) and I have read it through once, so far.   I'm really shocked, when I think of what I have been doing to condition my horses, compared to what she recommends. 

One of the concepts she presents that shocks me is this: “…It can take up to a year to develop the fitness necessary to handle an hour’s worth of walk, trot and canter.  Yet, how many riders require this after just a few months?”
Just that sentence explained so much to me about why my horses get so tired during a two-hour trail ride or hunter pace, even after I have prepared them for it for a couple of months.  I thought that by riding hills, walk, trot and canter, for up to an hour, a few times a week, after a few weeks they would be ready for a longer, more demanding outing.  But it looks like I was wrong, and I feel like a huge schmuck.

Luckily for a schmuck such as I, Ballou offers a full series of workouts to help horses achieve true fitness, no matter how flabby their starting point.  So this year will bring a new type of work to them, and to me, here on the hill.
Just sauntering in circles won't cut it for Starlight this year.

I’m not going to describe here everything I read in her book, but I do recommend it to other riders, so you can see for yourself if her recommendations are something you want to pursue.  And I just noticed she has a blog, so that’s something to take a look at, as well as her home page (links in blue).  

I hope this year I will do my riding horses justice when it comes to truly helping them get in shape, and prepare them for the type of work that will be asked in their futures.

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