There are days when you know you should ride but you’re just not in the mood. You know the quickest thing to do would be to go in the ménage but the last thing you want to do is school your horse. Then don’t!
Remember schooling is just another form of exercise. Nobody said you had to ride circles. Your school is a great place to do some fitness work. It has a level, non slip surface and you know how far you are riding.
The average school measures 20m by 40m. Two long sides plus two short sides equals 120m. You’re going to do less than that because of corners so count each circuit as 100m. Ten circuits equal 1000m. That’s one kilometre.
How many rides do you have where you can canter for at least a kilometre without a break? Next time you’re in two minds about riding save yourself the guilt trip and try this!
Make sure your horse is fully warmed up before you start. See December’s Warming Up for a simple, effective routine.
In a forward position, as if you were cantering out on a ride, canter as many circuits as you feel fit enough to do. Then do one more! By pushing yourself a bit extra each time you improve your fitness and your horse’s stamina. Ride equal circuits on each rein.
You may not be schooling but get into the habit of laying down the ground rules. You can’t ride every stride. You’ll run out of energy before your horse. Take a look at December’s ‘Be a Lazy Rider’. There is absolutely no reason your horse can’t go forward without you kicking every stride. Imagine if Pippa Funnel had to kick every stride round Badminton. She’d never make it!
If your horse is naturally forward going be careful that he doesn’t rush. Scooting round the school at 100mph doesn’t have the beneficial effect that a steady canter has. It’s common for a tense horse to hold his breath which won’t help his fitness. When the canter is steady your horse breathes deeper and more rhythmically. The more oxygen he takes in the more his stamina increases and the further he can go.
Remember to count your circuits and keep a tally for next time. Canter as many circuits (plus one) as you can on one rein. Then walk on a long rein until he stops puffing. Don’t start the other rein before his breathing has returned to normal. You’ll only find you have to stop sooner. Fitness is about the recovery as much as the distance you travel. The fitter your horse the quicker he recovers.
1.6km is equal to a mile. So 8 circuits on each rein equal a mile. It’s something to aim for. Some horses will find it easier than others but if you’re careful and don’t ask for too much you and your horse can spend a pleasant and constructive half hour instead of the miserable time you were anticipating. Enjoy!