Thursday, August 22, 2013

Trot Sets

I've been aspiring to the "Long Format" version of eventing for the past several years. It goes back to the earlier format of eventing: Dressage, Roads and Tracks, Steeplechase, Roads and Tracks, Cross Country, and finally Stadium. This version weighs heavier on the horse's overall fitness to complete the entire event and takes finely tuned preparation to be completed safely. I was reading an article in Eventing Magazine from USEA last night on preparing for a long format. Reading how the rider started 9 weeks before the event with 20 minute trot sets, moving up and up to 40 or 50 minute trot sets, doing speed work at the gallop, and closely monitoring the horse's fitness level and recovery made me think, "Can Tristan even do that? Could I even prepare a 15 year old horse for that type of fitness? If I'm honestly thinking of moving up a level, I had better be sure my horse is truly fit before our next couple shows!"

Tristan gave me the answer to those questions today.

We've had a bit of rain in South Carolina lately. By lately, I mean since April. Our outdoor arena is only suitable for work about 20% of the time, and spends the rest as our facility's water feature/swimming pool. Thus, to keep showing, Tristan and I have been adaptive. If it's too wet to work in the arena, we have trails. If the trails are too wet, we have a couple fields (some flat, some with hills). If the fields are too wet, we have a blacktop road that is decent for walk and trot work with some minor rolling hills. Today was a field/hill-work day.

We started our work-out with a 10 minute walk set, up and down hills, to help limber up the old muscles; first on a long rein, then on a connection. Then we went on to a 10 minute trot set, up and down the hills. Tristan performed averagely; collecting for downhills, extending for uphills. Following that, we walked for another 5 minutes for recovery. Next we did a second 10 minute trot set.




My horse has an extended trot to put Grand Prix Dressage horses to shame.

You hear runners talk about endorphins and adrenaline kicking in while they work out. The harder they work, the better they feel. Or, how when driving a manual car and you shift gears to suddenly open up to a new type of power. When I went to ask Tristan to extend uphill during out second trot set, he powered up those hills with an athleticism and determination that I didn't even know was there. By the time we finished the second 10 minute set, I had enough gas in the tank to go run a full cross country course a couple times. I ended the session with another 10 minutes of walk to allow all the lactic acid to dissipate in his muscles. Boy, oh boy, he was hot to trot!

Preparation begins now for the next two shows of the season. Look out TR&HC and Windridge; the Super Pony is coming into town!