The eventing season is just three months away and whatever your horse is up to now, it’s time to prepare a fitness plan so that he’s ready for his first event

The following charts, suggested by leading riders, are based on a 12-week fittening programme from the time a horse comes in from the field after a complete break to the first event of the year.

For a horse that has been kept in light work post-season, or one that has been hunting or competing in other disciplines, it would be appropriate pick up further down the line, as indicated.

Week 1: around 30 minutes’ roadwork walking each day.

Week 2: build up to 45 minutes’ walking on the road each day.

Week 3: increase to 60 minutes’ walking on the road, incorporating a few more hills.

A horse that has been lightly hacked, mostly in walk, three or four times a week over the winter can start here.

Week 4: introduce short spells of trotting (two minutes at a time) while out hacking.

Week 5: increase time spent trotting and start to incorporate more varied terrain. Flatwork can also be introduced for 20 minutes at a time. This should be subtracted from — not in addition to — a 60 minutes hack.

Week 6: start a rotated exercise programme of hacking, hill work, flatwork and a bit of jumping.
Monday: one-hour hack including bursts of trotting and slow cantering, preferably up slight inclines.
Tuesday: 20 minutes’ gentle flatwork plus 40-minute hack or hill work.
Wednesday: as Monday.
Thursday: some simple gridwork with a 20-minute warm-up and a 30-minute hack afterwards to cool down.
Friday: as Tuesday.
Saturday: as Monday and Wednesday.
Sunday: day off.

Week 7: as above, increasing the amount of hill work and slow cantering.

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Week 8: introduce more jump training and build up the slow canters on good, but varied ground, to around three or four minutes at time.

A horse that has been in regular work in other disciplines, such as hunting or showjumping, can start here.

Week 9: introduce two lots of faster work/stronger canters this week, preferably on a slight incline. A dressage or small jumping show can be included this week.

Week 10: aim to go cross-country schooling, but only do as much as your horse’s level of fitness allows. Keep up the cantering (once a week) and hill work (twice a week), and focus on more discipline-specific training.

Week 11: a varied week of hill work, two strong canters, some discipline-specific training (possibly another cross-country schooling session or a jumping show) and relaxing hacking.
Monday: 30 minutes’ flatwork plus 30-minute hack incorporating some hills.
Tuesday: strong canter day — aim for double the amount of time you’ll be expecting your horse to gallop across country (ie for a four-minute course, aim for eight minutes total divided into two or three bursts).
Wednesday: 45-minute jumping session plus 30-minute hack, or a jumping show.
Thursday: as Monday.
Friday: as Tuesday.
Saturday: cross-country schooling or another training/competition outing.
Sunday: day off.

Week 12: ready to compete.