The past couple of weeks, while not being total disasters, have been a disappointment and a little stressful.
Chiara has still not been ridden with her two-star competition looming just eight weeks away, Fantom has missed his first run of the season, Wizard has been disappointed again and Dilmun has just been Dilmun, ploughing on leaving victims in his wake!
My son (Ben) has now left home complete with all his clobber. The organisation has been epic, the logistics magnificent and the upheaval unprecedented. You would think he was moving to Outer Mongolia rather than up the M5 to Bristol!
It does make me feel a little thoughtful. Ben used to compete in endurance when he was younger, upgrading to open level and completed a 65km endurance ride. What happened? Actually why is it so hard to keep boys’ interest in the sport? I simply cannot understand why cars and football would be more attractive!
Chiara hasn’t been ridden since September and, although she has now completed the first two phases of her condition and fitness regime, I feel decidedly twitchy about not having been on her back. It will be impossible to move forward any further with her without riding her, so we are just marking time. My long awaited new saddle was due to be fitted on Monday but it hasn’t arrived and I don’t have a definite date when it will! Deep breaths, of course it will come this week, won’t it?
Fantom’s training had been going according to plan and he was ready to do a local 16km pleasure ride mostly in trot, with the aim to get him out and about and keep his excitement levels down in preparation for the season. The ancient Wizard was to accompany him as his major outing of the year. Once again Wizard was disappointed as it was decided to cancel the ride because of the equine influenza outbreaks.
This time Dilmun was NOT the goody; indeed he was most definitely the villain of the piece! We actually had a little snow in Cornwall and the yard turned to ice so, before getting Dilmun out of his stable in the morning, I decided to protect his legs with all manner of boots just in case we had a little slip. Just when I was doing up his knee boots, a lump of snow slid majestically off the new roof giving Dilmun the perfect excuse to leap onto my foot. I am now lame! Dilmun 1, Annie 0.
Here is a little information about my four-phase training regime: in endurance there is no set way of preparing a horse for competition, whether it is for a pleasure ride or a major 160km championship. I have, however, devised a method that suits me and is easily adapted to any of the horses. I tend to give the competing horses a long holiday in the autumn/winter to get over any little stresses and strains and to enjoy being horses again, with humans only being used as servants and not masters.
The first phase is, basically, walking gradually covering longer periods of time and over different terrain. The length of time of this phase depends on how long the horse has had off and whether there were any injuries at the end of the previous season.
The second phase is all about building up to sustained trot work, introducing schooling and lungeing gradually and covering different ground in trot. This is when the clipping from hell comes in as they start to sweat!
The third phase, which Fantom has started and Chiara is waiting to start, involves distance and stamina training and building up strength using strategic exercises. This phase will involve some canter work and plenty of hills and often incorporates some competitive rides up to about 65km. For Dilmun his fitness work would stop there and not go onto the next phase as he will not be expected to do any race rides.
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Moving onto the final phase; this is basically canter work. It involves both long cantering sessions on as bigger variety of surfaces as possible as well as interval training while continuing with the strengthening exercises. At this stage, the eye is on the next big competition and we will train on a surface similar to the one in the competition as much as possible.
I am quite meticulous at planning out the training for both Fantom and Chiara but, as always, some flexibility has to be built in as something always happens to alter plans.
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