Fitness, polework and details: six training tips from double Olympic medallist Tom McEwen

  • Would you like to know what training Tokyo Olympic team gold and individual silver medallist Tom McEwen does at home?

    Read on for six training tips we picked up on a recent visit to Tom’s Gloucestershire yard…

    1. Much of the horses’ fitness work is done out hacking, using hills around Tom’s Gatcombe base. The horses often head out for a hack with one of Tom’s team on board before or after a flatwork session in the arena with Tom. The hacks will increase in length for horses aimed at big three-days – for example, Toledo De Kerser and CHF Cooliser, who will be entered for Badminton Horse Trials this spring, will build up with longer rides.

    2. Tom also uses a nearby gallop for fitness work, but says: “Not always going full speed, we do a lot of hack cantering.” 

    3. All his horses go cross-country schooling at least twice before the season starts and those sessions will also contribute to horses’ fitness.

    4. Tom uses polework as a way of keeping variety in his flatwork and to help horses be adjustable in their stride length and strengthen up. He’ll also ride over poles as part of his jumping warm-up, and use poles on the ground before and after fences during a jumping session.

    Tom McEwen training at home on Brookfield William

    Tom McEwen doing a spot of polework on Brookfield William, owned by Alison Swinburn and John and Chloe Perry. Credit: Jess Photography

    5. Noticing what your horse is doing is vital – for example, is a horse weaker on one rein? Is his stride compromised on landing because he’s not jumping straight? Tom notes these aspects of each horses’ work and then trains to improve them gradually over time.

    “Ultimately those details separate three good rounds at an Olympics from what could be a problem,” he says. 

    6. He plans the horses’ work for the week each Thursday evening, so everyone on the yard knows what they are doing, but is flexible as necessary.

    “We might do more jumping one week, then give them an easier week, then do more flatwork the next week,” says Tom. “We’re quite organised, but things do change.”

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    Like these Tom McEwen training tips? Read more about Tom’s yard, how he manages his horses and his team in this week’s Horse & Hound magazine (dated 24 February). Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.

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