Train better with a program

Do you recognize it? After a hard day of work or school you go to the stable. On the way you are thinking: what are you going to do today? The weather is beautiful, so you think of a ride out into the woods? On the other hand you have an upcoming dressage test, so maybe you should practice for the test? But… the outdoor area is just finished and you really want to jump in the new arena. You end up doing everything every day or is that too much?

In the end you ask yourself: How do professionals do it? How do they know what the best program is for their horses so they win competitions and feel good about themselves?

How often should you ride?

The fitter your horse, the more you can train. Therefore you have to know what the fitness level of your horses is. The fitness level is determined based on your 'normal' amount of training. After 21 days of tracking all your training, the app calculates the average training load into a factor: your fitness level. The IPOS app uses a formula based on heart rate research to calculate the load of each training based on of the number of minutes that your horse spends per gait. Not every gait is equally heavy so every gait waighs different into the overall load.

So, now we know the Fitness Level (F) of your horse and the Load (L) of the training, we can now calculate the intensity of that training relative to your horse's fitness level (the L/F ration) you know how heavy this particular training was for your horse. You can use this information for example to estimate how many days of rest your horse needs. The higher the L/F ratio the more days your horse needs rest.

For example: If your horse has a fitness level of 50 (look at the screenshot above) and you want to improve your training: What are you go going to do? Train a little bit above the fitness level of your horse, around an intensity of 50/60. This is what we call progressive overloading. Progressive overloading means to gradually increase the weakly load in order to avoid injuries.

How long?

For young horses is it better to build up training gradually and give them enough time to recover. They need this time to get mentally and physically used to the workload that is required of them. You can start with 3/4 times a week 10/15 minute training, increase the load of your trainings weekly with +/- 10% , but no more than 20%.

Eventhough a young horse might have enough muscles, the tendons are not strong enough to handle a 60 min intense training. The tendons of an older horses are stronger so they can maintain a longer workout.

What should I train?

You have to put enough variety in your training sessions, to make sure that your horse uses different muscles in different ways. When you train the same every day muscles are more likely overloaded. This increases the chance of injuries.

This is why for example, it is good for a dressage horse to take a cross country lesson every once in a while. Because in a cross training your horse uses different muscles. Because of this you don’t overload the muscle over and over again. Also a showjumper might do a light dressage training in his recovery days and vice versa.

TIP: Want to bring even more variety in your training, try riding on different surfaces! This develops proprioception; the sensory input that helps your horse to stay balanced.

In principle there are 2 different types of training, discipline specific training and recovery training.

What you train depends mostly on your discipline. The discipline specific trainings are more intense and requires more of your horse than a recovery training. After a discipline specific training (2 or 3 per week) 1 or 2 recovery training follow, during this training you focus on flexibility and recovery of the muscles.

Training structure

The structure of your training has everything to do with what you have red above! If you want to build up your training you must always keep in mind that you increase one training characteristic at the time (how often, how long or what you train). Choose 1 topic: how often, how long or what. You are going to increase one of these 3. If you suddenly increase everything, the chances of injury due to overtraining increase as well.

So, if you are riding 3 times a week, 40 minutes and you want to increase the frequency and the length of your training. You train first for two weeks four times instead of three times. After two weeks, you can also extend the length of your training with a few minutes (+ 10 %).

Did you find this blog interesting, but you don’t know how to make such a training program? The IPOS app will help you !


A good training program depends on:

  • Training Load: Do not over train your horse, due too much or too intense training(s)

  • Variation: Variate to decrease the change on injuries

  • Planning: Planning is the key to success

Take the points above in mind while making a good training program for you and your horse, the professionals keep this in mind as well. No horse is the same and therefore no program will always fit. Keep looking at your horse of signals of discomfort, stress or fatigue. Ask your coach to customize your training program to fit your horse’s needs.


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· McDonnell, S. M., Padalino, B., & Baragli, P. (2018). Proceedings of the 14th International Conference: Equitation Science 150 Years After Caprilli : Theory and Practice, the Full Circle : September 21-24, 2018, Hosted by Regiment “Lanceri Di Montebello,” Roma, Italy. Pisa: Pisa University Press, p 30.

· McLean, A. N., & Christensen, J. W. (2017). The application of learning theory in horse training. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 190, p 018–27.

· van Dam, K. G. (2006). Training Induced Adaptations in Horse Skeletal Muscle. datawyse, universitaire Pers Maastricht.

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