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Train Better with a Program

After a hard day of work or school, you go to the stable. On the way, you are thinking about what you are going to do there today. The weather is beautiful, so initially you might think of hack in the woods. On the other hand, you have an upcoming dressage test, so maybe you should practice for the test? However, the outdoor arena has just been finished, and you would also like to jump in it. You could end up trying to do everything each day, but that is, of course, too much. You might end-up asking yourself: “How do professionals do it?” “How do they know what the best program is for their horses, so that 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 Ipos Technology Training App calculates the average training load into a factor: your horse’s fitness level. The 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 is weighted differently into the overall load.

So, now that 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) and you will then 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 (see the screenshot above), and you want to improve your training: What is the next best step? 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 gradually increasing the weakly load to avoid injuries.




How long should I train for?

For young horses, it is 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 three to four times a week with a 10/15 minute training, increase the load of your trainings weekly with +/- 10% , but no more than 20%.

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

What should I train?

You require enough variety in your training sessions, to ensure that your horse uses different muscles in different ways. When you train with the same routine every day, the horse’s muscles are more likely to get 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. As in cross-country training, your horse uses different muscles. With this, you don’t overload the same muscles repeatedly. Also a Show Jumper might benefit from a light dressage training in its recovery days and vice versa.

TIP: Want to bring even more variety into your training? Try riding on different surfaces. This develops proprioception; the sensory input that helps your horse to stay balanced.

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

What you train depends mostly on your discipline. Discipline-specific trainings are more intense and require more of your horse than a recovery training. After a discipline-specific training (two or three per week), follow with one or two recovery trainings, in which you can focus on flexibility and recovery of the muscles.

Training structure

The structure of your training has everything to do with what you have already read above. If you want to build up your training, you must always keep in mind that you can only increase one training characteristic at the time (How often? How long? Or what you train?). Choose one topic to define at a time, and increase one of these three. If you suddenly increase everything together in one go, the chances of injury due to overtraining also increase.

So, if you are riding three times a week, for 40 minutes each time, 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 by a few minutes (+ 10 %).



Did you find this blog interesting, but don’t know how to make your own training program? Ipos Technology's Training App can help.





Summary

A good training program depends on:

  • Training Load: Do not over train your horse, through too many, or too intense training(s).

  • Variation: Vary to decrease the chance of 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. Professional riders and trainers keep these in mind as well. No horse is the same and, therefore, no program will always fit. Keep looking at your horse for signals of discomfort, stress or fatigue. Ask a coach to customize your training program to fit your horse’s needs.

References:

· (In Dutch) Bruin, G., Knaap, J., Smolders, E. A. A., & van der Spek, M. C. (1997a). Training, waar ben ik me bezig? Praktijkonderzoek Rundvee, Schapen En Paarden, 4–5. Retrieved from https://library.wur.nl/WebQuery/wurpubs/332148

· Clayton, H. M. (1991). “Conditioning Sport Horses”. Mason, USA: Sport Horse Publications, p 72-88.

· Dyson, S. (2002). “Lameness and poor performance in the sport horse: Dressage, show jumping and horse trials.” Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, 22(4), 145–150. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0737-0806(02)70139-1

· (In Dutch) Gestel, J. L. M., & Hoeksema-Bakker, C. M. C. (1997). Training Van Spierkracht Enspierfunctie 1. Houten/Zaventem: Bohn Stafleu en van Loghum, p 52.

· Hinchcliff, K. W., Kaneps, A. J., & Geor, R. J. (2008). “Equine Exercise Physiology: The Science of Exercise in the Athletic Horse.“ Philadelphia: Saunders/Elsevier, p 9-10.

· Hodgson, D. R., McGowan, C. M., & Kenneth McKeever, P. D. F. (2013). “The Athletic Horse: Principles and Practice of Equine Sports Medicine (2nd ed.).” Missouri, Verenigde staten: Elsevier Health Sciences.

· Kraemer, W. J., & Fleck, S. J. (2007). “Optimizing Strength Training: Designing Nonlinear Periodization Workouts.” USA: Human Kinetics.

· Lindner, A. (2009). Applied Equine Nutrition and Training: Equine Nutrition and Training Conference (ENUTRACO) 2009. Retrieved from https://www-wageningenacademic-com.has.idm.oclc.org/doi/pdf/10.3920/978-90-8686-669-4?download=true

· 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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applanim.2017.02.020

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

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