Achieve your goals with a horse fitness plan

 In Conditioning

It’s scientifically proven: people that set goals for themselves achieve more than people who do not.  Even when they don’t reach their specific goals, the people that have set them still achieve more than those who did not.

In my previous blogs, I explained how you can train the 5 basic aspects of your horse’s fitness, and how a heart rate monitor can help you with this. In this blog, I want to explain more about creating a plan to use equine fitness training to achieve your goals. Creating a horse fitness programme is not a difficult task, and yet there are many riders who just don’t do it! Just do it! Even when you don’t achieve your goals, you will accomplish more when you have set a plan for yourself.

Setting goals for your horse training plan

We start with one goal: the ultimate dream. Dare to imagine. It is important to think ahead, up to five years into the future, especially when you are the ambitious type. After the daydreaming, you have to start analysing: you make your goal specific and measurable, and set a realistic date for by when you want to achieve it.

Write down your goal, so you can build a schedule around it. Use an agenda or an app designed for a horse training plan, such as the one from Equilog. Take a look at some of the examples below.

horse training plan goals heart rate monitor

Baseline

Once we know where we want to go, we can map out how to get there. But what is the starting point? This is the point where you make an analysis of all the components of your horse’s fitness. What is the status of his or her:

  • Health
  • Nutritional condition
  • Endurance
  • Balance/Coordination
  • Speed
  • Strength
  • Mental fitness

A heart rate monitor is a useful tool you can use for this analysis. You can use it to determine your horse’s fitness, and compare these with the heart rates later on in the season to track the progress of your horse conditioning program.

Setting sub-goals

After this, you will determine what is needed in order to get to your goal(s), hereby taking your current situation as your starting point. This does not only include your horse’s fitness:  your goal might require qualifications for, and high scores at, competitions.

In order to achieve your goals, it is important to think about periodisation. This basically means that there are only a few moments each year in which your horse can perform at peak level. Hence, your sub-goals are also broken down into separate time periods.

For example:

  • After 3 months: obtaining your first qualification
  • After 6 months: debut at a higher competition level for the first time
  • After 9 months: finalise your qualification

It is best to take a step back in the last 5 days before each goal and take time for the finishing touch. Ensure that your horse will get 3 to 7 days of active rest (pasture, walking and low-intensity lunging or riding)after each sub-goal.

Creating your horse fitness plan

The next step is to set goals for your horse fitness programme. For example:

  • After 1 month: improved balance through training with poles and walking over different surfaces.
  • After 4 months: improved endurance needed to achieve the sub-goal.
  • After 6 months: improved power through incline (walking) training.
  • After 8 months: improved mental fitness by participating in ‘training competitions’ in a relaxed and calm way.

Planning

Finally, fill in the schedule daily, hereby working towards your sub-goals.

A few tips:

  • Adjust the schedule to your own weekly structure
  • You can add some variety by, for example, working on your endurance goals on one day, and work on your balance/coordination goals.
  • During your training session, the buildup is important. Increase either the intensity or the duration. Do not perform longer and faster/harder than you did during the previous session: this will cause injuries.

Adapting and executing

And then it’s time to start riding. Take a critical look at your schedule at least once a month. Are you achieving your goals? Or do you have to adapt your schedule? It helps to keep track of the activities that are carried out in your horse training program, so that you can easily see which of these have led to actual results. You can easily do this in Equilog and even track your ride with the Android App.

Almost every planning gets adapted sooner or later. Not reaching a goal doesn’t have to be a big deal, but it will become a problem when you do not adjust your training accordingly after this and cause overburdening. The insights you will gain while you adjust your training can be used to ensure that your next horse fitness plan will be even better!

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