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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Non-arab management?

I'd happily welcome any suggestions for managing the non-Arab through rides, too, and I promise to pick and choose whatever seems to work for us!

This was the last of Figure's question and the question I would MOST like my readers to give advice on either here or on their own blogs. 

What I post on this blog, including the previous post on how to condition the endurance horse, is based on my own one-rat study.  Many of you probably feel like I've jumped off the deep end and adamently disagree with some of my advice.  That's OK - my hope is that even if you think I'm full of horse apples, that there may be one little gem in there that you can take away and think about.  It's certainly what I do when I read other people's stuff - I rarely agree with everything they say, but there's usually one thing I can take away.

Those of you that are long time readers of this blog may read some of the stuff I posted yesterday and say "but that's not what you said 3 years ago!!!!"....and you would be right.  As much as I value consistency, I value having an open mind and constantly reassessing my methods to best of the current knowledge out there.  So yeah, my philosophy on conditioning has changed over the years.

There's some great questions and comments on yesterday's blog, and I'm going to attempt NOT to repeat the information here.  Today's post is concentrated on my experience with conditioning an arab versus a non arab.

I'm going to start with Farley, because I think it is easier to talk about arabs and then contrast the non-arab.  remember that this is my opinion in my one-rat study - which is why it's important for you to post and comment if you have a different opinion! 

After building a base on Farley, I started doing 50's, and fairly quickly I attempted a 100.

Let's remind ourselves what the see saw looks like:

In the first part of Farley's career, including the first time I attempted Tevis, I was operating in this range:

I stayed in this sweet spot for a year, accomplishing a lot. But then, I started to move towards the right hand side without really aknowledging that was what was happening.  Setting aside additional issues such as nutritional that caused my pull at Tevis 2009 - another major factor was that I had shifted from one side of the see saw to the other, without quite making it.  I either needed more rest or more mileage and as a result I ended up in the uncomfortable position of the middle.......

I had a comment on the last post of how do you know where you are on the see saw - It's either in hindsight - but if you know you have minimal miles for what you are trying to accomplish you are on the left hand side.  If you are trying to "make up" for those minimal miles by getting in "one last" ride before a race, or if you are pushing for your horse to go harder and faster during those last rides because you are stressed about the amount of conditioning and they aren't giving it to you, then it's very possible you are starting to move towards the middle. 

After Tevis 2009, I added dressage lessons, interval training, and riding more days out of the week, as well as more endurance rides to my season.  I moved to the right hand side of the see saw. 

I stayed in that sweet spot for over a year.  I did 3 100's that year, including Tevis and Farley looked GREAT.  But then, I added jumping to our cross training and I asked for one ride too many in the context of everything else we were doing and I shifted once again to the right hand side of the see saw and I got pulled again. 

I want you to notice a pattern.  First off, I have 2 pulls - one from each side of the see saw.  Choosing one philosophy over the other does not make you immune from getting pulled.  Second, both my pulls resulted from me shifting to the right of the see saw towards more miles and less rest, than the other way.  Far more damaging than not enough miles is the effect of not enough rest. 

How does this relate to a non arab? 

In my experience, a non-arab, in general, needs more miles to achieve the same amount of fitness, and needs more miles to maintain that fitness. 

The rules of rest still apply, but somehow you need an increased number of miles while still maintaining enough rest. 

Which means you are always operating in this quadrant (red) instead of one of these (green)

I found that even with a LOT of miles I wasn't getting as much "bang for my buck" so while that number of miles would have put me in the "superfit" category on an arab, it wasn't with my standardbred.  And I needed more miles to keep her fit which kept me out of the superrested category. 

So I was always teetering on the right hand side of the see saw, seeing the results as if I was in the middle of the see saw, but seeing results as if I was on the far right, past the sweet spot. 

If you go back and read in the comments of yesterday's post on my "3 stages of conditioning an endurance horse" I found that I spent a lot of time alternating between stages 1 and 2, and often was never able to get out of stage 2 - stage 2 that was the end point.  With Farley (an arab) I spent minimal time in stage 2 and bumped to stage 3 really fast.

Again, I'm fully aware I'm talking about ONE arab and making generalizations.  I'm talking about ONE standardbred and making all sorts of jumps and conclusions to not only other standardbreds, but to other non-arab breeds.

One other anecdote: My sister went with me on her mustang to most of my early conditioning rides on Farley (stage 1 and 2 training) and I noticed the same thing on the mustang that I did with the standardbred.  Even though the mustang had a more ideal living circumstance (on pasture with other horses) she did not condition as fast or keep that conditioning. 

Anyone else out there have a differing opinion?  Or even thinks I'm right?  Would especially love to hear from Funder, AareneX etc. as I know they not only have way more experience in this area, but it's recent!  [looking at you Funder with your awesome 2 day 100 mile Tennessee walker :)]


  1. Disclaimer for lurkers: I know Figure's mare, so this is tailored to her, but it will apply to most non-Arabs.

    The two things I am always thinking about are heart rate and cooling. Dixie doesn't have a low resting heart rate, so I have to be careful to get off and walk her in to every single pulse box. At Washoe, I ran a mile+ in to each hold, and she was down or very close when we got in each time. If I ride in or if it's hot and humid, she won't be down and she'll need aggressive cooling (sponging her neck, scraping with my hand, repeat.) Aggressive cooling pisses her off, and seeing her buddies head off to vet without her aggravates her, so it's easier to have her come in already down than to try to catch her up.

    I try very hard to keep her cool out on the loops too. I have two squeezy bottles just for keeping her neck and braids wet at all times - if she's just radiating heat, I pour more on, and if she's not working very hard and not sweating hard, I keep her neck wet anyway. I try to have them emptied when I come in to every single water stop, and I just refill them there - nobody's going to complain that you're taking a liter of water out of a 100 gallon tank.

    If it's at all warm or she's got any winter coat, I clip her neck and belly. Get the vein/artery on both sides of her neck AT THE LEAST, maybe all the way up to the mane if you feel like it. I've never had to blanket her, even through Reno winters, with that kind of clip, and it helps immensely.

    1. Cooling was not as much of an issue with my standardbred, although I did notice that she did much better if I could find a patch of shade to hide in if we stood around. With the arab I'm constantly looking for sunshine since she has a tendancy to get cold. My standardbred's resting heart rate was really really low, so it's totally possible that eventhough I didn't have the issues with heat as it related to pulsing down - however the increased heat load and inability to dissapate heat may have contributed to poor performance over the course of a race. I always wondered why people fussed over their rump rugs when I was on Minx, but now with Farley I'm the worst - up down up down every 30 seconds depending on pace and temp....

    2. I clipped last year in October post-Ride Bear. In hindsight, I probably should have clipped in August. Pony's a bit of a wooly princess and nearly always has a winter coat - it leaves for a few months in the summer, then flies right back on. No Cushings, just plain furry. It's very reassuring that you've never had to blanket Dixie as a result, so I'll probably do more of a clip this year and look irritably at the folks at the barn that swear she needs a blanket since I took any hair off.

    3. I SCREWED myself by clipping my arab in the 2010-2011 season. However, I probably could have gotten away with (and it probably would have been beneficial) with my standardbred.

  2. Conditioning the non-arab in general:

    I GPS'd every ride I took for the first three years. I did about 500 miles each year - everything from moseying a mile down the road to 10 miles of intervals. I put a hell of a base on her and gave her a long, long time to build up that base. It really seems to be "sticking" in 2013. I've done hardly any milage this year - my training is either a fairly easy 10 mile loop or 5-8 miles of very steep hill climbs, and I've done that twice a week since the year started. I did 35 miles before I RO'd a 50 in March, did my training loop a couple times in April, and went out and did back to back 50s in May. She was fine. She's solidly in the left-hand sweet spot on Mel's diagram.

    I was going to say something else here but I've forgotten what.

  3. My essentially one-rat study of riding a non-Arab, contrasted with first spending time watching my father and his Arab, then riding other people's Arabs: It's harder to successfully get away with the "super-rested horse" strategy on a non-Arab.

    I've taken a couple of less-than-ideally conditioned Arabs through rides successfully, and while I wouldn't make a habit of doing so, they got through great. Any time Mimi had too much time off, even with a huge base and foundation of conditioning and rides, we'd have problems. She needed a lot more conditioning, and to regular stay in conditioning, to get through rides, even going in with the advantage of a really low resting HR and amazing (for a non-Arab) metabolics.

    Using your see-saw illustration, I think it's harder to find and maintain that sweet spot in a non-Arab, but it can be done. I know I had to train harder and more consistently to get through the distance than what people of full Arabs had to do. With Mimi, all of her problems would come from under-conditioning and fatigue versus over-conditioning and micro-injuries. (Never any tendon/soft-tissue problems, but metabolic tie-up situations.) So she was better served with her sweet spot being more towards the "more miles/less rest" side.

    1. "She needed a lot more conditioning, and to regular stay in conditioning, to get through rides, even going in with the advantage of a really low resting HR and amazing (for a non-Arab) metabolics."
      --> yep - this is EXACTLY what I've observed. Minx had a super super low resting heart rate, but while that helped me pulse down at rides, didn't mean she was fit enough.

      "With Mimi, all of her problems would come from under-conditioning and fatigue versus over-conditioning and micro-injuries."
      --> Yep, I'm almost certain that the bowed tendons that I had on Minx were a result of underconditioning in that first year, not as a result of chronic over conditioning. However, to be honest, Minx's endurance career was short enough, and I didn't get her out on that many formal rides to really tell wehther the increased miles needed for conditioning were causing stress injuries. However, she spent a lot of time NQR in regards to gait - I felt like the amount of mileage needed to get her fit enough for a 50 was dangerously close to the theroritical threshold of mileage that represented being overridden and getting those overuse injuries. Which played heavily into my decision to retire her from 50's and focus on her driving instead.

  4. I ride a arab type Morgan - most people think she is an arab or arab cross. My biggest issue has bot been maintaining fitness, but dealing this heat load. We live in Northern Coastal California - average temp is in 50-60s in the middle of summer. I'm not sure how much of her dislike of heat is due to where we live, or her breed. She does have a thicker than average arab coat. Her resting pulse is also slightly higher (about 38 bpm) compared to Arabs of equal fitness. The most important management for me has been to always get off 1- 1/2 mile before vetcheck, loosen her girth and jog in, never to pass a creek without sponging her off and to do everything I can to maximize her ability to cool herself off ( braid mane, clip neck, stop at water). In terms of conditioning, she maintains her fitness fairly well. I am somewhere in middle of the conditioning spectrum - one long slow ride a week, approx 20 miles at a slow- moderate pace, one day of fast interval work and one day of 'brain' training , with other short-medium easy rides with friends and rest/ run with me days.

    1. Are you doing LD's or 50's currently? Is she a dark color? Do you think that plays into the cooling issue? Funder's horse is mostly white and has cooling issues, while my standardbred was black and I don't *think* I had cooling issues (at least as they related to cooling - I might have been dealing with an increased heat load, but I was too new to the sport to really know when I was competing with her).

    2. Vaguely tangential question: why do I see no endurance horses with running braids rather than lots of normal braids? Is this strictly because people find running braids difficult/obnoxious, or is there actually a good reason for it?

    3. I'm currently doing 50s , mostly multiple days. My horse is a chestnut, so I guess she is a dark color. The grey I also rode endurance on was an arab, so I don't know if her heat tolerance was due to breed or color. The times I have cooling issues are generally early in the season , when she still has a thick coat and is also not in her top physical condition. I might be a little paranoid about cooling her off- we have been known to stop and sponge in the first five miles. I have only had to wait for her to pulse down once, and it took less then 5 minutes at the end of a tough fifty. Of course, I also normally ride very conservativly,and I had to rush to make time at the end of that ride( We had been trotting/cantering for 10 miles without walking), so the short answer is I have no clue if her color makes a difference. I am more concerned with the fact that her thicker coat/mane and slightly more muscle than average arab make it harder for her to lose heat than the average arab. I personally think ( no evidence to back me up except opinion), that unless you are in direct sun for most of ride , heat load due to horse color is minimal compared to the heat generated by ex cerise. If color was a significant factor in increasing heat load, why would we have dark coated arabs be fairly common, who have been selectively bred to survive in desert environments for hundreds(or thousands) of years?

    4. Just to add to the miles needed for fitness, I think alot depends on how fast you ride. I tend towards the more rest side of the spectrum ( no injuries so far), but during rides I go at or slower than the speed I condition at.

    5. what do you mean by a normal braid? I did a french braid on Farley when she had a long mane because it was so long and thick individual braids down the neck did not get enough hair off her neck. I did individual braids on minx because her main wasn't quite a thick even though it was long. individual braids that are too thick pull on the horse's neck when they lowered their head to eat and drink. hey French braid can do the same thing if its too right.

    6. I've pretty much only ever seen individual braids on endurance horses. I must not be looking in the right places! I will continue with our running braids with no guilt, then. Fetti has lots of hair, which I am thrilled with, but then she has LOTS OF HAIR.

    7. Is there a reason endurance people don't just pull or roach the mane? Or just cosmetic preference? If I'm not showing, I'm not braiding! *g*

    8. I think a lot of it is because its arabs. When I talked to Funder about it she told me she the wet braids against.her.horses neck aided in cooling. I've really likes having the handled that the braids provided. Farley is sensitive to flies and having.the.long mane protects that side of the neck when she's in pasture. Besides the fact that hair on Arabs is considered the norm it might have something to do with a general attitude in endurance that less is more. Clipping is minimal and it is assumes that is the horse has something it is in some way innately functional.

    9. Joanna said "...but during rides I go at or slower than the speed I condition at."

      Here's another one-horse-study piece of non-Arab advice: it's ok to compete faster than you train, [i]if you're riding slow as dirt either way.[/i] My horse, like a lot of non-Arabs, hates to train, especially alone. I've found that if I just go get the miles done, it's ok if we're going 4 mph conditioning and then 5.5 mph at the ride. I'm not saying you should go walk your trails then try to ride a 7-hour 50! but not every horse trains well, and it'll be ok :)

  5. BTW - if I get pulled on Saturday, it will be because I was on the far left of the spectrum/see saw. *sigh* Which is where I probably was when I got pulled on Minx the first time. If I complete the ride, that is more evidence for Ashley's argument about arabs being able to do this with a more minimal prep than a non arab. Because I can aboslutely assure you that if I was going into this ride this weekend with my standardbred I would not complete. On my arab there's a decent chance.

  6. It might be a bit late here to bother responding but I am going to anyways. I have been riding a non arab horse for 6 years trying to do endurance. .. notice I said trying.. I haven't done a 50 so maybe I am not even qualified to answer this question intelligently but I will share what I have run into . JB is my Spanish Barb. I did 3 LD's with him. He had lameness issues .. thin soles.. I ran him in boots. made all the difference. I never had an issue with him pulsing down but we were exceptionally slow. He was into self preservation .. slow but steady .. he would eat and drink regardless of how tired he was and there wasn't one ride I ever did with him that I felt like I conditioned enough. A lot of this may have just been his ho hum attitude about work... he just didn't have much of a work ethic or drive. He was not a heavy built horse and didn't ever seem to suffer from over heating. His career ended due to the injury but I don't think he was ever made to cover a lot of miles at speed.. I do think he would have been good at covering a lot of miles at a turtle speed and just keep going all day.

    Maggie, my Lippitt Morgan mare that I have now ridden in two LD's and 35 mile CTR is a totally different animal. I have cooling issues with her. She is definitely heavier built than alot of arabs but not as heavy as many of her breed type are. She is a trail eating machine , loves to go.. and doesn't take care of herself. I have yet to get her to eat much doing a 35 miler. To get her ready for that distance, I have to be riding her 4 times a week on the trail Her recoveries are slower and I also have to get off a while before the gate , walk her in on a loose girth and sponge sponge sponge.. She is a nervous mare and that never helps the heart rate.. She does not take care of herself at all but some old morgan breeders have told me its a survival instinct and the Morgans won't eat when they are hot. I have no idea what the basis is for that but it seems to be the case with Maggie. She refuses to eat when she is a bit tired. She just wants to stand and rest. She also refuses to eat when she is nervous. She won't drink well either. I pumped her full of electrolytes last July at a LD ride and she only drank once , at the end of the ride , just 2 miles from finishing..It was a warm day and she sweat alot. She did not eat well the night before either. I did alot of sponging throughout the day. At the end of the day, she came through with all A's and B's... without much water or food. She recovered fine...with no issues, soreness or swelling.. Her not taking care of herself well was more stressful for me and that is why I have opted to not do endurance with her. I just don't want to have a metabolic disaster but Morgans are tough...


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