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Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Tig plan and why blogging is better than studying

A three day weekend is a great chance to study.

A three day weekend is a great chance to catch up on blogging!

Blogging is more effective than studying anyways.

I can't tell you guys how much the questions you ask me and the topics I write about here (usually because one of you has told me you want to hear my opinion on a topic) SAVE me in vet school.

I'm learning a very simple fact about myself - it is impossible for me to learn anything unless I have some sort of previous experience to plug it into.

The questions YOU ask give me that "prior experience" context that makes me care about topics that I wouldn't care about otherwise.

- My aunt got a piglet with an injured leg.  Later on we had a conversation about castrating
 and pig vaccination.  A week later when I visited a swine facility, I was able to learn and retain information by applying it in my mind to my aunt's pigs.

- I've been over horse coat color genetics a million times but it wasn't until I was forced to look it up during a conversation I was having with 2 friends to justify why Merrylegs would/wouldn't be grey that it actually "stuck".  The very next week I had a test on genetics that I didn't study or do the required reading for (it was review material from 2 years ago so theoretically I should have already known it)....and I aced it because there were a TON of horse color questions on it.

- Recently I had an class almost entirely devoted to dehorning goats and I took careful notes, since recently a member of the community told me a horrifying story of a mature goat dehorning "incident" involving a vet who perhaps hadn't realized the difference between a goat and a cow dehorning.

- I had only a superficial knowledge of acid/base balance (ie enough to pass on a multiple choice test) prior to doing a series of posts on it this summer.

- Another friend needed to know the difference between the teeth of a 4 year old horse and a 6 or 8 year old horse.

- Another friend wanting to know whether continuing NSAID therapy after joint injections was really necessary.

- What the heck a "vascular accident" is when in reference to colic surgery complications.

- What the most likely cause of some derm lesions in mid winter on a chestnut horse.

- The most current theory of the pathophysiology of recurrent equine uveitis and the appropriate treatment.

At some point in the last 2 1/2 years I've been taught all of this - but without a context to practice it in, I obviously didn't do a very good job retaining it. But looking it up for a friend is just enough to make it "stick" the second time around.

So please, don't feel like you are bugging me if you have a question.  If I don't know the answer it forces me to go back to my notes, do additional research if necessary. It's the only way I'm actually learning this information....

Anyway.  Where were we?  Ah yes, catching up on unfinished blogger business.

This week was such a whirl wind I never got a chance to post Tig plan!

Tig is staying with me for 3 months. I have goals for each month and weekly plans mapped for the first month.  I'm posting the whole kaboodle here and I'll re-evaluate every 1-2 weeks and add weekly plans for subsequent months as we go along.

The most often asked question I get, and that I see asked on various public forums is "how do I start conditioning for endurance?". 

Think of these "Tig posts" as the answer to that question.

What I am doing with Tig is *very similar* to what I would do in the first 3-4 months with any young "generic" endurance prospect.  Building on the work below for an additional 3 months would give me an LD-type distance in a total of ~6 months. 

Month 1 (mid January-mid February) goals
- Have a walk, trot, canter under saddle and train any gaping training holes in order to be ready to start physically conditioning at the beginning of month 2.
- Focus on relaxation, calmness, and "neutral" bridle work (light contact, encourage reaching down).

Week 1: low key, low stress. What do you know? Lunging, lead line, arena, trail. Let's get to know eachother.

Week 2: pushing the limits. Not teaching new behaviors or skills, but push what we have so far and see what happens. We did a trail ride at a walk. Now let's do some walk/trot trail stuff. We've been trotting in the arena, what if I ask for a bigger trot? Let's tackle some trails that are a little more technical.

Week 3 and 4: teach new things and work on known problem areas. Canter under saddle! Trim her feet (she's very defensive about her hinds). Continue to build up trail work until Tig can do 30 min at mostly working trot. Three gaits in the arena.


Month 2 (mid-Feburary to mid-March) goals 
- Work up to 60-90 min walk/trot. Near end of month 2 introduce a small bit of cantering on trail. Walk/trot/canter dressage work focusing on straightness, being through, and being solidly on the bit.


Month 3 (mid-March to mid-April) goals
- Work up to 120 min walk/trot. On shorter rides, increase amount of cantering (but keep the overall amount small. Cantering will mostly be in the arena during dressage schooling). Correct and balanced transitions. Continue to Lateral work.


It's important to note that when I say "30 min walk/trot" or "120 min walk/trot" I'm not saying that EVERY ride will be that long.  In month one she should be able to comfortably do 30 min a couple times a week, building up to month 3 where we might do 2-3 rides during the entire month that will be the full 120 min.  Some ride will be 20 min or less - Dressage/arena rides tend to be much shorter because they are much more intensive both physically and mentally.  

Tig will only be ridden 3x a week - you don't have to ride a horse 5x a week or more in order to put a good base of fitness. Plenty of rest both mentally and physically is an important part of any program at any level. 

Other important questions you might have: 

What am I starting with? 
- Tig has been lightly ridden for about 4 months, and then had a month off.  She's never cantered under saddle.

What would you do differently if this was your horse? 
- Since Tig is only 4, I would plan on doing her first LD the spring of 5 year old year. AERC rules indicate that a horse must be 48 months in order to do an LD, but since my preference is to move up distances as quickly as the horse allows, I feel it's better to do that first LD as a 5 year old and have the option to move up to 50's if I need to immediately. That would give me ~14 months to prepare her for an LD effort. Right now Tig is being prepared for a race effort in the summer, but if she was doing endurance, there would be no point in having her peak so soon, so I would take my time. 

  • I would probably spend 2-3 months lightly riding riding her (1-2 a week walk/trot  up to 30 min) and teaching the canter under saddle and taking her lots of places.

  • Then I would spend another month doing much of the same except incorporating more ponying and lead line runs and increasing the riding.

  • 2 months doing the "month 2" described above

  • another 2 months building to the "month 3" described here, except less emphasis on cantering.  Cantering will continue to be a very small part of our conditioning with most cantering being saved for dressage schooling in the arena.

This brings us to a similar point that Tig will reach before she goes back to the breeder mid-April.

  • The last 4 months would be focused on building long rides to 3-4 hours (no more than 1 per every 4-8 weeks), camping, riding in groups, etc.

She seems so young. What are you doing to maximize the chances she will have a long and productive career? 
- Cantering will play a very small part in our overall riding.  I think it's important to teach - I want her to know that there is another "gear" there - but we won't be using it extensively.
- Minimize sharp turns at speeds above a walk, and keep the schooling circles large.
- Keep conditioning speeds under 10mph.  She has a BIG trot like Farley.  Farley is comfortable trotting 12-14mph and trotting at slower speeds in inefficient and frustering for her. As a result we tend to do a lot of walking to offset the trotting. If Tig ends up having the same issue with trot speed  I'll let her travel slightly over that 10 mph speed as long as it's a comfortable working stride and not an extended "beast" of a trot.
- No trotting downhills.
- Pay careful attention to footing - not too soft, not too hard
- When in doubt give an extra day or week off. 


  1. What the heck _is_ a "vascular accident"?

    And what's your thinking on the relationship between minimal cantering and longevity? I can see wanting to keep the overall program one of balanced movement and sanity, both of which can be tricky on a baby who finds cantering very exciting, and the keep the average MPH down -- is there more to it than that?

  2. Vascular accident: As far as I can find's bascially ischemia, or a lack of blood flow because of some event like a clot etc. It's not a term I've heard used here - usually we talk about "ischemia".

  3. Cantering: 2 reasons.

    The first is I'm being conservative because has NEVER cantered under saddle. So there's going to be a transition period where she's going to developing new muscle to both my body/tack weight, AND muscle for BALANCE during that gait. I think that it would be premature to ask for any sort of "working canter" as part of our regular conditioning this soon after learning how to canter with a rider - She needs to develop the strength and balance of the gait before I start asking for it on the trail with variable footing.

    The second reason is because beyond "teaching the canter" as part of a balanced training program, I don't need the increased effort to do an LD effort - especially in the first 3 months of training. It's totally possible to get the amount of conditioning needed to complete an LD without any sort of intervals. It's only when I start doing 50's that I think intervals start to be really necessary so that you can keep overall mileage down. Right now, I'm on the side of the teeter totter that I'll be getting enough conditioning in a reasonable amount of miles. At a certain point, I will have to increase mileage past a point I feel is reasonable (high volume) and I will add intensity/intervals/cantering instead. Does this make sense?

    So the canter work I'll be doing in these first 3 months is to teach balance in the canter and start developign the necessary muscles, to teach the cue for the gait, and to teach the horse that cantering isn't an "exciting" event - it's just one more "thing" we do together.

  4. It's good to have a plan. Having a plan gives you something to crumple up and throw away!

    But seriously, your plan is good--and I know that you aren't likely to "tunnel vision" the plan and will customize it to the horse.

    My own trainer advocates not letting horses canter on trails until they've been under saddle (and on trails) for two full years. They canter in the arena, and if they're in a hurry outside, they trot faster.

    And of course, Fee and I are living proof that a canter is completely unnecessary :-) We both suck at it, and while my body is completely borked, I'm not even going to ask. If she offers it on the trail and the terrain supports it, I'll say yes (she's been under saddle on trails since 2009, so we certainly aren't rushing it). Otherwise, we can outrun the Zombie Apocalypse at a trot just fine.

  5. Aarene that is very reassuring thank you. I didnt canter on farley on the trail probably at least a year or longer because both of us Werent confortable at the canter. Until Farley so much of my riding was standardbreds that didnt canter. I won't say no right away if horse offers a nice relaxed cancer because at some point I want them to know its okay. But I certainly won't ask for it on the trail for a while. On a young horse that two year mark sounds about right for cantering as anything but teaching the skill. tig is a little different from the generic endurance prospect for me because I know that she's going to be used this summer for speed and I feel like it's my responsibility to get some canter work on her to prepare for thst effort.

    And iI totally agree. Plans are for measuring progress again reassessing and changing as we go along :-) you guys can see what's in my head unless i write it down I thought it would be fun see what I thought would happen compared to what I actually end up doing in the three months.

    1. Im on my phone trying to comment. Ib think you can figure it out!

  6. LOVE this post, Mel. It leads me to further thought as I move forward with Griffin.


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