It’s a fine line….
I braved the elements today and snuck out up the ‘hill from hell’ between sleet and snow showers. Boy, it was arctic 500 feet up on the ridge! On the way back down, I got thinking about fitness training…
I am less experienced than some at international level endurance but I competed internationally in rowing many years ago (including the Commonwealth Games) and I have trained horses up to Intermediate level eventing. Rowing training was brutal. There was no consideration for the individual (difficult if you are competing in crews, anyway) and I was limp from exhaustion for all other daily activities such as university and horses, most of the time. It was a matter of survival! I was frequently training several hours a day including timed runs and heavy weights sessions and because I was always tired, I never knew how fit I was…until I raced. But as the maximum competition distance was 2000m, training was usually intervals of part of the distance for speed and work over more than the distance for stamina.
When training horses for eventing, you know how long you will be on the cross-country course and the stamina required for the level you are competing at and, again, you can use that as a marker for fitness training. But endurance is another matter. I am competing at 120K level (160K is the Championship distance, so there is still a way to go) but it’s a fine line between getting a horse fit and minimising the wear and tear. OK, that applies to all equestrian sports and any sport, in fact, but given the extreme distances of endurance sports, you can’t possibly train over the full distance or even the majority of it. So I make it up as I go, week by week, depending on how Talisman feels – working out the number of days he works and the quality and intensity of the sessions given the terrain and facilities available, also the number of rest days (which I believe are as important as the work) and generally how to train without doing too much mileage.
Talisman hasn’t done 120K before so it’s also about finding out what regime works best for him and hoping I get it right. I have been building up his fitness since Christmas (December was a quiet month after a short break at the end of last season) to compete in mid April. Three and a half months is a long time to keep a horse interested and sound too. I won’t know until the day of the competition if I have got it right. But with hindsight, it should be easier next time!