How do you work on your horse’s stamina with canter work ?
To prepare for the cross-country phase in eventing, you have to work on your horse’s stamina in canter. An untrained horse will need about eight weeks of training to develop his stamina. This training is necessary so that your horse performs on the day of the cross-country and does not get injured.
To prepare for this conditioning and endurance training, you can warm-up your horse as usual. First of all, ten minutes of walking, then ten to fifteen minutes of trotting, followed by your canter work, and finally a recovery phase. This type of exercise carried out regularly will train your horse for very physical courses such as in cross-country.
Start trotting on flat ground and then go up a hill. Hill work is ideal for a quick cardio workout. Trotting uphill is a big effort for horses. It requires them to push a lot on their hind legs. As a result, they build up their back and hindquarter muscles. This type of training is very useful, but it should always be alternated with phases on flat ground.
In the canter work, make sure that the horse’s rhythm is regular. He should not get carried away at the beginning, when the climb is not too steep and he is feeling fresh. He must canter at the same rhythm all the way up the hill. So, you have to hold him back a little at the beginning and encourage him at the end to keep a uniform pace.
Also, remember to keep your horse very straight in order to have a similar contact on both reins to ensure that his rear end muscles develop equally on either side. Once again, it is the part of the horse that you will primarily strengthen with the canter work.
The « engine » of the horse is located in the rear end. By doing this hill work, you strengthen the hindquarters and the back. To work well, let your horse reach for contact into the reins and accompany the motion of his neck with your hands. Once at the top of the hill, trot down to promote an active recovery before walking for about 20 minutes.
I recommend you do an active recovery phase in trot for 5 to 10 minutes, and depending on your horse’s breathing, you can switch to walk. But if you see that his nostrils are very dilated, you should continue trotting to eliminate the toxins from his blood better and thus promote active recovery.
You can walk for about twenty minutes on the road; it’s excellent for hardening the tendons after an effort. You’ve worked on soft ground, now do the recovery on hard ground.
Once you get back home, giving your horse a shower will bring his temperature down, which is always quite high after such a big effort and especially after coming back from the cross-country. Don’t forget to shower the legs to cool the tendons down as they are very fragile in horses. Your horse will gradually resume his natural rhythm of breathing.
The key to this training is to do it regularly. Don’t overdo it and listen carefully to your horse.
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