Getting ready for your next event can be a stressful process, especially gearing up for cross country. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on how fit your horse should be, and I honestly don't think there is one correct answer. Every horse is different, and you need to listen to them. For today's article, I have gathered info that Jimmy Wofford has said and recommends for different horse's fitness.
Set your goal for the season
Have one big show or move up to work for at the end of your season. This will give you a clear goal of exactly where you want to be. Next, determine how many shows you will need to prepare for your big show. This can include rated shows, schooling shows, and even clinics.
Make a Calendar
After you have determined your big goal for the season, work backward, and determine exactly what you need to do to get you and your horse ready. Jim Wofford recommends counting back 4 days from xc day for your last conditioning day and then 4 days back for your next-to-last conditioning day before your show. If you are not going cross country, doing a less intense conditioning day for your horse would still be beneficial for their fitness.
Rule of Thumb
According to Jim Wofford, to best estimate how fit your horse needs to be for cross country is to be able to slow canter for twice your cross country time. For example, if you are shooting for a 5-minute cross country, you should be able to slow canter for 10 minutes.
Break it Up
Horses work best when you break up your canter times into "sets". Below is an excellent table from FocusRiding.com on breaking up your ride into sets.
Jim Wofford's Peak Fitness Guide:
Day One: Hack and dressage.
Day Two: Hack and show jump.
Day Three: Hack and dressage.
Day Four: Start with 15-20 minute walk, a trot warm-up, and canter/gallop conditioning, depending on the horse’s level of fitness.
Day Five: Hack.
I hope this article was helpful for my fellow eventers out there! Eventing can get super complicated because you are essentially training for 3 disciplines at once. I know there are many fitness programs, but sometimes it helps just to see what the professionals are doing. I personally use the conditioning program for my horse and I love it!