Columnist Maegan Gossett describes herself as AQHA “to the core.” Yet, she thinks those crazy eventers just may be on to something.
I have a confession: I secretly want to be an eventer.
This is a wild notion, believe me. I am AQHA to the core. I spur stop, lope slow, and try to squeeze myself into chaps that would be tight on a twelve-year old boy. So the fact that I think it would be cool to hurtle myself towards a solid jump that looks like a leprechaun or rainbow or something crazy like that is completely insane, but I still find myself consumed by the idea. Don’t get me wrong, I have no intentions of actually ever trying a cross country course, but it’s a nice daydream to have. Right next to the one of Will Coleman. I know why I won’t be trying eventing. I don’t have the balls for it.
Can I say “balls” on Horse Nation?
Whatever, you know what I mean. I’m a wimp. So when I told my mom why I was training Elle like an eventer, she thought I was crazy.
Let me back up. A week ago, I sent Elle back to my parent’s farm. While I work on graduating (Dear God, you remember last week’s prayer to please let me graduate and I won’t swear anymore? I’ll up the anty. If you let me graduate and grant my professor the compassion to just freakin give me a C-, I swear I’ll never watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians ever again like it’s actually a good show), my horse will be working on recovering and getting some fitness back. Which brings me to my point: training like an eventer.
Elle’s anemia and other unidentified health issues has really made me extra super OCD about anything Elle-related. So when it came to designing her workout schedule for the next few weeks, I looked to eventing for inspiration.
I did research on anaerobic, aerobic, how to spell aerobic, target heart rates, road work, hill work, interval training, rides where you just walk for a mind and butt-numbingly long time, and all the other overly-complicated, confusing fitness things eventers do. If it’s good enough for Neville Bardos, it’s good enough for my Elle. And since I am basically starting over with her fitness, I wanted to make a plan that would create the best fitness base possible before we started the major portion of our training. Thankfully, my wonderful mother agreed (even though I’m pretty sure she thinks I’m being more neurotic than normal) to lunge Elle daily, following my outlined workouts for the next three weeks.
I started her out with easy intervals just to get her back in the groove of working. The first week’s lunging was done on grass with a slight slope. Towards the end of the week, I moved Elle up to slightly more aggressive, cardio-intensive intervals on a steeper grass slope.
The second week involved stretching those intervals out into longer periods of time and doing more long, slow work at both the jog and walk. I added a few two-a-day workouts during the week with a second workout consisting of only walking for a longer period of time to get out some lactic acid buildup and focus on her aerobic threshold. I started rotating from the grassy hill to a sand pit every other day to build up her leg strength and tendons. The hills are extra good for Elle because she tends to ignore her feet and just crash around, so it forces her to support herself and get some body-awareness.
In the third week, I extended the duration of the lunges and switched to working solely in the sand.
During all these workouts, I have Elle really working through the different gaits. Every time she walks, she walks with a long, reaching, engaged stride. I expect her to canter with forward motion and lifting through her back. For Elle, it takes her a while to get her working trot up to par, especially when she is out of shape, so I have her jogging, extending her trot, or doing what I call “pushing out her working trot.” This is just a slightly longer reach and activity level than what her natural working trot would be in order for her to elevate her heart rate but still be able to maintain that gait speed for the whole workout.
So the point of all this and for my post today, is that we as riders shouldn’t pigeon hole ourselves or our horses. I’m not just a quarter horse person. And you’re not just a jumper. Or dressage person. Or reiner. Or whatever. We shouldn’t worry about reaching out into different areas to help us get answers for our horses. I think allowing for a more interdisciplinary approach to training opens up more doors.
I have found that this is particularly the case for Elle and I. She may hate trotting 20 meter circles during a dressage lesson and I may hate getting all 1,400 pounds of her engaged and on the bit, but it makes our jumping better. And I may get confused reading about target heart rate zones, but I feel more equipped to plan a workout. I also may daydream about galloping around a cross country course, but I’ll always prefer a western saddle.
So until next time, I’ll be here day-dreaming about Will Coleman and calling my mom before and after Elle’s workouts to talk about sweat and breathing while I repeat myself twenty times when my mom pretends her cellphone reception is cutting out and she can’t hear me when I ask her to add another thirty-minute walking workout in the sand tomorrow. Thanks, mom.