Everyday Conditioning: Making a gameplan

Getting from Point A (present moment) to Point B (The Big Show) can seem less daunting if you do a little pre-planning. Katie Passerotti explains how to make your calendar work for you.

From Katie:

At my barn, I’m the planner. I’m the one that makes copies of all the prize lists and distributes them into everyone’s tack lockers, I coordinate our equine outings, make sure people know opening and closing dates, and make sure they write the correct words in the “stable with” section so we all end up together. I start all this planning months in advance and then stalk the appropriate websites for prize lists and event updates.  Maybe it’s my personality, maybe it’s my teacher mandatory-lesson-planning training taking over. (FYI, I am also a list-maker).

Once I have all of my potential show dates on the calendar, I start looking at how much time I have before a show and where I want to be as a horse and rider team on show day. This is step two in getting your horse fit and ready for competitions. You have to know where you going if you intend to get there successfully.

So first off, take a realistic look at what your potential show season looks like. What types of shows? Where are they? How often? Pencil in (or use a sharpie if you like to live on the edge) your potential dates. Next, fill in any major events that are non-horse related (including daily work schedules and or parenting duties), unless of course you have already done this.  In my world, I plan my show season and then I schedule family and work around that–isn’t that what everyone else does, or should I be scheduling family and work first? (I should also note that I am single and have no kids, but am open to finding the right guy who will tolerate me and my horse J. So if you know a single horse-tolerant guy, send him my way….) Either way, it’s just as important to know when you won’t be available as when you will be.

Now we’re off and running. My first recognized show is May 11th, the Winona Horse Trials, it’s on my calendar in sharpie. This is my destination; from there I work backward and  pick out my “milestone” dates. Milestone dates for me are things like: “jumping 2’6” consistently,”  “two-point without stirrups for three minutes” or “know BN test A inside and out.” A lot of my current milestones include either jump heights or types. I feel like I’ve got a good handle on the dressage aspect of my soon-to-be eventing career, I just need to get more jump experience. These go on the calendar in pencil.

I also pencil in my lessons. My schedule changes weekly, but my instructor is great about fitting me in at a moment’s notice. But most people seem to be on a regular lesson schedule, so add it to your calendar! Lessons are super important on the schedule, as they are where I check to make sure that I am on schedule and where a milestone is either accomplished or started. I don’t have lessons every week (if only I had hit the mega-millions) and sometimes it is two or three weeks on my own.

Now that I have sharpie and pencil hieroglyphics all over my calendar, I start assigning individual tasks to each day. Nothing elaborate, in fact I only have about four basic options: flat, jump, trail ride, conditioning. This has to fit what you and your horse need. Bastian and I needed A LOT of jump work in January and February so my weekly schedule looked kinda like this: Sunday–jump, Monday–off, Tuesday–jump, Wednesday–flat/condition, Thursday–jump, Friday–flat, Saturday–jump. I know, it was a lot of jumping, but I was jumping x-rails the whole time, just working on seeing spots, finding our pace and getting comfortable with actual jumping again. When I flatted, I flatted in my jump saddle so I could get more comfortable in it. Now my weekly schedule is more like three days of flat work and two jumping days. Also important is to mark on the calendar what you ACTUALLY did that day. If it was supposed to be a jumping day and you were just wiped out from work and there were 30-gazillion beginners trotting all over the arena, and you made the (wise) choice to make it a flat day, mark it on your calendar and adjust the schedule.

My weekly riding schedule is not done much ahead of time, maybe on Friday at the earliest for the next week. It’s constantly changing based on the previous ride(s) and it can change from Monday to Tuesday if it needs to–be flexible, it’s one of the most important things you can do. Keep it fresh for you and the horse! Don’t underestimate the importance of walking trail rides where you do nothing more than enjoy the fact that you are sitting on a horse and those days when you stay home to watch the season finale of NCIS and your horse gets to chill in the paddock with his buddies. Days off are just as important so your horse can mentally and physically recuperate.

To sum it up:

  • Start with your show schedule and work backwards from there. Having a plan in mind will make the days leading up to a show less stressful.
  • Be flexible with your plan. It will be in a constant state of evolution as your horse exceeds or falls below your expectations on any given day. Fit it to your schedule and your horse.
  • Having a fitness buddy for your horse is a great idea, but don’t let their successes/failures dictate your schedule.
  • Go wild with your calendar. I recommend lots of colour coordination and some fun little doodles–everything is better with fun doodles on it.

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