Thursday, 17 March 2016

My Plan for Basil!

As you will know if you have been reading my blog for a while Basil and I have  not been able to do much since about August.   His tooth, various foot problems and illnesses, the weather and work have meant that we have only been doing little bits.  I have decided that I need a plan - then I will feel like we are moving forward.  So, although Basil is not totally unfit because he has not been totally out of work he is not fit enough to do much.  I thought I would base my plan on arecommended fitness programme!  I wrote a blog about Fitness last April.

( I have put the 'recommended' programme in italics)

Basic Programme
When bringing a horse up from nothing the first 4 weeks are the most important.  This is when the horse's muscles, tendons and ligaments build strength and harden.  This will help minimise the chance of injuries later on.

As I mentioned earlier, Basil is not totally unfit but I want to bear this in mind.  He has still been in the field every day and often has a run around and play of his own so has kept his legs relatively strong.  My plan is to lunge twice, school twice and hack once a week initially.

Week 1
·         Walking only.  15 minutes on day 1 building to 1 hour on day 7 with 1 rest day.  This should be done on a flat surface eg: the road, will which will also help to harden the tendons and tone muscle.   Hills should not be introduced at this stage.  Keep an eye out for rubs from the tack!

Climbing on board Basil after more than a few days off can be risky so lunging him is the only way to start.  This generally does not actually end up as lunging because Basil has lots of steam to blow off and decides to bomb around the arena.  I usually do this for two days before getting on, the second day of lunging is usually better and we just walk with one short trot, session is about 10 minutes.  I just use a headcollar so no side reins or anything to make him work in a shape. 

Taking Basil on the road is also difficult to start with, although this would be preferable.  Chesney always trots up and down when I take Basil away so I have to also bear in mind that Chesney is relatively unfit because we have hardly hacked out for the last year. I certainly can't take Basil out for 1 hour hacks at this point!  We are walking in the arena for about 20 minutes on a loose rein, doing some circles and serpentines and rein changes.  For the first week we had a short trot down the long side on each rein too. 

Week 2
·         Recalculate feed
·         Walking only.  Increase time from 1 hour to the time you will expect him to work on average each day eg: 1 1/2 hours.  Introduce some small hills in walk towards the end of the week.  This increases the level of work but does not put too much stress on the front legs.  The horse should not become sweaty or have laboured breathing. 1 rest day.

This is where we are now, still in the arena though and increasing to 25 minutes, with a little bit more trot around the outside.  A little bit of walk leg yield to add interest, and stepping over a single pole to make sure Basil remembers what they are!  After all the work we did at the beginning of last year to reintroduce jumping I want to make sure he hasn't forgotten it all. I am hoping to go out on a 20 minute hack at the weekend, which should be mostly walk, unfortunately this does not always go to plan.  If Basil hasn't hacked out for a while we generally jog/trot all the way home :(

Week 3
·         Recalculate feed
·         Introduce trotting.  Exercise time should be as at the end of week 2.  Short trots can be introduced (approx. 1 min) these should be balanced and at a working trot pace.  Increase the length of time spent trotting as the week goes by.  Again do not over stress the horse, he should not sweat excessively or have laboured breathing.  1 rest day.

Lunging sessions will increase to 12 minutes with a bit more trotting, still working long and loose.  This will also be true for our schooling sessions - loose rein and easy.  Schooling sessions will increase to 30 minutes and I will increase the length of time we trot for and will trot a bit more.  Serpentines will still only be done in walk but towards the end of the week we can trot some 20 minute circles.

Week 4
·         Recalculate feed
·         Increase trot.  Extend the length of time spent trotting and the frequency - gradually.  At the end of the week trotting up hills can be introduced.  You can start work on grass. 1 rest day.

We will increase our trotting time again and the frequency both for lunging and schooling.  I will probably start doing some trot leg yield but serpentines will still be in walk.  I hope to have our hack up to about 40 minutes by now preferably walking with a few short trots.  Basil's legs will take longer to strengthen for road work as we are not hacking out much.  I may start hacking twice a week - work permitting.  Our hack route always involves a short hill, because that is the way to the next village but we will walk that initially.

 Week 5
·         Recalculate feed
·         Introduce canter work.  Short canters can be introduced (1 min) but ensure you have a good surface.  Beware as the horse may begin to feel 'well' now and may become over-excited!  Increase the length of time spent cantering and the frequency as the week goes by. 
·         Lunging can be introduced.
·         Short schooling sessions with trotting poles.

Basil and I will start a bit of canter in the arena, just around the outside.  I will 'officially' introduce canter first in the lunging as I know he will be very excited but in reality he will probably already be cantering and bucking on the lunge when he feels loopy!  I expect Basil will have started looking a bit for a contact by now when schooling so I will gently encourage this.  Trotting 3 loop serpentines will probably be possible now too and I think we will try trotting poles too.  Our hacks will hopefully be minimum of 45 minutes - but this will always depend on Chesney too.

Week 6
·         Recalculate feed
·         Increasing the length of canters and introducing some hills in canter towards the end of the week.
·         Schooling can become a little more intense.
·         Some jumps can be introduced.
·         A small dressage competition could be attended.

This will be too early for Basil to jump - I will want to have him much more schooled before we attempt that.  However, we will continue with the poles and lunge for 15 minutes this week.  Schooling will hopefully now be up to about 40 minutes and we will be trying to work more in a shape.  The lengths of our hacks will slowly increase and we will gradually trot for longer. 

My aims for our schooling will always be something we are working on.

1.       Calmness 
2.       Rhythm 
3.       Suppleness 
4.       Consistency of bend on left rein 
5.       Halt for more than 2 seconds! 
6.       Encouraging contact
7.       All transitions
8.       Circles, serpentines and changes of rein.

I realise that my plan is only very loosely following the recommended plan, we all have limitations on what we can do so this is my way.  I hope that in a month's time we will be starting to get somewhere!

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Until next time!

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