Friday, March 19, 2010

Gradually, then Suddenly

Spring appears to have arrived in her typical fashion, gradually then suddenly. The garlic and other bulbs are up and we're getting sunny, 60 F degree days. Not much to complain about, really.

And so a curious thing happened. I rode Brego two days in a row: a rare feat not seen since last November. And somehow in that time, our rides turned from casual hacks to Working With A Purpose.

We rode our first conditioning ride of the season yesterday. As I always do, I assume we start with zero. Brego looks, to my eye, better off than he was this time last season. His feet are much better, more concave and harder, and he's not named Tubby McFatNeck. All good things. So even though I start from zero, my zero is still a work out. We did two 8 minute trot sets and one 1 minute canter set. He recovered in under 3 minutes of walking, so I know I hit the sweet spot. Not too much work, but he did break a sweat.

The big goal of this season is conditioning. Last year, he was almost perfect (after treating for Lyme) that the only thing I could ding him for was his conditioning, and that is 100% my fault. So this year, I am mixing things up a bit. I am going for longer duration trot sets first. Last year, I increased quantity, not duration of trot sets, maxing out at a measly five minutes. My final conditioning set of last season was three 5 minute trots and three 4 minute canters (at Novice Speed). This year I want to finish at three 15 minute trots and three 5 minute canters. That ought to do 'er.

I am also reevaluating feed. Brego has always been on a high fat, low starch diet to minimize the risk of EPSM. However, a friend passed along an article about feed and performance written by a man who trains Thoroughbred race horses. Brego is not a thoroughbred, by any stretch of the imagination, but he doesn't exactly fit the draft profile either. He's not 2500 lbs, he is not massively muscular and his workload doesn't involve slow, continuous work for 8 hours (which is ideal for the slow burning fats). In every respect -- lifestyle, work level, even body size -- he is a warmblood-ish sport horse. He is only Percheron in breeding, in other words, and so this year I am going to experiment with feeding him less like a draft and more like a sport horse. That is not to say I am going to throw some sugary sweet feed at him, but I am going to up his carbs (for fast burn, high intensity work) and see what he does.

My most common complaint last season is he "ran out of gas" at the 4 minute mark on course or in hunts or in conditioning sets. And that is very typical of a horse running out of fast burning fuel. He would recover fine and then we could go again, once his body had pulled in some fat. So I want to make sure he has the fast burning fuel he needs. I might even play with glucose loading before a big show, if I feel like he is doing well. I had him tested for EPSM last fall when we were diagnosing the Lyme problem, so I know he is negative. I will give him a year of eating more like a normal sport horse and then I will test him again in the fall and see how his body is handling the change in diet.

I am not planning on a lot of shows this year, due mostly to the farm and work monopolizing my time. But I am shooting for riding a minimum of 4 days a week. We have the first show of the season, a schooling dressage show, at the end of April. I intend to ride the Groton House classics and I hope to meet up with Andrea at UNH in October for our big recognized show. I've schooled there and it's a tough course, in my opinion. Then a fall of foxhunting and a winter of skijoring. We actually didn't get enough snow this year for skijoring, I was only able to work with him twice the entire winter. Oh well. There's one truth in New Hampshire and that is winter will come again.


*Sharon* said...

Yay! You're back.

As we move closer to winter, I like to read your spring plans. Helps me to live vicariously in the funk of the off season.

Jean said...

Sounds like a good plan. I have to get some of the fat off my Thoroughbred, so I am a bit envious of Brego's more slim after winter physique.

I'll be interested in hearing how your conditioning program works.

You should have been here in NJ. We had enough snow to ski nearly all winter....I think the East Coast turned upside down this year.

lopinon4 said...

Sounds like you both are doing's nice to get an update.

I have a Perchie cross that we suspect may have the beginning of EPSM, and it's pretty scary. She just hates moving forward under saddle sometimes, and gets really pissy. We changed up the feed, and the vet is coming on Monday to take a look, but I can only pray we haven't done permanent damage. For her, she hasn't really been on a steady sweet feed diet or anything stupid like that, but she doesn't get much turnout, and that is a huge deal. I worry about her.

Andrea said...

Man I hope UNH is still doable. If not for Gogo, then hell I'll just come watch and hang out!

Daun said...

Andrea, Watch??? Hell no, you'll be riding the big boy. I'm getting too old for this.

I would have loved a little more snow, it would have kept my crops safely covered and warmer. Oh well, I am just glad it's behind me.

Yikes, I hope your big girl is ok. That is really scary. :(

sally said...

Daun .....glad to hear th weather is starting to be kind and allow you to get out on Brego. In NZ alot of us who hunt ride x breds of a heavier nature. They do tend to run out of puff just when you need them to keep going at a crucial time. I found my last clydesdale x mare needed a feed up of high energy food a few days out from a hunt or event. It just seemed to keep her going. To have her stay on it long term would not be the answer though. Her weight gain capacity meant most of the time on lean rations. Good luck with sorting it all out

JeniQ said...

Daun ~ I'd be very interested in what you are feeding Brego. While I don't fox hunt or event with my Rosie, I do LOTS and LOTS of trails and Dressage. I find too that she is running out of gas a bit earlier then I'd like.

She is EPSM negative so far, and 5 yrs old. Percheron and Belgium, 16.5 hands and I'm trying to keep her between 2000 LBs and 2200 LBs but am having problems keeping weight on her.

Susan said...

Glad to hear you both weathered the winter and are back on track!

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