Equine Circuit Training

Getting two different horses endurance fit, but at different levels of work and speed, plus another horse to rehab, is very time consuming.  I can usually only trailer out for trail riding once a week, and last weekend I used that trip on a slower ride with both Squid and Moxie, going at Moxie’s current speed (still in the long slow distance phase).  Not quite enough work to boost Squidy’s fitness in preparation for her upcoming 50 mile endurance ride.  So I got creative at home the next day.

We haven’t had time to cut trails through all of the woods yet, but we did make a short trail down the steep hill to the creek.  It isn’t much, but it has a good hard hill climb on the way back up that really gets them huffing and puffing.  I also have the rolling hills hay field to ride around, plus the arena.

Squidy and I did a repeating course through the various areas, as fast as the footing and terrain allowed in each phase:

  • trot/canter around the hay field
  • walk down the steep hill, trot to the creek
  • wade through the deep creek
  • trot back to the base of the hill, walk up the steep part, trot once it gets more gradual again, jump a small log at the top
  • no break after the brutal hill climb – immediately resume loops around the hay field
  • canter into the arena, transition to trot, go over two separate series of raised cavaletti, canter back to hay field
  • repeat, repeat, repeat…

It was fun!  Squidy seemed to get into it.  She loves obstacle courses, and she kind of got into that same mode.  Mare on a mission.  It was much better than 15 laps around the same field, and added in a bit of variety to target different parts of her body.  I wish I had used the heart rate monitor, but Squidy’s respiratory effort suggested that she spiked going up the hill and then quickly recovered while trotting/cantering around the field.

I used her dressage bridle and kept her collected and doing dressage movements throughout to add another level of difficulty.  Challenge accepted.  Squidy rocked it.

The key to maximizing fitness benefit is to really keep moving out anywhere we can, lack of recovery breaks, and quality of movement and transitions (dressage).

While we were racing around our little fitness challenge course, it reminded me of circuit training for humans.  So I’ve named this activity “Equine Circuit Training”.  Sort of a mix of endurance training, dressage, and obstacles.  Fun.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  You CAN get a horse endurance fit with limited trail access.  Sometimes you just have to get creative.   :)

(Of course stuff like this cannot replace all of the long trail miles conditioning, but it is better than nothing when you can’t get to the trail for every ride)



  1. Liz

    I love this! I end up doing similar things, but have never considered doing it on repeat with fewer breaks. What a great idea.


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