Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Eventing Preview

Winter in Aiken

By Pam Gleason

Aiken's event riders had better get ready: It's going to be one heck of a season.

The Aiken area has been a winter destination for event riders for several decades. Aiken has wonderful footing, good weather and a plethora of recognized and schooling competitions that can put a lot of show miles on a horse in a very short time. There are clinics, lessons, social events and an exciting atmosphere. Sometimes it seems as though everyone is here: Olympic riders and legendary figures in the sport, established and aspiring professionals, talented juniors and, of course, amateurs from up and down the Eastern seaboard.

The number of competitive opportunities in Aiken seems to grow every year, and this season there are so many that event riders may never unpack their trailers. By our count, there are 71 separate competitions or clinics for event riders between the beginning of December and the end of March in the Aiken area alone. This does not count the United States Equestrian Federation High Performance Eventing training sessions that are expected to return to Stable view in the new year. (The USEF usually announces the actual dates in early January.)

Aiken also makes a convenient base of operations for riders who will ride in Georgia at Pine Top and Poplar Place, or in North Carolina at the Carolina Horse Park in Mill Spring. Tryon is the new location for the Fork CCI3* this April and will hold the 2018 World Equestrian Games in September 2018.

To help Aiken's eventing enthusiasts keep track, we have once again pulled the eventing dates from our calendar. We hope that this list will serve as a handy reference. Of course, there are other activities that will also interest Aiken's event riders, so be sure to check the website of the relevant facility before heading there, as time and dates do sometimes change.
Aiken Horse Park
931 Powderhouse Road
Aiken, SC 29801

Contact: Debbie Salem: 803.257.0925

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Increase your horse's strength with exercise

Any horse can benefit from a simple strength-training routine. Here's how to safely build your horse's muscle power.

Strength training for horses isn't just limited to heavy draft breeds competing in pulling contests. Any horse in any discipline can benefit from a strength-building regimen, and any rider can put together a systematic, safe program to muscle up her mount. Try these simple tips to increase the muscle power of any horse. Stamina has to be in place before strength can be increased, so put some endurance-building mileage on him before beginning power trips.

Undulating terrain is the best equine gym, as a horse must lift his own body weight with each stride when traveling up- or downhill. Start with jaunts up gradual slopes, and increase the grade and length of time spent in "climbing" as the horse becomes more muscular. If your horse has a particularly weak side, negotiate the ups and downs on the diagonal, with his weaker side toward the crest. The "high" side of the body has to exert more muscle to maintain balance. Flatlands riders can use man-made "hills," such as dry drainage ditches, in place of natural terrain; or they can practice jumping or pulling in a harness (drags and harrows, not easy rolling carts), even if their horses don't otherwise use those skills.

Monitor your horse during his strength training: Heavy blowing or trembling muscles indicate that he needs a break, Next-day soreness tells you that you pushed him too far; scale back next time out.

Strength develops slowly, but after a few weeks of power tripping, the first changes will become visible as increased muscle mass along the spine and greater tightness and trimness of the belly. Your horse's ridden performance will improve as well, with a greater reach in his gaits, more bounce in his jumps and increased control in his turns.

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue # 231.