Do you know how to gallop your horse correctly, or how to make the most of a gallop track? Equo’s south-west brand ambassador Ali Dane shares her best advice when it comes to fast work.
- Don’t overdo it – yes, your horse needs to be fit enough to manage all three disciplines in one day, but you don’t want him at peak fitness too early in the season. More fitness work also means more miles on the legs.
- Be careful about the ground you train on. So many riders are picky about the ground that they compete on; yet don’t put the same thought into the quality of the ground they train on. Working on grass is ideal, but due to the Great British weather, the going isn’t always good. Make use of all weather gallops where possible, but don’t be afraid of doing interval training in the arena. Just remember to change the rein!
- Don’t just go hell for leather up the gallops and then call it a day. Interval training is a very useful tool – there are plenty of guides online relating to how long your canter versus recovery periods should be, relevant to the level you’re competing at.
- If you have a large area to train in, introduce changes of direction and changes in pace, simulating how you would be riding on a real cross-country course. Make sure your horse is still responsive after a good forward gallop. Does he tend toward the forehand? Does he try to run through the contact? Is he easy to bring back and push forward again? Get a feel for him and learn how best to manage him around a course.
- Remember that it’s not just your horse that needs to be fit! YOU need to be able to keep your balance for the duration of the course, whether that means being above the saddle in a light seat between fences, or in a more upright position for the approach to a fence. If you ever find yourself banging down on your horse’s back, you need to work on your position and balance.
- Hill work will save a huge amount of miles on a horse’s legs. There is a reason that most racehorse gallops are uphill!
- Make sure that you have a good balance of short bursts of fast work and longer periods of slow work. Put the time into the road work, steady trotting up long hills and gentle canters out hacking and much of the fitness work will look after itself for horses competing at lower levels.
- Look after your horse’s legs during and after fast work. Use protective boots that don’t hold heat, and enable the tendons to cool down as quickly as possible. Cold and vibration therapy boots are very handy for using after galloping and/or jumping.
- Get to know your horse’s ‘norms’. How quickly does he recover after fast work? Does he get lit up? Is he quieter after a good gallop? Is he easy to handle on the floor afterwards? Does he drink as soon as possible, or is he difficult to persuade? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you manage him better at a competition.
- Finally… please, make sure your stirrups are short enough! I once recall Mary King telling a group of Pony Clubbers that there was TEN holes difference between her dressage and cross country length!
Are you interested in finding out more? Why not attend Grove Farm’s popular ‘Hold your horses’ clinic? This clinic has been designed to focus on fast work and teaches you how to get the most out of your gallop.
Ready to put your galloping skills to the test? Search events near you.