I Was Noticing in the Pics...
How well defined the muscles seem to be on all my horses. In particular, Tucker's shoulder muscles are really defined. Considering that he is not at peak fitness according to my riding and exercise program, I find this very interesting.
I would have expected Thorougbred muscles to be more evident, but I see similar development on Chance. And, to my surprise some on Toby as well. When he was in peak competition form, he was quite an impressive fellow, but he hardly does any work now and I still see muscle.
Ok, is it the play schedule? The hill in the pasture? The turnout? The feed? Or do my guys just get fit quickly due to the kind of work I give them?
I do remember some years ago attending a jumping clinic with one of the Leone brothers. I was riding PJ in perhaps his first ever jumping lesson. Leone, was it Mark or Michael or Peter, was commenting on how most riders just didn't get their horses properly fit for the work they expected of them. Now, PJ was a big bodied boy, with a very round musculature, and so Leone walked over to him to prove his point about how "soft" the horses in the clinic were. He poked his finger into PJ's shoulder and almost broke it as he hit solid muscle. "Well, not this horse," he said, obviously surprised.
I had been trained years before by an Olympic event rider as to how to leg my horses up for three phase competitions. At that time I rode an average of five to six days a week, combining ringwork with hacking, longlining, and cross country work. It was and still is my belief that a horse needs to be fit for more than is expected of him.
An old master dressage trainer I worked with advocated galloping dressage horses for at least three minutes a day. He felt wind and stamina were just as important to a good dressage horse as the strength training the sport develops.
Right now, my horses are far from what I consider truly fit, but we'll get there. In the meantime, I do still believe in varying the kinds of exercise they do get. Obviously, from the pictures I took the other morning, they also believe in varying the style and amount of their own exercise as well. It seems to be working--at least a little.
I guess among the four of us, we are not doing a bad job of maintaining at least some basic fitness.