On the Clock

It’s been doing nothing but RAIN here all week, thus I have not actually sat on my horse since Monday, thus I now cannot think of anything but sitting on my horse. When I went to bed last night it was storming. When I woke up this morning it was storming. Currently the radar looks like this:

Please send waders and a boat

So I have no idea when I’ll actually ride again, I’m bored out of my mind (to the point where I’ve been CRAFTING, wtf), and I’ve had nothing to do all week but ponder. Like for real, I spent 15 minutes this morning wondering why it’s called a “pat” of butter before I finally googled it. What else do I have to do that was more important than learning the origin of that term? Nothing. Literally freaking nothing.

You know the situation is dire when I have willingly chosen to sew

Anyway… one of the things I was thinking about was ride time. As in how long you spend actually riding your horse. As an eventer this can be a very “well it depends” subject for me, because, well… it greatly depends on what we’re doing. Conditioning rides can easily be an hour plus, but dressage rides could be as short as 25 minutes. Charles de Kunffy (and thus my dressage trainer, who is a CdK protégé) believes pretty strongly in the fact that anything more than 30-45 minutes is not good for the horse mentally. CdK has said “What you can’t accomplish in a 30 minute ride is for tomorrow.”.

Our dressage lessons are 45 minute blocks, with several walk breaks thrown in. I always get on and walk for 10 minutes before we start, so I end up being on for about an hour or a little under, with only about half of that being actual work. I try to stick to the same thing in my dressage rides at home, and sometimes if Henry is being particularly good I won’t even school him for that long. If he gives me good work right from the beginning, I try to reward that and not continue to hound him for moremoremore. I have no desire to ruin his naturally good work ethic or fry his brain (which, let’s admit, is delicate enough already). Sometimes if I need to log more saddle time, like if I’ve missed a conditioning ride for whatever reason or if the work session itself ended up being short, I’ll just throw a hack on to the end of the ride. More saddle time, but no mental pressure.

Clearly stressed after a dressage school. Orrrr half asleep and begging for cookies.

For jump sessions it’s pretty much the same. We warm up, sometimes with a long 15-20 minute trot if I’m trying to add some conditioning, and then jump a few courses. Sometimes we just do pole work, or canter a couple of low fences to work on rhythm/my eye/position. My jumping rides are generally pretty short too though, pretty much never more than 30-45 minutes.

he puts so much effort into low fences

The only exception to that general time frame, for me, is conditioning rides. Those tend to be long and low trots, or trot sets, with canter sets thrown in. There’s lots of walking before and after, and sometimes I just do a long 30 minute trot framed by 15 minutes of marching walk before and after. It depends on the temperature, the ground, what we’ve got coming up, and what else we’ve been doing. It’s a pretty rare occasion though when I am on him for more than an hour to hour and fifteen minutes. Those being things like group lessons, trail rides, XC schooling, etc. They tend to be either low pressure or have a ton of walking time, though… it’s not just a big block of work.

And of course, Henry is a mature horse, in regular work, and he’s an eventer. If he was a young horse or had a different job, the ride structure would look different. I’m excited for my Seaver girth sleeve to get here though so I can start tracking all this stuff (and heart rate!) via an app instead of just in my head.

So I’m curious, fellow equestrians – how long do you typically ride for and why?

17 thoughts on “On the Clock

  1. I am literally in the same ‘boat’ as I live in the upper left corner of your map so riding right now consists of riding my tack trunk as the ponies are eating. How long depends on the horse and where I ride. Arena is usually less than 30 minutes on 2 of my 3 horses (3rd is super arena sour and I’ve only had him a short time so its a work in progress). My brain gets fried any longer than that, plus I can never seem to think of things to do in the arena. I pretty much do a couple transitions, couple of trot poles, some turn on the haunch/fore and then head for the gate. I really need to hire someone to just randomly yell different patterns at me and throw in the occasional, “sit back!”, “outside rein!”, “sit straight!”. However, on trail is a different beast. With all 3 horses I will easily spend 4+ hours on trail. Lots of leg yields and mixed transitions (walk/trot/canter/halt). Endurance is my true love. Eventing is my secret crush:)


  2. But inquiring minds want to know — why is it called a pat of butter? 😂

    I’m the queen of short rides, especially when my horses are being good. No sense in repetitively drilling and making them sour. The only exception is long trail rides, which are almost always at the walk, so usually low stress for the horses.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rides right now are typically 35 – 45 minutes… but at least 20 minutes is walking. When she gets more fit, rides will be closer to an hour… but again with 20 minutes of walking. If we get 15 minutes of really solid work, is riding for another 15 minutes really going to get anything better out of the ride? I have learned that you are more likely to end up fighting with a tired horse than making any additional progress. Granted, our conditioning rides can be a bit over an hour, but again, that is mostly walking, and she loves to get out of the ring.


  4. I haven’t ridden outside since last year at this point. 😦 Generally my rides are at least 45 minutes but I do a ton of walking. It drives me crazy when people get on and walk a lap then start trotting away. I like to do a lot of exercises at the walk to get things started off right. Generally my Equisense says my flat rides are around 40-50 minutes with around 20 minutes of trot and canter and my jump lessons more like an hour and 15. Since they are group lessons there’s a lot of walking in there too waiting for our turn to jump.
    I went through a belt making phase before I got Maestro then made a few as Christmas presents. The sets of blanket clasps I found included the adjuster pieces so I made all my belts adjustable which has been great!


    1. A lot of smaller brands make the knock-off elastic belts but they all have the adjuster thingies on the side. I don’t like how that looks, I like the Ruespari ones that are just the elastic and the buckle hardware, so I made my own custom-sized ones! Granted, they are elastic, so there is a lot of flexibility either way for fit, which is kind of the beauty of the whole thing. LOL


      1. I plan my adjuster to hide by a belt loop so it’s not very obvious but I do have a couple without the adjuster too. Clearly I personally need many belts, lol. One of my friends got a Ruespari and I felt like I was between sizes trying hers on plus omg the price for what it is! I wish I had more time for crafting, the belts are nice and quick.


        1. Yeah I was satisfied with the project and it’s simplicity. 😉 Also I bought like 10 more elastics so I guess I’ll be making some for friends. I love the elastic though, mine could easily work for a breech size up or a breech size down, no problem.


  5. Ooo good topic! I think it really depends on so many things: who the horse is, what your goals are, the season, etc
    My horses at home are old and semi retired. Rio was actually completely retired for two years before I started lightly riding him again. So his rides can be as little as ten minutes if that’s all he wants that day or as long as 35-40 (but probably a lot of that is wandering around the yard eating grass). Clearly, his focus is not on fitness. He probably doesn’t even apply to this conversation.
    Jampy, though likely retired from showing (I’m still on the fence…), is my main riding horse at the moment. He’s turning 19 this year, but he’s sound and healthy. His schedule is usually something like this: (the actual days of the week may vary depending on weather, but the schedule stays the same usually)
    Monday: off
    Tuesday: light flat, probably 20-25 minutes of forward (lol, attempting forward, he’s so lazy) trot and flowy canter
    Wednesday: Harder flat work, 30-40 minutes of real work (lateral work, transitions, collection, etc.)
    Thursday: jump school 30 ish minutes. We’ll warm up on the flat for 10 minutes or so, jump some singles and short courses, have a nice walk out
    Friday: same as Wed
    Saturday: maybe another jump school, maybe another wednesday
    Sunday: light day like Tuesday
    For the baby Badger (who’s not really a baby anymore) trainer jumps I think once or twice a week, but she’s been trying to follow the less is more with him. I think she keeps the working part of her rides to about 20 minutes a day. She always lets them walk for a good 10-15 minutes before starting real work. She pushes them pretty hard for that 20 minutes and then they get another nice walk after. When I go down to ride him, he’s quite fit, and he’s learned a ton of flat work. So whatever she’s doing is really working well for him. Is he fit enough to gallop a cross country course? Probably not. But he’s a young hunter (2’9″ hunter courses) so he doesn’t need that level of fitness.
    Sorry, hope you enjoy the novel I just wrote on your comment section…


  6. Amber has a much better handle on pressure than Whisper does, so when we were in our peak training for show days, we’d typically have a 50 minute to an hour western ride. There was a 20 minute warm up – at least 10 of that was walking – where I’d ask for stretch or light work with little expectancy. English was more 30-40 minute ride with the same 20 minute warm up but testing the contact with a lot of release and stretch before I’d actually ask her to be in the contact longer. Those rides tho did have lots of walk/stop and chill breaks. Most rides working on dressage though were more consistently 20-30 minutes. She’d always show up and try her best, and like you I don’t want to overwork that. Whisper can’t take as much pressure as Amber, and gets tired a lot faster, but because she as well always tries hard, her rides can be anywhere from 5 minutes to 30.


  7. Like you, depends on my goals. Right now, after a 6 month lay off for a soft tissue injury, we’re reconditioning to get back to doing 50 mile rides. So, right now, we walk for the first 5 to 10 minutes of a ride to warm up, then, depending on trail conditions, we go to gait with some canter/walk mixed in (our last ride was a new trial for us both so we practiced “Gait where you can, walk the stuff you can’t”). So, that ride was about an hour and a half with only 6 miles logged. Mostly we spend the time at a gait, with very little cantering while on the trail unless I can see ahead of us, know the trail well, etc.

    When I get serious while conditioning, I could be in the saddle for 3 or 4 hours one day a week with maybe 1 or 2 days a week of walking around bareback (usually not though). I’m not a serious competitor though as I’m riding for completion only, not to Top 10 or get Best Condition or High Vet Score. I’m all about making sure I get that t-shirt!!


  8. Though they are currently shortened due to rehabbing, I typically ride for as long as it takes to accomplish my goal for the ride as long as it is under an hour. Sometimes it takes 20 minutes and sometimes it takes 40. Most of them hover around half an hour, and I make a point to stay on a little longer, even if it is just walking, when it is show season since he needs to remember how to be patient.


  9. 25-45 mins almost always. I do not believe in drilling anything. If I’m flatting only, I run through our basic exercises, varying the order depending on how Rio feels that day. If I feel him starting to stress or get anxious in a certain exercise, we move on. Maybe come back to it later, but I learned long ago that “the fight” accomplishes nothing but resentment. If we are jumping, I will do a specific exercise a few times and once it’s passable, I call it good. I hate doing it over and over and have been known to ask trainers “to quit with that” even if it hasn’t been the full lesson length.


  10. Most of my rides end up being 30 minutes when I’m on my own. Partly because I get bored in the arena. I tend to set a single goal for the ride and stop when it is reached which may take as little as 20 minutes or as long as over an hour depending on the mood of the day. Generally though they are 30 minutes. Lessons last around an hour of active work at all gaits and I’ve been out xc schooling for two hours each time.


  11. My rides tend to be pretty similar in length to yours. Typically 45min-1hr when we’re working on ‘ring work’ type stuff, but that also includes a long walk out to the field where I ride. Conditioning, trail rides, and hunt days are a LOT longer, generally 2-3 hours. Sometimes more. Hence my little old man is pretty damn fit! But the weather here has been SO wet that “riding” is tending more towards 20 min walk/trot rides at home and then 45min-1hr walk/trot/canter/low jumping rides at an indoor once a week.


  12. My rides vary too and it also depends on the horse. Freddy likes to be worked in short and positive rides! he does not like repeating things over and over and he doesn’t like to get overly hot. He is pleasant to ride and wonderful to take to a competition so because of that, I figure I let him be trained the way he chooses a little. Also he is 18 so he has had his time in the sun and I am simply here to let him have a beautiful and safe retirement!
    Moo loves work, i mean loves it. he can work everyday and for as long as you want so you have to keep a good eye on the clock!
    I work moo, different the same as you do, depending on what i am doing.
    if it is a tune-up the day before a comp it’s a quick 20 minute walk, trot, canter
    if it is a day where i am trying to strengthen him, then lots of trotting and lateral work up to 45mins
    if it is jumping, as we are new to it, i try not to over do it and keep it fun as he is still learning so about 20 min unless we are at a club day and then just not too much, just do my rounds and keep him warm.
    dressage training i work it in positive 15 minute training sessions (that’s a warm up, and cool down and the 15 minutes falls in between). i might practice trot to canter transitions or the halt, but i do a specific movement for those 15 minutes and end only on a positive note.
    mel x


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