Conditioning: Making it Work

Horsemanship Level 4: Conditioning pt I

The checklist item for Level 4 conditioning read:

7. Work vs. exercise. Warm-up and cooling out, reasons why.

This week we will examine fitness, work, and excercise, and then look at warm-up and cool-down next week.


5 flag 1
Activities that require speed and agility also require hard condition to avoid injury

Along with his conformation, your horse’s condition determines the type of activities you can demand of him.  No matter how well-built the animal, if he is out of shape he won’t perform well.  A fat, sleek horse in the pasture may look healthy, but unless he is properly worked he won’t be fit enough to perform high-intensity activities.  Fitness includes muscle tone, circulation, lung capacity, and recovery rate.  A horse that is fit, or is in ‘hard’ condition can work hard, fast, and long and still recover quickly from exertion.


Hacking out is a good way to start work gently

To increase a horse’s fitness you must increase her work.  This should be done gradually over a number of weeks or months.  Just as a human who goes from couch potato to weekend warrior is prone to injury, so too a horse who is asked to do too much too soon will be liable to overexert and injure herself.  At Level 5 you will be expected to develop a detailed conditioning plan, but in general, work should be increased beginning with walk, then increasing periods of trot, and finally canter and gallop.  Working on hills and varied surfaces helps condition tendons, hooves, and muscles and hacking out avoids boring and repetetive work that can also lead to strains.


Horses often get more exercise than we think in the pasture

Once a horse is at the level of fitness you desire, exercise is needed to maintain condition.  Large pasture turnout is generally sufficient on its own to maintains condition on a horse that is only used for weekend pleasure rides, but horses that are being asked to jump, canter, or perform other strenous activities will need maintenance rides in all paces three or four times a week.  A high performance horse needs exercise five to six days a week, preferably with pasture turnout on his days off.

Current & Upcoming Classes

There are only two spaces left in the Beginner Horseback Archery workshop, and handful left in the Intermediate session.  We only offer these workshops three times a year, so don’t miss out!

Beginner Horseback ArcheryBeg HA Aaron

Whether you are an expert rider or archer, or a complete beginner at both, this is your starting point.  You will spend about an hour and a half on the ground learning the techniques of Hungarian archery from the Kassai school.  After that you will begin shooting from horseback while our handlers lead your mounts past the targets at the walk.  Experienced riders may have the option to try shooting at faster paces without handlers if they are competent and comfortable at the walk.

Sunday 26 July, 10am – 1pm
cost: $149 + gst
prerequisites: none

Intermediate Horseback ArcheryRob & Winnie

If you have taken our Beginner course previously and have a minimum of Riding Level 1 or the equivalent this course is for you.  Riders with Level 1 will walk and trot, Level 2 Riders will be able to shoot at the canter.  Last time we practised multiple targets on canter circles — what will we get up to this time?

Sunday 26 July, 2pm – 5pm
cost: $75 + gst
prerequisites: Riding Level 1, Beginner Horseback Archery


Beginner Riding & Horsemanship

This six-week series will teach you to groom, tack up, and handle your horses as well as getting you started in the saddle.  By the end of six weeks you should be ready to test for Horsemanship Level 1, and a second run through the course will get most people to Riding Level 1. Choose between Saturday or Sunday classes — or take both to get you to your goal twice as fast!

Saturdays 2 Apr – 7 May, 4pm – 6pm
Saturdays 21 May – 25 Jun, 4pm – 6pm
cost: $300 for 6 classes

Riding & Horsemanship Level 2leading in hand

The Level 2 course covers the same topic areas as Level 1 but in greater depth.  You will progress through the Horsemanship Level 2 curriculum while continuing to work on achieving your Riding Levels 1 or 2.  If you are unsure whether you should sign up for Level 2 or Beginner, just pick the class which has space.  The courses run simultaneously and riders are informally assessed during the first class, with placements shuffled to make sure everyone is riding with a group of the appropriate level.

Saturdays 2 Apr – 7 May, 4pm – 6pm
Saturdays 21 May – 25 Jun, 4pm – 6pm
cost: $300 for 6 classes

Horsemanship Level 3-4IMG_2794

This six-week course is intended to get you through either Level 3 or Level 4 Horsemanship, but there are no prerequisites.  That means anyone who wants to learn about saddlery, vet & first aid, grooming, foot & shoeing and other stable management topics can take the course.  A great way to learn about horse care, taught by certified Pony Club alumni.

Saturdays 2 Apr – 7 May, 5pm – 6pm
Saturdays 21 May – 25 Jun, 4pm – 5pm
cost: $130 for 6 classes

Jack 2Riding Level 3+

Welcome to the Open class!  Here you will further hone your riding skills, adding jumping, cross country, quadrille and mounted games work as you work towards your next riding level.

Saturdays 2 Apr – 7 May, 6pm – 7pm
Saturdays 21 May – 25 Jun, 3pm – 4pm
cost: $200 for 6 classes

Mounted Combat Fundamentals

This five-week course covers the Mounted Combat Skills for the Green Spur.

Saturdays 21 May – 25 Jun, 6:30pm – 8pmChris vs Jen
cost: $120 for 5 classes

Intermediate Mounted Combat

Students in this five-week class will spend approximately an hour and a quarter each week working from horseback on longsword, spear, and grappling skills, as well as mounted games and general riding exercises.  The remainder of the class is taken on the ground and from the falsemount, working on more advanced weapon and unarmed skills.  Students should have their horses tacked up and warmed up ahead of class to maximize training time.  Participants who do not yet have their Green Spurs may take part in class from the ground and falsemount.

Saturdays 21 May – 25 Jun, 6pm – 8pm
cost: $160 for 5 classes


Jennifer Landels Jennifer Landels heads up Academie Duello's Cavaliere Program. She has been swordfighting since 2008, and riding since before she could walk. She started the program as an excuse to combine those passions.
Read more from Jennifer Landels.