Sally Cousins – Making a Weekly Schedule

Tonight we have the latest article in an educational Eventing Nation series written by Sally Cousins.  Sally Cousins is a well known rider and coach here in the US and Sally has been a good friend of Eventing Nation from our early days.  To learn more about Sally, check out her website.  This is the seventh of her posts and it covers jump schools.  Our East coast readers are used to seeing Sally at one-day events with 49 horses and most of them typically finish in the top 2.  Sally’s experience provides great insights for riders from the beginners to the pros.  Thanks for writing this Sally and thank you for reading.

Link: Previous Eventing Nation Articles from Sally
From Sally:

This is a typical weekly schedule that I use for the horses competing at the preliminary level and below.  This is just a guideline and doesn’t account for farrier and vet issues or work and life schedules.  It is important as riders and trainers that we are flexible enough to recognize when our horses need to deviate from the plan we have set for them.  In the long run I have found that the slower I take the training the fewer problems I run into down the road.
Monday: hack and dressage

During the season I am often away competing on the weekends.  I try not to expect too much from the horses after a day off.  If I have an important school that I need to do, I will get someone to hack the horse the day before. 

Tuesday: jump school

I jump early in the week, especially if the horse is competing on the weekend.  It gives me an idea how the horse is going, and time before the weekend to school it again if I need to.  If this school has gone well, I often don’t jump again before the event.

Wednesday: fitness

I don’t gallop the beginner novice and novice level horses.  I will do a relaxing hack with the hotter horses or trot the horses that need to get fitter.   Many thoroughbreds (especially the ones that have raced) need to settle, not do gallop sets which tend to get them too fit and excited.  For the training level I will give the horse a couple of canters before its first event, then I may back off galloping if the horse is regularly competing.  On fitness days once the training level horse was fit, I would just trot hills.  I do gallop the preliminary level horses once a week.  The speed and fitness that is needed to make time requires a fit horse.  The other fitness day I would hack or trot hills.

Thursday: dressage or jump

If the horse is competing on the weekend and didn’t school well on Tuesday I would jump it again on Thursday.  I make sure that the horses jump once a week.  I find if I let too much time pass between jump schools I end up jumping more jumps or spending longer with the horse because it is excited to be jumping. 

Friday: dressage

I will run through some of the movements of my test if the horse is competing on the weekend.  I am careful not to do them in order so the horse doesn’t anticipate what is next in the test.  If the horse is a bit of a worrier, I will do a quiet easy school so it doesn’t carry tension into the competition.  I do not introduce anything new the week of a competition.  That can unsettle your other work that you think is already confirmed.  I am also very careful not to ask too much in the schools prior to competing if the horse can be nervous.

Saturday: competition or fitness work

If I am trying to get the horse fitter I will gradually build the intensity and the length of time I am riding him.  If the horse is regularly competing, I will often just try to maintain the fitness level that I have.  If I get it too fit, I may be putting unneeded  wear on its limbs.

Sunday: day off

I have found with the younger and greener horses I am better off riding them each day for ½ an hour rather than 4 days a week for an hour. It is very hard for most young horses learning a new job to stay focused for very long.   Many of the greener horses get mentally tired  long before they get physically tired and it is our job to recognize when we need to back off.  When I am training a horse, I evaluate what it has done in the preceding schools to give me an idea where to start and how much I can expect to get done. If the horse is not going well often it is better to take it back to the barn and try another day.  It is important to try not go backwards in our training by asking a horse that is having a bad day to do too much. Each horse is different and may do better with more or less work.  Some horses do well with a day of lunging, or an additional day off.  If your horse is competing well and seems healthy and sound chances are you are using a program that is working for you and your horse.

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