So you are interested in competing in a USEA Classic Three-Day at the Preliminary, Training, Novice or Beginner Novice level? Great! It is a fun and educational event to set as a goal.
There are many factors that have to be taken into consideration including the time of year the competition will be held, the type of horse you own, the level of the competition and how many times you will be competing before the competition. All this should be factored in as you move toward getting yourself and your horse fit enough to compete at a long format three-day.
Planning for a three-day competition starts at least three months before the event. It might be a little less if you are already competing. What is important is that you do the base work on the horse and that means lots of trotting. It also means riding on different surfaces such as soft surfaces and harder surfaces. At the Training level and below lots of gallops are usually not necessary unless you have horse that is very difficult to get fit.
What I really enjoy about conditioning for a three-day is that special time that you get to spend with your horse. You start developing a relationship you may not have had before and become so attuned to your horse’s physical self. You also become more attuned to your own physical self and the level of fitness that you need to have to be able to do Phases A, B, C and D!
This doesn’t mean when you are out doing the trot sets that you are on your cell phone or you have your ear buds in listening to music. You need to listen to your horses breathing, the horse’s foot falls, the cadence of the gaits, and feel when the horse starts to get tired.
I remember getting ready for my last Preliminary Three-Day event. My horse and I did our long, slow trot sets right as the sun was coming up! Where he was stabled at the time, I didn’t have the luxury of lots of fields so I did some of the trots going to and from the fields on the highway. This worked well to help tighten up his legs on the hard surface. I also loved to hear his hooves on the road and the lovely cadence in the quiet of the morning.
Conditioning involves incorporating lots of different speeds into the routine. There are lot of trot sets both short and long and some gallops both fast and slow. The more hills you can work up and down the better. Hill work puts good muscle on a horse and less strain on the joints.
You have to think about you and your horse and the place you have to condition. One size doesn’t fit all and you should make sure that your horse is physically able to do the work as are you. Work with your trainer to help tailor a program to fit your needs.
This suggested program below is designed for a horse getting ready for a Training Three-Day. Cut back on the gallops for Novice and Beginner Novice levels as they are usually not needed. This is a schedule I’ll start with and then adjust as I get closer to the competition based on the horse. I start the week of the competition and work backwards until I have a full three-month scheduled planned. Every time you compete, that should count as a conditioning day.
Month 1, Week 1 and 2
Month 1, Week 3 and 4
Month 2, Week 1
Month 2, Week 2
Month 2, Week 3
Month 2, Week 4
Count back 30 days from the day of the competition. You will notice that during this month the conditioning drops to every fifth day. There will be a couple of fast gallops at the very end of the month designed to tighten the horse down. You won’t need these for Beginner Novice unless there will be jumps on the steeplechase phase.