How much fitness work do you do with you Prelim Horses

Ive been having a conversation with a friend about this. How much fitness do you do (or have you done) with you Prelim horses (2*-S)

A fair amount. 2-3 days per week of lots of trotting and hills and a gallop every 5 days or so (depending on what else was going on/footing-- it might get replaced with an xc school or pushed back or skipped or shortened if it too close to a competition). And usually a light hack after a flat or jump school. I tend to do less trot sets and more by feel. My prelim horse was an older unraced TB (moved up to prelim at 15) who was built on the heavier side and was a headshaker so I probably did more than was strictly necessary but he definitely benefitted.

It depends a lot on the type of horse, its fitness history, how it holds its fitness, and what sort of fitness facilities you have.

A TB who is turned out on a few acres of hills, and who hacks on hills regularly, will need a lot less fitness work than a lazy half-bred who lives on a flat dirt holding pen.

I recommend talking with a knowledgeable coach about this as they can help you tailor your program for your horse and your facilities.

I always return to James C. Wofford’s Training the Three Day Event Horse and Rider for the fitness schedules as I have found they hold true for TBs and TB crosses through Intermediate at least for my experience 1998-2015. Haven’t run or prepared for Prelim level since then although someone in my barn has been doing Prelim through Advanced in the years since. She has one warmblood who seems harder to get fit or motivated at the upper levels so has been seeking more current advice on what might work for him.


OTTB work schedule:
Monday hack for approx 2-3 miles
Tuesday flatwork, 30min plus 3/4 to 1 mile walk
Wednesday flatwork, 30min more intense, plus walk
Thurs jump school
Friday trot, about 3 miles or 25min
Saturday gallop: warmup trot about 3 miles, then canter sets (3x4, 4x4, 3x5, or 4x5 depending on point in the season and 3 day goals) on flat ground. Usually around 4-5 miles. On hilly ground, 2-3 miles in a strong gallop after trot warmup. Trot cool down 10min, and a long hack back.

Adapted as needed for the horse, weather, footing, soundness concerns, local terrain, etc.


Might be helpful - top trainer in uk recommended gallop work

Just to add to your data :slight_smile:

Horse breed: Danish warmblood (so a decent amount of TB blood)
Age: 17
Level: Prelim (previously a jumper)
Living situation: 24:7 turnout on ~5 acres
Feed: Grazing, 1-2 flakes alfalfa 2x/day, Grain 2x/day = 2 qts Purina Senior + 1 qt Purina Ultium + beet pulp + flax + joint supplement (Actiflex)

Average weekly schedule:

  • Day 1: 10-30 minutes of walking in fields/trails, light walk/trot/canter (typically in the field)
  • Day 2: Off
  • Day 3: Off or light/moderate dressage school (sometimes in the field). 10 minute walk in the fields/trails.
  • Day 4: Cavaletti exercises. 10 minute walk in the fields/trails.
  • Day 5: Moderate/Hard Dressage school (sometimes in the field). 10 minute walk in the field/trails
  • Day 6: Cavaletti and/or jumping. 10 minute walk in the field/trails
  • Day 7: Gallop sets (~20 sec - 1 minute…depending on how he feels that day… X 2-3 times per lead). 10-20 min walk field/trails

My horse’s schedule tends to be really flexible, since he’s older and my schedule is busy. So some weeks we ride 6 days, other weeks we ride 3-4. I think this limited amount of riding only works for us because he maintains fitness easily AND he lives outside. What does stay the same is A LOT of walking/hacking outside of the ring. I am really lucky with my facility that that is possible. Obviously that is weather dependent…but if the ground is nice I hack out every day. I always get in at least 1 moderate dressage school, 1 day of polework/cavalettis, and 1 gallop per week. I also always follow my gallop day with a light hack/flat in my jump saddle the next day. This is to double check soundness and encourage stretching. Post competition is 3 days of rest if we travelled far (2 for nearby events).

I actually will rarely jump at home during competition season (or at all really…)…maybe once a month. This is unique to this horse (It helps with his mind and carefulness at competition…even regardless of me trying not to jump too much because of his age). Plus the fact that I am at a multi discipline facility and I simply don’t have the time to take out and put away jumps very often. If I had a younger or less seasoned horse I would jump once a week or add in some fences on cavaletti days…but the moral of the story is you can maintain fitness without a lot of jumping.

I am similar to an above poster that I do not do prescribed trot sets and instead ride off of how my horse feels. I think a 5-6 day/week program with a few gallops tends to keep most horses fit for Prelim. For Training level (and when I was a show jumper), my schedule was really similar, but the gallops were slower and usually only 1-2 times per lead. Simply adding a bit of speed and an extra set was sufficient to keep my horse fit enough for the move up to Prelim. We also have a very steep hill we can sprint up. I didn’t add that in until recently and only do it twice per session and only every 4-6 weeks (it’s steep…). He comes off the Prelim course ready for more.

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