Okay.....so I've been doing some thinking about what qualifies for sufficient fitness for a horse's first LD.
I don't have a GPS.
I don't have a pre-measured conditioning "trail" around home.
No heart rate monitor.
I think that for my modest goals, this is okay.
This season will most likely consist of all Limited Distance, and in my understanding, you have 6 hours to complete 25-30 miles, including the 1 hour hold in the middle of the two loops, so about 5 hours of ride time. I believe that makes for an average of 5-6 mph. I'll just guess that Arabee walks at 3 mph, trots at 8 mph, and canters at 12 mph. (One of these days I'll actually figure out how fast she moves - we have some nice, flat farm lanes that are 1/2 mile long, and I can time her at all three gaits at that distance, then double it to get miles per hour.)
My plan (right now) for rides would be to trot on flats and uphill, and walk downhill. So I would guess we'd trot 75% of the time, walk 25% of the time. But for the first ride, I'll estimate more of a 50/50. So....if she walks for two and a half hours (half of the available time) at 3 mph, then we've traveled 7.5 miles, and for a 25 miler, there'd be 17.5 miles left - and it'd take a little more than 2 hours of trotting at 8mph to finish, and we'd have plenty of time. Of course, that's not how I'd ride....we'd probably walk the first half mile or so, to make sure her mind is on her job (which is listening to me, her rider, and keeping track of her feet), then proceed with trotting on flats and uphills, walking on downhills, really steep uphills, or whenever she needs a breather.
So I'm thinking that if I can build Arabee up to the point where she can trot for 2.5 hours, then we'll be ready for our first LD. Even though I won't know specifically how far we've gone, just knowing how fast a horse trots can give me a good enough idea, I would think.
Does this seem like sound reasoning? Especially knowing I'm starting with a 13 year old sound Arabian mare with a good mind. (I'm fully anticipating lots of "stupidness" at the start of the ride, and each time a horse is within sight or hearing, but she's had quite a bit of experience going places and with consistency on my part should come around to listening fairly well)
Would love a discussion on "basic" fitness requirements or what your conditioning goals are! Leave comments!