North American Record

MONK sets North American Record for the 160km (100 miles) in 6 hours and 53 minutes...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

WEG quest - Countdown

The Difference!

Where they come from, I am not sure, how they got that way, I don't know either. But I am not naive enough to think that I actually built a world class athlete, but I think you have to be smart enough to realize what you got when you got one, and know that it is a "special gift", to be carefully taken care of. Most of my horses have been top ten or top 5 endurance horses but I really had to work at getting them into that kind of condition. The good thing about that is that I was very familiar with building the athlete from the ground up. I would say that there is quite a difference between that top 5 endurance horse and that special once in a lifetime horse. The difference is in pure athletic ability.

Why WEG?

Things change a little when you get older. 4 or 5 years ago when I found out that the World Equestrian Games were going to be in the USA I thought about how cool it would be to compete at that level for the USA team. I don't know that I ever had any aspirations of riding in such a event, but certainly in building the athlete. After hearing that a Shagya horse had won the WEG in Germany I thought it would be a good idea to get one. I looked around and could not find any geldings so bought a stallion. Well the stallion did not work out but about the same time I realized that he was not a endurance horse I started riding MONK who was about 4 at that time.

I guess you never know where that next world class athlete comes from, but certainly did not think he was in my back yard. In the beginning we were just having fun and pretty much my quest for that WEG horse was just another faded dream. As MONK became more mature he really showed lots of promise. I started doing some local endurance rides and he did quite well. He never seemed to tire, his attitude was all business.

If you think about the persons you know with really good, once in a lifetime horses, you know that it does change how you do things and your outlook some. I know a few who were just having fun with their horses running mid pack, then all of a sudden they come up with a really good horse and now they are top ten, top five and winning rides.

Less is More

Not sure this is true for all horses but once MONK was legged up and had done a few 50's we pretty much changed how we conditioned. Our training program paralleled some of the more popular fast 10K human protocols. Lots of rest and not many junk miles. The training miles we do are quality miles, with a modified CRASH training of two hard back to back days. MONK has never shown me that he is actually tired, out of breath, yes, but tired or reluctant to go, absolutely not. I determine how soon he can go back to work by his daily weight. Not many people weigh their horses daily but you would be amazed how much weight is lost and how long it takes to gain it back form hard works. Because MONK as been on that scale over 500 times, he now gets on it all by himself and then goes into his stall for breakfast, I will put a short video in the blog soon. You would never be able to tell by just looking. MONK ends up doing two hard works maybe every 10 days or so, with some quad work in between.

Quad Pony Work

You could pony MONK with a hay string, almost never pulling. We have been doing this with him before he had a saddle on his back. If you do a slice at a time, not going faster or longer distance all at the same time you are building a good base. As time has gone by MONK's quad works get faster and faster. I equate this to swimming your horse, building cardio without much stress, but I think the pony method helps to keep the bone density and components in tip top shape. Almost all of MONK's current training are done in boots.... MONK's typical pony is somewhere between 6 and 8 miles. The one he does the most is the 8 mile pony with 1500 feet of elevation gain in 30 to 35 minutes. His recoveries are withing minutes, his top speed is 24 mph, average speed is almost 16 mph, average HR is 130.

Barefoot and Boots

I have to tell you that MONK would not be where he is today if it were not for the "Boots". MONK is a barefoot horse, and has been most of his life. The first part of his endurance carrier we rode in shoes. Most of his training was done barefoot, which limited the terrain that we could train on.

At this level of conditioning and the speed that he goes and the terrain that I have to work on I am not sure that anything else would keep him sound. I think the concussion being sucked up by the boot and the sole protection that it offers is paramount to keeping MONK sound.

MONK has done all of his FEI rides in EaryCare Glue on boots, glued on exclusively with "Goober Glue". Since I came up with "Goober Glue" MONK and his stable mates have had to do all of my testing. MONK, being the only endurance horse, made his debut at 20 mule team 100, testing the "Goober Glue" for the first time at a real endurance ride.

MONK does most of his training in the EasyCare Gloves which for the most part are working perfect. They come in 1/2 sizes so you can usually get a pretty good fit. MONK has very round front feet so I modify the Gloves a little to make them work for him. On his first 100 mile ride I used size 2 boots on him, there was lots of room in the front of the boot. I tried the 1.5 boots, but they seemed way to tight on the sides, but seem to fit perfectly front to rear. What I did was put a 1" slit in the sides of the boot which took off some of the pressure but allowed the sides of the hoof to project slightly out of the side of the boot. I do this to both his "Glue On boots" and his Gloves....

Goober Glue as a Hoof Pack... Goober Glue is like a bazillion little points of contact so keeps the boot securely attached to the hoof. Goober Hoof pack when it is applied to the sole it adds another layer of protection from impact and helps dissipate all of that concussion that would of been transmitted to the hoof and legs. You can also do a modified sole pack inside your Gloves, see the perfect fit on the Goober Glue Blog.

FEI speeds

One of the things that our Chef (Becky Hart) has stressed over and over is that your horse must be capable of a 8 hour 100 mile ride. Now I am sure that that is over relative good terrain. I wonder, and I mean really wonder how many of the horses actually competing for a spot on the 5 person WEG team actually have a horse of that caliber, we will find out at the June selection ride. I know that MONK is capable of those speeds but we have never had to ask him for hardly anything on his previous rides. He has always looked fresh as a daisy after all of his rides. Naturally I would like to think that it was due to his superior conditioning program, but probably not.

Some of the things that we have done right are conditioning with 50 pounds of weight more then he has to race with. Always coming to competitions with a well rested horse.

We have been working on some long cantors. Lindsay did 20 miles on perfect footing terrain, her average speed was 16mph, Monk's average HR was in the low 140's. Since Lindsay does not get to do the majority of the conditioning it was important for her as the rider to really know how much horse she had. MONK was not the least bit stressed and I think Lindsay was at leased a little impressed.

MONK's last conditioning ride was on the trails at Point Reyes. I have only ridden there once so am not that familiar with terrain, especially were Lindsay went. This was to be a two day conditioning program. On Saturday I went to hang out at the American River Ride on my motorcycle. I got a voice message from Lindsay. You could hear the excitement in her voice as she proclaimed "MONK owns Barnaby hill". I did not know the hill, but I sure new that sound in her voice. It meant that she will be riding Barnaby hill, over and over again in her mind.. I have felt that same excitement over and over again on our conditioning rides and was so happy that MONK and I were able to share that with her. I am sure she has had some moments that stick in her mind, like wining the AERC champ ride completely by accident, but nothing like the thrill and wonder of a fantastic athlete who just won't quit and who won't get tired on that never ending hill...

Winding Down

June selections are not far off, 6 or 7 weeks. MONK is only 8 years old this year and you have to wonder how much better can he get and if the chance of pushing too hard will help or hurt you. Come what may be I have decided to error on the side of being pretty conservative. I do believe that MONK can get better, but at this level I prefer to take smaller slices of work and let time take care of the rest. We will continue to condition MONK until probably the first week in June and then do a taper from there. Doing most of his last days getting back up to race weight and some stretches on the quad.

Game plan for Selection

The way that FEI has chosen to do the 3 selection trials around the country is that if you show up to one of the 3, you can go to the final selection in Danville Illinois. Not sure I agree with that concept but having no control over that we will perform as directed and load up the trailer for Danville. MONK and I will be leaving sunny California for the East coast for humidity training sometime in early July, which should give us at least 30 days to acclimate. Working backwards on our conditioning program, MONK should be at his very peak for the WEG in Sept.. We are currently looking for places to land for a day or two, here and there. I would rather compete against a lot smaller field but will let the selectors do their jobs. I am confident that the selectors will choose the best horses and can only hope that we are in the running for one of the spots.

We will come home with our heads held high even if we are not selected. It will of been quite a adventure, and a costly one at that. We will be eating top romin for quite awhile but for me this is a once in a life time opportunity. Sponsors that want to actually help with expenses are far and few between, especially since the team of 5 is not chosen until the last moment. No one wants to sponsor one of 100 horse and rider combinations that might make it.


I don't get to write much about MONK, because we don't get to do much. Everybody else is out racing and having fun. We are carefully training, so not much to write home about. I find it amazing that a little blog that I started just to kinda keep track of things has had such a audience. MONK has almost 5000 hits to his blog since conception.


I think lots of people are looking for ways to help improve their conditioning program. I know that I have searched and searched for training secrets to help, without much luck. I have even emailed some top riders in search of that magic formula that would help build a world class horse. I guess that what I have come up with, which I knew already, is that all horses are different, and each program has to be detailed towards that one horse.

New Garmin 310xt

By far the best one yet. What I like most is that is vibrates at every mile and gives you your pace. It breaks all of the files out either in laps or by the mile.. When you download your ride and look at it in detail, it will show you your time for that mile, you max and average speed, same for HR plus the averages....and more.

If you get the soft belt transmitter, it will work on all of the POLAR Equine belts which is sweet.

The Garmin HR can be read from up to 30 feet away, so this makes it sweet for when I pony.


Merri said...

nice post.


- The Equestrian Vagabond

Endurance Granny said...

We'll be rooting for the Monkster to get that spot for WEG!~E.G.