WHAT A WEEK!!! I can finally relax, let my perfect pony out into the paddock, stuff his face with licorice, & look back on what was an epic event at Adelaide!
I am the luckiest girl around. It takes an amazing team to do what we do, therefor I have a million people to thank, so you’re all going to have to suffer this long arduous post until I have gone through the entire list (time to get yourself a coffee)!
Firstly, Thankyou Diesel/DD/Cheezle/Cheeseymite! I’ve had you 4 months & you are already the horse of a lifetime. You are the Hugh Jackman of horses, & I feel like we already have each other’s backs. Batman & Robyn have nothing on us!

(Who’s name is actually pronounced DYE-Cavalli Diesel, discovered after I chatted with his gorgeous breeders Di & Henry George lastnight!)

Thanks Shane for being too big for him Niki Rose!!
Chrissy & Fraser Brown – generous, hilarious, realistic, grass mowing, truck pumping, amazing owners of Diesel. Where did you come from?!?! Thankyou X infinity!!!!
Caitlin McNab – groom of the year, beautiful friend, equine stylist, most fabulous, trustworthy & efficient carer for my special pony. You are angelic!! (& thankyou for putting up with my dogs sleeping on your head)!
Anni Sedgwick – for accepting your grandchildren have fur, & being there whenever I am not/late/busy/late/working/late – #1 mother of the year!
Chris Kendall – for accepting Diesel & the fact he sometimes gets more attention than you! Boyfriend of the Year award🏆!
Wayne & Suzzanne M Barker – for pimping the truck, removing the 90’s bottle green decor (sorry Georgia!) making sure it’s mechanically A1!
Sharyon Large – only special people are trusted with the daily care of the horses at home, & you’re the one! Thankyou! And Laura Pritchard for helping out whilst we were away!
Crown Equine (Ben Mason, Lucinda Mason) – amazing vets, I love that you accept my craziness, & fixed Diesel’s cough so he felt perfect for Radelaide!
Vicky Kemp – your Chinese vet wizardry is second to none, DD hardly had grumpy catsbumface & was ulcer free & happy!
William Collyer – for being a super farrier, & putting up with almond milk in your coffee!
Heath Ryan – my dressage guru/master yoda. 20yrs of being yelled at, & a lifetime of learning – Thankyou for your generous time in warming me up for the test!
Sue Coman & Brook Dobbin – for training my SJ’ing, & warming me up whilst I pretended to be calm before my round!
Sara Madden – for the generous use of your Fairhurst hills & XC jumps to have DD firing 100%.
To my ever supportive & generous sponsors:

🎗Kentucky Equine Research – Emma Chittick, Peter Huntington, Megan McKenzie

🎗Bates Australia

🎗Horseland – Kym West Cheeseman

🎗Flexible Fit – Jo Everly

🎗Rocktape – Kate Lemay-Robbins


🎗KEP Italia – Vittoria & Carmen ter Rahe

🎗The 10 Minute Box

🎗Spooks Riding – Narelle Castles Helsemans

🎗Over The Top – Karl Steininger
I know when I sold the rangas, I said I wasn’t going to event until I’d established a business! 

So now that Adelaide is done, my focus for the next few months, along with my biz partner Kate Sutherland will be actually launching our New Business!!
Born from my passion for fitness, ‘The Fit Horse Rider’ is a series of program’s that will help all riders & horses to become fitter, horses more schooled, create a positive mindset, as well as everyday tips, management & motivation, via a toolbox of affordable lessons that will create the best six legged team they can be. 
Stay tuned… I can’t wait!!!



OMG we did it!!!! Spartan Beast 21km obstacle race conquered… Although I must say it was possibly the hardest thing I’ve done physically… Hmmm ever?! It really is true to say ‘what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger’… As I sit on the couch I now have a new threshold of determination & resilience! 

Results were surprisingly pleasing – 1st female non-elite 40-49, 3rd overall non-elite female! If I wear my ‘Spartan finisher’ t-shirt everywhere for the rest of my life, you’ll understand why!


As we drove to the event, my BF Chris (previously a national champ Junior XC runner & general athletic freak!) & I had an interesting conversation about nerves! As elite level athletes in our field, we’re both used to that pre-comp nervousness, mostly from both the internal & external pressures of wanting to, & expecting to do well.

We have already been looking into competing in the elite category, so we naturally wanted to a) finish without breaking (we are old haha!), b) complete all the obstacles without penalty, & c) post respectable times – in case we were abismal & kidding ourselves about racing Elite!

However, having never done a Spartan race (we’ve done races but not a Spartan – they’re tough!), & Chris never having raced the distance (I’ve done a half marathon), we were basically starting with a pile of unknowns & nothing to compare to. 

Automatically we had competitive attitudes, but because this wasn’t our ‘main’ sport of previous success & expectation, we had to consciously rein ourselves into reality. So why were we nervous?! 

This lead to a really interesting conversation about different reasons, or types of nerves, which I thought was really worth sharing.

I was nervous, because I wanted to complete the course & post a respectable time to be competitive with the elites in the future. But as our first Spartan Beast, our aim really was to just experience the race, & to learn from it for the benefit of future races. 

I then decided to imagine myself turning up to the event with a different mindset, one of ‘fun, just have a go, no pressure, if you’re tired just walk or rest, & help your team mates, it’s just a great thing to do with friends/partners’. It was amazing the difference. Remove the self-expectation, the pressure, & suddenly this event seemed enjoyable (except the sandbag carrying up the hill, that will never be enjoyable!)!

So the pressure from expectation can put such voices in our head, that we get bogged down with negatives, thinking more about failure than why we’re there in the first place.

I often give myself a pep-talk before XC, & a few methods work to change my mindset:

  • I imagine the feeling of having a run-out – how disappointed I am, how the pressure is now off, & how I just wish I could do the jump again properly! This gives me a shot of reality, especially when I’m needing a motivating kick up the arse & feeling doubtful!
  • I also tell myself that if I’m nervous & ride like a muppet, then I’ll perform like a muppet! So go out there & ride like a confident skilled person, otherwise you’re just asking to fall off lol!
  • I also imagine the feeling of elation after a good round, the adrenalin buzz & confidence you get, which is irreplaceable by almost anything, & the reason we mad creatures event! This is the addiction…
  • Am I actually scared of hurting myself? Well, if so, then get off! For me this means the horse isn’t up to the job. I haven’t often have this type of nervousness, because I feel it would be an awful thing to combat, & I’m not prepared to risk my neck – the sport is hardly a even for the best prepared combinations!
  • Am I leading the class & feeling nervous because everyone’s trying to catch me & I can’t afford a penalty? Well, imagine you’re 2nd, 3rd or 4th – you suddenly become the predator, rather than the prey – which gives me aggression & something to chase! The feeling of being threatened is far worse, than if you are the one posing the threat. The other thing is, just go & do your best. You’ll do that whether you’re lying 1st or 8th, & you can’t do better than your best anyway. So just get out there & do your thing!

Anyway, I hope some of these thoughts help with your sporting goals. The mind is the most powerful muscle we have, so physical fitness is great, but you need to top it off with a great pilot!



As always, it’s good to try new ways to improve fitness, strength & flexibility, challenge the mind, keep the injuries at bay, & just generally keep life interesting. At 41, my body is starting to suffer the effects of being pulled left, right & centre by countless feral young horses, so like many equestrians with the same problem, I was looking for something to target my ‘dodgy hip’. So I yanked myself out of bed for a bright & early 7am Monday morning Barre class, at my local physio & Pilates studio. Minus the tutu.

What is a Barre class?

Barre is a ballet inspired workout, specifically using small, controlled movements targeting movement using muscles of the the hips, core, lower & upper body, & all with good posture. Think, plié, 1st, 2nd position, it’s is kind of similar to a standing Pilates, with similar benefits of making us symmetrical, flexible yet strong & coordinated trough our core stabilizers. Oh, & did I mention burn your butt like never before?!  



Have you ever struggled to deliver that ‘lower leg back’ aid (think outside leg back for a canter transition or traverse) without twisting your pelvis or losing flexibility in your hip? Look at the Barre move below – there’s your move! Possibly without the pointed toe, but it’s the same muscles used for external hip rotation & extension.



The isometric contractions that make up the bulk of a barre class occur when the muscle tenses without changing length. Think of these movements as the opposite of typical strength training moves (or concentric and eccentric contractions), which occur when a muscle stretches then shortens (as in a biceps curl). Isometric exercise is a great way to maintain muscle length. 


These higher-rep, low-weight exercises target slow-twitch muscles, which help increase endurance. In contrast, larger, compound movements target fast-twitch muscles, which help with power and speed (think running a marathon vs. sprinting). Plus, isometric movements can help strengthen muscles without straining tendons or ligaments, so there’s less risk of injury compared to more traditional strength training. Exactly what we do when riding a horse!

What’s so beneficial about the one-inch movements is that you can hold a posture and benefit from continuously engaging the muscle, but you also get a mini-recovery with each pulse, so you can stay in the hold longer. Isometric movements help isolate specific muscles, so you can do more reps with smaller movements like these, which fatigue your muscles in a different way.


And like riding, there’s no such thing as ‘legs day’ or chest day’ – it’s always full body day!

You’ll target multiple muscle groups at once, like you do sitting on a horse. It’s a highly efficient workout since you’re doing two to four movements—holding, pulsing, stretching, for example—at a time in each move. A move mainly targets your quads, but at the same time you’re also challenging the calves, hamstrings, glutes, abs, and upper-back muscles. 

Bonus: Working all these areas at once also helps raise the heart rate! Not like running or dragging a tyre, more in the sense you’ll get very warm… there will be beads of sweat… & the voice inside your head will be constantly repeating ‘make it stop now, last rep pls, enough now!’ as you smile like Mary King on XC, pretending you’re all over this & having a great time!

Here’s a little Barre workout video to get you started. And FYI – your cross-tie, arena fence, kitchen bench… All ideal for a Barre!!



Actually, his name is Buddy, but he reminds us a little too much of the Honey Badger (Google on YouTube!), so he’s inherited the name!

‘HB’ is a 9yo WB gelding by Ex Libris, out of an Herr Dominator mare. He’s 15.3h, fits into the ‘brown club’ without a skeric of white, & was originally bought from a lovely younger client (who he started to be a little to athletic & not quiet enough for) for my Mum to ride. (And no, I was not using my mother as a crash test dummy)!
In true Honey Badger style, Buddy was just a little athletic/quirky/intolerant for anyone but a pro, so he’s landed himself a gig as ‘my new ride’! I was always a fan of his, but at the start Buddy was not completely a fan of mine! 

HB’s pros & cons:

  • Hes’s athletic & moves well in all 3 paces👍🏼
  • Small, brown, pretty, & sound👍🏼!
  • At rising 9, he hasn’t done much👎🏼, but he’s not a TB so hasn’t had racing wear & tear👍🏼
  • He loves to jump, enjoys doing interesting things & is forward going👍🏼
  • He needs an attitude adjustment & some training/remodelling👎🏼!


Yes, HB can jump!

    He just wasn’t used to accepting instruction, discipline, & then finding the right response to be offered a release & kind encouragement. So his manner was generally to interact with humans via a grumpy-arse attitude! If we didn’t have treats he wouldn’t be caught – the ears went back & he pretty much gave me the finger!!😤💪🏼💥
    We have begun with lungeing. Using a roller, an outside side rein, the lunge rein threaded through the bit ring & clipped to the roller down low (where your girth would buckle up to a long point dressage saddle). 
    Mission: to teach Buddy to flex, bend & reach down, instead of fall in & run, understand voice queues, become equally flexible both directions, not be scared of the whip, relax, & realize humans are nice when you do the right thing😊. Oh, & to wear him out a little, so I didn’t have the arguments on his back!
    We then progressed to riding him, played with some bits (a happy mouth straight bar encouraged HB to reach into the contact & keep his head steadier – he wasn’t super flexible both ways & needed to learn to stretch/relax his back.

    First stop – teaching the half halt from a squeeze of my bum! Then lateral flexion without him shoving his head in my face! Turn on the forehands, leg yield, nose to the wall, then shoulder in. All begun in the walk, then trot.


      At he moment Buddy is happy doing all the above movements, plus we’ve been playing with traverse, & counter canter. Rein back is gaining popularity, however it’s execution is somewhat lacking in finesse! Canter transitions come a little above the bit, but he’s not yet 100% over the back, is a little stiffer in his right HQ… I think it’s an old habit that will gradually filter out as he becomes more supple & the activity is more enjoyable/not uncomfortable. He’s also now going nicely in a thicker KK ultra snaffle, because he started to lean on the happy mouth – but this is good as he’s taking the contact👏🏼!


    Thanks to Lu Wood from KER, we have HB enjoying the following nutritious delights:


    I also add:

    • Bio Bloom for his feet (they were a bit cracked at the nail holes),
    • EO3 oil for anti inflams & amazing omega 3 properties,
    • Synovate for his joints

    The HB is out in a nicely grassed paddock, & being clipped this week. 

    Our plans are to keep training over winter, establish the flat work so the HB is comfortable with everything in an elementary level test, take him XC schooling, & for some SJ lessons. I’m also keen to explore the great riding trails just up the road from home, which will keep HB’s brain happy & not be all too seriaaaaas!!!

    Thank you to the wonderfully talented Jenelle Christopher for taking the fantastic pics whilst training at home last weekend!

    Stay tuned for more Honey Badger antics!!


    Delta’s 12WBBC… HOUSTON.. We have a problem!!

    There is a reason for the apparent lack of action amongst Delta’s 12WBBC… With such a fabulous start, we have now run into our first road block… Delta has popped a splint!! 

    So what does this mean? What is a splint?! Will Delta still grow an amazing booty?! This is something very common in the horse world, so read on to find out more…

    What is a splint?

    To understand splints, we need to remember that prehistoric ancestors of the modern horse had multiple toes on each foot. Todays horse walks on the tip of its middle toe, but the remains of the other toes are still present. Two of these leftover bones, called splint bones, lie along the inner & outer sides of each cannon bone, beginning just below the horse’s knee or hock, & tapering to an end above the fetlock. The splint bones bear some weight, & give support to the cannon bone.

    In young horses, the interosseous ligament (lying between the cannon bone & each splint bone) is fairly elastic. In older horses, these ligaments harden & calcify, eventually turning three separate bones into one.


    How does a horse pop/throw a splint?

    An injury to the splint bone, as well as any trauma that strains or tears the interosseous ligament will cause irritation. The result is a painful, swollen lump that can be seen & felt on the side of the horses leg, below the knee or hock. In young horses, a splint is a frequent occurence when training & exercise increase too rapidly. The most common area affected are the splint bones on the inside of the foreleg, as these are subject to the most strain. Too much exercise, work on hard ground, excessive speed work or jumping, lungeing in small circles, or any activity involving twisting or pivoting on a foreleg can lead to irritation. 

    Splints can also be caused by a direct trauma to the leg, like a kick, or a blow from the opposite forefoot. 


    Above: a splint from eye view, & then the same splint on xray.  

    Can conformation play a role?

    Misalignments in limb or hoof conformation, either congenital (club-foot, pidgeon toed) or aquired (unbalanced shoing, neglect to hoof trimming), might be partly to blame if a horse pops a splint.

    Incorrect gait (plaiting/brushing/close behind) may also increase the chance of a horse hitting itself & causing splint trauma.


    Above: A splint viewed from the inside of the leg.

    Are all splints the same?

    Splints are so common, mostly amounting to nothing more than cosmetic blemishes once healed. However, if the splint calcifies/remodels to the degree that it presses or rubs on the suspensory ligament, this can cause further issues. Splints can be surgically removed in such a case.


    Above: A fractured splint bone

    How are splints treated?

    Pain, swelling, heat & lameness are the signs of an ‘active’ splint. Dr Ben (our Crown Equine vet guru) has suggested the following treatments for splints:

    1. Initially (the first 3-5 days) ice on & off throughout the day to help reduce pain, swelling & heat. Use a doubled-over length of tubigrip, pulled up over the cannon bone like a sock, & fill with ice over the area with the splint.
    2. Anti-inflams such as bute will also help reduce these symptoms.
    3. We used topical anti-inflam treatements such as DMSO (applied 3 days in a row & then rested as it can cause blistering), & clay poultices (such as Swelldown or Tuffrock) applied over the DMSO, then covered in wet brown paper, & wrapped with a stable bandage. This really helped to keep the heat out & swelling down effectively.
    4. Rest: Ben explained how new research has shown that light exercise on soft ground is more beneficial for healing splints than complete restricted movement/box rest. This is because bone remodelling occurs at rest, so the splint will become a lot larger if the horse is kept still. Light walking, such as 20 minutes twice a day in hand or on a walker, is recommended to reduce the size of the splint, whilst allowing it to heal. 
    5. Remedial shoeing may be required to realign any incorrect hoof angles.
    6. Radial shockwave treatment has been show to decrease the time it takes for a splint to heal, & can be treated weekly for one month initally.
    7. The length of rest time required for each splint depends on the severity of the damage. I have previously had to rest one of my eventers for 3 months, after which the splint never gave another problem. With Delta’s, we will look at the progress after 4 weeks, with a possible 2-4 weeks extra if required.
    8. Weight is important when healing a splint – excess weight for any limb injury is a bad thing!! Keep the horse from getting fat to reduce unnecessary pressure on the legs whilst healing. This is one of the reasons eventers can’t be too fat!!

    So what do we do now?

    Luckily Delta’s splint is not going to affect her long term – its an easy fix, just time off right in the middle of the season!  Our hard ground doesn’t help, so the wetter weather should soften the ground, which will suit most horses for a variety of reasons! In Delta’s case, she has a pre-existing splint right below the new one (which is why it took us a while to identify it), this is her first season of real fitness work, & she is rather a big girl (dense, big bone, solid unit!). This is why, as an eventer, I put her on a program to shed fat & build muscle. Sometimes having a fat, shiny horse looks great in the pictures, but in real life, too much condition is detremental to the soundness & performance of eventers. This doesn’t mean they need to be ‘skinny’, rather each individual needs to hold enough condition to support its body type & workload. For example, an athletic, lean TB will usually not hold too much condition, so will always be encouraged to hold more. A more solid crossbred who goes on the smell of an oily rag, may constantly be on a diet, needing to be as light as possible for the job.

    Delta will be paddock rested where she is quite active, & her hay & feed will be place in various spots around her field, to keep her moving around. Her feed has been reduced (Barastoc Competitor reduced to 1.5kgs), & she will be hand walked if she’s not moving around the paddock enough. So she will miss her target of Ballarat Pre-Novice… but be back better than ever, with a new program & goals to get back on track over winter!

    In the meantime, I may have a new project in the wings… another brown 16h pony… be prepared to meet ‘The Honey Badger’!!!! Meet my new project as soon as I get home from FILEX!!

    (Special thanks to Kate Sutherland for her amazing extra care spent on Delta’s treatment, Ben Mason for his expert treatment, knowledge & advice, KER for the Equinews info on splints, & Luisa Wood for her dietry advice))

    MEET ‘TEAM DELTA’ – an introduction to our team of pro’s!

    As we know, it’s important to have a good team of professionals in any business. Horses are no different, so we have devised a crew of what we consider to be… ‘Specified Equine Guru’s’. Our SEG’s have been chosen for a number of reasons:

    • They are extremely qualified & experienced in what they do.
    • They are accessible & local.
    • They are open to discussion, put up with answering my constant questions, & are easy to work with, as well as work alongside each other.
    • They are interested in the latest studies, & keep up with new technology & treatments.
    • They are neat, tidy, professional… but also fun!

    So, here are the first of our SEG’s for Team Delta!

     JODIE WATSON – pilates trainer, human & horse physio.

    Jodie has always been a keen horse rider, before selling her horses to concentrate on her Physiotherapy degree. She has been working on the Mornington Peninsula as a human Physiotherapist for the past 15 years.

    Jodie’s main focus over the last 10 years has been on analysing movement patterns and the development of core/strength programs, to suit an individuals rehabilitation needs. 

     Jodie is an awesome pilates trainer too! Her attention to detail means her clients never get away with bad form, & being a rider, Jodie totally understands what’s required to improve us in the saddle. She is married to mad triathlete & Physio Clinton Watson, so they are the dynamic duo of Physio knowledge! 

     In 2007 Jodie completed her Masters in Animal Studies (Animal Physiotherapy) at the University of Queensland, and has been treating horses and dogs since then. This has allowed her to combine her passion for animals with her expertise in rehabilitation for both human and animal patients.

    By utilizing her interest in biomechanics, and through analysing gait patterns, Jodie has the ability to look closely into individual joint movement and muscular deficiencies. She understands that every horse and dog, like every person is different, and requires individual assessment and treatment. 

     Excitingly, Jodie has recently opened the Animal Rehabilitation Centre (ARC) this year, which enables her to concentrate full time on dogs, horses and horse/rider assessment. The aim of ARC is to bring high quality compassionate treatment for animals and their owners.


    DR BEN MASON – specialist lameness vet

    BVSc (Hons), BSc, MANZCVS (Radiology), MRCVS


     Ben graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2001. He worked in Dubai as an intern in Sheikh Mohammed bin Raschid’s Equine Hospital, before heading to the UK to work in the racing industry in Newmarket for Rossdales and Partners for 4 years. Ben relocated to Hong Kong to become a senior clinician at the Hong Kong Jockey Club for just under 7 years, before heading back to Australia and initially joining Melbourne Equine before setting up Crown Equine. 

    Ben gained Membership of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists in Radiology in 2011, and has been a regular speaker on equine radiology and equine techniques at domestic and international conferences.

    He is currently the routine stable vet for Godolphin in Victoria and is a regular veterinarian used for pre-purchase exams for Hong Kong. Ben is an examiner for Membership of the Australian College of Veterinary Scientists in Radiology and has published two peer reviewed articles on castration complications and complications following left sided laryngoplasty. 

     Ben has a wealth of knowledge & specialises in equine lameness. For Team Delta, this means an expert on hand for that common equestrian sport horse problem… the ‘mystery lameness’! Crown Equine offer us tips on assessing soundness, how to identify & manage common soundness issues, event recovery techniques, joint health protection & prevention, daily management techniques, as well as education for the equine community.



    Today is day 10 of delta’s 12WBBC, & so far, we have assessed her condition & conformation, weighed her, & created her weekly work schedule. One of the most important aspect of any athletes success is their diet, & what better time to assess this that face-to-face with some of the worlds best vets & nutritionists?! After spending two days at the KER Australiasia conference, I’ve learnt how to use Microsteed feed ration Wizard, which helped me produce Delta’s new ’12WBBC Meal Plan’ (vegetarian of course!).


    The Microsteed feed ration Wizard is a free online feed balancing tool for KER/Barastoc products (available at http://www.microsteed.com). It’s really easy to follow, guiding you through a list of questions about the horses details, workload, available forage, & then offers you suggested feeds to choose from. You then hit ‘build ration’, & voila madame, your dinner is ready! 

    After building Delta’s meal plan, I asked Luisa Wood (KER guru online nutritionist & happens to be a PT too!) to go over it for me (this service is available too!). Lu suggested I tried Barastoc Competitor onstead of my old favorite Cool Command (now with Beet), because it offered a more nutrient dense yet smaller portion size, which also means less calories (for big-bottomed girls). Competitor contains 12% of both protein & fibre, 6% fat, 12.75 MJ  of DE (digestable energy), & comes in pelleted form. Delta needs more energy, & as I work her relativley hard,  & this is the first season she’s ever worked on her fitness! 

    Here’s our whiz-bang meal plan, which is presented in three charts, showing the recommended daily intake, balance of nutrients, & required weight of each feed in the diet:


    We have  also added supplements to Delta’s meal plan:

    • Restore – electrolyte to replace magnesium, potassium, sodium & chloride, the minerals lost in sweat.
    • EO3 – amazing oil which helps reduce inflammation, aids in joint health & increases oxygenation.
    • Synovate – an oral liquid sodium hyaluronate which helps prevent the loss of synovial (joint) fluid.
    • Equi-Jewel – An energy source derived from fats, low starch, muscle building & conditioning, with vitamin E & selenium which also aid muscle cell recovery. 


    This new meal plan means the slow introduction of Barstoc Competitor over the next 10 days, as Delta is aleady on the remaining products. I usually only add 1 scoop/160gms of lucerne chaff with each feed (morning & night), as she gets grass hay, a little lucerne hay, & is out to pasture except for about 4 hours during the day. I will see how Delta responds to the new feed, both in temperament, suppleness, recovery & condition, & get Lu’s advice should I feel we need to tweak anything.



    So far in the D12WBBC, we have looked at all the considerations for preparing an eventer to be fit, & dissected Delta’s conformation into the good/bad & ugly less than perfect! The next big step is designing the weekly program, from start to finish over 12 weeks. You will need lined paper & a pen, possibly a yearly whiteboard calendar, & as many highlighters as you desire!


    Fitness work is ideally based around a 4-day cycle, in order to recover adequately before the next hit-out. However, this obviously doesn’t fit into a 7 day week, so I’ve made a few little tweaks to accommodate those who need a more reliable routine. If you can do a 4 day cycle, permission granted!

    MONDAY – Day off. Sunday is cross country day at a competition, so monday is a perfect day off. I always give the horses a trot up & check their legs to make sure they’re sound – this could be just getting them to chase me with a bucket at morning feed time, trotting them out from the stable to the paddock in the morning, or trotting them up in hand, & putting them on the lunge. Most horses will benefit from a 10 minute loosen up on the lunge on monday morning, I usually just do this in a head collar & lunge rope (with boots on all 4 legs of course! #nazilegpolice). Monday is ‘horsehousework’ day i.e. soaking whites in Napisan!

    TUESDAY – Flatwork. After a day off, I bring the horses back in with a flat day, to loosen them up, reassert some schooling, & maybe iron out some post-XC stiffness/let-me-at-it attitude! Adding in a hack out either before or after (or both) is a great idea to prevent arena sour/not-this-again behaviour, as well as getting accustomed to life outside the arena/compound! I find after I get the basics established (half halt, max lateral flexion, counter flex, turn on the forehand, leg yield, quarter’s in/out, rein back), then I know which exercises to supple the horse with after a hard competition, & can just tick away through my list.

    WEDNESDAY – Showjumping. There are 2 types of SJ schooling – poles, grids & exercises to create a better jump & way of travelling, & jumping lines & courses. I use wednesday’s session to create a good jump (especially after going XC), whether its with grids, bounces, exercises on a turn, or even incorporating skinnies into the equation.

    THURSDAY – Fitness work. Incorporating some XC jump practice into your week can happen today, or sunday (or both). How much you jump depends on how green you or the horse are! I often use thursday as my XC schooling day, & sunday as fitness only day. The more experienced horses just need to do fitness work, & pop a few fences to keep their eye in, check your brakes, & add in that interval/fartlek aspect to their training. I take the greener horses weekly, & spend time schooling each concept (banks,steps, ditches, hills, water, skinnies, etc), until they’re confident/we know each other well enough to string fences together.

    FRIDAY – Flatwork. Back to flat work again, same as Tuesday.

    SATURDAY – Showjumping. Incorporate riding more courses/lines, & jumping more height.

    SUNDAY – Fitness. This may be focussed around fitness only, or it could be your XC schooling day if midweek is too hard to schedule in.

    Delta’s 12WBBC – ASSESSING CONFORMATION – The Before Photos.

    If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed after reading the first article, detailing to long list of boxes to tick in order to get an eventer fit, don’t hide under the horse rugs just yet!! It’s all about breaking things down into achievable bite-sized pieces, so lets get started with step 1…


    Taking photos at home can really accentuate your horses faults – or realise them! Just like the bikini before-shots, these pics are important for you to see the progress & improvement throughout your program.

    Muscle vs fat. Many a time I have started with a chubby, round & unfit horse, & as the work has increased, the fat comes off to reveal a fairly scrawny body! Muscle needs time, correct work & good feed to build, & will not turn up overnight!
    Delta is on the larger side, shall we say! She has good bone, not too solid, but she has more chub under her spine, rather than muscle built over the top of it.
    My firsts mission is to start her on a weekly program, gage her fitness, & build a good base of strength & endurance. That will strip off some weight, tone her shape, & keep her sound without overdoing it with the wrong work.

    The Basic Frame
    Eventers generally come in all shapes & sizes, due to their need to be a jack-of-all-trades. There are a few key elements I look for, so without going into anatomy 101, here is a basic overview of my list.


    1. A balanced body.
    A well balanced body can be divided into thirds – the neck, the shoulder/barrel, & the hind quarters (I imagine two fitballs of equal size & height for the shoulder & the HQ).
    The horse should stand with a leg in each corner, & move easily in a straight line without swinging its legs like an egg beater!

    2. A well set on neck with a natural arch.
    Persicopes, alpacas, & giraffes aren’t used for dressage for a reason! A neck that comes out of the shoulder too high & with an exagerated underneck will invert to the point where the horses ears are level with your eyes, & it’s back resembles a hammock. No hammocks…I repeat, NO hammocks! With a quiet temperament, you may be able to rehab this conformation. But if you have a sparky horse who is constantly looking for tigers, he will spend most of his time sniffing the clouds. Undernecks are the devil of flatwork & jumping bascule, so they must be avoided at all costs!
    Short, thick necks can be very strong, but again, can be improved with correct work.
    Delta’s neck isn’t necessarily set on too low, but it is way too built up underneath, with little muscle on top. This reflects in two responses – a) her relaxed ability to stretch down (good), & b) her apparent need to fall on the forehand (not so good!). I will aim to build more muscle above the blue line, & in a curved arch.

    3. A sloping shoulder
    Shoulders say a lot about the way a horse moves – the more angle/slope, the longer/more elevated stride the front legs can take. A steep shoulder generally results in a choppy stride (which is great for pulling carts), & more jarring on the joints of the forehand. Aim for 45-55 degrees.

    4. Flat, straight knees & front legs.
    The leaning tower of Pisa is a worldwide phenomenon for a reason – nothing crooked should remain stable for long! Your horses legs are no different! If you stack wooden blocks in a vertical stack unevenly, it’s only a matter of time before the edges rub, maybe a corner chips off, & the whole structure becomes weakened.
    Knees which hyperextend (known as ‘back at the knee’), put a lot of strain on the tendon & the knee joint. Combine that with galloping & landing jumps, & you’re bound to run into problems with soundness later on.
    Standing at the front, drop a plumb line from the top of the forearm. It should fall down to the front of the toe, in the centre of the knee, cannon & pastern along the way.
    Movement should also follow this straight line for the same reason. Although.. I have seen younger horses begin with a mild paddling action, which straightens up as they work & develop.

    5. Hoof/pastern angle.
    This is critical!! Long toes = concussed heals, strained tendons & worn joints. A good farrier can correct & maintain this issue, & its up to you to keep an eye on hoof growth/condition. Don’t let feet get too long!! 45 degrees, & a dead straight line from the toe to the fetlock is imperative.
    I would also suggest an X-ray of the pedal bone to ascertain the exact angle, as unless your farrier has x-ray vision, you can’t tell from the outside.

    I’d prefer shorter pasterns in an eventer. Upright pasterns create more concussion as the pastern/fetlock joint is the shock absorber of motion. Long sloping pasterns can create more spring, which will be advantageous for dressage. For XC, this just means a longer lever which extends further (fetlock to ground), putting more strain on the tendons to prevent over extension.

    6. Hind quarter slope/angle.
    A sloping HQ with a good length ensures the ability to sit/lower the HQ’s, & pushing power. A short HQ lacks length of stride, & a flat HQ lacks the ability to lower & sit. Aim for around 25 degrees.


    7. HQ Symmetry
    From the side, drop a line from the point of the buttocks down to the ground. ideally, the hock & fetlock will be equal with this line. Hind legs that stand ‘out behind’ are more difficult to engage forward, & straight hindlegs that stand way under (straight behind) can lack the ability to spring & coil.

    From behind, a line dropped from the point of buttocks to the floor should go through the centre of the heel, with the hindlegs fairly straight. I don’t mind very mildly turned in hocks, as long as the feet don’t stand close together – this creates a narrow base of support, plus can cause brushing of the opposite fetlock.

    Hips & the sacroiliac joint asymmetry is the cause of many sore backs & uneven striding behind. This is really common in OTTTB’s. If your hips are uneven, your stride length, direction & strength won’t be matched, & will create a sore back from using muscles unevenly. Always check this!

    No! But you do need good basics! As I mentioned, eventers come in all shapes & sizes, & it can come down to trainability & heart. However, soundness is a big factor when we insist on galloping & jumping a lot, so you need to weight up the pros & cons.

    The D12WBBC – Designing the Program

    Designing a fitness program requires a lot of thought & detail. Things you will need to consider include:
    1. The facilities available to you.
    2. The amount of time you can dedicate to training.
    3. The time of day you’ll train (especially during winter when daylight hours are short).
    4. The horses’ soundness & any limitations on their training.
    5. The horses’ current condition, breed, age & experience.
    6. A nutritional plan to scale up/alter as the workload increases.
    7. A farriers plan to fit shoeing dates around competitions & change in seasons.
    8. Recovery strategies, therapists for different problems, & a good vet!
    9. Fitness Tech (ie, your HR monitor, GPS tracker, speed monitor).
    10. A big whiteboard with lots of coloured markers!

    You’ll need 3 things :
    – an arena (or flat area) to work on in all conditions,
    – some showjumps,
    – a hill, undulating track or paddock, a flat track/beach (I have a short steep hill of 100m, a longer less steep climb of 300m, & overall undulating track of 2km).
    – somewhere to XC school.


    Eventing is time consuming to train for, because of the 3 disciplines requiring different training set ups. If you’re lucky enough to have all the necessary facilities at home, less time will be spend floating to & from venues. Riding for 20 minutes 3-4 days a week is also not going to condition your horse to produce its’ best, so expect a minimum of 45-60 minutes, 5 days a week. Careful planning will help you organise your time efficiently – it’s all about being organised ahead of time.

    During the hotter months, do your fitness sessions in the morning to avoid a stressful effort & recovery in the heat, & watch the ground isn’t becoming too hard or stoney. Coming into autumn, daylight will be diminishing, & so will the warm weather, so horses take longer to dry off. There’s also less time at the end of the day to jump in natural light, & the ground may become slippery/boggy. As the seasons change, you’ll need to adjust your timing & possibly venues, so be prepared for plan B (& C!).

    This is possibly you biggest consideration. Every horse is different & it’s often a case of management, but an eventer will take a fair workload/pounding to produce! They are an athlete & should be treated as such – their body is made up of the same bone/soft tissue & organs as we are.
    There’s no point following a fitness program if it’s not suited to your horse. Soft tissue injuries may require harder ground, & arthritic joints may require softer going, so you need to consider your horses’ individual needs. Alternatives such as swimming, steeper hills or aqua treadmills can be very useful for such horses. This is why a gradual increase in work is so important – you don’t want to break your pony by doing too much too soon!
    One thing that is absolutely imperative, is a completely thorough knowledge of your horses’ legs, joints, lumps/bumps/scars, & normal way of moving/behavior. You need to be onto an abnormality, before you make it worse by working the horse or leaving it untreated. You’ll learn what to panic about (eyes!), & what to leave & watch for the next 24 hrs… don’t ever assume near enough is good enough!


    Younger horses & those getting fit for the first time, as well as older horses, will take longer to get fit. Younger horses may still be physically developing, whereas older ones degenerating, & both will require the right amount of prep so as not to break.
    Each breed also has its purpose – heavy breeds are bred for strength & not speed, so their bodies will work harder to carry their own weight, put more stress through their joints, & struggle with speed. They may however have a better temperament & be perfectly suited to lower level competition.
    Starting the season with good weight coverage on your horse is important if you intend on a busy competition schedule. Travel, overnight stays, galloping XC, & more work will quickly ‘tighten up’ a horses condition. They may need to knock weight off from a rest over winter, or keep weight on as the work increases.
    If you or the horse need to gain experience, then you just have to do the miles. You can’t beat time in the saddle, but be smart about how you do it. Choose the best surfaces, be diligent about recovery strategies, & do only as much as you need.

    The human fitness industry is saturated with various diet plans, & the horse world is no different! Regardless of your horses’ needs or your opinion, take the time to understand how your horses digestive system works, & the requirements of their body under the workload you’re expecting them to endure. Be prepared to alter their ration as the workload & seasons change, & try to keep it simple – this can be hard with specialised athlete requirements sometimes! You may need to feed 3 times a day, paste supplements they won’t eat, try different hays or pellets for fussy eaters.
    In my opinion, I always ask a nutritionist the how, where, why & whens of the suggested ration, which helps me to troubleshoot & make changes when required.


    This poor bloke will be on speed dial, & I suggest keeping the Nespresso at the stables to keep your farrier on-side! Your farrier is responsible for keeping you horse comfortable, alligned, & he needs to see the horse moving to really understand the mechanics of its movement, & he may also appreciate seeing an xray of the foot to ensure correct pedal bone angle. Stone bruises, stud holes, over reaches, sprung or pulled shoes, pads & a myriad of other variants to your shoeing will keep you out of Jimmy Choos & your horse in them!
    Look forward at all your proposed due shoeing dates, moving those that lie less than 4 days before a comp (make them earlier not later), make sure you ask the farrier to drill studs holes, keep the last set of shoes as spares for when out at comps, & make sure you trot the horse up for soundness after shoeing.
    This is the guy you need to have on your team!

    The closer you get to your end of season championship/CCI, the more calls you will make to your vet. Guaranteed. A great vet will help you manage all the niggles that eventing creates, & do the utmost with the horse you have. Ask questions. Be curious.
    Therapies may include physios, chiros, acupuncturists, bowen therapists, bio scan, massage, solarium, magnetic wraps, icing, poulticing, compression… the list is long & varied! Each horse will respond to different therapies depending on their issues, & the right one can be the saviour of your season. Research & practice things like bandaging for stabling vs exercise, icing post fitness work, warming & drying techniques for cold days, & healing pesky little rubs quickly.


    You can measure distance, time, but without a Heart Rate Monitor you can’t measure intensity. It’s my go-to piece of equi-geek-tech that I can’t do without! My phone (& Garmin 910XT HRM watch) can track a map of the workout (did you know a horse can do 15km’s in an hours lunging?!), show me the elevation, amount of turning, speed, as well as HR.
    A digital thermometer, set of scales (big ones for the horse, small ones for feed, & yes, a set for me too!), & deep freeze to keep bags of ice & ice boots frozen, will all make monitoring your horses progress a whole heap easier.

    Plan ahead. Write your schedule in December, to begin in January & cover the next 6 months. Of course there will be setbacks, delays, rained off training or comps, but a well planned program that leaves plenty of time for fitness & training. Work backwards from your key target event, add in comps, training days, lessons, fitness work days, farriers appointments, vaccinations, days off, entries close dates, weight, feed changes, & any other notables. You’ll be so organised even iCal will be envious!