World of Showjumping
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Ten training tips from Oakland Stables: How to keep your horses show ready...When there are no shows

Wednesday, 15 April 2020
Training tips

Photo © Four Oaks Creative Darragh Kenny offers an inside look into the current at-home training routine Oakland Stables follows to keep not only their horses in top shape, but also themselves, during these unprecedented times. Photo © Four Oaks Creative.


Text © Four Oaks Creative, written by Callie Clement



During this extended time of uncertainty due to the vast effects of COVID-19, many horsemen and women are struggling with the same question: “How do I keep my horses fit, mentally and physically, during this downtime?”. As horse show after horse show continues to be cancelled or postponed, the equestrian world is left wondering when the circuit will pick back up. In the meantime, athletes and their horses of all levels must stay fit so when the world is given the green light again, we can all gradually get back to normal life. 

Together, world no. 7 ranked rider Darragh Kenny and American show jumper Hardin Towell own and run Oakland Stables, a worldwide training and sales operation with bases in California, Florida and the Netherlands. The pair offered an inside look into the current at-home training routine they follow to keep not only their horses in top shape, but also themselves, during these unprecedented times.


1. Weekly routine

“All of our Oakland horses and our students stick to a weekly routine that we believe keeps them in the best shape mentally and physically. Our horses’ weeks have been adjusted now to be in flatwork 4-5 times a week, with one day off, and one day with just trail riding. It’s important they all stay fit but they don’t need to be pushing themselves during this really uncertain time.”

- Hardin Towell


2. Gymnastics

“We try to do gymnastics two times a week so we can keep our horses fit without putting too much pressure on them. One gymnastic that we use a lot is four verticals in a row with a canter pole in between each fence. We put about three and a half meters between each pole and vertical.”

- Darragh Kenny


3. Focus on flatwork 

“Try doing as many dressage and flat lessons as possible during this down time. This is a great time to take the effort to learn as much as possible, and there is a lot to be learned through proper dressage lessons. It’s a good way to keep everyone motivated because with the stage we’re in now there is no answer to when we’ll be showing again. These different lessons keep everyone working on their horses and improving without jumping too much.”

- Darragh Kenny


4. Interval training

“One way to keep flatwork interesting is to do a bit of interval training with your horse. Start with five minutes of trotting to two minutes of walking and then mix it up. This is a good way to build up fitness over time as you work on consistent pace and transitions.”

- Hardin Towell


5. Switch it up

“We try to ride them twice a day every third day to keep their fitness up when they’re not in the show ring so much. We would rather work them 30 minutes twice a day than 45 minutes once a day. This is a better system in our minds to get them a bit more fit without putting too much pressure on them. ”

- Darragh Kenny


 Photo © Four Oaks Creative “One way to keep flatwork interesting is to do a bit of interval training with your horse," Hardin Towell tells. Photo © Four Oaks Creative.

6. Leave the ring

“It’s important to keep things interesting for your horse, so something we try to do at Oakland a lot is use the gallop track. This is a great way to help improve our horses’ fitness without them having to be in the ring jumping all the time. A workout usually entails five minutes of a high tempo canter then transitioning to five minutes of walking. Switch directions and continue that pattern. It’s important for the horses to get out of the ring in a lot of ways.”

- Hardin Towell


7. Take off the tack

“Right now our horses in Europe are getting on the water treadmill as much as possible. We usually have them spend 15-20 minutes on it about 2-3 times a week. Tools like that are a great way to take the pressure off of the horses but keep them in excellent shape.”

- Darragh Kenny


8. Consistency 

“Something that is really important during this time is maintaining consistency. In the same way you wouldn’t go out and run 10 miles without conditioning up to that level first, don’t expect your horse to respond well to inconsistency in their workload. Don’t work them intensely one day and then give them three days off. Maintaining a consistent schedule for them is important, especially once we near the end of this period and start to horse show again - don’t get too excited and work them too hard.”

- Hardin Towell


9. Set realistic goals 

“Another thing to keep in mind is that you have set different goals for different horses when it is time to get back to showing. Make a good plan for your horses that reflects how they will succeed best. Our older and more seasoned horses need to be ready to jump some big classes right off the bat, while our younger horses don’t need to rush into that. So we’re setting our training goals to base off of those kinds of situations.”

- Darragh Kenny 


10. Keep yourself fit

“Keeping yourself fit is one of the best favors you can do for your horse. While it might not be possible to go to a gym right now, you can still find ways to stay fit yourself during this stretch of downtime.”

- Hardin Towell


No reproduction without permission, copyright © Four Oaks Creative


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