The core of Classical Equation is really the conditioning process. The conditioning process is start at birth and continues until the horse is mature around age six or seven. The conditioning process of a campaign horse starts with the correct zero to four maturation processes. The military was never able to replace the natural maturation process and noted the deficiencies when they were replaced. Today, we barely have the means to observe the natural maturation process, let alone study it.
From my observations a horse raised naturally has about 22,000 miles of travel and playing in rough terrain at four years of age. There is nothing that can replace this development in a horse.
When you start the conditioning process at age 4 it is important to know how the bones mature
Short pastern - top and bottom between birth and 6 months.
Long pastern - top and bottom between 6 months and one year.
Cannon bone - top and bottom between 8 months and 1.5 years
Small bones of the knee - top and bottom of each, between 1.5 and 2.5 years
Bottom of radius-ulna - between 2 and 2.5 years
Weight-bearing portion of glenoid notch at top of radius - between 2.5 and 3 years
Humerus - top and bottom, between 3 and 3.5 years
Scapula - glenoid or bottom (weight-bearing) portion – between 3.5 and 4 years
Hindlimb - lower portions same as forelimb Hock - this joint is "late" for as low down as it is; growth plates on the tibial and fibular tarsals don't fuse until the animal is four (so the hocks are a known "weak point" - even the 18th-century literature warns against driving young horses in plow or other deep or sticky footing, or jumping them up into a heavy load, for danger of spraining their hocks).
Tibia - top and bottom, between 3 and 3.5 years
Femur - bottom, between 3 and 3.5 years; neck, between 2.5 and 3 years; major and 3rd trochanters, between 2.5 and 3 years
Pelvis - growth plates on the points of hip, peak of croup (tubera sacrale), and points of buttock (tuber ischii), between 3 and 4 years.
A normal horse has 32 vertebrae between the back of the skull and the root of the dock, and there are several growth plates on each one, the most important of which is the one capping the centrum. These do not fuse until the horse is at least 5 ½ years old. The taller your horse and the longer its neck, the later the last fusions will occur. And for a male you add six months.
If you start a horse around age four or so, the natural maturation process pretty much takes care of the maturation of the bones.
The conditioning process is separate from the maturation process.
The cardiovascular system can be conditioned in six months.
The muscular system takes about a year.
The tendons and ligament systems take two years.
The joints take three years.
The bones take from two to four years.
When you are building a quality conditioning program, you start Slowest process first, the joints and bones and work from there. Since nature provides the best natural conditioning process for an immature horse, our process at to start around age four or five and continue for four years.
If you build the process backwards, you destroy the horse. The cardiovascular and the muscular system will develop first and destroy the tendons, ligaments, joints and bones. The issue is compounded when you improperly condition an immature horse.
There are three basic types of muscle fibers.
Slow Oxidative fibers (slow twitch) These are the aerobic muscles and support the horse and have a long fatigue cycle.
Fast Glycolytic fiber (fast twitch)
These are anaerobic muscles and have a short fatigue cycle.
Fast Oxidative/Glycolytic Fibers. (fog)(Programmable)
These muscles can be conditioned to assist either the slow twitch or the fast twitch muscles depending on how they are conditioned.
When you understand the complete maturation and conditioning issue, then it becomes clear that the programmable muscles have to be conditioned to support the slow twitch muscles if your goal is a long term working useful life.
The professional question here is what is the performance difference between conditioning the programmable muscles to assist the slow twitch muscles verses the fast twitch muscles.
I spent four years conditioning my horse Peppy with a heart rate monitor to see how far performance wise you can take the slow twitch and the programmable muscles. It is a lot of riding, but when you do it, you realize that training the programmable muscles with the slow twitch muscle actually increases the functionality of the fast twitch muscles. Think of the slow twitch and the programmable muscles as the diving platform and the fast twitch muscles as the dive itself.
The issue is the correct conditioning process is difficult to achieve and maintain. Winters in Wyoming make it difficult to keep that conditioning base and there is a lot of riding, about 30 miles a week to keep a horse in good shape.
I do not see any way to keep a horse in condition without and extensive outdoor riding program and the better the condition, the more stressful the terrain has to be. It is holes, ruts, and ledges and hills the stress the body far more than any exercise man can design.
For time frames, I generally do a year at a walk before I move to the trot and gallop. I do this in the context of Calm Forward and straight, and do not exceed my horses confidence which I am also building at the same time. With Smoky, the confidence has slowed down the conditioning process, but confidence has to lead conditioning in an outdoor horse.
From the base of Calm Forward and straight I move into jumps and circles. At this point in time the bones and joints are conditioned and they can support the campaign stage of conditioning.
Since I have been working on the education process at the primary focus of my horsemanship, I have not had time to work in the upper levels.