Long Term Equestrian Development

What is LTAD/LTED?

Long-Term Athlete Development (LTAD) is a systemic approach being developed and adopted by Equestrian Canada (EC) to maximize a participant/athletes potential and involvement in our sport. The LTAD framework aims to define optimal training, competition and recovery program model based on biological age rather than chronological age. It is athlete centered, coach driven and administration, sport science and sponsor supported.

By tailoring an athlete’s/participant’s sports development program to suit basic principles of growth and maturation. especially during the ‘critical’ early years of their development, enables him/her to:

• Reach full potential (introduction to Olympic podium)
• Increase lifelong participation in Equestrian and other physical× activities
• Improving health and well-being

This framework will set out recommended training sequences and skills developments for the participant from the Active Start stage (6 and under) to the Active for Live Stage (adult recreational). It will address the physical, mental, emotional and technical needs of the athlete as they pass through each stage of development.   We encourage you to read through the following menu items at the left for a complete picture of Long-Term Athlete Development, in addition to downloading the backgrounder.

Click here for the EC Backgrounder for LTED

Building LTAD/LTED Framework

EC commenced work on its LTAD model and framework for equestrian in 2005 when a Project Workgroup was appointed. Our work is well underway and we will be will be consulting with a wide range of coaches, sports scientists and experienced volunteers from across Canada to ensure our work represents the views of the whole equestrian community. Their knowledge and expertise will be used as input to form the LTAD framework for equestrian sport in Canada. We will be assisted in this process by the LTAD Resource Paper and research of the expert group, in particular Charles Cardinal.

EC will be conducting data collection and a review of available research to test the existing programs and to make recommendations on optimal systems and programs. They will be seeking the collaboration of provincial/territorial equestrian organizations and local equestrian communities to make sure they have as comprehensive a system as possible.

In developing this model and framework, EC is currently in the process of reviewing their programs in line with LTAD principles. Their competition program, coach education system, elite structure and development initiatives will all evolve to be consistent with the principles established within this underpinning model.

For the Competition Review Click Here

One of the principles to be adopted will be a continuous improvement regime where the system will be benchmarked against the most current developmental principles and upgraded regularly. It will be a living document that provides a planning framework to enable us to always deliver the most appropriate training.

Key Factors
The first step to finding a solution and further advancing equestrian sport in Canada is an understanding of the 10 key factors influencing LTED and its application to equestrian sport.

The 10 key factors are:

1) 10 Years to Reach the Top

1 (200)Research shows that achieving the highest level of performance takes approximately 10,000 hours of training over 10 years

What does this mean for equestrian athletes? Access to horses, coaching, and facilities at the right time are crucial. Time and money have to be invested, and the support of parents is essential, at least for young athletes. Since tremendous effort and motivation are needed, a realistic strategic plan and pacing are musts. Relaxation and recovery principles, long overlooked, have to be built into training for sustained commitment over the long haul.

2) FUNdamentals

2 (200)Everyone needs to develop FUNdamental movement skills, motor skills, and basic sport skills before puberty. Together, these skills add up to physical literacy. They are best learned through safe, fun and active participation in games in both structured and unstructured environments. Equestrians aged 6 to 9 often miss out on the FUNdamentals unless parents and coaches make sure they are active in other sports. Coaches can help by planning fun activities on and off the horse to develop athleticism and challenge physical and mental boundaries.

3) Equestrian Early or Late Specialization

3 (200)While equestrian sport has elements of both early and late specialization sport, overall, it can best be described as an early start, late specialization sport.

Riders need an early start so they can learn to sit and follow the horse in balance while they are developing suppleness, which means before the age of 10. Between the ages of 8 and 14, riders need to develop their overall motor control in the context of riding. As teenagers, they develop the level of intellectual and emotional maturity required by the rider-horse relationship and can then begin the Learning and Training to Compete stage.

 4) Developmental Age

4 (200)In sport, the calendar age of a child is less important than the degree of his or her physical, mental, and emotional maturity – the developmental age.

Children of the same calendar age can differ enormously in their level of maturation – the structural and functional changes in their bodies as they grow into adults. Coaches should design training and competition programs that match the individual readiness of their young athletes.



5) Windows of Trainability

5 (200)Sports scientists have identified five physical capacities that are crucial for athlete development: stamina, strength, speed, skill, and suppleness. These are often referred to as the 5 Basic S’s of Training and Performance.

Each of these capacities is trainable throughout an athlete’s lifetime. However, during the growth and development process, there are windows of optimal trainability of the 5 S’s in order to achieve a significant gain.



6) Developing the Athlete as a Whole Person

6 (200)A major objective of LTED is taking all aspects of personal development into consideration. Thus, training, competitive and recovery programs should consider the physical, mental, cognitive, and emotional development of each athlete.




7) Planning and Periodization

7 (200)Simply put, designing a yearly plan is time management. It means planning the right activities with the adequate degree of difficulty and in the right sequence to reach the training and competition objectives sought.





8) Calendar Planning for Competition

8 (200)Planning the competition calendar is an essential ingredient in an equestrian’s development. The fact that equestrian is an individual sport means that individual competition schedules can be designed by the coach and the equestrian to match the individual athlete’s development needs.





 9) System Alignment and Integration

9 (200)All parts of the system supporting equestrian sport are affected by LTED. To advance the sport, the interconnected parts must work together as an effective overall system. Some of the key players involved in equestrian sport are:

• Athletes (riders/horses)
• Coaches
• Parents
• Officials

10) Continuous Improvement

10 (200)Continuous improvement ensures that,

a) LTED responds and reacts to new scientific and sport-specific innovations and observations and is subject to continuous research at every stage of athlete development and in all fields of studies.

b) LTED, as a continuously evolving vehicle for change, reflects all emerging facets of physical education, sport, and recreation to ensure systematic and logical delivery of programs to all ages.


 Stages of LTED

100Long-Term Equestrian Development (LTED) is a systemic approach being adopted by EC to maximize the potential of participants and athletes in our sport. The LTED framework defines optimal training, competition, and recovery programs based on biological age rather than chronological age.

LTED sets out recommended training sequences and skills development for everyone – from under 6 to over 60. It addresses the physical, mental, emotional, technical, and tactical needs of athletes as they pass through each stage of development.



For a detailed version of the different stages of development please click here.

 Athletes with a Disability 

awad(300)The stages of the able-bodied LTED represent the average range of ages at each stage for nondisabled individuals. Individuals with a disability, particularly those with an acquired disability, may pass through the stages at significantly different rates and at a greater speed since their experience before acquiring a disability (rather than chronological age) becomes an important factor.

Many AWADs (Athletes with a Disability) require equipment or facilities adapted to take full advantage of their athletic ability and to minimize the sport-performance impact of their disability. In addition, some AWADs require personal care support, interpreters, and other personnel not required in able-bodied sport.

Athletes who retire from Para-equestrian competition need to be encouraged to remain involved in equestrian sport as a coach, instructor, official, mentor, volunteer, and participant.

Note: Specific disabilities may advance or slow development for any given chronological age.



Below are some useful resources for parents, participants, athletes, coaches, etc. Please note that these documents are generic and not sport specific. Document Downloads

AEF LTAD Implementation Plan:


Resource Videos:

Resource Documents:

Information Booklets:

New long-term athlete development (LTED) reference guides specific to each discipline:

For more information on LTAD, visit their website at www.ltad.ca