Rider Training

Friday, February 6, 2015

I have focused mostly here about training and conditioning the horses but I have been thinking hard about the fact that an endurance ride also means conditioning and training of the rider. Me. I’ve read a ton about what I need to do to get my horse ready, but I’m not completely sure what will make me most fit to finish the ride healthy. 100 miles and over 12 hours on a horse sounds exciting, but given a horse today that could do the distance- could I do the distance? What would be my weakness that I’m not aware of having never ridden that long at one time?

I ran a marathon the year I turned 30- I’m aware of the need for discipline and mental toughness. I know that a large part of preparing myself for this ride is mental; physical training helps to build mental resolve along the way. Also, I realize that many people get off and walk or jog miles of the race to give their horse a break and to move their legs, so being able to run a few miles during the day will be vital.

There is also the issue of weight. Water, fat, muscle- sure more weight in muscle means I’m more healthy than if it is fat, but in the end my horse would still prefer I lose the pounds I gained last holiday season. When I registered for AERC, I had to sign up for a weight class (Lightweight, rider and tack weight is 160 to 185 pounds). I assume I will have at least 20 pounds in saddle and tack. Right now Faygo’s saddle weighs 21 pounds alone- that doesn’t include any other tack. I’d like to get Khaleesi a lightweight saddle, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Me... running my 6 miles at the gym before barn time
Me… running 6 miles at the gym before barn time

Thus, for now I’m taking the cold mornings and heading to the gym trying to cross train (though mostly cardio types) climbing, rowing, elliptical, and treadmill make up my week hoping to lose a few pounds and also stay fit. I hope to interject some yoga when I get the opportunity to continue to work on strength and flexibility as well. Since I’ve gotten more serious again and started making better food choices and drinking more water I have lost a couple pounds but yes, even more important for now, I feel better physically.

This morning I ran 6 miles on the treadmill and when I get bored or tired I try to imagine dusk on the trail, many miles left to go and riding in some beautiful place heading into the darkness with my horse knowing we are still going strong. Cheesy, absolutely, but it keeps me going. It is important to work on mental imagery that will help me when I really am riding in the dark, tired after a lot of miles, and be my own cheerleader – remembering back when in a cold winter I ran miles on the treadmill in anticipation of the honor to ride in an endurance event.

Keep going…….

In the afternoon I went to pick up the girls.

I ran 6 miles… now your turn! Let’s GO! yeah!!!

Girls in mid-afternoon nap mode
Girls in mid-afternoon nap mode

They were laying in an old hay pile half asleep.

They were not as pumped about our goal as I was.

They did get up and come into the barn however- grain is a great motivating factor!

Khaleesi’s new hoof boots came (well they are used- gotta love ebay!) but new to us, and fit great. I’d put the boot on to continue to try to heal her sole/bruise and it was looking pretty good. Fed them, cleaned them up, saddled and now they have matching boots for the trail. The weather wasn’t too cold today, feet protected… we’re set…

Here’s a quick video of her walking with two boots for the first time- you might notice that one foot (her Left) is the one with the bruise and she’s had the boot on that foot for a couple of days already. Her Right is new to her, so the Left walks normally while the Right is a bit off at first. Of course she figures it out and is fine in a few minutes.

Let’s Go!

Though I do think Khaleesi liked the foot protection- she seemed to have a slightly better pace and didn’t have to pick so carefully through footing, she is still the anchor horse. I reminded myself that these are her first real rides, she is building muscle, working tendons, ligaments, joints, the mental ability to focus on a trail ride for over and hour. I have to remember she is still NEW to this. We basically go her pace, which is on average 3.2mph. Considering our average speed a week ago was about under 3mph this is a slight improvement! just realizing this as I write….

ok… i’ll that that… any incremental improvement is good!

We rode about 4.6 miles which isn’t terrible (not the 6 I ran that morning myself though girls… really, you have 4 legs and are meant to cover ground!) then we stopped as usual to work at the farm. I decided to take a break from our habituation pattern and we never go into the arena today- we make a change. I walk her in the big field first and then hop on. We ride in the big field, big squares [well, kind of squares, we still don’t have straight lines down so well. We do zig zags.]

Our steering is like:

Jaime: We’re going to head for that pole

Khaleesi: I want to head for the gate to visit Faygo

Jaime: Nope- the pole

Khaleesi: the gate

I put a very short video of us trot trotting back to the camera after a zig zag back from the pole. I left the end on because I like the moment where I take her back to the camera spot, I ask her to step over (AND SHE DOES!) and stands while I pick up the device and work the video setting for a moment.

All in all We have a nice ride. Still in the comfort zone, but at some point — I am not even sure what I was thinking or about to do — I was in a drift for a moment I guess……………. all of a sudden I am airborne and pop back down in the saddle- slightly brushing the horn with my thigh (that horn comes off today) and am like WHAT WAS THAT? there’s a little buck action and then we’re stopped again.

What I think happened is that Khaleesi started to slip her back feet in some mud while we were on the fence line and her back foot hit the wire fence and she did a little panic and it felt like her rear end was bucking. Or she was “done” playing with me in the field and thought she’d see if she could dump me and head for the grass. Honestly I’m not completely sure what happened it was so fast. What the end result was though- I did not fall off, and I made her walk around that area a few more times before we wrapped up – she was resistant of that area now. I wanted to be sure that if she slipped she didn’t have a phobia about that place (the footing wasn’t bad, but there were two slip marks in the grass where we were) it was a freak thing. And if she bucked me she realized that was not going to get her what she wanted either.

All in all a good day, but I need a Faygo day now. We are both a little tired of dragging the anchor horse around, and if I’m going to start AERC events with Faygo- she needs some real miles and we need to do some of them alone. Saturday is Faygo-day. I’m going to see what kind of miles on a mild winter day we can tack on and at what reasonable speed we move, and how she does, what kind of shape she’s in today. She may not be excited about it, but I am. A day with my first love….

looking over at Faygo eating grass, and Linus waiting for us to finish
looking over at Faygo eating grass, and Linus waiting for us to finish

Epilogue:

Saturday Faygo and I did take a ride together. We did 7 miles at a moving pace of about 4.3mph, total average 3.6mph (including stopped times). She walked out nicely, but she gets very hot heading home, this is fun to ride, but she’ll kill herself before she slows down. At one point at the top of a hill I had to get off her for a minute so she wouldn’t prance, dance and toss her head while heaving away. (Also I needed to check my GPS as I wasn’t exactly sure where we were). I don’t know what her heart rates are, or how her recovery is and I’m curios to see that data for her. That is my biggest concern, she has huge ‘heart’ and she would die trying to finish (get back to the trailer!). I need to work on pacing her and being sure she can clear a checkpoint. I think we can figure this out- I have a heart rate monitor on order for her.

It was a lovely afternoon just the two of us. Sunday is supposed to be gorgeous… not sure what I have in store for that day yet….

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