Junk Miles

Thursday, April 14, 2016

I recently read a post by a seasoned endurance rider who was going over his conditioning plan and he mentioned avoiding junk miles

Junk miles are miles (for a horse in good condition) that serve no specific purpose and are counterproductive by physically wearing down or mentally frustrating your horse. 

I haven’t had to think too much about this through the winter because any miles served the purpose of keeping us moving and we weren’t competing. Now that we are headed toward two rides in short time span – a tough 30 and possibly our first 50, it’s a concept I’ve been considering. 

I had a shorter work day on Wednesday due to the end of my college teaching term. I had planned to get home at a reasonable hour in the afternoon and get out for a solo ride on Khaleesi. Also I haven’t ridden much in the afternoon/evening and was looking forward to a sunset ride. 

Then my week got filled and the day added up and I didn’t get home until 4:30 after a busy two days previous. 

Yes- I could have ridden a couple hours and come in after 8pm when last light is- but that would mean missing dinner. Again. 

I am rarely home mid-week for dinner. 

It’s not because my husband would pressure me… He is great about being on his own. But I like being home for dinner once in a while and getting to spend some time with him.

So that would mean a super short ride if I went… Tack up and be back in 90 minutes  or so. 

I thought about it. 

Where would we ride? No time to trailer…

What would we accomplish? 

Not distance in such short time…

Not mountain climbing- not enough time to really climb the mountain and return. 

Not speed either… By the time I got her into the mindset of moving along leaving the barn we would get so little time to really move I didn’t think it would truly build our speed quotient- and probably frustrate me. 

Purpose of short ride this afternoon:

– say I rode. (Check the box. Getting my riding days in)

– feel happy. (I like riding!)

Right now in our conditioning calendar that looked like junk miles to me. 

Monday we had a fabulous ride where we really clicked. We are doing well mentally. I didn’t need a short ride to keep me mentally in the game. It seemed after some thought that a rushed get-in-and-get-out ride with no specific purpose would be more counterproductive than some field time together. 

So I took the dogs to the barn, fed the girls and hung out in the field a little while. Faygo mostly hung back and ate grass but Khaleesi for the first time asked me to scratch her. She is not a touchy feely mare. She seems to communicate ‘no touch please’ when we work together and I rub her to reward her for doing the right thing. 

It was a conversation- she invited me into- and that was fun. She would put her neck right in front of me and I scratched and she would adjust slightly to say ‘now there…’

All the way back to the first days she spent with me if she turned her butt to me I took it as a sign of rudeness- but I’ve been learning no horse behavior necessarily has absolute meaning. Turning her butt to me could say ‘I would prefer to ignore you right now’ or it could mean ‘thanks for spending some non-agenda time with me, I like that. Would you scratch my butt?’ 

Knowing the difference is pretty important as well as deciding when it’s ok to say ‘yes, I would love to scratch your favorite spot’ and when it’s time to say ‘no, I would like you to work right now‘.

Either way I want a horse who communicates with me on a two-way street. One who knows I’m listening and will answer back fairly and with clarity. 

So yesterday I scratched her rump when she asked and she was on cloud nine. She doesn’t disrespect me- it’s a request. I may not always scratch her rear when she asks, but I think she preferred a scratching session to junk miles last night. 


PS: to clarify; any ride that doesn’t build mileage or speed or heat training or night riding etc.  isn’t necessarily junk miles for us. A casual trail ride with friends – allowing her to meander with some other horses- or a short ride to work on a training issue might be exactly what we need at some point. As with anything horse related……. It depends. 

Published by JaimeHope

Violin teacher and endurance rider living in a rural mountain county - one of the least population dense and without a single stoplight.

6 thoughts on “Junk Miles

  1. Jamie,
    Sounds to me like she is trusting you to be her “person” with everything now. Enjoy the bond, hope it grows.


  2. I have that battle with myself too…in our case, it is arena time. Monday I had every intent to ride in the arena, but the wind was so gusty at the barn that I decided it would not serve us in the right way. Tesla & I need to get a monkey off our back when it comes to working in an arena, and I felt I was setting myself up for what could be a counterproductive session in that instance (as our weekend long rides have been great). I made the choice to groom and just lunge instead, making sure he looked good in his movement, was paying attention, and not focused on getting back to the pasture/dinner versus my requests.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was talking with the lady I buddied up with for our 50 on Saturday, and the discussion of “junk miles” came up. She said her mentor advises against them as well. Like the trail rides with big groups of people where everyone meanders at a very slow walk.

    I admit I WILL do those, on very RARE occasions, and usually NOT during endurance season, and even then, I’m highly selective about which ones I go on. I do want my horse(s) to walk on a loose rein. To realize that EVERY ride isn’t about conditioning or “race day”.

    But, those big organized “trail rides” are torture for me now. I can’t stand that slow walking pace. Drives me crazy. Drives my HORSE crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes- I avoid huge organized rides as well – thankfully my local non-endurance friends at least have a decent pace to trail ride! I stay away from plodding (another riders called them ‘walkie-talkies’) death march style rides- that’s just never been fun for me even before endurance!


  4. I think this is such an important concept…”junk miles” could be the equivalent of “not drilling” when it comes to training horses in an arena. Knowing when “less is more” is such a challenge, don’t you think?

    Liked by 1 person

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