Wednesday, April 20, 2016
One last big training ride on Sunday took us 26 miles on a warm day in the mid-70s. Horses both did well and we kept our best training stats yet of 5.5 mph moving and 4.8 mph overall (includes stopping for water, munching grass etc).
Khaleesi is younger and stronger than Faygo although the old gray mare is still a great training partner for us and some adjusting after our vet visit has given her a little more ability to train harder which has helped her as well.
We do hold back for her on longer rides but it’s not a bad thing for Khaleesi right now to save some reserves for ride day.
I am glad to have run into Susan because she has made the training process more fun (a buddy always does) and yesterday as we were zipping along around 6-7 mph on some of my home trails that include ducking, slight detours and ground obstacles – after 20 miles in the saddle- I wondered who else would find this part as fun as I do?
It’s one thing to ‘move out’ on friendly terrain… Good footing, slightly uphill, open trail… But it’s another to be holding your speed up and down inclines having to keep your legs and head clear of branches and try to find the best footing you can.
We certainly slow down for dangerous terrain (slick pavement, hoof-turning rocks, open wood detours, steep downhills…) but if we can keep moving we keep moving.
The saying kept going through my head- the way to finish an endurance ride safely in good condition is “Never hurry, never tarry.” Always move if you can. If you need to slow down or take a water break always do it.
For 25, 30, 50 and more miles you have to be always ‘on’ deciding how fast you can move without stepping over the line into panicked rushing around or demanding more than your horse can or will willingly give. Either temps injury or a metabolic pull. Every minute, every mile counts. If you screw up (tarry) early on you could be forced to rush (hurry) later as the clock ticks on. That is never a good thing. Especially because my horse does not understand the clock ticking!
To excel at this sport you can’t waste a minute or an opportunity. You can’t miss an angle (hoof care, saddle fit, mental training, rider position, nutrition, heart rate, what you should carry with you- what you shouldn’t…) little room for error to be good at this. I guess that challenge is fun to me.
We rode that saying well on Sunday because we made good time with sound horses at the finish.
In answer to the inevitable question:
Yes, we took a ‘vet check’ rest around mile 13.
We stopped in the Jackson river after a few recent good water stops where Faygo splish-splashed her belly (and Susan). They ate 30 minutes straight of lush grass in a shady spot while we snacked. We went back into the river and electolyted them as well where they could drink more if they wanted and I rinsed their mouths too. Good news is they seem to like the enduramax recipe!
The weather was unseasonably warm for April and honestly took me unprepared. It snowed last weekend so though I wore a t-shirt, I didn’t have sunscreen and my liter bottle of water ran thin about half way through the ride.
Susan and I noticed a plethora of campers at poor farm a few miles off and I decided we’d check with them for a little water to refill. They were friendly and glad to spare a couple bottles. Water never tasted so good. I suppose we were doing an LD cavalry style- for the most part we were fine but some extra water and a crew at hidden valley would have been sweet!
I spent a decent amount of time in the past year worrying I had a slow poke horse but trying to remember to put her first in my training. Not to push her more than what she was mentally ready for no matter what my own goals were.
I am really pleased with her now as she is developing into a solid mover who runs with her ears forward (unless they are pinned at Faygo momentarily) and though she isn’t ready to take a first place yet- she is keeping a respectable 6-7 mph trot with a heart rate generally around 110 unless we are uphill, and her recoveries are fast.
With a young horse and me a green trainer I’ve been conservative with her with the hope confident slow steps would get us into less trouble. This meant I took a lot of time and jumped through some hoops before really asking her to pick it up. With the pieces falling into place (especially the mental part) I have begun asking for more specific speeds and she has been doing well working willingly together.
I always begin with my energy (which is fun when that works!) if not I use my leg but I won’t dull her with constant leg so in the off-chance she either doesn’t understand or isn’t in the mood to MOVE with more life- I use my leather rein tail and drive her by popping back and forth and though this is a last resort it is effective and the few times she and Faygo have collectively dawdled along this push has made all the difference.
For the long ride I rarely used my leathers and she picked up my energy willingly and also rarely tried her turn around trick.
My most recent SET lesson discussed what kind of leader your horse needs in terms of what kind of boss is effective. I work on being clear and encouraging without being patronizing. I want her to know I will listen to her questions and respect her input however I make the final decision. I want a partner where we both agree that I am the leader.
Right now that seems to be going well!
We kept at a pace for Faygo that would follow another rule I read in an AERC magazine. It said that you are probably working your horse appropriately if they show signs of being tired the last 10% of your ride. If they are tired much before that you have over-ridden them. If they don’t start to tire in your last 10% then you probably can push a little more.
Faygo was strong until the last couple miles when she was still wiling to move out but then would slow her pace and occasionally trip. We held back the last leg for her (till then our moving average was 5.7mph) and she looked great at the barn. Eyes still bright – both girls chomping at the grass until we could drag them in the barn for some beet pulp soup.
One thing I learned while scribing for a vet is what a horse who has been over-ridden looks like. Dull in the eyes and not interested in food and water, drags on the lead. I try to watch for early signs and they both snacked and drank well on the trail.
Thankfully Khaleesi is still having good even sweat patterns and I have removed the shim pad completely. I tested her back and was very happy at the minimal flinching that is a world away from her leatherwood finish (which was less miles than we rode Sunday!). I checked her Monday morning and she was still in great shape!