Bear Hollow Training

Wendesday, June 1, 2016

After two solid weeks off and some shorter rides to get back in the swing- she is rolling on ahead full steam toward our second and more challenging 50.

We did a fun ‘home brew’ LD over the weekend where I loaded up Kahleesi and Faygo in the morning with Susan and we rode 12.5 miles home then took a ‘vet check and hold’ while Susan traded horses and rode Levi with me and Khaleesi the 12.5 miles back to the trailer. 


girls get a lunch break as we get Levi ready for the second loop
Great day and fun ride. We finished the last hour in the rain but it was better than being hot and neither of us minded. 

We took it easy on both training partners but enjoyed the company. It was not a hard ride for K.

Susan enjoying Levi in the rainy finish as we pull into hidden valley: 25 miles in about 5 1/2 hours riding time

Today we went solo for a 19 mile mid-day heat climb to make me feel better about heading into the infamous OD next weekend. 

I love the ride I chose but was glad I didn’t bring any new friends along after riding it again. I am not sure if everyone would have enjoyed it as much as I did. It’s a good climbing-training ride, but hard to work up much speed and some of the sections have really overgrown.

The last time I did this ride was in February with Susan. It’s a whole different ball game alone this time of year. 

First Khaleesi and I left the property with the landscaping crew creating all types of noises and distractions. The trailer was near the main gate exit so it took some focus to push through the distraction. 

On the trail we had gotten less than 1/2 mile when the excitement began: a mama turkey was in the small 3 foot space between us and the farm fence and couldn’t take off well. It was a whole lotta noise and commotion closer than I like being to a crazed turkey on a young horse. Thankfully Khaeesi thought about spinning but realized she had no where to go and I faced her to the turkey as it worked itself into the air finally -practically on top of us. 

She’s solid- she handled it well and we moved on. 

I spent a good amount of time early on warming up working on that energized walk. Especially because my rough cut trail in and out is a one track obstacle course through the woods and hard to pick up much speed safely. 

I struggle with the balance of staying calm and release when she gets in rhythm yet keeping fast walk energy. If I’m too calm my energy doesn’t match the walk. Not nearly as simple as it seems for me.

She seems to feel so ‘heavy’ in the heat. 

And my trails are like a rain forest jungle lately. I know the snakes are out and we travel a lot of untraveled roads out there. Um- roads would be a stretch in most cases. 

As we made our way through thickening laurel, rhododendron and the clipped maze of berry briars I thought how fortunate I have been to not have encounters anything in my years of riding alone in very low traffic areas that have put us in undue peril. At least I’d told someone the basic route we were taking and was wearing my bright fushia spf cooling shirt that Ed gave me for my birthday last year.  

my bright shirt!

The one we tease the search and rescue helicopters couldn’t miss. 

Knock on wood. 

After making our way down the mountain we cut over to no mans land. The place in between the national forest and the hunt club. I had forgotten how lonely this area is. Like no other people have seen it in decades. I’m sure that’s not true- but on a Wednesday out of hunting season it sure feels like it. 

MOST of the parts I ride you can see the ground – so snakes should at least be visible. I discouraged K from random grazing in the Rocky overgrown areas near streams and runs. No need to temp fate with a cottonmouth. At least the rattlers generally warn us. They worry me less.

We make our way past the old car disintegrating in the woods and this part of the trail has many downs that are maneuverable but again make speed a challenge. Small pines mostly that we can step over or duck- but what becomes very apparent is that every (every) large rock on this trail is overturned. It’s kind of eerie to see so many of them. Scattered around are the poop piles. 

Bears. Definitely more than one and probably pretty recent. 


I’ve seen a few bear with Faygo. She freezes but then continues on with some extra snorting and sniffing- but I’ve yet to come upon a bear with Khaeesi. Considering how well she did with the turkey flying almost on top of us I give her a fighting chance of being fine- but we won’t know until we know. 

These overturned large rocks went on over a mile. At least. And I remembered we weren’t to the creepy-est section of the ride yet (why did I choose this one alone again?). It’s equally magical as it is eerie. 


magical yet creepy
beautiful tiny flowers

I think there may have been a home site there like 200 years ago- there a pretty periwinkles and little flowers, a run that always has water and it’s a sheltered pretty place. I would build a home there except it’s far from any road in or out now. 

We break into the field areas and I beg her to JUST KEEP MOVING!  She keeps lingering trying to grab a lush bite of something untouched. But I keep imagining a snake bite on her nose in the grass and a surprising a napping bear moving through the fields- forget baby fawns that could mean a mama popping out right in front of us. 

Short video going through the deserted meadow-woods
We make it through without incident and come out onto the 4- wheeler roads that I planned the ride around. They have a significant climb and are perfect for a last hill work out. 

The part I was thinking about when I chose this ride!

Some of the inclines are insanely steep- I ask for a power walk and at the top I stop and watch the HRM to see how she’s recovering.  It’s over 80F and humid and I am happy with what I’m seeing she’s back to 64 in less than a minute each time:

HRM short

Then we come to a gorgeous fern valley with a little spring where she finally drinks for the first time today. It’s like Jurassic park but without dinosaurs. Serene. 


Lots of downhill follow and she is not nearly as good as Faygo in technical downhills. If we go too fast she slips.  

We aren’t breaking any speed records today. 

Finally we get through the mountain parts and drop into the recreation area and its smooth sailing home. I pushed her- we ended up electrolying twice- right after the big climbs and then almost home when she drug me into a creek for a big drink. As the pace picked up she sweat more. 

She told me she was hot and this was hard but I asked her to keep it up. Generally speaking she’s not barn sour (sometimes I wish she was more I could use that!) but within a mile from the barn she began offering to canter at every opportunity. I knew you had more reserves! 

Overall on the way home we picked up a little mph but still hung around 5. 

We pushed harder the last mile and walked across the highway and by the time we got to the barn we were down. 

Like a stone a friend says of her heart rate. 

I’ve been riding her in the wide tree saddle and she definitely likes it better (I can see the difference in her attitude when I tack her up) I do too. The owner of Phoneix Rising said it’s pretty unusual for a horse to fill in and build so much top line they change a tree size. 

But then she added you’re not the average trail rider. 

We’re going to keep our eyes on it and for now I’m not really riding the two mares together so both are using the same saddle for the moment. 

My farrier showed up at 6:30 the next morning and after a little more energy than usual from her he asked when the last time I’d ridden her was?

We did 25 miles Monday then I did a 19 mile climb in the mid-day heat yesterday. 

Well you aren’t riding her hard enough <teasing… I think>

I know <kidding… Not kidding>

Rest up girl. In more words of wisdom from our farrier: the OD ain’t no glorified trail ride you know. 

I know. 

She’s ready. 

As she’s going to be!


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.

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