The Irony of Ride Season

Monday, June 6, 2016

…..so wait a minute. Let me do the math here… I spend all winter riding my horse as much as possible even when it’s not fun and then we finally come out of the cold and get into ride season, and if I do one 50 mile ride per month with a week of rest going in and going out….

I only get to ride my horse like 2 weeks out of each month and not without breaks in between conditioning rides in that window. 

Look at the bright side… At least I have some time to work in the garden now. This could be good for my home life… 

Hope to see some life in here soon!

And it’s given me the chance to help get some friends’ horses in shape for summer riding (so they can keep up with us when we can ride). I’ll have some more time for Faygo although she has developed quite a fan club and I’m happy with the regular riders who are enjoying her and that is going well right now. 

But spending so much time working together with Khaleesi has really bonded us and of course I want to ride her every day! So it’s ironic that this very sport that has helped inspire that relationship also has taught me that you can over work a horses joints and body and wear them down physically and mentally. 

Thankfully I’ve got some new work for us on the ground and this we can do everyday even for 30 minutes or so just to spend some time together and continue the bond and also our education.

step that front leg over

Lately I am working on how to more accurately and lightly move Khaleesi’s shoulder or hind separately.
hind end- cross over please

I also have a pretty decent leading game but I want her back ups to have better response and move with some life. She has only one back up speed and it is plodding. I would like her to back up with some speed if I ask her to, similar to how I’ve been asking her to move forward with some life but without trotting/jogging. 
Rainy Sunday spent in the barn with smaller space working on pivoting the hind around the fore



I have become addicted to working with her- not just because I want to be able to get better at these fundamentals that will solidify everything we do- but because through my Simple Equine Teaching virtual lessons I’m learning how to read my horse, what I’m seeing when I look at her, what it means, how to get the subtle signs of equine language BEFORE she feels  she has to yell her communication to me (dumb human) because I’m not trying hard enough to hear the whispers, andhopefully WAY before she shuts down completely to believing humans even care to hear. 

I’m enjoying the deeper bond that comes from learning how to ask the same way and release at just the right moment. It’s one thing to understand the concept, most people with horses do, and another thing to practice it, set up video and watch painfully as I miss opportunities (when is she processing and I’m too quick to move on and when is she resting and she looks away distracted and I lost her to boredom in that split second) and then I forget which way my palm is supposed to be on the lead rope: yes. That does make a difference. 

I am improving! Even though I felt like there were many wasted moments, when I went through some clips frame by frame it was hard to find examples of her truly not paying attention to me.

I want to be a good teacher- but since my horse is already good at being a horse I am trying to teach myself. 

Consistency and timing. 
Leadership but without force. 

Know the difference between taking time to think– geting ready to try and blowing me off and needing increased pressure. 

Not asking so much she gets confused, not so little she gets bored.


What this time together has done is prove I’m trustworthy as a leader. I love how when we are ready to work she gives me her full attention and asks: ok- what are we doing today?

I’ve reflexed back recently to a conversation I had with a friend at least a year ago who said it was fortunate for me I ended up with a compliant horse who basically willing and didn’t pose much challenge. 

At the time I wholeheartedly agreed. 

Lucky me. 

But in the past year of learning I can see my strength and weakness and have learned about my horse and horsemanship. I am going to take a little more credit for the work we have done together and acknowledge that Khaleesi is not an ‘Earth’ type easy going mellow horse. She is also not a ‘Water’ Arab who has to be in constant motion- but she has a confidence and strong opinions. She is not the suffer in silence type- she is a good mirror of any mistakes. She is Arab-Saddlebred-Racking Horse (all strong minded breeds) with 1/4 Walker which gives a little calm spirit in the mix. No matter what she is a horse and something told me to seek a new path than I’d known when I started her and though I didn’t know a lot- I somehow knew to put in the leadership energy she needed as a horse to convince her I was strong enough but not forceful, I would not get emotional when things weren’t working, I would pay attention to what she needed to communicate but not be easily swayed to do what she wanted without good reason, I would NEVER put her in a situation she was not ready for- I believed the horseman who said you make a winner out of your horse and they will make a winner out of you. 

I didn’t have all the tools yet but somehow the seed was there and I sought them out in every corner I saw a shadow or glimpse. 

Now I am still at the bottom of a hill to learn and climb – so make no mistake I’m not bragging of my brilliance – but I will take some credit for the time and love and energy I’ve put into starting this horse who has become my best friend. 

I love when she’s taking a moment in between and I have totally let the energy go out of my body and she yawns and licks because we did something right together. 




Then sometimes at the end of that process she will lower her head closer to me and breathe so deep in and out it is low and rich and feels like the breath of the earth. 


At that moment I am her comfort, her leader and her friend. I want to build on those until we are that team. That is how we get to 100.

We also get to 100 by getting every other detail right. 

It’s going to be hot at the OD on Saturday and it’s Virginia so I’m going to assume humid. I have debated a trace clip before and wish I’d had (Biltmore) and this time I decided to try. I’m getting better with the clippers though I’m not salon quality yet. Bottom line I don’t have a self-cooling pure Arab, this will help her in the heat. 


Next is the saddle and back plan. After riding some tough workouts in the Phoneix Rising wide tree her back is perfect. Not a flinch or a rub. Not a misplaced hair or dry spot. She fidgets less when I put it on. I’ve ridden in it enough to have changed out the fenders for leathers and adjusted my stirrups to suit me.  It’s the saddle I plan to use in the OD. 


Last is fluid in the rear leg joints. It’s not bad and she’s not lame. After Biltmore she filled up in her joints- not enough to cause a vet check issue. Enough to make me wonder what I can do to help lessen it. I asked my farrier about lower impact rubber shoes that are becoming more popular and he gave me this brilliant and insightful advice (love my farrier): it’s because of the nature of extreme riding you are doing – that’s what causes it. Have you been rubbing down her legs? Try a poultice?

No.

I cold hosed a little but not at Biltmore, we didn’t have a hose. 

I had wondered about ice boots or cold therapy but had enough other bigger concerns that I just hadn’t worried- her joints filled last fall and took a month or so to clear up but it hasn’t reappeared until the 55 miler. Two vets said its ok- it’s not a lameness issue, and she just might be built that way- it might happen in extreme work. 

Just think if you ran a marathon he added you would be better off if you stretched or got a massage right?

Right.

So better late than never I picked up a cooling clay poultice and gave her a leg rub twice in the past few days and left it on to draw out impurities and excess fluid. 


I think it’s helped and they are a little firmer in the joint already. I will definitely rub her legs to increase circulation this weekend- in the holds and poultice after the ride. 

Meanwhile I’m hitting the gym a little more and hoping to be sure I’m for the challenge. A fit rider who can stay strong and balanced longer in the saddle will help as well. 

2 thoughts on “The Irony of Ride Season

  1. Great article. I think that finding that balance between enough conditioning but not overtraining is a tough one– sort of both art and science. My mare is older now and she has a lot of miles on her– literally and figuratively– so it is topmost on my mind, too!

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