Lessons.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Last post (Miracle) I went through the miracle part of my weekend– hoof boots that held up to an OD ride!

Now for the lessons…

As I trotted across the finish line under the lights at 7:25pm (with a cutoff time of 7:30) my triumphant words to the gracious volunteers that had to stick it out just because of me in the dark and cool evening were: in case there was any doubt, rider 520 is indeed alive!

Leading up to this ride was a little different than before. I think it’s due to the fact that the last ride I prepped for was a 100 and compared to the mental energy and preparation to ride 24 hours going into a 50 somehow didn’t seem so big anymore.

I packed carefully but not overly so. I didn’t worry about having every little thing I MIGHT need… it’s just a longer trail ride- I can make due.

I didn’t overthink- Dale would be proud of me!😁

The morning of the ride I did spend some dedicated quiet time asking for a little extra help: God grant me the wisdom to make wise decisions today, help me recognize if I let my goals get ahead of my horse! Keep my mare safe and healthy today. Help me to ride the trail in front of me and stay present. Also- I would like to complete the ride but if you have a greater lesson in store- I’ll take that instead. Help me do my best.

I started out of camp a couple of minutes after the controlled start left. I took my time getting tacked up and the boots took a few more extra minutes than I’d anticipated. I do tack slow and methodically. It’s just who I am.

Leaving behind the group was fine. I wanted to connect with my mare and keep us a herd of two and not running with a pack.

I insisted she take the first mile or so at a real walk and not trotting. I do believe a warm up matters to help the joints especially in the cool morning – and I hadn’t made time to do one before start.

Lesson #1: get better time management on ride mornings to get some walking in camp to warm up. I would have liked to have used some of the first mile or two of the open trail to move out but not on a ‘cold’ horse. We had enough terrain coming ahead to walk not to waste time walking the first section that was fine for trotting on a fresh horse who was motivated to go.

A note about how this also worked well for me: my own ‘controlled start’ was good for us mentally. I believe it did serve to connect her mind to me instead of wandering with the horse herd. For the long haul I do want a horse that is with me and not only willing to go with a herd or a buddy. That’s a bit of a challenge sometimes. <


it was a gorgeous morning on a beautiful trail. The sun was shimmering through the trees coming over the first mountain and we had a beautiful view of the river on the low road that reminded me of looking over the Tweed in Scotland.

<<
>she moved well through the first loop even along rocky trail (short video in the boot recap blog Miracle) and my boots stayed


we trotted a lot of the low sections and I was pleased to see her heart rate hanging between 80-110.

I got off to do the steepest of the climbs right before the ridge and as I was getting back on another rider approached from behind. She was also not pushing her horse through the rocks so she opted not to pass me and we rode the ridge together (the only part of the ride we had company for) we would trot as many steps as we had good trail then come back to a walk for the rocks.

At the end of the ridge we began to catch a few riders on the turn downhill back toward camp. Khaleesi got excited at both elements (other horses ahead, and home) so she picked up speed. I allowed her to motor down the dirt trail and she’d slow in the rocky sections (all good). On the gravel road that connects to camp road she was happy and forward and trotted that whole downhill. At some point she twisted the front boot and at the camp road I got off, fixed it and walked into the vet check on foot.

Pulled tack and pulsed immediately. I believe her cardiac recovery (CRI) was 54/54. All around she had As except the vet thought she saw evidence of lameness in left hind.

She held our rider card and told us to check her out and come back. It might be something in a boot?

I removed her boots and we checked her legs and feet. All seemed good. I trotted her barefoot and she was fine. Took her back for a vet recheck barefoot and she was ok to go.

Me & K with Lynne – my official mentor at the crew area.


I believed she was ok or I wouldn’t have taken her back out. But a seed was planted in my mind. Something to be aware of. That process cost me 10 extra minutes in the hold that put me going out last, alone, and considering I also had a nagging concern for her feet and potential lameness I didn’t push her and we stayed last and alone the remaining 32 miles.

In the second loop I noticed she was willing and happy to trot uphill but she slowed significantly on downhills. As I paid attention I believe I got my next lesson:

Lesson #2: no matter what the mare says, don’t let her go so fast on the downhill gravel road! At this point I’m pretty sure it was something she did on that gravel downhill that caused her some discomfort and made her slightly off at the trot out.

So I allowed her to walk the downhills (eek- that cost us some time!) and trotted uphills but then didn’t push on the rocky stuff. And there’s a lot of rocky stuff! This gave me a very slow loop 2 average under 5mph.


my favorite moment of loop 2 was crossing a really beautiful stream and I let her stand there in the water for a while and eat some greens at the edge. I dipped my sponge and wet her neck with the cool stream. I got off to secure a front strap on a boot (not a big deal but a good time to get off and check it) we both enjoyed an unhurried moment to cool off in the serenity of the afternoon.

Reflecting on this a couple days later- this moment was one of the joys of riding alone. I don’t know if many other riders would have wanted to wait as long there considering how far behind we were running. It may not have been ‘wise’ on the clock, but at the time it was what my horse asked for and worth it to me. I doubt we would have done that if we were not riding alone. It would have been a very sensible request from a buddy to move along sooner. <<<<<<<<<
day for fall and her coat is pretty thick already. I did a trace neck clip but still- the afternoon riding was harder due to her winter coat without question. She's thicker skinned already than the arabs and during this loop her breathing was definitely harder and her heart rate higher than the cool morning.

I felt she was basically ok on this loop but still depending on the diagonal and my riding she would sometimes trip slightly, land harder on one side… super minor things that now had my antennae up. I absolutely got paranoid in this loop and probably created small issues with my obsessing.

We passed two radio spotters and 'ambulance' trailers in that loop and both times I asked myself: are we ok? Is she better or worse? Each time I looked for a sign we should quit and get hauled back – wondered if I was taking her unsound up the mountain making a big mistake. Each time I heard that voice tell me it's ok- keep going.


I got off again on the biggest rocky climb back over the mountain at the end of the loop and then back the same dirt trail down from the ridge I rode until the gravel road. Having learned my lesson I got off and walked briskly down the road. On foot I noticed how steep it was. I had to set my own ‘hind end’ underneath myself to move without sliding on the gravel. That had to be a full mile or maybe slightly more from there into camp but i stayed on foot this time with a brisk walk on the steeps and a jog/trot when it leveled out a little.

We pulsed immediately (before pulling tack) upon return to camp as I needed an out time as fast as possible if we were going to finish. We got our pulse even with tack on right away at 3:17pm for an out time of 4:02 giving me 3 1/2 hours to finish the last 15 miles that included more grassy meadow trails with good footing. This seemed very do-able to me.

Then I returned to my area to drop tack and remove boots with my fingers crossed that she would pass the vet check.

Here is when I say a special thank you to April Dobson!


April didn’t get to ride as her horse had something questionable going on so she jumped in to help riders like me who were solo. I’ve known April on and off just at rides and always enjoyed her spirit. In fact she was in a small group I finished my very first ride (an LD on Faygo).

For a particular mare who doesn’t really like everyone, Khaleesi fell in love with April. She has a kind heart and gentle soul and was a Godsend on this day. She made everything easier for me and made Khaleesi totally at ease and relaxed. April truly made my day on Friday THANK YOU!!!


i went to vet and when he asked how it was going I said I think ok but the mare will tell us.<<<
had great hydration, gut sounds and muscle tone. Now for the trot out…..

I jogged her out and back not looking as I went and waited for the results: she looks even better than last time! Enjoy the last loop!< strong>Great news.<<<<<<<<<
d had the presence of mind to toss in a few glow sticks leftover from the 100 prep in June and you bet I put them on: heading out at 4pm meant a good chance we'd finish in the dark.

The last loop felt like a gift since I'd texted my mom and husband on a walking section of the second loop that: who knows- I feel like it’s 50/50 if we get to finish today. < em>


the late afternoon light was soft and the trails were almost all on private land an really beautiful. As the day continued to cool off Khaleesi kept picking up speed and we were in a sweet spot. It was very special to have spent all those miles and hours together on the trail just the two of us and me very focused on her, on my riding, and feeling fantastic. At this point we both felt strong and positive.

I believed we had a good chance of finishing. I thought the loop was only 12 miles for some reason and in the end my gps said it was close to 15. I believed we could finish close to 7 with a good 30 minute cushion and also not quite completely dark.

Though the last loop was my favorite here are a few things I struggled with:

The fields: we needed to stick to the edge of the fields. She wanted to wander into the fields. This is exactly the struggle I still have in insisting the mare stay on the rail in an arena. Actually we worked on steering this summer and that is going great but staying on a path in the open without drifting is a challenge. I can do it and did, but I expended way more energy than I’d have liked and just the ‘discussion’ over asking her to get over closer to the wood line.

Lesson #3: keep finding more time now that ride season is over for us and we don’t need to climb the mountain to condition I can make time to get back into the arena and work on better communication especially regarding open areas.

My riding: one thing I really appreciate about long rides alone is the ability to focus more on my riding itself. I mean physical riding specifically – not all the elements that go into riding a horse. Just how my body moves with the horse.

I am not a trained rider. I have had some tips and direction but I’m mostly at this on my own trying to sort out what works and what doesn’t. I also began my riding with gaited horses so learning to trot is still very new for me.

I believe the seeds that have been planted by the person I most want to ride like are beginning to germinate. I’d like to get it all at once, but that’s not how it works. It’s about 2 years since my first lesson and I only get them maybe 2x a year. But the information from her is of great value and I find in those nuggets I am able to get deeper layers as I work with the small and simple things I do know.

Three things clicked in better for me that I’ve been working on over more than a year in some way or other:

  1. I really thought about engaging my pinkies. There is so much feel in them and I let them float around too much- it’s in both my ride photos if you look close. It was on my mind all day but not really takin hold until the last loop. I actually felt it changed things significantly in my entire body when I engaged them and that was slightly uncomfortable for me so it took all day to play around with.
  2. As my horse got tired I thought a lot about how to help her physically. In addition to engaging my pinkies I experimented with how I might give her more support with the reins and bit without putting any pressure, pulling, or being active in her mouth. At some point on the last loop (I’d also been playing around in the second loop) I heard Buck’s voice say: I want to reach for the horse and feel the horse reach for me… and that is exactly what I felt. It gave me goosebumps as I really felt her. It was like she was taking my hand… this is a process that’s been fascinating to journey through basically alone. It came from a place on this long ride that was so different for us than doing ring work (that I do believe is valuable) but the organic way it came from me trying to fill in, support and help my horse as she worked so tirelessly through the day was very fulfilling and became less (for me) an exercise in ‘collection’ and more of a labor of love.
  3. I felt more and more as the day progressed moments where her back really rose up underneath me. It happened most often at a forward walk on the last loop and I literally felt myself rise up a couple of inches. I felt noticeably higher off the ground. It was inspiring as she was moving with such strength that I encouraged her to continue to walk a little more than was probably prudent for the timeline we had. But this mattered more to me than the “C” at the finish line. This whole connection we were finding was worth everything to me at the moment.


we rode on through the last loop feeling pretty free and easy with time to spare – Khaleesi continued to get more energy trotting and cantering along the gentle trails until it began getting dusky and I checked my watch and gps wondering why we didn’t seem closer- it must be right around the next hill or wooded section…

Eventually it got downright dark and I kept thinking we must be right there…. as I wondered I was also pleased at how great Khaleesi was the darker it got. She wasn’t spooky, she kept up a slow trot wherever we could and I trusted her while I kept my eyes peeled for hanging ribbons to tell me we were at least on the right track.

At one point in a field area along a wood line I stopped seeing ribbons and had to take out my flashlight and backtrack. I believe we’d gone off course. There are A LOT of twists and turns in the final few miles.

We got back on and kept trucking. Things began to look all the same and were so twisty and turney I wondered if we were going in circles in the piney/meadows in the dark.

I chose not to worry.

Finishing was a bonus today remember.<<<<<<<<<
e kept up her energy and we forged on in the dark toward the finish line. At a certain point she even picked up more steam and began to beeline taking me exactly as if we were on rails. This leads to my last official lesson:

Lesson #4: always do a tack check ride the day before- and definitely ride the finish line backward as far as makes sense so your horse really knows the trail when she’s close to finish.

I am so grateful I did this because she and I both knew we were close and it really gave the last 1/2 mile a pick up of spirits and energy! Which brings us to….

….my triumphant words to the gracious volunteers that had to stick it out just because of me in the dark and cool evening: in case there was any doubt, rider 520 is indeed alive!< em>


Khaleesi was peppy and full of energy. I was in good spirits and we even had fellow greenbean ‘monstas’ Kristen and Dan come out to make sure we were ok and might need help the last 1/4 mile from the finish into camp. Dr. Birks met us at the vet check and we all worked together in the dark to drop tack and get a fleece on her to keep her from getting cramped in the chilly evening.

< em>with Dr. Birks at vet in Thursday<<<<<<<<<
he final check was 48/48 (our best ever) and her trot out was completely fine. I'm amazed at how perfect her back is after 50 tough miles in the Balance Saddle – it's the first endurance ride I've ridden in it and she was perfect at the finish and perfect the next day!

We got everything we could have asked for. Great connection riding almost 12 hours alone together, healthy horse and human (I've never felt so good after a ride myself!), a little practice riding in the dark, and even a completion making it in on time.

Thank you God for guiding us through!<<<<<<<<<
grateful that Pete still had some chili left as the ride meeting was in session and dinner was almost cleaned up.


I was there to get my turtle award and even though I wasn’t able to get my ride photos Pam Stoneburner saw them the next day and got them for me… it’s the little thoughtful things (that were happening all over the place) that make me so thankful for how I’m always taken care of no matter where I go and how special the endurance family is.


It was a fantastic ‘come back’!

5 thoughts on “Lessons.

  1. You and Khaleesi were the highlight of my weekend! Thank you for letting me be a little part of your life at this ride – it was such a pleasure to see the love and trust you and that amazing mare share. This is the type of partnership that makes endurance so special – the bond runs very, very deep. The friendships we form are priceless as well, and while I don’t get to see you often, I find it easy to pick up where we leave off. Cheers to a successful season! I look forward to sharing the trail with you next year 🙂

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    1. Hi- it’s not your average saddle and I don’t use it because it’s super comfortable for me – though after giving it a chance it is great for me and I love it. I have never felt better after a ride than I did this one- and it was the first full 50 in the saddle that I found used (very lucky!) in late June.

      The saddle is from Balance in the UK. They specialize in constructive saddling and the entire concept is on building a strong topline and kind of goes against traditional saddle fit concepts.

      I am a believer. I have a couple of friends who swear by them and their horses look amazing and move beautifully and I’m loving what it’s done for my mare!

      But it’s not for everyone. You have to take on some responsibility to get balanced yourself and also to be a good rider because the saddle won’t do the work for you so to speak.

      That all being said I love it and had a great ride in it and was not tired at all!

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