Actually, the little doe kid that's turned away from Arabee in the bottom picture, or the one farthest left in the top picture, has formed a special bond with Arabee - she's nearly always sharing her hay. I'm not 100% sure there's more to their relationship than the food value Arabee's sharing, but still, it's sweet to see her having a pal.
Saturday, November 6, 2010
Actually, the little doe kid that's turned away from Arabee in the bottom picture, or the one farthest left in the top picture, has formed a special bond with Arabee - she's nearly always sharing her hay. I'm not 100% sure there's more to their relationship than the food value Arabee's sharing, but still, it's sweet to see her having a pal.
Monday, August 30, 2010
I stopped taking time to ride Arabee in April because it's something I can't do with my children. I expect to get more time this winter to ride, but after a few weeks of not much physical activity I found a second-hand (but in great condition) double jogging stroller and started training to run a 5k race (3.1 miles).
My goal before the end of 2010 is to be able to run from my driveway, to the stop sign North of our house, then turn around and continue South to that stop sign, then back home, which is a hilly distance of about 3.5 miles. I don't push myself very much, really, but right now I can run for about 2 minutes at a time, then take a walking break to catch my breath, and so on. Eventually I'll get there.
But I'd entered a 5k Fun Run that supported the Ronald McDonald House back in June, held at the Indianapolis Canal - a beautiful paved course that follows the canal, pretty much completely flat. Which was a lot of fun, I probably ran about half the time, walked half the time, alternately, and learned that I had a lot of training to do before I could keep up a running pace the whole time. But I'll get there. It's good for me, I think, as someone who is aspiring to compete "someday" in endurance - if I'm asking my horse to compete, maybe I ought to have a clue what it's like to be physically in shape! And besides all that, I'm losing baby weight, too :-)
Well, the whole family made a mini-vacation out of this fun run. We traveled up to Indianapolis and checked into a hotel just across the street from the NCAA Hall of Champions (where the race was to begin and end) with a pool, had dinner in town, and walked around the Circle Center Mall a bit. My daughter was amazed by many of the sights of the big city, including but not limited to: man hole covers, newspaper stands, and elevators......we need to get her out more. haha!
Before we checked into the hotel we stopped by Yellow Rose Carriage's downtown stable. I had worked there for several summers as a carriage driver and it was such a great place to work. It was such a great feeling to stop in unannounced at their barn and see how everything was still in perfect condition. The horses' stalls were spotless, fans were running to keep them cool (it was unusually hot for June when we were there) the harness was all hung up neatly and clean, the carriages parked nicely, ready for their next shift. It just felt really good to stop by and see how very very well everything was being taken care of for the horses.
I wasn't able to talk to the manager/owner - she had taken a couple of the horses to the equine chiropractor. I know there's a good amount of controversy over horse-drawn carriages in some cities, but the horses at Yellow Rose have the good life. If you find yourself in downtown Indianapolis, take a ride with a Yellow Rose Carriage - it's a great company who treats their horses very very well.
We had a really nice ride through the city - it is so relaxing to sit back and take in the city surroundings at the relaxed speed of the draft horse's walk, and comforting to know that the horse pulling the vehicle has received the best of care. Keep up the good work, YRC!
Friday, August 6, 2010
Jack was my first horse, a 15 year old gelding. He’d won many halter championships as a young horse and then showed Western Pleasure for many years before my family found him. My dad built a very nice 4 stall barn and a nice 3 rail wooden oak board paddock and the previous owner delivered him after school on Friday, the day before St. Patrick’s Day. I was ecstatic. I was eleven years old and had my first horse. I’d paid half with my own money; both my name and my mom’s name are on his registration papers.
So Jack got the privilege (burden?) of teaching me how to own a horse. He was so patient when he needed to be, and ornery enough to keep me on my toes when I learned enough that he didn’t have to babysit me anymore. He did nearly all the classes offered at the county 4-H fair, and did me proud when I took him to the Arabian shows. If I asked him to do it, he gave me his all.
Left: showing at the county fair.
Center: the day he arrived, he would’ve walked right in had I let him.
Right: Mom holding Jack after my sister and I helped him play “dress-up” – what a patient horse he was.
He had a beautiful rocking horse canter, and he loved to be ridden. He was willing to go any way you asked him to. Jack and I got to the point in our partnership where if I simply looked, he would go – no need for rein or leg to guide him.
Eventually, at 14.2 hands high, I outgrew my little Jack and began riding Arabee, and we tried to loan him out as a lesson horse. The little stinker wouldn’t do it, I had reports of him bucking all the way around the arena whenever they tried to ride him. This I couldn’t believe so I had to see for myself, and when I got there they had me ride him. My horse was as good as pie for me, not a single buck or even a tail shake. Looks like as much as I had claimed Jack, he had claimed me, and so we gladly brought him back home.
I rode him occasionally on pleasure rides, and he was always so eager to go, but a perfect gentleman, ears pricked forward happily but after only a short time he would start short-stepping and show discomfort, even at the walk, so I kept his rides short and infrequent since he clearly enjoyed going. Eventually when he was stiff from the very beginning of the ride it was clear that he needed to be retired as a riding horse. So Jack became a pasture pal for my mare Arabee and we maintained his health and hoof care, and decided that as long as he was still comfortable, he would live out his days with me.
Above: one of my senior pictures taken with Jack.
So both Jack and Arabee moved to my new life as a married woman in 2005, and he never was ridden once in the last 5 years. He loved having acres of pasture to roam and graze on the farm, and his existence was about as good as it could be if you were a horse, I think. He didn’t have much left in the way of teeth, and was on senior horse feed as much as he would eat. He always was a hard-keeper and a thin horse, and every winter in the last few years, I’d think he would look awful once his thick winter hair shedded out, but he’d put on weight again in the spring and keep on going. My husband and I were somewhat surprised he’d made it through this last winter; it had been very cold this year. But, he did, and a part of me was almost beginning to believe he was going to live on forever.
But, as he was checking the animals on the afternoon of August 4th my husband called my cell phone to tell me that I needed to come out and check on Jack, he just wasn’t right. So I turned off the burners on the stove (supper could wait) and jogged up to the paddock, and what I saw was not good. My sweet gelding was in obvious pain laying flat on his side, looking back at his belly and drenched in sweat. He had rubbed his sides raw from rolling, and right away I called the vet. I had just never seen Jack be so distressed, in pain, and miserable, and as a retired 30 year old horse I owed it to Jack to as best I could make his last hours as comfortable as possible.
The vet arrived within 30 minutes, and gave him Banamine and said that if we could get him back up to keep him walking. He said if the Banamine helped then he’d have a strong chance of pulling through the colic. Unfortunately, the Banamine never seemed to make a difference in Jack’s comfort level. We felt that the humane thing to do was to have the vet put him down so he wouldn’t have to suffer any longer. I don’t want to describe too clearly what the poor horse was going through, but I’ll just say it was clear that we made the right decision.
It was a hard night, and a hard morning as I explained to my nearly three year old daughter what had happened. I kept his forelock and tail hair as a memento, but I’ll always have many happy memories of my 15 years spent with a very special horse. I will miss him very much :'(
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
I'd been getting pretty grumpy here lately because while I LOOOOVE my horse time, and really enjoy riding, it seemed as if I never saw my husband! I was anxious for him to get home from work, not necessarily so I could see him, but so I could run out the door and ride the horse. It seemed like I spent all of his free time on the back of my horse, or trimming feet, or cleaning tack, or detangling mane. We keep a busy schedule, between my husband having a fulltime off farm job that requires him to be reachable by phone 24/7, part time (evenings and weekends) on the farm where we have goats and beef cattle to feed and check on, tractors and equipment to maintain, manure to spread, calving going on, and then maintaining our house and vegetable gardens (we can tomatoes, green beans, freeze corn, dig our own potatoes, and so on - we try to raise enough to last us for the whole year), and then I haven't even yet mentioned our 2 year old and 5 month old children, who keep us very busy in the happiest way.
But, over this winter, with the colder temperatures nicely removing a lot of the outdoor chores, it was easy enough for me to take the time to ride 2 or 3 times each week. We still had enough time to do some things all together as a family. But now that it's warmed up and every spare minute is spent doing necessary things, it's clear that my riding habit has to change until our load lightens up. I'm okay with that. I'm not okay with me spending our only free time on my own with my horse, instead of with my family of 4 getting to enjoy seeing my children play with their daddy and me. To be honest, while I truly loved the time spent riding, during the first part of April I was really starting to crave more family time. My children are only going to be little once. For now during our busy spring planting season, Arabee just will not be the priority. Too many other things that are more important in the grand scheme of things.
And this last weekend, when Chicken Chase was happening, I was disappointed that I didn't get to ride, but on the other hand, I really didn't get the chance to think about it. I had some really fun time spent with my family and extended family. We planted some garden, checked fence and turned the cattle, goats, and horses out to pasture for the first time since Thanksgiving and worked outside with the beautiful sight of grazing animals in the background.
My conditioning Arabee is going to have to wait until our workload lightens up a bit, and I am completely fine with that. First things first.
Monday, April 12, 2010
Things I know I'm NOT going to try: the 30 on Friday (distance), or the 25 on Saturday (too many other riders on the trail for our first experience)
I may POSSIBLY do the 25 on Sunday....yes, THIS Sunday! Or I will wait until the end of May.
I am so torn!
Reasons why doing the 25 on Sunday is a good idea:
- the weather all this week is supposed to be sunny and dry, which means the trails should be as dry as I've ever been on them. Drier trails = less mud!
- I know that unless something crazy and weird happens that I could finish the 25 mile ride on time.
- Horse is fit enough to complete, but not so fit that she'll be hyped up the whole time. (I think)
- I really want to do it!
Reasons why riding on Sunday is NOT such a good idea:
- It's kind of a last minute thing.....so maybe not thought out quite as well as it needs to be
- The last 2 times I rode I was dumped. Not too good of a confidence booster!
- I am not in that great of shape right now, physically, and will be SORE after 25 miles.
- I'd have to miss church, and also a portion of a fun family get-together with relatives I love and haven't seen in a LONG time, though I'd still get to see them all on Saturday.
On the other hand, this ride this weekend is just the first of many rides in my state. If I choose not to do this one, there's the one at the end of May.
Why I should wait until the end of May:
- I'll have another month of conditioning and training so that both myself and the horse will be REALLY, really, really READY.
- ummm, waiting is good at building patience, which is a good thing for everyone to have (yes...I really had to stretch to find more than one good thing about waiting!)
Okay...maybe I need to itemize the things that I'll be working on the next month, whether I ride the LD this weekend or not:
- Rider fitness: jogging, abdominal strength
- Horse fitness: continued work on a sustained trot
- Training: building confidence at the canter (whether or not it's actually used at rides)
- Horse Health/Soundness: annual vaccinations (next week or 2, always do them in April), clearing up the scratches COMPLETELY although mostly they're all gone except her left hind, getting rid of the thrush that just won't go away due to the sloppy muddy conditions in the winter lot and transitioning to 24/7 pasture turnout, vs "dry" lot wintering.
- Finding a source for beet pulp w/out molasses
- other stuff as it comes up
Soo, decisions, decisions. My plan of action for M, T, W of this week is: Hand jogging w/ Arabee and aggressively treating those scratches and thrush (Her frogs are really in good shape, just can't seem to shake it yet this year, but hopefully with treatment this week and the dry weather and pasturing now instead of "dry" lotting she'll have clear hooves by the weekend)
I'll be praying about it and really hope to make a good decision when it comes to when to make our endurance debut.
If anyone has any input, I'm open to hearing your thoughts on the matter!
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
If I'm going to attend this ride in April, it's Friday or no day at all - I want the advantage of far fewer riders on the trail for our first competition mileage, and there are family events the other two days as well that makes Friday the better (only) option. The only problem with entering for Friday's LD is that it's 30 miles instead of 25.
But....how to determine if I'm ready?
I've been riding Arabee at least 2, usually 3 times per week for quite some time now. Lately the rides have been in the 2 hour range, trotting at least 50% of the time. I've hauled out to the ride location 2 times now to train on similar trails that we'd be competing on. She's always come in with plenty of energy left, even though I thought she was getting tired while out on the trail. Our longest training ride was between 14 and 15 miles. My horse is (generally) smart and good at traveling.
However, I'm pretty sure none of my training rides have been faster than 4-5 mph pace. That would not complete a 30 mile LD without going overtime. BUT...none of my training rides have been "serious-let's-get-down-the-trail-and-GO" rides, either. Always spending (wasting?) a lot of time at water holes and focusing on training opportunities. Which is fine for training rides, maybe, but won't do for competition, since I want to finish (is to win)!
So here's the plan. Ride w/ Jacke 12 miles in 2 hours or less this weekend. If that is accomplished, we'll be headed down to Chicken Chase, horse included! But if we do it in even 2 hours and 1 minute, I'll see if I can crew, or scribe, or check pulse or something and leave Arabee at home.
To me, if I can't do at least 6mph for 12 miles, I have no hope of doing at least 6mph with Monster Hills for THIRTY miles. Which to me would indicate that more training/conditioning time is needed....and we'll wait for the next ride at the end of May for our LD debut.
Because...I've decided if I'm not confident that we can finish the ride, and enter anyway to try and see, that I won't be happy at all with the results if we end up having to pull at the check and hold. It would leave a bad feeling about the whole endurance thing for me and my horse. So I'll wait until I know for sure we can make it (barring any unseen complications) before we give it a first try.
I am so excited to finally get some miles on the record. Can't wait. I have plans all set up for this ride in less than 2 weeks! BUT....if it isn't the right time for it I won't push it. Got to wait for the right timing.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
It's been awhile, the last fall I had I believe was Fall 2002 (fall as in, the season that comes after Summer, before Winter....not..."the fall of 2002"). Although, that one was a doozy - a spook over a trail map dumped me off and resulted in a compression fracture in my spine.
This time we were trotting out very nicely, a nice ground eating, yet relaxed trot, and up ahead was a fallen tree. I notice my horse is eyeing said tree, but figure if we give it a nice berth, no problem. Well, that is, until a SPARROW or some other small bird made the bushes nearby rustle. Horse leaps to the right, I come reeling left but I almost pulled it together, and then she did another little leap which put me really off balance, and I try one last valiant time to hitch myself back up to the center, using my right leg...when I [accidentally] kick her (hard) in the rear end in the process of trying to get back on. This puts her into a sprinting gait I've never experienced in the saddle, let alone off to the left of the saddle! I try to holler "whoa!" but it did me no good, and I just decided to bail (or the decision was made for me, it's not exactly clear at this point). Of course, this all happened quickly, maybe 5 or 6 strides; it took way longer to write it and read it than for it to actually take place.
So as I am falling to the ground I decide I'm going to hang on to the reins, so she doesn't run away. Sure....everyone says not to do that because your horse will drag you and it's dangerous....but MY horse is DIFFERENT. ha. So I land on my left hip/back/butt/side area, then am quickly dragged over and ended up with dirt and grass stains all over my back, and right hip. I hung on to the reins for probably 3-4 strides before I realized "she's not stopping" and let go. THANK GOD I did, because as I let go of the reins I turn to look and Arabee had just fallen down as well. In retrospect, I realize she probably fell because as she was dragging me she had to pull pretty hard, then when I suddenly let go, she lost her footing. So essentially, I probably caused my horse to fall, and while at the time I felt somewhat vindicated "haha, I fall, you fall TOO" I quickly realized that she could've fallen ON TOP OF ME....and I felt badly that I likely caused her wreck, even if it was accidentally, which probably just scared her all the more of fallen trees and little birdies that make rustling noises, and she likely didn't learn anything other than that from the episode. But anyway - she quickly stood up and proceeded to gallop off towards the river. Uh oh.
I sit up after somewhat checking myself over (I'd fallen and been dragged across corn stubble....which really isn't the best stuff to get dragged across...although better than pavement!) and holler "Arabee!" and she stops and whinnies. She's confused and scared and lonely....I am her herd!!! So I get on my feet, call for her again, and whistle like I usually do when I'm calling her in from the pasture, and she begins to trot towards me. YAY! So she trots up to where I am and stands still, like she usually does, solid as a rock, almost as if nothing had ever happened. I check her over, no damage apparant...aside from some mud on her right side where she'd landed in the dirt. I put my foot in the stirrup to get on, and she jumped forward....I said whoa, then got back on, she was a little more jumpy than I first realized. And wow...I was stiff, and sore already, this wasn't going to be good!
So, we practiced "whoa" means WHOA, and then walked back home. I had a JUMPY horse! We were probably feeding off of each other, we both were uptight after the incident, she'd jump at a rustly noise, I'd get tense.....and so on. But we made it home. I never did work up the nerve to have her trot much, but we made it back and even in the barn lot she was still jumpy. So I walked her around, and turned and flexed her until she was calm, then got off and headed back to the house.
I'm not injured, at all. Maybe a little embarrassed to tell the story...but I figure it happens to everyone eventually if you ride long enough. I will say that those corn stalks were mighty hard on me....and I am pretty sure I have chunks embedded in my skin to prove it. My right thumb STINGS where the thumbnail was bent backwards, and the rest of my hand where I foolishly tried to hold my horse. And it wasn't really too much fun to ride home with dirt sandwiched between my butt and my breeches.....but no serious harm done. I'm glad I DID ride home instead of lead her in.
The thing of it is.....I'd have had a totally different story for you all had the fall not occurred. It was a GREAT ride (other than that one little blip that ruined the last portion...). I had awaken early to get a daylight ride start. Saddled up in the dark. Had a nice route planned out. Took her across territory she'd NEVER seen before, she braved things that she really, really was unsure about, and until that point I'd have said this was a really really good ride that was a good partnership building thing. Maybe it still was, I just hope that this one fall wasn't enough to shatter my confidence enough to make her lose her confidence in me.
Anyway, yesterday I'd posted about Arabee being off on one trotting diagonal pair. I was very cautious about tacking her up this morning, checking her over carefully. All 4 legs were somewhat stocked up from standing still over night, not hot...just stocked up. That went away after I walked her in her circles before mounting....but something wasn't right still....so I trimmed that little chunk off her frog so there wasn't a pressure point (on her left hind) and that seemed to take the ouchiness away. The route I'd planned had minimal road/gravel - it was mostly dirt riding so I opted against booting since I hadn't had the chance to try them on her yesterday. But I will have her booted at least in front next ride, just to get her used to them if nothing else. Anyway, she showed no signs of that switching diagonal thing from yesterday and didn't seem off at all this morning during the ride, so maybe it was just a weird one-time thing. Anyway, I'm still keeping a close watch on her.
Regardless....I'm sending myself to boot camp, which I'd declared before I even left the house this morning..... It is a TIGHT squeeze to pour myself into these breeches.....here's hoping if I run/jog/walk every day from now until my first LD that I'll be able to comfortably zip my pants, besides the added fitness benefits.
So....I feel it is necessary to recap the most important lesson learned from my ride today:
If you fall, never try to hold onto the reins! No matter how good, loyal, well-trained, devoted, or (insert your adjective here_____) you think your horse is.
I'm just glad no serious damage was done, although it easily could have been!
Friday, April 2, 2010
I know it's hard to see with the wind blowing her mane around....but that curly mess is tangle free now!
It was hot, in the 80s, and she still has most of her winter coat.
Even so, we mostly trotted.
On the side of the road saw a crazy, spiky, curled up "thing" - I decided later that it was the skeleton of a snake that the buzzards had picked clean. Yuck. Passed it going away and coming back....and it gave me the creeps both times but then it hadn't sank it just yet what it was. I am so afraid (unrationally) of snakes that I cringe even seeing them on tv.
Anyway we trotted a lot, and it was a big heat workout for Arabee, who sweated a lot. I'm just really thankful for the BIG wind - I think that was what kept her trotting as long as she did because I know she's not used to the heat.
But here's the important part of this post: about halfway into the ride Arabee started to feel OFF. Only at the trot, and it was worse on the road vs. in the fields. What was happening was that I would be posting: rising up with the left front leg, and before I knew it somehow the mare had switched my diagonal FOR me! I could easily post with the right leg, but anytime I tried to post on the left diagonal, 2 or 3 strides later I'd find myself on the other! So.....if she didn't want me to post with the left diagonal....Which set of legs was uncomfortable for her?
It wasn't like she was reluctant to trot...just didn't want me posting on that diagonal. And it disappeared when we were on dirt.
All in all I rode for about 1 hour and 10 minutes....and this was probably 80% trotting. Had the weather been cooler and this weird gait thing not occurred, I think she'd have been capable of more.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Saturday, March 27, 2010
Jacke and I did another training ride down at Clark State Forest - she picked me up a little earlier, we hit the trail around 9:30am.
If I'm going to be competing in April at Clark, I'll have to do the ride on Friday, which is 30 miles, due to personal scheduling, and besides I think the trail will be less crowded. Last year I scribed for the vet at the away vet check, and both the 55's and the LD's stopped at the away vet check, which is north of 160. So we knew we'd need to travel that section of trail to get there, and wanted to have done it once before competition.
It's a really pretty section of trail that takes you along a ridge - gorgeous view, really. The one problem with that of trail is a super steep section, like, almost slide off your horse steep. More than once on the way down as we were headed down that hill switching back and forth, down, down, down, down...I thought I was going to lose it. Glad my horse kept her head (and her feet) and was careful about it, one sudden move on her part would've sent me right on over her shoulder.
So the trail levels off at the bottom of the valley where the creek runs through it, and I see that oh, wow, the trail goes STRAIGHT BACK UP nearly as steep and long as it just went down. I turned Arabee the opposite direction towards the creek and hollered to Jacke "I'm going to offer her a drink first, hope you don't mind!" (in reality, it was me trying to get MY heart rate down after that not exactly terrifying, but certainly not relaxing downhill switchback!) So, I got calmed back down, and we bounded up the hill on the other side of the creek, then came out across Pixley Knob Road, and road the Flatrock trail ( I think that's what it's called ) to 160. I actually ended up dismounting and walking quite a ways, my hips were killing me from all that downhill/uphill/walking across the gravel we were doing, and the walk did me good. We came out at 160 and at this point we had planned on doing the Bowen Loop and coming out at the away vet check area, then heading back to the trailer. Well, when we got to 160 it was not particularly clear just exactly where the trail picked back up. As in, we had no clue! So rather than risking getting lost in the "wilderness" we headed back the way we came.
Arabee did some cantering (per my request) on the way back, the switchbacks didn't seem near so scary, and she had plenty of gas left in the tank. We rested up at the trailer, ate lunch, then rode again for another hour-ish near the Pekin Saddle Club. Honestly, I have no clue where we were riding around, but we went out for a half hour, then popped out at a paved road, then headed back. We did quite a bit of alternate trotting/cantering here - it was a LOT of fun.
I think we ended up w/ about 14 miles....the first 2/3 were some really tough miles with those steep switchbacks, and the last 1/3 was flatter but faster. Good ride!
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I'd planned to ride for 135 minutes (2 hrs, 15 minutes), which was 5 minutes longer than the last ride. I was really wondering how in the world I would find enough places to go to last that long!
I started South and rode around, checked out some new territory. Rode around in the Polly field - my rule of thumb for whether to ride in a field or not is to ride out into it a few feet, and if the hoofprints I leave are no deeper than what a deer would leave, then it's okay. Even with all the rain we'd had Sunday and Monday, I was good to go!
So we went around and around, back and forth in there for about a half hour, following the woods and the creek bank, then down to the next farm lane we'd never ridden on before. So altogether, we did an hour of riding South of the driveway. Then moved on to the pasture across the road, and rode around in there for another 15 minutes, then headed north again to ride the lanes, filter strip, and road for 45 minutes, then rode around in the hog woods for the last 15 minutes.
I have no idea how far we went, or how fast. No clue. But we did a lot of walking, and a lot of trotting, and a little bit of stopping at puddles. And wow, the 4-H Horse and Pony Superintendant was right when he said: NEVER let your horse graze while you are holding the lead rope, or while you are riding - it leads to disrespect and the horse loses focus on what you're doing (riding) and starts looking around for good grass to eat. Wow.....I about got my arms yanked out of their sockets umpteen times yesterday afternoon....no more grazing for her. Here I thought I was doing her a favor by letting her graze on our training rides - well...she's going to have to learn to fill up on hay instead - I will not stand for any more of her motoring along only to stop ABRUPTLY and start grazing and ignoring my hands and legs as I urge her forward.
But, I have taken the hint, the mare is hungry - so her hay ration has increased, and I dug my hands into the bag of senior pelleted horse feed (what we keep around for Jack) after the ride and fed her a heaping two handsful worth. She seemed to appreciate it!
Not sure what to do - I think I'll try to ride again on Thursday.....but whether to make it 2 hrs and 20 minutes, or what?? Got a training ride planned for Saturday, so I don't want her to be tired out for that, but seems like going from Tuesday to Saturday w/out anything is a bit excessive rest-wise. Or Maybe I'll just halter her and go for a walk/jog with her. It would be good for us both. Any votes?
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Jacke swung by with Phebes and we loaded my tack, and Arabee into Jacke's trailer (after I scrambled around the house trying to finish getting ready - Jacke is very timely!) we finally hit the road and headed to Clark State Forest to ride. We were the first to arrive at the parking spot, and headed out to do the Mountain Grove Loop.
Had a lovely day, both the mares and their riders got along quite nicely, we rode those killer loooong and steeeeeep hills and had fun doing it.
Arabee does not like it when we go up steep hills and her stifles bump the bottoms of my boots. I'll have to remember to keep my feet out from her sides!
Definitely looking forward to the next Clark training ride!
Friday, March 19, 2010
Got some new stirrup "leathers" (in quotations because they're synthetic) - my old ones will now become my backup ones - I'd stretched one of them longer than the other, and uneven leathers are not good. So I put them on and had to work out the perfect length.
I strapped on the pommel pack to start getting Arabee used to the weight of the water bottles on her withers. I've had issues with the bight of the reins getting looped under the bottom of my pack, and I'd hoped that discontinuing use of the Dr. Cook's bridle might fix that since the cross-under pieces are so long. Well, the reins were still too long, so I shorted them a few inches and tried that out. Still a little bit too long, but I still have plenty of room to hold rein when she's drinking. Tonight I will shorten them another 2-3 inches.
I've also never drank from the saddle before yesterday, so I thought it'd be wise to practice that a little. She's fine, until I try to put the bottle back in the pack - she isn't fond of the sound of the bottle scratching the pack until it goes in. I've only tried it at the walk and whoa so far....perhaps someday I will be trotting along the trail, grabbing my water bottles on-the-go, and not missing a beat. Not yet~
I trimmed her feet on Wednesday night, and she was a little touchy on the road or driveway, but happy to move out on the dirt.
So basically we rode out and just walked and trotted whenever we felt like it, and worked out the bugs from the new equipment. It was a GORGEOUS afternoon, and I was glad to be outside, and on the back of my horse.
We encountered some serious drama when we were headed towards home, we were halfway between the top of the hill and Harlan's corner when a mo-ped (I think that's what it was) crested the hill behind us. Thankfully I had already finished drinking and had put the bottle back in the pack and had regained hold of the reins, or the outcome may likely have been different! As soon as she heard the thing coming up behind her, she whirled around to get a better look....and once she got a better look, she did the horse version of screaming bloody murder - she had the look (and feel) of pure terror, and leaped, lunged, jumped to the right and off the road to get away from the horrible monster. I'm SOOO glad she recognized the ditch was there, and she managed to keep from falling into it. I'm also glad the driver of the mo-ped slooowly continued driving right on by, because by the time she kept us from falling into the ditch, he had passed us and the threat was gone. So I turned her back around and urged her on after the mo-ped until it was out of sight over the top of the next hill. Phew! Adrenaline still pumping through both of us, I brought her back to a walk, when I heard a REALLY LOUD vehicle coming, it sounded like a big ole truck. I hopped right off of Arabee as quick as I could since she was still hyped up over the mo-ped, and as the little car (so noisy because the muffler must have gone out) crested the hill, I motioned the driver to slow down (he did) and mouthed "thank you!" as he passed.
I got back up, we trotted to the top of the hill, then took a walk through the hog woods to weave through trees and over fallen logs to help the both of us calm down. It was a good ride, we got a lot of tack bugs worked out, survived an attack by a mo-ped AND a car with muffler issues, and I think worked on communication quite a bit. Praise God for giving me the horse he did!
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Arabee was standing under the roof, wet and shivering. She didn't seem to be too keen on being caught, either, but didn't try too hard to stop me, but sure didn't help me either.
Saddled her up, walked and jogged her in circles on the end of the rein to warm up, got on, and did some walking and slow jogging to get her and her muscles warm. (I'm not going to do anymore play-by-play details of the entire ride anymore, I'll keep a log of that separately and just do the highlights on here) We walked and trotted and I left the rump rug on her the entire time. It wasn't raining hard, but a nice (nice??) steady drizzle. It was nice, my horse was paying attention..mostly, and we were working well together. The ride was 105 minutes long, and we went farther and faster than before. But I firmly believe I'm not pushing her too far, she had plenty left but it was a good workout for her - we did a LOT of walking, plenty of trotting, plenty of slipsliding around in the mud. I think a good balance.
I wish I could easily stick to the principle of increase speed, then distance, never both. But since I don't have a GPS that will tell me mileage, and I dont' want to be tied down to the same old boring route every ride, I'm going to just stick with adding 5 minutes to each ride until we get to 2 1/2 hours. I'm also going to add more and more trotting as it makes sense to do so, gradually and easily - if I'm out of breath, we'll walk....if horse is acting stupid, we'll walk....if Arabee's making it clear she's ready to walk again, we'll walk....but if we're having a nice time trotting along down the way, we'll keep trotting!
So the rain coat worked really really well....I pulled the hood up and wore it under my helmet, unzipped the pit zips for ventilation, and stayed PLENTY warm, maybe even too warm, but I had several layers on underneath. I feel good about my rain-preparedness. Granted, it was not a full-out downpour, but still....rain is rain, to a certain extent.
Had a good ride today, and I'm hoping and praying that we don't encounter any setbacks (read: injuries!)
Saturday, March 13, 2010
I tried to take her North across the bean field, but it was too sloppy so we stuck to the lane and then rode along the filter strip, then turned around and followed the river back, and I had her step up to the river's edge to drink (and she did!). I saw a live crawdad as we passed - it was threatening us with it's pinchers....I don't think I'd ever seen the actual animal before, always just their holes. This whole way still trot, walk, trot, walk...and doing really well with it.
When we got back to the lane, I decided to test the cornfield to see how wet it was...and it was okay so we walked South in the field in the combine track where the cornstalks had been smashed down and easy to walk on (not sinking in too much). In the field across the ditch a pair of deer, I'm guessing a doe and last year's fawn ran from the river back to the cover of the woods. Arabee walked the whole way in a half-circle pointed towards the barn....but stayed in a nice 4-beat walk. We followed the ditch, then followed the path where the silage chopper had been last fall where the ground was drier. I didn't really have Arabee's full attention, but she was quietly walking (with b.i.g. strides) on a loose rein so I thought it best to reinforce that nice forward walk by allowing her to do it! She gave a big spook when we reached the top of the hill at I don't know what, but calmed down quickly, and we trot, walk, trotted again until we T-ed into the lane again. I had her walk in the water-filled tire tracks, which she didn't much want to do, but finally realized I meant it and did so nicely.
As we came past Harlan's house we met him and his dog coming back from their walk, and stopped to talk for a bit. The dog thought he might try to run off the intruding horse, and lunged at her barking and growling, but Harlan hollered at him and he stopped. Arabee was surprisingly okay with that - she brought her head up sharply, but didn't move. Good girl! It was nice to talk with Harlan, and I spread the rump rug out over her hindquarters since her butt was to the wind, then we walked back to the road, and trotted up to the top of the hill and turned into the driveway by the toolshed. I dismounted there and handwalked in the rest of the way home. She's been giving me trouble walking past Marshall's, and I thought me being on foot might give her added confidence for next time. I rode for 1 hour.
When we got to the barn lot I pretended I had a heart rate monitor and pressed it against her side, then felt her back and rump muscles, did a skin tent test, and checked her gum, and did the same on the other side. We then trotted out, turned, and trotted back. I offered her a drink at the puddle, then wiped off her girth area and cleaned her legs just like I plan to do at a real ride. It can't hurt to get into the same routine at home as I plan on putting into practice at a ride.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
As you already know, Arabee and I are getting ready for our first AERC Limited Distance ride. I'm hoping things go as smoothly as possible so that we have a very positive start to our distance career.
The plan is to arrive in ridecamp the night before with a CLEAN horse, get Arabee settled in, take her on a walk to stretch her legs, maybe even saddle up for a short ride (say...15-20 minutes?) to make sure she's nice and loosened up. The trailer ride will be just a little over 1 hour. I'll get her a big tub of water, and put out plenty of hay for her to munch on at will overnight, maybe a salt block, or loose salt in a tub as well? Haven't decided on a restraint method: tying to the trailer, using an electric corral, or buying panels to make a solid corral. Vet in, then let her relax as we get the human camp set up. Arabee does not currently require being fed any concentrates, so I'll just be sure she has hay in front of her at all times. Will I need to put a blanket or sheet on her?? She is not going to be clipped.
On the morning of, I'll wake, get dressed, check Arabee's hay and water, then eat breakfast myself. What's left to do aside from tacking up as usual and heading to the start??
We'll complete the first loop at a comfortable, conservative pace then come in for the vet check and hold. I'll dismount, loosen the girth and breastcollar and walk her in, get my in-time, then take her to the water and offer a drink. Then to the pulse gate, pulse down, then to the vet, jog, hopefully pass (with mostly A's!) then to the crew spot for the rest of the hold. Here's the part that gets a little blurry when I try to picture ride day: Now what?? Take a bucket of water and a sponge/rag to wipe the mud off of my horse's legs and belly to check for any nicks and scrapes and get her girth area clean. Should the tack come off? If the girth or other tack is muddy make sure it gets cleaned. Check her feet. Stuff hay in her face, make sure there's a bucket of water she can reach easily. Keep her hindquarters from getting chilled. But I'm thinking the horse's job at a hold is to rest and eat and drink as much as possible before time is up, and probably for the rider and crew to get the necessities done ASAP and then leave the horse alone to eat and drink and rest. As for me, I'll almost certainly need to pee, put on a jacket to keep from getting chilly while holding still, eat a nourishing snack, replenish fluids....should I try to sit down and relax, or should I stand and keep moving? When it's about time to go, I'll get ready first, then get Arabee ready, give her one last mouthful of hay and then mount up to be ready to go when the out-timer says it's time. Then head out for the second loop!
For the second loop, while we'll certainly still be riding conservatively, if Arabee gets a good report from the Vet, perhaps we'll try to keep up a bit of a faster pace (trot more) than was kept at the first loop. But since my only goal for the first several rides is simply TO FINISH....conservative is likely where the pace will stay!
Upon finishing I'll plan on using the same strategy as I did coming into the vet check and hold. Unless there are only 5 riders (yeah right...there will be more than that!) we will not be anywhere near finishing fast enough to be able to stand for best condition judging. But I'm thinking similar practices will need to be done at the end of the ride as were done at the vet check. After receiving our completion, we'll head back to the trailer and untack, get the horse clean, park her in front of water and hay, keep her from getting chilled, but once she's clean and has feed/water just leave her alone to relax a while. Then I'll change clothes, eat something nourishing, rehydrate, and hopefully get to relax a little while! We'll likely head home later that same day, so we'll get the camp packed back up and ready to hit the road, for what will hopefully be a very restful night's sleep at home!
Okay...so the above is almost 100% guaranteed to NOT be the way it actually happens - things are going to come up, the weather won't cooperate, and who knows what all might happen. But....for anyone out there who is more experienced than me when it comes to endurance competition (which yes...is essentially EVERYONE!! :-))....is there anything you see in my basic plan that is just wrong?? Or do you have any even small tips for me to help make things go more smoothly? I'll have at least one adult helper to crew for me, which already is making me feel relieved!
I'm starting to get VERY excited about the first LD of the season. Hoping it can happen in April, but if not, there's always May....or June....or who knows, anything can happen! But I'm still really looking forward to it, whenever it may be.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
So we headed south again, and just halfway between the driveway and the ditch (where there's a steep dropoff on either side of the road) a noisy car comes up quickly over the top of the hill....I turn around to try to find a spot to get off the road safely, which meant that the car was coming up behind Arabee. Not what I typically like to do...I like to have her facing the traffic but she was good she mostly just scooted forward a bit as the car passed.
So I turn her around and then I urge her up into a trot all the way up the hill, past the one fence post that she ALWAYS tries to spook at, down the lane, except for a few places where it was too rutted to safely trot, trotted a little circle at the end to turn around and go back, and about the time we get even up with the woods she broke into either a spook or tried to canter, but I really didn't want to move that quickly headed back yet! So I pulled her back and we walked the rest of the way back to the road. Then headed South again, and trotted all the way til Dorothy's mailbox, then walked 50 ft, then trotted across the polly bridge, walked up the little lane (probably ~100 ft one way) walked back and then across the bridge and then trotted back, until we got to the strip of woods where I had her walk, then trot to the top of the hill, then walked down...but I heard a car coming so we ducked into the driveway, then back, then trotted up the hill, walked where the curve goes downhill and the road is uneven, and started trotting again until we got about halfway between the new toolshed and Harlan's corner.
Rounded the corner and then trotted towards the Red barn, then walked it out past the barn, 2/3 of the way to the stop sign, and we turned around when I saw that Matt and his dad had the truck picking up the silage wagons at the red barn, so I thought we better turn back around and ended up going all the way to the stop sign to give them more time - I didn't want the noisy wagons to spook Arabee. Well, once we did get turned around and they drove out with the wagons, Arabee starting calling out to the truck! She really picked up her pace and was whinnying mightily, clearly not wanting to be left behind! So I let her trot.....which turned into her elevator "let's move it out!" trot which made me quite nervous that she was going to just gallop off toward the truck and silage wagons as she was very intently focused on catching up. Another vehicle was coming, so I pulled her down to a walk, and she got even more behind and worked up so I decided it was best to keep walking until I got her focus back on me. That took a looong time. We turned off the road and went down Harlan's lane, Arabee weaving back and forth in the driveway like she was drunk....this went on for 1/4 mile! She'd turn her head hard to the left and I'd pull her back to the middle, and she'd veer right, I'd pull her back to the middle and she'd veer left....and on and on like that until finally she realized (I guess) that it wasn't worth it and I was more stubborn than she.
Since I didn't have her focus (not one bit!) I decided walking was a better idea until I did get her attention, and I never really did fully. So we walked all the way to the river, then followed it a little ways South, then a little ways back North, and finally turned around and walked...err....JIGGED back to the road. She did finally give me a (very extended) 4 beat walk on a loose rein, so we did end up making pretty good time anyway.
She's very good at noticing cars, and if I listen to her better I'll always be able to know ahead of time and get us off the road safely - last night she started being balky and acted as though she was afraid of Marshall's dogs (which she often is!) but I turned back and saw that a car was coming behind us. We had plenty of time so we turned back and trotted up the hill and got off the road by the toolshed until the car passed, but it would've been easy to ignore her and push her forward, assuming it was only the dogs she was worried over.
Went on past the driveway to the barn and down the hill, and asked her to trot up, then I rode into the barn lot and dismounted, loosened her girth and unclipped the breastcollar, and gave her a nice scratch - she'd gotten pretty sweaty but was not hot anymore, so I asked Matt to hold her by her hay while I got a bucket of warm water.
Last spring around this time we had an awful time with her girth area getting rubbed bare and swelling up, so I am going to be super-careful to keep her clean especially in that spot, and everywhere tack touches her body. So I wiped her down carefully between her front legs, in her "arm pits" and all over the girth area, then I had water left so I cleaned her muddy legs off too.
So...to sum up it was a little bit of a longer ride than we've done before at home, with more trotting at the beginning, and plenty of schooling at the end. I'll guess it was 5 miles, and the time was 64 minutes.
If we don't get the rain that's been forecasted for this week, I'll have PLENTY of riding options come this weekend, because the fields are nearly dry enough to ride in without causing problems when planting time comes around....but it almost surely will rain. I hope to get a solid 2 hour ride in over the weekend, with at least half of the time spent trotting.
(((my apologies for the poor paragraph structure and boring writing...if indeed anyone read the monotonous description of every.little.detail! that just comes along with the "training journal" nature of this blog)))
Monday, March 8, 2010
Took a little over an hour to drive over there....but I'm not exactly sure how long because after seeing the angle of the driveway to the road that I'd need to back in I starting to panic slightly, and completely forgot to look at the time! But thankfully no traffic and I got the trailer backed in surprisingly successfully! Jacke let me use her bathroom and her home is just beautifully decorated. We chatted a bit and then headed out and I unloaded and tacked up Arabee, she got Phebes ready to go and we started off to ride her network of trails by her house.
It was the first warm day we've had really this spring, and not too breezy, nice and sunny - perfect spring weather! The trails were VERY muddy and VERY VERY slick, but breathtakingly beautiful - stunning views where you can view the creek, the woods with some stubborn snow that hadn't yet melted off, just gorgeous...words won't do it justice.
My horse really really impressed me - she was calm and very smart about putting her feet down just right and really did a fine job of taking care of herself footing-wise. I wish she would have drank some, but she never did..just wetted her lips several times as there was plenty of opportunity as the trail crossed water A LOT. We traveled down a VERY STEEP section of trail that I didn't think was possible and in fact it crossed my mind that Jacke was maybe trying to kill us (well...not really!) but she led the way with Phebes and watching her as she went down each time she picked up a foot and put it back down her hooves slid 3-4 feet each time! But we both made it! Confidence building, and grin-inducing once we finally got to the bottom without falling!
So we were out for 1 hour and 48 minutes, pretty much all walking except for a few short sections of trotting but it was a lot of uphill and down hill and watch your step because it's slick and winding in between trees and it was a GOOD workout for Arabee. Got back, she ate some hay while I untacked her and wiped off her super-muddy legs, put on her sheets, then we talked a bit before I loaded Arabee back up and I headed back home. It was a lot of fun to get out and ride, can't wait to do it again, hopefully tonight at home!
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Jogged up and greeted Arabee who was standing alert in the corner of the paddock, and at the sight of me, leapt and bucked and twisted 5 or 6 strides, then trotted around the corner and stood under the shed. I thought....this could be interesting!
Saddled up, and did the usual "longing" at the end of the rein, where I have her walk in a circle while I flap the rump rug and wiggle the crupper as a reminder 'hey, this stuff is here, don't freak out!' then have her jog both directions. Nice little tool I use to gauge what her mind is like. Well, the gauge told me that it was not a good idea to ride the horse I had that afternoon!
So instead we set out in-hand down the road, and it was a good thing too - all the equine acrobatics she tried would not have been pretty undersaddle...well, maybe pretty, but it sure wouldn't have felt good to try to scrape myself up off the pavement when I hit the ground!
I was soooooooo glad I didn't try to ride yesterday, but also really grateful for the 45 minute power walk I got, and the confidence building/bonding experience we had instead. I'm going to say it was a Good Call!
I'll try to ride again tonight...hope the wind and her attitude is calmed down several notches!
Monday, March 1, 2010
We're at the point where I have built myself and my horse up to being able to walk/trot for a little over one hour. I also have a nice nearly 5 mile loop with varying terrain!
I know you are not supposed to add distance and speed at the same time. Fine, makes sense.
But which do you do first? Or can you flip/flop, say....Today increase speed, tomorrow distance, rest, then the next ride try the increased speed AND distance that you achieved previously.
If I increase speed on the same route, then I won't have ridden for as long of a time period...and if my goal is to increase time spent in the saddle, then what?
I am probably overanalyzing....but would love your input! Thanks!
This was my list for February:
>Commit to riding 2-3 times/week.
>Ride in the arena at least 4 times this month, working on fine-tuning loose rein riding
*didn't happen - haven't been successful contacting the barn owner :-(
>Gradually increase comfort level with vehicles to the point where I can ride to and from Arena, rather than handwalking both ways.
*We're doing good on riding on the road. She still gets a little squirrely when the big dually diesel powered pickups go past...but who wouldn't??
>Begin short training rides from home (mounting up in the barn lot, and venturing out, going a little farther each time).
*Check! Yesterday went 4.6 miles in 1 hr, 10 minutes.
>Build up to being able to ride for at least 1 hour walk trot canter.
*Sort of check.....I am a big chicken, and wanted to wait to try cantering in the arena a couple times first...which I have not been able to ride in. But the one hour part is definitely accomplished!
All right...not bad! Especially given the ridiculous amounts of snow (compared to what we're used to around here) and other factors outside of my control.
So, for March:
>Continue to increase ride times and percentage of time spent trotting, so by the end of March are capable of 2 hours of more or less solid trotting.
>Haul out to ride at least 3 times on a REAL trail!
>Be consistent with Arabee, so she (eventually) comes to realize that I mean it when I ask for a 4 beat walk (not some crazy jig), and that I'm the one who controls trotting speed.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Started off flighty and jiggy, then about halfway through she just really settled down and the last half of the ride was very enjoyable, for both of us, I think.
I worked on practicing two-point positioning at the trot and walk. Not bad...I thought it'd be
terrible, but really quite smooth, better than posting if I can get my muscles and balance used to it.
Had one GIANT spook that I didn't expect, that very nearly got me unseated, over a log that had been washed in during a flood. Another time we were walking along by the filter strip and suddenly she just leaped up into the air.....I guess the strip of bark that was on the ground startled her (after she was halfway across it!).
Had a really deep (probably 8 inches deep) section of mud across the bean field...and we shouldn't have been in that field with it that muddy....will make it hard to plant no-till! But it was too late to go back, we were already committed.
The calves in the barn lot were watching us with interest. Arabee watched them as well - it's a sight to see 30 calves milling about all watching one horse and rider pair! I was concerned that we may have difficulty with the dog, but he just casually watched us from a nice distance.
All in all we rode for 70 minutes, and later we checked mileage with the 4wheeler, and we'd gone 4.6 miles.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
How often do you all do this? Do you base it on how long it's been, or how filthy said items are, or just wash right before a ride, or what..?
I know it's really easy with biothane/synthetic, which is what I have....but with the saddle pad specifically I'm guessing that the less you wash it the longer it will last. And besides, I often end up with a tangled mess of straps and many of the adjustments require re-adjusting...so I'm wanting to get by with as little as possible, but yet, clean tack is pretty important.
Soooo.....How often do YOU wash your stuff??
On Saturday I trimmed Arabee's feet with the electric grinder in the early afternoon. I really wish I'd taken before and after pictures, but I didn't even take the camera outside - the snow had been melting off and it was s-l-o-p-p-y! I'd been letting her self-trim since we'd been spending so much time on the roads, but she finally chipped off a chunk of hoof on the quarter, so I figured I'd help her out with the mustang roll. I did all 4 hooves, fronts first, then hinds, and MAN I was sore, especially my right arm since I am not used to gripping that heavy grinder! But without it I would have never had the stamina to do all 4 at once - too much bending over with the slower rasping. So I ended up not riding on Saturday.
Still too sore on Sunday to ride, so I just went out with the hoof pick and picked both horses' hooves.
On Monday I got out and rode, in the S-hack, but since the snow had been melting and melting fast all weekend it was way too sloppy to get in the fields so I stuck to the road and farm lanes and woods. Started South, past the Polly bridge, ventured down a farm lane just a little ways, back past the driveway, out into the hog woods, then down Harlan's lane until the electric pole, then trotted east down the road. Was going to stop and turn around when we crested the hill, but it felt good so we kept going to the ditch just before we got to the red barn. Alternately trotted and walked back. My phone rang in my pocket, and I stopped at the hill by the new tool shed to see who it was, and a car started coming, so I turned off the road and waited for the car to come by. Then we headed home, but I still had almost 15 minutes of time left, so we walked around the barn lot, around the driveway here and there until I was in the saddle for 55 minutes.
Tuesday evening we rode for 1 hour! Rode in the riding halter this time, headed South, then turned off down Foster's lane by the pasture gate, went down about halfway. There was still snow, as the lane is on the north side of the fenceline with plenty of trees to shade. Then headed towards the Polly bridge again, but did not cross it today. Our neighbor runs nearly every day, and that afternoon had just started his run and his dog had followed him a ways and was barking. For whatever reason it really spooks Arabee to see him running, maybe because he's quiet. He will say hello but anyway she was really just spazzing out between the runner, the dog, and then an SUV came by all at the same time. It was all right, but I don't know how it'd have turned out if I'd have had her cross the bridge and THEN head back...she isn't too sure of the culverts anyway, and with all the other ruckus things may not have turned out too well.
We walked and trotted back up, and at one point she broke into a canter, then sort of mini-bucking....more like just jamming her back legs down rather than popping up, anyway, I managed to pull her head to the left and got that stopped (deep breaths...relax!!) and we then walked back a little ways then headed back towards home. Turned off on Foster's lane again, only going 1/4 of the way down, but this time she was jiggy and antsy.....we gotta go back now! kind of thing. Got her calmed down, thankfully,and we mostly walked down the hill, across the culvert over the ditch, then trotted uphill and up the driveway, (our driveway Y's at the road) then turned back out towards the road. Boy she was sticky heading north! Must have been a mean trick to turn her into the drive and then ask her to leave again!
Got back and meandered through the woods, then off north, trotted east this time all the way to the red barn (and on the way had some imaginary dragons in the ditches that she was "protecting" us from), then down Harlan's lane to the electric pole, then trotted out until she got too speedy, then I made her come down to a walk. Basically we just went back home but stopped at every puddle available on the way and she drank up!
I've been alternating between the s-hack and the riding halter, and will continue to do so until an obvious favorite comes up. I may even throw the Dr. Cook's into the rotation again. But right now, I like the s-hack for rating, and the riding halter for when I need directional control (in the woods, if she's being looky/spooky) It'd be nice if I could switch back and forth during rides, without having to get off!
Saturday, February 20, 2010
So it was a lovely sunny afternoon yesterday when I finally did get out again, 34 degrees when I headed outside at 5:31, mounted up at 5:45, and had hoped to ride for 50 minutes (it ended up being about 35 minutes because I ran out of daylight and didn't want to be on the road on a Friday night in the dark).
Rode up the road a bit and turned off to the lane that goes back to the hayfield, and WHOA...THERE'S A TRACK IN THE SNOW, and YIKES A PILE OF DIRT, and UH OH, WE'RE GOING AWAY FROM HOME, and UM, I'M GOING TO TAKE US BACK NOW. Ha....not exactly the most enjoyable ride ever. She really never just *walked*....more like a prancy half trot, half walk thing that was just awful to ride. In her defense, the snow was realllly deep, so it would've been hard to just walk gently anyway. And, also, I am still treating her scratches (the skin is getting much better, more healthy skin, fewer scabs...really good progress!) and it's probably not too comfortable to walk in snow in that condition.
So we rode the perimeter of that field, followed the wash, crossed in a shallow spot, followed it around to the road, then back along the road to where we came in at the lane. Jigging, prancing nearly the whole way. I used single rein stops, I tried getting her mind on her work by asking for serpentines or circles or direction changes, I jiggled the reins to ask her to lower her head. I hollered at her to WALK! and CUT THAT OUT! I'd get a few strides of walking in, then I'd ask her to whoa so she could catch her breath. She's mostly stand still, but keep trying to throw in extra steps forward. Imagine my surprise when we left that field and got back on the road when she walked calmy forward with a nice 4 beat walk....so nice!
We walked that way almost back to our driveway, then I turned her around and back up the road til we got to the old hog woods, and walked around in there for a bit. It's fun for both of us to dodge the trees, and she relaxed mostly. But she was still focused on home quite a bit. The snow was starting to freeze back up, and it was getting darker than was really good for road riding, so we headed back home. Kept her at a walk until we got to the bottom of the hill going back when I heard traffic approaching, so I trotted her home, and made it in the driveway with plenty of time.
I put the rump rug out over her butt while she was drinking out of a not-quite-yet frozen over puddle, then turned her around and walked back out to the mailbox, where I dismounted, loosened the girth, and got the mail. I grabbed a flake of hay from the barn, and she snacked on it as we walked back to where we tack up.
It was a pretty frustrating ride for the first half. But ultimately she ended up doing what I asked, it just took a long time. I still had fun though - and have a strategy for what I'd like to do with today's ride.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I don't have a GPS.
I don't have a pre-measured conditioning "trail" around home.
No heart rate monitor.
I think that for my modest goals, this is okay.
This season will most likely consist of all Limited Distance, and in my understanding, you have 6 hours to complete 25-30 miles, including the 1 hour hold in the middle of the two loops, so about 5 hours of ride time. I believe that makes for an average of 5-6 mph. I'll just guess that Arabee walks at 3 mph, trots at 8 mph, and canters at 12 mph. (One of these days I'll actually figure out how fast she moves - we have some nice, flat farm lanes that are 1/2 mile long, and I can time her at all three gaits at that distance, then double it to get miles per hour.)
My plan (right now) for rides would be to trot on flats and uphill, and walk downhill. So I would guess we'd trot 75% of the time, walk 25% of the time. But for the first ride, I'll estimate more of a 50/50. So....if she walks for two and a half hours (half of the available time) at 3 mph, then we've traveled 7.5 miles, and for a 25 miler, there'd be 17.5 miles left - and it'd take a little more than 2 hours of trotting at 8mph to finish, and we'd have plenty of time. Of course, that's not how I'd ride....we'd probably walk the first half mile or so, to make sure her mind is on her job (which is listening to me, her rider, and keeping track of her feet), then proceed with trotting on flats and uphills, walking on downhills, really steep uphills, or whenever she needs a breather.
So I'm thinking that if I can build Arabee up to the point where she can trot for 2.5 hours, then we'll be ready for our first LD. Even though I won't know specifically how far we've gone, just knowing how fast a horse trots can give me a good enough idea, I would think.
Does this seem like sound reasoning? Especially knowing I'm starting with a 13 year old sound Arabian mare with a good mind. (I'm fully anticipating lots of "stupidness" at the start of the ride, and each time a horse is within sight or hearing, but she's had quite a bit of experience going places and with consistency on my part should come around to listening fairly well)
Would love a discussion on "basic" fitness requirements or what your conditioning goals are! Leave comments!
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Sunday: Got home from church, changed diapers, fed Luke, changed clothes and headed out to ride. It was I believe 20 degrees when I left the house! Saddled up, this time I added the crupper. Rode south and back to the driveway the same way as yesterday, except trotted more on the way back, and I had her trot up the hill past the driveway and on past. The dogs had been barking at something and Arabee seemed to be aware of whatever it was when we rode past a certain area...I'm guessing it was a critter of some kind that had recently passed by, anyway she was a little fresher today, maybe it was the cold, or maybe the same thing that got the dogs fired up.
At the top of the hill north of our driveway, I turned left into the old hog woods, and we walked through there a while, meandering here and there to avoid low tree branches. I'm so pleased with Arabee's sensibility - she was very cautious about where she put her feet, as there were some tire ruts (very deep) that she very carefully walked around, and she never seemed to put a wrong step, even though I'm sure there were fallen, snow covered tree limbs underfoot. She seemed to really enjoy this part, ears up, but not tense at all, just interested in seeing where I had her go to next. I had her jog up out of the woods toward the road, when ALL OF A SUDDEN she saw the round bale carrier for the hay wagon laying half snow covered to her right. (no....it hadn't moved a bit but you would've thought it had the way she jumped left!) Also...I need to make sure to tighten the girth 1 hole tighter next time - much too loose side to side!
So then we headed back north on the road, and I had planned on just walking on the road but she was just being ridiculously sticky and looky at the walk, so we pushed up into a trot. Much better. Then down to a walk to go downhill, then turn right off into the bean field again like yesterday, only we followed the ditch until I couldn't see it anymore, then crossed over and headed straight west until we reached the edge of the hayfield and tracked the edge of it heading south. The snow was really deep there where it had drifted....probably about a foot. She wasn't wild about that, and besides we were facing home, so her head and ears were turned homeward. It was strange to ride that way, because even though it was obvious her main focus wasn't on me, she still managed to make her feet and body go the direction I wanted her to. We stayed well to the right of the fenceline because the sight of the bright blue stock tank in the pasture was SCARY in the snow, and as we came up to the neighbors house, he'd come outside and boy was that scary for Arabee. She jumped sideways right when the door opened, and then again when the door closed. I stayed with her, and managed to get her calmed down pretty easily.
We turned homeward on the road, and I stopped about 50 feet short of our drive, and put the rump rug out over her backside, then we walked home on a loose rein. She tried to stop at the places she'd drank from yesterday, but they were frozen solid. I wanted to get a solid 45 minute ride in today, so we walked about the barn lot until the watch showed we'd made the time, which turned out to be a nice little cooldown walk for her.
It was a fun, really good ride. Just the right amount of work, I think, for Arabee at this stage, and for me too. I forced myself to keep slack in the reins, and rather than pull on her to slow her back to a walk when needed, I either said "easy" or when that and seat didn't work, we did single rein stops. I rode with the reins on the halter. she goes really nicely in it, even when worked up I've never felt out of control at all. In fact....it truly puzzles me how (at least with this mare) a person could feel more in control in a tense situation with a bit....because the way you'd need to make contact in a bit you'd surely hurt the horse's mouth badly. I remember at shows with Arabee when riding bitted how I felt helpless to correct her because I didn't want to jerk the reins with the bit in her mouth to get her attention, but she was ignoring other more subtle attempts to get her to take contact and focusing much more on the other horses warming up, spectators, etc, etc. With the riding halter or s-hack, I'm able to give her a quick reminder jerk on the reins when needed.....like when she was thinking of spinning around back for home today when we got to the one spot where maybe that critter had just passed by.....that got her attention quickly back to me and didn't hurt her like it would have had she been wearing a bit.
Anyway, the point is I rode for 45 minutes today - walking and trotting, on the road and in deep snow....and we both had a blast doing it!
More snow is forecasted to come in late this afternoon, last I heard we were in the 3-6" range. I have mixed feelings about this. If it's going to be cold, I do like to at least have the pretty snow to look at....but still...I'm ready for spring! Even if it does mean mud, mud, and more mud!
Happy Valentine's Day!
Saturday, February 13, 2010
The snow on the ground made for a big workout for Arabee. I'd planned to ride the same route on the road I had the last time, except turn off and ride the perimeter of one field to minimize how much snow she'd have to walk in. However, all afternoon and including when I'd wanted to ride coyote hunters had been driving up and down the road way too much for it to be a good idea to ride on the road that afternoon. So I rode in the pasture just South of our house.
The snow was about 4" deep in most places, but there had been a lot of drifting so it was much deeper in some areas, less in others. Underneath that snow was some pretty deep mud - so she had quite a workout just walking. I stopped frequently to let her catch her breath, but other than that we just walked since the footing was so deep.
I'm still having trouble getting my halter/hackamore set up just how I like it. I started with the reins on the hackamore, but the knotted noseband of the halter got under the hack noseband, and that brought out significant protest from Arabee....can't blame her! So I switched the reins to the halter which she did well with. I've adjusted the halter again so hopefully the nosebands won't get in each other's way next time.