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.