Sunday, March 22, 2009

Long Slow Distance, New Beginnings

As I sit down to pound out this post, I feel a bit weary but it’s a good weary. It’s a weary that comes from pure physical labor. So begins the season of running at full accelerator. Saturday kicked off our spring cleanup marathon around the place which included 3 loads to the dump of wet, rotten , soggy hay. Hours were spent raking, shoveling, fencing, currying, raking, cleaning, sweeping, did I mention raking??? You get the drift. The currying was a moment of weakness when I happened to look over at the geldings. They just looked itchy! They appreciated the gesture and my blisters appreciated the break.
Things are really starting to melt here and as a result things are a real mess. We got a lot accomplished, although it feels like we only scratched the surface. With the agenda full of yard work yesterday, I had to forego a ride but today, it was first on the agenda.
Already tired from Saturdays full schedule, I wrestled the boots onto all four of JB’s feet, only to finish soaking wet with sweat. The sun was out and I was dressed much too warm. By the time I finished getting the boots on and JB saddled up, the sky now threatened a downpour which would have been refreshing but the clouds skittered off to the northeast and the sun came out again. Perfect…. I grabbed my helmet , slipped off my knee high rubber muck boots and into my riding boots, climbed aboard and off we went. Now that JB’s feet are feeling better, he is showing me much more animation, a side of him I have long since forgotten. Todays ride consisted of everything being scary , even thought none of it was anything JB hadn’t seen a thousand times before. Nonetheless, I have to work with him from where he is at , not where I think he should be. Atleast I knew right way what kind of ride we might be in for and he didn’t disappoint.
Vehicles coming up from behind him sent him into a flurry of scurry, even offering a sideways crow hop today. Oncoming bicycle riders were surely horse eating monsters and caused him to let out an ear piercing warning blow that could be heard for miles. (Last year bike riders were fair game to chase). Miniature horses were cause for pause until they moved, and then became the scariest thing ever to be seen. All the talking and soothing by my voice was only barely helpful today. I found that if I could spot a car coming in enough time, I would stop and have JB face the car and wait until it went by. This seemed to help, and surprisingly seemed to help signal the driver to slow down! By the time we hit the first mile, I think I was probably turning blue from holding my breath so many times (not suggested). I realized this wasn’t helping either of us and took a moment to gather myself at that point. Otherwise, how could I be much help to him? By mile 3, things were starting to come together for us. Vehicles coming from behind were no longer quite as scary and he was listening to me and responding to a pet along his neck as the vehicle went by to reassure him that it was okay . I was glad to no longer be sitting astride a jet propelled rocket.
Not once during the 4 miles did he feel like he was getting the least bit tired. This was a defining moment for him and I and our previously questionable future with distance riding. There was no doubt left in my mind after the first few miles that this horse, with enough training time, will have the energy required to complete a 25 mile limited distance. That's a far cry from what I was thinking last fall.
Throughout the four miles JB maintained a nice energetic free swinging, head bobbing , flat footed walk. I allowed him to trot when he offered a few different times but only for short spurts. Last season, he rarely offered a trot on his own and if he did it was a slow trot. Today there was absolutely no pedaling him along. JB would have preferred that the ride go at a lot faster pace today but keeping the long slow distance in mind and also considering his state of mind, we walked most of the way, maybe only trotting a total of a mile of the four. JB had more energy and life to his gaits than I remember feeling in quite some time. I am quite thrilled because with the energy he is displaying also comes hope that I didn't completely have several months ago. He is willing to look down the trail with interest. As far as the spookiness, it 's a little nerve wracking. JB hasn't ever really displayed much spookiness so it's a bit of unknown territory with him but riding a spooky horse certainly isn't new to me. I suspect it will pass because it's not really his nature. It’s likely a combination of feeling really good and the fact that he hasn’t been able to get out and move much. Spring Fever if you will. I would imagine that after a week or two of steady work, this will dissipate and his mind will be a little easier to direct and he will allow me to support him more. It’s like a cloud has lifted for him and everything is new again… if that means I have to endure a few spooks here and there for a bit I suppose that's a small price to pay. What's more important to me is that he is feeling good enough to spook. From where we were last year??? That's huge.


Tamara Baysinger said...

Glad he's doing better, Jonna (spooks notwithstanding!) Consolation has found her speed at last...and I can't believe her stamina as compared to Aaruba's when he first started conditioning last year. Despite a winter of no exercise, preceded by a fall with just a few, short rides, she can plow through 4 miles of trotting -- including a 1/2 mile hill -- with turbo to spare. Huh.

Jonna said...

thanks! that's fabulous news with Consolation. Maybe there is more than meets the eye with these Barbs afterall???? Are you planning to ride in the April ride with her or wait until the May ride? I am still shooting for the May ride with JB.

Tamara Baysinger said...

No chance on the April ride, but I'm hoping to do Fandango.

That said, I'm determined to focus on training right now. If enough conditioning gets done too, great. I'll do it. If I need to back off and train more in lieu of putting in conditioning miles, that's how it's going to be.

Anonymous said...

Jonna, Congrats on JB's progress. I'm looking forward to following him this year in his campaign. Actually both him and Consolation.

I bet's its a breath of fresh air to have your horse back as you remember him to be.

Anyway thumbs up!


Jonna said...

Tamara- I can understand the training being more of the focal point for now. I hope to see you at Fandango.

Susan- thanks! It is a relief to have him back. Maybe we can have a Barb team at a couple of rides this season! Stay tuned.