This weekend, Tom and I finally got out on the trail for some trail time and an opportunity to really put the easy boots to the test for JB. For the last several weeks, I have been slowly limbering Rebel and JB up in the arena, both physically and mentally. We have done a lot of ground work, a lot of work on laterals, bending, flexing, garrocha, ground poles, etc.
To start the weekend, I did a short 4 .5 mile ride on Saturday from home with Rebel, which went really well, but on Sunday we headed out to the State land for some real mileage with Rebel and JB . I lost the dime toss on who got to ride JB , so I rode Rebel which was fine. Rebel and I have done many miles over the years on some less than safe rugged mountain trails. He is an excellent trail horse, and it was nice to be on my old standby ! We hit several hills along the way and then got off the trail into some thick timber. This was where I was really glad to be riding Rebel. JB hasn’t completely sorted out the idea of slowing down in tricky footing, like blown down timber, to pick his way through. He kind of stumbles and trips his way, trying to rush. Tom let him trip and stumble until eventually, JB started to figure it out. Eventually a horse will get tired of whacking his cannon bone and tripping in most cases. Pretty soon, JB was paying a little better attention and was actually looking at where he was placing his feet instead of just rushing through everything. Tom is much more patient with this process than me. I tend to try to help the horse too much, which in this case, doesn’t solving anything. The horse has to be allowed the opportunity to figure this kind of thing out on their own if they are to ever be good on the trail. After about a half hour of riding through this tricky footing, along with snow, we found our way back onto a 2 track trail. I think the horse were just as relieved as we were to be done bush whacking. Good experience for the horses but not always fun for the rider. The rest of the ride went pretty well for both horses. JB actually walked out ahead of Rebel for most of the ride, which is a notable improvement. I was rather impressed with JB’s energy level through out the ride. In many cases, we stopped to let the horses rest for a minute and JB would paw, anxious to keep going. He was looking out ahead on the trail, setting the healthy pace. JB’s is showing a lot of improvement in his willingness to move out now that his feet are feeling better, however, we have been trying to sort out a newly developed overreaching issue over the last few weeks.
The few rides I have actually taken JB on since he has started wearing boots have been limited to the busy gravel roads around our place. Every time we tried to trot, he would clip the buckle on the hind with his front hoof and it would come undone. The issue seemed to be worse on the right side. I even tried Cotter pins and those ended up getting broken every time. As a result, our rides had to be cut short because I spent more time stopping to rebuckle and readjust the hind boots than anything else. Wearing the boots was now creating it’s own unique set of challenges for us. The overreaching issue damaged the back of the front boots to the point that I now have to get new gaiters for the fronts. The over reaching was making JB alter his gait to avoid the contact and that was the last thing I wanted him to do. About a week ago, I had hind shoes with pads put on JB in an effort to resolve this new dilemna. My farrier that I use for special issues thought this should do the trick.. I had nothing to lose at this point.
Sundays ride was really the first time we had taken JB out on a real trail with the boots on the front and the hinds in shoes and pads. It seems he is still over reaching and tearing up the back of his front boots, although it is less. If we can’t sort this out, I may have to put JB in shoes and pads on the front as well and then he’ll have to wear bell boots to protect the bulbs of his heels.
We arrived back at the trailer after a little over 2.0 hrs of steady riding, half of it being up and down hills or over difficult footing. Tom stated that JB felt, energy wise, that he could easily do another couple hours. That was music to my ears. JB looked like he felt pretty good as well. He had barely worked up a sweat. Over reaching asside, JB was still looking fresh. Rebel, on the other hand was whipped. He was rather lathered up and was obviously tired. Ofcourse, he is older and completely out of shape. His heart rate came down within about 10 minutes. I expect conditioning with him will be a different process.
With all of the hurdles we have endured with JB over the winter and to now be presented with yet another challenge , I have had to rethink some things. I have to take a step back, or sideways rather, with JB for the season. We have made some great improvement in getting JB’s feet feeling better, no doubt, but with the emergence of yet another issue ( over reaching) I have to wonder if development is causing some of this. Although JB is 7 years old this year, it seems as though JB has just now, this year, reached a level of physical maturity that now defines him as a full grown horse as opposed to a colt. JB looks mature this year whereas last year he still looked coltish. I was comparing some photos and it was only last summer that JB noticeably increased his bone. As the breeder at Quien Sabe warned me, these horses are slow to mature. I may have underestimated just how slow.
As much as I want to do endurance on JB, I have to think about his well being. If he is just coming together, a time to refocus might be the best thing in the world for him right now and will set the foundation for a stronger endurance prospect later on. My plan is to work mostly on various dressage excercises, do a little jumping, let Tom work on horseback archery with him, and of course continue to take a trail ride or two a week as a break from the arena , with no actual goal of training for a race this season.
Depending on what JB shows me over the next several weeks , maybe we can do a limited distance later in the season co but I will let his progress make that determination. There’s always next year and with any luck, he will come out better, stonger and much more ready to handle the strains of conditioning for endurance next spring.
So that begs the question? What will I do for endurance prospect? JB will still take up a lot of my time but for the rest of it, I will focus my energy on getting Rebel ready for the June Blacktail Mountain Classic ride. From there, we'll see what happens. I mentioned in an earlier post about finally following through on a promise I made to myself and Rebel many years ago. I told you I planned to make good on that promise. Looks like 2009 might just be Rebels year to shine.