Thursday, December 24, 2009


Yesterday an early gift arrived !!

A new Polar Heart rate monitor!!!


(now, I have to learn how to use the darn thing!!)

Hmm, I wonder what other good toys might be waiting ?????????????

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Comparisons and Thoughts

Equipped with only the knowledge gained from years of reading , research and planning for the "someday", 2008 was my maiden voyage into the world of the endurance sport. I knew horses well enough. I knew the world of horse sports well enough. I also knew endurance would be a totally different ball game. The rest was all in the details and I would have to have to sort it all out as I went.

Looking back on 2008, we tallied up 220.5 miles , most of that was done in July and August. I kind of wince at those numbers when I look at my charts, two years later . Two years the wiser, I hope, afer experiencing it all first hand. Too much too soon? Maybe.. but maybe not. If I break it down on average, it was 20 miles a week, give or take.. so maybe not??

If I look back at my notes about JB's condition, attitude, he never displayed symptoms of overtraining during that time. His heel bruise probably can't be related to over conditioning , atleast I don't think so... (ofcourse, I am still , by all accounts, a bit of rookie at this sport!)

August and September were rough months for us in 2008, but by October, JB had bounced back and was being ridden again, equipped with EDSS pads and shoes.

In 2009, again, it appears that my miles were only beginning to add up in July. Part of it was footing...we had ice until May. Then, two mares arrived for breeding. Although I tried to maintain conditioning and training during breeding season, I quickly realized it was not going to be successful. So, training took the back seat. Finally in June JB was gelded. That was about 3 weeks of lay off time since he had the closed procedure done. And finally... we arrive in July, where we were finally able to get back on some sort of conditioning schedule.

In 2009, my main goal was to start JB slowly, get him limber in the arena, get a few "bugs" worked out, and then begin to build miles slowly. Given his inury to his hoof, I was definitely being overly careful with him, terrified of having another set back, of any kind. I had hoped going extra slowly would offer him and I the best opportunity to figure out a few things we hadn't been able to in 2008, like what "made him tick", what pace he worked best at, what was too much? and when to push and when to ease up. Somewhere in there I had hoped he would give me a sign to tell me whether this sport was going to be a fit for him..or not..

We hit the trails mid July in earnest and by August, JB was showing alot of indicators that he was ready for longer hours, tougher climbs and faster speeds. His movement and pace markedly improved with the boots and every mile that settled behind us, we found one little success after another. Before long he was outwalking and outlasting a few of the arabs we often rode with. He even found his big trot...very big trot.... on a condition ride. He also showed me just how tough he could be in October when we entered the CTR in Washington and had our share of challenges. By the end of that 25 miles, I knew I had myself a good endurance prospect, without a doubt.
So, 2009 goes out with a total 234.50 TRAIL miles. While we didn't gain alot in miles compared to last year, we gained so much more in other areas, the big one being my relationship with JB. As my husband says, it's not really something one can put words too. He tells me that to watch JB and I interacting, it's clear that we have developed a strong bond, a sense of trust, an understanding between us that goes beyond spoken words. JB will do things for me that he will not do for Tom , or anyone else for that matter. JB will not do things for Tom that he willingly will do for me. Yes, JB is definitely my horse, without a doubt , but then again, it didn't come without having to earn it. Endurance is so much more than the miles , indeed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Revision of miles lay out..

The numbers did not line out like I had hoped so here is a revision that should be easier to read

Feb- arena 8, actual miles 0
March arena 4, actual 19.5
April- arena 38.5 actual 7
May- arena 5, actual 0
June- arena 16, actual12
July- arena 16, actual 12
August- arena 10, actual 42
September- arena 4, actual 102
October- arena 12.5, actual 40
November- arena 12.5, actual 0

"Objects in Mirror are closer than they Appear"

The ground is snow covered and the footing isn’t fit for much unless you have skis on, but I am making my game plan for the 2010 ride season. Before I looked ahead, I had to assess where I had been…a look in the rearview if you will. Did I accomplish my goals? What did the conditioning schedule look like? Where were the gaps in my program? What do I need to change?

So for today, I will outline my goals and tally the numbers… the review of those will come in a follow up post , as time is a bit tight.

My goals for 2009 were pretty straightforward:

1) Continue to build on his responsiveness to aids
2) Lateral work, lateral work , lateral work ; to develop the muscling and structure to carry himself and a rider correctly. (this will always be on going as part of our training)
3) Continue with steady dressage lessons to improve my communication with JB, and develop discipline in him, working towards collection and lightness.
4) Finish one 25 mile ride in competition with JB, successfully with no health or soundness issues.

I began to calculate my miles out and realized I had not been very good about tracking things accurately. I am not sure what happened but I think part of it was that my focus was not really on getting miles, at least not early on. I remember taking JB out on the first couple of spring rides out and I realized , rather quickly , that I had a few “training” issues that JB so kindly presented to me. More than once, I ended up hand walking him home because of his behaviors and once, I sustained a kick in the shin when I was trying to adjust a hind boot. To me it was more important to have a well disciplined horse to ride, and handle/ I did not want to become known as the endurance rider who rides that “cute but out of control horse” To add, I was dealing with a stallion at the time and I knew I had better get things handled pronto…so, it was at the point I decided, I would address those things early on, at home, in the arena, and worry about miles later..

Back to the numbers....

I am not sure that I can really count the hours we worked in the arena as “conditioning” . My initial thought was I shouldn't but then I thought.. why not? While a good endurance horse has to be aerobically fit, with a strong heart and lung capacity, he also needs to have the opportunity to developed the musculoskeletal system, in order to carry himself and a rider over many many miles. Without a good foundation in strength, structure, and muscling, horses risk more injury and/or a shortened career. While it’s not a guarantee, it’s my belief that correct lateral work, and ground work excercies a nd time spent doing dressage, can only improve the horse and rider long term. So, for fun, I decided to give myself some credit for that.

The next obstacle I ran into was just how to give myself credit. It’s difficult to give arena work miles….

Here is what I ended up doing: I know I can cover 2 miles in 30 minutes with JB and while I know that number is conservative, I did not want to inflate anything. We’ll call it ....RSD (really slow distance). I used that as my guideline. Each 30 minute session was about 2 miles of conditioning or 1 hour of arena work was approximately 4 miles.

Since I intermixed the ride time in the arena with actual miles , atleast once in a while, I took an additional step and broke out between actual miles and Arena miles.

**Of Note:
May- I am pretty sure I probably rode more than just twice in this month but I did not record any additional since I didn’t have the data and therefore, I only recorded the two days.

June and July- These two months are kind of tricky so I had to use an average here. On one calendar , I did mark down that I rode an average of 2 x per week in the arena with a few weekend easy trail rides for June, In July, I have journal entries that indicate that I began upping my endurance miles, but didn't actually record these miles... (must have been a time thing) . So I improvised. I calculated 16 arena miles ( 2x week at 30 minutes each= 4 miles /week) and 12 trail miles,(4 miles each, 3 times that month). These numbers are probably on the conservative side but, again , trying to avoid inflation.

Here is what we accomplished, give or take:

Month Arena Miles Actual Miles
February- 8 0
March 4 19.5
April 38.5 7
May 5 0
June 16 12
July 16 12
August 10 42
September 4 102
October 12.5 40
November 12.5 0

TOTAL 126.5 234.50

Combined, it 361 miles...not too shabby....

So, did we accomplish our goals? I can honestly say we put a good dent in them. I accomplished #4 for sure and still tickled about how well JB did on that ride. We continue to take dressage lessons and JB is really coming together in the lateral work and flexion department. He is getting softer and softer in the bridle.

I have some additional thoughts on the numbers /miles that I will share in another post.

In the meantime, 2009 will absolutely go down as a very successful year for JB and I.

Feel free to comment on your thoughts/opinions of counting arena time, or what you think of the conditioning that we accomplished.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Winter Training Journal 4

It would appear that my winter riding window slammed shut this weekend, atleast for a bit, when we got about 8 inches of snow , howling winds and down right bitter temps...

JB is in rare form these days, as he has icicles hanging off of his coat and when he trots by, he jingles, like a thousand little bells going off as he passes by. I couldn't help but giggle at his situation, as initially, it was spooking the dear bairn!

Today, he has settled into it and jingles proudly... it seems as he frolicked back and forth, strutting with Brego in the 3 foot snow drifts. Ofcourse, their horse play resulted in a broken wire and gate latch...

Ah... but for life on a farm in the middle of a Montana winter....

I think I 'll go find my book and rest by the fire...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Winter Training Journal 3- Boots and Snow

Despite the weather, Saturday's condition ride was pretty uneventful. We didn't get to go as far as I wanted , mostly due to footing. We probably only did about 8 miles and mostly at a slow trot or walk. Still, it was nice to be in the saddle and out, despite the frozens nose and toes!
The ride made me realize something.

Mel, over at Boots and Saddles, recently did a 2 part series on the Iron free hoof and how it has improved her horses feet. Her post and my recent ride inspired this post.

I have had similar experiences. In late 2008, JB's first season of training of endurance (and mine!), he sustained a pretty bad bruise to his sole and heel, with an iron shoe, no less. Before that injury , JB never traveled in a way that I would have considered normal. While he wasn't lame,he was terribly slow and just had a funny way of going.

After his injury in August 2008, my vet insisted I have a farrier put him in therapeutic pads and EGSS shoes (Gene Ovnicek). So I did. There wasn't much of a choice. JB was so sore, he had to be kept comfortable enough to be able to move, in order to heal. After 8 weeks, the shoes and pads came off. his bruised heel and sole were about 75% better but he was not 100% sound. His xrays revealed the culprit, thin soles, which was a surprise, given his breeding. At that point , I had a choice. Keep him in pads and shoes for the remainder of the summer to protect him and hope for little long term health of his hoof or keep him barefoot and work on getting his long toe, low heel syndrome better sorted out, while improving the health of his hoof. Pretty simple decision. I had already done some reading up on the barefoot trend and now was as good a time as any to give it a go.
For the next several weeks, I went through the painful process of finding the right fitting boot. This was an education all by itelf. Turn out JB doesn't have typically shaped feet. or , atleast the typical shaped foot that the boots were based on. His are very round feet and not oblong at all. Unfortunately the easy boot glove didn't even come close to fitting. His hoof popped over the edge of the boot and he looked like the horse hoof version of the "muffin top" look. After a few phonecall, remeasuring a few times, and reordering, we finally got the Epics. They almost fit perfect... almost... JB has what I can best describe as short feet, meaning there is not much distance between his coronet band and the bottom of his hoof. The Epic was just a bit too deep for him and it sat dangerously close to hitting his coronet band. I finally ended up ordering the medium insert pads for the Epics, which I needed anyways to protect his sole. It added just enough of a lift for JB's foot. Additionally I cut away the tongue for added safety as his foot settled in the boot. As soon as those boots went on him, he literally jumped for joy, bucking and leaping on the end of the line like a trout. I knew I had made the right decision. It was a defining moment for JB, me and our future in endurance.

Here is a photo of one of his newer boots( we are on our second pair since March of 2008) Sorry or the blurriness but you can see that the tongue is cut so when this boot is buckled down there is just enough tongue to protect the foot from the wire digging in.

The only other trouble I ran into was that I could not use boots on JB's hind feet. He is so short coupled and overreaches so much, that he was busting the buckle on the back boots with the bottom of the front boots. I tried everything to remedy this until I just had to give up. As a result, JB was shod on the hinds all of the 2009 season. Even with the shoes on back, he still interfered and you can see in the photo below how he catches the left side of both front boots, to the left on each one... I consult with a natural balance farrier with JB and had him check everything out . It appears to be simply how JB travels and not something that trimming can necessarily correct. It jsut beats the hell out of the boots....

All in all, JB did well throughout all the miles of conditioning that we covered in the 2009 season with boots on. We crossed rocky river bottoms, sludged through mud, scrambled through shale and finished our summer out with a second place finish in volcanic rock footing... all with the boots. I also saw a tremendous improvement in the way JB traveled in general. he finally stated reaching and moving out. I have no reason not to believe it was strictly due to the boots. Barefoot has served JB well indeed. The only time I have had any trouble with the epics is that in one of my late fall rides about a month ago, the tongue of the boot dug into JB's hoof wall a little, leaving an indentation. Nothing major but I had never had this before. I can't figure out what was different that time, maybe I didn't have the boot tight enough or on his foot correctly.

Now as winter has begin to bear down her icy grip, Satuday's condition ride was a reminder that the Epics aren't for ice and snow. JB was losing traction and slipping on the 1/2 inch of snow we rode through. I absolutely cannot risk another issue by riding him without some type of hoof protection and even if I could, we get too much ice and snow that even barefoot would be hazardous. While I want his frog, digital cushion and lateral ligaments to be stimulated as they are while barefoot, I also have to be safe. If I have any chance of maintaining any level of fitness with JB between mid January and the end of March, I have to put borium shoes on , along with pads. I am not real excited about it but will 3 months of shoes and pads really ruin anything?

I would say probably not. His feet came out of pads in November looking very good and he had been in them since early spring with trims every 6 weeks.

While I really have embraced the barefoot trend and have seen my horse first hand experience the benefits from it, I also have to consider the climate I live in while trying to maintain a level of fitness for JB. More importantly, I have to take into account safety. Borium shoes offer that. Ofcourse, just because I have borium shoes doesn't guarantee I can ride all the time. Sometimes, the footing simply gets too bad, even with borium.

What's everyone elses take on borium's? Likes/dislikes? I'd like to hear about it.