Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Conditioning, Compromises and Questions

How do I make compromises and keep an endurance horse in shape?
Riding and training for endurance is a huge commitment, especially in the time department. It seems that a large number of people who are really serious competitors in this sport have the luxury of time to commit to it. I am not one of those, especially right now. As Spring weather is arriving, I am going a bit crazy. I work full time (+) and, until May, I am also going to school. Time in not in my favor but I still want to keep my thumb on JB’s fitness level. We are slated for a limited distance, our first ride of the season, the weekend of July 17th. By May, school will be out, but until then, riding time will continue to be limited. So how do I accomplish my goal? and keep my sanity? (I do need at least a few hours of sleep)

For now, I am just trying to do as much as I possibly can because I am a firm believer that doing a little is better than doing nothing at all. But how little and how often? Can I realistically keep a horse fit enough on these time restraints to be ready for my first ride of the reason on July 17th? I’m planning to do the limited distance. I had hoped to have both JB and Maggie ready for this ride so I could ride one horse each day, but that is one compromise I have already come to terms with. I am only going to be able to have one horse ready and that needs to be JB.

Here’s my Plan: I would love to get some feed back.

Session 1:
From now until Mid May – 8-10 miles rides on Saturdays and Sundays, every weekend. Two days a week of 1 hr sessions in the arena of trotting/cantering and dressage exercise. It seems this would at least serve to keep JB legged up and in halfway decent condition.

Session 2:
May 15 – July 12- I can probably manage a ride 2 evenings a week consistently of 8-10 mile from home (since it’s the work week and I won’t have time to haul anywhere after work) and then either Saturday or Sunday as my long day in the saddle away from home. Maybe 15-20 miles, depending on the terrain.

Here are my questions:

For session 1, would 8-10 mile rides back to back from now until May be too much if it’s fairly flat (at 7-8 mph trot)? JB seems to have handled 6-7 mile rides really well right out of the gate a few weeks back after being off for 3 months.

For Session 2- Is one weekend day of longer miles enough when combined with the shorter rides during the week?

For my goal of the July 17th ride, What’s too much? What’s not enough??

Am I being reasonable in my goal to have him sufficiently ready for that date?

Also, to keep in consideration, JB tends to be of the “hardy” sort and seems to recover from a long day in the saddle quite well. In fact, I can see him excelling at multiday rides more than one day 100 milers…but I also don’t want to take advantage of that fact and risk over conditioning.

I realize so much of this depends on the individual horse, but I am looking for guidelines from those of you with the experience that I lack. So, please… share some of your thoughts, experiences, suggestions.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Velcro Butt

I am not sure where the last two weeks went but quick comes to mind.

Before I realized it, too many days had slipped by without so much as even a short condition ride. Between work, work travel, school, and few other family obligations, the horses have slipped a bit.

This past weekend, I did get back in the saddle and was able to get at least a few miles on both Maggie and JB. Tom and I headed out Sunday to scout some of the trail areas. Along with us was another rider/horse. The plan was to ride one loop that she had plotted out on the map and attempt to begin marking potential trails for the July Endurance ride that is being held here.

After an hour and half drive to get to the riding area, rushing to get saddled up , we were all anxious to see some new country. GPS in one hand, map in the other, we headed out , ready for a new adventure.

After over an hour of fumbling around, backtracking and bushwhacking to avoid the massive sheets of ice that blocked large sections of trails, we ended up just riding on the forest service roads, realizing it was still a bit early to be out, unless you had borium shoes on. The roads didn't make for a real scenic ride but there was not traffic and it was a beautiful day. There were long straigh sections and it made nice conditions for long trotting. We did end up doing some unexpected hill work when we couldn’t cross one section of ice and the only safe option was to point our horses nose up the embankment. The steep embankment no less. Thank goodness for breast collars!

With all the confusion in the beginning of the ride, JB was about as irritated and frustrated as I was and then the fight was on. Everything became an issue. We crossed a small running creek once, not a big deal but then, when we had to cross it again, (last in line of 3 horses) he thought he was going to be left all alone and proceeded to launched himself like a pole vaulter, nearly landing on top of my husbands horse and almost swiping me out of the saddle by a huge branch on his less than graceful landing.

I was thankful for three things in that moment, to have been wearing a helmet , sunglasses because the branch hit me directly in the head and lastly that I had a long background in jumping. As JB landed and I got hit with the branch , I was not exactly centered. I scrambled to right myself, just in time, before he jumped a log and scaled up a muddy hill. For a moment I was having a flash back to being on a cross country course…

I finally got JB to WHOA (dammit), gathered my reins back, straightened my helmet, took a deep breath, turned JB around and headed back the way we had just come..

....to cross that damn creek one more time …

and hopefully do it a little more appropriately. Training opportunities don't always come when you want them too.

As I passed my friend, who was eyeing the bits of pine needles and twigs sticking out of my helmet, I heard my husband quietly say... take a deep breath….in a kind but firm voice...

hhmmphh....I thought to myself...

Honestly, my husband is my rock and grounding rod. I tend to flare quickly at times and that never works with a horse, especially one like JB. He was right and I knew it.

So I heeded his advice, took a few more deep breaths and after about 10 minutes of me asking with gentle squeezes with my leg, and encouragement with my voice and seat, JB eventually ran out of dry ground and inched all four of his toes into the creek. He stood there for minute.. I pet him , took another deep breathe, told him he was a good boy and we quietly exited.

Mission accomplished…

....and apparently, I have a new name… Velcro Butt.

My friend , not having known my previous life in riding, was apparently impressed with my ability to stay in the center (sort of) of the saddle through all that…

What can I say?? This ain’t my first rodeo…(hope I am as lucky next time….)