Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Realizations and Refocus

I should be packing and preparing to attend what would have been my first ride of the season this weekend, (yes, while the rest of you have already attended 5 or more already!) It’s a new ride this year in Potomac, Montana. A one day ride that offers both a limited distance of 35 and a 50 miler. Between weather, work, saddle fitting issues and a huge list of other bumps in the road, I never got into a conditioning schedule this year with Maggie. I have managed to get few good 10-12 mile rides under my belt but that was it. Any remaining delusion that I could have Maggie ready for the July 23rd ride was quickly decided for me a few weeks ago when I actually looked at the calendar , factored in that I was gone the week before the ride, and considered Maggie’s latest recovery rates on our conditioning rides. Maggie was barely managing 12 miles of hilly country at a moderate pace.

It was just enough to know I couldn’t ask her to complete a 35 mile ride, in hilly country.

So, yet another ride scratched for the season. But it’s not a bad thing. In fact, I am feeling a bit rejuvenated over the whole thing.

About 2 months ago, it was just a tickle in my brain, a passing thought here and there.. is endurance is even worth doing in this part of the country? We only have 1-2 rides that are even remotely close (5 hour or less drive away) and if your lucky, you might be able to seriously start conditioning in June. That alone makes endurance a difficult goal where I live. Then there was the issues I was seeing in Maggie that I didn’t like. Over the course of the last several weeks, that nagging thought kept coming back every time I climbed on her. She was tense, rushy, bracey. Every ride with others was getting a little worse, a little more of a battle to keep her quiet and relaxed. I realized I needed to do something. I don’t know about other endurance riders, but I refuse to have a horse that is a barely controlled runaway with t braced jaw and braced back just so I can fly down the trail and compete in endurance. Not my idea of fun and I am sure not much fun for Maggie either.

When you keep trying to do the same thing and you keep running into road blocks, it’s time to change the path. That is what I have decided to do. No, I am not giving up on endurance. I am just refocusing. For now.

Without the hours of pounding out the miles, I have been spending more time in the arena with Maggie and I have realized a few things. Things I didn’t like. For one, endurance has really done a number on my riding. I have become stiff and bracey in my sitting trot, I have developed tension in my hips and lower back and guess what? It directly translates to my horse.

I have enough years of dressage and equitation lessons to draw upon to fix all of this. It just requires me to spend time on it. And that is what I intend to do.

The arena work has always been there but it was a means to an end, just enough to get by, to get down the trail. A little bending, a little lateral work, a few circles, a few half halts, etc. Now, I am going full blown back to my roots of Dressage, Equitation and maybe a little jumping just to mix it up a bit. I f I want a soft responsive horse that does more than go down the trail, its what Maggie needs. We are already making some good progress and it’s only been a couple weeks of concerted effort. Maggie is finding her slow relaxed trot and getting as soft as butter in my hands. For the first time in a long time, it feels really good to ride her and I think she is happier as well.

So, this weekend instead of packing up to go ride 35 miles, I am packing up to get a few private lessons with a respected horsewoman, Alice Trindle. She is in Hamilton, Montana putting on a 3 day clinic and it’s been a few years since I have had the opportunity to train with her. I think it will be money better spent for where Maggie and I are in our journey.


Judi said...

Sounds like a great plan! I'm sure it will pay off big dividends on many fronts.

AareneX said...

Yes, yes, YES! (can you hear me applauding? I'm applauding very loudly).

It's so easy to get sucked into the "gotta gett'er done" mentality of endurance, and it's so easy to leave good horse training--and good riding--in the dust. I took THREE years to leg up my current horse, partly because Life Got In the Way, and partly because I knew that I needed to address some major training holes in the mare AND in me. We did dressage, games, a little jumping, some trail building, and a little bit of everything else in the world that is NOT endurance, in order to build some strength and flexibility for both of us.

We'll do a few endurance rides this year, but my focus now is on relaxing and having fun.

cheyenne jones said...

Now thats a plan!....Agree with the previous posts, its too easy to push them into a distance they are`nt ready or fit enoughintste to do.

Funder said...

I can't wait to hear what you learned! Good plan. I've always really admired Aarene's progress with Fiddle and it sounds like you're on the right track with Maggie.

The Equestrian Vagabond said...

I loooooooove endurance, but, i think it's all about having fun. endurance, trail rides, dressage, whatever you and your horse enjoy together! Of course, my horse just enjoys EATING, so we won't include him in this discussion.
- The Equestrian Vagabond

HHmstead said...

Isn't it all about the "Ride"? I sure think so! Fully understand what you mentioned regarding a "stiffening" after a while. To keep relaxation going mile after mile is very difficult! Cross-training really helps!

HHmstead said...

P.S. Proximity to rides is a BIG issue to me too! So much easier to go when the rides are close!
A friend of mine who could hardly get in a few rides a season, moved to the PS & now has many within a 2-3 hour haul! Much easier!

All Who Wander said...

I admire that you were able to set aside "the goal" for what your horse really needed. Sometimes endurance is NOT what they need. Phebes was so good as a trail horse. She could relax, and soften and things would be really good. I can't say that she and I actually enjoyed a competition because I was not riding the horse that I had trained. I'm glad that you can step back and value your mare for what she CAN do, and work on what you can't rather than try to force a square peg into a round hole. ~E.G.

Jonna said...

Stay tuned for updates all! I promise to get a new post out soon with all the progress Maggie and I have made in the last several weeks. Stepping back has launched us ahead!! WOOHOO!