Friday, December 20, 2013

Lesson learned: longe first!

Work has continued to be busy and I haven't been getting in many Real Rides.  Actually, I've been missing a weekday entirely most weeks.  The good news is that things should settle down now.

I know that Confetti is in good shape.  I know the dynamics between her and her sister.  I know she hadn't been out in four days, and even then she wasn't tired at the end.  Thinking about it now, our trail ride total for the past two weeks probably totals 3 or 4 counting yesterday's ride.

It was, for the most part, really lovely.  I tacked up, hopped on, met up with Fetti's sister and rider, headed out for a brisk ride of a mile/mile and a half.  We were short on daylight and decidedly not short on pony energy.  Brisk trot on the way out, one spot where she cantered up the hill.. I should have taken that as a sign.  I should have longed her first, honestly, but it's always so much easier to see that in hindsight.

When we turned around, I had a bit of a firecracker on my hands.  She was mad at me that I wasn't letting her run home.  I schooled downward transitions as a way to keep things under control - trot politely a bit, back down to a walk if she started pulling.  It's that balance between letting her move out a bit and controlling the dragon inside.  Also in hindsight: I know she walks home perfectly well 99% of the time.  I knew what I was dealing with and I probably should have made her walk.

She threw a buck or two shortly after we turned around.  Pony was irritated and making a point.  Yelled at her, trotted off, fine.  I don't like it, but I know she's doing it because she wants to move out.  Quarter mile later and over halfway home, I think I asked for another trot-walk transition and she did it again.  Except this time had more energy and frustration to it - two 'polite' bucks, the third that (I'm told) made her look like a rodeo bronc.  I stuck the first two.  I did not stick the third and I'm not actually sure that I could have.

Side note: I know the theory that they can't buck when they're going forwards.  In this case, she's bucking because I'm not letting her go forwards.  It feels like it would be rewarding the bad behavior to send her forwards at a brisk trot or canter.  That's what she wants!  I also know that she was previously trained out of bucking.. by getting her to bolt instead.
Two things become clear from this incident.  One: she does not rate well enough headed home, and that gets substantially worse when leading other horses.  Two: I absolutely cannot give her four days off in a row and expect to just hop on for a pleasant trail ride.  If I give her four days off, we need to be going out for several hours, not 30 minutes, and it probably needs to be solo so we can keep up a pace that works for us.

Unfortunately, going over her head meant my usual falling skills were a bit challenged.  My shoulder took the worst of the impact and for the first time in years I hit my head with enough force to immediately know that a new helmet was going to be needed.  No concussion, no broken bones, no blood.  Everything was moving, mostly, although my shoulder is still screaming at me the next morning.  (Getting it looked at to confirm that it's all muscle/soft tissue damage is on the agenda for the day.  I may or may not go for a few hour trail ride first.)

The thing with becoming a better rider and sticking more antics is that the little stuff doesn't get you off, so it's the Really Big Stuff and that usually Really Hurts.  Argh!

Next goal: re-acquire a polite slow-to-medium trot home on a reasonably loose rein, regardless of circumstances.  I have a funny feeling that will get easier when I ride her as much as I was the rest of the year.  Eight miles a week rather than 25 is a pretty substantial difference.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Not all sunshine and roses

It's been a rough few weeks for me, with a lot going on that means I don't have much energy to blog, nor much time to ride.

Last weekend (okay, by the time I'm posting this, it's been over a week!): Thursday we did a slow, mostly-walking ride with some spurts of polite collected trot.  Friday was five miles, moderate speed, excessively feisty 'Fetti - when we stopped and let the others continue maybe 100 feet ahead so some little girls could pet the pony, our return to the group involved her hind feet going above her head at least once.  Good news: my dressage saddle was secure enough I stayed on and was more irritated than worried about coming off.
Saturday we did a 10-mile loop, moderate-brisk pace (4mph, lots of hill), and I had a lot of horse left at the end.  Sunday.. well, Sunday she got to play the part of a polite pony ride horse and go for a walking trail ride.  No real work involved!
Tuesday it was so late and so cold by the time I got to the barn that I cleaned her stall, threw her hay, and went home.

So when I got on this past Thursday, I expected her to have a lot of energy and figured we'd repeat the 10-mile loop at a slightly faster pace.  Instead, all of her energy was channeled towards avoiding work, finding things to spook at, refusing to get in front of my leg, and generally being a nuisance.  We'd get a halfway reasonable trot for 30 seconds, then she'd slow and resist and try to turn around, repeat.  It's incredibly, incredibly frustrating when we go through this.  My feeling at this point is that a lot of it stems from not getting out on our own often enough.  If we do a solo ride once a week, that keeps her in the 'must go forwards alone' mode, rather than resisting because she's by herself.  That didn't happen this week.  

I'm not quite sure how we'll manage that this winter.  We have these battles every spring, too, when the dam goes back down and we can get back across.  I have to fight her to get her to go by herself; I have to fight her even when I take her on the highway to get to the park during the winter.  She'd rather lose her brain and not have to work/focus on me.

I guess the good thing is that she settled eventually.  Initially, every time she'd try to turn I'd smack and kick her into more forwards.  Behind my leg?  Go faster, damnit.  I aborted the idea of trying for the 10-mile loop and cut it down to 7, knowing that we'd be cutting it really close on time if we did 10 and she kept up the fussing.  Three miles in, I quit pushing her and we just walked.  Our speed really wasn't that atrocious, it just felt absolutely awful.  I verbally asked if she wanted to trot a few times and she politely declined, though would have if I'd said she had to.  By four miles, she knew we were headed home and we'd both had a bit of a mental break with the walking.  Things got better, she was willing to move out, I was willing to trust her to behave.  We cantered a few sections on the way home and she was thrilled with that, wanted more, but came back to a trot when I insisted.  Life felt better by then.  I just hate that it's such a battle to get there some days.

It used to be that these were the rides where I wondered what the hell I thought I was doing with this horse.  It feels like we're not making progress, she's not working with me, I don't know enough and she doesn't like her job.  I know now that none of those are actually true - well, except for the part where she's not working with me, that's totally true - and I don't get stuck in that mindset for too long anymore.  That doesn't make it suck any less when I'm in the midst of it.  For as far as we've come together, there are still a handful of off days that I can't just pretend never happen.

Okay, other good things (even knowing that I'm allowed to rant about how absolutely miserably frustrating my horse is, I can't end it on that note!):

- We hung out near five deer for a few minutes at the beginning of Thursday's ride.  They were split on either side of the trail and I knew we'd be fine walking by them, but wasn't convinced Fetti wouldn't spook if/when they went flying across the trail right behind her.  So.. we stood, and I explained to the deer that I'd really appreciate if they all picked a side and headed over, pretty please, yes you there, can you go across? I won't get in your way if you do it now.  Good deer.  You're thinking about it too?  That would be lovely.  We'll just stand here and keep looking at you.. okay, fine, we'll walk up a few steps to be encouraging.  I really would like to get somewhere today and you're all rather in my way.  I mean, you guys, the pony and I were probably standing ten feet away from the deer for five minutes while we waited for the deer to cross the trail and I explained to them why it was important that they do so.  I'm really glad no hikers came by in the midst of that...

- I try not to put absolute beginners on Confetti very often.  I made the decision to do so last weekend and she was a saint.  She was almost as saint-like when I put the beginner rider on another Haffy for our trail ride - Fetti led the group, let me reverse course a few times to pony the other horse, stood still, walked slowly.  When the other two horses were convinced they should get to turn around, she tried to get in on that too, but we did eventually get over that.  I was really impressed by how well she did given that I was mentally all over the place the whole time.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Conditioning part two: mileage numbers

Originally, I meant to include this in the first post.  Oops!  It should be easy enough to write lots just on the mileage, though, so I think that worked out well.

Instinctively, I want to consider my "short rides" anything between 1-3 miles or so.  Long rides are 8+ miles.  The reality is that our usual few loops are 5-7 miles, and at least half of those don't qualify as real conditioning rides when they're done at 3.5-4mph.

Relevant note: tracking applications are started once across the river, generally once we're in the park.  Any given ride has a half-mile warmup and cooldown that doesn't get tracked, and 'Fetti knows it's time to move out once we're on the park trails.  That decision came about when I was first tracking our rides, and we would frequently spend 20 minutes getting to the river even before we got on a real trail.  Made for really terrible time comparisons!  Any hissy fits happen in that first half-mile, so I don't stress over speed or consistency there at all.

1-3 miles: 3 rides
3-5* miles: 3 rides
5-7 miles: 5 rides
8+ miles: 12.55 miles, 8.24 miles, 18.03 miles = 3 rides

1-3 miles: 2 rides
3-5 miles: none
5-7 miles: 8 rides
8+ miles: 8.17 miles, 8.92 miles, 12.50 miles = 3 rides
+ 25LD mid-month

1-3 miles: 6 rides
3-5 miles: 3 rides
5-7 miles: 7 rides
8+ miles: 7.89 miles, 8.40 miles, 7.44 miles

1-3 miles: 7 rides
3-5 miles: 4 rides
5-7 miles:7 rides
8+ miles: 13.10 miles, 7.41 miles, 11.52 miles

October LD the first weekend.

*They need a category since clearly some rides fall in that lovely gray zone of 3-5 miles.  So.. there it is.  Looking at it, I think most are probably 5-7 mile rides where I forgot to start tracking for a mile or two.

Longer rides are hard for me to do for a variety of reasons.  I tend to ride in the evenings; longer rides mean I need to allow several more hours at the barn, and mean I need to get off work early enough for that to work.  I think one of our loop-trails is around 9 miles, and is back up on my to-do list after seeing these numbers!  Also, anything much beyond that (without adding loops - probably what I should be doing) takes me out of the park and into further sections of nearby park/forest land.  There's always a risk involved when going out solo on the horse into mountain-bike popular trails and crossing the highway.  My compromise has been to do those rides only on mornings/afternoons, when I know there will be people around if something goes terribly wrong.  That unfortunately makes late afternoon longer rides somewhat unappealing.

A handful of the monthly 3-7 mile rides are those out with friends and don't count as real conditioning - I'd figure probably 4 a month at least.  5 in June, 6 in July, 6 in August, 7 in September - although some of those may have been rides on a different horse, too.  So with those numbers in mind, I started doing a lot more 'real conditioning' at speed in August/September.

Due primarily to my work schedule, I mostly ride Tuesday/Thursday/weekends.  I rode more with a week off in September, but tried to keep to lighter works (or different horses!) on our usual off days.  Sometimes another gal comes out and does dressage lessons/rides, which is good for everyone involved - same thing there, I try to ride lightly on the other days since I know she gets worked pretty hard then.

We'll taper off the next few months as it's muddy, then work back into it in the spring.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Looking back, looking ahead: conditioning

I started using MapMyHike in May this year, seriously in June, so I have nice data I can look at to see what it is I've actually done with the silly horse.  (One catch: I track most of my rides, regardless of what horse, so my total mileage for a week that MMH shows may be slightly over.)

I can say with reasonable confidence that I've been riding 15-30 miles on any given week.  I was not happy with the level of conditioning we achieved last year and wanted to improve on it, so 25 has been the rough number I've been aiming for this season.  Per Mel's conditioning post earlier this year, I knew I wanted to aim for 1-2 long/moderate trot rides and 1-2 shorter/speed rides.  But.. I didn't actually start really DOING those shorter rides until August.  Hindsight!  The reality is now that I'm getting in maybe one long/moderate trot ride, two speed/short rides, and one to two casual trail rides that don't really qualify as conditioning, just mileage.

I think that reality is probably where we'll settle for right now.  A qualifier:  moderate trot really ends up meaning 'whatever the fastest speed is she'll give me', which brings us close to a 5mph average on longer rides.
*April rides (TrackMyHack): primarily 3-3.5mph
*May rides (TMH again): primarily 2.5-3.5mph
*June rides: primarily 2-4mph
*July rides: primarily 3.5-4.5mph, a few faster rides up to 5mph
*August rides: way all over the place! primarily (kind of) 3.5-5mph, a few faster rides as I started short/fast rides
*September rides: primarily 3.5-5.5mph, a few faster rides up to 6.6mph!
*October rides: primarily 3.5-4mph.  We didn't ride as much this month (or I didn't log what we did) since I knew we could start tapering off for the winter.
*November rides so far: all over the place with a bunch of not-tracked rides too.

Our flat section of trail is around 3 miles in total.  It's pretty heavily populated with hikers, dogs, and the occasional illicit bikes; my tendency to go out fairly late luckily means that most are gone by then.  This is mostly where I'm getting the speed work (5mph+) in, with no hills involved to slow us down.  The footing is excellent and the trail is such that I can see hikers before we're right on top of them.

3.5-4mph is reasonable when riding with friends.  I don't generally count those as real conditioning/work, yet I have no desire to take those out of the equation.  If I were always riding on my own, I'd aim to get our lower speeds up and default into something quicker.  However, I genuinely enjoy these rides with friends, and at least one friend is working on conditioning her horse in hopes of an eventual LD!

My current goals: amp up our 'default' trot to be closer to 5mph.  Move our Big Trot closer to 7mph.  (Both of those on the flat-speed sections, since my perspectives are all skewed when you add hills.)

My goal for this past year was to get that 6-mile loop of ours done with a 5mph average.  When I started tracking, it was a 3.5mph average, maaaaybe 4.  Now?  Nearly 5 when I'm not pushing her for speed, 5 when I am.  Improved!

I'm going to continue to aim for 1-2 speed rides as weather permits, ideally one longer one, definitely adding that longer one in when spring comes around.  I know there's value to riding less often.. but I know I need to hop on the pony regularly for a mental reset, so as of yet I am not comfortable planning to cut my ride days further.  Shorter rides, or just meandering around the barn?  Both totally acceptable and I will feel no guilt about not riding her harder or longer during the week.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sensibility training

Meeting a helicopter is my go-to example of sensibility training.  Aarene posted about that ages ago and it's stuck with me ever since.  After all, when would a horse ever need to deal with a nearby helicopter, especially in my neck of the woods?  Never, I thought.  It'll never come up.  I should know better.

It's hard to see in the picture, but there is a helicopter on the left and a fire truck on the right.

The answer is that Fetti looked at the field and stopped.  She thought really, really hard about it.  She wasn't thrilled, but she was tolerant and once we could no longer see the helicopter, she was willing to trot on.  Good mare!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


It's been quiet around here lately.. not too much to blog about.  Work is keeping me busy, we're done with serious pony-conditioning for the year, sometime soon the rain will start and winter-mode will kick in.

For now, we're doing shorter rides.  The evenings are getting shorter.  I'm having fun playing with speed work and sprints rather than rehashing the same trail loop three times a week.  Although with the sprints we're doing the same section of trail most of the time anyway.. but it FEELS different.

One of my goals is to really improve our canter work.  I want to use the canter to help improve her fitness, even if we never canter in a LD.  My seat needs to improve to ride her canter when she's not totally balanced.  Her stamina needs to improve so she can canter more than one tiny trail section or two.

Given last week's ride, it's time to mark that last one accomplished.  Tracking app was broken for the day, so no log.. but we cantered most of the last half-mile of trail headed home.  And a good few chunks on the trail prior to that, too.  Pony feels GOOD.  [Although a thought occurs to me: I'm not getting her turned out in the arena very much, so I think for once I'm actually channeling that energy rather than fighting it. Probably time to let her have a good run without me.]

My balance feels vastly better.  I'm weighting my heels like a proper English rider and doing it to feel comfortable, not because I think I should.  Two-point is a work in progress.  Sitting back at the canter is, too.  The knee is totally fine on a horse and mostly fine off.

Another winter goal: jog on the trails with Fetti.  I'd like to get back into C25K once the knee agrees, and at least jog the flat bits once the rain kicks in.  We'll see how that one goes.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Taking flight

Yesterday, we flew on the trails.

I decided she'd had enough time off when she tried to trot away from the mounting block on Tuesday; it was too dark then for a proper ride.  Thursday would have to suffice.

You know that feeling of bubbly joy and anticipation and happiness all rolled into one?  That's where I was when I got to the barn.  I am still on such a high from how well she did this weekend.  It was clear I'd have a lot of horse yesterday.  There were no reservations, no concerns anywhere in my head.. just the knowledge that we needed to go and do something and let her run off some of that steam.  (Okay, it helped that I knew she'd been turned out the day prior and did a lot of running by herself!)

Six miles where we genuinely negotiated on the pace.  I didn't really push, but I'd ask; she'd offer speed, she'd ask to slow down.  Tracking shows a lot of quick bursts of speed followed by slower breaks.  It's what she wanted to do, and I was happy enough with that.  We galloped and cantered bits of the way home even on the flat sections, or a big trot in other parts, and a walk where she asked.  No fear, no worries that she wouldn't stop.  I'd sigh and sit back and pick up the reins and tell her it was time to slow down: she slowed down.

Pony's come a long way from the horse I couldn't take out by herself and certainly couldn't canter on the trail for fear she'd take off with me.

I am so in love with this horse.

Pre-ride. Probably the best shot of her clip.
View from the trail.. nice wide open spaces.  Bit dry, though.
Happily inhaling hay at the vet check.

Back at the trailer afterwards. 'More hay, please?'  Bright-eyed and alert!

Back at home: staring contests with deer.  Fairly frequent these days.

Right after the rain a few weeks back.  I love my forest, too, especially through these golden ears.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fall Classic

Earlier in the year, a friend offered to drive me and the pony to the Quicksilver ride.  Naturally, I took her up on the offer: I'm still truck-and-trailer-less with no one at my barn heading off to rides (yet).  Be forewarned: this is a long, detail-filled post before I forget the little things.

I packed nearly everything for 'Fetti on Thursday night. That was smart.  Not so smart: I did not pack all my stuff til Friday morning, and nearly forgot a pillow for myself at home as a result.  Oops!  Lesson learned, I need to quit procrastinating on such things.

Pony loaded well, trailered well, settled into ridecamp well - all things I've come to expect.  If she has a haybag, life is good.  Camp was surprisingly pleasant and breezy on Friday, despite the forecast high of 88 and calm for Saturday.  We set up a large bucket of water and bungee-corded it to the trailer in hopes that last year's performance of knocking over water buckets for fun could be avoided.  

Good thing: she drank!  She'd eat some hay, drink some water, eat some more hay, grab some more water.  Convincing this horse that she needs to drink has been a perpetual problem, and I think we're finally through it.  The 2" hole haynet kept her occupied for just about six hours with two flakes in there.  Not great, but not terrible either.

We vetted in easy enough, front Renegades on, no comments.  Unfortunately, no initial pulse given either.  (Luckily, it was substantially LESS thorough than last year!)  'Fetti fell asleep in the moderately-long line when it was just about our turn, so I'd been hoping they would.. ah well.  I skipped a pre-ride and walked her about a bit instead.

The calm, relaxed horse got a bit lost by the time I tacked up the next morning.  I allowed myself extra time to make sure I got the electrodes and the saddle in the right place.  I fiddled with the placement of the under-saddle electrode a few times, finally got a reading, and called it good enough.  That electrode has never been a problem before.  Last year taught me that I really do want a HRM running on her, especially in the heat, so I can keep a better eye on how hard she's actually working and taper off as soon as I think she might need it.  I hopped on, we walked around a bit, and the pony made it very clear she thought we should be back at the trailer with the haybag, not standing around with all these people and dumb fired-up horses.  We did make it over to the start at a reasonable time and with some forwards momentum.

Unlike our previous two LDs, this time I had no one in particular I was planning to ride with.  We alternated groups a lot, tried some riding by ourselves, and ended up riding with our camping neighbor for probably half of the first loop if not more - just not all at once.  I knew I had to make time in the morning when it was cooler; even clipped, Fetti's not a horse used to high heat and that gets hard on her.  We stuck behind her for a bit, passed when I thought Fetti had a brain, and promptly discovered that she wanted nothing to do with riding by herself.  She'd go, all right, but it was a go spurred by the knowledge that there were horses in front of her! and she wanted to catch up to them!  and it was absolutely awful learning that we were not going to get a polite, relaxed walk on the trail by ourselves.

So we trotted, and trotted, and walked whenever someone ahead of us walked, and trotted and trotted and BIG POWER TROTTED some more.  I tried to keep her slow, she threw a minor hissy fit, and I decided I was not willing to ride out potentially dangerous antics on this trail.  So I rated her a little less than I had, and a lot more than she would have liked, but just enough that she mostly tolerated it.  In part, this was based on the knowledge that we had to make time, and dangit if the horse was going, I guess that'll help us make time so long as she pulses down and I still have horse left.  Luckily, we met back up with our camping buddy two or three miles out from the check, so we trot/walk/trotted that section with her.  (I made it clear to her at the outset: you do what your horse needs to do, I'm not asking to ride with you the whole ride, I just need a horse with a brain to follow for a few minutes! and she was fine with that, and we both rode our own rides that happened to intersect fairly often.)  Oh, and somewhere in that first half of the ride we ran into ground bees.  I'm pretty sure Fetti got stung, she was clearly head-tossy and uncomfortable right after, but no worse for the wear after another mile to forget about it.

Somewhere in that first half of the ride, the HRM quit working.  I was baffled, but not concerned enough to try to fix it given how impolite the pony was being.  I walked her in to the vet check at pony-walk speeds, pulled tack and gave her a couple minutes to drink, and at that point she was down to 60.  Just about 13 miles in, 2hours 40 minutes.  (In hindsight, my tracking shows it was closer to 13.5 miles, but I forgot to turn it off until she was all vetted in with alfalfa so I'm not exactly sure).  I looked for wires once everything was off the horse - and discovered that one of the HRM wires was entirely gone.  That explained a lot!  Unfortunate, but okay, I rode this last year with no HRM, I will make do.

 Unfortunately, our camping-buddy's horse got pulled here.  Also unfortunately, I was a little fuzzy on where exactly the trail was supposed to go immediately out of the check.  It's likely a sign was moved or relocated or something after the ride started.  I kicked and swatted the pony out of the gate.. started trotting along.. looked at the map.. sighed and reversed to ask where the heck I was supposed to go.  I probably left the check five minutes after officially leaving the first time, following two bays for the first little loop until I could get my bearings back.  I sent her ahead of them after a bit, and eventually caught up to two local-ish riders, one of whom knew the trail.  I think I ended up riding with them for pretty much the rest of the ride.  I knew timing was going to be close, I wasn't sure how much trail was left, and they were doing enough walk breaks for me to be comfortable with it.  When they got off and walked down a long hill towards the end, I got off and walked at pony-speed.  Hopped back on at the water trough, finally got the silly horse going FORWARDS and not trying to turn around (seriously!), and trotted down another hill or two.. only to see the nearly-the-end gate and hop right back off to walk her in.

Even with pulling tack right when I got in and sponging perpetually, it took ten minutes and a spot of shade for her to come down to 'right at 60'.  That was pretty impressive.  I still have visions of hosing down Fetti in the sun and doing everything possible last year, and it still took a good 20+ minutes for her to pulse down to 60.  I have no illusions about ever walking right in to a check and having her down, but it's nice to have the time drop!

A barn friend found us shortly after she pulsed down and helped me move tack to the trailer, sponge her off, and even trotted her out for me - which was really nice, since my feet were hurting and my knee was a bit sore.  I could have done it, but with someone fresh willing, it seemed silly not to let her do it instead.  All A's at the finish.  Yay!  Relocated pony to the trailer where she happily went back to inhaling hay and drinking water.  She was much less tired than she looked after Fireworks; I'm not really sure how that worked.  Total ride time minus 45min hold: just about 4h45min.

So, good things:

1. I clipped before this ride.  Forecast was for 88; when a friend left around 3 or 4 it was 91, so I'm thinking possibly even a bit warmer than that.  'Fetti has a lot of her winter coat already and I am SO glad I clipped.

2. Camelbak is the best decision I made for me on this ride, no contest.  I just about never had two hands free to open a water bottle, we walked a lot less than usual, I fought with her a lot more than usual.  I think I was dehydrated by the end, but I can't imagine how much worse it would have been without the nearly hands-free drinking at the trot.  At home, if we're riding in 90 degree weather, we have shade and river breezes.. not full sun.  That's tough on both of us.

3. Carrots!  Funder, I remembered your suggestion last year of giving carrots on a regular basis.  Her gut sounds were a B at the out vet check, but most of a bag of carrots later, an A at the final check.. even without letting her inhale hay back at the trailer.

4. We've done a lot of our little 6-mile loop at home almost entirely at a trot.  I know she's capable of trotting that much without walk breaks and won't wilt at the end.  Tired? Yes. Exhausted? No.  We've never ridden this fast aside from Ride Bear last year where I know I pushed her a bit more than I should have.  I think our conditioning is finally starting to pay off.  All but three of our mile-splits are over 5mph, and I never pushed for speed, only growled at her about which direction she had to go in.  I spent most of the ride hauling on her face.  It's a very different feeling to our usual.

5. We rode our own ride.  I won't say it was MY ride, because it wasn't the one I was going for.. but it was a Fig/Fetti compromise ride.  I thought it was quite dumb of her on a regular basis - but she proved she can do it at that speed even if I think she's being an idiot, so it somewhat balances out.

6. 'Fetti drank at nearly every water trough.  Words cannot express how happy that made me.  I had some very real concerns that she might not, and with the forecast heat, that would have been Very Bad.

7. I had horse left at the end.  She wasn't exhausted. Her walk that evening was better than the walk the afternoon before the ride - pony feels GOOD.  I'm not at all sure why, but I'm very happy with it.

Not so good things:

1. No ride photographer. :( First ride where I felt like we did particularly well, too!

2. Pony lost her usual Haflinger-brain and kicked into herdbound running brain.  We're doing rides solo at home and she's generally fine - but then there aren't thirty other horses ahead of and behind us.  I know she prefers to be with others.  I can live with it being a preference.  I'm less happy with it being a necessity in her head where she will run off with me otherwise, and that's how it felt.

3. I did not eat nearly enough, even accounting for a migraine both days (likely heat/dehydration-induced), and I absolutely have to work on that.

Overall? An absolutely spectacular success.  We're starting to get this thing figured out!  Photos coming whenever I can get them off my phone.

** Extra bonus success: the key to fitting my Specialized appears to be.. the 1" fitting cushions, rather than the 3/4" or 1/2" I have and was using.  Problem potentially solved.  Needs a ride to confirm, but looks much improved that way, go figure.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Hello there, LD gremlins!

Last Sunday I added the new, lovely sheepskin leather covers to the Specialized.  Yay!  Original plan was to do the 18-mile out-and-back in the afternoon to do a fullblown tack check before our next LD.  I re-adjusted the plan when I ran into two local endurance riders and ended up tagging along with them: total mileage around 12 miles, but with more trotting than I would've gotten otherwise.  Plenty sufficient.  Pony and I went back out on a short 3 mile ride when we returned to the barn, nothing major and very flat.  I noted that my knee was sore after all that and wrote it off to my knee flaring up a bit.

And then I got home and didn't want to move.  My knee is frequently sore, a low-level semi-chronic thing at this point.  I don't normally find myself limping the day after rides, though, let alone the evening of.  The next morning, going down stairs was absolutely miserable.  I have never hurt that much after a ride: the LDs leave me maybe a bit stiff and sore, but not genuinely *hurting*.

My conclusion at this point is that the added bulk of the sheepskin under my thighs (since the 18" length does put them allll the way to the top of the leathers and under my entire leg) must have changed my position enough to add torque to my knee.  I didn't notice anything major during the ride - I did note when I first got on that it felt odd with that much sheepskin, but again, I frequently take a mile or two to adjust into any tack changes and figured that's all it was, just different.  In hindsight, I need to cut down the leather covers several inches so they don't start until after the fleece Specialized seat ends.

All that said, I'm still left with a fairly sore left knee.  I rode a few miles Tuesday (definitely made it more sore), didn't ride due to schedule conflicts on Thursday, and it's still only at 70% or so.  I made the decision to piece my western-endurance saddle back together in the hopes that will keep things from getting any worse.  I do think I can resolve the leather cover issues and get the Specialized comfortable for me, but my knee needs to heal first.  In a perfect world, I'd take time off riding and any kind of impact til it heals completely.  It may be dumb, but I don't think I'm willing to wait the few months that would likely take.

Switching to the western endurance is a plus primarily because it has very stiff, very bulky fenders.  The Eurolight has English leathers and allows my leg to move freely.  The fenders will force my leg to stay in one place, hopefully minimizing the odd things I do with my legs and minimizing the damage I'm doing by continuing to ride on it.  Seven slow and muddy miles today have me still sore, but not substantially worse than before the ride.  I'm crossing my fingers that holds.  It helps that I know I've ridden two LDs in this saddle already with no problems, so I know it won't cause either me or Fetti any problems for long rides.  Whatever pain I get is specific to the knee and would come up no matter what saddle I'm in.

I *will* be spending the week prior to and half the week after the LD riding a gaited horse rather than Fetti, so trotting will be a non-issue and that should help with the healing as well.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Things not to do during one's time off work

Generally, my work schedule lets me ride four days a week: Tuesday afternoons, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays.  This month, I'm putting in extra hours for a handful of reasons and my routines are all out of whack.  It's not great, but it is what it is and I know it's only temporary.

Our next 25 is the first Saturday in October.  I had hoped to get in one or two good, solid long rides this month - specifically one this week where I really do have time to ride.  Eighteen miles should be a good trial run for the tack setup and let me know what I need to change, plus see how our speed has increased in the past few months - the last time we did that particular ride was in June.

Things not to do #1:  While putting up lights in my new tack room, I was a bit of a klutz and the drill relocated from the screw (intended target) to my finger (not intended).  Drill bits hurt, y'all.  Finger is bandaged up, not seriously wounded, but definitely going to take some time to heal up properly.

Monday night we went out for a brisk few miles.  Tuesday she got off.  I figured I'd work her lightly today and do our long ride tomorrow.. and then plans changed and I rode with a friend for our usual 7-mile loop today instead.  Right around mile #5, headed home and walking down a steep hill, Fetti took a funny step and asked me if we should stop; I told her she was silly and no, of course keep walking.

Unfortunate event #2:  Maybe 20 feet later I reached back to check on the crupper and discovered that actually, the crupper and the saddle were no longer attached.  The pony earned major sainthood points for that one; the crupper ring and the leather that held it to the saddle just came right off, but the crupper was still sitting on her hindquarters with the loop around her tail.  This is the same hill where she bucked me off once before in a separate crupper incident (though then it was too loose and kicked in HARD and FAST, so not really her fault).

Our local shoe repair place will sew the piece back in, and barn friends and I will then go off and attach screws to help hold it in place some more.  Unfortunately, I won't have the saddle back til Friday morning.  I may be able to fit 12 miles in before work Friday.. but 18 is not going to happen.

Unless I manage to get off work earlier than usual in the next week or two, that 18 may not happen at all before the ride.  I know Fetti is more fit than she was this time last year.  I know our speed is doing better.  I'm just not sure how she'll handle the distance.  I'm looking forwards to finding out.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Specialized: cautious success

Time constraints the past few weeks have essentially taken our theoretical training schedule and thrown it out the window.  Instead of our 6-8 mile rides, we've been doing speed rides 2-3 miles long and on pretty flat terrain.  I'm asking for that big power-trot the whole way out and back, minimal walk breaks and occasional canters thrown in for good measure.

The verdict?  Right now.. on the flat terrain and by ourselves, we can sustain about a 6.4mph average over 2.5 miles with few-to-no walk breaks.  Our mile-splits are faster than that on the way home when she's pushing herself rather than me pushing her.  Even without trying hard and throwing in more walk breaks, we can hold a 5mph average over that 2-3 mile section.

The Eurolight is holding up nicely and I'm reasonably happy with it.  I've made some modifications and I'm not 100% sure I like how it's fitting her, but it's 'good enough' for the moment.  Later this year I'll see about getting a rep to come out and take a look, I think, since she's giving me headaches trying to figure out where 'good enough' should be.  Acquired girth loop, have various girths to choose from, a pile of English pads.. switched to leathers rather than the fenders, and I have leather covers ordered that will hopefully show up soon.

Our next 25 is in four weeks.  We're not quite where I had hoped we'd be, but we're not in a bad place.  Our downhill walk is markedly improved about half the time.  Our regular walk is still generally atrocious.  Our downwards transitions are still equally atrocious - come to think of it, I imagine those are likely related, so that will take some work.

7.44 miles last Thursday in the heat.  Just about a 4.5mph average - I didn't ask for much speed, we walked half the downhills, trotted where she was willing.  Confetti was sweaty afterwards, but I never felt like I ran out of horse.  I asked, she went.  Occasionally I didn't ask and she went anyway.

The Eurolight puts me in a more forwards/upright seat, rather than sitting back.  If I don't actively lean back going down hills, Fetti walks because I'm putting weight on her forehand.  Soon as I lean back?  She's willing to go again since we're balanced.  Problem solved.

Slow 6.5 mile loop on Saturday, brisk 13 (just about a 4mph average!) with more downhill than up and a fair bit of gravel on Sunday, slow 6.5 again on Monday.  Pony got Tuesday off with how overwhelmed work has me right now, and may just do pony rides for a friend on Thursday.  Goal is to get at least one good ride in this weekend, and at least one next week, and whenever I have my week off we'll do our long out & back to Wilder (with boots!) to see how things are holding up solo.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Arena work.. or not.

I am all for taking lessons with various people and keeping an open mind.  I think there's something to be learned from lots of disciplines.  A past jumping trainer of mine has an excellent sense of body awareness and getting me to put myself in the right place - actually, I'm way overdue for a lesson with her! - and there's a local dressage trainer who's been great about addressing whatever issues I've had, giving me something to work on, and sending me off for a few months.  They know where my goals lie and they're happy to work within that to help me achieve them.

I went into the lesson/clinic/thing on Sunday with the hope that it would be a similar experience.  I want to improve Fetti's walk.  I have a zillion trots, two canters - though whether I can choose between a big forwards canter and a prim and proper little one is totally irrelevant here! - and generally a pitiful little walk with no impulsion whatsoever and no motivation to improve it regardless of what I may do to ask it of her.  I've tried nagging with alternate heels.  I've tried pushing with my seat.  I've tried getting off and leading.  I can accept that she may never do a big flying walk downhill, and that walk has improved somewhat since I started her on Cosequin ASU, but goodness!  It wouldn't kill the pony to give me a better walk.  I know she's capable, because she'll do it from time to time, but I absolutely cannot get it on request.

We walked around the arena to warm up.  Fine.  I asked for a little trot.  Hissy fit and mild explosion - she wanted to bolt and buck and run and make it very clear that she did not want to do this.  I was not asking for a frame.  I was not asking for a bigger walk.  I just wanted a trot.  I yelled at her, held her, brought her back to a walk.  Trainer stated that she's mad because I won't let her go forwards.  Um.. okay?  I know this horse.  I'm not letting her go forwards because she wants to bolt and buck.  She won't buck when she's cantering, you say?  She's bucked me off when cantering before.   In hindsight, that's the only time she's bucked me off.

Unfortunately, while I read the pony-tude as meaning "I don't want to work in the arena right now, and I certainly don't want to do it before I finish my breakfast!", the trainer took this as showing a bigger problem.  Not only does Fetti not like arena work, but she's not moving off my leg.  She's resisting the bit!  There must be something in her past - maybe her most recent rides in the arena? - where she had bad arena experiences.

Here's the catch.  When Confetti and I head on the trail, we have an initial discussion where she says she doesn't want to go; then she gets over it, and after that, a verbal cue is often sufficient to ask for a trot.  Sometimes I'll ask with a light leg cue, and occasionally I'll get louder if I am convinced that I'm right in that she should be going faster/a gait up and I'm making a point to overrule her refusal. 

Actually, as I'm typing this out, I'm realizing I probably over-cue in the arena.. but I'm not sure if that's out of necessity, habit, or what.  Hm.
And her most recent real arena work?  That was in dressage lessons with an experienced college student who's likely to do lessons with her again this fall.  Pony was absolutely fine and has no problems with her.  She and I don't do well together in the arena asking for Real Work.  I won't deny that.

Trainer phrased it as me avoiding the problem, though.  I take her on the trail because I don't want to work her in the arena, or at least that was the implication.  We do trail because we LIKE trails.  I don't feel obligated to make my horse want to enjoy arena work when it's not something I particularly enjoy at this point.  Circles?  Meh.  Can we do it?  Yes.  We'll meander in the arena, I'll work in there when other folks are in there on occasion.  I don't feel like I can never go in the arena.  We're just happier out on the trail.  It was simultaneously frustrating and entertaining to have her trying to talk me into doing more arena work.  I know she's looking for more clients, but ugh!  I thought I made my goals pretty clear here... 

There is value in arena work.  Evenings where it's too late to go on the trail, or winter days where it's too muddy or whatever, or some summer days.. we've done some arena work, we'll keep doing more, and Fetti will get herself weekly dressage rides this fall.  Neither of us particularly desires to do a ton of it, and I'm OK with that.  There's a vast difference in gait quality and responsiveness between our arena work and our trail rides.  While our trails are still good and viable, I'd rather work her primarily on the trails and focus on those goals.  This winter, when that's not an option, we'll work in the arena and we'll do more finesse and who knows, maybe throw some flying changes at her if we've fixed my canter issues enough by then.

Back to the goals, though.  I wanted a better walk.  The only improvement on my walk she was willing to make was to ask her to go on the bit and to improve the rhythm.  Speed should come last, she said.  I'm not sure if she understands that I have no impulsion as well, but frankly by that point it didn't matter.  She thought Haflingers were gaited, so my confidence in her as a trainer was pretty well shattered.  It's not like there are no Haflingers in dressage, or that she had no warning of the breed or whatever.  I was just generally so unimpressed.

On a more positive note:  I had a very limited ride time on Tuesday, so we headed out just for the initial flat section.  The way our trails go, it's about a mile and a half of flat trails, then nearly all hill work but varying options from there on out.  We rode about 2.5 miles in total.  Average overall speed: 6.4mph.  We did a Big Trot nearly the whole time, pony broke a bit of a sweat.. that's a ride we can aim to repeat once a week or so.  I am very, very pleased.

Friday, August 16, 2013

More and more tack

I just finished getting my western-y endurance saddle all set up.  New woolback girth, sheepskin seat saver, breastplate that fits the saddle properly.. all sorts of fun stuff, the first two of which I'd been putting off for months.

Then I found a Specialized at a ridiculously reasonable price, I threw the budget out the window, and bought the saddle sight unseen.

I now have a brown Eurolight, fleece seat, with western fenders and dressage billets.

The sheepskin cover won't work - the seat isn't big enough to give me that kind of extra room.  I have a sudden, major incentive to drop weight to make the saddle fit me a bit better.  I pulled my English saddlepads out of my storage box - the lovely, wonderful Woolback pad makes the saddle too narrow.  Two dressage girths came out of the same box, only to find that the 24" girth has buckles a bit too small to comfortably work, and the 22" (I think? It might be even smaller) girth needs a bit more length to comfortably go on.  Neither has D-rings, so I found one on Ebay at a reasonable price that appeared sufficiently small, fuzzy, and equipped with a D-ring in the center.  I bought a nylon D-attachment for the girths at Horse Expo, but that adds 3-4 inches to the length of the breastcollar, which makes it REALLY loose at the bottom strap.

Incidentally, dressage girths do not appear to ever come with D-rings at a moderate price. You start looking at $80-90+ for a 24" piece of material.  Ridiculous.

 I mostly like how the saddle fits the horse.  Nice sweat patterns, moves out well enough.  The one main difference?  She's not offering to trot down every hill, only 50% of them.  I'm baffled.  She's not even trotting down some of that 50% when I ask.  I have no idea if it's a saddle fit issue, or if she finally figured out that I didn't actually want her trotting down all the hills all the time, and now she thinks she's Not Supposed to Trot Down All Hills?  Which absolutely sounds ridiculous, but is a very real possibility.  I'd be a bit happier if she had stuck with the trotting down hills for another few weeks.

I'm hoping to have saddle fit addressed tomorrow, with a dressage trainer who supposedly does all sorts of saddle fitting stuff.  I also have a set of 1/2" pads coming in the mail, and I'll probably order a set of shims to play around with.  The crupper is still engaging on any steep hills, and it would be really nice if I could have the crupper at a normal horse kinda loose setting, and not a pony in hills must be snug setting.

But girths.  Back to girths.  The Ebay girth showed up, clearly brand new in bag but without tags, just as described.  Attached breastplate snugly as per my usual and headed out for a spin.  Everything went well heading out, my position at the canter is clearly not sufficient for her to offer one when I ask, but that's all me and not her.  Our usual loop was blocked by a downed tree; we detoured over to a more hilly out-and-back.  Decent speed heading up the hills, decent heart rate given the heat, and then she took 5 minutes to pulse down to 60 when we paused at our turn-around point.  Granted, we did a Big Trot up the hill to that point, and it was hot - but that was only three miles in, and I'm not sure what to make of that.  Turned around, Big Canter up a hill, walk down, Big Canter up - screech into a spook-at-something-trot - back to a Big Trot when I asked.  Then things started jangling.  Left breastplate attachment, check.  Right attachment, check. Reach down and.. ARGH.  D-ring was no longer attached to girth, only to breastplate.

I have hopes it can be fixed, and I handed it off to my friend with the nice sturdy sewing machine to see if she can work her magic on it, but it's really frustrating to have it break on the first ride out.

Work's been busy, and I haven't gotten in the rides that I was before Fireworks.  I think I'm okay with that.  The focus right now is more on getting that Big Trot more and having her hold it without ramping her HR up to the point where she wants to break to walk.  Our last mile-split before we made it home had a 6mph average.  For us - that is AWESOME to hold that for that long.  Next goal: to get that several times in a ride, in a row would be really nice...

Friday, August 2, 2013

"Any horse can do a 25".

It's something you hear a lot when you're just starting out in endurance - any horse can do a 25-mile ride.  Theoretically, they can do it several months after being Pasture Puffs.

The conclusion I am coming to is that, in fact, not every horse can or should do a 25.  Maybe every Arab could do a 25.  But not every horse.

I'm working hard to keep my admittedly forwards Haflinger in sufficient shape to do a 25 and not quit on me partway through.  Her walk?  Terrible.  Her trot?  Decent, and on flat terrain we could probably comfortably sustain 7mph or so on conditioning rides when I'm asking for it.  I know we got a more forwards trot at the actual ride, so I'm comfortable saying she probably COULD do a bit more.  Get near 10mph, and I'm riding a very extended trot, and not one powered terribly well from behind.  She just doesn't trot that fast.

We're not conditioning on flat ground much, though.  We have a mile/mile and a half of flat trail, but it's also heavily populated by hikers, dogs, and bikes.  Then we have some lovely sections of hills. Same with real rides out here - 25s aren't generally on flat terrain that I'm aware of.  So the pony and I end up booking it on the flat sections, recovering on the downhills (though trotting some in our LDs out of necessity), and power-trotting up the hills as her recoveries allow.

The other thing generally not mentioned, and perhaps that doesn't occur to most folks with Arabs or riding distance already - 5mph isn't slow.  It's a heck of a lot faster than your average trail rider goes.  My rides with friends?  3.5mph or so.  That's not a sustainable pace for a LD.  My 6-7mph trot is Too Fast for them.  Your average trail rider doesn't necessarily want a horse with that much go.

On the flip side, I do have a friend with a horse whose trot is closer to 8-9mph without her pushing him at all.  I think he could probably complete a LD just fine in a few months.  I know they're out there.  But at my little barn, there just aren't that many of them with that much forwards momentum.

Related: I made some point on the AERC facebook earlier this week somewhat to that effect.  I wouldn't buy a Haflinger for endurance.  Would I buy a Haflinger as a lovely all-around horse and do endurance if it seemed suited?  Sure.  I love my pony and enjoy riding her, 'slow' finishes that we may have, and we'll do LDs as long as she's sound and happily completing them.  But looking specifically for my next endurance prospect?  Probably not a Haflinger. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Fireworks 25

I am so, so happy with this horse.

Trailered over Thursday night, socialized (!), and hopped on bareback on Friday to evaluate how much horse I had.  Answer:  fire-breathing dragon.  Once I tacked her up, we headed out with a few Arabs to do something along the lines of 4-6 miles.  Fetti was a bit excessively forwards at the beginning.  In hindsight, I think she would have been fine with a horse in front of her, but was ready to explode going in front.  We did a FAST ride out to the river crossing, and then another gal and I headed home at a sedate walk.

More chatting, more socializing, attached all boots to all four feet, and finally off to vet in.  Comments: 'windpuffs (hm, that's a new one), grade 2 lameness RH.'  Er... what?  "I'd like to bring her back later when things quiet down for you [vets] and have you take a look at her without the boots, just for good measure."

One mild panic later (what the hell happened to my horse?!), I pulled boots, wondered if I was totally nuts to ask a 17 year old horse to start doing LDs, and dutifully killed time for an hour or so.  We finally headed back over, boot-less.  Comments: 'she looks fine now!  Must be something with those back boots.'  "If you have another minute, can I zip back, put the front boots on, and have you take one more look?"  I know these trails.  I know she can do 80% of it barefoot, and I know she will not trot the remaining 20% without boots in front.  Ran off, added front boots, still totally fine.  I don't get it.  Five days later, I still don't get it.  (Luckily, they'd changed the rule requiring hoof protection on all four feet to apply only to the 50s.)

One entertaining ride meeting later, fed the pony dinner, told her to quit trying to beat up the mares in paddocks next to hers, and sleep.

..which, of course, meant that I woke up the next morning to Fetti kicking at the pipe corral and other horses.  Mares!  In hindsight, I should have fed significantly extra dinner, and I'm pretty sure she was in heat.

Tacked up Saturday morning and hopped on, despite the pony not inhaling as much of breakfast as I had hoped.  I fully expected a fire-breathing dragon.  Instead, I had a fairly polite fire-breathing dragon who appeared perfectly sane and felt like a firecracker.  While standing around/walking in circles at the start, I heard someone tell their rider "She rides these trails all the time, ride with her."  Mildly baffled that they were referring to me, I figured word had gotten around, who knows.. I told the rider I was aiming for slow and non-eventful.. luckily she was too.

The controlled start was more of a problem for K's mare, who was convinced she was Racing and Should Be In Front!, but Fetti amazingly had a brain and settled for trotting politely as long as we stayed in eyesight of the horses ahead of us.  Eventually horses spread out.  K and I stuck to the back of the pack to save her mare's sanity - I'm pretty sure Fetti didn't care.  This was one of the few parts of the ride where I probably could have asked for more speed, but knowing the uphills that were coming, I intentionally chose to stick with Speed Slow.  We actually tucked in behind Julie Suhr for a bit, walking the downhills and trotting up, and generally letting everyone pass.  I discovered that the mare's owner (not K) was a local instructor who knows the Haflingers, so she really did know what she was doing putting her rider with me.  K kept trying to apologize for slowing us down, and I kept explaining that we were fine with it.  It wasn't really that much slower than I wanted to go - just slower than Fetti wanted, and this time, she didn't get to choose.  The mares paced well together, anyway, and Fetti's happier with another horse nearby.

The oh-so-terrifying river crossing that people worry about?  Total non-issue.  Fetti and I have crossed that river numerous times.  K's mare followed us in.  Good photos, no drama, lots of smiles.  It's uphill from there; we trotted most of it, walked either when Fetti asked or her heart rate looked particularly high, trotted again.  My goal was to get to the trot-by around 9.  I think we made it around 9:15, passed a handful of folks on and off in the process, and generally re-acquired sanity. 

The loop in Wilder was very pretty and comparably nice and flat.  We trotted a good chunk of that through about 15 miles - at that point, we hit some slightly more significant uphills, Fetti didn't know where we were, and her enthusiasm was waning.  We'd walk a minute, I'd push for a trot, we'd trot a bit, repeat.  I never had to push particularly hard, but I did have to push.  It didn't help that we missed a turn and probably lost 15-20 minutes on this loop, backtracking to figure out where we'd gone wrong, and finally finding the turn. 

Both mares ate and drank well at the vet check, 16 miles in.  We probably could have cut a few minutes off here if we'd pulsed down right away, but we left promptly and I don't think we lost all that much time.  We pulsed in precisely at 11, 15 minutes past what I was hoping.. so aside from our detour, we were pretty much right on target.  (I'm guessing we were at the check around 10:50-10:55.)

I knew the final eight miles would be heading home, so Fetti had a bit of a second wind.  I'm not sure she would have been quite as thrilled if we were headed in some unknown direction.  We trotted the slight downhills, walked the technical stuff or when the pony wanted a break, trotted again.  As planned, I hopped off and jogged the one major downhill, hopped back on at the bottom.  Front boots had both stayed on so far, so I took K's advice and just left them on.  Should be fine, right?

Wrong.  One of the hills after the river crossing, I let her canter.  I looked at her feet at the top of the hill and saw one hoof, one boot.  Frankly, I would have left the boot there and gone back for it later in the week if the riders coming behind us hadn't pointed it out not far back from where we were.  Jogged down the hill, attached boot to saddle, pulled other boot off and attached it to saddle.  I knew we were a bit closer to time than I had hoped, but I also knew we both had horse left.. so we powered on and trotted all the uphills, walked the steep downhills, and decided it wasn't the end of the world if we came in over time.

We trotted our way in through the final section, coming into the finish at 1:19.  I pulled tack, sponged her off, and stood her in the shade; she came down at 1:29.  K's mare pulsed down promptly at 1:30.

Slower than I wanted?  Sure, slightly.  But Fireworks was a more challenging ride for the pony than I anticipated, with all the steep hills.  Had I pushed a little more and had we not missed the turn, I think we could have been in at 1 - right on target for what I had hoped.  Fetti kept her brain, took care of herself, never quit, and never put a foot wrong.  She stayed manageable for the controlled start (a polite fire-breathing dragon indeed), tolerated horses passing, passed horses, and showed nearly no reaction to K's mare cantering sideways behind her for a fair bit of the ride. 

Tack issues: my boots rubbed the back of both heels.  Trotting a lot of downhills made my already-sore knee even more sore.  Other than that, I was actually quite comfortable all the way through.  I didn't send anything to the vet check, and that was fine.  Carrots don't quite stay in the side of the pommel bag when Fetti shakes, so I need to remember to keep it zipped and/or keep my vet card in another pocket that stays zipped. 

Fetti was good and tired afterwards.  It actually had a few people concerned.  She was happy to eat everyone else's food, but wasn't hugely interested in her own.  She kept walking in circles in her stall, and finally dropped to nap.  (Apparently she did it again later when I wasn't around, too.)  I'm reasonably confident nothing was actually wrong with her, just TIRED and ready for a break.

I hopped on her bareback on Sunday and again yesterday (Tuesday) - she feels GOOD.  She'd like to go out and work some more.  Time off is not easy.  We'll do a brisk loop of some sort on Thursday, just to get both of us out and moving again.

We came in a little closer to time than I would have liked, but she pulsed down in 10 minutes, so.. we'll work on speed.  I can live with that.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pre-ride rest, and why I struggle with the idea

Part of the reason I'm trying really hard to blog all my rides is to get a better sense of how much I'm actually asking Fetti to do.  Also.. because we have all these oddball moments that really should get written down before I blend them all together.

Saturday's ride: Big Basin, attempting redemption.  My navigational skills clearly need work.  I would argue that the ranger that gave me directions to the trail could have done better, though.  Verdict on Big Basin: not particularly great for horses unless we're really missing something.  Parking is limited-to-nonexistent for a three-horse slant.  We were informed that in future, we should be riding not on the human trail eight feet from the road, but ON the (not park-only) road where cars frequently speed by.  Umm, no?!? 
We were out for at least four hours and on-trail for probably half that.  We spent a good hour trying to find the fire road, in the process going through most of one busy campground.. complete with unruly children who all wanted to see the pretty ponies.  Comes with the territory, kids won't wander up to us if we keep moving, it's fine.  Except they DID run up to us, they dragged a scooter or two (not with wheels on the ground, either!) over in the process, and they did pet the now-nervous ponies on the legs when we said we had to keep going and this wasn't a good time to get close.  Yes.  Legs.  WTF, children, WTF.
Normally I am not a huge fan of children, but this was the first time seeing them running towards us actually made me nervous.

On the bright side, we did eventually find our destination, we made it a bit further out than originally planned, and we returned to the trailer before we ran completely out of daylight.  Yay!

Sunday, Fetti and I moseyed around.  We went for a short 30-minute trail ride, her brain was not with me, and she got mistaken for an Arab.  No real work.

Tuesday, even shorter but more intelligent trail ride.  Mile in under 20 minutes?  Still not real work, we were at Western Jog for most of it.

So.. to the original point.  Thursday through today, we probably did 30 miles at the most.  I think that's probably a fair estimate for most weeks, 25-30 miles or so.  My plan had been to stick with roughly that mileage and taper off to Not Real Work the next two weeks.  I may be revising that due to a combination of Mel, Funder, and the weather.  It's supposed to be in the 90s this weekend, so rather than riding 4 miles to and from the obstacle challenge, Fetti and I are getting a ride (we might still ride over in the morning, but NOT back in the afternoon).  Sunday I'll mosey around and if the heat sticks, not do much.  She'll get trimmed Tuesday, so either Tuesday or Friday we'll go trot some Big Hills to make sure the boots stick.. and then we are simply moseying around until the 13th, if I get on at all.

I grew up in a horse world where all the horses were used in an hour or two of lessons 6-7 days a week.  I rode Fetti 6-7 days a week for my last two years of college, and I am well aware she is much better behaved since I put her in regular work.  There's the catch, though.  Am I equating 'better behaved' with 'has less energy'?  Could I productively use that energy now?  Her Big Trot used to scare me - can I get more of that Big Trot now with less of a workload?

Could I, theoretically, condition for a 50 with lots of moseying rides* and a small handful of longer workouts?
*Moseying rides qualifying as shorter rides where 1. I can sit the trot and 2. I'm not hauling on her to slow her down - so either entirely at a walk or behind a horse whose speed she respects.

Maybe.  Maybe not.  I'm really happy with how well she handled the 18 miles by herself, so if we can make time and get good recoveries at 25... maybe my pony will surprise me with more left at the end than I expect.

Friday, June 21, 2013

To Wilder!

Thursday's goal: ride to Wilder and/or ride out for 5-6 hours. 

Furthest she's been (aside from the LD last year) with another horse: 14-15 miles or so.
Furthest she's been by herself: 12 miles.
Amount of Pony Attitude and Energy noted on Tuesday: exceptionally high.

I booted up all four feet, attached heart rate monitor, and we took a quick spin around the back trails with another Haffie.  Discovery #1: Slow Jog was not an option.  Fetti wanted to GO.

Okay, pony, you want to go?  Let's head out by ourselves then and let you move.  Cue 15 minute discussion about forwards down to the river.  "Discuss with a mare, pray if it's a pony"?  Yeah, I've got both, and sometimes she lets me know it.  Once we finally made it down the tiny downhill, all was well in the pony's world.  Totally over it.

Decent clip for the first few miles, but nothing spectacular.  She doesn't move out as well without other horses, but there aren't many that I ride with that will keep up.  Trot where she would, walk break where she asked, ask for a trot again at 90-100bpm. 

Discovery #2: LF boot coming off was not a fluke on Tuesday.  Hopped off, fixed it, led her up the rest of the hill and down the (long, steep) other side to the river..
Discovery #3: Fetti promptly drank at the river.  GOOD MARE.  Not just a little bit, either, but quite a lot.  Pony is learning, if slowly, to drink when it is offered. 

Crossed the river with no problems, walk/trotted up the hill.. and the hill.. and crossed the road.. and up the hill.  It's a lot of uphill all at once.  Pony was well-behaved and reasonably forwards.. looks like we stuck to a nearly-4mph pace through that section. 

Discovery #4: With four boots and a bit of encouragement, Fetti is perfectly content to trot through gravel.  Yay!  Well worth the cost, then.  Mostly trotted all through the gravel sections, no problems whatsoever.

Nine miles out from the barn, we arrived at the vet check spot for Fireworks.  We hung out in the shade for a minute or two waiting for her to pulse down to under 60, then turned around to reverse course and head home.  She knew we were headed home and was happy to trot when asked.  I asked for several full stops in hopes of getting the silly horse to pee.. with absolutely no luck.  Sigh.

Discovery #5: I hopped off and jogged down the long, moderately-steep downhill.  Fetti.. trotted with me most of the time.  Clearly she was still feeling good, since the few times I've tried that I've been practically dragging her behind me.

She drank again at the river crossing, drinking well again, headed up the hill and pulled the LF boot again doing a Big Trot uphill.  Sighed, hopped off, fixed, got back on.  Pony wanted to fly up the hills; I kept glancing at the LF to make sure the boot was attached.  Good thing, too, because on yet another Big Uphill Trot the LF boot came totally off.  Sighed, hopped off, walked back downhill and retrieved the boot from the side of the trail.  At that point I pulled the RF, tied both to the saddle, got back on, and let her move out with no fear of losing a boot.

And move out she did.  Fetti was still feeling good enough to gallop up several different hills when I gave her a verbal OK.  She walks at the top, walks the downhill or most of it, then eagerly awaits the verbal OK to tell her she can go again.  I'm sure it's probably terrible to let her do that, but she is clearly having SO MUCH FUN.  It also dashed any thoughts I might have about her being exhausted or worn out.  We did a brisk trot most of the way home and she pulsed down reasonably well once we got back to the barn.

Discovery #6: I went through both my full Nalgene bottle of water and a bottle of Gatorade.  I did not get a migraine.  I sense major electrolyting for myself in the future.

I've emailed back and forth with Renegade and have a few things to try to keep that LF boot on, though being 6 weeks out from a trim is likely contributing.  Optimistic that it's fixable.

18 miles, 4mph average.  I love this horse.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Lessons learned

Yesterday's ride: 6 miles, 3mph.

Lessons learned:
1. There is such a thing as 'too slow' for the pony.  Walking/slow jog: tooooo slow, when she never gets to move out.
2. Fetti will not tell me when she pulls a boot off and is brainfried.  Pastern strap stayed on, bottom of the Renegade came off.  She was happily trotting up a hill, thankyouverymuch.  I'm betting it came off when she spooked and ran up the side of the trail.
3. Fetti will, however, stand nicely and wait for me to fix said boot and get it properly attached to her foot again.

Group rides may be off the table, at least for the most part until we're done with our rides for the year.  It's not fair to spend 95% of our rides either at a moderate speed (4mph) or asking for more trot, and the other 5% asking her to spend the entire time at a pitiful Western jog. Especially when the windy weather has her pretty well wired to start with. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hills vs flats; are we prepared?

On Saturday, we went to a local endurance club meeting about an hour away.  Lucky for me, another rider lives quite close to my barn and was willing to give Fetti and I a ride over.  We were on the ponies by 10:15 and headed out for a moderately brisk ride.

We rode here at Calero with the same club last year, actually around this same time of year.  It was hot, but we did 11 miles or so with a 4.5mph average moving speed.  Sure there were some major uphills and downhills.. there were also a lot of flat sections where we could move out.  I finished that feeling like I had some horse left and given a break, she would have kept going.

This year?  I feel like she ought to be in better shape.  I know I need to put some weight back on her, and I've nearly doubled her hay as a result (the horrors, the pony might get FOUR flakes of hay in a day rather than two!).  Otherwise, though, we're training at a faster speed on a regular basis and I would like to think it has helped.

There were a lot of hills on the loop we did this time.  It was just me and the other rider - with her Arab in 50-miler shape - and we kept to a pretty comfortable trot whereever Fetti was willing.  I think our average speed was 5mph or slightly over for the first part of the ride.  Then it got warmer, the hills kept coming, and Fetti asked for a few walk breaks.  Looking at my phone-GPS climb stats, there really wasn't much in the way of flat sections.  Total elevation gain: 2,450ft.  We walked a good chunk of the last two miles heading back to the trailer.

Approximately 2 hours and 8 miles, so a rough 4mph average.  Pony was willing to trot again heading home, but really just had to trot to keep up with the Arab's walk.  Once she gets her walk breaks, she seems to recover pretty well (although I'm not entirely sure she drops to 60-70bpm all the time...) and is willing to trot on.  She drank well every time the opportunity was given to her.  She was quite sweaty by the end of it.

Lessons learned: Pony does need her walk breaks.  Serious Hills are still not our thing.  I need a scoop of some sort and really ought to order it ASAP if I'm buying one.

The fact that we're not consistently clocking 5mph training rides scares me.  I'm not sure it should, but there you go - it does. We weren't last year, either, and we still finished (albeit barely).

Fireworks has more in the way of Hills than Ride Bear did.  I know this because we've ridden them.  That will make things both harder and easier: we know the hills, we just don't LIKE the hills.
Fireworks ought to be cooler.  That is a HUGE plus in our favor.
Starting at 7:30 or whenever the nice early ride time is?  Huge plus as well.  That puts us at what I anticipate being the worst hill (for us) by 9 if not waaay earlier, still plenty cool. 

Our moving-trot is a bit over 5mph, and I can get that trot even going solo.  With other horses and (hopefully) a bit of race-brain, 6mph should be doable.  If I can get enough speed in the first few miles, slower for the hill, trot through UCSC, and if our time doesn't look godawful at the vet check?  I think we can do it.

I think we can, I think we can, I think we can.. I feel like the little train that could.  I hope.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Back to the Deck

When Mel wrote about having some heavy-mileage weeks and some low-mileage weeks, I briefly wondered how I'd manage the latter.  Answer: life!

After our 12-mile ride last Monday, we took it pretty easy for the rest of the week.  We went out for a slow two miles on Thursday, then back out with gaited horses for a moderate-to-slow five miles.  I switched to another pony for my third ride that day - it just didn't seem mentally fair to ask her to do ANOTHER slow ride where she would have to be in front.

Horse Expo was Saturday, so Friday's riding consisted of walking around the arena bareback in the early morning.  Expo was HOT HOT HOT for this redwood-adjusted girl, and it reinforced to me that I do not handle sudden heat well.  How will I handle that this summer?  I'm not sure yet.  Electrolytes, maybe.  Lots more water for me, definitely.

Saturday's ride was maybe a mile or two in the semi-darkness.  Nice and uneventful until Fetti spooked at a housecat when we were just about home.  Sigh.

Sunday we trailered out, tried a new place, asked the ponies to do some stuff they probably shouldn't have, discovered just how much my poor pony will do if I ask (although she'll make it clear she's less than thrilled about it when water crossings try to make her miserable), missed our turn, and hit some very, very not-horse-friendly trail.  We turned around and aborted the whole thing.  It was the most stressful ride I've had in ages and none of it was the pony's fault.  

Bareback again on Monday, not doing much.  Short trail ride on Tuesday, where Fetti felt totally OK even after Sunday's disastrous trail, and the other pony was a bit stiff. 

Thursday?  Thursday, we went for the first Real Ride in a week and a half.  Off to the deck by ourselves with only minor fits!  6.48miles, 4.3mph average, which includes stopping briefly on three different occasions for children to pet the social pony.  We also encountered a skunk, but I paused the tracking for that one - I wasn't about to rush past the skunk.  I still have no idea what the correct way to proceed is for that.  I'm pretty sure that's our best speed yet, and she was still happy to trot home.  No HRM - it was hot, and I didn't really want to know, just wanted her to go if she was willing - but I'll add that back on for our next ride.

My main purchase at the Expo was a sheepskin cover.  I've been riding with a seat cover pretty much since I got the saddle, but the edges on my seat-only non-sheepskin one were starting to get irritating.  I went with the partial-fender cover since it bugs me when my lower leg slides around much.  So far, I do like it, but it definitely puts me in a slightly different position.  It's also not very comfortable for walking around since there's not enough cushion at the seat itself.  The flaw there is definitely in my saddle, not so much in the cover, and I'm not sure if it's going to be an issue long-term or if I'll end up getting used to it. There's some adjusting yet to be done before I'm 100% satisfied with the fit and my position in it.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A sigh of relief

Short version: no hock injections.  Mild reaction to flexions on both hocks.  Nothing significant enough to warrant even x-rays at this point - likely finding would be very early stages of arthritis. Joint supplements were recommended.

When the vet started talking about how he wanted to take a look at some stuff, but he'd have to torture me a bit in the process, I inwardly winced.  I figured the worst: x-rays, something along those lines, something that wouldn't give nice straightforward answers.  I was mildly astonished when he just wanted me to trot her out and back in a straight line for him.  I think he was pleasantly surprised when neither the pony nor I was bothered by doing several endurance trot-outs (and she even got to walk back the last two times!) - I guess his usual clients are less cooperative about trotting in-hand.

Vet thought that most joint supplements would be legal for endurance.  Alas, no.  That said, I think I will be putting her on Cosequin ASU anyway, and pulling her off a week-or-so prior to our handful of 25s.  I'm not looking to fix any major problems, it's entirely possible we may never make it to a 50, and the number of rides we make it to yearly is quite limited.  I do plan to let the vet know that his assumption was incorrect and that actually AERC is quite limiting, but I have no problem with him being wrong on that.  He's not the one competing, I am; it's my responsibility to know what's legal for my chosen discipline, not his!

Naturally, I went riding that afternoon.  Nice, still vaguely foggy, not too hot.  Pony and I headed out alone with a concrete goal in mind: the Pogonip/UCSC border.  Serious hill workout, and what will be the hardest part of the Fireworks ride for us.  I intentionally left the heart monitor off.  The goal was to push where she'd let me, and I know I back off when I see her recoveries.  Pony, though, won't let me push her too far at this point, and I wanted us moving whereever possible.

We kept a good 5mph average for the initial flat section, even moving at what felt like a moderately slow trot.  I was very happy with that.  I was less thrilled with our immediate speed decline as soon as we started dealing with hills.

Rough numbers: 12.2miles, 3h30min. 3.45mph average.  Our downhills were decent, but we did walk probably half the trottable uphill just due to how MUCH there was of it all at once.

I didn't push as much as I could have.  It's the longest solo ride we've done, and she was not thrilled with me.  She went when I asked, yes, but the confidence still needs some work.  We should have trotted more in Pogonip, but I didn't want her to totally hate me and hate going out alone, so we compromised.  When she was willing, we went.  When I had to beat it out of her, we mostly didn't.  I know she's capable of trotting more, but I also know it's a tough hill for her to deal with and still recover.  It should be less of an issue with more horses going at any kind of speed.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Brisk rides

First day of June was unseasonably hot.  We promptly aborted our plans for a 3pm trail ride (90 degrees at the barn) and postponed til 6, by which time it was warm, but not painfully hot.

We proceeded to make exceptionally good Haflinger-time out to the Deck and back, trotting the vast majority of the uphills & flat sections, and even keeping a reasonable walk from Fetti on half the downhills.  6.61 miles, 4mph average accounting for the 10-minute walk/snack/blue heron photo break on the way home where I paused the tracking.  We had just had a conversation about how we were making excellent time, and then OH LOOK, LOOK!  One does not ignore blue heron photo opportunities!

TrackMyHack, on the other hand, tells me we went 6.36 miles at an average speed of 3.66mph.  Still quick by our usual standards, so I'll take it.  Plenty of pony left at the end, and we arrived home with just enough light to see the last section of trail.

Thursday's ride was equally brisk, but I completely forgot to start the tracking until we'd finished the first flat section, so it doesn't quite show.  I went out with a friend and her Pony Club/eventing horse, who's still fairly new to the trails, but likes to GO!  5.35 miles (so the tracking missed the whole first flat mile), 3.87mph. We trotted/cantered just about everything that wasn't downhill, threw in two hand gallops for fun, and aside from Fetti lying down in the river and wanting to roll, both horses were actually quite well-behaved.

Sunday was a first trail ride for another Haflinger rider, so we stayed slow to not bounce her to death. 6.27miles (same loop as the previous two rides! all depends on where exactly I start the tracking at), 2.99mph, just over two hours.  Mostly slow jog, then walked the last two miles or so home.  Pony was polite and plenty forwards, even giving me a real walk down the later hills where she was in front & headed home.  I'm frustrated by the lack of consistency there, and really hoping I can get some answers this morning.  (In front and headed home mean that I have a maybe 30% chance of a Real Walk.  Otherwise, I think it's closer to 1%.)

Friday, May 31, 2013

Biting the bullet

Thursday afternoon after the pony's massage, it was too windy to ride - and to be honest, I wasn't highly motivated, and I was willing enough to settle for a pleasant bareback ride around the barn. Definitely lifted her back more, but beyond that could not tell much in the way of improvements.

Friday it was dark. Ponies got dinner and I went home.

Saturday.. Saturday morning, I figured I'd head to the barn and get a nice brisk ride in, see how Fetti was feeling and what sort of improvement there was.  Instead, my five-minute drive to the barn was a ten-minute drive with detours and without clear confidence I could make my turn onto the barn road due to the local Memorial Day parade.. which just so happened to be going on at that time.  Sigh.  Back home I went, to check the times & route and see what time I could safely head back over - and what do I find but a reminder that oh yes, the Civil War reenactment is going on Memorial Day weekend!  Complete with cannons!

I mean, I don't know about everyone else's horses, but I'm pretty sure Confetti is Not Okay with cannons going off a half-mile away when we're in the middle of the generally-fairly-normal woods.

Called, found out the approximate cannon/battle times, and postponed my barn time til late afternoon.  Sigh!

It worked out well, though.  We went on a lovely 9-mile hilly ride, and I had a horse that could really walk down hills.  She wasn't quite keeping up, but we were five steps behind at the very end of the downhill, rather than five steps behind every twenty steps.  I wasn't micromanaging and asking her to sit back on her hindquarters. It was a nice, comfortable downhill walk.  It was awesome.  I was thrilled.

Unfortunately, it didn't last. Within five days of the massage, Fetti was back to mincing her way down hills. Tiny step, tiny step, tiny step. Clearly I was not imagining things on Saturday.

Part of our major challenge with speed is how slow all of our downhills are.  Either we're trotting down and she gets no break (and I get no break!) or we're slooooowly walking down.  It's not any better when I'm off and walking her.  If anything, my horse is slower down hills than I am, and I'm pretty slow going down hills.  Switching saddles has not had an effect - same problem in the English saddle, and I would anticipate the same problem bareback.  We are so slow going down every single hill that we pretty much have to power-trot everything else to make up the time.

Confetti is 17 this year.  I am looking seriously at hock injections.  I don't think I'm using them to push her past her ability level; I think I'm using them to attain a baseline of comfort that probably isn't quite there at the moment.  (We completed a 25, albeit barely, last year. I think we can complete with slightly more grace in the future.) The massage therapist said it's likely that the movement limitations in the hind leg are caused by a combination of muscle tension and arthritis.  I'm inclined to agree.

The vet will be out on Monday. I initially thought I'd postpone til after Fireworks when I had more time - but I have a free week and I might as well make the most of it now.  Hopefully, he'll have some insights, suggestions, and we can get something done to make the princess move more comfortably down hills.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Spoiled pony

I will be the first to admit that I'm not always calm, rational, and sane.  I have been blessed with a pony that (knock on wood) has made it to 17 without any major health issues, is sound barefoot on most of our usual trails, trailers nicely, and has excellent ground manners most of the time.

When she started doing an odd muscle-twitching/kicking sort of thing with her hind leg after some rides, my pony-massage gal got a frantic email asking when she'd be able to make it out.. two months earlier than planned.. right in the midst of the show season starting for all her regular clients.

Bless her heart, she found a spot a week or two later to fit us in - and we're way out of her usual client range, a good hour away from her home base - despite the fact that Fetti's kicking doesn't seem to have presented itself much at all since the email.

The verdict:  Lots of poll tension, which is totally normal and not to be concerned about.  Slightly sore right (I think) scapula.  Could stand to gain a few pounds.  Otherwise?  Pony looks good.  In light of the mincing downhill, I asked about range of motion.  Front legs: excellent.  Better than six months ago, actually.  Left hind: not great.  Right hind: pretty good. 

That does explain the tiny downhill steps.  If she can't physically keep up with the left, there's no sense taking big steps with the right.  My wonderful massage therapist gave me some stretches to do before/after rides with Fetti, though I'm not to expect major improvements immediately.

So.. previously, on Tuesday she got the day off due to a delightful windstorm blowing branches down.  I was very proud when she merely flinched at the noise, but not dumb enough to point her out on the trail after that.  Thursday morning was her massage, and in the afternoon we wandered around the barn bareback with a few spurts of trot.  Saturday will be our first Real Work in just about a week.

For extra bonus fun, I locked my keys in my car at lunch today.  I am SO ready for a good trail ride to clear my head and make the world better again.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Heat training

Heat: the pony's major issue this year.  Unfortunately, it may be mine too.

On Saturday we went out in the late afternoon/early evening to Waddell Creek.  We tried a new trail with some substantial elevation gain/climbing and not a lot of breaks; Fetti was willing, albeit not thrilled and not flying up.  Of the other two we were with, one was slightly less fit and needed a few breaks, and the third is a distinctly Downhill Horse who does not like uphills in any great quantity.. of which we had quite a bit.  There was a lot of stopping involved to convince him to keep going, and frankly he was probably too out of shape for the amount of hills we were doing.  We didn't quite make it to the top, but got close enough for a few halfway decent photos, and turned around to head back down the steep trail.

It's trails like that I feel like I should be able to get off and walk her down... but I know that I have a tendency to twist my ankle even in my Terrains.  Steep downhill with not-solid footing and nothing remotely flat?  I would be asking for trouble, and then I'd have to get back ON the horse with a sore ankle.  I'd happily jog her down solid-packed or dirt roads, but anything trail-like, she gets to carry me down.  When there's that much downhill, too, I don't get to complain too much about how she does it as long as it's safe and we stay upright.

8.81 miles.  She was a bit tired at the end - a lot of straight up and straight down without much in the way of breaks - but was plenty willing to go.  3h10 / 2.78mph, so nothing brisk, just.. a lot of hill all at once.

Sunday morning I thought we'd head out for a quick ride to the Deck and back.  Weather forecast said a high of 78.  Tacked up, hopped on,  headed out in the heat of the day.. and found that I had a pony decidedly unwilling to do a brisk trot unless I pushed hard.  I did ask for some work on the way up, and with the heart monitor attached, waited for her pulse to drop to under 70 while walking (I'd love under 60, but acknowledged we were walking up steps/a hill at the time) and waited.. and waited.. and stood in the shade.. and waited.  Pony got tired of standing in the shade eating and started walking ahead; HR still in the mid-80s.  We walked most of the rest of the three miles, and it was STILL really hard to get her heart rate down.

Mid-50s at a walk is excellent for this horse.  I'm not sure I ever really see much lower than that when moving - maybe every once in a while, but certainly not often.  Working trot is anywhere from 80-120.  Canter I'm not coordinated enough to look at the watch while keeping her going and keeping a decent position!

Our recoveries apparently need major work.. so the heart monitor is back on for every solo ride I'm doing.  I'll pull out some squirt-waterbottles to try to cool her off, sponge her in every stream crossing, and cross my fingers we can get enough early speed to not be doing our final pulse-down in the mid-day heat for Fireworks...