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%.)