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.