Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Relaxing" ride

It's been a rough summer.  June was filled with lamenesses, July with uncertainty.. and hives.. I'll get back to that.  Tuesday I was short on time and planned to go out solo for a nice, mentally relaxing ride for both Fetti and myself.

I try to do this occasionally - wandering down the trail at whatever speed she desires and not nagging at her, just along for the ride.  Usually we walk for a mile or two, I insist we go a bit further, she decides walking is boring and we start moving out.  It's low-stress, low-work sort of stuff.  On a weekday afternoon?  Should be fine.  Might as well just go bareback to reinforce the low-work part.

We encountered two strange men (fishermen, perhaps?) heading down the river.  I grumbled, waved politely, and kicked on into the river as Fetti gawked and wondered what the hell they were doing clambering on trees on the bank.  "She likes the water, huh?"  "Not really," I replied as I kicked and tapped and forced her in.  What are they doing?  I don't know, pony, I don't know.  This should have been my first sign.

The next set of men narrowly dodged us on the singletrack coming right out of the river, the first one drunkenly assuring me that he was very drunk and maybe going to have a baby.  Or something.  I nodded, smiled, kicked on and convinced her to trot off at least a few steps down the trail.  At this point the option of turning around down the trail was gone: I had not two creepy/strange men on the trail, but two sets of two men.  Okay, Fig, carry on.

We walked somewhat tensely down the trail for maybe a minute or so, rejoiced that the first Bag of Stuff was gone, and came to a screeching halt when another Bag of Stuff was right around the next corner.  Can't turn around - crazy folks behind me on the way home.  Can't push forwards too hard or she'll spin and unseat me.  Why did I think bareback was a good idea?  Fine, we'll call it a training moment and we'll patiently wait here until Fetti is willing to walk forwards.  Five minutes later and no further forward (in fact, possibly a few steps backwards) a sane-looking jogging couple comes up behind.  They kindly led my poor, brain-fried horse past the Terrifying Bag of Stuff.  Saved.

Until, thirty seconds later, some high-on-something dude is hanging out with a big backpack and a giant orange plastic disc-or-something.  The joggers have already outrun us (see: bareback, unmotivated, bouncy trot for five steps).  Confetti eyeballs him, wondering what the hell I've gotten us into today and why we couldn't just stay home.  I'm wondering the same thing.  He is at least mostly coherent and explains to me that my horse is terrified because "it's orange!", despite my reassurance that she doesn't care what color it is, just that it doesn't belong.  Nope.  She doesn't like it because it's orange.  Luckily it's orange and accompanied by a person, so she dutifully haltingly walked past, a few encouraged steps at a time, until we get to the uphill and can trot to get the hell out of there.

At which point we've actually made it the ~0.5 miles into the park, both of us emotionally and mentally exhausted.  I started debating how soon we could turn around, how much time I had before I needed to leave the barn, and whether we could justify this as actually doing anything today.  We made it maybe two-tenths of a mile before discovering a CAR! in an unusual spot.  Fair enough.  I've never seen one there before either.  Another two-tenths of a mile later and I opted to turn around, short on time and having made it a remarkably long time without either of us feeling too terribly traumatized.

Thankfully the humans all relocated by the time we made it back on the same trail.  The orange plastic thing was still only moderately terrifying.  The bag was scary but by then she was so fried it didn't even matter.  We heard splashing when we got to the river, and I looked across to see what horse was coming over towards us.  Instead?  Four deer, all heading towards the barn.  For extra bonus mental trauma, we saw one deer leap out of the bushes as we were within sight of the barn.  We don't actually have a problem dealing with deer -- but after thirty minutes of constant traumatizing events, I would not have blamed her if she found them terrifying too.

I am a bad blogger and did not get pictures.  I was too busy trying not to transmit terror to the poor pony.  There were profuse apologies to her both on the way out and the way back.  This wins for most eventful ride in at least a year, and we weren't even out long enough to bother tracking it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

FAQ: Can a Haflinger do endurance?

I see this come up on the AERC Facebook page on a regular basis, so I figured I might as well address it here. 

Can a Haflinger do endurance?
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer:  Some can.  I think most horses could do a LD if properly conditioned, and Haflingers are no exception.

Should I buy a Haflinger specifically for endurance?
Unless you're specifically trying to make a point.. I wouldn't.  They're neither bred nor built to excel at the sport. 
Don't get me wrong, I love my mare and I'm happy doing endurance on her.  But to try to find a Haffie that will both do well and enjoy distance riding at speed, and that you like, and with a good mind?  I think there are some that can do it, but it might be really miserable trying to find one that fits all your specifications.

Should I buy a Haflinger to have general fun with and try endurance too?
If you want a Haflinger, there is no reason you can't try endurance with your Haflinger!  I do slow trail rides, fast trail rides, dressage, occasional jumping (occasional because of me, not because she's not capable or unintested!), bareback rides, whatever.  I wouldn't be opposed to trying her on cows.  I know she's had some driving training and some Western training.  She may not be brilliant at any of them, but she's happy and capable as an all-around amateur's horse.

Haflingers and speed:
Based on my limited Haflinger experience, I would recommend a GPS of some sort.  Figure out how fast your horse's walk is.  Figure out how fast their trot(s) are.  Some Haffies have big walks; some (like mine) do not, and you'll want to make sure your Big Trot is big enough to make up for that.  Personally, Fetti and I trot most of our LDs and only walk when terrain absolutely demands it or when she asks for a break.

Haflinger types:
 A more modern-type Haflinger will probably give you a body type more likely to excel at distance riding.. but there are certainly several drafty Haffies out there doing LDs/endurance, just as there are draft breeds doing endurance!

Miscellaneous notes/things to keep in mind:
It seems that about half the Haflingers are kid-safe and bombproof, and half are feisty explosive firecrackers who may or may not have a screw loose.  Confetti definitely errs towards the latter.  I joke that sometimes she tries to be an Arabian.  Do your homework. Don't assume that all Haflingers are calm, mellow, and sane.

Haflingers are notoriously strong, smart, and stubborn.  I've found all of that to be true.

If you're riding a non-Arabian in LDs/endurance, especially one that stands out as obviously not an Arabian?  Embrace being different.  I practically introduce myself as 'Hi, I'm Fig, and I have a Haflinger'.  No one is likely to remember your name, but they'll remember you for your horse.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Five Qs

Name: Fig
  • (I'm still in that phase of trying not to directly tie my full name to my blog.  I figure more job hunting is going to be in my eventual future, and I'm not quite ready to be 100% open with everyone about everything I write here.  It's not hard to connect the dots and figure out my name with the information here.  It's just not searchable at this point.)
Age: 24
Where do you live: Bay Area, CA
Family Status: single, with a very tolerant boyfriend.  One pony.  One cat, who lives with my parents but still claims me as his person.

1. How long have you been riding? Endurance?
I started riding lessons at age 12 - wow, half a lifetime ago.  I went to several week-long riding camps in the years before that, so probably age 8 or 9?  I rode hunters with an occasional dressage lesson until I started with Confetti.
I did my first trail ride in May 2011 and my first endurance ride in September 2012.  That sounds totally ridiculous.  I had a lot of support! 

2. What does a normal training week look like for you?
4 rides, 25 miles total.  Often one fast or long ride with 1-2 medium speed/length rides and one pleasant hack-type ride, slower and/or shorter.  In theory I'd like to be doing one fast and one long per week, but I don't think that happens more than a few times a year.
I'm trying to start running again (3 times a week) now that my foot seems mostly healed from my driveway-fall (back in February).  We'll see how that holds up.

3. Any advice for endurance riding spouses?
Patience is a virtue.  I tend towards moderately obsessive and can talk for hours about theoretical training plans and goals and how well she did, or didn't do, and what I could change, but maybe I shouldn't... show some interest, but it's okay to politely redirect the conversation sometimes.

4. Where will this sport be in 10 years?
I feel so very new to all this that it's hard for me to make any sort of statement, even wildly guessing.
I think vets will be looking at more/different parameters. 
I think technology will be more common, but certainly not commonplace - or maybe just starting to be commonplace in 10 years.

5. What was your best race and why (AERC endurance – or if you are primary in another discipline, than your best ride in that sport).
Fireworks this year.  No contest.  No horse-human fighting.  No (horse-related) stress.  Casually trotting down the trail, in sync, relaxed and willing.  We're finally starting to feel like actual endurance folk who might occasionally know what we're doing... at least in-between blips of lameness, scrapes, and random bouts of hives.  On second thought, maybe that makes us feel more like actual endurance folks?

Bonus question: What’s your favorite beer?
I've never actually had beer.  For a while the medications I was taking didn't mix well with alcohol; now it's just a lack of opportunities (plus: very twisty highway heading home).  I've also never acquired a liking for carbonated drinks of any kind.  Suggestions appreciated on where I should start - I am running totally blind here, y'all.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Nine days later: recovered

Fast, forwards ride Tuesday - unexpectedly by ourselves rather than the mellow, relaxing out-with-friends ride I had thought we'd be doing.

But.  She zipped along, even kept a Big Walk most of the ride without too much nagging, and so we trotted out and up the big hill and then back home.  It was reassuring that her all-day trot (with some impulsion, versus her all-day pathetic trot with no impulsion) seems to have moved up to 7mph or so.  Confetti is quite capable of a 8-10mph trot, but generally cannot be bothered.

This was the same loop mentioned almost exactly a month ago, when we did canter sets and pulled a 5.8mph average.  We stuck to trotting on Tuesday and managed a 5.7mph average.  I am actually quite thrilled with that.  The goal was to trot as much as possible at our all-day pace.  We paused once to briefly greet friends headed home, and once again when some lady recognized Fetti from a previous introduction in the park and commented on how lovely her third eye is (I don't quite have words for the crazy-like vibes I got, although harmless, very bizarre).  Else?  Forwards.

My hope is to get out for a longer (12-20 miles) ride sometime in the next two weeks, and apply similar concept: it doesn't matter how fast you trot, just keep moving along nicely at some sort of trot speed, or a brisk big walk if you don't want to trot.

Pony is very well recovered.  I am pleased.

Monday, July 21, 2014


Six moderately-brisk miles Saturday, with her reasonably quick at-home trot of 8mph making an appearance several times, and our friend's horse doing an altogether excellent job.

Sunday, I thought we'd do a speed work. Canter, trot, maybe canter some hills.  Two miles in and she asked to quit. I couldn't see any particularly good reason to continue (she wasn't really tired, just barn sour and unenthusiastic). We turned for home and worked on her brisk walk. Remarkably, she managed a 3.5mph walk much of the way home. Great improvement over our usual lethargic pony walk of 2.5mph or so.

Sunday, round two: sufficiently motivated by the need for her sister to get out.  Tacked Confetti back up and ponied her sister.   Almost instantly, we were back to our pathetic pony walk around 2.5mph.. complete with looks of 'make her go first' and 'I don't wanna'.  Sorry Fetti, when you're the only one being ridden you have to be lead horse.

A pack of coyotes started up their howling as we got to the meadow - not distantly, but rather close by.  Both mares stopped, mildly concerned.  Confetti stayed stopped, much to my dismay, and opted to go backwards instead.  I am not thrilled with this.  She did, eventually, resign herself to moving forwards.  I was fairly confident this time that it wasn't genuine fear, but a studious reluctance to maybe be the one eaten first.  She has previously exhibited similar behavior, refusing to be the Lead Horse when she lacks confidence, and it seems we're dealing with that again.  I just need to learn to school her properly with another horse on the line.

They were sluggish heading out.  Once we turned for home, they were good and forwards.  I didn't break my horse; she's just very, very barn sour right now.

Which sucks.  But honestly, she did a 25 last weekend.  We're only a few days back into real work.  If she's still acting like this next weekend, I'll get worried.  Otherwise?  I think she's just sulking.  It's likely my horse will be back to her normal obnoxious self soon.  Real conditioning can wait a week or two, no harm done.  I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

Friday, July 18, 2014

High-energy, full of spook

Blurry.  They don't pose well at speed.  ZOOM!  Sister in front, Confetti behind.
Confetti got Tuesday off of any real work after Fireworks.  I did have the presence of mind to turn her out in the arena with her sister.  She feels GOOD, y'all.

I took a friend's horse out on a trail ride instead and was reminded just how accustomed I am to the solid little Haflingers.  The lovely TWH has a ridiculous amount of neck and requires a completely different ride than the ponies.  He's not bad - he's just not one of the Haflinger herd.  Bigger horses used to be totally normal for me.  Now?  Anything 15 hands and up is 'big'.

A post-run, post-Fireworks 'how she looks' photo. No complaints here.

Thursday, I decided it was a great idea for our first Real Ride to also be my second time ever ponying her sister on the trail, without another rider and horse coming along!

Confetti is a very tolerant horse, you guys.  I haven't completely figured out this whole ponying thing yet.  My leg cues are off, my rein cues are confused, and I was mostly riding her with one hand versus my normal two.  Add to that a very forwards horse (Fetti) who hadn't been worked in a few days, thus also very reactive..

..and on our way towards a campground, Confetti flat-out refused to go forwards.  We've had problems in this particular spot before.  The campground is off to the left of the trail, with some brush in the way, but it's still plenty visible.  There are frequently tents, children, barbeques, you name it.  It can be busy over there.  Probably more importantly, we've had encounters here with dogs charging out of the campground through the brush towards the horses.  Confetti quit near here a few months back and threatened to spin and run even before we got right by the campground, and she has wary eyes and ears on it every time we go past it now.

With another rider, this isn't so bad.  It still really, really sucks, but the other horse can go in front, we can follow, her brain stays somewhat intact.  When I'm ponying another horse?  It really, really, really sucks.  She refused to move forwards on the trail.  I waited.  She still refused, and in fact kept giving the 'backwards' answer.  I hate that.  I am also not capable of efficiently schooling my horse through problems when there is another horse on the end of a line, and pushing the issue was likely to result in 'Fetti spinning and running.. which would almost certainly cause the second horse to follow.. which was a situation to be avoided at any cost.

I got off and walked, and swore, and walked, and smacked the stupid horse when she went for grass. If you're really stressed, just walk damnit. Walking two horses on a not-quite-singletrack sand trail is especially challenging when the line on the second horse barely reaches to the first horse's nose, and the first horse has no particular interest in moving forwards more than two steps at a time.  We did make it past the campground, and I did eventually get back on the horse and reorganized, but argh

It was actually quite uneventful after that.  The girls get along well enough that it was just me figuring things out and keeping noses in appropriate places.  Again: second time ever ponying off 'Fetti on the trail!  We trotted most of our usual trotting-sections, walked all the downhills, slowed down on and off for me to get my act together.  Overall, quite pleasant, and a reasonable pace all things considered.

Still.  If this becomes a consistent issue and I can reliably replicate it?  I am going to have a trainer out.  This is the same behavior that came up with the downed tree where we spent 20 minutes sidepassing and backing up and going forwards and backing up.  It's not okay, and it's not something I'm having much success fixing on my own.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Moving forwards

Part of my goal at Fireworks was to figure out if Confetti and I are even remotely ready for a 50.  Fireworks is not an easy ride, and it has a substantial amount of elevation change even in the 25.  This is not the ride I want to move up on.  This is the ride that gives me a good baseline to compare to last year's finish.

+ I never ran out of horse.  As with Quicksilver last year, I am confident we could have gone out for at the very least another 8-9 mile loop, though I am also confident Confetti would protest leaving camp again.

+ No soundness issues despite the whole month of June making me miserable.

+ Light ride Tuesday and round pen work Thursday & Friday prior to the ride = I had plenty of horse, but not a freight train pulling on me the whole ride (no freight train at all, actually).

+ Camelbak worked well despite wearing completely the wrong shirt.  I'd be comfortable doing longer distances and just switching out to a new bladder halfway through.

- Rider failed at taking care of herself and did not pack adequate food for lunch.

- Rider failed at taking care of herself, part two, and didn't think to elyte herself.  I am not going to be good to go for another 25 miles if I am migrained and spacey.

- Boots are still an issue - though we did Quicksilver last year and the year prior with no boot problems at all.  Water crossings don't agree with that front right boot.  I need to look at the fit; I suspect that was the one 'snug' boot of the four, and that may be the main problem, perhaps.

- I'm concerned that we're still just barely making time.  But, again, major elevation changes!  We made better time at Quicksilver last fall with me hauling on her the entire time.

- Horse still does not pee on the trail.  Doable for 25, deal-breaker for a 50 - possibly manageable with a two-loop ride where I can leave her at the trailer halfway through, but still not great.

So.  Where does that leave us?

I think we have a viable shot at trying a 50 without totally failing everywhere, that seems like a good place to start. I am incredibly pleased with how she came out of Fireworks.

I have two friends possibly interested in riding their first LD at Quicksilver this fall, one pretty seriously.  If either of them go, I'll ride the LD with them.  It was very helpful to me to have Funder and Dixie along for my first LD, and I'd like to give that back to my training partners!  Just about all the concerns on the above list can be addressed during a hot 25.

If neither of them ends up riding the LD, I am tentatively considering the 50.  Most of the concerns above can also be addressed, if less efficiently and effectively tested, in long training rides at home.

There's also the possible option of a 50 later in the season.. maybe a November ride if the weather doesn't turn terrible by then?  Choices, choices.

Which also means.. I will happily take advice about what y'all changed preparing for your first 50 vs LDs!  Horse conditioning, human conditioning, whatever.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Fireworks 2014

Fireworks 2014, 25 miles - completed!
I don't actually have a coherent ride story, just lots of bullet points and pictures.  The ride itself was generally uneventful, which makes for really boring stories.

Ride photo by Gore & Baylor.

Things that worked well:

- I did not hold her much.  I am happy with that decision.  We were able to ride a good chunk on a totally loose rein trotting down the trail, and I pretty much held her from running into other horses or running superfast down hills.

- (Unplanned, but) no HRM.  If she was willing to trot, we trotted.  If she was really requesting a walk break or if I thought she needed one, we walked.

- Leaving a few minutes after the controlled start, which I was later informed was a bit chaotic.  Unplanned, but worked totally fine.  We may go back to the idea of 'get on and go on the trail' rather than 'get on, mill around with everyone else, then go'.

- I mounted from the ground once!  Despite not doing so very gracefully, I ended up on top of the horse with no problems.  It's reassuring to know that if I have to do it, I can.

- Total confidence in the horse and that it was all going to be fine.  I kept reminding myself that last year was hard for her, but we still managed to come in (if only just) under time.  Confetti is in better shape this year.
Confetti was pretty much perfect, you guys.  Loose rein?  Sure.  Trot down all the hills?  No problem. Switchback up a very steep hill?  She paused, a distinct feeling of 'really?!', but when I asked again she hauled right on up.  She ate well all day, plus drank well at the second check and heading home (so 17 and 22 miles). 

Falling asleep in the vet line.

I got comments all weekend about how cute Confetti is, and how well she moves out, from both the riders and the vets!  The vet at lunch - an older guy-  who was excited about getting to vet 'the cute one' and 'might have to hug her' totally made my day.

Things that did not work well:

- I should have used sunscreen.  This feels so very obvious.  I even remembered to pack sunscreen, and it stayed in the bag all weekend.

- I should have put the girth back in the car after cleaning it on Thursday.  I am never quite going to forgive myself for that one.  (While other riders are helpful, when in a time crunch for a piece of tack unlikely to be found, it helps to have it within a 5-10 minute drive.)

post-ride boot appearance :(
- not adjusting the Renegades.  Cable snapped on a hind boot 18-ish miles into the ride, likely from having too much exposed.  I also had a front boot come off after a river crossing/steep uphill climb; I have no idea what's going on with that, but that one boot has been persistently challenging after that particular river crossing.

- Fetti's one flaw of the day was not standing for me to either put on a front boot or remove the other.  After nearly being run over by my own horse, I decided it didn't matter.  If the stupid horse wanted to trot home with one boot, she could damn well do so.  And we did, and it was fine.

View during the ride.  First boot to get attached.

Second boot.  If I'm pulling one hind, might as well pull the other.
Third boot - front right, the one that gives me perpetual problems.Also the only boot that was fitted snugly.

- This was the one ride last year where I gave myself human electrolyte capsules.  It was the only ride where I did not get a migraine.  Elyte capsules are going to the top of the 'must-have' list for rides.  I'm learning.. slowly.

 - For a few reasons, I never turned on GPS tracking to keep an eye on our speed.  I do plan to do that in future and it would have made me feel better about how fast we were actually going.. or not going.

- Confetti did not pee on the trail at all.  As usual.  Actually, she never peed while I was in sight all weekend.  Shy mare indeed.

Additional notes!

Our first P&R was immediately following a trot-by; she still made it down to 60 within a few minutes without any sponging or anything.  I think the vet was concerned that she was just barely down to 60, while I was very happy that she was down at all so soon!
Second P&R I sponged, parked her in the shade, sponged a bit more and let her fall asleep.  I should have been a bit more aggressive with cooling her here.  Even so, down in under 15 minutes.
Coming in to the finish she was down in about 13, and I am totally confident we could have been down sooner - I walked her over to the paddock to pull tack since it was so close, didn't sponge as aggressively as normal since the gentleman next to me had borrowed the sponge when the pony and I wandered off, and wasn't stressing about it since I knew time was no longer a problem.
I do think the HRM is a useful tool for me to know how hard to work on cooling her down, and will use it for that in the future.. but I may continue to ignore it during the actual ride.

Gear addition likely: I noted fill in all four legs post-ride.  It's likely that before October, I'll buy at least one set of the Equi FlexSleeves, aka Dixie's diabeetus wraps.

Gear change/addition needed: My replacement-stirrups still left my knees sore.  I'll be upgrading to the caged stirrups from American Trail Gear very soon.

River crossing, heading out.  Ride photo by Gore & Baylor.
Fireworks has a river crossing.  It tends to cause problems for a few horses a year; I think two horses this year pulled because the riders couldn't get them across, but I'm not sure on that.  Fetti and I went through on the way out, no problems.  We've crossed this dozens of times.

On the way back, I politely nodded and smiled at the volunteers, commented that we've done this before, tried to point her nose to the right around a rock.. and of course, for the first time ever, she walked into the rock, tripped, flailed a bit, picked herself back up, and carried on out of the river.  The poor volunteers probably thought I was nuts for ignoring them, but really?  She's always navigated herself through and done pretty well.  Sadly, the photographer was only here for the ride out.  The volunteers were our only witnesses.

This was the first ride where I can comfortably say we rode our own ride.  A novice tagged along for most of the first two loops, but when she dropped back with another group midway through loop #2 I didn't feel particularly guilty about leaving her with them (I knew one of the riders and knew the novice had been slowing down a bit).  'Fetti and I passed people when I felt we could make time, got passed on sections others wanted to go faster on, played leapfrog with various riders. Novice rider caught back up to us towards the end of the second loop.  She pulsed down first, vetted in first, and headed down the trail first when her out time hit and I hadn't vetted through - good novice :)  Confetti and I were on our own for parts of the final 'loop' heading home, catching folks, losing folks, leapfrogging around.  If there weren't horses immediately in our line of sight, she was actually quite good about settling in alone.  Big progress.  Good mare.

Private property trails.  Some wide like this, some singletrack.

More private property views.  These two photos pretty well sum up the two terrain types.

I scribbled out theoretical times for the 9/8/9 mile sections, with a P&R/possible 15min hold after the first 9, and P&R/30min hold after the 8 mile loop.
Theoretically - start time is 7am.  Arrive at first check at 8:30, out by 8:50.  Arrive at second check by 10:15, out by 11:00am.  Home by 12:30.
Reality - start time is 7am.  (We actually left at 7:05 or so and caught the tail end of the controlled start pretty quickly.  I think that probably worked in our favor, as we missed all the chaos, and all the stress was in my head!)  Arrive at first check at 8:45, out by 8:55 or so (surprise trot-by immediately into a gate & go).  Arrive at second check about 10:30 with an out time of 11:07.  Actually leave vet check at 11:28.  (Vet lines were very long and there will be changes here next year.  We were all reassured that we would not be penalized for being over-time.  I gave myself 20 minutes to get through the vet line & tack up, and ended up using probably 30 in the vet line and 7 to tack up/let Fetti drink/get back on and go.  As a result, we were moving briskly but not terribly worried about making time the last 9 miles.  This is also the section in which I had both boot mishaps.)  Arrive at finish at 1:04, pulsed down by 1:15.

Last year was just a single vet check/30min hold, so by my count that puts us a solid 15 minutes ahead of last year, and we could have easily made up another 15 if we'd been pushing at all on the way home and aggressively cooling at the finish.  I am very pleased with that.

Friday snacks, in which she is convinced the best bits are at the bottom.

Saturday post-ride.  Relaxed and a bit tired, but not exhausted!

Happy happy happy.
I'm not sure what it means that for the final CRI, her heart rate actually dropped after the trot-out.  Thoughts/advice, anyone?  Not that I'm complaining, just confused.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Planning, three days out

For your enjoyment today, a smattering of semi-ride-related notes, since my head is in too many directions to make it more cohesive!

Despite washing Confetti's mane this past weekend, she has already succeeded in turning it from nice-white to rolled-in-dirt.  Tomorrow's to-do list now includes washing it again and re-braiding either Thursday night or Friday at ridecamp.  There may be no 'must have clean and well-presented horse' rule for endurance, but hunter roots die hard - and when we'll almost inevitably be the only Haflinger there, I feel obligated to present well.

Transport has been arranged, due to a very kind friend and her husband's willingness to drop Fetti off at ridecamp before work on Friday.

Pre-ride 'break' began Monday, after Sunday's boot-testing ride.  Bareback rides Tuesday and Thursday - figuring I still need her to get out to keep her head on straight, but if I can sit whatever we're doing bareback, she can't be working that hard.  I am not capable of riding her Big Trot bareback.

Now is as good a time as any to (re)start trying to train Confetti to pee on command.  I cluck (since I can't whistle, I'm settling for a verbal cue different from anything we've ever used as a 'trot' or 'go' cue), she pees, she gets a cookie or three.  Easy, right?  Except that she deigns to pee on trail 3-4 times a year these days.  Up from once! 
Trainability/routine gold star for us: she gets tied to tie-rail, pull tack, eventually put her back in her stall.  Close gate, walk across to the tack room, get grain out of bucket, pony pees. 
This weekend, I walked her in with halter & lead and stood with her for a few minutes.  Pony earned her cookie :)  My hope is that we can keep that up and transfer it under-saddle by the end of the summer.

There is no current packing list.  I have a (short) to-do list in my head of non-horse things.  It will undoubtedly get longer.  Nearly 36 hours prior to showing up at ridecamp.. and the pre-ride panic of stuff to do has not yet set in.  Yikes.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Planning, six days out

Sum total of things I did in June to prep for a mid-July ride: take horse for trail rides whenever she was neither sick nor lame.  Effectively tapered off Real Work as of June 1.
Total number of Real Works in the past six weeks: I think, maybe, six? And that's combined sprints and longer rides.  That's surprisingly more than I expected.

Sunday before the ride, things not recommended:
1. Boot for the first time since last competitive ride (May 3rd).  Discover that 3 of 4 boots are looser than I normally think correct - although all go on quite easily for once, so that's something!  Follow that discovery by being unable to find the bag of Boot Stuff that holds both hex wrenches for adjusting boots.
2. In digging through all the bins and boxes in the tack room (reorganized and condensed as of the last week of May), fail to find bag of boot stuff.  Instead find very-baby rats.  Remove rats from tack room and hope that their mother relocates them elsewhere.  Location does explain why the nice endurance saddle was getting chewed on for the first time ever.
3. Conclude that GPS tracking app is still not functioning correctly (as of last Thursday).  Reinstall does not fix.  Fail to find suitable replacement prior to Sunday's ride.*
4. Debate putting on heart monitor** (again, for the first time since last competitive ride).  Skip it.  Too hot.  Too much work.
5. Replace stirrups on saddle for less-squished ones.  Why not change all the things immediately before the ride?  Realize everything is suddenly very springy.***
6. Ride with the slightly-too-loose boots anyway.  Might as well see if they work.  Verdict:  very impressed with the Renegades, as they stayed on, no twisting or anything.
7. Discover that summer-coat pony has started shedding; winter coat soon to show up.
8. Continue trying to plan how horse is going to get to ridecamp. (Thankfully we're very local and I have several options if a trailer ride over does not fall into place.)

*What do the rest of you use?  Prefer something that shows average MPH, lets you view individual section speeds, pretty visual graph is a plus, free or close to it a must since I'm hoping current app will start playing nice again soon.  iPhone, not Android.
**I'll probably ride with the heart monitor at Fireworks, but use it mainly to see how she does pulsing down at checks.  My sense of how well she's doing otherwise is going to have to be sufficient, since we have not trained with it very much lately.
***Next major purchase: caged stirrups from ATG.  My year with my previous pair of stirrups is just about up, and their lifespan appears to be over.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Cautiously optimistic

I'm almost afraid to post this and jinx us.  But June's over, so..  should be okay, right?

Three mile solo ride yesterday morning in which Confetti was mildly awful.  Sound, but spooking at everything and generally being obnoxious.  This is how she gets when we haven't done enough Real Work in a while.  June was generally a mess in terms of Real Work, so I should not be too surprised.

AHHHHH a downed tree!
I experimented with the idea of making her work when she refused to go forwards at a suddenly terrifying tree.  Leg yields/turns on the forehand were my tools of choice - I tried turns on the haunches and that failed spectacularly on so many different levels.  Unfortunately, I am not convinced that we got anywhere or that I made any kind of communication success with that idea.  It was probably ten minutes of cueing every. single. damn. step. before a hiker came along and we followed him past the tree.  It's possible we even went backwards in our training of 'scary things' (though I'm confident this one wasn't actually scary), since we were quite literally going backwards a good chunk of the time.  I hate when she does that.  It's mostly not an issue, but this horse will back up practically forever when she's so inclined.

Funder's idea of throwing stuff at the blasted horse actually sounded very appealing.  It wasn't even that she was spooking - it's that she was spooking at the same tree that she walked by and nibbled on when we first saw it down last week.  I settled for simply swearing at her instead.

Canoe in the river.  Not even slightly terrifying.
Tired and irritated, I went home and regained some patience.  I headed back out in the afternoon with a friend as the lead horse and pace-setter, aiming for brisk.  Almost immediately, I had my horse back.  Forwards, energetic, willing.. and sound still.  Medium trot, brisk trot, even a moderately quick uphill canter and a bit of downhill trot.  The unevenness that's been showing up the past week seemed to be completely gone.  I did push her a bit yesterday; I need to know if this sort of ride is going to exacerbate whatever she had going on, or if she's really healed.  If she's lame today, or even lame again at all this weekend, we won't go, no question.  If she looks okay today and the next two days?  I think we're on.

Happy pony ears crossing the river to home.