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Friday, March 11, 2016

Time to focus on riding!!



Over the past several months, I've been focused on my own fitness and my goal of finishing a marathon.

The horses were on break for the first half of that, then Tanna got an abscess, which kept him (and Lillie) away from competing at the Camp Osborn Pow Wow ride. Tanna immediately blew a second abscess on a different hoof 2 weeks after the first, which kept him out of training for a couple more weeks.



Tanna and me at a training ride a couple weeks ago.

Now that my marathon is done and Tanna seems to be ready to rock again, it's time to ride!! I have 4 rides lined up this spring, including, I hope, getting Lillie to do another 50 on Sasha.

Time changes this weekend, so I'm looking forward to lots of good training rides!

Front: Sasha and Lillie
Behind: Tanna and me
A recent training ride.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Letter to AERC Board of Directors

This is a letter I sent to the AERC Board of Directors. I decided to post it here for anybody else to read that might care to know my thoughts. Comments are welcome.

In order to follow along, you might want to read the Endurance News article that prompted this letter.

Dear All,
 
This is in response to the article "The New Reality" in the February 2016 edition of the Endurance News. I would like to address each numbered point in the article.

  1. We do not need a new division for trail riders. We are a long distance competitive organization. There are plenty of organized trail rides and trail ride organizations. We do not need to fill that niche. The Intro rides offered by Ride Managers as they feel moved to offer them are enough.
    We are a unique organization, please let's retain our sense of who we are.

    If the BLM or private land owners won't allow an endurance ride to be held on their land, that's their prerogative and we don't have to hold an event there. If we (horseback riders) are in danger of losing trails for basic access, that's a different matter and we can still help that cause, even if we are never allowed to hold an event there.
 
  1. Please do not redefine endurance. Rides of at least 50 miles are endurance as defined by our founders and we should not abandon that. If we have a need for 40 mile rides, let them be run under the Limited Distance (Level 1, whatever you want to call it) rules, but not endurance. Let's not lower the bar. If everybody could do it, it wouldn't be an attractive goal for those of us that like to stretch ourselves while keeping our horse partners happy and healthy.

  1. A trail rating system sounds good at the outset, but there are so many variables that go into the difficulty of a trail, it would be hard to quantify. And who would decide what makes a ride hard or easy? Depending on training terrain and climate conditions, a hot, rocky, mountain ride can be easier for a particular horse than a flat, deep sand ride. I think ride managers should be encouraged to provide accurate trail descriptions (which I believe many/most do already) and leave it at that.

  1. I don't think we need a new division to take care of the gap between Limited Distance mileage and Endurance mileage. Perhaps we could extend the Limited Distance division to include 40 mile rides, but I'm not sure there is a good enough reason to have 45 mile rides. If you can do 45, you can do 50, both from a trail layout perspective and a horse perspective. However, that 40 mile ride should adhere to the same rules as the current Limited Distance rules, including the time limit. If a trail is too tough to safely complete in the time limits of our sport, perhaps that venue is not a good choice for an endurance ride. That is part of the game, balancing the time limit with the terrain and horse at hand. Part of the game for the rider as well as part of the game for the ride manager to layout/design the course with the time limits in mind.

  1. Standalone Limited Distance rides might sound good at the outset, but I don't know how well they would pan out, especially the example of a place where camping is not allowed. If people drive in the morning of an event, they have to be within a close distance of that venue and what is likely to happen is to have all the local riders that normally train that venue just come and do a training ride together. I don't see what that will solve or that it will bring in new riders. When I helped with the Trace Tribute ride in Tennessee, we had some locals show up for the Limited Distance ride the morning of, but it certainly wasn't enough people to justify having timing staff and vets just for them. And they were welcome to do just what they did in the context of a full day with a 50 mile endurance ride as well as the 25 mile event.

    Ride day can be a hectic day, so a good deal of the camaraderie experienced at rides would be lost, since the mingling and hanging out is generally done the day before and the night after a ride. But coming in, riding and going home doesn't leave much of a community experience, especially for the back of the pack riders that come in with most if not all of the other riders gone and impatient volunteers that want to pack up and go home.
     
As a footnote, I would like to say that raising membership numbers is a good thing, but let's be careful that we're growing as an endurance organization. I know the saying is "Change or Die," but if we change so much that we are no longer an endurance organization, have we not died anyway?
 
Respectfully,
April Johnson

AERC M20813
  

Sunday, February 07, 2016

First Competition of 2016

Prelim


I originally signed myself up to ride the 50 on Tanna and my niece, Lillie, to ride the 50 with me on Sasha. Unfortunately, Tanna got an abscess the week before the ride and knocked him out. Without another horse for me to sponsor her on, Lillie was unable to ride.


The Trip


Daniel and I loaded up Sasha and Tanna on Wednesday about 9 AM and headed down to south GA for the Camp Osborn Boy Scout Pow Wow. I brought Tanna along to keep an eye on his foot. He'd popped the abscess, but still needed some care for it.

We had hoped to be in camp well before dark, but the traffic slowed us down by a good bit and it was after dark when we arrived. We drove into some good rain and radar showed it had been raining at ride camp a good amount (yellow and red) for a good long time before we got there.

We pulled straight off the driveway and pulled in far enough to safely put the horses out on the high ties. Put out hay, water, walked the dogs and the horses and then went to bed early. It rained and rained overnight, pouring more and more water on saturated and flooded ground.


The Day Before


On Thursday, I was scheduled for a run, a long run. As long a run as I could manage. But due to the weather, the saturated ground and the fact that I didn't want to run dirt/sand roads for miles on end, I wimped out.

THE tractor!
We tried to get the trailer turned around to park a bit better, but unfortunately, got stuck. Daniel immediately stopped and we waited for the TRACTOR to come pull us out. This was not a tiny little putzy tractor, but a nice, big, yummy, John Deere Green Tractor! I was in complete awe watching that thing so I forgot to video it pulling us out as I just watched.

Once the trailer got parked, Daniel and I stomped down as much of the ruts as we could. Then I went back to the trailer, putting things right and getting my vet check stuff together and over to where we would vet check.

Friday grazing.
When Joe got there, we had a place all ready for him to park next to us. He unloaded Kit and Friday and I hand-grazed them while he and Daniel got Joe's new, shiny rig parked, set up and an electric pen set up for the horses. Both horses were very well behaved, but I insisted no rolling. I didn't want to try to handle both of them rolling at the same time in hand. I can handle my two rolling in hand at the same time, but didn't want to try it with Joe's horses.

Joe's shiny trailer.
Next was registration in a nice warm office. I made sure Kim had changed my horse registration to Sasha and got my ride card.

Registration. Kim teaching the next generation of ride management!

At vet in, I left Tanna at the trailer and took Sasha up to vet. Boy, what a pain she was! Spinning and hollering for Tanna and dancing around like she had ants all over. I apologized to the vet and was a bit embarrassed, especially when Sasha went into a buck and a canter during the trot out. I backed her several feet until she gave in and trotted the rest of the way. She still vetted in with a 48 pulse. For as idiotic as she was being, I would have thought much higher!

Ride meeting was held in the Boy Scouts' dining hall. It was much nicer in there without the cold wind! 50s would do a 3.5 mile trail loop, an 11ish mile road loop, then do a trot by near camp and back out for a 12.5 mile loop before returning to camp for a 60 minute hold. Next was a repeat of the 12.5 mile loop and another 60 minute hold. Last loop was a repeat of the 11ish mile loop. Start at 7:30 AM for all riders. Around 63 total starters between the 25-mile and 50-mile distances.

Ride Day

Before the ride

Up at 5:30, I gave the horses their breakfast and crawled back in bed for 30 minutes to slowly wake up. Up for good at 6 AM, I got dressed and Daniel made grits for breakfast.  Sasha was all saddled at 7 AM and ready to go with a big number 13 marked on her hindquarters. Lucky 13 for the 13-year-old mare on her first competition of 2016. Poor Tanna kept expecting to be saddled, but nope, not this time, buddy.


Loop 1

This was the potentially confusing loop. Blue, blue, blue! The only trail we would be able to use was a 3.5 section of the trail marked in blue. Ride management spent a lot of time and energy on Thursday rerouting the trail to keep us off the worst of the muddy bogs and horse swallowing puddles. This meant we were routed mostly on dirt roads, but we were able to get a look at some of the trail first thing.

I teamed up with my buddy, Joe, who was riding his gelding, Friday, in the 25 mile ride. I was riding the 50, but since we started at the same time and were doing the same trail, we decided to start together and see how things went, agreeing to split off if the horses weren't meshing.

After Sasha's spirited display at the vet in the day before, I was perfectly happy to start slow and near the back of the pack. Joe hand-walked Friday for a little bit and then got on. Both horses spun and danced as we were passed by a pack of riders. Then we started to move on down the trail and got into the single track. I offered to lead if needed, but either way, Sasha was fine. Joe decided to lead.

We wound through the trail, popped out beside the road, then back into the trail and into a big, deep puddle. Sasha was still being a jumpy thing and I kept my feet solidly under me to keep my seat, but that resulted in a bit of wet feet. If I had been on Tanna, I would have been wetter since he's a bit shorter. That freaked me out a bit, but we got through it without incident and moved on.

Sasha does NOT like to be crowded. She used to be very protective of her rear end. She still can be, but is much better these days. Even so, she got fed up with the entire situation and threw out a double-barreled warning shot that did not connect with the horse behind her, but threw me completely out of the saddle and elicited a shriek from me. Fortunately, I plopped right back down in the saddle, slid my feet into the stirrups and we went on.

I intercepted at least 3 more attempts to double-barrel kick over the next mile or two. When we finished the trail loop and moved out to the road loop, I moved Sasha to where there was nobody behind her and slowed her so the other horses moved past her and got her out of the group. I did not want her to get another kick past me and possibly connect.

I slowed her to a jig until the group got well ahead and then asked her to do a mild 8 mph trot. She shook her head a bit, but settled into it and seemed much more content, even though Friday had moved on with the group ahead.

After another mile or so, Joe and Friday had pulled off and waited for us to join them and we continued down the trail, the four of us. I had a great time riding with Joe and chatting with him. Jessica Willis of Unbridled Imagery got a great shot of us having fun.


When we finished that road loop, Joe and Friday headed into camp for their vet check and Sasha and I turned around and headed back out on another road loop.

Sasha was happy enough for awhile, but about 5 miles out, she just slowed and slowed and then stopped. I sat quietly on her while she stood there looking around and trying to figure things out. After a minute or two, she continued on (because I wouldn't let her turn around) at a good trot.

At one point, we passed a farm with several horses and Sasha called and called and called. Poor girl. Next up was my favorite part of the ride. We went across some water onto a levee that wound around. That was a lot of fun for some reason!

When we came out of that field, Sasha was excited. We were only a street up from where we had entered the road loop and she felt we were headed back. We were, but had a little extra to do.

Vet Check 1

We did that loop in 3 1/2 hours. A good enough time, but I normally would have gone slower. Usually, I have 12 hours, minus holds, to do a 50, but since this was Friday, and the Sabbath would start at sunset, I had to be back in camp no later than 5:30 to be able to vet in and clean up our vet area by sunset. That gave me 10 hours, minus the 2 hour holds, minus an hour for a buffer, gave me a plan of 7 hours to get the 50 done. A little better than 7 mph average I had to keep. So far, so good.

Sasha eating and supervising at the vet check.
It was chilly, so kept her covered when not moving.
Sasha vetted in fine with an admonition to get her eating since her guts were a B. Long loops without much grazing will do that. She did great on drinking though. Back at our vet area, she didn't want to eat her beet pulp, but ate her alfalfa hay readily enough. I left her in Daniel's capable hands and headed to the trailer to grab something to eat and check on Tanna.

I'm very used to 40 minute holds, so I was a little at a loss what to do for the extra 20 minutes. Sasha ate about the same amount of time as she would for a 40 minute hold and then decided to nap. I gave her electrolytes (since she didn't eat them in her beet pulp) and she ate for the last 5 minutes of the hold. I went out at my out time. With 60 minute holds, not hard to do.

Loop 2

This next loop was a repeat of the last 12.5 miles of the 1st loop, so we both already knew where we were. Sasha was a little less forward on this loop, but moved out at a decent trot. I asked her to canter a few times to break it up as well as mixing in the walk and trot. She did not slow to a stop on this loop, but actually got more forward about half way through the loop. That coincided with the end of the "30 mile blues" and getting back where she knew we were headed back to camp.

We had a lot of fun doing the levee again, this time at a canter since I knew the footing was really good. She spooked hard at a bird swimming, but I managed to stay on and back into a canter we went.

I spent more time getting Sasha to eat this loop. I had switched to her Little S hackamore from the kimberwicke and it took her a few tries before she realized she could take big ripping bites and not get the grass hung up in the bit. But once she got that, she was happy to grab big bites when I spotted some good grass that we could get without trespassing.

Sasha drank well the entire ride. I didn't have to worry once about that.

Vet Check 2

We came into camp right on schedule with a 7 mph average for the second loop. I spent a little extra time cleaning her up before getting to the vet 8 minutes after arriving. Not that she was spotless or anything, just getting some of the gunky sweat from around the saddle pad.

This time, I mentioned to Dr. DeeDee that Sasha was guarding when I posted her faster trot on the left front diagonal. I suspected the right hind. Dr. DeeDee agreed there was something going on there, but not consistent and not enough to keep us from going out on the last loop.

During the vet check, I kept Sasha's wool cooler on her and let her eat. She was hungrier than the first vet check and ate a good amount of her beet pulp this check as well as more alfalfa.

Again, I left her with Daniel and went to grab a bite to eat and change one of my socks.

When I returned, Sasha was napping again. I gave her a few electrolytes which again started her eating for the last few minutes of the hold.  I got to the out-timer with 20 seconds left on my hold.

Loop 3

Last loop and the shortest loop. I like short last loops.

Sasha was not thrilled to be going out again on the same dirt road we had used several times already to get to the loop that repeated part of what we did on the first loop. She repeatedly tried to turn around for the first mile or so, but finally settled down and moved on, but without too much enthusiasm.

I pulled out my phone and downloaded several of my running songs from Google Drive, plopped them into a playlist and set the playlist to play through my speakers. I'd forgotten my mp3 player and didn't have headphones anyway, so I decided maybe she'd like to hear the songs.

Amazingly, it worked, she perked up right away. I tucked my phone back into the Spibelt with the speakers facing out and positioned it on the front of my hip bone so she could hear. I sang along in my horribly off-key, but happy voice and we rocked on.

When we reached the water stop 3 miles out, we had riders coming back for their finish and I quickly turned the volume way down so as not to bother them, then let Sasha drink and graze while we chatted before going our separate ways.

Volume back up and away we went. We passed a couple riders (volume down when near them) and then a song came on that really revved Sasha's motor and before I knew it, I was crouched over her neck, talking in her ear and we were galloping along having a good old time. So much fun!!! It only lasted about 2 minutes or so before I pulled her back to a trot and then to a stop to enjoy some grass, but it was a lot of fun for both of us. I think sometimes I make riding too serious and we don't have enough fun.

I was a little worried I'd done a bad thing by letting her gallop (and encouraging her along), but her heart rate was normal and she trotted off just fine after eating for a few minutes.

The Finish

We finished the loop with a nice canter to give Nancy a little bit of a show at the finish line. 20th place. All over but the trot-out. Sasha wanted to trot back, but I insisted on a walk. No point in tempting fate as we had plenty of time before sunset now. I stayed mounted until we crossed the road, then I hopped off and hand-walked her in. She was walking at 63 before we got back to our vet area.

Sasha after the finish in her wool cooler and
EquiCrown compression socks
I stripped her tack while she ate and took her to vet out. Daniel was off looking for some lost horses so I had to trot her myself and didn't get the benefit of watching her trot out. She was still guarding that right hind, but again, not consistent or bad enough to keep me from getting a completion and fit to continue.

The Aftermath

Yay, Sasha! She toughed it out with me! Proud of that little girl and so happy with her. I am planning a visit to her chiropractor this week before she gets any more training rides. I really should have gotten her adjusted before the ride. 

This shows the hot spot. The surrounding area
was only reading 46°
As I was cleaning things up, Daniel ran a Seek Reveal thermal sensor over her and noticed 2 hot spots on her sides at about the same spot on both sides.

I threw the saddle back on and we were able to see that the stirrup leather buckles were touching there. I immediately put the saddle away and went to Running Bear's trailer and bought a set of 1" biothane leathers. They're too long for me, but I'll cut them down and add more holes. Teddy would do that for me, but I didn't want to wait for them to be ordered and sent. But now the buckles won't be wide enough to hit Sasha's sides.

A very nice start to the ride season. Sasha did another fairly fast (for me) 50 at around 6 hours 45 minutes (I don't have my ride card handy to do the exact math, but that's pretty close). I really would like to slow down some and do more long slow rides on her. I think I'll have my chance next month at Yellowhammer.

After the ride, just before bedtime.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Winter Break

Tanna and Sasha are on winter break. Time to get them out and do a few little rides if I can find the time in decent weather. They will get shoes back on the 2nd week in January and then training for them will resume in earnest.

In the meantime, I have ramped up my own training schedule and am training for a marathon! I have another blog to chronicle my running adventures. I'd be happy to have you pop over there to share in my training!

Journey to a Marathon - A first-timer's journey to the marathon distance

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Blackwater Boogie 2015

I finished up my 2015 endurance season this past weekend at Blackwater Boogie. Daniel and I took Sasha down on Thursday. We usually try to arrive 2 days before an event, but this time we had to leave on Thursday. We left at 5:30 AM and took our time getting down there. We only had Sasha, so we did a minimal camp set up and left it at that. We were parked close enough to vet check from the trailer and I had all my vet check stuff handily packed and ready to go. We had quite a bit of time to relax and chat.
minimal camp set up

Ride meeting revealed that we would start at 7 AM, despite the fact that it would be light by 6 (sunrise at 6:11). Since this is after the time change, sunset would be at 4:53 PM. Further, the vet holds would be 50 minutes each instead of 40 minutes as I had expected.

Sasha @ bedtime before the ride
I had planned to do a slow and steady ride with Sasha. This was her first season, her 4th 50 and she just did a fantastic job of doing a 50 at Spook Run (carrying Lillie) just 2 weeks before. But with the compressed time frame, I decided I'd better bump up my expectations and try to keep a good steady 7 mph average. I had wanted a 6 mph pace originally. I figured I would see how she handled the pace and if I had to drop back and I wouldn't finish before dark, I would rider option at the second vet check.

Ride morning was cool, but not too bad. After saddling Sasha, I tossed a wool blanket over her hindquarters to keep her warm. When I went to get on her, Sasha had a bucking fit!! She has never done that under saddle before. I'd forgotten to remove said wool blanket before getting on her. Well, that was fun. I did not come off and she stopped bucking after 5 or 6 good hard bucks that made sure the wool blanket was on the ground.

After that excitement, Sasha turned back into my sensible girl again and we warmed up. With Tanna, in his early years, I had to go out at the back of the pack. He could not keep his brain intact in a group that early in the ride. Sasha is wonderful in a group, pays attention to me and is quiet, so I did not waste any time hanging around camp at the start.

First loop, we went out at a fairly fast pace. I kept her at a trot and just under 10 mph.  The first 5 miles took us 34 minutes. Yikes, too fast. After that I was able to start getting her to walk more to bring down the average speed.

I had one of my GPS watches (yes, I was wearing two...) set to auto-lap every mile. I had the screen set up to show me how long we'd been out on the loop (Timer), the current average pace for this mile, and total distance. Since it was lapping every mile, I knew if the distance said 4.54 miles, I was a bit over half way through the mile.

If you're curious, my second GPS was set to show me Sasha's heart rate, current speed, average speed for the loop (not just the current mile) in mph, and again, the total distance for the loop.

My goal pace for every mile was 8 minutes 34 seconds. I reset my expectations for every mile. I didn't try to slow down enough to "make up" for the faster miles we did at the start as the other horses were shaking out into their grooves. If we'd found ourselves riding with another rider, that would have been fine, but my goals were my goals and that's what I was going to do.

We settled into a rhythm where Sasha trotted for a good portion of the mile and then we walked for 1-2 tenths of a mile to get the average pace for the mile back down to a reasonable level. We did the first loop in just over 2.5 hours.

Sasha came into the check looking great. Her HR was immediately down. Daniel met me at the in-timer and we got her to our trailer, pulled her tack and back to pulse in just 7 minutes. 55 pulse, 48/48 CRI and As completely across the board. She had dropped weight from 814 pounds at vet in the day before to 772 pounds. Normal. She gained a little weight back in the next loops.

saddled and ready to go out on the second loop
Sasha spent the entire hold eating. Good girl!! I ate some as well, then Daniel and I saddled her back up. She shied away from the saddle, which was annoying, but then stood quietly. I switched from her kimberwicke bridle to her hackamore. First time to ride her in a hack during an event. We made it back to the out-timer with 3 minutes to wait to be released on trail. I kept Sasha moving to keep her warm and off we went on the second loop.

This loop it was a lot easier to get into the groove as we were riding alone and all the adrenaline had burned off and now we're just in work mode. Sasha was working well, but went through what I call the "30 mile blues" about 8 miles into this loop. We had a couple of slow miles where she piddled around and tried to convince me that it was time to quit or turn around or go find Tanna. Anything except keep going the direction I wanted. Her heart rate told me she was ok. She'd be trotting along and then get slower and slower and slower, then stop. And her HR would be dropping like a rock. 64 by the time she finally stopped and dropping lower. Um, yeah, let's go, Little Girl. I'd click to her or just lightly squeeze my calf against her side and she'd jump into her 8 mph trot again.

Sasha on trail
When we split off from the blue trail (our first loop) to circle around the back of camp to get some extra mileage, she really thought I lost my mind. Clearly, I didn't know where camp was and she must help me. She tried repeatedly to cut cross-country to head directly back to camp. It was "just over there" after all.

We managed to do this loop much closer to my planned pace. Just slightly faster, but not concerningly so. We got her to the vet in 10 minutes this time. I spent a little extra time cleaning her up before taking her to the vet. 53 pulse. 52/52 CRI. A few A- on her card, but the rest were A. One of the A- was on impulsion. She was not a happy camper at this point. Mentally, she was over this whole "running around in circles by herself" day. But she was sound and fit and all signs were a go. Our out-time was 1:30. Plenty of time to get that last loop down before dark.

Sasha in the middle of our second vet check
The last loop was only 11 miles. Much shorter than the 2 previous loops. We got to Nancy (the out timer) with 45 seconds before our out time. Sasha expressed her opinion that she'd rather not, but went after a few seconds conference with me. We trotted beside the road, took a left into the brush and off we went.

Sasha still was not happy to be out there. I pulled out my mp3 player and single earbud and sang along. She perked up and moved out more happily. Maybe it was just to get done faster and shut me up! She began to canter some when I was singing and I noticed her HR lowered significantly when she cantered. So we added more specific cantering to our rotation. Trot for 1/2 mile, canter for 1/3 mile, walk the rest of the mile, repeat. Sasha's canter was a nice smooth, easy, canter. About 11 mph. Not fast, not extended, just easy moving. Delightful. I'm going to have to develop this a bit more in future training rides.

I was happy to see Nancy at the finish line. I always am. :) Sasha did her nice easy canter for the last 1/3 mile of the loop across the finish line. Happy to be pointed at camp. I rode her back to the driveway and then hopped off to walk her in. Daniel was off doing something else, so I took her back to the trailer and let her eat while I pulled her tack. I let her eat for a few extra minutes while I cleaned up some of the worst of the mud.

Finished, all vetted and still eating.
She vetted in wonderfully at the finish. We vetted in 15 minutes after crossing the finish line. 40/44 CRI and only a B+ on skin tenting. As much as she'd been drinking, she still could have drank more. But since I didn't clip and she'd just done her fastest 50 and it was about 70 degrees and sunny and she was still eating and drinking and just looked good, I was happy. What a good, good, good girl!!!

Sasha did that ride in 6 hours 34 minutes, good for 8th place out of a field of 15 starters. Definitely a a good bit faster than I would have normally planned if I hadn't been trying to beat the sun, but she came through it in fine style. Having it be a flat ride was also helpful. Eating and drinking well, no soreness, good tight legs. Just a bit of an attitude problem, but I really think it's a learning curve for her to just learn to roll with it. We won't always have another horse to ride with and we won't always have varying terrain. And while she wasn't thrilled, she did do a great job.

Sasha the next morning watching the 50 milers start. Bright and cheerful.
What a great end to our season and Sasha's first full season. She did 2 25 mile rides, 1 30 mile ride and 4 50s (2 with me, 2 with Lillie), including 2 top 10s (one of those a turtle :D). Not a bad start to her endurance career!! Tanna did 1 25 mile ride and 4 50s, including 1 top ten and 1 high vet score. Not bad for his 13th season! :)

 Now the horses get a break until after Christmas. Shoes off, just running around, eating, being horses.








Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sasha - 1 Year Performance Review

Monday marks 1 year since I brought Sasha home. She was a good endurance prospect out of a hunter/jumper program with a very few trail rides thrown in for good measure. When I realized this was the anniversary of a change in her life and fitness, I wanted to look back at the overall, high level view of her year.

I had all Sasha's training rides and competitions in Garmin Connect. I always put the horse's name in the name of the activity, so it was an easy matter to get a list of all her rides. Then I downloaded each activity from Garmin Connect to then import into SportTracks. That was the most time consuming, but well worth the effort.

So here are her stats:

First up is a breakdown of her 619 miles under saddle by speed. How many miles she walked, trotted, cantered.
Walk: 119 miles - 19.26%
Trot: 459 miles - 74.12%
Canter: 32.8 miles - 5.29%




And the breakdown by time:
Walk: 43:19:33 - 32.53%
Trot: 71:24:23 - 53.61%
Canter:  2:56:46 - 2.21%



Average Speed
Walk: 2.75 mph
Trot: 6.43 mph
Canter: 11.1 mph

Where
Stopped: < 1.5 mph 
Walk: 1.5 - 3.5 mph
Trot*: 3.5 - 10 mph
Canter: 10+ mph

*Trot as I've defined it here will include some fast walking and jigging, but I didn't want to add too many slices to the pie. I wanted a quick and dirty look at how Sasha's training over the last year has progressed.

This includes all training rides, 2 50 mile endurance rides, 1 30 mile LD and 3 25 mile LDs. All miles were on trail or road riding. Arena/round pen work and "pasture runs" were left out.

Tools used for this blog post:
 
Garmin Forerunner 910xt OR
Garmin Forerunner 920xt

Analysis Software:
SportTracks 3 ($79) - Zone Five Software

MPH Calculator (Since ST didn't give me the averages walk/trot/canter speed I wanted)
http://www.machinehead-software.co.uk/bike/speed_distance_time_calc.html

Horse: 1 awesome 12-year-old Arabian mare
Sasha and me at Iron Mountain Jubilee in August 2015



Sunday, August 30, 2015

Iron Mountain Jubilee 2015

Spoiler Alert - I had an awesome weekend!!! :)

Daniel and I arrived at camp Wednesday evening in time to get settled in before dark.

After a full 8 hours of sleep (unheard of for me at a ride), I headed out for a morning run. I was cold!! It was about 55 degrees out and I was dressed for 80 degree weather. It took me 2 miles to stop freezing and another 2 miles before I finally felt comfortable. I ran along the New River Trail, which is a multi-use (cycling, horses, pedestrians) trail, flat and groomed within an inch of its life. It is tiny crushed gravel, so no mud and no pavement. Nothing to trip me up or get in my way, so I could sight see as I ran.









I like the run/walk method of training for events for me and the horses. On my shorter runs, I try to run longer before walking, but this was a long run, so I chose to run 4 minutes and walk 1.5 minutes. This worked well to the point that I finally glanced at my GPS and saw I'd already run 4.93 miles. At the 5 mile mark, I turned around and headed back. I finished 10 miles feeling great and ready for the rest of my day.

I ate some breakfast, saddled Tanna and headed toward the VA Highlands horse trail to get a look at the trail that I was a little afraid of. I had never ridden this trail before, but had heard stories. My horses are not mountain horses. We have a few small hills to train on, but that's about it. Tanna and I took our time up the switchbacks just outside of camp and then rocked and rolled through the rolling hills, just having a good time. Then we walked for a long time until we reached what I figured was the highest point on the first loop. I hopped off and we had a 10 minute break where I stretched Tanna out, focusing on his shoulders since we'd be going down hill a lot back to camp.


I remounted and we zipped back down the hill. The footing was great in a lot of places. Tanna was a maniac, ready to gallop all the way home. Course, I said no to that, but did let him move out a good bit. We had a lot of fun blasting up the roller coaster hills after we crossed the pavement, walking up some of the longer ones to make sure he didn't over do it. It was a great training ride for him. I hadn't seen all the trails, of course, but I was no longer afraid of the trail. It was a totally doable trail. I was psyched for the next day.

Back at camp, I gave Tanna a snack and cleaned him up. Then it was time for registering Sasha and getting her vetted in for the 30 mile ride. I fiddled around the rest of the afternoon, doing the things one does the day before a ride. Making sure my vet check stuff was together, feeding horses, walking dogs and horses, attending ride meeting.


Because I was doing the 30 miler ride, I was able to sleep in and got another full 8 hours of sleep. What a weird weekend this was turning out to be, sleep-wise!

Sasha and I started the 30 mid-pack, moving quickly through the first mile and a half to the switchbacks. I was fortunate to be in a small pocket where Sasha and I were by ourselves through the switchbacks. She was quite startled to have horses directly above her and below her. I talked gently to her and she managed not to have a conniption fit on the narrow trail.

When the trail widened out, we had a nice run on the wide roller coaster trail. I let her go a bit too fast here because we were both having so much fun. Near the end I had to ask her to back off and walk for a bit. After the paved road, we were on a gravel road and we moved out again to make up time before hitting the longer uphill. We just walked that. Sasha was doing great, with a great attitude and a good power walk up the hill, recovering quickly from our too fast roller coaster ride.


Just before the range land, we caught up with a couple of riders. Sasha and I quietly followed along until we saw Becky Pearman, photographer extraordinaire waiting to take our picture. I pulled up and let Sasha eat grass while the other riders went on to get their picture. When they were clear, I aimed Sasha up the hill and let her go. She cantered nicely up the hill, past Becky and caught and passed the other riders just before the crest of the hill. She passed the other horses and kept moving on at a good trot.

Next was the cows! We passed into the pasture where the cows were and I had Sasha trot confidently through. She spooked at one cow, but recovered nicely. Then I noticed a rider herding cows away from the trail ahead. The horse looked awfully familiar. It was Snap!! The 6 year old I'd sold Nancy Sluys last year. I hadn't seen him in person since I'd sold him. He was herding cows and looked amazing. I stopped to chat with Nancy and see Snap up close. What a good match those two are. As hard as it was for me to admit that I didn't have the skill set to train Snap properly, I'm happy he ended up with Nancy.  They will be a great endurance team in time.

After I left Nancy and Snap, I encountered a couple of young male bulls. They were standing in the middle of the trail. I trotted Sasha toward them and finally they moved. I really wanted Sasha to see them move away from her and not let her back down first. The two split and decided they wanted to run with me, one on either side. They were about 20-30 feet away on either side of me. That was pretty fun. Sasha did not mind at all and finally they just decided that was enough and stopped to watch us go.

The vet check was just beyond and I got Sasha's saddle pulled. Daniel was waiting and trotted her out for me. Everything looked good, but the vet said she was a little tight in her hamstrings. Back at the truck, I massaged her for several minutes and then sat to eat. Sasha started acting up. Hollering and spinning. I got up and walked her over to grass, but she just got worse. And then I saw Snap. She hollered at him. He hollored back. So funny, but a bit annoying. She was done eating. We chatted with Nancy again and then I saddled Sasha up and out on my second loop, headed back to camp. I reached the out timer with 10 seconds left on my hold time.

The first mile or so of the 2nd loop was pretty flat. Sasha and I moved out, making good time as I was sure we'd have to slow down. And we did. We climbed up and up and up and up. I used every small stretch of flat, somewhat less rocky ground to make time. In between, we walked. Sasha was walking well up the hill. Powerful and purposeful. When we hit a big water trough that hooked up with the trail we'd already done and she figured out where she was, Sasha got more forward. We continued to go up and up and up until we got to the point where Tanna and I had turned around. I let Sasha trot a good bit of the good footing downhill and soon we crossed the pavement and were into my favorite roller coaster part of the trail. I didn't let Sasha gallop the hills like I had with Tanna. We just took it easy, but enjoyed the ride.

When we hit the switchbacks, I could hear riders below me. I hoped they weren't coming up the switchbacks!! Fortunately, they were down at the bottom in the creek and were headed the same way I was. I came on them soon. 3 trail riders. I hung back and waited carefully for an opportunity to pass safely. Sasha was unhappy, chewing the bit and tossing her head, but was obedient. When we got around the trail riders, Sasha did a smart trot back into camp. She vetted out with mostly As and a couple A- scores. No issues at all with her gait or her hamstrings. Whatever was going on at the vet check was gone. Overall a great ride.


We had a great time. I went to do a run, a training ride on Tanna and a 30 miler on Sasha. All 3 things were accomplished in fine style with gorgeous views and weather. Couldn't have asked for a better weekend. Many thanks to ride manager Nancy Sluys and her team of volunteers, especially the fire department, for pulling this ride off.