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

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)

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.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Gearing up for Fall Season

We've had a fun summer around here since GERA. Lots of good conditioning rides. Bringing Sasha along slowly in the heat. She has fantastic recoveries and a great attitude. Tanna is also doing well. Both horses got adjusted by our local chiropractor vet and feel ready for the fall season.

Lillie has come out to ride a few times and Rinnah even got her turn to ride Sasha on a training ride and trotted a good bit of it. They are super busy kids and we live a good hour away from each other, so they don't get to ride as often as we all would like.

Some random shots from our summer fun.

Training ride with Tanna

Pandora Saddle Trial

Waiting for Lillie for a training ride.

Rinnah riding Sasha

Rinnah and Sasha again. Aren't they cute??

The girls cleaning up after a training ride.

3 of my favorite kids!

Breakfast time at home

Daniel working on clearing the fence line.

Crupper training for Sasha!

Sasha getting shoes.

Sasha getting a pre-ride snack.

Taking temps is a good idea during hot, humid training rides.

Sasha (left) and Tanna in their pasture.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Hot Is As Hot Does

Hot. The GERA ride was HOT. And humid.

Daniel and I picked up Lillie on Wednesday on the way to the GERA Endurance Ride.

We got there and got parked and the horses settled. Then we sat around and sweated and chatted with the other riders arriving.

Lillie and Sasha after getting settled at camp.
Thursday, Lillie met another 10 year old, Aubrey, and they hung out whenever they could all weekend. Lillie and I set up our vet check, chatted with friends, got registered, chatted with friends, vetted the horses in, chatted with friends.

Tanna being a good endurance horse!
Lillie and Aubrey helping set up the vet check area.
Towing the water truck back to camp.
In the meantime, Daniel was out sweating and getting water for the entire ride. Usually the fire department delivers water to the camp and on trail, but they were unable to at the last minute. Sandy, the ride manager, was able to get some water delivered to camp from one friend and the loan of a large water truck from another. Daniel helped get the pump set up to pump water from the creek into the water truck and then took over running the truck. Unfortunately, right at ride meeting time, I got a call from Daniel to go get him. I left Lillie with Aubrey to listen to the ride meeting and I went to get Daniel.

Turns out the water truck had quit on him. Likely a broken axle. Daniel had me drive our truck and he drove the water truck and I pulled the water truck to just outside of camp where it would be out of the way and easy to get onto a tow truck.

Then, time to figure out how to get water for the next day. Fortunately, all the water troughs on trail were full and there was a good bit of water in camp. I asked Lillie to walk the dogs and the horses while Daniel and I powwowed with Sandy. Finally, it was decided to buy a big water tank.

Friday, Lillie and I started in the back. This was Lillie's first competition on Sasha and we wanted to be sure we could ride our ride and Lillie could control Sasha. Sasha is great, but wants to move out right away.

Lillie didn't want to get her feet wet. Image credit: UnbridledImagery.com 
The first loop went fairly well. It was warm and very, very humid. I was most worried about the river crossing, but Sasha went right in after Tanna. She even drank in the river. I wanted to sponge, but I also didn't want to give Sasha a chance to stop and decide she didn't like the river, so we pressed right on across. Right at the other side, it got a little deeper and Sasha began to lunge to get out. Fortunately, she got on the bank quickly and calmed immediately. No harm done. The first loop took us two hours and 15 minutes. I was very aware of the horses' heart rates and trying to keep their core temps down.

Sasha determined to get out of the water asap. Image credit: UnbridledImagery.com

Sasha drinking out of the river. Image credit: UnbridledImagery.com
Into the vet check, I was happy it only took us 10 minutes to get the horses stripped and cleaned up and over to the pulse box with just me and Lillie working since Daniel was out buying a water tank, filling it and delivering water. Tanna pulsed in at 52. Sasha at 60. Both horses got all As on their cards.

I did scare Dr. Otis when I hollered at Lillie for letting Sasha trot through the tight turn at the far end of the trot out. She knows better and I was very surprised she did it that way. We had a chat about it during the second loop. Trot out. Stop, turn around, square up, trot back. No trotting through a tight turn where the horse might slip and hurt something. She admitted she got distracted and she would do better in the future. Good girl.

The horse massage therapist, Kathy, came over and worked on Sasha during the hold, which allowed me to relax a little and focus on things other than making sure Sasha or Tanna didn't wander off. Both horses were eating pretty well, polishing off a good mash each (ok, Sasha ate half of Tanna's too) and enjoying the alfalfa hay. I had Lillie eat a bag of chips and some fig newtons. Which then I found out she didn't like the fig newtons at a vet check.

We were a little late on our out time for the second loop, but not too terribly bad. We just kept doing the same thing we did on the first loop. Walk up most hills. Canter only when it was flat AND shaded. Which means we didn't canter all that much. Trot the rest. When we were about 3 miles from camp, I realized we had only 55 minutes to make it to camp, get the horses pulsed down and presented. So we got to going. I repeatedly said aloud (to me, but good for Lillie to hear) to not get stupid these last 3 miles. If we were overtime, so be it, but laming up one of the horses or raising their core temp too much would be way worse than just coming in too late to get our completions.

We made it into the vet check at 12:05. We had 25 minutes to strip the horses, get their temp and heart rates down and over to the pulse takers. Sasha had heat just radiating off her and her pulse was in the 80s. I loosened her girth, so I wasn't able to monitor her while we walked to our vet area. Tanna was much cooler to the touch and his heart rate was 55 before I got the saddle pulled off.

Tanna and Sasha sharing the alfalfa hay at the vet check.
Lillie began unhooking everything on Sasha's saddle. She can't really pull it yet without dropping everything on the ground, so I try to grab the saddle. As I threw some water quickly on Tanna so I could move on to Sasha, Angie appeared out of nowhere and asked if she could help. I immediately accepted and asked her to pull Sasha's saddle. Next thing I know, Angie's jumping in to sponge Sasha to get that temp down. Sasha, of course, is looking for anything to eat. I'd forgotten to start her mash, so she was just slobbering on some newly wet beet pulp. I think I need to get Speedibeet or something for her. Or get better organized. I'm not used to a horse that sucks up a mash at a vet check.

We made it over to the pulse takers just 11 minutes after coming into camp. It would have taken several minutes longer without Angie's help. Tanna pulsed in at 48 and Sasha at 56. Both horses vetted out well, with As across the board for Sasha and just a B for Tanna on guts. Not surprising. That horse is usually a B on guts.

I monitored the horses during the rest of the afternoon, but other than just wanting to nap through the heat of the day rather than eat, they were great. Good gut sounds, low heart rates, bright eye. Good job all the way around.

I had considered elevating Tanna and me to the 50, but with the high heat and humidity, I decided to call it a day. I also was happy that I was the one monitoring Sasha during the afternoon. She was fine, but sometimes they'll pass their vet check and then that temp and heart rate just won't continue to drop without some more help.

Many kudos to the horse and rider teams at this ride. It was not an easy ride. 83% completion rate on Friday. A few treatments, but all horses ok.

Now I just need to figure out Lillie's electrolyte needs. She was ok, also, but she took awhile to recover after I had her help me clean up our vet check area. I gave her some of my electrolytes, but they didn't help her. So we'll find something that does. Maybe I could use that SERA blood machine to check HER electrolytes??

Thanks to Sandy and all the ride management team for this ride.


Thursday, April 09, 2015

Spring is really here!

We were scheduled to go to McCulley Farms last week for Sasha and me to do the 25 mile ride, but due to unavoidable issues at home, we didn't. Instead, on Sunday, I rode her out from the house and managed to get in just under 18 miles in 3 hours 30 minutes, including an extra long warm up, cool down and 4 climbs of our training hill.

Around my place, I have to ride on or next to the road. If I want trails, I have to trailer out. Sasha has been learning all about traffic. She's been getting progressively better. She was doing so well, we kept going about 3 miles further than she'd gone out from the house before. Even around the scary big curve. She did really well with the traffic. Although one of the climbs of the hill she hit her running martingale when a car passed us. I think it surprised her, but she behaved and seemed much better about cars after that. Drivers were very courteous today, giving us space and most of them slowing down. Sasha was very, very forward. It was hard to rein her in and keep her to the 5 mph overall average and no more than 10 mph trot.

A running martingale is new to my tack list. When Lillie rode Sasha last, Sasha had a mini bolt with her nose straight up in the air. While I can handle Sasha when she acts like that, I decided to put a running martingale on her when the kids ride her. And before that can happen, I need to ride her in it to be sure I know how she'll react. Most of the time she doesn't hit the martingale. She only hit it once on Sunday early in the ride and managed to keep her nose down the rest of the time. I have the RM adjusted as loose as it will go. One thing that surprised me is the weight of the rings. I use lightweight flat braid reins with biothane ends next to the bit. And the weight of the martingale is definitely noticeable.

From Distance Depot

Sasha's conditioning is going very well. I'm quite pleased with her.

Perky Sasha after her training ride

Tanna is just now getting under saddle again. He had a long hiatus after his 100 mile attempt. I rode him a few times, but he just wasn't quite right. This week, I took him to my vet and had a lameness evaluation done on him to look for pain. He wasn't lame per se. Just not quite right. After the exam indicated hock issues, we decided to go ahead and inject his hocks. Tanna is 21 and has 2400+ miles over 12 seasons. Likely just catching up to him.

Today, I rode him for the first time since the injections and he was my old bouncy guy again. Energetic, happy, forward. The quality of his gait was so much better.

Looking forward to getting to at least a couple AERC rides in the month of May. Hopefully, Tanna will be ready to do a ride by the end of May. Sasha may just get her first 50 in May or June.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Today Was a Good Day

Today was not an idealistic day. Today was an adventure. Today I got to spend time with some of my favorite beings in the world. Ok, so maybe today was an idealistic day.

Yesterday we went to an equestrian camp we've never been to. To ride on trails we'd never been on. Lillie (10) was going to ride Sasha on trail for the first time. When I made the reservations, the forecast was beautiful. 65. Sunny. What we got was anything from a drizzle to a steady rain. And about 58 degrees.

This morning, we talked about just hanging around camp and then heading back home. This morning, I wanted to be a wimp. I convinced myself it would be good for the horses to camp overnight and go home without being ridden. I didn't want to ride in the rain. I asked Lillie. Answer? "I want to ride." So ride we did!

We could have moved out after our customary 10 minute walking warm up. But Lillie was happy just walking on Sasha. Since this was their first trail ride together, I wanted it to be a good experience. Slow distance was just fine. After awhile, the trail turned where we had to walk anyway. Mud, rocks, twists and turns and ups and downs. And rain. Did I mention it was raining?

After a good long walk, we met up with Daniel who had driven out to walk some trails. After we saw him, the going got scary.

We ended up going down some cowboy trails (these were the official trails) that scared me. Deep, sucking mud and steep. Did I mention it was raining? Tanna was very solid and steady. But I was still scared. One slip and...whoops, don't think like that. Breathe. Sasha came sliding behind us. I coached Lillie on how to ask Sasha to tuck her rear end. I don't know if it worked. I couldn't spare much time to look back. Down at the bottom. Wow, up the other side. Ok, breathe, here we go. No, Tanna, you can't rush this; we have to walk. Go, baby, go. No, Lillie, don't let her past me. Make her walk. Good girl, Sasha. Whew, we made it! We agreed we did NOT want to do that again.

We headed down the trail. Soon after there was another similar section, but a lot shorter. Into a creek. Tanna refused to go further down the creek due to very slippery rocks and a drop down. He does not refuse me often. He will try his hardest for me. Sometimes I fail him. Today, I listened. He said no, so I agreed.

However, turning around meant going back the way we came. Back down the steep, muddy, long incline. And back up the other side. Lillie and I discussed it. We really had no option. So we took a deep breath (or several), adjusted our helmets and pointed our horses back the way we came. Did I mention it was raining? And I hate heights? Tevis (not that this compares to Tevis in any way shape or form) has never appealed to me because I hate heights. And Sasha had likely never seen this type of terrain anywhere? Protect us, Lord.

Over the side we went. Down, down, down. Tuck that rear end. Control the descent. But don't stop. Come on, little mare, you can do it. (What on earth would I do if she refused to follow Tanna??) We all reached the bottom in one piece. Deep breath, just have to get up that hill, then we're fine. Ok, let's go. Don't let her blast up, but keep her moving. Grab mane, center my weight, come on, Tanna, up, up. What a good boy. Come on, Sasha, keep coming, girl. Wahoo!!! The top!! We are done! Thank you, Lord! The rest is a cakewalk compared to that.

I think those hills would not be nearly as scary without the mud. Maybe I just need to go back and do them over and over until I'm no longer scared of them. Maybe in July. When it hasn't rained in 45 days.

Now, lots of you from all over the country will likely be laughing your heads off at my fear. Ok. That's ok. I'm not afraid to admit I was afraid. I am super duper pleased with my horses. Sasha could have quit on us. That was some hard stuff for her. She did stop once or twice on some of the easier sections, but we got her going again. I'm not sure I could have ridden her through that by myself. I believe she needed Tanna to help show her how to handle herself in that terrain. Tanna was great and used his body as a block to help control her descent. Now if she'd lost her footing, nothing to do about that, but he controlled the speed downhill and made her back off and not rush it. Rushing it would have been bad.

We were all happy to get back to the trailer. To dry clothes (coolers for the horses), good food and retelling of the events of the day. After all that, Lillie still says she wants to keep riding Sasha. It was a good day.