Monday, August 08, 2011

Natchez Trace Parkway Conditioning Ride

On Sunday, Rinnah and I went to the Natchez Trace parkway to ride. I haven't been there in about 2 years. I was pleased to visit with Ranger T.J. as he stopped by while we were saddling up. I also saw him swing back by when we were loading up to go home, but he didn't have time to stop and chat that time. I felt pretty happy and safe that he was keeping tabs on us.

We were planning to ride 20 miles. The trail is an out and back trail, no loops, so we were planning to ride 10 miles down the trail and turn around and go back for a total of 20 miles. However, the trail is in some dis-repair. We had many trail blockages to go around or under or over. We were able to get past most of them, but at 8.5 miles out, we came on a blockage that was a bit more extensive. Given some time and muscle, I could probably have moved the fallen timber enough for us to pass by, but I decided not to do that and we just turned around then.

We completed 17.1 miles in 3 hours 48 minutes. That's an overall average of 4.5 mph. That's not quite fast enough for our targeted speed of 5 mph to be able to finish the 30 mile ride, however, the heat and humidity were quite high and the horses were breathing hard to get enough oxygen. We stopped several times to sponge water over them and encourage both horses to drink, especially on the way back. Fortunately, there was a good amount of water in the creeks, due to the recent rains, so the horses were not in any immediate danger of heat-related illness.

If we take the warm-up and cool-down laps out of the equation, we did 16 miles in about 3 hours 24 minutes for a working average of 4.7 mph. Still needs to be a bit faster, but hopefully, it will be cooler at BSF and we still have 3 weeks of conditioning left. Ok, I'm a numbers girl. Who'd've thunk? ;-)

I have not taught Rinnah to sponge from the saddle yet, although I have added the sponge to her saddle paraphernalia. I'm sure that's coming soon. I haven't decided if I want to teach her before BSF or not. For now, I just sponge both horses from my saddle.

Our big break-through on this ride, aside from it being the longest time Rinnah has spent on horseback to-date, was that Rinnah learned to canter!! She was quite hesitant about cantering, but I insisted it was time for her to learn so that we can use the canter on the ride to make up time or just give the horses a nice run, using different muscles.

I didn't give her a lot of instruction and after the first short canter stretch, she told me the canter was very hard to post to! Well, yes, it is! I told her we don't post to the canter. :) I showed her how to grab Serts' mane with one hand and use the other to neck rein, then I told her to stand in her stirrups while cantering until she gets the feel of it. We cantered several times when the trail was ultra-safe. It will take a bit of practice, but she's getting there and by the end of the ride, she'd stopped groaning when I told her we were going to canter. ;-)

Another thing I'm quite happy about is that Rinnah appears to be riding fairly balanced. Serts' girth was not tight, in fact, sometimes downright loose judging from the HRM readings disappearing and Rinnah's saddle did not slip from side to side. We did have to move her water bottle back to the cantle bag behind her because its weight in the easyboot bag on her pommel was pulling her saddle off kilter.

If anybody's interested, here is the GPS track of our ride.

Sorry, no pictures this time. I really need to get a new slimmer camera that's easier to carry on saddle so I don't have to borrow Daniel's.

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