Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Post of the Week - Finding what works for your horse

This excellent post by Dawn reminds us all to keep what is best for our horses in mind.  Be it different tack, training focus, mindset, or goals - this is something we're asking THEM to do for US, so WE have the responsibility to ensure THEIR needs are met to the fullest.


When I got away from showing and trying to adhere to "tradition", only then did I really start moving forward in my horsemanship. I know that sounds odd, but I found NOT having the time & "tradition" constraints required for showing allowed me to really focus on my horse and what her needs really were. Boy-oh-boy was it ever an eye opener for me! I started riding treeless, with bits that weren't "traditional", and even started riding bitless. My mount improved by leaps and bounds to become my dream horse in other ways, and I found a whole bunch of fun things to do that I'd never had time to do before. As a matter of fact, my beastie became such a wonderful, well trained horse that she and I gave lessons to others.

Sometimes our horses just aren't cut out to do what we want, whether that's showing at the top levels in breed shows, endurance riding, running barrels or whatever. That's perfectly ok! It just gives us permission to seek out other fun stuff to do with them. Not all horses adhere to breed standards, some have had past injuries or past training issues that prevent them from using "traditional saddles".  And maybe they're better at being a rock solid trail mount, or CTR's. Or they'd be really good at teaching others how to ride. The key to unlocking your horse's true potential and letting him/her shine is by keeping them healthy, *comfortable*, and the communication between horse & rider clear. If you take the comfortable part of the equation out because you want to pursue things that you can't make your horse comfortable in (because you have to use certain types of tack), you're killing any level of confidence your horse has in you. That
confidence takes a looooooong time to build again - ask me how I know ;-)....

I'd love nothing more than to turn my sweet little Peruvian Paso into more of an endurance horse. I dream of doing the Michigan Shore-To-Shore ride on him, which would require us to ride 18-26 miles per day for about 2 weeks straight. But the reality is that he's just not built to do that. So instead, I'm going to pursue my dream in a different way - I'm going to do parts of the Shore-To-Shore at my own slower pace this summer. Bottom line is that I want my sweet horse to remain strong, healthy and sound for as long as possible, and I'm putting my own needs and wants behind his. If one dream won't work, figure out
others that will!

Dawn Bruin-Slot
Fuzzy Logic Equine, Inc.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Post of the Week: Endurance Granny - Journey On

Journey is such an appropriate and eloquent name for her new horse. And this is an excellent post to remind us that it's about the journey, not the destination, and to focus and appreciate the present, for it truly is a gift.

Journey On

....  Sometimes I have to take myself aside: “Don’t get mad. Don’t get frustrated. Slow down. There is no race. THERE IS NO RACE. There is no finish line. There is only this very moment in time. Breathe. Remember the crooked line of success."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Exploring in Red Rock

Had a great ride this past weekend out near Red Rock, helping to explore new trail to be used for the Red Rock Rumble, which will be a new ride for the AERC West Region this upcoming October 6, 2012.  Several weeks ago, friend Tami and I went out and explored this loop for the first time, going a bit further as we actually started/finished at the actual ride camp location.  During that excursion, we found some really great trail we wanted to use, but didn't like the one portion to connect into it up and over the mountain (that also included bushwacking down the side of the hill on a cow trail).

So the plan for today was to ride the opposite direction up the cool canyon trail, and then find a better way to get over the range and back down to the valley on the other side.  We were joined by three other good friends, who have an incredible amount of experience and some truly awesome horses, and all had a glorious day.  The good news was that this particular loop actually rode BETTER in this direction, and will most likely become the preferred direction to be used for the ride.  And we found a really nice trail that worked excellently and had some incredible views.

This is a post to see how this link to a Garmin Activity works as much as to document the ride.  =)  So here's the link: 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Two Day versus One Day Rides

Sinatra & I at the Washoe Valley Ride 2006 - our first two day 50

Endurance Granny posted some questions on her blog, and I thought I'd take them time to answer them here:

How is riding back to back LD's different than riding a 50 as far as the stress on the horse? I know that sometimes people start their horses on 50's and never do the LD thing so the horse learns that they don't quit at 25 miles, learns to appreciate eating and drinking. So how is having a horse do two 25's over a weekend harder than doing 50 in a day. I'm actually weighing what I want to do as far as LD vs. Endurance. So is a 2 day slow 25 any worse than just starting out on 50 in the first place? The same?

Personally, I've found the two-day rides to be a good indicator of if my horse is ready to move up to that distance for a single day. For example, I completed a two-day 25/25 before trying my and my horse's first 50, and a two-day 50/50 before trying our first 100. How my horse performed at the end of the second day was a good indicator to me if he was ready for the longer distance at once.

As far as which is easier/harder for the horse, I think that doing the distance in one day is harder, simply because they do not have the evening in between to recover.  As a new RIDER starting out in the sport, doing the two-day rides gave me the confidence in our ability to complete the distance.  With my second horse, and more miles under my own personal belt, I felt less of a need to start with the shorter distances and/or back-to-back rides.  I now knew what it took to 1) condition my horse for the distance, 2) how to pace to finish the ride, and 3) what type of attitude/feel/conditioning to look for at the completion of our shorter rides, to be able to gauge how ready he was for the longer ones.  Even those horses that are starting in 50's officially, have generally already had at least LD-distance training rides.

How is your preparation different for a 50 (compared to an LD) as far as your weekly mileage and LSD in initially legging up a green horse?

I want my horse to be able to comfortably and easily be able to complete at least half of the goal distance before I move them up.  That means in order to finish a LD, I would expect my horse to be able to handle at least a 15-mile training ride.  I don't expect them to be pulling-on-the-reins fresh when they finish, but rather to still have plenty of forward impulsion when asked and be EDPP (eating, drinking, peeing, pooping) well and bright-eyed and alert.  For a 50, I would expect my horse to be able to complete 25-miles feeling the same.  Personally, I would rather get in one good LONG ride per week, than several shorter ones.  I'm often pretty strapped for free-time, and quite often only ride once or twice a week.  My horses have been able to be successful with this schedule of being ridden long when we go out (see distance recommendations above) and being ridden conservatively at the actual rides.  If you only have 4 hours a week to ride, better to cobble that together into one single session, than 4 shorter ones.  I wouldn't ride more miles than my goal distance per week, and would make shorter rides faster and hard to maximize the training benefit.  Personally, I feel that many/most newbie's horses are over-ridden rather than under-conditioned.  Rest can be just as, or more, important than the training.

I did a post about low mileage training a bit ago, you can find it here:  Low Mileage Training

**Posting and/or updating posts here on occassion with a picture so I can add to my Endurance - The Ride of a Lifetime Pinterest board, which is where I'm also compiling some Endurance 101 Clinic ideas.  Original article source will be linked when applicable.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Post of the Week: The Barb Wire - What's Stopping You

I may try a new segment on recommending weekly a fellow blogger's post I valued. To kick this off, here is a most excellent post by Tamara at The Barb Wire:  What's Stopping You

My day job requires me to make occasional visits to public schools around the state.  Usually, I’m there to discuss matters of data, finance, and governance, but I sometimes find myself observing classrooms in action. During one such visit, a teacher asked me to share with her class of middle school students some advice for achieving success ...  Read More

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

NEDA New Year's Day Ride

NEDA New Year's Day Ride by dreammakker at Garmin Connect - Details
This was the maiden voyage for my new Christmas present GPS.  I bumped the timer and stopped it first thing in the morning after leaving, and didn't notice until 3.5 miles or so later...

Had another wonderful time this past weekend at the NEDA New Year's Day Ride, hosted by Steve Thompson out in Silver Springs, near Lake Lahontan.  Diego and I have done several of these rides now.  They're a great local and inexpensive way to introduce a horse to the sport of distance riding.  A very fun, low-key group that is totally focused on having a good time.  In November, I brought my friend Ronda and her new Quarter Horse gelding Quik out to join me for their first ride.  We did the 9-mile "short ride" loop together and then Diego and I went on to complete the 11-mile loop for the "long ride" solo.  That worked out well for everyone and was a perfect start for Ronda and Quik into the sport.

This weekend, Ronda wanted to try doing the full 20 miles with Quik.  We've done quite a few shorter rides together, and as long as there are no big hills, Quik keeps up very well at a moderate pace.  Luckily, Silver Springs is nearly totally flat, so Quik wouldn't have to worry about anything much resembling a hill to go over.  ;)  We actually had a few people over for New Year's Eve, including Ronda and her hubby, so she brought Quik and we all had a sleep over and they spent the night, since she lives across town.  Got up in the morning and made breakfast for all the crew, and then we headed out, getting a bit of a later start but still feasible on time.  Arrived and got checked in and to the ride meeting, and were fiddling with some last minute stuff when the ride actually started, but no rush or worry.

Diego has been handling these starts very well recently.  They're not "small" rides, the past two have had between 40-50 people/horses and everyone pretty much starts at the same time on the same loop.  Once we were ready, we headed on down the road, only to make it about three houses down before we heard the jingle of harness behind us.  Turning to look, a 4-wheel cart pulled by a pair of cute mules was headed our way.  Not 100% sure on how Dig was going to react, and knowing from last time that Quik doesn't like the carts, we quickly pulled over and dismounted.  Thankfully we did, as Quik's eyes got huge and he bolted backwards as the cart continued to approach.  Ronda was fast on her feet and determined to hang on, running with him as he went.  The cart stopped and we all stood around for a bit, before we encouraged them to continue on.  The plan would be to catch up to them and hopefully ride behind for a while, to give Quik some more moderate exposure and hopefully let him get over his fear.

Dig was doing great and still walking along after remounting, until a group came of 8 riders came along and passed us.  He got worried and tense, wanting to rush along as they were approaching.  We pulled over to let them by, and to Dig's chagrin I insisted that he continue to walk jig WALK (or attempt to) until he could/would actually walk on a loose rein, which only took a bit over a mile or so.  Once he proved he was indeed capable of walking on a loose rein, we picked up the trot and passed 5 of the horses that had initially passed us.  We continued down the beach and had our photos done by Kitty with Projections Photography.

Mr. Diego cruising along

Ronda and Quiksilver aka Quik
From there we continued on until catching the evil-mule-wagon having a potty stop at one of the restrooms along the beach.  We waited behind until they got moving, and then used the rest of that loop to slowly work Quik closer and closer to the wagon.  At one point, Diego would have happily trotted along next to and past it, but I looked back and Quik was debating if it would be worth possibly running through a barb wire fence or not.  We decided not to chance it and just continued along behind.  In fact, that team of mules was moving out so well, that eventually they got ahead and then out of sight.  Diego went past a crazy chained up snarling dog like it ain't no thang, then decided the cavorting mini-horses in the corral next to the dog were the devil incarnate and had to wait for Quik to come lead him by.  Made it back into camp from the 9 mile loop around 1:30 pm as I recall, so 2:15 total time for that loop.

Both horses met the pulse criteria of 64 and had a good drink of water at the trough.  We took them back to the trailer and let them eat for another 15 minutes or so before leaving for the next loop.  We left the same time as Dr. McCartney DVM and her group of 4 (5 total) so were a fairly good sized pack heading out, bringing up the tail-end of the ride.  The next loop was a series of 90-degree turns that wound us back out and along the perimeter of the lake property along some sandy/dirt rural roads before turning and taking a fairly straight course back through the neighborhood and around to camp.  Both horses were still moving well, but Quik was starting to slow some so we took it easy and only trotted a moderate pace and took several walking breaks as needed.  There was one point where we were trotting along, and I think I was scolding Diego for something, when he suddenly let out one huge giant buck!!  I got after him a bit and then Ronda and I both laughed, he was SUCH a teenage boy at that moment "But I don't WANNA do that!!!" 

We did have a short cantering session once we turned towards camp.  Quik, who normally has awesome "this direction is home/the trailer" radar and goes 2x as fast when pointing that way, was too confused (or possibly tired) by all the right-turn, left-turns and didn't seem to catch on to where we were.  He actually did very well, only really slowing down the last 3 miles before camp.  I had told Ronda that Diego pretty much did the same thing I took him that far.  Dig even stopped a 1/2 mile out from camp, where we could SEE THE TRAILERS and insisted that he needed a break.  Once I got him to actually look up and notice where he was, he happily decided he could make it that far.    Quik did better, happily plodding along and even trotting a bit to catch up and finished in fine shape.  We managed to pass two people in the last few miles, who finished about 30 seconds behind us so we weren't dead last, something Ronda was happy to avoid.  ;)  I didn't look, but I think it was a bit after 4 when we finished, maybe even a bit before, so a total of about 5 hours to do the full 20 miles, including the 25 minutes or so we were stopped in the middle.  Not to bad for a first venture!!!

Bringing new people into the sport is probably my # 1 most favorite thing to do, so I'm glad that we all had such a great time and that everyone (well... maybe not Quik, LOL) is looking forward to doing it again!

2012 Goals

Aaahhhhh.... The start of a new year.  The time when we start to look ahead and plan what we want to accomplish.  I've always been a goal-setter and planner by nature, always looking ahead and striving to achieve that next milestone, whether in my career, personal life, or riding.  But January is the time when we get to publicly declare to all what we're intending to accomplish, for better or worse.  ;)
  1. Complete a 100-mile ride with Diego.  Kind of a big one, considering we just did his first 50 last season, but I have a sincere love and passion for the distance and I feel that we should be able to accomplish this just fine with some determination and steady training.  Dig is already shaping up to be a wonderful endurance horse, this next season will be about fine-tuning the smaller things and teaching him to shine.
  2. Track training/ride mileage for Diego.  I started an Excel spreadsheet last year and that has been working well for me.  As a very unexpected but totally awesome Christmas surprise, my parent's bought me a Garmin Forerunner 405!!!  I just need to get the heart rate belt adapted for Diego, and now I can REALLY and accurately track our training miles.  Need to figure out the best way to charge and store it so that I'll always have it handy and ready to be used.
  3. Work on my own personal fitness.  I found a workout buddy at my office, and we had been going out at lunch and getting some activity in, although we slacked off this past month.  I also bought myself a couple of DVD's for Christmas to hopefully get motivated.  I'm SSSOOOO not a morning person, so doing something at lunch time seems to work best for me.  Now to just DO it and not find excuses to continue sitting at my desk.
  4. Continue eating better, strive for less unhealthy carbs.  Dinners are still hard for me to cut carbs too much, since I'm cooking for my husband and son as well, but perhaps to offer a second vegetable choice, and to use more meat and veggies and less pasta/rice as fillers for the meal.  Looking for recommendations for easy, quick, grab-and-go breakfast ideas that are low/no-carb and high in protein, but lower in dairy.
  5. Blog more.  I love reading them, but don't always take the time to WRITE them.  =)  Got to continue to work on that.  Maybe I'll try to start some sort of weekly feature(s) that I can find and schedule in advance to help drive my postings up a bit.
Hope you all have a wonderful and successful New Year as well!
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