Trotting Hills

Dressy got a really good grooming today. First the currycomb and the brush, then the vacuum, then another brushing. Yesterday when I was riding her, she eventually warmed up just enough to release all her accumulated horse/manure smells that had been ground into her coat all winter. Once it started wafting up, the smell was so strong it was nearly visible in waves in front of my face. Burning out my sinuses. Gah!   No way I was getting back on her today without her being a whole lot cleaner.  She enjoyed all the currying and vacuuming enormously. Quivering upper lip and all. I even put some conditioner in her mane and tail and brushed it all through. Her tail is looking exceptionally long and lovely this year. With all the blanketing she’s had this winter, it’s protected it from rubbing.

It was warm again today, and the frost is mostly out of the ground. With clay soil that means it’s a boggy mess everywhere. The fields are very soft, and the trails still have ice sheets covering them.  I didn’t want to go and ride on the roads alone, since the traffic around here is pretty bad during the week, and the roads have no shoulder. Bad enough even with company. Alone, Dressy would be less reliable. So I just rode back and forth on the driveway today. 4 miles of (mostly) walking down and trotting back up the hills.

I live on top of a moraine. It’s quite high, and on a good clear day, I can see for miles in all directions. My driveway is long and runs straight up from the road at a fairly steady grade to pass my house, whereupon it goes back down a steep hill towards the back of the farm. I think it’s about a quarter mile each way.

Then at the end we had another session of walking lessons. She gets herself worked up sometimes and thinks she has to rush. I don’t mind if she walks fast when I ask for a walk. Really fast even. But not jogging. Today we reversed and went away from home every time she broke out of a walk. She broke out into quite a sweat over the whole issue. But in the end she walked politely all the way up the hill and into the yard without fussing.

I was kind of a wimp though. It was raining, and I was bored. So we only rode for a little under an hour.  And yes, she smelled a LOT better 🙂

Winter Conditioning

I’ve been riding pretty steadily this winter. I’ve tried to ride at least every other day (usually Dressy, but sometimes King too),  Most days I finish up the morning chores between noon and 1pm.  Some days a bit earlier if all goes well. Then I have to be back to work around 3 or 3:30 to do afternoon chores. Once I eat some lunch, I can usually get in about an hour of riding.

Until last week I was keeping up well. I managed 16 days of riding in a month. Never too far. Most rides ended up around 4 to 5 miles I think. But at least we are getting out enough to keep Dressy from losing too much fitness anyway.

But life and work got in the way a little this past week. Jen normally does morning feeding, and last week she picked up some sort of virus and was really sick. So I had to get up earlier to feed at home before going in to work. Which also meant I was getting to work a bit later. So a bit less time and energy at midday. The weather has not been cooperating either. The temperatures dropped quite radically for a few days and the soggy footing turned to sheets of ice, since there’s almost no snow at all.  The footing is still quite treacherous.

It’s supposed to rain for the next couple of days, so I figured I had better get out and ride Dressy today. Managed to get in 5.35 miles. Dressy was quite rushy and excited.  It probably doesn’t help that the footing is terrible in the paddock beside the barn. Frozen lumpy mud. She must have had quite a lot of pent up energy. All things considered though, she was pretty good. She got up a bit of a head of steam at one point near the beginning of the ride. But after that, we worked on relaxed walking and trotting and she settled down. We are still just doing laps around the fields. Mostly around the front corn field, but today I managed to work her past all the sheets of ice and get to the back field for one lap towards the end of our ride.

I am hoping that once the racehorses at work go back to the track in February, and I don’t have quite as much work… and when it’s light a bit later in the day as well… that I can start putting in some longer rides. So she should come into the first rides quite fit. I hope!

 

 

What’s This? Oh Look… A Brain!

So today’s ride on King was considerably less exciting than yesterday’s.  He’s starting to revert back to his usual lazy self. We had a long easy ride today. Mostly walking, just exploring and trying a few trails we haven’t seen before. He likes to see new stuff, and a nice long walk like today seems to settle him into a whole different frame of mind. Well… that, and the Kimberwick bit I switched him to 🙂

Dressy still has some filling in that hind ankle, though it is reduced, and it doesn’t seem like there’s really any heat. I’ve got her on a low dose of bute. Hopefully another day or two and she’ll be okay.

It was nice to have lots of time to amble around. I actually got a day off work today. Harri, who normally works down at the track, offered to come in for me today. It was just wonderful. That’s the first day off that I’ve had (other than days off to go to competitions – which is not so relaxing) since a year ago in November. I normally work seven days a week, though only for half days.  But lately, I’ve also been helping with evening feeds, which makes it a bit closer to full time hours, seven days a week.  So I’ve been dragging my sorry butt a little bit lately. Tennis elbow in both elbows, a twinge in my occasionally bad lower back, and heel spurs giving me grief. Old age, yuck!

Anyway, I definitely felt more like riding today, after getting to sleep in until the dogs just couldn’t stand to wait one more moment (at 6:30… which is better than the usual 5-5:30 that they normally get me up!). And then getting to loll about drinking tea instead of feeding and cleaning up after 23 racehorses.

 

Return of the King

I haven’t been posting much about King lately, because really, I haven’t done much with him. But he’s been on the new diet for quite a while now, and has been looking good (well…. too chubby of course, but not stiff or tight). So with Dressy sticking a thorn in her knee last week, I took the bad boy out for a short ride. He was, of course, simply awful. Careening wildly around, buck jumping for fun, snorting at logs, star jumping at bird rustles, and generally just making me as insecure in the saddle as possible.

I was planning on riding Dressy today. But when I went out and had a look at her, she had a hind ankle that was a bit swollen. Doesn’t look like anything too serious… I suspect that all the muddy footing, now frozen into tiny craggy mountain ranges in her paddock is the culprit. She likely took a bad step. But I couldn’t ride her anyway. At least she’s saving all her little emergencies for the off-season!

So, being a glutton for punishment, I took King out again today. I thought he might be a little better since we had Diego’s company this time. And he actually was… marginally anyway. He only bucked once (though that was going down a hill… at an unrequested canter). He only spooked a dozen times or so, and none of them were his enormous 20 foot sideways teleports. And he never actually completely bolted away on me (though that was mostly because I kept running him into trees to slow him down). I did threaten him with a pelham wrapped in barbed wire at one point (I was KIDDING! sorta….).

I know, I know… he sounds dreadful. A couple of more rides, and he will settle back down to his usual reasonably steady self though. He is always a bit explosive when he’s been off for a long while like this. I think he gets bored when he’s not working and just can’t contain himself at first.

My boss suggested that I try longeing him before I ride. Which made me laugh “What and tire him out a bit first? He’s an Arab…. how long do you think THAT would take?”

The good news though, is that he seemed extremely SOUND. No muscle cramps. He was moving very freely (yeah, a bit TOO freely… I know). And he seemed happy to be out and checking out the trails. So that was quite cheering for me.

 

A Little Motivation

Endurance Granny has set up something she calls the Big Bad Blogger’s Distance Race. It is a year-long competition to see who can log the most miles (using a GPS preferably) in the saddle. It’s open to anyone who writes a blog and rides a horse. Which is me. Well… so long as they are not a professional/champion endurance rider of course, Which is not me 🙂   I signed up of course, since it sounded both fun, and more importantly, motivation to get out and ride when the conditions maybe are not so tempting.

The competition started yesterday (December 1). But Dressy of course, with her swollen knee is out of action for a few more days yet. So… King, who has been laid off for a couple of months (mostly just because I have some trouble motivating myself enough to actually ride two horses regularly), was put back to work.

He was very happy to come in and be fussed over. He really would love to be a show pony. Loves being brushed and polished and fluffed. Would adore glitter polish and tinsel bows. Costume class would be perfect for him. Although I might have trouble getting him to move if there was a mirror anywhere in sight. He’s absolutely entranced by his own reflection and I can’t imagine how riveted he’d be by a glittery version of himself.  When he was getting dressage lessons, he had some trouble with the mirror in the arena… he kept stopping to kiss and admire the stunningly beautiful grey horse he saw there.  A mutual admiration society… King was in heaven.

Anyway, he did NOT look like a show pony when I brought him in.  It poured rain the other day, and the barn paddock is ankle deep and more in thick clay mud. So it took some work to get him clean enough to tack him up. I am going to have to put a rain sheet on him if I’m going to have time to ride him (Dressy too). Otherwise I’ll be grooming all the damn time.

We didn’t go far. Just three miles. Enough for his first day back. With the muscle problems he’s had, I am planning on going slow and steady. There’s no goal in mind with King… just trying to work through his issues and get his fitness up and weight down.

Of course planning to go slow, when King hasn’t been out for a long time, can be a futile proposition. I did manage to keep him walking for the most part.  The footing was soggy and quite slippery so any sort of speed wouldn’t have been safe anyway. But really, he doesn’t cooperate very well. We went around in circles a few times. Several buck jumps. A couple of short bolts (cut off by heading him into trees). And lots of sideways careening. For a simple three mile walk, he came back QUITE sweaty. LOL

 

 

 

Today

There was much pathetic crying at work today. The foals were weaned last night. Twister is in with the three of them in the arena. Al and Esmerelda have been calling to their mothers. Reno is a bit confused by all the chaos (being an orphan already). But he’s is also a little indignant that the other two have been nudging at him to see if he might make a good surrogate milk bar. He thinks that’s very rude and has taken to kicking to defend his honour.

I rode King and Dressy both this afternoon. King was very energetic again today. That makes three days in a row. Which is a hopeful sign. It is likely that he will still have bad days even if the diet does work… at least until the full six months is up. But I’m very cautiously starting to think there might be some actual improvement happening. His muscles feel a bit less tight in his hindquarters too.

Dressy has had a few days off since Seoul’s Corners. Today we did 7 miles at a moderately slow pace. We are working on slow/steady trotting. In the hopes that we can find a gear she can maintain all day. She’s naturally very fast. But she cannot maintain that speed over long distances without blowing herself out.

Her back was sore on Monday. I used King’s aussie saddle at Seoul’s. It’s really not the right fit for her. I can use the Barefoot, but that also gives her some problems (pressure points from the stirrup hangers – she has permanent white hairs from them). So I think for now I’m going to have to resort to alternating saddles again. Until I can find something that does fit her correctly anyway.

I also need to do some work on her feet. I think she has some deep seated thrush still going on. She’s been a bit tender footed lately. And the right front has some raggedy, grungy looking bits. I treated her last week with White Lightning and it looks a little better. But I think maybe that’s why her heels have been growing so fast lately.

Quiet Little Ride

I took King out for a short ride today. I haven’t been on him for a few weeks. He had a very mild lameness for a week or so that worried me. But it seems to have disappeared, so I don’t know if it was maybe just a stone bruise or something. He seemed fine today, and was quite energetic. Though of course a horse who was fit for a fifty a month ago is not likely to get tired in a half hour hack around the farm.

I’m giving him two months on the extra selenium (he’s at about four weeks now). Then I will have the vet back for blood work. If he’s up to the middle of the reference range I’ll put him back in training and see what happens.

His weight, of course, is ballooning. It looks like he’s put on fifty pounds in the last month. I’m going to have to dry lot him. He won’t like that! 🙁

Field Trip to the Vivian Forest

Today was the first time I’ve driven the new (old) truck with the new (old) trailer with the horses loaded up. Dressy loaded like a pro. And King was pretty good too. But Diego had a little bit of a backslide today. He got himself a little wound up and it took some time and work to get him on. But eventually Misha worked through his issues and got it done.

We took the herd over to the Vivian Forest to ride. They all seemed to be very happy to be there, and to explore some different trails. It’s gotten pretty boring to go around and around the same trails at home. King was very boingy (I know… it’s not a real word) for quite a few miles. His trot was springy and he did lots of zigzag spooking at all the logs and rocks beside the trails. No stops hard enough to bend my helmet visor today though (always a good day when he doesn’t break my nose). He felt fast and forward for the entire ride.

Diego was very nervous when we first arrived. And there were a lot of people around, which he doesn’t like. He’s very shy of strangers. Going down the trail with all the families out hiking on Good Friday was funny. King would march up to anyone to say hello. Dressy would follow, especially if it was a small child. Diego would stand behind the other two horses and look distant and unapproachable. He looked fresh the whole ride though, and seems to be quite fit. It looks like he’s quite ready for the 25 mile ride next weekend.

But Dressy was the big star. She hasn’t been ridden very much over the last year or so. Brooke just started riding her at the beginning of January. So I didn’t really think she’d be very fit. But she just seemed to get stronger through the day. We did 16 miles in 3 hours, and Dressy was going faster at the end than at the beginning. No sign of fatigue at all. And she’s as bright eyed as can be this evening. Pleased with herself I think. And Brooke was VERY pleased with herself and with Dressy. She was bubbling with enthusiasm the entire ride, and all the way home in the truck too.

I had sent an entry form for Brooke and Dressy to do the 12 mile intro ride at Aprilfest (on May 1). But so far I haven’t been able to find a sponsor for them (junior riders need an adult sponsor). Today I realized that Dressy was quite capable of doing a slow 25 mile mileage ride. We’ve decided to upgrade Brooke and Dressy to the 25, and send her out with Misha as her sponsor.

I am feeling a lot more confident in King’s ability to finish the upcoming 50. All that work plowing through snowdrifts this winter really seems to have paid off. He’s cruising along very easily. Hills and deep sand are not affecting him much. I will still have to go slow, but he feels really good right now, so I think that as long as we are conservative, he should do just fine.

And the truck/trailer were great. The truck pulls easily. Has a 7.5L engine, and you can feel the power when it tows. The trailer travels well. Tracks very straight, and seems to ride smoothly. Misha rode down the driveway in it to get a sense of the ride, and she said it was very easy to stand in without even having to hold on. I think King and Dressy both liked it. They looked happy enough and ate lots of hay in transit. Diego was a bit more concerned, but he always is. And he didn’t work up a sweat, so that’s actually pretty positive.

King’s Progress

King has finally gotten some miles on him in the last week. Which is a big relief. I’ve been riding all winter, but it’s been mostly slow, steady slogging through snow. He really needs to do a bit of sustained trot/canter work to be fit enough for the fifty we are supposed to do on May 1. We are going to have to go slow (not that we would have gone fast… speed is not our forte!). But I must say, he’s looking good. Down to a more reasonable weight and looking fitter.

The vet came today for shots and Coggins tests. So he had a spa day. I brushed him for a long time, getting all the loose hair off. Trimmed his feathers back somewhat (I don’t clip them, because he invariably gets scratches if I do that). Cleaned his sheath (ugh… I guess I’d been avoiding that chore WAY too long… the bean was huge). Washed his tail with whitening shampoo, then combed Cowboy Magic through it.  He was glistening white and sparkly at the end. And quite content with his world.

I have a very expensive Christ saddle pad on order. Should be in within a day or two. The felt pad I’ve been using is just too thin, and it’s sliding around because there are no tabs to attach it to the d-rings. The Christ pad is sheepskin underneath. So he’ll have a sheepskin girth cover and saddle pad. I really hope that will eliminate all the various rubbing possibilities.

He’s an awfully thin skinned horse. Yesterday I tried riding him in the Easyboot Gloves with the old gaiters (the new, “improved” gaiters are on order) and it rubbed the hair off right around the front of both pasterns. Apparently he can’t even go 12 miles in those. How the heck those gaiters ever made it through EasyCare’s R&D process is beyond me.  King can’t be the only thin-skinned endurance horse out there. I sure hope the new gaiters live up to their billing.

Finally! Trails…

It feels like I’ve been waiting months for my trails to be rideable again. Finally, they are mostly dry enough to move out and trot/canter on reasonably long sections. Today was a beautiful day for a ride. I rode King down the road three miles to the Jefferson Forest.

Years ago, the Jefferson was surrounded by horse farms, and the trails were used by horses regularly. I grew up on the prairies, but when I was a teenager (far back in the mists of time), I used to take lessons at one of them (Sundance Farms) during visits to my horse-loving grandmother in the summer. She was very concerned that I would turn into some kind of cowgirl hooligan if she didn’t civilize me with proper english riding lessons. She tried to instill reverence for dressage into me. Something tells me that she would be quite horrified that I ride endurance on a hooligan Arab. Galloping around the trails in the shadow of those long-dead attempts to subdue my rowdy tendencies.

Those farms are mostly gone. Developed into subdivisions. But the trails are still there, being used by hikers and cyclists mostly. The forest is really beautiful. Very hilly and rather sandy, though the trails are generally damp enough under the forest canopy that the sand is solidly packed footing. There are some open big meadows with deep sand that seem to have been taken over by dirt bikers, so I mostly avoid those. King is not really afraid of dirt bikes, but they do startle him. And then, if given the opportunity to greet the biker politely, he tries to bite the bike. Not so good for the paint job. Or for goodwill between trail-users.

We did a little over 14 miles in around 3 hours today. King was actually tired when we were done. Not exhausted, since he was still spooking and snorting coming up the driveway at the end. But tired enough that he took a long nap after he had a snack. I used the heart rate monitor on him for the first time in a long time. His recoveries were good all day, but I could see that they had slowed just a bit by the time we were done. So at least we finally managed to make him work a bit.