Riding Goals for 2011

I’ve been thinking a lot about exactly what my goals will be for this coming year.

The most important thing to me at this point is just that we get in a full season. Not necessarily every single OCTRA ride, but most. An injury-free season.

Solving our boot issue is a another big one. We need to have a workable booting protocol before the first ride.

Reliable transportation was a big issue last year. So that’s a goal for this year. Though that one is pretty nearly solved.

I’d like King to be able to do at least three fifties. I’m aiming at Aprilfest on May 1 as our first this year.

And that each of those fifties have a slight time improvement over the previous rides. Not fast… just a little bit faster than the last one. Since our benchmark is 9 hours (which is how long Stormont took us), that should be within reach. I hope to NEVER do another 9 hour fifty 🙂

I’d like to do at least two CTRs. Most likely Summer Solstice and Flesherton. But also maybe Seoul’s Corners.

I feel pretty good about our progress so far. King is showing obvious signs of increased fitness. He’s losing weight and looking visibly more toned.

All the trails that I built last summer have been a huge help getting him fit. The entire loop of trails is 5.5 miles. We can’t do it all in winter… only about 4 miles of it is passable. But that’s a whole lot better than the half mile I had before.

I have a truck and a trailer (just need to install the gooseneck hitch in the truck). And although the truck is older, I really like it a lot. It is low mileage, and was used to go to Florida every winter. So it has no rust and is in excellent mechanical condition. It drives like a new truck. The trailer is a 4-horse head to head with a tack room. So I will be able to store all my tack and supplies in it for the season. And I can sleep over the gooseneck once I get a mattress in there.

The saddle that I got him last year (and that we did the fifty in) seems to be working very well. I’ve made some modifications to the flocking that have improved the fit even more.

And we have new boots on order. Glue Ons from EasyCare. As well as a pair of Gloves with the newer gaiters. So, with luck, that will fix his boot issues.

King’s goals are far simpler than mine. He’d like mints. Or oranges. Or… well food. Of some kind. Right now please? Do you SEE how handsome and downright irresistable I am?

Still Evil

It’s been a long, rocky road turning King into a civilized being. Much of it was really just my own damn fault. I wasn’t fit enough to ride a smart, opinionated, extremely energetic young horse back when I was breaking him to saddle. He learned that he could drop me into the closest shrubbery whenever I asked too much of him. But we’ve mostly worked through all that. I’ve developed more sticking power over the years, and considerably more nerve. And he’s developed some manners most of the time.

But today, he reminded me that he’s still got that same personality he always had, bubbling away under the surface. I took him out for a short ride around the farm. It’s about a 3-4 mile loop. The snow is still pretty deep and it’s fairly crummy footing. There is some ice under the snow, and although it’s not actually slippery, it makes the footing quite uneven in addition to being heavy. I asked him to trot along in a few nice level sections that were well packed down. He figured that was an invitation to careen wildly. We had some discussions about what was trot and what was canter (amazing how often he confuses the two). And then we had a discussion about whether bucking was civilized good horse behaviour. Likewise galloping sideways through deep snow. And finally… up a very VERY steep hill bolting flat out. I have to say that I think the devil enjoyed it all thoroughly. His ears were forward and he snorted happily throughout all the antics.

He’s definitely lost some weight with all this winter riding, which is awesome. He’s usually sort of seal-shaped at this time of year. After today’s ride, he got damp with sweat, and it flattened out his winter coat. I could actually see individual muscle definition in his hind end, and the belly is just barely starting to tuck up. Which is not to say that anyone else looking at him would think “thin” mind you. He is still kind of an Arab in a Percheron body. But now he looks like a fit Percheron anyway!

Baby King

I’ve had a request (my first request, I’m so proud!) for baby pictures of King. He was an evil little cutie pie. Known in those days as “Baby Demon” or “Wee Wicked”. He was kept alone, without other horses from the time he was weaned until I got him at around a year and a half. So he liked people a lot. Still does. It’s not always a good thing. But it does make his personality rather expansive. Or extroverted. Umm, interesting. Okay, obnoxious.

King's baby face, plotting trouble no doubt
He did a lot of running up and down the hills. Got the border collie all ramped up every time.
Close up of his face while galloping madly up the hill
Careening wildly, headfirst down the big hill. Never failed to make my heart stop to see him do that.
A rare still moment. He was usually either running or trying to taste the camera.

Riding King in the Snow

This was taken right after Christmas when the snow was a really nice consistency and the footing was perfect. The camera is a helmet cam with some anti vibration technology built in. It’s not so great in the flat white light of winter/snow. But I think it’ll be a lot of fun to take it to competitions in the spring.

Not Riding

I feel kind of guilty that I haven’t ridden since Monday. I’ve been on a roll up until now. I’ve ridden King an average of three times a week since mid-December. But I’ve been feeling like hell all week. At one point I started thinking it must be food poisoning when the nausea got really bad. Couldn’t eat for three days. On the plus side… I lost about 4 lbs.  And I’m starting to feel a bit better today. Brooke is coming to ride Dressy tomorrow, so I will probably try to ride. Hopefully King won’t be too sprightly. Famous last words.

I’ve been tinkering with his saddle for the last few weeks. It’s an Australian saddle with the wool flocked panels. It’s supposed to adjust to fit him over time. But it’s been dropping down way too much in front. I took an awl to it and shifted the wool forward. It took a couple of sessions of adjusting and then riding on the shifted panels, then adjusting again. But it’s definitely starting to fit him better now. The cantle has dropped down some. It’s sitting more correctly over his shoulder, giving him room to move. And it’s stopped rubbing hair off his loin. I took out the pad completely for this, and have just been riding him with the saddle directly on his back. It’s completely covered in white hairs now of course. But he’s not sweating a whole lot and he’s not particularly grubby since it’s a snowy winter so it shouldn’t do the saddle any harm.

Winter…. bleh.

I’m getting pretty tired of winter. We had a little taste of spring last week, but we paid for it with a winter storm right afterwards.

I have, however, been virtuous and have ridden King quite regularly since the end of December. Mostly walking through the snow. It got quite deep, and even after our big thaw, there are still some leftover deep sections. At first, he seemed to find it quite hard work. But now he ploughs through it like a big freight train.

Today I put the heart rate monitor on him for the first time in about a year. It was only reading intermittently, but the highest that I saw was 110. He does get quite damp, but he has a very heavy winter coat, so it’s not surprising.

Speaking of the winter coat…. holy cow. He’s starting to shed, and it’s like a great big exploding down filled pillow. There is hair everywhere. In the barn, on my clothes, in the house. Up my nose…