The Next Ride

I’ve entered Dressy in the 50 at Spring Ride for the May long weekend in a couple of weeks. It’s been a couple of years since our ill-fated attempt at 50 miles. That was the day that I discovered that Dressy doesn’t actually always feel like stopping when I ask. And that yes, Dressy is quite capable of running herself into the ground (I pulled her at 37 miles when she stopped eating – blood work later showed a mild tie up). Since then, I’ve gotten her even fitter, improved her electrolyte protocol, bought a bit with stronger options (the Myler combo), and learned to start after the pack if need be. However, it must be admitted that I still am not convinced that she has really good brakes.

There are a lot of quiet, steady-minded Standardbreds around. In fact, I think that most Standardbreds are awesomely reliable horses. Dressy is… well. Kind of Thoroughbred-like. She’s highly competitive, and rather on the hot side, temperamentally. She wants to be good (kind of, anyway!), and is highly responsive and athletic. But as she gets really fit, her brain fries.

So, part of my strategy this time is to sponsor a junior. This is a junior that I’ve ridden with before. She has a nice, quiet, steady little Quarter Horse/Arab cross. He’s not at all hot, and Dressy seems to like him. Or at least she doesn’t hate him (which is sometimes all you can expect from a bossmare). Dressy is not quite so competitive when she is travelling with the same horse all day. So I have my fingers crossed that she will settle down with Merlin along and we can do a nice slow 50 in maybe 7 to 7.5 hours.

And just to make the weekend complete, I think we are going to do a 6 mile Ride ‘n’ Tie the day after the 50. Pretty sure I won’t be setting the trail on fire doing that though… I’m already hurting just thinking about running 3 miles the day after a 50!

Riding My Horses

Yesterday I rode King for a couple of hours in the afternoon. It was a lovely spring day… sunny and warm. The footing is firming up on the trails, and we were able to move out in some sections. King was very relaxed, and we even cantered on a loose rein, which is something I don’t think I’ve EVER done on him before.

Of course, the relaxed canter likely has something to do with the recent change in bitting. I borrowed a Myler combo bit from Misha. It’s a sort of combination of a bit and a hackamore. The mouthpiece is quite mild, but the hackamore noseband seems to have been a revelation to King. Initially I tried it with the reins snapped to the top ring of the shanks, which gives no leverage on the noseband. But I’ve since dropped it right to the bottom ring. Since then, King is being very circumspect about speed.

I hate to rely on equipment more than training. But really, it’s good to stay alive and aboard. King has speed on the brain and he’s very strong. Once you add the increasing fitness to the attitude, he’s sometimes just more horse than I care to ride. It’s really lovely to be completely under control for a change.

After we got back, Misha arrived to ride her horse. She begged me to ride with her. Since I’d ridden King already, that meant Dressy. I was tired and very hungry, so I told her that she was going to tack up the mare for me while I grabbed something to eat. So when I came back out, my girl was ready to go.

REALLY ready to go as it turned out. She was very snorty when I first got on, and we did some zigging and zagging while she spooked at Misha’s car, a rock, the cell phone tower, and rustling leaves. But she was very willing to go, and trotted right out as soon as I allowed her to. I forget sometimes just how much fun that horse is to ride. With a beginner, she’s quiet and steady. But with me, she’s fast and forward and competitive. Diego, Misha’s horse, is not used to Dressy’s trail trot. No Arab can trot with her when she gets in gear.  And Diego was not at all happy about it. He sulked way behind. To the point that Misha got a bit concerned that something was wrong. But whenever we put Dressy behind, he perked right up. Then of course he’d trot slow, and Dressy would lose patience and we’d cruise past again.

Dressy had a grand time, trotting up a storm. It makes me laugh when she’s like that.

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?