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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Penning in the dates

Upon hearing that I would NOT be going to ROM on the back of Farley, Funder had this little piece of advice for me: Plan your rides and write them in PEN on your calendar.

What a novel idea.

I have literally NEVER pre-planned my conditioning rides.  Oh sure, I've always had a general idea of what needed to happen before a ride, and I made sure I made time for a 20 miler 3 weeks or so before a ride, alternating easy and hard weekends, and made sure I hopped on a least a couple times a week to see how things felt and to keep her moving.

Preparing for ROM, I tried to continue this philosophy.  The plan was, on the days during the week that I got out of school early, I was going to ride for 30-60 minutes.  On the weekends (~2/month)  I would trailer out and go out for a couple of hours.

The problem is this.  The only reason the system worked before was because the question was not WHETHER I was going to ride any particular day or weekend, but WHAT we were going to do.

Nowadays, I need to treat my riding more like when I trained for marathons - put the rides on the calendar, along with the goal and stick with the plan.

Last night I sat down with my calendar and marked in the weekend conditioning rides that I need to do Cache Creek LD in mid-May.  Then I looked at my school schedule and chose one day a week that I could hop for 30 minutes or so.  Then I chose another day for chores and a roundpen/lunge line soundness check.  IN PEN.

And then I went riding. 

One of many things that sabotage my riding plans is manure and stacking hay.  I go over to see Farley with FULL intentions of riding, but get distracted by the chores that need to be done....which I do first.  Then I don't feel like riding.  Or maybe I didn't feel like riding in the first place, which is why I did the chores first - Farley hasn't exactly been a joy to ride lately.  Yesterday I went over with a load of hay and decided that riding is the priority and from now on a ride first.  I hopped on and had one of the best rides I've had on her since her injury.

Our speed discussion was NOT a yelling match for once - it was a calm negotiation.  After spending 25 minutes walking and trotting up and down the roadside, I turned onto my parents road, which is hard packed dirt/base with just gravel to let it drain.  It’s ~1/3 of a mile (?) and I felt I was ready… canter.

Straight line, warmed up horse, good footing that was just a little on the hard side (better for tendon rehab).  A horse that hadn’t tried to buck me off and seemed amiable to the suggestion that we try a different gait.

Why did I canter?  I don’t condition at a canter, I won’t be cantering in our LD - in fact I’m dedicated to the “10 mph or less” rule for the first year at least.  Here’s why I took the chance -

1.  She’s trotting with her head high and her neck tense.  I know from dressage that its easier to get Farley on the bit, over the top, and relaxed in the back in the canter.  She needed to stretch her back.

2.  Cantering is a relationship check.  She often bucked in the transition from trot to canter before we started dressage.  It’s an increase in speed and thus an increase in naughty opportunities.  With her attitude towards coming home at a trot improving, I wanted to go to the next relationship check - will she canter on cue with theatrics?

3.  I’ve had to pull on her EVERY time she’s cantered so far because I’ve been asking for a trot and the canter was a naughty behavior.  I don’t want to say no to the canter too many times in the beginning because I have worked so hard on the canter.  For the first couple YEARS I owned this horse I could not reliably get the canter on cue, and she didn’t know her leads, and would not pick up her right lead.  By occasionally saying yes to the canter at these early stages, I hope to hold onto some of the training I’ve put into this horse, and not reinforce that the canter is always naughty.

4.  Confidence booster.  Riding Farley recently has not been fun.  It’s been work.  She hasn’t even gotten close to getting me off  but she still keeps me on my toes.  It’s been discouraging because with this sort of behavior we aren’t even CLOSE to being able to do a ride.  I can’t even look forward to doing a ride because all I can think of is how I’m going to have to fight her for the first 20 miles.  And I don’t want to fight her - I want this to be a 2 way relationship, like we used to have.  I’m not afraid of riding her - but I’m definitely more cautious right now, and I don’t feel like riding with friends and other people because I know it will be a lot of work.  Especially with my background in cantering (or rather NOT doing it!), getting that nice canter is a huge confidence booster that I haven’t lost “it”, and is proof that there’s real improvement and hope in our relationship.


  1. That's glad you had a wonderful ride on her again! That sweet horse you know isn't too far below the surface...the more she gets back to work, hopefully the faster that'll come back, especially once she gets back to her endurance "job".

  2. Don't stop there! How was the canter?

  3. Absolutely fabulous - forward, on the bit, and STRONG. :)

  4. Sometimes the "relationship check" rides are the most important ones to have. Every once in a while I cancel Important Plans (like, ahem, writing stuff that needs to be written!) and take the dragon out for one of those rides.

    It's never a bad idea: if you think you might need one, you're right!

  5. I got a ride in today too! Trailered out for the first time since the injury. Farley's first trailer ride since I took her to my parents in May, and my first time pulling the trailer since then too. An hour in the river bottoms. Going out she was really good, coming back in she turned into a fire breathing monster again. Since training the puppy I have a lot more patience than I used to so was able to actually stay relaxed and continue to try and work through it until the end, but still didn't get the rating on a loose rein like I want. I guess I'll give it one good month of riding before I throw my hands up in dispair and rename her as one of my clients suggested and just pretend she's a different horse. On the plus side, even though she was still pulling at the end, she did get better as we continued to trot towards the trailer - as if she was starting to remember the rules. Hopefully I get enough break through rides like I did yesterday to encourage me....

  6. "I go over to see Farley with FULL intentions of riding, but get distracted by the chores that need to be done....which I do first." - yes, yes, YES! It's almost easier to pay for board than to try to do all the horse maintenance AND actually ride the horse. I am just in awe of people who keep multiple horses at home and still ride a lot. My chores are different, but I know exactly what you mean - I do not really want to catch the horse and carry the saddle like fifty whole feet and work on mounting manners and go ride after a day working on the house. I just don't. If it's penned in, I know that I must knock off work early and do the miles on the calendar - and once I get out there, it's fun and I feel better.

    So glad to hear you're getting back on track riding. I'm not supremely excited about doing Washoe the weekend before Cache Creek - I might be able to come out there and do the 25 with you if you want company? It'll depend on external factors, but let me know if you're interested.

  7. Funder - of COURSE I'm interested in you coming over here and doing a ride!!!!! It would be fun :). The only thing that would make it un-fun is if it rained. In which case I would not be doing the ride as a self-proclaimed fair weather rider.


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