Yesterday I rode. It's been hot and humid here - much more humid than I can remember it being most summers. We may have started late, but Farley and I are getting plenty of heat training.
I hope that each one of you, is at last once in your life blessed with as fun and uncomplicated a horse, as Farley is.
I can't recall any other horse I have ever ridden that I could get on and RIDE without ANY DRAMA. It seems unbelievable to me even now and at the end of such a ride as the one I had yesterday I feel like laughing hysterically at my good fortune.
The maniac horse of the spring is gone, replaced by the Farley that I remember and love. Going down the trail, it's hard for me to decide who is actually telling who what to do - we are perfectly in sync, a harmonious pair that feel almost like they are melded into one. It's a hard feeling to describe - 2 beings focused on the trail, moving as one, each seeing the same path, making adjustments in perfect harmony.
I was reminded how "catty" and balanced she is over technical trail. How she absolutely floats, never putting a foot wrong. I'm convinced now, that the reason that I've never been dumped off of Farley (the exception being an unfortunate jump during a jump lesson) is less a testament to my seat, and more an indicator how how balanced SHE is. I think that's why I feel so absolutely safe on her - yes, she spooks sometimes - yesterday there were a couple of naughty bunny rabbits and squirrels that decided to make their presence known while we were at a full gallop - but I never as much lose a stirrup or even come close to coming out of the saddle. It's because she takes me with her. She's so balanced that she makes you, her rider, feel a part of her. Yes, I have cultivated balance and rthynm and I contribute some to the equation, but likely I am the lesser variable in the sum of the equation.
Yesterday I spent most of an hour cantering and hand galloping around the river bottoms and orchards. It was a blast. We did sharp turns, some elevation changes, but mostly we just FLEW over the perfect footing because we both wanted to, and because it was FUN. By the end of the ride we had both had an excellent work out (just ask my core and shoulders today.....) and it reminded me of the major change that I've made to my endurance conditioning.
I'm having fun.
Gone are any serious training plans, record keeping, or expectations. Based on what interval training has done for my fitness (how the rider, ie ME, is building fitness is the next post), and the fact that too much trotting makes Farley grumpy about conditioning rides we throw in some interval training once in a while. We also fit in a 20 minute dressage ride that may or may not last 20 minutes, and may include some polo stick and ball afterwards. Sometimes we do ride for a couple hours at a trot, and sometimes we just walk and enjoy the scenery. I try to get on 3 times a week. I decide what to do any particular day based on how I'm feeling, if I'mstill sore from my last ride, and what Farley is telling me what to do that day (have some fun, go fast, go slow, or take a day off).
I don't worry too much about time or distance. I have a good feeling of what she needs to feel like during the work outs in order to be successful in an LD (our first ride back is an LD the first Saturday of September) . Having fun is the priority right now.
When either of us is pushing too hard, it's rarely fun. It usually means that we are logging too much time, or too many miles, all in the name of achieving some goal, and putting us at risk for injury. If I don't feel like riding, I don't. If I dont' feel like doing anything except walking for 20 minutes, that's what we do. If Farley wants to canter instead of trot, we do some intervals.
So far this relaxed approach to our riding has served us well. Her legs are doing amazingly well - isn't filling at all, no matter what the previous day's work out, and she's staying super super sound. Farley's attitude towards "work" couldn't be better, and I don't think I've ever listened to my body or my horse better.
This type of "training" program would be hard to explain to a newbie, but if I tried, here's the "program" Farley and I are following for our LD:
1. Try to ride about 3 days a week
2. Some work outs are easy and short (mostly walk with a little trot), some are harder (hills or intervals), some are brain work (dressage, stick and ball, trail trial practice), and do some long rides periodically (a couple hours at a walk/trot that is pretty close to how you would ride an endurance ride, ie about 5-6 mph).
3. Do the workout that seems right for the day, not for the goal.
4. Keep it fun for you and the horse
5. If you don't feel like riding, don't. If you follow this rule and aren't getting in enough rides to feel like you are "on track" for your LD, evaluate why - To finish an LD does not require so much work or miles or times that it should seem like work to either you or the horse for the majority of your rides. Usually feeling like skipping a ride is because you know either you aren't at your best physically or mentally, OR there's just something NQR with the horse. Trust your gut. Remember rest is when your horse is REALLY conditioning for your ride. Rest is a much bigger component of your training program than any other single factor.
6. Have a motto that reminds you of your philosophy of endurance and will keep you from sucomming to your biggest weakness. Mine is to do too much. My motto is "everything pull on my record is from doing too much, not too little". It could also be stated "every injury my horse and I have ever had came from doing too much, not too little". (and yes, this is true of my HORSE'S injuries AND MY injuries, many of which are chronic by this point - one for every marathon).
I'm in the best shape since my junior year of college right now and I'll share how in the next post!
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