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Monday, June 8, 2009

A ride at Ohlone

Sunday I headed to Del Valle in Livermore to go riding on the Ohlone Wilderness trail.

The only 2 pics I took were at the trailer before the ride. For some reason I just haven't felt like taking pictures on the trail lately. I want to go down the trail with the minimum of fuss and muss.

Isn't Farley looking good???? I love tailing her so I can watch her little hiney rippling with muscle!

About the Trail
The Ohlone trail is the hardest trail in the area. It's all either up or down. And when it's up, it's UP for a VERY LONG ways. And when it's down, it's DOWN for a VERY LONG ways. I don't have the elevation map in front of me, but most of it goes something like this: Start at 800'. Climb to 2800' in 3 miles. Go down to 1000' in 2 miles. Go up to 3047' in 3.5 miles etc etc etc. The footing is mostly slightly gravelly wide jeep trails, but there is a section of single track (with drop offs) that is very pretty. Needless to say, this is my testing ground for rider and pony fitness.
1. Can I walk (actually, jig - it's so steep I can't actually walk) down the hill leading the pony without collapsing?
2. After the steep climbs can the pony go into a trot on some of the very few flat sections?
3. Does the pony need to stop during the climbs to catch her breath?
4. How are we with tailing?
5. Can the pony trot on the single track with drop off, while juggling the grass she has stolen 3 strides before, without dumping both of us off the drop off?
6. Last but not least - where will Melinda get poison oak this time, and can she get back to the trailer fast enough to use the technu before the rash sets?

Shield your eyes!
I knew that this ride was going to be for rider fitness as well as pony, so I decided to ride in a pair of running shorts with a fleece cover on the saddle. I'm VERY allergic to poison oak (which is prolific in this area) so I also donned a long sleeve shirt and gloves. Now, my legs are so white they positively glow. As you can imagine (or rather, don't) the running shorts don't leave much to the imagination. It seems I'm getting around to most of the local hangout spots for endurance riders as I met no less than 2 people I knew from endurance on the way to the trail and 1 on the way back. Oh and I got told about still another person that had arrived and left while I was still riding that I also knew. Uggg.

Ride Conclusion
The ride went well. Farley is in excellent shape. She did want to stop on the hill 2 or 3 times. I would reach down and take a pulse every time she wanted to stop to see at what heart rate she wants to stop at. Once stopped, her heart rate recovered very quickly and was able to continue on in 30 seconds or less. I've gone up those hills on foot and it's TOUGH. So steep, the heel of your shoe never actually touches the ground as you go up. I had made the decision to walk/jig down all the hills on foot for my fitness. Uggg. I didn't have any problems yesterday, but I knew I would be sore. I can barely move today. Every time we crested a rise and there was a flat spot, she had no problem picking up a trot.

Tailing and a call for ideas
I did tail her up several hills. I still haven't decided whether tailing up or walking down is the more efficient way to save my horse. I think it will depend on her motivation level and whether I'm getting sore in the saddle. Tailing requires me to unsnap the reins which takes time. I might rig up a tailing strap to the reins that I can put on when I do a section I know I'll be tailing. I think a section of cotton rope with a snap on one end will work. That way I don't unsnap the reins, just snap on the extension while still in the saddle. Any ideas?

The one problem - kinda
Problem 1 - Farley has decided that based upon past experience at rides, when she walks, she gets to eat. Now, I appreciate that she eats non-stop. It's nice. I know that it isn't a bad thing to have a horse that will eat at every available opportunity. But really. It's getting out of hand. Especially on conditioning rides, I walk a lot, especially up hills. This is not a smorgasbord opportunity - we are working. When she's in work mode, she will take a bite, and her feet don't stop moving. When she's losing motivation, she will actually stop and begin nibbling. I encourage the eating at speed movement, but I'm losing patience for the lollygagging nibbling unless I've given the cue that it's OK. Problem 2 - Farley likes to get HUGE, LONG chunks of grass in her mouth, which she wiggles and eats as we go down the trail. Especially if she's in the powermode of eating AND walking (NOT "lollygagging nibbling). She's not nearly as good at multi-tasking as she thinks she is and her the wiggling and grabbing at grass on the side of her mouth does not do wonderful things for her balance and concentration on single track with drop offs. If the trail is bad, I may have to put a stop to the eating until a better section of trail, in which I'll allow "lollygagging nibbling" to make up for my meanness.

In conclusion...
I'm happy where rider and pony fitness is right now. I felt good and was still able to run and jog beside her, even after long stretches of up or down. Farley had plenty of energy can take care of herself, even when the trail got tough. We did about 13 miles on the trail, of which I did ~1/2 of it on foot. After getting back to the trailer, I washed my legs with Technu. In the grocery store ~2 hours later, I noticed a rash on my legs, in a spot that I'm not sure I got the Technu on (it's funny how your hands apply a lotion like sunscreen etc., and you're sure you got everything, but there's patches?). I went home, took a Zyrtec (my Doc says it's better for allergic reaction than Bendryl) and took a shower. Then I put cortisone cream on the rashes. This morning they look much better with no itching or pain (they burned last night). I may have caught it early enough not to get the blistering miserable part! Whoohoo! I will say that riding in shorts was much more comfortable than I thought and I appreciated them when I got off and ran.


  1. It sounds to me like you're doing all kinds of things RIGHT with your training regime.

    As for the tailing up/walking down question, it's been debated endlessly on Ridecamp (of course) but I've finally concluded that the team of MyHorseAndMe go *much* slower if I'm on the ground uphill. My horses always walk faster than me uphill. So I stay in the saddle for that.

    OTOH, Dr. Mike Foss has convinced me that each horse has a limited number of "downhill steps" alloted, which includes training rides and the downhill part of jumping over stuff. I figure that I'll use up fewer downhill steps from that limited number if I'm on the ground for some of them...which is also a good break for ME and gives my knees a chance to move in a slightly different motion (which was really important on some of the longer 75's a few years ago!). We can also (sometimes) make better time with me on the ground downhill. Not always...and there's always the delay of getting up and down. Since I don't ride for top-10, I don't worry too much about that.

    There are arguements both ways, and I envy the Ironman-types who are on the ground for almost the entire event, leading the horse at a faster trot than my horse and I manage with me in the saddle. That's never going to be me, so I go with what works for me and my horse in my terrain!

    I'm eager to hear more about your progress and training.


  2. I agree that a horse has a finite amount of downhill in them. I've ridden downhill at a walk and trot until Farley learned to do it balanced and coordinated and now I don't practice that anymore - I leave that for race day. I'm choosey about what I trot down on race day too - Farley is an excellent downhill horse that loves to scoot down, but I try to limit that to when it's absolutely necessary (which isn't often!).

    I think I'll probably do a combination of both - tailing up and walking/jogging down on foot. I can always tell when I can make better time in the saddle than on foot because Farley starts to scoot ahead of me when we are jogging.

    I've noticed that if something seems like a lot of trouble during a ride I'm less likely to do it, so the KISS philosophy definately applies.

  3. Just one more thing - I will say that ever since I've started running with Farley and getting off for signifcant portions of the training and rides, I feel like I'm a more equal partner in the relationship/team and I feel like our rides are going much better. Even though I'm not riding for top 10, which means I don't worry about speed, other than finishing, I've noticed that my ride times are actually faster when I get off.

  4. Mel, your horse is looking REALLY good! ~E.G.

  5. tell me more about tailing... how the logistics work... ohlone is a tuffy having run it... way 2 ride


  6. Thanks Manker - nice to know someone else thinks it's tough. I feel like someone beat me with a stick after running 7 miles mostly downhill on that trail. I'll post today on how I get her to tail. Not sure how anyone else trains their horses, but I'll share what worked for me!

  7. She looks fantastic Mel!! Sounds like she is right where you want her too! That must feel really good.

  8. Technu is a miraculous product. We don't have poison oak out here, but by god we have tons of poison ivy. Ugh.

    Nth-ing what everybody else said - Farley looks fabulous!


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