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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tevis and hardness of ride

It's officially been 2 weeks since Tevis and I feel the familiar threads of self doubt.

How much is too much to ask of my horse?

Sometimes the decision is obvious. I knew after American River this year that unless something drastically changes, I will not be returning to that ride. It's too much to ask of my horse - for 50 miles the ride is suprisingly difficult, and in my opinion even tougher than the Tevis. It is not worth the risk to Farley's wellbeing and I spent too much time worrying, rather than both of us having fun. I decided before even completing the American River ride this year, that this would be the last one for me and Farley.

Tevis is more subtle. For one week I was elated - I had finished, my horse was sound and I felt like we had both done a good job of taking care of one another on the trail. Then reality set in. Farley had just completed an incredible race that required an incredible about of mental and physical prowess. How in the world could this small, diminutive, pony-sized horse have achieved something this incredible? I must be mistaken - any day I would arrive at the stable to find Farley belly up with a leg detatched and laying in the paddock somewhere. At any moment, when I ask her to trot, she's going to collapse and I'll get to off to find her legs snapped off at the knee. Even more insidious - I'll arrive to my next ride, only to find that mentally, she's totally done with endurance.

And really - after such an incredible performance at Tevis (and I consider a "finish" incredible) do I really have any right to ask for another 100 miler a mere 7 weeks later?

I think that's one reason I'm doing the Cavalry competition at the end of this month. We can compete without having to put any significant schooling in, physically it will be low stress, and it will give me an opportunity to evaluate Farley for any "offness" or bad "gut feelings". For now, I have to keep reminding myself of the facts -
  • Last year Farley finished Tevis even more tired. By the time VC100 rolled around I was shocked to realize that she was totally fit and recovered and could have done the VC100 that year.
  • Farley remains in good spirits - happy to see me, and although I freaked about her weight last week, in reality she looks about the same as before Tevis.
  • Farley is sound and physically came of out Tevis looking great - minimal filling in legs, good on her back. The biggest concern I had was some girth sensitivity, which has resolved and I think I can prevent by being more careful with girth cleanliness and some of the other suggestions I've been given.
  • Farley's wellbeing (physically and mentally) continues to be more important to me, every day, every ride. I have my priorities straight and that isn't going to change. I may start VC100, but if I decide that was the wrong decision, I WILL pull.
The question remains - how hard is too hard? How soon is too soon to ask for a repeat performance? The answer is a very personal one, but I've been trying to establish some boundaries for Farley and I.
  • If finish a ride pissed off and mad at myself for asking Farley to take such a risk, than I need to serious evaluate my reasons for doing that particular ride.
  • When looking back at a ride, if all I can remember is being stressed and worried for my horse, than maybe that's not the right ride for Farley and me.
  • If Farley takes more longer than usual to look 100% after a ride than I need to reevaluate my fitness plan. If, due to the circumstances of how I board her etc I can't improve in this area, than for now, it might not be the right ride for us.
So how does Tevis measure up? I actually find Tevis very doable (even more than American River). Yes, there are lots of technical sections, but there are also lots of very nice sections to make up time if necessary. Tevis plays to Farley's and my strengths - single track, rocks, down hill, heat, and switch backs. I enjoyed almost every single moment, and Farley stayed motivated throughout the race. She more tired at the end than I would have liked, but I'm also not sure how much of that was physical and how much was mental. If mental, based on her past performance, she should stay very very strong throughout our next 100. She has recovered well, so at this point, I would say that the Tevis is not "too hard" for us, and we will try again next year.

Is VC100 too soon to ask for a repeat? I'm not sure about this one. Part of me wants to try another 100 as soon as possible in order to condition her mentally that when we go out, we are likely going to be doing 100 miles. Another part of me worries about burn out. This may be one of those situations where I won't know until I try. Right now, all I have is past performance to guide me - 7 weeks after my first 100 we did American River and she was INCREDIBLY fit. Eight weeks after finishing 3 days of 50's at Wild West we did Tevis and she was NOT a tired horse. Last year, after Tevis, mid-September arrived and I realized that it would have been doable to do VC100. So although right now it seems unfathomable that I do another 100, I'm depending on the past to let me know what might be possible in the future.

Farley is a giving horse and I must be careful to not ask beyond what she freely gives.


  1. VC100 is known to a tough ride, tougher than tevis (debatable for each horse and rider team) but their is always Patriots Day 100 at the end of october, it will be easier than VC and a fun ride! I may be their doing the FEI 50 or the AERC 75 on a friends horse.

    Just something to ponder :)

  2. I agree about the difficulty of VC. It kicks your butt in a different fashion than Tevis, but kicks it just the same. A few years ago I rode my friends good horse at Swanton 100 (another butt kicker) and the horse did so well that my friend decided to ride the horse at VC 100 about a month later. The horse did finish, but on the last loop he was just about wiped out. This was a horse with a great base and a few thousand miles. My friend was very proud of her horse, but at the same time learned a valuable lesson about what is too much to ask of a good horse. Some one told me once that the best way to judge when your horse is ready to go back out is when they frolic. It sounds weird but it seems to be true. When your horse runs at full speed and bucks like there's no tomorrow and stops and snorts at the world like the queen of sheba (or whatever is they do when they feel great) then you know that nothing hurts anymore and they're ready to go again. Isn't it funny how we never stop questioning ourselves and our horses? It's a never ending learning curve.

  3. Anonymous - that's exactly what I meant about time to "recover" in one of my last bullet points. You put it much better than I did :) Farley was to that point 1 week after Tevis - all indicators is that she came out of this just fine and is ready for the next step in the adventure BUT she's so special to me that I keep going back to the question of - how much is too much - a question I have been contemplating since american River this year.

    I'm open to either ride (Patriot's or VC100). VC100 course will be changed this year, depending on some factors such as land owner premissions etc. I wont' ride VC 100 is the course is the same as the 2009 course. Patriot's doesn't work well with my schedule (several major work audits the week prior) so likely if I don't feel good about VC100, that will be my last 100 until next year.

    I've heard patriot's is an easier ride and it it was patriot's we were debating as opposed to VC100 7 weeks post tevis, I wouldn't feel nearly this conflicted.

  4. Anonymous - just read your comment again and had to say it makes me feel good that others have this debate with themselves too. Sometimes I feel like such a worry wort. But other times I feel like having this much concern for my horse is good - it's like a sort of proof that I care about her well being.

    One of my problems is that she's so laid back when not at a race. I have a hard time telling exactly how she's feeling unless we are out on the trail, not at home. I'm planning on a trail ride at Auburn over Labor Day weekend, so I'll hold off on making a decision until after then. I'll also know more after the Cav compeition.

  5. OK after some thinking - I'm 50/50 split between the 2 rides, which is great. It doesn't matter which one I do - If I get to the point where I have to make a decision on VC100 and I feel the same way I do now (unsure, split), than I will give her another 6 weeks and do Patriots.

    I feel better already having made this decision. :)

    Dressage in Sepetember and a ride in October sounds like a pretty good plan huh?

  6. I admire your dedication to Farley and your powers of self-reflection. Your Tevis posts are a lot of fun to read. Thank you!

  7. dressage in Sept and a 100 in Oct sound perfect!


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