endomondo · road hacking

Short Hack

I got to the barn intending to do some combination of trot sets and long & low dressage work. I looked at blue skies outside, no snow on the ground, and I couldn’t make myself stay inside. We’re predicted for rain the entire rest of the week and snow this weekend.

So I opted for a road hack instead, which was at times lovely and at times very frustrating. Tristan was not too enthused to leave his hay, and he wandered back and forth across the road on a loose rein. It’s a catch-22, really: if I let him have a loose rein he’s clearly happier and better moving, but he also takes it as an opportunity to wander and occasionally swing around and turn for home, especially in the first 15 minutes or so. If I pick up the reins and ask for contact his momentum stops and I have to do more “schooling” than I really want for a low-key road hack.

I wished, in retrospect, that I’d brought his quarter sheet as it was still chilly even with the blue skies (low 40s) but he warmed up and moved nicely, and was happy to get back to his stall with his stable blanket.

dressage · endomondo

Friday Night Lights

Friday was meant to be a long hack, but on the first downhill stretch Tristan didn’t feel quite right. He was wobbling behind and not placing his front feet in good spots, and as a result he kept tripping. Finally, he went down to his knees and I had a long hearbeat’s moment of sitting and kicked my feet out of the stirrups to jump off – but he stood up again. I jumped off and handwalked him a few yards, but he was moving easily, and diving for grass, unconcerned.

We ended up doing a very easy walk around the field, and then I walked him back to the barn, thinking I’d do a dressage school in the indoor and try and get him moving more evenly. The indoor was busy, so I asked if it would be ok if I rode in the fancy dressage ring on the hill. Sure, trainer said, just stay on the raked rubber footing parts, don’t do any heavy work around the edges. Twist my arm!

So after about 25 minutes of walking we did a solid 20 minutes of trot dressage work, mostly getting him even through his hind end and up through his shoulders, keeping him from flinging those massive shoulders every which way and dragging me back to the barn.

The canter work was not great. He was antsy and prancy and I got tense and held him in. No, he won’t get a good depart if I’ve got a death grip on the reins! So I worked hard to hold him in my core and through my seat, not by holding on to his face, and giving a release even when he felt like he wanted to come around the corner, face the barn, and bolt for home.

Afterwards, he was warm and a bit sweaty, so I put him in an irish knit for 20 minutes or so, then switched to his regular fleece cooler, which was what he was going to wear until night check anyway. I went into the tack room, and since I had an hour before I was meeting the fiance for dinner, I settled in to clean some tack, with mixed success. My dressage saddle cleaned up nicely, and I conditioned it thoroughly. The breastplate was filthy, and I could not get the last layers of gunk off some parts. Boooo. I’ll do another round soon, I guess.

Before I headed out, I stuck my hand inside Tristan’s cooler to check on him and see if he could get grained before I left. His chest was still damp and tacky. 😦 I asked the barn manager to double check, and we decided that he had mostly cooled down with the irish knit, but the cooler raised his body temp again – as it was supposed to, in a way – and the last bit never dried when he warmed up. Next time, leave the knit on longer – or do a layer. Maybe I should’ve even grabbed his wool sheet from upstairs for a warm wicking layer. Still figuring out the sweaty winter coat thing!

adventures with the vet · endomondo

Never ever dull

When I stopped at the barn to check on Tristan last night, the barn manager checked in with me and said she’s more worried about the scab on his cheek than I am – she pointed out that if he’s gotten a burdock stem or something in there it won’t heal. She made a good point, so I agreed to meet her first thing the following morning to scrub it down, pull the scab off, and take a good close look.

I put the puppy in the car, slathered Tris’s cheek with Corona, and then returned to find the puppy had freaked out and puked over every inch of the driver’s side of my shiny new car. Every. Goddamn. Inch. Cue 45 minutes of shampooing, scrubbing, and vacuuming.
So here I am this morning, waiting for the barn manager. I’ve got a bucket of hot water + betadine, gauze, and Alushield. Just waiting and futzing around online.
Oh, and I realized I never shared the Endomondo record of the ride on Sunday. So here you go. Will report back this afternoon on my idiot horse.

endomondo · physical fitness (horse)

Adding Wind, Not Just Strength

I don’t always claim to be the quickest off the mark. Case in point: last week, I was hacking out bareback with one of the barn working students, and M., the assistant trainer, joined us by trotting up the hill. She was riding one of the really talented upper level dressage horses, an Andalusian, and commented at the top of the hill that “I can feel his heart going pitter-patter!”

That started a slow burn thought in the back of my head. This is a horse that’s schooling all the Grand Prix movements, and is right now gaining strength to refine his piaffe and passage. He is in superb shape. But his wind – his aerobic capacity – needed work, hence why she was out with me in the field.

I’ve been doing so much work on building strength with Tristan; 90% of the work we’ve done for the last 3 weeks has been at the walk. He’s responding to it well. His walk is more energetic, and he’s building some muscle. But I’ve been totally neglecting his wind.

So last night we incorporated some quick sprints, too. We started out with a walk around the field, with some short trots up hilly areas. Then we went into the outside ring and worked for about 10 minutes on trot and canter, getting him supple and keeping him forward and even. He can be tricky in the outdoor ring, and he showed that last night when a horse down in the barn kicked its stall and he tried to bolt for the barn. I got him back in a few strides and he settled in to some nice work.

Note to self: remember to stay deep in the saddle! Far too easy to prop out of the saddle and leave the re-gathering to my hands alone when he gets strong like that.

Then we walked around the field again, and from the bottom trotted and then cantered up the hill. Aha! He felt strong and capable, and even pulling away a bit, but he was breathing so hard he was almost roaring. His muscles were more than capable of the work; his lungs were behind the ball. Interesting!

endomondo · road hacking

Continuing Exploration

Longer hack, up the road and took a new sharp left to see if I could indeed explore these fields without riding across them. The dead grass you see in a line ahead of Tristan’s ears is in fact the remnants of a tractor road, with fine footing for walking. We went to the tree line and came back. We’ll definitely head back.

Tris was an utter shit for the first 10 minutes out, wandering across the road, flinging his shoulders everywhere, walking soooooo slooooooowly. He wanted to be back in the barn eating hay. About a half mile in he eased in to the work and most of the rest of the ride was quite nice. We had a few short trot stretches on good footing. He did have one ugly moment later on, when we exited this field and I turned him away from the barn to keep going. He flung his head around and danced and backed up, and put one hind foot worryingly close to a dropoff by a culvert. I lost my temper for a moment, yanked his head around, and booted HARD, basically shoving him into a trot for 100 yards down the road.
Our walk back was good, and I took a bit of a hold of the reins and asked for a little coming through the bit, which he obliged. We got back to flat ground and his hind end went all wobbly! So we walked on the flat road for another half mile to help him work out of it, which he did nicely. So this ride definitely accomplished what I wanted it to – hard hill work – and it’s good that he has tonight scheduled off.

endomondo · long slow distance · road hacking

Long[er] Slow Distance

Starting to push the boundaries a little. Tris recovered just fine after this ride too; pulse of 50 while eating his post-ride hay. Probably 75% of this ride was on grassy hills, and the remaining 25% on the road. He started off slow like molasses, but the last mile was a bit of a faster walk. We had one very short spurt of trot toward the end just to see what he would think, and he thought he wanted to GO HOME, NOW, so I posted very defensively and let him trot huge for 50 yards or so, then brought him back before he grabbed the bit and just went.

So this was Thursday night; I followed it up on Friday night with 12 minute of longeing. Yes. 12. I got stuck late at work and then realized I did not have nearly as much time as I thought I did to get back in to town to meet the fiance for our new cricket class. I threw myself a small pity party, and then decided that some work was better than no work, slapped a longe line on Tristan’s halter, and did 3 minutes of walk and 3 minutes of trot each way.
The plan for Saturday night is about 2 miles, and then projecting the week ahead to do 2 more long rides like this one, interspersed with longeing. Sunday he gets up to his full dose of pergolide, and I’ll start scrutinizing his overall demeanor and recovery even more closely.

endomondo · long slow distance · road hacking

Scientific Trail Riding

Last night, I saddled up and we went for a longish hack. I’m working on three operating theories;

– I need to ride more, for my sanity and health and for Tristan’s health;
– All the reading I do indicates that metabolic horses need regular, consistent exercise;
– Long slow distance is the right kind of work for Tristan right now: low-impact, muscle-building, and when it’s done outside, good for his brain.

All those three things pointed to long hacks as our new standard ride, with occasional short ringwork 1-2 days a week.

So last night was the launch of some new metrics for our rides. I’ve used Endomondo before to track our rides, but last night I paid particular attention to distance and speed. I wanted to know how far it is all the way around the big hay field, and what Tristan’s speed would look like if I rode him on the buckle the whole time.

So there’s the answer. The big hay field is just about exactly 1 mile around. It’s about a quarter mile away from the barn. Last night, I cut off part of the field because I wanted to hold him closer to 2 miles, but now I know we can go 2.5 miles just by leaving the barn and walking around the big field twice. (It also occurred to me we could do a 50 miler by trotting the big field 50 times, and then I thought about how unutterably boring that would be.)
Tristan was spot-on 3mph, or a 20 minute mile, for our first mile, in a really pretty lazy meandering kind of walk. At almost exactly one mile in, he blew out, farted, and eased into the work quite nicely, picking up the pace ever so slightly, still of his own choice. Our second mile was just under 19 minute, still at the walk.
Keep in mind that practically every single inch of this ride was on a hill of some kind: up, down, laterally. The only flat surface at our barn is in the ring. So he worked reasonably hard, in a good way. He was ever-so-slightly warm, and had about a 1″ square spot of sweat directly under the girth. That speaks jointly to the technicality of the ride and to his muscle loss right now. I know it’s nothing like the miles and pace some of you log while conditioning for endurance, but we all have to start somewhere, right?
On an impulse, I stopped by Walmart on the way to the barn and found myself an iPhone armband on clearance for $10. Score! None of my breeches have pockets, and my old cell phone holder is sized for a flip phone and doesn’t work for the iPhone. So I’ll be able to track his rides going forward more easily. I hope to build some statistics as he continues this work and as he starts on the pergolide.
On a personal fitness note, the last quarter mile, up the big long galloping hill, I did entirely in two point. 1/3 of the way I started to feel it. Halfway there was definite burn. The last 100 feet or so were agony. Good for the soul.