Thursday, March 25
A good outing with Robin today. We were hoping to minimize our encounters with dirt bikes and ATV’s, so we went over the rocky pass of Lovejoy Butte – similar to the route we took back on March 8th – it was nice to feel how much better Belle is handling tough terrain. My saddle slipped forward on her going down the steep incline, and I am seriously thinking about putting a crouper on the saddle. It will be a bit of a challenge as my Wintec all purpose saddle doesn’t have a cantle ring – but I might be able to rig something up. At least Belle is used to a crouper from her carriage driving, so it shouldn’t be a big problem – but I want to introduce it on the lunge and during an arena ride, so if she is really unhappy, it will be easy to adjust equipment or even just stop early.

march25 2010 belle and I top of the world

Also under equipment, the Garmin ran out of battery AGAIN! So we don’t know for sure how far we traveled – but it was a 2 hour ride and about 8 miles.

Friday, March 26 – Day off for Belle
Saturday March 27 – Very busy with lessons, had to settle for a 10 minute free lunge. Did check her heart rate recovery – she came in with a 98 and was down to 68 in 5 minutes, so she is getting to acceptable range fairly quick. She also got a nice bucket of ‘Rope and Ride’ feed. I need her to build more muscle and she needs calories to do that.
Sunday, March 28th – Day off for Belle – we had a Great Carriage drive in Llano – covered 8 miles in 1 hr 45 minutes! So it was like doing endurance, but with wheels!

Monday – March 29th – Got up this morning and my butt was dragging! Called Robin at 8 am and told her that I was running SLOW. I don’t want to wimp out – well, ok, I really DO want to skip today’s ride, BUT tough weather is predicted. After a couple weeks of really nice stuff, with temps in the upper 70’s – the Antelope Valley is going to do it’s typical end of March madness – and have snow down to 3000 feet on Thursday! And it is supposed to be Wind advisories on Tuesday and Wednesday, so if we don’t ride today, we won’t get much done. I call Robin again at 10 am – and tell her that I am still dragging along. My morning barn assistant didn’t come, so I am trying to pull all the blankets, get watering done, clean stalls and do all the grains and medications. Basically, I say, if we want to get this done, you had better hitch up and come kidnap me! So she shows up with her gooseneck stock trailer. This will be new for Belle – to get into a step up trailer. But she loads nicely. Also, a friend has stopped by and when she learns we are going out for a ride, she wants to come along. We are almost at the place where we need to go faster than an unfit horse can maintain, but for this day, we decide having an extra rider is ok.

Robin has picked a local trail – around the Saddleback Butte state park. It is a trail I have heard of, but I know there is a locked gate and you have to get the code to get in. But Robin knows the code, so we drive just 13 miles and have a maintained fenced trail to ride on. No trash, no dirt bikes! I will be riding here more often. There is a nice parking lot, easy access and the trail is nice rolling hills and will be beautiful with wild flowers in another week or two.

Kendall, our additional rider is riding Spritz, my 22 yr old bay Appy gelding. We start out, and he is feeling fresh. To the point of jigging. And Bucking!!! Silly old horse! I finally offer to trade horses. It is kind of cool to realize silly jiggy Belle is becoming reliable enough that I can swap off of her and put another rider on her. And it was a good thing I did, because after I got on, Spritz let loose with a HUGE set of bucks. Nearly lost me, and I know it would have pitched Kendall. But after that, we settle into a nice steady trot, and that wears him out. Belle carries Kendall nicely for the first half of the ride. At the mid point, now Spritz is settled and calm, and Belle is a bit tough to find a rhythm in her trot, so we trade back. The three horses alternate sets of trot and walk. Kendall isn’t very fit and gets tired. And Robin is still building up her legs. She has a history of developing shin splints when riding endurance. She has started wrapping her leg to support the calf muscle. Belle and I have no problems.

At the end, we had done 9.8 miles, in 2 hrs 46 minutes, averaging 3.8 mph with a top speed of 10.3 mph. Yep, I finally figured out how to get the Garmin battery to last! I have to turn the brightness setting down to minimum! I can’t see it with the low setting, but if I start it right as we mount up, then just turn it off when we get back to the rig, I can check it later. It worked great. So now we can really track mileage! And we Must start to step up the pace. The race is 6 1/2 weeks away! And we haven’t done more than 10 miles in any one ride.

Tuesday, March 30th – Belle’s favorite kind of day – no work, just a bucket of grain!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It’s tough being dedicated! Or being dedicated makes you tough. I am not sure which. But they are predicting horrible weather this afternoon and tomorrow – even snow possible here on the desert floor! SOOO…I got Belle out early, but then my 11 am student came early, trying to beat the rain and wind. So, I taught off Belle for 30 minutes, and then we went out and blasted through the desert for just a quick run. I estimate that I covered 2 miles in 13 minutes, which maths out to about 9.2 mph sustained! So, we can get the speed up and hold it at least for 15 minutes! Now we need to do a Lot more of that! I am envisioning sets of 15 minutes at speed, walk 5 minutes, and then another set at 10 mph. That should cover just over 8 miles in an hour. If we can maintain that for 2 hours we are getting somewhere. For what it is worth, she came home pretty much dry – and definitely ready for more. But I was totally Frozen. It was 45 degrees, with a 15 – 20 mph wind – so it was Just COLD! I truly would Not have been out there except that I didn’t want her to stand 3 days in a row, and I believe tomorrow is going to be worse. If it isn’t, then we will probably work again, since today’s set was pretty light. But if it rains and snows tomorrow, I can let her stand and not have a guilty conscience. ;)

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Comment by Monica Whitmer on March 31, 2010 at 7:17pm
Happy to share a little vicarious saddle time with you! I will go check out that pad. I think it is mostly her conformation, not a lot of horse out front with a fine pony!

And after today's ride I am convinced - Being dedicated makes you COLD! IT has taken Hours to warm up my feet. I definately didn't have on warm enough socks or boots.
Comment by Jackie Cochran on March 31, 2010 at 7:06pm
Dedication makes you tough.
About the saddle sliding forward downhill you might want to go the about the Corrector pad. He has many letters from trail people who prevented this problem by using the Corrector pad system. I use the pad and like it but right now I can only ride in the ring so I haven't tried it on hills.
Long before I learned I had MS I wanted to endurance ride. By reading your blog I am getting an idea of what I missed. Thank you for writing it.

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