Sunday, March 28, 2010

A few signs of Spring

Springtime on the trails

Red Buds just about to Open up. Should be open by the end of the week and very colorful

The cattle are having their babies. Look at those cute little white face Young'uns!

The grass is coming in, and all the trees have blooms, buds, or leaves adding color back to the landscape

And just had to share Hanks new friend........

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring Training

With the positive attitude that all that nasty winter like weather is behind us here in No. TX, I am taking the attitude that is is time to try to start with a better "spring training" program. Wait, I really don't like the word program, as that sounds too structured. And my life is rarely structured.  But with Spring weather starting to look like it is truly here, it is time to get down to business. Before we know it, the weather will turn to Texas summer weather, with its own issues!

I tried to keep Hank fit through the winter, making the best use of our rides, even if the weather did not always let us ride as much as we wanted.  And now we will have spring rains, which often make the trails to muddy to ride, but I am going to make myself get out on some of the local dirt roads if the mud is too bad, and ride anyway. I can cover up to stay dry. I just don't like to have us wet AND cold.  So no more excuses! (Uh huh, sure, see how this goes)

I had a friend who was training his carriage driving horse for international level competitions.  He would get up early each morning, go work the horse before he went off to his work, and then after work, went home, and worked the horse again. Usually each work out was at least an hour. Now, he did not need to do training out on the trail that can be time intensive like our distance horses, and had an arena to train in, but he did this all seasons, even when the daylight was short. He'd often be out there in the pre-dawn, taking care of the horse, and working with her. He used to say "Our competition has already worked with their horse today". He lived on the West Coast, and being hours behind his East Coast competitors meant indeed, most had done their morning work outs, and were heading towards lunch when he was in the middle of his training session. His motivation was knowing they had a jump on the day with working their horses.   While I do not have any goals of international competition like he did, often we need to find things that will keep us motivated to ride on some days when maybe things are just not absolutely perfect. While riding is a form of recreation for me, and I want to enjoy my ride, there are just times I need to suck it up and get out on the horse when it is not a perfect day. Otherwise, when we head to an event, that is testing the condition and fitness of my horse to travel over many miles, he will not be as prepared as I could have him.

So today, we rode 20 miles, and did get done before the bad wind and cold front arrived.  I hope to get him out tomorrow for another 10 to 15 miles.  Then this coming week the weather will not be an excuse to not ride, as it is to be warm and sunny. We have a NATRC ride on our local trails next weekend, so we won't do a bunch this week, but some short rides. Hubby will have a day ot two to ride.

As I try to get Hank in even better condition that last year, it is time for me to get back to doing a bit more for my condition. Plans to start back on that dang treadmill.  Also, I need to just get off and walk on the trail more with Hank at times. We have mileage markers on the trail, and even if I get off and walk ONE stupid mile, that is a mile more than I'd have walked otherwise.

OK, since I blogged about it, I hope that will be enough to motivate me. But don't call me on it. hehe

Monday, March 22, 2010

Photos frm the pasture

A couple random photos:

Every afternoon, Hank takes a nap. His rests his chin on the ground, getting dirt and stuff in his lips. But I still kiss his white spot on his nose. (after I dust it off!)

 That is Rockhe in the lead. He is about 13 now. As he ages, he gets more and more of those "flea bitten" spots. The other horse is Toby, the old man. I was pretty impressed it was keeping up with Rockhe, as he is getting old, and creeky. I think mid 20's, but I'd have to look.  Sounds like a bowl of Rice Crispies when he walks. Snap. Crackle. Pop.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Running, mudding, snowing, thinking

Our local trail system was built and designed with events in mind. Loops out of a single camp, that come back to the same location. Besides endurance and competitive trail rides, each year they have a "run", with up to 500 runners out on the trails, with distances of 13, 26 and 50 miles. Some years ago, I started volunteering as a "sweep" rider, where we follow the last runners on the loop, to make sure all get in to camp OK, and to let the aid stations along the way know that they can close up. This year it ended up that I was the only rider there to help out, mostly due to our WEATHER! Who would have guessed that for the first day of Spring, we had a huge thunderstorm the night before, dumping about an inch of rain on the area, and then cold, blowing wind, with sleet off and on all day, and then some snow. I stayed in camp most of the day, until the last runner headed out on the last loop of the 50 mile run. They had around 60 start the 50 mile run, but only SIX finished. The muddy cold conditions had the others drop out before the day was done. While those of us who do distance riding with our horses, know what it is to be pushed to our limits at time, I am always amazed at how some of the runners will challenge themselves. Those who started the races knew the conditions were horrible. But they are only making the choice for themselves. When we choose to challenge ourselves with a ride, we also must consider our horse, and his health, and safety. Because the loop I was riding was just under 10 miles, I figured we would be going pretty slow, walking much of it, and only out there 2 to 3 hours. I put on warm, waterproof clothes, had a rump rug to cover up Hanks hind end to keep it warm and dry if the weather turned really bad, and headed out through the slop.

I have been slowly conditioning in some mud, as I fear when we will be at an event, and the trails will get muddy. By doing some conditioning in the conditions, I feel I can prepare him both mentally, and physically for dealing with the mud. As I was saddling him, it started to snow. This is the first day of spring, and the day before it was almost 70 degrees, and now it was snowing and blowing! I guess I am really not surprised, as it seems just about the time the pear trees get their white blooms, we will get one more freeze, and then Spring will really arrive. Last week we saw the pear trees all bloom.

As I tagged along behind this lone runner, I watched him negotiate the trail, and how he was showing signs of being tired, and mentally spent.

I also noticed things that made me consider our distance riding. He had a water bottle in his right hand. I noticed that he was not moving as square and balanced due to one hand having the weight of the water bottle, and the other did not. He never changed hands. He dropped the shoulder to the side with the bottle, and moved a bit uneven. If we ride unbalanced, or have things on our saddle that are uneven and balanced, just what are we doing to our horses? How often might a lameness be caused from something we, the rider could do different? When you trot and post, do you remember to change diagonals to help balance the stress we put on the horse? Are our saddle packs even? A mile from the end, he actually asked if I minded carrying his water bottle. I gladly took it from him, and then watched as both arms started to swing even, and his stride balanced some as he jogged.

I could see the mental issues as he got tired by how he picked the routes to try to stay out of the worse sections of mud. Often I'd see him pause, and contemplate his route, and go off to the side out of the deepest mud, and other times, he'd just plow right through the yuck, even though there was a better path. I'm guessing he was having some periods of clear thinking, and others of just wanting to be done. As we get tired on a ride, do we continue to make the best choices for our horses? Keeping physically fit for the ride, also means most of us stay mentally fit. But when conditions are really bad, and we have had to think about the details more than normal, we can get mentally worn out, even though physically we are strong.

When people ask me about Tevis, I tell them it is a very mental ride. You have to think about so much, from footing, to timing, to concentrating on how well the horse is doing, that often riders start to mentally shut down. When that happens, they do not take care of themselves physically, and can start making mistakes with their horses. Keeping a clear head, and sharp thinking will help you tremendously. To stay focused for 24 hours of riding is difficult. Hopefully if we end up on the Tevis trail this year, I can still do that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Plans for the year. Dare I say T..........

I'm still of the mindset to not have any hard, set plans for a ride season, as those things can change through the year. Sometimes to be able to do more than anticipated, like last year when we found ourselves traveling to ride after ride for year end awards. And some times, those plans and goals just do not pan out. For me, if I set myself up with a big goal, and things do not work out for what ever reason, I have more of a frustrated feeling, than if I set it as a "I'd really like to do "X", but I'll just see how things go this year".

So, with that thought process, right now, that "X" is doing Tevis again this year. We finished it in 2005 with Hanks first attempt. Then in 2006 we went back with a friend, and had a metabolic pull at Michigan Bluff (around 60 of the 100 mile ride) when Hank coliced. My friend went on to finish, in her first attempt, on her flat lander Texas horse.  While the vets say that his colic at Tevis on 2006, would not be related to his colic and surgery 2 years later, I still ponder that day. He came up out of the canyon strong, forward, ears up, cheerful, and wanting to actually trot up the hill. He took a drink of water at the vet area, backed two steps away from the trough,and tried to drop right there. He was in a lot of pain. Thankfully the vets were able to give him drugs right then, and he was trailered to Foresthill and got IV fluids. He was better early that night.  But, from that, the trail beat us. Even though we finished the year before, I still have that feeling that the trail won.

I am one who would ride that ride every year if I was still in CA. Love the trail, the challenge, and the event. I worked for a woman who finished it 20 times, out of 23, maybe 24 starts, and helping get her horses ready, pre-riding, and crewing, and also volunteering has got the ride in my blood.  But, now living about 1500 miles from the ride makes it something that I can't attend as easy as before.

A friend crewed for us before, and I told her when she rode, I'd crew, or ride with her. It was her choice. Well, she said "Ride with". Right now, she is prepping her nice horse, and is planning on going. So, I guess that means I need to think about it more. She knows if I can't make it, or Hank is not ready, that I'll come crew.

So, plans for the year? Do NATRC rides when we can, as I'd like to try for another National Championship. (needs certain number of points, and to place 1st or 2nd out of state or region,and have a total of 2 1sts and a 2nd,or 2  2nds and a 1st)  So we need to get to an out of state ride some time this year.  Between that, I need to get Hank back to some 50 mile AERC endurance rides. But many are not rides I would enjoy riding. Such as one this weekend that is 1 loop, ridden 3 times.  We have NO hills to train in, but Oklahoma has some nice areas to ride, so a camping trip or two to ride there is in order.  Besides, hubby would enjoy that with Flag, and we can go week days when the camps are not as busy.

When we finished in 2005, my training was to get Hank to one 50 mile ride per month, starting in February.  Then I went to So. CA 6 weeks ahead of Tevis, and managed to go up and pre-ride the last 30 miles of the Tevis trail. But my friend who finished, never got to see more than the last 10 miles of the trail, had only our TX and OK rides to prep for the ride, and her horse was strong at the end. I prefer hills and mountains to train in, but they are not always needed to finish Tevis.

So, that is my wishi-washi plan for the year, subject to change as the season goes. We have a local NATRC ride April 3rd.  That is about all I have on the books.

This is what calls me back to the Tevis trail. As you crest the top of High Camp, and look out across the ridge tops, you realize somewhere below, is your goal. And if everything works out, you will be corssing that finishline after 100 miles of the most challenging trail anywhere.

2010 ride season has started

We had our first ride of 2010 the first weekend of the month. The first ride of our ride season was in December. (Our ride year is Dec. to Dec.) This ride is the one way down south, near the small town of Cat Springs Texas. Almost 300 miles one way, and we never leave the state!  Our winter has been so wet and muddy, that many of us were having trouble getting the horses out on the trails to condition. But this ride is very flat, some sand, but with recent rains, not super deep.   On Wednesday before the ride, we found out hubby did not have to go out of town for work that weekend, so he and Flag went along.  We left Thursday, mid day, and arrived just after the sun set. On the way we had one tire on the trailer de-tread. Boy, it was nice having a second person along to help change it. I can change a trailer tire myself in about 15 min. from time I get out of the truck, until time I get back in again. But we were like a NASCAR pit crew, and I think we were on the road again in under 10 min. Having the right tools really helps. Having them easy to get to is really important too. I have my jiffy jack to drive the trailer up on to mounted in the tackroom near the door, up high. The star wrench is near the spares (I carry two for the trailer).  I can get to everything quickly, to make my stay where ever we have pulled over, as short as possible.

After getting the ponies, and the TWO dogs settled in, it was time for a quick dinner. Yes, we now have TWO dogs taking up the back seat of the truck when no one is home to care for them for the weekend. Mardi is a good traveler, and is good about being tied out at the rides. Although she does bark at things a tad more than Thelma.

Friday morning we saddled up and went for a short ride, so I could show my hubby the lay out of the trails, and how they are marked. All loops come back to camp, and are fairly short. (under 10 miles each) We decided that he would volunteer to ride drag/safety, but we told management he may have to pull out of the horse became a goofball following behind, going so slow.  Wanted them to have others out there, and to not depend on him until we knew if the horse could handle following instead of being out front.

Hank and I timed out in front on Saturday AM, and he was a happy camper. Rode alone for the most part, and had a nice ride. He behaved, and his metabolics were sounding good. I tried a couple different things. No alfalfa this ride, and started adding loose salt to his mashes. I took a chunk of a salt block and just smashed it up and put it in a container in  the trailer.  Tossed a small handful over each mash. It will take a few more rides to see if he still gets the occasional injected gums like he did last season. The alfalfa should not be the reason, but now I can play with changing a few things, without the pressure of year end awards.

Hubby rode out with other safety riders, and Flag was a pretty good boy. He was a bit strong and forward, but not tugging uncontrollably against the reins. After the first few loops, they were missing a rider, so he went off alone, and re-rode that loop at a quick trot. He said his max speed was almost 14mph, and they never broke from the trot, and was not going as fast as Flag can go at the trot. I know they both had fun, and found the missing rider back in camp. (sigh)

Sunday just seemed to linger on forever. The trails are not the most scenic, and we repeat some of the loops, so for me, I get bored, and I am sure Hank does too. After a couple hours, I glanced at my watch, and could not believe we still had 3 more hours to ride. I was ready for it to be done. Hubby only rode about 10 miles, but ended up doing around 35 to 40 miles over the weekend, which is the most they have done together in a long time. And they both had fun! Now for him to have time to get to some more rides.

After I finished up, and vetting Hank through, I was happy with how he did. Management and judges got the score cards done pretty quick, and awards were done by 3:30 or 4PM, and we were on the road before sunset heading home! Hank placed 2nd, I placed 1st in horsemanship. I was pleased. Our friend Dolly, and her horse Chance (the one Hank took a bite out of last year at the ride) won their class, and got Sweepstakes with a perfect score! I was so happy for her. She has worked hard to get that horse working well for NATRC, and also does endurance with him. She finished Tevis in 2006 when we went out together.

On the way home, we found ourselves following a friend who also competes, and her trailer and truck lights were acting up. So we decided to follow her, as her trailer lights went out, when her headlights came on. Thankfully she had brake and turn signals. We finally found turning on her emergency flashers, made her trailer lights stay on solid. I carry a couple battery powered bike lights in my trailer, but they had got old, and batteries dead. So, I replaced them, in case I ever lost trailer lights, I'd at least have something to tape to the back to make myself visible.  We were home before midnight, and when we turned the horses loose, they both took off at a run, stopped, rolled in the mud, and ran off into the darkness of the pasture.

I'll try to get back to blogging in a more regular basis, and with things more interesting than the above. I am considering Tevis again this year, but want to get to some 50's and make sure Hank seems ready to roll. Just that bit of a worry wart in me I guess.  And I did not take many photos, so you can go to last years post, and see photos, as it has not changed much. :-)

Last Years Ride