Trials and Tribulations of Training


So, there have been a lot of projects going on at the farm this year riding and otherwise but obviously keeping up with the blog hasn’t been one of them!  Time to correct that.

One of the main riding projects this year has been to get Khol ready for his first 50 mile endurance ride.   Actually, It’s beginning to feel like the “never ending” project, but I think we are almost there.  Getting Khol ‘ready’ means getting ME ready, and that folks has been the primary hold up.   This 59+ year old body has been taking its time readjusting to longer and faster distance.  However, I think we (me) are finally ready! There is a ride on September 15th and the registration forms and money have been mailed.  Mapleridge Run…here we come!

To pick up the story, I thought I would write about our last training run and then just keep it going from there.  So, a few days ago we decided to do a training ride up Lelands.  “Lelands” is a 5 mile run….2.5 miles in and 2.5 miles back (not a loop), right off the farm.  Oh, “easy peasy” I thought.  After all the riding we’ve been doing on North Mountain, a couple of quick spins up and back on Lelands.  Off we went me and Khol and Pam riding Tiki.

Simple.  Right.

(Insert that weird sound of tires screeching here.)

We started out early evening, sunny, fairly cool weather relative to the rest of the summer.  It is the end of August after all.  My saddle felt loose so I tried to tighten the girth a notch but no go. So gave up.  Then, a minute or two later, my head got itchy.  Really itchy.  New shampoo and all of a sudden it felt like there were a million bugs crawling around under my helmet.  Then, as we rode past the field and into the woods there actually were a million bugs.. Deer fly everywhere!  What the heck, it’s the end of August.  Never gave deer flies a thought.  Oh oh…I can see by now it’s going to be “one of those rides.”

Anyhow I am determined to continue.  So I put Khol up into a trot.  What the heck?  Is he off?  No.  What is he doing?  He is short-strides for a step or two, then ok for a step or two, then short strided for a step or two.  Is he half-halting himself?  Maybe i’ve been half-halting him too much trotting down North Mountain? I stop and exam a few things.  Can’t find a thing wrong so off we go again.  It’s not as bad but it still feels weird.  Is he just “up”?  We haven’t ridden Lelands in months and maybe the excitement of a shorter ride has him amped?  I don’t know.  Eventually we hit a hill that we love and we always canter so up we go.  Oh oh.  Now what?  He has his head pulled in and he is taking short little canter steps, throwing me half out of the saddle.  Down we come.  Try to walk while my brain assesses possible reasons but the deer fly are so bad…back into a trot.  Confused and bothered (both of us). You get the idea.  Not a fun ride.

When we get to end of the road and turn around, things got really interesting.  Khol was super “amped”  It took everything I had to keep his trot down around 9mph.  Lots and lots of half halting going on now!  He was not paying attention…felt really unbalanced for the first time since early spring.  The footing on Leland’s is not flat and it’s scary riding a horse that is all over the place and one notch away from getting away from you.

Meanwhile, as we are trotting along about a mile or so left to go, Pam shouts from behind me,  “What a beautiful evening!  Isn’t this a great ride!”  (Insert that tire screech thingy again!) What is going on here?  Usually Pam’s horse, Tiki is the “problem child” but tonight these two are as mellow as black cats sunning in the July sunshine.  It never ceases to amaze me how two people sharing 30 feet of trail can be having two completely different experiences!

By the time we hit the field again (last 1/4 mile) my last nerve was frazzled.  Deer fly gone now that we were out of the woods so I brought Khol down to a walk.  Well, what a walk!  This guy was on a mission…to get home.  As we walked along, I gathered my thoughts.  If we went home now what had I accomplished?  A ‘hot’ horse was getting what he wanted and we weren’t getting anything near the training I had hoped for.  On the other hand, my saddle was still loose, my head was itchy and I didn’t barely recognize the horse I was riding.  Decisions.

I brought Khol to a halt.  I worked that girth til I got it right.  I turned him around and once we hit the woods, I took a deep breath, big solid half-halt and with my heart beating out of my chest, I put him into a canter.  I held my breath (I know you are not supposed to do that when you ride!) and waited for a problem so that we could work through it…1 second, 2 seconds, 3 seconds….nothing.  He was balanced.  He was rhythmic.  20 seconds…30 seconds.  OK I can breath a little.  A little more.  OK we are doing this.  We are doing this!!  Yeah!!!!! We cantered from the end of the field to the top of the hill.  Effortlessly.  At the top of the hill he broke to a trot.  I think because we always break to a trot there and so he thought that’s what he was supposed to do.  I put him back into a canter and away we went.  Except for a few time when he broke out of the canter (because we used to break at those points, I think), we cantered to the very end!  Really?  Really!

When we turned around, I asked for a trot.    It was balanced.  It was rhythmic.  It was still 9mph but it was beautiful!  This time it was me who turned to Pam and hollered “Isn’t it a beautiful evening!  Isn’t this a great ride!”  She was all smiles.

When we finished our ride, I ripped off that helmet and scratched my head like there was no tomorrow.  I was insane with the pleasure of it all.  I read somewhere this summer that if your head itches, wet your hair.  Never really had that problem before…will have wet hair for the next few trips guaranteed!    When I took the saddle off Khol, I did notice a small imprint on the saddle pad at the right shoulder.  Not sure what it was.  Not sure if it had any influence.  Always learning.  Always wondering!

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