Category Archives: endurance

Riding weather!

This year has been one of the mildest winters we have ever experienced in CT.  The nice weather means more time in the saddle on the trails.  On Sunday, Anna, Alex, and I went out for a ride with some new friends (including Echo’s owner).  We rode about 8 miles and the temps were in the upper 50s.

Our long time friends, Jeremiah and Tracy Minner have been in the area for a few weeks while Jeremiah is in school in Newport.  Anna and Tracy have been getting together with the kids for activities a couple of times each week.  Today, Anna took the kids to Newport where she and Tracy took them to The Breakers and spent time walking along the cliffs and shore.  Then they headed back to the resort where the Minners are staying for some time in the pool.

When I got home from work and it was 70F outside!  Anna and the kids were still in Newport, so I saddled up Echo for some solitude on the trails.  This was my first time taking Echo out alone and it went great.  We headed out without a specific agenda.  I put some Gloves on him for the first time before we went out.  It is quite rocky on the forest roads and I see it as cheap insurance.  Echo has been ridden in Renegades in the past, but I prefer Gloves for jumping and wanted to see how he did in them.  We didn’t have any issues with interference or boots coming off.  It was a short sleeves day when I headed out, but I put a lightweight wind breaker in my pack just in case.  By the time it was getting dark, temps had dropped to around 60 and there were a few drops of rain hitting me, so I put on the jacket.  Echo kept on moving while I flapped a jacket around and got it on – it didn’t phase him in the least.  The last mile and a half was a good 30 minutes after sunset.  Echo didn’t have any problems continuing to trot down the trails in the dark.  It was nice to do a ride on a horse that moves forward and isn’t afraid of every shadow.  I a really enjoying his pace and I think we will be a good team.  When it was all done, we had covered 9.5 miles – not bad for a weeknight.

I’m looking forward to more riding in the early spring weather!

Echo, Echo, Echo…

The weather has been great and the horse activities are in full swing.  Alex and Vicki participated in a Pony Club games clinic on Saturday afternoon and again Sunday morning.  After a quick bite of lunch, Anna and I loaded Dakota in the trailer and headed out to meet “Oh Electric Echo”.  We have been in conversation for a while with Echo’s owner, and today was out test ride.  We joined up for a trail ride that was about 5 miles long.  Everything seemed to go well, so our trailer returned home with 2 horses instead of 1.

It was after dark by the time we got home, so a couple of pictures in the barn was all we could grab.  We did get a nice group photo from the ride.  In the group photo, Anna is the second from left on Dakota and I am the right hand rider on Echo.

Echo is an 11-year-old (12 in May), 16.1hh, chestnut Arabian gelding.  He did 3 limited distance endurance rides last year.  From our test ride today, he has a serious go button, but was very confident and not nervous on the trails.  We encountered a number of logs and small things to try as jumps, and I think he has a good mind for jumping (even) though he has no experience jumping.  We have Echo on a 6 month lease to try him out, with a purchase option.  This summer promises to be a very busy horse riding summer for the entire family!

 

Murphy visits the farm

Our first endurance ride is in 2 weeks.  Tomorrow was planned for a good 15ish miles as our last prep ride.  Was.  This evening when the horses came in, it was discovered that Misti had a little cut on her shoulder.  6 staples and $260 later, I now have a horse that needs 10 days off.  Luckily, we don’t leave for the ride until 13 days from now.  So, I guess I’ll have A LOT of horse at the ride since she will be in a limited turnout and not riding for the next 10 days.

2.5" cut on Misti's shoulder
2.5″ cut on Misti’s shoulder
Misti's shoulder with 6 staples
Misti’s shoulder with 6 staples

It looks like I’ll be riding King for a family trail ride tomorrow.  While we don’t think this will cause Misti to withdraw from our first ride, I hope Mr. Murphy doesn’t take that as a challenge to cause something worse!

20 training miles

As the endurance training continues, the rides get longer.  Today, Anna (on Dakota) and I (on Mistique) knocked out 20 miles in Pachaug.  There were no amazing discoveries or insights.  No real challenges (other than a couple of new trails we tried that went to nowhere).  Because it was the longest ride any of us had ever done, we didn’t push the pace. We planned our route ahead of time and made sure the horses had chances to stop and drink.  It was about 56F when we got up this morning, but warmed up to low 80s by the time we finished.  We stopped to let the horses drink and munch some grass at 5, 10, and 15 miles.

Our total mileage was 20.75 miles and it took 4:10 for an average speed of 5.0 mph.  Once the rests breaks are removed, our average moving speed was 5.3 mph.  Anna and I each probably burned about 1400 calories, so overall, a good training day.

Endurance Training and pony pictures

If you aren’t interested in the endurance training discussion, go ahead and jump to the end for the pony pictures.

First, through the support from her original breeder and others, we now have a registered Part-Shagya Arabian (and a slight correction to her name spelling).  The North American Shagya Association has transferred Mistique Lady’s registration to me!

On Sunday, Anna and I each did our training rides alone.  While we plan to ride our first endurance ride together in October, we need to be ready in case something happens and one horse can’t finish.

So, instead of using my Garmin 310XT to monitor Misti’s heart rate on our training ride, I decided to wear my HRM and see how many calories I burned. I keep a separate HRM/transmitter for my running and biking to make it easier to switch between events.
It was in the upper 70s here in CT and we rode 10.8 miles at a 5.8 mph average, which is a normal training pace for us.
I burned an average of 366 calories per hour.
My average heart rate was 112 bpm for 1:52. In comparison, my average running heart rate is usually around 150 for trail running 4-7 miles.

While 366 calories isn’t a big deal, riding for 5 or 6 hours changes things. Suddenly you have burned 1700-2000 hours during a 30 mile LD. While there are many people who can handle that without a problem, you need to know if YOU can. If you can’t handle that much of a calorie deficit, start eating a little snack every hour on your ride to reduce the deficit. It’s just like training for a human only endurance event. The goal isn’t to take in the same amount of calories you burned, but rather to reduce the deficit.

Figure out what works for you during your training rides, even if they are only an hour or so. That Slim Jim may taste good driving down the road, but the greasy chunks might give you an upset stomach trotting along the trail!

Sunday afternoon, Vicki and Devil joined others from Mystic Pony Club for some jumping lessons in preparation for an upcoming rally.  Here are a few pictures of Vicki and Devil.  She has a bad habit of looking down and right as she goes over the jumps.

When we got home, Anna grabbed a quick cup of coffee and at about 5:45, hit the trails with Dakota for her training ride of the day.  She did about 10.2 miles on pace.  She also had the added bonus of riding in the dark as she made it home about 30 minutes after sunset.  All said, both horses did very well riding solo.

Recently, as I was listening to Vicki get told “Don’t look down when you go over the jumps!” it made me think about trail riding.  Where do you look when trail riding.  I frequently find myself looking at the ground right in front of the horse as we go along.  So, during my ride, I did an experiment.  I deliberately spent a long period of time focusing my eyes 15-20 yards down the trail.  Then, I would shift my eyes to a point only about a horse length out in front.  What I noticed (and expected) was Misti tended to stumble more when I was looking down.  Just like a kid looking down causes a horse to be unbalanced over a jump, looking down on the trails interrupts your horse’s balance.  So, whether you are jumping or just riding on the trails, keep your eyes up!  By the way, it will also reduce the number of missed markers on when you are riding a hunter pace.

In other news, Amanda has been riding Huey a lot more recently.  I think the increase in Vicki’s riding and jumping has peaked Amanda’s interest as well.  As a result, she is working very hard at keeping Huey trotting on her own, working him over ground poles and small cross rails, and even asking to canter.  By next summer, she will be ready to ride at the pony club activities too!

This evening, Amanda saddled up Huey and Vicki got to ride Misti.  Vicki has a crush on my mare and is always asking to ride her.  Of course, Amanda had to sponge down Huey when she was done.  Enjoy the pictures!

A good day for training

This morning the weather was wonderful: mid 70s with a light breeze through the forest.  Anna and I took Dakota and Mystique out for some training miles.  One of the absolute best things about our farm is the direct access to Pachaug State Forest.

On Friday evening, we did 6.8 miles.  It was hotter, humid, and the air quality was awful.  Today was amazing in comparison.  We rode 15.3 miles at a 5.8 mph average (2:40 total riding time).  We have been slowly tweaking our tack for what we plan to use at the 30 miler in October.  We recently purchased biothane halter/bridle/rein combos and breast collars for both Dakota and Mystique from The Distance Depot.  I am very pleased with the quality and it is so nice to come back from a ride, hose off the tack, and hang it up to dry.

During today’s ride, both horses walked into some water for a drink on 2 occasions.  Both horses were calm and level headed.  Mystique even had a breakthrough when she was willing to continue trotting and pooping at the same time! It’s the little things that make me happy.  The only problem we had was 1 flat tire (boot that came off Dakota) when Anna decided the horses needed to go faster so they could have fun.  Dakota consistently over-reaches and strips a boot at about 16 mph (Dakota actually peaked at 18 mph and Mystique at 19.2 mph during that section).  Luckily, there was no damage (thanks to a bell boot) and it was a quick fix to resume the ride.

Anna and I both ride with a Garmin 310XT and we have the V-Max heart rate kits that allow us to use the watch to monitor the horses’ heart rates during our training.  Just like for people training for marathons or triathlons, the heart rate data is very valuable to evaluate the conditioning of the horses.  It has been interesting to watch the changes in their average heart rate over the summer.  For example, on June 7th we rode in the WGHA 1st hunter pace for 9.4 miles at a 5.7 mph average.  The weather was similar and Mystique had an average heart rate of 119 bpm.  Today, she did 15.3 miles at a 5.8 mph average with an average heart rate of 102 bpm.  For the same 2 rides, Dakota had an average of 111 bpm in June and 101 bpm today.  That’s a significant improvement in fitness.  And even better, I have no doubt both could have handled another 15 mile loop.  We still have 8 weeks until our first endurance ride, and everything is well on track!

 

Easy Shoes or Not-so-Easy Shoes?

Back in early July, I posted about my excursion into the world of glue-on shoes.  Here is the original post in case you missed it:
http://thesawyerfarms.com/shoes-on-my-horses/.  So, it’s time for a followup.  Most of the blog posts I have seen are about how great and wonderful everything is and how rewarding the experience was.  This isn’t one of those posts.

My first glue up was done on Mystique, and her shoes stayed on 4 weeks.  At that point, I pulled them due to only having a little attachment on the side of each hoof.  Dakota’s were pulled at the same time.  King’s lasted a few more days, but only 4.5 weeks.  Of note, I didn’t follow the entire protocol laid out by Easy Care.  In particular, I didn’t use the Dremmel to rough the bottom of the hoof, I didn’t use the buffy (a sander) on the wall, and I didn’t use a torch to dry the hoof.  I did go to town with a wire brush to prep the bottom and side walls of the hoof.  Let’s just say, trying to use the buffy on Mysti or Dakota would result in them leaving the barn, with the cross ties still attached to their halter, and eyes bugging out of their heads.  We will work on that.  With a lunge line.  In the arena.

For the next round, Mysti and Dakota got shoes on all 4 hooves.  King was left bare (he only got them the first time to give me another horse to play with).  Mysti’s was first and her shoes went on without any real problems.  I did keep Anna in the barn this time to assist with picking up the opposing foot to make the process go easier.  Anna also rode Dakota for about an hour before he go trimmed and shod;  he gets very nervous around farriers and a little work helps take the edge off.

After I finished Dakota’s first shoe, I realized I was out of new glue.  I had 3 tubes of Adhere that were 2 years old and had been stored in the garage through heat of summer and cold of winter.  Since it was all I had available, I decided to give it a try and hope for the best.  Dakota isn’t the most cooperative horse.  When I did his back left hoof, he didn’t exactly load it evenly as he put it down.  Instead, he decided to stomp his toe into the ground and knock the shoe off.  I got it back on, but after the glue cured, it was clear the shoe had too much twist on the hoof and couldn’t stay.  I was after 8:30,  I was hot, tired, and frustrated, so I pulled both back shoes and called it a night.  I wasn’t happy as I tossed $50+ in the trash (the shoes can’t be reused once they have glue on them).

Additionally, I had serious doubts about the glue.  Everything Easy Care had warned me about the signs of bad glue were present – grey and grainy look, not mixing well, etc.  So, I ordered some Equilox from Meader Supply, but just enough to do 2 shoes.  With shipping, it was about $30 worth of glue.  So, 4 days after the previous episode, it was time to try Dakota’s hinds again.  The Equilox I chose was a small container that you mix for immediate use.  You have 6-8 minutes before it cures.  I had enough to do both shoes, but I was “on the clock” once I mixed it.  I decided to do the left hind first.  Guess who managed to stomp a toe down again before the other hoof could get lifted?  That’s right – Dakota knocked the shoe off again, but this time, smeared the glue all over his sole, and managed to get dirt all over the shoe and his hoof.  I just threw away the rest of the Equilox and the now ruined shoe.  Dakota is turning out to be an expensive test subject.

So, we had a hunter pace on Sunday.  Saturday, after trimming 11 other horses, I decided we were going to get some shoes glue on those hind hooves!  Anna rode him to calm him.  He was hot, I was hot, and we were both sweaty.  Neither of us felt like arguing.  We cooled the glue and the shoes before application to give a little more cure time.   By the way, I still only had the 2 additional tubes of old glue available, but that was all I had.  So, I got to work. Amazingly, 20ish minutes later, Dakota had shoes glued on both hind feet and it was the prettiest glue up I had accomplished, with very little excess squeezing out around the edges!  But don’t celebrate too much…

The next morning, we went off to Arcadia and the WGHA Hunter Pace #2.  About 1.5 miles in, I looked down at Dakota’s hooves in front of me and noticed both hinds were oddly lacking shoes.  That’s right – the glue didn’t hold.  Needless to say, all that glue is in the trash can to be removed tomorrow morning by Willimantic Waste.  Dakota’s front shoes did fine on the ride and Mystique’s stayed on all the way around.  Mysti was being a complete idiot for the first 5 miles, but that’s another story.

So, tonight it was time for a short training ride.  What good news does Anna greet me with when I arrive at home?  Mystique has lost a back shoe.  It only made it 9 days.  So, I pulled the other hind and we went for a short ride.  The last shoe on Dakota that was put on with old glue isn’t going to make it much longer.

I’ve already sent an email to get more shoes, more glue, a buffy, and other supplies.  Next week it’s time to do another round of gluing on shoes.  We will also have to do some serious training so the horses tolerate the other portions of the gluing regime without killing me in the process.

Why am I so committed to this project?  I could just go back to using the boots that have served us to this point.  To a certain degree, it is the challenge of getting this right.  Trust me, it’s turning out to be a lot harder than I expected.  I have considered trying Equilox instead of Adhere, but I don’t really think that is the biggest problem right now.  Also, I want this to be an “arrow in my quiver” so to speak, I am not comfortable doing it for a client until I know I can do it correctly.  Luckily, we have plenty of horses here on our own farm that I can continue to use as test subjects.

Endurance training has begun

As some of you may have seen Anna’s Facebook post on Friday, we celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary.  We didn’t go out to dinner or do anything special.  We are saving our celebration for later this year.  Anna and I have decided to ride in a Limited Distance (LD) Endurance race in October.  The one we have chosen is in Vermont and is only 30 miles long.  Others will be doing 50 miles that day, but we want to start out smaller and try it out.  Right now, the plan is Anna will ride Dakota and I will ride Mistique.  I’m pretty sure Dakota is already in good enough condition to handle the distance.

To support our plan, we are working to have at least 1 longer ride each week (typically on Sundays since that is the only day Anna and I are both available).  Since we will be logging a lot more time in the saddle this year, we decided to try out some different trails in Pachaug today.  Anna on Dakota, Alex on Nike, Alexis on Ace, and me on Misti.  We were planning for about 10 miles, but we took a few new trails.  One of the problems is the trails in Pachaug are not really maintained, so we end up riding the gravel road a lot.  That’s rough on the horses and not as much fun.   Unfortunately, the trails we tried out today are not the ones we will be using for regular training.  We hit some trails that were wicked rocky and there was no going faster than a walk.  We also went through a lot of areas where we were hugging the necks of our mounts to avoid having our eyes poked out by the pines branches.  I actually had to get off and walk with Misti for a while it was so bad.

In the end, we covered 11.8 miles and it took 2:53!  It was a significantly slower pace than our hunter pace speed last weekend, but the trail was much more technical.

What we have learned so far in our endurance training:

1.  Dakota can destroy some boots!  We ride all the horses with Easy Care Gloves on their front hooves.  Dakota tends to over-reach with his hind left, step on the neoprene gaiter, and inflict a mortal wound on the boot.  So far, he has proven this ability 3 times this season.  All 3 times occurred on the same hill as his speed exceeded 15 mph.  Something about his canter and over-reaching.  We are going to try him in bell boots to see if that fixes the problem.

2.  It’s time for some endurance style stirrups.  Both Anna and I will be upgrading to wider, padded stirrups to ease the strain on our knees.

3.  Triathlon shorts under riding breeches are much more comfortable than cotton underwear during a 3 hour ride.

4.  We need to do a shorter loop of 5-6 miles and then drop the kids at the house with the sitter keeping Amanda before going back out.  Alex and Alexis did great today, but they were pretty tired by the end.  After Alexis got off, I asked how she felt and she said “My legs are shaking.”

5.  There are no shortcuts in Pachaug.

6.  Both Anna and I need to drop a few pounds and spend some time running/jogging to be in condition to handle the mileage.  Anna is headed off to ice her knees as we type. I’m just going to bed.

Here are a few pictures.  Amanda was waiting for us when we got back and insisted on helping me wash Mistique.