Those of you riding the Salamonie ride today GOOD LUCK!!! I'm thinking of you.
I had planned an early morning conditioning ride at the park, but was unable to get that worked out in time to let my husband know if I needed the truck hooked to the trailer (his truck, my trailer) of if I'd be good today staying home without it. He goes to bed really early and gets up in the dark of morning to go to his job. He went to bed, I went to bed, and by the time I got up this morning he was gone to work...no truck to hitch to the trailer! Sorry Michelle... So, maybe this evening I can take Phebes out for a solo ride and just work her over our designated training loop using her heart monitor to judge how hard to push. I feel that I need to get this process in her mind so that she feels like really eating this short course at speed eventually. A friend of mine suggested that she felt I should train my horse harder than I intend to compete. In that way the horse is always able to tackle the rigors of whatever trail she's pointed at. There is some merit to her argument (yes, you Barb). Once I'm feeling confident that the tye-up is only a bad memory I may put that plan into action. Training shorter distances, at faster and faster speeds. Training long distances at tic, tock, tic tock regimented slow trotting speed. Building both slow twitch, and fast twitch muscle, so that when she faces the real deal again, her body will be able to handle the hills at Corydon or Henryville.
The hardest part of this sport is getting the right information for YOUR particular situation. It is like me asking the thin person next to me how to lose weight, and finding that they've never had any weight to lose, and that they eat three times the calories I do. Their program works for THEM, but it isn't going to work for you. They are twenty, you are fifty. It is the same with our horses. Some are natural athletes, some are wanna be pasture potatoes. Shaping one is very different than training the other. The cookie cutter approach doesn't work all that well, which goes back to RIDE YOUR OWN RIDE. I really feel that AERC should adopt that as their "other" mantra. To finish is to Win is good...but I've finished and I certainly did not feel like a winner, because I failed to RIDE MY OWN RIDE.
Phebes has made some critical progress in the area of rating at the trot. She is doing well at staying there now, but she still has a "frenzied forward trot" which I hope to shape into something slower, and calmer. The forward trot has so much impulsion as she pushes off each stride that I still find myself cupping the saddle horn (which I hope SOMEDAY to dispense of entirely even if i have to take a hack saw to it) to keep from being scooted back to her tail. Sound like impulsion? Yes/No. It is, but because she is also hovering on the edge of a sudden stop at any given second further gives it an unbalancing sucking back effect. On the rare instances that I get a relaxed 5.6 mph trot I feel like I am in heaven, gently posting, breathing, wonderful. But that is not her normal. The goal is to get it there.
I used to think of this horse as a courageous potential front of the pack dynamo. Little did I know that all that forward was really a lack of confidence, a running, prey herd mentality. Careful thought of her behavior has in fact revealed a very non-confident horse running from imagined predators to the front of the herd (safer there, yes?) only to find herself alone in front, then sucking back her speed to have the herd rejoin. Hmmmm......not so confident after all.
We have some rather problematic areas effecting our overall ability to train.
1. She is afraid of riding on the road / hence I am afraid of riding her on the road. Very bad combination now as one is feeding off the other. So this is an area that I hope to really work on. From the ground if I have to. If we can tackle road riding it will open up some good training and conditioning opportunities for us, especially when the footing is otherwise bad on the trail in winter. I figure with some boots all around, training on low traffic gravel roads will be in our future this coming winter.
2. Phebes is responsive to the walk and the trot in the arena, but WILL NOT, WILL NOT canter without pitching an "I'm gonna drop my head and buck you off if you persist" fit. On trail she will take the cues of walk, trot, canter. Not sure what the difference is there? I would like control of all her gaits with a light cue and this isn't going to happen without an instructor / or a trainer, maybe both. For those of you who may not know, I put Phebes under saddle myself, and I've trained her to the best of my limited ability, but I really am NOT a horse trainer.
3. I'm really wanting a nice head set on her. Phebes often carries herself in a hollow frame which is bad for her body, and hard to ride a non-collected horse. This again will go back to having some lessons / a trainer or both.
4. I've been re-thinking my goals for the year. I would still like to have ONE CLEAN completion this year, riding my own ride, my own pace, even if I have to use up the whole 5 hours of available ride time to do it. Other than that, the other issues will need to take up the rest of our time this fall and winter. I do not plan to put my horse away for the winter, though I may give her most of the month of January off as the weather is so rotten then anyway. Painful to think that summer is almost over. The loss of this ride season has been an awful blow after invest five full years into this horse. However I do not see it as Phebe's problem, rather my short sightedness in understanding that Phebes has not "read the book"...these are my goals, not her's. In reality she has been actually under saddle since last fall, not even a year yet. Putting my goals out there is fine, but only in the context of is this horse really ready mentally and physically? ~E.G.
Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance
Favorite Links for training, gear, and memberships!
- National Association of Competitive Mounted Orienteering
- HOW TO CMO
- What is CMO?
- Old Dominion Endurance Rides
- Renegade Hoof Boots
- Riding vs. Racing a discussion with the Duck.
- Trumbull Mountain's INTRO TO ENDURANCE RIDING
- Principles of Conditioning
- Conditioning the endurance horse by SERA
- Short Article: Feeding & Training the Endurance Horse
- Feeding the Endurance Horse, Swedish Author
- Preventing Dehydration In the Endurance Horse, Ontario Competitive Trail Riding Association
- Jim Holland's fantastic training links here!
- South Eastern Distance Rider's Association