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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

February 28, 2012

Journey can...but Journey won't.

At least not yet.   I discovered this evening on our short ride that when pointed towards home she can extend her trot quite nicely to around 8-9 mph.  Now how do I "capture" that to up our flat trotting speed?  She was such a little turd tonight.  I know hills have their benefit, but mostly they are kind of getting in our way presently by knocking our average speed down to nothing.  I need some practical ideas to up her average without creating "race brain."  She is very inclined to disengage her brain if the pace gets too fast (fast being a relative term...I can kind of tell when her brain is checking out).  Our current average is 4.5 (on a good day), and to finish we need to average 5 mph +, yes?  You want a little wiggle room to get that pulse down too.  I hope to try her without drafting anyone else as I don't enjoy being sucked along and it goes against the principle of "ride your own ride" which translates to "ride your own trained for pace."  Maybe I should suck it up and start her on some hill sprints.  Our best place to do that is also her most likely place to be a butt and me to end up on my head in the grass.  I've got a few days to think on it.  Journey will have the next two days off.  We have rain moving in so our getting across the creek and to the grassy hill will depend on how much rainfall and if the creek floods again.  I'm pulled between a focus on hill climbs to build up her strength, and flat trotting to torque up her trotting speed, and haven't much luck thus far to pull off both on a regular schedule.  This mare gets very clumsy when she is tired, and she slipped with me a few weeks ago and would up on her back with all four feet in the air while I rolled through a brier patch.  So I'm hesitant to repeat that particular gymnastic effort!   Depending on the effect of the rain on the park trails, hope to get myself there this coming weekend.  If so I'll opt for trying something a bit different, working a small section that has better footing and perhaps will give us better momentum for that workout.  One side is a gradual half mile hill climb, the other lies flat enough to keep a trotting pace for a couple of miles with no Big Cree screaming for her in the background.  I think that may serve our purpose better.  Then there is the "trotting track" which is convenient,  a .33 mile oval logging road around a little grassy field here at home.    Takes a lot of laps to get anything done.  If I can get her ten mile distance up to 5+ mph we might make a spring ride.


  1. Ugh. I can remember this battle with Farley when we were just starting out (but she never fell with me - so didn't have to worry about how tired she was from that aspect). I think I actually carried a crop for a couple of conditioning rides. She'll still dog it sometimes and I either over and under her with my reins if long enough, or reach back and pop her in the rump with the flat of my hand. IMO a horse that won't rate as FAST as you ask, as well as SLOW as you ask are equal, but differing problems. Assuming it isn't the end of a 100, or I'm dealing with fatigue/sketchy trail etc, the horse gets the same correction for not stepping out, as it would for not reining in.

  2. Obviously I'm still not studying. If my previous comment seemed abrupt - it wasn't suppose to be. I'm just emotionally exhausted and stressed, and to top it all off Tess is having an allergic reaction to her flea med I just put on her. *sigh*

  3. Mel,

    She didn't fall because she was tired. She was having a bucking "fit" on wet grass, I did a one-rein and her feet slipped on the grass and down and over we went. When she gets tired she gets clumsy and quits being attentive to trail hazards like tree roots. I do ride with a crop in hand but rarely get too assertive with it. Maybe some of this in the arena will get the trot rated up a little.

  4. It's pretty easy to tip a horse over during a one-rein stop. I've done it with my Arab when he was being a complete jerk. And he's in no way clumsy... just obstinate and bloody-minded when he's mad.

    He had a very slow trot in his early days too (canter is a much better gait for him). I sort of despaired of it ever developing into a good road trot. At home we rarely got over 4-4.5 mph average speed. But he went from trotting about 6-7 mph max to 10+ over a period of a couple of years. It think just from lots and lots of miles. And we completed quite a few 25 mile rides and CTRs with that slower trot (CTRs requiring 6mph). He has a lot more oomph at a competition, so he would not dog so much. Of course if I let him canter anywhere/anytime, the devil could always hit 20+ mph before my next heart beat... but that's another whole story :-)

  5. OMG EG - The whole slip and fall thing is actually one of my biggest phobia things and just thinking about it makes me want to throw up. I had it happen to me once (wasn't horses fault, bank fell out from underneath her feet, fell on me, thought she was going to roll on top of me) and I haven't quite been the ever since. I get VERY freaked out by slick footing now and if the horse starts to lean or "scramble" with it's feet. There was one rememberable jump lesson where I was completely panicking and crying because I had to canter through a wet muddy part of the arena in a circle - even though the footing was good.

    It wasn't until my dressage lessons and I realized how far behind my leg Farley was ALL the freakin' time that I REALLY got assertive with that crop. I even have a blog post in draft form that needs to get published at some point called "a problem of forward". It surpised me because Farley seemed like a "forward" horse - but energy oesn't necessarily equal forward movement out front. For example - When she jigs on the trail, she's behind my leg because what's she's trying to do is avoid walking fast, and the jigging is her way of avoiding the bit, going behind the bit, and going behind my leg. I was shocked how much effort was needed. I had to whack HARD with a dressage whip 3 times in quick successesion in order to correct it in the arena. I don't care as much that she is truly in front of my leg on the trail and I like her a little less "reactive" on the trail, so usually if I need to use a crop I just give a little tap.

    Having a horse be behind your leg makes your job as a rider SO MUCH harder. I tend to pump with my hips at the walk and get in front of the motion posting in the trot. And nagging. I HATE nagging but I seem to fall into that routine really easily.

  6. Rose also had a pokey trot to start and would pin her ears and buck if I asked for faster at first so I understand the frustration. I suppose my recommendation for all it's worth is to do hills and reward a good clip by not fussing with her when she moves out. Anytime Rose would pick up a good pace I'd make sure to stay out of her mouth and off her sides and really just try to let her go unhindered. When she dropped down I'd nudge her a bit and pretty soon we got to moving her trot from a standard 4 mph to now 7-8 mph because she's just learned when she moves out I don't fuss with her. I'd also recommend finding a riding buddy who does go fast for training purposes make Journey keep up with their horse, even if it means your being pulled a bit.

    As far as the stumbling, Rose also trips a lot if she's tired or racey. As silly as it sounds I did a few lessons with Rose to teach her to pay attention to tricky footing by setting up hoses, sticks, logs, ect up in a jumble and then directing her to it and telling her to "watch her feet" or "easy up". She definitely tripped a lot at first but then something clicked and she put her nose down and looks at it first before walking through when I say this now. Also, if I know she's being race brained and trips because she's too much in a hurry to get through something I make her stop, turn around and walk back to where she lost her mind, and then she has to walk through the tricky footing area. She gives a big sigh and fights me on this but that second time through she doesn't trip and slows down after this.

    Hopefully some of my trial and error lessons will help you but their just what I came up with and Rose got.

  7. Wow. You all came up with some good ideas for me to try. So some more arena type work may help, and the idea of really letting her move freely (I tend to keep some contact) when she is fully extended at the trot makes good sense.

    Some other things I've notice when she is extended is her reach with the hind legs is IN FRONT of her front legs. Not sure how this will affect her being booted (if she will knock into herself) I'll just have to get it working and see what happens. I do know I can feel her back rise up when she gets her motor running like that.

    Thanks ladies. Some things for my brain to gnash on.

  8. Mel,

    Yeah it has made me a bit internally freaky...I've gone down twice on wet grass. Boots and wet grass are bad "joo joo". Gets my stomach in a knot. My daughter will just fly on her horse over grassy fields and I keep warning her, besides the possibility of flipping in a ground hog hole :( I feel pretty good on trail, but grass and asphalt give me the sick in your stomach feeling.

    Something else I'm trying hard to break her of is taking the high side of the trail. This puts her feet into a slipping position and her legs go flying everywhere, if she'd keep herself in the groove so to speak she wouldn't have these issues. The only way I can keep her off the slope is to micromanage. I guess time and correction will eventually teach her.

  9. That's one reason I'm doing fair weather rides only - around here alot of the footing turns into slick mud/clay with rain and I just cannot deal with my anxiety levels that come with navigating uneven terrain (side to side) that are slick. Farley's never actually gone down, she's pretty catty, but there's been times that it's been close. I tend to freak out some and make it worse.

    talking about choices horses make that drive us NUTS - both my horses like the "drop off side" of narrow trails as opposed to the cliff side. Heck - even on WIDE trails, they would prefer to walk right next to the drop off...