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

July 26, 2012

Is the Spotted Wonder Sandbagging?

Endurance Terminology 101 

Sandbagging:  A horse that is fine,  has plenty of go, but presents itself as "on its last leg."

My last ride on Journey made me question this possibility for the first time with her. It has worried me through this starting up process that I'd over ride her, under ride her, or just in general "break" her somehow.  It usually starts at about ten miles.   Journey gets the "draggy trot".  I mean draaaaaaaaaaaagggggggggggggy at about 4.5 mph.  Then I start thinking something is up.  I begin getting on and off checking her, checking boots, checking for cuts, scrapes, rubs.  In essence rewarding her for stopping.  It became very much in evidence last ride as she not only stopped, but took her nose and nudged my foot which is her signal for get off please!  As I said in a previous post I found nothing amiss except I knew she needed to pee, and I really think she just wanted to stand at the waterhole and have herself a nap!  There was certainly nothing worrisome about her pulse (50), her appetite (HUGE), equipment all looked good.   At one point later she cantered down a gravel road and didn't even get winded...what to do with the Spotted Wonder?

So when a horse sandbags, how do YOU handle it?

I generally try to err on the side of safety, and even more so since Phebes (who presented as fine but wasn't fine).  If Journey is going to complete a 50 at some point, she has to get her trotting speed up as we are just too close to margin to finish otherwise.  The best average I've had with her over thirteen miles is about 5.5 mph (this included the fifteen minutes total of stopping, checking, pulsing and ummmm....sandbagging).  My goal next time out is to try and get the A+B loops  (ten miles) done in 1:40 or < and over the next few weeks try to hammer that down my just a little each time if I can.  I'll run the pulse monitor to make sure she stays generally aerobic in the process including her cantering portions.


On her pulse downs I've got to figure out how to get her down more quickly.  After much thought on it I've decided that Journey does not like to be sponged with water.  Last weekend was the first time on a hot ride that I didn't immediately begin sponging when I came in.  I was going to, but I'd loosened her girth, and put some things in the trailer, walked back and checked pulse and it was down to 51 in about the space of two minutes.  After I thought about it, when sponging at the creek, every time I wetted her down her pulse jumped up.  She doesn't like a bath AT ALL, and I'm beginning to believe that she does not enjoy sponging either and it is causing her pulse to spike, instead of fall.  She seems more inclined to want her face and ears rubbed vigorously with towel, and to get her nose into some good hay which is what we did over the weekend. 

Perhaps I can let her just pulse down naturally, and worry about sponging after the vet check if I feel she needs it?   I'm going to try that a few conditioning rides and see what happens.

There is the peeing thing too...working on that one.  I can't whistle, and use a different cue, but yeah, we are working on it.



  1. Ahh.. sandbagging. That's a tough one. Nothing is worse than kicking a horse or tapping with a crop because you THINK he's just faking it. In the back of your mind you imagine you're abusing a horse that's about to die from something...

    My horse knows that when he pees he gets to graze. So every ride, whether at the barn or at a competitive ride, he will pee under saddle within the first couple minutes. Of course that also means that when he feels like resting or eating he will stretch out in a pee pose and just stand there waiting for my "signal" that it's okay to graze now. If I kick him out of it (and feel guilty) he'll usually try again and sometimes he DID have to pee and I feel guilty.

    He also knows that I will never deny him stopping to drink. So on these boring training rides down the roads here, he'll stop at every puddle, put his nose down and do nothing.

    Luckily in my case he is highly motivated at rides, it's just the monotonous training rides up and down the farm roads where he pulls his fake-out stunts. If your horse is only sandbagging on your training rides then I'd push him through it. If he sandbags at rides, then I'd have to say that his personality might not be suited for it, or stick to shorter rides.

  2. She seems more highly motivated at a ride, which is why I'm a little worried about her doing it on training rides. I would like for her to not get into that trap of going faster in competition than she does when conditioning.

    Journey has just lately tuned into the "stand in the water hole" thing (even dry water holes). I'm beginning to wonder who trains who!

  3. I check for sandbagging on training rides by letting Dixie turn around for home/the trailer. If she magically perks back up and roars down the trail, she's faking, and we turn back around and I start insisting with the crop. She's most likely to sandbag me when we're alone, either on a long training ride or when we're in a pocket of solitude at a ride. I just push through it - this is why I let her do a 7 mph first loop in the cool of the morning, so we can dink along while she thinks she's going to die in the afternoon, lol.

    She's such a different horse when training at home and when she's at an actual ride, and I just don't worry too much about her shitty training ethics anymore. ;)

  4. Ugh. Blue will stand in the water and "cool his hooves" too. He knows that I will stop him at every water source after 6 miles, whether he wants to or not. Now he's starting to get the idea that every mud puddle or wet spot is a place to take a breather. Stupid smart horse.