April 8, 2014

More Than One Way To Skin A Cat

That's a much better title than "Data", don't you think?

I met up with a new riding friend, T, on Sunday. She has a seasoned 50 miler gelding who is a little on the pudgy side right now and is getting into the season. He acts just like Gem used to on the trail....looking for monsters everywhere, sudden stops, spooks, turns etc... Except for one big difference. He is blind in his right eye. He has a good excuse. What was Gemmies??? :)

Sunday's ride taught me two very important things:

1.) My mare rocks

2.) You can get to the end goal in very different ways

Why does my mare rock??? Because I said so. So there.

In the not so distant past, she was...hmmm...obnoxious out on trail. Alone she would spook and move at a snails pace. With another horse, don't even think about asking her to lead unless you want to literally go 1 mph and stop every 2 feet. Behind another horse she would bury her nose in their butt, annoying the horse to the point of nearly being kicked while blinding her to the trail so she would stumble on absolutely every little thing. Not the most fun ever.

Ever since I started to ride her out solo she has vastly improved in confidence and this has resulted in a calmer and better behaved mare. She has now led at a trot two weekends in a row with another horse. Actually, Sunday was even better than last weekend. When following, she has kept a wonderful distance between her and the horse in front, has not stumbled and is on a loose rein. It is awesome and a ton of fun.

It makes me wish she was 10 again because I know with just a little more time she could be a 100 mile horse. But not at 17. I won't ask her to do that much at 17. I even worry a 50 is asking too much at her age, but she doesn't act 17 and she will tell me when it becomes too much and I know I will listen.

Point #2. I am getting better at remembering my Garmin. While it isn't perfect, it gives me a lot to work with.

My ride with S: we walked quite a bit. When we trotted Gem kept up for the first 5 or so miles, but wasn't able to as well for the last 3. Which is a conditioning problem and we can fix that with time. We also got some canter work in. Some by mistake as she tried to catch up to S (whose horse just glides at the trot and eats the ground up!) but S also cantered some as well. At the end we finished with a 3.5 mph pace.

My ride with T: we trotted pretty much the entire thing. We did my usual green loop although we took a couple different turns which shaved off about a half mile. We walked maybe a half mile total, if that. Gem did really well, even led at a trot and was not tired at all in the end. She didn't even break a sweat. Guess what? We averaged a 3.4 mph pace.


This makes me think. I am not even sure what all implications this really has.

I like giving Gem's trotting muscles a break. Whether that is through cantering short sections or walking, either way her muscles get a break from the constant action of trotting down the trail. So in theory, the ride with S sits better with me. You don't actually have to trot the entire 50 miles. (Which I knew anyway, but this proves it to me). In fact, during my ride with S I mentioned my first ever LD and how we trotted the entire 25 miles. She commented that she doesn't like to ride like that and prefers to mix up the gaits more.

Of course this works super well when you are on a magic carpet of a mare whose walk is nice and fast and trot is even better to make up the miles and keep a better overall pace. Gem may be able to get better though with time.

But then when I look at how Gem fared with the two rides, it seems she prefers the ride with T. Slower, but steady trotting. She wasn't nearly as tired and didn't break a sweat.

Two other factors to bear in mind: this weekend we went 5.6 miles versus closer to 9 miles last weekend and it was 50 degrees and cloudy versus 65 and sunny with S. Also, the ride with S had a lot more hills in it. So that makes a big difference in her attitude, energy level and sweat at the end. I would wager than had we done 9 miles of trotting she would have been equally as tired at the end.

Maybe this all means nothing. Maybe it means a lot. I think more time, more miles and more tracking are in order to figure out how Gem actually likes to go down the trail. She is an all star eater and won't ever pass up the chance to nibble on the trail. I'm a little worried that she passes up every single creek and won't drink. She used to drink super well in the past, but then again we were going farther and faster. Hopefully she starts drinking more when she needs it.

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