She really is a rock star. I find it hard to remember how horrid she used to behave 4.5 years ago. It has been a lot of hard work, tears, blood and sweat to get our partnership the way it is today. She isn't perfect, but she is absolutely amazing.
Some of my primary concerns of late have been: hydration, nutrition and feet. We will begin there then.
Hydration: She has been refusing to drink on my conditioning rides of late and I found this odd since in the past she would not pass up a single water trough on a ride. I guess she just hasn't been very thirsty, because Sunday she drank and drank and drank until she had her fill. It was great to see. I just need to trust that she will take care of herself in this regard. She was sweaty at the end, but dried off nicely while I ate lunch and by the time I went to load her on the trailer you couldn't even tell she had been ridden :)
Nutrition: She has historically been a poor eater. She again didn't touch her hay at the trailer after the ride. She did eat some alfalfa cubes as a treat, but her hay bag remained untouched. I wasn't overly concerned though because a) S's mares didn't eat a thing either and b) she ate a good bit of grass out on the trail. She has started to perfect her ability to grab a mouth full of grass on the go and while the other two mares didn't eat much at all she ate anytime there was grass around which was a good bit of the ride. We made good time in the woods and I let her lag a bit in the grassy areas to eat. I think this is a good strategy for us and one I will remember for the 50 up there. I didn't bring any grain along because it was only a hunter pace, but even on the LD rides she wouldn't touch it at the hold or afterward.
Hooves: She continues to be bare all around and is doing well. The footing at Biltmore is a mixture of awesomeness and horrible gravel. I tend to allow her to pick her own footing and help to steer her around large holes, logs etc... as I see them. But her job is to go down the trail and she gets to pick her footing. I offered to have her go on the grassy sides of the gravel roads and she chose to go down the middle. Obviously she wasn't hurting. I checked her feet at the end and they were not ouchy at all and looked really good. I am still debating on putting boots (probably glue ons) on all 4 feet for the 50 in the fall.
Her current gear set up continues to work really well. No rubs, blood, dry spots or sores from the saddle or girth. We did a ton of canter work and it all stayed put nicely. I really want to try a hackamore on her. I just never use the bit all that much and it seems pointless to have metal in her mouth. S said she has two hacks around the barn somewhere and I can borrow one sometime.
After our lunch break she seemed well rested and probably could have gone out for more. I don't think she could have done another loop at that pace, but who knows? I don't push her anywhere near hard enough. It was a great day and a great ride.
11 miles of trotting and cantering and my knee didn't hurt!! I have had left knee pain in the past with the old Wintec and even once in my beloved WISE saddle. Nothing in the Advantage.
I really like the wider endurance stirrups. My feet didn't go numb which was nice.
I can't wait to get the saddle I ordered whenever it eventually arrives. It will be a smaller seat size and I think it will make a world of difference in my comfort.
The next day I was sore in two places: my deep glutes and my shoulders.
My butt only hurt when I would go to stand up or sit down and that is from all the posting and two point I did during the ride. No surprise there.
My shoulders though shouldn't have been so sore. I only had to remind Gem of my existence a couple of times when she decided we needed to get in front of the horses ahead of us and again when she decided to race S's mare. The rest of the time we were on a loose rein. So in theory there is no reason my shoulders hurt. Except they did and that means I ride waaaay too tense in my upper body. I brace and that is not good. I will have to keep an eye on that and remind myself to relax during the ride.
I was dehydrated at the end which always results in not being able to eat anything without getting really nauseous and full quickly. None of us thought to bring water for us and the small glass at the half way point just wasn't enough. I will definitely have to remember to have water on me for longer rides so that I can eat at the hold.
All in all it was a great training ride for both of us. We need to keep it up to be prepared for the fall.