When you are on your horses back for nearly 5 hours you learn a few things. Endurance is all about learning and adapting and I am always open to new things. Sunday was no different and while I used all my old gear (thankfully issue free once again) and wasn't camping or vetting, there were still some slap in your face moments of clarity that occurred.
The biggest lesson I learned was that I absolutely must teach Gem to stand still while mounting.
She has this bad habit of standing great for me to get my foot in the stirrup and then walking/jigging/trotting off while I try to swing up and on. I haven't cared enough to train it out of her, so she gets away with it. I don't know which mile we were at, but it was on the purple loop and I was off walking to give her a break. When I went to get back on she spun to take off the opposite direction which tweaked my back and shoulder. I was angry and frustrated, but it was all my fault for not teaching her to stand still in the first place. So guess what? We will now be working on her standing still until I ask her to move every single time.
Another lesson that I had previous learned but was reinforced Sunday was to always bring water.
From past experiences I know that I can handle 1.5 hours on trail without water before becoming cranky and ruining my own fun. I planned for this though and filled up the 2 liter Camelbak that morning. Unfortunately, there was a gaping hole in the hose and I watched water spew onto the kitchen floor. I should have worn it anyway and just placed Gatorade bottles in the pack, but I went without. Not smart. Luckily, it was very cool out and the humidity was low so I was still in good spirits and functioning when the hubby found me and gave me his pepsi. If it had been a typically hot and humid SC day, I would have been screwed. Always, always, always take water.
Another biggie is that horses hit the wall too and Gem's is definitely a mental game.
While Gem is highly opinionated, she isn't alpha at all. Most of our early issues were due to me not being confident enough to gain her trust, so she just shut down and said nope. Over the years we have definitely built a much stronger relationship, but she still gets mentally tired being out alone on the trail. Short breaks where I get off and either jog or walk with her really help her by letting me take over as the lead. On the flip side, sometimes she is just getting lazy and bored so I need to get better at forcing her to stay in front of my leg and keep moving. I get really, really frustrated when she crawls on down the trail at 1.5 mph because I know she can do better and is just acting like a toddler dragging her feet. If I get after her and force her to get in front of my leg and keep the pace up, she does just fine. It is a fine line though between her being a lazy butt who needs to get moving and her reaching her limit of being out in front.
There was one other incident, but I don't think I learned a whole lot from it except to never let my guard down.
We were going through a tough time on the purple trail and were getting very frustrated with the footing and conditions. We came through a clearing and I don't know if Gem wasn't paying attention or was just being a snot, but there was a large puddle across the entire trail hidden amongst very tall weeds. She put one foot in and flipped out, spun and tried to bolt away. I was apparently not very prepared and had relaxed way too much because I came out of the saddle and ended up hugging her neck. I managed to not fall off (thank goodness - adding wet breeched to the mix would have made the ride end very differently) and wiggled back into the saddle again. I did get on her about that. She knows better and there was no reason to spook at the puddle. I then forced her in front of my leg and to move down that darn trail. A moving horse tends to spook a lot less. I guess this ties in with the above lesson.
The hubby is off to run 50 miles at Biltmore this weekend. Gem and I were supposed to be riding in it as well, but it didn't work out that way. I really wish I was at least doing the LD, but such is life. I hope he is in good enough shape to function Sunday because I plan to head out again for another adventure.