December 29, 2014

Let The Conditioning Begin!

At 10 am I pull into the trail head to see about a half dozen others already there. I generally don't see many people beat me to the trails, but then again it is much later than I normally arrive as well. People are all milling around talking and looking about. Something is off here.

I park and turn off the radio and immediately hear it: the woods are reverberating with the echo of packs of hunting dogs. It is extremely loud and I can see why the others are concerned. As I get out of the truck and unload Gem I find out that it is rabbit season. I sure hope some of the furry little, nearly meatless, critters survive this ambush. It sounds like a war zone out there!

The drive was an hour long and I am not turning around before we even start. I haven't had a great ride on Gem in weeks and I need this to be a good one. 10-12 miles is on the docket and I am hoping to keep a good pace. These are my favorite trails and are not only single track and twisting but very hilly with bridges, roads and creeks to cross. Perfect for getting a good work out in.

We head off in a new direction to explore a trail I had hiked with the pups. It begins with a steep mile long hill which is great if Gem decides to be a lunatic. She can run herself ragged up that hill if that's the case! We make our way up and she is being very good, but once we hit the woods she loses it.

She starts to spook at every stinking stump, rock, stick etc.. and I am getting frustrated very quickly. What is up with her? Yes, she has always been a moron about bare wood in piles, but we had worked so hard to get past that. Surely a month and a half off wouldn't have caused this much mental decay?

The woods are slick with the past weeks rain, so we take lots of walk breaks, but I try my best to get her moving out once it is clear again. Problem is she just wont go beyond her annoying shuffle and stare and spook and shuffle and stare and spook. A little over and hour in and we have made it 3 miles. 3 miles!!! Shoot me! I could get off and walk her at that pace.

At about this point I begin to lose my temper and take a moment to figure out a plan. I want 10 miles minimum, but can't possible take all day to do them and at this pace it will take all freaking day. Not going to happen. I could call it a day, but that won't solve anything and if I want to make good use of my Xmas gift, we need to condition. I know of a short cut back to the trailers about a mile away and decide to cut back and grab my dressage whip. Maybe a few rides with that will make her move her big brown butt. She isn't breathing hard at all and hasn't even made a drop of sweat so I know she isn't tired. It is all mental. And she needs to get over it.

Just as we near the cut off, two ladies come toward me on bay Arabs. I pull over to make room for them to pass and as the second one comes up I hear "Sara? Is that you?"

It is none other than my new friend I rode with for the Barefoot ride! She is out with her daughter in law on two of her young geldings (a 5 and a 6 year old). She asks if I would like to join them and I breathe a sigh of relief "Yes I would!!!"

She asks if I want to lead and I decline to give Gem a mental break from the last hour and we cut in behind them going back the way we came. Gem doesn't fuss at all and happily moves out after them. About 100 yards later we came across a big flat rock lying over the trail with a trickle of water running over it. Their youngens balk at the obstacle, but Gem is great at this stuff and besides we had just crosse fit going the other way, so I offer to lead. They accept and off we go.

I expect Gem to be slow, pokey and hesitant to lead given her previous behavior the last hour we spent together. Instead she trots off at a lovely 7 mph pace with a spring in her step and her ears alert but soft. Huh? Some times I just don't get her.

We spend the next hour playing leap frog as we head down the trail covering some old territory and being introduced to some trails I didn't know existed. Apparently there used to be over 60 miles of cut trails there, but they have been reduced to just over 30 miles. Still, I didn't know there were even that many and have been riding there for a year and a half now.

The trails we took were even steeper, but this side of the system was a lot drier as it was farther from the lake. The two ladies were amazing to ride with and we chatted and laughed the miles away.

A little over an hour later we wind up back at the trailer and I look at my watch to see how far we went. We covered just shy of 12 miles per the GPS with only 3 of them occurring in the first hour while we rode solo. That means we travelled over super hilly terrain at 9 mph :)

Gemmie is sweaty at the end, but I palpate her all over and she doesn't react to anything. I offer her a wet mash which she greedily gulps down as I talk saddles, rides, and horses with my new friends.

It is such a relief to ride with somebody and I hope to catch up with them again. It was such a stresses hour going from in the back to front to middle and just moving along. This is the Gem I love and the one I have been searching for these last few weeks. Maybe she just was tired of always being out alone and needed a mental reprieve. I know that not all horses are leaders.

It also turns out that she will be attending Pow Wow as well and asked if we could ride together again since it worked out so well last time. I am all too happy to agree and can't wait to see her there!!!


  1. It is always safer from the horse's perspective to have someone to ride with. It's awesome that you know someone in the area who is also conditioning for endurance. im lucky in that Ashke treats J and her bike as another horse, or we would really struggle to complete some of the rides we've done. I'm sure Gem would rather go "to the mall" with friends than trek around by herself.

    One of the funniest stories I know about Arabs and spooking is about Thunder, the Denver Broncos mascot. He has been cantering up and down the football field eight to ten games a year, for seven or eight years now. (He is the second Thunder). He spooks at the numbers on the field EVERY.SINGLE.TIME. you have to be in the stadium to see it, but take my word for it.

    1. It is hard to find someone who can ride when I'm available and goes the same pace, but seems like I might have hit the jack pot :)

      I wish I could see a Denver game just to watch Thunder spook at the same numbers he has seen hundreds of times. Horses. Sometimes I wonder why we don't ride cows. They seem so much easier to deal with ;)

  2. I really loved Gem's "origin story" a couple days ago. :)

    Just about every endurance rider I know struggles with this. It's a truly rare horse that goes out alone, willingly, to condition, over and over again. There's probably nothing wrong with Gem or your leadership! It takes D and me 3-3.5 hours to do 14 miles at Briones, with a dressage whip and constant nagging and me getting off to run (dragging her) down the steep hills. If we have a friend with us it's more like 2 hours. SO FRUSTRATING.

    1. I really needed to hear that!!!! It gets tiring to constantly nag and it makes me second guess my choice of sports, but then we hit a ride and she is a freight train. I guess I don't particularly enjoy my running miles at home, but love races so it is understandable.

      Thanks for reading too. I have been following you for a long time now, but stay quiet most of the time. I hope everything goes well when your little man decides to join the world. I have a 2 year old and have been juggling full time work, being a mom and trying this whole endurance thing and it gets tough. Don't let anyone tell you it isn't doable though :)

    2. Your boy is so cute, and he loves to ride (at least right now) - it's adorable. :) Thanks!