January 18, 2015

Last Long Conditioning Ride

With only 3 weekends to go I wanted to get one final 20 mile ride in. I received the new Thinline Endurance pad in record shipping time (especially for free shipping) and was anxious to try it out. Would it work? Or would it just slide around or cause pain like all the others have?

Dusty worked Saturday morning and my mom was awesome to agree to come play with Wyatt from 10-12 so I could go ride. When I arrived at the barn around 10:30am I saw a sight that I very rarely get to see:

Not only did I get to see her doing one of the things in life I think is the cutest (a horse curled up sleeping is on my top list of favorite adorable things), but for the first time in 5 years, she stayed laying down and let me rub her all over. It was a big, major, wonderful deal to me and started everything out on a super fantastic note.

Ok...moving past over use of adjectives....

I drove out to my typical trail system because I know them very well and if I got hurt or something happened there would likely be a lot of people around on such a beautiful Saturday. Plus, Dusty  knows them even better than I do, so if I had to call in a SOS he would be able to help me.

I planned to repeat my summer 20 there: the green 6.5 mile loop to the red 9 mile loop then back to the green again. I decided to go with the Thinline to start hoping that if it was an issue she would let me know early on so I could back track and switch it out.

It was a little stiff coming out of the box, but the wool underside was soft and thick. I was a little worried that my saddle would slip on it. The Thinline tech material that rests against the saddle was slick to my hand and she has such a bad history with this. I tacked her up and liked how it sat on her and under the saddle.

When I attempted to mount the first time, the entire saddle slipped. A part of me worried it was because the pad was so thick and the undersurface slick, but it turned out to just be a too loose girth. Off we went a second time.

I love the trails because they are a good mix of technical single track, steep and curving hills and wide open lanes. It is a really good test for new tack. I watched it like a hawk and was very happy to see that my saddle didn't budge even a millimeter from where I placed it on the pad. Since this has been an issue before, I was very relieved.

When we came to the first big downhill, I was disappointed that the entire saddle/pad combo slid over the shoulders and on her neck. Crap. I got off and noticed that the girth was very loose. Gem is a grade A bloater when the girth gets tightened, but I also think the pad softened and settled to her contour as she heated up and got moving. I cinched it up hoping it was the last time and off we went again.

Over the next 18 miles I wouldn't have to get off for tack issues again and the saddle and pad stayed put. I was very, very happy.

Overall the ride went very well. I had my old Gemmie back. Maybe she needed the ride with others last weekend. Or maybe I did. Or maybe it was the new pad making her more comfortable. Or maybe she just was having a bad day before. Whatever it was, I was glad it made a difference. Gem will always be hesitant and a little ping pong-ish on trails alone. I'm fine with that and have gotten so used to it I don't know what I'd do on a horse that went straight on down the trail. I wasn't fine with the big spooks, turns and bolts she was doing every other step before. There wasn't a single one on this outing and while we were slower than I had hoped, we still kept up a good pace for the terrain and mushy footing. I was extremely proud of her.

There were only a couple instances worth writing about.

The first was about a mile into the red trail. We were moving along an open lane at a nice canter and popped up onto a ridge line. Below I heard a massive pack of hunting dogs and looked in time to see about two dozen of them come crashing out of the woods and surround two other riders down the hill from me. The riders stayed calmer than I believe I could, but it was a cluster. No hunter was to be seen either which is annoying. Anyway... Gem had been such a good mare to that point and I saw no need to crash her frail mental calm with heading towards that mess. I turned her around and had to rethink my plans. I decided to head back towards the trailer area, but then make a sharp right onto the grey trail that I took for the first time a few weeks ago and pick up miles there.

On the way back we bumped into a friend of mine and chit chatted for a bit. Gem moved back out afterward without a single complaint. I told you she was amazing on this ride!

There were a few other spots where we ended up taking a short cut instead of going the long way around and I had to turn her back around. We weaved along making the route up as we went and she never once threw a hissy about turning back away from camp. One time we were about 1/4 mile away when I realized where we were heading and I turned her around one last time to get the remaining 4 miles in and she just sighed and went along with it.

Rides like this make me love my mare even more.

So all in all it was pretty uneventful. Back at the trailer, she dug into her mash and I nervously pulled her saddle to look at what the pad had done.

I was very pleased with the sweat pattern on the left side pictured above. It was even and she wasn't sore at all. The right side was very similar except for a dry spot on the side. It was wet where my calf rests and under the actual seat, but a small space between her withers and my calf was dry. I'm hoping it was my fault and maybe I was riding off balance and didn't know it. The good thing is that the pad is shimmable and I already know her left shoulder is smaller although this has improved a ton in the last year. I may need to add a small shim to the left shoulder to help bolster that side and let it sit more flush. Another ride or two should show if this is a real problem or not.

Here is the track from today. I finally figured out how take a screen shot, so I can do this now :)

It was a lot of fiddling around trying to back track as little as possible while still laying down the miles. I'm glad I got in the miles though as I feel we are about as ready as we can be for Pow Wow. Next weekend I was going to do 10 miles, but I feel like it would be too much. She has done a lot in the last two weekends. I will just hang around the tracks at the barn and do some shorter, but fast miles. It will be a nice test on the pad to go faster as well. Then it is off until Feb 6th!!

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