In all the miles that slowly went by underfoot on Sunday, I had a lot of time to think. There were a lot of things that floated through my mind from she is dying of colic from the trailer stress to she is just trying to get out of work. My biggest dilemma was whether or not I should push through it. I could have kept nagging her and forcing her to move out and she was keeping a steady 6 mph pace, but man was it hard fought and really stressful on both of us.
The whole dilemma was that 2 years ago this was her norm. This type of ride was a good ride because at least we kept a good pace up. In fact two years ago we would have done the same thing only at a 3.5 mph trot and not a 6 mph one. I got her through it by constantly making her move forward. Forward was always the right answer.
But she hasn't given me a ride like this in probably a year if not more. She will always be spooky, but she had quit looking for a fight in every shadow, pine needle and butterfly. So what was the problem on Sunday with gorgeous weather and even better footing? I have no idea.
And that bothered me. Her tack was fine. She wasn't lame. Other than not pooping as much as I would have liked, she was eating on trail and had eaten just fine at the trailer. Without knowing the catalyst, I had no method of fixing it.
So it brought me to doing a lot of reflection. Was caving in and walking the entire ride rewarding her "bad" behavior? Would it create a trend backwards to where we used to be? Should I be pushing her to move out even though she was telling me with every fiber that she couldn't handle it?
I follow a lot of blogs and recently there seems to be a lot of talk of riding the horse you have under you. This isn't new to me. Around mile 7 I recalled the times spent in the arena in WI when I had planned to work on halt-trot transitions and instead was happy to make it one lap in each direction at a walk without losing our shit. That was a victory on those days and I went with it. Some days we jumped a grid and others we walked until she could breathe again.
I think it is easy in endurance to lose sight of that mentality. We have a set plan of miles needed to cover and a pace we want to cover it in. Unless the weather is hotter or colder than expected or the horse is feeling tired, as a whole endurance riders tend to stick it out.
I was fine with my decision to walk when Gem was telling me she couldn't handle any faster pace. I was sore (walking that long is way harder than trotting!) and sad that my day had started off so promising and was now dwindling to a blown out tire and a walking trail ride, but I was happy that my horse was relaxed finally and seemed to be enjoying being out.
We didn't get our 20 or 30 miles in and we certainly didn't work on speed either, but we did have a mental day and I believe that had I pushed her through it, one or both of us would have gotten hurt.
There are more days to ride between now and the 100 and honestly with only 2 weekends between now and then, there isn't a whole lot more fitness that I am going to add on to her. She is as ready as I am able to get her right now. I don't need to blow a mental gasket at this point.