Sunday, February 28, 2010

Bliss, EEEEEK, bliss

Man, today was just amazingly nice. After yesterday's rainy windy blah, today was warm and sunny with calm winds. The high was near 60! For some reason, I thought that Rides of March was two weekends away - it's actually 3 weeks off. Anyway, I figured I should do half the race distance today, then do hill work or short rides until maybe 4 days before the ride, then let Dixie rest up. (Is that a good plan? I only ride every other day or every two days, to give her recovery time.) So today's plan was 15 miles, as fast as possible, hopefully in 3 hours.

First, I had to clean my nasty nasty sheddy beast.

I sort of faux cross tied her and set to work. She pinned her ears the whole time, but she stood like a rock while I got her mostly cleaned up. (Look how long her mane is getting! She's such a My Little Pony.)

Dixie never pawed until I started futzing around with the saddle. She seems unhappily resigned to her fate when I'm just brushing her, and ready to GO already when I start tacking up. I am taking this as a good sign that she's happy with her work.

We did part of the mines, all of Palomino Valley, and part of the canyon. We managed 13.51 miles in 3:05, which is 4.4 mph. Garmin. It was pretty hilly, though - 1,925 feet of elevation gain! I am very pleased with how well she moves out even when she doesn't want to. That's a "both of us" accomplishment - I have raised my expectations for her, and stuck to them, and she's lived up to them. She doesn't dawdle along like a WP QH - she walks out when I tell her to walk.

I took Cersei, of course. Remember how I've been turning around halfway down the Palomino Valley roads, because of the pit bulls? Yeah, they were loose today. They are the stupidest-looking backyard bred "tough" pit bulls I've ever seen in person. Anyway, these two clowndogs came running up to us right as I noticed a pack of dirt bikes and quads tearing down the hill in front of us at about 40 mph. I briefly considered that maybe I was going to die, then I gathered up my (PURPLE!) reins and rode it out. The dogs came charging up, I yelled "GO HOME!", Cersei thought about circling around to sniff one, I started calling her back, and the bikes went ROARING by. One of the pits had to go chase the bikes and Dixie leapt and spun and I lost a stirrup. I jammed my foot back in quick as anything, calmed my horse, checked to make sure my dog was ok, and decided it was time to walk. Dixie was a snorting retard for about half a mile, then she calmed down. I snapped the reins back on the bit and she started pawing for me to get back on her already. Awww :)

We trotted a bit and step-paced a bit down the last flat stretch, then very slowly climbed a very large hill. It looks like it was about 800' of ascent in a mile and a half. A 10% grade, if I'm figuring it right? Pretty steep, regardless. Dixie was only managing about 3 mph, but she was very game. Good heart in that mare. We found a few clumps of fresh green grass on the way up, and those perked her up considerably. Found a clean puddle at 7 or 8 miles, but she didn't want a drink.

On the downhill side, the road was sloppy sandy mud, and I just wasn't comfortable letting her trot or gait down that steep slope on that slick footing, so I insisted she walk. But Dixie had figured out that she was close to home - she'd turned the "magic corner" - and she really stretched out and rolled down that hill at 5 to 5.5 mph. It was awesome! Then once we hit flat ground again, she took off in a beautiful easy step pace. A little taste of the future, I hope - I could ride that walk and that pace for 50 miles, sure!

The PV loop is only 10 miles, so I thought I'd finish off with the Canyon trail - it's about 6 miles out-and-back. We headed down the hill to the canyon and made it a couple miles down the trail before I executed a strategic withdrawal. The canyon trail is very pretty, but it's hard to make any time. You'll get 50 feet of good trail then a small section of rocks, then maybe another 20 feet, then more rocks. They're not pointy gravel rocks - either big rounded river rocks or big broken up river rocks. Slippy or jagged. I wouldn't ask any horse to trot/gait over them without boots or shoes and pads. It's just asking for a slip and a pulled tendon, or a bad footfall and a stone bruise. Not worth it.

I got some leads on extra trail, though. The big hill is crisscrossed with jeep trails of varying quality, and I took a couple short doglegs down a few nice looking trails, just to get them marked on the GPS. None of them look like they're actually driveways, so maybe we'll go explore around there this week. And I found an offshoot mini-canyon off of the big canyon - the sat photos look like it's a couple miles of trail. I will have to go out there with S and Summer - she'll really like that.


  1. Wow, you and that mare are really making some amazing progress!

    Don't worry too much about the speed--with the amount of hillwork that you're doing, you are building fitness first, which is most important. There's an old rule in endurance to add either distance or speed to a workout, but not both, and you're adding the distance properly. So, that's good.

    You are ALSO building a good relationship with your horse so that, when you get confronted with weird stuff and bad situations (dogs, bikes, etc) you can cope and move forward. Brava!

    I just wish you lived closer to the Swamplands so we could ride together sometime.

  2. Mainly I worry that I just paid $80 for a ride I can't finish on time! I could ride two 20 mile NEDA rides for that price. I have two weeks to pull with a full refund, but I think we've got a shot at finishing. Her pulse was at 84 about a minute after I got off and down to 64 within another couple of minutes - I don't think I'm pushing too hard.

    I am very very happy with our relationship, and I didn't know if I'd ever be able to say that. She's not brave - not many horses are - but she really listens to me and trusts me in the scary stuff now. :D

    I wish I could ride with you too! We should meet at a ride in, say, 2012? Something green please!

  3. "I briefly considered that maybe I was going to die."


  4. JEALOUS!!! I was stuck inside doing tax hell all weekend, which wasn't bad during the rain/hail on Saturday but yesterday was HARD. >=( Dig and I did get out for a 2 mile hand walk over to our little creek just as the light was fading. That was the first time I've hand walked him over there since he kicked me in the face on that route last year. He was very "up", not having been out recently, but did really good overall. Molly came with (loose) so it was a good learning experience all around.

  5. That is so awesome and I am so jealous. :)

  6. Hi Funder!
    I hope you're having a good time living in my old stomping grounds. I spent 43 years in Reno, mostly riding from my place off the Virginia City highway. It is so great to have lots of open space around you. Now that I'm in CA, with all of the people who love rules and laws and private property etc, I can still say that Nevada rocks!

    Anyway, I wanted to make a safety comment without being a pest or seeming pushy. When you tie your horse to a hitching rail like you have, those little rings on the top are really only 'place holders' for your lead ropes or 'cross ties' like you are using it. The rope gets tied onto the big bar THROUGH those rings. The rings keep the rope in place and doesn't allow your rope to wander across the bar. If your horse panicked at something and pulled back, those rings are not designed for that kind of strain like the big bar is.

    Great blog and I hope you're out riding!

  7. Hey Anonymous, I wanted to say thanks! I didn't know what the little rings were for, and I've started tying her "right." California sounds too crowded for me - I love how open Nevada is.


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