Saturday, March 12, 2011

I think we can, I think we can!

I had a totally lovely ride today. Cersei, Dixie, and I headed out to meet Zach. Zach and I independently decided that 15 miles was plenty the week before a 50. (Thanks, ~C!) Last fall Cersei was fine on a 15 mile ride, so I figured she would be again, and she loves to go.

I'm not going to link the GPS info - after we got back, I unstrapped it from the saddle and stuck it in my pocket without turning it off, so there's an hour of bonus walking-around-the-property info in there. My best extra lap was 2.1 mph, apparently. :rolleyes:

Anyway, we headed out for just under two hours and did 8.6 miles at 5.6 moving mph. Coming back was shorter and a bit faster - 7.22 miles in 1:20 at 6.7 mph. Total distance was 15.95 miles.

I rode in a Myler curb that Dressage in Jeans loaned me. (If you haven't read her blog before, go start at the beginning - she has some great stuff in her archives.) This was actually our second ride in the Myler. The first ride went quite well, but this one, not so much. I had great brakes but no lateral steering, so if she felt like blowing through my suggestions to, say, turn right at a crossroads, it got really ugly. If anyone ever draws an endurance caricature of me and Dixie, I want it to be titled "Does all the cussing really help?" At least there was no one around to hear it :)

I also rode in front boots. I don't think they fit quite right :( and I'm pretty sure the rear boots don't fit at all anymore. How long do hooves keep changing shape?! I will take pictures & measurements tomorrow and consult Mel the boot guru, but I'm really thinking about doing two loops barefoot and just booting her for the rockiest loop. I'll probably decide last minute on that.

The weather was just glorious going out. Sunny, big puffy clouds, mid-50s, a pleasant breeze at my back. Lots of dirt bikes and quads - I saw a pirate-flag quad and thought of AareneX :) Dixie's gotten to where she doesn't really mind motorized vehicles. I always pull her off the trail/road and she stands stock-still and watches very intently as the wheeled things go by, then we follow them or ride away from them, no problem.

The bad thing about riding from home - or riding from any one spot regularly - is that no matter how far you usually ride, there's always a point where you almost always turn around. For me and Dixie, we hardly ever go past the fence in the middle of Hungry Valley, about 7 miles out. She was utterly appalled when I led her through the gate and shut it behind us. Human! Do you not see the so-called "cow" demons? Do you not hear the buzzing of the devil bikes? Can't you see how the very ground is a different color, how the sky has grown ominous??

I just waited her out. Zach was headed my way, and we'd gone about as far as I wanted to head out, so we very slowly inched further up the valley. The cows stared at us for a while then went back to eating. Cersei, who appeared to be just as energetic as ever, ran in circles around us and begged to chase the cows. Some dirt bikes went by. Eventually we evaded the Gorgon-gaze of the cows and trotted another mile up the road and found Zach.

He was freezing. I thought he was just underdressed til we turned around. I was wearing a lightweight wool long sleeved top and a puffy vest and a Camelbak, and of course my helmet covers the back of my head, and I could not feel a bit of the wind through all that. But facing the wind? Man, it was kinda cold!

We took off at a fast trot / slow canter. Dixie discovered a new low gear and managed to canter at 9.5 mph. It's so nice. She managed to rack and pace a bit with the front boots on, which is also nice. And we didn't actually go balls-to-the-wall the whole way home - we'd stop and walk fairly often, because...

Cersei ran out of gas. My poor dog! First she started lagging behind because she couldn't quite canter fast enough anymore, then she ran out of canter entirely and just trotted. Once she got that tired, we walked quite a bit.

Zach and I split up by the radio towers. His mom had trailered down to the arena to meet him, and I was going to cut home behind the sand pit. Dixie, as always, abandoned her buddy without more than a token whinny, and I faced two very slow miles with a very tired dog and a very very hot horse. I was finally really glad to be riding in the curb - I'd let Dixie walk / slow gait a hundred yards, then stop, turn, and wait for Cersei to drag on up the trail. Dixie felt like she could've galloped home at any point in the whole ride. She felt totally fresh, like she had all the gas in her tank that poor Cers was lacking.

I feel so bad for my poor dog! I had no idea she'd get so tired. She is demoted back to 8 or 10 mile buddy. She had her ears back and she looked so tired and upset, and I just kept telling her what a good dog she was and how we were almost home. When we finally got home, I tied up Dixie and sat down on the ground and just loved all over Cersei - didn't even take the saddle off first. She's such a champ, and if there'd been any way to get her home sooner I would've. I fed her dinner as soon as Dixie was taken care of, then extra dinner a couple hours after that, and she's sacked out by the fire now.

But on a more positive note, I feel much more confident about Dixie's level of fitness. I think with any luck we'll do a fine slow first 50 next week.


  1. "This is fun, right?!"

    Just one side comment, you put a label as spring down for this post. WHAT about that was spring?! But seriously, she looks great and is ready for the 50!

  2. Hahah, I almost titled the post "This is fun!" but I thought I'd let you have a shot at it.

    It's clearly spring because I wasn't wearing long underwear!

  3. Sounds like a really fun day! Poor Cersei.

    I used to guide trail rides - same route every time. Several of the horses had the 2 1/2 hour ride timed to the minute. Like they had horse watches. If we rode past the turn around spot and went overtime, they'd throw a fit. I think I heard grumbling about overtime ;)

  4. I haven't put my long underwear away yet. But for me, I usually wear it until June. LOL

    Poor Cersei, one pooped puppy.

  5. THIS is the reason that, the day before an endurance ride, I ride the BACK 5 miles of the trail...having learned the hard way (of course) that to ride the FRONT 5 and then turn around leads to massive arguments on the morning of the ride: "NO, we are supposed to go BACK now. We ALWAYS go back here...."

    Not stupid, our horses. Not stupid at all. Sigh.

  6. I have one dog that would kill himself trying to keep up and one that would have probably laid down and waited for me to come back and get him with the truck.

    Sounds exciting that Dixie is so ready for the 50. Can't wait to hear about that.

  7. I'll be cheering in the sidelines for you guys on your first 50!


  8. Poor Cers - Labs try so so so hard to please! But I'm sure that she'll be ready to do again first thing in the morning - puppers have a way of bouncing back like that.

    Sounds like your ride was otherwise fantastic - I'm so glad you're all set for the 50! Go team Funder!

  9. Read both your accounts. You guys are brave going out in that. Maybe this makes me a bad endurance rider, but I may have stayed home for this one. Haha.

  10. Poor Cersei. Once I had to dunk my dog in a water trough to revitalise him mid-trail on a warm day.

    That mid-way point is curious. On a week-long trail ride it will crop up too, like a timer that was started on Monday morning has gone off inside the horses on Wednesday afternoon.

  11. Hey, we were in Reno for one nite last week, its really nice! Sounds like lots of horse people too. I'm off to check out your friends blog- looks like he rides a TB too- gotta check that out!

  12. Potentially sucks for the budget, but yay for her feet continuing to change shape. :)

    Awww... Cersei! She won't be ready for her first 50 for a while.

  13. Aside from the obvious that you are nuts- what do you think the deal is with her struggle with bits? Why is she giving you so much trouble after all this time?

  14. MiKael - it's this lovely dry desert air. I'd still be shivering and bundled up if it were 50 and sea level and humid! The sun up here is so hot; it hardly ever feels cold if the sun's out.

    LOL @ the turnaround point stories :)

    CG - I really love Reno. You have to get used to the endless sand and sagebrush, but the fantastic weather makes up for it IMO. There are a lot of horse people and a lot of endurance riders!

    Paige - this was the second time I rode her in a curb in... three years? I started riding her in a snaffle maybe two months after I got her. She's getting really fit and really hot and blowing through my aids (and suggestions and insistences). It's not an unexpected problem, but it's still a problem. I'm thinking about doing the first loop at ROM in the curb and I wanted to get some miles in it and see how she handles. Obviously, the optimal long term solution is to get a better handle on her brain, not her mouth... but if she bolts off at the start of ROM we might not have enough gas to finish the ride.

    I'm gonna try to finish ROM, then seriously concentrate on short brain-training dressage-stuff rides, in the snaffle, for a couple weeks... or months...


Feel free to comment!