Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Frenchman Creek 3 - Sunday on the Arab

There was no cell reception anywhere near the lake, so I had no idea if my friend A was going to show up Sunday, or even what horse she'd bring for me. Ahhh well, I am an international woman of mystery and I lead an exciting life.

I had a rough night Saturday night. I did put the rain fly up (and it did drizzle again) but it was slightly colder and I about froze. I've camped comfortably in colder weather, but I've done it on my eggcrate mattress. For this ride I used my Coleman air mattress, in deference to my bruised up back. I was a little worried about it on Friday night, because I know how cold an air mattress can be, but that night was fine, even in the rain. Saturday night was just a few degrees colder (low of 42) and it made a huge difference. I slept pretty poorly and laid in bed shivering til the sun came up at 5:30. Then I pried myself out of bed, dragged the sleeping bag into the truck, turned on the truck, and shivered til blessed hot air started pouring out of the vents. I didn't get out of the truck til 6:30. I kept telling myself that it was hot yesterday and it'd be hot again today and I should appreciate the coolness, but mind did not conquer matter.

I got Dixie fed and got dressed to ride, then wandered over and ate breakfast with my new riding buddy R and her friend. She has a cabover camper with proper cookware and served up a real breakfast of champions, scrambled eggs with applewood ham and yogurt with berries. Right as we finished, A appeared and I headed off to do it all over again.

A had brought the grey mare for me to ride. I really want to like the grey mare. She's smart, she's actually well trained, she's got tons of heart, she never quits, and she's got phenomenal recoveries. But she trips. I started riding her because A thought maybe it was just her riding that was unbalancing the mare and making her trip, but she trips for me too. If she's just been shod, she trips less, but if she's two weeks into a trim cycle she trips a lot. Like multiple times per mile. Flat ground, rocky ground, it doesn't matter, she just trips.

I told A and Other A about the trail and difficulty while we saddled up. A was on her lazy but capable bay mare, and Other A was on her hyper bay gelding. I emphasized that they'd definitely get their money's worth if we only did 20 miles! We picked up our ride cards and headed out.

Grey Mare tripped enormously before we even got to the photographer, a mile down the trail. I wasn't clinging to the reins for dear life and she fell on her knees and face. I lost a stirrup and ended up on her neck, but by-god I did not come off. Thank you western saddle with your lovely huge pommel. After that I got the reins properly bridged and gripped and we had no more almost falling down episodes.

Still, she tripped a lot. And she had a cough that we spent the whole ride wondering about. She's one of those horses that needs to be bubble wrapped, and she'd gotten kicked in the neck earlier that week. Was she coughing because her trachea was irritated from the kick? Or maybe she had a bit of hay or beet pulp stuck in her throat and she was mildly choking - but she hadn't coughed the night before. So maybe it was the dust on the trail - but she coughed sometimes when there was no dust, and didn't cough at all in the dust sometimes. It was a mystery, and a terrifying one at that. When she coughed she needed to stretch her neck out, and I had to let the reins out to let her cough, but if the reins were that far out there was no way I could catch her if she tripped.

I am not a big believer in "catching the horse when she trips" with the reins. It runs contrary to most of my beliefs. But this horse has tripped and fallen on her face at least twice with A and twice with me, and it really does seem to help if I can hold her head up when she trips.

I was sore from all those hills on Saturday, plus my back still hurt from the fall last week. My Dad asked why hills are so hard - you use different muscles to stay balanced in the saddle. Miles of conditioning at the trot / gait / canter builds up certain muscles in your core - I could ride 50 miles on the flat and only be moderately sore the next day. But trotting (or walking, or cantering) uphill uses different muscles. Going downhill uses another set. I was worn out from all those hills on Saturday, and every time the grey mare tripped (multiple times per mile) it was a yank of agony to keep her from falling down.

There's a reason they call it endurance, and I endured. We went slower on the downhills, because I felt really unsure about my continued good health if she coughed and tripped while we were trotting downhill! We got to the turnaround at the river and chilled out for a few minutes. The grey mare hates walking in water, so I offered her a bucket and sponged her instead of trying to force her into the river. She didn't drink, which isn't unusual.

About halfway back, I decided the mare and I were going to pull. I was absolutely in agony and the grey mare was uncharacteristically tired. She kept petering out on the hills while the two bays just charged up them like energizer bunnies. Of course the A's waited for us to slog on up and recover, but I kinda think the grey mare was just NQR. I gave the A's a good description of the 10 mile second loop, but they also thought that the 20 mile loop was a hell of a good workout and they pulled at camp too. Our ride time for the 20 miles was 3:36, almost exactly what I did with my fat Walker. (I'm so proud of her!)

I stopped at my trailer and pulled my saddle, and the grey was down when we moseyed on over to the pulsetakers / water stop. I don't quite know her well enough to know if her pulse was a little high... but I couldn't do another 10 miles of coughing tripping hanging on. Honestly, I felt like I'd wussed out, right until I got home and downloaded the GPS info and saw exactly how many hills we'd done. It was an amazingly good training ride!

I've got info on both loops, because of how I rode the two days. The whole 30 miles was 8200' of climb (and another 8200 feet of descent). The first 20 miles was only 4000' of climb. That second 10 mile loop, with the horrible hill of rock that I walked up and down, added another 4200' of climb!

I never know whether to completely trust my GPS. If I look at the track in the Garmin program, I get one number for elevation. If I load the track into a different program, I get another number. A third program gives me another number. They're always within 15% of each other, but they do vary. I can't swear in court that we climbed 8000' on Saturday, but I can swear that we climbed more on Saturday than we did at NASTR in June.

I was pretty sore on Sunday, especially in my quads. I crashed hard that night and felt quite a bit better Monday. My knees feel ok, my muscles aren't too sore, and even my bruised rib isn't bothering me anymore. I'm not in tiptop shape, but I'm not as bad off as I feared. :)

It was an outstandingly good ride. I hope it's scheduled a couple weeks earlier next year, so I can use it as a warmup for the Tahoe Rim ride. If you ever get the chance to ride at Frenchman Lake, do it!


  1. Damn, that sounds like quite a weekend. I absolutely understand pulling, its hard enough dealing with something like a tripping horse when its your own horse you know but tripping AND coughing on a horse you don't know well enough to diagnose..well..I'd be heading back to camp too! My gelding trips, sometimes worse than others, and on the days its really bad every trip/jolt is like a shock up my back--no fun at all. You definitely endured!

  2. That tripping stuff doesn't sound good for the horse or the rider. Glad you're OK, and I hope the grey mare gets better soon.

  3. Sounds like you rode it out longer than some would have! The tripping sounds physically tough and dangerous, I worry what is wrong with the mare? Glad you made it through the tough weekend, I'm sure your own bed felt pretty good after all that!

  4. I'd be interested in seeing that girl's feet. Was she an older mare?

  5. oh i feel your pain about riding a tripper. galim, my last least horse. ugh. leg conformation issues. does the mare have the hooves out in front like galim did?

    we fell on our faces on a nice canter going up a hill. that should not have happened.

    baasha tripped a lot more when he wore shoes. i have to say his tripping was probably arthritis related.

    also, about the soreness - i found myself and my horse always more sore from flat rides - we had no flat to practice on, so our bodies were not accustomed. ask me about the milwaukee railroad ride, ugh!

    and i always wonder about riders who have no option but to train on flat. they must have to go so, so much faster. whereas we hill people can get ready for endurance at a walking pace, because our horses reach anaerobic quickly on those inclines. not that we didn't trot, just, we could to a lot of walking and still train our horses.

  6. smazourek - I don't have pics of her feet; it seems rude to take pictures of someone else's horse's feet. They are quite flared, a little forward, and shod. I haven't seen the tripping in action, but I suspect she just has no proprioception and bad breakover.

    There are a surprising number of bad-looking feet in endurance. Many horses with horrible feet somehow beat the odds and complete hundreds or thousands of miles. I am always surprised about it!

    She's young, 8-10, somewhere in there.

  7. You got some good rides in, even with the tripper. I think you did right by her for pulling. Good to hear about you and Dixie's ride, too. My GPS never downloads the same either. Not off much, but a little....

  8. Tripping: some breeding lines of endurance Arabs are famous for tripping. I've ridden one of those, and it irritated the #$%^ out of me--never again. Yet I know at least two regional riders who "collect" this line of horses because they are so good in other areas of the game. shudder Not for me, thanks.

    Rolling the toes and setting the shoe back can help. Also, doing a LOT of dressage work to encourage the horse to lighten the forehand and develop a ton of strong muscles in the hindquarters.

    FWIW, I knew a rider with one of those tripping-bred horses who smacked the crap out of the mare every time she tripped. After 6 years of this "training technique", the mare still tripped just as much.


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