Endurance Riding

Jan 20 2011

God’s Country

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Wow! What an amazing ride we had today. Mom had been wanting to go down into the canyon, so last night we mapped it out on the GPS. We took Doon Grade Road to Coutolenc and then connected to Jordan Hill Road. Jordan Hill Road, like Doon Grade, is a dirt road. Off-road vehicles can get down it, but it is very rocky and steep. Quite a trek!

I have never been into any canyon before and as we were traveling down, I was struck by the sheer power of the view. Everything is so quiet, yet you can hear the sound of a life force in the distance.

Water has no taste, no color, no odor; it cannot be defined, art relished while ever mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself. It fills us with a gratification that exceeds the delight of the senses. - ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPERY

We made it down to the West Branch of the Feather River and we stayed for awhile, to rest the horses and enjoy the beauty that surrounded us. I felt as if I was home. Nothing but life surrounded me – the trees, the grass, the birds, even the gnats. Everything had its place and was working as it should, not to be rushed or slowed, but in its own perfect time, as always.

I was struck by how many times I had passed Jordan Hill Road, never knowing what was at the bottom of that hill. Beauty lies in our backyard, but we often fail to see it.

Stopping for just a moment before our descent.

Mom and Sophie at the top of the canyon.

Miles and miles of backcountry to explore...

Jordan Hill Road

West Branch of the Feather River

"Little Falls"

Sophie enjoying the view.

The entire trip was 16 miles. Originally, we had thought it was going to be only 8 or 9 miles, but Mom failed to realize that her GPS was calculating a one-way trip. Double that and you’ve got a round-trip at 16 miles! Great for Asali and I because we need the training, but next time I’m bringing some emergency peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. A banana and one granola bar didn’t cut it for this trip.

Jan 20 2011

Super Handy, Super Fancy

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Today, Mom (and Sophie) joined Asali and I for our endurance training. Before we started out, Mom taught me how to wrap Asali’s legs. I decided that it would probably be a good idea to start using those polo wraps Mom got for Asali, to allow for extra leg protection on our long rides.

Mom brought her super handy, super fancy GPS system on the ride with us today. And when I say “super handy, super fancy,” I mean it! We were able to calculate our exact distance. Plus, the GPS system will tell you how many mph you were going, and you can print out a map of your trail when you are done tracking it. Just what an endurance trainer needs! No more guessing on our rides now; although I think my educated guesses haven’t been too far off, there is nothing better than accurate!

So, what did the GPS tell us??? We did 8.9 miles going at 5 mph. We traveled along the South Loop, which circles around our ranch, then we took Doon Grade Road (a dirt road which is closed to thru traffic) out to Coutolenc. Once on Coutolenc, we had to travel on the road with cars for a short distance. Although Coutolenc is a quiet road, we did run into 4 cars. My silly dog, Caine, was not being cooperative about staying on the shoulder. Luckily, everyone that passed us looked out for him, but that’s the last time I take him out on a trail where we may have to travel on a road.

Me with my endurance horse (and the energizer bunny, better known as my dog, Caine).

Coutolenc reconnected with the South Loop. Before getting to the South Loop, however, it was all up hill. I was surprised at how quickly Asali tackled the big climb. Even after going for quite a few miles, she still had plenty of energy. In fact, at the end of the ride, she began to speed up and broke into a full gallop before crossing the “finish line.”

Tonight, Mom came by Asali’s barn to give her some alfalfa pellets and beet pulp. I’ve been increasing her grain since we started endurance training, but Asali still seems to be losing a little weight. She has always been a horse that doesn’t keep weight on well… certainly not what you’d call an easy keeper. Tomorrow I’m going to make a run to the feed store. But not before our training… Mom and I brought up maps of our area on her GPS and we’ve chosen a new trail for tomorrow… the GPS system calculated it to be 9 miles. We’re in for an adventure… going down into the canyon – a place we’ve never been!

Mom on Sophie, using that Super Handy, Super Fancy GPS!

Asali and I after our 9 mile ride.

Caine is (finally) pooped.

Jan 18 2011

Why Am I Sore?

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I woke up feeling sore this morning. I couldn’t figure out why. Although Asali and I are doing longer rides than we normally do, my legs are pretty fit for riding. And yesterday, I did not dismount and walk for very long on our ride. We did approximately 9 miles, averaging a speed around 4.5 mph, so this was not a challenging ride.

Then it occurred to me… it must have been the 20 minutes of basketball I played with Jakob last night. I played defense and he had me chasing him all over that court! I haven’t played basketball since seventh grade. Yes, it’s true, I was beaten by an eight year old last night. Note to self: Don’t play sports with children when you are out of shape. I definitely need to incorporate more cardio into my workouts!

After endurance training with Asali, my little basketball player joined me for a trail ride.

Jan 17 2011

I Am Thankful

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Before I decided to train today, I sat down at my sewing machine and finished a quilt I had been working on for a friend and fellow horseman. He had been admitted to the ICU where I work. It is always difficult to see someone you knew as a healthy, active person fighting to recover and regain strength he once possessed.

Everyday that I work in the ICU, I am thankful for my health. I am inspired by my patients and their endurance to keep fighting sometimes debilitating diseases. Everyday, I am encouraged not to waste any part of my life. Maybe this is why I am constantly busy, filling up every moment with something meaningful. I often wonder if I’ll ever slow down. I am always being told that I am young, I have time. But to me, the time we are given sometimes seems so short.

I spent some time writing in my journal the other night. My last diary entry ended with:
I decided to enter the Tevis Cup because I wanted to celebrate life. I am thankful for the health, the strength, the talent, and the ability that God has given me. To waste that would be a sin.


Jan 16 2011

6.2 Miles in 83 Minutes

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My last ride with Asali was uneventful… we covered four miles, with me in the saddle for two miles and then on foot for the last two. After the ride, I found a great article on the AERC website about conditioning your horse for endurance riding. Some key points that I took from that article were:

*Worm your horse and make sure his feet are in good shape before starting training.
*Expect at least 3 months of training before your first limited distance competition.
*Concentrate on long, slow distance work.
*Make sure hill work is incorporated into your training.
*Keep a steady pace from start to finish rather than focusing on frequent speed work.
*Buy a stethoscope and learn how to use it.

Today, the first thing I did was worm Asali and then get out my stethoscope. I calculated her resting heart rate to be 32 beats per minute (bpm). (This is important to know because how fast your horse returns to his resting heart rate after exercise determines how fit he is.) I packed my stethoscope in my Camelbak and then set out on the ride.

Assessing Asali's heart rate.

Asali and I completed our first 2.6 miles in 28 minutes! We kept a steady fox trot going along the entire trail, with one short distance of cantering. After climbing a hill at the end of the 2.6 miles, I dismounted and took Asali’s pulse. It was 65 bpm – a normal rate for an equine who has just exercised. After ten minutes, Asali’s rate dropped to 44 bpm, with a return to baseline after thirteen minutes. This wasn’t bad, although I would like to see a return to baseline within the first ten minutes.

Once remounted, we climbed two extremely steep hills. Although Asali has climbed these hills before, she really worked up a sweat, so I allowed her to slow down a bit. We completed the last 3.6 miles in 55 minutes. Three minutes after completing the ride, her pulse was 60 bpm, with a return to baseline in ten minutes. I was very pleased.

We covered 6.2 miles in 83 minutes. That means we averaged a speed just over 5 mph. According to the article on conditioning, “a pace of six to seven mph is a reasonable goal.” I think Asali and I are well on our way!

After my ride with Asali, I took my son’s horse, Beauty, out for a ride. We rode with my mom and a friend of hers on a 3.5 mile trail. We mostly walked and trotted, but since Beauty isn’t as conditioned as Asali, this was enough for her.

On one muddy hill, Beauty slipped and fell completely down. Before she lost her footing, I felt myself falling to the left. Instead of fighting the fall, I let myself go. I swung my other foot out of the stirrup and landed on my feet, still holding the reins. I hadn’t wanted to stay in the saddle just in case Beauty fell on her side. (Just before Christmas, I had an accident with Asali – she lost her footing when Forest pushed her into a ditch. She fell, rolling on top of me and wedging my foot in the stirrup. Luckily, she jumped up immediately and stood perfectly still while I got my foot out of the stirrup. While I was disappointed my brand new Tucker stirrup had been crushed, I was thankful I had not been dragged.)

Because of my ride on Asali and then Beauty, I got plenty of saddle time today. And to end it all, I worked with Forest in the round pen before bathing him and then feeding all the horses. No wonder I’m tired! It’s only 7 pm and I’m already ready for bed. Another day of training awaits tomorrow…

Jan 13 2011

We Joined the AERC!

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Today, Asali and I became official members of the AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference). The same night I had been Googling “Tevis Cup,” I came across the AERC website. While I didn’t join right away, I bookmarked the site and decided to keep it as a reference. However, the more research I’ve been doing, the more I have come to realize how valuable becoming a member of the AERC is… besides just all the tips and advice on endurance training, every time you sign up for an AERC sanctioned ride, you’ll receive a discounted entry fee for being a member. And since you’re required to do 300 miles of riding (in at least 50 mile increments) with AERC sanctioned rides to qualify for the Tevis, I figured the AERC membership fee would be well worth it.

But, as I began looking through the list of endurance rides being held this year in the Western Region, I began to get discouraged. While there are a handful of rides within 2-3 hours of me, I realized that each rider entry fee was going to be anywhere between $80 – $120 (not to mention the additional costs, such as gas, lodging/camping, food). Now I understand why the recommendations for the Tevis Cup read: “It is important that you carefully evaluate yourself, your horse, and your resources, so that you make good choices to maximize your success.”

The more I thought about it, however, the more I thought that the last thing to get in my way would be money. There are so many reasons not to do the Tevis Cup: the time, the commitment, the potential for failure. The one thing that I believe gets in most of our ways is our fear of failure. If we never try in the first place, we can’t fail. A much more valid reason for not doing the Tevis than money. If I can overcome that one, I can make my finances work. After all, I graduate nursing school this year and will very soon be working as a Registered Nurse.

My advice for the night is this: If you truly believe you can do it, you can. It is not if, but when. Michael Jackson said in his book Moonwalk, “I believe in wishes and a person’s ability to make a wish come true. You can’t do your best when you’re doubting yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?” He also said, “I believe we are powerful, but we don’t use our minds to full capacity. Your mind is powerful enough to help you attain whatever you want.”

Your mind is powerful enough to help you attain whatever you want.

I am writing these words for me, just as much as for you.

And from the mouth of my best friend’s dad, “Do it now.”

Jan 12 2011

Training Day #4

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The weather was definitely nicer today – warmer and sunny at times. But I knew I had to work Beauty today before I did any training with Asali.



Beauty and Jakob


Beauty is my son Jakob’s Appendix mare. We adopted her from Safe Haven Horse Rescue back in August. She is a beautiful 16 hands and a wonderful trail horse. She is honest and sweet. And today I found out she has speed! I rode her on the trail with my mom, who was riding Raven, a 19 year old ex-eventing Thoroughbred. When we decided to canter up the hill towards home, Raven took off at a full speed gallop and Beauty followed, staying close behind. Another fun ride!

After lunch, I got Asali ready. I groomed her and picked her feet (you know, the normal horse care). I decided to ride in the Tucker endurance saddle again. I also decided to ride in the Nurtural again. Although I can ride Asali in just a rope halter, I’m finding out that the Nurtural gives me just a little more control. I’m able to communicate better with Asali and she seems to like the bitless bridle just fine. Plus, it’s purple!



Getting ready.


Today, Mom asked to join us on our ride. She rode Sophie, a 5 year old mare she’s training, and ponied two horses, Winnie and Donovan. I ponied Forest. Once out on the trail, Mom let Winnie run loose, which she really enjoyed. But, of course, like always, she got all the other horses riled up. It was what we like to call a “Wa-hoo” ride. After we finished the 2 mile loop, we took Winnie, Donovan, and Forest back to the barn and then continued on with Asali and Sophie.



Party of 5


We rode a total of about 6.5 miles today, with me walking and leading Asali for the last mile. I was pleased that Asali moved out the entire ride – we did a lot of fox trotting and cantering. Both Asali and Sophie worked up a sweat.

Most of the reading I’ve been doing on endurance training advises to start slow. Never increase both distance and speed at the same time. One article I read said to train at least 3 times a week and to mix up the training – one day work on distance, one day speed. Gradually increase distance. And on the days you work on speed, ride a shorter distance.

While Asali is already in good shape because I typically ride 3-5 times a week consistently (and we’re working on trails with steep inclines), I know we are going to need to work on the distance part. Often times I will only ride for an hour at a time. Right now my plan is to continue to ride 3-5 times a week, focusing on riding 2-4 hours each time and encouraging her to move out each time we ride.

Once the weather gets nice and I can be sure the trails have good footing, I plan on riding past Stirling City, up to In Skip. We can also ride to Butte Meadows from Lovelock Road, which is a 30 mile trek round-trip. I’m looking forward to Spring!

Jan 11 2011

Training In 30 Degree Weather?!

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Today my goal had been to do another long ride with Asali. I decided we’d ride up Lovelock Road. I took Forest, a 6 year Appaloosa I started under saddle last year, because he needed the work and he’s a great pony horse. I had planned on a four hour ride.

I decided to ride in the Tucker today and use a simple hackamore on Asali. Although the ride was all up hill going out, it was an easy one, aside from the weather. Once we got to the end of Lovelock, I decided to turn around, rather than continue on, because it was continuing to snow on us. While I had silks on under my jeans, a fleece cover for my ears, wool socks, and gloves on, I was still extremely cold. Two miles from home, I dismounted and led Asali and Forest back to the ranch, not just for my own exercise, but also to warm up. My hands and feet were painfully cold, but by the time we got home, they were no longer numb.

Our training session was only two hours today. I’m hoping the weather will be better tomorrow.

Jan 09 2011

Race Horse

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Today, I decided we’d work on speed rather than distance since I did not have the time to ride more than a couple hours (we had our trainer, Sheri, coming to work with Jakob and Beauty at 1 pm).

We did the “Loop Trail” (named so because it goes in a loop… I know, such an original name). I believe the trail is approximately 2.5-3 miles. I couldn’t let Asali run the entire trail because the footing was bad in some places with the ice and mud. But, when I did let her run, she ran. It was one of those rides where you grab mane, hold on tight, and question why you decided to ride bareback. I was wishing I had goggles because the cold wind in my eyes made me cry.

I think we got the speed part down.

Jan 07 2011

Training Day #1!

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I woke up on January 6th and decided to make the commitment to train for endurance. My New Year’s Resolution. This would be our first day of training. I decided to ride English, saddling Asali in my Pessoa. I wore my new breeches and tall boots and my purple vest to match Asali’s purple Nurtural bitless bridle and her purple saddle pad. My theory in every competition has always been that if I don’t win, I will at least look good trying!


A sunny day for our first day of training in the Pessoa and Nurtural.

We left for Stirling City around 11 am. We hadn’t been riding for more than 15 minutes when we came to a couple of huge trees blocking our trail. Unfortunately, the trees were not safe to jump and there was no way around them. It would have been more dangerous to go up into the side of the mountain, or down around the trees rather than to just navigate through them. I dismounted and used the trail knife I had just gotten for Christmas to cut away some of the branches. Once I cleaned up the branches, I guided Asali over them. She had to put her front legs between two logs, then maneuver her back legs over the first log, then get her front legs over the last log. It was a bit tricky and it took about 20 minutes of coaxing and guiding to get her to do it. (I used one of the tree branches as a carrot stick.)

After that mess, I decided to walk aways before remounting. That was difficult in my tall field boots (made for riding, not hiking) with the snow and ice. I slipped and landed on my bottom 3 different times. But Asali never ran me over and after I remounted, it was a pretty easy ride to Stirling City, although we couldn’t move out very fast because of the ground conditions – where it wasn’t icy, the ground was covered in thick, slippery mud.

We didn’t stay in Stirling City long because Asali was making a fuss when I tied her to a tree. She was snorting and pacing around it, and digging. This behavior is unlike her, as she normally ties well. The only thing I could think was that she didn’t like being left alone.

As I was leading Asali out to the trail to find a place to remount, I decided to do a little of the circling game with her because she was becoming increasingly difficult to handle… when Asali gets excited, she can act extremely high strung. Sometimes I think she’s an Arab, not a Missouri Fox Trotter. During the circling game, Asali slipped in the mud, and I saw my sure-footed horse fall. I decided to lead her for awhile after that because the ground was so unstable. I walked, leading her, for about 4 miles before remounting. I let her run almost all the way home. She jumped a log as if it was a 5 foot fence and we completed our 14 mile ride in 4 hours, certainly not a record time.


Ready to go with our dog in tow!

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