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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…