This is something I always wished I could’ve seen when I started endurance training. How do you actually develop a consistent trot, starting from a horse that isn’t fit and can’t mentally handle trotting down a trail? Well, I still can’t explain it, but I can show you my results.
Here’s our first 20 mile NEDA ride in February of ’10. All the stuff I mentioned in the comments of my last post were very scary indeed – attack mini horses, scary yard art, dangerous people lurking in their yards. I think that ride even went past the ultimate nightmare of any horse: the alpaca.
The points just below the 5 mph marker were her walk speed – under 4 mph, about 3.8. The pointy bits were her surging into a trot or a rack (I really can’t remember if she gaited or not) at 7.5 or so.
Here’s our first AERC LD, at Rides of March ’10.
She was very excited for the first 10 miles, staying mostly in a 10 mph rack. At about 11 miles I finally got her to slow the hell down and we headed into the check (just about the middle of the graph). She came out of the hold really strong, but tired – you can see the peaks get further and further apart as she walks more and racks less. At 21 miles, about 2/3 of the way along, she got really tired and the whole thing became a slog for us. I didn’t want to spend three more hours out there so I started literally kicking her into a trot for a minute, then walking for a minute. Her “oh god I’m soooo tired” trot was between 5-8 mph, depending on the incline and whether or not she could see another horse in the distance.
Here’s Nevada Moonshine ’10.
The vet check was at 20 miles, about 2/3 of the way along the graph. I was really pretty happy with her performance. It was DARK up in the hills, and the full moon didn’t help as much as you’d think – it was behind the hills for an hour, then it was so low that it made crazy shadows and didn’t help much. She still wasn’t very consistent – she’d leap into a trot then slow on down til she needed to walk again.
After Moonshine, we bought the house. I don’t think I managed another distance ride, either NEDA or AERC, til ROM ’11.
It was a debacle. I let Dixie try to keep up with a horse that was going just a bit faster than she could manage. (“Ride your own ride” is so hard!) The weather was atrocious, blowing snow for the first part of the morning then warming up quite a bit. She wouldn’t drink (I didn’t electrolyte) and she was very hairy indeed. She got really tired about 10 miles in and we walked into the first check at the halfway point. The second loop was even worse – she didn’t recover at the hold because she wasn’t drinking, so she kept trying to lunge into a trot, but she was too tired to keep it going and fell back to a walk. Bad management on my part, but this is how you learn how to manage. We got pulled at the second check – not that I would’ve asked her to continue in her state.
At the beginning of April we did the Derby.
This was a good ride. I electrolyted Dixie before, during, and after the ride. She still did not drink til the vet check at 20 miles, but by god once she started drinking she tanked up. It was a much easier flatter ride, and you can see that we were finally pacing well. The jagged bits at the 1/3 mark were when we climbed the Big Hill she evened back out. Her TCB trot/gait was about 8 mph, and her recovery walk was 4.5-5 mph. The check was at 20 miles, so about 3/4 of the way along the graph.
The ride after that was our first 50, at High Desert. I’m not going to post the graph because it’s too compressed – it’s 50 miles squeezed into the same horizontal space as these 20-30 mile rides, so it’s much more jagged. It was hilly and hard, and Dave Rabe babysat us through it and he is a saint of a human.
Here’s another NEDA ride in May. Silver Springs again – look at how much she’s improved over (basically) the same course in 15 months!
9 mph trot, 4-4.5 walk. Much more trotting than walking. The right amount of electrolytes, and a weather-appropriate coat. 😉
In June I went out and broke my horse at NASTR, which pretty much torpedoed the rest of the year. Here’s the last chart, for yesterday’s ride:
Scroll up and compare it to the very first graph. She’s become really consistent – she’s way stronger, she’s learned that she has to keep moving steadily forward past the abandoned couches and evil minis, and I’m way better at holding her to a certain sustainable speed. She gets tired and starts “surging” around 15 miles – but damn, we’ve done no real training for about three months!
I don’t know if further (flat) rides of less than 15 miles will do her much good. I think climbing hills on short rides will still help, but I suspect a flat 15 mile ride won’t really do much to condition her. It’s pretty damn boring to ride north to Palomino Valley and back down to the house, but that’s what I’m going to have to do. Maybe one long ride every two weeks, weather permitting, and I’ll reevaluate in February. And I’ll try to get out and climb the hill behind our house once a week.