With just over a week to go until we load up the trailer to (hopefully) haul over to Central Oregon for our first endurance ride of the year, the to-do list gets rather busy. I save myself a lot of packing by leaving most things in my trailer year round, but I still have to:
- Take the truck to the shop tomorrow. All her various fluids will be checked/replaced, tires rotated, breaks checked, and a general “happy hauling season” glance over by our diesel guy. Luckily we just replaced the alternator with a more powerful one, so that’s off the list!
- Pick up weed free hay; even when we ride places that don’t require it, the horses love it and I bring a whole smorgasbord of food for both horse and rider on trips. This includes orchard and alfalfa hay, shredded beet pulp, Triple Crown Complete, alfalfa pellets, Purina Outlast, oats and rice bran, carrots and apples, applesauce…
- Grocery shop for myself.
- Pack all the clothes and an extra set, just in case.
- Give all my tack one last deep cleaning and repack my saddle bags yet again.
- Double check all the camping gear and extra tack is actually in the trailer, not just in my brain or on the list.
- One last solid, 18-20 mile conditioning ride, at race pace, preferably in two loops and with elevation (which has been tricky to get these past two months, everything higher than my house at 100 feet has been getting constant snow and is slick as snot aside from the logging roads.)
I’ve pretty much committed to doing the LD…but I’m still bouncing around the idea of going straight to a 50 if every single star aligns. These stars include:
- Feet: Our farrier can get the Octo composite shoes reset, and they stay on this time (he used a spray on quick dry accelerator on the hoof before the glue and they’ve all come off, so he’s trying again with a new set of shoes for us). For the few miles the shoes were all on, Tarma was absolutely flying down the logging road, chunky gravel be damned. It was exactly the kind of beautiful, mostly contained trot of hers that I’m addicted to, and just want to let her go for miles and miles and miles.
- Weather: I’ve mentioned before how chancy the forecast can be for this early spring desert ride, and this has proven true this year. Even here in the Willamette Valley we’re still getting snow, we rode in snow and hail and sleet just this past Sunday! It’s one thing to ride 50 miles in marginal or nice weather, another thing when you’re battling still half fuzzy ponies and cold fingers and toes.
- Conditioning: As I’ve never ridden a 50 myself, this is the hardest one to answer. She feels incredible (when her boots aren’t rubbing her poor, princess white heel bulbs), her recoveries are excellent and man can this mare drink, anytime, anywhere. The last moderate ride we did two loops on she did take about three to five minutes to pulse down (under 60 beats per minute), but that was trotting all the way back to the trailer. At a ride a lot of folks hop off half a mile from the vet check, loosen the girth, take the bit out, let their horse grab a few bites and lower their heads, and sponge them on hot days before even getting close to the vet, all to get the heart rate down as quick as possible. A 50 is double the length (if not the time) of any distance we’ve done before, but as folks say, it’s just two LDs! The last consideration is if we do a 50, we’ll have to do the whole thing without our normal riding buddy and comfort gelding, as Cody doesn’t do 50s and the loops for this ride are totally different between the LD and the 50. So the question comes down to, challenge ourselves and run the risk of coming up short a fourth time at this ride, or get the LD in the bag to start the season off on the right hoof?
The last two rides we’ve made some strides with Tarma’s race brain, and I’ve got a few more tricks to try out as needed. Getting my new headstall from Cascadia Custom Tack has been a huge win, as the bit hangers make it super easy to start the ride with a bit and take it out once her brain is dialed in. When she really gets race brain the side pull just doesn’t cut it. With the bit it’s also a signal to me to stay on top of her and really feel where she’s at, redirecting her the moment I feel that bunching of energy beneath me and asking her to half halt or give her shoulders or zig zag instead of just charging ahead to where she wants to be. We practiced a lot of leap frogging and following Cody with adequate space between us, even while he gaited or cantered ahead. She’s still a bit iffy if he canters up behind us, so I’ll keep my head on a swivel and try to avoid letting someone catch me unawares. I’ve threatened her multiple times that I will hike out miles and miles until I feel I have her brain, she’s quick enough that at least on the LD I’m not really worried about going over time. The scariest part of any ride for me is those first three to five miles right at the start, there’s so many emotions and high energy horses bouncing around and now that she has gotten me off I’m more stressed about it than I was before our first ride. I also know that once we get through that it will be mostly smooth sailing, at least brain wise.
Either distance we choose, I can’t wait for the season to start…but I do request good weather. Or at least better than we’ve had. Pretty please?