Monday, May 27, 2013

Trail Ride - Glenwood Park

On Sunday, Nimo and I rode on the USTR Memorial Day Benefit Ride.  The ride started at Glenwood Park in Middleburg, Virginia, and went through some private land, so it was great to ride in areas that aren't normally available.  This ride was a self-paced ride, so I rode with a partner, who had also ridden at Manassas Battlefield the day before.  We stayed at a walk for the ride, even though the terrain was fairly easy, because we thought our horses might be tired from Saturday's ride.  There was an option of doing a second loop, which we declined because we figured our horses had done well and earned a rest.

This ride also gave us the opportunity to work on some training goals.  We did a lot of creek crossings (more than I can even remember), so we had lots of opportunities to practice NOT rolling in the creek.  We had a 100% success rate on that goal.  And we also encountered some cattle up close and personal.  I'm not sure Nimo had ever seen a cow before, so riding within a few feet of one was definitely a great obstacle to practice.  Luckily, we followed behind a couple of more experienced cow horses, so Nimo actually handled the situation pretty well.  There were also a lot of opportunities to pass and be passed, and I even got the chance to ride Nimo away from the group we were with for a ribbon check (yes, we had wandered off the trail somehow - probably I shouldn't talk and ride at the same time).  He moved a little slowly, but he did it.

The scenery for the ride was beautiful.  There was a mix of fields and forest, with old stone fences providing reminders of the past.  Overall, the terrain was pretty gentle, but we did get a few steep hills in, which was nice for some added conditioning.

For this ride, I remembered to turn my GPS on and we logged 6.3 miles, for a total of over 14 miles for the weekend.  I was really pleased with Nimo because he seemed to handle the distance just fine.  He could easily have handled more, which means I can comfortably start increasing the intensity a bit on our rides.  I'm planning to start adding some trot work in on level areas while keeping the distance in the 6-8 mile range for the next few weeks.

Trail Ride - Manassas Battlefield

I celebrated Memorial Day weekend by going on two trail rides.  On Saturday, I took Nimo to the Manassas Battlefield National Park for a trail ride organized by the Battlefield Equestrian Society.  We had a cold front blow in the day before, so the temperature was in the 40s, which is unusually cold for this time of year.  It was also ridiculously windy.  Luckily, there were coffee and donuts, so that eased my pain a bit.  Also, I had to get up before 5 am, so I could be ready to ride by 9, and I was feeling the effects of my early morning.  Nimo, on the other hand, was excited to be there and ready to get going.

One of the great things about this ride is that it was lead by the Black Horse Cavalry, a Civil War reenactment group.  They routinely perform in reenactments and know both Civil War battles that took place in the Battlefield quite well.  The riders were divided into three groups, based on the speed at which they wanted to ride.  I was in the walk-only group because I was planning to do another ride the next day, and didn't want to wear my horse out too much.  One of the Cavalry members in my group was a retired West Point history professor, so he was a wealth of information about military strategy and the Civil War.

The ride started out with a demonstration by the Cavalry.  We didn't get to see a lot of it because Nimo decided that so many horses and riders all riding around the field with sabers seemed like a bad idea.  So, I spent a lot of time walking my horse around and trying to convince him that we were unlikely to be attacked.

Black Horse Cavalry Demonstration
We ended up riding almost three hours.  I'm not sure of the distance because I forgot to turn on my GPS tracking device (apparently it can do everything but remember to turn itself on...), but I'm guessing we rode about 8 miles.  The ride went through quite a bit of the Battlefield and included a few steep hills, some mud, and the requisite stream crossing.

At one point, we stopped for water, and my horse decided that while he didn't want any water to drink, it was a lovely time for a little dip.  The water was literally only a few inches deep, but my horse absolutely lay down in it.  Everyone in my group was a little horrified and anxious about my well-being.  However, I've been through this experience before, so it wasn't unexpected.  I didn't even have to get off.  Nimo got right back up while I stayed in the saddle and we went on our merry way.  I'm thinking that this is a habit I'll have to break, though, because getting routinely dunked in a stream is sort of irritating.


Anyway, after a (mostly) uneventful ride, we got back to the trailers and had a lovely lunch, and I loaded up and headed home.  And I discovered that the great thing about planning to go on a trail ride the next day was that I didn't have to unload all my tack when I got back to the barn.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Trail Ride - Rock Creek Park

For Mother's Day this year, I decided that I wanted to go on a trail ride.  I love my daughter, but I sleep with her every night and take care of her for the bulk of every day during the week, and sometimes I really do need to do something completely different on the weekends so my head doesn't explode.  My husband is lovely and agreed to watch our daughter all day while I cavorted with my horse. 

So we headed out to Washington, D.C. to join the Clifton Horse Society for a ride through Rock Creek Park.  It was a bit of a nerve-wracking drive because I needed to travel on the Beltway and then go through residential areas of D.C. to get to the park.  The Beltway is never fun, but with a horse trailer, it's a fingernail-biting trip.  I wish I had some way to more effectively communicate with the drivers who zip in and out of lanes or cut in front of me and then slam on their brakes.  My current form of communication, which involves a lot of yelling, swearing, and gesturing doesn't seem to be working very well.  The part of the trip through residential D.C. was also anxiety-causing because of the narrow lanes, rough roads, poor signage, and surprise lane disappearances.  However, I made it on time and in good shape.

The parking lot was small, but there were only a few trailers, so it worked out great.  It was a nice pull-in, pull-out set-up, which was a relief after the drive.  Not that I can't back my trailer, but sometimes it's nice to have a break from all that maneuvering.

We were underway at 10 am and we rode for about 2 and a half hours.  I was surprised by how rugged the terrain was and how much land the park covered.  There were a couple of hills (or maybe I should say mountains) that nearly killed my poor horse, who at one point, tried to get a couple out hiking to take him back down the hill and feed him.  Not being horse people, they didn't understand his communication very well and simply thought that he must not have very good steering.  I convinced Nimo to go on and finish the ride, though.

In addition to the more rugged terrain, we crossed a couple of bridges - one of them fairly narrow with not much in the way of guard rails.  I'm willing to bet my right arm that my horse would not have gone over it on his own, but the herd mentality kicked in.  For my horse, the question, "If everyone jumped off of a bridge, would you jump too?" has new meaning.  Apparently, the answer is an emphatic yes.

The highlight for me, though, was crossing Rock Creek.  It wasn't very deep, but the current was strong after several days of rain.  And strangely enough, while my horse is often terrified of things like lawn chair cushions, wheelbarrows, and jump standards, he isn't bothered by raging rivers.  He was happy to dive right in to the river even though a couple of other horses were demonstrating some uncertainty about this latest trail obstacle.

It was a great ride that I would love to do again.  Now that I know the drive, I don't think it will bother me as much, and the wonderfully-maintained trails, great conditioning hills, and easy parking more than make up for the less convenient drive.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Trail Ride - Bluebell Ride at Bull Run Regional Park

For our first trail ride this year, we rode with Clifton Horse Society at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville, Virginia.  The ride was on April 13, but I'm just now getting around to posting about it.

The day was perfect - high 60s for temp and mostly cloudy.  The bluebells in the park were in full bloom, so there was eye candy everywhere.  I'm not sure what the distance of the ride was, but it was about 2 hours.  We mostly walked, with just a short trotting stint, which was perfect for Nimo's conditioning level (or lack thereof).  The terrain was fairly level, but we did get to practice crossing a bridge (need more practice) and I got to try out my new trailer for the first time.  All in all, it was a great way to start the year!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Introduction

I can't really explain the urge that suddenly possessed me last month.  I went from thinking, "Oh, I just got this great new trailer, so now I can go on a few trail rides this year" to "I need to prepare to ride 100 miles in one day."  It could be some sort of hormonal thing - my baby was 7 months old last month and maybe some hormone imbalance is to blame for this strange thought process.

It's stranger still because my horse is a Friesian.  Friesians are not known for their endurance ability.  In fact, I think they might be known as the anti-endurance horse.  Friesians are for parades and pulling fancy carriages and floating around dressage arenas.  Sometimes they do go out on trails, but only in matching polo wraps or boots.

And the ultimate in strangeness might be that not only is my horse a Friesian, he's really big (17 hands) and absolutely terrified of things like nature.  Although he might be more terrified of lawn chairs that have suddenly changed location from the previous day, domesticated fowl, and inexplicably-placed bags of mulch.

Yet, even after I read what I just wrote, my conviction is strong.  I am going to ride my big, black, ornamental, terrified of anything remotely strange or out-of-place, metabolically-challenged horse in a 100 mile endurance ride.  I have no intention of being competitive, but I do aim to finish.

This blog is about how I get to the end of that ride.

I'm not sure how long it will take me to get to that 100 mile ride, but my first goal is the 15 mile Introductory Ride hosted by Old Dominion Endurance Rides, Inc. on October 26, 2013.  There is luckily a clinic hosted by the same group on October 5, so hopefully, I will get some pointers at the clinic for the ride.

I've also been devouring every book on conditioning and endurance riding that I can find.  I love reading about the adventures and am gradually formulating a feeding plan and ride schedule.  I've actually already started with a couple of organized trail rides (my horse is much braver with a group) to start conditioning and to find good places to ride in the area.  I'll write about those rides later and post some pictures too.

In the meantime, welcome to my blog!