Saturday, August 31, 2013

A New Saddle Pad...and Some Crazy Horseflies

I am a bona fide saddle pad junkie.  I own too many saddle pads by any standard.  But I can't seem to stop collecting them.  I suspect it may be because the most exciting thing you can do with a dressage show pad is to add some piping or binding in a conservative color, and by color, I mean, white, cream, gray, navy, black, or maybe a sliver of silver or gold.  As far as I can tell, dressage judges are afraid any sort of actual color or pattern will distract them to the point that they won't notice whether the horse was even cantering on the correct lead.

Anyway, ever since I started riding dressage, I've been on the lookout for fun saddle pads with colors and patterns, and I've had some luck, but I'm still jealous of all the cool all-purpose pads out there.  In fact, because my dressage saddle has fairly short flaps, I can get away with using the occasional all-purpose pad.  I'll post some pics of my favorites at some point - if I ever wash them, which I probably won't, because the only laundry that gets done regularly at my house now is my daughter's diapers.  My husband and I do have some standards!:)

I somehow happened to be at Dover Saddlery the other day...OK, it's because I specifically drove there.  My daughter was fussy, and we needed a fun task.  What could be more fun than hanging out in a tack store?  I did need another pair of breeches, and while I was there, I wandered into the saddle pad section.  What can I say?  Gemma said the pad was awesome and we had to have it.  So I paid the very reasonable price of $26 and got it.

The awesomeness of this pad cannot be fully demonstrated by the picture.  All the faint handwriting on the pad is actually a metallic silver.  And there are ruffles around the binding.  And a pattern.  It doesn't have any color, but I still love it.

I used the pad on my ride today at Shenandoah National Park.  And it's a good thing I did, because the ride would otherwise have totally sucked.  I rode by myself, which was not the problem, although I did admittedly get confused for about 2 minutes on the road to the trail because there was a fork in the road I didn't remember, and so I guessed which way to go.  Then, I second-guessed myself because I overthink almost everything, as anyone who has tried to give me directions can attest to.  Then, I figured out the first way I went was the right way, and we were all good.

The real problem with this ride was the horseflies.  August is definitely the worst month for them, but when we rode in the exact same location last week, they were not nearly so bad.  For the entire 2 hours that we rode, I doubt Nimo got more than a 1-2 minute break from being pestered by them.  I killed dozens of them and even developed some skill with swatting them out of the air with my whip.  But, it was just plain miserable.

I suspect part of the problem may have been that today was typical hot, humid August weather while last weekend was beautiful and warm and dry.  The other related issue was probably that Nimo was sweating a lot more.

I have been wondering exactly what a difference humidity makes to a ride, and I got my answer.  Last week we rode 7 miles.  The temperature was 78-80 degrees and I don't know what the humidity was, but it was very low for this time of year (maybe 40-50%).  It was definitely challenging for Nimo, but by the cool-down phase of the ride, he looked good, was walking pretty energetically toward the trailer, and the only sweat he had was under the saddle pad and girth.  Today the temperature was 85-88 and the humidity was more typical (about 80%).  We only did 5 miles of the exact same trail (minus the 2 minutes spent wandering around), and he was sweating profusely all over his body, panting harder, and he didn't speed up at all when we were headed back to the trailer.  I even got off and walked a few times and gave him several short breaks.  He's fine and was happy to eat grass when we got back to the trailer, but I believe that this ride was metabolically much more difficult than last week's.  I wish I had a stethoscope because I think that would have provided some useful information (and yes, I could have taken his pulse another way, but I was not thinking and yes, I have ordered a stethoscope so this won't happen again).

There is no question that the effect of the 7-10 degree temperature increase and the almost doubling of the humidity had a significant impact on performance.  The ride we had today was much more like what I had expected last week.  And it tells me that I am damn lucky to be doing my first ride in October when I can expect cooler temps and lower humidity.  It also tells me that the cumulative impact of increased temperature and humidity over a 50-100 mile ride for a horse unused to those conditions must be astronomical.  I'm sure there are studies out there that have attempted to quantify the effect, but I guess I don't need the actual data to know that I would be risking my horse's life to ride in conditions like today over difficult terrain without proper conditioning.  I really knew that already, which is why I'm trying hard to condition well, but I got my own anecdotal evidence today, which has doubly convinced me.

The other thing I learned today is that I need to order some locking pins for my Easyboots.  The buckles kept coming loose, which meant I had to keep getting off to fix them.  And the first time it happened, I didn't realize the cable ended up on a looser setting, so I spent about 10 minutes trying to figure out why it sounded like the boot was loose even though everything looked OK.  I checked the website, and it says they cost $2 for a package of ten, so my question is, Why the hell didn't the boots come with the pins in the first place?  For $204 plus shipping per pair, I think I should be able to expect some $2 pins.  On the other hand, I did get some exercise, which is not necessarily a bad thing...

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