Thursday, November 28, 2013
Cold weather riding
I admit that I wasn’t ready. I saw the forecast, but I made plans to meet a friend to ride on Sunday anyway. I guess I was in denial. But being in denial doesn't mean the thing you're worried about won't happen.
Sunday dawned frigid and windy. By frigid, I mean 26 degrees and by windy, I mean gusts of probably 30 mph. The high was only supposed to be 36 degrees. We had made plans to ride at the Phelps Wildlife Management Area on Sunday because there is normally hunting there, but Sundays are no hunting days. Phelps used to be quite low on my list of places to ride because we could never find the trails. The last time we rode there, though, we finally started to figure things out, after trying several times, parking in different lots, and wandering around a lot. For those readers who might theoretically ride there, the Sumerduck lot, which is just past the entrance to the park ranger's house as you head south on Sumerduck road, is the best parking lot we've found so far, with respect to access to the trails/roads. I love that we have to pay to ride there, but no one can be bothered to use the money to produce either a useful map or mark any trails.
I kept expecting my riding buddy to text me and back out of our ride, but she never did, so I was forced into hooking up the trailer and loading my tack and horse. I figured it probably wouldn't be too bad once we got riding, but that wind gave me some post-traumatic stress flashbacks to my life in ND, where the minimum wind is 25 mph and it goes up from there. Winters can be particularly brutal with -30 temps plus nasty winds that create wind chills in the -60 to -80 degree range. And yes, I've ridden in that weather because I was an idiot, but also because if you don't ride in that weather, you may not ride for awhile.
Anyway, we arrived at the park, saddled up, and started riding. Perhaps stupidly, we went a different way than we had the last time. But we're smart women, right? (Actually, I'm one of the most directionally challenged people in the world, but even I can remember if I turned left or right at an intersection...) We actually had a really great ride. There were leaves on the ground, crunching as the horses stepped on them, which is one of my very favorite sounds. Ever since I was a kid, I have loved riding through dead leaves in the fall. We did some trotting on the hills and even did 2 short canters up hills. WhooHoo! One of my goals with Nimo is to start legitimate canter work on our conditioning rides, so this was a great start. In fact, I think Nimo might have even galloped a few strides on our second canter, so I'm excited to start doing more canter work with him.
However, as we were riding back to the trailers, we realized that we were not on the right trail. After trying a couple of different options, we eventually turned the decision-making over to my friend's horse. He is a very centered Irish Draught Horse and we figured he might be the one most likely to find the trailer. (My horse is happy as long as he can find something to eat, so he isn't really that inspired to find the trailer.) And kudos to this lovely animal, because he absolutely found the way back. It was not the way that we came, but we ended up riding for almost 2 and a half hours, so I was pretty happy to get back to the trailer any way we could. Next time, I'm definitely bringing some clothes pins with ribbons to mark the turns, so we can find our way back more effectively.
Despite getting lost and the cold wind, it was definitely a fun ride. And it gave me a chance to evaluate my winter riding gear. It is doubtful that I'll ride when it is much colder that it was on Sunday, so I now know that my gloves are pretty effective (Heritage extreme winter riding gloves), my breeches (Kerritts Power Stretch Tights) could use a little supplementation with maybe some silk tights, my jacket could use another layer on windy or especially cold days, I really need to remember to wear my half chaps (Tredstep Deluxe Leather Half Chaps), and I really need to find the special earmuffs I have for my helmet.
If anyone has any gear that works well for them during cold rides, please post a comment about it. I love finding out what works for others, and because I still need to improve my own gear a little, I'd love to hear from you!
And Happy Thanksgiving!