Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Conditioning Milestone: More than 100 miles in a month!

There are a lot of steps on the way to completing a 100 mile endurance ride.  I'm positive that I don't even have a clue about what many of them are yet, but my philosophy is to focus on shorter-term, more achievable goals while still remembering what the end game really is.  One of those shorter-term goals is to get over 100 miles in during one month.  That may not sound like a lot for someone doing longer distances, but considering that it was just over a year ago that I was lamenting about how hard it was to get 5 miles in, I figure riding 100 miles is a pretty big deal:)

Anyway, after battling weather, footing, rain rot, and life for months and beginning to despair that I would ever meet my mileage goal, Nimo and I finally did it in August, with 114 miles.  The miles were a combination of dressage schooling and trail work, with the majority of them being trail miles.  We even got 35 miles in during one week, which means that training for a 50 mile ride someday is not out of the question.

It was a hard goal to meet in the sense that it meant I pretty much gave up every weekend because I had to haul someplace both Saturday and Sunday and put in a good 10-12 miles on at least one of those days.  I also was religious about getting 1-2 rides done during the week, even if they had to be short.  My house is now an unmitigated disaster and coated with dog hair, and my husband finally gave up on the idea that I would cook and so he actually cooked a few times (bonus!), but I feel like I'm finally making real progress on both our conditioning and dressage training.

It's not that we haven't been improving already, but I felt like there was a special focus last month that really helped me do better in terms of planning our rides and making sure every ride served a purpose, whether it was to emphasize lots of trotting, spend a lot of time climbing, or work on strengthening dressage exercises.  The other thing I did was to start combining climbing and trotting in the same ride.  I've had a tendency to keep climbing and faster work separate, primarily because it's hard to find a good place where I can do both.  But my explorations at the Phelps Wildlife Management Area, which is near the barn, has yielded the discovery that I can get a lot of trotting in over moderately rolling hills and include a few really steep, short climbs.  I've also gotten a little braver about asking Nimo to trot steeper hills, both up and down.  I'm not sure that he is particularly fond of that aspect of our training, though:)  I still do longer climbs when I can, because there's nothing like climbing for 3 miles straight to actually prepare you for climbing 3 miles straight, but I feel like our workouts are more well-rounded now.

And finally, we've really been working on canter.  I don't expect to ever use canter much out on the trails because it's just not Nimo's most efficient gait, but I think the aerobic benefits are great.  So, we've been spending more of our dressage schooling sessions on canter and have even started doing canter lengthenings, which is pretty exciting.

I'm really excited about the improvements over the past several weeks, but I have to admit that I have no intention of maintaining them beyond the end of October, after the OD Fort Valley 25 ride.  It's just too hard to do that much riding and still keep some semblance of a life, so my plan is to wind things down for 2-3 months and then get back into a heavier training schedule in January/February (depending a bit on the weather, of course).  I also think it's good for both Nimo and I to get a break from all the purpose-driven riding and do some fun rides where I don't have to try to maintain a certain pace or achieve a certain number of miles.  Plus, I'm hoping that next year, things will be a bit easier on the fitness level because we'll have already built up a base this year.


  1. Getting the base conditioning done is the hardest part! It sounds like you're at a really good point to be heading into Fort Valley.

    I always like giving the horses a break for a couple of months (for me, it usually coincides with the July/August awful heat here), and I'm always amazed and pleased with how well they hold their condition and how little it takes them to get back into ride shape. (And that is coming from the perspective of conditioning a non-Arab.)

  2. I think you're doing a stellar job. =) and you're so right - it is SUCH a time drain to commit weekends to riding that much!

  3. You are doing SUCH a fantastic job with Nimo's conditioning!! I think you're more than ready for tackling Fort Valley!

    And I hear ya on not continuing the conditioning trend after Fort Valley. I find myself having a hard time continuing with the momentum I had in August, especially knowing that after October it will probably be too cold to do many of the outdoor endeavors that we can still do now. But such is the nature of conditioning for endurance!