Eight or ten miles, I thought after yesterday's storm. We'll shoot for 7.5 miles per hour. Just a nice, easy ride on a cloudy afternoon.
Aaruba, however, had other ideas. He was so fresh and frisky after 9 miles that instead of turning left toward home, we went straight across the road with the intention of adding another 3 miles.
At mile 10, I decided to turn right instead of left, adding an additional 4 miles.
At mile 16, we finished several miles of uphill trotting with energy to spare, so we blew through another intersection and hand galloped to the crest of the hill before trotting the rest of the way home. All told, our intended easy ride turned into a 19 miler at nearly 9 miles per hour, with no breaks -- and not until the last 2 miles did Aaruba's energy level decrease enough that I felt like riding one-handed.
Delighted with his Aaruba's fitness and pleased to have our last long ride before Owyhee Canyonlands out of the way, I was even more thrilled discover a package from Stonewall Saddle Company awaiting my return. Inside were a pair of the new Stonewall saddle pads I've been eager to try.
You may recall that Aaruba suffered a bit of skin soreness near his loin during his first 50 mile race at Old Selam last month. This seemed to have resulted from the motion of his 5-Star wool saddle pad (the red one in the photo above), which at 1 inch is considerably thicker than Stonewall recommends.
The felted wool Stonewall pads are a mere 3/8 inch thick (they'll also be available in 1/2 inch) and are shaped specifically for Stonewall endurance saddles, leaving most of the horse uncovered to aid in heat dissipation during distance work. The saddle's conformal foam lining provides the microfitting that renders a pad all but unnecessary for anything beyond keeping the saddle clean. Jackie Fenaroli at Stonewall suggests that I start endurance races with two, thin pads, then remove one during a hold. This will not only put dry wool against Aaruba's skin, but it will change the angle of the saddle very slightly, reducing fatigue during the second half of the ride.
Note: The pads in these photos are prototypes, so they're not trimmed out like they'll be when they're actually on the market. I already love the unique, minimalist style!
In experimenting with the Stonewall pads on both Aaruba and Consolation, I discovered that not only did my saddle fit better with the thinner pad(s), but I was able to adjust the rigging to further reduce "saddle wagging" at the loin, even when trotting downhill. Oh, and Stonewall is working on a option for attaching a pad to the saddle. I'm all for having one fewer thing to carry!
One more thing: Be sure to check out Stonewall's new website for photo-illustrated details of their saddles' history and construction!