It was just a walk. And yet, it was so much more. After a long winter's nap, it's nearly time to get serious about conditioning for the 2010 endurance season. I've spent some time on the AERC website lately, checking out the ride calendar for the northwest region. It includes a new ride, the Owyhee Spring on May 1, that sounds perfect for Consolation's first race of the year -- the 55, of course, because we know she can do it. And so, this walk was step one in preparing us for what I hope will be the first of many strong, sound completions in 2010.
Though unseasonably warm at 45 degrees, today's weather also featured blustering wind and all the equine antics that come with it. I set out with several purposes in mind:
- To reintroduce Consolation to the concept of having a career. After several months off, her mind has clearly relaxed into its natural state; she was hard to catch and reluctant to stand for brushing, and our first mile out was filled with silliness that I largely chose to ignore, so long as she abided by the basic rules (no crowding, keep slack in the lead, mimic my pace).
- To reestablish trust and leadership in Consolation's mind and emotions. I've often repeated that "the horse you lead is the horse you ride," and I want to be sure my willful mare and I are thinking together before I mount up.
- To begin toughening Consolation's hooves for miles of barefoot travel on gravel and occasional pavement. Though she's spent the winter on a dry lot of variously frozen, snow-covered, and muddy soil, Consolation has excellent feet and showed no sign of tenderness during today's 3.5 mile trek.
- To prepare Consolation's mind for being ridden in windy conditions. For all that we completed several races together last year, she is still a green and powerful mare. Since we'll need to condition on windy days if we're to be ready for that 55-miler in May, I figure it's best to start early on getting her accustomed to the gusty landscape.
Our training session offered benefits for me, as well:
- Walking is remarkably good for human health. For all that I prefer heavy lifting and high intensity interval training, there's no denying that moving slowly has a remarkably metabolism-boosting hormonal effect on the body.
- Even better, today's walk offered a simple way to ease back into the habit of horsemanship. I've said before that horse training is a discipline, like writing a novel or eating well, that thrives in an environment of commitment. It's time to buckle down for 2010, and I'm feeling more ready every day.
Yes, it was just a walk. But it was a start. A slow, easy, purposeful start start toward whatever adventures this year in endurance may hold. And out there, leaning hard into the wind that lifted Consolation's mane and whipped my hair free of its braid, I couldn't help but recall a quote by Jimmy Dean: "I can't change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination."
Come what may.
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