Sunday, February 28, 2010

Quick and Dirty

Four days of rest and good hay. Brisk temperatures. Gusty wind. Rain.

As I pulled on my insulated breeches and headed outside with my Stonewall on one hip and helmet strapped firmly to my head, I knew I was in for an adventure. Sure enough, Consolation greeted me with a rare game of Ha-ha You Can't Catch Me, followed by a round of Dance at the End of the Rope while I excavated her from a layer of mud and tacked up.

She shied and blew as we headed out the gate, leaving the other horses whirling about their pens like kernels of corn in an air popper. The wind rushed in my ears, loudly enough that I twisted repeatedly in the saddle to check for oncoming cars. Meanwhile, Consolation walked in short, mincing steps that guaranteed her hindquarters would be well under her should her high head and pricked ears detect an excuse to run.

Unfortunately for me, excuses lurked behind every fencepost. Windblown trash, clattering tin on the roof of an old barn, dogs approaching unheard over the gusts, tumbleweeds and laundry flying ghostlike on the line. I might as well have been riding a stick of dynamite.

And (of course) it started to rain.

This didn't seem like a good day for the brisk, 8-mile trot I had planned. Consolation had plenty of energy for a ride twice that long, but I wasn't sure I wanted to spend many miles astride a beast whose mind was so tossed by emotion. Still, I was determined to log good workout. We've penciled in the 50 at Owyhee Spring on May 1 for our first race of the year, and that date ain't changin' because of a little February storm.

So, I decided to take advantage of a tool I have at my disposal for only a few weeks out of the year: dirt. Lots of it.

As soon as Consolation was warmed up by a few minutes' trotting, I guided her off the solid shoulder and into the freshly plowed (but not planted) edge of a field. Ahh, perfect. Deep and soft, but loamy instead of slick. Excellent footing to prepare for the sandy canyonlands trails -- and a safe outlet for Consolation's abundant energy.

The fields around In the Night Farm go on for miles. We took them at a smooth jog, Consolation's agitation gradually sinking into effort as her hooves plunged into the soil and her nostrils widened to pull in the energizing wind. Ever conscious of her precious tendons and ligaments, we took breaks to walk again on solid ground, returning to the fields when the storm-driven demons clustered again around her brain.

Four miles of that work was plenty. The last field, a gentle uphill along the tilled edge of a nursery bristling with ornamental trees, painted her neck and shoulders with sweat. When it ended, I dismounted to walk the final half-mile, stroking the dampened curlicues of her coat, satisfied by the short period in which her respiration eased.

Interval training has unquestionable benefits, and I was pleased with the day's work as I returned Consolation to her pen. Nevertheless, we're still due for a stretch of long, slow distance work -- 14 miles later today, according to my Conditioning Log. Let's hope the weather cooperates.

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Lori Skoog said...

Welcome back! You and your horse had to put up with some pretty tough conditions. It is good that you consider her tendons when doing this.

Spartacus Jones said...

Good work.
The ability to maintain situational awareness and flow with the ever-changing tactical conditions is a good one to have.


Anonymous said...

You made me smile. This is the time of year I get the most and best workouts, since many owners do not want to ride in these conditions. High horses, awful weather, boogie monsters and spook cooties abound.

You did exactly what my trainer suggests: a horse tired with care, consideration, and re-focusing, is a well-behaved and listening horse.

She calls it the wet saddle pad theory. :)

If only it was just the saddle pad that got wet!
I love how thoughtful and careful you are in your conditioning program.

clairesgarden said...

wow, impressed with your fitness programme!! it takes dedication.