Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Squalls and Intervals

Consolation has certainly earned her hay of late.

Truth be told, all you have to do to get meals on this farm is stand around and look pretty -- if you're a horse, that is. I never could get it to work for me. Maybe I should try a new haircut?

Freebies notwithstanding, Consolation has worked hard enough this week that I'm glad to keep replenishing her smorgasbord of sweet, fine Oregon hay.

Last Sunday, my Facebook page was full of status updates from enthusiastic endurance riders in my area. We had sunshine and temperatures in the fifties. Never mind the stiff breeze, everybody saddled up at least one horse and put in some serious time on the trails.

Consolation and I were scheduled for a 14-mile conditioning ride, and we got a few. The weather was so fine that we looped wide and topped out at 18.5 miles in 3 hours, for Consolation's typical LSD speed of 6 mph. I hadn't planned on riding that far until the last weekend in March, but Consolation handled it beautifully -- barefoot on gravel all the way.

Consolation took Monday and Tuesday off, which worked out nicely because I needed to put in some serious time at the office. Besides, our persistent spring winds insisted on blowing...and blowing...and blowing...

This afternoon, despite scattered rain and still more wind, we scraped together enough sunshine for a thrilling 8 miles along our country roads. I've noticed before that the first ride after a long workout and adequate rest often features an extraordinarily buoyant horse. Today was no exception.

Strong and cocky as only an endurance horse can be, Consolation started our ride with a few devious attempts to sidetrack me from her workout, with the result that we returned to the soft edges of the plowed fields for some more interval work. As Jane of The Literary Horse (one of my all-time favorite blogs) pointed out in her comment on my Quick and Dirty post, prudent application of the "wet saddle pad" theory is a beautiful thing.

Note: Prudent application means directing extra energy into productive activity, NOT exercising a horse into submission. Critical distinction.

Anyway. Today's ride was...intense. We churned through plowed earth, sped along harder surfaces, spooked violently at everyday objects, and finished with a healthy trot up a gradual, 2-mile incline. 8 miles total, in exactly 80 minutes. 6 mph again, but a far different workout with a far different training effect. Today's ride contained a lot of interval work, pushing Consolation's anaerobic capacity for short periods, with active rest between.

It's during workouts like these that I'm glad I train hard physically, too, because I know exactly how my horse feels. (I set down my opinions on this subject last summer, in a post called Straight Sailing: Thoughts on Fitness for Endurance Riders.)

Intervals are exhilarating, but they're also tough. Done right, they're really tough. We did 'em right.

So, as I said, I was more than happy to offer Consolation an extra flake of hay tonight. She was more than happy to take me up on it. And I'm smiling to see her in her paddock right now, standing around, looking pretty.

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