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speaking of pulling . . .

I've been mulling over thoughts I had at Outlaw Trail last week and really
need some advice.  Granted, I only rode LD, and it is clearly the opinion of
most people that any horse can do LD, almost without worrying.

I'm not sure I agree - certainly if you take into account a multi-day or
tough terrain or extreme weather.  But I also don't know what point to look
at my horse and know that she's approaching a limit because I don't think
we've been close to that.  That's one of the reasons that I wanted to do a
LD multi-day first.  That way I could see if we approached limits w/o being
25 miles from camp and un-prepared to handle anything.

We've been riding around 3 days a week this summer - usually 2 days 6-8
miles w/o much terrain at 5-7 mph and one day 10-12 miles on steeper terrain
around 4.5 mph.  We've done 3 CTRs this summer, 2 tough, 1 easy, would have
done another tough one if I'd been able.  We've also done some long weekends
with really tough trails at Steamboat CO.  I really don't consider this
enough conditioning to be ready for endurance even though the horse seems to
be an exceptional athlete - low heart rate and excellent recoveries.  But I
just can't seem to get the time and weather cooperation to do more.

So, I started out that ride being prepared to pull at the slightest hint of
hurting my horse.  Well, what does that mean?  I really don't know!
Obviously I need a lot more miles with her, but I don't necessarily want a
lot of "approaches to the edge".  At first I was worried because my horse
would seem a little tired, but then she'd drink or really recover at a rest
stop or lunch.  So I worried that I was pushing too hard - ok, with this
horse you don't push, she'll keep going as long as there is a horse in front
of her.  Which to me is all the more reason I have to watch her carefully.

But then I got thinking - she should be tired!  She just walked up that big
hill or whatever!  But she always recovered and moved on strongly again.  I
think she seemed the most tired on the second day right before lunch - that
day we kept the least consistent speed, really moving out for a while in the

Again, I know, I need to ride more and learn these limits from my horse.
But I don't want (or have the time or environment) to get to limits every
time we ride just so that I can recognize them.

I think if I normally rode 4 days a week 15+ each ride, I would just in
general feel more confident that she could handle a given ride - but I'd
have to quit my job to do that (and I would if I could!).

So, enough rambling!  I think what I'm really asking is what criteria do you
look for to know that your horse has had enough - before reaching a limit
for which you hate your self?  We had a lowered head on long hills, that has
usually been my point of knowing that she's tired, so I wouldn't ask for a
trot until she'd had a rest.  We had a slowed walk - but I'd love to get
that slow walk more - so sometimes maybe she's walking slower because she's
comfortable and enjoying her self.  That's how she walks on conditioning
rides or with a small group that she doesn't feel the need to race.  I can
mostly tell the difference though.  Obviously if she didn't recover as the
terrain got easy or after she got a rest, I would be concerned.  But do I
need to be concerned every time she feels a little bit tired?  What are the
interim indications between walking a little slower and a metabolic issue
that I can look for?

I hope this made sense - I've been told I baby her, but I don't want to
learn the hard way!  We are thinking about doing a 50 next month (if the
weather holds in CO to keep her in shape and if it's good enough for the
drive to NM) - anyone have any thoughts on what Apache Kid would be like for
us?  I'd like to do a 50 the first day and then reserve judgement for a 25
the following day.  But the first day is a 55 - that additional 5 miles
might be a lot!!!

Thanks for any advice!


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