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    [RC] 25 Mile Training Ride Story (long) - AprJhn

    Saturday afternoon, my husband and I were driving back from spending Thanksgiving with my family in SC. Between naps, I chattered endlessly about riding and the fact that I was going to take Tanna on a training ride the next day. I was planning on heading out to a park I hadn't ridden at before. It is only a 50 minute drive from my house, but I'd never tried it due to reportedly rocky conditions. The weekend before, I'd been out there and seen at least part of the trail for myself and was willing to take Tanna over it with Easy Boots as a back up plan if the rocks prooved too much for his bare hooves.
    As we passed over the state line into TN, I got the idea to call and see if Bowie Nature Park was open. They are frequently closed to horseback riders and mountain bikers due to wet and muddy trails. Since we have had a very wet fall, I have been unable to ride there for months. But to my delight, the recorded message declared the trails open, with a caution to avoid wet areas. Fine by me!! I altered my plans to ride at Bowie.
    Sunday morning dawned crisp, clear, and COLD. I prepared to leave, making sure I had plenty of layers. I blanketed Tanna for the trailer ride. That wind can get cold.
    I arrived at Bowie just before 10:30. I saddled Tanna, hooked up my heart rate monitor (Tanna's heart rate was around 40, pretty normal for him), and placed my gatorade bottles in their places. The park wasn't deserted, but there weren't any other horses there, and there were only a few bike riders. Tanna and I would have clear trails.
    I swung up into the saddle. Tanna jumped around a little as he usually does, but I moved him off quickly to settle him down. We walked to the start of the trail where we picked up an easy jog. Ah, what a great day to be out. A little chilly, though! I managed to pull my gloves out and put them on while Tanna was trotting down the trail. Better, but my face was still ice cold. I stopped Tanna and gingerly managed to pull my thin ski mask on while balancing my orange covered helmet on the pommel. As I went to put my helmet back on, I was sure I was going to have to dismount since Tanna was freaked about the helmet being off my head instead of on it, but after a few false starts, I had my helmet firmly in place and we headed down the trail. Yeah, I know, he needs more training. :)
    As we trotted down the trail, I kept mental track of his heart rate numbers. He was feeling good and ready to work. I love this horse!! :) After a good warm up, we began slow cantering. We're at the point in his training where we are alternating trotting with cantering. We zoomed along the trails at a good pace for him. We were averaging about 7 mph. And we were having fun. What a blast. :) We explored almost every trail we saw. A lot of them looped back to the main trail, so we took all of them. After about 8 and a half miles we found ourselves back near the trailer. My plan was to do about 12 miles, hang out at the trailer for awhile and then go again. So instead of going ahead to the trailer after only 8.5 miles, Tanna and I discovered another trail that I had forgotten about. We trotted down that trail, spooking at every single pile of brush (the park is VERY good about keeping the trails cleared. I love this park!).
    At the end of that trail is the Loblolly trail. It's a nice flat 1 mile loop. I call it the LollyPop trail because it looks like a lollypop at the end of the scary brush trail. I sent Tanna back into a canter and we cantered around that loop twice. I was working on getting Tanna into his right lead. At home, he will swap his leads on his own, but for some reason, he was continually cantering on his left lead. I knew he would like it better if he would just canter on his right some, so we worked on that for the 2 miles and I managed to get him to canter on his right lead for roughly half the time. After that, he seemed to change his canter leads on his own again. I guess he just needed some prodding.
    After the two mile canter, we headed back down the scary brush trail toward the trailer. A little ways from the trailer, I jumped off Tanna and he immediately peed. Good boy! :) I should have praised him more than I did, but I was busy watching the pee to be sure it wasn't an odd color.
    When I got to the trailer, I threw a twin sized polyester blanket over Tanna, saddle and all. Got the blanket for about $5 from Wal-mart. Can't beat the price! I got his beet pulp out, but Tanna wasn't interested. He wanted my fruit and grain bars and pretzels of all things! Wouldn't touch the pulp. Oh, well.
    I was pleased with his heart rate. After 10 minutes, he was comfortably standing at a heart rate of 48 or so. In the messing around and getting food and drink, I didn't get a chance to get his 2 or 6 minute heart rate like I normally do.
    After a 20 minute rest, I pulled off the blanket, tighted up the girth and realized the heart rate monitor wasn't working. I tried all sorts of tricks to get it to come back on, but it wouldn't cooperate. So we went out and did our second loop without it. I didn't bother to unhook it, because it's done that before, but then will come back on after awhile. But not this time, it just wasn't going to work. Oh, well.
    Tanna and I headed back out on our loop. We practically mirrored our first loop, only this time we didn't go down the dead end trails that we'd explored on our first leg. He did really well. I was pleased with him and had a good time out. There were a couple of walkers on our LollyPop loop when we did our 2 mile canter at the end of our ride. We passed one couple 3 times and another lady twice. I wonder what they thought of us doing our slow, easy canter past them so many times. :)
    I wished I'd had his heart rate monitor for that last 2 mile canter, just to keep an eye on his heart rate. The first time through, he was doing a steady even canter at 128-132 bpm. (I have my receiver set up to beep when his heart rate is over 130, so sometimes it was beeping, sometimes not. That reminded me to keep glancing at it.) It would have been nice to see the heart rate during the 2 mile canter at the end of a 25 mile ride. But I DID listen to my boy and he was doing well. Ears up, watching the trail, flicking back that one ear to listen to me talk to him every now and again.
    Our distance for our first loop was 13.7 miles with an average speed of 7.1 mph. Our distance for our second loop was 11 miles with an average speed of 6 mph. Right on target and he handled it really well. He really seemed to do much better having a 20 minute break between the loops. Usually, we don't do that during training rides. We'll have little breaks here and there, but not a "long" one like 20 minutes.
    The second loop we spent more time hanging out at the water places, with me trying to get him to drink. He'd dunk his head in the water, but only took sips. I'm not sure if the water was too cold or he just didn't want to drink. I've trained him that he has to acknowledge the water is there by putting his muzzle in the water. If he still won't drink, we generally move on, but I don't want him to ignore the water or think that we can just bypass the water altogether. During the second loop, I asked him to put his muzzle in the water at least 3 times per water stop to try to encourage drinking, but he only sipped the water.
    Back at the trailer, I unsaddled him and immediately blanketed him as his back was steaming when I removed the saddle pad and the last thing I wanted was for him to get chilled or cramped. I offered his beet pulp again, but he merely nibbled at it for about 5 minutes before he started throwing it on the ground. Ok, enough. He still didn't want a drink, but was perfectly happy to eat pretzels. Silly horse. I think I'll bring hay next time and see if he'll eat that at a break.
    What a great ride. I'm a tad sore today, but not bad and nothing compared to my first time ever riding 25 miles at one time. :) Oh, and as a bonus, when I got home from Thanksgiving, I found my 2003 season AERC card waiting for me in the mailbox. Life is grand! :)
    This training ride did even more to convince me that trying the 55 miler at Gator Run in 6 weeks is the right thing for us. The 30 just wouldn't be a challenge for this horse.
    Nashville, TN
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