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[RC] [RC] How to tell if you are over doing it?/Building a Base - Lucy Chaplin Trumbull

OK. I'll fess up. This year I broke my horse from
"overdoing" it. Maybe.

Disclaimer: Not all horses are created equal.

If you read, f'instance, Angie's comment "I'll do
a slow 50 miler on most horses after 90 days" by
rights, we should have been fine. Except this was
Mouse we're talking about, not Angie's horse nor
any of those "I pulled him out of the paddock and
did a slow 50" horses you read about.

You could argue that she's not a suitable prospect
for distance - but you could probably argue that
about many high-mileage horses. I've got her, so
what I have do now is figure out what I did wrong
and try and see if I can avoid it in the future.

* * *

Mouse has been in our family for five years. She
arrived as a halter-broke greenie and I picked
away at her training. We (intermittently) did lots
of groundwork, the odd trail ride (chaperoned),
camping trips, fun rides, etc. When I wasn't picking
at her, she'd cheerfully stand around in her paddock
and do very little.

Finally got to the stage where we could ride alone,
and I started conditioning her properly at Christmas
2001 when she was 9.

The following was our ride schedule, which doesn't
by any means look terribly aggressive - especially
when you consider we rode at the tail end of most
of these rides and took it really easy:

April 27th - 30
August 10th - 30
September 7 - two-day 50 (NATRC CTR)
September 21 - 30 (NATRC CTR)
October 26th - 50

What happened? Well, half-way through the 50 miler
(carefully selected as her first 50 because it was
reputed to be a) fairly easy, b) fairly short, and
c) a popular "first 50" for many others), she showed
up slightly off, and by the end we had to hand-walk
in the last few miles and she was totally off. She
finished, but obviously didn't get her completion.

I was proud of her, of how she dealt with it mentally
and metabolically, but bummed that she "broke".

An ultrasound revealed a pulled suspensory and superficial
flexor tendon. <ouch>. So we're now on confinement, regular
hand-walking, and due for the second ultrasound next week
(after three months), with many months of rehab ahead of
us. <sigh>

What went wrong (possibly):

1) Mouse has sticklet legs and "dainty" tendons.
More than likely this will always be her weak link
and the one thing I have to watch with her. It was
also speculated that the tendons are shorter/tighter
on the bum leg (her clubby foot) and therefore more
prone to injury.

Important fact to remember when I blame myself:
sh*t happens and this injury might have happened
regardless as to how I'd conditioned/managed her.
It might have been there all along from years
back, waiting to be pushed into failure.

Either way, I still have to try and avoid it
happening again. This might mean she never does
50s. Or it might mean that I just use her for
LD/slower-paced NATRC rides instead.

2) For her, we probably did too much, too infrequently.
My schedule means I can't ride every day or even every
other day. I'm feeling pretty cheerful if I get to ride
three times a week. So we built up to doing do a short
ride (or two - if we were lucky) in the week (~5-8 miles)
and a longer ride (~10-20 miles) on the weekend (although
these were seldom faster than 3-5 mph).

Caveat: This conditioning schedule worked fine for
Provo, my other horse, who had more base on him, put
on by his previous owner (base that still consisted of
being ridden twice a week). He went on to do 50s with
no problem (while *my* knee blew out after the third
one in six weeks. Lesson: make sure you are as fit
as your horse).

Seeing the rehab. schedule Mouse's on now, I'm
guessing it probably would have been better *with
her* to do as many short, easy rides as I could manage,
every other day (with a longer one at weekends).

Probably, an half-hour or an hour every other day
is better than just doing five hours *once* a week.

I always thought of LSD as being like an onion -
it should go on in very thin layers. With Mouse,
our layers were too chunky for her legs.

3) The terrain around here is not a piece of cake.
We live a few miles from the American River canyon
and climbs of several hundred to a thousand feet are
normal. There are many places where continuous trotting
is not possible. Given her sticklet legs, I should
have paid more attention to this fact. Instead, I just
assumed she *should* be able to cope with it, as
that's what everyone else around here does.

One thing she has never been good at is using her
back end to push up hills. She'd tend to pull from
the front, so that's something I have to figure out
how to get her to do better in the future.

And having done a couple of NATRC rides, I would do
well to go more with their pacing strategy (where
feasible): walk the ups and downs, walk the rocks,
trot every-thing else.

4) She is so comfy, I tended to stay on her, rather
than dismounting and walking. She has a really nice
easy, smooth trot and I'd let her trot/jog downhills
if she wanted. Ack. What did Angie say? "The important
thing to me is go easy on downhills"? Again, I thought
we were OK because her trot is so quiet and slow (we're
not talking about a huge extended trot here).

5) Given the opportunity, she can be really slug-like,
esp. on uphills, and so motivating her has been a problem.
In my desire to try and speed her up (not talking racing
speeds here - more upping from 3-4 mph to 5-6 mph) I
encouraged any sign of forward enthusiasm - which meant
whenever she did want to bound a bit, I let her. Wrong.

I figured the more she did, the fitter she'd get
(instead of being blimp-like), and the more she'd
enjoy what she was doing, so the more motivated she'd
be. This worked partially. Her attitude did improve -
on and off. It was the "offs" I should have paid more
attention to.

6) Another thing I could have worked on was extending/
speeding up her walk gait (Mouse + walk = slug).

Instead, I worked on getting her to do her nice slow
trot everywhere (we had to trot a lot because she
was slow in that gait and even slower at the walk,
we'd go overtime if we didn't). In the future, this
"trundle-trot" will be a useful gait, but I probably
used it too much for the level of conditioning she
was at.

7) The biggest lesson I learnt, is that just because
everyone else can leap on a do 50s, doesn't mean your
horse can. :(

The best thing about our regular rehab hand-walks is
that it is letting me work on a whole lot of holes
in our training. F'instance, Mouse's lateral abilities
are almost non-existent. So while we've been doing our
walks, I've been clicker training her on all sorts of
things she never knew how to do. When we do finally get
up and running again (figuratively speaking <g>), I'll
have a better horse to play with. Fingers crossed.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
elsie AT foothill DOT net
Repotted english person in Sierra Foothills, California
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

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