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Re: RC: Working too hard

April Lee wrote:
>   I don't want to start a fight, but with the talk of people riding their
> horses too hard, I started thinking a little more about how you can tell if
> your horse is being ridden too hard.

This is a good question. I'm echoing Linda Flemmer's answers, but I look
for specific indications during a ride.

My top priority is great finishing condition. It's Gav's first year, I
want a solid base, and from my experience training to run ultra
marathons (all I ever did was train) I know that it takes a long time to
build a reliable base. Over-training got me repeated injuries, and after
one layoff, I stopped running. If I'd managed me like I do Gav? I'd be
out there now.

The first indication that we are competing or training too hard is that
Gav feels like he's "rushing" past the first mile or two. The harder we
ride, the more obsessed he gets with being in front and speeding up. I
check his eye - his attitude. If he's worried, agitated, tired, dull,
anxious... it means he's over doing it. I want him relaxed but eager,
interested but not obsessed. When I ran, I noticed this in me too; when
I began moving out compulsively, I knew I was ready to over do it!

The next indication is intake; he doesn't eat or drink as well when
being stressed. On a 50, I ask him to start taking grass breaks as early
as 5-8 miles out. It only takes a minute to grab a mouthful of grass,
and he won't do it if we're pushing it too much. If it's hot or dry, he
should start looking at water at this point, but may not drink much.
Anytime I get off to walk (not too often until the 1/4 mile point!) I
grab grass and carry it where he can reach it to entice him. It usually
works. I've thought about carrying a goodie bag with pellets or grain...
any "snack" that I can offer him from the saddle to get him interested
in food. A horsie trail mix... chopped carrots and apples, grain... 

At the first vet, if he looks drawn, it's a sure sign that - for our
goals - I need to back off.

If he isn't eating and drinking well by 15 miles, depending on
conditions, I start watching my pace. If I'm moving consistently at a
moderate pace (our best speed) he should be interested in food and
water. If we are riding someone else's pace, it's more work even if the
point to point time is the same. I don't try to stick with another rider
for a whole ride! It's great when it works, but Gav and I both sacrifice
our pace for companionship, so I monitor it carefully. That pace
includes the frequency of water and munch breaks.

He should be chowing down like a maniac at every opportunity from lunch
on out! The faster I ride, the less important food becomes.

I'm a mid packer for this first year... I'm really interested in what
criteria faster riders who can still consistently finish use to judge
"over work"!

  -- Linda


  Linda Cowles
  Lion Oaks Ranch  
  Gilroy CA

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