Training Loop – 6/20/14

June 27, 2014

I am interested in taking Simon and doing the LD at the Fort Valley, Virginia Endurance Ride hosted by Old Dominion Endurance Rides, in late October. I did this 25 mile ride on a pretty little colored mare I had, Maya, about five years ago and I really enjoyed it. I went alone, camped alone and did the ride alone. Just me and my pony. It was a spectacular bonding experience.

I was in incredibly better shape at that point in my life than I am now. So I have to make sure I can handle the 25 miles, and I also need to make sure Simon can too.  So its time to start taking my Sunday trail rides a bit more seriously. That said, I decided to take Simon on the 10 mile loop up Runkles Gap in Cub Run. It involves all types of trail; Fire road with gravel, ATV, narrow foot path, very rocky, ankle rolling sections, extensive grueling climbs, and several creek crossings. It was a cool gorgeous morning, and the trees were still dripping from the rain the night before. Great training conditions. I have done this loop with Simon very recently, and know both of us are easily capable, but I wanted to put a timer to us and see how well we were pacing ourselves.

With this trail being so rocky in places and having so many strenuous climbs, I wanted to try and keep our pace in the 5-6 miles an hour range, and keeping in mind we will want to move that up a bit as our training progresses. I use Map My Tracks, an awesome free smartphone app, that literally, tracks your tracks, using a GPS function, you can see the read out of your mileage per hour, your total time, steps, elevation, and several other factors, as well as an actual map of the path you followed. It is a fantastic tool that can be set to follow about 30 different sports, equestrian being one of them.

We started off strong, getting in lots of trots before hitting the first climbing trail. Unfortunately the storm the night before had taken a few trees down that required us to spend some time clearing or working around fallen debris. We were making decent time, and were about an hour in, and had finished a long climb and were working on a long slow decent when Simon took 3 weird steps then stopped. I looked down and he was holding his back leg up. We were on a rather smooth section of trail, although it was very narrow, with a cliff going up on one side and down on the other. I slid off his back, and stood sort of half under him, and he handed me his foot. His back shoe, was rotated off, but still attached. I pulled, and with hooves being so soft this time of year, it came right off. His hoof looked fine, although there was a small, superficial nick on the inside of his ankle, and stuck the shoe in my saddle bag. I slithered out from under him and led him a ways along the trail. He was walking fine so I checked my tracking app. We were at 6.23 miles and just over an hour in. So we were making better time than I had planned on.

When the trail widened back up, I climbed back on and we proceeded. Simon refused to trot, no matter how soft and smooth the trail was. We soon reached a very rock part of the trail. It comically looked like someone had swept all the rocks from the surrounding forest onto the trail as a sort of giant gravel. Simon slowly continued on. He was walking terribly slow, so I hopped off to lead him. This only seemed to ignite a more dramatic reaction from him, as he slowed to taking one baby step, one hoof at a time and looking at me with pony-needs-a-treat-eyes. Ironically, he was taking firm smooth steps with the bare hoof, and was just as dramatic with the other three, solidly shod hooves. So I climbed back on and he did pick up the pace some, although never going faster than an ambling walk.

The four miles left to get back took over two hours, but we did make it safe and sound. He was fine the next day, and did not even appear sore. I might give him this Sunday off from the trail, but hope to get back to our “training” next weekend. I think we will try a different trail. Maybe one with less rocks.

 

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