Thursday, February 19, 2015

Fun Gadgets plus a Night Ride

Anyone with a hobby knows that there's always "stuff" you need to buy.  Anyone with horses knows there's ALWAYS "stuff" you need to buy.  Endurance is no exception.  I've been on a bit of a buying spree lately, and since the last time I rode, have received three gadgets I get to try out in the near future, and have a few more on the way.

I received a new-to-me saddle on trial, to try on Arya and hope it fits.  I didn't want to ride in it last night, because new gadgets PLUS dark isn't necessarily a good combination.  But I was excited to try it on her.  Unfortunately, neither Shar nor I are experienced saddle fitters, so we thought it looked pretty good but weren't positive.  I sent some photos to my riding instructor, who IS a saddle fitter, to get her opinion.  She has some concerns, but told us some things to check, so next time I make it out there, Shar and I will check it out further.  More later...

I also got some used Renegade hoof boots online.  A lot of people use normal steel (or aluminum) horseshoes.  There's nothing wrong with that (though there are people militantly anti-shoe who would tell you otherwise), but they're somewhat "permanent."  I mean, they only last 6 weeks or so (or even if the shoe itself lasts longer, it has to be taken off then the hoof trimmed, then the shoe can be replaced), but you can't just wear them for a particularly rocky ride then take them off for softer footing or for relaxing in the pasture.

This is absolutely fine, but since Arya's never had shoes, and has ridden 20+ miles a day with her previous owner through rocks and sand and not needed shoes, I figure why start shoeing her if it's not necessary.  However, I don't want to show up to a ride and get started, only to have it be a super-rocky trail that she gets ouchy on halfway through.  So temporary shoes are a good solution, unless/until she proves to need the more permanent shoes.

Enter hoof boots.  Some people use them as an all-the-time solution, using them every time, every ride, so that their horse can be barefoot when pastured but have protection on rides.  I plan to use them as an emergency backup, but it's the same idea.  They're basically a tennis shoe for horses.

They have a sole with tread, and different boots have different methods of keeping them one--the above picture is similar to the ones I bought, except mine are black (when will they come out with purple, I wonder?).  Once again, didn't want to try them on FOR the ride, but after we got back, I put them on her front feet, fully expecting some weird antics when she felt them around her ankles and felt/heard the weirdness of her footfalls.  But she did great--she pawed the ground a couple times with the first foot, but otherwise didn't bat an eye.  I walked her around outside on the gravel, and she walked completely normally.  I'll want to turn her loose in the arena to trot and canter around with them on before trying them on the trail (and in turn, will want to try them on the trail with no pressure before relying on them as a backup at a ride), but that seemed to go well.

The last gadget I received recently was a heart rate monitor (for the horse--I also recently got one for me).  Since it has to get attached to the saddle, I'll wait until knowing whether this new saddle will work or if I'm stuck with the current one for a while longer before messing with it, but I'm excited to try it out, too.  I'm especially curious how fast her heart rate comes down after working hard, but it'll also be good to learn what her target heart rate is and work on conditioning that way.

So, unrelated to the gadgets, we also went for a ride last night.  Seems I never have a ride that there's nothing to write about, and this was no exception.  We set off as usual--we have a route we usually take for our night rides, though last time we left with enough daylight left that we extended it a bit.  We ride dirt roads through rural neighborhoods.  It's all large lots, and therefore a lot of the residents have horses or donkeys (and there's one place with llamas we passed on Friday), and a lot of people have dogs.  Arya's used to dogs, especially at the places we frequently pass--she barely even tips an ear toward them anymore.  But for some reason, horses always get her full attention, sometimes in a bad way.

We were trotting down a nice empty flat dirt road just before it started getting truly dark.  Arya was going slow all evening for some reason--normally she walks faster than Flash and doesn't have any trouble keeping up at the trot pace we normally do, but tonight she was walking the same speed (though Flash was walking fast) and was lagging behind at the trot.  I let her lag behind--it's good for her to know that it's JUST FINE for other horses to speed ahead of us, because I plan to take it slow at our first ride.  Then all of a sudden, she DARTED forward.  A horse in a neighboring pasture (who she'd already been aware of) galloped off, and either scared her or prompted her to want to run, too.  The first split second, I thought "Oh, Sh!t," then the second split second, I realized "oh good, she's just cantering.  I can do that.  Sit the canter."  Then she slowed to a fast trot, then a normal trot, and I resumed breathing again.  :-)

We continued our ride, with a bit of trotting on the dirt road (Arya still lagging way behind Flash).  Then we hit single track and it was pretty dark by then so we walked on it.  Then paved road, so walking only.  Then we trotted a little more on a dirt road (still lagging behind), but we were chatting so much we ended up walking most of it.  Then paved roads again, so just walking.

Along part of that paved road, all of a sudden Shar noticed a few deer in someone's front yard.  Flash had noticed them, but Arya had NO clue.  Just obliviously walked on past.  Shar teased me for my mustang mare not noticing the wildlife, but I pointed out that they weren't predators, and she was ignoring the deer while remaining on high alert for cougars.  :-)

We continued our ride, and by the time we got to the other stretch of single track, the cloud cover had dissipated and it was rather dark.  And Arya and I were in the lead.  I let her continue leading right onto the single track, but fully expected her to plant her feet and wait for Flash to catch up and pass her so she could follow directly behind him like usual, but she didn't.  She led us right down the little trail through the trees and shrubs without a hint of hesitation.  Shar pointed out that the bushes kind of seemed like clouds in the faint light, and it made it feel like floating.  She was totally right!  Arya's walk was even feeling really smooth, adding to the illusion.  So cool.  We headed on home, past a pasture with a foal we couldn't see but could distinguish by its whinny, and did one more quick trot session before the final stretch home.

So, not a whole lot of trotting overall, but a couple good long stretches, though it was weird that Arya was so slow about it.  Hope she's feeling peppier next time I ride, though it will likely be solo, so maybe laid-back is better.  :-)

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