Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ride near Smith Rock on part of Cole Loop

Shar and I wanted to get out and do some bigger mileage then we'd been doing lately, and the forecast was for some good weather.  I let her pick where, since she knows way more trails than I do, and she picked a trail we've done before anyway.  That's good, because Arya and I will be more familiar with it (yay, confidence!), plus we can compare our time this time with our time last time.  We were aiming to improve the time, hopefully to at least 4 mph overall.  (You have to have a 5 mph overall average to finish and endurance race, including limited distance, in time.  There's no time limit on the 10-15 mile "training rides," but I'm hoping to be able to finish my first 10-mile ride in the time it takes Shar to do her first 20-mile loop (plus she starts an hour earlier) so I can meet up with  her and we can possibly do a second 10-mile loop together.

I also had the personal goal of trusting Arya with choosing the speed more (I tend to nag at her to slow down because I'm so paranoid and nervous), especially when we were out front, but also to work on regulating her speed when following behind Flash and Shar, so she wasn't riding right up behind him.  Turns out neither were very necessary, so we'll continue to work on those things on future rides.  :-)

Oh but first--I've been having this nagging annoyance that it always feels like my right stirrup is shorter than the other.  I measured them the other day, and it really was a half inch shorter.  A half inch doesn't seem like much, but I can tell, and it's rather annoying.  The other night, I tried punching new holes in the fender, but the leather punch wouldn't reach and wouldn't make a hole big enough, so I'm gonna have to use a drill, I think.  But I didn't have one handy at the time.  I told Shar I'd been thinking that I could just use some kind of padding to raise the other stirrup up half an inch (just put padding on the footbed).  She found me a mouse pad she didn't care about and some duct tape, and I taped it in on top of the existing padding on the stirrup.

We tacked up, I hooked up the heart rate monitor (and almost forgot to put the watch on that shows the readout) and put on some sunscreen, and hpped aboard.  Shar asked  if I was sure I'd put the padding on the correct stirrup, and I said yeah, I put it on the right stirrup.  She said, "Wasn't that the one you were gonna make LONGER?"  Oops.  I've been riding with uneven stirrups so long I didn't even notice that I'd made the problem worse instead of better.  So I hopped off, switched the padding to the other stirrup, and got back on (yay for a handy stump in the vicinity).  And then it really felt wrong.  Ugh.  But I gave it a few minutes, and sure enough, it actually felt much better.  :-)

We walked for a while to warm up, then once we got out of the trees and onto some wide open double track with a mild uphill, we started trotting.  Normally, the first few trots of a ride, Arya wants to GO and it's hard to hold her back from ramming herself right up Flash's butt.  But not today.  She settled into a slow-paced trot, letting Flash move out ahead of her.  Then she broke down to a walk.  I let her walk a step or two, then asked her to trot again.  She willingly did, but again relatively slowly, and again slowing to a walk pretty quickly.  Weird.  I checked the heart rate monitor, and she was barely over 100, so likely not too tired out or anything, plus we'd JUST started our ride.  She had been showing signs of being in heat the night before, so I chalked it up to hormones or being a little uncomfortable or whatever, and just went with it.

As Flash got further ahead, it occurred to me that Arya might break into a canter at some point to catch up.  We were on a slight uphill with good footing, so I decided if she did, I'd let her.  She did, and I did.  This is big for me, because she bucked the last time we cantered on purpose, and then hopped a tiny bit when I let her canter a couple strides on a solo ride.  But she did fine--nice smooth canter, then slowed right down when we caught up to Flash and Shar.  Woo!  Successful canter!

We got to a nice viewpoint and took a break for some photos:

When we started back up again, Arya's heart rate kept climbing and climbing, well past 200.  I was freaking out, and Shar asked me if I didn't have it, would I be worried based on her behavior.  No, good point.  So clearly it's not super-accurate.

Then the trail goes alongside the Crooked River a while.  We were trotting along, and a couple geese flew off the bank of the river, startling Arya and Flash.  Arya took a little sideways step, which raised MY heart rate a bit, but it was over before I had much chance to panic.  We stuck right behind Flash (her comfort zone) for a while.

Then the trail goes up, up, UP.  Probably a couple miles of steady climbing, steeper at first, then gradually flattening out at the top.  I kept my eye on the heart rate monitor (and listening to her breathing).  At one point, she was panting pretty hard, but the HRM read 60.  Um, yeah, definitely not super-accurate.

When it leveled off, we stopped so Shar could give Noelle (the cute dog that made it into a couple photos) some water, as it had been a long climb, and it was still a ways until we got to the next natural water source.  Now that it was relatively flat again, we had the chance to trot.  But Arya was being kind of a stinker.  She'd been slow before, but now she got her second wind or something, plus the sweat running down her face was driving her nuts, and she would NOT stop tossing her head.  So we mainly walked.  Ugh.

We got to a gate, and Shar was kind enough to dismount to open it, close it, and remount.  We knew we wanted to make a left turn to go up the canyon we'd found the prior time, so we turned left, and the road quickly headed UP, much steeper than the prior big hill.  It seemed to go up steeper and steeper, and looked like it would top a hill rather than go into a canyon.  It was getting so steep I was getting more uncomfortable with the idea of having to come back DOWN it.  I really didn't remember it being so steep before, and said so.  We decided to turn around, and Shar suggested traversing across the hill rather than straight down.  Except Arya only wanted to go UP, not DOWN as we crossed the hill, so we didn't make much progress.  And, being off the trail, at one point she ducked her head DOWN, so FAR down, that it really freaked me out having her entire head and neck just disappear.  I got her back over to the road we'd come up, and we made it down the hill successfully, and found the road we'd meant to take.

The above pictures are from early in the canyon.  I didn't get any photos in it.  Oops.  It was quite rocky, but even though she's barefoot, Arya did great.  Except that there's a spring at the top of the canyon, so at one point, there was a trickle of water down through the canyon.  Oh dear.  Arya made it VERY clear that she didn't want her pretty little toes to get wet.  At one point, we were coming down from a little scramble over some rocks, and she was pointed straight at the stream.  I mean, we're seriously talking a four-inch-wide, half-inch-deep trickle of water.  Anyway, so we're pointed straight at the stream, and I'm like, "don't jump, don't jump, don't jump."  She jumped.  But barely.  No biggie, except that we ended up right in a tree.

We continued uphill, and for a little ways, we were able to avoid the stream, then the side we were on narrowed.  For a second, it seemed as if she would scramble over some boulders (totally bare rock), but she finally decided to cross the stream.  Without jumping this time.  Good girl.  :-)

Oh, and speaking of bare rocks, there were a couple spots that was the only footing, and Flash, in his steel shoes, was slipping around, but Arya's bare feet had perfect grip.  Yay!

Anyway, we made it up the canyon, where there was a big spring-fed watering trough.  All the critters got a nice drink, then some grazing on the nice green grass nearby while Shar and I took turns peeing in the bushes.  I even managed to mount up from the ground (slightly higher ground than Arya was on, but still...).

The trail after that is SO pretty, meandering through the woods.  We tried to trot some, but it was often either uphill or down, so we weren't making very good time.  Oops.

Then the trail breaks out of the trees and provides some AWESOME views.

Last time we rode this trail, I was really nervous in these areas, where it was a LONG way down to the valley below, and Arya doesn't hug the uphill side of the trail like Flash does.  I micromanaged her all the way down, trying to keep her on the trail.  This time, I was much more at ease.  I even let her go ahead and slip her hind feet off the trail a couple times.  I think she learned that SHE didn't like that much, as she stayed more in the middle of the trail the rest of the way down (still not hugging the uphill side, but it's progress).  There's a spot where it switchbacks, and the turns are REALLY sharp and REALLY steep, and I was totally freaked out last time.  But this time, I was totally cool with it.  Yay, me!  Now I'm ready to graduate to the REALLY sketchy part of the trail Shar has warned me about.  Yay?

There were some stretches that were a gradual enough downhill that I'd be comfortable trotting them, but every time I'd ask Arya to trot, she do so willingly, then slow back to a walk right away.  She's not ready to carry me downhill at the trot yet, I guess.  Or was just too tired to do it right then.  I didn't want to push her.  When we got off the hill and back onto double-track, it was a slight downhill and we did trot.  There was a bit more head-tossing, but mostly she was doing pretty well.  When we got to the slightly uphill singletrack that led back to the trailer, though, I had to keep encouraging her to get her to trot.  Shar didn't believe me, thinking it was ME that was tired, but no, Arya was the slow one in our pair.  But we did trot quite a bit of it, and made it back to the trailer.  We did NOT make the time we'd hoped to, but we had an awesome day.  Took tack off, picked her feet (which got a few chips on the outside edges, but didn't really take down any hoof wall length at all), checked her heart rate with a stethoscope - down to 60, yay, and that was with trotting in to "camp."  We did nearly 14 miles by my Endomondo App, averaging 3.59 mph (it was running during all our stops, so our moving time was better than that, but at endurance rides, the clock doesn't stop even for the mandatory holds, let alone water stops, so that's realistic.  And we need to be at a 5 mph or better average for actual rides, so Arya and I have some work to do.

Oh, and so the stirrup fix wasn't ideal.  The pad I made was slightly smaller than the stirrup, and I centered it, which left a half-inch or so gap on each side of the footbed of the actual stirrup.  Well, my western fenders aren't turned quite enough, so normally my toes end up just past the outside edge of the stirrup, between the hard part of the stirrup and the first strap of the cage.  Which normally isn't a problem, except with the gap in the built-up pad, my pinkie and fourth toe kind of got jammed in there, which was rather painful.  So I'd make an effort to center my foot, which would work for a little while, then it'd end up back in the crack again, getting pinched.  When walking uphill or on the flat, it wasn't a big deal, but posting or bracing my feet downhill sucked.  So I need to find my drill bits and take care of that before doing a long ride, or at least move the makeshift pad over to the outside edge of the stirrup.

So, parting shots are actually from the day before the ride--got Arya out just to groom her and let her know that not every time I pull her from the pasture means WORK.  I trimmed her beard, which was really shaggy.  Then she and Lil Bit (the foal) got to graze a bit.  Fun times!

Mooooom!  Don't take my picture!

Ooh, what's this?

Happy horses, happy day.  Both grazing and on the ride.

We'll probably ride between now and then, but next Saturday is the mock endurance ride Shar's putting on (with a little help from me).  I'm looking forward to that, but it'll be a long half-day on Friday to mark the trail, then a long LONG day on Saturday to host the event then clean up the trails, but I think it'll be fun.

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