Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Solo "Night" Ride

Poor Flash is having a lameness issue.  Right now, the prognosis looks good long-term, but he needs to take it easy for at least a few weeks, possibly longer.  So I'll be riding solo on weeknights, and possibly weekends as well, for the foreseeable future.  Arya deserves a bit of a rest in the immediate lead-up to our planned 25 this weekend, but I wanted to do one training ride with a lot of trotting before we got too close to the ride date, to get my legs in better shape.

So I headed to Shar's after work, and after shooting the breeze with her for a little while, tacked Arya up and hopped on.  And promptly realized my phone was sitting on the fender of the trailer, so hopped off, got it, and hopped back on again.  :-)  Oh, and I put hoof boots on her front feet, as we'll likely need to use them in this weekend's ride, so needed to get another practice session in to be sure she's fine with long trotting sessions with them on.

We headed down the driveway, and she was a little reluctant to leave.  We turned left and walked past the pasture she's kept in and has buddies in.  She kept drifting left and s-l-o-w-i-n-g way down.  I'd nudge her forward and steer her back to the middle of the dirt road again.  She'd take that as an opportunity--"you want me to go to the right?  sure!  I'll just U-turn right and head back home."  Uh, no.  So I'd prod her into a trot.  She trotted, but about two miles an hour.  Seriously.  So it took us a while to make it to the end of the road at that pace, but when we turned the corner, she sped up a LITTLE bit.  Maybe 3 miles an hour in a trot now.  :-)  We passed the creepy dogs and made it to the end of that road, jogged a bit, and hit a nice long straightaway.

Her trot picked up a little speed.  She started to turn left where we usually turn for our solo rides.  Heh.  She knows.  But no, we were doing a different route tonight, though one she was still very familiar with.  It's the route Shar and I would ride on most of our night rides, but this was the first time doing it solo.

We trotted most of the way down that road.  I paid attention when we passed the pastures that have horses in them--Arya's always interested in other horses, especially when riding solo, and if they gallop, she tends to spook and/or want to join them in a little frolic, so I wanted to be ready if she started to "bolt" (for her, this means cantering a few strides, but it still throws me off balance).  But she did great.  Of course, she wasn't truly tested--the horses were on the other sides of the pastures, and well-behaved.  :-)

We passed a spot where someone was building those "fence posts" made by filling a wire cylinder with rocks.  They'd put the cylinders all in a row and were working on filling them up, so there were like six or eight just standing right next to each other.  She gave them the side-eye, but gamely trotted right past them.  However, a little while later, we passed a one standing alone, and she figured if they'd been standing in a "herd" before, a singleton was definitely suspicious and she wanted to get FAR away from it.  :-)

Rock piles and single rocks were also suspicious.  The WHOLE ride.  Seriously, horse.  You may not have seen a lot of rocks when you were a youngun (she was born in the BLM pens and adopted when she was three), but you've seen a few of them by now, and never once has a single one ever risen up from the ground to bite you.  Seriously.

We traipsed along, mostly trotting, until we got to a stretch of singletrack trail.  We walked most of that, because it's a little rocky and she's nothing if not sensible--as soon as she sees rocky trail, she slows to a walk.  This girl definitely has self-preservation in mind.

Then it was time to cross a paved road, and head toward the llamas.  We've done this with Flash to protect us, and she's done fine, especially on the second, third, and subsequent exposures to them.  She always shows curiosity at the weird creatures, and is happiest with Flash between her and them, but doesn't really balk.  Well, today was a whole new experience, because we were alone, without Flash to protect us.

When the first llama came into view, Arya stopped dead in her tracks as if to say, "Whoa!  Did you see that?  There's a weird looking...think over there!  Did you see it?"  I put my legs around her gently (leg hug, as I call it) to reassure her that I did, indeed, see it, and was fine with it.  I verbally reassured her that it was FINE, and we were gonna walk past it.  I sang along to my music and squeezed her to walk.  She took a step or two, turned her head pointedly toward the llama, and said, "No really.  There's a THING over there.  I know you said it's no big deal, but did you SEE it?  It's really weird looking!"  I squeezed her on.  By now, there were a few llamas in view, meandering over toward us.  Arya said, "Now there are MORE of them?  Are you sure you want me to walk?  I think I'd better keep an eye on them."  No, seriously, It's fine.  I squeezed a little harder, jabbing her a bit with my heels.  She took a few more steps.  "No, but really.  There's RIGHT THERE."  So I whapped her a little with my crop.  She actually trotted a couple steps.  I let her slow back down to a walk, since it was a steeper downhill grade than we usually trot.  She took that as a sign that she should stop altogether again.  "Yeah, I KNOW!  There are weird creatures over there!  You saw them too, finally?"  Uh, no, that's not what I meant.  Continue on.  I squeezed.  She walked.  We finally moseyed on past them.

And then trotted and trotted, until we reached a lady walking her small yappy dog.  Arya's met plenty of dogs, but usually of the larger, non-yappy variety.  She didn't like the yappy dog.  The lady picked up the yappy dog, Arya breathed a sigh of relief, and we continued on.

I sent a check-in message to Shar that we were surviving, and had in fact survived the llamas (probably what I would have figured to be the sketchiest part in advance, though you never know what will happen during a ride, of course).  Then we commenced trotting again.  This was about the furthest point from home, so Arya started picking up the speed a bit.  We'd trot along a while, and then she'd slow to a walk.  I'd take a few walk steps as a break, then urge her back into the trot.

Soon we reached an uphill stretch that I'd asked for a canter on the last time (our first on-purpose canter in a long time).  I urged her on faster, but she just trotted faster and then kept it there.  Fine by me.  Cantering still makes me nervous, so cantering while alone, and on a hard surface to boot, wasn't my favorite idea, but I was gonna at least try.  As we got to the top of the hill, her speed slowed, eventually slowing to a walk.  So we took a little walk break.

Then we crossed the paved road, trotted a single-track trail along the road, and got back to a nice wide dirt road again.  We trotted and trotted some more.  There was a scary stump, some scary rocks, and some mildly scary signs, but the worse she did was swerve to varying degrees (barely noticeably for signs, much more severely for rocks, but never enough to really unseat me).

We got to a spot where a resident had apparently watered down the dirt road to avoid dust, so it was a darker color than the road before and after it, and darker in some spots than others, kind of blotchy.  Arya was convinced that this meant there would be the dreaded WATER somewhere nearby.  She lowered her head and kind of cocked it sideways, decided it was dry enough to set feet on, and we proceeded.  But her trot was uneven, and she kept checking that the footing was solid.  Silly girl.

We came to the end of the dirt road, and had to cross a grassy (well, mostly natural, which includes bunches of wild-ish grass, we're not talking lush lawn here or anything) area.  Of course Arya would have really liked me to allow her to eat there, but once I allow her to eat (especially bunch grass, which doesn't work so well when she has a bit in), she gets kind of bratty about it, and it was a short ride without her NEEDING to eat, so I kept a tight hold of the reins.  She grunted and groaned (literally--she is a very grunt-y horse), but moseyed along.  She kind of gave the side-eye to the mailboxes we wait next to until the road is clear, but she survived.

When the road was clear, we started across.  A car started coming upon us rather quickly, so I hurried her across.  She was like "woo hoo!  trotting will get us home faster!" and it took a little bit to slow her.  Plus she was spooking left and right at things like pale concrete driveways, trash cans, and signs (every driveway has a green sign with the house number on it, so we're not talking infrequent road signs like stop signs).  I didn't want to lose my balance when riding on asphalt, so I kept her to a walk for a while.  Good thing, too, as shortly thereafter, a young guy in a sports car ZOOMED past us, faster than one should be driving on that road to begin with, and he didn't slow AT ALL for the horse on the roadway, though he saw us, since he lifted a finger off his steering wheel in greeting (no, not that one--I think he genuinely thought he was being friendly, though slowing down a little would have been a lot friendlier than his little gesture).  I'm glad we were on the opposite side of the road from him--I'm not sure he would have yielded any room, either.

The next stretch of road went by without incident, and we even did a little more trotting.  We passed a couple more yappy dogs being walked, and Arya paid attention to them but didn't really let them slow her down much.

When we hit the last stretch of single track before arriving home, I noticed there were a bunch of bugs.  I don't know if they were moths or flies or what, but they were HUGE.  Seriously, the size and heft of small hummingbirds.  One hit me in the face.  Ugh.  But we survived those and reached the paved road we needed to cross one last time.

But Arya didn't want to stop--she wanted to march on across the road toward home.  However, there were cars coming, so that wasn't a good idea.  I halted her, but she kept prancing.  Really need to work with her on how *I* get to choose the speed (even if it's zero mph) whether we're headed away from home or toward home.  Amazing the difference from one end of the ride to the other.

We did some more trotting, and even though we were nearing home she still seemed controllable, so I went with it.  I'd slow her trot to check in, and pull her back to a walk once in a while, and she was pretty good with it.  She wanted to turn left to take the short way home, though, so I decided we'd take the long way instead.  She didn't like that much, but got over it pretty quickly.  So we trotted some more.  She thought that was pretty great, but soon quit being as rate-able, so I slowed her to a walk, and once she DID slow to a walk, we kept it there the rest of the way home.  Besides, she needed to cool down as it was going to be getting dark soon.

As we passed the neighbor's pasture with two horses, she was pretty interested in them, but when her own pasture and buddies came into sight, she didn't care nearly as much as her buddy did.  Emma called and called to Arya, but Arya pretty much ignored her.  Though she did spook at a [gasp!] rock as we went in the driveway.  Silly girl.

I hopped off and stopped my tacking app.  Unfortunately, it had NOT tracked a large portion of the ride, instead skipping ot the next part it DID track as if we'd traveled a straight line.  But after reviewing the last time we rode that section, and the time it took us, I came up with 6.23 miles in 80 minutes, which equals 4.68 miles per hour on average.  Still not the 5+ mph pace we'll need to complete the 25 mile ride this weekend in the time limit, but considering how SLOW she was going for the first half of the ride, and that even her quicker pace on this ride will probably be her slow-ish pace on the endurance ride, I think we'll be fine.  I hope so.  I'd really hate to ride all those miles and not have it count.  Though of course if it looks impossible to finish the second loop in time, I probably won't start it.

So...next stop, Still Memorial Ride, attempting 25 miles in six hours...wish me luck!

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