Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What I Learned In 109 Miles In The Saddle In 15 Hours

I learned that I could do with the help of many what I had failed to do with the help of few. In the past I had tried and failed to ride 100 miles in a day. Both efforts were low key affairs and I was joined by a few of my best riders. I once rode 98 miles in two days. When I failed it was only in the presence of a few. This time it was a big effort with the help and support of many of my riders. Some of those in the picture above that was taken after 8:00 pm when finished were also present fifteen hours earlier when we set out before 3:00 am.

This ride was not my idea. That helped too. Terry decided that since she turned 55 in December and I turned 54, the only logical way to commemorate our ages was to ride 109 miles in less than 24 hours. Failure would mean letting Terry down too. that was a big part of what kept me in the saddle. (Terry did 66 of her miles bareback).

We used five horses each. We had been conditioning the horses and ourselves by running them for around five miles mornings before work plus hours of weekend riding.  However, we ended up doing the last 22 miles on horses that we had not conditioned. I planned to ride Tradewind, a fast gaiting Corolla stallion, who moves wonderfully while I post. Terry planned to ride Red Feather.

I ended up on Young Joseph, a chincoteague/blm cross who, though a favorite of many other riders, I had ridden less than ten times in my life. My legs were too worn out for a few hours of posting. Terry, on the other hand, needed to ride bareback. Her knee was too worn out for a saddle. She switched over to Baton Rouge, a Corolla mare who canters as oil rides water.

It was very important for our safety that we made another change. I asked Loyd and Lydia to join us for the last 22 miles. I knew that neither Terry or I would be strong enough to help the other if we had a problem on the last leg of the ride. The exhaustion of my body did not surprise me, but the loss of my ability to think clearly concerned me. I could not do the most basic math in my head and became disoriented in woods that I have been going through since I was a very small child.

I ate and drank a plenty. The horses were all fine every step of the way. The two formerly wild stallions that we are rding above should help illustrate the carrying capacity of these horses. Ironically only one of the horses was truly tired when we came in, our largest horse on the ride for our slowest leg, -the problem was not the horse. I wore him out because I was tired enough so that I was sloshing all over his back as we gaited and cantered along.

But here is the most important thing--I could not have done this in the rain or if it had been much hotter--not because of exhaustion but because wet clothing leads to saddle sores.

I learned that we could canter much more than I ever had on a long ride. I had always trotted or gaited nearly exclusively on such rides. The conditioned horses had no problem cantering for miles and then trotting for several hundred yards and going back to a canter. None of these horses came close to being pushed to their limits.  Look at the stallions above.

That picture is from the end of their loop, not the beginning

However, I have no doubt that had these horses lived a lifestyle of sugar, shoes and stables we would have had at least one horse go out on us. The key is that a horse that is raised in a natural horse care environment is so much healthier than his imprisoned cousin in the stable that they needed little conditioning.

And for any of you wondering why we would do something so difficult, one of the main reasons was to show how easy it was for the horses to do it. Look at those little Spanish stallions--never lame, neither has coliced a single time in my care, dietary needs comparable to a large goat, cheaper to feed than a German Shepard, small enough for kids, gentle enough for kids, strong enough for adults, loyal, and affectionate--in short everything one coould want in a family horse--yet they teeter on the brink of extinction.

Someone once said to me , "Well you have to keep in mind they are not super-horses!"

No I do not. I am afraid that I have ridden the Corollas further than any person alive on the planet. I know what they can do.

Do I think that they are super horses?

Why do you think we have banned kryptonite  from the horse lot?

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