Monday, February 28, 2011

What I Learned In 98 Miles in The Saddle

Holland, the brown Shackleford shown above, took me 48 miles in one day and Ta Sunka Witco, my SMR who is the grandson of Choctaw Sundance, took me fifty miles the next day. It made for a full weekend. Along the way I learned a few things.

1. The best conditioning for riding is riding. But for saddle sores inside my knees, I could have done another fifty miles the third day. Appearances to the contrary, I am in spectacular condition, primarily as a result of spending every hour possible in the saddle year round.

2. A fifty mile ride requires more energy than one might anticipate. On the second day I consumed more calories than I have in one day for many years. I needed everyone of them.

3. Corollas and Shacklefords are even tougher than I imagined. Holland is 13 hands. I weigh 232 pounds and he took me 48 miles in very bad conditions. Wind gusts exceeded 40 mph. We experienced bouts of heavy rain and the resulting muddy surface made it much more difficult for the horses to move. The next morning he approached me in the pasture. He was ready to go again, but he had the day off and Sunka carried me the next fifty miles.

4. Conditioned horses recover their strength quickly when given the opportunity to completely rest for 20 minutes to an hour.

5. Cantering is ok. Generally we trot and gait for about 85-90% of a long ride. However, on the second day we went back to the pattern of riding that I used as a teenager. We cantered anywhere from 1/2 a mile to more than a mile and then walked for perhaps a hundred yards. We made very good time doing so and reduced rider fatigue. The horses took it great. At mile forty seven Sunka was pouring it on and I found myself holding him back.

6. A heavy coat, rolled tightly and tied to the saddle between the horn and the rider makes it possible to be truly comfortable in the saddle for a full day of riding.

7. Pete Ramey style trimming can work miracles. Trade Wind, a Corolla stallion who was completely crippled with founder in the wild cruised along through the ride with out any sign of discomfort, much less lameness. Of course, every one of the horses was barefoot.

8. Nothing is healthier than natural horse care for horses. Three of the horses had had their diet supplemented with horse feed for the two weeks before the ride. All other horses lived entirely on hay, stayed outside 24/7, had the emotional security of living in a herd, and had room to constantly move on varied terrain. They drank from water holes and never wore pasture blankets. In short, they were allowed to live like horses.

9. My little riders are tough. Lydia joined me for the entire 98 miles. Ashley rode fifty miles in one day as did Rylee. Emma, Amanda, Jordan and Emily W. rode 36 miles. Samantha, only 7 years old, did her first five miles of trotting.

10. My grown riders are tough. Terry did fifty miles in a day and Emily M. did seventy miles in two days.

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