026. Canal Training Ride

I am happily nestled on the couch, fed, and caffeinated (homemade sweet tea is my crutch). Mechele and I drove to the Delaware Canal this morning to get one last training ride in before Mustang Memorial. It was a rough morning; Mechele was still not feeling quite right from her wicked migraine yesterday, and we debated scratching the entire plan. I needed an opportunity to get more miles in – but it is not worth risking one’s health. Eventually we pulled our acts together, loaded up the horses, and set out.

Both Nakai and Rose are terribly bored with our home trails – so much so that both of them were glad to be out on the Canal. The Canal is also repetitive and boring, but lacks the multiple road crossings and pavement the Perkiomen trail offers. There’s also the many low bridges to ride underneath.


Note to my readers: If you have a horse over 15.3 hands, I would advise against riding the canal unless you are prepared to dismount for almost every bridge. They’re just not tall enough to accommodate a large horse and rider.

Both horses warmed up and were ready to rock. Nakai was moving out and happily rated with Rose. The miles flew by in a whirlwind of greenery, and before we knew it we came up on mile 8 and an opportunity to let the horses (read: Nakai) drink. Rose rarely has a desire to drink before mile 18, so I led him down to the water pool. This was a usual drink spot for us and we never had an issue before today. Nakai loves water and determinedly marched into the pool. I barely had a minute to register the situation before it happened.

Almost immediately, he sank up to his barrel. He lurched forward, trying to unstick himself. Again he sank. Again he lurched. Every time he moved, the ground shifted, providing more instability.

I’m trying my best to stay out of his way, give rein, and with another surge forward I pop out of my saddle, land behind it, and the power from Nakai’s hindquarters threw me off to the side. I let myself go with the motion, falling off him. I landed on a portion of dry creek bed and rolled, trying to avoid hooves on my hip. I was in his path and at the time almost underneath him.

Nakai missed my body completely, carefully avoiding me and stepping over and around my body parts. I don’t know how he knew where I was – I was on his blind side! He has done this before when I’ve done something stupid. I don’t know if he can feel my presence or my energy, but he seems to instinctively know where I am when it matters most. [Side note: years ago I was playing with him and he followed me over a 2ft jump. As I jumped it, I clipped one of my feet over the pole and fell face first into the dirt. Nakai twisted himself in the air to avoid me, landing to my right and away from my body.]

By the time I rolled upright, he had made it onto the bank and stepped on his reins. He goes completely still, waiting for someone to help.  I am a firm believer that all horses should be hobble broke and taught to give to pressure. As soon as he felt trapped he stopped, patiently waiting. He never panicked or fought pressure. Mechele got to him first, carefully unclipping my reins and reassuring him.

I was covered in mud and gravel, and set to work cleaning Kai off with my sponge. I cleaned him and myself up as mcuh as possible. He was sound, uncut and otherwise OK. As it turns out, the accident gave Mechele time to rest and evaluate how she was feeling. We decided at this point to turn around and head for home. Nakai was ready to move out before I was, and happily extended his trot and canter without an issue. Apparently outside of a bit of a scare, the sinking episode didn’t hurt him at all. Rose was making up games and doing her best to egg Nakai’s competitive nature on. He amusingly enough refused to take her bait, traveling soft and quietly behind and beside her. He rated without an issue, and on the way home we had a chance to work on some more wind. We did 5 minute miles!

The ride back to the trailer was uneventful except for looking down and realizing my breeches were soaking wet! I pulled my water bottles out to discover pin leaks in the last three bottles. I swear this happens every training ride! I’m not sure what I do to create the pin leaks, but I distinctly remember my breeches at Foxcatcher soaking wet due to the same issue. Ugh.


Overall, Nakai feels amazing and despite our debacle it was a great last ride. We are ready for 50 miles! He has a massage scheduled and gets the next two weeks off to rest before Mustang Memorial.

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