075. A Test in Patience

After a week of 80+ degree heat, Saturday’s cool sixties brought a sigh of relief as Maria and I trailered to Green Lane. I could not wait to bounce down the blue trail for the first time in months! With overcast skies and a constant wind, I thought we would have the trails to ourselves.

I started out the ride in a hoodie but quickly skittered back to the truck to dump it. Kai felt like a dynamite stick, ready to work and practically humming underneath me. The red trail was mostly empty, and we warmed up the horses with a working trot. Despite his excitement, Nakai rated well beside Beamer and we weaved our way through cyclists and the odd hiker. A few boats dotted the water as we crossed the bridge, the fishermen bundled up. The grim faces and layered bodies were a stark contrast to my T-shirt and rosy complexion. I love cold weather!


The blue trail barely began before we ran into a bunch of trail riders moseying. Then it was more cyclists. Families hiking. Dogs. So many dogs. We played a perpetual game of leap frog, hardly getting up to speed before having to shut down and share the trail. At one point we actually got stuck behind a gentleman hand walking his horse down the rockiest (and most narrow) section. If nothing else, this ride really tested Nakai’s patience. Beamer carefully picked his way through the trail, oblivious to his friend’s irritation. Though unhappy with the numerous stops, Kai waited calmly while a group of bible toting ladies crossed one of the many technical gullies, kept a fair distance from the hand walking horse, and relaxed after a brief hesitation when I asked him to please take a minute.


What should have been a 2-2 1/2 hour ride turned into 3, and our average speed was only 3.9mph. I cringed when I saw these stats and reminded myself that this was still a training ride (just not the kind I imagined). The plus side of multi-use trails is that our horses are regularly exposed to all sorts of life – sketchy people, bikes, unruly dogs, joggers, and everything else in between – and it shapes them into confident, secure horses who trust their riders to make safe decisions.

You can’t put a price on that.

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074. Perk Trail

We trailered out today for the first time since May! The farmer this year has grown nothing but corn, essentially leaving us without the home trails until harvesting time. Nakai is so bored from schooling that when we arrived at Green Lane, it took him about 3 miles to wake up.


With Beamer working on growing more hoof (he is terrible about keeping shoes on) we opted for somewhere flat. Since Maria hadn’t been to the Perkiomen Trail yet, we decided to park at Green lane, hit the connector loop, and do 6 miles down/6 miles back. She was not sure how fit Beamer is and did not want to do too much.

Both of us wondered what kind of monsters we’d ride today and hoped that with the 85 degree weather the trail would be empty. Our wishful thinking paid off – there was minimal foot traffic and the horses were excellent. It wasn’t until we rode past the bottom of Green Lane and started the Perk trail that Nakai woke up. It felt like he just realized where he was and knuckled down to work. He powered down the trail with his ground-eating extended trot, leaving Beamer in the dust. Fortunately, Maria worked on encouraging Beamer to open up, and we had a few nice stretches were Beamer began matching Nakai’s stride.



For the most part, Nakai kept his competitive streak under control. There were a few minutes after we turned around that he tried his usual tricks – wanting to rush home and impatiently dance at the road crossings. I parked him behind Beamer, making him rate and work slowly behind. It was just enough for an attitude adjustment and we had a lovely ride back.

Both horses were already pulsed down when we go back to the trailer and had super upper gut sounds. The lower quadrants weren’t as active, so next time we’ll have to stop more frequently for snack breaks. Despite the summer heat (hey Mother Nature, it’s officially AUTUMN) they drank well and kept their hydration up – so I’ll call that a win.


I’m getting Kev set up the haul and crossing my fingers we’ll get out more often.

066. Green Lane

Maria and I managed to get one last hurrah before Carl (Maria’s F-150) goes to Ben for repairs. We must have subconsciously remembered the traffic horror that is Qtown Alive, and we opted to head out to Green Lane on Saturday.


The last time we did Green Lane was back in late October or early November. Beamer is on his way to getting fitter, but I asked Maria to dictate our speed. The radar was clear with the exception of a small rain band passing through, so we took our chances and loaded up. As soon as we unloaded the horses it started raining again.  I ended up calling Ben and asking him to run over a hoodie for me; I was cold! It’s hard to believe the prior 3 days were in the high 80’s and here I am layering!

Once the rain passed we hit the trails. Nakai was so happy to be off the property again; he and Beamer had a great warm-up on the red trail.



Upon hitting the blue trail, Nakai turned on and wanted to fly. He floated over the rocks and roots while Beamer tried his hardest to do the same. He rated nicely and for the most part patiently waited for Beamer after every technical crossing. Beamer was awesome for Maria and tried so hard to carefully pick his way over the many logs, rocks, and slick footing.

The only excitement was a chipmunk dashing through the underbrush (which was apparently cause for concern) and a very curious mutt who gave chase to use while crossing the camping area. Beamer was worried an in attempt to head off potential issues I wheeled Kai around and started back after the pup. I am thankful Nakai is dog broke and seems to take great fun in chasing things; he was all business and the poor pup seemed quite concerned the “big dog” had turned the tables on her!

My little vitcory was Nakai finally peed under saddle! Sounds ridiculous, right? In the 9 years I’ve owned him, I can’t remember him ever peeing under saddle. I used to try teaching him (my old BO had a horse who would waddle off trail if he had to go, and he knew a cue to do so) to no avail. I thought Mustang might cure him – no way he could hold it for 50 miles… but he peed during the holds after I stripped tack. He always waits until he’s tied at the trailer or has just loaded.

We did a bit over 11 miles, and Beamer was feeling it by the end. Nakai seemed disappointed we took the shortcut back instead of the last gallop hill, but overall I am very pleased with this fitness level despite having a reduced workload over the last few months. He ate well, his hydration was good, and he felt awesome. What a perfect day!

061. North Side Trails

The south side of Nockamixon is all horse trails. From Elephant road to the dam and back is about 12-14 miles depending on how many loops-within-loops you do. The North side has significantly less trails with the two loops being accessed by the fishing pier entrance.

Thursday I hiked the Old Mill trail with the dogs and ended up doing 5 1/2 miles. The trails were in pretty decent condition despite the rain we had. I didn’t have enough time to do the Quarry trail, so when Maria said she wanted to trailer out again I suggested we go here. I wanted to snoop and it seemed like the perfect footing and distance for Beamer. Plus, it was a trail I haven’t done with Nakai.

You can see a significant shrinkage in his right eye from ERU

It starts off rocky and then opens up enough to ride side by side.  A great canter section runs parallel to the lake and we had a nice hand gallop uphill. Strangely enough, the top trail was by far the wettest. The quarry trail turned out to be a beautiful combination of wooded trails and grassy openings, and we checked out a dead end that overlooked a small cove of the lake while the horses grazed.

Nakai loved being somewhere new! While we only did 8.6 miles, it fell in line with Maria’s goal. Both horses settled quickly despite being a bit up and ready to work. Beamer handled the technical footing at the beginning and end of the trail really well, and I got a chance to work on Nakai’s waiting. I was glad I brought my sponge (and also glad I clipped Nakai). Beamer was super sweaty by the time we finished, so we trotted over to the fishing pier to dip the horses and sponge off.

These past couple weeks have been a bit crazy – I got sick (again), Khoshekh’s been back and forth to the vet for a suspected UTI, and Ben’s truck has been on the fritz. Hopefully I can get back into a regular riding routine soon.

058. Towpath

It feels like ago since Maria and I first made plans to trailer out. Inclement weather and other obligations made it impossible to do so – until yesterday. Naturally, mother nature dumped a few inches of rain on us Friday. Knowing the local parks would be a muddy, swampy mess, we opted for the canal.

It was a gorgeous day, sunny with temperatures in the upper fifties. The towpath travels along the Delaware Canal and features incredible views and homes. Some of them are built right into the rock. I would never feel comfortable living so close to the river (especially having seen how hide flood waters have been in years past), but the people who do keep up immaculate properties. Thankfully, it was not yet congested and we were able to get some fantastic stretches of trot and canter. We even managed to sneak in a 1/2 mile gallop.


We were tentatively worried when Maria pulled Beamer out and noticed he stocked up a bit on his right hind. It started coming down within a few minutes of cold hosing. Worst case scenario – if he feels off we head back. She put the compression sock on for the trailer ride and off we went.


Beamer looked great! He tracked up well and Maria said he felt awesome. She wanted to keep the ride around 8 miles since this was the first time he had been out since Spookarama and she wasn’t sure how fit he was. Nakai was thrilled to be out! He felt wonderful and rated well with Beamer. There wasn’t a single trace of competitiveness. Nakai doesn’t feed off Beamer the way he does with Rose, and they also have very similar strides. It was wonderful to cruise down the towpath in stride, laughing and talking.

Both horses devoured their post-ride mash and I spent the next hour brushing his winter coat. I cannot wait until temperatures stabilize enough to clip!

Here’s a 2 minute video of our ride today:

 

 

046. The Waiting Game

On Saturday, 9 of us loaded up the horses for the annual NYE ride at the parkway. While I have walked my dogs many times at the park, this was my first time bringing Nakai – usually the ride is during the week while I’m working. The parkway is about 5 miles long with a cindered and relatively flat path.


Nakai took the lead out of the parking lot with Rose close behind. He listened quite well the first half of the ride while warming up, and then couldn’t keep it together. Our group had varying degrees of fitness level and training, and we walked the majority with a few trot sections thrown in. When Nakai realized I was not going to let him compete with the herd and that he had to stay behind, he started jigging… and jigged… and jigged. Up until this point, I didn’t realize he could jig as slow as Skippy’s walk (which I swear is -2 mph). I couldn’t do the ‘fixing’ I normally would on this particular trail – booting in the opposite direction and working hard (circles, serpentines, leg yields, softening, etc – because of the size of our group and the various pedestrians sharing the trail. So, I decided the best course of action was to wait him out.

As soon as he started jigging and wouldn’t relax into a walk, he got pulled to the back to walk with skip. Slow circles, softening, giving him even more rein to encourage a stretch and hopefully a walk became our mantra. Towards the end he did relax enough for me to get a really nice walk, so at that point I let him cruise to the head of the group and walk out.

I’m chalking this particular experience up to a combination of things: Nakai was fresh, hasn’t been off the property this winter except for Nockamixon, and he’s a worker. He loves his job as an endurance horse and rides like this bore him. This is no excuse; however, he needs to be able to go with the flow and deal with slow rides.


Without being able to keep his brain occupied, I lost it to his competitive nature and desire to go. When we got back to the barn, we went back out for another 3.4 mile patience ride, including rating work. We did the same thing on Sunday, spending an hour out walking, stopping randomly everywhere, and reinforcing ‘wait’.  I had two great rides on him! Here’s hoping I can wrangle a couple girls to go out with me later this week to do zoomy drive-bys with their own horses while out on the trail to continue this waiting game.

044.

I had a couple of great rides on Nakai prior to to the Holiday, and Monday morning I had plans to let Ben’s nieces meet him. I was thinking some grooming and a couple glorified pony rides would work.  I had commented multiple times that while he is extremely broke and bombproof, he is very sensitive, quick ride. He isn’t one of those dead school horses who plod along at 5 mph oblivious to what their rider does. In order for everything to go well, everyone needs to listen to me.

Nakai loves children (I think he views them as perfectly sized cookie dispensers) and politely carried two of the girls without a fuss. I let the eldest, an 18 year old, ride unassisted incorrectly thinking she had more riding experience under her belt than she did. The whole thing lasted less than 10 minutes – whether from fear or just wanting to show off, she refused to listen to me or use her reins.  There I was, standing in the ring, repeatedly voicing “Sit back. Sit BACK. Reins. Reins. REINS”. It was the strangest thing, she wouldn’t pick up his reins and kept her hands on the pommel (normally beginners are quite opposite and too hands-y). Nakai was trying so hard to understand what she wanted. I was walking out toward them, intending to grab Nakai and settle them both when she bumped him into a trot, let him canter, lost her balance and took a nice spill onto the still semi-frozen ground in the ring.

Sigh.

I feel it was completely my fault – I should have collected Nakai from her and said ‘nope’ when I saw she was having a hard time keeping her heels down.

Fortunately (unfortunately?) it was implied that both Ben and his sister believed something like this would happen as she had previous issues with not listening to instruction. I feel badly that she fell, but it was not Nakai’s fault and I wasn’t going to discipline my gelding. A fall is always a humbling experience (especially in front of witnesses) and I know her ego took a good hit. I told Ben’s sister that while the younger girls are more than welcome to see him and take pony rides any time, the eldest would not be allowed more than a leading pony ride in order to keep both she and Nakai safe.


As if to reinforce the fact that he would not be adding ‘school horse’ to his resume any time soon, Nakai was absolutely on fire yesterday at Nockamixon. Originally Mechele and I intended to ride the home trails as Margot scheduled to drop Annie off for her winter vacation sometime during the day. Luck was with us, however, and we were able to madly dash around and haul the horses out for a quick ride.

Rose and Nakai haven’t been out together since Mustang, and I haven’t been able to do much in the way of working miles for various reasons (most of them weather related). They were so happy to be out! I only managed to take one picture as I had my hands full the entire ride.

Convinced he could do 12 miles in 10 minutes if I would just go along with it, Nakai challenged my core strength as he floated over the rocks and technical terrain. Rose was hysterical, trying to egg Nakai on and play games. Mechele and I positively bounced down the trail on our respective knuckleheads, laughing the entire way. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that Rose is early twenties and Nakai mid twenties.

The only frustrating moment came when I realized that my GPS tracker had stopped on its own! I have been using Endomundo which up until recently has been the most reliable tracker I’ve found. At a minimum, I need to know my miles, duration, average speed, and top speed. I started the app when I mounted but somehow after 4 seconds it stopped. I have already missed logging many workouts through November and December due to the cold sucking my phone battery dry and randomly shutting off. I need to find a better app, as I can’t have this happening on more serious conditioning rides.