Thursday, August 21, 2014

Scientific Trail Riding

Last night, I saddled up and we went for a longish hack. I'm working on three operating theories;

- I need to ride more, for my sanity and health and for Tristan's health;
- All the reading I do indicates that metabolic horses need regular, consistent exercise;
- Long slow distance is the right kind of work for Tristan right now: low-impact, muscle-building, and when it's done outside, good for his brain.

All those three things pointed to long hacks as our new standard ride, with occasional short ringwork 1-2 days a week.

So last night was the launch of some new metrics for our rides. I've used Endomondo before to track our rides, but last night I paid particular attention to distance and speed. I wanted to know how far it is all the way around the big hay field, and what Tristan's speed would look like if I rode him on the buckle the whole time.

So there's the answer. The big hay field is just about exactly 1 mile around. It's about a quarter mile away from the barn. Last night, I cut off part of the field because I wanted to hold him closer to 2 miles, but now I know we can go 2.5 miles just by leaving the barn and walking around the big field twice. (It also occurred to me we could do a 50 miler by trotting the big field 50 times, and then I thought about how unutterably boring that would be.)

Tristan was spot-on 3mph, or a 20 minute mile, for our first mile, in a really pretty lazy meandering kind of walk. At almost exactly one mile in, he blew out, farted, and eased into the work quite nicely, picking up the pace ever so slightly, still of his own choice. Our second mile was just under 19 minute, still at the walk.

Keep in mind that practically every single inch of this ride was on a hill of some kind: up, down, laterally. The only flat surface at our barn is in the ring. So he worked reasonably hard, in a good way. He was ever-so-slightly warm, and had about a 1" square spot of sweat directly under the girth. That speaks jointly to the technicality of the ride and to his muscle loss right now. I know it's nothing like the miles and pace some of you log while conditioning for endurance, but we all have to start somewhere, right?

On an impulse, I stopped by Walmart on the way to the barn and found myself an iPhone armband on clearance for $10. Score! None of my breeches have pockets, and my old cell phone holder is sized for a flip phone and doesn't work for the iPhone. So I'll be able to track his rides going forward more easily. I hope to build some statistics as he continues this work and as he starts on the pergolide.

On a personal fitness note, the last quarter mile, up the big long galloping hill, I did entirely in two point. 1/3 of the way I started to feel it. Halfway there was definite burn. The last 100 feet or so were agony. Good for the soul.


  1. Walking in two-point is THE WORST. I would so much rather gallop.

    1. So true! I try to 2pt the walk at the beginning of every ride and its tough!

      Love metrics, looking forward to more from you!


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