Friday, April 7, 2017

Chasing Daylight

Working regular weekday hours is both a blessing and a curse. I am grateful for my job, don’t get me wrong, but it’s always a race against time to fit in trail rides during the week until we get more daylight hours.

While I can (and have) tack up super quickly, I prefer a moderate pace so I don’t mindlessly miss something, plus grooming is a great time to run my hands over Quest for a full body check. Mareface got through winter in decent shape but there has been a bit of feeding time drama with A’s mustang gelding Mel. The horses are fed apart from each other but they are loose in the field. Quest eats SUPER slow, like she really enjoys taking her time with meals. Mel, on the other hand, inhales his food in minutes. He’s a big drafty-built boy and often uses that to his advantage for extra helpings.

Fortunately Quest has since learned to stand up for herself but I can tell she’s still not getting her full portion. Right now she’s a 4 or moderately thin on the body condition scale which isn’t horrible but since we’re going to be stepping up the conditioning intensity and increasing energy output soon, I really like her to have more reserves before we start hitting the trails hard. I’ve talked with the barn staff to make the needed gradual feed adjustments to up the energy intake so hopefully that will make a good difference. Also of note is the fact that their back pasture has been completely closed off to the horses since the beginning of winter to allow it to rest. It’ll be opened later in a month or so though so there will be a fresh forage for them.

As for rides, I got in two back-to-back sessions this week. I was feeling pretty crummy earlier in the week so as it happened there were two sessions one after the other. Even though our rides aren’t super intense yet, I usually like to put a rest day in between to let a mareface be a horse and do horse things.

Earlier this week, it had been raining a ton the past few days so I was keeping a close eye on the forecast. Luckily the weather cleared up by the time I left work so I decided to head out to the barn. I got Quest groomed and tacked up in the pasture, it was gray and extremely foggy out but at least the skies remained rain-free. In case of bad weather, we are allowed use the aisle and cross ties in one of the barns to tack up but I’ve never done it yet since all of my stuff is up by the pasture.

I made sure to strap on my helmet headlight before I mounted up and we set off for a quick trail speed workout. The rains kept the dirt roads clear and gravel free so we were able to get right to trotting once the pavement ended. We got in a respectable 1.5 mile at the trot and canter before we ran out of trail and it got a bit too dark for my comfort.

The fog was so heavy it was like a scene from a horror film...Spooky 

The sky was looking very ominous as we headed back to the barn at a meandering walk and right when we got within earshot of the indoor arena doorway, the rain started coming down in earnest. The arena was completely empty though (I guess no one is crazy like I am...) so the plan was to do a short cardio session and cool down while we waited for the rain to slow down enough for us to trek back to her pasture. This entire time the drumming of the rain hitting the aluminum roof provided a steady gentle rumble in the background. It was a bit more noisy than what we were used to but it was manageable.

We had just settled into a nice working rhythm when suddenly the rain picked up in monsoon-hurricane level intensity. In a split second, a gentle rumble turned into an ear-deafening roar that echoed and reverberated through the entire empty arena. I couldn't hear myself think.

Poor Quest had no idea what just happened and lost her brain for a moment. She scooted her feet, trying to escape the noise that surrounded us and when she found no reprieve (obviously), she worried more and kept scooting.

I allowed her to move but directed the motion into a circle. It was a madly whirling circle at first but as her brain came back to me, I was able to gradually apply my single-rein stop/emergency brake and slow her to a stop. Entire time I kept my hand on her neck and spoke to her with low quiet easys. At some point I also took my feet out of the stirrups for an emergency dismount just in case Quest decided to go up or escalate her reaction. She did neither but when she did stop moving, I still opted to jump off just in case the rain picked up again and someone felt the need to lose her brain again.

The rain was still thundering loudly but it was nowhere near the ear-deafening roar that had happened a minute ago. While not freaking out, Quest was still extremely distracted so I took advantage of the situation and did some basic groundwork to get her attention back on me- Sending her to either side of me, backup, forward, whoa, turns on fore and haunches. Once I had her dialed into me, I asked her to join up and she happily came in. I had couple treats in my pocket that I use for rewarding positive behavior on the trail; I was very glad I had them with me in this instance.

When the rain finally died down to something more manageable, I closed up the arena and we calmly walked back to her pasture to untack and call it a night. In hindsight, I honestly can’t fault Quest for how she reacted because the sudden noise took even me by surprise. I had to scramble for a bit to get my bearings but I’m glad I was able to turn it into a positive training opportunity in the end. And if I had to choose, I’d much rather go through all of this drama at home first rather than away at a trailhead or an endurance ride. Home is where we do the hard work!


  1. Ugh that rain was intense! But such pretty skies!! Also I feel ya on trying to balance a nice steady relaxing pre-ride routine with getting the ride done during daylight. It's not my favorite, but sometimes I'll save my major thorough in depth grooming for *after* the ride, and just do the precursory checks before tacking as a way to better optimize the time.

    1. The skies the day after the storms were totally worth it! And that's a good point about doing the in depth check afterwards. I think since she's pasture boarded, it's become second nature for me to do the run-hands-over-everything check first before tacking up. Pasture board is great and Quest needs it but there can be much trouble to be gotten into lol