Monday, May 22, 2017

The Spice of Life

Tackling our own mini "Cougar Rock".
It's steeper than it looks!
While I consider myself pretty new to the distance riding sport, I think have read and seen enough to conclude that the endurance riding terrain in the NE is rather diverse...sugar sand, open fields, rock ledges, large gravel, sustained hill climbs, hard pavement. You name it, our rides probably have it in some form or fashion. 

As some might have noticed, I have been making a point to check out new places to ride from the barn each time I hit the trails with Quest. Asides from exploring our new-to-us home, the end goal from the beginning was to build up a "library" of trail terrain types for conditioning dependent on the ride we want to attend in the future. And while I now do have the option to haul out for conditioning (and plan on that when the ride date gets closer), if I can do most of my riding right from home that is always infinitely all the better for my time and wallet. 

As with any any sport, you should train in what you will compete in.  Thanks to trail adventures during 4-5 months of leasing Rori, I already knew OF had direct access to trails but I didn't know if it was enough and what they had for terrain type. Fortunately the first part has been resoundingly answered- we've got miles upon miles and still more to explore. The second though has been more difficult to resolve. 

From our explorations so far, I can safely assume we have a LOT of the rock variety. With the amount we have at home I think we might have OD in the pocket. 

This is one of the slightly nicer sections.  It gets really gnarly

Hill climbs and rocks? We got it at home

As a result of tackling tough terrain like this almost every time we go out, Quest has actually gotten quite good at carefully picking out her path while moving swiftly down the trail. However the obvious huge downside is we need the complete opposite- flat level footing that allows us to really move out. And sure, it is entirely possible to condition by doing endless laps in an arena or pasture but that can only get you so far before both horse and rider brain are totally evidenced here by yours truly. 

As a temporary solution, I have been using gravel road hills (and booting appropriately) to clock in some cardio at speed but what I desperately missed were the flat, level rail and canal trails. This was the only kind of footing we had at WSS for training and it was great for slogging out quick fast miles in a short amount of time. 

While surveying maps last week, I decided to take a closer look at a trail that had I always paid little attention to until now. I had passed the entrance numerous times and when I asked JA about it, she had dismissed it as not really worth riding. Being ever curious and determined, I still wondered about it though so we finally gave it a shot this weekend. 

My curiosity was duly rewarded. 

The start was a little questionable.
A bit too overgrown to ride at speed

But it eventually gave way to this!

The trail is broken up with gravel patches so we had slow to a walk and it's a little less than 2 miles, so about 4 miles for a there-and-back. I'm not complaining though since I can easily boot Quest all around and we do multiple loops here for sustained trots and round out our rocky trail outings with some some flat speed. Now all we need are some wide open fields!


  1. Replies
    1. They are! Though the BO is a stickler about keeping nice grazing pastures so we have to find another place to have our fun lol

  2. Ooooh nice find!! I like the wild technical stuff too but sometimes ya just gotta let it rip!

    1. Both have their benefits! Not gonna lie though, it was such a relief to not deal with mountains of rocks or gravel for once

  3. Damn you've found some AMAZING trails! IMHO, being able to practice on the more technical stuff is more important in the long run. It's easy to find mediocre trails that will help you work on "easy" things. With Q, I rarely worked on "easy" terrain because I figured if she could tackle the hard stuff then the easy stuff would come to us naturally. Granted, she's kind of a loon on "easy" terrain so I wasn't as motivated to want to work on it! If she doesn't have technical terrain to keep her mind *and* body busy, then she creates monsters and spooks a ton. Point in case - her dumping me around mile 50 of our 100 lol

    1. Interesting point! I've noticed that Quest seems to mentally hunker down and gets to business when the footing becomes technical. For our first endurance ride though, it's all flat with very little elevation change which is why I wanted/went looking for flat plus months of non-stop gnarly rocks made me crave a mental break from them haha

      Though since you obviously can't really get sustained speed on technical stuff, have you noticed that it helps overall cardio conditioning? I don't have a HR monitor and I can't really tell either or definitively.

    2. Neither Liz nor I have HR monitors. :) You can tell if it's helping with her cardio conditioning by how fast she recovers from your rocky rides. Learn to find her pulse (under the jaw is a good spot but you can also use digital pulses), then when you are done working immediately dismount (before cooling off) and check her heart rate. Note what it is, then take it 5 minutes later. See how long it takes before she gets under 60 bpm. I suspect it's not going to take her long at all! :)

      I envy your rocky trails! That's primo OD-type conditioning right there! We have to haul out to find terrain like that to condition in, which is why we worked so hard on hill sprints and speed. If your rocky terrain is also hilly, you're set! No need to stress about flat trainig. :D

      Since she is feeling confident about picking her way over rocks, you can start asking her to trot more and more and just let her choose her way. One day you'll be able to canter those nicer sections! Horses are amazing at getting the hang of technical terrain when you can expose them to it consistently. It's awesome that you have this right off property! :)

    3. Thanks for the suggestions Saiph! I worried about finding a balance with workouts on the flat vs. rocky hills but if they work fine for cardio, I'll take it gladly if it saves me the haul out and also improves her/our confidence over technical terrain (:

  4. I agree... with those trails in your backyard, you should be able to handle OD's terrain without much hassle (now you just have to deal with the heat!)