Endurance Rider Wannabe
I just finished reading Funder’s Rides of March 2011, and it again has me fantasizing over the endurance thing. From the time we bought our first Mustangs, 11 years ago now, I have had this fantasy. Early on, I would rent videos on endurance training and watch them over and over, then dream of the rides at night. Of course, reality hits really, really hard, when your sane brain tells you that you missed the boat.
Reality #1: we own a lodge that is 24/7, seven days a week, for all the good rideable months, namely May through mid-October. How do you possibly get enough ride time in when there is barely enough time to breathe some days? We were lucky to break away an hour here or an hour there just to get our mustangs trained.
Reality #2: I was 50 when we got our boys in ’99 (yeah, do the math), and just re-learning to ride. I did not grow up on horses; had only had the occasional livery ride on vacations, so I was on this huge learning curve. I have still never had any riding lessons, although I would die to do that. I HAVE had some really great training horses teach me lots…and the absolute best terrain to learn riding and balance skills as a must. Hitting the ground in the good ole Rockies is not a fun thing to do especially when you have reached the stage in life where ‘bouncing’ up off the ground is not an option.
Getting back to Funder’s ride…First off, loved the braids. My Jesse Mustang has lots of hair, too, but hates braids. She loves to have her mane brushed. You can stick any sort of pretty bands and stuff in it, but d o n‘ t braid the mane! Many mornings I have watched her stand with her head into the wind so her mane blows out behind her, like some wild stallion, and I swear, a smile on her face. It must be the feeling of freedom thing.
My next observation was the kicking over the girth. Is this a normal thing that hasn’t been worked out yet, or was she saying she had a bit of a bellyache from all the hay/travel/stress of first ride? Maybe even a travel induced ulcer? This is always a concern of mine, as we haul our horses really long distances. It is not unusual for us to drive 15 hours at a time, to ride new areas. Yes, we stop every two hours for a horse break of at least 20 minutes, to let their legs rest and get water. All three of ours love to travel and will practically open the gate and load themselves when they hear the trailer hook up to the truck. My daughter’s horse will stress herself out on even the shortest ride. Just different personalities.
I had many, many smiles over all the references to Robin Hood Mustang. So much of what Funder says has become ‘normal horse behavior’ to us with our Mustangs. They have a brain between those ears…and they love to use it. Once their job is learned, i.e., endurance training, trail riding, working cows, whatever, they then insert their own smarts, like Hood becoming Dixie’s self-appointed chaperone. I can be the lead wrangler on a dude trail ride and just sit backwards on Jesse, talking to the guests the whole time, because she regulates the speed of the ride (so no large gaps or crunching-together occurs) and makes sure everyone stays in line where they belong, with just a flick of an ear or the evil eye to the doer of misdeeds. I have had her stop dead in the trail, and when I would verbally ask her what was wrong, she would reach around and touch my cinch. When I got off to check my cinch, she started walking back along the line of horses until about the fourth horse back, she stopped and touched that horse’s cinch with her nose. Yep, that cinch had loosened. Maybe, because horses are so tuned in to body language, she had noticed that horse moving differently. I don’t have a clue how she would know; maybe the horses have a way of communicating among themselves, but it saved us a spill that day. I ALWAYS try to figure out what she is trying to tell me when she doesn’t want to do it my way. She has always had a reason.
I had a really good laugh over Hood, the up-hiller. Bill’s horse, Ranger, is so such a poop to ride with on our steep hills. Like Hood, he can plow down anything and then just marches up the next hill like it doesn’t exist. At the top, he takes one deep breath, and says, “OK, let’s go!” The domestics with us are standing there sucking in deep breaths of air like it is their last. Ranger does not particularly like waiting around for them, although he has learned to be patient…mostly.
Towards the end of the ride, Funder mentioned getting back on to ride up a particularly steep portion of the trail. Now, I am sure Funder was pretty beat by that time, too, from all the unexpected walking. One of the things in the training videos I had watched, that really intrigued me, was ‘tailing up’, or the act of dismounting and holding your horse’s tail while climbing steep grades. This gives your horse a slight break from your weight, yet you don’t have to navigate the slope on your own. I was so fascinated with the idea that I taught both of my current horses to do this. I have had really bad hips for so long, that the thought of hiking up anything of slope was not fun. It is great to be able to say, “tail up” and have your horse lift his/her tail so you can hold onto the dock. Then you just get right behind them and lift your feet in time to theirs. They furnish all the forward momentum and you just have to lift your feet up and down. It is really is a lot of fun. Jesse has hauled me up hill through some horrific snowfields this way when we have visited them on their winter mountain.
I must say, I really enjoyed Funder’s write-up and grandly applaud her for knowing when to pull from the ride. It sounded like Dixie gave her all for as long as she could, and Funder listened when Dixie got tired. It does indeed say good things about their partnership. I hope they keep doing endurance and I will keep fantasizing about it.
Enjoying the ride our way,