"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo

Thursday, December 12, 2013

8 Mile Conditioning Ride...in the Snow!

Yup, everything is going to be snow this, snow that while we have it. Sorry guys! I know others in the North hate it, and I probably will too come February if this winter is as bad as they're saying it's going to be, but for now, I'm enjoying every second of the honeymoon!

Kathy and I were going to try to go out again together, but she wasn't feeling well by the time I got to the barn. So I tacked Lily up in the Alta Escuela and decided to do a solo conditioning ride in the back woods loop and try to put in 5+ miles w/t and a little bit of canter. We had broken the ice yesterday with the trail riding in snow (haha pun intended!) so this time I didn't think twice about going out alone in the new element.

Just in case, I want to clarify that yesterday's ride was not our first solo ride ever. It was our first trail ride ever in the snow and I had no clue how Lily would react to all of the changes, which is why I originally wanted to go out with a quiet buddy the first time. You know, in case something happens and because a quiet horse will often influence a spazzier one. (Though it backfired when Queenie, the quiet one, became a little fire-breathing dragon!) Most of our trail rides in FL and the old barn happened by ourselves, and all of our conditioning rides at 4mp+ pace at this barn occur by ourselves because, while there are plenty of people to ride with at this barn, no one really wants to go faster than a walk. Plus I like to make sure the mareface can still go out on the trails by herself. :)

There's a hill in the back woods and as we reached the top and looked out into the forest, the day was just so gorgeous I wondered what the soybean fields would look like on the way to Four Corners and Redneck Park. The roads to the barn had been bone dry and gray from the salt. You have to cross a not-so-busy street to get onto the farmlands, so I had Lily trot in that direction to see if it was as dry as the roads on the way to the barn had been.

The street was dry. So we crossed.

The first cornfield had disappeared under the snow. It was all smooth, soft whiteness. I urged Lily into a trot and she happily obliged. She even asked to canter, but I didn't let her here because there are sections where the trail is not even and I didn't want her falling into a dip at speed.

I turned her onto the dirt road that runs past the farm and here I told Lily, "Okay, NOW you can canter."

And she did, the snow billowing out from behind her hooves, our blue shadow running by our side.

We alternately walked and trotted the rest of the way towards Four Corners.

Trail leading towards the gravelly road that takes you to Four Corners. The trail here is narrow, with tallish grass growing on both sides of it when it's not covered by the whiteness. We've done trot and canter here before this because it's a nice flat little trail. Once covered by snow, it was kind of gnarly-parts of the snow were deeper than others, and some of the portions not obscured by snow had ice. We slowed down here considerably as Lily really thought about the best places to walk through and I tried to help her
The barely touched whiteness.

Gravelly road. I like this one because she was "pointing" at something over to the right.

...and I like this one because my shadow can be seen between her ears on the snow. 
Seriously. There are no words to describe how beautiful of a day it was.

We made it to Four Corners. The snow covering the dirt roads that intersect at this point were untouched except for hunter footprints; no heavy machinery had gone through yet.

A crappy Paint diagram of Four Corners.
In the past, we've gone straight ahead and we've turned left at this intersection. Today, I decided to go right, as I could see where the road went over a soybean field, past a tree line and through a mowed cornfield.

Lily wanted to GO. I let her trot out over the snow, and she asked to canter. The footing was safe and we were going up a slight incline, so I let her out. She cantered and cantered up that long slope, snow flying back behind us, her hooves drumming on the ground. I laughed into the wind.

We alternated walking and trotting after that. We crossed the corn field, which turned out to be the same corn field that we've crossed as part of the Red Barn Trail with Jane. Instead of going into the woods and taking the trail, I just had Lily stay in the open, following the tree line.

Returning to the soybean field.
Following the tree line.
We ended up in a sort of quandary because we are not supposed to cross over the fields themselves and we ended up having to so we could get back to the road. We followed a hunter's tracks (which went in an odd zig-zag across the snow...maybe he was drunk? Lily thought I was crazy asking her to go EXACTLY in the hunter's tracks instead of just going in a straight line) back to the main road.

By then, Lily had been moving through 4"-6" of snow for an hour. This is a completely different workout from just working on a hard flat surface. Looking down, she had broken a sweat. She had energy for days still, but I decided to turn for home.

We followed the snow-covered dirt road back to Four Corners. I let Lily choose the gait. She started out trotting and asked to canter, but I chose not to. I don't want to create a habit of wanting to canter home every time we go on these rides. So I held her in a trot. She cracked me up because she started flipping her front toes as she lengthened the trot instead, coming up in front of my leg. She felt like a little train underneath me, the snow puffing around her front hooves every time they hit the ground. We were the Polar Express!

We reached the Four Corners intersection, where there were several ice patches and I asked her to just walk here. She power-walked most of the way back to the barn, with a little bit more trot splattered here and there.

The most eventful thing that happened were the huge gaggles of geese we encountered. One of them took off flying right in front of us, and Lily just stopped to watch them, then continued on. (Thank God for the geese that like to hang out in her pasture...)

As we arrived back into the woods behind the barn, my hands were finally getting really cold. So I rode the remaining mile and a half with my left hand in my jacket pocket and the right hand literally on the buckle of the reins. Lily stretched down every so often and a couple of times stopped to sniff some particularly interesting animal's tracks on the trail, but she always continued walking on. Her coat was completely dry, even under the saddle, by the time I untacked her in the barn later.

It was great fun to see her negotiate the ice and mud like a pro already. Where the day before she had preferred to walk through water than attempt to crunch through ice, today she avoided the frozen puddles where she could and chose frozen mud instead. (Mind you, all of the ice we have right now is very thin. I can break through it just by stomping on it, so it's no problem at all for a horse. This is NOT like the great thick sheets of ice that people in like, say, New England might find over water and mud...at least, not yet. I wouldn't be surprised if it gets like that later this winter...)

Like I said, this was just our second trail ride ever in the snow. For both of us. This is only our second real winter ever in the North and we only had 3 real snow days last year. Lily was born and raised in Florida; I brought her with me when we moved from Fort Lauderdale last year. She's made some really epic progress this past year, especially these last few months. I continue to be in awe of how much she has come to trust me. And I her.

We did 7.66 miles in 1 hour and 52 minutes (I stopped the app when I dismounted; it was still about a half mile walk to the barn from the gate). Average pace: 4.1 mph, but only because of our first mile walking away from the barn (2.9 mph) and our last mile walking at a slower pace back to the barn (3.3 mph). Average working pace was a pretty consistent 4.4 mph, and that was still with a lot more walking than trotting and cantering.

Maximum speed was 18.2 mph. I find it very interesting that with the type of conditioning we're doing, Lily's canter has gotten WAY faster! Her average canter pace used to be 13 mph. Now it's 18 mph. We weren't galloping today, far from it. But her canter has gotten faster, her stride at the canter longer and better defined (she used to have a very lateral canter) and she now LIKES to canter, where before she was just not fond of it.

Here are the screen shots from Endomondo:

Exciting stuff!


  1. I'm actually quite enjoying your snow posts. I love riding in the snow and we haven't had any in the last two years. I get so burned out on it so quickly, and your perspective is refreshing and makes me want to go out and ride in it!

    1. I loved your snow posts last year! I'm glad my perspective makes it seem better! :)

  2. I love that you laugh out loud when you ride, because I find myself breathless with laughter at times . . . well, or tears. I love that you are delighted by the snow. The first snowfall of winter is always magical and it is a delight to ride in. I am a strong proponent of getting out on the trail whenever possible.

  3. If I had snow, I would be joyously going for long jaunts in it, too. The one time it snowed in Augusta, I was feeding and didn't have the time to ride. Actually, I think all the horses were brought in and didn't get turn out because we didn't trust them on the new surface.

    Your mare is really shaping into a wonderful horse. :) I'm so proud of y'all.

    1. Oh, and I read your post about a certain big, beautiful mare and her return to blogdom. I'm guessing you pulled it intentionally, but thanks for writing it. I followed it too and wondered WTF happened. :)

    2. I have a barnmate that also blogs and she put up this odd random and really harsh post about what makes a good blog, right after I put up the Jumping Percheron post. It really weirded me out, so I took down the post to avoid potential barn drama on my end. I am a shameless Klein mare groupie. Like I said in that post, if it weren't for Klein, I don't know if I would have considered having a mare, and this blog certainly wouldn't exist.

  4. I am also loving your snow posts! I love riding in the snow still, and I have lived in Colorado my whole life. You might not get tired of it! :)

    1. Oh it's good to hear of someone that still loves the snow after a lifetime in it! I hope to still feel this way about it by the end of this winter. :)

  5. I miss riding in the snow. Your images bring back lots of memories for me (I used to live in Maine). Luckily I can live vicariously through your posts!