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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

10 Miles x 2

On Saturday this past weekend, I put Gracie to the test in what I would declare her baseline ride for future training. I decided I would ride her for 1.5 hrs, gaiting as much as possible, and see how far we could get. I've rated Gracie's medium gait at 7 mph, so I was hoping that with walk breaks and stops for drinking water, we'd average about 10 miles in an hour and a half. I figured I'd let Gracie tell me how she felt during the ride and we'd play it by ear.

This would be our third solo ride ever and our first real solo ride on the trails of the park across the street. 

It was a gorgeous day and I relaxed when I saw that there were only a few cars in the park parking lot. The park can get quite full on the weekends and I hate how often people will have dogs off leash. It's illegal in MD. 

We rode through and did our usual loop: through the back trail (we came across a hiking couple who asked how to get to the river and complimented Gracie :) ), up and down the dead end long hill, back to the main trail on to the gallop hill. Gracie tackled the hills at a trot and asked to walk for a few strides at the top to recover. She needs more hill work for sure, but that's why we're doing this. She gaited all the way back down the hills; she had no problem both maintaining the gait and rocking back onto her hindquarters to negotiate them properly. We then doubled back onto the main trail, retracing our steps to take the trail that goes through the center of the forest. We then crossed the river, went up the hill on the other side to the ridge line trail, following it all the way to the street. We then rode on the street for a bit, past garbage cans and rocks on driveways. Gracie looked at the garbage cans and took one side step away from a ditch but she was completely unfazed otherwise. All this time gaiting.

Love all the green
I'm really liking MapMyRun. *knock on wood* I tried Karen's EquiTrack but it seems to not be compatible with my phone (iPhone 4S) in the long term. You have to buy it, but if it works with your phone, it is a REALLY awesome app; it's like a workout app specifically for horses. You can even set up intervals for your horse and it will tell you when to change gaits. I really liked it the few times that it worked initially, but now every time I open it, it crashes. :( No updates available at the moment, and I even tried turning the phone off and on again. No go. Bummer.

Anyway, the first app I ever used was Endomondo. My favorite thing about it was that it called out the miles and pace per mile. MapMyRun is the only other app I've found so far that does that too. (You can set EquiTrack to do it, but see above. Grrrr...) I was getting a kick out of hearing that Gracie was consistently maintaining a 9 min mile average throughout this ride, which is about 6.6 mph.

She did awesome. When we had about 1 mile to complete our 10 mile goal and about 15 minutes to reach that mileage within the time I had mentally set for ourselves, I took Gracie towards the meadow trail. It's about a mile long; a double-track smooth path that is currently covered in grass, so you can really let horses move out at whatever gait they choose without worrying about blind corners, uneven footing or gopher holes.

Gracie really strode out and eventually broke gait to go into a trot. Her trot is SUPER smooth. You can post it if you really want to, but it's kind of a waste of effort. It's harder to try to post than to just sit it. Her trot is currently faster than her gait. I finally looked down at MapMyRun while Gracie was trotting...and finally got the speed on it. Her average trot is 12mph!!

We ended up completing 10.6 miles in 1 hour and 35 minutes with an average pace of 6.7 mph.

Gracie immediately after untacking and right before her bath.
She is a champion sweater. You can see a tiny puddle underneath her: that's from sweat.
Gracie had Sunday off and so it was Lily's turn. I decided to try the same thing: 10 miles in 1 hour and 40 minutes. I know Gracie is the faster of the two but I know Lily can trot comfortably at 6mph pace, so I gave her an extra 10 minutes.

Lily's muscular badonka-donk.
(Yes, she still has a tail. :) She was swishing at flies. The muggier it is, the worse they get!)
She was having her pre-ride alfalfa snack.
Lily was an absolute superstar. On this day we encountered 3 people with dogs, one of them off leash. Lily looked at them but continued. The off leash dog was a huge Bernese Mountain Dog; we were going down the same hill that him and his owner were hiking up, the dog in the lead. The owner made no move to hold his dog as they came upon us but thankfully the dog didn't care about horses. Lily and I stopped and waited for them to pass before continuing.

Gracie had had the advantage of being ridden in the late afternoon when the sun was lower in the sky, whereas Lily was being ridden during late morning. Sunday had dawned in the 70's but had rapidly crept up into the upper 80's. It was hot, even in the woods. We completed exactly 6 miles in an hour of solid trotting with some canters up the park hills. At the hour mark, I let Lily walk for almost 10 minutes so she could get a break, which conveniently happened while we were traveling downhill so she was able to really get a breather. I took her wading in the river as well. Since she won't let me throw sponges from her while on her back, I'll just have her go into the water as deep as we can. The Hawlings River isn't very deep, especially at this time of the year, but she could wade in above her knees and hocks in some of the deeper pools. She didn't drink very well on this day but was quite happy to splash around in the water and cool down. 

We then trotted on to continue our loop, the same route that Gracie and I had done the day before. We crossed the river one more time and did the lake trail. On the other side of the trail is this very long, steep (for this area) hill that Lily attacked at a gallop. We then turned back down at a trot and continued at a trot through a new side trail I've started using and back through the river towards home.

There is an incline in this picture though it doesn't show at all!
Trotting back down the hill we had just galloped.
Like with Gracie the day before, we finished up with the meadow trail. Lily decided she wanted to canter it so I let her go ahead. The meadow trail has one corner at the far end. Lily had started out cantering on her right lead. She had to turn to the left to go around the corner. As she turned, she did a flying lead change! First flying lead change on the trail! I squealed. We broke to a trot and did the meadow trail one more time. Again Lily picked up the canter on the right lead, and again she did a flying lead change around the same corner! She's only ever done two other flying lead changes under saddle so I was pretty excited.

We completed 10.3 miles in 1 hour and 40 minutes. Lily's average speed was 6.2 mph. Goal achieved!


  1. MapMyRun rules for riding! It's been very accurate for me.

    Sounds like a great weekend of riding!

    1. It was! And yup, really loving MapMyRun! I hope it continues to work this well for a good long while!

  2. The girls look great and it sounds like two awesome rides! Congrats on the flying changes!

  3. Must check out the EquiTrak app - that sounds like it would be perfect for setting up intervals for feeble people like me who want to do intervals, but can never remember when they are supposed to start!:)

    1. It's awesome if you have a newer phone! Karen over at Thee Ashke has really been enjoying it!