Update July 24, 2012
Several weeks ago – not too long before the heat wave – I was riding Chance and suddenly realized I was thinking about racing him at Kentucky Downs. I couldn’t believe it. I was day dreaming while riding!
Since then I have been so much more relaxed, especially on Zola. Not that I was tense, but I didn’t have the naturalness and lack of concern that I had years ago when I rode regularly. I guess it could be called trust – not just in the horses, but in myself. Being comfortable in the saddle, no matter what I was doing.
Like bike riding, horseback riding is something you never forget, but if you stop bike riding for 10 or 15 years, you lose the naturalness you had years before. When I was in my early teens, I practically lived on my bike in the summer. I could ride with no hands for a very long way (miles). I could stop in a skid without thinking about it, I could coast in to a stop while standing up, on one side of the bike, standing on one pedal with one foot, while the other leg hung free. I never gave it a thought it just happened one day, naturally, and became part of my my muscle memory.
When I bought a bike in 2001 (at the age of 50) it was a very different story. I felt awkward. Turning was unnatural, stopping was unnatural. I had to think and plan. Then one day several weeks later, I realized I was riding with no hands. Just like that, it was back. Without a thought, without trying.
That’s what’s happened with my riding. Suddenly I feel just like I did when I rode all the time. At home in the saddle. Natural, comfortable, unconcerned. I don’t know when it happened, just when I noticed it. And what a great feeling it is!!
Last night, when the alarm on the HR computer went off, and I brought Chance to a walk, I didn’t feel he didn’t want to do anything, but like me, he didn’t really want to go around the track. Booooring. So I turned to the right and as soon as I did, Chance’s ears perked up. We rode toward the hill to the outside of the track – fairly steep but not long – and headed up. Chance broke into a trot, and then a canter. We turned left at the top and came down the slope (at a walk) that runs in the same direction as the track, then turned left again into a circle that led us back up the hill a second time. We came down again and headed back up the track the “wrong” way. Chance was trotting and I figured he was eager to be done and get his grain. But no, when we got to the spot where I normally dismount, he resisted stopping, so we just continued the wrong way down the stretch. We kept going straight, ignoring the turn, and headed to the road. Deciding to see how hard it would be – or if it would even be possible – to get to the big hill, we crossed the road and continued further down to an open area.
Turning left into the open area, we found it quickly narrowed into what might have been a path years ago. Chance was a little concerned, but much better than I expected. We plowed our way through thick weeds, crossed big flat rocks, went down into a little gulley, then back up the other side. Crossed fallen trees and twisted our way through undergrowth and woods. I know I was having fun and I think Chance was too.
We did make it to the hill! And we headed up. This part of the hill is wide open and just long grass. Last year it was mowed, so I know what the ground is like, and had no concerns about hidden holes or rocks. We walked for a short while, then Chance wanted to trot. I was amazed what a smooth, airy trot it was. He didn’t seem to be working hard at all. Eventually, he broke into a canter which felt just as good, answering the question,”is he fit enough to gallop up the hill?” I would say a definite yes!
At the top, I decided I didn’t want to try to find our way back through the woods, so opened the gate that leads into the horse enclosure and headed back that way. This of course required getting off and then getting back on – which was again, not pretty, but Chance was a trooper and didn’t move a muscle.
What a blast!
Interestingly, though we were out for quite a while altogether, the max heart rate remained 174, and the average HR for the entire ride – including the hill climbings was 159.
Below are some shots of the hill. In the first one, taken partway up and looking back down, you can see the hill in the field where the track is (sunny area to the right). All these photos were taken late last September. It looks very different now. The grass on the hill is over waist high, and if you look to the right of the fence, where all the weeds are, that is all now grazed down. Behind the clump of trees is a barn, and that tree that stands alone is huge and is in front of the barn. The power lines are about halfway up.
Click on images to view larger version.
At the end of the ride, I took off the monitor and realized why I can’t consistently get the HR monitor to report a heart rate. I do not girth up as tight as necessary to keep the electrode pressed against his skin. I’m not going to girth up any tighter, so will have to work out another solution. Maybe a pad between the sensor and the girth – to keep it closer to the skin. As for the GPS – it really does require a battery fresh out of the charger only minutes before use. That is extremely annoying, but easily solved.
Later, after I fed Chance his grain, I walked down to the end of the road to check something. On the other side of the fence, Zola whinnied and followed along. I took that to mean, “what about me?” “What about me?” I ducked in and gave her some scratches – how can you resist a horse who’s so clearly asking for attention? Makes me feel good that she wanted her turn.
I had ridden Zola the day before. It was hot and humid, so I kept it short. She was very good. We trotted and walked, stopped and started, cut across the center of the track for the heck of it, and to practice steering. She did everything I asked and was a good girl!
The day before, I rode Chance. I didn’t feel well, as I’d done too much mowing in the heat, but I wanted to work on getting the HR monitor and GPS down. We didn’t go far, 1.02 miles, we did gallop, with a max speed of 18.7 mph, and a max heart rate of only 115. And the HR monitor and GPS were both working. So I was pleased.
I’m still working on mastering the computer and the data on the web to get the data in graphical format. Quite a challenge, especially as the manual is terrible. Googling for better instructions revealed I am not alone in finding the manual lacking. Apparently the manual for a similar product is much better – so I have downloaded it and will read it later. I can only hope it clears some things up for me.