Saturday, May 31, 2008

Endurance Training Ride

Old Dominion Rides hosted a training ride for newbie members or newbie horses today at Judy Riccis place in Sumerduck VA.

Her place backs up to the Phelps preserve which has thousands of acres and nice two track trails and creeks. Alot of people go there to train their bird dogs.

Falcon did excellant with the trailering and was very interested in all of the other horses being unloaded in the parking lot. He was very alert, but not out of control at all, so saddling and mounting went extremely well.

He wouldn't stand still though, so we walked in large circles waiting for and meeting some of the other people. From the parking area, we had a short jaunt through the woods to Judies place.

Unfortunately, there were tons of people there either just as or more inexperienced then me and some of them were combined with crazy young horses. The majority of us were riding 5 year old horses that had never been in a large group of other horses as such.

The one lady, Becky, leading the group I went in was leading with a horse that had just been gelded and had only been on the trail ONCE! Needless to say Falcon had no trouble soon taking the lead on the trail.

But, backing up. We were told to go in the ring and work some steam off of our horses, but I didnt. Falcon was already trying to bunch up to buck, so I led him in wide circles, then used Judies big circular driveway to work some bugs out of him.

Some horses in the ring were trying to rear, or were rearing. Finally I had to go in the ring for the pre-ride info. There were ribbons flying from the gate in to the ring. Falcon has seem them before when he was there for training, but this day he was silly and ran sideways in to the gate. dumby.

After getting in the ring, I attempted to trot him over a black plastic tube and he decided to be afraid of that too, hit it with his hind leg and started bucking. BAD BOY. After three bucks I regained control and had him walking in circles again.

I yelled at Judie and blamed her because prior to this she had come over to say hello and Falcon had been very happy to see her. Then when she left is when he started acting ornery.

Finally, Falcon and most of the other horses were happy to stand still. The temperature was rising fast and the sun was hot. They reviewed "Vet Stops" and then we divided in to two groups. One faster and one for people who wanted to go slower.

I picked the slower smaller group of 8. Harumph, I think that was a mistake. Once on the trail, Falcon quickly fell in to line and one heavy set lady on an appaloosa joined up with us. Falcon was pushing to get in the lead and the lady on "Hawk" wanted to keep in the back, so we soon left the Appaloosa's company.

Soon we were behind Becky on her newly "cut" stallion/gelding boy an Alkel Teke 16 hands lanky horse who gave Falcon the "stink eye" everytime we got close!

Behind me was a girl on a cute little red arabian that seemed to be going along nicely, but the girl was WHINING, NO don't trot, my stirrups are too short. So we stopped, she fixed her stirrups.

After some trotting she whined "ohhhhhhh no are we TROTTING the whole time? Oh NO I don't wannnnnnnnt to trot, this is a new saddddddddle, he has a bit in in his mouth....whine whine whine.....I forgot his easy boots, he doesn't have shoes on.......whine whine whine.

Then "oh I am so sorry boy, I will NEVER put a bit in your mouth again" on and on. I sped up to Becky and asked her to check on the Whiner. Becky told her to keep moving, that her horse would toughen up and that her horse only had front shoes and she would take it easy on the big gravel, but KEEP MOVING!" grrrrrrrr! hee haw

Then she told the girl to that her helmet was too big. I turned to look and sure enuf, her helmet was way to big, lop sided and turned half sideways. SOME PEOPLE!

After that we came to a HUGE fallen tree in the trail. I dismounted, gave Falcon a long lead and he sprang straight up in the air and hopped over it. Man I was glad I wasn't on his back for that LEAP!
The whiner said, ohhhh oh, I can't do THAT! but she lept off of her horse who came over the tree nicely.

Then we were off trotting again. The Alkle Teke (or however you spell it) was tired of being in the lead brainwise, so Becky let Falcon and I take the lead and off we went at a wonderful pace of 6 mph.

At about the 3 1/2 mile mark I heard behind me "TROT TROT TROT" and a horse was really fighting his rider. The lady on Hawk the appaloosa, asked to pass and off they took at a canter with Becky yelling, slow down, wait for us at the creek, but Hawk was long gone.

We arrived at the creek and Hawks rider was sitting on the edge, dark red in color and not feeling well. I offered her water (she had NONE) and the temperature was 95 in the shade with about 100% humidity.
But she did dowse her head and thought that she might lay in the creek. Becky rode up then and forced her to drink some of her gatorade.

I sponged Falcon for the first time from the saddle. he spooked slightly the first time at the sponge. After that he was happy to be sponged repeatedly and dug and splashed in the creek.

The other riders did the same and then we let them munch on grass while Becky and the other experienced endurance rider, Bonnie evaluated Hawks rider. It was decided that Bonnie would ride on with the rest of us, while Becky stayed at the creek.

From there Falcon led again and we cantered up the hill at about 9.5 mph, then trotted, then walked the last 3/10 of a mile back to the barn. More sponging and then Judie checked Falcons heartrate which was 58. I considered that wonderful. Even though we had only done 5 miles, the heat and humidity were just rediculous. So I feel like his recovery was indeed fantastic.

I decided to go on home after that. Thunderstorms were moving in. When I left Sumerduck it was 94 in the shade, by the time I reached the Blue Ridge/Skyline drive 45 miles away, it was 77 and then in Luray it was 76 degrees. A welcome 18 degree drop. Rain came as I walked Falcon in to his pasture.

Another great ride (except for the Whiner and the Hawks rider who did end up coming back to the barn 30 min after us in much better condition then when she had started.)

I just couldnt believe the number of unprepared riders that either did not bring water for themselves or sponges for their horses and had to borrow. Just redicules. Hopefully they learned something about checking the weather before a ride!

I am learning to trust Falcon more and more, but still tense up and yank on his reins too much when he is being ornery, So I have to get past that. Other than that I am now planning to ride the 30 mile Virginia Highlands ride in August, pending conditioning. YEEE HAW

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Today, I took Falcon out with the plan to head over to the other side of my small mountain and head back on the gravel "Summers Road" which is a 4 mile loop....or at least I think it is.

I took my GPS with me to check it out.

Falcon balked twice upon leaving the barn, but then perked up and took off up the trail with out further ado. I was riding him in my Plantation Saddle, which really doesn't fit his body, but I used the Skito pad with it for extra protection to his back.

Our first obstacle was a shiny red bicycle in the neighbors yard, semi blocking the trail to radio tower hill. He shied slightly and then after minimal encouragement walked up to the bike and then tried to walk OVER it. SILLY BOY!

We had a nice trot/canter up the "Hill" towards the radio tower. At the top, the road drops down the other side pretty steeply. Normally I would not be afraid to ride down a hill with this grade, but there is a lot of gravel on this one, so I dismounted and we walked all of the way down.

But alas, the road was gated off and I couldnt get through. Mounting again, I turned around and took some cleared side trails. One dead ended in thick brush, but I could see the road ahead.
There was no way that I was going to tackle the brush and briars bare handed so we turned around again, and this time headed for home.

Falcon galloped up the road until he was short of breath and then slowed to a trot/walk.

Back at the barn, his sweat marks from the saddle were even with no dry spots, so I suppose the saddle does fit pretty well but seems a little tight at his shoulders. I am comfortable in my Cheyenne, which fits Falcon well, so I guess I will keep that for my endurance treks.

GPS stated that I had gone about 4 miles with all of my backtracking. So that was a good work out with the two hills. Average speed was only 2.9 miles and hour though, with Falcons fasted at 12.3 mph during the gallop uphill.

It was a fun ride.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

On Top O' the World

I SHOULD have been cleaning and cooking.....but Betsy phoned and said "lets ride".
I called Karen to see if she wanted to go. She did, but didn't know if her new horse "Slick" had ever been on a horse trailer. So we agreed that I would come an hour early and we would attempt to load Slick.

At 3 pm, I headed to her place about 15 min. away. She brought Slick out and let him meet Falcon through the trailer window. (a neighbor down the road had given Slick to her, Slick is a quarter horse/arab)

Then, around to the back and attempted to load. Slick was pretty calm, but refused to load. Karen encouraged him with snacks and soon he had one foot on the trailer. After the 4th try of stepping on and rushing back off, he walked right on and stood there quietly.

More snacks and then we were off. Up the road about 3 miles to park property. We unloaded and walked the horses around and let them munch on some grass and did some "trotting in hand" work with them.

By then Betsy and Christa had arrived with Tristana and Sashshey. Tris is 10 and Shey is 20+
Slick 8 and Falcon 5. So we had quite the range of horses.

Falcon was a gem for saddling and mounting, then up the trail we went. "Red Gate Road" is a well maintained fire road that heads up out of Lucas Hollow (er I think it was Lucas, there are a ton of "Hollows" in this area) out of Stanley, VA and up to Skyline Drive to Big Meadows.

There are few level areas, mostly uphill and lots of switchbacks. We had a marvelous time walking and trotting.
Then we decided to canter. Falcon and Tris were in the lead cantering nicely when there appeared a very sharp switchback.

Falcon did marvelous and made the turn on a dime (I even STAYED ON!) Tris wasn't as lucky and headed straight for the trees. Betsy had to pull her up to a walk.
The grade was steeper then anyway and Falcon was happy to walk again.

Along the way, creeks were flowing and Mountain laurel was blooming, just a perfect 70 degree day.
The other horses spooked at rocks, but once again, Falcon showed them all up and continued merrily up the trail.

At the top, we got off and walked due to numerous tourists parking off of skyline drive for the views at the lookouts.

Several were saying "oooooooh loook HORSES" and snapping pictures. Christa pulled out her camera and snapped a couple of the 3 of us, then asked a tourist to take a picture of all 4.

It was 62 and breezy on top of the mountain and the VIEWS.....WOWWWWWWWW!
The air was fairly fresh, other than the other 3 girls were smoking. All of the horses except Falcon peeed. He needs to learn that on the trail.

We relaxed on top of the world for about 20 min while the horses munched grass and then we headed back for home.

On the way down a Black Bear scampered across the road in front of us. I don't think Falcon even saw it. We stopped to make sure there wasn't another bear around.

Betsy, in all of her YEARS of riding had never seen a bear while out on the trail, so it was a first for her. Karen never did see it because she was fiddling with a cigarette.

We trotted a good part of the way down, maybe 2 miles worth at least. I HATE trotting downhill and Falcon tends to go sideways since he hasn't built up a lot of muscle yet. It was difficult keeping him straight.

It was a WONDERFUL afternoon/evening. We had started the ride around 4:30 and ended back at the trailers around 7:30 in the eve. WHAT fun...and so much better than cooking and cleaning!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Oh shoot.......I just found out that my son is graduating from highschool on the same day as the Old Dominion 25! Ohhhh well. Really, Falcon and I need more conditioning anyway and the latest setback has been RAIN

5 inches of rain over the weekend....when I SHOULD HAVE, COULD HAVE been riding.

BUT the sun is out I have to motivate myself to get back on the trickster horse.

He has been quite happy being a pasture potato again. I have been working on suppling and stretching his neck for treats. He is getting very good at reaching wayyyyyyyy back on the left for a treat and pretty good on the right.

Last night I had him stretch out low and long to the front. At some point maybe he would be good to teach to kneel down, so that I can board him with out ME stretching!

I think that he would be a GOOD candidate to be an official TRICK horse!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The trickster

My niece suggested that I start a blog on my adventures of my quest to do an endurance ride.

This is like keeping a diary, I suppose, and might give me a good laugh after I get to the "been there, done that" stage!

Falcon is a Paint/Arab cross, 15.2 horse. He will reach the ripe old age of 5 on June the 1rst.

Falcon came to live at Berrystone Farm when he was a year old and basically just had fun playing in the fields and harrassing the calves for 4 years.

When I realized that he was a pasture potato, I decided to sell him...but, I didnt get any interest in him since he wasn't trained to ride.

Thus began the quest to train him for endurance. His initial training session of 3 months was fair, but then he bucked me off the second time I attempted to mount him at home.

I am too old to be eating dirt, so I found another trainer-Judie Ricci of Meadowsprings Training Center in Sumerduck VA. She is an avid endurance rider/trainer and has trained several of the Asgard Arabians.

She did a marvelous job with Falcon...I needed someone to work miracles on me. I had panic attacks when I started riding again and became very tense. This stemmed from being thrown and being knocked unconcious a few years back.

After 3 months with Judie, she decided that Falcon was ready for me to bring home. From here (Feb 2008) our story will begin in future posts. Pics will be added soon.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Kennnedy's Peak-Fort Valley Virginia

Ok, well anyway, Betsy and I went riding again today. Every time that we have been riding, we keep meaning to bring a camera, but then neither of us ever doooo.

Betsy's choice for a ride (she knows ZILLIONS of trails) was to take me to Kennedy's Peak, which is a major climb in the OLD old dominion ride. The NEW ride will be two mountain ranges away and is supposedly much easier. The rain was sprinkling down as we left Luray and headed over to Fort Valley, which is about a 20 min. drive up a narrow windee mountain road. T

hen down the other side of the mountain. I tried to melt the on the way home I let Betsy drive and we were able to adjust the trailer brakes better to assist us. Betsy started whining about the rain, her coat was not water repellant (nor was mine) she had "been there and done that", she was too old and well, we could just sit in the truck to see if the rain would stop. So much for whining, she was, I think, having regrets about taking me to KP because she said it was a HARD ride and that I needed to see what a real endurance ride was like... I think she forgot that I told her I used to ride with Betty Baird and Frank Farmer.

Anyway, the rain stopped as we pulled into our parking area (uhmmm after much maneuvering to get the truck and trailer around a SHARP back turn into the driveway of the parking area, and having to squeeze through trees that were only an inch from the trailer.

So, we saddled up with out further ado. Falcon likes Tristiana. I started to mount but Falcon decided that would NOT be the case, so as soon as I tightened up his rein and said ATTTT, he started backing up and then stood nicely, pretending to be interested in a weed while I mounted. Then he acted like he had never had anyone on his back and tried to bunch up, but I nudged him and he started striding out and put his mind to the trail. Initially, he really took off, but promptly, not paying attention to his feet, stumbled on a rock and went halfway down on his front legs. But he was right back up and I was no worse for the wear.

He kept wanting to canter or trot very fast, but we had so many stops and starts because of ROCKS ROCKS ROCKS ROCKS ROCKS ROCKS ROCKS ROCKS ROCKS ROCKS ROCKS. He soon learned to pick his way a little more carefully.

We did have to either climb or go around a few fallen trees, through creeks and a boggy area. Once again Betsy was impressed with his sensibility. But she said several times, that I really shouldnt be doing the OD 25 unless I could get riding 3-4 days a week and 5 miles each of those days. She has been discouraging me from it since she first emailed me and said I should try another ride first. But I am stubborn, but didnt say much accept that the O.D. is really advertising the 25 for beginners and I was hoping to not start with the crazy fast peoples.

Betsy told me that the crazy people trot their horses through those rocks. I could not believe that. I would not want to risk serious injuries to me or my horse on them. After a fairly easy, but rocky rolling terrain, we started the Climb to Kennedy's Peak...Too many rocks to move very fast. I was enjoying my self when Bets asked what I thought....I just said, hhhmmm, lots of rocks.... The Peak was about 6 miles from our starting point.

At the top, we were able to get some good trotting in across the top of the ridge on a double track trail. It was a circular trail and on the way down the backside the trail was TREACHEROUS! I thought coming up that the rocks were bad....well at least one mile of the down side was ROCKS and more Rocks on barely a single track trail. Betsy said that it wasnt even the WORST trail on the OD that there were two other ones that were way worse....I can't imagine that. To the left was Rock/Tree steep embankment, and to the Right was Rock TRee drop off down the mountain. Falcon picked his way through carefully then up came his head and he stopped stock still....MOUNTAIN BIKERS.

Oh my lands, they were biking UP on those Rocks! Man I wished I had had my camera fer sure. Betsy asked them to make lots of noise, because Falcon had spooked early on at a camaflouged Turkey hunter that looked like a tree, then spoke. The bikers kindly climbed up on the rocks and sat and laughed and talked as we walked by, (I had dismounted because I didnt want Falcon to spook and dump me in the rocks) The bikers said "isnt it a bit hard on those animals?" I said, "isnt it a bit hard on you guys?" hee ho.

Betsy retorted that the horses had 4 legs and did just fine. By the time we reached the trailer, Betsy was saying, "Be sure and email me and let me know how you do at the OD" I think Falcon and I changed her mind. Falcon came through the rocks totally unscathed and she watched him alot from behind to make sure he was handling the rocks ok. Her horse unfortunately, got skinned on her back leg down to raw meat...about 6 inches long....but it was really only a minor injury after 12 miles of rocks.

So we got her home, got Falcon hosed off and turned out, then I went to potty, let dogs potty and scarfed up my two peanutbutter/apple butter sandwhiches from my saddle pack that I didnt eat earlier. An hour later, I loaded Dakota on the trailer....Man he was a pain, acted all wild and screaming for Falcon and squashed me in the trailer....blah. I was exhausted by the time I got him loaded and drove to Karen's Place. She was boring to ride with after my earlier ride, but neither of our horses were shod and we were on gravel road, both Dakota and her horse are out of shape and broke out into a frothy sweat just walking and light trotting up and down hill for 3 miles.

Arriving back home at 7:30 pm Dakota decided that he did not know how to back off of the slant load. Took me about 15 min. to unload him and he finally just folded himself in half and turned around and walked off. Dumbbbby! But he is decent to ride. So oh dear it is 11:20. I have to git some sleep and my bones are aching after 15 miles of riding.I even took 600mg of advil this a.m. and also when I got home,,,guess I need more AND a strong drink! But my brain is FREE! Riding just takes away all of my mental crappy stress! back to work tomorrow. A short ride on Falcon on Sat a.m. and then to Waynesboro to see my "man"