Attempting to Up Our Distance - The Before and the After.
One of our bloggers finds upping the distance is a learning curve.
Only a week to go now. After our last outing a couple of weeks ago didn't go entirely smoothly, thanks to a torn tyre, we looked at the rest of the trailer tyres and realised they'd all had better days, so I included a set of new trailer tyres in my preparation for our upcoming outing to the Barbuty Castle ride. I learn something every ride and aside from realising a tyre change was in order, the Cirencester ride made me realise that Jo seems to struggle with humidity, which has quite possibly been a major factor in our poorer performances, along with Jo's tendency to find vetting areas exciting. For us a poor performance to date has generally meant a ride that seemed fine, followed by a relatively high heart rate at vetting and going home with a completion (although Jo's post-ride HRs have always been lower than her super excited pre-ride HRs) and looking back this has often tended to happen with a combination of exciting vetting areas with lots to look at and warm, humid weather. Jo is great in dry heat, because of course the slosh water evaporates nicely and does its job of helping her keep cool, but in humid conditions the water doesn't evaporate as much, thanks to the already well saturated air, and doesn't cool as effectively. I'm struggling to think of any answer to this, other than just going slower to reduce her level of exertion. Any tips on cooling in warm, humid weather gratefully received!
The other thing Cirencester made apparent to me was that Jo was a bit tight through the right side of her back, seemingly down to a combination of her natural bias and mine, so a visit from our amazingly intuitive horse physio also went on the Barbury preparation list and thankfully seems to have got us back on track.
Last time out we did a 40km class, but for the next we've entered the 66km class, a distance that I've been keen to try for a while and with the next ride being a comparatively easy journey to get to it seemed like a good ride at which to finally try. I'm feeling a bit apprehensive about how it will go and will be delighted if we can just get round and finish sound. It's a distance I've covered before, but not with Jo and not for 11 years or so, during which time two children have come along and some injuries and three spine surgeries have happened. A couple of years ago I thought we'd have to be content with short-ish pleasure rides, so I'm already surprised at how far we've come (and gone!).
On a practical level I'm trying to remember what we used to do at vet gates and trying to predict what will suit Jo best. Thus far I've remembered that I need some sloshing off kit, a warm rug (because madam is easily over-cooled and prone to shiver), some hydrating food for Jo (soaked beet and well soaked hay at least), with a sprinkle of electrolyte (table salt:low salt 2:1) and carrots/apples for garnish if she proves picky (hopefully the buffet will have something that she'll tell us she likes, though I predict she will just want to graze and watch whatever's going on!) and a change of saddle cloth and girth for when we're ready to set off again...oh and mustn't forget the stethoscope to check her heart rate is low enough before presenting to vet in the first place.
I don't have ride details yet, but am guessing that the vet hold will be at the ride venue, which will make the logistics a bit easier, though risks a horse with loss of enthusiasm on heading back out again. I'm hopeful that Jo will maintain her enthusiasm though, because last time out the 40km route passes back through the venue after 30km, where we had a crew stop, after which Jo was as keen as ever to get going again. And she usually vets after a ride as though she's hoping to head back out again...time to test that theory!
Ride details have arrived, the vet gate will indeed be at the venue and I'm slightly horrified to see that I'm bib number 13! I keep telling myself I'm supposed to be a rational scientist, so I'm annoyed with myself at still finding such things unsettling 😕
Well, it's safe to say that it didn't go as I'd hoped.
The day began with the a broken strap on my GPS watch, bodged with a wire tie to last the day (perhaps an excuse for an upgrade...). And I felt terrible about getting the boys up early to come with us, a few tantrums later we were on our way to the yard, but it's clear reliable childcare or alternative crew to my long-suffering OH are needed. Behind schedule as always, more fuss over the trailer tyres and we finally got Jo loaded and headed off to the ride, late enough that downgrading to a shorter distance felt almost inevitable.
Then came what with hindsight seems like the key moment of the day, a traffic light changing at just the wrong moment lead to sharp breaking and a clattering from the trailer. I looked in trailer and could see Jo looked okay and was standing eating, so we assumed all was okay again and continued on our way. The rest of the journey was uneventful and remarkably we arrived just in time to start the 66km class.
Vetting was a bit iffy, being so fresh from the trailer thanks to our running late she looked a bit stiff, so a second opinion was called for and we were allowed to start. We had a little warm up in the venue field and then set off at a fairly sedate pace until she found the first other horse to chase and became rather more exuberant! As always we enjoyed some fabulous views and some long canters, and the first 33km loop seemed to go by remarkably quickly.
Once on the approach to the venue and vet gate we slowed to a walk and Jo had a nice stretch, crossing the line feeling relaxed. We were handed a card with our time and went off to untack Jo and set about judging when her heart rate would be suitable to present to the vet, hopefully within the first 10 minutes, so that if she vetted with a heart rate of more than 64 bpm we'd still have time to present a second time within the 20 minute vetting window. After just a few minutes we decided to give it a go and firstly found out that we'd been handed a finish card rather than a vetting card, but no matter, just shows I'm very out of practice with vet gates that I didn't notice! The vet (same one who'd been reluctant to let us start) took Jo's heart rate and said it was 60 bpm, so great we'd judged it right and not wasted time waiting for it to go lower. It all seemed to be going so well... until the trot up. As we turned around the cone to trot back towards the vet I could see her scowling and thought, 'oh ****, here we go...'. Sure enough, she pronounced Jo lame in her left hind. There ended our ride, to mixed emotions from my bored junior crew, who wanted to head home, but had hoped to do so with a rosette.
We sloshed Jo off and let her relax and eat, then collected the paperwork, loaded up and headed home.
Once home we trotted Jo up for an experienced second opinion, who couldn't see any lameness. Jo's welfare comes first, so I wasn't about to argue the point at the vet gate, being ever cautious and focused on the long game and the fact that first and foremost she's family. We turned her out, watched her have a good roll (or 4) and then left her graze for a few hours before coming in to a comfy night in her stable.
The following day I could detect no heat or swelling anywhere and she still looked sound. Ever cautious where Jo is concerned she had a few days off, followed by a gentle lunging session that still showed no hint of a problem. Next step is to ride with an experienced observer and get our lovely physio back for another session just in case. Not where I'd hoped we'd be at this point, having not allowed myself to consider that failure was even an option, but I guess sometimes you just have to adjust and move on with a modified plan.
Here's hoping it was a nothing rather than a something and we can ease back into training with an eye on another attempt at upping our distance in the autumn before the season ends.