Friday, June 3, 2011

Kiwarrak "No Frills" NSW - March 2010

In December 2009 I suffered a nasty collarbone injury after my friend's horse decided to buck me off. The break was so bad the surgeon had to screw an ugly metal plate to my collarbone so it would heal properly. I started riding again in February after 3 months off, and was eager to get back into the endurance scene. So, I loaded Jim onto the float and made the 4.5 hour drive up the coast to Kiwarrak. Once again, the humidity was stifling and the temperature got up to around 30 degrees Celsius during the day. Challenging ride conditions to say the least. But my horse was fit and ready to go, so we set out to attempt my fourth 80km ride.

I made the decision at the end of last year not to continue using the EasyBoots. While I loved the benefits of keeping my horse barefoot, the EasyBoots were an extra hassle I didn't need. The issues with boots breaking or coming off on track, the risk of chafing, the cost of replacing them and the additional time needed to put them on made them impractical for my situation. But rather than go straight to conventional steel shoes, I investigated a rubber-coated steel shoe called the "Ollov." The Ollov shoe is used by the mounted police and many carriage company owners because it reduces concussion and provides extra grip on slipppery surfaces. I thought I'd give the Ollovs a go to see if they were suitable for endurance. I soon found out they weren't. By the end of 40kms the rubber was completely shredded. Only bits and pieces of rubber remained, leaving Jim with a very uneven surface underneath his hoof. I was far from happy, but Jim seemed to manage okay and we set out on the second leg.

About three quarters into the second leg Jim began to shorten his stride. Something was wrong. A quick check revealed he had galled up around the girth area and was finding it very uncomfortable to stride out. I loosened the girth, slowed the pace and walked on foot whenever I could. We made it back to the ride base in a time of 7hrs and 41mins - hardly a record setting pace, but somehow it was enough to secure us 5th place in the Light Weight division. While it was nice to have placed, I was unhappy that Jim had galled up and knew I had to manage this better in future. Worse still, I'd struggled with pain from my collarbone throughout the ride and was an absolute wreck by the end of 80kms. It was obvious I needed more time to heal, so I decided to focus on my own recovery for the rest of 2010 and return to endurance in 2011.

Me and Jim setting out on the second leg at Kiwarrak

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Windeyer NSW - November 2009

The weekend got off to a bit of a rough start when I got a flat tyre just as I arrived at the ride base. Fortunately, the rural fire brigade were there and they were more than happy to rescue a damsel in distress! I stood around feeling useless while they jacked up my car and put on the spare tyre. I could've done it myself. Really, I could've!

The ride began at the ungodly hour of 4am - I had time to wonder why I was doing this again. I set off in the dark on my trusty steed, Jim, with my good friend Colin to keep me company. The first leg was straight up and back along a dirt road. We took advantage of the cooler, pre-dawn hours and flat terrain by allowing our horses to move along at a faster pace. The ground was quite hard though and I was glad I'd put EasyBoot Gloves on Jim's front hooves and EasyBoot Bares on his back hooves. Colin's horse had boots on all four hooves as well and both horses strode out easily, even on the slippery sections of tarred road. Both horses passed the vet check at the end of the first leg and things were looking good... until a gear check revealed Colin's horse had been badly chafed by the neoprene gaiters securing the Easyboot Bares to his back hooves. Colin decided to withdraw and once again I found myself heading out to do the second leg on my own.

In contrast to the first leg, the second leg was all hills. There were mountains as far as the eye could see and it was so steep in places I had to get off and lead my horse on foot. Luckily there was a strong breeze to help keep Jim cool even with the sun beating down on us. After what felt like endless ups and down, we finally reached the end of the second leg. Jim still felt great and he passed the vet check with ease, finishing in a time of just under 7 hours. I was presented with my third buckle and officially became a qualified endurance rider! What a way to finish the year!

Woodstock NSW - October 2009

I went to Woodstock for what was to be my second 80km endurance ride. A lady named Virginia very kindly loaned me one of her horses - a sweet 6yr old arabian mare called Naomi. Virginia was going to be riding with me on another one of her horses that she was trying to get to yellow logbook. I was happy with that because obviously I had never ridden Naomi before and Virginia would know her own horse pretty well, so a set of experienced eyes was quite welcome.

So... I arrived at base and met up with Virginia. We went through registration etc and proceeded to walk the horses over to be vetted. On the way Virginia suggested we trot the horses to get them loosened up. So off we trotted and at that point it became apparent that her horse was not 100%. Closer inspection showed that the horse was tight in the shoulder and not moving evenly and it would have been pointless to even attempt the ride. The decision was made for Virginia to withdraw from the ride which meant that eek!!! I was going to be riding a strange horse on my own for 80kms!

I took Naomi for a quick ride that afternoon and got to feel what she was like. She was a lovely girl, very forward and willing, but still young and a little unsure of herself. But with a bit of encouragement from me she did everything I asked and tried her little heart out. She was fit and ready to go so yep, I decided to do it! We headed off at 5am in the dark - a new experience for Naomi who handled it like a veteran. I joined up with a mother and daughter pair who were going about the same speed as I was and we set off down the track. The first hour was dark as dark can be, just the glow from our headlamps showing us the way. We followed the reflective arrows along the track and onto private property where we picked our way through the paddocks at a brisk trot.

The first leg of the ride was 47km and we got through in 4hrs 13mins. Naomi breezed through vetting, looking as if she had just come back from a stroll. Her heart rate was 36 at pre-ride and she pulsed in at 36 at the first vet check... doesn't get much better than that. So it was back to the yards to saddle up before heading out for the second leg. The second leg was 33km long but it was already late morning and the sun was climbing. Fortunately there were plenty of clouds around to give us a break from the sun, but we still rode more cautiously, giving the horses plenty of time to eat and drink.

We got back in 3hrs 16mins for a total ride time of 7hrs 29mins. Once again Naomi the little champion looked fresh as a daisy at final vetting, pulsing in at 41 with A's overall, successfully completing her (and my) second 80km ride! I went home tired but happy with my second ride buckle, one step closer to my goal of becoming a qualified endurance rider!