Thursday, September 23, 2021

Cross-Training the Standardbred Endurance Horse

Thursday September 23 2021

Sure, you can break up the trail conditioning miles with arena work (gaaaahhh)(which we do occasionally and somewhat reluctantly), but there’s nothing better than Linda’s Menagerie Training Center to stimulate and broaden and strengthen the equine mind. Sure, your Standardbred has been exposed to so much at the racetrack, so he’s not too spooky, but you won’t find this situation at racetracks.

Because what horse couldn’t use exposure and ‘sacking out’ with a passel of polar bears (big white dogs), tiny dogs, cow dogs, goats, more goats, Ted the Wonder Horse (and benevolent dictator), Hattie the spotted mule (and sweet beauty queen), Hercules the mini-donkey (who follows Linda around while poop-scooping, walking so quietly and patiently waiting for treats), Edna the donkey (and loving steamroller), Hoot the mini-mule (and little sh*t), and, best of all, the biggest training tools of all, 2 huge waddling pigs, Pork and Pig. (Many of these animals choose, or don’t choose, to participate, or not participate, or start to participate then decide to go home in the middle of, Linda’s annual Oreana July 4th parades

It’s such a chaotic zoo, especially when you first walk in the driveway. Your Standardbred will not be sure as to what he should most worry about: the shaggy circling (but friendly) Polar Bears, the milling goats who really would just like a pet, the short and stubby and wiggly wiener dog Booger, the chasing heeling dogs, or - THE PIGS!

Chatting outside with Linda with her Menagerie swirling around, as if absolutely nothing is abnormal, your Standardbred eventually relaxes, and even wants to follow and sniff the goats around a bit. 

But those pigs - that is something a Standardbred might not quite figure out. When Linda calls the goats and pigs to come get a few treats (so that the goats don’t follow us home, because sometimes they go on unsupervised Walkabouts), the pigs ‘run’ toward Linda, slow-motion waddle waddle jiggle jiggle, and your Standardbred will follow their progress with a very puzzled look on his face.

By the time you leave, your Standardbred has a whole ‘nother arsenal of unusual situational bomb-proofing experiences that you won’t quite get anywhere else.

And Willie’s such a social beast he’ll remember that he always has ‘different’ kinds of friends at Linda’s - especially those pigs!

Friday, September 10, 2021

Old Selam Pioneer: This Standardbred ROCKS


Saturday September 11 2021

All three 50-mile days at Old Selam Pioneer on Hillbillie Willie: that was my long-range goal this year. What with my healing shoulder and other commitments, and only one 50 under Willie’s girth at City of Rocks more than three months earlier, it was a flexible goal. Three days would be super. Two would be awesome. Heck, I’d be ecstatic to ride and complete one day with Willie and both of us come out of it unscathed.

It just so happens Old Selam has become one of my top three favorite endurance rides. I miss the forest and mountains, the smell of the pine and fir in the early morning dawn. And the FOOTING, my God, the footing, is unequaled in any ride I’ve done anywhere in the country. 95% of the ride is soft, rock-free dirt. It is a tough ride - there is a lot of climbing and descending, but there’s so much good ground you can move out on over all the loops.

It’s one of Willie’s favorite rides too, for the cool mornings, and the ‘slop’ at the vet checks (rice bran and oats and carrots and apples in a soupy mix), and the GRASS, ohmigosh, the grass. And he loooooves those partially overgrown old winding logging roads, flying around those blind corners eager to discover what, or which 4-legged thing, might pop up. (Fortunately, we have yet to meet a moose or bear suddenly and up close.)

It’s Willie’s fifth season of Endurance. He’s come *such* a long way from racehorse to Endurance horse. I’ve worked hard on making him into an Endurance horse that I like: one that starts out calmly, is controllable in any situation, one that doesn’t run up other horses’ butts (like I’m sure he did while racing), one that doesn’t pull pull pull, one that doesn’t go down the trail with his head up in the air and his back arched.

At Old Selam we teamed up with Willie’s bromance herd-mate DWA Barack for the first time. The pace was a little slower than Willie is used to, and it was a little faster than Barack is used to. On Day 1 Connie and I both got good human workouts managing our horses (like when one got too far behind or couldn’t see Bro around the corner, or when one climbed a hill faster than the other). 

Willie’s a flat-lander horse. Hills are hard for him. Over the years he’s built up decent hind end muscles, but while he can power trot up gentle inclines and declines, steep climbs and descents are just not easy. But in the ride he tackled them with gusto, particularly when Barack was easily climbing ahead of him.

We all finished in a ride time of 8:45, fit to continue, and we were all whooped at the end of the day. 

Debbie Grose pic

*I* sure didn’t feel like doing Day 2, and Willie was tired enough and didn’t need to do Day 2, so we skipped it. The original goal wasn’t that important! My fabulous horse was more important. We both enjoyed the day off, eating and hydrating a lot, taking a long walk and grazing on the abundant and varied grasses that Willie craves now that he’s a desert horse.

Day 3 we saddled up again and our boys worked so much better together! Willie would trot along slower, or faster on a loose rein (just responding to my legs or seat cues) with his neck bowed, eyeballing Barack beside him. We could space out further, get out of sight, then catch up and pass without either of them getting worried.

Willie tends to take a ride so seriously, no dilly dallying around, but Barack showed him on this ride that it’s just fine to stop now and then to graze, and how to grab grass and munch on the go. And we girls ate a lot of refreshing Otter Pops from the ice chest at one of the water troughs (another reason this is a favorite ride of mine, nothing better than frozen Otter Pops in the middle of a hard hot day!)

Crockett Dumas pic

We completed Day 3 in 8:49, and, can you say a finish pulse of 48 (both days!)?

I’m sooooooooo proud of my Standardbred Hillbillie Willie!

Thank you Steve Bradley for the awesome ride pix!