pre-ride shakedown cruise…for the rider

Today involved a fantastic, 18-mile ride on Khan again with Lancette. Parts of it were entirely new-to-me trail, as well as reinforcement of some trails previously ridden. (It’s an area of criss-crossing and intersecting trails, sand washes, and service roads — keep heading in the general direction of your intended destination and you’ll probably get there in some form or fashion.)

It was good timing, too — one last big ride before next weekend’s Man Against Horse ride. I’ve stayed in good riding shape all summer, so I wasn’t concerned about that part. But I did have some new gear I wanted to thoroughly test out before going into a ride environment, including new stirrup leathers.

new stirrup leathers passed the mileage test

I’ve been riding in Zilco leathers, but the stirrup bars on my saddle make it impossible to ride with the buckle at the bar — the pressure point it creates on my thighs is pretty uncomfortable after a short while. I can get around that by rotating the leathers so that the buckle is at the bottom, on the stirrup top bar. The downside to this is the flopping tail of stirrup leather, solved by covering the whole apparatus with fleece stirrup leather covers. The problems with this set-up: It’s harder to adjust the stirrup length, which I frequently need to do depending on the horse I’m riding, and the fleece adds extra bulk under my leg.

A couple of weeks ago, on a whim, I ordered a pair of stirrup leather from Schneiders Saddlery. They’re the kind with the buckles riveted to the top of the leather, and they’re supposed to be thin and low-profile and not bulky. The price didn’t exactly break the bank, and if they didn’t do exactly as I hoped for log-term use…well, it never hurts to have an extra pair of stirrup leathers around.
They passed last weekend’s arena test, although I recognized that an hour in the arena wasn’t anywhere near the kind of workout a good distance ride will give them. I’m happy to report today’s ride did just that. Ton of trotting and cantering, ups and downs, twisty single-track and wide-open roads. How I feel tomorrow morning will be the ultimate test, but I didn’t feel the buckles under my thigh while riding, and I don’t have any soreness or bruising now. It was kind of nice to be able to ditch the fleece covers — that much less between my leg and the horse now. The leathers are nylon-lined to prevent them from stretching, and they have some nice “give” to them, so I wasn’t feeling any shin pressure either.
I’m definitely comfortable enough to leave them on the saddle and do the ride next weekend in them. I’ll probably bring the fleece covers just in case, but if I did 18 miles without a problem, it’s only 7 more miles for the 25.
wild horses at the trailhead

We saw a number of wild horses today! Apparently there are bands of them that live down by the river. I’d heard of them, but until today, I’d never seen them. We came across them three different times today, and I think it was three different bands. They were vaguely curious about us, but very wary and preferred to move away from us when in doubt. It was fascinating to watch the stallions do their rear-guard duty, and the body language between the herd members.

They all looked healthy, so whatever they’re living on out there, they’re doing okay.

Lancette and “Hot Lips” playing in the river.

We went down to the river as the halfway point and gave the horses and drink and sponging. I never get tired of river-time and it will always remain a novel concept to this desert rat.

The river was running really clear today, clear enough to see to the bottom.

Obligatory response photo for those who say
“hoof boots can’t do water.”

I sank Khan’s Renegades in about 3′ of water for a good 10 minutes, then we turned around and went back up the sand wash, up a very steep, rocky climb (which we trotted the last part), and then took off trotting down a service road. Boots didn’t budge the entire time.

It’s like a “Where’s Waldo?” photo.
Can you find the hidden shoe?

Right about the time I was admiring how crystal-clear the water was, and how it would make for a great “boots in water” shot, I looked over to the side and saw a horseshoe wedged under a river rock. In the photo, it’s below the center of the photo, just above the blobby bits of green underwater vegetation.

One of the more unusual bits of river debris I’ve encountered. Much more typical is beer cans.

Horse ears. Sunshine. River.
Some views never get old.

The river was absolutely gorgeous today. Running a bit higher and faster as a result of monsoon season, but there is a great area to water the horses that is quiet and shallow and sandy. There was a ton of loose water grass being carried with the current, and Khan greatly enjoyed reaching out and snagging the floating grasses. Yummy.

looking downstream on the Salt River

Pony time for me tomorrow, then before I know it, I will be Prescott-bound for Man Against Horse! I started some packing and organizing today when I got home, and will get more done tomorrow in the form of cleaning grubby tack after the pony gets done adding yet another layer of grunge to it.

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