After-Action Report: Jingle Bell Trot

A week post-ride, and Liberty is looking and feeling fantastic. Something I am being cognizant about with her being older is the critical importance of recovery time. I know in humans, recovery takes longer as we age, and while I don’t know if that rings exactly true in horses, it does make sense that it may. The Estrella terrain is also very rugged, and there’s just no getting around the fact it’s one of those rides that tends to beat horses up a bit with the footing. Given all that, I’m giving her some extra down-time post-ride — all part of that foundation laying and forming solid building blocks of conditioning.

I was very happy with how she looked this weekend — legs are tight (actually looking even better than when I brought her home), body is overall good (some cursory bodywork showed some tightness in the loins and SI, but that’s not surprising given that we’re still building that topline), and attitude is fantastic. She is super playful, especially for a mare, and she kept grabbing my hoof stand and waving it around like it was a traffic cone or something yesterday. (Fortunately it’s a plastic base type of stand, especially when she decided to fling it across the aisle at one point. I think someone will be getting a proper horse toy for Christmas. Or a traffic cone.)

photo by John Kordish

I’m really thrilled with how the ride went overall. My main goals were finish in time with a sound horse. So to finish with a comfortable time buffer, still having to rate back Miss Enthusiastic, with all A’s across the board the entire time of movement, makes me absolutely thrilled.

There were just a couple of minor things I need to address or could have done better on.

  • The biggest was hind end interfering. She never interfered in the past that I could see, so I’m not sure what has changed. I left her slightly long on her trim, with the intention being to prove a little extra hoof material there for protection against the rocks, or if she pitched a boot off. However, it might have ended up being a little too long, since she was interfering on the sides of her boots, as well as up on her fetlocks. It may also have been we’re going at a faster pace than what we’ve done in the past, and it may be part of the building condition process, that she’s going to knock herself a bit as that topline is getting better built up and she carries herself even better.
  • To that end, I’m still going to start running her with hind interference ankle boots for added protection.
  • She’s still not great at being syringed. Better than before, but my elyte mix was salty enough that after one squirt of it, she was no longer doing her “grab for the syringe” trick. So, work in progress.
  • More proactive cooling. She’s one of the larger, bigger-bodied horses I’ve ridden, not to mention a dark color. Her pulse hung at the finish for a couple minutes, and I didn’t do much aside from taking her over to the troughs to drink. I probably could have pulled tack and sponged her, but I’m always reluctant to dump my saddle in the dirt. Hindsight being what it was, since we had to go by the trailer to get to the finish anyway, I could have swung in and dropped the saddle on the saddle rack first. Ah, well, something to remember for the future.
  • Along that same line, I didn’t bother to bring my folding cart, because it was an away check, so I figured I didn’t need the cart to haul stuff around the trailer. Wrong. That would have definitely come in handy for hauling water, and the manure bucket. Something to explore in the future is, provided there is room at the finish in an out-of-the-way area, setting up my own mini self-crewing area with my cart, so I can comfortably pull tack and have a spot to put it.
  • I don’t think she likes orchard grass pellets as much as her previous oat/alfalfa blend. She loves wet beet pulp but wasn’t as crazy about wet pellet mush.
  • Personally…I need to get back on some kind of gym/fitness track. This isn’t a year-end/new year’s resolution…it’s just an actual fact. The pounds started slowly creeping up on me again, and I could stand to lose a few more of them. Riding more helps, but I definitely benefit from doing some kind of work-out activity/routine. Just because I’m riding a larger horse who can carry the weight isn’t a free excuse for me to not try to keep my weight category as light as possible. We’re not going fast enough at this point to worry about standing for BC, either, so extra pounds aren’t any benefit.
photo by Susan Kordish

Gear Rundown:

  • Zilco Endurance Bridle (Add-On Headstall style)
  • Fager Bit, ‘Nils’ model with baby fulmer cheekpieces
  • Wild West Endurance mohair reins
  • Zilco Ultra-Light Endurance Breastcollar
  • Frank Baines ‘Reflex’ monoflap dressage saddle
  • Archer Equine saddle pad
  • Total Saddle Fit Slim Stability Stirrup Leathers
  • Total Saddle Fit synthetic waffle girth with sheepskin cover
  • True Grit Endurance Outfitters pommel bag
  • Renegade Hoof Boots
  • PerformaRide tights
  • LAS helmet
  • Roeckl ‘Miami’ gloves
  • Ariat Terrain boots/half chaps

No complaints in any of the gear department, aside from the aforementioned “need to figure out why she’s interfering” since that took a toll on her hind boots (and her fetlocks). She’s been super-tricky to find a bit for, but I think I’ve found a couple of different models from Fager Bits that she’s very responsive to, and these are definitely my new favorite go-to for bits.

For now, the Frank Baines saddle is working. I really like it as a saddle — gorgeous leather, and the deep seat and big knee rolls make it nice for extra security. But it’s also nice enough I almost feel bad about using it as an endurance saddle sometimes (hence my reluctance to pull tack and dump such a nice saddle in the dirt). Eventually, I may consider looking at different saddle options (at 14 pounds, this one is the lightest saddles I own, but I would kind of like something even lighter, and some of the minimalist options intrigue me), but for now, I’ll stick to what I’ve got unless it becomes a problem.

For here, we’ll be aiming our sights on a 50. I wanted to do the LD for my own confidence, to know that we could do it after our string of early struggles. To have her finish so strongly gives me the confidence that it was a good stepping stone and that we’re on the right path.

3 thoughts on “After-Action Report: Jingle Bell Trot

  1. I’m so thrilled for you that she came out of the LD looking like a million bucks. And I appreciate the tack run down. I’m always interested in what other distance riders use and why.

    • I’m such a gear geek. I like tracking what I’m using for purposes of troubleshooting, or going back to remind myself what worked at what point, but I also love knowing what everyone else is using as well, so figured that would be another good reason to share that information.

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