In the Spirit of Boots and Saddles..

Mel at Boots and Saddles ( – it’s really good – check it out) writes EXCELLENT posts after each of her major rides/runs about what she learned: what she did well, what she didn’t. So in the spirit of that, here’s my “Lesson learned” post.

Lesson one: Less is often More

As usual, I went to this ride feeling like we were underdone, fitness wise. The  pre 160 programme was MEANT to be:

40km at Wilga on March 15th

80km at Myalup on March 29th

Back to back 80s (maybe even three) at the multi day ride over Easter

40km at the ride on May 3rd

40km at the ride on May 14th.

Joe is an unmotivated slug training at home so actual rides were meant to put the fitness on, as he travels faster at rides than he does at home.

What we ACTUALLY did was:

40km at Wilga

40km at Myalup (the track was DEEP sand: we don’t get sand to train on at home. After 9km I knew we weren’t going to go back out as the second leg was a repeat of the first: we withdrew after 40km with me paranoid about tendons and hamstrings).

Three days of 40km at the Easter multi day (good advice from an experienced endurance friend NOT to try back to back 80s)

80km at Collie on May 3rd.

30km of hills at home on May 14th. (Capel, where that ride was held, is MORE sand, and it was too far for the budget to allow for what was effectively a training ride. We slugged it out at home instead).

Rides in between were short rides during the week (interval or arena work) plus longer (up to 30km) at home on the weekends. I work full time so long rides during the week do.not.happen.

So we went into a 160 attempt having done exactly ONE 80km ride that season. And we finished.

If I ever get to a ride feeling like we have done enough, I have probably over ridden my horse. Of course, it helps that we have 100 acres and a mob of 7 to help keep Joe moving in between, but honestly, they don’t run around THAT much. (Although the day after his one 80, we brought a new horse home from ride base with us and poor Joe probably covered another 10kms or so in all the “new herd member” galloping that ensued).


This horse…

So the new plan before the Quilty is less ambitious: couple of 40s in July and August, then 2 x 80s (the last one three weeks out from the big day). Walking the fine line between fit and over trained again, and I am increasingly convinced that if you are in any doubt, less is probably the answer.

Lesson two: Running with my horse is fine as a theory, MUCH harder to achieve in practice!

In the first 40km he wants to go too fast for me to even contemplate getting off and running. And after 50-60km I don’t think I could run. Doesn’t leave much of a window… Getting off and WALKING still remains a good idea. However, I will continue to run as my part of the fitness bargain. It did help.


I actually did really well with my eating through the ride: I had a decent breakfast and lunch, and something to eat at every hold, plus some snacks at checkpoints. I drank well, and even remembered my electrolytes occasionally (it wasn’t that hot, so I didn’t lose a lot). BUT I got to the finish and was so completely overwhelmed I drank some port, had a cup of tea and a hot shower, and then went to bed. I’m sure that lack of a decent evening meal contributed to the decidedly weird shaking attack I had at about midnight. It also contributed to how incredibly stiff I was the next day – no chance for muscle replenishment and I’m told that that evening meal is a REALLY IMPORTANT part of post ride recovery. Next time I SHALL eat.

Lesson four: Have faith in the horse. Do not predict problems, but be very attuned to what might be developing.

Joe did not eat well at the first hold, or the third. He ate well on track, but I was expecting him to stuff his face at those holds and he didn’t. He ate, but not that much, so I spent legs two and four worrying about him, waiting for him to crash and burn, which he never did. Then at the second and fourth holds he was an eating machine! He knew what he needed. He was probably still well fed from overnight by the end of leg one, and at the third hold what he needed was a 40 minute power nap. Yes, you need to be aware of changes which may indicate a problem, but the energy spent worrying about what “might” develop would have been better spent on other things.

Lesson five: I only have so many of these 160 rides in me. Best make them good ones.

I went for a short ride with the girls yesterday and the knee that was sore last weekend is still complaining. A trip to the physio to check it out may be in order. The only 160 on my radar is the Quilty and that’s because it has been on my bucket list for a long time. 160s are HARD, y’all. Hard on riders, hard on horses. 60% completion rates are normal. The feeling of accomplishment at having done it cannot be downplayed, and I am in AWE of my horse for carting me round that track, but I don’t feel a burning desire to do it again for funsies. I like 80s. If you get good at them, you can be back from an 80 in time to kick back for a few hours and have a beer. I think we might focus on getting really fast at 80s. I’d like a decade team award eventually. I don’t want to push the envelope to the point where breaking my horse becomes more likely. Metabolic problems and lamenesses can and do happen at any distance, but are much more likely on a 160 (that’s why we have  a designated treatment vet for 160s). A very good, very experienced combination got into trouble on this ride: the horse is fine now but needed fluids. I don’t want to be standing in the horse hospital with Joe. (And yes, I KNOW that could also happen at an 80km ride. I guess we all just have a “risk line” that we don’t want to cross. It’s in a different place for different people. Some of us go bungee jumping for fun. Not me.).

Lesson 6: Yes you do need a good crew. 

At least one person for the horse (and who knows the horse) and one for you. Being able to hand Joe off to Pete and sit down for the 45 minute hold made all the difference. You DO get fuzzy headed towards the end, and your decision making ability IS impaired. I could NOT have run my own horse for the fourth and fifth vet checks.

Lesson 7:  Write it all down beforehand.

Your dear hard working crew needs to know not only what to do at vet checks and holds, but what they need to mix up and replace while you are out riding a leg. Does the horse need more water, more feed made up? Will he need a fresh sheepskin? What do they do if the horse decides to roll? Do they massage him, or is he a horse that likes to be left the hell alone in between legs? I gave my crew written instructions, and each of them had a copy of the other person’s instructions as well. It may seem like overkill, but I’m told they appreciated it.

Next up: working the big fella, Mac, under saddle. And a 20km fun ride with the girls in 2 weeks time: I get to get back on Prycie for once:

Leaving at Harvey

Prycie and I in 2009: our very first ever endurance ride. All of 20km (12 1/2 miles)


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