“Only” 60km (37.5 miles)…

Actually, 37.5 miles is still a long way..

I fell fairly and squarely into the “It’s “only” 60km” mindset last week – and I got caught out as a result. We finished, but Joe was a lot more tired and quite a bit more sore than I either liked or would have expected. We also, annoyingly, had a recurrence of the post ride girth area soreness and swelling. NOT chafing, but oedema and soreness behind the girth. We thought we had this fixed with a Pressure Eze girth and we had no issues there over 160km, so maybe I just wasn’t paying attention and girthed him up too tight.

I think one or more of several factors came into play:

1. Weather (it has been FOUL) and lack of daylight plus an unexpected long day at a Pony Club event with the girls the weekend before the ride kept me from riding as much as I should have. Those of you who read this blog regualrly (does ANYONE read this blog?) will know that I am a keen exponent of the “less is more” school of riding: once a horse is legged up for 50 mile rides it doesn’t take all that much work to keep them there. However Joe had a full 5 weeks off after our 100 mile ride (although he did have 12 hours a day, and sometimes 24, turnout). Maybe it was a little TOO much time off… Perhaps he is one of those horses who needs more regular work, especially of the elastic/stretching variety.

In addition, it was cold and wet all week before the ride but warm, dry and sunny the day of, albeit with a cold breeze, which made strapping pretty tricky.

2. Diet: several things changed, some of them under my control, some not…

  • Ongoing issues with getting hold of lucerne chaff (alfalfa) meant he wasn’t fed any for the week before the ride. Then of course there was lucerne hay on track.
  • We weren’t able to get hold of oaten hay and switched to wheaten hay rolls for them all about 4 weeks out from the ride. there’s not much info on different cereal hays as they relate to horses but I do know wheaten is lower in clacium than oaten. Which added to the on-again-off-again lucerne…
  • He got quite light on after the 160km (bad mother moment – clearly the grass wasn’t growing as well as I thought it was) so he had his grain ration upped slightly.
  • It’s capeweed season here. Capeweed is a weed (well duh) which is notorious for binding up magnesium and reducing the availability of it to the horse.

3. My fitness. I’ll admit it – I fell into a “post big event slump” after the 160 and haven’t been running as much as I should (or at all, actually…). The weight has crept up and the leg strength just wasn’t there.

4. Psychology. This was Joe’s first ride back after the 160km. It was at the same ride base as the 160… I got the definite impression that he was thinking “oh crap here we go again”… With any luck the realisation that we don’t ALWAYS have to go out 5 times will make him a lot happier next time!

5. Pre existing issue. I got Nancy (our much loved and very excellent bodyworker) to check him over after the ride and she picked up a strain in his semi membranosus (inside thigh). Not awful, but enough to make him use himself differently and maybe be stiffer as a result. She also suggested looking at iron deficiency. It’s apparently a big issue in human endurance athletes but I can’t (yet) find a single reference to iron deficiency in horses, apart from when it’s related to parasitism or chronic blood loss, neither of which should apply here.

6. The track. There were 11 vet outs for lameness from 40 horses in the 100km ride (over the same tracks as we rode), which is a LOT, so maybe the track was tougher than we thought. We also did the last 20km barefoot in front having completely separated one Easyboot from it’s gaiter.

So.. lots to think about, and lots to tweak. Expect a series of rather geeky posts as I research all the possible variables on the diet side! In reality, we know very little about micro nutrients in the horse – we have a handle on energy, protein etc and SOME idea on calcium, magnesium and Vitamin B and E requirements, but beyond that, there’s not much hard research out there. I don’t think I could even find a lab in Australia that could test for iron levels (beyong checking red cells), let alone give me a normal range.

For now, we will:

1. Up the magnesium in his diet to counteract the capeweed. Epsom salts is cheap and simple, well absorbed and any excess will be shed in the poo.

2. Reduce the grain in his diet and up the oil to maintain weight. When I say grains I mean oats – I don’t feed any micronised or “complete” feeds. I am comfortable continuing or even upping the lupin content of his diet as the starch in those is a complex starch.

3. Make sure we don’t have issues running out of lucerne the week before a ride!

4. Get (me) running again…

5. Keep him in more consistent work, which will include a lot of “putting the bits of the horse back together” work – lateral work, hill work, dressage work… Yawn.

The good news is he had another check from Nancy yesterday and was pronounced much better. He seems to FEEL much better judging from the amount of ADD style behaviour we got during his hour long massage. He also gave us some beautiful voluntary stretches (some of them were very “Give me back that leg I need to do THIS stretch right now!” type stretches). He used to be quite concerned during Nancy’s work: he was constantly trying to anticipate what stretch she would ask for and was very polite and a little inhibited. He’s such a people pleaser. Over time though he seems to have worked out how good the work she does makes him feel and now he really gets into it: lots of licking and yawning, plenty of stretches (including  a full “prayer pose” stretch):

I couldn't find a pic of a horse doing this, so here's a dog instead!

I couldn’t find a pic of a horse doing this, so here’s a dog instead!

Which must have felt pretty good if there was any girth pain remaining.

After the session he gave us a flat out gallop and some airs above the ground on the way back to his mates.

So I’m pretty happy taking him to a 50 miler next weekend: I spent a few days going “OMG I broke my horse” but in reality what he probably got was a pretty good depletion ride, and he should be busting out of his skin by next weekend, 2 weeks after this ride. The ride venue next wekeend will give us tracks much more to our style, similar to what we train over at home

After all, if you never push, you never get better, right? Sometimes a serious workout is going to leave you feeling it a bit (I know this from my own running).

Then again, wanting your horse to be PERFECT, every ride every time, isn’t so unreasonable, is it?  wink-


As usual I forgot to take any pics of the ride, but here’s a “selfie” taken by one of the checkpoint volunteers, with me leaning in from my very tolerant horse!






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