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Another year, same result. NV endurance rides are the best – except for one minor flaw – they are on the wrong side of the Sierra Nevada.
Last year I was due to make my debut-borrowing-Fergus to do the 50-mile ride at the "Rides at March" endurance ride. That weekend marked a spectacular storm, closing I-80 over the summit from multiple spin-outs and wrecks. So much for that plan.
This year Small Thing was due to make his Limited Distance debut – a 30-miler – at the same ride. Two weeks beforehand for our last "big" training ride it had been in the mid 70s F/low-20s C and I was trying to figure out if it would be an insult to Jackit's Welsh heritage to clip him for the NV ride. But by the time the prior Monday rolled around, the weather was starting to look less impressive and by Wednesday I knew our weekend trip wasn't going to happen. Somehow hauling over Donner Summit (7,200'/2,200 m) in a snow storm didn't appeal.
The route we would have been on – Kingvale on I-80 …not even at the summit yet.
My friend Lester and I had done this last April, insistent that we had to go to a NV ride. She bought the chains for truck and trailer and I put them on – all was well until we got to the very top and I was white-knuckling the passenger door. The drive down from Donner Summit involves a drop of 1000'/300 m in about 3 miles with plenty of curves for added excitement.
Nope, don't fancy that again, so no debut ride for us.
The good thing about the 70 degree weather two weeks before was that I was able to pressure-wash Small Thing (a mere shedding blade wasn't going to make much headway on that coating of dried slurry) and actually get his legs clean enough to apply boots.
Our plan for their last "big" training ride was a 15+ mile jaunt along the South Fork of the American River. This new trail was put in a few years back and makes for good continuous trotting but can be quite hard footing. I've ridden it barefoot with little problem in the past, but in this case we wanted to make sure that both pones had practised with their boots (I think I only got around to putting front boots on Jackit twice so far this year) and that we had a good fit.
Fergus was a little overdue for trimming (OK, a lot overdue) so I worked on him the day before, as well as touching up Jackit's feetses by performing a quick once-over with the rasp. It always seems that the horse I'm riding regularly never needs a trim per se – mostly because I poke at the hooves much more often so all they ever need is a quick touch up – while the non-workers and Fergus tend to get overlooked for "next time".
Getting ready for the ride, Small Thing's boots went on with no problem at all – even the brand new back Gloves that usually require a few rides before they'll go on without encouragement had no need of help from the mallet.
Fergus' size 2.5s went on his front feet OK, but when it came to cramming 1.5s on the backs, only one went on nicely while the other looked a little dubious. It was on, but neither of us were convinced that his foot was seated all the way into the bottom of it in the back. Fergus used to be a size 2 in the rears and apparently my lack of trimming has caused his feet to flare a little again. You reap what you sow.
So we fetched a size 2 with powerstrap out of the trailer (conveniently, the size Uno wears on his fronts) and popped that on instead, with me making a note to self to take off a little more toe on that foot next time I worked on him.
The ride went very well – the main object was to cover the distance as fast as we could (which on Jackit, isn't really very fast), trying to trot as much as we could and with me hopping off and running the downhills with him.
It's really not fair to expect Jackit to keep up with Fergus, given the disparity of size (Small Thing = barely 13 hh; Fergus = 16+ hh), but he's managing quite well and instead of having to dig in to increase the speed of his trot, he's finally figured out to switch up to the canter. We first started working on this over Christmas at which time he had a hard time moving into that gait without inserting a couple of exuberant mini-bucks first. His canter still isn't terribly ground-covering… infact he generally canters like a banana – curled to one side or the other, lots of leg movement and frantic activity, but not a great deal of speed-increase, but he'll figure it out.
Most of all, I'd like to point out that he's quite capable of cantering without his boots falling off (keeping in mind that on paper his boots don't remote appear to fit the shape of any of his feet). Even when he canters à la Banana.
Lucy Chaplin Trumbull
Sierra Foothills, California