Endurance Ride: Top of the Rock – Moxie
Since Ink was laid up all of last year with a ligament injury, Squidy was recovering from pregnancy, and Moxie was new to me and dealing with major medical issues all summer/fall, I hadn’t been to an endurance ride in over a year.
I had planned on starting both Moxie and Squidy on 50 mile rides to help teach them important brain lessons about taking care of themselves and not getting race brain… as in, “you’ll be out here all day, you better not waste energy fighting to go faster, and you better eat and drink well, because you’re going to need that energy later…”, as they are both prone to race brain excitement on training rides, and I could only imagine how much worse it would be at an actual ride…
Great idea, right? However, as mentioned, I hadn’t been to a ride in over a year, and I was craving endurance. Desperately. Squidy had to take some unexpected time off this spring and lost training time, and I didn’t want to over face her without being fully confident she was 50 mile fit (though she would have been fine, better safe than sorry!). Moxie is young and still fairly early in her trail conditioning, and while I’m sure she could do a 50 now (she did have lots of conditioning at the track), I want to take things slow with her and develop her carefully and correctly, with my eye on Decade Team, 100 milers, and multi days.
Top of the Rock endurance ride is just over an hour away and is a very inexpensive ride with low entry fees and no camping costs, so I figured why not just do some slow LDs just to get my fix?
The plan was to start after the pack left and go slow and steady, focusing on brain training, with the goal of 50s when they are ready, NOT racing LDs.
We got really lucky with dry weather despite a forecast of rain. Whew. The trails were mostly in great shape, only a few muddy areas. The weather was nice with cool nights and warm (hot!) days, but at least it was good sleeping weather overnight and the beginning of each ride was pleasantly cool.
We arrived Thursday, got camp set up, did a short 30 minute pre ride, and vetted in. Moxie was suddenly very much in heat. She was vocalizing and pacing on her high tie, squirting urine repeatedly at every horse in sight, and very distracted and pushy on walks around camp. I was worried this was a preview of how my ride would be in the morning. Yikes.
No need to worry. While Moxie was very nervous warming up in camp admist all the excited horses, once we hit the trail she was all business. We let everyone leave, then started off down the road at a walk about 20 minutes after the front runners. Once we got to the trail head, we picked up a slow trot (well, slow for her) and just cruised. Moxie was very focused on getting on down the trail and I had to hold her back for the first 10 miles, but she didn’t fight or do anything bad, just wanted to go faster than I allowed. No big deal. We settled into a nice easy 10 mph all day trot at about 110 bpm heart rate and stayed there most of the ride. We walked up and down hills and through bad footing, but otherwise mostly just maintained that awesome trot. Moxie felt like she could do it all day, just cruise control at 10 mph (which is slow for her, as a STB). We rode alone most of the first loop, except for a few miles when some 50 milers followed us for a while.
There was a lot of trail marking sabbotage and apparently some locals kept repeatedly taking down ribbons. I did miss one turn, but it only added a half mile to my day and about 15 minutes of debating where to go.
Moxie didn’t want to eat on trail and didn’t drink on the first loop, but she really tanked up in the vet check and hold. She came into the hold and pulsed down quickly in a couple minutes, vetted well with a 48/48 CRI, and went to work on her buffet of food choices. She and her new BFF and fellow STB, Shag, were sharing their snacks together, which was super cute.
Off we went on the second loop, alone again. Moxie was great, just cruising again. We rode alone until the last mile or so when we met up with some gaited riders and rode in to camp together.
The morning started cool, but it reached high 80s later in the day. It was mid 80s when we finished. Despite the heat, Moxie never got too hot and didn’t really seem affected much by the increasing temperatures. She didn’t need much sponging and pulsed down in less than 4 minutes at both vet checks. She got all As on her vet cards, except jug fill (she has no jugular; thrombosed) and B on gut sounds. Her final CRI was 52/46. Easy peasy. She ended up 14th, just going slow and steady, with a ride time of 4:19 (which included starting late and getting lost).
We need to work on eating on the trail. She does graze amazing well on training rides, but was too eager to get down the trail during the ride to relax and eat. We will need to work on that. She did eat exceptionally well in the hold, so at least there’s that. She also ate like a hog in camp all weekend, I’m pretty sure she had something in her mouth about 22 hours of each day. I was thrilled by that, as she is just now getting over ulcers. In fact, I’m pretty sure she actually gained weight over the weekend.
We also need to work on race brain. It was very manageable riding alone, but if we started with the pack, I’m certain she would have been a mess.
The last goal is that we REALLY need to work on developing a nice canter. Posting that giant STB trot for 25 miles sort of killed my knees. I’m used to cantering occasionally to give my knees a break. Nope. While Moxie has given me a few strides of canter here or there, it is still an unbalanced mess, and I haven’t pressed the issue yet. The plan was to let her get fit and develop a good strong topline with dressage and hill work before addressing the canter. Well, it is time. She is fit, she is balanced, and she has a good topline now. And my knees NEED a canter! She did slow rack on the roads a bit, but she doesn’t have a solid faster rack yet, she primarily just gaits when she is wanting to trot and I’m holding her back. Basically she slow racks instead of jigging. At some point, I’ll focus on racking and develop that as an extra gear as well, but it has been on the back burner the last couple months.
I’ll share my electrolyte cocktail here once I get the exact proportions dialed in, but I was thrilled with how well both horses (non Arabs at that) handled the hot weather (with zero heat training as of then this year), and I’d guess the lytes played a role in that. I use EnduraMax electrolytes and mixed it will Kaolin Pectin as a gastric buffer, and added a touch of calcium gluconate to prevent muscle cramps.
Moxie recovered really well and ate like champ all afternoon, never even stopped chowing down for a nap. Her legs looked and felt great the next day, and she looked good in her mini lameness eval when we got home. She camped really well, especially considering it was her first time camping (we had practiced the high tie once before but only for a couple hours). She was sensible and stayed alone at camp without any drama when Squidy and Shag (new BFF STB camped next to us) went out to ride the next day.
Overall, I am absolutely thrilled with how well she handled it all, and I really think she is going to be an amazing endurance horse!
Stay tuned for my ride story for Saturday’s LD on Squidy…