Rhio chatting me up for a cookie after our ride
I could tell just by driving the gravel road in front of the barn that the footing still isn't really up to snuff. But it was 40 degrees! Rhio's foot is looking awesome, my farrier was out today giving him a touch-up, and I had to hang around the barn for a few hours until my patients were ready for their acupuncture sessions anyway... so away down the road we went, hoping for the best!
How the foot looks today - fabulous!
I saddled up with the Polar heart rate monitor, which someone gave me and I have never used before. It didn't come with instructions (it's a several-times hand-me-down by now), and I spent a little while on the internet figuring out how to use it (or, rather, where to place the electrodes). It is different than my other heart rate monitor, which I have found tends to slip on Rhio & give me false readings. For some reason, it doesn't seem to slip on Red. Who knows why! I lunged for a few minutes to get him warmed up, and just used plain water for conductivity. It seems to work fine and is a lot less messy than the various gels & goos often recommended for use with heart rate monitors.
HRM components - 2 electrodes (square pads), transmitter (oblong labeled "Polar"), and the watch that shows me the read out
You can see the lead going to the electrode that's attached to the girth. I hung the transmitter from the breastcollar. The other lead went under the saddle at the withers. This HRM puts both electrodes on the left side of the horse- my other one puts one on each side of the horse.
Rhio was somewhat reluctant to leave the farm, which surprised me. Going out alone was a big hurdle that we conquered last spring, and I really haven't had any trouble since then. He hasn't been ridden in about a month, since the coronary band injury, and this boy likes to do stuff / be busy. Also it's spring, which always gets the horses hot & raring to go. So I was surprised at his balkiness. It was mild & didn't take much convincing to get him to go, but I definitely got the pokey-slow leaving-home walk.
Unfortunately, my assessment from the car was correct and Pioneer Road was a slushy, icy mess. Even though I was riding at the peak of the sun & warmest part of the day, it really wasn't safe to move any faster than a walk. So we walked. And practiced our leg yields - to stay on the softer edges.
Pioneer Road by the barn - every shaded area was icy compacted snow but the sunny areas were passable.
Once we hit the T at Church Road, the going was great and the road was mostly clear. We were able to trot our hill by the sheep farm, and got Rhio's HR up to about 155. His normal trotting HR on flat ground is around 105 - 110. I continued trotting Church Road until we ran out of clear road, at the end of the clear cut area from 2 years ago (where the dense forest shades the road too much & it's all ice).
Clear going on Church Road - you can see the clear cut area on the left. We lament this section in the summer because it's so brutally sunny & hot - but love it in the spring when it's the only clear section of road!
Kelso enjoying himself
We've hit the end of the clear cut & have turned for home. This is the last photo I was able to take until we got back to the barn because boy did I have my hands full on the ride home!
Rhio flipped his "on" switch as soon as we turned for home, and became the solid-fuel rocket poised for ignition that I had anticipated. Whee! Actually, the footing was so unpredictable that I didn't dare let him out a notch or two, and boy was he a frustrated pony! He managed to refrain from bucking (good boy!) and only voiced his opinion by strongly flipping & shaking his head, and breaking into a sideways canter when I barely thought "trot." He would go on a loose rein at the walk, but the instant I asked him to trot, we were off like a shot. So, it was a much slower ride home than I'd (& he'd!) hoped.
We ran into a neighbor out walking her 4 dogs, and it was interesting to watch his heart rate when he spotted the dogs but hadn't yet identified them as non-threatening. His walking heart rate of about 64 shot up to 140 pretty much instantly. So does that mean I can get a better cardiovascular workout by scaring my horses frequently?
Overall, we did only about 4 miles and less than a mile of that was trotting. So it was pretty pathetic as a "conditioning" ride - but it was very satisfying nonetheless. And the HRM stayed in place and gave me good readings throughout the ride - so the next test will be a fast ride to see if it continues to stay in place.
Kelso wanting to play - I guess 4 miles isn't enough distance for him, either!
Rhio demonstrating good puddle drinking technique - this one happened to be the ice puddle right outside the indoor arena that had barely 1/2" of free water spread on top of the ice, but he found a way to purse his lips tightly enough to suck it up. When this boy is thirsty, he drinks whatever is available - a very nice quality in an endurance horse!