Month 1 Takeaways:
》We finally made it out of San Andres Itzapa!
》I met tons of wonderful people!
》We got into our rhythm after about 21 days.
》I have a newfound appreciation for how important daily turnout is for overall horse health.
》With proper pacing, I look forward to another year of travel through horse friendly México!
Last September, we finished our first Long Ride from Canada in San Andres Itzapa, where I had volunteered years ago. I quickly found out I didn’t much like the crowded, loud and dirty town, even though the surrounding countryside was majestic. As early as October last year I tried moving to a surrounding town, but as luck would have it, it just never happened. Up until early May that is, when I embarked on my second trip. The last few weeks before takeoff was super busy and stressful. I finished my horse travel guidebook, I put up a storefront on my website, and I watched my patience being tested to the max while living in a place that had no appeal whatsoever and made no sense to me.
But all is good!!! I’m a month on the road and we are having the times of our lives. Roxy and I are both happier and healthier. We were made for being on the road!!!
My takeaway here is that sometimes the hardest part of a major expedition is just before takeoff.
Before both Long Rides, many many well meaning people warned me to be careful of all the bad people I may meet. Funnily enough, I don’t really meet bad people. The people I hang out with are good; I guess I weed out the bad ones with intuition.
So many people never see the road less travelled because of their fear. Maybe they haven’t honed their survival sense enough to feel confident. My background was one of massive exposure. As a child, I rode my bicycle everywhere in Toronto, then worked as a bicycle messenger. I know how to navigate traffic and I know how to navigate people. With these skills, I feel confident in most situations: I know which places and people to avoid as potential danger problems. And so I find that people are good everywhere…
My takeaway: Good people are everywhere, you just have to weed out the questionable ones.
This ride started out quite differently than our first one. The fist 2 weeks were HARD riding, so I took the 3rd and 4th week easy to actively rest up. As far as routine, it took about 3 weeks for me to get into a solid routine. The first week was a little overwhelming; it was the same the first time around.
I also got rid of stuff 3 times during this period, losing a total of 15 lbs of gear that wasn’t absolutely necessary. Now I need to get rid of 15lbs myself! I have been walking a lot with this goal in mind. Our style of riding is walking and riding back and forth over the day, to ensure I don’t wear out Roxy.
My takeaway: doubts will exist at the beginning, but as you carry on, your mind and actions become clearer and more defined.
For 6 months before takeoff Roxy wasn’t on daily turnout. It ended up affecting her topline, especially because I was to linear in my training with Roxy and didn’t integrate lateral work in our training. My preoccupation with other matters is totally my fault.
The effects showed themselves in Roxy’s muscle strain over the first few weeks of riding. She isn’t as strong in the back as the first time, even though her legs are.
Getting rid of the extra unneeded gear, getting onto flatter terrain as well as well as walking more have all helped out. I’ve also started doing lateral work, massages, and stretches with Roxy to help balance out her back and work her topline.
My takeaway: I learned just how important all the muscles and the whole package is, if you want your horse to perform at its best on a long ride.
Pacing is everything. Every long ride by horse features unique horses and riders. Weight, strength, conditioning and fitness are all at different levels. Each rider must figure out their ideal pace to manage a multi month journey.
I know that for various reasons I will have to follow an easier pace this time around. But that’s ok, as we did go pretty hard the first time. My goal as always is to have Roxy healthy for another ride or adventure later. She’s slowly building up her vitality, what with the almost daily exercise and turnout in evenings or days off. This means I can look forward to another year of ring thru horse crazy México!!!
My takeaway is that you have to follow the unique pace of your horse to manage a Long Ride successfully.