Happy Place: Old Selam 2011
You know, I think I’m starting to get the hang of this. Consolation. Training. Endurance. Relationships. Life. Everything.
Okay, okay, so I’m in a happy place. Happy places don’t last forever, but they sure are nice. And as Karen Bumgarner and I observed while scampering down another hundred miles of trail at Old Selam last weekend, a big part of being in a happy place is choosing to make the place in which you are, happy.
So I’m nesting my place with happy. Throwing rugs on the floors, putting pictures on the walls. Settling in to enjoy the ride.
Speaking of rides, and happy places, Old Selam was pretty darn nice. As always, it was friendly (mostly…I can’t deny that the community does have its cliques and politics, but I prefer to just do my thing and steer around that crap) and scenic and crowned with lovely weather.
Well, the mornings were cold. Very cold. I stayed warm in my sleeping bag with the help of some super-cool, military surplus heating pads I found at Boise Army Navy, but there was frost on the grass when I stepped outside. I’d blanketed Consolation and left a sheet dangling over her rump while I saddled up, but she was shivering when we stepped out of her little corral for a warm-up walk.
By the time I mounted, Consolation (who’d packed her good-girl attitude and stood pleasantly still, unlike at Cheap Thrills) seemed comfortable, but my fingers ached inside my gloves. The hip I injured back in January registered its displeasure, too. I rode up and down through ride camp, trying to loosen both of us up while letting the frontrunners take off down the trail.
Karen joined us on Thunder and we were about to start when a gray mule wearing a red blanket…and nothing else…streaked up the trail. It was Reba on the loose, following the herd! “Uh-oh,” Karen said. Yeah. If that loose mule caught up with all those excited horses, things could get ugly. She didn’t, though. A group of riders managed to coax here back to her trailer, still loose but content to be in a herd, and Karen and I finally headed away.
The first loops was long (about 27 miles) and beautiful, with plenty of water and new trail. Another rider, Dennis Zatteiro, who Karen remembered from back in his junior days, joined us early on. He and his lovely gelding, Rico, made for pleasant company as the sun rose and warmed us up at last.
But something was bothering Consolation. A lot. Every time we started downhill, especially trotting but even at a walk, she tossed her head and twisted her neck, slashed her tail, and stomped her hind legs as though being harassed by insects. There didn’t seem to be any insects, though…unless you count the one that stung Thunder and sent him into a momentary frenzy, poor guy.
Thunder recovered quickly, but Consolation didn’t. At one point, I dismounted on a steep, rutted downgrade because she was so distracted I feared she’d fall on me. I checked her over but couldn’t find anything wrong. I searched my memory for incidents of similar behavior. Nothing.
That was when I began to suspect the No-Wicky pad. She’d seemed fine with it on the conditioning trail, but we weren’t going as far or fast or steep. Perhaps, when moving downhill, the rough material pulled her hair. That would certainly irritate me! As soon as we vetted through at the hold (all A’s), I pulled that pad off and left just the latch weave wool pad I know she likes.
Problem solved. Consolation’s behavior returned to normal on the second loop, which was great fun — especially because my back scarcely hurt as we trotted up the hills and down again. Hooray for Feldenkrais! (Yes, I did as promised and spent an hour on the floor of my trailer the afternoon before the ride, working through a complete lesson. I also did a 5-minute mini-lesson during the hold.)
We finished in 7:18 with all A’s and the vet’s approval to go again the next day. Ride management gave us “I’d Rather be Riding” sun shields for our car windshields as completion awards, then we hustled off to put our horses’ boots on in preparation for Day 2.
The second 50 was split into 3 loops and didn’t start until 7:30, plus we rode a little slower (7:46 ride time), all of which added up to a longer day on Sunday. The trails were just as beautiful, but the second loop (23 miles) was a rough one for me. My lower back seemed to have gotten over its enthusiasm of the day before, despite another Feldenkrais lesson. Pain, pain, pain! Even dropping my heels a little sent a jolt all the way up through my shoulders. It was all I could do not to let it affect my riding, for Consolation’s sake.
During the second hold, I followed a rather instinctive thought and discovered that sitting Indian style on a hard surface, allowing my back to slouch, provided the stretch and relaxation those stiff muscles needed. I leaned forward, then to each side, allowing my back to relax into the stretch for several minutes. And voila! The final loop was much less painful.
I still need to work on the solution to the back pain issue. Perhaps there are some conditioning exercises I can do to better prepare. Maybe between Consolation and Acey, I can do enough downhill trotting to prepare my body without beating up theirs? I also need to keep up with Feldenkrais and flexibility work between rides — after all, these are things that provide the most benefit over the long term.
Anyway, we’re back home now. A week out from the ride, Consolation looks fantastic. We’re all set to ride several days at Owyhee Canyonlands, which starts on the 27th in Oreana. I’ve taken delivery of 8 tons of beautiful hay from Oregon, which I now need to go outside and stack. I bought a new toy that I’ll share with you all shortly. This morning smells lightly of autumn.
And I am happy.