Like any utterly obsessed horse-person, I often find my mind tying to horses and my sport in the most unlikely situations. Case in point, I was at the dentist not long ago, having my teeth scraped and poked. Of course, a mental escape was necessary. The way it went started with a bit of surprise – the lovely hygienist who was working on my teeth seemed not to follow the logical pattern – at least to me, which I thought would be left to right, top to bottom. She worked away in one area and then switched to another, somewhere completely different.
How in the world can you ensure everything is done when the order seems, to the uneducated person, totally random?
Routine of course! And who knows routine better than a horseperson?
I immediately began writing this blog in my head, hey, I needed some sort of distraction right?
Your first distance ride is going to always be the hardest – everything is new – from packing, to vet checks, to camping, to navigating the trails, even just knowing how to register! I can tell you now, it gets easier and this is thanks to routine.
Everyone’s routine is going to be a bit different, but building one the right way will help you get through the challenges above. In fact, many of these routines you can start practicing at home before you even think about attempting your first ride.
A while back, I took a few archery lessons with intent I would someday do horseback archery. Instead, I learned something even greater: the importance of writing down your routine. How hard can it be to pick up a bow and shoot right? Well, its not that hard. The hard part is repeating your success so you can hit that bullseye every time, instead of shooting all around the target like you are caught in a hurricane.
They had us chronicle everything we did from picking up our bow, to approaching the line, loading your arrow, raising the bow, to where your eyes will focus, to how you draw back and make postural adjustments, to how you release, to how you put your bow down. Think that is a lot to think about? There are all sorts of micro steps in between too! All of a sudden, shooting became very overwhelming, its not just picking up a bow and shooting is it?
So we pull out our notebooks and write each step down. I think I started with about ten steps and eventually it became tailored to the point where I had twenty plus before I even raised my bow. Committing it to paper will help you remember the routine.
Then, when you have a bad round, go back to your list. Did you do everything? Did you do it in the right order? Is there something that needs to change in your routine? And when you have a great round, did you do your routine exactly? If not, what do you need to add to your routine to ensure you succeed more often?
You see where I am going with all this right?
In particular, I like applying this theory to my vet checks. Its the single most important routine during my race and I like to have it down pat. In fact, it was the thing I was most proud of when I was riding in Race the Wild Coast and I am 100% confident in saying it helped me remain competitive throughout.
So how do you build your routine?
- If you are new, start with someone else’s routine (I will give you my routine for a regular Endurance vet check in a little bit if you would like to use that). Write it down or print it out. If you have been doing this for a while, write down what you think you do.
- Try it!
- Review your notes, if someone else were riding your horse, using your equipment, and using your notes, would they have the same result as you? Is everything working well as is? Is there anything that needs to improve?
- Modify it. Be as detailed as possible. Write down EVERYTHING.
- Repeat steps 2-4 indefinitely!
The important thing to note is we are all different. We have different bodies and minds, different horses, equipment, setups, different goals. While there are certain standards and proven methods, you need to tweak these to find what works best for you, and then just focus on you!
PS. The above works not just for vet checks, but anything else you need to standardize. Believe me, packing and prepping for the ride, setting up camp, all these things become much easier when you build your routine. As a bonus, your horse will also thrive from knowing the routine and come to expect your next step.
So there you have it, they key to a great ride, shooting a bullseye, or even cleaning teeth. Routine!
Sarah’s Vet Check Routine
- When finish line is in sight, dismount and walk in.
- Loosen girth while walking
- remove bit if applicable (attach bit to carabiner on my belt loop)
- Remove ride card from Ride Card Holder
- Call number to timer and hand them card
- Receive card from timer, check time
- Walk Bentley to water trough and offer drink
- Walk Bentley to crew area
- Begin crewing!
- Pull saddle and place on saddle race
- Offer Bentley beet pulp/grain/elyte mix (premade from previous hold or prior to start) and hay bag
- Check heartrate
- While horse eating, sponge with water side 1
- Sponge side 2
- Scrape side 1
- Scrape side 2
- Repeat 4.3-4.7 until heartrate meets parameters
- Add cooler/blanket if necessary
- Walk over to pulsing area
- Call out for pulse time & ensure it is written down and correct
- Wait in line for pulse if applicable, asking Bentley to put head down and be calm
- Ask Bentley to stand square and one step back to position front leg so heartrate is easy for pulse taker to access
- Walk to vetting line
- Wait in line if necessary, asking Bentley to put head down and be calm
- Approach available vet
- Tell vet any concerns and how ride is going
- Hold Bentley quiet as vet goes through their routine
- Trot out
- Ask Bentley to back up a step or two
- say “Aaaand trot!”, click twice and start jogging with loose lead
- Make it to the cones or when vet calls, stop, turn right 180 degrees, and repeat 2
- Finish vet check
- If I have crew, bring Bentley back to crew area and ask them to hold briefly while he eats from his mix again
- Go back to timers with card so I receive my out time
- Check time is correct and see how much longer I have
- Make note of next loop’s marker colours and total distance
- Put card back in Ride Card Holder attached to saddle
- If I don’t have crew, take Bentley with me to timers and do 9.1 and 9.2 THEN return to crew area and put him back in his food.
- Take care of me
- Refill water pack or bottles
- Eat food from cooler
- Pack snacks in backpack or saddle bag
- Use bathroom if necessary (Bentley may need to be pulled from food or ask another rider to watch)
- Assess equipment – do I or Bentley have any rubs or pain or is anything broken? Fix as needed
- Assess condition and do stretches for me and or Bentley as necessary
- Prepare Bentley’s food for next hold
- 1 Scoop beet pulp
- 1 scoop grain
- 4 scoops Mad Barn Electrolytes
- Chop up a few carrots or apples
- Add water and stir
- ensure hay bag is still full, top up if need be
- Fill water buckets for next hold
- Ten minutes to out time
- Grab fresh saddle pad from stack and place on back
- Put on saddle and do up girth loosely
- Walk Bentley over to water trough again to offer another drink
- Five minutes to out time
- Double check everything in crewing area is set for next hold
- Tighten girth
- Put bit back in (if necessary)
- mount from mounting block
- One minute to out time
- Approach timers
- Call out number and your out time, wait for confirmation
- Watch the clock, the get going! Woo hoo!