If you are a long time follower of this blog, or you just have been cruising through the archives, you probably already know that myself and the other fine women who write here are adventure addicts and crave challenges. It’s not uncommon for us to have already planned the “next” adventure before the current one is already up.
While I do have a few specific events on the calendar for 2018 that should provide great stories, photos and video, its my ongoing challenge that I want to share with you today! In 2018, I plan to Race Under Saddle.
In case you don’t already know what this is, check out my post from two years ago when I did the fitness test and seminar.
So what have I been doing to train so far? I am so glad you asked!
The demands of racing at the track are very different from endurance riding. In fact, after I did the seminar two years ago while “Endurance Fit”, my legs collapsed as I dismounted and I cried at the sight of stairs for the next full week. The fitness test suggested by RUS Ontario is 3 km run in 15 min, 1 minute push ups, 1 minute sit ups, 1 minute jump squats, 2 minute plank, 2 minute wall sit.
I have been going to OrangeTheory for over a year now and my overall fitness has improved immensely both in performance and body composition. I have no doubt in my mind that I can ace the fitness test! Of course, I prefer to be over-prepared. Thankfully, through the studio, I have access to personal trainers who are helping me kill my legs in anticipation of racing. Within the last month I have hit several personal bests – 500 consecutive bodyweight squats, 6.1 km run within the allotted 30 minutes with 2-4% incline intervals, and 440 watts on the indoor water row machines.
I have been following RUS Rider Karoline østergaard Nielsen to Woodbine about once a week to get learn how things work at the track and have her answer all of my burning questions about racing. I have even been able to put my hands on a few horses and help groom and harness them. Even better, I have had the joy of going to the winner’s circle a few times!
At some point this spring, I hear there will be another fitness test and seminar and I am compiling a long list of questions to ask other riders and trainers as well. Horses are always horses, but there are so many differences to learn about racing from Endurance, but I am hoping my unique perspective and skills from Endurance will give me a good headstart and add some training value as well.
It’s about time I start schmoozing with owners and trainers to find some horses to ride! In my visits to the track I am meeting a few new people and putting bugs in ears.
I realize this is probably going to be my toughest obstacle in Racing Under Saddle. Not only am I an outsider to the racing world, but RUS is still relatively new and it’s hard enough for experienced riders to find trainers willing to let them ride their trotters.
Thankfully, I do have a bit of a start here! I was introduced to Marilyn and Cash this weekend and got up there for a short ride. Cash is a former RUS horse who was looking for work. Unlike the horses who are currently in training and racing, he’s unfit and will need me to come up with a training plan for him. I am pretty confident that I can come up with a good plan to build his baseline fitness (from my experience in Endurance), and I can use what I am learning by shadowing other riders and my own athletic experiences to plan a program focused on speed and power. DIY training doesn’t scare me.
I am not sure if Cash and I will go all the way to the track, but it will be a great opportunity for me to practice on a horse that has done RUS before and based on the sparkle in his eye after our ride yesterday, I think it will make him happy too! We are going to see how training goes before deciding on our goals. In the meantime, I am going to keep looking for a few more horses to add into my program as well.
When I hopped on Cash yesterday, I was reminded that I should basically be expecting the opposite from him than Bentley. As we walked around in the snow, his head got high and I got nervous – on Bentley it means I am about to go for a bolt, but the trotters are trained to work with their head in the air. In fact, the higher Cash’s head got, the more I felt his body relax! It’s going to take a lot of retraining my mind. Should make for interesting rides going back and forth between the two.
As for the balance and my legs, I am working out of my jumping saddle right now. For the first few rides I plan to ride as I normally would, and after we are a little more comfortable and we need to work on speed, I will start bringing up my stirrups until I am ready to start riding with racing equipment.
This is always the fun part for me… all the various toys! At some point I am going to start shopping for a saddle, body protector, silks, and likely some specialty stuff I don’t even know I need yet. I have already been dreaming up designs and colours for my silks. Not sure if I will be doing any fundraising yet. Stay tuned there!
So there you have it! With most of my adventures or challenges that I take on, I get a lot of people telling me that I must be crazy/fearless. While perhaps there may be a few screws loose up there, for the most part there is method behind my madness. Having good preparation goes a long way!