Long Ride North: When it all goes wrong! 

We met Ailsa last month who, with the help of three friends, is planning a 650km trek through northern Sweden to the Arctic Circle with a set of barefoot, rescued and rehomed horses. Here she explains why not all is going to plan...  

It happens in every amateur production: a point where you question if the show will actually ever make it to opening night.

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I'm hoping that if the dress rehearsal is awful, it'll be alright on the night when it comes to our ride!  

Having had a week in bed and two weeks recovering from the mother of all influenzas, I wasn't best pleased to hear news from two of my co-riders back in the UK who'd found a few problems with their horses. 

They've dropped a bit of weight over the winter and it seems they'd been playing in the now bog-like field and strained their backs. They'd also developed abscesses in their feet.  

Every horse owner knows Murphy's Law, which states if something can go wrong, it will. In this case, if a horse is generally doing well, give him even a sniff of a competition or something that can’t be postponed and some kind of bad luck will befall your precious, yet usually robust, mount. 

So the plan to step up work has been postponed for now. 

Pure feeds are sponsoring us on our ride and a phone call to them with an explanation of the problems resulted in both immediate advice and some feed arriving 48 hrs later.

Louise, the nutritionist behind Pure Feeds, has recommended fibre balance for our two ponies as it provides fibre and a more concentrated ration of premium balancer.

It'll give the horses all the vitamins and minerals they need plus fibre to promote gut health.

Because it's served in smaller quantities, one bag lasts a long time, which is great as storage space is at a premium. This is partly because the feed shed is filled with tents, saddle packs and other paraphernalia for our long 651km ride to the arctic circle in northern Sweden!

Upping the Ante

In terms of increasing the horses' workload, we're deliberately moving the horses into a lungeing pen for some time during the day, where we know they'll keep moving a little more than they do in the field (a sort-of horse walker without the expense)!

They have a reasonable baseline fitness from living out on sloping ground.

Sara is both one of our riders and a therapist in our area so she's treating backs and muscles, while Emma of Hoofmanship (another of our riders) is working on feet and fitness.

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We're lucky to have a little team of willing and kind local riders to help us in our endeavours. The horses will be lunged twice a week, walked in-hand up and down hills at a march and ridden twice a week.

As they progress, we'll then start to ride them every day. 

As part of boosting their fitness, I'll arrange obstacles in the way. This includes railway-sleeper-sized logs that they have to walk over from the yard and back out to their hilly field. This encourages them to take larger steps than usual, engaging their core. 

Because the sleepers are large and can’t be easily kicked out of the way, our horses will look down as they move, creating a natural round through their backs and a long and low outline. 

I've used this with a number of other techniques in my bodywork with horses to help busy owners develop correct muscles for their horses. 

In my next post, I'll share with you how the horses are progressing with their training and how we riders are getting their minds, bodies and spirits ready for our Long Ride North! 

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