Red Hills is BLM land ~1 hour drive away. It’s free (a very good thing) and has the added attraction and not being super popular for hikers/bikers because of all the rocks. Did I mention the rocks? I have different places I go to train depending on what I want to work on. Here is what work we work on at Red Hills….wait I’ll let you guess….ROCKS. Red hills is HOT, mostly single tracks, with some hills (long gradual and some steep). There isn’t a lot of trail (12-15 miles total) but I’ve never ridden it all in one day because of…..rocks. Did I mention it has a lot of rocks? It’s a perfect training ground for Tevis. Gravel, loose big rocks, rocky stream beds, pointy rocks, flat slick rocks, rocks up hill, rocks down hill, rocks you have to hop over, rocks to surprise you around corners…I think you are getting the idea.
This is NOT the reason I take horses to Red Hills
1. Speed. You can’t maintain constant speed. In fact, forget the word speed. It won’t do you any good here.
2. Hills. They are there, but not significant enough to make this my “hill” training spot.
3. Desensitizing. There isn’t anything else out there except you and the horse. No bikers, dogs, crazy people, ATV’s etc. Which means I can totally relax and just work on my horse and myself.
This is what a horse and rider can learn at Red Hills
1. How to deal with rocks. Mentally I think that rocks can be tough. At Red Hills they can learn to deal with rocks up and down hill, etc.
2. How to deal with hot, dry conditions. It is usually very hot and there is very little water.
3. How to make up time on the trail. There are very short sections of non rocky single track. This teaches a horse to make up time when they can.
4. Pacing. The horse learns not to fight you because then they end up falling over the rocks you were TRYING to warn them about. They pay attention.
5. Fatigue. Riding a trail like this is VERY tiring. The rider needs to learn how to deal with this so that they don’t hinder the horse.
Rule of “Fist”
BTW – I have a rule of “fist” (thumb..whatever 🙂 ) when it comes to rocks. This assumes that your horse is legged up and conditioned in rocks. If the LOOSE rocks are bigger than my fist, I don’t trot because it’s too big of a risk that a rock will roll underneath a hoof and cause a strain. Loose rocks that are smaller or rocks that are embedded in the ground, I’ll make a judgement call depending on what the horse wants to do and how the long the section the rocks are. It would be nice to say “I won’t trot if there’s rocks” but here in the west, sometimes that’s not practical if you want to ride endurance…..there’s a heck of a lot of rocks out here at a lot of rides!
I had never taken Farley to Red Hills before so I was curious to see how she would handle it. She seems to really do well on rocks. I discovered this at Death Valley. She dances over them and seems to enjoy the challenge of where to put her feet.
I experimented with duct taping a handkerchief to the back of my helmet to help with the sun. It worked very well. I ran for ~2.5 miles at the beginning of the ride and then mounted up for a total of 5.5 miles. Not a lot of mileage on paper, but it was a tough 1.5 hour run/ride. I think it’s important NOT to worry about mileage when doing a trail like this. It’s easy to over do it and end up with soft tissue injuries with all the rocks. There are plenty of other places to ride where I can work on speed conditioning.
This was the second time I rode Farley in a hackamore, and the first time she was by herself. She did very well. She responded well even when we had a couple of “discussions” about direction/what was appropriate to spook at etc. I won’t start her in a ride with it, but could see myself switching to it half way through the ride.
Goodness this horse is fit! A little foam between her thighs and sweat under her saddle blanket and that was IT. And this was the hottest day of the year and the hottest ride of the season so far – 90 degrees F. At the end she still wanted to go (in a good way – she having fun) so I took her STRAIGHT up a very STEEP ROCKY hill. She bounded up like it was nothing. She’s very controllable and not crazy, but I can feel she’s just waiting for the OK to go.
I’m giving her a day off today. I do NOT want to overstress those tendons! It’s suppose to be even hotter – 95 degrees F, so I’m thinking of giving her a bath (first of the year!).