I've paced with bikes in the past with Q, and it's a great training tool. The bikes keep pace well, the horse sees the biker as "lead horse" and is very calm and relaxed about the environment because they don't have to keep as watchful an eye for "monsters", and I have someone to chat with as we go along.
While Griffin hadn't paced with bikes prior to last night, I was confident he'd pick it up quickly. He has a lot more trust in his surroundings than Q, and if Q can pace with a bike, Griffin certainly could! Additionally, I knew his fitness should be at a great level for this flat, predominantly grassy terrain. I've been riding him 2x, occasionally 3x a week in our mountainous terrain behind the farm where I do almost all of my riding. Additionally, with summer pastures open, he's doing a pretty wicked hill climb on his own a couple times a day as he moves throughout his 40 acre pasture.
I did Griffin a solid by trailering him the couple miles to the trail head, too. I did this to
- save time,
- save distance (by trailering I cut off a grand total of 4 miles from our final ride distance as it takes me 2 miles one-way to get to the trail from the farm),
- show him that all trailer rides are not long ones,
- demonstrate that he didn't need to be stressed about riding in the trailer because rides can be short.
I'd tacked Griffin up with everything except the bridle and the saddle bag with my water prior to stuffing him in the trailer for the 3 minute ride. As I was putting those two items on him at the trail access, my mom showed up on her bike out of nowhere; she had just finished a 20+ mile ride.
I let my mom in on what we were doing, invited her to come along if she wanted, and noted that I hadn't invited her because I figured she'd graduated from rides like this considering she's out doing ridiculous 40 mile rides on her bike now! Despite that, she opted to come along with T and Griffin and I (and would end her day at 31+ miles or some nonsense).
And so we set off.
Griffin picked right up on how to pace with the bikes and allow them to be "lead horse". A few times he would strike out ahead of both when we were cantering for stretches.
He didn't love the pea gravel on his bare, freshly trimmed tootsies, but after a few miles, he wasn't so dramatic about it. (This horse tends to act far more dramatic over things when he's not getting his way; as soon as he's doing what he wants or likes he's far less upset about things that were previously The End of the World.) For most of the ride he was able to be in the grass on either side of the trail.
We did a solid 10 miles following the rail trail mile markers. Our starting point is just a titch before the first marker though, so our final distance was 10.4 miles.
By trotting ~60% of the time and cantering the other ~40%, we ended up with an average pace of 9.8 mph! I was shocked to discover this because Griffin really didn't seem to be exerting himself much at all as we moved out. It was certainly a working trot, but far from strenuous. His canter as well was rolling and calm. In fact, when we paused for a few minutes at the turn around area to head home, Griffin wasn't even breathing hard at all. Elevated respiration rate from resting, but far from tuckered out. Kid's in a lot better shape than I credit him! Granted, when I remove the absurd mountain climbs from my horses' workouts, they both strike out at a fast pace.
We cantered the last half mile or so to the end point. Griffin's HR with tack on at this point was 90.
Knowing my haul was a whopping 3 minutes, I just loaded him up and took him home before focusing on cooling him more.
At home, off the trailer, untacked, and after one round of sponging (15 minutes max from first reading), his HR was at 62 and dropping. The other horses in the field were calling to him at this point, and I knew he wanted nothing more than to just roll and "wipe the human off" as Dom would say, so I turned him out to be with his friends instead of trying to cool him more and see if I could get his HR even lower; ultimately, being with his neighing buddies would calm everyone down - if I'd tried to wait him out and cool him, he'd probably have remained a little higher due to not being with the herd.
All in all, I was over the moon with his performance on this ride. He's never had quite that kind of a workout on the flat before and he excelled and then some! All of that mountain climbing over rougher terrain has done him good; when he has the opportunity to move out on almost exclusively mowed grassy footing on FLAT terrain he excels. He did show fatigue after 8 miles, but mustered up and trucked on steadily for the final 2 miles.
Go little grey speedster, go! Very proud of how this little horse is doing.