November 28, 2016

Big Changes Are A Commin'

Sometimes, if you are patient and open enough, The Universe gives you what you need just when you  need it the most.

Things have been odd around here. I've been in a major horse slump. The 40 minute drive has sucked my motivation away and now that it is dark before I get out of work, and there are no lights at the barn, I am limited to weekends only. Dusty has been working a lot of extra shifts at the emergency clinic on the weekends to help with some bills and get some Christmas money stored up, so even my weekend access has been severely limited. I did squeak in a really fun second ride with Zoe a few weekends ago on the only day it has rained in 3 months, but all that did was solidify the fact that all the driving was sucking the fun right out of riding.

Money has been too tight to afford the hunter paces this year as well, so I haven't even been making those.

With Wyatt getting to such an amazingly fun and interactive age, I just don't want to spend 4 hours driving to ride for 2. The benefit doesn't out weight my loss.

So I've been neglectful of the bay mare and I feel guilty for that, but then I feel guilty for the time spent away riding and then add on to it having a shitastic ride and well....you get the hamster wheel that has been occurring.

But that is all about to change!!!

Through a bunch of perfectly timed events that I won't get into right now, but may expand upon at a later date, I found myself staring at a small red sign with the words FOR RENT hand printed across it sitting in front of a lush green pasture and small brick house.

I could barely contain my excitement as I dialed the number for more information. Unfortunately, it was a weekend and all I got was a machine on which I left a probably overly excited and breathy message. I then hit up google to find out that the house was for rent, pets were allowed and there was no mention of pasture use.

Over the course of the next 3 weeks, Dusty and I would look at the property once on our own and again with the home owner/next door neighbor and find out the details of the house and property. Turns out it is 16 acres but the back part already has an occupant in it (the owner's horse) and is really overgrown. The front was being used as hay for some cows down the road and was initially not available for use, but after spending some time with us and talking details she agreed to allow us to use it for our horses.

I was keeping it all pretty quiet until we actually signed the lease. I'm not typically superstitious, but I really didn't want anything to jinx it or have to explain why things didn't work out to anyone. We signed the lease today and I'm still shaking with excitement.

As of January 15, 2017, Gem and Pete will be coming home with us!!!!!! It has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember and more solidified after getting Gem nearly 7 years ago. We flirted with it for a year in WI when we rented a house on a boarding facility, but we weren't responsible for their care at all. Now they will be out front. I can sit on the lovely front porch and watch them graze, nap, or more likely, run away from me. I can see Gem, not twice a month, but twice a day - everyday.

When I met Zoe to show her the Clemson trails, I had to leave my house at 5 am to make it to the trail head for 9 am and then didn't get back home until nearly 4 pm even though we completed the 9 mile loop in 1 hour 20 minutes. That was a full 11 hours away from home for not even 90 minutes of ride time! It really took all the wind out of my riding sails.

But now??? Come January, if I want to meet Zoe at Clemson at 9 am I will have to leave my house at 8 am. Three hours later!!! And I will return 3 hours earlier given the same ride time. I AM SO INSANELY EXCITED RIGHT NOW!!!

I love riding, but I also just plain love being around Gem. I am really looking forward to the new challenges that keeping her at home will bring (currently it is finding good quality hay with the drought) and being able to watch her daily life to learn even more about her preferences and personality. Since Pete is basically retired it will also give us a chance to be with him more often and give him more attention.

This move also keeps up our tradition. Since getting married dn 2004, the only time we lived in one place for more than 2 years was when I went to podiatry school. While we lived in the same house all 4 years, my last year was spent all over the country on internships (I lived in 5 different states and visited many more cities) so really it was only like being there for 3. Since then we haven't made it over 2 years in any one house. At least this time we are staying in both the same mailing city and zip code.

Get ready to be flooded with Gemmie and Pete pictures :)

But first we have to figure out how to downsize from a 4 bed/3 bath 3000 sq ft monster house to a 2 bed/2 bath 1500 sq foot normal sized house. Anyone want to buy some junk? ;)






November 25, 2016

Waterfall Hunt 2016: Spooner Auger Falls

It's been a family tradition for three years now: every Thanksgiving morning we pick a new waterfall out of my hiking guide to NC/SC/GA and head out. It serves many purposes, but in general I just absolutely love the time spent in the woods.

This year the target was Spooner Auger Falls in Oconee County. The hiking book gives decent directions, but they all start from a junction of two main roads which makes us then have to hunt down a way to get to that point. Once there though the directions are pretty specific and include where to park and how to navigate the trails to get to the Falls.

It also gives a little information about the region. This waterfall is set in the Ellicott Rock Wilderness Region. Andrew Elliott explored this region in the early 1800s as he marked the borders of NC, SC, and GA. It is over 8,000 acres and somewhere amongst all that wonderfully wooded land there is a small rock placed where the three states intersect that Andrew Ellicott placed and carved a mark into. We did not find it, but will be back to look again!



We made it to the trail head with little incident, enjoying the magnificent views along the way. The leaves are really peaking right now and the reds, yellows and oranges filled the view out of the car windows.



Looking down the trail from the car


We pulled over as the book instructed and struck the trail. With Wyatt being too big for his pack and too small to hike anything more than about 2 miles, we are sticking to the easier to access Falls. This one was a 1.2 mile hike out and was on trail I would declare easy for all except the end which was up a winding trail with a cliff to the river side. Wyatt managed it all with ease climbing over rocks and roots, scaling up the hills and rock hopping over the several creek crossings.


















     












The trail was really pretty with multiple places with trees bowing over the trail like an arch. Apparently it had rained that morning because everything was damp. It was a welcomed sight with all the wild fires raging around us and the severe drought we are in. In fact, I was worried the area would either be on fire or dried up.

We followed several switchbacks as we made our way through the woods. I was in heaven. The trees were close to us on all sides and there wasn't a road, house or even a sound outside those that belong in the forest. Well, except for the occasional discharge of a storm trooper gun.




We saw this small fall on our way up and thought it was the one, but we quickly figured out it wasn't








Eventually the trail went straight up as the book warned and we dead ended at the 100 ft Spooner Auger Falls. I was excited that there was still water flowing over it and tried to picture how it would look at full flow.

We played around at the falls for a long time. Learning from past years, we packed a book bag for Wyatt with a towel and change of clothes. He splashed and played in the icy water at the base of the falls and asked if he could "slide down them" multiple times. Sorry kiddo, no broken legs allowed! When hhe began to shiver, we dried him off and bundled him in his dry clothes to hike back out.

The real Spooner Auger Falls











We played around at the falls for a long time. Learning from past years, we packed a book bag for Wyatt with a towel and change of clothes. He splashed and played in the icy water at the base of the falls and asked if he could "slide down them" multiple times. Sorry kiddo, no broken legs allowed! When he began to shiver, we dried him off and bundled him in his dry clothes to hike back out.

The main trail follows the Chattooga River upstream from parking and I was dying to travel it and see where it went. Unfortunately, we were short on time so only managed about another half mile before we needed to turn around and go home to get ready for dinner. We vowed to return soon with a day pack and lunch.

Looking upstream



On our way back we ran into the first people we saw all morning. This is a husky corgi mix and he was adorable!




October 31, 2016

I Rode My Horse...And Had FUN!

Not a whole lot to say, mostly just a picture dump. A lady who wants to get into endurance had contacted me last summer to get together. She had a gelding at the time and we had planned to meet up when he dumped her and she broke her arm. After recovering, she sold the gelding and started looking for a new partner that was better suited for her. Enter her new Egyptian Arab mare, Cami. Our schedules never lined up until this past weekend when we hit the trails together on a gorgeous morning. We met at Croft and had a wonderfully relaxing ride. We completed the 12 mile loop in 1 hour 40 minutes and both girls were hot at the end. It was 50F at the start at 82F at the finish. Poor Gem has so much hair that she was sweating before we even began. Hopefully winter decides to show up soon.

Getting ready to go. Zoe and Cami were parked behind us and Gem was not aware that we would have company yet. She looks so excited to be out conditioning solo, doesn't she?

I walked her over to meet Cami and Zoe and she got down to business grazing on the drought stricken remains of grass. We haven't had any rain in over 2 months and are 9 inches down this year. 

Cami was very interested in the campground that was full of screaming youngsters. Not sure what was going on, but the kids sounded like they were having a lot of fun. Made me really appreciate how Gem just goes with the flow and rarely fusses about anything any more. Well, other than trees and branches along side the trail that is. 

Rare selfie with my Gemmie cakes. She wasn't very patient with the process

It was a gorgeous start to the ride. 50F and sunny. We were the only ones there to begin with.


Gem even led a little ways! Mostly though we followed along behind Zoe and Cami which Gem was more than happy to do. She did get a little racy and competitive along the double wide stretch where we usually gallop and flew past them. 

The trails were in perfect condition. We had some walk breaks since the Mareface was breathing super hard after some of the larger hills. I guess that is what happens when you don't all month long and she wears her winter coat on a 80F day.

Proof that we did actually lead a little :) 

Every single horse walks faster than Gem. I've never ridden with another who didn't power along while Gem Eyored her way behind them. 


The river still had some water in it, but it is seriously low. Hoping for a lot of rain this winter. 

Heading back to the trailers. It was a really great ride full of speed, laughter and fun. I would ride with Zoe again anytime.

A hot and sweaty Gemmie at the very end. Cami had barely broken a sweat, but she was born and raised in GA and has the thinnest little coat even without being clipped. My poor yak.

Zoe and I discussed some endurance plans for the upcoming season. I am hoping to hit up McCauley Farms in FL the end of March for two days of 50s. I've been trying to hit that ride for 3 seasons now, so fingers crossed it happens this year. Anyway...as long as things pan out over the winter we will be heading down there together so she can ride her first 50 with me on Friday and then hang around and volunteer on Saturday to learn as much as she can. I am really, really excited to find someone I can go to rides with who rides similar to me. Riding with someone else is so much more fun than doing it all alone.

 



October 24, 2016

Saturday Night Lights

Tryon International Equestrian Center (TIEC) hosts events nearly non stop from spring-fall. It was recently made more public when they hosted the American Eventing Championships with mixed reviews. One event they hold regularly is their Saturday Night Lights Grand Prix Jumping Extravaganza. Ok..I added the extravaganza part, but it really is quite the spectacle.

This past Saturday I gathered up the girls and we headed up for the free event for a girl's night out. One I desperately needed. We all piled into Sheree's car for the 45 minute trip up and arrived around 6:15 pm. Technically the festivities started at 5 pm, but we were not very interested in seeing the acrobats or the flame swallowers perform. We did miss some horse presentation that sounded interesting, but food beckoned us and we by passed the arena for the food vendors.


Our hope was to get some food from the old fashioned diner to take to our seats, but they informed us that they do not allow carry out during the Saturday events. Smart move for them, but bad for us. The wait for a table was 45 minutes. Instead we wandered around and each got what they wanted before meeting back at the main arena. I ended up with a delicious chicken salad wrap and veggie soup. No food pictures because they gross me out.

It was almost 7 pm and time for the jumping to begin when we found some seats and settled in. The night was blistery - 50 and windy and we hunkered down to watch the 40 competitors in the 5* event.



The jumps looked huge to me. They were 1.6 m (so just shy of 5 ft?) and the course was tight. Sorry, folks. Beyond that I have no other observations. I know next to nothing about the sport of show jumping.

There were things I noted that caught my attention:

1) Even though these horses were massive and putting in a huge effort, the specialty footing dampened all sound. You couldn't hear a single hoof beat and we were only 3 rows back.

2) The most common color of show coat was grey. My favorite though was a super dark navy with orange stitching up the back and sides. One rider rode in hunter green and while both her coat and the ear bonnet were very pretty they were not the same hunter green and it looked really off. My take home point: either match the color exactly or use something very different.

3) Ponytails were a flapping in the breeze. I've never seen a horse show where the ladies came out with hair in a pony tail that fluttered down their back. I suppose it is a safety thing with helmet fit and all, but it looked really distracting and not at all show like.

Crappy cell phone pic, but look at that pony tail just flapping around

4) Of the 40 horses who were in the original round then the 5 that returned for the jump off, not a single horse pooped in the arena. So that may be an odd observation, but seriously? Do they train these horses that they aren't allowed to poop during the competition? Someone suggested it was because it was a high stress situation, but when Gem gets stressed you can hear her farting and pooping from two counties over.




We all chatted and laughed through the first half of the competitors noting that while most were from the US, there were representatives from Ireland, Brazil, Germany and Canada as well. I actually noted two names that I recognized: McClain Ward and Jessica Springstein.

Jessica had a lovely stallion and rode clear, but McClain was unfortunate and had a rail down early on. In fact all but 5 had rails down and it was a pretty exciting course to watch. No falls, nobody hurt. There were a few crashes, but all in all the horses looked great and were happy to do their job.

After 20 horses went out, they called an intermission. That surprised me. Then I was even more surprised when the horse equivalent of zambonis came out to drag the arena that looked like nobody had even ridden on it. To keep the spectators happy, they held a concert. Lee Greenwood of country music fame came out and performed a few songs. I think he had also sung before we got there, but I am not certain. Then to make my jaw drop completely, they had people run out and do a t shirt toss like at a ball game.

Dragging the arena

Lee Greenwood
It was all a bit odd. I mean, it felt more like a hockey game instead of a $380,000 purse jumping show. I wonder what the competitors thought about it all or maybe this is common??

The remaining 20 horses then finished up the first round and only 5 total were clear. The rails were dropping like crazy Saturday night.



Jessica went first on her lovely horse and was clear and fast. The biggest take away I had from the jump off was how much fun those horses were having. The same horses who lumbered around the first course looking from a spectators point of view like they were barely even moving (although I know they were booking it) were now let loose to fly around the shortened course as if they had wings (or maybe they just really needed to poop and knew it was almost time that they could). After the final jump, those horses were noticeably proud of themselves. They arched their necks, let out more than a few happy bucks and pranced. It really was a sight to see and made me really happy to see how full of themselves these horses were having just completed this course.



The next 3 all had rails down and then the last rider came out and stole the show with a very fast and clear round.

It was a great experience. Like I said, I'm not a competitor so I have no clue how they feel about all the non horse hoopla attached to the show, but as a spectator it was a lot of fun. Up close and personal, we could all see the smiles or looks of frustration on the rider's faces as the cruised around. I would definitely go back to another one of these events and enjoy the night under the lights with some good friends.