July 31, 2013

What is Endurance Riding?

A bonus second post today! I thought it was a good time to describe this sport for any non horse/non endurance readers before I get to my ride stories. My son is taking a rare morning nap, I vacuumed the house yesterday and so I have time on my hands.

Basically endurance is fast paced trail riding. Of course in reality nothing is that simple, but thats it in a nutshell.


There are various lengths of courses to participate in depending on rider and horse fitness and what you feel like putting yourself through. The shortest distances are considered "limited distance (LD)" riding and technically are up to 49 miles. LD is usually 25 miles, but I have seen 30 and 35 mile rides offered as well. In general the rides are figured on a conservative average pace to complete and 25 mile rides have a completion time of 6 hours. True endurance starts at 50 miles in 12 hours and ends at the ultimate 100 miles in 24 hours. Various events will fill in the gap with other distances (75 miles seems popular) as well. If that wasn't confusing enough, you can always do a multi day ride in which you do 50 miles in 2 days (two 25 mile rides) or a 2 day 100 or..or..or.... Don't forget the pioneer rides which are over 5 days with either 25 or 50 miles each day to accumulate at the end. And last, but not least, is the pony express ride over the course of 3 months following the original trail. But since I don't have unlimited funds and time, lets just ignore the pioneer and pony express rides.

How it All Works

Rides take place on Saturday and Sunday. A base camp is set up where everyone camps, the vets are stationed and the ride managers work. You need to arrive the day before (why I did Sunday rides to avoid taking time off of work) and check in. The horse gets presented to the ride vet who looks over the horse for lameness, sore back, cuts, hydration level, and overall attitude. If all is ok, they give you a ride card and a rider number. The ride card goes with you during the ride and gets presented throughout. Then you chill. Or rather you get super nervous and worry about every tiny detail and eventually fall sort of asleep for a bit overnight. The night before is a riders meeting as well as a potluck dinner. The meeting covers (or at least should in theory cover) the next days events...start times, completion times, location of vet check and length of holds and any confusing parts of the trail.

The trails are always open, so you can ride parts if you want to and in the 100 mile distance this seems to be super important to do. The morning of the ride, most people wake up insanely early to feed, then go back to bed, then up again to tack up and warm up a bit. The trail will be announced as open at the correct time and off everyone goes in one big pack, or so I was led to believe from articles, books and my talks with the endurance rider. Technically you can start anytime you want to after it is opened up, but the completion time is based off of the time the trail opens, so waiting an hour so you can sleep in isn't very smart (not that I did this, but in theory you could).

You head off down the trail. And keep going, and going, and going, and going. At some point in the ride, typically in the middle for a LD, there is at least one mandatory vet check and hold. Once you reach this point in the ride, say mile 12 for a 25 mile ride, you stop and present your rider card and horse to the vet. This spot may be back at base camp making life super easy or it could be out on the trail somewhere depending on the route. The horse has to have a pulse rate not to exceed a predetermined rate (usually 64 or 60 bpm) prior to presenting your horse to the vet. Once pulsed down, the vet does another check for tack issues, hydration, attitude and lameness. You trot your horse on the lead rope with you jogging down a straight line and back. If all looks good, your card is marked with letter grades from A-C and your hold begins. Most holds I had were 50 minutes. This is time you use to pee, eat, drink, stretch, feed your horse hay and grain and carrots, and allow your horse to power nap. Once your hold time is up you head on back down the trail. And keep going, and going and going.

Once you reach the end of the trails you do the above again. Pulse down, present horse. There is no hold at the end. Once your horse is pulsed down you can present. If all looks good and your total ride time with holds is under the limit, you have a completion!

Longer rides, 50 miles and up, will have more vet checks and holds throughout the ride. Some have what is called a "gate and go". This is where you present your horse once pulsed down, but you don't have a required hold, so you just get back on and keep going. All this is in an effort to prevent people from running their horse into the ground.

And that is it for the basic rules. There are a ton of techniques, tactics, and ins and outs to finishing and I still have no clue what they all are. That's part of the lure of the sport though. Each outing teaches you something and maybe, just maybe, before your horse is of retirement age you just might figure it out.

Next up is my first event! I will cover it in 2 posts (idea I stole from other blogs): the ride story itself and then what I think went well, wrong and what I learned.


New Barn, New Attitude

"In the long run men hit only what they aim at. Therefor, though they should fail immediately, they had better aim at something high"

- Thoreau

The new barn was great. An indoor arena, outdoor jump arena with a full set of jumps, outdoor dressage arena with the gazebo and plastic geese of doom, and trails with cross country jumps. Gem and Pete had a pasture all to themselves and I could take riding clothes to work and stop on my way home.

New spaces meant new reasons to act like she had never been ridden before and we began the process of learning how to be calm all over again. She settled in pretty well to the indoor and outdoor jump arenas but I never did get her 100% relaxed in the dressage arena. The gazebo and plastic geese that were behind it were just too scary. It didn't help that the one time I finally convinced her that there were no monsters in the field behind the arena, a baby deer jumped out and caused her to have a meltdown. Oh and there were chickens around there too and she hates chickens. You just can't trust a chicken.

The property was set up with a lane that ran from the barn and indoor arena to the owners house with the pastures on either side. It was perhaps 0.15 of a mile long, maybe 0.25. One day I decided that we were going to ride down the lane to cool down. All by ourselves. I rode her out of the jump arena, turned left down the lane and 40 minutes of my life that I will never get back later we arrived at the dressage arena of doom at the far end of the lane. She would walk 2 steps, turn 180 degrees and try to charge back to the barn. I'd turn her back around and repeat. Ok, that sucked, but we got there in one piece with me still in the saddle, so I let her graze as a reward and then turned around. 30 seconds later and we were back at the barn. I was still in on piece and in the saddle, but that wasn't acceptable behavior either so, to torture myself even more, I turned her around and back down the lane we went. When we moved out 2 years later I had her trotting down the lane without a fuss. It may take us forever, but we get there eventually.

Things kept progressing fairly nicely at the farm. I had at some point decided to become an adult and put my big girl panties on and really began to ride Gem. Oh, she still threw her tantrums and had days where she just wouldn't listen to a darn thing I said, but I learned that if I just sat up there calmly and ignored her she would get bored and settle into work. I read something online that stuck with me and helped a ton:

A horse and rider should always equal 10. If the horse is a 2 that day and being lazy, the rider needs to be an 8. If the horse is Gem and is a spaz at a 9, then I need to be a 1.

We even began doing gymnastic jumping lines. We rode in every arena and down the lane like big girls and had fun doing it.

Then one day at work something remarkable happened. Ok, I'm exaggerating again, but it was pretty awesome. One of the docs I worked with mentioned that she had a friend who did endurance riding. Would I be interested in having dinner with them? Um...you bet! I had researched endurance numerous times and been to the AERC (American endurance ride conference) website and read through all the education materials, but it seemed daunting to me. The conditioning plans seemed impossible to follow, the rides confusing and the rules numerous. I gave up before I ever began. Now I could talk it out with someone and learn from an experienced rider.
We met for dinner and I learned a ton. She had been at it for 10 years doing shorter distances on her mare and longer on her gelding. No, I didn't need a special saddle. No, I didn't need a special bridle. No, I didn't need a specific 6 day a week training program. No, I didn't need a house on wheels rig and could just use a tent. All I needed was passion and a sound horse. Well, I had that for sure. She suggested I start with a shorter distance and work my way up. She also pointed me to the local endurance club website for rides.
I was pumped! I looked at the ride calendar and luckily for the hubby (isn't he such a lucky guy?) there was a ride 3 hours away on our anniversary weekend. What better way to spend it than camping and watching me ride for hours on end? For some odd reason he actually agreed to it and I signed up for the 25 mile distance on Sunday. Actually, he agreed to it I because I had spent a Saturday morning in May freezing my butt off at 5 am for 4 hours watching him run his first half marathon (no, he wasn't that slow, but they had to be dropped off at the start super early and I didn't want to miss anything) only to cross the finish line swearing, bleeding and in a generally crappy mood and he owed me. Freezing in May? It was Wisconsin and it snowed. In May. My God am I happy to be out of there.
You want me to go how far?!


July 30, 2013

The Canter Wars

"Set yourself, situate, like a fool try again"

-Matchbox 20

(My timeline was off a bit. We got the trailer in spring of 2011 and the canter wars began prior to that in the winter of 2010-2011, but the story doesn't change.)

I knew Gemmie could canter. She cantered out of jumps and on the lunge line just fine. My theory was/is that the previous owner wore spurs to get her to do barrels and she was anticipating pain when my leg went on her side. Regardless, I figured I better get some help and posted a Craigslist ad for a trainer to come out every other Saturday morning. I found J, a very nice woman who had gone to school for training and then had kids and life moved away from horses for a while.

I told her my main concern was cantering and explained the issue. She came out and I swear she must have left thinking I was either a liar or completely delusional. Gem was a total nightmare. Worse than she had ever been. She was tense, spooked at everything and ran amok through the entire lesson. At one point J suggested we lunge her a bit and end on a decently good note, but I think she was just tired of watching the horribleness that was going on in front of her. In fairness to Gemmiecakes, the arena had a metal roof and a bazillion inches of snow was melting and sliding off it during the lesson, but come on! Sigh.

The next lesson had Gem back to her normal self again. To skip the boring bits, we didn't resolve the cantering issue. I just started using voice commands and she would canter. It wasn't always on the correct lead or very balanced, but she did canter. Why was it so important to me? Well, my secret goal was to teach Gem flying lead changes (for non horse people this is where they change which leg they are leading off with in mid stride without needing to go back to a trot to do so) so that when we cantered on trails and I saw a turn up ahead I could ask her to change leads to be more balanced for the turn. In order to do this I needed to get her cantering with my leg. Not to leave you thinking J taught me nothing, I learned the beginnings of lateral work and we honed my jumping a lot.

And then, as always happens in life, crap hit the fan and the world changed. Well, maybe I'm exaggerating, but my world certainly did. Our landlord apparently decided it was more prudent to gamble our rent and board each month instead of paying the mortgage. Our friends got tired of spending their own money on a business they didn't own, go figure!, and so they stopped. The bank foreclosed and we had to move. It was a sad day when we packed up and moved the horses and ourselves out. It was the perfect place to live and we spent almost every night eating dinner and playing cards with our friends.

Rent and board increased and time decreased (thanks again to residency) and I was left without a trainer again. I will expand on our new barn next time, but to not leave you in suspense, I did win the canter wars. She now nicely and in a balanced fashion goes into the canter with the slightest pressure of my outside leg. It took all that summer, fall and winter to do it, but I was persistent. How? I began with asking for the canter with my voice and praising her. Slowly I would add my leg ever so lightly while still asking with my voice. Eventually it was a firmer leg and softer voice and then no voice. It helped that the jump arena was very large and I was no longer afraid of her tantrums, so when she kicked out I would just keep riding her and she learned it got her nowhere. I am very proud of this win!


Yes? Can I help you?


July 29, 2013

You are now free to move about the cabin

"I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion"


The Midwest Horse Fair is held every spring and it is worth going to at least once if you are in the area. Horse events, shopping, a farrier competition that our farrier was participating in and a big trailer sales lot which is what we went for. The hubs had secretly done a bunch of research and knew exactly what would fit us. We had a Dodge Nitro (SUV built on the Dakota truck base with a 5,000 lb towing capacity) to pull with so we needed something light, 2 horse and he wanted something tall to avoid any cramping. We found it in the Eclipse brand and left with a 2 horse straight load with a ramp. It was perfect!

The world was now our oyster...or something like that. We had a great summer on the trails. I would hook it all up and get Gem and Pete ready so that when the hubby got home from work he could change and off to the trails we went before the sun went down. I didn't have a GPS at the time, but we put a lot of miles on those horses that summer.

How was her royal highness? As long as she wasn't in the lead she did ok. We did the same trails often so she became really comfortable up there and knew her job. I eventually ditched the western for my Wintec AP English saddle as well and while I was more comfortable I was also less secure. I don't really recall falling that much though. Actually, nothing all that exciting from that summer comes to mind, so it must have been rather dull in reality.

Eventually winter came and the horse trails all closed. I was back in the arena again and had one specific goal: get Gem cantering. Everytime I would ask her with my outside leg to canter she would cow kick and trot at a ridiculous speed. It got to the point where she would kick the walls and I worried she would hurt herself. I got so frustrated one day that I did the unthinkable: I put the hubs on her. Gem hates the hubs. I don't know why, but put him on her and she gets real angry, real quick. She runs, she tries to buck but is so horrible at it it is funny, runs some more, takes sharp corners and generally has a fit. Why did I do it? He is braver than I am and will put up with it all and ride her out whereas I won't or at least didn't at the time. In the end he did get her to canter, but she fell in the corner and hurt her front inside leg, so that ended that.

That bought her some time off and a massage..poor thing. I was a little nervous about the massage since Gem didn't like a whole lot of touching, but she got into it. I signed Pete up as well because you have to be fair and he fell asleep during his!

They are so mistreated, I know :)

July 28, 2013

A Great Morning

"After a time you may find that "having" is not so pleasing a thing, after all, as "wanting" "


Today was one of those mornings where the world is just smiling at you. Bright blue sky with big fluffy white clouds, cool breeze blowing and the tortured cat sound of the neighbors peacocks singing. I seriously don't know why anyone would want a herd (or is it a flock?) of peacocks. They alternate between sounding like a dying cat and sounding like an old lady in a nursing home screaming for help. Anyway...

The hubby and I loaded up our 7 month old son and headed to the barn this morning. We want him around the horses as much as possible in the hopes that he is never afraid of them and maybe, just maybe he will want to ride. I always ride first for some reason and so I headed out to find Gem in her massive 20 acre pasture which she shares with 4 other mares. She usually either runs off or hides behind a tree but this morning she just looked at me, peed (there is a story behind this which I will get to eventually), sighed and let me walk up and scratch her.

She rode super, super well. It was cool out still so she wasn't sweaty before I rode and she moved out well. We rode in the arena and got a bunch of trotting and cantering in. We even did some small jumps. She ran out the first time but after that she was great! I cooled her out in the grassy area next to the arena. She was a spaz. She just hates anything new and seriously I was right next to the arena she just worked in for 45 minutes! Oh, Gem. I made her go until she walked calmly in both directions without becoming a giraffe and called it quits. I thought for sure she would be all sweaty but she barely even had a sweat mark under her saddle. The hubs made fun of me for being easy on her and told me next time he will bring a watch and make me trot for an hour straight. I think he may be right, but don't tell him I said that!

I don't have a ton of pics of me riding because I am usually alone, but hubby brought the camera and grabbed a few today.

The hubs then one upped me and took his trusty steed out in the fields. I didn't see much of them, but I did get a few glimpses of them cantering through the trees. He jumped some logs and had a great time. I do wish I was brave enough for that, but I will be doing that before the year is out.

Today makes me so glad I have my horse. Back to reminiscing tomorrow.


July 26, 2013

Attack of the I can't Gremlins

"If all else fails, immortality can always be assured by spectacular error"

- John Kenneth Galbraith

After a particularly disappointing ride on Gem last night followed by a particularly annoying conversation with the barn manager I came home with a big case of the I can'ts. I wasn't feeling sorry for myself, I was just lost in all the reasons that this dream will never come to fruition.

How can I possibly find time to ride on the trails when I can only go insanely early in the morning or after 7 pm? My son is my number one priority and always will be so I do not want to sacrifice time with him when it is so preciously little with working full time as it is. It will be dark before I leave work in the winter so then what? For that matter I don't even know where the trails are around here. The barn we are at is nice for many reasons but the trails they claimed to have access to are just a bunch of pastures with gates in between them all. When will I get my longer rides in and where will I do them? I kept the hubby up late with all this and went to sleep in a sour mood.

Then this morning I checked my email and read the account of a first time Tevis attempt and completion last weekend. For non endurance people this is the ultimate ride. 100 miles of California heat, canyons, steep narrow trails and dust. 24 hours to complete. It has a 50% completion rate and only a 30% first timer completion rate. While it isn't my ultimate goal it is for many others. It brought tears to my eyes and got the fire burning again and I realized why I love this sport.

You don't have to do anything. No trainers to keep appointments with. No specific saddle. No specific colors. No fancy, expensive show clothes. No training schedule set in stone. No set in stone rules as to how to feed, electrolyte, tack up or condition. It's all fluid and based on what works at that time for you and your horse. This makes it a little daunting to begin with since you can't just call someone up and have them teach it all to you, memorize a dressage test or jump course (not that I think that is easy to do because it isn't) and then follow the path. Everything is trial and error and what works for one rider/horse is almost guaranteed to not work for you and your horse. Try something-note how it worked or failed-tweak-try again. Rinse, lather and repeat.

I don't have to do it a certain way and that is why this will work. Gemmie holds onto her fitness level well and while I might not be able to ride long rides every weekend or get the mileage that I want all the time, I will make sure she is fit and sound for each ride. We may come in dead last, but we will finish and we will be sound and happy.

All those reasons above can be dealt with. I will ride when I can. If it is at 7 pm and it is dark, well Gem needs to learn to ride at night if I want to do 50 and 100 mile rides anyway so we will just get a lot of practice at that. If I need to ride in the pastures during the week due to time constraints, well we will both just have to figure out how to do gates from the saddle for those I can reach and if I have to get off it will give me a chance to stretch my legs. It can work without sacrificing my son for it and I will make it work. Endurance is about you and your horse going down the trail and that's just what we will do (hopefully with me still in the saddle :)

I lover her crazy mane



July 25, 2013

Wisconsin or Bust

New addition: I LOVE quotes, so I'm going to add a quote to each post.

"He might fail from want of skill or strength, but deep in his somber soul he vowed that it should never be from want of heart"

-Robert Falcon Scott

We had an immediate issue with the move: no horse trailer. That was offset by the fact that we had no truck to pull one with either. To the Internet I went to find a ride for Gem and Pete. Life sure can be interesting at times and I often wonder if the world really is sane and I'm the insane one. Each transportation company I spoke with told me the same thing: they can't book a horse (or horses) on a trip unless another horse was previously signed up already. Huh? How does the make any sense! How on earth does the first horse get booked? How do any trips ever take place? Oh well. I did find a guy with a head on his shoulders, a nice air ride rig with box stalls and an opening. They arrived on time and in excellent condition.

Our living situation the first year in the land of infectious diseases dairy was perfect. A boarding facility had two houses on the property and one was open. We moved the crew in: 4 cats, 2 dogs and 2 horses. We became best friends with the family next door in charge of everything and life was good.

I immediately amped up my "kill Gem with absurd amounts of affection" campaign. She was/is a tough nut to crack. Secretly sensitive, she holds a grudge like none other. She had thick walls built up and I made it my duty to win her over and convince her she was stuck with me. Each time I came home from work (if I came home...residency was a time hoarding monster in the beginning!) I would yell out "Gemmie is that you? It is you!" much to her disdain. At first she would run off to the far end of her paddock. Then she began to just look at me like I was an idiot who couldn't tell who she was out of just her and Pete. Finally she began to recognize my car and I'd see her ears perk up and then wait for me. Then when I yelled out she would pretend she couldn't hear or see me. I do love her!

The barn had a small indoor and a really awesome outdoor arena. She was a complete and total spaz in the outdoor. She was convinced something was going to kill her and so she did what she always does when scared...move as fast as possible. It took forever to get her to even just walk in the arena let alone do it on a loose rein and in a relaxed manner. It really was a great learning time for me because I had to work through it on my own at my own pace. Eventually I was able to walk, trot and canter out there and the hubby and friend made me a couple jumps that we played around with as well. It was exactly what I needed at the time.

I was still a pretty big wimp. My only experiment with Gem on trails had been a disaster at the training barn in Ohio. We went with a big group riding from the barn around a couple pastures and through a short section of woods. She wanted to go much faster than the rest of the group and I spent the entire time on a super short rein with a giraffe instead of a horse in a near panic attack as she kept trying to pass everyone by cutting off the trail and between the trees and then sprint to go forward. Competitive little mare.

At least I'm looking up!

It just so happened that my new friend, B, had a western saddle that pretty closely fit us for sale and so I bought it and he loaded us all up in his trailer and drove to the Experimental Forest (seriously, that is what it is called) for a ride the following spring. There was a pretty big group who went including Dusty on his fire breathing monster, Pete, who would neither stand still nor walk (it turns out he just hates going slow or being in the back of a group). Gem actually behaved fairly well as long as she was not in the lead which was fine by me and I had a great time which reminded me why I got her in the first place - I belong out on the trails!

My knee did not approve of the western saddle and it actually didn't fit her all that well. It was time to grow a set and ride in my English saddle out on the trails. We also needed our own trailer. Lucky for my hubby the Midwest horse fair was just around the corner and we had a credit card with some room still on it.....


July 24, 2013

Ohio Memories Part 2: Boot Camp

I had ideas of what to expect at this new barn. I pictured Gemmie being steadily and thoughtfully worked daily with goals being reached and plans being made. Ha! What I got was a horse rode by a student (an exceptionally talented and awesome student, but a student nonetheless) in lessons randomly moving into jumping without ever building a decent base whatsoever. Sigh. I did get a steadily depleting bank account though so that counts for something, right?

I told the trainer in the beginning my woes:

  1. She moves at a speed that would make a NASCAR driver jealous, dangerously cutting corners and thinking speed will get her out of work. Incidentally in the beginning it did cuz I didn't want to die.
  2. She would be going great and then sharply without warning turn 180 degrees to the right and move off in her new direction.
  3. She is a spaz out on trails and spooks at everything, even the monsters in her head

She did get worked 5 days a week and boy was she tired! I thought she was lazy because all she did was nap in her tiny, horse crammed, all sand paddock and the trainer thought so too. Knowing what I do now (hindsight is amazing, isn't it?) she was just plum tired from the work.

Well, as expected Gem learned a whole lotta nothing there, but I actually did. I learned how to stop screaming that I was going to die and actually ride instead. I learned the use of tiny circles to make her slow down. I learned how to jump, sorta, kinda, not really, but at least I learned how not to fall off when she ran out at the last second or dirty stopped a half inch from the jump. I learned that I truly hate being pushed beyond my comfort zone until I am 100% ready to do so. I also learned the most important and life riding altering fact I have learned to date: Gem is much, much smarter than I am. She knows exactly the moment I stop paying attention and she waits for it. Then she makes her move and smugly looks at me from above (cuz I am no longer on her now) and chalks it up as a victory. If I don't ride every.single.second of every.single.ride she takes full advantage. That piece of knowledge has made all the difference.

The hubs at some point lost interest in watching me fall off ride and asked me to find him a horse. I found him Pete who fits him amazingly, awesomely well. He is some number of years old, some unknown breed (Haflinger cross of some sort) and 16 hands tall. They are a perfect pair. He trail rides, jumps and generally has a good time. He is everything Gem is not - forgiving, kind, brave and likes to work. He has his flaws such as the fact that he is absolutely convinced he can not bend under saddle and will do a perfect sideways canter instead of turning and a hatred for standing still, but he is great for the hubby.

I managed to make some progress before we moved to the wonderful land that is Wisconsin and we did jump and canter and trot somewhat more calmly in the end.

I had to leave with a lasting impression though so here is this:

We entered the indoor to ride with the hubs on Pete. The sprinkler was on to water the footing. It is an old fashioned one the spins slowly to the left then flies back to the right spraying water everywhere and begins again. The hubs trots off bravely and gets Pete to walk through it at the extent of it's reach so the water only hits his lower front legs. I decide in a moment of insanity to take Gem over. I start off and then the hubs decides to join us and instead of going to the outside goes to the inside. This means Pete gets hit full force in his chest while blinding Gem to what is going on. Pete bolts, the hubs laughs, Gem bolts and slams into the wall and I fall off into the nice mud. :)

Those woes I mentioned? When I left the training barn:
  1. She still moved at a speed faster than is altogether necessary with the whole hearted hope that it would get her out of real work.
  2. She stopped this trick almost entirely and would only pull it out in extreme circumstances
  3. She was still a spaz outside the indoor which wasn't surprising since the trainer never worked outside the indoor with her
And to top it all off I was told the she would never ever be able to canter in a straight line. She would, at the time, swing her rear in so she was crooked. My "trainer" said it was just her and to always canter in a circle. Sigh. She was just out of shape, but what do I know?


Next up....our move to Wisconsin.

July 23, 2013

Ohio Memories Part 1

Since I currently am not riding much to allow Gem to adjust to her new heat and sun filled environment, I thought I would spend some entries on our background.


Horse boarding sucks in Ohio. It is really expensive for really sucky barns that are forever far away. I picked the least crappy appearing place at the time and lasted there oh, about 2 months, maybe 3. The only good thing about that place was the self proclaimed nutrition expert barn manager. He had about a dozen different grain options to choose from - not that I had any clue what the differences were. The benefit though was that my undernourished mare did fill out beautifully there. Of course the lack of any real turnout probably helped a bit too.

I also got to learn how to play well with others. The arena was jammed packed at all times with as many horses as could possibly fit and still move. There was the lady who came out and hand walked her stall rested and very excitable gelding getting into everyone's way. There was the lady who rode the ill tempered off track thoroughbred who kicked and bucked and tried to bite anyone he could. There was the "I'm too good even for myself" jumper lady on her grey mare cantering around making comments to her horse about how awesome she was. And there was Gem.

I'm sure everyone loved seeing us join the crowd. She would alternate between standing still adamantly refusing to move even an inch regardless of how I asked or told or yelled or kicked or threatened to running off as dangerously as possible cutting all corners and generally making me scream that I was going to die. Fun times!

Eventually I decided that this place was not working out for us and looked for a place that would put her in training. I found a barn about equidistant from my house and about twice as expensive that would work with her 5 days a week and give me a lesson on her one day a week. Horse boot camp here we come!!



July 22, 2013

Meet Gem, my evil mare :)

Gem and I have an unusual relationship. She pretends she doesn't give a darn if I'm around or not and I pretend that I don't know that she is bluffing. In fact I truly love to annoy her and shower her with above average amounts of affection just to see her pissy face. Of course as soon as I turn around her ears are forward and she is looking like "why did you stop?!"


She is a 15 h 1999 model Arabian mare. Well, actually she has 1/8th quarter horse in her that I blame all bad behavior on :) I have her papers around somewhere with her full name on them, but papers don't matter to me one bit, so I don't really care. She is registered half Arabian and breeding stock pinto.

Why do I call her evil? Because really she is. It boils down to the fact that she is just too smart for her own good. You'd think she could use those brains to be an awesome partner, but, no, she uses them to plot evil ways to get out of work. On our first LD ride she spent the entire time figuring out my posting. Then at around mile 20 as I went up, she went down and to the left ever so slightly so that when I came down she wasn't there and I landed on my feet next to her while she looked at me very smugly. I had witnesses to the fact that she really did this.

I bought her a week before Christmas in 2010. I had started to look for a horse and wanted an Arab mare. I have no clue how I ended up with her. I only ever looked at ads with pics and wasn't happy with anything I was finding. Then one day I looked at a small ad with no pic "10 yo Arab mare, bay, $800". For some unknown reason I emailed and asked for pictures. I got a tiny, indistinguishable cell phone pic in return. Still, I convinced the hubs to drive 2 hours to go see her. She was in a small front yard with a shelter in the mud and snow all alone. She was hairy, dirty, had a belly full of worms and had rubbed all the hair off her butt and tail. She nickered when she saw me and it was over. I asked the 16 yo who owned her to ride. He plopped a monstrous, heavy, ill fitting western saddle on her and rode in her paddock with the ice and mud. I got on for around 2 seconds and paid him and left. She needed a new home. This is her in her shed and when I got her to the first boarding facility.

Her front shoes were grown into her hoof and required an hour to get each off. I doubt she had seen a vet in the 2 years he owned her. I don't know her story before the 16 yo, but I know he used her to gallop down the road and do local barrel races. Our first winter together was.....interesting.


July 21, 2013


Hello anyone out there! I have no clue if anyone will read this or not. I'm doing this for several reasons.

  1. I really like to write. It helps me think and it is something I can do in the evenings during down time.
  2. It will help keep me focused in my goals
  3. It will help me to look back and see how far I've come. It is so easy to get lost in the problems of the here and now and lose track of all that has been accomplished to date.
  4. I really hope someone reads it and to get involved with other endurance people to connect, ask for advice and learn. I've read a ton of other horse blogs and have learned a ton. Maybe I can even help someone else out there.
Some information about me:

I am now in my 30s. I have a lot going on in my life and I do worry sometimes that I have too much on my plate and everything is going to go wrong, but so far so good. I have an amazing 7 month old son who my world revolves around. I adore him. The hubs and I have been together for almost 9 years now. He is a small animal vet and has his own gorse, Pete, who he bought so he could spend more time with me. He is also a big runner having competed 5 marathons, 5 half marathons, a 50 mile run and a 50k. Phew! He has been supportive and adventurous with me in life and has quit 3 jobs and followed me through 5 moves in 4 states and has rarely complained. I love him and we fit each other super well. I graduated from my 3 year podiatric medicine and surgery residency in may and will be beginning my career here shortly. I am terrified and excited at the same time.

With a new baby, a new job, a new state and a whole new life on the horizon it really seems like an odd time to start a new sport doesn't it? Perhaps. My family would say that I don't plan at all and that is pretty true. I tend to follow where life leads and not debate on it too much. It has lead to some very rash and stupid decisions over the years (like the 2 seater Saturn Sky we bought in Ohio in October and never drove before we sold it) but it has also lead to some pretty amazing things as well. I wouldn't trade any of it.

I will fill you all in on my mare, Gem, tomorrow. Here is a picture to hold you over: