August 31, 2013

Why Am I So Tired?

I'm 31 years young. Seriously, I still feel like I did (well, most of the time anyway) when I was younger. I really don't think 31 is old at all and not just because I don't want to be old, but because it just plain isn't. But there are times, like Wed night, that I pass out on the couch at 7:30 pm and wonder why on earth it is that I am not functional at such an early time in the evening. Is there something wrong with me?

On the drive into work Thursday morning I got to thinking about what it is that I do with my time. I enjoy my life right now. There are things that I wish I could do away with (namely work...oh... and housework) but all in all it is going pretty darn well. I don't like feeling like I am in a rut in life. It is too short and there are way too many things to experience and do to get stuck in something you don't enjoy. When I started to look more closely at how I am spending my days I came to two realizations: 1) the hubs and I are incredibly busy people and 2) I actually am in a rut, but I love it.

Why do I say that I am in a rut? Because I do basically the same things at the same times every day. While this would usually drive me crazy, I am actually enjoying it immensely. Here is a typical week in our household:

Monday thru Friday
The hubs is up at the butt crack of dawn, aka 5:45 am, to shower and get some food hopefully before W decides to start his day. I roll over and try to go back to sleep and eventually peel the covers back at 6:15ish and wrestle out of bed between the 100 lb dog and the 1 or 3 cats that have taken up the hubs' previously vacated spot. I hit the shower while W is scarfing down breakfast. Once up and dressed, things can go one of two ways depending on the time. If it is prior to 6:40 am, then the hubs, W, the 2 dogs and I all head out for a morning walk . If it is after 6:40 am, then I get W dressed for the day and we see the hubs off at 7 am and then I take the stroller and the dogs out by myself. Either way, once the walk is done I have just enough time to get W ready, grab his day care bag and add the refrigerated items, grab my lunch, breakfast and work clothes and load up the minivan.

I drop W off at day care and then head off to work. Once at work, I change into more suitable (and way less comfortable) attire, eat my breakfast (currently 2 hard boiled eggs) and look over my schedule for the day. Patients start at 8:30am and go, go, go all morning. Lunch is spent at my desk getting my charts caught up and then patients go, go, go all afternoon until I leave at 5ish. The only break in all this is Wednesday. The hubs currently gets the afternoon off, so he picks up W and comes for a visit and/or lunch. It is the highlight of my week.

After work, I head to pick up W. Once home, it is all about him. We get the mail so he can eat and smush up anything not needed, let the dogs out and play, play, play. He loves to be outside so we spend a lot of time just chilling in the grass. I love this time with him and let him walk around doing whatever non harmful thing he wants. We laugh, read, sing, wrestle, walk around and explore. He gets dinner at 6-6:15 and the hubs usually gets home around 6:30pm. After his dinner, he goes to bed (no later than 7pm, but he generally doesn't make it past 6:30pm) and then the evening is ours.

Here is where things get tricky. Two nights a week I grab a granola bar and a Gatorade and go to the barn. By the time I get her, tack up, ride, cool her out, untack and get things put away, I don't get home until 9 pm. I get home, change, pack the day care bag, pack my lunch and go to bed. Usually smelling like a horse. I have no clue what the hubs does when I am gone. One night a week the hubs does the same thing and goes to see Pete, getting home at 9 and going to bed. I use this time to catch up on reading blogs, writing on this blog, playing with the dogs and just chilling out. One night a week, I start craving real, adult food so we make dinner and snuggle on the couch watching old NCIS episodes until one of us wakes back up, pokes the other one awake and gets ready for bed. The last night is usually spent doing something for work, straightening up the house, going to the barn or running (the hubs, not me currently).

W doesn't understand the concept of a weekend just yet, so he still gets up at 6 am. The hubs does too and I sleep in until 7. After breakfast, W takes a nap until 8 or 8:30am at which time we load the dogs and the baby into the van and hit the trails. We now have a metal frame hiking backpack for W and we LOVE it. There are sooo many trails around and we enjoy our morning out. We generally get back around lunch time and feed W. Unfortunately, he tends to nap in the car on the way home, so once home he is ready to go even though we are not. The afternoon is spent playing, reading, laughing, walking, crawling, breaking things, etc... We also get some housework done.

Same early wake up and nap, but after he wakes up we head to the barn as a family. W plays in the barnyard with the hubs while I ride Gemmie and then we switch. Unfortunately, this means that I usually get a cranky, tired baby instead of the fun exploring baby that the hubs had. We get home, eat lunch, and put him to nap. After nap is grocery shopping and getting anything done that has to be completed before work begins again. We play the day away, walk the dogs in the afternoon and then eat dinner and crash on the couch.

So there you have it. A week in our life. It may be busy, but it is fun and having W around makes it all the better :) No wonder I get a little tired!!!

August 30, 2013

Change of Plans...Already

“Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.”  
―     Allen Saunders

See...I told you I hate making plans simply because they never work out. I have been trying to keep my "plans" tab updated, including the date I change things, so that my one loyal reader out there can keep up with me. Sorry, hubs but while I am happy you read it, you don't count. Mainly because if you didn't read it, I'd make your life miserable :) See, marriage can work.

My first hunter pace was planned for this Sunday. It would have been perfect because it is a 3 day weekend and losing a few hours Sunday morning with W wouldn't have been so bad because I would have all day Monday with him too. The weather is also supposed to be glorious. But it wasn't going to happen even if the organizers hadn't decided to change the date. Money right now is a bit tight. The move down south wiped us a bit more than we planned and its been too long since I've had a real paycheck. Our Cleveland squatter renter has also decided to pay us whatever amount he feels like whenever he gets around to it which doesn't help.

The actual ride entry fee is pretty low considering what all you get - $37. Why $37?  I don't know. $40 would be a lot easier to come up with in cash from the ATM since I don't know any machines that spit out ones. That includes lunch too, which I have heard is quite tasty. When you start multiplying that by 2 (the hubs and Pete are joining us on this escapade), add in gas for the truck (ouch!) and babysitter fees and it gets up there quickly. It is probably going to be a $250 day.

However, the stars are aligning a bit and the organizers moved it back a week to their rain date. It has been unusually rainy here this year. Not that I can speak from experience, but that is what everyone keeps telling me. While it is currently dry out, the ground is just not hardening up fast enough. The event takes place on private property and with numerous horses gallivanting around and jumping, the ground would become mush quickly. I'm sure they don't want their picturesque property turned into a mud wrestling pit in the matter of minutes. Hopefully the next week and a half stays dry and it can go on.

With the date change comes the hope that maybe we can go. I will get paid the Friday right before and we might be able to swing it. We will have to see how things go. This also gives me an additional week to work with Gem on that huge gut of hers. Not that a week will do a whole lot except make me feel like I did something to prepare her.

The next event in September also got cancelled. I guess they just couldn't cope with all the rain and mud or maybe it has nothing to do with that at all and I am just making it up. Who knows. In any case, that leaves FENCE as the only September ride. The next ride then becomes the one I was really aiming for - Biltmore. If you have never heard about it before you should look it up online. It is a huge southern estate turned tourist trap in NC. It is supposed to be gorgeous. I really want to ride there. This one will happen (baring things like lack of funds, rain, broken truck or trailer, broken horse, broken rider, sick baby etc.. etc...etc...) and falls close enough to our 9th wedding anniversary for me to pull the anniversary card :) This just so happens to be the place I hope to finish my first 50 at next September, and getting a feel for the grounds and terrain is important to me.

Only time will tell....

August 29, 2013

Some Days the World is Smiling on You

“I'm selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best."
- Marilyn Monroe
That quote describes my Gemmie to a T. Hmmm... I wonder what the T actually stands for...anyway... Some days she is just impossible and I leave her shaking my head and questioning my goals and my riding abilities. And then there are the times when everything goes well and my head starts spinning with glee and my face is split with the biggest grin possible and all is right with the world. That day was Monday.
Since Sunday was pretty much a bust I decided Miss Thing could handle a second day in a row. She was already back out in her pasture when I got there and when she saw me she dropped to roll in the grass. Thankfully she is rather princess-y and would never roll in the mud because it would mess up her good looks (much unlike Pete who is a mud ball at all times regardless of how often you groom him). She didn't run away from me and we made our way to the barn to get ready. It was a nice 80 degrees and sunny with a breeze, but the humidity was high and she was sweating just standing there in the shade. I tried a new tack trick: cross the billets to buckle the front to the back of the girth and the back to the front to help prevent forward pulling of the saddle. It didn't seem to hurt, but I didn't test it enough to see if it helped either.
She was in a lazy mood and it was pretty clear she was not looking forward to more time in the arena. Lucky for her I had other plans for the evening. The various fields all interconnect with various gates (which are left open right now thankfully) which ends up making a big circle. Apparently, there is a way to connect to Gem's big pasture from the very back of the property to make the circle twice as long, but I have yet to find it. Of course, I have also been down the other half twice now (once jogging with Gem and a second time on the trail ride with the barn ladies) and still managed to get "lost". Gem better have a better sense of direction than I do or we will be spending a lot of time being lost in the woods together.
The arena was full with a lesson and I didn't want to cut through the middle of it, so I headed out between the barn and the arena to the top field out back. This leads down a nice, steep hill to the last field at the back of the property. She gave me some guff heading out, but really nothing major. She tried spinning around a few times, but I just kept my legs on her sides and told her she was a good girl and everything would be ok. We made it to the bottom and out into the big bottom field. Here is where you can make a right and head through the trees to her pasture (no clue how) or a left, so we made a left. This field is really nice. Big, flat and open. One day we will be doing sprints down that, but not today. I didn't care to work her muscles, heart or lungs. I wanted to work her brain and a walk was just fine for that.
At the far end of this field is a stream which I know you can cross then make a left and head through the trees and up into the last field. For the life of me I couldn't figure out where we crossed. The one area was super boggy and I got stuck there trying to cross it when I took her jogging and it was risky. We didn't cross there on horseback the last time, so I circled around and looked for something that looked familiar. The remaining areas were super steep and I know we didn't do those either. Sigh. I have no clue. Gem was being great though. I'm sure she thought I had lost it, but she was just walking along relaxed and even gave a few sighs (probably wondering how she ended up with such a stupid rider). Eventually I gave up and headed back the way we came. When we exited the bottom field I remembered that you could turn there (right now as we were heading back, but left if you are heading from the barn, confused yet?) and could follow the fence line through the trees and over to the far left field by-passing the bottom field. So we did that.
Gem got a little annoyed that I turned her away from the barn again, but really she was great. She even stopped to scratch her face on a tree :) We meandered through the woods and out into the last remaining field which is a big uphill climb to the arena. She started to pick up some steam knowing she was finally heading back, but kept to a walk. My one major trail riding rule is no running back home. It is too dangerous. Once back in the arena, we walked around it twice to let her know she couldn't just power back to the barn and called it quits. A part of me wanted to spend the next half hour working in the arena, but the smarter part knew we had accomplished the goal for the day and pushing it wasn't wise. We ended with a huge hug and a kiss. If she can maintain that attitude out on trail, we have this thing in the bag!!

GPS Stats:
1.36 miles
31 minutes
2.6 mph average pace
96 ft elevation gain

August 28, 2013

First GPS Ride

"Do what you feel in your heart to be right - for you'll be criticized anyway."

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Note to self: skipping dinner and then forgetting to eat breakfast makes for a crappy, unbalanced ride and an angry pony.

After missing every week night of riding due to real, but stupid excuses (raining, sick, barn too busy etc...) I finally got to Gem Sunday morning to ride. She let me know her thoughts about it by high tailing it away from me with a loud snort and a tail in the air that looked an awful lot like the horse equivalent to the middle finger. She tore through the trees and with shocking grace jumped a 3 ft wide by 2 ft deep gulch without batting an eye. Why doesn't she do that under saddle? Could it be the screeching, tense, death gripping rider on her back? I don't know.

Gem's pasture
More of her pasture

I finally remembered to grab my Garmin watch. I want to track mileage and pace. It also helps to have a watch so I don't think we are done at 10 minutes into it. After what seemed like ages tacking her up, we headed to the arena. The thought was for 30 minutes of solid heart rate increasing work followed by 30 minutes of solid brain work on the "trails". Neither one of us were moving that well. She trotted sooooo slowly in the beginning. It was actually a nice pace, but I'm so used to her speeding around. I didn't want to jump her so we just worked on keeping a good trot and some short canter sets as well. She has started a new bad habit of trying to bolt out the arena gate. I've been nice so far about it, but not this time. I turned her sharply around and kicked her up into a canter which I made her keep past the gate several times. After that we were on the same page again.

The arena

The hubs showed up with W at the half hour mark which was good timing because the lack of food since 12 the day before was starting to make itself felt. I was hungry and my legs were getting weak feeling. This made my seat all floppity up on Gem and she was clearly not amused by having to work harder to balance me. It is quite clear that she feels that I am my own responsibility up there. She does her job and I need to do mine. There are horses out there that care about the rider and will go out of their way to compensate for anything. Not Gem. If I'm off, she won't make up for it.

The grassy area of death beside the arena

With things looking like they would be going downhill soon and a son who needed to see the doctor for antibiotics, I called it quits and cooled her out for a few minutes. I'm glad I did. Having a workout plan is great, but I'd rather end on a good note than leave soured. Once I got home (after the doc visit and grocery shopping) and downloaded my watch, I was pleasantly surprised and re-invigorated. This is doable :)


    • 31 minutes
    • 2.46 miles
    • Average pace: 4.7 mph
    • Fastest pace (her temper tantrum at the canter): 11.8 mph
    • And..wait for it...elevation gain: 4 ft :)
Why does this piddly amount make me excited? Because the mileage I can get in the arena really isn't all that bad. I rode for only 30 minutes which was half that of the previous week. That means the week before we did at least 5 miles. Also, we went pretty slow compared to the previous week with a lot less canter work and a slower trot, so we probably did closer to 5.5 or 6 miles. Once I get up to 2 hour long rides, we can get 10-12 miles in. Yes, the arena still sucks and that long will test our mental stamina, but it is still doable. Also, we averaged a decent pace. Her average trot pace looks to be about 6 mph. To finish a ride in time you need to average about 5.5-6 mph total which we can do. I'm excited! Once we get out on the real trails a day a week, we can work on hills, terrain etc...


Now to add 47.5 more miles :)


August 27, 2013

Tack Wars


Ugh. I mentioned before that Gem is a fitting nightmare. She is just off. Not only does she have the saddle fit problems I mentioned, but her head is awkward as well. A normal horse size bridle or halter is too big. A cob/pony size is too small. Her current set up fits the best of anything I've been able to find to date and believe me I've tried a lot of different things.

The last saddle fit issue was her forward girth groove. When I placed the saddle on her back in the proper place and tightened up the girth it looked just lovely. If we just walked it was fine. Trot and it began to move forward. Canter and it was all over. In the end it was halfway up her poor neck and bumping her shoulders with every step. Not good. The odd thing about it is she didn't seem to mind. No back soreness. No grouchiness when I tacked her up. Believe me, she wasn't just being stoic. There were saddles I tried that I barely sat in because she made it perfectly clear she was not happy with it. The saddle itself isn't really helping matters because the billets (part of the saddle the girth attaches to) are really far back.

Then, right before the move south, Gem started to show signs of unhappiness when tacking. She would pin her ears and even kick out when I tightened her girth. Not good. To the wonderful Internet I went and found numerous others with a similar issue. No matter what saddle was used, they all rode up the neck to some degree. The two main solutions I found were a) get a saddle fitter to add a point billet at a forward location thus allowing it to sit forward and b) get an anatomic girth. Since option A required both a fitter, which Wisconsin lacked, and a permanent change to the saddle, I decided to go buy a new girth.

Point billet example. It's the strap coming off the very front of the saddle.


Of course, Gem has to have a girth size few make and so my options were significantly limited. I didn't want leather, but that is all I could find in a size 20. I got it right before we moved and didn't get to test it too much, but it did stop about 80% of the shift forward and was well made and well padded.

Mine is brown


All seemed to be going well until my hour long ride last week. I did a lot of jumping and cantering. The saddle sat in a decent enough spot (still sits a bit more forward than I would like but her pudgy tummy isn't helping matters either and it definitely fit better when she was more fit) but when I went to untack her I noticed a rub. Not good. Sigh. Fix one problem and create another. To the Internet I went and found a fleece girth cover to help. Again, few came in 20 inch, so I bought a 48 incher a cut it in half so I could have two for the price of one :) oh....and it is a bright and obnoxious red to match our endurance colors :)

Isn't it lovely? I tried it out this morning and while I only rode for 30 minutes (tomorrow's post) there were no new rubs. Since it as been a week since my last ride, the old rubs have healed but are still hairless so if it was going to run I would have assumed it would be easier than on virgin skin with hair. So far, so good.

I am hoping to get to a saddle fitter this winter to get the billets looked at and maybe add a point billet. In the meantime we will be rocking out in black and red.


August 26, 2013

And in This Corner.....

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are"

- Theodore Roosevelt

.....are all the things working against us. Time to be pessimistic. It is unrealistic to think I will just show up to my first 50 and conquer it without a hitch. I'm sure whatever I leave off this list will be the one thing that comes to bite me in the butt. I think it is always a good idea to figure out where the weaknesses are so you can improve them and avoid as much mayhem as possible. So....

  1. Gem historically doesn't eat well at rides.
    • My piggy mare shuts it off at the ride. Could be stress related. She does eat grass along the trail and hay, but grain isn't appealing. I'm thinking of trying to water it down and make a mash. Gets more water into her and may be more appetizing. Have heard of horses that don't eat much on shorter rides because they just aren't hungry enough too. Multi day and longer rides are the cure for that. Will have to play around with this and see.
  2. Solo conditioning.
    • Ick. Right now all my time is being spent just getting her spooky butt down the trail at a crawl. It's 3 steps forward, spin, high tail it back, turn around and start over. I'm not worried about the ride itself, but unless we improve quickly we won't be getting any conditioning miles in at all.
  3. Her current barn situation.
    • I mentioned this has pros and cons. On the negative side is the complete lack of real trails at the barn. Oh, they claim to have trails, but it takes all of 10 minutes to ride them before you are back at the barn. That forces me to trailer which limits trails to weekends. Also, nobody else there knows a thing about endurance so I can't ask for help. I also worry about push back when I start needing her nutrition changed up as her workload increases. We will have to see how it plays out.
  4. Time.
    • Again, a pro and con situation. It is definitely against us in the short term. With only 3 days available to ride a week and the days growing shorter, I'm limited in length, location and miles. Not much to do about it but make the best of each ride.
  5. Tack uncertainty.
    • I have doubts that our current set up will work for a 50. She is a fitting nightmare: her short back makes most saddles too long, very forward girth groove causes the girth to pull the saddle forward over her neck, wide back makes wide saddle a must but tall withers makes it hard for it to fit and not rub her skin raw and she has lopsided shoulders that makes one side fit well but the other either too narrow or too wide. What I have now is the least evil and I do like it. I noticed a new rub mark from her new girth (oh and her girth is a size 20 which no one makes) so I bought a fleece cover to see if that helps.
  6. Lack of a mentor.
    • I don't want a trainer to tell me everything. Part of this sport is the challenge of learning your way through it. You become such a better and more knowledgeable horseman through it and you just can't pay to get it handed to you. It's all about how well you know your horse and yourself and if you make the right decisions to have a successful ride. Did you make the right choice about pacing? About feed? About hydration? Did you fail because you blew past a chance to give your horse a rest? However, it would be nice to have someone around to ask some basic questions to and see how they do it.

Fortunately that is about it for my known enemies. Most will flesh out over time and some I have no control over. I'm stoked about this adventure and if nothing else it will make me smarter and has the added bonus of lots of time and miles spent with Gem in the woods. Now if only W was old enough to join me it would be perfect.

August 25, 2013

In This Corner....

"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go"

- Dr. Seuss

.... are the things in our favor. Lets start out optimistic, shall we? While I am aware of the things going against us (tomorrow's post) I also know we aren't all that bad off. Gem has completed 62 miles in her limited career and did very well with each mile. In fact, she improved with each ride and I knew very little back then compared to now. Something had to be going right. So....

  1. She has great natural recovery.
    • I could canter her off the trail and she will pulse in immediately in the mid 40s. That's with minimal actual conditioning and just every day pleasure riding. I doubt she improves on that much and I don't intend to push her like that, but its good to know where she sits.
  2. She holds onto her fitness well.
    • Once conditioned it doesn't take a whole lot to maintain it. This works well with my limited free time. All we need to do is slowly build it back up and then maintain. I have a year to do it in. It will be interesting to figure out what works best for her. And for me.
  3. She is a rock star drinker.
    • I've never seen her pass up the chance to drink when available. She will even stop at a puddle on the trail if she is thirsty. This can be an issue with some horses and once you get behind in hydration it can be impossible to get caught back up during the ride. Knowing that she will take care of herself is a big bonus.
  4. I'm in pretty decent shape.
    • I'm not in 50 mile shape, but I'm also not a couch potato either. With all the hiking and regular riding I do, it won't be hard to catch up. I won't be holding Gem back as I'm flailing around trying to not have a heart attack on her. I also have my running background and can do some decent jogging miles during the ride to give her a break.
  5. Time.
    • This is both for and against us depending on how you look at it. In terms of my long term goal, it's a positive factor. I have given us a year to prepare. If I miss a day here or there it won't be a big deal. I don't have to worry about pushing her too hard because we have so much time right now.
  6. Knowledge.
    • I know so very little in the grand scheme of things, but I know a whole lot more than I used to. While the jury is still out on a lot of hot topics in the sport, I know what I think I like and what makes sense. If something goes wrong, I have a good reference base to figure out why and how to improve it.
  7. Passion.
    • I really, really want this. I have such a full life and I am thankful for everything I have. W is a blessing to us and I want to do everything to set him up for a life of happiness. Still, I feel the need for this in my life to help balance everything. Work is work and while it can be somewhat challenging at times, it isn't something I have to strive for and accomplish. I need a competitive outlet. Something to work toward and achieve.
  8. Her current barn situation.
    • Again, this is both a pro and a con. On the plus side, her pasture is huge and hilly and she is in it all the time. Her daily exercise level quadrupled just with this alone. Oh, I know she will peak eventually in regards to benefit, but I've already seen an improvement in her butt muscles and overall health. Now to just keep her from getting fat on all that grass.

I'm sure there is more like our relationship being stronger and better than ever and a few other things I refuse to put in writing to avoid jinxing it, but those are the main points. Tomorrow will be depressing as I list what's holding us back, but you can't defeat an enemy you refuse to acknowledge.


August 24, 2013

So...Where Are We?

"Do what you love. Love what you do"

My favorite Gem picture


In limbo. My goal is a 50 next fall. Ideally it would be next summer, but it just gets too hot to push her that far for the first time. It will be great to train in and then "compete" in cooler weather. There are a lot of things to accomplish before then and hopefully we can get it all done. I don't want to rush her and risk an injury. It's just not worth it. She isn't a spring chicken anymore and I want to have many, many good years with her still. The hunter paces should be a lot of fun and I hope to see our endurance and stamina improve with each one. That should set us up nicely for a good 25-30 mile ride in the spring. If that ride goes as well as before, I want to get her in a 2 day 50 late spring then spend the sumer upping the ante and fine tuning. I know which 50 I'd like to do, but we will see how things are going. No use getting my hopes up too much.

There are numerous theories out there on endurance training, so I just picked the one that fit me the best :) Just kidding....sort of. I know research and if you look hard enough you can always find something to support your point of view. I honestly believe most people over train and not just with horses, but I see it in running too. Obviously you need to be at the proper fitness and conditioning level to avoid injuries, but really you don't need much beyond that. Rest is just as important, but is sadly overlooked because people enjoy whatever sport it is they are doing. I saw it up north a lot with the riders who raced in the 25 mile distance every single weekend. Their horses were tired and prone to injury because they weren't able to heal the micro trauma that has occurred. Now, if you are trying to win or master a skill then perfect practice makes perfect, but I don't care to win. I just want to finish. Anyway, that's my theory and its what I'm working off of but that actually wasn't really the point I was trying to make. Hmmm...oh yes.

Some people are on the side of slowly building one distance until mastered and then moving up or adding speed. I do agree that you should never add speed and distance at the same time. Keep the distance and go faster or go farther and slow. Anyway. With this theory I should spend all next year perfecting the 25 mile distance before thinking of moving up. I understand this point of view. Why move on if you still aren't good at shorter and inherently less stressful events? But I don't agree with it.

The other side says to get to your goal distance as quickly as possible while being safe and properly prepared. This is where I stand. Gem needs to learn her job and what it is that I expect from her. Why get her used to only being out for 4 hours and then ask for 9? If she spends an entire year doing nothing but shorter rides, the longer distance will come as a shock. When I was training for my half, I didn't do a year of 5k races first. I trained and prepared for my goal: 13.1 miles. Wasting time, energy and miles on a ton of shorter events seems more harmful to me. This is why I'm only hoping to do a single 25 followed by a single multi-day and then hit my 50. I'm using the spring events to test camping, eating, drinking, tack etc....if we fail miserably at the distance we will figure out why, work on improving, and try again until we are "good enough" to move on. I don't want to waste miles on her legs.

The hubs and Pete showing off

If all goes well...then what? Then we keep on keeping on. For now I plan on sticking with 50s. I'd love to do a single day 100 and my eyes are firmly glued on the Vermont 100 and while I don't want to sell Gem short, I just don't see her as a 100 mile horse. If she sails through the 50s and seems game for the challenge, then heck yeah we are going for it! Vermont be prepared! But if not, I'm cool with that too. For that matter if she fails miserably at the 50 and no amount of conditioning will improve it, then we stick to hunter paces and 25s. I'm cool with that too. I do believe that we can own the 50 though and won't settle for less without proof it just can't happen.



August 23, 2013

Hunter Pace

"Anybody can win, unless there happens to be a second entry"

- George Ade

Yet another type of ride?! Yep. I do what I can to keep life interesting. So what is this new adventure? I don't think I've explained it before, but if I have please pretend I didn't and keep reading. It's what the hubs does when I tell him the same boring story for the umpteenth time :)

I had heard rumors that a thing called a hunter pace existed, but had no clue what it was. Once the ladies at the barn caught wind that I do endurance they jumped all over the opportunity to recruit another pacer (I doubt thats what they are called, but lets pretend) and they did a good job of it too. They peaked my interest to a boiling point and I did my research on it.

A hunter pace is a kinda pretend fox hunt without the dogs and fox and potential bloody death (for the fox, not me). It is held mostly on private property so it's a great way to ride places you otherwise wouldn't have access to. There are geographical differences in the rules, but around here they are between 6 and 12 miles in length and usually take a couple hours to complete. There are jumps scattered throughout and you may choose to do them or not without penalty. You get points awarded for completion and if you are lucky enough to win, additional points for that as well. At the end of the season all points are tallied and awards are handed out.

The rides have a start and end time, usually 10-2, and you can show up and go whenever you want to within that window as long as you cross the finish prior to the end time. No big rushed start. Heck, you can go twice if you want to pay for it. Lunch is included and I heard that the food is great. You choose between two groups to "compete" in:

  1. Hunter: this is a faster pace more typical of a true hunt. I've yet to be able to determine what "faster" actually means but I think it is trot and canter. The optimum ride time is determined by a rider going out on course in a pace that they like and the time recorded. The person who finishes closest (over or under) to that time, wins. Of course you are not informed of the time in advance, so good luck.
  2. Trail: this is slower. I'm picturing mostly walking and some trotting. This is determined by the 5 fastest times and 5 slowest times being thrown out and then taking the average and awarding that person with a win. Since everyone goes whenever they want and you have no clue which category they are in, good luck trying to win.

It is very intriguing and sounds like a great, laid back atmosphere. I honestly think this is Pete's true calling. He adores running through fields and jumps make it all the better (compared to Gem who'll get back to you on that). The hubs would love it too.


I looked up the local group and they start September 1. Most are fairly close by which is great. They cost significantly less than an endurance ride which puts it in my fall budget. I am hoping to make 1 a month from Sept-Jan which will help get trail miles in and get her fit.


August 22, 2013

Summer 2013

"All of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon - instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today"

- Dale Carnegie

And we are finally caught up to present day!

Gem and Pete have settled in pretty well. They were split up (sadly) about 3 weeks after being here into their own male and female herds. Gem is in a pasture with 4 other mares and has about 15 acres to roam, mostly grass with trees scattered around for protection. Pete is in with, I think, 6 other geldings in a pasture about the same size. They get brought in for "grain" at night - just a tiny handful to get some supplements (grass balancer) into them. They have filled out well and are borderline portly again. In fact, Pete has been brought into the dry lot 3 nights a week to prevent grazing and getting fat. I think the large area and the fact that she is out basically 24/7 has made her braver. Or maybe it is just wishful thinking.

I get out to the barn 2 weeknights after W goes to bed at 7 and Sunday morning. The hubs has been getting out on Sunday as well, but will be going a weeknight now as we prepare for our next outing. I've been really easy on Gem thus far. It's been way more hot and humid than she was used to up north. I was pulling her out of the pasture lathered in sweat and would brush her and give her a cool shower and put her back out. When I have ridden it has been light work and short periods only. I did go jogging with her which helped get her legs moving and let her see all the new areas with me on foot. My lunge line broke though, so that has been put on hold for now. I like using the lunge versus lead rope for two reasons 1) it gives her more room without stepping on me and 2) if she is particularly bad I can lunge her to get her refocused.

They have a nice outdoor arena with trees and jumps which helps me a lot. In a big open area I tend to lose focus and let Gem get away with a lot she shouldn't. Who cares if she cuts the corner or goes in the middle? We are just going around the circle again. With obstacles I can more clearly have goals: we will trot between the tree and the jump, then turn left and go over the second jump and canter to the other tree which we will go on the outside of etc.... It keeps me focused and forces me to ride better and with a purpose. The only problem is that 7pm is a busy lesson time, so the arena tends to be busy which I why I am working with her in the grassy field next to it.

I got a great 1 hour conditioning ride on her the other day. It was mostly trot and canter with jumping and short walk breaks. She was great until the last 10 minutes when she got tired. Man, is she out of shape! It won't take long though and she will be back. The great thing about Gem is that she holds onto fitness really well. Once conditioned she doesn't need a ton of maintenance.

I need trails and I need time. Currently my plan is to ride in the arena or around the "trails" at the barn 2 weeknights and hopefully trailer to the real trails on the weekend. I have a year to get her 50 mile ready and this should be doable barring any unforeseen happenings. I don't want to miss time with W but I'm thinking I can head out early enough that it won't matter or that the hubs can bring him hiking while I ride. We will see how it goes. I am debating moving them to a different barn as well. I like where we are enough. It is so close to home. But it lacks real trails so I'm spending time in the arena. If I moved to a place near the trails, I would have 30+ minute drive every time, but have almost unlimited miles to condition on. It's probably six of one half a dozen of another. Time wasted driving on an already tight schedule and with the days getting shorter, my access to trails will be limited to weekends anyway. For now we are staying put, but we will see what the future brings.



August 21, 2013

Bad Day :(



Today has not started off well at all. I posted to FB as well, so you may have already read the brief version. Stick with me while I whine vent.

Mornings are pretty routine for us. The hubs gets up and showers while W still sleeps. Once done, he eats breakfast while I lay in bed wondering how on earth the nights go by so quickly and trying to convince myself that getting up won't actually kill me. I then shower and by this time W is usually up and getting fed breakfast. The hubs then heads off to work and I take W and the pups for a walk. Once done, I get all my stuff ready for the day (I am smart enough to pack my lunch and W's daycare bag the night before) and we head out to day care and work.

This morning started out like all the others before it. The hubs went off and I took my walk. On the way back a little schnauzer dog came charging, fangs dripping (ok...maybe her tail was wagging instead) into the road to say hi. I told her to go home. Much like my own dogs, she ignored me. I knew she would follow and didn't want her to get hit by a car so I stood there hoping her owner would notice. He did and he called her. She ignored him too. He then said that he had socks on and the driveway was wet so he couldn't come get her. What? There was a little invention called shoes a ways back. The foot doctor in me wanted to tell him he should have shoes on at all times anyway, but I refrained. Running out of time, I headed over to his garage and the dog followed. She went in and I turned to leave, but he started talking. And wouldn't quit. I kept making comments about how I needed to go to work, but he didn't seem to care. Finally, I got free and walked back home.

Now I was running late. I put W in the car and grabbed his bag and my work bag. I change at work so that a) he doesn't spit up or worse on my work clothes and b) I don't bring fungus or worse home to him when I pick him up. I've had some stomach issues lately and am a bit dehydrated so I grabbed a Gatorade and hit the road at the time I usually am arriving at day care. Crap. I drop him off and get to work about 15 minutes later than usual, but still before patients start for the day. I go to get my clothes and change. First I notice a big puddle of Gatorade in the bag and my socks are dripping. Ok. I can deal with that. They will dry eventually. I put on my dress pants (scrubs....every doctor should wear scrubs....sigh) and then fail to see my dress shirt. Oh crap. This I can't deal with. Dress pants, flip flops and a red t-shirt with "Margaritaville" in black velvet across the front isn't really dress code. Back in the car I go and I now have 20 minutes before my first appointment. I live 15 minutes away. Driving warp speed gets me home in 10. I change and grab clean socks and head back to work. I arrive 10 minutes late. Out of breath. Stressed beyond belief.

Poor Gem thinks she has it bad getting worked an hour 3 times a week. She doesn't even have to dress herself or give herself a shower!!!

The BIG MOVE: Part 3

"We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we are curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths"

- Walt Disney

The next morning came all too soon. We decided not to rush out of there and stuck around until after W took his morning nap. The dogs were enjoying the morning sunshine and we were not in a hurry to get to an empty house and start unloading.

Eventually it was time to leave and we all loaded up and headed out. The drive was gorgeous. We meandered out of KY and into NC through the mountains. There were tunnels too which reminded me of home. The moving truck was making incredibly slow progress and the hubs decided not to stop with us. The second day was much hotter than the first and we began to worry about the horses and cats every time we stopped. We left the mountains and NC behind us and finally entered SC.

At some point I asked the boys to change vehicles. It had been a long two days for the hubs in a barely functioning truck that was so loud you couldn't even use the radio. He was cranky and sore. The plan was to head straight to the barn and get the horses settled and then find our house. We found the barn via two different routes again. My Garmin based GPS and the hubs' TomTom based GPS liked to go separate ways. We pulled in and I was nervous. Picking a barn sight unseen can be dangerous.

There was a group of people there and everyone welcomed us with a big hug and a warm smile. The horses were tired, but otherwise looked pretty darn good. They travel so well and had kept eating and drinking the entire time. I did electrolyte them the night before and I think that helped a lot. They were in quarantine for 2 weeks which was fine by me because it meant they could be together. They had a massive pasture to themselves and once we let them go, they took off cantering around happy to stretch their legs. Pete was a little stiff in the hind legs, but that soon worked itself out and they got busy grazing. We watched them for a while, but knew we had a lot of work left to do, so we said our goodbyes.

We live 6 miles from the barn and the house turned out to be super cute and in a nice little neighborhood. We would have preferred a farm, but this was nice. The only problem with the house was that every single room had vinyl flooring. There wasn't a stitch of carpet in the entire house. Apparently the landlord's wife had severe allergies and couldn't have carpet. The boys got busy unloading the truck and emotions were high. We were tired and cranky and hungry. M and I decided we were better suited to figure out food and we headed into town to see what we could find.

A Longhorn Steakhouse flashed its enticing lights at us and a steak dinner as a reward for such hard work sounded like just the thing. We ordered steaks to go and bellied up to the bar. The bartender was super friendly and kept the sweet tea flowing (I LOVE the South) and even got us two carnations. We felt loved. There was a Walmart across the street and I left M at the bar to go buy some shower supplies since who knew when we would find the stuff we packed away. The food was ready when I returned and with stomachs rumbling we headed back home.

The boys had been busy and the truck was just about empty. Good job guys! We settled into our food and gorged on bread, salad, baked potatoes and steak. What a wonderful end to a busy two days. The next morning we took B to the airport and said a sad farewell. He was such a great friend to us for 3 years and we really miss him.

We got to spend all that day and most of the next with M until her flight left in the evening. Another tearful goodbye and we were left all alone in SC.

Seriously..I thought this blog was about me!?


August 20, 2013

The BIG MOVE : Part 2

"We must be willing to let go of the life we planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us"

- Joseph Campbell

Moving day came faster than we expected and the hubs' sister, M, came into town a couple days early to help pack. It is next to impossible to pack with a 7 month old around. Don't try it. Everything got loaded into the moving truck and we planned to get up with W at 5:00 am which was his usual time. We left the truck at B's house so he could meet us at the barn in the morning and we could all start out together. The truck was pre packed with hay, grain and two 7 gallon tanks of water.

Relying on a 7 month old as your alarm clock is not very smart. He had never slept passed 5. Until moving day when he slept until 6. Ooops. We hit the road and met B at the barn. The horses loaded up and we were off. Except now W needed breakfast so we made it 30 minutes down the highway before pulling off. He ate and was changed and we were off again. We hoped to keep everyone together, but made it a rule that we had to stick in pairs at a minimum for safety reasons. The hubs was in the moving truck which wouldn't go above 55 and dropped to 30 on hills, so M and I ended up going on ahead. When we needed to stop, I would call the hubs and let him know where so everyone could stop together.

We stopped for lunch in Chicago and sat outside in the shade letting W play in the grass and the dogs stretch their legs. Stopping needed to remain at a minimum for the horses and cats, but everyone needed some time out of the car. Apparently I mistook the rest stop we were at for the one right before our turn off to avoid downtown Chicago and now we were passed it, so through downtown we went. Hubby was cranky about this for some strange reason. We made it to the other side of Chicago with me out front and M behind me. A ways back and out of sight were the boys. My GPS told me to take I94 and so I did with M following. Hubby's told him to take I90 and so he did with B following. Um?

We figured we would meet up eventually and kept plugging along. And meet up we did. We were dropped onto the next road just behind the boys and caught up quickly. Crisis averted.

I hoped to make it in 3 hour intervals between breaks. W had other plans. He was a super baby and slept and played the whole time. He thought 3 hours was too long though. I would let him cry if it was before 3 hours, but if he needed changed I would pull over at the next spot to change him. He very quickly learned this and made sure to poo every 1.5 hours on the dot. I swear. I'd call M and let her know and we would pull off at the next rest stop. Sometimes the boys did too and other times they just kept going and we would leap frog them.

We made it through WI, IL, IN, OH, and into KY. Something went terribly wrong in KY. My GPS had me take a random exit off the interstate and through suburbia with M tailing me wondering if I had lost it. The boys continued on the highway, go figure. We got back on and caught up. No big deal. A little later B took a totally different highway than we did. We all had the address to our stopping point in Lexington, but since the hubs and I were named on AAA and US Rider (special for horses, they will pick up both the truck and trailer where AAA just does the truck) and if something happened one of us had to be present. B had to turn around and back track back to our highway and this put him pretty far behind.

The hubs had booked us the most amazing place in Lexington. He knew we would be tired, sore and cranky and the thought of a motel 8 or camping was not appealing. We stayed at the Essence of Bluegrass, a bed and breakfast 5 minutes from the horse park that took in our horses, our dogs, our cats and ourselves. The dogs coul roam the property off leash which helped them a ton. They made us a delicious gourmet breakfast in the morning and we slept very, very well.

Still not about me...


August 19, 2013

The BIG MOVE: Part 1

"It's easier to die than move...At least for the Other Side you don't need trunks."

- Wallace Stegner

The last winter we lived in Wisconsin was torture. I've spent my whole life in the North and had cold and snowy winters. Since there wasn't an alternative option looming in the near future, you made do and learned to like it for what it brought: crisp mornings, sparkling white snow and hot chocolate. The knowledge that this was our very last freezing cold winter could have made it a glorious event. We could have enjoyed every single snowflake and nose freezing breath to the fullest in the hopes that we would remember it always. Instead, it just made us hunker down and count the remaining days until we could get the heck out of there. Knowing there was a blissfully warm end in sight made us long for it even more.

Moving entails making a ton of decisions even when it is simple. Our move was most decidedly not going to be simple. We were 16 hours away from our new home which happened to be a place we knew relatively little about. Both the hubs and I had used up all our vacation time and then some so making trips to look at housing was out of the question. Our first thought was to rent a farm, or at least a small amount of land, so the horses could be out back again. Well, good luck with that! We talked to a ton of real estate agents, posted on forums and begged people selling to rent instead, to no avail. Land was cheap enough that people bought instead of renting. With that bubble burst, we looked into housing for us and boarding for Gem and Pete. I put the hubs on housing detail and he landed us a nice ranch in a small neighborhood for a little less than we were paying in Wisconsin. The pictures were nice and we just hoped it wasn't next to a cesspit. House settled.

The horses were more difficult. We were spoiled for 3 years in Wisconsin having them in their own private pasture together. Most facilities require mares and geldings split. Another issue was the lack of barns here. Given the better climate, most used stalls for feeding only and kept the horses out 24/7. I'm not opposed to that since they are outside animals, but I was just used to having them stalled at night. And last was the hardest part of all - location. I found the perfect place: they could have a pasture to themselves, they could be brought in at night and there was access to miles and miles of trails. The problem was a) it is 40 minutes away and b) it is insanely expensive at $100 more per horse a month than we were paying in Wisconsin. Not going to happen.

Then one day I got an email from my new employer stating that they received a call from a local facility. They asked if I was slated to begin working there and if they could forward the farm information to me. I still have no clue how the knew, but it ended up being only 6 miles from our new rental house and directly on my way to work so we jumped on it. Unfortunately they couldn't keep the beasts together and did pasture board, but the price was right and the location was golden. We figured it would work a least for the short term until we figured our new lives out. Horses settled.

Then there was W. We loved his daycare in WI. It was perfect. Now we would have to find something new. I refused to pick one without visiting and had a month off at home with him after the move, so this could wait. Baby settled.

And finally there was the actual act of moving itself. There were two of us. We had 3 vehicles (my minivan, the hubs' car and the truck) plus the moving van. Unless we got W and Gem to drive we were two drivers short. We also had 3 cats who would take up the car, 2 dogs to go into the minivan with W and the horses. It was a circus. The hubby's wonderful sister, M, must have had a bout of temporary insanity because she immediately volunteered to fly to WI and drive down with us and then fly back home. Wow! We then only needed someone to drive the horses and so we asked our friend, B, since he had horses himself and knew how to take care of them. He said yes and we were all set!

Umm..this post wasn't all about me!


August 18, 2013

My 2nd Not-So-Solo Solo Trail Ride Adventure

"Take things for what they are, when they are"

- Unknown

Here was the plan (and we all know how I feel about plans):

I would go to the barn and load up Miss Thing. The hubs would take W and head to our friend, B, house which is right across the road from the trail head. While I rode they would put new brakes on hubby's car to prepare for the BIG MOVE. B's daughter, D, would watch W while we were all busy. Once finished, I would drive over and hang out with them. Simple. Easy. Clean.

Here is what really happened:

I got to the barn and began to brush Gemmie. The BM was there and we began to chit chat. I mentioned I was going to trail ride alone. She then told me that there was a girl riding on property who loves trail riding and would love to join me. Hmmm...I was about to say no when she told me that the girl had tried to ride along the busy road to the forest but never made it and was really hoping to go. Well, I figured if she was that determined to get there and I had an empty spot on my trailer, it would be mean to say no. What I forgot to do was ask how experienced she was.

The BM caught up with the girl and said she could join me. Now, if I was bumming a free trailer ride and I was barging in on someone's plans, then I would be up that person's butt ready to help in any way I could and I would be ready jump the moment that person said go. Sigh. Instead, once Gem was ready to go, I had to track her down which took about 15 minutes. I loaded Gem and looked around. Where was she? Oh. She had decided to switch tack from English to western. Why didn't she do that while I brushed out Gem? Your guess is as good as mine. Eventually she was done and loaded her horse nicely proceeded to stare at me. I told her to load up. She told me she never had before. Oh no. I got her horse on just fine and we were finally ready to head out. This was about an hour after I would have left had I gone alone.

On the way to the Forest I stopped at B's to drop the dogs off and then we made it to the trail head. I decided to get her horse off first. I opened the trailer and went to put the lead rope on her horse so I could back her off. I told her to just wait at the back and when I said I was ready, she would lower the butt bar (preventing horse from backing up) and I would back her off. She listened and did that. Of course, she also decided to lower Gem's so that while I was backing her horse off, Gem did as well and was now loose in the parking lot. *Head. Desk*. I threw her lead rope at her and ran over to grab Gem. This was not going well.

I tacked up...or at least tried to. Trail etiquette has its own rule book, but the basics are that you stand still with your horse until everyone is ready. Why? Because horses are herd animals and I don't care how well trained your horse is, it will follow the herd. She mounted up immediately and started to ride while I tried to tack up my jittery "oh my god! I'm being left behind!" horse. Eventually it was finished and up I went and off we went.

Gem isn't a natural leader, but she can get very competitive with horses she doesn't know. As we followed the ridge top trail, the girl's horse started to trot. I was game for that as I wanted to get some conditioning in to prepare Gem for the BIG MOVE. We trotted. The trail is wide enough to ride two abreast and so I moved up next to her so we could chat. It went really, really well for all of about 1 minute. Her horse jumped over a small puddle (she informed me her horse hates water of any kind) and took off at a canter. Maybe I should have better brakes, but it was the first time out, Gem was full of herself, and she was NOT going to lose this race. She cantered. The girl was looking not so very much in control and then her horse broke into a full fledged gallop. I kept Gem at a canter, but I could tell this wasn't going to end so well with two horses racing across the ridge top. I finally told the girl we needed to slow down now. She told me she couldn't and oh by the way, this is the first time she has ever gone faster than a walk. What?!

At this point all I could see was a tangle of horse and human legs on the ground from a nasty spill, so I forced Gem to a trot hoping her horse would do the same. She didn't. I took Gem back into a canter and got ahead of her then slammed on the brakes. That worked. The girl was grinning and I was feeling pretty pissed off. My lovely trail ride was a disaster. Just as the girl was about to move I noticed her horse was missing one nice, shiny horseshoe. Perfect! I told her it was unsafe to go in just 3 shoes and convinced her to turn around. Trail ride from Hell over. No one hurt. We went a whole 2 miles and all it taught Gem was how to be out of control. How fun!

We returned to B's house to let them know and headed back to the barn. I unloaded her horse all on my own to avoid another mishap and gave her the lead rope. I then went back to get Gem. When I put Gem out, the girl was nowhere to be seen. I unloaded the tack from the trailer dumping hers in the tack room. Still no sign of her. I scooped out the horse manure from the back (both her horse's and Gem's) and still no sign of her. I backed the trailer up and unhooked it and still no sign of her. As I pulled up to head out, she finally appeared and thanked me for the ride. Maybe she had no clue what all needed done with the trailer, but she sure should have asked instead of doing whatever it was she did.

Mental note: next time, just say no.


August 17, 2013

Winter and Spring 2012/2013

As the weather changed and the trails closed down yet again, my life changed in the most extraordinary way. My beautiful son, W, joined our family. Life warped and priorities changed and he became the center of my universe. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Winter came fast and hard and lingered forever. I grew weary of late night treks to the barn in sub zero temperatures with a foot of snow on the ground. I didn't want to spend time away from W and knew something had to give. I could no longer fit work, W, hubby, Gem and running all in if I wanted to remain sane. Unfortunately, work had to remain if we wanted to eat and live indoors. W and hubs were here to stay. That left Gem and running. Running went away. I do miss the races from time to time and may pick it up again when he is grown, but for now I am perfectly content to leave my running shoes in the closet.

Gem did get ignored quite a bit though. It really had little to do with W and more to do with my lack of cold tolerance. Usually, the hubs and I spent winter snowshoeing and playing in the snow with the dogs, but this year we stayed inside with W. We also jacked up the heat from the usual 58 degrees to a balmy 65 so he wouldn't freeze which meant going outside felt even worse. I probably rode on average every other week. My portly pony got even bigger. I had the second most annoying conversation with the BM about it one day. Gem wasn't in much work at all. She had free access to hay both inside and out. She didn't need grain. The BM said that all horses in the barn got the same amount because it was easier. Um....? I asked her to change, she declined to do so. I couldn't go every day to feed her myself and we weren't going to move them, so Gem ate.

Spring came or at least per the calander it did. I thought I'd have more time to ride, but life got in the way time and time again. There was work. There was W. There were job interviews all over the place. There were my surgical boards that I studied endlessly for (good thing to because I passed!) and eventually there was the BIG MOVE to prepare for. I did get out once a week in the beginning and then about twice a week once it actually did start to warm up a bit.

The hubs and I wanted to get one last trail ride in before we left Wisconsin and it never really happened. I tried to go solo once and that was a mistake. Maybe that will be tomorrow's post. It is kinda funny. We managed a one hour ride at the Experimental Forest and had a decent time. Both horses were out of shape and we took it slower than usual. It was nice to just stretch the legs and we wanted to get them into the trailer again before the BIG MOVE.

August 15, 2013

La Rivier Horse Park

"O! For a horse with wings!"

- Shakespeare

Gem has blessed me with one of the best gifts a horse can give: the sense of freedom and flight. It happened on a whim on a beautiful fall day and it is a memory I cherish. It made all the work, all the tears, and all the frustration worth it.

With the trail closure date quickly descending upon us, the hubs and I loaded up the horses one gorgeous day in late September 2012 and headed 3.5 hrs southeast to La Rivier Horse Park. The weather was perfect: sunny with a cool breeze. Most of the bugs had died off, or migrated or did whatever bugs do in the fall. We were all in good spirits and ready to go.

I look back now and this day still makes me smile especially after the entry from yesterday. Gemmie was....portly. The summer had been terribly hot and work had been terribly busy. I had focused more on running and just relaxing with Gem and it showed in her pot belly appearance. We had planned on taking it easy and headed off into the woods.

The trail began with single track weaving through the trees (our favorite) and then began an uphill climb that lasted quite some time. They handled it well and we were rewarded with a beautiful meadow with a double wide grassy lane at the top.

As we trotted along, Gem began to ask for more. Pete was already bored with the slower pace and the footing was perfect, so we took off. We galloped off across the meadow racing behind Pete (who is much faster than Gem) with the fall wind blowing in our faces and it was heaven. None of us wanted to stop. Eventually we neared the woods again and pulled up. Neither horse was breathing that hard. We snapped some nice pictures and then headed into the woods on the backside of the hill.

I told you she was portly



Crazy Gemmie mane


We wandered in the woods for a long time and finally decided to turn back around. We didn't know where the trail went or for how far and we loved where we had been so why not do it again?

Gem out in front

When we got back to the meadow I urged Gem into a nice canter. Pete was ahead of us and the hubs held him back to a trot so we could pass. He gave us the most surprised stare followed by the nastiest glare I had ever seen. How on earth could Gem be passing him?! It was too funny! I kept her to a nice canter and off we went in the lead for a long ways. It felt amazing. I'm so used to staring at Pete's butt, but this time all I saw was grass and sky and I felt great. She spooked only once at a trail head sign, but I was prepared and we just kept moving. Thinking back on our beginnings together, I never would have imagined we could do that. It was a magical day.


August 14, 2013

Unsolicited Advice

"Diplomacy is the art of saying "Nice Doggie" until you can find a rock"

- Will Rogers

Why do people feel the need to not only watch and judge you, but to then take up a lot of your time giving you advice that while it may be useful, is not wanted? The horse world is particularly bad at this. I adored our Wisconsin barn owner for the simple fact that she never, ever did this. She is an upper level dressage rider and instructor and is a very good rider. She would be hanging around when I rode Gem at times and I could literally be bouncing off the walls, running amok, screaming, falling, cursing and all she would say "Gem sure looks good" or some other vanilla type comment. She wasn't even being sarcastic! She was just a genuinely nice person who butted out unless asked.

I remember one time I rode around the fields with her on her imported, super well behaved gelding, and Gem freaked out over nothing and bolted. I circled back around to her and she just smiled and we continued on. Oh, I'm sure a piece of her was dying inside every time she saw me, but she kept her mouth shut unless I asked for help. When I did ask, which was rare since I didn't want to impose on her, she would answer with something easy to do and helpful without a lecture or looking down on me.

This was most definitely not the case yesterday with our new barn manager (BM) :( After life getting in the way the last two weeks, I finally got to the barn on an absolutely gorgeous evening. You know the type - sun beginning to set, light breeze, blue sky with big fluffy white clouds. Lovely. I was in a great mood and Gem behaved really well for the first time in the grassy field beside the arena. Walk, trot, canter without an issue. She can be so wonderful. Lessons were beginning to end in the arena so I headed on over. Gem was not amused. She thought we were finished, silly girl! We have a 50 to get ready for!! :)

The BM was lecturing two students in the center and all the jumps had been rearranged to take up a lot of the free space, so it was a little tight maneuvering without crashing into anyone or anything. Gem wasn't into the whole turning, bending, listening thing right then. Usually when she gets like this I just let her canter around until she calms down, then I make her canter just a bit more and ask her to trot and get back to business. I've grown used to it and while it won't win us any blue ribbons, it works for us. I couldn't safely let her go with everyone in there, so I asked her to slow down. She did what I knew she would do: got tense, threw her head into the air and completely ignored me. Not wanting to create an even bigger scene, I turned her in a small circle to slow her down.

Apparently the BM was watching this and she did not approve one bit. With the tone a school teacher uses on a bad student, she asked in a not-quite-so-sweet voice if I'd please come over. With my spider sense tingling, I did. She immediately grabbed the reins from me. Um...? Ok. She then launched into a lengthy and daylight consuming lecture on why I basically suck at slowing my horse down and offered up a complicated solution that I had no intention of ever doing. Her warning that her method tends to make a horse rear until it got used to it, didn't help matters at all. She then instructed me to walk around the arena practicing it while she watched. Yeah...that's not happening. The sun was setting now, my great mood had long since vanished and I was done.

I tend toward being a little anti social which is a trait I am trying to beat down, so I decided to make small talk. I mentioned the hunter pace I was gearing Gem toward in September (more on this soon!) and asked if anyone else was going since I knew it was popular amongst the barn folks. Bad idea. Maybe she is too used to dealing with teenagers and soft middle aged women who require an alpha female to boss them around but I'm neither of those. I may know crap about showing, but I know trail riding and camping and what both my horse and I are capable of. Anyway...

She proceeded to inform me that neither Gem nor I were in proper shape for this and that a 1 hr long trailer ride is very stressful. Trying to remain halfway decent, I just responded that we had driven way longer for a ride and rode much farther (hunter paces here are between 6 and 12 miles only) without pause, but thank you for your concern. Not to be out done, she continued on her ill advised, superiority complex driven rant and explained to me that I wasn't riding as much as before (wrong), Gem wasn't in as good of shape (wrong again) and finally that she decided the barn was all going together and we could tag along (couldn't be more wrong). I turned to her, smiled and in a definitely-not-sweet voice informed her that the hubs and I were going to be there for 9 am, we would be riding it at our pace and that if it was short, Gem would be doing it twice - once with Pete and a second time alone for solo miles. I walked off with Gem in tow and ignored her dropped jaw and angry eyes.



August 13, 2013

First Solo Trail Ride

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  
- Brown
Every once in a while inspiration hits, the big girl panties come out and I tackle a previously daunting Gemmie task (jumping a certain obstacle, cantering, going down the lane at the barn etc...). I almost always wish I had done it sooner and that task becomes a regular in our rides until it is mastered. Well, one morning I woke up and declared that it was the day for my first solo trail ride. Having been married for 8 years at the time, the hubs was used to this and just told me to have fun and be safe.
I took the truck to work and, at the first chance to escape, I headed to the barn. The plan was to load her up and head to our favorite Experimental Forest trail. I would text hubs at the trail head and again at the end and stick to the main trail. If I didn't check back in, he would know where to look for me. I got to the barn and got Gem ready. I then backed the truck up to the trailer and hooked it up. Or tried to at least. Having never actually been in charge of hooking up the trailer, I wasn't 100% sure what I was doing. An hour of pulling forward, backing up again, getting out and lowering the trailer, cursing the stupid trailer for not working and beginning again, and I was flustered. I called the hubs and it happened that he was slow at work, so he came on out to help me before I called it quits. When he got there, he looked at the trailer and told me it was hooked up just fine. Huh? It had looked that way for the last hour. You mean I could have left an hour ago!? Sigh. Lesson learned. Pay better attention.
Gem got on just fine and we headed out. I immediately regretted my decision to not stop and get something to drink, but it was too late now. Thankfully, the parking lot was empty and I unloaded Gem and tacked her up. I have never been a fan of her being in the trailer tacked up. Too much can go wrong. She was on high alert, but calm enough to mount on up. I texted the hubs that we were on our way and headed out. And here is where the story gets....boring. She did really well. We mostly walked because I just wasn't ready to trust her out on our own at anything faster, but we did trot a little here and there. She spooked at a corn stalk for no reason, but other than that she went down the trail without a complaint. I was shocked.
I planned to ride the ridge top trail which is 5 miles round trip. It dead ends at a fence separating the park land from private land and we had been there numerous times. We rode on out and just keep going. At one point I got a little curious as to why we hadn't reached the turn around, but figured it was just seeming long due to the slow pace and my nerves. At around that point, the trail became really narrow and overgrown, two things that the double wide ridge top trail doesn't do. Hmmm...this is interesting. Eventually, I turned her around and headed back. Apparently, the ridge trail veers off to the right at some point and another, smaller and overgrown trail heads left. We went left. Sigh. I swear I can get lost in my own house!
Back at the trailer I showered her with praise for being so good and went back to the barn. I told you it was boring! I don't know why she was so good. When I try to get her to lead in a group she is horrible. She moves at about 1 mph and stops frequently to check every tiny thing out. She tries to spin around and get behind another horse at every opportunity and is just a big pain in the butt. Out on her own, she was alert, but moved on out and was ok. My theory is that when she leads she feels responsible for all the horses behind her and worries that she will miss something that will get someone hurt. She is low woman on the totem pole in the herd, so leadership just isn't in her blood. Take that responsibility away and she is happier to move on down the trail.