October 31, 2013

A Walk In The Woods

A beautiful Saturday afternoon : 65 and sunny with the sun speckling the ground covered in newly fallen leaves. Crunch, crunch, crunch....slide...spook...stop...crunch, crunch, crunch. The lovely sound of my trusty steed  sane Gemmiecakes' hooves on the forest floor. Crunch, crunch, thump, crunch. A fallen log across the trail that we soar stumble over. Thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump. My heart pounds with excitement as we cover the ground and explore new places.

I needed a trail ride. For my sanity. For my peace of mind. For Gem. The arena stinks. It is large and has nice footing, but it is still a big square and it is boring. The trails are alive with spooky monsters, twists, turns, bridges of doom, raging streams that could knock you off your feet (if you were an ant) and new places.

Saturday afternoon, once the hubs was done with work, we loaded up the minivan with W, the two dogs, the hiking back pack and snacks. We also loaded up the truck and headed out to the barn. Gem loaded up ok. Nothing too bad, but she was nervous about why Pete wasn't there. Pete was furious that he was being left out of the fun. Poor guy. Sorry, Pete. The Hubs needed W time. You'll get to go on November 10th.

30 minutes later and we were at the trail head without incident. She unloaded fine, looked around and settled in. She is such a different horse when alone. Its like she turns her brain off when Pete is around and figures he can handle it all, but once alone she takes charge and puts on her big mare panties. I ran over and looked at the trail map. Lets see....shortest loop is 6.5 miles. If we moved at competition pace we could easily cover that in about an hour which is all the time we realistically had. It was 330pm and W lasts about an hour in the pack plus the sun would be starting to set and we needed to get home for 6 for dinner. But....this is Gemmie and me alone in the woods. Chances of us moving much faster than 3 mph were slim. Better to just go out 30 minutes and then turn around to get about an hour in. See how many miles we cover in the that and then decide if pushing forward or turning back would be better.

All tacked up, we headed to the trail head with the hubs, two dogs and W hot on our heels. Immediately into the woods we encounter a Bridge of Doom. A wooden bridge with a treacherous canyon yawning away into the depth underneath. Or at least that's how Gem saw it. In reality it was a bridge about 3 feet wide and 5 across with tall sides and a mini ditch underneath we could have walked if the bridge wasn't there. Gem hates wooden bridges. Not because it is a bride. But because it is wood. It took me an insanely long amount of time to figure out that she is scared of bare, dead wood. I don't know why she is, but my old jump standards that the hubs made in WI were unpainted wood and it was a pain in the donkey to get her over those. Brightly colored and flowered jumps are ok. She hates wood. She went over the bridge slowly, snorting and glaring back at me the whole time, but she went.

Through the woods we walked on and elated in the feel of the sun and the sounds of the woods. We left the hubs behind us (well, a little ways anyway) and came across a group of 3 headless horsemen sorry, Halloween is getting to me, horses coming towards us. Test #2 - would she spin around and try to join them? I pulled off the trail and she was a butt head. She really despises horses passing her in either direction. Competitive little mare. Once passed, she moved on out in our direction without pause. Good girl!

More walking. Walk. Walk. Walk. She wasn't trying to move out and I wasn't looking to push her much. Test #3: Road crossing. She is funny at roads. She likes to amble across at a snails pace. And look around. I on the other hand like to cross quickly to avoid a screaming, burning painful death. We settled on a decent pace somewhere between the two.

At this point, the hubs was no where to be seen or heard and later I found out he went left where I went right. After the road crossing, I asked for a trot. The trail was smooth enough and it went straight for a bit. She actually moved out. The first time it was for all of 3 strides and then she slowed, but the more I asked the longer she held it and eventually we moved along. It felt like the worlds slowest trot ever, but it was definitely a trot, so I was happy with it.

When you ride alone you get a lot of these types of pictures. We came to test #4: a stream. She usually doesn't mind water. She isn't diving in and going swimming like Wonder Pete, but she usually doesn't put up a fight either. We got to the stream (or raging river as Gem likes to call it) and she got half way across and decided enough was enough. She spun around to go back. I turned her around again and across we went. Once over to the other side, we picked up a trot again.
More of the same until we got to a dirt access road. To this point I had been keeping green arrows to my left (which was wrong, incidentally. Apparently trail marking were supposed to be on the right) but at the access road I couldn't see any at all. I could go left or right down the road or straight across onto a trail through the woods. We went straight. We trotted on for a ways, but I wasn't seeing any green arrows at all and it was getting close to the 30 minute mark. I turned her around and we headed back. Once at the access road, I made a right (would have been a left coming from our original direction) and low and behold! There was a green arrow on the left! Ha! I wasn't lost!
She did great, but it was time to turn around if I wanted to be back at the trailer at the 1 hour mark. I turned her around and she was a bad mare. Seriously. She had no interest in turning around!!! I was elated. Well, kinda annoyed that she decided to misbehave, but really? She wanted to continue to explore and not go back!!! It was awesome!!
But...we had to go back. The loop was 6.5 miles and at the 30 minute mark we were 1.5 in. There was no way we would finish in time. She gave me some decent gruff on the way back, but eventually settled in and away we went.

We made it back to the trailer in one piece and had a great time!! I think we will be doing more of that in the near future. If I stick to the 1 hour mark for now, but try to include more and more trotting I believe we can do the entire 6.5 mile loop in our hour (or only shortly over it) and then eventually we can increase the time spent out and about. I'm excited!!!

3.14 miles
1 hour
235 ft elevation gain
Average pace: 3.1 mph

Now those are pretty lame statistics, but given where we were 4 years ago when she refused to even move? Its great. Plus...even when we were trotting and it felt like we were going slow as molasses, her average trotting pace was 6.5mph and we had some over 7 mph. All I need to do is work on maintaining that pace over time. Then we have our 50 in the bag :)

October 30, 2013

Bad Footsies :(

“I have heard there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind. But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!”  
- Dr. Seuss
I've been scratching my head trying to figure out why on earth Gem is acting out so much under saddle in the arena. Its typical for her to be that way for the first couple weeks in a new place, but not for an entire month. Yes, it is colder out. Yes, she is getting grain. Yes, it is dark out. But still.
I'm anal about grooming her before I ride. I figure that she deserves a nice cleaning and once over before I ask her to work. I not only brush her out, pick out the hay and burrs from her mane, but I always pick out her feet and run my hand over her legs to feel for swelling. She was fine Monday. Friday night I noticed this....

A big crack in her heel. That's not supposed to be there. It is supposed to be one solid piece. This is her back left. Her back right looked similar. Crap. I panicked like any good person would do and called up the hubs. He suggested I lunge her to see her move and watch for lameness. That would have been a good idea except she broke my lunge line at the beginning of summer. This barn has a lovely round pen though and while I have never used one before, I thought it was as good a time as any to try it out.

We went over to the round pen and I let her loose. She was a very naughty mare. I asked her to walk - she ate the grass around the edges. I asked her to trot - she bolted and kicked out at me. I asked her to go to the right - she spun and went left. I lost my good natured patience (HA!) with her. I got firm and forced her to go the direction I wanted. I stopped asking and started telling. She did a whole lot more work than I had anticipated. All I wanted was for her to walk, but she would canter, so I made her canter until I told her to stop. Around and around she went. Eventually she listened and walked when I said to and then we repeated going to the left. Same thing. Eventually she walked and at the very end she went to spook at some imaginary monster, looked over at me first, and then kept walking calmly. Great mare!!!  The good news was that I didn't see any lameness issues in any gait in either direction. She loaded all 4 feet heel first without short striding at all.

I took her back in and cleaned out the cracks as best I could with the hoof pick and then put her back out. At home I visited the internet and researched heel bulb cracks. Apparently it is a fungal infection. Or it could be yeast. But don't forget about bacteria - it could be that too. If all else fails you can also blame it on contracted heels and poor weightbearing. Sigh. Nothing is ever simple. So...to the endurance forum I went. I posted a question with pictures and got some responses all screaming doomsday and giving me the worst case scenario possible. Sigh. Why are people like that? Well, anyway. I decided to treat her for all the above.

I have been going out and irrigating out the cracks with betadine solution. I figure that we use it for surgical scrubs and I have my patients use it on macerated skin between their toes or on ulcerations. Its gotta be similar in horses. I also ordered a powder product called No Thrush. It seems like a good enough product and I like the science behind it. It should arrive tomorrow and I will start it Friday. I know one of the keys to treatment is keeping the feet as dry as possible until healed. This is the only part I am having trouble with. She is out 24/7. It hasn't been raining (although it is slated to begin now that I am needing dry weather) but the dew is awfully thick in the morning. Does that count as moisture? I will monitor and see how she does.

The good thing out of al of this is my introduction to the round pen. I have decided to use it once a week until she starts behaving better. I used it again Monday night and she was much, much better behaved. It still took a while for her to start to listen, but not as long as the first time. Once she gets to really being good I will stop using it so much and maybe use it once a month as a refresher. I don't want her going in a smallish circle for too many miles. That can't be great for her joints.

October 29, 2013

County Logic Girth

“love the life you live.
live the life you love.”
- Bob Marley
4 years ago (or almost anyway) I was barely even able to get Gem to move. If she did it was usually in a small circle. Or at warp speed. Or crow hopping. Or any other number of tricks to get out of doing anything at all. So while Saturday may not seem like such a big deal in the grander scheme of things, it really was for us. But....before I get to that I have two other things to mention. You will have to wait a couple days before I get to it. Consider it a cliff hanger.
First, the girth. My quick judgment was wrong, as is usual with quick judgments. It is very different than my current girth. For starters it lacks any elastic. The entire thing is leather. I have read that elastic makes the forward motion worse, so this is in theory a good idea. The leather is soft and somewhat pliable. The edges are rounded and soft unlike the knife like edges to my current girth. It is padded in the correct places as well.
I was a little confused though with it. All the girths I have ever seen/used have had the buckles at the end of the girth. Which seems odd to me in general. I have had 2 issues with this set up: 1) with it tightened the buckles are placed up by your leg and 2) there leaves very little material between the buckle and the horse's hair/flesh and what little there is always seems to get shifted to one side or another placing the buckle directly on the horse. Not with this girth! The buckles are several inches into the body of the girth almost guaranteeing lots of leather protection for Gem.  I am a happy camper with this design.
Did it stop the forward motion of the saddle? I have no clue.
I tacked Gemmiecakes up and grabbed the brand new County Girth with butterflies in my tummy. Could this really end 4 years worth of saddle fitting woes? Would I hear bells ringing and see glitter in the air? I thought I would be smart and use the very first billet hole on her left. This would allow me to slowly tighten it on both sides to see where it would lay. I did the left side and then, with a big grin, walked over to buckle the right. And noticed something was not right. The girth was looking awfully small. I reached waaaay under her and grabbed hold of the girth and pulled it over to the billets. And this is what I got...
No where close to fitting!! I couldn't even get the billets to reach on the very longest hole! Sigh.
But now I'm even more confused than ever. I understand that this is a different girth than my current one, but shouldn't the sizing be similar? 20 inches should be 20 inches regardless of the brand name on the girth. Right? But if my current girth is 20 inches and goes all the way up to the top of the billet (two holes past what you see here in the picture) and is too big, why is the 16 no where close to fitting at all? It should at least attach, shouldn't it? I had originally ordered an 18, but it wasn't in stock so they sent me the 16 to try. Do I even try an 18? Doesn't it look like 2 more inches still won't be enough? I know Gem is the Queen of blowing out her tummy to avoid letting me tighten the girth, but really?
So....after much debate and self induced stress over this, I ordered both an 18 and a 20. I'm still worried that maybe she needs a 22? Or larger? Really? The 18 will arrive Thursday, but the 20 is slated to come in tomorrow. I really, really, really hope for my sanity (and health of my marriage) that one of these fits her. I think you may hear my screams of frustration around the globe if they don't. The annoying part is that no self proclaimed professional is able to help me. I asked the County representative about sizing and she had nothing to offer. My saddle fitter just said to eyeball it and see if 2 inches will be enough. Shouldn't there be a measuring system to know exactly what length of girth you need? AHHHHH!!
Well, anyway. I will await the next two to arrive and see what works. I will get it right eventually. There are only so many sizes to try. Of course, I have to pay return shipping so more $ wasted. Tomorrow is more bad-ish news on the Gem front, but then Thursday will be a fun post. Stay tuned.

October 25, 2013


The silence from my blog this week has been deafening.

Why have I been so quiet? Because I have little to write about. W has been sick, so I have been making trips home over lunch and then to the doctor yesterday to get him some antibiotics. Poor little guy has another ear infection. Time to talk tubes!

My new girth came in the mail yesterday. :) The 18 inch I had ordered was on back order and won't be available until next week. But then I emailed them and asked if the 18 was too big, could I return it and order a 16? The wonderfully nice lady said not only could I do that, but they happened to have a 16 inch available. Would I want them to ship that to me now and I could test it out before the 18 arrives? You betcha! If I had my money tree, I would definitely buy more stuff from County Saddlery. They have been really great with such a relatively wimpy purchase (everything else on their site is $$$$$). And actually I may end up purchasing the shim pad they have some day.

I excitedly opened the box and took out this wonder girth that would solve all the problems of the universe and.....it looks pretty identical to my current one. I'm trying not to judge it without using it, but it really does look awfully similar. For over twice the price. Of course this one should actually fit (or at least one of the two sizes should) and that should solve the girth gall issues, so that's one thing. It also lacks any elastic. Most girths these days have elastic on the buckle straps so that when you inexpertly over tighten it, it can expand some when the horse breathes. I have read online that the elastic makes the forward slide of the saddle worse, so maybe this one detail will make all the difference. I will really need to be careful about over tightening it.

Also, I looked up my girth that I already have. The name has changed to the "Shoulder Relief Girth" and the price went up from $90 to $125! Ha!! Suckers! Out of sheer stubbornness and principle I wouldn't buy a shorter version of that. I refuse to pay more for a name change.

The hubs went out to ride Pete last night for his first ever nighttime ride. He hasn't been to the barn since the Pace two weeks ago (Bad Rider!) so it was time. Pete was happy to see him and I think they had fun. Pete took off at a merry hand gallop (kinda like a gallop, but more controlled - more like a really fast canter) around the arena. He was super sweaty so the hubs borrowed Gem's fleece cooler to help dry him out. The boys always have fun.

I am planning to head to the barn tonight to try out the new girth. I am going to try it sans (that's for you hubbybear) fleece girth cover to see how it really fits her. I like the cover in general though, so if it works I will probably still use it. I do like how the edges of this girth are rounded and softer. Even if it isn't perfect, it may not rub as bad. Time will tell.

Plans...plans....plans....how I do loathe you. There is another Pace this Sunday that I had my eyes set on. Multiple problems have come up that makes this seem unlikely to happen :(

1) Our babysitter is potentially unavailable due to a surprise birthday party they may or may not be throwing for her grandmother. Even if they don't have the party she said she wouldn't be comfortable coming to the ride and watching him there. So that would mean a 7 hour lapse of W and I don't know if I want to do that.  Plus he isn't feeling too well.

2) My back up plan was to have the hubs come but not ride. He would watch W while Gem and I ventured out on a solo Pace together. Fun and nerve wracking. The hubs wasn't too keen on missing the ride, but oh well. He has his running hobby. Plus W isn't feeling too well.

3) Remember that puppy we had show up at our doorstep a month ago? She had found a nice home locally with a mom and twin 2 year old boys, but the mom returned her saying it was too much to deal with a pup and the boys. Hmmm...who would have saw that coming? The hubs has a friend in Ohio who has been wanting her from the beginning but getting the two together has been an issue. With the pup needing a home again, we contacted her and she can make it all the way down to Knoxville TN this Sunday if we can meet her there. It is only a little over 3 hours for us, so we need to make it happen. Now, being the way I am I figured that her leaving from OH could put her in TN late afternoon/early evening. If that is the case and the ride last time took us until 2, there might be a way to sneak the ride in and then send the hubs off to TN afterward.*Diabolical laugh inserted here*. But that probably won't work because then the poor girl won't get back to OH until super late. I can't just go to the ride solo because I don't want to put W through a 6+ hour round trip drive for no reason, so the hubs is travelling alone and I will be with W.

Sooooo.....my new plan is to head to the trails at Fants grove Saturday afternoon after the hubs is done with work to ride Gemmie solo. The hubs is going to bring the pups and W and go for a hike. Why Fants? I didn't really like the trails much. But..it is a nice 5+ mile loop that is super well marked and extremely hard to get lost on. Keep all trail markers to the left (or right...I can't remember but it is listed on the sign) and you are golden. Or as golden as you can be when you are prone to getting lost. While I would prefer Isaqueena, the trails are poorly marked and I would easily get lost up there. A nice, hilly and technical 5 mile loop should give Gem something to think about so she doesn't decide to try to kill me instead. I need to start putting more miles on her and the weekends are going to be my only chance. If I can't make it to a Pace to use for conditioning, I will have to go hit somewhere alone. The only problem with that is that the Pace with Pete along keeps us moving out at a nice trot, but solo I think we will be working on her mental game more than speed.

Back up north, everyone is getting settled in for the winter. Rides up there end in October and don't pick back up again until May. Mentally I am still thinking like this. But down here the rides begin in February with a lull in the summer months due to heat, so she needs to be 25 mile ready by then if I want to get in a multi day prior to a single day 50 in the fall. EEEK!

October 22, 2013

Bad Behavior

First, a big !!!CONGRATS!!! to my hubby who ran a great marathon over the weekend. He beat his PR (personal record) by an amazing 20 minutes :) Without running more than 13 miles at one time in over a year!! He had fun and I had a great time hanging with W. We played and ate and played some more. I love that little guy :)

Now on to Gemmie. I swear someone snuck in and replaced my mare with a she devil. Seriously. I don't know what has gotten into her lately, but last night I had had enough. Actually, I do know what has gotten into her. Colder weather. Rides after dark. Too few rides (meaning once a week and not pushing her hard even then). Boredom. Big, open arena. Sigh.

Thankfully she has gotten over whatever monsters she thought were lurking in the barn and now stands mostly quietly in the cross ties to be loved on, brushed, inspected and tacked up. She is no longer splattering poo everywhere which makes my life way nicer. She was in an oddly "love on me" mood last night. Probably because it had been a week (ick!! Bad owner!) since I was there last. The BO was there and we chatted for almost an hour while Gem slowly lost patience and started making hilarious bored faces: sticking out her tongue, showing her teeth, big yawns. Silly girl.

Eventually we headed into the dark to the big arena to get some work done. I had found a quarter sized rub mark on her left side from the hunter pace. Ugh. Not happy about that and kicked myself for not noticing it earlier. It is healed and dry, but I still felt guilty. The new girth I ordered is on back order and wont be available until next Thursday which is a bummer, but I really ma hoping it makes a difference.

Anyway...she was actually quite well behaved and walked quietly around the arena even getting super close to the fence. I was thrilled. Then we trotted and even that was going ok. Then a few things happened. 1.) She got bored and cranky 2.) Pete came tearing through the pastures until he was right out of site in the dark next to the arena 3.) He started screaming his head off for her. Sigh. She decided that this wasn't so fun anymore and began to canter. I asked for the trot again. She cantered. I circled her and she settled. Then took off and threw in a buck. Tiny and not impressive but bad behavior nonetheless. The saddle slid forward. I got off, readjusted, got back on. We made it a little ways around again until she tried it again. I got mad. I have no interest in fighting her all the time. It is no fun. So, I got off, trudges over to the gate, untacked her and sent her away.

I had planned to get her cantering some to 1) blow off steam, 2) explore the arena without me on her to realize it isn't going to kill her and 3) watch her go in the footing to make sure she wasn't limping or anything.

She took off flying like a rocket. I have never, in 4 years, seen her fly like that! She was a picture perfect Arabian: tail up high and laying on her back, neck arched, nostrils flaring. She was gorgeous :) Being bad, but gorgeous while doing it. She flew around that arena like something was after her. Well, strike #3 off the list: she was moving just fine. She came charging over to me, but I made her keep going. Around and around she went. When she slowed down, I clucked her back up. After 15 minutes, I allowed her to come over and we walked back to the gate together. She was breathing hard, dripping with sweat and had steam coming off her back.

I tacked her back up, got back on and headed back out. All I wanted was for a nice, calm walk. She bolted. I should have planned on that. I mean, I just made her run around like that. She came back though and within a few minutes she was walking nicely. I called it a night.

Phew! I really wish I had put the Garmin on her to see that read out! She was flying!!! I doubt it did any real good, but at least I saw that she wasn't lame and obviously the footing isn't that horrible. Part of the issue is that the area is so large and open with nothing in her way. She just wants to go. There were days in the arctic north where all she wanted was to spend an hour cantering around the indoor and I let her. It was fun and good exercise. But it was enclosed, small and safe. She couldn't really go anywhere. This area is soooo big that she can really pick up steam. If I could trust her to stay calm, I wouldn't mind cantering her a few times around the arena to wear her out a bit, but I don't like this bucking issue she has begun. I don't want to run her into the ground every time I ride, so a happy medium will need to be reached here. I will make sure I get out to the barn way more often. 2 week nights and a weekend shouldn't be that hard to do. I plan to head out again Wednesday night.

October 18, 2013

Saddle Fitting Tips, Quips and Pearls

Sorry if this post is a little technical and boring. I had a request (yay!! thanks!!) to pass on some of the things I have learned on my saddle fitting journey. I'll try to make it semi-amusing. Or at least amusing to me :) Disclaimer: I am NOT a saddle fitter. All I have to say is based off of my personal experiences and research.

You have to start with the basic understanding that whoever first decided to jump on a horse and ride was a lunatic. Seriously. Who thought of that? I rank that up there with the first person who decided eating an egg was a great idea. Can you picture that? Look, a bird just crapped that hard thing out of its body. Lets go and eat it! Yum! You know it was fertilized. And they probably tried to eat the shell too the first time. And raw. Gross. But putting that aside, looking at the make up of a horse they really aren't made to carry us around. They just so happen to have been found useful to do so. Over the course of history saddles have changed dramatically as horses became more than just a useful tool that when no longer able to perform the task at hand was easily discarded and replaced. People slowly began to care about the horse and proper saddle fit slowly followed. Or at least that's my history of it. I'm sure there are a lot more specifics behind it.

There are basic principles that most people understand to be true. The saddle goes on top. Check. It needs to be secured somehow and so the girth was made. Check. To avoid rubbing and pain a pad is needed. Check. Great. Lets go ride! If only it was so simple. Here is what I have learned and keep in mind this is centered around my issues with Gem and around English saddles.

Saddle Size/Length:
Does this really matter? You bet it does. Lets look at Pete versus Gem. Pete has a nice long back. His saddle sits comfortably behind his shoulders and in front of the last rib where it should. Nothing impinges in the back. Gem, being an Arabian and therefor having 1 less vertebra in her back by design (well, by human design anyway), has a short back. A long saddle will not only sit on uncomfy flesh behind her ribs, but will also be hit by her butt will every stride which is even worse at the canter. This will push the saddle forward. If you are a larger person, you may be limited in saddle seat size by your horses back size.

Fix: Short saddle. But if you need a longer saddle, make sure the panels flare upwards in the back. This will give room for the butt to move up in canter and not push the saddle over the shoulder in the front.

Channel Width:
Nobody likes pressure directly on the boney spine and your horse doesn't either. The channel width (space between the saddle panels) needs to be wide enough to span the spine and sit comfortably on the back muscles on either side of it. For Gem this is 4 fingers widths minimum. Other horses are narrower. Check by pushing on the spine and moving slowly out and down. Once you hit soft flesh, stop.

Gullet Width:
The most notorious part of saddle fitting. This is the width in the front. Too narrow is a big no, no. Too wide isn't so great either but can be dealt with. How doe you tell? The most important factor is clearance of the wither and shoulder. With the saddle on the back, is there room between the horse and the saddle pommel (front edge)? No, it is too wide. If you can drive a semi through it, too narrow. Now run your hand between the saddle and the body. Does it move smoothly or does it pinch? One last quick and dirty test is to put the saddle too far forward and slide it back until it rests nicely. Take a step back and look critically at it. Is the seat nice and flat? If it is tilting back, the saddle is too narrow. This is due to it not sitting down onto the horse pitching the front upward. When you ride, you will be fighting a tendency to lean back. If the seat is tilting downward, the saddle is too wide. You will ride leaning forward.

Fix: If too narrow, get new saddle in wider. If width seems ok for the shoulders but saddle is tilting forward, get a riser pad to place under the front of the saddle and lift it up.

Most saddles are fitted while the horse is standing nice and evenly on all 4 feet. That would be great if that's all you did when you got on. Since I am assuming most people actually move somewhat while on the horse, this will fall apart quickly. When the horse extends a front leg forward to walk, the shoulder blade rotates backward. How much depends on the horse. You can check for this though. Mark wit chalk the back end of the shoulder blade when standing still and square. Ask a friend to extend one front leg forward. Watch as the chalk rotates backward. Repeat on other side. When your saddle is in place, the shoulder needs that much room to rotate or it will be pinched and painful. The horse will take shorter steps to avoid this and be choppy and resistant. While you won't be putting the saddle this far back, you want to make sure it is not tight in the region the shoulder will be when in motion.

Another shoulder fact is asymmetry. Gem has a large right shoulder and small left. Any saddle will need to be fitted for the wider, right shoulder or it will pinch. Fine. I get that. But what about the skinny left side? The saddle will "dig into" the left shoulder and will then slip/lean to the right. It was not so noticeable in my current saddle, but the flex panel saddle was horrible for this.

Fix: Get a pad that allows shims to be placed at various locations. For Gem, I would need to add a shim to the left shoulder to equal that of the right so that the saddle sits evenly on both sides.

My current nemesis. When the saddle sits in the right spot on the back look at where the billets hang down. Now look at the spot where the girth is going to always lie on the horse regardless of anything you try to do to convince it to sit elsewhere. Do they line up? If not, as soon as you girth up and move, the saddle will be pulled forward. It is a big pain in the donkey.

Fix: Ha! I wish I knew. A point billet comes from the front edge of the saddle and allows the girth a more forward position. It will put pressure on the withers. Can't avoid that. But weigh the evils: a little pressure on wither or riding on her neck? When using the point billet, the back of the saddle may become unstable and rise in the air. Use a billet as far back as possible to avoid this. An anatomic girth can be useful, but some just claim to be anatomic while others actually are. Good luck telling the difference. Apparently the insanely overpriced County Logic girth is the best of the best. When mine arrives I will let you know. On that subject, if you are going to use an anatomic girth, it has to be the correct size. If not it will chafe like crazy. But don't worry. Picking the right size is all guess work. Nobody can tell you the exact size or way to measure. So spend your money, use it, return it and try again.

In addition, the length of the billets is important. Look and see where the bulk of the girth will sit in regards to your leg. If you like riding with a super long leg, make sure your billets are forcing the girth buckles to rest right under your leg rubbing your flesh raw.

I can't attest to other issues, such as a sway back, long back, shark fin withers etc...but I can talk about saddle slipping forward issues. That's my problem with Gem.

Other things to try:
A Crupper. This attaches to the back of the saddle and wraps under the tail. As the saddle tries to move forward, the crupper becomes taut and it stops it. Or the horse freaks out due to the pressure and takes off at mach speed. Either way, you are covering good ground and the saddle hasn't moved forward. I haven't tried one yet. I want to wait until the rest is resolved so too much pressure isn't occurring.

A foregirth. This medieval contraption is a strap that goes around the horse right in front of the girth. There are two large bars, hooks, etc...that are on the top and are placed to rest on either side of the wither in front of the saddle. If the saddle moves, it abuts the bars and stops. I have heard these are painful.

Oh! In regards to girthing. I always thought you tightened it all the way. Apparently, I was very, very wrong. The tighter the girth, the more the saddle is likely to move. Huh? Think of a tight rubber band. Stretch it around a water bottle that is wide in the middle and skinny at the mouth. The tighter that band is stretched, the more it wants to go flying off the bottle. This is your girth/saddle. When tightened appropriately, you should be able to get a thumb easily under the entire thing. When you try this, if the back half of the girth feels tight, but the front is loose, take a wild stab at what will happen? It will move forward! This is where crossing the billets can play a role. But, crossing them takes up the space of the billets, so don't try to tighten to the same length as if they were straight or the above scenario will play out.

Well, that's all I can think about right now. If I think of anything else I will let you know!

October 17, 2013

Ribbons, Ribbons, Look At All the Pretty Ribbons

Just to add sweet icing on the already delicious cake that was the Hunter Pace we took 4th place!!!  That means I get a shiny ribbon :) Why is this such a big deal? I only have one other ribbon from my time with Gemmie. My awesome blue ribbon from the RnT we did with the hubs. Ribbons are awesome. I don't know how I actually physically get my ribbon. They have my name, but no address or phone number. I am getting the hubs to call the RM (ride manager) and ask. I know that's pretty low, but I REALLY want my ribbon.

The optimal ride time was 1:55:13, so we actually went a little fast. Which is a relief. When I was talking to people about it and reading online the Hunter division was made out to be this super speedy event. I was worried they wanted you to canter/gallop the entire thing. I think my point of view is a little skewed coming from the endurance world. The overall pacing is actually pretty similar. We went a few minutes too fast which is only 1 additional walk break.

That's one reason I love this so much. You can't really go out there planning on winning and it isn't a race against other people. Since there is a staggered start and two divisions, you have no clue who you are passing or if it means you are going to lose by being too fast. You just go out there and ride your ride. I'm sure over time you get a better sense of what the timing is like. If the trails are the same year after year, then the optimum time is probably pretty close to being the same. You get an advantage by knowing that. But it seems like the trails change from year to year even though the venue does not. This keeps it lively. I would bet that certain hosts tend to go faster or slower too. Maybe we picked the best starting venue to go to that likes a similar pace to us. Maybe our next one in November will be with a faster or slower group. You just don't know.

It adds a sense of flavor that endurance lacks. With endurance, everyone starts together and you have a set time in which to finish. Everyone is out there fighting their own battles (tack, rider fitness, horse fitness, nutrition etc..) but the fact is that the front runners win. If you happen to have a horse that goes fast and have the time to condition to go fast over 50 miles, you will win. When looking at the standings time and again, the same names show up in the top 10 over and over and over again. If you are a super competitive person, this could be a significant draw back to the sport. In the Hunter Pace, however, each event is unknown. You could go out there on any given day and win. Just ride your ride and see what happens.

I can't wait until the November ride. I really wish we could go to the Halloween ride, but it doesn't look good. I think we may be able to do it if Gem and I go alone and the hubs comes along for support and to watch W. That way it is only $40 instead of $80 and we won't have the babysitter fee on top of it. It could be a great way to test out Gemmie's bravery. Hmmmm.....should I?

October 16, 2013

The Men Side of Things

OOOOPPPSSSS!!! I forgot to talk about the boy part of our Dynamic Duo. Sorry, guys!

The hubs does this for me. He looks at trails and wishes he was running instead of riding. Don't get me wrong, he loves his Pete horse. Its just that riding is not his first love. While arena riding is like pulling teeth for the two of them, show them a trail and watch them go! I love riding with him. We generally are on the same page in respect to pace and distance. He knows when I like to walk and not to push too hard. There are instances of disagreement on rides. He can't always keep Pete to a nice pace which is in part Pete's fault and in part the hubs' fault. All in all if they were up for it, I think doing a 50 with them would be great. But while Pete has the best trot I have ever seen, a love of the trail and easy going personality, he is pushing it in age and the amount of work to get him in shape and keep him there just isn't in the cards. If I switched to riding him, yes I could do it. His resting hear rate is already above 60, so pulsing in at rides is an issue from the get go. He would just require a lot to get there and maintain.

He was like a rocket at the start. Standing still isn't his best characteristic, but the hubs has managed, through a lot of time and patience, to teach him to contain his excitement and impatience to a dull roar. He was jumping out of his skin to get going. Once let loose, it was all the hubs could do to keep him from galloping off. I love his enthusiasm.

Pete loves to be in the lead and led the majority of the day. He is braver than Gem and I don't recall him spooking at anything all day. He had that one fall which was just due to bad timing, but didn't get hurt.

His trot is just ground eating amazing. I swear he has some gaited breed in him the way he moves. It annoys the hubs a bit because he rarely canters. He prefers to just "power trot" along rather than kick it up to the canter. It isn't a true gaited pace though or at least it isn't a very smooth one. The hubs has to post it at some incredible speed and I think he would like a canter break here and there.

Pete started to act tired about mile 6.5 or so. We came into a big open field and had to turn left along the woods and eventually wound our way around the back of the field and back to the right. A horse ahead of us was visible off to the right. Pete figured he could just cut right and be done with it. He gave the hubs a lot of grief about that, but once we got into the woods, he calmed down and got back to work. He looked tired at the trailer, but was happy and sound.

Pete has a back that any saddle can fit. Lucky. The hubs purchased a new Wintec All Purpose saddle when he got Pete and it has stayed the same ever since. I don't monkey with their gear at all, so maybe it could fit a little better or maybe not. Pete is sound and pain free so I don't stick my nose in.

The hubs rides in Ariat clogs which are no longer available, but he loves them and never complains about foot issues.

They also use a halter/bridle I bought them for Christmas one year in John Deer green and yellow. He loves it and won't use anything else.

Pete is barefoot as well. He chose to walk on the shoulder on all the roads and I don't think he is quite as "rock crunching" comfortable as Gem is, but he does just fine in most cases. I want to get him some boots as well some day.

He had fun. I think. Not as much fun as if he had run the 9 mile trail, but fun nonetheless.

He wore one of his favorite t-shirts. We got it at a hiking store in Virginia when we went for a conference back when we still lived in PA. It says "Hike Naked: Put color on your cheeks" Or something along those lines. Anyway, when we came up to the half way point the guy in charge of the beverages asked the hubs if he had been to the pace the month before. Nope. He asked if he wore that shirt out and about in town. Yep, sometimes. Apparently, he remembered seeing him at a restaurant wearing the shirt and recognized him at the ride!!! I guess that is what you get when you wear shirts like that :)

He was a little sore the day after, but mostly in his shoulders from having to hold Pete back so much. He lacks interest in going for a 50, but will continue with the paces. It is a good distance for them and will require little other than his typical riding to be in decent shape for them.


October 15, 2013

Winner! And Ride Recap

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”
- William Arthur Ward
And the winner is......... Stephanie! She guessed 1 hr 47 minutes which was only 4 minutes faster than what we came in at :) Way to go!! Thank you so so so much for all who placed a guess. I wish I could send you all a prize, but you will just have to wait until the next give away. Stephanie - your book will be heading your way soon. Thanks for playing!!!
Now for the boring recap :)
Considering how little training we have actually done she did super well. I can't remember the last time we did 9 miles, let alone at a "race" pace. She finished with energy to spare and was happy and sound.
She wasn't acting tired at all until about mile 6.5, but a little of that was just plain boredom too. She isn't your typical endurance horse who just loves the trail so much. She gets bored. I like the stops in an endurance ride because it gives her something to refocus on and then when we move out again she is back to the task at hand. Better fitness will help this too.
I don't know why, but she really has upped her bravery. She led quite a bit and even trotted out front a ways.
She quickly reminded me just how competitive she truly is. Each time we saw a horse in front of us, she would lock on and was not happy until we passed them. She would pull and pull and try to gallop on by and then was content to go back to a trot once we left them behind. Silly mare!
Her back was not sore at all afterward which was a big relief. Her legs were solid with no swelling. I had meant to go to the barn last night to check on her, but I was hungry and decided to eat dinner instead. I can't remember the last time I actually ate dinner. Usually it is just a bowl of cereal at 9 pm.
I'm glad she is barefoot. I let her pick her footing and even on the gravel roads when Pete would hug the shoulder, she would just walk on down the middle without a care. Her feet are so solid. I do want to get some boots for her, but I have put them on the back burner for now.
She ate every chance she could along the trail. Greedy mare. There was a creek crossing and she ate the ferns instead of drinking. She didn't drink back at the trailer at the end. Once we were back to the barn, she went straight to the pond and had a big, long drink. She has never had a drinking issue before and will even drink out of a puddle if she is thirsty, so I am guessing she just wasn't thirsty enough.
Same as listed on my gear page. I have given up on crossing the billets because it did not seem to help. I have figured out that I have been tightening her girth too much. Think of a rubber band stretched over a can. The more you stretch it, the more likely it is to go boinging off the skinny top of the can. I loosened it one hole on either side. We had some short, but seriously steep hills both up and down and the saddle only moved a little forward in the 7th mile when she was super sweaty. I think I can tweak this saddle enough to make it work :)
I also lengthened my stirrups a half a hole. More in the "me" section.
The halter/bridle rocks. It is so great to be able to slip the bit out of her mouth quickly without removing the entire headstall and risk her running off.
My knee didn't hurt!! I was really worried about that at the start since our 5 mile ride at Fant's grove made it kill. I did lengthen the stirrups a half a hole and while they felt too long, my knee thanked me. I just need to adapt to the longer leg. I think I may move endurance stirrups up on my "want list".
I felt in control the majority of the time. The only time she felt really borderline not listening at all was when either that gelding was galloping up on us from behind or she had locked onto a horse in front. I had to circle her sharply once in the first mile to get her focused again, but overall she walked when I asked.
At mile 7 my legs started to hurt. Right where your thigh meets your butt in the back (your "thass"). I'm not sure if it was more muscle fatigue or if I was landing and rubbing. I will monitor that and see if I might want to add a fleece seat cover to help. It wasn't my underwear. I know a lot of distance riders have issues with underwear and go without, but this wasn't from that.
My shoulders were pretty sore yesterday from her pulling on my arms at times. I don't know how to really fix that beyond going to more rides. I understand the importance of being able to control your horse at all times, but there is only so much you can do in an arena or on a trail alone. You just can't simulate the competitive atmosphere at a ride.
I am very happy with how everything went!! It was a ton of fun and I think these are a great way to condition. The results are not up yet, so I don't know how we did overall. I will let you know once they are up.
There is a Halloween ride at the end of the month but with this ride and the hubs flying off for a marathon this weekend, our fun budget is eaten up for October. There is a ride November 10th that we are aiming for. Can't wait!

October 14, 2013

Tryon Hounds Hunter Pace - Ride Story

Sunday dawned dark and gloomy with a few sprinkles of rain. I was worried they would cancel the event, but I checked the website about a dozen times and it all said it was still a go, so we packed up and headed out at 7:15 am. We were smart this time and had hooked up the truck and trailer as well as packing all the tack into the trailer on Saturday afternoon. That meant all we needed to do was grab the horses, brush them out and load them. Our babysitter for the day was meeting us at the barn at 7:45 am and would follow us out.

Getting Ready
We left at 8:05 am which really wasn't too bad for us. The drive took just about an hour and we arrived early enough to grab a great parking spot. The friendliness of the event hit you from the get go. There was a guy at the entrance welcoming everyone, thanking you for coming and pointing you to the parking area. After unloading, W went to hang out with K and the hubs and I went to sign up. It was slated as 9 miles with a 3 minute hold half way. We entered the hunter division, got our team number and went back to tack up and head out.

Checking out the camp

W got a big kiss goodbye and we headed to the start tent. The guy standing guard was awesome! He sent the group ahead of us out and we settled in to wait 3 minutes. Or at least the hubs and I did. Pete tried to rear and Gemmie stood pawing the ground. They were ready to GO! The guy made jokes, asked if I was in the crazy Arabian division, gave a quick description of the trail and counted us down. At the word "go" Pete took off like out of a start gate at the race track. Gem was not far behind and we kept them to a barely controlled trot out of site.

The trail was marvelously well marked. Big white signs with a bold red arrow pointing the way at all turns. It was really difficult to miss a turn unless you were one brown mare who cantered past in a big field. Cough. I don't know who that would be. Good thing the hubs was paying attention! Gem and Pete maintained race brain for most of the 1st mile. Neither could walk and we barely kept them at a trot. I finally forced Gem to stop to focus again right before we overtook the group who had left 3 minutes before us. Our first mile was at 7.1 mph average even with walking and stopping to take pictures. We were flying!

At the end of the first mile was a short, but very steep uphill and we were thankful for it. It really caused the horses the calm down and relax. We wouldn't have been able to maintain that pace for all 9 miles.

The beginning was all single track dense woods

Until we reached this beautiful field and cantered back into the trees

Gravel Road in the woods
All the trails were on private property and had amazing footing. If the Dynamic Duo were in better condition we could have cantered most of it. It varied between single track woods, big open fields, had some wooden bridges, one paved road and two gravel roads. I walk all down hills and really most were so steep you needed to anyway. At the first gravel road we requested a walk. We probably would have been okay trotting, but the rocks were the perfect size to bruise a foot. It was only the 2nd mile and we didn't need any foot issues. The group that left right behind us on large, gorgeous steeds came galloping up on us on the lane but we were already back on single track going uphill. Once at the top, we pulled off to the left to allow room to pass. As they came up the hill the one horse was breathing so hard it was shameful. They made a right hand turn and started away. The hubs yelled out that they were going the wrong way. They were very grateful to not have messed up. Off the group cantered up the next steep hill (poor horses!) as well. Had we known the half way tent was on top of the hill we would have just kept going. But we had only gone 3.5 miles, so I wasn't thinking we were there yet. I guess it was just the most convenient place to put it. The hubs and I have always felt that if you are stopping for a prolonged time, you should get of your horse and give their back a break. We seem to be in the minority on this thought. Once on the ground the crew there offered us a drink. Water. Apple Juice. Port. Huh? Can you say that again? Port. I could smell the alcohol coming off that tray! I opted for apple juice so that I could cross the finish line with Gem. The hubs had water. And Port.

More gravel road riding

 3 minutes later we were back up and headed off. For some reason the Dynamic Duo thought it was time to race again. They were back to being hyped up. Unfortunately, there was a large, open field instead of a hill up ahead. Gem picked up a fast canter (13.5 mph) through the grass and into the trees. More hills and woods to come. At one point there were two wooden bridges then a steep uphill covered in roots. Pete was in the lead and as he got to the bank he tried to jump up, but the hubs knew I was still crossing the bridge and didn't want Gem to flip out so he told Pete no with a half halt. Pete shortened his stride, hit the roots and fell onto his right knee. No damage done, but we decided it was time for a long walk break to get their heads focused again. That mile was at 3.2 mph. 

At some point we came up behind the gorgeous horses again and shouted that we were coming. They cantered off to stay ahead. I think they thought it was an actual race and not just based on time. We hadn't seen a single jump and I made a note of it. Never having done one before, I was not sure what to expect, but the website mentioned jumps and we were excited to try them. None were present in the first 5.5 miles of the trail.

The route followed through the woods and skirted some beautiful farms. We popped out of the woods and onto a paved road and the view was spectacular. The clouds were going away and the sun was shining. The mountains in the background were breathtaking. I asked the hubs how far this was from work. Could we buy there and commute? Probably not. The hubs snapped my all time favorite picture of Gem and I. I think I will print it and frame it. It is beautiful.

I want to frame this one. Perfect! :)

Not sure what mountains, but pretty none the less
Proof that I do lead and Pete hates it

More gorgeousness

 Gemmie actually did lead quite a bit. She was braver than usual and even trotted. Pete hung back and let her until she slammed on the brakes one too many times. Then he plowed ahead with a nasty glare and pulled back ears :)

Lets see. More of the same really for a lot of it. We trotted most of it with some cantering (for Gem, Pete just power trotted away) and some walking the hills. At one point we passed a group of 2 ladies. Then it got a tad annoying for a bit. A woman came galloping up on us on her black and white paint who was plastered in sweat and out of breath. We pulled over to allow them to pass. She did, then immediately walked. Um? Now we were still keeping up our trot pace and seeing us closing in again she commented that her horse was very tired but then kicked him up to a canter and took off. We watched her and she either walked or cantered. I don't think she knew how to trot. Poor horse. We played leap frog in that manner for about a half mile and then she took off completely when we walked some hills. The bad thing was that she would let us get just ahead and then barrel down on us. It made Gem extremely nervous and she never even called out. She would just all of a sudden be up Gem't butt. Surprisingly we passed the gorgeous horse group on a lane. They moved nicely out of our way and we headed on down at our trotting pace.

In mile 7 we came across the paint lady riding with another lady on a chestnut horse. I was in the lead and yelled "coming up behind". Nothing. I yelled again. I looked back and asked the hubs if I was in fact talking out loud. He confirmed that I was audible. We came up to a field and I yelled "we are passing you. give us room now" The chestnut horse lady glared at me, but chose to move over versus get run over. Rude. The paint lady  told us she had a wreck. Her horse fell down and threw her. Probably because he was weak and couldn't breathe. And yet she kept kicking him on to canter. She should have been DQ'd. In endurance, she would have been.

The jumps showed up around mile 5.5 or 6. They were HUGE! Definitely not ones we were ready to tackle that far into the event. It was a shame too. The trail wandered into someone's cross country field and the jumps were really pretty. Gem took one look and her ears went sideways. She made it clear she was not going over any of those.

Back into and out of the woods again and then we were at the finish line :) 9 miles (my GPS said 8.51 but the trees were thick and I wouldn't be surprised if it dropped that much throughout it). In 1 hr 51 mins.

Back at the trailer, W was waiting and we untacked quickly. The horses were sweaty, but still had energy. We took it easy but maintained a decent pace given their conditioning level. An overall 5.0 mph pace when moving and 4.6 mph total (with pictures and time to drink Port included). Not too shabby. Once untacked, I offered them both water and then dumped a bucket full over Gem. She sighed in relief as the cold water washed the sweat off. The hubs, W, K and her husband and I went for lunch and then tired out, we headed home. The horses looked great coming off the trailer back at the barn. I can't wait for the next one!!!

Sweaty and happy to be done

You mean we are done?

I know I had an entire hotdog, baked beans, coleslaw
and a brownie, but are you going to eat that Daddy?

GPS Totals:
1:51:42 total time, 1:42:06 moving time
5.0 mph moving, 4.6 mph total
Elev gain: 623 ft
Elev loss: 671 ft
Max: 13.3 mph 

October 11, 2013

Nightmare on Gem Street

“I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.”
- Thomas Edison
Wow. That was spectacularly dreadful last night.
I received two very nice saddles from Reactor Panel in the mail on Tuesday. I was super excited. A quick run down on the system: the basic principle of the saddle is that while it has a standard, fixed tree the underside that is against the horse is made of two independent and flexible panels. They attach to the saddle via high tech "hook and loop closure" aka Velcro and because the right and left sides are independent of one another, in theory you can adjust it for each side. The panels are supposed to move with the horse's back allowing freedom of motion. You place rubber discs between the saddle and the panels for shock absorption and these add another layer of customization and come in 3 thicknesses.
I had a by phone saddle fitting appointment for last night at 7pm. I was stoked. I had been in contact with the company numerous times and they had pictures and tracings of Gem and knew my entire saddle fitting history. It was going to be like sprinkling pixie dust all over her and I would hear magic bells going off when I sat on her back. I got two different models: a Summit which is very much like a traditional English saddle and a Heraldic which is like half a saddle, but was made by endurance riders (probably crazy ones).  My hope rested not only on the fact that we could customize the fit to Gem, but also with the very forward placement of the billets on the Summit and the movable billets on the Heraldic. Life was going to be great.
I set everything up and watched every single RP video on you tube to prepare. I called her and we talked a little about my problems in the past. We began. It was fun. Gem was behaving nicely and things were moving along smoothly. I will avoid the boring specifics. At one point everything was as set as it could be on the Summit. I was told to go ride for 15 minutes and call her back.
That's when everything went south. Quickly. We strode out to the arena in true terrified fashion because it was now 8:15pm and very dark. Oh! Did I forget to mention that in the middle of it all the BO came to feed the very large dinner she gets? And she was ultra unhappy with missing it? And had lost all her brain function? And had figured out that if she flicks her head in just the right manner she could get the cross ties to unclip and then saunter off while my back was turned? Fun. Loads of fun.
Up I went and off she went. Like a crazed lunatic. Granted some of it was her hyped up on grain brain she now has. (Yes, we are fixing that and getting her cut to half a scoop twice a day and will monitor) But she did walk and trot. When I asked her to canter she flipped out. And she actually bucked for real. Ears back, angry face bucking. I got off. The saddle had slid ridiculously forward and the support discs were right over her shoulder pinching big time and causing big time pain. Not good. I slid the saddle back to proper position and changed to using the most forward billet available and got back on.
Up I went and off she went like a rocket. Ears pinned, evil look and mad as all get out. I stopped. The saddled was over her shoulders again. I gave up and went to call her back.
We discussed matters and she was at a loss. Maybe the saddle was too wide? Maybe we could do this or that? In the end it was decided it just wasn't working. Switch to the Heraldic. It did sit on her back better than the Summit and was 1/4 inch narrower. The problem was evident from the get go though. Even the most forward billet sat a good hand and a half width behind her girth groove. Saddle slippage was predictable. Admittedly, I was already a little apprehensive to try such a small saddle in the first place, but with her angriness and bucking spree I was done. I was not on a suicide mission and had no interest in getting on her in that at 9 pm. I called it quits.
In the end it sucked. Big time. Good news: I won't be selling my wonderful saddle. Bad news: I still need to come up with a better solution than my current tack. I did get two great suggestions from the fitter who was amazing to work with:
  1. Switch to the County Logic Anatomic girth. Yes, it is ridiculously expensive (what isn't in the horse world?) but it the only one she has ever seen really work with a horse set up like Gem. If it saves me thousands in new saddles, it is worth shelling out the money for. I will be contacting them today.
  2. Try a shim correction pad. With her right shoulder being bigger than her left, the saddle is not incredibly stabile on her back. The pad allows you to place foam shims in various places to make up for this. Problem: $$$$$
So what am I going to do? First step is mail these torture traps back. Second, purchase new girth. Third, wait until my money tree grows in my front yard and then purchase a new pad. Fourth, cry.
PS - 18 people read my give away post. 2 made guesses. Come on!!!!! It is a free book! Place your guess and see what happens.

October 10, 2013

Sunday Fun-Day

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is to not stop questioning.”  
-Albert Einstein
(Remember: write a comment on yesterday's post (Give Away) with your best guess for my finish time Sunday and win a good book. Plus, it will make me feel loved :)
Me: I think it is time to get Gemmie back into physical activity at the barn. She has had enough time to settle in at the new barn. We have a 50 to prepare for!
Gem: I'm really enjoying getting out of work by pretending to be scared of everything. I hope this lasts! I have an early retirement to prepare for!
Me: Hi Gemmiecakes! It is a beautiful Sunday morning. The arena is dry and recently dragged (present tense: to drag the arena. Past tense: dragged? drug?) Let's get going!
Gem: Oh no!!! See you sucker! I'm outta here. *Runs to the very back of the pasture, flicking her tail in true horsey middle finger fashion*
Me: Hmmm...Gemmie is looking thinner. There isn't a whole lot of grass and I'm not sure she is getting enough hay. Maybe I need to talk to the BO about her nutrition. She can't perform well without proper nutrition. She may need more food. Poor girl. She is starving!
Gem: Hehehehehe
*BO shows up with morning grain. He proceeds to dump a "scoop" into a bucket for Gem and one for Pete. I say I will feed them it once we are done riding. I grab the bucket. I notice that the grain is 3 inches deep. I ask how much they are getting. I am told 6 pounds twice a day! That's 12 pounds!!! For a 900 pound horse!!!*
Me: Holy crap! Gem you are getting way too much food and here I was stressed out about you getting thin! *walks to barn shaking my head* Stand still! There are no monsters in the barn. You have been in numerous barns throughout your life. These crossties are the same as any other cross ties I have used with you over the years. Quit flinging poop everywhere! It is making a mess!!! Darn mare!
Gem: If I keep this up, maybe she will get so irritated, she will just walk around with me again. It worked last time....
Me: Ok. Finally we are tacked up. Lets go into the arena. Good. Lets start with a nice slow walk around the edge to warm up and relax a bit. No. I said walk. WALK! There. You know, you can get closer to the fence than 2 feet. Nothing is over there that will eat you. Fine. Walk in the center. The footing is deeper, so it is just harder on you. No, I said WALK. Walk. Walk. WALK. Ok...fine. Lets trot if you want to so bad. In a nice manner. Without being a giraffe. Why are you so jittery? You feel about to explode? Hmmm...are you in pain? No, I'm guessing it has something to do with the 12 pounds of food you are eating.
Gem: Its cool out. I'm feeling fine. I've got loads of energy. Lets make this more fun. Lets spice it up a bit. Ok...how do you buck again??? Head down. Check. Front legs stretched out and locked. Check. Butt up. Check. Now lift off!!! Ha! Take that!
Me: Um..Gem did you just buck? I think you got a whole inch off the ground. Good try though. Lets go back to working now, shall we?
Gem: What?! Don't make fun of me! This arena is big enough to fly in. Lets go!! *Takes off at a full on gallop around the arena. Cuts corner too short and almost falls to the ground. Gets very angry* Oh come on now. What was that. You are messing me up there lady with all your screaming and high pitched giggles. Shut up, I'm trying to concentrate. *Digs in even deeper and launches away to the gate*
Me: Are you finished yet Miss Thing? Obviously you don't need to settle in much more. You are feeling just fine. No. You can't finish on a brainless bolt. We need to get something done here. I don't care if you are all sweaty. Not my doing. Behave. Trot nicely twice around in each direction, next to the darn fence, and we can call it a day.
Gem: That's it? That's all I have to do. Ok.
Me: Finally. Thanks Gem. Good girl! Now you can go have your buffet of a breakfast.
And that was my Sunday Fun-Day.
(PS - go vote on my time!!!)

October 9, 2013

First Hunter Pace and Give Away!

If anyone has been paying any attention to the "plans" tab (or to this blog at all for that matter) you will see that I have my first ever hunter pace coming up this Sunday!!!! Baring any bad weather, sick baby, broken truck, broken horse, broken tack etc.....we are heading about an hour away to participate in our first event with the Dynamic Duo. I'm very excited.

In true Crabby Acres fashion, the BO over there (who hasn't left the farm property with the horses in literally 15 years) has decided that knowing we are going, she has to go too. Fine. The more the merrier and now that we are no longer a part of Crabby Acres, I don't have to feel like I need to ride with them. Or feel guilty when I leave hours before they do. But what got me was the fact that she specifically went out of her way to convince our babysitter who has only been out of the arena 1 time ever in her riding life that she just has to go to this one pace. Not any of the others around. This one specific pace. Which meant that we were out of a babysitter. And she knew that.

Much to my delight, and probably her dismay, our babysitter's mother who is equally as great has offered to drive up to the event behind us and watch W while we ride and then stick around for when her daughter gets there and rides. This is absolutely perfect for us because that means we get to be with W while we load everything up, drive and hang out before we hit the trails and then again as soon as we get back. It means loads more time with W and that makes me super happy :)

I have been wanting to do a give away since I started this blog as a nice reward for hanging in there with me. But I needed a reason to give something away. And I needed something to give away. Well, this pace gives me just the reason. Here is what I am thinking:

  • In the comments below, write your best guess as to my completion time for the pace
  • It can be over or under, just the closest to what I actually did
  • You have from the time I publish this until Sunday at Midnight
  • You get 1 entry
  • Once I am done I will let you all know how I did and announce the winner
  • In the case of a tie, I will figure out what to do
If you need a quick reminder of what a Hunter Pace is, you can go back and read this post: Hunter Pace Described

Unfortunately, I have no clue how far this one is going to be. It is anywhere from 6-12 miles. To help you out a little, I do know that they try to make them around the 2 hour mark. The only other one that actually went off this fall was at Biltmore. The winning Hunter division came in at 1:30 with the last one to finish at 2:30. The Trail division was an hour longer - about 2:30 for the winner and 3:30 for the last people to finish before getting a big DNF (did not finish). I think we are planning to do the hunter division. In reality, I believe we are too fast for trail, but a little slow for hunter. We will see :)

What do you win?? A book! Ten Feet Tall, Still by Julie Suhr I actually have not read it yet, but I have heard that it is a great book, not only for those who ride, but for anyone who has a dream they are chasing. It is on my "To Read" list and so I figured I would send off a copy to the winner.

So...please participate! I will feel like a complete loser if I don't get any guesses at all.

October 8, 2013

FS Farm Pics At Last :)

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”  
- Anne Frank
Welcome! Come take a tour with us :)
The Dynamic Duo are back together and are relaxed, happy and healthy. No more bite wounds or kick marks. No more stress. No more blanket arguments. No more irrational demands or rules that are only voiced once you have broken them. No more "We need to talk. The hubs and I enjoy the company of the BOs (husband and wife team) who are down to earth and really easy going. It is peaceful. It is relaxing. It is just what we were looking for.
Here is the front of the pasture just as you walk into the gate. It is mostly dirt due to the amount of trees which will be nice for protection from the rain and hot sun. They are currently getting a bale of hay until it runs out and then it is replaced. They go through one a day right now. You can see Gemmie hiding waaaaaay off in the background if you look between the hay feeder and the tree. I love how she greets me at the gate ;)

This is the back part of the field. The shed in the very back is actually part of the back pasture where the BO's two old geldings and donkey are. We keep inviting them to open it up to all, but the BO is worried that the donkey may pick on Gem. Apparently he wants a bunch of little mule babies around even though he is "fixed". 

At the back of the Dynamic Duo's pasture is a fence and a pond. The pond was used for drinking water in the past. Now it is being used for both drinking water and a nice cool Pete bath in the heat of the day. The BO has seen Pete chilling up to his belly in the water on more than one occasion. I told him he liked water!   
A better view of the gate separating the two parts of the pasture which ends at the pond. Pete keeps trying to cross, but the guard donkey on the other side starts screaming at him. He gets scared and swims back toward his shore. Someday he will cross and then what will my Gemmie do? She isn't into water aerobics so I doubt she would swim across, but then again she hates being alone so which would be worse?
The pond. It is stream fed.
Moving on... There were two horses boarded in the pasture next to the Dynamic Duo when we moved them in. I guess their greatness scared the others away because they came and took them away the next day. Now that the pasture was unoccupied we asked if the gate could be left open. The BO being as awesome as he is, he did so and now the D.D. can walk through this gate and into another area with more grass. If new boarders come again, we will lose this, but for now it is great. Though the gate is this nice field with some trees. There is another field that this runs into and they even left that gate open for the D.D. to use for now. I have seen Gemmie using the first field, but not the second one, so I am not

sure if they really need it or not.

There are other amenities to the barn outside of just where the D.D. spend the majority of their day. The barn was built in the mid 1990s (ick...sounds so recent but really isn't anymore) and is very open and airy. They stay outside 24/7, but we have access to the barn for the tack room, wash area and we can use stalls whenever we want as long as we bring them in/put them out and clean up after them. I'm sure if we really needed it in an emergency the BO would help us out, but they like to be fairly hands off of the horses to avoid any confusion or stress. There is even hot water available to wash the horses with when it is chilly.

The arena is great too. Very large and believe me there is plenty of room for a Gemmiecakes to open up and gallop around in there. I've witnessed it both on the ground and under saddle. It is amazing! I think I mentioned before that the footing is very deep to protect western horses when doing sliding stops and sudden turns. It makes for hard work for the horses when asked to trot nicely in it. Just imagine jogging in the dry sand at the beach. When cantering or galloping you feel like you are floating on air. There are no jumps currently and I may ask the hubs to make me some over the winter. I'm a little nervous to jump in the footing though. I don't want them to sink and end up straining a tendon. Ground poles would be great though.

And last, but not least are the little piggies that line the drive entrance and the beautiful flowers that are everywhere. The place is only a few minutes from town, but when there you feel miles from anything. It is quiet, peaceful and just what we are looking for.