April 28, 2014

I'm Still Here!!

It has been insane lately. The business opened up last week and even though my patient volume isn't so great since it just opened, there are sooooo many things to do that my time is just eaten up with it all.

I did manage to get out to the barn 3 times last week which is great. I only rode 1.5 times though. That's better than the 0 times the previous 2 weeks, so I am getting better. Now that life is sort of kind of settling a little bit, I am really trying to get out to the barn 3 times a week. The hot weather is going to settle itself in soon and I want to get as much conditioning in before that occurs.

So how did I go to the barn 3 times and only ride 1.5? How do you ride a half a time?

The first attempt was early in the week and it just wasn't in the cards to ride. I left later than intended and so my window to ride in the light was already shortened. Then Gemmie decided to drop the remaining winter coat (or most of it...she always leaves the top of her butt for absolute last) she has been carrying around with her and so the grooming process took an hour. The trainer lady was also there and finishing up and was apparently in the mood to talk, so we chatted it up while Gem got the spa treatment and the sun set. She got her dinner, supplements and a lot of love before going back out in her now greening up pasture.

The second attempt was on Thursday. I got to the barn good and early and even managed to dodge my usual 35 minute conversation with the BO so that I could actually get a ride in. I remembered my Garmin and we headed into the arena. My goal: ride 1 hour spending at least 35 minutes of that at speed (trot and canter). We began and it was apparent Gem was not mentally prepared for this. She was spooking at everything. The fence around the arena? Yup, scary. The jump standards against the fence? Yup, scary. The gate leading into the arena? Yup, scary. We worked through it and I was focusing on keeping her at speed. I thought things were going super great until I looked down at my watch and noticed we had only been at it for 4 minutes. Ugh. It already felt like an eternity and we still had 56 minutes to go!

To break it up a little I put down some ground poles to work her over and she did good with those, but we were still bored. So I made a small jump and worked her over that which didn't start out so great but eventually she jumped it like the good girl she can be. But it still had only eaten up around 15 minutes of our ride and I was bored.

Time to discover those trails on property! We headed out of the arena and across the driveway tot he trail entrance. Remember how she was spooking at everything in the arena? Well, this quadrupled as soon as we hit the trails. I swear sometimes Gemmie is infuriatingly annoying. I can trailer her someplace completely new and she will mostly behave herself. Take her out on the property she lives on and she becomes a giraffe on cocaine. Saying that she was on high alert is an understatement. The pigs were a problem, the dogs barking were a problem, the ditch was a problem, the leaf that blew across her path was a problem. It was borderline not very smart to continue this way. And we had gone all of 100 yards.

So..I did the smart thing and got off her. We hand jogged along the trails and she was still on high alert but at least then she could look around and feel safer. And I was much safer on the ground as well. We went about 2 miles (the longest I have run in a long time) and the trails are gorgeous. Once she gets her head around those will be very nice to train on. We didn't even explore the entire set. It is mostly double wide trails and there are not many hills, but there are a few steeper sections. Basically once she gets calmer on them, they will be a great way to get out of the arena and we can start working on some canter sets out on trails. I'm very excited about it!

But that only counted as a half a ride since I think in the end I did more work than she did.

I will post my equally annoying, but in a different way ride from out on the trails Sunday with pictures soon.

April 18, 2014

Future Plans

We all know how I feel about plans and even my attempts to only kinda, sorta make them for the spring have gone out the window. But...I need to have some sort of idea on how we are going to make it to our first 50 in the fall.

I would love to make it to a 25 mile ride beforehand. It would be great to get her back into the mindset of the ridecamp and having a true hold with a second loop to go out on. But it just isn't going to happen.

Rides up north begin in April and go pretty solidly until the end of October. Each weekend had many to chose from and it was rare to have a weekend without any ride going on. But down here the rides shut down from Jun-Sept due to the heat. Some locals head up north to Virginia to keep riding, but that is too far for my life right now.

I don't see making it to a 25 before the end of June. I don't have the time right now with starting up the new business nor do I have the money. I also won't sign her up for 25 miles 2 weeks prior to our first 50 mile ride. That would be setting us up for fatigue and failure and I won't do that to Gemmie.

So that leaves me in a little bit of a conundrum. I plan to continue to try to ride 2 days a week in the arena working on speed and consistency working up to a solid hour of work at speed. One weekend day will be spent out on the trails locally spending about 2 hours out on the trail. I hope to keep increasing our speed on trail so that our distance in those two hours increases.

When I rode with T she mentioned a trail system called the Brick House that is a bit far away from here, but will be a shorter drive once we move this summer. It sounds like a great place because it has two loops: 9 miles and 16 miles.

Here is what I am thinking: continue with my current 3 days a week plan until we move in June/July. As long as our heat conditioning is working well, head out to the Brick House in the summer to simulate a ride hopefully in mid to late June. Go out on the 16 mile loop and then take an hour break at the trailer to untack, offer water and food, eat and then trot her out by hand. Then tack back up and head out on the 9 mile loop trying to maintain an endurance style pace throughout.

That would give us a 25 mile ride and while it won't be at a real endurance event it will simulate it well enough to give me a good idea of how we are doing. Hopefully I can convince T and/or S to join me :)

There is no need to go beyond 25 miles in a conditioning ride so if we handle that just fine we are in good order to just back off a bit in the heat and work on maintaining. Pick it back up a bit again in late summer and then head off to our first 50 in September! :)

April 17, 2014

Post Ride Analysis of Gem and Myself


She really is a rock star. I find it hard to remember how horrid she used to behave 4.5 years ago. It has been a lot of hard work, tears, blood and sweat to get our partnership the way it is today. She isn't perfect, but she is absolutely amazing.

Some of my primary concerns of late have been: hydration, nutrition and feet. We will begin there then.

Hydration: She has been refusing to drink on my conditioning rides of late and I found this odd since in the past she would not pass up a single water trough on a  ride. I guess she just hasn't been very thirsty, because Sunday she drank and drank and drank until she had her fill. It was great to see. I just need to trust that she will take care of herself in this regard. She was sweaty at the end, but dried off nicely while I ate lunch and by the time I went to load her on the trailer you couldn't even tell she had been ridden :)

Nutrition: She has historically been a poor eater. She again didn't touch her hay at the trailer after the ride. She did eat some alfalfa cubes as a treat, but her hay bag remained untouched. I wasn't overly concerned though because a) S's mares didn't eat a thing either and b) she ate a good bit of grass out on the trail. She has started to perfect her ability to grab a mouth full of grass on the go and while the other two mares didn't eat much at all she ate anytime there was grass around which was a good bit of the ride. We made good time in the woods and I let her lag a bit in the grassy areas to eat. I think this is a good strategy for us and one I will remember for the 50 up there. I didn't bring any grain along because it was only a hunter pace, but even on the LD rides she wouldn't touch it at the hold or afterward.

Hooves: She continues to be bare all around and is doing well. The footing at Biltmore is a mixture of awesomeness and horrible gravel. I tend to allow her to pick her own footing and help to steer her around large holes, logs etc... as I see them. But her job is to go down the trail and she gets to pick her footing. I offered to have her go on the grassy sides of the gravel roads and she chose to go down the middle. Obviously she wasn't hurting. I checked her feet at the end and they were not ouchy at all and looked really good. I am still debating on putting boots (probably glue ons) on all 4 feet for the 50 in the fall.

Her current gear set up continues to work really well. No rubs, blood, dry spots or sores from the saddle or girth. We did a ton of canter work and it all stayed put nicely. I really want to try a hackamore on her. I just never use the bit all that much and it seems pointless to have metal in her mouth. S said she has two hacks around the barn somewhere and I can borrow one sometime.

After our lunch break she seemed well rested and probably could have gone out for more. I don't think she could have done another loop at that pace, but who knows? I don't push her anywhere near hard enough. It was a great day and a great ride.

11 miles of trotting and cantering and my knee didn't hurt!! I have had left knee pain in the past with the old Wintec and even once in my beloved WISE saddle. Nothing in the Advantage.

I really like the wider endurance stirrups. My feet didn't go numb which was nice.

I can't wait to get the saddle I ordered whenever it eventually arrives. It will be a smaller seat size and I think it will make a world of difference in my comfort.

The next day I was sore in two places: my deep glutes and my shoulders.

My butt only hurt when I would go to stand up or sit down and that is from all the posting and two point I did during the ride. No surprise there.

My shoulders though shouldn't have been so sore. I only had to remind Gem of my existence a couple of times when she decided we needed to get in front of the horses ahead of us and again when she decided to race S's mare. The rest of the time we were on a loose rein. So in theory there is no reason my shoulders hurt. Except they did and that means I ride waaaay too tense in my upper body. I brace and that is not good. I will have to keep an eye on that and remind myself to relax during the ride.

I was dehydrated at the end which always results in not being able to eat anything without getting really nauseous and full quickly. None of us thought to bring water for us and the small glass at the half way point just wasn't enough. I will definitely have to remember to have water on me for longer rides so that I can eat at the hold.

All in all it was a great training ride for both of us. We need to keep it up to be prepared for the fall.

April 16, 2014

Biltmore Garmin Information

I remembered my Garmin. Well, that's not 100% accurate. I remembered my Garmin when I was at the barn and it was still on the kitchen table at home. So, then I remembered to text the hubs to remember to bring it with him to S's house. Which he did. So in fact I did remember my Garmin in the end.

I found a new feature on Garmin connect that breaks each mile down. Be prepared for over analysis 101  :)

We covered 10.85 miles in 2:10 for an average pace of 5.0 mph.

When the hubs runs he is all over the board. He will put in a 7:30 minute mile and then a 10 minute mile. His overall pace ends up somewhere in the 8-9 minute mark, but he is rarely actually within those parameters. Opposite end of the spectrum was me. I would start running and always maintain the exact same slow but steady 10:30 pace. He ran with me once and remarked at my ability to do so. Neither approach is right or wrong. What does this have to do with anything? S rides the way that hubby runs.  I ride like I run. So while we averaged a 5.0 mph pace we were all over the board.

For example:
The first mile happened to also be the hilliest mile with a total of 159 ft elevation gain and we averaged 4.6 mph for that mile. Our max in that mile was 9.7 mph. Miles 3, 4 and 5 were at 6.2, 6.5 and 7.4 mph. Mile 5 was when I started to worry we wouldn't make it at this pace. But at that point I had thought we only were going 8 miles, so wasn't overly concerned about making it only 3 more miles. I didn't know we had 6 more to go. Gemmie definitely needed a break after mile 5. Mile 5 also had 120 ft of elevation gain. Compare that to mile 9 which had a 3.5 mph pace for the mile over fairly flat terrain.

The outliers were mile 9 (3.5 mph) and mile 11 (3.8 mph) with the remaining ones generally keeping above 6 mph. I think if S had been alone she probably would have done closer to 8-9 mph with her mare. She just floats down the trail and her long legs eat up the miles much better than Gemmie does. She did note that around mile 8 or so her mare was breathing pretty hard and was showing signs of being tired. I am glad  that they are out of their typical endurance shape or there would be no way we could keep up with them. They just naturally go much faster than we do at this time.

In the end it was a great conditioning ride. I don't push Gem as much as I could/should because I am always worried she will get hurt or something. But she can go faster/farther and having someone like S to ride with on occasion will really help me to push Gem more. If we always just stroll down the trail we will never make it to a 50 and having that experienced rider to push us is really important for me.

April 14, 2014

Biltmore Hunter Pace 4/13/14!!!! Ride Story

Thanks to S I finally got to ride at Biltmore!!! And it was all I dreamed it to be! I am officially in love with riding there.

Warning: this is going to be looooong, but hopefully not boring

Saturday night at 7pm: The hubs heads off with the truck to the barn. He hooks it all up, fills the hay bags and the BO suggests he brings Gem in (she thinks I am insane, by the way) to the barn to make life even easier in the morning. He does this and grabs grain for her breakfast and stashes it in the trailer for me. He then proceeds to run the 10+ miles back home. I think he is insane

Saturday night at 8:30pm: Hero has a breakthrough "episode" even on his new high power medication. I spend the night alternating between sobbing, trying to comfort him and shoving miscellaneous pills down his throat.

Saturday night at 10pm: Hubs returns, Hero eventually calms down and I get to sleep around 1am.


4:30 am Sunday the cell phone alarm goes off. I groan in despair as 3.5 hours is just not enough sleep. I mumble some expletives, roll back over and bury my head in the covers debating on bailing. But I didn't want to ruin my new friendship with S by texting her that early saying I wasn't going, so I drag my sorry butt out of bed and get dressed: of course in true endurance geek style I put on my matching red and black top and riding tights.

The barn yard is still dark at just after 5 am as I pull in, but the early morning air is warm and the moon is bright. What a peaceful way to start the day!  Gem pokes her head out of the stall to see what I am up to now. I wasn't born yesterday (but was in fact born 32 years ago to the day :) so I grab her breakfast first and tempt her with luscious grain while I stealthily groom her out hoping she won't notice what I am up to. Gemmie is taking forever to eat her breakfast, so to not waste time I pack up some things, fill the 7 gallon water jug (best move of the day!) and then hover over her while she licks the bowl clean. On the trailer she goes without a pause and off we go to find S's house in the dark.

The day starts out great though as I find that my favorite cd is in the truck and I blast happy music (Zac Brown Band)  into the early morning air. I miss the left onto S's street, drats. Oh well, I am still on time so I just go a little farther down, turn around in the CVS parking lot and go back.
I pull in just as it starts becoming light outside and it is 6:30 am on the dot. We are waiting for her junior rider, M, to show up and it turns out she over slept her alarm. In the meantime the hubs wakes W up at 6:05 am, is told "go away" by our lovely 16 month old, gets him dressed anyway and pulls into S's drive around 7 am. M shows up around 7:15am and we get everyone loaded onto S's three horse trailer in good time and head off to Biltmore :)

Isn't she looking stunning?
It is a beautiful drive through the mountains at the SC/NC border. I am just about to doze off in the front seat of the minivan when the change in altitude starts to bother W's poor little ears and the remaining 30 minutes of the drive is spent listening to him voice his displeasure. Gates opened at 9 am to the west range of the Biltmore estate. I am a little disappointed that the actual house won't be visible during the ride, but the good news is that we won't have to pay for the hubs to enter the property. We pull in, sign up for the hunter division and unload the three mares. W wants up on Gem after I tack up, so he gets to be the first to ride at Biltmore :)

S is on her lovely Arab mare and M is on an Arab/Saddlebred cross mare. She is exceptionally well trained and a great horse for a 16 year old just beginning to ride. I see a great future for those two.

We head to the out timer, but S's mare is all worked up and there is a line of people waiting. We head off in the other direction to waste a little time and see whose horse has their head screwed on right this morning.

Eventually the line clears up and we head back to the timer tent.

Look! Gemmie can be out in front!
The weather is spectacular with a clear blue sky, but it is going to warm up fast out here. The trail begins on a semi gravel like road and then immediately takes a sharp turn to the left and goes up hill in the grass. Gem is calm and cool, but S's mare is ready to go! We allow them to trot up the hill to burn some excess nerves and S is in the lead with me behind and M in the back. We make our way to the hilltop and the view is spectacular. Rolling green hills with some trees and since we are in the sunny south spring is in full bloom. I can't think of a better day for a ride.

That mare has some loooong legs on her

 The trail the keeps to the side of the most lush pasture I have ever seen outside of the bluegrass fields of Kentucky. I am trying to take pictures without slowing the group down. I usually put my phone into my small riding tights pocket, but my shirt also has a pocket and I decide to use that. Well, as I am fiddling with it I drop it, crack the screen a bit and have to stop everyone to get off and grab it again. Oops.

Gemmie is settling down into the group and then we see some horses ahead of us. She is usually so mild mannered and lazy, but when we are out on a ride and she sees someone ahead of her, watch out!!! She locked onto them and all she wanted to do was get past them. Fortunately, S's mare is the exact same way, so we chuckled and worked on passing at a reasonable rate. It was a lot of fun!!

As the trail continues in the grass alongside a fence, we turn a corner and see a whole herd of black cows out on the grass. Cows are no big thing to Gem and so we continue on. Apparently, cows are horse eating demons from the dark regions to S's mare and she began to put on a lovely little show of just how high a horses head can go. S got nervous due to the electric fence being present and even with M in front of her an Gem between her and the cows it wasn't going so well. So S jumped off and hand walked through the rutted, tall grass until we passed the cow pasture.
So much temptation to eat!!

S got back on and we were off again through the grass. The footing was actually pretty nice for most of the trail.

Eventually we make a turn out of the pasture and into the woods. We pick up a nice trot and just fly. S is in the front and her mare has legs that just never seem to end. Her natural trotting pace is pretty fast and we cover the ground. Poor Gem just can't trot that fast and keep up. She switches in and out of a canter and I let her. As long as the overall speed doesn't change I don't mind if she switches up the gait she uses to get there. It is a lovely rolling hill type of trail. Nothing steep and not rooty or rocky at all. Her bare feet can handle this all day.

What is super nice is that we change up our position a lot. S leads a good bit, but her mare enjoys being out front the most. M gets a chance to lead as well and so do we. Gem doesn't like to lead all that much. Her favorite spot is beside the lead horse and just slightly back. This way she gets a good view of the trail but really isn't in charge of the safety of everyone. I actually also prefer to ride side by side on a double track trail as it allows for easier conversation and you don't have to worry about getting kicked or sudden stops in front of you.

At one point early on we are really moving it with no sign of a break in sight. S is out front and the hills just keep coming. Poor Gem is starting to lag farther and farther behind. I tell her at the next hilltop we will walk for a bit. When we reach it S slows down anyway so I don't have to ask and we walk for a little while. I think at this point we have past everyone else on the trails.

I had overheard someone at the start saying the trail was 8 miles. There is a halfway stopping point with water. I look at my watch and we have gone 5 miles already. Hmmm..where is the break? The sun has come out and the horses are very, very sweaty. The riders are too and nobody thought to bring water!

We reach a slightly less than ideal puddle on the trail and all three mares stop. Gem guzzles down the water!!!! I am sooo thrilled. On all the conditioning rides to date she passed up the water and I was worried she wasn't drinking. But I needn't have worried. She takes care of herself really well and will drink when she is thirsty.

Right after the mud puddle we come out of the woods and across the 3 minute hold. There is a fresh water trough and the horses gets down to drinking again. We all opt for water and then ask if we could scoop some water onto the horses. I think they all really appreciated it a lot.

3 minutes later and we are back up and moving out. The trail takes us along an (thankfully) cow free pasture and the ground is very uneven. We decide it is best to walk this part which gives the horses a breather as well.

Back along this pasture, into the woods once more and then we pop out onto the rolling greens hills again. We follow along the vineyards and are treated to the most beautiful views. I really love riding here!!

 We keep going. And going. And going. Gem still has fuel left in her tank and has been perfecting her grab a mouthful of grass and walk maneuver. I don't mind it at all. She needs to fuel and needs to keep something in her belly. I ma getting a little curious though. If the trail was really 8 miles we should be closing in to the parking lot again. My watch says 9 miles. There was a lot of open ground so it probable didn't drop a while lot, but 9 mile sis probably closer to 9.5 or so. Hmmm...did we miss a turn?

Hmmm...maybe I am not cut out for endurance. If I can't make it through a hunter pace without internally complaining about the distance, how on earth will I make it through 50 miles? S is up ahead. She has done numerous 50s, 75s and even 100 mile rides. This is probably a walk in the park for her. She mentioned potentially going out for a second run after lunch.

Just then S turns around and says "not that I'm not having fun because this is a gorgeous day, but are we ever going to be finished??? Where is camp!"

Ha!! It isn't just me!!!!!!
The trail snakes back onto the gravel road now and my watch reads 10 miles. If we hit 12 miles we are going to have to rethink this.

But then Gem starts to walk really, really slow. She starts trying to stop all the time. She starts asking to go back. This typically occurs when she knows we are close to being done. I don't know why. You would think she would be happy to be off the trail. But this gives me hope that we are close. It also manages to make me begin to worry that all the gravel has made her lame and that she is never going to be able to finish 50 miles if 10 miles hurts her. Should I have put shoes on her? Boots? Am I killing my mare??

And then at 10.85 miles we comes across and pass the finish timer. We are done.

We walk back to the trailer and untack. There is no water on the grounds and I am so very glad I remembered the 7 gallon jug. I offer to each horse, but they all refuse. I then pour some one each to help cool them out and wash off the sweat. They get hay bags and we go get lunch.

W decides he wants to sit on the trailer like the rest of us

A friend of S's walks by her with Arab gelding and she asks if she is going to go out again. I have no interest in doing another 11 miles (Garmin says 10.85 which is probably closer to 11.5 or 12)  and thankfully S says no. This was a hard enough ride for her mare.

It was a fabulous ride. The girls emptied about 6 gallons or so of water before we left, loaded up fine and by the time we left Gem was dry and pawing at the ground again. S remarked that she could definitely go 50 miles probably sooner than fall if we kept this up. It makes me very hopeful for September.

We left and headed back to S's house where the hubs split off and took W home while I unloaded all my crap from S's trailer and into mine. Gem wasn't thrilled with getting on yet another trailer, but got on with minimal aggravation and we headed home. An hour later she was out in her pasture and I was on the bed at home groaning about how tired I was and how we still needed to figure out dinner.

It was a blast and I can't wait until the 50 in September!!!

Up next: gear review, Gem and my own review, garmin data, and plans for the future!!!!

April 10, 2014

Shaken...Not Stirred

My life that is.

Maybe it is some sort of mental disorder, but I just can't seem to ever remain still. Every time life gets settled into some sort of routine, the apple cart gets upset and we start scrambling.

When we moved down here to the land of sunshine and happiness, we knew things would end up changing. The hubby's job is 50 minutes away from my job. We actually thought that he would end up leaving his and moving closer because vet jobs are easier to find than my job. We were smart (or just too poor to do otherwise) and rented our house to wait and see how things ended up.

Well, it turns out that he adores his job and is staying. I, on the other hand, do not adore my job and so I put my 60 days in (almost 60 days now...wooot!!!) and purchased my own medical practice that will be official Friday (eeeek!!) It is a lovely 7 miles from the hubs. Which is all sorts of good.

But it makes absolutely no sense for us both to drive 40 minutes to work in the same direction. The wasted gas money alone is worthy of a move. So when our lease is up in June we plan to move over yonder. Over yonder has a lot of benefits. The big one being that the hubs can now start helping to drop off and pick up W from day care.

Moving also means a massive life upheaval. I'm going to be a business owner. A boss. The sole person responsible for everything. That is exciting, scary, fun and a lot of hard work.

It also means a whole lot of change. We found a new day care for W that is just down the street from my new office. It is a commercial place versus his in home one now, so I think he will have a period of adjustment. There are some awesome things that we love:

  • it is only $10 more a week ($40 more a month) than what we currently pay
  • they provide breakfast, lunch, milk and two snacks
  • they provide diapers
  • they provide wipes
  • they are never closed
  • they teach, a lot
While an increase in any bill stinks, we will more than make up $40 a month in not having to cook 2 big, healthy meals every 3 days, diapers, wipes and milk.

There are some things I am concerned about, but it will work out in the end and if it doesn't we can always move him.

I'm not a big fan of our house or neighborhood so leaving those behind isn't a big deal to me. The hubs is hopeful he can find us a farm to rent, but I'm doubtful. Where we live now is annoying. We live in a 60 house neighborhood and hear our neighbors late at night and can't go outside without someone being around. That would be just fine with me if it wasn't for the fact that we are an isolated neighborhood in the middle of nowhere with a 20 minute drive to the store. No quick trip for milk for us. Now I know plenty of people drive farther, but for me if I am going to be stuck with neighbors on top of me I better have the convenience of the store being on the corner. If I want a long drive to the store, then put me on 50 acres and let me have my space and privacy. We currently have neither.

The one big, huge thing I am stressing over is the Dynamic Duo.  They must be moved because the current barn, while we love it, is going to end up being 50 minutes or so away and that is just too far. If I want to have them that far I will find a barn with intimate access to a massive amount of trails.

I have scoured the area looking for a new barn for them and found some pretty amazing things existing in the world. Like $1200/horse/month board. In nowhere SC. Are you serious?? I'd like to meet the people who pay that. Seriously.

Stay tuned for our barn hunting adventure....

April 9, 2014

Trailer Loading 101

If you recall, last weekend Gem and I had a difference in opinion when it came to the importance of getting into the trailer. She won. Not good.

Saturday was D-day. I headed out to the barn around 10 am and planned to spend the entire day if it was needed to make her understand that while I appreciate the fact that she has an opinion, in this case it doesn't matter.

I tied two 20' lunge lines together (although I really only needed one), hooked it to her halter, up through her side of the trailer, around the center divider and back out to me. I grabbed a borrowed dressage whip and started tap tap tap on her big brown (and shiny :) buttocks. She stood there and took it. I thought we were in for a loooong day.

Apparently the tap tap tap is pretty annoying because it didn't take long for her to react by rearing up and scooting off to stand beside the trailer. The lunge line got snagged on the hinge of the back trailer window and this ticked her off. I unhooked it and led her back to facing the trailer. Tap tap tap. She reared again and again ended up beside the trailer. I unhooked the snagged up line and brought her to face it again.

Eventually I gave up on bringing her around. The rope prevented her from ever facing away from the trailer and kept a constant pull toward it, so I didn't care really where she stood. I didn't appreciate the rearing though and so when she did that she got a whack. Any forward motion or really any hint of forward motion and she was told she was good and given a break. But if she refused to moved when asked, it started again.

40 minutes later and she was on the trailer!

She stayed put for about 3-4 minutes while I told her how awesome she was and gave her treats which she refused out of principle. Back out and I walked her around and headed back to the trailer.

Nope. Wouldn't get on. This time it only took 10 minutes before she gave in and got on the trailer. I did this for 2 hours until she got on with only a lead rope and no whip.

Lunch break then an hour later I returned.

You should have seen the look she gave me in the pasture when I went to get her! It was priceless. But she stood there and let me drag her back out. She loaded just fine the first time, but not the second and so she got hooked back up and we started again. But she went on just fine in the end and all was well when I left her.

Sunday I went out alone with my big girl panties on and hooked up the trailer, grabbed Gem and she loaded great. No whip. No ropes. She walked right on.

After the ride she had attitude. I'm not sure why she is worse to come home. You would think she would want to get her butt home and be put back out. I just don't get it. So I gave her two chances. Nope. I hooked the lunge ropes back up and by the time I walked over to grab the end she decided it wasn't worth it and just walked on by herself. Good girl!!!

I know we aren't perfect and she will fight again, but at least now I have the tools to out do her.

April 8, 2014

More Than One Way To Skin A Cat

That's a much better title than "Data", don't you think?

I met up with a new riding friend, T, on Sunday. She has a seasoned 50 miler gelding who is a little on the pudgy side right now and is getting into the season. He acts just like Gem used to on the trail....looking for monsters everywhere, sudden stops, spooks, turns etc... Except for one big difference. He is blind in his right eye. He has a good excuse. What was Gemmies??? :)

Sunday's ride taught me two very important things:

1.) My mare rocks

2.) You can get to the end goal in very different ways

Why does my mare rock??? Because I said so. So there.

In the not so distant past, she was...hmmm...obnoxious out on trail. Alone she would spook and move at a snails pace. With another horse, don't even think about asking her to lead unless you want to literally go 1 mph and stop every 2 feet. Behind another horse she would bury her nose in their butt, annoying the horse to the point of nearly being kicked while blinding her to the trail so she would stumble on absolutely every little thing. Not the most fun ever.

Ever since I started to ride her out solo she has vastly improved in confidence and this has resulted in a calmer and better behaved mare. She has now led at a trot two weekends in a row with another horse. Actually, Sunday was even better than last weekend. When following, she has kept a wonderful distance between her and the horse in front, has not stumbled and is on a loose rein. It is awesome and a ton of fun.

It makes me wish she was 10 again because I know with just a little more time she could be a 100 mile horse. But not at 17. I won't ask her to do that much at 17. I even worry a 50 is asking too much at her age, but she doesn't act 17 and she will tell me when it becomes too much and I know I will listen.

Point #2. I am getting better at remembering my Garmin. While it isn't perfect, it gives me a lot to work with.

My ride with S: we walked quite a bit. When we trotted Gem kept up for the first 5 or so miles, but wasn't able to as well for the last 3. Which is a conditioning problem and we can fix that with time. We also got some canter work in. Some by mistake as she tried to catch up to S (whose horse just glides at the trot and eats the ground up!) but S also cantered some as well. At the end we finished with a 3.5 mph pace.

My ride with T: we trotted pretty much the entire thing. We did my usual green loop although we took a couple different turns which shaved off about a half mile. We walked maybe a half mile total, if that. Gem did really well, even led at a trot and was not tired at all in the end. She didn't even break a sweat. Guess what? We averaged a 3.4 mph pace.


This makes me think. I am not even sure what all implications this really has.

I like giving Gem's trotting muscles a break. Whether that is through cantering short sections or walking, either way her muscles get a break from the constant action of trotting down the trail. So in theory, the ride with S sits better with me. You don't actually have to trot the entire 50 miles. (Which I knew anyway, but this proves it to me). In fact, during my ride with S I mentioned my first ever LD and how we trotted the entire 25 miles. She commented that she doesn't like to ride like that and prefers to mix up the gaits more.

Of course this works super well when you are on a magic carpet of a mare whose walk is nice and fast and trot is even better to make up the miles and keep a better overall pace. Gem may be able to get better though with time.

But then when I look at how Gem fared with the two rides, it seems she prefers the ride with T. Slower, but steady trotting. She wasn't nearly as tired and didn't break a sweat.

Two other factors to bear in mind: this weekend we went 5.6 miles versus closer to 9 miles last weekend and it was 50 degrees and cloudy versus 65 and sunny with S. Also, the ride with S had a lot more hills in it. So that makes a big difference in her attitude, energy level and sweat at the end. I would wager than had we done 9 miles of trotting she would have been equally as tired at the end.

Maybe this all means nothing. Maybe it means a lot. I think more time, more miles and more tracking are in order to figure out how Gem actually likes to go down the trail. She is an all star eater and won't ever pass up the chance to nibble on the trail. I'm a little worried that she passes up every single creek and won't drink. She used to drink super well in the past, but then again we were going farther and faster. Hopefully she starts drinking more when she needs it.

April 5, 2014

Crockpot Cheesy Chicken and Rice

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 large onion, chopped (I use Vidalia)
  • 1 -8 ounce box of rice, prepared
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 1 – 10.5 ounce can cream of chicken soup (regular or fat free)
  • 1 -15 ounce can whole kernel corn, drained
  1. Place chicken in bottom of crockpot.
  2. Scatter chopped onion over top.
  3. Spoon cream soup over top of that.
  4. Cover and cook on low 7-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours.
  5. A few minutes before serving, add in cooked rice, corn, and cheese.
  6. Stir to combine, put cover on for 5 minutes.
  7. Serve hot

This recipe is awesome! Super easy, relatively healthy and W scarfed it down.

This is another Pinterest one. I liked it because W loves chicken, it has rice in it to be filling and we actually rarely cook with corn so it gives W a new veggie to eat.

I am not a fan of the "large" onion. Don't get me wrong I really like onions and Vidalia is my favorite type of onion. But a large onion can mean very different things to people and my large onion was definitely too large. It was way too onion-y. In retrospect, a large onion for only 4 chicken breasts seems excessive anyway. I would recommend cutting it in half or using a small/medium onion instead.

The only other issue I had with it was the timing. I filled the crockpot just as it said to. I turned it on low. 8 hours later and the chicken was still pink inside and a meat thermometer agreed it wasn't done yet. I think it actually took more like 9-10 hours on low to fully cook. Once it was done, the chicken was super tender and pulled apart really, really easily. I pulled the chicken and mixed in the remaining ingredients and cooked for 5 more minutes.

W wasn't too sure of it at first. I think the onion was too strong. He did eat it warm the first day. But then the second day he refused to eat even a single bite. That got him mac n cheese and ritz crackers for lunch at day care. Smart kid :)

But then we tried it cold and he loved it. I didn't like it cold so much, but he ate a ton of it cold.


Few ingredients = cheap
Super easy to make
Relatively healthy

Took way longer to cook than claimed
Too much onion

Give it a try!! I don't think you will be disappointed.

April 4, 2014


Aren't my post titles just so stimulating? I bet everyone wants to read one titled "Data". My brain is on overdrive though and so that is all you get. I close on the new practice in just 1 week and officially open it the week after that and I have so much to do and so little time to do it all. I work at my current practice, full time, right up until the Thursday before I open the new one. I need to get carpet, paint the entire 1700 sq foot building, and go through all the inventory. Oh and train my employee. Don't ask me how on earth I am going to get it all done by myself. The hubs will be of minimal help because he too is working full time and someone has to watch W. My parents were going to come down the week before it opens and help take down the old wallpaper and paint, but something came up and they can't anymore. So that just leaves me. I see a lot of super late nights and early mornings in my future.

I have been good at remembering the Garmin on my last 3 rides. Unfortunately I forgot to reset it between trail rides, but it still gives a decent idea of what we have been up to.

Trail ride # 1 (solo) was our usual 6 mile loop. My goal is to get her moving at an average 5 mph pace. Why? You have 12 hours to complete the 50 miles. Figure on 2 hours of hold time and that brings the actual riding time to 10 hours. 5 mph will get you there in just barely enough time as long as nothing goes wrong along the way. Unfortunately for us Gem has an incredibly slow walk. So while other horses that power down at a 4 mph walking pace and 10 mph trot have plenty of time to dawdle and can walk a lot of it and still finish, we need to keep our butts moving.

We averaged 3 mph on this solo trip which stinks, but is an improvement on the typical 2.5 mph pace we have. Slow but steady progress is the name of the game.

Trail ride #2 (with S) was just over 8 miles per the Garmin. I think it ends up dropping 0.5-1 mile along the way as it loses satellite connection and just connects the last known spot to the current one. But it is close enough. We managed a 3.5 mph pace on this ride which I am happy with because it had a lot of hills.

Looking at my map with the two trail rides combined we had a total 1,818 feet of elevation gain and just under that in loss (still have no clue how that works when you start and stop at the exact same spot) which is quite a bit for my mare. Up north we travelled on mostly flat trails and of course the arena is flat, so this much is a lot for her.

Our max pace was 15.5 mph which was when she went crashing through the woods to get away from the speed boat.

Her average trotting pace is creeping up to the 7 mph range which is awesome. If we could keep up a nice steady 7 mph trot and just bump the walk up from 2 mph to 3.5 - 4 mph I think we would be in business.

I also find it really interesting to look at the pace map in conjunction with the elevation map. While I am out on the trail I ask her to trot what I view as flat sections or easy hills. I don't ask her to trot downhill ever and I don't ask her to trot up the longer and steeper hills. Yet. When looking a the two maps, apparently either I am asking her to trot or she naturally goes faster up every single hill. Seriously. Every time there is a spike in her pace, there is a spike in the elevation. I know I am not that mean to her, so I believe at least some of those times she is doing it herself. And then it drops way slow every downhill which I am fine with.

I do think that part of our slow pace is that these trails are basically all up and down hills. There are practically no true flat sections. If we head off to a flat 50 miler I think we would do great. The 50 I am planning for is not this hilly, but still has some hills to it.

Arena ride: We kept our 5 mph average pace!! :) Actually our average total pace was 5 mph, but our average moving pace was 5.2 mph.  Of course we only went for 22 minutes and covered just over 2 miles, but that is exactly what I want to use the arena for. Speed work. Slowly increasing the length of time spent at the faster pace should correlate to an overall faster pace out on the trails. She was breathing pretty hard after the canter sets, but she kept asking for more.

I am really happy with the way the last 3 rides have gone. I am hoping to get back on her Friday night for another arena work out. This weekend is going to be spent with trailer loading so no trail ride.

April 3, 2014

Gem Redeems Herself

Well, kind of...sort of...

Tuesday night was magical at the barn. Gemmie and I were the only ones around except for the bats flying over head, the birds chirping off in the sunset and the barn cats using the arena as a litter box. It was still in the 70s as the sun was setting and the breeze alternated between refreshingly cool and refreshingly warm. As the sun set, there was a bright crescent moon rising. It was a night made to be at the barn.

Maybe Gem felt bad for her naughty behavior on Sunday. Maybe she was feeling good after the work out and day off. Maybe she had a stroke and forgot how she usually acts. Either way she actually walked right up to me in the pasture for the first time ever. And all I had in my hands was her bridle. No bright red bucket of treats (supplements).

Even in the fading light I could see how much better she is looking. I know it is in part due to her shedding that winter coat out, but I have to think the supplements are doing something. Her coat is beginning to gleam like it used to and I love a shiny horse. Some people just carve out a saddle shaped patch when the groom and I don't judge them for that. But I am downright anal about grooming her each and every time both before and after we ride. I check her over from head to toe, pick out her feet and make her shine. The only thing I am not anal about is her tail.

We walked over to the arena and I thought 30 minutes would be good. The footing is extremely deep in the arena. Part is due to how dry it is right now so the top layers are not getting packed down and the other part is how much traffic it now sees with trainer lady being there and giving lessons. With it being so soft and deep I worried about her bowing or tearing a tendon and so I didn't want to over do it. Plus I wanted a lighter work out after Sunday to start the week. If things go well this week I am hoping to get back on for a more rigorous arena ride Thurs or Fri and then I should get on the trails again this weekend, but instead will be trailer training.

I remembered my Garmin, climbed on board and hit start.

We walked around scaring off the barn cats for 5 minutes and then we started trotting. She gave a decent show of being scared of the jumps, the barrels, the fence, but I wasn't having any of it and she settle din nicely. Historically Gem doesn't care for deep sand. Our two LDs were on a lot of deep sandy trails and she spent the entire time hugging the side and ripping off pieces of my flesh on tree limbs. She wasn't particularly happy with the footing and I didn't even think to ask her to attempt the jumps in that footing.

About 15 minutes in she got tired of trot, trot, trotting and picked up a superbly lovely canter. It was uphill. It was smooth. And best of all it was rate-able. No rushing off on the forehand barely in control and taking corners as sharply as possible without completely falling over. She was steady, slow and calm and it was a gait I could have sat for hours. We worked both directions. I gave her lots of trot breaks, but she kept asking to canter. I think it was easier for her to canter in the footing versus trot and I also think her muscles get sore from so much trotting on the trail so the arena is a nice place to canter. She is more efficient a the canter as well and back in my heart rate monitor usage days, 9 times out of 10 her rate drops in the canter versus trot.

She managed to work up a nice sweat and was breathing pretty good so at 20 minutes I called it cool out time. I didn't want to put her out sweaty for the night. We walked around cooling out and I debated about un tacking her and riding bareback for a bit. Even if I fell off the footing was inviting enough that it wouldn't hurt too bad. But I decided against it and called it a night.

She was a little sweaty and I let her cool out next to the trailer before giving her her supplements. She eats the powder plain (ick). I mix Pete his with a couple crunched up alfalfa cubes because he is a normal horse and won't eat the plain powder. When I put Gemmie out, I took Pete's with me a fed him.

It was a night to renew my faith in my gorgeous mare. She always does this. I just need to remember how far we have come and all she has put me through. She tests the waters and then the next ride it is like she realizes she pushed me too far and is a saint. Oh, don't get me wrong. I don't have my heads in the cloud with the trailering issue. I know she won't load without a ton of work. But I can ignore that until the weekend and for now bask in the glow of a wonderful night with my mare.

April 2, 2014

Sunday...A Tale of Two Emotions..Part 2

Thank goodness for wonderful, nice sincere and kind people. Or Gem would have had a much longer conditioning ride than she wanted.

I'm meeting a new friend. I have to be at the trail head by 10:30 am. I give myself an entire hour to get Gem, groom and load. A process that should take 30 minutes max. Until she decides to draw a line in the sand and refuse to get on the stinking trailer. The exact same trailer she has gotten on countless times.

It wasn't completely unforeseen. Ever since she started going out alone she has gotten more and more resistant to getting on the trailer. If another horse is on, then she walks right on no problem. And once we get to where we are going she is fine. But this time she really had it in mind that she wasn't getting on the trailer.

I think in retrospect with my hindsight glasses on hooking the trailer up the night before was a bad idea. Gemmie watched us do it from the pasture. And then I went out to the pasture to feed her the supplements. Which she greedily chomped down and then walked away all proud of herself for avoiding actual work. And then she had alllll night to stew about the trailer being hooked up.

It took the hubs and I plus the addition of a fellow boarder 35 minutes to get her to load. I texted S and let her know and off we went to ride.

Thank goodness the ride was great or the entire day would have been a disaster.

When we got back to the trailer in the parking lot Gem refused to even walk over to be tied and un tacked. I eventually coaxed her over and knew then this wasn't going to be pretty. S stuck around which was beyond nice of her. She could easily (and rightfully) gone home and left this stranger with her bad horse to fend for themselves, but as it was she stayed put.

I tried everything I could think of to get her on the trailer. I tried a butt rope. Nope. I tried coaxing. Nope. I tried food. Nope. S came over to help and we tried zig zagging her slowly up to it. No. I tried backing her up as quickly as I could. Nope. I tried lunging her to get her attention. Nope. I tried poking her with the handle of a pitch fork. Nope. I even tried backing her onto the darn thing. Nope. The stubborn mule would stand all four feet on the darn ramp, lift up a hind hoof to rest, chew and half close her eyes. She wasn't scared of it. Just didn't want to get on.

2 hours later and poor W was beyond tired and starving and so were we. A trail ride that should have had me back home by 1:30 or 2 at the latest allowing for other important things to get done was now heading into the 3 o clock hour and we were still at the trail head.

  1. Ride her butt home to teach her that a trailer ride was much, much easier. But this wasn't going to happen because the only way I knew to get back to the barn was along major roads which wouldn't have been safe.
  2. Unload S's patient mare and put her on my trailer, load Gem and then unload S's mare. But then S said that her mare won't back out of a trailer, so there went that.
  3. Put Gem on S's trailer and have her follow us home and drop Gem off. Unfortunately, this meant a super out of the way trip for S.
We ended up with option #3 because we were spent. S made the comment at our barn that she could have stolen Gem and we were very trusting. I said GOOD! But you won't ever get her off your property again ;)

By the end I was extremely embarrassed to end our ride this way, frustrated beyond belief with Gem, questioning her suitability for this sport/life and wondering what on earth to do about it. S gave me the number of her dressage coach and I called but haven't heard back. I may try again, but my barn also has a trainer lady and I am going to ask her how much she would charge.

I posted the question to the endurance forum and got a lot of variations on the same theme. Most people said use a rope either behind her butt or around her barrel and take it out the front of the trailer. Stand with a whip or something else long and tap tap tap her butt if she stops or goes back. Each time she moves forward stop. She will learn that the only way to avoid the tapping is to get on the trailer. Others suggested lunging her every time she moves away from the trailer making it once again easier to just get on. I'm not sure what I am going to do, but I am going to dedicate a whole day this weekend to doing this. I will wait her out. She will get on that trailer!!!

April 1, 2014

Sorry For The Interruption

I'm going to interrupt my two part Gem story for something else and get back to it tomorrow.

Last night was a crummy night. We have a senior citizen living with us - Hero, my 14 year old Cardigan Welsh Corgi. He is the man. He is one of those once in a lifetime dogs and while I have another dog currently (Bones, a 7 year old Doberman/Great Dane mix) and will have others in the future, nobody will come close to Hero.

For some reason I've always had it in my mind that he will live to 15 and that I will be okay with it when his times comes because 15 is a long time. As each year has passed I have said, no big deal I still get 4 years with him, 2 years with him etc... but when he turned 14 in February I realized even with my totally artificial timeline it meant only 1 year. I make the best of every day I have with him and for the most part you would never know I got him for my 18th birthday and I am now turning 32. He goes on hikes in the woods with us, plays a lot and is generally in a good mood and in good form.

But starting back in December he began this really odd anxiety/panic attack like behavior. I'm not convinced he isn't bordering on a seizure and just never gets there. His whole body shakes, he pants, and he won't stop pacing. He won't lay down or get comfortable. It happens intermittently and we thought it was due to over exertion. He was tired and sore and this was what ensued. In fact it almost always happens in the middle of night. In truth he is getting senile and will wander off and get freaked out and so we thought it could also be due to him waking up, not recognizing where he is and freaking out. He is on a dose of anxiety meds at night and when it happens we also give him Rimadyl in case it is pain based. And it goes away in short order.

He started again last night. I'm not sure when, but I know I woke up to it at 2 am. He was panting, pacing, shaking and asking to get on the bed. But if you put him on the bed he can't get down so he just paces on top of your face and pants until you put him down. Rimadyl did no good. An extra anxiety pill did no good. Benadryl did no good. He paced and paced and paced. We put him outside to see if the cooler night air would help. Nope. At 4 am the hubs took him for a car ride to go buy W some milk to see if that would help settle him. Nope. Finally we gave up at 530 am and got around for the day. He of course fell asleep when the hubs was in the shower.

So Hero went off to work with the hubs to have xrays and blood work and see what is going on. The hubs has asked his boss for an opinion in the past with the same reply "that's odd". Maybe we need valium at home for him when he does this. It isn't even all that often. Maybe two times a month but it is sad because you just can't do anything to calm him down.

Keep us in your thoughts and lets hope everything comes back normal. Hopefully we can keep these to a minimum and keep moving on down the road.