June 30, 2014

Weekends Until Biltmore: 2

Two weekends. That's it. I am so excited and nervous!! It is time to break out the horse sized bubble wrap :)

I had big plans for the weekend. This was the closest I was comfortable asking for miles from Gem and so S and met at Clemson Friday morning for a ride. It felt like forever since I rode with her last and it was so good to see her and Ria again. Ria is looking great and is completely barefoot now too :)

The 10 miles flew by without a hitch and just a tad bit of sweat. Ok...I lied...there was a ton of sweating going on for all four of us. It was overcast and only about 80 out, but the humidity had to be 80% with storms brewing for the weekend. Great training for a July ride :) We kept a decent pace too and while Gem wasn't overly enthusiastic by the end, she kept up pretty well without complaining. She even went out front a good bit to give Ria a break from the flies.

Three things did pop up:
1) S let me try out her s-hack which was awesome since I have had it on my wish list for forever. It was the exact type I want to order as well. It is a good thing I tried it before shelling out the dough  because no matter what we did it just wouldn't fit. Gem's head is odd...not tiny by any means, but I always have a hard time getting head gear to fit her. She needs either a cob or small horse sized anything and even on the smallest settings, this thing was way too large. Cross that item off the list!

2) I used her black ear bonnet again. This is the 3rd ride using it and she seems to like it. I tied like in the past, but at mile 8 she shook her head really hard and the thing flopped off her ears and under her chin. Oops...guess I need to tie it tighter next time. The ground was very hard and dusty and the next day the BO called to let us know her eyes were runny. It was clear fluid and she kept her eyes open and not blinky, so we waited until Sunday to check her out and all looked fine. I'm thinking the dust got to her and maybe that was why she shook her head?

3) After we were done I noticed two very small swollen areas at the front of the girth. Crap. She hasn't had a single rub in this get up since I got it. She has gone farther than this too, so it couldn't have been the distance. I checked and it was all fit where it should and no rubs or soreness from the saddle. Not what I needed this close to the ride. I grabbed the girth to take home and wash and then thought since I was cleaning that I might as well grab the saddle pad and bridle too, so everything came home with me and got a good cleaning that afternoon. Hopefully this will solve the problem and if not I will have show sheen along with me.

So that was Friday. S mentioned that T wanted to ride Sunday morning and do at least a 10 mile loop with a break for lunch then another 10 or 15 mile loop after. I didn't want to put that many miles on Gem, but thought about joining them for just the first loop. But then S texted me Saturday night that they were meeting at 1100 and that is just way too late for me, so I opted to just ride at the barn. I woke up Sunday morning to a phone call from S at 0730 asking if I got her text message.

Hmmm...no. Apparently she decided 1100 was too late as well and wanted to ride at 0900 and then possibly make her second loop T's first loop at 1100. She had texted me after I went to bed so I hadn't seen it. Well, I was game for that and managed the impossible....I got myself, the hubs and W all up, dressed and out the door in 20 minutes!!! Unfortunately, just as we were setting out S called back and said she wasn't comfortable with the forecast calling for T-storms all day and wasn't going to go anymore.

Having managed to get everyone up and moving I wasn't going to just stay home, so we loaded up the truck with some supplies for a project I had in mind for the hubby and we went to the barn. The hubby worked hard on my project and I hung out with W playing in the barn. Bones came along too and was able to run around with the barn dog and even jumped in the pond for a swim. It ended up being a lovely morning. It wasn't raining, so I decided to go get Gem. I needed to check out her eyes anyway. When I got her, the right eye was dry and the left had just a smidge of clear fluid. I really think it was just the dusty trail that got to her.

I pulled her in to ride and just then remembered my nice and clean bridle, girth and saddle pad sitting at home. Crap :( I ran out of the house so fast I didn't remember to grab them. I'm not brave enough to ride both bareback and in just a halter, so I took Gem to the arena for some free lunging. She looked absolutely beautiful running around and is looking so fit. I paid close attention to her feet and legs, but nothing looked off at all. I think we are just about as ready as we can be!!

June 23, 2014

Weekends Until Biltmore: 3

(Technically as of today there are two remaining, but this is in reference to this past weekend)

Three weekends left until our southeast endurance/limited distance debut. What did I do with it? Not ride. I did actually go see the Gemmiecakes, so that counts for something. She is looking really great. Super fit and shiny and is super happy as well. I went out Friday morning and did some things that I will post about separately, but she had the entire weekend off and actually she has had the entire week off.

The hubby had a big race this weekend and a good friend of his flew in from California to run it with him, so that took my entire weekend. I was glad for the break from riding and it was really nice to go support the hubby and get to hang out with his friend. Also, the running culture and community is so different from that of endurance and it was actually really refreshing to be around that again. I miss going to races.

S got in a great hot and humid 20 mile hilly ride this weekend on her mare. I was a little sad I didn't get to go, but then I am just not convinced that Gem needs a hot and humid 20 mile ride this close to her LD. I know she needs to be fit and trim and conditioning is needed, but there is just something holding me back from wanting to put that many miles on her feet. We never did anywhere close to that in a conditioning ride before and she did just fine. Again, I am not saying we are going to win this thing or even finish it, but I really believe a lot of people over do it in training.

I will get a ride in this coming weekend. Not sure how long it will end up being, but I do want to get her out with 2 weeks to go.

June 19, 2014


In case you are just tuning in  - we moved. Again. Actually, we both really like the new house a lot better than the last one we rented and it is so much closer to just about everything. I love living in the country and hope to someday have our own farm, but if I must live in suburbia I want everything to be super close or else why put up with neighbors? Now we are and it is grand.

What isn't so nice is that now the Dynamic Duo are 50 minutes away. OUCH. I was debating just leaving them there. I adore FS Farms. It is possibly the best place we have ever had them. But when I left the house at 0730 Sunday morning and made it to the trail head at 1030, my mind was made up: the horses must be moved. It is crazy to take that long just to get on the horse and it just wont ever happen during the week like that.

Once I knew we would be moving to the other side of things back in the spring, I began to look for a new barn for the horses. Way back then I contacted just about every place I could find and ended up looking at four barns.

#1: 50 acres of what should have been beautiful pasture. Lighted small arena, place for the trailer and good hay and grain. They would be brought into a stall to eat and then let back out. They could be kept together. Trailer parking. $250/horse/month. But.....when we looked at it the "pasture" was a paddock that required dragging monthly and there was no grass in sight. Why? because the 50 acres had about 70 horses crammed on to it. No go.

#2: 15 acres (ish) right down from my work. Indoor arena, awesome outdoor arena with lights, brought in to eat and could be kept together. $300/horse/month. But....had no trailer parking and all the horses were rotated between two dirt areas and kept in a massive herd that was oversized for the tiny spot. No go.

#3: 17 lush acres of grass in 5 pastures. Mares and geldings separate. Amazing timothy hay, soaked beet pulp, supplements, hosed off in summer to cool down, fly system, lighted arena. Basically a spa for the horses in every way possible. Trailer parking. $345/horse/month. But...kept inside stall 13 hours during daylight in summer and 12 hours overnight in winter. No go.

#4: 80 acres in two pastures. Mare and geldings separate. Outside 24/7. Hay provided when needed, mostly in winter. Lighted arena. Small set of trails on property. Trailer parking. $200/horse/month. Downside: Gem and Pete get split. Probably where we will end up though.

We weren't really in love with any options, so we decided to sit on our butts on it for a bit longer until we actually moved.

Well, we are moved and this isn't going to work out. So...I looked online in case something new popped up and it did. A family run operation close by. I checked it out yesterday and...it won't work. Darn nit. Why is this so hard???

I actually liked it quite a bit and the Duo can stay together in a nice grassy area. It isn't very big, but it is serviceable. Problem? They have a new boarder coming in with a stud colt. And it is going out in the pasture up front with just regular old wooden fence about 6 feet high. What do you think will happen the first time that Gemmie comes into heat? That stud colt will go bursting through that wimpy little fence and impregnate my mare. I don't need a Gemmie foal. I really don't need some random who-knows-what-breed Gemmie foal. So no go.


June 18, 2014

Weekends Left Until Biltmore: 4

Remember my pre-Biltmore strategy? This past weekend was supposed to be a nice long 15 mile trail ride. Ha!! Instead I did a hot and humid 4 miles.

This move has been never ending and even still there is stuff remaining at the old house to do. Will it ever be finished?! But....Sunday morning I was determined to ride the Wild Thing. It had been 2 entire weeks since I last rode her and she needed it. Or I needed it. Or a combination of the two.

Unfortunately, this move has created a complication in our boarding arrangement: she is now 50 minutes away from me. ICK. I left the house at 7:30am and ended up getting to the trail head at 10:30. Insanely annoying and not conducive to a happy rider. I will leave out all the details on why this took so long because I basically want to wipe them from my memory.
Time was short as it was since we still had to get some moving done and needed both adults present and the truck that I had commandeered to pull the trailer. There went the idea of 15 miles. I still had hopes to do maybe like 10 if we went fast enough. But that quickly went out the window when it was 90 degrees and humid as all get out already and I was just starting. My hopes were now down to just getting in 6.5 miles. HA!

I tacked up and had wanted to go the backwards way along the green loop, but noticed a couple heading that direction at a pace that wasn't going to work for me, so instead of annoying them by passing them on a single track trail I went the opposite direction and headed out on the green loop in the proper direction.

She already looks hot and we haven't started yet
Not a happy Gemmiecakes

Looking god and fit though

I always walk the start because it is along the road and sometimes Gem is a monster along the beginning. Right when we were nearing the end and could almost see the woods I heard the sound of someone barreling down the road behind us. I looked back and sure enough there was a guy on a gaited horse of some type racking on down the road. We exchanged pleasantries as he passed and we continued on our way. I had hoped that we wouldn't catch him again, but low and behold once we entered the woods he was walking.

Ok..no biggie...we were trotting now so we could just pass them and be on our way. Except right when we got close, he went back to gaiting. I could see where this was going and wasn't particularly fond of it.

When he got a little ways out, he walked again and since we were keeping up a steady pace we quickly came up behind him yet again. This time he let us pass, but then decided to tag along with us without asking and stayed behind us. Fine. Gemmie didn't know this horse worth a darn so she led fairly well without having to feel responsible for their safety.

I must admit - I wasn't in the friendliest mood ever having come off of a long week of moving, being sick and now running so late for my ride I couldn't do what I wanted. So when he started up a conversation I wasn't so keen to keep it up, but we did chat for a ways about him and his horse and wheat Gem and I (attempt) to do. He was very friendly.

When we hit the access road I let Gem graze a little to let him go on ahead, but he just kept waiting up for us. Sigh. Eventually I told him to go on ahead of us, but he didn't. Sigh.

Why was this a problem? For many reasons really one being I was in a terrible mood as mentioned above but also because I felt too much pressure. I know it was all on me, but I just wanted a ride where I could go my own pace without having to worry about anyone. If I wanted to walk, I wanted to do so without having someone else breathing down my neck. It is different riding with S because she is a friend and on the same page as me, so I don't really worry so much. But having this strange guy riding up behind me all the time made me feel pushed to go faster even when I wanted to give Gem a walk break due to the heat.

Anyway...by the time we were 2 miles in I had had enough with my company and took a yellow trail that ran off to the left. I said a polite goodbye and we headed down the new trial. I was hot and had a terrible headache from a weeks worth of mild dehydration and just wanted to be done. Gem had sweat trickling off her, but was still in a forward mood. The yellow trail ended up being a short cut and we got back to the green trail at mile marker 5. By the time we got back to the trailer, my head was spinning with the heat and lack of water and it was later than I wanted, so I called it quits at 4 miles.

Not such a great ride, but we kept a 4.5 mph pace which was reasonable.

Honestly, after that ride I think Gem is ready to go for the 25. Will we definitely finish it? No. But we are about as fit as can be heading into it. Hydration will be key for both of us, but thankfully it goes from 6:30am-12:30pm, so either way we will be out of the worse of it come ride day. I just don't see the benefit of pushing her really hard this close to ride date.

June 17, 2014

Just Chaps Review

The new Just Chaps neoprene mesh half chaps arrived quicker than I thought with free shipping. Yay! I was really worried the size wouldn't work. I always seem to measure in the calf for one size and in length for another. But I chose to go with a small and hoped it worked.

I got to test them out on Sunday on a shorter than planned trail ride. The material is very soft and super light weight. I was worried that they would be too long especially since my other pair were made so that the outer rim was longer versus the inside. These are the same length all around. But I needn't have worried because they fit just fine for the length.

What I should have done was wear one of the old ones on one leg and the new ones on the other so that I could compare how they felt while I rode. I didn't think of that until I was half way down the trail though. Oh well.

Initial impressions were that they are very soft, light and flexible. The elastic at the bottom that goes over the shoe is the perfect length to fit over my running shoes without being too taut or loose, so that is a big bonus. The shoe end is a little narrow making the stretch over the running shoe a bit tight, but I found that with my old ones as well. They just aren't made to go over the bulk of a running shoe with the laces and all. It did fit though and I was able to button up the bottom as well, so it wasn't an issue. I really like the extra Velcro strap at the top. It allows you to make it slightly more custom fitting since you can make the calf tighter or a little looser depending on how you set the strap. Plus it has the logo on it which is kind of nice. I am really bummed they only are black. It blends too well with my riding tights, but that is a completely cosmetic and useless observation in the end. Other things to note: the zipper moved smoothly, but is plastic. While that is lighter weight, it also isn't the best material. I like metal zippers better. Also, the fake suede inner calf patch is very small and incredibly thin. Not sure what the actual point of it is.

They did feel pretty tight over all. I think this was a combination of freshly washed riding tights and the fact that they are brand new versus my old ones which have been around since 2009 and are very stretched out. During the ride, my left foot kept falling asleep and I kept feeling something bunched up behind my left knee. I checked and it wasn't the rim of the chap, but was my riding tight which has never happened before. So either I didn't pull them down enough or something with the chap and the tights wasn't working out so hot. Or it could have been that my stirrups for some reason felt short and my leg felt jammed up. I wont say they are causing an issue until it has happened more than once.
I was expecting some super refreshingly cool breeze on my calf during the ride since they are mesh and that was the big selling feature. I didn't. They weren't any hotter than my all leather ones, but I don't really think they were any cooler either. This is where wearing one type on each leg would have helped to compare how sweaty and hot my legs were at the end of the ride.
At the end of the day, I'm giving these chaps a B+. They were comfortable and light weight and fit really well in length and width. They clasped shut over the running shoe which isn't something all chaps can do. I wasn't noticing any cooling effects, so minus points for that claim.
But...overall I am concerned that they won't hold up all that well. They just seem kind of....flimsy for being endurance gear. My Ovation leather half chaps have been on every ride I have ever taken (arena work, jumping, trails, endurance rides, hunter paces etc...) since 2009 and the only wear is to the stitching on the inner calf patch. I highly doubt these will last even half that long, but we will see. Neoprene is pretty tough material, but I'm not super convinced. Time will tell if they were worth the $75 or not. My Ovation ones were $35 in 2009.


June 15, 2014

Pre Biltmore Strategy

If only there were more hours in a day. Or less work that needed to be done.

What I want to do and what will happen in reality are usually very different and I have no misconceptions that this will go any differently. I want to go into the ride with a fit horse, but I also want to go into the ride on a well rested horse. I personally think most endurance riders over train, over ride and over condition. Gem is fit. She is ready. The only thing she could use more work on is cardio, but distance is doing pretty darn well.

With the entry form submitted we now have 4 weekends left (including this current one). This is how I would love to see it play out:

Weekend #1: A 15 mile ride at a decent pace. Not necessarily 7 mph, but would like to keep at least a 4-5 mph pace going.

Weekend #2: A fast, but short ride. Do the green 6.5 mile loop at Clemson, but keep a strong 7-9 mph pace

Weekend #3: One last longer ride 10-12 miles, 5 mph pace

Weekend #4: short and slow ride, 6.5 miles 3 mph, just to stretch those legs

Here is the reality of the situation:

Weekend #1: Continue to finish up the move plus I have been dealing with a sore throat and fever for the last 2 days. Probably will get the 9 mile red loop in at 3.5-4 mph

Weekend #2: Hubby is running a 100 mile run with his friend coming into town from CA to join him. No riding at all.

Weekend #3: A long ride with S, hopefully 15+ miles at a decent pace

Weekend #4: short and slow ride to get the legs stretched

I still have the week nights to use as well, but a huge complication has come up with that (I am working on that post was well, but have deleted it 3 times for various reasons) and my time out there is very limited. I want to get 2 good speed work outs in each week for the next two weeks. 30 -45 minutes of trot and canter work each. Should be doable. I may be able to eek a ride in next Friday before R flies in from Cali as long as I get myself up early enough. That may be a nice short and fast ride day.

June 14, 2014

Entry Form Submitted :)


I actually have butterflies in my stomach.

July 12, 2014 will see Gemmie and I cruising down the trails at Biltmore in our re-introduction to endurance southeast region style. I sincerely hope it is a much better experience than up north or I will cry.

Not only do I get to ride 25 miles that day, but I also get to camp at one of the most beautiful places and my ride entry grants me complete access to the entire grounds including the vineyard. Unfortunately, we don't get access into the actual Biltmore house. They probably don't want a bunch of smelly, sweaty horse people walking around inside.

Poor Gem almost got signed up for the 55 mile ride because the fee is the same and why not go twice as far for the same price? In the end I think it is smarter to do the 25 since it is the first ride she will have done in 2 years, the first time ever camping solo, and its in the midst of the SC/NC summer heat and humidity. But still....it was so very tempting.

The great part is that S is going to do the 25 miler on Saturday as well, so hopefully we can snag some camping right next to each other. T has signed up for the 55 on Friday, so while she won't be riding Sat we can congratulate her Friday night and hang out in camp. S and T have both been doing this for years and know a lot of people, so I am sure I will get to meet some great endurance folks and learn a lot.

I took a peek at the ride map. The first loop in 11.9 miles and looks pretty straight forward following a blue marked trail. It is one big loop starting and ending at camp. There is a 40 minute hold in camp then back out to do the second part. Which is the scary part. I am already lost :(

Loop 2 trail map 

It starts out on a black trail and quickly comes to a Y where you must go left on the way out, snakes by the river and comes to a second Y where you must go right and then comes out onto a large yellow loop. Once the yellow loop is done you go back on the black where you left it, but once you get to the Y again you go right and then left at the last one. I think I better hook up with someone to ride this section!

The only other thing I am worried about is camping solo. She always had Pete with her before, but she also always had a stall at night. Now that she is out 24/7 I think the transition to camping won't be that noticeable. We will see!!!

Now to get some actual saddle time in before hand...

June 13, 2014

Farrier Visit

If you made it through yesterday's post, you may have thought to yourself "why on earth would you schedule the farrier to come to the barn on moving day?" Good question!

Originally we were going to move the previous Saturday, but then W got sick and we lost Hero and I lost interest in that idea. Hubs has Wednesday's off and the farrier really doesn't do weekends, so Wednesday is the only week day that typically works. Someone also might have sort of freaked out a little at the condition of Pete's feet the week before and yelled at the hubs to make an appointment for him ASAP. So Wednesday it was.

Maybe I shouldn't admit to this, but guess when the farrier was out last for the Dynamic Duo? Beginning of February. Yep, almost 16 weeks without a trim.

The farrier comes every 6 weeks and the BO texts everyone the date and asks who needs done. Since they schedule it, they are more than happy to catch and hold for it. You just have to let them know and bring a check at some point. And we kept skipping it. Gem just never needed done.

I admit, I have very little to do with Pete. Most people find this very odd, but he isn't my horse. Yes, he is the hubby's but beyond saying hi to him and bringing him in if the hubs asks, I treat him like any other horse that isn't mine on the property. I have only sat on him twice in 4 years and the last time was our first winter in WI...so roughly winter of 2010...4 years ago! He and the hubby have their own thing going on and I just stay away. But...a couple weeks ago I happened to be out loving on Gem and looked down at Pete's feet. And nearly crapped myself. They looked long, chipped, flared. Horrible. I got mad. I texted the hubby and told him he needed the farrier out ASAP. And so a week or two later, he finally did. And it fell on moving day.

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to be there and so the hubby was tasked with getting as much information as possible out of the farrier regarding the health of Gem's feet and her lack of being trimmed for the past 16 weeks.

Unfortunately, he missed Gem being trimmed, but showed up in time to chat, take her back out and catch Pete.

Farrier's words about Gem: she has awesomely amazing feet, he barely rasped her at all, and why on earth don't we just buy a stand and a rasp and do it ourselves?  He said that he only touched her because we asked him out and she was there. Otherwise he would have just let her go on without being touched at all. She is self trimming like a barefoot pro!!!

Now, Gemmie hasn't been ridden in almost 2 weeks. Not optimal with our summer rides about to commence, but life gets in the way and so she has had a mini vacation. When the hubby took her back out he said he had a racehorse on the end of the lead rope. She was prancing, snorting and carrying on. He let her loose and she took off snorting, farting and bucking as fast as she could. She ran through the herd of horses (Pete and two mares) trying to create a stir and they all just looked at her like she was stupid. So she snorted, farted and bucked again until she got them all up and they took off to the far side of the pasture. Gotta love that mare!!

The hubs caught Pete eventually and the farrier took a look. He is also barefoot and has been for a while. When he was being ridden every week, his feet were doing super well. Now that he gets ridden maybe once a month, they aren't self trimming so great. But even with that and 16 weeks since last being trimmed, the farrier only had to rasp. No actual trimming at all. He did mention the chips, but they were all superficial. And he does have some weird flares beginning, but they were not all that bad. His opinion: get a rasp and a stand and do it ourselves.

I love our barefoot horses!!!

June 12, 2014


Sorry for yet another non horse related post. Gemmie will get her turn tomorrow again.

Moving is no fun. If you want to see how quickly all of your family and friends can disappear on you, just ask them to help you move. Actually we have been really lucky/blessed with help in the past. Our big move down south only occurred due to the help of our friend B and my sister-in-law. But this move found us going solo - just the hubby and I - with a house full of obscenely heavy furniture and a time limit.

The plan was simple, but aren't they always? Who makes insanely complicated plans? Anyway...

Pick up truck Tuesday night.
Load as much as possible after W went to bed.
Take him to day care Wed morning then head back to current house (CH) to finish up
Head to new house (NH) to unload and finish before 5 pm to pick W back up

There were two minor issues in advance: gas man was to be at NH between 12-4 to turn gas on and farrier was due at the barn between 1030 and 11. This wasn't too big of a deal though and we planned to have the hubby stay at the NH unloading/unpacking while I went to the barn. Done.

But....that is most definitely not what happened.

It all began on Tuesday. The hubby went and picked up the truck (thankfully it was actually there) and came home in time to say goodnight to W. Great. Lets load!! And then we found out problem #1: no dolly, no pads. Crap. No moving furniture.

Ok...lets go to plan B. We decided to load up all the boxes and any lighter furniture that the hubby could unload by himself and take the first load over to the NH Tuesday night. Done.

Wednesday morning we took W to daycare (swimming and snow cone day!!) and headed back to the truck store to get the dolly and moving pads. By the time we got back to the CH it was already 845 and time was getting tight. Fortunately, the farrier texted saying he would be there at 1 pm, so that gave us more time.

We loaded up all the incredibly heavy furniture. I mean seriously heavy furniture. I should shop at Ikea. At least the furniture would be light then. But instead I use my great grandmother's bedroom furniture which is from when it was actually made out of solid, real wood. Which is why it has last so long. But man, that stuff is heavy! Anyway.....

It was getting late and we needed to leave by 1030 to give us time to go the 40 minutes to NH, unpack and then the 45+ minutes to the barn, catch the beasts and meet the farrier. This meant we had to leave some things behind. That meant another trip was in order. Boo.

We got to NH, unloaded and by this time I had one massive migraine. Pete is notoriously hard to catch in the pasture and I wasn't in the mood to deal with him, so I sent the hubs. I waited for the gas man and unpacked all the kitchen stuff, moved some lighter furniture in and just when I kicked off my shoes to rest, the hubby came back. Darn. There went my nap.

It was 330 and we still had to get back to the CH to get one last load of furniture that we couldn't use the pick up truck for and had to get W by 5:30. Gas man still hadn't shown. We unloaded all the remaining heavy crap from the truck and then the phone rang. Gas man was running late and would be there at 5. Nope. Sorry we needed to get back to CH, load up and then get W. So he planned for 6 instead.

At 4 we left NH and headed to CH for one last load of stupidly, arm achingly heavily furniture. I then left and picked up W while the hubs finished loaded some stuff and met us at the NH.

Poor W. He was so confused :( We walked into the NH and he was all happy to explore. Until he saw the couch he recognized. And the china closet...and the dinning room chairs...and his crib. He was not happy. He had no clue why all these familiar things were in this new, strange place. Poor kid.

Hubs showed up, we fed W and put him in his new bedroom hoping he would actually sleep. Which he did.

I then got back in the minivan one last time and drove 40 minutes back to CH to pick up the cats, dog, pet food, litter pans, bathroom supplies, bed sheets/pillows and some toys for W. All loaded up and I hit the road.

On my way back to NH I followed the Pizza Hut man who thankfully turned into our driveway and dropped off a juicy, greasy, wonderful pepperoni pizza with extra sauce. My favorite!!

The gas man had showed up around 7pm (there goes that whole 12-4 thing) and was gone by the time I got back. We ate dinner and I quickly passed out.

Unfortunately, we still have a ton of stuff to do. We left all the food, pantry, closets, odds and ends in the garage and baby toys behind. We still have everything except the kitchen to unpack. All the furniture is helter skelter in the house and our bed isn't even on the frame yet. But...I don't care. It took me a wonderful 15 minutes to get to daycare this morning versus 35 before. And it was a nice drive. We will go back to CH this evening once W is asleep (well one of us will, the other will continue to unpack and organize life) and hopefully get the rest of the crap out of the CH. Then we can just get the CH all cleaned up and ready for the new people and get back to our life.

Oh...and W slept awesome. He woke up and immediately saw one of the cats, screamed "KITTY CAT!" with a huge grin, gave Bones (the dog) a hug and happily ran around the house creating havoc. I think he will settle in just fine.

June 10, 2014

Speaking of Packages...

(This was written last week prior to my loss of Hero and was originally slated to be posted Monday)

I have been working on a little project. I ran across the idea while reading a fellow horse blogger's posts. It is called Blurb. And I am addicted.

When I got home from work Tuesday of last week I found this nice little surprise waiting for me on my door step.

(I apologize in advance for the really crappy quality of these hastily shot cell phone pictures)

Ooooh...shiny package!!! Must.Open.It.Now.

Only I couldn't because it was feeding time at the zoo...err...I mean at home and I didn't want any grubby little baby finger prints all over it. So I showed a small amount of restraint and waited to open it until he went to bed an hour later.

What is Blurb? It is an online book creating/publishing/printing company. You can make just about anything: novel, magazine, picture book etc... You can link to Amazon to sell it and even create an e-book for personal use or to sell. But what really caught my attention was the ability to make a book out of your blog. What an amazing idea!! I could have all my writings, all my pictures, all my memories in a nice shiny book.

I mentioned it to the hubs that I was going to play around with it for this blog and he countered by asking if I could make a book out of my first blog because he likes to go back and read it from time to time and he thinks it would be great to allow W to read it some day when he is old enough to understand.

Since that blog was much shorter (I think 60 entries total) with only a handful of pictures strewn through it, I figured it would be a much easier project than this beast of a blog.

The software is free to download and has different options for size of book, hard cover, soft cover etc... and a plethora of color, font and style choices. One option is to just have them import your blog for you and create the book that way. I tried that first to see what would happen. It is a nice feature since it imports in not only every post, but also associates the pictures with it as well, but I didn't like the layout at all and ended up having to redo it myself. The only issue I kept running into was that my picture quality was sub optimal and I couldn't make the pictures as large as I wanted due to poor quality when printed.

8 hours later I had a book created. I played around with the font and style and background a ton and eventually settled on a nice 8"x10" soft cover book.

Front Cover
Better view of front cover


I really like how it turned out. It looks pretty professional. I'm not sure I would go with the blue paper the entire way through again, but the hubs loves it.

It didn't cost a fortune, around $50 total with shipping and all. It all depends on the style, size, number of pages and paper quality you choose. The turn around time was fantastic. I could have gotten it in a week if I wanted to pay $15 in shipping. The lowest shipping still got it to me in 2 weeks time from placing the order. I am thrilled with it.

I have been working on making a book out of this blog mostly to have all the picture printed. I am going to have to chop it into various volumes though due to the number of posts and pictures. They sent me a 15% off coupon on my next order, so hopefully I can order my Gemmie book soon.

Then as if that wasn't enough to make my night, I opened an envelope to find this in it:

My Ride and Tie membership card along with a really nice pin!!! I was really excited :)

June 9, 2014

A Loving Farewell

I miss you a little, since you've been gone
A few little memories keep hanging on
I miss you a little, I guess you could say
A little too much, a little too often, a little more everyday
- John Michael Montgomery

I have wanted a dog since I had enough brain cells to know what a dog was. I blame the Disney Movie Lady and the Tramp, but honestly it could have started long before that. I asked (well begged more likely) for a dog for every Christmas and birthday and pretty much every day in between. I secretly hoped a puppy would follow me home from school one day (because that ever happens in real life) and that I could keep it. But my parents weren't dog people. What child version of me failed to realize is that even the most passion filled promise to walk the dog in the dead of winter, feed the dog regularly and bathe the dog means nothing when espoused from the lips of a 10 year old who has no concept of vet care and bills and commitment. And so child version of me got a hamster.

Time marched on and I found myself looking into college options. I decided to stay at home and commute to a good private school just down the road. My parents were so happy that two days after my 18th birthday they found themselves driving clear across the state to pick up an 8 week old black and white male Cardigan Welsh Corgi.

I still vividly remember the day they brought him home. They had told me they were going on a business trip and would be back long before they showed up. I had gotten my hair cut that day and when I heard them enter through the laundry room I just said something about how late they were getting back. They were acting a little strange and so I turned my recliner chair around to see what was going on. And nothing was. They were standing in the doorway looking back towards the laundry room. Odd. And then finally, as if the initial inspection of the new digs were satisfactory after all, in sauntered the most adorable and self righteous looking pup I had ever seen. My dad laughed saying "you know you might still have him when you are 30." My 18 year old self just laughed, but my now 32 year old self is so thankful that that was true.

Thus began a 14 year journey filled with so much laughter, love and memories that it would take about that long to tell them all. I have my favorites. The ones time will never erase. Like the time he went on a trail ride with me and brand new hubby and puffed out his chest really big and muttered a quiet little "woof" to the hedgerow looking very proud of himself. Thirty seconds later the most ticked off donkey I have ever seen thrust his head through the bushes and screamed ear piercingly loud "heehaw" causing Hero to take off as fast as his little legs could carry him back down the trail toward home with us on the horses galloping after him laughing.

Or how he loved watching TV with PBR (professional bull riding) being his favorite. Every weekend we would watch PBR and he would shake his toys and buck at the TV. But he could only watch a half an hour or else he would seriously get bad dreams.

Or how he loved his hikes in the woods. He could go for miles and miles and as a pup I'd have to take him out morning and evening to tire him out. I've seen so many wonderful parks and explored so many beautiful trails because of him. I learned to love winter hiking especially after a fresh snowfall. My mom and I would rush out to the local trails to be the first ones to make tracks in the newly fallen snow. And every single time some man in size 15 boots would always somehow beat us to it. We used to get so angry.

Everyone who met him loved him. It was impossible not to. He wasn't exceptionally cuddly or loving, but he had charisma to spare.

When you love an animal you know there will be a day when you have to say goodbye. When you must part ways and rely on those memories to get you through until you can see him again. You know this, but yet when the time comes you are never ready. I sure wasn't and at least I had known for a while that time was running out. He was slowly losing interest in everything he loved. And he was in pain.

Saturday morning we went on one last walk and he wouldn't even get out of the van. When he did I could easily see he just didn't have it in him anymore. He was tired, weak and in pain and the only thing left to do was allow him to be free again. So we sat outside in the grass and I held him so tight and kissed him so big and said my goodbye as he drifted off in my arms.

It was the single hardest and most heart breaking thing I've ever had to do. And yet, knowing the end, knowing the pain I still feel today, I would go back and do it all over again. He filled my life with so much love, so much laughter how could I not want to?

It is so hard being home without him. He was such a big presence and truly my world revolved around him. I love him so much. And I miss him even more. I have his favorite toy and his snazzy red plaid collar in safe keeping. Night time is the worst. For 14 years I always have given him a kiss goodnight and told him I loved him and now I can't anymore.

I don't know for sure if there is a heaven. But I can picture him up there with all his old friends from the first park we ever took him to. He was the last hold out of his original group of friends and he had many a motley crew:

Molly, the boxer
Earl, the jack russel terrier
Senji, the basenji
The springer spaniel sisters
Rosco, the basset hound
Buck, the standard poodle
Buck, the lab
Frederick  and Theodore, the schnauzers
Arthur and Teddy down the street

He had more friends than I had. And I can picture the reunion in a big grassy field running, tails wagging as they catch up again. And someday down the road I will get to see him again. Until then he will always be the best dog a girl could hope for, the best friend a woman could want and the most dearly loved and missed dog ever.

I love and miss you so much Hero. Thank you for 14 glorious years together. Have fun being strong and young again, running through the woods chasing squirrels and deer with your friends. I will see you again and give you the biggest hug.

June 5, 2014

And The AERC Fight Continues

In This Corner...

Are The Purists.

These are the members who want to keep endurance riding as it was in days gone by. They have caved in the past when 50 mile rides were added to the sacred 100 mile ride and then watched in dismay as people abandoned the founding distance for the simpler, shorter distance. Shortly there after they cringed as the vote got passed to add distances of 25 miles to the line up. Where was their beloved sport going? They call for a return to the roots: if you can't get a horse prepared safely for 25 miles, then you don't belong here. They see the world as being overrun by quitters. People who whine and complain when something is too difficult and force the world to dumb it down so they can participate. They see these are folks who do not wish to put forth the effort to condition and worry about tack, nutrition and hydration. Their bottom line is that anything less than 25 miles (and some still counter with anything less than 50 miles) is not endurance and should be left at home.

And In This Corner...

Are The Survivors

These are the members who only see a dwindling and aging membership with rides being cancelled due to poor turn out and rising costs of everything. They see a bleak future where their sport is relegated to a few rides a year spread out over unconquerable miles leaving most of the people without any rides at all. They want a larger umbrella: bring in the young, the old, the weak, the tired. You can't do 25 miles? Fine we will host a 15 mile ride for you. The more the merrier to spread the word, share costs and hopefully convince a few to move up the ranks. They see a whole untouched demographic of middle aged working, family raising individuals who don't have time to do a 25, but their money is still green and so why not have a place for them? This isn't dumbing down the sport. It is merely adding to it. They point to the jumpers who have classes ranging from mere ground poles you trot over to those doing 5 foot fences. They point to human runners with 1 mile kid runs and 100+ mile ultras. There is room for all without destroying the basic core at all.

This is just the latest installment of what appears to be a long standing and ever lasting argument in the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC). Recently, they added a 15 mile option - no time restraints, but you need to vet in and out. This was proposed as a way to increase membership for those who can't do the longer distances and help keep the sport alive. And then the online forums and social media outlets caught on fire with arguments from both camps.

Honestly, I am on the fence on this one. I can easily see both arguments here. I understand the need to preserve some level of difficulty to keep away people who aren't interested in putting forth all the time and effort required of conditioning a horse. The rides aren't just about the completion miles. It is about the journey of education and bonding with the horse that allows you to get to the finish line 25 miles (or more) later sound and happy and wanting more. Put the work it. It is worth it.

But I also understand that every club, every sport needs a strong base of support. You can't have a pyramid standing on the point. The elites will always be small in number or they wouldn't be elite. Where do the elite come from? Beginners who get hooked and move on up the levels. I personally don't feel like my completion of 25 or 50 miles is diminished at all by someone else "just" doing 15 miles. How does that affect me? It doesn't.

I do strongly feel, however, that if the AERC wants to add shorter distances in that two things need to occur:

1) The same rules need to apply no matter the distance. Meaning vet in, vet out, have some form of a time limit even one that is extremely easy. This will ensure that no matter what distance the rider/horse is doing they need to show up fit, prepared and with properly fitting tack.

2) Welcome them! It will only make matters worse if you allow the distance, take the money and then very distinctly make every single rider who enters those distances feel like they don't belong and are just being sued to pay for the expenses of the ride. If you hold the ride, be welcoming, friendly and happy to see all the new faces. Be open t new ideas and suggestions. Don't ignore the newbies. Invite them to your campfire and answer all the millions of questions they will have. That is the way to get people hooked and coming back for more.

June 4, 2014

VC Blog Hop: Let's Make a Baby (horse, not human :)

Hmmm...breeding the Gemmiecakes, huh? The initial post asked to please ignore personal thoughts on backyard breeding (for the record I am strongly against it) and just have fun with the topic.

Unfortunately, I have not put any thought whatsoever into breeding Gem. Don't get me wrong. I do thoroughly love my Gemmiecakes. Each ride is getting better and better and Sunday after a conditioning ride I thought not only how lucky I am to have her but how very far the two of us have come. But breed her? No way!

But....to play along the best I can here are my thoughts:

What Gemmie brings to the table:
Good, solid confirmation. A strong back, straight legs and a gorgeous hind end. She has muscle to spare and holds onto it well. She easily brings her impulsion from her hind end naturally.

Excellent hooves. I'm talking most.awesome.hooves.ever.

Brains. She is very smart and while she usually uses that in a negative fashion, she can learn quickly and is easy(ish) to train.

Not mareish at all. I can never even tell when she is in heat because she acts the exact same. She is low mare on the totem pole, never picks a fight and doesn't do anything aggressive. Her temperament in this regard is perfect.

Awesome bay coloring :) I love me a brown horse. If I did breed her she would have the potential to produce a more colorful foal. She is registered as a breeding stock pinto and comes from a line of color, so a small Gemmie baby might be colorful if bred to the right sire.

Things left to be desired:
Work ethic. Oh man she is one lazy horse when push comes to shove.  A sire that brings a strong desire to work would be great.

On that note, a more enhanced desire to please would be great. And definitely add in some loving attitude.

More loft to her step. She isn't the most springy mover although she can be when she wants to. Basically she has learned efficient movement and daisy clips her way down the trail. A lot of Arabians have a nice spring to their step.

From what I know of the various Arabian lines out there (which is admittedly very little) I think I would look into the Egyptian lines as they tend to be known as being very people loving, friendly and possess that desire to please that my mare lacks. CMK breeding is also up there on my list for a great endurance prospect.

June 3, 2014

I'm In trouble...

Have I mentioned that I hate malls and shopping? I do. I can't remember the last non baby shopping trip I made. Most of my clothes have been either a Christmas or birthday gift which is great.
What I do love is presents. Shiny, bright presents. Just seeing a box at my door when I get home puts a massive, little girl on Christmas morning style grin on my face. Just ask the hubs. I ravenously tear into packages even when I know it just contains mundane things like supplements. I don't care. If it is a box I must open it. Now.

I recently stumbled upon a website:


This site posts two items every day that are relatively super cheap. Usually it is in only one size or an odd color. Mostly these are all out of season or over stocked. All highly discounted.
I've been checking it every few days. It is addicting. Really truly addicting. I really want to snag some winter blankets cheap on there and saw a nice offer today, but it only was available is size 84". Gemmie is a 70 or 72 and Pete is 80. Darn.

But as I shopped online I remembered that I needed new chaps. Mine are horribly falling apart. I can't complain though. I bought them my 3rd year of medical school, so that would be in early winter of 2008. 6 years of pretty hard use out of leather (well suede and kinda sorta leather) non brand name half chaps that cost me somewhere around $30-40. Not too shabby. They are still semi serviceable so they will continue to be used for most conditioning rides to save my new ones.

I've actually done a little research on half chaps. Most people seem to really like the Ariat Terrains but 1) they've been discontinued for a better (read more expensive) newer model and 2) when I tried them on back in 08 they didn't fit. One size was super loose but correct length and the next size was fitted to the calf but too short.
I ran into Just Chaps at the AERC convention and really liked the feel of them. They are a neoprene mesh which should be nice and cool in the summer and prevent rubs. I checked online and there are models I really like. One is the mesh and the other is called an endurance model and is all solid neoprene. Being who I am and attracted to shiny things I immediately gravitated towards the all neoprene because they came in red and black. But then I saw the company is in the UK and international shipping is expensive. Only one place in the states carries them and they only have the black (or awful bright blue) mesh ones. So mesh I got. I'm in between sizes still so I got a small because I just can't believe I could possibly be an extra small.
The red and black solid neoprene version. Aren't they drool worthy?
Showing the mesh. Boring black :(

Since I already had one item in my cart and saw that it was free shipping, I looked around online a bit. I've been wanting a better way to organize my trailer. The tack area is small and so far I've just been using a large black muck bucket to hold all my things. I've been wanting a bag to hang on the inside wall of the door to organize fly spray, Belly balm, brushes etc...to get it off the floor.
I saw this beauty and added it to the cart. I think I may end up needing to return it though. It needs to be secured with screws to the vertical surface. My trailer is aluminum and I doubt there are any support beams in the door. I will wait til it gets here but I'm not super comfy drilling into the trailer door.

The hubs wasn't too pleased with my splurging but actually really needed the chaps as mine are disintegrating. Fingers crossed they actually fit when they arrive.

June 2, 2014

Camelbak Review

A hot, muddy, bug filled 15 mile conditioning ride is a perfect trial for any new equipment. While I forgot a lot of things, I did remember to fill and wear my new Camelbak on Sunday for the ride. I filled it mostly all the way up (mostly because I got bored waiting for it to fill) and used the two side pockets but not the larger back storage area. I wore it the entire ride without taking it off until the very end. 

Initial Impressions:
  • It was a little heavier than I expected. Not heavy by any means, but with the water being all down at the bottom, it made it seem somehow off balance carrying it. Once I put it on though I didn't notice anything and it settled nicely onto my hips.
  • It was really easy to adjust all the straps to fit my waist, shoulders and chest. Each strap could be done with one hand making adjustments on horseback simple.
  • The shoulder straps pulled up onto my neck even with the chest strap loosened.
  • The two side pockets were roomy and easy to reach. The back one I left empty and would have had no way to get into it without removing the pack.
  • The hose was way too long and hung down past my hips when mounted.

Mounting up with it on was just as normal. In fact I actually forgot I was wearing it and just jumped on up. I was a little worried it wouldn't sit right on horseback or would hit me funny when I posted since it isn't made for riding a horse. I don't know if it was because it was made for cycling or what, but it fit just perfectly. Even posting it stayed put and didn't rub.

The drinking hose was way long and came over my right shoulder. Not only did it flop around, but it also required me to hold it with my hand to drink. Not terribly annoying, but more effort than I wanted out of it. There was a little loop on the sternum strap to the left (not sure what it was meant for) and so I ended up taking the hose and running it loosely from the right shoulder to the loop on the left sternum strap. This allowed me to easily drink with no effort and kept it out of the way. The only downside to this set up was that I had to unhook it to take the pack off, but that's not such a big deal.

I stashed my cell phone in the left pocket and my truck keys in the right. There was plenty of room for additional items in both if I had anything to put in there. I did grab my phone a couple of times to check time and grab a picture (which I never took) and it was easy to do even one handed as Gem trotted along.

15 miles later I untacked Gem and took off the pack. I had no rubbing or chafing on my neck from it at all. It was very comfortable and let no marks. I had taken small sips from about the half way point on and when S offered me a bottle of water I wasn't thirsty at all.

End Impressions:
  • Nice and light weight. I forgot I even had it on for the majority of the time.
  • My neck didn't chafe at all where the shoulder straps were which was great. I had been worried about this.
  • Easy to drink from once I rigged up the hose as above
  • No bouncing!! With the water bladder being placed around the waist it created a nice comfortable snug fit and no bouncing.
  • It was a little hot, but any pack will be hotter than not wearing one. This has padding down either side of the spine allowing for some airflow. I wasn't a sweaty mess and compared to the other pack I wear frequently (W's hiking backpack) it was much cooler.
  • The side pcokets were easy to get into and out of and had plenty of room. Probably wouldn't fit a ton of things, but enough for a snack for Gem and I going down the trail plus phone/camera and ride card.
  • My shoulders/neck were sore that night and the next day.
I did end up with a massive migraine that night. I think it was due to a few different things. One was the huge tree branch I smacked with my head. It was hard enough to make a noise and snap my neck back a bit.

I am overall very pleased with the pack. I like the side pockets for easy access to small things and having the ability to place nonessentials in the larger main compartment for use when I get off to run or at vet checks is great. I did end up with that migraine and sore shoulders, but I am going to attribute it mainly to the tree branch and also to my bad habit of riding with my shoulders up by my ears which also causes headaches and soreness. If it happens again I will need to re-evaluate.

My only concern with the pack is inherent to any water pack. I took small sips through the entire second half of the ride. I wasn't thirsty and so I figured I was hydrated appropriately. This was not the case and I ended up fairly dehydrated at the end. I blame this on those small sips I took throughout. Basically it gave enough water to shut down the thirst response, but not enough to maintain proper hydration. In the future I will need to make sure I am taking actual drinks and not just small sips. It will take some time to figure out the proper rate of water consumption for me, but I probably only drank 1/4 at most during those 15 miles in the heat and humidity and I think doubling that would have prevented some of the headache that ensued that night.

Also, for the longer events, I think having a spare bladder would be perfect. That way all I would have to do is switch my empty one for a full one at checks instead of waiting to fill up 2 L. Something to add to the wish list.