August 25, 2014

Coolback Epic Fail

After lamenting about my new pad woes, S graciously offered to let me try her Coolback pad. She has two in black (yay!) - one with foam inserts and one without. Her mare didn't like the pad much and so if things worked out for Gemmie we would just swap my new wool one for the Coolback and both be happy. I was glad to get to try it out prior to purchasing to avoid yet more wasted money.

We headed off to Sumter National Forest and had the entire park to ourselves. We both wanted to get some serious miles on the mares and after a brief discussion decided to start on the gravel roads to get some speed work in then hit the purple 16 mile loop and head back to the trail head. I booted Gemmie up knowing that we would be on gravel for quite a ways.

I grabbed the Coolback from S and immediately liked the feel of it. The synthetic fleece is a little rough to the touch, but that would solve the slipping issue with the wool pad. It was also much larger than I was used to and once on Gem it came down her sides almost to the stirrups. At first I was worried about this, but after we rode for a bit it was super nice. It not only cushioned my legs but also provided more support for me. I definitely fell in love with the feeling of the fleece under my leg! I tacked her up and I must admit she looked a bit silly with such a low profile saddle and large pad, but it fit her well and I was very optimistic.

Last time we went to Sumter my Garmin was dead and I didn't get a read on how far we went. This time after I mounted up and hit the on button I got the same message: battery low. Then the darn thing shut off completely. I mention this because a) I yet again have no real clue how far we actually went and b) it is the reason I have no pictures. I used my phone as my GPS to get to the park from the new barn and wanted to preserve some battery for the way home. I also tried to download Edomondo while riding to use that as the GPS, but couldn't get the stupid thing to work at all. Anyway...all that meant no pictures.

We rode out down the gravel road at a brisk pace. Gem seemed happy enough and moved out keeping up with S no problem. We turned down a side road and Gem started acting funny. Not lame or bad, but funny. She started to canter instead of trot. I don't mind that one bit especially on nice open trail, but I knew she didn't need to canter to keep up. It was like she was avoiding fully extending her front legs to get the speed needed out of her trot. At one point I thought maybe a fly was bothering her, but couldn't see anything. Then she started just stopping in the middle of the trail. She would hang her head down and then look back at me. This was really odd behavior for her, so I jumped off and looked her over. Maybe the boots twisted? Nope. Maybe her feet were tender even with the boots on the gravel? Nope. The saddle hadn't budged an inch and the pad was not bunched up or anything. I got back on and asked her to move out again.

As long as the trot was kept slow she was fine. If I asked her to extend it at all she would pick up a canter instead. As we moved along she started stopping and looking back at me more and more frequently and then canter to catch up. After a short time I asked S if we could just turn around. Gem was not happy. We made it to the 16 mile loop through the woods and we ducked onto the trail to see if the softer ground would make a difference. Maybe it really was just the gravel? S saw her behavior though and knew something was up too. Once we crossed over the gravel road again we called it quits and just headed back to the parking lot. I hopped off, loosened the girth and hand walked her the 2-3 miles back.

After we got back, I untacked her and she was super sore right by her shoulders on both sides. I've made it a habit to always palpate her to check fit but also to simulate a vet check. She has never even twitched a minor amount before but this time she flinched and glared at me. When I looked at the pad it had deep impressions at those spots and I knew it was the whole problem. Poor Gem! I apologized again and again and felt horrible, but I knew I had turned around once I had figured out it wasn't something simple that I could correct out on trail.

Afterward S said her mare had behaved similarly with that pad as well but has been fine in everything else. Odd. I think the fleece just compresses too much under pressure areas and provides no real support. I briefly thought about grabbing the one with foam inserts, but worry the 3/4" would make the saddle perch too much. I'm glad I tried it though and now that is off my potential list.

On the positive side of things, S and I had a great time chatting it up and the weather was perfect. Gem basically cantered for 2 straight hours and I think we probably did around 12 miles or around there and heck that's a fantastic workout for her. Other than her back issues from the pad, she dried out quickly on the walk back and looked great. I also got a good hike in as well ;)

I don't think I'm going to try the Woolback version. I worry it will be too thick for the saddle. I have a potential buyer for my wool pad and my next step is to just contact Reinsman and see if they can just make me a pad that is a little larger. I need to measure mine to see the dimension, but I really just need it about 2" longer from front to back. If they can't do it, then I am going to try to save up for a custom Skito pad.

August 18, 2014

The Dynamic Duo Rides Again!

First - thanks for the advice and recommendations on pads. It seems everyone out there loves the Toklat Woolback and Coolback pads. I will definitely be looking into these. A friend has a Coolback she isn't using and said I can try it out to see if it would work. Worth a shot. The current Reinsman pad works just fine, stays put and produces an even sweat pattern and no sore spots, but it is a bit too short for the saddle. Hopefully I can sell the pad I have so I can buy a new one.

Saturday was a day of ill preparation, bad timing and the Universe telling us to just go back home. Despite all of that we still managed to squeak in 6 miles of new trails and some fun.

When Gem saw me pull in with the truck Saturday morning after working her both Tuesday and Thursday she definitely gave me the stink eye. She stayed at the gate though to watch me down at the barn. By the time the hubby pulled in, about a half an hour later, she knew something was up and gave us the horse equivalent of the middle finger: tail flagged high galloping to the far end of her pasture.

The hubby went to get Pete (my rents watched W for us Saturday morning so we could ride together for the first time since last fall), but Gem was being such a snot running around bucking and snorting that there was no way he was going to get caught. After 20 minutes of her making a fool of herself, she let me walk up to her and put her halter on. She was soaked with sweat and breathing hard. Oh well...she had a 45 minute trailer ride to cool down.

Unfortunately, these shenanigans in addition to a host of other unrelated and annoying things that held us up at home, put us a full hour behind schedule. My rents agreed to watch him from 8-12 and we didn't even drop W off until just after 9. It wasn't a good start to the day. But we were finally off.

The Hubs

We pulled into Croft State Park to find a horse show going on. We had forgotten to snag the park pass out of the van, so we had to stop at the gate to pay. I had on my typical riding attire: stained breeches, old t-shirt and a baseball hat (I adore hats). The old man at the gate asked the hubby "How old is he?" Umm....he who? Turns out he thought I was his son. Oh great. Guess I need to rethink my wardrobe a little :(

Since we were on such a time crunch we hadn't eaten anything yet and our bag of snacks/drinks was left on the counter at home. The hubs went to find the restroom and came back to report that there was a concession stand! I looked at my watch and it was already pushing 10, so we tacked up and prepared to get on as quickly as possible. Food would have to wait.

S and her hubby L pulled in a few minutes behind us. We had spoken the day before and planned to attempt to ride as a group, but knew we would most likely split off at some point. Pete is fast and furious on the trails and his idea of the perfect trail to run on doesn't really match up with S and L's thoughts. We waited around for them to get tacked up and finally hit the trail much, much later than anticipated.

We entered at the first trail head we came across and Pete wound up in the lead. The trail was single track, but muddy and slick so we kept it to a sedate pace and stuck together for a while. Once it dried up, we started trotting and then the hubby let Pete have his head a bit and we were off. When Pete does his "super trot" as we call it, Gem has to canter to keep up. I really wish I knew Pete's breeding. I am sure he isn't actually trotting at this speed - he is just too fast and too smooth. We ducked and dodged along the single track trail with trees close on both sides. I know Pete and the hubby were grinning and so I was. Gem, I'm not so sure, but her ears were forward and she was willing the entire time. I really miss riding with  my boys. We have such a blast flying through the trees together.

S and L weren't enjoying the pace on that type of trail, so they backed off and told us to go ahead without them. We kept it up quite a ways until we came to a fork in the trail. We hadn't been there before so both ways seemed ok to us and we went left. There were some pretty nice climbs and descents and the trail had excellent footing the majority of the way. Eventually we came to a spot where the trail went pretty much straight vertical down about 20ft then immediately back up on the same incline with a ditch on either side. I really didn't like the looks of it and since we had no clue where we were or if we would have to double back through it, I vetoed the idea and we turned around.

Heading back we ran across S and L again. We described the trail and she suggested we take the other trail which led to the road and then cross over to the other side of the park. Along the way we ran across a mariachi band playing at a family picnic. S's mare was very much not enjoying the music, but Gem and Pete just glanced over there way and continued on. You would think that a horse that spooks at a stupid stick on the ground would mind the mariachi band, but no. Silly mare!

We crossed over and I looked at my watch. Since we had dropped W off late, we bought ourselves until 1 pm, but it was now 11:15 and we had to be on our way out of the park by 12:15. We decided to follow S and L out a ways and then at 11:45 we turned around. The trail was absolutely gorgeous too, so I was da to part way, but Pete was dripping with sweat and falling behind which is very unusual for him. He was very tired. On the way back we decided to follow the road instead of the trail to save time and a mile later we were back at the trailer.

The horses were sweaty and hot, so we untacked quickly and hosed them down. The concession food smelled too good to pass up so once we loaded them on the trailer we headed on over. I got a cheeseburger with the most delicious hand squeezed lemonade ever. I was so dehydrated and thirsty anything would have tasted good, but I love hand squeezed fair style lemonade. It was worth the $5. Hubby got a hash sandwich (still unclear what hash is, but the lady said something about beef, pork and spices) and a coke and we headed back home.

We arrived only 15 minutes late (sorry, mum we had to get food!!) and picked up a tired W who had had a great morning with his grandparents. Hubby took the horses back to the barn and I took W home for a nap.

All in all it was a great time out on the trails and I really missed riding with the boys. Pete needs to get into better shape which will help him overall in life. next time we will have to go into it better prepared, leave on time and have less stress with the ticking clock. There are 17 scheduled hunter paces for the 2014-2015 calendar year and I am hoping to hit at least a few of the ones we missed last year which Pete excels at and enjoys. They are the right distance for him to enjoy (he hated the LD we took him on which is another story for another day) but these are right up his alley, so hopefully we can get him out and about this fall.

August 15, 2014

My Love/Hate Affair With Tack

High quality, durable riding equipment is my Achilles heel. I love it. I skimp on my wardrobe, as my last post definitely pointed out, but love to pamper Gem with great tack. I adore my new saddle, so there isn't much to monkey with there and at this point I'm not even thinking about tempting fate on that. Finding a saddle that fit Gem was so insanely difficult, I was near the point of breaking her to drive instead. Now that I have the Advantage I am finally at peace with that.

Having purchased the used demo saddle instead of a new one, I had some money to play around with. The Fusion Jogging boots, new red mohair cinch and red sheepskin seat cover were acquired and have been working out great.  She looks fantastic in her new get up.

I also purchased a wool saddle pad and it finally arrived this week. The quality is amazing. Thick and luxurious with no seam on the underside and pockets on top for shims if needed. I was drooling over the ability to ride in something so soft and couldn't wait to get out on it.

(Side note: I currently use a Reinsman Tacky Too pad and it is a great utility pad. No frills or fluff, but also no pain. The only issue is that it is slightly too short for the saddle and the back of the saddle sits off the pad a smidge)

Hard to see, but the back of the saddle sits off the pad a bit
Tuesday night I headed out, but forgot the new pad. It was a good thing too because that ride was amazing. She was calm and cool beyond her normal spooks at logs, branches and big rocks. No hissy fits and no rushing. The sun was beginning to set, the heat of the day was easing up and we got a great work out in. Gem trotted and cantered up the hills and in the back hay field without going crazy and we enjoyed each other until the sun went down. It was very humid out and she worked up a good sweat. I left the barn feeling so content and happy with all things and that is exactly why I have a horse in the first place.

Thursday came with the opportunity to head back to the barn and this time I remembered to grab the new pad. I was running low on daylight with W staying up later (until close to 7 pm now) and the sun giving up on us earlier, but I could get a little bit in. She wasn't too pleased to see me so soon.

I'm eating...come back later

Seriously....leave me alone!
I tacked her up and fell in love with the pad. It fit the outline of the saddle perfectly and she looks sooo darn pretty in it.

Very classy with her nice bay coloring and  the brown/black saddle. I swung my leg over and really could feel the difference in the saddle. It felt way more cushioned and I hoped Gem could feel the difference too.

I wanted to get in a lot of down hill work since in the past that has always been my tack nemesis. We headed up to her pasture then down the long hill to the hay field and down the hay field to the woods. Through the woods, back to the hay field and on up. We trotted or cantered the majority of it. I was really enjoying the feel of the new pad and Gem was moving out well in the beginning. Coming up the hay field at the end she started really acting funny. Almost like she used to in her old saddles where she just didn't move out quite as freely and was holding back. I looked down and then immediately jumped off her.

The pad is squeegeeing out the back
 Well, poop.

The saddle has slid a little forward although not nearly as bad as in the past with other saddles, but the bigger problem was the pad creeping out the back under the saddle.

I was disappointed to say the least. There are no loos/girth savers on the pad and I tightened the girth like always. It wasn't loose when I took it off. I shot off a quick email to Katee at Advantage saddles asking her for suggestions. I really don't know what to do to fix it. Anyone with a wool pad and experiences like this?

I don't know if she would take it back. I only rode 12 minutes, but with horses everything gets dirty after only a millisecond on them. It is washable and I plan to wash it if I return it or have to sell it.

Since this isn't working I will need to be on the search for a new pad. Any suggestions? Anyone want to buy this one?

August 14, 2014

Blog Hop: Equestrian Wardrobe

I love blog hops and now Equestrian At Heart has taken over, so I am looking forward to some new topics. Go ahead and shoot over to her site and get acquainted with her too :)

She posts:

I want to know about what you ride in and why? Show us your Equestrian Fashion choices and tell us why you wear them!

I scavenged what pictures I could off my phone to show off my lovely wardrobe. I dislike shopping, so I rarely ever go and most of my riding apparel is either scrounged up from my regular closet or was a gift. But here goes:

I grew up riding miles and miles of trails in the summer with my Aunt and Uncle. I wore whatever was comfortable and I believe that ended up being cotton breeches and a t shirt. I wore knee high black rubber riding boots (stylish - I know!) to prevent ticks as well as for those afternoons when we inevitably ended up in the creek. A helmet was also mandatory.

As I got older and branched out on my own I basically just stuck with that except I exchanged the rubber boots for Ariat riding shoes. They no longer make them anymore and I still have mine in good working condition after many miles and 5 years of use, but have switched footgear options out.

Endurance is all about color and comfort and so I go with anything that matches Gem's red and black and is comfortable. Currently my set up includes a brown Troxel Sierra helmet which is always, always on my head. I never ride without it although I do run with Gem without it on. It is comfortable enough and I honestly doubt any helmet is really very cooling, but it works. It is not flattering to my head/face shape one bit, but until it is ready to be replaced I'm sticking with it.

Moving on down my shirt is generally whatever t-shirt I have at hand and don't mind getting stained with Gem grime. On conditioning rides I don't care the color or the make. In the winter I am usually wearing at least 3 layers - t shirt, long sleeve shirt, fleece vest. Up north in the arctic I would ride to -5 Fahrenheit and so would usually also add a fleece coat to the mix.

For actual endurance rides, I must match and I have my favorite Irideon red and black t shirt that is some awesome tech fabric. It is cool, comfortable and lightweight. Unfortunately, it is also no longer available. When it comes time to retire it (or if I ever have time to venture into multi day rides) I won't be buying actual riding shirts, but instead will gravitate to running/hiking gear. It holds up well and is very comfortable. The only issue with tech material is that it smells. Quickly and permanently.

Moving farther down the line:  I keep my cotton breeches for conditioning. I think they are Tuff Rider brand with suede knee patches and used to be beige. Now they are a mixture of beige, brown, black and green. They are 5 years old as well and are starting to disintegrate. Little runs by the knee patches have turned into big holes. They are ok for conditioning, but I rode 15 miles in them once and nearly cried from the chafing.

My mostest favoritest piece of clothing used to be my Irideon Issentials tights in black with a small red pin stripe. They were amazingly comfortable, didn't chafe at all anywhere and matched! But then I had a bit of a problem at Biltmore and they were ruined. (Actually in the TMI category they weren't really ruined at Biltmore, just sort of gross, but then they got left in the laundry pile outside the laundry room by the hubs and the dog came by and ate out the crotch so they had to be pitched) I can still buy the Issentials, but they don't have the red and black anymore. I don't really need them until October, so I am weighing my options.

The whole get up was so nice, comfy and pretty. Please ignore chubby Gemmie. This was over a year ago.

And last, but not least I use Just Chaps neoprene mesh half chaps. I have a review on the blog here somewhere. They are comfortable, but seem flimsy and after not that many rides they are already showing signs of wear. I doubt I would shell out $75 for them again. My original half chaps are pictured above - Ovation leather and suede and they have lasted many years and many miles. I think they cost like $35 too. The knee patches are pulling off the rest of the chap, but I think I can find someone to restitch it for me. I will go back to these in the future.

Shoe wise I began in ariats of some sort. They are tennis shoe style and again no longer available. They are pretty comfy, but after awhile I ditched them for my Brooks Glycerin running shoes and won't go back. The Brooks are just plain comfy and are nice when I get off to run some miles.

Irideone tights, Just Chaps, Brooks running shoes

And that's just about it. I always wear my Garmin (when I remember it) and if I am out for a long time or it is particularly hot out I will throw my Camelbak on as well for hydration. Nothing fancy, but it is all comfortable and works well.

August 13, 2014

Got My head Spinning...I Can't Figure You Out

Physics and I do not get all.

In college I took physics 101 three times. The first was physics for the health professional which was really just physics 101 that mentioned IV bags and such. I then took actual physics 101 to fulfill my graduation requirements. When I decided to go to medical school I needed a third semester of physics so I took an online course which was physics 101 all over again, but somehow still counted. Now I got an A all three times. I can memorize formulas and regurgitate with the best of them. But understand any of it or be able to apply any of it? Nope. Not a clue.

What does this have to do with anything? I'll get to that.

Sunday morning dawned grey, misty and gross but I was itching to get a ride in and had one last "free" ride on the Fusion Jogging Boots. I headed out in the late afternoon to tack her highness up and head out to find the elusive power lines.

The last ride had the right hind boot twisted 30-45 degrees by the end, but I was in a hurry when I tacked her up so I figured this may have been the problem. This time I took my time to really make sure everything was snugged up and properly aligned all the way around.

We headed down the gravel drive and across the paved road to the gravel road that led to the power lines. I really don't enjoy riding gravel much, but if these boots are going to be keepers I might as well try them on the worst footing. Gem was a little hesitant at first but once she got moving she just stretched out and flew. I was so happy.

We made it out to the power lines, down until I couldn't go any farther without fear of breaking bones or pulling tendons and then headed back. She was being a bit of a snot about running back, so I held her in check to a controlled trot until we got back on the gravel road. The road goes back up hill the entire way and she promptly slowed down to walk. You want to go...we will go...up the hill my lady....and lets canter it!

So I asked for a canter and she obliged with a beautiful, smooth and collected canter all the way up the hill and back to the paved road which I made her walk and then trotted back down the driveway.

I am extremely happy to report that the boots stayed put even up and down extremely steep hills  (they were very short but were sit on your butt and slide down type hills and we even cantered up a few in the slick mud), through the slick clay and bushwhacking in the woods without twisting even a smidge. They were excellent.


I am at a complete loss about the annoying dampening pads. I placed the 4mm thick rubber pads into the boots like they are supposed to go. They come sized per the boot, so I know they fit right. I then put her foot in, snug it up and ride. The boot stays put - no twisting. And then I remove the boot to find that the pad inside has rotated 90 degrees. Huh? At first I thought it was in the removal process, but the frog pattern on the pad clearly shows that it occurs at some point while riding. In the beginning? Middle? End? I don't know, but if I rotate the pad back to its normal position, the frog pattern is off on the side.

I just can't figure out how on earth the boot can stay put, but the inside pad rotate? Or what could be causing this? Think of it like the insole inside your running shoe. And it occurs on all 4 in the same counter clockwise direction. I'm sure physics could help me out here with forces and vectors and work and energy and all that. See how I tied that in ;) The only thing I can think of is that there is enough room in the boot that when she lifts the hoof there is a gap between her hoof and the pad, but that still doesn't explain why a pad cut to fit the interior shape of the boot (it is almost spade shaped) would rotate. The insole of your running shoe doesn't rotate.

I emailed the company and am waiting to see what they have to say. I don't want to just leave it rotated because then the heels aren't fully protected and even. I may just glue the pads in to keep them stable with some glue I have at work for making orthotics. Then if the pads need replaced prior to the boots, I can use the contact cement remover I have to remove it and then place a new one. I would just like to avoid any semi permanent changes if I can help it.

Other than that I love the boots. They cover all my needs and Gem is moving wonderfully in them. I still plan to do almost all of my conditioning miles bare to keep her hooves nice and strong and am debating on if and when to use them at our 50 in October. The only thing left is to see how long they last and for that I am going to be keeping tabs of all the miles I put on them.

August 12, 2014

New Barn Woes...Or...I Am A Snob (Apparently)

The hubby is an ultra runner. I'm very proud of him and all his running accomplishments, but it does get a bit annoying sometimes. Like when he goes out for a run in the evening and comes back to declare "I only did 13 miles tonight" Umm...only?  You only happened to basically run a half marathon this evening? And are disappointed you didn't get to run farther? What are you?

But then a big dose of reality hit home when we were leaving the barn the other night and he definitely took advantage of the situation to point it out to me.

Apparently I am being a trail snob.

It all started when we moved into the new barn and the two ladies there mentioned that they wanted to get started in endurance and then raved about how great the trails on property are. I was excited about the notion of not having to trailer out every time I wanted to ride and so when I tacked up the first time it was with great expectations.

And then was bummed when I only got just over 2 miles in before running out of trails. And that took all of 20 minutes to do. When I finally found the power lines and they only added about 1.5 more miles I was disheartened.

I waxed poetically moaned and complained to the hubby and he just sat there and grinned at me. When I was finished he laughed and brought it all full circle: 3.5 miles of trails is nothing for Gem and I right now. Just like 13 miles on the road is fairly nothing to him right now. It is all about perspective.

So I guess the next time he starts talking about only running 13 miles, I won't complain because I probably annoyed the crap out of the barn ladies when I pulled back in from riding at Clemson last and they asked how it went and I responded "Good,  I only did the 7 mile loop to test the boots out, but it was at a nice 5 mph pace over the hills, so it was ok".

Those 7 miles at 5 mph probably seemed like a ton to them given their experience of an hour long walk around the property.

August 10, 2014

Just Up My Alley

My disappointment in staying home for Jubilee Mountain and crewing for the hubby versus riding at Run for the Horses has quickly been replaced with sheer delight at my new and improved plans for the remainder of the 2014 ride schedule.

It includes only a single ride (for now anyway:), but this ride has me very excited and re-energized for the fall. The plans are extensive and fun and inclusive of my two favorite boys. How could it get any better?

I was trolling facebook the other day and noticed a post on the SE Endurance riders page about space filling up quickly at a new ride. The ride name is what caught my attention:
Barefoot Shine and Wine
I called the RM and by the end of the conversation I had secured a spot in the 50 miler on that Saturday with primitive camping Fri-Sun. I was also grinning from ear to ear.
The ride is in early Oct in TN, so already it has gained big bonus points for a) being somewhere new and b) the potential for gorgeous fall foliage. The trails, as described by the RM, sound great as well being mostly sand, dirt, pine needles with the occasional rocky section and some creek crossings. It is called Barefoot for a reason - perfectly doable completely bare. In fact the RM rides her horses up there bare all the time without issue. Great! There are also some nice hills, maybe the addition of a very steep hill, but she said it is a very nice course for a first anything (25, 50 etc..) since the terrain is overall easy. Even better! I'm stoked!!!
The icing on this cake is the timing - the weekend after our 10th wedding anniversary. Our original plans 10 years ago to go on an African horseback safari (to celebrate not only our wedding but our honeymoon spent horseback riding from the French Alps to the Mediterranean) changed once W came along to a Disney cruise (how stereotypically American suburbanite family is that?)  and then even that slightly less grand plan was killed off when I found out he couldn't go in any swimming pool unless potty trained (he isn't and won't be by October). This left us with possibly going to dinner. Boring. But now the hubby and W will be coming along for a weekend getaway in TN in autumn. Details on everything are still in the works, but I know there is a town close by so if I can't secure something better at least they will have access to a hotel. W adores being outside, so he will have a blast hiking around ridecamp. The ride has dinner for Friday night and the boys can find things to occupy them during my ride Saturday and then we will return home Sunday morning.
The facility also boasts a lodge that is heated/cooled and has TV etc... so they can also go hang out in there. I mentioned potentially bringing the boys along and she was very happy and started rattling off all the hiking trails, bike paths, the lodge etc... to keep them busy while I ride.
The only thing that will prevent them coming would be if the weather proves to be rainy and gloomy. Then I will be flying solo since it won't be good to have W out in that weather all weekend. But...I need to do some research on the town and nearby areas to see what all they can do to keep out of trouble.
I'm super excited and can't wait! This also helps ease my worries about my complete lack of riding as of late. With the new boots being trialed, the rents moving down here and the weather being stormy every blasted weekend, I haven't logged many miles at all since our LD at Biltmore. This weekend S and I planned to head to the mountains to get 15 or so miles in, but again the weather is calling for T-storms all weekend. This gives me more time to amp her up for it and I can not wait!

August 9, 2014

No Jubilee on the Iron Mountain for Me

This ride has morphed into so many different forms it isn't even funny. Any now it has morphed into a spot on the 2015 ride calendar. Here is everything I went through to try to make it work:

1) 15 mile Ride and Tie on Gem with S: S eventually realized that running up a mountain when she hasn't run a single step since the Clemson R&T and actually never wanted to do those 8 miles in the first place was crazier than crazy and politely backed out. But she did offer up a new victim partner.

2) 15 mile RnT on Bailey with S's hubby L: he doesn't ride much, so he would prefer his own mare. Bailey then came down with some hoof issues and hadn't been ridden in forever. I briefly contemplated doing it on Gem, but she typically doesn't like men and she isn't beginner friendly, so this got scrapped.

3) 15 mile RnT with a stranger I beg up on the RnT or ride site: I briefly hung to this hope, but again I didn't really trust someone else on her in the mountains on technical terrain. I guess I could ride someone else's horse in the RnT, but wanted the mileage for Gem to get ready for our 50 (which now is backed off a bit)

4) No RnT. 25 mile LD on Saturday which got quickly changed to...

5) 30 mile LD on Friday. Go up Thursday for vetting, ride Friday and be back Saturday so I only really miss a half day with W back at home (Thurs and Fri being work days where he is at daycare anyway)

6) 30 mile LD on Friday with 12 mile Intro on Saturday: a couple ladies at the new barn are super interested in getting into endurance and shot around the idea of coming, volunteering Friday and riding the intro Saturday. As long as Gem looked good, I would join them to help them out and get 42 total miles on Gemmie for the weekend. They both backed out for various reasons so I was left with the last entry idea

7) Back to the 30 mile LD Friday.


So why not keep with it? Well....there are some things I learned about the ride which really just made justifying the money and time spent too hard. In the end it just wasn't worth it anymore.

If you are bored and want the specifics as to why:

Hoof protection is mandatory and Gem is bare and hopefully always will be healthy enough to stay that way. I ordered my boots and have them to use, but the more people I talked to and the more I found out about the ride the less I want to go. Apparently the trails are notorious for pulling shoes and boots alike and veterans go in with brand new shoes, brand new boots, extra toe clips, extra straps, tape, glue get them to hopefully stay on. I would literally cry if I ended up short of boots at the end because I can't afford to buy new ones right now. I have nothing left to sell to buy new ones. (well, I do have 2 kidneys, but those are reserved for my next horse ;) I'm just not experienced enough with these to trust that they will stay in place.  So that was strike one.

Strike two was the vetting being away from camp. I know it is possible to do it without crew. I just have been spoiled with all my vet checks occurring at camp. I won't have crew, so this is a little bit of a big deal. Yes, I can get the ride manager to haul my crap for me, but I don't even have a crew bag. Or feel confident enough to pack one right now.

I think I bailed before there was a strike three. Either way...I'm leaving it as an experience for another day. Next summer I will be dying for a ride to go to. Biltmore won't happen again in July (it will be moved back to its normal May date again) so really from June-September there won't be anything else in driving distance for me to hit. This makes a good one to keep on the radar for a summer ride in 2015. I also have my eyes on the Ride Between the Rivers in WV for 2015, but that is much farther trailer ride, so we will see how things are going. Hopefully W is tent camping with us by then or we hit the jackpot (or even just start playing it) and can get a three horse slant load with LQs so he can sleep in style by then.

August 8, 2014

Scratches for Me

Plans, plans, go away come again some other day...

Things are falling apart in regards to my ride season. My only goal all year, which I have mentioned ad nauseam on here, has been the Run for the Horses 50 mile endurance ride at the end of September. It has been on my calendar since last September when I found out about it the day after it ran.

Every conditioning mile, every gear purchase, every ride has been with this one goal in mind.

And now it may not even happen :(

Why? Logisitcs. Adulthood. Motherhood.

See this ride isn't just for me. It has a coinciding (and competing) ultra-marathon along with it. The hubby humorously thinks he could actually beat Gem and I (HA!!!) and so he smugly signed up for the 50 miler. There is no way I would let him beat us girls. No way!

The logistics of us both participating in the same event were already a little dicey. Someone has to be responsible for W which is why even going to a movie hasn't happened since Feb 2013. His sister was going to come down and watch W for us as well as stay at the house to take care of the pups (the cats can fend for themselves for two nights). Unfortunately she called this week to say that she couldn't get off work and can no longer come.

The hubby has already paid for his run entry, so he can't take care of W. That leaves me.

Now, my mom has very happily suggested that W goes to stay at her house for the weekend and that is still an option. She would take excellent care of him and I am sure he would have an enjoyable weekend, but I've never left him like that in 2 years. In fact, the July Biltmore ride was the first night I had spent away from him in over a year, but at least I knew he was home with his dad. I'm not questioning my mom one bit, but the thought of both of us heading out to have fun at a sporting event and leaving him behind just doesn't sit well with me at all.

So I think I am scratching from the event :(

I was looking forward to getting to ride with the runners, but there were some things that fell a little flat with me. Such as yet another ride this year at Biltmore. Don't get me wrong, it is a lovely place to ride. But it is pricey due to the venue and one reason I love endurance is all the new trails I wouldn't otherwise get to experience. All my rides occurring at the exact same location, on basically the exact same trails this year? Ugh.

Also, unlike at my huge bucket list ride (Vermont 100) the runner starts a whole 30 minute before the riders and run on a slightly shorter and different first loop. I'm assuming it has to do with safety or something, but this means that my first 15 mile loop won't have any runners on it anyway. And the chances of me catching up to the hubs on trail when he has a 30 minute head start and I have a 40 minute hold before I'm even on the same trails as him? Not so great. I would have to make up 1 hr 10 minutes on him and truthfully we both have mentally figured on a 9-10 hour 50, so I highly doubt I would be able to make up that much time.

We had already agreed that the winner (between the two of us) would not be based on the order we cross the finish line, but by our actual ride times (not sure of that would be pure ride time for me or include the holds) so not passing him wouldn't actually mean I didn't win. Gem and I are not front runners (although she would like to be) and this would be our first 50, so I would really be saving her early on.

I don't know...but I'm thinking that the picture in my head of going down the trail with the runners, including the hubby, just won't be the reality and that the reality of riding alone on the same trails I've done 2 other times this year just isn't going to be worth the guilt and worry of leaving W behind.

So..I think I am regrouping and re routing.

Oh! I've also scratched from Iron Mountain for numerous reasons I will get into later. My new plans are pretty awesome though, so stay tuned!!

August 7, 2014

Scratches For Gem

You would think in 5 years with some pretty spectacularly crappy boarding plots that the fungus would have taken hold a long time ago. But you would be wrong :)

When I went to ride in all 4 boots last weekend I was grossed out by her right hind fetlock that was covered in a gooey, crusty nastiness and had a typical mild panic attack. You would think that being a doc would allow me to evaluate my own animals and son in a methodical and fully functioning brain type fashion. But you would be wrong again :)

I pulled the hubs over to take a look and she had it on her other 3 legs as well although not as bad. The online forums/facebook have been alight with scratches posts, so I kinda figured that was the problem. I evaluated where the boots were and it was higher up her leg. That along with the fact that she hadn't worn the fronts before led me to the reasonable conclusion that it was thankfully not due to her boots and was more than likely due to the horrendous wet weather we have been having.

It is a little odd though since her pasture is pretty dry being on top of a hill. And the grass is short. I would have thought that the knee deep grass, always damp, puddly pasture at Crabby Acres would have done it before this place.

Anyway...I cleaned it up and sprayed it down with blue coat and crossed my fingers that it would go away quickly. She wasn't sore or lame and her hooves, while wet, were thrush free thankfully. I had planned to make it out on Tuesday for another look and potentially to shave the hair in those areas to allow better air flow for drying, but then my parents moved away from the arctic north and landed 7 minutes from my house in their own glorious abode in the land of sunshine and happiness, so I've been spending a lot of time there. It has been 8 years since I've lived close to family.

The hubs ran out to the barn yesterday to take out more grain (we supply our own at this new barn)  and I asked him to have a look. He reported back that the 3 other legs were completely healed. Her right hind had apparently gotten worse over the week and grew to double in nasty size, but had now dried out and was looking much better. It wasn't swollen or painful and while the hair has fallen out at least it looks to be on the mend. He applied my favorite anti thrush powder and I am anxious to get a look at it myself here soon. I'm lucky to have not had to deal with this before and will be keeping a close eye on her. If it continues to be an issue I will have to take a serious look at the flora in her pasture to make sure there isn't a particular plant she is reacting to as well as her nutrition to make sure she isn't lacking something important at the new barn.

As long as she looks and feels fine, we are heading out to the mountains with S this weekend to log some serious trail miles and test those boots. Yay!

August 6, 2014

Why Fix What Isn't Broken?

Because I am me and that is what I do.

Admittedly, Gem is doing awesome. She goes down the trail about 85-90% of the time on a loose rein and when I do need her to walk or halt she mostly responds to my voice command or just needs a slight pressure on the rein. Her spooks are annoying, but as long as I am prepared for the nice lateral reinvention of herself or the random slamming on the brakes I am fine. She isn't a bolty type of horse (well except for the time we ran across the speed boat at Clemson and she took off at a gallop down the trail and into the woods). She is more of a stop and spin type of gal. Most of my current trail issues center around her being behind my leg, lazy and sluggish when she isn't in the mood for a conditioning ride.

Would I put a newbie on her? No way. The poor person would get eaten alive on her. But after nearly 5 years together, I know her pretty darn well and she understands me.

In fact, she has been doing so well, I almost got her a hackamore to get rid of the bit altogether. I'm glad I didn't because I would have not survived Biltmore. Or if I did, I wouldn't have enjoyed it. This ride fell into that other 10-15% of the time. As did my first ride at the new barn.

The first 5 miles and then the last 5 miles were bad. She was willing and forward, yes. Listening, no? I spent those 10 total miles (more so the first 5 than the last) pulling on her mouth hard enough that my shoulders hurt and my soul was dying inside for her. But if I let up even a small amount, she would take advantage and speed up. I felt so bad for yanking on her and keeping such a tight rein because I know she hates the pressure in her mouth, but she just wasn't ready for me to give an inch.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about it and found this:

A Kimberwicke bit.

For the record, I am not a fan of being harsh in the slightest, I hate training gimmicks/aids and believe that training is the best foundation for everything. But I also believe in having the right tools for the job.

For those non horsey people reading or those unfamiliar with the Kimberwicke bit I can try to explain it. The mouthpiece can be of almost any style, this one just happens to be the closest to the current one I use. The two main differences are the rein location and the chain. From my tiny understanding if  you place the reins in the upper slot the bit acts pretty much like her current one with just some extra oomph from the chain. The tighter you attach the chain, the more harsh it becomes. The bottom rein slot adds leverage to the bit increasing the pressure you place on the reins and applying more in the mouth. Or something like that.

This bit, like any, can be harsh or mild depending on the user. The information I have read about it states that those who use it should have steady, calm and quiet hands which I am proud to say I do have. I do not rely on the bit for balance at all. See above regarding riding on a loose rein with minimal pressure.

What I am thinking of doing is using it at the start of a ride when she is all up in arms about being left out of the front running. I would use the top rein slot to begin with and place the chain loose enough that it would only come in contact when I pull harder on the reins. Like an emergency brake. Once we get into the vet area I could switch back to her normal, more mild,  bit since she should hopefully be calmed back down and sensible again.

Do I want to hurt her or use a harsh bit? Absolutely not. But I think that having a bit in her that would allow me to use light pressure for the most part with an e-brake when needed is a heck of a lot better than using a "mild" bit and cranking on her until my shoulder dislocates.

Plus it is only in the $30-40 range, so worth a shot. I'm thinking down the line to our first 50 and just don't want to hurt her early on when I could make life simpler with using a different bit.

I'm in no hurry to order it, so I am letting the idea roll around in my head a bit. I would like to get one (if I am going to) at least a month out to give it a good try before ride day. Which means I need to order it by the end of the month.

August 5, 2014

A Few Odds and Ends

After much effort (too much effort if I'm being honest) on my part, I finally got the Advantage saddle woman to order and mail out the full sheepskin saddle cover and mohair girth. They are both a delicious dark, yet bright red and she looks fantastic in her get up. The girth is about 2" shorter and fits her well. Hopefully that will stop the rubbing during longer rides.

I've been drooling over sheepskin seats for a while now and I will say it was comfy. I like that it is made specifically for this saddle, so it fits like a glove. It did what it was supposed to do: make the seat fit just a bit snugger. My butt was completely spoiled by the WISE saddle though and now nothing will ever compare to the comfort I had in it, but this makes this saddle that much nicer.

I still need to get her to mail out the sheepskin saddle pad. I swear I love my Advantage saddle and would recommend them to anyone, but don't anticipate getting it quickly unless you plan to harass her for it. It has been since December and I even cut corners by just buying and keeping the demo. Once I get the saddle pad, I will have everything I ordered from her.

Gem is looking like a "real" endurance horse now with her boots, matching red gear and how insanely fit she is. I don't think she has ever looked this good. We are just having the best summer together this year. All the hard work we have both put in over the last 4.5 years has really started to pay off. I couldn't be happier with her.

August 4, 2014

Fusion Jogging Boots: All 4 Hooves Protected

I am in love with the boots. Yes, there is a little tweaking that needs to be done yet to make them a perfect fit, but all in all I am very pleased. I just have to wait and see how well they hold up to the miles. If I can get 500 miles out of them I will be very happy.

The new 13s for her fronts came Friday and I got the chance to try them out on her Sunday at the barn. I lacked motivation to trailer far away for just an hour trail ride and the hubs wanted a chance to jump on Pete for the first time in 3 months and start getting him back into shape as well. Plus there are some hills, some gravel and a creek at the barn to see how well the boots can do.

The new larger fronts fit her perfectly in both length and width and snugged down super well. The owner had sent me a new video on getting them snug using a hoof pick and it worked really well.

We went through the trails trying to keep a nice pace going and even cantered a bit in them. Another barn lady joined me who supposedly knew where these elusive power lines are and so after we did the entire barn section we headed down the gravel driveway, across the road and down a second gravel road. Apparently you can catch the power lines off this gravel road somewhere, but we never found them. Bummer.

But...I got about 1 mile on gravel roads and we flew. I asked for a trot and Gem was at first a little hesitant, but then once she realized what the boots were doing, she just flew. She even offered up a canter on the rocks! I was grinning from ear to ear.

When we got back to the barn, Gem looked around like "is that all?" That mare is FIT. She didn't even had a single sweat mark.

I noticed right away that the back right boot was twisted about 45 degrees, maybe a little less. That bothers me a little. It didn't twist at all on the first ride and I think we went farther, but this ride had a little more mud. There was no rubbing, but we didn't ride that far and if it twists early into a long loop without me knowing it could be a big problem.

I was worried about the hinds from the get go with how narrow her feet are back there. I will try them Tuesday night again and watch for it. I was a little rushed getting them on her with the other lady waiting for me, so hopefully it was just my error in placement. Maybe I didn't get it snug enough. If it happens again, I have some neoprene and I am thinking of putting a strip inside the boot to make it fit a bit tighter against the hoof wall. Should solve the issue.

My other issue is the stupid dampening pads. I know they help with shock absorption and increase the longevity of the boots, but every time I take them off the are all twisted about 90 degrees in the boot. The owner said it isn't unusual for them to twist when you remove the boot, but how can I be sure they aren't doing that when I put them on?

I am debating on just glueing the pads into the boot, but we will see.

So I am keeping all 4 boots and letting the learning curve settle down with each ride. I loved the way she moved out, they are still showing no wear at all even on a lot of gravel riding and haven't rubbed her yet even when twisted. This coming weekend I plan on getting a 15+ mile ride in the mountains in so that will be the real test for the boots.