September 30, 2014

Last Long Ride Before Barefoot 50

It is early fall in the South. The mornings are chilly and make me wish for a hoodie, but I know that by mid morning the sun and humidity will climb making me shed it quickly. It is Sunday morning and while all I want to do is stay home and play with my son, I instead get around for a long ride in the woods on my favorite (and only) mare. I remember to grab the camelbak and place a granola bar and bottle of Gatorade in it for on the trail. I then fill a plastic bag with pop tarts, pepsi, a PB&J sandwich and bottle of tea for the road. Annoyingly, the Garmin is dead because I forgot to turn it off after the last ride, but luckily the hubby has one too. Unfortunately that one is only at 50%, but I grab it anyway hoping it will last most of the ride.

Feeling nostalgic for my old stomping grounds, I point the truck an hour away to Clemson. The morning is humid with low hanging clouds and I tack up looking forward to an afternoon of fun. Gem is in a good mood and seems all business like today. Maybe the debacle that was the last trail ride finally made her job sink in a bit. She trots off down the trail with very little energy sucking crap being pulled although she still throws in her typical spook at fallen trees and downed logs for no reason.

We first hit the 6.5 mile green loop and wind through single track hilly woods. The first part is relatively flat for the area and when we pop out onto a meadow path she is feeling good and I ask for a canter. She picks up a lovely smooth canter and off we go down the lane and back into the woods. I find us quickly entering the section of trail the winds along the lake and I am tempted to point her nose into the lake itself through the horse beach. She is a little sweaty with her new winter coat coming in, but I know we have 16 more miles to go today, so I point her away from it and we begin the section that is constant up or down.

The miles fly by as we climb and descend and she is doing super well. Eventually we pop out of the single track and onto a long uphill on a gravel access road. I am a little disappointed to see her walking more gingerly on gravel than ever before, so I hop off and hand walk her up the hill. She seems to really appreciate it and shuffles along behind me snatching at blades of grass as we go.

Before long we hit the crossroad of green and red and make a sharp right on the 9 mile red trail cutting off about a half a mile of the green. Gem is a little confused as to why we turned instead of going back to the trailer, but she carries on as asked. Red is a lot more climbing but also has more areas of double lane gravel roads. When the footing allows, I ask her to canter and we fly down the lanes enjoying the breeze. When it gets too rough or very steep, I get off to give her a break.

Around mile 8 she finds herself a big patch of grass at the foot of a very steep incline and stops to shovel grass in as fast as possible I get off and let her graze for a full 10 minutes before we start the climb. I am not sure if she is starving, stalling for time, or just learned from the last outing that she needs to eat, but I am super happy that she is filling her guts. She historically is a very poor eater and this is my primary concern for longer rides.

Eventually we make our way up and I get back on. At mile 11 my watch dies and so does my horse. She hits her mental wall and shuts down. I remember a comment Karen made on my post about the last long ride. She mentioned how important it is to stay actively engaged in the ride. I pull out my granola bar, chug half my Gatorade and begin singing (very poorly) as we go down the trail. When Gem picks it back up and we scoot between the trees on the winding single track I stick my arms out like an airplane and go "VROOOOM!" Gem cocks and ear back, but I think she picks up on my enthusiasm and she gets through her wall a lot better and quicker than before. Thanks Karen!!!

We come across one last section of grass which she only picks at this time and I know we are nearing the end of the red. At the red and green crossroads, we turn left away from camp and back out to do green backwards. Red is 9 miles and we cut off about a mile of it on either end.

She is not happy with this new turn, but about a half a mile down the trail she realizes where we are and really picks it back up. We sail through these 6 miles and end up cantering back down the trail towards home. 

We finish the 20 miles of very steep and long climbs and descents, a lot of trotting and some cantering in just over 4 hours which for us is doing pretty darn good. I am feeling good thanks to the midway snack and the beverage and Gem seems not too worse for the miles. I get the tack off her, note that she is sweaty but not too bad, palpate her back and find no sore spots and then go hose her off. Even after all the work and the humidity in the woods as well as cantering into camp, she is not hot at all and the water runs off her cold.

Afterward, I make her hand jog back to the trailer to practice a vet in. She gets a big bucket of grain mixed with her vitamin powder and scarfs it all down quickly. I stash her stuff back in the trailer, give the stink eye to the person who felt it necessary to park their trailer on top of mine in an otherwise completely empty parking lot, then put her up and head out. I manage to spook their horses in the process but don't really care since the one horse had its butt resting on my truck. Seriously people. Park somewhere else.

When we get back to the barn, she is sleepy looking but manages to canter off up the back hill of her pasture to meet up with her girls. She looked great and definitely made me proud.

September 29, 2014

I LOVE The New BM

Sunday morning I awoke in a funk. I needed to ride and with only three weekends standing between us and our first 50 miler, I wanted to get one last 20 mile ride in. I had zero motivation and just wanted to stay home playing with my son. The hubby reminded me that it is times like this that makes it "endurance" and not just trail riding and to get up and go ride.

I made it to the barn and the new BM (barn manager) came over as I was backing the truck up to the trailer.

"I was going to call you this morning. We need to talk." (BM will be in blue)

Oh...good...I'm getting kicked out of one of the best barns I have ever been at and it has only been a week. Glad I left the house this morning.

"Uh oh...what's wrong?" ( I am in red)

"Nothing is wrong. The horses are settling in great and they are easy to work with."

"Oh...ok...."

"Now I've been thinking ever since you moved in about this whole thing and if you want her to carry you 50 miles, I think she needs more groceries."

"Um...has she gotten skinny in the last week? I think she is really at a perfect weight right now unless she has dropped some. She has plenty of grass out there to eat."

"No, she hasn't lost any and she looks really great right now, but 50 miles is a long way and she needs more fuel. What do you think?"

"Well, I agree that I'd rather her go into it with reserves, but I don't want her fat. She is such an easy keeper and got fat last winter off air. She really doesn't need a whole lot as long as there is grass for her to eat. Do you want me to come over on my lunch break and feed her?"

"Absolutely not. That's what I am here for. She isn't getting any grain right now. Maybe a handful to get the stall horses in off the pasture in the morning. I think she needs grain."

"I have bags of grain from when we had to buy our own. Do you want me to drop them off and you can use that?"

"Nope. You can have all the grain here that you want. She is super easy to catch, so why don't I just bring her in with the stall horses and put her in an empty stall to feed her. Then when she is done, I will put her back out. Would that work for you?"

"Yeah, but that seems like an awful lot of work for you"

"Hush. That's what I am here for"

The BM is such a friendly, kind, good hearted man. He puts the welfare of the horse first and will do anything he can to make sure each horse and healthy and happy on the farm. I did warn him that I don't want her fat. She is pretty darn close to perfect right now and I am planning on starting to taper a good bit, so her work load is going down. I agree though that some extra energy and reserves would be a good thing leading up to this adventure.

I've just never been somewhere where they are so willing to do what is best.

September 25, 2014

Observations 3 Days In

Wednesday morning was as good a time as any to get the dreaded first ride over with. I had been putting it off all week to avoid having to do it at dusk, but now I was out of excuses. Gem needed ridden and she needed it done on property.

Fortunately, the morning was colder than it had been in months and there was a brisk wind whipping around. (Where is that sarcastic font when you need it?) Apparently, the world wanted a show.

Gem was waiting at her gate with the other mares. I immediately noticed her darker coat. Is winter coming already? She is furry and I see a yak in the near future. What I didn't see were any signs of bites, kicks or other mare nastiness. That made me very, very happy.

We sauntered sideways, backwards and a little forward at times past the barn, along the gelding pasture and to the trailer where she proceeded to dance around, snort at all the things she didn't approve of and nearly trample me in the process of trying to brush her out. All of this was expected and I just kept trying to let her know it was all going to be ok. She didn't listen to a word of it.

It had only been 3 days since her arrival here. Other than negative things such as kick or bite marks, how big of a deal could 3 days make? The answer? A big, huge, massive one.

Right off the bat I noticed her left eye was dry. She had started with a clear drainage from it back in June after a long and dusty trail ride. I watched it and it never turned yucky, she wasn't sensitive and her vision seemed fine. But the darn thing kept leaking. It got worse at the last barn. But now? It was completely 100% dry. Maybe it was an allergy to the weeds or grass in her other pastures? Or the hay? Or maybe this place is just magical. I don't know.

I continued my lame attempt at grooming a moving target who seemed convinced the monsters were going to show up to rip her throat out at any moment. Once I got to her hooves, I let out a squee of joy. She has been barefoot since our first winter in WI and always had rock solid awesome feet which is why I was worried at the last farm. Her hooves were always wet. The pasture had some grass and was on top of a hill and never really seemed to be wet, but her hooves were always wet. To the point of me getting really worried they weren't going to hold up for 50 miles. I am sure the 20 miles we rode 2 weeks ago helped a bunch, but after 3 days here her feet were rock solid again. Dry, dry, dry. The frogs were looking amazing without any fraying or moisture. I was soooo happy!

These are two great things and I chalk them up to the large amount of land she is covering while grazing, good grass and fresh air :)

Eventually I got her tacked up and briefly debated on where to ride. The galloping lanes around the pastures were calling out their seductive song to me. I pictured us galloping around having a blast in the cool weather with the wind blowing our hair. And then I pictured a fiery crash as she spooked at nothing, dumped me and ran away to never be seen again. We headed to the fenced in arena field.

Honestly, she wasn't as bad as I had planned for. She was up, nervous and tight but she remembered what an arena was and knew I wanted her to stay in the sand. She didn't agree and tried to canter/gallop out of it and head back to the fence every stinking time, but I just calmly turned her back around and asked her to trot around the darn thing. I did let her out of the sand and attempted to walk around the entire perimeter of the grass field (I think it is about 10 acres with the arena in the middle) and she let me know what she thought about that idea by giving me a decent attempt at a buck. That got her another trip around the field at a walk, then back into the arena. Once she let out a sigh and mostly calmly trotted both directions around the arena, we called it quits. She got lots of praise a bucket of grain and put back out with her mares.

The mares were all out alongside the road and she took off at a canter to join them. The boss mare quickly sized her up and ran her off, but by the time we left she was in the mix again. I am very happy here :)


September 24, 2014

New Digs

Moving barns. Ick.

Sunday was moving day for the Dynamic Duo. Our current barn was seeing a change of hands next month and it is still up in the air who is taking over. Last I heard a lady who breeds warmbloods was coming to look at it. Who knows how much she would charge or if she would even offer boarding. It was time to get out.

We headed out bright and early before the hubby could get too sore to say no and loaded everything up. One big bonus of living out of the trailer is that I never have to worry about grabbing my stuff. Everything is already in place. Gem and Pete loaded great and we were saying goodbye to the BO and heading to their new digs.

We pulled into the new barn yard and I parked the trailer to unload the horses. Unfortunately, the one big negative with this place is that they split mares and geldings. Gem and Pete have been side by side for nearly 5 years with just a small stint at Crabby Acres and I really hate splitting them apart. Having made finding a barn for them a second job I can honestly say that there is no other options out there right now.

Gem unloaded first and I headed out to her pasture to show her around. The mare pasture is to the left of the barn and is 35 acres of wide open space and tons of wonderful grass. There are 3 other pasture board mares out there full time and one stall board mare who gets added at night now and then during the day in the winter. The grass is so plentiful that the current horses have been taken off grain and no hay has been required all summer. The other mares aren't ridden ever though, so I made a mental note to keep a close eye on Gem so she doesn't get skinny with her heavy work load.

We wandered around the perimeter and met the boss mare who is a massive dun quarter horse. The BO's right hand woman explained that she has never seen her kick or bite and will just run new horses around until she lets them in. I can live with that. Gem was not in the mood to socialize one bit and tried to double barrel her. Sigh. Be nice mare!!!

Eventually we ended up back at the gate and I let her go. She was very stressed and kept calling for  Pete and spent the next 10 minutes running back and forth by the gate. It broke my heart because I knew if Pete was out there she would have run around happy for the room and got busy grazing. The other horses just looked at her like she was crazy and left her be. I wandered back to the trailer so the hubby could get Pete out.

Pete is in a 40 acre pasture with the same lovely grass and I think 6 other geldings full time with 2 or so added from the stalls. He wandered around good naturedly as usual and when he met everyone else he just let them sniff and got busy grazing. He is so easy going. He immediately made friends with everyone and was enjoying himself when we left him.

We did drive by again later that day to check on Gem. We didn't bother going over (I wanted to see how she was acting without her knowing I was there) and instead just parked the car on a side road bordering her pasture. She was by herself a little ways away from the two main mares (there are 2 quarter horses who are best buds and run the pasture and then a third mare who is a 28 year old arab who just ignores everyone and stays out of the way) and was grazing just fine. I yelled out a hello and she popped her head up. Well, apparently the boss mare took notice and decided to go say hello again. Gem snorted and squeed then pawed with a front leg. That wasn't being nice. The two mares came over and Gem turned and double barrel kicked the boss mare. Ick. We will have to see how this goes.

So why this barn?

Well, two big reasons: 3 miles from my house and the largest, best grassy pastures I have ever seen. Gem will get to eat real grass, move around and maintain some level of fitness.

There are other reasons too. There is a lighted arena for work in the evenings. Both pastures have a wide grassy lane mowed around the perimeter. The geldings comes in at 1 mile even and the mares at 0.75. They have a short but steep hill on each lane. While these aren't trails, it is better than nothing and I can get a lot of speed work done on great footing out there. I can circle, do figure 8s, do laps at trot, canter, gallop.

The BO is an older man who has more horse knowledge than I may ever have in my life time. He was big into the local rodeo circuit back in his day and did super well until injuries piled up. He is friendly, super nice and after talking to several current and past boarders I know that the horses will get the best care ever there. He won't let Gem get fat or skinny and will let me know if anything comes amiss.

I ma excited to be there and think that once they settle in things will be really good. I just hope Gemmie agrees!



September 23, 2014

Run For The Horses 50 (the tale of the hubby's ultra)

Someday life may settle down, but I hope not soon and I plan to enjoy the ride as much as possible until then.

Saturday was the Run for the Horses 30/50 at Biltmore. It was originally supposed to be Gem's 50 mile debut and would have been glorious except for those darn gremlins in life that screw up all your plans. Anyway....one thing after another led up to the decision for Gem and I to stand down and send the hubby alone.

He left Friday afternoon to sign in, eat pasta and enjoy ridecamp. He met up with S who was riding the 30 on Saturday and her hubby (crewing for her) and settled in for a fun evening under the stars.

The original ride/run plans had the runners out on trail at 0530 and doing a different first loop than the horses. I'm not sure why things changed, but new plans were announced at the ride meeting and he would start at 0630 and everyone would do the same trails. The 50 riders would go out half an hour later and then the LD runners/riders after that. I think S said she started at 0830.

Saturday late morning I packed up W and heading up to try to find the hubby and hopefully see him finish. As I was driving around the estate to get to ridecamp, who happened to be running alongside the road? Hubby! He stopped to say hello and said he had about 13 more miles to go. Unfortunately, the aid stations were out of food and low on water and he was getting a little worried about that but otherwise was enjoying the trails, horses and views.

S was still out on trail, but would come in happy and sound about 20 minutes later. She had a great ride on her mare and was all smiles which is the best you can hope for.

W and I milled around the vetting area then headed to camp to grab snacks and then back to vetting where the hubby would cross his finish line. It is really, really hard to entertain W at ridecamp. Basically it is a big open field full of horses and dogs he can't touch, trailers he can't explore and water he really isn't allowed to mess with. He gets frustrated, cranky, bored, tired and hungry. I managed to keep him occupied with the water hose at the finish line since we were not seeing any horses coming in at that time. He was soaking wet, but having fun.

Eventually even that wore thin so I called the hubby to see where he was. I really try hard to never bother him while he is out running, but I needed to know how long he would be to judge if we could stick around or not. Turns out he was just exiting the woods and was in sight! I rushed over to the finish and snagged some great pictures of him crossing the finish line 50 miles and 10:31 later :) He finished 4 of 7 and was thrilled with that, his self management throughout and the trails.

He isn't as wordy as I am about these things, so I don't have many details of the actual run. I know he had a running partner for the first 20 miles, but then was on his own. He got stung by bees 4 times during the run all on his left leg. Those welts were massive on Sunday!

How was it running with horses out there? Pretty great apparently. He enjoyed having them around and it made him feel really awesome when he passed riders ;) He only ran into one really rude rider who treated him like crap and one group who were really nervous but super nice. The rest rode beside him, behind or in front and chatted about the ride/run and had a good time. The elevation gain wasn't terrible (or the worst he had done) but the hills were long enough to really tire out the legs.

I do find it interesting to hear his take on the trails. He was really pleased with the markers (he managed to get lost once but quickly realized it and turned around) which were abundant and the footing which he described as near perfect. I overhead quite a few riders complain about the roots and rocks and footing prior to him coming in, so hearing how great he thought they were was interesting.

I was very proud of him and he got a really great finishers medal at the end. I helped break down his tent and clean up while he grabbed a shower in S's trailer and then we headed back home. It was a really fun day and I am super glad he got to run.

September 19, 2014

A Few Lessons Learned

When you are on your horses back for nearly 5 hours you learn a few things. Endurance is all about learning and adapting and I am always open to new things. Sunday was no different and while I used all my old gear (thankfully issue free once again) and wasn't camping or vetting, there were still some slap in your face moments of clarity that occurred.

The biggest lesson I learned was that I absolutely must teach Gem to stand still while mounting.

She has this bad habit of standing great for me to get my foot in the stirrup and then walking/jigging/trotting off while I try to swing up and on. I haven't cared enough to train it out of her, so she gets away with it. I don't know which mile we were at, but it was on the purple loop and I was off walking to give her a break. When I went to get back on she spun to take off the opposite direction which tweaked my back and shoulder. I was angry and frustrated, but it was all my fault for not teaching her to stand still in the first place. So guess what? We will now be working on her standing still until I ask her to move every single time.

Another lesson that I had previous learned but was reinforced Sunday was to always bring water.

From past experiences I know that I can handle 1.5 hours on trail without water before becoming cranky and ruining my own fun. I planned for this though and filled up the 2 liter Camelbak that morning. Unfortunately,  there was a gaping hole in the hose and I watched water spew onto the kitchen floor. I should have worn it anyway and just placed Gatorade bottles in the pack, but I went without. Not smart. Luckily, it was very cool out and the humidity was low so I was still in good spirits and functioning when the hubby found me and gave me his pepsi. If it had been a typically hot and humid SC day, I would have been screwed. Always, always, always take water.

Another biggie is that horses hit the wall too and Gem's is definitely a mental game.

While Gem is highly opinionated, she isn't alpha at all. Most of our early issues were due to me not being confident enough to gain her trust, so she just shut down and said nope. Over the years we have definitely built a much stronger relationship, but she still gets mentally tired being out alone on the trail. Short breaks where I get off and either jog or walk with her really help her by letting me take over as the lead. On the flip side, sometimes she is just getting lazy and bored so I need to get better at forcing her to stay in front of my leg and keep moving. I get really, really frustrated when she crawls on down the trail at 1.5 mph because I know she can do better and is just acting like a toddler dragging her feet. If I get after her and force her to get in front of my leg and keep the pace up, she does just fine. It is a fine line though between her being a lazy butt who needs to get moving and her reaching her limit of being out in front.

There was one other incident, but I don't think I learned a whole lot from it except to never let my guard down.

We were going through a tough time on the purple trail and were getting very frustrated with the footing and conditions. We came through a clearing and I don't know if Gem wasn't paying attention or was just being a snot, but there was a large puddle across the entire trail hidden amongst very tall weeds. She put one foot in and flipped out, spun and tried to bolt away. I was apparently not very prepared and had relaxed way too much because I came out of the saddle and ended up hugging her neck. I managed to not fall off (thank goodness - adding wet breeched to the mix would have made the ride end very differently) and wiggled back into the saddle again. I did get on her about that. She knows better and there was no reason to spook at the puddle. I then forced her in front of my leg and to move down that darn trail. A moving horse tends to spook a lot less. I guess this ties in with the above lesson.

The hubby is off to run 50 miles at Biltmore this weekend. Gem and I were supposed to be riding in it as well, but it didn't work out that way. I really wish I was at least doing the LD, but such is life. I hope he is in good enough shape to function Sunday because I plan to head out again for another adventure.

September 18, 2014

Just Another Manic Sunday

Miss Sexy herself.
Had you told me 4 1/2 years ago that someday I would plop Gem on the trailer, drive out to the park and ride for 18 miles alone, I would have laughed in your face. The mare who would alternate between stubbornly planting her feet and not moving an inch to bolting and careening out of control is now a trail machine. Oh the ride was not without issues, but honestly how could I possibly complain when I got to spend 5 hours on her back in the woods on a random Sunday?

LIFE IS GOOD :)

But it is also humorous, so here is my story of the longest 2 hour trail ride.....

After all the tire inflating and changing commotion I didn't pull into the trail head until 11:30 am. It was misty, moist and more than a little creepy to be the only one there. The hubby had left the barn to go home and feed W and was planning on coming down to hike a little later. I figured on 2.5 hours to do 15 miles.

Now I don't like to brag, but when you are good at something you are good and I am the best at getting lost. I swear I could get lost going in a straight line. Knowing this I stopped at the trail map and grabbed a paper copy to take with me as well.



Whoever planned the trails at Sumter must have either been diabolically evil or had a mean sense of humor because while there are 7 different color coded trails not a single one is a loop that can be started and finished at the trail head. Why not just make single color loops and add in some short cut trails? That's how I would have done it, but nope...this person decided that every single trail would be a point to point trail to nowhere.

I studied the map and in order to get the miles in that I wanted I decided on the following harebrained plan:

- Take the blue and yellow loop out of the trail head until it dead ended 5.75 miles later
- Then head onto the purple and yellow trail which would eventually just be the purple trail for 9 miles
- Hop on the .75 mile green trail
- Turn onto the 1.25 mile grey trail
- End up of the blue trail to go back to the trailer

Ha! Like that was ever going to happen smoothly, but I had my trusty map and a good horse so off I went with my head in the low hanging clouds. Of course I promptly got lost trying to even find the blue and yellow trail head, but one mile and one un amused mare later we finally found it and were off.

The blue and yellow loop was through the dense forest and the ground was a mix of fallen leaves and pine needles covering up slick red clay. The going was slow, but I just kept in mind the saying "don't hurry, but never tarry" and kept up a pace that the trail would safely allow. It was very well marked with little bright blue and yellow signs and I was in high spirits.







Up and down and around we went along the single track through the forest. Nobody else was around and the ground muffled her hoof steps leaving the only sound audible to be the all too frequent

"Yuck! Are you serious?! Get off me! SOB!"

occurring as we crashed through spider web after spider web after spider web. Seriously, 4 miles in I had already counted 30 now homeless spiders and just gave up keeping track. The fall in SC is beautiful but it is also a time for all spiders to come out and make massive webs, so beware!

I think the only real incident on the blue/yellow trail was a bridge of doom. We rounded a corner and saw this:







Me: Go Across Gem.
Gem: Snort, back up.
Me: I said go across, Gem.
Gem: Snort, back up, spin, go home.
Me: Argh. Fine. I'll walk you across you big baby.

Now, generally I dislike letting her win and rarely get off to maneuver an object, but the previous wooden bridge (which she crossed just fine) was very slick and she slipped a good bit. A brief risk/benefit analysis showed that winning this one just wasn't worth a broken pony. So off I got and on the other side I decided to just stay there and jog a bit. About a mile later I was back on and we were nearing the end of the first trail. Without getting lost! Ha!! Take that manic trail designer man.

Purple/yellow was up next and was a large 9 mile arc. I found it easily enough and happily it began as a nice wide and more importantly not mushy or slick access road. I checked the Garmin and made a mental note that around 15 miles it should turn into green.  It was so nice to have firmer land again that I asked her to canter. Which she did. Right past a sharp left turn. Sigh.

Now let me just cut in with a side note: purple is a very crappy color to put on trees to mark trail. It is dark, blends in easily and requires very good light to see. Please, don't ever pick purple to mark trail.

Ok...no big deal. We easily got back on track. The ground was a lot firmer and allowed for a good trot for most of it. Gem was doing well at this point and I was still hopeful that we could finish in about 2.5 hours since she wasn't sweaty or breathing hard in the slightest.

The trees began to die out and I could tell this area had been logged in the not so distant past. Most of the ground was covered in new forest wood and very tall weeds. Birds were more plentiful and with a wider trail the spiders were no longer a problem. The next few miles flew by.

Purple trail: dry and more open

Less trees= less spiders









The purple trail even had purple mushrooms
At about 8 miles out we popped out of the logging area and onto a power line path which lead to an access road. I had thought about cantering down the path, but it was super rutted and dove back into the denser woods pretty quickly. When we popped onto the road we waved to a friendly ranger driving by.
 
Power lines or some sort of access path
 
At some point we popped out on the road again and had to walk up a large hill quite a ways. The ranger passed us on this road as well. I wonder what he was doing out there? I felt bad for Gem, so I jumped off and walked her up the hill on foot.
 
 
 
And then 2 miles later we hit a wall.

 
Big time.
 
From mile 8 to mile 10 the woods were denser, the spider webs appeared in even greater numbers and the trail was so overgrown that the only way I knew where to go was by spying the next purple marker and heading towards it.
 
Where did the trail go?
Maybe between those trees?


Please tell me we don't have to go through that!
Mile 10 saw a break down.
 
We were crawling down the trail at a whopping 1.5 mph, we had been out for forever and I was mentally struggling with the thought of 6 more miles of spiders, horrible trails and a horse who just didn't want to be doing this anymore.
 
The spider webs were coming so close together that when I dodged one I would smack into the next with the side of my face. And the spiders on this side of the trail? HUGE.
 
Gem had her own breakdown at about the same time. She just stopped dead in her tracks. She flung her head from side to side to side to side and refused to move. I hopped off her and went around to see her face covered in webs with a big old spider walking up her nose. I hurriedly wiped the spider away and attempted to clean up as many of the webs as I could. Apparently I wasn't the only one getting covered and she was just as frustrated and annoyed by it as I was.
 
I decided it was time for her to get another break, so I just walked her down the trail.  My garmin pretty predictably drops mileage on twisting trails with a lot of tree coverage. I was at just over 11 miles per the watch and figuring in some dropped miles I knew I had to be within 2-3 miles of finishing the purple trail.
 
We walked along with me on foot and popped back out onto an access road. Only there were no signs of where to go.
 
I looked straight ahead and saw this:
 
No trail, no marker
The road ran to my left and right and I couldn't see any markers either way. The map wasn't detailed enough to show all the roads or where to go exactly. It was more of a suggestion. I chose left and walked up a bit.
 
 

 
After a half mile I still wasn't seeing anything on the trees except logging markers, so we turned around and walked down past our exit point and down on the road.
 


After another half a mile, I still didn't see any markers. Crap.

I walked back up again and then called in the troops.

The hubby was out hiking and I called him to see where he was. He happened to be back at the trail head and walked over to look at the map. He said that any road marked on the map had a right turn associated with it, so go right.

I went back to the right, but still saw nothing.

I had two options:

1) Travel the road until it ran into something and hopefully use the map to figure out how on earth to get back to the parking lot.

2) Turn around and go back the way we came

Turning around really wasn't an option right then. The thought of going back another 12 miles for 24 total miles when I hadn't eaten anything all day and I knew Gem had to be thirsty wasn't appealing. Plus those spiders. I couldn't handle any more spiders. At least the road was void of spiders.

So I called the hubby again and told him my plan. He jumped in the van and came looking for me. It is the reason he usually hikes while I ride. It is a safety net in case Gem and I get separated, hurt or lost. It sure came in handy Sunday.

I hand walked Gem for another mile or mile and a half and then told her she needed to toughen up and get going, so I hopped back on. She was still moving out just fine and felt refreshed being on an open, easily seen and spider free trail again. In fact we put in our best times on this road 14 miles into the ride :)

Around a bend and we saw the hubby!


Sweet rescue was at hand :)

I gulped down a pepsi and asked where on earth the access road went. All I had to do was follow it until it came to a T and then turn left and then make a left onto the park entrance. I then knew exactly what road I was on. It was the same road (although farther down) that I had travelled with S the last time when I tried out her Coolback pad. Yay!

Alternatively, the purple trail was off in the woods to my right and I could have jumped back on it. Apparently I needed to go right out of the woods (which I did) and then there was a cut back into the trail on the right side that I had walked right past. The hubby drove down while I went ahead and he took a picture of it. It was all overgrown.

I debated about hitting the trail again and finishing the path I had started, but honestly the thought of all those spiders and crappy trail versus this nice wide, clean road was not very appealing. Gem and I took off down the road and put in an 8 minute mile for the last 3 miles :)

All in all we did 16 miles per the Garmin, but probably at least 18 (maybe even closer to 20) in real life knowing how much it tends to drop in areas like that. It took us 4 hours and 52 minutes. With no food or water for either of us.

The hubby drove back and waited for us at the trailer and Einstein got to meet Gem who wasn't very amused.



She looked and felt great at the end. No back soreness, no leg swelling and not really all that tired. I was soo happy with her and how brave she was through the entire day. She really was a super star and I really believe that she will be ready for her 50 in October.








September 17, 2014

Product Review: Trailer Jack

Continuing yesterdays product review story....

We filled up the trailer tires and then happily hooked the truck up and pulled the trailer up the hill to get Gem.

As I was opening the back I walked past the right side of the trailer and thought that the tire looked like it had already lost a bunch of air. I mentioned it to the hubby and he thought maybe it was just because we were on a small uphill grade, but then upon closer inspection he agreed that it really was already down. Crap.

We had already planned on changing that tire out before we headed to TN in October, so now was as good a time as any. We have a full spare in the trailer. Thankfully my friend T had recommended a trailer jack back in the spring and we actually went ahead and got one. It had been living in the trailer unused until Sunday when we finally pulled it out.

The instructions on the side say to be on level ground which is just common sense when changing any tire. We of course ignored that and just changed it where we were which was on a slight grade going uphill which would put more weight on the tire we were changing. I'm sure that is the exact opposite of what you should do.

Anyway....

All you do is place the thing in front of the good tire as pictured below. If it was the front tire that needed changed we would have placed it behind the back tire. I was worried at first that it would just shift as we tried to drive up the ramp, so I made the hubby drive and I watched :)


I needn't have worried though. The trailer just went right on up the little ramp and once the tire hit the well I called out for the hubby to stop.


Since we were on the hill it did roll back a smidge, but was steady and stable so we left it. By doing this, the back tire that needed changed was now in the air and ready to the removed. One side note: make sure you loosen all the lug nuts a bit prior to pulling up on the jack.



Having removed all the lug nuts you can now easy pop the tire off and replace with the new one.


It is even better when you have a little helper to sweep out the tack area while you work on the tire :)

Once you are done all you need to do is back up off the ramp and you are all set!

We inspected the tire afterward and saw a small nail in it which is what we expected to find. With such a slow, but steady leak there had to be something in there.


And that was all there was to it!

PROS:
See the above story :) Seriously, it is that simple

CONS:
Other than the fact that it is just one more thing taking up space in my small tack area, I really don't have any cons.

If you drive a trailer, I highly suggest that you invest in one to have on hand. You just never know.

September 16, 2014

Product Review: Tire Inflator

I promise that I will put up my Sunday story, but first I want to rave about two little items I added to my arsenal this summer and got to use this past weekend.

Item 1:

Have you ever tried getting air at a gas station for your trailer tires? I don't know if it is just this area or my lack of trailer maneuvering skills, but it is next to impossible. Either the station doesn't offer it or has it crammed into the back corner where I couldn't possibly fit with the truck and 2 horse. I know every station between the barn and the trails I frequent and have eye balled them all looking for easy access.

Why?

Because the back right tire on the trailer has slowly been leaking its life blood over the summer. I last filled it up prior to Biltmore in July and the pressure gauge read 10 psi when it should read 30. Ooops. Since then I noticed it slowly getting lower and lower and have tried on numerous occasions to swing by a gas station to fill it, but just can't get in. We do own a large air compressor at the house, but getting the trailer to the house isn't ever really going to happen and it is just too heavy for me to get to the barn.

Enter this:


I spied this while spending an eternity at Sears waiting for my van to get new tires before our trip up north last month. There were several different versions ranging from $20-100 and we grabbed the $20 version.

On the right hand side you see the power cord which goes into the plug in your car (you know - where the cigarette lighter used to be). I can't remember off hand how long the cord is, but it is plenty long to fill the tires on your own car. The center is the actual machine with a regular pressure gauge. The fancier ones had digital read outs, but they also needed power to work the gauge which this one doesn't. Then on the left is the air hose that attaches to the tire. It came with a normal attachment for vehicle tires as well as ones for bike tires and balls.

It is very simple to work: just plug into the car, turn on car, plug into tire, turn on machine and watch as it fills your tire back up. Working with the trailer, the cords are not long enough to hook the truck up, but I planned for that and just pulled the truck up beside the trailer. It filled all 4 tires without a problem and without draining the truck battery.

PROS:
Super compact: easy to store in the truck or trailer.
Light weight
It works! It was a little slow and noisy, but all 4 trailer tires were filled and ready to go in short order.
It didn't drain my truck battery even filling 4 tires (one of which was extremely low)

CONS:
Can't hook truck and trailer up and have it reach. This may seem silly, but think about being stranded along the road or at a gas station and having to unload the horses, unhook the trailer, and then fill them up.
Noisy

All in all it was a great purchase to have and it worked super well. Much faster than I expected being so small and using the car battery. I like having it on hand in case I show up and the trailer has a flat. I can see using it at the barn, at a ride camp while Gem is in her paddock, or even at a trail head while Gem is tied to the trailer (once she gets used to the noise). The only situation where I don't think it is usable would be once in transit.

I highly recommend getting one to have on hand. It really was so simple to use and I wished I had it earlier this summer.



September 15, 2014

Blog Hop: Why The Heck Did You Start?

I was going to write about my Sunday blunders, but you will all have to wait until tomorrow for that because Mel over at Boots and Saddles has come up with a great blog hop. And I love blog hops :)

Her question is:

WHY THE HECK DID YOU START?
 
 
At first I thought this would be a simple question with a simple answer, but as I sit here trying to write this post I am realizing that it is oh so complex.
 
I started riding a million years ago on my aunt's farm tooling around on the back of a pony in the pasture. I then graduated to sharing the saddle with my uncle as I encouraged him to go faster and faster on his mare. Eventually I got old and tall enough to get my own ride and then the entire world opened up for me. We covered so many hundreds of miles on horseback in so many wonderful places. It truly was a great time of my life.
 
But why did it all begin? I think just because it was available, I was a young girl (like 3 years old) and in love with any animal on the planet that I could get near. And my parents allowed it. The more important question for me is - why did I continue?
 
Riding has always been my Zen, my stress relief, the only time in my life when my brain shuts down and focuses on the moment I am in instead of all the other things going on. My brain goes quiet, my soul feels free and I am extraordinarily happy. It is kinda like heroin :) And I am still that 3 year old girl who loves any animal I come across. Just the thought of having Gemmie in my life is amazing.
 
Taking it one step farther - why did I start endurance?
 
Gem and I were spending our time fiddling around in the arena basically attempting anything we could to avoid massive, insanity inducing boredom as we went round and round and round. My aunt and uncle had instilled in me a deep love of the trails and once I grew a set I convinced the hubby to head on out on the trails with me. Gem was much better out on trails than in the arena and I was in love with trotting and cantering down the trail finding out what was around the next bend.
 
I knew endurance existed from previous research on what to do with an Arab. I like having goals, having something in the distance to work for, or I tend to just become lazy about it all. I mentioned it to an attending in residency who happened to have a friend who was kicking butt on the LD circuit up in the arctic north and we hooked up for dinner. She made it all seem so attainable and doable that I quickly found myself signing up for our first LD, then found myself there, then found myself completing with the worlds largest grin (and sorest body) ever. 
 
 So why did I start? Because I could, it was available, and I had a horse who I thought would be able to finish without killing me.
 
It is basically the whole story of my life. Why do I do anything? Because it is available and I can :)


September 12, 2014

On The Lookout....Again....

Ugh.

I am seriously at my wits end with boarding and now I am on the hunt yet again :( Why can't someone out there just donate some land to me so the Dynamic Duo can just be out my back door finally? Some day. Hopefully sooner rather than later. Come on business!!! Grow!!!

Anyway....

Gem has now been a resident at 7 different barns in 4.5 years (Pete at 6) and we are once again having to relocate. Sigh. I don't even know where to being again. I did a pretty exhaustive search back in the spring when we landed where we currently are and I doubt anything new has popped up. But I will spend the time this weekend to once again put together a list and see what is out there.

7 barns in 4.5 years sounds bad, but I swear I am an easy boarder. I try super hard to always leave the barn looking the way it did when I arrived (my goal is to make it impossible to tell I was even there unless someone saw me), follow any rules I know of, and I don't ask for special favors. The Dynamic Duo are easy keepers themselves, don't pick fights and don't test fencing. We don't have a million supplements or a difficult schedule. So why the moves? Here is a semi quick run down of our boarding history (feel free to skim :)

Barn # 1 Beagle Run in Ohio: Ohio boarding was insanely expensive, far away from where we lived and not so great in general. I chose the closest I could afford with the best care I could find. I then quickly realized it was not such a great place and that Gem and I needed some training help. We stayed here maybe 3 months.

Barn # 2 Promise Land in Ohio: This was insanely expensive, but she was put in full training. Of course no training actually occurred, the trainer never even rode her, but I got a lesson a week and Gem got time to relax, eat and enjoy life a bit. We acquired Pete while here, put him in training for even more wasted money and then got out 3 months later when we moved to Wisconsin.

Barn #3 Kings Ranch in Wisconsin: We managed to rent the house on a boarding facility which saved my sanity through my first year of residency. The barn managers became our best friends and life was good. But then landlord gambled all the rent away and the bank foreclosed forcing us to move a year later.

Barn #4 Willow Springs in Wisconsin: A truly lovely facility, in a great location for us, and with very knowledgeable and nice owners. We stayed there happily for the last 2 years we were in Wisconsin and would have stayed longer had we not moved.

Barn #5 Crabby Acres in South Carolina: We chose this place based on really nothing except location and price. We ran out of vacation time and money to be able to fly down and find a house and barn so both were chosen sight unseen. It is a nice place as long as you agree with the BO, but we didn't mesh well personality wise and Gem was getting the crap beat out of her, so we left a short 3 months after arriving.

Barn #6 FS Farms in South Carolina: One of my favorite places with super great BOs, friendly boarders, some trails, a large arena and plenty of grass. We were pretty happy here, but then we moved an hour away and it was just too far to keep them there. We were very sad to leave.

Barn #7 New Life in South Carolina: Our current location which is serving us pretty well. There are some issues here and there (like the 35 minute drive or showing up to find the gate to our pasture unlocked and wide open...that made my heart race and my temper flare a bit), but all in all the horses are doing well and I am managing to find ways to make it all work out.

So if things are going ok....why stress out and move?

Well...when we looked at the place the BO mentioned that she may be moving to FL, but not to worry because one of the boarders would be managing it in her absence. To me that came across as she would still own it and make the decisions, but someone else would be doing the actual day to day work. We were fine with that.

As time has gone on, it came to light that she only leases the property and so if/when she moves she would give up the lease and this other person would be taking over completely. But she was vague about if she really was moving or when and so we just kept on keeping on.

Well, yesterday she announced that she bought property in FL and will be leaving at the end of October. The new lady will take over then.

This isn't the end of the world except for the fact that I do not trust this other lady one bit. She is the one who left my gate open. She doesn't pay attention to details. She is very limited in her horse knowledge, but has been in the horse world for forever and thinks she knows it all. To me she is dangerous and I do not trust my horses in her care.

So we have until the end of October to find a new place. I called my favorite on the list (out of price range, but hoped I could bargain with doing chores or letting them use Gem for something) but they are full and have a long wait list to boot. Darn.

Let the fun begin :(



September 10, 2014

The Not So Itsy Bitsy Spider Incident

For those who are also friends with me on facebook - you got the short version last night. Here is the full story:

Yesterday morning I didn't have any patients on the schedule, so I played hooky and headed to the barn to try to get some daylight miles on Gem. With fall coming on fast, my evenings are getting harder and harder to get rides done before night hits. Anyway...just as I got there my receptionist texted me that we now had a 10:30 am patient. I looked at my watch and knew I wouldn't have time to get the mare, tack, ride, untack, cool, get home and take a shower and make it to work. Darn. But having patients is a good thing, so that was much more important.

With an hour to kill, I tackled a big item on my to do list: cleaning out the trailer. It was getting pretty gross in there (and on the outside) and needed a good scrubbing. I grabbed the hose and got a lot of the muck out, but wanted it better. I wasn't prepared for this task, so the only thing I had to hand was Gemmie's shampoo. I squeezed some out onto the floor, grabbed the broom and went to town. It worked surprisingly well :) It looked much cleaner and even smelled good!

It is September, but it is also the South so I knew leaving the trailer all closed up would only create a sauna that would mold my tack in an instant. I left the back wide open and vowed to return that night to close it all up and hopefully ride as well.

Its a good thing too or else I would have snuggled up on the couch at 7 pm rather than drive back to the barn, but I needed to go and so I pulled back into the barn drive shortly after 7:30pm. Unfortunately, it is now fall and the sun is beginning to work against me. I had limited time to ride before it was dark. We headed to the hay field and managed 3 laps around before it was too dark to be safe and called it a night.

On the way out I parked the car in the drive and got out to shut the gate across the driveway. No big deal. As I walked through the narrow opening I managed to ruin the home a friendly spider and get covered in a sticky web. Its gross, but being a solo trail rider it is something I have definitely come to terms with. I catch more webs than I like to think about out on the trail.

I got back into the car, put it in drive with my foot on the brake and turned to my right to text the hubby that I was coming back home. That's when it all went to crap.

There was a 3-4" black, long legged spider chilling out on my right shoulder facing my face. I freaked out!

Completely forgetting that the car was in drive, I opened the drivers side door and leaped out flailing my arms as the spider decided that walking up my arm to my head was the best option for his survival.

As I turned around in panic stricken circles, I saw the van start to roll off down the driveway and get nearer and nearer the road. In the dark.

Crap.

I ran towards the van, figuring that having my van get totaled due to a spider wouldn't go over well with the hubby, and jumped into the still open drivers side door to slam the car back into park.

Phew. Crisis averted.

But now I had no clue what happened to the spider. Was it still on me? Did it fall into the van? Was it on the ground?

Crap.

I tried to look on the ground, but it was too dark and my cell phone was too dim to be useful.

I patted myself down but wasn't convinced he wasn't still present. So...I jumped into the back of the van and hoped nobody would try to enter the barn drive while I proceeded to strip in the van to turn my clothes inside out making sure there was no super big spider still present. Sorry hubby!

Satisfied that the spider wasn't on me anymore and not seeing it in the van, I got back into the drivers side and went home.

If only I had a heart rate monitor on for al of that!

I am positive Gemmie was watching my from her pasture thinking that finally I had gone competley insane.


September 9, 2014

Famly Portraits (Non Horse Related Post)

The one exam room in my office has pictures of Hero and Bones (I need to add Einstein at some point) framed and on a shelf. The other has pictures of Gem and I and the hubby on Pete from our LD back in the Arctic North. From time to time a patient will ask if I have any children and then scolds me for not having pictures up. I have thousands of pictures of W, but none of the three of us and none that are actually printed. Its a by product of digital film: lots of pictures stuck in digital format and never printed.
 
When we went up north to visit the in laws over Labor Day weekend, the hubby's sister planned a picture session with everyone as a surprise to their parents (which lasted about an hour afterwards before they popped up on Facebook :) and I was excited for the chance to get some nice pictures. We met the photographer at a local park and it was the perfect setting. She was great to work with, took some amazing photographs and understood that a 2 year old isn't always on board with the whole look this way and smile thing.
 
Since she is an amateur photographer, just doing this for fun, she let us have the digital copies as well. I had been eyeing up a Groupon for Canvas on Demand for two 16x20" canvas prints for only $50 and so I picked my two favorites for the office and ordered them yesterday. They take 2-3 weeks to arrive and I can't wait to see them!
 
Here are some of my favorites from the shoot. I didn't include any of the entire family since I am not sure they would want their picture online, but here are the ones of the three of us.
 
We started out on a little bike/walk path and took group shots. W was not in the mood at all and only would let hubby hold him.
Better, but W still lack interest
At least the hubby has a good smile

 
 
She suggested that hubby throw W in the air and catch while I look on, but those look like we are tossing an unwilling child who is terrified up in the air while I grab the hubby from behind trying to stop him.
 
The best of the 3 or 4 shots taken of this
 
Finally W took interest in a nearby tree with low hanging leaves and we got some great shots of that.

Add caption
I'm going to order one of these for at home



 
 

This is one I got on canvas for the office.
Next we moved down to the river and grabbed some group shots standing on the rocky bank. The river was perfect with trees on the banks and the reflection of the just turning yellow leaves shining on the surface. Unfortunately, W loves water and being sooo close yet not being allowed in made him even less willing to participate.
 
 
The group then moved on up the bank and to a picturesque bridge where we took some pictures of all of us which I think are the best of the bunch. She grabbed a quick shot of W climbing up the side as well.
 

She then had us break off into our individual families and his brother's group wandered off to change into other clothes. We headed back down to the river. I suggested we kick off our shoes and just go into the water to make W happy. His outfit was new for the pictures, but the shorts were too large and I knew he wouldn't wear them ever again so I didn't care if they got ruined.

The way down was rocky and I worried about W cutting his feet, so hubby carried him. I jumped on up for a lift as well.

Wish my eyes were open, but at least W and I have the same facial expression!

Then we made it into the water and got some great pics.
 
Going to frame this one at home
And this one too


Wait...make that three for at home :)

Made this one into a canvas for at work
Wyatt actually smiling at the camera :)



 
It was a great afternoon spent outside with everyone and I love all the pictures of the group, us and his brothers family. I'm excited to have such good quality pictures and can't wait to see the canvas ones in a few weeks.


September 8, 2014

Hi Ho Hi Ho Its Back To Work We Go

One thing after another has conspired to keep Gemmie on a lovely vacation since Biltmore. Between rain every night I am free to ride, family events, work, getting sick etc...the only real mileage she has seen was the trip to Sumter 2 weeks ago. Barefoot Shine and Wine 50 is looming ever closer in the future and we aren't getting any fitter this way.

This past weekend I decided to change all of that and buckle back down. The weather was going to be nice and I debated between trailering out or just staying on property. In the end, we had family day at the barn Saturday and the hubby/W/Bones hiked while I rode.

I was up, out the door, tacked up and mounted by 9:1 5am which is no small feat with a 2 year old and living 35 minutes from the barn. I was also caked in sweat just by the effort of tacking Miss Thang up. It was humid!

I went back to the tried and true and used the Reinsman pad and left her bare. She was so unhappy at Sumter and I wanted to make sure it truly wasn't something else bothering her. End result: a happy (tired and sweaty) mare, so I am blaming it al on the Coolback pad.

I headed out to the pond and she was being a snot about the whole thing, so up the hill we went. There must have been a least a dozen massive spider webs crossing the trail that all ended up on me. Yuck! I made her walk back down the other side and then back up we went! We did a full 30 minutes of trot, canter and some gallop work up the hill and walking down the backside for recovery. She wasn't too impressed with the repetitive nature of the ride, but it was a good work out and she was puffing by the end of it.

At 30 minutes I let her leave the pond hill and we worked our way behind the barn and into the hay field. I really wish it had a path mowed in it. Just a simple perimeter with a big old X across the middle would leave me with some pretty awesome riding. You could do the entire 20 acre perimeter, then gallop down the straightway in the middle, make a figure 8, circle, all sorts of fun. In fact, the hubby is going to ask BO if we can borrow her tractor to do this and then I am going to get some flood lights to put out there so I can still ride in the evenings.

Anyway....she was being a big snot and wanted to be done, but we had another 30 minutes to go so I forced her to walk down the field to the trail at the back and did that. Then we galloped in a lovely controlled fashion back up the field and hit the other set of trails. When we popped back out by her pasture, we still had 15 minutes, so my plan was to head down  the gravel road and hit the power lines. Her hooves are still awesome, but with the reduced miles and use of boots I am worried they are as strong and prepared for a barefoot 50 miles as I would like. Some light work on the gravel road would really help.

We crossed over onto the road and were doing fine until two dogs came charging, snarling and barking from a house behind some bushes. I saw them coming and they were definitely not being friendly or curious. I could see blood and teeth and gashes and a lame horse in my future, so I spun her around and we charge doff back to our property.

We still had 7 minutes left of the hour ride I wanted and she was now way past being a good mare and just wanted to be done. She was dripping with sweat and breathing hard from our most recent gallop. I asked her to just walk back down the hill and around the backside of the barn to be finished and then we untacked. She got a good hose down and her breakfast.

I am really trying to work on getting her to eat. She has been doing really well at eating after a ride at home, but she ignores it at ridecamp or even at the trail head. This is my biggest concern about doing a 50. She can get through a 25 no problem without eating, but it will catch up to her on a 50. Hopefully this helps some.

September 4, 2014

Wordless Wednesday (A Day Late And With Words :)


I tried to upload these yesterday, but work was slamming busy (yay!! slamming busy = I might actually pay my bills this month :) and my computer was acting stupid and so it just never got done.
 
But here is Miss Thang in all her glory. One of the barn mates loves photography and she went out to take some photos of her handsome gelding in the pasture next to the Dynamic Duo. Apparently Gem didn't want to be left out of the fun and started carrying on making a fool of herself for some attention. She would throw a hissy fit then pause to look and make sure she was being watched then throw another one. Eventually the lady caved and took some fun pics of Gemmie as well and sent them to me. I love them because they show her sassy side versus the "I'm half dead, why are you trying to kill me" side she always plays up for me when I have my camera.
 
 







September 2, 2014

Musings On The Endurance World Equestrian Games

In an age where technology can bring you front row seats to events you never had access to before, where complete strangers can make comments and state opinions openly and freely with the world, and where misinformation gets disseminated quicker than the facts, I sometimes wish I was offline.

Its not that I want to have my head buried in the sand, but sometimes I believe we create our own environment of perpetual stress by involving ourselves in things that at then end of the day we would have been better not knowing about in the first place.

Had I not known that the World Equestrian Games (WEG) were going on last week and had I not been getting facebook updates/pictures from a lady who stayed up all night to post them then I would have happily continued on without a care. But instead I did know and I did pay attention to the flurry of posts and so I did react and my reaction was frustration, anger and barely wanting to stay in this sport.

I don't care that team USA lost. I care that team USA didn't even finish. In a sport where "To Finish Is To Win" only 1 of our 5 riders even made it through the finish lines and placed 32nd. From the little I saw it seemed pretty clear that we had no chance of keeping up with the front runners who finished the 100 mile race in something like just over 8 hours. So why not slow down and finish the darn race?

But then I realized something very, very important. What I was watching/reading wasn't my beloved sport of endurance. It wasn't a group of people tackling the trail and bonding with their horse. It truly wasn't "To Finish Is To Win". It was "Win At All Costs" It was a race to the finish and to not complete was apparently being viewed as better than finishing in a poor position. So that's what we did. We ran the horses until they got pulled. If it happened to be before the finish line, chalk it up to strict rules, bad luck or the footing. But don't question the strategy.

Fine. I could come to terms with that. Approve of it or support it? Not really, but then again I'm not of that mindset. But that's fine if that is what that level of riding entails. At least our horses were all healthy and happy the next day.

But then the other shoe dropped and now I am 100% completely and entirely against all things International Endurance/FEI/WEG.

Only 2 of our horses are actually coming home. The others have been sold and will be added to the string of horses being run into the ground, worked as slaves and eventually die a premature death.

Now from a personal standpoint I am strongly opposed to this. You are not working with a machine. You are not driving a car. You are working with another being who feels pain, sadness, loneliness, happiness and bonds to the partner chosen for them. You have just asked the world of this animal. Worked them hard to prepare, flew them across the pond, beat them into the ground over difficult terrain in poor conditions and they stepped up for you and gave you their all. And how to you thank them? By leaving them behind.

But even if you take a step back from personal feelings and opinions, this decision to sell the horse immediately after the WEG makes no sense. These horses supposedly represented the top 5 horses we had in this sport in the USA. No horses were deemed to be better. And they are all young and fit still with many, many miles ahead of them. The next WEG is in 4 years. Why on earth would you sell the team off just to start fresh? Why not keep them, return home to keep working, and return in 4 years with veterans? Why give our top horses to our competition??

So...with this news I am done. Finished. I will never watch/support/or have anything to do with this level of whatever you call this sport. I already contacted AERC to make sure that none of my dues go to fund the international level. They assured me that it is separate. Had they said yes, I would not renew my membership and instead pay the extra fee at each ride to avoid any money of mine going to AERC-I. I will also avoid all rides that coexist with FEI. There are two that I know of here in SC and they were on my radar due to the proximity and timing, but nope. Not a single cent of my money will go there.

But I will continue to love going down the trail on my mare. I will continue to fight for my miles, learn as I go and grow. I will continue to add up the time and miles and even the fates allow maybe Gem and I will make it 1000 miles. Maybe we will even make the decade team list. I will support AERC for what it stands for:

TO FINISH IS TO WIN