November 28, 2014

A New Tradition Begins

My family is not steeped in tradition. When I was little we would all go over to my maternal grandmother's house for pretty much every holiday to celebrate with my extensive extended family, but eventually that broke apart and everyone started doing things in smaller groups or alone. Then I moved away and the hubby worked emergency so we just celebrated the holidays as close to the real date as possible.

I have always been a little envious of those people who have some tradition that their family has always done and that they teach their children to do. Maybe it is a "grass is greener" thing, but I wish we had at least something that we always did the same.

The great thing about life is that you can make it how ever you want and so Thanksgiving morning I declared that we would be starting our own tradition with Wyatt. One I hope he keeps and does with his own family some day and passes on to his children. Hey, traditions have to start somewhere.

I grabbed a dusty book off my bookshelf and turned to Dusty "There are around 100 waterfalls in fairly easy driving distance. Every Thanksgiving morning we are going to go explore a new one. There is plenty of time to hit most of them if we leave early enough and still make dinner."

He was skeptical although this is his typical response to most things. But I was determined, so I thumbed through the book and found the closest one (it was already 9 am by this time).

The winner was Isaqueena Falls in Walhalla, SC. A 100 ft drop in Sumter National Forest with a romantic history behind it. Apparently back in the day Isaqueena, an American Indian, fell in love with a white settler and ran off with him to get married. They were caught and she ran up the mountain and flung herself off the waterfall. She managed to live in a cave behind the falls for a few days until she could reunite with her husband and they moved to Alabama where they lived out their lives together.

It was a 90 minute drive up and I think I was the only one not frustrated with the drive by the end. I know the dogs and Wyatt were definitely ready to get out of the car. We winded down a steep hill and pulled into the parking lot and were happy to see we were the only ones there. The dogs jumped happily out of the car and we headed out to see the falls.

Unfortunately, the trail to the falls was all of 0.2 miles, but the falls themselves were very pretty. My cell phone didn't do it justice and I finally think I am giving up on it and going to start searching for a real camera.
Isaqueena Falls
Einstein and Bones

We wandered back up the trail and started to run into more people as they showed up. Mental note: arrive early!

I was a little bummed thinking that we just drove 90 minutes to walk 0.4 total miles and were staring down another 90 minutes with cranky dogs, baby and hubby. I found it hard to believe that this was the only hiking trail around since we were in the middle of nowhere surrounded by tree covered hills. As we neared the parking lot, Dusty found a trail off to the left and we headed over.

It started out super steep as we climbed up the hill, but then flattened out as we followed the ridgeline. It was beautiful! Even though town wasn't super far away all you could see were trees and hills and the bright blue sky. All you could hear were the sounds of your footsteps, the dogs running and Wyatt laughing. A perfect way to spend a morning.

Walking up the hill
Working our way up

The view from the top

We wandered along the ridgeline letting the dogs romp around and stopping when Wyatt found something fun to explore.

Playing with a stick
I love this little man!!!

Gotta love autumn in the fall
Eventually we came to a cross roads with a sign. It talked about the original plans to build a railroad from Charleston, SC through Knoxville, TN and onward to Cincinnati, OH. As planned there were going to be over 30 tunnels along the route, but only 2 created before funds ran out and the project was abandoned. We were about to come on the Middle Tunnel which was never fully finished, but was made large enough for a horse rider to pass through. Most of it is apparently underwater now and in 2008 they put a large metal grate across the opening. This not only kept people out, but was made specifically to help the tri colored bats that make this a winter home. It gives them a safe home. I was very hopeful that we would see some. I love bats. We didn't, but it was still very cool to find a bat cave.  We turned around at this point due to time and wandered back down the ridge and down to the parking lot. It was a fantastic morning and all 5 of us enjoyed it. I can't wait until next year to find another one!!!!

Walking up to the tunnel/bat cave

The bat cave entrance

November 19, 2014

Zipper: 1, Me: 0

Everyone has been complaining about how cold it is supposed to be. I know I am in SC, but cold is cold and I hate being cold, so I plan appropriately.

I put on a tank top.

A long sleeve fleece shirt goes over that.

I grab my fleece lined riding pants.

And my insulated winter riding boots.

Before leaving the bedroom I don my favorite pink beanie with ENDURANCE written in white letters across the front.

So far it is a typical cold riding day.

Then, to avoid the bulk of a coat, I grab a fleece vest. This becomes my undoing.

Dusty and Wyatt are changing over the laundry down the hall. I pull the fleece vest over my head, but it doesn't fit.

Needing just a little more room for my big head, I pull the zipper down a little.

And fell immediate pain.

I hunch over forward trying to figure out what on earth is going on.

The zipper is caught in the upper portion of my left eye lid.

Yup, a 32 year old woman just zippered her eyelid into her fleece vest. Not winning any awards for this one.

I creep down the hall, hunched forward to avoid pressure on the zipper, and whimper to Dusty, he laughs. He can't help me.

I try to scrunch my eye up, but it doesn't do any good.

Raising my eyebrows is an even worse idea.

What to do? What to do?

Is it best to keep unzipping it? Or zip it back up?

Which way will free up the delicate eye skin quicker?

I try down. Bad idea. More skin gets caught.

This hurts. And will probably leave a mark.

Up. Must zip it up. But it hurts. up the vest and free the skin. Slowly....slowly....slowly...


Yup - that really happened. Saturday afternoon while I got dressed to go to the barn. It left a nice mark, but went away fairly quickly. The jokes from Dusty? They will last much, much longer.

November 18, 2014

New Farriers Make Me Nervous

While Gem has a few traits that I hope to avoid in my next horse, she has certainly spoiled me with her hoof health.

The farrier hasn't been out since April/May and prior to that it was Feb. I don't rasp the hooves myself and my only foot care between farrier visits is to pick them out before and after a ride. From all my reading, learning and experiences I am a firm believer of letting the horse form the hoof it needs to compensate for any changes higher up the leg. I dislike hearing people rasp away small flares or medial to lateral imbalances just because it doesn't look right to them. I'm not sure where the concept of the perfect, round, smooth hoof with a centered break over point came from, but it sure wasn't the horse.

(Side note: I'm not anti shoes or anti boots. I'm pro whatever works to keep your horse healthy and happy. If that is shoes, then so be it. But I do think being bare is the best way to go if possible. If Gem ever needed shoes then she would get them)

Gem's feet have continued to look amazing since the 50, but Pete doesn't get the mileage that she does and his feet were starting to look a little gnarly. We had called our old farrier, but hadn't heard back from him and I was starting to get nervous about Pete.

After Dusty got home from work Saturday we headed to the barn and just as I tied Gem to the trailer to tack her up the resident farrier pulled in. He stashes his trailer at the barn because he lives 2 miles away, but apparently doesn't have a horse there. I'm not sure if he even does any horses on the property, but since he was there and we were there I figured I'd ask him what he charges and when he would be free.

$30 for a trim has pretty much been standard with everyone we have ever used, so when he said $30 I was game to give him a try. He was free then and there, so I picked out Gem's feet and called Dusty to have him come on over and hand me Wyatt so he could get Pete.

I am always very, very nervous when someone knew touches Gem's feet. I know her feet are not text book. Her heels are higher than they should be and she has steeper angles to her front hooves than is considered optimal. This is the reason she can't wear the hard shell boots (Renegades, Vipers, Easy Care) which are made for a horse with low heels and a different angle to the hoof wall. I've tried them. They don't fit. I have been told by other people at rides to "just take her heels down" which is a terrible idea. If I did that I would have a very lame horse. Instead I let her grow the hoof she needs and she responds by performing a brilliant barefoot 50 on some extremely rocky terrain.

I stood around and talked with the farrier for a while first to make sure we were on the same page. I told him she did a rocky, hilly 50 a month ago and was bare. He was surprised and impressed and then he took a look at her feet. He was doubly impressed. He completely agreed that she really didn't need anything done, but he rasped her a bit to get her bars down a smidge. He said that his wife had a horse once who never needed anything done, but she would get nervous so he would go out every 6 weeks and pretend to rasp and trim them to keep her happy.  He recommended having her looked at maybe 2 times a year as long as everything stays the same and then to call if something changes. I was very happy with his approach.

Then Pete came over and he had some real work to do. Pete is bare as well more because he is pretty much retired now and has no need for shoes in the pasture. His feet have never been as hard as Gem's and need more work to keep up. Even when he was going on all the rides Gem was, he was never as comfortable on firm ground and would hug the shoulder while Gem plowed down the middle of the gravel roads. If he was being ridden more often, I would get Renegades or Vipers for him. He has the perfect foot shape for them.

Pete had a bit more done and had a big crack in his left front toe that came off leaving him a bit short there. Overall though, his feet are doing so much better now that he is out 24/7 and it is a lot drier down here. No more standing in mucky snow for 6 months followed by 2 months of mud as things thaw out for the year. It has done wonders for his usually crappy feet.

I would use Jack again in the future. He was good with the horses, understood my approach and was happy to provide what was needed.

November 17, 2014

Wyatt's New Room (Not Horse Related)

Somehow I managed to get it stuck in my head that Wyatt should have his own space. He already has his own room, but it was boring rental house beige and I wanted to give him something better. I recalled when my dad painstakingly sponge painted my entire room pink, blue and yellow and how much I loved that gaudy room for many years.

Wyatt needed something like that. Only not so gaudy.

His theme, if you would call it that, is puppies playing sports. It is boyish yet fun. My mom bought some pendants to hang on his wall a long time ago and as I looked at them, I thought that would make a great paint idea.

I envisioned light blue walls with a horizontal darker blue stripe and orange stars.

The weekend of Dusty's 50k my mom and dad came over and we began the painting process. The light blue went on super easy and covered the ugly beige walls really well in just one coat. I didn't get any pictures in process, so you will just have to take my word for it. We let it dry overnight and Saturday morning they came back and we measured out the stripe.

I wanted it 12 inches wide, so my dad measured and marked and my mom and I taped. Once that was done, the darker blue went on. It was a thicker paint even though it was the same brand and bought on the same day. Anyway, it didn't cover as well so it needed two coats. By the time that dried my dad had to get out of the anaphylactic shock inducing cat dander house  (I bought him a respirator to use, but it only does so much) so they left while Wyatt napped.

My mom came back that evening and touched up some of the trim work, painted the doors, base boards and window sill and I began the arduous task of painting on the orange stars. It was slow going at first as I figured out which stencils looked best and how to not make a mess of things.

Eventually she had to go home, so I only got one wall done and it sat like that all week long. Wyatt was back to sleeping in his room again, so I couldn't paint while he slept and I worked all week.

I was happy to receive a call from my Dad Friday afternoon asking if they could come over and help me get the thing finished. They came over and my dad got to work on some stars, but had a rough time with the respirator and eventually they had to go.

Dusty worked Saturday morning, but my mom was awesome yet again and came over and watched Wyatt for 3 hours while I finally got those dang stars on the walls. I was thrilled to be finished and really happy with the end result.


Now Wyatt has his own space to grow up in and I am proud to show it off.

November 12, 2014

A History Of Running

You see them all the time along side the road and in the local park. Runners. Most are grimacing as they make their way through the course for the day, but a select few are actually smiling. They seem to float over the ground and are in some type of nirvana as they allow their feet to carry them closer and closer to their goal. That's the type of runner you want to be. The one who is enjoying the time spent pumping their legs as the heart pumps the oxygen rich blood throughout the body. The ones with toned legs and a strong core. Not those other suckers gulping for breath and flubbering their way down the road.

So you do what all good Americans do - buy a bunch of unnecessary equipment to look the part, pump up the jams and hit the road. Your cute running shorts/capris/skirt matches your carefully chosen tech shirt with the running graphic and your bright and shiny new running shoes betray the lack of miles you have yet to go.

Bravely you step out of the front door and start to move yourself down the road. You smile remembering your promise to not be one of those grimacing fools and the first few minutes pas by in a state of near bliss.

And then you realize a vital piece of information you were previously lacking: those few smiling runners used to be those very same flubbering joggers. A very, very select few have a natural ability to coast down the road effortlessly with minimal training, but the vast majority have to work for it. And you are one of those.

I have taken up (and subsequently put right back down) running numerous times throughout my life. I "ran" track my junior and senior year of high school and many times after I would get hit by the running bug and set off on my journey to bliss only to be slapped in the face with the reality that I completely and totally suck at running. I don't float. I don't coast. I shuffle and sweat and swear.

The last foray was my best. The summer before Wyatt emerged into the world, I found myself in an odd situation. I had time on my hands. It was the summer of my chief residency year and I had a stellar group of underlings chomping at the bit to stay late, get up early and cover every case imaginable. It was great. Dusty had been bit by the running bug the previous year when he hooked back up with an old high school friend who was into distance running himself and helped Dusty through his first half marathon the previous spring. When Dusty went to sign back up for the full marathon at the same venue, in spring of 2012, I decided what the heck I can go 13.1 miles too and signed up for the half. Prior to that day I had only ever made it 4 miles at any one time. Mind over matter.

The morning of the race the full was cancelled and all entrants were allowed into the half, so Dusty spent the 13.1 miles tagging along beside me keeping me company and in general annoying everyone around us with his way too fit for this event body and attitude. I managed the first 10 miles in good spirits, but then the bill for my pride came due and my joints started burning and I shuffled my way along the remaining 3 miles. I think it was around mile 11 when an 80+ year old, lanky man soared passed me that I felt at my all time low. I still managed a respectable first half at 2:23 and was happy in my accomplishment.

Following that event, my brain went on vacation. Dusty had joined the Marathon Maniac online running club and I found out there was a Half Fanatic one as well. Now this group is special. You can't just sign up. You have to earn your membership and there are multiple different levels and different ways to accomplish this. The easiest for me was to complete so many events in a certain time frame. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but I believe it was 3 half marathons in 90 days.

I signed up for my next one and actually thought about preparing for it, but ran out of time. I figured the first one was good enough training in itself. This race was smaller and occurred on a bike path following alongside the old railroad tracks. It was straight, very, very straight and either side of the path was bordered with 10 ft shrubbery. I felt like I was running in a tunnel. I didn't have a watch and there weren't any timers on course, so I was left to my own devices and just kept shuffling along towards the end. I finished in 2:21.

The next race was only a few short weeks later and I was too sore to actually run in between. This one was killer. Middle of the summer in high heat and humidity. The course started up hill and continued that way for the first 5 miles. By the time we plateaued I was over heated and dying. It also didn't help that only 20 people were entered and of those the other 19 were exceptionally fast. I was dead last and the drag people on an annoying motorcycle were riding my butt the entire way. I was miserable at the end and vowed to actually train prior to my last of the 3 (the first one was too far away in time to count toward the 3 in 90 days). I finished 2nd to last in 2:24.

Time went by and I actually started to train a bit. I followed a friend's recommended guide for 3 days a week and singe dup for the Women's Half in MN. That race was my favorite. I wasn't in tip top shape, and still sucked at running, but I felt manageable and enjoyed the larger amount of people signed up. I finished in just about the same time as the others.

And then Wyatt came along and time grew short. I either could ride or run, not both. I vetoed running and continued riding.

Now you would think with a resume that boasts 4 half marathons in 4.5 months, that I wouldn't be half bad at running. My times weren't remarkable, but didn't completely stink either. Yet, I do. I shuffle along. My body picks a 10:40 pace regardless of how hard I try to push it and I just amble along. Dusty has remarked several times at my natural ability to put mile after mile away at the exact same pace. This would be great if that pace wasn't so darn slow.

Anyway....I bet you are all wondering what on earth this has to do with anything. Well, not a whole lot really. Sorry.

With the horror that is day light savings time upon us, I have officially run out of time to ride Mon-Fri. It is way past dark before Wyatt goes to bed and I have nowhere to go. Up north every barn had a lighted indoor arena and so even in the darkest, coldest parts of winter I could still ride and get something accomplished. Usually I went back to jumping to ease the boredom or worked on transitions or patterns. Anything to keep us both moving and not go insane with boring circles.

Down here there isn't an indoor in sight.

Monday night I sat down to watch Gotham and it hit me. I am becoming a blob. Instead of heading to the barn, I sit on the couch. If this continues, come spring I won't be able to physically get on my horse let only ride her at all. I have a 50 planned for Feb so that won't do.

Last night I donned my cute little running capris, running graphic tech shirt, endomondo running cell phone and a head lamp and hit the road. I looked at myself and laughed. This again. Only this time my running shoes are covered in horse manure and don't betray my newbie status anymore. I have Gem to thank for that. I put in 2 hilly miles with Einstein in tow and called it a night. I hope to run 2-3 times a week until the sun becomes my friend again and hit the 50 running (perhaps literally if Gem is a brat again).

November 10, 2014

Family Time

Juggling family time and horse time is difficult. I feel guilty when I'm spending hours in the saddle away from Wyatt. I feel guilty when I am spending hours away from Gem. I try my best and at times one wins out more over the other. Having spent so much time lately preparing for and then attending Barefoot, I feel like I have put enough money in the Gemmie bank while depleting my Wyatt account a little too much.

Dusty was gone all day Saturday running a 50k up and down Paris Mountain 4 times (and did it in 6:31 which is a great time given the elevation profile) and I had planned on attending a beautiful Hunter Pace in NC on Sunday. When Sunday morning rolled around I found that I had zero motivation. I had spent a lovely Friday afternoon and all day Saturday with my little man just enjoying spending the time with him and just didn't feel like losing the entire day on Sunday.

Instead of heading north to ride, I packed up the dogs, hubby and Wyatt and we headed south to hike in Sumter National Forest.

It was a gorgeous day and fall has finally arrived in brilliance here in SC. As we hiked along the horse trails, I felt pangs of guilt for not being on my mare, but then I would hear Wyatt laughing and I just didn't care anymore. It would have been a great day to ride the perfect trails, but it was also a great day to hike on perfect trails. The mare can wait another week.

These are crappy cell phone pictures. I need a new phone, but can't upgrade until summer. I swear phones have a pre determined life span that lasts barely over a year before they stop functioning. I have a Samsung Galaxy that I got just over a year ago and it barely functions. The pictures aren't so great and I dislike carrying both my phone and a camera. I either need to get used to having a camera again or need to get a new phone with a much higher quality camera in it. Not the iphone though. Or at least not the new one. I don't need to carry a laptop around posing as a phone. There is a new LG that claims an amazing camera which I may look into.

A tired a sore hubby hiking anyway

Logs are sooo much bigger when you are only 2

The leaves are absolutely gorgeous right now


Einstein is hard to capture on film due to his rich dark brown color.

November 3, 2014

The Best Ride EVER

This weekend was cold for SC. In fact, when Dusty woke up with Wyatt at 4:45 am Saturday morning there was snow on the cars. But the glorious part of living down here is that the afternoons tend to warm up as long as the sun is out and Sunday was no exception. While it was in the 30s in the morning, it quickly rose to the upper 50s by mid day and the sun felt great on my skin.

Feeling neglectful of my 50 mile horse (I don't ever tire of calling her that :), I dragged my lazy butt to the barn around 2:30 pm Sunday which was very hard to do since Wyatt was napping and the cats and dogs were prepared to snuggle up for the long haul.

I grabbed Miss Thing and she is looking good. I think she has gained weight since the ride, but that isn't unusual for her. Without a lot of exercise she tends to become chunky very quickly. Going into what seems to be a colder than normal winter, I don't mind the pudge.

I tacked her up and planned on a nice ride around the grass tracks to stretch her out and see how she was feeling. As I finished tacking, the boys pulled up and I gave Wyatt a kiss as I mounted up and headed off. I quickly realized that I had forgotten my half chaps, but didn't feel like turning around so I just planned on getting them after the first loop around.

I pointed her towards the mare pasture where there is a good little steep hill and off we went. She was up and spooky, basically looking for a fight, but moved out excellently and was ready to carry on with her work. I was without my GPS because I didn't really care about our pace or distance, but she was moving very well and it felt like a good 9 mph trot.
The mare's pasture is to the left
Heading away from the barn down the grass track

We went around the pasture and up the steep hill and came across our cow friends that live up behind the mare pasture. Gem has never been scared of cows which is a great thing. Some horses hate them, but each time we have come across cows out and about she looks and keeps moving forward. Cut down trees? Fallen logs? Bunched up sticks? Now those are things worth jumping out of your skin for.
A cow friend

We made it all around the 0.75 mile mare track and then cut across the entire front of the property to the gelding tracks and did that 1 mile course as well. As we came back toward the barn between the mares and gelding, there is a small but consistent hill and she asked to open up. I let her and we galloped up the hill with smiles on both our faces.
The gelding track. They are soo perfect to just fly on. It is hard to control myself :)

From there I stopped at the trailer to put my half chaps on and we headed back to the mare tracks to go again. As we headed down the beginning lane I saw Dusty hiking with Wyatt up ahead. he had taken Wyatt to see the cows. As we neared Wyatt began to ask to come up which is highly unusual for him. He loves animals and will pet, feed and kiss Gem, but in the past he was unimpressed with the thought of being on her. Well, this time he was game, so I grabbed him and set him in front of me. I guess a good part of having a seat a little too big is that there is plenty of room for a 2 year old tushy in front of you!

Dusty grabbed the reins and led Gem around the track. At one point Dusty picked up a jog and Gemmie trotted along. Wyatt bounced and bounced and his giggles could have been heard all over the county :)

We went around the entire mare track with him saying "Ready. More" when he wanted to go faster again which was more often than not. When we got back to the trailer, I figured he would hop off and I would finish up with the geldings, but he was not having it, so Dusty led around the gelding tracks.

It took me the entire mare track and part of the gelding's to figure out how to post and shove him up with me to avoid a lot of the bouncing. Once I figured that out, Gem was a lot happier and so was Wyatt although he hadn't minded the bouncing much. When we reached the home stretch, Gem broke into a lovely smooth and slow canter and Wyatt just about split his face open with his grin. I wished we could have stayed out there forever, but we needed to get going.

Once we reached the trailer again, Wyatt started crying, but settled down once he saw me get off too. He didn't want me riding without him!!!