December 31, 2015

Bones: 2007-2015

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?
How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love
 - Seasons of Love, Rent
As the rain pours down and the thunder calls out outside my window, the tears are flooding my eyes so I can barely see the keyboard. 
There are 8+ years of stories I could tell. Stories of the many pounds of food stolen off the kitchen counter, the many miles of trails hiked, the wiggles and the kisses. I could tell of the time she cut her paw at the park and left bloody paw prints in the snow prompting us to take her to the clinic for Dusty to stitch her up except she didn't even know she was hurt so she awoke from anesthesia angry with us. Or I could tell of the many hours she spent pouncing at the fish in the lake at the dog park in Stow, Ohio. Or how about the time she found out where horse poop, her favorite treat, came from and her eyes became big as the moon as she caught the steaming treat falling straight from the source?

I could go on about how she grew up with Hero and thought she was a small dog refusing to play with any dog her size or larger. Or the times she tried to push me off the bed and have Dusty, the love of her life, all to herself.  

What about all the trips to dog day care when Dusty was supposed to drop her off only to forget and look in the rearview mirror to see her big head blocking the view? Or the time I randomly decided to take her for a run with me and she loved it so much that the next time I dragged out my running shoes she danced circles around me preventing me from leaving without her?

The truth is that she has owned my heart for a very long time. She is my big lug. My hug on a bad day. The wet face after being attacked by her tongue. The lap dog that weighs over 100 pounds.

We have explored more miles of trails than I can count. She has won over every single person she has ever met with her gentle nature, loving attitude and sparkling brown eyes.
The truth is that I am really, really going to miss her. More than any written or spoken words can convey. My heart is broken. I know this was the best thing for her. I know we released her from the pain of the bone tumor eating away at her leg. I know she could never have lived forever.
But I don't care. I love her and I miss her so much that it hurts.

December 30, 2015

2015: A Rollercoaster Year

On my first day of surgical residency my chief resident told me "The days will drag on forever, but the months will fly by". It was true then and remains true to this day. While 2015 had some amazing ups, it also had some really big downs for Team Gem. Join me as I walk back through the last year.


Isn't it supposed to be "April showers bring May flowers"? So why the heck is January so soggy? I think the Universe is testing my resolve. What I want to do is snuggle deep in my covers and pretend I am made of sugar (and don't own any rain gear), but with our second 50 looming in the near distance, I need to put on my big girl panties, cover myself in plastic and get going. On the 13th, I make my way to the Fell Hunt Camp where I meet up with the riders who helped me through my first 50. Naively, I assume we will be doing a nice conditioning ride. I quickly learn my error as we set a scorching pace along twisting trails snaking between tree trucks. 3 hours and 25 miles later we are back at the trailer and Gem is looking at me like I have finally gone full blown crazy. The next weekend, I manage to squeak in one last long ride  at a much more sedate pace and then put Gem out to pasture to rest up for the big day.

Looking skinny
While I am making plans and getting gear ready, my best friend for over 15 years is fighting for her life. It is a battle she sadly loses in February.  In the words of Forrest Gump: that's all I have to say about that.

With the news weighing heavily on my mind and heart, I drive myself half crazy debating on heading up North to her wake or down South to the 50. Celebrating her life by chasing my dreams seems the most fitting though and I head off to the middle of nowhere GA feeling uncharacteristically zen. I arrive with plenty of time to set up, eat and even take a nap. The next morning I embark on the  Camp Osborne Pow Wow 50 mile endurance ride. This ride is basically the polar opposite of my first 50 and we finish feeling great having ridden our own ride for 80% of it.

Loop 1
Loop 2

Loop 3
By the end of an endurance weekend, Gem and I are both looking for some time apart. She hangs out in her pasture regaling her mates on her exploits and I hang out at home with my lovely little man. Winter slowly starts to lose its grip on the South and signs of spring begin popping out of the barren earth.

It is around the middle of March and I have yet to ride Gemmie again. Ooops. The temperatures finally begin to hit the mid 70s, which is much more livable when you have become a southern wimp like me, and I decide it is high time to get her moving again. I take her out around the barn  and things go pretty well. I have recently read a great article about positive thinking and removing the word "don't" when you ride: instead of "don't spook at that rock!" think "we are going to move steadily forward". I am not sure how much my telepathic attempts at calming her down work or if she is just feeling good, but we have an enjoyable ride.

By the end of the month, I am starting to feel like owning a horse again and I take a long, hard look at her hooves. Maybe stilettos are all the fashion this spring for mares, but they lack a certain biomechanical appeal. A quick call to the farrier and a decision to look into hoof protection and she should be straightened out in no time.

Time continues to march on, the weather continues to warm up and I continue to remain out of the saddle. In early April I trudge out to the barn only to find that Gem has grown boobs in her girth area. 

In the past, something like this would send me staring down the hole of impending horse doom: are these tumors, is this pigeon fever, will she die? Not this time. This time I swallow the lump in my throat, assume they are poorly placed bug bites and cover her in goop. The next day they are gone.

Having punched my ticket for yet another trip around the sun, I find myself another year older. I take a lazy day for my actual birthday this year and stay in my jammies forming a me sized hole in the couch. That weekend Gem and I explore Croft State park together and find some great new trails to condition on that are about 15 minutes closer to home.

She has recovered well from the 50 and looks in a good weight

On April 25th I try out an Easyboot Fit Kit which just proves to me, my readers and the world at large that her trim job really, truly, does in fact suck. A fellow blogger points this out to me and the reality hits home pretty hard: I need to go with shoes or find a farrier who actually knows what a barefoot hoof should look like.

That is what has led me to this point, standing at the barn on May 6th  at 6:30 am waiting for a self proclaimed barefoot expert, the now infamous Lady Farrier. Having shown up a half an hour late, she lets her dog run rampant on a no dogs allowed property and is pretty rough around the edges. Even with all that, she shapes Gem's hooves beautifully and I dream of hoof boots that night.

It has been three months since I last did anything of real excitement with Gem. May 16th remedies that bland existence. Dusty and I partner up for the Clemson 30 mile Equathon and have an absolute blast as I ride 15 miles followed by him getting to run 15 miles.

Beware: the bucket monster!
Spring flowers along the trail

Two things happen that put a mild damper on the day. First, Dusty finishes his 15 mile loop 5 minutes faster than Gem and I had which gives him massive bragging rights until the fall. Darn the crazy psycho who demanded use of my cell phone out on trail! Second, Gem loses patience being tied to the trailer awaiting Dusty's finish and pulls the ring off the trailer. She runs through camp with the hay bag trailing her and skids out on her side in front of me on gravel. Fortunately she only has a few minor scrapes.

Once again, I put Gem out to pasture and barely touch her until the end of the month when I manage to get enough gumption back to head to Brick House. We encounter the worst water crossing ever, but manage not to die. My funk continues to persist though until one day Liz invites me up to Ride Between the Rivers for a blogger meet and greet. I am ecstatic and for the first time in months, I start to get serious about riding again.

Getting more serious about riding and picking a ride that is littered with rocks means I finally have to get serious about hoof protection. The beginning of June brings Lady Farrier back out, but she is horribly late, lets the darn dog out again and treats Pete very roughly. Three strikes and she is out. This means that I will have to suck it up and do this myself.

Summer hits early and it hits hard this year. Temperatures reach the upper 90s with "real feel" in the 100s and it is only the middle of June. Gem hates being hot and my typical low grade worry of hurting my horse ramps up to full blown panic at being able to safely condition for a mountain ride in July.

Gem looking miserable in the heat
On June 17th, I finally get to do something I have been wanting to do for months: I order Renegade hoof boots. My wallet starts having seizures, but I am ecstatic. Towards the end of the month, I hit the year end awards for the local hunter pace series in anticipation of the next season. Unfortunately, a horse dies in the early part of the ride and this is my first encounter with that. This year sure has been a tragic one in a lot of ways and I am beginning to get some bad feelings.

As June comes to a close and my heart is set on meeting new friends, riding new trails and conquering our first endurance ride in hoof boots, the unthinkable happens. Ten short minutes after leaving the barn on a beautiful summer afternoon, the BO calls and tells me that Gem needs stitches. None of us could have known the amount of trauma that happened to her hoof and I won't plaster the graphic photos on here again. They can all be seen here. I rush her up to the Equine hospital where she undergoes general anesthesia, cleaning up and suturing of her massive medial heel bulb laceration.

After several instances of bad communication, what I still feel is poor management and a nagging sense that Gem wasn't being cared for as well as I had hoped, she gets to come home on July 10th. Her front right leg is still in a fiberglass cast and she is on stall rest, but she is home with no infection and no lameness. As if this hadn't put a damper on the summer enough, my Aunt passes away shortly after Gem comes home. I think this year needs to end now.

Not to be deterred from a much needed mental break from life, Dusty, Wyatt, Einstein and I pack up and head off to WV leaving Gemmie behind to continue healing like a good mare. RBTR weekend brings in August and is an absolute blast. The weekend is so full of wonderfulness that I take three entire posts to talk about it all: 1, 2, 3.

A very happy Einstein
Getting to ride Griffin, Gelding Extraordinaire

This picture ends up being featured in EN News :)
With a much needed control-alt-delete having been performed on my life, I make the official goal to attend all 17 hunter paces in the 2015-2016 season to obtain the Supporter Award. The only problem is that Gem isn't rideable yet. Enter Pete. I have not ridden him in many years and yet on the last day of the month I saddle him up and explore the world of paces. The FENCE fall pace goes splendidly and both Pete and I have a great time.

September arrives and Gem is finally able to start back under saddle. I want to start her slowly. There is no reason to rush things and cause harm. The next pace comes up fast and is a lesson in flexibility when Pete won't be caught, the truck keys get locked inside and Gem has to go without boots and her regular pad. We finish way off time, but learn a lot along the way.

Gem in the trailer: a sight for sore eyes

Gem remains sound and with no issues to the front right, but begins a mystery swelling to both hind legs in the area where a typical wind puff would be. I decide to keep a watchful eye on it and start working her a bit more to see if I can strengthen the area again.

My favorite event of the year is upon us again, Run for the Horses endurance ride and ultra marathon. Dusty completes the 50 mile run 3 minutes faster than last year while Wyatt and I get into trouble with mud, water and dump trucks. I also run into some endurance friends and catch up on old times.

Following the accomplishment of Dusty, Gem and I have one of the best ever solo rides to date at Croft State Park which also happens to be the first ride in the Renegades. She is forward, happy and the miles tick away.

We finish the month off with a pace at Biltmore in the soaking rain. It is a faster ride than I had planned going into it, but Gem wanted out of the rain (hmm...maybe I should plan all my endurance rides for rainy weekends) and holding her back is worse than just letting her go.

As the leaves begin to turn and the temperatures begin to drop, fall is upon us. October is probably one of the best months in SC with no bugs, low humidity and the ability to laugh at all my friends who live up north as they start to complain about the cold. October also happens to be my anniversary month and Dusty and I celebrate 11 years together this year. I dig through my old photo stash to post about the wedding and subsequent honeymoon.

Gem continues to do well and I find her new hoof growth to be fascinating. I am monkeying around with the fit of the Renegades which are just not quite right. Early on, I finally give up on the old not-too-great blog name and rename it the Roaming Rider.

The 19th brings about a much anticipated event for me: the Clemson 30 mile Equathon.  The morning starts off horrible, we show up late and then I get my first ever RO when the Renegade boot flips over her hoof and is stuck. Some days are just not meant to be.

A picture I really want to frame some day
The following morning all I want to do is sleep and forget about horses, but I have promised the 14 year old at the barn that I would take her to a pace. Instead of burying my head under the covers, I pack up the horses and head out to the Tryon Hounds pace. Turns out it is the best thing possible to do as Gem gets a mental break from going solo and we move out and have fun. I also get Haley absolutely hooked and secretly start scheming to get her into endurance.

As October turns to November I manage to embarrass my 2 year old son and husband during the family trick or treat outing. I can only look forward to the many years ahead of similar actions.

The weather has turned nasty rainy this fall. I don't remember it being quite so wet last year, but there is nothing to do about it. Gem gets a lot of time off to just chill and adapt to the cooler weather and shorter days. In the meantime, on the 10th, I sign Einstein up for a leash walking class which turns into a medieval torture session including prong collars and very unhappy dogs. Poor guy doesn't deserve that kind of abuse.

The 15th brings another hunter pace and Haley brings Waffles along. We end up taking 5th place at the FENCE ride.


Somewhere in here I lose the rest of my mind and begin taking a Wednesday 5:45 am, yes that's right AM, spinning class. While I curse the instructor under my breath the entire time and pretty much want to die, the results are pretty hard to ignore and I keep dragging my butt out of bed week after week.

Thanksgiving brings about our yearly waterfall hunt and we hit up Cedar Creek Falls in Walhalla, SC. I get the best picture ever of Bones and that alone makes the entire trip worth it.

My Bones

That weekend I head to Windridge farm for a solo pace and ride with a dressage whip to remind Gem that forward does, in fact, actually mean forward. She responds well to it, no blood is shed or abuse occurs, and we end up taking 5th place again. Dusty eats Apple Cider Soup by mistake and I laugh at him for days.

Derpy mare face. Soon to be derpy husband

And that brings us to December - a wet and soggy month. The beginning of the month is pretty mundane until I get a warrant for my arrest tin the mailbox. A very stressful day proceeds in which I find out that the warrant is issued due to unkempt shrubbery at the rental house we own in Ohio. Trust me, I more than wish we could just sell the darn thing and be done with it. We get it all settled and life moves on, but man what a stressful period!!

Gem and I attend the River Valley Hunter Pace along with Haley and Waffles and take place 4th. It is a nice way to end the first half of the pace season and this puts Gem and I un 4th place overall in the season standings.

Overall, the year has been both good and bad with its continued ups and downs. I said goodbye to too many loved ones in 2015 and would love to keep everyone safe and healthy in 2016. I have some big plans for ht upcoming year, but we shall see what life throws my way.

December 29, 2015

Trouble In Paradise

Gem has been looking a bit skinny to me lately. This isn't unusual in the mid fall when she is switching from a diet of lush grass to that of grain and hay. This year we have ridden less than typical for many reasons wit the top two being the extremely soggy weather and giving her hoof a chance to grow out as much as possible before needing to up her conditioning again. With less exercise I should be lamenting the BOs tendency to overfeed and looking at my chubby mare.

Instead I went to the barn on Sunday between rain drops to find Gem looking at least a solid 100 pounds underweight. I was pissed. Extremely, probably irrationally, pissed.

I gave her a bucket of grain and about 3 flakes of hay as steam poured out of my ears and poor Dusty got the brunt of my venting.

The poor girl has hip bones protruding and ribs easily felt. In fact, if she wasn't so hairy she would look even worse.

The problem is three fold:

1) Last winter there were 5 horses out int the mare field. There has been a recent influx of mares and the last I counted there were 14. The field is 35 acres, so there is plenty of room and I have yet to see signs of violence amongst the herd, but obviously now there are a lot of mouths to feed.

2.) I saw no hay. This time last year there was a row of hay piles strewn about so each horse had their own pile twice a day plus the sparse winter grass in the pasture and the two grain feedings. With the warmer temperatures this year (it was 81 degrees Saturday) the BO does not appear to be putting out any hay. There is not enough winter grass in the pasture to feed even the 5 horses that were there last year let alone 14.

and #3 which is the worse of all...

The BO doesn't think she looks skinny.

I had Dusty call him when we got home. I know, I should have done it myself, but with my temper having flared it wouldn't have done much good. The BO said that he didn't think she looked skinny at all, but Dusty countered that with the opinion that all the mares looked extremely thin (there is one mare out there that would be called emaciated by any rescue) and that we didn't see any hay at all.

The BO still disagreed but said he would bring Gem up to the barn to give her grain and some hay thinking she might be getting run off her food by the herd. She doesn't need more grain - she needs hay.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are the geldings. They are out on 40 acres and when we moved in there were about 13 geldings on it. Now there are 8. Pete is a big, fat cow and Dusty laughingly told the BO to give Pete's rations to Gem.

I'm going to give it a little time and see how things improve with him bringing her up to the barn to eat. If I see any weight loss at all, I'm going to tell the BO that I will pay him less each month and supply/feed my own horse daily. That will be a big PIA until the spring grass comes back in and she gets pulled off hay and grain again, but it is better than her continuing to lose weight. If he isn't amenable to that, I don't know what I will do.

Ugh. Not the way I wanted to bring in 2016 at all.

December 28, 2015

Six Years With Gemmie

On December 28, 2009 I brought Gem into my life. We have both grown and changed so much that those who witnessed the horror of our partnership back then wouldn't even recognize us now. I am so proud of both of us and while we remain far from perfect, I have done things with her I wouldn't have dreamed possible before. I'm a one horse type of gal and have zero interest in finding a new partner any time soon, so she is stuck with me for many years to come.

December 2009. Poor pony needed groceries, TLC and exercise
April 2010. At the training facility in Ohio. Hair is beginning to grow back on her rump. She was very tired most of the time and if I knew then what I do now I would have moved her from there ASAP.
We then moved to WI that May and I have no clue where any of my late 2010 pictures have gone.
January 2011. We rented the house on the boarding property and I really miss having her in my back yard.
April 2011. Shedding out with dapples thanks to some good groceries, care and exercise.
May 2011. Her front hooves look near club foot especially the front right. We found Wonder Farrier Chad around this time.
October 2011. Finishing our first 25 mile LD. We came in 8th place with all As. I didn't know BC was a thing, so I didn't present for it.
February 2012. Snow. Lots of snow and sub 0 temperatures
March 2012. Starting to shed for the year with mud everywhere. Look how her front hooves have changed. I really, really miss Chad.
June 2012. Sleek, shiny and full of attitude
November 2012. Right before Wyatt joined our family. Looking a bit pudgy which I never minded going into a WI winter.
December 2012. Wyatt's first ride on Gem. She was not really sure what was going on.
Once Wyatt came along and the cold winter began, I didn't see Gem all that much. She enjoyed that winter and spring getting fat and being lazy. That June we moved to SC and into crabby acres where we lasted only a few months before heading to a lovely barn and organic farm.
September 2013. Looking a little round in the middle, but shiny and happy. Crabby Acres.
October 2013. After our first hunter pace. She was impatient and looking for more
December 2013. Found a lovely patch of clover to fuel up on at the Clemson Experimental Forest.
January 2014. I still can't get used to sunny, warm days all year round.

March 2014. Seasonal alopecia sets in as she sheds her yak like coat faster than the summer hair can grow in. Keeping the skin moisturized did the trick and soon enough she was pretty again.
July 2014. Biltmore 25 mile LD. She was looking a bit pudgy going into it. She didn't eat at all during the ride and we rode  slowly to go with a friend, but she still was happy at the end.
September 2014. Looking amazing at the end of a tough summer of conditioning. This is exactly how I would like her to look at all times.
October 2014. After finishing our first 50 miler at the Barefoot Shine and Wine in TN. She was a pill to start, but finished looking good. Her hydration was off, but that just gave me some homework.
After the 50 Gem and I parted ways for a while like we always do after spending so much time together.
February 2015. During the first loop at our second 50 at Camp Osborne Pow Wow. Her hydration was spot on and we rode 80% of it on our own without trying to kill each other.
March 2015. Looking good after the 50 a month before. 
June 2015. Hospitalized after suffering her medial heel bulb laceration. If I could photoshop out the bandages, she would be in probably the best condition I had ever had her.
September 2015. First day back in tack after her injury. Shiny and fat.
November 2015. Looking a bit skinny and without her topline, but we are working hard to bring that back.
So there you have it. Six years of trials, tribulations, dreams conquered, and changes. There are plenty more adventures to be had and I wouldn't want to have them with anyone else.