May 30, 2015

A Fire Has Been Lit

I have been in a big, major funk since Pow Wow. Probably the worst riding slump since I've had Gem.

I would make some riding goals/plans and then watch them slip away as I chose to sit on the couch instead of go to the barn yet another night. All my "real" goals were so far off in the future that riding this spring didn't seem a priority. Add on to that a lot of work stress, the hubby picking up extra weekend shifts and losing his week day off, Wyatt growing up and wanting me around a lot plus going to bed much later, my local riding friend having a now non rideable mare due to a really bad case of Lyme, and a sad hangover from Christy and things just were not working out for Gem and me this spring.

I had really thought/hoped that the Equathon would be the catalyst to a better training routine once again, but it didn't change my mood at all. It was fun, but I missed the camaraderie that the R&T brought with it and once it was over things just went back to the new normal.

Until now.

A group of you wonderful bloggers added me into an invite to attend a ride this summer in WV. The ride itself was on my "bucket list" of rides to hit, so that was a big draw already. Outside of that though, the ability to meet some wonderful horse people in real life and hopefully make some real life connections and friends has made a huge difference. I am thankful for the invite and will be doing my best to make the trip happen.

This means, however, that Gem and I must get ourselves back into the game. There are 8 weekends standing between now and the ride and if I am going to ask her to do a 50 in the hills of WV, I better be doing my darnedest to have her in the best shape possible for it. Plus, I need to get her footwear figured out as this is not a barefoot course. Farrier Lady comes back out for a second trim this Wednesday and I am going to grab some immediate pics and get her to help with measurements to decide on boots. Her hinds look like they would probably fit the regular Renegades now, but I am not so sure on the fronts. I will get pics and email them to Renegade for their opinion as well as ask Easy Care. I would much prefer to have the same brand on all 4.

As for training, this is a very tricky time. Dusty has picked up those extra shifts due to a lot of unexpected and expensive happenings this spring. He already works every other Saturday morning at his regular job, but has now picked up the extra Saturdays and picked up all day tomorrow (Sunday). I am going to have to throw away my preferred early morning ride times and make some changes in order to fit in those needed miles.

Knowing that he will be gone all day tomorrow, I forced myself to head out to the barn at 3 pm today. Typically I avoid heading to the barn when the sun is up and blazing hot, but I can't avoid it so off I went. The BO was there and I haven't seen him in forever. We ended up standing in the barn while Gemmie snoozed in the shade and slight breeze for nearly an hour. Dusty had taken the dogs and Wyatt to the park to play, so I wasn't in a hurry and could just enjoy the afternoon.

By the time I got on her it was nearly 5 pm and thankfully the sun wasn't quite as high as before. I wanted to ride a full hour and had originally wanted a faster ride - aiming to keep 8-10 mph overall. However, it was really hot and the trails at the barn offer little shade. I knew it wasn't in her best interests to plow ahead with that plan. Instead I worked on intervals. I would get her up and working in the wanted range and keep her there for a short period and then let her walk and graze to cool down.  Once I was comfortable with how she was again, I would ask her to move out.

Gem did super well. She didn't spook one time even when a rabbit jumped out on the trail right in front of her and she moved out as I asked and came back down without much of a discussion. Near the end, I opened her up a bit and we did a fun little 14 mph hand gallop. She was sweaty at the end, but not breathing hard at all and she got a much deserved wash down and a soaking wet mash.

It was a really great ride and I am so happy that I made myself head to the barn in the heat of the day. Thanks once again for the invite and I really can't wait to meet everyone!

May 29, 2015

Are We Really Living Or Just Documenting Life?

Things are so different now then when I grew up and I am only 33. It wasn't all that long ago that I was hanging out with my friends and exploring the world and its boundaries sans parents for the first time. My summers were spent camping, kayaking, driving around, and having a ton of fun. Do you know the one thing that was missing? Physical evidence of our escapades.

We didn't use cameras back then all that much. Especially not at 16. I didn't even have a cell phone until I was 20 and then it was only a flip phone without any camera or internet on it. Those didn't come out until way later. We lived in each and every moment for what it was worth. We didn't worry about who knew what we were doing. We didn't care what other people thought. We just laughed and squeezed the best out of every last second we had. When we got together again we would talk about the things we had done while making new memories. Those who weren't involved in previous shenanigans had to catch up quickly and suffer through inside jokes and pointed jabs.  Looking back now it was freeing in a way. There was no "keeping up" with other friend groups. No worries about besting someone online or having to show off your exploits. You just lived them and cherished them as they were occurring.

There are some downsides to that though. I have basically no pictures at all from my youth outside my family. Everything I did exists only in the memories of those who participated beyond a few rare photos here and there. For the most part, I am ok with that. I can relive summer nights beside the camp fire with good friends in my mind and I know others out there share the same memories as I do. There is one glaring hole though. All my days and many nights spent cruising around with my best friend, Christy, are now solely mine to bear. She is gone and the only other person who knew the things we did, the laughter we shared, the memories we made, is now gone and it feels as though I could easily have made them all up. Without any physical proof and now nobody else to claim those same memories, who else can I share them with? Who else is out there that can relate?

I love blogging and I love sharing pictures online with my friends and family. It is a great way to have physical proof of the things you have accomplished in life, the times spent with friends and yes sometimes even your failures. It is good to get feedback from others and I look forward to looking through my blog reel every morning for updates from my fellow bloggers. I've connected with people I never would have otherwise and I am so glad for that.

I think, though, that there is a fine line between sharing on social media and living for that ability.

I'm sure everyone out there knows that person, and hopefully it isn't you, who spend every moment videoing or snapping pictures of everything they do without actually every experiencing those very activities they captured. The people who can't even grab a hamburger from Wendy's without checking in on FB. (As an aside I have never checked in anywhere because I find it very creepy) It seems like their entire life is defined by everyone else out there knowing they are living it without ever fully allowing the full exposure to the event to seep into their bodies and minds. . What would happen to them if social media shut down?  How would they be able to define themselves?

The point I'm trying to make is that we should all be out there living life. We should be fully soaking in every moment and making memories that are real and full of all the senses f the experience - the sights, sounds, feeling and smells that go along with it. We should do these things and document them as they merit for later review, but make the documenting a quick aside to the experience of living through it. Put the phone aside and take it all in. Grab a quick pic or video to share and make others happy, but then put it away and allow yourself to be fully engrossed once again. Go live life.

I guess part of this post is stemming from my sense of loss of a great friend. I thought of a question in bed the other night and caught myself thinking "I'll ask Christy, she will remember the name of that bar we went to!" Only I couldn't ask her and nobody else was there so there isn't anyone to ask. I miss those days of just living.

May 28, 2015

New Goal for Fall 2015/Spring 2016

I think I have mentioned in the past how much I really enjoy the local Hunter pace series. I only made it to one or two this year for various reasons, but really wish I had gone to a lot more of them.

There are only two left on the calendar for this year with one being this weekend and the last on June 21st. I can't make it this weekend, but I will be hitting the June 21st one come hell or high water. Why?

Let me lead up to that answer.

I received an email from the group Tuesday morning and it caught my eye. The Year End Awards are being held on the 21st and I thought it was going to be a party only type thing that I wasn't interested in. Well, it turns out that it is actually the last Pace of the year and the awards follow the end of the ride.

Each Pace you complete grants you two points. If you get 1-6th place you get extra points per placing. The points are tracked throughout the year and you get something at the end for your standings. I knew this before and since I don't attend many it wasn't a big deal to me. if I don't qualify for an award what makes this so special?


The email went on to list those people who needed to attend these last two rides to earn their Supporter award. That intrigued me. Those participants who make every single pace during the season get a plaque with a professional 8x10 picture of them and their horse on it. A Junior Supporter (or something along those lines) gets a plaque with a 5x7 professional picture on it.

The little raccoon in me screamed with glee over the thought of a shiny plaque with a nice picture of Gemmie and me on it. I must have.

I scoured the website to look for what constitutes a lesser plaque supporter, but couldn't find anything. I know you can miss some rides and still earn that one, but can't figure out how many you have to make.

But to answer the question as to why I would need to attend this one specific ride...

If you complete this ride you get a "Wild Card". This magical card grants you a completion at a ride you didn't attend in the upcoming season. I need this card.

This wonderful card will give me a chance to get my Supporter award even if a ride falls too close to or on the same weekend as an endurance ride.

I am actually pretty excited about this. The new ride season starts in September 2015 and ends May 2016. I hope to attend enough to at least get the smaller plaque if not the larger one. I worry about September though and hope not to kill off my entire season the first month. It will all depend on how the rides get scheduled around the TN trip I already have planned for that month. I need to check and see if it has to be on the same horse or not. If it doesn't, I may have to recruit Pete to fill in for Gem one weekend.

These Paces make life a whole lot simpler too. They are all within 2 hours of me and take about 2 hours to complete. Dusty and Wyatt can come and hang out in camp while I ride and then we all chow down on the provided lunch. They are mostly on Sundays too which doesn't conflict with Dusty's work schedule and they run between $30-45 only. Most of them are on private trails that I couldn't ride on outside of this and make for excellent conditioning rides. Gem and I really enjoy them a lot.

If I am talking goals, and sorry this post is getting long and a bit random, here is what my perfect set up would be:

- A minimum of one 50 mile e-ride a season working toward our decade team award - 8 years to go!
- In perfect world I would go to one spring and one fall multi day ride getting in two 50s each time. 
 - Add in the fall and spring Ride and Tie/Equathon at Clemson to support the local club
- Twice monthly Hunter Paces

That is a pretty full calendar for Gem and me and I am looking forward to trying to implement it. First up though is getting her ready for the multi day in Sept!

May 27, 2015

Reviews: Endurance Caged Stirrups and Garmin 310xt

First, the stirrups:

For the last year and a half I have been using the black, plastic EZ Ride stirrups that a lot of endurance riders use. I have been wanting cages though, so when these popped up on Facebook (in many colors and in a western version too) for only $50 I thought why not? I had some money left over from the sale of my Fusion Jogging Boots that wasn't book marked for the new boots anyway. They came quickly and Monday was the first time I tried them out.

Before purchasing I researched the aluminum versus plastic stirrup debates and came away with this: plastic will become a million sharp shards piercing the horse's lungs and killing them and aluminum with flatten trapping our foot and dragging you to your doom if your horse should fall and land on its side with you aboard. It really seemed 50/50 on who liked which best. I decided to take the chance on these aluminum stirrups.

They are well made and probably weigh 1 lb each, so heavier than the plastic ones but really not heavy. I am not close to a weight division line, so adding some weight to my tack isn't a big deal to me, but if you hover between two divisions you may want to consider the added weight. The cages themselves are a thick material and hold their shape really well.

I like the cut of these versus the classic western shaped ones and they sat on my leathers facing forward without any convincing. The foot bed is 5" with a thinner but denser foam than the EZ ride ones. I was worried that my feet would start burning and go numb like in my regular irons, but I think the denser foam prevented this. The foam is just glued on and I have a ton of materials and super awesome contact cement at work to make orthotics, so I could easily change out the foam if need be down the road. Overall they were really comfortable and I didn't notice much of a difference from my EZ ones. If you are looking to spruce up your tack colors or want cages, for $50 I think they are a good buy. I'd recommend the seller too since she got them to me quickly and without hassle.

Second, the Garmin 310xt:
The Garmin Forerunner 410 has been on my wrist for most of my rides and runs for the last 4 years and I really liked it. The only reason for upgrading was the 8 hour battery life. It shut down on me at the last 50 mile ride with a few miles left to go and that was with shutting it down at the holds. I had plenty of time to spare and it was on a loop I had done twice already on that ride so I knew exactly how far I was from camp without it, but had it been on a new loop or close to running over time I really would have needed it. The 310xt has a 20 hour life.

Dusty got me the Garmin 310xt for my birthday and I took it out on a ride wearing it on my left wrist and the Forerunner on my right. I also used the new one during the Equathon on very familiar trails and on Monday on the new trails. I have to say that I really like it.

In general, the fit is much like the Forerunner. The band is much softer and more flexible, but the face is larger.

It is easy to read and will show up to 4 different data points at one time. I have mine set for the current time, ride time, distance and average speed for that lap. It can show any number of things from current elevation, elevation gain or loss, heart rate if used with a monitor, overall speed/pace, current speed/pace, and a host of others. Lots of options.

The thing I like the best though is the lack of the stupid touch bezel to control it. It actually has buttons! Turing it on/off, starting it, pausing, stopping and resetting all occurs through buttons instead of attempting to use your fingertip around the bezel and scrolling endlessly through options.

It grabs the gps signal faster and maintains it better versus the Forerunner as well. When I wore them both the 310xt was much closer to the real life measured distance than the Forerunner. I think some of that has to do with elevation as well. It doesn't have an altimeter which gives the best elevation readings (you have to jump up in series for that and get a super large watch for big bucks) but it records more accurately and therefor loses less trail distance.

What don't I like about it? Two things:

1.) It uses a heart rate monitor, but even though I told it I wasn't using one and supposedly turned it off, when I came across a runner who was wearing one it picked up his data. It was very odd downloading my data to see a random heart rate reading. I  have been told that I can't fully turn this feature off.

2) The Forerunner defaults to just being a watch when it is on but not connected to satellites for a work out. The 310xt does not. I miss using the watch feature when wearing it which is why I set the 4th data point to the time of day. It takes up space that could be better used for something cool like elevation data or left open to allow the other points to be larger.

So all in all the two buys have worked out so far. If you are looking into getting a wrist GPS for riding, the 310xt provides a lot of good features and has a great battery life for the price point.

May 25, 2015

Brick House Adventure

I'm not sure what has been up with me lately. Well, that is not really true. I do know the cause - or more accurately the many little causes - that have created my anti riding funk of late. This time last year you couldn't keep me off Gem and I was riding 2 weeknights plus the weekend every week without fail. This year? Barely at all.

My eye is set on 75 miles over two days in Sept with hopefully the help of a fellow blogger. It is now nearly June and Gem has basically been a pasture puff all spring with the exception of a few rides here and there. It is high time to get back into some sort of a groove again to get her as ready as possible. With my life right now over conditioning isn't much of a concern, but too little is.

With that in mind I headed out to Brick House this morning for a 9 mile ride. I had wanted 12-15, but the way the trails are set up it is really hard to do that distance without doing an out and back and I really don't like those types of rides.

I had ordered a new pair of stirrups with cages off someone on Facebook and really wanted to try them out. I'll put up a review of these and the Garmin 310xt in the next post.

New endurance stirrups with cages

We started out on the blue and yellow trail which is measured at 5.75 miles per the park service. Gem was annoying at the start. She ping ponged her way down the trail in absolute protest of having to work. It took several deep breaths and a big discussion as to what forward really meant to get her butt moving down the trail without shying from left to right at every stinking branch, twig, lump of dirt and leaf we came across.

Twisting single track with dirt footing. My favorite trail conditions
This type of footing keeps Gem more occupied

Eventually she understood that I wasn't messing about and got down to working. I know the first section of trail super well from hiking as well as riding it before. There is a nice stream crossing which she handled just fine as well as two bridges of doom. She went over both with only a little resistance and I was fine with that.

Creek crossing

Bridge of Doom #1. She balked a bit but went over with minimal fuss

The last time I rode down there was when I did the 20 mile loop and got horribly lost. Yellow/blue dead ends into an intersection of purple and red. The long way around is to take purple, but I didn't have enough time to do that entire loop and Gem doesn't need to be going 20 miles right now anyway. Instead I hooked a left and went on red which cuts it down to the 9 miles. I had never been on red before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. I won't be taking it again.

It started out just fine, but the footing became really bad fairly quickly. Remember my annoying rant about trail conditions? This is what I was talking about. The footing was so torn up from people riding when they should't have been and it made for very slow going. I was seriously concerned Gem was going to twist or pull something.
Trail destruction. The clay down here bakes hard and doesn't pack down once it dried like this.  
We were still making fairly good time when she slammed on the brakes at this:

The approach. Just right of the trees was the only safe entry into the water. To the right is a 2 ft drop off over granite. 
To give her credit this was pretty crappy. At the approach I could see many issues right away. On the right hand side is all that crunchy black anti erosion material the trails down here love. Gem hates this stuff. She has gone over this at various water crossings numerous times and hates it every single time. The bright orange fencing laying on top didn't help. To the far right is a 2 foot waterfall over slick granite. To the left is the muddy creek without a visible bottom. It got very deep. Just right of center is the only safe path.

A closer view of the black anti erosion material. It makes a loud noise and caves in when walked on and is like a honeycomb 

To the left is a deep hole that on the edge went up to my knee. It got deeper in the middle. You had to enter just left of the black material and head towards the mud just left of the material on the other side. 

She refused many times and eventually I got off her to lead her over. Better to be safe than to keep arguing over it. Except she wouldn't be led over it either. I accidentally went too far left and sunk to my knees learning how deep of a hole it really was. I didn't get angry with her though. She honestly tried to cross, but the entry was terrible. There was a small section that you had to enter at the correct angle to avoid both the black paper and the deep hole and she went too far right. She stepped on the paper which crunched under foot and she freaked out. I was proud of her though - her freak out was just backing up and planting her feet. She could have spun and run or reared.

We were at an impasse. I don't usually let her win over stuff like this, but this was pretty dangerous to begin with. I didn't mind her refusing much. I was debating on turning around and going back the way we came (there were no other visible places to cross that were safer) when a husband and wife came toward me. The opposite direction had much easier entry and even with that their horses balked significantly. They made it across eventually and the husband asked if I wanted him to go back and lead us. I was very thankful for this and Gem followed with only a few snorts of disgust. Good mare.

After that the trail was kind of crappy for a ways. They had put some gravel down,  but the trail was eaten up like the above for the next 2 miles. It was stop and go for a long time.

I do love riding down there though. You are practically in the middle of nowhere to begin with, but once you get back in the woods a ways all you hear are the birds and little scurrying critters you stir up. I don't run into many people or horses on the trails. It is like I am in my own little world far away from everything. I love it.

After spending the majority of the time in the deep forest with trees close in on both sides, the shock of popping into the logging area was real. The trees had kept the sun out except to speckle the trail in spots of light, but now the sun was full on and very hot. It looked like a war zone.
Logging region. Fairly new given the size of the new growth. I wish I remembered more form my field ecology class. At one point I could have told you pretty closely how old this area was given the types and sizes of the trees. Alas, that information has left my brain. 

It wasn't long before we dove back into the woods again and made it back to the trailer. Per the measured distances on the map we went 9.50 miles, but the Garmin read 8.85. Not that bad given the tight tracks and dense tree cover. Gemmie was sweaty and a little tried at the end, but a soupy mash and sponge bath cured that.
Back into the old growth we go

My favorite tree. It must be at least 100 years old
The branches just beg for climbing

Overall it was super nice to be out and about again. I'm sad that I lost a lot of the conditioning I had on her going into the last 50, but she should gain it back quickly. I can get to the barn Tuesday nights and have a new plan of attack for that plus a weekend morning. With all of June, July and August to go we should be ready.

May 14, 2015

Clemson 30 mile Equathon

Friday night is spent doing the most counterproductive and useless thing anyone who can't sleep has ever done: looking at the clock repeatedly saying "If I fall asleep right now I can still get 5 hours of sleep...make that 4 hours...make that 3 hours....." I'm both excited to be heading to an event again and worried about Wyatt who has been up and down all night with a fever and snotty nose. When the alarm goes off at 4:25 am I groan slightly at the early hour and still dark sky, but drag myself both out of bed and out the door. It is race day!!!

The barnyard is not lit and there isn't much of a moon to see by. I have perfected hooking the trailer up by myself in the day time, but when it is dark out I have issues. 20 minutes of pulling forward and back, a little left and a little more right, later and I have had it. I curse out loud and bang the truck with my fist. It doesn't help matters at all. Instead of getting in that blasted truck one more time, I go to grab Gem's bridle. That's the moment I realize that I have begun to lock the trailer due to missing and broken tack and that the trailer key is on the van key ring. Damnit! I open the back of the trailer  and climb over the chest bar and unlock it from the inside, grab the bridle and lead rope and head off to find Gemmie.

Once out in the pasture I quickly realize that I can't see shit and start calling her name knowing full well that she will be staring at me from behind something and not moving an inch. I should head towards the house since that's where the mares typically hang out early in the morning, but my head is elsewhere from my agitation and instead I head off to the back corner.  10 minutes later I head to the house and call Dusty on the way in near tears from the frustration. He says he will grab Wyatt and head to the barn. Just then I see Gem staring me down and I grab her. This morning is not starting well at all.

Eventually Dusty arrives with a sleepy Wyatt in tow and gets the truck hooked up for me while I brush out Gem and then load her up. I look at the clock. We are now 25 minutes behind schedule, but since I always allow an extra 30 minutes into my planning I know we still will arrive on time as long as the drive goes well. Which thankfully it does.

Dusty calls me and says he is going to stop at Bojangles to get a smorgasbord of food options for Wyatt all day and asks if I want anything. My stomach is all upset from my nerves and I tell him no. I head straight to the trail parking area where vetting will occur worried that I may be running really late. I pull in just as the sun starts to light the sky in brilliant gold hues and smile as I see the Ride and Tie sign. It is 6:45 am and I am the first one here.

There is a lot of peace and serenity to being the only one at a trail head just as the sun is coming up and lighting the world on fire. The morning is cool, but the day promises to warm up fast.

I unload Gemmie and set her up with a hay bag. I've never hooked the hay bag up to the trailer before since I usually am either not going to have her tied long or use a corral. The trail head starts to fill up quickly and soon the registration tent is up and running. I go to sign in and try to pawn Wyatt off as my RnT partner, but nobody is buying it. Hey, last year a 4 year old did it with her mom. Wyatt isn't too far off!

Vetting occurs next and is extremely thorough. The ride vet is super nice and talkative, but I think Gem feels a little violated. She looked at all 4 hooves and even checked her temperature which is not something an endurance vet has ever done. Then she asks us to trot out emphasizing that we need to stay on the gravel drive. Gem is definitely confused. She knows that she isn't to trot on such nasty gravel and yet here I am clucking and kissing and annoying her to do just that. She isn't the only horse having issues either. Most horses spend the trot out trying to veer onto the grass. Those that do are made to start over by the vet. Gemm gets all As except an A- for impusion and we are set to go!!

As I tack up, I start chatting with my neighbors and find out that someone challenged a local Crossfit place. The camp is teaming with Crossfitters in the 15 mile RnT who have never been on a horse before. They are partnered up with riders and the one guy told me he expects to completely rest while on the horse. Ha!! I can't wait to talk to him afterward :)

The trail opens up at 8 am sharp for the 30 mile RnT and Equathon teams. Gemmie and I have 15 miles to cover while Dusty plays with Wyatt before he can go off on his 15 mile leg. Knowing how Gem can be a handful at the start and worrying both about her lack of being ridden in the last 3 months and not wanting to get pulled before Dusty gets to have his fun, I make the decision to hold off and start after the others are gone. At 8:02 we head out and start our adventure.

Wyatt found the water hose as we head off to start the ride
Unfortunately, this turns out to be a big pilot error. These trails are super familiar to us both and are our go to conditioning trails due to the technical terrain and lovely footing. The ride is small to begin with (17 total starts in all events and only 2 other 30 mile teams) and now Gem is all alone so she is thinking it is another ho hum solo conditioning ride versus a race. There goes my hope for a fast start!
Gemmie was being a very good sport

My favorite Green Loop Trail. Technical, single footing.

Sorry it is blurry. Gem was wanting to go forward!
Even with that Gem is laying down 6-6.5 mph miles without needing urging. This time last year, I was begging her to go beyond 3-3.5 mph by herself on this same trail. A grin splits my face from ear to ear and I settle in to enjoy the beautiful morning in the woods.
Since we are doing the Equathon and the other 2 were in the RnT I figure I should pass the tied up horses eventually. I plan to spy on them to see how they do things and learn for our outing in September. We never do see them.
Through the woods we go, up down and around and Gem is maintaining good speeds and a good attitude through it all. The forest is alive with blossoms that smell amazing and the sun hasn't made it unbearable yet. It is really a wonderful morning to be out and on my horse. The hills are starting to take their toll on her though. She hasn't had any hill work since the 50 in October! Poor mare and bad owner. When she asks for a breather on top of an incline I begin to let her. My original goal that morning was a 2 hour loop, but that isn't fair to Gem with my lack of conditioning. I switch that to 2 1/2 hours mentally.

Things are going very well and she is still keeping a wonderful pace for the conditions when we hit the gravel access road portion. This is her first time being ridden on her newly shaped hooves and the gravel looks new, so we slow to a walk. I think Gem is happy for the walk break as she is breathing a bit harder than I would like her to be. I let her walk until we turn back into the woods and on better footing once again. I can't wait to order some boots for her for races.

Not trotting or cantering her on that crap
Walking up the hill

Eventually we hit the portion where the Green 6.5 mile trail hits the Red 9 mile one and I point Gem to turn right away from camp and on the Red trail. She is happy to do so without any fight at all and it makes my heart sing.
The beginning of Red is amazing. A slight downhill grade travelling on a double wide clay footing road. I ask for a canter and she stretches out and floats over the ground. My Garmin reads 12 mph and I am grinning like a fool!!
The trail moves on and Gem starts to lag. I can tell she is not really physically all that tired, but mentally she is reaching her limit of being out all alone without another soul in sight. The Garmin just read a 3.5 mph mile and this just won't do. We are at mile 9 and something needs to change or the rest of this ride isn't going to be very enjoyable.
As we get off the last of the gravel road sections I hear from behind me "I'm passing you!" Huh. Never been passed like that before. Usually people ask especially on single track trail where it is hard to get off. I yell back "In a minute. I'll pull over once I can". In about 50 feet I find a section and pull over just to be glared at as she flies past at a barely controlled hand gallop. The poor horse looks all strung out and nearly takes a nose dive 3 times while still in my sight.
Well, Gem now finds a new gear and powers off after the gelding and I am happy that she found new life. I don't like how she is tripping on the roots. She isn't paying a lick of attention to her feet and all I can see is her falling on her face. I wrestle with her and keep her contained until the pair gets out of sight. At least now I know she still has lots of fuel in the tank and push her to keep up that 6-7 mph pace as before.
A mile later I see the same lady walking up ahead and there is a runner beside her. As I come up I ask politely to pass. "No, we need your cell phone." Umm? At first I think the runner is hurt so I look her over quickly and see no blood, no bones protruding and she is walking and breathing just fine.
"Are you hurt?"
"No she isn't. She needs a phone because she is lost"
" are on the Red trail. My Garmin says mile 10 and it has dropped some, so you are about 3-4 miles out from camp. Just keep following the signs."
"No, she is lost and needs to call. Give us your phone"
So at this point I lose it. Maybe it is the Sicilian/Italian blood coursing through my veins or just my overall lack of being able to deal with rude/snotty/mean people, but this is getting ridiculous.
"Ok..first, let her talk. Second there isn't much anyone can do. You need to walk or run back to camp. Follow the trail you are on. You will get there in 3-4 miles. Here is my phone if you need to let someone know."
About 10 minutes later we finish up and then as I am trying to get my phone back in my pocket, the lady spurs on her horse to leave us in her dust.
"Oh no you don't! You will stand there and wait until my phone is away so we can safely continue."
She does and we move off again.
Sheesh. What is up with some people???
Eventually we lose sight of her again for the last time and finish up alone, but moving out just fine. I call Dusty when I know I am 2 miles out and ask him to get water and a mash set up for Gem. A little while later and Gem and I are making it across the bridge that leads out of the woods and to the base of the hill to camp.
I hop off, loosen her girth and take the bit out to walk her up the hill. I know she is hot now that the sun is blazing full on and want her to pulse down quickly. We finish our loop in 2 hours 35 minutes (with at least a 10 minute delay on course). I head straight to the trailer and untack her, sponge her well and then vet her in. Pulse is 50 and she gets all As except a B for impulsion on the gravel. Dusty is now free to run his loop!!

Yummy mash face
As Dusty heads back down the hill to run his 15 mile leg of the event, I settle in to play with Wyatt. He is tired and filthy, but having a really good time. Thanks to Dusty's Bojangles trip he is full and that makes for a happy toddler. As we are playing around camp, mostly getting into as much water and mud as possible, I over hear that the lady on the strung out gelding had come in with a pulse of 120!!! It doesn't surprise me one bit.

Nothing beats a bucket of horse water on a hot day!!
Dusty wants to finish his loop in 2 hours 30 minutes and is gunning for bragging rights over beating Gemmie. I head over to the finish line at 2 hours 20 minutes and watch as he sprints up the hill with a huge grin on his face at 2 hours 30 minutes even. He wins bragging rights and I know I won't hear the end of this!!!
The RM is awesome and gives us our award. We get both the 1st place award and turtle for being the only two brave enough to do the 30 mile Equathon. We both wish there was a 100 mile Equathon we could do. Now that would be a blast!!!
Overall it is a super amazing day as always with the RnT people. Those Crossfit people had the time of their lives too. I talk  to one at the end and he is barely able to walk :) He agrees that riding is more than just sitting on a horse!!

May 11, 2015

Lesson Learned: The Hard Way Of Course

I will get to the Clemson ride story, but first a hard life lesson learned.

I've tied Gem to the trailer hundreds of times. I use her lead rope or an actual trailer tie that is nylon webbing with a metal clasp on either end depending on how lazy I am and the situation. Usually I just use her lead rope at the barn and the tie when out and about. I use the trailer as my sole tie area at the barn for tacking/untacking, grooming and various tasks like the farrier. I always tie at trail heads as well. She is super well behaved when tied and doesn't try to test it or get free. I've never even seen her pull back in the past 5.5 years, but even with that I don't ever let her there unattended for more than a potty break or to grab something from the truck.

Saturday was a different story.

We completed our 15 mile leg of the race and sent Dusty off to run his. I was in charge of Wyatt while he ran and I figured he would take between 2 1/2- 3 hours. Since Gem would be tied to the trailer (it hadn't even dawned on me to bring her corral which would have been the smart thing to do) that entire time coming off her exertion, I wanted to give her hay. I've never actually attached her hay bag to the trailer before and I only have the one ring per side. I clipped the bag to the ring and also placed a bucket of water within her reach and left her to nap. Wyatt and I hung around the camp for the most part with the exception of a 15 minute trip to the creek and I made sure to check on her frequently. She was always either eating her hay, drinking her water or taking a nap.

As Dusty neared the finish, I wandered over to cheer him on. I was maybe 200 ft away from my trailer, but I couldn't see it because another trailer was between me and Gem. Dusty crossed the finish and then I heard someone scream that Gem was loose! I was gone for maybe 5 minutes.

Thankfully she came charging over to where we all were instead of running towards the road, but there was a big problem: she had pulled so hard that she broke the trailer ring right off and now the hay bag was following her and making everything much, much worse.

A tie ring used to be attached to both those screws. I've been told that they are meant to give to excessive force as a safety feature and are super easy to replace by undoing the screws and applying the new one. 
She careened around the other trailer towards me and hit the gravel drive of camp and spilled out big time. She crashed onto her left side and skidded down the drive a few feet before getting up. I asked everyone to stop chasing her as it was making it worse and I asked Gemmie to whoa. She came to a stand still breathing hard and shaking.

So many things could have happened that I don't even want to think about. Fortunately she only ended up with some superficial abrasions to her left shoulder, stomach and hip. She walked off just fine and when I checked on her on Sunday there was no swelling and she was walking fine. Her left hip seemed a bit sensitive, but it moved fine and she used it equal to the others. Some of that could be from the ride as well since it was the most strenuous terrain she has been on since October and I pushed her hard on it for the race, but still it makes me nervous. I plan to put her in the round pen Tuesday to see how she is moving. If there was any edema or she was off on it Sunday I would have the vet out.

Lessons were definitely learned though.

1) Don't tie the hay bag to the same ring as the horse. When I go to replace the ring she broke I will be adding at least 1 more to each side  and try to add one up by the roof for water as well.

2) 2 1/2 hours is too long to be tied. I'm not sure what spooked her. It could have been another horse, a dog, someone pulling out. Nobody saw what set her off. The next time we do one of these I will be bringing her corral and set it up.

3) I don't like break away halters. I know a lot of people do, but I don't. I'd rather she break my trailer and have her lead rope/halter on so I can catch her than be naked and loose. However, I would rather her be naked and loose than break her neck. Someone online suggested that I use bailing twine. Make 2 loops, one slightly longer than the other, and tie around the trailer ring. You then clip her to those. If she pulls hard enough the twine will break long before her neck or legs and you have a chance to grab her or have her calm down before the longer loop fails. If that one fails too, well at least she still has something to catch her by. I will be trying this in the future.

Thankfully the day ended on a good note, but it could have been really bad. I have yet to go to a ride that doesn't have plenty of space for a corral and prefer the room and freedom of a corral to a Hi Tie system, but if many more of these begin popping on my calendar I will be asking for a Hi Tie system for Christmas this year.

May 6, 2015

Lady Farrier

Funder's comment on my Fit Kit post was like a 2x4 to the head. It was much needed. After reading that I made a plan: find a new farrier, make appointment in near future, order fit kit again to try on during the appointment. Perfect, right?

Well, last night I went out to *gasp* ride my horse and was not happy with her hoofsies at all. They were long, tall and the left front had some separation on the lateral hoof wall from the pressure. I admit to mild panic and a frantic call to my friend's barefoot trimmer.

I left a message and hoped to be able to get in with her soon. She called me back within a half hour and was easy to talk to. Apparently she comes from 2 hours away and informed me that she would be over my way Wednesday morning for a barn of draft horses and then not again until the 23rd. Well, the 23rd would be too long to wait and so she agreed to meet me at 0630 prior to her other appointment. A+ for flexibility!!

Of course this meant my second Fit Kit trial plan was dead. No way could I get a set in 10 hours time.  Oh well.

Poor Gemmie. She was so excited to see me at 0600. The only times I ever go to the barn at dawn are to drag her to an endurance ride and man was she ready to go. She came walking up to me from the back of her pasture and nearly pulled me to the trailer. Then, once tied to the trailer, she began her pre ride stretching routine: sticking her butt in the air and stretching out her front legs with a satisfied grunt. I felt so bad having to tell her we weren't going anywhere. She really isn't enjoying her vacation right now. I also noticed that she is looking extremely pudgy, borderline fat. A month ago I would have rated her a beautiful 5 on BCS and now she is looking like a 6.5. I ran into the BO on my way out and he laughed saying that he noticed it too. She isn't even getting any hay or grain right now. He pulled all the pasture horses off when the grass started growing. I need to ride more!!!

Lady Farrier showed up and was just as easy to talk to in person as on the phone. I have studied barefoot hooves as much as I could without being a professional and I could tell she was a) impressed with my knowledge base and ability to hold an intelligent conversation about hoof form and function and b) very curious as to why I don't trim her myself. I told her I was being a chicken about it and she laughed and promised to get me comfortable.

She looked Gem over and was happy with the health and strength of her feet. She really has awesome feet even when looking a little wonky. She did take quite a bit off and made them a shape I don't think I have ever seen on her before.

She did tell me a few things that I took home with me:
  • Her natural medial to lateral balance is very good

  • She does have high heels that will need to be kept up on. However this isn't as scary as I thought. She said that as long as you keep the heel and toe relationship the same ( have to take as much toe off as heel) the overall weight bearing surface remains the same and therefore the tendons and ligaments will be used the same. If you take more heel off than toe then you effectively move the weight bearing surface. the process of lowering Gem's heels we are going to be limited in how much toe we can bring back each time, but eventually it can be done safely and allow her to remain sound. She took them down quite a bit, but not to where she would be happy for them to stay permanently. This will take time.

  • She has a slight upward flare of the toe on both her fronts causing a mild dish to the hoof wool as it goes from hairline to toe. This is causing a very superficial (2mm in depth) central vertical line which I have been noticing lately. If left uncared for or let to get more severe this can develop a crack. Hers is nowhere near that, but was good to have explained.

  • She does not ever touch the plantar surface (is the bottom called that in horses like in people?) with a rasp. Ever. She states that it disrupts the hoof fibers and enhances the anterior dishing. She only uses a hoof knife there and uses the rasp on the toe (which man did she take a ton of toe) and to smooth the sides.
At the end I was happy with how they looked although I will admit they looked pretty different than I have ever seen on her. Much more like a normal hoof. Gem seemed to walk off in the pasture just fine. The true test will come on Saturday.

She recommended 4 weeks which wasn't a surprise at all, but also isn't something I plan to do forever. She is back out on May 23rd, but that is only 2 weeks and way too soon for me to fork over another $50. I mentioned this to her because it then pushes Gem to 6 weeks. She then gave me a rasp to use and told me to maintain her until then and she will come out and take a look. How awesome for her to give me a rasp?!

My plan is to keep using her until I get more comfortable with doing her myself. I need to get a handle for the rasp and maybe even a hoof stand to use as it looked much easier than holding the hoof myself. I'll have Lady Farrier out again in 6 weeks to check my work and perhaps order the Fit kit again for then. I need the boots for September and want to get some conditioning on them before the ride so need to order them by the end of July.

Here are some pics I grabbed afterward. One day I will need to walk her over to the driveway to get her on even ground, but for now these will have to work. Please chime in and let me know what you think of this trim!!!!!

Both fronts. You can kinda sorta see the superficial vertical lines I talked about. Nothing major, but present nonetheless.

Front right sole shot. Sorry for the dirt obscuring most of it. Her frog is looking better already and after this trim I know it will be loading weight.
Front left. Better view of those vertical lines she showed me.
Lateral view of front. You can see the slight dishing from hair line to toe. Heel still high, but a big improvement from pre trim.
Front right from behind. Lower heel height.
Hind foot, I think the right. Heels still high but improved. Toe much, much shorter than I've ever had her.

I'm getting myself confused, but I think this is her front right?

Right hind. Shorter toe, better heel.

Left hind sole view.. Very robust frog.

Left hind lateral view.

Front view of one of the hind hooves. Not sure which.

So....thoughts on this trim? Does it suck as bad as the last?? Continue moving forward? With the help of some great videos from Liz I am more confident in trimming her myself for the next 6 weeks and then having Lady Farrier out again unless something in this post is a major red flag to someone.