September 30, 2015

Things I learned in September

Where did September go? I've been keeping track of things I've read and discovered throughout the month.


The month of September was dedicated to Christy in the Colondar by a Colon Cancer Awareness group. She had applied to be a model before, but was declined. They try to have a diversity of models and she didn't make the cut. True to form, she didn't give up and re applied for 2015and this time she was deemed Miss September. Unfortunately, she never lived to see it hang up on her wall, but others can and can learn from her story and the 11 others told throughout the year. Please go and read it and if you have any inclination to donate to anything, consider donating in her honor to the Colon Club.

I can't complain is an article in a similar vein that came out with perfect timing. It tells of a very similar story and shines a light on how we have become a culture of near constant complaints.

Changing it up a bit and adding some humor, read how one mother attempted to explain sex to her children in sex is tricky. It is hilarious probably more so because I can see myself doing something oh so similar in years to come when it is my turn to embarrass Wyatt with "the talk".

My field of work sees a lot of bad effects from  diabetes mellitus including limb loss. I was astonished when I found out the average cost of a barely functional, modernized peg leg was $5,000. To get something that actually allowed ambulation is a minimum of $10,000 and for something that allows ambulation to the level of a natural leg is $20,000. That's a below knee. If you suffer from an above knee where they need to add a functional knee articulation and want to walk again, you need to cough up over $30,000. Talking about upper extremity a sleeve filler costs $5000, the hook that is shown on TV is around $10,000 and a cosmetically and functionally appealing device is close to $30,000. The neuroprosthetic arms that allow fine motor function and actually look like a real hand start at $100,000. Most people think this isn't a big deal because, heck insurance will cover it. The sad truth is that insurances place a lifetime cap on prosthetics of anywhere from $500- 3,000 (per a study in 2006) and a cap on any single prosthetic device of $10,000. why all the verbiage? Well, first it is a subject I am passionate about and spent my residency publishing papers on. Second, I saw this video/article and it caught my attention. 3D printed prosthesis are currently in the works and there are many manufacturers beginning to get in on it. A fully functional, mostly normal looking, prosthetic arm that can perform fine motor skills for only $3,000? We need to dump more money into this technology ASAP. It would be life altering for many, many people and at a fraction of the cost. I could continue on about this subject, but this is a horse blog after all so I will move on. If anyone wants to know more please just ask.

Coming back to horses, I stumbled upon a very interesting blog post about moving from home to boarding. I found it interesting because for as long as I can remember I have been trying to do the exact opposite and bring my mare home. It is always eye opening when you can see something from the opposite point of view.

I don't follow horse shows at all and have zero interest in Hunterland myself, so when I started seeing things about a horse named Inclusive I was a little meh about the whole thing. Calming Agents seems to sum it all up for those of us not in the know and was a well written article.

Menstrating in space.  Interesting title and worth the read. While I am not one to go off on feminist tangents and don't really follow the movement, this article brings to light some really interesting thought processes. I especially like the idea of using women astronauts as space whores to appease the raging hormones of the male astronauts. I wonder if prostitution is legal in space? (Please use sarcasm when reading those last two sentences)

Up for a controversial article? Well, then delve deep into the Ethics of Animal Rescue. A friend sent this my way and while I don't fall in line with everything it says, I did find myself agreeing with a lot of it. So much so that I passed it along to Dusty. He said that the article followed much of what he was taught in his ethics class in vet school. The one part I do want to point out is the shaming of purebred dog owners. I have owned 2 purebred dogs and one mutt. I love the thought of rescuing a dog from a shelter and adore my shelter dog, Bones. However, I 100% agree with those who choose to go with a purebred dog from a reputable breeder. Smart pet ownership begins with the proper selection of the animal in the first place. One that will meld with your lifestyle, living arrangements and family. If that means researching a breed, choosing one that will most likely have the traits you seek, and purchasing that from a good breeder, then it is the right choice for you and in the end will help reduce the number of unwanted dogs that end up in the shelter in the first place. There are a lot of great stories that come from shelter adoption that get media attention, but there are also a lot of bad matches that end up with dogs bouncing back or being euthanized.


Antz. DO NOT WATCH IF YOU HAVE CHILDREN. I mistook this for A Bug's Life when Wyatt asked to watch a movie with bugs in it. The cast is pretty stellar: Stallone, J. Lo, Sharon Stone, Danny Glover and a bunch of other notable actors. What I failed to see was that it was a Woody Allen movie and I really do not like Woody Allen. By 45 minutes into it, and keep in mind this is a cartoon kids
movie, we had heard every swear word except the F bomb. Now, I'm no prude when it comes to language, but I shield my coming 3 year old son from it as best I can. We shut it off at the hour mark and he will not be watching it again.

On the other hand, there is Khumba. This has now become Wyatt's favorite movie and the only movie to date he has sat all the way through without moving one time. I don't think it was ever released in the US, but I found it on Netflix for family movie night. it is a computer animated cartoon about a zebra born with strips to his front half only. Shortly after his birth a drought hits and guess who gets blamed for it? There are no swear words, minimal violence and nothing scary enough to send Wyatt hiding for cover. The basic story line is cute and refreshingly simple: being different isn't a bad thing.


Having binged my way through all of Glee, I needed a new late night, sit in bed with my iPad show to watch. Along came Chopped, a Food Network show where four contestants get a mystery box of ingredients to make something out of. The one thing I have learned from watching it is that I know absolutely nothing about cooking. Not only have I never heard of 95% of the ingredients, but then the chefs go on about adding citrus or vinegar or mint to bring out or cut back on a flavor. Yeah...all I can do is follow a recipe. Plus they cook these huge hunks of meat in record time. How do they do that? It makes me want to take a cooking class.

I also started watching Blue Bloods, the NYPD cop show. I love all the Wahlberg boys and cop shows are generally pretty entertaining, so I figured this couldn't go wrong.

September 29, 2015

I May Not Win....

But I have the most adorable crew :)


Once that becomes available for purchase you bet I will be buying it!

September 27, 2015

Biltmore Hunter Pace: Singing in the Rain (EDITED on 9/29/15)

Is that thar a 'durance hoss?
Saturday night I went to bed without setting my alarm. After two solid days of rain and cold (ok...cold for SC means in the 60s...I've become a wimp) with more rain and dreariness predicted for Sunday, I had zero motivation to go to the next Hunter Pace. At 6:30 am Sunday morning Wyatt came bursting into my room shouting "We going to a horse show mom?" How could I say no to that type of an alarm?

There was a 40% chance of rain and highs in the low 60s, so I bundled up in a fleece vest, long sleeve shirt and my riding tights. I even remembered to grab an extra set of shoes so I could ride with dry feet. Mental note though: grab socks too. Gem was not very happy to see me with bridle in hand in the early morning mist, but she obliged and let me grab her anyway.

We arrived around 10 am at the big field behind the Biltmore house where all horse events seem to be staged out of. I was surprised that there were so many trailers present with the gloom that seemed to invade every nook and cranny of the morning.

I decided to go with front boots only on Gem. I knew there would be a lot of slick clay and mud and both wanted the extra traction her bare hinds would provide as well as being a little concerned with the hinds staying on. Since I had already fiddled ad nauseam with the fit of the fronts previously, this time I could just slap them on in 30 seconds and be done. If for no other reason, that sold me on the boots right there.

**Oops...I never wrote about the boots from Wednesday. Well, the long and short of it is that the fronts fit pretty well and the hinds don't. I'll write up a true boot post to explain once I hear back from Renegade**

The trail would follow the permanently marked green loop and I started the ride alone although the timer sent the next rider out 30 seconds later and she caught up to us quickly. I forced Gem to walk down the gravel road to warm up her muscles. Once I let Gem trot, we caught her quickly again, but then we made a wrong turn and lost her as she shouted the proper way. I never did see her again.

The other rider passing us as we got back on track
I had never ridden on the green loop before, so I was really interested in where it would take us. It turns out that it would take us straight up into the clouds. The trail was recently graded which I found out meant that they put huge chunks of gravel down on the hills. I was really glad I had the boots on her fronts and she moved out wonderfully.  The trail was still pretty solid this early in the morning.

Heading up the first hill around a mile into the ride

The gravel didn't last long, but the ascent sure did
Gem was feeling really, really good and was moving beautifully. I still held her trotting to a minimum, but when I did let her trot she would rocket off at a glorious 8-9 mph pace even over the rocks and up the hills. Even walking a lot of it, we began to pass others.

The leaves were already starting to change up in the mountains
As we alternated walking and trotting I looked around at all the wonders around me. My mind keep jumping back to the fact that at one point a single family owned all of this. This was the Vanderbilt country home, not even their main residence, and they had it all to themselves. How amazing would that be?

Around mile 2.5 a couple of ladies came flying up behind us as we meandered up another steep climb. Gem pulled over as asked and we bid them a good ride. This was the third group I had seen since starting and the third group who made comment about my matching red and black outfit. Hmm...maybe I'm a little overboard these days?

They quickly dropped to a walk, however, as the trail weaved down a steep hill and Gem and I caught up to them. This time we passed them once the trail widened and stayed ahead for quite some time. Eventually we dropped down a really steep and very sloppy hill that led to a creek. I hesitated slightly as I looked down at the boots. Not only were they getting a muddy workout, but now we would be doing a water crossing that would come up well over the top. If this wasn't a good trial run, I didn't know what would be. Gem crossed readily and I was so extremely pleased at the other side when the boots were still in proper order.

The women came up to the hill on the other side and yelled across asking me to wait for them. They were not sure that their geldings would cross without another horse already over. Gem was not pleased at all about standing still and so we turned in tight circles until they cleared the obstacle and then shot off up the hill. The ladies stuck with us.

Steep down hill, water crossing over the boot height and then boot sucking mud on the opposite bank. Both front boots stayed through it all
While Gem seemed pleased to have some company for a change, she was downright rude about remaining in the lead. She would not let those two pass her for the world and even when we reached the double track road again, she body blocked them any time they tried. My mare is getting very competitive.

Right about this time the sky opened up and the rain just let loose. It was a cold, soaking rain and as we broke out of the single track and onto the dirt road Gem and I had the same thought: lets get the poop out of here. I let her open up and she flew at an extended trot that took my breath away. The other ladies tried to keep up, but even at a canter we left them behind.

It was short lived though as we came around a corner and nearly ran smack into the very rotund butt of a draft waiting out their half way hold. We were two groups back and the ladies behind me came up shortly thereafter. Gem was not a happy camper. I had never had issues getting her to stand still under tack before, but between the crowded hold and the cold rain running into those beautiful black tipped ears she was extremely tense and very unhappy standing. Those were a very long 3 minutes!

Eventually we got the okay to move out and the ladies followed us. We were 3.5 miles in and it wouldn't stop raining until we finished. Unfortunately, due to the heavy rain I kept my phone tucked away in my vest pocket so no more pictures of the trail to share.

Gem wanted to go and I wasn't in the mood to hold her back. She was moving great, the boots were functioning well and the trail was just getting more and more slick. I made the decision to just let her go and pull her up if anything felt off. She was more than happy to respond to the new freedom and chose an 8 mph trot that covered the slick ground rapidly.

Since she had decided she would lead (another novel experience) and the other two wanted to ride with us, I asked if they were okay with the pace. They laughed and said they would try their best to experience the endurance pace I was setting. I spent the next two miles chuckling as I listened to their whispers behind me:

"Did you know we could trot this fast?"

"How do they keep this up for miles on end?"

"I don't think we will be able to walk for a week after this!"

"Why does it feel like we are in a rush to end this ride?"

"Is something chasing us? It feels like a speed we would go if something was chasing us."

It was awesome!!

We passed several more groups through this stretch and the trail was really getting muddy. I felt bad for anyone who started later as the trail would be really slick and torn up the longer it rained and the more hooves that it saw. There were a lot of sections that needed to be walked and nearly every downhill was taken at a walk. I was so proud of Gem as she navigated the terrain. Seriously, she has really become a stellar trail horse, ping ponging and all. Overtime we reached a downhill I quickly determined if it could be trotted or needed to be walked. If I let her trot, she would come back into a collected trot and slow down to carefully handle the hill and then take off again once we reached the bottom.

Things went on as we got more and more drenched until mile 6.5. We were half way up the last steep climb and there was a river of mud trickling down it. One of the ladies pointed out that she had lost a boot. Darn! I pulled over and swung off. They asked if I was ok and I told them to move on ahead and get out of the rain. Honestly, I was really bummed. They had perform so well up to this point. The front left was still perfect, but the front right had spun off and was now on top of the front of the hoof held on by the pastern strap. Gem hadn't cared at all and would have continued on as if nothing had happened.

I swung off and stood in the rain looking at her hoof. Having had it stay put through all the rocks, hills, mud that came up over the pastern and a creek crossing that did the same, I was really bummed that it had now decided to flip off. Looking at how it sat on her hoof and the part of trail we were on, that best I can figure is that she planted the foot and when she went to push off the hoof slid out from inside the shell and it flipped over the front of the hoof. I replaced it and tightened up the toe strap hoping to not have to fix it again.

As I swung back into the saddle I realized the bigger issue with having the boot come off: my seat, previously keep dry by my butt, was now drenched. Riding with a wet butt is not fun.

We were also now alone and Gem returned to her typical jumpy behavior. The mare drive me nuts sometimes. She zig zagged like a drunken sailor down the remainder of the trail and we crossed the finish line 8.12 miles and 1 hour 52 minutes after starting.

Seriously, you owe me for this one. 

Thankfully, the rain returned to just a mist as I untacked back at the trailer. Her hooves looked great and the front right boot had stayed on until the end. Gem got wrapped up in her fleece cooler and placed in the trailer to dry off and not cramp as I went to turn my number tag in and grab lunch. Wyatt had entertained himself by jumping in every puddle and getting soaking wet and filthy dirty and gave me a giant hug when he saw me.

After all was said and done, I was really glad I dragged myself out of bed to go. I really love these events and Gem is just getting better and better all the time. The results are going to be really interesting to see in a few days. They typically send a rider out (or claim they do, I am not sure they actually send someone out and don't just know from previous events what that finish time should be) and if they had it would have been on dry, firm ground. The way the trail was looking by the end, there is no way those who started later could safely move fast over those trails. I just might not end up in last place for once!!!

**UPDATE: Results are in and while we still sucked we got way closer than normal. Our finish was 1:53 and optimum was 1:40 so only 13 minutes off. This still put us mid pack/closer to the end, but was way closer to finish time than before. Of note is that the two ladies I rode the second half with came in first and had I not had to stop and fix the boot losing track of those two I would have most likely placed. That being said, if I didn't have the boot on in the first place, I would have walked a lot of it and would have been an hour off time yet again, so there is that.**

September 25, 2015

The #1 Reason to Own Your Own Business

Wednesday morning I pointed the truck towards Croft State Park instead of work. It felt amazing and liberating to ride instead of stress and worry about paying the bills. Yeah, I will need to work harder to make up for the day off, but so be it. There has to be some benefit from all the added work load and stress and that is the ability to take random days off. 

Croft was the perfect place to try out the Renegades with steeper hills and a ton of rocks on a nice 6 mile loop. I will save all the boot talk for another post to focus on the ride itself.

The morning was cool and overcast with the promise of reaching the low 80s in the afternoon. I had chosen to wear a long sleeve shirt for the first time since spring and the scent of fall was everywhere. Gem looked smashing in her tack, new boots and very rarely ever used cantle bag. I prefer to wear a camelbak myself and keep as much gear off her as possible, but I needed somewhere to put the boots if they decided to come off and not go back on. Her winter coat is already starting to come in and is speckled with black hair. I love it :)

We headed off to the trail head and dived immediately into the heavily treed forest. Gem was eager to move forward, but remained calm and focused on me. The trail began up a nice grade with gravel. It would be the perfect start to trial the boots. 

At the top of the hill is an old graveyard. Every time I pass it, I tell myself to research the family but I never seem to remember to. 

The first 1/2 of a mile was on a double wide gravel path and I let Gem stretch her legs at a forward walk. She was feeling good and strong beneath me and I took a deep breath letting it out slowly as all stress left me. In its place was a deep seated peace at being deep in the woods, far away from the busy hive of life, on the back of my favorite girl. Nothing else can touch that feeling.

The trail began a steep, but short down hill that would end up making a sharp turn onto the lake. I knew the large drain would be waiting blindly around the corner and had been a point of tension for Gem in the past. The summer had been exceptionally dry and the last time I hiked there the drain wasn't flowing at all, but I still worried a bit.

It was a partly self fulfilled prophecy and I really need to get better at not anticipating problems which in the end just creates tension in Gem as she senses my apprehension. As it was though, she just stopped and looked around trying to figure out where the danger was. Once I relaxed and let her know it was ok, she moved forward again.

Once past the drain, we popped out onto a lovely sandy lane that divides Lake Craig from the river/creek it drains into and then down a short hill and back into the woods. I knew this section very well since it is one of our main hiking trails. Gem had only been on it twice before though and so I just let her take her time and look around.

I paid close attention to my Garmin during this section out of curiosity for how long the next uphill climb really was. Having hiked it frequently, I knew it was steep and seemingly un ending and always pegged it as a great training hill for Gem. We began at the base at 0.63 miles and I made a mental note to check it at the top.

It is hard to capture the grade of hills on camera when on horseback, but this single track hill just keeps going with a few really steep sections, but mostly just a continuous climb. Gem stopped a few times to grab some greenery alongside trail and since I wasn't there for speed work, I let her.

Even at a walk, Gem was breathing a little harder as we neared the top. She moved freely, never hesitating except to grab food and really seemed to enjoy the morning as much as I was.

When we finally reached the top the Garmin showed that it was about 3/4 of a mile of continuous climbing. No wonder she was breathing a little harder!

From there the trail flattened out and weaved along becoming a single track and then widening once again. Overhead the trees formed a near sold canopy of leaves blocking out the overcast sky. It was like moving through a fairy tale and I quickly lost track of all thought as I got lost in the moment.

As the trail flattened, I also allowed her to open up and trot short sections. I didn't want to push her too hard and refrained from opening her to a canter even though the combination of great trail and perfect weather was screaming for a run. Gem responded by flowing into an extended trot that reached 8 mph effortlessly.

I slowed her to a walk after 1/4 mile and only let her trot again when the mile changed over and if the trail was flat and not technical. No reason to hurry her return. Gem stayed calm to the point where I dropped the reins for a good mile and just enjoyed the freshly fallen leaves strewed along the trail, cool breeze blowing through the warm early fall air and the pure sense of freedom. While I love wide open spaces and grand vistas, my soul belongs in the forest.

Sadly, the miles flew by and I soon found ourselves nearing the bridge only a mile and a half from the end. Gem notoriously hates bridges, but will cross them. I forced myself to think positively and she marched across snorting in displeasure. Half way across I had to laugh out loud as the wind plus her movement made the metal braces start to creak and her snorting grew louder and more disgusted. She crossed over the creek and I rewarded her with letting her move out once again.

It is such a novel experience for me to reward her with letting her move out. This is the mare who was completely unrideable solo on trails and then turned to careening wildly. Not this day. This day she was calm, forward and eager. It was the icing on the cake.

Of course, this is still Gem I am talking about and as I turned her to head back to the trailer we past by the barn. There was a camper with a boat and I looked at it bracing for her to spook to the right, away from the boat on my left. I'm not sure what the reason and Dusty is prone to believe she did it on purpose (past experience would have to agree with him). Her signature move is a 180 degree spin and  shoulder duck to the right. She very, very rarely goes left. Well, with my weight slightly more in the left stirrup she spun left and off I flew through the air. Fortunately, while the last year has seen me lose practice at it, I have enough in reserve from the last 5 years and I landed on my feet tweaking my right shoulder as I clung to the reins and spun around.

Gem looked at me calmly without so much as a glance back to whatever it was that set her off and not even a tad snorty or tense. Mares.

I climbed back on board refraining from any reaction whatsoever. Getting mad at her, going after her, or hitting her only back fires. Ignoring the bad behavior and carrying on like nothing ever happened to interrupt it is the only way to go, so we made our way past the boat and barn and back toward the trailer.

As we got close to the trailer, I looked over at the gorgeous show ring. It had been nearly 2 years since Gem saw the inside of an arena, so I pointed her inside the gates. The thought of cantering her inside the arena to test the boots a little more flitted through my mind, but the footing was deep, soft sand which is not something her ligaments and tendons are used to, so instead we just made our way around and then exited.

Back at the trailer, I took a look at the boots, snapped a bunch of pictures to send off to Renegade  untacked her. I gave her a huge hug to thank her for such a lovely ride (minus the fall) and brushed her out.

Unfortunately, the ride had a bit of a damper at the end. Pre ride, all the weird filling I had noticed to her hind legs last week was gone. The legs were nice and tight with well defined tendons. It both verified that I hadn't made it up and lessened my worry about the previous existence. However, when I removed her hind boots it was back. We did 6 miles in 2 hours, right at a 3 mph pace, and while we did trot some short sections and walked hills this was by no means a difficult work out. I have no clue when the filling began during the ride, but it was most certainly there at the end. There continued to be no reaction from Gem with prodding or flexing. She weighted it evenly and had no pain with prodding. No heat or pulse was appreciated either. I am not rushing her off to the vet for an evaluation, but I will be keeping an eye on it as we continue to move back into full work. Dusty is under the impression that getting her stronger and back to full work will improve it. I am worried that she might have injured it back in June, but it was missed with the very much more important left front injury.

Front left post ride. Nice and tight.

Hind left post ride. Filling noted above the joint. If she was off on it or it was painful I would be making an appointment immediately. For now I am going to mindfully ignore it. 


September 23, 2015

Run for the Horses 50

 Last Saturday was my favorite SE ride: Run for the Horses at Biltmore. While the May Biltmore ride gets a lot press due to being co sanctioned with FEI, this September event tends to be really off the radar. This is a shame because it has a much more laid back and friendly atmosphere, all the proceeds go to a local horse rescue and my favorite part: they have an ultra marathon along side it.

Dusty headed off after work on Friday to crash at ride camp. He had just finished a grueling mountain 50k/32 mile race 9 days prior and was a little nervous about his recovery in between races. Our friend, Theresa, was there to ride her annual 50 on her meatball of a gelding, Jedi and he attempted to find her rig in the dark. He never did and ended up crashing by the registration tent.

The next morning, I called him when Wyatt woke up at 7 am to wish him luck. He had started at 6:30 am and was feeling really good a half an hour into the run. The course was slightly different from the previous year and he had a 30 minute head start on the horses.

I spent the morning with my little man and then packed up to head to Biltmore after his nap.  I figured Dusty would finish somewhere between 4 and 5 pm and wanted to be at the finish.  It is a 1 1/2 hour drive, so I wanted to leave by 2 pm at the latest and was happy when he woke up from his nap at 1 pm.

At some point in the morning Dusty texted me to let me know he had completed the first 20 miles in good form and was feeling pretty good. He had been passed by the front runners of the 50 mile horse ride around 5 miles in, but had yet to see Theresa. Another friend of ours, Sheree, was manning the first aid station and he had stopped to say hello.

I decided to bring Bones with us on the trip. She isn't doing too well with her bone cancer and is no longer allowed to go on walks, but ride camp is a lot of sitting and waiting which sh loves and could handle.

My Bones. I love her so much. 
The drive up was uneventful until I pulled through the Biltmore estate gates. I had been to Biltmore 3 previous times (1 hunter pace and two AERC events) and had never seen the actual house. Well, as I pulled through the gait I made a left turn instead of going straight and end dup on a part of the property I had never seen before. I wound around the gorgeous grounds and then right before my eyes there it was: the house! I was too excited, and the traffic was too congested, to take a picture, but it is super impressive. Anyone who comes to a ride here has to take the time to drive over to the house.

I did manage to snag a couple pictures of the greenhouse which is about the size of my house.

The greenhouse and some of the gardens

The green house was just as amazing as the actual estate house
As it turned out, this way was about 15 minutes quicker to the horse area then the round about way the signs take you. I don't think I would want to take a horse trailer this way though due to super narrow, tight roads and a lot of both road and foot traffic.

Once at camp, I found Dusty's car quickly and called to see how far out he was. His Garmin had died, but he figured her was about 13 miles out given the aid stations he had passed. He was pretty tired, hot and his right knee was hurting, but he was enjoying himself and having a good race. I told him to remember he does this for fun and that we would be waiting at the finish.

Wyatt, Bones and I wandered over to the crew area where the finish for the runners was and settled in to play int he dirt.

I asked him to smile for the camera and this was the face he made. I think he thought he was smiling.  
Doing what he does best: getting dirty and playing with a dump truck
The registration area was a gigantic white tent and was loaded with swag. There is a human massage therapist there for hire, the farrier and a big display for the Hope for Horses rescue that puts on the ride. The award table was laden with awards for every possible scenario and the swag was awesome. Makes me really wish I could actually ride this event!

I found the maps for the loops too and grabbed some pictures, only I thought my big head was blocking it and stopped after the first two. I'll have to get the third loop next year.

Loop 1

Loop 2

Sheree eventually found us and Bones and I settled in to chat while Wyatt played in a nearby water bucket. Last summer we both conditioned together a lot, but then her horse came down with a nasty case of Lymes and she is only now getting her back under saddle. It was great to chat with her and catch up. Gem and Riiah pace well together and now that she is back under saddle, I am looking forward to conditioning with her again.

Crew area

The day was bright and clear and the sun was heating up. I watched as some of the 50k runners finished and then some of the 50 milers as well. There is a 74 year old woman who does the 50 miler here every year to support the horses and it was really great to watch her finish.

Eventually Dusty called to say that he leap frogged with Theresa a bit and was pushing hard to cross the finish before her. It would be hard though because the 50 mile horses have the finish line about a  mile from camp to avoid racing into camp. They then have 30 minutes to walk to camp, pulse down and vet in. It is the one thing about the ride that I do not like. He had to come all the way into crewing and he figured she would cross hers before he did his.

At 10 hours 28 minutes (3 minutes faster than last year) I saw this:

I was very proud of him for notably completing this 50 mile run faster than last year, but after having completed a really hard 50k only 9 days prior. He was hot and tired, but doing well. Wyatt ran over to the cooler and grabbed a gatorade to give him. It was really touching.

Unfortunately, it was getting late and we couldn't stay for the awards. I shouted a congrats to Theresa and we packed up to head home. A big congrats to the hubby for his completion!

September 17, 2015

And One Step Back

Now for the other story.

I am a self proclaimed uber anal groomer. It makes me cringe inside when others only scrape a small saddle shaped patch of mud off the horse and ride. To each their own and no judgments, but there is no way I could do that.

I brush her out entirely with curry and brush, comb out her mane and tail, run my hands down each leg, palpate each joint and pick out each hoof every single time. Because of this I know each and every square inch of my mare and I know when something isn't right.

Tuesday night I performed the same ritual and noted swelling in the left hind fetlock. Not a lot. In fact, it wasn't visible with my eye until after I felt it and if I wasn't so anal in my grooming I would have never known it was even there. But I am anal and I did notice it.

The swelling rested just above the fetlock and behind her tendon complex. It sort of felt like a joint effusion to me: like a small pocket of fluid built up in the space between the tendon and the cannon bone. There was no heat. She provided no reaction with my poking and prodding, no mark on the skin, no roughed up hair and no changes to the hoof. Higher up the leg was normal as well. She flexed the joint fine and offered it up no problem.

When I moved to the right hind it was similar although to a less degree. Again no heat, no reaction no signs of abscess to the hoof, bruise or any injury to the leg itself. What the heck mare?

I tried not to panic, but a lump did develop in my throat and I decided to focus on fitting the front boots only and leave the hinds for another day. When she moved funny at first I was worried but it eased up as she flowed in the boots better and better with each step.

Then we entered the round pen.

To the right she went w/t/c just fine. To the left she fell apart. She refused to pick up the canter at all and when she finally did she dropped it a couple strides later. It took a lot of insisting on my part to get her to hold it for a single lap around a fairly small round pen. This from a mare who routinely uses the round pen as an excuse to zoom around at warp speed.

What the heck mare?!

The swelling neither improved nor worsened with the work. She remained unfazed by my attention to it, but it still worried me.

Gem has never had swelling. Not after a training ride. Not after a tough 50. She did stock up a bit on stall rest, but it went away as soon as I got her back outside and it was the entire lower leg not just a small pocket around the fetlock.

She has also never been lame for me. I've never felt a stiff or hesitant step. It would be easy to blame the time off and quicker than I had planned return to work last weekend, but she has had more than 2 months off before (like when Wyatt was born and it was the middle of winter in the arctic and I rarely saw her and never rode her for 3 months followed by another 3 months of minimal effort) and we kept a 3.6 mph average for those 8 miles which were on soft grass footing and with negligible elevation. It was an easy ride on easy footing over easy terrain (hence being nearly an hour over time).

So what the heck mare?!

My plan is to head out after work Thursday and check on her with Dusty to give me his opinion. I can't handle, emotionally or financially, another issue right now not when I finally started to believe I had my baby girl back.

September 16, 2015

Two Steps Forward....

Last night was finally time to try those Renegades again. I was both excited to be moving forward and nervous about what the outcome would be.

Some facts to keep in mind:

1) These boots are one size larger in both width and length than those I had tried prior to her injury.

2) They have been sitting, untested, in my closet since arriving.

3) Her hoof shape is not ideal nor is it the same as when I ordered them. Her heels need worked down some, the toes brought back a bit and the mustang roll made a little more aggressive. All in all though, the shape should work fine as her hoof continues to grow and be used.

The front left was a good fit in both length and width. If anything it was a tad too short, but once I bring that toe back and the heel down a little more the hoof will seat into the shell better. I had to lengthen the cables a little to get the captivator to sit where it needed to be without being too tight, but other than that it seemed to work.  There was enough wiggle room in all aspects of the shell, cable and captivator that I could accommodate any changes in the future. I was really pleased with it and moved on to her front right with a heaping dose of optimism.

The front right ended up being way more interesting. It think it is best to use pictures to show it all. Of note, the cables needed lengthened a bit more than the front left to allow the captivator to pull up onto her heel bulbs without a big struggle and without smushing all the tissue.

Below is a front view of her front right. The toe strap actually has the perfect amount of left over strap and the pastern strap was to two fingers tightness.

The first thing I want to point out is the new hoof growth. She has already grown in a ton of hoof in a short amount of time. There is a very distinct ridge of stronger, thicker and wider hoof wall demarcated by the green and yellow arrows.

Also note the added width to the new hoof wall shown by drawing a black line up the old hoof wall. There is a good difference in the overall width of her hoof growing in. 

This is interesting for a few reasons. First, you can see just how badly the hoof was affected by that fiberglass cast she was placed in for over a month. It had to be done for wound healing, so I am not complaining. I just didn't realize what it was doing to her hoof.

Second, I would bet that she will go through a period of time mid-late winter where the boot won't be usable at all. As that new growth creeps downward it will eventually hit the top part of the shell. This will make the shell bulge at the new growth and not make contact (or at least fit very poorly) with the old hoof below it. She grows hoof fast, but I would except to not be using the boots for a good 2-3 months as the wider new hoof slides below the shell.

Third, this makes me wonder if she will even fit in this size at all once the new hoof is fully in. I originally thought I might need to use her smaller hind boot on this front hoof until it grew out, but now I am wondering if I will have to order a size wider next spring.

The lateral hoof wall was snug up against the shell and fit smoothly all the way around. The new growth is still a good chunk away from the shell at this time.

However, there was a gap along the medial side wall shown with the green and yellow arrow below. I had lengthened the cable equally as well as pulling equally on both sides when tightening the toe strap. At first, I was really curious as to what was going on here, but then I figured it out.

It all has to do with her heel bulb. The surgeon did an amazing job putting her back together, but the medial heel bulb isn't normal anymore. It may still remodel over time, but it will never be perfectly shaped. As it is now, the medial heel bulb sits a little higher and is a bigger bulge than the lateral one.

The captivator did fit but was tight on the medial side and pulled up her sparse hair. Since the captivator was not able to sit well this was not allowing the shell to function either. After I took this picture, I lengthened the cable a little more.

Below is her front left as a comparison.

Once situated the captivator did find a good home on her, but I was worried it wouldn't be a good long term fit.

Not seeing any glaring reasons not to, I untied her and headed to the round pen to see her move. Unfortunately there was someone in there. Instead I took Gem to the track around the gelding pasture. We walked and she was a little strange at first. She moved a bit stiff and I thought I could see a head bob. Uh oh. I asked her to trot and she did the same. A little funny movement, a slight head bob or two and I was about to cry.

Then I remembered that she moved really funny the first time I tried them on her as well. Like she didn't know what was going on or if she could move normally in these new strange boots. I asked her to move out a bit more and she settled in.

I watched her like a hawk and at one point ran as hard as I could to entice her into a canter, but she just lengthened her stride beautifully and kept on trotting. By the time we were a half mile in she was heel first landing, relaxed and there was no trace of any odd movement remaining.

At the end of the mile long track, I stopped by the trailer to inspect the boots. They hadn't twisted, turned or come loose. Good.

Wandering back to the round pen, I noticed the girl had vanished. I really wanted to watch her move more closely and get her to canter as well, so we entered and I asked her to move out.  She w/t/c both directions (a whole new post on this because there is something important to talk about but isn't boot related). Afterward I inspected the boots and they hadn't shifted, twisted, turned or anything else. Overall a good first fitting attempt.

Late last night (I think around 9:30 or 10) I shot Renegade an email with the pictures and my thoughts. I think the shells fit as good as they could: going up would be too big and down too small. My only concern was over the captivator on the front right. While there were no signs of rubbing, we only did 1 mile of w/t and a few turns at the canter in the round pen. No mud, no water, no sustained pace and no hills. Her skin back there is new and fragile and rubbing would be bad.

I didn't except an answer until mid day today at the earliest. Of course, Renegade being as absolutely fantastic as they are, responded nearly immediately. I love Ashley. She agreed that the captivator could be a problem and recommended going up to the medium size. She also suggested that I may need to have the cables adjusted unevenly on this shell with a longer length to the medial side to allow the large heel bulb more room and a shorter length on the lateral side. I would have never thought of that. It will be a test of my handiness once it comes in I change it out on my shell, but hopefully it solves the problem and we can get back to business.

I still have to try her hinds on her, but that goes along with my other story and will have to wait until another day at the barn.

September 15, 2015

I'm Not Crazy!!!!!

Well...some would argue against that, but on this one I am right! the keys ended up locked in the truck on Saturday. My initial report was that I must have hit the lock button on the car door as I closed it up, but that wasn't my original story.

When it had happened, and when I called to tell Dusty what had happened, I swore up and down that I hadn't touched anything. In fact, I was halfway around the truck when I heard/saw the lights go "beep beep" and the truck lock. Without me touching the truck at all and with the keys inside.

Everyone told me I was crazy and that I must have hit the lock button on the car door when I went to close it. The sound was probably from a nearby truck locking. Fine. That was much more probable than the truck being spiteful and locking all on its own.

However, this morning it did it again and Dusty was there to witness it!!!

Tuesday is my day to head to the barn after work and have Dusty pick Wyatt up from school. The Renegades were still in the truck, so I unlocked it from the porch and put the keys back where they belong in the kitchen. I went out, opened the truck from the passenger side and grabbed the boots. I then shut the passenger door and walked away. I was at the drivers door of my van when the truck, without anyone touching it and the keys inside the house, beeped and locked. All on its own.

I turned to Dusty with a big grin and told him I wasn't crazy after all.

Of course, this means there is something wrong with the truck and we have to be even more careful to never, ever have the keys or Wyatt in it without us there as well, but at least I am not crazy.

September 13, 2015

Scotsgrove HP: A Lesson in Flexibility

Ever have one of those days where everything just goes wrong? Where you find yourself working on plan F already and you have just begun? Yeah, that was Saturday.

Dusty had to work, but my mom offered to watch Wyatt for me so I wouldn't have to use my Wildcard so early in the season. Dusty dropped him off at 7:30 am as I headed to the barn working off of plan A: take Pete, start at 9 am sharp and be back home by 12 pm to spend the rest of the day with the family.

And this, my friends, is where it all started to go wrong.

After 20+ minutes of chasing Pete around his pasture, I said screw it and went to get Gem. Pete is notoriously difficult to catch, but will typically run away for 5-10 minutes and then be done. This time he got in with a nasty paint gelding who would pin his ears and turn his butt to me every time I got near. He would have easily kicked me if I had gotten within reach and it made the situation even worse.

Ok...change of plans. Plan B: take Gemmie instead. Stop off at home and grab her Rennies, do a quick trim job on her fronts and hope something fits enough. Walk most of it and hope to be home by 1 pm.

Gem came right up to me and her hoof was still looking great, so I loaded her up. We are still in the process of organizing the trailer, but have yet to get to the saddle pads and blankets. To avoid them all shifting and falling on the floor in transit, I placed them in the truck along with my food, water and dry riding shoes.

I texted Dusty "No need to worry about Pete loading. It took 30 seconds" and sent this picture. 

A quick stop at home to grab the Renegades and we were off. I was thrilled that the drive was only 30 minutes and we made it there right on schedule.

Now the truck isn't that big, but it is still a reach over the wide console for me to get anything in the passenger side and I had a lot to get. Not having pockets in my tights, I threw my truck key into my purse which was on the passenger side along with my phone and got out to walk over to that side and grab my purse, phone, keys, dry shoes, Gem's boots, and saddle pad. Except as I was closing the door I leaned on the button and locked the truck. Crap :(

I walked around and looked forlornly at my purse safely housing my truck key on the passenger seat and debated what on earth to do. I used to carry a spare in the trailer, but that had long since been used and not put back. At this point I was frustrated with my morning, was very aware that my mood was sub optimal and was worried about riding Gem without her boots for protection. Had I been able to, I would have just left and called it a day.

But I couldn't, so instead I went and checked in figuring that I might as well ride since Dusty worked until 12 and there wasn't anything I could do until then. When I returned, someone had parked next to me and I asked to borrow their phone. Dusty was less than enthusiastic about my plea for help, but said he would come after work with the spare key.

So I was now on plan C: Ride Gem without her boots. Take it slow and easy and really watch the footing. Wait until Dusty arrived with spare key and hope to make it home by 2 pm.

Of course, that was right when I realized that all of Gem's saddle pads were in the truck. She has historically hated all products by Toklat, both woodback and coolback, but all I had available was Pete's new Toklat trail pad, so she was tacked up in his hunter green pad with all her red and black gear. She looked like a tacky Christmas tree.

We headed to the start in my dew soaked shoes and wet socks, with the worry of my locked truck and her bare feet on my mind and a sinking feeling that this day was spiraling down hill uncontrollably. All I needed was for Gem to come up dead lame and it would finish it off.

The ride was held at a local cross country training facility. I apologize for having no pictures, but again my phone was locked up. We started in the outdoor arena and then headed off.

Gem was up. She was ready to go and the footing was fantastic: mostly grassy tracks and fields. I decided to allow her to trot the first 1/10th of each mile as a nice way to re introduce trotting to our work. It didn't take any coaxing to get her to move out or to come back down to the walk a short while later. We passed many jumps that were just calling my name. This course was just teeming with beginner friendly, welcoming jumps. Most were logs or small coops and if Gem was 100% we would have attempted many of them.

She did stop a lot in the first mile to complain about the pad. She would stop, look back and grab at the pad and only move forward when forced to. Its the way she acted in both the coolback and woolback that I had tried previously. There is just something she doesn't like about the products they put out. I apologized, told her we were not going that far and that she would live and we moved on to walk the rest of the first mile before trotting again at the start of mile 2.

We were walking along some gorgeous galloping tracks when we finally got caught around mile 2.5. A couple came galloping up behind us and announced their presence. Gem hates horses coming up behind her at speed. She gets very nervous and ramped up. I pulled over to let them pass and as they went charging off at warp speed she lost her marbles. I suddenly had a stiff, giraffe necked, hollow backed and barely ratable mare under me. It is the exact way she acts the first 10 miles of an endurance ride. It isn't fun.

So instead of a leisurely trot 1/10th of a mile, walk the rest I switched to plan D: school the crap out of her on how to not give a piss about those around her and to listen to me.

I asked her to walk. She jigged. I asked her to walk again. She jigged and tried to blow through me. I spun her bay butt around to face the opposite direction and made her halt. Once she stood quietly, we turned back around and I asked her to halt again. Once still I asked her to walk off. She tried to bolt and settled for a jig. I repeated the above.

It didn't help that the trail switchbacked through a field with a strand of tress screening each section from its neighbors. This meant that we could clearly hear the pounding hooves of the horses both in front and behind us, but not see them. Since it was so early in the ride and the footing was great, most participants were cantering or galloping these sections. I don't blame them one bit. If I had allowed her to trot in that state, she would have remained hollow and tense and eventually took off until she caught up with whoever she could. I've been there and done that and returned the shirt.

Finally, at mile 3.75 I had my calm and listening mare back. She was walking along with her head relaxed and I decided to allow her to trot again at the 4 mile mark.  We came up to a T intersection and out of nowhere a lady on a buckskin came charging from the left where the trail didn't even go. Her horse was absolutely out of control and spooked, leaping into the air when he saw us at the intersection. All my schooling on Gem went out the window. I started again.

I think it was around mile 4.25 that she calmed down again and thankfully, although she continued to ask to trot continuously, she remained that way for the rest of the ride.

I continued along with my pattern of walking and trotting and the trail wound through fields, into the woods and alongside a pond covered in flowering water lilies. I wished time and again that I had my phone to capture it all.

We reached the half way point shortly after she calmed down and I made note that the ride would be roughly 8 miles. We rested for the 3 minute hold while I drank some water and we chatted about the wonderfully cool weather and overcast sky to keep the horses cool. I knew at this point that the times for this ride would be fast and that we would be exceedingly slow.

After the half way point, we hit a field with some long, gently sweeping up hills. I asked Gem to trot just as a couple came flying behind us and she bolted on me a bit. She took off cantering with a slight buck of joy and I let her go. She was just so obviously happy to be able to move out again, the footing was super and she was listening. It was freeing to cover the trail and she felt so good. I only let it go a quarter of a mile before I reined her back in and I was glad to feel her slow back for me without a fight.

The second half of the trail went by pretty easily after that. When at a walk, she would stop to let me know she still hated the pad and kept trying to trot every 100ft which got pretty annoying, but it was a good chance to school her on letting me pick the pace. It was nice to have her asking to move out for a change rather than sucking back and piddling along.

We crossed the finish line at 2 hrs 14 minutes. I would guess the actual time to be more like 1 hour 15 minutes or so. It rode fast and smooth.

After untacking her, I took a good look at that front right and there was no swelling, no heat, the wounds stayed closed and the hoof stayed hard as concrete. A success!! She was pretty sweaty and actually tired, but this had also been the hardest work she had done in months.

The wonderfully nice lady next to me finished before me and offered up her phone again. It was 11:45am and I asked if I could wait until after I knew he would be done with work. She honestly was one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She offered to call US Rider or AAA for me, but I declined knowing Dusty would be on his way shortly. She had had a great ride on her 26 year old gelding and finished just over 1 hr 30 minutes.

I wandered up and grabbed lunch which I took back and ate at the truck. Gem was tucked into a bag of hay and then settled in for a nap.  At 12:45 pm I called Dusty who was on his way and I settled in to wait on his arrival and my freedom.

Unfortunately, he arrived to inform me that he could not find the spare key. Plan E: attempt to use a coat hanger to push the unlock button.

A solid 45 minutes later of him cussing and fussing about the new style of bodies and doors that aren't so easy to break into, he consented to me calling a lock smith. Thus began plan F: Get a lock smith out. Hope to return home before night fall.

I called one company who was extremely rude to me and so I found another. They were working on another job and estimated arrival in 45 minutes. They said they would call when they headed our way. Except an hour went by and still no call. I was off playing with Wyatt in the now completely empty field as the stragglers in the ride started to cross the finish line one by one. We were now officially the last ones standing.

They did eventually show up and freed us from ourselves in all of 30 seconds and with a $45 bill. Less than I anticipated on a Saturday late afternoon emergency call although I would suppose they pretty much only ever get emergency calls in their line of business. I loaded Gem up as quickly as possible and we headed out at 4:30 pm. Five hours after I completed.

Even with the hassle of having to alter my plans numerous times throughout the day, the ride was great. If Gem had been in tip top form we could have slaughtered that course and I hope it is a similar set of trails in January when we return. Of the 5 venues I have been to thus far, these trails were my favorite although there wasn't the sweeping views that some of the others can boast. The ladies next to me stayed until Dusty arrived and offered many times to call for help. They were extremely nice and really helpful through it all. I was more than a little surprised, and to be honest disappointed, that the ride management never once came to check on us. They had come over to check on the lady's gelding and loan some banamine when he started to show some signs of potential colic and knew of my plight. They also knew we were the absolute last people there when all others had left at least an hour before and yet nobody ever came over to ask if we needed anything, not even a glass of water. I know that management is busy, but part of management is making sure all who attend are accounted  for and safe. Oh well.

I was very proud of Gem and I daresay I have my girl back. I won't be introducing cantering for a month yet, but she is ready to add more trotting back in and I may even be able to take her to the Equathon next month if she continues to progress like she is.