October 11, 2015

Life is Better With a Friend

Lake Craig

Saturday came and brought more rain. The soak you to the bone, chill you to the core type of all day long, dreary rain. I knew the moment my eyes opened that the Pace Sunday would be postponed. What made it more unfortunate was that the junior rider at the barn finally got permission from her mom to go. She was to meet me Sunday morning for her first ever off property ride. She is 14. I double checked the website to verify my suspicions and, once I confirmed that the ride was in fact postponed a week, I texted her. Hopefully she can still go next week.

Saturday night a friend texted me to see if I had plans for Sunday. I told her I was heading to Croft to do the 6.5 mile Forest Mill loop and adding on the 2.4 mile Johnson lake loop. I would be at the trail head around 830 am. Remember the whole mom + horses=? post a while back? Well, one of my points was to get used to riding alone as you fit in your time in the early or late hours of the day. Sheree is not a morning person and so she said she would see if she felt like getting up early or not.

When Sunday morning dawned cold and dreary, I immediately texted her a change in plans: meet at 1 pm when Wyatt went down for his nap. The sun was supposed to come out by then. She was all too eager to agree to the new plan.

Sheree had some major health issues with her all star endurance mare last year resulting in a final diagnosis of advanced, chronic Lyme's disease. She has been treated and a local endurance vet gave the green light to return to work, but Sheree wants to work her in an arena for a bit to see how she reacts. Instead she brought the horse she has on loan from a friend of hers, Linen.

Sheree and Linen
Linen is a 16 year old Egyptian/Polish Arab mare who wasn't broke to ride until very recently. Her original owner died when she was 8 and willed her to Sheree's trainer. She just sat in the pasture, untouched, for the majority of those 8 years since. Sheree has had her on loan for about 6 months, I think, and she is really a great mare. In fact, if anyone is looking, she is in need of a home and is free. She has no health/soundness issues and no behavior issues beyond a lack of miles.

I put all 4 boots on Gem and then turned my Garmin 310xt on. Or so I thought. It was dead. Apparently it still uses battery when shut off (so is it ever really shut off?) and I am not used to that. My old Forerunner was actually off when it was off and so I could just grab it and go. I need to get better at always putting the 310xt on the charger. I quickly downloaded Endomondo on my phone and just used that instead, but I don't like using my phone for GPS. 1) I can't leave the app on screen and take pictures, so I either lose the ability to snap pics like Sunday or I can't read the GPS readings and 2) I like to not use battery on my phone so I have it in case of emergency.

We headed out on the Forest Mill loop which I know really well. It became apparent early on that Linen wasn't confident enough yet to lead and so it fell to Gem.

Gem is an interesting horse. At actual competitions, be it a pace or e-ride, she becomes extremely competitive and tries her best to block others from passing with a strong need to lead a group. On conditioning rides, good luck getting her to lead at all. The mare really isn't a fan of conditioning. Well, she had no choice on Sunday afternoon and as the sun finally decided to peek around the lightening burden of clouds in the sky, we headed out a brisk trot.

She was in rare form. The recent heavy rains resulted in a lot of trail debris which the park had done a great job clearing off to the side. It didn't matter: Gem's nemesis is downed limbs, stumps and trunks. She spooked her way left and right as Sheree laughed behind us. I did my best to control the rising tide of frustration and continue to praise her efforts of not being eaten by wood.

The trail was surprisingly firm given all the water it had seen in the last several weeks. There were some spots we had to walk or else slide, but for the most part we could still move out. I noticed a big difference in her movement with just the fronts booted versus the hinds. I am not sure if it is because they fit a little too big and are a bit floppy or what, but she just doesn't stride out in the back as well with the hind boots on.

The footing was mostly slick, red clay that was also strangely sticky. I knew it was a good test for the boots and Gem didn't slide much at all. In comparison Linen had steel on front and bare behind and slipped in the clay quite a bit.

At the junction of Forest Mill with Johnson Lake, we decided to forgo the added loop. It runs right alongside the lake and having seen how full Lake Craig was we knew there was a good chance the trail would be under water. Instead we enjoyed the rising temperature and chatted down the trail. It has been a very long time since I rode with anyone else. My odd riding schedule combined with the mostly retired riders around me who go out mid day, just doesn't allow for much companionship on the trail. It was pure joy to chat the miles away and laugh at our horse's idiosyncrasies together. I really missed it.

All too soon, we were back at the trailers and it was time to go home. I examined the boots and was both pleased and more than a little surprised to see that none twisted or came loose over the preceding 6.5 miles of clay, hills and standing water. Seriously, only the front left fits ideally and yet they all continue to stay on. I am truly shocked and very impressed with the boots.

Two very muddy front Renegade

Ignore the odd stance. She had just finished peeing when I took this quick shot.  

Sticky Carolina clay covering the toe strap and coming over the top of the boot. 

Four very muddy boots
Look at all that mid inside. If they stayed on through all of that, I'm not sure what will make them come off.
The front boots 
Gem looked really good at the end. She is already getting her super thick yak like winter coat and this time of year gets very tricky to manage. I palpated her hinds and the swelling was present but very small. I asked Sheree to take a look and she told me I was being paranoid. They were most likely wind puffs and so small that nobody but me would even have noticed them. It was a relief to have someone else see her in person.

We headed back home swearing that we would ride together again soon and I truly hope we do.


  1. Nothing like super sticky mud to truly test out your boots! Sounds like a wonderful, fun ride! Riding with a friend always makes the time and the miles fly by. :)

    1. I was very pleased with them and they aren't even perfected yet.