November 30, 2015

Wind ridge HP: Gem actually works!

I made two mistakes and did one thing incredibly right during this hunter pace. Oh, and Dusty made me laugh for hours. Overall it was a success!

Mistakes made:

1) I always wear a sports bra to ride and didn't think anything of it while getting ready Sunday morning. I bruised or cracked a rib fighting off a terrible bout of bronchitis earlier in the month and the pain had subsided considerably the week prior. The sports bra must have put just the right pressure on just the right spot because I had an aching, throbbing pain on the left side of my chest all day.

2) When I went to grab my saddle I remembered that I had shortened my left stirrup a hole during the last pace and regretted it. I grabbed the left stirrup and thought I lengthened it a hole to make up for it. As soon as I mounted up I realized my errors. First, the saddle had been backwards on the saddle rack in the trailer so I really messed with the right stirrup and not the left. Second, I shortened it again instead of lengthened it so now I was riding with two stirrups that were too short, although equal. Oops. I should have gotten off and changed them, but I didn't and instead thought I would fix it at the half way point. Only this ride didn't have a half way point. Oh well. I will make sure to lengthen them again before the next ride.

But enough of the mistakes. What was the one thing I did incredibly right?

After Gem was being a stubborn mule on the ground I grabbed the dressage whip to ride with for the first time
Last pace Gem was pokey and behind my leg even though we rode with Waffles. She came off the course dry as a bone while everyone else was dripping with sweat and I vowed to get her bay butt moving in the future. Haley was unable to join us which granted me the ability to get down and dirty with Gem.

Historically, she is really hard to maintain a pace over 4 mph when out solo. She weaves down the trail acting like everything will kill her and it gets really annoying. As we started off down a grassy lane cut through a pasture, she began ping ponging left and right down the trail trying to find anything to spook at.

I asked her nicely to move forward and she ignored me. I then lightly tapped her on the shoulder with the whip to encourage her. She ignored that too. So then I popped her with it on the right shoulder while giving her rein to allow her to fly forward in response. The last thing I wanted to do was to get her moving forward only to pop her in the mouth and trap her.

She surged forward as expected and then I gently asked her to collect up and come back to me, but keep moving forward. She did and I didn't have to ask her as strongly again the entire ride.

The trail was basically the same as the ride we did there in May and I had my hands full of reins and whip so I didn't grab as many pictures.

We were alone with the horses who left right ahead of us in view for the first couple of miles, but then caught them going up the only large hill on the course. I wanted to maintain a steady pace throughout with walk breaks only when the terrain absolutely required it.

Nearly at the top

Not the best view
 We ended up passing another group as we made it back down the hill and never saw them again. The other ladies, who had left right in front of us, would play leap frog with us the rest of the ride.

The trail left the woods by mile 3 and spent the next two travelling along the cross country course. We flew along here. I remembered how this stretch felt like it never ended in the heat of May with a horse who was sluggish and the unknown horse injury that occurred at the start weighing on my mind (this was the ride where Dusty helped the down horse who ended up not making it). This time however, Gem was on fire and we cantered along with a huge grin on my face.

When my watch beeped at 5 miles I was a little concerned that we hadn't made it to the half way point yet. The rides are all 6-12 miles in length and that would put us at a minimum of 11 miles. No big deal, she can handle it, but she was getting plenty hot and the weather was near 70 degrees. I would need to slow down if it was going to be that long.

Then at 6 miles I saw the finish line. At first I though I had to have missed a turn or something, but the other ladies were in sight behind us and there was nothing left to do but cross the line. We cantered across in style for the first time and I was so happy with Gem.

I really hate the changing of the seasons. Gem always looks odd to me as she changes from grass to hay/grain in the fall and then from her hay/grain back to grass in the spring. 
Gemmie looked like she had actually put forth some effort for the first time since our 50 last February. The water from the hose was bitterly cold, but she seemed to enjoy having the sweat scrubbed off her. She also got a soupy mash.

Derby mare face

After she was satisfied and tucking into a big bag of hay, we wandered over to lunch. I haven't stopped laughing since. Poor Dusty.

I turned in my number and the lady pointed to the food table. "There is rice and soup over here (pointing to the right side of the table) and bread and crackers over there (pointing to the left side of the table).

I wasn't hungry, but I always purchase an extra lunch for Dusty to eat and he made his way over using what I had been told as a guideline. I grabbed Wyatt some crackers and croutons to eat and when Dusty came to sit with us he had this:

The black thing in the bowl is a clove
It looked pretty unappealing and smelled odd for soup, but he said that was the only crock pot on the right side of the table and it was right next to the rice they said to use with it. We both figured it was some odd southern broth over rice thing we had just never heard of.

As he ate I keep seeing people leave the food area with what appeared to be very yummy veggie soup, so I asked him if i could try his. I took a big spoonful and nearly yakked.

"That tastes a lot like hot apple cider. Are you sure thats soup?"

Turns out he ladled the hot apple cider into his bowl thinking it was soup and choked down the whole thing. It was really funny.

Gem looked great back at the trailer and we headed home tired and happy. I'm not sure how much I will be using the dressage whip in the future, but I think it was a great tool to help her learn that she still needs to move forward down the trail even when alone. I had a great time and the results should be interesting.

I have never put in an 8 mph mile when solo on her. Ever. It was great to have her moving out beneath me solo like she will when in company.

November 28, 2015

Waterfall Hunt 2015: Cedar Creek Falls

Last year we decided to start a new tradition: each thanksgiving morning would be spent finding a new waterfall to tire out the pups and work on our appetites. We hit up Isaqueena Falls last year and considers it a success.

I grabbed the trusty hiking boot a day early this year and thumb through to find our next target. We decided on Cedar Creek Falls which was about 90 minutes away, a 1.2 mile hike which both Wyatt and Bones could handle and had a neighboring falls not officially listed in the book but mentioned in the comments as nearby but not safely accessible.

We travelled back over to Sumter National Forest in Walhalla, SC and made our way down dusty dirt roads to find the trail head: a gated Forest Service road. It felt like we were in the middle of nowhere and hunting trucks were dotted alongside the road here and there for deer season.

We all jumped out of the van and started down the FS road following the description in the book which said to go 1/4 mile before turning right at some boulders.

I had bought Wyatt a new coat and chose the pretty bright orange color without thinking about hunting safety. I was really glad he had it on as we made our way down the road and ran into a guy out hunting. 

Wyatt running and laughing his way down the road with Bones limping along behind him. 

Bones still has a lot of spunk at 8 years old and with a massive tumor in her front left leg. Dusty had given her a week to live back in March. She has done a great job at proving him wrong. 

The FS road was all downhill to start and ended at two large boulders. The book said to turn right at the first set and we saw a blue blaze marking the trees.

Bones found the first puddle and jumped right in. She loves the water. 

Einstein doesn't have any undercoat and gets cold way easier than Bones. He jumped int he puddle after her and quickly regretted it. He spent the next few minutes rolling in the leaves. 
This trail led down to a small creek and the book warned us that there was a steep scramble about 40 feet vertically down to the falls. I was really worried about Bones making it down this. We had debated leaving her behind, but Dusty wanted to give her as much outdoor time as possible. We let her make up her own mind and pick her way down s Dusty carried Wyatt.

Making their way down to the falls

Once I made it down, I was so glad we chose this one. It was absolutely gorgeous!! Be prepared for photo spamming below.

Cedar Creek Falls which feeds into the Chauga River

Einstein got in the water again and then started shivering

Bones. You can see how large her left front leg tumor is just above her foot

Looking down stream with the falls at my back. The horizon line is Blue Hole Falls. Below that is a steep walled canyon that has no safe way to make it down to the bottom. 
I walked down a ways to see what I could of the lower falls

Dusty took Wyatt s far as he could and actually saw a lot of the Blue Hole Falls. I am a wimp though and didn't make it as close. 

Stolen from Dusty's phone as I did not make it this far down the side of the falls

Looking back to Cedar Creek Falls 

The creek flowing between the two

 As I made my way back to the boys and dogs this is what I saw:

Wyatt hd wanted to get in and I had told him he couldn't get his shoes all wet and cold. When he made it back to Cedar Creek Falls without me he quickly ditched the shoes, socks and his pants too. Boys. 

Einstein ditched the water and found a nice stick to chew

We grabbed a quick and very rare selfie of us all in front of the falls as well

Wyatt is working on his camera face. When he is asked to smile this is what he does. 

I also asked Dusty if he could snag a shot of Bones and I. I thought the falls in the background would make for a wonderful photo of my baby girl and I was right. I absolutely adore this photo and hope print it out and frame it.

My favorite shot of Bones and I ever
Last but not least here is my favorite pictures of the entire day:

Proof he wore pants

Loving life
After everyone was cold and wet we scrambled up the hill and hit the trail back to the FS road. It was a great morning and we were all hungry for my mum's Thanksgiving dinner later that afternoon.

November 23, 2015

Multi Day 50s Versus Two Day 100

It is that time of year again. I am about to renew my AERC membership (a little late - oops!) and have been perusing the ride calendar for 2016. It is a little frustrating because a lot of rides are not on it yet, but by looking back over 2015 and guessing which will recur this year I can put together a rough plan of attack.

While doing so I noticed that the spring ride I am aiming for offers up a two day 100. This rang some alarm bells deep in my brain and I recalled a Facebook blow up about two day 100s and whether or not they should exist. As I recall the main point of contention was that they are reported the same as one day 100s and as such the rider gets points and bragging rights that those who ride one day 100s do not believe they deserve. I believe nothing came of the cat fight and I didn't get involved because I believe that you should mind your own crap and stay out of everyone else's. Plus I always shake my head at those who give a crap about what distances others ride as if it has any bearing on their own accomplishments. But I digress...

I am already planning on doing a multi day in April, but the thought of a two day 100 is very intriguing. For those who haven't heard of these the main difference between a two day 100 and riding two separate 50s is that if you fail to complete on the second day, you get a whole lot of nothing. It is 100 miles or bust even though you get the night off between the two 50 mile rides. The benefit is that you get credit for 100 miles for both your record and in the point system which grants you a big advantage over having singed up and completed the same 100 miles, but as two separate 50 mile rides. More of a risk, but a bigger reward.

Personally, I don't care about points since I don't attend enough rides to make them matter and my ride record is useless in my life except when talking about endurance. Neither of those plays any part in my decision.

So why would I personally chose to do one over the other?

Well, to start the two day 100 is cheaper. It is $130 versus paying for two 50s at $90 each. Even with the multi ride discount of $10, to do the same rides would be $40 cheaper as a two day 100. Then there is the extra challenge that a two day 100 brings. Yes it is the same distance, same course and same basic rules except if I don't finish all of it, I don't get anything. This means that I would have to get up and ride the next morning even if I'm sore or grumpy or not in the mood. I risk losing everything. While I don't really care about points and such, the two day 100 historically has like 2 or 3 riders in it. Even if I finish dead last I still top 10 :) Plus the fact that few do it means that it has its own bragging rights and such.

The downside? I only get to two rides a year (part of why I want to start doing multi days) and I am still shooting for that elusive decade team (one 50 a year for 10 years). If we complete day 1 but get pulled day 2 then I just lost my spring bid for our decade team 50. It puts a lot of stress on the fall ride which I am hoping to avoid because that ride is going to be used for something more important.

Again, more risk equals more reward, but is the risk worth it?

I have plenty of time to decide and part of it will depend on how good Gem is doing heading into it. It will be our first ride back since her injury and although the ride is very barefoot friendly, I plan to use it as my test run of the Easy Care NG shoes. So maybe doing two 50s would be smarter. I just don't know.


November 18, 2015


I've never been much of a bike rider. I'll pretend to be a runner and obviously I ride my horse, but for some reason biking just has never been my thing.

Having gone through pretty much every free exercise class offered around here, I was running out of options to get myself fit which is a big goal of mine for 2016. I have been using a really great interval running app three days a week and only two weeks in already see my recoveries improving.

Two weeks ago a new acquaintance mentioned that she taught a local spin class at a new high tech facility. She has 7 kids of her own and works, so I asked her how on earth she managed to fit it in. Her secrete: a 5:45 am class. I was intrigued. While this would take away my precious sleep, it would allow me to get my exercise in and still make it home in time to take Wyatt to school and then head off to work.

When the alarm went off at 4:45 am, I declared myself insane but got out of bed and out the door anyway. I had registered and chosen my bike in advance as they recommend and was given one free trial class. Upon arrival, I signed in at the ipad attached to the wall and walked over to my bike. The owner was present and helped get me up to speed with the bike.

Heather skipped in with a suspiciously cheery demeanor and strapped on a head set which she used to tell us all to get on and get going. The class would be 45 minutes long.

As I got on and started pumping my legs I thought that this wouldn't be so hard. Biking has no concussive forces, you could use momentum in your favor, and heck it was stationary. How hard could this possibly be?


After a quick 5 minute warm up I was already starting to feel a distinct burning in my thighs and butt. It was manageable, but a little disconcerting so early in the workout.

Up next was their signature 3 minute stress test. Put the gears up until you can barely move the pedals and go as hard as you can for 3 solid minutes. After a minute I was dead. I limped along for the next 2 minutes barely breathing and cursing Heather under my breath.

The two flat screen TVs on the front wall changed to show the bike number ad a gas gauge. This would be used for the remainder of the ride. Your effort output was based on the stress test just performed and the gas gauge was color coded for ease of use: blue was <60% effort, green 61-70%, yellow 71- 80%, orange 81-90% and red >90% to a max of 120% of your total effort.

Heather laughed and told us all to get ready for the real workout. My legs were barely functioning and we still had 35 minutes to go.

The rest of the class was a blur of swearing, sweating, getting nauseas, barely breathing and trying not to either die or look like a total failure.

We did rolling hills: stay in green then jump up to red going up a pretend hill then coast back down the other side in green and back again. For what seemed like forever.

We did standing sets: stay in orange then jump to red and stand up for a count of two, sit for two, stand for four, sit for four, stand for eight, sit for eight then backwards.

We did sprints.

We pedaled the hell out of that bike.

After 45 minutes my legs were noodles. I got off the bike and nearly fell over. I barely made it to my car and when I got home I couldn't make it up the steps.

So much for easy. That bike kicked my ass.

I have been to two sessions now and the second was no easier. Heather assures me that after a month I won't want to die anymore. We shall see.

Even though I pretty much hate every second that I am on that stupid bike, I love the way it makes me feel afterward and knowing that my entire workout for he day is completed by 6:30 am is pretty awesome. It doesn't take any of my time away from either Wyatt or Gem and I can still fit in my interval running in the evenings.

The cost is a little too high for me to be able to go more than one day a week right now, but with the other things I have going on I think this bit of cross training is going to work out just fine.

November 16, 2015


Usually I would just edit my ride story post once the results get posted, mostly because I finish towards the back and it wouldn't warrant a whole new post.

But not this time!

Results are hot off the press and show that I actually took 5th place missing 4th by one second (although that is misleading since the 4th place person was actually 2:45 slow where as we were 2:46 too fast which really separated us by over 5 minutes. Crazy when you think of it like that coming from an endurance background)

Optimum time was 1:47 and we came across the finish in 1:44:14 which means that for once I went too fast :)

I'm doing a happy dance in my chair. Good thing I work for myself or my obsessive checking of the results could have gotten me in trouble.

They should be mailing out a ribbon which I will proudly place on Gem's gate or trailer or something since we don't have a stall to use to brag. I'm excited!!

On another exciting note:


Yeah, that totally deserves full caps lock :)

I think I ended up in 3rd in the overall individual standings which is also pretty awesome since that combines men and women. It's been a good day to look online.

I have no clue if I get any swag or just bragging rights from the Ride and Tie Association. I guess I will find out sooner or later.


FENCE Fall Hunter Pace 11/15/15

Wunderground told me it was only 28 degrees outside. No big deal: I lived and rode in WI for 3 years and have plenty of cold weather clothing. Fleece riding pants, insulated tall riding boots, tank top, long sleeve tech shirt, thick vest, coat. I headed out prepared for the arctic north.

Having a junior along is great for many reasons. Not only is the enthusiasm contagious, but they are more than willing to do a lot of crappy jobs like grab your mare in the wet morning grass before daylight. Waffles took some time to load the first trip out and I start with her again, but she is a lovely mare and a quick learner and loads up after only 10 minutes or so. Next it is Gem's turn and my jaw drops to the ground as she waltzes right onto the trailer on her own without me doing anything at all. This is the first time she has ever really self loaded. It is a great start to the day.

The drive should take just under an hour and we are about 25 minutes away when Haley remembers that she forgot her helmet back at the barn. She doesn't wear one unless riding with me when I make her and the paces require a helmet for all riders. Fortunately Dusty is in the van behind us and I call him to ask if he can turn around and get it.

We pull into the facility and register for the ride. Wyatt is with us, so we walk around the grounds exploring while we wait for Dusty to meet us. He calls a while later to say that he got pulled over for speeding trying to catch back up to us. It is his first ticket in probably 7-8 years and he isn't a happy camper. Sorry honey.

Looking down the steeplechase track
As we walk around the sun decides to come out and I quickly realize that I am way over dressed. When will I learn that this I the South?! I ditch my coat, but leave the rest as Dusty pulls in and we tack up to head out.

I find it really interesting that some of the events this year are stating the distance when you head out. I thought that was part of the challenge: having to pace your horse for an unknown distance. Either way they tell us it is 8.5 miles and send us on our way.

When Gem comes back from a long period of rest she is either a fire breathing dragon or a complete slug. I'm preparing for the former, but quickly note that I have the latter under me. She is dragging already and in no mood to work today. Too bad mare, we have some trails to explore.

Waffles is being a bit spooky as well and both mares are letting us know what they think about working in the cold. The trail heads out through the parking lot and across the road then follows it under two busy underpasses. I really dislike this portion of the trail as big trucks and fast cars go zipping by overhead.

It is short lived though and we soon make it to the cross country field where the real fun begins. Both mares are being really looky at the jumps, tree line and water and we pick up a trot to get their feet moving. It takes the first 1.5 miles to settle them in and get to work.

We cross the first of several concrete bridges and Gem is being a total butt. Bridges are one thing that always gets her, but when we are alone or with an unknown horse she will cross. Not with Waffles. Waffles in 2nd in command of her herd and Gem I the lowest of the low. She will not lead that mare over and Waffles is having none of it either. Eventually we get the across but it is no fun.

After that the girls get a move on and we start to cover some ground. 2 miles in we hit a clear stream. As much as Gem hates bridges, Waffles hate water and I prepare for a bit of a fight to cross. Gem is having none of it though and bulldozes right past Waffles. As soon as she gets in she drops her head and chugs the water. I have never seen her drink before 10 miles before, so she must have really been thirsty.

The trail we are following is mostly wooded with full leaf cover over the trail. It is surprisingly dry and firm given all the rain we have been getting lately. Gem is moving out well and the cool air is keeping them from overheating. There are several creek crossings along this stretch and Gem stops to drink out of them all. Waffles starts off being a little confused, but by the third one she drops her nose down and begins to drink.

The woods end in a large field with the breathtaking views of the mountains that I have come to both expect and enjoy. We open them up for a nice long canter and Gem is feeling more sluggish than she should. I know she is really out of shape, but this is just a little less energy than I am happy with out of her. Of course, Waffles moves out much faster than Gem does anyway and she has to work hard to keep up. Still she should be a little more peppy. My overactive, hyper paranoid about horse injury brain starts to kick in.

All too soon the half way point comes into view and there are two lovely women with an elderly dog waiting for us. They offer us a drink: apple juice, water or port. Hmmm...I think I would like to stay on my horse for the next 4 miles, so I will just take the water.

I hop off Gem to give her a break and check her over. Everything seems fine and she looks good if a little sleepy. For some reason I think it is a good idea to shorten my left stirrup a hole. Stupid, stupid stupid. As soon as I climb back onboard I know it is a mistake. I ma now lopsided as my left is too short. Oh well. I don't feel like stopping to fix it now.

The trail leading from the rest stop is a grassy lane and we get the girls moving out once again.

We had passed one group of riders pretty early on and have yet to see them again or anyone else. My watch is showing us moving at a good pace and I am growing hopeful that maybe we won't be dead last yet again.

Haley makes good company and Waffles is brave and bold. She really stumbled onto a great mare. At only 7 years old the Arab cross moves out at a lovely 10 mph when given her choice of pace and is forward, happy and content in exploring the trails. She makes my "experienced" endurance mare look like a big baby as we follow along behind her cantering to keep up with her ground covering trot. I wonder if she would be willing to trade? Nah....I love my Gemmie.

The trail soon dives back into the woods again and we pick our way along. There are some steep and long climbs up that really get the girls huffing away.

The trail is marked really well despite their warning that they had to use different colors and the miles just tick on by.

We pop out of the woods and see this Paso Fino farm sprawled out in front of us.

The large gazebo in the back is a hot walker and all the horses look fit and happy. We stop to grab a picture and let the horses breathe after a strenuous climb and then sadly make our way along noting that we only have about 2 miles left which travels back to the cross country course, along the road and under the highway once again. The way home though makes a sharp right and grants participants the chance to race along the steeplechase course before dodging between the barns and back to the finish line.

We hit the steeplechase track and ask for a canter. Something spooks Waffles and she makes a sharp left heading the opposite direction. Haley stays put and reels her in before long and we begin again. I'm not sure what has her amped up, but we slow to a trot to cover the ground instead.

My Garmin reads 1 hour 44 minutes and just shy of 8.5 miles. We will have to wait and see what the official results say, but I am really happy with that. Haley looks up our finish from two years ago and Dusty and I finished in 1 hour 46 minutes and took 4th place being off the optimum by 1 minute 51 seconds. Fingers crossed!

The mares look so different at the end. Waffles is drenched in sweat as are most of the other horses coming off the trail. Gem looks like this:

Please ignore her complete lack of top line and muscle tone. 

Other than her saddle area and a bit on her chest she is dry as a bone. I immediately start worrying about anhidorsis, near death, etc... but she is happily chowing down on her grain and emptying her hay bag so I guess she isn't in immediate danger.

Us humans head over to the food tent and chow down on BBQ and then head on home. She is perky and fresh leaving the trailer and happy to return to her pasture so maybe she isn't dying after all. Lazy mare needs to get out a bit more often.