June 29, 2016

A Bit of a Conundrum

Ok...before anyone thinks it...yes this is completely a first world problem (of note I absolutely HATE that saying), but it is a real one in my life at the moment and I think Dusty's ears are bleeding from listening to me talk about it. That means you all get to hear about it now.

Although I rarely ever mention it, we do have two horses. Pete was bought for Dusty a few months after I got Gem and in the pre-Wyatt era of our life, Pete was ridden about twice a week and went out on most of my conditioning rides with Gem. He even completed a 25 mile LD although he was not fond of the second half. Now a days he is 25 and mostly retired because Dusty runs and we really only have time for one hobby each. He is sound, happy and fat.

So what is the problem?

You all know that while I am not ditching endurance I am pursuing a new avenue for growth. My time is extremely limited. If I can get out to the barn two days a week I am thrilled. While endurance requires a base line of fitness, you can easily maintain that on two rides a week with some careful planning on how to best utilize your time. My understanding is that with eventing, two days a week is pretty wimpy and anything less is fairly useless. With that in mind here is my dilemma:

Gem: The obvious choice because, well, she is my Gemmiecakes and I have already taught her basically everything she knows so adding even more knowledge and growth would be fantastic.

The pros include: these lessons will not only help maintain her basic fitness level, but should in theory make her even more rideable during e-rides. Any time spent with her is good for our relationship. I love feeling her learn new things.

The cons include: all her tack is illegal for eventing except possibly her bit. I have $0 to change that and would then be relying on borrowing BOs tack which may or may not fit and could end up making her sore which would kill our chances for endurance. Gem isn't particularly fond of jumping or running in big open fields. She will do it and she can learn to do it better and safer, but she won't enjoy it.

Pete: I have watched Dusty ride Pete a lot and have sat on him myself  all of three times in 6 years.

The pros include: he already has all eventing legal tack. While I am not of the "my horse loves his job" persuasion, Pete actually really doesn't mind jumping and galloping around big fields and is bold, brave and honest. When we were in WI, Pete and Gem were pastured in a field that was half grass and half jumping arena. In the summer the arena portion was filled with jumps and we routinely got messages from the BO that she would look out her window and watch Pete cruise around the course all on his own having the time of his life. We always said he would make a fantastic eventer. It would give him more attention, make him more fit and he would be happier for it.

The cons include: he isn't Gem and I really don't know him much at all. At least with Gem I know what to expect. Riding Pete would then mean almost no time to ride Gem. Again, I have 2 days a week I can ride. If I do a lesson on Pete and then spend the other day practicing, well then Gem doesn't get any time. That means that I would by default be ditching endurance altogether because I would have no time to condition Gem.

In a perfect world, I would have the time to do eventing on Pete who would be a rock star at it and still get a ride or two on Gem out on the trails or even in the arena applying the things I learn on Pete. I just don't have the time to do that right now and with Wyatt getting older and into more things (like signing him up for baseball this fall) my time will only get more limited, not freer for a number of years.

So what do I do? Do I try to fit my square pegged Gemmie into the round hole of eventing and make do all the while looking out at Pete in the field knowing he is the better choice? Or do I go ahead and do it with Pete and basically retire Gem for a while when we have finally found our stride with endurance?

Dusty's answer was to not bother with this whole new eventing idea at all and just stick with endurance until Wyatt is old enough to either join me on horses or he doesn't want me around so much and I have more time to myself. The issue with that is that by then Pete will be either officially retired or gone (he is currently a young 25, but I have no delusions of him starting a new career at 30) and Gem wont be far behind him (she is currently 18). It isn't a now or never thing, but now is as good a time as ever.

So what would you do?

June 28, 2016

My First lesson

My BO's mistake? Telling me that the lesson will go until either Gem or I were tired out. A solid hour and a half later, Gem and I were still going strong and looking for more. Sorry, but we can go all day. I know dressage is very different and is more akin to weight lifting, but seriously we can go all day. Specially after a two month hiatus from work and when doing baby, beginner, not really "real" dressage.

My mistake? Not realizing how addicting learning this stuff can really be and that is with not even getting anywhere close to actually learning real dressage. I'm learning the stuff most riders learn when they are 8 and in pony club. When I was 8? I was galloping along the battlefields of Gettysburg, charging up the carriage paths at Acadia State park and reaching the summit of the Allegheny Mountains in Ohiopyle. It was a glorious education on horseback.

But there I was walking in a circle and not being able to get enough.

I am so fortunate to be at the barn where I am now. Not only do I have access to the teachings of my BO, but she is a Stubben dealer and an incredibly generous one at that and she lent me her english tack to use for the lesson as well as for nay shows we may be tempted to enter down the line. You see, the main thing keeping me from doubling down on both endurance and anything else is my complete lack of any tack appropriate outside of endurance coupled with the precisely $0 I have to put towards any new tack. I would have to sell all my endurance stuff and the only way I am parting with that is when it is pried from my cold, dead fingers. When she offered to let me ride in her saddle, I was elated.

We worked in the grassy arena and used the terrain to help me understand some basics. She wanted me to keep a steady pace (rhythm? cadence? I don't know what you people call it) regardless of the terrain. Gem would tend to slow down going uphill and speed up going down. Since this field slopes in both the north-south and east-west directions we were always changing our elevation as we went around in  the circle.  I had to really engage my core (don't touch those reins!!) and sit up tall (quit hunching your shoulders!!) and unlock my rigid elbows to keep Gem right where I wanted her and not allow her to do as she pleased.

At first it was confusing and it took a while. In fact I didn't quite grasp the concept until we started doing it at the trot. I was just beginning to wonder if all you dressage people were drinking some kool-aid I didn't have access to and that this was all some hoax people just lied about feeling when we came down the hill at the trot and I sat tall and compressed my core while slowing my seat. And then there it was. Gem compressed her trot and I could feel her energy without her speeding up and I didn't even touch my reins. I grinned from ear to ear and giggled like a little girl.

On the next uphill side I was told to release the energy I had gathered so that she could move up the hill with more energy, but not more speed. I did and Gem responded and it was like a shot of cocaine straight into my jugular. I was hooked.

We did that a few more times and then moved on to large serpentine loops up and down the entire field. I was to not just run into the fence and then turn, but to plan out my turn well in advance and execute my plan. That shouldn't be that hard, but I tend to not think a whole lot when I ride and so we ran into the fence a bunch before my brain kicked in.

Gem, for her part, had been super amazing this entire time. She wasn't round or seeking out the contact or anything, but she was trying really hard to figure out what I was asking. BO said that she could see her thinking and the wheels turning the entire time. She did get tense doing this exercise because I was supposed to not only be using my core to control her speed as we worked our way up the field plus plan the turns and not let her cave in, but then I was also supposed to add some walk transitions in. Gem hates transitions. She gets very tense and very annoyed at the constant changes. She likes to pick a pace and just go. I could feel her getting more worked up as we did it, so I asked if we could just stay in the trot for a while and not worry about transitions. I don't want to cave into her and let her get away with things, but there is also no reason to do all the things at once right off the bat.

We ended by beginning to work on some lateral work. This had me nearly falling off laughing and my poor BO was at a loss.

I went around on a circle at the trot and when I got to a "corner" I was to go across the diagonal keeping Gem straight in the bridle and body but using my inside leg to push her out hopefully getting her to cross over her legs and do a real something. Leg yield? I think that was what we were after. When my right leg was in charge we actually didn't do so bad. I felt some real cross over steps and we ended our diagonal pretty close to where we were supposed to. Gem stayed soft and happy.

Using my left leg was a disaster. Gem basically ignored the paralytic flipper that was banging against her side which then led to me making some crap up with my upper body to try to lead her over and we crashed into the fence because I completely lost focus on where we were going. I laughed. BO shook her head.

The next go around, the BO started shouting off directions. She was telling me to do so many things with so many body parts at one time, that I collapsed into a puddle of laughter. Seriously. I am that mature. I didn't know that I a) had that many different body parts b) could move them all independently and c) could do it while riding a horse and maintaining some brain cells to steer. I told her as much and she told me to do it again. Slave driver.

We did it again and it went a bit better, but seriously my left leg could be amputated and I doubt I would notice any change in my riding ability.

The lesson ended on that note, 90 minutes after we started, and we wandered back down to the barn to untack and discuss some things. I told her my goal was to do a starter division event next spring or if she thought we wouldn't die, possibly this fall. She was game for that and mentioned all the places we could go to work on our cross country skills. I reminded her that I have no cross country skills what so ever and a horse who spooks at grass. We may change that to doing a starter combined test and avoid the whole xc phase for a bit.

June 27, 2016

I Need A Change...I Think...

Sunday morning I swung my leg up and over Gem for the first time in nearly two months. The pattern is completely predictable and goes like this:

Gearing up for e-ride: must ride all the miles all the time
Finishing e-ride: I love my mare, I love this sport, I love life. Must attend every ride on the calendar
About a month later: Ride, eh..that is a lot of effort. I'll just pamper her instead
A month after that: I really should ride my horse.

And so it went again this time around.

I've also been in a little bit of a funk lately with regards to my riding. I was so focused on doing a 100 mile ride that now I feel a little lost. I have nothing to strive for right now and it feels awkward and not pleasant. Trust me, I have in no way, shape or form mastered endurance. There is still a ton to learn and do, but I don't know. I just feel a little blah about it at the moment. Like I reached my goal and I am now meandering around trying to find where I fit again.

What do I want out of endurance at this time? I know Gem can do the distance and do it with gas to spare. Oh we will get pulled at some point for something. Hopefully it won't be anything career ending. But it is coming. She decides not to eat or drink enough. We go too fast or too slow. We slip and fall or step on the wrong rock at the wrong time in the wrong way. I have no delusions of a perfect record unless I stop doing endurance right now and never enter another ride.

But all my rides to date have been entered with the very real question of "can we do this?" The answer now is "yes". I know we can and now to simply go out to finish seems a little...I don't know...it is just not enough. I miss the challenge of not knowing what to do, how to do it or if we even can do it. I miss the steep learning curve that I have been riding both up and down since 2012. I should be happy that I can now go out and enjoy the ride without worrying about everything and then tweaking what needs tweaking without worrying that we shouldn't even be there.

But I'm not. Instead I find myself missing those days of constantly learning. Of striving to reach a new goal. Of everything being new and having to figure out all the missing pieces. Of making big changes with a big effect. Of looking way out in the distance to a peak that I am dying to reach and knowing that I am a total newbie, but that with a lot of hard work and dedication I will someday find myself up there. That the only thing holding me back is me.

And so, with all of that rolling around in my frazzled brain I found myself texting my BO Sunday morning asking for a lesson instead of hitting the trails at Biltmore. I found myself sitting in a different saddle astride my favorite mare asking both our bodies to do things they never had before. And I found myself swinging my leg back off of her 90 minutes later with a massive grin on my face and an old familiar fire in my stomach.

I found a new home. Endurance will never be abandoned. I will keep eeking ever slowly toward my decade team award hitting a 50 or 100 every year. I will find rides that call my name for some reason: friends in attendance, new trails, beautiful scenery, difficult terrain. I will sign up for those and keep both Gem and I on our toes with distance riding. But in the meantime, I have also found new territory  to explore. New goals to set and reach. New venues to explore and a whole new puzzle to fit together.

I can't wait!!!

June 22, 2016

Goodbye NGs

I miss the good old barefoot days I had with Gem. Well, actually not really. I liked the ease of care, but I was always a little timid about going fast over rocks. Having her in the NGs up front/steel in the back gave me a boost of confidence to move out over the flat and rocky access roads that litter the trail systems around here.

The NGs had a lot going for them. They provided a nice wide base of protection for the hoof while still allowing the natural flexion of the heel bulbs. Gem seemed to move out really well in them and never slipped or missed a beat in all types of terrain (except for water since we never managed to find a water crossing while wearing them).

Pete looking handsome
They held up really well too. After 100 miles of gravel at Biltmore, they were still able to be reset and she hadn't lost any in the two cycles of use.

There was one glaring issue that played heavily on my mind from the start though. My farrier charged $260 to put them on with 4 nails, a small amount of glue on the sides and packing.

Even had things worked out differently, it was highly unlikely that I could afford to keep her in a set long term. After the mini heart attack I had when he finished putting them on and told me the price, I told Dusty that I would most likely reset these ones and have to switch to steel. Only when I reset the ones I had with nails only because the side clips that he glues gets ruined after one time, he still charged me $190 and that was pulling her hinds and going barefoot in the back for the summer. Ouch. A reset wasn't really in the budget either apparently.

I was still plotting and planning a way to try to make it all work out financially when I went to the barn on Sunday and saw this

The grand canyon does not belong in my horse's hoof. Ugh. Thankfully it was dry and no signs of thrush. The squeegee of packing out the back isn't too pretty either.  

It actually didn't surprise me which is kind of sad. I had a bad feeling during the last farrier visit. I know I am not a farrier and I do not proclaim to know more than a professional, but I do know my mare's hooves inside and out. I like to inspect the soles to make sure that the heels are taken down far enough each time and this became even more important to do when they were hidden under a shoe. This last time, he slapped the shoe on so fast that I didn't even realize it and when I asked about the heel he shrugged me off. I did manage to inspect the left foot and noted the extra heel and made him take it down.

When he was gone and I was sweeping up the aisle way, I noticed that while there was a decent sized pile of clipped and shaved hoof by her left front, there wasn't much of anything by the front right. I was worried that her heel had been left really high and that is not good.

I'm not going to fully blame the NG shoe for the above atrocity. I mostly blame the bad trim job although I think had she been in steel it wouldn't have propagated so badly. Since the NG allows for the natural flexion I believe that the high heel coupled with the flexion and the frog plate created a lot of friction between the heel bulbs thus causes a crevice to form.

Regardless, the shoe needed pulled and the hoof addressed. I shot a text with picture to farrier Sunday morning asking if this was a problem that needed to be addressed. The shoe had just been put on June 2nd. He never responded.

Gem staring me down as I arrived at the barn

I then texted my BO asking when her farrier would be out next. As luck would have it, he was due out the next day and I added her to the schedule to pull the shoe, look for issues, trim and put on a steel set. I didn't think I would make it out there in time, but work was a mess and I escaped early to head up. I got there after the shoes were pulled and the foot trimmed, but was able to inspect the feet really thoroughly. After the trim the crevasse was much, much shallower and he took off a crap ton of heel to get it even with the sole. It was almost embarrassing.

Would I try the NGs again? Yeah. I still love the theory and she moved well in them. I don't like the NGs paired with a bad trim and I don't like the price tag that came with them. I think the NGs are not as forgiving as steel and they weren't as easily shaped to the foot like a pair of hot shod steel shoes are. The summer will show if she does equally as well in steel as she did in the synthetic shoes or not. It cost me $80 to shoe the front and trim the back in comparison.

The farrier deals mostly with event horses although he at least knew what endurance was. He also put up with my million questions and even took a marker out to draw on the hoof to show me all the important lines he looks at. It was an interesting 2 hours.

June 21, 2016

Crewing for the Old Dominion 100

Have you ever crewed? If not, you should. I think that every endurance rider should have to crew at some point.

Here's the deal. Crewing is hard. This is made even more so when all holds are away from camp. It is a whole lot of unloading, carrying heavy things, stressing about finding the perfect spot, setting up, waiting, becoming anxious when the rider isn't arriving on schedule, going into psycho mode of activity when they arrive, tacking back up, taking everything down, carrying it all back and reloading it and then repeating this again and again. 

There is no reward of a belt buckle, t-shirt or recognition at the end. If you are fortunate, your rider will have some sense of all the effort you put into their ride and is nice to you. If you aren't, well I'm not sure how some riders at the OD managed to keep their crew for the entire thing. I would have left them stranded. 

But even with all of that I loved crewing. I loved being a part of a team and helping Liz make her way through the ride. It helped that I was with an amazingly hardworking and fun group of people that made it almost like a big party in the mountains between periods of effort.  

OD 100 has five away holds and then the finish line. There is an additional hold for riders that is crewless. I have tried to write this story a bunch of times as a play by play, but it was extremely long and I got bored writing it. I figure if I am bored writing it, then it has to be a snoozer reading it. Instead I will give you guys the quicker version.

Team Q consisted of Liz's mom (D), her boyfriend (D+), fellow blogger and rider Saiph, Saiph's husband (C) and myself. This was the first time I met Saiph and C and I am so so so glad that she came to crew when her riding plans had to be scratched. I had a lot of fun getting to know those two and I am honored to now call them my friends.

Our job was to do everything for Q so Liz could concentrate on herself. This meant that we untacked, sponged/scraped, vetted her, fed her, electrolyted her, and tacked her back up. D and D+ were in charge of feeding and keeping Liz happy. If Liz tried to help us, we shoved her aside. She worked hard out on the trail while we had fun. Her hold time was time for her to finally relax. 

Birdhaven Vet Check 1 
This check was probably the nicest area we had all day. It was a large grassy field under the cover of trees.  While there was plenty of space, all distances would be coming through it so it was a bit tight. I was thankful we were the first group in and that we would be out before it got hectic with the shorter distances. 

The only issue was that parking was super tight and a long walk from crewing. Since it was our first hold, we hadn't made it into a groove yet and we fumbled a bit carrying everything over and setting up. 

Our holds included:
2 fully stocked, large coolers of people food
saddle dolly
2 types of hay
2 large muck buckets for water
additional buckets
crew bag
multiple chairs
some miscellaneous stuff I am forgetting

This hold went by fairly quickly as it was only 15 miles in and the riders were going fast while it was cool and the trail relatively easy. The front runners came in only about an hour or so ahead of the main pack and it was interesting to watch them come in and manage the hold. Definitely eye opening for this mid to back of pack rider. 

Bucktail Vet Check 3 
We had issues here. Part of the problem was that we went straight from Birdhaven and drove the 40 minutes to Bucktail. Liz wouldn't be seeing us again for 5 or so hours, but we all agreed that it would be better to get settled and then wait at the hold.

The driving directions were not accurate and when we pulled in they hadn't set it up yet so we just sort of guessed that we were in the right spot based on trail ribbons, water troughs and the few others who were already there. The hold area was just a one lane paved road that went to the trail head and circled back around like a lollipop going uphill and then back down as you drove around the circle. The only areas available for crew were along the edge of the road and they set up vetting in the center of the circle. We chose a lovely flat spot with room to spread out right across the road from the water troughs and on the up hill side of the drive. We unpacked and set up everything and then got busy eating lunch.

Saiph and C headed out to get ice for the coolers and a bag to use for cooling Q if needed. As D, D+ and I were sitting there the volunteers showed up and walked over to us. They told us we had to move. We were not happy. We explained that we had everything set up and that there were no signs directing anyone, but we lost and still had to move. Adding insult to injury all they used the spot for was to park their cars. In prime crewing real estate.

Look, I understand volunteers are super important especially in a huge ride like this one. I get that without them the ride is lost. But they don't need to take up crew spots to simply park their car.

Ok...rant over...

So we moved everything across the way to the downward side of the road but still near the water troughs. As we moved they informed us that this happens every year. Ok...then put a sign there saying no parking or something.

The rest of the hold went fine and we talked, read some books, D went out on his mountain bike and then hung the hammock and took a nap.

As the riders started to come in, it was obvious that this was not an easy place to crew from. Most of the crews were stuck way at the top part of the loop and could not see the riders as they came in. In fact, I watched a lot of people spend the hold running up and down the hill to see if their rider was in sight. As the riders stopped by the water troughs, some were super nice and called for their crew and waited patiently for them to arrive as they got started untacking and sponging. Others sat on their horse and screamed angrily for their crew and then laid into them when they came huffing and puffing. It wasn't pretty and I don't care how hot and tired the rider was, it was unacceptable behavior.

Big 92 Vet Check 4 
Getting to this check was easy and we actually found a small pocket of cell reception for the first time all day. It was so nice to get to check voice mails and texts.

The volunteers were setting up the lights as we pulled in. Liz was now running about 40 minutes ahead of cut off and it would be getting dark before she came in. We parked the vehicles just off the road and were able to just drop everything out of the truck. The only thing we had to carry were the muck buckets of water.

I think we all took a nap here. I slept in the hammock lulled to sleep by the fresh breeze that had sprung up, watching the leaves above me dance. When I finally awoke, I was refreshed again and made my way back to the group.

We anxiously awaited Liz and I was relieved to get a text from her saying that she was doing fine, moving slow and gave an estimate of around 9 pm for her arrival. It was such a luxury to get to hear from her and plan accordingly.

A lot of things changed at this check and I kicked myself for the rest of the night about it. Liz came in and I handed Q off to Saiph instead of taking her myself which put me in charge of the ride card instead of me handing it off to either C or D to guard with their life. Liz changed her pants and I believe she went from her hydration pack to her saddle bags as well. Plus it was dark. This all matters at the next check.

Laurel Run Vet Check 5
It was way past dark at this point. The check was nicer than I expected it to be. This was the crewless second vet check for Liz and I was picturing a cramped little spot. In fact it was larger and nicer than the prior two except the parking was tiny and a long way off.

Liz came in saying that she never got her rider card back. My stomach twisted and my heart dropped. I had been in charge of the card. Me. My responsibility. I swore I had gotten it back from the vet, but she didn't' have it in her other pants or the hydration pack, so that was the best explanation. The prior vet check was closed down. Thankfully they gave her a new card telling us to find the old one. I was lost in my own thoughts during the entire check trying to remember what happened to the card. Did I not get it back? I swore I did.

Q trotted out with Saiph and had a head bob. Crap. Without the old card to compare to the vet just had to take Liz's word that she was perfectly fine 8 miles ago and nothing happened along the trail since. I was worried sick. He let us represent and the hold was spent looking her all over. Saiph palpated a little pain, but no heat to her front left (I believe) leg. I trotted Q out for the second time, so that Saiph's more trained eyes could watch along with Liz. She was better, only intermittent and they got the green light to continue on.

Birdhaven Vet Check 6
Back to the first stop of the day, almost 20 hours since we had last been there. Sine it was so close to camp, I asked if we could detour and let me talk to the head vet to see if they could locate her card. The head vet said not to worry. They would find it if the vet kept it. This eased my anxiety a little, but I still wanted that dang card in my hands.

We waited back at Birdhaven in the dark. We were all tired and worried.  Liz was planning on taking it super easy to see how Q was doing, but she was only running about 30 minutes ahead of the cut off so she didn't have a lot of wiggle room.

And then we got giddy and it was ridiculous and fun and amazing and wonderful and I would have rather been there sitting in the dark after being awake for 20+ hours with these people than anywhere else in the world. It was my happy place.

When the rider came in ahead of Liz she said that Liz was hand walking and mentioned something about Q that I didn't catch. My heat sank. Was she lame? Would she have to pull 6 miles away from the end??

When Liz came in she said Q was fine. She hand trotted her to see how she was going and she was fine. Liz would be trotting her out for the rest of the ride as she knew her best and could get her going. Q trotted out with improvement from the previous hold and the vet seemed not concerned at all.

The Finish Line
Finally a check without needing to unload! All we needed here was her saddle dolly and a fleece cooler for Q. The finish timer was out cold asleep and I sat down on his platform waiting with the others staring up the dark trail hoping to see the headlamp of their rider.

We chatted, laughed about the day and tried our best to stay awake. Saiph, C, D and D+ had gone to the camp site to clean up and prepare and then joined us at the finish line where we laughed, talked and worried as the minutes ticked by.

The other riders still on the trail started to come in and I would jump up and scream a loud congrats their way. They all looked relieved to be finished. The other rider that I had my eye on that day was Jesse. He was one of the two I rode with during the night and he was riding the OD Cavalry style: no crew, no stashed supplies, no help from anyone whatsoever. I was so happy to see him cross the finish line with a very good looking horse.

When Liz made it across the finish line, it was one final untacking. Saiph and I threw the cooler over Q and walked with Liz to the final vetting and then back to camp. Saiph poulticed her legs and then we all crashed.

The Next Day
I was using my van with all the seats down and an air mattress. It was pretty comfortable and had the benefit of minimal set up and take down. Rider breakfast and awards was at 10 am, but I awoke at 8:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. It was only a 3 hour night, but I felt ok enough.

At breakfast, yummy pancakes and sausage as promised by Saiph, Liz unfolded her green camp chair we had set up at every hold for her and there it was. Her rider card. Stuffed in chair. I was so relieved to know that I hadn't forgotten to get it from the vet. My guess is that it was placed in the chair when she went to shower and change and then it was dark, so nobody saw it as she headed off and we repacked everything. It was dark at the next hold when she used the same chair again and everyone was so tired that again we missed it. Thankfully, nothing bad happened due to the missing card.

And then it was all over except for the long dive back home. I was exhausted, sore and happy. Liz was a wonderful rider the entire time even after the ride card mishap and never once yelled or got snippy the entire time with any of us. I would crew for her again any time. 

June 8, 2016

Irrational Fear

I want to do something. I've actually wanted to do it for a long time. Only problem is that I have this fear that something is going to go horribly wrong if I do. Which is odd since I don't typically ever let fear stop me from doing anything. I am a jump right on in head first and figure it out as I go type of person.

What do I want to do?

I want to learn more about Gem's back ground. I found her registration papers a while back and I know where she began her life. I don't recall the name of the farm or the owner off the top of my head here at work, but it was listed clearly on the papers.

I could easily look it up, contact the breeder and see if she recalls the little filly. Heck, she may be happy to learn that one of her horses is now a 100 mile endurance horse with kick butt recoveries. Going one step farther, maybe I could even keep my eyes open for another horse of her line that could possibly have the same fitness characteristics, but perhaps a better attitude. It could be a great thing.

Look at that pudgy belly! Look at that massive butt! Look at the attitude! Yep, that has Gem written all over it. 
But I keep hesitating to do it. This is where the whole irrational part comes in. I purchased Gem from a 16 year old kid who had her in his front yard. I didn't ask and he didn't tell me where he got her from. I don't have any reason to believe anything nefarious occurred, but I am paralyzed from making the call because all I can think is that if I do and the breeder tells me she was stolen then I may lose her. I don't even think she could demand the horse back or anything, but every time I think about making the call my hands go all sweaty and I play out every possible scenario where I end up having to give Gem up for some reason.

I told you it was irrational. 

I don't know if I can get past it and make the call or not. I don't know if there would be any way that I would lose Gem, but my stomach ties up in knots just thinking about it. I'd rather be in the dark about her past than do something to send up a red flag and lose her. 

Irrational. I know. 

I just don't know how to get past it. 

June 1, 2016

Biltmore 100 Ride Photos

Funny story.

During the ride, I passed by the ride photographer, Becky Pearman, twice: once on each of the first and second loops. It is important to support the ride photographers because they don't get paid to be there and only make money if you buy the pictures, so I make it a point to always purchase a picture from the ride.

At some point during the day, I wandered over to her trailer during a hold. I knew there would be two different shots and I wanted to get them both only I could only find one of them and it was terrible. I searched like a mad woman and lamented to both Dusty and Liz that I could only find one and I looked like I weighed about 400 pounds in it.

Taken by Becky Pearman and purchased for use. I have 3 shirts, a vest, a coat and a water pack on. I look like a hippo. Gem on the other hand looks marvelous. This is the picture used for my tattoo. 

I let it go and kept riding until the next morning when I once again searched the board for my second picture and began to wonder if I had made up the second sighting and it never existed. During the awards breakfast I asked Dusty to please purchase the one picture she had and he obliged.

A day or two later, Liz messaged me with the online link to Becky's page and at first I only saw the above picture still. I was convinced I made up the second photo shoot altogether until Liz messaged me later saying that the rest of the pictures were up.

Low and behold my magical second picture was on there, easing my thoughts of insanity, and it was gorgeous!! I stared at it for a long time and decided that I would purchase it online.

I didn't get around to it though and it was a good thing because my wonderful friend Sheree showed up at my work later that week with a large, framed 8 x 10 that she had Becky add "Biltmore 100 miles" to it. I love it. Apparently she had snatched up the picture as soon as it was printed so that I wouldn't see it. She had been laughing at my addled brain trying to find it and going half crazy thinking I made up the entire thing.

I love my friends.

My scanner at work is making things blurry for some reason, but here is the second picture:

Look at Gem go!!! She is relaxed, happy, and just look at that extension!!! A perfect heel first landing on the front right, parallel front and hind diagonal legs, her hind is nearly touching the front!!! I can't stop looking at her!! Thankfully, I shed a bunch of clothes for this loop and I don't look like a hippo anymore. Plus I am smiling. 

The second picture lives at my work and I have gotten a ton of compliments on Gem. She deserves it too. If I can ever figure out a way to make a banner for this blog that doesn't take up an entire page, I will add this to it.