July 26, 2016


Or you know just keeping trotting forward. Whichever you prefer.

The biggest issue with my riding at this point in time is not my inability to get Gem rounded and in a frame or to bend appropriately or to move off my leg. Nope. I'm not even advanced enough to get to the point of being able to suck at those things. That will come in time.

Right now my biggest issue is my lack of intent and it has plagued us since day one.

You see, I get into an arena and stop caring about where exactly we do what. It was never really an issue before because in reality I didn't give a crap if Gem did a perfect circle or more of a pear shaped wobbly thing with sharp edges. My time in the arena was just time spent in the saddle when I couldn't get to a trail.

Now that I am actually trying to do things in the arena and have eyes on the ground, my complete lack of intent is glaringly obvious. Not only do I tend to not care where exactly we go, but I also let Gem get away with blowing through my cues and deciding when she wants to actually down transition.

BO won't let that fly.

After my last lesson I realized that I was mentally drained which is completely atypical for me after a ride. Riding is my time to decompress and shut my brain off. Not anymore. I had to think through every minute of every second of the lesson and while I wasn't the least bit sore in my body, my brain surely was. Ugh.

At first I tried to slough it off a little. Seriously why does it matter if I pick a single piece of grass to ride over or she ends up an inch to the left of it? Does that really play that big of a role when all is said and done? Call me the skeptical dressage student.

Then we went over that log and I realized something big. It doesn't matter if she goes over that blade of grass or an inch to the left. Not really. But by me not caring, not giving her exact guidance as to where she should be going, I am giving up too much to her and leaving her hanging. While I think I am being a good leader and letting her know I am there for her, in truth I am putting so much on her to be in charge of that she feels alone.

I bet this is where a lot of her confidence issues stem from.

I just got hit in the head by an entire warehouse of light bulbs.

July 25, 2016

So Much To Learn: Lesson #2

Saturday was supposed to be a poker ride with a friend riding Gem and me on board Pete, but a late Friday storm had them postponing it until Sunday and then Saturday they just cancelled the entire thing.

I was really bummed that the first planned ride in two weeks was off the books, but I still had a burning desire to actually ride my horse for the first time all summer and I was darned if I wasn't going to do it. The thought of trailering out remains very unappealing to me, so instead I used my wifey math skills to convince the hubby that by spending $35 on a lesson I was actually saving us $5 by not spending the $40 I had put aside for the poker ride (plus the gas money in getting there). He rolled his eyes in response as I texted the BO to see if she would be around for a lesson Sunday morning.

Typical routine upon arrival at the barn. Gem is hanging out with Pete in the front part of the pasture finishing up breakfast hay. She sees me pull in and saunters off as I get out of the van.
At 9 am it was already in the upper 80s and the horses were covered in a film sheen of sweat just hanging in the pasture. This summer has been the hottest of the three since being down here with the nights staying in the upper 70s and low 80s and the days breaking 100.
The BO was just finishing up her own ride as I got Gemmie groomed and dug out my old Ariat riding shoes. After putting them on, I recalled why I had ditched them in the first place and made a mental note to look into getting some new arena approved foot wear.

Then she takes off at a gallop to the far side of her pasture where she hides behind the strand of trees peaking out occasionally to see where I am. If I am taking too long, she will come galloping back to the front pasture snorting to get my attention only to disappear behind the trees once I talk to her.  
We also tried a new saddle on her. I do like the Stubben saddles as a whole, but the two models I had tried in the past just didn't feel right or worth spending the money. Both had me feeling perched on top of my mare instead of wrapped down around her. This time we tried the Roxane jumping saddle in a 17.5" seat, regular flaps and a 27 cm tree. We headed up to the grass field with a second saddle in tow to try as well and began to warm up at the walk.

She stands there watching me intently as I walk across the pasture talking to her the entire time. Once I get closer, she will duck behind the trees completely and hang out on the other side where I can't see her.

I have been the worst student ever having only practiced what I learned one time since the first lesson and that was while out on trail. Sorry, BO!! The biggest thing we worked on in the beginning, well besides my position which was much better in this saddle than the previous ones, was riding with more intent. I tend to just amble around with a general idea of going in a circle or from point A to B but without much actual intent on how exactly we would accomplish it.

She had me really working on picking an exact blade of grass or rock or dirt spot to ride to then riding to the next and the next so that Gem had exact guidance of where we were going and how we were going to get there. After that was established, and she called me out for using the arena fence and forced me to make a much smaller circle, we worked on maintaining our energy throughout the entire circuit. With the arena being on a hill, Gem had the tendency to get faster going down and slower going up. We worked at the walk for quite some time just working on using my body to get her to speed up going up the hill and slow down going back down to have an overall steady pace around.

I then cut over the the other side of the trees and she will walk over to meet me half way, stop to pee, and then shove her head into her halter and walk nicely back to the barn. She does this every single time I go out to get her. 
Once we established that, we moved on to doing the same thing at the trot. It went okay for a while but then she had me add in three walk transitions around the circle at random places and Gem got very, very tense. She hates transitions. She gets all nervous about when they will appear and the longer we work on them the worse she gets. BO talked me through it and we gave Gem plenty of pats and breaks to relax.

Near the end of the lesson, BO added a log as a ground pole. It was all of 6" in diameter and Gem could easily just step over the darn thing with minimal effort. It being a bare log and me being me, I immediately pictured imminent death. BO laughed at me. She placed the log on the uphill side of our circle and had me go over it at the trot keeping my bend in the circle and hitting the pole in the center.

The first time around Gem bowed out to the right and BO called me out on it. She asked me what I had been thinking of. "Going over the pole and not dying"

Wrong answer.

For the first time ever working with poles or jumps, I learned exactly what it is that I do so wrong and why Gem and I both suck at it.

BO explained that jumping is just glorified dressage and should be treated as such. When going over a pole, I am to not think about the pole at all. That is Gem's job. I am to continue riding with intent (my new favorite thing) and concentrate on my approach and then my departure lines and allow Gem to figure her own feet out to get us over the obstacle.

The next approach felt amazing. I concentrated on all the things we had done in the beginning part of the lesson: maintaining her pace around the circle, half halting with my core and seat, and riding a set path. The pole came up and I was so focused on everything else that we just trotted over it like it was no thing at all. I gave Gem all the pats and was so thrilled!!

We then reversed direction and went to the left and she wanted me to plan my turn off the circle to approach the log then go straight up the hill after it between two other jumps and make a left turn. We approached it and Gem fell apart. She got tense the moment we made the turn at the bottom of the hill and she saw the pole. I then helped the situation out by getting tense and bracing against the stirrups (insert sarcasm font) and we flailed over the log, hitting it with 3 of her 4 feet and nearly nose dived into the grass.

The next circuit we added a walk transition before and after the log. This helped me really have to get her tuned into me and not focus on the log before hand as well as keep her focus on me afterward and after two attempts she settled and we had a great trip over.

By this point she was dripping with sweat and we had worked on a lot of stuff, so we quickly changed saddles. This time it was the Juventus jumping saddle which is on the same tree as the Roxane, but is a kids saddle with a shorter flap and a 17" seat. It is also around $1,000 cheaper. The shorter flap was perfect for my short legs. It also put me in a much better position and I felt really secure in it. I'm not sure about the 17" seat though. I fit in it and it didn't look or feel ridiculously small, but I've gotten used to having so much real estate in my endurance saddle that I felt a little scrunched. I can order (well, I could order if I had any money) the Roxane in the shorter flap and 17.5" seat but then I'm paying a bunch more money for 0.5" more room to wiggle about. I am going to need more ride time in both to make a good decision and then will have to sell a kidney or something to get the money together to purchase it.

Looking cute as an English pony although hunter green is definitely not her color. 

By the time I did two circuits in the Juventus, Gem was done and I was near the point of getting a massive headache from being out in the sun for so long without water. We started riding at 9:30 am and got back down to the barn after 11 am. She got a shower with cold water, a ton of hugs and was put back out to roast in the 100 degree day. The lesson just reminded me how much I have to learn and how much fun I have learning these things. I don't have the ability to lesson very much right now, but I hope to take advantage when I can and sneak in some practices once it cools off. The evenings are just too hot right now (last night it was still 96 at 8 pm) but hopefully in the next month or so it will begin to relax a little so I can once again hit the barn after work.

July 18, 2016

Endurance Shopping Experience: The Distance Depot

There are a dozen or so companies out there that are dedicated to supplying us endurance junkies with all the matching gear, comfort supplies and gadgets to keep us safe and moving down the trail. The Distance Depot happens to be one of them and I have ordered from them a few times.

My first order was a semi custom side pull halter bridle. I say semi because while I did choose my hardware and colors, the sizing was not made to Gem specifically. The ordering process was seamless and it shipped out amazingly fast arriving in my greedy little hands within a week of ordering it. The side pull is made very well with tight stitching, strong hardware and after many months of hard use on the trail and one endurance ride, it still looks 100% brand new.

The second item was a sheepskin seat saver that I received as a gift from my mom. Unfortunately, it did not fit the shape of my saddle right and so I needed to return it. I contacted the company about it and informed them that I did not have the receipt since it was a gift. They did have a record of the purchase on file even though it was under my mom's name and gave me options on how to go about returning it.

Apparently I had waited too long, to be honest I am uncertain if they have a 7 or 30 day return policy, but they would give me in store credit. I needed to ship back the seat saver and once received they would credit my own account with the money. If I knew an item I would like in advance, they could handle it two ways: 1) put a note on the account to ship it out or 2) have me pay for the new item on my credit card and ship it immediately to save time and then credit my card once they received the returned item.

I didn't have anything at the moment to buy, so I told them to just hold the money on my account and asked for a return shipping label. I was a little annoyed when they said they didn't have one and just gave me an address and return authorization number. Since I was already pushing time on the return, I went ahead and shipped it back on my own dime and didn't think any more of it figuring maybe it was due to the fact it was a gift and I didn't have a receipt.

Last week I finally decided what to order and got a new pair of riding tights. Like all prior ordering experiences, the order was seamless. There was an issue with my in store credit account and the lady on the phone was super nice, helpful and went above and beyond to help me get what I wanted. The tights arrived at my door in 3 days. Easy, friendly and fast.

Except they were too small. I contacted them the next day about exchanging them for the medium. No problem. Same options as before. I could 1) pay for the mediums up front and get them shipped out and then get a credit back to my card once mine were back to them or 2) wait until these ones were received and then they would ship out the mediums. I didn't have my card on hand and so I told them to just wait.

Again the lady was super nice, helpful and willing to go above and beyond to help place my order.

But then the wheels came off. Not only would they not provide a return shipping label, making me have to pay for return shipping, but then she informed me that I would need to include a check in the bag for $6 to pay for shipping out the new pair of tights.

I have never, ever had to do that with any company I have ever purchased anything from in 34 years. Not from big stores or small mom and pop shops. Never.

What I should have done was said screw it and kept the tights. I could have sold them online for $10 off the full price and saved money on the various shipping charges. I didn't think of that at the time though and so I sucked it up and paid for the return of the tights plus added a $6 check to pay for them to ship me ones in my size. I was angry though. All in all, I am out somewhere close to $18 on various shipping charges from my gifted seat saver. Annoying and not very customer friendly.

In fact, this whole experience just puts a really bad taste in my mouth. Its as if all the really care about is getting your money and selling the item. When placing an order they are kind, helpful and get the item to you quickly. But once the item is in your possession, they really could care less about helping you get the product that will actually work for you.

I will never purchase from them again. I'm not telling you all what to do, but please make sure the item you purchase is 100% perfect so you can avoid the charges and annoyance of their return policy.

July 15, 2016

The Not So Silent Radio Silence

Ever since I posted my radio silence post, people around blog land have been posting interesting fodder for the blog sans actual riding content. I haven't seen my horse in two weeks now which is a problem, but it is also just reality right now. I do have something fun planned next weekend though which I am excited about.

In the meantime, Viva Carlos posted 10 questions and I am going to bore entertain you all with my answers.

1.) Do you actually always pick the horse's feet? Always? Really?
Yup. Every single time both before riding and after. I'm a slightly obsessive groomer and spend the time really going over every inch of her body to make sure nothing is off. I have caught early signs of thrush, shoes gone wrong and all sorts of stuff by being so diligent.

2.) What is the biggest obstacle/reason preventing you from becoming a professional or competing full time with ease?
The $200,000 of medical school student loan debt. If I came home and told the hubby I was quitting to train horses, I think he would have a stroke.

In addition to that, I have zero background or education in training people or horses. I got Gem where she is today but that is about the extent of my abilities.

As far as competing full time, it is the lack of money, time and horse flesh.

3.) Do you think it will ever not be about money?
To be honest, I really don't know what this question is actually referring to. Do I think those with the most money will always be on top? Yes, I do.  It takes money to pay for the one on one training, the tack, the horses, the events themselves. But I also think that you can have a ton of fun and be competitive locally without having a crap ton of money. In endurance, my only reference in the competitive horse world, money makes a difference when it comes to the ability to get to all the events and earn the points, but feed lot horses, craigslist ponies and the like all have won races and BC.

4.) Was there ever a horse that you loved and really wanted to have a connection with, but it just never panned out?
I don't think so. Gem was looking that way for the first 3 years, but then something finally clicked.

5.) What is one weakness in your riding that even your trainer doesn't pick up on, only you?
I'm not brave and bold when it comes to riding. I can fake it pretty darn well, but deep down most things scare the crap out of me until I repeat them 1000 times and make it boring. Once it is boring, then I move on.

6.) What is the biggest doubt/insecurity you ask or tell yourself in your head?
That I am going to break my horse. Every time I ride I am always thinking that I am making Gem lame and that I will break her for good. Every time she slows down or acts punky I am convinced I broke her and she will never be able to ride again. I wish I could turn that off. I think our ride times would be much more competitive if I could.

7.) There is a barn fire. You are the first person to discover it and see that the roof is collapsing in slowly and you can tell its going to come down any time. Do you call people first or do you head straight in to save the horses?
Call. When I wasn't a mother I would have probably run in to try to save them myself, but now I have someone relying on me. Plus I don't see the value in just one person running in and grabbing a horse without having any back up. What would you do with that horse when you went back in for the next? The more people to help, the better. I'd secure help first and then save the horses.

8.) What is one event in your riding career/horse/anything that you're still not over, even tho you might tell others you are?
Road riding isn't my favorite. I've done better with it since Gem doesn't seem to care, but my TWH Moonlight that I rode before her was petrified to the point of being dangerous. We had to ride alongside a super busy road that people went 65 mph on with motorcycles, cars, construction trucks and semis to get into the State Game Lands with trails and it got so bad that I eventually had to stop riding. (She ended up being donated to a really great therapeutic riding facility when I went to medical school).

9.) If you could tell off one person you just don't like, what would you say?
Would 100% depend on the situation and the person. Really, I'm not known for hiding my opinions or feelings, so I don't have anything pent up at the moment. If I don't like you, I just cut you out of my life and move on. No sense surrounding yourself with negative people and interactions.

10.) Have you ever seen questionable riding or training practices, but let it go/ignored it? How do you feel about it in hindsight?
Um, I am pretty sure I have been that "questionable riding practice" person a time or two. Not in a vicious, mean spirited way but in a general not knowing what I am doing and trying my best to diffuse a tense and pissed off Gemmie. Our early days together were...entertaining to say the least.

But to answer the question - no I have not been witness to such bad horsemanship that I would feel the need to intervene for the horse's benefit. Have I seen some things that I wouldn't do? Yeah a time or two, but that doesn't mean it was dangerous or abusive and I tend to mind my own business and try to not judge someone in the split moment I see them working with their horse. If I ever did see something outright abusive, I would say something.

July 13, 2016

Gem Infographic

This was fun. And frustrating. But mostly a lot of fun.

I saw this idea on Viva Carlos who gave credit to House on the Hill which I also checked out. Both were really well done and it sparked the creative side of me to give it a try. I have zero graphic design background and no access to any Adobe illustrator type programs, so I did the best I could with what I could find online. It took me 5 interrupted hours, darn work demands, to go from a blank page to the following and then the darn thing wouldn't save or download unless I paid for a subscription, which I had no intentions of doing. Instead I figured out how to make it work with paint and some snippets and voila! I had to save it as a top half and bottom half, so it looks a little wonky, but such is life.


July 10, 2016

Radio Silence

The blog is going to be a bit hit or miss for a while. As of right now all extra curricular activities are off the calendar for the foreseeable future including lessons and events. In fact, I'm even thinking of selling my trailer.

The horses are all fine, healthy and happy and I still plan to try to fit in a ride every week in the arena or maybe out on a trail once in a while for my own sanity. It's just that none of those rides are going to be particularly thrilling or interesting to read about and they probably won't happen very often to be honest.

You see being a mom is my first priority. As a mom I made the vow that my child would always come first. I don't believe in being the selfish mother whose life doesn't change at all and the child has to fit into it the best they can. I do believe in maintaining your own self and having goals, dreams and aspirations outside of potty training and teaching the alphabet and I have done my best to continue to ride, train and compete to the best of my current ability.

The balance has shifted for the moment however. I don't talk much about my small family on here because this is a place for my horse stories. Wyatt is now 3 1/2 and we have been having some behavior issues that need addressing. He got expelled from his pre school for hitting and kicking and while part of the blame is on the school for being useless and not willing to do anything beyond throw kids in time out the underlying issue needs to be fixed.

I have found the tools that I believe in and I am very excited to begin the process of cognitive, sensory and motor play based therapy to help him learn to control his emotions, not lash out in anger and think big picture solutions and not short term gain. It will not only set him up for a healthy and happy life but will ease tensions at home as we have come to the point where nothing we have done has helped. Picking him up from school has always been my favorite part of the day: hearing him scream Mommy and run at me to tackle me in a big hug is just amazing. Except for the last 4 or 5 months it has turned into something I nearly dread as each day I would be given a laundry list of bad behaviors and tantrums he had and be yelled at by teachers who refused to work with us or listen to the ways we cope at home.

I am looking forward to and am extremely excited to see changes and get back to my loving and happy reunions at the end of the work day.

What does this have to do with my riding? To begin with the program requires three one hour long sessions a week. These will need to be after work and Mon-Friday. In addition the cost is $12,000. Yup. You read that right. We don't actually have $12,000 (which is why I am seriously contemplating selling the trailer to help fund his therapy) but they do have payment plans available. All our money will be going towards that with nothing left over for endurance rides, lessons or paces.

I'm not saying this to complain or garner sympathy. I'm happy to back off my hobby and work towards helping Wyatt with his behavior. It's what I signed up for when I became a mom. I hold no hard feelings or even the slightest bit of sadness. I'm exciting for it to begin.

Gem is healthy and happy and will be getting love and attention from me. She doesn't care if we ever pull into another ride camp or take a lesson. We will continue to ride and enjoy each other and once things settle down at home both regarding free time and money we will pick back up where we left off and see what we want to do.

Until then my posts will be sporadic. I will still be reading all the blogs I follow and hope you all continue to read when there is something worthy of posting. If I do decide to sell my trailer I will be posting it here first.

Happy riding, training and competing to all!!

July 7, 2016

Year End Awards

290 riders participated in the Field Hunter division of the Western Carolina Hunter Pace Series that ran from August 2015 to June 2016. Gem and I made all but three rides which happened to be the last three of the season.  We were out of town for a funeral for one, the next was the weekend after the endurance ride and then the last one was over Memorial Day weekend and Dusty picked up a shift at an emergency clinic to help offset some of our life bills.

The year end ride is not counted towards anything, but it is a fun ride with lunch and the ability to earn a wild card to apply to any ride the next season which gives you credit for completing even when you couldn't make it. I went to the one at the end of the 2014/2015 season just to earn the wild card.

This year it was being held at Biltmore at the end of June and I was really excited to go until I saw that it wasn't starting until 10 am and the temperatures were already in the upper 80s by 8 am when I would be getting ready to leave. Last year's year end was held in the beginning of May and a horse died on course while I was riding. Dusty was called in to aid the treatment vet and Wyatt was entertained by the RM. I just lost all excitement for going when I saw how hot it was going to be and how late the ride was starting.

So I opted for my first dressage lesson instead and forgot all about it.

Then a fellow Pacer and friend sent me the following picture:

Apparently we placed 6th!!

The ribbon is massive and really pretty. She lives next door to the barn (she was the one who found this place for us) and dropped it off at the barn for us where the BO proudly displayed it on the tack room door.

I am really proud to have placed out of 290 riders and it really spurs me on to want to participate again next year and hopefully not miss any rides. We probably would have been in 4th had I not missed the last three and could have even shot up higher if I placed at all in any of the last three rides.

Still, I am super proud of my mare and happy with a lovely 6th place ribbon.

July 6, 2016

DuPont Recreational Forest

The high was predicted to be 100F with humidity of 82% for the holiday weekend. I was looking at a long weekend bereft of any riding when Sheree texted me wanting to hit the trails. I became determined to find somewhere nearby that either had lower temperatures or a lot of water access. Then it hit me. This was the perfect time to explore the massive trail system at DuPont Recreational Forest in the NC mountains only an hour from the barn. A quick look at my Wunderground App showed a high of only 81F and low humidity. Perfect!

Looking pretty darn good after nearly two months off
I met Sheree at a gas station about 15 minutes from the barn and followed her along the winding back roads to one of six different trail heads. She hadn't been to this system in a long time, but it had been a favorite haunt of hers at one time and she still remembered a lot of it.

The parking lot was spacious but nearly full already by the time we got there around 11:30 am. It is a popular spot for mountain bikers and hikers alike and we were the only trailers at the time. By the time we mounted up, two more trailers pulled in and the lot was filled to near capacity.

Probably contemplating what new Hell I was planning for the day. Would we be gone for one hour or 18? You never know what I have up my sleeve, so a nap was in order to prepare.
Sheree and I caught up while we tacked up. Her mare, Riiah, is looking amazing coming back from a long treatment for Lymes that caused both neurological and musculoskeletal symptoms last summer. Riiah is an amazing athlete with a lot of opinions and I really enjoyed riding with them during the summer of 2014 before her decline and eventual diagnosis in 2015. She has a clean bill of health now and is gearing back up for some more endurance rides.

When I swung my leg over Gem and settled down onto her familiar back, I was excited to see what she would be like. This was her first real ride post 100 and I was curious to see if the bravado she showed with no spooks or even attempts to spook for 18 hours would carry over. About 100 yards into the ride she gave a massive sideways spook and I sighed. Nope. No change.

The trail heading away from the parking lot

I really think she just plum hates conditioning. It is hard work and boring at times and she sees no reason for it and tries to get out of work by being an idiot. Take her to a competition and she is brave and forward and willing to go all day and then some. My next horse will be much less complicated I think.

The trail system is massive. DuPont is 10,000+ acres and is cut with multi use trails for hikers, bikers and horses. In fact, an endurance rider in the region helped build most of the trails in a sustainable way hoping to build a relationship to allow for an endurance ride. Unfortunately, while his hard work resulted in beautiful trails, it did not help foster any motivation to allow an endurance ride in the forest.

Enjoying the shade and wide open trail

I bet this place is gorgeous in the fall

Neither of us had any plans for the ride. No set distance or pace with the main goal of just exploring and having fun. We wandered down the main access road to the forest and I was glad for the front shoes as we crunched over large gravel and stones. I was trying to pay attention to the trails for future use, but I never saw any trail markings. It was really odd. At every intersection there were lovely trail signs like street crossing signs with the names of all involved trails, but no additional information like mileage. Once past the intersection there were no markings at all: no ribbons, arrows, colors on the trees. Nothing. You basically kept going until you reached the next intersection. Since we didn't have a map, these intersections were useless to us and we just picked a direction and went hoping to be able to find our way back eventually.

Lots and lots of gravel
Most of the trails were double ride, hard packed dirt with a scattering of gravel, rocks and boulders. I had to laugh at my own sense of "rocky" after being at the Old Dominion ride. Nothing seems rocky after those trails and I didn't even ride them!

We ran across several bikers who were all super polite. Gem hates anything running up behind her at a fast pace. She gets really tense and her ears fling back. At one point we were going down a hill at a trot and she started to get super tense and distracted. I looked back and sure enough two bikers were flying down the hill towards us. We stopped and yelled back asking them to slow down which they did and then went on by us as we waited.

The only other time she had an issue was coming down another hill that had a small creek crossing at the bottom. Two bikers came flying down it towards us and splashed loudly through the water. It caught Gem off guard, but otherwise she didn't seem to mind any bikes coming towards or behind us. Everyone we passed was polite, slowed down or got off and told us to  have a good ride. If we came along someone on an uphill we always told them to stay moving to not lose their momentum. Being polite back to them really helped a lot.

These little speed bumps were a ton of fun a the canter
It felt almost spring like in the shade

Gem trotted and cantered a good bit when we could and we just enjoyed the cooler air and new trails. One really annoying habit she picked up from the 100 was eating on the trail. She was starving from mile 70ish on and I let her stop frequently to graze when grass was around. Well, she took that as approval to eat all the time and I had to battle her constantly stopping to drop her head. It was really annoying and is something I need to put a stop to immediately.

My favorite part was a small, overgrown single track trail with sandy footing that led to the river. We trotted down it dodging the bright green, leaf heavy limbs and I laughed as we weaved along.

My favorite trail of the day
Once we got to the river, Sheree asked if I wanted to switch horses. She rode Gem during a Ride and Tie I convinced her to do in 2014, but I had never had the pleasure of sitting on Ri. I was happy to do so!

I climbed aboard her tall mare. Ok..she isn't that tall but she is taller than Gem and I really like my short little 15H horse quite a bit. The biggest thing I had to get used to was her treeless Freeform saddle. It felt so different than my Advantage. I felt more propped up and tipped a little forward with the dressage seat in place. I am used to having next to nothing between my horse and me and this felt like a lot of padding and saddle between my tush and her back.

Sheree on Gemmie

Riaah wondering who this new person was on her back

Riiah also moves incredibly different than Gem. She has a lot of "boing" in her step whereas Gem moves very flat. Between the boingy motion and the saddle feeling like I was propped seven miles over the horse's back, I was feeling like I was going to get posted right in the air. It took a few tries, but I eventually learned to just relax my pelvis ad go with the flow a bit more and settled in.

We moved along with Sheree and Gem behind and Riaah figuring out what I wanted. She has a great respect for your seat and legs, something Gem does not have, and if I sat down just a little stronger she would immediately halt. I really enjoyed playing around with the buttons she had installed. Sheree for her part enjoyed the laid back Gemmie tailing along behind Riaah. We both laughed that we always ride color coordinated to our mares and now we clashed horribly with my red and black on her pink mare and her pink and grey on my red and black one.

A new set of ears to look through
A very long neck held higher than Gem does

In the end we covered about 6.5 miles in about 2 hours with several stops to let the bikers go by and slowing down for me to get used to my new mount. Both horses looked great at the end and I can't wait to go back up there. I really need to find a detailed map though or I could get very lost. The trails are very different than I am used to with no real loops or end points. They are more like a maze where all the trails intersect at some point and are all fairly short (like less than a mile for most of them) but can be strung together to be riding all day and then some. We didn't even cross the river to get to the trails on the other side and there are still 5 more access points with loads of other trails too. Some even have waterfalls although those are crazy busy with hikers. It was so nice to get out again and be with a good friend on new trails. I think my summer riding will likely be spent up there to escape the oppressive heat and humidity.