December 29, 2016

2017 Goals

2016 was a big failure in regards to planned goals, but it was a complete success in unplanned I'm not really sure what to take from that.

The overriding theme for 2017 is: FOCUS.

Focus on bringing Gem back into my life in a way that is sustainable for family life and self preservation, focus on improving my own skill set, focus on better work/life balance, focus on health, focus on Wyatt (as always this one isn't new), focus on getting ever closer to owning our own farm.

GEMMIE - Life Goals

FOCUS - With Gem it is going to be all about finding the right balance of being with her and not being away from the family too much. Wyatt is at an amazing age and I don't want to miss a single minute with him. He is funny, adventurous and just a blast to be around.

This is likely going to mean less time on the trails and more time riding in circles at home which I am 100% okay with as long as those circles bring new knowledge and new skills for the both of us.

More of this style tack and less endurance tack, I believe. 

1.) Bring her and Pete home.  Move in date for us is 1/15 and we are hoping to bring them home the following weekend. Fencing needs installed and we need to build a shelter for them as there is no barn or tree cover. I have the DIY plans already selected and the materials bought, just need to find time.

2.) Start riding consistently 2 days a week. There is a hay field I can ride in during non cutting times and I plan to use this regularly. Dusty has built me jumps in the past and will be working on some new ones once life settles back down again.

3.) 1-2 long trail rides a month, preferably with friends. I've ridden solo enough to know we can do it and that it is no where near as fun as riding with someone else. It is hard to ride with others though when you need to be on the horse by 7 am to make it home in time for lunch with the kiddo, so we will see.

4.) Make it to 1 lesson a month. If I can find someone who can come to me and deal with not having a true arena then I'd like to do 2 a month, if I have to trailer out it will likely only be once a month.

GEMMIE - Competition goals

1.) Complete a 50 mile endurance ride towards our decade team award.  I'd really like this to be a multi day ride so that I get as much as I can into a single weekend away.

2.) Complete a Ride and Tie of any length

3.) Make a decision on what to do about her 100 mile bronze medal.  She only needs two more 100s and I know she has it in her. The question is do I? If not, could I let someone else ride her even though I'd still have been the one to put all the conditioning miles on, spent all the money for the ride (the entry is the cheapest part of it all: hay, alfalfa, elytes, extra grain, gas to get there, time off work...), and likely need to be present to crew? Seems silly to plop someone else in the saddle to ride it. But....I really hated riding in the dark and I don't know if I want to do it again. Lots of soul searching to do.

 4.) Make it to a dressage show and not make a complete fool out of ourselves.

ME - Life Goals

FOCUS - For me it is going to be all about striking a better balance in life. Currently, I feel guilty when I don't ride and guilty when I do. I haven't taken an actual vacation longer than a long weekend since 2007. I haven't seen a doctor in 4 years.

1.) Stop feeling guilty about self care time. Riding and running not only make me feel better equipped to deal with life's stresses but it also will help me live a longer and better life. I need to stop beating myself up when I take time to do it.

2.) Run 2 days a week minimum. Treadmill or outside, both work as long as I am getting my butt moving.

3.) Ride 2 days a week.

4.) Establish with a primary care doctor and get a physical. 

5.) Figure out just what I want with my relationship with Gem. Is it okay to back off and just putz around? Do I need to have some set competition/training plans to feel satisfied? 

6.) Continue with my pen pals. Add two new ones from new countries. 

7.) Create a smashbook for Wyatt.

8.) Find a trainer that I can work well with in regards to approach, personality and scheduling. 

ME - Competition goals

1.) Complete a half marathon.

2.) Complete a full marathon. 

3)  Host a Ride and Tie. I have one in the works that I am really excited about. 


December 28, 2016

7 Years...Already???

She was ugly. Really, really ugly. No muscle, shaggy fur, bloated belly, bald spots on her rump. She had no personality. She was just dead inside.

The day we went to see her: December 2009
I didn't ride her. Why bother? Dusty had taken one look at the ugly little bay horse in the small, muddy paddock and knew he would be writing the check out. $800. Sort of a rip off at the time, but one heck of a steal now.

The day we brought her home. January 1, 2010.

I write a lot about the issues we have, but I really should give us both a lot more credit. Seven years ago I brought home a closed off rag doll and now I have a very opinionated, athletic machine. She went from not moving one single inch under saddle to bolting madly to spinning and kicking to moving out on the trail in a side pull solo.

I never imagined that we would complete a 100 mile ride, finish Ride and Tie Championships or begin dressage lessons.

And what about me?

Seven years ago I was afraid to ride her out of the indoor. I had never hooked up a trailer on my own. Never self loaded a horse. Never driven a trailer. I had never rode out on a trail solo, let alone at anything more than a walk. I hadn't made any big horse related dreams beyond not dying in the saddle.

And now -

Well, now I barely recognize myself. I canter and gallop on trail alone. I head to the barn at the butt crack of dawn to pull my horse out of her dark pasture, load her up and drive 6 hours away to camp alone without knowing a single sole and complete a 50 mile ride. I back my trailer into the tiniest spot without fear of breaking everything.

I'd say lets bring on the next 7 years!

December 22, 2016

2016 Goal Check

2016 was the first year I set goals. I tend to not be a very goal oriented person, preferring to just play things by ear and tackle tasks as they come up. It is better though to at least have some focus and a general idea of where you want to go. Time to turn in the report card and see how I did....

1.) Finish up the 2015-2016 hunter pace series and earn the Supporter Award. All rides do not have to be on Gem, but I do have to personally attend them all. 

I missed the last 3 rides due to timing after the 100. Gem was in her rest period and Pete wasn't really prepared enough to go. I still managed to place 6th out of nearly 300, so maybe it still counts?

2.) Multi Day Endurance ride in the Spring. Can be either two 50s or a 50 and 25. Currently aiming for a ride early April in Jasper, FL.

0/2 so far :( I opted to do a one day 100 instead given the timing and her condition, but still no mutli day.

3.) Help manage an ultramarathon alongside Dusty to coincide with the Ride Between the Rivers Endurance Ride. Dusty was approached about this idea when we were there this summer and we are both super excited. Gem will likely stay home unless someone wants me to bring her along to ride her in the endurance ride.

This didn't happen and I still wish it had, but Dusty couldn't secure any insurance for the run without being a member of a running group or paying an unseemly amount of money.

4.) Get Haley to her first endurance ride. I'm already making excuses for this one, but she can only attend in the summer and summer rides just don't happen down here. The only viable option would be the Moonlight Sandhills ride, but I think it may conflict with the RBTR ultra/endurance ride. 

Nope. After I moved barns, Haley and I fell out of touch. She is now killing it at western events.

5.) Attend the Run for the Horses 50 at Biltmore in September. Not necessarily as a rider, but to either crew for Dusty again or to volunteer. It is my favorite ride of the entire year. 

Seriously, this is getting pathetic. I don't think this should count against me though. The ride/run was cancelled due to some rich person renting out the entire estate for a fancy wedding.

6.) Complete the Broxton Bridge 50 in November. This is a big deal for me. It is the same ride where I plan to do our first 100 the following Jan. Getting Gem exposed to the trails, learning the camp, figuring out crewing situation etc... will all help ease my stress levels a bit for the January ride when I won't have a crew and will have to figure it all out myself. 

Can I begin laughing now?

Since I did the 100 in May, I didn't really need to do Broxton and instead did the R&T Championships.

7.) Figure out her hoof protection situation once and for all. The April ride and the November Broxton ride will help me test things out. I won't ask her to do a 100 barefoot, but I know the trails are friendly in case something were to fail.

Ha!! Finally! Gem is currently back to being barefoot for the winter, but I've settled on steel shoes for competitions for economy, ease and functionality.

8.) Get the trailer organized. This has been a work in progress for over a year now and just needs to be completed before I rip my hair out. Trying to ease all stress that I can before next January. 

Yup! It was done last spring and I love it.

9.) Complete an Equathon. This is kind of a sorta goal in that if it works in the schedule and helps Gem's conditioning then great, but if not it isn't a big deal. 

I'm counting the R&T for this since it is the same event.

10.) Continue to improve my fitness. I've started to run again and will be adding in some weights and spin classes as able throughout the year. 

I'm still running 2-3 days a week and have found some enjoyment in it.

11.) Dressage lessons. I would love to start taking some dressage to help Gem improve in her movement and make things more efficient for her. I can't afford both lessons and the paces, so this will have to wait until the summer. 

I sneaked in about 3 or so lessons this summer before the wheels fell off on my life.  I even purchased a dressage saddle. 

So...that is what...5/11...for a 45% completion rate? That is abysmal, but my focus shifted early on and I snuck that 100 in a year earlier than planned which basically changed everything. Hopefully 2017 can be a bit more focused.

December 20, 2016

The Worst Clinic Ever

Reading Emma's latest blog about her first clinic on her new guy (read it here) got me thinking about that one time I was talked into going to a clinic on Gem about 3 or 4 months into our relationship together. It was a complete shit show and so much the opposite of her clinic that I thought I would write it up for the enjoyment of all.

Let's hop into my blogger time machine and travel back to the spring of 2010.

 Ah...the naivete is so thick you could choke on it. A training facility that creates gems of knowledge such as:

- She will never be able to canter straight, so just always go in a circle. 
- Pete is unable to be lunged, ever, so just don't do ground work with him.
- Gem trots at 9 million miles an hour and is completely hollow/inverted - she is prime and ready to jump 2'6" gymnastic lines...with oxers!

A woman who purchased a horse she really had no right to own and then decided it was the best time to learn how to ride english. 

A horse who was so mentally and physically shut down that she really ought to have just been loved on as a pasture pet for 6 months to a year but now found herself in a full training program being worked 5 days a week. 

Perfect situation...huh?

After two months of throwing my money down the drain for "full training" (the full story is too long to interject here but the short version is that the trainer never actually rode my horse and would just plop unsuspecting lesson kids on her when able and lunge her when not), I was finally at a spot with Gem that I could get her to walk around the indoor without trying to kill us both. Trotting was a possibility, if I wanted to careen around at mach 10 and cantering was a no go unless I wanted to ride a bucking bronco. Riding outside was a near death experience for all involved including any hapless bystanders who got in our way. 

This was the expression Gem wore for the first 4 months I had her

For some reason, trainer lady felt it was a great idea to introduce us to jumping. She did this in the most classically trained way  - set up a 2' vertical along our path in a way that it was entirely unavoidable to either go over or through it. Then with each lap of the arena that we made, regardless if our previous approach was successful or not, jack up the height and hey lets add some width to it as well. Might as well scar these two for life! 

And that was where we were when a clinician, who is nameless only because I can't recall her name, came to town. Trainer lady signed both Dusty, who had Pete for all of a month and was working hard at getting him to stand still without rearing and spinning, and myself up. Lest you think this was maybe in the same universe as "appropriate" let me tell you what was on the docket for said clinic. 

First, it was a group. The first 30 minutes would be working on flat work in the indoor and then we would saunter outside for 30 minutes of work over solid obstacles on the small cross country course. lesson on one horse who only goes 100 miles an hour or nothing at all and a second horse who rears and spins whenever asked to stand still for more than a micro second. Then add solid obstacles in a wide open field! 

Exhausted mare napping in her sand paddock at the training facility

So we showed up and got ready. My heart was already in my throat and I do believe that my muscles were as tense as a marble statue. gem was therefore also tense and worked up before we even started. We all began by walking around the rail of the arena while the clinician shouted angrily in the most incessantly shrill voice at everyone pointing out mistakes and generally putting every horse and person within a 5 mile radius on edge. This was the beginner clinic too, by the way.

She would randomly call someone over to berate them and started yapping on about contact and grabbing the reins to yank on the horse's mouth to make the rider get a feel for what level of contact they should have. Gem and Pete could barely hold their shit together long enough to walk off with a rider on their back. Contact was not something any of the 4 of us had ever been introduced to. You can imagine how well they enjoyed their faces being ripped off by the screeching clinician. 

Off to the rail again, this time at a trot. I happened to be the first in the line and immediately got yelled at for going too fast. I tried to explain to her that this was what I was currently working on with Gem. A way to get her to slow down without losing all impulsion and dropping to a walk. She ignored me and demanded that I slow her down. I asked how. I'll never forget this - she laughed at me. 

Things progressed from there. We had long periods of waiting in the center of the arena while one member of the group did their thing. Dusty and Pete spent this time spinning and rearing and scaring the rest of the riders. It was fun for all!

The only other thing from the first 30 minutes that I recall is cantering. I had told her that we weren't cantering yet, but I was willing to give it my best effort. She had us all start by trotting. slowly, around the rail at the...wait for it...sitting trot. None in the group had ever done this skill...remember it was a basic, beginner level intro type class. But here we were being yelled at to sit that trot! One we made it around the arena at the sitting trot we were to pick up the canter at the start of the long end. To make this even worse, we had to stick together in a line such that when the first person hit the long side, they would canter and then the next person would begin a few seconds behind them. 

The person behind me was so far up Gem's ass that she got kicked while we flailed through the transition. 

After that we all went outside to jump solid objects. You'd think the clinician would have long ago figured out that this was not a good idea given the skill level of the 6 people in the group. But no...she had a pre determined schedule of tasks to go over and she would be damned if she went off track now. 

One by one we attempted to make it over various logs and tire jumps set up. Pete adores jumping all the things and made easy work of it, wining Dusty the "most improved during the clinic" award. That was just pure ridiculous since neither actually improved anything. They just finally found something they both could do. 
Making it look easy

Or not

For our part, Gem and I flailed horrendously over things neither should have even attempted and pretty much ruined any bit of trust I had built up with her. I think it only took 3 attempts before we got banished. Literally. The clinician looked at us and told us to "go walk around somewhere else for the rest of the time" Pleasant. 

Who is more tense here?

Not a happy horse...or rider

Returning from our banishment


I 100% agree that we had no place in this clinic. I followed my trainer's recommendation to join, believed her when she said we would be able to do what was asked of us, and went into it expecting that the clinician would be working with everyone to their level even though it was a group. I was wrong. 

So was my "trainer" for putting me in that position. 

So was the clinician who set up a series of tasks for a beginner class and never once actually paid attention to anyone attempting to follow along with her. Nobody learned anything during that hour. It made me swear off clinicians, full training and a lot of other things. 

Thankfully we were off to WI a few short weeks later. 

December 19, 2016

Blogger Secret Santa

Friday after work I picked up the kiddo from school and headed home to find a large and unexpectedly heavy package at my front door. I figured it was for Wyatt since most things this time of the year are, but no! It had my name on it!

On closer inspection it also had a very familiar return label on it from Liz over at In Omnia Paratus.  I somehow managed to keep grabby 4 year old fingers away from it long enough to open it myself - the struggle with that is real - and gleefully tore it open wondering what on earth she stuffed into the bag that was heavy.

The first thing I encountered was this:

Himalayan salt granules. I can't wait to use these for both conditioning and competition. 
Not having used them before, I jumped online and did some research. It turns out they are jam packed with trace minerals. I'm really excited to add them to our electrolyte regimen.

Next up I pulled out the heavy object. Wyatt declared that it was a brick, but I told him there was no way Liz would mail a brick out. Turned out I was only partially right:

Carrot flavored because Gem is a Princess and won't settle for anything less
It was a brick - of sorts! I had to concede to my 4 year old that he was right. Once Gemmie comes home to live, she will be getting this to munch away on.

But there was still more in the bag. Last, but not least was:


A set of glorious, fuzzy and RED polos. I actually do not own a set of polos, a fact that I figured out only a couple weeks ago when a friend asked to borrow a set of red polos for a parade figuring that if anyone had something horsey and red, it would be me. I thought I had a set, but all I had were red standing wraps. So not only are these pretty, but they fill a gear void!

THANK YOU SO MUCH LIZ!! This was the best package and she hit the nail on the head with everything.


December 11, 2016

Haiku Farm Blog Hop

I do love blog hops :)  This one comes from Haiku Farm and is a great way to re introduce myself to any readers.

Straight from her blog:

Here's the directions:

  • Answer the questions (below) on your own blog, and leave a link to that post in the comments here.
  • In your post, invite readers to answer the questions on THEIR blogs, and link those blogs to yours AND to here.
  • Let's see how far this can travel!
  • Pictures!  Let's see lots of pictures of people and horses!

1) Introduce Yourself

I am a 34 year old full time working mother who lives in SC. My son is my whole world and pretty much everything I do is with one eye on him and how it will impact him. That doesn't mean I don't get out and do stuff for myself, but he is my #1 priority at all times. The way I figure it, why else be a mother?

In 2014 I decided to open my own private podiatry practice and added yet another layer of responsibility to my life. For the most part, I think it was a good decision, but there are times that I question my sanity. Health care is a very interesting beast here in the USA and one that I am extremely passionate about. Never get me started on the state of affairs of health care unless you have several hours to dedicate to the subject. The elderly are my main focus point.

Wyatt got face paint for his b-day. I made him a shark and he made me a purple monster (Lord Dregg from TMNT) then we went grocery shopping. The looks people gave me were priceless. 

Outside of all that, I love to read, color and have 15 active pen pals from all over the world.

2.) Introduce Your Horse

Gem is a 15H bay mostly Arabian mare. She has one line of QH way back on her pedigree and is actually registered as breeding stock pinto. I have her papers stashed away in our safe, but haven't looked at them in years. She came to me in 2010 and will hopefully not leave again for a very long time.

Her registration picture. Attitude all the way.

She is extremely intelligent, holds a grudge like no other and is not very brave or confident. It took me 3 years to convince her to open up and let me in and ever since we have reached a new level in our relationship. With all her quirks, she is extremely athletic and game to try almost anything I ask of her.

3.) What is Your Favorite Horse Sport? Do You Cross Train in Other Activities?

Ride and Tie is my true passion, but I don't currently have the means to do much of it. Combining running and riding is just so much fun and a whole new layer of athleticism is required. No one can say that the horse does all the work, thats for sure!

Endurance is a close second with the hunter pace series coming in a third.

I don't think I truly cross train, at least not nearly as much as I should. I have such limited time right now that I tend to stick with what will have the most impact on our ability to compete. In the past I used to do quite a bit of intro level dressage work and jumping during the week and then trail riding on the weekend. With the up coming move, I hope to get back to that routine.

For myself, I run three times a week working with an interval app. It has really made a big difference in my enjoyment of running and my times. I think I may actually like running now! Pre Wyatt I lifted weights two days a week as well, but you know...that whole time thing again. There just isn't enough of it.

How I feel about running most days. Having to squeeze it in at 8:30 pm after a 10 hour day of work followed by playing with Wyatt before bed, may have something to do with it. 

4.) Who Else in Your Family Rides?

That is easy - nobody!

5.) What is Your Proudest Equestrian Accomplishment?

Hands down the Biltmore 100 mile endurance ride. Finishing it in 18 hours with plenty of time to spare and mid pack with enough horse under me to go out again if needed was inspiring. Gem was a beast and never let me down.

Pictures Courtesy Liz Stout

6.) What Was Your Lowest Moment as a Horse Owner/Rider?

The entire first year with Gem was really bad. I lost my temper a lot. She had no interest in me. We just were not on the right page and ended up fighting each other way more than we should have. Things got a whole lot better when we moved to WI and she was in my back yard so we could just hang out together and learn to like each other. Then it just kept building from there.

I can't find any pictures of me in WI, so this will have to do to prove we really did once live in the snow. 

7.) What is the Most Important Small Thing You Learned in a Lesson?

I haven't taken many real lessons, so I don't have a lot to pick from. I'd say the best thing I was ever told was by a friend:

Horse + Rider = 10 Always.

When Gem comes at me at an 8 I need to calm the poop down and bring my own level to a 2. Likewise, when she is Miss PokeyPants at a 3, I need to up the ante at a 7.

It has really helped me in a lot of situations.

8.) Do You Have Any Riding Rituals or Superstitions? 

Not really. I always groom her starting on one side from head to butt then walk around, give her a big hug around her neck, then do the other side.

That one time I go bus lost for 6 hours in the woods without food or water. Oops. It did teach her to eat and drink whenever able thought, so that was one good thing that came out of it all. 

9.) What Are Your Short Term Goals for Yourself/Your Horse?

Move the horses home so I can actually see my horse again. Then I would like to begin riding again and build back up to where we used to be fitness wise.

More of this please!!

10.) Long Term Goals?

Make that elusive Decade Team in endurance. Only 7 years to go!

I'd like for Gem to get her bronze medal in 100s (only 2 to go), but I'm not so sure I'd like to be the one in the saddle doing them. Night riding just wasn't my thing.

Even longer term, I'd love it if Wyatt got interested in some level. Maybe he could be my R&T partner, do hunter paces with me or tackle to endurance trail. Any and  all would make my life complete.

11.) If Time and Money Were No Object, What is Your Dream Equestrian Vacation?

A coast to coast ride across Wales on Welsh ponies. It was our 10th Anniversary plan, but then we had Wyatt. When I was traveling overseas, Wales was my favorite place on earth and honestly, retiring there some day isn't that far fetched.
Our honeymoon spent in France

5 days of riding from the French Alps to the Mediterranean

Pure perfection

12.) What Kind of Horse Activities Were You Doing 10 Years Ago?

None. I was deeply entrenched in medical school, living in the city with horses no where in sight.

13.) What Type of Horse Activities do You Think You Will be Doing in 10 Years?

That seems so far off. Gem will be 28 and our decade team either awarded or abandoned. She will likely be retired or just doing short fun rides. I'd guess I would have a new horse although I can't even begin to imagine what that horse will be.

I'd love to branch out and learn to jump on a horse that actually enjoys doing it, so that will play a big role in what type of horse I'd have.

What I'd love to be doing is R&T with Wyatt.

Riding with the hubby again would be lovely. We rode really well together with him begin braver and pushing my envelope a little each time. 

14.) What is the Quirk About Your Horse That You Like Most?

Gem watches for me coming into the barn drive and knows my car (it is pretty funny when I get a new car). She then come over to the gate and makes sure I know she knows I am there. Once I get out and say hello, she takes off at a gallop with tail flagged to the far side of the pasture. I have to go out and walk over to her while she stands behind a tree, hiding. Once I am within 50 ft or so, she will slowly walk to me and put her head down to get her halter on.

It is a cute game she has to play. We will see how it changes once she is home.

December 9, 2016

2016: What A Year It Has Been!!

"Don't live the same year 75 times and call it a life"
- Robin Sharma


It is a new year. Again. Funny how fast the time keeps flying by. Things begin in 2016 much like they left off in 2015. Gem is looking a little under weight and shaggy, but seems content enough. My eyes are set on two days of 50s at McCauley Farms in April, but I am a little concerned about her condition. The first ride of January is soggy, slippery and grey but a lot of fun as I explore Kings Mountain State Park for the first time along with a good friend. 

My suspicions are confirmed though on the 6th when the lack of forage and access to water catches up to us and Gem suffers a, thankfully, minor bout of colic. It is enough for me though and I begin a frenzied search of the internet for a new barn. Two nice places and one crazy lady later and we land on a semi private eventing barn 40 minutes away. It will be the farthest Gem has ever been from me, but the barn is really close to all the hunter paces so it seems like a wash. 

Winter can't clear off fast enough as February rolls around. Having been put in charge of the horses' nutrition for the first time, I dig into some major research: articles, presentation transcriptions, anecdotes, forums, and a contact with one of the best endurance nutritionists. This is all summed up here. Gem is placed on Triple Crown Senior first, but just doesn't seem to have enough energy on it so I switch her to the Complete formula which she excels on. Pete, poor obese man that he is, is given boring TC Lite. That isn't the only change for Gem - she gets a new side pull bridle and breast collar. The first Pace of the year kicks off at FENCE. I make a major piloting error, because life isn't interesting enough, and redo the entire first loop causing us to complete 30 minutes over time and way out of the ribbons. Sorry, Gem!!!

Looking like a real endurance pony! Wait...they all look bored to death, right?

March. You are a very interesting month. Turns out that warmer weather, better food and longer day light hours turns Gem into a bit of a freak show. Our first ride ends with me splatting unceremoniously on my back with some head contact. Its as good of an excuse for a new helmet as any though and the shopping commences.

Who me?? I would never do such a thing!! 
Fellow blogger Karen sends me a wonderful package: a new custom brow band for the Gemmiecakes. It fits onto the side pull really nicely and Gem really does look great in it. Time is starting to catch up to us and the reality is that Gem is not in the right condition to attempt a 2 day 100 so soon. BUT..... given another month she should be just fine for a 1 day 100 and the plan to make it to Biltmore 100 is hatched. By the end of the month, I am already starting to feel the effects of the 40 minute drive to see her which is resulting in less time at the barn and even less time on the trails.

One final change occurs this month: new kicks. After 6 years of being barefoot, Gem gets steel on the hinds and Easy Care NGs on the fronts.

The sun is finally staying up longer and longer, day light savings time has occurred and the breeze has turned warm - April has arrived!!! It starts off with a bang too as we tackle the Green Creek Hounds Pace  coming in insanely under time for the first time ever. Gem feels amazing the entire ride, is forward and happy and free and my grin never fades.

It is like riding in a fairy forest. 
On the 18th, I get to experience my first ever trailer tire blow out. Not fun. Enough said. The River Valley Hunter Pace on the 24th is a lesson on remaining calm when your riding a fire cracker, but we manage to finish upright, together and not bloody. Even though we are 9 minutes over time, I still consider not dying a win.

And thus we enter May, the single best month of the entire year, and before I know it Biltmore is upon us. The Biltmore 100 mile ride  is by far the single most amazing physical achievement of my entire life. I never feel too tired to mount back up again, Gem feels strong the entire day and never, ever spooks. Not one single time in all 18 hours and 100 miles.  Night riding scares the crap out of me and I pretty much just black out the entire first loop in the dark. When we go back out to repeat it again, I don't recognize a single thing. Fear. Its an amazing thing. Will I do another one? I'm really not so sure. I'd love Gem to do 2 more to get her bronze medal, but I really didn't enjoy riding in the dark and won't be fast enough to come in before it gets there. Lots to ponder for the future. At the end of the month, I get a tattoo to commemorate the event forever.

This sucker deserves to be extra big!

June sort of gets the shaft. Gem is on her 4 week break and gets to just fatten up, heal any micro trauma the ride caused and relax in the early summer sun. The best thing to happen all month is crewing the OD 100 for Liz. Not only do I get to help her complete her first 100, but I also get to meet and spend over 24 straight hours awake with Nicole and Carlos who are just simply amazing people.

On July 6th, Gem gets back on the trail again at Du Pont Recreational Forest. I'm curious to see if she is as brave, forward and free as she was during the 100, but no...she is not. I completely ignore the year end gathering for the hunter pace series since I missed the final three rides of the season, so I am caught off guard when I get notice that I have my 6th place (out of over 240!!) award!! Gem is earning her keep :) The rest of the month is scattered with some dressage type lessons, debating about where to go from here and just not getting back into the groove much at all.

While my own blog starts to lag from lack of any interesting content, I'm still avidly reading my favorite blogs online. One of which belongs to Olivia and I enter her contest as she switches over to a new format. In early August I win a handmade new bonnet complete with red fabric and unicorns on the ears.

Thanks Olivia!!!
The only other exciting news this month is a brand new car for me and a brand new to us dressage saddle for Gem. I absolutely adore my little red car and it fits my personality better than any other car I have ever had. I'm not so sure Gem feels the same about her new saddle, but it fits her well and it does the job.

Meet Red 
My lack of mojo continues pretty strong in September. Life constraints, the job and the long drive to see Gem all keep piling up. I manage to take off work to volunteer for the AEC Championship up at Tryon which is really fun. I have a creepy encounter on the trail at Croft this month and my ThinLine pad literally disintegrates while I try to hand wash it. Way to go September - you rock...not. One great thing does happen though - Dusty tackles an incredibly difficult, both mentally and physically, 24 hour run and does it with a smile.

A swift kick in the pants comes along with October in the form of the Ride and Tie East Coast Championships.  Theresa pairs up with me and holds up way more than her end of the bargain. She runs more than her fair share of the miles, but we still finish the long course and earn our buckle. I really love R&T and wish I could find a full time partner. I really think I would pretty much ditch endurance for R&T if I had someone to go with me. There are enough rides within a reasonable drive to make a full season out of it. Any takers??

The energy from the R&T quickly fades away again as the reality of my situation keeps hitting home. In November I meet up with a new riding friend at my favorite trails, but the day is squashed a bit by the fact that it is 11 hours from home for 90 minutes of riding. Something needs to change.

And change it does!!! At the end of the month we sign a lease on our very own (rental) farm. So many things led to this and my excitement is palpable in the air. Having Gem home means that I can see her every day. I can ride her every day. I can go out ad ride for an hour and only spend an hour away from my family. And not really even away since it will be in the hay field right next door. Sure, it isn't perfect. There isn't a barn, arena or trails. But I don't care about fancy. I care about seeing my girl every single day.

Overall, 2016 was the single best horse year I have ever had. With a 100 mile completion, R&T Championship belt buckle and 6th place overall the hunter pace series, it will be a year to beat.

After a ho hum second half of 2016 and complete lack of enough energy to care, 2017 is looking like it will come in and bring with it a refreshing amount of happiness.

December 5, 2016

ASSF Blog Hop: Location!

While there are some major horse happenings going on here, like perhaps maybe possibly "borrowing" some beautiful vinyl fencing and a horse shed from a property about to be torn down for housing, nothing can really move forward until our move in date.  Then it will be game on as we fix things up and prepare for the Dynamic Duo.

I did stumble upon a very interesting blog hop by A Soft Spot for Stars and really enjoyed reading about other people's regions, so I thought I would chime in on this one. Since I board 40 minutes away from where I live, I will try to cover both areas and highlight where they differ.


The Upstate of South Carolina is nestled an hour to the southeast of the Blue Ridge Mountains and three hours northwest of the coastal plains and ocean.  We are a little too far away to be in the true foothills, but it is still mostly rolling type hills. While there is a lot of pasture land, the area is also heavily wooded with deciduous pines and hardwoods. The horses are closer to the mountains and in a much more rural region than where we live although we hope to one day move about 20 minutes out into the more rural part and still stay close to family and work. 

 My typical view through my favorite black tipped ears
There are numerous large lakes that sport dozens of marinas, hiking trails and fishing opportunities. One thing that does make me sad is the lack of wildlife. I've seen maybe a dozen deer in three years even in all my rides and hikes. Wild boar have crossed my path a time or two, but really there just isn't much. I'm not sure if they have all been hunted to extinction (doubtful given the horrific amount of hunting that went down in WI and the large numbers of wildlife still around), but I'm guessing that it is just too hot and too dry for wildlife to thrive. I'm sure it is out there, but we have been in some pretty remote areas and still didn't even see a squirrel. There are a lot of birds of prey, but few song birds. 

Mountain views as well

Beef cattle and horses are the dominant pasture animals although goats and sheep are around as well. Only one dairy exists in the area and it has become a tourist stop for locals. Coming from WI, that is really funny. No real crops are grown save some small local farmers with vegetables that they have you pick or they take to the farmer's market. The red clay and dry, hot summers are just not conducive to growing large acres of crops. Vegetables are grown year round though. I find it odd when people are just starting to plant in November for a December harvest - broccoli, cabbage, winter greens are all grown in the winter months. Fresh vegetables are really available year round. 

Delicious home grown cabbage picked in December
As far as facilities go almost all have a barn, outdoor area and room to hack around the perimeter of the grounds. I'd say half have lights and half don't even he high end ones. There are a lot of cross country courses to play around on for a minimal day fee or to clinic with. Turn out is usually plentiful. I don't know a single facility that doesn't have turnout and most are very spacious. Stall board usually comes with day time turnout in the cooler months and night turn out over the summer which was new to me when I moved here. Indoor arenas just don't exist. The fanciest places will have a covered out door, but very, very few have a full blown indoor. Round pens are also not a thing here.


Pasture board - $250 with grain and hay twice daily and typically enough summer coastal and winter       fescue planted to allow grazing most of the year.

Stall board - $400 around us and $600 up where the horses are

Training board - $1,000

Trim: $30-50

Shoes: I've paid $70 up to $260 for all 4, so I have no clue. I think average is $120 for a set of 4

Hay: $7 square bale of fescue or coastal. Timothy has to be brought in and I've seen it as high as $14. I don't buy round bales, but they typically run $35 for fescue or coastal. I've paid $19 for a compressed bale of alfalfa.

Lessons: For beginner intro level stuff it seems to be $35 for a private hour. Anything more than that, or with any of the numerous big names around here, it is averaging out to be about $50 for a private half hour or group hour.  


The real reason to live here!! The unique placement between the mountains and the coast offers a break from typical weather patterns of the state. Too far away for hurricanes or snow with a light breeze to help move the humidity. Although, I must say this year has been odd - we are currently in a severe drought (we were over 10 inches short last month), there were then wild fires all around us and last Wednesday there were two confirmed tornados only miles from my house and work that flattened whole neighborhoods.

We still get to enjoy four distinct seasons with beautiful fall foliage, however winter is truncated and summer lasts forever. Fall and spring actually exist as separate seasons from winter too which is such a different experience than living up north where they both just felt like variations of winter.

Since we are currently at the end of fall/early winter, I will start there. The rain typically begins in November and runs through March or April and it brings with it a damp cold. Temperatures do get into the low 20s/upper teens at night, but thanks to the extremely hot southern sun, the days tend to stay in the upper 30s or low 40s. I ditched the Ohio unicloud a long time ago and am happy to report the skies stay blue and the sun warm even in the dead of winter. We will get a snowy mix about once or twice a year which shuts the entire city down.

Snowzilla 2016
Spring is my all time favorite. Starting in March the temperatures get to the 50s and 60s again and the flowers burst out. The rain can continue, but generally there are enough breaks for the sun to keep things dry. Nothing like thawing out up north where everything was a mud pit for months on end. The sticky slick red clay does drain really well.

Summer bring stemperatures that consistently stay in the mid 90s with several weeks in the upper 90s/100 range. This isn't so bad, but the humidity does kill you. It really isn't safe to ride at all in July and August. The mornings do give you a brief respite and you can get a ride in just as the sun comes up, but the evenings are suffocating as the sun goes down and the humidity rises. Summers are typically very dry here with minimal rain.

Then fall comes in around the end of October or early November. Temperatures finally drop in the 70s and the rain begins to return to the region. I've worn capris and a short sleeved shirt on Wyatt's birthday the end of November every year since we moved here. It is fantastic.


Hands down, it is predominantly English based with eventing taking the top spot. With Aiken 2.5 hours one direction and Tryon 1.5 hours the other, you can't really escape it. In my opinion, dressage and all the competitive ways to be on the trail (endurance, ride and tie and hunter paces) as well as recreational trail riding, are tied for second. There are a ton of trail riding groups based here and the endurance community is really strong. There are 4 endurance venues hosting 7 rides throughout the year within 3 hours of my house. 

Hunter/jumper land isn't really on my radar and I don't see a whole lot about it although I'm sure it occurs often and the western disciplines are pretty much on the fringe. There are three large fox hunting clubs as well.
            OTHER NOTES

While it is extremely rare to have trail access from a barn, there are numerous places to go close by. Within 2 hours of my house there are 7 state or national parks with trails that I can think of off the top of my head, plus Biltmore. 

With all the riding that goes on around here, there is only one tack shop in town and it is really expensive with a weird hodge podge of all english items. I'm guessing most people drive up to Tyron or over to Aiken for any major shopping. I've been up to Tryon and I was not impressed at all with the selection they had. It was all show stuff and very over priced. Also, there are no consignment shops. I find that really odd. Of course, I came from Ohio where I lived 15 minutes from Big Dees and Schneiders along with about 5-6 mom and pop shops and a wonderful consignment shop. I think I was spoiled. 


Hay. Hay really frustrate me. When someone tells me they have a hay field I imagine a field like up north: tilled, planted and fertilized grasses meant specifically for hay which is cut three times then turned over and restarted from dirt again the next season. Down here people, quite literally, just mow their front yard and call it hay.  It astounds me every time. No care. No tilling. No replanting. They just cut it when it is high enough and repeat just like you would your front yard (which most of this time this is with house and all). Strange. Plus coastal really is poor quality when compared to timothy and orchard and fescue isn't much better.  

Lessons. I really don't know how you learn to ride down here. Everyone just assumes you own your own horse. There are only 3 lesson barns with lesson horses for you to learn on. The rest of the plethora of trainers only lesson on your own horse. I had originally thought that when Gem retired from riding, depending on Wyatt's stage of life, I would likely not repurchase and instead just take lessons and learn to jump or do dressage on a lesson horse until I could once again devote my time to my own. I really don't see how that is possible in
this region as nobody does that.