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.


  1. Such a huge year! And next year's recap will be full of adventures of your horse at home!!

  2. You've had an awesome year. I look forward to seeing your 2017 with the new house.

    1. Thank you. I really enjoy looking back through my posts. It puts everything in perspective for me. Right now I have no horse life. I only rode once in Nov and it is looking like none this month with work, Christmas and moving obligations. But that doesn't mean we haven't had a killer year overall

  3. Lots of major accomplishments!