Thursday, April 12, 2018

Getting Back to It...or "Let's Go Endurancing Again"

So, I'm kind of a bundle of nerves.  Which is ridiculous.

Strider and I are fixing to make the 5 hour drive to Mount Pleasant and the Priefert Ranch to go do Racing Stripes.

Here's the current plan.

Intro on Friday of 15 miles.
LD on Saturday of 25 miles.

There was a lot of thought that went in to this.

The Intro is to earn points for my Green Bean team AND to earn PFHA points towards "Pleasure Long Distance Trail Horse". 

The LD is fairly obvious.  We're not as ready as I'd hoped to be.  I know he can do an LD without a LOT of preparation.  The original plan was the LD on Friday and Intro Saturday....BUT....

One of the ladies I was planning to ride with now can't make it up until Friday.

Two, currently, there is 100% chance of thunderstorms and rain on Friday.  At least it will be in the 70s?

Three, the LD on Friday is 30 miles. 

So, on Friday, I only need to slog through 15 miles in the rain.  And stay on the damn horse.  And not die.

Also, and more importantly, I'm changing up Strider's headgear.  So, the Intro will give me a good opportunity to try it out with only 15 miles instead of 25.  However, he's never really been a fire breathing dragon at the start of a ride, just eager to go.

I am also going to test out my riding rain gear on Friday. 

But, I'm nervous because this is our first ride back since his injury.  I don't quite count the NATRC ride as we were able to keep a slower MPH average.  Yes, it was still 18 miles, but...that was just different.  Not better or worse, but different. 

So, deep breath, and here we go....

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Welcoming New Additions....or "Because I Wasn't Busy Enough..."

Spring is here in glorious Texas.  And it's riding weather!!!

For Joe, though, it isn't exactly "comfortable" riding. 


Because he usually has to ride Socks.  And, while Socks is the sweetest, most gentle natured horse, his trot's akin to a jackhammer.  Which I know is directly related to some of his fitness level.  So, if I had the time and inclination, I could potentially fix, or at least, improve it.

But...I don't. 

So, with that in mind, and having had to listen to Joe grouse about how badly it hurt his knee to ride Socks, I've kept my eyes and ears open for a replacement for Tilly for him.

A few months ago, Strider's accupressurist came to visit me from a friend's facility where she'd worked on a horse, and she said "This horse will be PERFECT for Joe!"

She showed me some pictures of this chestnut gelding.  I said I'd think about it, talk it over with Joe, because my friend said she had a few horses she bet would work for him.

Life got busy, things got in the way, didn't make it out. 

Joe kept grousing he didn't have a horse of his own.

My friend kept gently prodding for us to come over and see her horses.  She said she had one that LOVED men, and was FAST and TALL.  Well, sounds like a horse Joe might like.  But that she also had.....that chestnut gelding too!

So, I finally manage to arrange for my parents to watch Kaylee, and we set the date to go out and look at horses.

I had already convinced Joe to help her out and to take in a colt that needed to be weaned off his dam, who she was calling Elvis.  Okay, not a problem, colt is small, I have space, sure, I'll help.  Plus, I enjoy playing and messing with foals...well, I enjoyed Strider.  My ex had a colt who I loathed working with.  So, I guess I'm really 50/50 on foals, huh?

Anyway, we go out, and Joe clicks almost immediately with this bay Paso mare.  She is about 14.1, soft, doe eyes and she seems to click with Joe.  Just wants to be touched and loved on.  The rescuer (M.B.) doesn't know a lot about the mare, so, we pull her out, groom her, saddle her up and M.B. gets on her in the barn (small area so she can't take off).  Then my friend H gets on her. 

Then Joe gets on her.  I'm not even sure what happened.  Saddle got over tightened.  Ground was slick.  She had just had enough.  I dunno, but the mare put her head down, back hunched, and she bucked, and Joe came off, hard, on his shoulder.

He wasn't mad at the mare.  Knew she could have problems, but he figured she was more of a project than we'd want to handle (YES!  I don't have time to work 3 horses daily).

So, we went and looked at the mare she told me was tall and fast. 

She IS tall.  A true over 15 hand Paso Fino mare.  Pretty.  But, with the wind, she was a kite on a string.  And hadn't been ridden in a year and a half having just had a foal. 

Joe also felt she was too narrow for him.  And perhaps a little TOO hot.

So, then we went to look at the chestnut gelding.

He isn't anything fancy or splashy.  Big blaze.  2 white socks (on alternating front and rear legs).  He does have an eye injury on his right eye.  And, he's 18.

There is something about looking into a horse's
eye that gets to me every, single time.

We'll never know what happened, and he'll
always have a marked eye, but it doesn't
seem to slow him down.
 Not going to lie...I was a little put off by his age.  But Joe REALLY liked him.  Thought he was sweet.

So, I put my personal feelings aside and LISTENED to Joe.  And asked myself why I was so put off by his age.

"Socks is 18.  You don't think HE is too old!  So, why do you think THIS horse is too old?"

And at THAT moment,'t discount this horse. 

My friend H hopped up and rode him around.  And he was fine. 

Joe asked me to hop up, so I did, and he was fine for me too.

He's a grade MFT, and it appears he knows how to foxtrot.  Not consistent, but he CAN foxtrot. 

He's chunky.  Thick.  Stout.  And, perhaps not the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Also, obsessed with food.

I love that his socks are on alternate sides, one on the front, one on the back.
Which is exactly what Joe needs.  Not a horse that is looking to out-think him, or to pull antics. 

"Okay, we want to take Ranger home too."

So with that, we borrowed H's stock trailer (H was worried Elvis might try and turn around and jump out of the back of my 2H), and we loaded up Ranger, then had the task of trying to catch and halter Elvis. 

It didn't take very long, but we got him caught, haltered and loaded up and headed for home.

I'm going to admit, when I got Strider and then Sailor, both colts knew the fundamentals; lead, weren't AWFUL to load, let me touch them all over, etc.  I was able to advance to other things like "lunging" (not hard lunging to work, but teaching them walk/gait), backing, roll backs and other useful things a horse needs to learn.  In fact, I will NEVER forget, the first time I went to meet Strider, his breeder grabbed a hold of his testicles, and said "Both dropped already!"  At the time, I thought she was showing me that he was fully capable of being handled LITERALLY all over.  I realize now, she was showing me he wasn't a cryptorchid.  So, my goal is to get Elvis to the point where I can touch him like that.  So, you know, I can make sure the gelding process will be simple.

However, he's had a rough start in his life.  Gone through an auction, but at least he stayed with his dam.  But, basically unhandled (some basic halter work, but...nothing much to speak of).  He doesn't know how to lead very well.  He's scared of humans.  Doesn't want to be touched.  He also has a wound on his left hindquarter.  I'm hoping he heals up sound as he appears to be a little off right now at the gait.  He also, BADLY needs his front feet done.

BUT, I have to do basic steps to get him to where I can even HAVE someone come out and do his feet. 

So, I have somehow gone from 3 horses, to 5. 

And, now besides just working with Strider, I'm having to work with Elvis daily.  On my Facebook feed, I am keeping a daily log (under the hashtag of #BabyGait) of what I am doing so that I can remember WHAT has been done with him.

Elvis is NOT supposed to be a long-term keeper on the Ranch.  No.  I do NOT need nor want to RAISE a foal who I have no idea if he'll even want to do endurance.  Nor any idea what size he'll grow to.  Because, honestly, that was Joe's first response when I said I wanted to help wean Elvis.  "Let's keep him and he can be my horse."

7 years Joe.  I like to wait 7 years for my foals to grow (see Dr. Deb Bennett's "Ranger Study", or Dr. Mel Newton's blog post about growth plates).  So, it's a long investment of time to be unsure of what I'll have when I'm done. 

If he was going to stay black...I'd be tempted!  Strider is marked like this, and was
as a baby.

He is sweet though.  And not a mean bone in his body.  Yet.  Waiting for the
testosterone to hit. 

After 6 days of work though, he is settling in nicely.  He will gray out at a young age (he's already starting to gray).  He is going to make a good riding horse if he heals up sound, and once I get those feet trimmed.  He has settled in well, but clings to Ranger (who is a barely tolerant nursemaid).  I can get him in a catch pen, halter him (once I physically touch him).  He can lead, but not well (and if he doesn't want to go somewhere, I have to put the rope around his butt, then he follows willingly and nicely).  He is learning to flex left and right.  He gives up both of his front feet and allows me to hold them and wriggle them around.  He also drops his head now.  That took me 3 days to show him, and on day 4, he beautifully dropped his head below his withers with just a gentle "wriggle" of my fingers on his poll.

He appears to be smart, but is a little wary.  And he does seem to prefer Joe to me right now.  He does let Kaylee approach him in the catch pen when he's loose, so, eventually he's going to turn it all around.  He's already well on his way!

Now, to see about filing a breeding report (I know his dam, and his sire could be one of 3 studs kept on this gentleman's property) AND to see about picking a name.  He won't wear the HGR name.  I didn't make him, but, I want him to have a good name so he can have good karma to set him up for a good future.

Welcome to HGR boys!!

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Michael Gascon, the Horse Guru...or "Sometimes It Really IS the Rider's Fault!"

I thought I'd done a write-up, but it appears I didn't.  The last weekend of September, I attended a Michael Gascon clinic in the Houston area.  I had PLANNED to take Strider to it, but, as I stopped by Holly's to have him trimmed up before we left, that's when we saw he was still off when he had to pivot on that left hind.  Which, of course, led down the path of Strider being off for 6 months recovering.

Oh?  Who is Michael Gascon?

If you're into horses (and even if you're not), you've seen him.

Not familiar still?

There's this one:

There, NOW do you know who I'm talking about?

So, for the Michael Gascon clinic in September, I ended up taking Dakini instead.  I didn't feel like driving an hour home to grab Tilly, and take her and tell Michael "Yeah, I know NOTHING at ALL about this horse."  Though, Joe REALLLLLLY wanted me to.  But, Dakini was closer, I knew her better, so I ran and dropped Strider at H's and snatched up Dakini and away we went.

Here is a 16-ish minute video of Dakini and I on the 2nd day of the clinic.

NOTE:  She had gotten a front leg hung up in a manger feed net in the trailer, so she was sore, which we didn't notice until after trying to ask her to gait.  She's always been willing and eager to gait, but she didn't seem to want to, and she felt "off" to me, so we cut the ride short.


At the beginning of January, Michael mentions he's doing a clinic in Georgetown (which is where I grew up), AND that he's giving away 10 free spots.  I immediately went in to "I want to win a spot!" mode.  I fully planned to audit, but, hey, why not try and win a spot too?!  

So, back in January, I had a disaster of a ride on Tilly (I wrote about it here).  I am friends with Michael's girlfriend on Facebook (she's just so sweet!!!), and, I am sort of sure (kind of...I cannot PROVE it, and I don't want to ask) that I was given a slot in the clinic being held here in Texas in March so I would bring her.

Talk about thrilled AND excited!! 

My friend B was also given a spot with her gelding, Gatlin.

Well, we all know what happened with Tilly.

So, the NEXT best thing was I was now able to take Strider.  And, while he is, to me, a good horse, he has issues.  Most notably his "bunny buck" when he shifts from a gait to a canter.  It's been his "signature" move for going on 6 or so years now.  And I've tried to figure out what the root cause of it is, but I had finally just accepted it as "Well, this is how it's going to always be."

At the September clinic, I had asked Michael about it, but I hadn't yet had the time to see if he did it while on the lunge line, or ONLY under saddle.

Well, the Friday before the clinic arrived.  A group of us met up to go trail riding for a few hours at Lake Granger.  Which was very nice (I haven't had a chance yet to upload my Garmin stats.  But we rode for probably 3 to 3.5 hours all together).  I let H ride Strider so that B's mom (LM) could ride Blondie.  I rode Socks for a while, then, we looped back, Socks got left behind and at some point, I ended up riding L's horse Joe.

We rode for a while, then headed back.  At that point, B had bathed Gatlin and I gave Strider a quick hose down, because we had been told that, for the weekend, our horses would be stabled at this new facility.

Solo Stables (McLeod Equestrian)  is a top notch facility.  B and I were shocked when we rolled up.  From the gorgeous log cabin, to the open fields, the barn...everything is being built from the ground up, and every, single thing is being done at no expense spared for the horses.

4 wash racks with hot and cold water.  A fan at the wash racks and in every stall.  Locking tack room.  Large and expansive feed room with a fridge, and a washer and drier.  Each stall has the ability to swing open to become a foaling stall.  Large automatic waterers.  Cushioned matting beneath all of the nice pine shavings laid down.  Nicely thought out and built.  I didn't take any pictures, because...well...I felt that would have been creepy.

So, B and I get a quick tour, and our host, Logan McLeod invites us to make his home ours for the weekend.  He is a kind and gracious host.  Whatever we wanted or needed, our horses had for the weekend.  We get them both settled in to their stalls, say hello to Michael and Sophie, then split because we're meeting everyone for dinner (our host who's home we were all staying at, J.B. [Strider's accupressurist], her husband JD, H and her husband, L, myself, B and B's mom).

After a delicious dinner, we all head back to J.B.'s and JD's house, where we play with her dog Cooper, all of us take showers, sit and talk, and around midnight, we all end up going to bed to crash.

Everyone up early, and we head to the barn to check on our horses and see how they did.

Strider, apparently, can't figure out an automatic waterer.  He got hit with some electrolytes, and I put one of my tubs in his stall filled with water, which he worked down during the day.

I also took him to the wash rack and rinsed him off as he'd made himself right at home and laid down in the stall.  In, of course, a big ol' poop pile.  *sigh*

So, the clinic is a little slow to start as people keep trickling in, we're all eating breakfast, socializing, talking with old and new friends, getting chairs and such set up. 

Sophie asks B if she'll go get Gatlin to use as the first horse of the day.  So, Bonnie goes in and gets him dressed (tacked up), and the clinic begins.

Information overload commence. 

We watch Michael work Gatlin, a horse who won the "naughty horse challenge" (she was fairly naughty), a horse that Michael had had at his facility in Mississippi for 90 days, a couple on a pair of Paso Finos that are doing the show in Texas here late in April (suggestions and tune up ideas), a Western Dressage National Show Horse, a rescue Paso (who was VERY naughty, but is owned by the sweetest 70 year old woman you'll meet in your entire life!!!), an appaloosa filly who had NEVER been under saddle EVER (that Michael GOT going gently under saddle), we got to see the stallion and broodmare from Michael's farm that are now owned by Red Solo Stables as their foundation breeding stock Pasos...and somewhere in there, was Strider.

Michael always asks the owner what are your goals with the horse, and what would you like to do better.

Side pass and get rid of the bunny buck.

The side pass....well...we're gonna need to work HARD on that....but...

Well, see for yourself what Michael did.

(apologies, as I talk some through this video....which, heads up, is 33 minutes long)

Basically, just watching horse, while "good", is hella disrespectful (this isn't exactly a news flash to ANYONE who has known or met my horse).

I have a LOT to work on.  My seat and my feet, most importantly.  -I- am why he bunny bucked.  It wasn't the saddle, it wasn't anything else but ME.

Strider, who is standing still, and starting to get MENTALLY tired.
Sit back, free up his shoulders, let him go.

I didn't get video on Sunday, but, on day 2, you show Michael what you remember from Day 1 with your horse and YOU work them.

Now, I had asked Michael on Day 2; "I honestly don't know how to ask for it, but, do you think my horse can largo?"

"Your horse can largo."

So, he hopped on, set his head, and off they went.  At a largo.

It made my heart swell just a tiny bit when Michael came back and said "He is a FAST little bugger!!"  Go Strider go!!!  :)

This is a photo from day 1, but he's talking to me about headset and how
I'm saying "go" and "whoa".

Again, Michael had to remind me, if I want my horse to largo, I need to collect his head just a little bit to help, and drive him into the bridle.  For a canter, keep my seat the same, but loosen up on the reins so he has the freedom to go (don't say "Go" with your seat and "Whoa" with your hands).

Sit back.  Feet forward.  I swear that's what Michael
had to keep telling me.  And I just cannot remember it!

Even if you're not into natural horsemanship, or you think gaited horses are dumb, or you think "If I've seen one trainer, I've seen them all", well...I can't help you.  Your mind is closed.

HOWEVER, the way Michael teaches is innovative for the hotter horses.  It also works on your cold horses (Quarters, Paints, etc), but, as he says, having to learn on the Paso Fino, has been his greatest blessing.  They are HOT horses (for the most part).  So, you don't want to amp them up to work on them.  I jokingly said that because I learned some basic fundamentals from the "big name" natural horsemanship trainers who are famous, but mostly deal with QHs, that I used THEIR methods, and basically built my endurance horse trying to wear him out!.

But, he is one of the nicest young men you'll ever meet.  He is genuine and sincere in trying new methods until the horse understands (at the Houston clinic, there was a horse that wouldn't back, and he went through what most people would try, then he started having to get was amazing to watch).  He never has a negative thing to say; but he WILL be honest with you.

So, you can either visit his website: Gascon Horsemanship

Or, check out his Facebook page: Michael Gascon - The Horse Guru

Every Wednesday he does a live video stream called "Horsetalk".  You can go through the archives and watch old episodes of it. 

So, if you ever happen to be in the area where he's doing a clinic, go and audit, at the very least.  You will walk away with SOMETHING, I promise.

Monday, March 26, 2018

7iL Scamper....or "Part Two of Our First NATRC Experience"

The entire morning was far more leisurely for NATRC as compared to an endurance ride morning.

As we had some late arrivals that didn't get to vet in on Friday night, they were allowed to vet in on Saturday morning.  And, while technically the start time was at (I believe) 7:30, NATRC starts are a little bit different.

One, they pushed back the start time so the people who needed to vet in would have time to get back to their trailers and tack up and be ready.

So, all of us at our little trailer camp kind of took our time getting dressed and our horses ready.  That was kind of nice.

T.M., as she was riding in the Open division with Sunny, had to leave with the first wave of riders, so she got tacked up and went ahead and got out with all of them.  We actually waved to her as she walked by our trailer camp.  We weren't even in the saddle yet!  That is how laid back the start of a NATRC ride is! 

L.B. managed to swing up on Spy.  However, he just wasn't really feeling it, and wouldn't settle down.  So, L.B. opted to not ride, and swung off.  I hopped up on Strider, who couldn't understand why horses were walking by, and we were just standing around.  C.B. mounted up on Silas, and we went over to the out timer area and walked around, loosening our horses up.  Every single horse, but one, was calm.  Walking easily.  It was VERY laid back.

For NATRC, you go out in a group of 2 people, and there's a timer who notes when you start.  You then have however much time between Minimum and Maximum time to complete the course from your starting time.

Now, I didn't look at my watch, or pay attention to when I was timed out.  Several of the experienced NATRC riders suggested getting 2 watches to wear; one that has the actual time, and one you set to noon and start once you're timed out so you know how long you're out on course.  Good idea!  My Garmin also works for that as well, but as I didn't quite understand how things worked, I paused my ride for the first vet check, so that time wasn't accounted for.  And there was a hold at an obstacle that the time waiting could be added back at the end of the ride if needed. 

Basically, lots of things I didn't know, but do now!!!

So, timed out, and we ride by our trailers.  Strider can see horses ahead and he's pulling on me, eager to get going as fast as possible and "beat" those other horses.  I am so grateful his race brain is controllable.  Sure, he pulls on me and it makes my hands and shoulders/upper back sore, but he isn't dangerous.

At this point, C.B. realizes her saddle pad is slipping back no matter what she does to adjust it.  She decides she too is going to call it a day, go spend time riding in the arena and volunteer instead of risking her horse.

So Strider and I go through the first gate, and the RM is sitting there on the Mule (vehicle, not the 4 legged kind).

"This is the first obstacle.  From this point to the judges ahead, we want you to trot, when you get to the judges stop for a 3 count."

Okay then, easily done.  Gently nudge Strider up, and he willingly gives me the gait, though he briefly side-eyes the cows milling around to his right as we stop before the judges.  I know now, to help the judges out, I should have counted out loud to the 3 count, because I counted it in my head.  Once I was done, I asked the judges if there was something else I needed to do, was that really it?

"That was it, thank you!"

So nice!  Okay then, so off we go again.  And right ahead I can see a group of about 3 or 4 women.  I want to be alone for the moment as Strider and I are still discussing our speed, and I'm not sure about ride etiquette with riding with people I don't know.  And, to be honest, I'm not good at socializing as I have some anxiety. 

So, it's just Strider and I for a while as I keep him back off the group ahead of me.  No big deal.  We discuss our speed issues, and he just continues to feel a little confused to me.  He cannot understand why we're not actively engaged in speeding up and going faster.  That wasn't the name of this day's game.  This day's game was, first and foremost, see how he was after 6 months and to stay SOUND.  Everything after that is just icing on the cake.

Coming out of the woods.  Not happy with how I look (seems
like I'm leaning back?).  But, look at Strider!  He has his happy
ears on, and he's willingly chugging along with no urging!

At some point on this loop, I eventually pass the group ahead of me, as he really is just moving a little faster than they are, and I catch up with a wonderful lady on a mustang named Vino.  Our horses seem to get along with one another, they pace beautifully together, they willingly leap-frog with Vino leading, and then *GASP!* Strider leading willingly.

It was the rare, perfect meeting on trail where it all clicks in to place.  And the bonus is Vino's rider is sweet and kind and we both, at almost the same time, ask if the other is okay with buddying up for the rest of the ride.

And so we did.

Let me say I am so SO happy I did.  She helped me out through the entire ride.  Answered my questions.  Gave me some tips and pointers.

I found out at almost the end of the ride she is also a Horsemanship Judge as well, so I got some interesting perspective from her as well about how she judges obstacles as compared to the Horsemanship Judge this weekend.

As we come out of the woods, we come to the obstacle course at 7iL, and our second obstacle.  At this point, we're backed up and waiting.  Strider doesn't understand, so we start doing circles.  I encourage him to stop and graze, but he's having NONE of it.  We're just getting warmed up now mom, why the hold?

I see T.M. and Sunny going by on another trail and I wave to them and watch them chug off into the woods again.

Eventually, after watching Vino and his rider do the obstacle BEAUTIFULLY, it's our turn.

This obstacle was a gate.

For Vino and his rider, they needed to open the chain on the gate, maintaining control at all times of the gate, ride through the gate.  Vino's rider did the added bonus of putting the chain back on the gate.  :)

For my obstacle, I needed only open the gate and ride through.  Didn't need to maintain control, just open and get through it.

In true-to-Strider style, it took a few moments for me to even get NEAR enough to get the chain picked up.  He "helped" and shoved it open with his nose, and we rode through, as I laughed the entire time.

Now, I had asked the Horsemanship Judge the prior evening, would we get in trouble for swearing?  L.B. had warned her that, the last time she and I rode together, I called Strider a name.  Actually, that I spelled it out.  Which L.B. then spelled out for our Judge at dinner, which made her laugh hysterically (the word, by the the slang term for a rooster...and yes, I DID spell it out...I don't want my horse to learn bad language!).  So, as I saw the judge through the weekend, she would have a smile and a laugh and tell me and my "Rooster" (which she also spelled) to do our best.

So, as we went through the gate, she laughed and said we'd done well.

After the gate was our very first vet check.  We were asked to trot from one point to the vet check (my assumption is to check recoveries?).  We then dismounted, loosened girths and waited. 

NATRC is different from AERC in that they don't have a trot out, and go through everything.  For a vet check, they check pulse and respiration.  The horses were relatively calm, and Strider was down where he needed to be.  We cleared through, and used the offered mounting block to get back on and proceeded to head on down the trail.

I want to note that as I didn't really understand how this worked, I didn't carry any electrolytes on trail with me.  THAT said, however, Strider drank, or at least sipped, at 90% of the water on trail.  Trough, stream, puddle, he drank.  Again, I am not sure if this is because he's really got a grasp on distance riding and drinking when offered, if it was the electrolytes working on him, OR, as occurred to me during the day, that because the energy was lower, he felt calm enough to pause and take a drink when the opportunity arose.  Unsure.  But, we'll find out at our next endurance ride and compare!!!

Vino's rider and I are, at this point, leap-frogging with a duo, and, even once we put some distance between our groups, our boys will slow down, decide they want to graze, or something, and our groups will end up changing positions again.

At some point on this section of trail, it goes into single track.  SINGLE TRACK.  As in, you can't miss the trail.  However, the signage changes from the LARGE signs with a black arrow on a white background, to a smaller sign with a GREEN arrow on a white background.

Is that right?  Did we miss a turn?

At this point, we are once again caught up to the other 2, so, as a group, we all turn around and backtrack to the last sign we saw.  And follow it again.  To end up in the same place.  Again.

At that point, someone calls the RM and asks for clarification.  No, we're right. 

So, we continue along.

Vino's rider and I talk, and realize we're both ready to set up some distance, so, with Strider in the lead, we take off at an easy canter. 

Strider was happy to go.  Easy to ride.  Smooth and rateable.  I kept my eyes peeled for chuck holes, or things he could hurt himself on.  But we widen the gap handily and have a good time.

At this point, we're nearing camp again.  Vino's rider and I talk for a few minutes as she considers if she should electrolyte him.  I say I know there's a water trough ahead, maybe offer it to him then, although he's been drinking well.

We go by the large stock pond with easy access and I'm saying I usually listen if my horse asks, nicely, for something.  And, Strider asked, nicely, to go to the pond.  Thought maybe he was thirsty, so I allowed him to go up to it.  And he just walked on in.  And seemed like he was going to keep on walking further in.

NOPE NOPE NOPE!!  It was a little too cool for me to want a bath.  You want a drink, take a drink.  But we are NOT taking a bath!!!

So, I turn him back out, and we're both laughing as we keep going.

I was confused internally as we rode through camp, and then kept riding.  For some reason, I assumed there was a break/hold there.  NOPE!!  This really is all one, long, continuous ride. 

So, we kept on going, and headed out on the next loop.

This was a simple loop, nothing over complex.

We finally gave up trying to set up a pocket between our group and the other 2 ladies, so we all finally buddied up and stuck together for awhile.

Before we knew it, we were at the next vet check.  Hop off, loosen girth, wait.

Passed through handily, and there was the next obstacle with the vet (who once again went over my horse) and the horsemanship judge.

"In this area before you, pick the best area to mount from."

Let me lay the scene.

It's at the side of a stock tank.

There is a metal culvert almost to the water.

Small cow path into the stock tank.

A small little dirt mound.

Immediately ruled out the metal culvert.  A horse could cut themselves on it.

Put my horse IN the stock tank water and attempt the mount?  He'll lay down.  No.

The small cow trail?  Didn't put him low enough.

Dirt hill it was.

Internally, I'm like "We've got this!  Strider knows the 'Come Pick Me Up' cue!"

Except...I was nervous because Vino's rider was waiting.  I was nervous because I was being judged. 

And Strider kept doing circles around me.

It was just all falling apart until the Horsemanship judge said "Stop.  Just take a single breath.  Okay.  Now, ask him to take 1 step forward.  Okay, take another breath.  Now, ask for another step.  Okay, you're doing great.  Ask for another step."

And so she helped calm me and get my horse and I through it (she's seriously a very NICE woman!!!).

"Great job!"

And we rode off.

At that point, Vino's mom looked down and said "We're going to have to hustle to make cut off."

So, we did.

We pretty much FLEW down the trail when we could.  I kept an eye on my Garmin and told her, based on her estimate, where we were, and how fast we were going.

Of course, we came to a water crossing...

Coming up to the water...
And, they both wanted a drink, so of COURSE we were going to let them drink.

This is one of my favorite pictures.  I ordered it and will be framing it.
They both took long, healthy drinks of water.  We didn't rush them.  We let them take their time and get their fills.

Once they both finally stopped, we handily and calmly crossed the water, and then continued to haul tail into camp as quickly as we could.

When we made it in, the person who took our numbers said we were fine on time.  Vino's ride thought maybe we had burned through the time we had given to us at the gate obstacle, but we were told, no, we didn't need to use that time at all!!

This is what a (brand new) NATRC pony looks like after he's finished his 18 miles!
Blanketed because there was a slight nip in the air, and we still needed to get
through the final vet check!

WOW!!  So, at this point, Vino's rider and I hugged each other, the girls showed up, and I went and took care of Strider back at camp.  Feed, water...just everything he would need.  I asked about final vet check procedures and was told that once the vet came in off trail after the Open riders were done, there was usually an hour or so and then we bring them up and present again.

My endurance "tribe" at the NATRC ride (well, one of them has done NATRC before).
So, as we saw the line building, we realized the vet must be back, so we went and moseyed on over, got through our final vet check, then moseyed back to camp to wait for dinner.

So, here's our ride cards, if you're curious about what they look like.  Sorry they're a little hard to read!!!

I made this larger than normal in an attempt to make it easier to read.
If you've ever wondered what a NATRC score card looks like, this is
on the reverse side of the "Horse Scorecard".  Basically, these are your
vet scores and how you're graded.

This is the actual scoring side of the Horse Scorecard.  This is what the vet fills out.  Sorry that it's
hard to read.  The total summation is that out of a possible 100 points, TOTAL we lost 5 points.
1 for Jugular Refill in the morning and 1 for Gut Sounds, also Saturday morning.
At the Gate Obstacle, we lost 2 points for head tossing and him being anxious.
On the mounting obstacle, we lost 1 point as he wouldn't stand still for the vet check.

This is the Horsemanship Card.  This is how the rider is judged by the Horsemanship Judge.
I was very appreciative of the judge at this ride as she was very encouraging and actually
gave me some good advice at the mounting obstacle.
Again, out of 100 points, we lost 2 points.  1 for the Gate obstacle and
1 for the Mounting obstacle.
So, dinner.  DELICIOUS again.  NATRC riders put on some of the BEST spreads of food EVER!!!  It was fantastic!!!

Then awards.

Yes.  Those are TWO blue ribbons!!!
(Photo taken Sunday)
In our weight class AND division, Strider and I BOTH took first place!!!

I took first place in Horsemanship, and he took first place in Horse (as determined by the vet due to his vet scores).

One, it was ridiculously hysterical listening to them trying to say his name, as I registered him with NATRC under his registered name.

Two, I was so shocked and surprised I was tuning out a little bit because I figured we bombed so badly that I was just happy to be clapping for the winners (I don't need to win things to enjoy myself...I'm actually REALLY happy when other people do well!  I'm competitive, but not so competitive to know others aren't better than I am!).

I am over the moon delighted with him.  For his first "anything" at all since his injury, for him to come back, and have enough gas left in the tank to feel like he could have done day two at the NATRC ride (I briefly considered it, but, I wasn't going to push him THAT hard through the sand), is a testimony to his determination and grit as a horse.

I WILL be doing another NATRC ride.  Looks like it won't be until this fall, so I told the Horsemanship Judge she'll be seeing us again.  But next time, I want to do better, so we'll be working towards improving ourselves until next time.

Which...we will be.....

(And, if you care, here's the ride stats)


Time Cumulative Time Moving Time

Avg Speed Avg Moving Speed Max Speed
1 16:35 16:35 15:53

3.6 3.8 6.8
2 11:36 28:11 11:32

5.2 5.2 9.2
3 13:33 41:44 13:26

4.4 4.5 7.8
4 13:09 54:53 13:08

4.6 4.6 7.2
5 13:08 1:08:01 12:56

4.6 4.6 8.5
6 12:57 1:20:58 11:52

4.6 5.1 9.7
7 20:50 1:41:48 18:52

2.9 3.2 8.7
8 17:52 1:59:39 16:22

3.4 3.7 9.6
9 11:59 2:11:38 11:14

5.0 5.3 10.1
10 11:25 2:23:03 11:22

5.3 5.3 9.7
11 10:40 2:33:42 9:46

5.6 6.1 11.5
12 15:59 2:49:41 14:57

3.8 4.0 9.6
13 12:22 3:02:03 12:03

4.9 5.0 11.2
14 14:07 3:16:10 13:26

4.3 4.5 10.0
15 12:25 3:28:35 12:06

4.8 5.0 12.2
16 15:28 3:44:03 15:23

3.9 3.9 8.6
17 37:22 4:21:25 20:39

1.6 2.9 8.4
18 10:57 4:32:22 10:55

5.5 5.5 9.6
19 8:03.1 4:40:25 8:03.1

7.5 7.5 12.3
20 3:18.0 4:43:43 3:07

7.8 8.3 12.4
Summary 4:43:43 4:43:43 4:18:05

4.1 4.5 12.4

Just as an FYI, it's impressive that our last two miles were some of the fasted average moving times through the whole ride.  And he went effortlessly.  No prodding or nagging.

So proud of my boy!!

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

7iL Scamper...or "Part One of Our First NATRC Experience"

After River Run, and dealing with people next to us who didn't bring a fence charger and then the untimely death of a horse that Saturday evening/Sunday morning, one of my friends said she was going to seriously check out a NATRC (North American Trail Ride Conference) ride.

With NATRC offering a free membership for new members, I signed up.  Then spent literally WEEKS fighting to get my profile signed up on their website "RMS".  Honestly, that was THE most frustrating aspect of NATRC, the website.  I still find it unwieldy and a challenge to navigate.

Now, I joined and signed up planning to take Tilly.  And, since I knew she wasn't exactly reliable tied to a trailer (see also the $400 vet bill), I decided I would put her in a pen.

Well, we all know Tilly did NOT end up going. 

So then I decided I would be taking Socks (this was pre-vet visit) and that I would go ahead and keep the pen, despite him being okay tied to the trailer all night.

The reasons are many.  In NATRC, hoof and leg protection is not allowed (hoof boots are), and if you wish to ride with hoof or leg protection, you can ride in their "Distance Only" division, meaning you will not get a placing, though you do the ride just like everyone else and do the obstacles like everyone else.  As I have already established, Socks NEEDS bell boots.  I refuse to ride him anymore without them.  So, the plan was to take Socks, ride him in the bell boots and ride in the "DO" division.

And then I got the all clear with Strider.  And I decided I was going to swap out who went. 

So, Strider and I signed up for the 1 day ride in NATRC's Novice division.

NATRC is a bit different from endurance.  Your horse is judged on their turnout/cleanliness.  So, knowing this, I knew I needed to bathe my horse before we went and REALLY focus on removing all of the bot fly eggs, which are very visible on a black horse.

So, on the Friday morning before I left, I was up at 6:30 am, in the cold, giving my horse a quick bath.  Which he was PISSED about, for the record.  I don't blame him.  He was shivering.  He couldn't figure out WHY I was torturing him this way.  I didn't get all the soap out of his mane, but, I tossed a blanket on him once I was done rinsing him off as best as I could, braided his mane, found as safe a place as I could to tie him up while I dashed inside to take a quick shower myself.

Loaded him up, then hit the road about 15 minutes later than planned.

GOAL: Leave at 8am.
REALITY:  Leave at 8:15am.

Not bad.  Not great.  I had a few stops along the way to make.

Surprise, surprise, I needed fuel.  *sigh*  I also needed to swing by H's house for a saddle for my friend C.B. to try out.  And, I needed ice.  Oh, might as well grab breakfast too.

So, I stopped in Round Rock to get diesel and ice at HEB.  Then ran into McDonald's for breakfast.  And then a hop, skip, jump to H's.

Got the saddles loaded up, gave her a hug and hit the road again.

About 15 minutes from her home...this:

Yeah.  Stop. 
And it wasn't even hammer time.
Or in the name of love.
Nor did we collaborate and listen.
 So, there I sat, twitching while I burned away precious drive time.  An entire 5 MINUTES!!!!

Finally the pilot truck showed up and got us all through so I could continue on my adventure.

Got routed a new-to-me way through Bellville, which was interesting, and quite a bit faster than driving through Bellville proper and then out of the way.

And then, 7iL!!!  Down the jiggly drive, over the cattle guards, and an attempt to find my friends as I blocked the road while we ladies figured out the parking situation.

Eventually though, we got it sorted out, and I was able to offload the pony and get him set up.

Now, another rule with NATRC is they do NOT allow electric pens.  You can bring corral panels, but you cannot use step ins and hot wire/hot tape.  So, knowing Strider like I do, and his penchant for fiddling with a knotted lead rope, I used my coil tie for the weekend on the trailer.

People have trouble visualizing what I'm talking about, and since I forgot to take pictures of Strider on it, you'll have to look at these pictures farmed from the Google.

So, this is a coil tie:

It's PVC coated steel cable.

Here's it in use on a horse who I don't know, but I'm going to dub Jimmy:

Here is Jimmy with the coil tie at what I would consider

And this is what happens when Jimmy moves. 
It stretches, like a spring, but without the potential
for it to actually whip and hurt the horse if something gives.
I actually prefer to have the panic snap on the stationary object and not
the horse, in case the horse is panicked and I can't reach it.

So, get him set up on his coil tie, fill up a bucket of rice bran water, which he chugs SOME out of, hay bag of hay, a bag of alfalfa and another bucket filled with plain water AND his bucket of beet pulp and grain.

And then, the dreaded syringe.  ELECTROLYTES DOWN THE HATCH!!!

I let him relax and eat and drink before I started going over him, again, for bot fly eggs.  I decided to go ahead and trim his fronts since my friend L.B. was there to help oversee what I was doing.  So, fronts trimmed, bot fly eggs stripped off.  Now what do we do?


Here is where the differences started showing up in NATRC as compared to AERC. 

They actually weigh NATRC riders to make sure they're in the right division.  Without tack, I am quite solidly in the NATRC heavyweight division.  You do your weigh in with your tack, but, since I was over without, I didn't need to bring my saddle and such up to be weighed with it. 

We were then given our rider packets.  This included 2 ribbons, 1 of which that our horses were to wear at all times during the ride, an index card to be affixed to our trailer to designate where the horses "lived" during the ride, and, a bib for the rider to wear at all times outside of their trailer to be matched with the horse.

I think if I was to be serious about NATRC, I would buy a number and do as I saw other riders; have shirts and sweatshirts made with my number permanently on them so I wouldn't have to wear the bib.  Front and back of the bib must be visible at all times as you are, potentially, always being judged, so your number needs to be visible to the judges.

So, now that we're all checked in, time to go vet in!  I went up and did vet in with L.B. because T.M. and C.B. had already done theirs while L.B. and I were trimming tootsies. 

NATRC has the horsemanship judge run their hands all over the horse to check for cleanliness and to make sure that where the tack is going to go is clean (or at least, that's how this horsemanship judge explained what she was looking for).

Then you have the vet check.  My eyes must have bugged out of my head when she starting calling off 0's because she turned to explain to me that she was counting how many seconds until she heard gut sounds, etc.  Oh thank goodness, because I was worried it meant she didn't hear ANY gut sounds!!!

They flex the fronts, check for heat and swelling and check the rears.  Then it was time for the trot out and circle right and left.

We have the trot out down handily.  I got a little tangled in my lead rope lunging him both directions.  It always makes me smile inside when I can hear people saying "What breed is that?!" when he hits his gait.  People always love to watch a Paso Fino move.  They're just so freaking full of themselves that it's irresistible!  

We got both circles done, then trot back to the vet.  And all done! 

As compared to an AERC ride, he was MUCH easier to handle this time.  I don't know what the actual reason was.

Was it because I'd sent him to training in June?  Was it because the horses in the line waiting were all very calm and there weren't a lot of horses acting like fools while they were being handled by the vet?  Was it because the energy is just so very different at a NATRC ride?  Don't know.  But not as much dancing around from him, that's for sure!! 

Back to camp where I let him keep eating and drinking and tanking himself up as I finished getting my "bedroom" set up.  For whatever reason, I just wasn't feeling getting my space set up this time.  I don't know why, but eventually I got it all done.

Now, as we know our camps are being judged, we all stayed on top of the manure situation.  And Strider had a LOT of output.  I would venture to say more than usual, but I'm not complaining.  Poop means moving guts, and moving guts are good things!!!  But I was constantly picking up after him.

I'd sit down, he'd poop.

I'd get it cleaned up, maybe go do something else, and he'd poop.

Sit and talk to my friends for 10 minutes, more poop.

It was almost comical.

The ride manager and the horsemanship judge came over at some point, answered some of our questions, and let us know that dinner and the ride meeting would be announced with the horn.  HEY!!  Something similar to endurance! 

So, we knew it was supposed to be at 6, but no horn at 6.  We all just kind of shrugged and kept piddling around our camp, doing last minute things.  At about 6:20ish, FINALLY the horn (I was getting hungry!), so we all made our way to the pavilion.

Ride meeting was eat first, then let's go over things next.  NATRC has a smaller group, which is nice.  Certainly not as much talking as you strain to hear the ride manager! 

Thing is, as I told the girls (none of them have ever ridden 7iL before), if you get lost on these trails, you are DELIBERATELY trying to get lost.  The trails are obvious and they're well marked.  T.M., in fact, did a brief leg stretcher on Sunny before the meeting and agreed. 

After the meeting was their version of a "Green Bean Meeting" where we were all able to ply the horsemanship judge with any and all questions we had.  Which, honestly, were a LOT!!!  From timing and pacing to potential obstacles, everything we could think to ask, we asked.  And still walked away and thought of more questions later.

So, we all leave from the meeting and head back to our camp.  I refill Strider's hay bag, get his glowstick on his halter and his flashing "ankle" bands on for the night.  And, I'm in my trailer fixing to take off my bib, because I was already tired of wearing it, and, come on, it's DARK...when the RM, horsemanship judge and their secretaries come into our camp.

"Surprise inspection!!"

Uhhh...uhhhhh...glad I topped off the hay bag.  Of course, while we were at the meeting, Strider left 2 more piles, which I mentioned "He did that during the meeting!!!" Like a naughty child who hadn't done all their chores.  The RM laughed, said he knew "Shit happens" and that it wasn't going to count against me.

I explained to them that the flashing lights and glowstick are from a traumatized rider and a remnant of the Shanghai Trails endurance ride and, of course, they knew exactly the incident I was referring to.  They thought that they were great ideas to help find a lost horse in the dark.  

The horsemanship judge liked my coil ties.  She hadn't seen one before, but had heard of them, and liked the way they worked.

So, after our camp was inspected, they all left, and we ladies settled in for bed for the night.

I got dressed for bed, set Strider up with another beet pulp/grain mash and mixed his electrolytes in, then laid down to read for a while.

And at 3 am was jerked awake by a bear outside my trailer!!

Okay, so that's an exaggeration.  All I saw was a flash of gray that had been snuffling at my buckets outside my door.

Rubbing the sleep from my eyes as I hollar out "LOOSE HORSE!!!"  The girls all quickly rolled in to action (except for poor T.M. who was looking for pants...LOL!) as we grabbed halters and lead ropes.  I can hear from L.B.'s trailer her baby talking the horse...and then she says "It's a donkey!"

*face palm*

Seriously?  A DONKEY?!!!!  I know one of the owners of the ranch has a donkey, but I had never seen it free range.  So, C.B. calls the ride manager and mentions there's a loose donkey in our camp.  He says just shoo it out, but it's okay.

So, we shoo said donkey out (I called it Donkey-Pocalypse because it scared the hell out of us), and everyone goes back to bed.

I hadn't actually planned to wake up in the middle of the night to electrolyte Strider, but figured since I was already awake, might as well go ahead and shove more down the hatch.  Mixed up a quick batch, got them in him, rinsed out his mouth and went to go lay back down for a few more hours before getting up.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Shaffer Bend Ride....or "Well, at least I got to ride my horse...?"

Now that it was confirmed to me that Strider really is okay under saddle, it's time to start bringing him back.

But, where to go to ride and condition?

I've already told Joe, I'm done road riding near our house after that last bad ride with Socks (which wasn't BAD, but you just can't get any speed going to work on conditioning like that).

So, off to Where The Trails Are to figure out what places are near my home, and which ones are barefoot friendly enough that I could go.

It just so happens that there are two near my home; Shaffer Bend and Muleshoe Bend. 

Shaffer just happens to be SLIGHTLY closer, so I'd planned to go out early Saturday morning, get my ride done, and be home for the rest of the day.  See my previous post about "The Great Cow Debacle" as I've taken to calling it lately.

I told Joe Sunday night, since we had no work on Monday, I WAS going riding since our plans had been shot all weekend.

So, the initial plan was Joe and I were going to go riding somewhere. 

Out the window.

I decided I'd haul over to Shaffer Bend and see if it would be suitable for conditioning for Strider and I.

It's about 35 minutes from home, and an LCRA park.

I pulled into the park hoping to find an attendant on duty so I could pay with my credit card.  No one on duty.  Disappointing.  Especially as I wanted to know where day parking was for horses.  Or a trail map would have been nice.

Instead, I paid into the honor box, making SURE they knew I was there as an equestrian (I scrawled it in BIG LETTERS all over the envelope), and then proceeded into the park.

And I drove.

And I drove some more.

And kept on driving.

Now, it's all gravel, and as I went down the road, I would see signs at the edge of the road indicating the riding trails, but I couldn't figure out where to park to access the trails.

I thought that SURELY somewhere ahead was day parking.

No.  Not at all.

I eventually dead ended into the camping sites, and had NO idea what to do at that point.

Now, the park was EMPTY, so not a single camper.  I eventually opted to pull through a site near the pipe corrals they have built for the horses and I unloaded Strider. 

He promptly looked around and realized he was IT!  The only horse.  Cue some enthusiastic calling for someone, ANYONE to answer him.

Didn't help the wind was blowing pretty fiercely, so he was a bit of a kite on a string.  So, I tied him up a little shorter, quickly tacked up, and got going.

We headed out on Homestead, taking our time as I had no idea what the trail conditions were, and I'd noticed on the way in that in the open fields, there were a LOT of pig wallows.  Not far down the trail, there was a drop off to the side so we had to swerve around that.  And then a little further down the trail, there was a big hole in the middle of the trail.  So, I'm a little nervous about the trail conditions, but wanting to move out a little....and yet wanting to be safe on our first ride back.

So, we kept it to a dull roar.  Lots of walking, some gaiting.  We saw a LOT of deer.  At some point on the trail there was another we could take which took us down to the lake.  Where there was an open place.  And fairly flat.

And he asked so nicely that I allowed the canter.  He wanted to go faster.  I could sense it, and while I wanted to allow it, I couldn't see through the grass, and he was a good boy about listening to me when I said we weren't going to.

We had to bushwack a little bit as I could see a trail on the other side of this ravine, but couldn't find a way to access it, so we wandered around some and eventually ended up backtracking on the trail we had been on. 

We had to double back a LOT on trails we had already done.  We went to go explore Dagger, but it's a bit of a climb, and after him stopping on me twice and pretty much saying he was NOT going to go up, I allowed him to turn around about halfway up...and had a "Oh, what have I done?!" moment.  The descent is steep, so I gave him his head, guided him only when I saw things he could hurt himself on, and let him get us back down.  It was a few hairy moments while I held my breath and hoped like hell he didn't trip, stumble or fall getting us safely back down!!

Perhaps a bit too much to ask of him in his current physical fitness level.  Noted.

We looped and added and repeated the trails I could find, and the best I could come up with was about 6 miles of trail that was "okay" at best for conditioning.  For the average trail rider who wants to sit and talk with their friends, Shaffer Bend is PERFECT.  For the endurance horse looking to move out and get some speed going, it is a fail.  *sigh*

Disappointed best describes how I felt when I was done.  I didn't feel we'd accomplished much, EXCEPT, I was able to go and ride my boy.  So, for that reason alone, I put it in the successful column.


Time Cumulative Time Moving Time

Avg Speed Avg Moving Speed Max Speed
1 13:22 13:22 13:21

4.5 4.5 8.5
2 14:27 27:49 14:15

4.2 4.2 12.9
3 17:13 45:02 17:02

3.5 3.5 8.6
4 16:30 1:01:32 15:34

3.6 3.9 9.0
5 14:45 1:16:17 14:36

4.1 4.1 10.2
6 12:13 1:28:30 11:59

4.9 5.0 9.9
7 4:09.8 1:32:40 4:04

5.2 5.3 8.3
Summary 1:32:40 1:32:40 1:31:18

4.1 4.2 12.9

Getting Back to It...or "Let's Go Endurancing Again"

So, I'm kind of a bundle of nerves.  Which is ridiculous. Strider and I are fixing to make the 5 hour drive to Mount Pleasant and the ...