Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Change is a lesson to be learned...or "Bend like a willow...it's good practice for life."

This weekend was spent in preparation for Last Hoorah.

Beet pulp is soaked, triple rinsed, and then put in the freezer so I need only pull it out, add a little water and grain and give it to Strider for pre-hydration.

The kaolin-pectin, CMPK and Enduramax are all in the house, ready to be mixed for electrolyting Strider.

I pulled out all my tack and power washed and cleaned EVERYTHING (saddle pad, cinches, seat cover, breast collar and even my Da Brim with the mud dried on it).

I got out my Hoof Armor gun and made sure to pack extra gloves and the wax paper.

Sunday evening, I did the grocery shopping for the ride.  I Googled the closest "Twice the Ice" location I could drive up to for ice for my coolers on Friday morning. 

Except for throwing my bag of clothes, and my blankets into the truck and trailer, I'm....I'm actually ready and packed for the ride.


I was nervous over something with Strider, I had his accupressurist come out BEFORE Last Hoorah instead of the day after team penning in two weeks.  I could feel what I THOUGHT were splints on his fronts.  But, were they new or old?  I ran my hands down his legs; cold and tight.  I've been watching him like a hawk for weeks.  Never a single step that wasn't sound.  I made Joe trot him out for me.  Sound.  I lunged him on a circle both directions.  Sound.

In my mind, I remember (or I've created a false memory) of my trimmer saying that at one point, he has PROBABLY popped his splints, but, they've healed cold and tight.  He's fine.

But I was driving myself insane; had she REALLY said that, or had I made that memory up?

Better to change my appointment, have another set of eyes/hands on him that knows him and to either tell me he's injured, or that he's okay and I'm a freaking lunatic.  So, with all that in my mind, I had Jodi come and do a session on him. 

I mean, he'd done the Intro (16 miles) and the LD (25 miles) for a total of 41 miles 3 weeks prior. 

He was being an absolute turd-asshead about not standing still.  Usually he stands and lets Jodi work on him. 

We eventually went and grabbed Zurkh for company, and he immediately settled down.  *sigh*

As Jodi touched him all over, she said he felt great.  Not a single red flag.  She said every single thing about him was a horse who was the picture of health and who definitely had the energy to do his job.

THAT all said...she said, knowing his history and KNOWING about that soft tissue injury and that we're only about 8 months out from it...she said, sure, he could do the LD...and he'd probably be GREAT at it and he'd sail through without an issue...-but-....

And that's all I needed.

"Would he be okay for an Intro or should I pull him completely?  12 to 15 miles?  I'm good either way, but be honest with me."

So, we're dropping to the Intro. 

Yes, he's fine.  And I'm sure he is.  BUT, right now, why risk it?  The Six 0 Ranch has some challenging terrain. And, he's my long-term riding buddy.  Why push for 25 miles? 

And...while I won't earn as many PFHA points...well...I'll earn some points towards this:

PFHA's Pleasure Long Distance Trail Horse standings
I'm playfully working towards it this year.  However, the first place horse currently racked up 50-odd points last season, so, if she does again...not a chance.  But, I'm having fun with this too.  I'll earn another 6 points, and we'll then take the summer off.  We'll go team pen, he'll get to rest and finish healing, and come about last July/early August, he and I will get back to work and prep for legging up for our 50 attempt.

My "Bargain Bin" Easy Boot Gloves showed up yesterday.  They're brand new in so far as I can tell.  Frankly, I'll never buy them at full price if I can order out of the BB again.  It -LOOKS- like they MIGHT fit his fronts once I trim them up and get the toes pushed back.  If not, they will PROBABLY fit his rears (they're more oval than round). 

And, we're currently in a competition to win a pair of Scoot Boots.  Which would be AWESOME and AMAZING if he did!!!  Not holding my breath (I never win anything....except that one time I won tickets to the opening season of  Sherwood Foreset Faire off the radio), but it sure would help my wallet!!

If not...I'll keep stalking the Easy Boot Bargain Bin and hope a pair of #0's pop up.  Blue would be amazing...but the red ones I got yesterday (I think that's why they're BB boots; they're an older/discontinued model) are going to be VERY visible on his feet!!!

So, that's the current plan right now.  We'll skip the LD and drop down to the Intro (extra bonuses are it's a little cheaper, and I get to ride with my friend C.B. and her horse Decker). 

It would be a lie to say I still sometimes consider just doing the LD anyway.  Who doesn't always do the "Well...what if...?" dance?  I'm human. 

And then I remind myself my horse isn't.  He doesn't understand what we're doing.  He does it simply because I ASK it of him.  He doesn't give two shits about points (PFHA, AERC or Green Bean).  He isn't asking me to go 15, 25 or 50 miles.  He does those things because, again, I am asking it of him.

So, here is where I'm learning to bend like the willow.  Because it's not about ME.  Endurance isn't, per se, about me.  It's about my team of 2.  Him and I. 

Maybe I asked too much for 41 miles.  He told me about 3 miles out of camp he was getting a little tired on day 2.  I heard him.  I listened to him.  I didn't push hard.  I'd ask nicely, and if he gave it, great.  If not, I didn't ask again. 

So, instead, we're going to go have fun at one of my favorite ride venues, and we're going to go and completely enjoy ourselves.

And then he'll get a break...and we'll come back better for it this fall.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Gearing up for the "Last Hoorah!"...or "Final ride of the spring season is coming"

And, just like that, my spring ride season is winding down again. 

1 day of a NATRC ride done.
1 intro.
1 LD.
1 LD left to go.

I'm feeling semi-confident that we can tackle the LD at Last Hoorah.  I admit to SOME anxiety because I have YET to finish a ride at the Six 0 Ranch.  But, I had promised the RM last year, after my stomach fought against me, I wouldn't try another 50 this year.

Didn't say anything about next year though! 

He isn't ready for a 50 right now anyway.

But, my current plan is to apply Hoof Armor to his feet, make time up at the beginning of the ride as it's pretty barefoot friendly there, and then take it easy over the gravel and rocks.

I did order a pair of EasyBoot Gloves from their bargain bin (hard to resist getting 2 boots for the price of 1!), but, based off the fitting kit I'd ordered, I'm not sure if this size is going to work on his fronts.  I also don't have a lot of time to trial them before the ride, so, I'm currently not planning to use them for a ride until we can do some conditioning in them.

However, I'm a little anxious about getting ready for the ride.  This weekend is currently jam packed with things I need to do, and I'm going to go ahead and pack my trailer for next weekend.  I'll pull everything out, and get my tack cleaned up and loaded up.

Speaking of tack, look what showed up in the mail yesterday!!!

My new Michael Gascon halter!!!  I reached out to Sophie (Michael's girlfriend) and asked about the possibility of getting a halter in purple.  She checked, and said that it was possible to get one tied in purple.  So, got one ordered, and it happened to arrive last night!! 

So, with our Hoof Armor, and our new halter, and all of our tack loaded up, we'll be ready to rock and roll for our Last Hoorah!

And then the weekend after that, Team Penning...and then after that...another big surprise....:) 

May is shaping up to be a busy, albeit FUN, month!!

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Racing Stripes (LD)...or "Bad weather, a quick 'bath', but so many laughs and memories made!"

So, after ride meeting it was time to hustle back to camp and secure everything down for the bad weather which was approaching.

I tossed everything I didn't want to get wet into the horse compartment of the trailer and tossed tarps over all of it.  Strider got put in his rain sheet, with a high amount of anxiety from myself (the last time he wore his rain sheet over night at a ride was that disastrous Shanghai Trails ride, and he got that touch of colic).  But...I made myself do it, and then battened down the hatches and shut myself in my trailer.

And then it hit.  I could feel the temperatures dropping and getting progressively colder as I huddled up.  The rain...the hail...the wind.  All 3 of us (T.M., myself and A.C.) were messaging and texting.

At some point, something hard and heavy hit my rig. I initially thought it hit my trailer.


When I went to check on Hannibal the next morning.  Here's what I saw.

And here's what was laying on the ground by my truck.  Assuming
this is the culprit.  DAMN THING!!!!

So hard to see.  Laying there, all innocent like you didn't just
Let me say, it was COLD.  I never sleep in socks because I hate the way it feels.  But I slept in 2 pairs of socks and my riding clothes for Saturday.  I read for a while...called Joe at home...kept texting with the girls...it was just hard to get warm with the trailer shaking like it was.  I had my quilt and 2 thin fleece blankets I'd tossed in the trailer a few years ago as makeshift "coolers/rump rugs" for the horses.

But, eventually I managed to settle in and get warm enough to drift off for a few hours.

I woke up around 2 or 3, and forced myself out of my warm cocoon to check on Strider. 

The fabric from my little pop-up was completely off and laying beside it.  One of my neighbor's tents was partially collapsed. 

But, my horse was dozing within his pen.  I opted to leave the blanket on, hit him with another dose of electrolytes, then bolt back to bed for a few more hours.

And, before I knew it, it was time to get up. 

Now, my cinch from the day before had been a little wet, and I'd hung it under my pop up tent to let the wind dry it out.  I hadn't thought to bring my spare cinch.  Thankfully, T.M. loaned me one to use for the day, so I rapidly swapped them out, got him tacked up, wolfed down my breakfast and scampered up to have him vetted through for the day before hustling back to our camp and mounting up.

T.M. and A.C. were already warming up WELL away from the large group at this point, so I joined them as we waited, walking large, gentle circles.

We notice people leaving on trail, so we wait a few more minutes, and then we make our way over and head out on trail.

Strider's a little fussy, so he falls behind as I allow him to graze for a few moments, then he realizes what's happening and he hustles to get caught back up again.

I realize my stirrups are too damn short now that I've brought them up.  *sigh*  Whatever, it's only 25 miles, no big deal.  I can do this.

It's the same loop that Strider and I did yesterday, so I'm still familiar with what we're doing and where we're going.  We quickly cover the first portion, passing a few people, but we're not in a great rush to move out.  We're taking it nice and easy and setting a good pace.

Being a little bit fussy, but still moving nicely
in his rope halter!
(Photo credit: John Nowell.  Picture Purchased)

For a brief moment we had someone join our group who liked our pace. 
T.M. on the gray and A.C. on the adorable appy!
(Photo Credit: John Nowell.  Picture purchased)
And, once more we're back out in the big pasture that's wet and mucky.  I tell T.M. and A.C. that it doesn't take TOO long, we'll be through it soon.

We pass a lady on foot who says she's fine, and I felt kind of bad because I knew she was slogging through water.

And, as we attempt to navigate a large puddle/small pond, Strider dips his head as though to drink, and his entire body just naturally follows, and down he goes.

I'm screaming "NONONONONO!!!"  And T.M. and A.C. are just looking at him and I in shock like they can't believe it.  I had told them a few minutes earlier I can't ever let him stand in water because he goes down, but this, I got ZERO warning on!!

So, it's cold, wet, and it smells.  And I can't get back on in the middle of the pasture.

A.C. graciously dismounts to hold my stirrup while I hop my butt back up.  I'm shivering, but ready to get moving again and stay in the sun.

We go another 5 or 10 minutes and we're going down a fenceline when my Da Brim flies off.  I say "Eff it.  Leave it.  I'm not getting off again."

A.C. says no, she'll get off (AGAIN) and get it for me.  Bless her sweet heart.

And we get back to boogying down the trail.

We cross over the metal bridge, and I point us down the road, and up into the pasture where I couldn't find the ribbons yesterday.  They had, indeed, put a surveyor's stake out with a blue ribbon so it was easier to find on day two.

We wrapped up the pasture, and took a grazing break, then kept on going.

Overall, besides the being dumped in the puddle, the ride was amazing.

As we were leaving the large water trough after the road crossing, T.M. needed to put some chapstick on, but her horse, Galley (Sir Galahad) wasn't quite in gait, so she was kind of bouncing...which led to some hysterical laughter about gaited horses, and the ease with which we could apply make-up.

We were all laughing hysterically, wanting the moment to never ever.  It was one of those perfect moments that make you grateful to be alive, on the back of a good horse, with good friends under the warm spring sun.

This was really only wide enough for 1 horse across.
(Photo credit: John Nowell.  Picture purchased)

It's blatantly obvious in this photo that I'm soaking wet.
PRETTY sure that's cow shit on my sleeve. 
(Photo credit:  John Nowell.  Picture purchased)
After we polished off the first loop, we all vetted in, and again, dropped Strider's head.  At 14 at P&R, not great, but, he was calm and still and not fidgeting.

Over to VC where it was A's down the board and a CRI of 52/48.

And, back to the trailer's for a quick break.

Brief break at the trailer.  Rump rug to keep him warm!
Noshing on our alfalfa yums!

And after sampling the wet "smush" provided.
Holds are always fast, and before I can really blink, it's time to get back in the saddle and get back out on the second loop, which was the yellow loop (I think).  12.something miles.

Finally got to see some different trail. 

We continued to laugh.  We took it easy, while keeping an eye on the clock.  We made sure to stop to graze some for Pegs', A.C.'s horse.  And, of course, ours grazed too.  She would dismount and hand graze him in an attempt to tempt him to eat.  He ate, some.  He just wanted to get going and get on down the trail.

So, we continued to oblige him, although we sprinkled in breaks here and there.

Strider was starting to get a little tired at this point.  He wasn't QUITE so eager to offer me a canter or a gait, though he would if I gently squeezed.  And I'm okay with that.  He was willing and compliant, he just asked (nicely) to walk a little bit.

Just a brief break.  Not very long. 
(Photo credit:  John Nowell.  Picture purchased)
This loop finally started winding down, and we knew, as we came up towards the end, we had about 30 minutes to get back to camp within the window we had set for ourselves.  A.C. dismounted a little early to allow Pegs to graze...T.M. and I slowly walked, allowing ours to graze a little before we reached the dam.  We hopped off and all 3 of us discussed what the plan was.  We opted to drop saddles at the trough and walk over to P&R.  It wasn't cold at this point, per se, or I would have dashed off for a blanket.  The sun was out and warm.

Now, I knew that we were starting to get close to cut-off, and I knew there were at least 2 people behind us, so, as I came in, I asked Linda if I was turtle; to which I was told, no.

DANGIT!!  I reallllly wanted that turtle award!!!

Oh well!!  

Once more to the P&R box, where I had him drop his head.

Down at 12.

Walk over to VC, A's down the board, although B's on guts (which is troubling because he was grazing, heartily, when we stopped for Pegs to eat).

But, ultimately, we got it done, and we had a MARVELOUS time!!!

(As you can tell from our vet cards, we REALLY were cutting it close!!  Needed to be pulsed down before 1:30.  I was pulsed down by 1:21.)

Our vet card!


Time Cumulative Time Moving Time

Avg Speed Avg Moving Speed Max Speed
1 11:00 11:00 10:51

5.5 5.5 7.8
2 9:57.6 20:57 9:55

6.0 6.1 8.7
3 12:44 33:41 12:19

4.7 4.9 10.9
4 8:51.4 42:33 8:51.4

6.8 6.8 10.7
5 8:23.9 50:57 8:17

7.1 7.2 10.8
6 10:49 1:01:46 10:16

5.5 5.8 11.0
7 8:26.8 1:10:12 8:26

7.1 7.1 12.2
8 11:36 1:21:48 11:02

5.2 5.4 9.7
9 12:08 1:33:56 11:27

4.9 5.2 10.8
10 8:49.0 1:42:45 8:08

6.8 7.4 11.5
11 9:19.0 1:52:04 9:00

6.4 6.7 11.1
12 10:02 2:02:07 9:50

6.0 6.1 13.0
13 11:01 2:13:08 10:55

5.4 5.5 11.6
14 10:26 2:23:33 10:15

5.8 5.9 12.8
15 12:56 2:36:30 12:35

4.6 4.8 10.8
16 27:07 3:03:37 20:41

2.0 2.6 11.4
17 0:05.9 3:03:43 --

0.1 -- 0
18 0:01.3 3:03:44 --

0.1 -- 0
19 10:05 3:13:49 9:40

6.0 6.2 10.3
20 10:19 3:24:08 10:02

5.8 6.0 9.2
21 14:50 3:38:58 11:59

4.0 5.0 11.1
22 11:10 3:50:09 10:33

5.4 5.7 10.7
23 14:15 4:04:24 13:25

4.2 4.5 9.1
24 11:41 4:16:04 11:16

5.1 5.3 9.6
25 10:59 4:27:04 10:39

5.5 5.6 10.3
26 10:19 4:37:22 10:17

5.8 5.8 12.5
27 9:16.1 4:46:38 9:12

6.5 6.5 12.8
28 13:23 5:00:02 10:47

1.8 2.2 4.1
Summary 5:00:02 5:00:02 4:42:07


After that, it was back to our camp for a well-earned rest (for my horse, anyway!) and some pampering.

It was a little cool, so I tossed his cooler on him, then went ahead and put Ice Tight on his legs.

Hail the conquering hero!!

Or, rather...leave him alone so he can nap!!
Knowing that we were staring at a LONG drive home, and the temps were going to get COLD again, I went ahead and packed up everything I could and made my rig as 'road ready' as I could before morning.

I packed up my pop up, shifted hay bales around, loaded up the truck and basically killed time until the awards dinner. 

Awards dinner was hamburgers, hot dogs and junk food GALORE for which T.M. and I were grateful for something warm that wasn't our OWN junk food from our stash. 

Another shirt, and another ride in the books, OFFICIALLY!!!

Darkness.  In our rain sheet because it's not AS heavy, but still offers some warmth.

I love the twinkling lights!!!
 A.C. told us she was getting up at around 5 and driving for home then (she said she actually was up at 4 because it was so cold, so she just left then).  I hadn't actually set an alarm, but, at about 7 I rolled out of bed, and saw T.M. was packing up.

I was a little sore, but once you're moving, it gets easy.  I continued to shift stuff around, break down my bed and I had camp completely broken down before 8 am.

Last thing to be loaded on ride weekends is my horse!
T.M and I caravanned out of camp and headed on down the road.  We made a quick stop where I filled up again, we grabbed some warm (and DELICIOUS) breakfast tacos, some drinks, and drove on down the road.

And drove.

And drove.

And kept on driving.

The drive really is VERY long.

At Waxahachie we stopped for a break for the horses and ourselves.  I filled up again (hey, why not!), and then it was back on the road.

For more driving.

And more.

We made a final stop in Belton for a break, then we went our separate ways to get it on home.

Overall, it was a successful weekend.  He is DEFINITELY back for the LDs. 

And now, I have the summer to get him legged up for a 50 attempt this fall. 

Good job Strider.  Good job.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Racing Stripes (Intro)...or "How To Do EVERYTHING You're Not Supposed To Do!"

One of the first litanies a newcomer to endurance is told is this:  Do not try anything NEW on the day of the ride.

And, what do I do?

Throw that utterly and completely out of the window and do my own thing.  Because I'm kinda stupid that way.  Don't be like me kids.

Well, okay, so I'm not totally being fair. 

And, let's back it up.

Wednesday night, I actually had the truck and trailer COMPLETELY packed and ready to roll in the morning except for my 2 coolers.  By 9:15pm.  This NEVER EVER HAPPENS.  Usually I'm not done prepping until about 11pm. 

I had also made arrangements with T.M. to caravan up on Thursday.  We planned to meet in Jarrell at 8:30, grab breakfast, and then make the long drive up together.

So, I was up at 6am on Thursday, tossed food, etc, into the coolers, ran them out to the truck, took my last shower, and grabbed the ATV and drove out, grabbed Strider, put him into the trailer and was pulling out of my gate at 7:08, 8 minutes later than planned, but still with enough time to stop for diesel AND for ice.

Both tasks done, and I'm officially on the road....and get to Jarrell and our meeting point at 8:15.


It was crazy!!  But nice.

So, wait for T.M., and we find that McDonald's inside is closed for remodeling.  FINE!!  We drive our rigs through the drive thru, and then we're on the road for the first leg, and 2ish hours of driving.

And driving.

And still more driving.

We finally stop, I top my tank off (because, why not?), give the horses a break and a snack, take a potty break, then wait a bit for this family who left the nozzle in their car while they all went inside, effectively blocking T.M. in.  *sigh* 

FINALLY we're back on the road again.

Driving.  More and more driving.  WHY AREN'T WE THERE YET?!!!!!

Nope, keep on driving.

So, we finally hit the turn off we need, and we follow the instructions for people who are coming to the Priefert Ranch from the south.  We turn left...and we drive.  And drive. 

Now, I'd done this drive 2 years ago, and I did not remember going this far.  HOWEVER, we'd seen a rig that, we both thought, was an endurance rig, so, we think we're going the right direction.

But the further we go, the more wrong things feel.  And then I see a sign pointing to the left to go to Mt. Vernon.  Except, as we'd come up the interstate, we'd passed through Mt. Vernon. 

No.  This was wrong.  I had T.M. pull off, and I pulled up the Priefert Manufacturing on my phone...to realize it was almost 30 miles BEHIND us. 

So, we flip it around after T.M. fills her truck up, and head back.

Nothing more frustrating than written directions that are completely wrong, right?  *sigh*

So, eventually we pull in to camp, and pull in near my friend from Armadillo and her sweet Miss Betsy Boots.  We quickly get things set up, I do a quick nip and rasp on Strider, then sit down and relax for a while.

I like to let my horse relax, eat, drink and take a break before we go and vet in.  T.M. and I wandered over, picked up our packets, ironed out the few hiccups (the pitfalls of changing your plans a few days prior to the ride!), then went back and grabbed our ponies to vet them in.

Now, I had decided at the Michael Gascon clinic, I was going to go ahead and ride Strider in that rope halter.  So, I had him in it, and as I handed off my vet card, I asked Strider to drop his head for me.  Which, of course, he did.  I gently rubbed him, spoke quietly to him, and the vet came up and said he was at 44.

My eyes got wide.  He's usually never QUITE that low.  Low 50's, sure.  So, that was surprising.

But what was even MORE surprising, is that he wasn't fidgeting and the vet wasn't having to follow him as he moved around to check him over.  He stood utterly and completely still for the entire process.

I looked over at T.M. who was vetting in Sunny and said "Look, he CAN stand still!"

Back to the trailers to stuff their faces (he had 3 B's on guts at the initial vetting in) and for us to finish the last of the setting up and to relax for a little while before the ride meeting.

I grabbed my saddle and my new stirrups and put them on my saddle.  Briefly considered doing a leg stretcher ride, but I still had to get my trailer set up for the possibility of rain, and get my cot and bed set up.  And, "I'm just doing the intro tomorrow, I can tough it out!!  It's only 16 miles!"
As you can see, dirty pony, but my saddle out. 
Ride meeting was fairly quick.  No food....which I had forgotten to plan for.  Yay junk food for dinner.  I'm awful at planning food for myself when I'm out and gone.

Anyway, get settled in, chit chat with friends as they come and go, and just relax after our long drive up.

Morning dawns, and T.M. gets saddled up early for her out time for the LD.  Strider is a little upset when she and Sunny leave, but I'm able to keep him company until they're gone, then it's time for me to start considering getting him ready.

I marvel at how much time I have to get ready.  I'm able to sit down and actually eat something for breakfast.  I sit and relax for a few minutes before I go and get Strider out of his pen.

I attach the bolt snap to his halter, then take him over to my trailer to get him ready for our 9am start time.  Toss the saddle on, and start cinching him up.  Realize as I start to look around that camp is feeling mighty empty.  I mount up and go over to some of my friend's camps, and see they're already gone, so I go ahead and walk over to where the start is.  I see the ride secretary, but notice there's no one there, and it's 15 to 9.  I look at her puzzled, and ask if I'm late.

No, she says; people just asked if they could just go ahead and go out, so she let them go, so I was free to go as well.  What loop?

"Blue.  The 15.8 mile loop please."

"Okay Erin.  Have a good ride!"

And out we went at a slow walk.

Strider is looking around, obviously confused.  This isn't like any other ride we've done.  The last ride we did, I was asking him to slow down.  This ride, we're all alone.

Pony is confused, but tractable.  So far, we're doing well in the rope halter, and I'm happy as we follow the ribbons.  Not another horse on the trail in front of us for about 15 minutes until we crest a small hill, and I see my camping neighbors on the other side of a very large stock pond.

And, as we crest the hill, over the water, a bald eagle startles into flight.  My jaw falls open as I ask Strider "Is that a bald eagle?  Did we just see a bald eagle?  What a beautiful morning!"  (I did confirm with my neighbors, it really WAS a bald eagle!)

At that point, Strider notices the other horses, and he picks up the pace.  I check him to make sure I have brakes and steering.  I have both, so, I allow him to set the tempo.

Now, remember how I said you're not to change anything on ride day?

My stirrups were too damn long.  I was REEEEEEEACHING for them.  "It's only 16 miles.  We're good."

Eventually we catch up to our neighbors, but Strider is in good form, and doesn't seem inclined to want to hook up with their 2 horses.  I ask if they're okay if we pass, and we chug on by. Later, one of them said "We were just poking along, and here come you and Strider getting shit done!"  It made me laugh.

This actually was an unplanned part of my riding goal for the day.  The big objective was just to make sure he was really sound, and to test the rope halter in ride conditions.  But, he always gets so listless when he's by himself, so I was glad he didn't want to stop and hang with a group, but keep on going.  We need to learn to be by ourselves, so him going on was good.

We hit the large pasture where J.L. and I got bogged down 2 years ago, and, it was wet again, so we slowed down and walked much of it.

And we hit a gate.  A closed gate. 

The string of obscenities that came out of my mouth turned the air blue.  I did NOT want to get off my horse.  I kept HOPING that wasn't the blue ribbon I needed to see on the OTHER side of the closed gate...but...as I stood there and looked at it...I just accepted my fate and with another string of swear words, I dismounted, already looking for an object to stand on so I could mount my horse again.

I considered shortening my stirrups, but, didn't want to lose the pocket I'd built for us to be alone, and he was dancing around, so I said "Forget it.  I'm just getting back on and going."

Took me about 3 minutes to get him to stand still long enough for me to get on.  He'd seen another horse on an entirely different colored trail and he wanted to catch up to them.

*grits teeth*

No dude. 

And off we go. 

We handily cross the big steel bridge with no rails.  My stomach ALWAYS balls up in anxiety as we cross it, but I try to breathe deep so my horse doesn't pick up on it.  And we chug off again.

I'm following ribbons.  And following ribbons.  The turns weren't marked (traditional "turn" marking is three ribbons hung toward where you need to turn), but, I looked further down the road, and didn't see a blue ribbon, so I back tracked, to where the last ribbon was, and turned there (it was a road that either went straight or hooked a right through an open fence).  So, I went through the open fence, and saw 2 other colors on a surveyor's stake, but not a blue ribbon.  There we were, as I did circles in confusion and frustration.  WHERE WAS THE FREAKING TRAIL?!!!

The RM's husband came by on the mule at that point and asked me what was wrong.  I said I couldn't see where blue trail went.  He told me it followed the fence line, but, he admitted it was hard to see until you crossed a hillock or two to see the fence line.  And, sure enough, as I went off the actual road and crossed over the hillock, I saw a blue ribbon.  He said he'd put a surveyor's stake out for others behind me.

So, away we went again.

We get to an open area of pasture, and he asks for the canter, and I allow it.

And almost wept with joy; NO BUNNY BUCK!!!

I was very conscious and deliberate to make sure I gave him lots of rein, that I was sitting back, and that, as much contact as I could make with the stirrups, my feet were forward.

We continue to follow ribbons with no problems or issues until we come to the blacktop road.  I can't see a ribbon, there's no turn marked.  I stand there for a minute, just baffled about what to do.  I look across the road, because I remember from 2 years ago, we crossed over the road, but the other side of the road today, it is plain and obvious this is NOT where we need to cross.  There's a crew of 2 men picking up trash on the road, and one of them compliments my horse, for which I'm grateful.  I briefly consider asking him if he's seen other horses, but...to my left down the fenceline, I can see one of the spotters, so I just decide to ride her direction and see if she can tell me where blue is.

Get over to her, and she takes my number and says that this is where I need to cross.

AH-HAH!!!  So, we quickly get across the road (traffic hauls ass in the country, and this road is no exception!), and find our ribbons again.

Eventually we thread into the woods on the ranch, and the bugs come out full force.  Strider is constantly shaking his head, and I curse myself for not having sprayed him down before we left camp.  I'm slapping off the mosquitoes from him and myself. 

And, for some reason, at about mile 9, we make a left hand turn, and Strider stops. 

Hungry?  Need a break?  Need to pee?

Unsure, so I let him pause, but he doesn't really do anything, so I ask him to go forward.  He does, then he asks to turn around, so I allow it, thinking there was something behind us that he wanted. 

He goes back and continues to backtrack our trail. 

No.  No way man.  We're not doing this 9 miles backwards.

Turn him back around, and from this point on, I have to egg him on.

He'll ask to stop, and I'll generally allow it.  I am just POSITIVE he needs to pee, which is why he keeps pulling off into the grass.  He won't eat except for a bite or two of grass, but just keeps stopping and standing, or turning back towards the trail we'd already covered.

His breathing isn't labored, he isn't sweating and the bugs have left.

I'm once again just stuck thinking he needs to pee.  NOTHING says he's really in distress.

Okay, I decide.  If you won't stop, drop and pee, we're going to move it.  You're being a child Strider who's sulking because this isn't the bathroom you want to use.

Let's move it.

It was as we're chugging down this trail, we run into our ride photographer, who seems surprised to see us doing the intro.

I quickly explain we're coming back from an injury and trying out new tack, but we'll be doing the LD tomorrow, as he snaps some photos of us.

He may have his "happy ears" on, but I can assure
you, we'd already been 'quibbling' for the past
mile or so about his need to stop for no valid reason.
(Photo credit to John Nowell, purchased)

See, fussy ears on.  IGNORE MY LEG OMG!!!
(Photo credit John Nowell; purchased)
I'm egging Strider on with my leg to move it out, and I'm getting the hoof in response.  *sigh*  Lovely, the type of ride I LOATHE with my horse.

We once again cross the road and continue on down the trail at a pokey walk.  Occasionally I can nudge him up into a gait, but he is sullen and bratty about it. 

Yep, we've hit the wall where it's either my horse needs to pee, or he's pissed off we're all alone and we haven't seen another horse.

We do, however, catch a glimpse of another horse on a different color trail again, and once again, he picks up the pace and moves out well for a few minutes...then jams the brakes on again.

I stop at a cattle ring with lots of the hay on the ground as a pee stop for him, but he doesn't want to take advantage of it, so, we keep on moving.

Big, open pasture, and you need to keep a good eye open to find and follow the surveyor's stakes.

A deep ditch to cross.  I skip that and use the road beside it to cross. 

And we keep on going.

Eventually we come up out of another brief stretch of woods, and, the trail just seems to vanish.  I cannot see or follow a blue ribbon.  I know where I need to go.  This is a closed pasture, and I can see where the gate keeper SHOULD be, and their chair is there, but there isn't a human in sight.

I say eff it, and just head that direction after backtracking to the last blue ribbon, and then following the tree line for a little way.  After not finding one, I just head towards the gate with a shrug. According to my Garmin, I was right at about the number of miles I needed to go.

We're nearing camp, and once we get to the road to cross into camp, I dismount and hand walk in.

Again, as I'm doing the intro which isn't timed, I just walk over to my trailer to dump off his saddle, grab my vet card and walk over to the vetting area.

Remembering the evening before, I grab the noseband on Strider's halter, place my fingers at that spot on his poll, and gently ask him to drop his head.  He stands utterly and completely still as Bo takes his pulse.

"13" I'm told.  I make a face; that's a little high, in my opinion, for a horse not in tack, but, if he really has to pee, I'm not at all surprised it's high.

Walk over to the vets, and again have him drop his head...and once again, I am surprised as he remains still for Dr. Seymore to check him out.

Final vet card:
Strider's Ride Card from the Intro
I'm unhappy with those B's on both days.  I'm honestly unsure what happened there, because he ate Thursday and on Friday, and I even let him have some alfalfa at the trailer before we went over to finish.

But, we completed our Intro intact, and I've now learned a few new tricks to help my horse out at vet check.

My friend G.G. and Miss Betsy Boots have already left by the time I'm back to camp, so I relax for a little while and start looking at my watch.  I've been watching the riders come in, and so far, I haven't seen T.M. and Sunny come in to camp yet. 

I send her a text to make sure she's okay, and she calls, very upset.  They've had to backtrack several times, they can't find the ribbons, and she knows the clock is ticking and they're about a mile or so outside of camp, but they can't find the trail.  I tell her I'll be waiting for her, we're going to make sure they get through.

I walk over to the dam and wait for them.  Eventually I see them coming in, and as she hops off, I ask her how much she cares about her placing.  If she doesn't care we have the time to go to her trailer, strip his tack and get a blanket over him as it started to rain as they were coming in.  Horse is always first, so she said let's get to the trailer and get him a blanket.

We dropped her saddle at her trailer, grabbed him a blanket and went over to vet check.

Of course, Sunny was a rock star, pulsed in and vetted through just fine.

No dinner at ride meeting that night (junk food for dinner again *sigh*), but...I, of course, earned a shirt for the intro...but...going to grab the blanket and drop tack netted Sunny the Turtle award for the LD!!  :)

Now...on to day two, and our LD....

My form is ALWAYS garbage.  But, pony is cute!
(Photo credit to John Nowell; purchased)
And, as always, stats:

Time Cumulative Time Moving Time

Avg Speed Avg Moving Speed Max Speed
1 10:57 10:57 10:48

5.5 5.6 10.4
2 9:39.5 20:36 9:38

6.2 6.2 10.2
3 11:08 31:45 10:54

5.4 5.5 11.2
4 10:33 42:18 8:38

5.7 6.9 11.3
5 8:53.5 51:11 8:40

6.7 6.9 12.5
6 10:12 1:01:24 9:50

5.9 6.1 10.5
7 11:39 1:13:02 11:26

5.2 5.2 11.5
8 11:22 1:24:24 10:56

5.3 5.5 13.6
9 18:26 1:42:49 17:28

3.3 3.4 9.3
10 15:23 1:58:12 13:11

3.9 4.6 8.5
11 14:49 2:13:01 14:32

4.0 4.1 9.2
12 11:10 2:24:11 10:55

5.4 5.5 9.6
13 11:25 2:35:36 11:21

5.3 5.3 10.5
14 13:09 2:48:45 12:50

4.6 4.7 7.9
15 12:16 3:01:00 12:03

4.9 5.0 10.4
16 19:04 3:20:04 18:04

3.1 3.3 10.0
17 5:37.8 3:25:42 2:45

1.0 2.1 3.8
Summary 3:25:42 3:25:42 3:14:46


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 is...well...it'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, realized...no...don'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!!

Change is a lesson to be learned...or "Bend like a willow...it's good practice for life."

This weekend was spent in preparation for Last Hoorah. Beet pulp is soaked, triple rinsed, and then put in the freezer so I need only pull...