Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Spring Has Sprung

I love spring. The warmer weather, the burst of colors, the singing birds and amphibians, the longer days, the sun rising at the ass crack of dawn to better mesh my normal routine, the flowers, the lack of long winter coats on the horses, and the list could go on!

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Winter was hit and miss this year. Spring has been threatening to begin for months. The hot-cold wet-dry cycle of a turbulent shoulder season between pseudo-winter and spring was exceptionally hard on local horses this year. Abscesses were a too-common occurrence. Stan, especially suffered with foot soreness and abscesses for about three straight weeks. It was kind of the pits.

But he's all better now! And we've hit the ground running (literally) as if we hadn't missed a day.

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I don't know if it's because spring is here, or if Stan's finally truly enjoying regular work with me instead of Lauren, or maybe he's just finally come to the full realization after a winter with me that he's mine and I'm his, but suddenly he's nickering at me and approaching me in the field and enjoying work with gusto. It's so refreshing and such a blast from the past to have this working relationship with this animal again. We've got a lot of work to do yet to be ready for an early August LD, but I'm confident we'll get there. 😊

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Griffin is doing well with his work, also. He's still the most willing partner I've ever had in a horse and really loves his work. We did have a mild choke scare (my first with this horse) last week that had me scared for a bit because I literally had no vet access nearby if things took a swing for the worse. Fortunately, Grif was able to pass the blockage on his own after a nerve-wracking 20 minutes.

We haven't done anything explicitly focused with our dressage lately beyond being certain that we are consistent in the contact at both the walk and the trot. It's enough for right now and has served to help us develop a very good "work" mode that I can get him into even on his more distracted of days.

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Our jump sessions have been exceptional lately. I've been jumping almost exclusively with my bareback pad and it's really helping me see and feel distances better than I have in the past. Something is really clicking. Griffin is great about hunting down jumps, but until the last month, I was having a hard time being more than a monkey on his back. Lately, we're a TEAM and it feels so sweet. It's everything I knew it could be and it gives more tangible promise to what I know it will be.

We're tangoing with the idea of our first full phase schooling event at the end of May. I've got a couple weeks left before I have to make my decision, so we will see. (There are several outside extenuating circumstances that need to resolve first.) If we went, we'd be competing at a level much lower and jumps than we work at home (a W-T dressage test and 18"- 2' jumps; we work on WTC at home and jump 2'6" regularly), so the biggest challenge for Griffin will be handling the stress of the atmosphere that is Loch Moy. Fortunately, the dressage court, jumping stadium, and XC areas for the intro and elementary levels are a bit quieter than other areas. Time will tell if we can go or not!

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Beyond 2 to 3 rides per week on each of the boys (quick aside: Q is fat and happy and healing well), my life has been relatively humdrum for me lately. Dave's nursing a rotator cuff injury from February still, so we aren't climbing - I need to get on the climbing wall with more consistency, but it just hasn't been in the cards the past couple weeks. I plan to change this soon! We're biking a fair bit to make up for it though. And hiking with Kenai, too. (He's doing great, by the way! πŸ˜„)

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I'm also spending a fair bit of time "nesting" and homesteading. It's so wonderful to have a home of my own and a yard of my own and a GARDEN. I've got most of our veggies and herbs planted and sprouted and I spent a fair bit of my Sunday this past weekend transplanting trees, flowers, and shrubs from my parents to our house. It was a lot of work, but I'm absolutely in love with the effects so far. Landscaping really makes a house a home, IMHO.

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I've got three straight weekends of horse plans hovering in my near future if things go as I hope. And somewhere in that time, I think I'm finally going to be able to share my final "big" updates on my horses and our moving situation(s). They're a long time coming, I know, but they still aren't final.

So, what's your favorite part about spring? Horse-related and non? Any fun things to look forward to in your near future with or without horses?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Waze for Horses

I think most people with a smartphone who travel are probably familiar with the Waze navigation app. If you aren't, it's a service owned by Google that helps navigate you like Google Maps does, but it has a more interactive nature to it. Users can notify the app of cops, debris on the road, congested traffic, vehicles stopped on the shoulder, etc. You name it so far as road hazards and the app probably has an alert feature. Additionally, because of the interactive nature, the app tends to navigate the user around congested areas better than others I've used. I love it.

While I was riding an uncharacteristically spooky Griffin the other day, I thought about how nice it would be if there was a Waze for Horses. Now, this is a total hypothetical thought because obviously this couldn't work in real life, but bear with me.

How nice would it be to have little notifications about all the potentially scary upcoming things in your riding path?

"Scary leaf reported ahead."



"Potential black hole to another dimension [puddle] reported in 0.1 mile."



"Herd of cows reported on the left in ¼-mile."



"Suspicious-looking stump reported in 0.4 mile."



Seriously though. It would be SO nice to not have to play a guessing game as to what may "terrify" my horse next, but instead just know how far away said "monster" was. This would save my ass so much (literally), and it would help train horses to cope and learn that not everything is a terrifying monster quicker because the potential "lurking monsters" wouldn't also be a surprise to the rider.

What do you think?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Grounded

After five wonderful years boarding my horses in the same place where I (and the horses) have enjoyed: 28 acres of beautiful pasture, a field for my jumps, an area for my small dressage court, two round pens, an enclosed area for riding, a large back field to enjoy both gallop sets and hill sprints, rail trail access, and 20+ miles of wooded trail access without needing a trailer - things are changing. And not for the good.

Back in February, I noticed many downed saplings over one of our main access trails. I agreed that they needed cleared, but I was perturbed someone had done it in a way that left them lying across the trail. That's just poor stewardship. Still, they were relatively easy to step over, so we did it. Finally, last month, I took the incentive to throw them off the side of the trail. In the back of my mind I worried someone was trying to "block" us, but not wanting to see zebras in a herd of horses, I dismissed the thought.

But then, last weekend my BO and friends went on a trail ride and reported that there are now sizeable trees that have been dropped all willy nilly over our main access trail. They're still passable, but it's not something you can do from horseback and it really takes some minced steps. As a result of this, my  BO was forced to the realization that someone really is trying to block access. This is surprising because for years the property has been a shared lease for a dozen or more folks and we've all shared the area with zero issue.

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not shown that I also ride, but now I have no way to access them.

But now, a new guy is in town and he's somehow garnered the lease to the lands that contain ~75% of the trails I typically enjoy. In particular, his lease is situated in such a way that my access to any other developed, known trails is wholly blocked. Because not only does this guy have the lease, he's claiming that the lease "prohibits ATVs and horses" and he is not willing to negotiate. He doesn't want us back there at all.

And thus, I'm grounded. No trail riding until I move the horses to Canaan.

It's incredibly disappointing and very poor neighborly behavior, in my opinion. There are a lot of very negative things I'd love to get off my chest in relation to this, but I'm going to choose to keep them to myself. The situation sucks, no way around it. I hate being grounded to one area with fewer options after so many years of beautiful trail access.

While I will be moving the horses in the semi-near future (hopefully), I'm sad I didn't get to say goodbye to my trails in my own way on my own time. I'm also sad that I won't have the luxury of being able to haul down and train on the trails ever again. I've got a lot of history and a lot of miles on those trails. It was already bittersweet to move on to something else, but now even moreso.

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Looking into the future, literally. This is the only thing we'll be riding until we move!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Turbulence

March. It comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. Or sometimes, it's in like a lamb and out like a lion.

But honestly? I couldn't tell you what the trend was this year because my March was turbulent as hell with life changes. Nothing overly amazing or overly horrible, but just a helluva lot of changes all at once. I'm so grateful my time management skills are on point because they really helped me get through it all with [mostly] minimal stress.

Let's review some of the turbulence, shall we?

- Moved out of my apartment of four years to live in Canaan - I love having a house of my own, a yard of my own, a garden of my own, etc. The move by and large went super smoothly, but inevitably there are still unpacked boxes (hello, all my crafting supplies) and the sheer fact that they are creating clutter and remain unpacked irks my liver a wee bit.

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- Introduced a daily commute into my life - This is something I've very fortunately never had, but I don't greatly mind now. Waking up at 4:15am isn't the greatest, but it is a necessary evil if I want to enjoy 3-day weekends (which I really, really do). It's made easier by the fact that I get to listen to the BBC for the length of my morning commute. <3

- Worked my ass off day in and day out at my job - I've had 3 consecutive (no doubts about it turning into four...) weeks of every work-day being like a Monday. Dealing with high level management on a certain project weekly, sometimes multiple times a day, sometimes multiple times before 10am! I've also had something like 12 meetings since March 8 on this project when I previously might have one, maybe two, a month. I've had a few nights of work until 9pm, too, and let's recall, I start my work day at 6am...oi vey. My work life has been quite steady until recently - meaning it's always a little bit of a challenge, but it's totally manageable. Lately, however, things have picked up 10-fold. This "new norm" should largely cease by autumn, but there are no guarantees. I'm adapting, but it's definitely going to take some time to fully adjust.

- Balanced my various small jobs with my career - I'm still giving Lauren and her mom lessons. We're trying for once a week for both, but all parties have had quite the turbulent past week or two. I'm definitely looking forward to making things more steady and stable in coming weeks! Lauren is choosing to focus on endurance as much as possible while her mom has fallen head over heels for dressage. It's such a blast working with them both.

I also have continued to build my photography portfolio doing family shoots for close friends. My goal for myself is to open a public portfolio to start advertising my small side photography business by mid-summer. My goal is to let the hobby fund itself through photoshoots and probably some sales of individual prints here and there. I may even open a small Etsy shop with the reclaimed barnwood seasonal transition photo series I've been working on.

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- Made a quick day trip to Loch Moy to immerse myself more in the world of eventing with Emma, Brita, and Austen - This trip was so fun and educational, though also a bit turbulent due to some unexpected family emergencies on Austen's part. Emma and Brita totally took me under their wing for the day and taught me all of the ins and outs of a typical schooling show. I got to see first-hand how things are run, gain an appreciation for the turbulent atmosphere of the Loch Moy venue, do a couple course walks, and generally plot and scheme my year ahead with Griffin. (Oh, the XC jumps I plan to build!) I also enjoyed being able to take photos for Brita and Emma (some of my favorites below). I didn't stay quite as long as originally planned at the event as I knew I needed to be with Austen as she dealt with a very unexpected hand of cards that was dealt to her that morning. I'm glad I was close by to be able to lend some very hard hugs.

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- Enjoy various shindigs to celebrate the end of a good winter - When you live in a town with three ski resorts (two downhill and one cross country) and a wealth of folks who adore the magic and hygge that snow brings, there are many reasons to celebrate winter. We ring in winter with a party at the beginning of December, we celebrate throughout winter with parties, and when the season winds to a close parties are thrown to celebrate a season well-enjoyed. We throw one of the annual parties at our house, celebrate another at a private community center, and a third at the cross country resort. Free food, alcohol, and music along with some of the best people I know all in one room. These celebrations have been wonderful escapes to balance my turbulent month.

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And there you have it, some of the turbulence that ruled my March. There are several more key horse-related things that occupied my month, but until things are final with these developments, I'm not going to share them. πŸ˜‰ It's looking like three of the five developments should be wrapped up by the end of April though!

I'm very much looking forward to warmer spring temperatures, a more steady schedule, and all of the things I love about spring. There is still much to wrap up in April, but overall, my schedule is much less turbulent this month with hard plans only set for five days (as opposed to, you know, half or more of the month).

With any luck, I'll find more time to write on the blog this month!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Spring Training with a New Character

The Great Horse Hunt is finally over for Lauren, the junior rider I've been working with since last summer. She's found her new endurance prospect, a 10 year old Arabian gelding, Majayda Lethyf (barn name pending).

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We thought we'd found her the perfect horse last fall, but after being strung along by his owner for nearly 3 months, things fell through. Lauren was pretty crushed at the time, but I knew if it was meant to be, it would have happened. The way things went down was pretty poor form on the owner of that horse, in my honest opinion, but c'est la vie sometimes. So I scoured the internet once again and sent ads to Lauren's mom for horses I thought may fit the bill.

Coincidentally enough - or maybe not so coincidentally as the right things always seem to fall into place - the first horse who passed the precursors to result in an in-person visit ended up being The One. Not only did he have good ground work, he'd been with his [former] owner for 9 of his 10 years, knows how to drive, has competed in 4-H shows with kids, and has completed one 30 mile LD. He was delivered to West Virginia the following weekend.

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While the first prospect had proven breeding and training for success in endurance, I worried about the ground manners we would need to instill and develop. It's one thing to know your job of moving down the trail under saddle and quite another to be a good horse on the ground. The horse Lauren has ended up with gives me no concerns whatsoever regarding his ground manners. In fact, he rivals Griffin with his groundwork and may, in fact, excel over Griffin in a few areas. (I don't say this because Griffin is some kind of unparalleled groundwork genius, but because I have met few horses who have had as much time spent working from the ground as Griffin.)

In addition to impeccable ground manners, this little gelding has such an amazing mind. He has taken absolutely everything in stride without any major outbursts at all with regard to the work he's been asked to do.

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The only time he has shown ill-behavior was a result of too much pressure being put on him for too long during a round pen session. Lauren was treating him like Stan (who needs SO MUCH pressure in the form of body language and whip cracking to keep him moving and motivated) instead of like a sensitive horse. M snaked his head in protest at her continued urging and finally kicked out in her general direction in protest. Absolutely NOT cool, but also not completely malicious as he'd given warnings and asked and asked for the pressure to be let off. I hadn't been paying full attention during the session, but once I did I recognized quickly what was happening and noted my observations to Lauren.

I shared with her that every horse communicates differently and needs more or less pressure based on their individual personality and way of going. Stan is the most docile critter ever - especially around Lauren; it's due in part to his age, his breeding, and the fact that he's had little to no work the majority of the last five years. Griffin is definitely more responsive, but will still be sticky with someone who doesn't "speak the language" as well; if he can get away with being lazy, he'll take advantage of it. Q is as sensitive or more sensitive than M, and Q has been on full rest from her suspensory injury during a large part of my time with Lauren, so Lauren hasn't had an opportunity to work with a truly sensitive horse in the round pen before.

Lauren is a lot like me in that she learns best by doing or by watching, so once I shared my observations with her and took away the lunging whip, M's behavior resolved and hasn't returned! In fact, the gelding hasn't set a foot out of line with anything we've presented him with since then.

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We went out on our first trail outing this past weekend, completing an easy 6 miles over an hour and a half. The trails are at peak muddiness, two grouse flushed from under foot, numerous downed trees had to be stepped over, one branch hit M full in the face, countless puddles with ice had to be crossed, snow drifts were traversed, and one mountain was climbed. Despite all of those things, M didn't set a foot wrong the entire time. He was a total doll. He even led for a short time on the way home and in setting up to take the riding photos here, he had to walk away from Griffin - which he did with zero resistance or concern. WHAT a good horse.

I am so thrilled for Lauren to being her journey with this guy and I'm excited to guide their training for the foreseeable future. It will be so enjoyable to not only have a training buddy, but also to watch the evolution of this pair. There is so much potential in them both and I can't wait to see where they go.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Back Into the Swing of Things

Longer days are upon us! ....and a snowstorm is bearing down, but that's beside the point. More daylight after work means my riding can return to it's regularly scheduled programming.

I celebrated the first of longer days by spending a few hours at the barn yesterday afternoon. It's been a long while since I took a Sunday at the barn. I brought in all three horses and spent awhile grooming each of them. They're at varying stages of the shedding process: Q's hardly shedding at all; Stan has just begun the first wave of shedding; Griffin is through the first wave of shedding and is now retaining what he has left since the weather has swung back toward the "cold" spectrum of turbulent Appalachian spring weather.

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Stan is incredibly footsore following a ride last week, so he's sidelined until Dan can come out and put shoes on. Fifteen years of life spent in front shoes has created hooves that are much weaker in structure than his hinds. Time and consistent trimming on my part will get him to a better place (oh boy, how his feet have changed already), but we won't get there overnight! It's definitely a process. And as much as I would love to put him in boots during this shoulder-season between the months of heavier riding so that his feet could get a bit more stimulus to help them through the process of becoming stronger, I cannot. The current structure of his hooves will not accept a boot, and I absolutely and vehemently refuse to force-trim his feet to "fit".

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In his 7+ months with me so far, Stan's toes are MUCH shorter than they were for most of his life and his heels are lower. The hoof is responding to the changes, but once again, it's a [slow-going] process! His toes need to come back a titch more and his heels most definitely need to come down lower than their current state. The caudal region of his front hooves has a lot of beefing up to do over the next many months. Shoes, and potentially pads, are what will make him comfy right now, so that's the route we will go. Dan and I nerd out pretty hard over hooves and all the manners of ways that exist to help build a better hoof for the individual horse. I'm confident the two of us will get Stan where he needs to be in a manner than keeps him the most comfortable along the way.

Q

Q looks great. Increasing the time I spend with her and expectations of her this past month has completely resolved her witchy behavior she'd developed during her rest/rehab period of zero expectations from the human. I'm really optimistic that by the time we're back on the endurance trail, she's going to be the partner I know she can be - one who trusts me more and dumps me in blind fear a lot less. I'm still in no great hurry to work her though, despite a solid 7 months elapsing between the presentation of lameness and the present day. More time off will only help her to heal. I think once her coat is fully shed out, we'll do more purposeful walking workouts. Until then, we shall enjoy a once a week lollygagging bareback meander around the barnyard.

Griffin

Griffin has come through winter pretty damn well. We didn't work heavily and he has lost some of his muscling he had at the end of autumn, but by and large, he's looking pretty damn good. I can't describe how excited I am to get moving with more dressage and jumping lessons with him this year!

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Yesterday, I enjoyed my first legitimate jumping workout with him in months - and my first with the new-to-us jumping saddle. Until now, we've been jumping in a Wintec AP which has led me to agree whole-heartedly with those in the camp of All Purpose = No Purpose. I could make due, certainly, with the AP, but it's really wonderful to have equipment that facilitates proper position for the task at hand. (An aside, I finally did the same with my skis this year and wow. Just wow. Using the most up-to-date technology for the sport makes all of the clinics I've had that discuss minute positional changes in your femur rotation, hip angle, or general body make so much more sense. When the equipment works with you instead of against you, it's so much easier to improve.) I felt more stable in my lower body positioning over jumps than I ever have: my leg was ON and didn't slip back, my heels were DOWN, my hips and resulting upper body had an easier time following the motion of the horse. I still have oodles of things to work on, but feeling more confident in the saddle definitely goes a long way to helping me toward achieving other positional goals.

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My mom really wanted to get some time spent outside yesterday, so she came out to the barn while I was there. As I rode Griffin, she and Kenai hiked around the back pasture to get some exercise in on the beautiful day. Not one to miss an opportunity for media if I can help it, I handed her my DSLR to snap some shots of Griffin and I as she was able during her walk.

Grif was very up. His clip coupled with breezy 30ΒΊF weather and getting to enjoy his most favorite activity - jumping - equaled a very sassy fellow. I was really grateful for the Myler combo bit, which packs much more punch than the French-link snaffle we've been enjoying for all of our dressage schooling. (I've also jumped in that bit, but I've learned that it's not a wise decision because Griffin gets way too excited and runs through it quite easily.)

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The jumps are currently arranged in a very hodge-podge non-structured manner. I'm definitely changing them to something with more structure after the coming snow melts (next week). And I knew I should have modified them more yesterday, but lugging jumps around into a new setup is an event in itself. Yesterday was a Riding Day not a Solo Liz Jump Crew day, so we made due.

I trotted and then cantered Griffin around the field a bit to warm up. He was balanced, in front of my leg, and light in the bridle. It felt so nice to ride that horse again. We began our more structured work by trotting and cantering a series of 3 ground poles and then popping over a cross rail (none pictured). Then we slowly began working over first the panel jump and then the other two verticals (2'6").

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Put mom up on Griffin for the creek crossing.
Posed for a photo on the way back!


Due to the current setup of the jumps, we botched distances like it was the prime objective of the day. I'm really rusty at this jumping thing after months off! And I am really ready for lessons to help me with my skill at seeing distances and developing exercises to help improve. However, I did learn from my mistakes and our efforts improved greatly. I ended on a really nice note, too.

It was really nice though, making the mistakes I made yesterday. Because you know what? Despite my errors, that little grey horse of mine jumped everything just as honest-as-could-be and saved my shit riding where necessary. He's such a doll. And he makes me realize that if I actually ride and pilot with purpose, he can do anything. He loves to work and jumping is his most favorite work. It's up to me now to learn how to be the best I can be so that he can fulfill his full potential. He's keeping up his end of the bargain and then some; I need to pick up the slack. And I will! 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A New Zip Code

The blog has been exceptionally quiet/sporadically written over the past couple months due to the fact that I have moved! I'm just one county over from where I was living, but it's still a big change. For the past two years, I was living part time in my hometown where my job is based and part time in Canaan Valley with Dave. Now, I'm in the valley full time. Other than the much longer commute to the office 4 days a week (of which I have and will continue to adapt to), it's been amazing.

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Thanks to some foresight on my part coupled with absurdly mild temperatures most of January Junuary and the first part of February, I was able to slowly move to the valley a car load at a time much sooner than I'd originally anticipated. Admittedly, it was a bit stressful, but what move isn't? Now that it's [mostly] over, I'm so relieved to have all of my things in one place again. Two residences was more work and definitely stressed me out. Despite the commute, it's much easier to just live in one place!

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The only current negative to the situation is that I am a 45 minute drive (and nearly as many miles) from the horses. This is the furthest I have been from my horses ever. A local friend has room for me to bring one horse up here in the near future, but as for the other two, the situation is very much in flux. I have ideas and plans for ways to resolve this, but they will take time. Conveniently, the horses and work are in the same town, so it's easier to fit in my riding plans 4 days a week with the distance. But I am eager to find a plan of action that puts them closer to home!

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Beyond the commute and the current distance from the horses, things are wonderful. I enjoy my location, seeing Dave daily, being closer to the wealth of outdoors activities I partake in, being closer to a community of friends who are avid outdoors enthusiasts, living in a very quiet, peaceful neighborhood, and generally being closer to nature.

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Kenai is the happiest, I think. He loves this house and the yard. He had a great yard at the apartment, too, but he tended to wander and play in the wetland a little too much for my taste! Here, he makes his rounds to check on all of his "spots", then settles in one of three places to lounge and survey his kingdom for hours at a time. We're secluded from roads (rarely, if ever, do we even hear road noise!) so it's safe to let him wander about the little bit he does. The only thing he is lacking - that I know he wishes he had after two very extended stints with my coworker's dog in the past 3 months - is a friend. But he'll have to wait about 5 months for her. πŸ˜‰

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So, there you have it! The biggest reason behind my blog being a bit quieter than usual. I hope to begin posting with a bit more regularity (at least 1x/week) as life moves forward. This post is (hopefully) the first of several big "life updates" I'll share with the blog over the coming month or two, so if things do get quiet, trust that I'll return with a fun update at a later time.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Two Horse Tack Halter-Bridle Review


Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Two Horse Tack I was compensated in the form of a free product, however all opinions expressed are entirely my own. 

The Quick & Dirty

I am really impressed with the quality, the fit, the construction, and the overall appearance of Two Horse Tack's halter-bridle. I highly recommend it to any horse person out there, especially endurance folks. Additionally, I can say with certainty that Two Horse Tack has permanently swayed my business to them for my future beta biothane tack needs. Stellar product.

Some Background

Jacke from Two Horse Tack (and also known within the blogging and endurance world as Endurance Granny) reached out to me recently to see if I would be interested in reviewing a product for Two Horse Tack. I've known about this company for some time, but until recently, I haven't needed any new items, so I'd put off trying out Two Horse Tack. Life with horses on a budget, ain't it grand?

However, Jacke's message to me was rather timely. With Stan's re-entry to my life and Q's slow reintroduction to work, I'd been hemming and hawing about getting Q a new halter bridle. See, Stan is the original wearer of orange tack. In fact, when he came home with me he wore his very faded orange halter and lead rope he's had since he was a 4 year old. It was only fitting that the orange halter-bridle Q used to wear would become his. I've wanted to put the mare in hot pink for about a year now because it is so striking on her dark coat, but just couldn't justify purchasing more tack without a use for the orange! Stan resolved that quandary and Two Horse Tack jumped in to introduce a new line of beta biothane halter-bridles to my tack locker.

Two Horse Tack Traditional Halter-Bridle with Bit Hangers


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As I noted above, the product I chose to review was Two Horse Tack's solid colored halter-bridle. As also noted above, I chose an obnoxiously bright pink color to deck Q out in. And, as you can see from the photos, it looks stunning on Q and stands out beautifully against her dark coat (which is at its peak sun-bleached state from a long, too-sunny winter).

I'd heard rumors around the internet about sizing complications with Two Horse Tack products in the past, so when Jacke inquired about what size Q would be, I volleyed the question right back to her with, "Well, what do you think?" Jacke noted what size her mare wore for me to compare with Q and we jointly decided that Arab would probably be the best bet. (Q is half Arabian, so this should have been a no-brainer for me, but I've always ordered her horse-size in past after a fluke sizing issue with an off-brand halter from a company I don't recall and haven't heard of again.)

Shipping from Two Horse Tack to me was lightning fast. So fast, in fact, that when I asked Jacke about a tracking code to make sure I could be on alert for it's arrival, she noted that USPS' site was glitchy and wouldn't give her the code but she'd venture to guess that I'd have it before the website would be resolved. She was right and I had the product in my hands early the next morning!

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I rushed to the barn to try it on Q immediately. It fit her little head almost perfectly straight out of the box. I moved it to an extra hole here and there, but nothing significant. It definitely fits better than her orange halter-bridle, however I did order that in horse size and not Arab, so that's on me.

Construction and stitching of the halter is more solid, in my opinion, than her former halter-bridle also. The stitching throughout is solid and very well done.

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The clips to attach the bit hanger to the halter-bridle are a bit bigger than I was accustomed to from her past halter-bridle, however from a form and function standpoint, I like the bigger clips a lot more. They're a lot simpler to clip on the go than the other design I was used to.

The only modification I had to make to the product was to add an extra hole to the bit hanger setup to to guarantee that Q's S-hack sit in the correct position on her delicate face. However, this was not a big deal though as I'm used to adding holes to various horse tack and my personal belts. In fact, a leather punch travels with me in the back of my car at all times and helped me make quick work of adding the extra hole to the bit hangers on the spot.

Overall impression: I am very pleased with the construction, the fit, and the overall appearance of this piece of tack.

The construction of the halter-bridle is solid - more so than on other products I've used in the past. I have faith that it will stand the test of just about anything I deign to put it through based on my experience with beta biothane materials.

The pink is obnoxiously bright and looks stunning contrasted against Q's dark coat. Additionally, the Arab size compliments her face better than any other tack I've had on her in the past. I give the product two enthusiastic thumbs up, five shining stars, and will definitely be purchasing a matching breastplate from Two Horse Tack in the near future!

Comparing and Contrasting Two Horse Tack Halter-Bridle to Distance Depot Halter-Bridle

Now, as I alluded to above, there are various similarities and differences between this halter-bridle and those from my past halter-bridle from The Distance Depot. As an endurance rider, I feel that this product review wouldn't be 100% complete without a bit of contrast and comparison between this product and one from a company that tends to be quite popular in the endurance world.  

Spoiler alert: Two Horse Tack is now the apple of my eye and will receive my future business for my beta biothane horse tack needs!

Let me tell you why I found Two Horse Tack superior:

  • Cost: I also own two Distance Depot halter-bridles and while I love them and they've proven themselves through countless adventures, the cost of the damn things always sends me reeling a bit at the tune of $80. Two Horse Tack's halter-bridle is a much more affordable $55.

    Two Horse Tack's cost point for this product includes a solid colored halter-bridle with no bling. The company does offer halter-bridles with two colors and bling, but as you desire these options, the price point increases accordingly. The Distance Depot's halter-bridle gives you the option of all of these "extras" as I see them and lumps them into one cost. So, for my preference of a solid color with stainless steel hardware and no bling, Two Horse Tack definitely takes the cake.
  • Construction: When you compare the construction of the halter-bridles between the two companies, they're quite similar. The width of the beta biothane is the same, the browband construction (though I do have custom browbands on my Distance Depot halter-bridles) is the same,  and the hardware connecting everything is similar/the same.

    The main differences in construction lie in the stitching along the cheek pieces and the way the throat latch attaches.

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    Two Horse Tack's halter-bridle cheek pieces are stitched fully and are two full layers of beta biothane thick. Distance Depot's halter-bridle cheek pieces only overlap where they connect to the hardware; the beta biothane loops through the connection piece and is then riveted to itself. I'm certain this saves some weight, something a lot of endurance athletes tend to be concerned with across all endurance disciplines, but the couple ounces this saves aren't going to be significant in the long run.

    With regard to the throat latch, Two Horse Tack's halter-bridle connects with a classic buckle while Distance Depot's connects with a hook and snap. Distance Depot's method is slightly quicker to connect, but a halter-bridle is typically put on at the beginning of the day and removed at the end, so the few seconds one may save via a clip aren't exactly critical. Additionally, to nitpick weight again, the Two Horse Tack buckle is lighter weight than the hook and snap of Distance Depot, which likely offsets the weight difference saving of the cheek piece construction.

To conclude, when you compare Two Horse Tack's halter-bridle to that of the Distance Depot, there isn't a huge advantage between one or the other in construction or appearance. However, there is a difference in the cost, especially if you desire a solid color halter-bridle with no bling. And let's be honest, horses are an expensive money pit hobby, so saving some dollars wherever you can is key!

And for me? I find Two Horse Tack's halter-bridle to be better constructed (I like the stitching on the cheek pieces, the buckled throatlatch, and the larger bit hanger clips) and it is at a better cost for what I'm looking for. I can say with certainty that my future purchases of beta biothane tack will be from Two Horse Tack.

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Thank you, Jacke and Two Horse Tack for giving me the opportunity to review one of your products. I'm really impressed and will be giving you more business in the future!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Trip of a Lifetime

Although, I must say, I certainly hope I'm fortunate enough to have another trip or two like this in my lifetime!

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As I re-read this post, I realized the large amount of skier jargon in it. Here is a quick glossary of terms for non-skiers:

Boot packA path in the snow beat down with ski boots resembling a staircase; it becomes easier to ascend with each pass. 
Bowl: Wide, treeless area resembling a bowl.
Cornice: An overhanging mass of hardened snow, often along a ridgeline formed by wind.
"Hammering": Whiteout conditions due to rapidly falling snow, alternately, "nuking".
"Nuking": A term for whiteout snow conditions, also, "hammering".
Interlodged: Becoming "trapped" at a resort due to road closures because of snow conditions. No traffic is allowed in or out of the canyon due to the closure and one must remain at the resort until roads are reopened.
Line: Downhill path; often through obstacles (trees, rocks, cliffs) or through a narrow strip of untracked powder.
Pitch: Vertical rise per foot; steepness
Powder/white powder: New snowfall, and for the means of this post, light fluffy snow that will cloud up with you blow on it.
Shralp: A slang term combining "shredding" and "ripping" used by skiers, snowboarders, skaters, surfers, etc.
Sierra cement: Fresh snowfall that is often heavy in quality.
Traverse: Travel sideways along a mountainside staying at or about the same elevation; in skiing, often involves a thin narrow track about a foot to 18 inches wide in the snowpack
Untracked: Snow that is untouched and no one has skied

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I spent the last week with Dave and close friends skiing outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. It's a skiers mecca; 10+ resorts within an hours drive of SLC and the quality of the snow simply cannot be beat. I haven't skied in California or the PNW before (but I do know skiers refer to the snow over there as "Sierra cement") but I have skied in Colorado and Montana and I can say with certainty that what we skied in Utah was definitely superior. I definitely understand why my "snobby skier friends" (stated with respect) love Utah so much.

Winter in the east, or lack thereof, this year has been awful. The resort ski season used to be a good 20 weeks long. Last year we only squeaked out 14 weeks and that was a fight. This year? This year we are going to be damn lucky to make it to 10 weeks! You can say what you want about climate change, but this is pretty damning.

In an effort to enjoy a skier's paradise, we booked our trip to SLC mid-late January for a few weeks later, hoping and praying to Ullr and the snow gods that we'd time it right with good snow. (And personally, I crossed my digits that I could keep up with the group I was going with. I've been skiing as long as I've been horseback riding and am quite a strong skier, but I would definitely be the weakest link in the group for this trip!)

Did. We. EVER. The area received 83 inches of snow during our week there including a most epic dump of white powder on our third day of skiing. (In contrast it was sunny and in the 60s and 70s back home, ugh.)

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Super psyched
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Finding my legs on steep terrain
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Kind of shows the steepness; photos don't accurately represent it! That's Dave below me.

With fresh powder on the ground, we really wanted our first day of skiing to be at Alta, the ultimate mecca for us this trip. However, the canyon was still closed that morning for avalanche control and the line of cars trying to get there was obscene. So, we made a quick change of decision - we created our own lane with our giant truck amidst bewildered looks from the locals and rerouted for Solitude instead.

We scored a decent parking lot at Solitude and were promptly given lift ticket vouchers by the parking attendant (score!). The pitches were pretty short and we had to traverse a lot, but we found the steep terrain we were looking for along with fresh powder to shralp. It was a great first day and I was pleased that I was able to keep up with our group with little to no problem; I certainly wasn't the first to descend the lines, but the visual guidance of someone in front of me was all I needed.

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Traverse right for fresh lines!
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Along the traverse above the cornice
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Hanging tips over the edge of the cornice
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Wind blown traverse tracks; we crept down this slope to reach the area where we dropped into the bowl

We still thought we may go to Alta the next day (more fresh snow), but as friends of ours from our home ski patrol were also out in SLC for a ski trip, we decided to go to Snowbasin to ski with them. Not a bad decision! While the locals complained that it was "so busy" we didn't think so. We found fresh powder all day (again) and had runs that descended 2,500 vertical feet almost every run. It was pretty epic and really helped my get my powder legs figured out for the next day. By midday at Snowbasin I was making the first move into fresh powder lines (she ain't gonna shralp herself!) amidst the whoops and hollers of my excited friends as they followed suit.

The last third of our day at Snowbasin we hiked a little boot pack to traverse a windy ridgeline that would allow us to drop a cornice into a bowl that didn't have many tracked lines through it. The traverse was highly intimidating for me. The track was narrow, rocks and small cliffs bordered it throughout and the winds whipped by me. The exposure of the terrain (and the weather) was intense. Finally reaching the drop-in point on the cornice wasn't that much more reassuring either! It was an intimidating drop down into fresh powder. However, powder makes for a soft landing, so I sucked it up and went for it and I'm really glad I pushed out of my comfort zone to do so. What a thrill!

Finally, on our third day, Alta was a go. We knew a snowstorm would be hitting Monday into Tuesday morning, but the forecasted accumulation from it had varied in the days leading up to it. Ultimately, the storm would dump 26+ inches of beautiful white powder on us.

Alta was by far the steepest terrain I've ever skied. Additionally, it was the most powder I've ever skied, shy of superstorm Jonas last year in the east where our terrain is mostly too low-angle to make it much fun.

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The trees kind of demonstrate how steep it was;
still don't do much justice
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Super psyched about the snow nuking down
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Dave smiling and laughing about the interlodge news
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Screenshot I took of the tweet announcing the interlodge threat
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Almost needed a snorkel
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Dave killed it on his telemark skis all week; I had no illusions about this trip and only took my
alpine gear - tele skiing is HARD WORK.

Our first runs were testing ground for me as I learned how to maneuver effectively in what was commonly waist-deep powder (varied depths for the day were knee to mid-thigh, waist-deep, and occasionally up to my chest). By our third run, I got the hang of it, and the rest of the day was simply amazing. It hammered down the snow the whole day. In fact, it was snowing so much that they closed the canyon around noon! Originally, they'd stated that reopening wasn't guaranteed and we would be interlodged.

Being interlodged means that you cannot leave. The road is closed and you are "stuck" at the resort until the road is reopened; often times the closing is for road maintenance to prevent worse conditions later, but sometimes it can be due to an avalanche or the impending certainty of an avalanche. Nothing and no one come in or out. For a skier, being interlodged at a place like Alta isn't an inconvenience, it is a dream come true. All the powder to shralp and nowhere else to go! Oh, damn. ;-)

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, for us, the road did reopen shortly after 4pm (although the snow was still nuking down) so we did make it back to the rental. Regardless, it was still the most amazing day of skiing any of us had ever had. I am officially a powder fiend.


Legs screaming, we finally took a rest day on Tuesday. Our little group dispersed on this day, one headed back east, Dave and I headed to Park City, and the other two headed to Jackson, WY.

Our time spent skiing in Park City was decent - we did manage to find untracked powder lines all day - but our bodies were still exhausted and it hadn't snowed since early Tuesday morning, so the skiing definitely didn't get any better. Still, we enjoyed what skiing we did before we journeyed back east on Friday.

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Boot pack to fresh lines at Park City
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Views from Park City
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Fresh tracks off Pinecone Ridge
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Aspens <3
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Park City vista
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Finishing up my second run through the mostly-untracked bowl

I'm so grateful we got to enjoy primo snow conditions for this trip and ski so much. I think our total vertical drop skied for the week was somewhere around 67k feet. I wore my HR monitor for much of it to see how the elevation was impacting me, but I haven't uploaded the data yet due to some technological issues. Regardless, I'm pretty sure I burned some serious calories skiing last week!

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Now that vacation is over and some other things in my life are beginning to settle, I plan to write a lot more on the blog. I have a lot of exciting updates to share and a product review in the near future. Stay tuned!