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.

Stan

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 30ºF 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. 😉

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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

: : : : :

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!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

My Three

I arrive, grab three halters, three peppermints, and venture to the field.

Q and Griffin both greet me with their respective whicker and whinny before walking to me, Q initiating the forward motion for once.



I then venture to grab Stan who has watched the events up to this point. He whickers his greeting, too, before giving his typical walk-around bossing Griffin and earning my chiding before he'll acquiesce to being haltered.

We venture to the barnyard. Cranky faces are swapped between Q and Stan while Griffin skirts to the front, nervous about being around Stan who is still The Bossy New Guy.

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Leading three horses at once is harder than it seems; Stan is definitely the problem child!

All three receive grain and grooming while I casually sip on the beer I had the foresight to bring. These quiet after-work moments with the horses are all the better with a cold brew in hand!

As I putz about doing this and that, as three sets of ears and eyes follow my every move. Each horse stands square with a hind leg resting.

I finally can't resist and begin a gratuitous photoshoot for a few minutes. They're just too cute.

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Varying degrees of filth and varying degrees of successful clip jobs.
Clipper batteries died hard by the time I got to Stan, sorry buddy!
I can say with certainty that all horses are very appreciative of their clips though;
they're much more perky and active in the field in the days following! It's so nice to see.
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Can't wait for more time and warmer days to get this guy out on the trails to build fitness back for
the first time since...2007!
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She doesn't look as awful as I'd worried after 6 months off!

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Okay, this is actually not from last night, but Griffin was in a dark spot last night that made photos poorer.


Finally, I decide to toss on my helmet and clip reins to Q's rope halter. I vault onto her bareback and we walk in slow, meandering circles around the barnyard for five to ten minutes. I revel in the pleasure of sitting astride my little 100-mile mare after so much time off. It's been 6 months since she began showing symptoms and 5 months since we diagnosed her suspensory injury.

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On Wednesdays we wear pink.
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Smiles and floppy relaxed ears <3
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This mare is the queen of getting mud on her poll. Cakes it in there like a boss.
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I couldn't help myself and gave her a vanity plate/tramp stamp.

We're not rushing into anything, but it is so nice to have these quiet moments riding her again, even if they are infrequent for now, the briefest of brief, and the slowest of slow. I'm grateful for the time.

After our short jaunt, I cuddle more with each horse before Lauren and her mom show up for lessons. Spring is imminent and I think I'm ready.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Slowing Time

Time is marching more deliberately and slowly for me lately. It's a welcome change-of-pace and so calming to the mind. Big life changes are upon me, which I will share in a month or so on the blog, and the whirling-swirling chaos that accompanies these things by nature has me seeking quiet solace in other aspects of my life.

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Driftwood playing at the Purple Fiddle a week+ ago

I'm rarely on my computer these days and I'm on my phone much less than I used to. So much less on my phone, in fact, that I hardly have any new photos to share at all because I have been leaving it at home or in my car when I go places to do things. (The photos in this post are 90% of my photos on my phone from the past two weeks and they were only taken on two days during that time period.) I haven't really had time to pick up my DSLR either.

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A magical unicorn themed bathroom at Tip Top in Thomas, WV

I'm pleased with the slower, more deliberate and purposeful way I've been living lately, but it doesn't make blogging easy! Fortunately, not much blog-worthy news is going on at this time of year. It seems winter is ending abnormally early though. I'm both excited and saddened by this. Excited because more horse time is always a plus, but I'm sad because I do love skiing and winter sports so much!

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Bareback conditioning ride on Stanley

Due to the radical swing toward spring weather, I did bib clips on all three horses yesterday. None of them is close to shedding their thick winter coat yet, so something had to be done. But, as I fully expect some sort of burst of snow/cold before the end of April, I didn't feel comfortable making them more naked because they are turned out 24/7 and I'm not in a position to be able to run out and blanket them for every 24 hour cold spurt.

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Selfie game is strong with these two, and the derp game is strong with all three of us.

Each of my horses fell asleep happily while I clipped them. And they each loved getting their faces clipped the most. Q loved the whole experience so much that she continued to linger near me (those who were not being clipped were free to wander and graze in the barnyard) when I'd finished while I clipped Griffin. The boys clips look a little mothy in comparison to Q's because they wanted to nuzzle and "help" me throughout which made the job a little difficult! But as I said aloud to them in the process, doesn't really matter how good or bad they look because we don't exactly have any travel plans to be in the eye of the public before they've shed their winter tresses fully. If they need to be touched up later, so be it. But for now, the only objective was to give them some relief from 65°F+ sunny days with their yak coats on.

I promise to have more exciting content in a week or two. But for now, this is life. It's slow, deliberate, and I'm quite happy.