Friday, September 19, 2014

SFTS Blog Hop: Why Do You Do What You Do

Jenn at Stories from the Saddle has asked why we compete/partake in the disciplines we've each chosen.

I love the outdoors. I love exploring. I love finding beautiful vistas. I love riding my horse.

Ever since I was a small kid gallivanting through the woods behind my house play-acting some Brian Jacques novel, I always fantasized about, "What if I had a HORSE to run through the woods on?!" nevermind that horses totally didn't fit into the Redwall schema and an otter (my usual character choice) would probably not be able to ride said horse.

Horses were always at the forefront of everything I did outdoors though. Horses and the lingering, What if I had a horse right now to run around on?!

And then I read the Black Stallion books and fell in love with the relationship Alec had with The Black. And then I read the Red Stallion books and wished so hard I could traverse the mazes on Azul Island and find a lush island interior complete with a beautiful herd of horses and one horse that would become my partner and with whom I could gallivant around the island on.

And through my teenage years when I spent my free time purposefully getting lost in the woods on trail rides with my two close friends, I was the happiest ever. Trotting and cantering everything that wasn't a downhill, up and down mountains, through boggy creeks, stinging nettles, over boulders, and along ridgelines. Though I still longed for so much more.

And so, endurance seemed like the only logical choice. I didn't even know it was a thing until 2007. I mean, Hidalgo came out in 2004, but that was Just A Movie, right? But then, our area started the Ride Between the Rivers in 2007. And in March, Sonya said I should train Stan for the 30 mile ride. And 30 miles seemed both crazy and the greatest thing ever. And so I rode that Appendix QH on the trails 5 days a week for 5 months in preparation. I knew trotting was important and I knew hills were important, so we trotted everything except the downhills and we climbed up some wicked steep mountains. And then on race day He was in the best shape of nearly any horse there and we would have won that damn thing with ease if it hadn't been for the whole shoe debacle.

Riding a horse - my horse - over the mountain and through the woods for miles and miles and hours and hours makes me happiest. The bond we share to conquer terrain like that with that kind of mileage is outstanding. And that's why I do it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Little To Report

The weather has been very fall the past two weeks. Lower on the humidity scale, lower on the temperature scale, and beautiful. Yet, I've ridden very little.

I did take my very first lesson in more than a decade on Sunday. It was great. I was sore, but I learned a lot. I even took my learnings and came straight to the barn and applied them with both horses with great success - getting Q to leg yield to both sides and perform her first successful turn on the fore - something we struggled with previously. Griffin even leg yielded well in both directions, though he was sticky to the left. He became frustrated about this, but we worked through it and found small success which was rewarded heavily.

Griffin did finally exhibit his Shit Fit ground driving the other day which, while a bother, was incredibly exciting because it really hammered home that his antics are truly greenie things and much less likely to be an underlying issue of some kind. He even did the EXACT same moves he tries under saddle complete with his "I'm falling!" fake-out which was quickly met with a "Oh shit, she doesn't care that I'm fake-falling I better stand up!" stumble.  *cackle* That's right horse, I'm on the ground and really do not care if you fall over. *shrugs*

I've ridden him twice (non-trail) since that ground driving moment, and while we've had sticky spots, we're working through them. Additionally, we've been using the Myler 3-ring combination with a low port which Griffin seems to like, but more tests are needed. It seems, ultimately, that two things trigger Griffin being a snit: 1. being asked to perform something that isn't on His Agenda, and 2. asking Griffin to perform something tricky that is hard for him - he gets so upset when he can't do something well! And on our last ride, he was upset about not doing well, tripped the most minor amount due to his lack of attention on his feet, and then proceeded to get MORE upset because he tripped. I seriously had to laugh at him - and then quickly provide him a chance to do something he's awesome at so his mind would move forward from the bad moment. He's really a good boy beneath his greenie Shit Fit moments; he wants SO badly to please and gets very over eager with his attempts to please, so when I shut down his over eagerness with a "not now, let's wait" he gets a bit frustrated.

And OMG HE IS SO UPHILL. A fact even more accentuated by riding him immediately after working with Q. Especially in his canter. Q has a LOVELY canter, but Griffin's is just so much more. I'm really eager to see where that goes over time. I'm really beginning to more heavily consider Griffin's future with more dressage and eventual jumping. While he's fun on the trail, he really excels in the flat work we've done. Granted, his first love is all things ground-based due to nearly two straight years of ground-based pursuits. It's fun figuring out and testing out different jobs for him. =)

I'd hoped to go on a big ride with Mike one of these weekends at Dolly Sods, but he's out in California fighting fire near Placerville, so I'm having to revise my riding plans. I'd really like to get two bigger rides in on Q before Fort Valley at the end of October. And I'd really like to do these rides up at the Sods where the footing can be rocky in places just like OD rides. I think the plan for the first big ride is going to be to take Q and have friends who hike tag along as I am very hesitant to go alone to a wilderness area (RoadID ordered btw and should arrive next week). The Sods are in the middle of BFE where cell service is a joke, so what we'll do is plan out exact trails we plan to hike/ride and then strict meeting points for certain times. That way I can ride ahead, double back, whathaveyou, and my friends will know where I am if I haven't met them at the designated time. It'll take a little bit of extra planning effort, but I think it'll work out well. Everyone can enjoy the beautiful fall colors at the Sods and I can get some miles in on the Q horse in a place I've dreamed of riding for years. (Very, very few trails in our Nat'l Forest/wilderness areas are barred from horses. We basically have free reign of everything. It's awesome.)

Hoping to have more exciting things to report in the coming week.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Blog Hop: Why Did You Start?

Mel @ Boots and Saddles started this question hop:

Why did you start riding (and/or running, biking, etc.)?


I was the toddler that yelled, "HORSIE!" or - excuse the "y" because that's how I pronounced my "L" for the longest time - "YOOK! HORSIE! YOOK! YOOK!"

And it never stopped.

And my parents did what they could to stymie my childhood obsession by purchasing the obligatory Grand Champion horse sets and oodles of stuffed animals and other horse-related toys for me, but that simply wasn't enough.

So they figured, well, this pony ride at the festival will probably satisfy her? Not enough.

A couple lessons once in awhile with friends who have horses? Not enough.

Fine, weekly lessons for a few years and then she'll hit puberty and it'll go away? Not enough.

And then, here we are, 20 years of riding under my belt, and its NOT ENOUGH.

Fortunately, I'm lucky enough to be able to afford horses on my own dime and own time now. My two keep me pretty happy and tremendously busy. And it's terrific.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Q's Scratches II

The Bottom Line

Q's better. Again.


With this bout of scratches I flip-flopped for days about having the vet out. The topical I was applying  this time (4 combined OTC ointments: desitin, clotrimazole/miconazole, triple antibiotic, and an anti-itch with hydrocortizone) were working amazingly for Q. The scabs shriveled to nearly nothing, the bugs didn't get in, the yucky smell associated with fungal/bacterial infections went away, and the inflammation died down and disappeared. SO much improvement in two or three days time!

However, those tight scabs were still ouchy to the touch and with a mare who is the Queen of Anticipation and also the Queen of Overreaction, things quickly boiled into a VERY pissed off horse when you'd try to treat her. Her evasion games escalated to a new level and my relationship handling her rocketed downhill FAST.

So I said bye-bye groceries (for me) and had the vet out so we could sedate her and get those scabs off and maybe take a biopsy. However, after discussing things at length with my vet, we decided to not do a biopsy (yet). Q clearly responds VERY WELL to the topicals I've been using of late, and my vet discussed all of the other skin issues she's seen with horses and other livestock at length with me, too, so I could better grasp what Q didn't have.

We ultimately decided to try out some new supplements into Q's diet (primarily flax/omega 3s; perhaps some other things later as my vet wanted to do some research on her own first to see) to help her through future things, and then we'd sedate and get the scabs off. Vet agreed that the topical ointment combo was doing a really bang-up job of treating Q. She suspected the hydrocortisone was playing a huge part in that, and recommended that I just keep doing my OTC routine instead of purchasing anything extra from her.

Queen of Anticipation and Overreaction was SO worried about us just walking around her and LOOKING at her legs (we hadn't even TOUCHED them yet and she was dancing away from the apparent lasers our eyes were shooting at her), that when Vet went to sedate her she was too tense to be able to inject the solution (Q didn't quake at the needle going in multiple times, just chose to stand with a tense, unmoving neck). Mare, come on. So we coaxed her down enough to finally deliver the sedative.

All in all, it took 3 doses of sedative, a lip twitch, and a blindfold (this was the cherry on the whipped cream because Q is SO visual; she'd worry about me going NEAR her and start reacting before I could even get close; with her vision blocked she just stood quietly) for me to be able to shave off those scabs!! And she would STILL kick out at me some. Elephant in a 14.1hh pony body, I swear.

Getting the scabs off - though painful - results in Q healing within 3 days. Every time we've dealt with scratches this summer, this has been the case. New pink skin within 3 days of scab removal - provided I keep her legs washed daily and reapply some sort of topical to manage whatever stage we're at (may need steroid plus other stuff, or may just need something to help keep that skin soft and healthy and keep the bugs off).

So we're back to healthy looking legs for the most part.

Vet agreed with me that Q likely has always been very prone to scratches and it probably just depends on the pasture she's in (this time it was triggered by the back pasture). Vet noted a few key things from her personal experiences with bad scratches cases like this:
  • The worst cases have oddly, been on all Arabian horses, with and without chrome legs/pink skin
  • Certain pastures can make flare ups worse, when the horses are kept out of those pastures (usually wetter ones) the flare ups aren't as bad
  • Maintaining this kind of sensitivity means shaving legs year round and rinsing daily
Vet also noted that it appears Q may just have some general allergies to the environment overall. I asked, "What does this mean for me managing her?" And Vet laughed and said, "Nothing you want to hear!" But ultimately, Vet recommended getting Q on the flax as she has seen some remarkable differences in animals on it vs. not on it. We may add some other supplements with time (vitamin E and selenium), but Vet wants to see how Q responds to the flax first. Vet seemed all about trying to battle whatever we can with dietary supplements and minerals before we consider medications/steroids, something I'm super on board with, too!

Behavioral Ramifications

In regards to the residual behavioral effects from this bout of scratches, it's been quite a process. We expect Q's issues with having her hind legs handled stems from her sensitive skin that is prone to scratches.

When Mary was here helping me treat Q, she noted that Q is definitely not responding to pain for much of her outbursts. She's clearly anticipating something happening and reacting to try to prevent it. One of our terrific local farriers and another boarder even watched me with Q the day or two prior to Mary coming and were astounded at Q's violent reactions to someone merely approaching her back legs. She's clearly had some really, REALLY horrible trauma with someone handling her hind legs at some point and is having some sort of flashback reaction due to the recent bout of pain.

The big key for regaining Q's trust of late with having her hind legs handled has been a blindfold. That blindfold goes on, her whole body relaxes significantly. While she still may waggle a leg around to try to evade, when you start gently wiping on that cool ointment, she relaxes the leg and rests it on the ground as if to say, "Oh? That's all? Well, that's not so bad." Taking away her visual really helps to dull her acute flight instinct, which is stronger in her than almost any horse I've been around.

Preventative Measures for the Future

For the future, I'll be following a strict protocol of:
  • Shaving Q's legs weekly/biweekly as necessary. Keeping that hair short and preventing the ability of moisture to sit prolonged against her skin will help greatly.
  • Daily washing of Q's legs with an antifungal-type of shampoo. Often dilute and in a spray bottle, it will be key for me to not only rinse Q's legs, but to rub in an antifungal shampoo to then sit for 10 minutes prior to rinsing. This will help to prevent the nasties from making a home.
  • Acute care for small scratches. Shaved legs also means more likelihood of being scratched by things when on trail. Scratches as tiny as those caused by a brier open the door for nasties. By washing these small cuts and treating them preventatively with a topical of some sort (which will be dependent upon degree of scratch and location), I will be able to prevent the nasties from sinking in and drumming up bigger problems.
  • Moisturizers? Constant wet-dry cycles can cause sensitive skin to crack and open the door to fungi and bacteria. Keeping Q's skin along her legs healthy will be key. With dry winter weather, I'll be spending some time experimenting with some light moisturizers to help her out. It's hard to tell what will work the best right now, but I'm VERY familiar with the arsenal of moisturizers that is on the market from my years of competitive swimming - a winter sport over here because some crackhead decided long ago that being wet and chlorinated in dry winter air was a good idea. (??!!!) When I was logging 10+ hours in a chlorinated pool each week during winter months, it wasn't rare for me to have no fewer than 3 different moisturizers to combat dry, cracking skin. And I have sensitive skin, so I am really familiar with the mildest of strong moisturizers out there! 

It's A Lot of Work

But by keeping up with the routine I will hopefully prevent future bouts of scratches that require veterinary intervention and harm the level of trust I build with this horse.And besides, if you keep up with a routine for long enough, it becomes pretty easy!

Beyond the monetary expense of having the vet out to help with treatments is the trust expense that happens when Q has to deal with that level of pain. Her trust in me was at its highest ever before this recent bout of scratches. So far, fortunately, that trust is only impacted in our ground handling and not our under saddle work. I'm thankful for this because I've been working really hard to get to a higher level of trust with US work. However, lack of trust with ground things is a huge inconvenience because Q had just reached a very high level of trust for me and things we'd do from the ground. Having the slate wiped nearly clean is hard! We're starting to gain it back, but it will be some time before I can handle her legs - especially the hinds - without her worrying excessively.

We'll get there though. Time and patience.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Recent Shenanigans Photo Journal

Tent city
WVU tailgating



They serve beer at our games now.
I was drinking a local microbrew and Mike had Yeungling's Oktoberfest

Mike bringing Gumby into the stadium

Huzzah Gumby!

Gumby is really just T

Armed forces appreciation

Remi beating up Gumby; typical

Ah, WV roads

So, the muffler fell out of Mike's car that Haze has been borrowing

The Haze is not amused

T and I pre-Gauley

Important things in the dry box

Pregaming for the river while we wait for the shuttle folks to come back

Smiles! And beer!

Proper beer holding etiquette


Haze and a happy T

Funder, you wanted river photos on the water, so here they come
All taken during flatwater though!

T and I


My raft for this day

Our some custy rafts

K-pumping the raft

Lower G vistas

Me and Mike

Basically sums up the day

Gauley Canyon is a beaut

Tiernan....what are you doing....

Canyon vistas

T, seriously...what is this

So very tyipcal Haze
RR bridge

Sinking sun

My paddle's keen and bright
Flashing with silver
Follow the wild goose flight
Dip dip and swing

Friday, September 12, 2014

Of Blogger Visits, A Horse Show, and Tantrums

Last weekend Miss Mary from Simply Horse Crazy and I finally met IRL. We're from the same state and have been discussing this possibility for what seems like ages, but it didn't happen until last weekend due to our busy schedules!

It was a whirlwind of a 24 hours, but it went something like this:

Friday night around 7p I picked Mary up from a friend's house, a pre-determined rendezvous point as she'd hitched a ride to Elkins with them. From this point, I spirited her away to the barn immediately as light was dwindling and we wanted to ride!

Chatting with Mary on the way to the barn (and from the moment we greeted one another) had no airs of awkwardness. It was as if we'd known one another all along. Oh blogging, this is what you do. IRL, Mary is just as - or even more - level-headed than she comes across on her blog. She's got such a good head on her shoulders and I admire her so much. There were multiple moments in our brief time together when she divulged some insights to me that really made me sit back, think, and nod agreement. Things I hadn't been able to fully put into words or view so black and white before. It was good to hear them, and great to talk things through with such a wonderful person. =)

We arrived at the barn, whipped out the horses, and tacked up lightning fast as the light continued to dwindle. Fortunately,  as dusk was settling into night, a not-quite-full moon rose high to help light our way.

I tossed Mary a headlamp for her helmet, and with her astride Q and me on Griffin (for the first time US since his ultimate Shit Fit weeks prior), we set off with Kenai bounding alongside.

We wound through the back field, up into the now dark woods, and headed toward the haul road where we went for not quite a mile before turning back. I had previously considered doing the 3.5 mile loop, but as I'd taken enough spiderwebs to the face already and I was worried that we'd run into momma bear and her cubs, I decided it would be prudent to turn around and back track.

Griffin led this short not-quite 3 mile ride. I can say that by and large, he was well-behaved for having not been ridden (only ground driven and other from-the-ground pursuits) in weeks, having a new bit (a borrowed (thanks, Nicole!) Myler combination) in his mouth, and riding at night (with headlamp) for the first time.

However, he did make no fewer than three attempts to spin for home as we headed out. I'd ask for him to slow or stop as I turned to check for either Mary/Q or Kenai, and Griffin would take those moments to try to spin to his left for home.

Preceding each of these moments, he had zero pressure on his mouth from the bit or on his sides from leg aids. I was quiet and cautious of my riding this night because I wanted to be able to rule out a rider error in his behavior. Each time he tried to turn and I blocked him, he'd make a few seconds attempt to ignore me, threaten to stumble and fall, and then I'd win out with my aids and angry voice. Drgh. Such an opinionated fool. However, it was nice that he learned we would continue forward!

The night ride was a blast. It was my first time riding in darkness like that. The moonlight was brilliant, too, in the more open areas. We walked, trotted, and cantered even! I think I'm coming closer to being mentally ready to try to tackle a 100 mile ride...

Post ride, Mary and I whisked home to shower and settle in with a movie and a very spur-of-the-moment dinner that Mike and I tossed together. It was yummy and just the thing before settling into sleep.


Mary, Q, and the new covered arena.
Saturday morning dawned earlier than I would have preferred, but we needed to get up and get moving in order to have the horses rinsed and ready to head to the County Fair Show! It's a rinky dink show in comparison to what many of you are accustomed to, probably, but a show all the same. I wanted to see how Q would handle the two English classes and I wanted both horses to be able to enjoy the experience - not to mention share it with Mary!

Neither Mary and I were overly concerned about looking super prim and proper for the show or worried greatly about much of anything, really. In fact, by total fault of my own, we showed up an hour late! It started at 9a not 10a as I'd thought! HA. We laughed it off, surprised but un-caring.

Of the 30 odd classes for western, English, ranch, draft, gaited, and fun/games, my horses were involved in 4:

  1. Mary would ride Q in the Open English Pleasure.
  2. I would ride Q in the Hunter Hack Over Fences.
  3. We would both ride a horse in the toilet paper race.
  4. We would both ride a horse in the catalog race.

Open English Pleasure:

We signed up quickly for classes, worried we would miss Mary's first class with Q. With paperwork done, we raced to the trailer, prepped Q, dressed ourselves, and then I sent Mary off to warm up on the mareface with some cursory comments on what should help/not help with riding Q.

A very tiny Mary and Q.
Fortunately, the two classes before Mary's that we'd arrived during were pattern classes and thus took a bit of time. Perfect! Mary had ample time to warm Miss Thing up and get them both on the same page. They seemed to be getting along beautifully; Q was riding very well for Mary - better than she's done for nearly anyone!

When the class rolled along, they were 1 of 5 participants and Q was the only non-show horse, non-QH. Add that to the whole Q HATES the (currently) over-deep footing of our new arena and the little factor of Mary being on her for the second time ever, and you've got a fun little equation to work through. Haha! Mary took it all in stride though and did a bang up job.

I'm not certain the judge really liked my zoomy endurance horse's gaits as she zipped around the ring, but I was very proud! Other than being looky and a sticky transition to the canter the first time (she HATES that deep sand! She did this last month when I rode her there the first time...), she and Mary did wonderfully! They nailed all transitions except that first canter depart, and stayed on the wall as well as could be hoped for my looky-Arab.

I told Mary over and over how well she was riding Q and how impressed I was. Q lets you know when you're not doing it right, she'll toss her head (mildly in the spectrum of head tossing, but still notably), nom the bit, and give subtle refusals to certain requests. None of that for Mary! Girl knows how to ride, use her aids properly, and really ride with her seat, something Q really likes and responds to really well.

The pair ended up 4 out of 5, but hey, when you have a class of push-button show QHs, it's the best that could be expected I suppose. I was proud of their efforts and that's what matters!

Hunter Hack Over Fences:

With Mary's ride done, she hopped off and I hopped on to warm my legs up.

I have to admit, I knew little to nothing about what this class would entail. All I knew is that there were jumps involved and I wanted to give it a go! The other two English riders participating (one on a 25 year old TB who looked like he was 5!) had no clue either (we were all led to believe it would be a jump course initially as this had been what existed at a previous show), so I wasn't too concerned.

Dear my elbows, we've discussed where you're supposed to be and it
isn't where you are in this photo. Dear eyes, you should come up.
Dear, release for your poor poor horse!

Yeah, let's just scrap my riding for this and note how dramatic Q decided to
jump this little vertical for the first time after her initial refusal.

Additionally, damn that browband looks good, Karen!!

Photo by Tracy Walker
Well, turns out (for those who also don't know) this class consists of flat work on the rail w-t-c, and then 1 turn each over 2 verticals where you canter in on the left lead, vertical, 2 strides, vertical, and canter out on the right lead, essentially making a big sweeping S with jumps down the center diagonal.

We were allowed to warm up over the jumps where the very seasoned QH show horse tossed his momma into the sand to break the ice for all of us! (Good for my nerves because by this point my stomach was CHURNING despite my calm mind!) Q gave one refusal (but that may have been my bad as I think I was looking at the rail) and then proceeded to over-jump because they're (obviously) monsters.

With warmups closed, we all moved out to the rail for the judged flat portion.

Q NAILED her transitions for this part. I was SO PROUD of her (and me, I guess). Good little endurance poneh!

We then lined up along the judges stand to take turns (as we were called) to do the jumps. The TB went first, clear and clear. Then Q and I picked up the canter nicely, turned in nicely, she hesitated, over jumped, and I forget what happened in the middle completely, but we jumped the second jump and cantered out nicely. Then the QH went, clear over 1, pulled rail on the second.

Q and I ended up 2nd of 3 behind the QH. Very proud of my little mare for her efforts!!

Toilet Paper Race:

For those unfamiliar, this event involves 10 squares of TP held between two riders. You have to w-t-c-back-whatever the judge says without letting go or breaking your TP.

I rode Griffin and Mary rode Q.

Things to note, for better or worse:
  • Griffin had been ridden the night prior but no other time since mid-Aug. when he had his Shit Fit. We've been doing a lot of ground driving. No riding because while I have no fear of getting hurt from his shenanigans, I simply do not care to deal with rehabbing myself right now. I'm very happy to redirect Griffin with some other pursuits until a time when it's a little more convenient to be potentially broken. (Kid's been doing stellar with his ground driving and double long-lining lunging, btw.)
  • Both horses have been cooped up in barnyard/paddock areas for 2 weeks while I have been dealing with Q's scratches. (Q likes having a buddy.)
  • Griffin had been tied to the trailer and had not had any aspect of a "warm up" prior to this class.
Long story short, Mary and I were the first "out" in this class lol.

Griffin was pitching a minor fit prior to entering the ring, continued his fit in the ring before the class started, spooked as I tried to get a second thing of TP (as we'd already destroyed the first lol) prior to the judging, and then threw another fit as soon as the judging began.

He was bouncing (quasi canter piaffe it seemed) and crow hopping, throwing small bucks and mini rears, chewing angrily at his double-jointed snaffle, presumably spooking(?) at things outside the arena (hard for me to judge because if it was a spook he spooked a good 5'-10' after passing the "monsters" which is very unlike a Q spook which I'm quite accustomed to), and generally being a cranky baby horse.

He would have some very nice moments between these bad events, but as soon as something happened that wasn't on His Agenda (environmental stimuli or aids from his rider) he'd pitch a fit. Such a wonderful first public outing, Grey Horse, bravo! 

I trotted him briefly in the arena immediately post-class with better success (though he did his bouncy canter piaffe thing in protest at not being able to go faster to leave the arena) and then more trotting in the part of the arena open to warm-ups (small and cramped). During our moments in the warm up area, he threw another minor fit, and then one of the local cow horse trainers called to me, "Breathe, Liz. You're getting more worked up than your animal right now!"



And cue a better horse.

I ended it there. Dismounted and put his grey ass away before another moment could ruin that zen.

I love that grey horse, but eegads is he a Piss Pot lately! Time. Time. Time. Patience. Patience. Patience. Diligence. Diligence. Diligence.

Catalog Race:

Mary and I both rode Q for this event as I opted to sit Griffin out.

Mary rode towards the beginning of the group of 12 to 15 riders of varying ages while I rode last in order to give Q a breather (ha, she didn't care, friggin' endurance poneh).

The race works like this: a catalog is placed on top of a table or barrel on the far side of the arena. Rider runs in, stops at barrel, dismounts, and flips to and tears out the page that the judges call out for them to get, then re-mounts and races back. Fastest time (with correct page) wins.

Pro tip: going earlier in the game is better because the judges seem to forget which pages they've previously given out which leads to absence of pages in the book.

Another pro tip: If you're ever judging this event, just call out only even or only odd pages so that you avoid giving an odd page that may have been previously ripped out due to the adjacent even page being called.

Going last had it's advantages: I knew the time to beat and I was able to see where people were losing time.

It seemed to me that this race was JUST like my years competitive swimming: the race isn't won by going fast in the middle, I mean, you need to do that, too, but the race is REALLY won between the flags (backstroke flags 5-meters from ends of pool) at the start, the finish, and on the turns. If you have a bomber start, KICKASS flip turns, and a strong finish you can make up for time lost in the middle of the pool.

Comparison: The catalog race could be won if you could dismount and remount FAST and find your page quickly. Everyone was losing time getting on and off their horses and flipping for pages.

Time to beat? 32 seconds.

When my turn was up, I kicked Q into a gallop, and then dismounted while she was still slowing near the barrel/catalog. I'd been told to get page 15. Flip, flip, flip. Oh, there's 14, so 15's on the back...except its like a 3rd of a page. -_- I thought about taking that, but as I was tearing it I called, "ONLY PART OF THE PAGE IS HERE!" worrying that I'd be DQ'd for bringing a piece of the page. "PAGE 21" they called. Ugh. I flipped a page or two more to find it, and ripped out 21, stuffed it in my shirt, remounted lightning fast completely ignoring my stirrups, and galloped Q back.

My time? 35 seconds. Had the page I'd been assigned been in the book I'd easily have won. No doubt in my mind. Ah well.

Q and I ended up 4th out of the 12-15 riders in that event. I'll take it lol


After the catalog race, Mary and I high-tailed it out of the showgrounds.

We unloaded the horses back at the barn, Mary helped me treat Q's legs (she's healed, just gotta keep that new skin healthy), and then I suggested Mary ride the Grey Beast just to see how he was US as she'd delivered several compliments on his movement while I'd been riding him since her visit.

She tacked him up in the Wintec and his halter-bridle (because seriously, fuck the bit with this horse lately, his worst moments have always occurred with the bit). Mary mounted Griffin with no issue and set to riding him around the barnyard - familiar territory for the little man.

She had (or seemed to at least) a terrific little ride on him! From what I observed, he threw zero fits of any degree and was quite compliant to her requests for directional and gait changes. She even noted how uphill he was for a 4 year old. Yes! THAT is the horse I know so well! Terrific end-note! (And a further thinking-note for future pursuits with the opinionated grey horse! - a future post, for sure once I get my thoughts more solidified with time.)

And that was the end of our blogger visit with horses. We both showered and then whisked back up to Morgantown in time for the first home game of the 2014 football season (54-0 WVU over Towson).

It was absolutely terrific to finally meet Mary IRL, and I sincerely hope we have more visits in our future. Mary, I loved chatting with you on so many things and really appreciate your point of view on so much! You helped me to remember and note some things I've taken for granted with the horses and it was really good to hear. =) Cheers to next time!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Yoga Girl Challenge Week 1

In an attempt to continue my journey to better myself, I have begun the Yoga Girl Challenge.

It was started by popular instagrammer Rachel Brathen (yoga_girl) several weeks back. She ultimately chose one challenge participant for a free spot in one of her yoga getaways in Thailand.
The contest aspect of the challenge ended the day I began the challenge, but with such a wonderful daily challenges and quests for self-improvement it seemed a great thing to pursue with or without a "prize" at the end. To me, the journey to better myself and be healthier both mentally and physically is prize enough.

Here were my posts during the first week (request to follow estout18 on Instagram if you'd like to follow along each day).

Day 1: Yoga Every Damn Day. 

I was in a great daily yoga routine 3 years ago - then I separated my shoulder and had to cease and fell way out of practice. I think it's time to fall back into daily practice. It calms me and helps me to focus on the moment at hand. Additionally it is a great way to build balance and body awareness which helps in all of my pursuits.

Day 2 of the yoga girl challenge: Meditation. 

Something I've fallen in and out of since graduating college. It always helps me to calm down and focus on the present. I hope I can do more of it and make it a steadier practice than I have of late. Photo is a headboard to a bed that I focused on while mediating today. The subtle play of light on the wood gave my eyes something to wander while I set my mind to rest.

Day 3 of the yoga girl challenge: Rise and Shine.

Not a hard one for me! I start my work days between 6-6:30 most days. Today was a 6 am start; up at 5:25a and on the road for work by 6a to watch some hydropower and relate it to work stuff. Welcome to Gauley season 2014! 

Mary on Q

Day 4 of the yoga girl challenge: Random Act of Kindness. 

I didn't focus in on trying to do any *one* act today. When I think back on it I did several small random acts of kindness throughout the day. Nothing overly great worth mentioning, but things I didn't need to do that I went out of my way to do to try to make someone else's life a little better. Mandy made a good point when we were discussing it that the challenge is really more of a way to get you to think harder on kind things you can do for others more often - and I couldn't agree more! She also pointed out that random acts of kindness are something we should do more of overall - in these next few weeks of challenge and for life. Truer words... 

Day 5 of the yoga girl challenge: Get Rid of a Bad Habit. Excuses. 

I make them outwardly and I make them inwardly to myself. They're about minor and major things and everything in between. I have been bothered for some time now about the number I make - especially to myself. They need to stop. It won't be easy. But I need to start somewhere! Here's to being more forthcoming with myself and others about all things. No more (or at least significantly fewer) excuses. 

Day 6 of the yoga girl challenge: Start A New Routine. 

How about a new routine of being easier on myself? I'm constantly too hard on myself, my dog, my horses. Cheers to relaxing and letting things be and being proud of where I am and what I've done. 

Day 7 of the yoga girl challenge: Thank You. 

Today, and every day, I am grateful. For my friends and family and their unwavering love and support that truly is humbling and inspiring. For the beautiful place I call home that awes me daily with its demonstrations of beauty. For my menagerie of animals, who while expensive and vexing at times bring me more happiness than anything else. For my good fortune in so many things (brains in my head, food in my stomach, a roof to shelter me, a healthy body). This is a truly wonderful life. So much to be grateful for...and so important to remember it all daily - especially days like today when I'm struggling the most with stress and anxiety that has me at the verge of a mental break down. I'm especially grateful to Mandy for helping me through some exceptionally tough moments today when I know she was busy juggling some big life stresses of her own. <3 you lady. #grateful 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014


I haven't felt like writing much at all lately.

I had several GREAT rides on Q, then went and visited Saiph, and then came home to find Q with a wretched case of scratches AGAIN.

She's so incredibly susceptible to it. Three days of missed preventative washings/topicals led to the current demise.

And to add to matters, my finances these past few weeks have been in the most dire of straights. Like, I haven't even been grocery shopping dire straights. So just "calling the vet" to come out and sedate my small elephant (because that's the kind of sedation it takes to get Q drunk enough to deal with it) hasn't been an immediate option. However, today is payday...

I've read up oodles on scratches vs. Pastern Leukocytoclastic Vasculitis and other dermatological issues. This case of scratches, even more than the original one, presented very "textbook" though. Complete with that oh-so-NOT-lovely smell customary to fungal/bacterial infections.

Photos of horses with PLV do not match the appearance of Q's legs this case or the other case. Additionally, PLV won't improve with topical treatment from what information I can gather. Q improves RAPIDLY with topical treatments - especially if the scabs are softened and removed. 

The trouble is treating my highly-pain-sensitive mare who doesn't love human touch. She's very hands off and doesn't love grooming or scritches from humans. She's a do her job kind of horse. She appreciates me for the food I provide her, and she will be my friend when she's away from her "herd", but beyond those things? She'd rather be left alone.

She is a total and complete Drama Llama about pain. And I don't blame her - to a point. 

Q is the Queen of Anticipation when it comes to pain. Her very first vet visit when I got her 2 years ago demonstrates it perfectly: I'd asked my vet to show me how the vets at the endurance ride would be palpating to test for back soreness. She stroked her hand along Q's back lightly, narrating things to me, then she prodded one time just to show how it wouldn't be done and why - because any and all horses would react to it. Well, Q danced off Highly Offended about being touched in a painful way. And, being the Queen of Anticipation that she is, she proceeded to dance away from my vet's approach to touch her for the next solid minute because she thought it would happen again! My vet laughed, and remarked how similar Q is to one of her geldings - a comparison that has been made countless times since. (Ultimately, Q got over it and let my vet complete the exam with no more issue. Additionally, Q harbors no lasting resentment to my vet and has never been fearful around her.)

So, as you can imagine, treating a Drama Llama Queen of Anticipation for something as painful as scratches is incredibly frustrating. She takes her evasion games that she's always played to a minor extent to the Extreme. She dances about and waggles her legs and jerks them away in various attempts to avoid touch - these are both evasion tactics and games to her. To an extent it is expected and understood for painful areas, certainly, but it becomes infuriating to deal with when you go to touch, oh say her ELBOW, an uninfected area, and she nearly leaps out of her skin. -_- 

I refer to these tactics as games also because she often will waggle a leg about or dance/walk away when you're not doing a single thing to cause pain (including times when she doesn't have scratches). Brush her - she walks away (as far as the lead allows). Pick the hoof out on an uninfected, non-painful leg - she waggles it about. Kneel down to take a photo of the affected areas (you know, not even touching the horse) - she walks off/waggles the leg. 

And when you look at her body language while she's doing these things? Completely and totally relaxed. Soft eye, relaxed ears, nostrils un-pinched, body relaxed throughout.

So understandably, the increased degree of these evasion techniques and games and dealing with them intimately each day has been quite infuriating. I have sobbed uncontrollably, talked calmly, and yelled and screamed my frustrations to the sky. In fact, I've had to apologize to the neighbors within the ¼-mile vicinity for screaming my frustrations, "Sorry if you heard strangled screaming last night. I'm okay and I swear I wasn't dying or killing anything."

This bout of scratches is on both hind pasterns and on one front leg. Despite frustrations with the mare, within three days of treating it, I was able to have all of the scabs removed from the front leg and the skin was healing - today it is clean, pink, and healthy new skin. Her hinds are more difficult to treat; she's always been weird about her hinds being handled. The areas have improved greatly (like seriously, they're 75% better than they were), but without being able to completely remove the scabs due to her refusal to have the legs handled at all, they're not completely better and won't get there.

So, to keep both myself and the mare sane, the vet will be coming out ASAP this week to sedate the hell out of her and shave the two areas the size of a silver dollar each that I have not been able to shave to treat. And I will stock up on all the medicines and washes and skin biopsy for good measure. So you're welcome, Q.

Grocery store, I'll see you in another few weeks when I can afford you again. Until then, if anyone has recipes that are healthy and SUPER DUPER CHEAP, please share them in the comments. I don't like peppers.

Thursday, August 28, 2014


To the days when fear was only a word and not a feeling or thought within my head.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Informal Transformation Bloghop

Griffin - January 2012
Griffin - July 2014

Q in her first 30 - August 2012
Q in her third 50 - OD 2014