Monday, October 20, 2014

Griffin lately: A Photo-journal

Let's start with this comparison.
April 2012 on top and October 2014 on the bottom.
Saddle, pad, and horse are the same.
We've been doing a lot of work with cavaletti and tiny cross rails that are the same height as the cavaletti would be if at their highest setting because I like having lower building to one higher. Currently, Griffin is hesitant to uncertain with his feet over the first cavaletti, more with it by the second, and solid with the third, fourth, and fifth.
We're currently working with a line set with 3 cavaletti at 9" 1 canter stride apart, 1 stride to 9" vertical, 2 strides to what begins as a 9" vertical and is sometimes advanced to an 18" vertical at the end if he's doing well. We're using this setup in part because it's what I was using for Q earlier in the year and I'm too lazy to alter it, but also because with the spacing I've set everything up at it is very easy to incorporate a lot of circles, figure eights, and serpentines into our work using the cavaletti and jump standards as guides. Without help to move jumps around, I tend to favor a setup that is very versatile because moving things around on my own is tedious and something I tend to do only on days I don't ride at all as there is no safe place to tie the horses in the field while I'm moving jumps.
Griffin LOVES the canter above all other gaits. He has always been this way. Even when we were starting work under saddle he was like this. When we started working on the trails exclusively, he'd always try to canter before he would trot almost in a LOOK AT ME LOOK WHAT I CAN DO way. He has the most naturally uphill and collected canter EVER. He would like nothing more than to canter through ALL these recent exercises. I ADORE his canter, but totally get that he needs to develop his trot, so we've had many conversations about "Easy, trot, trot, easy, easy, trot." And he's grasping that whole trot thing better every time, but still...CANTER. lol
Even when I move the cavaletti to be half the distance apart, he wants to canter through them. His natural inclination over the cavaletti is to do a gymnastic bounce-like exercise at the canter. You've really got to talk to him and convince him that slower is better and is the right answer right now. I'm thrilled that he has so much EagerGO in him as I much prefer it to having to urge him onward constantly. However, his overeager nature means that even ground poles are reason to jump as if it were something of more consequence. He'll calm down, certainly, but his behavior reminds me so much of kids on a playground play-acting they're professionals at their sport of choice - even though their actions are a fraction of what a pro does, in their minds they're doing something much bigger and this is just practice for that day in the future. Anthropomorphizing, I am.
If he's done well with everything else, we advance to do the 18" vertical. This is a photo of one of his very first attempts over it.
Most of his workout sessions lately are 45-60 minutes. The first 15 or so are all lunging. Then we do 15-20 minutes with bending and turning and only low pole-structures. Then if he's executed things with success, I'll bump the back pole up to 18" for the remaining time we work. 45-60 minutes is a good threshold for his head right now. His attention is kept pretty well, as is his patience. The worst he's done re: impatience and acting out is shaking of his head in argument to a request he doesn't agree with or he'll start acting really spooky and wiggy over ghosts that only he can see. I take his hints into consideration as well as the work we've accomplished thus far and then determine how much longer we'll keep going - no matter what, we always end on a good note!
Good ponies get to partake in their Favoritest of All Activities after a good workout effort: water play. Key thing for the rider (me) int his situation? Keep his head UP! Otherwise there is far greater risk of submersion as he makes attempts to roll. Silly horse.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Very Best

For MONTHS I have lusted after a tack trunk/locker/cabinet. My things have slowly sprawled across the tack room this past year as I've fought the battle with scratches and added various dietary supplements and topical treatments to my equine care arsenal.

I've fluctuated back and forth about what I wanted - primarily if I wanted something super travel-friendly, or something that was more stationary, or something that could potentially be both. Always in favor of supreme functionality, I settled for the latter - something that could go into a trailer or could sit in the tack room.

So then I Google image searched and Pinterested and looked high and low and sketched many ideas out. Finally though, I took my measuring tape to the barn one night and measured the area that encompassed the bulk of my shit to best ascertain what size "box" would fit everything.

What I wanted: a cabinet of sorts with many hooks so I could hang my myriad of halters, halter-bridles, bridles, breast plates, cruppers, lunge lines, and other various strappy things that encompass the horse world. I wanted to be able to store a saddle in there, but I didn't want to be held to that decision very firmly - something removable that would hold a saddle was preferable. And above all, I wanted an area of the cabinet to be devoted to containing all of the bottles and small containers of liquid and ointment and powder and other various equiid remedies and supplements.

With final sketch design in hand, I approached Mike - ever the handyman and craftsman - with my design idea and asked him if he could do it? Of course he could. Last weekend, he sketched out his version of my drawing, asking me random questions as he went along to better form a build-plan that was feasible and would meet my needs. He called up the two builder supply stores in the area and got cost estimates, too. It seemed that everything could be done to the tune of $100 (materials; cheap because we were able to use a lot of salvaged wood from a demo project at his house) and the labor would be free (a labor of love *cue cheesy music*).

The original plan was to construct it this weekend, but with a sudden change in his schedule on Tuesday, he quested out to buy materials and get started on the cabinet.

By Wednesday PM, it was completed! (Minus paint, which I may do later this month or next.)

Taking shape
Saddle rack piece on top

In the end, it was a foot and a half taller than I'd originally sketched. Mike put about 10 hours of labor into the process.

The Specs: It measures 30"d x 30" w x 48" h; compact enough to fit in the tack room or to sit in the corner of a trailer with a small tack room/dressing area.. It currently has 5 single hooks in the main body and two forked hooks (4 hanging areas) on the door. The door also has two dowel rod hanging bars for saddle pads or other things that hang. Mike added a (in red in photos) paracord leash on a snap that I can drape over all the hanging things on the door so they don't wave about if the cabinet is ever in motion (in a trailer). The shelf that sits inside is inset so that the things on the door don't interfere with it; the shelf is tall enough that milk crates and smaller and standard size buckets can fit beneath it. The saddle rack is completely removable - the diagonal board "leg" is hinged to the top part that the saddle would rest upon and the whole thing fits into custom notches in the back of the cabinet. It is a very ingenious design. Mike is SO crafty.


I'm totally and completely thrilled with it.

My BO was very impressed with it, as well, when we arrived at the barn last night. She and I tittered and oo'd and ahh'd at the cabinet and Mike's craftyness while her husband, true to his exceptionally snarky nature scoffed that I now had the Fort Knox of horse things. Non-horse folk, they just don't get it! ;-) (And I suppose, non-OCD-minded organizational fools probably don't understand either.)

Due to the larger product than original design, I had to do quite a bit of mind-tetris as I looked at the tack room last night in order to find a good place for the cabinet that wouldn't interfere with others. I was able to figure it out though - at least for now.

I was able to put all of my sprawling tack and accoutrements into the cabinet with success and extra space last night. Some rearranging is imminent, but I expected as much. All the same, once the cabinet was closed and latched I was absolutely THRILLED to see how clean and tidy the tack room was again. (In reality, the only person bothered by the mess originally was me. BO cares very little lol. She's awesome like that.)

Remaining outside the cabinet is an 18-gallon rubbermaid, a drawer from Smartpak, metal can with grain, pad hanging rack with pads, my two saddles, buckets and tubs (on top of cabinet), hoof trimming stand (on top of cabinet), and (currently) winter blankets/sheets. Minus the latter which will eventually go into the cabinet, all things outside are very well contained and otherwise hard to store away or contain better than they already are.

My organizational-obsessed mind is very, very pleased.

The horses don't understand.

Mike is The Very Best ever, too. It is rare to find a significant other who is so accepting (and an active participant) in the horse obsession. I'm very lucky. =)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

All In A Week

Melina, author of The Wilder Coast, does an entry she calls "All In A Week" where she posts photos of memorable moments from the previous week. She's been busy with school this fall and is now doing "All in Two Weeks", but the concept is the same. Some are just photos she took, but often they are from her Instagram.

I'm struggling of late with finding the motivation to write much on the blog, but I do want to share things all the same, so I am going to start publishing "All In A Week" posts each week.

This week, the post corresponds with a day that was previously used for Wordless Wednesday; I may do this instead of WW for the future, or I may flop around. It's hard to say at the current time.

1. Car repairs to the tune of ~$700  2. A new, still unopened stretch of highway  3. West Virginia showing off her colors  4. Atticus and Hodor spoon when they sleep  5. Siberinese husky  6. Firelit nights with missed friends  7. Quiet moments with Kenai on the way to the crag  8. Tiny box turtle cameo  9. Summersville lake showing some color  10.  Leading for the first time in a year  11. Hat knitting  12. Clipping a bolt as on the second lead of the same climb a day later

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Back At It

I'm sure many have noticed in random posts lately, but Kenai is 100% back at it.

A little timeline for those new to the blog:
  • March 2013: Kenai isn't sound after doing things beyond using the bathroom
  • April 2013: Diagnostics show evidence that both cruciate ligaments in his hind legs have partial tears
  • August 2013: Dual surgery on both legs to stabilize the ligaments
  • Fall and Winter 2013-14: Rehab from dual cruciate ligament surgery
  • March 2014: Kenai having soundness issues again; palpation of groin demonstrates a very vocal response from Kenai on multiple occasions and I begin 3 months of rehab for his groin
  • Late summer 2014: Kenai is back at it!! *knock on wood*
  • August 13, 2014: one year out from surgery and Kenai came along on a 6+ mile training ride with Q and I.
  • Sept. 28, 2014: Kenai comes along on a 10 mile Dolly Sods training ride/trek
It's so good to have my trail buddy back. I love it. He loves it. Q loves it.

Q gains SO much confidence on trail when Kenai can lead. She's not as stoic with him as she is when a horse is in the lead, but boy does she relax a significant amount if she's second to the dog! I only wish Kenai were able to keep up a faster pace! The Dolly Sods terrain kept Q and I to a walk 90% of the time, and that was PERFECT for Kenai. Any other training rides though are just a little too much for him if we exceed more than a 5 mph average for greater than 4 miles. Additionally, my cold-loving dog just can't handle (and I refuse to let him attempt) keeping up with us during the summer months. In years to come, I may end up with a third (Wait, what happened to second?! Well, there is a second in the works for spring/summer 2015, but more on that much later...) dog more along the lines of Rhodesian Ridgeback because that breed was born to run and go-go-go in hotter weather.

Future plans aside, I am so please to have Kenai back on the go with me all the time. I missed it. He missed it. Q missed it!

Q and Kenai seem to have quite the relationship of understanding between one another. She trusts him to scope out all the "monsters" on the trail and he trusts her to not step on him in dire times. At home, she allows him to share her mash with her in that he's allowed to clean up all the drippings as she slops about (which leads to drippings in his coat that dry and crust up later, blech).

His gait is still a little irregular, but I think that's the new norm for him. He also chooses to always sit sidesaddle instead of straight down like most dogs since the surgery. Once again, this is just a new norm for him. He'll occasionally sit normally, but it's not common.

It's been a long, long rehab road, but I'm glad we seem to be on the other side of it.

I missed my adventure/trail buddy.

Happy dog in his element.
Leading the way and flushing out the "monsters"
Kenai likes someone to keep an eye out while he naps
This is trust. Less than a foot apart!
This husky loves water

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

Parade again

Another Forest Festival, another parade.

Q was even calmer about this one than all previous parades. In our Sit Around and Wait time this year (2 hours despite me deliberately showing up 90 minutes late!) she ate the WHOLE time. It was sunny. She ate. It was windy. She ate. It was rainy. She ate. It was sleeting she ate. It snowed. She ate. It was sunny again. She ate.

And then we did the parade.

And she was completely at ease with the whole thing...even with muzzleloaders firing in front of us! (She'd tense up but not spook beyond that, and I don't blame her. The shots fired had no rhyme or reason and seemed to come right as you were coming to grips with the fact that maybe you wouldn't hear any more.)

She made lots of children and adults smile - the main reason I do parades with her, I used to be that kid that gushed about the parade horses and then thought about them for days on end. Anything I can do to return that sounds good to me.

AND - this is a big And - she peed half way through the parade. Just took one of our momentary stop-go pauses and let loose in the middle of the street! Spectators and general public were appalled, but I was thrilled. I stroked her neck and told her good girl, very good endurance pony.

The mini was acting up at this point. He seems to have the same attitude problem as Griffin re: things not being on His Agenda = cue for minor meltdown. He'd stomp his front feet into the ground just like Griffin does!

This colt is only 6 months old...he was a good 2" taller than Q.
Owners/breeders say he'll likely reach 18-19hh; potential to be their
biggest foal ever.

People watching. It's okay, Q, I think a lot of people are weird, too.

Post-parade mash. Because pre-parade would have defeated all of my efforts to keep her looking nice!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Final 2 weeks of the Yoga Girl Challenge

I'm more than a little behind on cross-posting this to the blog!

Day 9 of the yoga girl challenge: True Forgiveness The few people who have truly hurt me deep caused me to hold an internal grudge for a long time. Fortunately, today's challenge helps me to think back on those people in a softer light, with forgiveness. It's good to release those grudges from my mind; freeing. More than those grudges though, I need to forgive myself for things. Oddly, this isn't as easy as forgiving others, but it is getting easier to do all the time. I'm really embracing the universe and just letting things flow more and more. My past shows me that all my worrying was for naught because ultimately the universe did as it wished. I can't blame myself and hold things against myself that I really had no control over. Here is to breathing, relaxing, and releasing myself from the bonds I placed against myself. Forgiveness is good.

Day 10 of the yoga girl challenge: Get Creative A perfect day for me for this challenge! I've got a lot of painting to finish up since the weather is finally humid enough to paint. And when that's done I will figure a creative way to salvage some metal and reorganize some things. I love being creative in so many ways. It makes my heart happy to create and recreate things.

Days 11 and 12 of the yoga girl challenge: Random Act of Kindness & Get Shit Done. Once again, I did several small acts of kindness over the past few days instead of one big one. Spread the love. And I have done SO many things this weekend I needed to do. My to do list is miniscule now! Finished the cart, cleaned up the yard, 2 loads of laundry done and put away. 5 total horseback rides including one lesson for me - my first in over a decade! (note Atticus weaving around me in the photo)

Day 13 of the yoga girl challenge: Be Fearless. Change, big change, is one of my biggest fears. Change like moving or relationships with friends being significantly altered or losing someone or anything big like that. I don't think that kind of thing is easy for anyone, and none of us can escape big change. It happens eventually. I've pondered leaving WV for school or career for a long time now. I've tried time and time again to leave, but despite my efforts (4 grad school applications and > 45 job applications) through the years, I've remained in WV. The thought of leaving becomes harder and scarier the longer I'm here. I love it here, but I know I will leave at some point - if only for at short time. As jobs arise in "dream" locations, I still put in for them half-heartedly. I'm happy in my current position and hope to stay for several years to come (why leave a good thing), but every time I submit an application I have a rush of thoughts about "what if". What if this is the one? What if I take the plunge and *just go*? And then I have a micro panic attack about how big of a change it would be and how crazy and fun and stressful it would be. I like security. I like comfort. Ergo, big changes scare me. But I need to get better about them. If I dont, the stress will rule me when I inevitably have to deal with change. And thus I meditate. And I practice mindful exercises to keep me rooted in the present and in logic, not fanatical "what if" situations. And while it's a continual effort, big changes don't scare me as much as they once did. I have trained myself to seek meditation to calm my frantic mind and bring it to a better, level place. It's a much nicer place to be, and this tactic has helped me through every fearful moment I have had the past couple years. 

 Yoga girl challenge day 14: Clean Out. Well, data on my phone was off until today so I'm a day late posting! Cleaning out is something I'm really great at. I'm constantly purging material possessions throughout the year. It feels so good to have less clutter around me and it's always so great when I can re purpose things. Living in a space that only has one closet for the past year + has led to a lot of cleaning out of unnecessary things. 

Yoga girl challenge day 15: Sweat. Not in the fitness way did I sweat today! This lovely mare was having an off day and put us into a sticky situation that ended up with me on the ground! Tallest, biggest horse I've been dumped from! And plenty of moments to think about how I was going to fall and when, too. Fine though. And we ended on a good note. 

Day 16 of the yoga girl challenge: Alter. Photos of some of my endurance rides complete with my first mileage award badge that spurs me forward to my 500 mile mark. 

Day 17 of the yoga girl challenge: I love you. I'm bad at posting this on the actual day! I spend the day thinking about them all day long and then never actually post! Love to me has always been more of a private thing. I'm not the person running around yelling it aloud to anyone who wants to listen. I try to let my actions show it more than my words. I try to give my time to those I love and spend as much time as I can with them. I try to partake in their activities and share mine with them. I'm loyal to my friends and go out if my way to be there for them through good times and bad. I've had people observe the amount of time i spend with someone or with my animals and remark, "I can really tell that you love _______ because you devote so much of your time". I may not say those three little words, I love you, but I certainly love all of my friends, family, and critters very much. 

Day 18 yoga girl challenge: Mother Nature. No caption. Just enjoy.

Yoga girl challenge day 19: Random act of kindness. Helped a friend pick up her yard today.

Yoga girl challenge day 20: Something New. Ran the Upper Yough with my buddy @hazetheguide today. First time running it without swimming. Also did a headstand IN THE RAFT during some flatwater at the end. Something new: check!!

Yoga girl challenge day 21: Self Love. The final day. I did it. Amazingly enough. And on the final day I am supposed to channel the good and the love from the previous 20 days into myself and do things for myself today that make me happiest. While I thought about it a lot today, today wasn't the day for doing such things. I certainly did things I enjoy, but they were intermittent. I have excelled at such days in the past and loved them; today just didn't warp into one of those. One will certainly come though. Taking time for myself to make me happy is something I have tried to do a lot more of in recent years. It is so important to be able to love yourself and make yourself happy without relying on others. Some of my favorite days are those when I do MY thing all day and then end the day by taking myself on a date alone. Total peace and happiness. I think I will continue to ponder over this day's challenge and execute it in a more private way later in the week.    

Monday, September 29, 2014

Dolly Sods Ride

West Virginia has a lot of public lands around the area I live and grew up in. These areas have very few restrictions to horseback riding, too, which is phenomenal. Our local riding groups have pretty good relations with the Forest Service, too. I've ridden in other remote/wilderness areas in the state, but never Dolly Sods.

Riding at Dolly Sods has been on my bucket list for years now. The local clubs and horse folks do a ride up there once or twice a year, but I'm always so busy on those weekends with ski patrol things and otherwise that I haven't been able to go. I realized that in order to make the dream come to fruition I'd need to take things into my own hands. And so I did.

Yesterday Kenai and Q and I along with my friend Danny and his dog Jack headed up to do a 10 mile ride at the Sods. Danny planned to hike with the dogs while I rode. Because the Sods is a wilderness area and far from any semblance of cell service, having someone with me was key. We were able to rendezvous multiple times on trail, whether I walked back to him or paused for a time and waited.

The weather was absolutely PERFECT. Low to mid 70s, slight breeze, partly cloudy, low humidity. Bonus? The leaves up there were PEAK. Photos do absolutely ZERO justice to how incredible it was. I was in a zen-state for most of the ride, completely blissed out about where I was and the fact that I was riding my horse in that place. 

The trail we did, Blackbird Knob, is noted as 4.7 miles on the map. I figured we'd go out and back for a good 10ish miles. Danny was totally up for a good 10 mile day on foot.

By total fault of my own, I didn't bring a rasp with me - something I usually bring Just In Case. I haven't trimmed Q's feet in a couple weeks either, so they weren't quite perfect for her boots, and rather than risk the integrity of the boots, I just decided to see how far we got barefoot without issue. Answer: all 10 miles! Over some seriously gnarly terrain. I was super proud of my little mare. It was a great self-trimming ride by the end!

I didn't know how the footing would be for certain. I know it can be gnarly up there, but I just wasn't for sure how the percentages of good vs. bad would play out on the trail. I wanted to ride some relatively gnarly stuff (one big reason for riding the Sods) because I wanted Q to be able to practice over rough terrain similar to what the OD rides have - and that was my only goal. It's a good thing I had no great goal other than that, too, because the trail was so gnarly for 85% of the way that I was forced to walk if I hoped to keep a sound horse!

Added bonus? Q was absolutely OUTSTANDING all day. More forward down the trail than she has been in a LONG time. And not too spooky either! She loved having Kenai out front to guide her through most of it, as he could easily keep up with our 3mph walking pace. I think I'm really going to have to look into getting a dog that loves to run/can handle heat for future conditioning pursuits in coming years for Q and potentially any horse I may have that has confidence issues; Q gains so much confidence by having something in the lead be it dog, person, horse, or bike.

Something Karen noted in the past week or so about Ashke on trail really got me thinking and was confirmed in a small way yesterday: Karen noted that Ashke seems bored with certain trails and more eager about new ones. I think this applies to Q, too. At home, she's not thrilled with having to do the same thing again and again (and I'm not either), but on new trails and away from home she's typically much better. At the Sods, she wanted to Get Down the Trail and See What's Around the Bend more than she ever has. I was even able to practice some great tailing!

I'd expected all day to get a sharp warning from someone about my off leash dog (Danny's, too) but no one ever said a thing. (Kenai is seriously the best. His blaze orange vest provides a visual, his e-collar provides a safety net for having him return to me, and he knows his job is to be with me and not pay mind to others. He'll remain within 30 feet of me and keep my pace. If Q stopped, he'd stop. If it was an extended stop, he'd find a place just off trail to lay down and wait. Do I know and recognize and accept the dangers of off-leash dogs? Yes. That is my risk to take.) I did get  oodles of comments from other trail users about Q though!

Most comments were just remarks of surprise about the fact that a horse could handle that terrain. All but one interaction were neutral or positive in nature. Everyone I ran into all day yielded to Q and I, and I thanked each and every one of them, and picked up quick, but amiable conversations with others as we passed. I even paused for a time to talk to some curious folks about the fact that Q was barefoot and how that changes the way she'll navigate terrain (more focused on how and where she places her feet than a shoed horse may do - something these folks thought was really cool!). Those folks shared with me their experiences with Morgan horses and their sure-footedness.

The negative interaction with another trail user re: horse use was the only unpleasant part to the day. An older woman, probably in her 70s, was passing us with her hiking partner (presumably husband based on their behavior) for the second time as we both returned toward the directions we'd come from. Danny was about a minute behind me on trail, Q and Kenai and I were bopping along at a sedate pace, just enjoying the area and watching our footing.

The woman asked if I was allowed to have a horse back there in a quiet, yet accusatory tone of voice. Yes, Know Before You Go - a rule all should follow before heading out to do any activity in the wild. I noted that yes, horses were allowed.

She insisted that horses were not allowed in wilderness areas. No, you're wrong. Motorized vehicles are forbidden in wilderness areas, sometimes bikes, not horses, at least not here. I assured that they were allowed here, noting that there are few to no restrictions on horse use in West Virginia.

She insisted that it was a Federal law that horses couldn't be in wilderness areas, and then noted about how much "damage" they do to the trails and how the poop attracts flies. Okay, lady. You show me on the trail today where you've seen "damage" from horses that counters that of human foot traffic. I'll give you the poop and flies thing, but seriously, if you're in a wilderness area and worried about poop and bugs, you've got bigger problems. I told her that her point could be debated (more so in reference to the "damage") and she jumped on me noting that there was no debate. Woman, I work for the Federal government. I am also a Leave No Trace Master Educator. I also spoke with a USFS employee twice on trail today as we passed and he did nothing but smile at me and tell me to have a great ride after our second interaction. If you want to accuse someone of ill-knowledge about horse use on trails, you've picked the wrong individual. I've been trained to talk to people like you with a smile on my face, kind words of understanding from my mouth, and active listening techniques. I see where you could think that hooves cause damage, but in truth, it isn't much more than your own two feet. We're trained to abide by the same Leave No Trace principles of foot travel in these areas as you are. I understand that the white chalk marks from metal shoes on the rocks may be unsightly, and the manure isn't ideal, but the marks you've seen today and the poop remaining is the result of a 40+ person ride on one day a week ago. The 'damage' from that is MINIMAL all things considered! I didn't see a single trash item from those folks, nor did I observe hoofprints OFF trail in relatively preserved, pristine areas. They did a superb job at maintaining the area considering the large numbers that were present. And no, such large numbers are not advisable, but sometimes it happens.

Danny and Jack showed up at that point, helping me to further bite my tongue than what I was already doing (because all of my thoughts listed above in italics were about to come spouting out of my mouth for real), and I instead continued to smile - as I had been doing - and told her to have a nice day, and Q walked onward.

It's worth noting that Q stood quietly and politely for the entire interaction. Good mare.

Such a seriously amazing day overall. Just what I needed, just what Q needed.

Have some photos and videos to tell the rest of the story. Words just can't do it justice.

Atop Dolly Sods, not quite to where we parked

Looks bare already on the opposing mountainside, but in truth, it was plastered with oranges, reds, and russets

Emerging into Dolly Sods proper from a brief time in the woods. Color explosion.

Photos just don't do it justice!

I was pretty psyched.

Look at that happy, relaxed expression!

Eager ears, all day.

Traversing down the trail.

Wandering the woods with such colorful blasts was an experience!

Happy ears.

A tunnel of mountain laurel and red spruce.

Kenai BOUNDING up what I was about to lead Q DOWN!
Talk about gnarly terrain! Q handled it with grace though.

A photo that doesn't quite do justice to what I led Q down to cross the stream.

Black water typical of the high elevation areas in WV

The canter video above was one of the few areas of good footing all day!

Climbing a particularly gnarly section of trail up from the second creek crossing; we rode down this later with zero issues


Such a good horse.

If that rumor I heard about Indian Graves being re-added to Fort Valley is true, I think we're ready!

Unmused Q is unamused. Haha.

This section of forest was 95% beech, 5% striped maple

Photos do NOT do the color justice.

The colors are so dulled in most photos compared to real life.

So freaking beautiful. Once again, dull areas in the distance that seem bare of leaves were really reds and oranges.


My trail partners for most of the day as Danny and Jack stayed further back

A sample of what the footing consisted of for a large portion of the day

Yes, horses can travel these trails!

Trail. Creek bed?

Kenai's feet are all black from Dolly Sods mud

And in case the above photos have not clued you  into what the footing was like, here are four videos to further demonstrate. Watch for how Q chooses to place her feet. She was slow yet methodical in the trickiest of areas. In the final video, she took a line I wasn't anticipating, and then careened off trail while I noted to her that I accepted that she was sick of the rocks, but too bad because the trail does not go this way and as soon as we'd cross the creek (not pictured) she'd be done with the worst of the rocks. (These videos were taken through the worst of the worst sections.)

This is where Q and Kenai stood and lay while I took a nap at the midway point of our day.

Relaxed animals are relaxed.

Blueberry bushes turn red in the fall.

Gah, this photo is SO DULL and dreary in comparison to what the day truly was.

Q chowed down hard the second half of the ride.
She also drank, and peed, and pooped in the time we were out.
Good endurance poneh.

A great shot Danny snuck of me cantering Q toward him at some point

And now for a video of me tailing Q up a short section of trail.

And a short clip of me leading Q across a rocky section of creek - my phone memory filled up and cut the video short! I remedied it after, but definitely wasn't going to make Q repeat for the sake of a video.

And here's a clip Danny got of me tailing Q up the super steep stuff after we crossed the creek. Note Jack struggling up it after us!

And finally, a short clip of Q crossing the boardwalk we had to cross to begin and end our day.