Thursday, October 30, 2014

Okay, I'm Ready To Share

A month ago I had a post all ready to share with y'all about what I'd been doing with Griffin since his first LD attempt where his greenie brain emerged in a whole new way at the beginning of August. Because if you didn't notice, he kind of dropped out of the picture for a long time there.

Here's what that post entailed --

: : : : :

So I've been holding back on sharing this bit of news with social media for well over a month. I wanted to work through the training, restore the cart, and get him going before I whispered a word to social media about it.

Let's back up - last year I got a bug up my butt to drive Griffin. I floundered around the internet for a time researching it, did some of the ground driving work with him, searched for tack, gawked at the cost, and then ultimately got caught up in Q's training and forgot about driving altogether for awhile. Occasionally, I'd peruse equipment again, but the cost of it always threw me off.

And then Mike entered the picture and riding two horses was a lot easier so Griffin's work US began anew in January. (I really struggle to ride BOTH horses on the same trails all the time. It's one thing to go out and do a workout with one of them, but to have to do double that? Gah. I don't like seeing the same thing again and again and again. With Mike's butt to borrow, riding both of them and getting workouts in became SO much easier.) With advances in riding, I forgot about the driving for awhile more.

As summer dragged on and riding both horses fell almost solely back into my hands (and my butt) due to Mike's work schedule, I began to dream again about driving Griffin for cross training. (And Griffin was chosen instead of Q because Q and a cart...HAHAHAHAHA. That's a fun joke. Spooky horse who hates things near her hiney with a cart...HAHA.) I had a new idea as far as pursuing equipment went that might lead me to a cheaper route, one I could afford.

Finding the Harness

I queried Alison for help with what to look for and found some equipment for a reasonable price on Craigslist. I then sent photos of these leads to my neighbors to verify as I knew they'd been involved in driving their Belgian mules once upon a time. Well, lo and behold, they fired back a response along the lines of, "Looks good, but don't buy anything yet. We have a light horse harness you can borrow that will probably work for Griffin. Come out and we'll check it out this week."

*ding ding ding* We have a winner.

I went out to see this harness the week following Griffin's failed first go at an LD. We found all of the pieces to it, I cleaned it up, and hustled out to the barn to fit it to the grey horse. Definitely would work!

Finding the Cart

The cart and I. I was excited.
Around the same week the harness was locked in, I found a cart option on Craigslist - I actually found several within 4 hours driving distance, but this one was the closest and it was the cheapest. I forwarded it along to my neighbors to glean their opinion of it.

They thought it definitely had potential, but noted we'd need to see it in person. The best time for them to go was the weekend I'd planned to be visiting Nicole and Carlos though, so it was decided that they would go and look anyway, and if it was good, they'd bring it home.

My neighbor texted me while I was standing in the barn post-ride with Nicole on one of the days of my visit to say that it was in great shape beyond needing a new paint job and tires, so they got it! Sweet!

She also told me the following story about it: 

The guy who owned it used to drive it around with a friend ages ago, but it had mostly been hanging in his barn for 35 years gathering dust - hence wanting to sell it. The gentleman is in his early 70s now, hospice care was at his home as his wife was dying (sadface). He's an old Italian guy though, and apparently looked absolutely AMAZING for his age. 

He asked about what they wanted to do with the cart when they agreed they'd take it. My neighbors noted that they were picking it up for a friend, a girl named Liz. Well, upon hearing my name the old guy teared up. It turns out, the friend he used to drive the cart all over with was named Liz. He and she drove it all over town back in the day. When her father passed, she gave it to this Italian gentleman to remember she and her father. He was so thrilled to be passing it along to another young lady named Liz. 

And so, the cart became mine. I'll attribute it to kismet.

It truly did need new tires and paint, but those were simple and easy. One trip to WalMart led to having tires that Mike put on for me, and one trip to Sherwin Williams afforded the necessary primer and paint. Now all that was left was prepping the damn thing for painting! Fortunately, Mike is quite the handy man and has had oodles of painting gigs, so he had everything I needed to prep and strip the cart for painting.

And so I prepped and stripped and chipped and sanded on and off for a week or so. And right when I was ready to paint, super humid weather settled in for a week or more. Not good for painting! And so I waited for a week or more, and then was finally able to paint the cart over a 3 day period of good weather with the help of a friend towards the end.

Training

From the moment I realized I wanted to do this for REAL this time, I started pursuing training ideas and methods re: ground driving.

Fortunately, Andrea and O had just begun their journey into driving, so I had her blog to spur my idea train.

Additionally, Griffin's newly surfaced issues US lent themselves to pursuing more ground
driving-type activities in an attempt to resolve the problems. More fate playing a hand at this driving thing? Mayhaps.

And so we did double long lining, which Griffin excelled at and took with stride as if he'd been doing it all his life. And then we did ground driving, something we'd pursued in the past, but hadn't touched in ages. And Griffin excelled at that too, remaining completely unbothered with whatever I requested. He demonstrated some small issues with halting and remaining so, but with one solid day's session focused on Halt Means Halt, we had it.

The day Mike replaced the tires on the cart (Sept. 1), we took the cart to the barn to be absolutely certain it would fit with everything (horse, harness, etc.) prior to further work prepping it to paint. I'd made no plans to actually drive Griffin that day, but hey, you give a mouse a cookie....

Leading and watching him for any sign of stress or concern. He was totally fine!
I walked him all around the cart for a time for him to see it and sniff it. Then Mike pulled the cart around and Griffin and I walked with him, behind him, in front of him, and around him as he did so. And then Mike held Griffin and talked to him as I hooked the cart up.

Mike and I were totally more concerned about the whole thing than Griffin was at this point. He was all, "Guyssss, what's the big deal?"

And so, with everything seemingly fitted appropriately, we backed Griffin up with the cart attached so we could turn to walk around the barnyard (because hooking him up so we could just attain forward movement first thing wasn't really in our brains). We proceeded to lead him around the barnyard pulling the cart, talking to him telling him how good he was, which led to me driving him from the ground behind the cart while Mike led him, which led to Mike taking a more passive leading role while I drove from behind, which led to me getting in the cart with Mike in an active leading role, which led to me driving with Mike in a passive leading role, which finally led to me just driving him with Mike walking alongside - no lead rope attached.

No helmet, but So Totally Unplanned.
Griffin was totally unperturbed by the entire thing. His ears swiveled taking everything in, but he never took a false step. Mike even had a moment to step away from his walk-alongside role to snap some photos!

A very exciting teaser for me as I would continue to focus on prepping and painting the cart for another several weeks!

And then last week, I finally got the cart out to the barn to stay. (An epic journey that involved me driving Mike's big truck (a standard) all on my own (I've never drove a standard in that capacity ever!), and to top it off, getting the cart loaded and unloaded from the truck ON MY OWN.)

I still have a few things to tweak with the shaft horns on the cart, but they aren't the kind of thing that limits our use of it too much. I am still able to spend time hooking Griffin up to the cart, leading him with the cart, ground driving him from behind the cart, and even sitting in the cart and driving.

It depends on the day and how he's acting as to what we do. I'm trying to be slow and give him opportunities to succeed, y'know? I have loose plans when I arrive each day, but nothing in stone. I try to go with the flow and how Griffin is acting/feeling.

It's so incredibly fun though! I can't wait to share more as we proceed with our journey. I have these picturesque scenes in my mind of driving down the one lane country roads that few cars are ever on along the river with fall foliage in its peak. It's far-reaching, I know, but it's a really awesome picture in my head, and a really fun goal to slowly work towards.




: : : : :

I was so ready to share and so excited to share. I even went so far as to share photos about him driving to Facebook! But I wanted to wait for just a few more sessions so I could give even more updates and provide more  photos for y'all. 

But then something really horrible happened.

A cart wreck.

On September 29 I went out to drive Griffin around sans cart first, and then had plans to hook the cart up and just lead him around with it. 

You see, he'd been kind of wiggy lately about things and I didn't want him to have to think too much on things that night. I just wanted him to focus on walking around with me while having the cart hooked up. I figured if it went really well, maybe I'd continue the ground driving I started the night with but while walking behind the cart. 

Best laid plans, eh?

To rehash what happened exactly, I'm going to share what I wrote to Hannah from The Longest Format. She was [un]fortunate enough to have dropped me a check-in message on Facebook the morning after. I was finally coming out of the shock of the whole thing enough that I spewed the following to her --

: : : : :

Last night was really bad and it's still weighing on me though and I'm not sure when I'll be able to write about it or anything.

The whole month has been kind of off. I don't know what it is. It's no one thing. I just feel like I have no direction - especially with the horses. I'm proceeding with endurance with Q because it makes sense. And it's pretty good, really. The whole chronic scratches thing was really trying, but we're moving on and that is really good. We had a really thrilling ride Sunday that gave me hope and really put me in a great place mentally - better place than I'd been all month.

Then last night I went out and finally finished the cart I've been using with my driving pursuits with Griffin. (The restoration process has been slow and there were some very minor things I had left to complete for it to truly be *done*.) 

And after some premptive driving around sans cart, I hooked it up. He was so good - as usual. I had a goal to lead him around with it on and then drive from the ground behind the cart - no more. He'd had some sticky spots the last time we drove and I just wanted to give him some positive experiences to deal with, y'know?

But then as I led him around the side of the barn with the cart I turned to look at him as he walked right behind my shoulder and noticed a second before it happened that he was too close to the barn and the cart would probably clip it....it did.

The sound and the jarring of the cart scared him - as it would most horses. And he TOOK OFF. I just dodged out of the way, helpless. I watched him and the cart careening around the barnyard in terror. He went around the other side and out of sight while I realized I may need to find cover and I made moves to slip in the back door of the barn. As I was doing so he reappeared.....sans cart....still scared...pieces of harness flapping everywhere.

I knew he wouldn't calm down immediately, so I let him run the fenceline where the other horses were while I walked to the far side of the barn to see what had become of the cart and the rest of the harness.

The arm of one of the shafts was snapped in two. The pieces of harness that weren't on Griffin were attached to the cart in various places.

Griffin had calmed down in the moments it took me to get a visual of the cart. I walked to him, murmuring things softly. Telling him it was okay and it wasn't his fault. I managed to undo the rest of the harness while he stood shaking. I led him to the barn and tied him to stand while I went back to gather the cart pieces and harness pieces.

He was resting one hind foot when I got back to him, significantly calmer, too. I made him move out on a circle in both directions to double check for any injury, fearful. He was fine.

Everything is okay. And I can probably fix the cart and the harness - though it will take a lot more time.

It was the raw force of the incident though. It was terrifying. And now I have this horrible fear in my gut unlike anything I've experienced in a long time and I'm not sure what I'm going to do about it.

 : : : : :

And so. Here we are. A month after I sent that message. A month and a day after the wreck. 
     
And I'm ready to share it with you guys. 

So there it is.

Obviously, Griffin is okay. Obviously, I've moved forward with him in the interim and had some really great rides.

And the harness still isn't completely fixed - but it's in progress. And the cart is still lying at the barn in pieces - but the men have devised multiple plans to fix it and promise they will do it as soon as I give the word. And Griffin walks around and by the cart without fear or apprehension. 

But he will eventually have to wear the harness again; we'll confront his potential demons with that then. And when potential demons have been conquered, we'll confront the next set of demons that may come with the cart. And it may be long and slow, but we'll get through it. 

Sure, I don't have to introduce him back to any of it. But I was having such fun with it! And he really seemed to be, too! So we'll take things slow, and we'll see how it goes. And we may never drive outside of a fenced area due to fears, but that's okay. We were having fun with what we were doing and I'd like to get that back if possible.

Please be kind in the comments. This has been a really huge hurdle for me to work through mentally. I wanted to write it all up in a concise place though. I wanted to share for those on Facebook who knew we were driving but never saw another mention of it after a month's time. I wanted the few who knew how hard it was for me, those I reached out to, to see that things are getting better and brighter.

Just another hiccup in this journey. Just another hiccup. We're moving on. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

All In A Week

















1. Kenai is ever persistent for attention when you're eating dinner.  2. Atticus the Shitten is rather cute when he is alseep.  3. Tire issues pre-race travels.  4. Having a BLAST on the final loop of the race.  5. Team Nimo!!  6. My ever watchful mare as we hand walked into the final check after the finish.  7. Q letting her main boyfriend lick mash remnants from her face; safe to say she is in *heat*.  8. Peach/apple crates that Mike thrifted for me this week. I am in LOVE with them.  9. Sleeping cats lie.  10. Enjoying one of two final days of sun and warmth and beauty before the weather takes a plunge into the cold.  11. Griffin begging for peppermint treats after our third day in a row of riding.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Mulling Things Over Post-Fort Valley

“Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”
-Theodore Roosevelt


24 hours post ride: Q looked 90% improved on the night before. Still lingering sensitivity around girth area and some inflammation along the tendons in her forelegs, but nothing excessive or worrisome. Her attitude is perky and spunky and that is so very telling.

48 hours post ride: Q looked 99% better. No lingering sensitivity at her girth area any more, though it feels like she developed some pretty bad galls that will peel away in coming days. Forelegs were slightly stocked up, but it is hard to say if this is due to the ride or due to her not moving around in the field prior to my arrival. Q stocks up easier than any horse I've ever been around. She's in red-hot flaming heat though!!

72 hours post ride: Q is totally back to normal physically. Skin already peeling away from the gall areas. =(

-----

Things That Didn't Work

Girth: Quite obviously! Q has developed some minor issues in the past, but they were quite hit or miss. For the future I intend to 1.) wash the damn girth and get out any socked in mud and dirt, 2.) if her hair is long, shave the girth area to keep it short as this worked very well last winter when we had no girth issues, 3.) apply body glide liberally, early, and often, and 4.) tighten the girth to it's usual tightness instead of "being nice" because clearly, loose girth on this horse with that saddle leads to a wealth of problems.

Pad: This was rather hit or miss as I've never ever had an issue with this pad before in all the miles ridden in it. Likely, the issues with the pad were a spin off from the girth problems. But all the same, I am trying a new pad out. I traded my AP Woolback with inserts that no longer was useful for my non-AP-shaped saddles for a dressage-shaped Skito with inserts. While I haven't ridden with the setup on Q yet, I have on Griffin multiple times and I have to say I am IN LOVE with this Skito pad so far! I'm much more impressed with the inserts than the Toklat or Barefoot inserts that I have used with my Woolbacks. The construction of the pad is much nicer, also, as it is less bulky than the Woolback which I really love. This relationship has lots of time to go south, certainly, but for now I remain very optimistic that I've found a great new option!
 
Raising my stirrups: Knee pain I'd been experiencing was completely alleviated. However, ankle pain was achieved. It was achieved to such a level in my right ankle that the ankle was swollen for 72 hours or so post-ride. I still need to tweak this around to see what is going to work best for me. Previous knee pain was only an in-the-saddle thing. It never lasted after. The ankle issue lingering for days after is no bueno. And the pain is centered around the same tendons that I've always had issues with since my competitive swimming days, so that's no good. More tests are needed...

Conditioning of the horse: I seriously dropped the ball with this between RBTR and FV. Or maybe you could say I was testing the theory of that whole "they keep their conditioning for X weeks/months". Either way, I only had two long rides on Q between beginning of August and end of October - an 18 mile flat ride on the rail trail and a 10 mile walk ride over the gnarly terrain of Dolly Sods. Aside from those rides, I probably rode Q only 4 or 5 additional times in the 12 week period between RBTR and FV. Those rides were short and based upon either dressage or jumping.
 
The less conditioning showed in Q through the ride. She definitely regained her spunk at the end, and her CRIs noted that she wasn't too bad off fitness-wise, but her lack of motivation for much of the second loop and parts of the first loop concerned me a lot. I need to do better by her and get her out more. And clearly, her tushy needs more hill work than it was getting if the cramp was truly what was going on at the end!

For the future, I need to get back to my conditioning program that was doing so well. 3 workouts per week: Hill sprints. 1 day cross training. 1 trail ride. Additionally, 2 long rides per month. 

To supplement the former program I want to add in MORE dressage work and work in the sand arena. I'll likely keep the number of conditioning days the same, but just jumble around what I am doing.

Q needs to learn to carry herself better than she does. Since I've begun taking lessons again, I'm realizing how on the forehand she is so much of the time. It's hard to ride and it's hard on her body and mine. She and I both need to buckle down and spend some time working on our bodies before we can be better.

Rider fitness: I dropped the ball here, too, but miraculously it didn't bite me in the ass. During the ride I was body sore ALL OVER almost like the body aches you get from the flu. It was very odd. But it didn't last past that day for whatever reason. The sorest part of me was my left calf, with my right calf being a close second. My right ankle was also swollen for up to 72 hours post-ride. Aside from that though? Other body soreness was quite discountable. I was lucky!

 For the future though, I'm going to get myself on a steady yoga regiment. I retain fitness due to my lifestyle, but I don't have much strength. Over time, yoga will lend both strength and a greater awareness of my body and balance. These will all help improve my riding for me and for my horse - which I owe to both of us. And besides - I've wanted to get back into yoga since I hurt my shoulder and was initially forced out of the practice.

Things That Worked

Eating and Drinking for the Human: I had half water/half gatorade in my bottles all day. I guzzled it. I also made a point of eating a chicken salad sandwich or a wrap with turkey/provolone at each hold in addition to some other little snacks. I like the sandwich wrap protocol because I can put it in one hand and do other things while at the check.

Homemade stirrup turners: Saiph noted that I should do a how-to post on these. And I will. But I need to tweak the design some more to be 110%. They did help me a LOT, though not entirely with the shin issues I had been having at the OD. The shin issue I got on my right leg may have been referred pain from the ankle issue this time though. More tests are needed...

Having a Buddy for the Horse and Rider: This was absolutely ESSENTIAL for Q; it kept her from wigging out over things and kept her moving down the trail when she really didn't want to be. It was also awesome for me because it kept me out of the dark places in my head where I have been a lot for the past two months. If you've noticed me not writing as much, or posting things with less text and more photos, this is why: bad headspace that leads me to not talk or want to talk to anyone, not write or want to write anything, not ride or want to be around the horses even. It's been rough, but it is getting better, and this ride and all of that time spent with Nicole and Lily really, really helped a lot. And I'm really grateful for that, and I'm pretty sure she knows it. =) And if you don't, Nicole, here's me telling you again how grateful I was for all of those hours and miles with you!

Other Thoughts and Mullings

- My internal freaking out re: Q not drinking/eating during the first loop/first hold is still in my head. The only reasoning I can come up with for why she behaved as such is that 1.) she rarely drinks during the first loop, so she was probably just being normal in those regards, 2.) she had a HUGE mash with 2+ gallons of water that she downed before we set out on the first loop, so she likely had a lot of water from this + many pounds of Triple Crown Sr. in her belly, 3.) the water we'd given the girls through the night had been nailed pretty hard so she was likely drinking through the evening + eating hay, 4.) she peed at the check (YAY! big deal for the horse who used to hold it around people all the time) and was pooping fine all day. All in all, a pretty good situation. Still, despite those facts, any time she's not being a complete pig about food or drinking to the utmost degree I'm likely to worry.

I need to be able to calm myself down about things though and focus on the facts. My worrying during the hold and my constant urging for her to eat something of anything (she ate some peppermint treats here and there, mouthfuls of alfalfa here and there, a bit or two of grain here and there) completely barred my mind from the obvious awesome answer of, "LET HER GRAZE!" After she'd peed and right as we were about to head out, she finally had an opportunity to graze a little and she took FULL advantage of it. I was all D'OH about my idiocy of not letting her do this before because I know how good grass can be for them at these times. Silly, human. Lesson learned.

- My horse isn't a leader. Or at least not yet. But really, I'm not sure she will ever be. She's wiggy about things and she's got a nasty spooking habit despite my best efforts with her - many chronicled here.

She's so incredibly LOOKY at EVERYTHING she encounters! I joked with Nicole that she'd make a great ski patroller because we're expected to have our heads on a swivel at all times - and that is EXACTLY how Q is!

I think the most I can do is continue to get out with her as much as I can and just expose her to many things and often; maybe she'll relax one day? I will also do my best to continue working on myself and being calm as much as possible. I'm getting a lot better. I'm calmer and unbothered by 85% of her spooks now. It's just those big ones that occur for reasons I cannot figure out that still irk me. Her horse instincts and the way she FLIES into retreat mode with NO CARE for the rider on her back sends me into a fury. She simply sees red for a short time and cares not for me at all.

It's confusing to have her see red in these moments after she's tackled numerous other things that obviously worried her with relative good grace - a lofty trot, a concerned ear, a stink eye look, and maybe a few hesitant steps. To deal with 6 things like that and then the 7th monster-object have her EXPLODE with a crazy spook is so irritating to me on a level I can't explain. I know it shouldn't be. I know she is a horse and she's just reacting, but it is so very challenging to remain calm with her when she loses her marbles like that. I'm practicing calm and meditation and mindfulness as often as I can to improve myself so I can be there for her and continue to be a supporting partner/leader/rider/whathaveyou; it's just hard sometimes. :-\

And because it is hard and because it is frustrating, it lends itself to me not wanting to ride her in certain situations. It isn't fun to have to be SO on guard about things. To have to be SO ready to potentially fly off at any moment.

Sorry, just having a whine-fest over this issue.

Bottom line is I'm still trying so hard to make it better and I'm not giving up yet.

- Q *was* in heat for this ride. So a lot of the troubles and weirdness re: eating, drinking, spooking may very well have been attributed to this. She's a lot better with many things since we have begun SmartMare Harmony and magnesium, but she can still be an idiot about things when she is in heat. All the same, it's worth noting that she was in heat for me to read back on later when I have concerns about future issues.

- I think some of the soreness she experienced may have been due to shitty riding on my part. I haven't been riding much at all in the past two months. I can't two point for very long at all right now vs. before I could two point for 30 minutes and more. I'm weak. I'm sloppy. I need to fix this. Yoga and telemark skiing this winter should put me back in a solid state of fitness. Add lots of hopeful riding, and by spring I should be good again. Shame on Liz.

Monday, October 27, 2014

2014 Fort Valley 50

The Short: 

Amazing ride. Loved the trails (again). Q was pretty stellar all day as long as she wasn't leading. Pulled at the finish due to a cramp in her rear end. She was fine within a few hours - body sore, but fine.


The Long:

Thursday

The weather at home had been a steady mist - not rain or fog but mist - for days. It had been cold and froggy, too, the kind of weather that makes you want to do nothing more than sit indoors curled up doing nothing. The kind of weather that makes it hard to do anything on time out-of-doors. As such,  I was running a bit behind my scheduled departure time.

I made it to the barn about 30 minutes later than planned. Fortunately, the trailer was packed because I'd done that on a whim on Monday night. All I needed to do was bring the mare in, dust off most of the mud, hook up the trailer, put her on the trailer, check all tires on the way out of the driveway (garage with air compressor is on my way out), and be off!

So much easier said than done...

- Hooked up the trailer on the first attempt. See evidence below:




- Fetched horse from field and dusted off most of the mud with relative success. No evidence to show.

- Because I was without help to load the horse, I tried to get her to self-load. I had half-success with this. No evidence to show.

- As you know, you cannot close the trailer door and take your horse anywhere with half-success. So I walked her on as I'd do if someone was there to close the door behind us, hooked her to the pre-existing lead rope that is always tied in the trailer, stepped out the escape door, and held my breath.

You see, Q will lead on and load like a dream if someone is there to close the door behind her. Her vice is that she makes attempts to back immediately off if no one is there to guarantee otherwise. And on this day I had no one to close said door. So I relied on the rope halter and lead to keep her efforts to leave at bay and prayed she didn't hurt herself in the process.

So I stood, bated breath, and watched and waited while my mare made a scrabbling attempt to unload herself from the trailer after I'd hooked her up and stepped out. She backed up, hit the end of the line, and proceeded to have a 5 second knock-down-drag-out tug-o-war fight with the lead and her head. I thought to myself, Welp, I'll either have a horse to take to this ride or I won't. Here's hoping... and just stood by.

She settled after a few moments, and I closed the door. And we were off.

- I stopped at the garage to check air on all tires, knowing I had my one tire on the vehicle that would need air as it has had a pesky slow leak for more than a month now. And so I filled all tires that needed it - including that pesky tire. Except when I filled that tire this time, I could hear the air whizzing out from somewhere. Well shit.

- I trucked upstairs to get BO's hubby to help me with my dilemma. Long story short, we ended up pulling out a 3" wire/nail that was boogered into my tire pretty good. We then put a plug in the tire. However, uncertain about the plug, I then set off for the tire place to see what they thought after marking the shit out of my tire with the same livestock marker I use to put a # on Q's rear for rides. They were very busy with a reputed 2 hour wait, but the owner took pity on me (what with my trailer hooked up and horse inside and all), and took the tire off immediately to take it inside and check things out. Evidence pictured:

Note the green mark...

BAI!


- He pronounced it right as rain with no air leaking anywhere he could tell. And so, nearly 2 hours after my desired departure time, I was off! (And so ends the bulleted list of things that should have been easy to accomplish but was not.)

A friend's fingers crossed after my request for
luck and crossing of all things that the tire
would make it.


About 30 minutes out of town I was halted again at the base of the only mountain I needed to traverse with the trailer on a 2-lane highway. Pilot vehicles were flagging people down to wait while they offloaded two 22' wide equipment loads on flatbed trucks from the mountain. I was halted right at the beginning of what we call a "Come to Jesus" turn - a 20 mph switchback on an otherwise 55 mph road that comes off a big mountain called Backbone. The equipment had been in operation on a stretch of highway under construction in the direction I was headed and was being decommissioned from one site to be brought to another.

And so I waited:

It's an equipment parade!

Kind of...


Once that hurdle was accomplished, I continued to plug my way up the mountain. One of the pilot cars had warned it was very foggy up there. I'd nodded to him, figuring Great, just another obstacle for my day. HA.

You know the dashed lines down the center of roads? Yeah? Okay, well the fog was SO DENSE that I could only see TWO of those at a time. That's like 25'-30'. Now, add in some *surprise* 25 mph, 30 mph, and 35 mph turns on that mostly 55 mph road with shitty visibility, and presto! you get what I was dealing with. Except, oh wait, added degree of difficulty! I'm hauling my precious horse in the trailer and really don't want to toss her around too much.

I amped up my music to distract my increasingly freaking-out mind and drove on. Slow but steady at an average 30 mph. And surprisingly? The GIANT line of cars behind me disappeared except for 1 guy. Usually through fog banks like that you want a leader, be they slow or otherwise. Having those red tail lights to follow is a big help. But for whatever reason the 20+ vehicles behind me disappeared and it ended up just being me and a white sedan. I decided at the time that the fog monsters must have eaten the rest of them.

Good news at this point? I wasn't worried about the tire anymore! HA.

The fog plagued me for awhile longer until I reached a point (after *surprise* NEW detours on the stretch of highway under construction that contained TWO 15 mph turns) where I dropped off the high elevation plateau into the lower farmlands. As I descended the highway below the edge of the plateau I was able to observe the wall of the fog bank held behind an imaginary line along the ridge. Have to admit, I was happy to see it gone and welcome the sun and blue skies which had been absent in my world for 3 days!

To the left: all fog. To the right? Blue skies, sun, and some fluffy clouds.


Fortunately, the remainder of the drive was uneventful and I pulled into ridecamp about 3.5 hours after I departed home.

I found Nicole and Carlos nearly immediately upon pulling into ridecamp thanks to their red trailer (hurrah bright colors!). Sadly, the location was far from the vet check, but there was plenty of room to set the corral up for the girls.

The three of us made quick work of the electric corral and overall camp setup before strolling over to registration. After registration, we vetted in.

Q pulsed in at 36 or something (shame on me, but I just don't remember because...) and received a B on gait. The vet was the same vet from the Old Dominion who just never liked Q's gait. I even noted, as cheerily as I could, "She's got a swinging gait through her hind end. It's normal for her." As my vet had instructed when I'd discussed things with her. Yet still the vet said Q was striding short on her right hind she thought, and that there was a subtle head bob. Both Nicole and I were astounded. Nicole has a GREAT eye for seeing subtle off-ness in a horse, and she couldn't see it. She said Q looked the same she always did. (Something I would check in with her often about over the next two days to always receive the response of, "She's moving the way she always moves!" from Nicole.)

 After the vet in the day proceeded rather par for the course:

  • Nicole and I did a 3.5 mile tune-up ride along a short section of trail
  • We indulged in dinner
  • The ride meeting noted of only a few minor changes in trail from the previous year

After dinner, I set to replacing cables in 3 Vipers. 2 of mine and 1 of Nicole's.

Other Renegade folks, how often are you getting frayed cables in the below manner?






I've never had cables fray like this before. It seems odd to me that they would fray here? These boots were only used twice: at the Old Dominion 50 and the Ride Between the Rivers 50. I had very minimal issue with the boots at these rides and they were soaked and washed after. I didn't even notice the fraying until arriving at Fort Valley and almost wonder if it was something that happened while they sat idle?! So bizarre and beyond frustrating!!!

Once I had all of the boots fixed, I quickly packed my saddle bags for the following day and changed into my clothing for the morning so that I wouldn't have to be nearly naked in the freezing morning temperatures.

I was sleeping in my car for this ride, so I settled happily into my sleeping bag and was asleep fast. Snug as a bug in a rug.

Unfortunately, my stomach has been on the fritz lately. This night was one of the unlucky ones; it seemed something at dinner was Not Okay and I woke with that horrible gut pain indicative to my GI tract vehemently rejecting something I'd consumed. This story is more and more common in my life lately, and it is to the point where I'm forced to assume a limited diet to try to alleviate the pain, much to my chagrin. The last week alone afforded me with no fewer than 3 incidents, one of which was by and large the worst I've ever encountered that caused me to nearly pass out from the pain - I'd put it on a solid 8 out of 10 on the pain scale and I'm not one to poo-poo that scale as I often underestimate my pain vs. over estimate it.

Fortunately, the GI Tract Gods smiled down on me this evening and I escaped relatively unscathed after only an hour or so of hell. I even fell fast asleep again after. So fast and deep asleep that when my alarm went off the next morning I had to press snooze twice. *grumble grumble*


Friday

I pulled Q from the pen and fed her a huge wet mash to start her day off right. She really loves these sloppy mashes lately, and I love them, too, for the fact that they trick her into consuming a solid gallon and a half of water at a minimum (often two gallons). To start the day with that much water before heading out on the first 18 mile loop was fabulous.

Now, to summarize the ride I'll continue the rest of this post with bullets because my own memory is fleeting at best so far as each of the loops go. Memorable moments exist, which I will note, but it is hard for me to narrate each moment.

Loop 1 (18 miles)

  • The start was controlled due to the short stretch of pavement we had to traverse to reach the gravel road that would then lead to the trail. We walked most of this and had no issues. Hurrah for booted feet instead of slippery steel shoes!
  • Within the first half mile, Q's front left viper came apart. I clearly hadn't tightened the cables as much as I thought I had the night before. *sadness* I pulled a size 1 Rennie off her hind and slapped it on that front and wrapped her bare hind with Mueller tape and slapped an EasyBoot on. We wouldn't have any more boot trouble during this ride.
  • I dismounted to lead Q down the first tricky rocky section for both of our benefits. She's sloppy with her footing when she's got boots on and makes me nervous over very tricky terrain; it's partly PTSD from No Frills 2013 where she tripped and had that freak accident getting cut. It's easy to just dismount and both of us choose our own path.
  • As we descended the mountain the drag riders appeared behind us informing us to "pick it up". Can I just say how much it infuriates me to be pushed along like this? At the START of a ride?! I knew for a fact that we would have PLENTY of time to keep moving out during this ride. The slow pace we kept to traverse the first tricky few miles would be long forgotten. There was NO NEED to feel rushed that soon!
  • We made GREAT time and even caught and passed several people as soon as we got off the tricky section of trail. Never saw those drag riders again, in fact!
  • Dismounted for the mini stallion who terrorized us last year. I was REALLY happy I could anticipate him this year. All the same, Q FREAKED OUT and Nicole and I had a VERY SCARY MOMENT where we nearly lost both mares due to the freaking out. That mini is a holy terror and I hate him to the strongest sense of the word. He grunts like a pig and hustles along in a manner than is both comical and terrifying. Q didn't come off her Seeing Red bit for a long time afterward.
  • Only one opportunity for water on this loop which both mares refused.
  • Q led for a few miles during our mountain climb and the subsequent section along the ridgeline. Some horses were somewhat distant in front of us which gave her something more to focus on than impending monsters and doom around her. All the same, she still shied and spooked at multiple things. The most obnoxious of which was a log...which we trotted the full length of...and she was okay with until the end which she spooked at. -_-
  • Overall, a really, really awesome loop that I really enjoyed riding with Nicole. Lily led a lot of it which was really awesome for my Q-mare who just IS NOT a leader.


The Shenandoah River in the valley below; we rode along it for many miles

Typical OD trail

Note the drop to the right of the photo; pretty stellar trail design


First Check/Hold

  • Q wouldn't drink or eat much at this hold
  • We left tack on (optional all day) for the vetting
  • Her CRI was great at 56/52; she got a B on capillary refill, which was to be expected because she didn't drink at all.
  • She DID pee near the end of the hold which was awesome.

Second Loop (16 miles)

  • Q did NOT want to go out on this loop; between her lack of interest in food at the check, lack of drinking, and lack of forward movement down the trail I was REALLY worried.
  • Nicole and I both dismounted to walk down the first tricky section of rock. We ended up hiking the bulk of the downhill on foot.
  • Lily led again for the bulk of this loop; great because Q just can't handle it. I tried to get Q to lead a couple times, but after one particularly large spook that nearly put me on the ground I called it quits for the day. Just NOT worth the fight that ensues between me and the horse (aka - I lose my shit and scream a lot and wheel her back to the offending object until she stands by it). I was really good through the first loop when Q led for a mile or two about not getting upset about her spooks. She was being more honest about them then and I could slightly anticipate them and give her more urging to just Keep Moving Down The Trail, but the second loop? Very sporadic dishonest spooking. And HARD EVIL spooking. She legitimately SEEKS out things around her to spook at; on our tune-up ride the day before her head was on a swivel as she looked far and deep into the forest around her and got worried about things that were way far off. She is SO looky and ACTIVELY searching for things that may be dangerous. It is beyond irritating. And even Nicole noted during the ride at one point that really doesn't seem to be a pain thing. The mare just SEARCHES for danger and then REACTS without warning. And when she's predictably worried about something she might spook over you can feel her ball up under you (especially in the treeless saddle) and get tenser and tenser and her trot will get loftier and loftier and then - provided you're able to push her on by without her slamming on the breaks - she IMMEDIATELY and dramatically will relax underneath you RIGHT as she passes the thing that was worrying her. It's like she's "PANIC PANIC PANIC, oh, that's not so bad!" and then moves on like it was nothing. Someone PLEASE tell me you had a horse like this and it got better? Maybe?
  • Bottom line: Lily is a really awesome leader and without her we wouldn't have gotten through the ride - especially this loop. Gack.
  • I had to dismount and fix the saddle pad twice on this loop. It was all over the place for the first time ever. Presumably because I didn't tighten the girth enough? I don't quite know. Maybe it was the terrain? Either way, it was the first time I'd had this problem and it was odd. I'd keep an eye to see if it happens again in the future...except that I just got a Skito pad and after 1 ride with it I'm not sure I'll ever go back to the Woolback! Haha.
  • At the first mud puddle (Q's favorite) that we encountered, Q took 53 swallows of water (I counted). This helped me to calm down a considerable amount with my worrying about her.

Second Check/Hold

  • Q immediately walked to the first bucket of water she could find in the crewing area and downed it (not our bucket lol). She then walked to the first one of our buckets and finished it, as well. YAY DRINKING HORSE.
  • She also wandered to someone else's hay and started downing it, too. I let her do all of these things because frankly, if someone else's horse came in and did it to my stuff I'd be okay with that. Mary's horses always did things like this when I was riding with her and she was never too upset about it, so I'm taking a page out of her book of learning and doing the same. (A lady approached us later in the check when Q was eating yet someone else's hay and asked if I wanted her to leave it for Q because they didn't need it anymore. She double and triple checked with me that I was certain I didn't need it even when I told her no because we were going back to the trailer.)
  • I forget what Q's CRI was, but I think it was very similar to the first check. I know it wasn't in the 60s because she stayed in the 50s all day. She did get a B on gait though, presumably from a rub on her right front from the boots. Gut sounds were positive in 2 quadrants and negative in 2 - I can't remember if she got an A or B due to this.

Third loop (15 miles)

  • This loop was AMAZING. No more giant mountains to climb. Much more varied terrain that included a lot of field area to gallop and have fun on. Nicole and I, along with the mares, had SO MUCH FUN. 
  • SO MUCH FUN.
  • SO MUCH FUN.
  • SO MUCH FUN.
  • Q perked up and was super eager and forward and happy.
  • SO MUCH FUN.
  • We even rode with a group for most of this loop.
  • SO MUCH FUN.
  • Our finish was picture perfect, hand in hand, horses trotting side by side as we cheered for ourselves. No one was there to witness it except Mary and one of her friends who were doing a tune up on Mary's horses for the following day's ride. Nicole and I tied for 30th across the finish.


A sign.
(If this video doesn't play, someone please let me know.)


Final Check

  • At the previous checks I had breezed Q through the vetting immediately. The first time I did it, I'd forgotten completely that Lily would be attached to Q and not come down fast as a result. The second time I waited a little while but then just deigned to get through and wait for Lily by the vets. The third time I decided I'd just wait for her.
  • And so we waited and waited and waited. We waited until Art King - who was getting cold - urged us over.
  • Q was very UP during our waiting time. She'd seen a monster somewhere and was spazzing about it for a short time. Drgh.
  • All of her parameters were great. CRI was awesome again. 50/50 for gut sounds. Hydration parameters were back up in the As. But then at the trot out she was OFF. The vet had a second vet watch, too. Definitely OFF. They had me have the farrier check her feet for tenderness - nothing. They decided it must be a cramp in her rear end, yet they couldn't agree on where. They told me I had 30 minutes to resolve it so off I went to find Mary who's been pulled a LOT at the finish for this exact problem.
  • Catherine and Mary ended up helping Q while Gail helped me by bringing me warm clothing, bringing Q a spare cooler (haha, Nimo's clothes are SO BIG on Q), and then feeding Q to keep her calm while Mary and Catherine massaged her rear end. Mary said she couldn't find any tightness though and Q didn't react at all to any of the massaging. Mary noted that they usually react and let you know what is sore which is why it is so important to keep them calm and happy, so you can see the tiniest sign of discomfort in their body language when it arises. Still, nothing.
  • So I meandered Q back to the check, stopping and backing her every so many steps to keep her hind end warm.
  • And yet...still off at the trot. Now two of the vets were pretty certain she had a cramp in her left rear area, they showed me, but I could feel NOTHING.
  • Pulled at the finish. =( No completion. No Triple Crown.
  • Still very, very proud of my little mare.
  • VERY PROUD.
  • LOVE HER. Even despite her dirty, dirty, evil spooking habits. 

Afterword

After the pull, Dr. Bob gave me some calcium gluconate to give orally to Q. One dose that night, one dose in the morning. She also got a gram of bute to ease the soreness she'd likely feel. He talked to me about some other future ride plans and training goals prior to those rides, too, which was a nice escape for my head and the impending sadness/anger/frustration/depression/fatigue that would settle upon me until I found refuge in sleep and the inevitable reset button that results from a good night's rest.

My headspace was really shitty the rest of the evening. I needed time alone and ended up getting it fortunately. I just didn't want to be around anyone or talk about anything.

Checks on Q later revealed that she was still sweaty along her flanks, but dry everywhere else. I toweled her off to the best of my abilities along her flanks and received some really angry faces and ears from her. Poor mare was really sore. =( Prodding over the rest of her body afforded the same response, especially at one point on her back and all areas around the girth. She was SO sore. =(

I took her to the vet to double-check, but she wasn't greatly worried about her because all of her other stats were normal and good and she was eating, drinking, peeing, pooping. Knowing she was okay, but just sore, I put her to bed and then put myself to bed, once again falling fast asleep.

Saturday

I woke, my head in a fog on Saturday morning to the loudspeaker calling, "RIDE TIME IS SEVEN TWENTY!" and realized, Oh, ugh. drgh, I should be up. I should really be up. Gail. Gail and Nimo. Awake. Drgh.  And I mustered up the strength to drag myself from my warm bed and stumble over to Gail and Nimo, "How can I help?"

I held her reins while she finished getting ready.  Nicole showed up at some point, too. We did what we could to help Gail before bidding her adieu at the starting line as she and Nimo set out on their first LD.

With Gail and Nimo successfully on trail, Nicole and I fumbled back to camp where we had many failed conversations and other failed interactions as our minds simply wouldn't cooperate. It was highly comical actually.

We did eventually get things accomplished that we needed to do, but damn did it take awhile! Poor tired, addled brains and bodies!

Q was significantly improved re: body soreness by morning. She was still pissy about her girth area (I clearly should have tightened it up more instead of trying to "be nice"; lesson learned), but the other areas were greatly improved: she reacted not at all to palpation and rubbing of her flanks and it took significant pressure to gain a response from her at the point on her back that had been tender. YAY. I mean, not yay that she had to be sore, but yay that it resolved so soon. I was body sore in certain areas the night before that I wasn't the morning after, too, so I'll chalk it up to both of us just being banged up from the mileage.

I also had a moment of clarity at some point during my assessment of the mare this morning when I realized, Oh, you know, if I'd vetted STRAIGHT away last night Q might have passed because she wouldn't have cooled down and that cramp wouldn't have been so bad? I mean, yay that I know something happened so I can prepare against it in the future, but boo about getting pulled. Hmm. Noted for future. Vet straight through! It merits more thought, but it's something. And honestly, don't know for sure if it was a cramp the night before. Everyone was so hit or miss about telling me what it really was. The final "call" on getting pulled was "There was a definite head bob!" Okay? But please tell me more about what is going on so I can help her? And yes, two of them insisted there was soreness and tightness in her left butt area, but the others wouldn't volunteer any confirmation of this and the facial expressions on several just made me really concerned for some reason. They all seemed rather split on the decision? I don't know. I understand it can be hard to diagnose, but the inconsistency and uncertainty worried me a lot more than the actual getting pulled part; I wanted to help my little girl and I wanted to do it right. I'm still mulling over things in my head even now. Bottom line, however is that I will prepare her better for the future!

Team Nimo!
Gail came back into camp right around when she told us she would. We were able to meet her and pull Nimo's tack and walk with them into the check. I won't spoil that story for you though, so check her blog.

We did continue to help her after the vetting though. I was really happy to be able to be there for her after she was such a great morale booster for me earlier this year at No Frills and Old Dominion. =)

After helping Gail, Nicole and Carlos and I finished packing up. We loaded our horses, said our goodbyes and got on the road.

I, fortunately, had a very uneventful drive home.

Q managed to wiggle out of her halter on the way home, and I just left her naked as she unloaded herself and continued to prance across the barnyard to "her" boys. She teased them over the fence for a time, then rolled and rolled and got all muddy, then pranced and teased the boys some more, and then settled into grazing around the barnyard (better grass) while I unloaded the trailer.

I think she wasn't too bad for the wear all things considered!

Overall, I had a really great weekend. I loved seeing my blogging/endurance friends. I loved riding so many miles with Nicole and Lily. I loved the trail even despite the EVIL MINI and getting pulled at the end.

I don't know what my ride schedule for next year will entail just yet, but I'm excited at the prospect.

In the mean time, Q will be getting some well-deserved time off followed by a lot of dressage work before we fall back into a conditioning schedule.

Thanks for carrying my ass so many miles this season, Little Girl. I appreciate it.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

All In A Week













1. New tack trunk  2. Begging for mash after they've already had some  3. Mike and I were in over our heads with this level of sushi  4. Home shopping; how about that kitchen?!  5. Those clouds!  6. Griffin motoring through a lunging warm-up.  7. Griffin is the best at selfies.  8. Kenai has the roughest of lives.  9. Random acts of kindness include jumping a stranger at the grocery store.  10. Atticus the Shitten is adorable during sleep.  11. A little manic looking in my excitement about being done with work on Monday and at my happy place: the barn.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Transformation Tuesday: Kenai's Hair Regrowth

October 19, 2014 on top
August 14, 2013 on bottom.
A lot of change and a lot of improvement, and yet, over a year later that hair still isn't 100% normal. The undercoat is in, but the guard hairs are struggling to return. I totally understand that shaving him was necessary in order to perform a surgery that increased his quality of life for the rest of his life, but dealing with the hair regrowth has definitely been interesting.

There are bald spots in areas still! He's on fish oil and another supplement that has Omega 3's and various other good things for coat, joint, and digestive health in addition to being on some of the better food on the market. It's just a process it seems. I can only hope that the guard hairs have returned by the time the snow flies as without them he ends up with major ice ball accumulation in his hair that he then pulls out in an attempt to free himself from the ice. If the guard hairs haven't returned by snowfall and we're dealing with ice balls I will be forced to make him wear pants when he's outside in the snow for extended periods until the hairs grow in.

Let Kenai serve as the poster child for reasons why you should not elect to voluntarily have your double-coated dog shaved!!

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.