Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Informal Transformation Bloghop

Griffin - January 2012
Griffin - July 2014

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

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Of Supplements, Confidence, Music & Meditation

Each of these three things has melded Q's attitude under saddle back into normalcy and extraordinary. 

Supplements

In June, I started Q on SmartPak's SmartMare Harmony and Magnesium Oxide.  The SmartPak supplement is in a pelleted form, so I didn't imagine she would mind that much. The MgO though? A powder. In the past, when I have provided Q with powdered probiotics (through the first year I had her to help jump start better hoof, coat, and GI health), she would routinely turn her nose (and upper lip!) up at them. When I could trick her into eating it, she'd still bobble her head along with those first bites in protest of something being not quite to her liking. Thus, I expected the same with the MgO.

Imagine my surprise when, without any trickery, Q licked all of the supplement right up with her feed! She even goes so far as to lick the bottom of the pan when she's done! To me, this spoke volumes. She wouldn't go after something like that if it wasn't something her body needed a little bit more of!

Several months into these combined supplements now, I have a much calmer horse. In fact, it has been nigh impossible to even tell if/when she is in heat as a result! This is a miracle considering that when this mare was in heat in the past she was 150% MORE wiggy, distracted and alert than she typically is. I'll definitely take this change!

Her behavior and attitude is so consistent day-to-day as a result of these supplements. As a lady myself, I'm kind of jealous of that as my own hormones wreak havoc on my behavior during their cycling! (Difference being, I'm usually unduly aware of the fact that my hormones are playing a role and I am unable to completely control it (e.g. the tiniest of things like not being able to find a pen on my desk at work causes tears to appear before I even know what is going on - urgh).)

Consistent behavior on Q's part levels out one side of our female:female equation! This is good because it means I can buckle down on my issues more - an easier thing in the long run, though it is still difficult at times! Constant effort reaps rewards over time, however.

Confidence

Shortly after I started Q on supplements, the herd dynamic changed. Now we have 5 geldings who are spread across the totem pole of control. The leader is one of the best gelding herd bosses I've ever been around. He is calm, but he doesn't take shit when it happens. He is possessive of his mares, but not overly so and never studdy.

Additionally, there are four mares. Q vies with Mayer for the boss mare role, and they seem to alternate it day-to-day. The new little mare who replaced the studdy gelding is Q's absolute favorite to boss around. Q is very hands-off with her bossy behaviors. She does a very sassy head flip at those she wants to back-the-hell-off, and no more. It's a big gesture, all things considered, but it is done from a distance and not followed up with physical contact as she is able to get her point across without touching.

The small herd (ranging in age from 19 to 4 with the largest contingent between the ages of 4-10 - there are only two > 10) is very happy; Q is very happy.

The absence of studdy geldings has made a HUGE difference for her. She doesn't go racing across the field after work to find that *one* horse as she once did, nor does *that* horse come RACING to the fence to meet her when she returns from work. Some of the horses will call when she returns from the trail, but nothing excessive. And she never calls back, merely gazes their direction in acknowledgement.

She wanders away from the herd often to graze on her own; some days, the head gelding will even follow Q's lead for grazing area selection!

The confidence she has gained in this herd dynamic seeps into her behavior when being handled. She's still alert and has the potential to really wig out over things. But gone is her hypersensitivity to being reprimanded. In fact, she's even going so far as to play games with me to demonstrate her High Opinion over certain things (primarily me washing her legs off). When I grow tired of her game and slap her on the chest (as I'm usually kneeling down and she's waving her leg about in the air so I can't easily do what I need to) she no longer wigs out like I committed the Worst Of All Evils. Instead, she ceases her behavior with floppy ears and a distant gaze that seems to say, "FINE. FINE. TOUCH my leg SEE if I care. Stupid human *muttering*," and acquiesces to letting me do whatever I need to do.

Additionally, on trail she is more confident about wanting to GO and DO in more situations than she had been before. And I'm even having to reprimand her pushy behavior toward horses (Griffin mostly)! An open-handed slap on her neck from me returns side eye and an irritated ear flick from her, a far better response than former crumbling from fear.

Sassy > scared. I'll take it!!

Her steady behavior due to supplements coupled with confidence from the herd dynamic change has resulted in a more confident mare on trail. Big, broad leaves (burdock) in the middle of the trail and dead leaves on branches that fell from storms still wig her out, but she's not spooking dirty like she did before. She's slowing down and stutter-stepping some, and sometimes she is very hesitant to go forward past the scary things, but overall SO IMPROVED!

Music

I've begun listening to music and making it a routine in my time with the horses. The new earphones that enable me to both hear my surroundings and listen to music are AMAZING.

I took time last Sunday after Mike left to head to Oregon to fight wildland fire (he's still there) to make two playlists on my iPod. One is songs ranging from 130-180 bpm and the other are strictly songs in the 170-180 bpm range. Bumpin' songs that go perfectly with trotting and cantering, of which we do a lot on the trail!

Having music to listen to keeps my mind off worrying about tiny things that Q may wig out about on trail. I micromanage less, a huge plus. Additionally, I am calmer due to the music, another huge plus.

Music coupled with Q's steady attitude and gained confidence has led to trail rides on her for over a month now that have resulted in ZERO dirty spooks. My new mantra with her on trail when she becomes concerned about something is, "DOWN the trail! Move DOWN the trail! Keep going!" No dwelling on scary things. No looking at them forever. DOWN the trail is what we're out there to do. I don't care how fast she gets past the scary object, as long as she's moving in the direction I want and not spinning for home. So far, so good! Much praise and encouragement.

Two trail rides last week contained minimal spooking overall and zero dirty spooks. We even came upon ~2 dozen turkeys with minimal issue; in fact, we ended up chasing them down the trail! And we've flushed several grouse and a dove with Q's only response being, "HUH!?" *stutter step, move out again*

Now, to get her to realize that large-leaved plants and dead leaves are not monsters.....

Meditation

Since Mike's time away (we're at 9 days now, but who's counting?) I've fallen back into some routines that have been absent from my life for about a year now, primarily meditation.

I did a lot of meditation and mindfulness exercises my first two years out of college. They were amazing. Falling back into it these past 9 days has been great.

I went to the barn last night in a total zen-state. My short flatting and jumping session with Q was a DREAM as a result. If I have my shit together - especially mentally - that mare can do ANYTHING. She was so absolutely incredible last night.

We wove in and out and around the little gymnastic line I had set up. We did figure 8s with a cavaletti as the central crossover point. And then we did the line in pieces at increasing speed until we connected the whole exercise.

I had a bad to mediocre night of riding, but it didn't matter to Q. She picked up my slack, hunkered down and focused on her job, and helped me get better where I was failing. Our last two times through the gymnastic line were so amazing. I wanted her to trot it once, land at the canter, canter around to the right and re-approach the line once more, slowing to a trot at the approach, and then bounce on through. PERFECT. FREAKING. EXECUTION.

Zen, baby, zen.

We ended on that good note (amidst much praise; there was much praise the whole time).

Zen-Liz isn't necessarily a perfect rider, but Zen-Liz doesn't fault the horse for it and praises the horse for putting up with far-from-perfect. Zen-Liz is okay with less than perfect moments on all fronts, happy to just be in the moment riding a horse. Zen-Liz cares little for anything more than that moment and being in it.

If I can keep Zen-Liz present all the time, (WHAT A CHALLENGE!) then my horses can do ANYTHING.

Ooooohhhmmmm...

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sale or Trade Items: A Blog Hop

I've yet to ever jump on board with a blog hop; I shamelessly stalk the posts others partake in and have enjoyed some of them thoroughly, but I just haven't ever taken the time to play along. Consider this my maiden voyage.

The $900 Facebook Pony had an idea for a blog hop that was a tack sale/swap. I think it is BRILLIANT. I love the linky thing that these blog hops do. I think I'm going to be the first endurance rider to post on it, but damnit, I really want to get this pad sold!

So, FOR SALE or TRADE 
(would trade for another used pad that has wool and inserts like a Skito or Equipedic)
comment if interested

Töklat Woolback XL AP pad WITH INSERTS $100
Used this pad for about 8 months (as chronicled on the blog) and then switch from the Wintec AP saddle to my Ansur. The AP shaped pad is no longer a good fit for the dressage shaped saddle - primarily around the wither/pommel region.

This pad is in great shape other than the pilling of the wool and slight stain from leather - as one gets from use.

Spine opening for inserts. Comes with the standard Töklat foam inserts.

Measurements of pad are visible in the photos (measuring tape is set atop the pad).
- Spine to bottom of flap 21.5"
- Width of flap 18"
- Front to back measurement along spine 23"
- Total width from bottom of flap to bottom of flap  43"

Top of pad

Bottom of pad

Spine measurement 23"

Bottom of flap to bottom of flap measurement 43"

Flap width measurement 18"

Inserts / velcro spine opening

Inserts / velcro spine opening
With Wintec AP; you can see how much extra room remains for saddle bags etc. to rest upon

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Mentally Unstable

(Re-reading this live post on Feedly at 11:43a on 8/14/14 and noticing a LOT of mistakes that weren't present in draft form....fixing as many as I can. Blogger really botched this up.)

I went to the barn on Monday night with the goal of putting in 3 to 5 fast miles on Griffin. I try to not go to the barn with strict plans any more because chaos reigns when I do. I THOUGHT that 3-5 fast miles was vague enough to be a not solid plan (didn't specify how fast, didn't set sights on precise distance, just a range based on what I thought I might cover on trail). APPARENTLY, my plan was too strict though because surprise, surprise chaos reined.

I fed both horses and then turned Q out and tacked up Griffin complete with 4 boots. I had planned to utilize the haul road for part of the ride as it's easy to really move out on that trail. Griffin hates the rockier footing though, so I decided to boot him. He was too large in the front to wear the size 1 Renegades, so I tossed on slightly large size 1 gloves in the front with Renegade 0s behind.

Griffin was a complete and total pill for picking up his feet to have the boots put on. He REFUSED to pick up his feet. Upon finally getting the first foot off the ground and the boot on, he play-acted like he couldn't put any weight on it when I set it on the ground. He buckled at the knees like he's done before, "falling" in slow motion until he realized I didn't give a damn, and then he re-righted himself like it was nothing. DRAMATIC!

I put on the other boots WITH EFFORT. I pinched his chestnuts as I've had some people recommend to me to get them to pick up feet, except when I did it to his final foot (right hind) he FREAKED OUT, goosed me in the bicep with his hock (I think it was his hock...might have been hoof judging from soreness?) and skittered away like a mad horse rolling his eyes at me. (In hindsight, this should have been A Sign.) "DUDE. Seriously? This isn't the first time you've been asked to do this." I resumed, and had success the second time.

I took my crop too because I anticipated he may get lazy at some point. One pop on his rear earns you his full attention when he's being a pill. Tapping on his shoulder refocuses his attention on the matter at hand instead of on whatever greenery he's trying to rip from trees and shrubs or any other random thing that grabs his attention. (Can horses have ADHD?)

Have some zen-photos of me in pretty places
doing relaxing things...
It'll counter the frustrating nature of this narrative
We mosied out of the barn yard, across the creek and into the back field. He was forward and he felt strong and solid. I remarked in my head about how much he'd changed in the 2.5 years I've had him. <3

And then as we trotted across the field toward the trailhead in the woods chaos loosed itself.

Griffin snatched the bit, turned right and made a strong attempt to turn and run home. Side passing at first, then gaining full control to try to take off.

UGH.

I tried one rein stopping to the right. No dice. To the left? He threw his head up in the air and his nose out away from his body in full effort to resist the bit while putting more of his weight in his hind end than front end as he skittered to the right. It felt like he was going to just fall over to his right. So I quickly aborted attempts to one rein stop to the left and renewed my attempt the the right. I was not fully successful, but he did slow down enough that I could emergency dismount without hurting myself.

I'd thought for a moment about riding it out longer, but the way he'd just SNATCHED up that bit and turned for home with such strength was frightening. The fact that I had NO control over him was horrible.

So I emergency dismounted as he was skittering, barely standing stilll. With reins in hand and horse in front of me, I lost my temper and yelled at him for being an asshole and jerked the reins once, twice popping him in the mouth. Not a proud moment, but I need to note it. That reaction stems from working with him in a halter for so long where a jerk on the reins like doesn't apply pressure in his mouth. A typical reaction from Griffin when I pop the reins/lead when he's in a halter is that he backs up as far out of my space as he can and waits. I've done it with the bridle/bit before when he's been a royal piss about standing still; he'll roll his eyes a little and maybe take one step to the side or back, but never anything more.

But still.... Sigh. =( Bad, bad Liz.

In response to my hasty action though, in the matter of 2 seconds: Griffin rolled his eyes at me, skittered backward a big step or two (I was on his left side slightly, now), REARED UP (with his head slightly turned and nose up in the air JUST like it had been when I was on him moments ago - scary realization to see he could/would rear; I was even more thankful I'd dismounted), and then he fell hard to the right as he came down onto all four again which successfully ripped the reins from my hands.

He then galloped off.

He headed away from the barn at first, toward the upper pasture, but then slowed and circled back at a trot. I walked to him, still seething, but resolved to be calm enough to get him to be calm so I could mount. He couldn't win this.

He let me catch him and untangle the reins from where they'd settled. As I went to put them over his head though, he REARED UP AGAIN. I tried to hold on, but he jerked to the right AGAIN and tore the reins from my grip.

He then TOOK OFF anew for home this time.

Ooooh I was boiling mad. I sent Nicole a text immediately:

Me: "Griffin is for sale."
Nicole: "What? Your Griffin? Why? What happened?"

Mmm, yes. Oooohmmmmm.
I explained, very disjointedly as I was trudging through the field and trying to watch where my runaway grey demon went, but I explained.

I muttered under my breath as I trudged, many cursewords edited out: HATE walking. HATE this. HATE being hot. HATE that this stream is up. DAMNIT why is the water up TODAY? my boots are going to be SOAKED and of COURSE I had to wear the NON waterproof boots of COURSE.

I eyed up the stream crossing trying to figure the best line of approach to dance across. Shallower areas to shallower areas....5 footfalls in the water and it was done. But not good enough to keep my feet dry. Le sigh.

Griffin had the audacity to be eating grass ahead of me. I trudged up the hill from the creek eyeing him. He turned to me, mouth FULL of grass, and casually walked further away toward the barn. -_-

I trudged onward.

Once in the barnyard, and within 20 feet of him, he acknowledged me anew, and then WHEELED away through the barnyard at a gallop.

I couldn't help but recall this day on trail when he bucked me off the first time and proceeded to evade capture for the longest time. Little. Shit.

I tried to get near to Griffin twice more with the same gallop away behavior. The third time, he ran out of the barn yard, through the yard, and to the road. "Whatever Griffin. Go. GO down the road. RUN away. DO IT. I dare you." He got the road and turned around confused, and then picked up a trot, a canter, a gallop and came rocketing by me and headed to the back field again.

The boots were staying on at least? Yay?

Well, nope, right as that thought hit me the left front glove flew off. Boot unharmed fortunately.

I jogged up to the house now and hopped on the 4 wheeler. I revved it up and was quickly in third gear and took off. If that little horse wanted to run, so be it. We'll run, sucker, we'll run FAST. Move those damn feet little grey horse.

(I've learned how to drive a horse away from me with a 4-wheeler just like I'd do on foot. It's a faster dance with modified body language from on the ground, but it's still effective. I have utilized the skill in times when I've had a very uncooperative horse who doesn't want to be caught from the field. When your horse has 40 acres to escape to, you need another method than just pushing them away on foot. I tried to pursue Griffin on foot when he didn't want to be caught during the first spring I had him and gave up after awhile; as a result, I got a horse in later days who wouldn't let me near him. He thought it was a terrific game. The behavior he was displaying on Monday night was just like that, a game. He's a strong-willed guy. Mr. Highly Opinionated. Couldn't let him get away with this kind of behavior again, thus the 4-wheeler. His game becomes significantly less fun when he can't stop and graze while I huff and puff to catch up to him.)

I perused the ground where he'd passed for boots as I went, then decided it was more important to catch up and make him keep moving, I could look for boots later.

I found him near the other creek crossing. All 3 remaining boots present. Excellent.

I revved the engine a few times and Griffin rolled his eyes at me and trotted off fast. Beautiful little fucker, I tell ya, he's turned into quite the mover with that extended trot. -_-

I drove him into the creek, dropped the 4wheeler off the 2' drop bank into the water, and revved on up the other side. Griffin raced through the back field with me driving him from about 30' behind.

Through the field, back across the creek, up the hill, and back into the barnyard we ran.

The remaining glove was holding strong, but both Renegades had slipped and were hanging on by gaiters around his pasterns.

I drove him around the barnyard for a time with the 4 wheeler. I closed the gate so he couldn't escape to the back field again.

Run. Run. Run. One Renegade tore off, cables intact but the metal circle with screws gone and destroyed. UGH.

Ooooohhhhhmmmmmmm. 3 weeks away from this exact view.
Ooooohhhmmmm
Griffin showed signs of wanting to "come in" and be done. I drove him a moment or two more, and then asked him to be done. He obliged.

I left the quad running and walked over to him. SUCCESS. (The reins had tangled around the top of the saddle somehow during all of this, so he never tangled himself. BONUS!) I held him/let him stand and huff and puff as I quickly removed the gaiter/heel captivator of one Renegade and removed the pastern strap of the other whole boot (one shredded cable on this one) and undid the gaiter from the remaining glove, but didn't take it off completely.

I stood, removed the reins from where they'd settled, gave Griffn the stink eye, and made to lead him to the barn. He refused to move forward. I gave a twitch to the reins (light and not mean!) and he FREAKED OUT, head in air (no rear this time) and tore the reins from my hands as he spun (to his right....again....) away from me. URGH.

Back on the quad. Back to driving him around for a time before he settled near the barn entrance where I caught him up. (He was hardly sweaty. -_- Just wet from the creek.)

I took him into the barn, put the lead rope on his halter and then led him to the outdoor round pen from there, turning off the quad as I passed it. (Go figure, running engine fazes him none.)

In the round pen, I removed the reins completely, removed the lead rope, and with a loud, "ZAH!" sent him cantering around and around. I made him change directions often. He ran and ran and ran. It would be another 15 minutes of hard, fast movement before he was finally too tired to move above a walk. Only after this round penning was he FINALLY sweaty.

I put on his breast plate (to much eye rolling), and also added the running martingale *Just To See*. If he was gonna toss his head up in the air like that to evade then maybe if he hit the martingale's resistance....

I led him into the barnyard and mounted. (To an audience of all of the other horses RIGHT at the fence, might I add. If a horse could look smug, then that's how Q looked! Haha.)

I turned him to the right. Sticky, not happy about martingale, but he did it. To the left? Cue PANIC over martingale applying additional pressure. He nearly fell over for real. I somehow managed to get him to stand still long enough to unhook the martingale from the saddle.

Many mountain. Much beauty. So high. Wow.
I continued to try circles to the right then left. Right, okay. Left, FREAK. Freak to the point where he skittered into the fence with his ass. This stopped the potential "fall over" sensation.

I removed my feet from the stirrups for quick dismount if necessary, and decided to just ride out his skittering to see if he would really fall or if he was just being stubborn and tricky to get his way.

Right. Left. Skittering panic and stumbling, dropped off a slight drop into the yard/ditch which startled him long enough to give in and turn more. I released and asked him to go forward.

We meandered along the drive turning right and left, making circles each time. He was less sticky with each attempt.

Across the creek and into the back field to the start of it all. Right. Left. Right. Left.

I took him over to the jump line I'd worked Q through and did everything I'd done with her on Sunday: circling and weaving around every jump/cavaletti, serpentining between them in various ways.

Good, good, better. Praise, praise.

And then, on a whim, I had him walk over all of the cavalettis (they were set at 9"). He was confused at first, but did well. He did try to avoid walking over them a time or two, but it just afforded us a moment to do a circle and repeat the request to step over. Again. Again. Again. Weaving and circling all the while. Praise. He finally was comfortable walking over all three in turn. Praise.

He was relaxing.

We trotted some. Weaving, circling, serpentining. He was really trying now. I'd captured his Working Brain and managed to convince him to stow away his Arguing Stubborn Brain.

We trotted over the cavalettis, turning before the vertical - 2 stride - oxer. Success. Praise. Repeat.

Each time we approached the vertical (18"), he would key in on it as his "next" obstacle. So, on a whim again, I let him tackle it. 3 cavalettis to the vertical at a trot. Boomboomboom BOOM. Success! PRAISE.

And wow, he was so much more balanced than I anticipated over his first jump!

Repeat x2. Praise x4.

Zen for me, though I know it isn't for all of you. ;-)
And then, because he was keying in on the oxer as he had the vertical, I decided on a whim, what the hell.... (Recall that this little horse used to seek out the jumps when I was starting to ride him in the barnyard. They were jumps I'd been taking Q over, but he always gravitated toward them.)

Boomboomboom BOOM BOOM. Praise! He over-jumped the oxer, but it was good.

I asked if he wanted to do it again, but with a little more purpose for the oxer? Then we'd quit (I've no desire to jump him hard or crazy for awhile to come; just wanted to see if his tendency would be to over jump again; kind of using this moment as a baseline for later pursuits). He seemed eager enough, so we tried again.

Except I looked at the oxer and threw him off so he refused it. So we repeated so I could not throw him off and then HE refused it. So we repeated a final time with success and QUIT. Praise. Ended on a good note. Mosied back to the barn on the buckle.

So a good ending to all his shit. A pleasant surprise to have a good first time over small jumps on a surprisingly well-balanced 4 year old. (He was so much more calculated about jumping than Q; she is so snappy about it.)

---

So, the jury is in on Griffin's mental readyness for any more attempts at competition for awhile: too mentally unstable.

Is he physically capable? Oh hell yes. His brain JUST isn't there yet.

He's got a problem to the left. He spun only to the right with Nicole at RBTR, too.

He's got a problem with bit snatching now, too. I'm totally open to recommendations on this one! Not entirely certain how to resolve this behavior. I can fix it in certain environments, but because it could happen in nearly any circumstance...how does one nip it in the bud for good?

He's got an attitude. I've known this. Nicole wondered last night about when his herd-boundness had begun. I replied that I don't think that is entirely it. It's a trigger, certainly, but once an argument has started he is just so hell-bent on winning it that everything else goes away.

Tiny-eared mule, ladies and gentlemen. Tiny-eared mule.

After Monday night, I'm nearly positive I'd have received the same result on trail at RBTR with Griffin if had I been riding instead of Nicole. He's a little shit and this is just the newest phase of his struggle to be right and not listen to humans.

He's always had this bit of attitude and streak of stubborn. In ground work as a babe he'd always squeal and kick up his heels in argument with what I wanted when he didn't like it. He'd keep this up until he was too tired to do so (because I'd make him move his feet faster and longer). With the bit in the beginning he'd grunt and crow hop and buck in argument to the pressure on his mouth. He did this until we worked for months in side reins and other gadgets to teach him that pressure on his mouth was not a reason to be an ass. And now? Now we have bit snatching and stickiness to the left. Just the newest chapter of fun with this grey beast!

Ooooohhhmmmmm
He snatched the bit two weeks ago during our mountain sprints, but he was so jazzed up in the moment that I thought little of it once we'd corrected it (and sprinting up that mountain a second time tired him too much to argue again. He snatched the bit from Nicole because he didn't want to go forward on trail any more at RBTR and in the field at basecamp when he didn't want to work any more. He whirled to the right with her, too, in attempts to run home. Always to the right (clearly his preference).

I foresee increased exercise on the lunge in side reins with emphasis counter clockwise for a time. And then advance to work on long lines with driving. Additionally, we'll be doing lots of bendy exercises under saddle. I'm sure we'll leave property on some trail rides - solo rides because he's got a problem with those apparently - but it may be a little while!

I was planning to entertain his brain with introductory jumping exercises for awhile this fall (a goal for this month actually!), so we'll probably focus in on that in addition to the lunge work, long-lining, and bendy exercises. Not work with verticals and oxers (that was really just an in-the-moment whim, "Can he?" as I'd had no plan to do it at all), but more with cavalettis. It'll be a good mental reprieve for him to have something so structured for awhile.

The trail is definitely in our future still, but I need to get his head in a better place for "work" and deal with his Angry Stubborn Brain in environments that are close to home so if and when I end up on the ground again I'm not in such a bad way.

So there you have it. The newest chapter of Stubborn Evil with Griffin the Grey.

Recommendations on dealing with bit snatching welcome!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Back to Jumping

It's been over 2 months since I've jumped! Eesh.

Mid-May I was pretty focused in on jumping with Q. If you'll recall, she was quite the freight train of evasion and power. It was beyond frustrating to deal with, but fortunately, the blogosphere is a great sound board for ideas, suggestions, and teaching. I took a mixing of many of your tips (thank you all) and meshed them experimentally to see how Q would respond. Things improved a bit. And then, I took her off property for the horse riding demo our riding club put on for >220 elementary schoolers; short of it? She was awesome.

And then, in fine form, I ceased jumping altogether for >2 months. But at least we ended on a good note right?

In reality, what happened was that the lull of training weeks between endurance rides disappeared after that school demo and it was time to buckle down and focus on preparations for the OD. This included starting Q on SmartMare Harmony from SmartPak in addition to a magnesium supplement in an effort to help her calm down.

And then the OD happened. And the resulting spookiness from Q during the OD coupled with her stiffness/soreness after that ride compounded into a period of finding solutions and better preparing her for her next endurance ride.

During a vet examination we discussed potential for saddle fit issues (vet didn't think this was an issue), we x-rayed her hocks (they were fine; no issues), and we treated her incredibly HORRIBLE scratches. In immediate days following this vet appointment, I had a happier and more relaxed mare than I had in months thanks to pain relief from aggressive treatment of scratches.

To recap:
  • when we were jumping in May I had a very forward, chargy horse who exhibited multiple evasions to my requests.
  • additionally, Q was at the peak of her spookiness during this time (spooking at individual blades of grass in a field of like grass, at shadows in an environment of like shadows, at rocks in an area of like rocks, over-reacting to flies/insects when tied at the barn, etc.).
  • experimentation with a variety of things to resolve her jumping issues led to discoveries: she really prefers a ported bit (in this case, a kimberwicke) over a double-jointed snaffle, when the martingale prevented her from putting her head and nose in the air to evade the bit she immediately refocused by pushing through her hind end and working, high variety of maneuvers (circles, serpentines, etc.) coupled with quick transitions between gaits (w-t-c-halt-back) kept her focused and much calmer.
  • saddle fit is likely not a contributing issue to spookiness.
  • hock x-rays were clear and her trot outs after flex tests were significantly better than they had been when we flexed her in March (no x-rays at that time).
  • aggressive treatment of her scratches resulted in a calmer and more relaxed horse in all aspects of life and work.
So, time has passed (obviously), and issues have been resolved or are well on the path to resolution. In fact, during RBTR, Q had zero dirty spooks and only spooked very minor (for her) a couple times.

---

Last night I went to the barn and immediately drove across the creek to set up the jumps. They hadn't been touched from where they lay since May. The cinquefoil had grown over all of the jump poles, in fact, making it difficult to retrieve them from the cavern of overgrown vegetation!

After perusing the 101 Jump Exercises book for ideas, I set up a simple gymnastic line: 3 cavalettis to a vertical with 1 stride between followed by 2 strides to an oxer. I set the whole line up as ground poles to start so that I could combine a few exercises from the book into one setup that would really minimize me having to dismount and reset everything on my own.

I then drove back across the creek and fetched Q and Griffin, fed them both, and applied coconut oil to their tails and some other places (thanks, Beka!).

I also Q's legs with the chlorahex. shampoo as a preventative measure due to the couple of minor cuts she obtained from RBTR. Currently, this process involves the shampoo in a spray bottle with some water to thin it. I spray on liberally and scrub with a surgical scrub brush (hurrah for being surrounded by medical professionals) to really get it into all the sensitive little areas. I typically let it sit for 10 minutes or so before rinsing, but last night I just wrapped her legs with polos instead. My thought behind this was 1.) the polos would protect her from further micro scratches from the tall grass, forbes, and juvenile shrubs that are emerging in the back field we use for jumping, 2.) the dilute shampoo would have longer to work into the areas I'm focusing on, and 3.) the wet coupled with the polos would help to soften the tiny scabs on these areas (the scabs look healthy and non-scratches infected, but I'm not taking any more chances so everything for forever more will be treated).

I turned Griffin out and tacked Q up with the jumping saddle and bitted her with a double-jointed snaffle instead of the kimberwicke. I also left off the running martingale.

Why? Well, I'm hoping to show her in a couple English classes at the county fair show next month and I wasn't certain that the kimberwicke or martingale would be legal in the show ring - so I needed to see how Q would do! (I quizzed Lauren on legal tack this morning and she helped me to understand that kimberwickes are indeed legal (yay because Q really prefers this bit) and the martingale is permissible for the jumping class only. Thank you, Lauren for helping me learn!)

I guided Q out away from the barn and across the creek on the loosest rein I could afford, though I did have to correct her two attempts to stop and turn around to return to the barn. She's gained so much confidence in the last month and some sass as a result. I much prefer it to the way she was before, though it comes with some little moments like these where she just *has* to try her way over my requests.

Once in the jump field, I dismounted to set my water bottle nearby and to walk Q around and over all of the obstacles. She hadn't seen any of this stuff in months. She was a little over exuberant at first, but quickly settled to stepping calmly over everything as she followed me through.

I then mounted up and warmed her up by walking around every jump, winding between them, and performing variations of exercises in the 101 Jump Exercises book for doing sperpentines and figure 8s over ground poles.

Q was supple during all of the walking exercises. As we moved into the trot though, she was a lot heavier on the fore and really leaned into the bit at first. She never became chargy in the home direction, though she did resist requests when we'd briefly move toward home as we made a circle back around to the jump line. She'd side pass a little in her evasion attempts, but nothing very crazy and I never had to be as heavy with my aids as I had back in May when she was chargy.

The only time she was somewhat chargy last night was when we'd advanced to trotting through the line. Right as we'd turn to approach it at the trot, or right when I cued her to trot from the walk upon approach she'd bounce in place for a split second in a very minor replication of what those professional stadium jumper horses will do in their excitement. I talked to her though, and she'd calm down.

After Q was warm and listening well, I dismounted and set the vertical pole and the oxer poles (both at 18"). I wove Q around all of the jumps again as I did at the beginning, moving into a trot after weaving through once at the walk. This afforded Q some time to look at the now-setup jumps.

And then we trotted through the line rather successfully!

Other than two moments of head shaking after landing the oxer to show her displeasure over my decision to make a sweeping turn to the left or right when Q thought we should go straight, she was behaved.

She didn't charge. She didn't throw her head and nose in the air to evade, and after every moment I had to be heavier in my aids to redirect her she chose to redirect her efforts and try harder for me - instead of being frustrated that I rejected her request to do what she wanted, she chose instead to reach willingly into the contact and use her hind end more. She'd only maintain this for a short breadth of time, but that was something! I praised her every time.

She was a bit forward in places, but nothing excessive at all. Additionally, she exhibited sassiness (primarily the head shaking when she had a differing opinion of direction), but that was the only negative part of the whole ride. Biggest sassy moment came after I'd halted her to praise her upon a successful run through the ground pole line and she decided to try to go home. Because good mares get to be completely DONE apparently. She tried to back up and turn, but with a very aggressive verbal correction she ceased her efforts. Miss Highly Opinionated! (She did get to be DONE later on after a good note. This moment just came about 15 minutes later than she wanted, haha.)

I was so pleased and excited that she didn't revert to the head and nose in air evasion behavior without the martingale. She clearly didn't enjoy the snaffle as much as the kimberwicke (she was more resistant to requests than she is with the kimberwicke and she chewed super excessively on the snaffle, another behavior not present when using the kimberwicke). But overall? So good.

And... AND... no spooks. Zero.

There was a milkweed seed pod that had burst open and had some very mobile fluff that was moving about in the breeze last night that she was alarmed about, but beyond her initial concern, she was fine. She even let me take my water bottle off the top of the jump standard from the saddle AND let me replace it on top of the standard. While I was drinking, she actually took a moment to reach out and TOUCH the standard with her nose, something she's never done before. Things she's concerned about have always resulted in a FLIGHT response in the past. That she has enough confidence now to be curious and reach out to touch an object of concern is VERY exciting.

Big changes in the little girl over the past 2+ months since we jumped. I'm excited and confident (though cautiously so!) that the show in a month will go well. We'll have some training issues at home as we work through things, I'm certain, but we'll learn to deal with them and work through them. The show will be a new experience for her, too, but I am hoping that her calm attitude that seems to persist through away-from-home experiences will get us through the sticky places.

A very cute Q-mare post workout last night.

(The polos were PERFECT, too, keeping her legs free of new scratches and working with the shampoo spray to soften scabs.
When I sponged her post-ride and rubbed down her legs the scabs all wiped away clean! I applied miconazole with no
objection from the mare and turned her out. I think I'm going to have to make a few more polos for her to use on other
training rides as a preventative care solution.)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Further Thoughts on RBTR 2014

  • Q's Pace with Heavier Rider: Based on the mileage for this ride and the time spent on course (since I didn't complete and wasn't riding Q I had to compute this way), Q averaged 6.3 mph for the day. (My GPS mileage of the trail calculated it to be 44 miles instead of the supposed 49.6 miles; if that distance is true she'd have averaged 7.1 mph.) Consider the added 40 to 50 pounds of carrying a larger human (Mike's Ansur weighs the same as mine and all other tack was exactly what she usually wears), and I'd say this is quite good! I'm impressed with her efforts. She moved out faster on that first loop than I've ever had her move in a race day situation. 

    Mike said that she did get really lazy for awhile during the third loop, so he got off and walked her for a time. He stated that it was only for 1000 feet or so though, and she was completely rejuvenated afterward.

    Considering all of these things, I think that where terrain allows (is safe and not crazy), I am going to begin asking more of this little horse at future rides. She's clearly capable of handling a bit more!
  • Boots: Vipers on the fronts are still BOMBER. Second race with them and NO issues despite all of the chaos. To date wearing these boots we've only had one minor issue (at the OD). They're a great match for this little mare's front feet.

    Easyboot gloves on the hinds wasn't as fool-proof this ride as in past rides. The left hind retained its glove with no issues through the ride, but the right hind shed the glove on both the warm up ride and the actual race. When replaced with a Renegade on ride day, we experienced no more issues. Her hinds are very similar to her fronts in regards to shape, so I think the Vipers would do well on them. The differences in movement in her hind vs. front may throw things off, won't know until I get Vipers for her hinds though. I don't plan to splurge on that until our size 1 Renegades die...or until Griffin has need of them - but that won't be for awhile yet as he will have to build some mental maturity prior to any more competition events!

    Griffin had ZERO issues with the boots Nicole used on him. Vipers in the front, gloves in the back. In fact, little horse moved out better and more confidently than I have seen him move out over rough terrain thanks to them! (It was also such a pleasure to get to *watch* him move out since I'm nearly always the one riding him.)
  • Food: Q and Griffin both whole-heartedly approve of mash created from Triple Crown Senior feed. I also approve. This feed has lower NSC values than anything they'd received prior and they both go ga-ga for it as if it were candy. Double that with the added water they're tanking up on while consuming that mash? Bonus!

    Q had better gut sounds all day than she has ever thanks to eating SO much mash at the holds. However, not eating as much during the second hold and being out for a longer period of time during the third loop hurt her score for gut sounds at the end (a B instead of an A; though sounds were heard in every quadrant). I plan to bring even more carrots with me on trail at the next ride and feed them to her while out on loop if she didn't pig out as hard as possible during the hold.

    I'd comment on Griffin, too, except it was his first ride and I don't think I can draw great conclusions from that. His mental breakdown definitely didn't do him any favors either. Time, my little grey beast, time. Then we'll see how you deal with race day pressures.
  • Hydration: Q bounced around all day with hydration-related vet scores. I think the amount of mash she ate during the second hold contributed to this as she wasn't drinking as well on trail as she typically would. Her scores at the second hold were the worst all day highlighted by a "C" for capillary refill along with a B for skin tenting. 

    Those with more endurance experience than I, can you help me understand a little more about mucous membrane vs. cap refill and how they differ? I thought they were a little more closely related, though I feel I must be wrong because she scored an "A" for mucous membranes and "C" for cap refill.

    Fortunately, after munching grass and alfalfa at the second hold (she wasn't presented with her typical mash here due to the worry over Prince) and getting some electrolytes, she headed out for a slower loop in the heat of the day where she drank much better. Her scores at the final check were much improved. B for skin tenting and B for gut sounds everything else A's.
  • Q's Spooking: Q did significantly less of this during this ride. She also did not present any dirty spooks when she did spook. She led for the majority of the last loop, and led for the final 4 or 5 miles of the second loop. She had a few moments that I witnessed while leading, but nothing crazy. Overall, in the past several times she has been ridden, she has spooked significantly less.

    Her confidence has soared in recent weeks, as well, which I think has a lot to do with her previous spooking. Her confidence was severely lacking. She's got an attitude to her now that she's been lacking until recently. There is some sass present in this mare now that wasn't present before. I'm a huge fan. Mike and I both find ourselves laughing at her so much lately with both groundwork and work undersaddle. It's so refreshing to see her come out of her shell finally. It's taken two years, but better late than never.
  • Young Horse Mental Capacity: Let it be stated first and foremost that I am so beyond  thankful that Nicole was willing to take Griffin on for his first LD experience. I didn't know quite how things would go down and neither did she. That she was willing and brave enough to get out there and make the best of it meant the world to me. <3

    This ride proved to be too much for Griffin to handle mentally - especially on his own. Physically he was ready for a ride like this - very ready. His level of argument with Nicole during that second loop attempt proved it even more; he exerted hella lotta energy fighting her! (Little shit.) I don't think I could prepare him better physically at this point in time. He's been at a moderate level of work that has steadily increased since I really began riding him in January. (I rode him some last year, but it was very infrequent.) For his age, I am very comfortable and happy with what he has accomplished in training.

    Mentally though? Without a buddy Griffin just isn't ready for LDs/competition yet. And I'm totally okay with that! I still stand by my decision of letting him test the waters at this ride; it was the perfect place to try him out because it is terrain that is very similar to what we train on all the time. The new 2-way traffic on the ride this year was really intense though. This didn't help Griffin one bit.

    I didn't do any training at home with bringing Griffin home, untacking, and then heading back out after a pseudo hold, but honestly, I think even if I had it wouldn't have helped greatly with the situation that resulted. He was so desperate for a friend - ANY friend - that he just couldn't think about anything else. At home he has NEVER had an issue leaving. Is he eager to return? Certainly, though not in a rude way. He's usually fresh when he leaves the barn, but he is still moving forward happily and never trying to turn around for home.Hell, that time he bucked me off last September he didn't even run home - that's Q's MO. He just ran amok in the field, and then when I kicked Jeremy off Q and took off away from home on her he looked up and chased after not wanting to be deserted - never mind all the horses in the field 200 feet away! So, I can only imagine how mentally distressed he was about having other horses go by him when he couldn't join!

    I don't think I'll test his mental resolve again until next April. I could potentially take him to Fort Valley if he had a buddy to support him along the way, but I'm not sure I'm ready to risk that yet. Trailering him that far from home is a feat in and of itself considering the trailering anxiety he dealt with earlier in the year. Additionally, what if his buddy got pulled along the way? I'd be right back to where we were at RBTR probably as I doubt his mindset will change that much between now and October. He might be different if I rode him vs. someone else riding him, so that is something to consider, but why rush? He'll be a long (long, long) 4 year old for No Frills. Perhaps I'll see if he can spend next year completing the LDs at the Triple Crown (No Frills, OD, Fort Valley) with the addition of RBTR. Time and circumstances will determine all of this! For now, I'm proud of the little grey horse and everything he has become.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

July Review + August Goals

July Goals


Q

  • Become calmer under saddle (this goal is all for me in part) SUCCESS. Far from 100%, but we're much better than we were. She's really gained a lot of confidence in the last month. Ridding her of her scratches finally has led to a horse who really could care less about having her feet handled for the first time ever. When she does get cranky about being touched and is reprimanded for being ridiculous (hello, waving leg around in air to avoid further prodding), she isn't upset by the reprimanding action; she now ceases her behavior (which has become quite a game to her) and returns her leg to where I want it to be, sometimes sighing and licking and chewing after re-behaving. Additionally, Mike reported that for the last loop of RBTR, she led most of the way and had no big, dirty spooks! I've noticed increasingly fewer of these when I ride her, as well.
  • Remain healthy and sound SUCCESS! We're rid of scratches now, though ever diligent about treating them. Getting rid of them this last time has truly afforded me a happy horse; I think the pain from them was contributing to a lot of her issues as her confidence is soaring more than ever.
  • Continue with hill/mountain sprints and become the Lance Armstrong of horses SUCCESS. Though I plan to continue these workouts indefinitely. It will be hard to make them more difficult than they are, now, but she's really doing terrific.



Griffin

  • Find more time to get off property with trailer SUCCESS. We got off property 3? 4? times this month. Griffin no longer gets the anxiety sweats on the trailer like he once did!
  • Steadily increase length and intensity of workouts (but not necessarily at the same time!) SUCCESS! Kid is fit as can be right now. He's at a level of work that I am very comfortable with for his age and growth stage, too. Harder workouts are coupled with longer rests.
  • Work in side reins MEH. We did this...maybe twice. Need to re-institute it more fully into our schedule though.
 Me
  • Build rider fitness through downhill running SUCCESS? I did this a handful of times. Toward the end of the month I just wasn't presented with as many opportunities to do it, so I ceased. Will continue!
  • Strengthen lower back muscles SUCCESS. Significantly less pain over the past few weeks than I'd had previously. Huge plus.
  • Praise the shit out of Q in as many situations as I can to help her build confidence SUCCESS? Definitely got a lot better at it. She's gained more confidence. So I must have been somewhat successful...

: : : : :


August Goals


Q

  • Continue to be calmer under saddle (this goal is all for me in part)
  • Remain healthy and sound 
  • Continue with hill/mountain sprints and become the Lance Armstrong of horses
  • Work with snaffle and hunter tack in preparation for mini-show in September
  • Jump 
  • Silly to add...but: complete RBTR safely and soundly (SUCCESS)



Griffin

  • Hill/mountain work
  • Work in side reins
  • Introduction to jumping
  • Remain healthy and sound 
  • Have safe and sound first LD experience (SUCCESS)
 Me
  • Build rider fitness through downhill running
  • Continue to strengthen lower back muscles 
  • Continue to praise the shit out of Q in as many situations as I can to help her build confidence 
  • Increase fitness overall through yoga, p90x, and HIIT workouts

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ride Between the Rivers 2014

Time to settle in with a cup of coffee if it's morning or a cold beer or your drink of choice if it's evening! This is gonna be a long epic tale with twists and turns along the way!

Spoiler for those who don't want to read the epic in it's entirety: 4 horses, 4 riders, 2 pulls, 2 completions.

Now, to find out which horses and riders pulled and which completed, you'll just have to read the tale. ;-)

: : : : :

Thursday:
I worked until 3p on Thursday. I departed work to fulfill some errands before Nicole and Carlos (Saiph and Charles) were set to arrive.

Hurrah for another blogger visit!

You may assume that they'd merely be crewing for me this trip as they did for Fort Valley last October. But *Plot Twist* they wouldn't be!

I kept it quiet on social media, but Griffin would be riding in his very first LD at RBTR this year with Nicole aboard to guide him! I had really wanted to ride Griffin through his first event, but when making that work became infeasible, I knew I could trust Nicole to guide him through! After all, she had just successfully completed the OD 50 on her TB cross! And Griffin lives on and has been ridden and trained on terrain nearly identical to what the race would be; I knew he could handle it for a first event.

You may now be wondering why it was infeasible for me to ride Griffin at RBTR. Well, *Further Plot Twist*, I would be riding my friend Jen's gelding Prince while sponsoring her daughter K on Vinny so I could ride with Mike on his First 50 on Q!

Yep, not even a year of dating me and the guy is already out there riding endurance with me! It helps that he's been riding since before he could walk and my mare adores him. ;-)

---

So, I ran my errands, yelled and beat the dog for destroying yet another valuable item while in his crate when I arrived home, and then set to packing for the weekend. Nicole and Carlos arrived, ignored the dog's existence per my request, departed to fulfill some errands of their own, and then we reconvened and headed to the barn to meet Mike, load the horses and go to camp.

The goal was to get to camp early enough to get a nice spot across from the vet check/crewing area so we could crew from the car and Carlos and his bum knee wouldn't have to move far.

Unfortunately, we discovered upon arriving at camp that there were no spots left near this location! Well, there were. There were 6 or 7 actually, but folks who-shall-not-be-named had blocked them ALL OFF to save them for others who would be arriving on Friday. -_- Nevermind that if you attempted this stunt at a ride these folks manage you'd be eaten alive for trying it!!

Fortunately, we found another place near the start/finish line that would suffice for our needs. It was near the only tree in the entire field which wasn't ideal if lightning would occur, but otherwise, it was fine.

We made quick work setting up the corral and settling the horses before heading to dinner with my riding club who put on this event.

Dinner was potluck fashion with the addition of grilled chicken provided by the club. Cooking was scrumptious as always with this crew. Nicole and Carlos were quickly enveloped into the group and it's conversations.

When Jen showed up (she's the ride manager for this ride), I volunteered Nicole and I to help her with assembling the ride packets for registration the following day. It was a little tedious, but a fun task when paired with beer and good company!

After dinner and packet prep, Nicole, Carlos, Mike and I all headed to set up tents and hit the hay.

: : : : :

Friday:
We woke slowly on Friday, no major plans to fulfill. We wandered over to breakfast with the club folks again; various breakfast skillet dishes cooked over the grill that were then able to be mixed and combined to create your own breakfast burrito. Delish.

After breakfast, Mike headed out to do some last minute trail clearing with the men while Nicole and I tacked up Q and Griffin so I could show her where some key things were near the beginning and end of the loops.

Despite not being ridden in nearly 2 weeks, both horses were behaved. We tooled around for about 3 miles worth of riding as I showed Nicole around the beginnings of one of the loops and showed her how she'd enter and exit camp for each part of the ride.

While temperatures on Friday and for Saturday were not predicted to be very hot (mid to upper 70s during the day with 50s at night) the humidity was still a tricky factor! In fact, both horses were quite sweaty after their short, easy jaunt!

Back at camp, I untacked Q while Nicole tooled around with Griffin for a few minutes in the field.

After our ride, we all hung out for a short time before deciding to run into town (30 minutes away) to pick up some more food, get some Venezuelan take out, and run a couple errands by my and Mike's apartments to get some forgotten things. While we were out and I had cell service, I called Dom and Mike to see where they were on their journey to RBTR from NJ.

Oh, didn't mention they'd be coming either? Yeah, *Even Further Plot Twist*, Dom and Mike came to RBTR for the weekend, too! Dom would be riding Dr. Bob's gelding Magic Man in the LD!

ENDURANCE TRIFECTA UNITE!

Dom and Mike reported that they hoped to arrive around 5p. Excellent.

We returned to camp around 3p from our escapades in town, vetted the horses in, and then headed out on another short ride with K and Mike - I would ride Prince, my mount for the 50, in this ride.

Jen had told me from the get-go with Prince that she preferred him to be ridden in his own tack because he has had back issues in the past. This meant riding in a Boz saddle which has a much larger pommel than I am accustomed to. The last time I rode in one of her Boz saddles I was incredibly sore from interfering with the pommel when I posted. Ugh. Since that time, I had witnessed Jen and K riding in their Boz saddles and observed how their posting technique differed from mine. They rise straight up with a bit more vertical than I usually get. I tend to post with a slightly forward direction through my hips, not rising as far out of the saddle. I knew that to not be sore from the Boz pommel I would have to reteach my body to rise directly up; it would be a feat, but I knew I had to try!

Since my two had already done a few miles warm up that morning when Nicole and I went out, Mike and Nicole only went out with K and I for about 3 of the 6 miles we rode. We headed out on the yellow loop, crossing the river about a mile from camp and then heading out the trail and up a hill for a time. Long enough for an Easy Boot glove to blow off Q's right hind. I wasn't too surprised when this happened, however, because we hadn't vet wrapped her hinds which is what usually needs to occur for those hind gloves to stay on. Mike just took her other hind off and continued on his way.

After Nicole and Mike turned Griffin and Q for camp, K and I continued for another three or so miles. I got to see some sections of new trail they'd created (we lost a whole loop to logging operations this year and had to create an entirely new loop!). K and I crossed the river a second time, galloped down the railroad grade, and then intersected back onto the gravel road that would lead us to camp.

Prince was difficult on this training ride. He'd slam on the brakes before puddles, dodge randomly around puddles, spook at silly things, and other such shenanigans. Between that and dealing with riding a new saddle, I was pretty overwhelmed and increasingly concerned for what ride day would be like.

K and I finished our ride with minimal issue though, and arrived back in camp with plenty of time to make it to dinner and the ride meeting.

I strolled over to where the club members were milling about prepping dinner and other things for Saturday. I sipped a few beers and chatted, looking up and across ride camp to see Dom and Mike descending the hilly driveway into camp a little before 6p. I snagged a 4-wheeler and booked across camp to meet them at our little camp as they were getting out of the car. Mike was immediately tied up in some business with some of the ride volunteers, and I whisked Dom away to meet Dr. Bob and get her hooked up to meet her horse for the weekend. (BTW, driving a 4-wheeler with a beer in hand isn't exactly the easiest of tasks! (Closed facility; I wasn't out on roads with cars driving intoxicated, folks.))

With my delivery of Dom to Dr. Bob, I quickly whisked Dr. Kohut's wife up to the top of the hill above ride camp so she could get pictures before I headed back over to where dinner was being prepared. I had a few minutes more time to mill around chatting and sipping on beer before the ride meeting and dinner began.

Despite the new loop and changes to this year's ride that I should have listened to, Dom and I babbled all through the meeting with her Mike elbowing us and shushing us the whole time. Whoops. ;-)

Dinner at RBTR the night before the ride is traditionally a whole hog roast. We put the pig on around 4a and it comes off the cooker around 5:30p. As riders and others mill through the line to get food, they can request any cut of meat from the hog (I always request cheek or jaw meat as it absolutely melts in your mouth). It's quite the dinner and usually receives rave reviews!

My Mike helped serve dinner, so Nicole, Carlos, Dom, her Mike and I were all on our own through dinner - but that wasn't a problem because we had plenty of catching up to do (though that was briefly interrupted as we stuffed ourselves full of hog, mashed potatoes, salad, rolls, and corn on the cob).

We all wandered back to camp slowly, grazed the horses, chatted a bit, and then headed to bed. Tomorrow would be a big day for all of us.

: : : : :

Saturday:
I awoke ahead of my alarm by twenty minutes thanks to my protesting bladder. I sat up and rolled out of the tent to tend to that, and then promptly tossed the horses some hay to munch on as they'd consumed theirs during the night.

I then slipped back into the tent to awaken Mike and get dressed for the day. Mike was a little reluctant to wake (don't blame him), but got up without protest. Kenai on the other hand gave me the stink eye and refused to get up from where he was situated in the tent.

I left Mike to his own morning routine and walked over to the registration booth to snag some sugar and creamer for the coffee and tea we planned to make on our camp stove.

Prince and Vinny in their Boz saddles
As I returned to our little camp, I noticed that Nicole and Carlos were stirring as there were lights on in their tent.

Mike geared up the stove to heat water for warm morning drinks, and I mosied around readying random things for the ride. As I puttered around, Nicole walked over and offered to prep mashes for the horses which I eagerly accepted and thanked her for - it was my next step. She prepped those and then set about her morning routine, leaving the mashes to soak.

After Mike and I had prepped our tea and coffee, he asked if it was time to get Q out and prepped. I glanced at my watch to see it was around 5:30a. I gave him the affirmative, telling him to get her tacked up all the way except for the bridle and girth tightening.

And then, after that, the morning is kind of a blur leading up to the start. I know I put on my riding boots for the day (my Dublin Pinnacles), and I put my pommel bag onto the Boz saddle, and I made sure I used the portajohn a few times before heading out on trail, and before I knew it, K, and Mike and I were mounted up for the start.

Q standing stoically; Kenai begging Carlos for things
We milled around a bit with the rest of the horses, awaiting the 6:30a opening of the trail.

The timer called the trail open and the front runners blasted off.

We'd planned to go out after the first big burst, but a grey horse spooked by the banners near the perimeter of the start delayed us a bit. The horse was absolutely refusing to go forward and exhibiting all sorts of behavior in his refusal. Crowhopping, bucking, rearing. None of it was overly extreme, and his rider handled it well, but all the same - we didn't want our horses anywhere near! After a few moments though, the horse did move forward far enough for the rest of us to move safely around and we were off!

We trotted off through the field, leading the second wave of riders. K and I were leading on Vinny and Prince until we got to the beginning of the short narrow section out of the basecamp field. The entry to this section contains a small compressor station (a shack basically) for a metal gas pipeline that runs across the ground. The pipe is about 4 inches in diameter and lays along the ground, half submerged by soil and vegetation. Due to the pipe's proximity to the compressor, the pipe clicks. Vinny and Prince are far more alarmed by noise monsters than any horse I've ever been around, so they both balked violently and refused to go over the pipe and onward down the trail.

About 10 riders bunched up behind us quickly, and one lady called out if we needed a lead. I immediately moved Prince off the trail calling, "Yes, come on!" to the offer. The lady on her huge draft Arab X plowed on through and crossed the sticky place without further issue.

The group of us all continued down the narrow section in single file. As soon as we emerged onto the gravel road, we all spread out. K let Vinny move out down the road and I put Prince behind him, Mike on Q behind us. We quickly passed everyone in the group within seconds of being on the road. The only horse who passed us was the formerly-crazy one from the starting line who had been acting up. Mike joked with his rider about the horse's "Michael Jackson dance moves" as she passed and we all had a good chuckle.

About a mile out of camp, we crossed the river for the first time. The crossing went without issue, and we carried on on ATV trail for awhile after, Prince and I in the lead. Our first number checker was just after the crossing, and we all called numbers to her as we trotted past.

The trails were muddy with large puddles throughout for awhile after this. As it is a highly used ATV area, most of these puddles can be deep due to the muddin' that goes on; so, we weaved around them as we went.

Because I'm a local, have ridden this ride 4 times, and have an intimate understanding of the soils and how slick they can be based upon appearance, I and my little group were able to move pretty quickly through this section, losing the group that we'd left camp with and passing others as we moved out. Prince's antics during the training ride were long forgotten - he is a race-day horse who knows his job and was all business.

I looked behind frequently to check Q's boots. They stayed on well until the first uphill canter/gallop. All of the water/mud coupled with speed up an incline tossed the same right rear boot off from the day before. I instructed Mike to just remove that boot (hanging on by its gaiter) and we'd continue on until we crossed the river a second time.

And so we powered on.

We passed a couple more folks as we wound our way up and down some small hills preceding the river crossing. We were bunched up into a group of 6 or 7 by the crossing, but since the crossing was so long and a number checker preceded it, (we weaved diagonally across the river to meet up with the trail) we were all able to unbunch easily.

On the other side, I had Mike give me a Renegade, and I replaced that on Q's foot where the EasyBoot glove had been. This would be the only boot adjustment for the rest of the day. Vipers on the front, a renegade on her right rear and glove on her left rear would serve us well from then on out despite cantering up hills and through mud and water. (The other rear renegade was always with us, and I'd planned to swap out the glove for it if I had to, but we never needed it!)

After the river crossing, we were on an old railroad grade for a few miles along the river. It had both sandy stretches and packed dirt areas dotted with puddles. K and Vinny led most of this section, moving out at a hand gallop. The RR grade section ended with the third number checker who guided us up the hill on the gravel road.

The horses cantered and trotted the whole way up the road passing several folks as we went. On and on and on. They were inexhaustible.

K and Mike's conversational bickering was also quite inexhaustible - and hilarious. Mike would ask her (she's 12) if she'd heard of Snoop Dogg or Seasame Street or other pop culture references. To his surprise, she'd heard of very few of these. He'd give her grief for not knowing and she'd give him grief for "being old". Bicker, bicker, bicker. Back and forth forever. So much fun.

The road terminated atop the mountain where we wound our way through the woods along the ridgeline, over two heavily rocky areas, past the fourth number checker, down Rattlesnake hill back to the gravel road, down the road and to the third - now fifth - number checkers who would guide us to go straight instead of back down the RR grade, down the road by the river, back across the river, back down the trail home that we'd followed out, past the second - now sixth - number checker, and down the road for one more mile before reaching basecamp for the first vet check. Prince led for 80% of the 1 hour and 54 minute loop; we maintained a 7.4 mph average pace.

The boys oinking
We cantered and hand galloped down the road back into camp which concerned me a bit re: pulsing down. K and her mom usually ride in hot because their horses are "always down". I always slow for the last quarter-mile or so because I like my horse to be down or nearly-down when I reach camp.

Mike and I dismounted and walked the last 200 yards or so to the timer to try to make up for the fast pace up until that point. Despite our efforts, all three horses were still hovering around 70; pulse criteria was 64.

With the help of Carlos and Dom's Mike, we got all three down within a few minutes.

All of the horses vetted through well - though Prince was royally rude to the vet, which Jen told me later is just how he is on the ground despite all of her efforts to make him otherwise.

We were able to relax through the 45 minute hold, stuffing our faces as the horses stuffed theirs. All three horses ate at least a pan of mash each, probably two. Three little piggies, I swear.

We tacked up at the tail end of our hold and headed out on loop two; the horses were all quite sluggish (and probably felt like bloated ticks after all they consumed!), but Mike urged Q into the lead and we cantered up the hill out of camp.

This next loop would go a bit slower. It had less up and down than the first loop, just as much mud, and only two river crossings.

Picking our way through the river crossing
We yo-yoed with one duo of riders, leap-frogged with others, and passed some more. Prince led for 50%- 60% of this loop, Q and Vinny taking turns the rest of the time.

In the last 3 miles of the second loop I noticed Prince starting to trip more than he had been. None of the trips were very serious, just tiny little stutters in his step, but they were definitely different from his way of going up until that point. I verbalized concern about it to K to see if it piqued her interest/concern, but she figured he was probably just tired.

We did a medium to slow trot from the last river crossing to the field to basecamp. As we reached the field area, we saw Nicole on Griffin. I waved from a distance as we approached and called, "I'm so sorry to have to go past you like this! I was dreading it with all of this two-way traffic!!" She grinned all the same. Griffin whinnied in protest and started refusing forward motion. She urged him onward, but he still hollered and screamed and did all he could to refuse forward motion.

Once off the road we walked the remaining quarter to third of a mile into the timers. I found myself looking over my shoulder the whole way wondering if Griffin and Nicole would be sprinting back toward us; he was being SUCH a pill!

Despite our slow pace into camp, the horses were once again hanging around 70 after being untacked and sponged once! It didn't take long though for us to get them down and vetted.

They all passed the vet check, but Prince was being exceptionally docile. None of his dancing, neighing, head slinging behavior like during the first hold. Jen was concerned, and rightly so. The vet noted that he was tender around his girth on his right side; I noted that I had been the one to tack him up instead of Jen or K so maybe I'd done something slightly different, but no his girth wasn't too tight, it was still loose enough that it could have been tightened when I took it off back at camp. I also told her the percentages he'd led during the first and second loop, pointed out that we'd gone slower on this loop, and shared about his tripping behavior the last few miles noting that while it wasn't serious, it wasn't normal either.

As I led Prince back to camp from the vet, I started being over critical of his gait. I called Jen to me as I walked and she came over. "Is he off in his left front?" I queried. He seemed to be hesitating? "No," she replied. But he wasn't walking very straight behind.

And then, back at camp post-vet through, Prince was not interested in eating at all. Alarm bells went off for all of us.

Jen got her HR monitor out and kept checking his pulse which was hovering in the high 60s, low 70s. She was concerned until she checked Vinny's - also in that range. She noted that she hadn't really watched their pulses while they were eating before, so maybe that was it (three of us were now hand picking grass and forcing it on Prince who was half-heartedly consuming it).

Jen went to get Dr. Bob to come check Prince while I and others continued to hand feed him. Bob arrived and they decided that he was definitely hurting somewhere. We quickly re-hashed everything already discussed, and Bob found a lot of tightness in Prince's groin area of his right rear. A cramp.

Jen made the decision to rider option pull him from the rest of the ride, worried about making something worse before the 100 she has scheduled with Prince in September. She apologized to me and hugged me, but I reassured her that I totally understood and totally supported her decision. I wanted him to be okay, too. I felt horrible that he'd developed this while I was riding him.

Jen asked Mike if he would formally continue to sponsor K for the remainder of the ride - he accepted.

And just like that, Mike was sponsoring a junior for the last loop of his first 50! He promised to teach K all about Sesame Street during that last loop much to her dismay. In fact, they had quite the verbal banter before leaving camp about what the conversation on that last loop was going to be like. K's parents, Carlos, Dom's Mike, and I all laughed.

As Mike and K were prepping Q and Vinny for departure on the last loop, Nicole and Griffin reappeared in camp.

Carlos had seen them come in and was already walking with Nicole, jabbering away in quick Spanish; Nicole had tears in her eyes. I was immediately alarmed and looked her all up and down for signs of mud or blood or other visual of a fall. Nothing. Clean. I then did the same to Griffin. Nothing. Clean.

"Are you okay? What happened?" I queried. "He was just refusing too much and spinning and screaming and it was getting dangerous. I just couldn't do it any more," she replied. I hugged her and made her verbally confirm that she wasn't hurt and that Griffin wasn't hurt. No and no. She wanted to pull. Absolutely, I assured her then that it was totally okay! Rider option pull, yep, she could totally do that, "Just go vet him through one more time so they know he's okay and that it's your decision not something about the horse being hurt or sick." She nodded her acquiescence and Carlos helped her untack and head over to the vet while I turned my attention back to Prince briefly, then to Mike and K and Q and Vinny.
Mike and K headed out on the last loop

Jen's hubby held Prince while K and Mike headed out on their final loop, trotting out of camp without issue amidst cheers from many of the club members and other locals who were volunteering near the timer tent.

With Mike and K headed out for the final loop, and Prince taken care of, I returned my attention to Nicole and Griffin who were returning from the vet through.

She talked awhile more with me, sharing her experiences with Griffin on the trail for both the failed second loop and the very successful first loop. It seemed that Baby Grey just needs a buddy at this point in his career. He's physically capable of handling LD distances (they completed around 20 miles probably before pulling), but he's not there mentally yet if he has to be alone - especially not with two-way traffic! He kept up easily with Dom on 16hh Magic Man (a NSH) for the first loop, but when Griffin didn't pulse as quickly at the hold and therefore couldn't leave with Magic Man, troubles started. They'd argued all the way out of camp, leaving in a sideways fashion, and then continued their argument all the way down the trail until Nicole said enough and headed back, worried she wouldn't have even made the time cut off had she continued. Griffin's wild efforts to argue are evidence enough at his level of fitness. From my experience, tired horses don't argue like that!

Nicole noted that another plus to coming back in early were Griffin's CRI scores and his gut sounds - which weren't as stellar as they had been the first check. The vet recommended letting him eat - which we did. Once he'd stuffed his face with mash, however, we turned him back into the corral where he proceeded to scream for awhile and then settled into napping and rolling.

No, he never rolled into the corral. Yes, I did unplug it just in case. I couldn't prevent tangling necessarily, but I could prevent zapping and tangling together!


His nap reminded me of a toddler who throws a fit until exhausted, then has to sleep it all off.

With Griffin and Prince away and settled (somewhat), Nicole, Carlos, Dom's Mike and I all sat around and chatted to pass the time before Dom and Mike and K would all appear into camp. It sucked to have to pull, but knowing the horses were both okay, I wasn't too upset about the whole situation. It was pretty great to just sit and drink a beer!

When the time got close, we moved our chairs out from under the canopy tent and over to the start/finish line to watch for Dom.

As she and Magic Man rode in, we cheered and made quite the spectacle of ourselves because why not?

Dom dismounted a ways out from the timer to walk Magic in so he'd be even more cool before vetting through.

As they reached the timer booth we all fell in beside them and accompanied her to Dr. Bob's crewing area to assist with untacking and sponging and cooling.

They made one attempt to vet through, but Magic wasn't down enough, so back they came for more of a team effort in cooling. Dom whispered sweet nothings to Magic trying to coax him to calm down as every time someone touched him he got a bit excited. I even heard her mention at one point that if they made top 10 she'd let him sleep in her tent. ;-)

Fortunately, after a few minutes, Magic was able to get through the second vet check with flying colors! Hurrah! Completion for Dom and Magic!

I wandered back over to our chairs while Dom and Mike finished up with Magic, Carlos and Nicole not far behind me.

We all sat chatting near the finish, Dom and Mike joined us with time, and Carlos even took a nap after awhile.

Mike and K came in around 3:25 - spending nearly an HOUR longer out on this loop than we had when we rode it in the morning.

Mike, Dom, Carlos, Nicole, Jen, her hubby, my Mike, K and I all immediately started tending to Vinny and Q. Untacking. Sponging. Scraping. Icing - Dom even iced Q's nipples, which Q didn't care a lick about, haha. Dom shared that her lack of caring meant it likely felt very good. We event threw water at Q's underparts a few times to cool her, Dom's Mike cautioning, "About to be rude,"before he'd douse Q. Dom, you really do have The Best Crew.

Vinny dropped a bit faster than Q-bee, though my HR monitor was being a little bitch about reading Q's pulse. (It had been like this all day - I'd get two readings, but whenever I would go back for a third attempt when I was 99% certain she was probably down but wanted to double-check, I couldn't get a reading!) Despite that, we decided to just walk her over to vet through.

Dom and Mike, Nicole and Carlos, and some of my other friends who were volunteering stood out of the vet area watching intently as I walked with Mike to vet Q through. 52/56 CRI with Bs for skin tenting and gut sounds and As for everything else! She passed! YAY Q! YAY MIKE!



I think the cooler weather threw her off a bit with drinking;
all of her other rides this year have been so much hotter!
Overall, I'm very pleased with her scores; she bounced back well
from her second vet check that was by far the worst.
The final vetting; photo by Judy Reynolds

The final vetting; photo by Judy Reynolds

Mike kissing Q upon word of successful completion; photo by Judy Reynolds


We took Q back to our little crew/camp area to eat as much mash as she wanted before turning her out into the corral with a very relieved-to-have-his-mare-back Griffin. (Q immediately gave Griffin her Evil Snake Mare face to put him in his place. lol)

With horses settled and happy, the humans all set off to the swimming hole to cool off for a time because Ride Between the RIVERS also means that oh, hey, ride camp is SURROUNDED ON THREE SIDES by a river with one bomber swimming hole.

The water was cold and brisk, but refreshing - just the thing we needed prior to dinner!

Post river, we all sat about under the canopy talking and drinking. The rain settled in for a time, but ceased by dinner (spaghetti with homemade sauce and meatballs + salad) and completion awards (beer mugs filled to the brim with beer + additional prizes for turtles, top 10, and BC that included handmade iron crafts from the farriers, electrolytes, horse treats, and gift cards from Mountain Khakis).

With warning of a big storm headed in, our little group headed back to camp to check horses before settling back under the canopy to chat and drink awhile through the storm. There was a bonfire and live bluegrass music, but we chose being dry over that.Additionally, we were all pretty whooped after a long day, and ended up heading to our respective tents by 10p!

: : : : :

Sunday:
The morning dawned noisily and rainy. The location of our tents and camp at this ride was right at along an exit junction for trailers departing camp. I did my best to ignore all the ruckus and sleep through it - succeeding until 7:45a.

Mike and I awoke to find the other 4 already awake and breaking down pieces of camp. A light drizzle associated all the goings-on, spurring us to depart faster than planned.

We decided to pack up camp as quickly as possible and head to Bob Evans in town for breakfast after dropping my horses off at the barn. The thought of warm food spurred us onward through the cool, rainy morning and breaking of camp.

As per the usual with our ride camp in the rain, a couple folks leaving who didn't have 4WD on their rigs did get bogged down and stuck for a time. Our volunteers moved in to swiftly get folks un-stuck, but a line to leave still formed.

Fortunately, as we were putting the horses on the trailer, the line cleared up and we were free to leave without delay!

We dropped the horses at the barn, unloaded the trailer lighting-quick, treated Q's legs quickly with chlorohex. shampoo spray, and bolted for breakfast (HUNGER. EAT. NEED FOOD.) where we all indulged into an over-large breakfast. NOMZ.

The 6 of us hugged our goodbyes after breakfast with words to meet up again sooner than later (yes, please!). It was hard to bid adieu to some of my most favorite people ever, but the promise of seeing them again soon made it easier. <3

: : : : :

Beyond:
I chatted briefly with Jen today and she shared that Prince is doing well.

"Not lame at all. The only thing he has is some friction burn around the girth area and up in his "armpit". I think the combination of sand, dirt, and all that water just worked its way into the girth and caused the trouble. I should have put body glide on him, but I didn't think to do it because I usually don't have to use any with him. I think he probably started getting uncomfortable around the girth which caused him to move differently and led to the minor cramp. Nothing you could have done about that so don't feel the least bit bad. I am learning more about him all the time, so I definitely won't make that mistake at the 100 next month. "

When I visited my two last night, Griffin was his usual spunky self, and Q's minor swelling along the tendons was completely gone. The rubs and minor cuts on Q's legs look better, too, though Mike treated them as if for scratches last night all the same (chlorohex. shampoo/soak followed by miconazole creme).

All are well and healthy, it would seem! Even the humans have little residual soreness - the Boz didn't kill me like I feared it would! It seems I can - with a little effort - adjust my riding style to accommodate a larger pommel on a saddle, which is thrilling because it means there are more options of saddles open to try in the future.

Another great ride weekend!

And now, ride photo dump!


Nicole prepping G-man

Kenai Begging

Kenai still begging, Carlos rewarding the begging, Q being stoic

Q oinking away through some mash at the first hold

These two, I swear. lol

Mike being a dork and petting her nose

Yes, he's wearing a whitewater helmet

K and Vinny

Onward to the final loop!

Life is SO hard

The hardest

Flattering

You just did 30 miles! HOW DO YOU FEEL?!

All smiles

Dr. Bob holding his horse for Dr. Kohut to check pulse

Magic's team of humans

Knocked out on my boots

Asleep. And snoring.

Mike and K coming into the finish; K waiting to see if he wanted to tie or not

Team Q, assemble!

N on G
Photo by Judy Reynolds


Mike on Q headed to last loop
Photo by Judy Reynolds

Dom on Magic and N on G at the start
Photo by Judy Reynolds

Griffin is so grown up
Photo by Judy Reynolds

Little Q-bee awaiting the start
Photo by Judy Reynolds

WHEN DID HE GET SO BIG?!
Photo by Judy Reynolds

When Q randomly took off through the river
Photo by Becky Pearman

Griffin drinking and wishing he could roll at the river crossing
Nicole probably thinking, "Don't roll don't roll don't roll...."
Photo by Becky Pearman


The start; a mustang is in the yellow
Photo by Diana Ross

Dom, Magic, Nicole, and Griffin at the start
Photo by Diana Ross

Dr.  Bob vetting a horse sporting his MK Granite Creek shirt
Photo by Diana Ross
Everyone needs a skirt that says this!
Photo by Diana Ross