Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Kenai: Injured again!

I don't think I've mentioned it on the blog, but Kenai's injured...again.

Fortunately [I'm fairly certain] it's not his knee(s) this time! If you recall, he had double cruciate ligament surgery on both knees (hind legs) in August. He rehabbed well, setting his own pace that was right on par with the recommendations. He had associated stiffness as we extended the length of activity, but that was finally beginning to fade. Other than *still* not having his hair regrown* from where it had been shaved (waist back) for the surgery, he was nearly back to normal!

However, about a month and a half ago, he ceased use of his left hind leg (the first night Mike and I rode the horses in the creek; I suspect he tweaked himself launching up and down the steep creek banks). Shit.

I gave him a couple days to see if he'd work through it; I've freaked out about enough things with my animals to now chill out about a lot of things for a day or two before flying into freak out mode - I like to try to prevent unnecessary rises in my stress level.

Sadly, there was minimal improvement after 3 days. I quit taking him to the barn and limited his turnout at the house to try to see if that would help him bounce back. Still no improvement over a 2-ish week period. My vet had even seen him (she was at the barn for another reason) in this time period. She recommended some NSAIDs and rest, noting that she really doubted it was his knees as she's yet to have a dog she's performed that operation on blow out a knee (and a lot of those dogs are bigger, heavier, and more active than Kenai has been of late!) I proceeded with his limited turnout situation, going so far as to bar him in a small room of the apartment away from the cats so he wouldn't be tempted to play with them.

Around the 2-week mark was when Mike and I headed to MD to visit Saiph and Charles. Saiph (a vet tech) pointed out the very obvious muscle wasting in that hind leg. She noted that it was very obvious that he hadn't been using it for a time. Ugh. I could totally see it. She noted though that she really didn't think it was his knee.

When we returned from MD Kenai went into crate rest. I was worried about the leg, but really couldn't afford a diagnostic search for a solution prior to my vacation. Instead, I began palpating the leg one evening while Kenai was lying down. I stretched it and moved it within his range of motion for the knee, doing a manner of things to softly manipulate his knee as I would a patient at the ski resort. No reactions at all. I palpated, moved, and manipulated his hip and palpated his femur, as well, all the while watching his face and body for any sign of distress/pain/irritation. Nothing.

And then I palpated his groin muscles, curious after the lecture at the AERC convention on these very injuries in horses. And guess what?

I got a reaction. A strong one at that! Kenai whipped around with a yelp and made a half-assed attempt to snap at me to get me to stop (which, of course, I'd already done). I let him stand up as he'd requested, move about, then asked him to lie down again so I could see if I could replicate the reaction. A 1x reaction could have been attributed to something else, and I needed to be more certain.

I palpated more gently this time, got another yelp of surprise and a grouchy husky stare. I softened my palpation even more, and received a very grouchy look from Kenai, who struggled to stand and escape my clutches by this point.

So, yeah, I was fairly confident about a groin injury by this point! Kenai's been on crate rest ever since.

I've been gone much of that period with my vacation and now travel for work, but he's starting to use the leg consistently at the walk. I haven't seen him exert himself at a speed greater than this, and for obvious reason!

So I'm hopeful that with more time, and yet more rehab *sigh*, he'll be back to normal again. We'll see.

From internet queries about groin injuries in canines, it sounds like they are more likely to reoccur in the future (?) once they've happened initially. Fortunately, much of the rehab is like what we did for his knees, so I'm comfortable with that.

I'm sad for Kenai that he's spent so much of this last year lamed up, but cautiously optimistic that after this rehab he'll be able to resume much of his normal activities (hiking, going to the barn, etc.). The only silver lining is that summer is almost upon us, and his summer activities are more minimal than his winter ones. Summer involves lots of swimming, too, so that will be beneficial.

So, my question to readers, any further advice for rehabbing a groin strain in a dog? We'll soon be past the crate rest and into limited activities to begin building back to normal. Suggestions? Recommendations?

*Prime example of why people should *never* shave a double-coated dog!!!! It is *not* guaranteed to grow back the same! Kenai has grown back some of the fluffy undercoat, but his guard hairs are beyond sparse. This SUCKS in the winter when he's out in the snow because he gets wet and snowballs/iceballs form all over his hind end. NO BUENO.


I swear the posts on my vacation to California are coming! =)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

DNA Results

I'm back from California and happy to report it was quite an incredible trip! As I get photos edited, I'll be posting the trip story in pieces.

For now, a little nest egg I've been sitting on for awhile: Q and Griffin's ancestral DNA results!

Like Saiph did for Lily, I too sent off Q and Griffin's hair follicles for ancestral DNA analysis at TAMU.

Griffin was supposedly TWH x Arabian, but I didn't know for certain given his situation and the manner in which he came into my life. Q was obviously mostly Arabian, but as she's not super type-y in appearance, we've always suspected she's got something else, most likely Morgan as she resembles Morabs more than other combinations. But, once again, I'll never know for certain!

Griffin is definitely the bigger mystery of the two. I definitely have my assumptions, but there will never be any way to truly know. So the DNA test sounded like a fun idea! And while I know Q is mostly Arabian, there is no way to tell how much Arabian. Definitely half, at a minimum, but I honestly wouldn't be surprised if she was more than half.


Q's results:
1st: Arabian, 2nd: Brazilian breeds, 3rd: Rocky Mtn./Mtn. Pleasure

Griffin's results:1st: Eastern European warmblood, 2nd: Arabian, 3rd: Western European warmblood

I was half surprised by both of their results. I anticipated Q to come back 1: Arabian, 2: Morgan, 3: ??

I expected Griffin to come back 1: TWH, 2: Arabian, 3: ??

So, when Q's second result and Griffin's first result were returned as the above and both those results were the line immediately below my expectation I wondered if perhaps the forms had been marked in error? I mean, it took me highlighting them to read them properly - my eye just wanted to misread so easily until there was color associated with it!

I emailed the professor in charge of the lab that runs the test to query about the possibility of a error in the check-mark results; it was just such a strange coincidence that both results were returned with my expected result the immediate line above! I made it clear that I was in no way questioning the validity of the test or the science,  but moreso, the possibility of the human eye making an error as it traced across the page to mark a result.

The professor responded within 24 hours. He, too, was surprised by the coincidence between the result provided and that my expected/assumed result was the immediate line above. He told me however, that he did double-check the results and they were indeed what had been sent to me.

Its definitely interesting! Its good to know that both have Arabian in them, as expected (I'll take the physiological benefits of Arabian breeding for our endurance pursuits! ;-) ). But the other piece is such a mystery and will probably always be!

No matter what, they're both incredible horses and I wouldn't trade them for anything. Papers and perfect breeding don't necessarily make a perfect horse! Both of my two have a lot of heart and a lot of try and are perfect for my goals and aspirations.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Horses Who Made Me: Q

This is the last post in the series. I've had a lot of fun writing it and reflecting on things along the way. Thanks for following along!

Q:

Q came into my life and this blog in May of 2012, just a few short months after Griffin entered my life.

I had played around with the idea of a second, older, more "made" horse, but the financial responsibility that came with it caused me to hesitate. I really wanted an older horse to ride and work with in ways that I wasn't yet able to with Griffin. I worried that without a horse to ride, I would push Griffin along too fast and break him.

At the end of May, I accepted the invitation to go to a riding clinic with a cowboy a few counties south of home. Friends in the riding club promised that the cowboy would have a horse for me to ride. In fact, they joked about the horse being an Arabian that was for sale, knowing that this was what I had been considering purchasing.

Once I had settled in at the clinic, I sought out the cowboy to inquire about my horse for the weekend. Waiting to gain a moment of his time from others, I gazed out into his corrals at the variety of horses turned out, seeking one that looked different from all the QH and paints.

Q was the first one my eyes really locked on. She was smaller than the others, dainty. She moved with grace and aplomb. She was striking with a blaze and four stockings. Her tail was flagged slightly more than the other horses, her head slightly more refined, but not very typey for an Arabian.

I found myself wondering if this was really the horse or not, as she didn't meet the mold of the Belesemo Arabians I had been drooling over online. All the same, I couldn't take my eyes off her.

And so the weekend continued. I rode her. I fell for her.

She was responsive. Athletic. Forward. Not overly mare-ish despite being in heat and having two stallions on the premises, one of which rode near us on the trail for a period of time.

Friends and professionals (trainers and vets) who were in attendance encouraged me to get her. I had to think about it for awhile, it was a difficult decision, but you all know the outcome.

I never wanted a mare. Not really. But now? I wouldn't change it for the world.

Q has been a challenge from the start. Its that whole mare thing mostly. You really do have to have a conversation with her about everything. On top of that, she has a ridiculously quick mind - especially when it comes to escaping all things perceived as danger.

She's incredibly athletic, capable of anything (endurance, jumping, barrels, working cattle). The cowboy was thrilled to see her go to an endurance home because of her forward drive, something I have continued to hone these past two years.

Her biggest flaw is her mind; her acute observation of everything around her and her instinct to flee from danger or seek her friends. Conquering her mind has been quite a feat! 

I'm learning better every day how to channel her into work. How to present her with situations in a manner that she can best understand. How to predict things that may set her off and counter them with something else. Its a constant battle and balancing act at the same time. It vexes me, but I enjoy the challenge.

In addition, she's incredibly sensitive to the emotions of humans in contact with her. Learning to control my emotions has been the biggest challenge for me. I've discussed it ad nauseam on the blog. It has been one of my biggest challenges, and is slowly becoming one of my biggest successes for myself.

Q has taught me to reassess how I'm reacting to everything. Not only am I now hypersensitive to the surrounding environment to help anticipate things that may or may not startle her or invoke some other unanticipated response, I am also hypersensitive to myself, my emotions, my reactions, and my way of doing every little task.

Self awareness on this level is something I never thought I would achieve, but because of Q, I have. And, not too surprisingly, learning this and turning it into habit is helping me in many non-horse aspects of my life. When one is hyper aware of themself, the way they react to things, think about things, and interact with others, interactions with other people become much more interesting. I listen more and speak less. I think more about what I want to say, how I want to say it, how it may be perceived by the person or people I am talking to. I am much more thoughtful and purposeful in everything I do. Certainly, some of this is due to coursework and experiences I had with both 4-H and college, but largely these abilities have been honed into further working perfection because of Q mare.

Q has challenged me in my riding, my training, my every thought. She frustrates me to no end the majority of the time. Hell, just last week I yelled at her that I would sell her ass if she kept acting the fool. But it was an empty threat. For every moment she pisses me off royally, there are two moments where she thrills me beyond end, and an infinite number of moments that I learn something more about myself and her.

She's got far more to teach me, I know, but I will enjoy each moment of it. She's the most difficult puzzle I've tried to solve in the horse-world, and by far, she is my favorite because of it.

So, Q, I know that we'll continue to fight, but I'm okay with that. Its kind of worth it. I promise to continue to do my best to figure you out as you teach me more about yourself, horses, myself, and life.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

West Coast

I'm alive and well. I've been silent for a few days because I'm not by a computer often. Why?  Cause I'm on the west coast!!

Many stories and details to come in future posts, for now I'm making the most of each day as it comes.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

More Creek Riding

This is quickly becoming a favorite activity for Mike and I with the horses. It cools them off, cleans off their muddy legs, gives their minds something to think about, and provides them a bit of a unique workout at the same time.


The exact moment Q sat down in the water.
She'd taken a misstep.



Tuesday night we headed out for yet another jaunt in the creek. We started a bit further downstream than the first time and traveled to the same upstream point.





SUCH a blast. I giggled the whole time.

The water was a bit higher than it was during our first expedition. Additionally, the lower part of stream we traversed for the first time had some deeper holes.





Both horses took at least one misstep into a hole or over a slightly larger-than-normal rock that resulted in Mike and I getting wetter than planned. We both had wet feet by the end, and my pant legs were soaked to just above mid-shin!





Overall, GREAT horses.

Can't wait to do this in the hot summer weather!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Goals: March Review, April Aspirations

Q
  • Further work with dressage concepts: Didn't really work on this at all. We spent more of the month focused on trails, miles, and adventure.
  • Introduction to more lateral work Finally crossed off! Saiph worked on this with Q some in MD. She does it well in hand from the ground. The only time she does it under saddle right now is when she wants to go somewhere and you don't want her to go there. She does beautiful lateral movement to resist going the direction her rider desires!
  • Lots of miles: Ended up with ~60 miles for the month
  • HIIT workouts in prep for our ride at the end of April: Not as many HIIT workouts as I'd have preferred, but we did do several. Would have liked to have done 2 more.
Griffin
  • More trail miles: Yep. ~30 miles for the little guy! His reliability increases by the mile it seems! I'm very thrilled with him.
  • More work with bridle without having a fit while US: Super duper success! He's maturing mentally and having fewer outbursts. He also seems to recognize that its not the end of the world when he *has* to listen to me. Still very much a baby brain, but he's definitely made huge progress!
  • Much more time in side reins to build strength: Eh. We did ZERO session in side reins this month.
: : : : :

April Goals

Q
  • Stay healthy, sound, and fit approaching our 50 at the end of the month
  • Taper accordingly 
  • Have a safe 50 miles at No Frills

Griffin
  • Build more miles onto his base
  • Spend time in side reins
  • Advance skill US with bridle

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Horses Who Made Me: Griffin

Griffin:

Griffin fell into my lap in January of 2012, as a project horse to train and sell, train and keep, or give back to the friend who bestowed him on me.

I'd been sorely tempted to adopt the little guy month's prior, but fresh from selling Orion, I really wasn't certain about that decision at the time.

Griffin was found by my friend Jeanna. He'd been a first horse for a 13 year old girl who was "horse crazy". However, she was very misguided in her ideas about horse care.

She'd somehow acquired Griffin as a  yearling without her parents' knowledge. She was keeping him in a barn somewhere nearby, visiting him once or twice a day. The barn was dark, it was closed off from the outside world (no paddock or windows), and had little in the way of water or food. Essentially, to my understanding, she would take him on a walk to eat and drink when she visited, then put him back inside until her next visit. Yikes!!

The short of it: Jeanna found out what was going on and seized the colt from the girl. She then put up queries on Facebook, seeking a home for the colt who was reputed to be Arab X TWH.

Another mutual friend volunteered to take him. She had him vaccinated, gelded, and removed his wolf teeth. He moved 90 minutes north nearer to her apartment and she and her sister-in-law loved him something fierce, spoiling him to his heart's desire.

Unfortunately, some money issues arose for my friend and her sister-in-law and they could no longer afford to be the best parents possible for Griffin. With sad hearts, and per the contract that had been drafted when Griffin left Jeanna's care, Griffin returned to Jeanna.

Jeanna kept him for a few months. Doting on him, feeding him, etc. When January rolled around, she offered him to me as a project saying I could train him and keep him, train him and sell him, or give him back to her if I hated him. She just couldn't afford to feed him through the winter, and she said she'd rather see me work with him then send him to the horse trainer/trader. If I took him, at least she'd still get to watch him grow and develop, and, hopefully, watch his future unfold with me.

I took her up on it and the journey began, much of it has been chronicled here, so I won't expound too much right now.

Griffin is the first young horse I've trained from nothing to something. He's the first horse I've done all of the work with on my own. I've been provided guidance by others and they have demonstrated things with him for me to better understand, but by and large, all the training has been done by me. The extensive ground work and later the work under saddle.

The skinny little colt is growing into a wonderful little gelding. He's athletic. He's inquisitive. And he has an insatiable need to please people, especially me.

It hasn't all been easy, and I've learned more than I ever had along the way.

Things I've taught this horse, training methods I've employed, they've largely been completely new concepts to me.

I've mentioned before, and I'll mention it again, all of my past experiences with horses were based in riding to develop myself and my seat, not necessarily the horse. I haven't had lessons under trainers who have certifications and qualifications out the wazoo. I've been guided by women (and some men) who truly love horses. People who's knowledge base is largely from hands-on experience and experimentation versus hours of tutelage from a proven professional. People who have utilized the horse for the jobs it can perform and the functionality of its nature versus the beauty it can exhibit in an arena.

Concepts like ground work, driving, pressure and release, clickers, different manners of riding, different aids, gadgets, all of it - those things were introduced to me in small doses, but nothing in detail. The further detail behind each of those things - and even more - are things I have learned more about since owning my own horses - and especially since owning and training Griffin.

I wanted to do right by Griffin. I wanted him to have a better future; to put his rocky start far behind him. If I didn't keep him, I didn't want to have to worry about him being passed along down the road into yet another bad situation.

And so I read. And I researched. And I asked questions. And I sought out the opinions of many. I experimented. I had successes. I had failures. And I grew and grew and grew in my knowledge of all things equestrian.

And I'm still learning, every single day.

But things are going well, I think. Griffin is really coming along so beautifully now. We've developed quite the rhythm with our way of going. The magnitude of what I've done with this little horse doesn't often hit me, but when it does it shocks me. What was once a skinny little colt who knew nothing is now a healthy, muscled gelding who is proceeding beautifully in his work under saddle. A gelding who is beginning to become reliable under saddle, especially on his home trails.

Because of Griffin, I've been able to further build up from the foundation I'd developed from all the horses before. Because of Griffin, I feel confident that I will be able to bring along other youngsters in my future. Because of Griffin, I am experimenting with riding disciplines I'd never considered before. Because of Griffin, I am considering sucking up my fears of showing so he can utilize some of his favorite activities like jumping. Because of Griffin, I've really come into my own as a horse person.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Maryland Adventure III: 13 Miles

Sunday: Morning dawned before I was ready for it.

Saiph and I got up quietly, ate, dressed, and slipped out leaving Charles and Mike to sleep away the morning while we rode.

The day was colder than the prior one, but not miserable. We arrived at the barn, readied the mares, and were on the trail in no time at all.

The goal: Fit in as many miles as we could at a good pace for 2-ish hours.

The result: 13 miles in 1 hour, 44 minutes with an average pace of 7.1 mph.

I told Saiph that we should try to canter and trot as much as possible. The footing was good, the terrain wasn't too rugged, and the mares were both more than fit enough to handle it.

We set off along the track we'd taken days prior with Mike. We wound down bridle paths between farms, through woods between residential areas and more farmland, over logs, across a road, and into the fields surrounding the farm with the percheron stallion...who was turned out on this day.

In past experiences going down the road that parallels part of the stallion's field, Saiph and Kathy have witnessed his mad rush to the fenceline that inevitably startles the mares. As a result, Saiph fosters a bit of anxiety about this 100 yard stretch, and rightly so!

She took the lead as we neared the stretch of road we'd need to travel that paralleled the stallion's fence. I wasn't 100% certain how we were going to handle this (dismount? walk by?), but remained ready nonetheless.

Saiph chose to gallop by, hoping the speed of our passage would confuse the stallion if he saw, and ultimately provide us plenty of time to pass before he could reach the fenceline if he chose to try.


Sketch of us running past the stallion's field by Saiph


It worked like a charm. The stallion merely looked up from his position about 100 yards away to stare at us as we went by. I can only imagine that by the time his brain processed that the strange fast moving objects were horses, we were gone.

We cantered and trotted on toward Four Corners where we veered left down a dirt track that created a boundary between crop fields. We cantered this until it met a woods line where we followed a gravel road for a time until it turned to pavement at which point we backtracked at a canter and gallop to the field where we trotted the perimeter to link onto a single track trail through the woods.

The woodland trail was a bit rockier and a bit muddier. It reminded me a lot of the Scioto Run 50 and some of the lowland terrain at Virginia Highlands 55: mature, but open, forest with a dense understory of downed wood and non-native (some invasive) shrub/scrub.

As we trotted, cantered, and jumped logs along this stretch, I called out all the similarities this trail had to trails I'd traversed during rides last season so Saiph could be better prepared for the atmosphere that will accompany her first ride in April. With each obstacle along the way, I called out to Saiph how it would be treated if you were "at a ride", "We'd all walk this section," "These rocks here are a lot like terrain at _____ ride and _____ ride," "The way this trail winds is very similar to ____," "Everyone but the front runners would probably slow up through here."

Eventually, the trail wound back out and around into the crop fields.

A hunter pace had been held the previous day through this area, so Saiph and I just set out cantering, following the hoofprints in the soft soil.

Cantering and galloping, winding around the perimeter of the fields, the mares vying for the lead position almost every step of the way, power in every stride.


 
 
 
 
 
 


I think Q really enjoyed herself. It was a great change of scenery from our usual riding, though if I had to pick between the mountains and the rolling farmland I'd take the mountains any day!

Eventually, we reached a point where Saiph suggested we turn back for the barn.

We retraced our steps, trotting and cantering the whole way home, walking the perimeter of the property upon our return to avoid dismounting to open gates. The walk cool-down around the property even included a small bridge crossing, which, impressively enough, Q did with minimal argument. GOOD MARE.

Back at the barn, Saiph and I untacked the mares and hosed them both down. We left them in adjacent stalls to munch on hay and dry out while we headed back to the apartment so I could pack up, get Mike, eat food, and then return to the barn to hook up the trailer and head home.

Originally, I'd wanted to book it out of town by 2p at the latest. Food and hunger overrode my hurry though, and Charles, Saiph, Mike, and I headed out to a pretty sweet Mexican place for a great lunch. As a result, Mike and I weren't leaving the barn to head home until 4:30p.

The drive home was uneventful, but seemed to drag on forever. It was a little after 10p by the time we got back to the barn.

Mike and I unloaded Q, unwrapped her legs, blanketed her, and turned her loose into the field of boys vying for her company. We then unhooked the trailer quickly, not bothering to unload anything, and headed home.


: : : : :

Basically, to better explain and sum up this weekend and the myriad of adventures I get myself into I give you this:


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Maryland Adventure Part II: Crossing the Bay and Galloping Fields

**Caution: Photo HEAVY post. ***

Saturday: The day dawned fairly early. Quiet shufflings of the four of us in the apartment as we prepped to get out the door as fast as possible - which still wasn't on the schedule we planned. Showers needed to be had. Kenai needed to go out. Coolers needed to be packed. Clothing needed to be planned - and for Saiph and I, an extra pair of clothes *just in case* we ended up wet from the beach.

The day's plan was to head to Wye Island, a small island the State manages on the Chesapeake Bay. The original plan had been Assateague or Ocean City to do some true beach riding - but with a 3½ hour haul one way? That was really going to eat into our days! Saiph and Kathy found Wye Island though, and the haul was considerably less!

We headed out like a herd of turtles. We got out the door at the apartment only 5 or 10 minutes behind schedule, needed to get gas and ice, then realized my car could use a bit of oil since it was low, and then we needed to snag food from McD's. Finally, finally we got to the barn...only 30 minutes behind where we planned. Haha.

Once at the barn, we rendezvoused with Kathy and her husband. All three of the ladies got our horses prepped and trailers packed (well, mine was already packed, haha). We pulled out of the barn a bit behind schedule, but it wasn't too bad.


Men and mares.



Friends!


The haul was an hour and a half of easy driving - I say easy because there weren't any mountains to haul over! Ha.

Saiph, Charles, Mike and I in my car hauling Q followed Kathy and her husband who were hauling Queenie and Lily. It was fun to watch Lily (who was the further back of the two mares in the trailer) as we traveled. She was very calm and quiet. However, crossing the Bay Bridge, an incredibly large and long bridge over the Chesapeake Bay, Lily was a bit more "looky" than she'd been the whole trip. And I don't blame her! Its a huge bridge, high up in the air, for a long ways (maybe a mile?).

I joked with Saiph about Lily's former issues crossing small creeks, "Gah, she must be really freaked now. "Mom, I said okay to crossing rivers and creeks, but BAYS?! This is bullshit." Hahaha. Poor, Lily!"

Crossing the Bay

I was all business while Mike took photos, haha





We arrived at Wye Island around noon, unloaded, tacked up, and discussed our plans. As a semi "guest" on this trip, I just sort of assumed that Saiph and Kathy had everything dialed in for what we were going to do. Well, you know what assuming does! As soon as we'd gotten out of the cars Kathy joked, "You thought I knew where I was going and what I was doing, didn't you!?" She faked it real good. Haha.

I had zero notion as to where the "beach" was that we'd be riding on. I hadn't so much as even looked at the trail map! Once we had all mounted though, it became blindingly obvious that no one really knew how to get from point A to point B - parking lot to beach. Things that were known: the "beach" was at a far away point on the island that kayakers used; if you summed the trails on the island you could create 6 miles one way; it was flat and there were a lot of fields.

And so the ladies, plus our men, sat and discussed the map for a time. Waxing and waning over where we were at that point and where needed to go. We had two false starts before we finally figured things out. I ended up getting on my phone and downloading the damn trail map (IN COLOR) to use as we went along. (In past trips (i.e., Uwharrie, NC) I've been one of a few ladies who takes charge of map reading from everyone else. I grew up reading maps and orienteering at numerous camps, so I may as well use my skillset!)

Finally, we were off! Once again, like a herd of turtles.

The path we took to the beach was about 3 miles. I don't know where in the communication train it happened, but somewhere it was translated to the menfolk that it would take us an hour to do that distance. Ha!

We trotted and cantered most of the way. A lot of it was on the dirt road that the cars use on the island to access the point we'd made our destination.

Q was surprisingly forward the whole way. I think the time she'd had to spend in a stall/small paddock was really pissing her off. So given the opportunity to strike out, she took it! But only after she'd had her fill of "real" water from puddles at the beginning. Silly mare!

Wide open spaces!
She struck out at a solid 7-9 mph trot for the first bit. So forward. So eager. And because we were on the road or on the edge of a field most of the way, there was very little in the way of "monsters" for her to spook at. I cannot tell you how nice it was to just enjoy my horse and her way of going without having to be hyper-vigilant about every tiny possible thing that could cause her to spook.

Kathy's Queenie mare seemed a little shocked in the beginning that Q would strike off at such a pace, by the end of our day though, Queenie realized just how fun this could be and matched pace. Such an incredibly fit mare!! Kathy's done an incredible job with her.

In no time at all, the three of us + our mares had reached the trailhead for the beach. We were about 20 minutes faster than the men expected. We tried to wait for them at the trailhead (they'd disconnected my trailer and were going to drive over), but we gave up waiting after a time. It turns out they had gone into town to get beer. Sigh.

We headed down a beautiful little trail to the beach. Trees with thick, low branches looped overhead, OMG its everywhere! she calmed some. This was wonderful for me because I didn't have to worry so much about a sudden horizontal teleportation from her. *whew* turning the trail into a tunnel of green and brown. There was a lot of down wood along the trail, which Q was super concerned about for a time, but when she realized that

When we reached the water's edge, we found a half dozen people, some with dogs, and about 200 feet of shoreline. Not a ton of space for that many people when you couple it with trees that nearly reached the water's edge!

Q immediately spooked at: a dog, a branch, a stump, a tree, and a hole in the ground.

Everyone on the beach ceased their activities to watch us. Talk about awkward! I'm not sure horses frequent the beach often - even though they're allowed to be there re: the information we found.

Fortunately, with some encouragement, I navigated Q away from the staring, bewildered people and down the beach to an area less populated - and for good reason as the beach wasn't as pretty.

It served our purposes though.

Lily, Queenie, and Q were all a bit apprehensive about the whole "get in the water thing" at first. With patience though, they were moving in and around the water as we all giggled like kids. We tooled around for a short time, wondering if the guys would show up. When they didn't, we navigated back down the tunnel-esque trail to find them.

The pretty trail that led to the beach.
Or well, we kind of did.

Q and I struck out first. She was so forward and eager and there were so many people suddenly milling about on the trail that I was worried she'd spook them or they'd spook her. So I turned her off the trail where it opened into a field to the right. I could see the shoreline bordering the far edge of the field, so I pushed Q into a canter and we cantered the edgeline of brush until we could break through and see the shoreline a little better. Alas, no sand.

As I turned Q to canter back toward the trail, Lily and Saiph broke through the same opening with Queenie a moment's hesitation behind, Kathy looking a little alarmed at Queenie's exuberance to follower her friend.

We all circled and returned to the trail, only trotting a little ways before finding our motley crew of men complete with: coolers, cameras, coats, and an over-eager Kenai.

Each guy fell inline walking beside their lady on horseback, Mike and I in the lead. I chastised him a bit for needing to go to get beer (and pretzels), but he guaranteed me we would have run out of beer otherwise, so it was a worthwhile jaunt. Le sigh.

Upon reaching the beach again, I had Mike lead Q by the scary wood-based things on the beach to gain access to the less-populated area. Once there, the guys set all their things in one area before readying the cameras to get photos of the three ladies + mares playing in the water.

Have some photos:


 
Huge smiles.
Huge smiles...still.
 
Wiggle?
STILL, huge smiles!
Oh, and lookit dem bare hoofies.
The branch is hot lava - never forget!
Neeerrrrmmmmmmm
Saiph's face = lol
Hover!pony
Hot lava!



With our little hearts *mostly* content, we decided to head back to the trailhead to have a picnic.

...except when we got to the nicer part of the beach, no one was using it!

I glanced back and looked at Saiph, giving her a look that didn't require words. She returned the same, a big(ger) smile spreading across her face. "We're here," I told her, "we may as well!" And I urged Q out into the water and down the beach a ways, the other four following.

And so, we enjoyed running through the water some more. I giggled 2x as much as the first time, and got 3x as wet from water splashing up from Q's legs as she bounded through the water.

Have some more photos:


Evasive maneuvers!
Seahorse
Horse? Or porpoise?
Lookit that extension. Neeeeerrrmmm!



Finally, once I was thoroughly soaked, the mares were tired, and smiles were permanently plastered on my, Saiph, and Kathy's faces, we headed back down the trail for a picnic.

...or well, Kathy and her husband did. Saiph and I had to have *just one more* ..or two ..or three ..gallops through the water.

THEN. We were happy. Q led us away from the beach, Lily hot on her heels. I took Q down a side trail to add 0.6 mile onto our trek out. Saiph and Lily trotting along with us.

Such a pretty little trail! A narrower version of the trail we came in on. Other than a very rotund, white golden retriever, Q spooked at nothing. Saiph and I giggled the whole way.

When we burst back out onto the main trail, we were right behind Queenie, Kathy, and her husband. Saiph fell in line with them, while I, unable to resist, trotted Q on ahead, spurring into a field off to the left of the trail this time. We cantered down the field (which paralleled the trail), turning at the trailhead to head right back down the main trail to meet back up with everyone. Such. A. Blast. Flat land is funnnn!

Within a few moments more, we were all back at the trailhead where we hitched the horses to numerous things (Lily and Queenie to a fence while I tied Q to a high tree branch - shame, shame, shame to my Leave No Trace learnings....shame).

Damn crazy Arabians. Can't trust them for shit....lies.
Lunch was simplistic, yet wonderful. It was fun to sit with everyone and share various tails.

In no time at all though, the food and beer were gone and it was time to head back.

I'd been studying the map on our way to the beach and had plotted our return to be a bit longer, as I planned to spur off onto a few side trails. I really wanted to get the distance in on Q as this trip was a bit of a training mission for her before we taper for our April 50. I told Saiph and Kathy that I really planned to do the distance with or without them, but fortunately for me, they were both game!

All of the additional mileage we did on the way back to the trailers was along the edge of fields, right at the perimeter of the woodline/field interface. SO FUN for someone like me who is in woods and mountains all the time! ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM. (This isn't to bash on my mountains and woods, I adore them and prefer them, but periodic change is SO ENJOYABLE!)

The ride back was pretty evenly split between walking, trotting, and cantering. We reached the trailers in an hour time.

The last ¼-mile straight away to the trailers though...oh my, oh my. Saiph and I shared knowing looks again, and turned the mares loose into a fast canter...that turned into a gallop...that turned into a race. We were neck and neck and giggling the whole way.

...but then we heard Kathy on Queenie behind us, calling out in spurts, "Slow down...stop...stop!...slow down..STOP!"

Saiph and I looked over our shoulders to see a very dismayed Kathy on a very speedy and excited Queenie. Saiph and I pulled both our mares to a stop, standing them perpendicular to Queenie's path. Queenie slowed. Kathy took a breath of relief.

Queenie had taken off after Lily and Q, sharing with Kathy yet another mystery gait (Queenie is gaited) that was akin to a porpoise bounding in and out of the water. It jarred Kathy pretty good in the saddle, and she said she had no idea how she'd stayed on!

We walked the remainder of the distance to the trailers with Kathy where she dismounted. Saiph and I though? Oh, you betcha we hadn't had enough!That gallop had been the fastest either of us had let our mares go - ever.

We wanted more.

And we got more.

And it was SO FUN.

Back at the trailers, all three mares pulsed down into the 40s in short order (yay).

Q was disinterested in her alfalfa after a short time though, so I handed her over to Mike to ride around at a walk bareback for a bit.

Upon seeing Mike and Q together, both Kathy and Saiph remarked, "Liz, I think you lost your horse." "I know," is all I could respond.

See for yourself:


I see gravel stuck in her left hind! NBD, folks! Gravel crunchers.

Laughing about who knows what.
Swinging his legs with her front legs like a goof.
Little pony with her man
Seriously, she never looks this happy when I'm riding!


She adores him.

The ride home was fairly uneventful. I surrendered a lot of anxiety with someone else driving my car + trailer + my horse and let Mike drive us home. He's operated heavy equipment, driven trailers of every capacity, and a myriad of other things, so I figured I should set aside my worries and let him drive. He did a beautiful job - I needn't have worried at all.

Saiph and Charles caught a couple zzz's, but mostly we all sat in silence, exhausted from the day.

Back at the barn, we quickly settled all three mares, Mike unhitched the trailer, and then we all raced back to the aparment to change clothes and prep for dinner...SUSHI!

We had a bit of a wait, but it was worth it! ...although I'd reached the point of being hangry (hungry + angry because of hunger) before we could get food.

Fortunately, the rolls arrived as they were finished instead of all on one plate, so I didn't have to wait *so* long. After engulfing one roll, I was immediately much happier.


The guys being absurd.


Some of the best sushi I'd ever had. So much fish. So much roe. So much yum.

It was the perfect end to our day! And it really was the end, considering that as soon as we set foot inside we all pretty much crashed asleep, dead to the world. WHAT a day!