Friday, December 15, 2017

Power Trimming

Since 2012, I have been the sole hoof trimmer for my horses. I like to keep my horses on a short trim cycle of 3-5 weeks depending on the time of year and, from a financial standpoint, this is much more easily managed by doing it myself. Trimming is hard work and it can be time consuming, but I plan and manage my time well and it's never been too bad.

The only time my horses' hoof care isn't completed by me is when Dan is shoeing them. Even then, he uses my trim job and just preps the foot for a shoe. In fact, Dan stating matter-of-factly on a ride a few years ago that "he'd put a shoe on that" was the reason I moved away from the frustrations of boots and into shoes for competition. Prior to that, I always figured I'd have to learn to shoe myself one day because no local farrier felt comfortable shoeing my "short-toed" horses (despite complimenting my horses feet every time they see them).

Healthy barefoot herd for at least half the year; grateful for horses with good hoof structure!

With the introduction of Stan to my little herd in July 2016, the time it takes me to trim has only grown - as one would expect. I don't use nippers when I trim, only a rasp and a knife because such a short cycle negates the need for nippers. I'm happy with this method, but it can be time consuming if life gets busy and I go 5-6 weeks between trims instead of 3-5. Thus, I began to throw around ideas of trimming with power tools more seriously. 

I sat on this idea for well over a year because I knew it would be costly to get a nice tool that could do the job. The workout that comes with hoof trimming isn't wholly awful after all, and it was a nice addition to my week. Except, well, taking time to trim so many feet takes away from riding. Even if I am only doing one horse a day, doing this over multiple days detracts from riding each of those days!

My time is more valuable than ever since introducing a daily commute to my life. Trimming was the last thing I want to be doing with my limited time. And so, I finally bit the bullet and ordered a cordless angle grinder.

Power tool for the win

And I don't regret it one bit.

Grand total time to completely trim 12 hooves with the grinder? 25 minutes. And that will only get quicker as I hone my technique and skill. Previously, if it was a rainy day (when their hooves were softer and easier to trim) I could do 4 hooves in 15 to 20 minutes. To do 12 in nearly the same time? That is priceless to me!

Disclaimer

I have been trimming my horses successfully by myself for 5½ years. I know my way around a hoof, especially my own horses' hooves, and I'm very well versed with my tools (rasp, knife, stand). I've never lamed any of my horses in the time I've been trimming. Additionally, I check in with local professionals from time to time, and I routinely get compliments on my trim jobs from professional farriers both local and out-of-state and vets.

Additionally, my horses are very accustomed to loud noises. None of them cares one iota about clippers and all are tolerant of being dusted off by a shop vac vacuum/blower in the winter. The noise an angle grinder makes is nothing compared to that!

So, lest anyone think otherwise, I absolutely do not advocate this solution for everyone! I hold no liability if you go out and commit some horrible error. I simply wanted to share a unique approach for others to learn about because it isn't that common (at least not in my area). I don't intend this post to be an end-all, be-all how-to, because your mileage may vary!

Mostly? I struggled to find similar experiences when I was striving to learn a little more about the utility of the tool for trimming hooves. EasyCare had several blogs that vaguely mentioned it, I found one video on a strange site, and Karen Chaton's blog had some casual mention, also. By sharing my thought-process/experience, perhaps I can remedy that for future someones like me curious about the utility of a power tool for hoof trimming. 


Why I Chose This Tool

The market for angle grinders is a little intimidating for someone not fully versed in the world of power tools. I'm very capable with certain tools, but my expertise doesn't range far from those I use for certain projects. Angle grinders are not a tool I have needed before in my various creative pursuits.

I chose this angle grinder because
  1. My SO (a general contractor) recommends Makita over other brands.
  2. I wanted cordless because I didn't care to have a cord in the equation - in my mind, that's just asking for an accident. Also, I'm lazy and don't want to drag out an extension cord every time. 
  3. This model also has a paddle switch with a "safety". This means that once the safety is pressed into the larger switch, a mere release of pressure on the switch will turn the tool off. That's a great feature to have around horses.  
  4. And finally, I chose this model because, with the battery, it's only 6 pounds. That's pretty friendly to handle one-handed and even easier when using two.

Acclimating the Horses


Everything I read and all discussions with professionals who trim with a grinder said the same thing re: introducing it to your horses: Act like it's business as usual and you'll have minimal issues. So I did just that!

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Clearly stressed out about the noise of the angle grinder....not.

While I initially introduced Griffin to the tool alone first (knowing he, above the other two, would have no issue), I made a point of bringing Q and Stan into the barn shortly thereafter. I wanted Q and Stan to realize that my new toy wasn't going to hurt them by watching how much Griffin DIDN'T care. Seeing is believing and whatsuch.

To introduce the noise of the tool, I held it up for all of the horses to see and spoke aloud, "Okay. This is going to make noise. But you'll be okay. On the count of three, one, two, th-ree!" I said, giving a sing-song voice to "th-ree". Q and Stan balked a bit the first time, but Griffin (who flinched his first time but nothing more) stood with a hind foot cocked in relaxation.

Adding a mustang roll to his hoof. 

I then proceeded to walk to each horse with the tool running in one hand and a brush in the other and brushed them while the tool was running. Each horse immediately calmed with the association of brushing with the noise. I then touched each horses shoulder with the butt of the tool (still running), stroking down their legs with it. None of them reacted. Perfect!

From there, I dove straight into my normal trimming routine -  business as usual! The only thing I did differently from my typical routine to introduce the horses to the grinder was to hold their hooves between my knees as farriers do instead of putting them on the stand as I normally would. This was to allow for easy release of their feet if they didn't like the sensation of the tool on their hoof. It also allowed me to begin to figure out my technique with the grinder as it's a lot easier with two hands instead of one! By the time I finished with one foot on each of my horses, they allowed me to put their other feet on the stand to trim each remaining. (Below's video is Griffin's second session with the tool.)


I'm still working on technique, but I'm really pleased so far. The time saving is amazing, and I really feel like I have more finesse with the angle grinder than a rasp, despite my current rookie status with it. It's a lot easier to take "just a little more" off with the angle grinder than with the rasp.

For inquiring minds, yes, the angle grinder could absolutely result in "too much too quick" but only if you are leaving the tool stationary on the hoof. If you keep it constantly gliding over the area you're working on, it can be gentler than even a rasp can be.

Conclusions

The upfront cost of the grinder + battery (no charger because my SO already has one I can use), was moderate-high ($233.20), but the time savings afforded by trimming my horses with an angle grinder instead of my former non-power tool approach makes this endeavor more than worth it to me. I will still have a rasp on hand, but it will be nice to only replace it once a year or so instead of once every few months!

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Before and after the roll touch up. You can see an old abscess growing out on his heel.

My approach definitely isn't a common one, but I wanted to share it for anyone similar out there who is also considering this approach. When I scoured the internet for stories and experiences trimming with power tools, the results were few and far between. Finances aside, if I'd been able to find an account of another horse owner pursuing trimming with power tools like the story I've told here, I would have jumped into the fray a lot sooner than I did! I gain a lot from hearing others stories; I know mileage my vary and different solutions exist for everyone, but it's nice to see what is possible. Remember, I'm a scientist! I love building up observations and evidence on various topics so that I can reach my own conclusions based on that evidence - and a large sample size (many observations) is much more beneficial in this quest.

: : : : :

So, I'm curious, I live in a rural, remote part of West Virginia, my readership is by and large NOT like my area. Have any of you encountered hoof care professionals (or amateurs) who use power tools as a part of their routine? The only power tools our local farriers use routinely are dremels. I understand the difficulty of guaranteeing a client's horse will take to a power tool safely, but I'm sure some professionals have a short-list of clients they could trim this way. I feel like the practice may be more common among amateurs like me who don't have to worry about the liability of others? Anyone have a story to share on the topic?

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Learning to Slow Down (and Reaping Rewards)

When Q was diagnosed with a lesion in her LH suspensory late last summer, it felt like a gut punch. My mind immediately drudged up some silver linings though, primarily that I could take this time to slow down and get this mare back on a good page mentally. Q's horrible spooking habit has only worsened in recent years and with it her confidence. I made countless mistakes that led to it, and I am making every effort to resolve it now. 

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She's cute, but man, is she difficult. The night I took this was my breaking point.

The good thing about any mistake is that you can learn from it and prevent making it again. Some mistakes will be repeated before you can learn from them and others take longer to resolve, but it's always worth it in the end. In this situation, I'm having to dig deep mentally to resolve bad patterns I developed. It's a hard road to confront myself on certain things, but in order to improve my future endeavors with horses (and life, really) it's a road I'm happy to travel.

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Grateful to see her relaxed and stretching out and down instead of imitating a giraffe for once.

For me, the hardest step with Q has been having to put a hard stop on lofty goals I had with the mare. I've known for a long time that's what would be the best thing, but it was so hard to commit to slowing down! The suspensory diagnosis slammed me backward onto my ass and forced my hand. My innate perfectionist nature and drive to power forward was halted. As uncomfortable as this made me, I knew deep down it was a good thing and the right thing.

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Selfie following a positive session!

Bringing this little mare back around has been a process - it still is a process! But I am finding success.

The first step was changing up our tack so I could feel more secure riding through her spooks, and then deconstructing her spooking behavior to try to find some rhyme and reason to the when's and why's. Ultimately, the mare has learned that balking/spooking leads to less work - even if that reduction in work is temporary. She exhibits the behavior the most when we begin work, when things become "hard", and when she deems us "done".

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Friends?!

The more I've ignored her behavior in the past few months, the less she has presented it. Even her excessive overreactions to truly startling stimuli (deer bursting out of nowhere, dogs barking and lunging on their chains, etc.) are beginning to diminish to a more reasonable place.

My absence of reaction to her reactions has helped a ton, as has my mindset of continuing work to move her feet and perform the task at hand (sometimes with added tasks if she's being a pill). But on top of these things, the fact that I have not hit the turf due to one of her spooks has also made an impression on her, I think. (Please, oh please, let me not have jinxed myself just now.)  By not directly (nothing physical or verbal) or indirectly (falling off) reacting, I've taken a lot of the "fun" out of Q's behavior and robbed her of finding a reward in its execution.

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Just look at those relaxed ears!

The decrease in her spooking behavior is a sure-sign of success, but our ride this weekend was a huge indication that what I've been doing is exactly the right thing for her.

Lauren, Stan, Q and I set out on a 25°F blustery winter ride on the rail trail on Sunday. We tackled 16 miles over 2½ hours. Stan led 13 of these miles, but Q did step up to the plate and lead for two consecutive miles in the middle and then again for the final mile.

She was forward, with ears pricked, and body relaxed the majority of time she led the way. She certainly scanned her surroundings for threats, as she always does, but it was with less gusto than she typically exhibits.

I was absolutely blown away. It wasn't the biggest achievement ever for her (hi, OD 100), but at this point in our relationship, it was monumental. To have a relaxed mare on the rail trail (through spots I distinctly remember having multiple disagreements with her in the past) was such a great feeling!

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At our turn around point 8 miles in.

I mentioned to Lauren during the ride that I had no real goal for when Q would return to endurance this year. I may take her to some dressage stuff before we race again. Ideally, I'd love to say by next fall (because that is a super generous timeline), but honestly, I don't know. It's up to Q. I don't have huge expectations of her at the moment.

No expectations is kind of a beautiful place to be though. Shy of being maimed or some other horrible catastrophe, no expectations means I can end every ride happy about something.

Slowing down was hard to embrace, but I'm really grateful to be in the spot I'm in now.

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Leading along the road for the 0.15-mile between the
rail trail and back road to the barn.

So, what about you? Do you have a story about a time you slowed down a process with your horse that led to a lot of rewards later on? Did you find it easy to slow down or are you like me and struggled with it at first?

Monday, November 27, 2017

MDHT Fall Starter #1 Pro Photos

Thanks, Emma, for alerting me to this sale - I'd overlooked the email!

When these went on sale and part of my purchase was guaranteed to help wounded warriors, I couldn't help but finally buy some pro prints from Loch Moy on Sept. 10. We competed in the elementary division (finishing second) and schooled BN XC for our first time.

I have so much to improve on still, but I also have so much to be grateful for. I trained this horse from the ground up all by myself, I ride alone 99% of the time, and I am very largely self-taught with all things jumping - that we went out and conquered this childhood dream thrills me beyond words.

His happy ears and attempts to pull my arms off in his sheer excitement (so evident in the photos) say it all! This is only the beginning 💙

He wasn't super impressed with the height, but that's okay!

He still looked super cute

I love that even though this round was so scrappy, he was there for me and powered through

Happy relaxed ears!

I hope he's always so tidy with his hind end.

Turn and burn...or something. Mostly just awkward AF

So consistent with his little knees <3

First competition bank! He absolutely charged to this which made me nervous lol

Grif was very proud of himself afterward and attempted to throttle up more gears than I was ready for... in due time buddy!

His left ear on my asking if we seriously have to slow it down a few notches

His right ear on my asking if we seriously have to slow it down a few notches. Yes, Grif, seriously.

Now his determined/annoyed ears because I'm holding him back so strongly...
Sorry for the total lack of release, dude, but we are not ready to gallop pell-mell around this course yet!

Still annoyed, but at least I gave him a nanometer release

This jump is actually an elementary fence (the only elem XC photo they had)and you can see how much more relaxed we
both are. This level is below what we school so I was happy to let him power through a little more.

My face notes my nerves here... Grif was foot-perfect though! He's such a good boy even when we disagree on pacing.

Looking down at Griffin and telling him good boy...though I should be looking up toward the next jump!
Look at his tidy hind end though

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Introducing Taiga

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It's okay little girl, you'll get less nervous about posing for epic photos with time.

Welcome, little Taiga, to the family!

My Black Friday this year consisted of spending 9-10 hours in the car to pick this little lady up and bring her home. She traveled really well until the mountains when I misjudged how early to move her from her crate in the back to the front for the windiest road ever. She tossed her kibble (and then tried to eat it, ew) before I could get her cleaned up and settled in the front with me for the rest of the ride. She insisted on cuddling with me in the quietest way possible and I might have died a little bit from the cute. Best Black Friday ever? I think so.

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Sleepy eyes.

Taiga was born on August 29, though I've been waiting for her for much longer. 

See, it has been my plan since Kenai entered my life to bring along a second dog when he was somewhere between the ages of 6 and 8 (he will be 8 in March). I love the training process, but I knew training a second husky to be as wonderful as Kenai is (a very focused 2½ year process that has been maintained since) would be expedited if he served as a mentor to the second. And that's exactly what we're doing!

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Meeting one of my parents cats. He was just as interested in her as she was in him. And no, he didn't swat her at all.

As with Kenai, the name Taiga was one I put a lot of thought into. I wanted a name that gave a nod to the breed's origins in the northern latitudes, but one that also had some sort of ecological basis because I am an outdoors-loving person and a scientist.

Enter: Taiga. A name that came to me out of thin air one day in the summer as I pondered what this little girl's name would be. I recalled that Taiga was an ecotype of higher latitudes, but couldn't remember any more detail than that. A quick Google search to confirm my recollection of the word's definition revealed that I was not only correct, but the name was perfect in more ways than I could have fathomed.

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She is already putting herself in her crate after only 1 day with us.

Taiga 
(ˈtīɡə) noun - the sometimes swampy coniferous forest of high northern latitudes, especially that between the tundra and steppes of Siberia and North America. Origin: Mongolian (taīga).

The word taiga not only nods to the northern latitudes of the breed's origin, but is itself an ecological term referring to coniferous forests. I love coniferous forests of higher elevations - we have many islands of them remaining in our higher elevations of West Virginia and they're my favorite places in the whole state. A few of them are even swampy, which is an incredibly rare ecotype in the world - especially at my latitude.

Further, the word is Mongolian in origin. This surprised me and absolutely thrilled me to learn because I have a closet-fascination with Mongolia. The landscape is beautiful and wild, and much of their culture is steeped deeply in horses. I dream of traveling there to ride horses and camels across the steppe. Additionally, the eagle hunters of Mongolia have always garnered my utmost respect and awe.

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Recalling. Look at this big safe space to practice being off leash! We've got nearly 100 acres of similar such spaces.

Not only does this name have a perfect meaning and history, it's got a hard and soft syllable that will facilitate her learning it. It doesn't sound weird when yelled (for when she inevitably doesn't recall immediately and I need to scream it across far distances), it can be spoken excitedly (in praise) and as a curse (when she's misbehaving).  Bonus? Other than the long I (ī), it doesn't sound like Kenai at all, so the two dogs won't become confused.

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Smaller than Kenai's paws at this age by leaps and bounds. Both of her parents are smaller than Kenai's.

Taiga is from the same breeder as Kenai. While some may boggle at this because of the issues I've had with Kenai's knees, what happened with Kenai is NOT the breeder's fault. He has never before had a dog with issues like Kenai's. This breeder has been AMAZING at communication since I first messaged him about Kenai in 2010. He is a wonderful human and an incredibly responsible breeder of over 18 years. And in full disclosure, he even donated to Kenai's surgeries in 2015 and offered me a free puppy at a later date if I so desired - that puppy is Taiga.

Throughout the breeding of Taiga's parents, her birth, the puppy selection process, and time until I brought her home, the breeder has been AMAZING. I knew the morning after her parents had bred, I was notified within days of the birth, and I received weekly updates full of photos of the puppies thereafter. On top of that, he agreed to hang on to Taiga for nearly an extra month for me because of my Mexico vacation as I didn't want a new puppy to be stressed with a pet sitter or the pet sitter stressed with the new puppy's routine during my absence.

Look how dramatically she's faded! Even the breeder was impressed.
He said there is a chance her first shed could reveal a black and white coat. Time will tell.

The whole process was incredible and I can't thank the breeder enough for being so wonderful. I'm so very thrilled with this little girl (the smallest in her litter!) I enjoyed meeting not only her parents when I went to pick her up, but also Kenai's (!) and one of Kenai's brothers. (I picked Kenai up from the breeder's workplace due to some tight scheduling so I didn't get to meet his parents in 2010.) Every one of the breeder's dogs  was in great health. They've got a safely fenced yard to enjoy all of the time together in addition to their own kennels (though turnout is organized in certain groups to guarantee/prevent breedings as desired).

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"I think I love it?" Taiga, probably

Taiga is as sweet as she could possibly be and such a quick learner (a double-edged sword for sure!) She's already played in a bit of snow for the first time and has been on several "big" (~1-mile) walks in our neighborhood. I'm so fortunate to live in the middle of nowhere on top of a mountain where we are the only full-time residents. There isn't traffic and there are rarely other dogs; it's the perfect place to teach Taiga how to be off leash safely. She's already recalling well after only 2 days together - freeze dried chicken liver treats facilitate this, of course.

I'm so excited to inundate this little girl with a lifetime of adventure. A winter of hiking and skiing will be a great start! I hope none of you get tired of puppy pictures...there will be an inundation of them the next few months!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Mexico Travels

I've been in Mexico for the better part of this month. One of Dave's best friends and his wife live [t]here in a small town called Jalcomulco in the state of Veracruz. It's a little adventure town in the mountains with rock climbing and a class V whitewater river. If it weren't for the difference in vegetation, language, and culture, it could be mistaken for Fayetteville, WV on most days. Green abounds.

The people of this little town are beyond friendly. And while the culture in this town is much of what I learned when I was in Spanish courses in HS (I learned just as much about the culture of each Spanish-speaking country as I did grammar and speaking), Jalco has some unique tendencies all its own (as any place does). My favorite of these, is that the locals communicate with various whistles before speaking if the person they're seeking isn't in sight. Different whistles can mean anything from, "Hey, how's it going?" to "Anyone home?" or "Let's go do something!" and those are just to name a few.

We've left Jalco to see adjacent towns like Coatepec and Actopan, but mostly, we ended up staying pretty local. This part of Mexico doesn't get much tourism by gringos, which is sad because it is absolutely GORGEOUS. Below, enjoy a chronological journey through our trip via my photos (all cell phone). We head home later today. It's been a fun few weeks.

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Life in a hammock...that's basically been my trip. This is the communal kitchen/living room area in their house.
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Enjoying the hammock on the first night while Michele, Roberto and Dave play music
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More hammock the following AM
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And more music before walking up to the climbing wall
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View of Jalcomulco from the climbing crag
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A need treehouse fort Sohoda (who developed the climbing area) built
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Cerro Brujo, the climbing wall outside Jalco
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Where Sohoda sleeps; his family have a house in town but he prefers this
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Sohoda and friend playing instruments while Dave and Roberto gear up to climb.
I have a rotator cuff injury and sadly cannot climb.
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Up, up and away!
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One of many dogs I've encountered on my trip. This girl was standoffish but still wanted to
sleep on my foot!
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They weren't sure if they'd max out the 70 meter rope, so Dave went up on Sohoda's
kitchen roof to lower Roberto. Rope wasn't maxed out fortunately, but better safe than sorry.
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More time in a hammock while they climbed. 
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And another evening of music playing at the house.
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The donkey parked really close to our bedroom window. There are a lot of working donkeys around here and they bray 24/7
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Enjoying the early sunshine
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Sun beaming through the kitchen in the morning. Everything is open air - no glass windows!
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We had to make a fire to help with bugs at the crag. The no see ums are no fucking joke down here. You should see my legs...
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Such beautiful vistas! 75%+ of those trees are mango trees by the way. Jalco is a ecotourism and mango town.
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Jalco and fires to burn the "trash" that are fallen leaves. They've got no concept of compost and just burn the understory.
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Such a beautiful crag area. Sohoda has done an outstanding job.
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Roberto and Michele's house. Rooms segmented out like pie slices below, open common area above (where hammocks are)
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Sugar cane to the right, mango trees to the left
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Gorgeous sunset vistas from the car on our way to Coatepec
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Um yeah. Rattlesnake in the tequila....
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And a....king snake? Roberto is not drinking the viper tequila, but mezcal, another agave liquor
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Tacos al pastor and a corona
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Tacos al pastor....more on this later...
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Plaza within a bar we went to
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It was a chilly 64°F this night, hence my jacket.
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Pork rinds and tamarind margaritas - so freaking delicious!
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The biggest freaking chelada-mix beer ever.
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Streets of Jalco
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Dave deciding which meat and cheese to order before going in, running his Spanish by me
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The three amigos one morning
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Puto = bitch. Dave and Roberto end many sentences in conversation to one another with "puto!" so it was only
 appropriate to pose with the graffiti lolol
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A hobbit-esque home near the swimming hole we went to
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Poza Azul (Blue Hole) local springfed swimming hole. Totally and completely gorgeous
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Nature's infinity pool!
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It certainly didn't suck ;-)
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The drop here is deceiving, we were a good 30' above the next pool
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Swimming selfies
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Enjoying the cool escape from the heat - this redhead doesn't mesh well with hot weather!
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An indigenous woman is causing quite the political stir in Mexico much like Bernie Sanders did in the
 US - we went to a part of one of her rallies in Jalco
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Me. In a hammock. Again. 
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Michele is a ceramist and taught me a bit about throwing pots
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She made it look so easy!
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Michele's quick example bowl on the left and my bowl on the right...
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Mine was far from perfect, but it was okay for my first time!
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Not going to fire it and take it home as their kiln isn't complete, but it would suffice as a dog bowl if I did.
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Beautiful river views....
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One of my favorite views of the whole trip! From a restaurant/wedding venue. They also have zip lining...one of the
zip is actually right in front of me in this photo but you can't see it due to the trees/clouds
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Enjoying the view. We ate dinner right at this table.
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The wedding area.
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Similar topography to WV for sure.
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A poinsettia relative...
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One of many puppies encountered this week <3
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Beans cooking in a crock outside someone's front door in Jalco
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Local swimming hole in a pool between rapids
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Roberto and Michele's backyard complete with pine apple, lemongrass, aloe, and other yumminess
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View of the upstairs common area from the back yard
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And again...
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Michele's ceramic studio
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Nice complete view of the upstairs area.
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Tacos al pastor...a lot of pork that is repeatedly marinaded as it's rotated into the flame
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And then they shave off the outside to be served a little at a time as they're ready
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Roberto and Dave freaking love this place
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Evidence of the unhealthy Mr Taco love of tacos al pastor
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Neat composting toilet Sohoda built for the cerveceria (brewery)
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Mike (originally from New Orleans) showing Roberto and Dave his cerveceria outside of Coatepec
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He and his wife have done a beautiful job!!
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There's even an outside area (featuring one of his wife's paintings) for bands, this was a local jazz group
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Yet another vista of Jalco
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Nubes (noo-behs, clouds in English) one of few huskies I saw on this trip...his "owner" would leave him tied and crying
without water most of the day (he'd dump it out in his distress) and I started taking him water and going over to console him
It isn't easy being a dog in a culture that sees animals more as things that serve a function than companions. This guy tore
at my heartstrings a lot. He was a total sweetheart - just a typical husky who needed more exercise than he was provided
and acted out as a result.
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Another evening jam sesh
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Eating pizza!
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Bunch of climbing friends at dinner another night. Many of our dinners were on tables like this in the middle of the street
in Jalco outside of someone's home. They'd take your order and cook for you in their kitchen and serve you on the street.
We brought our own beer. Dave and I ate like kings most evenings for a whopping $2.50-5 total for us both.
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Gecko on my yoga mat
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A butterfly in a butterfly garden
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Unfortunately all of the orchids in this garden had just completed their blooming period so there weren't any magnificent
flowers to enjoy, it was beautiful all the same.
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Near Actopan above El Descabezadero, the birth place of rivers
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Yep. That's a waterfall basically coming out of the middle of a wall of rock...
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Another view. Waterfalls to the right and left of this staircase
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With the water coming out of the wall....
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And behind us
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Loving the water and the cooler temperatures
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Cheesin'
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So uniquely beautiful
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Lesser falls coming out of the same wall of rock further downstream, that is a swimming hole at the base
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People for scale
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Bizarre unreal looking flowering structures on a plant
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A very cool series of cascading pools elsewhere in the park
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There were about 7 hottub sized pools where you could sit and enjoy the water.
 If someone in the top one pees in the water though everyone below will sit in it we joked.
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Bananas
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The biggest waterfall...see the trail to the right? Yeah, we got a bit wet...
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But it was so cool! Roberto and Michele
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Dave and I
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Always climbing something somewhere...
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Picturesque swimming area above the falls
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There was NO ONE up here. So obviously, we took advantage of the quiet and had a peaceful swim
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Look closely and you'll see my stark whiteness as I launch off a small rope swing into the water
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One more parting shot of the waterfall as we headed out
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Central church near the central square in Actopan