Saturday, September 29, 2012

Just to make you laugh...

Catching up...with photos!

Blister Swamp; this is where we planted balsam fir trees to help revive the forest that once was
ASpiranthes orchid in the swamp
Pounding in a fence post for an exclosure for the balsam fir
to keep out deer and cattle
Rolling out the wire fence
Tree in its exclosure
Fence my office built a decade or so ago to protect the core of the
swamp that is home to many globally rare plants
Sunrise at my house
Another view of sunrise from the house looking down the valley at the rising fog
Looking west from the top of Spruce Knob (WV's highest point at 4,863 ft)
It was so windy!!
Me crossing the Via Ferrata bridge at Nelson Rocks Preserve
The bridge!
Looking toward Otter Creek Wilderness area and the Blackwater Canyon from Olson Firetower lookout
Another from the tower view with some post-camera processing

Friday, September 28, 2012

Film Friday: Visions of Mustang

I'm fortunate enough to know some really, really incredible people. To celebrate the achievement of one of those people, today I request that you watch the above YouTube trailer. More information available on their Kickstarter page about the project. It was funded and produced and is now a finalist for the Banff Film Festival. Congratulations Daniel & team!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Just workin' on my fitness

Life has been whirlwind busy from one weekend to the next lately. I’m not complaining by any means, I’m just not quite sure where the time goes! I’ve had two really awesome-fun weekends in a row. My work weeks haven’t been too shabby either between getting out into the field and getting out and away from the office for meetings.

Due to the advent of busyness I’ve not finished the book as soon as I’d hoped. I’m still about 5 chapters away actually – like half the book. Fortunately, Mel summarized a lot of it in numerous posts so I know sort of what’s coming up in the book. Thus far I’ve been in more of the exercise part of the book and no diet stuff thus far.

I’ve been making an effort to do high intensity interval training work outs 3 times a week for 30 minutes or so. I got in several of these workouts two weeks ago and one last week. But then I was in the field for two days, on my feet and on the move all day pursuing some semi-strenuous (fence building, post pounding) activities. I was so tired upon arrival home after those days that I just couldn’t bring myself to do anything else. Exhausted. Utterly and completely exhausted. Walking around in a swamp is sort of like walking on sand in that you put forth a lot more effort to move yourself over unstable ground. I ended up even being a little sore – but I’m totally okay with that! && then this past weekend was full of hiking and climbing and exploring and adventuring...more activity and thus no HIIT workouts. The cardio workouts for me aren’t so much to become some crazy athlete so much as I want to be healthier. Heart disease is super mondo bad on my dad’s side of the family and combating that is important. Additionally, building good fitness now will help with this ski season.

While I haven’t gotten to the diet chapter(s) yet, I have been tweaking my diet trying to eat better. There are so many different ways and trends to fuel your body. I have a lactose sensitivity, which means I tend to get sick if I eat things that are excessively rich in lactose (cheesecake is NOT my friend, nor are mass amounts of cheese, yogurt, ice cream – milk itself has never been an issue, strangely). Additionally, my stomach does not handle high levels of grease (I get sick in the same way I do for high lactose). So high fat/grease and rich lactose have never been major players in my diet. I feel much better without them.

In a quest to feel even better I’ve been toying with gluten free and less grains/sugars/etc. The idea of a paleo (veggies, meats, fruits) intrigues the hell out of me. But until I move and start my pantry/kitchen over again, this would be impossible as all things I crave are at a very easy reach right now. But I’ve really been trying to incorporate more gluten-free and paleo-esque things into my diet. Its healthier eating overall and I really like it. I get full and don’t feel guilty about it and my body doesn’t feel burdened down by too much heavy, “bad” food. Think lots of quinoa and tofu or meat and veggies and eggs all combined in some way with some yummy seasoning/spices. That’s a lot of what I’ve been consuming as of late. Its pretty quick and easy to cook usually, and overall really healthy! I recognize that I don’t need to lose weight. That would be silly, but feeling awesome all the time is a pretty good goal to have, I think.

So there you have it. A brief update. I’m sure there is more to be said and I will have more to say, but with the whirlwind that is work + school + horses & life, my scattered mind can only come up with these thoughts currently.

West Virginia from one of my favorite [secret] vistas this past Sunday. Leaves they are a changin'

Friday, September 21, 2012

Ah, so busy!

Unlike me to be this busy and not crank out at least one post...but, c'est la vie lately.

  • The odd, slight swelling in the back of Q's hind fetlocks appears to be her stocking up slightly in the field. (I noticed at the endurance ride that she would stock up in the hinds before the fronts. This swelling is ever so slight, just enough for me to notice something isn't normal.) She hasn't been ridden for more than 5-10 minutes at a walk for 2(?) weeks now. I work her from the ground a lot and have ponied her and have yet to see her take even the slightest of mis-steps indicating that she is uncomfortable in any way. Nor is she uncomfortable to me palpating the area.
She looked cute in the western
saddle during our 10 minute walk
the other evening.

  • Q's back appears fine other than the hair growing back patchily white. I'd never spent so much time assessing her muscles until now, so its hard to tell if anything is abnormal. She's never been sensitive to the lightest or more forceful palpitations or massages to the area. I'm truly beginning to believe that the solution will be having a better pad that breathes. While I've had no experience with a heat rash scenario, others have suggested that it looks much like things of that sort they have experienced. Her lack of being lame, showing any signs of discomfort, and never faltering even when under saddle lead me to believe it isn't a saddle fit issue so much as a heat-friction issue. Because she has shown no signs of discomfort I'm going to start riding her again and just see what happens. It seems silly to not ride a horse that shows zero signs of discomfort or ill-health, no? 
  • I'm ponying Griffin more and working with him. I plan on taking him along for a fairly significant trail ride today while I ride the ever-tolerant Mayer. He doesn't respect me in the saddle like he does on the ground, so we shall work on that today. He gets rather nippy to both rider and saddled horse when he's ponied; this must stop. Guy wants a job so badly...
  • I have thoroughly been enjoying the beautiful WV autumn weather and was fortunate enough to spend two days in the field this week. Between last weekend in Canaan and this week in the field I have spent a lot of time in my favorite parts of WV - high elevation Appalachians. Watching the sun rise and the rays kiss the changing leaves 'good morning' has been wonderful. This is the time of year I absolutely live for. It is beyond beautiful and beyond words.
  • My field work took me to a globally unique swamp full of very rare plant species. There are less than 6 places like this in the world. It has been incredibly rewarding doing work there and learning from some top botanists and geologists in the country/world. 

Hope your weekend is beautiful and fun. One day soon I will blog again - for realz.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Face Game

Hope your weekend was as full of laughs and good times as ours!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Film Friday: At Liberty!

Because I'm not riding Q until the Woolback arrives (which hasn't even been ordered yet because my bank is being a snot), I've decided to work on other things with her...and Griffin had to be included, too!

This was the first time I'd had them in there. I WISH I'd captured the first few go arounds on camera. Hindsight can be a bitch. Sigh. But you'll have to take my word for it when I say that on the first few rounds they both stopped in unison when I asked them to and stood in the middle with me. It slowly peetered out as they got worked up. So we're back to doing solo sessions - especially with Q - to work on hercommitment to doing what I want her to do. She gets worked up and doesn't want to listen.

I hope to really work with them both at liberty this winter a lot. They're both more than capable when worked one-on-one. This duo thing though... It'll come.

Additionally, ground work like this will hopefully help Q form a better bond with me. She's shown that she can do it, but then as soon as that damn gelding in the field squeals for her, she goes to pieces. Okay, I lied, not to pieces, but her focus definitely flies out the window! More to work on.

: : : : :

Griffin is getting a lot more work lately. I need to work the belly off him, but I'm not too concerned about it as he's not anywhere near obese, just has a bit of a belly from not doing a ton. I'm more interested in engaging his mind and connecting concepts right now. Getting him to realize that things on the ground can relay to things under saddle. Things like moving off the pressure from the butt of the lunge whip when it is placed in different places along his side. He gives great when you ask him to flex left and right with the bit in. He can't quite figure out how to back up though with the pressure. He still gets super annoyed about the fact that the thing in his mouth is putting pressure on his mouth in funny places. So he tosses his head awhile which makes it hard for short me (as he's getting bigger) to keep pressure in place. He will stop from the same pressure, he just hasn't realized that he should back up if the pressure remains. He's getting there though.

He did VERY well for the trimming of his tootsies last night. I was proud of him. And proud of myself because now that I'm noticing more of how his hoof wants to grow, where the flaring is, etc. I think I'm doing a much better job of trimming him. He licked and chewed so much after each foot yesterday. AND, he was sound walking on the gravel in the driveway after I was done. SCORE.

That's a new thing. Well, I'd never tested it a ton after I've trimmed before, but I am now. I did Q last weekend before a 6.5 mile ride with friends. Backed her toes up more than I usually do - not by much, but I'm timid so it was more for us - and she was sound on gravel. And now Griffin.

In the past, when my old trimmer did Griffin he was sore, sore, sore on gravel. Honestly, the last time he was trimmed by that trimmer he was sore for THREE DAYS. On any non-grassy surface. It was ridiculous. And the trigger for me doing my horses on my own. So the fact that I took off as much as I did on him yesterday (I did trim him significantly, no being timid about it) and he was sound on gravel was huge. His soundness and reaction to each foot being done was the biggest reward ever. I'm sure I'll encounter bumps along the way, but I'm finally starting to feel confident in what I'm doing.

: : : : :

This will be a weekend full of ski patrol fun as I go to refresh my OEC certification. I'm really excited to see all my winter friends and picnic with them. The weather looks to be perfect, too! Very fall-esque. Time to pull out my jackets!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Throwing in the towel...for now.

Or maybe it should be "throwing in the towel...again" as I do have a post from last summer when Orion hurt himself that was me throwing in the towel on the Ride Between the Rivers.

This time the "injury" isn't so bad. And we still might go to the Kentucky Stampede. But I'm going to give Q a good week plus - maybe two weeks? - off from riding. I need this thing with her back to heal and quit flaking. It seems to be good then when I don't see her for a day or two I return to this:

Top photo - what I see when I arrive after getting her out of the field; Bottom photo - right after brushing it off some

Its silly. The hair is coming back in - predominantly white, but at least its coming back.

She has moved out freely under saddle and lunging this whole time. She has never flinched in sign of pain or otherwise this whole time. Her appetite is good. She is forward. She is alert. She is otherwise unbothered and affected by these mystery spots. (And yes, I know she will respond to pain because in my quest to heal her scratches she is VERY sensitive about me rubbing in medicines etc. to alleviate and fix the problem, even when I'm super gentle and slow with it she's grumpy.)

But I can't ignore that these spots occur right where the saddle hits. The hair is likely growing back in white due to a saddle fit issue. I'm going to pull a trick the packers taught me in TN tonight to see if I can figure out a little more what's going on with how the saddle sits on her back. I'm going to take an excessive number of photos, too. I've been scouring the interwebz reading my butt off studying up on as many potential problems/solutions I can. Freakin' mystery. Why do horses always do this to us? I just want to give her a halter that will help her speak like Dug and the other dogs in Up! Then this wouldn't be so hard. Grumble, grumble, grumble.

The Woolback pad will be ordered and hopefully arrived by the time she's healed. I'm going ahead and getting the inserts with it. Whether or not I use them is still up for debate, but I figure better go ahead and get them now. And yes, I recognize that a thicker pad won't necessarily help the saddle issue if its truly a poor-fitting saddle. In most cases a thicker pad augments the problem from what I've read. But if her issue is in part due to skin sensitivity from detergent and has been worsened by the saddle/riding now...then the Woolback should help her - I mean, it should help period once I figure stuff out. We've been riding with thin AP square, quilted Roma pads. Pretty much as thin as it gets.

Part of me wonders if she didn't get this prior to the race because I was using my old leather girth that led to the saddle sliding all over creation when she would get really sweaty (as we work hills all the time since flat land is harder to come by here unless I ride the old railroad grade). So maybe because the saddle actually stays put with the Coolback girth... Soooo many possibilities! Grumble. I have a love-hate relationship with puzzles like this.

Oh, I don't know that I ever mentioned it on here... Q could care less about having a crupper on. Good to know for the super steep rides when I may need it in the future.

So yes, no riding for a week or two. Lunging: yes. Ponying: yes. A good time to see how she will do with ponying. I have yet to try her. Maybe this will be a big issue and lesson for her... We'll see. Mayer could use some miles. Q could use the exercise. A match? We shall see!

If the Kentucky Stampede doesn't happen I'll be a little sad, but its far more important to me to figure this out and make sure Q isn't hurting at all. She's such an incredible mare I would hate to hurt her and not get to continue our adventures. Here's to the puzzle being solved!!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Fitness and Flares

Thanks to Mel, and this book, I have begun a fitness program. I'm not an unhealthy person by any means, but I've been feeling like I should do a little more for myself...especially as I put so much work into my animals' fitness. Q especially, she carries my butt around and puts up with me, the least I can do is be in shape enough to keep up with her and help her out! I'm really excited about getting into everything and feeling good. I miss my competitive swimming days. I felt like such a badass being so strong and fit and ready for anything. I want that back.

Oh, the days of being bizzarrely fit. I miss swimming...
&& those Aviators.

Its going to be a rough journey in the beginning, but I'm really determined to keep with it this time (Mel, you've totally convinced me...and as I read more and more into this book I'm even more convinced!).

And part of me keeping with it is being accountable to a larger audience - you, the reader. I will update as time goes on my progress; I've started, and that's the most important thing. I know things will evolve a bit here in the first two weeks as I read the book, so more on my rider/skier ('cause YES ski season is imminent!) fitness program as I continue!

: : : : :

I had such an "oh duh" this week with my horses' feet. This whole learning to trim thing is a process - much as trimming is a process and not an "immediate fix". I've slowly taught myself one concept at a time, doing little things as I go along, never doing an excess, always being rewarded by the licking and chewing comfort of my horses after a trim.

She's got a fairly balanced natural stance.
 Both of my horses feet are in pretty good shape compared to most horses around my area. I'm lucky in that aspect. Q's especially are really phenomenal when compared to others. And I think because I'm accustomed to seeing such extreme feet that need so much in the way of...well, everything, I don't notice the same errors on my own horses' feet. For instance, flares! Griffin's are more noticeable, and I know that they are there, but I'm trying to let his feet grow a bit more than I would normally just to see what kind of hoof he wants to grow on his own. This way I can have a heads up on what is normal for him now and know what I need to remedy to help him grow a better hoof.

Q's flaring though? Very minor, but definitely noticeable. I'm ashamed in myself for not noticing it sooner! Its slight, and its on the lateral side of each front foot and the medial side of each back foot. She's had minor cracks in her front right since I had her and its absolutely because of the flare that occurs there, it became SO obvious to me when I started looking at it the other day. The flare is causing the stress and thus the crack. DUH, Liz. Le sigh.

Lol @ Kenai
 Overall I'm paying more attention to medio-lateral balance in their feet now. It was a concept that blew by me before, but suddenly the light has decided to shine through and I get it. Better late than never, but honestly? Not so late really. I've fully taken over trimming their feet since mid-June. How many trim cycles have there been since then? Three? Maybe? Its not like their feet have grown into horrible masses of disarray!

I know I'm helping Q out a lot. Griffin is content, but its a little harder to notice what is great for him and not-so-great as he isn't in full work under saddle like Miss Q. Q's feet are awesome, but she was tender on gravel when I brought her home. I tweaked her diet. She got better. I trimmed her routinely. She got better. Then after the endurance ride I had tweaked her feed again, she got worse on pea gravel than she'd been. I removed all sugar from her diet. She got better. I trimmed her some more and kept up with training rides completely bare...  And the other day? Do you know what we did the other day?!  WE GALLOPED ON GRAVEL! Like, next-size-up-from-pea-sized gravel. Your typical road gravel. BOOM. (Okay, so it was for like a ¼-mile, but still pretty sweet!) No issues. No tenderness the next day. Win!

: : : : :

Annnnnnddd finally, I've decided I will likely not do the 50 in October at the Kentucky Stampede. I don't want to put myself through the mental and physical wringer of getting her and myself ready by making certain we get proper training days under our belts before the ride. I want to play more. I want to put more time into Griffin. I want to work more on my own fitness program. And I really don't want to break the monthly budget I'm trying to keep myself on - which would be hard to do as I plan to go ahead and buy the Woolback pad for Q in hopes that its superiority to our cotton pads will help with her skin sensitivity issues.

All of these things snowball into not doing the 50. But I do plan to do the 25 and potentially a 15 mile fun ride the next day depending on how things go. I think a two day thing would be fun.

50s will come. I can't wait for them to come. I have no desire to ever be a top finisher. Ever. I just want to be a finisher who does the distance. It all stems back to being a kid... I was seriously this crazy little girl who dreamed of traveling everywhere on my horse. I wanted to go absolutely everywhere - no matter how many days it took me. For me it wasn't about speed so much as doing it on my horse. And I still harbor dreams of traveling across the country on my horse like Linny Kenney did a few years ago. And who remembers Flash? A Disney Channel original movie where a boy in love with a horse rides through a few different states to get to his dad? Its totally on YouTube for those who don't remember. I think this movie is to blame for a lot of my cross-country horse dreams.

Okay, now I want to go watch that movie again...writing this post has come to a screeching halt. Nostalgia's like that though.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The winner is....

I #'d everyone from 1-9 from the latest to the most recent entered - logically.

And the winner was:

I hope this is only showing up blurry because I'm on my laptop?

The winner is Miss Carly! congratulations, lady, we will be in touch about your halter for Skip!

And a random photo of Kenai who is currently begging me to throw his squeaky ball while I write this.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Film Friday: Slow-mo videos of Q in Renegades!

We got our rear boots in the mail yesterday. So logically I had to go get video of her showing them off!

** Don't forget the GIVEAWAY! The winner will be chosen tomorrow evening! Just comment on this post to be entered in my blog giveaway. You can choose a hand-tied halter in the color of your choice or a hand-knitted hat in color/yarn type/style of your choice! **

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Griffin: the beginning to now

BLOG GIVEAWAY ENDS SEPT. 8 - ENTER NOW - all you have to do is click that bold link <-- and comment, its so simple! And who wouldn't want/need another halter or a hand knit hat (in any color or design)?! Swear both halters and hats will hold up, folks!  I' have hats that I wear regularly that I knitted 5 years ago that show no signs of wear!

: : : : :

Q's post was so much easier to write than Griffin's!

I started to look through old blog entries with Griffin to see what goals were with him so I could note on them, but it became too daunting. He was honestly so much of a clean slate that to remark on every tiny little change would be like writing a book on “how to start the young horse”. I think the biggest noticeable change for this little guy is his health, his growth, his developing personality. Yes, he has learned a lot, and I will note everything he has accomplished so far, if anything, just for my own later recollection.

Health: Obviously this is the most noticeable change in my little guy.  He came to me a few hundred pounds underweight and his nutrition requirements weren’t being met on quite the level they needed to be. He immediately had a pelleted grain introduced to his hay regimen and some added vitamins and minerals. In addition, he had time to spend in a stall in a barn out of the elements for a few days so he could “get a jump start” on his new life.

As time wore on and his diet was steady, he really started to pack on the pounds. His coat still took forever to shed out due to poor nutrition in his past, but once it did, he shed out into a nice, shiny, healthy, summer coat.

A summer of grass and running and playing over 40+ acres with his little herd helped him out so much. His buddy Oliver, a year older, has been a great playmate – a very tolerant playmate as Griffin is quite the bother!

August 12, 2012
August 31, 2012; stretched out a bit awkwardly...but its the best I could get with flies/dog pestering everyone around

Throughout his time of increasing weight and health I worked several days a week with Griffin. The horse that couldn’t pick up his feet now picks up his feet without incident and lets me trim them. He’s developed some hardy little feet, though I do hope to work on getting his heels down just a bit.

He can still be impatient if left to stand for too long tied, but he hasn’t dug to China yet. He’s relatively well-mannered when left tied for any length of time. He is very respectful of me and my space when I’m working around him when he is tied or otherwise. He moves as I ask and doesn’t pester me to death. Quite the little gentleman.

He’s become a little king of the round-pen and long-line work. He knew how to go in a circle in the beginning, but stop? Go? Speed up? Slow down? Turn? On command?!?! Concepts that just blew by him. Now he is a champion! I doubt Q will top his responsiveness.

He has remained soft to pressure throughout everything and we’ve been able to apply this into our work with driving. We began driving with just a side-pull halter but have progressed to bit and bridle. He didn’t like the bit at all in the beginning. But now he accepts it like an old pro. He began as not-so-soft with it but has since realized what I’m asking for and has returned to giving to the pressure with nary a signal from my hand. Sometimes its like he reads my mind. He flexes well to both sides with or without the bit and bridle, and he accepts a saddle without any issue – but he always has. We’ve put a variety of objects on him or around him since the beginning. He may give a wide eye, but he trusts people to not hurt him no matter what our crazy whims. (Though he still thinks I might be a monster when I dance spazztically around him. I’m not sure if this is his version of an insult to my dancing or what…)

He’s the most loving and willing horse I’ve ever been around. Despite not graining him for months now, he still is the first to come (and now the only to come) when I whistle for the horses in the field. He follows me when I bring Q in and mopes at the gate when he is left standing in the field. He soaks up any and all attention. He’s the most willing little worker ever. It was hard for me to be a leader and not a best friend to him at first, but the benefits of it are paying off and then some now. He tries whatever I ask of him and is a very honest little guy. Cross that stream? Okay. Walk through that scary dark tunnel looking area? Okay. Jump over this little pipe? Okay. Trot those scary ground poles? Okay. Go over this strange striped jump thing you have out here? Okay. 

That last one was a really big surprise to me the other day. Jeanna was out while I was getting the horses and Griffin – of course – came in first. She joked that I should see if he would do the jumps. We both didn’t think he would. Little guy scoffed and went over all three when asked. (No excessive requests for speed, form, or repetition, just a mere “try this”. I won’t risk him an injury by putting him through something like that very rigorously before he is “of age” to do it. What little we did was no different, or perhaps even less stressful, than when he jumps the creek in the field.)

I'm so happy with my little guy and so excited to continue the training process as he grows. I don't know what his specialty will be yet, but I do know he will give me his all in anything I ever request of him. He's such a willing, honest guy, I hope I can find a job he loves.