Sunday, March 31, 2013

All is well in the world of animal

  • Q is sounder by the day on her ever-growing frogs. The walnut-sized gravel gives her no grief at a walk now and she doesn't act as ouchy at a trot on it either.
  • We had two great rides on the rail trail this weekend, both were booted rides and she moved out beautifully. (Apparently I had the zoom on in the below video.)

  • Apparently snow that has been modified by man (shoveled or plowed) is evil and a reason to spook like a mad-woman. My horse is absurd, seriously.
  • Also, snow that is not modified by man but exists by its lonesome in small patches intermittent along the trail is reason for spooking like a mad-woman. Really, my horse is absurd.
  • And snow that is consistent with random bare spots of *gasp* the ground is reason to freak-the-hell-out. Yep, absurdity. Contrasting colors make life more fun, I suppose.
  • My little cat isn't so little anymore.

HE is rocking a pink tag because I can't get a silver one in a small size around here.

  • Kenai is finally figuring out that staying in the kitchen isn't awesome. He respond to my "GO" cue to leave, but lately has been acting on his own and will leave the kitchen and lie just outside the door to wait on me. Good boy!

  • Kenai and Cheat have taken their manic playtime outside some as of late.

  • Q hates that I've added a new probiotic to her feed. She was very offended at the miniscule change (seriously, its like a tablespoon maybe), but is slowly coming around to it. Slowly.


In an effort to drop new vocabulary,
Dom, do you see the beginning stages of snowbroth in this photo?!

  • The maintenance trim on Q the other day has made a world of change in her stance. She's almost always perfectly square as she stands around now. She didn't stand poorly before, but she's never seemed this balanced and comfortable!

Sleepy sunning pony. (Modeling a saddle I'm trying to sell)

  • Renegade boots work well in snow.

  • Griffin was a huge star this weekend. One of my friends I've known since kindergarten who has been along as a fellow horse-lover, rider, etc. finally got to meet my horses and ride with me. She was duly impressed with Q as far as manners and basics go. She knows I'm an able and adept horseperson, so Q's behavior was no large surprise. She didn't realize how far I'd come with a baby horse though. Griffin isn't much to look at right now with his scraggly winter coat, but he's a really terrific little fellow for a 2½ year old. My friend didn't realize the amount of work we've done together until I showed her. I hopped on bareback with halter/lead and circled him around the barnyard for a few minutes moving him with only leg pressure. I then hopped off and had him follow me around as I jogged around the barnyard and hopped myself over a little cross rail - Griffin followed suit. Then we went inside to the round pen and I put him through his paces. Other than being a mud-covered beast, he was perfect and my friend was incredulous that body language could do so much in terms of conversation. Love this little horse! I can't wait to start doing more work with him in coming months.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Renegade Sound

Happy to report that when I went out Tuesday night Q was much less tender on every surface except the walnut-sized gravel. She's definitely not tender at all in the area of her frog that I removed. The tenderness is back near her heels for certain. She's still not landing toe first, but she is choosing to land much more flat-footed with a slightly shorter stride than she did previously.

I buffed up all of her feet while she [mostly] stood like a saint. I am happy to report that with each finished foot placed on the ground licking and chewing commenced from the lady horse. When I'd finished she was even choosing to stand a lot more squared up than before. And, rather than rest the most tender right front foot, the entire time I was out there she chose to alternately rest one of her hinds - especially after the trim, she was squared perfect in the front with weight shifting back and forth in the back.

I tossed on her front Renegades and took her out for a little lunging. She acted like it still hurt a bit at first. I think she expected it to hurt so she was cautious about her movement. Within seconds though, she was moving out like normal. Renegades to the rescue! We'll ride in these for a good few weeks and then reassess how those feet feel on various surfaces. More soaking of all feet will continue until that bottle of White Lightning is used up.

She's on 24/7 turnout with hay whenever she wants it; when she gets grain its a low NSC grain; and grain is supplemented with a scoop of minerals and [now] probiotics. We'll have those feet back into awesome shape soon! Until then, booted rides. Still have a goal to do the 30 mile LD No Frills ride at the end of April in Virginia. I've just got to secure a ride there!

Now, if only this snow would disappear for good...

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A hoof for all seasons?

Despite [happily] sore muscles from a phenomenal last ski day on Saturday, I forced myself out of bed Sunday with plans to put in a good 10 miles on Q on the rail trail. The muscles I primarily use skiing are opposite of those used riding, so I figured I’d even myself out. Additionally, the weather was calling for snow so I wore leggings under a pair of thicker breeches and donned a waterproof rain shell and doubled up my gloves (a liner with a leather glove on top).

Q surprised me in the field by walking the last 20 feet or so to meet me – I really think we had some kind of crazy break-through in NC, her trust in me has really taken a leap forward. I pulled her from the field, tacked her up, and we headed out. 

I always note when I bring her in if she has any filling in her legs anywhere. She tends to get a little filling if she’s been standing in the same place while and always if she’s been stalled or high-lined (unless it’s the morning after a big ride, then she tends to not have as much filling). I always double-check her legs for heat/tenderness when there is filling just to be certain it isn’t masking some other issue. Days like Sunday where she comes in without any filling though, I just do a visual check and not hands-on. Also, it’s rare that I lunge her pre-ride, too, unless she is being very fresh with me. These practices – especially the lunging – are going to change. 

I noticed as we headed out that she wasn’t as forward as she usually is. No big, I’d prefer to leave the immediate property at a walk anyway. But then she was being very evasive of the large gravel area (like softball sized stones, not quarter-sized). She usually isn’t bothered by this area or overly evasive of it. I asked her to walk on it and she did, but she moved off as soon as she could. Her strides were a tiny bit shorter than usual, too. I asked her to walk on it again and watched her footfalls. Still heel first landings, just more tentative in these.

It is important to note that I doubt another person riding her would have noticed any issue in her movement. I only notice because I ride her so much and am so attuned to her. 

We crossed the creek and the larger, flatter rocks there without any issues. As we started to head up the soft clay/minute rock surfaced ATV trail on the other side I asked her to trot. Her trot was less forward, and as with the rest of her movement thus far it was more short-strided. And…she had the slightest bobble of the head in harmony with her right foreleg. 


I brought her back to a walk and got VERY hyper-sensitive about all of her movements. I felt for the slightest bobble anywhere. I had to reign myself in because I was getting a little uppity about a lot of nonsense that didn’t exist. 

When we got to the gravel road (which is basically just a hard clay surface since the gravel has been plowed away this winter) I hopped off and picked up her feet looking for some sort of clue. I felt her legs for heat and her digital pulse to see if that was bumpin’. Nothing out of the norm. Nothing. 

I hopped back on and had her trot again on the road. Slight bobble. Slight offness. 


Back to a walk. Back to hyper-assessment.  Yep, slightest bit of offness. I dismounted, hooked her reins to her halter and had her trot a tiny circle around me. Yep. Definitely off on the right fore. 


I walked her back up the road toward home. I assessed her movement as we went. All heel first landings, stride the slightest bit shorter than normal. No visible offness at a walk with me on the ground. She chose to walk both on the berm and on the road as we walked the third-of-a-mile to the woods. 

The day’s plan was wasted, but the day was not wasted. I cleared the short stretch of trail of branches and limbs as we went along. SUCH an improvement and SO MUCH MORE to do.

: : : : :

Back at the barn I untacked Q, picked out her feet, and decided to cut/pull off the remaining frog that she hadn’t shed off yet. When her frogs started shedding about a month ago it freaked me out a lot. She had such a huge beautiful frog on her fronts over the summer, and it really freaked me out that it would just sheer off the way it seemed to be doing. I had read a lot about how to not bother them when they did this and to just let things take their natural course. I'd always done this before with smaller pieces, so I sucked it up and let it do its thing.

She was slightly off on the right fore one time about a month ago when I discovered that her frogs seemed to be shedding. It was the same slight offness that it was on this day that was most noticeable with a rider at a trot and nearly went away when the rider dismounted (I was giving a mini-lesson on her), and was almost entirely gone when she was untacked, with Renegades on, trotting around the ring. (In fact at that point it could have been argued that the tiny blippit (tiniest!) in her gait was just because she thought there should be pain when there wasn't.

It irked me a little to take off the last little bit of frog (the last inch right at the apex was the remaining part - everything else had already shed off during the NC weekend and immediately after), but I was worried about two things which spurred me to do it: 1.) that perhaps her issue was a tiny rock or something of the like getting stuck under the flap while we were moving along and causing her a little grief, 2.) that there was some sort of fungus in there because it was pretty messy and the end of the flap (far away from what was still connected) was discolored and smelled awful. I questioned myself for removing the flaps (A LOT), but she’d already shed off 4/5 of her frog on her own and these pieces were close. I was as conservative as I could be with the removal, just pulling/cutting through the last little bit as high up as possible - not cutting down and into her foot at all!

The furthest end of the flap, the freest end, was black and smelled bad. BAD. Upon removal though, I found that the rest of the piece was fine - whew. I presume this was just normal tissue decay on the far end - this area was nowhere near her hoof where live(ish) frog still exists/existed/was shedding. 

I was a little concerned about bacteria and thrush because her central sulcus isn’t as “open” as it was earlier in the year. Photos even confirm that just a few months ago it was more open than it is now (right front in January and same foot in February). Photos also confirm that this change in her frogs has been going on steadily as the winter has remained wet. The pock-marking on her soles has never entirely gone away in the time I've had her either - though I do think her feet have improved in this time, once again evident in the photos.

June, right after I got her
September 2012

I decided I’d soak both her front feet with White Lightning since I suddenly had so much time on my hands. …and I was sort of worried something crazy was going on/I’d done something horribly wrong in pulling off those remaining flaps.

Q was a superstar about the soaking bag. Two other horses were in the barn for moral support. A pregnant (baby will be here soon!!) mare and Griffin. I stood with Q/sat in a chair beside her the whole 90 minutes (45 min/hoof) and flipped through my 101 Dressage Exercises book and rubbed on her. She had hay (all of them did), but she worked on it intermittently. She looked around a lot, but with the first soak she didn’t move the foot that was being treated AT ALL. She moved all her other feet around but left that one planted. The second hoof she did walk around a bit. She was startled, but I stuck right with her and talked to her the whole time so she wouldn’t spazz. She didn’t like it by any means, but she wasn’t freaked. Good mare. 

I turned her out afterwards after rewarding her with an apple and booked it home to consult with others about what I’d done/seen in her feet. 

 : : : : :

I spent that evening shooting questions out and discussing the “frogs shed, myth or fact” with a few people (thank you!). And then I spent hours on Pete Ramey’s site reading through his articles confirming and cementing things I already knew, while embracing and pondering other concepts I wasn’t as certain about. 

Learning about hoof care is a process. The knowledge is constantly evolving. It’s hard to take in so much at once, so I tend to learn a ton in bursts as things crop up that concern me. Trying to force knowledge down my throat when I’m not on a mission like I was recently ends up in me zoning out and not gaining much from the information.

Here’s what I cemented into my mind from Mr. Ramey on this burst of knowledge-gathering

His article on frog management immediately assuaged some of my anxiety about what I'd done with the flaps. Just think before you cut! There is no such thing as a “good habit”. I'd definitely thought about what I was doing. I definitely waxed and waned over it. And then he pointed out four reasons for frog trimming (beneficial in green, detrimental in red): The removal of “flaps” that harbor destructive fungus and bacteria. The removal of external callusing that protects the frog from destructive fungus and bacteria. The removal of excess frog height/pressure that can cause sensitivity.The thinning of the frog’s protective barrier between the sensitive corium and the terrain can overexpose nerves to pressure (cause  bruising and lameness).  For me, seeing that little bit of decaying tissue and not knowing what was going on with that was what ultimately pushed me to my decision because the other pieces hadn't done that. So that was a potentially beneficial decision. However, upon removal - seeing that fungus wasn't everywhere - it was me thinning a protective barrier, so that was detrimental. So one potential positive and one probable negative. 

This article discussed how there isn’t one hoof for all seasons. Feet change with the seasons and with the terrain they’re presented with. A barefoot horse working on an asphalt road (i.e., carriage horse) or living in a field that is frozen solid in winter or that is parched to a hard dry surface in the summer (the central theme here is a hard surface) will have less concavity to their foot than a horse on softer terrain types. If you try to trim the foot of a horse on a hard surface into a concave hoof, it will result in more bad than good. A horse’s hoof will alter to the terrain it is on. If the field is wet and soft in the winter, but dry and hard in the summer you’ll see their feet change to adapt. 

Another article on understanding the sole noted that you should consider the thickness of the sole first before trimming. Trimming to much in the toe or heel and taking away sole thickness that you shouldn’t have removed will be detrimental to the hoof/horse. Additionally, a horse that is moving correctly will wear his hooves evenly. 

Mayer has awful, awful cracks in her front feet that present like the hooves in the last set of photos in this article on wall cracks. Mr. Ramey noted that crack such as these almost always have fungus as a culprit and should be frequently soaked in addition to a good trimming protocol in order to properly “grow out” the cracks. He also noted that for cracks that “won’t grow out” fungus is usually the culprit. You’ve got to create an environment that is hostile to fungus but not to living tissue so the hoof can combat it – this is not always easy! 

I gleaned a lot of information from his article on heel height. I was surprised with how many notes I took as I read this article. Before I share my notes and what I learned, I wanted to point out that Pete remarks that he now requires owners who request him to pull shoes from horses [presumably horses that are worked and ridden frequently and have unhealthy feet] to buy boots. He will then buy those used boots from the people 4-6 months later. I think this is brilliant. I’ve experienced first-hand and heard many stories about people wanting to switch barefoot and then presuming that their horses will have great feet immediately. No. Just no. It is a process. From my experiences, I’ve seen people give up on barefoot just as quickly as they started because they don’t realize this! I love that Pete requires another form of hoof protection for the transition period. I’d be willing to bet he has a greater percentage of successful switch-overs as a result. 

Now for what I gleaned from this article – “...sole bruising and corium crushing are myths! …brought about by unhealthy hooves and routine sole trimming…”. I agree. Definitely agree. Another great point? The mechanics of a hoof in motion > mechanics of a hoof on concrete. He pointed out that just looking at the way a hoof is when standing on a hard, level surface (i.e., the wash rack) isn’t representative of how well that hoof performs when it is working. “The mechanics of impact are much more important than the mechanics of standing around.” Amen. What you see as no pressure on concrete may be AWESOME pressure on working terrain. Basically, don’t go trimming like an idiot without observing the horse in motion to see how they move and utilize what they have. Not all horses are the same, and thus not all horses move the same and grow the same hoof. Similar? Probably. Same? Nah. 

For me with Q and her [re]developing frog right now, this translates to me not touching her heels much for a little bit. She needs the little extra that is back there to protect the “new” area. If I took off too much heel right now to encourage heel first landings to stimulate her frog which is really tender right now since it is changing, she’d likely convert to a toe first landing to protect the tender area. This wouldn’t help the strengthening of the back of her foot at all! 

I plan to work her on surfaces she can move out on like normal or boot her for a few weeks to help her build up again. It wouldn’t be fair at all to expect her to go crunch rocks like she was. A little longer heel right now will provide some protection on hard surfaces, but as long as she is moving naturally with her heel first landing in softer terrain she’ll still gain stimulation at the back of her foot as her heels sink into the ground a little. Natural movement forges a natural hoof. Trimming for a natural hoof shape will cause sensitivity! 

Pete notes at the end of this article how his “experiments” with heel height taught him [once again] that doing less (i.e., trimming less) benefited more in the end. He noted that heels naturally ended up lower than he’d ever have dreamed of trimming them. This is a perfect representation of Q’s feet. I barely touch the heels on her hind feet. I bring her toes back and maintain the little flare she gets medially back there, but her heels? Aw naw. (10 points to anyone who gets that song reference.) And as a result her heels are lower than I’d ever dream of trimming them. But look at this foot! That frog! 

: : : : :

In a follow-up visit Monday, Q was no worse or better. And I honestly don't believe that the small piece I removed made her any *worse* feeling than she was. She's still tender, but she didn't strike us (BO and another boarder) as miserable. BO pointed out that when she walks it isn't with great hesitation or anything. She's got rhythm to her movement, she's just a little ouchy. It still kills me to see her not move soundly. She hasn't moved like this since I've had her and it just kills me. (See video below...and yes, I could have removed the ambient noise in the video but it cracked me up. The round pen is right beside the aviary with the hens, roosters, and peacocks. BO and other boarder were in their observing how one rooster will attack the other boarder but not BO, and then the peacocks were going bonkers.)

I didn't put boots on her Monday night to see if that made a difference, nor did I buff up her toes as I'd hoped to. I did get some photos of her feet though. I was blown away by the medio-lateral "offness" in her feet. But it directly correlates to the way she moves (I'll have to get a better video of that sometime.) Reasoning for not doing these things that night was because the pregnant (about to drop!) mare was in the indoor round pen and Q's boyfriend was pitching a royal fit outside without Q for once. She was being better than usual about it, but was still antsy. Mares! Sigh.

She doesn't stand uncomfortably
Right hind
Left hind - trend on all feet seems to be that she lands left-sided....?

Conclusion? I need to see how comfortably she moves in boots/boots with pads. It kills me to see her move like she does, but while tender, she doesn't seem miserable. She's still willing to play in the field with the others and move out - fast. Time is my friend, so we'll see how she feels in upcoming days and weeks!

Q on the left, clearly not feeling too bad
Mid head-toss. Sassypants.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saint and Sinner

Aside: 17K views! Huzzah! Thanks!

Went on a short 6 mile ride yesterday afternoon. I thought it would be a great opportunity to get both horses out on the trail: riding Q, ponying Griffin. The last time I did this we did 10 miles and Griffin was a champ right until the last mile. He and Q volleyed for the front position the entire time! It was one of the faster rides I'd ever done because they were competing with each other.

I was crazy for thinking it'd be that good again!

Q was forward,willing, and sweet from the moment I got her from the field (I love her). Griffin and two of the others were napping as I drove in, but by the time I got my act together and got to the field they were all up and he was walking toward me.

I tacked Q up and put the side-pull ponying halter on Griffin, and we set off from the barn at a nice walk with Q on a super loose rein and Griffin ponying along like a champ. Good horses!

1½ miles out, Griffin starts lagging. Weird for him. I watch and watch him. No lameness or general "off"ness. Just appears to be lazy and stubborn coming out. I proceed figuring, "Eh, as soon as I turn for home I bet he's stepping out like a champ." (I did alter my original plan from 8 miles to 6 miles though.)

We get to the rail trail at mile 2 and Griffin is DRAGGING. He trots, sure, but he trots the slowest trot ever. Q wasn't going that fast, it was her average 5-7mph trot, no where in her 8-12mph range. And yet, he's DRAGGING. Nose in the air from the halter pressure, dragging along like a sullen, hungover teenager.

I flopped around in the saddle trying various antics to keep him near as he'd speed up an eensy bit only to slow again drastically, jerking me from my perch (I didn't want to risk dropping the rope in numerous situations because if he'd turned and bolted for home he would have had 1 road with fast traffic to contend with). I hemmed and hawed and heaved and hoed and Q, bless her, was a SAINT. She focused on her job of moving forward and ignored all of my antics in the saddle. I love her.

I slowed Q to a walk a time or two to only have Griffin walk the slowest 1 mph walk EVER. UGH!

This back and forth dragging trot and walk was our ride for the whole 6 miles. MISERY.

After circling, slowing, and other antics proved futile in speeding up Griffin and I realized I just had a stubborn mule on my hands, I verbally abused the crap out of him in my frustration (sticks and stones would have hurt his bones, so words seemed like fair play!). Griffin, OHMYGAWD WALK! This is ABSURD! C'monnnn horse! Why can't you walk? What is this nonsense! GRIFFIN. COME. ON. ERMAHGERD. GRIFFIN! *slows, circles, continues, Griffin drags his feet and shakes his impish little TWH head* GRIFFIN! SERIOUSLY. COME. ON. Please? Walk. Just walk. FASTER. This is absurd. I KNOW you can do this better. COME. ON. Griffin! IF THIS WERE THE OREGON TRAIL I'D HAVE LEFT YOUR ASS!!

And that's how it went.

RIGHT as we got onto farm property about a ½-mile out, he trots. He canters.Without any provocation from me other than my verbal tirade. Ass.

I took off his halter for the short remainder on farm property, and Q and I had a nice little jaunt back to the barn without our baggage. He ran after us then decided to stop and eat grass right outside the barn paddock. *$)%&#)(&^

Thank god my little Q mare is such a saint when times merit it. I LOVE her. Griffin? Hrrmph. He's just lucky he's got such an incredible track record of having an insatiable need to please and trying his hardest for me all the time...and being a lovebug.

Its a good thing he's so cute and sweet 98% of the time!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fitness Planning

With the start of the upcoming work week I will be working my 40 hours in 4 days. I will have 3-day weekends every weekend. To have these lovely little mini-vacations though, I will be losing an extra hour of play in the evenings Mon.-Thur., which is a slight bother, but worth it in my opinion. But I think it will go perfectly with my fitness/activity plans for the warmer months for both myself and the horses and Kenai.

Goals for each week:
  • 2 hangboard workouts (to benefit climbing)
  • 2 bike rides (for cardio)
  • 2 (minimum) sessions of training for Griffin
    • groundwork through Clinton Anderson's Fundamental series
    • perhaps a random ponying ride with Q
  • 3 (minimum) sessions of training Q
    • 1 session dressage workouts
    • 1 session in the woods on hills/trails
    • 1 session on the rail trail doing intervals and speed work
  • 3-4 sessions of training Kenai
  • and (optimistically) yoga every single day (pursuing my 30 before 30 goal again)

Rider fitness program definitely back in swing through the above activities. Climbing is back in swing with hangboard workouts. Kenai's manners will come around again with mini-sessions. And the horses will progress as they should.

Of course, modifications to any and all of the above will occur when I am able to go on actual climbing outings or horse events. But overall I think its a pretty balanced plan that lets me do some of everything without being overwhelmed. The first 30 days of it will be the roughest, certainly, building up to regularity and all. But once its established, things should go relatively smoothly. Q has definitely proven to me that she stays in excellent shape once I get her to a state of shape, and she's one of the biggest priorities above for the whole purpose of getting to travel and go have fun at rides this year.

So yes. We shall see how it goes. But here's me proposing my plan in a public setting! Now for warmer weather, fixing my bike (buying a new one?), and committing to doing!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Blog / RSS Readers

Between Facebook changing [again] and having random delays and errors + the announcement that Google Reader will be dead on July 1, 2013, I have had a frustrating internet week. However, (FB issues aside) I think I've figured out a new way to keep up with things.

For BLOG reading/following: I've moved to BlogLovin'. Now, any change is hard at first, and this wasn't an exception to that (adjusting to a new interface wasn't fun), but I can honestly say I like it a lot. Like a lot a lot.

Reasons I like BL? 1.) I can make the interface sort by blog or date. 2.) The homepage has a really clean look. 3.) It imported all of my blogs from Google without issue. 4.) You can move blogs into different groups if you so choose. 5.) You can easily modify which blogs you want to show up on your profile or not by making the "not" ones "private".

A clean look; "read" blogs fade out.

6.) I like that I can see little previews of everything. I love that I can click the post title and be taken straight to blogs and have the comment section RIGHT THERE when I'm done reading. I will be a more frequent commenter than I was because of this.

7.) I really like the BL frame that allows me to toggle through unread blogs without going back to the BL homepage. This feature is really, really sweet.

Note the BL frame along the top. I find it to be very non-obtrusive. It stays there as you scroll.

You can see the toggle option in the upper left. I'd read everything when I took this screenshot; usually there is a list.

Obviously, this is just my opinion, but seriously, guys, I love organization (without being a freak about it) and BL is set up in a visually pleasing, organized way that lets me keep up with each of you far better than Google Reader did.

HOWEVER, one thing BL doesn't do is allow me to keep up with general RSS. Soooo.....

For RSS subscriptions/following: I'm using Feedly. Which is what basically everyone and their brother has done with the announcement per GR. Feedly is a simple add-on for my browser (or at least it was for Firefox) and I presume it is just as simple for other browsers.

Reasons I like Feedly? 1.) It moved all my data from Google over seamlessly. 2.) It even moved all my starred posts over from Google! 3.) It allows me to follow RSS feeds that BL doesn't let me follow. 4.) It allows you to organize your stuff into categories.

BUT, the reason I'm NOT using Feedly for blog following: It really screws with the formatting of blog posts. Now certainly, GR did this to a point, but that was with general spacing/returns of the text/photos from my experience. Feedly seems to pull the entire alignment of a post out of order with preference for a left-alignment for everything. While this look is clean certainly, it makes everything blasé. I put time and effort into the way my posts appear - we all do - (even though Blogger sometimes screws with it...le sigh) and to have that effort thwarted within the Feedly reader? Meh, no. Just no. We all put effort into our blog layouts, and BL lets me appreciate everyone's creativity. I like this. It is a welcome change from the SUPER CLEAN interface that GR and Feedly offer.

: : : : :

So.... I hope this mini-guide/explanation has helped some of you fellow soon-to-be-ex-Google Reader folks find a new way to follow blogs/readings of your favorite stuff.

 Follow on Bloglovin

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Riding in Uwharrie

Let me preface this post by noting that Q had some major firsts this ride, all very exciting, but I have to say my favorite of all these firsts - the one I was most excited about - was the fact that she peed under saddle. I want to squeal about this to anyone who will listen, but anyone who is non-horse and non-endurance (or educated per endurance riding) just thinks I'm psycho for being excited about this. So, to get it out of my system:


Okay. I'm done. (For now.)

A group from home drove down to Uwharrie Nat'l Forest in North Carolina on Thursday. Its a 7 hour trip with stops. Not a bad drive by any means.

The weather was awesome while we were there. The first night was a little chilly, but each night after that was progressively warmer and the days were glorious. I rode in a long sleeve T on Friday and a T-shirt on Saturday.

We totaled somewhere around 30 miles between our two days and only got lost one day.

: : : : :

The pros and cons of Uwharrie [in the spring] as we experienced them:

A lot of the trails looked
like this
+ Relatively short drive
+ Warmer weather
+ Great camping amenities
+ Southern hospitality from locals to help guide us along
+ Tons of drinking spots for the horses
+ Lots of trail options
+ Beautiful views
+ Varied terrain offering a little something for everyone
+ Well-maintained trails free of impeding obstacles
- A map that is outdated
- TWO maps of trails, actually, and one with a VERY confusing lay-out
- Trails are incredibly over-used and eroded as a result
- Trails exist that are not on the map
- USFS land and private land butt up against one another very frequently and are not always well-marked
- Prescribed burns were going on and several trail systems were closed as a result - not noted at campsite for heads-up

Overall experience? I'd give it a B.

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We set out on Friday without a perfect ride plan. We had the more confusing of two maps this day. We planned to ride to the lake, and then try to make a loop and head back.

We made it to the lake like champs. After that? Anyone's best bet. We were good for the first hour. And then somehow we ended up on marked trails that didn't exist on the map (marked with the same color as other USFS trails, and marked with USFS markers WITH horses on the signs, too!). And then on private property. And then on a road. And then this REALLY NICE COWBOY came out of his home, told us to follow the trail around his pasture and he would meet us on top with his Kubota to direct us further. That helped...a little. We ended up BACK on a trail that was marked but not on the map. We made a lot of lefts to work our way back to "campsite territory" and eventually - probably by dumb luck - ended up back in familiar-ish territory.

Total time we wanted to spend riding: 3-4 hours.

Total time actually spent riding? 6 hours.

A good time was had, certainly. But it was a little bothersome at the end for sure!

Saturday's ride went MUCH better. We discovered another version of the trail map that had a much more presentable layout. As soon as we didn't see a marker in a likely place we turned around and corrected our mistakes. I kept my eyes on the map like a hawk as did others. One part of the trail definitely was a little wonky, but there WERE markers the whole way and we didn't have any great issue. We had a really awesome second day of riding. This day I took my phone to track the ride. I missed the first ~ 4.2 miles of riding (mileages from the map), but captured the last ~ 9 miles with Endomondo. We spent about 4 hours or so out the second day which makes us figure we probably did close to 20 miles the first day!

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Q's big firsts:

 - She completed all riding completely barefoot. The terrain varied from mud to soft loamy soil to rocks, but I'd say the majority of the ride was some degree of rocky. She took a couple false steps, but nothing of concern. Most of these missteps were on day one. Day two she was much more deliberate with where she placed her feet. I paid mind to her steps a lot and it was interesting to note the clinking and scraping of shod feet (everyone else in our party) over rocks while Q never clipped a single rock. Her footfalls were near-silent.

Another fun observation (my observations were not greatly surprising to me, but I did have fun experiencing things I'd heard to be true about barefoot riding), Q was far more sure-footed than her shod counterparts. The other horses were seemingly careless about their foot placements. They'd flop them all over the trail and frequently slip off of small rocks and sticks, and on the steep embankments (the trails were gullied out in places from over-use and erosion) they would slide around significantly more than Q did. As with her missteps, she slid around more the first day than the second.

As raw as it gets. Right after riding day two, right before a bath.
(CW from top left: LH, RH, RF, LF)
Left front frog is exfoliating (I presume?) and the others are in various stages of doing the same
Additionally, these photos really show how she flares a little laterally in the front and medially in the hind

All-in-all, ~ 30 miles of trail riding on various degrees of terrain difficulty BAREFOOT.

Oh, and she climbed up on this boulder for me without hesitation. It was all:

Me: Oh hey, look, Q, a boulder!
Q: I see that.
Me: Lets stand on it for pictures.
Q: Well, okay, if you insist.
Me: Now, now, we're not going to walk off the front of it.
Q: But I thought you wanted to clamber off it like in all your rock climbing photos.
Me: No, this is fine. Just stand and smile and pose!
Q: Well, okay. Silly human.

RCRRC folks!

Seriously, how cute is she?
- She LAY DOWN in my presence! On the high-line to boot! I have NEVER seen this horse lie down for the sake of lying down EVER in my time owning her. She did it both nights after riding. And yes, duh, I took pictures.

- GUYS, SHE PEED UNDER SADDLE! It was day two of riding. We were probably two-thirds of the way through our ride. She'd been drinking like a champ the whole time we were there. We stopped to let all the horses eat [green] grass in a field for a few moments. She ate, we were all talking and shooting the shit. The next thing I know, I hear the tell-tale sound of a horse peeing. Huh, that's strange, I thought, it sounds like...OMG. THAT'S MY HORSE!

So, I praised her lavishly (obv), squealed in delight that she was doing this, and remarked that someone should take a photo because this was a big moment. They all laughed at me. -_-

But seriously, now I don't have to worry during rides about her not peeing/peeing because of me riding her. And I know for a fact that she will drink on the trail like a champ when she needs it. I knew she would eat and poop. NBD. But its so good to know she'll do the other side of things, too.

- Overall? Q's personality is finally starting to come out a lot more. She's starting to put her trust in me and come out of her workaholic shell. Up until this trip, she's very work-oriented. She lets me fiddle with her to my heart's content, sure, but she's never very personable about anything.

I can tell she trusts me more because of the whole pee-under-saddle incident. Additionally, as a whole, when we are away from home and away from her friends, she really depends on me more. I become her herd and she always nickers and whinnies at me in the morning or when I prepare food or anything for her. When we all let our horses hand-graze in the little grassy paddock at the campground (okay, so we may have just dropped all their lead ropes and let them mill around) she chose to follow me around rather passively the majority of the time. We even had several moments throughout the weekend where she put her head in my arms or rested it on my shoulder while I scratched her.

The weekend was a really incredible stepping stone for my whole relationship with this horse. I had a blast.

Monday, March 18, 2013


Death of Google Reader

This post seemed appropriate for a Monday...

I feel like a piece of me is being torn away with the announcement that Google Reader will cease to exist in a few months.

And thus, I'm trying something new. Just quitting one (almost) cold-turkey and moving on to the next thing:

Now, lets pray to the internet gods that Google doesn't kill off Blogger. That would kill me a little inside.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Conquering the creek

I hadn't seen the horses in nearly a week due to my Colorado trip. When I arrived Thursday night and got out of the car Griffin whinnied from way across the field at me and started heading my way. Q whinnied, too, (wait, what?!) watched me for a few moments, then meandered slowly in the other direction. Clearly if she's going to holler hello she can't also make effort to come see me. That would be too much effort to care...but I'll win her over one day.

Crooked and blurry, but look how similar in size they are!

I brought them both in and fed them both grain and toyed with their manes and braiding for a bit, sipped a beer, and then turned Q out and took Griffin for a walk.

I had no great plans for this walk, but this is what ended up happening:

  • We walked to the lower barn that isn't finished. 
  • We walked through the covered cattle chute into and out of the barn.
  • We crossed the creek.
  • We walked up the creek (which is fuller than normal) for about 100 yards in the water.
  • We walked up and down and over and through four ditches.
  • We did some tight lunging circles when Griffin decided to be a snot and squeal at Kenai.
  • We approached the dreaded creek.
  • We crossed the dreaded creek!

Yes. That's right. The former Mr. Bratface crossed the dreaded creek. Pressure, forward movement, release and praise. The dressage whip was present as a pressure-tapping agitator (hehe, looks like alligator) on his side.

It took us about 45 seconds to cross it from the "going away from barn" direction. Hurrah! We turned around to cross it again in the "going home" direction. This is the direction with a slight step down due to a root. It took about another 45 seconds of pressure, forward, release and praise, and then he chose to play in the creek for a good few minutes. I praised and praised.

We led up the "home" side, turned, crossed again from the "away" side. Turn again, cross back to "home" side. No additional encouragement needed from the dressage whip this time through. Praise, praise, praise.

And because the first may have been folly and the second may have been luck, we did the whole routine a third time to prove it was skill. No pressure from dressage whip. No pressure from lead/halter. Just following me down and through, with slight pauses to play a little in the water. Praise. Praise. Praise. Thank you, Griffin, for being the good horse I knew you were and not a bratty idiot. Winner, winner chicken dinner.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Winter weight

When I arrived at the barn the other day Q was all by herself at one of the bale feeders. All the other horses were clustered along the other, and there she was all by her lonesome chowing down. Griffin on the other hand, was all on his lonesome in the middle of the field between the two feeders not eating anything.

I think I got really, really lucky with Q (knock on wood!). She's a brilliant eater and has kept weight on without issue all winter. She looks great, in my opinion. She's got awesome feet. She's sturdy and has withstood all of the exercises we have done (endurance, jumping, trails, parades, dressage). And, she got ALL of her vaccines last Friday and was completely fine and not sore in any manner from them a mere week later. Were I to not work her in the summer she might gain a little too much, but that's not a problem for us. She's really wonderful in terms of being a pretty easy keeper (knock on wood, again).

While the photo suggests otherwise, Q's winter coat is actually about half
the length of Griffin's. Her's is a little denser and a lot shorter.

Griffin, while leaps and bounds beyond where he was this time last year, isn't getting through winter as spectacularly as Q. While its hard to tell in photos, his ribs are showing slightly. His neck is pathetic compared to the way it was in summer, too. He played a TON through the summer months with Oliver and was slightly toned, so I wonder if their play habits have altered through the winter.

Tiny bit butt high (again). Additionally, I wonder if he'll have dapples this summer?
Can observe his ribs here.

I'm not greatly concerned with how Griffin is - I do remember how poor he was before - but I will be increasing his food intake by going out more frequently and feeding him. I'm sure he'll bounce up pretty quickly.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


I decided to play around with new braiding ideas for Q's mane because we have our first parade coming up in May and we may even have a hunter-jumper show, too. *gasp* Though the latter is a longshot.

At any rate, her mane is an awkward length. When I got her last June I trimmed it short to even it up because she had rubbed out the lower-middle part of it (or maybe one of the other mares ate it, I don't know). It was a good short length last year to do the hunter braids in. But, let's face it, I'm a sucker for long flowy, beautiful manes. Griffin has the thinnest mane EVER, but its long and working its way towards flowy. Q's is growing - its twice the length (easily) that it was in June last year.


Its an awkward length. Too long for hunter braids. Too short for a running braid.

And thus?

Piss poor attempt at a running braid

Exploration into the world of other braids. My favorite option and planned braid for 2013, scalloped braids.

Piss poor photo from the dying camera

Eh, eh, eh?

I'm a fan. Even if this attempt wasn't formal and looks rather sad.

But not as sad as Griffin's piddly little neck.
Hey! It may be piddly but its flexible!

And yes, yes, yes, I know some will grumble about a long mane and the many tedious things that come with it and also how it can make a horse "too hot". *rolls eyes* To this I say bologna. And I also say, I LOVE BRAIDING! Its fun. And once Q's mane is long I'll just throw in a running braid if she's "too hot".

What say you? Any other ideas to throw my way?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Film Friday: Videos from CO Skiing

- Chris skiing. I was trying to prove to him how high the rooster tail of snow off his skis is. Yes, the video is shaky, but tough. I was skiing at a nice clip behind him with camera in hand. It'll happen.

- Chris popping over King Cornice at A-Basin. Weee!

- One of the slides triggered by the avalauncher. Pretty sweet, eh?

- The super windy video of our skinning up the apron below Dragon's Tail in RMNP.

- And, finally, this gem. Not a gem because of my skiing skill - it was the first time I really made an effort to get in tele turns on a steep slope and I have a lot to improve, but that's why we make videos, to note error and help with forward progress! No, this is a gem because Chris has done it again with his epic video commentary. You may remember his former video from this post. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ski Colorado

I didn't get enough of Colorado skiing three years ago (only skied Steamboat), and since that time I've had multiple friends move there (school/work/play) and I now have NSP status to help with lift tickets. As a result of these two facts, I impulsively decided sometime in January that it was time for another go-round with Colorado skiing and booked a trip for the very first weekend in March.

I packed super strategically for this trip fitting everything I needed to take into a carry-on suitcase and my backpack. I fortunately had skis to use in CO so I only had to pack clothing, boots, and helmet. It was a bit tricky, but I managed. The hardest decision of all was to leave my DSLR at home. That camera is like my left arm when it comes to trips and the like. I take it everywhere. Deciding to leave it home and only take my piddly point and shoot was a really, really hard decision, but I'm glad I made it. Ye olde point and shoot did pretty good.

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I arrived  last Thursday night, was dropped off at Chris' house by the blue shuttle bus (which was late, which totally resulted in my composing a spoof of "Red Solo Cup" to "Blue Shuttle Bus" on FB...), and we promptly headed for dinner because I'm a fatty I was starving from the trip - seriously, no more complementary food on flights, you gotta PAY for it! We caught up (7 months of not seeing one another) and discussed skiing plans for the next few days over an awesome Ethiopian dinner. I'd hoped to ski Vail, Breck, and A-Basin each of my three ski days and Chris was cool with that idea. However, upon calling my Aunt to confirm rendezvous Vail plans for the following day, she informed me that it was pretty crazy over there due to some big snowboarding championships that were going on, in fact, they were even going snowmobiling and not skiing that day. That was enough to encourage me to look elsewhere for day one of skiing, so it was decided that we would head to Breck early the next day.

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Because Chris is the most enthusiastic person ever, we got up early to try to beat traffic to Breck. Early for him, not so bad for me with the time difference. Wake, prep, breakfast, out the door in good time. Still didn't help with the traffic unfortunately. Roads were pretty bad through the mountains due to snow and people were driving like idiots. Good to know that even in Colorado snow causes people to lose their minds driving.

Chris was an awesome ski guide the whole trip. He really set the bar the first day navigating us all over Breck on each of the 4 peaks they have. Never hit super crazy terrain as I didn't want to kill my legs on day one, but we definitely got some quality skiing in. It snowed the whole day we were there and we got to ski a lot of powder all over the mountain.

After a brief break for mai-tais and kickass quesadillas, we took the T-bar up to Horseshoe bowl for some steeper powder skiing. It was windy as hell up there - mostly it was windy higher up on the mountain all day that day, but up on the terrain above T-bar it was INSANE. I couldn't see ANYTHING beyond about 4 feet in front of my face. Snow up there was DEEP, too. It was a whole other world for this east coast skier - I managed but it definitely wasn't Warren Miller film quality skiing. I had a blast though.

Night two we hit up the Oskar Blues brewery (Dale's Pale Ale) for drinks and eats. Aside from skiing in CO, my other goal was to hit up a few breweries and good eats while I was there. (Ethiopian was an awesome start.) Oskar Blues' food was southern-esque, though not quite like the southern cooking I'm familiar with from my mom (a SC native). The atmosphere was really cool though and they had a live blues/rock band playing that night that covered Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Chubby Checker among others. It was a really fun time and an awesome end to my first full day in CO.

Riding up the T-Bar
Somewhere on Peak 10
Somewhere on Peak 10

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Early morning day two we headed to A-Basin. My patrol friends have really talked this place up and its where Chris plans to patrol next year.

I loved it.

A-Basin was a lot smaller than Breck. I liked this because I really got a feel for the mountain. I got some fair practice skiing steeps with tele gear this day. It was a whole new experience in many ways. Its only my second season on tele skis, and Canaan only offers so much in the way of terrain. Many tell me I'm a "natural" (whatever that means, haha) at the whole tele business, but its still a steep learning curve and I'm out of my comfort zone on a regular basis. I did manage to make some progress at A-Basin though. Legs-a-burning, but progress made.

The icing on the cake that day though? Getting to watch the ava-launcher demos and see three avalanches triggered. REALLY cool. (That day was a big one for a lot of natural slides, too, as we discovered driving out of A-Basin that afternoon and over the Continental Divide through backcountry terrain - slides e'rrywhere!) 

Additionally, I got to spend time hanging out with the A-Basin patrol in the hut at the top and ski with one of the patrollers for a run or two. Understandably, its a whole different world than Canaan. However, the camaraderie of the patrol was very much like my own; its a big reason why people choose to patrol, not the skiing perks or training, but the teamwork and friendship gained in working together in an environment like that.

The view from A-Basin's Patrol hut - a little more awesome than Canaan
Note the natural slides

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With concerns about weekend traffic (which had been a bitch at this point despite our early departures) and the ability of my legs to withstand another day at a resort, we opted for a slightly slower third morning with our sights on skiing at Rocky Mtn. Nat'l Park (RMNP) in the backcountry.

The weather was warm (40s in the park, 60s in Boulder) and beautiful, albeit a little windy. Chris took me to Bear Lake and we skied our way up to Emerald Lake, which is right below a few backcountry couloirs. We skinned up to the apron below Dragon's Tail, a coveted backcountry ski line in the park,  and decided to put in a few turns on the apron.

It was a really incredible experience. I hadn't done any backcountry skiing like that before. Skinning up was a really sweet experience, learning some snow science behind avalanche safety was awesome, and getting back away from everything and into the rugged environment was really cool. Such an extreme landscape back there.

The wind was RIPPING. Its a factor I'm REALLY not accustomed to dealing with in that intensity. There were times when we were skinning up the apron when I was nearly knocked down from the intensity of it. Snow thrown at my face stung from the force of the winds. I got to a point where I would stop and wait for it to die down before I moved forward.

The snow turned not-so-awesome during our climb up, and I ended up not being able to make very pretty turns coming down, but it was still such an awesome experience. It was a lot of fun (albeit a little terrifying for me as the trails were super narrow) to ski out past the hikers and snowshoers. We spent nearly 2 hours skinning in and probably 20 minutes skiing out (if that). Zoom!

A lot of the RMNP backcountry excursion pushed me mentally. Dealing with the new, extreme environment, the wind, the snow, the threat of avalanche, the narrow trails - these are all novel experiences for me. Chris knew I was physically capable though, and I suppose I knew it deep down, too. He set up the perfect first backcountry experience for me. I was more than capable physically to accomplish it (although my lungs got taxed pretty quickly from the altitude which led to frequent breaks on my part). Mentally, it taxed me and pushed me, but not too far and completely in a positive way. I really enjoyed the trek, fear and all.

We slaughtered some really awesome Mexican food post-ski in Estes park. When we returned to Boulder we hit up REI and a huge alcohol store, and then spent the evening in eating left overs and playing the biggest Cards Against Humanity game I've been involved in. Usually when patrol plays on our night shift we might have 6 people, but we had 8 at one point last night. It was absurd. We played through until all of the white cards had been used up. So ridiculous. I love that game.

Bright green lichen
Half-way there; you can see the destination directly behind me
Skinning up the apron
View from the apron
View of our ski at center and up

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Monday was a recovery day for my body after three days of crazy skiing. I had planned to ride a bike into downtown Boulder to peruse the streets and shops, but a freak snowstorm prevented those plans. Instead, I did laundry and lay around all day watching Law and Order SVU on Netflix (don't judge me!) because Chris was at work all day.

I did manage to make plans with another long-time friend from home for dinner that night. We met up with her for an early dinner at a great Indian restaurant and then hung out at her apartment for awhile catching up.

I love having friends that live in cool places, and I especially love that my Boulder friends are there because they're moving toward the next big step in their lives by pursuing a Ph. D. or working their first "big kid" job. However, it is very sad to see them so seldom. I was thankful for the time we got to spend together while I visited.

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Trip two to Colorado was a really awesome one. I'd say it tops the first trip 3 years ago only because this trip did not require sleeping in a 2-door Yaris (with luggage, skis, and another person). I look forward to more Rocky Mountain ski trips in the future with awesome friends. Maybe Utah next time? Or Idaho? Or Canada (Andrea?!)? Or  back to Montana? Its great to have options, and its even better to have friends in all of these places to visit while I play.