Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Virginia Highlands 55

The short of it – we finished 6th in a field of 40-ish. Siena was a totally different horse from Scioto. The weather was more than perfect. The trails were absolutely amazing. The company was even better.             

The long of it:     

I drove the 4 hours south to Ivanhoe, VA on Friday to meet my friend Mary whose mare Siena I would be riding in the Virginia Highlands 55 on Saturday. Other than a guy in front of me forgetting his toll money and causing quite the hubbub at the toll before jacking money from me, the drive was uneventful. I finished off The China Study on audiobook and Kenai lounged in the back.                

Miss Siena
I arrived in ride camp and found Mary’s rig with little issue. She wasn’t around and I didn’t have cell service, so I wandered around and read some as I awaited her to appear at her rig. Ride camp is at the Ivanhoe horse fairgrounds, right along a stretch of the New River (the second oldest river in the world (the Nile is the oldest) that flows north into WV where it created the New River Gorge, the place I frequent for climbing). There were some clifflines along the opposing bank, but nothing like the NRG.                 

Mary showed up at the trailer within an hour or so of my arrival. She couldn’t believe she’d missed me driving in. We vetted the horses through and then headed out to put our stuff at the away check – a BEAUTIFUL hilltop home with views far into the distance. We snagged food and gas in town and headed back to camp for a quick ride. It had deluged that morning from the look and sound of things. Blue skies and sun upon my arrival, but the trails and riders racing on Friday told a different story. There was SO MUCH water! And mud. A lot of mud.          

New River cliff line beside ride camp
The most dangerous part of the trail occurred in the second mile from ride camp. Narrow single track that switchbacked up the mountainside. There were soft spots in the trail where a misstep would take one off the edge. I was getting some serious flashbacks from TN the previous summer when one of our packhorses went tumbling off the side of the mountain.                 

Fortunately, Siena and Gryphon were more sure-footed and moved through without a problem. We ran into some 50-milers finishing their day on the way up, pivoted the horses and headed back down, out, and into ride camp, but not before Gryphon proved to Mary that he’d definitely need a running martingale the following day!          

 Prior to sleep that night, we talked with some folks in camp. I got to meet some of the big-wigs within AERC. This was particularly interesting because the bulk of what I read/hear about the inner workings comes from angsty trolls on the ridecamp forum. I have stopped reading much of ridecamp lately because there is so much controversy on there from what I figured were most likely ill-informed, highly-opinionated people.     

It seems I was right.         

I listened in on some very interesting conversations about topics that are highly contested on ridecamp. I feel that I finally got the true-and-true of the whole thing. About what I figured things were, but nice to have confirmation.           

 I was then quizzed heavily as to why I was doing this sport, ways I thought further young folks could be recruited, what ways AERC could lure more people into the sport, and was then thanked for my time, attention, and interest.          

 If you want to know what I had to say about these things, then drop me an email as I’m not going to turn my personal blog into a place to contest AERC issues.                  

I slept AMAZINGLY the night prior to the ride. So amazing, in fact, that at first I really didn’t even want to get up and ride. The thought of riding 55 miles versus staying in bed was a really difficult one to work through that early!            

We were tacked up and ready with plenty of time to spare. Kenai had a pee break and was in his kennel for the day. Just what he needed with his rehab at that point – stall rest!     Mary and I walked the horses around and around camp for the 20 minutes pre-start. We left right in the middle of the pack without any shenanigans.          

For the first several miles of trail we were caught up in a group of 10. We snaked slowly up the dangerous switchback section – which had washed out in one area! Once the trail widened, Mary, myself, and two other riders – a mother/son team – scooted past the others to continue on.         

With time we caught up to Bonni – who would end up winning and getting BC – and we slowed Siena and Gryphon to let the three of them continue on at a faster pace. Mary strives to do a 7 mph pace and they were doing more than that.              

We were in a pocket for the rest of that first 15 mile loop. It was wonderful being on our own. Ride your own ride.  The loop finished through some gorgeous fields. I couldn’t get over how stunning it was. Cantering through was an incredible feeling.                        

We topped out at the vet check, pulsed down quickly, and vetted through with no problems. Siena went through with the lowest CRI the vets had seen yet at 48/48. This mare is going to be such a future super star! My love of Belesemo horses grows even more…           

After two breakfast biscuits, ounces and ounces of liquids, and all the food the horses could eat, we headed out on the ~23 mile loop. Two girls my age-ish and a mother/daughter (12 year old daughter who completed her 1,000th mile (!!!!!!!) at this ride) caught up to us shortly into the loop.        

The trails were SO AMAZING. SO AMAZING. Phenomenal footing. Beautiful vistas. Perfect weather. SO WONDERFUL.       

We discovered on this loop that 7 of the front runners had gone off trail and would now only receive completion miles. That put us in the top 10. All we had to do was complete.             

We rode almost the whole loop with the other four ladies. They pulled away for a time, but we caught back up and ended up passing them and the mother/son team before we came into the vet check/hold.               

We headed back out on to the final 15 mile loop in good spirits. Mary “swam” out of camp, arms spinning in freestyle stroke without reins. I was chatting with folks and got left behind for a moment, so I “swam” out after her, much to the amusement of others.  We rode this ENTIRE loop alone without others around. It was both wonderful and surprising as we figured they would all have caught us by this point. 

10 or so miles into the loop, Gryphon had some cramping in his hind legs that Mary got off and massaged multiple times. She taught me how to “release” the tight muscles where these cramps often arise. Gryphon would skip a few steps, but 95% of his steps were sound. Mary monitored him very closely and altered our pace dependent upon the incline in order to best manage and help Gryphon out.        

A mile out from camp though he cramped up in a way that Mary couldn’t get it out. He looked much the way you or I would look with a Charlie horse. I trotted and she walked across the finish in 6th and 7th place; I headed to relieve Kenai and Mary and headed straight to the masseuse.                  

Siena vetted through at the 15 minute CRI mark, as we planned to stand her for BC. Gryphon got the most amazing massage ever for a long while, but still didn’t get a completion as he still trotted out unsound. The vets were very complementary to all of Mary’s efforts though, and noted that Gryphon was very loose and otherwise very happy seeming. (He was sound by the following morning.)        

 Siena didn’t end up getting BC, but it was a fun exercise to get to deal with that aspect of things.  

It was an amazing ride through and through. I finally managed myself very well and was hardly sore the following day. I was even able to ride my own horses on Monday! I can’t wait for my next 50 mile opportunity…but that’s a month or so off. ;-) 

@ the finish! Photo by Nancy Sluys

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Scent Desensitization

I was presented with an odd opportunity last week that led to my hands smelling of black bear in a strong way.

Because I'm evil, I decided to see how the horses would respond to this.

I think I'll be requesting some bear hide scraps from hunters this fall to further continue desensitizing.

I don't want my horses to completely disregard a bear, but Q's hind end whirling pivots at mach speed could disappear and I wouldn't cry about it.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bareback Jumping

It was so impromptu.  I wasn't even going to get the horses out on this evening. I was going to get what I needed for the Virginia Highlands ride and be on my merry way.

But my mom wanted to see the horses.

Happy to share, I pulled them from the field. She groomed them while I gathered my stuff.

She hadn't seen the new jumps yet either. So I decided, Okay, Q and I will show you the new jumps.

I was in tennis shoes. Shorts. A tank top. I didn't even have my helmet with me but there was one at the barn.
Q was just in a side-pull halter. I added reins to that and called it good.

I vaulted up bareback and we headed over to the jumps.

"Trot." She trotted. I applied a little pressure to the halter and put my leg on her. She circled neatly. Again and again.

And then we did the small crossrail. No problem.

Again.  No problem.

Again and again. Still no issues.

On to the 2'6" vertical. No problem. 

Again and again. No problem.

I had my mom film us. 

Q was so, so, so good.

I think I want to try more of this bareback jumping with her - with the side pull, too. Perhaps I'll even test the idea of bridleless.

Spontaneity can be so fun.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Hill Sprints

Q's started doing this thing when I go to the barn and want to ride
I enter field with halter.
Q sees me enter field.
Q notes halter.
Q turns tail and GALLOPS away from me
One time; okay, whatever, she's testing me.
Two times; okay, I hope she's gonna not make this a habit.
Three, four, five times; that's it. This is STUPID.
The third, fourth, and fifth times she did this I anticipated it and as soon as I entered the field and saw her start to move away from me I would SPRINT in the direction she went. Usually we'd reach the corner and she'd stop and I could halter her.
She's never been a horse who will COME to me in the field like Griffin. But she's NEVER been one who would run away from me. I've tried to get her to come various ways, but gave up and conceded with the whole thing as it was.
The fifth time however... The fifth time she ran to the corner, and then when I reached her there she sprinted off again! That was IT.
If she want to run, goddammit, she would run.
I got the 4-wheeler and chased her ass around the field awhile. Pursue, pursue, pursue. 
Within a few minutes she was halted, blowing, and looking at me questionably.
I dismounted the 4-wheeler and walked toward her. She let me put the halter on. I led her into the barnyard via 4-wheeler and we proceeded with our evening.
Hill sprints.
I mean, this was my plan prior to her being a snot, but really, if she wanted to run, we were gonna run.
The hill I use for this is about a football field in length on the long incline side. The shorter side is much steeper and about half the distance.
I decided we would do 10 hill sprints. 1-4 on the longer incline side; 5 on the steep; 6-8 on the long; and 9-10 on the steep. We would walk down between all, doing downward serpentines to extend the distance as she would need further to come down to a better pulse/respiration rate. If she were to try and trot downhill she'd have to stop and back several steps before proceeding.
Damn. Little horse killed it.
10 was the perfect number. The combination of long incline and steep-steep incline was perfect. She was tired, but not utterly exhausted on the very last one. She was blowin' like a bellows at the end of each sprint, and calmer in her respirations by the start of the next one.
Her walk to the barn afterward was forward and springy.
When I took her pulse at the barn she was in the 90s. I sponged and scraped and sponged and scraped. 90s. Sponged and scraped. 80s. Sponged and scraped 75.
She then stayed at 75 and wouldn't drop more. Her respriations were very calm and normal though. I concluded she is 1.) out of shape and 2.) distressed about her friends being out of sight during all of this process (she had called to them once and was standing looking into the distance very alert for any sign of them; one gelding was constantly calling from the far, out-of-sight end of the field). 
These facts noted, I decided it was similar to how a watch-pot won't boil. Me being super anxious about wanting her to drop just wasn't going to happen because she was out of shape and stressed her friends weren't near. Her breathing was at a very normal rate, and that's about all I could hope for. I know with my own physiology that I will sometimes have an elevated heart rate when I'm worried.
So I gave her her grain, left her be while she ate it, and turned her out.
I'm happy she performed so well, calmed down to a reasonable place all things considered afterward, and had a good appetite. I think this exercise will be great training as we work toward Fort Valley I & II at the end of October.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


Yet another Harry Potter reference for Griffin.
But seriously, he acted as if I had offended him in some great way when I went to tool around on him and ride him for 20 minutes on Sunday. Perhaps I should have bowed to him first without loss of eye contact to gain respect a la hippogriff?
Good thing I was so relaxed and could laugh about his antics and push him forward. He was being such a pill
*cue the walk*
*Griffin throws head violently to left and right, up and down, some forward movement*
*cue the walk with a little bit more oomph*
*head throwing, tiny little grunting squealing, forward movement in the way of tiny bounces to throw his front end forcefully into the ground*
*giggling" Griffin, come on, WALK. Don't be an angsty teenager.
*sets himself into an almost rollkur-esque headset, pounds front end into the ground*
Geesh! You're such a pill today.
So I lunged his ass. And he cantered and cantered and cantered and bucked and kicked up his heels as high as my head DIRECTED IN MY DIRECTION EVEN! But he was still at least 10 feet away, so while this was an incredibly rude gesture, I wasn't in the line of contact fortunately. But I made him book it around for a few more laps before I reversed him and hurried him along again.
Post-lunging he was much better behaved. Still distracted and a little angsty, but he did as he was asked. I didn't push it too much. That was good enough since he seemed to be having an off day of things.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pictures or it didn't happen

So remember I gave Jeremy a lesson on Q a month or so back and he fell off three times? Remember how he was a really good sport about things and just bounced back on?

He had lesson two on Sunday. 

This is where we ended up.

He started the day bareback in the inside ring. He and Q learned to communicate and turn and maneuver all over. I was present but not in the ring. I coached him on things to work on and left him to it.

He even worked up some courage despite some (well-established from last time) anxiety about trotting and trotted her bareback! He stayed on and did great. 

I then gave him the option of a saddle if he'd like it. He did and wanted to try a western saddle. The first option, a light synthetic one was too small for him. So he used one of the 30+ lb saddles instead. He did great. Better than great.

He took all of my suggestions to heart and worked on his walk-halt, walk-trot, and various other transitions with Q. So not only were they doing small circles and reversing to keep her mind on his direction, but she was having to stop, walk, trot, and back up randomly. 

I was tooling around with my hippogriff[in] throughout all of this and decided to head to the outside ring. Its a little bigger. I figured I could ride on the inside and Jeremy and Q on the outside since they were working at a faster gait and would enjoy the bigger circle.

Jeremy rode Q from the barn to the ring. Quite the step up now that there was no confined ring. They even trotted!

Once we reached the ring, Jeremy worked on keeping Q in a sustained trot for at least a whole lap of the ring. He was looking great and Q was really responding well. (I had the foresight to put her in a side-pull halter so that any messy hands wouldn't upset her. She was in a GREAT mood as a result. Yay!)

I posed this question, "You two are working really well together. So here's a question for you, and you can refuse. I just want you to be comfortable. Do you want to try cantering again? I know it was problematic last time, but y'all are looking great today, you're in here and not on the lunge, you've got that saddle, and you're doing really well."

He accepted. I jumped on Q to tune her up so that she'd better know that when he got back on he was going to be requesting the canter, too. It also served for me to better explain to Jeremy how to put her into the canter, ride the canter, and keep her in the canter.

I turned her back over to him and they did great! He successfully cantered both directions for a lap or two. He didn't sit it absolutely perfectly, but I think part of that may be due in part to the stirrups being too short. (I hadn't adjusted them because I didn't anticipate him riding quite like that and they're a bitch to adjust.)

I praised both Q and Jeremy for such a job well-done. It was a very superior effort on both ends. He was calm and patient with her. She took care of him. A lot of trust and respect. Very proud of both of them - Jeremy especially.

He told me afterward that he was really happy he'd started bareback that day. He said it really helped him figure out his balance so when he was in the saddle everything went more smoothly. He's got to work on not hunching his shoulders, but that may be easier if I lower the stirrups to a better length. All things considered though, he did a very good job. 

Now I hope I can get him comfortable enough on her to so that he can ride her with me on the trails while I ride another horse. His weight + the western saddle would be amazing weight training for Q prior to our rides!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Working Two Horses

The night I picked Kenai up from surgery was the first night I worked both horses.
It was fun. Both did well; both had their moments; both were very lightly sweating at the end of their respective 20ish minute sessions.
I lunged Griffin for 5 minutes to warm him up and put him in the mindset of work. Then I hopped in the saddle and we rode for the rest of the time. Walking at first. Then trotting a lot. 
I wanted him to work on trotting with a steady rhythm without balking for some reason. When he had some solid effort and accomplishment with that we worked on our trot-walk, walk-trot transitions. No big deal!
So then I just trotted him hither and thither around the barnyard, circling the jumps (which he could care less about compared to Miss Q who is all OMG BRIGHT COLORS ALERT ALERT!). He really settled into a nice rhythm, popped into a canter a couple times, but came right back to the trot with a flick of my fingers on the reins to check him.
Such a good boy!
We ended with a great halt and phenomenal backing. 
: : : : :
A quick change of pads and tack from one horse to the next and it was Q's turn.
I walked her around the barnyard and each jump. And then we repeated that at the trot and then the canter. Each direction at each gait before progressing.
And then we jumped! We jumped our new pretty jumps!
Small crossrail, two 2' verticals. Mixed up direction as we went. Trotted them and cantered them.
Then she clipped the middle vertical and knocked it down. So I made her jump her mess. Cue spazz out. But we worked through it. And then I fixed it and turned it into a big crossrail. High sides at 3'3"-3'6" or so. Middle about where the other vertical was. Shouldn't be a big deal.
And it wasn't. 
She jumped the HIGH sides of it several times.
The question of whether or not she could jump 3'+ is now answered. She can do it and do it well. 
She can jump 3'+ on a bend as she makes a turn to see her friends, too. Sigh. Silly Q.
Not what I wanted in that moment, but she jumped clean and came out on the correct lead.
Quite the athlete I have, it seems. Both of them. Great little athletes in the making.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Kenai: Surgery

Day of surgery: I'm so fortunate. I know my vet as a friend and several of the techs involved I know even better. Kenai knows them, too. Having these folks involved in this surgery helped keep me at ease and helped Kenai to hopefully not feel so alone and abandoned.
One of the techs sent me updates and photos throughout the day.
"Pre surgery blood work was normal. We're prepping him now."
"Just prepped and sedated him for surgery. He was very good and lay down to help us out."
"Starting surgery on the right knee now."
"First knee done, starting on the left."
"He's out. He did very well."
And then the vet called me. These are the notes I took from that call:
his right knee was worse when joint was open; partial tear on right
left side had more complete tear with more arthritis
clinically both knees were about the same; good that we caught it early
trouble eating lately? jaw is very stiff; muscle myositis disorder: immune system attacks muscles of jaw and face; causes atrophy; a lot of muscle loss across top of head; couldnt get jaw open under anesthesia; drooling, change in voice; $300 more dollars (two $150 tests though only one will need to be done initially); treatable with steroids and immuno suppressants $4 perscription treat; initial testing is expensive
I was elated the surgery was over and went well. I was crushed that something else was wrong. I was hopeful that if tests were positive that it was treatable. I was a rollercoaster of emotions. 
The vet and I talked about options and facts. I said to send off the first blood test. We'll move forward from there. 
I could have worried excessively at this point, but I did my best to push it from my mind and distracted myself with the 6 mile ride on Q. 
Post-Op Day 1: I leave work a little early to go pick Kenai up. The vet said she could drop him off at my work, but as she's a traveling equine vet the majority of the time and only performs these surgeries a couple days a week, she was out and about and wouldn't be back until 6 or so this day. I just wanted my boy back at this point.
There was an older gentleman and an older couple when I arrived. The older couple was dropping one of their dogs off for some sort of "more advanced" surgery, knee or otherwise, I don't know. The other gentleman looked very distraught, but reserved. The other vet - strictly "small" animal (as opposed to my vet's equine and livestock practices) - called the gentleman into a room. 
As the receptionist and I talked through stuff with Kenai, his release, and his bill, she let on that the distraught gentleman was here for "an emergency with his dog". Oh. :-\
A tech came out to discuss Kenai's rehab with me. I nodded and confirmed that I understood everything. And I did. I've been reading up a lot about it online and have found rehab programs a lot more conservative that I plan to incorporate into the one they gave me.
The tech passed me back off to the receptionist who told me the damage (which was $500 cheaper than if I'd had both legs done at separate times. And that was including the extra test for the myositis!). I paid and waited for the tech to bring Kenai out. And waited. And waited. Finally the receptionist told me that she was sorry, but it would be a moment or two more. That distraught gentleman? His dog had to be put down.
I was already a basket of nerves, scared and upset because I knew Kenai was likely confused and in pain and it was because of me. Hearing this? Now I just wanted to cry for like a month. So, so, so awful.
A few minutes more passed. They asked me to pull my car around. I did. The tech brought Kenai out. 
My poor, poor naked butt dog. So sad. So hurt. So pathetic.
We got him loaded up and I headed to the barn with him. The temps were in the upper 60s and I would be able to park in the shade. He would be very comfortable while I rode the horses.
After futzing around at the barn for an hour or so, I headed home. 
I wasn't sure how I'd get Kenai out of the car without help, but I figured we'd get it done somehow.
Ha. Haha. No.
In my efforts to help him out, he started whining and whimpering. I tried to alter what I was doing. His protests increased. I decided to just get it over with as quick and safely as I could, hips under towel, one of my hands on that and another on his collar.
He screamed.
He screamed the worst scream I've EVER heard him scream. I helped him flop in the grass, apologizing to him again and again and again. I sat down beside him and just sobbed.
With some time, I was able to get up and help him inside without issue. I got him to lie down, eat a meal of his food piece by piece from my hand. He even drank some water! But then he wanted up again. Bathroom? Well, okay.
I assisted him outside - always with the towel under his hips to support his back end - and we hobbled in tandem for awhile. He would gaze off at the horses, sniff the air, sniff the ground, big doggie smile on his face.
Pee? Poop? No. Not with me beside him at any rate. He doesn't usually like to go on a leash either. So I took a leap of faith, figuring it would be quicker and easier to let him do it on his own. 
I dropped the towel to the ground. "Go pee!" I encouraged. 
Lo and behold, he hobbled off on his own and took a nice poo. When he finished he hobbled right back to me, I replaced the towel sling, and we went inside. Good boy!
The rest of the evening went without great issue. He can't stand up on his own. He has trouble lying down. We did the assist then independent hobble routine once more for him to pee. Good boy!
He slept through the night relatively well, though he did wake up in surprise from the pain and cried a few times. I comforted him, and we went back to sleep.
We're not out of the woods yet, but definitely moving in a great direction.
Dogs are survivors. Dogs are survivors. Dogs are survivors.This is my new mantra. We (he) can do this.
(Follow up [because I drafted this awhile ago]: Kenai is doing great almost a week out of surgery. He's perkier and happier by the day. Seeing people he knows and enjoys has been the best for pulling him out of his post-op depression of sorts. His tail wags more and more each day, his eyes are brighter, he's moving more, and his appetite is slowly returning. <3 my puppy.)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Trot test

Tuesday night Kenai was still at the vet's and Atticus was at my parent's house because he's trends toward being a shitlord (moreso) when he's alone without an outlet. This left me free to head immediately to the barn after work.

It had rained much of the morning (about 1½ - 2" of rain from reports; we've had a ridiculously wet summer) and then a short, heavy burst happened again the hour before I was planning to go ride. Prior to all of this precipitation, I'd entertained the idea of playing around with the new jumps. Not so much after though.

I didn't really have a plan at all when I arrived.

I plucked a somewhat resistant Q from the field and could hear the creek roaring. Hmm, traipsing across the flooded creek could be fun! Bareback pad jaunt? Saddle? I didn't want to go too far considering I forgot a change of shirt and was wearing my boots + half chaps + leggings + silk with sequins shirt.... Yeah. Classy, right?

I decided on the saddle just in case I decided to extend my ride further. Good thing, too, because I ended up riding 6.33 miles on road/rail trail. Fashion be damned.

This ride lacked a plan or purpose in the beginning other than, Well, I have time tonight I may as well take advantage of that fact and ride.

And so we rode. I didn't want to go for too long in case I had time Wednesday (predicted high of 70 degrees, *swoon*) to ride, also. So I settled for a 6 mile goal. Speed? Hmm, lets try to keep a trot for as much of the ride as possible (where not walking through a few tricky sections) and see what our speed comes to. Its time I really start testing and rating and fine-tuning Q's trot.

And that's exactly what we did.

High blip at beginning of chart was a moment of canter (she thought her boyfriend was at the top of the hill)

High blip at beginning is again a moment of canter, she was showing off for the jogger on the trail

My Endomondo track got canceled and split into two after a phone call (while riding tehe - but really, I had THREE calls yesterday, it was silly) to my brother. The total ride ended up being 6.33 miles with a 5.94 mph average speed. Looking at the charts in more detail on Endomondo afterward, it appears Q's trot is 8-10mph.

I can say with certainty that when the decision is left to her to choose pace, she sets it around 8 mph. When I focus on her and encourage for more speed, while discouraging speed that would lead to a canter, she picks up a nice 10 mph trot.

This ride definitely contains no rough terrain, so things will eventually vary. But for a workout where I really want to rate the trot and get some good distance in, this is the perfect ride.

The rail trail and back road are a little too open for me to be comfortable going very fast on because Q finds silly reasons to spook (too much to look at and consider). Trotting is perfect though. She can dance and prance around "scary monsters" without really breaking gait or tossing me around very much at all. At the canter she always breaks gait in her antics, and I end up getting a little more of a chiro adjustment than I desired.

So trotting, rating, distance. Perfect.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A series of events

Firstly, thank you, everyone, SO MUCH for all of your words of encouragement about Kenai's surgery. He's *out* and doing well. I'll post a more thorough update on all of that in the next week or so. But know he's well albeit naked in the rear end. He needs pantalones. I want very much to sew him some wool knickers with a butt flap since his hair grows back at a glacial pace.

I apologize for lackadaisical blogging of late.

Moving to the apartment has brought a wealth of issues as far as internet access (I'm not serviceable by one and the other option hasn't showed up yet to see if I'm serviceable). When I'm able to get internet right now, I write as many posts as I can and schedule them for days to follow.

August has been a whirlwind. First our club's sponsored endurance ride. Then I was in the wedding of one of my best friends.

Groomsmen goofs
bridesmaid attire
what happens when climbers get married
Me: Kate you should stand on the pillar (above the cliff drop off)
Beautiful lady.
at the reception that evening

Then Dom and Mike came through WV like a whirlwind to drop off jumps I'd ordered from Mike. (All photos by Dom!!)

My beautiful jumps and my beautiful dog before his legs were shaved
Yes, I ride in shorts.
Proof of the riding of Griffin haha
Mike's talented

Now Kenai's surgery and post-op.

I'm teaching for ski patrol some weekends and trying to plan some climbing trips for other weekends (all of this depends on Kenai).

Additionally, I'll be riding in my third 50, Virginia Highlands, on August 24th.

A whirlwind of events indeed.

One day I will comment on blogs again. I'm still reading when I can, but comments are definitely lacking. Apologies, but c'est la vie.

WW: High water

(Disclaimer: I know this stream and its fluvial geomorphology very well. I am also very familiar with the forces of water. If I had thought this would be dangerous, I wouldn't have crossed.)

Monday, August 12, 2013


My best friend was dropped off at the vet today.

He has double knee surgery for the cruciate ligament in both knees (hind legs, and I say this only because that seems to be everyone's first question).

He's been progressively gimpier after exercise for the past 6-8 months. At first I just thought it was a leg falling asleep as I noticed it when he stood up. But then it was happening more with one leg than the other. And then bilaterally. And now it just depends on the day.

If I keep him relatively inactive for a few days it will get better, but comes right back after a visit to the barn where he zooms around the field.

I finally took him in for diagnostics in April. Good news? His hips are perfect. Those knees? Some arthritis already presenting, mildly. Both knees will eventually be done unless I want him to experience crippling arthritis by the time he's 5 or 6. Vet noted that breeders focus so much on hips that they forget knees.

I'm scared and nervous for Kenai. He doesn't even know what's about to happen. I feel like the worst person ever because for the next several months I'm taking away from him what he loves most in life: freedom to run.

He's an off leash dog almost all the time. In order to rehab properly that cannot happen for months. The next two weeks will be the absolute worst it sounds.

Could I have opted out of this surgery and sought another route? Certainly. But the best route would then be to keep him kenneled for a series of months with minimum to no activity. Uh, yeah. Right.

He doesn't have tears all the way through the ligaments yet, so hopefully with surgery he'll have super knees after this as the ligament will heal and he'll have the added benefit of the surgery to strengthen his knees.

The night he was skunked 2 weeks ago

Additionally, the vet doing the surgery has done a lot of these (she's also Q and Griffin's vet). She says this surgery is very, very common on active larger breed dogs. She noted during the diagnostics that her patients who do both knees at once rehab a lot quicker and better than the others because the dog is forced to use both legs equally instead of favoring the "better" leg that hasn't been operated on.

I'm scared. I'm nervous as hell. I just hope Kenai and I can get through these next few days and weeks.

Think of us.

Hug your dog(s).

Monday, August 5, 2013

My *surprise* second 50

The annual endurance ride my club sponsors and puts on, the Ride Between the Rivers, was this past weekend. I'd been excited for it for months, first because I'd hoped to ride Q in the 50, and then after she got hurt I was excited because we'd be drag riding and helping with the ride. Anything to still be caught up in the chaos of the event was fine by me.
Friday morning before the ride dawned with a flurry of activity as I prepped myself, the car and trailer, and Miss Q. I received a call in the middle of this to please get more maps on the way to the ride. Because I have a powerful mapping program on my computer and the know-how to create maps (its part of my job and was my second degree program concentration), I was excited to be able to *finally* make them this year. We'd been talking about it forever but couldn't get our shit together.
And thus, I traipsed through downtown with trailer in tow to get more maps run off. Fortunately the print shop has a parking lot that is very conducive to trailer parking. Nevermind the fact that I took up basically the WHOLE parking lot to do so...
It took about an hour of technicalities with technology, but we got the additional copies run off and all was well! So, finally (at 11a), OFF to ridecamp we went!
I got maps passed off, camp setup, Q settled, and then proceeded to see what - if anything - I could do for the time being for ride prep. There were some minor things that needed doing, but nothing major. I met up with Mary (whose mare Siena I rode in my first 50 in June) and got the Ansur I wanted to try out on Q during our sweep riding. Mary got to meet Q, too. She had many complimentary things to say about my little girl; always nice to hear.
The plan for the next day was to only do the first loop on her since the other sweep riders had all bailed on me. I'd do one loop in the morning just to get some riding in, and then I'd work radios in the afternoon. Knowing this, I tacked Q up in the Ansur and headed out to ride for a couple hours Friday afternoon.
I was really pleased with the fit of the Ansur (a treeless saddle) with my Woolbak pad on Q. Mary had thought it would be a really great option for Q since she's mutton withered with a round barrel. It really was. After the first few minutes, I honestly forgot I was riding in a saddle that was new to me. It was really comfortable! And even more so with my wool stirrup leather covers - I think I've discovered a solution to the problem I had at Scioto!
Q and I had a great ~8 mile ride on the blue loop. I didn't really go out with a plan. We enjoyed the newer sections of trail that were added this year to re-route some steep mud/rock sections. We did a lot of walking through the technical parts, but still managed to find many areas to boogie. I even encountered some beautiful fallen logs on a little spur of trail to jump!
Three places along where we rode were VERY steep. Think Cougar Rock incline. They were short bursts no more than 50 or so feet in length on the longest. I'd never ridden my girl on terrain quite like that so it was a fun, albeit brief, challenge. She conquered like it was nothing.
The short loop I'd hoped to create from the blue loop (only doing part of the 16.6 mile loop) was botched in my memory. I knew there would be a section where the riders would be going straight instead of down an increasingly washed out swtichback section in a clear cut. I just forgot where and how we were now sending them to this point. I hadn't brought a copy of the ride map with me (shame shame shame) but I DID have my phone and the Endomondo app running. I was able to monitor this app and make a decision about where it would be best to drop back down into to the river and thus onto the gravel road that led back to camp.
Q and I descended down an old access road for mining/oil and gas activities. It was steep and rocky. Q had zero issues even though she only had Renegades on the fronts and was bare in the back. When we hit the gravel road we cantered most of the way back to camp with only one severe spook due to some pilated woodpeckers that were futzing around on the ground and decided to flush up  with a flash of black, white and red and a flurry of noise as they gave their jungle bird call. I didn't fault Q for this spook, hell, it startled me a great bit! A mile from camp we ran into Mary and her friend Joni and joined them for the remainder of the ride into camp and encountered no further issues.
Back in camp, I hadn't even reached the trailer or dismounted before Jen called me out.
"Liz, I've been looking for you."
"One of the rider's horses was reacting to another horse in the vet check and accidentally kicked her. She's not going to be able to ride tomorrow and I told her you might be able to ride her horse for her. in the 50 Are you interested?"
*blank stare* Uh. *silence* Mary and Joni's eyes lit up for me and they started egging me on to do it. I still stared blankly.
"Its Sallie's horse Gracie. I don't know if you know her. Everything is all ready to go. She really wants the horse to race because she's planning to do a 75 in two weeks and this ride is really important for the horse and for her."
*still staring; silence as I think* Mary and Joni's urging continued, as well.
"Why don't you come back and meet the horse and rider."
Isn't ridecamp beautiful?
I was hesitant because I wasn't ready at ALL to do this. I hadn't brought all the clothes I'd prefer to ride in. I didn't have much food to guarantee that I'd be eating enough. I hadn't been riding a ton to feel in better shape. I was looking forward to riding Miss Q in the morning for about 17 miles. They needed me to help in camp, didn't they? I didn't have my mind in the right place. 
I took Q's bridle off as we walked over to see the horse and rider. Q followed complacently, snatching grass as we went along, completely oblivious to what her poor owner was being asked to do.
I love the Ansur!
Arriving at the trailer I realized I knew this lady. I knew this horse. We did our tune-up ride at No Frills with them. The mare was a huge 16hh grey Anglo Arab mare with a lot of opinions. A strong, forward horse. The look of realization dawned across both our faces. Hers lit up. Mine merely started to finally respond to what was going on around me.
And within minutes it was agreed, I'd test the mare on a ride with a riding buddy right then. We'd figure out if I'd use her Specialized Eurolite or my own saddle after that. We'd go from there. Jen led Q back to the trailer to untack her for me and I remained at Sallie's to decide my fate.
Sallie's husband (whose name I never caught) helped me tack up Gracie. Gracie, of course, had some opinions about this that she shared with me through pinched nostrils and pinned ears. Mares. Lovely. Sallie babbled on through the whole process filling me in on as much as possible about Gracie, how to ride her, and any other information I could hope to need.
My riding partner, Cathryn, I'd also met at No Frills. She has a firecracker personality and the thickest Long Island accent you've ever heard. I'd taken a liking to her (and Sallie for that fact) at No Frills. Cathryn's gelding, Epic, and Gracie were basically in love with one another, not usually something I enjoy in horses, but for this situation? WONDERFUL. It guaranteed me a riding buddy for the entire race.
I mounted up, excited to finally ride in an Eurolite! Cathryn and I headed out for a brief tune up ride, Sallie shouting directions and tips as we rode away.
From the get-go, Gracie and I had some disagreements. I'd received ample instruction on how to be firm with her through such disputes, and I was given a crop to handle them. I knew she was testing me just as I was testing her. However, I had no great desire to beat her into submission in order to win an argument. I needed to get along with her for a day and make it down the trail, not become her best friend. I made my point heard with our arguments, and then retreated to let Cathryn's gelding sway Gracie to my point of view about things by leading through the sticky spots. Both horses were sluggish in our 20 minute ride, but I foresaw nothing great to make me not want to ride the following day. I did decide that while I did like the Eurolite and could see it being a saddle that may one day work for me, I didn't want to use it tomorrow when I had the option of my own gear. If I was going to come out of this ride better than my first 50 experience, I was going to need to be in gear I was familiar with.
Sallie was over the moon that I was going to ride the mare. After dinner we tried my tack and found no issue. I was to be at her trailer at 530a to tack up and warm up for 45 minutes before our 630a start. And so that's how it was.
Ride meeting post dinner
I woke at 445a, drank a little coffee to guarantee my alertness, and headed to Sallie's to help get Gracie ready. Sallie said she was feeling a lot better than anticipated (Gracie had struck out at Epic in true mare fashion and struck Sallie's calf in the process. Major bruising immediately and hence my riding the mare for the 50), but that she was REALLY happy to not be riding. Things proceeded a little slowly, but by 6a Cathryn and I were saddled and heading out to warm up. Gracie and I had some further differences in opinion, but nothing major.
At the start, Sallie was worried Gracie wasn't warm enough (worried about her tying up from this) and gave instructions for me to not canter for the first hour. As this mare was rumored to TROT at 12 mph(!!!) I didn't forsee this being an issue.
The clock dwindled down to 630a and we were off.
Gracie went out strong and fast, but in a controlled way. I kept contact with her for much of the first loop. She had a MOTOR and wanted to use it. We didn't do any cantering for the first hour, as requested. We bopped around passing and being passed as riders juggled for their positions. Cathryn and I stayed together through it all. Both horses took turns leading. That 12 mph trot? AMAZING. Easy to ride and FUN to ride. My biggest complaint about the loop was that my cantle bag was off center and thus so was the saddle. This caused some minor discomfort, but nothing major.
I was in a zen-like state for most of the loop and this continued for most of the ride while out on trail. My thoughts didn't stray to things going on outside the ride, back in camp, or off the trail. My eyes were down trail. My body responded to the horse's movements, and my focus was almost meditative in a sense. I listened to conversation around me and responded back in turn, but much of it is a blur. I just remember the trail. The green. Moving forward. Rising and falling as I posted that ridiculous trot.
Sallie telling me to go take care of myself.
We zipped through those first 16.8 miles in 2 hours with only one little blippit in Gracie's gait that I discovered was due to her frogs shedding and a rock entering the flap of frog. Sallie was surprised when we reached camp as quickly as we did. She took charge immediately and I bounced along behind, doing as she bid and helping however I could. She's got a very take-charge personality, but not in a completely overbearing way. I needed to get food and wouldn't be completely alert until I had it, so I was happy to do her bidding.
The horses pulsed down and vetted through quickly and with no issues.They'd been drinking beautifully on trail and ate wonderfully at the check. One of the farriers cut off the flap of frog and informed us that if something were to hit that point again she'd be done for the day (I was nomming hard on some food at this point and not paying much mind.) We found an EasyBoot to apply over the shoe and called it good. The 45 minute hold flew by and we were headed out for our technical loop, the blue loop.
This loop was highlighted by a lot of mud. The steepness was expected. The boot stayed on for the whole SUPER MUDDY loop. We picked up two riding buddies along the way, Amy and Julie. By this point in the ride, Gracie and I were doing much of the pace-setting. Horse has a MOTOR. She didn't want to leave them, but she was pretty happy in the front the majority of the time.
The loop went without issue until the river crossing at the very end. Amy's horse, who should know better by now I'm told, flipped shit when the sponge got between his legs. He spun and bucked and whirled. Water sprayed everywhere. He crashed into Cathryn and Epic, who then in surprise and fright whirled and bucked sending Cathryn flying off. She hit the ground HARD. Amy's horse continued to bolt-buck across the river (belly deep water) with her barely hanging on. At the other side he whirled and bucked, sending her flying in an arcing C-shape off his left side, landing with a splash. Gracie stood like a champ the whole time. I called to Cathryn after she hit the ground (this whole event happened in seconds) to not move. Stay put. She was already struggling to her feet though. I called numerous questions at her about how she was doing/feeling/moving while I navigated Gracie toward Epic to make certain he went nowhere. Cathryn was shocked, rightly so, but okay. Her hand was cut a little. I knew she'd discover a lot of bruising later. She hit HARD. But fortunately, other than the cut and being wet, she was okay and the four riders and horses - two wetter than they'd been previously - headed the remaining mile into camp and the second check.
The EMTs wrapped up Cathryn's hand and she went to put on dry clothes while we vetted the horses through. They both had no issue again, though my heartrate was quite elevated after doing two trot outs! Haha.
All four off the ground; LOVED this trot! So HUGE!
Photo by Becky Pearman photography
We didn't know where we were in the field of competitors going into the third loop. Sallie said we were in a good position, but wouldn't tell us more so that we wouldn't change how we were riding. She and her husband guaranteed me that this was Gracie's best time of day. They hoped we would do at least the same pace we had on the first time through this loop (we rode red, blue, red to reach 50.2 miles). Cathryn, Julie and I headed out to complete the final loop, cheers of encouragement echoing behind us.
We really mosied for the first half of the loop. I wasn't overly thrilled with this, but it was important to get Gracie through happy and sound. We set the pace for the majority of this loop. Halfway through, it started raining. It felt really amazing. The majority of the loop proceeded without issue. Gracie's big trot was still there, the other horses still cantered to keep up with her.
As we were coming off the trail and back to the gravel road for the last few miles of the ride, Gracie and I were leading, Cathryn was in the middle, and Julie was bringing up the rear on her mare Apple. My eyes were down trail, Gracie trotting along like a champ. I suddenly hear Cathryn call out, "HOLE!" and turn around in time to see Apple fall, one of her front legs completely submerged in the hole. Julie tumbled ass over tea kettle from the saddle while Apple - in this same instant Julie hit the ground - rocketed herself from the ground and the hole, legs akimbo in every direction as she tried to avoid Julie and the hole. One flailing hoof making brief contact with Julie's helmet. Apple recovered and stood still, shaking in fear. Julie rose to her feet, unscathed other than a lot of mud on her shirt and helmet to check Apple over. Some superficial cuts were on three of her four legs, and her lower lip was bloody from contact with the ground. I gave Julie some Desitin for the lip. Apple was sound without issue so we all rode the remaining 4 some miles with caution, ready to finish the damn thing and drink some fucking alcohol.
As we came into the finish, Sallie was there screaming to ride faster. We'd talked about riding across together to tie for whatever place we'd be getting. Julie lagged behind though, as did Cathryn, so I sped Gracie up per Sallie's shouting requests and we cantered across the finish to Sallie's laughter and approval.
We vetted through sound. Amidst hugs and congratulations I completed my second 50. Approval and thanks were lavished upon me like I never expected. Sallie was so thrilled with how I'd ridden Gracie. Cathryn was so happy to have had me as a riding partner, Julie, too. Sallie and Cathryn even sought Jen out post-race to give thanks to her for suggesting me and telling her how thrilled they were with my riding and company. *blush* 
At the award dinner that night I found out that we came in 13 out of 48 riders. Not too shabby.
So was it the weekend I'd planned? Aw hell naw. Was it incredible? A fucking BLAST. Would I do it again? You betcha.
Post script: Q was well taken care of and, while irritated that she didn't get nearly the food she thought she should have in the way of grain, learned patience at this ride. She did have one incident post ride where she freaked out at the trailer I'd tied her to while I peed and spazzed bad. This ended in being very thankful for a quick-release knot and my horse speeding loose through camp. Silly girl. Kenai slept happily on a bed of hay in the trailer all day long.