Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sunshine and a Contest

Saiph, Karen, and Gail have all nominated me for the Sunshine award - thanks, ladies!

1. Mares or geldings? 

A good horse. That's all I'm looking for. I thought I'd never own a mare, and then I got Q. I thought I'd not want another one, but now I'm wishing for a filly if/when I breed her in a few years if she proves to be sound of mind and body.
2. English or western? 
English. However, if I'm packing into the backcountry or participating in team penning or playing around with cutting cattle, I won't hesitate to ride a western saddle. My issue with western is the high pommel that exists on all saddles. I ride best (when doing anything above a walk) in a saddle that does not have that high pommel. I don't like any trail saddle that has a high pommel similar to western saddles (like Boz and other endurance model saddles).
3. Do you prefer younger or older horses?
I can really appreciate the knowledge and relative reliability of an older horse, but since Griffin, I really like starting my own horses. I like knowing their history and putting the foundation on them that I want them to have. The unknowns associated with an older horse that comes into your life aren't so worth it to me any more.
4. Have you trained a horse from ground zero? 
Griffin. January 2012 began our journey. The blog chronicles it.
5. Do you prefer groundwork or riding? 
Prior to moving to the barn I'm at, prior to getting Griffin - riding. But since January 2012, I really understand the importance of and enjoy working on ground exercises with my horses. Its basically all I've done with Griffin prior to this past spring. It's my main goal for Q throughout winter. And Q does SO much better over jumps when I've worked her through them on the ground first. Its not worth making them do something under saddle they can't do on the ground. Things flow much smoother when I've taught my guys things from the ground prior to under saddle.
6. Do you board your horse or keep him at home?
Board at a friend's home. Its great.
7. Do you do all natural things or just commercial stuff?
Depends on the product. I make my own fly spray. Commercial products are in it though! "All Natural" to me is things that are home grown/made. I recognize that this is a different point-of-view than most have, but growing up and living in a rural area where many folks are completely self-sufficient within their homes, diets, etc., I have a hard time viewing otherwise.
8. All tacked up or bareback? 
I'll do either. But I'm less likely to ride bareback on a horse that isn't "made". I'm hesitant to ride bareback on Q purely because of her athleticism that allows her to spook violently and quickly in a very quick period of time. It puts me on the ground before I can form a thought about what's happening.
9. Equestrian role model?
In line with others' answers: Any equestrian who has the horse's well-being in the forefront of their mind throughout all things.
10.  What's my one, main goal for my equestrian journey? 
To have happy, healthy horses with whom I can have fun with while also having a very established level of trust between equine and human.

I'd nominate, but I'm pretty positive nearly every blog in my blog roll has been nominated!!

On another note,  SprinklerBandit is having a contest through Dream Horse Studios on her blog. The company has beautiful products and definitely worth browsing through! Check them out.

Product and Gear Review from Fort Valley

I was able to put several things into use for realz at this ride that I'd only been using in practice prior. And, because nothing can ever go as planned, I did use a couple things *for the first time ever* at this ride - very blasphemous to the usual endurance rider motto of "nothing new on race/ride day!"

Equine Aid

Well, I FINALLY got to put this stuff to the test. Numerous bloggers have had contests for this stuff over the past several months. I never outright won a contest, but Equine Aid did send me a small sample to try despite not winning! A rather wonderful thing to do, in my opinion.

I had two packets of the stuff to try and had been awaiting my ride to use it. I never stall my horses unless its some requirement for rehab of an injury. They're turned out 24/7 on 20 or 40 acres depending upon if we close off the top pasture, so not an ideal situation with which to test the product.

I set up a tub of water for Q with the Equine Aid and a bucket of regular water at the ride. This little mare doesn't drink a lot in camp and never has. I hoped to rectify this considering we had 50 miles to complete!

Unfortunately, for Q at least, this product just didn't cut it. She actually stayed away from the tub with the Equine Aid until it was her only option. As soon as she was presented with a bucket of "clean" water she went back to it as her first option. I guess if its not a muddy puddle or stream in the woods, this little mare just isn't interested. Bummer because I still need to figure out how to get her to drink better in camp!

Wearing the boots here.
Dublin Pinnacle boots
I've lusted after some sort of fall riding boot (I have a boot obsession) for awhile. At the No Frills ride in April Jen had these on. I'd previously seen them worn in some of Karen Chaton's photos of endurance friends on Facebook and thought, If these ladies who ride 1000s of miles in a season are wearing these boots they've got to be pretty kickass. Seeing them in person on Jen had me completely convinced I needed them!

The $200 price tag wasn't too steep either. They were reputed to be waterproof, too. Sounded great to me! A perfect fall/spring boot at the barn.

I finally bought them (for $178 instead of $200 thankyouverymuch) in September. The smallest size they make is a 6 and they're still big on me! I had to get an insole to help out with the little bit of roominess in these boots. Perfect for thicker socks though, I reckon!

I. Love. Them.

I'd tested them a little here and there during the month prior to the ride, but I really got to test that waterproof claim out on the ride when we crossed that stream that I had to walk across! My feet were only wet from the water that sloshed OVER my boot top. Other than that? Dry! I'd call that a success.

Kerrits Flo-rise Performance riding tight
A rider at the Ride Between the Rivers ride this year was wearing a pair of these at dinner. I was smitten right then and there. They looked SO comfortable and breathable and happy. The perfect summer riding tight around here. She couldn't recall which ones they were when I asked other than "Kerrits".

I set to searching the internet to try to figure out which ones they were and decided they were likely the Flo-rise tight. Shopping with Saiph at the end of September I FOUND THEM. And they were really affordable at ~$55. I was very excited.

They're SO COMFORTABLE. I could probably sleep in them. I tend to walk around town in my riding stuff as is, so its sort of bad that I now have a part of tights I don't want to take ever.

Equipedic Pad
Well, this was a bit of a last minute ohshitIneedapad decision.Catherine had a spare and it was similar to my Toklat pad in that it had inserts along the horse's spine.

It worked wonderfully. No weird rubbing. No back soreness. Nothing. Just as if we'd ridden with the pad we were used to! I'm definitely filing this information away for next time I go shopping for a pad.

Sponge leash
As opposed to the retractable dog leash I had been using (the size that a toy-sized dog would have).

A sponge leash?! you ask. Yes. This was my first time dealing with something non-retractable. It got caught under my knee a lot as we moved out and I constantly had to fix it. Not the end of the world, no, but definitely annoying. I may have to find a different place on my saddle for it in the future.

Well, I elyted Q. And honestly, I'm not sure it made a huge difference. Granted, this was a cooler temp ride, so I'll have to try this again in hotter weather.

Mary is the queen of elyting and her horses drink like camels all the time. I've never witnessed horses who drink so well! I figured I had to try.

Next season I'm going to use the same mixture she does and see how things go.

Overall, not a bad go of it for some first timers!

Boots, pad, and tights featured in this photo.
Go, Q, Go!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Fort Valley 50: Q's a boss

An alternate title could be:

Fort Valley 50: Best Crew EVER

But as this story is basically all about how awesome the little mare is...

The story is long, but I've done my best to concisely cover everything.

Friday: I woke up early to finish packing. The morning had dawned very crisp and cold, the kind that makes you question why in the hell you even want to be out in it sans skis. There was a light dusting of snow all over the fields surrounding my barn apartment and the mountain tops had a heavier layer.

I had everything loaded in my car within 15 minutes or so as I'd packed it all the night prior. This left me enough time to shower and warm up then scarf some food before rolling to the barn to *hopefully* get the little monster loaded on the trailer.

My friend Hannah who would be riding over with me and crewing alongside Saiph and Charles (who were meeting us there) arrived at the barn moments behind me. I loaded a couple things I hadn't the night prior and fetched the little monster from the field. She was a muddy mess.

I tossed a light blanket on her once we reached the barn. Dee came down from the house to help with the trailering issue.

My arm was pretty effing sore, but heaps and loads better than it had been. We tried to get Q to just get on, but once she had two feet on she'd back right back off. We got her to get on completely once, but she WHIRLED around and darted right off and into the round pen where Dee when after her with the lunge line with the mutterings of, "Here we go."

She sent miss snakey-head-tossing sassy-pants around the pen. This really does nothing but work Q up more as its nigh impossible to tucker out the little endurance queen. We'll have to come up with a more creative solution for overcoming the trailer issue this winter.

After several circuits, Dee requested that Q load up. She trotted through the door and up onto the trailer, WHIRLED around and stood nostrils flaring with anxiety. As Dee made move to close the door, Q darted off.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat with the round pen. The second time Q loaded up she WHIRLED around, but stayed standing. We talked low and steady to her and slowly closed the door. We'd tied a rope to it that Dee could swing to me so that if Q did decide to challenge the door she'd be unable to bowl anyone over with it. I grabbed the rope and with a *clunk* the door was closed.

"That wasn't so bad," proclaimed Dee. I sighed with relief and closed the mare up. Hoping she'd be okay riding 3+ hours backwards. I was a little concerned she wouldn't be able to eat any hay or other treats I'd placed in the front manger, but oh well. She was loaded and its the best we could hope for.

Hannah loaded her stuff into my car and we pulled out of the drive at 9a sharp, just as I'd planned - Q only dancing a little in agitation on the trailer.

: : : : :

I'd routed the trip so that instead of having to go up-down, up-down, up-down over about 5 mountains on the two-lane highway, I'd instead only have to climb up once and descend once prior to reaching Corridor H. This would help out both the horse and my car/gas mileage.

The light layering of snow that lay around home grew thicker as we climbed in elevation into one of the snowiest counties in the state. Fortunately, it hadn't been extremely cold and the snow plows had been out and had treated the roads, so they were completely clear, albeit wet.

All the same, I can check off driving a trailer in the snow!

All in all, the trip took 3 hour 15 minutes from point to point. Not too shabby, and not a bad haul at all!

: : : : :

Ride camp was night and day difference, weather wise.

Upon arrival, Hannah and I cruised to the back row of trailers and parked beside Mary.

We got Q off the trailer, and Hannah let her graze on the lush, green grass while I prepped her pen.

By the time I was beginning to set up other parts of our little camp, Saiph and Charles pulled up! Team Q was all accounted for!

The four of us proceeded to finish putting camp together as Q grazed in her corral.

Sometime during this period, Catherine (who I rode with at Ride Between the Rivers when I rode the grey war mare) pulled in on our other side! Now I had my two riding buddies and endurance mentors from this year flanking me! I couldn't have asked for better company!


Team Q got registered and bought some raffle tickets for the Asgard Arabian gelding they'd be raffling off the following evening and then headed to the vet check with Q.

My little monster had transformed in the ride over the mountains. She'd gone from a terror to her old, sweet self. This 100% had to do with her being AWAY from the barn and her friends. Instead of depending so heavily upon them she instead transfers that reliance to me and other humans that interact frequently with her while away from home.  

(As an aside, I'm nearly certain that her insane behavior at the barn of late is due to the addition of another horse a few months back. All of the horses are in a tizzy since his arrival. Since his owner hasn't been out once since dropping him off, its likely we will consider putting him in the back field through the winter if all of this ridiculous behavior keeps up.)

Q nearly fell asleep while awaiting her turn to vet in. She was completely blissed out in the sun despite the flurry of activity around her. As a result, she pulsed in at 40!!

 I was over the moon about this - I think Saiph was equally thrilled as I'm pretty sure her smile mirrored my own. Hurrah for having such a relaxed, in-shape little monster!


We returned Miss Thing to her corral and the four of us + Kenai wandered camp for a bit browsing at Running Bear, Taylored Tack, and the OD yard sale.

This pursuit ended up with me buying a new sponge leash, Hannah purchasing a used English saddle and irons, and Saiph finding some beta/biothane tack (a headstall and reins, I believe) in electric blue for Lilybird.


After our shopping spree, I decided to tack Q up and ride around the field in ridecamp for a bit.

Upon pulling out the required tack bits for tacking up though, I discovered that I had FORGOTTEN MY SADDLE PAD!

I fretted over this for a second or two before realizing that someone was bound to have an extra. Catherine came to my rescue with an Equipedic pad that fit very similarly to the Toklat with foam inserts I typically used. Thank GOD for overprepared friends!!

I completed tacking up Q, and mounted for the first time in nearly 2 weeks!

I had a little more of a sassy horse than usual, but nothing insane.

After I spun around on her for a short time, I had Saiph leg up so that she could try out the treeless Ansur that I find SO comfortable. She and Q tooled around for a time, and then I legged back up for a bit more before deciding I was content with Q's behavior.

Team Q helped me untack her, and then we all proceeded to sit around and chat for a bit.

Mary arrived again from picking up the junior rider who would be riding Sienna the next morning, and also picking up her 22 year old Quarab, Shiloh with whom she competed for over a decade in distances from LD to 100s. I was thrilled to meet him - finally! A friend of Mary's would be riding him in the LD the following morning - quite the treat for them both as Shiloh misses his job and the rider would get the thrill of riding a horse who reads the trail ribbons and has a ton of "go" in him.

Mary informed me that she and the junior, Hunter, would be headed out on a short ride if I wanted to tag along. I decided what the hell and tacked Q up again for a short 2-3 mile jaunt on part of the third loop. All three horses got along fairly well, and I made the decision then to ride with the two of them tomorrow if they kept a pace I was happy about.


Dinner was phenomenal and the ride meeting and awards for the 30/50 that had been ridden Friday went without issue - other than the increasingly dropping temperature! Team Q headed back to our camp afterward and swapped out Q's blankets (all borrowed from Saiph and Lily [further reasoning behind best crew ever]) and then the humans retreated to vehicles with heat for nearly an hour before surrendering to the sleeping bags.

Trailer sleeping quarters

Hannah and I were on cots in the back of the trailer and Saiph and Charles were in my tent.

: : : : :

Saturday: Something about those cots and being off the ground made life a bit colder. Hannah and I made it until 2:30a before we both decided to throw in the towel and make the most of sleeping in my cramped car. All sleeping bags were only rated to 20°F, which means that with temps borderline 20°, we'd maxed out the capabilities of the technology and were cold.

I'd played the "too cold for sleeping bag" song and dance years ago when I slept in -22°F in my 20° bag. I decided it wasn't worth it with a race in the morning. Hannah and I managed to score another 4 hours of sleep in the car before we had to muster up the courage to confront the morning cold.

EVERYTHING was covered with a thick layer of frost. Team Q bumbled around (Saiph had also retreated to her car and Charles decided to embrace the slow loss of feeling in his body and remained in the tent like a boss) in the cold cursing why we were all so crazy. I think Q was the warmest of all!

I managed to cram some chocolate chip oat bran muffins in my face and guzzle a little gatorade while we tacked Q up. My wonderful crew covered all the bases making sure to ask if I had everything I needed while out on trail ready to go. Just what I needed!

I mounted a VERY FRESH little horse. I was concerned for a few moments that she was going to go into a rearing/bucking fit - something she's never done - as she was all collected and fired up beneath me.

Mary and Hunter astride Gryphon and Sienna were plodding around to one side of me as Hannah helped Catherine onto Epic on the other side. Four very fresh horses with four very cold humans proceeded to troll around ridecamp at a walk and trot as we awaited the 7:30a start.

The controlled start would take us across a small one-lane bridge without guardrails and up a paved
road where we would then be released to trot up a gravel road and head into the National Forest.

When they called for the trail to be open, I headed out with the main pack, trailing behind Mary, Hunter, and Catherine. I wasn't sure who I would ride with at this point, but as we progressed and Cahterine and Epic strode out ahead, I called out that I would be sticking with Mary and Hunter.

Within ~2 miles, the gravel road turned right into the forest on a sandy/rocky trail that then turned into a very rocky trail that descended to the other side of the mountain. The sun's rays hit us as we made the transition to the other side, making our shadows play off the golden leaves.

Mary, Hunter, and I dismounted and walked the horses down through the rocky section, remounting when the trail became better.

Down, down, down we went until we beared left onto a FS road that traversed the side of the mountain. We cantered this stretch, zooming along with Mary and Gryphon in the lead, Hunter and Sienna in the middle, and Q and I pulling up the tail end.

Somewhere in the zoomy section, Janet and her Paso Fino Duke (competing in their first 50) pulled up behind us and stuck with us through the loop.

The zoomy section terminated at a gravel road where we continued to trot alongside some pretty little farms. Mary warned that there would be mini horses and pigs and goats along this section. Within minutes of her proclamation I could see a herd of minis in the distance galloping around their field.

We continued to trot along as we didn't expect to encounter them for a bit longer, and then Mary exclaimed, "Here comes a mini through this field! See him moving through the tall grass? He looks like a little pig or gremlin or something!"

Cue panic.

The horses lost. their. shit.

Q especially. Her entire body tensed up. Her head shot straight up. Her eyes rolled. Her nostrils flared. And her feet became a flurry as she performed a myriad of fast, athletic motions to escape this little chocolate palomino terror.

We pivoted and whirled. All the horses bolted in some direction or another. All riders were calling out to "whoa" and "easy" to no avail. Q whirled and bolted back toward camp as I nearly came off. I managed to get her stopped for a moment. She turned around to see the little mini again and bolted a few more steps before I could get her halted again and quickly dismount. I tossed her reins over her head and led her towards the mostly-under-control others.

Q danced and thrashed around at the end of the reins. The maneuvers she performed were akin to a wild mustang on the end of a rope for the first time - a blind panic to escape. Leaping in the air and to the side, moving laterally with huge strides. It was both impressive and frightening to behold. She stayed out of my bubble the entire time, but I couldn't help but be astonished with the athleticism of the animal at the end of my line.

Mary cooed at Q and apologized to me about the whole situation as I quickly remounted. I assured her that it was no harm, no foul since I'd been able to dismount without injury.

We proceeded through the rest of the loop, following the gravel road and then turning up the mountain to climb another rocky stretch before traversing the ridgeline back to the sand/rock trail without great issue. Just easy ups and downs aside from the mountain climb.

Shenandoah River

A little rocky

With some drop offs

There were so many beautiful views as we climbed and descended the mountain though! The rising sun's rays playing off the autumn leaves was so beautiful. 


Team Q was awaiting me at the check with a bucket to sponge the mud from Q's legs and a blanket to throw over her. Q took this opportunity to drink almost all of the water provided, as she hadn't drank on trail.

Hannah and Saiph tending to wonder mare
We had the option for tack on at this check, but in a last minute decision, I opted to take it off.

Hannah set to sponging as Saiph and I untacked the mare. Charles carried the tack back to the trailer while Saiph and Hannah accompanied me through the check.

Q was down and went through the first check with a 44/44 CRI, an A- on gut sounds and A's on everything else. I was, once again, over the moon. The vets were laughing at Q, too, during her trot out because she was apparently looking all over the place as I trotted her.

Team Q and I all headed back to the trailer where the best crew ever took over making sure Q was happy and fed (they'd provided her with more water and had her buffet of hay, alfalfa, grain, carrots, apples, and treats out AND they'd cleaned her corral. I was able to focus on myself by eating a chicken salad sandwich and swapping out my synthetic down jacket for Saiph's crash vest.

Q even peed! YAY.

Hannah made certain to keep me reminded of the time so that I could get tacked back up and out of there in time. I'd have missed my out time were it not for her! But thanks to her reminder, I was able to meet up with Mary and Hunter just as they were coming to look for me. Mary is the best!


Within 5 minutes of the start of the second loop I nearly came off Q. When Hunter had difficulty getting Sienna to lead, and Mary wanted to give Gryphon a break from leading, I pushed Q into the lead. Her behavior since the new horse arrived has included some spectacular spooks. In place of the stink eye and a wide berth of scary things, she's begun leaping violently to one side or the other, or slamming on the breaks and whirling. Too fucking athletic, that's what this horse is! All the same, we led for a short stretch until she saw a large white rock and spooked violently, throwing me onto her neck where I was able to grapple for position and regain my seat, but not before I'd slammed my face into her neck hard enough to give me a headache for the rest of the loop!

The second loop doubled up with the beginning of the first loop's terrain and doubled twice through the zoomy section of the first loop. It went pretty fast and provided a few water crossings where Q guzzled water like a camel.

We did a LOT of cantering and galloping on this loop.

After traipsing through some water and then moving out fast, Q lost her left back boot completely, but as she always lets me know when she loses a boot I was able to quickly turn and retrieve it and put it back on.

I had 0's on her rears for this ride. She really needs 1's back there, but I dilly-dallied around with ordering boots and waited too long to rectify the situation so we had to make due with boots that were a little small for this ride.

Within a mile of losing the first rear boot, a rider behind me informed me that the right rear boot was loose and had spun around. I'd wondered if this was the case as Q had been giving me odd signals about it. I was able to stop and fix it - impressed and proud that my mare had still moved forward despite a very wonky boot on her right rear hoof! Mary also had a lot of praise for her.

The cable was a little frayed from the odd angle the boot had ended up at, but I slapped it back on anyway and we were able to finish the loop without issue.

The second loop required us to climb the mountain the same way we'd descended in loop one, so Mary, Hunter and I all dismounted and led the horses up the mountain. It. Was. A. Bitch. But it was worth it for the horses.

And I'm doubly glad I walked up that hill with Q because at the second check, even with tack off and some sponging, her CRI was 60/60. The warmer temperatures must have been playing into this, I suspect. She got a B for cap refill, gut sounds, and impulsion at this check, as well.

Super crew getting everything ready for me! Hannah even saved the day by
remembering the "very important orange paper" that was my ride card!!
But thanks to super crew, she ate and drank a ton before we headed out on loop 3.

Additionally, at this check Saiph earned the super duper crewer award by having Desitin handy for me. Something about this ride had me ready to scream the Funder war cry of "Death to Underwear!!" Desitin saved my ass though. Literally.

Super crew continued to be super on this loop. I was frazzled over the boot issue and the chafing. I was able to give direction about where things were and Saiph got Q's back feet de-Renegaded, wrapped with vet wrap, and encased in some EasyBoot gloves I have on hand as spares if something happens with my Renegades. I pulled almost everything out of my cantle pack except water and the spare Rennie that didn't have a compromised cable while my awesome crew tacked up and stuff Q full of food.

I was mounted well before my out time and able to meet Mary and Hunter for our last "easy" loop at the out timer.


This last loop twisted and turned all OVER the place. We skirted the perimeter of hay fields, went up and down a lot of easy grades, curved our way through scrub/shrub, let the horses eat in fields of lush grass, and conquered some tricky water crossings.

Mary and Gryphon in one of the many lush, green fields!

I was able to get Q to lead through the winding woods trails for a good bit. She picked a really smart little pace of an 8-9 mph trot. I talked to her the whole time saying, "log" and "rock" as we encountered scary things. She didn't spook violently AT ALL. It was SUCH a relief. Her behavior lately has made me really start to doubt whether or not we're going to ever be able to travel on our own on trail. I can't risk coming off such a spooky horse so many times during a ride! I really hope a lot of groundwork, dressage exercises, and basic reinforcing of foundation stuff this winter will rectify things.

Q threw one buck when she was at a standstill eating grass with the other horses no where near her. It was odd and made me wonder if she'd been bitten or stung by something? This horse has never bucked/reared before.

I could tell Q was beginning to tucker out on this loop. She still had go in her tank, evident in her power canter when we had the opportunity, but she was more than happy to stop and eat whenever provided the chance.

The third water crossing was probably the most interesting part of this loop as the horses had to step off a 1' embankment into the water. It had become a bit muddy from all the competitors.

Mary and Gryphon tried to go first, but Gryphon was NOT having it. Hunter half-assed an attempt to get Sienna to go, but she wouldn't either. I studied the possible entry points to the water, the depth of the thalweg throughout, and decided that our best bet would be me putting my new Dublin Pinnacle boots to the test.

I dismounted Q and stepped lightly into the water, watching my step. The water was ¾ of the way up my shin, but my feet stayed dry. As I walked across, the water that sloshed over my boot tops caused me to get a little bit wet, but overall, my feet stayed dry.

My super long reins I make myself from climbing rope were a huge help here. I was able to cross to a safe shallow area, and then encourage Q to come in with me instead of having to worry about her jumping on top of me. She took a few seconds to study her entry - deciding whether she should jump or step in - but as with all the times we cross the little wet area in her field when I bring her in to the barn for work, she followed right across.

Mary was able to get Gryphon across, and Hunter with Sienna after. I walked Q up the bank and remounted in the field on the other side.

The rest of the loop wound around and through fields, mostly. We did a lot of cantering.

We all three chose to tie at the finish, crossing the line holding hands, Mary on my left and Hunter on my right, Q on auto pilot between. An epic finish to a great ride.

I loosened Q's girth and texted my crew (I'd been doing this all day) to let them know we were done and would be walking into camp. They met me right before the vet check with alfalfa and carrots for Q, which she was able to indulge in as we finished the walk to the check.

At the outskirts of the check, we untacked Q and sponged her. It turned out that someone STOLE my bucket, sponge, and sweat scraper. I mean SERIOUSLY, who steals a BUCKET?! So we used Mary's.

The EasyBoots had stayed on very well through that last loop it turned out, although she'd been interfering front to back a LOT with them throughout the loop. And an oddity, the Renegade on her right front had gotten a little botched somewhere during that loop and ended up a little bent all over. It didn't seem to bother her, and the boot seems fine, but the cable was definitely a little compromised.

Q vetted through the final check with a 52/52 CRI, a B on cap refill and A's on everything else. And just like that, I'd completed my first 50 on my own horse. GO Q!

The rest of the evening was a blur: getting Q settled, fed, watered, blanketed, legs wrapped, myself changed, and fed, etc. Saiph and Charles departed that evening amidst many thank yous and hugs to head back to DC. Hannah and I remained in camp to double-bag sleeping bags and fortunately nab many hours of warm sleep before the morning when we packed up camp and the horse (who rode backwards home).

: : : : :

I can't say a big enough THANK YOU to my crew. You were green, the horse was [relatively] green, and I was [relatively] green about everything. But TOGETHER everything went so smoothly and so wonderfully and I really, truly couldn't have made it through without your help!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Trailering the little monster

The epitome of obstinate
A slow series of serious incidents with Q on trailers led me to begin further schooling with her this week leading up to our race weekend. I didn't want things to progress to a level where she or I became seriously injured from a trailering incident.

Last Sunday we began our schooling sessions. She's self loaded before onto slant load trailers with a rear tack room, but not onto my little 2-horse straight load.

You can lead her on with zero problems. Her issue is that once she's on she becomes anxious and wants to get right back off. When that anxiety kicks in is variable. It had been after I got her tied and the door closed, but several weeks back it was after she was tied and before I could slip out. She set into a pulling fit that was beyond scary and resulted with her leaping forward almost on top of me.

That was my breaking point.

No more can I be on the trailer loading this horse. It just isn't worth it. She needs to learn to self load and STAY on the little trailer just as she will on the slant load ones.

Aside: Let me note here that Q is in heat and has been in and out the past 3 weeks as the 3 mares are all trading their cycles around. -_- Q in heat is a horse that is very focused on where her friends are AT ALL TIMES, is extra spooky under saddle, and grows very anxious through groundwork. She's never ever been aggressive about anything while in heat, for which I am extremely thankful. She just seems to quit any sort of logical thought process and REACTS more often than not. I recognize this and adjust for it as needed. Do I LIKE that she's like this? No. No. And, no. But on the bigger scale of things its minor. I'm okay dealing with it because she's almost always so awesome in every other aspect of life.

Sunday's session started POORLY. SO poorly. I began with Dom's tapping technique as I stood near the corner of the trailer and tried to direct her on. She made a few good efforts ans was rewarded with an immediate release of pressure (tapping) and kind words and rubs. But as we progressed, she became very anxious about everything. Very anxious.

Q got so worked up over it. Her "way out" of the situation? She bowled over me. NOT OKAY.

I let her know I was there and she had better pay attention and not do that again.

We had a few more good attempts and then she began getting on the trailer and WHIPPING around in a circle and getting off. (The divider slides way over to one wall leaving room for my little athletic monster to do this.)

Dee and Q having a conversation
I worked her on the ground for a bit to try and release some energy and anxiety, but in her frenzied state though she got more anxious and manic and ignored me all the more and then tried to bowl me over again.

The situation quickly snowballed into something awful and I had to have Dee come down to help because my head was NOT in it. I was behaving horribly because my temper had far exceeded logic and Q was feeding off that.

I warned Dee that she would indeed get ON the trailer, but her thing now was spinning and darting off.

Dee calmly and patiently walked Q around the yard periodically stopping and backing. Everything was quiet and calm. It was what needed to happen that I just couldn't do at that moment. She started her walking up onto the trailer with one foot at a time as she hid behind the divider in a manner that if Q spun around Dee wouldn't be bumped or injured.

Within 5 minutes Dee had her loaded fully and then she did her spinning thing and tore across the barnyard.

With confirmation that Dee was unhurt, she then exclaimed, "So that's what you meant. What a bad girl."

And with that we resolved that I would back the trailer into the barn and butt it up against the round pen door so that we could make her work and have her only resting place be the trailer where I'd also put a bucket of grain interlaced with peppermint treats (her favorite).

And thus I turned the heat on and put more pressure on her to move those feet when she was on the half of the round pen away from the trailer. When she was near it I let off. I gave her the option to rest, but only when she was near the trailer.

She started by walking over and snorting and blowing, then decided it was too scary. Back to work. Attempt two: a foot on, too scary, back to work. Three: she got on, but shortly. Four: She got on and stood. Praise, praise, praise in the way of kind words and me standing as far away as I could put myself so she had zero inclination to worry about having to go anywhere.

After a few minutes I backed her off and repeated the exercise. She went right back on. We laughed.

We repeated the exercise more. She'd turn around and peer out, but she wouldn't get off the trailer. I couldn't ask for much more.

We ended on a good note when she didn't turn around and called it good until I could return Wednesday for further sessions.

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Wednesday didn't go so well, however.

It was the night of our first snow.

I'd been watching the horses that are in the field around my apartment - prior to heading out to see Q - running, jumping, bucking, and performing all sorts of acrobatics in excitement over the cold weather. I figured I had that in store for me at my barn, too.

Yep. That was true.

Q was cued up - true to her namesake. (On Cue)

I brought her into the round pen and she bounced around at a trot for a time. Then she scurried onto the trailer after a time.

She whirled right around to face backward though. No bueno.

I walked calmly over and had her step off to go back to work. She walked off like a lady.

Work work work. Back on she decided to go. I backed off and praised her from a distance.

She stayed facing forward for a time this time. She turned finally and I walked over and got her off again. Turning = more work.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. She stayed forward long enough for me to get on and back her off like a lady. Good girl.

The exercise progressed as one would expect, so I moved to the next step of adding her lead rope and actually standing beside her to "load" her as I would if she self loaded. No issue getting on, but she did pivot around rather quickly. I got her off walked her in a circle and had her load back up. Much better.

Things progressed well with that and then I moved to closing the door.

She'd be facing forward, I'd close the door, and then she'd turn and look out the back. I talked to her and she just stood there. I waited a few seconds and then would open it. She didn't make a move to get off at all. So that was good that she didn't want to go charging off.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat with the door closing. Still turning.

And then we hit the point where things just sloped off downhill. My communication must have erred at some point and she basically flipped me the bird after that.

Everything she'd been doing well started to become very poorly done.

Dee had showed up. And another boarder. And my vet.

We talked a bit. My vet has a horse who is super athletic like Q who she also refuses to be on the trailer with because he acts similarly. (Note the HE. Q's a mare but she's not that crazy, haha.) She said on trailers like mine he'll ride backwards and she doesn't care because it just works well for him (oh, hey there Funder, didn't you mention Miss D doing this, too?) So that was encouraging to hear.

I continued to work with Q trying to find a good point to end on.

She'd gotten to the point where she'd get on and when she'd stay facing forward she would start to back off as I was anywhere near the back of the trailer. It was a little frustrating, but I decided I'd put a positive spin on it by applying pressure to her tail and pulling it to initiate what I hope to initially teach in order to have her get off trailers in the future.

So that was positive. And in hindsight this is where I really should have stopped.

But Dee wanted to see if we could get Q to self load with lead rope and stay facing forward with the trailer pulled away from the round pen. Seemed like a logical next step so I proceeded. (beats head off table)

And Q refused to even get more than two feet on. She just. wouldn't. do. it. SO FRUSTRATING. And she was getting manic again. And getting her manic tunnel vision. And then I got my arm stuck between her spinning around ass and the side of the trailer and it almost broke.

I sat down from the pain. Breathed. Assessed CMS (circulation, movement, sensation) in my fingers. Could flex the arm some. But then I couldn't grasp or hold things as simple as the lunge whip in my left hand. F*ck.

I pushed through it though and we got Q to load on - albeit for a brief second before she backed herself off - and called that a positive note.

I turned her out and gave into the pain and went home to nurse my arm and whine to close friends (thank you those whom coddled me, I needed it then).

I had a scary hour or two with the arm, but my dad (retired ER doc) called and had me perform some range of motion exercises to determine it most likely wasn't broken. I was already in a sling with ice and had taken anti-inflammatories, so there wasn't much more I could do but wait at that point. And fortunately - super, super fortunately - it was much better for 75% of movement by morning.

And thus, the race should still happen for me this weekend! The trailer saga will continue, as well.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

How To Tie Your Own Rope Halter

Q modeling her halter-bridle I tied
(Links to Jen's site updated 11/15/2016)
Tying your own halter is a hot subject among many horse folk, sadly, this art is complicated and resources are far-spread on the internet. I posted a few weeks ago about my time as an Equestrian Martha Stuart to save money on things I "needed" for my horses. I received a few inquiries on that post about how-tos. Also since that post, I taught Saiph to tie halters in the manner I've taught myself through various internet resources and personal observations.

I'm going to try to bring all of that together for you in this post. I've included links to places to purchase materials, photos, existing how to's, and videos.

What you'll need:
  • ¼" double braided yacht rope (here, here, and here)
  • paracord (here and here)
  • a lighter
  • scissors
  • a measuring tape
  • time and patience
For Q's head, I know I can get away with 18' of rope. For any other "horse" sized head though I would recommend starting with 20', larger horses 24' to be on the safe side. Once you master the technique, you'll be able to use less in the future.

Its best to measure the horse's head before you get started. Measurements of the areas highlighted in the below image from the Handmade Homestead are critical to have before you begin.

Visit Jen's (new) site for much more detail!

The best measurement is your horse, if you're able to tie the halter at or near the barn to measure on your horse as you go, that's you best bet for a perfect fit. Otherwise, you can always find a perfect fitting halter and model your new rope halter from it.

Okay, so you've got your rope in hand that is trimmed to the proper length, the ends are burned to prevent fraying, and your measurements written down and nearby, lets get started tying that halter!

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Pick a point on the halter that leaves about 6½ to 7 feet of rope to one side and the remaining length on the long side.

Short end on left, long end on right

From that center point tie two overhand knots the distance you measured to be correct from your horse's nose.

Added overhand knots for noseband

And now, because these things can never be simple, lets knock out what is hands down the hardest part of this entire process: The Fiador Knot.

I've found the best directions for this knot to be here. However, as of November 2016, Homestead Tack has a NEW GREAT VIDEO that makes the tutorial I did here rather, moot, but as it keeps getting hits, I'm leaving it up. Following along with those directions, I've also provided photos below of my step by step for you.

First, lets get organized to follow the directions. That means flipping the point of view to where the center (what will become the top) of the noseband is closest to you and the two ends (short and long) are pointed away from you.

Second, to follow the directions the easiest, I find I prefer to make the "yellow" strand the "short" side. Or to rephrase to avoid confusion, the "short" side - left side - of my rope in these photos pairs with the yellow in the drawing.

And thirdly, when tying this knot with these directions I find it most important to focus on the intersections where the rope must pass over or under. Proceeding with the knot with that mind set, over, under, under, over, under, over, under, under, over, THROUGH, will make things a LOT easier.

Okay, lets proceed through those steps! (Don't worry, there are videos throughout to help you along.)

Step 1:

Step 2:

Step 3:

Step 4:
In this photo I've marked the two loops
that will create the area for you to snap
the halter to with black dots from a Sharpie.
I recommend marking them in some way
because when you proceed to the next step
things get confusing in a hurry.
Step 5:

This is the trickiest part! Hang in there!

Do your best to keep everything as FLAT as possible through this stage. If your long and short ends want to curl up as you pass them through, go slower and untwist them by spinning the rope between forefinger and thumb as you go. ALWAYS keep one hand over top of the entire knot as you pass the ends through. This will help keep everything in place. Flat, flat, flat. No twists or tangles. This. Is. Key.

In the drawing above, they show that you
should pass three parts of the halter through
the central hole. This is a demonstration of that.

In this photo I have passed the long and short
ends through.

In a continuation of passing everything through that central loop, this photo
shows the noseband beginning to pass through.


Step 6:

Okay, now to pull everything through and tighten this sucker up! THIS IS THE WORST PART. Why? Because its the breaking point that will dictate whether you dressed everything well. If you botch it, guess what? You get to repeat everything above! YAY! Not. Repetition will teach you the knot though. I repeated every step prior to this probably a dozen times when I tied my first halter. Now I can tie them correctly on the first try as long as I'm tedious about making certain everything is lying as flat and neat as possible.

Start by noting the two marked loops where the lead rope snap will go. Very carefully bring these under and pinch them together.

Then grasp the 3 pieces - 4 strands - you passed through the hole. While holding all 4 of these in one hand (tightly) and alter your pinch of the other two into a stronger hold and pull everything in a manner that will tighten the knot.

Likely the knot didn't tighten all the way.

Now you have to finesse it. Tweak the top. Tweak the bottom. Here is a video for better explanation:

A properly finished knot will have the four strands at the top all close together with no rope between them as pictured below:

All four strands are flush together.

Note how all four strands are flush together and appear to disappear into the same area.

A properly tied Fiador knot.

So now you've got your knot tied all pretty, but its all wonky and the dimensions are off. PANIC! No. No. Don't panic. You just have some more finessing to do.

This part can be tricky, but its very doable if you're patient. If you're accustomed to tying knots and having to tweak them (summer camp skills, rock climbing, etc.) then this part won't be so bad. If this is your first time doing anything like this, don't worry! You'll get it.

Here is a video to help you through this:

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If you aren't confused yet, congratulations. This knot is incredibly complicated and frustrating to learn. Time. Patience. Repetition. That's all that will help you through it. Unfortunately I'm not sure that I can provide much clearer direction without being there in person to help each of you through this. It's very complicated.

Troubleshooting with this knot - I've found - is almost always due to the knot not being properly "dressed" prior to pulling the three parts (short end, long end, nose band) through the center to complete the knot. "Dressing" a knot is to have it lying properly and orderly before you proceed with each step. Its something you come to gain a feel and an eye for as time progresses. As a rock climber, I've been introduced to a wealth of knots through the years that if improperly "dressed" can cause a load of grief. I've developed a feel and an eye for knots because of this.

The good news is that once you've completed the damn Fiador knot, the rest of the halter is a breeze!

Gathered from Homestead Tack here

Move from the Fiador to do another overhand knot (with both the long and short ends of the rope) the distance proper to fit your horse away from the Fiador knot. For Q this distance is about 7".

Noseband with Fiador ascending to overhand knot. Feline helper is optional.

From there position your "short" end on the backside (as the halter nose faces your left) and place the "long" end in the foreground. You're going to walk the "long" end through the whole frame of the halter to meet that "short" end at the finale.

Measure the distance from knot to knot to guarantee proper fit and make a loop and tie another overhand knot. This creates where you'll tie the halter off on the horse's head.

The loop is in the center of the photo.

Now measure out the distance for your cheek section.

This next part is a little bit tricky, but not nearly so much as the Fiador knot. You've got to pass the "long" end through the overhand knots on the noseband. To do this you're just going to follow through the knot you already tied. Loosen the knot just a little to allow passage of the end of the section you're passing through. The key to this is trying to keep the knot flat. You just pick one side of the first knot and stick to it as you go along creating a tandem look to the knot.

Loosened knot with cheek part passing through.

Dressing the knot. Note that it is flat.

Another shot of dressing the knot.

Dress this knot.

Pass the rope over the noseband so that you create a doubled up area along the top of the noseband and then repeat the tandem knot on this side, as well. Dress it and move on.

Now all you have left is one more overhand knot to tie both strands (short and long) of your halter together!

Match up the measurements from the first cheek and throatlatch and whip that knot into place. With any luck, your ends pair up fairly close! If not, then snip and burn the end of one.

Ta da!!

And PRESTO! You've got your very own rope halter!

Now wasn't that easy?! Ha, you're saying. As if. Tying these things is a b*tch.

From here you can do a variety of things to dress the halter up. If you're like me, many of you grew up tying hemp necklaces/anklets/bracelets. One of the knots used to tie the flat versions of these articles of jewelry is perfect for the noseband of your halter and will create the unique look you see featured on my horses' halters.

Pair this with some extra paracord looped around the head piece and you can add additional bling in the form of a browband (seen in the above photo of Q).

With some more patience and some 1" metal rings, you can create the halter-bridle I've made for Q (again, featured in the photo at the beginning of this post).

A sketch of the loopy action used to create the halter-bridle I ride Q in.
Blue pen - The halter you tied in the above steps
Blue rings - the 1" rings you buy to add.**
Red - the additional bit of rope (24" for Q) used to make the bosal/hackamore area.
** The two rings tied into the knots must be present from the very beginning when you tie this halter.

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I recognize that this is a very difficult subject to confront in writing, but I've done my best. If anyone has further questions, comment and I'll do my best to help you. Its a pity we can't all teleport to the same location to run through the difficulties and provide hands-on help with the Fiador knot. Its easy to understand why people charge what they do for these halters!

I hope this post has helped some of you in some way.