Wednesday, December 31, 2014

All In A Month

I've been lax with my "All In A Week" posts this month. Mostly, I've been lax with writing and blogging and social media in general if it isn't Instagram. (@estout18) Thus, here are some photo moments not captured within blogland this month. Griffin was surprisingly unphotogenic in December it seems.

1. Kismet. For a week at the beginning of the month I had a third cat. I picked her up on the side of the road. She was a 2/9 body condition and after a week of living with me, she died in my arms. It was a really tumultuous few days for me.  2. Kenai has been quite inactive this month after re-pulling his groin muscle.  3. I did a lot of yoga this month through participation in several yoga challenges on Instagram. It was a lot of fun!  4. Q's new halter-bridle from the Distance Depot arrived. In addition to her kimberwicke, she now also has an S-hack.  5. Yoga. Lots of it. Hollowback handstand with wall support.  6. Q has taken to rolling in new ways that cover both cheeks and above both eyes with mud. I'm impressed with her skill.  7. These are endangered Virginia big-eared bats. I'm a biologist by trade and was lucky enough to do some field work with these guys earlier in the month.  8. The Shittenest of them all, [K]Atticus. He's more splendiferous every passing day.  9. Trying to become bolder with my handstands away from a wall...  10. Six Stouts 'a Skiing.  11. Stayin' classy.  12. Giving Griffin kisses and Q's schnozz stuffed deep in the bag of peppermint treats. The former is a typical occurrence, the latter? That's Q's new confidence personality coming out on camera.  13. Looks like May, but it was December.  14. Kenai got a professional groom at the beginning of the month. He looks nearly as floofy now as he did then! (This photo was from day after groom.)

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

TOABH: I'm A Loser, Baby

I'm A Loser, Baby
Let's talk about your horse's biggest fail.  What did Thunderhooves do that embarrassed you, scared you, shocked you or just annoyed the hell out of you?
♫ Soy un perdedor. I'm a loser, baby, so why don't you kill me.  ♪

Well, actually, dear horses, I do sometimes want to kill you in the instances listed below because you are being absolutely ridiculous. In fact, I'm absolutely certain I have told you this in no uncertain words during your times of outburst. Things along the lines of, "I will sell you. You will be dog food. This zip code will no longer be your home. If this were the Oregon Trail, you'd be dead." 
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Q - Herd bound.

Okay. I originally wrote about Q's incessant spooking over NOTHING as her biggest fail / biggest annoyance. I even waxed and waned eloquently on that fact, ranting a time before I resolved to be a better human and move past my human emotions and be more mature about the situation. Except I realized that I got all worked up about it just writing it, and that wasn't very mature. So, in an effort to move forward, I tossed all of it; I am and will continue to work on myself and dealing with Q's silly spooking, but it hasn't been a great issue of late, so why dwell?

The herd bound thing though? That's still present and accounted for when we're working at the farm.

I can always recall Q being resistant about leaving the property at first on trail rides, but it was nothing crazy. And she's always been a bit focused on her friends when we work at home, but it was never horrible. And while she certainly has more pep in her step once we've turned in the home direction, it's never been something super significant or dangerous. It's an issue that is mediocre at best in relation to other issues.

However, despite all of this mediocrity, it is an issue. It's an issue I have the tools to resolve, too. It's an issue I will resolve. And I think that if/when I resolve this issue, a lot of other benefits will rise from it as I suspect this behavior problem is linked to others.

Anecdote: I was ground driving Q the day before yesterday. We'd done a big loop through the woods and were headed back across the field I have my jumps in as we headed for home. Q had demonstrated confidence and willingness throughout our driving hike (zero spooks or behaviors that relate to nervousness/spookiness), but she was much more forward as we headed into the home stretch. Despite half halts and "easy", "steady", "whoa" from me, she marched ever forward, motivated by sight of her herd. Instead of letting her plow onward and ignore me further, I turned her away from home and lunged her counter-clockwise with the double lines. She would rush to be back on the side of the circle closest to the herd and then slow with the hopes of turning home again. I pushed her forward and kept lunging her until she maintained a steady, consistent pace for the whole circle. Once she settled, I directed her home again. She rushed again and ignored my requests, so we performed the same lunging exercise in the clockwise direction. She behaved the same as she had before with regards to rushing and slowing, so as I worked her, I also moved her further and further away from home. Once she was steady and consistent with her pacing around the circle, we turned for home again. The increasing work coupled with increasing distance with home clicked in her brain as "not good" and we didn't have a single issue for the rest of our driving hike homeward. The slightest half halt request was acknowledged by her, as were my words to slow down and not rush. Wonderful! Now, to extrapolate this into future work to continue to remedy the issue is the challenge!

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Griffin - The flailing and crow-hopping madness that occurs when things are Too Hard or not on His Agenda.

This is generally a baby horse thing. It is generally a baby horse who needs more consistency and structure thing. However, it is still a highly obnoxious habit that always leads me to grade rides where it occurs with a failing grade.

As I've introduced more consistency and more work to Griffin the majority of these outbursts have ceased. These days, they only flare up when I've asked him to do something that requires a little more effort - either mental or physical or sometimes both - from him. He pitches this royal tantrum about how HARD it is and how he CAN'T possibly do it. He will throw ALL of his efforts into NOT doing what I've asked. Trot, don't canter. *Tantrum* Canter, don't trot. *Tantrum* Shoulder-in to the left not the right. *Tantrum* Don't race after the lead horse on trail. *Tantrum*
Fortunately, his *Tantrum* tends to be the same no matter what triggers it. Finding the perfect way to re-introduce the question/exercise at hand so that he will succeed and give the right answer is a bit trickier though!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


Yesterday I had a bug up my butt to just jump and have fun.

While I plan to slowly re-introduce trail work to Q through many experiences with ground driving (and then slow work alone on trail coupled with faster work on trail when she has a confident trail buddy), cross training through jumping and dressage rides in the back field are still on my radar. They're great opportunities to keep her fitness up without putting her in situations that stress her spooky side so much. Additionally, these kinds of cross training rides build a great foundation for things on trail later (lateral work, collection, impulsion, etc.)!

Griffin was closer to the gate when I arrived yesterday, so I haltered him and turned him loose in the barnyard to eat grass before grabbing Q. Q became very concerned when I didn't get her first, however, and marched herself over to me immediately and did all but put the halter on herself. How dare I let Griffin have grass and not her! (I have no false perceptions that this horse cares about me as more than a provider of delicious things at this point in time, haha.)

I brought both horses to the barn to scrape off all the mud while they indulged in grain and their first candy cane. (Griffin didn't take to it any more or less than any other treat. Q decided it must clearly be horse-crack that I've been hiding from her all these years and begged for more).

I tacked Q up in her S-hack and set Griffin up with a flake of alfalfa to munch, and then took Q to the far field to play around with the cavaletti and ground poles that would later be jumps.

Things went far better than I expected in regards to Q's behavior. She exhibited ZERO spooky behaviors. She was alert to things happening in the surrounding environment and keyed in on the fact that her herd was across the creek, but she wasn't upset or scared about anything. It was AWESOME. She was also focused on the grid work I had set up and her only refusal to a jump the whole time was 110% my fault because I was staring HARD at the jump instead of beyond it - she always refuses a jump if I'm doing that.

Not so awesome things about the ride though? She exhibited some freight train tendencies once again. Not nearly as awful as they'd been in May, but still present in some fashion. I attribute half of it to the hackamore. While she definitely enjoys it and will listen to it, it just isn't going to be great for the jumping work for a time. From the moment we crossed the creek into the back field last night she was UP. She did NOT want to walk. I had to laugh at her exuberance. It was really good to witness that she can be so forward without being spooky. This gives me hope for future trail pursuits.

However, an already peppy horse who also becomes VERY "up" about jumping has helped me to reach the decision that I would prefer to have a bit to bring her down from that excitement easier. If I had a nickel for every time I told her "easy" or "steady" or "whoa" last night I would be considerably richer. She listened to the hackamore better than I thought she would for the amount of energy she exhibited, but I know that I would be able to be even lighter with my aids if she had the kimberwicke. I do hope that I will one day be able to return to using the hackamore jumping as she was working so beautifully in it last night even when she was charging around! It may very well be that she was just super peppy yesterday and would have acted the same no matter the type of bridle though.

I attribute the other half of her fright train tendencies to her breed. Unless I was putting her through lots of transitions, circles, serpentines, the grid of cavaletti/ground poles/jumps, or other fast-paced changes, she was looking off into the distance at various things or gazing longingly at her herd across the field. This gaze was also coupled with a magnetic draw that lent itself to many attempts to try to motivate in those directions despite what I desired. I've heard many folks note that Arabians have very active minds that are best occupied by many changes in speed or direction with flat work. This little mare fits the bill 110%. She's an athletic little thing, but that athleticism is easily channeled to other motives if it is not harnessed properly!

I'd give the whole session an A-. It fulfilled my jumping bug for the day and the mare was great, despite a few bumps. I'm very, very pleased with the level of confidence she exhibited; any day without spooking is a Very Good Day. Her tendency to barrel around if not provided enough complicated maneuvers to work through and think about definitely will be a challenge for me though! I'm a quick-thinking, multitasking individual most of the time, but this horse has me beat right now, haha. I do think I am up for the challenge, it will just take some time and studying of different options so that I'm able to guide her through exercises without having to think up which exercises I want to flow through. (Sort of like a vinyasa flow yoga routine!)

Overall, a positive session in my opinion. It was great to witness that the mare can be sane and I know what I need to work on to help keep her mind focused!

My phone camcorder didn't focus on the moving subject as well as the stationary grass, but I think it is a cool shot all the same! That jump seemed so much bigger IRL than it appears on camera, too, lol. The standards max out at 4'

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

TOABH: Shining Star

Shining Star

Let's talk about the biggest achievements your horse has accomplished.  I'm not talking about you as a rider - I want to know what your ponykins has done to make you proud.  Is there a glorious satin collection, did he/she figure out some dressage movement that took months to learn, or are is it just a great day when your butt stays in the saddle?  It's not all about shows or the things that people see.
Griffin - Consistency under saddle.

If you'd told me this time last year about how AWESOME this horse would become under saddle, I would have called you a liar. Griffin was so consistently inconsistent with his behavior under saddle until this year. Yes, he's a greenie baby, but boy oh boy does the kid have moods that are unpredictable!

And his hate of any pressure from the bit in the beginning? ACK. If you did something in the slightest that he didn't like, he was pitching a crow hopping and or bucking FIT. So we spent some time using various gadgets on the lunge so he could learn that pressure from something in his mouth wasn't going to be the end of the world. I presented him with several ways in which he might experience pressure and he worked through his issues with it without me on his back. Within a month's time, he was significantly better under saddle. No more frequent outbursts. Infrequent outbursts? Of course. Because Baby. (Example: In his worry over his new environment while riding downtown Saturday night, he jumped and spooked every time I'd use a leg aid. I wasn't using them often, as I was keeping him in the back of our small group, so with each reintroduction he'd startle and spook before realizing it was just me. Babies.)

Q - Trailering.

While loading the mare is still best done with 2 people (one to lead her on and step out the escape door and the other to immediately close the back door while this is happening), I'm so thrilled that getting this horse on a trailer is a non-issue in comparison to what it was for a time there. I can absolutely count on her getting on the trailer on the very first try these days.

I've loaded her once by myself and let her have a tug-o-war battle for a few seconds even. It was a bit scary, but she didn't struggle very hard in the grand scheme of things. Her general demeanor around the trailer these days is one of calm and not one of panic. She seems to recognize that the trailer is not a place of torture and that all trailer rides will end and she will not be trapped.

While I'd still love to revisit the whole self-loading thing with her, I'm really thrilled with where we are right now as she is experiencing significantly less stress than she used to which is HUGE for her. I'll take a calm mare over one that sees red any day!

Monday, December 22, 2014

In Which We Ride 10 Miles on City Streets

As any horse crazy kid does, I dreamed of riding my horse everywhere one day. You know, when I would have a horse of my own. Across fields, through the woods, down city streets, everywhere.

Endurance has enabled me to fulfill most of my dreams of riding everywhere. Parades helped some with the city streets, though in a controlled manner. But riding through town when a parade wasn't in session? That I hadn't done...

...until Saturday night.

Unbeknownst to me, a group from our riding club gets together every year around this time to ride the city streets and look at all the Christmas lights. Rain, snow, or otherwise, they go. They carry candycanes and other candies for kids they may encounter, call "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays" to everyone they meet, and pause as long as folks desire to let them pet the horses, chat about horses, or even sit on the horses for photos.

So, obviously, when I learned about this ride I 110% wanted in on the action. How fun!

I deliberated over which horse to take for awhile, but at the last minute, Mike agreed to go along, too, so both horses were able to go! I put Mike on Q per the norm, and I rode Griffin - his first experience in an urban environment!


I headed to the barn 75 minutes before I was due to meet the other folks downtown on Saturday evening to hook up the trailer, ready the horses, load them, and head to town.

As I drove along the road that parallels the field, I noted that damnit, the horses were in the far field across the creek! Ack! That would eat away precious time having to fetch them from there!

I pulled into the barn driveway, pondering the best plan of action, deciding to first hook up the trailer before trying to fetch the horses. Fortunately, hooking up the trailer went very smoothly. I backed up and was able to hook up on my first attempt, and the sometimes finicky lights connected on the first try, as well! #winning

With the trailer in the ready position, I rushed off to fetch the horses. But then I realized I'd forgotten halters and lead ropes *d'oh*, so I back tracked and snatched them before jogging across the field toward the creek.

I didn't have my waterproof boots on, but I hoped that if I launched myself across a shallow portion (3-5" deep) of the creek I could avoid water seeping into my tall insulated boots. As I approached the herd from the opposite side of the creek, heads came up in alert to note my presence. I called my sing song, "Grif-fin! Q-oo!" to let them know it was me and not a predator, as I weaved my way through thick multiflora rose searching for the best point of crossing.

I called twice more as I traipsed around, and Griffin began ambling toward me from his position behind Q as other members of the herd just stared, ears alert.

"Grif-fin! Q-oo!"

Q, motivated by Griffin's movement and my call moved into action, striking out with a very purposeful walk to keep ahead of the grey gelding.

"Grif-fin! Q-oo!"

Both horses broke into a trot, descending the far bank. I was thrilled!! No creek crossing for the human! Added bonus? My horses DO seem to recognize me, nevermind that this association is likely driven purely by food. I'm okay with that if it saves me walking!

"Grif-fin! Q-oo! Good horses! Grif-fin! Q-oo!" I sang as I danced backwards toward the barn. All of the horses were motivating in my direction behind my two now!

The horses emerged from the creek and trotted toward me. Q reached me first and then pinned her ears at all horses - Griffin included - who came near to me. Apparently I'm "hers" now. I laughed at her, haltered her, and pushed her aside a bit so I could reach Griffin and halter him. Q proceeded to nip his shoulder lightly with her lips as I did this, firming up her opinion on other horses being near to me. I laughed. Griffin flicked an ear.

The three of us jogged together across the pasture to the barn.

I tied them, grained them, and then proceeded to scrape the mud off Q who had decided to really lather it all over her body. The dust flew! Griffin, fortunately, was clean for once - or relatively so!

With most of the mud and dust off and their tails brushed out (cough cough SAIPH cough cough), I tacked Griffin up with a red pad and green breastplate, and Q with a green pad and red breastplate, stuffed both of their bridles into the car, and with 5 minutes to spare before I *needed* to depart, I was ready to load them.

My BO came down to help me out with loading, which was beneficial, because Griffin wouldn't load for me. There was no fear, just calm obstinance from my grey gelding. Fortunately though, he did load for my BO after several failed attempts with me. Q loaded with zero issues on the first try.

I really couldn't complain about the whole process considering neither horse has been asked to load on a dark trailer in the dark for me before!! #winningagain

And off we went!

Except not. Because you see, I thought I knew where we were meeting, but I was wrong. And so I proceeded to wind around on city streets with horse trailer in tow as I sought out the meeting location. I called every longstanding resident of town that I knew trying to ascertain where I needed to go, but finally one of the ladies I was meeting called me through FB messenger to help me navigate! HUZZAH!

During my aimless driving, Mike had begun following me (what an odd little caravan we were!) and so, upon pulling into the parking place, he was right there to help me get both horses off and decorated with garland and ribbon.

It turned out that only 3 others would be riding; Mike and I would make it a group of 5. Each of the other three had LEDs and battery operated Xmas lights adorning their horses and saddles. They looked great!

Did I mention they both wore antlers/hats?
And so, with a very uppity concerned Griffin, we were off!

We wove in and out the streets of many neighborhoods around town looking at lights, judging and scoring them. Griffin calmed down after about 30 minutes, finally accepting that this new nighttime urban environment wouldn't eat him. (Q was a star the whole time! Cool as a cucumber.)

Many people came out of their houses to greet us and we'd call holiday greetings as we passed.

Occasionally whole families with kids would rush out into the 25 degree weather to pet the horses and get candy. We even paused for a long while at one home so that their kids could sit on the horses (not Griffin) and have their pictures taken!

Halfway through our ride we stopped at a local restaurant/bar for some night caps. We tied the horses to a railing outside just like you see in old western movies. IT WAS SO COOL! I frequently peaked out the windows at the horses while we were inside, concerned that my two, new to this, may do something stupid and run off through the city streets. Nope. Totally chill. Both stood with a hind foot cocked half asleep the whole time!

With hands and feet warmed and our bellies full of appetizer snacks and warm adult beverages, we set back off - but only after photos with Santa who was at the establishment for an ugly sweater party. =)

Our group!! And Santa!! The alley where the horses were tide is the dark area behind Q and the palomino paint.

We rode through several more neighborhoods, stopped at a few more houses - even a party! - before calling it a night. We even sang a very poorly in-tune version of Rudloph the Red-nosed Reindeer through one neighborhood...which some guy walking his dog filmed LOL.

From my best reckoning mapping out the ride by hand in Endomondo, we rode somewhere around 10 miles during that 4.5 hour period (there was a good 30-45 minute break in the middle).

Griffin was very tired after nearly 4.5 hours of travels and new experiences and absolutely refused to step up onto the trailer to go home. He would simply stand at the door and go no further. I told him that I knew he was tired and I was sorry the step up was so big, but he just had to do it so we could go home and he could go back out with his friends and eat hay. In the end, it took Mike leading and me being very "big" and motivating from behind to get him on. Once on, he was THRILLED to find *gasp* hay in the trailer as he was *starving*. (Both horses paused numerous times to eat grass along our travels. Good little endurance ponies!) Q loaded without issue again, and we headed back to the barn where both were thrilled to be out with their friends again.

I was so thrilled that:
  1. I was able to get the trailer hooked up first go, 
  2. both horses trotted across the field to meet me
  3. both horses loaded onto a dark trailer at  night with minimal issue (and I was thankful that the minor issue was not fear related)
  4. Griffin tackled a huge new experience so well
  5. Q was an old pro at the whole "urban environment" thing, even in the dark 
  6. both horses stood tied in an alley despite NEVER being introduced to that environment before
  7. both horses ate while on "trail" throughout the night
  8. and finally, that Q really took care of Mike after he'd imbibed a bit too much. What a good little mare!!!
What a GREAT experience for both horses - especially Griffin. What a FUN experience for Mike and I - it really put us in the Christmas spirit seeing so many Christmas decorations and sharing so much holiday cheer with folks around town! I have two VERY GOOD horses. #sohappy

And now, I present you with many blurry night photos. =)

All smiles!

My reindeer

One of the better houses....and day-glo a light from my flash!

Q loved her S-hack!

Being a very good boy <3

What good horses!

Posing with a blue Christmas house

We met friends in the middle of the street in town

Tied and waiting while their "cowboys" refueled

Qbee! <3

Griffin <3
The four of us

Thursday, December 18, 2014

2k14 in Review: Already?!

I cannot believe that it is time for this already. Can.Not.Believe.


This year can basically be summed up as the following: Liz is stubborn and slow to learn and the Universe let her know in a myriad of ways before she finally began to understand and fix her errors.

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This was a big month for him!
I began the year with getting Griffin under saddle and out on trail more. Mike was a big help in this as it allowed for two butts to ride two horses so both Q and Griffin could get a good workout. Griffin has come so far - back in January I was celebrating much smaller achievements with him.

I didn't spend a lot of time riding in January though as there were a lot of powder days on the mountain where I'm a National Ski Patroller. Sometimes I would skijor, thus combining my love of skiing with my love of horses.

I also shared to the blogosphere about the fact that I live in a barn. No, seriously. Literally. I do.

I began my "Horses Who Made Me" series to help chronicle how horses from my past helped me reach where I am today.

Kenai was 5 months post-knee surgery in January, so I shared about progress with rehab.

And most importantly, Griffin and I celebrated our 2 year anniversary at the end of January.

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Snow was still very plentiful this month and contributed to tree skiing on the mountain at my second job as a patroller. But I didn't let the snow and arctic cold keep me from doing things with the horses entirely, oh no. We even completed a trail ride in knee deep snow! Great training. Alas though, this month was chaotic as far as finding time for the horses between working my usual job and my second winter job, so I resolved to fix that in March.

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This month, in some ways, could be called "The Month of Saiph" because we saw each other a lot!

At the beginning of the month, Saiph and I met up to travel down to the AERC Convention where we met up with Mel and Ashley and Caitlin. It was so much fun! And then I ended the month with a long weekend in Maryland where I had a blast riding across Saiph's home trails with her and even traveling to ride on the beaches of the Chesapeake Bay.

All the blogger ladies at the AERC convention.

In the middle of all of the time with Saiph, I continued to work on Q's trailering issues - with success! - and finally began to gain some reliable work under saddle from Griffin - who'd had a lot of opinions about bits previously. It's amazing how far Griffin has come when you think about where we are now! And methinks it is time to do more work with Q and's been awhile since we've worked on anything; practice makes perfect!

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This month consisted of two significant events:

First, my and Mike's trip to California where we saw Mandy and D, drove up Route 1 along the coast, met up with Funder, and finally saw Yosemite. It was a lot of stuff in a short time, but wow, what a trip! I took SOManyPhotosSO MANY.
My lonely camp setup; the tent that flipped is on the right.

Second: Q and I completed our first 50 of the season at No Frills. Aside from the ride itself, this was a pivotal point for me in my endurance career as this ride marked the very first that I went to ALL BY MYSELF. Just Kenai and Q accompanied me on this trip. It went smoothly, but Kenai and I did nearly get blown away the night before the ride when the wind flipped my tent over - with Kenai and I inside!

Per the usual, I mulled things over after the the ride in my quest to ever better myself and fix and tweak things along my journey with endurance.

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I really love this athletic little mare!
So after riding alone at No Frills, I realized I'd be a lot happier and relaxed if I could listen to music. Problem is, I don't like NOT hearing what's around me, too. So thanks to Mel/Funder, I found a new solution.

I also celebrated 2 years with Q this month. Hard to believe it'd been that long.

I waxed and waned about Q's issues in the back field where my jumps reside as she developed freight train issues. And I explored options as she and I delved further into this battle of wills we've been in this year. But then I realized our issues are mostly my fault. And with that realization, the Universe decided to reward me as Q redeemed herself in a very public fashion and I was so proud.

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I love these people <3
Summer was in full swing and I was in full Do All The Things Mode this month.

By far the biggest thing that happened was the Old Dominion where my spirits were crushed by a particularly rough loop, but it was okay because Saiph and Dom were present all weekend to make everything worth it. Still though, there was much to think about afterwards, including a new approach with Q-mare as our battle of the wills continued. #girlproblems

Aside from the OD though, I had a particularly great ride on Griffin. He and I spent a lot of time playing in the water. Kenai even got out to enjoy some aquatic adventures.

I ended the month by buckling down and crunching the real numbers on how much money I spend on my horses every year. Could be worse!

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This was the month of scratches. Oh scratches. I loathe thee.

He's turned into such a handsome creature.
The vet came out the first of the month to look Q over. I'd been worried about her hocks based on previous discussions and occurrences, but her hocks were great. It was the scratches that were the main issue! Fortunately, once treated, they improved dramatically within a short amount of time.

Saiph and Charles came to visit, too, this month. We had such a blast with a beach barn party, trail rides, and shenanigans.

Griffin improved SO MUCH this summer. It was so visible. He really came into his own this year.

Mike and I closed out the month by heading out on a two day backcountry ride with the club. What a blast!

And because I never provided the photos I promised of the wagon crossing the river on that ride, here you go:

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Kicked this month off with a bang with the 8th annual Ride Between the Rivers. This year was bigger and better for me because Dom & Mike and Saiph & Charles were all present and accounted for. Endurance Trifecta!

Saiph riding Griffin. This was right before the start of the LD.
Dom rode Dr. Bob's horse. My Mike rode Q in his first 50. Saiph rode Griffin in his first LD. And I rode Jen's horse Prince. The first two in this list completed, the other two pulled Rider Option. Griffin because his mental fitness was not nearly what his physical fitness was, and Prince because he was just having and off day and we didn't want to push it when he had a 100 looming in a month.

Q did awesome with a heavier rider though, which contributed to my post-ride mullings.

I resumed jumping with Q after RBTR. And finally, I reviewed the plethora of things I'd struggled with and been working to improve on in order to better my relationship with the little mare this year. We've had so many ups and downs this year, but in retrospect, there is so much positive. This is so good to read, reflect on, and remember.

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I participated in the yoga_girl challenge on Instagram this month which helped significantly in the start of my journey to resolve the depression I'd sunk into. The battle wasn't won quickly, though this was the best step forward.

Q and I cantering through Dolly Sods at peak autumn. <3
I finally met Mary, who I had an absolute blast with all weekend. We took the horses to a 4-H fun show where Q did amazing for both of us and then Griffin pitched a holy fit. Most importantly though, Mary finally go through to me what others had noted all summer: that I needed to quit being so hard on myself. Thank you, Mary. <3

Q's scratches returned over a 3-day period where I vacated WV to visit Saiph in MD. I was astonished they could return SO FAST and my mental health and my bank account suffered as a result of the vet treatments.

But the month closed out well as I finally conquered a long-standing fear AND crossed a big item off my horse bucket list and rode at Dolly Sods at peak autumn color - barefoot on gnarly terrain to boot!

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Q excelled at yet another parade, and she even peed in the middle of the street much to the astonishment of the crowd. What a good endurance pony though!

I finally celebrated the return of Kenai to near-normal after his 2013 double knee surgery and spring 2014 groin tear. It has been quite a journey with my favorite guy, but we're getting there - still.

Mike made me a kickass tack locker this month, too.

And then I went to Fort Valley where Q suffered her first pull at a 50 at the finish. This led to much pondering after the ride and resolution to give her a big vacation and then take things slow and rebuild as we readdress things for 2015. Beyond the pull though, this ride and the magical third loop and all the time on trail with Saiph really helped jostle me back into a healthy mental state for the first time in months. I will forever love the third loop of this ride.

And finally, I was ready to share with y'all about what I'd been doing with Griffin since RBTR - driving. And the accident we experienced driving, which, for better or worse, helped me get back in the saddle with him. (I vote better. ☺)

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I spent the beginning of the month discussing setbacks and epiphanies on setbacks. The Universe has had a lot to teach me this year, and the only way it was able to grab my attention was by breaking my Grand Plans and causing Grand Setbacks. I'm getting better at realizing these things now, but I'm ever stubborn and prideful, I fear. I will strive to be better into the future!!!

I rode 7.5 miles without a saddle on Griffin; it was so freeing and he was so amazing. I even dropped my reins and extended my arms like a bird as he galloped!

And finally, I composed an ode to my Go Everywhere dog and shared about traits that I think help create a great Go Everywhere dog.

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Not a crazy busy writing month for me, for certain! But I did crunch some serious numbers on IRL training.

I met my goal of completing 500 recorded ridden miles (of which I never wrote about until now). And I've been ground driving Q with great success!

Ski patrol is back in full swing, too, which will keep me busy as I plan to pursue my Senior level patroller status. (There are three echelons within patrol: Basic, Senior, and Certified. Basic level takes a year to complete, Senior typically takes two, and Certified takes 3+! Your skiing skills, leadership and decision making, and first aid/first responder skills must be at a heightened level with each echelon.)

And mostly, I relaxed this month for a bit, and then hunkered down and got back to work on my fitness visiting the gym 3-4 days a week with yoga and runs with Kenai existing throughout.Time to get strong and fit!

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A total tally of nonsensical and sensical numbers for this year:

Miles ridden (that were recorded): >500
Bloggers with whom I interacted with IRL: 7
Times I hit the dirt: 4 (?)
Visits from the vet: 3
Memories made:


The Endurance Trifecta toasts to a great new year!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

TOA: Making of the Horse


Making of the Horse

Last week, we talked about our babies.  This week, let's talk about our greenies.  Who trained your horse?  Is your ponykins still in the process of figuring out this whole monkey-on-my-back thing, did you send off for thirty or sixty or ninety days, or did you buy a horse with all the bells and whistles?  Who has helped your horse become what he or she is today?
As much as I wanted to do the first blog hop in this series, I know nothing about Q or Griffin's parents. Neither of them have papers. So now you know (if you didn't already). 
As far as their training? To that I can speak more eloquently. 


Judging based on her teeth (hurrah for the 7 and 11 year hook), Q was 6 years old the year she came into my life. Originally, the cowboy trainer had told me she was 9, and her Coggins represented that, but my vet said it just wasn't possible. So her past doesn't have as large a gaping hole as I'd once imagined.

Rumor has it that the cowboy trainer was the one to spend a good bit of time working with her and starting her. Presuming she didn't end up in his care until she was at least 3 years old, most of her training past is likely with him. 

His training methods are modeled after Ray Hunt's, though from my observations, he has a heavier hand and mindset than Ray Hunt. He also over-used his flags with this little mare - something that attributed greatly to how her behaviors are today around anything flapping that is near her. If you've been reading for any length of time, you'll have gathered how reactive this little girl is! Thwopping flags in the manner I saw him do to her merely set her on edge and on high alert; full on flight mode. I'm not bashing flags as a training tool entirely, but as with any tool, it can be abused. As reactive as Q is, a flag tool for training would be best used as a visual cue only -and only if used with care in such a manner that was only enough to illicit a response, no over-gesticulating necessary! The auditory cues from a flag only cause a panicked flight response in this little girl.
Additionally, I observed that cowboy trainer wore long shank spurs. Q has a spur scar complete with white hair right where that cowboy's long legs would likely have met her barrel with a spur. I cannot know if the scar is from his training or not, but it is certainly plausible. It's on her right side, and she moves better to the left now, so presumably she was worked harder in that direction originally? Perhaps it was originally a sticky side for her so she was worked in excess to overcome that? She's a left-handed horse now, whether she was originally or not!

That formerly super-reactive little horse following firetrucks in a parade
According to cowboy trainer, she couldn't back before he worked with her. My first weekend with her she demonstrated exceptional skill at backing - and backing FAST. Her lateral work was pretty fair, too! It is reported that he worked cattle with her during her training, which comes at no surprise to me because that was a passion of his. 

Apparently, Q was so hot in his care that he'd have to take her on a hard, fast trail ride up the mountain before he could work with her on other skills. I'll never forget when his daughters saw me riding the little mare around my first night knowing her and remarked to me, "That's the *crazy* horse! She's riding the *crazy* horse bareback!" She's a reactive little Arabian, girls, not one of your daddy's Quarter horses! Even the line bred QH he had that were much hotter than your run of the mill QH paled in comparison to my little girl. Tis the nature of an Arabian, I suppose, especially an Arabian kept in company of so many mellow horses and trained by someone who doesn't appreciate the breed's unique* qualities. 

*Where "unique" is a euphemism for those qualities that only an Arabian-lover can appreciate/deal with ;-) Examples: teleportation, being hot, being spooky about Strange and Mysterious Nothings, etc.

And that about covers Q's training before me. 

Her journey with me is chronicled in full on this blog. But in a nutshell, I thrust her into many situations and she excelled in an exceptional manner. Her athleticism is paramount to any horse I've worked with before. While she often exhibits a Fear of Unusual (and Usual) Things, she's got a lot of heart and has really put forth a lot of effort and try for me over the past 2.5 years. Her personality has been hard to define as she is so easily influenced by her herd mates and their personalities - an added factor to training difficulties over the years, but we're marching onward, one step forward, two steps back at times. As things stand now, despite my difficulties with this horse, I still wouldn't trade her for another!


All of Griffin's training has been done exclusively by moi and is chronicled fully on this blog. He came to me as a 1.5 year old who knew nothing more than how give to lead with a halter and get on a trailer.

Our first photo together. I miss that dark coat </3
I taught him to stand politely, have patience when tied, give to pressure on the halter in a situation more advanced than "walk with the human", lift his feet for hoof picking and later trimming, we learned together how to work in a round pen and move based on body language cues from one another, how to wear tack, how to lunge, how to tolerate a rider, and everything after. Every skill this horse possesses, I taught him - for better or worse.

Griffin was given to me "as a project" and he has been just that and so much more! While I dreamed of starting a horse from scratch, I never dreamed I would do that before I turned 25, nor that Griffin would be the horse. I'm so very fortunate that he *was* the horse though. Even in his youth he has been the most forgiving and understanding of teachers as I fuddled through this thing called Horse Training. He's taught me uncountable lessons and because of him I will be able to be a better trainer in the future for other horses I start. Starting a horse from scratch is not only the greatest feeling in the world, it is also resulting in an animal that I enjoy more than just about any other I've ever been around. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

IRL Training

Mel does In Real Life (IRL) training posts about once a month for her horse time and her running. I adore these posts because I very much enjoy the tedious tracking of all my training pursuits, too. It is very interesting to me to observe similar training by another. And now, I'm motivated to do one of my own that encompasses the past several months.

I love numbers and statistics as they relate to training pursuits. It is why I have always made an effort to track significant training rides. Whether or not I have a plan for my rides, I take great joy in reviewing the number stats on total mileage (from a single ride, a week, a month, a year), average speed, and my mile split times. The app I use calls out my splits after each mile; this allows me to learn what to expect from certain terrain, certain gaits, certain weather conditions, time spent correcting tack or boot issues, etc. I have a much better idea of distances and speeds as it relates to so many factors that play into a ride as a result. Awareness of distances and speeds as they relate and are impacted by environmental factors at hand is becoming more of an unconscious sixth sense for me now, which has endless benefits for future pursuits where I may not have a tracking device beyond a start time and end time.

I use the Endomondo app with great success to track my rides. Until November, I would only track my significant trail rides. Now, in an effort to accurately track nearly all of my riding time, I'm tracking everything - even the flat work and jumping work in the back field and short rides around the property.

I'm VERY close to my goal of completing 500 miles this year. Truthfully, I have very likely already ridden > 500 miles, but I didn't track a lot of small rides (1-3 miles) on Endomondo until November. All the same, the numbers game is fun motivation to get out there and ride, even if it is just for a short time! Every little bit counts, and the big picture at the end is really satisfying, even if it was built from many tiny pieces.

All rides tracked with Endomondo this year.

Since June - immediately after the OD - I've been tracking every, or nearly every, visit to the barn in a journal. I wanted to keep a log of how my mindset at the time of arriving at the barn might be affecting Q. I'd note my mindset, emotions, feelings, and also note her behaviors. I continued that for about 2 months, then Q and I became better at dealing with one another, so I ceased logging every tiny detail. Tracking mental and behavioral things between hormonal ladies is beneficial, I find. Haha.

Supplemental to tracking mental and behavioral things between us ladies, I also noted all training things with both horses. Type of exercise, duration, and distance/average pace when applicable.

From that journal, I can throw together another table of mileage per horse per month. If you're paying attention, you'll note that some of these mileages exceed the total mileage in the figure above. This is due to other people riding one of my horses without a GPS and without my accompaniment, however they were on a trail I knew the mileage of, so I was able to note the mileage.

Q did a 50 at the beginning of August (with Mike) and a 50 at the end of October (with me; no completion here, but she did travel that distance, so I'm counting it damnit). She received a full month off after the October ride, and while I did ride her for a quarter-mile bareback after that vacation (because I missed riding her!), her "mileage" for November is orange instead of blue because those were hikes in hand.

It is interesting to look at her mileage totals when you think about the races we did. Without the 50 in August, she'd be at 28.9 miles of training rides (that were tracked). She was ridden significantly more, though those rides were flat work and jumping.

The October mileage would only be 3.5 miles without the 50, but it is important to note that that 3.5 was our warm up ride the day prior to the 50! Q was ridden on two other occasions in October on the flat - cross training, no trail miles!

Griffin attempted an LD at the beginning of August, proved his mental instability, and then had time off where we did a lot of ground driving and work with the cart (none of those miles tracked) through the remainder of August and all of September. The cart work would have continued into October, except the wreck happened at the end of September.

Griffin was ridden a LOT during October. We also had a fair number of rides in September! From September through October though, I only tracked two brief trail rides. All of the other rides were flat work and cavaletti/jump work. These rides began with 10 to 15 minute sessions and through the course of 2 months they advanced into hour long sessions. By November, I'd resolved to track EVERY RIDE. He went on two ~6 mile rides, one ~7 mile ride, and one ~9 mile ride in addition to several smaller rides during November. We really had a slow, steady building of ride time and not the huge spike represented by the graph (4 additional rides in September and 6 additional rides in October). But I'm too lazy to type up my entire journal for this blog to fully detail each of those rides. #sorrynotsorry

It's been a pretty great riding year, even with all of the bumps and hurdles along the way!