Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Girth Puzzle

Over the winter I purchased the TSF shoulder relief dressage girth to try to alleviate Q's girthing issues that have cropped up since last fall.

I'm not quite sure why the issue has arisen now. My tack has not changed in a few years and we've had multiple completions in this tack with no girthing issues prior. But my hypothesis is that it's got something to do with finally going downhill with more speed, which with a lot of rides is something you just have to do to make up time - especially the OD rides. The "move out" sections are often on the gravel roads and those sections are commonly slightly downhill in nature. You wind up technical, rocky single track to climb the mountains, and then zip down gravel roads to descend.

I discussed the girth problem with seasoned endurance riders in October after it presented at the LD (mildly, we still completed, but Dr. Nick pointed out that I may want to pay mind to the issue and resolve it, so I am!) Those I talked to at the ride all recommended a centerfire rigging system. Well that's well and good, except that it would require a new saddle which I don't have budgeted in the slightest right now. Additionally, this saddle has done really well for us for the past few years and I really don't want to reinvent the wheel when a new spoke may be the answer, y'know?

And so I decided to look into new girth options.

I had asked for recommendations on this blog after the LD and received several recommendations from y'all including: apply baby powder at the start and at every hold to the girth, use body glide in the girth area, try contoured girths, try mohair, tighten her crupper and/or breastplate, tighten the girth.

From experience with Q and other girths I know the following: neoprene seems to give her heat/friction rash/galls quicker and easier than anything else; where mohair transitions to neoprene or another material where the buckles are gives her galls faster and worse than anything. So contoured girths that were anything other than wool were probably out, as well as mohair. I decided I could stand to tighten my breastplate and crupper regardless of what girth I ended up with, and baby powder/body glide would probably be added at some point regardless of the girth.

In the last year, I read quite a few wonderful reviews by friends for the TSF shoulder relief girths. I hadn't read a negative comment, in fact! I was leaning that way really strongly as those girths have an optional sheepskin cover, too, and then Saiph told me that it was what fixed Gracie's galling issues. Well, I'd witnessed Gracie's issue first hand and knew how much worse it was than anything Q had had up to that point. If this girth (with the sheepskin cover) could fix Gracie, I was sold!

I've tested it out for a few months now, though our rides haven't been too crazy in the grand scheme of things (you know, as they compare to the actual OD trails) until this past weekend. I figured I'd have a really good idea of how things were going to be during competition after riding in Canaan some; Dolly Sods especially is relentless.

Not the greatest photo because her front leg is back and the saddle cover is misleading on saddle position,
but it's the only one I have of Q in the saddle...but you can STILL see how the saddle now positioned thanks
to the girth.

From the rides I had done prior to the past weekend, I can say that I'm REALLY pleased with what this girth has done with my saddle position. The saddle is back further than it's been before while the girth is still right where it needs to be. Q's range of motion through her shoulder isn't impeded by the saddle at all - just what TSF advertised. I'm so pleased. Hell, maybe this girth is factoring into Q's confidence increases because she's more comfortable!

So, onto the real testing: this past weekend's rides.

Friday's ride had very little elevation gain/loss over the 14 miles (+1700'/-1700'; I'm really surprised it was this much!). We went up into the Heights, along Loop Road, and down the pipeline and back. None of it is very taxing. It's actually a great place to just let 'er rip and get some speed work in. After the ride, I noticed Q had a small gall (smaller than anything to date, about the size of my pinkie finger from tip to the second joint) on her right side. Hmm. I looked at the girth and noticed the reason: I hadn't cinched the cover to the girth tight enough and the girth was hitting her right at that point (on both sides, but moreso on the right).

Quick, easy fix. But damn, it would probably throw off my whole weekend re: results of how this girthing combo was going to play out over legitimate terrain. The gall definitely wasn't bad enough for me to throw in the towel for the whole weekend's riding (just enough of a hot spot that the hair had rubbed off), but I knew it would alter my results of my testing. The gall looked really amazing the next morning with no swelling and such a later stage of scab than I anticipated; if I hadn't known better, I'd have thought it was days old instead of hours!

The second day's riding had a lot more elevation gain/loss over the 18 miles we traveled (+1900'/-1800'; okay, admittedly not as much as I'd anticipated, but I'm guess this isn't surprising. We basically ascend out of the valley floor and then stay up in the plateau of Dolly Sods). This day included a 2.5 mile downhill at the end though.

For this day's ride, I had fixed the girth cover issue and I tightened her girth one more hold. Immediately following the ride, Q had no swelling, galls, soreness. The previous day's gall hot spot looked great! It hadn't been touched by the girth much, if at all based on it's appearance. However, the following morning, Q had small, equal swelling on both sides of her girth area an inch or two behind her elbow that was about 2½ inches vertically and ½ inch wide; so relatively minor - especially compared to swelling from October. She wasn't reactive to the swelling either unless I really pinched it. And, all that swelling was completely gone and she wasn't reactive to the areas by Monday. More evidence that it was minor based on past experiences where swelling and reactiveness lingered longer.

So, are we out of the woods yet? Nope. But we're definitely getting there, I think.

I'm going to add baby powder and/or body glide (I feel like that needs to be an "or" vs. and?) and I've tightened her crupper up some more based on observations on our Monday night ride this week (mountain sprint sets). No Frills will be a big tell. Fingers crossed that I've arranged the puzzle pieces to fall into the proper places for success.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Conditioning in Dolly Sods, plus a big change

I'm a multiple passion person. While horses certainly hold most of my heart, I cannot be contented with just *one* hobby/sport/pasttime. Rock climbing, skiing, mountain biking, and anything else I can get myself into keep me active outside of my horse obsession. As a result, I've become the Queen of Time Management in order to Do All the Things. Just ask my out-of-state friends who visit and want to have a grand adventure! I usually mange to cram quite a bit into a very short period of time.

Keeping in mind my busy lifestyle, conditioning for endurance is a bit more strategic for me than it may be for others. Aware that my upcoming schedule would result in little time to ride preceding our first planned 55 of the season, I set this past weekend as a bit conditioning weekend for Q and I up in Canaan with Dan.

Over the winter, Dan acquired a new horse - an Arab to be precise. (I'm a horrible influence, what can I say?) I helped get the pair going before Christmas and found Butch to have a TON of potential. In fact, I told Dan if I didn't know damn well that I had zero time (and money) to put into a third horse I would be REALLY jealous and would be trying to steal the horse away! ;-)

Dan has done a WONDERFUL job with Butch through the winter. The gelding has gained a lot of weight and a lot of miles. He clearly loves his new job on trail, is a confident leader, and has a really incredible 14 mph trot that Dan has honed these past few months.

The plan for our weekend was to put in as many miles as possible with a rough hope of doing 10+ on Friday and 30+ on Saturday. Friday's miles would be on Canaan Mountain and Saturday's in Dolly Sods.

We put in a solid 14 miles Friday in 2 hours and 20 minutes that included a flat out gallop. I think it may have been the first time I truly believe I've had Q maxed out! What a thrill! I used to do that kind of thing all the time in high school, but I've gotten a bit more timid in the years since!

With solid miles put down, Dan and I settled in for the evening to shoe Q.

Yes. *gasp* I am shoeing this mare for competition now. We gave it a trial run on her fronts last fall (she would NOT let us do her hinds) for the OD 25 in October with spectacular results. It was a test run to see if I could feasibly shoe her for the 2016 competition season. That test run went beautifully.

I'm not "quitting" barefoot. I'm not "quitting" booting. I'm not shoeing to resolve an issue that boots couldn't perform protection-wise. But I am saying a firm no to being competitive with boots on this horse. Boots have worked well for us! ...except I find ZERO joy in dismounting to deal with boot issues during a race. It is not fun at all to have to constantly double-check that I still have all of my boots whenever I decide to start moving out at any kind of speed. I'm in this thing to have fun, and I find NO FUN in constantly worrying about boots. Additionally, I firmly believe that dismounting and remounting as often as I have to fix boot issues is doing my horse NO GOOD.

The wet eastern conditions coupled with slick clay mud just don't jive well with Renegades when one wants to start doing more than a slow, steady 5-6mph pace. On a dry day or on a ride with no stream crossings, mud puddles, bogs, wetlands, or muddin' holes (holes ATV riders like to create and play in that often span the width of a trail), I'll have no issues whatsoever with boots. But let's face it, this is the east and it's a temperate rainforest. Wetness on the trail is inevitable.

The boots won't [usually] break. They'll fly off completely intact or just spin off and hang on by the gaiter. And when you get off to fix them and look at them they're typically covered in a thin slime layer because that's just what the dominant soil types do when you add water in these parts! Clay and its close cousin silt become quite slimy/greasy when water is added. Plod down a dry trail, get dry particles of clay/silt to dust the boot, then go through a puddle, creek, bog, etc. and you've got a recipe for error when boots are involved.

And yeah, EasyBoots may do better, and I do have a pair that I've had better luck with than Renegades when it comes to the frequency of flying off my horse's feet. But EasyBoots are a bitch to get on and off, and when it comes down to it, they still fly off if I go fast after wet or mucky conditions.

I'm beyond fortunate that Q has AMAZING feet. I only boot her for competition. Our training rides and conditioning is always barefoot (except in the Sods; if we want to travel above walk in the Sods, we boot. Photos below will demonstrate why!)

I'm also beyond fortunate that Q moves THE SAME regardless of being barefoot, booted, or shod.

Plain and simple, the mare has fan-fucking-tastic feet. They just need protection at times to cover the miles we do on the terrain we have!

The switch to shoes wasn't something I did lightly because I take hoof care of my horses so seriously. I have been the only one to trim Q and Griffin since May 2012. I've been complimented on their feet (Q more than Griffin because she's out and about more often) by every local farrier and even multiple ride farriers over the years. Much to my pleasure (I felt like the pretty girl at the dance) some of the endurance riding icons I look up to the most have complimented her feet even! Switching to shoes wasn't something I wanted to do unless my horse(s) could keep the foot that worked so well for them.

I knew Dan was a farrier and I knew he trains and works with my most favorite farrier in the area - K - for years now. He and K have an incredible hand with horses. I've witnessed K take his farrier tools out into a field, call horses over one by one and trim or shoe them right there in their field with no ropes or halters. I've also seen what his ingenuity with custom shoeing can do. Custom one-of-a-kind shoes he has developed to fix structural issues in horses vets recommended to be put down because of their problems have saved them multiple times. He shoes to the individual horse in such a way that the shoe is made to support the limb, not to look "picture perfect" or "pretty". Whatever the horse needs, he crafts. And Dan follows suit with all of this. Both note that a good, balanced trim is key to any horse's performance - and a good, balanced trim is what I always strive for for my horses. (And what any good trimmer should be doing.)

One of the biggest catalysts for jumping back into shoes was that Dan was totally okay shoeing my trim job. He'd touch it up a little as needed so the shoe would go on, but Q got to keep the foot she's used to that works so beautifully for her. YES.

Dan and I have had so many extremely nerdy hoof conversations over the past 8 months. We'd be discussing hoof care in the bump shack over the winter (we ski patrol together) and literally have other patrollers walk out of the building because we were nerding out so bad on horse feet. His philosophies on hoof care align with mine. He just puts a shoe on it to protect over tough terrain instead of opting for a boot. He isn't for or against any one thing as long as the horse is moving well and happily.

Dan studied the movement of each of Q's limbs all last summer and fall before we put fronts on her. He custom made each shoe (then and now). And because of his attention to detail and skill at his craft, she moved out the same in those shoes as she does bare or in boots. Excellent!

She kept those shoes on for 7 weeks (this length mostly due to scheduling conflicts and no great need to remove them for any reason) before we pulled them and the day we pulled them they were as tight as the day they went on. Yes, she has really bomber feet, but the shoeing job was also impeccable.

We tried to get backs on Q before the LD last fall, but she just. wasn't. having. it. We had a number of seasoned horse experts there to soothe her and try to help, but nothing worked. Her PTSD from the cowboy was just too strong. (Remember, he's the kind who ties a hind leg up to make them "tucker out faster" standing around on 3 legs.) I told Dan I'd spend the winter doing what I could to improve her for the spring (handling and stretching her hinds, banging on the hoof with various things).

Keeping in mind her fears, we decided to only do her fronts Friday night after our 14-mile ride and tackle the backs Sunday when she'd be super tired and when we knew we'd have all damn day to do it. Because we wanted to set all parties up for success and do right by the horse.

Her fronts went on with mostly minimal issue. The sound of nails being pounded freaks her out a bit, but she wasn't too horrible all things considered. Treats and massaging behind her ears and on her poll helped her a lot. She wasn't awesome, but she wasn't as bad as she'd been last year either.

"Dan! I want a picture of the hot shoe!" *cue confused smile*
Q had no care in the world about this process until the hammer clanged on nails.
Prepped and ready!

Saturday morning Dan and I met around 9am to suit up the horses and head for the Sods. We had a map in tow this time to help us keep on track after our Christmas day ride went a bit askew due to a missed turn. Nothing like being lost in the Sods during a thunderstorm downpour on Christmas Day!

The ride was BEAUTIFUL. Definitely the best yet! It really makes me wish the old Canaan 50 still took place! I've ridden on well over half of the trails that it consisted of now and's the most beautiful country I've ever ridden. And hands down, horses are the best way to see the Sods.

Endurance friends, if you ever want to come ride this area, just let me know and Dan and I are happy to take you up there. Bring your own horse or ride one of ours, it'll be the most memorable riding (terrain-wise) you ever do.

I didn't get many photos because we were really moving out at the end (to the point where I was both thrilled and terrified), but I did capture several representative photos to share the ride with those not present:

Climbing the Wall of Tears. Yes, this is the actual trail. Also an ephemeral stream.
Careful horses watch their step!
Then into a more forested section. Still rocky!
Later we cross Red Creek's tea-colored water.
Drinking like a good boy.
And at times you go through tunnels of thick red spruce stands
To reemerge on to the plain-like heartland of the Sods.
We had MILES of this. Upland with minimal bog areas and no rocks that we cantered and galloped.
This is where we just galloped. I skillfully took this from behind my back while we went along.
The rocky ridgeline. If you stood up there and looked the direction this photo is you'd be higher than any other
feature looking east for miles and miles.  You could see all the way to Virginia on a clear day like this.
This was the last photo I managed before we REALLY took off over some tricky terrain. I was very impressed with
Q's mountain goat skills over the rocks we encountered.
When we were almost done with loop 1, Butch knocked the shit out of his right hind on a rock. He hopped along on 3 legs for a few moments before Dan pulled him up and dismounted to check him out. No blood or swelling or tenderness. He was using the foot again within a few moments, but it was kind of scary there for a second. While Dan was double-checking everything, we noticed that Butch had lost one of his 12-week old front shoes. Not too surprising, but a bummer and definite nail in the coffin so far as our planned 30+ miles went! (The loop we completed was 16.6 miles and the following loop we'd planned to add an additional 2+ miles because we wanted to check out another trail or two. If things had gone to plan we'd likely have completed somewhere around 35 miles.)

For me though, it was a blessing in disguise that the ride terminated early. Due to the missing shoe, Dan and Butch were forced to walk the 2+ mile downhill on gravel Forest Service road back to the trailer. Which was fine! I didn't want to completely throw my day away though, so I decided to see if Q would go it alone.

Historically, wide open roads like that are her kryptonite. She spooks the worst and the most on these. But apparently our good rides of late aren't really a fluke. She trotted solo down that entire road without a single spook at a steady 7mph pace! I was flabbergasted to say the least! I don't know who this mare is, but I love her and I hope she stays because this is the horse I've always suspected was hiding underneath.

Back at the trailer I quickly untacked her, took her pulse (56) and gave her a big, wet mash. While I waited on Dan and Butch, I prepped a mash for Butch, cracked a beer, ate a sandwich, and started packing some things away.

When Dan arrived, Butch was untacked and given his mash as Dan and I rehashed the ride, the trails, and plans for future Sods conditioning rides. Gawd, what an incredible ride!!! Because we didn't tackle the planned miles, we made a tentative plan to do another Sods ride the following day post-shoeing with one of Dan's other horses.

Somehow she unhooked her lead rope but still continued to chill by the trailer.

Once both horses were done with mashes and drank a half bucket of water a piece, we took them back to the barn and settled them in for the evening before going our separate ways. (I did re-check the horses later that night to top off hay and water and give them another smaller wet mash and found that while Butch was short striding *slightly* on the whacked leg, he had zero heat and zero swelling.)

Sunday morning, I headed out to the barn around 10:30am to check the horses. Butch's leg still looked just fine and they both had hay and some water leftover. I topped them both off, gave them breakfast mashes, and groomed them until Dan showed up about an hour later to tackle Q's hind shoes.

The definition of a concerned, almost pouty face during the prepping phase

We took the whole process really slowly. Dan took the time to trim and prep both feet and shape both shoes before we got to the dreaded nailing that Q seems to hate the most of any part of the process because of the sound of the hammer. Throughout the prepping and shaping, we stayed really chill around Q so she didn't have anything to worry about. As Dan pounded the shoes with the hammer as he shaped them, I fed Q treats.

Finally, it was time to nail them on. By this point, Q was almost putting her foot on the stand for Dan! She was SO relaxed. We both kind of expected her to lose it though once the nailing started. I slowly and steadily fed her treats while Dan put in the first nail. Q hardly flicked an ear at him. Her whole body was relaxed. After the first nail she shifted her weight and removed the foot he was working on to put on the ground in a very polite way. We gave her her time, then proceeded. One more nail and one more polite removal. And then the next go, Dan got 5 nails in before Q decided she'd like to place her foot on the ground! Holy moly!

A MUCH more relaxed horse!

3 of 4 shoes

Right as I snapped this she opened her eyes, she'd been sleeping for the last shoe!

When Dan got to the final hoof to be shod, he got 7 of the 8 nails in without an issue or a break for Q as I slowly fed her "crack" (Omelene 400) from my hand a little at a time really making her work for it. The only reason he didn't get the 8th (studded) nail in was because I was a poor assistant and lost it in my pocket! So Q got a break while he nabbed another. She stood quietly for the final nail without any bribing on my part. Dan and I both praised her highly afterward. WHAT a good girl. (Though Dan insists it's really because I took the time to work with her through the winter so that this could happen. I'm sure there is truth to that but I'd rather ring Q's bell than my own!)

The shoes and Q's feet look amazing and I'm really pleased. So is Dan. We both want her foot to basically shift back a little bit so her heel is more upright and her toe comes back more (slightly steeper angle more than shorter toe), but that will come with time.



Top L and R correspond to front L and R respectively.
Bottom L and R correspond to hind L and R respectively.

What a really incredible training weekend on all fronts. We opted to forgo the extra ride after the shoeing because Q was so exceptionally good. She was amazing the whole weekend.

While I didn't mention it above, I do want to make note that she self loaded herself onto the trailer every single time. When Butch was having a Special Moment not wanting to load, Q walked over, loaded herself in his spot on the trailer, then backed off quietly after a moment as if to say, "See, that's how it's done." Each other time we loaded, if the door was open and we were in the vicinity of it (Butch loaded or just her getting on solo), I could toss the end of the lead rope over her back and she'd walk over and load herself! What a big difference from a few years ago!!

I was a little hesitant before this weekend about how I'd make it through 100 miles with this horse, but she's really given me a lot more faith and trust in her these past few days. I think we'll be just fine. ☺

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Grey Status

While it's true Q is getting most of my time of late due to more concrete goals approaching in the near future, I'm still riding Griffin as much as my schedule allows.


And he's doing really well for the most part.

Griffin 2016
Griffin 2016

He definitely came through this winter better than any winter yet.

Griffin 2016

Griffin 2016

I think it's safe to say he's finally an "adult" horse. For whatever that's worth!

Mentally though, he's still a baby, and I expect that to continue for a few more years. At least his body is done growing though!

While he still has his Special Moments, they're few and far between these days. I'm really please with how much he has become "ol' reliable" the majority of the time. It isn't just any 5 year old horse you can trust with a 4 - now 5 - year old kid!

Yes, he's wearing a "Happy Birthday" crown for her party.

His biggest and worst shenanigan of late though?



I'm pretty certain he wasn't alone in his efforts to destroy his blanket to this degree. But I really wasn't pleased to arrive at the barn to find that he and the rest of the herd (except the 20 year old SE Arabian and Q) pounding what was left of the blanket into the dirt. 

He's been exceptionally playful of late. I've watched him egg some of the other mares into play fights, rock and roll around the field with the gelding closest in age to him, bully the 20 year old gelding incessantly, and even jump/pounce onto Q with his front feet while she was trying to roll after a ride! What a SHIT! 

At least he's a pretty shit though...


Though I'm not entirely uncertain I won't let him freeze his ass off next winter. ;-) 

...I'll get him another blanket on Black Friday when they go on sale.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Beginners Guide

I had another post written for today, but it will just have to wait because I just discovered this post by another Mountain Khakis ambassador and it is HILARIOUS. You've got to read it:

A Beginner's Guide to Horseback Riding: For a Beginner by a Beginner

A couple excerpts:

"I have found that pulling the reins towards the right makes the horse move his head right a little and then he keeps walking straight ahead. Pulling to the left makes him take a nip at my leg. Either way I’m screwed, so I think we’ll just keep going straight."

"They say to talk to the horse soothingly but they don’t explain what a horse finds soothing. Just to be safe, I’m thinking you should avoid words like “Rendering plant” or “Dog food.”"

"That big knob in the front middle of your saddle is called a knob. Actually, if you’re riding a Western saddle it’s called a saddle horn. Anywhere else I assume you can go with knob."

I was giggling all the way through. Those excerpts are just SOME of the really funny quotes throughout.

It's nice to see another ambassador compose a horse-based post for MK for once - even if they are a beginner! I'm usually the only one sharing my pursuits. 

Monday, March 21, 2016


Two great rides in one week? I'd have never guessed.

Not the greatest photo representation, but I'm striving to take a photo after every ride this year.

Friday (before the snow settled in for the weekend) I had another amazing ride on Q. 5 miles longer than the first with 500 more feet of climbing than the first ride of the week. I was graced once again with a game horse that exhibited none of her spazzy spooking shenanigans. We even explored some new trails and found one new lollipop loop so far!

Dare I say it, I'm beginning to look forward to riding this horse again! I was never afraid of her, nor did I dread our rides, but I certainly didn't look forward to them with the childhood abandon I once did. The thought of having to ride out her spooking shenanigans just wasn't the most fun thought to entertain. Just because I *could* do something didn't mean I enjoyed it.

The return of a game, confident partner has me excited to put in the conditioning miles again! Spending hours in the saddle with a confident horse is much more enjoyable than hours in the saddle with one that's afraid of the world. And I'd venture to say Q is enjoying things more, too.

Vaccines and dental (if needed) are scheduled for tonight for both horses. We'll see about riding this week as it unfolds. I tend to give both horses some down time after their vaccines though because they're usually a little sluggish in the following days. And Q will get plenty of training miles in Canaan this weekend as I'm dragging her along to my second home for a weekend of riding with Dan.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

On Point

I had THE GREATEST ride on Q last night. I cannot remember the last time I had a ride of that caliber with her. It's been a solid 2 years or so at least.

Not too shabby at all.
The climbing was good, the pace was solid and doable, and while the distance wasn't quite what I'd wanted to achieve, this was the ride we needed to build confidence. She did not spook at all (whereby the definition of spook means one of Q's infamous whirly bird spooks that unseats or nearly unseats me over something completely trivial like a broad leaved forb, a small rock among large rocks, a small stick among large sticks, a purple flower among yellow flowers, etc.). She balked at a few things, and shuddered a time or two, but beyond that? She kept it together.

Her head was cocked slightly to the side constantly if we were moving along a curve in the trail - which is pretty continuous for a lot of our riding because these trails are old logging roads that hug the side of the mountain. She was focused on the trail ahead, ears pricked, looking to and fro a bit, but not in the manic looking-for-monsters manner she has exhibited in the past. I could practically see the cogs whirring in her head as she worked through things.

I slowed Q down a little more than I usually do. Looking at the data on endomondo (the app I use to log our rides...and to log all of my outdoor pursuits of multiple miles), it shows 7 significant walk periods throughout the ride. Slowing Q down to let her look at things and settle for a few minutes really did the trick, I think. ...and somewhere in my stubborn head, I knew that would be a valuable tool to utilize. I just didn't do it enough before.

Pre ride. So happy to be clipped finally! Both horses fell asleep during their clips last week.

Any time I can get this horse to lower her head and neck, I'm thrilled. She's always so on-edge about potential monsters. She lets her stress build up and build up and won't find a release from it...until she spooks. I've always heard that a horse who lowers its head triggers the release of hormones/chemicals/what-have-you that help with relaxation. A horse who won't (or physically can't due to needing an accu. / chiro appt. (true story, happened to your most recent Old Dominion 100 trophy winning horse)), can't relax as much or as easily. Slowing down for periods of time on our ride allowed Q to settle out of any anxiety she was building. She even lowered her head to sniff at the trail here and there when she wasn't moseying along with a low western-esque headset.

Other than having a non-spooking, confidence building ride at a respectable distance and pace with some solid climbing (this seems like a lot, but let's keep in mind that I've been working with this horse for going on 5 endurance seasons now; expecting respectable distance and pace with climbing in our workouts is not completely out of this world), I wanted to work on switching my diagonals consistently throughout our trot work. Q loves me to be on her right diagonal. If I try to get onto the left, she will do one of three things to get me out of it: go into the canter, stutter step such that my rhythm is altered to back to the right diagonal, or spook so that I'm forced to the other diagonal. If she's ever going to move beyond 50 miles, we've got to be solid at both diagonals. No more excuses for either of us. And, I can honestly say, night one was a success and a step in the right (or rather the left) direction. ☺

Looking great post-ride. She pulsed down quickly, was alert, and had an appetite.
This type of ride aligns perfectly with my training goals for this horse and myself. Not only did we build confidence and have a solid ride, we kept our pace within my goal range (6 mph or greater) and climbed a fair amount for the distance. If you extrapolate our climbing from the 9 miles we did into 50, it would be just shy of 9,000' of vertical. Into a 100, it would be just beyond 17,750'. Conveniently for me, the rides I'm working toward have elevation profiles nearly identical to those extrapolated numbers! And they're on similar terrain to boot.

I hope our subsequent rides continue to align with the theme of last night's ride. That's the horse I knew was hiding behind Q's various insecurities. That's the horse I know can be a viable distance partner through 100 miles. ...even if I have to sing "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music to her over and over and over again as we move down the trail.

Monday, March 14, 2016

A Change and Reflection

The past few posts I've written, I have been unable to view all of the comments. I get emails from Google/Blogger, which I can read previews of your comments, but when I navigate to the post to reply to the comments, they don't exist. They're somewhere in the netherworld it seems.

That bothered me.

What bothered me more though, was the fact that I'm nearly certain it has something to do with the fact that I moved my comment form to merge with Google + nearly 3 years ago. It seemed like a good idea at the time!

Except it hasn't been.

In order to comment on my blog, you must have a G+ account. Not shocking if you consider the way Google likes to do things. They didn't point that out in the beginning (at least not in the main text of the proposal!) What they did point out was that if you ever wanted to move away from Google + comments you'd LOSE ALL OF THE G+ COMMENTS YOU'D RECEIVED.

That sucks a lot.

But the future of this blog would be a better one with comments that I can interact with again. So I've changed back to the basic format of Blogger comments instead of G+.

The comments of past aren't lost though. Oh no. I went through and took screenshots of the majority of the memorable ones since the change-over to G+, a period of time from April 2013 to the present.

There were so many great discussions, impromptu help forums, congratulations, and things that made me happy to read again.

I've uploaded all of these archived screenshots into a public Flickr album and linked it in the side of this blog in the "PAGES" section. There, you can follow a link to all of the archived comments with the title formatted based on the post: MMDDYYYY-post title.


Reviewing and re-reading a large period of my life as I took screenshots was really eye opening in the best way possible....

I have come so far. The horses have come so far because of me. So far. And this blog, my posts, and the conversation that resulted from it helped get us (the horses and myself) where we are. Your help and guidance through my ups and downs got me where I am today.

And I really love where I am today.

Both horses have grown up so much in their time with me. I've grown up and improved a lot, too. An obvious, no-brainer side-effect of the whole process.

It was kind of funny to go through and re-read comments where everyone (myself included) was speculating the possibility of some really serious issues with my horses when they'd have their horse outbursts. I really had to laugh. Because time has passed and I know how things ended up and none of our worst case scenarios ever happened. (You're totally shocked, I know. ;-) )

There was a definite flowing theme to things as I read through my adventures from Spring 2013 to the present:

I was happy and ecstatic, yet blundering as I learned new things (most of 2013). I then learned the new things and tried to apply them. I had a good go of it for awhile (2013 into 2014). And then there was a period in my life where an outside influence put me into an almost manic state that manifested in a really horrible way with my horses (2014). In fact, that period of my life led to a complete slacking off from writing on this blog during the last half of 2014. I was really struggling.

Those closest to me through the blog world noticed a change in my writing and reached out to me (thank you). But it wasn't until the beginning of 2015 that I was able to pull myself out of that hole and start anew. As a result, I didn't write too much during 2015. I was nervous that my new resolve, my new happiness, wouldn't become a new normal. And I really wanted it to be my new normal. It was so much like a normal I'd known through my happiest days in college. And so I didn't write too much. I focused on living life and experiencing things in the moment. I wrote and updated on the big things, but largely let the little things slide away.

And now, I'm over a year into that same lifestyle I wanted to keep so badly. There are ups and downs, but the ups are more frequent and the downs don't stress me like they once did. I'm really happy.

I'm so grateful I kept with this blog. I didn't think I would when I started it at the end of 2010. It's proving to be one of my most-favorite-things I've ever done with my life. I love being able to see the changes in myself, my horses, and my life.

I'm going to try to write more into the future, probably not with the manic abandon I once did, but definitely enough to note the best, most memorable happenings month to month.

Thank you to those who have been along for this ride as long as you have -- I've loved learning from you through my high and low moments. You've really helped me become a better horse person and a better human.

I look forward to many continued years of documentation and learning along the way. And(!) to being able to interact through (hopefully) non-glitchy comments!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

How to NOT clip your horses: a tutorial

With temperatures soaring into the mid-70s this week and lows not any lower than the mid-40s for the long-range forecast, I decided to do the horsebeasts a favor and clip them. It seemed like the kind thing to do as they've still got yak coats! ...except of course, any time I have a sure plan, even if that plan is feeding horses and playing hair dresser, it goes awry.

Step 1: Arrive at barn. Notice horses are in far field across creek. Scowl and mutter under your breath and trudge across to get them - of course soaking feet and boots in process. Feel a little better about your cold wet feet when both horses look at you immediately and your usually-aloof mare nickers and rushes to you to beat your gelding.

Step 2: Take horses back to barn and knock the worst of the mud off the to-be-clipped area with a stiff brush. (Yes, I have the muddiest horses right now. No, I really don't care. I'd be fighting a very uphill battle if I wished them to be clean. They're turned out on 30 acres of pasture that changes with the weather. They're muddy. They're happy. I'm happy.)

Step 3: Use the shop vac to blast the dust off of the to-be-clipped area. (Something like the below video from a different day.)

Step 4: Rinse and wash the to-be-clipped area and then use a scraper to siphon as much water as possible off.

Step 5: Take a towel to the area and massage vigorously to further dry and remove water.

Step 6: Round 2 with the blower on both horses to really blast the water off.

Step 7: Drink an alcoholic beverage and give the ponies their "beverage" (grain) because that was a lot of things to happen in an hour's time.

Mud season is the ugliest season
"More food, human."

Step 8: Get clippers from car, check that batteries and everything are in order and running. Add a teensy drop of oil to metal workings remembering that it's been nearly a year since the clippers were last used.

Step 9: Attempt to begin clipping horse #1 (the priority because her coat is dark in color and shows ZERO signs of shedding whereas your other light colored horse has begun to shed a little) only to find that YOUR FUCKING CLIPPER BLADE IS TOO DULL TO DO A DAMN THING.

Step 10: Deny this fact. Fart around with the clippers trying to achieve success. Watch mare give the horse equivalent of rolled eyes of exasperation as she patiently waits for reality to sink in for the stupid human.

Step 11: Sigh. Turn out horses. Vow to buy another blade and try again in a day or two.

Step 12: Curse your horses who, until this time, have never gone out and rolled immediately unless they had been under saddle for a length of time that resulted in sweating.