Thoughts on “Endurance Prospects”

I can’t tell you how to win, BC, or even rack up a whopping lot of competition miles at this point. I am not the first, last, most or least impressive. I’m just someone who’s spent 6+ years and a lot of time, money, research, and heartache on trying to succeed at endurance and if I can leave you with only one message let it be:

Do this for the bond. Do it with a horse that fills you with joy from first glimpse in the field to last mile on the trail. Realistically, you will struggle, strive, and have to work at improvement and growth with your horse, but if you aren’t starting with a deep Like, let’s hope Love, of your horse, just don’t bother. The papers won’t make it, the competition records won’t make it, the right color, height, build, or saddle won’t make it.

I’ve tried to do it all ways, starting early on with non-Arabian Craigslist specials who didn’t like the training mileage (+the many misrepresented CL specials I saw/rode/never bought–wow). They showed me that not every decently built horse out of the field wants to/can do an LD+. Next I bought a high end, well bred, middle aged Arabian mare that I liked that had an AERC start and the bloodlines: she gave me filly Sheza and she showed me the joy of Going and riding a rocket ship–and was retired with arthritis/hock issues after one season. With Desire retired in my field and Sheza growing up, I next tried a calmer, easier going, more proven ride in a 100 mile Rushcreek gelding. He had the bloodlines, the bone, the level head, the record, the everything–except the desire to do endurance or much interest in me, for that matter. Boy does 50 miles feel long that way.

Recently I listed my other filly, Rushcreek Aurora, for sale. Big, well bred, well built, a steady disposition, a legacy of performance at her back. Heads are turned, then scratched, by my claims of wanting to do endurance but my behavior of selling a great prospect in favor of recently arrived Kenny–a 14 hh, toed out, crooked legged Morgan cross plucked from the slaughter truck  a few years ago. All I can say is, with full acknowledgement of continued risk and effort, I want to endure this life, this world, this sport, with people and critters that bring smiles and evoke a feeling of brotherhood. In my world, Kenny brings me a ridiculous smile and effusive glow when I see, handle, or ride him–and Rory is a Fabulous Endurance Prospect on paper.

As Melinda said: “Step one of endurance. Find a horse that you actually enjoy being with for 50 or hundred miles.”

What a notion.

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Merry Christmas from RHE

My favorite part of the holidays? Memorable times with those you love.

A Surprise hike with the husband & my 14 hh boy wonders, Apache &Kenny

A Coastal Visit to family

Knowing the herd is getting along and well watched by the husband

 

A  safe drive home, a lake hike with the husband and dogs between winter storms

A cozy Christmas eve morning, horses well rugged and fed in the storm outside 

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Wishing you all a safe and merry holiday, wherever you are and however you celebrate it.

Thank you as ever for reading and have a wonderful New Year!

Catching up at RHE

With Tevis done, Sparky sold, and Scrappy out on trial at a wonderful home within the family, a few boxes were feeling ticked. So clearly it was time to play with my big red filly!

so grown up in the face these days, if not the voice

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Orange adventure crew hiking at Lake Oroville

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stuck between a rock and a wet place..

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this is a lot of work..snack break?

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my home born dreamgirl and the get er done rig! 

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ok just one more picture of her… 🙂

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Fires continue to rage across California, particularly in the north state. Lately if it’s not us it’s someone else we know far too close to the paths of these sudden and terrifying blazes. I volunteer for the county fire scanner breaking news pages when I can and am continually in a state of awe and gratitude to all the firefighters and folks out there protecting us. THANK YOU!

smoky skies do make epic sunsets

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In pink nosed pony news, I’ve been in the market for a full nose fly mask for Apache this summer. First I bought an Arab sized Cashel full nose mask which was quite entertaining but belongs on a Warmblood (literally, a friend uses an Arab sized mask on hers), then a local boot client recommended Equine Sun Visor.  I ordered one up and it arrived in about a week; the mask is beautifully made to specs (choose color/mesh/pattern, with free embroidery) and seems to be a great fit! 95% UV protection and the little fella hasn’t shed it in the 4 days he’s worn it, despite apparently sticking his head in various sticker bushes.

the snoz to protect (pear eating derrpp)..and the snoz protected!

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stole an afternoon on the water with the pups & husband

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pretty much..

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Jazzy is 4 months+ and busily doubling in size. We’re really happy with her brain and nature as well as her obvious protection and patrol instinct. What a dog she will be!

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Enjoying the cooler weather we’ve had in the last week, Blaze has to taken to lurking in the shadows at morning feeding then erupting in a flurry of feet and dust and taking triumphant laps around his domain as his surprised human watches. So I put him to work! 🙂  A nice young gal who’s eager to be around horses came up and helped with some dirty work around the place and had a good ride on Blaze. The mighty bouncy trot teaches posting like no other, buahah.

cooling down

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Tack Side note: the wide tree Solstice I bought from my Tevis rider fits Sheza–and Blaze?? Apache is next to try. This saddle must be magic! Also trying a Nurtural bitless bridle on Blaze, he seems to like it

I find myself at an interesting transition period in my herd with no saddle horse to focus on endurance with and absolutely no desire to look for one.  I’ve got a whole lot of interest and enthusiasm and at least some knowledge to apply to this Make Your Own Endurance Horse thing, and with 10 year old project Apache and 4 year old up and comer Sheza I feel like I’ve got some good prospects. The rest, the becoming, is all up to us together!

p.s.  Scrappy’s latest adventures  😀  ❤

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This Week at RHE

I love working with many different horses, but I also really enjoy seeing them find their person and move on in life–and hopefully blossom. Of course any time a horse leaves your possession it’s a giant risk, but as I don’t have the resources to keep every horse ever, it seems most useful to try to improve the creature in some way and set it sail on the very best tides you could pick for it. That surety in my mind has led me on a winding path of ponies that has been vastly informative, inspiring, depressing, and never, ever regretted.

My latest foray into other people’s ponies was Sparky, who came home in early May to get ridden/potentially sold. A big 10 year old coming off 17 acres with prior endurance experience, we trained about 80 trail miles together all told, and completed 3/3 rides in our few months together (WW35/30, GC50). His new match came along quite quickly when he was listed, and it was my very great pleasure to send him on his way with a caring local endurance rider this past Sunday. She brought me a 20 lb bag of carrots as a thank you–soo thoughtful!!

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 Meanwhile, on the rest of the ranch…

Sparky’s departure meant Apache was alone on the east side of the property..so I gave him a mini! 

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a quick reminder from Napoleon just what sort HE is

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meanwhile, Desire’s seroma is diminishing nicely

and Melinda’s Farley has been moving some fillies and water and stretching her sassy wings

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2 bantam roosters having dinner   😉 

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Rory was fabulously lame on Monday, she led herself on her lameness exam of course

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…and 90% better the next day..and fine today. #FillyFirstLamenessDrama

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love my big silly fillies!

and 4 month Jazzy keeps on growing! 

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And now–the heat is very much back (105 anyone?) and a fire started a mile away from us as I was in Auburn with my Tevis rider. It was a rather stressful drive home and these were views from our driveway as the amazing firefighters and air teams hit it with everything they had. They were dipping out of ponds at the bottom of our pasture with incredible speed for hours as ash rained and we huddled around the fire scanner. The fire headed away from us as of this morning and is currently 45% contained. Such a scary season. Many many thanks yous and prayers for the firefighters!

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If things calm down…off to Tevis to crew tomorrow morning!

ApacheWorld: Dirt and Lessons

Apache has been with us for 4 months now. This tiny adorable horse encompasses so many quality life and training lessons for me that I have to seriously marshall my thoughts both to work with him and to write about it. He’s a wonderfully complex character, let me see if I can explain why:

What Was, What Is: I certainly didn’t rescue Apache, he came from a lovely endurance couple in Oregon who entrusted him to me, after not having great success with him but diligently trying to find him suitable placement for months. As a well bred, well built, handsome little fellow, he has in 10 years had no less than 4 homes (and probably more than that). He was bred multiple times early in life, before testing positive as a SCID carrier and being gelded. He came to me as Having been Ridden, but with very mixed results (a hoped good trainer gone bad, and both of the couple getting bucked off thereafter). He is a horse that internalizes, not reacts. The best way I can describe it is that he stands and takes thing when he’s not okay, where my Haat Shaat horses absolutely won’t stand and try and take things *until* they’re okay. And by okay I mean in a suitable frame of mind to encompass human shenanigans and learn things, a mental space generally accomplished by them voluntarily moving their feet and blowing off some steam.   Apache is on self imposed lockdown, in a way. It’s fascinating and different and sad and I love him.

And that’s why I ate dirt 🙂

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Thing is, what happened in the past doesn’t ultimately matter. What you think might happen next year *definitely* doesn’t matter. What we grasping humans have to wrap our heads around is the *moment,* the right now, the animal before you and what it’s presenting. In my past experience a horse standing, trying, meant acceptance and move forward. In this instance my gut said Mmm, Really?  (don’t ignore that gut, right!) but my human brain, flashing back on what he should know and what this might mean pushed me onward. It was the third time I’d been on his back, but the other times were bareback, in a halter. That day was his first day in a saddle and breastcollar.

The thing about Apache is that he ticks the boxes on what you ask quite quickly, okay, different speeds in each direction, facing up, etc. Then he shuts down and forces himself to be okay through the next step, and the silly human pushes her luck and gets lucky–just a scraped knee and a bit of a bruise on the back after the impressive HOLY CRAP ACK! buck he threw about 15 seconds after I’d quietly mounted. I moved his feet after that, probably all told another hour at least, more groundwork but definitely not getting on again.

I was interested in my reaction to getting bucked off, since I’ve been life flighted from being dumped after mounting before. I’ve worked off the residual fear over the last few years, and this time I felt only ashamed of myself, and spurred on to unlock this horsey mystery and get it right. Telling my dubious but supportive husband I got dumped was another test–and he took it quite well! There’s something in the stars for this horse, I tell you.

but it isn’t a Cashel fly mask..so much for Arab size! 

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My long lines arrive just in time for our next session. I consulted heavily with my favorite horse experts regarding my mistake and how to proceed, and we generally agreed lots more ground work and exploration of precisely *what* set him off was needed. I can see a general lack of connection from his head, mouth, neck, to body, if that makes sense. As if his body is one entity, and his stiff neck and head another, and they aren’t quite all communicating together. And my trainer’s voice tolls in my head when I type things like that: “Work them til they look like something you want to get on” No, the ticking time bomb of apache wasn’t something I wanted to get on, but I felt that I should, and he should, and well why aren’t we darn it, impatient foot stomp. Well you know how that went.

new splint boots, new driving lines…yawn…boy is the potential there..

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Now *this* was a good session! We started at liberty, went to the line, then spent a while flapping the long lines all over him, ran them up through the surcingle and let him drag them, and finally went to baby attempt ground driving.

fresh, little tense, boy though that stride

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He had started wanting to stop and face up when I was jumping up and down and climbing and doing general tomfoolery, but my trainer said he needed to be okay moving his feet through that, so we worked on that as well. Basically no freezing and shutting down is the goal with this one!

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starting to relax 

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just in time for more human shenanigans

11695939_870103443836_6948831827166642539_nThe lines on his flanks made Apache shudder, the notion of me being behind him made his eyeballs bulge, and the encouragement on the lines to bend a little, Left, right, turn, stop, made him freeze and glare at me. At first. Slowly, calmly, quietly, using all the building blocks of queues I eventually will when it’s an appropriate time to be in the saddle, we made it a step and squiggle at a time until we had driven a nice circle, stop, direction change, and circle in each direction. Deep, deep breaths all around. No, he still didn’t look like a horse that I wanted to get on. But one that I wanted to spend a lot of time on, and be better for, and take a journey with.

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Aside from probably 6 hours of groundwork put into Apache this week here and there, life has been gloriously busy with trims, boot clients, selling Spark for his owner, managing the rest of the herds and acreage–and celebrating my husband’s birthday this weekend!  We did some multi  tasking yesterday, hauling Farley to the lake to help out Mel then popping over for some dog adventures and fishing.

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New Shepherd pup Jazzy continues to grow and thrive with the pack, and little miss Rory’s 2nd birthday is *finally* next week! What a big goober she is, can’t believe she’s still so young.

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Coming Soon:

Sheza’s first ride camp experience

ApacheWorld continues

Scrappy..

Working Critters

The temperatures are climbing higher every day but there’s still work to be done, critter or human. Be you curvy pony or enterprising dachshund, there’s a task for you.

First time being caught in a while, Apache had a serious life question to consider

To Be or Not to Be With Human

As the husband intoned from across the early a.m. pastures: “He Chose…Wisely.”

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I discovered my round pen had regrown it’s star thistle army working on the line in the arena it was

Apache’s current task: breathing, giving at the poll, and all things associated with or helpful to that enterprise

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Rushcreek Aurora’s full time job: Training Assistant/PITA Creeper

seconds before this photo she had 3 coils of lunge line crammed down her gullet..

can’t you almost hear the innocent casual whistling?

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the bantams work at composting

at least 2 are now crowing, or some version of it

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dachshund fish finders never run out of batteries  and rarely err

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After the human did her job of clearing the round pen again..

Sheza’s job: eye candy, and storytelling

BLARGH

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OH! HUMAN!

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brainlesspeedtrotbrainlessspeedtrottrot

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 Huhhh, human is still here, hello again11202116_865782083876_7389485397298842835_n

not ready, noNoBLARG!

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huh, it’s hot..and human doesn’t object to this speed,  maybe this is a better speed

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oh yeah, slower is better, hmmphh, I’m fat, I’m sweaty, Humannnn I’m done

(human must not let herself be convinced by filly. Human is boss!ish..)

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a nice, slow, low, working trot compromise, tongue out and all

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A few more nice circuits at an ever slower and bendier walk, dragging the long line around in the rustling grass, and that was that for Sheza’s story this morning. Oh, and a cool bath, as a princess must have.

And the rest?

Spark is having a few days off after WW, with one ride to be done between now and Gold Country 50 in 2 weeks.

Blaze, Desire, and Napoleon can’t claim to be any more useful than endearing old friends, at the moment.

dear old Georgia crew chihuahua is hanging in there, for now. She loves the hot weather fortunately

Coming Soon

A fellow blogger mare will be moving in soon to mix things up!

Gold Country 50

Apache Trail Time