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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Why? Because Horses!

I’ve used that…reason? justification? expletive? a number of times over the years. You know, when these beloved critters of ours do that perplexing thing, at that wrong time, and you question yourself Why, Why…Because Horses. That’s why. Up, and down, year round, because horses.

First, there was a ride!  Kenny and I picked up our stallion buddy Aqua and his human W last week, and Kenny had a successful first tour of Sycamore Hill and the old train tunnel.

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tunnel time

We also had some fun discussions about being a non nose-up tail solo unit

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Noooo

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Oh okay!

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Kenny digs the gastric perks of playing endurance pony

On the weekend, I eagerly headed out to take Kenny for a solo jaunt..

 

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Because horses.  A few superficial cuts, but enough to stymie a ride, better safe than sorry after all. Blaze and I went for a frustration zoom, and I felt better.

This week Rory had a nastily yellow ring of snot around her foreleg where she’d clearly removed it from her nose. She seemed a bit quiet, but was EDPP religiously and her temperature remained steady. I spoke to my vet and in passing he mentioned wetting hay, to bring down any possible dust levels. Well that rang a bell, as my new semi load of hay is gorgeous Oregon grassy alfalfa–and very dusty. Because Horses. 

As I obsessed over her health, Rory had a fine gallop the next morning..

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Trrrrot!

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Just looking epic, nbd

Meanwhile the wettest and windiest storm of the year was inbound, so I suffered every horse but woolly mammoth descendent Blaze to wear a rain jacket. Because you know, I care. The fillies proceeded to try to strip themselves and each other. Because you know…horses.

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pictures of false innocence

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Rory dons her first blanket at 2.5 years old–a 72″!

It was a properly wet and windy night and they were all still clothed this morning, ungrateful wretches. Our land is now already greener and soggier than it ever made it to last year, with mushrooms sprouting in the horse poo and standing land puddles. At last. The massive tarp I hung off the roof to cover the protruding end of one of the hay stacks came off overnight, and some of my precious hay got err….pre-soaked, for Rory!  Ahh, horses.

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rain gives way to fog, greeeeeeen ❤

Grateful, and the New Guy

I hope you all had wonderful Thanksgivings, near and far. My husband and I spent the day together, taking our crew of dogs up to the snow and cooking a full Turkey and all the trimmings (he cooked..I clean).

 

Nailed it! Thanksgivings human and pony

It was a week of giving Thanks, entirely. In addition to Scrappy leaving and settling into his new home, Kenny settling in here, the holiday, and my mom’s birthday–the hay man came!! There was some organized chaos, a lot of heavy lifting, standard tarp shenanigans, and then there was a year’s supply of hay stored. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, rather!

When things are going swimmingly and you’ve brought home a new pony there’s only one thing to be done: go forth and ride solo, just see if you can bring it all crashing down about your ears. That may sound dramatic but then you may not have been life flighted to a bone rebuild after bringing home a new horse before. I’ve learned a few things since that incident years back but no one is immune from gravity, nor repeat incidents, so with 80% confidence I caught up Kenny boy last weekend, let a neighbor know I was headed out alone and my timeline, and off we went to the lake.

suppppp

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Well first, we had discussions on loading. We did on the way back as well, that time including a well meaning audience who offered raised eyebrows and cookies (you’ve probably never tried to coax a Morgan-headed beastie into a trailer before if you’re offering that). None of that bothers me, partially because after loading animals in an 80s Miley 2 horse straight for 6 years nothing will, but also because I truly see trailer loading as the introductory place to an entire horse relationship, and I have absolutely gone about it the wrong way before.

If you think about it, trailering a horse home is your first big bonding moment. This includes your driving, and if you haven’t been tossed into a large trailer and driven about like a horse, you really should for the reality check. But back to the loading, unless the old owner does it, which I’ve never gone for, this is your first chance to work with the horse.

Here little horsey, get into my nice strange dark death box, you don’t know me from Adam but I swear it’s safe! 

Sure, maybe the horse has been trailered for years, in different conveyances, etc. It’s still a new person with a new death box–and how will the new person go about it? In the past I have expected a horse to load because they know better etc. Now I truly see the first trailerings as an incredibly valuable training opportunity, where first you can let them take dominance, impose your will without compromise, or lay out a path that you two can travel together.

I can’t be as naturally soft with Kenny as the Arabs, yet anyway. He’s clever, and not spooky, and his first attempts at going *through* me promptly reminded me of the first Morgan I ever rode–a gelding back in Maine who regularly flattened my tiny self into the wall on his way to doing what he wanted. Kenny, being both Morgan AND pony, has notions enough to be an interesting gelding, but is also pretty adorable and looking to partner up. His riding experience of late has been with other horses and/or in the arena so being a solo trail horse out with a partner was clearly a bit confusing for him.  I have the impression that, had he the current fitness, mentally Kenny would follow a horse right through a 50, for the herd quality of it. On his own? It was a confusing 6 miles for him, but with a few NopeNopes and OverHeres from me we had a great little intro ride overall, including bridge crossings, trots, EDPP, and minimal tantrums when other horses came and went in the lot.

when you gotta go…little Morgan feet, troll doll hair, adorable!

My husband is still trying to get used to the fact that Kenny doesn’t spook at every whisper on the breeze, or tractor scraping by. I’m still getting used to Kenny’s high pitched voice, which makes me grin every time. Kenny? Well he’s still getting used to us–and I think we’re all doing fine.

 

Autumn Lately

*log monster!!!*

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Betcha thought that was Sheza ^^. Nope, a nearby endurance riding buddy, C, is raising a chestnut filly of her own, and Blaze, Sheza, a friend and I joined them for a quite entertaining cruise at the lake last weekend. We had some hesitation in loading from Sheza and a dramatic high speed reverse exit from the trailer at the lake, which prompted re loading and polite unloading practice, but otherwise it was a grand outing.

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Sheza youngster face

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C and I both hiked a warm up, rode a few walking miles along the river,and hand walked our girls through the awesomely terrifying train tunnel on the way out and back. My friend piloted Blaze as our calming influence for the fillies and it worked perfectly. The girls were pretty tense in the cold echoey, graffiti covered tunnel on the way out, but noticeably more businesslike in their march back through a few miles later.

rider up!

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weary working filly 😉

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Amongst trim and boots appointments the next week, our Shepherd pup Jazzy got spayed and microchipped. It was a very smooth transaction all the way around and she has healed beautifully. I’m always relieved to tick that bit of young dog business off the list!

woe is Jazzy

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some dignity restored a few days later

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Seeing a friend and boot client’s steed move out beautifully in all 4 boots recently gave me an itch to experiment with hind hoof protection on Blaze again, and so I did. For background, Blaze is a bit base narrow and has an old what I can only surmise is interference scar on the inside of his left hind fetlock. I always found that he interfered, shod or booted, in the past, so I ride him up to LD distance bare in the hinds with splint boots, as I have noticed that even bare if he starts to tire he’ll whack that spot.

Bootwise, the Viper model of Renegades is slightly more streamlined than the Originals and I had used a credit to get Sheza some Vipers recently that I thought just might fit Blaze’s hinds. After a quick trim, sure enough the two sizes I had bought her were just right for him and with a quick cable adjustment, I booted Blaze on all 4, with splints, and went for a 10 mile solo cruise.

children in the woods! And humans say there aren’t critters in the shadows

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While 4 boots did not magically make Blaze a stellar walker, nor fix his distracted, somewhat graceless way of going in said walk–they did put rocket fuel up his butt for the first hill we approached! He trotted out nicely in them on a few warm up stretches but when we reached the fairly substantial Visitor Center hill he literally leaped from a walk to a canter and, with some encouragement in carriage from me, speedily ate up a hill that he usually trudges up.

xmas booties..hah!

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We had a great ride, but I did notice that he chewed up the lower part of his splint boots pretty thoroughly. No marks on the Vipers, just the protective boots. Hmmm. Food for thought for a few days.

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We did finally get some real October weather, and aside from a day or two bump, are luxuriating in it still. We had some sprinkles last week and there’s a whisper of rain in the coming forecast, shh, don’t scare it away. Hoof trimming is a bit more fun again with some moisture, let’s be honest, summer hooves are merciless!

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RC Aurora, 2 yrs 3 months..

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..and not overly concerned with table manners

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Because things come in 3s or so I hear, I had yet one more tire drama this past week. I took my trusty old Orange diesel Ford in to a previously helpful Big O Tires for front tires and alignment and got back front tires and–a $3500 estimate on repairs that “must” happen for safety and to even be able to align the truck. Eyebrows were raised and the truck was transferred to our usual mechanic, who returned the truck driving safely and nicely the next day for $400. Second opinions are clearly worth it these days!  *headshake*

Now we find ourselves back to the Blaze and hind hoof protection experiment. One of my trimming mentors shared a theory on Blaze’s interference online, based on her experience with a gelding who would appear balanced in a trim but then walk away landing more to the outside on a hind hoof, and would then interfere until that was corrected. I hit on that theory with interest because I had noticed Blaze walk away from what I thought was a balanced trim landing more to the outside just the day before. His fronts needed a clean up anyway so I went after his hooves pretty thoroughly before our next outing with trail buddies W and Aqua.

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a solid conditioning ride for the boys

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I didn’t solve the interfering issue, unfortunately, and with a brisk 14 mile ride including cantering sets, Blaze had interfered thoroughly enough to make his scarred leg a bit ouchy to the touch at the end. Humm. I can’t swear I nailed the trim theory, and will be working at it again, but I also probably won’t be subjecting him to hind boots very often in the meantime! He had a thorough warm bath and some Sore No More on his legs after that ride and is having a few days off. His back seems great with the Solstice still, though I’m having my chiro out for a herd check today so we’ll see if that reveals anything in anyone.

That’s about it for now. I hope that those who are graced with it are enjoying this fabulous weather.

sunset

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sunrise

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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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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..