A New Fella, a Big Goal, and Lots of Riding

It’s been a month or so since the last blog and as usual, grass isn’t growing under my feet! I’ve been zipping from Valley to Coast and back again, north to south and repeat: fitting boots, seeing family, and riding my butt off. There have been some exciting developments, too.

Kenny:

Everyone’s favorite snarky Morgan/Welsh pony is getting quite fit and has his name on an upcoming 50 miler entry! He’s been climbing hills, fording creeks, jumping logs, carrying friends, and most recently, night riding. After last years rebalancing attempt/shoeing fiasco, I’ve essentially stopped trimming his hooves, and he’s sounder and landing more evenly than ever, maintaining his own wonky angles as he likes them and conditioning barefoot like a BAMF. He is consistently Kenny, that is, slow to warm up like a diesel engine, but 5 or 6 miles in when he decides this is happening, a really fun, smooth ride who just gets better as the miles go by. He’ll be getting a trace clip again when the wild weather cooperates and I’m really looking forward to his first 50!

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Sheza/Blaze:

In their roles as the youngest and eldest of my herd, these two get the most Being a Horse in Pasture time, while still enjoying quality time with me here and there. An ideal life I like to think.

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The New Guy:

In late December I received an email from a Facebook friend regarding my Next Step Program and a 14 year old gelding looking for placement. I was just heading out for Death Valley XP at the time and had a boarder arriving when I got back, so we agreed that we’d discuss it more in January when things had settled down a bit. Death Valley was amazing, Mel‘s mare arrived for boarding, and suddenly it was late January and I was driving out to a beautiful area I’d never been to to meet the gelding, Oh Yours Truly (a pedigree worth looking at!), barn name Scout. His kind eye caught my attention immediately, putting me in mind of my dear Blaze, a gently snarky fellow with a heart of gold. Let me tell you that after two rides on him and bringing Scout home, I feel that my initial impression is right on! We’ve had a few discussions already (Yes, you WILL cross the big stream in the lead, Yes you will Load into a new trailer without your Buddy, No you will Not unload Yourself At Your own Whim), but he has been entirely reasonable and shown a quality brain to go with his stellar pedigree and substantial body (15.1 hh stick and level, BIG bones). He came with hives and some hair loss but the hives have already dissipated and the hairless areas are less irritated; I still plan to do a round of Ivermectin on him, as well as having a dental and chiro check on him next week. Once he settles in we’ll be working on conditioning miles and hopefully have some fun at a ride camp by the end of the year 🙂16787965_10100119846897926_557925096_n.jpg

A Big Goal

Not long after crossing off one big goal, namely riding all 4 days of a Multiday, another huge opportunity came my way. While out on the trail one day, my good friend W asked if I would like to ride her stellar Arabian stallion Aur Aquavit in his upcoming first 100 miler at the 20 Mule Team ride. I’ve harbored both a 100 mile goal and a desire to ride a stallion in endurance for years now, and coupled with the fantastic fellow that Aqua is, I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity! I had leaped off Kenny and was handing W his reins and adjusting up Aqua’s stirrups to my length almost before her mouth had closed from the offer, so needless to say that was a YES, and we’re now just a week away from leaving! There is much time and many “vet checks” to get through before we even reach the start line yet, so please send us good juju on this hugely exciting endeavor. 😀

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Phew! I think that’s all the news for now, and that’s without regaling you with tales of the Crumbling Oroville Dam Spillway in my town, or the horrendous case of Pinkeye I came down with while retrieving Scout. The road rolls ever on and on, Keep your wits about you and keep on trotting, folks!

Death Valley XP 2016: What I did Right

For every list of things that you might want/need at an endurance ride, there’s a crusty old timer who rides 100s with no water bottles, a bandanna, and the saddle they were given as a kid. I like to fall somewhere in between, acknowledging that not “all the things” are necessary, but at last fully aware of my own struggles in staying healthy at/through rides, and therefore I’ll persist in sharing what works for me, in the hopes that others can pick up something that might work for them.

Basically, I’m a pale skinned redhead who can overheat in 30 degrees (yes Fahrenheit), gets dehydration migraines, has a squicky nervous stomach at events, and has a rebuilt metal right ankle (I work,walk, run, and ride in hiking boots with ankle support). I spent my first few *seasons* of endurance sick as a dog after every ride, no matter the weather: headaches, endless dry heaving, the whole 9. It’s been a journey of pinpointing problems, running experiments on myself, and harvesting ideas from others, but after being on the road at Death Valley XP recently from early Monday to late the next Sunday in someone else’s rig, sleeping in the back of a horse trailer, caring for 6-8 horses, taking zero showers, AND riding 4 days in a row at 175 miles total for the first time ever–I felt great and like I could ride another day. I’ll never call them Must Haves for anyone but me and it’s not a complete packing list, but below are some highlight items that really made a difference.

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the kit

Delicate Flower Survival List, December Desert Edition 😉

  • Granola Bars in Your Pack: Possibly the single biggest revelation for me regarding sporting self care came last November while crewing a 100 mile run for Ultra beast Mel, who had a timer going on her watch throughout the event to remind her to eat on trail as appropriate. To be clear, I wasn’t that organized, and I’ve always carried snacks in my saddle bags, BUT–for the first time, on this event I forced myself to eat something as soon as I started to feel off at all, whether that was 20 minutes into the day or just after lunch. In the past I would acknowledge feeling crappy, think about food and feel crappier, and the downward spiral began. This time, I opened my saddle bag and crammed a granola bar down my gullet before I could think about it. TADAHHH, my stomach instantly felt better. And it worked, over and over, each day (day 4 pre lunch was a stomach low, but I queasily ate a carrot, didn’t barf, and resumed granola bars after a good salty lunch). I carried Chocolate chip Quaker bars and Strawberry Nutrigrains and both stayed palatable all week and were approved by my other buddies who got hungry one of the days (bonus:easy to cram shareable amounts in a small saddle bag)
  • Drink Water: I drank 6 1 pint bottles a day at least. And Very minimal alcohol. Your amounts and tolerance will vary, but everyone needs to drink some water okay.
  • Baby Wipes (=shower): One of the biggest things on my mind was the potential for chafes. I rode 4 different horses in different gear, none of which was mine, and I’d never ridden 4 days in a row before nor am much of a runner, so my anti chafe game isn’t strong. I never did use any lubricants, but I was sure to clean delicate areas (bra line too!) and feet twice a day and had no bra/feet chafe issues, despite finding a few little toe blisters throughout the week that I ignored.
  • Pocket knife: Besides the obvious, you can trim your nails, use it as tiny pry bar–and you can also cut off your underwear in 2 swipes. I have not yet figured out the underwear thing and I’ve also sworn I’d never ride commando as many do–well, ride 4 days in a row and you just might try it too.
  • Sudafed & Ibuprofen: Sinus pressure turns into nasty headaches for me and ibuprofen is god, no big explanation needed there.
  • Redmond Relyte Cramp Eliminator: I’ve had these salt capsules around for a while and have never managed to reliably use them through a ride til DVE. In a bid for survival of this saga, I started tossing them down about as often as I changed diagonals trotting, which really boils down to when it occurred to me. I did use them throughout each ride each day, and aside from the Day 3 LD on the bounciest Arabian ever born, my body amazingly never felt sore or crampy
  • K-Tape ProMy buddy E taped my right (metal) ankle for Day 1 50 and after walking through ankle turning rocks and down a mountain, I suddenly realized my right ankle felt amazing and my left supposedly good ankle felt a bit wobbly and tired. Cue K tape for the left side too, leaving it on both for the entire ride, and the strongest, unrolled, non sore ankles I’ve ever had 175 miles later. We double checked application methods on google, so this was  by no means scientific but entirely magically successfully. GET SOME
  • Caffeine/B Vitamins: I don’t drink Coffee, I know, shocking. I was raised on black tea and still often enjoy a cuppa in the morning, and definitely did while in the desert in December. Since that does appreciably nothing caffeine-effect wise, I take 5 hour energies when I’m dragging.  I won’t pretend they’re technically good for you, but a happy side effect that I discovered is that they’re full of B Vitamins, something women (especially on their periods) can be deficient in and the deficiency of which can cause nasty headaches. I am still SO STOKED I didn’t have a single headache during or after this trip! 
  • Neck Cozy/Buffs: Once I pilfered a neck cozy from and made by E, I pretty much never took it off again, morning or night. It’s shaped appropriately to fall comfortably whether extended up under your helmet strap for maximum warmth or tugged down loose when you’re running hot. Comfortable for riding or bedtime, affordable, and made in fun fabrics, I am absolutely adding a few more to my wardrobe. As for Buffs, my helmet doesn’t even fit correctly without one on, as I always wear a Buff and almost always dunk it in cold water to assist in cooling (yes, even in the desert in December). You can also whip off these items for impromptu wound care if needed.
  • Tiny packs of tissues/Chapstick: Noses run in the desert, and I get cold sores. These two little items were GOLDEN and I sprinkled them throughout my gear.
  • Skin Moisturizer: Nope, not even close to a necessity, but when you’re in the desert for a week and showering with baby wipes, your skin will thank you
  • Emergen-C and Cough drops: Even if you don’t end up needing them, likely someone else will, and if you start to feel crappy it’s sure nice to have an option
  • Lens Wipes: When you’re filthy, wear athletic fabrics, and use glasses and phone screens, these handy little wipes will clear your windshields while your buddy is still trying to find some clean cotton somewhere to wipe theirs on. Sharing is caring!

Having fun at DVE

Other Smart Decisions that I made:

Choose Your Bedroll Spot Wisely: This goes back to knowing thyself. If you get cold a lot, by all means pack tons of layers and blankets and choose the warmest possible spot. Personally I’m such an overheater that I only wore an actual real jacket for about 2 miles one day of the entire week (vests rock!). I was also offered a bunk spot in a very warm wood-heated tent, and as tempting as it was on a chilly afternoon when offered, my number one challenge is keeping myself and my core cool enough. I build up an immense amount of heat when I sleep and would have been miserable in that cozy tent; I was entirely warm enough and happy with my sleeping bag and a blanket on a cot in the back of E’s uninsulated horse trailer. People think I’m weird, but it works for me.

Follow Your Gut:  This should probably be in large letters at the top of this post, but it fits nicely here and will hopefully still have some impact at this position. As I mentioned, I was in a friend’s rig riding borrowed and relatively unknown horses, as in we hadn’t sorted out horses or saddles going out each day until the night before. It was exciting, and a little scary, and it’s easy to lose oneself amongst the pressure and excitement and wanting to do well for everyone. In our pre-ride day in camp, we took out two rounds of horses and on the second go I rode one of the Mustangs that I hadn’t yet been on but was supposed to ride one of the days. Briefly, my afore mentioned metal ankle was achieved 8 years ago by getting spectacularly dumped at high speeds, after mounting a newly bought horse–and resulted in a life flight and surgery. I’ve been in pursuit of lost immortality ever since, and have real fear issues about the mounting, settling, and moving off moments with a new horse. The mustang that day at DVE barely let me mount, then started reversing at high speeds in the tight camping area. My mind screamed to bail off this death ride while E calmly told me to flip him around and back him my way. E was entirely correct, I survived a short ride, and I also resolved to NOT ride that horse in an event, no matter the cost to pride or reputation. E cowboyed up and rode that horse on Day 3, and he didn’t give her a lick of trouble until the 28th mile when he suddenly and unpredictably launched her into mercifully soft sand. She jumped up to ride not only him but another unknown green Mustang the next day–all my respect, truly. Me? I’m still proud of myself for saying No.

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DAY 4, with E and Jo, photo by Steve Bradley

So there it is, to be laughed off or learned from. I had an incredible time at this ride and a big part of the enjoyment was feeling as good as I did! Happy trails out there!

Death Valley Encounter XP 2016

I was incredibly fortunate to end my 2016 calendar year, and start my 2017 AERC season, adventuring through Death Valley with good friends and borrowed horses. I rode all 4 days of the event, something I’ve never done before, and rode a different horse each day. It was an incredible adventure that I hope to do some justice to with a bit of summation, as there’s many things to say and pictures to share.

Travel and a Day in Camp, 12/26& 27

We left early the morning after Christmas–we being myself and my gear, hopping aboard childhood schoolmate Elicia’s rig, along with new buddy Jo. Elicia brought her Arabian Kenlyn Amir, one of Mark Montgomery’s Mustangs, her mini horse companion Jellybean, and Jo’s amazing Morgan mare Beetle.

It was a happily uneventful drive and we pulled into a relatively empty ride camp just after dark. Mark and the rest of his Mustangs rolled in later that evening but as we hadn’t entirely sorted out my sleeping quarters to that point I spent the first night on my cot in the cozy christmas light-decked tent of a kind new acquaintance, Lora, and her cutest-ever dog. The tight community feel at these XP rides truly cannot be overstated!

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the Tuesday sun rises over Mark’s herd of picketed Mustangs, in front of the Trona stacks

As usual, having “a whole extra day!” in camp quickly seemed like not enough time, as everyone settled in, Mustangs were clipped, and we got through our two sets of pre rides getting all the necessary steeds legs stretched. It’s a singularly interesting experience to be at a ride you’ve never been to, sleeping you’re not sure where, riding a number of new horses, in saddles you have not yet decided on. I’m fairly certain a number of Endurance Tenets were broken (don’t try something new at a ride? Pshhhh!!) throughout this saga but hey, that’s adventuring!

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I’m an epic overheater, so settled on the back of E’s horse trailer as my bunk spot–and was never cold! Not recommended for people with normal internal thermostats 😉

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Silver Bullet enjoys the morning rays

Day 1 50 miler, 12/28

  • Horse: MM Whiskey, Mustang Gelding, 2nd Endurance ride
  • Saddle: Free n Easy 
  • Hoof Protection: Easycare Performance N/G Shoes (nailed)

I spent all of 6 miles a few weeks previously on Whiskey prior to mounting up for the 7 a.m. start of the Day 1 50 miler. My impression was that he was a good natured,lanky fellow who hasn’t entirely grown into himself, not hugely forward, concerned about his own bodily needs, and game to follow the herd. That proved to be pretty accurate throughout the day, as just like my Morgan pony Kenny, it took Whiskey about 5 miles to commit to the notion that we really doing this thing. He whinnied his way through the first few miles, but wasn’t *that* perturbed as he stopped of his own accord to pee, while whinnying, as E and Jo trotted away! Once committed, Whiskey made his way along at his own pace, not walking or trotting as fast as the other steeds but not falling too far behind nor worrying about the gaps that sometimes opened between us. All of Mark’s Mustangs go in mechanical hackamores, so I had brought a halter, headstall, and reins of my own and it worked well on all my Mustang mounts of the week (though Whiskey was notedly the most polite in it 😉 ). I was riding in Elicia’s Free n Easy panel saddle with knee rolls Days 1,2, and 3 that put me in a very nice English position, and happily that stayed comfortable each day that I used it. Whiskey in particular isn’t the cleanest with his feet but did well through the rocky and increasingly mountainous footing, though I did have to stop 5 times that day to pick large rocks out that had plugged the holes in his Easycare Shoes, causing him discomfort. All the Mustangs wore NGs and they seem like a good (if a bit clunky) hoof care option, though I would be tempted to pour/plug the holes if I were to ever use them.

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Having a blast on Whiskey, photo by Elicia

In what would become a pattern for us throughout the next 4 days, we were all a bit convinced that we were stranded out here to die of starvation and surely that glint over there is the big red trailer?! by the time the 25 mile lunch vet check rolled around. The horses actually didn’t flag at all, but the riders may have done a bit of whinging 😉

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blessed hot dogs and snacks at 25 miles! Flawless vet throughs for all, too

We left lunch must refreshed and with the bug in our ear that we had some good footing ahead, and a mountain range to climb back over after that. Forth steeds!!

Whiskey got stronger throughout the day and he and the other horses flew through the good footing and then soldiered back over the mountain at a walk with no issue, while the riders rediscovered some grins near sunset with the assistance of a wee flask of Rumchata. Once back in the ride camp side of the valley we missed a left turn in the dark having a leg stretching trot down a wide road but thanks to the XP GPS tracks system, E navigated us back on track in no time and we finished the day with happy healthy horses at 5.45 pm.

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MM Whiskey, Day 1 50 miler, photo by Steve Bradley

Day 2 50 Miler, 12/29

  • Horse: MM Hershey, Mustang gelding, 1st Endurance ride
  • Saddle: Free N Easy
  • Hoof Protection: Easycare Performance N/G Shoe (nailed)

I had the same short pre ride on Hershey that I had had on Whiskey, and he was already my favorite of the group. Short, square, sensible, smooth, forward, huge walk, takes great care of himself, goes anywhere in the pack. My early impression held as this boy took to the front of our little group of 3 at the start, ready to GO but never out of line. I forgot my camera for the first half of the ride which was unfortunate, as it was a really beautiful scenic climb and descent (we did the same trail but in reverse the next day when I had my camera though!). I didn’t have any of the rock in the shoe issues I’d had the day before and had a lot of fun on Hershey!

We whined before lunch, perked up after, and finished at 5:45 with happy healthy horses again–consistency folks!

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MM Hershey, Day 2 50, photo by Steve Bradley

Day 3 LD, 12/30

  • Horse: Kenlyn Amir, 10 yr old Arabian gelding with 1,000+ miles, owned by Elicia
  • Saddle: Free N Easy
  • Hoof Protection: Steel Shoes with Easyboot Gloves over the front shoes (Day 1 had revealed Amir a bit sensitive soled to the rocks in steel alone, so Gloves were procured and worked over the steel fabulously for rest of the ride)

Friday found Elicia on a very green Mustang, with myself on her trusty Arabian “Sir Bouncy McTripFace,” Kenlyn Amir, and an Alaskan guest on faithful Whiskey. The weather had started to change a bit with a mild threat of rain, which made for gorgeous skies and bit more of a nip to the air where previous days saw us comfortably in the 50s. As the LD and first loop of the 50 were the same, we rode with or ahead of Dave Rabe the whole time which made for a fun morning!

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Kenlyn Amir, Day 3 LD, photo by Steve Bradley

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Day 3 LD, photo by Steve Bradley

I found Amir to be much bouncier and harder on my now-100 mile deep body than the Mustangs had been and the green Mustang saw fit to suddenly and randomly launch E into a fortunately soft spot in the desert near the end, so we weren’t exactly sad to Complete the LD and therefore the riding day at just after noon on day 3. We stuffed our faces, tucked the numerous ponies in, and E took a well earned nap while I made some rounds socializing and helping folks with Renegades (oh the ribbings I got for wearing my Renegade vest all week on non-Renegade clad horses!).

Day 4 50, 12/31

  • Horse: MM Cody, Mustang gelding, 1000+ Miles
  • Saddle: Pandora
  • Hoof Protection: Easycare Performance N/G  (nailed)

Day 4 was loops around the Valley with no mountain climb, and found superwoman Elicia on yet another green mustang, this time a not long tamed fellow who’d only been handled or ridden by Mark himself. He was the Mustang we’d hauled and Elicia had ridden him a few times but still, and considering the day before–much much respect, woman! Jo was back with us rocking her 4th 50 in a row on her tireless Morgan mare Beetle, and I was on Day 1 and 2 tied-for-winner MM Cody,  a big mostly well mannered fellow who did test my arm strength at speed once or twice 😉 We all pretty well felt like shit for the first 25 miles, featuring Jo retching in the bushes, me queasily eating a carrot I’d packed for Cody and contemplating cutting off my underwear, and Elicia using *choice* words of love any time the green Mustang had a naughty thought.

Lunch improved things immensely again, as did actually cutting off my underwear, and with the addition of Pandora tunes to go with the rock hard Pandora saddle I was riding, we had a pretty good, if occasionally whiny and often giddy finish to our fourth day in a row of riding.

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Day 4, photo by Steve Bradley

With the lack of serious climbs we made it to the Finish in daylight this time! Cody had a small inconsistent something in his gait at the end of Day 4 but Completed and was totally right by morning, and all told E and I went 175 miles and Jo went 200. What a ride!

That night there was a final delicious meal, fabulous live music, pool, and general good times til midnight for New Years Eve–and not a one of us 3 in the rig made it past 10 pm. Jobs well done, rest earned, and Happy New Year!!!

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Final morning in ride camp, farewell Trona stacks!

NEXT TIME: Things I did Right To Stay Healthy and Alive..

Year End 2016

I’ve really been enjoying my horses lately. That seems like such a silly simple statement, is it even worth writing about? I’m pretty certain that it is, because it feels like I’ve spent the last 4 years struggling, and searching, with some enjoyment sprinkled in. Though I did my first LD ride as a teenager (2002) and was immediately hooked, my first season of true endurance (50+ mile rides) didn’t happen until a decade later. After weaning and reconditioning through fall and winter 2011, Sheza’s dam, Desire, and I reeled off 7 50s in 2012, facing a little adversity along the way, but overall having a really great time and planting the notion in my head that that was how endurance went: conditioning of course, but then almost a ride a month, and lots of fun.

After completing her last 50 in fine form that fall, an inconsistent and subtle hind end lameness came up with Desire, leading us down a winding path of diagnostics, an attempt with hock injections, and an ultimate decision the next spring to retire her from endurance altogether, after that one season together. She was 18 at retirement.

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Desire, now 20,  having soup in the storm yesterday. She has a forever retirement home here

And thus began the journey: what’s next, when your “perfect” plan (ride Desire through her late teens/early 20s as her daughter, the next gen ride, grew up) gets thrown out the window?

First of all, there is the saintly buddy, the critter that may or may not be a competition horse, and in my case isn’t, but that is those most crucial of things: reliable and kind. I speak here of course of Blaze, my dear round 14hh bay fellow, of uncertain age (estimated in his mid 20s now) and ancestry, mined up from Craigslist all those many years ago–and the furry shoulder whereupon I always end up laying my head, in joy or frustration.

 

There’s never been any question that Blaze was going anywhere but he isn’t an endurance candidate either, and so I’ve been on *quite* the search the last few years, from buying a proven well bred 100 miler (fail!) to driving a few states to pick up a free project known to buck (adventurous fail!). All of those stories are contained here in the archives, but I’d like to speak to the present.

The present finds me with 2 aged permanent residents, Desire’s daughter who is a very spicy now-5 year old, and the “newest” addition, now here just over a year actually: crookshanks Kenny, a Morgan pony once bought off of the meat truck. Despite completing a tough 25 miler with me this spring, Kenny isn’t a very likely endurance candidate and I had myself already decided that was probably the case by late summer, due to lameness and other frustrating times.

I caught myself looking at For Sale ads again last month, and then, comically, being a little proud that I was staying off the Free/Project pages. I also immediately began to stress again, already diagnosing my unbought next horse with my next failure. Catching myself in that cycle, I called horse puckey on the whole thing and went out to look at the lovely creatures that I was already blessed with. I looked, I scratched, I spoiled, and then I just got them out, as the beloved and quirky creatures they are, working with and for each as was appropriate. 6-10 mile fun rides with friends, some trotting and cantering, increasing time on my own two feet, for Blaze. 5-15 mile ponying rides/hikes with Sheza, round pen work, mounting and dismounting and desensitizing–and recognizing my own weaknesses in training (fear of the move-off after mounting) and asking for help as needed (trainer bound in spring, local friends helping til then, and not addressing it myself unless I can work through it, so as to not encourage crap behavior by chickening out at inopportune moments). Sheza is my most promising endurance prospect, and also realistically where almost all of my current risk is and should be invested; I’ve now flailed about long enough that she’s approaching an age to really go to work, and as a truly Haat character all the physical and mental work I can invest for and with her is absolutely worth it.

And Kenny? Kenny,as I say over and over, is just so Kenny, very much full of pony-tude, very much not an Arab in many ways. And so why not apply that to the notion of Kenny doing endurance, eh? I wrote him off after a slow LD and possibly quite explainable lameness this spring–and that after only about 6 months conditioning an adult but un-legged up and heavier boned little guy. Lately I’ve been riding Kenny with buddies for various purposes, but the most fun being un-marking endurance trail, where we ended up riding over 10 miles and slow burning Kenny really warmed up and had plenty of sassafras left after 15, leaving an admittedly greener Arab plodding behind. I have noticed in the past that Kenny takes about 5 miles to commit to the notion that we’re going riding, and only gets better as the miles continue. He also has a lot more gas in his tank in cold weather. Perhaps against all odds, and ever paranoid that lameness will pop up again, I’ve started to ponder putting Kenny in a cold 50 miler. He’s had a year of LSD, with some hiccups, so I’m thinking about continuing/bumping up to 15-20 mile rides as weather allows, acknowledging he probably needs more conditioning work than the Arabs I’m used to; if things continue to go well over winter, maybe a return visit to Cuyama XP next March. He eats, poops, pees, and drinks unashamedly, and has been enthusiastic and even competitive on his last few rides with his old buddy Apache, plus paces well with the friend I would trailer-pool/ride Cuyama with. I was stuck on the notion that my endurance horse had to enjoy training solo, which Kenny simply doesn’t, but frankly I don’t particularly enjoy training solo anymore either, and can schedule to ride with buddies fairly reliably at this point.

I can certainly never predict what horses and life will throw at me next, but at the moment I’m just really enjoying my quirky herd and looking forward to coming adventures, on both 2 legs and 4, in the new year.

 

 

Autumn Catch Up

Many doings in the time since I last posted, here’s a mostly photo catch up..

I adventured on a friend’s mare in beautiful country

We had a great pumpkin patch this year…the Littles approved

the weather started to get perfect for riding at Lake Oroville

..and sunset rides are even better

Apache healed well and was restarted again here by a friend–and then he dumped her, too. So he headed back to his successful summer home, for good.

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Sheza had a month+ in pasture as we were both a bit fed up with each other after a dramatic summer. Here, she and her 20 year old dam, Desire, put on a show!

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The best call I made in a while regarding Sheza was actually thanks to my husband. He suggested her Snarky Highness might find herself fitting back into her britches if her living situation were to change, namely: remove mommy Desire. I rotate pastures and groups fairly often, but Sheza, Desire, and the mini horse had been together for most of the year at that point, and sure enough moving the mini and Desire across the way next to Kenny prompted massive Sheza tantrums–and then a much, much humbler Sheza, who might actually like her humans after all.

Kenny and I went on a fun birthday group ride with many different breeds

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I visited family on the coast over Halloween, went for a ride with my new SIL, who is an old friend, and thoroughly enjoyed myself

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I crewed the Amazing Melinda through her first 100 mile RUN completion, which involved staying up for 30+ hours, and meeting a really cool and supportive community

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Sheza re-entered the work force as the pon-eed to Kenny’s pon-ier. Kenny’s unflappable nature and complete lack of desire for or respect for personal space make him the perfect foil to Sheza’s snorty self; she literally bounces off of him without garnering an ear flick in response

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Blaze and I went riding with Apache and his new mom this past week, things are going great!

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I also got a nice email from Scrappy’s owner a week or two ago, who has had him for a year now and is greatly enjoying him.

Around here, hairy steeds and stellar weather with winter on it’s heels calls for warm baths, salty mashes, and pony appreciation between rides. Kenny got some extra love from a friend’s daughter, while Sheza basked gloriously.

 

There’s lots of adulty things to complain about, too, like seemingly insane election results, health and how age affects it, a seemingly endless list of household and outdoor items in need of repair, pointless drama in a number of areas–but there’s also clean washed cool-at-last beautiful nature, beloved animals who need me, and a select few humans I enjoy. Onward, with redheads!

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Sheza and Kenny, November 2016

 

September! ..?…!

There is perhaps no cliche more true than “time flies,” with the accompanying notion that every year goes by progressively faster as you age. Yes, yes they do. I find myself now in the month of September simultaneously enthused for the cooler weather, mind blown it’s already this month–and, upon any real reflection, totally exhausted and ready for it to be a new year. The year so far has been may I say mired in “learning experiences.” From multiple herd member lameness to absurd Sheza drama to health issues on the home front, 2016 has been kind of a stinker. But here’s another irritatingly accurate cliche for you, one that I used to struggle and flail against, and ultimately have grudgingly embraced:

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And so here follows the latest record of the shenanigans of RHE herd. It is not bloodless, because well..it’s 2016?

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Winter hay supplies are a definite Happy Moment..except when the herd realized it was low sugar grass 😉

Because she’s Sheza, her shenanigans cannot be encapsulated in merely a sentence fragment. There are many theories on what will cause a horse to not do something unwise again, and I’m pretty sure 5 years into Sheza’s life I have heard them all in attempts to explain her…Shezaness. Once they’re discouraged/feel pain/learn/think/age they won’t do it again, or something. Meantime, Sheza rocks unpredictable pull backs, including once in hand, just after the photo below. Only, pulling back suddenly in hand means you flip entirely backwards and up on your feet, as there’s nothing solid to pull against.

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*blink*Blink*

I am constantly warring in my head with the amount of strain put on mind and body considering age, how to warm up and cool down a complete spazz who goes from pasture zero to galloping hero, etc. And then you have her doing backwards somersaults and tearing up legs on her own accord. Let’s just say I have my horse chiropractor on speed dial and my vet supplies are full. Also, I continue to believe that the more she sees at a younger age the better, so despite growing voices in my head questioning the wisdom of riding this red beast, we continue to sally forth.

A few weekends ago, we went to a Pirate Treasure Hunt ride and believe you me, I was prepared to just hike her in hand if necessary.

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where in the woods are we?

Fortunately Kenny’s former mom, the fearless T, joined me with her much more reliably-minded home raised chestnut, a 5 year old Morgan; not only did I ride Sheza but T did as well for good measure! It went really well, with spooky flags, randos cantering at us around blind corners, and a last minute pull back at the trailer when Tera touched Sheza’s halter *eyeroll.* Sheza leaped forward again almost immediately of her own accord, for what that’s worth.

Another theory I’ve heard lately is that 5 is the worst year behavior wise, equivalent to extreme teenagerdom, and I can’t argue that last bit, anyway. Sheza for sure does better with a liberty arena warm up before whatever she’s doing, some space to move where she can unleash her size and speed and attitude before she’s expected to think. Moving from the round pen to the arena was a positive choice for her as well, the round pen is just too small for her explosiveness.

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Kenny and Sheza on arena work duty

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work one sassafras while the other waits

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oh, hello brain

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Sheza at the tree of patience watching Kenny and I work

We’ve had a couple of really fun brain and butt building (read: slow and steady) rides with N and her TWH mare Josey, some mare faces occur but not many and they both have nice stretchy walks. Both girls are getting great about EDPP, and N throws some good stuff at Sheza like only sharing snacks if Sheza will reach into the scary plastic bag for them.

Meanwhile in gelding land, aside from his arena work outs, Kenny did a few ponying workouts with Blaze to stay loose, and then we all went jumping!

There’s a very nice riding facility not too far from us called Camelot Equestrian Park that has been working diligently over the years to build up their grounds and reputation. I had been a few years ago to a gymkhana before they became more official events and since then they’ve beefed up an impressive cross country course and have multiple jumping arenas, a dressage court, wash racks and bathroom facilities, and boarding. T brought a friend and I brought Kenny, Blaze, and N to ride Blaze, and we had a great afternoon!

It was a great day doing something different and Kenny is quite a fun jumper once I got up the confidence to really go for it. There will more of that in our future for sure! Unfortunately on the drive home that night I hit one of the many gnarly bumps in our tiny 2 lane country road to home, at 20 mph mind you. The next morning I noticed a tire tilted at an alarming angle and through some investigations I have learned that I have torsion axles on my horse trailer, I bent the torsion bar, and because such a set up of is all of a piece, I need a whole new trailer axle. The list of 2016 Surprise Expenses is rather absurd at this point, but okay then, that’s the next thing on it. I may or may not have my rig back in time for Chamberlain Creek LD where I am supposed to escort N and Josey on Josey’s first ride, but I’m pretty sure I can hitch Blaze and I a ride.

And just because Apache hadn’t had had enough fun this summer, I woke up yesterday morning (with a head cold! yay!) to this:

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Mind you, we don’t have barbed wire and he was in the safest no-climb fenced recovery paddock. *HEADDESK*  I still haven’t decided whether he tried to go over or under or through it. This horse..sigh.  Fortunately I still have salve left from his last genius escapade, and he’s fairly sound (since again, still recovering from last thing). He’s the type to be a total nutter once released from stall rest so we went off that as soon as possible..but that clearly doesn’t keep this one out of trouble.

So yes..”learning experiences.” Many. Exhaustingly many. At least things will soon be entirely less sweaty, as we now enjoy our very first week of temperatures below 90 degrees in months. And there is always beauty, and a whole lot to be grateful for.