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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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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What’s Next? You Choose

Whether it’s a life design, job desire, schooling notion, thirst for partnership, or just what you want to do next weekend, there’s a pretty good chance it won’t happen quite according to plan. Or maybe at all.  When your master plan becomes an Also Ran, what are you left with?

I had an interesting exchange the other day with another rider who’d purchased what they hoped was “the horse” for endurance–and soon enough had found themselves at an unexpected crossroads. Upon request I shared what my experience with similar issues had been and was met with basically “Well, I don’t have time to mess about like that for [X time]. I’ve wasted too much time already.”

Sure, I suppose when looking back at various paths that it does kind of look like a bunch of messing around when why couldn’t I just see the right step/answer/logical outcome already? Of course, I’ve heard tell of hindsight being 20/20 and I certainly learned many a valuable lesson from past floundering. Anyway, aside from being slightly rebuffed, the commentary highlighted for me the huge absence of her very expressed feeling for me. Born impatient, easily irritated, independent, result oriented, and stubborn, I used to be very much in a headspace about getting things done properly, right now, this minute, no messing around. The thing is, the more that I’ve wrestled with being a good partner to my horses and my husband in life, the looser my grip on control and Plans has become, and the easier it has all become. Horses and life companions are pretty well The Chosen, no obligations born, but brought willingly into the fold. It seems almost counterintuitive to wrestle with the joy you chose but I and surely others have, and I do think it’s the need to Control and the struggle to Communicate that makes it so, human or horse. Mostly these struggles no longer seem to me like wasted time, I’ve come around to thinking that is a true disservice to the times that ultimately make you what you are.

It seems to me that when things haven’t shaken out as planned despite best effort, choosing, and planning, we’re merely left with how we choose to handle it and what we ultimately get out of it. To bring it around to horse specific again, for me, endurance has always been about a sanctioned reason to hang out with my horse all day and all night and then do it again. Would I like to be out racking up completions and filling my photo wall with gorgeous photos? Sure. Will I be doing that again in the future? Sure hope so. Meantime, lately, when I’m asked When, How Long, my answer is When it’s time, if it works out, and when I’m done messing around.

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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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Crewing Tevis 2015: It Ain’t Over til It’s Over

This was my fourth year crewing Tevis and as ever there was much to see, plenty to learn, and lots of strategic waiting to do. The weather also threw a nice curveball, as Tevis is always hot but this year it was literally raining en route to Robie, as well at Robinson Flat on Tevis morning. Eventually the sun came out and upped the humidity factor nicely, too. If it wasn’t a big tasty bowl of challenges it wouldn’t be Tevis, right!

raindrops into Robie–found my rider, “chasing” her to camp 😉

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the mighty Rushcreek Seth, attending to his vittles 

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Looking good team

1-11721937_873974596016_1719258177_nThis year there were 10 Rushcreeks vetted into Tevis on Friday, here’s a fun group picture. Also interesting to note, 50% completed, in accordance with overall Tevis completion average.

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I did my usual gathering of crew bags (including Dr. Lydon’s this year), dialing in of rider wishes (what do you want specifically met with, tack/clothes changes, highlighting small details not to be overlooked), and met my crew buddy. It was still impressively cool and grey as I headed back down to Auburn to my old friend Motel 6–aaand promptly proceeded to lock my keys in the truck while shuffling gear. Fortunately I’d just devoured a #2 Animal Style from In n Out so I was chuckling instead of raging when I called AAA. That was sorted out easily enough and before I knew it the alarm was pinging in the wee hours and it was time to head for Robinson Flat!

cool unsettled weather & Blue moon over RF, Sat am

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I’m always in the first fleet through ..

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..so we get a nice shady near the road and bathrooms

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guestimating off last year’s time, we were ready with the cart. time card and in!

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always good to check full protocols if you’re a meeting skipper like me..they needed a Pass or Recheck blood draw card as well as time card

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Seth is a typical Rushcreek trot-outter: “why human, this is stupid”

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And a fabulous RC eater, of course

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after a panicked “we need what sort of extra card to leave?!” (blood draw) sprint

Laura heads merrily out of RF at 11:55

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Finishing up at RF means cleaning up your mess including hay, and it’s a good idea to bring your own trash bags as they can (and did) run out.  We piled gear in the wonderful cart–every Tevis rider should have a crew cart, really, and I say that having crewed a buckle entirely solo with no cart— and we headed out, picking up someone else’s abandoned crew member along the way.

Foresthill parking lot was crowded, sunny, hot, humid–pretty well true to form, and I blessed my bright orange truck again as a crawl around the parking lot looking for a parking spot/sliver of shade resulted in truck recognition and being taken in under a boot client/friend’s awning and sweet trailer set up. Thanks again, W!

Bath road was busy as ever with the community and crews cheering the riders in

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grey skies again as Laura rolls in around 730 pm

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  Seth needed to pee so he took a minute or two to pulse down but once he peed BOOM did that pulse drop

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Foresthill trot out, Seth says “this is still stupid..”

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Seth continued to eat and drink nonstop through the Foresthill hold while our rider rested and freshened up, then about 8:40 it was go time again.

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This was the latest I (or my rider) had left Foresthill but all was in good order. After giving another buddy a ride I headed over to the Stadium and spent about 930 pm til 4 am switching between refreshing the Tevis webcast, chatting, and napping in the bleachers under a horse blanket. I made sure Seth’s stall was freshened up with vittles and poo removed, then closer to time brought the cart down to the Finish crewing area with hay and a mash pan and blanket ready.

In a bit of delirium and with the stadium announcer tiring I didn’t even hear or see Laura come in and do her victory lap, for all that. There is video (trying to add it) and he looks great trotting loosely around the stadium and under the banner. In the crewing area, Laura hollered at me where I was apparently sleeping with my eyes open and I snapped to it and whipped off tack and we headed in to vet.

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…and then Seth looked a little funny and we needed to recheck.

You could have knocked me over with a feather and I was doing my best imitation of a guppy fish at that point. We’re a low key team especially based off our success together last year, so I didn’t even have a cooler of ice to hand to get ice on his legs (lesson learned!!), but fortunately Laura has many friends and some ice wraps popped up pretty quickly. Begging pardons and with pleases I reestablished how much time we had left to recheck and she went for it–and sure enough Seth was slightly off on the right front and they were pulled at the Finish. While he did look good trotting in, once adrenaline wears off sometimes things are revealed, and that was that.

So now you know why the title makes sense. I think Laura said it best, classy and realistic to the end, so I’ll leave you with her message:

“For everyone who thinks I finished Tevis…I actually didn’t. Even after crossing the finish line after hundred miles, horses are required to be sound at a trot to receive a completion – and Seth was off on his right front. There’s a video that Jen Smith has that shows him trotting his victory lap and he’s not unsound at all. Sometimes things like that happen. It really sucks, but you know, if this were easy, everyone would do it. Thanks for all your support and best wishes.”

P.S. Seth is looking and moving great, picture by L as of the a.m., vacuuming up his vittles and bright eyed for the next adventure. Safe travels East, my friends

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