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!

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.

 

Another One??

This weekend I brought home a horse.

It’s okay, don’t worry–you, me, my mom, and the guy down the street all just thought the same thing:

Another One?

For me, that question immediately flips open the personal Rolodex of Failures.  Or, erm, let’s say The Book of Learning. It’s a bit of novelette at this point.

Briefly?

Introduced to endurance as a barely-teen. College. Life. Non Arabs who simply didn’t want to go the distance. Human injury and recovery. An Arab who’s  happy with LDs. An Arab who wanted to go the distance but their body wasn’t sure it did. An Arab who didn’t want to go the distance and his body was undecided too.

And here we are. My last great notion, a proven 100 miler Rushcreek, leaves today to be a beloved light use trail horse, and I am happy for him.  I am happy and grateful to have the opportunity to have a little pool of Hopefuls. And I will be very happy if this all pans out, someday.

Morgan/Welsh Kenny tries some Rennys before coming home on Lease 

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Salvage It

Most of this week did not go according to plan. I won’t bore you with the full extent of the sideways, but suffice it to say a close family friend lost their life, and Scrappy was Scrappy. There’s not much to say about the former except please, please, if you work in a dangerous trade, *never* let your guard down on the job. As to the latter, Scrappy “keeps finding himself in these Scrappy situations,” as one Facebook friend put it, which elicited rueful acknowledging laughter from me.

Briefly: a round of Dreamhorse/CL advertisement prompted immediate response from a friend recommending a potential great home for Scrappy and said home saw the ad independently and also contacted me. I set up to meet D Wednesday morning at the lake trails for her to try Scrappy out and pulled Scrappy Tuesday afternoon to wash his tail, be sure his hooves were as tidy as I wanted, and give him a mash. He was his usual stoic cooperative self.

Wednesday morning? The brush touched his neck and his head tilted like any itchy spot, but not quite. I moved farther down the neck with my hand and when I reached midway up, just in front of the scapula, he folded in half away from pressure. Strong reaction on the left side, 1/3 as strong right side. There was a maybe bite but didn’t seem to be a truly obvious reason for it but it was undeniable and I couldn’t reach the buyer on her cell phone. I didn’t want to leave her hanging and Scrappy was otherwise quite his usual self so with much head shaking I loaded him and went to the lake to meet her.

“He’s a bit of a hot mess, isn’t he?”  Yes, that about summed it up, between the neck and the back history, which I have in the adverts and showed her as well, down to the ultrasounds. Horse people being as we are, she quite liked him regardless, and is keeping tabs on him to come see as soon as he’s feeling better. I separated him from the admittedly bossy Apache that day and the soreness improved daily. I’m happy to say as of this morning Scrappy is non reactive to pressure on either side, though still a bit knotted feeling in front of the scapula, so I’ll give him some more Sore No More massages and days off before we schedule with the potential new home again.

And then, some spirit lifting occurrences to really salvage the week!

We have 9 young bantams a friend gifted to us this summer, 5 roosters unfortunately, but among the few and barely laying hens, there’s a broody hen. As of yesterday, as Funder said–broody hen is a teen mom! A quite industrious one I must say, to the tune of 8 chicks in the last 24 hours. In November no less.

do you hear peeping? errr–sure do! yesterday

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this a.m.

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born to be a mama

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Another big big grin moment came yesterday, when buddy T who took me riding on her horse’s last weekend came down to Lake Oroville to play with my ponies. Her trail dog joined us and the first grins of the ride were prompted by Blaze, who T was ponying her dog off of in populated areas. Blaze got a look in his eye and an arch to his neck that I haven’t seen since our brief foray into team sorting, surely that dog needs herding! He thought so the whole ride, leashed or not.

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culvert contemplation

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T trotting on Blaze 🙂

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Sheza did wonderfully on the ride, leading most of the way, crossing bridges, trying one snarky dash at the dog instead of spooking at her (woot!), EDP and finally, after some stopping and hesitancy, peeing.

marching at the first bridge

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2nd bridge crossing

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a fun note, Sheza is wearing her momma Desire’s saddle pad, pommel pack, and head gear, and the Trailmaster saddle on her is one I bought from Desire’s old owner and Sheza’s breeder years ago 

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The best part though? Trotting, briefly, but long enough to really feel what sort of trot my home raised filly girl actually has. And you guys!!! It’s SMOOTH. Low kneed, efficient, solid, smoooooth. When you have to try to post instead of are being forced to post–ooh!! I am so excited. She doesn’t get to know what she’s capable of for a long time yet, but that taste was glorious!! A long time coming.

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doing some epic-pose mash eating back home, Georgia on scrap patrol

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It was a solid mini course on life this week, ups and downs, all arounds. Critters and natural beauty and connecting with good friends and family are my way of salvaging it. What’s yours?

this morning before the rain

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