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.

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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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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This Week at RHE

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

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

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 Meanwhile, on the rest of the ranch…

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

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a quick reminder from Napoleon just what sort HE is

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meanwhile, Desire’s seroma is diminishing nicely

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

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2 bantam roosters having dinner   😉 

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

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

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love my big silly fillies!

and 4 month Jazzy keeps on growing! 

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

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

New Roommates, Good Friends

It’s hard for me to articulate how special the intertwined group of horse gals I find myself in has become to me. I tried to state it as local friends, but it expands over this broad state of California and into others, and there are certainly feelings of warmth sprinkled to many others across the country and beyond. Which is weird, because I don’t do sprinkly feelings of warmth and groups of girl friends. Or didn’t? I’m honestly pretty anti social, finding my clients, blog/FB, endurance events, and very few riding buddies I actually join IRL entirely enough social life without crowds, cities, strangers, or excessive indoor activities needing apply. That’s an accurate description of me even in this very moment, but I do undeniably now have a pretty cool core of people I am honored and stoked to call friends. And it’s great. So thanks, folks!

That sentimental ramble did lead somewhere, I swear..last Saturday, Mel of Boots and Saddles brought her endurance mare, Farley, up to Mare Camp. I struggle to even remember when we first met at this point (blogging/Renegades/Tevis?), but Mel has become one of those blog-to-real life friends who the above paragraph very much applies to. She inspires me and makes me laugh, and I respect her and her opinion (and stellar UC Davis DVM title) immensely; you might see where I was both happy to help a friend and a bit thrilled at the trust, to have her stashing her mare (to be swapped for her filly as needed) here. Farley was due for a bit of pasture relaxing, and we had grand notions that she might help curb long yearling Rushcreek Aurora’s rather voluminous ego.

welcome Farley!

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aaaand here we have yearling Rory routing Farley. Le sigh

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well hello, gorgeous

(Desire…is an aptly named loose lady of the night)

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 Farley is no dummy, she headed for safe quarters far away to assess

(Sheza the Breyer model…sigh, swoon)

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Rory is deemed substantial. To match her ego..

Long story short, Farley did not and has not yet stepped up to squash egos in any way. In fact, I had to deploy an extra feeder and trough and close off a side gate so that she could eat her meals in peace. Rory and mini Napoleon are twin towers of terror but fortunately Desire’s amorous intentions got Farley enough under her wing that direct harassment by Rory wasn’t allowed for long. Current status? Everyone is getting enough to eat, no undue violence, except from my mini horse, who is back to literally backing at horses at high speed squealing, to hell with pinning ears. I hurt from laughing and I know, we need a video!

Spark is looking and feeling good after Wild West. I need to get a shake out ride in before Gold Country 50 next weekend!

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Heh..heh…Spark and Apache, the odd couple

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And now..another new roommate, found through a good friend. We lost our good old buddy JJ the Shepherd mix at the beginning of May. My husband had rescued him before we even met and he lived a grand ranch life, passing peacefully with us stroking his head.

JJ the firewood collector

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It left a hole in our outdoor dog force, something we very much need living in a rural area with small animals and predators of enough types that you just want a big barking dog outside. Thanks to that vine of friendship I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I was recommended to a local with years of experience with Shepherds, and the day after boarder Farley arrived we were very excited to bring home 3 1/2 month old Shepherd pup that we named Jasmine, “Jazzy.”

no big deal, just a car ride with strangers..

our first glimpse at her awesome brain (she did vomit copiously, but that’s only fair)

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I feel like I barely need to caption these..she just fits in. And gets it. And is very trainable. Thrilled with our Vista Farms girl. Thank you.

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so that’s how it’s done..

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Now ME try! 

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even old Georgia is taking to her well 

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Meanwhile, it’s been over 100 degrees *every day*. Our amazing firefighters stopped a 75 acre fire 3 miles from us on Wednesday. Last night, heading out in a hot breeze we were nearly first witness to another fire roaring up in a residential area, as thunder rolled and lightning forked through the sky. I’ve been recruited to the county fire scanner Facebook administrators and I am so happy to help in any way. It’s an intense and good time to be alive, and we need to watch each other’s backs.

foothill sunset

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veggies beating the heat…one moon til Tevis! I’ll be crewing again

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sunrise after last night’s rain(!?!)

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Coming up..

Gold Country 50

Sheza’s First Endurance Camp

Apache Trail Time