Now what?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Since pulling out of the OD100 on my first try a couple weeks back I find my life to be surprisingly normal (slight sarcasm). No long term disappointment holding on… just back to life as usual! No regrets. 

My farrier came out. He looked at the bare hoof and wondered why I didn’t put on the spare shoe. I was prepared for this. He made sure of that. It is true that in the moment I thought the foot was more torn up than it was. It might have held the shoe. But maybe not. It was a gut thing. I assured him many times over I didn’t think an ounce of blame was his these things happen to the best. 

I asked him to pull the other front shoe for me so it would be done clean with no damage. Leave the hinds for now- they look great!

What’s that you say readers? Barefoot front feet in mid summer!? The middle of conditioning? What am I thinking? Madness…

Well I’ve been kicking around my hoof program continually and yes yes yes. I know.

IknowIknowIknow Iknow Iknow. I know I know.

I know

Shoes and pads were working for the most part. 

But

I just have this gut feeling that says I can do better. 

Gut feeling can get me into trouble, but also could be that little voice in the right direction. I’ve listened to that gut feeling little voice before and it’s taken me on a different path I know is right for me and my horses. 

Because it’s shown results. 

I wasn’t willing to make a change before the OD ride, but now I don’t have an event on the calendar until September (unless my schedule opens up)- it seems like an opportunity to expirament. 

I’m not thrilled keeping her padded all the time. It’s been a damp spring and even though the pads drain, they have to keep some moisture in there. I also don’t like how the heels begin to seemingly compress over time riding especially with the pads. Then there are all the people who swear that having nails and steel shoes keep the blood from flowing as well through the leg over time…… 

Added all up it makes me wonder if the pad & shoe program is building her up for the long term or tearing her down for some protection in the here and now. 

There’s one way to find out…

I had my farrier take off the other front, and leave the hinds. The hind feet shoes are staying on and I am not as happy with my boot program on the narrow hind feet for the moment so I’ll take this on in parts. 

The Scoot Boots are still working. With the one exception of when I tried to add a pad 16 miles into my first 100 

Lesson learned here by the way: rule #1 is never ever even think of trying something untested on ride day – especially a 100. How many times have I heard that is one of the most common rookie mistakes?

So with that exception the boots are staying on 100%. I am now noticing some rubbing as I haven’t been using the gaiters- and one of the gaiters has a broken snap. So I have two issues to sort out now that the most important one (boot staying on) is settled:

  1. Are they protective enough for sensitive soles?
  2. Rubbing.

I called my USA Scoot representitive in Vermont and went all through my concerns. Scoot now makes pads for their boots- I assumed I’d need to invest in the next size boot up… more $ 😤😝… and add the pads. 


Turns out she doesn’t believe I will need to go up a size. She thought the pad I added likely didn’t stay put- and shifted toward the heel in movement pushed her heel up and caused the rubbing. 


They also have new endurance gaiters that are more protective and more durable. She believed that my current boot size with the pad they manufacture to go in the boot is going to be just fine- and when they arrive I will take a picture for her to see for sure. Once certain the fit is good, it gets glued in and stays put. 

Then we start training in boots and pads with the protective gaiters and see how she does. If they seem to be working then I move to the hind feet- in August (hopefully) they will have come out with the narrow version (in development and slated to release in June but not quite ready yet). 

I’m willing to try. The worst case scenario is I’m back in steel shoes at the end of the season – and that certainly could happen!

Meanwhile I have been doing some digging into the concept of the Balance saddle. It was recommend to me at the clinic in April as a way to improve on something that was working ‘ok’. My saddle fits (in the traditional sense) and my horse is doing well in it. She is not back sore ever since I switched to the wide tree last year and the beautiful design of the Phoenix Rising gives lots of shoulder movement and some ability for the back muscles to work underneath it. 

All in all she has a nicely muscled back. But there may be the start of some atrophied muscling right behind the withers- which I understand becomes pretty normal in most horses ridden in traditional (English, western or endurance) saddles. 

The Balance system builds a saddle in an upside down ‘U’ shape (yes- this is similar to the hoop tree concept, but I understand the Balance founders began this design originally) instead of the normal ‘V’ shape. Even if your horse isn’t currently that rounded- that if you use a saddle that allows for proper movement in their back instead of fitting the saddle to the static back then they are able to develop those muscles in work, have a stronger back and move better. This has proven true in at least two people I know personally who are using Balance. 


Standard jumping saddle v shaped 

Balance GPJ saddle in super extra 8x width I just ordered
Balance saddle I just ordered U shaped. 

I like it. 

The gut thing again. 

The concept that intrigues me is that almost the worst thing one could do is custom mold a saddle to a horse’s back (even worse while standing as they are in motion while you ride in the saddle). Pressure points are only a small part of the bigger issue- that I want my horse’s topline to improve and build muscle over time and a saddle sitting on the muscles and nerves especially behind the withers will not allow for that. 

Treeless seems to at least have more give however having no tree to distribute the pressure at all is also not good – at least that’s what I believe. Some riders swear by them and compete healthy backed horses many years. I wouldn’t want to argue with one of you- it’s just not the direction for me!

My friend Pam has a Balance saddle and I asked her to bring it to VA for the summer so I could test run it. I loved it- and Khaleesi really loved it. I could feel her lift more underneath me and she was more forward than usual. In good spirits.  



So I happened upon a used one that was exactly what I’d need in size and style – it even had added D rings from the manufacturer so… I made the jump. I’ll sell my second Phoenix Rising and the price is about equal so it ended up being easier than I’d thought it would be!

I will keep my saddle and have both for now. I don’t think the Phoenix is a bad fit and it’s working. I do think this could be even better but we’ll see how it goes in riding it. 


One thing about the Balance saddle concept: it demands the rider take on more responsibility in actively riding in a balanced position. Because the saddle doesn’t perch exactly to the shape of the horse it can move if you’re not doing your job. 

I did not find this to be a problem for me in the 12 miles I rode in the saddle. In fact I didn’t have a breast collar on hand that fit and I worried it might slip back in the Mountains.  

It didn’t. It wasn’t nearly as ‘comfortable’ as the Phoenix for the rider’s butt – but it was fine- probably occasional riding in a bareback pad helps with my balance too! 

However I do wonder if going through a 100 and getting tired I may find myself needing to have both options as the night wears on. It would be nice to be able to change it up for both of us to do our best. 

So I will share how these experiments in upping our game go!

Meanwhile what next?


We ride!

I have had a wonderful time riding with some friends close to home with no particular goals but to enjoy the trails and get some miles in keeping fit!


Life is good!

Love letter to my crew:

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

5:30am start on Saturday means an early morning- in fact 5:30 am start means I’m on my horse by 5:15 (ideally but it hardly ever works that way for me) so probably getting up by 4am to make sure we are adequately dosed with coffee.


As for Khaleesi, I will offer a light meal of wet beet pulp with minimal coolstance added as soon as possible to 4am with salt and her supplements. Her job is to have been eating and drinking all night and she usually takes it pretty seriously so she doesn’t need a heavy meal right before start. I also plan to dose her with a plain salt mix right before I climb aboard to encourage early drinking.  

You will be amazed at how anticlimactic the start of an endurance ride is. But you’ll want to see it anyway- maybe you can remember to get video of us coming through at hopefully a very moderate trot.


The first loop into BIRD HAVEN isn’t terrible for terrain with one major climb and I hope to be in around 8-8:15. Last year on the 50 it took me just around 2:30 so maybe a year later she’ll be a touch more confident and faster. Your job this day is to get us in and out as efficiently as possible. If we waste 5 minutes at every vet check trying to pulse or cool down or not being in the saddle by our out time that is a lost 30 minutes to our finish time and depending on the day could mean we complete or not. 

This means be ready to pull tack basically as I’m getting off the saddle and if it’s hot have COLD water already sponging her neck, sides and underside with a scraper practically while we are walking in. Cooling down means quicker to pulse. She can drink but don’t want her eating until she’s down to 64bpm because digesting creates heat and can keep the heart from dropping Gut sounds are vital however so someone needs to have a flake of hay and/or carrots as we walk or in line for the vet. 


It’s a 45 minute hold. You will be shocked at how fast 45 minutes is especially in comparison to how SLOW 2 minutes is when you are sitting in the saddle waiting for your out time to come. Bird haven is the main check as it’s first in and last out- and it will be set up since Thursday as another friend riding the 50 will be using it as his crewing spot when he rides Friday. So you shouldn’t have to do a lot in the AM to get ready! 

Main things at Bird Haven after getting vetted through: feed the beast- mostly grass if there’s any left- so someone may need to walk her around to find some, hydration hay which should be available to her at every check and already hydrated (I guess that’s obvious), beet pulp is also ok and coolstance can be mixed into it. 

I’m not sure if we’ll need her waterproof sheet as we may be getting some rain in the morning if forecasts stay accurate- it’s hard to know at that time of day if we’ll be keeping her from getting a chill or trying to cool her down. Be ready for both. If it’s not raining per mentor’s instructions wet her chest and neck before we ride off and NEVER EVER let me forget to Elyte her, and be sure I have an extra syringe to go in my pack as well.

After Bird Haven I ride 16 miles to LAUREL RUN this has a massive demoralizing climb and could be one of the slower MPH loops I do all day. I’ve done this stretch of trail in the 50 last year and hiked a lot of the climb on foot because it’s that steep and if she’s walking, I’m walking… no sense in making her carry me up the mountain if we can’t pick up speed. I think this loop took me almost 4 hours last year. It was later in the day for the 50 and it was a very hot day, a year less conditioning under her hooves, so I hope to make slightly better time- but never know. 

The big climb before laurel run

LAUREL RUN is crew-less in the AM. They take care of us there because space is at a premium and you won’t be there. I am considering sending up a bag with elytes the night before- I want to be sure I’m dosing enough and don’t know if I want to carry enough for over 6 hours of trail because I won’t see you until Bucktail. This is another 45 minute hold. The legal range for us to be there is like 10:30 – 1:45pm (meaning if i didn’t get OUT of there by 1:45pm they’re sending me home in the trailer cause I’m overtime!). Since you can’t come here you get a morning break! This is when you’ll want to be sure we have plenty of ice because we have 15 miles to get to…..

BUCKTAIL. This is mid-afternoon. The check opens around 1pm and stays open till about 4pm so it’s the heat of the day and I’ve heard there are some climbs… I have no idea at the moment when we’ll get there because now i’m in uncharted territory! I hope we can somehow stay in communication occasionally or you can check in with officials to find out when we got to and left laurel run if we can’t text or call. If I make it to Bucktail I’ll want a yummy lunch (which i’ll have to figure out!) and watermelon and cold drinks.  Well be spending a lot of time icing and scraping K so she goes back on trail with a totally cool core temp. You will think it’s overkill. 


It isn’t. This is also a 45 minute hold. Then we do 7 miles to…

WAITES RUN – gate and go. This means only 10 minutes after reaching pulse. where the vets want to see the horse trot by after you give them a snack. It’s open like 2-7pm… I believe you will be able to crew this for us- they should have water tanks and you SHOULD only need to get us fresh drinks for our packs and e-lytes for the horses and hay or beet pulp whatever she seems to be eating. (maybe carrots and apples if she’s not being snotty about them.

Note here: those who’ve gone before me say DROP TACK immediately. It’s not required but not doing it almost always costed them time in the past. Many riders take more than the 10 minutes required and we will hope not to if possible… Make sure you have a sponge and sweat scraper and some ice water ready in case it takes time to cool her. I will take extra elytes but will NOT elyte before leaving this check – it is the only one I will wait until water because there’s an immediate climb and she won’t have much chance for water for a while. Then 12 miles to

LITTLE SLUICE
– this is what they call “hospitality” and you will not be there.. there is no vet check or hold, they just provide us with water (horses), usually some hay or carrots… and take our number to be sure we’re still ok…  I’ll electrolyte for sure… you should be able to get information of our position because in 4 more miles we’ll see you at:

BIG 92
… if i make it here we are at mile 70 and i will probably be exhausted or ecstatic because that’s the farthest I’ve ever ridden by many miles and it’s hard to believe I’ll see big 92!!!! 😳) this check is open from 5-10:30pm… I can’t imagine I’ll be there at 5 but I sure hope it’s not 10pm either! I’ll want dinner… if we’re lucky something warm from the store or restaurant you were able to get earlier! hot and fatty like a cornbread grilled cheese…. or fried chicken… maybe a burger… and probably bourbon… (ok, kidding on the bourbon… well… maybe just a shot… ;-)) This is a 40 minute hold and vet check. Pray my horse hasn’t lost a shoe or is lame (don’t read that out loud and curse us though)… this ride is hard- they don’t call it the Beat of the East for nothing. After I take a 5 minute nap and eat something hearty… and my horse eats and drinks like a monster we hope… passing the check with all As!! we have only 8 miles to get back to…….

LAUREL RUN
the second time! (on the way home baby!) this check can be crewed at night because enough (other!?) riders have been pulled in the day (and the other riders have spread out) – not so many people in the confined space. Open about 7pm – 1am my guess is this is the late night stop for me… could be midnight?? 


These night checks will not need ice- more likely my fleece or waterproof to keep her from getting chilled… rump rug? you’ll have access to all of them depending on the weather. It’s a 30 minute hold which will probably feel like a time warp and I can’t imagine what I’ll want then besides alleve and a bed. Note: whatever I say to you put me back on my horse if she’s still not lame! I’ve come almost 80 miles at this point and should be able to do 20 more … in the dark… in just about any state. It’s only 14 more miles back to…..

BIRD HAVEN!!
!! almost home! I’ll be cold and tired and either grouchy or out of my head. If grouchy please forgive me in advance I don’t mean anything personally. My sentances may not be coherent. Hopefully I’m at least not throwing up at this point.  Just feed me something warm (probably some kind of soup) make sure I have warm dry clothes on (fresh if it’s cold and raining – my worst nightmare) and ignore me… this is only 20 minutes if all goes well and i have no idea when I’ll get here at this point sometime between 2am and 4am? There is just over 6 miles back to camp from here… so once again if my horse is healthy and you think i need to go to a hospital… PUT ME ON THE HORSE. I have plenty of vet wrap that should cover just about any injury or pain i’ve sustained… alleve is probably good to have on hand. I’ll make sure to bring a bottle- enough to share should you find anyone else needs it too! 


One of you may need to trot out my horse for me at this point if my legs are failing me… REMEMBER! always jog fast- minor issues like being tired from riding 90 miles can look like lameness if you go too slow- but NEVER EVER EVER let the lead rope get tight as it WILL look like lameness when her head is pulled even if she’s completely fine. She gets graded on “attitude and impulsion” both and they matter- so unless she’s seriously exhausted and can’t go on pull up your energy and get exciting so she wants to run with you which she always is skeptical of even on the vet-in when she’s not tired (why do i have to run to that stupid cone?) if she looks reluctant that will lower her grade. we’ll have to practice some trot outs.. this is kind of important actually… also Lynne says there’s a direction you should always turn… there was a reason… i’ll have to ask her… ok… so now we hopefully get to…

FINISH LINE
– back at camp. Now is when you need to have the bourbon… or even better would be a good peaty scotch… but i don’t think my budget is going to allow that with all the crap i’ve had to pick up just in case… If i actually make it to the finish line on a horse I will be crazy happy even though it could be 5am meaning I’ve been up over 24 hours and maybe a little delirious as well. 

This is where the kid gloves come out- it’s her first 100 and we’ll both be tired. I am slightly terrified of muscle cramping here. My vet says the best medicine here is prevention and good electrolyting through the entire day is key on never having her deficient so her mucles are able to function at their best and stay strong. My mentor’s finsh line advice is NOT to get off her when we cross the finish line but stay on and walk slowly toward the vet area leaving tack on- have a rup rug ready for me at the finish as it’s a little walk from there to vet and if we use it – it goes on GENTLY but without being sneaky. Any jump or spook can take a tired muscle and give it a pull that will get us pulled. I want to see her heart rate down as we slowly walk to vet and once it is we’ll drop tack right there and keep moving nice and slow-like into the final vetting. Have her fleece ready. The goal is to get in and out of that final vet as quickly as possible with a capital C (Completion).

We will hopefully vet through- but if she gets pulled at the finish for lameness or whatever please remind me that we still did something amazing, and it happens to the best of riders/horses and it’s only our first try… 


Next i’ll be looking for some help with taking care of K- lots of hay, coolstance, beet pulp, apples, carrots- she gets whatever she wants and at some point during the day, depending on our camp set up, i’d like to consider moving K’s electric fence so she has new grass after the ride… i might be able to set up two pens at once depending on my supplies. The second one can be smaller as she won’t move as much and we’ll be there less than a whole day- but fresh clean grass is good!! Also getting K’s legs poulticed (possibly wrapped) and possibly ice soaking her feet with epsom and ice water to help alleviate any bruising/soreness she may develop. Brandon suggested finding the farrier if possible the next day to make sure her shoes are still on tight and ask them to check nails and/or clinches and leave them on if they are on good to protect her feet in the rest period to come. I may need to be reminded or helped with this too!


I’ll hopefully get some sleep- a few hours or so, and I think there’s a brunch and awards thing too on Sunday.  I plan to go home later on in the afternoon and could use a hand i’m sure cleaning up camp and packing in!

No matter what happens I am so grateful to have friends who are willing to help me get through this big day and support me on my journey! We will have a great adventure! 

F-U-N! Much love- see you Friday!

One week…

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Can I really be one week out?

This thing I’ve been working towards for years… the thing that the closer it gets the farther away it seems… that concept of limits in high school calculus where the closer you get to something you infinitely split the space in half and never arrive…. that’s what the 100 felt like to me until today. When it hit me… this is time and not conceptual math. 

Saturday, June 10 will arrive and I’ll be tacking up at 5am for a journey to the unknown.

What do I do now?

  • Research.
  • Plan.
  • Make lists.
  • Prepare. 
  • Get ready. 

Specifically: what does one do in the two weeks before?

Shave your dark colored non-Arab heat machine. 

Get your farrier out. 

I took a day at the barn to do both. It’s good that it’s a week early- she’ll have a little hair growth to help protect her skin in 10 days but still be able to cool. She’ll have a week to walk around on the shoes and not be sensitive from a fresh hoof trim. 

I washed her while waiting for the farrier… so afterwords she’d be clean to shave. 

She is not a big fan of baths and I don’t do it often but she was patient with the soapy sponge and shockingly stood absolutely still while I rinsed her with the hose! Good start to the day.

I’ve never seen her so clean. 

She was also basically good for my farrier. I have been reminding her we’re in for this adventure and it’s a big job. I’m partnering with her because she’s strong and smart and ready. She took getting her shoes done pretty seriously I think. So did my farrier. 

The 100 right?

Yep. 

Right. 

He worked more quietly than ever and at one point I said:

I have a question I want to pick your brain about- tell me when is a good time. 

To which he replied:

Not now when I’m shaping her shoes for this. 

Which is kind of what I expected but thought I’d check. I asked him later. When he was done. Completely. 


She stood more quietly than usual and though she still isn’t a dead-broke quarter horse (which is my farrier’s dream job… only working on them…) but she improves every time and we do it without pain or force and he’s very patient to work with me in my own way.

She handled the hot shoeing with minimal fretting. And she stood much more still while he nailed than usual. I’ve watched and the initial easy beats to set the nail she’s fine- it’s the energy to really drive them in at the end that sends her wanting to pull those feet back but for the most part she trusted me that this was important and I was able to assure her before she tried to pull out… mostly


I was proud of her. He took a long time to get everything just so- and she stood quietly through it all. 

4 shoes, pads all around, an old set as emergency ready shaped spares along with 2 new pads shaped for front and rear just in case we lose them on trail. 


Have cash on hand. Farriers hate doing work and having to track you down later. 

He said from experience. He’s worked the OD before. 

I will. But I won’t need the ride farriers. Because I have you. 

Yeah. Let’s hope so. 

He gave me some more advice: from now till you leave- if you get bad rain pull her in a stall during the worst of it to keep her from running around in the mud. Slipping and pulling something is bad enough and this wet weather has been hard on keeping shoes on. After the ride – have the ride farrier check the shoes. You want them on and tight to protect her feet as she recovers over the next couple weeks.  


After he left we moved on to the haircut. I have a small clipper and have only done this a few times. As Amy assured me – doing it this far out will at least grow in the clipper lines. Can’t have my Khaleesi looking too mutly around all the beautiful Arabs… my diamond in the rough… or is it my rough & tough among the diamonds?

I did get creative and added a star to each rump. Once I got on her later for a light evening ride I noticed… my stars are not aligned! Oh well. I’ll get better in time. 


And in my defense I clipped her outside so the wind could carry away the hairs (that didn’t go down my shirt) but any fly that found us had her twitching away and it’s hard to get a straight line with her twitching! 

That being said she stood so well for me otherwise that I didn’t have to hold or tie her- she seemed to know this is just part of the prep for her big job. 

The ride is now within a weather forecast window and I don’t trust it a second. Especially because it’s forecasted to be partly cloudy and highs in the 70s. There isn’t a possibly more perfect day one could hope for so I’m not counting on that. It’s just not possible. Sorry. 


And on a lighter note (pun accidental but totally appropriate!) I’ve had a few issues with my early order list: my shoes haven’t made it yet so I may just stick with what works unless I can break them in; my cooling material tights are backordered (I can make due with what I have) but the glow sticks I ordered are just not what I was expecting. 


Yes. They are the size of a paper clip. You can imagine my shock upon opening the small envelope and wondering what on earth I’ll being doing with 1″ emergency light sticks. No wonder they were such a good deal!

I put in a new order for 6″ ones and they should arrive well before I pull out on Thursday morning. 

So the next few days I am getting my rig super clean and having my tires and fluids checked.

Aside from that I’m calling my mentor for last words, emailing my crew team and starting to get more serious about crunching the data… mileage, vet holds and timelines. 


This morning I’m working on my blog in the home office. 

Next weekend will be here before I know it!

ˈkäNGɡro͞oənt

Thursday, May 25, 2017

As this 40th year for me draws to a close in July there and I get closer to a big riding goal- I also reflect on where I am in life and what it means to the larger journey. 

A good place to check in. 


Those of us who are horse enthusiasts all struggle with the personal, relationship, work, homelife balance. We find ourselves defending the time, energy and treasure we dedicate – sometimes striking the perfect balance… often veering off one way or the other.

Sometimes I carry guilt over the balance: Am I giving my horse (who has no one but me to depend on) enough? Am I giving everything my work needs? How about my homelife? Is my yard getting out of control? Dirty laundry and spiderwebs taking over the house? How about other important relationships?

I believe that I change the world only by looking in the mirror. There cannot be peace on earth if there isn’t peace in me. That is my only job here: To change the universe within myself. 

It is a relief to know that I don’t have to worry about what is going to happen in politics, my relationships, my work, my health, (healthcare!?!), people around me… I don’t have to worry about any of it. 

I realize some people believe that means I’m putting my head in the sand… If I don’t fight for my political views with friends and strangers, stress over deadlines (or even miss some!!) or worry over my health it looks like playing the fiddle while Rome burns. 

It is not

Stress and pain are draining and make me less effective in the moment. Fear takes away clarity in decision making. Though discussions with the emphasis on listening are good, arguing with another human being causes separation and rarely sways opinions. 

My obsession with horses and my quest to understand them has taught me some valuable things about life. I hope these lessons make me a better teacher, friend, wife, daughter and leader. 

To my readers who already know and practice these… thank you for your patience  and generosity in reading my own personal process.

Disclaimer: the fact that I’ve learned them doesn’t mean I’m always successful at living them. The reason I can write about them is because I’ve lived every one. I’ve done every one of these the wrong way and seen the less than optimal results!

Seven things I’ve learned:

7. Be joyful.  


Have some fun. Lighten up. When healthy and balanced, horses have great senses of humor. They horseplay. 😁 Horses and people want to be around someone with a generous and joyful spirit. Make a choice not to be a gloomy, glass-half-empty, pessimistic person who always sees the obstacles and doesn’t bring fresh ideas and solutions. 

And life will always bring challenges. Get over it. Make a choice to be happy no matter what is going on around you. If you wait until your outer circumstances are ‘right’ to be content, you will chase joy until you die miserable. Choose love and joy regardless of who is president… of if you have the ‘right’ job… make ‘enough’ money…  have the ‘perfect’ body… fill in the blank. 

❤️

6. Slow Down. Observe. 


Many of these lessons interconnect. Almost all of them have this element buried in them. Take the time to see what is really happening and make less assumptions. Question what you see and what it means. 

🤓

5. Stay present.


Even two seconds ago is the past. It is done. Don’t carry it with you and don’t load your horse, spouse or friends down with it either. 

On the other hand anticipating the future based on past experiences brings about the negative response you are trying to avoid- especially in horses. Don’t allow yourself to waste time visualizing your fears- they create negative energy.

Allow yourself, your horse and your friends, spouse, parents, children, co-workers etc the gift of a fresh start and the freedom to learn, grow and change.

😇

4. Find three!

I’ve learned good leaders are demanding. Thankfully I seem to fall into this naturally. However the flip side to demanding personalities is they are overly critical. 

I am embarrassingly more aware with my horses, my friends, my family, my husband and ESPECIALLY my students that I lean too heavily on what needs to improve and don’t take enough time to encourage the good things.

I have enjoyed the Byron Katie turn arounds this year and when I get stuck on something like my husband doesn’t listen to me I now write that down, turn it around to I don’t listen to my husband and my job is to find 3 ways that is true. There are usually more than three. It changes the perspective quickly!
Another find 3 is when I realize I’m being too tough or critical in a lesson (always with students I really like and believe have a ton of potential!) I stop myself and find 3 positive things to encourage. Or if my mom calls me feeling like she failed her horse and can’t do anything right- I ask her to find 3 things she did right that day… 3 successes. 

🤗

3. Don’t fight


Picking a fight with an intelligent 1,000 pound animal isn’t wise. And we wonder why there are so many injuries in the horse world. Working with and riding horses is dangerous enough without creating enemies out of them.

One way we start wars is through inappropriate reaction. When a horse is distracted or makes a mistake (knocks your head, steps on your foot..) and the human blows up screaming, hitting, jerking to make sure they never make that mistake again. 

Horses who aren’t being disrespectful on purpose are not trying to hurt us and there are much more effective ways to enforce safe space and increased attention to where you are than hitting and yelling. It is likely your horse will pay more attention to you because you have proven to be emotionally unstable (cra-crazy) and reactive and they’ll want to try to steer clear of that. Personally that’s not why I want my horse to pay attention to me. It kills connection. This is easy to translate to human relationships as well and is an unhealthy and hard way to live. (Hard especially on children who cannot chose to leave). 

One of my favorite quotes brings me to the other less obvious way we fight:

Defense is the first act of war. 

Unless you or someone before you created a horse that is disrespectful (they do not come this way naturally) then your horse is not interested in fighting with you. They are the ultimate seekers of peace. We are a species of war. Just look at social media. We can’t disagree with someone without calling them names and picking a fight. No one is allowed to think differently than me. No other solutions to problems except the ones I believe in. 

I’ve watched a horse try to communicate with a human, maybe ask a question… the human reacts immediately as if the battle lines are drawn and they have to win the energy goes up and the yelling, hitting, or lunging begins to teach a lesson and the connection is broken. That will teach your horse to dare an attempt to connect with you!


[clarification: if you truly do have a disrespectful horse then you have your work cut out for you. Hopefully you have the emotional stability to not take it personally. To never allow frustration or anger into the process, and you have the correct tools, knowledge, and cool-headed strength without fear even when the animal is coming at you like a wild stallion- to meet the challenge and climb your way back into the horse’s trust and belief that humans can behave unemotionally and fairly and can make a reliable leader. However This is a totally different scenario than what most horses owners talk about when they use the term disrespect.]

Similarly in the human world- no one can tell me that I have done wrong without battle flags going up. The first instinct is to defend my position and beat down the accuser so they will never consider communicating honestly again. Am I the only one with this natural tendency?

I have challenged myself this year to change the pattern and attempt to begin with: is that true? And then follow it with how can I help?

Can you imagine if your horse refused to walk into the puddle and instead reacting with argument, force and warfare…  to take a moment (slow down) and ask: why don’t you want to go into the puddle? 

Then when you hear the answer which could be I’m afraid there may be a preditor hiding in there…. or I may sink in and get my legs stuck in quicksand… 

you could respond with something like ok- I hear you. Thank you for keeping our safety in mind. I happen to know this puddle is safe. I’d like you to trust me- and I’m going to give you the time you need to learn that. Let’s do this together. 

Then do the inhuman thing and take the time your horse needs to walk through the puddle without fighting. If you have done the work to train your horse in steps and you are certain you can communicate what you want-  put your watch away and go into their world. (If you haven’t trained the steps to get what you’re asking then don’t expect them to do what you’re asking until you have) The saying slow is fast has never been more true than with horses. If you are riding with people who have no patience for helping a horse gain trust in their rider you are with the wrong humans. Not the wrong horse. 

Human lesson: a friend says I don’t think you treated me fairly over this situation! 

My first instinct is to defend why I acted the way I did… but it always feels better to step back and say tell me about it? How could I help? What could I change?

And I can change it or not. But now I have information, and I am not cutting off those who care enough about me to tell me what they think.

🤕

2. Nurture connection

Real connection is one of the most amazing things to experience in life. We all want it yet (speaking for myself) we seem to be better at killing it than nurturing it. 

If my horse is connected to me she will stay willing to do what I ask and enjoy our time together. Even more importantly she will do everything possible to protect me. 

I’ve been cantering along with friends, felt Khaleesi spook half way across the trail in an instant… then there was the time a deer jumped out of the bushes and from a fast trot she jumped, spun and ran directly into Faygo’s shoulder behind us. In these and other instances it’s not my ah-maz-ing riding skills that keeps me glued to my horse. Anyone who rides with me can chuckle here. It’s her choice to keep me in the sweet spot. It is her protecting me. 

Then there was the ride she ditched me on trail and left me there. I had lost connection and been a terrible leader on that ride. And she let me know it. She wanted to get as far away from me as possible!


Human connections work best as a two-way line, however I cannot be responsible for others. Thankfully I’m not at their mercy. I can choose to keep myself connected and open. My connection and behavior is my choice. 

It feels like a risk to stay open and connected. However staying closed and ruining relationships is guaranteed to bring failure and pain in the long run. 

(This doesn’t mean I allow just anyone to repeatedly hurt me with their decisions. I can stay open and still make choices as to who I will work with, who I will live with, who I allow into my close friendships – but if I am open hearted I can make these decisions for myself and not be at odds with those I do not choose. Not have hatred, feuds and conflict. And a clarity in those choices based on what I think is best.)

The challenge is that so many things break connection: ego (we all have one. It’s a basic psychological tenant- not allowing it to rule unchecked and questioning its voice is how we grow. The ego is out front in some and easy to see; but more dangerous is the ego that is camouflaged… disguised behind a good facade it is like a silent cancer. Ego is the great destroyer of good things. I work especially hard to keep mine from taking over and destroying everything I care about. Sometimes it seems tirelessly dedicates to that end…)

Then there’s: nagging, being pushy or overly critical, not actively listening, defensiveness, being unclear or fuzzy in your communication, reacting inappropriately, making assumptions, holding on to the past, anger & frustration, arguing, impatience, fear… it is a challenge not to allow these to destroy relationships. 

😘

1. Stay congruent. 


What is in the inside must match what’s on the outside. 

Congruent comes from the Latin to agree: defined as being in harmony. 

Horses cannot lie. And they are confused and uncomfortable when humans do. 

Horses require honesty and that we stay real. They will take a lot of ignorance, unclear communication, failure to understand them (trust me- this I know very personally) and they can bear a lot of pain and sadness with us if we are congruent. They know when you are real: when you are trying to stay open and trying to learn. 

You cannot hide your insides from a horse. They know. If you lie to them, pretend or worse try to trick them (ever bring the grain bucket with the halter ‘hidden’ behind your back?) they know. And it makes them uncomfortable. It destroys connection. 

People do this often. We talk one way but act another. Some people work hard on the exterior… the facade… while doing everything possible to hide what’s really going on inside. 

One of the biggest lessons I’ve come to in sharp focus is that I require congruency in my world. I make the decision to be honest as possible in my own circle, and I want to surround myself with others who are the same. 

I make mistakes and gratefully have friends who love me enough to help me see when I go offtrack. I make an effort to stay real with the people in my world and be honest with my shortcomings and move forward being better for them. 

People who have a pattern of being incongruent over time are confusing and I’m more able as I get older to see there is something wrong and let those relationships go. 

However I don’t have to be at war or dislike the people I feel that disconnect with. There are many reasons people behave this way from life trauma, self protection, fear, being out of touch, confusion… everyone has a journey and a path to walk. I have enough on my hands to walk my own and am way out of line when I try to live someone else’s.

🤥


This year especially I am grateful for those whose paths intertwine with mine. 


The people and horses who are my teachers. 



The friends who have walked with me, the family who have carried me, the love that is present in things I welcome and things I dread. 


And most of all for the person who is always there. The one in the mirror. She has a long way to go… but we are getting to know each other better each year. 

Details….

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Less than a month to go till June 10 when I tack up for a 5:30am start at the OD100. My brain is ticking along and lists are getting made and checked off. 

Thankfully riding and conditioning assignments are light in this time window because the amount of mental energy going into logistics is taking up more space than I’d have imagined.


As for riding I took a trail marking and clearing ride with some friends and rediscovered a great trail I haven’t used in years with beautiful views and decent climbing. 


We ended the ride with a deep river hole where my capall uisce got some water time. She really isn’t so into swimming (yet) but she loves to roll in or stand deep in the river – she laid down (with me and saddle) but I stayed on and convinced her not to roll and instead we wandered around the depths that came up past her belly and had my shoes and pants soaked to the knee. It was worth it- we were too far from the trailer to really untack and commit to water play- but just the deep wading was magical in its own right. 

No photos- I left my phone safely on the bank!

Scoot Boots are still at 100% success. And still no rubs or issues with use and still the easiest boot I’ve ever used. 


Now for the checklists…

Send in registration form & coggins:

  • Check… with appropriate Wonder Woman stamp!

Order necessary tack type stuff:

  • Salomon Speedcross… great eBay deal! saw Karen ride the OD cavalry in them last year and she says they’re great so I’m hoping they show up asap so I can get them broken in and tried out! My Ariats are fine but showing a little extra wear and they aren’t so great for hiking the mountain- considering I plan to do a fair amount of getting off her during the toughest climbs, descents or any place we both need a break I need a shoe that will feel good on trail as well as in stirrups. 


  • New helmet (Ovation light & breathable)

  • New chaps (Dublin neoprene webbing) also cooler and lightweight thanks Lynne for the recommendation. 


  • New summer tights- might need a dry clean extra pair to freshen up mid ride!

  • Official sponge leash (to replace the too long jerry rigged old reins I was using)
  • Biothane stirrup leathers to use my heavier duty real leathers as a back up… remembering a story that Kristen had a stirrup leather fail without a handy replacement. She struggled through riding I think with bailing twine? I just remember it wasn’t fun and she didn’t feel great afterword. 
  • Hydration hay! (We learned Khaleesi loves it last year after she ate all of the Stone’s horses’ stash. Thankfully they didn’t love it and now I finally remembered to buy her own!)

  • E-lyte dosing syringes with caps! (My current ones don’t have caps means I have to waste time pulling up individual doses when I need them!)
  • Extra sweat scrapers & sponges
  • Check… check check check…mostly thanks to Ed’s Riding Warehouse Christmas gift card!

Handy suggestions tips and tricks:

  • Glow sticks (after dark)
  • Mini flashlight (emergency use only)
  • Life proof phone case – another amazing eBay deal 
  • Mini extra charge for phone will I have time for photos??
  • Date syrup & CMPK (adds to elytes for extra calcium and potassium) also sometimes the syrup can help encourage the gut and eating after a tough loop. 
  • Vetwrap!!! For a million things
  • Hoofboots and a spare set of shaped shoes from our last set- I have my Scoot Boots for a lost shoe  but I’m also borrowing a one size up spare from a team member who isn’t riding the OD for the potential sprung or loose shoe. Great mentor advice- a sprung shoe can be worse if you aren’t able to pull it on the trail. On a 100 the chance of a nail getting work down, or a tired mid-step pulls or bends a shoe- take the vetwrap and wrap the shoe as tight as possible- cover with one size larger boot until fixable in the next hold. 
  • Zip ties (to affix the Scoot boots directly to saddle as well as a million other things)
  • Dramamine & Aleve … I’ve heard other riders lighting after dark can make one nauseasus… and the Aleve… for everything else! 

Wish list that looks will have to wait:

  • Smaller size narrow (new!!) Scoot boots for hind feet (for now the front size with vetwrap will get us to a hold and I’ll have renegades that fit or a new old shoe put on… should be fine for a temporary spare tire)
  • Extra Phoenix Rising saddle pad. Seems this pad gives the best support to the saddle. I’d love a second one in case of rain or extreme sweating but one PR with a toklat coolback for the hottest parts of the day will be ok. 
  • Reflective neck collar from Taylored Tack (love the idea of not having a halter on all the time but not necessary)

Aside from this I have a yard in full on spring mode which is lovely except the weeds grow even better than the flowers most of the time so I try to get some time keeping the jungle at bay… and it’s end of school seasons both for my college and K-12 students so I’m teaching a lot and planning final concerts as well. 


Tonight I fed the girls and spent a few minutes scratching summer bug bites and itchy spots. All three mares seemed to be grateful for the non-agenda time and especially the itchy scratches.


Khaleesi looks good. Shiny coat and good weight – nice muscling on rich grass but not too heavy either. 

She’s doing a good job resting and fueling up while I stock up on supplies!

Dragonfly in the sun… you know what I mean..

Butterfly out having fun… you know what I mean…

Saturday, May 13, 2017


Back to song lyrics again. Sometimes I just can’t get them out of my head and this one has stuck since my last ride a couple days ago. 

Feeling Good…

One month till our first 100 and the assignment from my endurance vet is basically do no harm

People have begun to ask if we’ve amped up our training and conditioning routine to prepare. Much like the anticlimactic announcement last post, the answer is no. Actually we’re amping down. 

Ride twice a week, you cannot gain fitness and Khaleesi has a good base which is why you’re ready for this. Try to get at least a ride or two in starting before 6am to get used to an early start time but don’t ride long – just a warm up then put her away. Also get in a ride on the hottest humid day you can in the next month. Don’t do high miles- definitely stay under 20… under 15 is good too) and save her feet by searching out good footing. Don’t push for super fast rides either. Just keep her juices flowing and keep her limber. 

Seems easy enough. 


This is also riding Faygo can handle! So Susan and I are enjoying some data-free fun riding with good footing and no goals. All that work of long rides, speed work, hill climbing and technical rock navigation is now paying off with some relaxed fun time.

When we went to the field on Wednesday with our human chit chat about nothing all that important susan and I had to stop and take notice. Khaleesi was running that herd all over the place. 

This is unusual. 

She was saying something. 

She wasn’t exactly running them ‘off’ but she was running them around. Doing some of her acrobatics and dancing for us as well. 

We stopped and watched from outside the gate:

What do you think she’s saying?

Who knows?

Something. 

Yep. Definitely something. 

Eventually things calmed down and I walked in to get my horse. She didn’t come immediately but it wasn’t long before she walked up and put her head in the halter. We headed for the barn. 

That’s when I noticed:

I think she was telling me she lost a shoe. 

Sure enough. Right front. That foot.  The troubled one. 

We’ll have to go look for it later. Don’t want anyone getting hurt stepping on the nails. 

Thankfully I have my scoot boots! The only boot I feel confident now that I won’t lose on trail. 

Now I wonder if she was trying to tell me where it was…… 

I don’t put much past these animals anymore with what’s possible. The level of communication is pretty amazing if we would only let them know we are paying attention. 


We booted up, loaded up and drove barely a mile to an easy spot to hit the grassy soft roads that are the most fun to ride and it’s always more fun to only be heading home the entire ride. 

I rode the short 2 hours in my bareback pad and new (knotty girlz) custom measured stiff red halter with my (also new) treeline lead just tied at the bottom loops. I have really come to love the feeling of her movement in the pad and how much fun it is to ride her halter only (I think she likes it too) though I do not believe a bareback pad is great to overuse or use on long distances because it doesn’t distribute my weight like my saddle does and there isn’t anything to protect it from pressing on her withers and upper spine. Shorter rides here and there though I think are ok.

Dream ride. Lovely cool sunny day, the trails were perfect, soft but not slippery, the horses were engaged and forward, we walked, trotted, and did some wonderful cantering along the way as it suited us.


Khaleesi was happy and seemed to be feeling fantastic. She was strong and I often felt her lifting her back underneath me which I love- that she’s using her body properly and engaging her motor underneath. She was in good spirits as was Faygo. 

We came into the barn, hardly a sweat and turned them out then walked the field for the lost shoe- Susan found it… was it right where Khaleesi had been running the horses around earlier? Hmmmm. 


With a call into my farrier we decided to boot the foot until the end of the month when he will shoe for the OD. No sense adding nail holes two weeks out, and we aren’t going to shoe for the 100 a month early either. 

Apparently this foot needs some breathing space. I still believe everything has its purpose. Even if I never truly understand what it is. And if she turns up lame and we have to pull out- then it wasn’t our year. 

But for now she seems fine and the boot is staying put. Have I mentioned how much I ❤️ Scoot Boots?? And they are coming out with a narrow fit boot too! They may just be a good answer to this winter’s hoof puzzle. 

Meanwhile I’m working on my ace-crew, picking up anything I need for the long ride… I have shoes (for me) en route… extra leathers (just in case Kristen G!!)… capped e-lyte syringes… a new sponge leash… extra sweat scrapers… a new (lighterweight) helmet (mine is 5 years old and I’ve been meaning to replace it… we’ve hit enough tree limbs that it’s time)… mesh half chaps… and an extra pair of cooling tights as well… just things I’ve needed and been dragging my feet on. 

Tomorrow we have a ride planned with Amy and Frills to be sure the mares can pace together alright. 

Birds flying high… you know what I mean…

Warm sun in the sky…. you know what I mean……

And we’re feeling good….

For the moment…. I’ll take it. 

Though note to my 100 crew: you may need to remind me how much I love this around mile 70 when I’m tired, it’s dark… and hopefully not a cold night rain soaking me and making muddy trails. Just a thought 😘 

green to….

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Just over two years ago as an avid trail rider I decided to take on the ambitious goal of a single-day 100 mile ride. I can’t tell you exactly what possessed me to decide this, but something inspired me and I think I said it out loud at a dinner party before I’d even really thought it through as if it were just a random conversation topic. 

I suppose the ambitious part comes from the fact that at the time I had a basically feral unbroke 4 year old I planned to do this with. And I’ve never trained a horse before. 

With over two years of preparation and many blogs of various topics, the 100 seems an elusive ‘loch ness’ or ‘Sasquatch’… my Everest … it’s not something one stumbles upon randomly. It would be planned for months at least… a year maybe once I think we’re ready?

As in… my imagined announcement would be (cue adventure music):

Hello! I plan to get through this 3rd season with Khaleesi doing multiple 50 mile rides … maybe try a multi-day (2 days of 50 miles) toward the fall and in 2018 we will climb Everest… we will dive for Nessie… we will enter our first 100!!! Stay tuned this entire year as I work toward the climactic event my entire blog is based on. 

But instead today is May 7 and here is the real life version:

Ah-hem… um. I just printed out the paperwork for the OD100 on June 10- about a month from now. So… I guess we’re doing it. 

Up till now there have been months and more of the type A for anal careful planning, the tweaking of equipment and saddle fit and shoe program and nutrition and electrolytes, the best rating of speed at events, gear, tack, shaving, rump rugs and raincoats… not to mention working on my own fitness, balance and riding… figuring out food I’ll eat and staying hydrated- big and little mistakes along the way… finally it’s coming all in place and in March this little bird says:

Want to start the 100 with me at OD this year? I want to take it slow to finish and would love the company. 

😂🤣😝😳😞

(That sums up my initial reaction) then to look around and say um… who? Me? And Khaleesi? 100? This year?

At Blackwater: March 2017

Then there’s the odd cosmic coincidence that I camped at both our 50s for the season next to Dale (who I call Mr. just do it) and he happened to have an OD100 map handy in March: here’s the OD100 map, do you want one… Don’t think so hard about it- just go for it. It’s very do-able.

In March I told Amy- ok ok, if she gets clean through No Frills 55 then we’ll talk. 

Considering she had lameness and hoof issues in late winter a good part of me figured we may not make it through No Frills sound. I truly half expected a lameness pull. It is about the hardest technical rocky ride I’ve ever been on. 

Then we had about the best ride ever at No Frills and Khaleesi looked the best I’d seen her after any ride. I felt good too. The vets said she looked great (one of them being our vet Kelly who also vets and rides endurance). The mare didn’t even look tired. 


Hm. Now I have to actually think about this. 

I sometimes have a tendency to take on more than other reasonable sane people. I often don’t see obstacles and limits but the cool big goal. My husband calls it overconfidence on a good day… occasionally if he’s not so generous it turns into reckless and thoughtless of those around me who are left to pick up the pieces…. (really… I hope that doesn’t happen too often!!)

I try hard to curb that part of my general personality so here is when I look for some outside rational input. 

I sent a note to my mentor Lynne. She has lots of successful 100s under her saddle and is taking her horse to Tevis this year. She will have good advice.  If she laughs at me I’ll know it’s a crazy hair brained idea. 

Inside my head: We can’t be ready for this…. can we?

Lynne: Well….. my first reaction was it might be a little soon… However Kelly (my vet and a friend of Lynne) made a point to tell me how good Khaleesi looked at No Frills and what a good job you did taking care of her that day. I think she called your horse a rock star. Honestly… I think you should talk to her, she’ll be perfectly honest with you and has seen your horse more this spring than I have… but I can’t think of why you wouldn’t go for it. Even if you made it 70 or 80 miles that’s an accomplishment. I’ve certainly started that ride and been pulled in years past. You guys have a good shot- and you are very in tune with your horse. You aren’t going to hurt her. You will pull out of you feel it’s not going well for her. That’s the most important thing. 

Ok. I’ll check with Kelly. She also has solid 100 mile experience and she knows my horse. Maybe she’ll laugh at us! If so we’ll just do the 50 and keep working on a good base for next season. 

Kelly: oh yeah! She is totally ready! Go for it- I think it’s a great idea. 

Then one more last ditch reach out to another endurance vet that knows us: am I completely nuts to do this?

Answer: it’s about time!

Ok. So. Yes! Yes- we’ll do it!

So… the K and I are officially signing up to the Beast of the East… the Old Dominion 100.  The goal. Green to 100 and all.

I do think we have a shot, however the completion rates are from 45-60% depending on factors (the biggest being heat and humidity) so even the best odds are tough. But make it or not I will learn a lot, and looking forward to the challenge!

I guess I should tell K….