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!

Gifts [edited]

Monday, June 12, 2017

One thing I love is finding ways everything is a gift- even the things you didn’t think you wanted. If you change perspective and turn them around enough you can see the beauty- but sometimes it takes a little squinting through tears!

I am back from the OD safely and have taken one of the few best showers of my life now able to relax finally and boy it feels good!

Though I tried not to think negatively and ‘curse’ us- I wasn’t convinced I would finish the OD100  sound and healthy the first go at it. The completion rate is usually close to half- and to even enter the 100 usually (hopefully!) means you’re a smart rider with a dependable horse who has some solid experiece, so half those riders pulled out of the race are top endurance competitors. 

Everything has to go right for this to work. And then you still need a little luck to make it through. 


Khaleesi and I began with all the hopes you can carry and within about 3 miles something felt off. I asked Amy to let some riders pass us and watch me trot. 

Something’s not right….

Yep you’d better check. I think you lost a shoe!

I got off and sure enough. Front Left. Gone. Hoof tore up pretty good. Damn rain this spring. This is not a good way to start. 

Now what.. ok. Boot. Vet wrap. We are prepared for everything including this.  
I wrapped the hoof and put on the Scoot boot. And crossed my fingers. We had A. Long. Way. To. Go. 

We start moving again and she’s a little off but better. Frills takes a nice trot pace and K follows without much trouble. In short time she feels better and we’re moving along well. The boot is doing its job. And it’s staying on. 

How will we get through. It’s a long day and I’m now feeling worried. I decide there to ride the trail in front of me on the horse I’m on. Stay present and don’t think of what’s to come or what’s happened. Be. Here. Now.  


We climb the ridge and Khaleesi does her thing- the mountains – she leads Frills at a nice power walk up the first big climb to the ridge. I relax. Amy is terrified of tie up. I’m terrified of lameness. We both try to enjoy the lovely perfect morning with pretty Laurel and nice views. The horses walk the ridge where it’s rocky and grab bites of grass while waking. Eat and chew. Feeling good. 

We came out to the water tanks in good spirits. Electrolyted. Began to head down the mountain- all downhill into Bird Haven. We got this. 

Heading into Bird Haven we caught up with a couple riders at the stream crossing and all the horses have been here before. They were not gong to stop and relax in the stream. They wanted breakfast. And they were not happy to wait while the two horses they just caught got there first. 

We trotted into the hold faster than I would have on my own in order not to choose a fight right there over it (counterproductive) and my heart rate was up at 135 coming to the In-Timer. 

Not what I’d normally do. 

Crew is waiting and ready!


Let’s get her in the shade, tack off and hope we don’t take too long to pulse. 

By the time Ricky came over with the hand-held as Frills had pulsed we’d just gotten her saddle off and started some water. She needs to come down to 64. From 135. Fast. 

Please…..


Go. She’s at 58

I’m surprised. That was fast. 

We walk slowly to P&R and breathe deep. Cross fingers. 

Me: Good Morning. She should be ok. She was just at 58. 

Pulse taker: Well she’s not now. 

Inner voice: Shoot did we walk too fast- is she looking for Frills?

Pulse taker: She’s at 54 now. 

Very funny.

We walk to the vet. She does fine, trot out with the boot she’s sound. The boot is working. CRI was 48/48.


I’m very happy. Despite losing a shoe early on the first vet check seems like a good sign. 

We go back to eat, drink and get ready for a long afternoon stretch before we see crew again. Pam and Susan are fantastic help! 


Pam is good with K and listens to her when she asks to eat more grass and walk around a little and susan is on top of everything and even makes 3 trips (running) back to the truck for this and that including a second extra boot now for the rest of the day. 


We have a hard loop with a severe climb into Laurel Run with no crew accesss then a tough stretch on to Bucktail. Probably over 7 hours before we catch up with them again. 

I make the decision to stick with the boot. There isn’t a lot of hoof left to nail into and I don’t want to chance loosing that shoe and tearing up a hoof more that already grows slowly. One day’s goal isn’t worth losing all that hoof. Maybe the experience today is going to be in seeing how good these boots really are. 

But I decided to add a pad to make them more protective. We’re heading into some rough territory. It could only help. 

Or not.
 

We left the check together and within a mile I was feeling something wrong. I looked at the shoes- they were on… the boot however was not. 

Go on ahead. I’m going back for it. I’ll catch up!

Are you sure?

YES!! GO!! 

I turned back and was certain it couldn’t be far. It was at least a half mile. I got off to hand jog her. 

I should have FIRST put the extra boot on- then rode back to get the spare. 

I found the boot and pad. The pad had changed the fit enough to cause it to come off for the first time since I bought them. 
I put the boot on without the pad to see how that would work. It was working from the whole first loop- maybe that was enough. 

We had good gravel road to canter on and possibly catch up to Amy. She could do this in her sleep. We train for this. And it’s early in the day. 

She didn’t. She cantered a little then trotted and little then walked. I compromised on a solid trot. Catching up was not vital. I could ride this ride alone if I had to and it might be better for us. 

Maybe that’s what the day is about. Taking this on alone. That doesn’t worry me. 

Heart rate wasn’t right. As we trotted up the gravel road she hung around 150bpm. Should have been 120 or so. 

That’s an indicator. 

I tried changing diagonals – she wasn’t comfortable. Ok. You’re not doing well with that foot. One last thing I can adjust. I will vetwrap the pad to the hoof before putting the shoe on. That’s how I should have done it in the first place. 

We went on and got off the gravel road into the woods. Let’s see if she comes around and feels more comfortable. 

She’d walk and then trot and then walk and then stumble a little- trip- trot. 

Walk trot walk trip trot walk trot walk trot trip. 

Is this going to sort out? Am I being paranoid? Am I causing this by over-obsessing? 

She paused on trail. 

I thought about it: I know where we are headed and the rocks are only going to get worse and worse. The next two loops are brutal. For a horse going in 100%. 

Do I want to chance it and have to bail 7 miles into this loop making it harder to get out? Do I want to obsess and worry my way through the next 80 miles? Do I want to push my horse to try even though her foot hurts?

Of course not…. 

The drag riders caught me paused in thought on the trail. I told them I was done today and they got me the number (I had some service) for Duane back at Bird Haven and they held the ‘ambulance’ trailer for me.

We walked most of the 2.5 miles back and trotted some of the good footing as I was curious how bad it was. It wasn’t bad- mostly she was pretty sound but occasionally a mis-step. When I switched my diagonal though it was worse and I knew something was there. 

She passed the vet check and the vet at Bird haven gave her a ‘Rider Option’ code because she was considered sound officially. There was again a rare mis-step and we all agreed it was likely a sore spot or minor bruise was the culprit. The time I rode unprotected probably she was ok until she hit a rock then was off and I noticed but the damage was there even if it was slight. 

Let me be clear for those who haven’t been to an endurance event: just because the vet officially cleared her doesn’t mean she didn’t agree that pulling out was the right call. We all believed it would have gotten worse. It just means right then it wasn’t bad enough to call her grade 3 lame. 


Drinking back at camp waking to the trailer. Done for the day!

You don’t take on the Beast of the East with a hoof bruise! Well… at least I don’t. 

I don’t want to get through- I want to do it so my horse is good with the process. I made a promise that I would never (again) put my goals ahead of my horse and what fits into that promise even adjusts over time. This sport asks a lot of a horse. I don’t want to shove it onto her, break her down mentally and physically and then tell her later as she’s recovering in the pasture: see that wasn’t so bad right? We’ll do it again next month.  

I think the vets are amazing. And they do everything they can to ensure the riders and horses can do their best. But I think they stay on the side of allowing the riders to make the call regarding what is best for the horse until it’s severe enough to force a pull.  Depending on your relationship and personality they may give advice- and they’ll always tell you if they think you’re headed for trouble. But I’ve scribed enough to see humans glaze right over as long as they get their rider card back. 

I think it needs to be that way because their job isn’t to be a rider’s conscious – when they pull it isn’t a matter of opinion: at that point the horse cannot continue. 

One thing I took from this ride experience is the confirmation to me that the relationship I’ve created with my horse is way way way too important to force her into a situation that she is hurting or struggling and I insist she continue anyway because it’s not life threatening, career-ending, or it will heal up and not cause long term damage and the vet passed me through.

I want to have a crew that knows me enough to tell me I’m riding my horse too hard or her back hurts or her eyes are getting dull or she’s not eating or drinking enough. It can be hard not to do everything possible to push through when you’re in the middle of it. 

I know I have that crew!


I also want to consider how my crewing stops work from my horse’s perspective and not just my own human needs. I’ve learned that she is a smart mare and if I at least listen to what she is saying I can get more information to help me excel. That’s her job- to be my co-pilot. If I’m a good leader I will want to hear what she has to say. If she wants more grass than beet pulp and that means taking a little walk to graze in vet check that is ok. If she wants to eat everyone else’s food that is not ok. It’s not that she’s in control- but I will try my best to hear her and then determine if I can give her what she’s asking for. 

I believe in the long run over her decade-plus-team career this will build into a horse that doesn’t just put her head down and do her job, but pushes herself to carry me faster, farther and with the great heart of a mare more willingly than otherwise. 

And because she isn’t a Arab bred from the womb to excel in this sport it’s all the more important to use every angle at my disposal to succeed with her. 

That is what this sport means to me. 

And this ride where I made the call to hear her as she told me she wasn’t feeling right to continue into the rough mountains – that is a sacrifice for the goal but a huge gift to her. 

I will always remember last year’s Iron Mountain ride where I didn’t listen because I thought she was not giving her all. She was alone and didn’t want to leave camp… she could move along faster… we train at home we’re ready! But the rocks there hurt her feet and was significant. It was significant mentally, emotionally and physically. 

She leaned that day I would force her into something she couldn’t handle. She learned if she didn’t perform even when in pain I would get emotional (frustrated… oh that embarrassing scene alone in the woods). I caused physical damage to her hooves that I think she is still paying for over time trying to get stronger feet and the impact damage from the x-rays. 

Saturday when I turned her around was very significant. 


She learned that I can be trusted. That I will take care of her. That I will not push her into a situation she can’t thrive and perform. 

Like Buck says:

Always make a winner out of your horse so she can make a winner out of you. 

That is a gift. 

The opportunity to prove myself and my dedication to my horse. You can’t do that when the stakes are low. It’s only a sacrifice when you give something up. And I know she knows. 

She may not have completely understood what it meant to enter the 100 but she knew my energy had been different. She felt it in our tack and warm up ride the evening before. She was a coiled spring ready to perform. She was proud and prancing and happy. She was different. I felt it in every step. Not out of control- just strong. 

Without question she knew this was a significant event. And as I turned her around I told her how proud I was of her and rubbed her neck and said I knew she did her best and I will work on getting her feet stronger to support the rest of her. 

I cried a little too for the disappointment I felt because it was honest. Yet I knew in my heart it was a gift to both of us. This day would be one more invaluable link in our relationship and the years of preparation for the day we do cross the 100 finish line strong and healthy!


This year has taught me valuable life lessons and I am blesssed to be in a place where I believe that it’s not good and bad but truth and love.  Reality is a gift. 

Everything is a gift. 

Here are some more of the positive things that came from pulling out of the race after riding the first 20 miles:

* Because it was early enough, I made it back to camp in time to jump in and crew for Amy!
* I got to see all the vet checks from the road. What they look like, how the set up and parking is like. What other riders and crews are doing and what works. 


* My awesome crew got to experience crewing this 100 with Ricky helping Amy so no pressure to get me through but to help, watch and learn…
* they are already thinking of ways to improve on my gear and packing systems that would make the day more efficient for them (awesome!!) and have said they will help me try again!
* I did all the mental, emotional and physical prep for the ride and will be more efficient next year with better understanding what is coming. 

* A 20 mile trail ride instead of 50-100 miles will mean I get more saddle time this summer as she won’t be on a 3-week recovery break. 

* I have more compassion and empathy for others who try and don’t succeed at something important to them. 

My mentor Lynne said always buy the ride photo. It goes into a photo journal and you can look back at your progress. So I bought my photo from the first loop and wrote this on the back for future reference:


My good friend Sarah upon getting the text that I didn’t make it through sent this wonderful quote:

Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; It strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.

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 😘 

Heart: the puzzle

Saturday, February 4, 2017

It’s February. 

So far Khaleesi is on track for 50 miles at the Blackwater ride on March 5. We’re picking up miles with at least one 10-15 mile ride per week and she’s stayed sound. Saddle fit is doing great with my old pad and we even have boots that seem to be staying on (knock on something!)


Though we have a tentative goal to get Heart to the Blackwater ride as well Susan and I are just not certain if she will get there or not. 

She is coming along amazingly well however there are a few things we’d like to feel confident about before we load her up:

  1. She’ll ride on the trailer. Yes- I can get her on, but she doesn’t like the confinement of having the divider in and I have not yet closed the door on her in there. 
  2. Susan feels comfortable riding her solo. Susan rides alone in the arena, and hand walks her on the trails solo but the solo ride is still in the works. 
  3. She understands and accepts electric fence confinement.

It’s not impossible these requirements will be met, but it’s not a given- especially the trailer.  

Being a wild mare has advantages- she is amazing in the woods like she’s lived there all her life (she was wild on the range for her first 2 years which is a major plus).

  • Cross the river (check) 
  • drink from a puddle or creek (check) 
  • navigate tricky footing and downed trees (check check) 
  • realize other animals live out here too and you don’t need to worry (check). 

I am amused reading back to an earlier post where I mentioned there were some basics that are good to have in place before trailer loading. Which one had I neglected?

The confined spaces one. 

😏

So here we are. I love to look at these steps like a creative puzzle to solve- how can I get her working toward what I want in a way that doesn’t force or cause her stress: we always keep the relationship as the center. 

It’s a puzzle for me to create a puzzle for her. As Buck would say- you sort of set it up for them and let them do it. 

2-part plan for getting her comfortable on the trailer:

#1 the hay hallway

We created a hay hallway to walk her through in the barn so she can begin to feel closed in but still have an escape route. She’s ok with that so far and we also back out of it without (too much) trouble. Eventually the hay hallway will be taller and closer in and then we will not walk all the way through but close the door and have her be ‘ok’ in the small space. 

#2 Feeding on the trailer 

I’m not into horses working for their food or using treats to train. Doesn’t mean I think no one should but it isn’t generally in line with what I am trying to do. 

That being said I starting looking creatively at how to get her comfortable on the trailer and decided in her case feeding her there might be a multi-prong solution. 

Most importantly food on the trailer has made getting on the trailer ‘her idea’. I will always believe this is best practice if you can find a way. 

Today I didn’t ask her to load at all. I put her food right inside the ‘box’ and she walked up and took a few bites. Then I asked her to back off the ramp and moved the food in a few inches. She was dying to get back up there. 

It was her idea. 

I let her come up and take a few more bites then backed her again. 

Moved the dish a few more inches. 

She came right up but now had to stretch a little more. She still was willing but it wasn’t as easy. 

Back up – once more. 

I put the bowl in the center. This means she really can’t reach it without two feet inside the box. 

I believed this was harder for her to accept but not too much pressure for her to work out. 

Then I got in the trailer and watched. 

It was fascinating to see her WANT to get on the trailer but feel like she wasn’t sure she could handle it. It put me in a different role- one that helped her instead of forcing. 

Now it was a puzzle that she could solve and I watched her work it out. 

Sometimes she came up and ate for about a minute or two. Then she’d back off – I always allowed her to back off but she would step right back to the edge. Her mind was in the trailer. 

At one point she started looking to the outside sides of the trailer – instead of not allowing it I watched her. She was right that the food was ‘right there’ but inside the box. She was sorting out the puzzle. 

No – there wasn’t a way to get the food from either side. 

After some exploration there I helped her out by showing her once again where the food was and she did come back up. 

Heart through the trailer window.

We were done when she finished the bowl.

Half way in was all she really could stand so I’ll take it today. 

She worked out the puzzle and faced her fears which became less important than breakfast each time. And she couldn’t be too stressed out while she was eating which leads to the other positives to this method in her case. 

Eating keeps her head lower while focused on the food bowl- lower head usually means lower adrenaline.  Also if she can eat while on it she can begin to relax and stay longer without realizing  she should panic. 

If I had to load her and force her on to save her life I could do it, but I don’t chose that as the way to get her willingly loading and working together with us. 

It’s amazing to me how quickly force can destroy a human-equine relationship with a lot of damage to repair over a long time. And by force- it depends on the horse to define it… each horse has a different threshold and it doesn’t take what humans consider abuse to be equine force. This is why learning to really read each horse is so important to me. 

I still miss a lot but it’s what makes the difference between success and struggle.


By the way Khaleesi is also being fed on the trailers ‘off’ side right now to make her able to load as easily on the left as the right. 

As for Susan’s solo ride, I am pretty confident that will be soon. Heart is frequently separated from the herd and is basically ok with Susan as her leader. One of these hand walks Susan will just hop on and feel right about it. 

As for the electric pen, there is a small strand in the field right now blocking their favorite corner. Mid month I plan to cross section the field in prep for spring grass and these should at least give her the chance to understand the e-fence. Next will be to set it up in the farm (safe zone) and introduce her as an enclosure and see how she does. Other mustang owners say this wasn’t an issue for them. The horses are so smart they tend to get it quickly and as long as they have food to munch are pretty content to be still and relax. I think we’ll be ok here too. 

On the trail she’s doing great. She’s willing and calm, relaxed and forward. We extend her ride each week and did about 6 miles Wednesday. We’ve been adding some trot intervals so by next month she should have no trouble doing a pretty flat 13 miles at walk-trot with a group of intro riders. 


So really it comes down to the trailer. I can’t know yet how she’ll progress. She tends to be willing and smart and learn quickly but this confinement is worrisome for her which isn’t as simple as being a quick learner.  

We will have to see. It will happen in its time- by the end of the month or not I can’t say!

Scoots 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Back to the details that keep us moving toward 100… which means 50 in just over a month. 

My size 3 scoot boots arrived last week and I believe they fit. They are just tight   enough to be snug but not to cause pressure or rubbing. 


I love the design. They are one piece with  the ‘anklet’ strap so there isn’t anything to come apart- no bottom shell to end up lost on the trail. No Velcro to collect dirt and mud or freeze.

They are the easiest I’ve used to put on and take off. 

I pull them off and drop them in a bucket of water while I untack and they seem to clean themselves – no scrubbing necessary. 

But do they stay on?

So far yes. 


I started with a couple mile waking ride with Susan and Heart and had no trouble.  

Susan and Wild Heart getting on trail and she’s doing great!

Then the stars finally aligned and we did a decent 13 mile ride with various footing, walk-trot-canter in intervals, crossed the Jackson River 3 times, encountered some deep sucking mud and 100% boot success: back and front. On her back feet I still have the renegades and they seem to be working. 

On the renegades I use a few layers of vet wrap to snug the boot in width just a touch and also give it a little grip that helps keep them from twisting in a canter or mud. –Thanks for the tip Lynne!

I heard the peanut gallery (Facebook hoof boot page) called my farrier, and taken matters (per his advice) into my own hands. I have been shortening her toes on all four encouraging her hoof shape to more round than elongated oval and it seems to be helping. 

I have no idea what he will say when he sees her feet 😳 But at the moment at least I can ride and my boots are working!


If the scoot boots continue to work on her fronts I’ll replace the back boots as well but they get expensive so we’re sticking with what we have at the moment as long as we don’t lose one!

This is the first riding since Khaleesi’s mystery lameness. The short walk was to be sure she was ok, then we did the 13 mile harder loop to test it. 


She had seemed fine by the weekend previous so if the ride lamed her again it would at least give me information to work with when my vet comes in February. 

Winter is flask season and K always curious asked to try some of the cinnamon apple whiskey… she insists she’s old enough 🙂

I also am still playing around with my saddle- rough hair puzzle. On the walk ride I didn’t use a pad at all. The Phoenix Rising has a sheepskin bottom and CAN be ridden without a pad. Her back was smooth and even after the walk. 

On the 13 mile I used the pad Phoenix Rising sells to match the saddles that I’d bought way back with my first PR for Faygo.
Day after she was sound and her back was perfect. I didn’t get much sweat out of her (she’s still I incredibly fit- even with the lack of ‘hard’ work this fall and winter) but no rough hairs, no sensitivity after the ride or the next day. Her legs felt tight and cool and she came to the gate to greet me hello which tells me she was also happy. 


I plan to get up to 20 miles or so in the next couple weeks. Thankfully winter agrees with Faygo and for a summer ‘off’ and only getting out once a week she too is doing well and was a good training partner for now. 

We don’t have impressive speed but that is not a concern with K for now- I know she has it in her when she needs it. 

If the weather cooperates I will try to get a ride in with a horse that will inspire her to get her moving.