What can I say?

Friday, September 1, 2017

I haven't written recently not because my mind is blank or because I haven't been active with my horses.

I just don't know what exactly to say.

So in discussion with the 4am voices in my head that often turn into a blog post all I could think was I might as well start with that.

I don't know what to say. I'm not sure where to begin.

Big South Fork is next week and I've been wavering about going. What is best for me, what is best for my horse?

On the scale is the crazy amount of work that presents itself at the beginning of a new school year… that I have a lot of music to learn… that it's a hard time for me to put in added expense (especially with the mileage there and back – a long haul)… there's still the fact that I don't have reliable back boots (still waiting since June on the Scoot folks to release the slims)… I'm rebuilding my horse from the inside out and ground up- literally– this summer… and I just went through another mind-blowing clinic that has my head still reeling about how to proceed with my horses that could take a little time for me to settle into.

But trail miles are a positive thing for both me and her. Our partnership has been formed around competing (I use that term loosely) in endurance rides and she likes it. She understands the trail. We have a great job! And as long as it's possible while rebuilding we need to keep working together. On the trails and in endurance!

As long as it's possible.

Yesterday when doing some arena work she was off at the trot on the grass. It's hoof sensitivity from the massive changes that are in progress. She may be starting an abscess… either way.

Decision made easy.

She may be ok in boots and pads- I would trail ride her that way around here bailing out and going home if she presented issues- but I'm not hauling her to TN compromised. Not even a question.

No BSF for us this year.

When I consider the decision I'd been wavering with I found some interesting self-reflection about myself.

I consider myself one who doesn't care about what others think of me. I try to decide what is right and move forward and if others don't understand that is not
my business .

But this decision was harder for me because I felt this imagined pressure to get out there and ride my horse (in events). No one is doing this to me. It's the voices in my head.

I have a mare whose gone through a successful season of 50 mile rides. We even attempted a 100… what happened? What on Earth am I doing? I imagine it looks from the outside I've gone off course.

I can understand how someone might ask:

She had things working and now they're falling apart… where did she go wrong? Why couldn't she just stick with what was working?

Thing is it was working …. kind of… but I knew we were capable of better. I have this vision of what I want my endurance horse to look like and the direction I was going wasn't improving it was weakening.

I believe the directions I'm headed will build a better horse and a better team, however, it turns out in the re-building stage sometimes fixing problems for the future costs something from the present.

I find myself in the 4am conversations hearing my gut say: You're on the right track. You know it deep down. Have faith and stay the course.

It will be worth it in the end.

I'm thrilled with the improvements coming from changing to a Balance Saddle. I didn't have any issues with my Phoenix Rising saddle. It fit her, not a touch of back soreness, gave support yet ability to move and I would highly recommend one as a consideration to anyone searching. I will probably always keep one on hand because it's a fabulous saddle. However when I heard about the concept of constructive saddling vs. traditional saddles it struck a chord with me.

The muscling that's developed in just a month of riding in this saddle is astounding to me. Also- she wasn't exactly difficult to saddle before but she is a dream now. She stands relaxed and calm and I can saddle her with the rope draped around my arm loosely and she won't move a hoof. She loves it.

This decision to go from acceptable to inspiring is a small view of what I envision is possible with this mare if I provide her with optimum instead of adequate.

There's a saying: if it ain't broke… but what if all I ever knew was slightly substandard… would I even recognize broke?

I also made a nutrition switch that I've been publicly quiet about. I took her off any grain, pellet or balancer as of end of April. I have her on forage of course which in VA I am blessed with in spades – and she gets coolstance and some free choice minerals to supplement her that can be mixed in food but I find she eats it free choice as she needs. I took this advice from some people who have a long history of incredibly healthy horses that look fantastic and are high level performing… over many years.

I am watching carefully to see the affects- and after 4 months her coat and hair look the best I've seen and after years of my farrier letting me know that her hooves grow slowly on the scale of his experience (even with a year of extra biotin supplementing) – her hooves have been growing faster this summer (also since I pulled her shoes) than I've ever seen. So far I like what I see overall.

As for her feet- that's my biggest hang up in the process. I've had a trusted second opinion say that the trim from my hoof school day is well on its way to better hoof health but it isn't there yet. These changes take time as the hoof gets shaped and regrows. This is one reason I had to take the best part of riding season to do this- it's when the hoof is really growing.

It's taken a couple months to get here and there's still a ways to go- but now that I'm becoming more educated about what the angles mean and what that does gradually over a lifetime of stress on the suspensory system in the legs it's important to me to get this sorted out now and as quickly as she can handle so we can have a long career without issues ten year from now over it.

Endurance has definitely helped educate me about the feet, shape, angles etc because it is so important to that community over so many miles. Many endurance riders I know do a lot of their own hoof care because they know so much about it from having to!

Meanwhile to get these changes moving quickly I have been getting as much as I can done without crippling her and then continuing the process so she has some sensitivity on and off – it is in the hooves.

She's just not ready yet and was perfectly clear about it to me.

On another note I am inspired after the weekend clinic to continue to improve my communication and relationship. What I noticed is that she fills in for me. She helps me out a lot. But as I'm working on myself and getting better- she is starting to demand I take on more and she fills in less.

It's been fascinating to watch that shift and it's wonderful and a little scary at the same time. My horse is asking me to step up my game. She deserves a better and more knowledgeable leader so I'm doing my best to take on the challenge.

The horses are the best teachers.

It's caused me to rethink some of the things I do or the way I do them and that is tiring and time consuming in itself.

That is my part of the re-building process. Exciting and exhausting!

So as for Big South Fork… it's sadly just not going to happen this year.

Endurance riding is our work together and horses need and love to have a job. I'm not backing away from the sport I love and am challenged by. I'm not going to disappear into a fenced in green arena obsessively building 10m circles and working on better side passes…


I'll be back as soon as this re-building process allows and hopefully that means Fort Valley in October.

Some of the non-physical things I'm learning and working are getting more difficult to talk about in this kind of setting… and quite honestly some of it I just don't understand well enough to even try.

But I'm still here and I'll keep you updated best I can as the journey which I wondered last spring if a chapter might be closing (attempting my first 100) is actually in many ways barely begun.

I'm just beginning to understand- just beginning to glimpse what it's all about.

The headline photo at the top of the post was taken after I'd spent 45 minutes in the field communicating with K in a way I hadn't taken the time to previously doing a couple very simple things (including approach and halter). When I walked away she followed at a distance shaking her head occasionally and watching me. She stood there a good while before walking off to eat. It was the way she watched me that day that caught me as different. I lightened the photo below to make it a little easier to see her posture, ears and eyes….

Hoof school

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Last Blog was the cliffhanger that I'd be taking a day-long workshop on hooves in order to better educate myself.

Ok cliffhanger is a little over dramatized 🙂


For any new readers jumping in here I'll do a hoof synopsis:

my weak link at the moment is Khaleesi's feet. They've always seemed sensitive on rocky surfaces (yes- most horses will be sensitive on rocky surfaces, but she is more sensitive than any horse I've had experience with or ridden with). Boots didn't stay on reliably so I moved into shoes. That seemed to improve things then she became sensitive with shoes. We moved to shoes and pads… this seemed to help a while- then this spring the two of us 'turtled' through a rocky ride coming in second to last and picking a snail's pace through everything rocky. I had this feeling it wasn't right. The next ride she actually lost a shoe just a few miles in and I decided to go with my gut.

Start over.

I needed a whole new approach to her feet.

I pulled the shoes first fronts then hinds later in June.

Cranial Sacral Therapist suggested her nutrition was off because her hind gut wasn't functioning- add probiotics so her body can use the nutrition she's getting.

Now at 6 weeks of probiotics her mane and coat are looking healthier and I believe her feet are starting to improve as well.

Meanwhile she's been barefoot and my Scoot Boots seem to be reliable- last weekend they did well through a pretty grueling 26 mile ride.


Keeping her barefoot meant I could constantly work on the toes and not have to grow out a shoeing cycle then cut back all at once. What I needed to see (as my vet had mentioned late winter) was better quality hoof and more directed growth – not long in the toe but more underneath to support her. Like sculpting a bush or tree: it works better if you can do it over time and help train the growth gradually- trimming the hoof can help encourage more new growth as well. There is also more blood getting through to the hoof without shoes and that can't hurt the entire process of rebuilding.

I filed on her feet regularly- small changes- to get a more supportive angle over time.

I also began asking around to see if there were any good barefoot trimmers who could help me.

I got a suggestion from Sherry in WV (endurance rider vet friend) for someone she trusts who does mentoring. She would come and do an education day so I could learn do more myself in between.

Perfect.

It took a little time to work out a date and details but this week I finally held a mini hoof school at the barn!

A member of the AHA (American Hoof Association) education committee and a mentor through the Pacific Hoof Care Practitioners group- she spent 8 hours at the barn the first part classroom style complete with freeze dried bisected hoofs (more than one) and bones to show how the structures and suspensory apparatuses operate.

After a break we went to work and she did a trim on Khaleesi while we talked over what I had been doing, what worked and what still needed to be done. Kelly had mentioned on Sunday- her toes were looking pretty good but her heels needed to be brought back underneath her more.

This was exactly the case. I learned some fixed points to look for to understand the heels better and to know if they are even without just trying to eyeball. Her toes also came back a little more after measuring the hoof looking for 50/50 balance on either side of the line marking the widest part of the hoof with a tool- we marked her hoof up with red sharpie to be able to understand from the outside what was going on the inside.

She thought the shape of her hoof was pretty good especially when trimmed to balance where the widest part of the hoof falls- and her soles were not too flat either. Khaleesi has decent concavity as well. She cleaned out only what was dead taking no live sole, and did some minor sculpting that would distribute the pressure on the parts that are best suited to share the weight load.

Overall she thought her hooves were going to be fine and we went over what I needed to look for and do to maintain them myself.

Then we worked on a barn horse that had some other issues that had evolved over time and learned a lot from her talking through how she helped him with the trim become more comfortable in his whole body.

What I loved seeing the most was when she would make a change and set the hoof down- she'd watch the horse to see how they rebalanced, how they reacted (often sighing or licking and chewing) and then sometimes she'd move to a different hoof to come back and see how something in the soft tissue was able to drop back to level with the other side or even allow the bone structure to adjust a small amount before continuing to work in small degrees on the hoof.

She seemed to be listening to the horse as she went.


Khaleesi looking super relaxed as her feet were worked on.

After those two learning examples I brought in Wild Heart for me to trim with her guidance.

It wasn't exactly a walk in the park, but it was a success and I learned a lot more having to do it myself.

Heart for the most part was willing and patient but I was slow and clumsy with tools. Sometimes she'd jump in and finish something up so it would go quicker and was always patient, kind and supportive while saying: this isn't exactly the best horse to learn these skills on… she won't be so patient with you!

Yep. That I know. But Wild Heart is the horse I have to be able to work on… so I did my best- and the mare did well with the process.

Heart didn't seem to mind this stranger helping out. And the one time she got antsy and began to refuse to cooperate we seemed to simultaneously realize she may need a break and walked her outside.

Yes. She peed.

And returned to the barn calm and relaxed to finish up like a whole new horse.

So is this barefoot direction going to 'work'?

Time will tell.

Neither the trimmer nor I am anti-shoe. Please don't take this post the wrong way. Every horse, handler, rider has a path for many reasons and I have no idea today if I'll ever put shoes on Khaleesi again. I know better than to rule anything out completely!

Right now this is what my horse needs.

I love seeing her feet doing so well right now. So I'll follow it along as the road twists and turns and hopefully learn as much as possible in each step.

Knowledge is never a waste of time and I will do my best to sort out what works from what doesn't.

Physical.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mental building is important but to get to 100 so is physical building… which includes hoof care, nutrition and riding. My miles have been unimpressive this summer.

Most weeks I've gotten in a 12-15 mi ride and true, any ride around here isn't a walk in the park, but I am hoping to get through the Big South Fork 50 in September and the mare needs to be stretched a little more to truly be ready for that.

The rides I have done were more social than training (though our social rides still move along pretty good) and also I'd actively looked for decent footing trails as her hooves are still in rebuild transition mode and I really didn't need to tear them down while I'm trying to build them up.

Now I needed to put it all to the test. See where we stood.

I asked around to see if anyone was due for a good ride and Kelly (who is also my vet) was planning a mileage ride Sunday- so I dropped her a line to see if she wanted company.

Turns out she welcomed us to join however the location is about a 90 minute drive for me (minimum) and they had a start time of 7am to be done early enough for another rider who had later in the day plans.

The ride was 20+ miles.

That means leaving the barn by 5:30… which means if I am ready to pull out the night before at best arriving at barn at 5am to pull a horse out of the field in the still dark morning… meaning out of bed at 4:30….

No problem. I'm in.

The ride is exactly what I'd needed for K. And I was so grateful not to have to ride 26 miles up here alone that I was willing to go it in the dark to have the company!

I showed up for a tough 26 mile ride with hoof boots in tow. I was practically holding my breath as I said.

I'm crossing my fingers — SO for these have been staying on but they haven't had a test quite like this…

The last thing I wanted to do was ruin a training ride for Kelly with constant boot drama. As it was we were tagging along with Hope- a tested 100 mile horse heading to another 100 in Maine in the next couple of weeks. We were with the big kids now.

Even more present in my mind was the fact that though my front boots were going A+ strong the hind boots didn't fit so great. (As of now I'm still waiting on the narrow boots to release.) She has narrow feet to begin with- and right in the middle of growing out nail holes so even more so.

The last ride was about 13 miles of varied terrain and with the exception of a hind boot twisting completely in a dry creek rock pile early on they stayed put the whole ride through walk-trot-canter.

The other hoof question is potential sensitivity. Will she move through the rocks? Up till now I've avoided rocky rides to allow her to build some callous- I prayed she wouldn't hold Hope up too badly.

Worst case scenario. I'd brought my gps. We could separate if we had to- she could go on and me home if it got too unbearable.

This was also the longest ride for my Balance saddle (if you're curious about constructive saddling do check out their webpage… tons of fascinating information!!)

I have my best go at the pad and shims. The sweat patterns are perfect, the saddle isn't falling onto her withers or spine, she's moving great- I'm actually super comfortable now that I'm used to it. However there is an occasional slight tweak around the loins that I can't decide is just a funny-bone type spot of if there's a little pressure.

She is not at all sensitive to pressing on it- but in running something down her back she'll twitch just a little… then sometimes if I do it over a couple times she won't… like it was more unexpected than painful.

The saddle is much more stable than I'd thought it would be and through the serious climbs (I believe at least 2,000 feet of elevation change- much more if you go by the GPS cumulative ups and downs – closer to 4,000 feet!!) I didn't have any shifting either forward or backward. That being said I'm still LOVING my Two Horse Tack breast collar (I just can't say breastplate… that sounds like a piece of war armor!) it's easy to attach, stays in place nicely, is great weight and thickness (not too thick). It still looks new and just needs a wipe down to stay that way (love love love biothane!). I thought I wouldn't like the English style with the extra strap on top of the neck- but I found I do like it.

We had a fabulous ride and the two mares even seemed to get along (for my horse that's saying something- she has a lot of confidence and can be intolerant of any horse not respecting her space bubble).

Hope is a move down the trail horse and most of the ride she set the pace. Occasionally we'd fall a little behind on some of the tough rocky climbs and I allowed her to do what she needed to manage the footing without hurting herself and we'd catch up on a trot when the trail allowed. Much of the ride they paced nicely- especially the flatter river sections.

One of my favorite things about this mare is she will take care of herself and doesn't care too much about the other horses. She picked her way through rocky sections never getting worried even as Hope and Kelly got out of sight. There were a few times K wanted more time at a river crossing to cool her legs and feet, a few times she stopped longer at a drinking hole, and a few times she wanted a couple extra bites of grass.

Hope was impatient and ready to move so we just went with it- like in my blog The Work on Rider Etiquette I practiced what I believe as I told Kelly to let Hope go ahead- Khaleesi will do what she needs and we'll catch up. It is great training for K to focus on herself regardless of what the other horse was doing. That is important someday- riders will ride off while your horse is drinking… and other riders may be going to fast for my horse's best ride. And in 6+ hours – a little time 'alone' on the trail is really ok!

The front boots were once again A+ not one problem. Yeah Scoot!!

The hind boots hung in there pretty well. I had to stop once in the 26 miles for each hind boot (so twice altogether). This included the 2 mile canter up the fire road at the tail end of the ride with no issues!

And I was impressed at how well she took on that canter around mile 22 of a tough ride!!

She was forward till the end and looked great at the trailer. She munched on grass and hydrated hay pellets with a little coolstance in water while I rubbed and poulticed her legs.

Next day her legs were tight and cool and I did a trot out video for myself barefoot on the pavement. Certainly would pass a vet check!

Maybe upon close inspection a slight mis-step here and there but from where we've been it's a great success! Her feet are not tender right now and I think finally getting to the shape they can better support her body and movement and I've taken the advice I read in various ScootBoot Blogs to hand walk her on a 'tarred surface' for a few minutes a day. Thankfully the driveway is paved and I make an effort to hand walk her every day I can out there barefoot. This is supposed to help develop sole calluses and toughen the hoof. I've also been told it's good for her ligaments and tendons.

I've also taken the advice of a couple farriers I've talked to to try pine tar. It is supposed to condition and help harden the sole. I only use it on the sole. I've used it about 4 times in two weeks with 2 of those being before and after the 26 mile ride.

The biggest factor I believe for her has been the probiotic regime the CST recommended. If her guts aren't working properly the nutrition just is not getting to the hoof (or hair or teeth etc). She's been on regular probiotics for about a month and I believe it's making a difference. Sandy (CST) said in her opinion within 45 days I should see changes for the better in those hooves and I believe her mane – which has always been a little dried and brittle is feeling softer and healthier already as well.

I also think her muscling and body looks great right now and her coat is shinier even though I'm not a grooming fanatic.

So this is the physical building and her feet for those asking!

I'm taking a class on 'reading the hoof' and will finally get an expert barefoot trimmer to look at what I've been doing the past 2 months and help me learn how to better care for and shape her feet!!

THAT will another blog entirely… soon!

PS: if you're looking for tack- two horse tack has a discount if you sign up for their newsletter!! Here's the link:

Two horse tack newsletter coupon

The land of unicorns

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

I’m just back from Scotland which I learned adopted the unicorn as its national animal in the 1300s. Apparently much of the Western world believed them to be real until ‘disproven’ in the 1800s. (We all laugh at this now but we are more civilized and modern than that… of course they are real!)

What I loved was the reason the unicorn was so important to the Scots: first it was said to be the only real enemy to the lion which was the adopted symbol of England (and everyone knows the Scots have little love for England). 


Even more importantly the unicorn was known to use its power to protect and provide resources for the other animals. The horn was known to be an antidote to most poisons and the legend has it a snake would cause trouble poisoning local water sources but the unicorn would dip her horn into the water and purify it again. 

One thing I noticed was the unicorn was always depicted in chains to a royal neck ring. While there isn’t one answer to why that is today- I speculate that all men want to tame the untameable and because men ruled for so long (yes, there is the occasional queen but men still had the power) they wanted to show symbolically their ability to rule. I think the pure virgins whom it was said the unicorns would submit to and become tame would have depicted them free and allow the unicorns to chose to serve the good humans with their powers. 

Either way, the unicorn is always depicted as a creature of nobility and purity. 🦄

While I had a fantastic trip back in history, visited the home of Sir Walter Scott and even met the Duke and Dutchess of Sutherland and was given a private tour of their home and gardens bordering the Tweed River, it was nice to come home to my own unicorns. 


Don’t tell anyone else though, we try to keep them on the down low!

Upon arriving home it was like Christmas in July… and it’s not even my birthday yet!

My new (used) Balance saddle had arrived with mohair girth and a Mattes shim pad I found for a great deal on eBay. 



You can see the build of this saddle really leaves room for the horse to move!



Coincidentally I’ve been contacted by both Scoot Boot folks in AU and Jackie from Two Horse tack about trying some products and I am geared up with my Scoot program which I’m hoping will give me a better ‘hoof up’ in trying for barefoot again as well as a timely new English style breastplate for my new saddle!



So it was wonderful to reconnect with my horse buddies (human and equine) and get a short re-entry ride in. 

I’m embarking on some exciting adjustments that have been in planning stages for a while now including the Balance saddle and trying the Scoot products that so far have stayed on 100% (when used as suggested!) to see if Khaleesi might do better barefoot. 

For the saddle, I’ll be having Dee Janelle from Simple Equine Teaching help me tweak the pad set up and my riding balance and abilities next month. Meanwhile I’ll be experiementing on my own to see what works and how I feel. 

I also connected with endurance rider Traci Falcone who rides in Balance and rope halter or neck string (depending on the horse) for some advice from her experiences. 

When I saw this picture of her going over cougar rock I was so inspired. She seems to be doing what few riders are able to do – and I hope to be able to someday! I contacted the folks at Balance and asked if they would contact her and if she would be open to me picking her brain. Generously she did respond and gave me some ideas to work with.  (Photo credit Hughes Photography)


For my first ride in the Felix GPJ I have to say I was very comfortable and had no sliping or shifting at all in any direction. The saddle helps encourage me into a position that gets my pelvis/sacrum underneath me (as opposed to a hollow back) and will allow my horse to round her back as well- and with a saddle that won’t inhibit that lift and development of muscles. 


It is different though and like anything takes some getting used to. Riding that way did make my back a little tired though not sore. I believe I’ll get stronger and more accustomed to it – and so will she. 

I didn’t have the time to both check the fit of my new Scoot pads and glue them in (24 hour cure period) so I rode with just the boots and she was fine but we took the rocky trail and I still think she’s a little slow on rocks. However she was not much better in shoes and pads so I don’t think this program so far is any worse than the shoes were. 


One thing I noticed: her feet are beginning to look harder and get some callousing around the edges. It seems they are growing faster- I know change of season affects that but she’s generally not grown hoof very fast in the past even in summer so I think it’s improving. 


Between her diet change (no more filler grains or GMO products, she’s on California Trace and Bug Check Field Formula for minerals) and going barefoot for a month on her fronts I think she’s growing some nice hoof and starting to harden up. 


They aren’t pretty, but it’s definitely improving! Her back shoes are still on but will come off soon. I will be curious to see how they look under the shoes and pads in comparison. 

Tomorrow we have a visit with a cranial sacral practitioner for all the mares. She comes very highly recommended and I am curious to see what she finds in each horse and if she gives me anything to work with that makes a difference. 

Of course I’ll keep you posted!

A few more unicorn spottings…






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.

Refined through the fire. 

April 26, 2017

Where to begin?

There’s been a lag in my blogging because I’ve been too busy doing to catch up with writing.
Let me try to sum it up.

Since my last blog post:

  • my mother came to visit.
  • We hosted a two-day private horsemanship type clinic together with friends (horsemanship seems the closest tag… it was about everything from riding to energy work to nutrition to training to equine communication to life lessons… all jam packed into two intense days).
  • My mom spent some time with fabulous Faygo as the plan is to send her to Reno this summer.
  • Then after dropping the clinician and my mom at the airport I came home and packed and left for the No Frills 55 which we rode on Saturday.
  • With a day to unpack and recover I’ve spent two days digging out of that hole from work duties and teaching my violin students.

Now to update my blog as best I can considering how much material I have and how little time and space I have to write this week.

First mom’s visit.


I am so grateful for the time we had together to share horsey-life. We got some beautiful riding in my favorite spots including Hidden Valley and The Big Lonely. 


She and Faygo had fantastic connection right from the start- and there must be horses somewhere in our blood because for starting later in life even than I have- she has great intuition and a great connection to them. I felt they were well matched right away and as the week went on even more strongly so. By the time she left I wished she could put Faygo on the plane with her and take her sooner. When people ask “are you sad for her to go” I can only say:

No! not even a little. Of course I’ll miss her- she’s an amazing horse and my first love… but when you see something so right and the situation so great for her, that is the only thing that really matters. It makes my heart happy to know she’ll be with my mom and Shine.


Second the clinic.

I can’t even begin. Life changing is an understatement so I’ll start by saying that it was a special time with women who are very important in my life and horses that connect us all. 


Dee from Simple Equine Teaching guides the humans to be able to think like a horse does because horses cannot think like a human. Seems easy enough- but my experience is that most people who try to see the world from the horse’s perspective mostly end up thinking “as if the horse thought like a human” and that’s where things go wrong. In order to see from the horse’s perspective first you have to notice how they communicate and enter that space. No matter what it sounds like from the outside- I’ve seen it. I’ve seen things change. Seeing is believing for me.
It’s the kind of clinic that even though looking back the least amount of time was probably spent with me and Khaleesi within the total group, I learned a ton from being part of everyone else’s process.
I don’t just want to know how to connect with my horse- I want to learn how horses think and communicate period- so watching very basic things between my mom and Faygo… and standing at the top of a very large field while Carrington learned to connect to her lead horse in a herd was invaluable for me. I learned much about working with Wild Heart and what that process will continue to look like and how Susan and I compliment each other with her… and had a blast with the time I did spend with Khaleesi.

Spending some time with the girls at the Big Lonely before the clinic.

The funniest must be when I went to collect my horse from the home field on day one- she would be transported to The Big Lonely (site of the clinic) after working with Wild Heart. My fantastic horse that comes to me and puts her head in the rope halter 95% of the time knew Dee was there and put on quite a spectacular show! 

As I stood inside the barn with the thought to collect her while they were wrapping up with Heart I got this welling up in my heart: I’m going to get my horse now… my friend… my sidekick… my second in command…

I kid you not: as I stood up in the barn hardly able to contain my excitement and anticipation to work with my partner I looked out the barn window and watched as she went from standing in the closest corner watching the barn to a full gallop down the fenceline to the farthest point of the field. Doubt if you want to but it was as obvious to me as the fact that the sun will rise tomorrow: she felt my energy and ran with it.

I went out to the field and she came barreling back toward the gate. It had been raining on and off and the field was soggy. She showed off her full acrobatic repertoire. Bucking, rearing, jumping and running with sliding muddy stops. At one point before I stepped inside the field she did just the right amount of twist to send a shower of mud particles cartoon-like in their perfection showering right on top of me.

Brava! Yes… you are fantastic… I’m coming in to get you now…

Yes. She dared me. Come in to get me! WHEEEEEEEEEE!

If she truly wanted to evade she had acres of field to leave me for but instead she played with me and danced showing off her skills and then standing still enough for me to get close, offer a hand then twist and buck and run off again.
K: You need to up your game today! Dee is here… I know it!
Me: Show off. Come in and work with me. I promise it will be fun!
K: I will… but you have to say the secret code first!
Me: Come on… you know I don’t know the secret code.
K: I know… but Dee does! You might figure it out here… I’ll give you clues. 

True enough Dee finally came outside as the game went on and laughed: I love this mare… she is having so much fun with you!

After a couple suggestions revealing her equine code of the day, true to her word K stood still and dipped her head into the halter and we left the field together and into the trailer heading for the Big Lonely as if nothing was different than usual. She wasn’t worked up or hot or distracted- she had her fun and was mine again. 

 As the rain kept coming on and off we rode in the indoor arena there and talked about diagonals and signals of riding that are just a little different than the things I’ve heard around me for years.

I brought up my experimentation with riding in the halter and she thought a moment before suggesting that it’s ok with the right equipment but not ideal… what we need to set our sights on is to ride in a neck rope. After all when doing 50 – 100 miles on the trail, getting everything off her face would be best. 

Not today…. But we’ll get there.

Of course we will. I have no doubt.

The No Frills 55.

Becky Pearman Photography

After dropping my mom and Dee at the airport Friday morning and not being sure my truck was ready at the shop I was completely unsure if I’d be attending my favorite ride this year. I have been learning that all of life is beyond my control and that it is OK. I am learning the strength in flexibility and how to pay more attention to the doors that open around me. If my truck wasn’t running it didn’t matter how ready my horse was- the No Frills wouldn’t happen for us this year.

But my truck did get finished thanks Jay Ford and Casey and team and then I truly did have to make the call: do I go or not go?

I was mentally and emotionally exhausted and hadn’t had much time at home. I had plenty to catch up on. This 55 on the other hand was a true test of green to 100’s current conditioning program and her feet. It was my last chance until June to see if we were on the right track. After a brief discussion with Ed (who was working over the weekend anyway) I decided to go.

I packed in an hour, loaded my horse and hit the road. I didn’t put my usual ton of thought or preparation. I threw some things into a cooler, a bag and a few plastic bins. As long as I had horse and saddle I should be fine. The biggest things I forgot were: sleeping bag, GPS and heart rate monitor. I was able to borrow a blanket from great friends Amy and Ricky and Amy even leant me a HRM but I couldn’t make it work. Didn’t matter. This ride there was no data- and that was for the best.

I woke up at 4:30am in my trailer hammock to pouring rain and figured I’d made the wrong call. I should have stayed home. Too late. I’m here, I drove. I paid. I’m riding.
Thankfully the Muddy Creek Rain Coat Ed got me a couple birthdays ago created a climate bubble. I was never cold and never wet. In fact it ended up being quite a pleasant ride despite the high of 48 and cold rain. 

Misty cold rain held all day- yep. Rocks here too

The weather was ever in Khaleesi’s favor. It kept her cool through a very tough ride, and it softened up some of the hard pack easing some of the concussion of 55 miles.

I went out of camp last knowing the only way we would make it through sound was to let her pick her way through the rocky trail at her pace. I had no way of knowing our average speed thank God because it seemed too slow to finish, but I didn’t care. My horse came first and I would not make the same mistake I made at 2016 Iron Mountain. I would listen to her and allow her to navigate as she was able. If we went overtime so be it. This time I would listen. I would make it up to her. I would be better.

We met up with Roger in the first loop and the two of us never left the last positions for the entire 11 hours we were out on trail. Khaleesi crept through the rocks and trotted whenever she could. We didn’t hurry and we didn’t tarry. By the last vet check we were alone after about 10 minutes into our hold while the volunteers began cleaning up- no one was even close to our last places in line. Didn’t matter- my horse looked amazing.

Final vet check before the finish at mile 43

The final 10 miles to camp we rode alone and the footing was normally hard pack but the relentless 10 hours of rain had softened it up just enough and she trotted and cantered that stretch like we’d just left the barn. 

The road follows a stream; she dragged me in a few times to drink her fill and she would pick at the lush early grasses from time to time but overall she ran home with energy to spare.

We all but cantered excitedly down into the final vetting in camp and once I pulled her tack she pulsed at 60 then had a cardiac recovery of 48 bpm. Fantastic! I’ve never seen her look so good after a ride and her feet held without a sign of lameness.


What a good lesson for me. The No Frills is hands down one of the toughest rides for both the 30 and the 55- thankfully in April we never had the heat & humidity the June OD ride does, and the June ride has more elevation gain to worry about, but this ride has the worst rocks of all three and intense relentless trails.

Looking good back at camp

As Roger reminded me: You close your eyes at night and see rocks after this ride. Grass & rocks, mud & rocks, big rocks and small rocks; embedded trail rocks and loose gullies of rocks. Rocks everywhere you turn.

Rock trail

Something else Roger said that gave me a smile. He said Khaleesi moves so beautifully- like she floats down the trail but you can see her put that hind end motor underneath herself with great power. That’s what I want. Power and ease.

I have a long way to go as a rider to help make her job as easy as possible, but I have come such a long way from my first LD on her with my legs flying around and being tossed into the air feeling like I’d gone through a washing machine for 30 miles. 

Overall this past year has been a challenging one on many levels. Often uncomfortable, but it’s the challenges that up your game and make you better if you let them. It’s the fire that refines. 

With many lessons sloshing around the think tank I will enjoy a moment of positive growth. Here after this 55 I think we both looked and felt the best after a big ride yet! I am refreshed from some time with my amazing mom, and my horse and I  are on the right track and have many more years and miles to tweak and improve. 

Becky Pearman Photography

Time. Truth. Heart.

The road to Blackwater 

Friday, March 3, 2017

All systems are go so we plan to hit the road in the morning. 

My farrier came Wednesday to put the shoe back on- turns out his schedule changed and he showed up while I was at work instead of later in the evening as we’d planned.

This always makes me a little nervous because Khaleesi doesn’t really trust him 😙.  The mare that walks right up to me in the field becomes a running, herding evader when he comes to get her. I can just hear her:

No way- my mom isn’t here so what do you think you’re doing?? Are you sure this is ok… HELP!! I’M BEING HORSE-NAPPED!!! Someone… anyone!! I am NOT going with you!!! STRANGER-DANGER!!


Luckily the farm manager was also there and though he said it wasn’t exactly easy- he was miraculously able to get a halter on her and bring her in. He wins her over in the barn from time to time as he walks by, gives her a rub and asks ‘how you doing you hateful thing you?’

Thankfully the shoe went on without a hitch and the exact text quote I got from my farrier after I asked how it went was:

When she took off running she looked good…

😙

Took a short easy ride Friday with Wild Heart to be sure she stays sound carrying a rider, and so far so good!

​​​​​​

​​Now for ride prep.

First I print off my checklist. 


The weather dictates a lot of the plan. 

It will be cold night/morning (low of 27) and warm in the day (high of 50). I plan to do a slight trace clip just of her neck and chest but not too invasive. I will also bring a fleece and sheet to keep her comfortable at night.

Always amazes me how good she stands to be clipped on her neck and chest when sometimes she nips and fidgets with too much brushing and grooming.
I will steal a concept from a blog I recently read (and loved- you can see it here if you’re interested: 20 Mule Team 100). She said when you’re prepping for a ride:

You just can’t think about these things too hard… to be clear, you obsess, pack and re-pack, and continually go over all the details in your head and never stop thinking about it while not really acknowledging that you’re about to do something that half way terrifies you (ok, she was doing her first 100 and I’m heading into our 4th 50 so I’m not exactly terrified but you never know what will happen so it’s always a little of the unknown…) you just do it. I call it winging it while being as overprepared as possible. 

I love that phrase: winging it while as overprepared as possible. That is exactly how I feel each ride. And I try not to visualize getting up in the dark while it’s 27 degrees to make coffee and start getting ready for 50 miles underfoot and 8-10 hours in the saddle. 

Thankfully my friend and gym trainer loaned me a tent heater so at least we’ll be toasty as long as we are inside the box!

And I’ll say a prayer of gratitude that no rain is predicted and the winds should be minimal. Nothing really is as bad as being wet!

I’ve read a few blogs and reports from fellow riders who have begun their seasons and have been taking notes of their experiences. The two biggest ones seem to be: not using a rump rug on a cold morning start and not electolying enough early enough (as cooler temps didn’t seem to call for it). 

Love the lightweight fleece and she looks so good in it!

I will keep her fleece sheet as long as possible since I gave her a trace clip and to keep those joints warm. Finally I’ll use my (still in the package) rump rug for this start. We’ve never really needed it before but this will be the earliest (in the season) ride for us so time to bust it out. 

My plan is to electrolyte early and regularly even if it’s cool. 

Susan Garlinghouse once wrote: the feeding you do Thursday becomes the fuel for the ride Saturday. So… I’ve been fueling up Thursday and Friday with spaced out meals of senior feed, beet pulp and all our antioxidants and minerals as well- making sure not to forget the salt so she’s encouraged to keep hydrated before we load up. 

I’m tossing plenty of hay twice a day and opened up an extra section of baby grass pasture they’ve been blocked out of a few weeks. 

The first event of the season always takes me longer to sort out my gear, but each year it’s a little less mayhem and nerves of forgetting that essential item- whatever it may be. 

I’ve never had a disaster of gear/packing yet, and as I told ed: I’m getting to feel part of the endurance family and they’ve always got your back in case of emergency. 

I am excited this ride to have Iva (a horse crazy teenage violin student who has come up to ride with me on occasion) as my company and crew. I know I can do this on my own but it’s always nice to have help. Bonus, she’s fun and I enjoy spending time with her! It’s great borrowing other people’s kids… 

Iva and me on a ride a few weeks ago

I suppose now I’m just stalling. There are snow flurries out there and it’s gusty. Not the kind of day I enjoy spending hours in the barn packing up, but it’s what we do!