Part of your world

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Friend via email: Can you ride Friday?

Actual reply: No, sorry… I have some meetings and rehearsals and can’t get away- you guys have a great time and thanks for thinking of me!

Inside voice:if I were free I’d have had to say the slightly crazy other half of the reply ‘well I’m not exactly riding right now; I have some work to do in the field… um yeah… no…. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to come’


I’ve been wondering for a while now what is going on between me and Khaleesi. Sometimes pretty good and sometimes just passable- I just have a nagging sense our relationship could be better.

I can always catch her in the field, I can get her on the trailer reliably, I enjoy our rides (we’re not in arguments), she is sensitive to my energy so I’m not having to pull or push on her- she’s a pretty light horse overall, and it’s been a fairly long time (over a year plus) since she’s kicked a horse while I’ve been on her (yes, for a super opinionated and bossy mare this has been something I’ve had to put effort into!)

Yet…. there’s room for improvement.

She doesn’t come running to put her head in the halter when I come to get her.

She isn’t calm and relaxed when I groom her despite the things I’ve tried to pay attention to: like which hand I use or how I’m approaching her or if the softer or harder brush is preferred.

She still occasionally has ‘ugly ears’ to the perfectly nice horses we ride along with. Sure- she isn’t kicking them and I don’t allow her to cut them off, but if she were more tuned in to me would she be more willing to go where I ask at the speed I ask and sometimes to share the trail… without feeling the need to be sure the other horses know how she feels about them?

She will load reliably on the trailer, but she doesn’t do it because she wants to and makes that clear. She does it because she knows in the end I will insist so might as well get on. (And no. Every time I load her does not mean hard work. Sometimes I load her and don’t go anywhere. And there’s a ride very close to home that is pretty easy where we drive a mile and ride home she seems to like that we sometimes do.).

See it’s not about the trailer. It’s not about learning how to approach better in the field. Its not the other horses. It’s not the brush.

It’s me.

As much as that may sound terrible to some- to me it’s a good thing. Because that’s all I can really work on anyway. So this means the issue (if one can call it that since we probably look pretty successful on a surface level) is one I can do something about.

It was actually trailer loading recently (with nowhere to go that day so I had plenty of time) that gave me some insight.

I’ve been working on my mental fitness with my horses and overall in my life for well over a year now. Many things are improving. I now have a whole lot more control over how I feel about working with my horses and do not allow anger or fear to destroy what I’m working toward.

However, as I asked her to load on the trailer… and considering I’ve loaded her before I had a pretty good idea that this was not a question of her not understanding what I wanted…. she wasn’t giving.

She avoided, she sidestepped, she tried just about everything to not get on the trailer. I had no plans of driving away to meet anyone for a ride and had plenty of time. I was not angry with her and really thought about what could be going on.

Was I blocking her somehow– asking her to load but positioning my body language to tell her not to load?

Was she concerned about Wild Heart in the barn? As the herd leader not wanting us to drive away leaving her tied in the aisle?

Was she ‘testing’ me somehow- to see if my reaction would hold up? If I would stay calm even if she didn’t give me what I asked for?

Then I noticed it.

I wasn’t angry or mad at her. But there was this little hint of an underlying feeling…..

Annoyed.

Yep.

I was definitely annoyed.

You know… you’re not yelling at the child to get in the car NOW or I’ll beat your bottom (that might be angry)… more like when you’re trying to be patient when they ask if they can go back inside for one more time to check on if that stuffed animal is safely tucked into bed you’re like ‘ok‘ said with a sigh, internal eye roll and a wish the kid would just realize stuffed animals do not actually have feelings already! 😑

As the layers get peeled back and the easy obvious issues get worked on then there are the smaller ones. I didn’t yell at her or jerk her around by the head or hit her with a stick but being honest with myself I was definitely annoyed.

And horses are a million times more sensitive than a human so she knew it too.

Equine leaders do not get annoyed.

😖

There I was again. Acting like a human.

The horse cannot figure out how to be more human-like. We can anthropomorphise all we want. They are horses and they do not think and reason like humans do.

Yes. I followed through, got it done, and Khaleesi got on the trailer and calmly ate some hay while I worked with Wild Heart around the trailer for a few.

Then after some reflection on the afternoon I decided to get serious going forward about carving out more of the human attributes that convince my horses I cannot be completely trusted.

One thing I can see for sure is that it has got to be a real shift. You cannot lie to a horse. You cannot fool a horse (the way you can fool humans) about if the inside matches the outside. And you don’t get to play around with being that leader sometimes or if I’m having a good day or if I’m not under stress in my life or whatever. It has to be reliable and consistent because the one time I do something un-leader-like I have proven again I cannot be completely trusted.

One thing I’m not sure of because I don’t have the experience – is if my process to be a true leader to Khaleesi is more extreme (or not) that it would be with a more mid-pack or lower level horse. I have only seen Khaleesi take charge or at least make the effort to take charge of any group she has gotten to mix with. She does not lack confidence. I have never seen her (as I’ve seen Wild Heart and other geldings at the farm) look to anyone else for direction. So if my own experiences seem unusual or extreme in finding the leadership position I should mention that I’m fairly certain I have a top of herd mare who might need more proof of my worthiness than Wild Heart for example who is a mid-level mare naturally.

But in the end. This is why I have horses. To learn how to be that person. To grow and to get better. And then to have success in whatever I do with my horse because we’ve become a team and I am the brains and she is (as Buck puts it) a willing extension of my own legs. Or maybe if you prefer Tom Dorrance- I’m looking for the True Unity.

My plan is to figure out how to look more like the equine leader my mare is looking for. One she can trust to take over so she can relax and go along with me- because she has NO DOUBT: I’ve got this.

So I have made a commitment to become part of their world, learn and prove it. And I’m planning not to ride again until I make at least some noticeable headway.

I know. Many of you are certain I’ve lost my mind.

And the rest of you are not sure but wonder.

🤪

I have no idea how long this might take.

But I’m going to try.

Layers

Monday, November 27, 2017

Though my recent travels were productive and heart warming filled with both learning and family time- I am always grateful to return home!

The time spent with my Simple Equine Teaching family is always special and I never leave without learning new layers – most of the time about myself.

If I could explain what this method of understanding horses has done for me in a nutshell I might say that it has taught me that in order to be successful with horses one must be willing to dig in… in ourselves first.

Horses seem to be a unique creature on the planet that can show us ourselves – if we are willing to see– yet have a depth of kindness and grace that continue to give us humans opportunities to grow.

Friends who ask what I was doing at the seminar without my horse are surprised to hear I could spend two long (working through lunch) days classroom style – going over information I’ve already gone through on virtual classrooms- and yet say it was well worth the 12 hour drive and time spent away.

I’m still amazed to find new pockets and layers of things I know but come to realize I’m still not really DOING 100% of the time. Something I’ve come to understand is that you either do this or you don’t. Most of us want to pick and choose. I’m finding that the things that we don’t really want to deal with in ourselves becomes a sticking point. It’s the things we don’t want to change that will determine if we are truly successful or stay in the outer perimeter of ‘this is better than it was and good enough.’

I suppose this is true with everything we do. There are things in my life I’m not willing to invest 100% into because it’s not so important to me.

I have seen though what it can look like to make changes from the inside out. It has been transformational for me in much larger ways than with my horses. It’s changed the way I view the entire world around me and I hope for the better.

And I am only scratching the surface still!

As thanksgiving has just come around again and I spent some time right after the seminar with people I love – I am reminded how deeply grateful I am for…. love. The love that transforms us. The power of healing. The grace that gives second… and third and more chances to get it right. The unique role horses were given to help humans in so many ways I’m just learning about.

I realize I’m only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what is possible. This is exciting. The layers I’m going through today are still close to the surface.

That used to bother me- I’d try to rush through because I know I have far to go. Then I would see how that (for me) was exactly the point. Now I am content with where I am knowing I will continue the journey with open eyes and will learn all I can with each layer I travel through.

When I returned to my herd yesterday I enjoyed seeing the mares and the conversations with each one were better because I didn’t care if we ever got into the barn.

With Khaleesi- I waited and watched. She knew I came for her. At one point she began to walk off and I experimented with a very soft click. She stopped dead in her tracks and flicked an ear to me. I waited. I experimented with my energy. She asked if she could get a drink first and I said of course. Then she showed me something half way across the field with the electric fence I had already planned to pick up. After that put her head in the halter and came with me.

Wild Heart wanted to come in but didn’t want to be haltered. She struggled with this. I gave her time to think about it. I let her go and return to me. I followed and also gave her space- she showed me an old shoe and pad of Khaleesi’s I hadn’t been able to find from almost a year ago!

At one point I invited her in and she followed me around the pasture and to the gate as if on lead exactly with me. I want to go with you but I am struggling with the halter today. There I let her know to leave the field I still needed the halter for now. She lowered her head into her new green rope halter and came into the barn.

Winter is a nice season for me to be more quiet and to learn to let go of the things I think I need to be doing- the things I’ve learned everywhere else are what I should be doing, and start paying more attention to what my horse are saying.

When I am able to do that- it’s crazy fun to be with them! I adore them and they are funny and beautiful and I learn a lot from them.

So maybe what I’m getting from all this- in the layer I’m currently sitting through…. learning to listen. And learning to understand- not what I think it should mean from my perspective but what it really means from theirs.

It is a way of looking at everything as significant, not to assume anything is random or accidental. In a world we learn to tune out so much around us this has been hard for me to do, but the more I change this thinking in me the more fun even the day to day world is.

Seeing the purpose all around me.

Not a bad thing at all.

What can I do for you?

Saturday, November 4, 2017

It’s been two weeks since the Fort Valley 50 and I’ve taken one short ride with Khaleesi to stretch her legs and played a pretty intensive faculty chamber music concert (including extra dress rehearsals) and spent a few days running creative strings clinics for orchestra students in the Northern Virginia area.

When finally a ‘real’ day off and gorgeous weather presented itself I dreamed of the possibilities….

I could explore those trails I’ve been wanting that I think would make some good distance riding options…

I could take a long trailer haul to meet a friend half way at some new trails…

I could hit the arena to explore some communication in riding ideas… (I’m engrossed in a Tom Dorrance book that has me reinspired to play in the arena again)

Then I began to consider what it might look like to my horse.

I’ve barely shown up to feed and make sure she’s alive for two weeks and been completely absent a few days this week. So I zip back in from my human jet setting toss on the halter, boot & tack her up, load into the trailer and head for the trails… alone with many miles in mind.

Then I wonder why at some point instead of

hi! It’s great to see you… I’m enjoying some down time.. what do you want to do today!?

I start to get

oh. You again? Great <sarcasm infused> let me guess, you’ve been busy and pretty much ignored me for days and now you want me to carry you a ton of miles alone on a new trail. Yipee. Let me just wander farther out into the field to see if you can read my body language that says I’d rather just stay here thanks.

So I made the decision in advance that I wouldn’t make a real plan- but I’d go and see what felt right.

I took my halter and after the mares ate I stood in the field and watched.

The first thing I noticed as I just watched is Khaleesi looks great- she’s a little fuzzy right now and I opened up the extra grass for them while I was out of town and not throwing hay (so might have gained a couple pounds on extra fall grass for a few days), but her topline looks strong and she’s got nice muscling through her body. Her mane is less ‘bleached’ (which I understand can be a result of mineral or dietary imbalance) and has a healthier feel.

Even more her feet and legs have really changed this year. Her legs are thicker from the increased blood flow through the legs into the feet since I pulled shoes and her feet are really healthy and the new growth doesn’t have the rings the older hoof does. They are nicely underneath her and everything about them seems healthy and supported. They still have some ways to go but I like the improvement.

Of course Wild Heart comes right to me every time. She has a few things she wants to talk about, a couple of scratching requests, and likes to be close to me.

So I began with her while K watched suspiciously from a few feet away.

I decided then it was unlikely I would even take the girls into the barn today. Regardless of what I wanted to do for my own pleasure, what I needed to so was to let my favorite mare know that sometimes I can visit just to say hi and see if anyone has an itch they need help with. That I do care how she is doing and can slow down and spend some time checking in with her.

WildHeart is very specific with her scratching needs. She shows exactly where to go and positions herself accordingly. As she got more and more heavenly relief Khaleesi inched closer.

When I decided I was done with Heart for the moment (she could stand next to me getting scratched all day and night!) I took the few steps left to Khaleesi and she stayed put while I rubbed her withers and said hello to my beloved mare. I rubbed the velvety fur on her neck near her mane and scratched under her jaw.

She then took a few steps so my scratching hand was positioned exactly at hind along the spine, then moved a little more … her back legs… she stretched out and relaxed.

Wild Heart would inch in and I’d use my rope to ask her to move off not your turn right now. Don’t be so pushy.

At one point Heart was so desperate for more scratching she laid right down in front of us and rolled around on the ground. That mustang is quite a character!

I walked off to take a break and had exactly what I’d hoped for. Two horses who were now very interested in me. Khaleesi right behind my shoulder at a respectful distance not bugging me for anything but wanting to stay with me.

In fact once when I stopped she squared up and faced me- I went to rub her and she moved just away don’t touch. I reminded myself that humans love to touch horses…. however many horses are more content just being close. K is one of those. She is ok with a well timed rub or scratch but she is often happier with quiet presence.

I walked off and squatted in the grass and watched as well. The girls spent a little time interacting around the water trough with the geldings over the fence who had gradually assembled and were very interested in what was going on in our field.

Before leaving I walked back to K, rubbed her then put on the halter… then immediately dropped it and walked away.

We have a lifetime of exploring new trails, of playing in the arena… but none of it will matter if my horse is hard to catch, avoids the trailer, or decides that I’m a selfish hurried human not worth with spending time with.

Despite what the Hallmark greeting says, it’s not the thought that counts. It’s the actions and the time invested that says

I do care about you. I will not always put my needs and interests first. And I can behave peacefully and quiet like a horse. I will try to inhabit your world from time to time instead of forcing you into mine.

I have also said before the only ride I regret is the one I didn’t take….. but in this case I don’t regret my time idle in the field watching my herd and spending some time in their world.

Maybe it will remind me not only to ask what my horse can do for me….. but what can I do for my horse.

Maybe it’s even a lesson I will use in my human relationships too….. ❤️

Lessons.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Last post (Miracle) I went through the miracle part of my weekend– hoof boots that held up to an OD ride!

Now for the lessons…

As I trotted across the finish line under the lights at 7:25pm (with a cutoff time of 7:30) my triumphant words to the gracious volunteers that had to stick it out just because of me in the dark and cool evening were: in case there was any doubt, rider 520 is indeed alive!

Leading up to this ride was a little different than before. I think it’s due to the fact that the last ride I prepped for was a 100 and compared to the mental energy and preparation to ride 24 hours going into a 50 somehow didn’t seem so big anymore.

I packed carefully but not overly so. I didn’t worry about having every little thing I MIGHT need… it’s just a longer trail ride- I can make due.

I didn’t overthink- Dale would be proud of me!😁

The morning of the ride I did spend some dedicated quiet time asking for a little extra help: God grant me the wisdom to make wise decisions today, help me recognize if I let my goals get ahead of my horse! Keep my mare safe and healthy today. Help me to ride the trail in front of me and stay present. Also- I would like to complete the ride but if you have a greater lesson in store- I’ll take that instead. Help me do my best.

I started out of camp a couple of minutes after the controlled start left. I took my time getting tacked up and the boots took a few more extra minutes than I’d anticipated. I do tack slow and methodically. It’s just who I am.

Leaving behind the group was fine. I wanted to connect with my mare and keep us a herd of two and not running with a pack.

I insisted she take the first mile or so at a real walk and not trotting. I do believe a warm up matters to help the joints especially in the cool morning – and I hadn’t made time to do one before start.

Lesson #1: get better time management on ride mornings to get some walking in camp to warm up. I would have liked to have used some of the first mile or two of the open trail to move out but not on a ‘cold’ horse. We had enough terrain coming ahead to walk not to waste time walking the first section that was fine for trotting on a fresh horse who was motivated to go.

A note about how this also worked well for me: my own ‘controlled start’ was good for us mentally. I believe it did serve to connect her mind to me instead of wandering with the horse herd. For the long haul I do want a horse that is with me and not only willing to go with a herd or a buddy. That’s a bit of a challenge sometimes. <


it was a gorgeous morning on a beautiful trail. The sun was shimmering through the trees coming over the first mountain and we had a beautiful view of the river on the low road that reminded me of looking over the Tweed in Scotland.

<<
>she moved well through the first loop even along rocky trail (short video in the boot recap blog Miracle) and my boots stayed


we trotted a lot of the low sections and I was pleased to see her heart rate hanging between 80-110.

I got off to do the steepest of the climbs right before the ridge and as I was getting back on another rider approached from behind. She was also not pushing her horse through the rocks so she opted not to pass me and we rode the ridge together (the only part of the ride we had company for) we would trot as many steps as we had good trail then come back to a walk for the rocks.

At the end of the ridge we began to catch a few riders on the turn downhill back toward camp. Khaleesi got excited at both elements (other horses ahead, and home) so she picked up speed. I allowed her to motor down the dirt trail and she’d slow in the rocky sections (all good). On the gravel road that connects to camp road she was happy and forward and trotted that whole downhill. At some point she twisted the front boot and at the camp road I got off, fixed it and walked into the vet check on foot.

Pulled tack and pulsed immediately. I believe her cardiac recovery (CRI) was 54/54. All around she had As except the vet thought she saw evidence of lameness in left hind.

She held our rider card and told us to check her out and come back. It might be something in a boot?

I removed her boots and we checked her legs and feet. All seemed good. I trotted her barefoot and she was fine. Took her back for a vet recheck barefoot and she was ok to go.

Me & K with Lynne – my official mentor at the crew area.


I believed she was ok or I wouldn’t have taken her back out. But a seed was planted in my mind. Something to be aware of. That process cost me 10 extra minutes in the hold that put me going out last, alone, and considering I also had a nagging concern for her feet and potential lameness I didn’t push her and we stayed last and alone the remaining 32 miles.

In the second loop I noticed she was willing and happy to trot uphill but she slowed significantly on downhills. As I paid attention I believe I got my next lesson:

Lesson #2: no matter what the mare says, don’t let her go so fast on the downhill gravel road! At this point I’m pretty sure it was something she did on that gravel downhill that caused her some discomfort and made her slightly off at the trot out.

So I allowed her to walk the downhills (eek- that cost us some time!) and trotted uphills but then didn’t push on the rocky stuff. And there’s a lot of rocky stuff! This gave me a very slow loop 2 average under 5mph.


my favorite moment of loop 2 was crossing a really beautiful stream and I let her stand there in the water for a while and eat some greens at the edge. I dipped my sponge and wet her neck with the cool stream. I got off to secure a front strap on a boot (not a big deal but a good time to get off and check it) we both enjoyed an unhurried moment to cool off in the serenity of the afternoon.

Reflecting on this a couple days later- this moment was one of the joys of riding alone. I don’t know if many other riders would have wanted to wait as long there considering how far behind we were running. It may not have been ‘wise’ on the clock, but at the time it was what my horse asked for and worth it to me. I doubt we would have done that if we were not riding alone. It would have been a very sensible request from a buddy to move along sooner. <<<<<<<<<
day for fall and her coat is pretty thick already. I did a trace neck clip but still- the afternoon riding was harder due to her winter coat without question. She's thicker skinned already than the arabs and during this loop her breathing was definitely harder and her heart rate higher than the cool morning.

I felt she was basically ok on this loop but still depending on the diagonal and my riding she would sometimes trip slightly, land harder on one side… super minor things that now had my antennae up. I absolutely got paranoid in this loop and probably created small issues with my obsessing.

We passed two radio spotters and 'ambulance' trailers in that loop and both times I asked myself: are we ok? Is she better or worse? Each time I looked for a sign we should quit and get hauled back – wondered if I was taking her unsound up the mountain making a big mistake. Each time I heard that voice tell me it's ok- keep going.


I got off again on the biggest rocky climb back over the mountain at the end of the loop and then back the same dirt trail down from the ridge I rode until the gravel road. Having learned my lesson I got off and walked briskly down the road. On foot I noticed how steep it was. I had to set my own ‘hind end’ underneath myself to move without sliding on the gravel. That had to be a full mile or maybe slightly more from there into camp but i stayed on foot this time with a brisk walk on the steeps and a jog/trot when it leveled out a little.

We pulsed immediately (before pulling tack) upon return to camp as I needed an out time as fast as possible if we were going to finish. We got our pulse even with tack on right away at 3:17pm for an out time of 4:02 giving me 3 1/2 hours to finish the last 15 miles that included more grassy meadow trails with good footing. This seemed very do-able to me.

Then I returned to my area to drop tack and remove boots with my fingers crossed that she would pass the vet check.

Here is when I say a special thank you to April Dobson!


April didn’t get to ride as her horse had something questionable going on so she jumped in to help riders like me who were solo. I’ve known April on and off just at rides and always enjoyed her spirit. In fact she was in a small group I finished my very first ride (an LD on Faygo).

For a particular mare who doesn’t really like everyone, Khaleesi fell in love with April. She has a kind heart and gentle soul and was a Godsend on this day. She made everything easier for me and made Khaleesi totally at ease and relaxed. April truly made my day on Friday THANK YOU!!!


i went to vet and when he asked how it was going I said I think ok but the mare will tell us.<<<
had great hydration, gut sounds and muscle tone. Now for the trot out…..

I jogged her out and back not looking as I went and waited for the results: she looks even better than last time! Enjoy the last loop!< strong>Great news.<<<<<<<<<
d had the presence of mind to toss in a few glow sticks leftover from the 100 prep in June and you bet I put them on: heading out at 4pm meant a good chance we'd finish in the dark.

The last loop felt like a gift since I'd texted my mom and husband on a walking section of the second loop that: who knows- I feel like it’s 50/50 if we get to finish today. < em>


the late afternoon light was soft and the trails were almost all on private land an really beautiful. As the day continued to cool off Khaleesi kept picking up speed and we were in a sweet spot. It was very special to have spent all those miles and hours together on the trail just the two of us and me very focused on her, on my riding, and feeling fantastic. At this point we both felt strong and positive.

I believed we had a good chance of finishing. I thought the loop was only 12 miles for some reason and in the end my gps said it was close to 15. I believed we could finish close to 7 with a good 30 minute cushion and also not quite completely dark.

Though the last loop was my favorite here are a few things I struggled with:

The fields: we needed to stick to the edge of the fields. She wanted to wander into the fields. This is exactly the struggle I still have in insisting the mare stay on the rail in an arena. Actually we worked on steering this summer and that is going great but staying on a path in the open without drifting is a challenge. I can do it and did, but I expended way more energy than I’d have liked and just the ‘discussion’ over asking her to get over closer to the wood line.

Lesson #3: keep finding more time now that ride season is over for us and we don’t need to climb the mountain to condition I can make time to get back into the arena and work on better communication especially regarding open areas.

My riding: one thing I really appreciate about long rides alone is the ability to focus more on my riding itself. I mean physical riding specifically – not all the elements that go into riding a horse. Just how my body moves with the horse.

I am not a trained rider. I have had some tips and direction but I’m mostly at this on my own trying to sort out what works and what doesn’t. I also began my riding with gaited horses so learning to trot is still very new for me.

I believe the seeds that have been planted by the person I most want to ride like are beginning to germinate. I’d like to get it all at once, but that’s not how it works. It’s about 2 years since my first lesson and I only get them maybe 2x a year. But the information from her is of great value and I find in those nuggets I am able to get deeper layers as I work with the small and simple things I do know.

Three things clicked in better for me that I’ve been working on over more than a year in some way or other:

  1. I really thought about engaging my pinkies. There is so much feel in them and I let them float around too much- it’s in both my ride photos if you look close. It was on my mind all day but not really takin hold until the last loop. I actually felt it changed things significantly in my entire body when I engaged them and that was slightly uncomfortable for me so it took all day to play around with.
  2. As my horse got tired I thought a lot about how to help her physically. In addition to engaging my pinkies I experimented with how I might give her more support with the reins and bit without putting any pressure, pulling, or being active in her mouth. At some point on the last loop (I’d also been playing around in the second loop) I heard Buck’s voice say: I want to reach for the horse and feel the horse reach for me… and that is exactly what I felt. It gave me goosebumps as I really felt her. It was like she was taking my hand… this is a process that’s been fascinating to journey through basically alone. It came from a place on this long ride that was so different for us than doing ring work (that I do believe is valuable) but the organic way it came from me trying to fill in, support and help my horse as she worked so tirelessly through the day was very fulfilling and became less (for me) an exercise in ‘collection’ and more of a labor of love.
  3. I felt more and more as the day progressed moments where her back really rose up underneath me. It happened most often at a forward walk on the last loop and I literally felt myself rise up a couple of inches. I felt noticeably higher off the ground. It was inspiring as she was moving with such strength that I encouraged her to continue to walk a little more than was probably prudent for the timeline we had. But this mattered more to me than the “C” at the finish line. This whole connection we were finding was worth everything to me at the moment.


we rode on through the last loop feeling pretty free and easy with time to spare – Khaleesi continued to get more energy trotting and cantering along the gentle trails until it began getting dusky and I checked my watch and gps wondering why we didn’t seem closer- it must be right around the next hill or wooded section…

Eventually it got downright dark and I kept thinking we must be right there…. as I wondered I was also pleased at how great Khaleesi was the darker it got. She wasn’t spooky, she kept up a slow trot wherever we could and I trusted her while I kept my eyes peeled for hanging ribbons to tell me we were at least on the right track.

At one point in a field area along a wood line I stopped seeing ribbons and had to take out my flashlight and backtrack. I believe we’d gone off course. There are A LOT of twists and turns in the final few miles.

We got back on and kept trucking. Things began to look all the same and were so twisty and turney I wondered if we were going in circles in the piney/meadows in the dark.

I chose not to worry.

Finishing was a bonus today remember.<<<<<<<<<
e kept up her energy and we forged on in the dark toward the finish line. At a certain point she even picked up more steam and began to beeline taking me exactly as if we were on rails. This leads to my last official lesson:

Lesson #4: always do a tack check ride the day before- and definitely ride the finish line backward as far as makes sense so your horse really knows the trail when she’s close to finish.

I am so grateful I did this because she and I both knew we were close and it really gave the last 1/2 mile a pick up of spirits and energy! Which brings us to….

….my triumphant words to the gracious volunteers that had to stick it out just because of me in the dark and cool evening: in case there was any doubt, rider 520 is indeed alive!< em>


Khaleesi was peppy and full of energy. I was in good spirits and we even had fellow greenbean ‘monstas’ Kristen and Dan come out to make sure we were ok and might need help the last 1/4 mile from the finish into camp. Dr. Birks met us at the vet check and we all worked together in the dark to drop tack and get a fleece on her to keep her from getting cramped in the chilly evening.

< em>with Dr. Birks at vet in Thursday<<<<<<<<<
he final check was 48/48 (our best ever) and her trot out was completely fine. I'm amazed at how perfect her back is after 50 tough miles in the Balance Saddle – it's the first endurance ride I've ridden in it and she was perfect at the finish and perfect the next day!

We got everything we could have asked for. Great connection riding almost 12 hours alone together, healthy horse and human (I've never felt so good after a ride myself!), a little practice riding in the dark, and even a completion making it in on time.

Thank you God for guiding us through!<<<<<<<<<
grateful that Pete still had some chili left as the ride meeting was in session and dinner was almost cleaned up.


I was there to get my turtle award and even though I wasn’t able to get my ride photos Pam Stoneburner saw them the next day and got them for me… it’s the little thoughtful things (that were happening all over the place) that make me so thankful for how I’m always taken care of no matter where I go and how special the endurance family is.


It was a fantastic ‘come back’!

Identity Crisis

Monday, September 25, 2017

Three weeks since a blog post!

I’ve been at the barn but not riding so much.

For a few weeks my horse program has felt on the fritz and my real work has been ramping up and needing extra attention. So I gave my mares some time to be horses and the time I had with them was directed toward to finding new ideas to learn together … like backing over pool noodles … mostly to continue communication and do something out of the ordinary.

One day a couple weeks ago I went to bring K in for a quick check and to treat a cut – something was wrong. Just walking was a struggle. I wondered if she’d gotten kicked, slipped and had pulled something in her hind… developed an internal infection…. in sending a quick video text to my vet (what did we do before video texting??) she said her first reaction was early lamanitic pain 😳😬 and her first suggestion was to get her off the grass then see how she does.

It was right in that cold spell where temps were dipping into the low 40s at night but still warm in the day. When the fall grasses begin to go into desperation mode and increase sugars again.

The electric fence went up immediately and now the mares are super restricted until the first hard frost. They can eat what grass they have access to and I’ve started throwing hay too so they are transitioning.

If they get thin (no evidence this is a concern anytime soon) they’ll get more coolstance which adds fats and protein.

Whatever the issue was it was gone by the next day and she was back to… almost normal.

Still- she hasn’t seemed quite right most of this summer. Occasionally lethargic, less interested in working. Off and on. Not off enough to do anything but pay attention. But off enough that I didn’t push the riding I would normally be doing this time of year.

In the back of my mind I remembered I’d heard the nutrition change can come with a detox period and that it can cycle over time getting better or worse in phases until their system changes over.

So there could be a detox factor potentially at play.

When it comes to her feet I’ve been really happy with the changes but it takes time to come back from being in shoes the majority of the year (for a few years) and not being trimmed to optimally support her movement and structures.

She is growing more (faster) and healthier hoof this year and the soles are really starting to look good! Her hoof tends to grow out instead of underneath her (conical) genetically which (if I over simplify) stretches the sole out instead of holding natural concavity.

The two things I’m working on the most with her front feet are constantly keeping the toe from getting long (every cm creates hundreds of pounds of additional pressure on the leg’s suspensory system) and helping remove any dead sole underneath that may create sole pressure without taking too much that she needs to develop healthy hard sole.

She hasn’t been completely sound if I ride her barefoot (like in the grass in the yard) but she’s also not lame. She’s fine… then she’s not fine… then she’s ok then she’s not quite ok… sometimes I’m certain I’ve turned into a lameness hypochondriac and am creating issues that don’t exist!

Either way she wasn’t doing well in shoes and pads earlier this year so we are still moving forward and at least building better hoof now.

The scoot boots are doing a terrific job and I’ve added easycare pads and modified the back and rear sides per a cool video I saw recently on Facebook.

I didn’t have rubbing issues but this can only help- especially as I begin to take them over longer distances when the rubbing could present even if my shorter rides haven’t created issues.

Anyone using scoots who wants to check out the modified design can see it here: Padded collar mod As time went on I took her out on some less intense rides and she seemed ok… but sometimes she’d be practically falling apart underneath me… then she’s fine.

I’d feel her landing wrong in a trot… taking bad steps and then be fine. I’d ask my friends: does she seem off to you? No… she’s fine now… then off then fine… then off then fine. A couple miles trotting on a dirt road no problem after seeming like she couldn’t get her feet underneath her 10 minutes earlier.

Ay-ya-yay.my mind I’ve reflected on the number of pretty significant changes that have come at that mare this year and try to put it into perspective.

  • Removed shoes and aggressively changed her angles and toe/heel to better support her.
  • Switched from traditional saddle to a constructive saddle with the Balance.
  • Changed her bit (I don’t always use a bit but I picked up a simple D ring French link snaffle for her especially when working on specific training as opposed to long mileage conditioning).
  • Changed her nutrition removing her from all grain based commercial feeds and added a probiotic when I found her hindgut wasn’t digesting nutrients properly.
  • Herd change: Faygo moved to Reno this summer. They’ll be fine, but it’s still a major adjustment.
  • Me. My riding, my balance – using my body more equally in day-to-day life, my internal fitness both in mind and spirit all play a part of my equine-human team. I’m paying attention to all these parts more and more.

Though all for the good, these factor in to the whole chaotic system that is my horse’s universe. I tend to overthink as most of you already know. So I watched, I wondered, I analyzed, I had a CST visit and one more follow up trim with my hoof mentor from WV to be certain all was on track. Hoof testers negative and no current laminitc evidence present it was time to move on.

I decided to get out and ride through whatever it was that seemed to be nagging at me. Stop overthinking. Throw on those boots and pads and get back on the trails.

What I learned.

What was brewing in a little corner of my mind since the clinic last month….

My horse is not lame. She is not falling apart. My Arab-TNWalker-Saddlebred-Rackinghorse is trying to gait. But she’s not sure how exactly.

She’s going through an identity crisis.

She’s half past 7, I’ve now helped sort out the tack and health/feet issues that were functional but not ideal in the past. I increased her fitness and got my riding sorted out.

I’ve opened the door and now all systems are go and she’s got this new gear to try out. And I think she’s starting to have some fun with it!

Today we took a short ride but I trailered her off to some nearby trails that are grassy, easy footing, and far enough away from the new boys that have her attention (yes she’s in heat!) and the mustang who calls for her out of temporary desperation and loneliness… so we could focus.

Right off the trailer she was ready to go- and I let her move on out to warm up. We hit some overgrown connector trails that she was raring to fly through yet I wanted a sensible speed : she fell right into a running walk compromise. I went from an up and down trot to that back and forth you only get when you ride a gaited horse.

In the video it’s hard to see (and hard to help her one-handed) but it’s when her head is more still and then starts going side-to-side.

We spent the next couple hours experimenting and had a lot of fun. She was trying out new gears and I did my best to help her. This was what she’d been doing in rides this past month when she felt a mess underneath me- she was trying to figure out how to move in this new gear.

Yes I’ve ridden gaited horses before. Faygo is a foxtrotter, I’ve ridden TN walkers, Paso finos, Rocky Mountain horses and saddlebreds… I get it. But none of the ones I rode were sorting it out. They already gaited.

This is new territory for me- but was a blast all the same. I’m glad I didn’t push for her to do it before she was physically ready. Who knew that when I left the gaited horse saddle and bit (not that they were bad) and got her toes pulled back underneath her (often the opposite of what you hear gaited horses need) she’d be able to open up that box. The Balance has allowed her back to really come up and she’s in a simple D ring French link snaffle now- no leverage or poll pressure, she’s finding it all on her own! When I help her I only fix my hands on a short rein to my saddle (I don’t purposely collect her per se) and she finds what she needs there.

I’m thrilled for her to have an extra gear to use especially heading toward a 100 mile ride at some point. I’ll take every advantage I can get and having more ways for her to use her body is just that.

For the moment we’ll play around and experiment- but at some point I will be able to decide what gear/gait we use and how to help navigate terrain and trails. I have no intention of giving up her beautiful trot or canter. And we did walk-gait-trot-canter all in the ride today.

It was a nice breakthrough from feeling things were not working right to exploration together. The ride was fun! She was forward the entire time eager to get down the trail.

I hope to start working her more physically to get her in shape for Fort Valley in October. She’s been in great shape not long ago so hopefully a couple weeks will bring her back in the game.

My only worry at the moment is passing her trot out in the vet check! Lately she does strange things trotting on lead so that will be something to work on… keeping her trot out at a TROT!!

No Regrets…

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I have a mantra here that the only ride I regret is the one I didn't take… even on those days where I just don't feel it… once out there on the horse something wonderful comes of it. Right?

So finally a ride where I almost take it back.

Almost.

It began in the field. The mares were half way down the multi-acre pasture and when I came into the field they gradually migrated all the way to the farthest corner. Though so often my beloved steed greets me at the gate with nickers and drops her head into the halter- something about late summer changes up their routine each year to hanging around at the far end until evening. I think it's the shady tree line. She wasn't hard to catch- didn't run away but she was NOT enthusiastic.

Sorry to say- you need some exercise. Between the 26 mile ride last weekend and getting a somewhat invasive hoof trim early in the week- you've had enough time off and we need to climb the mountain today…. get some miles.

Whatever. She seemed to reply.

** one major thing I'm sorting out after the barefoot class and some personal research is that horses in boots really need to be padded. On a giving surface, the entire sole should be able to help support bearing the massive weight of the horse. First the soft-tissue part of the heel makes contact which is what does the most impact softening, then the inner wall and laminae and outer parts of the sole as the movement follows through the frog getting contact with earth helping move the blood like an auxiliary pump back up the leg- and on a giving surface the hoof will sink in enough to momentarily distribute all the weight onto the full sole before finishing the movement on the hardest-bone structured toe that drives the power of the stride forward.

When using hoof boots, the earth cannot meet the full sole and give that momentary full weight distribution which ends up acting a lot like a non-giving (hard) surface. In essence using hoof boots and no pads is a little like my horse walking on hard pack or pavement for those miles because it demands the hoof walls and laminae (and possibly the frog) to always bear all the weight.

Hm. So I'm experimenting with pads at the moment to see if I can use them without rubbing on the heels and if they'll stay put etc.

Once booted, padded and saddled up, the walk out was a dilly-dally that I had to use every bit of mental energy to Jedi-power her forward and then occasionally a little tap from my crop when she thought we might be camping at a nice grass clump for the night. Add to that the terrible horse flies that we often just had to pause, wait to land, and slap slap slap until stunning or death.

This isn't so fun….

A couple miles up the mountain we both hear a lot of crashing noise and too near for my taste a young bear cub comes hot-tailing down a tree and scampers loudly off.

Khaleesi is certain we should turn and run home – she spins around but I convince her to face forward and wait. She stands her ground and I'm left wondering where mama is. After a few minutes we calmly walk on.

This is Khaleesi's first bear that I'm aware of. I'd run into a fair amount of them in years past with Faygo but just haven't seen a bear on trail in about 3 years now. She did great. And don't get me wrong – I love to see bears!

We make it up the mountain and begin to descend into Little Valley – yes, its steep, but that's why I like this route. Great training. Man alive she is going even slower than down this mountain than she did climbing up!

Apparently the grass and road is a little slick. She decides to try the tiny swell on the off side of the wash-out bordering a decent incline to the wooded mountainside on our right, and as I'm suggesting it doesn't seem like the best choice to me she slips right back down into the wash-out four legs down onto her side with me trying to decide if I should get off or hang tight. She is good enough to wait for my decision and I adjust myself better into the saddle and she gets up with me still in tow. I feel like I'm riding an elephant today.

I start to ask if she's ok when she sees a juicy grass patch and the change of focus into relaxed eating as if nothing had happened answers my question and I ask her to move along.

Another couple of miles we go through a particularly overgrown section where the grasses are knee high and she begins to panic and kick and dance. I know exactly what's happening and attempt to kick her forward out of the worst of it. She keeps trying to put her head down to bite and itch her leg (just what will make it worse!) and I'm popping her with my crop to MOVE JUST GO!! Go!!!!!

It's what I call the Velcro peas and they were all over her legs, side, and now ears and head. They aren't painful but extremely annoying. She was being attacked by the plants. I got her to stop dancing enough to dismount and began removal which also meant they were getting all over me. This process took about 10 minutes between her and me and then I had to look ahead to see if I could avoid more of these hidden green monsters until we hit the next trail that would likely be free of it.

Between that and sawing a log on my friend's property trail that was just close enough to their impossible to open gate it wasn't worth getting back on… I spent a decent amount of that section on foot.

Finally in their yard with some huge mounting boulders (the balance saddle is awesome but it will slip if I mount from the ground- especially when K's sweaty) I got back on my horse and decided to have a good attitude and enjoy some calm relaxed walking through the quiet (practically ghost) town of Bolar.

We ride the road through here- often actually- and most times don't see any vehicles. The speed limit is 25 – the road goes nowhere and is curvy so drivers are not usually in a hurry and not often going very fast.

Khaleesi and I ducked into Bolar Run for a quick drink and upon popping back out onto the road- the wrong side of the road for the direction we were moving- I heard a vehicle. I stayed put because it was moving at a decent speed and I had a little extra grass at the side of the road to tuck into and the vehicle wouldn't see us until it made the turn – not very far, but far enough to slow down if I stayed where I was.

It was the mail jeep and headed both too fast and also too close for my comfort. I tried the universal 'slow down' arm wave but apparently he thought I was waving at him and waved back. I couldn't believe he would drive so fast so close to us- it almost felt like a game of chicken but we had no where to go- Khaleesi began to panic and spin looking for somewhere to run as I yelled (so he could hear me) SLOW DOWN! PLEASE CAN YOU SLOW DOWN!?

He did finally and said he was sorry he didn't know 'the horse would do that'.

Sheesh.

I thanked him and got K to settle as he drove on and looked back to see she'd thrown a back boot in the spinning dance. Not surprising. At least I wasn't in metal shoes on the pavement.

Then I realized that postman might have done me a huge favor because as I was on the ground picking up the discarded boot I heard it.

A really really big rumbling. Far enough out for me to get us over to the other side of the road (where I belonged) and set myself up for what I knew was going to be much worse that the postal jeep. And to stay on the ground.

When the massive dump truck came sailing around the corner I got his attention and he slowed right to a stop. It's the kind of truck that makes big scary noises even with it isn't moving. When it does move even slowly, the bed seems to jump around slamming metal and the engine is deafening.

I motioned him to come on past and he did so slowly. Khaleesi was in considerate fear for her life and was looking everywhere for an exit but behind us was a rock wall so she just cowered behind me in this strange stance I think I've seen my cat do once or twice with her front legs out in front of her and her back legs shaking underneath.

I just kept my breath even because I knew the giant truck wasn't coming to get us. Khaleesi could spin and dance on my short lead as much as she needed but would not get away and it would pass. As long as I stayed calm we'd be fine.

The driver was doing his best to move past us nice and easy. As he passed she bobbed on my lead back and forth behind me until we were able to move on with the truck safely behind us.

Boot in hand I wasn't even considering trying to put it on there on the road. We had less than a mile to the red gate back to private trails and I just needed to hand walk her and regain my own composure.

We are generally fine with cars, trucks, even motorcycles. And this little stretch of road in the middle of nowhere is hardly traveled yet I just had two decently frightening vehicle experiences. Maybe the worst ones I've had to deal with in my riding till now- all in a few minutes.

Where is that flask when you need it?!

Back on the ground yet again I unlocked and got onto the other side of the gate without further incident and replaced the hoof boot. Problem is – this area is so flat. I really cannot mount from the ground with this saddle 😐

I start walking looking around and realize I'd just passed a decent dirt ledge- I only need a foot or two to make the difference and that could do it.

So I turn around and ask K to follow. She says NO WAY JOSE. I move the reins over her head (my lead rope) and try to start maneuvering her so I can get on and she bites me!!!!

I AM NOT GOING BACK THERE!!

I had to laugh at this point. Bite is a little exaggerated but it technically was her teeth to my arm so I will call it that. But it was like she scraped my arm so gently I barely knew what had happened (so no bruise or pain) – it was a cry for help.

Khaleesi: PLEEEAAAAASSSSEEEE!

Me: Ok – no – listen – we are not going back to the road, to Bolar, and over the mountain again. I do know this is the best way home- I just need to back up to this ledge to get on… work with me ok?

She seemed to understand and cooperated to lining up for me to mount.

Trust me- we both want to go home!

Ok- only 4 more miles to go. What more could happen?

We finally relax into a nice trot on some flatter trail parallel to the river valley when she stops short. Ears go up and every muscle tenses… I put my heels down, melt into the saddle and breathe-

Ok… now what is it girl?

A large adult black bear crosses the trail a handful of yards in front of us.

Seriously. It's a two bear kind of day I suppose.

I again ask her to just wait. Let's see if anyone else is following before we move on. But you can relax. She does. A little.

And someone else is following. A very large doe jumps across the trail at the very same spot.

Ok.

Anything else?

Just two snapping turtles getting it on. Yes. At least that's what I assume is going on when one is angled on top of the other. At this point they'd both pulled into their shells… I think we were ruining their moment.

Let's walk a bit and see how it goes. Easy like.

Only 3 miles to go and I notice a cloud seems to be darkening the woods. I try to see the direction our weather comes in figuring the way my luck has been today we're about to be drenched in a full on thunderstorm.

Funny – I don't hear any thunder… and there doesn't seem to be wind either.

Oh. Right. This is eclipse day!

This must be that time. So for a little while the ride from hell turned a little bit magical as I wondered what would happen… I knew we weren't in full eclipse zone, but how dark would it get… and how long I couldn't remember – just a few minutes I was pretty sure.

It was neat to see the shadows on the ground and the pretty dim light mid-day. I didn't sense Khaleesi was concerned about it and we finally settled into a relaxed trot again after spooking one last deer right off the trail. At this point jumping a deer was barely enough for a twitch and though I caught my breath (it's a little startling) it is after all only a deer.

Finally arriving back at the barn the drama began to fade and the positives surfaces.

  • We got in the climbing miles I wanted.
  • Boots and pads worked pretty well- no rubbing and they all stayed on (except the rodeo moment on the road)
  • We developed deeper trust getting through a few dicey moments together.
  • I saw 2 black bears!! (And 2 turtles…)
  • I ended up riding in the woods during the eclipse even though I hadn't planned it.

The saddle is great and there's not a hint of sensitivity in her back right now.


Boots made the entire ride. Due to her back feet being even smaller after the trim I tried an old pair of Faygo' renegades and they did well. I'm still waiting on the Scoot Boot Narrows to release!

Pads after ride.

Gave her a shower-rinse and put her in the field where she of course rolled in the grass and took a big drink.

It may have been my least favorite ride and too dramatic for my taste, but it was still a ride.

No regrets.

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