Tack and Tweaks

Thursday, July 13, 2017

First I was excited to get my first mileage patch in the mail:


This is a summer of trying some new things – and some old things again. 

The tweaks in my riding tack have been going well.

The more I ride in the Balance saddle the more I like it. The mattes shim pad is also nice but I’m still working out my combination- it has lots of options. 

One way she tells me she likes the saddle- I tacked her up yesterday with no halter on at all (so not tied). She stood calm, relaxed and still for me to tack up. (Did not get a picture of that so this pic is her normally tied in the barn)


Along with the saddle I needed a new breastplate. My other is western style and isn’t long enough. Two-Horse Tack sent me a really nice red on black biothane one to review and I really like it. 

The breastplate is 3/4″ with a shiny 1/2″ overlay and looks great. It’s a nice size (width) and weight. Also the English style has a whither strap which I always thought I wouldn’t like but it keeps the shoulder straps from hanging too low without having to overtighten them. 


It’s easy on and off with snaps and I like that with the whither strap (which also snap releases) I can actually have the breastcollar on her ready but unhooked from my saddle as I’m tacking up or untacking depending on when I’m ready to grab it – without having to find something to set it or hang it on. 

I haven’t had the need to clean it aside from a quick wipe but I love biothane for super easy cleaning and except my saddle I do everything I can in biothane. It doesn’t break (at least I’ve never yet for me) and if I get behind on wiping or rinsing I toss it in the dishwasher. It comes out shiny and new. 
And finally: as I was looking at breastplates they are expensive. This one I was slightly skeptical of because it was half the price of the other one I was considering. I ended up with both and I liked this one better and sent the other back. It was heavier and a little wider and thicker. 

Personally I prefer the lighterweight – and though I do climb the mountains here and prefer to ride with a breastplate- my saddle fit and hopefully my riding is such that I don’t slip around much. It’s a precaution and safety measure so I don’t need a thicker heavier duty one to offset it pulling into her chest often. 

If you’re interested in perusing two-horse tack you can click HERE for their site and this month they have a 10% off deal for anyone who signs up for their newsletter. 

NEWSLETTER SIGN UP DEAL 

But wait there’s more… 😁

At least for me and K.

She finally has all four feet bare again and I feel a big sense of relief somehow. I’m working on slowly bringing back her toes now that she doesn’t have shoes on and I’m able to. It’s too much for a trimmer to come take 6 weeks of growth off at a time so a gradual filing is better for her. 

I was fascinated with the difference between the hoof with pad and shoe just removed vs. the front hoof that has been bare about a month. 

Front hoof- I can see how she carriers herself more on the inside of the hoof and that was also apparent with her used shoes. 

My farrier says it’s not uncommon but it’s something I’m curious about and keeping an eye on. It’s the same on both of the fronts.  

Here the hoof though not ‘pretty’ is doing ‘its thing’. It is developing callouses and getting tougher. I’ll have my farrier back soon but for the moment I’d like the hoof to have a chance to develop on its own then work with what it needs help with. 

The rear hoof just after the pad and shoe removed. The quality of the underside of the hoof is not at all like the fronts. 


The only way I’d consider trying this barefoot route again is if I had boots I believed in and thankfully the Scoot Boots are still going strong. I now have tried them on her back feet and so far so good. It was a short ride but included all of walk-trot-canter and didn’t lose one yet. They also have glue on shells that I may try in the future depending on my ride needs. 


I am convinced that the horse’s movement and hoof shape all play into how well boots work. I’ve heard at least someone who absolutely loves every different kind of boot on the market.

I am grateful that these boots are the ones that have worked for K because I love them. If you are looking for a boot I highly recommend them- that being said they won’t work for everyone. I’ve heard of some who have had them come off during a ride. C’est la vie! Every horse is unique- that is the fun part right?

This brings me back to

I’ve tried that- it doesn’t work. 

I’ve heard it from other riders and I’ve said it myself. But one thing I’ve learned about horses is the dumb small detail I missed that seems so unimportant is the difference between total failure and success. Sometimes trying again in a slightly different way can bring different results. 

Ok- sometimes it’s a big detail. 

On the OD100 I added a pad not intended to be used in a boot to my Scoot boot. It caused a rub that when I found it later in the day was pretty ugly. It was the only time I’ve lost a Scoot boot. 

I wonder now how likely it could be that Khaleesi dumped that boot as best she could on purpose. It was already not fitting quite right. It may not have been hard to do. How often did a boot not feel right, rub at the heel or twist a little and she torqued just right to get it off?

I have no idea. 

But that mare has opinions.  And the longer I try to find out what they are the more she tells me.

This is a pandora’s box! Sometimes it would be easier not to know…

Getting shoes on- I work to keep her compliant and still. She behaves but she doesn’t like it. 

Getting those two back shoes pulled I could have left her ground tied and walked away. She didn’t twitch for a fly landing on her. She was perfect. 

Coincidence?

Maybe. 

When do the coincidences add up enough to being intent?

Fly mask is another example. 

Why don’t you use a fly mask? Look at all the flies on her?

She hates them. The last time I put a fly mask on her she came to the metal gate I’d just gone through and BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG with her hoof. 

I have never seen her do that before or since.

I took the fly mask off and she walked off calmly to eat. 

I’ve tried it – doesn’t work. 

How about this new fly mask that doesn’t poke their eyes and sit on their face?


Ok… sure I’ll give it a try. She hung out quietly and didn’t seem to mind it. 

Now if she stands and helps me put it on next time I’ll know she has a different opinion of this fly mask and if she walks off she probably still hates it. Or maybe just doesn’t want it at that time. 

But the spaceman like hoop that keeps it off her face just might be the detail that changes the story. (You can easily see from the picture it’s a Rambo product 🙂 )

It’s a much more interesting journey when I’m able to include her in the decisions of her own care and tack. To stop looking at her behaviors as training issues and first ask what she is saying. 

I’m astounded by the layers she’ll communicate if I am willing to listen. Then if I need her to help me out (training issue) I can ask, and show her what I need, and she is more willing to help.  

It’s such a better process for us both. 

Seek… and ye shall find.  

Thursday, July 6, 2017

After a really fascinating day at the barn I’m left reflecting over that gut thing, that voice from somewhere else that has led me to the place I’m in right now. Then I feel grateful because that search that started as a gut feeling those years back that sent me off to find a young feral mare to start – when I didn’t know a thing about starting a horse – and to find a different way to approach it, to approach horses in general…. has been an amazing journey and I know it’s still only the beginning. 


Just to clarify: I still don’t know a thing about starting horses and have barely scratched the surface of the secret equine world but I want it. I want to learn. I want to be better. I’m better than I was and I’m getting deeper glimpses of that world all the time!

The latest leg of the journey involved a visit from a really good cranialsacral practitioner yesterday. We arranged her visit because of Wild Heart’s issues that were not connected to an injury that a vet could pinpoint (nothing broken, swollen, pulled, diseased etc) but after serious amount of firm insistence from myself and my friend Susan only resulted in this fine mare digging in her heels (literally) we needed to dig deeper ourselves. 


Dee Janelle from Simple Equine Teaching came to do a private clinic back in April and we started with her. 

Definitely pain. By that time (April) she had developed an obvious stiffness in her stifle and something going on in the poll. The pain she was dealing with had caused louder and louder communication from her and though I was listening I wasn’t completely certain just what the mare was saying. But she had begun to show disrespect towards me likely because if I couldn’t understand her and continued to insist on things she couldn’t do- I was not going to make a good leader for her to trust. 
I did not go down that path very far without getting help. 

Dee helped start some basic healing process that was amazing to watch (as a science minded skeptic… this laying of hands type stuff seemed unlikely to make a difference. But when you see the changes with your own eyes and if you care about results… you’ll believe too).  

After the clinic I went back to groundwork she could do without pain and allowed her some time to continue to repair and reset – because the body will do that, sometimes it needs a little help when it’s stuck. I took Dee’s advice and called in Sandy (cranialsacral practitioner) to give her a deeper look and give us either a prescription to go forward or the green light to get into saddle work again. 


Sandy is highly regarded in her field. This meant a two month wait to see her- even with the connection from Dee- it was worth it. 

In the end I decided to have her look over all my horses and my aging pup Linus who has been getting stiffer and stiffer with age after even a short easy trail ride. 


One thing I’ve learned that has begun to save me time, money and aggravation: if Dee says it is a good idea, jump on it. I have yet to see her be wrong. I can’t explain exactly, but in a couple years time I’ve seen the evidence: she is not guessing. And she is not going to be wrong. 

I’m not a mindless-follower type. I believe in results. The longer I stay connected to her and her methods- the more my horse life blooms and my animals thrive and things come together. 

When I saw her in April she said to me (paraphrased): She’s a great mare- I really like her.  I’m not happy with her [Khaleesi’s] feet. You have a nutrition problem. Get her shoes off, get her nutrition issue fixed, start by getting off the junk food [commercial processed fillers and grains], you’ll need hoof protection that isn’t nailed on constricting the blood flow into her legs. Her legs will look better too when you get the shoes off. Your saddle is ok, she’s happy with it- but there’s minor atrophy starting behind the withers- talk to Carol about a Balance Saddle so her back can grow stronger. You like riding trails in a halter – I see you in a neck string, that will be better. Let’s just get everything off her face entirely – is that legal in your sport?Next year. 2018. That is your year. You are going to have a fantastic 2018. 


I heard her. I still hear her voice in my head. 

2018. That is your year.

Well I wasn’t quite ready to bail out on 2017 in April. So I made mental notes and thought:

There’s no way I can afford another saddle- especially an expensive one. I spent all that time and finally found what ‘works’ for us…. LA LA LA LALA I DON’T WANR TO HEAR SHE MIGHT DO BETTER WITH ANOTHER SADDLE… 

I can’t pull her shoes off today I have a 55 mile race next weekend and I don’t have a good boot program in place. Plus my vet and farrier keep telling me pads and shoes are giving her the protection she needs to reverse some of the impact damage. Pull the shoes- ugh! Just when I’ve found something that seems to be working ok. I know I’d like to see her able to get out of shoes but I’ve tried that before…. how can it work?

I don’t feed a lot of grains anyway- I can pull off my feeds pretty easily. I’ll start there….

And I did start there. I at least took one thing to start with immediately. 

I pulled all the mares off ration balancers and feeds and went to coolstance and grass only. I add a vitamin/mineral supplement.

Then got to the OD 100 in June and lost a shoe in mile 2. 

2018. That is going to be your year. 

I can’t lie. That’s the first voice I heard when I started having shoe issues. She’s always been right before. 

Pull the shoes as soon as you can and get her nutrition fixed. 

I suppose that gut feeling is partly why I didn’t put that shoe back on and try to finish. Something is not right with those feet. Hasn’t been for a long time. She’s always been right before. 

Interestingly, Jeanne Waldron the legendary endurance vet took a look at K as a favor to Lynne two years ago and said a similar thing: her coat and feet and sensitivity in the lower back tell me she has nutrition issues. Probably worms. Give her a power pack.

I did. Not sure if it helped a little. But I’m still here trying to sort out her feet. 

Enter Sandy Siegrist of Perfect Animal Health. I was intensely curious what she would find with Khaleesi. First I’ve been working on my riding and balance a lot and for a couple years now. Sandy can tell a lot from the horse about how the horse is being ridden and about the rider. 


I’m not at all afraid of what Khaleesi would say! The good bad and the ugly I want to know it all! Especially the ugly- that’s where you learn how to improve.

I was beyond glad to hear that she was in great balance and great shape. Her back looks good but her top line could come up to improve it.

I just picked up a balance saddle.

…. this is what I’m learning about following this path. My reaction to finding a balance saddle was: no way. I can’t afford it. 

Seriously I can’t. 

But I started to do some research- to search. To follow that voice- and within two weeks of being open to the possibility the saddle was here. The exact right size and style available used for a price I could sell my other saddle for and a year interest free to find the right buyer. The saddle I could never imagine would be attainable fell into my lap. 

I’m slowly learning to stop putting up roadblocks and start watching the doors open. 

Wonderful- that’s perfect! That will help. 

So the only problem you have with her (and I like this mare very much!) is her guts aren’t working. Like at all. So no matter what you do for her nutritionally it won’t help because her guts aren’t processing it. 

Ok so now what?

Probiotics. 

Her feet should come around in 45-60 days. Keep them trimmed shorter so her angles are better for good growth. Do you have good boots for her? (Yes i do!!) Then she showed me how to tell if the probiotic is working and when to stop feeding it. By feeling a spot on her side with a lump that will eventually go away.

So I embark on a probiotic program to see if it helps and will keep in touch with Sandy as it goes. 

What creates this issue with the gut health? As we all know a lot of things including stress, pain, heavy workload, herd changes, antibiotics, chemical wormers, vaccinations… and more. I am fairly certain this has been an issue since she came to me. Since the first times I ponied her with Faygo (about 6 months after she came to live with me) she was sensitive in rocky ground. 

I wonder about taking her off the land and starting the important modern horsekeeping necessities such as worming and vaccinations and feeding grain added with the stress of leaving her feral style life and herd and having to get to know a human as her new best buddy. 

Often once the balance is upset it needs help to rebalance. 

Luckily Pam has a big tub of a good probiotic she loaned me before the OD ride and Khaleesi loves it- she’ll lick the powder right out of the bowl with no feed. 

Which brings me to the fascinating concept of free choice and how I’m changing even to free choice minerals now because I’ve been told by too many people that they will if allowed to – balance themselves by taking in what they need if they have the access. 

I won’t put the Forco out free choice but I am intrigued that the horse who won’t try new things: it took me a while to get her to try a carrot… she resisted eating grain feeds when I first got her… she licks the Forco out of the bowl as a powder like it’s candy. Does she know she needs it? Does the wisdom of the horse really go there? I don’t know but I’ve stopped assuming it doesn’t. 

As for the others: I’m also glad to say none of them have serious issues and are overall balanced in body, mind and spirit and in good health. 😊

Faygo had a very long ago head trauma that created uneven growth and development in her head and face. Sandy moved things around – this I don’t understand but I watched it happen- in the structure of her head and eye and even in her mouth. She does this with almost no pressure and no force. However when she was finished she asked me to walk her so she could process the changes and readjust. The mare stumbled like she was slightly drunk at first. After a few minutes she came around but the changes for her were significant. 


It is very likely she will breathe more easily now. She may have suffered harder breathing for many years because of the shift in her face and head from an early injury and though her heaves are always worse in humidity so I don’t believe that will cure the condition it will be interesting to see how much it helps her. I talked over her move to live with my mom with Sandy and she agreed a drier climate will be beneficial and she’ll be working with my mom to come up with herbs or remedies that will help with symptoms as she continues to age. 

As for Wild Heart: she had a shoulder way out and bound up. Sandy said it was like she was T-boned at some point not sure how long back… could have been pasture antics here or in captivity or as far back as her wild days. She wasn’t telling. It caused an issue in her psoas (I think it was that, but I could have the body term wrong) which is what works and drives the hind end and allows that back leg to reach underneath her. All this makes a lot of sense from what we watched ponying and riding her in how she moved and how hills were when she’d have the most trouble. 


Her stifle issue and poll were completely fine during this visit and after the shoulder was reset and released she is good to get under saddle again!

Her prescription is go for a pony ride first and get a nice long trot out so she can see that her body is working properly again and she should be pain free. She may struggle at first until she realizes it’s ok- or she may realize it right away – but she is healthy and ready for work.


As for Linus- he had scarring in his shoulder probably from when he was hit by the car as a pup. She spent a lot of time with him and helped release some of the scar tissue. Sandy has worked on wolves and wolf dogs before and said that they are different than domestic dogs. She didn’t say that Linus had wolf in him, but that she sensed a definite wild dog gene in his bloodline. She said it’s a strong presence. I was not at all surprised. He is also healthy aside from the shoulder injury and said raw apple cider vinegar and turmeric will help him as he’s aging. After his session he went from stiff and slightly limpy from Monday’s ride to moving like himself a few years back. It was lovely to see!

I left the barn feeling reflective and grateful that the path I began seeking a handful of years back- to find better answers and a deeper understanding – not just to be successful with my horse but to be a better person is a path that continues to come to me one footstep at a time. I don’t know where it will lead me, but that isn’t my job to know. 


My job is to seek. And to stay open as the steps present themselves – and to have no fear but instead walk in faith that the next step will be clear as it is meant to be. Then take the step. And enjoy!

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…






Now what?

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

IknowIknowIknow Iknow Iknow. I know I know.

I know

Shoes and pads were working for the most part. 

But

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

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

Because it’s shown results. 

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

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

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

There’s one way to find out…

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Standard jumping saddle v shaped 

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

I like it. 

The gut thing again. 

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

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

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



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Meanwhile what next?


We ride!

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


Life is good!

Details….

Saturday, May 20, 2017

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

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


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


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

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

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


Now for the checklists…

Send in registration form & coggins:

  • Check… with appropriate Wonder Woman stamp!

Order necessary tack type stuff:

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


  • New helmet (Ovation light & breathable)

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


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

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

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

Handy suggestions tips and tricks:

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

Wish list that looks will have to wait:

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

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


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


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

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

Scoots 

Monday, January 30, 2017

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

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


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

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

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

But do they stay on?

So far yes. 


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Middle School

Friday, December 30, 2016

Winter has come. Now I’m getting ready for Khaleesi’s second (full) season. I am not completely new to endurance, but I’m far from an experienced rider. I suppose figuratively I’m moving into the awkward middle school years.  

This winter I am taking a horse with 5 LD rides and 3 successful 50s under her hooves and trying to balance some R&R with the physical training for another season starting early with a new ride in March. 

That means getting her ready for an early in the season 50 during the worst 2 months for weather in the year… adding complication: she is in that off season (and off grass) muscling and body shape and fa-la-la-la-laaaa it’s hoof boot season. 


I’m always up for a challenge. 

First the body shape. Due to the fact that we aren’t a causal trail riding pair I am hyper aware of her body shape and it’s amazing how much her back muscling can change through the course of a year. This means her saddle fit isn’t perfect. It’s not far off but it’s bridging just enough to be annoying. 

She looks good overall but her back muscling is less than in her peak

Yes. I know some people swear by treeeless but as of now I don’t believe that is the option for us. I’ve ridden in a Freeform for weeks at a time with a good pad to help distribute the weight but I was never as comfortable, and I’m not lightweight enough to avoid creating pressure points. Her back did not improve in the treeless. 

Last spring, however, after moving to the wide tree her back was 100% all season. Every white hair gone, not a sensitive spot in training and all 50 mile rides. The trainer we spent a few days with in the summer concurred that Khaleesi loves the saddle. Keep it. 

Until this late fall winter and she went into more down time and the grass sugars turned over. Now I’m getting a mixture of some dry spots, some rough hairs, and very few white hairs on the right side. 


There is an answer to this cycle that I believe she’ll go through a little every year. But being in middle school means I’m still working that out. 

Jamie at Phoenix Risin [PR] sent me a ‘have a heart’ pad that helps with slight bridging. I have 4 shims on each side that I can put in and take out to give it just the amount I need. 

There is also the possibility that the dry areas are actually due to the Supracore webbing design doing its job- the test is soreness and sensitivity. Until this week I haven’t seen evidence of soreness. 

This means trial and error… saddle time… and paying attention. The tricky thing has been most rides haven’t been long or hard enough recently to create sweat at all so her whole back and body are dry! None of these rides (2 hours… less than 10 miles) are going to cause real painful spots. 

So it’s a struggle to sort out how many inserts are best and should they be the same on both sides? She only has a few white hairs on the right… does that mean I need an extra shim on the right? Or does that mean I need it on the left? And what does it say about my riding? I have noticed recently that I’m still lighter in my left foot (on a trot that foot is more likely to float a little in the stirrup). 

I have a gift certificate from Christmas and am considering a second pad, one that might be a better fill in during these body cycles- either with shim ability or  an overall corrective pad with more foam and give. On a whim I tried an experiment and added a baby therapeutic thin line pad instead of the have a heart shim yesterday and took my first serious ride in a while. 

Upon reflection that wasn’t the best idea. (Everyone has those days in middle school...) I should have ridden with the heart pad on its first serious trial in the past few weeks- but the thin line pad was a new brainstorm and thus I ran with it. Literally. We took a nice day with good footing and did about 15 miles at a good pace. 


No dry spots. (It isn’t obvious with the coloring in the picture but to the touch all was wet) In fact the thinline created heat and the sweat came up through the cool back pad and the thinline had a layer of sweat.  Her hair was wavy behind the withers and she was slightly sensitive in her loin area upon testing after the ride. The thinline covered too much area under the saddle in my opinion and didn’t work to only shim the lower spots. 

Solution matrix: get her doing more serious hill work to help build up that muscling more again, and use the heart pad like I was supposed to. Try to keep better notes on what works better. 

Second variable I have some control over (unlike the weather) are hoof boots

Lost boot bottom!

I’ve invested a decent amount time and money in hoof boots even hoping early on to keep her barefoot… though she has hard durable hoofs and spent her first 5 years barefoot on various surfaces. It’s not due to years of metal shoes as mostnin the peanut gallery have suggested, but she is sensitive, and barefoot just isn’t a reasonable solution for her. 

Nonetheless I do believe in at least a cycle each winter to take off the metal shoes and right now that means riding in boots. 

I am curious about the Megasus Horserunners but they aren’t in production yet. If they stay on they could be a winter option for us to try… but every new breakthrough sounds good in concept. I don’t want to have chemical glue on her hooves for lengths of time as it slowly weakens the hoof wall, but from what I’ve seen and heard the Velcro tape that adheres to the hoof can be removed without too much trouble, and though I don’t know that I would want that on her hoof all year long, switching it up for a winter spell might work out. 


Staying on. 

That is the challenge. 

After pulling shoes I directly put on our set of renegade hoof boots and went for a ride with Susan. 

Lost a boot bottom. 


As I pulled out my hair in thick strands I had lost my mind enough to consult the peanut gallery on the Facebook ‘hoof boot exchange’ site. What I asked was advice on what kind of boot fits a narrow long hoof. Of course the answer I got was that horse hooves aren’t supposed to be long and narrow and my farrier should have fixed them. 

Jeez, nothing like encouraging a farrier’s God complex like assuming it their job to recreate the shape your horses hooves came in. 

So I read the comments, and called my farrier (whom I trust more than any other part of my equine team at the moment) and while waiting for a callback during Christmas week, started rasping away little by little at the fronts of her hooves. 

When he called a few days later, I recounted the commentary and asked him what his thoughts are, he assured me: my general rule is to take off equal hoof wall all around the hoof. That leaves you with the same shape she started with. It’s a shame no one makes boots to fit narrow hooves. Someone could make a fortune with that. But sure- you can rasp off the toes. You aren’t going to hurt anything. Just stop if you see blood… but it’s 3 feet from her heart so it ain’t gonna kill her even then… I think they’re right that your boots will stay on better – see you in a few weeks. 

So I went in earnest to round out her hooves a little at a time. 

Shot of her back hooves after I rasped back her toes

Is it working?

Maybe

After the reshaping, I took about 4 rides with 100% boot success. Mostly waking, but one of them in serious boot sucking mud. 


Then the true test- that solo 15 miler at speed. 

They passed, but not with flying colors. I did about 60% of the ride with 100% success, then I lost a boot bottom and though I’d been vigilant to watch for them, I couldn’t find the boot when I retraced back to the point I was certain I had seen all 4. 

The first boot bottom of the season I lost was a hind. This time it was a front. 

I brought along a spare tire and did some adjusting- I only had size 0 for a spare and had been using a size 1 on her fronts. 

The return home, including much trotting and some cantering had no boot trouble at all. This leads me to wonder if I will need to reconsider boot sizes all around now that I’ve been filing. The right fit seems the secret to success when it comes to.. well everything I guess. 


Middle school. What are the right shoes?What is the right fit? Does my saddle make me look fat?

More tweaking and experimenting. So far there is obvious improvement with the reshaping plan. I’m hoping for more success this winter with serious training in the renegades without breaking the bank losing them! They aren’t cheap to replace. 

Overall the renegades are still my favorite though I’ve seen some very cool options for twice the cost that I’m just not willing to do right now. 

My biggest complaints with easycare though I know people love them- is they are a bitch to put on-take off, and I don’t like their materials: when I used them regularly on Faygo we wore right through the shells in one season (haven’t even come close to wearing out the renegade shells… even the few originals from 2 years ago that I haven’t lost!!) and the Velcro was useless if it got mud or snow packed in which in winter here happened often. If I lost a boot it wasn’t going back on if it had Velcro. Thankfully Faygo basically can go barefoot in a pinch. Khaleesi doesn’t move well barefoot- she slows way down over time as her feet start to hurt in our rocky terrain. 

So the renegades get (yet) another chance as none of the easycare products fit Ks original long hoof either. 

On some positive notes: I pulled out the heart rate monitor again and she’s still got fantastic recovery. I cantered her up a long hill around mile 12 and got her heart rate up to 189bpm at the top where we stop for the pipe gate (I was aiming for 200) by the time I pulled out my phone and got camera mode up she was down to 172 then in about 20 seconds down in the 70s. 

By the time we were within a mile of the barn she was still offering to canter and the 15 miles wasn’t a stretch (thank goodness or I’d  be in real trouble for March!). 


Also our mental work has been paying off. We are well connected and even offering to canter close to home isn’t barn sour attitude anymore and she is just as happy to walk with me if I ask. 

We had a funny moment last week while taking Wild Heart for a pony ride. As we were crossing the Jackson River still in sight of the barn I let the mares relax in the water a moment as they drank.  A few more steps and we were in the deepest section when Khaleesi stopped, pawed and looked hard at the moving water before she dropped to her knees. With Heart on the lead next to me and my boots now in the river I began yelling and kicking and grabbing for my lead rope (which I drive her forward with if she gets too lazy). After I got her out of the river (without taking me for a complete swim) and celebrated a moment in not losing the lead rope in the process, and congratulating Heart on not freaking out at all in the commotion… I laughed with Susan for a good 10 minutes. What a comedy! 


I am enjoying that mare as much as I ever have. The down time mixed in with trail training, bareback pad riding for balance and feel, and time spent without a clock or a gizmo to put me on a timeline or goals for speed and distance have helped in this relationship area even if neither of us feel quite ready to tackle a 50 today. 

But I believe wholeheartedly that if one can line up the mental, the physical is the easy part.