Saturday, January 31, 2015

Routine, Ride, or Rest?

You love your horse. Their very footfalls speak of freedom, grace, and a bond that makes you shake your head in disbelief when people don't get it. You spend hours on them, hours on the ground, hours riding, hours reading. You have this goal called Endurance riding and people are sharing and posting and networking about it, touting miles covered and hills climbed and goals met. With the very best of intentions you heap steaming forkful after endless shovel load of advice, some worthy some not, who know's at this stage, into a mountain of Maybe-Knowledge at your back.

Your horse starts to look a bit fitter. Maybe starts moving a little faster. Oh, yes, this is endurance right, this grab and go and trottrotrot for miles thing?! Ideas, hopes, goals, and miles, yes, miles. More reading, notions of appropriate riding, changing diagonals, hoof angles, the right feed, chiropractic care. Your nose is to the ground and you are chasing this thrilling whiff of Endurance.

my first endurance horse, Desire, taught me YOU GO FOREVER, FAST, Don't you?
Hat Creek Hustle 50, 2012
photo credit Baylor/Gore
 One morning you go to catch your steed and notice that your beloved glances at you askance, staring at the halter in your hand, perhaps taking a a step or two away from you. You're surprised, or sad, or mad. You love them, you're doing your best, what could be in their head? It probably happens more than just the one time, and your brain kicks over, cranking but refusing to catch.

There are many possibilities to investigate of course, including discomfort of some kind (tack fit, chiropractic care, ulcers, etc). If you've sorted all that out and are still scratching your head, it may be time to sit down and take a wide angle lens look at your riding schedule.

Not just how much did you ride this week. Or last.

  Where did you start--and where are you now? 

We have this wonderful ability as humans to embrace and relax into routine, especially when it has good results, like a comfortable conditioning ride happily accomplished. The longer I own horses and more personalities I have around, the more I realize that routine is both essential and deadly, a delicate balancing act to be danced along the rim of Safe and Unknown.

Routine saves us, by teaching these animals we've taken out of their element and turned to our purposes that meals come at a certain time, certain words and gestures mean certain things, even particular tack items can have a particular emphasis to a horse, let alone the same time spent in the trailer every time, or same trail ridden every time.

Routine also endangers us, by lulling us down a comfortable road until suddenly a proverbial tire flies off and we pull up short and think, Wait, What?  How did I get here? Why is this happening?
Here are a few "bigger picture" baselines I find helpful to go back and look at and assess your situation with.

1.your starting place with your horse (were they unbroke, green, fit, experienced endurance horses, etc)
2. your methods so far (mileage, frequency, duration, speed, as well as care: diet, hoof trim and angles, chiropractic, dental, saddle fit, bit fit, etc)
3. the horse you have currently on your hands (may well be very different than the horse from #1)
4. your current strategy (may need to change!)
5. your long term goals

Why do I list your long term goals last? Because it is my experience that if you START at your long term goals, you are far more likely to discount or gloss over some detail of the first 4 questions. There are uncountable things that could come up and be addressed within those 5 questions, but bottom line is you are asking them because your horse is *just not thrilled to see you coming anymore.*

By assessing the questions above in the context of that horse, you may well discover that you're gleefully riding your 2nd or 3rd or 4th season horse 3 or 4 days a week.. Or even one or 2 days, every single week.  Don't think this only goes for experienced horses, while new horses to the sport must build fitness, there is *so much more* to the endurance equation, and a few years of physical prep is the easy part in my opinion. It might be high mileage or low, slow or fast, and every scenario varies a little bit, but I would submit to the rider that if all else fails, all other signs are accounted for and good, but the steed just isn't giving you enthusiasm--hang up that halter for a few weeks and just let it be.

Scrappy's happy place
I know, I know.

But we're on a fitness schedule! But Fluffy will lose condition! But I love to ride! 

Ideally I would encourage you to get a second horse to alleviate the understandable, passionate desire to essentially ride the legs off the one you have, but I completely recognize that's not always possible. If it's not, there are myriad ways to get your horsey fix while letting your steed just be a horse, from volunteering at programs and stables to harassing your buddies with extra horses. It might not be the easiest thing or the thing that you exactly want to do, but expanding your own horizons away from the routine of your conditioning schedule can have wonderful consequences for your horse.

Just ask Scrappy, who is never happier to see a saddle than after 4 weeks of just being a horse.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Exciting News!

I'm very excited to announce that I am now officially a Renegade Hoof Boots dealer! I trim, boot, and compete my own horses and have been using Renegades with pleasure and ease since 2012.
We are all ultimately empowered with the decision and responsibility of how our horse's hooves are cared for and protected, and we certainly won't all agree. I seek to provide guidance, a helping hand, a friendly ear, whatever I can do to make the boot fitting and use experience as painless and easy as possible. Happy horses and excited, informed owners are my goal.

I am in the northern foothills of California's Sacramento Valley but I travel. All the details are on the Hooves and Boots page. Happy, sound trails to you all! 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Prepping for an Adventure

Once upon a time my step dad sent me off into the world with a med kit he had put together for me. I guess it's sort of tradition now, plus I don't think the pre made all-in-1 kits are all that great. They give you a few tiny things but we aren't getting paper cuts out in the woods adventuring, we need rolls of vet wrap and gauze and sloshes of betadine.Well, hopefully not, but we damn sure want to be prepared if we do need it.

Since I have grand schemes of hauling out to an approaching 4 day ride that involves 20 hours round trip of driving, my USRider is current, I'm pulling mats and assessing my trailer floor as well as tires thoroughly, and the medical kit needed to be updated for the year.

I bought a $25 3-boxes-in-1 fishing box from Sportsman's Warehouse, and spent about $150 on all the supplies for what ended up being 3 well stocked kits:  one large one for my truck, 2 smaller, one each for the crew bag and trailer. I don't totally redo these kits every year by any means but what I had was on the tail end of a few years use and depleted, so here's my chance to show it started over from scratch. While these are technically human med kits, a lot of this stuff crosses over for horse use just as my horse use often gets utilized for us humans (patched my husband up with vetericyn and vet wrap not long ago!).



 So What's In There?
*Antiseptic wipes
*Bandage scissors
*gauze pads and rolls
*vet wrap
*band aids various sizes, waterproof
*wet wipes
*waterproof tape
*cough drops
*cheapie ankle/knee/wrist braces in big kit
*Icy hot patches
*hydrocortisone cream
*hydrocolloid adhesive pads
*contact lens cases
*contact lens solution/rewetting drops

Also good to haul:
(more!) vet wrap
duct tape
Sanitary napkins for padding wounds
Instant ice/heat packs

Now that you're prepared, hopefully you won't need any of it!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Never Boring

There's a very good reason that my smart phone is never far from my hand: because it's my camera, and without a camera handy you'd doubt my retelling and I'd probably doubt what I'd actually seen at times. Like, you know, when Scrappy starts fetching sticks at dinner time.  And trying to feed them to his fellow Rushcreek, Rory. As one does.

Oh hay, just hanging out with my stick, no big deal
c'mon, try it, it's good
Scrappy and his stick cigar..
Of course it'd be a shame to miss the doings of the Beggars of Kitchen..

..or a noble wiener on water
the sunrises rock, when not fogged in!
Meanwhile the weather has still been playing at coastal here and there, but Scrap and I (and the girth!) made it out to the lake for some miles the other morning. My mind was on moving out forward, focused, and even, with all body parts committed, and more or less in a straight line. 
The terrain of our regular riding doesn't permit a whole lot of sustained mileage trotting unless you really make it, and in the last few months I've been very aware of (and slightly entertained by) how difficult it is for us both to hold it together in unison for prolonged rated trotting. So that's what we practiced, along with my endless pursuit of remembering to be consistent in diagonal changing throughout.

I suppose it's a fair enough time to say that we have sent in our entry for the Eastern Mojave XP 4 day ride down South, only about 3 weeks away now. Hopefully the pony gods will smile on us as I am so excited to get out and do some 50s and see some stunning country.  Cross your fingers for us on that! 
 Meanwhile, my girthless hike with Scrap the other day inspired me to spend a few hours this morning hauling Sheza to the lake and just cruising around with her on foot, taking in the sights and covering about 3 miles all told. She reassured herself with lots of eating, took an epic pee, pooped like a trooper, and just generally did all the things brave good little coming 4 year olds should.
trot out practice

 clopclop across the bridge
hmm, strange, better eat to be safe
so much to see
scary noises, better eat!
 back safe to the trailer greeted by my dog crew
As much as it should be raining to hopefully boost us from this drought, the weather really has been phenomenal and I'm pretty proud of my ponies. It's supposed to be even warmer over the next few days and my grand plans include baths for the herd and some quality time under the old oak with a good book. Wishing you all a happy weekend!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Adapt to Enjoy

My old plastic station wagon has been keeping things interesting lately, trifling with me and bidding me adeiu from the back of tow tuck at least 5 times in the last year and a half. Wednesday afternoon encompassed it's latest bid for freedom from humanity, and after abandoning it at the mechanic's for the weekend I was seriously ready for a proper long ride at the lake this morning. And so of course, in the spirit of keeping things Interesting, I threw everything but the kitchen sink in the trailer and headed out for the lake. Everything but the kitchen sink--& a girth!

the weather has been coastal the last few days, some humidity and fog
hanging out with fillies is making him buff
Since I was wearing new hiking boots that needed breaking in and my cardio needed more work than my bareback seat I figured Scrap and I could still go hiking and it would be a worthwhile trip. The next immediate obstacle was how to carry water along, as I'm a dry-mouth-overheater-must-have-water type. After a futile search I nearly gave in but remembered the little stringy backpack bag I got for attending Lake Oroville ride in 2009. Never used it, never moved it from corner of the trailer tack I crunched it into, and just like that the hike was totally doable. I stole the fuzzy tubes off the bottom of my stirrup leathers to make the shoulder "straps" more comfortable and with water, keys, carrots, and my phone on board, off we went!
Scrappy thought I had brought him to the lake for a seriously quality grazing session
No 20 miles recorded but a good few for the human, including jogging hills, and I still got a "between the ears" shot!
 lead on, Scrapperton
 I was seriously entertained by the reactions of the weekend warriors we encountered along the way. They'd first see a "tackless" grey coming toward them through the trees, then see me on foot, wearing a pack, & sweating more than the horse. The women mostly managed to mumble something about how dirty my grey was while the men seemed singularly struck by the notion of hand walking a horse and both getting exercised. Meanwhile I realized this was the *perfect* thing to be doing with coming 4 yr old Sheza. Mimicking this day with Sheza would include leaving the herd, trailer time, trail time, different things to see, people and horses to encounter, variable loops to take, a round pen partway to use as necessary, fitness for me to be gained, bonding time for the 2 of us, and no escort needed!

You know you've been "endurancing" a while when things go totally south --often because of your own decisions--but Plan Z comes to mind and is utilized quite successfully enough, with enjoyment, work, and something to learn along the way.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Herd at Work

Certainly work is a relative term, or should be, depending on age and expectations of the critter. For a fabulous blog post on the concept of work, rest, and recovery, please do go read this piece by Mel. (but do come back!)

Now that you've had some brain protein, here's dessert ;-)

kinda derpy but LOOK, her very first own tack 
(halter bridle, padded breastcollar & reins by Distance Depot)
Electric royal blue is her color <3
Sheza has been working the mature angle lately and she couldn't move through
 her willies to answering all my requests correctly quickly enough.

sometimes she almost rolls her eyes at me,
 "Yeah, see, watch me do it perfectly, what ELSE mom"

On Sunday my husband dropped me at one end of the trails and picked me up 
with a picnic at the other end. Perfection! 
Scrappy yoga
 Scrap was forward & went well in the Kimberwick on snaffle setting 
started on the cold side with ice in the puddles
let's go climb that! 
 12 barefoot miles later made it to the sunny side
quick toe roll with the rasp at home and BOY did his feet look pretty
gorgeous January sunrise, as the full moon set behind me

The humans must work tending the herd too, so yesterday pm we 
drilled holes & cemented in a few new fence posts to replace ones gone wibbly. 
that didn't take long
Rory was predictably helpful while Scrappy cared not and Sheza hid behind Scrappy
Rory is rather like a seventh dog--she's got a nose for trouble rather like a Doxie, too!
My beefy 3 yr old princess! Sheza didn't check things out til the tractor and 
tools were well away, with proper haat girl dignity 
The weather has taken a sudden turn for the sultry. That portion of the fence project will be finished by tomorrow, and it's on to the next thing that needs fixing. I can't say that there is much of anything more rewarding to me than tending the land and the herd. Certainly I enjoy adventure and am looking forward to all sorts of new challenges this year with the horses as well as launching our solo guide business; undeniably, the grounded country girl in me wakes early, eagerly, sipping hot tea as the sun rises over herd and heart, and is content.