Friday, February 27, 2015

Not Bad for 2.5 Months

While I'm certainly not 100% satisfied with the results of my 50 at Mojave XP, the actual ride itself went pretty darn harmoniously for Scrap and I. One of the reasons that I love ride photos is that they are lasting memories reflecting the reality of horse and rider in that moment in time, a moment perhaps (and sometimes hopefully) not to be repeated again. We'd all love endless years of wonderful photos of happy horse and rider but realistically we're mortals on willful, fragile critters who can't entirely talk, so let the ride photo record stand.

Here's the pro photos from Gold Rush Shuffle 55, November 2014. Credit to Baylor/Gore. Please note I am grateful to all ride photographers and in no way blame them for my horse and I being mad strugglers in photos. Tis the nature of it!

me: We're gonna die in a hole!
Scrappy: Grin and bear it--towards camp! 
Me: motherefinnhor--ooh haiiiii photog!
Scrappy: [insignificant fly on back not registering, brainless trot commencing]
That ride ended in a Rider Option after 27 miles because he had worn holes in my fingers and started on his way to cramping his hind end by moving out brainlessly way faster than we train.

Now, Mojave XP Day 1 50, February 2015, photo credits Lynne Glazer:

my derpy thumbs up finally made a ride photo--oh and um loose rein at the start you guys!!

grooving along some miles in

So what did I do differently?

1. Bit: No, I don't think you should answer every training problem by sticking more or harsher hardware on your horse. Yes, if you're having an issue with a horse ignoring a snaffle in this sport, I do think you should experiment with bits, potentially with a curb action option. Scrappy is not the first horse I've ridden in endurance who will run through a snaffle merrily to the detriment of us both,  but check himself approximately twice on the curb setting of a quality Kimberwick and then *not question it* for a good while if not the whole ride. Many folks start in a stronger bit and switch out once the initial start excitement is over, and that may certainly be a route I take with Scrappy in the future if I get the chance. Anyway, after having literal holes in my hands at GRS in November, I added gloves, but I also switched him to a ported Myler Kimberwick, and will continue to use it.

2. Camping/Ride Strategy: At GRS I got lured into the lovely temptation of camping and starting the ride with friend. It's the most natural thing in the world to want to camp with if not ride with your buddies at these events, but it's not always the best thing for your horse. In this instance, Scrappy and my friend's gelding became buddies on arrival, camping at the trailers, strolling around, vetting in etc together, and when we started on ride morning and her gelding set off at a faster trot than he was managing, he came unglued and never recovered his composure until sweetly and sleepily vetting in 27 miles later. I wasn't willing to let Scrappy run blindly through the uneven but flat and open footing, which meant we fought the entire time, and a yo-yo effect of catching and leaving his "buddy" meant he was just a pisser the whole time.

 At Mojave, through circumstance and some cultivation, I went entirely alone, with just my crew chihuahua on board besides Scrappy. The only friend I knew going wasn't going to arrive until Friday afternoon for Saturday's ride. We pulled in Tuesday night, set up next to friendly strangers, and spent our extra day in camp just doing OUR routine, doing a pre ride, walks, vet in,etc. The extra day in camp and pre ride without it being an actual ride were definitely helpful to a better brain state too. He jigged around like a goober on the pre ride and then had a big "Ummm HUH..." moment when we came back to camp after a few miles and that was that. He watched horses come and go throughout but never got worked up or attached to anyone and when we strolled out of camp on ride morning, well, you see that we did indeed stroll.

3.Home Strategy: I can't speak to facts on this but I always try to look at and include the full picture of the horse and issue at hand. Up until the GRS ride, Scrappy lived alone in a pasture, sharing fence line with other horses but not actual space. We mostly train alone, with at most one other horse once in a while. It occurred to me that ride camp was becoming nearly his sole horse group interaction setting, and that could really add to the stimulation. While acknowledging a potential need for work in other group ride settings, I also finally braved the risk and put him in with my fillies after GRS. It's been going really well as you've seen in pictures. They're peaceful but entertain each other, keep each other moving, and Scrappy is certainly friendlier for being around the mugging fillies.

So there it is, for what it's worth. We haven't solved the loin soreness issue yet but we've got ideas. I'll take the ride mental game win anyway, in the meantime!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sheza Eyeful

That's how it was put on one of my photos posts recently, and I can't quibble!  Since my endurance brain is currently gathering dust in despair, I've turned my attention to Sheza, who I suddenly realize has been home from her initial 60 days saddle training almost a year now. Our easy little round pen game sessions and brief walking rides have clearly become old hat to her lately so the other priority is excavating my arena from it's au naturale state and getting it set up up with some cones and poles and cavalettis. Ashley read my mind and just did a cool post on what to do with such things. But first, the husband and tractor scrape it up and rediscover sand! Thanks honey.

Last week I decided it felt like a bareback and halter kind of day.

lalala, you don't exist human
ugh, still here, I guess I'll engage a little
I felt like I was rewarded for my bareback choice when, riding her after the round pen work, a loud noise caused a jumpy spook which caused a spook at her own spook and potential spook cycle devolvement, so I pressed the eject button and landed on my feet quite nicely without any entanglements from extra tack. We walked a circle, I jumped back on from a rock, and on we went, hearts thumping! 

that Holy Sh**! eating grin after an emergency exit & remount 
What's that post title again? :-)
Because I am very entertained by the number of expressive redheads I've surrounded myself with, here's another!                  Kodiak eyes the human dubiously after a bath.
 The goats have been a nuisance lately as only goats can, but their pasture reshuffling has certainly gotten me some entertaining pasture-tv and photos. Predictably the fillies are bold and terrorize the goats at will, embarrassingly Scrappy turned tail and ran, but he's since found his inner Rushcreek and started herding them quite effectively into their own quadrant from which they may not emerge.

 Back to it, and this time Sheza had to REALLY work, not just trot around in pretty circles. But first, some of that plus staring, of course, as the equine audience settled in.
 Oh right, move? OKAY!
Human not impressed by my moves anymore til I look all tame
 and engaged, Meh, fine
riders up! Horses...graze!
Since her initial 60 days with April, I've worked Sheza in the round pen and on walking rides around the pasture a handful of times, and have taken her to the local trails for a few hikes and short rides. This was actually our first official time working in the home arena itself since I was teaching Sheza to pony as a foal, years ago now..what? YEARS ago? I still can't believe that. Anyway, the husband had scraped up a passably smooth surface for some walk/trot circles and gait transitions, which when working a youngster can be like advanced algebra, and quite enough brain food for the day!

she tried playing dumb, slow, and graze-y, then sighed and settled to work
after putting some time in to successfully navigate just a few straight lines (hard!), circles,
 and walk/trot transitions, a hack through the pasture
love the views in our lower pasture <3
got to get that grub after being "on the trail" for 15 minutes
bit out, girth loosened, we just hang out & eat, see...
whispers of the future..and a mini horse stalker

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Bay Gelding Boost

The horses I am lucky enough to spend time around touch my life in many ways and I have found that often the ones who don't "go to plan" teach me the most of all.
Back even before the story of Rambo , Lisa Smith entrusted me to bring home Sheza and Desire Haat Shaat relative "Joey" from her herd in early 2012. He needed some attention, TLC, & he really blossomed here, as well as challenging my trainer friend & I. His story is all on my blog, and closed it's chapters of Joey's time here with this 2013 post:…/joeys-new-home.html
His new owner, Norma, has kept in touch ever since & this spring's update email just arrived today. She writes of him lovingly,
"He kisses his cats like [my mare] does too!!! He is very aware of everything and everyone who sets foot on his property. He is a true Arabian, as I know them. They are more aware than the other breeds or crosses that I've been luck enough to have!"
Then she asks how she should place him in her living will, as she cares greatly for her animal's futures.
I'm sure any of you who have let a horse out of your possession know how my heart swells with gratitude to her for this great care of Joey. It is ever a risk to surrender control, and yet in horsemanship the best rewards often come when we do.
I pay intimate attention to signs and small moments in life and receiving this email today was like an ephemeral pat on the back, a nudge that my efforts are okay, and in the right direction. It seems an appropriate time to mention that another Little Bay Arab Gelding will be getting off the bus here next week at RHE. Some good folks have been kind enough to entrust me with Natsu to be known here as Apache) and I hope to help him bloom in whatever way we find best for his particular story. I currently have no grand predictions or detailed plans to share, except that I will do my best, learn something, and be better for it in the end.

Joey and Norma, 2013
Apache (Natsu)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Eastern Mojave Scenic XP 2015: Sweet and Sour

Let me tell you a story. It's a winding tale of ups and downs of a horse and rider who have spent the last year and a half ironing out their game, and fortunately it's all mostly already been told. From the first AERC ride together after purchase and back soreness at Gold Country 2013 to the first RO at Chamberlain Creek, to the first 50 completion with back soreness at Derby 2014 and on to the RO at Gold Rush Shuffle 2014 for poor behavior (but no back soreness!). Not featured so prominently in those blogs because I really only care about my horse and have been battling it forever, are my migraine/heat issues that take me down at or after nearly every single ride. Endurance is called what it is for a reason, certainly.

So now we come to Scrappy and I merrily setting off for Eastern Mojave XP, 4 days of riding that I hoped would calm down the race brain exhibited at Gold Rush Shuffle. It was a 12 hour haul and quite interesting to pull into unknown desert ride camp in the dark, alone, and find a spot and pitch my tent, but it was done quite handily if I do say so myself.

driving off from home into sunshine after getting slammed by a storm for days
5 hrs later, halfway there, drink/snack/pee break for all
 When in doubt--ask! 
I knew I'd miss McCoy's Feed hours but calling ahead got me a weed free bale 
left easily retrievable. Nighttime adventures in Barstow! 
There are no photos of me getting briefly lost finding ride camp in the dark, or my nighttime camp set up shenanigans, but here's Wednesday a.m. and Scrappy saying "Holy crap mom, we aren't in Nebraska/Bangor anymore."
view from my tent                                                                                            crew dog Georgia
The wind screamed from Tuesday midnight until late afternoon Wednesday. Going a day early was as great idea as Scrappy didn't properly address any of his hay until Wednesday night. He ate mashes and eagerly grazed on the dead stubble around ride camp and ate the odd mouthful of hand fed alfalfa while drinking like a champ so I wasn't necessarily concerned but I would have been if I'd been trying to start a 50 right off.   As it was we had a fairly relaxing morning despite the wind, nice warm up ride midday Wednesday, vetted in at 5 pm, ride meeting at 7, and he ate and drank alll that 2nd night. Good pony!

a Cashel Quiet Ride mask I bought year+ ago because he hates midges-- but never used
 til now--came in handy when the wind was whipping sand and hay into his eyes
Wednesday pre ride
snoozles time
vet in
ride camp filling up
 Ride morning
Off we go!
all 4 Renegades performed flawlessly all day in rocks and sand of varying depths

 drink the water then bite the bucket to see if he can flip it..every time
some deep sand washes, there was trail up alongside at some points
glad to see people and hay after 25 miles
my helmet seems to be making a bid for freedom, but we're enjoying ourselves
 some quiet post lunch miles where we trotted and cantered along merrily

 glad to have found some buddies for those late afternoon lonely miles
 Sun is setting as we've got a few miles to go
 trotting and cantering freely back into camp, biggest grin on my face
 Wouldn't it be just glorious to end the story there, after 50 miles well ridden and wonderfully performed by the reformed Scrappy? Even at this moment, days later, I'd like to embrace my imagination and say it was so, but it wasn't.  We finished our 50 in a glow of triumph--and he was back sore in the same ole loin area again afterward. And residually sore deeper in that area the next morning.



Also, don't flap your bare arms in Joshua tree country, or try to grab a bite of one on the go, Scrappy would add.
watching riders leave Day 2
 back spa while I packed up
 There were and are many opinions on what the problem is or what I should do about it. I was encouraged to give him a day and try another 50 at Mojave, which made zero sense to me as we had both had a perfect ride together and the result was the result, so how could I go out again just hoping it would be different? I was encouraged to buy this saddle, that pad, use a crupper, try chiro, massage, red light therapy, check for selenium/magnesium deficiencies, and see if it wasn't compensation for a hock problem (note I've already done many of those, but not all). There is much wisdom to be gleaned from those that have gone before in this self same battle, I certainly don't pretend I am the only one going through or gone through it. I don't know what the answer is yet, nor what the future holds for Scrappy in endurance. I merely currently exist in the bitter reality of taking another beloved horse to the vet for a work up to sort out a problem that I've done my very best to never have in the first place, and then fix in every other way I could, all along battling to keep my own self healthy at rides. It's exhausting, demoralizing, expensive, and merely, what it is. We're home now, Scrappy is feeling great, and we will work on his problems, but  neither my eyes nor my heart are currently yearning toward the AERC schedule the way I always have after a ride before, even a hard one. Time will take care of that no doubt, but for now I'll take care of my horses.