Wednesday, October 28, 2015

We've moved!

The blog, that is.
I finally got fed up enough with the mobile app to go straight to self-hosted Wordpress, so we're now over at - more details and a brief update post over there.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The state of the pony

We're now three weeks post-Quicksilver and, for various reasons, definitely at the end of our ride season for the year.

Fetti's winter coat is pretty solidly in.  I look at her back and I want to cry.  There have been patches of 'wavy' hairs on both sides for a while now, but they stayed pretty consistent so I left it alone. With this new coat, she has fist-sized white patches, lots of wavy hair there, and what I think is some hair loss (or some major thick/thin patches - I can feel where the hair sort of 'drops off' in places).  Same spot as before, roughly under the stirrup bars.

I quit riding in my old Eurolight entirely by May of this year, though I'd been transitioning that way through the winter, and spent five months exclusively in the Thorowgood.  It was not until August (three months in) that the dressage saddle was reflocked, and those areas were noted as needing it.  I may have done more harm than good switching to that saddle.  It's hard to say.  I knew the Eurolight wasn't working, and I thought the Thorowgood was.

We also did a lot more rides this year: 1 NATRC ride (early May), back-to-back LDs (30&35) in June, 50 in September, 25 in October.  I don't actually regret any of them, and I feel like I made good choices about which rides to do.  I'm really, really happy with my decision not to do day 3 of Wild West - that's where I first noted something odd with the saddle/electrodes even on top of the boot fiasco.

For a while I was dabbling with the idea of going to a ride over Thanksgiving.  Financially, a few other things have come up that have higher priority, so it's off the table.  Pony-wise, with how her back looks right now, it's off the table.

I actually don't think that anything I'm doing right now is making it worse.  At one point ulcers came up as a vague possibility in my mind, in part because she was vaguely biting/kicking at the girth: that is now an entirely non-issue.  It's possible that's just because she's on the slowfeeder bale bag, but I think it's more likely that she really has been uncomfortable with the saddle all along and that was the only symptom I noticed.  I'm riding exclusively in the new Specialized, obsessively watching sweat marks, and not working any harder than she asks for.

We've hit fall around here.  If the weather forecasts come true, it's going to be a rough winter with not much real riding.  There's a chance the barn might flood, but it's unlikely to stay flooded very long - but the arena may very well be trashed, the round pens may be mud, and the trails may be either inaccessible, a disaster, or both.  So for now, we mosey.  We'll keep doing taper-conditioning rides as long as we can, and after that perhaps we'll dabble in the arena again.  Hopefully in six months when her summer coat comes in it won't look so horrendous - and in a year when her next winter coat comes in, I'll be able to see just how much lasting damage there is.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015


The silence around here is not due to a lack of posts being written: I am, for once, actually drafting things, taking photos, doing occasional blog-worthy stuff.

My phone, the Blogger app, and my photos are not playing nice together.  When I try to add photos to posts, the app crashes.  I have not yet found a new app.  Suggestions would be delightful - iPhone 6, open to paying a bit for something that works.

The two-point challenge this month has gone spectacularly miserably well when it has gone at all.  I got my baseline during Quicksilver (1 minute at a ride: fair). I did my next ride with a section of two-point a week and a half later (3 minutes, 1 second).  At this point I can't remember anything about it, but it must have been in the new saddle.

Then we puttered around in the arena for a bit at the trot the next week and made it to 7 minutes 13 seconds and a very bored pony (sorry pony).

Weekend ride with friends.. what better time than to do two-point than when you don't have to steer and you're not the one setting the pace?  I picked a fairly flat section to start with after the potential crazy spot, and off we went: 15 minutes, 34 seconds.  I felt that.  Fingers crossed for another small-group ride this weekend where we can get more of the same.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Gear review: Tipperary helmet & Salamander visor

Tipperary helmet: this does not fit me quite as comfortably as the old Troxel Spirit.  I have a large head and a lot of hair.  I am notoriously finicky about how things fit on me, especially on my head.  The Tipperary is a more snug fit.  The back of the helmet goes all the way down the back of my head.  It's a sufficiently snug fit that putting my hair in a regular ponytail impacts the fit and creates pressure points; the same thing happens with a normal braid.  I haven't tried a Dutch braid yet, or two Dutch braids, but that's next on the list (I'm not optimistic). Successful hairstyles: very low ponytail, very low single braid, two low braids.

Also, I have a lot of hair.  YMMV. 
note how low my ponytail is.  photo by Boots N Bloomers
I can braid if I keep it low, but it has to be loose and not bulk up the hair too much in any one spot.  I really appreciated the twist-adjustable back of the Troxel.

I'm not yet convinced I have the harness fitted 100% correctly.  It hits closer to my neck, rather than my jaw, than what I've been accustomed to.
photo by Boots N Bloomers
That said: it's pink.  It was a year ago that I first contemplated buying a Tipperary, so it meets my criteria of 'not an impulse buy' since I still wanted one a year later.  They're not horribly expensive, lightweight, breathable.  I like how it looks on me and it doesn't seem to give me the bubble-head appearance some helmets do.  Bonus?  The helmet being naturally pink also makes it more visible in the dark than having a Lycra helmet cover.  If you go for regular trail rides at/past twilight with other people, this is a major plus.

photo by Boots N Bloomers
There are two major helmet visor options that I'm aware of.  DaBrim is big and goes all the way around, Salamander is smaller.  At Funder's suggestion - something like a year and a half ago when it came up?! -I decided I would get a Salamander visor whenever I got a new helmet, and promptly tabled the idea of getting a new helmet for a while.  Eventually, though, I ordered a helmet, and then ordered the (pink!) visor in the next order.

I cannot speak to how easy they are to attach to the helmet.  The visor attaches with velcro, and there is a piece of velcro that goes directly onto the helmet.  Normally, I would have done this myself.  Given it showed up two days before I left for Cuneo Creek, I threw the whole thing in my car and handed it to my boyfriend to deal with at midnight before I left.  If he swore at it, it didn't wake me up.

I do feel slightly more enclosed with the bigger visor.  It's good that I did not go with anything even bigger!  Low-hanging branches have caught me off-guard on occasion.  When we took the ponies bareback through the mountain bike trails, I eventually un-velcro'd the visor.  It was limiting my upwards vision too much and making me nervous.  Normal people don't make a habit of going on trails where you have to lie flat on the horse's neck for unknown periods of time, though, so I suspect most people would have few to no occasions where it's necessary to take it off.  Of note: it is very strong velcro and I worried about detaching the velcro from the helmet, so it took both hands and removing the helmet before the visor came off. 

One of my hopes in adding a visor was that it would decrease/eliminate my migraines.  I was still migrained and pretty wiped out at the end of Quicksilver, so no luck there, but not any worse than in previous years.

Overall, I'm happy with both purchases and had no issues during my rides. 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Quicksilver 2015

in which Confetti needs a babysitter-horse and we have a little more excitement than intended.

pony got a pro shot in-camp on Friday!  by Boots n Bloomers
She settled in nicely at camp and alternated napping, looking around, eating, and then ignoring her food as usual.  It would make me happier if she ate the whole time at ridecamp.  I do not think I can accomplish that with straight grass and will consider grass/alfalfa leading up to/at rides in future.

Hi-tie, haybags, shade. Luxury!
I had a few goals going into this ride:
- ride with Olivia & Nilla, get LD completions for both of us
- consider riding mid-pack, or at least not feel obligated to turtle, should the speed and attitude of the mule & pony allow for such
- acquire a baseline for 2point-tober since I needed one by Monday and wasn't planning to ride between Thursday and Monday other than during the 25.  Eep.
- have a nice, sane, sound horse at the end
- finally have a second positive experience at Quicksilver: two years of rough rides here left me ready for something different

Luxury Distance, tacking up with a bit of light
Confetti threatened to buck me off at the start.  She didn't actually buck, but I know my horse and it was not at all a good way to start.  We skipped 'politely moseying Western pony' and went straight to 'I love my horse but damnit this is not the way we do things around here'.  I should have ridden her hard the day before the ride, but I knew I was risking a migraine and opted out.. I will not make that mistake at this ride again.  There are rides we do not need a pre-ride.  This is a ride where I need to start with significantly less horse than I usually have.  Would a tiring pre-ride have fixed my issues day-of?  I'm not sure - I'm not actually convinced that it would have, but it is definitely something to think about.

I have a lot of mule tail photos. This is how we spent 90% of the ride.
So we started off by parking her behind Nilla, our friendly mule looking for a first LD completion.  We are doing something a little bit backwards here if my experienced horse is incapable of handling ride starts without a babysitter.  That said.. Fetti was pretty consistently awful at this ride.  She gets anxious about horses running up behind her; one lady practically ran into her tail a few times.  I don't red-ribbon her: she's not a kicker and in four years, folks have nearly always been polite.  She tolerates horses behind her once she knows they're there if they're close.  It's the farther-away horses, and especially the horses coming up fast and with high energy, that we have trouble with.  Riding turtle this isn't a big problem after the rest of the pack gets through.  Riding midpack, and having 50s end up flying past at the start of the ride (?! I don't know why they were so late), we had a tough time.  I pull over when people start flying up and let them pass.  It keeps all of us safer and my horse less anxious.  When they just run up and back off and run up and back off a ways, it makes both me and my horse anxious because I can't figure out what the hell they're doing.
Lots of wide open spaces.
But it's not just the horse that was running up behind her.  I'm sure that didn't help, but that wasn't the extent of our issues.  Being able to see so many horses in all sorts of directions seems to fry her brain.  Quicksilver is wide-open winding singletrack trails.  You can see horses a good half-mile or mile ahead of you at times, down the hill or across the ridges.  Confetti is a forest pony.  We rarely see other horses on our training rides and we sure don't see other horses a mile ahead on the trail - if we can see them at home, we can get there and we can catch them awfully fast.  Wild West was kind to us - forest.  Cuneo went well - forest.  Fireworks is generally fine - forest.  Quicksilver 2012 went fine with Funder and Dixie, but 1. Fetti wasn't as well-conditioned and 2. it was her first ride, she didn't know how to play the game yet.  She knows the game now and she wants to run, but her anxiety level skyrockets being visually surrounded by so many high-energy running horses.  I don't know how to fix that.

Big Trot.  photo by Boots N Bloomers, used with purchase
We made good time to the vet check, even despite grumbling at my poor horse on a regular basis.  (Sorry Olivia - I promise she's not usually that much of a nitwit.)  Fetti and I opened a lot of gates and only dropped one on the way out.  Sorry Nilla; it was not supposed to hit your nose :(  The trails were well-marked and I did not once pull out my map.  I did manage to get in a minute of two-point for my baseline, woo!  Olivia noted that Fetti looked a bit off on the last mile or so to the vet check, but it was hard to tell; I agreed, but also agreed it was hard to tell.  Fetti was moving out well and I was not too terribly concerned since it was primarily over small gravel footing.  A few ouchy steps are within her realm of normal when running barefoot.

the offending small-gravel road that her hoof disliked, heading into the check
It was not a few ouchy steps, and even I could see it when I had someone else trot her out at the vet check.  Bring her back in 15min for a recheck, see how she's doing.  Well.. ack.  I scrounged around looking for my hoof pick (and later realized it's in my other saddlebags!!) and ended up borrowing one from a kind soul at the check who had already been pulled and had a hoof pick close at hand.  I spent several minutes chipping away at the mess of rocks and dirt embedded in the offending LF and eventually took help from my boyfriend to finish it up, then did a quick pass at the other hooves that were comparatively much easier.  You could still see it at the re-check in the gravel parking lot, but inconsistently, and she looked much better, so we got the OK to go back out along with a tactful rebuke to consider hoof protection if we keep doing these rides.  Yes.. I just wanted one ride this year without having to stress over losing a freaking boot, and we had no problem over the exact same trail barefoot last year.  I will own that it's my fault, but it was a conscious and thought-out decision to skip booting her this year.  Live and learn.

Cleared to go, I quickly inhaled a sandwich, switched out my Camelbak bladder (thank you, Olivia's husband, for taking it to the check for me at the last minute!), gave the pony half a bag of grain, and gifted the leftover grain to another horse still at the check.  We were off.  Now just to get the four of us safely home, sound, for our completions.  Plenty of time, should be easy going.
That Damn Hill from last year was not bad this year with a friend.
I think we sort of moseyed our way along, trotting the flat spots, walking the downhills.  We had time.  No sense rushing anything we didn't have to. (Confetti, 15 miles in, still thought it was dumb we weren't trotting down all the hills, and up all the hills, and the flats, and and and.) We kept passing/getting passed by another pair of riders but aside from them seemed to be in a pretty good bubble.  We moseyed on, and on, and I saw a horse in the distance that registered in my brain as looking a bit odd, but being still several switchbacks and at least a ridge away, I couldn't tell why my brain thought the scene looked odd, only that it did.

Then we came upon two riders, horseless, and one rider (in the 50, going the opposite direction) walking her horse and on the phone with camp explaining that the riders had come off and the horses were loose, but everyone appeared generally OK.  I gave my full spare waterbottle to the riders and reassured them my Camelbak was plenty for me, we told them we had not yet seen their horses, but we promised to keep looking.  No sense going off trail with no idea where they had gone, so we stayed on our trail, left them, and headed on.  Suddenly we had things to worry about.  Another 50 came by and said something about seeing the horses, but didn't specify where.  We got our hopes up but still nothing.  And then, around a turn, the LD rider ahead of us with three horses: his one and the formerly-missing two.  I dismounted, handed my horse to Olivia (sorry Olivia!), grabbed the two horses and turned around to hike back up.  It's one thing to lead just one loose horse with yours.. but to lead two plus a third seemed unreasonable.  I figured Olivia hadn't ditched me yet and would probably tolerate me throwing the pony at her for a few minutes.

Hiking back, it dawned on me that I should call camp and let them know the horses had been found.  Management had given out a paper with phone numbers, so I dutifully put that.. in my horse's saddlebags.  Which was no longer next to me, since I was leading not-my-horses.  Oops.  Lesson learned: that paper needs to be on my person, or I need to save the numbers in my phone!  I called my boyfriend who was volunteering at camp.  Evidently he was busy volunteering at camp - the nerve! - and didn't hear his phone go off.  I found the number for the out-check manager and called her instead, figuring she could get the information to the right place.  Horses made it back to their humans.  I was working on the theory that if we could get them the horses they could make it home.  In hindsight, perhaps I should have stayed to make sure they could get on, too... but instead, I jogged back up trail, retrieved my pony, hopped back on, and moseyed my way into the finish, complete with calling boyfriend-at-camp again and reiterating to him that the horses were found and please let management know.  Again: smarter answer would have been to pull the paper with phone numbers out.  I evidently do not claim to be smart 20 miles into a ride with full sun.
Cows left. Water trough center. Pony ears say RUN HOME.

Except for when we hit the water trough shortly before the finish: then there was no moseying present.  We've done this ride four times now and Confetti knew exactly where we were.  Suddenly I had a full-of-energy horse who would like to go running now please.  I parked her back behind Nilla's butt for the last half-mile into camp.  Oh, pony.

As I'd expected, Confetti vetted through fine at the end, no lameness present.  Hindsight says I should have cleaned her feet prior to vetting her through at the out-check and then there would have been less stress there!  We didn't quite manage to turtle, but our horse-handling adventures took us from a solid mid-pack to near-turtle.  Oh well.  I'm happy with the thought that we could have been solidly midpack.

Overall: pretty pleased.  I had plenty of horse, she pulsed down well at the checks, and she was respectably polite if not as good as I'd hoped.  If we do this ride next year and things don't change dramatically, I expect we'll do the 50 instead - it's a hard ride for my migraines, but I might as well let her run through more of the first loop and find her brain in the second 25 miles.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

All-around pony

In the week and a half following our first 50, Fetti and I have been on three trail rides, the first two in full tack and < 3 miles (and not at competition speed: fear not, I am not overworking my horse, these were social rides) and the third a 7-mile bareback excursion with my best trail riding friend.  This particular bareback ride involved all of the following:

- spook-in-place at a dog(?) charging the other side of a solid fence, complete with dust cloud
- trail-following while I fiddled with my phone to get the GPS tracking app turned on, twice
- 'trail' following that turned into more deer path than anything else
this doesn't look very familiar
- letting me mount from a very wobbly tree on a very not-trail-like hillside
- lazy walk/trot moseying, both leading and following, past strollers and hikers and joggers
- numerous moments where I dropped flat onto her neck to get underneath tree branches
- leg yields as I micromanaged her between closely spaced trees
- impromptu pony ride for small children our riding friend knew from work

Good pony!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

First 50: lessons learned

Confetti still does best with a buddy, and I am extraordinarily grateful to Cyd and Bugsy for hanging out with us all day.

Sponging while on the horse: non-issue.  I'd never really tried this before, since most of my rides haven't had enough river crossings for it to come up.  Per usual, she acted as if we'd been doing this forever.  This horse spoils me.

Electrolytes via DelyteBytes cookies: success in that she ate them and ate/drank well.  It's hard to say how much of a difference the cookies made.  I planned to give her approximately one every hour or whenever I thought of it, packed 10-12 cookies in a bag for the trail, went through 9 of them.  We'll do the same thing at our next ride.

Race brain never kicked in (see: we had a buddy!) and she treated the whole ride like a conditioning ride, complete with asking to quit when her heart rate hit 150.  I am happy to see that she is capable of keeping her brain and not running herself to death.

Good fallen log mounting block, photo by Cyd
Mounting: needs work again.  This is my issue more than hers.  I haven't been practicing much since May and my anxiety is back up again, especially in the Thorowgood where there's less saddle to hang on to.

what are my elbows doing?! photo by Boots n Bloomers, used with purchase
My posture: needs work.  Drop my shoulders.  Drop my shoulders!  That'll fix the elbow/wrist issues I see in photos.  But I am happy that I am relaxed and smiling, riding on a loose rein (which is where I lose some of the good posture - also needs work).

Trailering: she wasn't bad, but she wasn't perfect. I've never had an issue loading her before and it took a couple minutes for all three loads.  I finally pulled out the dressage whip when we were loading up at camp to head home.  Two light taps 'no really I'm serious' and she went in.  It's not a fear issue, it's a 'not sure I want to' reaction.  In fairness, we haven't been trailering out from home much over the past year, and the last time we trailered was in June up to Wild West... another long haul in both directions.  My plan is to bring the dressage whip with me the next time I'm loading her, and escalate promptly to that rather than trying to coddle and convince her into the trailer.

swooshy tail. photo by Boots n Bloomers, used with purchase
Boots: if you know the boot doesn't seem to go on right, rasp the damn hoof.  I even packed the rasp.  I have zero excuses for this one and one lost boot shell to show for it.

Migraines: I did not have a migraine.  This ride was mostly in the trees - enough such that the new visor was plenty of shade even without my forever-worn sunglasses! - and I am confident that was a huge factor.  No migraine day before, no migraine post-ride, no migraine day after.  

Hour holds go by fast.  I can see where having crew would be useful!  A few minutes to pull tack and sponge sweat, a few minutes to let her eat, find spare boot & apply to hoof (thankfully the boot was pre-adjusted for the RF, which was normally the larger and more finicky foot, so it was Good Enough to go on the LF without fiddling at cables), vet in, switch out Camelbak bladders, braid my hair quick, grab food for me, realize I have 20 minutes left and should start tacking up, fight with electrodes and gel, run to portapotty, throw last of tack on, jog over to out-timer to find Cyd, who was starting to wonder if I'd left already (3-4 min past my out time).  Oops.

Lots to work on, but nothing spectacularly awful, and generally all workable issues!