Sunday, August 24, 2014

So much heart

There was a local QSER club meeting/ride this weekend, and I am very pleased with Fetti.
Five mile ride over: generally uneventful, not quite a 5mph pace but I let her choose a lazy forwards speed and didn't ask for much.
Five-ish mile with another club member on her green horse: not logged, but Fetti was excellent and polite and mellow, winning herself a few more fans.  It wasn't a hard or a fast ride, but given the plan to ride to the meeting and then home again after, I was happy enough to have a socializing ride while helping someone else's training.

The ride home got a bit more interesting.

We headed out around 7, much to the pony's dismay as we were leaving all the other horses and that couldn't possibly be right.  She got over it; we've had worse discussions when leaving.  We stayed lazily slow through the steep downhill steps to the river, then trucked along at a consistent-but-not-fast trot -- and it was quiet enough in the park we sustained that pace for the next 0.7 miles on a gradual uphill.  Very pleased.  We can't normally do that!  Looking at the logs after, that 'not-fast' trot was a solid 7mph.  Gooood mare.

Partway out, I got a text from a friend that she'd meet me partway home, and here's where she was now.  Yay!  We picked up the pace, flying up one hill, walking the really steep stuff down, and trotting most of the downhills towards her location.  Good news: totally rideable, though I wouldn't want to make a habit of doing that all the time.  Bad news: my iMessages never went through to her, and I got another Text that she was heading up the trail.. the other fork, not the one I'd just come down.  Drat!  She can't be that far away though, right?  We're hauling ass, she's bareback and solo, she was *just* here I think.. so we turned around and flew a bit more sedately back up the other trail away from home.

Several missed calls and failed messages later, she finally got my 'turn around!' text message, but at that point was nearly to the center point; she called and said she'd wait there.  Poor Confetti was not pleased with her human, but was still politely trotting along most of the time when asked.  Mostly all uphill, and I kept thinking we'd catch up to them soon.. well.. no.  We did not.  Fetti was very happy to see her mother at the midway point, and I was very apologetic to my poor horse.

Off we headed for home, down the same trail Fetti and I had gone earlier heading home.  I can't blame her for thinking badly of the humans!  It was mostly downhill, with sunlight fading fast.  We've ridden in the dark before and I figured we'd probably be fine.  We did opt to take the (no horses allowed) main road through the park since slightly more light comes through and there are slightly fewer cliffs, rocks, and terrain changes to deal with.  Confetti led through most of the unfamiliar road, her tail acting as a navigational beacon for our riding partner.

It was pretty freakin' dark by the time we got back onto our trails.  We'd walked nearly all of the road - unfamiliar asphalt in the dark going downhill does not exactly scream 'trottable terrain'.  The moon wasn't deigning to show itself.  (And now that I've looked it up, gee, that makes sense: new moon tomorrow night.  There was no moon this weekend.)

So Confetti stayed in front, and we just kept on walking.  I pointed out landmarks periodically to reassure the four of us that we were in fact making progress towards home.  The last mile home has a fair bit of tree cover and not an awful lot of clear spots.  We hit our first 'totally dark' spot and Confetti promptly spooked in place, then carried on walking.  Thank goodness.  I don't know what it was, but I didn't fall off and she got herself over it with no help from me.  Good pony!  Our second spook came a few minutes later, as I slowed down her walk so our riding partners could stick right by her tail for visibility.  The bushes by my left foot moved all of a sudden, and poor Fetti nearly jumped out of her skin going sideways to get away from.. whatever it was, perhaps a lizard?  I couldn't fault her for that, either, and she got over it and carried on forwards right after.

My night vision is pretty good, and I know the trails well.  It's not often that we hit areas of total darkness where I can't even see her mane in front of me.  We did that a few times during this ride.  I couldn't drop contact for fear she'd spook, but I rode a lot of it with one hand on the reins and one on the saddle.  A glowstick on my crupper would have been very helpful for our partner.  A few times I pulled my phone out and just let the ambient light hit her tail as we went through sections of dark, just to give her something to orient to.  When we hit our usual 'very dark' spot almost all the way home, I gave in and used the flashlight ahead of us.  I couldn't see anything, I was worried about deer, and I couldn't keep turning on the screen and holding it behind me.

I apologized profusely to the pony, thanked her, and gave her an extra flake of hay.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Saddle woes

I may or may not have written about the first time my crupper ring detached from the saddle.  I did some research, found that it was a known issue with a year or two of Specializeds, found the correct way to fix it, and passed on those instructions to our local leather repair shop.  It's worth noting that their first language is not English and I don't think they quite understood: the fix was not done in the way I had hoped, but it appeared to be fixed well enough and I let it be.  That fix was made late last year, if I remember correctly.

Also of note: I need a crupper on Confetti on our home trails.  It is entirely non-negotiable.  I could probably fiddle with the saddle fit and get it slightly better, but her sweat patterns are good and she moves out well as-is.  It seems silly to mess with that too much.  Everything slides forwards on her on some of our hills, with or without my weight in the saddle.  Someday I'll get a decent Specialized rep out and show them the hills.  Maybe they can shim it, maybe not.  She has no withers and big shoulders.  I'm probably fighting a losing battle.

We did a particularly steep trail this past weekend. I tightened the crupper up a hole before starting the downhill.  I know the saddle ends up on her shoulders, and I know that tightening that one hole is beneficial to keep it slightly further back.  Is it slightly snugger than some would ride with?  Absolutely.  This trail has probably 15 minutes of constant downhill walking, ranging from slightly downhill to moderately downhill, with a few large downhill steps for good measure.

I reached back a few times during that long downhill, verifying that the crupper is indeed *very tight*, as per usual through here.  I don't know when I checked it last.  We headed up away from the river, then back down to the next river crossing, then finally up and away again.  I reached back again midway up the hill and felt.. nothing.  Shit.  There was a dog and hikers behind us, a few particular bits of trail I try really hard not to ride in the opposite direction, and time constraints on my part.. not to mention if we turned around, I'd be riding some fairly steep sections going downhill with no crupper.

We carried on towards home.  All the downhills were walked, and the particularly steep ones had me off and walking her, then sliding the saddle back at the bottom.  I know what sections of trail cause problems and I can get away with that.

The next day, I saddled up with the dressage saddle and my other crupper.  Tack hoarding tendencies: totally justified here.  We rode out on the same trail, and lo!  A crupper hanging from a tree!

Speck of pink - you may need to embiggen to see it.
That was good.  What was not so good is that the D-ring was not attached.  If you take the time to hang a crupper from a tree, it's reasonable to assume that you would include all the pieces, correct?  Back at the barn my suspicions were confirmed.. the leather that held the D-ring on was still intact.  The fix held.  The only reasonable explanation is that the D-ring itself broke.  (Which, admittedly, doesn't make a lot of sense to me.  The crupper was found after that looooong downhill - and midway through a flat section, right after a river crossing.  I don't understand when it would have broken and why it came off where it did.  Thoughts, anyone?)

The saddle will head off to Specialized's headquarters for a second, hopefully more permanent fix.  While I'm at it, might as well get the billets replaced, too! If I'm going to be without my favorite saddle for 3-4 weeks, it seems prudent to do all the needed work this time around.

I am grateful for my tack hoarding tendencies.  The Specialized is not my only saddle, and my Thorowgood dressage saddle has a crupper ring and pretty sweat patterns after long rides. I also have that older endurance saddle that can come back out to play if needed.

It can't end there, though.  That would be too easy.  The ride on the Thorowgood was uncomfortable for me, and it seems likely that the gullet plate needs to be changed out for a wider one.  Not a problem, I have at least one wider one, and the tools to change it out.  Except the tools I found are NOT the ones I need, and the necessary tool and spare screws... are nowhere to be found, and quite possibly hiding with the Renegade tools that are still nowhere to be found.  I would not be surprised if they're all in the same bag.  Unfortunately, I have no distinct memory of seeing them after they were packed for Mount Diablo back in May, and I have not the slightest clue where they would have ended up.

Hex keys were purchased, and there will be an update if the stupid tools ever show up.

Bright side: scenic photos while crupper-hunting!

The tree actually does lean over the trail, and now requires ducking onto Fetti's neck to fit underneath.



It's a 15-foot drop (or so) nearly straight down on the right.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dealing with fear

Last week, I started off typing a post about how if I'm being honest with myself, arena work scares me on Fetti.  I used to jump things with at least a reasonable amount of confidence.  Walk trot canter in the arena?  No problem.  Now, I avoid even wandering aimlessly around the arena if I'm riding her, though I'll do it fearlessly on other horses.

About a month after I started leasing her, we were turning away from the water pump when it went on.  She flew around the rest of the turn, likely threw in a buck, and bolted for the other end of the arena.  I didn't stick the rest of the turn.  It was mortifying - here I was, new to the barn, and my horse just ran loose in the crowded arena!  I picked myself up, retrieved the horse, and got back on.  We did a bit of walk/trot work before I hopped off, sore, bruised, and a bit scraped up.  We quit working in that end of the arena.

She gets rushy and feels bolt-like after jumps, too, even when she's just going briskly.  I quit jumping her much, or at least not very high and not very often.  (Cross-country jumps, by the way? Totally fine.  It's close enough to being on a trail that I know where she's going next.)

Honestly, a big part of the reason we ended up doing endurance is that she doesn't scare me the same way on the trail.  Actually, if I'm being honest with myself, a second reason: I don't feel like I'm terrible at it and getting nowhere.  It's easy to allow lower standards for myself because Fetti's an older horse (well, sort of!), an off-breed, and we're both new to it.  Basically, it's okay if we fail at endurance, but if we fail at hunters or English stuff, that feels very not okay, so it's easier to just not try it at all.  [Thought process not actually recommended, by the way.]

I'm not going to judge anyone else for what they choose to do or not do with their horse, for whatever reasons.  I will judge me, though, and I can say this: it feels ridiculous to have a well-trained English horse who can jump and enjoys jumping.. and be too afraid to ride her in the arena despite being a former hunter rider.  Reading through Cob Jockey's archives reminded me that I really do miss some of that.

I went to the barn Thursday with the intention of a 4-6 mile trail ride, a break for lunch or errands, and an arena work with some riding over poles.  The plan was to call a local trainer for help with our canter - both transitioning into the canter and my atrocious seat at the canter.  It turned out that I saw her at the barn, mentioned lesson scheduling, and committed to a lesson two hours later.

The anxiety kicked in almost immediately.  What the hell did I think I was doing, scheduling an arena lesson to work on our canter departs?  Our canter is awful, I'm a terrible rider, y'all know the drill.  Off we went on a trail ride to work out the kinks (did I mention she hadn't been worked since Sunday?), back to the arena to hang out and calm nerves.

No real effort required!
Trainer W started by longing Fetti over some barrels to check in with where her brain was.  She would have had me jump them, but that sounded utterly terrifying and I opted out.  Confetti thought the jumps were kinda boring, but politely trot/cantered it a few times anyway.

Once I was on, the entire lesson was in a four-leaf clover type pattern.  Trot the straight line (pole on one side, trot straight, pole on the other), right-hand quarter turn around the circle, trot the straight line perpendicular to the first one, right-hand quarter turn around the circle, trot the straight line.. etc.  Always turn the same direction in a quarter-turn and then ride a straight line, repeat.  The idea was to ask for engagement in the hind end and get her stepping under herself.

Reasonable trot.

Within fifteen minutes, we were getting solid canter departs and even keeping the canter.  Other direction, same thing.  With perhaps ten minutes left in the lesson, I commented that we might as well try jumping too. Trainer offered to set one up along a separate line.  I clarified: no, on the pattern, just replace one of the poles with a low jump.  Why not address all my anxieties in the same lesson?

So we did!
A real jumping effort!

We took a long spot once; I felt her reaching and slipped her the reins to figure it out, brought her back, cantered around the corner.  No bolt.  No fear.  Huh, this jumping thing is kind of fun again.

My position at the canter is still pretty awful.  We didn't address that.  She's not a dressage trainer or a jump trainer, and I'm okay with that!  Confetti and I both know *how* to jump, and I just needed someone to give us a positive, confidence-building lesson.  We can deal with my form in a few weeks, or I can call my usual trainer for a canter lesson, or I can keep working on that on the trail.. or maybe even in the arena.

Possibly the first non-ride photo ever where I see myself as an endurance rider.

Looking at - no, past! - the jump.

Position needs work, but horse is honest and it wasn't scary!

Stretchy walk, tired pony.

Speaking of CobJockey, she's running a contest that y'all should check out - gift certificates are always good!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Same trails, but never quite the same

I am very lucky to have trail access directly from my barn.  There's about a mile of flat trails, a set of steps/uphill, and then from there the trail splits and you can wander off in a few different directions. There are a finite number of real trails.  By now we know them all backwards, forwards, and sideways.  But there's always something, and it's not always just a different ride because of the horse!

Confetti and I are pretty easy to recognize, and I'll stop and chat with folks in the park on a semi-regular basis.  One lady chatted with us once and was very impressed? intrigued? by Confetti's "beautiful third eye".  We met her again a few months later and she was still very interested/awed by Fetti's "third eye." She remembered that it was Confetti, name and all, no prompting needed.  It's a very hippy/Santa Cruzian sort of thing to say, and yet I think she was totally serious about it.  I had no explanation the first time, and have no better explanation after the second time.

My schedule last summer was more consistent, and Thursday afternoons heading home Confetti and I would almost always see this one runner.  "You again!"  "Hi!  See you next week!"  as we went off our separate directions.  He quit coming after the time change, and I don't think he's been around this summer (but my Thursdays have been stranger times this summer, too).  Sure, it's not a great idea to always do the same thing at the same time, and I know there are risks with that.  I also know there are plenty of good, sane people in the parks who would be concerned if they saw my horse and I separated, and I'm enough of a "regular" that if I needed help, I could likely get it.  Tradeoffs.

Riding in the dark Friday night with a friend, just a short little ride - on our way out, we saw a car come zooming down the road, easily 20mph, and then it continued onto the trail rather than turning right onto the road.  It is, admittedly, not an obvious transition: the only cars normally allowed on that road are park ranger cars.  Rangers don't drive that fast and know where the road goes.  The car turned slightly, realized they couldn't get on the road, reversed, and KATHUNK!  We bailed off the horses and wandered on away.  Sympathy lost when they were going that fast.
We put the pieces of the puzzle together later.  There was a Trail Run in the park on Saturday, so the car was likely out marking trail Friday night.  They thought the road met the main road.  The car impacted a relatively small tree; we saw the broken red tail-light on Saturday and the scrapes on the (mostly unharmed) tree.  Tree: 1.  Car: 0.

Homeless folks frequent the first half-mile of trail as it connects to the main park.  You never know what you're going to see and what's going to get left behind.

A trail vaguely paralleling the road had someone littering this past weekend.  A few cans on the left.. another bottle or something way left.. and a colored newspaper smack in the middle of the singletrack trail.  Alas, my running monologue was insufficient warning for my riding partner right behind me.  Confetti trotted over it, careful not to touch it with her princess-hooves.  Riding partner's horse crowhopped over.  Sorry, riding partner: I really did mean an actual newspaper, not a theoretical might-be-there-someday newspaper!

Every summer we have several encounters with nude guys on the beach.  It's only weird/creepy if they're actively walking towards you and talking.  Meditating on the beach, oblivious to everyone else?  As long as it's relatively secluded, dude, whatever.

Once school starts back up, if we make it out for a late-summer ride (think September or October) past campus, at least one group of students will stop and stare and want to pet the ponies.  Half of them are probably stoned.  I am certain we've ended up in a handful of photos - probably on Instagram or something, who knows.

Mountain bikes flying down trails we rarely see them on, sometimes pausing and letting us clear the way so they can have a good run down.  I can't blame them - it's got to be a great hill to go down.  It's a heck of a hill for an uphill workout.

Deer.  Stupid deer.  I spent a few minutes explaining to a rather large buck that I'd like him to go away now, please, or else I'll.. um.. have to turn around, and that would be sad.  It's not an uncommon event, those explanations and ramblings at deer.  They don't even pretend to be listening most of the time.

There are children leaping into the water, cannonballs, drops, whatever, just off one side of the trail.  Screaming and yelling and general enthusiasm.  Others skip stones across the water and throw sticks for their dogs to retrieve.

Oh, and sometimes there's a guy on a unicycle that comes through the park.

It's certainly never dull around here.

Friday, August 15, 2014

EaH Blog Hop: Equestrian Wardrobe

The first topic in question is actually a spin off of L's final hop. I want to know about what you ride in and why? Show us your Equestrian Fashion choices and tell us why you wear them!

 Fashion?  Ha!

As an English rider, I rode nearly always in tall boots and breeches.  That's just how things were! (TBT post exemplifies that nicely.)

As an endurance rider.. well.

Is that not the best saddle pad?
I rode in jeans for a while.  Jeans, Ariat half-chaps, Ariat paddock boots, and your standard t-shirt and Troxel helmet.  Remember, folks:  I'm in California.  We don't get much real weather around here.

I was still getting back into horses, my breeches hadn't made it to my apartment, and jeans seemed comfortable enough.  Then I gained some weight, wore holes in jeans, decided they weren't flexible enough...

Breeches, light jacket, half-chaps.
I started wearing breeches again.  I had them, it meant I didn't have to buy too many more pairs of jeans, they were pretty comfortable.  I was riding 6-7 days a week through mid-2012.

I added a lightweight jacket because it was a bit chilly out and we weren't going fast.  This was.. um.. March 2013.  You wish your March looked like this.

I switched to Ariat Terrain boots.  They were more comfortable than paddock boots, and I needed new boots anyway, so... why not?  I loved those boots.  They run big - full size big on me, half-size big on most folks.

Red breeches and white winter boots.
I periodically ride in winter boots, too.  They're warm.  My feet get cold in the winter, but the bigger problem is that my feet get wet in the winter, so I try for waterproof winter boots.

I have two pairs of red breeches, full-seat, that I really hate how they fit but can't bring myself to get rid of them since they do, in fact, work as riding breeches.

Sometime last year I got tired of beige breeches, plus they started wearing out.  I bought a few pairs of TuffRiders off a used tack Facebook group, and I am so very pleased with them even as I'm still not a fan of full seats.  They manage to fit me surprisingly well and hold up nicely so far.

Horze winter boots - not visible against breeches!

This past March, I got decked out in Serious Rain Gear.  Well, actually, I did two days of serious rain gear around the ACTHA ride, and got absolutely soaked the first day and dry (no rain!) the second.  I have Horze winter boots that are a size too big, but fit my calf and allow for wool socks, so sometimes they get pulled out in the winter. 

So, in a more current what-do-I-wear and why, here we go:

1. Troxel helmet with helmet cover.  It fits, it's comfortable, and it's adjustable in the back so I can opt to braid my hair, or not.

2. T-shirt, mostly.  I wore a lightweight long-sleeve cotton shirt to Fireworks and that actually worked really well for me (less sunburn, lightweight enough I wasn't overheating).  I have Irideon technical t-shirts of some sort, and another pretty pink technical shirt, and I wear those on the really hot days.  Mostly I just don't ride when it's really hot.

3. Occasional jacket, mostly lightweight.  Once we're trotting I warm up pretty quickly.  I worry more about getting wet in the winter than getting cold, and I need to buy some waterproofing spray for my jackets!

4. TuffRider breeches.  They're comfortable and they fit.  Knee patch preferred since I don't like the full seat.  I wear these pretty much year round.. but again, no real weather to speak of.

5. Boots or running/hiking shoes - currently, Ariat Tiogas are my boot of choice, but I have no particular ties to a brand as long as they're comfortable.  I wear out the inside of the right shoe at the back of the heel within 9-12 months, regardless of brand, so inexpensive is a major plus.

6. Half-chaps.  I am so far very pleased with the Ariat Terrain II half-chaps. I was actually really happy with my All-Around half-chaps too, and I think I've mentioned previously that I'm keeping those forever and ever and ever since they're not wearing out and still fit.

7. Knee socks from Target.  Yes, I wear knee socks under my breeches and half-chaps over.  For years I hated the feeling of the seams on my legs, and knee socks fixed that; now I'm just used to having lots of layers there.  It works for me.

8. Heritage gloves.  I wear the hell out of these in about a year, and for $20-something that's good enough for me.  I wear them year-round unless it's raining - and even then, sometimes - because my hands don't get cold while riding.  My feet get cold sometimes, but not my hands.

I still pull out my 10+ year old Ariat tall boots from time to time, mostly when doing Proper English Riding.  They're still awesome.  They're just not trail-awesome, or hiking-awesome, and that's most of what I need these days.

My riding wardrobe is based around stuff that keeps me comfortable for hours on end.  I want to be able to trot for hours, jog down hills, and clean stalls in the same outfit.  All you folks that talk about heat and humidity and cold gear.. I don't really have any of that.  We get wet in the winter/spring, if we're lucky, and this past winter it got cold for a few weeks: I think it stayed below 65 for multiple days at a time.  I actually pulled out a pair of silk leggings for the first time ever and wore those under my breeches.  It gets hot in the late summer/early fall; I pull out technical riding shirts and wear those, or I wait til the evenings to ride.  Either way, once in the forest, it's not usually that bad.  I have to be actively trying to get heat training in our routine.

Also?  Based around pink.  Color coordination is important, after all.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

TBT: I used to jump things!

Sometimes it even ended up on video.  I'm not sure why thumbnails won't show, but click-to-play and they're short.

Three of my all-time favorites.  The bay is now retired, the Appy was sold to be a trail horse (navicular pretty well ended her jumping career), the Percheron is still around and doing lessons.

Sometimes I still dabble with the idea of jumping 'Fetti, but we're lacking in precision/arena work..  I really ought to work on that.  I miss being able to pop semi-fearlessly over little things in the arena, though we're happy to leap things on trail.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Tack Room Tetris

I had almost a year of one hay room, one tack room. Alas, no more; I was forced to combine for reasons beyond my control.

A few years ago I had our theatre stagecraft trailer to organize and rule over; we referred to it as "trailer tetris" due to the various contortions things frequently had to go through to find an appropriate place (especially if that place was balanced precisely on top of two other props or flats).  Despite being in a substantially smaller space, this exercise with the tack room felt surprisingly similar.

Original, non-combined chaotic state of existence:
January 2014. No hay here!

First round at cleaning/reorganization:
late May 2014

Three saddles, four pads (not counting the three in my car!), one bareback pad thoroughly take up the back wall.
Grain front left with supplements directly above.  Shelf unit with Renegades, Specialized pads and shims, and Thorowgood screws and gullet plates, plus pony hair-care (braiding bands and coconut oil).  If you look at the floor space and wonder how to get two bales in there and still have walking space.. you're not alone!
Blanket and cooler are stashed in a box against the wall on the left (under the purple bucket).  I'm counting on the fact that I don't need them very often, so being very inconvenient is okay.

Second round:
Minus one saddle, plus three bales of hay.  Right saddle rack has been raised to accommodate a bale of hay living underneath (not in the original plan, but who says no to inexpensive alfalfa during ride season?).  Rarely-used bale of hay just so happens to double as shelf space for my excess grooming stuff.

June 2014
Third round:
Bale bag on the bale of alfalfa to avoid massive hay-spreading.  Ikea towel racks for the saddle pads.

August 2014

A few things:
1. I love having my saddle pads on roof-height racks.  They're just high enough I can barely-comfortably reach the bars, and that wall space wasn't going to be useful for much anything else!  (Double towel racks from Ikea.  LOVE these.)
2. I cannot comfortably fit three saddles without having one get mouse-nibbled.  I took the older endurance saddle home and it's living in my room.
3. I cannot leave my spare purple water bucket in my tack room or the mice make themselves at home, literally, and I am so over finding mice in my spare bucket (especially when said bucket was right under the leather saddle).  It's living in my car, eventually to end up in my room.  This is actually OK.  It only gets used for endurance rides, so some of my other ride-only gear can be stashed in it at home, keeping it all together.
4. You always need extra hooks.  Always.  My boyfriend asked if I wanted a fourth hook on the door.  Obviously not - I only had plans to keep one bridle, breastplate, and halter there.  Not a month later and I'm already keeping another bridle on the door.
4b. Spare nails that previous residents left sticking out (preferably the head, sometimes the point) make excellent hooks.
4c. Looking at the door.. I wonder if I could add a hook for the girth to hang up top?
5. My bareback pad needs its own rack (or to live over the almost-never-ever-used saddle).
6. Shelves are important.  Not pictured: shelf immediately overhead when you walk in!  Little-used stuff lives up there.
7. Grain and stuff for in the mash all lives conveniently on the left: grouped and easy accessible.
8. Three bales of hay fit fairly comfortably, as long as I don't need to get to the one in back very often (hello, straight alfalfa!).  Four would fit if you rotated them sideways - but then there's almost no walkway.
9. If I only ever use it at rides, it's probably fine to leave it at home.  Hay nets, spare hoof boot, water bucket - and a set of brushes I can keep separate and use for rides.
10. If it's just 'stuff'.. it can live at home.  Western saddle pad?  Lovely, but no use currently.  Three extra English pads?  Home.  Varying leather pieces that once made up a bridle or two?  Home.

Any brilliant storage ideas?  What's your best trailer/tack room organizing tip?

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Four years

Four years ago yesterday, I drove an hour south to try out a horse I thought maybe I could lease for a year or so while I was in school.  The directions got me slightly lost on the way there, but I did arrive at the barn and hopped up on an unfamiliar horse in the fading evening light.

The light in the photo?  Camera flash.  It really was that dark before I got off.  I was hooked.  I don't think I stopped talking about how adorable the Haflinger was for the entire hour drive home, much to my boyfriend's dismay.
Four years later, I still find myself talking about how awesome and adorable she is, and he still puts up with it, dutifully nodding and smiling along.  

She's the best first horse I could have asked for, and then some.  I've been bucked off and came off when she bolted with me.  Blood, bruises, and occasionally slightly worse :)  But I trust this horse to get me home in the dark on a loose rein, to navigate unfamiliar terrain (also sometimes in the dark) that by all rights I should be off and walking - yet usually I'm not, knowing she'll be better at staying upright than I am.  She's a generally honest and willing partner who tolerates all the crazy things I ask her to do and rarely objects.  

August 2010.
August 2010.  First or second ride.

November 2011 (apparently, no photos were taken in August 2011)

August 2012.
August 2012. First ride with QSER.

August 2013.
August 2013.

August 2014

And since I seem to take photos mainly from the right side, here are two contrasting her mane then/now:

August 2010. Note the rubbed out chunk.  Also: wow, my hair really has grown!

July 2014

 Honestly, the most obvious difference I see?  Compare these two photos, almost 4 years apart.  

Second ride, 8/10/10

Fireworks 25, 7/12/14, photo by Gore/Baylor

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Riding with a mentor

I do most of my serious endurance training alone. It's not that I don't like company, but I am the only endurance rider at my barn. (There is one gal who I'm getting into it, so I ride weekly with her doing whatever the four of us feel up to doing.)  I don't have a truck or trailer, and no very-local folks who I know well enough to do conditioning rides with.

All that said, I find it very helpful to 1. Find a mentor and 2. Ride with a mentor or experienced endurance rider occasionally.  If they manage to be the same person, even better!

I first rode with Funder and Dixie two years ago.  I learned all sorts of little things.
- We weren't actually going as fast as I thought.
- Confetti needed to up her trot-speed..
- .. and I needed to improve my posting so I could ride it (aka: shorter stirrups).
- Crupper is totally necessary.
- Hills are to be expected. Use the ones I have and expect them at rides.
Minor, y'know?  But very needed, too.

Funder was then kind enough to go on our first LD with us, and that was really excellent, to get on-trail advice and chatter and reassurance that we weren't totally failing and going to die.  We finished!  Sure, I screwed some stuff up, but I learned a lot and it helps to have a good example to follow.

So - two years later - back out on the trail with Funder, and the biggest difference for me is that the pace felt totally reasonable even on my non-forwards horse.  This was undoubtedly due in part to Dixie being decidedly not-forwards as well, but still!  I wasn't feeling like we had a major pace problem this time around, and that was awesome, to have that direct comparison to work with.

Water crossing #2.  We paused at a lot of water crossings.  We paused for slightly less time at the water crossing with Naked Meditating Stoner Dude.

Other notes!
- Trust the horse.  Which I do, most of the time, but not so much when it really matters and there's actual pressure.  Trust the horse.  She'll drink if she wants (and she did!  early!), and if she doesn't, trust her on that.
- Try it.  You'll be fine.  (Noted!  And I will.)  The horse is not broken.

Other lessons from Funder include 'yes, it is totally normal to run/hike down hills with your horse.'

Mentors let you ask all the ridiculous questions that come up. 'Can I do a ride right after I get back from a week-long vacation?'  'Sure you can.'   ---  'My horse is broken! again!' 'Give it a few weeks before you panic, there's plenty of time.' 

There's also the whole 'feel like you fit in and have support' sort of thing, that's hard to put into words but so very important to me anyway.  Blogging helps with that.  Mentors help with that - it's always good to have advice from experienced riders, whether or not it validates your current ideas!  Confidence can be hard to come by.  I've been very lucky that we're slowly but surely inching our way forwards with (knock on wood) so far, no major disasters.

So.  I am totally convinced that one should find a mentor.. and that if/when the opportunity arises, one should be willing to step up and mentor those newer/less experienced than you.  I had such an excellent first ride with Funder that I'm hoping to get my barn friend through her first 25 later this year, and get her addicted to the sport too!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Summer wishlist

I have more topics in my head than time to write them, so let's take one off the list: current summer wishlist!

My pony expenses have to stay low-budget and limited, but I am not opposed to saving for a new item if it's worth it and can't be found used.

Note the new PINK caged stirrups!
1. Caged stirrups.  These have actually been on my list for over a year now.  When my current pair started to be very-dead as opposed to dying, I called American Trail Gear and ordered their new nylon stirrups with hot pink cages.  They arrived Thursday.  I love them and have no regrets.  (I did have to punch a half-hole in the stirrup leathers since the Easycare stirrups don't compress the same way my previous pair did, but once that was done?  Perfect.)

 2. Half-chaps.  I actually went to Horse Expo last year looking for half-chaps to replace my Ariat All Around chaps - which we purchased for me originally around 2003.  I wore them for some lessons, they never fit quite right, I ended up getting tall boots instead.  I pulled them back out four years ago for riding Confetti around, and found they suddenly fit much better since my calves were larger now!
But after three years of serious wear, they're tired, they fit a little funny, and the suede is totally gone.  I bought half-chaps from Distance Depot last year; they fit even *less* well, but worked for a year anyway (they fit differently not-well, and it seemed better at the time).  I'm certainly not ready to throw the Ariats out or even give them away.  I just want half-chaps that are actually comfortable instead of mostly comfortable.
I found a pair of Ariat Terrain II half-chaps in what I think is my size on HorseLoverz, nearly half off.  They should arrive later this week.  Verdict coming later!

3. Equi flex sleeves.  I like the idea, I want them, they're not terribly expensive.  Barring other things breaking, this should be my next major purchase - hopefully before October!  Bonus: they come in pink.

Clipped pony, last October.
4. Woolback pad.  My original Woolback lost some of its stitching during a wash and is no longer useable as-is.  I'm using a Coolback and that seems to be fine with 'Fetti.  I'd like to get another Woolback, but can't justify a second pad when the one I have is working and the new ones have lost some of their quality/reliability.  If I find one used and reasonably priced, I'd buy it, but I'm not feeling the need to buy one new. 

5. Clippers.  I will need to clip for Quicksilver.  'Fetti is already starting to shed her summer coat, which means the winter one is coming in.  I will almost certainly purchase some before October.

6. Tipperary helmet - likely later this year, or whenever I take a fall, whichever comes first. Now that I think of it, I'm not sure I replaced my helmet after December's fall. I'll need to look into that.  Would I need a DaBrim visor to go with?  My Troxel's been doing fine with the standard visor; does the Tipperary have less of one?

Friday, August 1, 2014

July recap, August goals

July was an improvement over June!

I never did get around to setting goals.  It was a month of putting one foot in front of the other and just getting through.
- We entered and completed Fireworks 25 midway through the month.  Aside from the whole forgetting-girth part, it was awesome.  Confetti did brilliantly.  I could not have asked for a better, more confidence-building ride.
- Confetti is not lame.
That about covers all of the hopes at the beginning of the month!

She does have hives.  I'm confident the cause is a different type of wood pellets I tried, as the hives showed up within days of adding them and she's never had allergic reactions to anything before.  The hives are focused mainly on her left hindquarters/leg, with some on her belly: right where she lies down.  I started her on Benadryl yesterday after a week of no visible changes.  They're not getting any worse since I stripped the stall, but they're also not getting any better.  She's itchy, and actively trying to scratch there when no one is looking.  She's cranky towards her neighbors because she itches (and has a few scrapes to show for it. Mares!).  I am comfortable riding her and she's happy to get out.. so that's something.

July was a higher-mileage month than usual.  I think this can partly be attributed to the numbers being too high - our 18 mile ride yesterday showed up as 22, and I know it's not that far.  Our total comes to something around 120 miles, including our 25.  If you consider that the 18 was mostly walking and only qualifies as work due to the time spent.. that puts us right about 100.

August goals:
- 15+ mile rides once or twice during the month
- Get rid of hives
- Continue speed work approx. once weekly
- Continue heat work (as much for me as for her)
- Rebuild trail confidence; eliminate backing up as an evasion again.

Aside from the whole hives thing, I'm really happy with where we are right now and don't feel anything but her confidence needs much work.  (I am so done with the whole 'back up because I'm terrified' 'make the other horse go first' nonsense.  So done.  It's occasionally valid, but currently 95% an act.)  Overtraining is going to be more of a concern than under-conditioning.  We've logged the miles and now I need to trust my horse.