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 www.topaz-dreams.net - 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

TwoPoint-Tober

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!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Cuneo Creek 2015

It's been radio silence around here for a little bit.  Work has been crazy, and I had a few pony plans in the works that I didn't want to jinx.

The TL;DR version: Confetti and I went north to Cuneo Creek, rode our first 50, and completed in fine spirits.

This really was a "it takes a village" sort of ride.  It took three different trailers and four trailer rides (one of which I wasn't even there for - my boyfriend is thankfully very supportive!) to get Confetti there and back.  I could not have even gotten to the ride were it not for the kindness of a semi-local rider who was willing to haul us up and back, someone I'd met only in passing prior to this ride.

Horse Preparation
I didn't ride very much the week prior to hauling up.  It's not that I wasn't planning to ride, but between ride prep and work I simply ran out of time to ride more than a few minutes once or twice.  Taper: unintentionally accomplished.

Confetti got her fall ride clip the weekend before we left.  It's been hot here, she's got a lot of hair, and I know she can be tough to pulse down at checks.  I took off more from her neck than I have in years past and feel absolutely no guilt about it.  She'll grow plenty back by the time it gets even remotely cold.
Clipped pony and tested boots prior to ride.
I rasped all four feet, with extra focus on the right front, slightly less than a week before the ride.  At the ride, she was about six weeks out from her last farrier-trim, if I'm remembering correctly.

Tack Preparation
I have been saying for how long now that I won't ride a 50 in my Thorowgood?  Well.  The Eurolight has still not shown up on my doorstep.  Three (fixable) things bothered me at Wild West: the seat wasn't quite cushy enough, the stirrups had no give and no relief, and the Webbers rubbed my calf just a bit.  In the interest of not spending too many fortunes, and being awfully short on time, I ordered new stirrups a week and a half prior to the ride and rigged up my little-used endurance seat cover to go on the dressage saddle.  First test: one moderate-speed short ride Saturday after they arrived.  Second test: one short but fast ride the Tuesday before we left.  At least I rode in it first!

I nearly borrowed stirrup leather covers, but then decided not to risk adding additional bulk under my legs without a really good test.  The last time I added leather covers to the Specialized and did a long ride, I flared up my knee.  It could be made workable eventually, but whether it would work on the first try felt like too much of a risk.

Rider Preparation
New helmet was purchased and tested once or twice prior to the ride.  New Salamander visor was attached to helmet the night before we hauled north to the ride and completely untested.

At Camp, Pre-Ride
Per usual, Confetti hopped off the trailer and dove for the nearest pile of hay.  That's my pony!  We hand-walked around camp, checked in, chatted with folks, and were suitably demoralized by a rider camped near to us who kept reiterating what a tough ride it is and how hard it would be.  Folks: this is not how you encourage new riders, new 50 riders, or riders trying to make a comeback to the sport.  The attitude was along the lines of 'you're going to have an awfully hard time and probably fail, but enjoy the scenery!' If I did not have several years of successful near-turtle LDs, that would have been super depressing.  As it was, it was just mind-boggling and we finally wrote it off as someone a bit crazy.

Haflingers spend all their time in camp eating.
I managed to not forget anything important (actually I'm not sure I forgot anything at all), unpacked, settled in, and finally went to put the Renegades on to vet in.  Right to left, per usual.. three boots went on well, the left front didn't fit quite right but with a little adjusting it seemed OK, if not as good as usual.  I decided that since it was the boot that always stays on, it would be fine.

Confetti vetted in with all As and a 44 pulse.  Good mare!  We chatted more with various positive folks, handed off donations for the Valley Fire, and managed to talk my way into riding with Cyd and Bugsy the next day.  One of my big concerns with doing a 50 was finding someone else to do a nice, slow, turtle-type ride, and knowing the night before that we found a new friend to ride with at least at the start was incredibly reassuring.  I opted not to pre-ride, but lunged her in a few circles to knock off a bit of excess energy.  I knew my nerves would just amp her up more and it would take 6-8 miles to make any noticeable difference in her sanity level, something I wasn't willing to do before a 50.

The Ride
It was surprisingly and refreshingly uneventful.  We started a few minutes after most of the 50-milers (a nice leisurely 7am start!), hand-walked our way out, and convinced Fetti we were just going for a leisurely trail ride.  The biggest problem I had was my mounting anxiety flared right back up, I haven't practiced much lately, and it took a half-mile of hand-walking and a creek crossing before I actually made it up on the pony.  Things to work on, indeed.  Halfway through the first loop or so, the front left boot came off.  I swore, hopped off, retrieved it, and stuck all the parts in the saddlebag.  I opted to leave the front right on mostly as an exercise in seeing how long that blasted right boot would remain on the hoof.  We moseyed our way through the rest of the first loop, trotting some, walking some, and casually wandered our way into the vet check.

Singletrack through the trees. Gorgeous, but lighting was tough on the phone.

Wider downhill non-forest trail.
Fetti pulsed down in all of three minutes despite me not walking her in the last half-mile.  Good mare!  We zipped off to the trailer across camp.  I swapped out my water, had some Gatorade and a sandwich, replaced her front left boot with my old spare, vetted the pony through, tacked her up, rushed to the portapotty, and managed to be only five minutes late for my out time.  Sorry Cyd!  (And thank you Cyd for waiting!!)  Things to work on, again.  That hour goes by quick, especially with no crew and a trailer all the way across camp.

Loop two started out with some repeat-trail: a most miserable uphill section that we trudged in the truest sense of the word.  Poor ponies.  Poor humans.  Yuck!  Eventually it ended, thank goodness, and we got to go downhill on some hardpack road.  I thought it was beautiful despite being downhill and hardpack.  It also claimed my front left boot - I suspect she overstepped trotting downhill.  I'd intentionally put on an old spare that I wouldn't feel obligated to retrieve, so I consciously chose not to turn around and go looking for it.  Farewell, old boot: you served us well.  The captivator stayed on and I left it there, knowing it doesn't bother Fetti, and knowing I didn't want to have to get back on.



Then uphill some more, and downhill some more, and redwoods, and trees!  and it was gorgeous.  It would have been quite excellent for photos had we not been behind other riders. I was using both hands to ride and did not have a spare to take photos with.  Back up and before we knew it, into the finish.



Almost home!
We walk/trotted our way into the finish and true to form, Confetti wasn't down yet.  Which is fine!  She didn't need to be, I hadn't handwalked a ways in, it's the furthest she's ever gone.  We hung out for a minute or two sponging and scooping to see if she'd drop to criteria.  Nope.  ("Don't you want me to check?" said one very kind volunteer.  Nope, no point wasting their time, I trust my HRM and if the human thinks she's down when the HRM is still reading upper 70s.. well, it wouldn't be the first time.  But it didn't need to happen.)  Back to the trailer, where she stuck her face in the haybag and I sponged some more, but left tack on entirely so I could see when she dropped.  Fig's personal timing: 13 minutes until she reliably dropped under 60.  It was another 10 before we got the 'official' time, but since we had 30 minutes total to pulse down, it was very zen and non-stressful.
More leftover not-our-hay.
When I took Fetti back across camp to vet, she dragged a bit.  She wasn't done resting and wasn't sure she wanted to go out again.  Even so, she managed to pass the final vet check with just about all As and I could not have been more pleased.

Post-ride, she looked good, felt good, ate well, drank well.  She dragged me around camp at a brisk walk after the awards.  Per typical form, she even demonstrated how to roll on a line for our trailer-buddy horse.  Cuneo has a nifty little spot by a water trough that's clearly designed as a spot for horses to roll, and she thought it was great.

Post-ride, I did not have a headache.  Exciting!


Upcoming posts:
- takeaways from our first 50, things to work on
- Garmin comparison/review
- long vs short rides

Friday, September 4, 2015

The not-pretty ride

We needed a long ride last week.  I knew it was supposed to be warm, so we headed out mid-morning, figuring a brisk 15-18 miles with boots should be doable.

- The ride did not start well.  Fetti decided there was something terrifying in the woods and I walked her down to the river, then got back on.  I think she was serious, not making it up, but it did not set a good tone.
- She was behind my leg very consistently and I was pony-kicking her into a 6mph trot.  Ugh.
- in fact, I'm not sure we ever got to our proper 8mph trail-trot.  If we did, it was a fluke.
- Did not balk hard going into the river, only a little bit; that was acceptable.  Did throw the brakes on at the usual spot in Pogonip.  I was unimpressed.  It lasted not as long as usual, so that does show progress, I guess.
- Faked me out through the entire Pogonip section pretending that she needed to pee.  She just wanted to turn around and quit early.  I have got to remember that she does this through here on her lazy days.
- Nice canter even up in Pogonip, but RF boot twisted and we stuck to trotting after that.
Hoof is straight. Boot is not.
- Portable phone battery charger decided it was dead.
- Garmin started throwing low battery warnings around mile 10.
- Pony drank from the major river crossing!  This is super exciting, since I've never had her drink here before.  It's reassuring that she'll drink here if/when she's thirsty.
- A big tree fell down and she spooked two steps, very politely.  I stopped telling her how awful she was for being slow and lazy and started telling her how happy I was with slow and lazy.
The offending tree is horizontal. Trees ought to be vertical.
- It was really, really hot.  My car said 97 when I left the barn shortly after we got back.
- My tall boots rubbed behind my knee.  Lesson learned: tall boots will not work for long rides.

So: we did do fifteen miles, but they were pretty miserable and ugly.  I think it took something like four hours, maybe a bit more with the tree falling down bit.

For bonus miserable and ugly, I had about two hours of relaxing at home before a migraine kicked in, and then I slept on and off from 4 until about midnight, complete with asking a very kind soul at the barn to please feed my horse because I can't get out of bed.  Mostly they're not that bad!  Thankfully this one subsided by midnight, I slept some more, and returned to being human by the next morning.


End results?
- I ordered a new Garmin model with a longer lifespan.  I'll review after my first competitive ride with it, later this month or early next month.  This was a fixable problem I could throw a reasonable amount of money at to resolve a re-occurring headache, and I was sufficiently frustrated I was willing to do it.  It had been on my 'maybe eventually' list for a while.
- I ordered two new battery packs, so I don't have to borrow my boyfriend's spare at when I want a second one at rides.  This was a problem I felt needed to be fixed immediately.  I feel a lot better having a backup phone charger with me on long rides, just in case.  They're also not very expensive.
- Tall boots went back in the closet for at least a week for my knee to heal.
- Hoof rasping is high on the priority list, and another test will need to occur before our next ride.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Product Review: Higher Standards Leather Care

This is not even remotely sponsored, not even requested, product purchased at full price.

I'm going to be brutally honest here: I am really, really awful about cleaning my tack.  One of the huge perks about endurance and beta tack is that you dump some water on it, maybe scrub a little, and you're good to go.  Leather, though.. ugh, that's real work.

I had some Horseman's One Step cleaner/conditioner for a while.  It wasn't terrible or anything, but the last time I saw it, the heat pretty well destroyed it and it had separated into oily/not oily sections.  Ugh.  I suspect that was probably last summer when I finally tossed the whole thing.  Also known as.. I hadn't touched any of my leather tack with cleaner or conditioner for at least a year, probably more.  Oops?

Mostly, I don't care.  I should, but I really don't.  I couldn't be bothered to go out and buy more saddle soap, find more rags, and condition my tiny collection of leather tack.  Two bridles, stirrup leathers, two saddles (one sitting at home, one Eurolight).

It would not do, however, to list a dirty saddle for sale.  I could not bring myself to do that.  So: off to Higher Standards' shop I went, and purchased two, and lo, they arrived quickly and with bonus peppermint!  Ponies always like bonus peppermints.

Before.
Mostly the saddle didn't look too bad, with one exception: behind the crupper ring.  The brass snaps on my cruppers rub the saddle no matter what I do.  It looked pretty awful, and previous half-hearted attempts with water and a rag went absolutely nowhere.

After.
It was surprisingly effective at removing the accumulation of dirt and grime, although the most concentrated areas still took some serious scrubbing.  The after photo was taken when the leather was still slightly damp.  The saddle did end up slightly darker in that section, so I can't recommend spending 20+ minutes scrubbing/removing soap/scrubbing/removing soap in the same several-inch section - but I doubt anyone else is likely to try that.  In areas where I used a normal to perhaps double-normal amount of soap and cleaning effort, the leather color was completely unaffected.

Also, it smells amazing and isn't difficult to use. Sponge on, rinse, sponge again and don't stress too much if a bit is still on there.  Again: would be easier if I cleaned my tack more than once a year, but the reality is that I don't.

Even so: I think I like this soap enough that I might make it up to three or four times a year.  Novel!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Non-riding weekend

Things I did not do this weekend: trail ride.

Things I actually did this weekend:

1. Rasped both front hooves in the morning fog
pony was unimpressed.


2. Played with Fetti in the arena

must run!

zoooom
accelerating through the corner
takeoff!
polite zooming
a more sedate canter

2b. Failed to capture faceoff between pony and buck - silly deer leaped the fence before I could snap a photo

2c. Reassured pony that she was fine and the deer wasn't coming back.

Worried pony.
Fetti doesn't actually mind deer on the trail, but getting unintentionally within 10 feet of one in the arena broke her brain. Deer aren't supposed to be in the arena.

easing her closer to the fence; still worried
Human exists to shield pony.

3. Sorted boots and pieced one back together. Current count: one full set of two fronts, two hinds. One Viper front spare. One Renegade front spare, now back together. One Renegade front spare, needs a cable before it's usable. One Renegade hind spare, all pieces intact but I ran out of energy.
Yes, three front spares and one hind. No regrets.

Needs more shelf.

4. Lunged 'Fetti in the arena on a line, walk-trot-canter.  Also over the barrel-jump a few times.  She only bolted and got away once - big progress! - and it came across as a genuine fear bolt rather than a 'because I can' shoulder drop and run.  We managed a canter on the line again afterwards without further dramatics.  (No photos: my hands were full!)

5. Sunday I went to a semi-local show to watch Olivia and Nilla, and for extra bonus ran into a few other folks I used to ride with back in my hunter days. Sometimes I contemplate showing again. Halfway through a hot afternoon, though? I don't feel like we're missing out on much.

Back at the barn overheating and migrained, kind friends cleaned my stall for me and turned the mares out. I chased them around for a bit - more cavorting as she did on Saturday, I definitely did not want to ride that bareback with a migraine! - then put Fetti away for the day and headed home to sleep. Tuesday, we'll ride.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Saddle fitting, again

Despite all my saddle-fitting posts and the small fortunes I've spent on fitters this year, I don't actually like throwing lots of money at saddle fitting.  I want things to fit, and the saddles seemed NQR.

To recap where things were at:
Thorowgood dressage - rode 2 days at Wild West.  Noted white patch/slight hair loss where I placed the electrodes under the saddle (right side).
Specialized Eurolight - have not felt appropriately balanced in this saddle all spring and worry that it's imbalanced for Fetti also.

I finally connected with some saddle fitters who not only came highly recommended, but have experience fitting the Specialized saddles, something I haven't been able to manage previously.  We set a date and I was thrilled to finally get some answers.  (I should add, since I apparently managed to not put it in the original draft: the fitters in question are Susan and David of Saddles that Fit, and I too would happily recommend them to anyone even sort-of local.  They aren't particularly close, but they're willing to travel!)

Best conformation shot I was able to send off. Photogenic mare does not like to stand square.
Confetti's back
The fitter noted only a bit of soreness, mainly towards the back of the saddle if I'm recalling correctly.  Her back looks generally good.  She affirmed my belief that the pony has big shoulders, no withers, and needs a relatively narrow tree but with appropriate flare.  She also confirmed that a crupper is likely always going to be necessary: it's just how she's built, there's nothing to hold the saddle back.


Usual Thorowgood setup.
Thorowgood
The flocking on the right side was uneven.  While some of it might be attributed to the saddle rack (oops, my bad, I haven't been as careful with the flocked saddle!), it looked like a bigger issue than that.  When we put it on Fetti and had her walk forwards, the saddle consistently shifted slightly to the left, consistent with the flocking being uneven on the right.  Oddly enough, this is not something I've noticed at all while in the saddle - but then I'm not entirely even and I compensate for that, too.
Flocking issues are fixable.  It might be worth trying a narrower gullet plate.  However, on further examination, they did not have any narrower ones with them - so we opted to ignore that option for right now. 
Eurolight
I learned things about my saddle from the fitters.  Crazy how that works out!  My Eurolight looks to be one of the first Eurolight models, with absolutely no seat padding.  The seat, however, can be shimmed to influence rider-fit.  I thought shims were only for horse-fit!  It has more of an endurance seat than a trail seat, but doesn't completely match to the current endurance seats.  This saddle consistently shifted slightly to the lft when walking, too, but I think that was less so than the Thorowgood?  The fitter noted that we'll want to adjust the angle on the left shoulder.
The billets and the girth didn't fall quite in the right place; I should consider a contoured girth to help set it in the right place.  For the record: inexpensive 24" contoured girths are tough to find, especially once you rule out any mohair/string girths and prefer to avoid leather!

winter Specialized photo
I've had a tough time pinning down what exactly it was that made me feel off-balanced, but once I hopped up, it was clear to all of us involved that I was not-balanced in the Eurolight as-is.  We did some shimming with my Eurolight to see if it might fix things.  I pointed out that I have a difficult time getting my thighs on the horse, and thus my toes tend to point out; this is exacerbated when I have pommel bags attached, as my knees run into the bags.  Given that, they pulled out a 16" Eurolight demo (this is why I wanted a Specialized dealer, too!), shimmed it up, and had me give it a try.   Wow.  What a difference!  The seat didn't make me feel trapped, my thighs went on (reasonably) well, and the seat was way more comfortable.  Hey, it's the little things.  The demo model had a trail seat rather than the more-popular endurance seat.

My position
I absolutely loved this: not only are they saddle fitters with Specialized experience, they have a centered riding background and I got a mini-lesson to go with the saddle fitting.  I am, unfortunately, a large part of the issue here, though my saddles haven't made it easier.
I really struggle with body awareness.  This is not new.  I know this.  I don't know where straight is; I don't always know quite how to do something that my brain understands but my body can't piece together.  Mostly, I tend to arch my back too much and not lead with my seatbones or anything.  Let's face it: I grew up riding hunters and getting the job done, but I never made it look pretty and I was never super-effective.
The lightbulb moment: use one of Fetti's lower braids to physically pull myself forwards into a posting trot.  This motion has eluded me for years.  Using that braid connects all the dots and has entirely changed how I post.
I do a better job finding neutral/correct position at the sitting trot; if in doubt, return to sitting, then try posting again. We could have put me back in my Eurolight for proof-of-concept, but it was pretty clear mine wasn't helping me in the battle to fix my position, so we opted to skip that.
The fitter also had me drop my stirrups a hole in the dressage saddle.  It's been two weeks and I'm still riding with it at that length.  Combined with the new posting mechanics, it's working fine.



End conclusions
1. Adjust flocking in Thorowgood dressage saddle to help with lateral shifting of saddle & white hairs
2. Relearn proper posting mechanics and true neutral, use braids to help acquire muscle memory
3. Acquire 16" Eurolight with a trail seat

#1 the fitters did for me.  Yay!  #2 is my homework and I'm continuing to work on it.  #3 rapidly became challenging.  I have been casually watching for 16" Eurolights or Internationals ever since May.  They do occasionally show up, but often at more than new-Eurolight price, and frequently with a wide tree.  Fetti does not need a wide tree.  I do not need to pay more than new.  I hadn't even thought about what seat I needed the saddle to have, and already I knew my options were limited.  Adding the trail seat parameter took my used options down to zero.

Funny how things work: it was two years exactly from when I first set the Eurolight on Confetti to when I listed it for sale. 
It's not in me to buy new very often, but to buy used, there have to be appropriate saddles out there.  I put my 15" Eurolight up for sale on Facebook at what I thought was a reasonable-to-high price.  The market disagreed: within 24 hours, and before it even made it up on two of the three groups I listed it to, I had a buyer at my asking price.  I sent an email off to the fitters, made my decisions, and placed an order for a new 16" Eurolight.  There's a 3-4 week wait time for new saddles right now, so this should get it to me before our early October ride if all goes well.


I'm happy to have answers, and I'm excited to see where this takes us.  Fewer saddle fitting headaches, yes please!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Too hot; 5 years; DIY Horse Ownership's giveaway

I had great plans of working on heat training, taking Fetti out for more mid-afternoon rides, maybe going out for a long ride one day this weekend.  Then I stepped out of the house around 2 to move my car, walked back in, and turned up the fan.  Stiflingly, miserably hot: I have lived here for four years and this is the first time I've ever wished for air conditioning, blasting a fan and sweating while sitting inside my house.

So instead of heat training, I made it out to the barn near-dark, worked her in the round pen, and went for a lazy moseying mile ride with a friend.  Sunday I didn't even bother getting on; we turned the mares out, chased them a bit, and went home again.  It was just that kind of weekend.

I'll do competitive rides in 90-degree weather because unfortunately that's how it happens sometimes.  I won't go out and train in 100-degree weather in the middle of the day.  Today, we'll ride!


Also: five years now since I first met 'Fetti.  Where did the time go?


DIY Horse Ownership hit 200 posts last week, and she has a giveaway running!  Nilla is just as adorable in person - and totally memorable, given I discovered the blog via the contest and after seeing them at Fireworks this year.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Oops. An update!

I have been a bad blogger, totally and completely failing to update about anything.  Rather than try to do coherent, well-written posts about the past month, it's all going here or it will never get written.

July: burnout
Fetti and I had a spectacular May/June where we worked on stuff and rode hard and conditioned.  We kept that up through the first week in July.  When it was determined she wasn't going to Fireworks, we rather abruptly quit with the Serious Work.
- She felt burned out.  I didn't have my high-energy, enthusiastic trail pony.
- We were fighting about forwards in a big way.
- I had concerns about saddles.
- Friends were off work and available to do mellow trail rides with a new horse.
Two weeks of generally pokey rides, no big trots, some turnout.  She was content to go slow.

So.. slow it was.  We walked a lot.  We jogged some.  I did a fair bit of bareback riding and stayed tuned in to how she felt (answer: content to follow the new young-pony on trails).

Toward the end of July, I hopped on for what I had come to think would be a polite, mellow walk around the barn.  Instead, she had a big walk and leaped/flounced her way into the trot.  Vacation was over.  She was ready to go back to work.

Oh, but there was one eventful ride.

You will have to embiggen and maybe squint to find it, but there is a helicopter in this photo.

Eep.
Pony was Not Impressed: this was not our usual helicopter that lands-sticks around-leaves.  There were, evidently, two, and they were landing-leaving-landing-leaving-repeat perhaps indefinitely.

I evaluated the (rapidly dwindling) number of cookies I had, and the (not very rapidly dwindling) amount of helicopter we were likely to continue to encounter, and we politely turned around and walked our way back home.


Upcoming posts:
- saddle fitting and the results
- product review: leather cleaner/conditioner

Monday, July 13, 2015

Small blessings; a July-so-far recap

I'm a little behind on posting, so here are current-update snippets!

#1: I ended up as the volunteer coordinator for our very-local ride.  The original plan had been to have someone else take the ride on 'Fetti -- I knew I could not adequately watch everything and coordinate the day-of for the first time while also riding, at least not on a course with limited cell coverage!  Despite some last-minute scrambling, the pony ended up riderless and got the weekend off.

However.. it turned out that for whatever reason, the course rode much harder this year, and I am so, so grateful I did not send an inexperienced endurance rider out with reassurances that the horse could totally do it in time, only to find that in fact making time was really hard this year.  I would have worried, they would have worried.  Frankly, even if I'd ridden it, I would have wondered all day what the hell I was doing wrong that we weren't making good time.  No one was -- but riding back of the pack, I would not have known that until we finished.  I wish things could have worked out differently... but it was good that they didn't.

#1.5: Also, nothing went spectacularly wrong for me as volunteer coordinator.  Yay!

 #2: On a whim, I emailed the saddle fitting folks again, and they got back to me within a few hours.  I have no idea what happened the first time.  In any case, we now have a date set and I'm hopeful I can get some saddle answers.

#3: We're still dealing with the aftermath from that one lesson/training ride fiasco at the end of May.  This really deserves its own post.  Short version: Fetti learned that if she resists long enough she doesn't actually have to go forwards.  This comes up periodically, I've never 100% squashed it, but I 100% lost the discussion in the training ride.  She's now doing this at the barn when alone and pointed out towards the entrance to the trails.  While this sucks, it is consistent and easy to replicate.  If I could afford to fly Dom out and fix this one issue right now, I'd totally do it.  We're a little trainer-shy currently.
I will add: mare is not afraid.  She's stuck in front and quite behind my leg.  Once we get past her 'sticky spot' where she goes sideways/backwards/spin/full avoidance of forwards?  Totally fine.  Battle over.  Where are we going?  Trotting off?  Cool, whatever.

#4: For the first time ever, I have a full set of boots plus spares.  Not that the spares are pieced back together yet, and not that I've put the boots actually on the horse, but I have boots and I'm very excited.

#5: Our solo rides are keeping to a respectable 4.5-5mph overall speed most of the time.  This makes me happy.

#6: I turned Fetti out in the arena yesterday before our ride and chased her around a bit.  It's all a game to her.  This time, though, she'd sprint a lap or a half a lap, then occasionally pause and ask to come in for scratches.  I'd scratch her face, tell her how lovely she was being, back up, and give her a verbal OK.. and she'd sprint off again.  Rinse, repeat.  Eventually she decided she was done and stuck with me when I backed up.  What a good mare.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Renegade boot saga: the problem pony

I went to Wild West with four** full boots and came home with one full boot, one shell, and two captivators.  The question keeps coming up: why am I continuing to use Renegades?

Booting/ride recap:

Ride Bear 2012: First ride ever, first ride in boots (ever), front Renegades only.  No issues. W/T, no water.
Fireworks 2013: Front Renegades only. RF came off cantering uphill after water crossing*, 20-some miles in. I purchased hind boots for this ride, but for whatever reason she didn't vet well in them, so we went without. No good answer for that one.  It was odd and I was reluctant even then to blame the boots.
Quicksilver 2013: Front Renegades only. No issues. W/T, no water.
Mount Diablo 2014: Front Renegades, hind Renegades.  No issues.  Slow W/T, one water crossing.
Fireworks 2014: Front Renegades, hind Renegades.  Cable snapped on a hind boot heading home, so pulled both hinds ~19 miles (attributed to user error; should have checked/replaced cables prior to ride).  RF came off trotting uphill after water crossing (slightly different spot than usual, but within the 'usual hill' mile).
Quicksilver 2014: Front Renegades only.  Both boots came off repeatedly within the first few miles - at which point I discovered the cables were pulling through.  Pulled boots off, went barefoot for remainder of ride.  Probably user error with the cables not seating right in the clamp.
Mount Diablo 2015: Front Vipers only. No issues. Slow-moderate W/T, one water crossing.
Wild Wild West 2015 #1: Front Vipers, hind Renegades. RF came off trotting flat after water crossing around mile 5-6 - cables pulled through as in QS '14.  Hind shells disappeared (captivators intact) between mile 4 and 12.  Fast first few miles.
Wild Wild West 2015 #2: Front Vipers, hind Vipers.  RF shell came off trotting(?) uphill after water crossing (captivator intact).

*this particular water crossing/uphill takes the RF boot off almost like clockwork, so it wasn't really a surprise in 2013.  I think it's stayed on twice ever in training rides there.  We're headed home, she's moving out, it's after water, it's uphill.. it stays on better if she'll trot, but even then no guarantees.

** take spare boots with you to rides, y'all.  It's a Good Idea.

Ride morning: boots set out and ready to go.


The recurring theme is that the RF boot comes off.  This is not a boot problem; this is a hoof problem.  Her RF has a long-standing flare issue that I'm dutifully trying to resolve.  It's slow going and I have not been aggressive enough in dealing with it.

I don't train in boots often.  I do try to ride boots at least once within a few weeks of a ride, but it doesn't always happen.  It doesn't seem to bother her either way.  If anything, I'm more concerned about breaking a cable or doing something terrible to the boot prior to the ride!

Fireworks 2014. There was some creative boot-carrying going on.

For as much as I grumble about losing boots, the track record of my Renegades is not all that terrible.  Four rides with absolutely zero issues.  Two rides with issues I attribute to user error.  Four rides with RF boot issues.  And given I don't train much in boots, if I'm going to have issues, I'm going to have issues at rides.  WWW2015 #1 has been the only ride in three and a half years where I've questioned my sanity and boot use.  Everyone's going to have a tough ride eventually.  That was ours.

Mount Diablo 2014. Four boots!

Have I tried Easyboots?  I have not.  Initially, when I was first looking for boots, the Easyboot Wide line was not yet available.  Fetti has wide hooves; her RF measures wider than long with the flare (128w x 125l from the last notation I have a few months back) and the standard Easyboots were clearly not going to be a good fit for her.  At the time, I was also looking for a boot that would fit throughout the trim cycle; Renegades are more forgiving than Easyboots in that respect.  I'm now doing maintenance trims myself. Fetti is clearly not a good candidate for a boot that will fit throughout the trim without maintenance trims!  I'm not anti-Easyboot, but the problems I'm having with the RF Renegade are almost certain to give me problems with any other boot until I can get a better handle on managing that flare.

Why not just shoe?  I've thought about it.  I'm not anti-shoe, either.  Some horses need shoes to perform well, some situations require it, sometimes it really is the best option.  I'm just not convinced it's the best choice for us.  I have a pony with good feet who has been barefoot for the vast majority of her life.  She's sound over most terrain and slightly ouchy over gravel.  Probably 40 miles this past weekend were done missing the RF boot, and that left her only slightly sore.. and in hindsight, it's even possible the soreness is from having three feet booted all day and one not.  It's hard to say.  Short answer: I don't really want to put shoes on her for the 3-4 rides a year that require hoof protection. 

Renegade customer service is amazing.  I ordered my first boots via Mel, who patiently email-fitted the pony for boots and put up with all my questions, then got them ordered promptly so I'd have them for my first ride.  I've emailed with Ashley about water-crossing/boot-fitting troubles several times over the years - and the lack of follow-through on fixing that is entirely mine and not hers.  I'm not a very good online-troubleshooting candidate when I get boot advice and then forget to do anything about it for weeks to months at a time.  This spring I realized I had Serious Boot Issues that actually had to get addressed (namely: the boots don't stay on at the canter), so I got my act together and pestered Aurora when she became a dealer.  I chatted with both Ashley and Aurora at the AERC convention, pondered Viper sizing, ordered more trial sizing shells, pondered Viper sizing some more, and finally placed the order.  When the boots showed up, we photo-evaluated some more and ended up switching the Viper captivators out for Renegade captivators.  I have sent a lot of boot fitting photos to these ladies and they have been incredibly, incredibly helpful all along the way.

Photo-fitting the fronts.

Renegades are pretty easy to work with.  I can re-boot on the trail if a boot comes off.  I can adjust them myself to fit better throughout the length of a trim, and I have on occasion ridden in boots ~6weeks out from her last trim.  It may not be ideal, but these boots do have the flexibility to allow for that.  I didn't start doing any maintenance rasping until mid-2014.  Renegades also come in replaceable parts: if I break a cable, I replace the cable.  I don't have to replace the whole boot, and while an occasionally aggravating process, it's reasonably user-friendly.  I seriously contemplated fixing the cables in my boot over a 30-minute hold.  I didn't have to, and the boot wasn't cooperating, so I ended up not fixing it til after the ride - but if push came to shove, I could have spent a few extra minutes in camp and gotten it working again.

Most folks don't have the kind of boot issues that I've been dealing with.  I have no qualms about recommending Renegades to friends.. even friends that have seen me come back from rides with only one boot still on the horse.  When they work, they really work.  (That said, I also have no qualms about supporting people in using Easyboots, or shoeing, or whatever.  If it works for you, awesome.)

Fetti and I just haven't quite gotten there yet.  Maybe this season we'll sort out all the kinks?