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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

And one more...

Last post of the day - promise!

Here is a riveting article on a racetrack vet. With the Kentucky Derby coming up this weekend, this is a good read. Well written and doesn't follow the typical angle that these types of articles generally do.

Another look at goals

Check out Laura's post today on goals.

I must say that since I was unexpectadly downsized to one horse, I do feel less guilt. I don't feel guilty if I don't ride, there's always tomorrow. If I want to spend time grooming, I do because there isn't another horse in it's pen demanding my attention. I go a little slower. It's no longer a rush to and from the manure pile when cleaning pens. I only have to clean one pen and stopping to scratch a wither is not going to keep me from achieving the day's "goal" of having both pens clean. I don't want to worry about giving equal time and effort to each horse. I don't want my horses to become another job.

I'm not getting another horse until I can keep this feeling peace and carefree attitude I have now. Which means my second horse probably won't be an endurance horse. Horses are my hobby. I don't want to feel rushed and stressed all the time. I want to slow down and breathe deeply.

Mariposa After Action Report

To my Fellow CHAS Reenactors:

Friday night was predicted to be CRISP - as in frosty, cold, blow clouds with your breath - crisp. As a "local event" for me (1 hour 10 minute drive) I decided to spend Friday night in a warm bed with warm fuzzy kitty cats. My family and friends did not appreciate the sheer comfort of this when I pulled up to the Mariposa civil war event Saturday morning. My brother especially was eyeing one of my gum blankets as I put together my bed roll for Saturday night. It DID seem unfair that I should have TWO gumblankets (and a thermarest pad, and a modern 15 degree sleeping bag, and a wool blanket....) so I generously allowed him the use of ONE of my gumblankets.

This being the first event of the year, it's always interesting to see who shows up, both equine and human. In this case there were WAY too many horses on the line for just one artillery team and the ambulance team, plus the normal amount of outriders, but who am I, a lowly private, to question to the great wisdom of those above me? It ended up working out OK and most of the time we could leave 2 horses on the line to keep each other company while the rest of the horses were working. Everyone just needs to remember this simple formula: One horse + one picket line made of rope and metal stakes = loose horse in short amount of time.

The first and second battles on Saturday went uneventfully. In fact, I was starting to get a little worried I would have nothing to share with you - my devoted reader. Even the maiden attempt at flying artillery (cannoners mounted on horses as well as the usual artillry team) went well! Only "feel-good" stuff was happening. That - my dear reading - as heartwarming as it may be, is not the kind of entertainment that you secretly crave.

Saturday evening started amiably. A run down to the Cock and Pullet was in order. I think there may be some misconceptions about the Cock and Pullet. Homebrewers brew beer and serve it at an establishment call The Cock and Pullet at various reenactments. They sell a mug, with free refills of either their beer, or sarsaparilla (a non-alcoholic soda like drink). Additionally there are civil war era gambling games played with period cards and period rules. Any money won in the games is given back to the patrons as raffle tickets that go into a drawing the next day for donated prizes. The establishment is run by volunteers. All proceeds from the beer and games is given to a historical monument, Camp Moore. For more information, including the amount of funds being raised for Camp Moore, please visit their site here.

After doing my part to support this fine establishment (and cause), the group headed back down to camp. People with lanterns lined the dirt roads in order to light the way for the incoming fire trucks and ambulances. A women (W*) who had just been with our group at the Cock and Pullet had been found, unconscious on the ground, by my brother and cousin. She was moaning and unresponsive. She had apparently fallen off her horse when she hopped on it bareback to take it to water. One of those accidents that could happen to anyone, anytime. She was kept at the hospital and was not able to return to the event. I found out yesterday that she is doing fine.

The event continued, even as we received updates of W* progress at the hospital. Sunday mornings battle brought another accident.

I have a wonderful ambulance team. I can go at a full gallop, towards home, behind another team, and still stop on a dime and stand. This becomes very useful when various implements fall off the cannon while the artillery team is moving out over rough ground. (yes, sometimes I follow the team just for this purpose - to clean up after them!) Sometimes I choose to gallop on, ahead of the team after a battle. I may do this for a couple of reasons. I think most of the drivers are of the opinion that I do just so I can race past and thumb my nose at then. Here's the real story! Reason 1: I like to get the cannoners back to camp before the team so that they can be on location to help unlimber the gun or act as horse holders when the team comes in. Reason 2: If cannoners are mounted on the limber behind the team, the team will not go above a trot. Albeit it is a fast, racing trot, but a trot nevertheless. Sometimes a girl needs to gallop!

On Sunday morning, after the first battle I went ahead of the team for reasons #1 and #2 as listed above. After getting back to camp and dumping the cannoners, I looked back at the team. To my horror I saw the drive wheel horse caught up in the traces and the limber pole. Something similar had happened the day before on Saturday's battle (pictured - FYI the horse is fine).

I feel so helpless sitting on the ambulance in these situations. Before I was a teamster I would have been one of the key people that could have helped the situation. I know the tack, I know the horses. Now, as a teamster, I can only sit with my ambulance and watch the situation unfold. I am one of two certified teamsters in the unit, (the other one was not present at this event). There is no one I can hand the team off to. Another ambulance showed up, which meant human injury was involved. One of the cannoners had gotten kicked during the situation in the head and the knee. Thank goodness the decision was made to keep the horses barefoot this year! It could have been much more serious with shod hooves.

D*, an outrider for the team, came over and let me know what was happening (thank you D*). Shortly after he left, my Mother and R*, the husband of M* who was riding on the team came over and asked what was going on. I explained that the horse was over the limber pole and tangled, but was OK. They still looked concerned. Oops - I had forgotten the human part.....So I told them the person who got kicked was doing fine. They looked murderous at this point. That's right......Both women had husbands on horse back in the middle of this fiasco! I told them that Dad and M* were absolutely fine. LOL. I'm going to make a fine vet!

Shortly afterwards the president of the civil war association came shouting that there was a diabetic emergency in rebel camp and ANOTHER ambulance was needed ASAP. D* (previously mentioned) and the ambulance headed on over to the medical center to relay the message. Then I hauled the president of the association over to rep camp, full speed, in the ambulance. It was very useful to have a horse drawn vehicle, capable of speed AND passengers that day. People got to where they needed to be much more quickly.

After all this we STILL had one more battle to get through. Not hard considering the second battle on Sunday lasted a whole....three minutes. What the heck happened???? Did everyone just get tired and quit?

Working with horses is inherently dangerous. Add cannons, traces, wagons, gunfire, unfamiliar terrain, and the risk is even higher. Although most of the time we can and do portray the impression with a minimum amount of injuries and near misses, let us never forget that serious injury is a fraction of a second away. One moment of inattention, a series of innocent errors, or just plain bad luck! could result in complete disaster. In my opinion, it is only because our group is made up of outstanding, capable, and caring people that there were no serious and permanent injuries to equine or human this weekend. Let's make safety a priority in 2009!

A horse's night vision

"There is one area in which the equine eye is definitely superior to the human eye--night vision. Generally speaking, a horse's night vision is a good 50% better than a human's... Why? Because the equine eye contains a reflective panel on its retina. This panel pulls in what little light is available at night, enabling that horse to have far better night vision than its rider." (click here for the article)

"Rod photoreceptors dominate in number over cones in the horse. The rods are responsible for the very good night vision of horses, and the cones are responsible for daytime vision and the limited color vision (horses see blue colors best). " (click here for the article)

I can remember is high school physics doing an experiment comparing the rods and cones in the eye. Cones are responsible for color and daytime vision, rods are responsible for night time vision. In horses, rods predominate over cones. It takes time for the rods in our eyes to "activate". We sat at our desks with our heads down and our fingers pressed over our eye lids to prevent any light from coming in. After 10 minutes the teacher led us outside (our fingers still pressed over our eyelids) into a bright sunny day. On cue we opened our eyes and then closed them VERY quickly - just a blink. There was an impression of the landscape inside our eyelids, kind of like a negative of a picture. No real colors, but an accurate landscape! You could do this 2 or 3 times until the light "deactivated" the rods and our eyes switched over the "cone" vision.

At Mariposa this year many many MANY people were using flashlights. It's typical to use flashlights during horse watch to untangle animals (the fire danger of using a candle lantern is very high), however, usually no light is needed. Apparently everyone decided they couldn't wait the 10 minutes for their rod vision to kick in and insisted on walking around everywhere with flashlights. Although I did ask several people very politely not to shine them in my face (people unconsciously shine light where they are looking) I didn't think much about it (other than to be annoyed) until I tried to water my ambulance horses ~3:30am.

The campfires were very bright however I tried hard not to look at them and kept the horses tilted away from them. We met 2 people on the way to the water trough that shined their flashlights in my face and at the horses. I noticed afterwards that Buttercup was spooking at things (an overhead fly, fly ropes, the forge etc.) that an old campaigner shouldn't have been concerned with. My rod (night vision) returned fairly quickly, and in humans, as long as there is some light, we can use our limited cone (day/color vision) vision to see in the not-so-dark. I know from my endurance experience that horses can see much better than I can so I wasn't concerned and led them up to the water trough. Imagine my surprise when neither horse could apparently find the water trough that was right in front of the them! Gunsmoke walked into in and stumbled over it when I tried to show her where it was. It was 10 minutes, standing in front of the trough in total darkness, before they were able to find the trough and drink. Their night vision had been destroyed by a combination of the campfires and the LED flashlights shined in our faces on the way to the water trough.

Why did it take so long for the horses's superior night vision to return? How was it destroyed so completely when mine stayed "adequate"?

This is my own personal hypothesis and I don't have time to look anything up right now, so please take it with a grain of salt. Here is what I do know:

1. Horses have superior night vision to humans based upon the number and concentration of rods versus cones.
2. Humans have superior color and day vision due to the number and concentration of cones versus rods.
3. Rods work in low light conditions. Too much light causes the rods to deactivate and the cones to take over
4. Horses have a reflective "plate" in their eyes that can collect the available light in low light conditions (other animals have this as well - it's why their eyes "glow" and look like foil at night when light catches them at a certain angle). They can see in extremely low light conditions due to this light "collector", which then works with the rods.

Here is my hypothesis: If a human is working in low light conditions, their rods are working. If they are suddenly exposed to a flashlight in the face, the rods are partially deactivated until they are in the dark long enough to "reactivate". During that time of reactivation, humans use their limited cone vision in the dark. Depending on the amount of light present, this may work well, or not so well. At Mariposa, I was able to see after the flashlight incident because of the number of campfires, stars etc was sufficient for my cone vision until my rods starting working again. If a horse is exposed to the same conditions as the human, they can see better than the human as first, because of their superior rod vision. The reflective plate in their eye is busy collecting all the light available and giving them even BETTER night vision. Insert flashlight to the face. The reflective plate makes the amount of light entering the eye even worse than the human. The horses's rod vision is completely destroyed, until it can recharge some time later. The horses limited cone vision cannot make up for the loss in rod vision and the horse is effectively blind until the rods recharge.

What do you think? If this is true, it has serious implications for night riding and the endurance riding I do. I'm going to start having much less patience for people who shine lights in my horses direction. The endurance rides I have attended where the start was before dawn were actually very good. The headlamps are small, everyone is used to working with lights and horses and I can't remember more than once or twice being shined in the face by another person, even in a start of 100+ people. Most people do NOT get on their horses with the headlamp on which minimizes the amount of light flashing around. Additionally, everyone using a flashlight usually keeps in pointed straight down at their side. At Mariposa I lost count of the number of times I got flashed in the face by a very strong LED flashlight.

In the future I know that I will be much more careful where my light falls when working around horses. I'm also going to be a lot less tolerant of other people who continually shine flashlights at my horse. If I'm riding a single track on the side of the cliff at night, I'm relying on my horses's vision. Someone that screws that up might get me killed. There are some endurance riders who feel they must use a headlamp during the night for theirs and their horses' safety. I will make sure that they end up far enough in front of me that their light doesn't bother me or my horse. After my experience last weekend, it's no longer a matter of preference, it's a matter of safety.

Thought of the Day
Does anyone have any comments? Personally experience? Actual knowledge instead of my best guess? I would love to hear it!

I took a lot of pictures at Mariposa, here is just a few. There's a "real" after-action report coming up with even more pictures.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Loose Ends

Another "Loose Ends" post. I have a couple of great posts coming up:

1. The long-promised Artillery tack overview
2. After action report of the Mariposa Civil War Reenactment
3. Horse night vision

Work is very busy right now, which doesn't leave me a lot of blogging time. So meanwhile, here's some updates and some ideas to explore.

In addition to my running and twice weekly pilates, I've decided to take the 100 pushup challenge. There's also a sit up and squat program.

More Death
Oliver died yesterday. Oliver's picture is in this post here. He was the sweetest rat I've ever had, very people oriented. Anyone want a fat little butterball named "Houdini"? Houdini is the remaining rat I have. I don't spend enough time with my rats any more and since he's alone, he really should have a human that spends time with him. He's not as social as Oliver was and is only alive right now because: a)I'm a kind person and turning him loose means a feral cat would eat him b)He took good care of Oliver.

Arena Work
Farley and I are cantering in the arena. This is HUGE! I have a fear of going fast in the arena. I mostly walk/trot. I have visions of slamming into the arena fence, getting stuck in the fence etc. I have no problems cantering/galloping on the trail. On Friday Farley bucked for 30 minutes when I asked for a canter. I've decided she's gaited. One of her gaits is the "buck". It's so smooth and covers ground. Once I got a nice canter in each direction I stopped for the day. Yesterday we tried again, and she didn't buck once. I'm finding out it's REALLY important to her that I stay off her mouth, don't weight her forehand, AND keep my weight centered. Only then will she give me a nice canter. Farley is teaching me well! Farley isn't built to canter and it's more difficult gait than the trot for her. I'm finding out that with arabs (or at least Farley), trust is a TWO way street. I MUST trust her for her to trust me. That means giving her a totally loose rein at a canter right now and trusting her not to pull a fast one. With the Standardbred (Minx) she trusted me even though I wasn't returning the trust.

Saddle Fit
I noticed yesterday that there seems to be pressure at the back of the saddle (hair shedding more there and a bigger sweat spot). I haven't had any issues yet. I'll keep an eye on it. It may be time to have the saddle flocking adjusted or re-flocked. Does anyone know of any good flockers in the central valley, CA?

I saved the best for last. Karen posted some excellent information on worming yesterday. Based on her information I am modifying my worming program. Currently my worming protocol is (I may have the spellings wrong, but I'm close):

Before Fly season: 1 dose of pyrantel pamoate
Mid fly season: 1 dose of ivermectin
after first freeze: 1 dose of ivermectin

My horses (oops "horse") lives on a dry paddock, which I pick up manure in ~2x week. She *should* have a fairly low worm load and I shouldn't have to treat as aggressively (per my vet). Looking at my current program I might not be taking care of encysted strongyles and tape worms. Here is the program I am going to switch to:

Spring: 2x dose of pyrantel pamoate for 2 days
Summer: 1 dose ivermectin
Fall: 2x dose of fenbendazole for 5 days
Winter: 1 dose ivermectin

I'm seeing my vet mid-May for a leg ultrasound, coggins (might take Farley to the Virginia City 100!), and West Nile. I'll ask about the worming program then.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"War Horse" Book update

While wasting time on the internet today I came across the following link....and it made my day.

In January I started reading a book called "War Horse". Based on that book I posted a article comparing modern endurance riding to the cavalry techniches of the 1880's. A modified version of that post also appeared in the Cannon's Mouth, a monthly publication of CHAS.

Apparently the author of the book found my post comparing the endurance riding to the cavalry and thought it interesting enough to post a link on his blog. This is one of the biggest compliments I have ever received!

I had planned on doing a more extensive review of his book, however 6 weeks have passed since I have finished so I am running out of time. It is sufficient to say that I highly recommend this book if you are interested in the history of the horse, military riding, and military tack. I must admit that my interest diminished once the book reached the WW1 period, but I was absolutely enthralled with the rest of the book. Aside from one comment that a battle was lost in part to horses not being able to see in the dark.....(I asked the author about this, so if he clarifies I will let you know - SEE UPDATE BELOW), I found the book to accurate according to my very limited knowledge and experience with historical military tack and practices. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. This book will also appeal to the "non-horsey world" if my non-horsey sister is any indication.

I know there are some people who read this blog who are only interested in the civil war part of what I do and not necessarily the endurance and day-to-day stuff. If that describes you, please utilize the "tag" list on the bottom right hand side. By selecting "civil war", it will filter the posts, showing you only those posts related to my civil war doings. This is true with any of the tags. Try it and see!

UPDATE: DiMarco responded by e-mail to my question regarding the horses' night vision and its impact on the battle. (It was so COOL! To have the author of an authoritative book actually RESPOND to my comment!!!!) Apparently what he meant and what he meant to write wasn't quite the same. Which means we can continue to ride our horses at night and trust that they aren't going to take us off a cliff into black oblivion (and if they do we can conclude it was a choice and not because they were blind! LOL). He also said that several other endurance riders had pointed that particular passage out. I'm sure Jeff Wahl was one, but I wonder who the others were? This book would definately make for some lively camp fire discussions.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Impulse Buy

I really don't like the direction that equestrian riding helmets are going. Three years ago I had several choices in a helmet that had a harness - NOT a "dial-fit" system, a real honest-to-goodness harness that either fit your head or didn't. The Troxel Dakota Duratec fit perfectly and voila! I had a new helmet to replace my much abused Troxel Sport. Now, three years later it is time to replace my helmet and the only non-dial-fit helmet in my price range are the Troxel sport and the Tipearrary (I just butchered the spelling on that) eventing helmet that is very popular for endurance in this area. In the intervening years, Troxel has added a dial-a-fit system to my beloved Dakota :(

So what do I have against dial-a-fits? By adding the dial, the helmet now fits no one and everyone at the same time. At best I get a mediocre fit that adds bulk, pressure points, and weight to the back of my head. As a kid I rode in my friends helmet that was a "lid-locker". It was a WONDERFUL invention but this new dial-a-fit just does not cut it! I would rather pay a little more, have the options of many different sizes, and choose a HELMET (not harness) that truely fits my head.

Many high end helmets do come in the coveted non-dial-a-fit variety, unfortunately I have put my put foot down at $100. Technically helmets are suppose to last 5 years under normal use. The key is NORMAL. How many of you out there think that endurance is "normal" use? I'm not plunking down $250+ every three years for a Charles Owen. Sunlight is a major factor in the decay of plastic materials. My thought is that endurance riders spend much more time out in the sun than their arena counterparts. I've only gotten three years out of my last two helmets. Maybe someone who didn't wear their helmet for every ride and perhaps had an indoor arena (and didn't live in California?) might get closer to 5 years.

My helmet will be three years old in June. In that time I have fallen off ~25 times (thanks to Minx), slammed into uncountable tree branches (thank you Minx), and spent hundreds of hours in the sun. In fact the first 2 days I rode in this helmet I had 2 falls that I probably should have replaced it for but I had JUST payed $75 for it AND it was in soft ground grass (first time), and the beach (second time). I wasn't even sure I HIT my head....although a horse did gallop over me, hitting me on the back several times at the beach.....anyways. The last couple of months I took a long, hard look at my helmet and realized I wasn't comfortable with how it looked (condition wise). The plastic look brittle, it was cracked in several places from branches, and I had a nagging thought that one of those falls could have compromised it.....but I struggled with finding a replacement. Buying another Dakota was out of the question because of the change of harness inside. I had two options: Troxel sport or the tiperarry helmet.

My first helmet (before the Dakota) was a Troxel sport. I loved it, but unfortunately it SCREAMS new rider. The Dakota was slightly heavier, but vented well, had a bigger brim, and most importantly - gave me the image of a serious rider. Even though the Dakota is VERY comfortable, I still take it off when I get off the horse. I never noticed the sport and would often wear it most of the day. The sport fits me extremely well, is light, and dissipates heat well, and is CHEAP (less than $30!).

I really wanted to like the Tiperarry (from now on "Tip" so I don't keep embarrassing everyone with the spelling of that brand name....). I tried one on several times and did like it but had my reservations. The fit was good, but the helmet is VERY heavy compared to the Troxels. It has a LOT more padding inside which would make it very warm.

It came down to the these two facts:
1. I am starting to care less and less how I look and how people perceive me. I'm more confident in my riding ability now. I'm willing to wear spandex in front of the world and duct tape a handkerchief to the back of my helmet. I don't think wearing the Sport is going to help or hurt the image I have going on.

2. Comfort is king. Comfort includes getting off and running on the trail. Light and un-noticeable trumps heavy and padded.

3. A low price tag means I am more likely to replace the helmet if I've been though a questionable incident.

So today I was buying fly spray at the feed store and tried a Sport on (after trying the new Dakota in a vain effort to make it fit). Sigh...The Sport really is the perfect helmet for fit and comfort for me. I plunked down the hard cold cash (ie the credit card) and bought myself a helmet.

Thought of the Day!!!

Do you wear a helmet (I'm NOT looking for the famous to wear or not to wear debate, just curious what kind, in what situations etc. I wore a helmet MUCH more regularly after college than before, but there are still situations - such as civil war reenactments - that I don't wear one)

What do you think of the dial-a-fits?

How often do you replace your helmet?

"A Goat Birthday" and "Why the Pony didn't get Pampered"

So instead of Monday being "pamper the pony" day (as promised in the previous post), it turned into "play with the puppy" day.

Jonah below, sulking because he feels that he substitutes well enough for a puppy. "I'm 15+ pounds! I stare at you and must be touching you at all times....what else do I have to do get to get any attention around here!" Jonah likes being around people which is why he does not take lightly my decision to spend almost every weekend away from home. That I would spend a day away from home during the work week was the ultimate insult.

Matt's puppy, Harley, is getting very big. It is very hard it is to take picture of a puppy.

Seriously. Can you hold still for one picture?

Ahh...finally a semi decent one. Is there anything more perfect than a man and his dog (besides a women and her horse)?

Tuesday I did go out to the stable. It was MUGGY. I ran 4.5 miles with Farley and neither of us really felt like an extended pampering afterwards. I'm really starting to bond with Farley. I never tie her up, I take her with me everywhere at the stable, doing the much-needed tasks here and there with her "tagging" along. If there's grass she eats while waiting, if not she just waits. Even when I use the porta-potty she hangs out at the door. Very useful skill if I ever compete in the cavalry division in an endurance ride! (can't use any outside assistance, including someone else holding your horse while you pee. Must only use what you can pack on your saddle).

Above is a picture of the stable, in the evening. Farley is WAY in the back corner. You can't see it from this picture. I like it back there because I feel like there is less stress from the "happenings" of the stable, and less exposure to other horses/people from a disease stand point. On the downside, if something is wrong, it won't be noticed as soon.
I heard that the boarding stable is up for sale. One more reason not to get another horse right now. It's easier to deal with moving one horse than multiples. I'm not sure where I would go if I wasn't happy with new management. This is what I require: as large an enclosure as possible, grass hay 24 hours day, up to one small flake of alfalfa a day, ability to get my horses off the property early and late, trailer parking, able to ride a couple of miles (not in an arena) from the property. This stable, while not fulfilling all the parameters, was the best compromise in the area.

I was invited to a goat birthday party.
Here are the lucky recipients!

Last year this beautiful guy knocked down a little kid an effort to get more cupcakes. I was ready with the camera!

Do you want a cupcake?

Pleeeesse do you want a delicious cupcake?

Oh well. Stick it in the grain pan and maybe they'll get around to eating it.

The cupcakes were DELICIOUS. Applesauce with some sort of brown sugar icing. Yum yum.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Weekend Ride - Red Hills

After finishing the weekend, I found I had time to squeeze in one more activity.....Red Hills!

Red Hills is BLM land ~1 hour drive away. It's free (a very good thing) and has the added attraction and not being super popular for hikers/bikers because of all the rocks. Did I mention the rocks? I have different places I go to train depending on what I want to work on. Here is what work we work on at Red Hills....wait I'll let you guess....ROCKS. Red hills is HOT, mostly single tracks, with some hills (long gradual and some steep). There isn't a lot of trail (12-15 miles total) but I've never ridden it all in one day because Did I mention it has a lot of rocks? It's a perfect training ground for Tevis. Gravel, loose big rocks, rocky stream beds, pointy rocks, flat slick rocks, rocks up hill, rocks down hill, rocks you have to hop over, rocks to surprise you around corners...I think you are getting the idea.

This is NOT the reason I take horses to Red Hills
1. Speed. You can't maintain constant speed. In fact, forget the word speed. It won't do you any good here.

2. Hills. They are there, but not significant enough to make this my "hill" training spot.

3. Desensitizing. There isn't anything else out there except you and the horse. No bikers, dogs, crazy people, ATV's etc. Which means I can totally relax and just work on my horse and myself.

This is what a horse and rider can learn at Red Hills

1. How to deal with rocks. Mentally I think that rocks can be tough. At Red Hills they can learn to deal with rocks up and down hill, etc.

2. How to deal with hot, dry conditions. It is usually very hot and there is very little water.

3. How to make up time on the trail. There are very short sections of non rocky single track. This teaches a horse to make up time when they can.

4. Pacing. The horse learns not to fight you because then they end up falling over the rocks you were TRYING to warn them about. They pay attention.

5. Fatigue. Riding a trail like this is VERY tiring. The rider needs to learn how to deal with this so that they don't hinder the horse.

Rule of "Fist"

BTW - I have a rule of "fist" (thumb..whatever :) ) when it comes to rocks. This assumes that your horse is legged up and conditioned in rocks. If the LOOSE rocks are bigger than my fist, I don't trot because it's too big of a risk that a rock will roll underneath a hoof and cause a strain. Loose rocks that are smaller or rocks that are embedded in the ground, I'll make a judgement call depending on what the horse wants to do and how the long the section the rocks are. It would be nice to say "I won't trot if there's rocks" but here in the west, sometimes that's not practical if you want to ride endurance.....there's a heck of a lot of rocks out here at a lot of rides!

I had never taken Farley to Red Hills before so I was curious to see how she would handle it. She seems to really do well on rocks. I discovered this at Death Valley. She dances over them and seems to enjoy the challenge of where to put her feet.

I experimented with duct taping a handkerchief to the back of my helmet to help with the sun. It worked very well. I ran for ~2.5 miles at the beginning of the ride and then mounted up for a total of 5.5 miles. Not a lot of mileage on paper, but it was a tough 1.5 hour run/ride. I think it's important NOT to worry about mileage when doing a trail like this. It's easy to over do it and end up with soft tissue injuries with all the rocks. There are plenty of other places to ride where I can work on speed conditioning.

This was the second time I rode Farley in a hackamore, and the first time she was by herself. She did very well. She responded well even when we had a couple of "discussions" about direction/what was appropriate to spook at etc. I won't start her in a ride with it, but could see myself switching to it half way through the ride.

Goodness this horse is fit! A little foam between her thighs and sweat under her saddle blanket and that was IT. And this was the hottest day of the year and the hottest ride of the season so far - 90 degrees F. At the end she still wanted to go (in a good way - she having fun) so I took her STRAIGHT up a very STEEP ROCKY hill. She bounded up like it was nothing. She's very controllable and not crazy, but I can feel she's just waiting for the OK to go.

I'm giving her a day off today. I do NOT want to overstress those tendons! It's suppose to be even hotter - 95 degrees F, so I'm thinking of giving her a bath (first of the year!).

Weekend activities Non-horsey post

A busy busy weekend, but for once I was home instead of travelling.

I'll get to the trail ride eventually, so hang on.....but I have to go in the order of events or something will get forgotten!

Activity #1: Running Store Adventure
Mom and I went to the non-chain running store to try and pick up some shoes Friday afternoon. They didn't have any trail shoes for me, and didn't have the right size for Mom, so neither of us got shoes. I did find out that I can wear a men's Mizuno. I loved my Mizuno's, but the women's shoes are too narrow. The men's is about the meantime I have been running in Saucony's where I have had ZERO (that's right ZERO) running related injuries since switching to that brand. So that's the a pair of trail Saucony's (tried and tested) or trail Mizunos (I LOVE the feel of the shoe). I'm thinking Saucony's would be a better trail shoe (more cushion) and the Mizunos would be a better road shoe (light weight, feel of the road). I'm due for road shoes in September/October. I've found that replacing shoes is a lot less expensive than treating running related injuries due to wornout shoes, or a gym membership!

Activity #2 Bluegrass Campout
Friday night, Saturday night, and Sunday morning I spent at the fair grounds hanging out with Mom and my grandparents. Saturday night I pulled out the fiddle and joined an oldtime/fiddle jam with Mom and friends. I had an EXCELLENT night and played for about three hours before calling it quits. Having a good night on the fiddle is as fulfilling as a good ride or run. It can take me a couple of hours to come "down" off of a good jam session. I am NOT used to staying up late any more and my midnight I was DONE. Usually it's not an issue because I camp out at the venue, but at this campout I live 2 miles away and the attraction of my own bed meant I needed to stay sane enough to drive home. I had a BLAST and can't wait until the Father's Day Bluegrass Festival in Grassvalley.

Mom is currently playing my german copy fiddle that is my "3rd" fiddle. I convinced her to take home my "2nd" fiddle - a Stainer copy that I have affectionately nicknamed "Betsy". It's a great little fiddle with a big sound. I don't play her at all because my 1st fiddle is so versatile. Mom is ready to move up to a better fiddle whether she knows it or not. Mom would only take her after I told her I hadn't played her for a year or more - sad but true. I'd rather have her played than have her be safe in a case. Plus Mom needs to play as many different fiddles as possible so she'll know what she wants when she gets her own.

Activity #3 FPGBB performance at San Ramon

The Fort Point band headed to San Ramon to perform at a cute little reenactment. It was low key and a lot of fun. Here's a couple of pictures of the venue. The event had a large turnout considering the size of the venue and the number of reenactors.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Places to condition for endurance

When I first started conditioning, the biggest question I had was where could I ride? I have created a simple list of places I use to condition for endurance in the side bar. Eventually I will hyperlink these, make GPS tracks available, and give reviews. In the meantime, if anyone wants any information about these locations, e-mail me at (remember to post in the comments prior to e-mailing me so I check that account).

Happy riding

Pure Joy

I have started running with Farley in the evenings. Most week day evenings I'm trading boots, half chaps, and riding gloves for my Saucony's, Timex Ironman watch, and an ipod. On the canal bank, Farley matches me stride for stride as we walk and run along. Yesterday we did 4.5 miles. On the way home she pushes me, never pulling, but always encouraging me to run negative splits on the way home a little faster today. Sometimes I drop back next to her flank and watch her stride along, even and perfect. Sometimes we meet other runners, running with their more conventional pets. Do they feel the same joy?

After our run I pull out an apple. I never used to eat very many apples because I'm never hungry for a whole one and I don't want to waste it. I'm a banana person. But now I have a partner who is willing to share an apple. I take a bite. She takes a bit. I take another bite. Back and forth until apple juice runs from her muzzle and my hands. She's not pushy, just there, waiting her turn.

Yesterday during the apple sharing ritual, I realized that this was an activity that was only between Farley and I and that it made me happy (Minx and I never ran together and she couldn't care less about apples and carrots). And the healing process goes on. I'm rediscovering activities I used to do when I only had one horse. Like running, relaxing, and spending time grooming without feeling guilty that there was another horse, waiting to be ridden.

I'm going shoe shopping with my mom tonight. She's going to buy a pair of good running shoes (her first?). I'm going to pick up a pair of trail runners. My Saucony Triumphs do not cut it on the trails, and running in my Ariat Terrains during weekend trail rides is giving me blisters.

I received my knife I ordered from Cabelas's the other day. A Kershaw rainbow leek. It's gorgeous. It's suppose to replace the Kershaw knife that Matt bought me for my 21st birthday. It was perfect in every way. Except now I can't find it. It has dropped off the face of the earth. In the three weeks that I was "knife-less", it seemed I needed a knife every 5 minutes. Now that I finally have a new knife, I haven't had to cut anything for DAYS. Except my thumb. The only thing I've used my new knife for is to slice off the side of my thumb. In the first 5 minutes of ownership.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I miss trimming feet

Yep - I miss being able to pull out my rasp and do some touchups anytime I get the hankering.....Why don't I just pull the shoes off Farley immediately and get started?

1. Well, I have a ride scheduled for 5/24/09. The soonest I could pull the shoes would be ~3-4 weeks before the event. In my opinion that is not enough time to transition her to boots and fix any issues that come up. She's competed successfully in shoes since October, still has good heel-first landings, so keeping them on another 8 weeks will probably be fine.

2. Why not just skip this ride? I've been looking forward to this ride all year. It's the Wild West ride put on by the Ribley's. This ride is the highlight of my year, and this will be the 3rd time I've done it. This was also the last successful ride that Minx went to last year. It's really important to me that I start this ride

3. I'm still feel "unstable" about Minx's death. With each thing I do I'm healing more, but I definitely have to "push" myself to take the next step. The first time going to the stable was difficult. The first time mounting up and taking a trail ride wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be, but it was definitely a time of reflection. My first endurance ride back with Farley is probably going to be difficult, especially if it's a ride that I used to take Minx to (like Wild West). I have a feeling that the first time I pick up my rasp and hoof stand to work on Farley, it will be another big step. Rasping and hoof care was something that Minx and I did together, Farley wasn't involved.

4. I have a harder time seeing the right angles in Farley's hooves. Minx's Hooves just seemed "right" to me.

But I really want to start tinkering again! And using my really cool renegade boots that are just sitting in a pokeman pillow case!

With all due respect to the rest of you "maniacs" (and I use the term in the most endearing way possible), I'm turning into one - hackamore last weekend, hoof boots in my trailer.....AHHHHH!!!!! How long until I'm in a treeless saddle! :) (although those cheyenne barefoots and torsions sure look intriguing...)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Re-evaluation and Stuff for Sale

So what's the plan? Like any major life "happening", Minx's death has made me re-evaluate my yearly goals and plans.

Goal update
1. Sound horses all year. In retrospect "alive horses" would have made a better goal huh? :) (just kidding - kinda). I'm doing a good job managing Farley's tendon. With each development I'm modifying my riding and my ride plans. I am currently only planning on doing 1 day at wild west. I could probably get through 2 50's with her that weekend, but why risk it? She's even more precious to me now. It's all I can do right now not to rush to the stable every 2 hours to make sure she's still alive and healthy.

2. Completed!

3. Complete first ride over 50 miles. I have completed this since the last goals update! Farley and I did 65 miles on 2/28/09. I am so proud of her.

4. Complete Endurance (50+ miles a day) multi day. I was going to do wild west, but I think it would be wise to push this goal to the fall or early winter. Still doable. I can get there faster by going slower. Never hurry, never tarry.

5. Do my first 100. Still might be on the schedule this year. Possibly fall or winter. Perhaps as late as next spring. Having one horse might make my riding more consistant, which might make a tremendous difference. Or it might mean I over-ride her (which is why I got a second horse in the first place! I love riding almost every day). We'll just have to see....

6. Do the Tevis. Not this year!

7. Keep Minx happy. I did my best. In the circumstances, I feel like I gave her the best gift I could have - mercy.

For Sale
First of all I want to reassure everyone that I have not jumped off the deep end and selling everything associated with Minx. I live in a one bedroom apartment and board my horse so there is a limit to what I can store. There are a few items that either:

1. I will not be able to use with Farley
2. It is doubtful that any horse I get will fit them.
3. They are easily replaceable when I do get another horse.

I don't want to use this blog as an advertising forum, however there are times (such as this one) that I'm not ready to publicly advertise things (on bayequest or but would like to get the word out to my blogging friends in case they are in need of something. Fair enough? If you want to respond privately, do so at Be sure to post in the comments that you e-mailing, otherwise I don't check that account.

1. Size 2 easy boots - yellow. These may work for my Dad, I'll be able to let you know after 5/3/09. If you are interested, let me know and I'll contact you and you can be first in line. They were worn for 30 minutes in the round pen. No WAY they will fit Farley. I'm thinking the size 1 will fit her fronts, but if they don't they will be for sale too.

2. Thorowgood dressage saddle. No adjustable gullet. Very good condition. Billets are in good condition. I like thorowgood's better than wintecs. I found it to be extremely secure on the trail.

I'm giving the 1904 Mcclellen (original) back to D*, and Loreleigh is going to borrow my Specialized for a while. That should free up some space.

Day 2 Weekend (I rode Farley in a Hackamore!)

My sister does not get to go riding with me as often as she used to, now that she has a "real" job. With my parent's blessing, we skipped church to go riding together on Easter Sunday morning. She is the one in (my) blue tights in the pictures, I'm in the purple tights. She is riding her fat little mustang - Sally. On the last trail rides, Loreleigh complained that her synthetic western saddle horn was tapping her stomach during some of our more "interesting" gallops up hills. I offered to let her borrow my old specialized endurance saddle (w/ fleece cover of course), complete with the extra gold breast collar I had picked up at the tack swap. She leaped at the idea (mainly because of the sheepskin cover).

I let Loreleigh chose the riding location, and she chose Oroville, so Farley got to do the same trail as yesterday. Because she was so good yesterday, I decided to try out the arab sized Sliester hackamore I received as another tack trade (cantle stowaway pack for english saddle). This was her first time in a hackamore.

Yes, those half chaps in the pic are the ones I picked up for $5 at the swap and tried to resell for $10....

At the top of Sycamore hill (the name changes depending on what map you are looking at) there's some hitching posts with picnic tables. We stopped for awhile and then turned around.

(Loreleigh looking at her fat, sweaty Sally)

The view from the top.

See the red things on the stirrups? That's a neoprene tail wrap. It was one of the really long ones. I cut it in half and wrapped them around the leathers right above the stirrup. I was hoping that it would eliminate my need for half chaps (making it easier to run). They do an OK job, but not wonderful. I wonder if I had not cut it in half, and left it long, if it would do a better job?

Farley enjoying the grass.

Another grazing break on the way home.

A picture of the hackamore I was using. Yes I took this from the back of the horse....She did GREAT in it. We did some easy trotting, switch backs, up and down hills. She actually necks reins fairly well and works off of my seat and legs. She suprised me. I'm not sure I would trust this at the beginning of a ride, but I would transition after the first half of a ride - especially in a 100 miler. I did pack her regular bitted bridle, just in case, but I was VERY impressed with how well she handled for her first time in a hackamore.

Near the end of the ride, I realized we hadn't taken many pictures while riding (front views...not back views), so we passed the camera back and forth, trying to get decent shots.

I told Loreleigh to be careful. Matching tights, helmet, and saddle bags - someone might mistake her for an endurance rider!

We were almost to the trailer and running out of time for pictures! Ahhh! BTW - it doesn't work to cue the horse to the right, while twisting your body to the left in order to face the camera. It turns out looking like this.

And this. Eeek! Look at my heel!

Loreleigh on the other hand looks wonderful in her pics (we'll chalk that up to my superior picture taking abilities :).

Watch out Loreleigh! You are starting to color coordinate!

Loreleigh is borrowing this saddle now, so maybe I have her half converted?
6 miles ~1:45

Day 1 continued

I was so excited about my wonderful trail ride Saturday, I forgot about part 1 of the weekend! I went with my Dad to a tack swap. I LOVE tack swaps. I didn't have any cash with me, so Mom lent me $25 and off I went. For $25 here's my loot:

Cooler (almost brand new) - $10
Really nice half cheek snaffle (you can just feel quality when you pick up a bit) to continue my obsessive bit collecting - $5
Half chaps - $5
2 pairs of riding tights, blue and purple - $2
gold, synthetic english breast collar - $3

I already have half chaps, and the half chaps I bought here I didn't like as well, but they fit so I bought them for back ups (they were almost brand new! I couldn't just leave them sitting there). They also fit my sister.......who REALLY wanted I offered them to her at the deal of $10. :) Hey, cheaper than new! My parents threw a fit and told me absolutely not, so I sheepishly gave them to her for $5. I was not joking around. I totally was going to sell them to her for $10. On the other hand, my sister is my seamstress and repairs/mends ALL of my horsey related stuff and clothing, so she does deserve a break now and then.

After the ride I went with a walk with my mom and her dog and we bought Easter candy. After delicious dinner we sat around and watched "Ghost Rider". Why is this all important? This day and night was the 1 week anniversary of Minx's death. I had such a wonderful day spending it with my family and Farley, that fact did not even occur to me until the next day!

Day 1 of weekend

I had a lovely trail ride on Saturday. For the gelding update, scroll to the bottom.

The Kaweah Horsemasters lesson on Saturday was cancelled, so Friday night I was faced with a delimeana: Have horse, will travel, but where to travel to? I decided that spending Easter Sunday with my parents was a fine idea and I would either ride at Oroville or Auburn.

Saturday morning I headed up to the Oroville State Recreation Area. Above is a picture of the parking area. No one there, hitching racks and a porta potty, nothing could be more perfect. There's also a group of picnic tables in the shade behind me. I had been here once before - Easter Sunday 2 years ago, a couple of weeks before my first endurance ride, with my sister. Minx and I did ~5 miles that day, ending with a partially removed shoe....that nesscitated walking back to the trailer area WAY to short into the ride.

The trails were much more beautiful that I remembered. The grass was green, the flowers in full bloom.

I had a wonderful time on Farley. She felt so solid, so good, such a pleasure to ride. This was my first ride back in the saddle since before Minx died. My last ride was on Minx on the very pleasurable Fort Ord ride.

I kept Farley at a walk/trot. She's fit enough to go the distance, now I'm doing brain work and strengthening her tendon. On my weekend rides I've promised to get off and run for at least 30 minutes, and today was no exception. I think it secretly amuses Farley to trot along behind me and watch my fat bottom "trot" over the rocks. We went over Dan Beebes trail, over Sycamore Hill, around the detour, until we came to the base of the spillway (pictured above).

We took a 5 minute break to eat, pee, and snap some pictures. Then it was back down the trail.

I've been doing some tack trading on the Horse Grooming Forums and got the bridle pictured above in exchange for a cob sized dressage bridle without cheek pieces I had. I was nice to get a bridle that was thinner for Farley. On the shortest settings this bridle (barely) fits! The civil war bridle now has a hackamore on it (see my Day 2 post later for more details on that!)

On the way back I chose to go along the gravel road next to the reservoir, so I could take Farley through this tunnel.

This tunnel is fairly long and a section of the lights had burnt out, so it was dark. She was nervous but did great. I had to dismount to turn the lights on, so I went ahead and walked through it with her dismounted.

Overall we went ~10 hours in 2.5 hours. On conditioning rides, especially if the footing is steep and technical, I worry more about hours in the saddle than actual distance. I wanted a solid 2-3 hours on technical trail this day and I got it. She looked great afterwards. She's in the middle of SERIOUSLY shedding her winter coat off so I checked carefully for any rub spots. She's being especially sensitive about her girth area, so I made sure there was no hair build up in her armpits.

After riding Saturday, I decided I wanted to take some more time as a single horse owner. I am not going to go look at the gelding. I'm not sure I want another greenie. Horse riding is my hobby, not my job. Just because I could handle the greenie, does that mean I should? I had a WONDERFUL ride this day, and at Fort Ord a few weeks ago. It was because my horses were finally at a level in their training that I could relax and enjoy the scenery. By only having a single horse, I can slow down my life for a bit, and catch up on all those things I used to do before getting Farley in November 2007. I used to play the fiddle, embroider and quilt, read, go to church and read my bible, run marathons. I've done none of that consistently since getting 2 horses, probably because at least one of them was a greenie that required a LOT of my time. Maybe it's time to live life a little differently for a couple of months. I WILL be getting a second horse, just not right away, and probably not a greenie.

If any one is interested in the gelding, he is in the bay area in California and listed on He sounds like a great project for a confident intermediate rider and someone could get really lucky with him. The women selling him seems honest and upfront.