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Saturday, July 30, 2011


If I had to make a list of my priorities, my horse would beat out house work. Thus, after 5 years of horses, you can imagine what my apartment looked like. Fifteen cat toys under the oven and a layer of grime, horse dirt, and dust in quantities that would NOT be conducive to a deposit return.

With $700 on the line, it was time to enter the world of modern cleaning chemicals. The bleach, all purpose 409 degreaser, and vinegar that had occupied my cupboard for 5 years needed an upgrade.

I started my assault armed with the following weapons:

Mr clean magic eraser
Scotch bright pads
All purpose 409
Arm and hammer scrub free with bleach.
Walmart brand oven cleaner

The mission was a clean bathroom, and a clean kitchen. I started with a pot stain in the counter - my cast iron bean pot had sat for a week damp a few years ago and left a rust colored stain on the light colored Formica counter. I scrubbed it with the eraser which lightened it (impressive!) and then let arm and hammer scrub free set on it for 30 minutes. After attacking with a scotch bright pad, the stain disappeared. Now I'm significantly less impressed with the eraser - although it did a nice job of wiping down flat surfaces and removing miscellaneous debris.

As I prepped my apartment I wondered - how many other horse people could use a helping hand in the housework department? Do any of my horse buddies pass by the cleaning product section in the grocery section and wonder if any of the new fancy products work better than their childhood staples?

I chose the products based on the following premise - I had a nasty dirty apartment, very little time, and a newly healing broken arm. I had approximately 4-6 hours I could devote to cleaning. So how did the products stack up?

Mr clean magic eraser - I actually liked this, even though it didn't stand out particularly well during any specific challenge. It wiped up nicely, took off a moderate amount of debris and residues, and held up reasonably well as long as it wasn't used on rough surfaces. Because it has a built in cleaner, I was a little worried about using it in conjunction with any other cleaning product. Although I did enjoy using the product, I felt it was too expensive for me and wasn't so wonderful that I would purchase again for general every day use.

Scotch brite pads -the trusty 'ole scotch brites...they did a fabulous job on everything I used them on - from scrubbing appliances to removing stains, to wiping up gunk. I think in the past I've only used pads that were old and used - a brand new scotch pad is a wonderful thing. Somethings to keep in mind: the pads will leave a green grainy substance behind that will need to be wiped up. The pads can scratch some surfaces, so use with caution on softer surfaces. Also, remember these are not sponges - these are scrubbers and will work best if you go behind them with a cloth or other absorbent material and wipe up excess liquid. The price is right and i would use these for general use. I can think of several horsey uses - including cleaning bits and other hardware.

All purpose 409 - I've used this since my childhood. Good overall cleaner, however I'm not found of the highly chemical smell. I usually limit it's use in the bathroom and kitchen, where I'm most likely to appreciate it's antimicrobial properties. Not a standout in anything, but safe for most surfaces, it probably works better if you clean your stuff more often than every 5 years, but for now until I find something that works better with less smell, it remains.

Arm and hammer scrub free with bleach - ugh the chemical smell is BAD. But....for the toughest of 5 year grimes it works. With minimal scrubbing. I consider this my "emergency" cleaner, when vinegar, bleach, and the scotch brite has failed me. Spray it, leave it, and when you can enter the room and breathe again, wipe it off. Don't buy it until you need it. I cant think of using this anywhere near my horse. Possibly if I had a disease outbreak and needed to sterilize a stall and didn't have access to something commercial? Or a nasty stain somewhere that HAD to be removed? I have a feeling it would fade mildew spots, but haven't tried it yet.

Walmart brand oven cleaner - cleaning the oven - what a chore. Talk about another caustic chemical that kills brain cells upon impact. The night I used it, it seemed to work fabulously. Sparkling, clean oven...but the next morning, I could see residue from the cleaner and it wouldn't wipe off easily. Overall not impressed. And really - the oven is closed most of the time and thus it doesn't matter - and i don't like the idea of aerosolized chemical in a cabinet that I'll be heating my food anyways. I haven't actually caught the inside of my oven on fire, so I'm thinking a bit of food residue never hurt anyone?

So what was the conclusion of all my hardwork, cleaning, and scrubbing? - during the pre walk through I was told that they apartment was absolutely dirty and needed to be cleaned......considering I had spent my allotted time cleaning I had available, I asked what the cleaning rate would be. I eventually drug out of the manager is was about $13 an hour and the place would require around 4 hours.....I think she was a little shocked when I said "that sounds reasonable - I'll let you clean it.".

I'll consider it my "sanity money". So while it was fun to try out some of the new products, I'd still rather be cleaning stalls or the barn. The solution is of course to live in a barn.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Walking is the toughest way for our horses to cover ground"

The August edition of the EN appeared in my post office box the day before i left, so now my discussions on the July edition articles are officially late.

Hopefully you got to read the article by Dr. Susan Garlinghouse "a veterinarian's guide to trailering". I'm not sure if it's available on line - I'm currently writing these articles on the train outside of green river Utah, and as you probably could guess, the availability of wireless Internet is a bit lacking here in the high desert of Utah.

Since I think we can all agree that considering and preparing for trailering is an important part of keeping our endurance horses healthy and happy, I wanted to make the main focus of today's post Stagg Newman "why walking can be the toughest gait. (side note - please excuse my capitalization errors throughout this post, I'm typing this on an iPad, on a train, in an email program and fine editing is beyond me right now!)

Unfortunately this article is not available on line. I do have a copy of it that I would be willing to send as a PDF for readers that request it, pending the approval of EN.

Newman introduces the concept by relating a story about a friend riding a very well prepared horse in a100. He had completed 5 100s previously including at WEG. The horse looked great and received excellent scores, until a group of riders, including the rider of this horse decided to do a couple of loops at a much slower pace. Several people pulled and the pace speeded up again. The pace of the last loop was "considerably" faster and the horse finished with excellent scores, including the scores that had started to suffer during the slower paced section.

This story struck a cord with me. I have observed this with my own horses. We will be trucking along fine and then for whatever reason - decide to slow down the pace and walk. After "too much" walking its like there's this point of no return. While I would never recommend pushing a tired horse to go faster if it needs to walk, unnecessary walking may not be doing your horse any favors.

I can remember a couple of specific rides where this happened - at tevis in 2010 I had enough time to walk from lost quarry to the finish and still finish, so I did in order to give myself what I thought at the time was the best possible chance for a "fit to continue" completion at the finish. So after trotting most of the ride, I slowed to a walk. We both started to stiffen up and i was lucky to finish. At another 100 I slowed to a walk for the last loop in order to ride with another group of riders that were at the end and all riding together. I had ridden by myself most of the day and night and wanted some company. After getting great vet scores all day, I walked that last loop and finished with less horse than I expected.

There are other examples but these are the 2 dramatic. In both cases i slowed down for reasons unrelated to my horse's welfare and did significantly more walking than I typically do in conditioning or rides.

Newman explores in his article several reasons why walking can be hard on a horse - the trot and canter have natural suspension systems that return injury. All those ligaments and bony structures in the horse's lower leg are designed as a complicated engery return system that let's the horse move very efficiently within those gaits.

Newman also explains how work can be explained in terms of heartbeats per mile. He includes a table in his article that includes the following information:

Gait/pace per mile/bpm/#heartbeats

Walk/15 min/90/1350
Trot/7 minutes/120/840
Canter/6 minutes/120/720

Newman stresses that you should not use this information to mindlessly trot or canter on when your horse needs a break. Instead, its a tool for you to evaluate what is the BEST way to complete the endurance ride while still giving your horse the breaks it may need. Is it better to do a lot of walking? To get off and walk beside? To stop altogether and let the horse graze? Newman provides an example of how this might work for the typical horse - in 15 minutes if a horse grazes for 8 minutes and trots for 7 min, you have probably covered one mile and expended about 1,240 heartbeats. Or you could have walked for the entire 15 minutes, covered a mile, expended 1,350 heartbeats and not taken advantage of the horse's efficient energy return system.

Obviously there are many considerations when choosing an appropriate pace for your horse and rider team, however it is good to keep in mind that going too slow to stay with a friend or riding buddy could be as detrimental to your ride as going too fast. You have trained for a specific pace - ride your own ride.

I will end my thoughts as Newman began his article - never hurry, never tarry - do not walk if the conditions allow for a faster gait, and do not spend extra time at holds or stopped on the trail unless for a good reason (such as letting your horse eat and drink).

For a selection of current and past articles such as the one referenced above, visit the aerc website ( and click on "endurance news".

Monday, July 25, 2011

Question and Answer

Heather asked on Facebook why I think Renegades are a superior boot, as compared specifically to the Easy Boot Inc. product - the glove.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a Renegade Boot dealer. I sell boots and make a profit. My opinions of the boots can be found on this blog, unaltered from before I was a dealer (Sep 2010). I was not sponsored by Renegade in the past nor am I in the present. I have never signed a contract that limits what I say and share about the boots. I am free to use whatever product I want that is on the market.

Another disclosure - these are my personal opinions, based on my personal experiences and observations. I'm honest to a fault in this blog, because I truly strive to be trustworthy and above reproach. I invite all commentary - even if you don't agree with me - and you will be treated with respect and consideration.

Here is my requirements for booting, which I shared here on this blog a little over a year ago:

My boot criteria is simple.

1. Application of the boot must not require any hoof modifications – ie I am not willing to wrap, duct tape or otherwise modify the hoof in order for a boot to stay on. Conversely, the boot must not modify the hoof – ie scrape, cut into, or rub.

2. The boot must stay on and be easy to apply and take off without any professional help. (This was developed based on my experience with glue on boots).

The renegade strap-on hoof boot fulfills all of these requirements.

From day 1, the renegade boots will go on the hoof with prying, wiggling or cursing. Three months later in the middle of summer, the boot will still fit without stretching or deforming.

No fit kit needed. And it's easy to fit a variety of hoof sizes because you can cut the back of the sole to a custom length! I have not had a single client that I have not been able to fit with a Renegade boot. Lander Industries does a beautiful job cutting the back of the boots if you need a cut back - or you can do it yourself with a pair of hoof nippers. A rasp or dremmel tool can make it prettier.

Durability. I used the same boots from August to February - including competitions (and 2 100 milers). They are still good for another 50 or so. Even after hundreds of miles on the trail, when I'm done with them they still have enough life for a casual trail rider and I sell them for ~$50/pair.

No additional accessories needed. The renegade boot works - no wrapping of the hoof, or power straps needed. Fit the renegade boot (which consists of 2 set screws that hold the cable in place) and you are ready to go.

The boots WORK. In 2009, a horse and rider team rode the Tevis in 4 strap on boots, and finished the ride with the original strap ons. No boot losses. No special attachment to the hoof - they were used just the way we use our boots on conditioning rides. I've never had a rubbing problem with the captivators, never had a sore hoof, never had a scab, never had any missing hair. The boots are NOT TIGHT. Thus, the hoof wall can flex and move as it was designed.

Consistency. They are so easy to put on - I can do it in the dark of the morning before a 100 miler and have all 4 booted in under 6 minutes. And they go on the same way each time. After a long ride, they come off easier than they went on (even though they stayed on perfectly on the trail). My horse doesn't have to be booted any longer than necessary because they are so easy and I know that I can get a consistent fit each time.

Customer service. The captivators are guaranteed. The boots come with a sizing warranty similar to the glove product. The company is American and the boots are made in the USA. This small group of people are working their hiney's off in order to produce a product that has changed my equestrian life.

Nothing on the market works for me like my Renegade Hoof boots, and while I think Easy Care Inc. Glove product is a step in the right direction (minimal hardware, trying to allow for as much natural movement as possible) it isn't a product that is right for me and Farley for a variety of reasons. If the Renegade boots came off the market for some reason, I would probably put shoes back on my horses - there is simply no booting product on the market currently that I see as a viable alternative. Although I believe in barefoot - I'm not willing to boot for competitions unless I have a product that I trust. I do too few endurance rides for them not to be inordinately precious. I want something that is as easy as shoes, and Renegade comes DARN close.

I've written several articles on why I went barefoot, and the process of changing my mindset from "I'll never boot", to why I feel it's important and how that's changed the way I ride endurance. For new readers who didn't have to hand hold me through my first ride booted (I was so nervous - I had never intended on using the boots in competition....but they were working so well), part of the story can be found here: (Full link -

The boots are much more available than they've been in the past. You still can't go to your local tack shop, or favorite retail tack magazine and order, however the ordering process directly from Lander Industries is simple. They are just a phone call or e-mail away. Additionally there are local dealers like me - most of whom are passionate about this product and will help you with fitting the boot and other questions regardless of who you purchased it from.

EN - July edition

Current AERC members get access to a really wonderful publication - the Endurance News (EN). Monthly I look forward to the magazine - Will one of my friends or someone I know be on the cover? Will I see an article written by a fellow blogger? What will I learn in the vet's column this month? Each month there is a selection of thought-provoking articles and July's edition was no exception.

As the August edition is just around the corner, it's time to drag this post out of draft status and discuss!

I am going out of state for 10 days (hiking Pikes Peak in Colorado, as well as other tourist-y activities!). I have several posts scheduled over the next week or so, so continue to check back - new posts should go up every 1-2 days.

President's Message

Connie Caudill discusses several new directions that the AERC could consider in the future. Here are my thoughts on the issues she raises:

Young riders Division
In general I am not in favor of adding yet more divisions to our sport. Our sport is small and while I was as happy as could be to receive my vest for being in the point standings in my regional division, it adds cost, complexity and waters down the overall achievements. Some of the weight divisions don't make sense to me. For example, weight. The weight of the rider is a complex issue that involves both horse build, whether the rider dismounts often, and the combined horse and rider weight. There is no clear correlation between rider weights and ride completion rates, except perhaps at the upper end. But this is a discussion on whether another age division should be added - not the weight division issue, so I'll get back on topic.

I'm OK having having a junior division. Competing in the sport under the age of 16 has different issues than competing as an adult - including needing to have a sponsor. Thus, since the rules are different than the adults, juniors should compete among themselves. So why add a young rider division? Caudill claims that by keeping members involved until age 22 (the proposed cut off for the young rider division) there is an increased chance for later participation. What evidence do we have for this? I never competed in this sport as a junior or in fact, until I turned 21 and graduated college. The main barrier for me to compete in this sport prior to 22 was not that I was head-to-head in the senior division - it was time. Money was an issue, and yes, it would be nice to have a discount for those members still paying tuition bills, but there are people who are looking for qualified people to ride their multiple horses, so there's an opportunity to do endurance "on the cheap" if money is an issue. All the award opportunities and discounts in the world wouldn't have given me what I needed to compete in college - because they couldn't have given me more time. I think those members in this "young rider age" already compete if they are able, and if they are not, establishing a separate division for them won't help. Instead, it will make the scoring, awards, points system even more complicated and expensive than it already is. I like the idea of discount for those people who are full time students/young riders - but as the junior discounted entry is up to the discretion of the ride manager, so would all those other "discounted" categories - included the proposed new division. I fail to see how establishing this new division will help AERC and endurance.

Combine endurance and LD miles
I am truly conflicted on this one. Part of me feels that it's silly to continue to hold the distinction between endurance (those miles earned in rides 50+ miles) and LDs. Should I not be given credit for the 150 or so LD miles that Farley has? We did those when we were first starting out and they were not easy miles for us at the time. True, LD completion rates are much higher than 50's, but 50 mile completion rates are even higher than 100's, which are lumped into the endurance mile category. Within endurance miles, 50s, 75s, 100's, and all sorts of pioneer miles are lumped in. All very different, all with varying rates of completion. Does it make sense to continue to have a separate division for LD's? While I think I like the idea of combining the mileage totals, I'm a little less sure when it comes to combining the two categories for overall awards - if so, I think AERC should continue to offer a top LD award, very similarly to the national 100 award as recognition to the people competing at the LD level and recognizing that they will earn less points - just as the 100 mile award recognizes that choosing to compete in 100's means that statistically you will ride fewer rides and may or may not have your accomplishments reflected in the point standings (although with the point change last year, this is less of an issue).

Completion-only rides
This is an idea that I can wholeheartedly agree with! When people ask me why I ride endurance, the first thing that pops out of my mouth is that I get to see country and trails that I would never ever get to see any other way. And it's beautiful. And wonderful. Yes, it's fun to win or get into the top 10, but at least for me, that matters very little. Every ride, I ride to complete. It's a happy coincidence if I'm in the point standings, or end up in the top 10, but those things don't even enter my mind when I'm describing why I love and ride in endurance. If having an option for completion-only rides opens up more land and trails for us to ride on, I absolutely support it. I don't want to see our competition rides go away - I enjoy the feel of competition - but it wouldn't bother me in the least to be riding for a chance at completion only.

I will be emailing Caudill with my thoughts, as she has asked for member feedback. I would love to here your thoughts in the comments and if you are a current AERC member, I encourage you to contact the AERC office or Connie Caudill with your opinions.

Posts of the Day: (do you follow me in Twitter yet @AHorseOffCourse? - get these links and more!)

Proof that eventers are just as crazy as endurance riders.... at the tbeventer blog

Someone else who loves their Kensington Bug sheets from Karen Chaton

Share your thoughts on whether a trained horse should be expected to respond a cue anytime at the Endurance Granny blog

If I missed a great post somewhere (it's OK to recommend your own blog postings), recommend in the comments.

Tired of all the Tevis chatter?

Then let's talk about one of the other "big 100's".

When I think of the 100's that would be on my bucket list had I unlimited funds and time, Tevis (California), Old Dominion (Virginia), and Big Horn (Wyoming) would be the three "big ones". Another consideration is Virignia City (Nevada) but is geographically close to Tevis and so tends to be lost in the Tevis chatter.

All three rides are well established, historical, and have huge national followings. All three boast of spectacularly difficult trails, breathtaking scenery, and a dedicated ride management staff. All three are almost legendary in terms of stories and fables attached to the rides.

Of the big three, I have completed Tevis. The next logical one for me to do is Big Horn, in Wyoming. I LOVE Wyoming. There's something about the big open skies and the landscape that resonates with me perfectly. I doubt I'll ever live there because of the long cold winters, but I try to find excuses to visit. The thought of being able to do 100 miles in that beautiful state sets my heart a'pitter pattering.

Here's the unfortunate thing. Big Horn seems to be one of those rides where "stuff" happens. Read Merri's account of the Big Horn this year here.

What she writes about are not isolated incidents to this year. Over the last couple of years, similar things have happened to a lesser or greater extent - some of which have been completely out of the management's control, and some which were not.

There is the view that endurance is a sport where the rider should be prepared for anything on the trail - including riding a wilderness trail with very few markings or precautions for rider and horse safety.

In general, I tend to lean towards this view in that the rider should be prepared and it's not up to the ride management to warn and hand-hold riders through a difficult trail - the rider and horse should have prepared adequately for the challenge.

However - I've also come to a point in my endurance riding where I have realized not all 50's or 100's are created equal. Just because there's a ride on the schedule that would fit into my ride season perfectly is no longer a good enough reason to add it to my calendar. It's a question of risk and much I'm willing to take for the precieved "benefit" of finishing the ride.

The American River 50 was the ride that really cemented this concept. I had a 100 miler horse who was fit and ready to go. I had ridden the ride before and also conditioned some of the same trails, so I felt like I knew what I was getting myself into. I had thought my perception of the ride's difficulty was due to the fact that I had tried this ride in 2007 as my first endurance ride, on a horse that wasn't conditioned to go the distance.

After completing the ride in 2010 on a well prepared horse, I promised myself that I would never do the ride again. Too hard and too much to ask of my horse ever again. That 50 milers was harder than any 100 I've done, including Tevis. I'm not asking that the ride management change the ride just because I've decided not to ride it - however I've decided that for this rider and horse team, we would rather complete many more 100's and 50's and not risk a career ending injury on a ride that is inordinately difficult just for the sake of bragging rights.

There seems to be certain rides where "stuff" happens. I've also ridden one of those! Every year something happens. Sometimes the catalyst was something the ride manager couldn't control - like the weather - however the situation would be made worse by the management response. Other years it would be last minute changes - such as cut off times for vet checks - that were made as riders were at the start line staring the ride - and required a significantly faster pace than the regulation "to finish" time. Taken singly, each incident could be explained away, but when issues arise each and every year, I again start looking at that ride in terms of risk versus benefit.

Unfortunately, the stories that have come out of Big Horn in the last couple of years seem to conform to both of these "red flags". I don't want that to be true. I want this gorgeous 100 to be a reality on my ride record some day. But, based on the lessons I've learned and the commitments I've made to Team Faubel (my nickname for the Farley/Melinda team), Big Horn may remain a dream only unless significant changes are made.

We are lucky that in endurance we have the freedom to discuss events and issues frankly without ramifications or fear of being black listed in the community. Of course, this only holds true if we stick to the facts and not personally attack anyone (hint hint hint - if you comment on this post, keep it civil). That freedom is NOT a part of another horse sport I'm involved in - Dressage. Very few (and I'm NOT included in that group) are comfortable lodging formal complaints or notifying the national organizations about shows because of the impact it will have on their careers. This kind of fear is not something we need in endurance.

I don't want to see the Big Horn ride go away. I want to ride it some day. I think it's a ride that should be preserved if at possible. However, considering the Big Horn issues, I think the question should be asked: What do endurance riders have a right to expect at endurance rides?

Endurance rides are not highly regulated - most of the rules concern horse welfare, drug use, and finishing criteria. Right now, each rider must decide for themselves what are the "must haves" at a ride, and chose rides based on how well they conform to their personal requirements.

Here are my expectations and requirements for a ride:

1. That the trail is clearly marked using ride specific colors/markings, or uses a GPS track

2. There are no cut offs that require me to ride significantly faster than a "to finish" pace as defined by AERC.

3. The ride does not have a significant portion of it's riders finishing overtime each year. This less of a factor when evaluating 100's - mostly an issue when I'm looking at 50's.

4. If the ride is at night, that the course is marked with lights of some kind at reasonable intervals depending on the terrain.

5. The ride management has made a reasonable effort to warn riders of significant hazards, including similar markings that are on the trail that could lead riders into a perilous situation if followed.

6. How ride managers have reacted to situations in the past when faced with an unexpected event - such as inclement weather.

Each of these were developed because of a specific ride experience that I had that spooked me badly. Obviously no ride is perfect - some of the requirements are by necessity vague and I evaluate rides on a case by case basis. Some are more important to me than others, and if the ride "infractions" to my requirements are minor, I may be able to mitigate the risk by specificly preparing. However, this is my general guideline for evaluating risk.

Post of the day: Head on over to EG's and see her hilarious post here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I wish I had known..."Tevis"

It's that time of year - Tevis time. Even though I won't be risking life and limb on that trail again this year (OK - so that's a slight exaggeration, but you have to admit that any endurance ride whose rider packet comes with the option of life-flight helicoptor insurance is not to be taken lightly) I can't help but get caught up in the excitement of those riders carefully planning their ride strategies and preparing their horses.

Tevis, for me, was a ride that grew more special over time. I couldn't have told you what made that ride so special before I rode it, right after I finished (or didn't finish, as was the case in '09), or even 3 months after. If I'm being perfectly honest, it wasn't that much fun to ride either. But I will tell you, right now - 2 years after my first attempt- I can't look at a full moon without reliving the Tevis. I can't ride a 100 without comparing it to Tevis. I can't plan a ride season without a look towards Tevis. I can't rehab Farley without wondering whether we will someday tackle that trail in its entirety as a team again. I might look back on some of the other rides I supported with fond remembrance, but for Tevis it's different. I feel a thrill that goes deep down into my gut and just for a second, I'm giddy with excitement before I realize that this year, I won't be there as a rider.

For all of you that are riding Tevis this year - here's what I wish I would have known before starting and some of the lessons I've learned there. With 2 attempts and 1 buckle I do not pretend to be a Tevis expert. However, maybe you'll be able to pluck a gem or two and add it to the overwhelming amount of advice you will undoubtedly get from those riders that are qualified!

1. The trail conditions change every year. Sometimes the bogs are good, sometimes they are bad. Sometimes the canyons are hot, sometimes they're not. There are no certainties and it's best to go prepared for anything - expect to be cold or hot, wet or dry, dusty or not dusty, poor footing and good footing - and you'll be as prepared as you can be.

2. Treat every part of the trail with respect. After pre-riding the last 2/3 of the trail prior to my first attempt I was told that the first 1/3 was no big deal and I shouldn't worry about it. Thus, I was unprepared mentally when the first third of the ride was extremely technical and HARD. Also, don't expect to be able to rely on other people's accounts of whether a certain section is "easy" - that will depend on you and your horse.

3. You might ride alone. Both years I had the fortune of finding a "bubble" and staying it in most of the ride. It IS possible to get away from the "elephant trains" and ride your own ride. Be courteous at all times, ask for the trail when needed and ride your own ride. Don't assume that you will have to ride with other people the whole time if you prefer to ride alone.

4. Be prepared for rude people. Most people will be wonderful. But, you may come across people who are rude, disrespectful, ignore the rules, and will lie. It's unfortunate, but try and recognize that often the people who are like this are probably scared, tired, or maybe trying to manage an issue that is taking every single bit of their mental energy. Don't let it ruin your ride. Chances are, you won't meet any of these kind of people. Be familiar with the rules, be polite and DO NOT ENGAGE. They are probably really nice people when not stressed and tired and dealing with such a trail as Tevis.

5. The volunteers are absolutely fabulous. If you have a need don't hesitate, be polite, be grateful, and ASK. More than likely you will be able to get done whatever you need to get done, whether it's a horse holder while you go to the bathroom or a little help mounting up.

6. Don't underestimate the power of properly replacing YOUR electrolytes.

7. Be prepared to get pulled through no fault of your own, through circumstances out of your control. There are places on the trail that you cannot pass. If you are close to a cut off and are stuck behind someone who refuses to pick up the pace during one of these sections, there is nothing you can do. Absolutely nothing. It's frustrating and maddening and a terrible thing - but sometimes that's just what happens. Deal with it. Consider it a character building experience.

8. Tevis is like no other endurance ride you have done. Expect to manage things in your horse during and after the ride that you've never had to deal with before. Recognize that managing your horse's recovery lasts longer than the day after the ride - it's more like 4 weeks. My negligence in this area is what contributed to Farley's tye up after the '10 Tevis.

9. You can easily leave 10 minutes after the "groups/pens" have gone, right before the start cut-off and finish in PLENTY of time. If you are so close to the cutoffs, that the 10 minutes in the beginning is absolutely going to ruin your ride, reconsider your options. IMO, you gain more than 10 minutes by not having to deal with the chaos and congestion at the start.

10. Let yourself get excited. You never know what life will throw you, and even if you plan on riding this ride year after year after never know when it will be your last. Enjoy it to the fullest. Go to the banquet lunch afterwards, talk to people, look at the horses.

Blog pick of the day (not Tevis related) - Aarene's post here. For extra credit, you can read further on the subject here.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Camping Multi days - shower set up

My hatred of showers not withstanding, there are times when the thought of a hot shower during the next vet check is THE only thing that keeps me going.

Both years I rode Tevis my mother set me up a shower tent at Foresthill. You can see the picture in this post here. Ever since that first shower at Tevis 2009 I've been OBSESSED with out to take a shower at the Dinner check of a 100 mile race. I literally feel like I've been given a new body and mind.
My mom's shower was based on a 5 gallon bucket of warm water, a pitcher to pour water over your head, and a wooden stool to stand on so you aren't in the mud. It was perfectly heavenly......but I had Cabelas member points begging to be spent, so I tried out a slightly more civilized method of taking a shower in the rough - the Zodi battery operated shower.

Pictured above is my shower "kit". Everything fits inside of the 5 gallon bucket. The home depot orange buckets are just as good as black for soaking up the sunshine and making the water HOT. Included in my shower kit is:

1. Small vial of shampoo - stays in the shower kit or I forget it. While rereading my 2009 Tevis story in preperation for a presentation I'm giving at a Rotary club tomorrow, I found the list of things I forgot at Tevis.....shampoo included.

2. Shower shoes - a pair of 2nd hand crocs. I've never had athletics foot or any other kind of fungus problem, and I don't plan on having it either. Thrush looks and smells nasty on my horse and I have no desire for my very own, personal fungus problem. If they are in the kit, I have no excuse for not having them when I decide to take my shower kit into a public shower to use.
3. A towel and washcloth
4. A Zodi battery operated shower - available at Cabelas here. Best 30 bucks I've ever spent. Trust me on this one. It POURS the water out the head with good pressure - no water saving hydrant here. I love it and everyone I've loaned it to loves it.

***TIP - store the batteries OUT of the Zodi to reduce the chance they will leak and ruin your awsome shower. Because you are dealing wtih moisture, this is a best practice, even though I haven't had an issue.

Above is a giant hot pot. It's enamaled and can be used over a camp stove or a camp fire. When I don't have enough sunshine to heat my bucket of water, this is what i use to heat it up. Another option is to heat up smaller pots of water to boiling and mix cooler water into the bucket.

***TIP - if you are carrying the bucket with hot water some distance to your shower location and will have cold water available, put the near boiling water in the bucket, carry it to your destination, THEN put the cold water it in. That way you only lug 3 gallons of water instead of five.

Let's assume you have assembled your kit, found hot water somewhere and have a bucket of water heated to perfection.....what are your shower options?

Scenerio 1 - Your event or ride is at a fair grounds or other facility where there are public showers that may or may not have hot water, and may or may not require you to scrounge up quarters.

Solution 1 - Carry your bucket, shower supplies, and shower into one of their stalls. Use their oh-so-conviently provided hooks for your towel and clothes and enjoy a hot shower in the privacy of your own shower stall.

***TIP - To conserve water, turn off the shower pump when soaping up, OR put the nozzle head back into the bucket so the water just circulates round and 'round until you are ready to pick up the head again.

Scenerio 2 - Privacy consists of the back of your horse trailer

Solution 2a - Set up near the back (closest to the big door where the water can drain out) of your horse trailer and set up as in solution 1. Even if there is stuff in the back of the trailer, there's very little overspray since you have ultimate control over where the water goes with the handheld shower head.

***TIP - if you are using soap, and aren't taking a shower in a facility with a drain, the responsible thing to do is to control and dispose of your soapy waste water properly, or buy biodegradable soap.

Solution 2b - Set up a more permanent shower in the back of your horse trailer by installing an over head hook to hang the head onto.

Solution 2c - If drainage is a problem, set up a muck bucket, or a shallow pan that will hold at least 4-5 gallons, and place a small plastic stool in it, to stand on (so you aren't standing in your waste water). If you are using the shower head as hand held, you will have less overspray, if you are using the solution 2b, plan on using a container that has a larger diameter.

Scenerio 3 - No horse trailer or permanent facilities available.....

Solution 3 - Because the water is so controllable, it's very doable to take a shower anywhere you can hang a sheet or two for privacy. I can hang fabric in a small area on one corner of my Walmart brand easy up (BTW - it's into its 3rd or 4th season. GREAT investment, especially now that you can get replacement covers for 1/3 of the price of a new one), stand on my stool inside of a feedpan to control mud, and take a shower in the middle of camp.

***TIP - I recommend NOT using light if taking a shower at night in this set up.....Otherwise you could be providing the camp with a very entertaining shadow show...... :)

***TIP - Everyone who has used my shower has averaged 2.5-3.5 gallons of water - both with long and short hair.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Living in 2011

  • Please follow me in twitter! (AHorseOffCourse) If you have a twitter account, let me know and I'll add you to my thread list.
  • I would really appreciate if you use the new button on the side bar to retweet my blog!
  • I will be posting "Picks of the Day" at the bottom of most posts - except for todays - because let's face it, it's 9:30a and I'm still in my PJ's.
  • I'm updating my blogroll on the sidebar. If you have a blog you would like it added, let me know.

After living in 1863 for a weekend, I came home and got caught up for 2011. Today we are are going to talk about technology.

Shall we start with a short story?

"Updating From a Dinosaur Computer"

1. When you get your new computer, first off install Dropbox. Your old computer has dropbox, and thank goodness for that, since you lost your thumb drive a year ago, you haven't bothered replacing it. It's going to be a headache transferring your information since you are too cheap to buy a "fire-whatever" cable and dropbox is going to be a lifesaver. Too bad you forgot to put stuff IN dropbox before you went travelling and no longer have access to the internet on the old computer....

2. Evernote (free version) is the next priority - but since the desktop version of evernote wouldn't run on the old computer anyways - everything is online and there's no fear that the evernote data will be left on the old computer and not transferred.

3. After installing Garmin Roadtrip, and realizing that mysteriously every single one of your GPS tracks and other GPS data from the last 5 years DID get sucked into the black hole that represents the dinosaur computer, and are gone take a break and decide to do more web based applications.

4. Time to move onto social networking. Twitter is easy to sign up for, and after doing a few test tweets, following some threads, and installing the tweet button on the blog, you quickly realize that keeping up with the blog AND twitter AND facebook AND google Buzz AND running Boots 4 Mel AND keeping the website updated AND passing vet a bit ambitious. You run to TwitterFeed and sync the blog to twitter and facebook, and sync twitter to facebook. Then you run over to facebook and figure out how to stop importing blog posts from blogger to facebook - because let's face it, it's just annoying to have a blog post as a status update 3 times. Then, head over to Tweetdeck and attempt to consolidate Google Buzz, Facebook, and Twitter in one desk top application. Realize that while Google buzz is linked to Blogger, it is NOT linked to Twitter, but the thought of linking and testing ONE MORE THING is utterly exhausting and decide to do something easier - like wash solar panels and possibly the car - instead.

5. After teaching the puppy that the couches are not her personal lounging beds, get the bright idea to start backing up the new computer NOW. Take your external harddrive that you SHOULD have been doing full backups on (but instead you only did documents and pictures because it was "easier" and completely missed the GPS data) and start up time machine.

6. Next, go on over to the Rapidweaver website, because at some point this summer you are SURE you will have time to finish that website....You were running version 3 on the dinosaur because it wouldn't support v. 4. You realize that in the meantime they have come out with version 5. You aren't sure whether to wail or rejoice - version 4 was a free upgrade with your purchase of 3, and 5 is going to cost you some $. When you find out you purchased version 3&4 a mere 2 weeks before the cut off to upgrade to 5 for free, you settle on studied indifference.

7. Enough with the "tools"! you say. "Where's my fun stuff?????". Download Overdrive to all devices (itouch, ipad, computer) and Adobe Digital Editions to the computer and read a library book over a glass of wine in the afternoon with sleeping puppies underfoot.

8. Decide that the product name "ipad" is just as bad now, as when you were making fun of it when the product was first announced. Your ipad's name is now "Polly", based on a series of rather complicated associations based on ipad = eye patch = pirate = blackbeard (except your ipad is white), therefore it has to be named after his parrot.

9. Realize that while you are all set up for the creation of your media empire, you have done precious little to ready your devices for their stated purpose - school. You know, that little thing that has completely taken over your life for the past year, and will continue to do so with copious amounts of debt for the next 5 years. Find a (free) notetaking app call Noterize and do a couple of practice note sets using dropbox and the document file within the ipad. Realize you are going to need a stylus and spend WAY TOO MUCH time on amazon getting totally distracted. Find a stylus and a cover for the ipad and computer (all 130 students in my class have the same computer and we were advised to put stickers on our nice new toys). Yes, you could have just put a bumper sticker on them - but since you are realized that you keep your electronics 5-7 years, you would really like all these devices to come out on the other side of vet school more or less intact. The dinosaur sulks in the corner - he didn't get any fancy case. "Did you EVER clean this computer?" my cousin asks as she painstakingly wipes down the computer and keyboard of the dinosaur, which has found a deserving home.

10. Decide that you really have been doing this too long, when you can't figure out how to delete ipad docs - and when you google it the answer is "hit the delete button on your keyboard".

11. Download the Perfect Reader app (I have the free version), find out it doesn't do what you want (read Adobe Digital Editions) and decide to keep it anyways because it looks cool.....

12. Look at the Remember The Milk app (again with the free version) and realize that you haven't even completed one "todo" item that was actually on the list to be completed today....

13. As if you haven't wasted enough time today, start researching PAID apps that you are going to buy with your apple rebate that you haven't got yet - iwork, airdisplay - and then go one step further and research an app that hasn't even come out yet.

14. It's now approximately one hour past your bedtime. Change out of your PJ's, eat breakfast, and decide that tomorrow will be better. Because somehow you will be more productive now that you have desktop notifications EVERY SINGLE TIME someone does something on twitter, facebook, or Buzz......You fall asleep while contemplating how much more efficient technology makes us - you skipped all meals, only wore one set of clothes, and utilized less oxygen since you were stationary all day...

15. The next morning try and actually use the new technology to write a post. Bonus points if it actually has to do with the stated subject of the blog.

Most people reading this have some sort of online presence - through either a blog, twitter, or facebook. And for most of us, we use these online groups to share, learn, and vent about a favorite subject - horses.

Yes, I have readers who are decidedly NOT horsey and for some strange reason find us horse people entertaining enough to stick around, BUT, for the most part we wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the love of the horse, and the desire to be with like-minded people.

There is not enough time in the entire freakin' universe to utilize all available technology - how do you chose which media to follow and be a part of?

Deciding what technology to utilize and how to best to use the technology available depends on your online goal. Education? Self improvement? Just for fun? Meet new friends? Stay connected with old ones? A goal is important because it keeps you focused and efficient. Trust me when I say there is not enough time in your life to do everything. I can't even get through a single SUMMER and accomplish everything on the list....

When I started my major online presence it was with the goal to improve my narrative writing. Even as the fringe benefits added up, that remained my central goal. I accomplished my goal through a blog that told the story of my horsey life. There is only so much time I can devote to something that doesn't pay the bills, and so I tended to ignore technology that didn't fit into this goal - such as twitter and face book.

Changes in my life (and accomplishing several long term goals), and finally updating my devices so that I can fully participate online, is a perfect opportunity to revisit what my online goals are....

I want to help people. Endurance is a rough sport to get into, in part because there are very few accomplished people in endurance that can effectively serve as mentors. Many riders that are getting started in endurance rely on the internet for information. I can remember scouring the sites I found, such as, and participating in online forums and email lists to glean tidbits that would get me through my first ride. I love endurance and plan on doing it for the rest of my life. At some point I hope do become an accomplished endurance rider and someone who should be serving as a mentor - but in the meantime I can create an online presence that provides that new rider with an organized resource.

To accomplish my new goal it is time to bring in other technology (such as twitter) and finish the website, as well as complete several other exciting projects that support this blog and the main website.

I want to see every reader of this blog succeed in their goals - whether they are horsey goals, music goals, or personal life goals. Technology can help you do this!

Check out some programs I use, most of which are free. I encourage you to take some time to sit down, think about your goals, and perhaps discover a new tool or two that will make you more efficient with your computer time, or be able to reach a larger audience. Often, just clarifying the goal can re-motivate you to post on your blog regularly or get around to that really cool project.

If you have a computer program or an app you are in love with, please post in the comments!

Postscript - two dollar solution

A postscript to the two dollar solution.

Remember I promised a video? Here it is!

You can hear just a bit of panic in my voice at the end of the video as I realize that she's headed for the pasture.....and yes, the ball fits under the horse fencing (although not the perimeter fencing on the rest of the property, which is the fence we are trying to prevent her from going under).

A side note - this is my very first youtube video upload! I'm trying to incorporate new media such as youtube and twitter. A complete list of where I can be found on the web will be maintained in the sidebar in the blog.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A short film

When I created this blog, it was with the goal of sharing my journey of endurance riding, and highlighting some equestrian aspects of the civil war period. Thus the name "Boots and Saddles" and the original tag line of "More than just a bugle call".

What we are asking our horses to do in endurance riding isn't so different from what the cavalry (and to a lesser extent, artillery) asked their horses to do in the 1860's. Instead of "re-inventing the wheel" for our relatively new sport of endurance, I think it can be valuable to use history when horses were asked to do similar feats as a starting point for our research, combined with the current theories and ideas today.

Although not directly related to the idea of endurance or cavalry, attached is a youtube video that might be of interest. This was filmed at the Duncan Mills Civil War Days, an event that the California Artillery Society organizes. About half way through the video there's footage of me driving the ambulance and discussing my role in an interview that I don't even remember doing.

I believe this footage was filmed about 2 years ago.

Enjoy! Link here (I'm at the halfway point, about 3 minutes into the film)

Full link here:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Have a plan for the unknown

“Have a plan for the unknown”,

my trainer said, during the preparation for the Pebble Beach show.

Something will happen – and you won’t know what it is. Your horse jogs during your medium walk. You forget your test or maybe go off course and the judge doesn’t ring the bell. Your horse spooks, or bucks, or does something it’s never done before and it surprises you – and not in a good way.

If you don’t have a plan for the unknown, your instincts will take over, and those instincts may or may not be the right ones. Your body curling into a fetal position is less than effective on a bucking or spooking horse. Panic and stress is less than useful for clear thinking while trying to decide what the best thing is to do next.

So have a plan for the unplanned. When your horse does something unexpected, tell yourself that your reaction will be to sit back and sit up, and push your leg down and long. This is the correct response in 99% of the unplanned horse situations, if not all of them. Visualize this response. Practice this response. Make this response your own. Do it until this response is now your instinctive response. Revisit it often.

Do this is your non-horsey activities too. I have a bad habit/instinct of meeting some new situations and unexpected difficulties with a high, un-called-for level of stress. This level of stress makes it difficult, if not impossible, to think clearly or communicate. I can’t talk. I want to burst into tears. Dealing with that much stress sets off adrenaline and fear pathways in my brain, even if the situation is a non-physical danger. In fact, I deal with physical danger far better than I do with unexpected circumstances. Part of the issue is I deny early on that the situation is causing stress or causing the other related responses – meaning I don’t even try and head off the situation until well past the “RED DANGER” point of complete mental overload. What do I need to do? I need to have a plan for the unplanned. A way to react before I’m even aware that I need react. Much like sitting a spook where you don’t have to time evaluate whether your position is good and your leg long, I don’t have time to critically evaluate my reaction before I’m in the middle of it. Through visualization, practice, and planning I can install new software in my brain to deal. A plan for the unplanned and unexpected. One that does not involve totally freaking out.

If you can think back on a situation and wish you had reacted differently, start doing the steps TODAY that will help you to do so when it happens again. Chances are, you will repeat your past behavior and keep reinforcing those reaction pathways if you leave it up to chance. There’s been a couple situations that have happened recently that I wasn’t exactly proud of my reaction. No harm came of it – but I think we all have certain images we try to live up to, and when I do something that contradicts that image (for example – of being cool, collected, relatively unflappable, and able to meet the unexpected with a sense of humor) it bothers me. I’m proud of the horse-women I am today and it has only come about through a lot of thought, effort, and visualization of my reactions in various situations. If I spent just half the time on my non-horsey life, that I did as a rider, I’ll bet I spend a lot less time freaking out, and a lot more time being able to just enjoy life. Because I’m pretty sure I’m not going to DIE it doesn’t go to plan – I just have to convince my brain of that fact.

Sometimes I think we need a little help with the reprogramming. It was not my intention to use this post to talk about this, but it seems that’s where it’s going, so I’m going to stride boldly onward.

I’ve been seriously contemplating my reactions to various life situations over the past year. While working, while not working. I’ve taken into account the various physical ailments that have reared their ugly head over the past year – migraines, gluten intolerance, seasonal affective disorder that has steadily grown worse each year.

I think that intermittent stress is good – I perform my best and strive for the impossible, I’m incredible focused and I feel alive, and I accomplish more than I ever dreamed possible. That being said, I seem to operate under an inherently high stress state most of the time. It doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do – I create the stress internally if I don’t have an outside stressor. Up until this point it was manageable. Then something happened over the past year. It could be that I’ve had more major life changes in the past year, as opposed to the last 5 years. I seem to do very well with the intermettint stressors – crisis at work, riding the Tevis, researching a new sport, getting a new animal. I seem to do less well with life changes – career change, moving, relationship changes. Even if those changes are positive. I thought that when I quit my job most of the stress would disappear, but that hasn’t proved true. I thought things would settle down after 2 months. They haven’t. I spend very little time being able to just relax in my own head and not being wound up, irritated, or worried about something.

Here’s the problem – vet school is purported to be extremely stressful. The school term happens to coincide with the worse time of the year for my SAD – which has not shown long term significant improvement with supplements. Stress is also a trigger for my migraines and how well I tolerate gluten and other foods. Vet school lasts 4 years. I need to get to the other side of vet school intact mentally. I want to get the most out of vet school – Not something I’m sure I can do and also manage ME.

I am considering that I have tried my best to manage this without a formal diagnosis, medication, or other professional help. Most of it was fear that a diagnosis or prescription related to depression or other mental health issue would limit me in certain careers. At 26 it’s highly unlikely I will be going into the military or law enforcement (yes, this was a consideration) and I will have plenty of career choices where it won’t matter. I am considering that I would really like to still have my boyfriend at the end of vet school – and there’s only so much someone can take of a person who is moody, unreasonable, and irritable – even though they might be the most understanding and accommodating person in the world. I had always thought that my problems were the cost of being very very very good in other areas of my life. That you couldn’t be really good at something and not pay a price somewhere else. I’m willing to give up that part of me, if it means I can stop driving myself crazy.

I hate Hate HATE the idea of taking a pill every day. I hate the idea that I wasn’t able to will myself to change. But I hate more the idea that I will go through the next 4 years in the same state that I’ve lived the last decade.

Recently, several people have come to me – both knowing what I’m going through, and not knowing – and given testimonials on how deciding to take a pill every day has changed their life, and while it was hard to admit they were “broken”, were so happy with who they are now.

So apparently, although I was able to train myself to sit a spook, there’s a limit to how much I can override who I am. I am committed to taking a pill 9 months out of the year while I’m in school. I won’t do it unless I can take a very low dosage pill that will require minimal “weaning off” period. I will reevaluate after each summer. On August 15th, when my school insurance kicks in, I will, for the first time, admit to my doctor that I have an issue and will ask for help.

It’s hard to talk about this. The reason I am posted publically (and it’s REALLY public now that these posts are linked to my facebook page!) is the hope that someone else might read this, and it might help – just like my friends sharing their stories helped me.

On a lighter note…..

Tess is growing up so fast. She has a vest now, so she knows whether she’s in “work” or “play” mode. While I was working on my computer, she was on a towel in a “down-stay” at my feet. For 2 ½ hours. She was so good!!!!!! For the first 10 mintues or so she was fidgety but then she just totally chilled – played with her toy quietly for a while and then took a nap. I can’t believe 6 weeks ago she was a little terror who had to be contained in her kennel unless all eyes were on her (and my body poised for leaping and grabbing). Tess-the-puppy is growing up so fast, even while I lament that it is taking her FOREVER to grow out of whatever-undesirable-behavior-she-is-currently-doing (right now – submissively peeing whenever and wherever she greets someone). One thing that I’m doing is appreciating her “dog-y-ness”. She is rarely disobedient, but will sometimes be overcome with instinct. If she gets her nose or eye on something across the field, I cease to exist and no amount of calling “come” will matter. She isn’t ignoring me – the call of that bird just so overwhelming it overrides everything else at this point in her development and she isn’t capable of coming to me at that instant. It’s my job to set her up for success, so if I’m negilegent in that she is allowed to be in a situation where instinct will overcome reason – then that’s my fault. I’m trying to minimize those types of situations, and salvage them when I they do occur (this morning that meant sprinting through an orchard after her and when her concentration finally broke and she RAN towards me when I said come, give her a treat, pick her up, and put her on a leash). So I’m walking that fine line between being fair to the dog, while also being consistent and clear with what I want. Because she improves every day – both with commands and how she interacts with me and others – I have to conclude that so far I’m on the right track.

I am LOVING my new computer. No longer is everything I do electronically an exercise in patience! This morning I borrowed my aunts internet connection and loaded all the programs onto the new computer, that I treasured on my old computer…. Roadtrip (Garmin), Dropbox, Rapidweaver (they came out with an update! Wheeee!), as well as transferring all my files. Many of the new programs that had come out didn’t run on my pre-intel mac computer so I’m doing a lot of “catch up” (for example, Evernote). I don’t tend to update my computer or other electronics very often – so when I do it’s like being in a candy store – it does this, and This, and THIS! Wow!!!!! It was a HUGE chunk of (required by the vet school….) money to upgrade my system to this – but at least I can have fun with it before it becomes an instrument of torture on August 15th.

You probably won’t hear from me until next week – unless I suddenly get copious amount of draft posts done and scheduled. I’ll be at an event this weekend, returning on Monday.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Impressions of Pebble: Day 3

Day 3 is the day I’m most proud of. This was my last and final day in the show ring.

I had an incredibly hard time in the warm up arena. My first ride was early – 9am – and as it worked out, I needed to warm up Zach by myself with coaching from my trainer on the ground (as opposed to her doing the first bit of riding as had happened the previous 2 days). It fell apart quickly, and stayed that way for an hour. Over and over I tried to “get back in the game”. Over and over I failed. More than once my trainer called me over to the rail and attempted to get me back to where I was at the end of day 1. I tried trying, I tried not trying. I tried humming, smiling, frowning, relaxing, sitting up straight, zoning out, and concentrating. It just wasn’t happening. I wanted to quit. Badly. But as my life wasn’t in danger and I wasn’t going to lie in order to go back to the barn and throw a pity party for myself, I just kept going. Then a miracle happened. Literally minutes before I went into the dressage court it all came together. As I finished my lap around the arena and as they rang the bell (signal in dressage to enter the court and start the test – in this case they were using a truck horn…) I had it. Me and Zach were going to rock this thing.

And we did. We had an AMAZING test. I was so proud of us both. I would have been proud of that test anywhere, anytime – but what made it more special is that I got Zach to that point that gave me that test on that morning. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t perfect, but we got it down, and then totally rocked it.

As I had feared, the score did not reflect this. I’ve shown under this particular judge several times and knew that I would probably have to enjoy this day of showing for my own personal accomplishments and not rely on a score. A number of people came up to me afterwards and let me know how nicely the test was ridden which was very appreciated. It was also comforting to know that EVERYONE was being scored exceptionally low. Classes were being won at the lower levels by 62’s. The majority of the riders in a class would get 50’s. Riders that had never before gotten below a 60 were getting scores in the 50’s. Still, I wanted a 60. I’ve never received a 60 at a recognized show. Because this was my last chance at a 60 for a very long time, I made the decision to ride my second class of the day, under the same judge for that chance.

After studying the comments on my test, we decided to ride Zach on a longer, lower frame. I wanted to demonstrate that Zach was moving freely, reaching for contact. The goal was to show a significant difference between my first level test in the morning and my training level test in the afternoon – thus demonstrating to the judge that I had read her comments and had attempted to change my ride according to her preferences.

Zach and I were both fatigued. But again, going into the dressage court and doing our laps before the bell, I knew that we were going to have another awesome test (who says you can’t improve your performance by the power of suggestion?). I really concentrated on pushing him forward to the connection and Zach responded beautifully, reaching down and really showing the judge that he in indeed WAS on the bit. It was a solid test and ridden very differently from my test in the morning. Before looking at my score, which I knew I would be disappointed with (and I was), I told my trainer that I was proud of my second test for the following reason – I made changes and rode it differently. I was a good enough rider that I would decide that for THIS test I would rider longer and lower and deeper. And I did. I could ride a horse in more than one way. I didn’t just go out there and say “well, this is correct so this is the way I’m going to ride” – I was able to make changes, while still preserving the correctness of the ride.

As I had suspected, the score was low. However, my biggest disappointment was that both my tests (judges comments) read identically. No change whatsoever.

Does a small part of me want to immaturely scream and jump up and down and stomp my feet?


But I’m not going to. Because what I want to the legacy of this show to be is how I had a wonderful test after refusing to let myself go to a “bad place” and I succeeded in a warmup that was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I want to remember that I followed that up with a test in which I demonstrated I know more than one way to ride.

I couldn’t have done either test a year ago, 6 months ago, or even a 1 month ago. Of course I’m a better rider, but I am a better person because of my trainer and Zach too. I was able to congratulate my teammate on a job well done, even though we were in all the same classes, sincerely and without jealousy – yet still be a competitor to the core. I was able to not take the judges scores personally, and accept that a different judge may have given significantly different scores – and that’s just how the show world works. I was able to let go of a goal without any drama and appreciate what I did accomplish – and not let what I didn’t accomplish spoil the milestones I did achieve.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Pebble Beach Impressions: Day 2

If Day 1 was recognizing the base similarities between endurance and dressage, Day 2 at Pebble Beach was illustrating the extremes that each sport represents – and why that isn’t such a bad thing.

I think the tendency is to try and make all the activities that we as individuals do, to suit us. For example. The endurance rider may sit around and complain about the “uptight-ness” of the dressage world, and the pomp and circumstance that accompanies riding a simple pattern in a court with artificial footing. The dressage rider may lament the “slip shod” methods of endurance riding and the lack of image and presentation in endurance. “Take some pride!”, the dressage rider may say to the endurance rider. “Loosen up!”, says the endurance rider to the dressage rider.

However, I think there is value in preserving the extremes of the sports. While my individual tendency is to “freshen up” my image in endurance, and roll my eyes at the unwritten social rules of dressage – I think that given 3 wishes, I would keep endurance casual and “rouge” – even if I wince at the quantities of duct tape and baling twine. I would keep dressage full of customs and tradition. Much like I wouldn’t trade my favorite pair of jeans in for anything….it’s still fun to go to the ball in a fancy dress sometimes too.

So while I don’t think polo shirts or shirts with collars are a bad thing in endurance rides – I’m not likely to vote to make it a requirement either, even if it means that endurance riders get to endure being viewed as a collection of fashion mistakes. Likewise, as much as I like my colors, I am not likely to don any of the new approved colors in my dressage tests. If I get to the upper levels, I can’t promise that I won’t ride my test in a top hat. I’ve come to respect the traditions of dressage, even if I thought they were a bit silly before. Does dressage go to the extremes in the bowing and nodding and smiling to grump officials and judges and never feeling free to discuss or even comment on a situation? Probably. However, I’ve also never seen a screaming match between a contestant and judge at a dressage show, and there’s a touch of elegance to the whole shebang.

My advice is this. When you are exploring a new horse world, don’t try and change it. While we can all agree that consideration for horse welfare is paramount, accept the other idiosyncrasies that make the sport what it is. Have fun with your colors and put a Mohawk on your helmet for your endurance ride, and then go and play dress up at the dressage show. It’s not a bad thing.

My first day of showing went well. I got my “qualified rider score” which was the original goal, many months ago when I decided to ride this horse and show one last time. Unfortunately, the 60 score remains elusive – but the judging overall is tough this year and it’s definitely not just me. The high point of the day was receiving an EIGHT on one of my movements in my First Level test. As this was a tough judge who gave me 5’s and 6’s (and a few 7’s and 4’s…..), I felt that the 8 was well deserved and I’m proud of it. Tomorrow I show the same tests. Based on what the judge has historically placed emphasis on in the past, I’m not expected to score exceptionally well - however I may just surprise myself! Sometimes weird stuff happens when you just go out with the goal to have a blast during your test.

I watched the trot ups (or “jog ups”) for the FEI horses this morning, which was fascinating. Superficially it resembled endurance ride trot outs, but were full of pomp and circumstance. The horse and rider were turned out beautifully, and potted plants were set up for the trot out lane. Horses trotted (or bucked or did other shinnagins…) in a straight line (supposedly….) and then someone over the intercom would announce the horse’s name and that they were “accepted”. Of course all the horses were accepted, because in dressage you do not present your horse if there is even a question of it not passing inspection. Watching this process was actually what inspired the thoughts at the beginning of the post. At first I was a bit disdainful of the “jog up” because it didn’t appear to have any real purpose other than cause horse and rider to get up absurdly early in order to be braided and turned out properly. However, I soon realized that it wasn’t as much about passing a vet exam, like in endurance, but a nod towards tradition, and the show, and presenting a certain picture – and there’s nothing wrong with that, and I actually enjoyed it.

I ended my day by watching a Grand Prix Freestyle, which took my breath away. She was the last ride of the day, and the precision and grace in which her and her horse travelled across the arena was absolutely amazing. May we each have a relationship with our horses, that at least in our imaginations we can perform similar feats of harmony.