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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Addendum to yesterday's post...

And an addition to "you know it's hot when...."

***The mats in your trailer expand so much that they no longer fit in your trailer and are all warped and wacky looking.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Overlook to Poverty Bar Part 2

With the excitement of the day recorded in Part 1, we can now move forward (or rather backwards) to the actual trail ride. BTW - Loreleigh and I checked on Sally Sunday morning and she doesn't seem any worse for wear. A little tired, but overall gives the impression of being happy and content.

Katy and I met at the Overlook at 9:30am. In retrospect we could have made it an hour or two earlier. Oh well. Now I know for next time.

I brought Sally, my sister's horse, for Katy to ride. Katy and I used to ride all the time when I was in junior college. She's probably to blame for my love of long trail rides! For now the roles are reversed and I'm the one bringing her on trail rides! I brought a selection of saddles for Katy to choose from, and she settled on my Dad's Australian saddle (which is for sale BTW).

The trail was hot, but there was a breeze and lots of shade throughout the trail. Armed with directions from Kathy (thanks Kathy!) we made our way to Poverty bar and the river crossing.

Tada! No Hands bridge! At this point in the pictures, we are heading TOWARDS poverty bar, so going the "wrong" way on the Tevis trail.

Katy has not had a lot of "stellar" experiences with mustangs and I was concerned that Sally wouldn't be a good match.

I shouldn't have worried - Katy and Sally came to and understanding very quickly and I think both of them had a lot of fun.

Down near the river crossing, Mustang Sally decides to give Katy a run for her money. After unsuccessfully trying to drop and roll - trust me Sally, Katy can read your mind and school you faster than you can blink - Sally tries to tried and true "mustang bush scratch".

As a result Sally must work mucho harder than she might have.....

Look at the reach on that girl! Sally is only 14.1....maybe.....We discovered that she doesn't really trot, instead it's some sort of smooth gait that keeps up my Farley's extended trot and is so smooth and effortless, no posting required. It seems to be very efficient for Sally.

Finally! The river!

Horses and humans cool off.

The water was SO refreshing. I usually don't like getting soaked with my shoes and clothes on, but I didn't mind at all this day. The temps were in the triple digits and it was HOT. Not more than 15 minutes after remounting my clothes were dry again....

Picture of across the river, where I will cross on August 1.

Heading back to the trailer. On Quarry road we flew! It's open and very very hot so I wanted to get through it as fast as possible. We urged the horses into a canter and off we went. Farley would really prefer to death trot, but eventually picked up both leads very nicely (spooking as she went and giving me ugly mare looks). After some convincing Sally decided to put the power boost on and went into a canter. Sally doesn't canter much. She's inherently lazy and we always put our green riders on her so she usually gets away with her very fast trot/pace/gait whatever. When Katy kicked her into high gear it was similar to being shot out of a cannon. Her trot thingy may be smooth, but the only way to describe her canter is POWERFUL. Again, for such a small, fat (I mean "stout") animal she can really reach and cover some ground.

Stopping at a creek/waterfall for a drink.

I think I remember this spot from when I did American River in 2007. Very refreshing and pretty.

The ride went very very well. It took ~7 hours to cover 24 miles. Sally is not in as good a shape as Farley and we took it easy, including hand walking the last 2-2.5 miles in (which seemed to take FOREVER). I was pleasantly suprised about the "ease" of these trails and if everything goes well I should have enough horse to really make up some time here. This was the first time in YEARS I had spent significant time with Katy and it was great! I'm hoping that we can ride together on a regular basis.
I got some good heat training in. You know it's hot when.....
1. The duct tape on your helmet for the flying nun impression melts off
2. The velcro lights on the interior roof of your trailer melts off
3. Your black tights dry *instantly* after exiting from the river
4. You are willing to drink gatorade that has been in the truck and is approximately the same temperature as a hot mug of tea (yum!)
My last preride is next Friday and Sunday. So far everything has gone very very well. I hope next week continues to build my confidence that it's very doable for me to complete the Tevis.

Wild West Pictures

Here's the long promised pictures from Wild West. Jonna - the saddle in these pictures is the Duett.

The pics of me in the pink shirt are day 1. The pics of me in the blue tights are day 2.

Arriving into the away lunch check on Day 1.

Offering Farley a piece of granola bar.

Heading out from lunch

Mounting up on day 2 (thanks mom)

Jogging into the lunch check in camp.

Refilling syringes at lunch. You can see the plastic sqeeze bottles in the corner of the pic that I use to hold the premixed elytes. The opening is big enough I just squeeze it into the syringes. Voila!

At the finish. It was a tough ride after lunch - lots of open, exposed gravel jeep road that went up up up and then down down down. I did quite a bit on foot.

Final vet in.

Thanks Mom - it's wonderful when you attend my rides and take photos!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Overlook to Poverty Bar Part 1

Loreleigh - I have a confession - I've never liked your horse. That being said, I did not intentionally try to kill, harm, or maim her in anyway yesterday. She apparently uses that "mustang" sense to do it to herself, thank you very much.

Sally and me have always had an uneasy truce. When I looked into her eyes I saw a confident, too-smart, fat, coarse little mustang who didn't have my best interests in mind. I'm pretty sure that she saw me as the short stupid human who wasn't easily intimidated, dominated, or pushed, and therefore was annoying. I'm sure we could have come to an amiable relationship given some time, but because I didn't ride her and had limited contact, honestly, it wasn't worth my time to go out of my way to befriend her. Sally agreed.

Of course that changes when Sally is a "predicament" and Melinda is her only hope. *evil laughter*.

Should I get to the disaster portion of the ride or tell things in chronological order?


Well......telling things out of order is one of those literary tool thingys my english teacher was always trying to get us to use.......

Katy and I had just finished a fabulous ride. While it was hot, and I'm sure Sally was a little tired, every thing seemed well. After making sure both horses were eating and drinking and we cooled them off with the handy hose at the overlook and loaded them up. As Katy drove away I took a couple of minute in the parking lot to set up my GPS and then drove out of the overlook to the first stop sign. I touched my brakes twice and both times they JERKED my trailer. What the heck?????? I stopped at the stop sign and put my emergency flashers on to see what was going on what my brakes. While I was outside, my trailer jerked again and I started counting noses.




Uh oh.....

I threw open my back door. Sally was down in the trailer, in the back stall, with her feet under Farley's in the stall ahead of her. Thank goodness for breakaway trailer ties! She rolled a couple of times onto her back and then back to her side. There was no way she had enough room to stand up again. She kept kicking Farley's back legs with her legs. She was wedged in diagonally. The only way this was going to work was for me to drag her out of the trailer.

By this time I had help - cars had stopped to help me and one guy seemed to know a little bit about horses. I was extremely worried about safety. Sally is a mustang and extremely defensive about her back feet. To get to her head, I had to lean over her back end to grab the end of her lead rope (her leadrope doesn't detach from her halter so I had tied it around her neck). Pulling her head was not the answer, wrong pivot point, so we focused on the hind end. I dug up a rope that was too short for my comfort but would work, and put it around her hocks. By this time Sally had entered that "give up, shut down" stage that horses seemed to do when in situations of extreme stress. As two people pulled her tail and pulled her hocks, we got her body pivoted around so she was straight instead of diagonal. One more good pull and her back feet were on the ground and she would be able to get on her feet. Except....NOW HER BACK FEET WERE UNDER THE TRAILER. AHHHHHH!!!!!!!! I pulled on the hock rope and got her feet in a more acceptable position. Thank goodness she didn't have shoes on.

She didn't want to get up. She was totally out of it.

Me screaming like a banshee and slapping her flanks did the trick.

Sally ALWAYS knows where her feet are. We have NEVER seen her trip on the trail. When she got up, this fat little horsey did just that - no scrambling, no excess movement, no slipping - she just got up. Her front feet were in the trailer and her back feet were on the pavement. What was her next move?

She stepped back into the trailer.

Well it's nice to see wasn't traumatized or anything....

I backed her out and led her around a bit. She looked a little stressed still. Gut sounds still sounded good. A little dehydrated, but not bad. Eating. Nothing for it except to trailer her back in. I have no idea why she went down. I drove SO carefully home. I checked 3 times on the way home and counted noses.

By the time I got to the stable (1 hour) she was back to normal. Perky, looked great, bossed the other horses, immediately started to eat her own hay etc.

I think Sally and I have bonded. I'm sure she felt very vulnerable laying there. With all the strangers around her, I was the only familiar one. She had to trust me to allow me to do what I did (I'm choosing that option over - "the horse was so out of it, you could have been a butcher and she wouldn't have cared"). When the chips were down, she let me know what I had to do, and she did what I told her. I feel more sympathy for her. Even mustangs need help sometimes, Sally. You don't have to pretend you're invincible. When I unloaded her out of the trailer at the stable, I'm sure I felt a spark of a new beginning between her and me.

So why did she go down? This is what I do know - she didn't slip, she didn't fall. If she went down, it was a deliberate decision. My first fear was colic, but now I'm sure that wasn't it. I have finally come to this hypothesis - There was a lot more room in the slant stall than she usually has in my Dad's 2 horse straight (older) load. Looking back, she was sweaty and itchy, and even though we hosed her off, she probably would have appreciated a good roll. Instead I loaded her up in my trailer. While sitting still in the parking lot, she probably thought that it was a good opportunity to get that roll in. That would explain why when I opened the trailer she was rolling on her back, it was only after that she went into a more "I can't get up semi-panic mode". Silly horse. On our next ride I'll give her to opportunity to roll before loading. It takes a lot of pressure to separate my breakaway ties in my trailer so she was either - very determined, or did half way fall when she started to go down.

OK - back to the actual trail ride. Looks like that will be part 2! (don't worry - everything went well and I sure the post will be positively boring!)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


My trip to Alabama went very well. As it was work related I am not going to dwell on it, but rather move right into the recreation from the following weekend - the Father's Day Bluegrass Festival in Grass Valley!

My family has been going to this bluegrass festival for years and years and years and years.....and it's become a family reunion of sorts. Hence the yearly picture:
I'm in the back with the red hat. Want to know why the short person (we are all standing on the back of his little scooter, none of us are that tall) chose to stand in the back? I cannot STAND hyped up posed pictures. So, they arrange themselves, the camera is focused and then I come into the picture at the LAST possible minute. Hence, I am in the back.
My camp set up was quite nice. My truck is the far-right hand one. My camp is under the gold colored canopy. I had a tent and a little kitchen set up. All the other RV's, tables, tents etc in this picture are family.
My brother and I got some quality time practicing together. This is the first time I've gotten to play with him! He's been playing banjo (bluegrass style) a couple of years ago and we finally know some of the same songs.
After the festival ended I dragged out some of my music to try and nail down one of the songs my brother and I played together.
I'm finding out that it's incredibly important that there is something in my life to counter balance the tremendous time and effort I put into horses and endurance. The fiddle, civil war reenacting, hanging out with family, and my own fitness events (marathons etc.) are so important to my mental health. I feel kind of flat and 2-D when all I do is endurance and horses day in and day out. I really missed my pretty pony this week, but I wouldn't have missed going to this festival for the world. I got to work in the membership booth with my mom. As she isn't a horsey person, events such as these give us a starting point for a relationship with common ground.
BTW - I just have to brag a TEENSY bit.....see the pretty case in the 2 pictures of my playing? The absolutely BEEEUUUUUUTIFULLLL case? I bought that at the festival. It's humidity controlled, fiberglass, top of the line most BEEEAUUUTIFULLLL case I've ever seen. Now when I fly with my fiddle I won't worry so much about the elements.
Thought for the Day
Does anyone else have a major activity in their life besides endurance that keeps them sane? Or do you find that you don't need anything besides endurance? How does your family reconnect over the year?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Duett Saddle - Companion II

Time for another product review. Jonna of Barbs etc. asked how I liked the Duett and as it might be going out the door (yes, it's up for sale through no fault of it's own), this is a good time.

If you are considering a Duett, please visit their website at in addition to considering my opinion!

A quick interruption - If this post seems a little disjointed, it's because I'm seriously jet lagged and I've been working 13-15 hour days on 4 hours of sleep a night. I do like Alabama a lot more than I expected and I'm looking forward to coming back once a month for the next couple of months. I'm practicing on being effective and focused even on a serious lack of sleep, high humidity, and high heat. Sounds like perfect Tevis training to me!

The Search
Back to the saddle. I did a lot of research before buying a Duett. They fit small - an 18" is much more similar to a 17 or 17.5" fit. Their saddle trees start at 32cm (regular) and go up in 2cm increments to ridiculously wide. Even though Farley is short (14.2 - maybe), she is fairly wide with a round barrel and a short back. Not an easy fit. I was fairly certain I needed a 34cm (wide). The Companion II model fits the shorter backed horses (versus the Companion I). So I started looking for a Companion II 34/18.

What I Like
They do not come up for sale used often! I finally found one in all black in the sizes I needed, and purchased it. The first time I sat in it, it was amazing. I was very pleased how it fit on Farley the first time I saddled it up. I was impressed with the attention to detail on this saddle for the price. The saddles are $1179 new (check website for current pricing) and I feel that they are a superior saddle for the price. I have seen used ones priced typically $700-850. The stitching is tight, the seat soft, the color is holding up well, and the balance is very good. Here is what I considered the best points of the saddle:
1. The seat - I was skeptical of the stitching on the seat, but I never had any rubbing problems. The seat is moderately padded. The leather is soft, but is durable. It has just enough "stick", even in tights, but doesn't catch or rub.
2. Security - the combination of the pommel, cantle, and seat configuration makes a very secure saddle. I've never even almost fallen out of this saddle. Part of the security came from the wider twist. It seemed to hold me in the seat better.
3. Billet system - there's only 2 billets. The back billet is a "V" billet. The girth falls naturally, even on a well sprung horse and I never had problems with the saddle wanting to walk forward or back.
4. Saddle Bags - I found that the cantle on this saddle was a perfect fit for the stowaway english cantle bags!
5. The quality - This was my first high/better quality saddle and the difference between it, and my thorowgood and no-name saddle was immediately obvious. I can't even give specifics - it was just a different, better "feel". I feel that it was definitely worth the price I paid for it and I would pay it again in a heartbeat (I have not felt this way about all of the name brand saddles I have tried).

What I Don't Like
Nothing in this world is perfect. Most of these things aren't negatives - just things I want to note so that you can consider whether this saddle is a good fit for you!
1. Flap - the flap is kinda wide....Never bothered me until another rider pointed it out....I have really short legs and the length didn't bother me.
2. Weight and Size - this is not a petite saddle. Fully decked out with a woolback pad, cantle bags etc. it came in at 30 pounds. I don't mind a heavier saddle, but it can be a surprise if you are expecting a lighter saddle.
3. Width - I LIKE the wide twist - however if you ride a wide horse AND have short little legs, total width can become an issue. I rode it in a woolback for the first 8 months or so and it was fine. However, I liked the saddle even more after I got a skito, which reduced the bulk underneath my leg. With a woolback it was an effort to get my leg on the horse, however that disappeared with the skito.
4. Billets - I'm not sure whether it was just my billets, or it's a trait of the saddle, but the billets were a little dry. They are very thick and sturdy, just not as soft as I'm used to.
5. Total Billet Length - I had to punch extra holes and use an extremely short girth - 22".
6. Wither Clearance - This is the only reason I'm selling the saddle. Everything else was inconsequential or manageable - this was not. Farley has moderate to high withers. This saddle has a lower than average wither clearance (which they state on their site), which was adequate for almost a year. Unfortunately her back only had to change a little before there the potential for wither pressure was more than I could stand. I think a normal to low withered horse would be fine in this saddle.

So What Happened?
I monitored wither clearance every time I rode. A couple of weekends ago I decided that it was too close for my comfort. I am not unhappy with any other aspect of the saddle or how it fit Farley. The only place I have advertised it is in the sidebar of this blog. I wouldn't mind holding onto this saddle, but if someone was interested I'm not adverse to selling either.

So You Want More Information?
Start by checking out I highly recommend that you test ride one if you can. It's a substantial saddle that may feel a bit different than your typical A/P saddle. Most pictures of Farley on this blog are in the Duett saddle. Trumbull tack shop is an excellent source of information, has a very generous trial period on their saddles, and keeps skito pads for the Duett Companion in stock. If you have specific questions, feel free to e-mail me ( and I'll give you my opinion, but keep in mind that's only one person's opinion! If you are trying to guage fit, here's some pointers.
On the horsey side (refers to a 34cm size tree):
1. Slightly wider than a "Wide" Solstice saddle. Different tree shape - Duett has a more upside down "U" shape (hoop tree?), while the Solstice and Thorowgood (NOT broadback) I think have that *other* shaped tree - see the saddle fitter's blog (on the right hand sidebar) for more details on this, I'm kind of fuzzy.
2. Much wider than a "standard/medium" Thorowgood dressage
3. I found the panels are fairly "flat" from front to back, compared to a (unshimmed) specialized.
4. Less wither clearance than the Solstice or afore mentioned Thorowgood.
On the rider side (18" seat):
1. Fit (seat size) is similar to a 17.5" throwgood. Fit is looser than a 17" Solstice
2. Flap is shorter (but wider) than a Thorowgood dressage. Flap is bigger (wider and longer) than the Solstice
3. Pommel rise is shorter/lower than the Thorowgood, about the same as the Solstice
4. Cantle height is similar to the Thorowgood dresage.
5. Saddle fits on all my dressage pads, including a toklat woolback dressage shaped pad.

If you are considering a Duett I hope this was helpful. Overall I really like this saddle and would reccomend at least trying it, if you want an english style saddle for trail riding - either fast or slow - that is comfortable and secure. I know there are some other Duett riders who read my blog - feel free to jump in the discussion in the comments section!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The night farm has a really good post up. It has generated quite a lively discussion. Check it out here - I couldn't agree more completely with her article.

I want to point out that this is not how you look. This is what you actually do. So let's not get into the discussion about "I just look like a couch potato - I really am fit (I totally fall into this category!), focus on the act, not the image! (as a side note: I may resemble a couch potato more than ever after this Alabama trip....can anyone say fried catfish? and okra? and tomatoes? Must. Get. On. Treadmill. In. Fitness. Room.....)

Especially this year, I've been getting off on rides. I usually do 25% of the ride on foot - running and walking. I no longer ride during the week (mostly). Instead my horse and I go out for a 5 mile run most days. On the weekends we go on longer ride where I do 40-50% of the mileage on foot. I do not want to be the "weak" link. When I started this sport I had lots of people tell me that I was light enough that I didn't *need* to get off during the ride. I disagree. I can still maintain 6+ mph on foot in most cases and my horse is so much better for it.

And please - don't tell me how hard the ride and how "undoable" it was when I ran 25% of it on foot, yet you rode all of it and your horse is exhausted. GRRR!

That being said - there are some cases that getting off doesn't work. Minx and me were NOT compatible on the ground at all. Getting off gained nothing! She walked and trotted faster than I did and really just wanted to get down the trail without me in front of her. Farley actually ENJOYS jogging with me and so we do it often. In cases like me and Minx and other situations where rider dismount is not possible (medical and otherwise...), I still think that being as fit as possible makes a HUGE difference.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Re: Tevis

To those of you that read my cryptic post earlier to day - please go back and reread it, I've edited it and done some explaining!

Tevis Training - EDITED

So obviously I didn't mean to publish this post yet! Instead of hitting "save as draft", I must have published it. Those of you that read my blog saw:

"My dear friends -

I've decided not to go "public" with my plans to ride the Tevis this year. Tevis has been a dream of mine for a very long time and for some reason I want to keep this quiet and close to

Very cryptic....Well, since this much already leaked - I may as well at least give everyone the basics -

1. I have registered and plan to ride the Tevis this year on Farley.
2. I am in the process of preriding the trail, and will preride from Robinson Flat to the finish by race day.
3. It is going well and Farley is amazing.

I've struggled with whether to make my decision public. It's hard to describe. Tevis has been a very dream for a very long time, and for some reason its been a very personal decision and process. I had made the decision not to blog about Tevis until after I did it. I had planned to write some blogs about some of my training and thought processes and save them as drafts. I was going to schedule them to publish starting on July 29th, when I left for Tevis, and then I would come back after the race and let you know I had done it! can see how well that worked out! LOL.

Since I've already let the cat out of the bag, I've made some compromises - I will keep you updated on my general progress, however plan on the full update after the race!

In some ways it's a relief you guys know - everyone here is such a wonderful encouragement and a great source of ideas. I'll be coming to you with questions, I'm sure! Thanks for being so understanding - plan on reading full updates of my training and Tevis preperation, starting July 29th!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Saddle update

Forget the big saddle hunt! My challenge always seems to be actually getting the saddle I ordered and having all the details in place to get to actually ride in it.

I got my Solstice on Wednesday. This sounds fairly simple. It isn't. UPS doesn't leave packages at my apartment. They leave me little notes to either be home the next day, or call the number to arrange for pick up....30 minutes away. Half the time their stupid service doesn't work and it won't GIVE me the OPTION of putting a hold on the package and I must sit through 3 days of notices before it will automatically go on a hold and THEN I can pick it up THREE days after the original date I should have gotten it. Obviously this was unacceptable for the saddle. After doing some creative scheduling at work that involved me working until 2am, I was able to sit at home for 4 hours waiting for my saddle to arrive. I waited impatiently and stared out the window. Finally the UPS truck turned down the street...and promptly missed the turn. Witness Mel running down the street yelling "come back!...."

Saddle safely in hand I went back to work for the second time that day for a meeting, then back to the stable to try on the fit. Problem. I didn't have a girth that fit. I needed a 44-46" and my longest was a 26"! (I also have a 22" and there was a brief thought of tying them together.....). So there I sat looking at my wonderful saddle....with no girth. I really wanted to see if it fit I hopped on her with no stirrups, no girth (and it retrospect, no bridle or helmet.....Just a halter and leadrope). If my mother is reading this: Yes Mother is was stupid, no Mother I do not want to live at your house as a vegetable, no Mother I won't do it again.

I was satisfied have how the gullet fit with my weight in the saddle so I hopped off and went to work (again). After staying at work until 2am to make up for playing hooky most of Wednesday, I dragged myself out of bed Thursday morning after significantly less than 8 hours of sleep. Apparently they mow the lawns on Thursdays at 7am at my apartment.

The farrier appointment ran late (don't they all?) and I rushed to the only "local" tack shop that sells english stuff, which is a FULL 30 minutes away. They had one polyester string girth in a 48". After doing that particular errand I was REALLY late to work. (late is relative - my job is flexible, but showing up at 1:30pm when I'm used to getting there 7-8am seems late). I managed to stay focused until 6pm, when I sped over to the stable.

I saddled up with the girth (yes, I do need a 44", but a 48" works well until I can get a mohair ordered at the right size) and mounted up.

Complete bliss! I never knew a saddle could be so comfy. The knee rolls are ever so soft. They are little pillows that support and cradle the knees. I was amazed at how balanced I felt. I was a little worried about the 17" seat being too small. I have *clears throat* a rather ample bottom and thigh, compared to my 5'1" height - in fact I'm distinctly pear shaped. I have been riding in a 17.5" and a 18" that rides like a 17.5". My other saddle that I spend a lot of time in is my McClellan that is the "standard" military seat size. Since I buy all my saddle used, I can be too picky on sizing, as long as it's close enough, I go with it. The 17" fits me like a glove! I never realized how much room there was in the other saddles I was riding, and not in a good way - it made it difficult for me to keep a good position. I rode for about 20 minutes and then forced myself to get off. I was exhausted and cranky from too little sleep and wasn't in the mood to school in the arena and if I stayed on much longer, that is what I was going to have to do.

After dismounting I noticed that the saddle had slid forward on her shoulders a bit. I think it's because I was doing a significant amount of cantering and still trying to find my balance in the new saddle and may have been pushing it forward with my seat. It's hard to tell until I get it on the trail for a significant ride. I plan to do that this weekend, and then every just sits for a week until I return from Alabama. :( One of the differences between the Duett and the Solstice is the amount of "pad" and "stuff-ness" in the panels. The Duett has comparatively flat panels, while the Solstice has more of a "over-stuff" look and feel to them. It's harder for me to evaluate the fit across Farley's shoulders - the angle looks perfect, and it seems like it's sitting in the right spot, but I really want to get a good look at a sweat pattern. Ideally I'll have the Solstice either reflocked or the flocking adjusted this fall, specific to Farley.

I'm hanging on to the Duett for now. Tentatively it's up for sale, but I probably won't advertise until late summer. Couple of reasons for that, including the "race that I'm not talking about". It still fits well enough that I can use it as a back up saddle for Farley if for some reason this one doesn't work. Without the Duett I have nada for a backup saddle for Farley. I really like the Duett and would hate to see it go, however, if I'm not using it, it would be better to sell it and buy another one when I need it. (If anyone would like to contact me privately about it, it's a 34cm, 18" Duett Companion II in all Black. I'm not advertising, but if someone came along and made an offer, I would probably let it go.)

I can't wait to get home today and go riding - sitting at my desk now, it seems impossible that the saddle was so comfortable, but it was!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Filler post - mostly about hooves

This is filler because I don't have any earthshattering news, just wanted to fill everyone in on some of the happenings.

New Saddle
The Solstice I bought seems to fit Farley, but who the heck knows until I actually get a couple good rides in it? I'm excited - it's quite a bit lighter than the Duett and the flaps are smaller which means I'll actually be able to get some leg on my horse and a more close contact feel. My Duett fit well for almost a year. Hopefully this saddle fits a good deal longer.

Farleys' Feet/Hooves (I always mix them up!)
Farley got new shoes today. My farrier is really really happy with her feet. She gets a lot of growth within 6 weeks and he says that's a good thing because it means there's good blood flow. He had never seen renegade boots so I brought them out. I've never had the size 1's on Farley's feet because she's had shoes, so before he put the new set on her, I popped them on to make sure they fit. They do - wonderfully. He offered to grind off the backs of the boot with his grinder which was great - less work for me and it had to be done sometime!

I talked to my farrier about padding options for the "race I'm not talking about". I've never padded a horse before but I've gotten strong recommendations from people that I do so. I'm going to definitely do full pads in the front. He showed me how he does it, and it's what he does for other clients who are doing the "race I'm not talking about". I talked to him about my fear of losing padded shoes, and his response was that he would make darn sure I didn't. I believe him. (anyone need a good farrier in the central valley? I could make a excellent recommendation - not only is his work excellent, he's also easy on the eyes to watch!). I haven't made a decision on the hinds. If I didn't want to do full pads on the back, he suggested equipack with mesh. His opinion is that I would do fine without any pads at all, but if I chose to do front pads, I wouldn't necessarily need to do anything for the hinds. I have 6 weeks to make the decision.

Her feet are hard as rocks. The farrier's partner was cussing as he tried to trim and my farrier laughed at him. It was about this time I started talking about pads and the partner just looked at me with total disbelief.

That's all for now. I'll get pics of the saddle up soon and maybe even a shot of her beautiful new shoes. The blog is going to be a bit slow for a while - I'll be out of town for a week for work and then off to a bluegrass festival (I'm perfectly comfortable sharing this information because if someone decides to rob me, the only thing I own is food and second hand furniture, really not worth trouble of breaking in - trust me on this. If home is where the heart is, it's definitely NOT my apartment).

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tailing part 2

I realized that some people may not know what tailing is! Tailing is sending your horse in front of you on the trail, grabbing their tail, and letting them pull you up the mountain. It is a good way to save your horse for the rest of the day, and lessen the fatigue on the rider as well. Hopefully this is done with some sort of control, which means practice! Definitely not something you pull out of your tool box on ride day without practice!

Generally there is a long line - either a leadrope, long reins, or a piece of line tied to the reins that reaches to the back of the horse so that the rider still has some control.

Tailing at Rides - stories
I'm not a huge fan of people tailing at rides in big groups - for example up a mountain on single track where everyone is bunched together and it is stop and go. Invariably the people that choose to tail their horses have no control and put others at risk.

Story 1: At Farley's first ride, a person decided to go up the hill by tailing the horse behind us. It was stop and go and near the beginning of the ride and the riders were all bunched up. This lady's horse kept running up behind Farley. She had no control over the horse's manner and speed. I asked her numerous times to stop running her horse over mine and then got away as soon as I could. I found out later that the horse was a friends that she had never ridden before. What can we learn from this?
1. Why tail at the beginning of the ride in a group of people on a horse you can barely control in the saddle with the S-hack that you have never ridden before? If you don't know the horse, it's the horse's first race, or it's in the beginning of the ride - be courteous and maybe save the tailing for later in the ride.

Story 2: On the fourth day of Death Valley we were going over a pass. It was a little hairy. Rocks, single tracks, blind corners, and drop offs. Some people got off and led their horses. This was probably a good choice. One gentleman decided to tail his horse. Thank goodness he wasn't behind me - he was behind my friend, who was behind me. This horse kept overrunning the horse in front (my friend), and the only reason that something bad didn't happen (horse getting kicked, my friend being pushed off the trail) was because she was riding a very patient and experienced gelding. What can we learn from this?
1. Tailing a horse up a dangerous single track with a hoard of other people stopping and starting is probably never a good idea.

Now you might start to get the idea that I hate all who tail - that isn't true! I love tailing, I love to see other people tailing. I think it's one of the coolest thing ever! I just think there's a time and a place for it and it frustrates me when my horse and I are put in a bad spot because people aren't thinking. If I'm tailing up a narrow trail and catch up to other riders in front, and if I cannot keep a good cushion between them and my horse, I either mount up, or lead. It's not worth putting someone in the hospital or getting my horse kicked because I was tailing. If someone politely asks me to keep a bigger cushion between them and the horse I'm tailing, (and they cannot ride away from me because we are all trapped on a stop and go single track up a hill) and I cannot accomplish it by tailing, it is my responsibility to do what ever it takes to accomplish that - either leading or mounting up. So please - just like any other tool in your endurance toolbox, be respectful, ride safely, and have a great ride.


Several people have asked me how I taught my horses to tail and what's the "logistics" involved.

Tailing is basically long lining. Minx was easy. Since she came from a sulky driving track, she already knew how to drive (and how to pull something behind her!). She responded to voice commands very well and tailing her was a simple as grabbing her tail and telling her to "walk on!". Farley was a little more difficult, as she didn't quite understand the concept of driving. Here is what I did with Farley. As always - this is just my opinion and you need to use common sense and good judgement when training horses. I'm not a professional and this is just my fun (most of the time) hobby. Be safe and take care of yourself!

1. Make sure you have 100% of the horse's respect. You notice I didn't say "trust", I said "respect". Neither of my horses will invade my personal space. I am positive that if a cougar was chasing them, they will jump off a cliff before they run over the top of me. That translates to tailing. No matter what happens, they know that it would be DEATH to kick me or even threaten. Gain that respect before grabbing onto their tail and releasing them up the hill. There should be no question in the horses mind that just because you aren't in front of them or on them, where the orders are coming from. The better your horses ground manners, the faster they will learn to tail and the safer you will be.

2. Voice commands - I know a lot of people hate them. I think there's a use for them - if I'm trying to get a horse learn something new, Most of the time I'll cue with my voice until I can coordinate my non-verbal aids. I'm not the best rider in the world and I think my intentions are clearer to the horse when I use them. As my aids improve for the task, I generally use the voice cue less and less. The other use for voice commands is while driving/tailing. Here's the rules: Be specific, be consistent, and enforce it. I use: "walk on", "ho", "easy", "trot", and "walk". I work first on the lunge line with these cues. I don't encourage turning towards me at "ho" at this stage because that becomes awkward if you are trying to get behind the horse while tailing and it keeps turning to face you.....

3. Long lining (ground driving) isn't necessary for a horse to be able to tail. In fact - if you've never done it before I would advise against it, as you could easily confuse the horse, yourself, and get the lines wrapped around where they shouldn't be.

4. Put the horse in a halter and a long leadrope (10 foot at least, but will need a 12 foot if the horse is large or long bodied). Walk with the horse at your shoulder. Encourage your horse to walk ahead of you by slowing down and say "walk on". Practice stopping ("ho") and walking on with you by the horses barrel. For turns I usually reach up and touch the neck (they should move away from pressure). If they don't respond I thump them in the barrel with my elbow and shoulder to get their attention and ask for the turn again. The important thing here is to get them used to the fact that even though you are not in front, you still have control. Gradually walk slower until you are behind the horse and they are walking forward. Gently grab their tail and experiment with different pressure. Some horses might get a little nervous at this, so keep your energy up and say "walk on" in a strong voice. Sometimes I'll use my leadrop to slap the barrel of the horse in conjunction with the command.

5. Some horses will try to turn around when you say anything at all behind them. Farley was like that. The trick was to aggressively move her away from my body (which was behind her so it translated to forward movement) while saying "walk on". Do NOT be inviting with your body language. You want them to move AWAY from you. It can be hard to judge how aggressive to be behind the horse. My instinct when I'm behind a horse (albeit to the side) and it starts to get confused and agitated is to try and comfort the horse. However, what I'm trying to do is teach it to go away from me, so I must apply pressure. This is where it's important to have to horse's respect and be able to read your horse's body language. If you have done your homework with the voice commands on the lunge and the horse is comfortable with you at it's barrel moving forward, you should be successful. If you have to put a significant amount of pressure on the horse to get it to move forward while you are behind it (resulting in a significant amount of agitation of a confused horse), your best bet is to back off and continue to practice on the lunge line, walking beside the horse etc.

6. Taking it out on the trail! I think tailing practice starts in the saddle. I expect my horses to see the trail and follow the trail without a lot of input from me. I may have to make some decisions, but for the most part - there's the trail, so follow it! If you can get your horse taking some responsibility for moving down the trail, it will make tailing go smoother. I like using the reins for tailing because if I used a leadrope, the reins are still draped on the neck and can get caught on something (like a hoof!). I use scissor snaps so the reins are easy to make into a leadrope. Depending on the situation, either unsnap the bridle on on side and tail with the reins attached to one side of the bit, or unsnap from the bit entirely and snap one end of the reins to the halter to make a leadrope. I usually tail with the leadrope/reins on the left side of the horse.

7. So now you are on the ground with the line in your hand. Now what? I ask the horse to go passed me. If I back up, it is more likely that the horse will turn and try to face me, so I stand still and tell the horse (in a ridiculously cheery tone) to "walk on". Usually Farley will hesitate as her barrel passes me so I usually reinforce the cue with a poke in her ribs, where my heel would usually go if I was in the saddle. I let the lead rope slide through my hand until I reach the end, then grab her tail.

8. The most important thing in tailing is anticipation. Do not wait for the horse to stop or start to try and turn around before you give a command. As the horse slows down, give the walk on command in a firm voice and get them moving again. I've found that once they are stopped in front of you, at least in the beginning, it's hard to get them started again and you will likely have to move up beside them and give them a physical, as well as a verbal cue.

9. Now that you're hanging onto the tail for dear life, your feet bounding across the rocks, you want to stop. Scream your stop command at the top of your lungs (just kidding) and maybe increase the pressure on the line. Be careful with this - you do NOT want the horse to turn around. Tell the horse to stand and then move up to his side.

10. So how does this all look when I do it on the trail? I'm in the saddle riding along. My leg is cramping to a decide to get off and jog. I leap off her back, put the reins over her ears and take off running. Farley follows me at my shoulder like a good girl. Now there's a big hill. I reach over and unsnap the reins from the right side of the big, slow to a walk and tell Farley to walk on, as she moves past me she hesitates (which I like because I'm on a single track and I don't want her to blow past me). I give her the "yes you heard me right" poke in the ribs and she slips past me at a walk. As she goes by I gently grab her tail (she's still a bit goosey). After a couple of steps she slows to take a bite of grass, I get very aggressive and tell her to walk on with a wiggle of the lead. She sighs and takes off again. (she is not allowed to eat while tailing - it's hard enough to get a horse to focus while tailing AND there's all sorts of disasters that are more likely to happen if they put their head down to eat, your behind them, AND there's a long line involved....). After the big hill I say "ho" and put gentle pressure on the line. As I'm still on the single track, she stands still while I creep around her. Then I either mount up or continue running. Now, if I had been on a road instead of single track, I wouldn't have asked her to stop. I would have let go of the tail, swung out away from her hindquarters and come up to her side at angle either at a faster walk or jog. If she started to trot while I did this, I would have asked her to walk.

Is that clear to everyone? Any more questions? I know this was quite long and detailed. But hopefully it gives you a clear picture of what I do. I do drive as well as ride, which helped me visualize what I was trying to train my horses to do.

Monday, June 8, 2009

A ride at Ohlone

Sunday I headed to Del Valle in Livermore to go riding on the Ohlone Wilderness trail.

The only 2 pics I took were at the trailer before the ride. For some reason I just haven't felt like taking pictures on the trail lately. I want to go down the trail with the minimum of fuss and muss.

Isn't Farley looking good???? I love tailing her so I can watch her little hiney rippling with muscle!

About the Trail
The Ohlone trail is the hardest trail in the area. It's all either up or down. And when it's up, it's UP for a VERY LONG ways. And when it's down, it's DOWN for a VERY LONG ways. I don't have the elevation map in front of me, but most of it goes something like this: Start at 800'. Climb to 2800' in 3 miles. Go down to 1000' in 2 miles. Go up to 3047' in 3.5 miles etc etc etc. The footing is mostly slightly gravelly wide jeep trails, but there is a section of single track (with drop offs) that is very pretty. Needless to say, this is my testing ground for rider and pony fitness.
1. Can I walk (actually, jig - it's so steep I can't actually walk) down the hill leading the pony without collapsing?
2. After the steep climbs can the pony go into a trot on some of the very few flat sections?
3. Does the pony need to stop during the climbs to catch her breath?
4. How are we with tailing?
5. Can the pony trot on the single track with drop off, while juggling the grass she has stolen 3 strides before, without dumping both of us off the drop off?
6. Last but not least - where will Melinda get poison oak this time, and can she get back to the trailer fast enough to use the technu before the rash sets?

Shield your eyes!
I knew that this ride was going to be for rider fitness as well as pony, so I decided to ride in a pair of running shorts with a fleece cover on the saddle. I'm VERY allergic to poison oak (which is prolific in this area) so I also donned a long sleeve shirt and gloves. Now, my legs are so white they positively glow. As you can imagine (or rather, don't) the running shorts don't leave much to the imagination. It seems I'm getting around to most of the local hangout spots for endurance riders as I met no less than 2 people I knew from endurance on the way to the trail and 1 on the way back. Oh and I got told about still another person that had arrived and left while I was still riding that I also knew. Uggg.

Ride Conclusion
The ride went well. Farley is in excellent shape. She did want to stop on the hill 2 or 3 times. I would reach down and take a pulse every time she wanted to stop to see at what heart rate she wants to stop at. Once stopped, her heart rate recovered very quickly and was able to continue on in 30 seconds or less. I've gone up those hills on foot and it's TOUGH. So steep, the heel of your shoe never actually touches the ground as you go up. I had made the decision to walk/jig down all the hills on foot for my fitness. Uggg. I didn't have any problems yesterday, but I knew I would be sore. I can barely move today. Every time we crested a rise and there was a flat spot, she had no problem picking up a trot.

Tailing and a call for ideas
I did tail her up several hills. I still haven't decided whether tailing up or walking down is the more efficient way to save my horse. I think it will depend on her motivation level and whether I'm getting sore in the saddle. Tailing requires me to unsnap the reins which takes time. I might rig up a tailing strap to the reins that I can put on when I do a section I know I'll be tailing. I think a section of cotton rope with a snap on one end will work. That way I don't unsnap the reins, just snap on the extension while still in the saddle. Any ideas?

The one problem - kinda
Problem 1 - Farley has decided that based upon past experience at rides, when she walks, she gets to eat. Now, I appreciate that she eats non-stop. It's nice. I know that it isn't a bad thing to have a horse that will eat at every available opportunity. But really. It's getting out of hand. Especially on conditioning rides, I walk a lot, especially up hills. This is not a smorgasbord opportunity - we are working. When she's in work mode, she will take a bite, and her feet don't stop moving. When she's losing motivation, she will actually stop and begin nibbling. I encourage the eating at speed movement, but I'm losing patience for the lollygagging nibbling unless I've given the cue that it's OK. Problem 2 - Farley likes to get HUGE, LONG chunks of grass in her mouth, which she wiggles and eats as we go down the trail. Especially if she's in the powermode of eating AND walking (NOT "lollygagging nibbling). She's not nearly as good at multi-tasking as she thinks she is and her the wiggling and grabbing at grass on the side of her mouth does not do wonderful things for her balance and concentration on single track with drop offs. If the trail is bad, I may have to put a stop to the eating until a better section of trail, in which I'll allow "lollygagging nibbling" to make up for my meanness.

In conclusion...
I'm happy where rider and pony fitness is right now. I felt good and was still able to run and jog beside her, even after long stretches of up or down. Farley had plenty of energy can take care of herself, even when the trail got tough. We did about 13 miles on the trail, of which I did ~1/2 of it on foot. After getting back to the trailer, I washed my legs with Technu. In the grocery store ~2 hours later, I noticed a rash on my legs, in a spot that I'm not sure I got the Technu on (it's funny how your hands apply a lotion like sunscreen etc., and you're sure you got everything, but there's patches?). I went home, took a Zyrtec (my Doc says it's better for allergic reaction than Bendryl) and took a shower. Then I put cortisone cream on the rashes. This morning they look much better with no itching or pain (they burned last night). I may have caught it early enough not to get the blistering miserable part! Whoohoo! I will say that riding in shorts was much more comfortable than I thought and I appreciated them when I got off and ran.

Friday, June 5, 2009

So yesterday Farley's 10 day vacation after Wild West was officially done. I had planned on doing a bit of riding.

The thunder storm clouds rolled in both literally and figuratively and I decided what would soothe the soul would be a quick (kind of) 5 mile run with Farley.

Both of us were a wee bit grumpy and I was definitely stressed (work related). Yes, riding relieves stress, but at a certain level of stress it becomes counterproductive to ride. I never have a bad run and with the wind whipping up, it was the better option.

Ever notice that after you get done running you never think to yourself "I wish I hadn't run today". It's always a good day for a run. I've had rides that I was miserable after, but never a run. If I have the choice between riding in the arena, or going for a run with my horse, I usually chose the run.

If the choice is trail riding/conditioning or running that's another matter!

I am weaker than my horse so it's not a bad thing that I chose running - the better shape I'm in, the better I can help my horse on the trail. Running with Farley allows her to get out and get some movement, continue to build a relationship with me, with a reduced risk of injury and wear and tear. It's a win-win situation!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Exciting News

I am buying an Arabian Company Solstice Saddle! It's the saddle that I've always wanted since I started endurance - I'm not sure why but I like the look, the feel, and what ever "aura" a saddle gives off! This post is mostly self-serving, but it's a fulfillment of a smaller dream of mine, so either stick with it, or come back later when I have some more interesting to post. :)

Before everyone starts drifting off with their eyes glazed over, I'll post the most fabulous part of my post first! I got to experience REAL conversation.

The seller was an incredible friendly person. I think people in California should take note of southerners and learn from them how to have a conversation. We talked, we listened, we responded, and I didn't interrupt too many times. For an hour I had one of the most delightful conversations I've ever had in my life. The purpose of the phone call was to exchange account information for the wiring process. When I saw her call come in I was walking up to my apartment with a handful of stuff and no paper or pen in sight. As I answered the phone I dropped everything to dash to my truck to grab said items. In true California form I thought she would start rattling off information as soon as a picked up the phone - I shouldn't have worried or hurried. For an hour we talked about endurance, horsey trail-mixes, electrolytes, the virtues of alfalfa and the lack of endurance riders in her area. Yes, we even talked about the Tevis Cup. We finally got off the phone after exchanging the bank information. I felt refreshed - maybe if most of my phone calls were like this, I wouldn't dread talking on the phone. In fact, I was having so much fun on the phone, I forgot important information like - final total price including shipping? Last name? Address of the bank?.....

So what can I do now that I have discovered a delightful little gold nugget - true conversation? Well, as for me - I am going to work on my conversation skills. While I'll never have the alluring southern accent I CAN work on not interrupting, not giving off impatient vibes, and listening and responding to a person instead of multi-tasking within my own head. Yep - a lot of work to be done here!

OK - back to the self-serving and self-congratulatory portion of the blog:
The unfortunate part of falling in love with this saddle - it is way out of my price range. Even used, they are out of my price range! I've kept an eye out for an affordable used one. I've come to the conclusion that although I love my Duett and would buy it again in a heartbeat, Farley's withers are prominent enough that this saddle will not work for us in the long term. It still fits well, but the wither clearance at the pommel is getting closer and closer and I can see the writing on the wall, the girl's back is a changin'!

Last week I came across a used Solstice for a fabulous the size tree AND size seat I needed. The price was so fabulous that I can actually sell my Duett (not sure I will...I do dearly love the saddle...) to finance it! Amazing. It had been on the market more than a couple of days, so I'm not sure why it didn't sell like a hot cake, but it's probably because of how the seller measured the saddle - typically you measure from the nail to the back of the cantle, not straight across from pommel to cantle. I think some buyers thought it was a 16" seat, but from the serial number and picture of the measurement, it is clearly a 17" seat. Perfect!

The wire transfer has been finalized and the saddle has been sent. I'm very very excited. I'm 90% sure it should fit both me and the horse. I am selling my Thorowgood and Specialized to finance this saddle, (and the fact that adding yet ANOTHER saddle to my collection without getting rid of SOMETHING is pure foolishness). I'm really sad to see the Thorowgood go - I think it's a wonderful saddle, but it REALLY doesn't fit Farley.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Everything But the Kitchen Sink....

Or maybe only the kitchen sink! What have you forgotten to bring to a ride/horse show/civil war event?

For today's post I'm shameless borrowing the topic from Equine Ink's blog.

Trail ride/Endurance ride/Horse Show -
My sister once forgot her helmet and her saddle blanket (I know - not fair to talk about other people...). I'm usually super prepared AND I board so ALL my stuff is stored in my trailer. Very difficult to forget anything that way. I'm sure other people have good stories though!

Civil War Reenactment
My pants. Yep - got to the event with no pants
My boots. Very painful to ride an artillery team with no boots. I do not recommend it.
My instrument. Showed up at a civil war band performance with no horn....very inconvenient.

I have a couple of things in the works - surprises! But I'm waiting for everything to "gel" in my mind before I make any public announcements. Don't worry - they are all good things!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Wild West Camp Set up

Here's the whole two pictures I took at Wild West......Camp set up!

Farley loved standing by the tree. It was like she was pretending she wasn't tied to the trailer. "See, I'm here by my own free will!" I got many many compliments on her yellow halter.

This was how I decided to camp. I bought a "first up" from Walmart on sale and set it up over my pick up bed. I'm standing on the horse side, on top of a stump. My truck bed walls are so high, it's difficult to see in when you are on the ground, offering plenty of privacy. An air mattress, sleeping bag, and down comforter completed the sleep arrangements. If I wanted to check on my horse, I just had to lift up my head. On the other side of my trailer was a plastic camping "kitchen" and chairs under the excess awning.

Why liked this set up:
1. I still had the visibility of seeing my horse, as if I was in a tent with an open door
2. I didn't have to bend over to dig through my suitcase
3. I didn't have to crawl out of a tent
4. It's easier to sweep out the back of a truck than the inside of a tent
5. With the air flow, my allergies didn't bother me
6. I still had privacy.
7. There was ZERO room to set up a tent in my tiny camping spot.
8. Did I mention the convenience and the lack of bending over?
9. It was easy for Mom to find my camping spot "look for the easy up thing over the truck bed"

1. Hard to set up and take down by yourself.
2. First up is heavier and bulkier than a tent to store (mine has taken up residence in the bed of my truck, underneath the tool box.

When I get pictures of my actually riding from my Mother, I'll post some of them. I made a conscious decision NOT to take pictures at this ride because I didn't want to be distracted on the trail and detract from the enjoyment of just enjoying the ride. This ride is very special to me - all the rides I attend, this is really my "vacation" or "get away" ride. I didn't want anything to intrude on that feeling (and that includes taking pictures on the trails - sorry!).