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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Times Article

Did anyone read the Times article in the August 17, 2009 edition?

As I left for vacation I dutifully packed my running clothes and shoes. Usually I'll get in 1-2 days of running during a trip and since we were transversing the country by hotel this year, I figured I might get a couple of gym days.

So I thought.

As I was leaving the house my mom shoved the Times magazine mentioned above and told me to read the cover page article.

The article is worth a read if you can get your hands on edition. If you can't and you would still like to read it, contact me and I'll see what I can do.

The basic premise was that exercise is actually not that useful in the battle to lose weight. Although it has other health benefits, when it comes to losing weight, it's based on what you put in your mouth, not what you sweat off in the gym.

How do you feel about that? What's your gut reaction?

I wanted to get up and shout hallelujah. (I didn't as I was currently travelling at 75+mph down a Wyoming highway trying to think how I could possible bring a prong horn home so I could see if it's as tasty as it is cute. Because I'm going on the premise now that the cuter the animal, the more tasty it must be). Finally something I've suspected but never heard said. I've never lost weight through exercise. Not a pound. Not through 3 (4?) marathons. Not when running regularly or running sporadically. In fact, my weight loss/gain seemed totally unrelated to my exercise in general.

I used to think that the weight loss/fitness equation was 50% getting the exercise and 50% eating right. It turns out that this equation looks more like 20% exercise and 80% what goes in my mouth.

In fact, the article says that exercise may make it more difficult to lose weight in two ways. Exercise can stimulates hunger. Also, studies have shown that when you exercise, you tend to compensate by moving less during the rest of the day. I know this is certainly true for me. If I've been running in the mornings, I'm more likely to drive across the business complex I work in rather than walk because I've already "done the right thing".

In summary, the article believes your best bet for health and weight control is to control your eating and do low intensity movement all day. Exercise is still important for the reduction in other health related issues, but isn't necessarily the cure all for obesity.

So how has this changed my overall outlook?

I've always eaten fairly well, but recently, due to Tamera's (see her blog on the right - Night Farm) recent article series have attacked my food choices with renewed vigor. I'm always surprised how absolutely fabulous I feel after cutting out all carbs except those found in whole grains and fruit. Although I don't agree 100% with everything in her articles, I think I've nailed down my "working food philosophy" pretty good. So with that taken care of, moving onto exercise.

I run because I enjoy it. Sometimes I get into the rut of thinking I should run further and faster because I don't "look" like a runner and maybe I will if I just.... (which is completely fallacious thinking because if I don't look like a runner with several marathons under my belt, I probably never will). Invariably within a couple of months I'm not running at all. Lately I've been keeping my runs moderate: 3-4 miles a day. Surprise! I'm still running consistently. What this article confirmed for me was that it is enough that I enjoy running. I don't have to worry about weight gain or loss through running because that isn't the point of running. Those things are solved by what I put into my mouth. I run for my mental health, for balance, and for the way it makes me feel. Nothing more.

So how did this idea relate to "real life"?

The morning after reading the article, I had planned on going to the hotel gym and putting in 30-40 minutes. As I was laying in bed in the morning I contemplated my motivation for going to gym.

Did I enjoy going to gym? No. Was I going because I thought I was going to get fat because of all the peanut brittle I ate in the care yesterday? Yes. Was the gym workout really going to matter? No. If I exercised would I subconsciously be giving myself permission to reward myself with food for the rest of the day? Maybe.

So I didn't get up. I slept in. And ate sensibly. And then, after reaching my destination, I went for a delightful 4 mile run in the sand buttes of Fort Robinson. It was absolutely wonderful.

Moving Forward
So here's my plan in light of this information. Eat as best I can. Run or hike or whatever because I love it. Incorporate as much every day movement as I can. Continue some strength training (pilates and exercise ball) because it's good for me. I love Tamera's motto: eat for leanness, exercise for strength.



Yep - I'm back from vacation. I had an incredibly funny, entertaining post about my vacation in my head last night, but now as I stare at the computer from work, feeling slightly nauseous and dizzy as I look at the screen (it's official - doing a tremendous amount of staring at the computer is not natural, as I cannot imagine that I still hung over after 5 DAYS), I admit I cannot think of even one witty tirade. (as I re-read the previous sentence I am reminding myself that is NOT good GRE essay writing sentence construction for this Friday, even if it is technically grammatically correct - I think. Mom will have to chime in on that one.)

Let's talk about my major accomplishments during vacation:
1. I discovered the difference between celebratory ice cream and eating ice cream because I'm moody and borderline depressed.

Let me explain.

The first day of my vacation I was so excited (finally a REAL vacation) I needed icecream to celebrate. I contemplated Ben and Jerry's or Cold Stone. I celebrated with Coldstone pumpkin ice cream with almonds AND peanut butter cups in a waffle bowel and skipped gleefully to the stable where me and my pony went on a completely relaxed, smile-inducing, 5 mile trail ride.

Last night, after realizing I now have absolutely zero hours of vacation, my pony is fuzzy, and the seasons are officially changing I indulged in an entire pint of laughing herd icecream (think Ben and Jerry's). It didn't help that I was watching chick flicks, one of which was set during Xmas. I hate Xmas. Everyone's so happy and jolly when I'm depressed, moody and can't hardly drag myself out of bed due to a sun deficit. Every year Xmas becomes more and more unbearable. Yep, I'm a regular Grinch. And really - who's life really resembles the romance of a chickflick anyways? I allowed myself a night of icecream to assuage the quaternary whammy blow of: 1. the dark months are coming, 2. Xmas is coming, 3. I have no more vacation, 4. I'm (almost) a quarter century old and still cannot manage to (insert your favorite tirade of how you're absolutely worthless because the thoughts going through my head are not good blog material).

Anyway, I think the point is that there is a vast difference in how the calories count towards your waist line if you are eating it in a celebratory or a depressed mood. I'm sure of it.

2. I knitted a pair of socks. For myself. Again. I can't help it. At some point I should cease to be selfish and knit someone else a pair.

3. Although I may be a small town California girl, I have NOTHING on the small town people from Nebraska, South Dakota etc. Seriously. Population 14? Seriously? I asked for a box of tea at the grocery store and was handed a box. The only box they had. Of Lipton. With Caffeine. *sigh*.

4. I still know how to make a total and complete a$$ of myself. Isn't that a trait of enduring youth? Something that makes me forever young or some such nonsense? No need to go into the specifics here (and no, you really don't want to know) but I'm sure all my readers over the age of 30 can think back in their youth and use their imaginations.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Western States Travel Day 1

I'm still not back - currently in Wyoming in a hotel.  In the meantime, here's a story that's probably more appropriate for my Mother's "food adventure etc." blog (see side bar).

Western States Travel Day 1

A trip from California to Nebraska and back again


I should have been suspicious of a snack with no name.  “Amazing Maize snack” or some such statement adorned the front of the package. Dad had already picked up a BBQ flavor and I was under pressure to pick out my own snacks at the Reno Cabela’s.  Not having much to choose from, I picked up the Original flavor and added to the cart with my peanut brittle, trail mix, and dead animal cart (there will be a later endurance posts/product review on this. I bought a hunting game cart to see if it would be an acceptable substitute for the ridiculously expensive aluminum carts for ride camp). 


The first day of the road trip is always a push to get as far as possible down the road.  The plan was to lodge at Salt lake city, which meant a long, hard day of driving.  After getting gas in Elko, NV and getting back on the road it was time to explore the snacking options since dinner was a LONG salt-flat drive away and lunch was so long ago, for all practical purposes it may have never happened.


Before I opened the bag, I suddenly wondered why there was no picture of the product, nor clear panel on the bag.


Oh.  That’s why.


I want you’all to use your imaginations now.  You have decided to cook popcorn the old fashion way in a cast iron skillet on the stove.  Now, you aren’t real experienced at this and as a result the oil isn’t hot enough and your corn not fresh enough.  Heck, let’s say you used the WRONG corn type for popcorn. Now, scrape what you have off the bottom of the skillet and put it in the bag.  Add some salt.  Decide that’s your original flavor and call it an amazing maize treat.  Uh huh. 


After giggling hysterically I read the back panel while Dad tried to eat the tiny pieces of delapated popcorn out of the bag.  Apparently there was a kitchen “mistake” and they thought it was so tasty, they decided to sell it.


Looking at the product, my guess is that the dried kernels of corn are soaked until they split then are dried very fast and popped/fried in lots of oil.  The result is a product that looks like half popped popcorn that is very dry and crunchy – even the old maids are edible and crunch well without being teeth-breakers. 


We dragged the Starbucks empty cup out of the trash and decided the proper method to consume this ”amazing maize snack” was to eat it out of a cup, avoiding the soggy stuff at the bottom from the remments of coffee. 


Here we are at day 2 with a remaining bag of BBQ “amazing maize snack”.  We are undecided on whether to share our “amazing maize experience” with our unsuspecting friends at the destination of the trip, or save it for my mom, of Food Adventures Etc.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Why I'm loving Dressage

Dressage seems like the complete opposite of Endurance, but I think that is where it's strength lies. It's the perfect cross-training sport for Endurance

1. My horse is not getting sweaty but I'm building strength anaerobically. Endurance is mostly aerobic (and usually very sweaty!).

2. Trail riding can be technical, but I haven't ridden any trail, Tevis included, that required the focus and precision that riding a 20 meter circle correctly requires. I think this mental focus of dressage will help Farley stay mental sharp and fresh, even when doing technical trails or longer rides such as 100's. I'm exercising her brain!

3. I'm building muscle that will allow her to carry herself better up and down hills. It's hill training for those of us that don't have hills! I couldn't believe the amount of effort it took for her to carry herself correctly at the canter on a 20 meter circle. It's sheer strength.

4. I'm giving her a chance at a better life if I can't keep her. Not only is she is safe and sane 100 miler horse (and yes, she will be), but she can do 1st and 2nd level dressage (and yes, we'll be doing that too). How many horses out there can you say that about?

5. I may not chose to ride in dressage position on the trail, but at least I can make a conscious choice on my position based on reasons instead of "I can't help that this is how I ride".

6. I think 2 or 3 different activities with Farley is good for us both. For me it prevents burn out and lethargy. For her, it will keep her mentally engaged and learning (important for arabs especially).

7. I think there are some misconceptions regarding endurance in the dressage/traditional english world and vice-versa. Farley is a sweet, willing mare whom I think could be a good ambassador.

Does anyone else have any thoughts? Anyone else have a favorite cross-training activity for an endurance horse?

This will be my last post for ~2 weeks. I'm going on vacation - a real vacation - to Nebraska to watch the National Cavalry Competition. No computer, no internet, no phone, no else (person or human) to have to care for. Bye for now!

Lesson 3: The Canter

Have I said that I'm really really really enjoying my lessons? How about that I'm absolutely loving them and I'm having a fabulous time? How about that I'm walking on clouds after the lesson and continue to have a silly grin on my face the morning after?

OK - I think you get the picture.

Another fabulous/stupendous/fantastic lesson last night.

Something started to click with Farley during our Monday schooling. Instead of resenting the bit and trying to avoid it, she started to actually YIELD to pressure and ACCEPT the pressure. She's working the bit and working with me, if copious amounts of slime and yucky foam is any indication. On Tuesday everything came together - we were round, we were bending on the circle, AND we were moving forward with her in front of my leg. Transitions were and are still a bit rough (she doesn't stay very round during them) but we were making progress!

My homework from my last lesson was:
  • Keep her round
  • Stay OUT on a 20 meter circle
  • Practice sitting through my transitions
  • Work on pushing her from behind onto the bit.

I used to leach private violin lessons to kids (most of them were ~3rd grade). I told myself that if I ever took lessons for anything I would PRACTICE and do my homework. I don't think many people do, and it does matter to the trainer or instructor whether or not you practice. I think moving along faster than my instructor thought I would, I think because I do the homework and put the time in. Her neighbors certaintly think so. She told me that they watch my lessons while they are gardening in the evenings and they had to verify with her that it was the same person from the first lesson to the second! LOL.

So what is this all leading up to? I got to CANTER last night. She had told me when I first started lessons that my horse was so strung out and really needed to build up some muscle that comes from being round before she felt comfortable working with the canter. Last night she looked at my trot work and said that she thought Farley was ready - after only 2 weeks of work!

We worked on deep half halts and then gave the cue. Off we went! Into a beautiful, round, rocking-horse canter.

The canter on Farley has always been rough, jerky, and really strung out. It was really difficult to keep centered because she tossed me around.

Last night it was collected, smooth and THERE. WhooHOO!

It's also the first time that I was able to keep contact with Farley at the canter and she didn't buck.

My trainer said that when Farley tucks her rump and is round at the canter, she doesn't look as under-rumped and there actually is quite a bit of muscle there. Thank you endurance conditioning!

  • Continue to work on roundness
  • Continue to work on forward onto the bit (using a dressage whip as backup to my leg)
  • Very short sessions of correct canter work
  • Sitting half-halts (with a sitting trot)
  • Keep my right elbow bent
  • Keep my right leg back

My next lesson is the first Wednesday in October. I'm on vacation next week and she's out of town the next.

Lesson Revelations

2. It's not about getting them into frame - it's about the horse yielding to pressure: bit pressure, leg pressure etc.

Once I realized this, my schooling sessions with Farley started to get better. Instead of thinking that she needed to be on the bit with her head on vertical, I thought of it as - she needs to yield to bit pressure when I ask. Same for the circle. The bend is secondary, what I really care about is that when I apply my inside leg, she moves away.

3. A clean horse means a clean (kinda - more like "reusable") saddle pad after a ride.

I've started bathing my Farley the day before the lesson and then throwing a sheet on her to keep her clean. I spend less time grooming and it shows good presentation at the lesson. It shows and that I care about and take seriously my lessons. As a side benefit, I'm doing laundry less often for the pads I use during the lessons!

I'm a knock-the-dirt-clods off type of gal. My grooming routine consists of running my hands over the saddle areas to make sure there's nothing that will irritate or rub. On a summer coat I'll give a quick swipe of the brush, and in the winter I'll rub down with a curry. One day a week it's nice to pamper the pony.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lesson revelations

In this new feature, I will present obvious axioms that are only just now hitting me over the head as I school Farley and take lessons.

We shall start with:

1. If I keep my jaw relaxed, she will keep her jaw relaxed.

Weekend Part 3: A do it yourself project


In exchange for the morning's race (see part 2), Tristan spent his afternoon helping me wash and wax the truck and clean my trailer.

Much to Matt's dismay, my truck is always dirty, and I must admit I've never waxed one of my vehicles. In fact, I think the last time I waxed a vehicle I was in the first grade and helping my Mom wax my Dad's car as a welcome home present when he was in the Navy Reserves.

My trailer is dirtier than my truck. It's usually organized - I'm too OCD to let that go to far - but to scrub with soap and water? Doesn't happen.

While Tristan was busy making my vehicles beautiful, I settled down with another project - repairing my trailer plug.

I knew the connections were corroded in the old one, and Matt had discovered (see Part 1) that the corrosion was causing the wires to pull out of the internal connections when I pried the plug out of my truck.

I do have some limited electrical experience (my very first presentation as a 4th grader in 4-H was how to "switch a switch" - how to change out a wall flip electrical switch) and this looked like a project just about my level.

Below are the supplies needed. A new plug, screw drivers, a pad with a pen. Needle nose pliers and a pair of wire cutters from my Dad's shop completed the ensemble. I wanted a pair of wire strippers, but I couldn't find a pair so I was going to have to strip the wires with the wire cutters.

Here's a close up of the old plug. You can see where the internal part is pulled away from the outer casing because of the pressure applied when I pull it out of the socket. There is so much corrosion in the plug, the truck "holds on to" the plug.

Here's the outer casing removed. You can see that the white wire is not attached - a result of prying the plug out. Earlier on Saturday when Matt opened it up, the black and yellow wires were disconnected.

I took careful digital pictures of the wire arrangement in the plug. It's VERY important to get it exactly right or your lights don't work, your brakes don't work and you may just fry all the wiring.....

Another picture showing the plug from another angle. (I was NOT going to get those wires in the wrong order!)

As another safeguard I also wrote the wire order down on the tablet. Another trick is to snip the wires off of the old plug instead of removing them from the connections, leaving a bit of the colored insulation on the wires. That way you have a physical representation of the colored wires in the old plug.

I have removed the wires. I'm cutting the wires down to the insulation and restripping them so brand new shiny wire goes into the new plug.

Here's the new plug, fully assembled and ready to go.

Looks pretty easy right? Take off wires from old plug and put on new plug. Make sure the order is correct, or at least the same as the old.......

I hooked up the trailer and tested everything. Voila! I had lights and brakes! I loaded up and off Farley and I went.
So there I was, merrily travelling down the interstate at 60 miles/hour. My truck was clean, waxed, and gleaming, my trailer was, if not exactly sparkling, as least resembled the factory white color it originally was. Of course, as it starts raining. That would be because I waxed. As I was contemplating the unfairness of it all, approximately 1 1/2 hours into the trip home, my truck suddenly shifted down 2 gears and I couldn't accelerate. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately? Hard to decide) I was in the middle of Stockton and could immediately take an off ramp. I was able to get to the side and then stop. Unfortunately it was the type of off ramp that I couldn't get all the way off the shoulder. Great. And did I mention I'm in Stockton?
My first thought is that I've had a major (plural?) blowout and that's what the resistance was from. I jump out of the truck and check the tires. There's a funny smell and smoke coming from the trailer tires. My brakes. I jump back in my truck and try to move forward. Nope - the trailer brakes are completely locked. I unplug the brakes and lights and the vehicles roll forward as the pressure is released. I plug the lights/brakes back in. I climb in my truck and put into to drive. I was able to roll forward about a foot before the brakes look up again. I repeat unplugging and re-plugging and pulling forward about 3 times. It doesn't matter what I do to the brake box in my truck, the brakes are going on full force anytime I try to pull forward.
Did I mention it's raining?
And starting to get dark?
And I'm in Stockton?
Time for plan B. I pull out my trusty screwdrivers (yes, the same ones I staked the tent with at Tevis) and take apart the plug. Because my truck has a wiring diagram on the socket where the trailer plugs in, I theoretically know which wire is the brake wire. I pull it apart and disconnect the black wire. I stuff it backwards in the casing so it won't short out any of the other wires, reassemble and plug it in. I get in the truck and voila! I can move forward.
So what the heck happened?
I'm not sure. It's worked for 1.5 hours before malfunctioning. Was it the first rain of the season that caused a short? Did a wire get switched in the old plug and the error got transferred to the new plug? If that's true, why did it work for 1.5 hours before shorting? Because I took pictures, I'm absolutely certain that the new plug is wired identically to the old one. If I did get the wires mixed up, then disconnecting the black wire to deactivate the brakes (the brake wire according to the wiring diagram) wouldn't have worked because something else would have been miswired. I have an appointment to take the trailer in to an electrical shop to get it looked at after I return from vacation. I'll let you'all know what I find out.
Here's the teaching points (or how it could have been worse):
1. If I had been driving a 1/2 ton (like I did for 2 years), I'm not sure I could have gotten the trailer off the freeway. The resistance was so great, I would have slowed down too fast and I couldn't have kept it going. Even my 3/4 ton was having some problems, and once stopped, my trailer was NOT going anywhere.
2. I carry tools in my truck. I was able to do a minor repair/diagnostic on the side of the road.
3. I was familiar with the basic principles of how my trailer worked. Since the brakes disengaged when it was unplugged, and since the deadman's brake was not activated, I knew that the problem lay in the electrical for the brakes. Since the brakes were not activating when unplugged, I needed to figure out how to deactivate the brakes while still having lights.
4. I knew I could pull (and stop!) this trailer easily without brakes because I have a 3/4 ton. It would have been stop and go with my 1/2 ton. I could have stopped it eventually, but probably not quick enough in an emergency situation. With my 3/4 ton, with only one horse in the trailer, I don't notice a braking distance difference between brakes and no brakes on the trailer.
5. I got to find out what happens if the brakes activate on the trailer at freeway speeds! You don't automatically die! (I tend to have an overactive imagination...)

There's my weekend story. Looking back, I don't think I would have done anything different. Changing out a plug is a easy and simple task and is quicker and cheaper to do yourself. I pay others to change my oil, pack bearings etc so I DON'T take short cuts when it comes to the safety and wellbeing of my truck and trailer. However, this was one of those little tasks that just seems silly to pay someone else to do. I'll be VERY interested to see what the issue was, especially because it worked for 1.5 hours!!!!!! And THEN decided to malfuntion!!!!! I'm very confused.

Weekend Part 2: Race

On Sunday Tristan (my brother) and I attempted the 35th annual Buffalo Stampede. Or rather "migration" as we started 1/2 hour earlier than the "real" race as we were planning on a pace less than 10 min/mile.

In 2007 I ran the 10 mile race in 1:47. I had been running "kinda" regularly. In 2008 I couldn't get the motivation to run so I registered for the race. It didn't work. I STILL wasn't motivated to run and ended up running the 10 miles with zero training in....1:53. My goal was to PR this year as I've been running consistently for the last 6 months. I thought I might be able to squeeze out a 1:45....

I called Tristan the night before and told him to be ready to leave at 5am. I woke up before my alarm and arrived at my parents at a dark house. Now being a fully-fledged kidlet, I do not have a key to my parents. Knocking on the door louder would not be productive because Dad might wake up and answer it....not a good thing on a Sunday morning at 5am. So I scrambled through the bushes and started tapping on Tristan's window.

Tristan answered the door in a bathrobe and with bed-hair. "I was up, I just didn't want to turn on any lights." Uh huh....sure.

After some prodding we were on the road.

It actually RAINED the night before. A LOT. And it was COLD in the morning. After picking up our numbers, chips, and vest (participants prize) we huddled in the truck until start time.

10 minutes before start Tristan informs he needs to pee. Great. As you runners out there know, it's a minimum 20 minute wait for the bathrooms at a race. Combine well-hydrated people and throw in a few pre-race jittery GI tracts and the result is not pretty. Sure enough, we started the race before reaching the end of the line.

I love the start of the race - everyone in a pack, moving in unison, the feeling of anticipation in the air.

Apparently Tristan thought differently. "It's like a group of zombies!"

Around mile 3 or 4, Tristan informed me that he was going to use the next porta potty he found. I never take bathroom breaks in a race less than a marathon. I'm too competitive about my time. Tristan was not amused as I suggested suitable bushes along the roadside and as I waited in the bathroom line I struggled not to think about my PR slipping away.

"Melinda! Get a hold of yourself! The point of this years race is to spend time with your brother! Not a PR!" Oh that's right.

I told Tristan that there was usually donuts around mile 7 and he proceeded to talk about donuts for the next 3 miles. Tristan grabbed a cinnamon roll donut the size of his head and loped off down the road.

After that either the sugar rush or the runner's high kicked in and he was in annoyingly good spirits the rest of the race. He started talking about...speeding up and eliminating the walk breaks. Ummm.....

We took the race easy because Tristan has never gone more than ~3 miles. Ten miles is a lot different. I was sure by this point he would be begging for mercy and I could do a little big sister bullying to get him through the race.

Finally at 1/4 mile to go I told him we would race into the finisher's chute. Ummm yeah. He sprung off like a jack rabbit and finished a full 10 seconds ahead of me. A 1:58 finish.

Next up will be a half marathon. Running races with Tristan is a wonderful way to spend time with my brother and keep in touch with his life.

In exchange for me paying his race entry.....Tristan agreed to wash and wax my truck AND wash my be continued.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Weekend Part 1: A Man's Horse

So I have absolutely positively PROMISED myself I do this weekend in order. Otherwise I'll just skip to the end and do the most exciting, leaving out all the wonderful things that actually happened.

Just a teaser and then back to the chronologically correct story:

Sometimes I think "why do I have so many trailer adventures?" After all, I maintain my trailer, care for my trailer, drive safely and defensively etc. But then I consider that I drive my trailer, on average, 500-800 miles a month. That's a lot of miles. My frequency of trailer adventures is probably similar to others, I just drive more. There was that time I had a trailer blow out on the interstate, that time where Sally decided to lay down and I had to drag her out, and then that time when my trailer brakes locked up on the interstate while going 60 miles an hour. Wait a minute - I didn't tell you about the last one? Oh - that would be because that happened yesterday.....

but I digress. Back to the beginning.

Matt, my best friend and boyfriend over the last 9-10 years agreed to go trail riding with me on Saturday.

Matt rode as a kid and a young teenager. His last ride was at 15, when he suddenly decided that he didn't like horses and quit. As we really got to know each other when he was 17, I never had the pleasure of meeting the horse-riding-Matt.

Now some people have asked for my secret of getting him to ride with me.
1. I have never pressured him. I did not ask him over and over. If I thought it would work out for a certain weekend, I would ask him - once. I then accepted his answer.

2. I found out why he quit riding. It turns out that his cousins would put him on the rankest horse, go on a trail ride and then take off at a dead run 5-10 minutes into the ride. The horse was always very sour and refused to listen.

3. I participated in activities that he enjoyed as often as I could. It wasn't why I did it, but I think that helped him want to do activities with me that I enjoyed.

See? Very easy.

Before leaving my parents I casually mentioned my trailer brakes weren't working. He decided to take my plug apart right there and see what was going on. My selfish thought was "At least my lights worked when I arrived.....what will work after he puts it back together?" The plug was very corroded (which I knew) and the wires were pulling out of the connector when the plug was tugged (ie pried) out of my truck plug in. Some wires had detached, leaving me without brakes. Matt connected the wires, told me to get a new one, and put it back together. Voila! I had brakes AND lights. Stay tuned.....

We picked up Sally. I've mentioned before that Sally and I have an understanding. Not a friendship, not a relationship. She doesn't get snuggly with me and I respect her space.

I forgot.

Sally is a man's horse.

Sally sometimes gives Loreleigh trouble tacking. Doesn't stand still, gets a bit witchy etc.

I turned around and Matt had already saddled her. Sally looked positively in love. She didn't move a muscle during the entire process.

Matt jumped in the saddle. And immediately looked at ease. Not. Fair. I've been riding 3 solid years to achieve that look.

I expected Matt to be timid and with his cousins antics in mind, I was determined to go slow and be understanding. Matt took off at a trot. Then decided to canter. Apparently what Matt had said was true - he can ride, he just chooses not to. As a typical women I had ascribed all sorts of things to his reluctance - fear, not riding well, not being in control. Apparently sometimes when man states a fact, he means exactly what he says. Apparently the horses his cousins had given him were really rank, not just taking advantage of a novice rider.....

At the top of the hill we stopped to give the horses a break. At this point in the ride Sally is usually witchy and grumpy. Her fat has been jiggling for an hour and it's time for a lunch break, and she's being thwarted. I looked over and expected to see the usually Sally-grump-face as Matt had been schooling her for an hour at this point and wasn't taking any crap from her.....and instead....saw her fawning on Matt. Actually nuzzling him. Disgusting.

Apparently there really is such a thing as a man's horse and it has nothing to do with how "rough" men are with horses.

As we flew down the trail and I was grateful that I decided to try out the renegades. Whohoo!

I'd never used them on Farley before and decided this nice easy trail ride would be perfect, as Oroville is rocky. I needed to tighten the cables, but decided that they would stay on for our nice and slow one hour ride.

Uh huh....

After 1.5 miles of trot and canter up and down hills, they were still on. They are absolutely FABULOUS. Easy on, easy off. She gave me a little high "headedness" (using quotes because yes, I know this isn't a real word) during the first few trot strides, but that was it.

My next step is to buy a pair of zeros for her hinds.

After the ride I checked her rear hooves and there was a big-ol' chunk out of the inside of her left hind.

The top picture is a better representation of exactly how MUCH hoof is missing. :(

On the plus side she's still totally sound, not sore on it etc.

I'm not sure if we'll do the next ride season barefoot. I'll take it one ride at a time. I'll start with a 50 and see where it goes. It will be exciting. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Boots, boyfriend's, and races - oh my!

I have a LOT to tell everyone! Here's a preview of what's coming up:

Did a conditioning rides using Renegades on Farley's fronts. I LOVED them. Absolutely zero issues. Walked, cantered, trotted. Over rocks and up and down hills. These were boots I originally bought for Minx's hinds and kept after she passed away because I was fairly certain they would fit Farley. FINALLY she's barefoot and I got to try them out.

Got my boyfriend/best friend of 10 years to go on a trail ride with me. He got on the horse and after 12 years of not riding looked like a natural. We even cantered on the trail and did a LOT of trotting. He obviously has "feel". *sigh*

Tomorrow I run a 10 mile race with my brother. The last time I ran 10 miles would be last year when I ran this race.....

Last but not least and what's really important - When I went to Farley's pen to halter her, even after her so very witchy arena ride the day before - she nickered at me, walked up, nuzzled me and impatiently waited for me to halter her. Obviously I'm not pushing her too hard. I'll keep an eye on her attitude and back off as soon as I see signs, but for now I think she's enjoying the new challenge even if she's practicing evasiveness while executing the out-of-reach-perfect- 20 meter round thing.

Friday, September 11, 2009


By the way - the inspiration for my post about "feel" was inspired by a TV show I saw over the weekend called "Chopped". Chefs compete against each other to create the best appetizer, entree, and dessert. There are required ingredients for each dish. One person got high marks for the technical execution of his dishes, but ended up loosing because he lacked that certain "feel". I thought to myself "that's me!". Then I started thinking about what I DID have a natural "feel" for, and even though I do many many hobbies and activities, my list of what I did natural well was very very short.

Like I commented to my mom in the "Feel" post, my purpose in posting self-examination posts is not to fish for compliments or to encourage a pity party. I think it's important to be able to do an honest self-examination and think about things in a different way. My hope is to share and explore an idea or a concept and perhaps prompt someone else to discover something new about themselves. I ENJOY finding out what makes me "tick" and also study the people around me.

Thanks for all your great ideas about developing feel on a horse. I discovered that something as simple as sitting through my transitions allowed me to feel the horse better through the transition and do something as simple as pick up the right diagonal. It's still a challenge and I have to concentrate, but I can see it!

20 Meter circles are evil

Do you know why 20 meter circles are one of the first patterns a newbie dressage rider does? My trainer told me that a long time ago the "ancients" figured out that a 20 meter circle is the natural amount of bend that a green dressage horse will have when asked to flex.

Farley did not get the memo.

Farley prefers the 5 meter circle.

You know, the overbent-shoulder poppingout-leaning out type of circle.

This is what I find ironic. What she's doing to herself is WAY harder than what I'm asking her to do. She's trying every evasive maneuver in the book of "For Mares only: How to frustrate your rider". In those few moments of enlightenment, we are trotting our 20 meter circle with rhythm, impulsion, and grace. It's beautiful and it's quiet. The rest of the time it's a struggle for power, LOUD leg aids, tight muscles, and teeth grinding by both parties. Why does she insist on making both of us miserable? I swear she DOES know what I want, she's just not doing it to spite me....

Which brings me to my next thought - the learning curve of the horse.

Has anyone else noticed this?

Stage 1: Interested learning and curiosity - lots of try.
Stage 2: A little resistance - The horse is saying "I know what you want, but let's experiment."
Stage 3. Extreme witchiness. Every evasive maneuver possible. A test of wills and a battle to get even close to what she offered in stage 2 and 3. Resistance. I swear she knows what I want but she's going to see if I can "make" her.
Stage 4: Acceptance, trust, quiet obedience.

Last night she was in stage 3 in a HUGE way. Maybe it's the fact I'm dealing with a mare and 1/2 the process is convincing her that yes, this is a good thing to do?

As I think back, I realize that I've never tried to really "train" Farley. Yes, we did trail training - going down the trail quietly, reassuring her through "scary" situations, rating, gaits, standing for the vet checks etc. But that kind of endurance training and skill set is different than other equestrian sports. In endurance I let her make decisions about how she goes down the trail as long as it's safe and sane. In dressage, I'm expecting her to listen to me for all direction regarding speed, gait, and how she's going to move. I think it's a mind set change for her and it's going to require time.

God give me patience for my head not to explode during this time of "mental adjustment".

This weekend I'm planning a nice forward trail ride to give her a mental break.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lesson Objectives

Do you have "feel"? I don't. I have to work at it very very hard. Consistently and deliberately picking up a certain diagonal or lead is a challenge. Here's how it currently works at a trot. If I immediately pick up the diagonal that feels right, that is the right diagonal (as judged by looking at the front legs - so it's the correct diagonal when travelling to the left). If I wait and pick up the diagonal that feels "wrong" that's the left.....Could I sit the trot and tell you what foot is going up and then translate that to being able to pick a certain diagonal? Probably not. If I really concentrated and I was bareback there's a chance. At the canter she's so disorganized and rough I have to actually look down at her shoulders to make sure the lead is correct. Even then it's not cut and dry - I have to think about which diagonal is landing, then the hind, then the front to determine which lead I'm on.

Why do I bring this up? I was running this morning and was contemplating my lesson last night. My trainer has complemented me several times on my riding, my ability to be coached, and the ability of my horse to receive direction and then try her best to accommodate my instructions. My progress between last week and this week was superb....This makes me nervous. I have a history of starting hobbies and receiving this exact praise. In fact I can close my eyes and be back in fencing, hearing the same praise from my fencing coach. But here's the deal - after the initial learning curve, I lose it. I get horribly stuck and it doesn't seem to matter what I do, how much I practice, how motivated I am, or what people tell me - I don't improve. In fencing the problem boiled down to 2 things - the lack of coordination, and the lack of "feel". I could have worked through the coordination issue with time (and in fact, fencing is so quick I think most people continually improve in this area has they continue in the sport), however the lack of feel was a deal-breaker. Logically I knew what needed to be done, I could do the moves, I had the right tools and equipment, BUT I couldn't see the holes and didn't have that "feel" or instinctive "something" needed to succeed. I didn't quit per say, but gradually stopped going to practice my second season and then graduated, mostly leaving it behind.

Music is the same way. I can play the music, I can play it fast, I even flatter myself that on the technical side I'm a fairly good player. You know what I lack? Feel. There's something missing and while it's apparent in the songs I have learned and memorized, it's even more apparent - glaringly obvious - during jam sessions when I'm forced to improv. My songs are pretty to listen to and in the short term I can wow and impress with speed and technicalities, but there's nothing substantial backing up my music. I've played music for 15 years, so I'm not sure even more hours practicing is going to fix this. I do make a substantial effort to keep playing because I think it balances my life and it's important.

Back to the horse-related stuff. I'm hoping that this time around, by working with a training one-on-one on a weekly basis, I can push myself to the level where even if feel is not innate, I can LEARN it. I hope that this time around, I don't reach a plateau in my horsemanship where, due to my lack of feel, it frustrates me to the point I let this slip away. I think my natural inclination is to switch focus when I reach those first tough learning plateau's.

So that's my first objective for lessons - develop "feel" and keep going even when the going gets tough.

My second objective is to help me and my horse go down the trail. I have "exhibit A" below as an example....

This picture is from this year's Tevis. Granted we are trotting down hill. My leg isn't usually THAT far forward and her head isn't usually THAT far in the air and she usually steps through her hind better. BUT, the hill has magnified everything that is wrong with the "picture" of Farley's and my riding.

Already, in just 2 weeks, there is a huge difference in how she travels. My leg stays back better and she has dropped her head and is stepping through at the trot. I can't feel it, but the trainer says that during the second lesson (yesterday) she's already travelling more uphill than in the first lesson a week ago.

Want to know the amazing thing? Because of the holiday weekend I was only able to work Farley for 3 short sessions practicing our "homework". 1 hour and 20 minutes total. It's amazing what a difference even a small amount of correct work will do. I have put many many many hours on Farley both in the arena and on the trail during the last 2 years and there's been no improvement in gaits or carriage. I highly recommend you treat yourself with lessons if you find yourself in a "funk".

Below - Farley at our lesson last night. The trainer requested that I braid the mane so she could see Farley's neck so I tried my hand at a french braid.

Objective 3: to have fun and let the lessons carry through periods of time where I'm not motivated to ride or do anything. So far so good. I can't keep a smile off my face when I'm done with my lesson, Farley's eye stays soft throughout the lesson, and I can't wait to get on my horse every day.

Friday, September 4, 2009

In the Spirit of Giving

Based on my earlier post, I thought I might pass along my favorite websites for daily perusing of used tack.

Bay Equestrian Network:
***Absolutely, hands down, the best place to find general used tack in California. There's also a southern california sister site. Most sellers will ship, so you non-California people, check it out!
***A great site for keeping abreast of current endurance news, the e-mail list "ridecamp" etc, but for now we are just talking about the classifieds - wonderful classifieds. I have found some great deals on endurance equipment here. Even if you don't ride endurance, you can find some quality equipment here for a good price. I've listed stuff for sale here and on Bayequest before and I've always sold it through

The 2 other sites I keep an eye on but don't necessarily check out daily are:
Chubby Pony:
***A consignment shop. I've never actually purchased anything from them because I've found it elsewhere. The site doesn't seem to be updated very often, but if you are looking for something specific, I would call them.

Saddles and More:
A great site based out of New York (I think). I have ordered several times from her and the items always arrive in good condition and well packed. This is my main source for riding pants. I'm not sure how often this is updated. She responds quickly to e-mails. Occasionally she puts an ad in to advertise her site and will give free shipping to anyone in California who mentions the ad, so keep an eye out. I think she provides great equipment so lately I've been paying the shipping costs, even if I do see the ad so that I can support her and she can continue operations.

Anyone else have a favorite site for used equipment?

Confessions of...

a tack hoarder. *hangs head in shame but can't keep evil grin off face considering the GREAT deals I got yesterday*.

It's a documented fact. I cannot pass up a good deal if it relates to tack. Let's consider a historical example before diving into the present shall we?

The weekend after Minx's death in April I visited my family and lo and behold but there was a tack swap in the area! My dad, sister, and I went to investigate.....Now being well versed in buying used tack, these are my requirements:
  • Tack must be priced at no more than 50% of new price to be an excellent deal. And when I'm at a tack swap I'm looking for excellent deals.
  • I'm not going to bargain. If you give me a ridiculous price, I'm walking away. Period.
  • Do a quick assessment of the entire room THEN go BACK and go through the tables in more detail. You may miss a crucial deal if you wait.
  • Make your decisions quickly. Don't think too much.

Now, I had made my way 1/2 way around the room and Loreleigh and Dad were trailing behind, not quite so bold. (Yes, this is the same sister as from the Bear Story). I started with 20 bucks in my pocket and had already scored: 2 bits, a cooler, 2 pairs of riding tights, a biothane breast collar and then I saw them on the table - half chaps. Now, I don't NEED half chaps. In fact my half chaps are nicer than the ones on the table. But mine will need replacing at the end of this season AND they were only five dollars. I swiped them up. Loreleigh looked a bit crestfallen and Dad looked stunned (but as they wouldn't have fit him, not nearly as disappointed as Loreleigh did....) but hey - I got there first. Of course, Loreleigh was loaded down with my bounty, but it wasn't like she was doing any serious perusing anyways.....

Once home, I gleefully did a victory dance over my pile of loot. I pranced around in the half chaps until guilt over took me and I did the only proper thing - I offered to sell Loreleigh the chaps for the cheap cheap price of $10. A great deal considering the price new! Call it a finders fee.

Mom and Dad were not amused. Loreleigh put on her best pouting face and even though we are both in our 20's, the parents refused to let the invisible hand guide the economics of the situation and Loreleigh got a pair of chaps for $5.

So yesterday I was browsing Bad Bad Bad! This is where I got Farley and I've bought a TON of tack off of there. I've finally stopped looking because I don't NEED anything else. I was looking for a friend - I swear. I saw an ad. Horse person was getting out of horses and liquidating EVERYTHING. The drive was merely 1.5 hours away so last night I high tailed it over there.

Thank goodness that I saw the ad late and much of the stuff had been carted away. I had $100 left in birthday money/other gift money and I was hoping I could score a big pile of stuff and she would just give it to me for $100...and that's what happened. Here's what I got (virtual victory, gloating, hand rubbing dance going on right now).

Irish knit, cooler with irish knit interior, nylon sheet, burlap sheet, fly sheet, 4 saddle pads including a brand new fleece (real!) shaped pad, a pair of fieldboots (ariat), bridle, reins with rubber grips, plus other stuff I can't call to mind.

Now before you call me a greedy, selfish hoarder, I would like to point out that I am more than happy to pass on the good deals I get to others and I often find myself often just giving equipment to friends in need, 4-Her's just starting out etc. Some of the endurance equipment is quite pricey.....(don't google the price of a Haf pad or renegade boots unless you want to have your brain explode) so I try to buy everything else at a discount. I really do love finding a good deal on something. I also don't cringe when my horse destroys something. (Endurance is rough on equipment). So please, if you ever need to borrow something at a ride, stop by!

(off to try and fit everything in my trailer and still have it be safe for my horse to ride in....and be able to GET to my saddle in the tack room).

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The greatest compliment of all

My first dressage lesson was last night and I LOVED it. I was only going to do a lesson every other week, but I'm going to see if I can possibly fit a lesson almost every week into my schedule....

I went into the lesson unsure of myself. Having never had lessons, I didn't know where I was on the riding scale. I've been frusterated in the arena lately because I don't feel like we do anything well - we don't bend, travel straight, do circles, transition well, etc. We are such a great team on the trail, I wanted that to translate to the arena too.

There are 2 little tiny fun schooling shoes in the area in October and November that I want to do just for fun. I also don't want to embarrass my horse - hence the lessons.

I think the most that has been said about my riding ever was to compliment me as I stayed on through an especially tough spook, buck, or bolt. The trainer complimented me in several ways - here was some of the feedback (I've put in order from what I considered the least to the greatest....):
1. I'm a nice, round rider
2. I'm very coachable.
3. My horse learns very very quickly and I should shoot for recognized dressage shows, not just the local fun shows.
4. My horse and I work well together and it's apparent she trusts me.

But the best compliment of all was:
"Wow - Farley is very very sound."

I think I made some off hand comment about "she better be - I spend enough time and money on her soundness". Looking back, I should have just graciously accepted the compliment - because that is what it was - compliment and testiment to how I'm managing my 100 mile endurance horse.

Specifically my trainer said it warmed her heart to see her so sound, especially because she knew I was doing endurance, trying 100 milers etc. I'm not sure if she has a lot of experience with endurance horses coming in for lessons, but obviously she has a certain perception regarding their soundness. What a treat to be able to bring a sound, willing, smart endurance horse to a dressage lesson!

Looking back on what I have done in 3 years of endurance, I think the most valuable lessons learned are regarding soundness. I can't think of any other sport that puts so much emphasis on soundess. I feel confident in my ability to evaluate my horses soundness and make the right decisions. I'm not sure I ever "got" that in my riding before endurance.

I'll have more on some specifics of the lesson later and update you on our progress.