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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I hate why questions

I ran last night. In the rain and the wind, through the flooded streets and sidewalks. You see, I’m toying with the idea of an ultra marathon again. When I mentioned it this morning to S*, my co-worker, her response was “why?”.

I hate why questions.

S* and I have discussed how it seems that our brains never turn off. We are constantly thinking and evaluating and planning. My brain literally never shuts off – there’s never peace and quiet. Except……

….during the last half of a 100 miler, or a marathon, or a backpacking trip.

Then, and only then, I have peace and quiet in my brain. It’s like these events are a significant accomplishment within themselves that I can stop for ~48 hours and say “it’s a enough”. I don’t have to prove anything to myself or anyone else. It’s enough. Until my body is pushed to the limit, that peace and quiet doesn’t come.

That’s probably the best answer I can give to the question I often get: “why ride a 100 miles?”.
There’s other superficial answers I can smile and give – “I love the trails”, “The bond with my horse is amazing”, “I like riding fast” – but the truth is I never feel totally at rest unless my body is in motion and close to exhaustion.


It's useful to look at "sister" sports to explore possibilities for endurance. Eventing is a "sister" sport because of what it demands from the horse, among other reasons. Another sport I consider a "sister" sport is that of ultramarathon running.

I've toyed with the idea of running ultramarathons (and once expressed that idea to my mom, who said "get another horse") and generally keep an ear out for anything interesting occuring in that sector.

A blog recently addressed a topic I've certaintly had on my mind. Read it here: and then tell me what you think.

Ultramarathoning started out much like endurance - a bunch of crazy people trying to go further than anyone else just because. $$ changes a sport. Good and Bad changes. I can see both sides and am totally undecided whether I think it's a good thing or not.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Credit where credit is due

In response to Michelle's comment below - I did not invent this little theory of learning. Here's the wikipedia summary here:

Over the years I've heard a lot of different versions of the learning theory, most recently from my trainer. It's a theory that seems to work most of the time. Before I knew about this, I would have conversations with family members about the different "kinds" of horse people - mostly based on the level of fear/respect someone had for the horses. The discussion generally resolved into:

Beginners - Horse people who are beginners, but don't know they are beginners. These people typically have no fear, or at least no imagination and scare the rest of us into an early grave.

Novices - The beginner who has realized they are not invincible. They often struggle with fear issues and have begin to realize how much they have to learn.

Intermediate - A rider who can normally stay on for all 3 gaits, isn't prone to panicking. Has a healthy respect for the horse, but isn't generally reactive. Capable on most horses. This rider is cautious, but not dealing with fear.

Advanced - This rider seems to have no fear, but this comes from knowledge rather than ignorance. They can stay balanced and on top of the horse most of the time. Riding seems to come naturally to this person and they seem to move effortlessly across the field on even the most difficult of horses.

Once I learned about the 4 learning stages theory, it fit so nicely into the family discussions we had that it immediately appealed to me.

Does anyone else have any learning theories they especially like and want to share?

The learning process

Farley has been very forward in dressage. That’s what being mudbound and pen bound for 2 weeks will do to you. It’s a nice change – I’m finally getting a real connection back to front, forward in front of my leg, and throughness. Even though I don’t love jumping the way I love dressage, it’s been worth the price of the jump lessons to get the impulsion in dressage.

Usually on gaits and movements we are hovering between a 5 and a 6. Farley, as an arab is non-traditional which means we start at a 6 or 7, not necessarily an 8 like the warmbloods that have been bred to suspend themselves around the court like carousal horses. Farley has to be MORE relaxed, with MORE swing, and have a better connection to look as good.

I fight tooth and nail for my 7’s. It’s a fact of life that I’m going to end up with 5’s, and if I can get a 7 for every 5, and 6’s everywhere else, that’s a 60%!

That’s why, when my trainer remarked that I had a solid 7 trot, I thought “why not try for the 8?”.

So I went for it.

There’s a lot more distance/change between a “7” trot and an “8” trot, than a “6” and a “7”.

I found out that Farley probably has an innate “7” trot. ME, as the RIDER influences whether that trot becomes a 6 or an 8.

After 18 months of dressage the puzzle pieces are finally coming together. Even before my trainer made suggestions I could FEEL that I needed a half halt or more outside rein or inside leg or inside bend or more forward. I worked on “plumping” that trot. I had to make sure my leg stayed long, the inside leg at the girth, the outside slightly back, that I wasn’t pulling on the left rein, that my elbows stayed soft, that my thumbs stayed on top, that I wasn’t tucking my chin, that my knees weren’t gripping, and that I wasn’t behind the motion. And this is the short list!

We never truly got to that 8 (unless it was a nice judge!) but I could feel it there – right below the surface. The best part about it was I could feel how to get it – I, as the rider, was having a significant impact and helping my horse be better than she could be on her own.

This concept has a correlation in endurance (you knew I was going there!). I think one of the “tricks” of endurance is having the experience to know where your horse’s starting point is. Is the horse a 50 miler that is doing LD’s because of the rider? Or is it a 50 miler horse that is doing 100 miles because of superior ridership? Or is it a 100 miler horse, who is only able to do fast 50’s because of superior riding? Having all the puzzle pieces fall into place takes time.

Endurance and dressage both have in common what EVERY learning process has in common. Namely the “4 stages”. I’m sure most of us have come across this in some variation at one time or another, but I don’t think there’s any harm in doing some review.

The 4 stages can be described as follows:

Unconscious Ignorance – You are doing it wrong and don’t even know it, because you don’t have the experience or knowledge to know better. Anyone learning something new falls in this category. Even if you have knowledge of something related (ie – coming into enduance from another discipline) you WILL spend a brief period of time here. Even people experiencing tremendous success can be in this stage depending on the talent of the horse and luck. People here usually don't seek mentors, and if they do, don't usually benefit greatly from them because they don't know that they don't know!

Conscious Ignorance – You know you are doing something wrong, and may even have a good idea what it is. But you don’t necessarily have the tools to fix it. People in this stage can benefit greatly from a mentor or trainer.

Conscious Knowledge – You recognize problems and inconsistencies and have the tools and knowledge to “fix” them. It takes conscious thought, and effort, but you can usually anticipate problems and take steps to prevent problems AND increase your chances of success (however you define that) even past the innate ability of your mount. People at this stage make the best mentors - they have the experience and knowledge, but are still having to make a conscious effort to put their knowledge into practice.

Unconscious Knowledge –At this level the horse+rider team can achieve things that perhaps neither of them would have accomplished by themselves. The team is more than the whole. They know what needs to be done before they *know* it and it seems to just happen. Most of us spend just brief periods of time at this stage. Those moments are magic and are why I ride. IMO these people make the WORST mentors and are NOT a good choice for the stage 1 and 2 people to try and emulate.

Most people move between stages as new situations present themselves. Moving between stages 3 and 4, and even stage 2, is natural and is the learning process. One word of caution – unless you are an Olympic level rider you probably don’t spend THAT much time in stage 4. So if you are sitting there patting yourself on the back for being at stage 4 for the last couple of years, you are tragically (oh gasp-the horror) probably in stage 1. (Tongue in cheek of course - but there is a kernal of truth there....).

Where are you in your journey with (insert choice of sport/hobby here) in relation to the idea above?

When I started endurance with Minx, I was definitely in stage 1. I think I moved out of that stage quickly, only because I was on an unsuitable horse who made it very obvious what I didn't know very quickly. In that way, I think people using non-traditional endurance horses have an advantage. I spent a good year in stage 2 with Minx. I was aware that what I was doing was wrong but didn’t have the tools to fix it. After getting Farley, I briefly slipped into stage 1 again – thinking that because things were going very very well that I was in stage 3. However, the success wasn’t necessarily due to any new applied knowledge – it happened because I switched horses and my new horses happened to have a talent for endurance. The first half of season 2009 is a good example of being in stage 1. Things were going well and continued to go well for ~300 miles before I moved into stage 2 in the latter half of 2009 after Farley's first and only pull. I think in 2010 I finally moved into stage 3, and even had some brief glimpses of stage 4. It’s a wonderful feeling.

By analyzing how I progressed in my learning, hopefully with my next endurance horse I’ll stay in stage 3, or move to stage 2, but can avoid stage 1 again. IMO, stage 1 is where most of the heart break occurs, not to mention injury to horse and rider. Understanding this progress also helps me when I've, for whatever reason, slipped back a stage and I'm struggling. As long as I continue to consciously seek knowledge and implement it, and then critically evaluate, I'm likely to emerge from the situation better equipped and even more capable.

I went through a similar progression in dressage. Currently I’m bouncing between 2 and 3, with brief glimpses of 1 still.

I want to hear how your journey is going! Whether it’s horses, music, or anything else!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Xmas

I attempted to write several posts today, all of which have fizzled out into incomprehensible sentences and messy paragraphs. Which is a bummer because I have a TON of good topics - just no ambition (or apparent ability) to concisely formulate ideas into something anyone would actually READ.

So instead, I'll wish my readers a Merrry Christmas. I'm looking forward to an extended weekend with the boyfriend, random website updates, a bike ride around the buttes, and maybe a run. Or, if it keeps raining I may be canoeing across a lake that used to be the town.

I'm off to my jump lesson, where perhaps today, unlike last week, I won't squeak in terror at a 2'3" oxer (Farley rolled her eyes at me as she went over the jump, complete with a lead change).

Monday, December 20, 2010

A milestone, and of newbies

Before diving into the topic today – which is courtesy of Endurance Granny – I wanted to share a special milestone.

Aarene over at the Haiku Farm, suggested I develop a rental program for the renegade hoof boots. After making numerous suggestions, she became my first customer a few weeks ago.
This week, Fiddle and Aarene sported a red set of rental boots and successfully returned from a test ride with boots intact – after going through sand, creeks, and mud.

This report was especially satisfying as there were several challenging aspects to the fitting:
· It was long distance – I had to rely on pictures and e-mails. In fact, this was the first hooves I’ve fit long distance!

· There weren’t current measurements – the measurements came from last fall/winter when Fee’s shoes were pulled. New measurements couldn’t be taken because Fee was still in shoes.

· The measurements weren’t as precise as I usually like – the measurements were to the ¼” instead of the 1/8”.

· Fee has feet that are asymmetrical.

So, when I got the good news that the boots are staying on, as you can imagine I responded with a huge WHOOOO HOOOOOO!!!!!!! The fit isn’t perfect and there’s a few adjustments I’d like to make – but the nice thing about renegades is that as long as you are close, the boots will usually stay on well enough to ride in them until you can fine tune how much cutback is needed etc.

Then I got something even better – A pic of Aarene and Fiddle in “full” Standardbred-trot mode looking perfectly in harmony. And because my boots were in the picture, I felt like I was part of that picture. And that was one of the best feelings in the world. I admit I haven’t done much today at work besides stare at that picture of happy rider and horse on the trail, doing what both obviously love to do.

Aarene will probably post on her blog (see side bar) soon if you are interested in more of their adventures.

Now on to the real topic of the day
Endurance Granny posted on the subject of novice disappointment, a topic I probably have touched on before.

I struggled with this during the first couple years in Endurance. In fact, on my website ( I wrote the following in the endurance section main page - Learn all you can, do the best you can by your horse, and remember - "if you are having a tough time, there's probably someone else out there who's gone through the same thing and has come out the other side more or less intact" – a tribute to my first year. I didn’t complete a single ride my first season – and lamed my horse to the point I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to ever do endurance again. It seemed like everyone around me was completing rides easily. I started endurance for the sole purpose of completing the Tevis – a goal that seemed impossibly far away at the end of my first season.

As a goal oriented person used to creating game plans and meeting deadlines – it was a hard pill to swallow that I had failed. And yes, I would use the word “fail”. Aside from the non-completions, I had a lame horse who was miserable. Oh yes – that is a fail.

Gradually I realized that even the self-proclaimed “newbies” in this sport weren’t really newbies the way I was a newbie. Yes, we are all eternally learning in this sport, HOWEVER the newbie with less than 1000 miles is on a different learning curve than the “newbie” with 5,000 miles.

It seemed to me that people were great at giving advice, but seemed to lose touch with how it felt to start out in this sport. This is completely understandable! It’s easiest (and natural) to give advice where you are NOW, not where you used to be. And, while time gives perspective on the past, sometimes it can be a bit rosy in hindsight and you lose the intensity and raw-ness that was present when it was happening.

After talking to endurance riders I respected and who were willing to talk candidly about their experiences over the years, I realized that most, if not all, endurance riders did go through the same trials and tribulations in their first 1000 miles, that I was experiencing. The problem is, that at any one time, only a small % of riders are at a certain stage – which includes that critical mass of newbies under 1000 miles.

Because I know how badly I felt, and how frustrating it was to see people who were moving out of the stage I was in (LD’s, starting 50’s) and into the next one (100’s, Tevis) with an ease I couldn’t imagine – I wanted to help someone who might be struggling in the same way.

Among other reasons that’s why I started a blog. It’s the truth from a perspective and being IN THE PRESENT. Some day, when I’m a widely successful vet and endurance rider (hey – we all have dreams right?) I want to be able to tell people – “what you are going through is normal and it gets better”. And if they don’t believe me – then go read my blog. I may have changed my mind or have a different perspective now, but it doesn’t diminish the power of writing in the present.

You may wonder why I write about the “1000 mile” point as being the cut off. I would agree with those who say that endurance is about continuous learning no matter what your mileage, and that the more I learn, the less I know. I'm less apt to see issues in black and white and consider the grays. However, talking to other endurance riders, I’m under the impression that the steepest learning curve comes in the first 1000 miles. I feel 1000 miles is a significant accomplishment – something that’s echoed by AERC. At 1000 miles you are recognized at the convention and your mileage patches become less frequent – no longer are they awarded every 250 miles. One thousand miles is also a major horse accomplishment and is the first recognized mileage levels for our equine partners.

For those newbies in the throes of what seems to be never-ending disappointments and challenges I want to offer you this comfort – it does get better. You will accomplish more than you ever dreamed possible if you continue to seek advice, critically evaluate, and stay flexible. I have journals from my first year that have pages completely soaked in tears. I wanted to do this sport SO BAD. Would I have felt the same way if I had met my deadlines and plans? Maybe not.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Important Lessons

Yesterday I learned two very important lessons.

VIL (Very Important Lesson) #1
Boots are important when working with horses

I am assuming that *some* of us are not exactly perfect when it comes to footwear around our horses. Although my shoes I wear to the barn are usually closed toed, they are not always sturdy boots. Boy was I grateful for my sturdy leather boots when, last night, while spraying the bottom of her left hind hoof out in prep for trimming with a hose she spooked. She leapt backwards, jerking the hoof out of my hand, where it landed (toe first) into my top of my left foot, and then slightly reared as to let me feel the FULL impact of all those extra calories squished onto her frame.

Result - one broken toe. The middle one. Not bad!

VIL (Very Important Lesson) #2
Cats don't like coffee

I had a...malfunction with the french press yesterday and managed to dump my cup of coffee into the cat's water. It was a hellish morning and after I finished swearing (coffee ended up on the counter, on the floor, on my pants, on my....)I threw the rest of the pot in the cup and bolted out the door. The cat water was merely discolored and *I* thought it was fine. Miss picky and Mr. Fatso apparently disagreed and insisted that their water be sparkling clean. *sigh* So, witness Melinda scrubbing the cat water this morning while kitties meow, acting so abused that I would even consider premium ground decaf french-pressed coffee as suitable for drinking.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

An open letter

I wanted to share with my readers an e-mail I wrote for my favorite e-mail list - the yahoo new100milers list.

It's that time again - time to inject Farley's hocks. I got 8 1/2 months from the last set of injections and probably could have stretched it out another 4-6 weeks, but standing in the mud and the cold for 3 weeks hasn't helped. On Monday near the end of my dressage lesson, she started to pop her should out going to the left on a trot circle and be quite fussy. She's often fussy, but there's a certain kind of fussy, paired with resistence that is her telling me it's time to do the hocks. On the trail it's taking longer for her to warm up. During the jump lesson yesterday, she was jumping very well, which suprised me - she loves jumping and was probably just jumping through the pain - but there were still indicators it was time - short strided on the left hind during the trot, not wanting give me decent transitions (which require weighting the hindquarters).

I wrote this to Ann, who had asked me about my experience with injecting. I know most of you *lived* this with me as I fretted and worried over this issue in the early spring, but I think it's worth re-stating my current philosophy.

Ann -

It's been a really positive thing for me and Farley. Once it was said and done, once I had made the decision, after the injections, I had a new horse. In my opinion, it was one of the single best things I've ever done for my horse. Doing it forced me to set aside my pride and evaluate objectively what was best for my horse based on the scientific evidence available and the advice of a vet I trusted.

If you want to read about some of the agony I went through trying to make this decision, go back and read my blog posts from march and early April. The hardest part was dreading what people would think of me for keep my horse sound with a needle. After talking to my vet I used for this (a top lameness vet in the area) I felt differently about the decision. He said that fusing of the hocks was something that naturally occurred and there was likely not any management changes that would have produced a significantly different result. Similarly, there isn't anything (in his opinion) on the market that can be given orally that is as cost effective or effective as hock injections.

The best way of keeping her sound for as long as possible is to continue to ride her - which I cannot do if there is a continuing cascade of inflammation in the joint. Controlling inflammation is so important - inflammation and pain are NOT your friend. I used to think that if the horse was a bit sore, that the pain would keep them from "over doing" it. After talking to the vet and doing some of my own research, I have come to understand that although the former seems intuitive, keeping inflammation (and thus pain in some cases) low/controlled is paramount for the continued health of the horse.

I also asked the all important question - by making the pain go away and continuing to ride, will I do further damage to this horse because I am using artificial means to keep performing? The answer was an unequivocal no - To the contrary, the way to keep inflammation low and the joint healthy was movement - and injections reduce the inflammation so the joint or system can keep moving.

One thing to remember is that xrays changes do not correlate well to amount of lameness you may be experiencing. The left hock (the worst one) showed very little change, however my horse is also very wimpy (which I like!). She had very typical movement of a horse with fusing hocks. I felt guilty for waiting as long as I did to inject. She moved so much better and was so much happier - it was truly the right decision for us.

Another little note - the soreness showed up in the dressage much earlier than anywhere else, so now I use that as my warning sign - if she starts to struggle at collected trot on a circle, I start looking at possibly injecting. I don't wait for it to show up on the trail.

One reason I am so open about my experience is that so many people aren't. Many many many top horses are injected in this sport and no one wants to talk about it. so here's my philosophy about injecting and other meds now: I do the best I can, but sometimes confo, life, and being human means things don't go perfectly. When that happens, as long as I am doing no harm (making something worse in the long run) - then the decision is easy - I'll do the intervention that gives her the most comfort and keeps her active, until she lets me know she wants to retire.

So I inject when I need to, and after a hard work out I may even pop a bute tab or two to keep inflammation down. *shrug* It's working so far. I think it's a good compromise between compromising my horse for my ideals (and trust me - I still don't like the fact it takes a needle to make her comfortable) and keeping her sound and happy for a sport she loves.

I know this is a bit controversial, but please be nice - I've NOT had a good time at work this week, it has poured for the last 24 hours and I STILL haven't unloaded hay or trimmed feet. Oh - and I've gorged on candy my trainer brought back from Hawaii for me - which is an incredible sugar rush when all I've had a paleo diet for the past week or so.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Soaked Hay

Today I have decided to start soaking my horse’s hay. Or at least, that’s what it looks like.

Today they were predicted showers, not unremitting downpours. In fact, it was a paltry 40% chance of showers.

Today I bought hay, since at approximately 11 am it looked like this forecast was accurate. Although it was overcast, it wasn’t raining. I had plenty of time to buy hay, go to my (working) lunch, and unload hay at the stable.

As you can imagine, that neat little plan started to rapidly disintegrate (much like my bales, currently in the back of the pick up) the moment I walked into the feedstore.

They had only 2 bales of the hay I feed.

Then it started to sprinkle.

I was faced with a choice. Buy 2 bales, which will get me through next week when they are expecting a load – but risk them getting wet….OR return tomorrow (which is the date I really do need that hay!), hope it’s dry AND hope no one else has bought the bales.

I bought the bales.

I parked in downtown and went to my lunch.

It started to torrentially downpour.

Lunch ran late.

I had to go directly back to the plant instead of unloading hay.

It rained even harder.

I texted my co-worker (and fellow livestock owner) and asked the rhetorical question – “I have hay in the back of my truck. Do u think they r getting wet?”

It continued to pour. And pour and pour and pour.

Finally, after a surprisingly busy day I’m at home. The hay still isn’t unloaded, it’s still raining, and (surprise!) the hay is wet.

In hindsight, I perhaps had a lapse of judgment. However, considering it is 9pm and I worked 1am-5am, 9a-3:30p shift today, I’m thinking that if the hay is the only causality of the day, I’m doing pretty good.

On the other hand, I’ve had bales get soaked in downpours (like the one in the back of my truck coming home from the Nevada ride last season) that ended up just fine to feed.

More tragic is the fact my horse’s feet didn’t get done today, AGAIN. I missed my farrier’s appointment last week and it’s time for me to pull on my big girl mud boots and get the job done myself.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Post recommendation

I really enjoyed reading this post today. Andrea from Eventing-a-Gogo talks about breeding and buying in a very lucid, well thought out way. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 12, 2010


I've been picture-free on the blog for a while, which is ironic since one of the reasons I started blogging was to share pictures.  Pictures were a way of distracting the reader from the poor writing skills of my blogging efforts!  I'm not posting pics because in all honesty, I'm taking less pics.  I've gotten in a rut.  I'm used to undergoing some sort of life change every 2-3 years and I've been in my current career, at my current address, doing my current activities for almost 5 years.  However, knowing that it's all going to change in 6 months has made me determine to pick up the camera once again. 

I present a dirty (and slightly blurry) pony, and a slightly cleaner one post-brushing.  And last (but not least), while on the subject of friends, a picture of me and the boyfriend - my best friend for the last 12 years - at a work xmas party recently. 

Friday, December 10, 2010


How many of you horsey people out there have real friends that don’t also participate in horses?
While I find that having horses and participating in horse sports lets me meet lots of people and be social, I have very few real friends. I just don’t have time unless they want to visit while mucking a pen. I don’t get out for coffee or a movie very often. “Just hanging out” when there are chores to do is almost impossible.

Many people seem offended when I let them know that I really don’t have time to invest in a relationship beyond the casual conversation at work, or “small talk” at the stable when we happen to be there at the same time. It’s nice to be able to say “we should have coffee sometime”, but I don’t because I know it will never happen and I don’t make promises intentionally that I know I won’t keep.

I hear over and over again “you should make time”. For better or worse, horses make up a significant part of my life. Family and a long distance boyfriend take up much of the remaining time. I DO make time for those things that are important in my life, but I cannot spend my time feeling guilty because someone has decided that they want to be friends and then feels snubbed because I can’t commit to the same level. At this point in my life, just because I may enjoy someone’s company doesn’t mean I can necessarily commit to a friendship. I actually start to get nervous if I start feeling “too close” to someone that could mean a friendship that I might feel obligated to make time for.

Not to mention it’s easier to find something in common with someone if their passion matches yours. If 80% of my life is spent thinking, riding, and caring for horses, then it makes sense to have friends that have that same passion, especially because most of my family doesn’t share my passion, nor does my boyfriend.

There is something commendable about having a life-long friend. However, more likely most of your friends will come and go based on what life stage you are end. I think sometimes we (meaning “the culture we live in”) has a hard time letting go of friends. I think Facebook/Myspace and other social media is a testament to not being able to let go of the past. I hear regret in people’s voices when the talk about not having seen a friend in some time, or losing track of a friend. I used to feel this way to. “We were such good friends!”, “Why can’t I make this work?”. Reading CS Lewis’s “Four Loves” book helped me to understand that often friendships originate in a certain life circumstance (a hobby, a club, a similar lifestage) and when that circumstance change, often the friendship will fade as well. It’s normal, and growing apart from friends as life moves on is part of life.

Recognizing this has helped me to live “in the moment” with my friends. We are friends RIGHT NOW because of work, or endurance, or blogging, or church, or tragedy, or life stage. When that circumstance changes, so will the friendship. I tend to not talk about the future – as in “someday we should go get coffee”, or “wine tasting would be really fun” – if we are going to do something then let’s DO SOMETHING SOON.

During Christmas I often start to feel regret as I think of all the friends whom I have basically “ignored” over the last year that I wish I still had a relationship with – fencing and college buddies, past hobbies and clubs, old co-workers, college roommates. But then I remind myself that life changes and so do friendships. I remind myself of the good times we had and if I know their address, I’ll pop a xmas card in the mail just to say hi.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

You are my sunshine....

I’ve been stuggling through each day. My head is full of wool and I wonder if people think I’m a drug addict because I can’t enunciate my words and my eyes won’t focus.

On weekends I sleep until noon and am in bed by 6pm the following evening. It’s sheer torture to get out of bed, not helped by the guilt I feel that I should be getting up earlier and if I would just had enough self control and will power I could do it.

I’m not writing, running, working out, or feeding my body anything useful. I scrounge around the kitchen eating various nefarious things that will last me Tues-Thurs until I can get to my boyfriends house or parents. I haven’t been grocery shopping is eight weeks.

Sunday night, as I lay in bed, still awake at midnight I asked myself “maybe I’m depressed?”
And then I had a revelation – I have SAD! (Seasonal Affective Disorder). I had completely forgotten. After all a year is a really long time… (I’m kidding). Of COURSE I’m depressed – it’s mid December, it’s been rainy and overcast for weeks and I haven’t seen the sunshine since…I don’t know when (hehehehehe – a bit of Johnny Cash). Additionally, Farley and I are on a bit of a vacation – so for the last 3 weeks I’ve been riding sporadically.

No wonder I wasn’t getting anything done! In the summer when I feel like this, it usually means I need to take a bit of a break from everything to refocus. However, if I try that strategy in the winter time (and that’s what I’ve been doing) it just gets worse and worse and worse…..I have to use a completely different strategy to keep my brain happy in the winter.

Every year I forget that I have SAD. In fact, I probably posted about this HERE, around this time last year. When I called my mother and shouted excitedly – “I know what’s going on-I have SAD remember?????” – I could sense her rolling her eyes as she said “of COURSE that’s what’s going on!”. I forget. I truly do. And it takes me until mid winter to remember and start doing something about it. I never used to struggle with this – it started when I accepted a mostly indoor job 4-1/2 years ago.

I’ve managed this successfully every year through a couple, simple behavior changes during the winter months (in California defined as Dec-Feb). There may be a time when I go on medication for this, but for now – I’m doing OK. I started yesterday and I already feel better (as evidenced that I’m actually writing a post!)

1. Get outside for a 30 minute walk in the middle of the day. This is TOP priority. Nothing else is more important right now than that walk in the sunshine.

2. No more guilt about not getting up early “enough”. My work is flexible and nobody will comment about my arrival unless it’s after 9am. If during this time of the year I need 10-11 hours of sleep a night to feel good – than that’s what I’ll do. In my experience, the sleep thing resolves itself if I take care of #1. Yes, most times of the year I revel in my 5am wake up time. But if 7:30am is the earliest I can manage right now, than that’s good enough.

3. Eat real food. I can get away with more carbs and sugar in the summer time. In the wintertime, an excess of sugar, processed food, or junk food just create a cycle of tiredness and lethargy.

4. Get out of the house and get stuff done. Last night I finished ALL my xmas shopping. This may very well be the first year I haven’t wanted to break down in the store in tears during xmas shopping because I felt so tired and horrible and so “non-xmas-y”.

5. Replace all the burnt out bulbs in my apartment. Let there be light! Go with the highest wattage recommended. No guilt about leaving them ALL on if necessary in the mornings and evenings.

6. Eat breakfast. I may not be hungry or even want it. But I’ll eat it. And it won’t just be a fried egg or a packet of too-sweet-instant-oatmeal-like-food. Today, I started my day off with a 2 egg omelet with asparagus, mushrooms, and green onions. I’ve gotten away from eating breakfast in the mornings. But, I’m finding that the less often I eat in the mornings, the less I am ABLE to eat in the mornings – let’s say…at a 100 mile endurance ride! I need to get back in the habit of eating a regular REAL breakfast and see if that makes a difference to my GI tract during stressful events.

7. Work out as I’m able. Some days it will just be my afternoon walk. Other days I’ll squeeze in a bike ride to the stable, pilates, or my exercise ball. From experience – if I’m getting enough sunshine, enough sleep, and giving fuel to my body – getting enough exercise isn’t a problem, my body WANTS to move.

8. Make time to write every day. It might be a blog post, my website, the CBA column, my novel, or something entirely different – the quality of my writing is a good indicator of my mental health.

In conclusion – it’s so nice to be back. Maybe next year I’ll start being proactive in….October or November instead of mid-December. Maybe I’ll schedule a little reminder for myself on my ipod: “now is the time to start my winter schedule”. Or maybe my mother really will send me a sign to hang on my wall like she threatened: “I have SAD!”.

Now that my brain isn’t wooly, I’m going to go finish some of the posts I have in the works! (I attempted one yesterday on the merits of a single horse versus multiples and realized it was so incomprehensible *I* wasn’t even able to read what I had written. Obviously had not gotten enough sunshine!).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Pigeon Fever Update

Culture came back negative, but vet still isn't convinced it isn't pigeon fever. As it has progressed, it looks less and less like pigeon fever and more like a bit combined with cellulitis, however I'm still taking precautions until a decision is made either way.

Here's a link to an information page about pigeon fever: There's many links from reputable sources on google. There's conflicting information, but I try to stick to veterinary sources, or sources like

I'm not sure who the anonymous commenter was, but I encourage you to do some research. The pus coming from the wounds is highly infective, and it can survive in the soil up to 55 days. Horses can be contaminated through a fly bite, but also through the bacteria entering open wounds, or through the mucous membranes on a handler's clothing, hands, footwear etc. Therefore it is prudent to take additional measures beyond fly spray if a horse with pigeon fever is being treated on the premises.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A question of ethics

A horse in your boarding stable has chest and belly abscesses that is indicative of pigeon fever. The vet is called and the abscess treated, in the meantime you are told to treat it like it is pigeon fever. Several months ago a boarder let you know that a different local boarder stable was having an outbreak of the disease, but was not quarantining the facility, or notifying people trailering in. Several of your boarders go to this stable for various events, so it’s very possible this is pigeon fever.

What do you do?
Do you do what my boarding stable decided to do?
  • Instruct the boarder not to tell anyone
  • Do not notify anyone, including those boarders who regularly trailer out of the facility for lessons at other facilities
  • Keep the horse in its current pen with no monitoring or control (horse can be petted and touched with no restrictions).

I would hope not. I would hope that you would notify those of us that regularly travel to other facilities for instruction and competition and not place those facilities and horses at risk. I would hope that you would make the horse unavailable to the casual passerby by either moving it into a remote location or placing signs on the pen that say “Don’t touch me!”. Signs plastered all over the facility that scream “pigeon fever” are not appropriate, especially when it’s unconfirmed, but I think some notice and precautions ARE required.

The boarder caught in the middle of this told me because she would have felt awful if I she hadn’t told me and then Farley had come down with it. So, she told me – which I am grateful for. I can take precautions and also make informed decisions about where I take my horse and what I do with her.

I was very angry last night. How dare the BO put my horse at risk? And all the facilities and horses that may have come into contact with mine if I was competing and training? (Farley and I are currently on a 3 week vacation from lessons so fortunately it isn’t an issue right now). What if I had petted my friends horse when she wasn’t there one evening, and then gone out to Farley’s pen?

I think some very simple things can be done by a stable that promote education and awareness without causing panic.

Before confirmation of the disease:

  • Make the horse unavailable to the causual passerby through virtue of location or signage.
  • A heads up to those boarders (at our stable, this would be 2-3 people) traveling to competitions or other facilities, that there might be an issue and they need to seriously consider the potential risk and perhaps discuss with the owners of the other facilities before hand.
  • Change the feeding and watering rotations so the affected horse is taken care of last.

(Notice that none of these recommendations involves prematurely giving notice to everyone and the general public and worrying them unnecessarily, but may help minimize the severity of the outbreak while you are waiting for confirmation).

After confirmation of the disease

  • Post a fact sheet on pigeon fever in a common area. Hand it out to boarders that have questions.
  • Ask the vet for instructions for how boarders should monitor their horses for the disease and what precautions can help prevent the spread of disease. This can include temping, hand sanitizers, not sharing grooming equipment or tack, staying out of common hitch rail and arena areas if your horse comes down with the disease etc.
  • Develop a plan of how you are going to monitor the horses that are boarded with very little owner participation (ie not monitored close), without unintentionally spreading the disease by handling each one of them.
  • Strongly recommend that horses do not travel on and off the property until outbreak has cleared. Post this is a public place. Maybe mail it out to the boarders.

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened here (a horse may or may not have an infectious disease and they keep it a secret), but it is the worst. This is why Farley is in a back pen, away from foot and horse traffic, around horses that are rarely used or taken out of their pens, on a dead end corner.

Maybe I’m totally over-reacting. What are your thoughts? I’m less pissed this morning and more resigned. I think the trick is not to have any expectations other than if this was a self care facility, and then when I get more than that, be happily surprised. Confirmation of the culture should come today. Definitely crossing my fingers!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Website Preview

The next major update to my website is going to be a resource list for endurance riders on potential conditioning locations.

I will write up reports on all the locations I regular condition at (mostly central California), and I'm open to accepting writeups from other riders in other states.

Before I get too far into this, I thought I would post a sample write up of a location I do most of my endurance conditioning at - Del Valle Lake in Livermore CA. If any of my readers have time, I would love some feedback. Too much information? What else would you like to see included? Would information like this make you more likely to check out a new trail? On the website, the boot ratings would be actual pictures.

Conditioning Locations
Please note that the pros/cons are my personal opinions only, and are written from an endurance conditioning/riding perspective. Many of the cons can be pros and vice versa. For example – a heavily used trail with other recreational users may be listed as a con, but could be seen as a positive attribute since it means that trail management has an incentive to continue trail maintenance. The pros/cons are intended to be “considerations” rather than judgments on the suitability for of the trail for YOUR conditioning.
Rating System

Trail attributes for each location are rated in “boots”.
“Wilderness Experience”
  • 1 boot – A heavily used public use area with little to no natural beauty. Wonderful place to be if there’s a chance of a unplanned dismount and you want paramedics called, less wonderful if you are looking to “get away from it all”.
  • 4 boots – Limited use with spectacular views. Probably not a great location if you are trying out a new, green horse as we might find your remains only after a long search with the help of a SAR dog...

“Boot Recommendation”

  • 1 boot – Good for bare hooves. Typically sand or dirt with no significant rocks or gravel.
  • 2 boots – Some rock or gravel that might be a challenge to a sensitive barefoot horse, or a long stretch of asphalt. Carry a set of boots on your saddle just in case.
  • 3 boots – I’ll probably chose to boot the front hooves, especially if I’m doing the ride at “endurance speed” of mostly trot. Gravel and/or rocks on a majority of the trails.
  • 4 boots – I’m likely to boot all four hooves especially at endurance conditioning speeds. Significant gravels or rocks or other challenging footing conditions

“Trail Difficulty”

  • 1 boot – Practically a flat canal bank. These trails, depending on use and visibility, may be good trails to do speed work or go out for a light hack on an unconditioned horse
  • 4 boots – are you conditioning for the Tevis? Trying to teach a horse to be a good navigator and keeper of their feet? These trails have single track, drop offs, boulders, low branches, and stream crossings – possibly all at the same time.


  • 1 boot – Nothing. No toilet, no hitching post.
  • 4 boots – Home away from home….kinda

“Value for Cost”

  • 1 boot – Why did you come here?
  • 4 boots – Incredible trail for practically free.


  • 1 boot – generally unsuitable for endurance conditioning rides
  • 4 boots – an incredible resource for conditioning for endurance rides.

Central California

Del Valle Livermore


Location: Livermore, CA

Website/Contact: East Bay Regional Parks

GPS tracks available?: Yes

Terrain Type: Hills

Footing Type: Majority hard packed jeep roads with some gravel. Some dirt single track.

Best endurance uses: Long training rides (20-30 miles), de-spooking, ponying a second horse, hill training, heat training (summer), winter conditioning.

Wilderness Experience: 3 boots

  • Depending on the season, day of the week, and what trails you chose your wilderness experience will vary between 1 and 3 boots. As I’ve never felt like I couldn’t get away from the majority of users if I wanted, I feel the 3 boot rating is fair, especially considering some of the magnificent views from the trails of the lake. I have encountered wildlife such as bobcats here when riding in the early morning before most of the trail users.

Booting: 2 boots (recreational pace)/3 boots (endurance pace)

  • If you know the trails, you can easily bring a barefoot horse here and stay on the softer dirt trails. But, because so much of the trail is hard packed road with some gravel and with significant up and down grades, I usually chose to boot the front hooves, especially when planning on a significant amount of trot and canter.

Trail Difficulty: 2 boots (jeep roads)/3 boots (single track)

  • Most trails in the park are wide trails with no other hazards beyond the incessant hills. Some of the single tracks can get technical, so be careful and make sure you are on a marked trail and not someone’s improvised wilderness excursion.
  • I haven’t found the maps that are provided to be especially helpful, except to let me know the locations of main trail heads.

Amenities: 3 boots

  • Depending on the staging area you use, you will have picnic tables, water troughs, flush toilets, and hitching posts.

Value: 3 boots

  • A good overall value, especially if using the day-use staging area.

Overall: 3 boots

  • For endurance conditioning, it doesn’t get much better than this. Just be aware that at peak use times this is a very popular running/biking/hiking/walking-the-dog spot. If you are looking to add hills into your repertoire, this is the place for you.

Pros: Mostly graded jeep roads that drain well, you can condition here all year long. There are some single track options that are very pretty, but use caution when using them after a storm – they are easily destroyed by hooves when they are wet. The roads are great for hill training and are wide enough with good footing to trot and canter, provided your horse is conditioned for hills. Visibility is good on most of the roads, but use caution going around corners, especially at speed, as these roads are multiple use and it’s very likely you could meet a bike coming the other direction! There are miles and miles of trails here and lots of options for multiple loops or a longer single loop combined with a lollipop. It’s very easy to do a 20-25 mile training ride here. Most roads are suitable for taking along a pony horse. Cost is reasonable if using the day use staging area. The scenery is beautiful and you can get some really interesting landscape photos. The header on the blog section of the website is a photo from a December ride at Del Valle.

Cons: It’s all hills – not many level sections to do speed work. Multi-use trail with a lot of non-equestrian users. There are some sections of trail that can get VERY steep. These are easily avoided once you are familiar with the trails. I usually dismount and walk these sections. Depending on the length of drive and your comfort level driving in traffic, it may only be practical to condition here on a monthly basis due to its bay area location. It’s expensive to pay the use fee at the main gate on a regular basis. It’s much more affordable to use the day use staging area (area 3 below), or if you are a resident in the east bay, to buy a season pass. Like most central California trails in midsummer, it can be hot Hot HOT – which is great if you are conditioning for Tevis. Some parts of the trail are more shaded than others.
Other Users: Expect to see bikes, cows, and dogs. Some trails that are away from the lake are used less and are a better option if you want to get away from the crowds.

There are 3 staging areas. Two are accessible from the main gate. The area numbers are mine and do not reflect any official designation. All staging areas connect through the trail network.

  • Area 1: The one on the opposite side of the lake from check in, next to the horse camping area is the most secluded and the best bet with a larger rig. It’s more primitive than the other staging areas, but with picnic tables and nice shade trees. The trails are not immediately obvious but there are more options for multiple loops and scenic trails. If you are riding on the Oholone wilderness trail, stage out of this area.
  • Area 2: Also assessable from the main gate, this area is located on the same side of the river as the check in station, near the boat launch. A nice tidy dirt staging areas complete with hitching posts. Several jeep roads lead out of this staging area.
  • Area 3: This is on the opposite end of the lake, in the day use area. The gravel parking lot is easily assessable, but not exactly easy to find, even with the directions provided by the park. My advice is to use a combination of written directions provided by the park and GPS coordinates. This area is day use only and requires cash to self pay. There’s only one trail out of the area and it starts off with a nice BIG hill – great if you have a fresh horse. There is a single track that you can ride on that follows the lake shoreline shortly after ascending the hill, however if you are a first time visitor, it is best to follow the main road. After a couple of miles several roads branch off and you can chose to go up in the hills away from the main traffic, or stick closer to the shore line.

Water: Water is available at each staging area and on the trail. The lake is not usually accessible on the trail so utilize the troughs when you find them.

Gates: There are periodic gates on the trails. The majority can be opened on horseback with a bit of patience, but I usually dismount.

Favorite Trail: Stage out of area one. Go through family camp, or (in low water) wade upstream and use the back trail to go around family camp (look for a trail on the left side of the stream/river). Then stay as close to the lake as possible until the wide jeep trail ends and follow trail through the gate on your right. When you are finished, either come back the way you came, or take one of the many trails back away from the lake and make a loop.

Lessons remembered and learned

It’s amazing how many disasters can be averted if I learn from past mistakes. Xmas 2008 Minx colicked for the first time. It was a cold snap, she had been out of work for a couple of days, and voila! - I had a bill for treatment of an impaction colic. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was given a chance to prove I had learned from that lesson.

I probably could have avoided Minx’s colic if I had kept her moving and in regular or even reduced work to stimulate appetite and thirst (horses are meant to move and standing around whatever our winter/holiday excuses has an impact on their digestive system) during the cold snap, made sure her gut was full of as much hay as she wanted, and kept an eye on her water consumption.

Ever since then, I’ve become more attuned to the weather and more conscious about mitigating risk factors. Heated troughs are nice and an aid in this situation, but not a necessity in this part of California – therefore many pastures and boarding facilities are not set up for them. With this not an option for me, I had to control the risk in other ways.

Lately we’ve been having a cold snap. I haven’t been worried – Farley has been kept in regular work and eating as much hay as she wants. As a result she’s been sucking down the water normally. However, over Thanksgiving I was planning on visiting family and not riding. I decided to bring Farley with me so I could monitor her and she could run around in a pasture for 4 days. Being out on pasture and being able to move around would reduce her chances of tying up when I put her back to work after the holiday, and keep her digestive system healthy and (hopefully) colic-free.

After 24 hours still Farley wasn’t drinking her normal amount of water. She was eating hay normally, going on regular gallops around the pasture but not drinking out of the trough.

Farley is used to her water being changed out every day or so and the tub scrubbed. She will drink out of troughs with leaves etc during a training ride, but as I looked at my parents huge troughs with leaves and fish in it, I had a revelation that perhaps she would prefer clean, fresh water. I filled up a bucket and set it next to the trough. When I came to check, the bucket was empty. For the rest of the holiday, as long as the bucket of clean water was available, she drank normally.

It’s hard to say definitely that I averted a colic disaster – however all the risk factors were there: a decrease in physical activity, a cold weather pattern, and reduced water intake. By being attentive to my horse’s needs, even though it meant a bit of good natured teasing from friends and family over the amount of pampering my horse gets, I made sure she stayed healthy.

She’s never refused to drink out of that trough before. I might have been because when she’s at my parents house, it’s usually because we are riding, or it’s in the middle of summer and it’s hot – both situations would trigger enough thirst for her to drink out of the trough regardless if it was her “preferred” choice.

In the course of remembering a lesson learned, I learned an additional lesson – when travelling or boarding, even if there’s water provided, I will be giving her a water option out of one of her personal buckets. Who knows what grief this lesson learned now will save me later?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Anniversary and in which Mel (kinda) falls off

Yesterday was a very special day for me and Farley - our anniversary date.

Three years ago, on the day before Thanksgiving I drove a trailer into the bay area to pick up a fuzzy little brown horse as my backup endurance horse, and my arena plaything.

I hadn't spent nearly as much money as I had budgeted and I wasn't convinced that she was going to be a very good arena horse, but I couldn't deny she was something special on the trail. Of course, I didn't discover how special until Minx died and I actually started regularly riding her for the first time in 1-1/2 years.

A lot has happened in 3 years - the fuzzy unknown horse used as a brood mare much of her life became a Tevis horse, a proven 100 miler horse, a solid-trustworthy endurance horse 120 miles shy of 1,000. She's training solidly at training level dressage and starting her lateral and 15 meter circle work. Yesterday she jumped beautifully and we are on target to squish 2 years of jump instruction into 7 months.

I'm constantly amazed by her attitude - she's solid performance horse who is a pleasure to be around on a day to day basis. She's even-tempered and isn't phased by long hours in the trailer, new places, or new activities.

She's also stayed suprisingly sound, considering I'm still figuring out the process of how to leg up a horse and keep them fit. There's been a couple of blips here and there, but in retrospect, very minor (compared to what they felt like at the time!). My vet says that all indications are she's going to continue to be a sound and useful horse for many years to come.

Shall we discuss how Farley decided to celebrate our anniversary yesterday? She bucked me off.

Willful, disobedient little fuzzy pony.

Although it's debatable whether it's actually considered a fall.....

She had bucked a couple of times post-jump in the lesson and I had gotten on to her for well as I could with trying to keep MY balance and position and still be effective. Then, after one particularly "fun" vertical (Farley thinks jumping is VERY fun) I got unbalanced enough that when she bucked I was catapulted out of the saddle.

The buck wasn't any worse than anything she had done before - I was just out of position.

Apparently, I decided in midair that I would do an emergency dismount - although, I don't remember anything between being in the air and landing on my feet beside her on the right side, reins and crop in hand - but that's what muscle memory and fitness will do for you - your body will do the right thing even if you don't make a conscious decision!

Landing on my feet still in control of my horse was very useful. I immediately ran towards her very aggressively moving her out of my space, similar to what I would have done if she had bit or tried to kick me.

It wouldn't have worked except the time between the bucking and the discipline was almost instantaneous (I didn't have to waste time getting up, catching her etc.). I was able to much more effectively prove my point on the ground than in the saddle.

I think she got the message. She didn't buck again and gave me 2 very nice, clean rounds without even a hint of bucking. Just nice balanced cantering before and after the jumps. The kind of round that we quit the lesson on and I couldn't wipe the smile off my face afterwards.

So it finally happened - but it happened in a way that was probably the best possible outcome. Maybe I was able to effectively demonstrate how unhappy I was enough that she knocks it off? Possibly. I'll keep you posted. It better have worked because I very much doubt I'll be able to pull off that particular gymnastic stunt in the future!

Happy 3 year anniversary Farley!

Happy Turkey Day Everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Made in America! Response

As I don’t have commenting ability here at work, here is the continuation of the Made in America! Post in response to comments.

First off – I want to make this clear: I am NOT doing this to prove a point about any humanitarian conditions. Period. To be honest, I don’t care enough about that aspect to be motivating to do something hard and difficult. Not to mention that buying American made goods to protest humanitarian conditions in other countries is making judgments that I feel I am neither knowledgeable or educated enough to do. Finally – to protest humanitarian conditions in other countries, and to be consistent in doing so means that the entire supply chain is in question. It’s also not about supporting the American economy – otherwise buying foreign isn’t a problem – foreign goods still help American businesses. It’s about something more intangible that I’m having a problem defining right now.

Of course – this is where I am now. At the end of the year, I may look at the issue very differently – which is why my first post on the subject is very general and non-specific. Until I’ve lived it, I’m not going to understand the issue thoroughly enough to have a real opinion.

I’m so happy everyone took the time to comment! What that means is I get to explore some questions that I’m curious about, but I didn’t want to make judgments on right away in my first post on the subject. Such as:
  • How do I feel about buying used? Ie – can I buy a jacket in a thrift store that isn’t made in America if I can buy an American made jacket new?
  • What exactly, in today’s “global economy” (I hate this phrase and will be using a different one as soon as I can think of one!), does “Made in America” or any other country actually MEAN? Is it the manufacturing process that’s the most important, or origin of ingredients? Clothes come to mind specifically – most fabrics will come from overseas – but most other raw materials like biothane.
  • Buying something foreign still supports American companies. Is it right/consistent to exclude those companies? What about buying a made-in-America good that is manufactured by an American Company that also manufactures and sells good in the US that are manufactured overseas? Or what about a foreign company that manufactures their products here in the US and sells them here (Toyota is a good example)
  • Why should I support my country to the exclusion of others? Is this a fair view that is consistent with the other areas of my life?
  • If I do decide that buying American as much as possible is important to me – WHY is it important to me? If it isn’t humanitarian-based or economics, why is it important at all?

Those of you that brought up those very issues and described the whole idea as “complicated” are absolutely right! It IS complicated. I currently work for a manufacturing company whose emphasis is on local and quality. I shrugged off the importance of local (and really, buying American goods is an expansion of local) and quality until working here for 5 years. Now I’m not so sure the bottom line is my best guiding factor as a buying consumer. Working through some of the bulleted issues outlined above will be interesting, no matter what decisions I make in the end.

Consistency is very important in my life.

  • I may decide there is no way to be consistent in this and it doesn't really matter to me - and I will go back to deciding that the bottom line is my best decision maker when I purchase something.
  • I may discover that this issue really does matter to me and continue to do the “best I can” and be the most educated consumer that I can be.

I think I answered most of the concerns/comments here. One additional note to the anonymous commenter regarding vegetables – I’m very lucky to live in California which makes eating local/US veggies extremely easy. I already make a point to only eat US vegetables, as I work in the food industry and have come to mistrust veggies etc. that are coming out of places like Mexico.

I will not achieve total consistency even if what/where I buy DOES become very important to me – the global community “web” is too complicated. However, I feel it is best to have a few guiding principles and then really consider WHY there is an exception to the rule, rather than to not have thought about it at all.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Made in America!

I think I’m going to try an experiment for the next year. I think I’m going to try to buy only made in America. In the past the most important thing has been my bottom line, but now I’m realizing that maybe the most important thing is not necessarily to save every penny I can. I understand the global community is important for knowledge and development – but I think it’s important for me to evaluate whether I’m dismissing American goods that are comparable to the popular foreign good that I’m buying, without even a giving the American product a chance. By making the commitment to buy American wherever possible for the next year, it will force me to evaluate my choices and decide whether I am indeed making the best choices as a consumer. Maybe nothing will change, but just maybe I’ll be more educated about my choices and options.

I expect to learn a lot.

I think it’s going to be fun.

I think it’s going to be hard work.

I think I may decide that some stuff isn’t important enough for me to buy foreign when I find out there’s isn’t an American alternative.

After some research, I’ll probably make the decision to continue to buy some non-made in American goods. As a result, I’ll appreciate that product even more because I chose it based the knowledge that it’s a superior product in regards to innovation/workmanship/quality and it has no equal here in the States. I’m not buying it purely because of price point. It’s not fair for me to say “but there’s no quality (fill in the blank) made in America!” when I haven’t really even looked!

This is where I am right now: “I wonder how it would be to try and buy American for the next year”. These are my guesses as I sit in my chair, rolling this thought around – stream of consciousness style! (and yes, I’ll do a periodic update and let you know how it’s going once the project begins)
  • Clothes are going to be hard to find. On the other hand – thank goodness I recently updated my work wardrobe. I may not be to buy clothes for an entire year! Mmmm…I’ll save $$ there which is good since I’m probably going to pay more for everything else. Isn’t Kerrits American based?
  • Horse equipment is going to be hard. Do American made quality leather goods even EXIST????????? I wonder where my Stubben bit I love is made? My Toklet bit? What about the other brands I love – SSG, FITS, Tropical Rider, Ariat? Mmmm…..this is not looking good.
  • Thank Goodness I don’t have to replace my running shoes for a while! Do running shoes made in the US even exist?????????
  • I went to the tack store to pick up some items the other day. The score? Dressage pad – made in India, Irons – made in Korea, Shirt – made in Thailand, Girth – unknown. Mmm…

Friday, November 19, 2010


As I start approaching jumping seriously, I’m reminded why I LOVE learning new things – it gives me all sorts of insight into things I already do! Not to mention that if as a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, learning to jump fulfills that “rush need” in my life, than it’s a rather healthy way to do it eh?

Revelation # (who the heck cares about what Rev # this is anyways!)
Most likely you are worried about the wrong thing.

The Jump Scenario: I’m looking at the fence instead of riding my flat work. Want to guess how that worked out? Ummm….actually way worse than even that….
The endurance scenario: You are worried about the drop off that is RIGHT THERE instead of riding your horse evenly, and forward, and relaxed. Chances you are AREN’T going to fall off the cliff. Chances are you WILL have a sore horse by the end of a 100 miles because you weren’t riding.

Revelation #
It went wrong WAY before you thought it went wrong.

The Jump Scenario: Why did you almost get bucked off after that fence and hit the dirt? Ummm….because I half halted at the base of the fence and she was rushing and then I sort of tried to grab mane and I left my eye on the fence…..No! It was because by the second stride off the fence before that one she was bouncing off your leg from side to side like a ping pong ball! Oh….
The endurance scenario: “I tried to slow down in the second half of the race – she stopped eating and drinking at mile 25.” Actually, you were in trouble at mile 10 when she took 20 minutes to come to pulse instead of her normal 5 for those conditions.

On the topic of jumping, let me just say I’m not sure I’m going to survive the experience of learning to jump on Farley! She certainly is giving this her all. The pony is jumping rather well….the rider…not so much.

It would be nice if she didn’t have quite so much….enthusiasm for the task. Oh yes! She enjoys the new game of what amounts to legal airs above ground! She actually JUMPED during this lesson – tucked her little legs and bounded over the bars like a little bunny. None of that sissy half-assed (which I rather liked) pop over the poles like she’s been doing at previous lessons!

It doesn’t help that she’s a bucker – this isn’t a new thing – it tends to pop up when she gets to try something new she particular likes. I know from experience if I ignore it, it will resolve and stop on its own fairly quickly. If I make a big deal out of it, it will just get worse. The trick is to stay on top while she works it out. They are happy bucks and when I get off balance, she (usually) stops. Thank goodness. At one point during the lesson my trainer thinks I stayed in the saddle today out of an unusually strong sense of preservation but actually, Farley stopped bucking and let me extract myself from her mane and screw my head on straight.

And to be perfectly honest – the only time she bucks is when I do something wrong. Once I fix it, she never bucks in that circumstance again. For example – when I was learning to canter - if I learned forward in the transition she would buck. If I kept my weight back, she gave me the transition. Now, it would be highly unusual if she offered to buck during a transition.

Currently she is trying to teach me:
  • Stop slamming my butt into the saddle during the landing
  • Stop sitting in the air and getting left behind the motion during the jump
  • Stop looking at the ground and leaning forward in the landing!

As long as I minded my p’s and q’s she behaved quite marvelously (for example – our last line of 2 jumps was actually quite pretty, all because I focused on keeping my eyes and butt up!). For our first serious jump lesson I thought it went well.

In summary – thank goodness I’m learning this particular skill at 25 instead of 52!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Writing for a different audience

Every 3rd Saturday I write for a different audience - Californian's that love bluegrass and old-time as much as I do. My article got published early, so it got posted today (Thursday).

If you are interested in a change of topic, head on over to the CBA website (mine should be posted today).

2011 Goals

For 2011 my focus is changing – some sort of schooling is in my future and as a result my income and the way my single life is set up is going to radically change. Change isn’t bad…..but it will….well…change things, including the type of goals I have for me and Farley.

In case you think this post comes a bit early….the ride season for most of the organizations I belong too ends in November, so I tend to think of my “horse year” as November to November!

My endurance goals are simple –
  • Go to rides I’ve never been to before and have fun
  • Farley is 120 miles from her 1,000 mile mark – get her there happy and sound
  • Complete all 3 of the Nevada “Triple Crown” Endurance rides – The Nevada Derby 50, NASTR 75, Virginia City 100. I’ve never been to any of the 3 rides, and the total mileage exceeds 120, so this fulfills my first 2 goals.

I won’t go to as many rides this year. Tevis is not in the plan – I had so much fun at the Patriot’s 100, I’ll return there in July and give Farley, myself, and my crew a break. I’m sure I’ll miss the Tevis – there’s something magical about that ride – in fact I miss it already. Farley had a busy year and we will both be enjoying more down time.

Dressage, Jumping, & Eventing
The first 6 months of 2011 will potentially be the last time I will take regular lessons for a long time. Lessons are a commitment in time and money, two commodities that might look very different for the next 5-6 years.

  • I have made some sacrifices and moved items around to allow for 2 lessons a week – a dressage lesson, and a jump lesson – through at least April.
  • I firmly believe dressage is the secret to longevity in the horse, through both work done on horse and rider. By the time I enter school, I want to be firmly schooling at first level and have enough “tools in the tool box” to continue reinforcing correct work in Farley, and if I get another horse, start basic correct dressage with the new one. The focus will be less on showing dressage this year, which will leave more $$ for lessons and learning.
  • Continuing in my promise to Farley to do something “new and fun” for the next couple of months, I’ve committed to an extra lesson a week, jumping. Farley enjoys it and it’s a skill we should both have. You should see her ears perk up when she realizes we are going to jump instead of do dressage on lesson days! We won’t be stellar in 6 months, but hopefully proficient.
  • Do a 3 day event. Besides a few local schooling “fun” shows, this 3 day event will probably be one of the few “real” shows I do this year. The focus will be on having fun, being technically correct, and expanding my knowledge base about horses, conditioning, and biomechanics.

Overall Horse Goals
  • Stay barefoot. I have had tremendous success this year and in part it was due to being barefoot. Not necessarily because she wasn’t wearing steel, but because having a barefoot performance horse forced me to be extra attentive to those small details – which in turn made a large difference in overall performance.
  • Invest in knowledge. Meaning, spend my $$ this year in lessons and clinics and other activities that will help me advance my knowledge base. Spend less on tack, saddles, gadgets, and “stuff”. Realistically, I have everything I need to ride and enjoy my horse. Try to make do (where I can safely) rather than buy new.
  • Expand my website,, into an endurance resource that is useful for the new rider, and provides continuing education for the more experienced rider.

What does 2011 look like for you? Any radical changes expected? Are you picking up a new sport? Starting a new horse? Doing something completely different?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Recent events in my personal life have confirmed how important security and privacy are. I think we all know what we *should* be doing to stay safe, even if we chose not to follow the guidelines all the time.

However, when it comes to our horses, I’ve noticed is that even the most security conscious among us don’t apply some basic, common sense security measures! We may have a loud barking dog in our yard, or carry our car keys as daggers on the way to the truck, or lock our front door EVERY time, but leave our barns and paddocks wide open….

One of the best things about boarding at a privately owned stable is the opportunity to learn from other’s mistakes. To date, nothing serious involving the actual horses has ever happened. However, a string of more minor incidents - halters stolen off of fences, buckets stolen from paddocks, hotwire boxes removed (a $200 value!) – has opened my eyes to what could happen.

It’s not wise to detail all your security measures online – Let’s share information and suggestions but please don’t share particulars!

Halters on fences – most security measures have tradeoffs, and where you keep your halters is no exception. The pros of keeping a halter on a fence or gate? - every day convenience, and insurance in the case of an emergency. The cons? – stolen halters and convenience for horse thieves. My compromise is to stash halters in places like my truck, horse trailer, tack room, and in a feed barrel that is located close to the main house and removed from the horse area. In an emergency evacuation it may cost me precious minutes to grab a halter, but at least I’m not inviting thieves to lead my horse away.

Too much information – Sure, you want to brag on your special mount and your accomplishments together, but I’m not sure posting your ribbons etc. on the horse’s paddock is wise. Why point out that your horse is the most special horse in the barn? If thieves ever come through my stable, I hoping they skip right past the unadorned paddock with the small brown horse and grab the flashy paint with the personalized sign and blue ribbons hanging from the gate! I don’t post my name or my horse’s name on the paddock – I would consider posting “Owner’s cell: xxx-xxx-xxxx” but don’t currently. That way if someone is specifically targeting me or my horses – they better have d*mn good information. There are a lot of brown arabs that are boarded around Farley and I’m not going to point them in the right direction.

Fencing – Giving horse’s access to the edge of the property is a risk, depending on what is on the other side of your fence line. If I was in a rural area, with fences not easily cut or breached, I wouldn’t worry about it. But, I’m not, and I have to consider that if Farley is in certain pens, one or more of her paddock fences is also the property fence. Aside from the security risk – consider the health risk to your horse. I see people stopping all the time on the side of the road and hopping out to get a closer look at the horses. What might they potentially be feeding to your horse? Ideally I like the idea of a 10 foot (or more) buffer zone between my horses and perimeter fencing if I’m in a not-so-rural area. With maybe some loud barking dogs in that buffer zone.

Fencing part 2 – while we are on the subject of fencing, let’s talk about fencing integrity. Some types of fencing are going to hold up better than others to tampering. No climb wire fencing with board reinforcements? Not such an easy target. Electric tape fencing? Easy to breach and create a gate anywhere along it. Not to mention when someone steals your electrical box you may have a free-roaming horse disaster!

Gates – another security tradeoff. You can lock your gates and risk you or emergency personnel not having access when needed. You can minimize gates leading out of the property and risk getting stuck in an emergency inside the property. I think a good compromise is to have one main gate and several (number to depend on the amount of horses on the property and how the property is situated) back up gates. All gates should have sufficient lighting and be free of trees and any other “concealment”. Another strategy would be to “camoflauge” the gate, but I like the idea of visibility better). Heavy chains and locks would complete ensemble. I might even consider something high-tech like a motion detector for the gates that would set off an alarm in the house if I was in a “problem” area and didn’t have a good dog.

Other considerations – there are many other things you can do to secure your horse property – motion lights, solar lights (so you don’t spend $$ on lighting), dogs, cameras, and signs notifying potential thieves of some of the measures you’ve taken (area is monitored by camera) or that your horse’s are permanently ID’ed. At a recent incident, I had a 5 gallon bucket stolen that I kept by the paddock that I used to soak feed. The bucket was probably taken to carry the “goods” taken from people around me – expensive supplements, halters, and feed pans.

My ideal property – assuming that my (future) property is not ideally located and I need to take precautions, I think this is what I would do (in general, and assuming I had the $$).
  • My barns and paddocks would be located centrally on the property.
  • Any pastures that were on the property would have a 10 foot buffer between the pasture and perimeter fencing.
  • The area around the barns and paddocks would be as open as possible.
  • I would have large barking dogs
  • Any auxiliary gates would be chained, padlocked, and be sturdy. No bushes or trees, and lighted if possible.
  • Perimeter fencing to be tall, no climb type, with board reinforcements. Removed or non visible pastures to have “permanent” type fencing.
  • Halters not left out.
  • Large signs that say things like “all horses on this property permanently ID’ed”.
  • Grain locked away (should be done in case a horse gets out anyways….but again, one less tool available for unsavory characters).
  • Large buckets and carts put away so that they are not in plain sight.

Most people will probably never have a security issue with their horses. Hopefully, most of you live in an area where you don’t have to worry about it. Unfortunately in California it’s becoming more and more difficult to find affordable horse property that is protected by virtue of location. I refuse to live my life in daily fear, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take simple precautions to protect my horse – if a casual habit increases my risk, why not do things differently? The truth is that is someone wants to hurt you or your horse bad enough, they will find a way, however we can easily limit temptation to the casual criminal.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Last Show and 2010 Recap

And so the Season ended as it began....

In endurance, the season began with a successful 100 and ended with a successful 100.

In dressage, the season began with me ignoring my reader, and ended with me being a complete space cadet and ignoring my reader AGAIN!

The show was fun. It was a combined show with a dressage portion and a stadium jump portion.

I decided to do the Intro B Walk/Trot dressage, which was paired with a cross bar (18") jump course - something I thought we were capable of doing! In dressage, Farley was wonderfully forward and stretching down to the bit. In fact, I was so absorbed by how good she felt I just sort of got confused between left and right.....My reader looked at me in disbelief as I merrily trotted down center line and turned....right. A bell to signal that I was off course, a sigh, and then a few laughs.

Even with the error, I was still in first place after the dressage portion! All I had to do was jump clean.....

I entered the poles class to give Farley and I a look at the course prior to our "real" class. Farley was very good - nary a buck! We were READY.

Farley and I have had 3 or 4 jump lessons....over the course of a year. One of those was Wednesday when I jumped a course for the first time. She alternated the entire lesson between:
  • Trying to buck me off
  • Refusing and ducking out
  • Grabbing the bit and galloping around like an idiot
As a result, I didn't expect great things and had even promised the audience an entertaining run!

Ready-set-WHISTLE and we were off.

Fence 1 went well, then fence 2 - hey we were cantering! Fence 3 came and went and I made a deep corner for fence 4 with my eye already on fence 5. And then....she stopped at fence 5. I kicked and made encouraging noises and we got over it from a standstill. The rest of the course (9 fences altogether) went well enough to not be an embarrassment to my trainer. I was so proud of my girl!

My trainer came up to me afterwards and explained that the stop would have to be counted as a refusal because she took a tiny step sideways and broke "the plane of her body". There went our first place! Oh well - Some of the fault was mine (I let my eye linger on the fence, probably didn't correct her fast enough when she got behind my leg coming up the fence), and some of it was just that she's a really green jumper. We had a good run nevertheless and I think we'll jump more in the next year!

And that's it folks! The last show or ride of the 2011 season....which means it's time for the yearly recap!

Original 2011 goal post can be found here.

Let's start with the "realistic" goals
  • Complete first 100 mile ride - Whoo hoo! I did THREE!!!!!!
  • Start competing training level at recognized shows - did so twice, with disappointing results. The judges I drew had a LOT to do with it, but I'm taking it as a lesson in humility: I'm sure there will be times I get higher scores than I deserve!
  • Earn my 750 mile patch - completed, received, and in the pic album
  • Farley to 500 Endurance AERC miles - yep, there and beyond
  • Complete a 3 day 155 mile ride - yep, no problems there!
  • Compete at a recognized show - yep....
  • Don't go off course - Well....I had this one in the bag...and then did a silly right turn in a recent schooling show. Maybe I need to wear two colors of gloves? Red for the right, white for the left? :)
  • Don't get lost on a ride - due to a not so cool competing event, me and my friend Kathy actually got lost/on the wrong trail at TEVIS. So technically I did get lost!
  • Mark trail or take down ribbons - this didn't happen.
Unrealistic goals!
  • 1000 mile patch - did it by the skin of my chinny-chin-chin. Patriots was 1000 miles!
  • Regional amature champs - ummm...not even close.
  • Schooling first level dressage - I started my lateral work this summer so I'm counting this as completed!
  • Barefoot all year - success, Success, SUCCESS
  • Finish Tevis - Whoo hoo!
  • Farley to the Bronze level in the 100 mile AERC incentive program - Oh Yeah! 3 completions in the 100's this year!
So in conclusion - a really really really good year. In fact, a better year than I have a right to deserve ever again.

Thank you Farley! Thank you blog readers and endurance e-mail list people. Thank you to my friends, family, and boyfriend that have been so tolerant this past year! Last but not least, I would like to thank God for keeping me and Farley safe this year. Horse riding is so dangerous - let's not ever kid ourselves. Every ride we dismount whole and healthy is a good ride. The fact I've ridden thousands of miles without a serious injury just means that sooner or later it will happen - just not this season.

Friday, November 12, 2010

And yet there's more!

Head on over to ~C's blog for a continuation of "you might be an endurance rider is...."!

Blog is here!

Another post recommendation!

Yet another post recommendation - here.

I'm obviously catching up on my blog reading!

Free choice hay

Here's a light hearted post on feeding free choice hay.

Farley is doing very very well on free choice grass hay. I would count my decision to go to free choice on the grass among one of the most important horse-management decisions I've made. Now that the weather is getting colder, I think I need to up her beetpulp and perhaps add 3-5 pounds of alfalfa a day - staying ahead of a weight problem is so much easier than trying to put significant weight on a horse!

You might be an endurance rider....

What sets endurance riders apart from the other horse disciplines? I know that when I found endurance and went to my first ride, my first reaction was “here’s where all the horse people like ME were hiding!” How you know that you are an endurance rider? Here’s a simple list that will help YOU decide.

  • When faced with a long stretch of muddy unimproved road, in a 2WD truck, pulling a trailer – you yell “hang on” to your horse, close your eyes, and hit the gas. And secretly, you enjoy it.
  • You hear the word “strap-on” and think “boot”, not….er...well….we won’t go there…
  • You think a fine use of your remote key is to check your trailer lights.
  • Horse blankets are viewed as extra insurance on a cold night – for yourself. In fact, when your parents and crew forget their sleeping bags, you offer them the choice of a wool cooler, or medium weight size 78 blanket.
  • Your idea of cleaning tack is spraying everything off with a power washer once a year.
  • You’re confused when you can’t find your “clip” in the popular magazines. Doesn’t everyone clip for maximum cooling and sponging efficiency?
  • Your trainer refers to your horse as a goat, and then you realize that she’s talking about the hairs under your horse’s chin, not her uncanny ability to navigate difficult terrain.

I’m sure you guys can add more!

I’m showing in a super casual combined show this weekend. Should be interesting….Somehow Farley and I will navigate an 18” cross bar course without embarrassing ourselves. Although I’m not reassured by my most recent lesson. Have you ever seen the cartoons of little kids on fat ponies when jumping? How there’s a ‘whole lot of sky between their bottoms and the saddle? And their feet sticking out to the side? And the rather startled look on both the rider and horse’s face?

Last Wednesday, Farley was a bit full of herself – my point and shoot pony of previous jump lessons was gone, replaced by a wild thing that alternated trying to duck out of jumps, and then take 2 jumps in a line at a full gallop (half halt, half halt, HALF HALT, OH CRAP WE ARE GOING LONG!). It’s never a good sign when your instructor yells “keep going! That buck is entertainment value for the crowd!”. Then tries to convince me that there will be “plenty” of people at this show that have never jumped before this week doing the cross bars.

In attempt to not look like a complete idiot during the show, during my canal ride yesterday, I rode in my half seat and 2-point, trying to hold the position and look pretty and balanced. Half way through the ride I dropped my stirrups back into dressage length and it was amazing – my legs were like noodles and my leg/heel/foot wanted nothing more than to drape elegantly around Farley’s barrel. Apparently the secret to a “drapey” leg is to hold a half seat or two point at trot/canter for 25 minutes. Did I mention I can barely walk today? *sigh* It doesn't help that Farley has decided bounding over jumps like a gazelle is perferable to jumping with any sort of scope what-so-ever! There will NOT be vidoes of this weekend!

BTW - thanks for all of you that commented on my 100 mile eating post. Your ideas are really going to help! I can't comment directly because of my work internet access, but I got every single one of your comments!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mel's first ride

Thought you guys might enjoy some pictures I came across - my very first endurance ride.
My my how far we've come!  This is for everyone who's just starting out, who may be getting discouraged because it seems like I have my act together.
Folks - I'm here to tell you that I STILL don't have it together, I'm just better at hiding it nowadays!  A post coming soon on what I've had to let go in order to keep my sanity and ride 100's. 
(many thanks to my aunt Sharlene from "an unknown Tevis rider" blog who attended my first ride and took these pics!"
PS - if you think the pics are bad - I really should tell you the entire story.  At one point my aunt dumped horse electrolytes on a piece of bread and told me to eat up.....LOL.