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Sunday, January 31, 2010


Endurance Granny asked whether Farley's feet were still transitioning, and whether or not I would start doing rides without boots.

My first instinct was to shoot off an e-mail stating that doing 50+ miles out west is not usually possible yada yada yada. After sending it, I realized I hadn't actually answered her question.....

Question: Are Farley's hooves still transitioning?

Answer: The short answer is yes. I was lucky Farley didn't go through a period of sensitivity when I pulled her shoes. Apart from a short battle with thrush, she has never shown sensitivity over any terrain, but I still consider her transitioning because the quarters on the right front are still have some dirt at the white line (it's not completely tight). I'm also watching her right hind closely. As we continue to work and condition, the old injury has changed as the hoof has gotten softer in this wet weather. The farrier looked at it and did some digging around on Thursday and it's fine so far. I'm also monitoring her LF (club) foot closely. It has a toe flare, and I noticed some stress rings last week. On Thursday, during the trim, there was also the 2 bruises on the front toes that I blogged out previously......I will only be content that I have addressed the problem that caused them if I don't see another set of toe bruises for the rest of the year. Overall, I'm very happy - her hooves are round and concave and there's no sign of thrush - but I don't consider her fully transitioned quite yet.

I have a feeling that being barefoot and dealing with the ever changing foot is a ongoing process, however, once I have 4 tight white lines, I will be more comfortable declaring her "transitioned".

Question: Once she is transitioned will you compete barefoot?

Answer: Again, the short answer is no. There are a couple of reasons.
  • For those of you that don't live in the western region, it's rough country. While there are a few exceptions, most rides are rocky rocky rocky. Where it's isn't rocky, it's usually hard packed jeap roads with little pieces of gravel. Because there's so little good footing, you have to make up time by trotting sections of not-so-good trail. My rule of thumb is to trot rocky sections as long as the rocks are no bigger than my fist and don't roll around......Having the extra protection of boots in terrain like this (or shoes) is worth the cost. I do ride my conditioning rides barefoot, however I can get away with it because anything that isn't perfect footing I can walk without risking overtime.
  • Am I willing to risk my $100+ entry fee to go If I lose all 4 boots in a ride, can I finish the ride with a sound horse? Absolutely, if I don't hit absolutely dismal footing. Because how the old injury is on her RH, it has a higher probability of breaking and peeling off the hoof like a hangnail, if a rock hits it just right. Not worth it if I have an alternative.
Other thoughts:

So far I have done my entrance and exit vet exams barefoot. I would consider pulling the boots if I did a ride in the Pacific Southwest with excellent footing, such as Git-R-Done. I will continue to condition barefoot, and I will consider Farley unsound if she's only sound in boots.

However, just like anything else I post, my opinion could change! When I started endurance, I decided barefoot and boots were not for me. It was only after the renegade boots became available to the general public that it was doable. Something might come on the market or some other new development might come along that convinces me that I can start doing some of my rides barefoot, but for right now, even if she was transitioned, there's just too many strikes against going fully barefoot on the western region rides. I could probably get away with it if I went slower and was willing to complete a ride with a minimum of trotting and walked as much as I could.....but what if I got behind time and needed to make up time? and I really don't like walking - it's hard on my back. And I get bored. And honestly - after 8-9 hours for a 50 miler, I'm ready to be done. I don't feel the same way on the longer races so it's definitely mental. And I don't think a 12 hour fifty is necessarily easier on the horse than a 7-9 hour fifty.

Anyway - you get the picture. For a multitude of reasons, I'm not ready to go bootless at a ride.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

My favorite new (cheap) toy

Before I get into today's topic, I wanted to extend a public thank you to Giselle of Hairloom Treasures. Shortly after Minx's death I ordered a bracelet made with her tail hair, with a engraved plate with her name.

During the Tevis, the end near one of the clasps started to fray, and one of the clasps wasn't holding the plate very well, allowing the bracelet to unfasten unpredictably. I (predicatably) didn't get around to asking Giselle if she could repair it until January....6 months after I originally put it away because of damage, and almost a year after I ordered it.

One reason I love ordering from small vendors is the customer service. She apologized profusely for the bracelet failing. She let me know she had discontinued the style due to durability concerns, but that she would be happy to repair it. I sent it in, and less than 2 weeks later, my bracelet was back, good as new. I highly reccomend Hairloom Treasures if you are looking for a special rememberance of a special horse. She puts a special touch with each project and the customer service can't be beat. I'm not getting paid or compensated for this review in any way, just a very happy customer!

Back to regular programming - my new favorite product is.....(drum roll).....the battery operated glow stick!

OK OK OK I hear sighs of dissapointment. "What's this", you say? "I'm suppose to be excited about a glowbar?". Why yes you are. Because it is so. very. cool. Trust me.

Glow bars are $1-2 dollars apeice. They are small. Once you snap them, you have light and there's no way of turning them off.

There is a better way!!!!!!

I introduce the battery operated glow bar! Let's examine the positives.
  • 200 hours of operation for $5
  • It has a flashlight on the end of it.
  • You can turn it on and off as needed.
I'm very excited. I don't like riding with light at night, however I want it available if I need it. Currently, I put snap glowbars on my breast collar, but don't snap them unless I have to. I'm planning on using the battery glowsticks in the same way. All I need to do is lean down to push the button when I need the light....and (here's the good part) I can push the button when I'm done with the light. I also like the idea of having a flashlight if I lose my head lamp.

It also have a built in whistle, however I don't really care, so I didnt' put that as an advantage.

They sell at Target in several different colors including green, yellow, and red. I bought a green one and they are suprisingly bright.

Blog Birthday -1 year

Today marks the one year anniversary of my blog! I can hardly believe I've been blogging that long. I've never thought of myself as a writer, but now it's become one of the true joys in my life, right up there with fiddling, horses, and running.

I tried to find some statistics about the average length of a blog and when a blog typically gets abonandoned. I couldn't find any hard information, but got the impression that the majority of blogs have the lifespan of a fruit fly. One of the articles mentioned that that although the majority of blogs are "abonaded" early on, they found some that were a couple years old that appeared to be abondaned. I can't imagine stopping blogging without saying good bye. If I die a tragic death I really hope a family member comes on and tells you what happened!

But I digress.

At the beginning of January 2009 I discovered blogs - that is other people's blogs. After reading blogs for a month, I decided to start my own. Here is my original blog list - the blogs that inspired me to blog:
  • Endurance Granny
  • Karen's Musing's and Endurance Ride Stuff
  • Go Pony
  • Cake Wrecks
  • Fugly Horse of the Day
Once I started blogging I quickly started adding to my reading list. Some early additions and "blogging friends" were:
  • Adventures on Arabee
  • Living in a Zoo
  • A Horse and a Half
  • mugwump chronicles
Of course, now my reading list is much longer and I even have MORE blogs to add as people comment and I check out their blogs.

Each blog I read, I analyze - what do I like and what annoys me? I loved Nat the Fat Rat technique of using different font sizes. Citizen Horse and Behind the Bit taught me the importance of formatting. Mugwump and Glenshee Equestrian Center showed me different techniques to tell a story. Busy blogs and busy backgrounds and colors annoy me, which is why my blog page is so simplistic.

And then I met even more friends! AareneX from Haiku Farms and Funder from "it seemed like a good idea at the time..." and the many more regular commenters here (Heather, Zach, JB, etc etc!)

By the way - all the blogs I mention here are on my side bar - please check them out!

A lot has happened in a year. A LOT. If you are a new reader, here's a link to my 200th post that describes part of the "happenings". Already in 2010 I've done something completely new (worked a cow) and I'm looking forward to my first recognized dressage show in 2 weeks, and my first 100 mile completion (crossed fingers) in 4 weeks.

I chose my title "Boots and Saddles" because it meant so much - a bugle call, a link to history, a link to music, horses, riding - everything I thought my blog would be about. I thought I was going to be so clever - each post would represent the name of a bugle call - "first call" etc.

I was determined NOT to do a personal, diary type blog. It was going to be full of information and useful facts.....but after reading more and more blogs I started to understand that I could have an entertaining and informative blog that also was personal.

I begin to regret I didn't have an "Etc." in my title....

Of course, 6 months after my blog started I thought of the perfect title: A Horse Off Course. Oh well. I replaced my first tag line "so much more than a bugle call", with "a horse off course".

My philosophy of blogging is to keep very focused. This blog is not the story of my life. It is focused on a very small section of my life, and then only those things that make a good story (most of the time).

I think the biggest compliment I get on my blog is when non-horsey people tell me how much they enjoy reading the posts. It's one thing to appeal to the rest of the crazy, insane horsey world, but entertaining the non-horsey population, using horses as my vessel is very flattering.

Off to write real posts instead of ego serving, self satisfactory one!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Liar Liar pants on fire

My particular moral compass that lets me take an extra tea bag from a restraunt without guilt, forbids me from lying.  I will wheedle, skirt around, and otherwise distract the asker, but when it comes right down to it, I try to avoid lying at all costs.
I really really really like my farrier.  He does a great job.  He's easy on the eyes.  He's non judgemental (or rather, he won't say anything, even though you know he dissagrees because he gets quiet).  He's good with the horses.  He's mostly on time.  He's polite and has a wonderful smile.  He's more than just competent at trimming and shoeing - he's fantastic. 
As with any professional I like, I want his respect. 
When he took off Farley's shoes in September, we talked about people who kept their horses barefoot at all costs (even if the horse was paying the price) and we both agreed that the barefoot extreme does no one any good.  I did not tell him I was planning on "going barefoot".
When he trimmed Farley in October, we talked about how it's good to let a horse to go barefoot when off work.  I showed him my renegades and he trimmed the back of my LF boot for me.  I did not tell him of my intention of riding a 50 barefoot and casually mentioned my next 100 was in February. 
Today he casually asked when my next ride was.  I dithered around and told him the end of February.  I started to make excuses of how I didn't know for sure because we hadn't ridden for 2 weeks, she had taken some funny steps 2 weeks ago etc etc.
Then I stopped. 
This was silly.
I wasn't fooling anyone.  Chances are I AM going to 20 mule team.  Chances are I'm doing it barefoot.  I need the farrier on my side.
I told Mike I didn't know whether I was going to shoe for the 100 mile race in February.
I told Mike I had ridden 2 50's in the fall barefoot.
Then I told him that if Farley told me she needed shoes, I would put them on.  And if he saw something, and he thought I should put shoes on, I would listen. 
His only comment was: "It's good to keep shoes off a horse as long as they are doing OK with the work".  (or something like that.  I was so nervous at this point I don't really remember the exact wording...) 
Whooo Hoooo!   What a relief.  He says her feet look great.  I watched him carefully as he trimmed.  Even though he trims the frog more than I would like, he didn't touch the sole.  He told me that I was letting the heel on the LF get to long, and the toe on the RF run away.  He doesn't seem to mind that I'm rasping between visits. 
I let him know I have no intention of being the sole provider for my horses feet, and even if I do much of my own trimming/rasping, I will still be paying him to look at her feet every 9-12 weeks because I value his professional opinion and his eye. 
I'm feeling good!

Feet, lumps, and pads

For you non-horsey people that are reading my blog, today's post is thoroughly boring, horse-related, and uninspired.  I apologize in advance.
Bump update:  I think Crysta is right - those bumps on her back are "heat" bumps.  From the google searches I've done (I know - highly scientific and I'm sure any vets reading this are wincing) the description matches better than the collagen bumps.  Most of the collagen bump descriptions center around hard pea-sized bumps, while Farley's lumps more resemble hives (but aren't).  There are a couple of suggestions, including not removing the saddle pad right away and letting the back cool down gradually.  I haven't gotten a chance to look at Karen's site, but I will this weekend to see if she has any suggestions (I have mentioned lately that I find her site a valuable resource?  I know - I talk about it like every other post, but it's just so USEFUL I can't help myself). 
Farrier and Feet update:  My farrier trimmed Farley's feet this morning for the first time since September.  Overall the feet look good.  He admonished me to take more heel off the LF and more toe off the RF when I rasp - once it started raining, I must confess I stopped trimming and they were a bit longer than I usually would let them get.  He dug down into the old injury on the RH and the crack I thought was developing didn't extend more than about 1/8" which is excellent news.  Here's the not so good news:  She had a bruise at the toe on each front foot. 
When I was rasping, I had actually seen the red shining through a thin layer of foot and got very nervous thinking I had rasped down too far.  That was actually the number one factor of me letting the RF toe get too long because every time I would try and take toe off, I would see that red under there.....turns out it was a bruise (this might have been obvious to any of you, but I'm very much a novice at this!).  So I had just been giving the toe a strong bevel and taking down the heels....
The entire bruise did come off in this trimming which makes me feel better.
But how did she bruise it?
I know there's no way of knowing for sure.  Since it was equal in both feet, I'm guessing it was an environmental or shoeing condition, since if it was just the result of her club foot getting too off balance, it would only be in the LF. 
I have 2 guesses:
Guess #1:  For Tevis (6 months ago) I put pads on for the first time.  Maybe her feet weren't very happy about this?  Maybe it was the act of doing Tevis?  (this seems less likely to me than having to do with the pads/shoes). 
Guess #2:  She's been barefoot since September.  She's been worked fairly consistently since then (got ~6 weeks off after Tevis).  Her first barefoot endurance ride was the beginning of November.  Maybe while adjusting to boots, she was landing toe first for a while?  I look at ride pics and she was landing heel first in shoes, and by late November was landing heel first in the boots.  Maybe for the first couple months in boots she was landing toe first? (I don't have any pics of this period, so I'm not sure)
Summary?  If I don't see it again, I will assume that the issue resolved itself and it was either the pads, or the transition period to boots.  If I do see it again, then it's back to the drawing board, a little investigative work, and changing up how I'm approaching barefoot. 
Pad update:  Last random thought for the day.  I've accepted the fact that my haf pad is worn out and won't be seeing any more endurance rides.  It's still ok for shorter rides, but I'm not comfortable using it on a 50 or a 100.  HOWEVER, in the spirit of trying to wisely manage my money - I am SAVING UP for a haf pad.  I know - novel idea.  My usual strategy is to spend money on my horse willy-nilly.   I'm a few months shy of having the $$ saved up, which means I am faced with using the skito or the woolback for 20 Mule team.  I've used the woolback for LD's, including a 4 day multi day.  The skito has been used in a 65 miler and a 50, 50 two day ride.  Decisions decisions!  I might use a combination of the two.  Each has their good points and drawbacks.
On the other hand, if a 20 mule team vendor has haf pads there....I'll probably buy one just to save on shipping.  I'll just have to remember to bring a needle and thread to stitch that pesky trim up over the loins!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Collagen Bumps?

 I was listening to a Horse Radio Network show, The Stable Scoop, and one of the hosts mentioned that she needed to use sheepskin only next to her horse's back because of collagen bumps.  Something clicked and I thought "maybe that's what Farley has????"
Starting at Wild West (a late May endurance ride), I noticed little bumps on Farley's back after the ride.  They appeared right after the ride concluded, didn't seem particularly painful, and were gone within a couple of days. 
They reappeared several times over the summer, particularly after long hot rides.  It didn't seem to matter which saddle or saddle pad (fleece or sympanova synthetic) I used. 
I kept an eye on them as they appeared and disappeared, but never progressed to a point where I felt I needed to call the vet, weren't particularly tender etc.
Since the weather cooled off, I haven't seen them,even though we've done several endurance rides with the same saddle/pad combo that I used earlier.
So far my research has been disappointingly spare.  Apparently these bumps are created with a bug bit or debris irritates the horses skin.  The skin reacts by forming a little nodule around the irritant.  For treatment, they can be injected with steroids or surgically removed.
I'm sure there's more to this condition!  Does anyone else have any experience or wisdom to share?  Obviously fly control is important, but what about other factors?  Do dirty saddle pads contribute?  Does sheepskin really help?  Does using a pad that keeps the back cooler help?  Should I be bathing more frequently to keep her cleaner?

An object at rest...

On Monday, after not riding for 12 days, I took Farley for a handwalk on the canal.
On Tuesday, in drizzly not ideal conditions, we lightly lunged and carefully rode on the grass in the turn out pen.
On Wednesday (today), I will take a dressage lesson.
How is this remarkable?  I have a tendancy (doesn't everyone?) to be really good and consistent about my horse, as long as I'm interacting with her almost evey day.  However, when weather or personal circumstances strike and Farley gets ignored for 4-5 days, (let alone almost 2 weeks!) it's REALLY hard to get into the habit of riding again. 
Before dressage, it probably would have been mid-February before swinging a leg over her again after this rainy spell.  I would have seen no point of riding in the arena and it would have become easier to stay at home and watch Lost: 2nd season. 
I have proof.  Let's consider this time, last year, before dressage.  We could also call this section "this is how Melinda knows that Farley keeps her fittness..."
  • Farley was ridden regularly up until the end of November, when we completed a 55 at Desert Gold.  A case of rain rot and then pure laziness kept me out of the saddle for the month of December.  I showed up at Death Valley, swung a leg, and off we went to complete 110 miles in 4 days.  I got 2-3 rides in during the months of January and February.  Again, the winter was mild so we can chalk this up to the comfort of my living room and Num3ers: Seasons 1-4.  I somehow thought this prepared me for 20 Mule team 65, so off we went.  I took another break for the month of March and picked up where we left off in mid-February. 
Scary huh? 
Now, with dressage, I refuse to waste money on lessons I won't practice for, so when the weather broke on Monday for 15 minutes, we went on a walk.  Tuesday was not ideal at all but I figured I could get 15 minutes of walk work, so up I went. 
By not waiting until the weather is perfect, I'm more likely to go slow and for a shorter time, which is ideal for transitioning Farley back to work. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


My calves are still killing me from the hike on Sunday and I've grown found of mcdonald one dollar sundaes.

In other news, it's still raining. Yep. Still that lovely wet stuff. The good news is that it's lighter than last week and while the footing isn't great, there is techinically a good chink of farley's paddock that isn't under water. The turnout pen, which has grass has good enough footing for some cautious lunging and saddle work at a walk, and if you are feeling brave, a wee bit of trotting.

Tip for those people who dont live in a swamp and find themselves with a horse that is rapidly turning into a seahorse:

You can turn water into wine...errr...I mean semi dry spots. Farley's shelter was a giant puddle. Literally. No exaggeration for comedic value here.

Step one: take a shovel and fill puddle basin with mud. Extra Gold stars awarded if in moving dirt you can also create drainage for the water to move somewhere else.

Step two: place a heavy duty, heavy stall matt on top of mess. Yes it is heavy, yes it will flop down, spraying your clothes with mud.

Step three: put a bag of shavings on top of mat. You don't have to do this more than once, but I found it jump started the area drying out.

Step four: daily maintenance is critical if you don't want your mat to dissapear into nothingness that is the mud that would like to take back the shelter. Clean the matt off every day. If dirt/shavings are piled on edge of mat, peel back mat and place under-this will help the mat from sinking. The mud will be swishing down a bit under the mat, so this is important. Obviously this isn't a good long term practice and you are going to have to remove the mat after the rain to let it dry underneath, but I feel it's worth it if proper prior preperation to insure adequate drainage in the area before the storm didn't take place.

Step five: enjoy the sight of your horse NOT standing in the mud, but rather greeting you from her (relatively) dry shelter!

Is it still too early to start the daylight savings count down?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPod

Monday, January 25, 2010

Be prepared!

Not directly horse related, but it's a trail I do ride on.  Additionally, the same concepts here apply to riding in wilderness areas.   This is the second time in one year that something has happened to a member of a party I was with and after injury, we had to help ourselves out of a wilderness area.  During a preride of the Tevis trail, an experienced endurance friend fell with a horse, and her leg was gored by a rock.  Stuff happens!
I have a training spot that I jokingly call my "Tevis trail".  It looks fairly innocuous at first glance.  Located in the Bay area with good footing and wide open jeep trails, it doesn't exactly scream EXTREME!!!!!!  Flipping through a hiking book, you might notice it has been rated a 5 out of 5 for difficulty and you might scoff - "bay area wimps, why - I've been on the Tevis trail.  Your little trail does not scare me!". 
I would tell you that you are wrong.
Very very wrong.
  • I would tell you that I have hiked and ridden this many many times and there isn't a mountain or canyon on the Tevis trail that compares to the elevation changes on the Ohlone wilderness trail.
  • I would tell you that this trail has whipped mine and Farley's butt every time.
  • I would tell you that it has devoured everyone I have I brought along to share it with.
  • I would tell you that on this trail, was the single experience in my life where I have been physically pushed the brink.  The thought crossed my mind that maybe I couldn't just gut my way through it. 
  • Every time I have ridden or hiked it (with or without overnight pack), 2 days later (thanks to DOMS) I could barely walk and simple things like stepping off curbs or going down stairs were IMPOSSIBLE.
It was this in mind, that prompted me to pack a rather zealous day pack for Saturday's hike with my aunt and cousin. 
Experienced hikers, Terry and Karla are probably the only members of my family fit enough for this trail right now.  I was excited to finally share the experience.  The Ohlone trail has that sort of magic where you just kind of forget about how hard it was.  After all, the Tevis trail looks hard.  The wide, spacious jeep trails that make up the Ohlone trail are safe and inviting. 
Even in the dead of winter, after lots of rain, I had a full camelpak on.  I also packed granola bars, poptarts, along with my water sanitizer and a multitude of emergency items like matches and duct tape.
We got a later start than I would have liked, but we would still be back before dark.  Our destination was Murietta falls, the tallest waterfall in the bay area, which only flows after a large storm that saturates the land. 
The trip out went well.  It's mostly uphill, but I knew from past experience that what took us 3 hours to hike up, would only take 1.5-2 hours to hike down.  It was this in mind when I ate my last poptart and the last of my food at the falls and started towards home. 
Karla and I talked and joked.  Often, we stopped to make sure Terry was making her way behind us.  After descending a set of switch backs, we realized she was reappearing behind us.  We sat down and waited.
Terry finally came into view and I could tell immediately something was wrong.  I have problems with my IT band off and on so I could empathize - excruciating pain going down hill with the feeling your knee is certain to explode. 
I whipped out my day pack and immediately peppered Terry with questions.  Do you want to wrap your knee with an ace bandage?  How about some Ibprophen?  Here's my camalbak - drink all you want, I have a water purifier with me.  Use my trekking pole.
Now my aunt, being the tough, independent, opinionated person she is (sound familiar anyone?) did not want my help but I was not taking no for an answer.  I had packed this stuff for just this occasion and she was going to use it darn it! 
After wrapping and drugging, I announced that Karla and I were going to pull her up the last big climb home by our belts.  I know from tailing a horse how much easier it makes the hike.  Karla and I fell into line like a pair of experienced plow horses and off we went!
After the climb there's a relatively flat section, then it's 2 miles of steep down hill (we are talking like 2000' drop!).  At this point I realize that we are NOT getting down before dark, or before the park gates closed.  I don't wish to alarm Karla with my thoughts of cars getting towed, tickets, us getting locked in etc., so I send her on ahead with the vague instructions of she needs to leave us and get the car and move it to the closer parking lot, and entertain any rangers that might want to keep her company.  I know the trail well so the dark wouldn't be a problem.  However long it took us to get to the end of the trail, we were going to make it. 
Terry and I got lucky and there was moon enough to see by.  After hiking for ~ 1 hour in the dark, we came to the parking lot amid shouts, lights, and cheering.  Food was thrust into our hands, and the car was waiting, along with the ranger that confirmed that she would have shut the gates if it hadn't been for Karla. 
I was quite proud of my ability to take care of the situation.  I try and strike a balance between the 2 extremes - overly OCD prepared, and the "I'm so burnt out on my OCD lists that I'm just going to wing it".  It's hard!  One thing that went very well was that each one of us had a map because the map doubles as the wilderness pass.  So when Karla went off, she had a map without depriving me or Terry of one.  I wish I would have had my headlamp.  I thought about it when we got to the trail head and realized I had forgotten it.  Fortunately I'm familiar with the trail and it is impossible to get lost on it. 
We finished off the evening with the BEST mexican food I've ever tasted.  My mom over at Food Adventures Etc. (see blog list on the right hand side) had reviewed it and gave it rave reviews.  She didn't exaggerate at all.  It was the BEST mexican restaurant I've ever been too.  Search my mom's blog for the restaurant she reviewed in Livermore, CA and it should come up.  I highly recommend the Burrito with Shimp and Suza sauce. 
Terry's already planning our next hike.  It's at Ladybug and we've already verified the difficulty - it's a 2.
Terry - if you are reading this, best wishes for recovery!  

Rain gear part 2

Farley got to get out of her pen for the first time in 12 days!  We went for a nice little 3 mile handwalk in the sunshine....oops, I mean drizzle, since yes, it is still raining.  Poor girl is a bundle of energy and with 12 days of "tapering"  (back to my marathon days!) she's a 'raring to go!  If it continues to just drizzle, I *might* have an area suitable for lunging by tomorrow, so my plan is to ease her back to work with hand walks, jogs, light lunging, and some dressage work at walk/trot this week.  I've put off my long ride until the first week of February to give the trails a chance to dry so my 20 MT decision will be made after that.
As you can probably guess, the first thing I did after coming back from the diaster that was Wild West 2008, was go shopping.  Can you believe I did not own one piece of waterproof clothing?  Here are some of the items I have collected over the last 18 months.  Some have worked well....some have not.
Ariat thinsulate lined waterproof tall boots:  Hands down the BEST boot purchase I have ever made.  I got extrememly lucky and found these used at in my size.  I've used them 2 seasons and they have never failed me.  They are comfy, don't leak, and are extremely nice to ride in.  I even find myself using them in the summer time!  I've had problems with the durability of Ariats and I'm pleased to announce that I don't see why I shouldn't get another 2-3 seasons in them!  I even prefer them over my muckboots for most stable activities.
Thinsulate riding mittens:  Big thumbs (or should I say pinkies?) down.  I've never had the courage to ride in them, but after just wearing them around camp, it was a dissapointment.  Yep, the hand stays warm, but my poor pinkie turns into a chunk of ice.  There are better alternatives out there.
Polarfleece riding pants:  Polar fleece is a girls best friend.  Beware, they are not as stretchy as the regular tights, AND they make your thighs look a bit bigger, but hey - you will be warm! 
Silk underware:  The best $$ I've spent since the afore described ariats.  Tops AND bottoms are essential.  I substituted the silk bottoms under tights for my polarfleece tights and was very happy. 
Mr. Buddy portable heater:  Fabulous.  As long as I have sufficient ventilation (ie, I leave the door partway open) I'll even use it in my tent.  It heats up FAST.  I'm a wimp about matches and fire and love this thing.  I use it in the tent, at the ride meetings, at dinner, in the horse trailer......It will heat up the horse area (back) of your horse trailer before you can decide to wear your PJs on the 50 because it's just too cold to change (assuming of course you didn't sleep in your tights....)
Serius waterproof gloves:  Mixed bag.  They are sealed at the seams so if you decide to dunk your hand in the trough and sponge in the middle of winter, it's not going to save you from your stupidity.  They also aren't super warm.  I haven't used them for riding, but I'm pleased at the "feel" of the glove and use them around the barn for beet pulp soaking operations etc.  I'm planning on experiementing with silk glove liners to improve the warmth.  I don't see a problem riding with them becuase they aren't bulky at all.
Outback branded packable, full length duster:  Light and (supposidly) 100% waterproof.  This was a cheaper option than gortex so I initally bought this.....I *think* it's waterproof, but it's hard to say for sure.  When it gets wet it gets kind of clingy but so far I've stayed dry.  It's long on me (I'm short) and I have ridden in it, and it does fine, as it has all the necessary straps for your thighs etc.  Packs away very small.  I like my gortex jacket better (see below) but still keep this in the trailer if it's really blowing and I want to keep my whole body (including pants) dry.
Gortex jacket (Cabelas brand, the packable model):  Fantastic for layering, a hood that actually stays put in the wind, and absolutely waterproof and breathable.  Watch the sales like a hawk and pick yours up as soon as you can.  I can't say enough good things about this jacket. 
Down Vest (Cabelas brand):  Watch the sales my friends (I picked my up for $12) - this ranks up there with the boots and gortex jacket as my fav piece of clothing!  I cannot say enough good things about it.  It's warm, it's light, it's packable, it's great for layering, it feel luxerious.  I love the fact that it snaps instead of zips or velcros.  It has fabulous pockets.  Need I say more?
I've also thrown things into my ride bag like some of the hot hands (they are relatively expensive, so I don't use them all the time).  I already perfer wool socks so my feet are taken care of. 
At home I don't let rain stop me from riding as long as the footing is good and the wind isn't blowing much.  I've tested everything out on conditioning rides, but haven't (thank goodness!) encounted heavy rains at events.  This year is shaping up like a wet year though.....I got my first taste at Desert Gold 2009.  It alternated raining/sprinkling/misting/heavy fog.  I wasn't many of the items described above, however I did discover some things that are worth considering.
I shall call my Desert Gold 09 wardrobe, Exhibit B:  
  • Cotton/lycra blend tights
  • Full set of long silk underware, top and bottom
  • Wool socks (with trail running tennis shoes)
  • Long sleeve hiking shirt made of quick dry nylon (designed to go hiking in the summer time with the SPF rating and zip off sleeves)
  • SSG gloves, winter weight, but not waterproof
Can you believe I was not cold or wet the entire ride?  My silks kept me warm, and as soon as I would become damp, my clothes would instantly dry because there was no bulk.  Obviously this doesn't work in extremely cold or wet conditions, however, I'm rethinking my layer upon layer philosophy when the sky is just spitting.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rain gear part 1

Thanks everyone who has commented on my previous posts. Y'all are basically echoing my little demons/angels on my shoulder. I need to keep in mind that at this point I'm only looking at 1-2 weeks off-not a deal breaker. Regarding the nqrness/lameness whatever from the previous post. I don't have any updates (obviously since that would require it not to rain and the sun to broil all the moisture away covering the arena...). It only showed up on 20 meter trot circles when collected, and then not consistently. Obviously, when I CAN put her arena and check her out, any sign of it again puts an IMMEDIATE nix on ANY riding plans 'till I get it figured out! In the meantime I have nothing better to do than to sit here and consider your comments and come up with plans, alternative plans, and contigency plans for my alternative plans...

On to real subject of the post! Rainy wear. Now, I'm sure that ANYONE besides me (a Californian) is more qualified to write this post, but I'm going to give it my best shot.

My first rainy endurance ride I was woefully unprepared. It was funny in a tragic sort of way. I kept up the optmistic view all day that at "any" time the sun was going to come out, I just knew it. At the end of 55 miles I was so cold and wet (and still suprisingly cheery) that I had a full blown panic attack when driving to ride with my sister the next day and raindrops hit the windshield. (incidentally this was the same excursion that turned into the bear story previously featured on this blog). For a solid 8 months I could NOT be cold outdoors or the least bit wet. Now lest you think I am exagerating, let's look at just how woefully unprepared I was!

Exhibit 1:
Cotton naturals full seat cotton breeches
Long sleeve cotton shirt
Cotton socks with ariat terrains
Wind breaker - not water proof
All seasons ssg gloves

Let's recap what happened shall we?

Any guesses how long I stayed dry? That's right, about 30 seconds. Some kind person took pity on me and gave me rain pants and jacket, and lent me a rump rug (a cya).

In the first 5 miles I happen to look down at my pants and found the tatters of the rain pants hanging off my thighs. I thought this enormously hysteriacal at the time and couldn't describe it with dissolving into laughter for a long time. Any who... The gloves got soaked early on and I experimented whether it was
colder with them on or off. Naturally by the time that I had put on the rain jacket, my windbreaker was already soaked so it only served to keep me wet and clammy.

The last thing to get wet was my feet. I was riding in my McClellan saddle with blessed covered stirrups. About halfway through the ride I decided to get off and walk on an effort to stay warm and that was the last of warm, dry feet.

On another subject, that was also the ride that I had a pair of reins disenegrate. It was also Minx's last aerc completion.

So, I learned (a few) things about riding in the rain and proper gear- to be discussed in the next post as I have HAD it with typing on the iPod and maintaining proper grammer and spelling!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPod

Long term thinking

With the weeks of rainy weather here, I need to start considering that the 20 Mule Team 100 mile endurance ride I wanted to do may not happen. 
One of the issues with the amount of rain have received, is that the facilities are simply not equipped for it.  This is the most rain the region I'm living in has received in 13 years...Yes, the paddocks and shelters could be constructed to drain better.  Yes, the facilities, arena, etc could be constructed to be rideable in this weather.  Unfortunately because this is such a rare occurrence, they aren't.  If we got this type of weather all the time or every year, I would be out there in Farley's shelter with a shovel, grading in dry weather  etc.  But we don't, so I'm stuck playing catch up. 
  • When I have my own place, I will construct my pastures and shelter areas to be usable in this sort of weather.  It may not be up to northern swamp standards, but it will be bearable! 
My lesson this week has been officially cancelled.  Which is incredible as she has us ride through all sorts of weather.  But, her arena is underwater and she would normally have us ride on the grass in that case.....but that is underwater too.  And there's the small fact that it takes 4 wheel drive to even get in the driveway at this point. 
The trails in the area are also not constructed with this amount of rain in mind so even if I did trailer out, it's going to take a couple of weeks for the trails to recover. 
So what does this all add up to? 
With 20 mule team on 2/27/10, officially 33 days away, I should be doing the majority of my conditioning right now - 2-4 weeks prior to the ride.  I just don't know if everything will dry out in time.  It's suppose to clear up a bit on Saturday, and then another week of rain. 
Part of me says that 20 Mule Team is my best bet to finish a 100 this year.  The other little voice says not to push - pushing will only get me to my first 100 completion slower while I battle injuries and regret. 
So I'm looking for advice
  • At this point, she has had 1 week off.  We are looking at another 1-2 weeks off or limited riding (straight lines, level, slow). 
  • Assuming I get 1-2 good conditioning rides in the first 2 weeks of February and she feels 100% (ie - those funny steps she took a week ago do not reappear). 
  • She did a 50 mile at the beginning of November (and felt 100% afterwards)
  • She did a 55 mile ride with similar footing to 20 Mule team at the end of November (and felt 100% afterwards)
  • It will be 3 months between her last 50/55 and 20 Mule team
  • She was ridden regularly and was in top shape as of 2 weeks ago.
Does she have enough fitness to carry over?  Should I go?  Or do you have a bad feeling about this and would advise me to stay home?  Please be honest! 
I'm often surprised how well her fitness maintains with very little riding, but I've also had enough injuries, I've learned not to push too hard.  1-2 weeks seems a LONG time to not be riding, but in reality I've often given her a week off before a ride with no problem.  It just feels worse this time because I'm at home waiting to ride and waiting to ride and waiting to ride....

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A tale of woe

When I went out to the stable this afternoon, my darling little horsey (Farley, for those of you who have just finished one of my posts where I rant and rave about how such a witch she is....who has now redeemed herself through her cuteness and cheerful greetings as I walk through the gate) was standing in 6 inches of water. 
This is unacceptable.
Her pen is mostly under water, which I accept because her shelter has stayed dry. 
I checked her shelter.
Shelter is starting to get muddy.  Pen has just teetered over the balance point to unacceptable. 
I threw Farley out in the turnout pasture (where she frolicked and bucked and ran, much to my dismay and secret enjoyment) and set to work. 
The pen I selected was ~50% underwater and 50% soon to be mud.  Better.  The shelter was a giant puddle.  Not good.
Time to get a shovel.
  • Fact 1:  I must first establish that I am no stranger to a shovel.  My parents made sure of that!  I have toiled many an hour away in my childhood moving dirt from one another without any clear idea of what I was accomplishing. 
  • Fact 2:  I have degrees that are suppose to guarantee that I do not need to perform manual labor in order to support my self.  (I will point out that I did MANY hours of manual labor through school to GET the degree, so trust me, my dues have been paid.)
  • Fact 3:  I want to ride in 100 mile races when I am 90.  To facilitate such a goal I am very protective of my back.  No more bucking bails or carrying 50 pound salt blocks to me!  I've invested in lots of carts and other devices to do my work for me.
....which is why, standing in her new pen, shovel in hand, I am pondering the irony of protecting my back, in order to do shovel work.  Because if ANYTHING is not good for the back, it is shovel work. 
Especially shovel work with a sub-par shovel. 
As I live in a 1 bedroom (second story) apartment with no garage and only those tools that fit in my truck tool box, do you think I own a shovel?  No.  I do not.  So I had to use the boarding barn shovels.  I had a selection including: broken handles, split spades, and lastly - a flat bottomed shovel with a intact handle.  What the HECK do you do with a flat bottomed shovel besides scrapping cow manure off a cement floor? 
You do not fill low spots or dig drainage. 
I set to work, and after an hour, the shelter was wet and muddy, but was no longer a puddle.  I decided to work on it over the next couple of days.  Clean mud (this pen has been empty for a while) is better than the water and manure slurry her last pen was. 
And this is where the tale of woe concludes.
After painstakingly finding high spots and filling the big puddle in the shelter, it was relatively dry.  I dragged a water container over to fill.  After some thought, I decided to place the water container just under the shelter, where it would be protected from the sun and algae formation in the summer.  I turned the hose on.
And you can guess what happened.
I went to get Farley out of turnout and completely forgot about it.....
I came back to the sight of the water container overfilling...into the shelter, on top of my (up until this point relatively dry) efforts at filling the hole. 
Oh well.
Intention and effort counts for everything right?

Who are you when it rains?

In the spirit of learning to love the rain again, I present the first of my "rainy" day topics....
Remember rainy day schedules at school?  Where instead of going out to the playground, you were forced to sit in a classroom at lunch, to the consternation of the teachers!  On sunny days I was active - screaming, shouting, hanging on the monkey bars - type of active.  But that changed on rainy day schedules.  On rainy day schedules, I would find a quiet corner and curl up with a book. 
So what happens now as an adult?  Who do you turn into when it rains?
On non-rainy days, I describe myself as a horseperson, who runs and does some knitting in the evenings to relax. 
Rain effectively removes my horse part of my life, and to a lesser degree, my running.  I don't feel like knitting anymore because I'm not tired.  So what do I do?
  • I come home and put on a music CD.  While in my normal life I crave silence because I'm so busy, a good LOUD bluegrass CD is just what I need on a rainy afternoon.
  • I cook.  I cook a LOT.  And I enjoy it.
  • I practice my fiddle.  Apparently my fiddle is one of those things, that although I love dearly, I will NOT practice unless I'm on the verge of being bored.  Not tired enough to knit or read, but don't feel like diving into another project either - that is the perfect mood for practicing the fiddle.  And this is the perfect illustration of why I do NOT have internet at home.  If I did, I would waste time there instead of getting bored enough to practice!
So I've decided that instead of stewing on what I can't do while it rains CONSTANTLY, I can embrace my "alternate" life! 
What are you normally and does that change when it rains?

But l live in CA!

Yes, I know you have heard this refrain before... But you have to admit that I should get something for my higher taxes and intrusive government, and inability to find a decent pasture to board in. That's right- I deserve decent weather. It's my right as a pampered Californian. Give us a little credit here-we are not used to having this sort of swamp wearther that you northern Folks enjoy most of the year, I'm simply not prepared. By the time I DO remember that vortex jacket and silk underware to go out to the stable, I've been wet and cold and shivery and all around miserable for three days.

I used love the rain-before I had horses. I was even ok with it. Before I was paying attention and trying to do the barefoot thing for "real". Now I worry that feet are going to hell in the mud.


Six more weeks of winter and then I can continue with my regular programming. In the meantime I am going to make an effort to remember why I loved rain so much as a child.

Remember rainy day schedule?

And cozy clothes?

And the opportunity to snuggle with a good book and cuddle with a hot cookie and homemade hot chocolate?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPod

Friday, January 15, 2010

God's timing is perfect

Warning!  Semi-Religious post! 
I'm probably going to offend a lot of people and some of you may be turned off permanently because I've posted something about *God*, but darn it!  It's my blog!  and this is the post I want to write today!  So let's all be nice and realize that being a Christian is part of who I am, and I'm going to write about it, because it's relevant to my horsey life right now.   
Whew.  I feel better already.
And really, I keep saying that I don't care whether I have readers or not so why not go for it?
God's timing is perfect.  That has been the overwhelming theme in my bible studies and reading lately.  (Focus has been on the David and Abigail story).  And as the Farley story continues to unfold, I just have to smile, and yes, giggle at how perfectly everything has worked out. 
  • Minx went lame, and the the least likely person to tell me to get another horse, told me to get another horse.
  • I found Farley, who is such a wonderful horse, I feel like I don't deserve her
  • 3 weeks after I bought Farley, she was lame and Minx was rideable again.
  • Farley became rideable and Minx became on and off again lame
  • I had 2 sound horses for exactly 3 weeks and then Minx died, just as I was reaching the breaking point of how to manage riding 2 sound horses.
  • Farley and I had a very successful endurance season.
  • Two weeks ago, my aunt and I discuss it, and realize we are both doing the Bar S ride, just so we can visit and ride together.  We decide to save money by riding at her ranch instead.
  • I notice Farley is intermittently NQR in the hind end while being ridden on the bit.
So how is this perfect?  Let me explain.  If I was doing Bar S, I would have 2 weeks until the ride.  Right now I would be agonizing over whether to go or not, instead of focusing on the real issue - Farley's well being.  It would have complicated things.  Now, because of "how things worked out", I can give her 2 weeks of easy without the stress of preparing or deciding whether we should go for a ride.  If everything goes well, I will have a long, hilly, multiple day training ride with my aunt, which should give me an idea of whether or not to continue to plan for a 100 at the end of February.  I have plenty of time to think, evaluate, ask Farley her opinion, and see the vet - multiple time - if necessary. 
You see?  Perfection. 
And I am sad about giving Farley time off in the dreariest part of the winter?  Ummmm....not at all!  I should get a gold start for dragging myself out of bed after getting *only* 11 hours of sleep this time of year.  It will be kind of nice to have a riding holiday to enjoy winter - in bed with a heater and either knitting or a good book - for a couple weeks.
Darn it not being able to comment! 
Mobile internet device coming soon...just trying to pick from the options Funder gave me!  Whew!  I've been out of the market a long time.  I like the look of the Archros Android.  I want a device that does internet and e-mail, but NOT a phone...although I may change my mind depending on what work tells me about their reimbursement program.  I found home internet and WiFi access through ATT for $20/month which was what I wanted to pay.  The plus side is that with the Archos 5, I wouldn't have to upgrade my computer for at least another 2-3 years!  I love my MacBook, but at 5 years old, it's a bit creaky on the 'net.  However it does just fine running my applications, so it would work out perfectly to have a separate media device. 
Heather - I called and made an appointment for her teeth floating in February today (Thursday).....and told the receptionist I was being a ditz and couldn't remember what else I wanted to ask her....Ha!  I'll call them on Monday after I ride her on Sunday (this will be her first easy ride back) and see what they have to say, depending on the results of the time off/bute.  They've worked with me long enough that there is a relationship there.  Since I've decided that I'm won't take her in before Monday, it makes sense to call then, and I'll have more information for them - whether or not it returned after time off etc.  Thanks for the reminder!
Thank you everyone for your support!  I really do feel positive about the whole thing.  I won't start to really worry unless it comes back.  After all, we all have our NQR days, and one incident of NQR-ness isn't necessarily a huge cause for concern. 
AareneX - Good point about my chiropractic issues.  I haven't been in ~10 years and haven't had any problems since, BUT  I DO notice that if I don't keep up on my pilates and stay flexible, then Farley feels more stiff.  I've been slacking lately, so maybe I need to be more diligent in that area. 

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Action (or rather non-action!) Plan

Typically after I've decided one of my horses is NQR, or has an apparent injury, I go through the same stages.
  • Panic mode, cannot think rationally, feel like throwing up. (I know, dramatic. I allow my self exactly 30-60 seconds to feel this way, and then get my head screwed on straight).
  • Rationalizing. This is the "how did it happen" stage. Again, I've whittled this down to 30 minutes or less during the first couple of days. I try to move this further down the process where it's actually useful to analyze what went wrong and whether there's a preventative.
  • Self doubt - maybe I didn't feel what I thought I felt? Maybe it's not that bad? This can last a couple of hours, or at least until I get on the Internet and hear a bunch of horror stories. This when I start considering whether to get the vet involved.
  • Overdrive - by now I have heard the horror stories, I'm imagining worse case scenario, AND I'm feeling guilty because I cannot/will not afford to throw every diagnostic tool available at the problem.
And now we come to the crux of every horse owner's life. When to bring in the vet and how much to pay?
Because, let's face it - at least in my life - I have a finite amount of money and resources.
Some might say that if you can't afford a vet for medical issues you can't afford a horse.
Whenever I'm faced with a situation where I'm trying to decide whether a vet visit is warranted, I cringe, thinking someone is going to throw this statement at me. Because I AM willing to spend the money - if my horse is colicking, I call the vet. Period. I don't mess around, I do not give it banamine, I call the vet. If I suspect a bowed tendon or suspensory problem, I call the vet. I want to get a base line on it as fast as possible.
But there are other areas that are grey. Grey Areas that I don't necessarily think that a vet call is always warranted. Sure, it would be nice, but I don't think being able to "afford" a vet, involves calling it out for every issue. On the flip side, I don't think you have to be able to afford colic surgery or stem cell transplants to be a responsible horse owner.
It's a fine line to walk between calling the vet early while the issue is small and manageable (and affordable!), and not wasting your money on issues that area that will resolve on their own.
In my opinion, being able to afford a horse, and a medical bills associated, means: (and this is deeply personal so I realize every one's list is going to look a bit different)
  • Being able to pay for a horse being euthanized and the body disposed.
  • Being able to pay for traumatic injury such as stitches, antibiotics
  • Being able to pay for initial colic evaluation and treatment, including fluids if necessary
  • Being able to pay for a lameness exam for a horse that is habitually lame, or a grade 2 or worse.
  • Vaccinations and wormings as recommended by the vet
  • Any prescriptions or medications etc. recommended to the vet
  • Being able to pay for any follow up visits once the vet determines there's an issue.
One of my main reasons for not getting a second horse when Minx died was because I looked at the books and realized that taking care of 3 bows and 2 colics (and an euthanasia) in 18 months stretched me thin. Very very thin. And if I'm in doubt that I could take care of the medical issues for 2 horses, than I'm not getting another one.
Keeping the above in mind, I've made my decision regarding Farley's occasional NQR funky hind stepping:
  • She will get 3 days of bute
  • She will have 3 days of rest
  • She will have an easy day to see if I feel it again
  • If everything feels fine, we will continue with very easy work for 1-2 weeks (I can't justify resting her for this time - because of the facilities, resting is equal to stall rest, which I don't think is necessary).
  • After 2 weeks, we will start regular work again.
I will call the vet if:
  • Nothing has improved after the 3 days of rest and bute
  • If it comes back during the easy 1-2 weeks of work in any degree
  • If it comes back after going back to regular work in any degree.
Would I like to take her to the vet right away and soothe my gerbil-like darting mind?
Is it a good use of my resources?
I'm not sure.
Do I have the resources to take her to the vet if I need to?
Thank you everyone for commenting. Especially you that are vets, or soon to be vets! I understand where you coming from, I really do. I worked at a clinic for a couple of years and had a lot done during that time period that I wouldn't normally, just because I had access to the clinic resources. However, I'm reluctant to take a horse that isn't lame on the ground, or in the saddle - except for a few funny strides *sometimes* under saddle and do nerve blocks, x-rays, ultrasounds etc. I think when I'm at the vet (I'm going in Feb to check teeth, assuming everything goes well in the next week and she gets over whatever *this* is) I'll ask about chiropractors in my area and see what they think.
It will be nice once I'm a vet and how access to more resources for a situation like this!
Comment Follow up:
OntheBit - how do you see how many people are subscribed in Google reader?
JB - Yep, that site is blocked too!

Fit to ride Part 9: Arena Exercises Riding

Unless someone has another question, this will be my last review on this book. Hopefully the information presented will help you to determine whether you should pick up a copy of this book for yourself!

Three riding exercises are presented as especially beneficial for the conditioning, obedience, suppleling, for the eventing/endurance horse.

Shoulder In
Half Pass.

Shoulder In
I just learned this at my last lesson so I was excited to read what Bromiley said. Unfortunately she says how to technically perform it, but not the whys or even a good description of what a shoulder in is. If purchasing this book, it would be a good idea to have some background knowledge in dressage, or be willing to do further research before trying her classical riding exercises – I would not have been able to perform a shoulder in based on her description. I have found the shoulder in to be an EXCELLENT collection and obedience tool. It can be practiced any where at any gait. I am in LOVE with the shoulder in. In my opinion is in an exercise that should be in every endurance rider’s tool box.

Simply, the shoulder in is a 3 track movement. The horse is traveling forward, with the shoulder slightly in toward the inside flexion of the neck and head. The leg position to cue for the shoulder in is very similar to the canter, with the outside leg slightly back. I’m in the super beginning stages of learning the shoulder in, so if you are trying to learn this for the show ring, go somewhere else! For now, I am told to feel like I am neck reining the horse to the inside, while applying pressure with the inside leg at the girth, or just slightly before the girth, with the outside leg back.

I like using the shoulder in when Farley is a bit feisty on the trail and is giving me a VERY strong trot or canter towards home. I don’t want to keep pulling and pulling and pulling….so I ask for shoulder ins. We are still traveling in a straight line, but it’s a lot of work.

The shoulder in is also useful for collection. Again, I don’t like pulling on Farley. It’s pointless. When I ask her to come over the top of the bit, sometimes she refuses. If I then ask for a shoulder in, it seems to make her softer and supple-er and I get what I want with the minimum of fuss and hissy fits.

Again Bromiley does not provide a comprehensive description of a serpentine, assuming that the reader has prior knowledge

Half Pass
A detailed description of the Half Pass is given, as well as instruction. It is clear that of all the exercises given, Bromiley believes the Half Pass the most useful.

You have to crawl before you walk….
Bromiley stresses that movements should be introduced at the walk, then the trot. This seems obvious, but for some reason, it’s not. Whenever I stop to think about why I’m having problems with Farley, I will go back to the walk, master it, then move to the trot and voila! We have it! But in lessons, often something is introduced at the trot, or even the canter (this is true of my current instructor, as well as a few group lessons I took earlier). I will continue to have problems with the concept until I bring it to a walk and figure it out. Note to self: Need to be strong enough to say “let’s do this at a walk first” in lessons!

Further Recommendations
If purchasing this book without a background in dressage or other formal horsemanship training, it is my recommendation that it is paired with another book that better explains the pole work and riding exercises mentioned. I especially like Cherry Hill’s 101 Exercises series. I have used both the 101 Arena exercises book, and the ground work book that describes lunging and long lines. Both would make and excellent companion to Fit to Ride.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Grrrr...e-mail posting

So I obviously hit send on my last post before spell checking, deleting my signature line, or even finishing my comments!!!!!  And since I can't access my blog I can't edit it!!!!  I WILL figure this out and be sucessful!  Eventually.  Obviously not today.
Comment follow up CONTINUED:
Heather - I put the settings on my blog to only show a few sentences in Reader so that people would have to click and actually GO to my blog to read the rest of the posts.  I hate it when other people do this :>)  but I totally get why they do it.  By forcing people to come to my physical blog, they will (hopefully) look at my for sale/wanted list and any other annoucements on my side bar. 


The lesson went well this afternoon.  We worked through half halts - bilateral and inside leg to outside rein - mostly at the walk, then transfering those lessons to the trot.  Not a spactacular lesson to watch, but very demanding for horse and rider. 
My trainer and I joked and laughed about my experience at the reining clinic on Saturday - especially my observation that western riders train their 2 and 3 year olds with a bunch of crap attached to them, and then take it off as the horse gets more broke, while English riders start with nothing but a simple bridle, but as the horse matures we put lots of crap on them.....
And then....diaster....actually, I haven't decided whether it's a disaster yet.  Going to the left at a trot, Farley took so funny steps with her hind - avoidance - and didn't want to come under herself and through her back.  Eventually I would get her underneath her self and the funny strides would go away.  The trainer pointed out that she thought her stifle was a bit sore.  Oh NO! 
This is my current knowledge about stifle injuries:  They are career ending for an endurance horse. 
After some discussion I managed to calm my heart rate enough to hear what she was telling me:  that it didn't look like an injury, just soreness.  Her reccomendation was a bit a bute for a couple days to help with inflamation, and asked if I had gotten her "adjusted" (chiropractor...) recently.  My trainer is all about sound horses and taking the time to do things correctly, so I trust her opinion.  Her feeling is that Farley is just experiencing the normal bumps in the road for muscle soreness that you get when you are completely retraining the horse how to move. That is my feeling as well - that this isn't serious and perhaps has to do with the reining clinic on Saturday - and with a little time of easy work and rest it should  go away.  I'm giving it 3 days of bute and 1 week....and if it isn't better we are seeing the vet!  But I think she'll be just fine.  In the roundpen yesterday she wasn't lame or moving funny, it's something subtle I can feel under saddle. 
Back to the trainer's "adjustment" comment:  I have seen signs in the barn announcing when the chiropractor will be in, so I know that her barn does use one.   I've always thought it was a bunch of hogwash, but I read blogs and opinions of people that swear by regular chiropractic visits for their horses.  I used to go to a chiropractor as a teenager and I'm still not totally convinced whether it helped or I just grew out of my problems (or more tolerant to the pain!).  My trainer is not pushing me to do chiropractic work, but now I'm intrigued.  Anyone have advice?  Or is time off and rest for the horse just as effective?
Comment Follow up from previous posts:
Funder - Yep, based on your suggestion I'm considering a mobile device.  I like the idea of an iphone (I'm a Mac person), so now I just need to find out if my company's IT department can set it up to recieve company e-mails.  My current phone is a company phone and there is a program will they will pay the "work" portion of a personal phone, so it might work out well - they pay for calls, texts, and e-mails, and pay for the remainder of the services.
Heather -

Check out my blog - Boots and Saddles!

The "Talk"

Farley had I had the "Talk" last night. 
Here's the problem with sweet little obedient horses:  They rarely saw what's on their minds and if they do, the whisper very quietly.  Sometimes I can't hear her and I have to say "Speak up!  What's your problem?" 
The last couple of weeks, especially after arena work, I've been stressed and had lots and lots of tension in my body.  This really irritates me for 2 reasons:
  • Horses are my de-stressing activity, therefore I should not feel more stress after a ride than before
  • I have a sinking feeling that what I'm feeling is merely mirroring Farley, whom I want to make happy, and if she feels like I do, she's not happy. 
Last night I again finished the night feeling irritated and tense.  I looked at Farley and her cute little nostrils were compressed at me.  So I decided we needed to talk.
So we went to the round pen.
My intention was NOT to punish her in any way or "show her who's boss".  I do extensive ground work with my horses when I first get them, and after that on a as-needed basis.  Farley hasn't been in a round pen for at least 18 months. 
I LOVE the round pen because I can take the halter and leadrop/lunge line off and have a little chat.  It's small enough that she can't totally ignore me, but it's big enough she feels free enough to express herelf.  Without a halter or a line attached to her, I feel that Farley is more honest about letting me know if you really wants to be in my presence. 
Once in the round pen she waited for my cue and then trotted around.  She didn't try to change direction or stop.  She wasn't exactly soft, but she was listening and watching.  I cued her to canter and she did, I cued her to transition down to a trot and she tried to stop - just like under saddle.  We worked on getting a forward trot after cantering.  She wasn't responding to my turn cues very well, but I pushed her and she re-remembered.  She stopped on command and followed me when I walked up towards her.  She breathed hard for a while, but seemed to relax as we just hung out in the center.  Then I slipped a leadrope and halter and her and we were done.
So what did I learn?  I've always known that Farley is not a dominant horse.  She's perfectly happy to be in the bottom of the pecking order and is not aggressive.  However, I think she needed to be reassured that yes, I was still taking care of her and she didn't need to worry about it.   There's a huge disconnect in our arena work and our trail work.  On the trail, I expect her to think and take care of herself, pick her footing, and keep an appropriate pace with my occasional input.  In the arena I am dictating every step we take and asking her to be submissive to my cues.  As a result she was getting frusterating.  What did I want?! 
Complicating the issue is that neither one of us is spending as much time on the trail as we would like.  It's winter and it's dark and wet.  I'm a bit grumpy (that whole SADs thing going on) and I don't blame Farley one bit for not being at the top of her game. We are making the best of a seasonal situation and working through it (how many days 'til the time change????)
I think our chat in the round pen last night really helped.  She was reassured that yes, I am still the same partner that will take care of her and I won't let her fail (she really cares about being successful) and I was reassured that she DOES want to be with me and she LIKES being with me, she's just struggling because of the season - just like me. 

Fit to Ride Part 8: Arena Exercises Obstacles

Bromiley’s tool box of equine conditioning methods is:

(ordered progressively)
Classical exercises – long reins
Classical exercises – ridden
Ground poles – long reins at walk, trot, and canter
Raised poles – long reins at walk, trot, and canter
Small fences – long reins at trot and canter
Ground poles – ridden at walk, trot, canter
Raised poles – ridden at walk, trot , canter
Small fences – ridden at trot and canter
Grids (six or more cavaletti) – loose schooled, trot, canter
Grids – ridden at trot and canter
Changes of pace – transitions up and down
Changes of direction – circles, serpentines

There is also a section that describes the progressively loading for trail work that includes grass slopes, road hills, small fences, etc.

She goes into depth on what we are trying to accomplish with progressive loading and circuit training including endurance, strength, balance, and obedience.

She prefers long line work as opposed to lunging because of the degree of control – specifally being able to control the horses balance. Most of her arena work that is not ridden, she recommends in long lines. This section of the book has the most pictures and drawings, to help the reader visualize what she is saying. It is on this section alone that I am considering purchasing the book. I think this book, along with a Cherry Hill book on ground exercises, would provide a good base of knowledge for ground work.

Poles are used to control stride length, joint flexibility, coordination and re-establish balance after an injury. She gives the proper intervals (for an average horse) for setting poles according to gait. Handy reference! 1 meter is recommended for a walk, 1.5 m for a trot, and 3.5 m for a canter. Bromiley recommends determining starting points for the poles by measuring the distance between the imprints of the front and hind feet at different gaits.

Poles can be used on the ground and spaced to either shorten or lengthen a stride. You want to place poles so that the foot of the horse lands in the middle of the space between poles. You can gradually add more poles as the horse “gets” it.

Bromiley states that the horse works harder at middle paces than extended paces because the elastic recoil of the tendons and ligaments aids the horse during extended paces. Interesting!

Poles are first placed flat on the ground, then raised on one side (alternating – raise the left side of the pole, the right side of the next pole, etc.).

Cabeletti are poles raised off the ground by 6-8 inches. They are arranged similarly to the ground poles described above. The biggest benefit to Cavaletti is the ability to ride “grids” which is a “closed chain” activity as described in an early post. I know from personal experience that to ride a grid in balance and rhythm is HARD.

I should also mention here that all Bromiley’s long line work is done in side reins. She stresses that side reins are NOT to be adjusted to set the horse’s head, but should be set to the natural set of the head.

Putting it all together
She stresses variety in the arena – one example of a arena set up with a circuit has ground poles, a little cross bar jump, and a set of ground poles raised on one side only, set up around the arena. Doing the circuit, plus integrating the “Classical” riding exercises is what she recommends for arena work.

Next: Classical riding exercises

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A test post

I'm testing my ability to publish posts via e-mail. *waves vigorously* Hi everyone!

Check out my blog - Boots and Saddles!

A sad sad day....

As of today, my work has blocked blogger and all associated .blogspot, wordpress, and other paid for blog addresses.

Although this will undoubtedly improve work productivity, it was definitely a blow in the gut when I tried to log on this morning and couldn’t. Updating my blog daily and corresponding with y’all is definitely the highlight of my day!

Never fear! I have a plan (when do I not have a plan?). I will be setting up my e-mail so that I can still post to my blog regularly that way. There may be more scheduled posts, and while I will get your comments through e-mail, I will not be able to respond to them as promptly as I do now.

The biggest change for me is going to be the inability to comment on YOUR blogs. Commenting requires me to access the blog website, which is just not going to happen as frequently. I’ll still be reading daily in Google Reader….I just won’t be able to let you know how much I enjoy reading about your lives.

The other change will be I will not be able to get to the spam comments as quickly to delete. A time may come where I need to have put the comment verification back in place, but for now I’ll see how annoying it becomes.

I love blogging! I love the way that writing regularly makes me feel – when people ask me if I do any writing, I can say with honesty, “a little”. To have an idea and to plan on writing something, and then to force myself to follow through and finish the mini-essay that is a blog post, is creating writing-discipline. Happy blogging everyone, and as always, if you see something wonky or want to ask a specific question, feel free to contact me!

Fit to Ride Part 7: Arena exercises explained

By the request of Endurance Granny, I'm diving in deeper into how to use the arena to prepare the horse!

Bromiley spends several chapters explaining exercise, muscle functions, and considerations when approaching both rider and equine fitness.

What’s interesting is that while Tom Ivers (ti for the rest of this document) stresses specificity in equine preparation, Bromiley stresses variety. The difference may be that Bromiley is preparing an eventing horse and the focus is on a strong healthy athlete that is able to get around a course and stay sound to run another day. The eventing horse is exposed to a wide range of environments and has to stay sound on all of them. ti is training race horses to win and win often because racing is a business. ti is trying to eke out the top 0.5% performance in his horse safely. A race horse also has much narrower environmental considerations that it will be exposed to.

As I skim the chapters leading up to the arena exercise chapter to gain context…..I run across yet another sentence that makes my blood boil. I agree with her first statement “Horses spend hours doing flat work, sweating and miserable. Far too many routines have been designed by people with insufficient knowledge of the requirement associated with physical activity.” But then, as a support to this statement, she resorts to this: “Even those who should know seem to get it wrong: the doctor who started the jogging craze, Mr Fix, in the USDA, gave himself a coronary thrombosis, the very thing he was trying to avoid. The people who survive do things slowly.” OK – so I admit it – I’m a runner. I love running, I couldn’t not imagine my life without it. The only thing that exceeds running in enriching my life is horses. So I’m a bit biased. BUT, again with the statements thrown around like facts! Running does not increase your chance of heart disease. Can you be an avid runner and still die of heart disease? Yes. Can you sit at home and die even earlier of heart disease? Yes. Can you run easy and still decrease you chance of heart disease? Probably. You don’t need to go out and pump 5 miles at top speed to get the benefit of running! I run slowly and get many benefits including stronger bones, better cardio fitness, etc. In my experience many people who start running do too fast and too much, making it absolutely miserable. You can do the same thing by swimming or biking too hard….shall we make blanket statements about the risk to your heart that swimming and biking has? Bottom line – if you want to talk about the heart risk during exercise, don’t single out running, but refer to any aerobic activity that elevates heart rate. The thing that separates swimming and biking from running is impact – and this can be good and bad, but has nothing to do with the heart.

OK – I’m over it. Onward and forward.

And one more thing! Maybe it isn’t running, it’s the type of people who tend to run. I’ll describe myself: Stressed, high achieving, can’t relax, tend to do too much too fast. Maybe this type of person has a lower life span in itself and it has nothing to do with running. Just maybe we can remember the correlation/causation principles…..just maybe?

Ok – I am really am over it now.

Here’s some better definitions of the different work that muscle can experience:

Concentric – Muscles working as they shorten against resistence. Think sit ups in a human. Most normal work in horses is concentric activity.

Eccentric – Muscles working as they lengthen against resistance. In humans – while laying on your back, with your legs straight – hovering above the ground. As you lower the straight legs to the ground, your abdominals and hip flexors are working eccentrically. In horses, down hills require eccentric muscle work.

Isokinetic – “movements that occur at a constant speed. In humans – light weights that are moved repetitively and at a constant speed. In the horse – work at a constant repetitive speed using resistance, such as a incline up or down.
Isometric – Static exercise. Outward visible signs are not noticeable. Bromiley recommends 6 seconds for any Isometric excerise. One she suggests for the rider is to push your back against a chair while sitting down.

Closed Chain – Movements that occur when the body moves over a fixed segment. In the human – a squat. An example of a horse closed chain is working down a long grid with identical spacing between every pole. Bromiley notes “closed chain exercises are probably the most useful for all riders.”

I felt that trying to understand the different types of muscle activity is important to understanding the arena exercise portion of the book. She stresses that any arena exercises should vary the work done on a muscle.

Obviously almost any exercise you can imagine has some, or maybe all, of the types of the exercises described at some point in the activity. I think the point is to be able to evaluate – am I asking the horse to do mostly concentric work? How can I incorporate Eccentric? Am I asking for any closed chain activity? By being aware of the different types of muscle activity, you can evaluate for holes in the exercise program and try to design programs that vary the type of muscle activity asked for day to day or within a circuit.

Next: Describing specific arena exercises.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bonus Post

For those of you that just absolutely do not have enough to read already.....I have a guest post up over at Food Adventures Etc. (if link doesn't work, it's listed in my sidebar)

My very first cow

Let’s review the advice I got from y’all when I posted yesterday about an upcoming cattle experience.


When the cow charges you, before you dissolve into a fearful pool of jelly, slip your foot out of the stirrup to kick the cow in the face”.


“Remember – Arabs aren’t good at this”


Thanks everyone.


So what I discovered is that I had been thinking of little cows all wrong.  They are not the evil cousins of dairy cows, nor obstacles on the trail, or malicious little beasts waiting to ambush you when you least expect it.  No, they are play things.  Toys.  Hehehehehe. 


The morning was spent doing equitation, which is (apparently) part of the whole reined horse experience.  It also served to let the trainer check out the riding level of everyone AND give everyone saddle time without wearing down his cows.  So I gave a big sigh, apologized to Farley (I had promised that today we would do something new and different), and worked on circles.


I tried to keep an open mind, while also trying to mitigate any confusion to Farley as she went from being a dressage horse to a little cow pony.  While dressage may value straightness over all else, a cow pony is valued for its ability to follow its nose and not be “babysat” during the pattern.  I muddled through it with a smile on my face and showed the rest of the class that even though I was in an English saddle I am perfectly capable of riding on a loose, draped rein at the canter (or lope or whatever).


After lunch I, as a cattle newbie, had to prove my horse and myself with a group of weanling calves before being given my very own cow…..5 or 6 little cute calves were let into the pen to wander around.  Farley got right in there with them and pushed them around.  She was interested and alert, but never spooked.  Mmmmm…..this was going better than I thought.  Shortly I got the call to go out of the pen, signaling I had graduated.


I was the first to go.  My half grown cow was let in and off we went.  I pointed Farley at the cow and Farley pinned her ears and locked in.  Off we went at a canter and gallop, round and round. I checked her a few times to keep her in the right position – she bucked, but then seemed to get the idea and I didn’t have to ask her to keep the position again.  She blew through the stop 2-3 times, but some of it was my fault – my weight too far forward – and again, once she figured out that she stopped when the cow stopped, there wasn’t any more problems.


Soon it was time to turn the cow, then stop it.  We faced the stopped cow.  I pushed a bit and the cow sprinted for the side.  Farley leaped into a canter to match the cow.  The cow turned and Farley sat down on her butt and spun to match.  We did it again in the other direction.  My mind was in shock – we were actually leaping around and spinning like a “real” cow horse.  My skinny butt arab was giving that cow what for and completely dominating.


I got a “fantastic” and “perfect” from the trainer and then it was my turn to watch my partner work a cow.  I was shocked that Farley was as “cowy” as she was but I think the trainer was shocked that through all that darting, cutting, and spinning I had kept my seat and stayed perfectly centered….in an English saddle. 


I’m going to get smug here for a sec. I’m allowed to be smug about my seat because goodness knows I’ve had to work like hell to achieve every other little thing about riding!  It’s the only thing that came naturally.  I chalk it up to my extensive teenage bareback riding and the fact I have constantly ridden since then – I haven’t taken a break like so many adults who then have to rediscover their balance and seat on the horse.  It takes a LOT to unseat me off a horse and it hasn’t happened in a very long time, even though I ride a multitude of horses.  Minx was the only one who knew just what spin, pivot, dropped shoulder combo worked. 


I was impressed that Farley had been able to work that cow, but here the real test was still coming.  I stood in the middle of the pen, while my partner worked the cow around me.  Farley never even flinched or tried to spin around as the cow ran around and even cut across right next to her.  Perfectly calm and focused.


What does it take to make this horse come unglued?  So far I’ve only had one bunny rabbit from hell incident – when I tried to trot past a bike still in motion.  I’ve done sword work, close contact sword melees etc. and she does it like she’s done it her entire life.  I think it’s high time to try pistol fire from the saddle and plunk her in a reenactment battle to see what she’s made of.  She’s a born cavalry horse if I’ve ever seen one.  Obviously any fear or uncertainty of what this horse is capable of is, in my mind, not hers.


The trainer at the end of the day said that Farley and I “fit each other to the ‘T’”.  I’m still trying to decide whether it was a compliment or a comment…..After all, for the most part we are both mostly untrained and opinionated which I am sure is not at all a compliment!


So does any one have any little toys (calves) for me to play with?  Pretty please?  I would be ever so grateful!

Friday, January 8, 2010

What the...

I am going to a cowhorse reining clinic tomorrow. On Farley. Yep - we are going to learn all sorts of things like "boxing a cow", running something down a fence, sorting something else, and somehow through of all of this accomplishing my real goals:
  • Have fun
  • Give Farley some cow experience, so when a bull looks at us from the side of the trail during conditioning rides, I don't melt into a shivering pool of fear.

This is really all D*'s fault. While trail riding he spoke of how much "fun" cattle work was, and how it really "matters" because there is a goal that either gets done or doesn't (presumably the cow is how you want it or not). In fact, he made it sound so glorious that I went back and edited by 2010 goals to include cattle work on Farley. Now, the day before, I'm not too sure. Really, what was I thinking?

On the other hand, I condition around cows. While Farley has progressed from snorting and doing her best impression of a bunny rabbit, to merely flicking an ear as cows tumble from the hill side along side the trail, I'm under no firm assurances that things wouldn't suddenly disintegrate if the cows moved TOWARDS us rather than away. Couple that with my naturally fearful nature and an over-active imagination and that spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

Actually, it just spells trouble for whomever is riding with me (most likely a 14 year old cousin). As I've already explained to her, if the sh-t hits the fan, I'm under no obligation and it's every (wo)man for their own! It will be a close thing, but I almost positive I could make it down the trail first through hook or crook, leaving her to distract the bear, cougar, bull, whatever following close behind.

But I digress.

I pointed out to my co-worker, whom I'm going with, that I won't be exactly inconspicuous in my english saddle, bright biothane tack and helmet, even if I'm going with the jeans and cowboy boot look. I attempted to disguise my saddle with a cleverly placed western print pad and nope, it's not going to fool anyone. But then she pointed out that the 2 Fresians she's bringing aren't exactly traditional cow horses.....

So off I go. Poor little Farley. Just this morning we tacked up and went on a lovely 5 mile trot/canter down the canal, complete with shoulder-in practice (my newest tool in the tool box from Wednesday's lesson). Tomorrow morning is going to be an eye-opener. I've NEVER fallen off of Farley... Making a note to make sure I put on my helmet...... Remember that I showed dairy cows for 8 years and LIVED at a dairy in college. Beef cattle are not the evil cousins. Just the smellier ones.