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Monday, August 29, 2011

I do believe we have a problem

The problem could be that I regularly lose my car in parking lots because it in no way resembles a white pickup truck.

Unfortunately the problem is bigger. Much bigger.

Apparently the definition of "sufficient" time off for a tendon injury is as follows:

Horse will lose all signs of previous conditioning and assume a shape that can only be defined as round. Non-horsey people will ask if your mare is pregnant, never mind she's in flaming heat currently.

Wrenching the girth on (there *may* have been a well placed foot on the expansive belly to help this process along) reminded me of trying to squeeze into my lap swim suit after 4 years and jumping in the pool - unpleasant.

Farely didn't seem to notice. She was too busy trying to clean up her selenium and Vit E laced Stable Mix (a VERY small amount, let me assure you) mash to notice anything as unpleasant like the fact she was going back to work.

As I led her out to the long private road my parents live on to mount up, a thought struck me.

It's been 5 months since this horse has seen a trail. Five months since I've done anything but a 10 minute bareback hack around the arena. And here I am, saddled up ready to leap into the saddle ("leap" being defined as a rather vague "haul my ass up in the saddle and not get bucked off in the process). Farley was being a bit snorty, as if to say "what the hell?????" and as my Dad roared up in his disel truck, felt the need to tell me of her galloping, bucking antics in the pasture a while ago. At that point I decided:

1. Our 10 minute walk just got moved to 20 minutes. After 3 months in pasture (controlled turnout before that) running around, if 20 minutes broke her, then it just isn't meant to be.

2. Farley is probably too fat to buck me off.

With those assurances I put a foot in the stirrup, contemplated doing a "stand still" lesson - decided that was one battle I was NOT having on our first ride back - swung a leg over, and pogo-sticked down the lane.

After about a quarter mile Farley down business. She settled into that 4.5 mph walk that is no where to be found in the dressage court or at an endurance ride showed me once again why she has a forever home. My parents live in a "rural" area which means I can *probably* walk on the road without being hit, and during certain sections, there *might* be an orchard or two that as long as they aren't flood irrigating, is of suitable footing for walking along side the road on. Even after a long time off, zero prep, and in an environment of many distractions, she took care of me and showed that she is still my little sensible pony.

Did I tell you my parents had a grass fire across the road from their property a couple weeks ago? Complete with fire engines with sirens? Apparently Farley just stood there watching. The fire fighters commented how calm she was. "Did you tell them she was a crazy arab????" I asked.

Two more very positive signs:

1. She wasn't ouchy on the gravel lane, the asphalt, or the dirt footing. Even considering the weight she gained.

2. She seems to be happy to go back to work. When in work, she likes getting out every day for SOMETHING - whether it be grooming, arena, or trail. After being off for a week or two - or even a month, she can be very grouchy and pissy about going forward. Apparently, a couple of months is her idea of a "suitable" vacation. I brought a dressage whip on our ride which I did NOT need.

However....all is not well in the world of Team Faubel:

After our 20 minute walk I was sore. My legs *may* have been a bit wobbly. After a 20 minute walk. Oh baby, this is going to be an adventure.

Friday, August 26, 2011

So you want to be a vet student....

Hi there!

Remember me?

Your resident vet student?

That person who used to entertain you daily, or if not accomplishing that much, at least provided a somewhat amusing annoyance?

And then vet school happened.

Ah yes - vet school. I believe it's been almost 2 weeks since I gave you a REAL update of vet school and how I plan to sequester myself over the next 4 years?

Understandably, you feel jilted. After all, you have patiently waded through vet school! vet school! vet school! posts, slogged your way through my personal statement, and endured a chipmunk-like attention span around admission notification time.

But there's all this complicated stuff like ethics, online policies, and various oaths/codes of conducts/contracts signed in blood that take some time to decide how I want to approach the subject (more on that later).

So then - vet school. Where do I begin?

Today was the end of our first block.

Remember that new curriculum that I was all worried about? Let me start by saying it is AWESOME.

After 2 weeks, my classmates and I still have smiles on our faces, still love the fact we are in vet school, and aren't sick of each other yet. In fact, we *may* have done some downtown celebrating of the conclusion of our first group project this afternoon.

The first block was on (and I *may* be paraphrasing...) how to get a room full of A-type, super controlling, anxiety-driven, let-me-whack-you-with-my-paddle-so-I-can-scramble-into-the-lifeboat students to cooperate, collaborate, and communicate with each other. Because afterall, we are now in the life raft and it's time to start getting along - knife fights tend to rip holes in the life raft. Not to mention learning basic self-care strategies that will let us live to retire at 80 years old when our student loans are finally paid off.

I won't lie and say it was easy. Growth is painful. It's something that every single student in my class is going to have to continue to work on throughout our entire time in school, and into our careers.

Warning - somewhat personal interlude...

In addition to the interpersonal skills, knowing oneself was emphasized . One thing I realized is how "untrue" to myself I have been over the last couple of years, and how much anxiety that has caused. I'm an introvert. I'm really introverted. Painfully so. Because of my career over the last couple of years, and my hobbies/interests I've felt a GREAT pressure to be an extroverted person. I have done a reasonable imitation of an extroverted person, so much so that I think some of my classmates still don't believe me when I tell them I'm an introvert......But I AM!!!!!! And by pretending I'm an extrovert instead of finding a way to be a functional introvert within what I want to do - and not practicing good self care, I've probably given myself a generalized anxiety disorder. I truly remind myself of a puppy that's spinning in circles, yapping at it's tail, desperately needing a time out in the kennel and unable to give myself one.

End of interlude

We were all asked to do self-care contracts with ourselves, and yes, Farley makes an appearance on mine. Along with blogging 3x a week. See, you guys ARE important!

Monday we finally start learning the more traditional vet-biology-chemistry-medicine in our second block. The curriculum is integrated, meaning that we learn the clinical, diagnostic, and science principles at the same time. My first rotation through the teaching hospital is Thursday. The new block continues to be a hybrid/modified "PBL" type learning with a maximum of 20 hours of formal lecture. This is approximately HALF, or even LESS THAN HALF the amount of time the students in the previous curriculum spend in formal instruction.

PBL is kind of how we learn endurance. We are presented a problem and have to research the solution. There is very little formal education, and it is an essentially a self study project with small group learning using resources like journals, research, consortium reports etc. The student has control and greater responsibility. While I probably would have failed dismally if given this sort of curriculum straight out of undergrad, 5 years of a career that was structured like PBL, and doing endurance is going to pay off now. I think Endurance actually prepares one quite well for a PBL program and vet school in general. I'll let you know in a couple of weeks if my brain cells haven't decided to mutiny, whether I still feel that way after a couple of exams....

Tess is giving me sad puppy eyes so it's time for our walk. Thanks to AareneX's solution the heeling is going MUCH better. Tess is an official "self-care" activity, along with eating, sleep, running, Farley, and you'all. Off to walk my under-done Brittany puppy!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Endurance for worriers

One of the greatest things about having a blog and an endurance related business is the new people I get to meet. One of those friends that I regularly correspond with commented that at her last endurance ride she spent so much time worrying about various things during the ride it was hard to enjoy actually DOING the ride.

I’m familiar with the feeling.

Is endurance not the sport for worriers? Is being a “worrier” detrimental to your ride? How do you balance the worry with also having fun with (what is for most of us) a hobby?

As I added blogs to my website's resource page I was struck how at any one moment in time, everyone in endurance is going through different stages. And by everyone, I mean EVERYONE. The experienced riders, the newbies, the ones returning to the sport after an absence. One has an injured horse in the beginning stages of care. Another is starting their horse back after long months of rehab and rest. Another is at the height of success, another is trying to decide the right time to retire a mount, and another is looking for that new mount.

In 6 months if you return to those blogs, the stories will be the same, but the stories will be in a different place! The rehabbed horse is back in the game, the new horse is now an old hand, and the successful horse is looking at retirement due to a tragic pasture accident.

There’s no denying that stuff happens. Even when you are careful. Even when you are prepared. Even if you aren't going that far, or your partner is just sitting in the pasture.

Worry is a part of endurance for some people. If I'm being completely honest, I don't really enjoy the actual riding as endurance rides much - yes, there are periods where I take a deep breath consciously tell me myself I need to let it go and actually have FUN. But most of the time I'm focused and alert and making sure everything is still a "go".

I think that some people do a better job of letting go of their worry and enjoying the ride. If being a worrier is part of who you are, then learning to draw the line between productive worry, and worry that just detracts from enjoying the sport is important. I am a worrier and a stressor. Here are some of my strategies to deal with the stress and worry that I experience

1. Thinking about everything that could happen and developing contingency plans is actually comforting for me and I enjoy it.

2. Being organized.

3. Be prepared and educated. Or at least feel that way.... for both horse and rider.

4. Accept the risks of the ride and the sport.

5. Once you have done the best you can and it's ride, stick your head in the sand. I often have to consciously let go of my worries at various points in the ride and say "for the next 10 minutes I will do nothing but enjoy the scenery and tell myself how much fun I'm having".

6. Be cognizent of what helps and what doesn’t. I realized that talking through my worries and stress doesn’t help - it just keeps it at the forefront of my mind like an endless loop that repeats over and over and over.....better to distract myself and NOT talk it through.

I enjoy after the ride. I enjoy prepping for the ride. I enjoy the trail and being with my horse - but rarely on a ride do I have that totally content feeling unless I really really work on it and consciously decide to put away my worries. I actually enjoy my conditioning rides far more than the actual endurance rides - until I look back at those rides. Which brings me to another point - I really try to do things during rides that I may not appreciate at the time, but will make the memory of the ride enjoyable. I buy a picture, no matter how I felt about the ride while riding, or right after. Going through the little “ceremonies” at rides, such as doing the “victory lap” Tevis. I didn’t want to do that victory lap and my crew had to order me to do it - but now, watching the video during that section brings tears to my eyes.

Worriers can be successful in endurance because they catch stuff, hopefully while the issue is relatively small. BUT - that has to be balanced by learning to manage that worry. If you don’t, the very real risk of burning out and giving up endurance.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tess pic update

Yes, this is a post that is entirely based on pictures of Tess.

We had a social BBQ at school yesterday afternoon, and a classmate took a ton of pictures of the dogs present, including Tess.

Tess did well - especially considering she's just 5 months old. I did let her off leash to play, but made sure she checked in often. There were a TON of dogs there and it was nice to see that she interacts appropriately with unknown dogs and maintains a decent recall. Her puppy brains didn't instantly bleed out of her puppy eyes the minute she was allowed to play.

Her obedience is coming along very well. The only area I'm unhappy with is her leash work. She's "OK" at the heel - meaning she doesn't pull on me - but I don't like how her position creeps forward. She HATES her gentle leader - so we have a deal. As long as she's responsive to heel, the gentle leader remains in my pocket. BUT, if she's naughty, the gentle leader goes on, but the leash doesn't get attached unless she continues to ignore my requests to heel....

I'm looking for an obedience class as prep for doing agility with her. I need to introduce the clicker soon (that's the method favored by the agility instructor that I want to work with). I'm considering working the "heel" with the clicker and see if that can positively reinforce the command.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The importance of a continuing education

Have your opinions changed over the years about certain products or technologies? I think that the endurance rider, perhaps more than equestrians in other disciplines, has a responsibility to educate themselves, and then continue that education as time goes by, even on subjects they think they have "figured out".

There’s many things I've changed my opinion on - the barefoot horse, worming protocols, the value of LD’s, which endurance specific tack is necessary to my success and more. Sometimes the old adage, "if it ain't broke don't fix it", is true, but more often there is value in evaluating new data, fitting it into your schema and fixing something BEFORE it breaks.

Last week in school, the instructor mentioned that Curiosity is a part of being a good veterinarian. "Every great doctor is driven by a deep sense of curiosity." I immediately thought of endurance riders. Part of the drive to continue my endurance education does come from a deep-seated curiosity, which I think most endurance riders have in common. Most of my blog posts and the experiences that I write about started out as a question "I wonder if....?" Curiosity is what leads me to continue to ask the questions, that when researched and reflected on, lead to a greater and greater accumulation of knowledge (and often even more questions).

I think that some people pride themselves on a great consistency in belief over the years. When I was trying to decide what types of feed would be the "best" for my horses, I heard over and over "we've fed alfalfa for 20 years without any issues!". It was frustrating because obviously there were issues - yet there was a total unwillingness to explore new ideas and research, and then make an informed decision based on the strength of the new data and whether it is appropriate or feasible in YOUR specific situation, when considering cost, availability, the type of horse you have etc. As a result their opinion was virtually useless to me - the only apparent reason they were feeding alfalfa was because they had always done so.

Consistency in VALUES, not in the actual mechanics of horse management are a sign of someone who is constantly pursuing a continuing education and someone I admire as a horse person.

I won't lie - making continuing education a priority and applying it is hard work and does take time. But the time I invest in educating myself, is as important as the time I actually spend on in the saddle conditioning.

One way I practice "continuing education" is to read articles, even if I think I already know the "answer". If it's a different opinion, I consider whether I need to keep, modify, or do further research on my opinion, or whether the evidence is strong enough to question my entire premise of why I do something a certain way.

As an example - in a recent e-newletter there was a question regarding a biting horse.

I already have a preference for how to respond to a horse that bites - My favorite way is to have the horse punish itself. If I'm doing an activity that I think a horse might attempt to bite, I attempt to have a body part (such as an elbow during girthing) in the path that the horse *might* slam into on it's way to take a chunk out a fleshy part of my body. If the horse catches me unware....and makes contact then I go ballistic for 2-3 seconds, which might include physical contact, and certaintly involves verbal and body language that is extremely aggressive. If the horse is known to be mouthy, I don't hand feed and I don't pet the head past the center of the forehead. My preference for dealing with the problem this way is based on past success, advice from horse people, and other research and articles on biting, aggressive behavior in horses, and how horses process information (such as the fact that they can't connect something that happened 10 seconds ago with your reaction now).

Still, I might be missing something so let's read the article.

What did I learn? First, that my methods for dealing with a biting horse are probably appropriate. I know have another confirmation that what I'm doing is probably effective and corrective.

HOWEVER - I learned that kids may not be able to apply the traditional techniques. I had never thought about using a grazing muzzle to help kids to feel more comfortable around a horse that may be mouthy. I have another tool in my "toolbox"!

Questions for further thought/research - what other situations do juniors/kids have to deal with that need special consideration because they may not be able to apply an "adult" aid effectively? Is there an endurance application to this concept? What qualities does an endurance horse must have that is suitable for juniors? What are some kid-friendly techniques that could help juniors deal with some of the typical problems encountered during endurance rides?

I may not have the time or energy to address any of these questions now, but a seed has been planted that might be useful in the future.

Curiosity and "continuing education" is a way of refreshing a subject and keeping it fun and interesting.

Blog Picks!

Karen posted an excellent article on how to wrap horse legs post ride

A new equestrian blog has been added to the side bar! Welcome!

An interesting look at whether a vet is a "real" doctor. I'll let YOU decide! :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tevis 2010 Movie posted

The Tevis 2010 movie for Team Faubel has been posted on the website! Here's a direct link, or go to

Again - many thanks to my brother Tristan of Fuzzy Productions for producing this. It's a very special momento of a very special moment in my life.

A note about the "on site" interviews you will see in the movie.

As my family knows, there are 2 things that I am *almost* unreasonably grumpy about -

1. Taking group pictures. And then standing there for picture after picture after picture. And being micromanaged by the photographer.

2. Asking me "how do you feel/how are you doing" during an activity that is stressful, tiring, and difficult. At the very least this will get you glare. "Look of Death" really.

In regards to number 1, you probably has noticed that most of the pics posted of me here are "un-posed". I don't mind a camera as long as I'm not asked to smile or alter what I'm doing. I just ignore it - which is actually good for film.

One change that Tristan wanted in 2010, was to be able interview me during the ride. We preplanned what he would ask and when he would ask so that I could mentally and emotionally be ready to divert my focus from the ride, to the interview. He got ONE take and was allowed to ask me how I was doing or feeling ONCE. He did a fabulous job considering the limitations that I put on him!

PS - I should mention that I have yet to watch this final I'm posting this while in class (naughty Melinda).

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Melinda needs a kennel

[edited: Can I just put a disclaimer here and then you guys can mentally copy and paste this into the start of every post? As of August 15th my brain is dead. It's a bonafide miracle that these posts are even getting written. So I apologize for the grammer, the sentence structure, the spelling, and my use of the English language. :) ]

After the first day of vet school I felt like a 5 month old puppy that really needed to be put into her kennel.

A little maniac.

A lot tired.

Even more brain dead.

Wanna hear something surprising? I actually think the small group thing is going to be fun. We did a survival exercise that involved ranking a list of 15 items in order of importance to survival. Our group had the best score, and our group score FAR out performed any of our individual scores.

This will be the same small groups that we do labs and other school-related activities (unless we ever get stranded in the sub-arctic - in that case we we just did our homework...) so this is a good sign. Seeing the scores really helped me trust the group consensus and realize that even though in the details I may not agree with what the group decides, the overall picture will be closer to goal than what I could have done myself.

So of course.....As I'm sitting there with my bright, shiny new computer during such relevant lectures as "Functional Meetings", my fingers are actually itching to discuss (in a blog post of course!) whether the rider/endurance horse relationship follows the process of group forming, and whether it may be more beneficial for an endurance rider to ride as part of a "team effort" instead of individually according to ROAR - even if some of the specific details of how the team is going to ride are different from the preference of the individual rider.....

The latter has implications in both the international competitions (the WEGs) and in our backyard rides. If you are stuck in endurance, it might be beneficial to form an informal "endurance ride team" and see how it goes. Call it "Team Faubel" or "Fiddler on the Roof" or the "Backpackers" (what my 20MT team name was this year). Decide on objectives and roles and follow the process of ROAR.

Roles (assign)
Objectives (agree on)
Rules (an important one is how to come to a consensus on issues that the group is divided on).

If you are like me, you will be skeptical of the team difference. I thought the effect would be minimal to none - but let me tell you folks, the difference was SIGNIFICANT.

In way, blogging is about collaboration and developing a sense of community. You may not always agree with your fellow bloggers, BUT I know I am certainty a stronger endurance ride because of all of you. I just didn't realize HOW much stronger I am probably am with your help versus without.

In an endurance, the roles that are assigned are more fluid and thus we may not see the full benefit of working in collaboration or a team - BUT why not take any benefit we can, especially if it fosters community?

That's why I'm excited about websites like, and what I envision for does a really great job of compiling and nurturing the endurance community - a tradition I want to continue at boots and saddles.

I want to point out that being part of a supporting and functional community and group doesn't mean we always get along. It's natural to be extra polite in the first stage (forming). "Storming" is when you actually start being honest and the personality conflicts are apparent. Hopefully you eventually move past that (it really doesn't have to be a big deal - it can be as simple as asking yourself - "why am I frusterated with this person?", accepting it, and then moving on. You don't have to burn bridges....) into "norming", and eventually into performance.

My point is - don't assume that a group "isn't working" as it's working through these stages. You and your horse probably move through these stages somewhat. Any team effort towards endurance is going to go through this. Any formation of a club or group or organization or (insert any group of people here...) is going to go through this.

I love that endurance is the sport where I can be a wacky and weird individual and I wouldn't change it for the world....but I will never again underestimate the power of collaboration on my success.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Made in America Update

OK - so this is more of a fake update. More of a post recommendation. For those of you that are interested, this post here has an interesting take on the total spending that American's do on stuff made in China.

And really - you can't expect REAL posts today of all days - my FIRST day of vet school. So instead, how about passing the time with some post recommendations? So here's my pics of the day to keep you busy.

A rider coping with lameness, turnout, and trying to do the best by her horse. There are no easy answers.

Watch as an amazingly GRAPHIC horse leg injury heals!

Nerving discussed on the hoof blog. Is nerving OK in some circumstances?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

*dances in place while spinning in circles*

We interrupt our normal programming for a special announcement - School starts TOMORROW!

Just today I've started to get some serious excitement brewing in my gut and I've been bouncing around like a.....

School Girl!


*clears throat*

First 2 weeks are an orientation so (hopefully) no studying involved and posts should still be going up at regular intervals. Funder - I'm getting to your question about trailering. Everyone else - Tevis 2010 movie is going through some final edits. I promise you I am as anxious as you are!

Wish me luck.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

How specifically does Dressage help?

I haven't given my normal "dressage will make your endurance better plug", in a while so it's time to dig out one of my old draft posts and give it my best shot.

Of course, we could consider that I haven't actually RIDDEN my horse in some time (24 weeks to be exact - and no, the couple of 5-10 minute under-saddle walks do NOT count), much less taken a dressage lesson on her. Or ridden an endurance ride. Or done much of anything besides feed and give her pedicures. And play "you can't catch me". But I have plans to change that!!!!!

Which is probably a silly resolution considering that school is a mere 2 days away.

But I digress.

In the ride report of the 20 mule team ride this year, I mentioned that it was probably the best example EVER of a ride where Farley and I ride OUR ride - no one else's. The answer to every schooling issue that came up in that ride was dressage. For the first time I had the tools I needed.

Now assuming that God hasn't given me my angels-singing-aha!-I-can-finally-outride-my-horse-moment, only to never let me play again....I'm REALLY looking forward to Farley's next ride.

I'm also blissfully assuming that Farley hasn't been studying her "Endurance Mare Avoidance Techniques" manual in the interim.

But I digress. AGAIN.


...shall we review what kinds of dressage-y things I did on the trail that day?

Half halts - all sorts and kinds. I used them re-balance, to help her through technical sections, to support speed down hill, as a "check" for "are you listening?". I used half-halts throughout the ride and used them often.

Submission/flexion - Specifically, asking for the head to lower by flexion and a little positioning. She usually got to do this exercise (her favorite of course - NOT!) after she ignored, or worse - threw a hissy fit - about a half halt. We do NOT ignore half halts!

Center line attitude - in the dark when I had nothing to judge position, speed, or trail, I just had myself. I constantly asked the questions: Do I have equal feel in both reins? Equal feel in both stirrups? These are the same questions you ask when you are going down centerline towards the judge and are being *perfectly* straight. It's easy in the dark to second guess your horse and make it harder for them to do their job. Concentrate on being balanced and centered in the motion and having equal feel on both sides of your body.

Rhythm - A change in rhythm would be my first clue that I needed to intervene with a half halt, or a gait change etc. I would leave her alone as long as the rhythm didn't change. I was only AWARE of rhythm because of dressage (and jumping). It seems simple, but it's a difficult concept to recognize before it it all goes to he11 and FIX without destroying some other part of your harmony and relaxation (at least it was for me - my dear and gentle readers probably have a magic wand they wave to fix all these vexing problems.

Another digression - can you believe that Tess has ALREADY destroyed the dollar store toy I gave her at the beginning of this post? New toy = distracted Tess = Melinda allowed to be creative and productive. This equation only works if the toy in question is NOT squeaky. Now I shall be the distracted Melinda. Get out of the laundry basket! Stop chewing rocks! Don't you dare! Stop antagonizing the grumpy sheperd!


Eek! Get out of the litter box!

Let's try a new equation.

Puppy in 'da kennel = completed post.

Where were we?

Go forward without jigging - In dressage lessons, while working on getting Farley truly into the bridle and on the bit at the walk, Farley's reactions was to raise her head and jig. Because it required her to actually WORK. And be FORWARD. And SUBMISSIVE. Things she's marginally good at when at rides, but sees unnecessary in the confines of the dressage court.

The solution was to hold her with my seat, NOT let go of the half halt and keep my leg on. The 20 MT 65 mile loop is a lollipop with repeat trail coming into camp. She is INFAMOUS for jigging this section when I ask for a walk, especially because it has a lot of slightly downhill terrain in good footing. In the past, I've been tired and sore at this point, and would try to fix the jigging with my hand and leg, ignoring my seat completely.

This year, when she tried that crap on me near mile 60 as we headed to camp, I asked for a walk and a half halt - just like I would in dressage when asking for more walk on the bit. She tossed her head up and jigged - just like in dressage. I IMMEDIATELY knew what to do because it was like reading I was the exact same script as in the lesson. It worked like a charm. Keep the leg on, continue the half halt, hold with my seat. Problem solved.

She doesn't jig often, so it was PERFECT that we were able to recreate this in our training and then move that lesson to the trail.

Looking back, these tools seem so simple and basic. It seems silly that I haven't had them all along. Some skills you can learn by reading and talking and researching. However, I think some of the nuances and application are best learned by having someone knowledgeable act as your mirror and guide. Hopefully I'll be able to maintain the basics of these skills on my own, since it will be a while before I can take lessons again.

Speaking of riding, what ARE my plans, you ask?

Farley has been off almost 6 months, except for the occasional under saddle walk here and there.

Her weight looks great - a bit plump but I like that going into winter - and her tendon is absolutely tight and cold (and has stayed that way week after week, month after month). I'm going to start her riding rehab seriously in the next week, working up to an hour or two of walk/trot on flat ground.

In December we will get rechecked and if everything looks good, we will plan on LD's in 2012 - hopefully enough to earn our LD patch - I think I'm ~4 LD rides away from that.

If everything continues to look good, we will move into 50's and finish up her 1,000 endurance miles (120 miles needed).

I think it's realistic to do LD's in vet school. I'm not sure about the 50's so we'll just take it one step at a time.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Death of a Corolla

Today we have a guest blogger - my sister Loreleigh. Many of you might remember her previous post on this blog, about the time when I turned her into bear bait (story is on the website under "ride stories" if anyone needs a refresher)

What do you think older sisters are for?

As a reminder - this is my HORSEY-sister (unlike the UNhorsey redgirl).

This story is admittedly unhorsey, BUT it's my blog and I've decided that it deserves space. Some quick background - The '92 Corolla is the car I learned to drive in as a teenager. Dad bought it after graduating from college as a commuter. By the time I got it, it had 230K miles on it. It was mine for a whole year (2 years?) and it (very briefly) was handed over to redgirl. It managed to survive its short foray into redgirl's ownership and passed to Loreleigh.

Loreleigh drove it and as it slowly turned into a sports car (that's what you call a 4 door sedan whose rear doors don't open any more, right?) it was decided that the younger brother would receive a a real guy....not like a sissy the car went off with Loreleigh to college. And then....back home after graduating college. I offered a month ago to buy it for $1,000. She refused. Rightly so, as it turned out. So I paid a little more and bought myself a '97 Corolla (same model) and if I squint hard enough, I'm 18 again.

At this point in its story, the Corolla had had 300K or so miles? Fit as a fiddle. Ran like a top. Going to go forever right?

Uhhhh...that would be a NOPE.

Let's hear about the death of a Corolla the words of her current driver.

My sister blew up my car. Perhaps this is a strong word for what happened but I have tried her in the court of sisterly justice on the charge of transportation immolation and have found her innocent by reason of the car-is-crap defense and sentence her to an eternity of never letting her forget it happened.

My sister (the non-horsey one) asked to borrow my car for an errand… or take my brother’s truck. I felt a premonition that I would regret it but … common place whenever a sister asks for a favor.

Ten minutes later when I was happily tossing a tennis ball for Tess I got a call. It was my sister. Her over cheerful voice was the one that implied that she had locked the keys inside again. I opened my mouth to tell her where I keep my spare.

“Your car is on fire!”

Me: “What?”

Her: “Your car is on fire?”

Me: (bad word)

Her: “Heh, heh…”

Me: “Is it just smoking? It does that sometimes, it’s ok, I can tell you how to ‘fix it’…”

Her: “Let me put it this way… the firefighters just sprayed a foam on your engine through the melted hole in the hood.”

Me: “Double (bad word)”

She had driven my car about 3 or 4 miles to the store, went inside for five minutes, and then ran outside to see the burning car. Upon realizing that it was HER car burning she kept the firefighters from breaking the windows and tried to remember whose car it actually was. I imagine it like an episode of Cops. “Who owns THIS car? Ummm… my sister let me borrow it, but it might not be hers…. Papers? It probably has those…” This being my tiny hometown “burning car” brought in a firetruck, two police cars and a handful of CHP (who in all fairness might have been there to eat at Panda Express).

Thankfully, Father arrived with his AAA card and official owner-ness and once again it used the free tow for the year home. I think I blame her most for not taking me with her, if my car was going to catch on fire, I at least wanted the excitement of watching it burn.

Father got a beer and we stood around the open hood of the car. The little fan that blew on the radiator to cool the engine died. The little motor got hot, smoldered and caught the weather stripping on fire and it was a lost cause from there.

“The only way you would have known that the fan was dead,” said Father “ was to realize that it wasn’t making a strange noise.”

Me: “Do you know how many strange noises that car makes? I fixed them by turning up the radio when I drove.”

The next morning I pulled the silver Toyota emblem out of a solid pool of melted black plastic on the hood, suspiciously pristine with a faint dusting of sickly yellow fire foam and handed it to Melinda whose Corolla is pristine except for its missing hood bling. “It’s probably cursed.” I said slipping it into place right next to the radiator fan.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Paraproskdokin Sentences


Oh yeah...we are going to have some fun today.

John Karsemeyer published a list of bluegrass related "Paraproskdokin sentences" in a CBA welcome column back in April. Now, even though I know that my readers are very smart and probably already know what the paraprodolacky....whatever sentences are, let's use his very smart sounding definition so that I can refresh my feeble memory.

"Paraprosdokian sentences are based on a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader (or listener) to reinterpret or re-frame the first part. Paraprosdokian is from the Greek meaning 'beyond' and, meaning 'expectation.'”

Uh huh. Again, I'm sure my very smart readers are LIGHT YEARS ahead of me and ready to plunk down 3 or 4 apiece in the comments, but I'm going to give this my best shot.

****Disclaimer - I may have shamelessly modified ones that other people have already written....If there's an especially lame one, than you know that's one I "borrowed". If it's incredibly funny - consider that one of my originals!

1. I asked God for a new horse trailer, but I know God doesn't work that way. So I stole a horse trailer and asked for forgiveness.

2. The last thing I want to do is leave you behind at a ridecamp when it's over. But it's still on my list.

3. Light travels faster than sound. This is why endurance riders appear intelligent until you hear them speak.

4. As a young person I thought I wanted a career as an equestrian. Turns out I just wanted the paychecks.

5. I didn't say it was your fault that you got my favorite campsite at the ridecamp, I said I was blaming you.

6. Always borrow a good horse from a pessimist. He won't expect to get it back.

7. Ridecamp hospitality is making your guests and neighbors feel like they're at home, even if you wish they were.

8. I keep missing you at those endurance rides, but my aim is getting better.

9. That ain't no part of nothin', but it might be part of something.

10. Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

11. Horses are so smart that within a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand on the very edge of the pasture and throw them food.

12. You do not need a helmet to fall. You only need a helmet for the opportunity to fall twice.

13. Some endurance riders cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.

14. To be sure of hitting reaching your endurance goals, succeed first and call whatever you accomplished the goal.

Now it's your turn!

(I'm using John's article and his modified sentences with permission)

Online Resources - Website Update

'Twas the week before school and all through her life, there was never more dedication to getting stuff done - since free time officially ends for the next 9 months on Monday with the start of school....

And so, I'm desperately trying finishing up some projects that have been on my "to get done this summer" list. There's 5 or 6 of these projects and I've gotten exactly NONE of them done. Except perhaps, the task of making my puppy a good citizen. That, I'm proud to say is coming along quite well.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Of all the projects I wanted to get done this summer, the website ( was at the top of the priority list - the boots sale section has been completed for a while, but the endurance section which I envisioned as a compilation of resources and stories for endurance riders remained woefully short of my expectations.

There's nothing like a deadline to force inspiration! As you might have seen over the past couple of days, I've been working hard to put up new content. Today, I've posted a "Resource" page which lists online resources for endurance riders - including blogs, websites, and organizations. If you have an endurance-related blog that I have missed, please let me know and I will add it. Ditto for websites, local organizations, YouTube channels and anything else online that you find helpful for endurance. If you don't like the description of the resource or blog that I posted, or if if no description is posted - write one and email it to me.

*Real* post coming later today. In the meantime for your reading enjoyment.....

Blog picks of the day:

pssssssst....did you know that I send these out on twitter daily, along with links to other endurance related news and research? Follow me @AHorseOffCourse!

Karen Chaton's Renegade Review. At Tevis 2010 I learned that glue on boots are not infallible. Make sure you have a strap on boot that can perform when you lose your glue on shell!

It would have been nice to have this little accessory during my canal jaunts at my boarding facility.

Since the tye up, I've only had hay tested once b/c of the logistics involved of getting it tested. I would pay a lot to buy pre tested hay. Here's an article that discusses some of the considerations when testing hay. (I know - it's an article and not a blog post so technically not a "blog pick" - but the issue is important).

I'm pretty sure this will be me - I'm already bad about mixing up human and animal terms - feet/hooves, vaccines/immunizations.

It's always interesting to see how a rider and horse team that are competing at the international level prepare for their rides.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

RunAmoc Update

As I use a product that I have previously reviewed in a novel way, I like to update my readers on the performance!

The RunAmoc has performed very well for me in the past. Previous review can be found here.

Since that review, I wore these on a 10 mile hike that I did while camping with a fellow blogger. It was at a brisk pace, over a technical single track, and besides my feet getting atrociously dirty, I was very pleased - and surprised how they performed on the trail. No slipping, my feet weren't sore, no rocks got inside, and my feet didn't seem as tired at the end of the day.

I have been a bit skeptical of using these on any real hiking trip because although they perform well enough day to day, I wasn't sure how my feet would feel in minimalist shoes carrying a 30 pound pack. The 10 mile hike was enough to convince me it was worth a on my recent jaunt up Pikes Peak, I decided to put them to the real test.

Now - I'm not stupid. I lashed my tried and true hiking boots to the back of my pack. If I ran into any problems, I would change out.

Day 1 we headed up to Barr camp - no issues. Nada, zip, zilch. I was really really surprised. It almost felt like I had more energy returning up my leg and each step was easier. I moved lighter and easier on the trail. I never tripped or stumbled. I used them both with socks and liners, and barefoot depending on the temperature.

On day 2 I changed into my hiking boots. It was going to rain during our hike and I wanted the assurance of waterproof footwear - and I wanted to see whether my feet would feel better, worse, or the same in the hiking boots. The pack was much lighter on day 2 (~6 pounds), and the hiking time was going to be about the same.

My feet hurt the most on day 2 - they felt tired. Each step made me feel tired. I couldn't wait to change back into my RunAmocs at camp. We later went on a short little hike out of camp and I wore my RunAmocs - thank goodness. I had been too tired coming into to camp to even think about adding another mile to the day - but I found that the RunAmocs let me move so much more efficiently over the trail that my feet actually felt better after doing the short hike in them.

Based on my experience, on Day 3 I switched to the RunAmocs for the hike down. My feet didn't slip inside the shoes, I didn't have to worry about banging my toes in my shoes, no blisters, no pain. My feet have NEVER felt this good after a hike.

I buy good hiking boots that fit and there's still a place for them in my life - but I'm totally sold on the RunAmocs. I spend a lot of time on my feet on a daily basis, and at the end of the day, I can tell whether I wore my RunAmocs that day, or one of my other pairs of shoes.

There are cons to any product and like I said in my first review....I still find them butt-a$$ ugly....but I've decided that people will be too busy looking at my beautiful new pierced ears to even get to my feet. Now I just need to figure out how to ride in them! Maybe these stirrups? Soft Star has recently released 2 new version of the RunAmoc line. I'm interested in trying them - it looks like improvements were made based on feedback they got from their users - however I'm hesitant because of the price and I know that this model works for me. These are not cheap alternative to shoes!

Tevis Video '09 Posted - Website update

Finally, after almost a year of trying various imbeds and downloads and links.....I found a way to put the video on the website!

Tevis '09 Video

Many thanks to Fuzzy Productions, which is owned by my brother, Tristan. His Youtube channel can be found here. (or search for "fuzzygeekproductions"). He got his new camera the day before Tevis 2009. Whew! He just got the 2010 video done yesterday and I'm previewing it today - so look for it to be posted sometime this week.

I really liked having a non-horsey person be the one to create and edit the video. If I had done it, it would have been twice as long and extremely boring. As a non-horsey person he was able to edit it for general interest.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New Trails Added - Website update!

Website has been updated with three new trail reviews (Nevada area) submitted by blog reader Funder.  Click on the link above, or go to to check it out.

Have your own review you would like to submit to help out your fellow endurance riders?  Email it to me at!  You will be given credit on the website and the blog announcement of trail reviews will be tweeted, buzzed, facebook'ed.  What are you waiting for?  

Don't be an idiot

I could have titled this a couple of different ways. Here's a few that were in contention:

Be prepared

This ain’t Disneyland folks!

Does sh*t just seem to "happen" to you?

Unlucky or unprepared?

The ignorance of people to very real physical danger astounds me. To be fair, it’s probably not their fault. Less and less people are growing up on farms and other places where there is a very real danger of being maimed or killed. From an early age, they learn that the stove is hot, be careful going down stairs, and perhaps not to play behind the SUV because mommy might be backing out .

Perhaps I’m not giving enough credit. Perhaps today’s children and young adults do have a good handle on the reality that there are many things in this world that can kill and maim through your carelessness. Maybe they do realize that sometimes there are no safety guards, people to sue, or rescuers standing by to save your sorry….err…bottom.

If so, than I’ll be generous and assume what I’ve seen over the summer is the exception.

From a very early age I was aware of the dangers of living and knew there were some things that even my parents couldn’t save me from. By age of 5 I knew better than to lean across the tractor PTO, or where loose clothing or my hair down. My uncle (not really an uncle, but I thought of him that way) was missing an arm due to a machine accident, and another relative that got kicked in the head by a horse. I didn’t have any illusions that there is always a happy ending and I understood the clear connection between my decisions and actions, and my wellbeing. Even in novel situations I understood it was my responsibility to access and determine what dangers may exist.

So how then do I explain the parents of little children that stood and watched with tolerant smiles as their kids darted around carriages, tried to climb on cannons hooked to a limber and horse team, and placed their bodies in front of carriage wheels, where one movement of the team would have made for a very flat child – or rather one that had a rather nasty flat channel running through its body where the iron rimmed wheel had made it’s path.

Sometimes I think people are used to doing whatever they want without thought, because “nothing ever happens”. And they are right – I’ve never ran over or injured someone – in part because there are a ton of volunteers around me that are trying to herd the cats – errr…I mean public – without hurting feelings, and it helps that I have the best horses in the world hitched up, who I can trust. But if those parents had an inkling of how many dead and maimed children and adults are part of our history books because of carriage accidents, I have a feeling that the napping Nellie hooked up to the carriage would evoke the same caution as a car that has been put into reverse while you are walking nearby in the parking lot – not necessarily fear, but caution and responsibility.

Climbing a 14er such as Pikes Peak is no joke, even though a VERY nicely maintained trail will take you all the way up to the top if you wish. It was amazing to me the number of people that didn’t bring water. Or a way of treating it. Or a container to put the water in. Or the cash to rent a filter at Barr camp. Or the people who were continuing up the peak above tree line in the middle of a (well predicted) lightening storm. The thing is – most of those people make it through OK. They have an exciting story to tell and they may or may not have gotten the “point”. That they were warned. That they were ill-prepared. That people more experienced than they strongly advised trying to peak that day. That walking up and down 13 miles of a 14er isn’t a Disneyland ride.

I realize that sometimes you end up in a perilous situation regardless of preparation or experience. And often, as a novice you can’t know all the dangers, and sometimes, sh*t happens. If a well prepared person goes out to sea in a single person sailboat, determined to do solo sailing on the Atlantic, and he ends up in a lifeboat, (I just finished “Adrift”), then I feel like that person knowingly evaluated the risk, decided that it was worth the risk of death, and did it. What about another story I heard while on Pikes Peak of a hiker, determined to reach the summit during a snow storm and continued past Barr Camp, even though the locals strongly advised that is attire, supplies, and experience was not up the task once he reached the half way point? (if he had been a horse at an endurance ride, the ride vets would have pulled him). He continued anyways, stashed his duffle ~6 miles from the peak and continued onward Fortunately, a local was worried, went looking for him, found him and a helicopter life flight was called in or he would probably be dead. This is an example of a person who potentially put many more lives than his own at risk because of his inability/unwillingness/ to recognize the hazards. Probably 100’s of people just like him reach the peak every year, each one of them equally unprepared…..but sometimes things don’t work out – and then it’s an ugly situation you’ve gotten yourself into.

It’s wonderfully gratifying to save a life or be a first responder to a tragedy adverted….but how many times did the person not have any business being there in the first place? How many people get themselves into tragic circumstances because of being naive to the real dangers of the activity, who never make the distinction between what they see in movies or amusement parks, and what the natural world is like?

Endurance riding, especially rides that carry more risk for horse and rider like Tevis, is a sport that I hope is full of people who consciously weigh the risks and make informed decisions. Endurance riding is not the show ring where all variables are known before hand (as much as the horse variable can be predicted….). I think that one reason this sport rises above the rest is the willingness of the community to support new riders, to be honest, and to lend a helping hand on the trail. It is not my belief that endurance riding should ever be so controlled that is basically a rail class with better scenery or a Disneyland amusement park – but I appreciate the regulations and control judging that is in place to help all of us make better decisions during a ride, and help us to weigh the benefits of continuing versus “calling it day”.

Danger in life is not negative – it is the spice that when accounted for in our thought processes makes us sharper, more focused, and more alive. Just keep in mind, there are not necessarily safety guards and warning signs for all the hazards of this world. Live accordingly.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I learned my people skills from my horse

...and puppy.

As this is my first day back from vacation, I wanted to keep it on the lighter side. However, Before getting into the post, I wanted to share 2 things.

1. If you get into your truck, and there are cobwebs in it, it's been too long since you drove it. I had to get hay today - I'll admit to being a wee bit lazy and using the BF's truck the last 2 times, rather than unbury mine from behind the fence and 3 other vehicles.....and there were cobwebs in it. Good thing it has vinyl flooring - it's a work truck and the cobwebs just blend in with the decor....I'm trying out a couple of different ways to feed free choice hay by the bale and when I find the best method, I'll share it with you. I think I've got it....but we'll wait a few days to see - Farley was none to happy when I presented her with the bale this morning. (colored me unconcerned about her indignant mare head toss - she's no vanishing waif at this point!)

2. Credit card fraud can happen to you. It happened to me. I went to use my main credit card at the gas pump this morning and it wouldn't authorize. So I used a different one to pump gas and called the customer service number. (BTW - this is why I carry more than one card. I do NOT use a debit card because even though the cards carry the symbol of Visa or Mastercard, they are not always covered by the same fraud guarantee that traditional credit cards are. Exposes me to too much risk IMO). It turns out that there are several fraudulent charges on that account and they had locked the account until I could verify whether I had made the charges. All charges were made since the current statement, and the only reason I hadn't caught them before fraud did was because I was out of town and did not check my transactions as regularly as when I am home. I am thankful that my card company has a watchful fraud service, and took action. I will not be responsible for ANY of the fraudulent charges, the account will be close immediately. I'm not sure where the breach of security came from - I'm very careful to not let it out of my sight, and try to be vigilent about what the card readers look like at gas stations, and not do credit card transactions over an unsecured wireless connection. My best guess is that it was picked up at a card scanner at a gas station, but I'll probably never know for sure. Please be vigilent everyone! I'll be pulling my credit reports and looking at them carefully for some time, and I hope that the credit card was the one and only security breach!

Back to the fun stuff - Horses! and Puppies! Oh My!

I did not grow up as a particularly avid people person. I tended to be anti-social, do individual sports, and was not considered in anyway a "team player". Although to call me a "team player" today would be stretching it, I have realized that as much as I need my "alone time", I also desperately need my social and people time. I'm not as much of a loner as I thought, and I genuinely care about people, getting along, and helping others. I managed several departments over the last 5 years, and to my surprise I was actually decent at it and managed to win the approval of my managers, co-workers, and employees. Somehow, between the anti-social teen years and the present, I found the tools and attitudes I needed to be able to work with other people as an equal, a subordinate, and a manager.

So where did I learn this?

Horse ownership. And much later, puppy ownership.

Animals were my best teachers, probably because in most cases, they are realtively uncomplicated and the lessons they teach are straightforward. Here are some of the the lessons I have learned. I follow the principle with an example or story if I have one, within the ()'s.

From the Horse:

The "when to apply" and "when to release" the pressure is the most important lesson of all. (I have to give credit to the Parelli method for this one. Early on in my "horsey life" a friend took me to see one of his shows, and I walked away really "getting" the concept of pressure and it's purpose in horse training. There are many different types of pressure - body language, tone, as well as the traditional aids).

If you are going to get mad, get really mad. Then let go of it immediately once it has served it's purpose. When being "mad", be perfectly in control. If you can't be in control, you have no business showing you are mad - you aren't accomplishing anything. (anytime I'm "mad" at my horse - because she has tried to bite me, for example - the reaction is always precalculated down to EXACTLY what my reaction will be, and how long it will last. IMO anger is a useful tool

Be lavish with your praise.

Have a plan. A plan comes with a goal, an execution method, and a plan B. (Along with your plan, you should have a very good concept of what kind of pressure you are going to apply, how soft it will be in the beginning, how quickly you will progress to the hardest pressure, and what you will do next if you have reached the "hardest" level of pressure and you still don't have remotely what you wanted. My advice? Salvage what you can, go back and do the previous lesson with the horse, or try the lesson in a different way. The times I got into the biggest trouble was when I only knew one way to do something. That sponsors fear and frusteration, instead of the joy of a puzzle and a challenge).

Be consistent. Communicate very clearly - your body language and tone matter more than the words.

Don't micro manage unless you would like to continue to micromanage that task until the kingdom comes. Show it, and then leave room for failure.

Give the horse (and person) a chance to do the right thing. They may give you more than you asked for and that will make both of you happy.

Give credit. Error on the side of taking less credit for yourself.

Don't use the "Because I'm the boss" card too often. It's more effective that way.

Ask for favors and say please and thank you. The horse/employee knows they are obligated to do it, but it promotes good will and esteem/confidence.

It takes a lot more time to "undo" a wrong, than to take extra time in the beginning to never commit the wrong in the first place.

Occasionally presenting a problem and seeing the approach is fine, but regularly asking something that is beyond their capability to give is not fair.

From the Puppy:

Consistency, consistency, consistency - yes, I know this is for the horse too, but I notice it even more so with Tess. I'm with Farley ~1 hour day. I'm with Tess for 24 hours. I LIVE with Tess. I spend recreation time with Farley. If I'm in a mood or I'm too tired to give Farley what she needs in terms of consistency and communication, then I'll skip our visit for the day. Tess is ALWAYS there, and trust me - is ALWAYS doing SOMETHING.

Treats sometimes is more effective than treats all the time or treats none of the time. Of course it goes without saying that you shouldn't promise a treat and then fail to give one.... that's just mean....

Allow the puppy/person to develop within their capabilities/breed. Tess is a pointer and a hunting dog. She has certain tendencies that have been bred into her, that make her prone to do certain things. Some are desirable, some are not. It's more about molding her within what she already is to be my companion or to do her job, not completely changing her. The former is good management. The latter is unrealistic and a recipe for failure.

Play time is important. Lessons can be incorporated into play time, but playtime "just for play" is as important.

A good relationship needs time. Lots of different kinds of time - training, playing, hanging out, traveling, working.

You don't have to be perfect - everything usually turns out OK.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The sea level dweller goes up

Off to climb Pikes Peak!

For those of you interested, we are taking Barr Camp Trail and staying at Barr camp for 2 nights during the adventure. Too bad we aren't horses and can't take advantage of their natural altitude adjusting physiology.

These two sea level gals (with my mom) have been doing all we can to prevent altitude sickness (Pikes Peak is a 14er, my first) which includes:

*Staying hydrated, starting a couple of days before the ascent.

*Considering electrolytes during the hydration process

*plenty of sleep (there hasn't been a night where midnight has seen us in our beds, so this isn't going so well...)

*Fitness at sea level

*A series of gradually more strenuous warm up hikes in the days leading up to the ascent - All above 6k ft elevation and range from actual trails, to "hiking" the down town at used gear shops.

All these things are very similar to what I would do the prepare for a high elevation endurance ride, such as Tevis.

Back in a couple of days!