Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Revealing Horsey Memories

So I snagged this from one of my friends off MySpace, and it seemed more appropriate to repost it here as well. Snag it if you feel like it!

Your Age: 23
How old were you when you start​ed ridin​g?​: 7
How many years​ have you been ridin​g?​: That would make it about 16 years next summer.

Show/Registered Name:​ Skip Me Gold
Barn Name:​ Mimi
Age: 15
Gende​r:​ Mare
Color​:​ Grey, witha few tiny little flea-bitten marks here and there, and cute little mottling freckles around her eyes and muzzle.
Breed​: POA
Heigh​t:​ 14hh (on her tiptoes, on a 6 week barefoot trim)
Years​ Owned​:​ 12

Have you ever falle​n off?: Yeah. More times than I care to count or remember.
Have you ever been bit by a horse​?: Yep. The pony has quick teeth reflexes, and was seriously cranky about being woken up in the early mornings.
​Have you ever been kicke​d by a horse​?​: Actually, I've been remarkably lucky in that regard, and the worst I've gotten has been accidental hoof contact on the thigh when I fell off and rolled.
Have you ever been serio​usly injur​ed by a horse​?​: A concussion or a sprained shoulder was the worst of it.
What is the highe​st you have jumpe​d on a horse​?: 3'6".

Engli​sh or Weste​rn: Did both, prefer English. Still like my English-style endurance saddle best.
Show or Pleas​ure:​ Did both. Switched to Endurance.
Saddl​e or Bareb​ack:​ Did both. Bareback is fine for casual pasture riding, but the pony is way to hard to ride bareback with her lack of withers. Saddle all the way, thanks.
Tall Boots​ or Paddo​ck Boots​:​ Neither. Ariat Terrains or hiking sneakers.
Breec​hes or Chaps​:​ Half chaps and obnoxiously colored tights I'm an ENDURANCE RIDER, baby!!!
Ridin​g Indoo​rs or outsi​de:​ Outdoors, all the way!!! (I'm in Arizona, riding gets cancelled because of weather maybe .05% of the time.)
Horse​s or Ponie​s:​ Pony Power!!! I heart my pony.
Favor​ite disci​pline​:​ Endurance

Trail​s:​ All the time. Endurance?!?!
Showi​ng:​ Used to.
Weste​rn:​ Yes.
Engli​sh:​ Yes.
Halte​r:​ Yes, ick.
Barre​ls:​ Yes, my favorite thing to do behind endurance is all gymkhana games.
Racin​g:​ Only unless racing across open fields or wide double track dirt lanes counts.

Gone swimm​ing on horse​back: Sadly, no. I would like to someday.
Ridde​n bareb​ack:​ All the time.
Broke​ in a horse​ all by yours​elf:​ No, I'm not quite brave enough for that. I'll take them with 30 days, thanks.
Gotte​n a horse​ award​ of any type:​ Hehehe...yeah...

​The horse​ spook​ed:​ Yeah. Spooks happen when you ride outside a ring. Heck, they happen inside a ring, too...but they happen a lot more outside the safety of the rails.
Had a horse​ trip befor​e:​ Yeah, cantering bareback across a pasture and just kind of slid off.
The horse​ refus​ed a jump: Why, I believe this is how I've come off most of the time.
The horse​ fell on top of you: Fortunately, no.
The horse​ bucke​d:​ Yeah. Thank you, Beamer. *glares*
The horse​ reare​d:​ Yep, first time I ever came off a horse.
The horse​ bolte​d:​ Yeah, this kind of goes hand-in-hand with the spook thing.

​Have you ever broke​n a bone from ridin​g:​ Nope. Have the majority of my sprains from riding, though.
Been stood​ on: A number of times.
Ever had stitc​hes:​ Not from horses.
Had a horse​ land on you from a rear:​ Nope.
Been tramp​led:​ No, the pony was smart enough to jump over me.
Been badly​ bruis​ed:​ Oh yeah.
Torn/​crush​ed any tendo​ns/​muscl​es:​ Just sprains. And that's been a shoulder, both ankles, both wrists, a hand, and both knees. (Is it possible to sprain a knee??? If it is, I've done it...)
Been dragg​ed whils​t leadi​ng a horse​:​ Yep.
Been dragg​ed when you fell:​ Only because I refuse to let go of the reins, and it was only a couple feet. I skidded on pavement once, though.
Lost confi​dence​:​ From time to time, yes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The best-laid plans

As most people are starting to get geared up for the 2009 AERC season already, I'm gazing a the thin layer of dust that has accumulated on my saddle. Sadly, it's not trail dust. It's dust from sitting on a saddle rack in my room for the past 6 weeks. That's right, I haven't taken my saddle out since the beginning of October. The few times I've ridden Mimi have been in the arena and pasture, bareback.

Beamer's face is still healing from his encounter with some sharp, pointy objects, something that happened about 3 weeks ago. The location of the wounds (left side of his face, about in line with a halter noseband, and the right edge of his jaw) make bandaging impossible, and the lingering heat we are dealing with means the flies are still very active. It also means it's very tough to put a halter on him. We've discovered he works beautifully off a neck rope. Whoduh thunk it???

Mimi's still off. I can't pin anything concrete down, but my suspicions are that it is actually a mechanical issue versus true pain. It appears that she is ever-so-slightly off in her left hind leg, but it is a consistent thing that shows up now matter what gait, which had lead me to embrace to following conclusion:

When I last had her joint injections done in September, the vet had a very difficult time find a spot to stick the needle in her right hock. I believe, as does the vet, that this meant that her hock was very close to fusing. I'm guessing a bit if time, and the stress and strain of Man Against Horser, might have completed the process. By fusing, her hock now has less mobility, but it also means there is not the irriation of forming bone spurs rubbing together, and she is more comfortable on that leg.

However, her left hock is not yet fused. That hock was better off than the right one, and still easy to inject. What I believe is happening is that one hock (right) has more flexibility than the other, leading to a slight imbalance of movement. It's not true pain or lameness, but rather a natural imbalance that is stemming from having one leg that can flex more than the other.

All that to say: I think 2009 will be my year off endurance. While she's not technically lame, I feel that even doing 25 miles in an unbalanced state like that could cause some other type of damage in that her front legs would be unevenly loaded, and it will cause me to ride unbalanced. School is also getting to a rather critical stage for me...I'd ideally like to be done by the end of 2009, and be able to move and be out on my own by the first part of 2010.

So Mimi's going to get some time off. We'll still be casually trail riding of course, to keep her mind sane and in shape. Exercise will help that other hock fuse all the faster, and who knows...maybe we'll be back at it, doing LDs in whichever locale I end up moving to (right now, San Diego, CA tops the list of choices). I just feel like I need some time away to clear my head. I have so much stress going on in everyday life right now that the decision to not compete for now has lightened some of the weight on my shoulders.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A worthwhile mention

For a while now, I've been following the blog of Tamara of In the Night Farm (the link is on the sidebar). She is raising and training Barb horses, as well as an Arabian gelding, for endurance. Her insights into working with these unique horses have been very educational for me. She is an entertaining, gifted writer whose posts are always a pleasure to read. And she's currently running a contest on her blog, which can be found here: http://inthenightfarm.blogspot.com/2008/10/best-of-barb-wire-contest.html. So check it out!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Man Against Horse 2008

Giving up on a dream hurts, but there are times when discretion really is the better part of valor.

Three weeks ago was the Man Against Horse Endurance Race, a ride that ended up being a serious wakeup call for me. We were pulled by management 40 miles into the ride for being far overtime, and the last 10 miles included a very steep, hazardous decent down off the mountain. So for our own safety (and the convenience of everyone else), a trailer was sent to retrieve us.

It was a ride that solidified one thing in my mind: I will not ask Mimi to compete in Tevis. That pony is 110% heart and go, and I cannot bring myself to push her as hard as it would take to finish Tevis, because I know she would try it, to her own detriment.

The 50 miler at MAH is known for one thing - the 1800', 3 mile climb up Mingus Mountain. What I didn't realize is that this climb also entailed a very technical trail involving lots of tight switchbacks, rock climbing, and supreme efforts on the part of the horse to make the climb.

The ride started out well...at the starting line, at least. We headed out of the heels of the pack, but Beamer was a powder keg, ready to explode. He perfected a mincing, 3 mph trot going down the trail, more interested in going up than forward. And just about the time he'd get going, he'd spook. And we couldn't put Mimi in front, because he would just die if he had to cover our flank, the boogie man might jump up and grab his haunches. *sigh* So the part that we should have been making decent time at, we were crawling.

And by the time he settled down, Dad was already worn out and couldn't sustain a trot for more than a couple minutes. Meanwhile, pony hasn't been a picnic for me, mostly because she was so pissed at being held back so sssssssllloooooowwwwwwllllyyyyy. So my shoulders and legs were feeling it, too. Again, time slipped away from us in an area that we should have been using to make time.

The front running 25ers caught up with us going up the Grapevine hill, about 10 miles into the ride. Unfortunately, this was one of my major complaints about the ride. Several of the 25ers were very rude and obnoxious in this section, trying to pass us. It is a very narrow, winding trail, and there's not many places to pull off, and they were not very patient in allowing us to do that. Just because my horse doesn't wear a red ribbon doesn't mean you can run right up her tail end. One lady did just that, and I am so proud of Mimi for not kicking, when she was being crowded from behind with nowhere to go.

And then a group of half a dozen riders passed us very quickly when we pulled off, and really upset Beamer. If it hadn't been for Mimi's stability, and him backing into her, I'm not sure what would have happened, but it wouldn't have been pretty. Does it really take that long to slow down to a slow trot or walk when passing in tricky terrain?

The vet check was without incident...Mimi flew through with all As, and the lowest pulse they had seen all day. Dropped to 48 within a minute of coming in. Clearly, we weren't pushing them. Unfortunately, we paid for it, time-wise, in the end, but I can rest a bit easier knowing that I wasn't pushing her too hard.

Up to the 16 miles check, the trail was the same as the 25 I had done here the 3 previous years, but it split right after the check. Mimi was quite excited about the new trail. Beamer slowed down even more. The new section was really pretty, and we started climbing even more. There was one phenomenally beautiful section, a single-track trail that ran alongside a small stream, with green grass all around and pine trees. Unfortunately, I was too busy actively riding to get pictures.

The pretty little single track soon ended, and turned into what ultimately would be about 10 miles of hardpack, rocky, doubletrack road. The views were amazing...the clouds had been coming in all day, and it was grey and overcast, and amazingly windy. I had to keep reaching back to fix Mimi's rump rug (she wore it most of it day, it was so chilly) because it kept blowing off. And I have one with weighted corners. The oak trees were changing colors, so there were patches of vivid red and orange leaves that would show up on the side of a mountain.

At one ppoint, we could look out and see the red rocks of Sedona. And the storm clouds that were moving in. About 5 miles into this road, the skies opened up and we started getting rained on. Fortunately not pouring rain, but not a light drizzle, either. Between the road, and the rain, I felt like we had been out there forever without getting anywhere. That road just kept going, and it was hardpacked enough that it dissuaded us from going too fast on it. And it was rocky enough that we had to walk section of it. And Beamer was spooking. And we fell further behind in time.

Finally, we got to "The Climb," as it is known. Fortunately, it was no longer actively raining, but the rain had left the trails wet, and a little bit slick. We were maybe a mile, a little less, into the climb, Mimi and I were leading, when I had what has been the closest I've ever come to having a really bad wreck on a horse. The trail was a sharp switchback leading into an uphill jump and short, steep climb. Mimi went around the switchback, but slipped a bit on the wet trail, and didn't have the momentum to finish the climb. She tried to make the jump up, but she was thrown off balance from her slip, and started sliding backwards down the trail. Beamer was right behind us, and he couldn't go anywhere. She stopped, and I had to bail, climb up, practically on hands and knees, up the trail, then clear out far enough for her to make the climb on her own.

We then spent a good ten minutes relearning how to breathe. Note: panic attacks at 7200' elevation are not a good idea. It's very, very tough to breathe. Beamer made it up fine, Dad jumped off as a precaution. I walked a little bit further, but I was still having major issues with trying to breathe (elevation and I aren't really a good mix), so I eventually crawled back on the pony, who was still bright-eyed and looked none the worse for our near-disaster.

It was at this point that Dad and I were about done. We couldn't make up any time, we had no idea how tough the trail was going to be, we felt like we were woefully underprepared for the difficulty of the ride, and we didn't want to put the ponies through any more. Unfortunately, the only way to go was up, to the vet check. So we did, at a very abbreviated pace, enjoying the scenery, letting the ponies take their time to negotiate the tricky stuff. We thought we were through the worst of it...NOT! There were parts that involved jumping over and between rocks, on a narrow, singletrack trail. I was so emotionally and physically wrung out by the time I reached the vet check that I just wanted to collapse. We figured we'd never make it back in time, but the volunteers convinced us to at least vet the horses through...again, something like a 48 on pulse and A on everything except a B on gut sounds said that Mimi was still feeling good, even though her rider was trashed.

We were eventually convinced to keep going, at least to the next vet stop, which was easier to reach with a trailer . So we did. Mimi about leapt out onto the trail...I pointed and clicked to her , hoping for a nice walk...I got Power Trot. So she was still feeling great. Beamer was more sluggish, but he was keeping up fairly respectably.

We got down the the next checkpoint...some really pretty single-track trails through the forest...where they told us that management was sending a trailer, because we wouldn't make it back in time. I was crushed. I had already quit in my head once, and then been talked out of it, convinced I could finish, and nwo to be told that I didn't have the option to even try? Majorly disappointing. Looking back, I know we never would have finished in time, or anywhere close, but at the time, it really pissed me off. So we kept going down the road (more doubletrack, hardpack dirt road...ugh) where we'd eventually meet up with the trailer.

We got back to camp just fine, the chauffered method. Both ponies were starving when we got back. We were wiped out, and we missed dinner. :( At least I had leftover pasta from Friday night to reheat. And then I crashed. I was a bad mommy and didn't do anything to Mimi's legs other than splash some Sore-No-More on them. The next morning, she was quite stocked up, but perfectly sound, and very bright-eyed and more than willing to boogie around camp, goign from water trough to water trough.

Beamer went lame overnight. :(

I heard, and Dad told me he heard the same thing, a loud banging on Beamer's side of the trailer, so I wonder if he laid down and then whacked his leg when he got up. It was sore and puffy right above his fetlock, but it didn't seem to be a soft tissue thing. He seems to be fine now, but was sore for about a week. Mimi's windpuffs finally went down, almost 3 weeks later.

The weekend after the ride, I escaped to San Diego for a vacation and some well-needed thinking time. There's something about the beach that gives me a lot of perspective, and going out there was a great motivator for getting through school, because that's ultimately where I want to move to is San Diego. One of my best friends lives out there, and I essentially have a job out there, as soon as I finish school.

I've coem to the conclusion that I need to step back from distance riding, and I most definitely will not be doing Tevis on Mimi. She showed me she will do anything I ask her to, regardless of the wear and tear on herself. I have to be the better person and say, "No, enough is enough." I'd rather have her around for the next ten years, doing smaller rides, than break her over one big ride.

So I am most definitely NOT quitting, but I am stepping back, back down to LDs. It won't take up quite as much of my time as conditioning for 50s does, it's a little bit cheaper, and they're easier on Mimi. I don't ride 25s fast, I do them just to finish, a nice 6mph pace, typically. So in that sense, it won't be as much wear and tear on her as doing 50 miles. And it's less mental stress on me, because I constantly worry about her during 50s, whereas I know she can easily do 25s.

Doing this will allow me to really focus on school right now, which needs to be my first priority. The faster I get through school and start working, the faster I can afford a second endurance horse, one that will be my 50-miler, 100-miler, and Tevis horse.

Temporarily giving up Tevis hurts, but permanently giving up my pony would hurt a lot worse. I've anguished over this a lot in the past several weeks, but I'm clear-eyed now as I write this. I know I've made the right decision.

A couple good things did come out of the ride: I got my Renegades custom fit by Kirt Lander. He poured an Equithane insert into the sides of the boots, custom fitting them to Mimi's hooves. They did fantastic through the whole ride, no rubs, no straps coming undone, no problems!!! And our slip on the mountain would have been a lot worse without the boots! And second, I got the world's wildest, most obnoxious day-glo yellow-lime green ride shirt. I love it. :)

We live and we learn. You don't know you can't do something until you try it. This ride told me a lot of what I needed to know, without the expense and risk of Tevis, and I can rest easy with my decision.

That's probably it for me for 2008...I'll be out of town at the time of the McDowell Mountain ride, and I'll still be in school during the Sonoita ride, and I've already missed enough days this semester. So I'll see everyone in 2009, most likely at Land of the Sun. Until then, I'll still keep riding and training, exploring new trails, and embracing my fuzzy psychologist/psychiatrist!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Off to the races!

I've just got to make breakfast really quick, and then we're out the door for the 25th Annual Man Against Horse Race! This is a really fun ride that pits human runners against horses and their riders! They offer a 50 mile race, a 25 mile race, and a 12 mile run/fun ride. It's held in Prescott, Arizona, which is about 2 hours north of Phoenix, in the mountains.

This will be my fourth year participating in this ride. For the past three years, I've done the 25 mile LD ride. This year, we're doing the 50. This was also my first AERC ride ever, so I'm very partial to this ride, and it has a lot of sentimental attachment for me. It's also a very casual, laidback ride, but very well organized. Ron Barrett and his team do a fantastic job every year, and it's my understanding that this year, they even went as far as clearing rocks off the trail! Wow!

It's usually a smaller ride for the 50 - anywhere from 20-30 entries. I'm guessing this is probably because the ride has a very tough reputation. The 2000' elevation gain in 3 miles climb up Mingus Mountain halfway through probably has something to do with it.

But I'm really looking forward to the challenge. I think this ride will be a really good test to see if Mimi and I have what it takes to keep aiming for Tevis. A lot of climbing, some rough trail, and some very tricky, technical areas. This last bit is more concerning me than the pony - she could care less. It's me that has a bit of a thing about heights and long dropoffs. *don't look down, don't look down*

Thanks to everyone for their well wishes!!!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Way too much stuff to do still...

Heading out the door tomorrow morning to Man Against Horse in Prescott. Trailer is washed, about half packed, my clothes are packed, I'm working on the food, and am out the door to go bathe ponies.

I need about 3 more hours in a day.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Happy Feet

Today was trimming day for the ponies. And we got to experiment with Power Tools today! Patrick (the farrier) got a new grinder that attaches to the top of a regular, battery-poweed drill, and was using that to round and bevel their walls and put the final, finishing touches on their feet. Pretty pony pedicures! Is it wrong that my pony has prettier feet than I do right now? (A summer of wearing flip-flops takes its toll.)

Prior to Patrick arriving, I spent about 15 minutes doing some ground work with Beamer. That horse has the laziest walk, both in hand and under saddle, and I aim to improve it. The best place to start (or easiest for me, since it doesn't involve lugging saddles back and forth) is from the ground up...quite literally. We worked on immediate response time, actually maintaining a nice, forward stride, and not slowing to a crawl after ten strides.

We also worked on pivoting and actually using that lovely, strong rear end. For as well-conformed of a horse as Beamer is, he sure is lazy about putting that conformation to work. *sigh* Put Mimi's mental abilities together with his physical attributes, and you'd have the textbook endurance horse.

I hope to actually hop on him mid-week in the arena and give him a tune-up. He does know how to do a lot of this stuff (he'd better...I taught him much of this when we first got him!) but he's gotten lax and lazy about it...and allowed to get away with it.

Training Project #2: Train Dad to reenforce Beamer's training and not let him get away with crawling along, head inverted and back hollowed, doing his best pogo-stick impression. But it helps to get on the horse first and know exactly what it is he's doing and know what I have to do to counter it before trying to explain it to Dad.

Is it really still only Monday? I feel like I've put a whole week in already!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Crazy pony...

Well, somebody is feeling better after her hock injections last week. We made it six months since the last injection on the right hock, and almost a year since the left hock! And the vet thinks her right hock, which is the really bad one, is starting to fuse already, because he had a really hard time finding a gap to stick the needle in between the bones.

That was Wednesday, and after being jailed in her stall for two days as a consequence, Mimi was more than ready to ride on Saturday. And so much for our theory that she kicks the trailer because her hocks hurt. No, she kicks the trailer because she's ansty and impatient and pissed-off at Beamer. However, I hung what started off life as an extra rump rug I was making (large chunk of lime green fleece) from the bottom of the divider between their heads. Theoretically, if either puts their head down, they can't see the other now, and maybe she won't get so mad. In practice, well, it kinda worked.

Both days were really good rides. Beamer was a little bit up on Saturday, but he was nowhere near as bad as last week. We actually got some good forward motion and trotting going. He wa a bit spooky, especially when a large Harris Hawk took flight from atop a cactus we were trotting under. The bird took off, his shadow came over the ground right in front of us, and both ponies sort of veered/stopped.

Coming back, there is an area where park personnel are (once again) trying to convince us they know better than we do about how to put in a Proper Trail (they don't) and have flags up marking what will become an alternate route. Mimi saw these flags and veered off the trail. It was a generally clear, safe area, so I let her go to see what she would do. She followed the flags is what she did! She would zero in on one, walk at it, look around for the next one, go at it, look for the next, and so on and so forth until she got us down the hill. Good girl!!! She was so proud of herself at the bottom. It felt like she had grown another couple inches. And this is on top of finding an alternate game trail around a very steep in-and-0ut ravine earlier in the ride. So she was a happy girl, having done all of this off-trail exploring and trail blazing.

Sunday was Beamer's day. He voluntarily chose a trail the headed away from home, and into a rougher area we don't ride a whole ton. We again had to trailblaze, as rains had washed away most traces of a trail we've been working on putting in. It might not have been obvious to us, but the ponies knew where they were going, and got quite disgusted if we tried to (mis)direct them.

Well, this trail he took us on is one that has some good climing involved, to the saddle of one of the mountain passes around the park. Normally, we run this trail the opposite direction, because there is a very short, very steep section that is easier to go up than down. Well, I was glad we did the opposite today. The trail we normally take down the side of the mountain was very washed out and rocky, and obviously hadn't been traversed since the last rains. It was much better going up, and even that involved a bit of scrambling and darting around rocks.

The other side of the moutain was much better, and the ponies did beautifully on the steep section. They both planted their haunches and inches down with their front feet. I was so proud of both of them. There is nothing quite as exhilarating as that feeling you get on a safe, sane trail horse that has just negotiated a potentially dangerous obstacle.

We've got four weeks until Man Against Horse. I need to send entries in. I need money first. And I need to buy two new pairs of Rengades. And board is due this week. Um, ouch? I think my pony is bound and determined that I will not have money in my bank account. Blast, she heard me say I wanted to take a trip out to San Diego after the ride...

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Weekend

Well, let's see...Saturday was my birthday, so it was rather odd actually getting to do something fun, like ride my pony, on my birthday versus what I typically do - school. I'll admit, getting up at 3AM on my birthday might not be the most enjoyable idea ever, but getting up that early is actually worth it, even moreso than getting up at 4 or 4:30. If I'm up at 3, we can be out of the house by 3:30 (I'm finally getting Dad going on this idea of "pack the truck the night before and eat breakfast on the go") and leaving the barn, ponies in tow, by 4:20, and at the trailhead by about 4:45. We're actually ready to ride by 6, so we're still catching about an hour of really pleasant weather before it starts really warming up.

It's very weird being down at the San Tans that early. We're the only ones there at that time, and it's still pitch-black out. There was no moon this weekend, either, so it was even darker. Driving down to the park, we saw two owls! One had just swooped down to grab something on the side of the road, and the other was flying above the truck on the road leading into the park. That was so cool seeing that.

The ponies were both really good on Saturday, especially because it was super windy. It was really still about 4AM, but as the sun started coming up, the breeze picked up, and by the time we were on the trail, there was a good wind blowing. However, it felt really good because of the humidity in the air, and the ponies were feeling really good. Mimi was in Arabian Junior mode, making me really practice my "long leg, deep seat" riding.

We even took them in the Big Scary Sandwash that they hate - really deep sand and a lot of wildlife and birds that like to fly out of bushes as you go past - and it was lovely. The wind was even reaching down into the wash, so it was pleasant enough to just walk along. I took Dad to the south end of the park to show him the new construction they're doing, putting in a secondary trailhead and a small parking lot and another stepover gate. Way to *finally* listen to us about what we need, park people.

On the way back, we saw a Very Large Rattlesnake. Actually, Mimi did. I was half-turned in the saddle, talking to Dad behind me, when she slowed down, then stopped in the middle of the wash. I turned, looked fdown, and about ten feet away was a huge rattlesnake, very softly rattling his tail, but fortunately moving away from us. She watched him Very Carefully until he disappeared into the bushes under a tree, then we continued on. He was about 5 feet long, and probably a good 4 or 5 inches in diameter, with a rather large chunk of rattles on him. Lovely.

Truthfully? I don't mind seeing them, especially in that kind of setting - a lot of space to move, and with the snake streched out, moving away from us. But this was turning out to be quite the wildlife encounters day. And this makes two weekends in a row that we've seen snakes. We saw a king snake or something like it the previous Saturday.

The rest of my birthday my nice and relaxing...came home, took a short nap, my parents took me out to dinner, then I came home and watched several episodes of "Burn Notice," my new favorite TV show, and did a little bit of writing.

The ponies got the day off Sunday, and I spent most of the day catching up on laundry.

Monday was Labor Day, aka no school for me, and the business was closed for Dad, so the ponies got out again. Beamer was very displeased with this idea...he's gotten way too used to, "ride two days, then get the week off." So he expressed this by being an absolute bundle of nerves, spooking at everything, refusing to move out, bucking if he was in the back and Mimi got too far ahead...*sigh*

Mimi started out slightly grumpy (I think I woke her up) but she got better, and by the time I was on her back, she was a regular handful. Forget Junior today, we were in full Arabian mode. Lots of long leg, deep seat, tigher rein. The plus side to this? She's wonderfully collected and forward and light, ready at a second's notice to do what I ask. The downside? She's even more reactive, so I have to be prepared for sudden, violent sideways spooks and shies.

Unfortunately, I couldn't really capitalize on this because Beamer was being such a pain. So we walked. A lot. My butt was numb, and knees were seizing up, and I finally got off and walked the last quarter mile in because at that point, falling off would have been more comfortable. Just about the time I think Beamer is finally commited to moving forwards instead of taking steps backwards, he pulls a stunt like this. What made it even worse was the weather was ickier yesterday - humid, with very little breeze, and hot, so walking was not what I wanted to do.

Well, he's got all week to stew now, and maybe he'll be better next weekend. I really hope so, and I'm not even the one that has to ride him, I just have to deal with his antics peripherally, which is annoying enough.

Good thing Man Against Horse is only a month away...I really need new Renegades.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Renegade Hoof Boots

There's been quite a bit of talk of late about the Renegade Hoof Boots going around - they're becoming a lot higher profile, and are now readily available to the public. With this, us Renegade users are getting a lot more questions about them, so I figured now might be a good time to sit down and write up and in-depth post about my experiences with Renegades.

First off, I want to say that I'm not a distributor for Renegade, or a farrier, trimmer, or any person with "proper" hoof trimming, balancing, shoeing, not shoeing, etc. I'm just a regular horse gal that knows what I know through experience limited to my own horses, so I shouldn't be considered an expert in the field. It's all been trial and error testing, and all I can hope to do is pass on some of my experiences to other people. I have no monetary interest in Renegades, save for I love these boots and I want them to stay in business, so the more people that get interested in them, the better!

I started looking into the alternate shoeing/barefoot/hoof boot direction right about the time I started distance riding, and played with alternating between boots and shoes for about four years. At the time, I was competing in NATRC, which doesn't allow any type of leg protection over the coronet band, which meant if I wanted to use boots, I had to glue Easyboots on.

Well, Mimi's alwys been somewhat Easyboot-challenged. Even foamed on, she has the ability to lose them. I believe I've permanently lost three or four boots over the years because of this, and had countless other come off, only to be retrieved and crammed back on again. Lather, rinse, repeat, and you see why I was becoming frustrated.

Then along came endurance, and the ability to take advantage of these wonderful things called gaiters. Which opened the door to using Epics, and when they came out, Bares. They worked quite well for a time, especially the Bares, but I could never get the fit dialed down quite tight enough on the front Bares, so they would always fill up with sand, and every so often, they'd get heavy enough that the gaiter would tear, and off goes the boot.

And we were constantly plagued with gaiter rubbing problems right under her fetlocks. I believe I bought out all the local Walgreens of their moleskins in an effort to combat the rubs. Temporarily solvable at rides with copious amounts of vetwrap, but that wasn't exactly practical for every time I wanted to go ride. Still, they worked well enough I kept experimenting, and she was much happier with those than shoes.

And then along comes Renegade. Dad had been using them for awhile now, ever since they became available, and he'd been having good luck.  Up to this point, I hadn't tried them because I thought they were too big - the smallest size they made were 0s, and Mimi needed 00 for her fronts, 000 for her backs. Tiny feet.

On a whim, I grabbed one of Dad's size 0 boots (Beamer's hind boot size, 1s in the front) one weekend after riding, and as an experiment, stuck it on her foot. It was a little sloppy, but with the adjustable cables and velcro closures, I was able to tighten it down around her foot so that it actually fit! We were in business!

All of this was only a few weeks before the Man Against Horse race in October of last year (2007). I picked up the phone and promptly placed an order for a new pair. Granted, they were too big for her back feet, but I would keep using the Bares on the hinds, and the Renegades on the front. We did the 25 mile LD at that ride and finished, despite Mimi's hock fusing issues showing up at that ride, and then in January, we did our first 50 at Land of the Sun using the same Renegade/Bare combination.

Renegade now has size 00, which are actually too small for Mimi's front feet, but fit her hind feet great, so we're in Renegades all around, and have been since February.

To break it down into some pros and cons:

-Super easy to put on and take off. The straps are velcro, so they're really easy to adjust and get just right.

-Adjustable, recessed cables. The cables are recessed, so they don't bang on rocks and start to fray, thus eliminating the "sharp, pokey cable" problem.

-Lower profile on the pastern. Because of this, I haven't had the rubbing problems I had with Easyboot gaiters, which bumped right up against her fetlock and rubbed the underside.

-Fairly long-lasting. The longest we've gotten out of a pair of boots is ten months out of a pair of hind boots...maybe 1100-1200 miles??? A lot of training miles, I know that, which I'm not as good at diligently tracking.

-Flexible. They really wrap around the foot nicely without trapping it in place, which I believe allows more hoof flexion and shock absorption.

-Worry-free. In the last three years or so, Dad has only ever lost one boot, in a deep, deep sand wash when Beamer stepped in a hole with his front foot, and pulled the boot off with his back foot. Would have pulled a shoe if he were shod. In the last year I've been using them, I only lost one, when the side cables inexplicably snapped at the Devil Dog ride in June. I still haven't figured out why they snapped at that point, the only conclusion is the boot possibly got torqued in an odd way. But that's the only time I've ever lost one, and even then, it was still around her pastern by the captivator strap.

- The velcro fasteners are the "weak spot" if you ride in terrain like where I ride. We have a lot of sand washes, and the sand can wear down the velcro quickly. We usually replace our velcro straps every three or four months, and Renegade sells replacement straps. If you're creative and have access to a heavy-duty sewing machine, you could probably even make your own straps, but I find them easy and cheap enough to just buy premade.

-A bit more creativity is needed in attaching them to your saddle. With the gap between the boot and the captivator strap, the boot can flop around a bit more when clipped off somewhere. I find getting creative with zip ties has been working well.

-The grip on the bottoms may be a bit too aggressive for some gaited horses. Dad's foxtrotter was particularly susceptible to this, and she did best in smooth shoes because of her extreme sliding action of her feet when gaiting. However, I know some gaited horses are doing very well in them, and competing in endurance, so that could come down to an individual horse issue. Again, that's one of those "personal experience" things.

-When the grip wears down after almost ten months of use, the bottoms can be a bit slick, traction-wise, going down hills. I noticed Mimi is a bit more tentative right now, taking slightly smaller steps because the boots can slide on the right terrain. But then, we need new boots and are just holding out until Man Against Horse in October. Again, personal preference...I have a pony that likes a bit of grip, apparently.

-Cost. They're not the cheapest, $170 a pair, I believe, but I think the benefits are well worth paying slightly extra!

I've had to really reach to come up with cons on these boots. This is just what I've experienced with them, and I hope this helps people who are curious about the boots! I lvoe them and think they're a great product!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Drama, drama, drama

Those that know us know that we're people that don't really like that much drama, especially my parents. I'm a little more dramatically inclined (the problem with doing theatre work since junior high school). The ponies are both definitely dramatic. Beamer's personal life philosophy is, "If it's worth reacting over, it's worth reacting BIG over." Mimi tends to just be very expressive, and is not one to hold back if she thinks it's a worthy cause.

So that's the base we're starting with. Last weekend, we skipped riding...I'm such a bad pony mother...but it was way too bloody hot out there to ride. So the ponies started this weekend with two weeks off.

The weather sorta cooperated over the weekend. Saturday was tolerable, as the humidity was down and there was a nice breeze in the air. Mimi was quite happy to be going out...they were both turned out in the small turnout the previous night, and she came scampering over to the gate to see me. Awww, my pony wuuuuvvvvssss me. :) Beamer hid in the corner.

However, he changed his mind after he saw Mimi leaving the pasture, and he hustled over to Dad, lest he get left behind. He was still a bit reluntant heading out from the trailhead...Mr. Lazy. Mimi was, as always, more than happy to go. Y'see, there's a reason she's called the Go Pony.

So we're meandering up this lovely wash, actually catching a nice breeze, which is rather unusual. Typically, this wash doesn't get any air movement - it's sort of narrow, high-sided and twisty. We like it, because it's rather pretty, the sand isn't too deep, and it's a good place to trot. The ponies hate it because it's high-sided, and in an area with high animal traffic. So they're always a bit more up on this trail.

We come around a corner, and there, tangled in a greasewood bush, are bobbing Mylar Balloons of Death!!! OH NO!!! As anyone who has encountered such a thing knows, these are typically beyond most normal horses level of threshold tolerance for Scary Things. Beamer is in the lead, and he slams to a stop (fortunately we were just walking at this point), stares, then attempts to whirl around. Mimi was right on his butt, and the prospect of plowing into her was infinitely scarier than the balloons (good boy, Beamer, you're learning...)

To compound matters, we're sort of stuck between a high bank on one side, and a very dead, cracky, pokey tree on the other side. Beamer turns again, and tries to back away, but the tree poked him in the butt. Heh. So he's standing there, ready to just explode...I get Mimi around his butt and get her to take a few very hesitant steps forward, just enough to get her head in front of his.

She's doing a fantastic Arab impression - neck arched, ears pricked, eyes bulged, nostrils flaring, the Arab Snort - it was beautiful, I wish I would have had my camera. With her head in front (which means she'll get eaten first), Beamer calms down enough for both of us to jump off safely, and I bravely march forward, dragging Mimi behind me. She's still wary (see above Arab Impression) but as long as I'm in front on foot, she'll be brave and face down the Balloon Monsters.

Beamer, Mr. Curious, decides that he's not going to be left behind, and starts creeping along behind Mimi. I stop next to the balloons and start deflating and untangling them, Mimi watching very intently the whole time...she's very curious what I'm doing, and as I start crunching them up, she has to poke her nose forward and sniff them. I get all the balloons deflated and crunched together and cram them in my pommel bag...my environmental good deed for the day is done. :) Not only did I protect other horses from the Balloons of Death, I got them out of the desert...even if the horses hadn't spooked at them, I still would have stopped and gotten rid of them. That kind of garbage doesn't belong in the desert.

So, as if this wasn't enough drama...we're on the trail back to the trailhead, and I glance down at Mimi's face and see this bright green twig stuck to her bridle. Upon closer inspection, the "twig" turns out to be a praying mantis, clinging to the side of her headstall to hitch a ride!!! This is only the second praying mantis I've ever seen. My first thought is, "Great, this is the horse that hates bugs." Second thought is, "But I don't want to kill it, they're good!" So, how to get a rather clingy bug off the pony's head without crushing said bug or setting off said pony?

We stopped, and I spent a couple minutes trying to flick him off with the leather popper end of my rommel. He wasn't impressed with my efforts, and proceeded to crawl all over Mimi's face. And she just stood there! This is the horse that went into meltdown at Williams because there were no-see-ums buzzing around her, and now she's letting a praying mantis crawl all over her eyes, forehead, nose, and bridle?

I was finally able to get the leather end under him and gently flick him into a bush next to the trail, and Mimi just stood there calmly the whole time. That sort of thing leads me to wonder if horses can inately tell the different between "bad" bugs - bees, mosquitoes, gnats - and "good" bugs - praying mantis (what's the plural? manti? mantises?), ladybugs, butterflies? Because normally she'd be throwing an absolute fit, and here, she didn't move. Amazing.

That was the end of the drama for Saturday.

Sunday was a lot ickier...humid, with not much of a breeze. We were keep the ride very short, on a loop where we could do more trotting and make our own breeze. Partway through the loop, which is actually outside the park boundaries, we have to cross the road that leads into the park. 2 lane, very little traffic except that going into the park, so not a big deal. As we're approaching, I see two shapes bounding down the road...oh, great, more loose dogs.

Rural Queen Creek is loose dog haven...nobody puts dog-safe fencing up, so there's always dogs running around. Mostly, they stay out of the park, but we've been threatened a couple times, and it always makes me a bit wary. These two appeared mostly harmless - a juvenile-looking Labrador and a Pomeranian. Still, many dogs idea of fun involves way too many teeth for my liking. So I took the offensive.

I turned Mimi right at them and starting trotting down the pavement (thank goodness for Renegades!), yelling at them. They froze, hunched down, and scattered. Headed for the trees and shrubbery to the side of the road, circled way around me, and started slinking off. Mimi and I still followed them until they took off running down the road, back towards the residential areas. Mimi was so proud of herself...she had the "Pony Stare", the kind that makes cows wilt before her...and she was pratically strutting by the time we got back to Dad and Beamer, who were just watching the show from the side of the road.

The most impressive part was watching the Pomeranian take a flying leap off a three foot high bank into the sand wash below to get away from us.

The rest of the ride was quiet and drama free, with the exception of Beamer proving that he, too, can do a Power Trot. "Look at me go, I can extend my legs, yes I can!" When he gets motivated, he can really move. He just needs to learn discretion about when to use said power trot - ie., not on a sort of rocky, slightly downhill, twisting single track. Even if it is going back towards home. :)

And thus ends my weekend drama.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Too hot to trot

There's something about temps of 110*+ combined with 40% humidity that really puts the kibosh on the idea of riding. The ponies weren't complaining, either. Mimi was jsut as happy to escape today with a 15 minute scratch-and-massage session, plus a bath, complete with a Cowboy Magicked tangle-free mane and tail. She looked like a shiny white show pony by the time I was done. That'll last maybe an hour.

Dad and Beamer were the unfortunate victims of a bee attack at the barn today...very weird. The bees only left when I came running out of the barn, frantically spraying fly spray everywhere. Apparently they don't let RepelX fly spray. Aggressive suckers, too, from what Dad said...going right for the face/eyes. Scary.

So I didn't get to try out my new Dirty Girl Gaiters today...they came in the mail last week. I got the black ones with the purple flames on them. I'll get pics the next time I put them on. They go well with all of Mimi's purple/black tack, and they look good when I held them up next to my dove grey tights. What I really need to look super spiffy-coordinated is a pair of purple tights now. Pay tuition first, and if I have anything left over from that, I might hit up Evelyn's Just For Horse'n Around tights, since I've heard many good things about them...the price is right, too!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

More heat...

Is summer over yet? We've been lazy of late, and only rode today instead of both days of the weekend. I went ballroom dancing Friday night (I feel all graceful now! And yay, my foot held up!) and got home really late, and it was supposed to be miserable, weather-wise, on Saturday (it was) so we only went out today.

I don't think the ponies were thrilled with the idea. Mimi decided that tripping and threatening to fall off the edge of the trail twice (not drop-offs, but still...downward slope...) was a good way to express her displeasure. Hmmm...not. And her back Renegades are completely smooth and tread-bare, so she was slipping quite a bit on downhills.

But I just need to hold out until the first weekend of October, which is Man vs Horse weekend. I already talked to Gina and she and Kirt and going to custom-fit Mimi's boots at the ride. I've got 5 size 0 boots for her fronts, and the 2 back 00s, so I should have enough to get me through, even through 4 of the 5 front ones are loosing chunks from the toes.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dysfunctional Slinkies R Us

Lesson learned of last Sunday's: our horses don't like being left to sit for a week. Due to simply ghastly weather Saturday, we wimped out of riding...and the ponies let us know how very displeased they were with us on Snday. It was very strange weather...very monsoony and humid, but only about a high of 85* when we were out there. A light breeze, and very, very overcast. So between the slight "coolness" in the air, and a bit of a breeze, Mimi was definitely in airy-fairy mode today. She was very much "between my hands and legs", spending more time bouncing up climbs than actually walking them. Apparently Beamer wasn't much better, judging by the mutters of Dad that I heard behind me. They were acting like a couple of dysfunctional slinkies - speed up, slow down, go down the hill with your front feet on one track of trail, your hind feet on the other track, bounce a few times, trip, almost fall on your face...*sigh*

In other news, I finally scanned a bunch of the professional pics I have from rides, both NATRC and AERC, and I've slowly been trying to "recreate the past" and work up some of my old ride stories. I have a fiarly photographic memory for things like this, so I'm having relatively good success. I'll post them as I complete them.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

How to survive riding an AZ summer...

1) Ride early.

You seriously don't want to ask me waht my wakeup time is on weekends. Here's a hint: around the time the last 1/3 of Tevis riders cross the finish line...as in somewhere around 4:00. Urk. Sick and wrong when sunrise hasn't even started yet and I'm awake. Coffee helps.

Mind you, some of my earliness comes from the necessity of having to drive 40 minutes to the barn, hitch up the trailer, load the ponies, and then drive 15 minutes to the park.

2) Ride short.

The less time you're out in the heat, the better. Doing shorter loops helps, too...going out for a 6-7 mile loop, get a drink back at the trailer, then go for another loop.

3) Make your own breeze!

Trotting is *good* when it creates artificial air ciculation. Course, this doesn't work too well when it's hot and the ponies say "Trot? You must be joking. It's too hot to be out here, let alone trot, so I will continue to plod at a snail's pace." *sigh*

4) You *can* sponge in the desert!

Well, you can if you have a water spigot at the trailhead that can be turned on from the saddle. Hold sponge under running water, loose sponge when pony leaps to the side to marvel at the sudden gush of water, retrieve sponge, sponge pony from ground to show that it is not the Killer Attack Sponge, but rather an instrument of comfort, remount, attempt to shuck sponge at running water, watch pony flail and leap because the sponge come Out Of Nowhere, slop barely damp sponge against neck, incite further leaping until pony realizes that This Feels Good, lather rinse repeat. *grin* Can you tell we haven't been sponged from the saddle much? She's actually not that overly dramatic, it just makes for an amusing story. And that was only the first tiem I tried that trick. Now, she's an old pro.

5) Cotton. Cotton breathes.

Lightweight cotton t-shirts are good. So are long-sleeved lightweight cotton sunshirts over lightweight cotton tank tops. Now I need to invest in cotton tights, versus my nylon/lyrca numbers, even though they'll get shredded on our Shrubberies of Doom and Steel Branches out here.

6) Camelbak.

My lifesaver. Because yes, you can go through 70 oz of water on a 10 mile training ride.

That being said, we braved te heat and monsoon humidity for a short ride today. It absolutely poured on Thursday night, so the ponies have been stalled up. Urgh.

The first sign that it really rained hard at the park was the fact that part of the entrance road to the park was now dirt road. The normally paved road had been covered over for about 1/4 mile with sand and dirt. Oh.

There was much redistribution of real estate at the park from the storm...some trails that were formerly beautiful footing had been worn down to the bedrock granite layer. And some of the shallow, super rocky washes were now 2' deep with sand.

All of this meant a slow ride today because a) we needed to see how badly washed out some of our trails were and, in necessary, reblaze them, and b) we didn't know how much some of them had chaged, especially the washes. They can be very unpredictable after a rain, and last week's perfect trotting wash may now be soft snad up to their fetlocks. Also, c) the fact that saguaros most often fall after a storm, and the horses hate coming up on those suddenly. The fact that they're moist and decaying makes them smell very dead and very bad. That and the sight of a fifty foot fall cactus laying on the ground with weird angles does funny things to horse imaginations...

All in all...nice ride...hot, humid, but there was a little breeze for most of the time, which was nice.

Still sulking about Tevis, and how all of my contingency plans to make up for not crewing at Tevis keep falling through. Grrr.

However, I'm happy to report my foot doesn't hurt at all riding! A little sore still sometimes walking around, or if I sit and poke at certain spots I can make it hurt, but riding was perfectly fine. And I even managed a little in-hand trot-out back at the barn today. :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

No Tevis this year...:(((

Well, I just got word that Tevis has been cancelled this year due to increasing fire danger and poor air quality. *sniff, sniff*

Major bummer, as I was looking forward to going up to crew (and spend way too much money). This was going to be my last shot at scoping it out again, since riding it next year is my goal. Guess I'll have to rely on what I remember from crewing in '04 and '05.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Just a few pictures

So Williams wasn't an entire wash...I did get some good pictures. It's rare to get pics of muself, since I'm usually the one holding the camera. And I bought a shiny new sponge from Horses Dacor. (For all the sponging I can do out in the desert, yeah?)

Friday afternoon, before she went into grumpy!pony mode.
photo courtesy of Patrick Cook...aka my farrier, endurance recruit, and camp neighbor

Mimi and I, Saturday morning, before heading over to the start.
photo courtesy of Ken Danley

Dad and Beamer, Me and Mimi
photo courtesy of Ken Danley

Dad & Beamer, Patty & Shelley, Dana & Hawkeye and Me & Mimi
photo courtesy of Ken Danley

The pony, happily installed in front of her hay...before the bugs started biting. :(
photo by me...I didn't actually take that many this weekend...too much stuff on my mind and plate.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Williams/Devil Dog

Here's the deal: I've been trying for a week to write up this ride story, and it just isn't going to happen. The short story is, we had an off weekend, a very off weekend that resulting in pulling at the first VC, 13 (or so...) miles into the ride.

Things that contributed:

- Friday morning, I fell out of the back of the trailer. I stepped down into a hole, my foot landed on a rock, and I sprained/bruised my foot and ankle. A week later, I'm still hobbling. Ironically enough, I could still ride, although ceaseless walking started to create something of a gnawing pain in my foot. Trotting was good, though. I could still trot, and post.

- The bugs at the ride were horrid. Nasty litte spawn-of-Satan no-see-ums that greatly enjoyed feasting on my pony, whose threshold tolerance for bugs is notoriously low. She was miserable, and it really threw her off, to the point where she wasn't eating very enthusiastically, and wasn't drinking at all Froday night. Very worrisome.

- The one and only time I've ever had a problem with my Renegades. About 3 miles into the ride, the cables broke on the side of the boot. A very odd, normally protected place, so I can't figure out what happened. And as these were my first pair of 00 boots, I didn't have any backups. I had a backup 0 I was carrying with me, but Mimi was jumping around so badly due to the bugs, that neither Dad nor myself could safely wrestle her into submission long enough to put the boot on.

We decided to keep going, walk the rough stuff and trot the smooth. Unfortunately, there wasn't much smooth to trot, and we kept getting further and further behind on time. The 50 miler was to be a repeat loop...a 25 mile loop with an out vetcheck halfway, come back into camp for another vetcheck, then lather-rinse-repeat for the second loop. Well, the more we saw of the loop, the less impressed we were about the idea of repeating it.

The final straw was the several miles of "Dustbowl" trail...an old logging road covered in ~8" of fine, silty dust that hid large rocks or soft depressions in the ground. Mimi almost going to her knees 5 times in 5 minutes had me throwing my hands up and proclaiming that I was done. She wasn't focused, the bugs were making her miserable, and her tripping and lack of focus was starting to scare me at that point.

So we straggled into the vet check and pulled. Gah, that was depressing.

Only slightly more cheer-making was when a good portion of the 50s pulled halfway, opting for LD completion credit, rather than heading out for round two of that trail. The majority of people didn't want to subejct their horses - or themselves - to that again.

I understand that quite a few people got lost and off trail after the vet check. Is it a good thing when people tell you, "be glad you pulled when you did"? Or when you're told that this ride made the notoriously-difficult Man vs. Horse 50 look easy? Well, in that case, we should be all set for the fall then. Urgh.

So on one hand, I'm very bummed, and still very pissed at myself for how I handled the weekend. I wasn't in the best frame of mind, and I really let it get to me, unfortunately. Maybe if I had been 100%, and Mimi had been 100%, we might have been fine. Maybe I pull too easy from rides. All I know is, I'm already working at a disadvantage when it comes to the horse I have available to me for distance. Mimi isn't the best candidate, physically, but her mental toughness has already overcome a host of issues. But even tough little go-ponies have off days. Unfortunately, last weekend was one of them. :( But I keep working with her, because I can't afford another horse, and I refuse to give her up. Heck, with the exception of my best friend, I've had Mimi for longer than I've known my friends. After 12 years, we're family.

The weather was lovely, though...a nice break from the 110*+ oven. Low to mid 80s during the day, high 40s at night...lovely!

And it was wonderful seeing endurance friends again...there's always new goodies to be had from Michael and Julia Elias with Horses Dacor (love the new sponge, guys, thanks!)...meeting Patty Danley's new mare Shelley and starting the ride with them...she's a lovely mare, Patty...you've got yourself another good one!

All in all, even though the ride pretty much sucked, it felt good to get away for a few days. Even if I did spend half of them in tears. Apologies to anyone that might have seen me acting somewhat out-of-character. My horse wasn't at the top of her game, but apparently I wasn't either. :

Now it's back to the oven...did a short ride this morning, and the ponies were happy to get out!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Done and done!

Whew. Trailer is packed, truck is packed...except for the extra waters, why do I always forget those??? Just finished showering and in the process of waiting for my hair to dry somewhat, redecorated myself with henna.

The quest to break myself continues...slammed my left index finger and right pinkie in the sliding window of the trailer yesterday trying to get it unstuck. The end result is some painful brusing whenever I clench my fists. That'll get me to "ride light" this weekend. Mimi, no pulling!

Then, my coupe de grace was this evening, carrying the folding table out to the truck, I wasn't paying attention when I lifted it and clipped my big with the edge of the table. Goodbye, 1/4 chunk of toenail off my right big toe. :((( Took almost 15 minutes to get it to stop bleeding...Wonder Dust for horses works really well on people, too.

Well, I had been waffling on what shoes to wear this weekend...Terrains or Columbias. This makes the decision for me, because I think my Columbias are going to be too tight in the toe area, whereas the Terrains are super wide. I guess I have an excuse to avoid running now? Heh.

3:30AM wakeup call...time to get to bed.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wednesday: Stress

Definitely miss those two extra days. *sigh* Glad for the extra money, though. Means I can go raid Horses Dacor for toys. Already have a new purple sponge on hold to pick up from them. :)

I' ve got half the grocery shopping done...just need to go to the regular grocery store in a few minutes. And then I've got to clean my tack, and start sorting stuff in the garage. At least packing the trailer doesn't take quite as long anymore. And it's already been washed out in the back, I just need to reapply a fresh layer of Gorilla Tape to the gaps in between the mats.

And I seem to be doing my best to break myself. First, I jammed my finger, nail first, into the door handle trying to get out of the Suburban today. *sigh* Blonde moment. Broke the fingernail off, though, down to the bed, which is a really weird sensation, since I've gotten so used to longer nails. Grrr. That's goingt o probably throw my writing on my machine off at school tomorrow, what with the bandaid and all. *more sigh*

And then, for some reason, my left shoulder is really bothering me today. Any time I try to lift something forward, it hurts. The weird thing was, I never had any specific injury that would cause me problems. The only thing I can possibly think of it when, a couple years ago, Mimi spooked and ran me into a tree and I ended up flipping over backwards.

We were grazing alongside a wash, all relaxed-like, which meant I had dropped my stirrups and was holding the reins by the buckle. Genius, me. Something spooekd her front behind and she majorly panicked. Apparently she dug 8" deep divots in the dirt, she launched herself forward so hard. Unfortunately, she launched right into a very low-branched palo verde tree. She had just enough room to scrape under the branches, but I didn't.

I threw my arms up to protect my face, out of pure instinct...it was one of those things that I never even had a chance to really grab the reins, I was already screwed and in 'survival mode.' The branches stopped any forward movement on my part, and as she scooched forward, I got shoved up into the branches, then flipped over backwards and dropped into the dirt.

At the time, I thought the worst injuries I acquired were a concussion, a cracked bone near my knuckles, and some sprained fingers. Now I'm wondering if I didn't wrench that shoulder in the process of tangling/flipping? It's an off-and-on problem and I'm hoping goes 'off' in the next two days! Otherwise, I'd better hope really hard the Mimi doesn't pull. That, and it'll affect my ability to wear my Camelbak, which I always drink better with. Hmmmm. Time to go rustle up some Motrin.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

One Week of Ride Prep, Saturday-Tuesday

Countdown to Ride Day…Devil Dog 50, Williams, AZ

Saturday, 6/21

Medium-workout day. About 8 very hot miles in the San Tans on one of the ponies’ favorite loops. Lots of trottable single tracks and a few hills. Mimi’s a happy girl, despite her best efforts to destroy the inside of my trailer with her impatient kicking. Grrrr.

Sunday, 6/22

Final ride. All legs are still attached. We only did about 4 miles, and it was hot, Hot, HOT! I was wilted at the end, and went through two water bottles just in that short time. Too lazy to fill my Camelbak for that short ride. That, and some of the muscles around my left shoulder blade are sort of tweaked, and I’m trying to keep stuff off it until the ride. School is not helping, the way I sit at my machine, especially if I’m being lazy, puts a lot of pressure on the area.

Monday, 6/23

I’ve really lost some of my getting ready time this week. I’m helping a friend out by pet-and-babysitting for a couple of days, Sunday evening through Tuesday evening. She’s taking her daughter up for an NAU freshmen orientation, and her 13-year-old didn’t really want to go along, so she asked me if I’d be willing to watch him and their two Schnauzers, whom I’ve already sat for during the past three summers. Being of the “poor, broke college student” inclination, I agreed.

Unfortunately, this means I lose two days of my week for packing the trailer, which is now sitting in the street in front of my house for the week. Gotta cram everything into Wednesday and Thursday now.

Tuesday, 6/24

Williams is going to feel so good, weather-wise, in comparison to Phoenix. 79* as compared to 109* here right now. However, the prediction of 87* on Saturday is slightly worrisome, as it is high elevation up there – 6500’ – and at that height, 87* can be really warm, as it’s closer to the sun. I hope the rumors about natural water along with ride-provided water on the trail are true. Might actually need my sponge for once.

I’m really looking forward to the ride. Our farrier Patrick will be taking his new horse Clark up for his first ride, and is entered in the 25 mile LD. We’re driving up together, since he lives right along the way, about twenty minutes from the barn.

I emailed Patty Danley, fellow endurance rider and ABC distributor yesterday for a Redmond’s Salt order. Patty was one of the first people I met at my first AERC ride, and we were camped right across from her. She was so helpful in answering all my newbie questions and really welcoming me to the sport. Well, she’s starting her new mare, a Doc baby, at this ride, and asked if she could head out with us at the start, since we always start a few minutes after the mob. I told her we’d love to have her join us…it’s nice to be able to return favors in any way I can after everything she’s helped me out with.

That’s one of the things I really love about AERC…coming from of the show world, distance riders are so incredibly friendly, welcome, and accommodating in comparison. Every ride I’ve been to, I’ve always made at least one new friend, and have been fortunate to camp next to wonderful neighbors.

I’ve at least got my packing and shopping lists made, so it’ll just be some intense work tomorrow and Thursday to get everything packed and ready. That’s the unfortunate thing about having 6 months in between rides…in that time, it’s harder to keep the trailer neat and organized.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Results of an evening photo session

"pete and repeat" - can you tell them apart? (mimi's on the right)




Sunday, June 1, 2008

Summer is here to stay

A much more productive weekend this weekend, horse-wise. Beamer really had his head together this weekend, even on Saturday, which is normally his rather weebly day. Both ponies were in total ride-mode - Beamer was very bold and forward, so much that he wanted to lead the entire ride. None of us were complaining. And Mimi shocked me - instead of being in ultra-competitive mode, she was instead in "conserve and naturally rate thyself" mode, meaning she was a total push-button (well, for the pony) blast to ride. Soft, light, not pulling at all...t'was very unnatural. She must be lulling me into a false sense of security.

Unfortunately I didn't get any pics...I'm still futzing around with my saddle packs, trying to figure out how to balance minimalist with function. Always tougher in the summer when the need to carry pony water arises. However, I don't want to carry too much stuff, I feel bad enough making the pony pack my butt around.

We got our heat conditioning in this weekend, that's for sure. Say it all together now: "Good Tevis training!" Saturday we did the bigger loop, which is a great mix-up of trail with sand washes, trottable singletracks, some technical ups and downs and rocks, and climing - both longer and fairly short and intense. It's one of my favorite trails in the park, as it's very interesting and there are about half a dozen variations you can do: make it longer or shorter, run it in both directions (we usually start east, go west, then loop back around to the east in a clockwise direction), take different trails out to the back loop, take different trails back to the trailhead from the back loop...it keeps thing interesting for us and the horses.

It was warm yesterday, but I actually wasn't feeling it until today. I did really well - over about 3-1/2 hours, I drank my entire 70oz Camelbak of water, as well as a 16oz waterbottle of a half Gatorade/half water mix...as well as remembered to take electrolyte caps and even nibble on half an energy bar. The heat kills my appetite, and when I'm hot, there's so much that is unappealing for me to eat. Must explore options for that.

The ponies got a water break halfway through...they both drank - yay! This is the first time Beamer has actually drank on one of our training ride mid-trail breaks. He drinks brilliantly at rides and in camp, but he doesn't see the point in standing around for a break on a little "training ride." Well, when the weather is up around 90*, apparently he sees the point.

Today was a bit of wash, however. I think the heat caught up with all of us, as Dad reported that Beamer felt a lot more tired today. Mimi was still perky, although she was kind of miserable from some kind of bugs that were chewing on her last night...she had a good dozen lumps all over her body today, about half the size of my palm. Fortunately nothing in the saddle or girth area, but she was really itchy on them.

That, and yesterday, her ears were really itchy, too, and kind of dry and scaly inside. This isn't the first time this has happened, but I'm not really sure what it's all about. I'm hoping it's not something like ear mites that will require a vet visit. However, doing some research has lead me to be more inclinded to believe that it's just the nasty little black gnats that are biting her ears. She was a good girl and let me wipe her ears out with a dry cloth, and then put fly stuff her her.

So today's ride was shorter, about 5 miles, although it did have a good hill climb to it. Mimi still blitzed up the hill. She's such a crazy go-pony. Yesterday's heat wiped me out though; I'm definitely not conditioned for it yet. Today I pretty much felt like a wet noodle, and came home and slept for a couple hours this afternoon, and am still ready to go to bed early. Wimp. Time to break out the CoolMedics vest and see how well it's working.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Unseasonal Memorial Day

Well, the last 5 days have certainly been an unseasonal but most welcome break. It started raining Thursday, and rained all day Thursday and Friday and Saturday morning, which took the tmeperatures down into the seventies. Unnatural. The only unfortunate aspect to this weather is the fact that the ponies have to stay indoors, which they are not amused by.

We braved the elements on Saturday and went out - it was worth it, as we never got rained on, and it was lovely and cloudy and overcast and 65* out. Kelly finally got to go out again, and she was a happy girl! It was what we call "Kelly weather" - she prefers anything under 80*. Didn't go far, maybe 6 miles or so, since she's not in that great of shape. But it was fun for Mimi, too, as it meant she didn't have to babysit her uber-annoying brother.

Unfortunately, I didn't bring the camera, as I didn't trust the still-overhead clouds not to start dumping rain on us. It would have been a pretty day for pics, but I also had my hands too full of fired up pony to risk the camera. She was quite cheerful about being out...she literally trotted out of the barn over to the trailer.

Yesterday the weather was perfect...unfortunately, Beamer wasn't. He's been stuck in his stall since Wednesday (irrigation + rain) and he was really pissed about it and throwing a temper tantrum. Which meant that he was acting like he had never seen a trail before. *sigh* Dad ended up walking the first mile. Sometimes, I think that horse gets worse as time goes along, instead of getting better. Some things he's better about, such as not having a meltdown in the parking lot when he and Mimi are the only horses there, but it's taken us three years to get to that point...if he takes that long to get his head together, trail-wise, he'll be retired before that happens! I don't understand...he's great in competition, or whenever we go to a new trail. But take him to the San Tans, and he just melts down. And we condition a lot more than we compete, so if he doesn't enjoy the training/conditioning part, maybe he's not cut out for this sport.

Mimi got her heebie-jeebies out on Saturday, though, and she was an angel. I got a ton of pics - the ironwoods are blooming right now - and I greatly enjoyed riding her yesterday. She was soft, forward, enthusiastic...in short, all the things her brother wasn't. :( Dealing with him was the only downer to the ride, which makes it a pretty big thing, since it meant that Dad wasn't really enjoying himself, either.

Because of Beamer's brainlessness, I really couldn't handle dealing with him, even from a distance (since I don't actually ride that horse), so we elected to stay home today. Mom's monthly kits are going out Tuesday, so we stayed home and packed kits. Opened all the doors and enjoyed the 75* weather. It's almost obscene how much I'm enjoying this reprieve from 110*.

Pics from yesterday:

Looking uber-cheerful and ready to go
Ironwoods in full bloom
Nice, sorta packed-down sandwash, best after a rain!
The kind of trail you don't want to look down...
The rest of the pictures can be found in my photobucket album here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The game of catch-up

Life jsut gets in the way sometimes, and when that happens, my blogging is the first thing that goes. School is keeping me super-busy right now, with trying to make some semblance of income as a second priority. (Got to be able to afford the horse in order to go to rides...) Major highlights from February - April:
  • Mimi's now got Renegades all around! Kirt and Gina, after much harassment on my part :) came out with 00 boots, which fit Mimi's hind feet (actually better than the fronts!). So look for her sparkly-gold feet out on the trail! Although if she's in pony-power-trot mode, it might just be a goldish blur.
  • We unfortunately had to miss Sonoita in March. The timing was such that Mimi, rather unexpectedly, decided that she needed her hocks injected about a week before the ride, and the fact was, I didn't have the money to be able to take care of it that soon and still afford the ride, etc.
  • I'm going to Tevis this year!!! Not riding...crewing! Jim and Cindy Brown agreed to put up with me and my overabundance of enthusiasm for all things Tevis :) after I found out Jim decided to ride Tevis this year and promptly offered my crewing services.
  • It's hot here in AZ...low to mid 90s already. my new mantra is "Good Tevis Training." I think my father is going to throw something at me next time he hears it. :) Hey, like I said, I'm obsessed. I have a year and three months to be ready for Tevis 2009. As long as I have my 300 qualifying miles and a sound pony, we're going next year. Anyone up for robbing a bank with me so I can acquire the funds? Thank goodness for kind offers of friends' properties to stay at ahead of time.
  • Found a lovely new trailhead to ride up in Pine. There's a trail that goes all the way to the top of the Rim, about 2000' in 5 miles. Now that is what I call good Tevis training! *ducks*
  • Next ride is in Williams in June. *Please* don't let it get cancelled. however, entry forms are online this year, which they weren't last year, so that makes me hopeful. AZ fire season, please hold off until July. Please? Williams promises to be a good ride...and GTT (hey, I warned you I am obsessed). Apparently elevations are from 6500'-10000'!!! Wow!!! That's a whole stinkin' lot of climbing...I may regret my enthusiasm. Maybe even I will be getting off to lead. Ack. I need to find someone who has done the Devil Dog ride in the past and find out what the trail is like?!?! Last time this ride was held was back in 1990! And apparently they're goign to be using the majority of the same trails. Previous rides have been won in about a 6 hour ride time, so maybe it's not as hard as I'm thinking? Of course, that was 18 years ago...a lot has changed since then in terms of vet criteria and ride speeds. Hmmm.

If I think of anything else critical, I'll post, but for now, I think those are all the major highlights.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wickenburg pics

Little white pony is Mimi (Skip Me Gold) and myself, larger white horse is my Dad and his Shagya, Beamer (Brahma PFF).

photo by Laura Bovee (http://laurabovee.photostockplus.com/)

photo by Laura Bovee

photo by Hailey Bovee

one of the few photos I managed to get

Pony!Cam shot

photo by Laura Bovee

photo by Laura Bovee

photo by Laura Bovee

photo by Laura Bovee

photo by Laura Bovee

Land of the Sun ride story

The aches are barely starting and I’m already sitting down to write the latest ride story, which just goes to show how good the ride is…the worse the ride, the longer the story takes to get written, if it even does at all. And I’ve found that in my excitement over the ride, I ended up being rather verbose…so this story kind of goes on forever. All the excitement over a first 50, you know. It’s probably going to be a play-by-play of almost every mile of the trail, so will probably be a little bit boring in parts.

As a bit of a preface/introduction, I’ve been working on getting to a 50 mile endurance ride on a regular basis for the last year…my first 50 was supposed to be Land of the Sun 2007…the night before the ride, one of Mimi’s pasture-mates bit her in the middle of the back, right where the saddle sits. The entire year went that way…

an entire comedy of errors that culminated in me managing to get to 3 NATRC rides
and one LD ride. Not exactly what I would call a stellar year.

The 2008 ride season kicked off with an dubious start…Dad and I were supposed to go down to Sonoita to do 2 days of the LD at the Las Cienegas Pioneer. Well, Thursday (pony bathing day) rolls around…and with it comes clouds, wind, rain, and some kind of flu bug. So we bailed. Tough endurance riders, us.

Fast forward to the end of January…by this time, it has been since the beginning of October since Mimi has been to a ride, and she is going Stir Crazy. This is the horse that thrives on a competition a month, which is all she’s known since I owned her. When I was showing, we had a show once a month, on average. So she tends to get a little antsy when she doesn’t get to go anywhere for a time. Picking on her “brother” (Dad’s Shagya Arabian gelding, Beamer…absolutely no relation, they aren’t even the same breed…but they look very similar, and they’re pasture-mates, hence the “sibling” designation), throwing her feed tub around, charging the barn aisle for food…*sigh*

The week leading up to the ride was completely and utterly nerve-wracking for me. Fortunately, I had school to distract myself, and passed a couple more of my 60wpm speed tests (I’m in court reporting school right now, for those who didn’t know) because I was so focused. All the time, I was watching the weather reports…and getting more and more depressed and the chance of rain percentages kept creeping up…10%...30%...60%...70%...*gulp* This did not look good. Mimi hates the rain and cold weather, and is prone to cramping up in such conditions. I really didn’t want to brave my first 50 in the rain, but we had worked our tails off all summer long, and I wasn’t going to be put off.

I have the fortune of being horsey neighbors with Jim and Cindy Brown for part of the year…they spend the winters in Arizona, and their property is about a mile away from where we board the ponies, and I’ve been able to train with Cindy for the last two years or so, and we were planning on camping together at the ride. Talking to Cindy mid-week, the consensus was made the it would have to be hailing softballs for any of us to back out of the ride. They’ve been trying to make it to Wickenburg for a good number of years, and this year was finally the year they made it!

Wednesday night, I was dreading checking the weather…the last forecast was 70% chance of rain…in Arizona, that’s as good as saying “you’re going to get flooded out and go swimming down a wash.” Urgh. Surprise, surprise, the chance of rain had dropped back down to 40%...still, an almost certainty, but maybe not quite as much. And then, the nicest surprise when I woke up Thursday morning…the chance of rain had shifted to Sunday, leaving Friday and Saturday with only a 10% chance…in AZ-speak, that means less than zero, it’s just the weather forecaster’s idea of being optimistic.

Thursday afternoon is bath day, and the ponies get their first baths since October. Yeah, I’m a bad mommy, but I hate bathing when it’s cold and the water temperature is only slightly above freezing. The ponies don’t appreciate it too much, either. Fortunately, Thursday was sunny and barely breezy, which made for nice bathing weather. They both got fast baths, then stuffed into fleeces and sheets and installed in front of a pile of Bermuda and a pan of goodies (beet pulp, rice bran, salt, and some Trailer Express to try to encourage drinking that night).

I’ve pretty much got trailer packing down to a science now, and had it all packed Wednesday afternoon, so the only thing left for me to do Friday morning was pack the coolers and remember to stick my pillow in the truck. Ponies got another pan of goodies to munch while we pulled their sheets, groaned at the new manure and pee stains (no more gray horses after this, I swear), and did some last minute “make them look presentable” touchups. They both jumped in the trailer and we were on the road by 8:30. Yeah, Dad and I are both ridiculously early kind of people…he’s both of my parents are crazy morning people, whereas I’m actually not, I prefer to be a creature of the night, but for things like rides, I like to be there early if I can, since I’m pretty much rubbish at just sitting around twiddling my thumbs when I could be there setting up and not feel rushed.

Wickenburg actually isn’t that far away, just northwest of Phoenix, but we’re way southeast, and Friday morning traffic driving into and through Phoenix is not exactly fun. I drove and negotiated to moving road hazards while Dad took care of running the business on the go. It took us about 3 hours to get to the ride, between 2 stops at the drug store and grocery store, and the traffic.

Ridecamp is at the Wickenburg Rodeo Grounds, which is a nice, quite civilized location. Civilized = bathrooms. With flush toilets. Consider me spoiled. *grin* We found a nice spot around by the arena, fairly quiet, although a bit of a ways to the vet check. Easy enough for briefing and rider check-in, since we could cut through the grandstand, but I haven’t taught the ponies how to climb steps yet, so whenever they were in tow, we took the long way around.

We were one of the earlier ones to get there…when we pulled in, we only had one other neighbor, Karl Phaler and his Spotted Saddle Horse, Bubba G. Beamer was quite cheerful about having another horse on his side of the trailer. Mimi, on the other side and on her HiTie, could care less. She just wanted her food.

It didn’t take too long to set up camp…Dad sleeps in the back of the trailer, and I’m up front in the dressing room. I had a spot saved next to our rig for Jim and Cindy, who were leaving late morning. Mimi was thrilled when they showed up – she considers their boys her “harem”, especially Jim’s horse Panama. Panama got the nickname “Pony Motivator” over the weekend after they passed us and Mimi spent the rest of the ride trying to catch him.

Vet-in was completely without issue…pony did her usual “egg-beater” trot-out…I enviously watch all those pretty, floaty-trot Arabs, then go trot out the go-pony, whose legs go twice as fast as everyone around her. The vets get a kick out of watching her. *grin*

We did a short pre-ride just to stretch them out…Beamer was, as fairly typical, higher than a kite, but very controllable, especially when we were clinging to the side of a narrow single-track and a dog popped up on the other side of the hill. Beamer went to spin, saw the drop-off, and decided that wasn’t a healthy move to make. *Good* trail horse. He’s learning. Mimi just rooted her hooves and gave evil pony death glares at the dog.

Briefing was, well, brief. I did the 25 mile LD here two years ago, and remembered most of the first loop from that, as well as the NATRC ride at the beginning of last year, which had just a little bit of overlap trail, although not much. Briefing was early, too, so we were back at the trailer by 6:00, where Cindy and I combined forces and made dinner. A final walk for the ponies to the water trough, and I was in bed by 9:00.

I was up insanely early…3:30AM, ouch. I tend to take a while to wake up, especially when it’s cold. And it was cold, 33* cold I was informed when I dropped my crewbag off. My new portable Coleman BlackCat Heater I got for Christmas worked brilliantly, and really cut the chill in the dressing room. I haven’t yet had the nerve to leave it run all night…just a bit too nervous about the whole lack of oxygen/propane thing. But it worked while I was dressing in my many layers…I think I ended up with 5 layers first thing, and was down to 3 by the time I was mounted.

Gave the ponies some more beet pulp goodies while I made breakfast for me and Dad, and finished packing snacks in the crewbag before toting it off to get taken to the away checks – vet checks 1 and 3 were away.

The ride start was at 7:00AM, and our plan was for us to start out at the back of the pack. With the walk over to the start, it was 7:05 by the time we got there, so our timing was perfect. We walked out for the first ten minutes or so, then started trotting along the shoulder of the road that makes up the first mile or so of the ride. We passed a couple people, got passed by a couple people, and watched a gorgeous sunrise before turning off onto a wide, hard-pack dirt road for another mile or two.

Mimi was a bit disheartened when we passed Jim and Cindy – she didn’t want to leave Panama behind – but Beamer was on a mission, trotting down the road, and neither did she want to get left behind. However, they caught up with and passed us within the next 15 minutes, so Mimi was once again able to get into chase mode. We turned off the road onto a beautiful single-track that twisted through palo verde trees, sagebrushy types of plants, and up and down some little hills. The single-tracks on this ride are absolutely beautiful – they are literally raked and groomed before the ride!

We hit the first water tank in about 45 minutes – there’s water about every 5 miles on this ride. Both ponies drank, then it was onto another hard-pack road and down a hill into a sand wash. Jim and Cindy passed us at this point, and we ended up riding with them for the next 30 minutes or so. More single-track at this point – lots of short up and downs that are a hallmark of riding in the Valley of the Sun, as well as some sand wash thrown in – again, another hallmark that you can’t escape from. It is literally impossible to go a mile without hitting some kind of sand wash in the entire southern half of Arizona.

The single-track and wash combination eventually spit us out onto another hard-pack dirt road that we followed for 4 miles into the first vet check at 13 miles. Both ponies drank and pulsed down to 60 within 5 minutes…not bad, considering we rode them right into the check, since the single-track that leads into the check is not very pony-leading-friendly. She still gets a bit…enthusiastic…when I get off to lead early on in the ride, and it’s just easier to stay on her back when there isn’t a lot of room to maneuver out of her way.

The hold was 30 minutes long. We vetted them through right away…all A’s for both of them…then it was time for them to spend about 20 minutes stuffing their faces with beet pulp goodies and alfalfa.

Over the last two years or so, Dad’s been part of the pilot test program for Kirt and Gina Lander’s Renegade Hoof Boots (
http://www.renegadehoofboots.com). Over the summer, I fiddled with a pair of Dad’s used boots and made them fit Mimi, despite being a size too big. She normally takes 00 Easyboots in the front, 000 in the back. Yes, tiny feet. However, the Renegades are adjustable enough that I made the size 0 fit her front feet, and kept using my Easyboot Bares on her back feet.

Just in the last month, though, they came out with 00 Renegades, which Mimi broke in and proudly showed off at the ride. Now I’m going to see if I can try to “size too large” trick on her back feet and see if I can’t get the 00 Renegades to fit her back
feet. I love the Renegades – they did great on both ponies at the ride. We didn’t have a single boot come off, and the only adjustment that was made was at the first vet check, when Kirt Lander replaced a couple straps on Beamer’s boots with shorter ones.

Neither of the ponies had rubs from their boots, although Mimi’s hind fetlocks and pasterns were liberally coated in Desitin to prevent the Bare gaiters from rubbing.

We were out of the vet check right on time, and the biggest obstacle was trying to find a decent enough rock for me to get on. Mimi has no withers, so any saddle I use on her has a tendency to roll, necessitating a raised surface to scramble on from.

The second part of the first loop was a lot of single track, ups and downs, and sand wash. Some of the sand washes were quite deep, and I insisted that the ponies walk through it. We met up with Stefanie Daratony, up from Tucson, part of the way through one of the big sand washes, and started the series of leapfrogging with her that would last for the rest of the first loop and the first part of the second loop. I think it because a game for Mimi, because she was bound and determined to catch Stefanie’s horse every time he would pass us.

The last six miles of the loop are beautiful…groomed single-track, for the most part. Mimi definitely remembered this part of the trail from doing the 25 miler two years ago, and did not want to do a nice, easy working trot, necessitating stuffing her head under Beamer’s tail and letting him set a nice, sane pace.

Were back in camp in about 4 hours, including the first hold, and the ponies again pulsed down within about 5 minutes. Mimi hung at around 70 for a couple minutes, and then dropped like a rock to 48. Again, we vetted them right away, since the trailer was a bit of a walk. I really like vetting first thing, because it gives the ponies more uninterrupted eating/resting time. And again, all A’s for both ponies. Yay! We’re halfway there!

We got back to the trailer, and both ponies were too busy pounding down the food to be too concerned about why their tack was still on. Both ate more goodies, some alfalfa, and their standard fare bermuda grass. Mimi ate for about 20 minutes, then started snoozing for about 20 minutes. She woke up in time to get another 5 minutes of munching in before it was time to get to the out-timer.

We were ready to go on time, but kind of forgot to take into account that the out-timer was back in the same direction as the vetting area, which is about a 5 minute walk. After letting them get a quick drink, we ended up leaving 3 minutes after our out-time, which I still consider to be pretty good.

The very first part of the second loop is a bit nasty…very technical downhill that involves some step-downs along slick rock. I was so glad for hoofboots at that point! Both ponies handled it beautifully, tackling the technical stuff without batting an eyelash, generating lots of cheering, excitement, and claims of “future Tevis ponies” from me and Dad.

We started leapfrogging with Stefanie again, and leapfrogged back and forth with her for probably about 10 miles or so. Mimi and I had taken over leading for this loop, and she was feeling even better than she had in the first loop. The joke was that because of the “early” (for us) start, she was still half asleep during the first loop, and that’s why she was so easy to control and rate. I should have known it was too good to last.

She was feeling so good and so strong in that second loop. My shoulder and neck muscle are still a bit sore, even as I write this, from when she was pulling. It was a bit of a shock – she hasn’t pulled as much at rides of late – but on the other hand, I was thrilled to see her feeling so good!

There was a lot more sand wash on this loop, but fortunately, a lot of it was more conducive to speed work. Lots of trotting, and we even got some cantering in at a few points. By the time we got into the vet check, there were a few scattered clouds in the sky and a light breeze blowing, just enough to keep things cool.

Again, both ponies pulsed down within 5 minutes at the check, and all A’s. Beamer still had enough energy to spook at the black plastic bags off to the side of the vetting area. Due to a minor miscommunication, the crewbags weren’t brought to the third check, but I really didn’t need it, because everything was provided. They had warm bran mash, alfalfa, carrots, and blankets for the horses, and a whole assortment of food for riders. I even managed to snag a couple of warm taquitos fresh off the griddle. Yummy! They even had volunteers to hold your horse while you visited the portapotty. I think Mimi charmed some of the junior generation, a couple of girls that were taking turns holding her as she chowed down while I took a bathroom break. New recruits, maybe?

We were ready early at the end of this check, and actually had to stand around for a couple minutes in front of the water trough before heading out. They even had a mounting block at this check – talk about a luxury!

A few miles after the check, all 4 of us kind of hit the wall. It was probably about 40 miles into it, and Mimi was feeling the best out of all of us. Beamer was starting to get mopey and a bit tired, and Dad and I were both getting some pretty sore muscles. For about 4 miles, it became “trot for a minute, walk for a couple.” My wall was when I got off to walk in one of the sand washes and thought I was going to die. I sort of just shuffled along next to Mimi for about 15 minutes before scrambling back on. I was kind of amazed that I was able to get back on – I figured that my muscles were so tired, they would just say “nope, forget this” and I wouldn’t have the energy to get up without pulling my saddle.

Once we got back on again, the trail turned into a hard-pack dirt road for a couple miles, then, *finally* we were at the same number check/water stop that we hit before the last 6 miles of the first loop. The last 6 miles of both loops are the same, and that *really* perked the ponies up. Mimi about took off – it was all I could do to convince her to keep it to an 8-9mph trot, and that was considered a “slow compromise.” Oi.

Those last 6 miles were the only repeat trail of the whole ride, and it was a great trail to repeat! Again with the groomed single track, etc. We took it pretty cautiously coming in, walking down every slight grade. The last thing we wanted was to have either pony come up lame in the last 5 miles of the ride. We still had plenty of time – and daylight – left, so we took our time and moseyed. Trotted some, walked some, and crossed the finish line at 5:09 (I believe). I couldn’t resist, and let Mimi trot just ahead of Beamer into the finish. In her mind, she won the race, and there weren’t any other horses in front of her. *grin*

Things were pretty quiet at the finish, so we vetted them through straight away…again with the dropping-in-5-minutes pulse thing. The biggest challenge was getting Mimi to lift her head from the food scattered around long enough to get vetted out.

Here she earned her only non-A for the whole day, a B on gut sounds, which is a hit-or-miss thing with her half the time anyway. Considering she was stuffing her face all day, I wasn’t too concerned. They both vetted out fantastic – all A’s for Beamer again, then we walked them back to the trailer. At this point, I had retrieved my crewbag and was carrying it over my shoulder. There was still hay left in it – I had packed enough for 2 stops, and only had it at the first one. Mimi kept nudging at it until I stopped, zipped open the bag, picked it up again, and let her eat out of it, hanging off my shoulder, as we walked back to the trailer. I really wish I had a picture of her doing that.

By the time we got back, there was enough time for them to roll in the huge rodeo arena before I put their fleecies and blankets on, brushed the worst of the gunk off, pulticed their legs, and gave them a nice pan of goodies. The awards dinner is actually held at the Wickenburg Community Center, about a mile or so from ridecamp, and we were ready in time to hitch a ride over and back with Ron Barrett, who we were camped near, and who happens to be the ride manager for Man Against Horse, which was my first LD AERC ride, and the one ride I’ve been able to get to consistently for the last 3 years. He had his adorable mini-Australian Shepard Jasper with him, and Jasper decided that I looked cold, and thus became my temporary lapdog on the drive over. I would have cheerfully taken him home, he was that sweet and adorable, but I don’t think Ron wants to give up his riding and running buddy.

Things were in full swing by the time we got there, but there was still plenty of food, and the line wasn’t *too* long…*grin*. 150 riders and their crews + 200 volunteers means lots of hungry people! It is so nice, at the end of a long ride like that, to be able to sit down in a real chair at a real table, and not have to worry about balancing my food on my lap! Sautéed green chili chicken, beef brisket, beans, and coleslaw tasted really good, as did the chocolate cake – sugar fix!

We were able to get our ride pictures at dinner – photographer Laura Bovee (
http://laurabovee.photostockplus.com) and daughter Hailey took some fantastic pictures – we cleaned her out of all of the ones she took of us! Photographs are one of my life indulgences, and photography is one of my side hobbies, so I love being able to support the ride photographers. I figure, the more pictures everyone buys, the more likely we are to get them to come back.

Awards were lovely, hunter green sweatshirts with the Wickenburg ride logo printed on them, and t-shirts donated by Riata Custom Saddlery. Between completion awards, check-in gifts (little neck wallet pouches – very handy!), and winning a couple big bags of horse treats for being two of the top ten people to get our entries in, we came away with a ton of great stuff! I think we came in 53rd and 54th...I may be a place or two off on the numbers, so don't take that for verbatim (and me being a verbatim court reporter-in-training!). I believe somewhere around 80 started the 50, and 68 finished.

Got back to the trailer, pulled the ponies’ fleecies out from under their blankets, brushed the rest of the dried crud off, took them for a walk, fully wrapped their legs, called my mom to give her the ride report, then crashed. It takes us a couple hours to pack up, and with both ponies being such good campers, we didn’t see the need to be driving a couple hours home at 10:00 at night.

Got woken up about 2:00 in the morning by rain. Thank goodness for waterproof Goretex blankets. The ponies were damp on their necks in the morning, but still warm, and dry under the blankets. Packed up – like I said, about 2 hours – and we were pulling out of the rodeo grounds around 9:00 in the morning. Took us a bit longer because everything was wet, and for some reason, that makes cleanup all the much harder. *lusts after a self-contained living quarters rig* Uh huh, Ashley, get a real job first…

The ponies looked great when we got back to the barn – still raining. They were both starving, and we left them with 3 or 4 flakes of bermuda each. The day after the ride, they still looked fantastic. I turned them out in the sand arena, since it was a mud swamp in the pasture, and they were both jumping around and bucking, looking like they had gone out for a 10 mile stroll.

I was so happy with how this ride went – it’s been a long time in coming, with a lot of ups and downs for both horses, myself, and my dad, and I have to say, it finally paid off…even if I did let my exuberance get the best of me in writing the recap of the ride. *grin*

Photos to follow in a seperate post...