Friday, October 29, 2010

So This Is Retirement

Yesterday was spent getting Beamer ready for the McDowell Halloween Ride this weekend.  I have a routine I follow when getting ready for a ride, and after a couple times, the ponies very quickly figure out what's happening.

Mimi figured it out yesterday, and I got quite afew miffed looks from her, especially after Beamer got his bath, and I had yet to come retrieve the pony for her turn.

"Mom, you forget about me," she seemed to say.

A nice pile of bermuda hay with a small handful of Beamer's beet pulp sloppy seemed to smooth things over. 

She's actually been taking her time off very well.  She's still off on that abscess foot.  She's about 98% sound at a walk, but as soon as she trots, she's still gimpy.  But I'm not surprised.  I can see a large chunk of purple burising on the side of her hoof from the path the abscess took.  I've brusied enough major support structures of my own body to know this might take a while to grow out.

But it's also amazing how unphased I am about the whole thing.  Knowing that she's retired and not going to do any more competitions really takes the pressure off.  Of course, I want her to heal fast -- I miss riding my little Go Pony (Beamer feels so different), but it's a lot easier to sit back and say, "She just needs time and she'll heal on her own" when there's not a looming competition season and pressure to be ready.

Everything in its time and all that, I suppose.

Friday, October 8, 2010


Just got back home from seeing Secretariat.  I'm calling it a "must-see" movie, and it just moved up to the top of my list of best horse movies.

I'm not usually a fan of horse fact, I don't own a single one.  (Must remedy this, since there are a few good ones.)  The Black Stallion is good, and National Velvet heartwarming.  Black Beauty makes me cringe, in all of its incarnations.  Hidalgo requires suspension of disbelief, and helped put a dent in the idea of endurance riding.  (Nice eye candy, though.)  The Horse Whisperer traumatized me for life at age ten.

So, I like movies with horses in them...I just don't necessarily love horse movies.

I loved Secretariat.

If you already had plans to go see it...go see it sooner.  If you were holding me, it's worth it.  I rarely go to the movies anymore, and this one was definitely worth the trip.  It's a heart-warming, feel-good, celebration of greatness.  And some great comedic moments along the way.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Times, They Are A'Changing

It's certainly not what I wanted, and was never part of my "Five-Year Plan."  But I know it's the right thing to do.  Barring a sudden miracle age-reversal process, it's time for Mimi to retire from competition.

I had already made the decision to retire her from 50s earlier this year.  In a way, that was the toughest decision to make.  Giving up 50s meant giving up on even bigger dreams...Tevis, 1000 mile medallion, multi-day rides.

But for her sake, I think that retirement, even from 25s, is the right decision.  I've always said, albeit jokingly, that I have to be the sensible one of the two of us.  She will just goGoGO until she drops, and doesn't quite have the good sense to know when she should slow down and take it easy.  So the voice of reason has to step in a say, "No, you're done."  That voice of reason would be me.

She is still a phenomenal trail horse and riding companion.  I'd like to keep her that way.  I know my rides are numbered...I'm getting down to the last stretch for school, and once that is over with and all my certifications are passed, Real Life is going to take over for quite a while as I start working, and hopefully relocate.  (105* at the end of September?  Relocation can't come fast enough.)  I know there's not going to be a lot of time to condition an endurance horse, let alone go to rides, while I'm doing all of that.

But I'll need the escape therapy that riding provides.  Rule Number One for court reporters: Have an outlet.  We get to hear about the dregs of society, and it'll turn a person bitter and cynical very fast, unless there is some kind of a mental release/escapism available.  For me, that's riding.  Even if it means just jumping on the pony and riding out for a few miles.

And that's what I want her to still be around for.  She's a safe, trustworthy trail horse that can sit around for a few weeks (provided she gets turnout), and not do anything stupid when I climb on her back again.  Saving her now means I will hopefully have a lot more casual trail miles left in her for years to come.

Easing the sting of all this is my father's very generous offer to start riding his horse Beamer with greater frequency, and taking him to rides.  It works well, really.  A lot of Dad's time is being taken up with work, and Beamer has been sitting around, not getting used all that often.  He's a working performance horse, and needs a job to do.  So he's without a rider half the time, and I'm now without a competition horse.  Seems to be a good match...

So we're going to start instituting a "horse-sharing" plan.  I'll still ride Mimi, primarily, but on the days Dad isn't available, I'll take Beamer out.  And we'll share Beamer for rides.  This works particularly well for multi-day 50s, when we can each ride him for at least one day.  One-day 50s...well, we might have to flip a coin.  ;)

Beamer and I are going to do our first ride together at the end of October, at the AHAA Halloween Ride at McDowell Mountain Park.  We're going to do the 25, for several reasons: 1) Beamer has had most of the summer off.  Granted, he's an Arab and keeps his conditioning, but there's no sense in pushing it.  2) Need to make sure my saddle really does fit him for distance.  It appears to work, at least in the arena, as long as I have the proper saddle pad set-up.  But the distance is what will be really telling.  3) Need to make sure Beamer and I get along for at least 25 miles.

Despite the fact we've owned Beamer for almost six years now (!), I've spent very little time on his back.  I put about 60 days total on him when we first got him, then handed him off to Dad.  I've spent a lot of time working with him on the ground, and more recently, with his hoof care and tending his various injuries acquired over the summer.  But I haven't ridden him all that much.

All I can say is, this should be Interesting.

I've got a lot of catch up on, blogging-wise.  Friend Kaity came out for a week, and we had a grand time visiting and riding.  A lot of pictures from our ride, including a day trip to Payson, and my first ride on Beamer on trail in about four years.  Look for those to go up, as well as grand tales for the telling.  (Blogging off my laptop at school at the moment, so don't have access to all my pictures.)

Also to come is a new blog.  I can't very well talk about Beamer antics on Mimi's blog, so I will have a secondary blog that covers Beamer, and some more general aspects of my life.  I'll still keep this one going for reporting Pony antics.  This, too, should prove Interesting, as we all know the trouble I sometimes have with just maintaining the one blog.

Once I have that up and going, I will post a link to it here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My "Other" Life

It's been clear to me during this past week that I've been on break from school that I'm one of those people that, when functioning at normal capacity, always has one thing too many to do.  Court reporting school and working part-time for my parents and horses and non-horsey interests and things that normal humans require to function, such as regular food and sleep. 

Right now, I'm going into week two of a three-week break.  Based on the fact I've not yet managed to register for fall classes, you can see how thrilled I am to be starting yet another semester.  I'm over this school thing already, and ready to be done and be a working court reporter.  And once I'm working, that will merge two activities -- school and work -- into one.  See, timesaver. 

(Of course, this is me naively ignoring all of the aspects of Real Life that will come with having a Proper Job and Entering the Real World.)

I've actually been able to ride Mimi more in this past week than I have since the summer began.  That in itself is a sad commentary on my state of riding affairs of late.

That said, I'm going out riding tomorrow with a couple friends.  Yes, back on trail again!  Naturally, it would be at this time that she chooses to rub the outside of her tail, right where the crupper sits.  Tail was perfect all summer...and the week I need to start using the crupper again, she opportunistically rubs.  Ponies.

Off to hunt down all the extra fleecy, fluffy covers that might work on the crupper and give further protection, in addition to the layers of desitin liberally gobbed on the area.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Centered Riding

I've spent a quiet afternoon browsing through Sally Swift's Centered Riding.  I would love to be able to take CR lessons.  I had the opportunity four years ago to semi-audit and sit in on one of Becky Hart's clinics, and some of the things I picked up from that experience are still with me today.  She's a CR-certified instructor and uses those principles to apply specifically to endurance riders.

I'd love to further expand on the few bits I gleaned from that clinic.

Unfortunately, the nearest CR instructor in AZ is in Cave Creek.  That's an hour and a half from the barn, minimum.  Not. Going. To. Happen.  Not even once a month, for as much good as a once a month lesson would do.

The only way this could possibly happen is if I find a place to keep the horses that's close to home.  Because then, the drive would more likely be 40-45 minutes.  My ideal would probably be a lesson every two weeks.

But for now, best I can do is read the CR book, absorb what I can, and work through the principles on my own.  Maybe I can get my father to pitch in with some photography and videoing so that I can then go back and review.  it's not an ideal world, but I will do my best to work with what I've got.

More Arena Schooling

Today, we took a step back and worked on slow, quiet arena work.  With a bit.  "Horrors!" says Mimi.  I found one of my Myler bits that does fit her properly -- a Western Dee Ring snaffle with Triple Mullen Barrel mouthpiece.  Of all the bits I own, she's the least fussy in this one, so that's what we'll use.

Today, I spent the entire session with her at a walk and slow trot, and we put the emphasis on her carrying herself naturally collected and not leaning on the bit.  Today went much better than Friday.  I do know what I'm doing, at least to some degree.  All of the books and magazine articles have sunk it somewhat.  And it's amazing what happens when you slow down and just work through one thing at a time.

Well, mostly one thing.  I'm a firm believer in the principle of "what the rider is doing has a direct correlation on what the horse does."  So you can work all you want on one particular aspect of the horse, but if what they're doing is as a result of something you're doing, you might not get very far.

For example: Like I mentioned, today's task was to get Mimi to stop leaning on the bit and work on her self-carriage.  That's going going to happen unless I make sure that my hands are light, and I'm not leaning forward and clamping down on her.  I tend to be a very forward rider, so I consciously focused on using my core, keeping my shoulder back, and not clamping with my legs or grabbing at the reins, especialyl when she tried to speed up.

Equus had a great article this month on the use of snaffle bits, and it reiterated a few things I always manage to forget.  Use gentle pressure to hold the reins until the horse gives.  You're not going to get a horse that's soft in the face by pulling them into position -- which was how I was always taught to "collect" a horse.  So now, I'm going back and attempting to re-teach Mimi the principle that it's up to her to hold the bit and carry it, or she's going to be less comfortable.

She is getting it.  Baby steps, but she's getting there.  Today, there were times were I got half a loop around the arena where she was carrying herself well, wasn't leaning on the bit, and had some semblance of self-collection going.  We'll take it.  :)

I'm still going to stick with bit in the arena/s-hack on trail.  In the arena, she can soften and be light in the face because she's focused on me and what needs doing.  Out on trail, she just wants to "get on with it" so much that she tunes out the light bit cues, and I have to get much stronger with it than I prefer.  Much more responsive to a hackamore out on trail.  My hope is I can get her in the habit of going along in a more self-collected manner in arena work, and once she figures out how much easier that is, it'll be easier to get that from her consistently out on trail.

What I do like about arena schooling in the bit is that she is very light, and it forces me to concentrate of keeping soft hands and not pulling her around.  Soft, steady hands...tighten from the fingers to pick up the slack, then loosen when she relaxes.  Big change from "take up on the reins and hold her head in place...wrestle her nose to her chest if you have to." was all I knew at the time. 

I'm just thankful that horses are creatures of immense forgiveness, and that I have a chance to do it right this time.  Horses are the truest example of second chances, and it not being too late to try to make something right. 

A few other random notes from the weekend:

- Lining the Grffin's short boots with moleskin on the seam area made a huge difference -- no rubbing or ruffled hairs at all.  Easy fix, and moleskin tends to stay on for a few weeks at a time.

- Knee socks or half chaps.  Don't do both.  I figured this one out last fall after Man Against Horse...too many layers of fabric and too-short of stirrups caused a major pressure point on my shin.  Dropping the stirrups helped.  So did switching to ankle-high socks under half chaps.  But for this time of year, and for arena schooling, tall knee socks work very well in lieu of half chaps.  Cotton breathes.  Suede doesn't.

- A cheap fix to inject new life into a pair of six- or seven-year-old Terrains: Insoles!  My beloved Terrains were making a slow migration to the trash can, but I wasn't quite ready to resign myself to throwing away one of my favorite pairs of shoes.  A trip to Walgreens, and $9 later, I have my shoes back again.  :)  Tried them while riding this morning, and they felt great!  They're still the most comfortable shoes I own for riding, even if they're not the absolute best for hiking.  Tread's a little worn. 

- Still fiddling with my saddle bag setup and finding the balance between "carrying everything I need" and the "streamlined, not-a-pack-pony" look.  At the moment, I'm favoring using the Snugpax cantle bag all the time.  Of the two rear bags, it bounces the least.  I love the clean lines of not having anything up front, especially for arena schooling, but I know from past experience that never works come ride-time.  If I have to reach around to the cantle bag for anything -- water, snacks, electrolytes, chapstick -- it won't happen.  But the pommel pack is also very easy to take off/put back on, so I suspect that's what I'll end up doing for longer training rides/competitions.  (Plus side, using both packs meants I don't have to carry my Camelbak.)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Saturday Morning Cartoons

Eleanor at Live Laugh Ride drew a hilarious cartoon based on txtrigger's comment on my splint boot post about a snake latching on to the boot.

Thank you, Eleanor!

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Good" Riding

What makes a "good" rider?

Is it the ability to stay on the horse, no matter what?  Is it the ability to sit quietly with perfect form and look pretty?  Is it the ability to get your horse to do what you want? 

Everyone probably has their own idea of what makes a "good" rider.

I had one of those defining moments today, in which I realized I don't know if I would fit into my own definition of a "good" rider.

I'd like to put forth the idea that I've never truly learned to ride well on a consistent basis. 

I'm a competent rider, most certainly.  Pony antics have taught me to always be prepared for the unexpected.  Beamer has taught me how to (mostly) ride out a buck.  Others have taught me how to stay on through spooks, spins, and general naughtiness.

I have the ability to be a "pretty" equitation rider.  Seven years in the show ring raught me how to pose in the saddle.  Certainly not functional, and I ditched this style of riding pretty fast once I figured out how fast it would land me in the dirt out of the safe confines of the arena.

I'm a functional rider.  I've figured out what works and what doesn't to get me through a 50-mile ride.  Is it proper?  Probably not.  Could it be better?  Most definitely.  My riding style right now can best be describes as, "I know how to get my horse to do what I want, even if it's not technically correct."

But my consistent formal riding instruction took place, most recently, about 10 years ago.  A lot has changed in the world of instruction and riding since that time.  There is more of an emphasis on functional partnership of both horse and rider, instead of posed mannequins on merry-go-round ponies.  (Keep in mind I've been out of the show ring for eight years perspective is skewed.)

I trained Mimi by myself, with the input of my trainer/instructor.  She came to me as a green three year old with 30 days on her.  I had never ridden a green horse.  We grew up together, and figured each other out along the way.  But today was one of those days that made me realize how much I didn't know at the time, and how many subsequent holes we both have in terms of "proper" training.  She was being a true pony today -- it was warm and humid, and she really didn't want to work in the arena -- and showing me how much of a snot she can be if she tries.

The plus side of all of her shenanigans?  The Skito pad I bought from Mel got a very thorough test, and I'm thrilled with how it performed.  Didn't budge from under the saddle, and seemed to be even more stable than my Skito Dryback.  And she's obviously comfortable -- she wouldn't have been offering up flying lead changes if it bothered her.  :)

But today was a good example of  how our show-ring specific training is now come back to bite us.  Mimi is smart.  Very smart.  And she picks up on patterns really fast.  The end result of this?  She anticipates.  Big time.  From all of our years of showing flat classes, she assumes that the routine must go "walk-trot-canter-reverse-walk-trot-canter-stop."  And thanks to reining patterns, cutting across the arena at the midway point means do a flying lead change in the center. 

She also has a "headset," but doesn't truly know what it means to be naturally collected and move with impulsion.  Emphasis was on artificial means of creating a "perfect" show horse and rider -- a horse that moved along the rail with its head down, reins loose, and the rider posed perfectly on top.  Ultimately, we never reached that point -- Mimi never saw the use for traveling along the rail in perfect pleasure pony style, and I was always fighting with her to "get her head down."  I fared better in my equitation classes because emphasis was on me, not her.  She's much happier moving out down the trail.  That said, she still has room for improvement on moving most efficiently from the rear and not hollowing out.

Today, show-ring training and functional riding directly clashed, and that was when I came to the conclusion that I'm not really a "good" rider.  When the pony shenanigans came out, my (self-taught) attempts at pseudo-dressage and centered riding went right out the window, and I reverted to my rather haphazard old-school upbringing.  It ain't pretty or really proper.  It probably wouldn't work on a lot of horses.  But it's how Mimi and I are both trained. 

Which brings me to my point ("Finally!" the crowd cheers): I need to learn to ride by the time I get another horse.  I would eventually like to find a centered riding instructor, or a dressage instructor who understands cross-training, not just showing (I don't want to show, I just want to learn the principles for teaching a hrose to move functionally and optimally).  I can tell you all of my problems as a rider: I tend to lean forward (the downside of riding hunseat from age seven), I'm crooked and wriggly, and mostly, I can't get everything to function together properly at the same time.  I'll get my legs right, but I know my upper body is a wreck.  Or the arms and shoulder will be great, and the legs are wriggling all over the place.  So I know what's wrong, I just don't know how to fix it.

If I'm not going to be doing a ton of competing at the moment, maybe now is the time to look into some lessons again.  Because while I know how to ride, I don't feel that I necessarily know how to ride well.  And I think it's time to learn.

HRTV Tevis Cup Promo

HRTV has a 30-second promo clip of their "Inside Information" Tevis coverage up on their YouTube channel.

Or, check it out below!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Quest for the Perfect Boot

Splint boot, that is.

It's too early in the morning to get into the hoof boot debate.  (Besides, we already know my answer to that one.)  Edit: I started this post at 7:00 this morning.  It's been a rough morning for my computer.

Hello, my name is Ashley, and I have a slight obsession with splint boots.

I've been questing after the "perfect" (if there's such a thing) splint boot since I started in endurance.  Mimi doesn't interfere in her normal, everyday movement, so I don't need something that is heavy-duty enough to withstand artillery fire-style abuse.

So why even use boots, then?

Well, I'm paranoid about having some kind of leg protection.  It's a holdover from my show days and an instructor who was superstitious about running horses in the gymkhana games without some kind of protection.  The time you don't use them is the time something will happen.  I know, I know...I did NATRC for five years and didn't have any problems.  But I was also going at a slower pace and fewer miles.

It's just my personal opinion, but I'm going for the extra insurance provided by a well-fitting boot.  It only takes one misplaced hoof or an ill-timed rock kicking up to potentially end your ride for the day.  If I have a chance at preventing that, I'm going to take it.

Granted, if I had a horse that rubbed easily, and boots were more of a hassle than they were a benefit, I might rethink my stance.

Another one of those contested issues with boots is whether they help or harm when it comes to  collecting desert debris.  There are a lot of sharp, prickly, pokey things out in the desert, and I have to say, I prefer those pieces of cactus getting stuck in the outer layer of the boot fabric versus in my horse's leg.  Would they have picked up the cactus piece if they brushed against it without boots on?  Maybe, maybe not.  But it takes a pretty hard hit to get a cactus spine through even a quarter inch of neoprene.  So even if it clings to the surface of the boot, chances are that it hasn't broken through the entire boot to poke into the horse.

There are a couple of rides around Arizona that I have been very glad for leg protection.  Man Against Horse in Prescott is one such ride.  Every year, without fail, I have came back from that ridfe with a new rip in either the splint boots or the hind ankle boots.  Sometimes both.  There is a lot of manzanita at that ride, and a lot of it is trimmed right at the edge of the trail.  One errant step, and that manzanita is poking at their leg.  And that stuff is like ramming into rebar lined with steel leaves.  A couple of years ago, a stick of manzanita ripped the entire way through the neoprene of the hind ankle boots, down to the very inside fabric covering.  I cringe at what that might have potentially done to her leg if it gouged her in the right area.  The rock-pile scramble up the backside of Mingus Mountain in the 50 at that ride also warrants the use of boots all around.

The extra protection is also nice for those trail-exploration rides that inevitably result in at least some bushwacking and rock scrambling.

Also, this is farfetched...but we have rattlesnakes.  If one happens to strike at us, maybe they'll glance off the boot instead of biting the horse's leg?  I know...unlikely.  The skin is so tight around their legs that a snake would probably have a hard time biting it.  But humor me?

Another issue is the collection of sand and debris.  I really haven't experienced this problem.  I don't really have any particular resoning or explaination for why that is, but at the moment, I'm not going to question it.

My requirements: Easy to put on/take off; doesn't trap too much heat; doesn't accumulate too much dirt and sand; well-placed seams that don't rub; won't slide down the leg; doesn't need to be overtight to prevent slipping; does not wrap around to the back of the fetlock (short cannons means that too bulky of a boot will crowd up agaist her Renegades and bump the captivator strap); isn't too long (see previous explaination about shortcannons); and I prefer a single later velcro that does not double back on itself.  Double-lock would be an acceptable secondary option.  Oh, and preferably a material that won't drag half of the prickly desert back with us.

Let's examine my history of boots, shall we?

Toklat Splint

These were my first pair of splint boots -- ever.  I got them from my trainer the Christmas after I got Mimi.  They're almost 14 years old now, and showing thier age.  They still wash up nicely, but they're definitely tattered.  Overall, they're my favorite boots yet.

What I Like:
- Easy maintenance.  Dunk, wipe, and they're clean.
- Lots of pretty colors available.
- Have not had rubbing or slipping problems.
- Easy to remove at checks.
- Durable.
- Don't attract a ton of stickers and brush

What I Don't Like:
- The Velcro that doubles back on itself.  It's too easy to overtighten them if you're not paying attention.  For that reason alone, I'd be paranoid about letting someone else who is not familiar with the exact tightness I prefer put them on.
- More time-consuming to put back on because of having to feed the Velcro back through the loop.
- The new style.  Notice behind the old boots, the rolled up pair with tags still attached.  Those are the new pair I got to replace these.  I don't like them as well.  They have to be tightened more than I like to keep them from slipping.  I used them at Wickenburg in February, and I had to adjust them several times just during the first loop beforeI finally finally left them behind at camp during the lunch hold.  I don't know if they need more break-in time, but I wasn't as impressed with this pair.  (As a note, the old ones now reside in my crew box as a back-up pair.)

Griffin's Short Splint/Brush Boots

I haven't used these on a regular basis until recently.  I would use them for competitions, and enough training rides to know they wouldn't rub, but Mimi does little to no interfering on her hind legs.  Just recently, I've noticed some scuffed hair on the inside front of her fetlocks, and have started using them more regularly as a precaution.  I don't know if her fused hocks have changed her movement enough to where she's brushing against herself at times, or if she's just scuffing her hair when she's getting up from either rolling of laying down.

What I Like:
- Good protection.  These boots have taken the brunt of the abuse from rides, and have several chunks/gouges/rips in them.
- Flat leather covering.  Not a fan of heavily padded boots, or ones that have really rigid wear patches on the inside "strike zone."
- Easy clean.
- Colors!
- Single wrap-around Velcro.
- Really easy to take off.  Putting on just takes a moment to make sure placement is correct to minimize rubbing,
- Don't attract a ton of stickers and brush.

What I Don't Like:
- I've had off-and-on rubbing problems with these.  Originally, they would rub on the top edge.  That's gone away, but the inside seam where it fathers at the fetlock has been known to start rubbing on her fetlocks.  Desitin has held it off from being a serious problem at rides, but that's just one more step to fuss with that I'd like to avoid if possible.  It could be that it's time for new ones...I think these are close to six years old, so the seams might just be getting rough and worn.

(Edit: Going to try lining the seam area with a small piece of moleskin to cover the stitching.)

Equipedic OxyFlow Splint Boots

What I Liked:
- Single wrap-around Velcro.  Really easy on/off.
- Low-profile strike zone.
- Tough Cordura covering really repels brush and stickers.  Also difficult for cactus to pierce compared to softer neoprenes with thin fabric coverings.
- Really did seem to be more breathable and stay cooler.

What I Didn't Like:
- Very tall.  Either interfered with her knees, or had a lot of material hanging below the fetlock.
- Detail seaming was very rough and sloppy.
- Stiff fabric that didn't conform to her leg very nicely.  Potential for rubbing from stiff-seamed edges.  They didn't ever rub, but I also never got to the point of using them for rides.
- Wish they came in one size smaller.  That might take care of the extra height, and make them conform to her leg better.

(Note: I ended up selling these a couple years ago.  That alone should tell me what I need to know, if I didn't even feel justified in keeping them around as "just incase" extras.)

Pro Equine Simple Splint Boots

Used these for the vast majority of my distance training.  They're probably about six or seven years old.

What I Liked:
- Double-lock Velcro.  Not as convenient as single wrap, but better than the wrap back on itself kind.
- Low profile strike zone.
- Pretty easy on/off.  The double-lock Velcro made it harder to just whip them off on-the-go.

What I Didn't Like:
- Outer Velcro layer wore out fast, and would never lay totally flat.  Would tend to get caught on loose brush and completely undo the top Velcro layer.
- Debris tended to stick inside of them and you had to really scrub to get them clean.

Woof Wear Club Brushing Boots

What I Liked:
- Single wrap-around Velcro.
- Very easy on/off.

What I Didn't Like:
- Stiff PVC strike zone.  Strike plate was not contoured enough, and very flat.  Gave the boots an odd shape.
- Weird overlap on the edges, which caused the start of a weird rub.
- Gaped weird at the top -- same problem as the Griffin's Short Boots.  Neither boot had as much front leg contouring and relied too much on Velcro and overlapping material to achieve a good fit.

Professional's Choice Competitor Splint Boots

What I Like:
- Single wrap-sround Velcro.
- Super-easy on/off.  Probably the easiest of the boots I own.
- Overlap is even, and I've not had rubbing problems from it.
- Wash-n-go.
- Stay in place very well, due to waffle-neoprene against the horse.
- Impossible to overtighten.
- Neoprene has a lot of give.
- Can trim excess edges without fabric unraveling.
- Lightweight.
- Nicely contoured around the leg -- probably the most flexible boot I've ever used.

What I Don't Like:
- Potentially hold a lot of heat due to neoprene.
- Outer covering is essentially fuzzy Velcro.  The same thing that makes them easy to put on without having to perfectly line up Velcro strips also means it attracts every little stray leaf and prickly piece of brush.
- Waffle neoprene needs to be scrubbed when washing, otherwise dirt gets trapped in the waffle pattern and doesn't eadily come out with just a quick dunk in water.  That said, they actually seem to accumulate the least amount of dirt on the inside.  I think the lack of fabric keeps dirt from clinging as much.
- Strike zone has more padding than most of my boots.  This can be both a good and bad thing.  Not a problem for a horse that doesn't interfere, but a horse that is on the verge of interfering might catch it.  On the other hand, if they do interfere, there's some good protection there.  Yet, it does have more give than the shell-like strike plates on some of the boots.

Professional's Choice Easy-Fit Splint Boots

They started out life as mine, but Dad inherited them for his Foxtrotter mare, Kelly, who interfered a lot.  Same boot as above, only with more coverage around the fetlock.  See my easlier remarks about too much fetlock coverage for little-legs Pony.  And with these...even more neoprene to trap heat.  Plus, they're pretty large, bulky boots.  Worked well for a 15.1hh mare with tree trunk legs, but I think they'd be overkill on Mimi.  Kelly definitely put them to the test, though...they're really scuffed at the bottom, right where they curve around the fetlock.  Despite all of that, the worst she did was rub the sude covering to a smoother finish.  Didn't even rip the strike zone.

Toklat Splint Boot with Elastic

Again, Dad's boots, not mine.  He has the kind that are lined with felt, because Beamer hates neoprene.  It makes him sweaty, which then makes him itchy, so he has to stop and attempt to yank the boots off in his annoyance.  Not fun to be trotting along and have him slam to a stop, duck his head, and start teething on his leg wraps.  So he has the felt-lined ones, which are kind of a pain to clean, and tend to build up grime...but they're the only thing he's comfortable in.  And he has just enough of a tendency to interfere when he's not paying attention, or being clumsy, that it's not worth not using them.  The double-lock Velcro is better than the loop-back offering of mine, and they're probably the second-easiest to put on/take off, after the Pro's Choice Competitors.  However, not a fan of the extensive coverage of them -- they're another one that has more fetlock coverage.

After examining what I've written, I've decided that of all the boots I currently own, the Pro's Choice Competitor meets my needs the best at the moment.  It has the best balance of what I like versus what I dislike.  I may have ti pick little bits of desert prickles out of them during the dry weed season, but at least it's not any money out of pocket at the immediate moment.

But the elusive quest continues on for future purchase considerations, which means...'s your turn!  Tell me what splint boots you prefer, and your experiences with using them!

And, some specific questions for everyone:

Does anyone use the HAF Splint Boots
I'm curious about them...I like the idea of air flow.  However, I'm not convinced on what looks like a fairly hard shell as a strike plate.  I'd like to see them in person.  Feedback, anyone?

I'm also curious about the Thinline Splint Boots
But the $100 price tag is enough to make me shy away.  They'd have to be perfect for me to pay that much.

Finally, has anyone tried the Griffin's Tall Brush Boots for front boots?
I tried the short ones on her fronts, but wasn't pleased. I couldn't get them to line up well without gaping at the top, or creating an uneven overlap. Mimi wasn't impressed when I rode her in them, and stopped several times to try to yank them off. Looking at the picture of the Tall boots, I see they wrap around the fetlock some, which is enough to make me wonder if it'll be a case of too much "stuff" around her fetlock area and if the leg boot and Renegade captivator will start interfering with each other.

Monday, August 2, 2010

On Ponies

This post was inspired by Mel's comment about having an obsession with cute ponies.


Ponies can be summed by by the statement of one simple fact: "Pony" is a four-letter word.  Their behavior can be passed off with a disgusted shake of the head and a an under-the-breath mutter of "Pony."  Or it can result in a bemused grin and a delighted exclaimation of "Ah, ponies."

I've been around ponies in some capacity for my entire equine life.  The last 13 years, I've been owned by one.  I wouldn't change any of it.

Ponies are an education unto themselves.  They can be alternately sweet, mischievous, bratty, irksome, playful, grumpy, and winsome...all within the space of a day.

Fortunately, my time around ponies has been spent with what I consider a very special breed -- the POA.

The Pony of the Americas is a rather unique pony breed.  They're much more similar to a small horses, both in confirmation and attitude, than a typical pony.  Say the word "pony" and most people think of Shetlands...short, fuzzy, and ornery little things that delight in unmounting their riders.  Not that all of them are that way...but a breed reputation does have to develop from somewhere.

The POA was originally developed in the mid-1950s, and the foundation registered stallion named "Black Hand" was the result of an Arabian-Appaloosa mare crossed with a Shetland pony.  Breed standard calls for the confirmation of a small horse instead of that of a pony.  They are to have the spotted coat and distinguishing features -- white sclera around the eye, striped hooves, skin mottling --of an Appaloosa, an athletic, well-muscled body, and a more elegant head and neck.  Breed standard calls for a height of 46"-56" (11.2-14hh).

Above all, the POA is a children's breed and organization.  The only classes adult can show in are the in-hand Halter classes.  All other classes are for those 18 and under, and divided into four age categories.  Its main purpose is in showing, but one of the hallmarks of the POA is its versatility.  The shows themselves encourage ponies and riders to try a little bit of everything, and then further incentive programs are offered for outside sports such as distance riding.

During my years of showing with Mimi, my typical show day would look something start at 6am, and go until at least 6-7pm.  During that time, we would do in-hand Halter and Showmanship classes, then move to the under saddle classes, both Western and English.  Western -- Bareback Equitation, Stockseat Equitation, Western Pleasure (two classes, one for the pony's age group and one for the rider's), Trail, Reining, Western Riding.  English - English Pleasure (again, two classes), English Equitation, Hunter Hack (combined flat/jumping class), Hunter Over Fences, Equitation Over Fences, and Open Jumping.  After that, it was Gymkhana.  6-8 different gymkhana games, depending on the show.  A typical offering would be Pole Bending, Barrels, Texas Rollback, Single Pole, Handy Horse, and Flags.

So, we've established that POAs are versatile and have endurance.  Is it any wonder Mimi came into distance riding with a good base on her?  POAs have also shown their mettle in just about any other equine sport that's offered, including distance riding!

But what's so amazing about the POAs is their attitude.  They are not your average snotty-brat of a pony.  The sweetest and most willing equine I've ever had the priviledge of knowing and riding was a POA...CSA's Snapdragon -- "Snappy" -- was the first POA I rode and showed.  He was an absolute gem, and in all of my years around him, I never knew anyone that fell off of him.  He was the one that taught me how to love horses and riding again, and gave this very scared little girl back her courage and showed me how to have fun on horseback.

And 98% of the POAs I've known have shown at least some degree of that sweetness and willingness.  If it says anything, I would consider another POA as my next endurance horse if I found one with the right confirmation.  That's the trickiest part -- current trends have been producing big, muscular, Quarter Horse-inpsired type of POAs...not suitable for endurance.  But POA registry is open book, meaning POAs can be crossed with other breeds, and as long as they have the marking characteristics and meet the height requirements, they qualify for registration.  Which is how Mimi is actually half Quarter Horse, and still registered POA.  Every so often, a half-Arab POA shows up...that might be a good endurance cross!

Sorry for the complete lack of pictures...all of my show pictures are old school, menaing film camera.  Meaning I still have to scan them into my computer in order to do anything with them.  And seven years of showing is a lot of pictures.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Pony Pedicures

I have to say, I'm completely tickled about doing my own hoof trimming.  It's been a little over a year now since we started doing our own trimming entirely, and I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from having horses that aren't at all sensitive, and have even been able to start doing some training rides entirely barefoot.

With not riding much this summer, their hooves haven't needed as much regular work.  About six weeks ago, we took the plunge into getting our first set of proper hoof nippers to make the times we were trimming much, much easier.  (Try trimming hooves in the summer in the'll understand.)  That, combined with a brand-new SaveEdge rasp, have made my trimming life so. much. easier

It's been about three weeks since their last trim, and they had some hoof that needed to come off today.  Especially Mimi.  Her high pony heels were getting a bit ridiculous.  It's an ongoing battle, one I can never really let up on, to keep her heels where they should be.

Beamer's feet look awesome right now.  He's been needing to shed some sole out for the last month, but like a good girl, I've left it alone until it was ready to come out on its own.  The past week of rain and humidity did the trick, and when I picked out his hooves today, large amounts of dead sole flaked out without any extra encouragement.  Beautiful, fresh sole underneath...perfect!  Toe callus still intact and not going anywhere...also perfect!  He needed some sidewall taken down, and his toes trimmed back. 

One of these days, I will remember to bring a camera down to the barn again and get some updated pictures of their hooves.  I'm beyond thrilled with how they look, even if we're not riding that much at the moment.  *sigh*  Still battling Beamer's face wound, although his shoulder is looking really good...almost healed...maybe another week and that will be good to go.  Really, really hoping to get out and ride next weekend.

I'm on break from school for the next three weeks, and will be using that time to at least do some hated arena work with Mimi.  Although I just discovered today that her little pea-head is even tinier than I imagined, and that I actually need to get her a new bit if I want to do any proper schooling...all the bits I own are about 1/2" too big.  Only took me 13 years to figure that one out...*eye roll*  Unfortunately, 4-1/2" Myler bits aren't all that easy to come by...I'll be on the eBay prowl for one of those now.

Nine weeks until Man Against Horse in this point, I'm making no hard-and-fast plans of going.  That way, if I do happen to get to go, it'll be a pleasant surprise, instead of crushing disappointment.  Can't have plans go awry if you don't make them.

That said, I really only have seven weeks to get ready, since I'll be on vacation for one weekend, and crewing at Sonoita for another.  If I take some time to do arena riding during the week, plus riding on the weekends, I think Mimi would be ready...just in case I do get to go.  *fingers crossed, but not holding my breath*

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tevis Congrats

Congratulations to all the riders who finished Tevis this year!

Extra congratulations go out to Mel Faubel and Farley and Karen Chaton and Bo for completing the ride in Renegade Glue-Ons!    This is two years in a row now that Renegade boots have finished Tevis.

Barefoot is a movement that is here to stay, as evidenced by the number of booted horses that I understood were at Tevis this year.  I'm thrilled about how many riders are taking that step and booted -- and not just in endurance.  The park I do most of my riding at hosts a lot of casual trail riders, and it's exciting to see how many of them are in boots as well.  I've had quite a few people stop me out on the trail or in the parking lot to ask me about boots, and it's been a delight to see how many of them end up showing up in boots.

Many hikers we come across on trail are also intrigued when they look at our horses' feet, and I've found the explaination that the boots are "like hiking boots for horses" tends to be both easily understood and entertaining.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tevis webcast

I'll be following the Tevis via the webcast today:

Funnily enough, last year when I was at Tevis,  iwas texting back and forth with my dad, who was at home following the webcast.  He often knew more than I did about how was where and who was pulled, ironically, and we keeping me in the loop.

I've got quite a few people I know riding this year that I'll be cheering for.  Keep your fingers crossed and send your best wishes to:

#49 Karen Chaton & Bo
#64 Melinda Faubel & Farley
#98 Jonni Jewell & Hank
#114 Julia Lynn-Elias & Trinity
#138 Stephanie Palmer-DuRoss & Hadji
#177 Rusty Toth & Stoner
#179 Lory Walls & Alex

Good luck to everyone riding Tevis this year, and have a fun and safe ride!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Everything I Need to Know About Life, I Learned From Endurance

Ask anyone that has done yoga: Flexibility is a learned skill.  Some people are naturally more flexible than others (this would be everyone else other than me), but everyone has to do some degree of work to keep improving their flexibility.

And it's not just physical.  Mental flexibility is also an acquired skill.  And I've found that nothing in my life has taught me that more than endurance.

I'm sitting here this morning under a low-lying level of thick, gray clouds -- literally and figuratively.  Monsoon season is upon us in Arizona, and we're being taunted by those clouds and their accompanying thick, oppressive humidity into thinking rain might be on the horizon if we're lucky.  However, even if it were the brightest, sunniest day ever, I have to admit, I'd still be sitting under a pile of gray storm clouds hovering over my head.


Because according to my Life Plan, this weekend was supposed to be very different than what is actually happening.  Life Plan dictated that, at this moment, I should have been standing around with my cup of coffee, inhaling silty red dust, braiding manes, packing crew boxes, and trying to remember how to breathe at 7200' elevation.


This was going to be it.  My year.  My one and only shot at that silver buckle with Mimi.  Our chance to defy those odds stacked against us; to pit ourselves against the wilderness and the clock; to experience all the tension, nerves, excitement, and worry as participants, not just as crew members on the sidelines.

That obviously didn't happen.

Circumstances (school, work) even conspired against me this year to keep me from going up and crewing and enjoying the chaos in that fashion.  I'll be following things vicariously this year, via the webcast.  The good: I'll be making money instead of spending it.  There's my silver lining.

But I will admit: I'm sulking.  This has been something I've wanted so bad, for so's been very tough to let go of this particular dream.  I know that I'll find my Tevis horse...someday.  And get to the Ride...eventually.  But my heart knows it'll never be the same.  Even when my mind knows that putting it on the shelf is the right decision, my heart has yet to be fully convinced.  Such is the way of optimists and dreamers, I suppose.

I haven't even ridden in six weeks: A bad combination of icky weather and pony antics.  Both ponies are currently mooching their position on the Equine Disability List for all its worth.  It started about a month and half ago, when Beamer got kicked in the shoulder, and flies invaded the tiny little gash on his shoulder.  Within a few short days, it had grown to an irritation the size of my palm.  Naturally ,this spot is right on the point of his shoulder -- an area of constant motion, and an area that's impossible to keep bandaged and covered.

After several unsuccessful weeks, I started brainstorming.  I raided the garage, and the dresser that holds all of my extra tack, for my old show supplies, and one sacrificed Lycra mane tamer later...

His bandage is now staying put for 24 hours, and things are finally starting heal.  Just in time for him to whack his face on something and get some kind of nice puncture wound.  Naturally, this would be right at the spot where his s-hack and halter sits.  More mane tamer bits to the rescue, and my task this afternoon is to see if my latest in Beverly Hillbillies horsewear will work to counter this newest challenge.

Meanwhile, the pony was jealous of all the attention Beamer was getting, and decided that she wanted in on the action...

I have yet to figure out what she stuck her leg into to manage that kind of scrape.  She's somewhat sensitive on it...that's a bony area, and she probably bruised herself in the process of flailing and whatever manuevers it took to manage such end results.  I last trotted her out in hand on Tuesday, and she was slightly off on circles and uphill.

I don't even have to be signed up for Tevis for the gremlins to attack.

And hence, my continued absence from regular blogging.  It's difficult to muster up the kind of cheer and enthusiasm needed to write an entertaining blog when the most exciting thing that happens is finally obtaining a good pair of nippers.  (Hoof trimming just got so much easier.)  And, I'll also admit to having quite a few feelings of teeth-gnashing and envy for those whose circumstances are much more fortunate than mine...that is, anyone that still has the good luck to be attending rides with sound and capable horses.

Yes, I'm whining.  Yes, I'm frustrated.  The fatalistic part of me knows it could be so much worse.  It was so much easier when I was a child, and could stomp my foot and pout about the unfairness of life.  Now, being an adult means learning to take such situations with grace and dignity. 

That said...I want to ride my pony.

I'm playing with some new design elements for the blog.  I used to be pretty good at page design and HTML, but it's been a long time and I've gotten pretty rusty.  Bear with me as fiddle around until I find the colors and styles I like.  It may take a while.  I think I might have settled on one that honors Mimi's and my purple color scheme.  But I do need to do something about that top picture.  Eventually.  :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Peaks and Valleys

First off, I would like to offer an apology for my long absence from blogging, and correspondence in general.

Like the toughest endurance ride, 2010 has been a year of ups and downs for me -- and it's only May.  My absence from blogging is both a long and short explanation.  The short version is that I lost a lot of my enthusiasm and momentum after a disheartening start to the ride season, and before I could regain my footing, my personal life came along and knocked me for another loop.

In trying to deal with life and the turmoil, I'm afraid I've very much retreated from one of the things in life that was always my refuge -- the horses.  When your refuge is one of those things causing so much discontent and unrest, it becomes difficult to find your balance again.

After many weeks of soul-searching, I feel like I'm finally starting to gain some peace in my life again, and I'm ready to offer an explaination for what has been going on for the past four months.

The best place to start is probably chronologically, which would be at the start of the ride season -- the Land of the Sun ride in Wickenburg.  After being postponed and rescheduled due to foul weather and flooding in January, the ride was held in the beginning of February.

The ride started out very nice, but ended for me at 35 miles when I pulled Mimi after she started to tie up.  Rather than typing out the whole explaination again, this is the email I sent to one of the endurance e-mail lists I'm on.

So, I'm sure as most of you saw on Facebook, I pulled from Wickenburg yesterday when Mimi went weird on me at about 35 miles. She had been doing fabulous all day, pulling my arms out in her cheer and enthusiasm during the whole first loop. About 10 miles into the second loop, she really slowed down, to the point where I was having to peddle and cajole her -- definitely not normal for her, as she normally is very free-moving, and all it takes is a loosening of the reins to get her to move out at a ride.
Then she stopped to pee, and she peed very dark urine. :((( Never a good sign. We were very close to a water stop at the point, so we proceeded very slowly up to the water. I tried to get her to drink, but she wasn't interested, so we sat at the water trough with me syringing water into her mouth, making her drink one sip at a time. She also had no interest in food -- VERY unusual. Her respiration was super-high, and she her flanks were really tucked-up and doing this weird fluttering thing with her rapid breathing.
Her pulse dropped down to 36 within about five minutes, but then spiked to 44 a couple minutes later. And she just looked very unhappy. She's not a subtle horse by any stretch of the imagination, and can be a drama queen, so it's very easy to read her expressions and emotions. And she looked very sad and worried. Her mouth was tight, and her eyes very worried.

With all of those factors combined, I wasn't going to continue, so I pulled her there. Fortunately, we were at a place where it was very easy to get a trailer in and out, so we loaded up and got the quick shuttle back to camp. When we got back, I had one of the ride vets look at her, and all of her metabolics checked out with all As -- good gut sounds, normal hydration, loose muscles.

She never got really tight in the back end, but she did look stiff when we stopped. Both Dad and I walked her out and trotted her in hand after we had been at the water stop for about 15 minutes just to see if she would "snap out of it." She wasn't moving as well as she could, especially since her earlier trot-outs at the VCs had been beautiful, so I didn't think 15 more miles -- and the toughest part was still to come for that loop -- would do her any favors.

It's a maddening situation, as I don't really know what to call it or what she did. I don't think it was a true tie-up. I think it could have gotten to that if I pushed her. So what do I call that? Pre-tie-up? I've been researching my brains out this morning, and I'm no closer to pinning down any one cause.

There's potentially several factors at play:

-The weather turning cold, windy and rainy as we were heading out for the second loop. She did the same pre-tie-up thing at a Wickenburg NATRC ride about four years ago, but that was within 5 miles of the start, and due to insufficient warmup. However, she's also done a couple cold, rainy rides since then without a problem.

-Dehydration? She could have drank better overnight (she's drink better if she didn't poop in her bushel bucket...grrr...I'm going to start putting out multiple buckets for her at night). She ignored the two water troughs out on the first loop, and didn't drink until VC1 at 13 miles. Kind of normal, kind of not. She typically drinks within 10 miles. She drank really well at the VC, then again on the way back to camp. At VC2, she drank well as soon as we got in, but didn't drink at all back at the trailer during the hour hold.

-E'lyte imbalance? I e'lyted her with small doses in the morning before starting, at VC1, and at VC2. It was a breezy, cool day, but they were sweating a lot, especially in the beginning.

-Unaccustomed climbing? There were a lot of ups and downs and hills, but we train in terrain that's very similar to Wickenburg.

-Fighting me too much? She was feeling really, really good, and just wanted to GO in the first loop, so we spent a lot of time having "discussions" about not pulling my arms out and not running over the steep, rocky ups and downs. Don't know if she got herself too worked up doing that? She was feeling very competitive and forward. Our last two rides, we've had a space bubble since early in the ride, and she was happy to tootle along on a loose rein. This time, we were riding a bit faster, and there was always another horse within visual range. Both she and Beamer were being very competitive, but the trail was such that we had to make time where we could, because of the slow, rocky sections.

-Food at VC? I actually had a crew this time, but I'm wondering if her intentions were too trying to get our ponies to eat, she was plying them with a lot of alfalfa and the ride-offered bran mashes, plus some oat hay. Mimi, being a protein-and-insulin-sensitive pony, is on a limited alfalfa diet, and a no grain diet. My fault for not communicating to our crewperson. I don't know if something like that could be a contributing factor? Too much protein?

Or maybe it's something I'm totally missing, or a combination of a lot of factors. I'm going to call my vet and see if he can come out tomorrow and if a blood panel will still be good at that point.
And after the visit from our vet the Monday after the ride:

Well, I got Mimi's blood panel back from the vet today. Her AST and CK levels are elevated -- 3016 for the AST and 8030 for the CK. Everything else falls within the normal range. Per my vet, she did have a tie up episode, but probably a minor one, as her muscles never got tight and crampy.

Best I can figure, after all the theories have been banded about, is that she wasn't drinking enough and we need to work more on actually drinking at rides.

The vet had several recommendations, but no real answers.  After cogitating on this for the past several months, I think there were a few other factors at play: the six weeks or so leading up to the ride had been very wet and rainy, and they didn't get out as much as they should have.  Quite frankly, I think it comes down to she was ill-conditioned for the ride and what I was asking of her.

She's 17 this year (in less than a week, actually!), she's not an Arab, despite how much she tries to act like one, and because of that, she's not going to hold her conditioning the way an Arab in their prime (like Beamer) would.  I feel bad, coming to that conclusion, because it puts the blame squarely on my shoulders where it belongs.

It is also leading me to the conclusion that maybe it's time to retire her from 50s, but that's another topic for another post, as this one is getting long-winded enough.

The following is the other side of the story -- my personal life, something I tend to leave out of this blog for various reasons, mostly because I figure that people come here to read about my adventures with my pony, not listen to me whine.  But I'm going to temporarily lift that moratorium, because that is a major part of what is going on right now.  To anyone that might feel uncomfortable with the subjects, death, dying, and personal religion are going to come up.  Several things have been happening, all kind of at once:

- As everyone knows, the economy sucks right now, and like a lot of people, we're feeling it, financially.  As such, going to rides isn't really a feasible thing right now, which is more than a little bit depressing and tends to cut down on one's motivation to go out and train.  I don't like admitting to this -- never an easy position to be in  -- but it's one of the reasons I've not been showing my face around the local rides.  Let's face it -- even though endurance is one of the cheaper equine sports out there, it still costs money.  And ride entry fees aren't going down.  And with very few truly local rides, travel expenses quickly add up, even to show up and volunteer.

- Right about the time Mimi should have been getting out again,  I came down with pneumonia and spent a couple weeks down for the count, and probably about five weeks away from riding.  Naturally, this would happen at the prettiest time of the year.  It's been about two and a half months since that happened, and I'm only now starting to feel like I'm recovering.  (Not helped by the worst seasonal allergies I've ever had.)

- Finally, I've experienced a lot of pain and turmoil in the last couple months that has put me on a path of a lot of questioning and bewilderment, and as a Christian, I'm not proud to admit this, but I've spent a lot of time being very angry at God and wondering why all of this is happening. 

First, I lost a dear friend to cancer in March.  She was only 26.  I still can't understand why someone that young, vibrant, and full of life could be taken so soon.  She fought to the end, and I will forever admire her grace, determination, and positive attitude.  I don't know if I could have done the same.  She's my newest guardian angel watching over me, and I'll always cherish the memory of our friendship and her encouragement.  Miss you, Siobhan, but I know you're using your performance talent and sense of humor to entertain all the other angels in Heaven right now.

On the heels of this, I just returned from a very difficult trip back to Pennsylvania for one last visit with my grandfather.  He has been fighting a very long, difficult battle with prostate cancer that then moved into bone cancer for the past two years, and about a week ago, his hospice nurse told the family she was giving him maybe two weeks to live.

Despite it being a painful, emotional trip, I'm glad I went.  There's so much about the situation I'm still confused and angry about, and not even going to begin to try to delve into here.  I've got questions that could probably even make theological scholars scratch their heads, but I know they'll likely always remain unanswered.  The biggest question, of course, that everyone asks is, "Why?"  I haven't figured that out, and maybe I never will. 

This is also the first grandparent I'm losing, so I feel particularly raw and vulnerable, having been relatively sheltered from the whole notion of death and dying up until now.  I know that the inevitable end is very near now, but I feel a lot more at peace after this trip than I was before I went.

It's been a lot to take in over the past four months, and I feel like I've spent a lot of time wallowing in the valleys, managing to scale a little peak, only to quickly slip down the other side.  Now, I feel like I'm gradually starting to come back again, thay maybe the next slide isn't going to be all the way to the valley floor again.  There's that saying, something about "darkest before dawn" that I think is very applicable at the moment.  Things will get better, it just might take a bit more mountain-climbing to get there.

Despite all of this, I have been maintaining Mimi's bare hooves myself still.  Her feet are looking fabulous, and I'm mroe and more happy with them with each passing month.  I bought a loop hoof knife, which makes trimming her bars a lot easier.  For the first time ever, I was able to take her on several rides entirely barefoot.  Granted, it was only about 6 or 7 miles, with very little trotting, but she was totally sound and comfortable.  Also more on this subject to come, since it's enough to make a whole seperate post.

Thank you, all of my readers, for hanging in there and listening to my very rollercoaster life.  I can't promise an immediate turnaround in my blogging habits, but I will say that I aim to try for slightly more regular other words, no more abandoning you for four months.  :)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Welcome to the Future

This will mark my 100th blog post.  A huge THANK YOU to all of my are the reason I keep blogging!  I started blogging due to the fact that I enjoy writing, and this would be a good outlet for that, as well as wanting a place to catalog my accounts of rides and pony antics.

I started blogging in April of 2007, so it's taken my this long to reach that milestone.  I can be an erratic blogger at times, mostly due to the fact that when life gets crazy, writing/blogging is the first thing that gets temporarily shelved.  I've been getting better at being more consistent, and one of my goals for the upcoming year is to blog every several days at least.

That being said...READERS...I'd like your input for some of what you'd like to see appear in the future.  I'm going to be starting a new blog focusing on the use of hoof boots and barefoot trimming, so those that are less interested in those subjects won't be innundated on a regular basis on this blog.

Thoughts for upcoming subjects: I can start doing tack/product reviews.  As it is, most of my blog consists of stories, anecdotes, and antics.  There are ways I can make it more of an educational blog, although I still consider myself to be a "baby" endurance rider, still largely figuring this thing out myself.

I can dig into my past and start relating some of my show experiences with Mimi.  I have tons of pictures (that need to be scanned) and quite a plethora of experiences from which to relate.

Another aspect I can delve further into is breed education.  Both my father and I ride breeds that are fairly unique, both to the endurance world and the equine world in general.  There is a lot of history to be passed along for both breeds, Shagya Arabian and POA.  While this blog is called Go Pony, and is largely supposed to relate to Mimi, Beamer is a part of our riding lives, and he deserves his chance to headline my blog every so often.

I keep a lot of my personal life out of this blog, because I have a personal blog for that, and don't feel the need to impose some of the more stressful aspects of my life on my readers.  However...if there are questions about me you're dying to ask, you can always comment, and I'll more than likely answer.  Quite a bit has changed in my own personal life since I started this blog, so look for a "me update" post showing up in the near future, just to give people a glimpse of the girl outside the tights and riding helmet.

Please pass along your thoughts, opinions, and comments!  If you want to see something here, let me know.  I know I've been slacking on pictures of late...chalk it up to the fact that after my laptop crashed, I lost a lot of my pictures (most can be found on my Facebook profile, if you're Facebook friends with me) and haven't had a chance to restore them to my hard drive.  And Mimi has been a bit of a handful lately, so I haven't been bringing the camera out on rides.  Hopefully that changes after 50 miles at Wickenburg this weekend...that should get some of her pony antics out of her system.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Happy Birthday, Dad!

Today is my father's XXth birthday...he can enlighten anyone who asks what numbers are supposed to fill in those x's.  :)))

I couldn't ask for a better riding partner to spend the hours and miles with along the trail.  Thank you for following me into this crazy horse obsession, and for making me a better horseperson along the way.  Your open-mindedness and curiosity has broadened my horizons and taken me far outside of my original comfort zone...and for that, I'm eternally grateful.

And thank you:
  • for enabling my love of horses in the first place, when you first pointed out that little white mare being ridden in the arena as we were passing by...
  • for tolerating the pointed-toe kicks in the kidneys from an impatient little girl who didn't understand that you actually were bidding on that pony...
  • for being there through all the subsequent ups and downs of show life with a young rider and green pony
  • for doing all that being a Show Dad entailed...hauling the trailer, lifting saddles, giving me a leg up, making sure my number was straight, and taking literally hundred of thousands of horse show pictures
  • for taking me up on my "suggestion" to take riding lessons
  • for taking up the reins on your own horse and venturing into the world of trail riding
  • for convincing me that NATRC sounded like fun
  • for following me into endurance
  • for crewing for me at rides before you had an endurance horse
  • for being such a great ride partner
And, finally, to wrap things up, because I could never fully list everything I'm grateful to you for,
  • Thank you for being such a wonderful influence and role model in my life.  I'm a better person because of how you and Mom have raised me.  You've taught me to meet -- and exceed -- expectations, live up to my responsibilites, follow through on commitments, and live a Christian life that glorifies God.  Thank you for that, and so much more.
Here's to many more happy birthdays and trail miles apent together!

Friday, January 22, 2010

2009: A Year in Review

While it's very tempting to blow off 2009 as a horrifically crappy, overwhelming year, that just wouldn't be entirely true.  Yes, many aspects of my life were very overwhelming, and still continue to be so, hence my lack of posting in the latter months of the year.

While I might not have gotten to near the number of rides I would have liked, I did have a successful ride year.  4 rides, 4 completions, 175 miles.  3 50s, 1 25.  2 near-turtle finishes, 1 mid-pack, and 1 top ten (that weould be the 25).  3 rides for Mimi...all 50s, one ride on a friend's horse.  That includes finishing the notoriously difficult Man Against Horse, with ponies that were still bright-eyed and pulling at the finish.

These horses, and endurance rides, are my refuge, sanctuary, and therapy.  I would truly be lost without them, and all of my endurance friends.  I'm so grateful for the connections I've made...enduring friendships that I hope will last a lifetime.

So, then, to recap:

January: Mimi spent the latter part of 2008 cogitating on whether or not she really wanted to be an endurance horse, and therefore wasn't fit for Wickenburg.  We did pull ribbons after the Valley of the Sun 3 ride, but that was one of our few outings for the month.  I took friend Cindy Brown up on her offer to ride her horse Harley in the 25 at Wickenburg.  We had a fabulous ride, and even Top Tenned, coming in 9th.  I got along really well with Harley and enjoyed riding him.  School resumed again for me, after enjoying a five week break.

February: Mimi got her head (and hocks) aligned, and we got several really good training rides in, enough to feel comfortable going for the 50 at the Valley of the Sun 4 ride.  We finished, although she could have looked better when we got home...she was dehydrated from the unexpected heat, and a little bit crampy.  She recovered within an hour of getting home, and was bright-eyed the next day.

March: Lots of training rides, filled with spring-fever energy.

April: brought warm temperatures, snake sightings, and the opportunity to go crew at Tevis. 

May: meant more warm weather, and a good excuse to take the ponies down to the river and ride around the water.  Mimi turned 16, and we celebrated with a great training ride.  School recessed for a three-week period, then resumed after Memorial Day.

June: was hot, as is expected in the AZ summer, but we still did a lot of riding.  I took Mimi barefoot in the back for the first time of what would soon become an almost-every-ride occurence.  We took a weekend camping trip to Little Elden Springs with a few other endurance friends.  (I went to look for the link to this story, only to realize I never finished it.)

July: Tevis!!!  Spent lots of time talking to rider Lucy Trumbull about crew odds 'n' ends, and hoof boots, then hopped on a plane for a week of Tevis fun.  I never did do the full write-up (my computer ate it), but I do have the cliffnotes, and will someday produce a full write-up of my adventures.  The next-best things are the photo albums on Facebook: riding Foresthill to El Dorado Creek and back; Tevis; and the rest of the week.

August: was quiet, and hot.  I had a few weeks off school again, and spent the time hibernating.  T'was also my birthday this month, and I got new tights from Evelyn at Just for Horsin-Round.  I have two pairs, and they're fabulous...I'll be ordering more soon.

September: Didn't exist (according to my blog, at least...nothing worth reporting got blogged about.)

October: In a last-minute flurry of avtivity, we decided to go to Man Against Horse and try the 50 again.  We finished, and in fine form this time.  Both ponies looked fabulous at the end, and never lost that sparkle in their eyes.

November: Let's go gangbusters and do a ride two months in a row!  Valley of the Sun Turkey Trot 50 was a good ride, with another sparkly-eyed finish.  Two great rides like that in a row was a good confidence booster for me.  Thanksgiving, and the start of the holidays.

Decemeber: Mom and I took a trip back to New York while the ponies got a break.  School again let out for another 5-week break.  Christmas shopping was once again easy, as there were horse things Dad needed.  Let the new ride season begin.

Rain Check!

I think I really  understand and appreciate the term "rain check" now.  Having grown up and lived here in the desert all my life, I've never fully appreciated the full extent of a true, multiday storm system.  Sure, I know all about flash floods, and not driving your vehicle through more than a couple inches of running water.  That's pretty par for the course in Arizona monsoon season, although someone always has to test it.  ("No, no, my insert vehicle of choice here can handle it, it'll be fine.")

At the San Tans, the trails drain so quickly that, unless it's pouring rain at the very moment, it's nearly impossible to get "rained out" from riding.  And even on the few occasions we do, it's due to the aforementioned flash flooding of the washes, and not the actual trail conditions.

So to have Wickenburg cancelled for this weekend due to weather wasn't something I was really expecting.  Granted, it would be cold and wet, especially Friday, but the trails shouldn't have been a problem.  And they weren't.  It was the roads. 

Arizona infrastructure is coping very badly with the current weather conditions, so much that major highways have actually been temporarily shut down.  I didn't really grasp that notion until I pulled down AZCentral's Road Closures page and realized that there's almost no way to get into Wickenburg.  Good reason to cancel, if a) half your riders can't get out of their house and b) the other half can't get to the ride.

The ride has been rescheduled for February 6th.  Here's hoping for lots of sunshine, for us and our surrounding states.

I think I've gotten off lightly from this storm -- the worst we've had at my house was that Dad had to pump some excess water out of the fishpond to keep it from overflowing.  That, and there's a corner of the roof over the dressing room on the trailer that's been leaky, and it dribbled in one corner of the trailer.  Fortunately, I anticpated this, and there wasn't much actually in the corner to get wet.

More rain is predicted for this afternoon, but right now, it's blue skies above.  The wind is picking up again, so those grey clouds on the horizon could move in...eventually.  It's a good day to curl up with a good book or movie, a steaming cup of your hot beverage of choice, and a cookie.  Sounds like a good idea to me...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Double Standard

A Cautionary Warning: There is much generalization and use of the term "people" in the following post.  I'm not trying to say "everyone" does this, but rather, a broad spectrum of generalized behavior that I have noticed over the past several years.  This is not intended to be critical of anybody, but rather, my personal view and opinion on behaviors and attitudes.  Consider it, or take it worth a grain of salt.

Recently, there's been a flurry of discussion activity on Ridecamp about hoof boots.  Every winter, it seems, the topic of "shoes versus boots" gets dragged out.  Thus far this winter, people are confining themselves to boot...comparisons.

While I could probably write a dissertation based on my opinions of the topic, that wasn't really what stuck my fancy today.  What I wanted to touch on is the seeming "double standard" that exists for hoof boots.

Everyone seems to be concerned with finding the "perfect boot."  Their standards for that boot seem to be: easy to fit, doesn't rub, easy to put on, and never comes off.

All I have to say on that is, "When was the last time a horseshoe never came off?"  Please, someone, share with me that they've never, in their entire career of horse ownership, had a horse that has lost a shoe.  Pretty much impossible, right?  So why are people so critical of a hoof boot coming off? 

It seems to be an unfair soon as people hear a story of a boot coming off, they write it off as being "no good."  And yet, shod horses that pull shoes get pass after pass, get the shoe nailed back on, and nothing more is said.

As a hoof boot user, I've had my fair share of them come off, some of them in places never to be seen again.  I've calculated that I've got probably about $200 worth of hoof boots and hoof boot parts scattered across Arizona and southern California.  But did that mean boots were worthless?

No, it just meant that something wasn't working.  It took some experimentation, time, and willingness to think outside the box and my comfort zone, but I eventually found what works for Mimi.  One of the nice things about the popularity of the barefoot/hoofbooted movement taking off is the availability of different hoof boots on the market.  There's virtually something for almost anyone and any horse. 

(Note the virtually and almost: I do believe that it's entirely possible that boots might not work for every single horse out there.  Dad's first horse, a Foxtrotter mare, had an extremely exaggerated sliding action in her hind feet.  Boots gave her too much grip, and made her movement too abrupt and jarring on her joints and muscles.  It's possible, given time, and knowing what I know now about hoof trimming, that we could have worked more with and gradually adapted her to using boots.)

And incidently?  Mimi has lost at least one of every footwear I put on her.  Regular shoes, padded shoes, aluminum shoes, regular Easyboots, glued-on Easyboots, Epics, Bares, and Renegades.  No one thing out there is perfect.

I'm sure this is a topic that will never go away as long as there are metal shoes to be nailed on, and hoof boots to be fitted, and horse hooves that need protection.  And that means the double standard will likely live on, too.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Wickenburg Prep

I'm watching the weather forecast for the coming week like a hawk.  The major Pacific storm system that is supposed to sweep California before venturing over here has me concerned. as rain is predicted all week.  (However, just talking to a friend in San Diego...he says he's not gotten a drop of rain all day, so we'll just have to see.)

I'm not content to just "let things be," and am moving ahead with ride prep as though we are going to get buckets of water dumped on us.  The hope in being prepared this way is, of course, that over-preparedness will result in not needing any of it.  *crosses fingers*  Fortunately, the worst of the rain is predicted for Tuesday-Thursday, and down to a 20% chance on Saturday.

I'm currently sitting at my desk, sniping and tying fringe on a piece of fleece to make myself another in-trailer blanket.  My blankets keep getting sacrificed to Mimi, so I finally ordered her a second Trail-Rite Cooling Blanket.  Now I have a whole pile of horsehair-covered fleece blankets to pull out of the trailer and launder, then I can use them for myself once again.  Hopefully her blanket arrives before Friday.  (Just got an email, it'll be here Thursday.)

I also ordered a new GPS from Amazon.  After much indecision and waffling, I finally ended up getting the Garmin eTrex Venture HC.  I like the fact that it has color, and the high-sensitivity receiver.  As much as I really liked the more expansive, expensive models, this has everything I need it for...basic mapping, and I'm really after mileage and speed calculations.

This'll be my third Garmin eTrex, and I really like them.  My first one was one of the first generation eTrex  (Venture, I was the one with the teal-colored casing) and it worked really well...until I slammed it in the Suburban door.  Word to the wise: don't ever balance your GPS in between the vehicle frame and the open door, then leave it there to acquire satellites, only to forget about it and close the door.

My second one was the eTrex Legend (blue casing...still an early generation, before the color or high-sensitivity receivers were an option).  I really liked it, until it inexplicably stopped working.  I can turn it on, it'll work for about five minutes, the nthe screen goes blank save for a vertical line of pixels running down the middle or off to the side.

I've been without a GPS now for the past year and a half, and I'm eager to ride with one again, especially at rides.  It's made me get very good at pacing and timing, to have to rely on watching the clock and knowing trail distance, and it helps to know Mimi's average speed for any given gait, but I'll be happy to have my technology back.  I rode with a friend's GPS at McDowell in November, as she wanted a map of the trails, and that made me realize how much I missed having one.  It should be here Wednesday.

New splint boots are ordered, and should be here today.  I'm waffling on using them...they're the same model as the ones I've been using, but my old ones are 13 years old.  Will the quality still be the same on the new ones, or might there be potential for rubs from an ill-placed seam?  The rain for the week, combined with Dad's work and my heading back to school, is curtailing the amount of riding I'll be able to do to test them, so I'm down to pre-riding Friday.  I'll try them then, and if all goes fine, use them for the ride, but toss the old boots in the crew box.

My new helmet also got here last week, a Tipperary Sportage Plus I bought from a friend who bought it, wore it once, didn't like the fit, and has kept it around since, so it's still brand new.  I love it, and even though I haven't had a chance to ride in it, I sat around on my computer with it on my head for an hour, and it felt great.

I've got my Goretex rain gear, as well as the two non-Goretex "waterproof" rain jackets.  Both ponies have two rump rugs...a fleece, and a canvas-topped fleece each.  Each pony has four (!) wicking-type sheets...Beamer has two fleeces, and two wool coolers, and Mimi has two fleeces (plus an extra if absolutely necessary) and a wool cooler.  They both have waterproof sheets (his moreso than hers) and Goretex blankets.

My right foot is still sore from yesterday's race, so I'm taking a very aggressive icing/Motrin treatment to try to get it in check before Friday.  I can see some bruising in the sore area, but no heat or swelling, so I'm guessing it's probably some kind of concussion-related pressure bruising. 

I'm kind of wishing I had ice boots for Mimi that I could steal and use, as I only have one good icepack, and two marginal ones, for myself.  Ice boots were on my "to buy" list, and I even thought about getting them for Wickenburg, but the chilly forecast and wet weather means I probably won't need to do much leg icing.  I thought about getting them for the 75, but I know we'll be finishing after dark, which, in February, is still pretty chilly, and I don't know if that'll chill them too much or not. 

I took a quick trip down to the barn this afternoon, between rain showers, and did a bit of work on the trailer.  Ponies got to go out in the big pasture and run while I did that, which made them very happy.  Overfed and underridden...that's them.  They're definitely ready for 50 miles.

PF Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

Taking to the Streets
Or, An Endurance Rider’s Cross-Training

I have a new respect for my pony and her fitness level. I participated in – and completed – my first half marathon on Sunday, January 17th, the PF Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon here in Phoenix.

The decision to participate was all part of my bid to improve my fitness level this year, and I figured it would only benefit both me and Mimi in the long term. After all, she appreciates in when I get off during rides and walk/jog alongside her, so the more of that I can do, the better.

“Running” is a relative term for me. I’ve not been gifted with a natural runner’s physique, but I make do with what I have, and my idea of running consists of a lot of power-walking interspersed with shorter amounts of jogging.

The PF Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon is a 13.1-mile course that starts in downtown Phoenix and ends up in Tempe, right in the middle of one of the Arizona State University parking lots.

The half marathon started at 8:30 in the morning, with a wave start. The over 21,000 participants were broken down into 26 starting corrals, each released one at a time. I was in corral 23, and finally crossed the start line at about 9:00. I had 4 hours from that point in which to finish the 13.1 miles.

Within the first mile, my body began to question my sanity, but that was nothing new. It’s the same feeling I get within the first five miles of an endurance ride – when my lower back starts whining, and my feet go numb, and I wonder, “How can I stand 45 more miles of this?” It’s shortly after that point my brain and body tune each other out, and I can continue on without much thought to discomfort. The same thing happened here.

My pace was about 14 minutes for the first mile, and I was able to sustain that for pretty much the entire time. Right around the halfway mark, the course became very familiar, as it was part of the route I drive to/from school every day. This was good in that I knew where I was, and kind of what to expect. However, the feedback you get from driving a route is vastly different from running the same route.

For instance, academically, I knew there were a couple of slight grades between miles 9 and 11. Very slight, the kind you don’t even think about while driving. Well, from the perspective of being on foot, that “slight grade” on Van Buren Street between 44th Street and Loop 202 seemed like a major hill.

After passing mile 11, it was mostly downhill from there…past the Phoenix Zoo, across the Mill Avenue Bridge, onto Rio Salado Parkway (another uphill…ugh) and into ASU’s Lot 59…blessedly downhill. I was able to make up for dropping off the pace on the uphill parts (about an 18-minute mile) with being able to really stretch out on the downhill (about a 12-minute mile), and I had saved up enough energy to pick it up on the last ¼ mile in to the finish. The adrenaline-buzz from cheering spectators lining the finish line area helped, too. :)

I finished with a time of 3:28:50, coming in 19,451 out of 21,460 participants. Out of 13,486 female participants, I came in 11,839. My brain short-circuits at the idea of that many participants, and all that matters to me is that I finished.

My goal time, when asked on the registration form for start corral seeding purposes, was 3:30:00. I have a pretty good sense of my own personal pacing and physical abilities, but I was really happy to get that close to my goal time. It averaged out to a 3.999999 (okay, 4) mph pace, and about a 15-minute mile.

The last four miles, I had to really slog it out. The uphill climbs, for one, and then the last two miles, I could feel the effects of 11 miles of concussion on pavement starting to catch up. My hips were letting their displeasure be known, and the outside of the right foot was starting to whine. Interestingly enough, I felt the most sore while maintaining a walk, but when I’d pick up a jog, a lot of the aches would disappear.
Unfortunately, my lungs wouldn’t let me sustain a jog the rest of the way in, so I alternated jogging with walking, and for the last mile, the “finish is within my grasp” adrenaline kicked in and pulled me through.

Physically speaking, that was one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. I think my first 50 with Mimi was actually easier, mostly because of the partner-bond with the pony…when things got tough, we could pull each other through. Out on the street, it was all on me, and I had to pull myself though it. I got really, really good at personal pep talks, as well as giving myself a good ***-kicking when necessary.

One thing that really helped was all the amazing energy at the race. It’s hard to have that many people together and not have energy. The spectator turnout was also amazing. So many complete strangers lining the streets of Phoenix, out there cheering for people that they don’t even know, encouraging us to keep going, telling us how great we look (lies… I think I looked like roadkill by about mile five), and how we’re going to make it.

The volunteers were also amazing. There were water/sports drink stops about every mile and a half, and the volunteers would be lined up on both sides of the street with cups of water and Cytomax, passing them off to runners as we’d come by, always with a smile and encouragement.

So, what does it take to get me through a half marathon, intake-wise? About 90 ounces of water, 40 ounces of Cytomax sports drink, 3 packs of GU, one pack of energy beans, 6 electrolyte caplets, and a whole hell of a lot of encouragement and personal drive. Thank goodness for porta-potties along the way, because I definitely stayed hydrated.

Would I do it again? Sitting here the day after, musing about my still-sore, visibly bruised right foot, and some sore lower back muscles, I’d still have to say, yes. Finishing the race was an incredible personal accomplishment for me, and I’m still enjoying the post-run satisfaction high the day after.

Interestingly enough, I’m actually less muscle-sore than after an endurance ride, and I think the riding really helped keep my muscles in shape for that kind of physical effort. It’s just the concussion aspect of running that the rest of my body is slightly less impressed with, but chalk that up to needing more long-distance conditioning.

The running process might be a bit arduous for me, and I definitely prefer trail running to street running, but I get a lot of satisfaction out of it, as well as a lot of personal “think time” where it’s just me and my thoughts. Call it therapy of a different sort, parallel to riding.

So there you have it. Cross-training in action…but this time around, it’s for the rider. Rock on.