Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tevis 2012: 9 Weeks and Counting

Okay, so anyone who knows me or has followed this blog for any period of time knows I am a certified (certifiable?) Tevis NUT.  Never mind I've not gotten to the point of actually riding it...but just crewing has been enough to get me hooked.  Actually, just reading about it was enough to get me hooked.

And as cliche as it is, wanting to do Tevis was why I got into endurance riding.

So that's a bit of obligatory backstory.

But I'm super-excited because I get to go up to Tevis again this year!  In an official work capacity, no less.  I'll be up there several days ahead of time to help with Renegade booting, and then get tons of pictures and generally provide a helping hand to our riders throughout the ride.

In my world, attending the ride is the next best thing to finally being able to ride it.

I've already made plans to meet up with a couple of blog-buddies, which is super-exciting, as well as being able to re-connect with friends that are in the area.  If you're planning to come out to Tevis, either to ride or spectate, come find me!  I'll be at the Fairgrounds Wednesday and Thursday, booting, then Robie Park Friday, and doing the whole "follow the ride" thing Saturday.  Just look for the bright orange boots!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New and Upcoming from Renegade®

There's been some new and exciting stuff happening in the Land of Renegade® Hoof Boots!

First of all, we've got a new blog/news site!  Check it out at  It's got a whole brand-new news section, a FAQ section, photos, videos, and more!

To go along with that, we're starting a newsletter!  Sign up by June 30th and be entered to win a pair of Renegade® boots and one of our awesome Renegade® t-shirts!

Finally, did you know we recently upgraded the hook-and-loop material that makes up the toe straps?  It's a much sturdier, very sticky material that has been holding up great to water, mud, and sand. I tested them out on Sunday's ride and I can concur: These things are sticky!  Rode through our standard desert offering of sand and rocks, came back to the barn and hosed the boots off, and after that, couldn't even tell the straps had been used!  Check out the full announcement on the News Page!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A long post with a lot to cover

As mentioned earlier, Yay, I got to ride out today!!!

Pre-trailer loading snack time

We had a really nice typical Memorial Day fashion, the weather gave us a brief was only in the 80s today, and just a light breeze.  Perfect riding weather.  The trails were shockingly uncrowded.  I really expected more people to be out enjoying the weather, but maybe people actually traveled out of town this weekend?

Trail buddies for the day: Kenda & Spirit (chestnut);
Chris (Barn Owner) & Tuudy (grey)

Spirit is a big, experienced goofball that walks out at 5mph (*is jealous*) so he was in the lead the whole time.  Tuudy is young and green, so we sandwiched her.  Tuudy was also testing out a pair of Mimi's Renegades on her hind hooves...first time trail test.  Even though I was really confident in how the boots would would stay on after seeing her work in them, it gave me a chance to keep an eye on them and watch how Tuudy did in them.  

Before, bare in the rear, she was pretty tentative on downhills, weighing her front end and protecting her bare back feet.  Today, she planted those rear hooves, tucked her haunches under her, and flew down the hills.  Very cool to see such a difference.

Rear-guard pony and surprisingly happy about it today

I was really tickled with how Mimi did today.  She's been somewhat...strong of late when we've gone out, giving me a bit of an attitude about slowing down, pushing her limits with the s-hack, and she was disturbingly strong against it a couple weeks ago riding around the neighborhood.

Enter remedial training:

Myler Eggbutt MB27PB

This is a Myler Eggbutt MB27PB mouthpiece.  It's a Level 2-3 mouthpiece, I picked it up about a month ago on a crazy-good deal, and have been playing around with it in the arena ever since.  I won't go so far as to call in a miracle bit...nothing will ever make Mimi love a bit...but she goes surprisingly well in it.  The port is low enough it doesn't interfere with her palate, and for the first time ever, she's actually light in the face.

The upper level bit is also making her extremely conscious of what I'm doing with my hands, and it's forcing me to ride lighter, to rely on seat and legs first, then the bit.  Maybe there's a correlation between my lightness and her lightness?

Whatever the case may be...I had BRAKES on the trail again today.  All it took was a couple of light finger taps on one side or the other when she'd start rushing, and she'd back off.  The real test will be speed work, but we kept it pretty much to a walk today.  (Except for a few times she snuck in a bit of a trot.)  But we did a ton of up and down hills and gullies, and she did really well.  No head tossing, no fussing, and minimal pulling weird faces when we'd stop.

Happy Pony
So now I'm convinced there is something to the Myler levels and the fact that giving an advanced horse who understands and respects cues and signals a more advanced bit is a good thing.  (Bit dealers across the country just sent up a rousing cheer...)

And then these got put to the test:

Don't judge my bathroom unless you wanna come clean it
They're the new Tropical Rider tights I got..."PrixTec" variety, in Mango.  They're also the first pair of full-seat tights I've ever gotten or worn.  I really liked the grip and security of the full seat.  I got the microsuede patches versus deer or sheepskin...I don't know if it makes much of a difference or not.  I wasn't as wild about the fact that the full seat isn't quite as cool and breathable.  But that's a sacrifice I'm willing to make if it means extra stickiness in the saddle.  But it wasn't so sticky that I felt like it interfered with my posting or ability to get out of the saddle.  Also, the full seat means the mango color doesn't end up giving the "pumpkin butt" effect.

Photo from barn buddy Angela who was hiking with us

As much as I love pictures, I rarely get ones of myself riding, unless it's at an event.  Since pics are a great visual feedback of what you're doing wrong, this is both a good and bad thing.  Looking at the above...*cringe*  

Could I be any more unbalanced?  Scrunching my left side, but weighing my right?  Wonder if that's related to spending more time on the computer?  I don't know what my right arm is doing, flailing off to the side like that.  I alternate between riding one-handed and two.  I know two-handed is more balanced and effective, but sometimes I like to switch it up...sometimes it's laziness, sometimes it's the need to fish something out of the saddle pack or grab my camera.

But riding posture aside...I love my orange tights!  And they color-coordinate nicely with all my Renegade shirts.

Gone Ridin'

Just a short post...heading out in a little while to go RIDE!  And more than just arena circles!  Small group is riding out at the San Tans today.  Excellent timing and a great day to celebrate Mimi's birthday weekend.  (19 years old yesterday and still acting like a youngster some days.)

I didn't plan this very well, though...I should have made a cake or something for my girl.

More later!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Never Too Old... be a brat. Mimi's 19th birthday is coming up on Saturday, and she's still finding ways to try my patience. This morning, she didn't want to work. She wanted breakfast. We currently have access to the vacant property next's basically 4 acres of fenced dirt lot. Because riding in the actual arena would have meant shooing all 10 of the other horses back out to the pasture (always a fun trick), I decided to just ride next door. Pretty fun, because it's a ton of space, and pretty good footing...if you mind the gopher holes.

But Mimi decided that today, she just didn't feel like listening to my legs. I've been making a concerted effort to retrain myself to stay out of her mouth (I have a horrible habit of grabby hands and a distinct lack of release) and force myself to rely on leg and seat cues more. It's a tough thing to do when your pony is conspiring against your best efforts. She did a fabulous "I'm ignoring you" impression as I asked her to circle away from the pasture gate...she curved away, but still managed to keep moving towards the gate.

Wrong answer, pony.

She got thumped on the side with my whole leg for her efforts.

That actually woke her up, and it only took one more decent thump (coupled with some disciplinary "eh-eh" noises and a couple cuss words) to get her actually paying attention to me. Me, unconventional trainer? Yeah, maybe.

And then we proceeded to have a pretty good workout. I kept it shorter today...I feel really bad because I was a bit too overenthusiastic in my last trim job on her...I had let her toes get way too long, so proceeded to do something of a remedial Big Trim on her.

Sometimes I think I've learned nothing in the two years I've been trimming.

So she was pretty sore for a few days afterwards.

I put her boots on today to make sure she was comfortable enough while riding, and that worked great at the walk and trot...but she was still a bit ouchy to canter. Considering her canter is sub-optimal on her best days, we didn't pursue it today. No sense in asking for trouble and discomfort.

Some days I feel like such a bad horse mommy. This isn't the first time I've done this, been overly enthusiastic in my trimming to the point of making her a bit sore. I guess it's all part of the trimming learning curve, and I'm probably taking longer to get it because I just don't trim enough horses to get comfortably schooled in it.

But considering it's now officially summer here, spending the heat of the day bent in half wedged under a horse just doesn't sound like a whole ton of fun...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Fire Season

In the grand scheme of natural disasters, Arizona gets off pretty light.  We don't have tornadoes, hurricanes, major earthquakes, or mudslides.  We sometimes feel aftershocks coming up from Mexico or over from CA, but those are rare.  We have monsoon rains, which occasionally flood washes and require a couple idiots every year to be rescued after mistakenly believing they could drive across said flooded wash.  Despite the "Do Not Cross When Flooded" signs.  We have microbursts, concentrated areas of wind and rain that are capable of causing as much damage as a low-lever tornado.

But we do have fires.  Big ones.  "Make national headlines and get declared a federal emergency area" kind of fires.

On one hand, I've been relatively insulated from them.  I live in suburbia, where the only fire danger comes from my chain-smoking neighbors.

But outside of suburbia?  Better have a fire evac. plan.

Some years are worse than others.  The last two years have been relatively minor, fire-wise.  We always get a few small ones here and there...Arizona is still a lot of open, uninhabited land.  Surprisingly, about half the state is actually treed forest.  Treed forests that burn really well.  And necessary forest maintenance -- removing deadfall and all the stuff that fuels a fire really well, doing controlled burns -- is always an unhill battle between those that don't want to see a single pine needle touched and those that recognize the value of preventative measures.

But this year is already shaping up to possibly be a bad one.  Two major fires currently burning, one partway between Mesa and Payson (NE of Phoenix, close enough for me to see the smoke in the distance), and one south of the Mayer/Dewey/Humboldt area just before Prescott.  That one has required evacuations.  :(

I always worry about my horsey friends that live in fire-danger areas, and not just in this state.

Stay safe, everyone.  Have an evac plan, and hopefully you don't have to use it.

Here's hoping everyone stays safe and fire-free!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

IDing Boots, An Experiment: Part One

irish horse had a great question in my post about differentiating between pairs of boots about actually IDing your boots.  It's not something I've ever done...the times I've lost a Renegade, I've always known immediately that I lost it (something about the pony hopping up and down because she's wearing a boot as an ankle bracelet is hard to ignore), so could get off and fix it right away.  So none of my Renegades have ever parted company with my horse.  However, the couple of times Dad lost one of his boots, the horse stepped entirely out of it and we had to backtrack to find it.

But I can definitely see the value of having some way to ID your boots...if you do loose one, hopefully some kind soul will find it and return it.  Dad did this with one of his early pairs of Renegades...a pair of boots we still actually have.  His method was permanent Sharpie marker on the inside sole of the boot.  He wrote on it when the boot was brand-new and didn't have an embedded dirt.  I think this boot is probably four years old and has maybe 500-600 miles on it?

Ink is faded, but still visible. Surprised it didn't get rubbed or
worn off, between hoof pressure and the sand we ride in.
I'm going to explore another option: Duct tape!

I grabbed an extra pair of Mimi's boots (this is why I keep all my old/extra boots...endless experimentation!) and sat down to test a couple of ideas.

First, I cut a piece to fit inside the channel where the toe strap sits.  It's thin enough that I don't think it will interfere with how the toe strap actually fits.

Trimmed the lower corners so it doesn't interfere with any
movable parts of the boot.
Then I grabbed the Sharpie:

The test will be to see if the Velcro toe strap rubs the writing
or the tape.
My second test was the same location on the matching boot, minus the tape:

Again, will the Velcro smudge or rub the writing?
My thought behind the duct tape is if it does start getting rubbed or smeared, you can remove the tape and reapply a fresh strip. You can only write over smudged duct tape so many times before it turns into an illegible blob.

The only downside I can see to this location is once the toe strap is in place, you can't see there's anything written behind if the boot comes off with the toe strap still in place, there's no guarantee people will undo the strap and see the info.

Step Two: I'm going to take these boots for a spin and see what happens.

I'm still surprised at how well the writing on Dad's old boot held up.  We ride in a very dry, sandy environment, so I don't know if mud and water will fade that writing faster or not.

Stay tuned for Step Two and the results of this experiment...which will probably happen some time next week.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tips for Distinctive Boots!

I was recently asked if I had any suggestions for how to tell two pairs of Renegade boots apart when your horse wears the same size and color all around.

Permanent marker isn't all that permanent and rubs off rather quickly. Ditto trying to get any kind of paint to stick to the boot material.

So my suggestion was to take a colored hair elastic and wrap it around the pastern strap, next to the o-rings.

Unvelcro the pastern strap entirely and wrap the elastic off
to the side of the o-rings. Orange would have made more of
a statement, but blue was what I had at hand.
It's bright and colorful, but low-profile, unlike ribbons that might unravel, get tangled, get caught, or otherwise get in the way.

This afternoon, I thought another option: colorful duct tape.

I found this stuff at a craft store and added it
to my stash of stuff.
Same deal...tear off thin strips and wrap around the same stop on the pastern strap.

I don't know if it'll be as long-wearing as the elastic.
I'll have to test it.
Mix and match! Both the tape and the elastics are available in a variety of colors. They're cheap and easily replaceable. They're low-profile and won't interfere with the boot function.

(And if you're like me, you have close to a zillion hair elastics floating around.)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day!

Cuddles with the four-legged critter that
calls me 'mama.'  Or, y'know, 'meal ticket.'

Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!

I'm completely biased, but I happen to think I've got the best mama out there.  Not only is she a great role model and one of my best friends, she's encouraged and been supportive of my horse habit since the beginning.  She was an awesome Horse Show Mom when I was showing, alternating between stuffing bites of muffin in my mouth and letting my pony sip Gatorade from her hand.

And she puts up with horse hair in her washing machine.  :)

Love you, Mom, and thank you for everything!

Friday, May 11, 2012

iPhone fun

Anyone have any good endurance-related iPhone app suggestions?

I've got the usual suspects already...twitter, facebook, a couple of photo apps (Hipstamatic and Instagram), plenty of music.  Looking for GPS recommendations...have heard MotionX is a good one...any other thoughts?

Monday, May 7, 2012

How Renegades prevented a couple of riders from becoming splats on the pavement

In case you're curious, I was one of those riders.

And the story isn't actually as dramatic as the title might suggest.  Except for in a few parts.

And no pictures, because my normally-sane, take-pictures-off-my-back-with-no-reins pony was acting like she was closely related to a fire-breathing dragon, and taking my hands off the reins and fumbling with a camera just might have resulted me becoming that aforementioned splat on the pavement.  I need to get one of the helmet cams that are becoming so popular.

As I've said before, I board in a semi-urban area.  It's a very horsey "neighborhood" in Queen Creek, no official subdivision designation, more like a loose coalition of streets containing horse people who have all migrated to an area free of CC&Rs and HOAs.  The whole area is bordered on two sides by state trust land desert...which is currently "locked gate access only," and you have to get an access permit to get a key.

After yesterday, I think I'm just going to pony up the $$$ for the access permit so I can ride out on that state land again, versus running the Gauntlet of Pony Death that is riding on the streets around the neighborhood.  It used to be open access several years ago, and that was my training ground for when I started to move into endurance from NATRC and needed some good areas for adding speed work to our workouts.

This being semi-urban and a neighborhood of sorts, "streets" = pavement.

I really hate riding on pavement.  Probably something having to do with getting tossed onto and going skidding across it years ago.  It was probably a minor miracle that the worst casualty of that incident was my favorite t-shirt, and that I came off none the worse than some road rash and mental trauma.

So that sets the stage for why I hate riding on pavement, even under the best of circumstances, so the thought of doing anything that could make the situation worse -- such as riding in pavement on shoes (yes, Mimi was shod in the above incident) -- really makes me cringe. Slithering and slipping on pavement does not a fun ride make.

Yesterday, I'd had it with arena circles.  Plans were initially in place to trailer out, but enough outside circumstances conspired that it just proved more convenient for Boarding Barn Owner and I to stick around the barn and explore around the neighborhood.  The original plan was to see if we could find access to an unlocked trust land gate, but we nixed that plan partway through after realizing the National Guard was using the runway they have in that section of trust land for practicing helicopter water-retrieval exercises.

(Fire season is approaching, so they're sharpening their "dip the bucket in the water and dump it in the right area" skills.)

For some reason, sharing space with large helicopters with weird, tire-looking things dangling from their undersides didn't seem like the best idea.  How does one even go about desensitizing a horse to something like that?  Park a helicopter in the roundpen?

So we ended up just doing a large, exploratory loop around the neighborhood, about 4 miles in all.

I put Mimi boots on when we ride out, no so much for protection, because she can handle the street terrain just fine.  It's for the grip and traction and peace of mind I get from knowing that she's not going to unexpectedly do the splits on the pavement if she spooks at something.  Yes, she probably gets decent traction going barefoot.  But since her favorite spooking methods involve very fast movement, usually around and to the side, I'd rather just know she's going to have the grip needed to stay upright during evasive maneuvers.

It also gives me a really good chance to see how she's wearing her feet...for some reason, I can read the wear pattern on the boots easier than I can read her feet themselves.  And after yesterday, the boots were telling me she's wearing faster on the outsides.  Time to reevaluate the trimming.

Barn Owner is also currently testing out an old pair of Mimi's boots on her mare.  She's been curious about the Renegades, and really likes how easy they are to put on and take off.  She's currently got front shoes on her mare, but is bare on the back, and had been looking for a booting option for rockier terrain.

So I'm letting her test out an old pair of Mimi's.  They definitely got put to the test yesterday, since this mare is young, still pretty green, and somewhat of a "looky" and reactive Arab.  There were several moments that involved some fast maneuvers, spooks, and whirls on the pavement, and when I didn't have my hands completely full of fire-breathing Pony doing her own spooks, I was able to observe how much traction her boots were providing.  This is a very smart mare, and she quickly figured out how much grip and security she had from the boots, so when she'd spook, her hind end would be securely anchored in place while her front end danced lightly around.

We finished our ride none the worse for the wear, all body parts counted for and no splats on the pavement.  The boots came back with a darker patina of asphalt tar staining on the bottoms, but all fully attached, even through some interesting spooks and antics.

I've been a believer in these boots for a long time...and now I've got another convert.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Spring Shots and Dentistry

Vet visit yesterday...scheduled, thank goodness.  It's the unscheduled ones that typically mean reason for concern.  Mimi got her spring shots and her teeth done.  No pictures, because I was too busy socializing...quite a few of us at the barn had stuff done, which meant being able to split the farm call among several parties.  That is a perk of being at a boarding facility...there's almost always at least one person to split a farm call with.

Mimi was routine...she is sooo good for the vet.  She likes our vets, which always helps.  But she's just a good girl that way. And she never fails to get a "She's so cute" comment out of the vet techs, usually coupled with "She's how old?" or "She's really a POA?".

An interesting conversation with my vet about how the shots have all gone to 4- or 6-way...multiple vaccines, one injection, and whether or not this is harder on the horse's system, having it all in one like that, or if it's better than giving multiple injections at once.

I was actually kind of surprised when he said it was easier on their's typically the carrier of the vaccine that horses are reacting to, so by sticking everything in one shot, they are actually exposed to a smaller amount of carrier...multiple vaccines, one carrier, versus multiple vaccines all in their own carrier.  That made a lot of sense, and actually made me feel better about having to vaccinate.

I still don't love having to stress their systems with vaccinations, but when I consider the alternative -- coming down with some of the things they vaccinate to prevent -- I'll take the temporary system stress and slight negative impact on their feet.  I take a proactive approach to post-shot management...she went into the appointment with freshly-trimmed hooves, so there's no additional stress of unbalanced feet and uneven movement, and then I won't have to do any drastic trimming on her later.  I'll stay very proactive on her feet for the next month...I'll probably rasp her every week, so her feet stay very under control.  She has turnout every day, but I'll make sure she also gets some really good exercise and forced movement.  I gave her a dose of a more concentrated probiotic to boost her system, and I'll give her another dose this weekend.  She also got a dose of bute afterwards to help keep any swelling down.

Teeth floating was par for the vets are awesome about taking into account my pony is a total lightweight when it comes to anesthesia, and they know exactly how much to give her to be able to do her teeth, but not so much that she can't stay upright.  (Give her a full suggested dose for her body weight and she'll be on the ground.)

I've used East Valley Equine ever since I've owned Mimi, and both vets -- Dr. Christensen and Dr. Cooper -- are both awesome.  If you're in the East Valley area and need a good vet, they'd be my first recommendation.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Greatest Teacher I've Known

Every kid has a favorite teacher from when they were growing up.  I'm no exception.

Mine just has four hooves and a tail.

This is Snappy -- CSA's Snapdragon.  

It's been a number of years now since his passing, and it's taken me this long to figure out what to say as a tribute to him.  And anything I say can't match what I still feel for one of the most extraordinary horses I've had the privilege to know.

Snappy is the greatest teacher I've ever known.

He taught me how much fun I could truly have while riding, and more importantly, he gave me a precious gift: He taught me how to trust a horse.

I only rode him for about a year, but in that year, he transformed me from a timid and unsure rider who was intimidated and sometimes flat out scared by the horses I loved, to someone who was prepared enough to take on the challenge of a green 3-year-old mare.

He didn't belong to me...but I was his, in the way he took care of me and gave me everything I needed.  He had the unique gift of knowing the extent of his rider's capabilities, and safely expanding their comfort zones.  My first time running him in gymkhana games, he went through slowly, teaching me the patterns.  But in subsequent times, he ran those games like the trained gamer he was.  It terrified me, but he knew what he was doing...and he also knew what I was capable of, far before I thought I could handle it.

There's so much more I could come up with...countless stories and anecdotes about him...all of the "firsts" he gave ribbons, trophies, end-of-year awards, bareback riding, galloping across an empty field, jumping...a connection.

He bravely withstood several injuries, health challenges, even partial blindness, adapting and carrying on with his care-taking ways.  Eventual complete blindness was the only thing he couldn't handle and would have severely compromised his quality of life, so the decision was made to put him to his rest.  He was in his mid-30s, and was still giving lessons until very near the end.

He had a true heart of gold and would give it all to his rider.

Thank you, Snappy, for being the greatest teacher I've ever known.  I owe you everything.