Tuesday, October 30, 2012

the click

I felt it 16 years ago when I sat on Mimi for the first time.

The 'click.'

That moment when you absolutely know that you and this horse are right for each other.

There's no rhyme or reason to it, no rational explanation for it or anything you can do to make it happen. It either will or it won't. I've ridden a number of horses that I've gotten along just fine with -- but there was no special connection, no sense of mutual enjoyment. I was the rider, they were the horse. Either I know what I was doing enough to get them to perform, or they were well-trained enough to do the job, no matter who was on their back.

And then there's been a handful of horses over the years that have given me that magic 'click.' Mimi, for one. Looking back, a rational person would claim our partnership never should have worked. A green 3-year-old with 60 days under saddle, and an 11-year-old who had ridden nothing but experienced lesson horses.

What happened instead was a first-ride experience that was nothing short of angels trumpeting a 'Hallelujah' chorus. Five minutes in the saddle, and we were cantering around an outdoor arena filled with dozens of other ponies and riders, weaving around those traveling slower than us. It was the first time I had ever been filled with such confidence on a horse.
1998-ish...this looks like my junior high-era; an afternoon
bumming around the barnyard after school.
16 years later, I still remember the feeling of that ride.

The feeling of that ride was what got me through the couple of years of young-horse-hell that followed the month-long honeymoon of First Pony ownership. That ride had showed us what we were capable of achieving.
2002 POA World Show, Spanish Fork, UT
Our last show; we got the last points needed
for her Supreme Champion Award.
I suppose I'm beyond spoiled, having gotten so lucky with my first horse. I don't know how many people get their once-in-a-lifetime heart horse right from the start, but I did. And it's set an extremely high bar for those that will follow.

But I've experienced that same click with several other horses over the years, so I know it is possible to achieve that same kind of relationship and level of connection. And my heart will always have room for more horses.
2006 Wickenburg Land of the Sun ride;
our 2nd LD ride.
But no one will ever take the place of my first, special Heart Horse.

This month marks 16 years together for me and Mimi. It's been a whirlwind of highs and lows, and I wouldn't trade our experiences together for anything. I'm proud of everything she has taught me -- and still keeps teaching me.

So thank you, Mimi, for all of these years, and God willing, many more.

Monday, October 22, 2012

a tights review; part one

L-R: Black with 'Sunrise' Racing Stripe; 'Paisley';
'Orange Tie-Dye'
Part One of a product review: The Initial Impression. Part two will come when I actually ride in them.

Crazy Legs Tights is run by owner-operator-designer Diane Stevens, a fellow endurance rider.

I got them in the mail today; I've already got one pair on. So far, I'm really, really impressed with them. The attention to detail is superb with smooth, even stitching and no bothersome seams. I like the wide elastic waistband -- I've been sitting in them and no problems with the waistband rolling. The ankles have gripper elastic on the inside, which is an awesome little detail to keep them from riding up. The leg length is more than sufficient -- plenty of fabric to keep my ankles covered all the way down to my feet.

The fabric options are endless -- I had a hard time pinning down my final selections. I'm so pleased with the choices I made; they're absolutely gorgeous. And I will definitely be noticed going down the trail. :)

Part Two of the review will come after I actually climb in the saddle and ride in them, but just based on how I already feel about them, I'm sure they'll be awesome!

Friday, October 12, 2012

since when did goals become bad?

"Live, learn & pursue the good life without unpleasant entanglements like long-term goals."

This was a tagline of a contest advertisement by a sportwear company that I just saw on FaceBook.

I can't even begin to say how many problems I have with this sentiment.

Since when are long-term goals a bad thing?

Maybe this is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, an amusing twist of irony?

If it is, they don't do a great job of communicating that sense.

When I see that, sarcasm and irony or not, the sense I get is promoting the idea of entitlement, instant gratification, and getting things handed to you without putting in the blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice.

Long-term goals are what separate out the boys from the men, so to speak. How willing are you to commit to something wholeheartedly? How much does it matter to you? What are you willing to sacrifice in order to get to that point?

To me, endurance is all about long-term goals. It accommodates short term goals: "I will finish this ride." "I will get up early and do that training ride in miserable weather." "I will learn to maintain my barefoot horse's trim."

But to me, having big-picture, long-term goals is what defines endurance. Per Webster, endurance is: the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; esp. the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.

Endurance is what keeps people coming back to a ride like Tevis, year after year: they made a goal to finish that ride.

Endurance is what makes people keep on working with a difficult horse, because they know once they have a breakthrough, the payoff will be more than worth it.

Endurance is when people sacrifice other things in their lives -- a teeming social life, frequent dinners and movies out, a new house, a vacation to the Bahamas -- in order to follow their passion and goals, be it ending up in the year end points, racking up a certain amount of miles, or committing to spending as much time as possible discovering and sharing beautiful trails with a beloved equine partner.

To me, having a long-term goal is what gives us the fire to make it through the challenges, the rough patches, and the times when it would just be easier to quit.

Tevis is my long-term goal. One of many, really, but that's my shining beacon that I keep clinging to and dreaming about, the thing that has me writing out full crew instructions for a ride I don't yet have a horse for, the thing that gets me out of bed early every morning to exercise, because when I have my next competition horse, I will be in shape to jump back into it. (It's also the thing that makes me say no to an extra scoop of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Ice Cream, since every extra pound is just one more pound I might have to drag out of those canyons.)

Instant gratification has its place (such as being paid right away for a job), but when it comes to big picture, long-term goals, I'll take the satisfaction and reward that comes with working for and earning that goal.

Riders coming in to the Robinson Flat
vet check at the 2012 Tevis Cup ride.
photo by Ashley Wingert

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Renegade Hoof Boots, Oct 2012

Disclaimer: I work for Renegade Hoof Boots as of January 2012. My original review of Renegades was written in August 2008 and can be found here. Everything I wrote then still stands today. Four years later, I'm offering some updated tidbits and feedback garnered from putting thousands of miles in with these boots, as well as a few "things I've learned" both in using the boots for an extended period of time as well as working for the company.

Moving well for 19: Despite her fused hocks, Mimi still moves
well. Letting her go barefoot and booting to ride has allowed her
to stay sound. An easy-to-use, worry-free boot means booting
for just about every ride is no big deal.
I personally started using Renegades five years ago: "sometime" in the summer of 2007, after watching Dad use them for about a year (and waiting for him to wear through enough boots that I could snag a pair of the worn ones to test out).

IIRC, I think I tested them for about a month or so, then ordered my own pair...the same week as the upcoming ride I intended to use them at.

Blind faith, sheer stupidity, or desperation?

Nah...more like a way-too-intimate understanding of all the things that can go wrong using boots, and a rather fatalistic "How much worse could it be?" perspective, based on using and losing boots for the past four years of Mimi being barefoot.

I was a paranoid bundle of nerves at that ride, prone to either  calling to Dad or leaning over to check whether my boots were still on every time we:
-Went up a hill
-Went down a hill
-Went through rocks
-Went through sand

which meant I was doing a boot check every 5-10 minutes. Probably good we were doing the LD. But I finished the ride very impressed...and doing a 50-miler 3 months later with absolutely no problems sealed the deal.

In the course of five years, I've had very few problems with the boots. The few issues I've had have been related to user error, and with a better understanding of the mechanics of the boot and better trimming, I've had absolutely no problems for the last two-and-half years.

It's taken a bit of experimenting, but I've finally found Mimi's ideal sizes and I'm really happy with how they're fitting her.

In no particular order, things I love about the Renegades:

- The design on the heel captivator and the way it moves with the horse means no rubbing or interference: the horse's pasterns are allowed to flex and move comfortably. I've not encountered any kind of rubbing or pressure spots, even with riding in all the sand around here, plus some wet, rainy rides.

- The tread design provides great traction (excellent peace of mind for the times I ride the paved streets around the barn). As mentioned, I've done several rides that have involved wet stuff falling from the sky. Not all of them were in the fast-draining desert, either. One involved slick, slimy mud, wet leaves, narrow, technical trail, and an uphill climb. On that particular occasion, I credit the boots for keeping a minor slip from turning into a major wipeout.

- I also feel that the tread design is such that it provides excellent protection over rocks and rough terrain. Mimi is very surefooted and doesn't take "ouchy" steps in her boots.

- The colors! Maybe that makes me a shallow airhead...but I've always said if I can't ride fast, I gotta ride pretty. I'm particularly attached to the orange: It's bright, it's visible, and it's instantly recognizable. The copper is also very pretty (matches surprisingly well with a multitude of colors), and black is always a classic for a reason.
- Still super easy to apply and remove. I can boot my pony in two minutes. Removing them is even faster.

- Made in the USA. Support small business, independence, and entrepreneurial minds. Buying within the US supports a local economy as well as our national economy. Every part of the Renegade is made and assembled here in the USA. Doing so enables the company to provide closely-monitored quality control, catch and resolve any potential problems very quickly, provide local jobs, and give fast, reliable service. 

To address some of the previously-mentioned potential 'cons':

- "The velcro is the weak spot" It was: until the material was updated as of the spring of 2012. The hook-and-loop (Velcro) material is much stronger and grippier, and has been holding up well to mud, water, and sand.

- "Attaching to the saddle is more difficult" This can still be true...factory recommendation is to not leave them clipped off to the saddle, as the bouncing can stress the cables. Instead, check out the boot bags that SnugPax has made specifically to fit the Renegades. The bags easily attach to the saddle, and unless your boots are huge and take up the whole bag, I can fit a boot + stuff like horse snacks and e'lyte syringes in there as well.

- "Cost" No, at first blush, they're not the least expensive option out there. But sit down for a moment and price out all of the other options out there, both shoes and other boots. How often will you have to bring a farrier out? Do you do your own trimming, or do you have to bring a trimmer out? How frequently? Are there any other add-ons to contribute to the base price? Can you replace parts if they break or wear out? What do they cost? Renegades are $169/pair. Each part is individually replaceable.

Four years later, I am even more excited about these boots. I can't even begin to describe how thrilled I am to be working for the company, doing something I love, being able to share the passion I have for these boots, and I'm eagerly looking forward to things to come!

If you're curious, or would like to discuss boots with me, leave a comment or email me at ashley@renegadehoofboots.com. 






Tuesday, October 2, 2012

time with friends is always too short

Bodie and I outside of Macey's coffee shop in Flagstaff, AZ;
road trip up to Idaho, September 2009.

Last week, we said good-bye to our sweet Bodie girl.

She was 14; an incredible age for a large dog, and our longest-lasting yet.

The above photo is probably my favorite one of her that I have, because just looking at it, you can tell the kind of dog she was: sweet, kind, cheerful, enthusiastic, bright-eyed. Bonded with all of us as a superb family dog.

For the first time since I was 2 years old, I'm without a dog. It's a very strange feeling. I keep looking around for her, waiting for her to appear for her various daily routines.

I am so fortunate to have had such a special dog in my life.

She is loved and very much missed.