Tuesday, May 8, 2018

As of Late

I think the weather has finally decided that it'll stick with spring. Work business trips and friend weddings have kept me from enjoying the nicer weather lately but Quest and I have gotten in some solid rides still.

A few weeks ago, we did a fantastic 8.5 mile morning solo meander to Hawk Watch one weekend. It was 80 degrees(!) and our trails were unusually crowded with hikers, dog walkers, mountain bikers out enjoying a brief respite from the cold. Despite the high foot and road traffic, mareface handled herself quite well and somehow kept it together when two guys on dirt bikes suddenly came up behind us with engines revving at full tilt :/

We've also explored our rail trails again and worked on hill canter sets when the footing allows.

Quest still does her jig-dance from time to time but I've figured out how to deal with that for the most part and she comes back down to earth after a few moments realizing her antics are way too much work than it's worth.

On the art front, I decided to finally upgrade my decade-old, secondhand art tablet and took on few art commission projects to celebrate the new purchase. One of my friends on FB asked me to do a portrait of her thoroughbred mare- I was quite happy to have such a pretty subject to work with!

Hopefully my work travel schedule settles down so Quest and I can get more consistent trail time together. Gotta work to take care of the mare and me though- we'll enjoy each day and each ride as it comes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Riding the Roads

It's not quite spring just yet but we did get the smallest of reprieves from the winter weather this past weekend and it was enough to hit the trails.

The snow has been stubbornly persisting around the barn thanks to the higher elevation so we stuck to the roadways only for this ride. Quest was feeling great and we moved out at a nice trot wherever the footing was nice. We also did a little bit of cantering as well with two quick hill sprints. It was our first one undersaddle since last year and mareface definitely enjoyed as much as I did. It felt so nice to move out at speed again. I had really missed riding her canter <3

A small look at one section of trails that we have to ride/condition on.
Lots of uphills for cardio work but the rocks and gravel can get gnarly
so post-wet weather is the best time to hit this area

The roads were relatively empty for the most part though the slightly warmer temperatures had mountain bikers coming out of the woodwork and we came across several groups during our trail outing. The majority were super courteous and came to a complete stop to let us by. A few riders didn't stop but each time Quest decided she would nicely stand when we crossed paths. That response was perfectly okay with me since she was totally calm and worry-free.

Despite the big breaks in our riding schedule, I was pleased with how sane the mareface was throughout and on the way home, Quest actually stopped by puddles (muddy ones even) on two occasions and drank deeply. I guess she's finally figuring out this trail horse thing!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Endless Winter

March really did roar in like a lion. The weather has been extremely uncooperative the past few weeks and rides with the mareface have been sporadic at best.

During the arena sessions that I have been able to sneak in, Quest was all over the place movement-wise and it felt like what it looked. To be fair, it has been a quite a few months since we actually tried to do any "real riding" thanks to the weather and time off from the injury. In terms of baseline fitness though, I think we'll be okay. Quest came through the worst of winter with good weight, all rested up, and her feet are doing well. She's still unshod at the moment but I'm planning to get those front shoes back on next month when we'll be hitting the trails in earnest.  As for me, I might be in the best cardio-endurance shape I've been in awhile thanks to the miles I've done at the gym over the past few months. I'm excited to see how I fare running outside- it'll be quite a happy change from the treadmill.

Physically, mareface has proven time and time again that if I train and ride her accordingly as the terrain dictates, she can physically handle whatever is thrown at her. Mentally though, I feel like we are stuck in the never-ending and infamous "two steps forward and one back" dance. There are improvements to be sure but progress just feels painfully slow and when she decides to liven up a mundane trail ride by engaging her jigging hellbeast mode. The latter will be solved by on-trail training with trail partners but most horses at our barn literally can't keep up with Quest. She walks so fast and briskly that we leave everyone in the dust after a few steps. I've found ways of dealing with the behavior though but we need those miles. Once the temperatures and trail conditions improve, we'll be back at it in full force.

Crossing every digit for favorable trail riding weather soon because cabin fever is hitting me hard.

There are moments of good in the arena though. My sister and 8 month old nephew T are in town visiting my family for the entire month (babies are seriously non-stop work...wow) and they came up to the barn a couple weeks ago to see Quest. I hopped on for a quick bareback ride first and my sister asked to get some pictures of T with the mareface.

We ended up also walking a few circles in the front third of the indoor and Quest was perfect. She was so tolerant and patient the entire time with T; even when he grabbed her nose, she just snorted and gently moved her head out of his reach. No fuss, no drama.

This mare <3

Monday, February 12, 2018

Ridin' and Shootin'

I can't believe we are pretty much halfway through February already, wow.

Things are continuing to go well on the mareface front and we have been getting in rides whenever the weather allows it. My area got hit with snow and then a quick warm-freezing temperature cycle that caused a lot of ice to stay around for several weeks.

Before the second storm, we got a break in the weather a couple weekends ago-
it was warm enough that Mel and A decided to join us for a short trail outing.

There was still way too much ice down by the trail head unfortunately. 

It's these instances I'm even more glad that Quest is pasture boarded because she would probably lose her mind being cooped up in a stall for that long. Despite the cold, she's been keeping her weight well though and is still happy and sassy as ever. I've got some exciting plans coming up for us in the spring. Hopefully Quest will stay sound this year for us to actually have some fun.

As for other, somewhat horse-related news...Ever since the mounted archery clinic almost a year ago, I've been looking for a range to practice on my own. It took some digging around but I actually managed to find a place that was local to me and got to shoot this past weekend!

The weather finally warmed up enough (aka it wasn't below freezing lol) so the bf and I loaded up my gear and headed out for a quick session. I finally got to try out the bow I bought and it worked just fine. I do have a feeling I might eventually need something with a bit more power if I want to work shooting at distance though. I started with 10 yards, gradually moving out to 20 yards to finish and really had to draw back for that power.

Despite a year of not shooting though, my accuracy was actually decent from the get go. My form was okay but I do see places for improvement and thanks to photos and video taken by the bf, I know what I need to adjust for next time. Still ever the beginner but I'm excited to finally have a place to practice!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 Recap

This post is a little belated, but better now than never.

2017 was mixed bag in more ways than one. The year started off on a high note as I finally got to try something I dreamed of since I started this horse thing. In February, I participated in a mounted archery clinic and shooting arrows while riding a horse is just as EPIC as it sounds. I have since gotten my own recurve bow, arrows, and a target and intend to practice when opportunity allows. There aren't many places in NJ where it is legal (and convenient) to shoot so I have to redouble my efforts to find a location where I can get some range time.

In April, I hauled my trailer for the first time. It was just a simple practice run to make sure everything hooked up and worked fine before I stuck Quest in it and took us on the road. It was a little nerve-wracking at first but totally manageable. Mareface and I also started playing with baby jumps that month and she took to it really well. Throughout May and June, we added in fun jump sessions as part of our weekly riding schedule for some cross-training and mental breaks. We continued to explore new training trails and I was looking forward to signing us up for our first distance ride of later that year.

All competition plans came crashing down in July when I went to grab Quest out of pasture and she was lame. With the help of the vet and farrier, we traced the issue back to her clubfoot and addressed it accordingly with corrective shoeing. I was bitterly disappointed to face yet another setback but it was what it was. Erring on the side of caution, I decided to let Quest recover and pasture rest for the remainder of the year.

I was not looking forward enduring yet more time out of the saddle and away from the trails but as luck would have had it, I was invited last-minute to catch ride at Muckleratz CTR in August. I had a lot of fun that weekend and it was just what I needed to lift my mood.

In October, I headed out to Los Angeles and spent some time riding endurance horses on the west coast. It was a trip that reoriented my head and heart when I desperately needed to be set back on course. D and I still continue to communicate now and she has been invaluable source of support and advice.

December started off pretty rough emotionally when I found out that Smokey was going to be put down. I was able to visit him at the old barn and gave him a nice long grooming session complete with treats. I still miss him everyday. The days afterward were difficult, but thanks to my good friends I somehow managed to get through. In attempts to end 2017 in a positive way, I took a week-long staycation and got in a wonderful bareback ride with Quest. It was our first ride in months and it felt like it was coming home. Mareface was totally sound and absolutely perfect, not a foot out of line.

I'm not naive enough to believe that Quest and I are done with our share of challenges on this distance riding journey together but we are back in action, and hopefully older and wiser. Bring on 2018.