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.

Thursday, December 14, 2017


I was hoping to be back much sooner with more consistent blog updates and happy news but life had other plans.

I have had to say a lot of goodbyes the past couple of weeks and it’s been a long, emotional process. Someone I knew committed suicide earlier this month and he left behind a younger sister who I was mentoring. Many of my girls came to me afterward asking good, hard questions and seeking emotional support. It was difficult wrestling with my own grief while keeping a strong front for them.

The same day that news broke, I also found out that Smokey was scheduled to be put down in about a week.  He had somehow completely ruptured the cruciate ligament in his hind leg and his owner decided to euthanize him.  I went out to say goodbye and stuffed him full of treats. I’m really sad that he is gone.

I’ve spent a lot of time lost in thought the past few weeks. I’m usually pretty good at dealing with  bad news but this was two significant emotional blows dealt back-to-back. It has been unusually difficult pulling myself out and focusing on each day but I’m so grateful for close friends that have been reaching out to check on me and slowly, I’ve been doing better.

On the upside, mareface is doing well. Quest has been caught galloping laps in the pasture completely sound so I say she’s probably more than ready to get back to work. I’m pulling her shoes for the winter since she’s out 24/7 and ice balls are a constant issue on the ridge. Plus this will give her feet a chance to heal before they get reshod for spring conditioning. 

I'm looking forward to 2018, in more ways than one. 

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

On the Up & Up

It was my birthday yesterday! I celebrated by taking the day off work for some needed for self-care and to indulge in whatever I wanted to do. As a result, I got a very nice three-day weekend and appropriately started it off with a visit to the barn accompanied by C and W. Quest got a nice grooming session treatment and wormed.  She was well behaved for everything and stood patiently. The weather here is definitely getting cooler at night so her winter fuzz was coming in strong.  

A couple weeks back, the vet stopped in for follow-up visit and it was good news.

With the correct shoes now, the mareface is MUCH better. She was not getting the correct support from the previous set of shoes so now we have upgraded to fancy ones. According to the vet, it’s made a significant difference so I’m glad at least something has helped.

Vet also suggested confinement to aid in recovery.
To the surprise of none, it didn't work. At least we tried.

It was tough not to get down on myself for not addressing her club foot sooner but I'm trying to be proactive about learning and self-educating. A couple months ago someone on the AERC FB page posted a question about her endurance horse with a front club foot.  Reading her story and the comments helped me see that not all hope is lost for Quest and me. With proper hoofcare and management, we'll be a force to be reckoned with. 

And so far things continue to go well. The shoes are working out and Quest continues to happily motor around in pasture. Hopefully in another couple months we’ll be back to (slow walking) undersaddle shenanigans.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Trail Riding in LA

I was blessed with the opportunity to take a riding vacation in Los Angeles this year. This was my first real vacation in a very long time- It was good to indulge and escape life for a few days but more importantly, the time and distance away gave me fresh (and very necessary) perspective on things for the future I have planned for Quest and me. 

Because of the time and travel distance, I opted to do this trip solo. My host, D, picked me up from LAX after I landed and after grabbing a quick breakfast, we headed north to her ranch where I would spend the next two days. The drive was long but pleasantly filled with great conversation. D and I talked about horses and endurance riding pretty much non-stop! Her and her daughters are active AERC competitors in the PS Region and with years of competition experience under her belt, D was a wellspring of knowledge and advice. 

After arriving at the ranch and getting settled into my room, I changed into my riding clothes and headed out to the barn where D introduced me to my partner, a lovely 11-year old Polish Arabian gelding named Estaire JCA. 

We headed into the arena first for D to show me a few things and do a final tack check before we hit the trails for my first day of riding. 

The terrain was completely different from anything I have yet to experience. The footing was mostly sand of various degrees of compaction with some rocks here and there which isn’t anything too exciting. But those sudden and steep elevation gains The first section of the ride had a LOT of climbing and at points it felt like we were going straight up the side of the mountain, even with the help of trail switchbacks. Then there was the foliage which featured a lot of dense brush and low hanging trees with some pretty gnarly branches.  A lot of dodging, weaving, and ducking was required- no chance of daydreaming here! 

Navigating a steep climb and switchback turn

Afternoon sun and all smiles

I was grateful that Estaire was super honest and surefooted. There were a few areas were the trail narrowed to a thin ledge weaving around the side of a mountain and he never once missed a step. We did about 8-9 miles on the first day before heading back to the ranch. I showered, had dinner, and was asleep the instant my head hit the pillow. 

The next morning’s ride started at 8AM and we were joined by two of D’s daughters Is and B. The majority of the trail covered that day was done on the Pacific Crest Trail which is used by a lot of endurance riders in the area to train for the Tevis Cup. We also came across a handful of hikers who get mad props and respect from me- If riding the trail was tough, to hike it on foot is a whole other thing! 

We were so high up that it was cold enough to need jackets!
Thick morning fog also caused some misting rain

The weather eventually cleared up though and we got some breathtaking views

These pictures only capture a small portion of what the sights were like.
It was really an experience of a lifetime

Our group of four had a great time together and got in about 16 miles. After the ride, we got a delicious lunch at a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant/bar/inn. Not surprisingly, we talked more about horses and endurance and at D’s prompting, I shared a picture of Quest with everyone. D took one look and instantly said to me, “You have an endurance horse right there- with training and conditioning, she will take you anywhere.” I couldn’t help but smile with happiness. 

After food, we headed back to the ranch where I finished packing up my things and D drove me back to the city. As with the drive over, we talked the entire way but however this time it was a different kind of talk. I confided that the series of setbacks Quest and I went through had caused me to question if I had what it takes to get her ready. It was even more discouraging when my efforts to find a local AERC mentor fell on deaf ears and when I asked a local endurance rider for assistance, I was told “No hitchhikers allowed”.

D was aghast and angry for me. And she then proceeded to give me a kick in the butt lol In so many words, she said I needed to get out of my own head and trust myself that I have what it takes to start competing when Quest was ready. Her words were not unkind at all but the meaning was very clear: Setbacks happen to everyone. I shouldn't allow that or what other people say or think prevent me from enjoying a sport that I clearly want to participate in and obviously have an affinity for. 

It was tough love but it was something I really needed to hear as I start to put together our game plan for the future. We’re still on this road together and we are not giving up anytime soon.