Monday, August 31, 2015

New Saddle

Got a new addition to my modest tack arsenal! Yes indeed, I now own another saddle and so far, so good.

When I first heard about treeless saddles at the PA Horse World Expo two years ago it was nothing more than a fleeting "hmm interesting" moment. When I finally got to ride in one at Muckleratz about a month ago though, it quickly went from interesting to must HAVE. If doing 25 miles for the first time in an unfamiliar saddle with an unfamiliar horse resulted in zero soreness post-ride (for both horse and rider) then I don't know what else proves that treeless works pretty darn well when everything is tweaked just right. Quest and I have had no issues with w/t/c bareback and I did say that I'd invest in a nicer saddle for us when we started endurance, I decided to give treeless a try.

I did my research, talked to some distance riding folks, and came up with a list of brands and models to shop for. After a few days of searching, I managed to find a used Black Forest Shasta that fit my specifications at a very good price and contacted the seller who turned out to be an avid endurance rider back in the day.

After a week and a half of waiting very impatiently, the saddle finally arrived. I was as happy as a kid on Christmas day. When I took the saddle out of the box, I was immediately struck by how light it was. I could easily heft it in one hand though it was made of nubuck leather. The leather was worn but not abused; seat and panels were supple and soft. It has a ton of sturdy D-rings that will definitely come in handy.

And of course I had to do a quick test ride at the first opportunity. T and I had plans early the next morning so I was not properly dressed for riding, oops. T let me try out a couple of her dressage girths to figure out sizing (Quest is a 20-22"). The saddle came with western fenders which I'm probably not going to use so I went sans stirrups and used a regular AP pad underneath since the Skito pad is still en route.

Used the fence to hop on and...omg comfort. Riding on a cloud comfort. The seat size was just right for me and Quest moved out very nicely with happy ears the whole time.

Tracking up nicely at the walk.
....please excuse the lack of proper footwear.
We didn't ride for long but the few short minutes was enough to satiate my curiosity and dispel the pesky buyer's remorse worries that I had just wasted my time and money. Real test will be when we start training in it extensively of course but for now, I'm happy with the saddle. So very happy. The price was just right for what I got, pleased with the quality, it fits me well, and more importantly it seems to fit Quest well so far too. Next is to find a new home for the western fenders and get some stirrup leathers. Time to shop for all the things.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Note to Self

Every once in awhile you get a ride that irrefutably reminds you how far you've come yet how much more work there is still yet to do.

Last night T wanted to introduce her Icelandic, Nickers, to the big river/horse swimming pool so Quest and I escorted way to the boat launch and we hung out in the water while T worked with her mare. It took all of 15 minutes to accomplish our goal and we still had plenty of daylight left to go to the main barn. Quest led the way for the most part heading out and Nickers led the way home. There were lots of deer along the trail but the mares were fine. On the way back, we went into the meadow to get some pictures and video. I dismounted and took video from the ground as T and Nickers trotted past us and around the corner.

 Then Quest had her first meltdown- she began to scoot circles around me and got super worked up about being asked to stand still. She even bucked, which I immediately got on her case for. I have zero tolerance for dangerous behavior. Firmly reminded that all four feet must stay on the ground, Quest still worried but was much more tractable. I started working with her in hand- walk forward, halt, backup, halt, walk forward, backup etc. Given a task to focus on, Quest came right down and within a couple minutes we were walking quietly on the trail back to a patiently waiting T and Nickers. She was calm enough that I could use a dirt slope to mount back up first try (not the most graceful of mounting attempts but hey, I got back on).

My brain got to thinking about what could have caused Quest to act up. I had a hunch and there was only one way to find out. I asked T to walk past us on the trail while I halted Quest. We watched them leave, mareface was fine though definitely alert. I told T to trot away from us. As if on cue,  Quest went into a jigging frenzy and a rear. She offered up some serious piaffe that would have done FEI level dressage trainers proud.

I asked T and Nickers to come back so we could try a couple of other quick tests. I asked T to trot away from us again but this time I turned around to wait in place so Quest could not see them leave. When we turned back around, we found ourselves completely alone and I then asked Quest to walk off - there was zero jigging, she was calm as could be. I asked T to repeat the same thing, this time facing away from home. Again no reaction. How about passing by each other going opposite directions on the trail, away and towards home? Nothing.

So Quest gets clearly upset when she can see other horses passing and/or leaving her behind on the trail. Taking away the visual or getting passed in the opposite directions- no issues. We have done leapfrogging exercises on the trail but obviously not to the extent that Quest needed in order to figure things out so that's going to the top of the to-do list for our next rides.

While I'm a bit bummed about the meltdowns, I have to remind myself that the improvements should be noted- Quest settled down very quickly when she used to take MUCH longer after getting that worked up and despite all the scooting around high as a kite, she did not once invade my space. Though nevertheless when things like this happen, I do beat up myself a lot and can't help but wonder if I'm pushing Quest too fast or asking too much of her too quickly. Doesn't help that being so new at literally everything, there is always that tiny voice in the back of my mind that rears its ugly head. I shared some of my doubts with T later that night after our ride and she was the voice of reason that put my thoughts to ease.

I'm not someone who will ever be happy cooped up an arena all day and just going for 1-2 mile walking trail rides. Quest was not happy with her past life in the western pleasure show ring. We found common ground in our shared love of being out on the trail with miles to look forward to.

In trying to set up Quest with a career in endurance though, she's probably never been asked to do most of the things that I ask of her now. That being said she is allowed to worry and she is allowed to express her opinion ( a safe way). My job is to make sure that I'm just as prepared to deal with whatever comes our way so I can be the leader she needs at all times. I've been working hard to develop a secure seat so most things don't faze me too much- stuff happens, she acts up, we move on.

At the end of the day though, I just want to do right by her. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Happy Gotcha Day

I can't believe its already been one year since Quest came into my life. I knew, wanted, and prepared to be a horse owner but getting my first horse sight unseen at auction was definitely not on my list of to-dos. I'm so very glad I listened to my gut though and took that leap of faith because I ended up needing that mare as much as she needed me.

She has reminded me to be humble and willing to admit mistake, to not think of setbacks as failures, and to think outside the box for another solution if my first (or second, or third) idea didn't quite work. She has taught me to be brave when people around us doubted, to work hard and enjoy the rewards of hard work, and to always dream big because you’ll never know what you can achieve unless you try. Just for fun I made a video compilation of some memorable moments we've had together- check it out here.

Happy Gotcha Day, mareface. Here's to many more years to come <3 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Blog Hop: The Liebster Award

I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Deborah over at My Examined Life! I've never heard of this award before now though this is definitely a pretty neat way to explore more blogs and get to know the bloggers behind the screen. Now onto the rules and questions!

The Liebster Award Rules
  1. Notify all nominees via social media/blogs
  2. Link back to the person who nominated you
  3. Answer the questions given to you by the nominator
  4. Nominate up to 11 other bloggers with less than 200 followers
  5. Create 11 questions for the nominees
Why do you blog? 

I've always enjoyed writing (and drawing) as a way to get my thoughts/ideas organized when my mind feels like it is racing forward at +100 mph. When I was younger, I often stumbled over my words because I was already mentally leaping to the next idea faster than I could talk or express myself. So writing has always been something that has helped me create semblance of rationale in a whirling mental mess.

I blog here because I enjoy looking back later for the memories which helps put the present into perspective. I don't ever really expect my blog to become popular per se and that's just fine with me. I also truly enjoy reading, learning, and being inspired by other bloggers that have a wealth of information and experiences to share.

When did you get started with your horseback riding journey?

I was 10-12 years old when I did my first “real” riding lessons at week-long summer camps which offered horsemanship classes. My first teacher was dark bay mare named Diamond. She was being a complete jerk to another student the first day in the group lesson so the instructor made us switch horses. Diamond was tough horse for a beginner and that first lesson left me so frustrated and in tears that I considered giving up completely. It was a very early and necessary reality check that riding wasn’t always push button. Since I really had to RIDE, I learned a lot despite the group lesson 1-hr/day camp setting. At the end of the week, I did my very first ever trot with her and it was SO much fun.

I remember with vivid clarity that summer when a tiny voice in my mind said that horses were going to be a part of my future. I had NO idea when or how it was going to happen since my parents had no intentions of allowing me to continue riding. It was 10 years later until I finally had the means to pursue that dream. I took my first lesson as an adult beginner on October 22, 2013 and the rest, as they say, is history.

What is the most difficult thing you find, about horseback riding?

The most difficult thing for me about horseback riding is dreaming big and sometimes feeling like I don't have the means to make those dreams into reality. I can't help but feel a little jealous of people who have been given the opportunity to be around horses all of their lives, riding from the moment they could walk, and/or have the support of their family.

Every step of this journey has been a challenge- starting with making sure I had the personal financial means to afford riding/leasing/ownership (thanks to finishing my Masters and having a steady job) and getting my non-horse parents somewhat okay with my choice of hobby (...still working on that). Now most recently the challenge has been knowing I wanted to try distance riding with my horse, pursuing different routes, coming up empty until I made the choice to finally move us elsewhere.

What is your favorite vacation spot/experience?

I think it might be a tie between Acadia National Park in Maine and visiting the Highlands in Scotland. I love rugged natural landscapes.

What is your favorite novel/book and why?

Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card. I read it (and the rest of the series) in middle school and it was what got me into the whole sci-fi/post-apocalyptic genre. I'm ashamed to say I haven't read anything super new lately though asides from one-shot fan fiction and comics.

I nominate: 
Questions for my nominees: 
  1. Why do you blog? 
  2. What is your most popular blog post? 
  3. Which is your favorite blog post?  
  4. Which bloggers have you met IRL?
  5. Describe your horse(s)/pet(s) using one image or gif.
  6. What is your riding discipline and why did you choose it? 
  7. What is the most expensive horse-related item you have ever bought?
  8. What is one tack/horse-related item on your wish list? 
  9. What is your favorite riding memory?
  10. What is your scariest riding memory?
  11. Share one of your riding goals. 
If 11 questions seem like a lot, just pick 3-5 that you like best!

Saturday, August 8, 2015


I know, I know. I said I was going to be okay with putzing around with Quest on backyard trails and messing around with jumps. Well, a series of events occurred over the past couple of weeks and...let's just say the universe made it loud and clear that it was time for us to reconsider moving. And since when were we ever content with standing still and waiting around for the world to change? Unlikely chance.

I went to visit and trail ride at my top barn choice this past week and it's been decided. This will be a huge lifestyle change for both me and Quest. Back into a world filled with unknowns but now to finally and officially begin our endurance riding journey together.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Pony Pool Day

No better way to escape the summer heat than a nice swim in the river! Since discovering the boat launch ramp and after a handful of visits to the river, A and I tossed around the idea of taking the horses for a real swim sometime during the summer. I had plans in the morning with family this past weekend so barn time was in the afternoon. Downside to being at the barn later in the day was the high noon heat and it was hot. Pool-weather hot.

So I texted A to bring her swimming stuff and down to the river we went with ponies in tow. The handwalk over was very warm and I definitely worked up a sweat. When we got to the water, no pretense spared as everyone waded right in.

Me and the ponies. The water came up to belly button height in the deepest sections.

The water was SO refreshing and the temperature was perfect. It was my first time taking Quest this deep into the river. She was totally fine and quickly figured out how much fun water can be. She stuck her face into it up to her eyeballs, blew bubbles, pawed, splashed. In the middle of one of Quest's pawing/splashing sprees, I splashed her back. I think she actually looked shocked and indignantly pouted at me for a moment before going back to splashing again haha

I was happy to see Quest's interest with water but her enthusiasm was annoying (not her fault) when the lead rope proved to be too short for her to do much without almost yanking me off my feet while sand sucked at my flip flops and I had to fish them back a couple times. After losing my shoes for the millionth time, I said "Screw it, I'm riding." I tied the lead rope on the halter into makeshift reins and scoped out a good place in the river to mount up. After some VERY careful position maneuvering in the water while making sure no toes were stepped on, I belly flopped on. I couldn't help but squeal aloud because I nearly slid back into the water from her slick back and my wet behind but somehow managed to swing myself up and over on the first try. I have only ridden Quest truly bareback- without a bareback pad- maybe twice since I've had her and she tensed for a moment and wiggled. I stayed on. She very quickly realized oh, this is fine and went back to exploring the water.

I was much happier not having to deal with the ouchy rocks on my feet and trying to keep my balance while managing a playful horse at the end of it. We spent a couple hours cooling off before heading back to the barn. I was still mounted up and decided to have my horse carry my lazy butt home. Quest was perfect and walked quietly all the way home with no antics. Good mare <3