Monday, May 22, 2017

The Spice of Life

Tackling our own mini "Cougar Rock".
It's steeper than it looks!
While I consider myself pretty new to the distance riding sport, I think have read and seen enough to conclude that the endurance riding terrain in the NE is rather diverse...sugar sand, open fields, rock ledges, large gravel, sustained hill climbs, hard pavement. You name it, our rides probably have it in some form or fashion. 

As some might have noticed, I have been making a point to check out new places to ride from the barn each time I hit the trails with Quest. Asides from exploring our new-to-us home, the end goal from the beginning was to build up a "library" of trail terrain types for conditioning dependent on the ride we want to attend in the future. And while I now do have the option to haul out for conditioning (and plan on that when the ride date gets closer), if I can do most of my riding right from home that is always infinitely all the better for my time and wallet. 

As with any any sport, you should train in what you will compete in.  Thanks to trail adventures during 4-5 months of leasing Rori, I already knew OF had direct access to trails but I didn't know if it was enough and what they had for terrain type. Fortunately the first part has been resoundingly answered- we've got miles upon miles and still more to explore. The second though has been more difficult to resolve. 

From our explorations so far, I can safely assume we have a LOT of the rock variety. With the amount we have at home I think we might have OD in the pocket. 

This is one of the slightly nicer sections.  It gets really gnarly

Hill climbs and rocks? We got it at home

As a result of tackling tough terrain like this almost every time we go out, Quest has actually gotten quite good at carefully picking out her path while moving swiftly down the trail. However the obvious huge downside is we need the complete opposite- flat level footing that allows us to really move out. And sure, it is entirely possible to condition by doing endless laps in an arena or pasture but that can only get you so far before both horse and rider brain are totally evidenced here by yours truly. 

As a temporary solution, I have been using gravel road hills (and booting appropriately) to clock in some cardio at speed but what I desperately missed were the flat, level rail and canal trails. This was the only kind of footing we had at WSS for training and it was great for slogging out quick fast miles in a short amount of time. 

While surveying maps last week, I decided to take a closer look at a trail that had I always paid little attention to until now. I had passed the entrance numerous times and when I asked JA about it, she had dismissed it as not really worth riding. Being ever curious and determined, I still wondered about it though so we finally gave it a shot this weekend. 

My curiosity was duly rewarded. 

The start was a little questionable.
A bit too overgrown to ride at speed

But it eventually gave way to this!

The trail is broken up with gravel patches so we had slow to a walk and it's a little less than 2 miles, so about 4 miles for a there-and-back. I'm not complaining though since I can easily boot Quest all around and we do multiple loops here for sustained trots and round out our rocky trail outings with some some flat speed. Now all we need are some wide open fields!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Dollar Store Desensitizing

What was supposed to be my first off-property trailer adventure with Quest got completely drowned out by unending torrential rains this weekend. It was disappointing but we made the most of a dreary, cold, and wet situation by doing some desensitizing work in the indoor arena instead.

Mareface got to play with some new toys

Before going to the barn, A and I stopped by the local dollar store to see what they had in stock and found LOTS of stuff to work with. There is much to be found and utilized if you look carefully and think creatively enough!

Unsurprisingly the barn was totally deserted when we pulled in. I admit it was pretty miserable walking through the pasture in the rain and I questioned my sanity for a moment. But the weather did effectively deter the usual weekend boarders from coming out so A and I had the entire indoor to ourselves the entire time we were there. Poor Quest was shivering from the cold rain and wind though so I immediately got the cooler on her once we were in the arena and set aside her rain sheet for later. While mareface dried off and warmed up, we started working our way through the new toys. 

Mary Poppins ain't got nothing on me

The umbrella was the first item up and it caused quite a bit of concern at first. Even just opening and closing it caused Quest to scoot away with snorting and nostrils flaring. She still wasn't 100% happy with it at the end but she was much more brave and stood quietly while I opened and closed it, twirled it around, and waved it above her head. 

As I moved on to the other objects, it was really neat to observe how it took progressively less and less time for Quest to get over her initial concern. Her reactions at the very worse were to move her feet and evade the offending object but she eventually figured the game out.

I tried to up the scare-factor as much as possible by doing things like draping and running the flag over her ears and eyes, bumping her between the legs with the pool noodles, etc. While my antics worked handily at first, Quest caught on and  soon quietly stood, resigned to her tortured fate.

Towards the end I could tell the marebrain and her attention were starting to fry- the bouncing inflatable beach ball and popping balloons finally did her in, so we called it a day. A and I let the horses go blow off some steam and get a cardio workout. For obvious reasons, it was the first time in awhile that I free lunged Quest. She was definitely feeling good though and looked happy for the chance to finally move out. 

Zoom zoom

All in all, it was a nice break from riding to do something a little different, plus it's always beneficial to spend some time on the ground for things like this. And thank goodness for dollar store items that can be repurposed for horse-use too; no harm, no foul if something gets destroyed/trampled/stepped on. 

Anyways fingers crossed we have better luck weather-wise in the upcoming weekends though and I actually manage to rent the truck (a different story for another time) so we can get out for some trails. If not, I think I found a few more locations to explore which could be used for actual distance training (e.g.; +15 miles). I am really hoping that is the case- it'd be great to be able to condition right from the barn and put the money saved towards attending more rides. One could dare to hope!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Celebrating the Little Stuff

From Day 1, Quest had never given me any issue with trailer loading. I still mostly have no idea what her 3-4 previous owners did with her but in the handful of times we have had to hit the road, I had deemed it safe to say trailers were NBD for her. Quest was always a model citizen and unquestioningly followed me into every trailer put in front of her, regardless of configuration. Step up, ramp load, 2 horse, 3 horse, straight load, slant load, first one on, last one on...She did it all without hesitation.

So when I bought my little stock trailer, I didn't think what I got specifically would matter all that much as long it was safe, solid, and tall enough. After all, a trailer is a trailer.

Well, the first time I tried loading Quest up on the trailer, she balked. She got two front feet on and and would not budge another step. I eventually got her completely loaded up in the end but we needed an extra hand to get it done. Her reaction totally surprised me though. This was first, and not a good one.

I immediately wondered if it was something having to do with the trailer itself but a quick mental run-down came up with nil. It wasn't too small (TB height), too dark (hello stock trailer), or unstable (floors and frame all good). Whatever it was though, this snafu did make me realize that I had to have the mareface pretty much as close to self-loading as possible since I'll more than likely be hauling out solo to train and attend rides. And to be honest, I didn't really want to haul off property if I couldn't get my horse consistently loaded every single time. IMO a trailhead or an endurance ride isn't exactly the best time or place for this kind of training.

So for the past couple weeks, we have been working on loading practice before our arena and trail rides. The first sessions were rough and progress was very slow since I had to first figure out what did NOT work for us. It really didn't help that Quest was surrounded by what essentially was an all-you-can-eat salad buffet; I spent most of the first sessions working on getting and keeping her attention on me.

Practing patience, tied to trailer while waiting her turn for loading.
Good to know she doesn't throw a fit if she gets into minor trouble lol

I was going to let her figure this one out on her own
but she looked really forlorn so I "saved" her 

I also quickly found out she has never been taught how to self-load. As this was something completely new to both of us, it gave me a chance to observe how Quest processes and figured something out from start to finish. While she starts off doubting and trying to escape pressure very dramatically (in typical mareface fashion...le sigh), she has a ton of try and quickly gets the hang of something if I figure out MY job first. The latter was hardest for me since I had to try a ton of different methods before finally finding something that worked for both of us.

She questioned me hard at first but suddenly everything clicked into place. We solo loaded up about 5-6 times in a short 15 minutes earlier this week. And yesterday we finally did a real 100% self-load with no tricks or treats.

We did it twice again to make sure it wasn't a fluke, and it wasn't. It might seem silly to get this excited over something so small but I'm relieved we got this figured out. I admit I worried at first because not being able to solo load would have put a big wrench in our endurance plans and being independent. The fact that Quest can self-load is the cherry on top and putting in the time now to do it right will make it much easier and safer for all involved in the future. It was learning experience for both of us, especially for me. Next stop, off-property trail ride adventures!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Long Awaited Good News

Whew. I've been out of town for work and just got back from a vacation....So much to catch everyone up on but most importantly I got great news from the vet about Quest's suspensory!

So majestic

The vet was scheduled to come out mid afternoon for spring shots so A and I made plans around the appointment. The skies were gray and with scattered rain showers so we moved the horses into the lower barn with cross ties for a thorough grooming session. I also took advantage of the wetter weather conditions to also touch-up trim Quest's feet.

There was still quite a bit of time left over after grooming so we got the horses tacked up and headed out for a ride. I had recently discovered a new area to explore for conditioning and wanted to check it out. Since we had A and Mel along with us, I didn't boot Quest for speed work over gravel and we took it easy with 75% walk and 25% easy trot bursts on pavement.

There were SO many things to spook at on the new trails through neighborhoods, the worst one was a life-size horse lawn ornament. It didn't help that the statue was posed in a super intimidating manner looking like it was ready to charge towards the road. Both Quest and Mel did not enjoy that at all and it took some effort to tiptoe them around the scary horse. Fortunately a couple miles later, we finally arrived at our goal for the day.

The trails on the left looked super inviting but we were on a tight schedule to meet the vet and had to turn around for home. I admit I was immensely disappointed lol but we'll definitely be back again to explore. Quest also took opportunity of the quick rest stop to relieve herself. Good mare! She's always been good about that on the trail which is one less worry for me. 

We made great time going home and arrived 30 minutes before the vet was scheduled to arrive, plenty of time to untack and cold hose Quest's legs. The vet ended up running late so mareface got her dinner too. A group of us at the barn signed up together to share the call fee so there was a good ol' fashioned grazing party afterwards until the vet finally showed up.

Vet D was new to us but she seemed kind and soft spoken. After the shots and blood draw, I mentioned the suspensory rehab and asked if she could take a quick look. I watched with bated breath and after what felt like an eternity, Vet D declared Quest totally fine and 100% sound!! There was scar tissue (I asked her to point it out to me so I could feel it too) were the injury was but it's an non-issue.

I had known in my gut that Quest was fine but hearing a vet officially say that my horse made a full recovery has done much good to my heart and confidence. While I am still sad that we lost an entire season of competition last year, this ordeal has taught me much and I've hopefully become a better equestrian and horse owner in the process. It was a unpleasant and difficult situation that forced me to become hyper-aware of my horse's well being and take it upon myself to learn everything I can to keep her sound, happy, and healthy for as long as possible.

I'm sure there will be plenty more difficulties along the way, but hopefully things are on the upswing for now. We'll take each day as it comes and steadily make our way towards the bigger goal.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Spirit of Adventure

Quest and I had a very productive weekend. We got in a fantastic conditioning ride, played with the trailer, and I hauled my trailer for the very first time!

I had Good Friday off from work and after spending the morning on a family outing, I scooted over to the barn in the afternoon for a much needed (in more than one way) trail ride. Quest and I went to Hawk Watch for the first time in a long time. I recently bought 3 more Easyboot Gloves at an great price used and I booted the mareface all around. We got some sustained speed on the trails over rockier sections and short bursts of trot over pavement. The weather was perfect and we accomplished exactly what we set out to do. We were still a little slower than race pace but it was no matter- the purpose of the trail ride was to test out the hoof boots at speed over terrain and set a fitness baseline.

Both goals were done and done. The Gloves worked super well w/t/c with only one mishap. Despite being ridiculously anal about checking them throughout the ride, I noticed we lost one boot probably 2 minutes after the fact. We had to double back quite a ways before I found it sitting all by its lonesome on the side of the road. I was able to hop off, put it back on with ease, and continued on our way. In hindsight, the boot mishap was totally preventable. I somehow had figured that the "spare tire" aka the boot in the worst shape of the 3 I had bought would work fine instead of using the better/newer one. Quest is the same size all around so I just grabbed any boot and went with it. Well, lesson learned!

As for fitness, I was quite pleased with how much energy Quest had throughout the ride- especially at the end. The trail is and out and back so we have to tackle some pretty gnarly hills going both ways. On the way home, mareface decided to take them at a gallop and I let her open up until we reached the top. It made me grin to see how pleased she was with herself. It was a very warm day so after stripping off tack, I checked sweat patterns (no dry spots and spine was clear!) and let Quest drink her fill of water. I cold hosed her legs well before putting her back in pasture and calling it day.

The next day was trailer practice! Since I still don't have a truck and probably won't for awhile, I did some research and found suitable pick up rentals through Uhaul. The truck had the proper electric connections and tow capacity so all I had to do was  provide my own ball and hitch receiver to get on the road. I've driven trucks before (ex boyfriend had F150) and Suburbans at work so driving a larger vehicle wasn't too difficult. However I never have had to backup, hook up a trailer, or haul before so I intentionally set an entire day aside to take my time figuring everything out at my own speed.

I'm going to brag a little here but I am ridiculously proud that it only took me one attempt to line up the truck with the trailer and then I had A standing outside as a spotter to line up the final inches.

Not too shabby for a newbie!

It could have been beginner's luck or whatever, but I'll take it haha I got the trailer fully hooked up and A helped me check that the lights/electric were working. We left the wheel chocks in place because the second task of the day was to grab our horses for some trailer loading practice. I have no idea if Quest has ever been on a stock trailer before so I opted to treat it as a new-to-her experience. She put both front feet inside at first before balking and asking to step out. Okay, not too bad of a starting point to work from. It took a few attempts and mental breaks but eventually she followed me right in. Treat incentives were useful.

The horses were both rewarded with a nice grooming session and grazing afterwards. After putting them back into pasture to enjoy the rest of their weekend, it was time to practice hauling. No time better than the present to create good habits so I checked everything again before pulling out and going down the road a little ways. Before leaving the barn, I stopped to do another walkaround check and then hit the streets for real!

It was very interesting to see how hauling a trailer made the truck feel different on inclines but it was more or less the same on normal flat surfaces. I'm sure it'll be whole other experience with horses for sure but for now, I practiced keeping my wheel base within the lines on my side of the road, making gentle stops and wide turns. My destination was an elementary school parking lot that I had already scoped out earlier in the month. It was usually always empty on weekends and I figured it would be perfect for my practice needs.

I first practiced the simple things like backing up straight and testing my turn radius before tackling the real stuff : backing up on a turn. I used two milk crates to visually mark out an imaginary parking spot and went at it. Both A and I agree that this was definitely the hardest part of hauling a trailer but it is totally doable. While I was very slow, I eventually found the balance between how much to turn the wheel and let up the brakes. If I have any tips to offer fellow newbies, my biggest takeaways were:

- Don't over compensate with the wheel; Small corrections are more than enough.
- The hand at the bottom of the wheel tip is very good to keep in mind.
- Mirrors are your best friend. Use them. A lot.

I hope I don't have to do this part in public any time soon just yet because I'm horrendously slow at it and will require multiple attempts haha but if needed, it's good to know I CAN do it. And to be honest I HAD to learn to do this because its the only way I get my trailer back into it's parking spot at the barn.

I'm glad to say the practice was not in vain. It did take a few attempts but hey, I got it done and nothing got destroyed lol I'll count that was a win for my first ever truck and trailer adventure.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Here Comes the Sun

The weather here has finally decided that it will actually behave and we were gifted with a weekend of sun and blue skies. Temperatures even warmed up so much that t-shirts were appropriate outdoor ride attire and the mareface got her first bath of the year.

Bright and early on Saturday, A and I hit up another spring tack sale. It opened at 8AM so we met up a little after 7AM, grabbed coffee and breakfast sandwiches and made our way south. There was already quite a line forming outside the building when we arrived and after snagging a parking spot in the near full lot, we joined the fray. Unlike the last sale we went to a couple weeks ago, this one was crazy…like shark feeding-frenzy crazy with people were grabbing stuff left and right. It was a little intense!

I fortunately had put together a mental list of things I needed/wanted to find beforehand and managed to snag some pretty freaking amazing deals. Of all the things I bought, the BEST find of the sale was a like-new condition English sheepskin saddle cover that was only $1. These things usually go for $65-70!

It was brown instead of black but
totally not complaining because $$$ saved!
Oh, and the purple saddle pad was also a tack sale find from earlier this year too

I’ve always wanted one since I use my Thorowgood saddle for the trails a lot and put in as much/if not more daily mileage on it than my treeless endurance saddle currently. I considered using it for endurance paired with the Supracor pad but I have gotten butt sore after longer rides (10+ miles) and I could never really justify the cost when I had a perfectly good treeless saddle. But no longer shall I pine away in sadness! I was super excited to try it out  and it was amazing as I imagined it to be...much butt comfort joy. I completely forgot it was even there, which is pretty much the idea.

After the tack sale, A and I decided to stop by Horsemen’s Outlet since we were in the area already. The store didn’t open until later in the morning so I suggested doing a detour stop at Round Valley Reservoir.

I’ve been super curious about riding the trails there for the longest time and after seeing them in person, this place is totally going on my list of places to condition for endurance!

On Sunday, I went by the barn after church to get a quick ride and do some spring cleaning/tack organizing. Quest and I did our first real schooling ride in outdoor arena and there was conveniently a baby cross rail jump already all set up for us.

We warmed up with ground poles first and then got right to business.

The sand footing was still wet from the rains last week which made it a little firmer to work on but still a little too deep for my tastes so I kept the ride short and sweet. Our first jumps were trot hops but towards the end of the session Quest tucked those front legs right up (not captured on video though...) Since I’m mostly doing this on my own with no real photo/videographer crew, I’ve been relying on “feeling” the difference of her efforts and reviewing video from my fence-propped up phone. Still haven’t adjusted my stirrups shorter though…Oops.

After our jump session, Quest got her first bath in the outdoors wash stall and got tied to a nearby fence to dry off and graze while I did a big tack trunk cleanout. I like things simple and usually try to get rid/sell/donate the excess. Plus I know an endurance ride will be chaos x 10 million so the fewer things keep track of the better too. I pulled out a bunch of stuff that I probably don’t need to keep so will be posting up some things for sale soon.

All in all, a super productive weekend was had. I'm hoping we get more of this good weather so the outdoor adventures continue to ensue!

Friday, April 7, 2017

Chasing Daylight

Working regular weekday hours is both a blessing and a curse. I am grateful for my job, don’t get me wrong, but it’s always a race against time to fit in trail rides during the week until we get more daylight hours.

While I can (and have) tack up super quickly, I prefer a moderate pace so I don’t mindlessly miss something, plus grooming is a great time to run my hands over Quest for a full body check. Mareface got through winter in decent shape but there has been a bit of feeding time drama with A’s mustang gelding Mel. The horses are fed apart from each other but they are loose in the field. Quest eats SUPER slow, like she really enjoys taking her time with meals. Mel, on the other hand, inhales his food in minutes. He’s a big drafty-built boy and often uses that to his advantage for extra helpings.

Fortunately Quest has since learned to stand up for herself but I can tell she’s still not getting her full portion. Right now she’s a 4 or moderately thin on the body condition scale which isn’t horrible but since we’re going to be stepping up the conditioning intensity and increasing energy output soon, I really like her to have more reserves before we start hitting the trails hard. I’ve talked with the barn staff to make the needed gradual feed adjustments to up the energy intake so hopefully that will make a good difference. Also of note is the fact that their back pasture has been completely closed off to the horses since the beginning of winter to allow it to rest. It’ll be opened later in a month or so though so there will be a fresh forage for them.

As for rides, I got in two back-to-back sessions this week. I was feeling pretty crummy earlier in the week so as it happened there were two sessions one after the other. Even though our rides aren’t super intense yet, I usually like to put a rest day in between to let a mareface be a horse and do horse things.

Earlier this week, it had been raining a ton the past few days so I was keeping a close eye on the forecast. Luckily the weather cleared up by the time I left work so I decided to head out to the barn. I got Quest groomed and tacked up in the pasture, it was gray and extremely foggy out but at least the skies remained rain-free. In case of bad weather, we are allowed use the aisle and cross ties in one of the barns to tack up but I’ve never done it yet since all of my stuff is up by the pasture.

I made sure to strap on my helmet headlight before I mounted up and we set off for a quick trail speed workout. The rains kept the dirt roads clear and gravel free so we were able to get right to trotting once the pavement ended. We got in a respectable 1.5 mile at the trot and canter before we ran out of trail and it got a bit too dark for my comfort.

The fog was so heavy it was like a scene from a horror film...Spooky 

The sky was looking very ominous as we headed back to the barn at a meandering walk and right when we got within earshot of the indoor arena doorway, the rain started coming down in earnest. The arena was completely empty though (I guess no one is crazy like I am...) so the plan was to do a short cardio session and cool down while we waited for the rain to slow down enough for us to trek back to her pasture. This entire time the drumming of the rain hitting the aluminum roof provided a steady gentle rumble in the background. It was a bit more noisy than what we were used to but it was manageable.

We had just settled into a nice working rhythm when suddenly the rain picked up in monsoon-hurricane level intensity. In a split second, a gentle rumble turned into an ear-deafening roar that echoed and reverberated through the entire empty arena. I couldn't hear myself think.

Poor Quest had no idea what just happened and lost her brain for a moment. She scooted her feet, trying to escape the noise that surrounded us and when she found no reprieve (obviously), she worried more and kept scooting.

I allowed her to move but directed the motion into a circle. It was a madly whirling circle at first but as her brain came back to me, I was able to gradually apply my single-rein stop/emergency brake and slow her to a stop. Entire time I kept my hand on her neck and spoke to her with low quiet easys. At some point I also took my feet out of the stirrups for an emergency dismount just in case Quest decided to go up or escalate her reaction. She did neither but when she did stop moving, I still opted to jump off just in case the rain picked up again and someone felt the need to lose her brain again.

The rain was still thundering loudly but it was nowhere near the ear-deafening roar that had happened a minute ago. While not freaking out, Quest was still extremely distracted so I took advantage of the situation and did some basic groundwork to get her attention back on me- Sending her to either side of me, backup, forward, whoa, turns on fore and haunches. Once I had her dialed into me, I asked her to join up and she happily came in. I had couple treats in my pocket that I use for rewarding positive behavior on the trail; I was very glad I had them with me in this instance.

When the rain finally died down to something more manageable, I closed up the arena and we calmly walked back to her pasture to untack and call it a night. In hindsight, I honestly can’t fault Quest for how she reacted because the sudden noise took even me by surprise. I had to scramble for a bit to get my bearings but I’m glad I was able to turn it into a positive training opportunity in the end. And if I had to choose, I’d much rather go through all of this drama at home first rather than away at a trailhead or an endurance ride. Home is where we do the hard work!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Jump Baby Jump

Quest and I tried something new this weekend. It's not big or fancy at all but it was exciting for us!

Before the little impromptu jump session, Quest and I took advantage of the dreary, rainy weather clearing up that morning to hit the trails for a quick workout. We did a nice w/t/c warmup in the indoor arena first and set off on the trails. The days of non-stop torrential rain swept away the largest chunks of gravel on the dirt roads and we were left some fantastic footing for decent trotting sections.

We managed to get a solid 4 miles in less than an hour and also visited the mini XC course for three hill sprints. On the last sprint,  I let Quest open up and she immediately obliged, surging up the incline in powerful strides with her tail flagged in the air. When we came to a gradual stop at the top of the hill, Quest looked so pleased with herself haha I have to remember to bring my GoPro out next time so I can get video.

Quest and I had gotten a lot done on the trail by then so we headed back into the arena where we had left A and Mel. While we waited for them to finish, mareface and I played with baby jumps!

The standards were already set up so I just reconfigured the poles for our newbie use. We did a quick ground pole trot review first and then moved up to baby cross rails. Quest wasn't very impressed and trotted over them evenly and neatly each time....Well, at least she didn't rush though or start cantering.

I changed it back to the original set up and added some trot poles for the approach.
Tada....the world's tiniest jump ever

Our first few attempts were more trotting with much gusto but eventually Quest figured out that she needed to pick up her legs.

Close but not quite. She wasn't doing anything horrible, just not feeling motivated....then I had the brilliant idea of adding more leg. I know, totally genius right?

Much better!

It was really neat to see how Quest used the steady repetition of a basic pattern to figure out where to put her feet. She never rushed or worried though, just took it like "Oh okay, we're doing this now." I admit that I've never taken actual jumping lessons so this is me messing around and having fun with my horse. So there are lots to improve on, for starters I need shorten my stirrups from trail length to something more jump appropriate and move my hands higher on her neck. I do believe knowing how to jump properly is an essential, all-round equestrian skill to have though so it'd be well worth the time and effort to learn in the long run.

While I don't think we'll ever go huge or fancy since I'd rather save Quest's legs for endurance, this really was SO fun to see if we could actually do it. We both get super bored in the indoor so I think it'd be good for our mental sanity to throw in a baby jump from time to time during our arena work session days just to get the energy up and going again. Best of all mareface seemed to really enjoy herself with her ears pricked up and brain totally engaged. And I didn't eat dirt either- I say that was a win in it of itself haha

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ready, Set...

Moving forward slowly is better than no motion at all, right? With winter (hopefully) finally relinquishing its grasp on NJ, I've been steadily getting the trailer ready for hauling.

First order of business was getting this sorted.

...This was seriously an ordeal in it of itself. I double checked with the trailer's former owner S, who I still keep in contact with via FB and text, that I had everything I needed before I set off for the DMV/MVC. It's a 30-35 min one way drive so I really didn't want forget something and have to drive all the way back home for a piece of paperwork. 

I was flying out for vacation later in the afternoon but still took the whole day off so I'd have plenty of time to go register the trailer in the morning. I figured that since it was a week day, the lines in the office would be not as crazy and I could zip in, pay for the plates, and get to the barn with ample time for a quick ride with Quest before heading out to the airport. Well when I got to the DMV, the guy behind the counter said I was missing the seller's notarized form for a non-titled vehicle...despite having the official trailer title in hand?? Ugh. 

I texted S to fill her in on the situation. Fortunately for me/unfortunately for her, she had been called to do a random drug screening test for work and she was at a state dept office that had a in-house public notary. Once I got the address from S, I made my way over to her and soon got the form signed and notarized to register the trailer.

I also stopped by S's work place to pick up the mats that she had forgot to include when dropping off the trailer at the barn. 

So now I have a bunch of ready-cut trailer mats that I need to figure out 1) how they were meant to fit together in the trailer, and 2) how to attach them to the walls. I really don't want to rivet/put holes in anything so I'm looking for an industrial strength adhesive. Tbh I could haul out without the mats on the walls? But I was thinking it'd be smart move to proactively protect my investment if possible. So if any fellow trailer owners have suggestions on how to tackle this, I'm all ears!

Anyways after attaching the new plates to the trailer and unloading all the mats from the car, I had barely enough time to groom and tack up the mareface for a super quick ride. We had a really nice w/t/c cardio session in the indoor and a leisurely wander walk outside.  

Her mane was muddy mess despite my efforts.
Still cute though <3

This past weekend was the start of the distance riding season for a lot of riders on the East Coast. With Quest officially done with rehab and staying 100% sound throughout the process, I have been optimistically thinking about legging her up for LD/CTR rides later this year in the fall. While I think mareface will probably be ready way before then due to all the long slow distance we had been doing for months during rehab, the slow start is intentionally giving me the time to practice driving a rig empty at first for the basic parking, backing up, etc.

Next will be hauling out for short local adventures to explore trails while scouting out places that will be good for training. Hopefully by the time the LD/CTRs roll around in the fall, I'll be more comfortable with doing longer (2-3hr) hauls on my own.  

As for training for the rides themselves, the first few events I've picked out are ones located in areas I've ridden myself so at least one tiny part of the unknown is addressed. While rehabbing, I rode Quest on a wide variety of surface conditions found at the barn, from pavement and arena sand to rolling grass hills and forest trails. While sand still scares the effin hell out of me, I have to remind myself that we had a huge footing disadvantage while at WSS a year ago because we only got to work on grass and gravel rail trails. In stark contrast, OF has a great sand arena which we have access to year-round and, after chatting with some FB distance riding folks, the footing is hugely reminiscent of the Pine Barrens. 

Another thing is silencing the ugly little voice inside my head that questions my ability to manage my horse properly. While I know a lot of people in the distance riding community, not all of them have time (or desire, as I found out indirectly) to share tips with a newbie. I've tried contacting AERC listed mentors but so far nothing  has come of it. Unsurprisingly and as with anything, I'll probably have to do my own research and develop my own training schedule. 

Anyways that's the game plan for now. I'm excited and a bit nervous to see what this year will bring. It's been a long difficult road making this endurance thing a reality but we're another tiny step closer to it. Hopefully having a trailer now will provide the freedom that I've always wanted and not just more stress! 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Product Review: Two Horse Tack Quick Change Halter Bridle

As a distance rider, I am no stranger to beta biothane and biothane tack. While I do own some leather products, I opt to use my synthetic tack 99.9% of the time no matter the occasion.

Like a few other horse bloggers, I was recently contacted by Two Horse Tack with an opportunity to write a compensated review on some of their beta biothane tack. Last year I won a raffle for a THT grooming halter that has been a life-saver during mud season so it was a no brainer to jump at a chance to check out what other products the company had to offer.

Since I currently ride in a rope halter with snap-on headstall combo, I decided to do a review on the Quick Change Halter Bridle with Snap On Browband. The majority of my riding is done out on the trails for hours at a time, so I'm all about functionality, efficiency, and comfort. The Quick Change Halter Bridle offers a lot of functionality since the halter and snap-on headstall can be used separately or together in a variety of configurations. The flexibility is good to have for the kind of riding I do and I like the fact it can be used with a separate rope halter if/when I need it.

Ordering & Arrival
When ordering, I admit there was some hesitation on my end when it came to sizing. The size category descriptions on the store website were not that useful and it doesn't help that Quest doesn't quite fit into any single category with her Saddlebred-head and dainty Arab-nose. However since Two Horse Tack's products are made-to-order, I opted to provide specific measurements when placing my order and kept my fingers crossed that the new set would fit with minimal adjustments.

Less than two weeks after placing the order, I had the final product in my hands. As a freelance artist, I can say from experience that is a VERY impressive turnaround time for a custom, made-to-order item.

10' trail reins, snap-on head stall, and halter

My initial impressions were very positive. I requested the set made in my endurance riding colors and the purple beta biothane with orange biothane overlay contrasted really nicely together. The overall construction felt solid, the stitching appeared tight, and there was a decent amount of punched holes for adjustments on both the headstall and halter pieces using the stainless steel hardware. Also I was pleased to see that the halter fastened on with a clip instead of a buckle (which faced outward, yes thank you). I'm not big fan of buckles in general because cold fingers + buckles during the winter = zero fun. I ride in almost every weather so this is the stuff I notice lol

The matching trail reins were a nice add-on and definitely completed the look. The 10ft length is standard for trail riding which works well with Quest's long neck (yay Saddlebred) and can handily double up as a lead line that clips to the halter when I want to hop off and walk on the trail.

Fitting & Test Ride
As the saying goes though, "pretty is as pretty does" so it was time to see how everything actually worked. I had planned to test the tack on the trail but it was absolutely frigid that day so the indoor arena it was for now.

Halter and reins. Also snow covered feet lol
Added the headstall and... DONE

As I had hoped, there were ZERO size adjustments to make on the halter or headstall. Literally all I had to do was attach the bit and we were ready to ride.

I was especially happy to see how sleek the set fit Quest without extraneous stuff and space all over. The beta biothane feels super durable yet it is supple enough to allow the bit to sit naturally on her face instead of pulling it stiffly (and probably uncomfortably) out to the sides. I had that issue with a biothane halter bridle with bit hangers from Running Bear and I sold that as soon as possible.

Unsurprisingly, the test ride was also complete nonevent. Quest went in it happily w/t/c as if it was just another arena session and had no complaints. I was pretty content as a rider too- the reins felt great in my hands and didn't cause any discomfort. I have eczema and depending on how abrasive the rein material is, my hands can get painful rashes. I typically deal with it by wearing riding gloves but it's not an ideal solution in hot, humid, or wet weather. The reins were thinner than what I'm used to but that did not detract from comfort or the fact that no gloves were needed.

Happy mareface, happy me
Overall the Quick Change Halter Bridle with Snap-On Browband from Two Horse Tack is a great option for those who want to get as much use as possible out of a single piece of tack. The base price for this halter bridle style with the biothane overlay starts at $80 which is very reasonable for the quality you get. A set of matching reins are $20 extra and well worth it in my opinion. Also if you have any hesitation or worry about sizing when placing an order, I strongly suggest selecting the "Custom" option and including measurements; the tack will be made-to-order anyway and it's just one less thing to worry about.

I hope this review helps folks who are on the fence about trying synthetic tack and/or looking for companies to purchase from. As for me, I've been very impressed with Two Horse Tack so far and will be shopping with them for my future beta biothane tack needs.
Best mareface model.
"This was tough work. I get treat plz"