Thursday, September 28, 2017

Checking In

Well, hello there. The blog has been pretty silent as of late but much has been going on behind the scenes. Over the last 2-3 months, we have been focusing all our attention on recovery and doing a generous amount of self-care.

In Quest-terminology that means enjoying vacation and getting chunky.

The first order of business was trying to figure out the proper shoeing arrangement. Mareface got her first set of fronts last cycle and she did really well in them...until she pulled a shoe. Fortunately it was the day before the farrier was due back out but unfortunately that was when Vet K was supposed to check Quest's progress. The pulled shoe didn't allow for a clear evaluation so it got pushed back a couple weeks. Vet K was nice enough not to charge me for that, thankfully.

The second issue has been containment. Mareface had been allowed to roam the pasture freely in hopes that she'll stay quiet enough to heal.

See, this is nice. Being good & socializing with neighbors. 

But then there are days when I visit and Quest is tearing around the field like a wild child. As much as I don't want to contain her, Vet K suggested that we should try something to get her to stay more still. So the nice folks at the barn are trying to set up a temporary corral of sorts. Hopefully this will aid in the recovery process and not make her a stressful mess.

As for me, I've used the time to take care of myself and build new friendships within the various communities I'm a part of. I have been getting time in the saddle but most of my hours lately have been spent reading, practicing saber, and doodling lots of art. I really miss working with Quest and sometimes get really sad thinking about it but such is the state of things. We just have to allow time to do its slow, steady work.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Mareface Update

When Quest first came up lame, the barn worker suggested it might be Lyme since there was a huge outbreak at the barn this year. I was doubtful since she didn't exhibit any of the other symptoms at all. She was content, fat, and sassy. But of all the things to go possibly wrong, I'd take an abscess or Lyme over any other injury. It's strange how owning a horse changes your world perspective...

Enjoying her vacation. At least one of us is happy

After immediately ceasing all work, I did my own quick diagnostic. I could tell the issue was on her right diagonal. There was no heat/swelling around the hoof or legs and zero reaction when I palpated suspensories (thank goodness). Other than the lameness Quest was totally fine so I opted to do a bit of wait and see. After almost a week of rest though, mareface was still NQR so I got the vet out. With nerve blocks, Vet K isolated the issue to the RF heel, took radiographs, and currently we have it diagnosed as caudal heel pain, possible soft tissue injury. It seriously sucks that we could be dealing with a similar issue yet again but the vet said prognosis is good overall.

After giving it some thought, it's really is a matter of form follows function. If you have bad form, there is bad function. Quest is slightly clubfooted on that leg. It has been a repeat offender and source of grief for two years out of three. From the very start, I have been responsible for her trims and used a professional to reset/check my work regularly. We have zero issues when doing rides in the arena or meandering on trails. However when the workload increases to include longer and faster mileage, that's when things appear to start falling apart.

Looking back, I dare to venture that this was about the same point in our training/conditioning timeline that the suspensory injury surfaced. The signs seem to point that Quest needs extra help to stay sound and active. This means corrective shoeing, which is something way beyond basic owner maintenance work. One of the things J mentioned to me right before we left WSS was that she would put front shoes on Quest if she were her horse. A year later, and probably none the wiser, I am finally going to do just that. We will see how the shoes work out and move on from there.

This newest development will change a few things in terms of management and competition. Obviously first is adding the front shoes but I guess on the upside, I now have more than enough Gloves for her hinds and for spare tires. As for competition, I'm not sure what the future holds for us distance-wise. As much as I would have loved her to be my first 50/100-miler horse, she may be limited to CTR/LD distances only. This will largely depend on how she holds up to future conditioning mileage. If the corrective shoeing proves to be the answer, maybe we could venture into the realm of longer CTR-format distances like a 2-day 50 or 3-day 100.

It's not the best news but we do have a game plan lined out with plenty options. I knew getting into distance riding with my own horse would be difficult but this has honestly not been an easy journey, especially with so many setbacks right from the onset. I've never been one to go down without a fight though, and we are not giving up just yet.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Muckleratz CTR 2017

It has been two years but I finally made it back to Muckleratz CTR in PA for a weekend of camping and riding with great company and horses. How this came to be is a whirlwind of a tale, but I'm grateful this opportunity happened when I simply needed something positive horse-wise going on in my life.

I've nicknamed him Grey Superbeast.
Photo credit: Mike and Dom Turner

Two weeks ago while I was stressing over finding a vet to come check on Quest, my friend L sent me a text late one evening to ask if I was interested in riding Romeo at Muckleratz again. Older readers will remember that we first got paired up for my first ever CTR event back in 2015. At that point in time I had just started riding with barely 2 years of experience, but this was the event that sealed the deal that I wanted to do distance riding as a discipline.

Romeo's owner C had unfortunately injured her back recently but her horse was conditioned and ready to go. L gave me first dibs and said the ride on Sunday was mine if I wanted it. The entire thing was and felt super last minute. In the week leading up to the ride I would be out of town in TX doing training presentations for work. I'd then fly home Friday afternoon, leave for ride camp on Saturday morning, and do the ride on Sunday. It wasn't a whole lot of time to physically and mentally prepare myself. But after giving it some thought, I got that familiar nagging instinct feeling and it wouldn't go away. I told L to count me in. C called me a few days later and we were able to catch up. She was bummed about being injured but very excited that I would be taking Romeo out again.

This horse is seriously worth his weight in gold

Ride weekend started off a little ominously...My flight home on Friday ended up getting in almost 3 hours after the scheduled arrival time. Instead of a leisurely evening to unwind and relax, I barely had time to speed pack and load the car before making myself go to bed early. The weather forecast also called for rain and thunderstorms on Saturday so I glumly included extra sets of clothes and rainwear. It was supposed to clear up by Sunday but the trails could be sloppy and wet.

On Saturday morning, I stopped by OF to attend a boarders barn meeting and checked on/groomed the mareface. Quest is looking better and still full of herself. I spied her trotting in the upper pasture even. Long story short, the vet said the prognosis is good. I'll do a full update with thoughts and future plans after I have the vet out for a follow-up and I get a better idea of what we're dealing with. Please keep sending us good thoughts!

After the barn and a quick lunch, I got on the road. I made good time and pulled into ride camp 3 hours later. The Saturday ride had finished up and everyone was lounging around. I found where my group was set up and settled in with hellos and introductions. We sat around chatting until it was time to head up for dinner and the ride meeting.

No ride camp is complete without canines lazing underfoot

I found Dom and her husband at dinner, or rather they found me haha I am glad Dom called my name when she did because my tired brain was barely functioning at that point. They were doing the ride pictures that weekend and it really nice to see them again. I also got to finally meet Herbie and Julio too! After the meeting, everyone went back to the trailers to sit around and talk but it got really cold as the hours waned. I was feeling exhausted and finally made my way to bed. L was kind enough to let me crash in the backseat of her truck so I had more room.

Having more room didn't necessarily mean it was more comfortable though. I only slept for a few hours at a time and woke up before my alarm on Sunday morning. At first light I got changed, grabbed breakfast, and started helping get the horses ready. Poor Romeo was still shivering through his blanket so after tacking up, we kept a cooler on him and walked until L and I got called to start. It was cold when the ride began but it soon warmed up. I had to shed my hoodie after about 3 miles in and somehow managed to cram it inside my hydration pack. L was in awe that my bag could still zip shut lol

Despite not having been at Muckleratz in two years, I still remembered the trail and the miles flew by quickly. Romeo and L's horse Jack train together so they worked well all day with zero issues.

This was one of my favorite sections during the 1st loop-
The trail itself was very rocky/not as enjoyable but the view was breathtaking.

The weather was unseasonably cool for this particular time of year so it was awhile before Romeo had to be sponged and tanked up on water. Everything was going well but I noticed that the poor guy would trip every so often, and it continued to happen probably about once a mile. C mentioned that he had been doing that on trail yesterday too so I didn't go flying off when it happened. It was a little worrisome but he was still moving out evenly and briskly.

At the halfway hold, Romeo pulsed down and trotted out with zero issues but he picked halfheartedly at his extensive food buffet. C gave me a water bottle holster full of carrots and instructions to feed as much as I could on the 2nd loop. The holster was totally empty by the time we arrived back at camp again for final trot out and vet in.

Resting at the hold with C and her husband

At the hands-on evaluation, Romeo only got 1.5 points off overall and we were sitting pretty with a 98.5/100, which was our reserve champion score from two years ago. However we got knocked 2.5 points during the trot out because Romeo didn't look as lively as he did that morning. He was sound but just did not have as much pep in his step at the end of the day. Our final score of 96/100 was still high enough to land us in top 10 though with satin and lots of neat goodies.

After talking it over with C, we both agreed that all the tripping on the trail did not help with the fatigue issue. Romeo probably spent a lot of mental energy trying to watch where he was going. While I made sure to steer us clear of big hazards, after two days of intense focus his energy level had to dwindle at some point. Romeo is also horse that never interfered or tripped in the past either, which speaks volumes about how he more than likely having an issue with his feet. C said that she would contact her farrier to have the problem fixed immediately. Hopefully with that addressed, the Grey Superbeast will be back to his usual awesome self.

Photo credit: Mike and Dom Turner
 I had a hard time selecting which pictures to purchase haha

Despite the lack of downtime from the work week, I had a great time and actually left the ride feeling emotionally refreshed in some strange way. Perhaps it was because this entire thing fell into my lap at the very last minute and worked out for everyone involved. The fact that L and C thought of me first as a suitable catch rider is something that I am incredibly grateful and humbled by. For me personally, just being able to compete again was something I really needed at this point in my life. It's no secret that I have been looking forward to getting back in it with Quest. This latest setback has been tough...I know we will get over this in time, it is difficult not to scream in frustration at times.

While distance riding is filled with its own share of challenges and drama, I still look forward throwing myself right back into the fray. A day of trail riding with good horses, great people, and breathtaking views- what more could anyone want?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Another Hiatus

I guess distance riding wasn't meant to be this year.

Last week I pulled Quest out of the pasture to do our usual midweek speed terrain work. She looked a little funny walking down the hill so I had her trot out in a flat section of pasture and immediately called it quits.

She was lame. 

I checked her suspensories first and they are fine, thank goodness. No idea how the lameness happened but we've been getting quite a bit of rain and mareface does love her joy runs. I've arrived at the barn a few times in the past to see her galloping through the field, drinking the wind with tail flagged in the air.

I contacted the vets (yes, plural because the first two didn't have time to see my horse) but either or, I'm tossing her in pasture to let time do its work. Again. 

I'll be honest. I was angry and frustrated for a few days following but negative emotions does no one, especially me, any good. It's just sheer bad luck and we'll get over it. This does have me rethinking our long term goals though and I won't rush her recovery for the sake of the ride in October. We'll have to see what happens next.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Birthday Mareface

Quest turned 13 this past Friday! We didn't really get a chance to celebrate properly last year since I couldn't do a 2 hour round trip after work during the middle of the week. I planned to amend that this year but a huge summer thunderstorm rolled in that night so the mare's birthday party got pushed to the next day.

Sometimes things happen for the better though. After the stormy night, the weather cleared up and was absolutely beautiful in the morning. Instead of doing the indoor arena session I had planned, Quest and I set off on a quick easy trail ride and threw in a couple of hill sprints just for kicks because I knew mareface liked to go fast.

After our short trail ride, we picked up A and Mel from the main arena and headed down to the lower arena to play party games. We have always done barrels on Quest's birthday and this year was no exception.

Two cavaletti blocks and a jump standard served handily as the barrels. A bit ghetto but it got the job done!

Approaching the first barrel

Around the second

Zooming for the last 

Both Quest and Mel got to run several times before we called it a day. Everyone headed back to the barn and mareface finally got her birthday cake! I whipped it up this morning before I left for the barn. I have been using the same recipe since Rori-days and it's always been a hit.

Case in point...
She took a bite out of it when I wasn't watching D: 

Obligatory pre-birthday cake photo. Quest looks so Arab-y

Sharing is caring
The timing of her birthday couldn't have been more perfect since this weekend is our last "vacation day". We are now T-minus 3 months to our first ever endurance event so we have to get back to training and getting that mileage in. There is so much that needs to be done before then- I'm excited yet nervous.

Monday, June 12, 2017

More Trails, More Jumps

I was away last week in Texas on a business trip and made up for lost time seeing Quest pretty much every day this weekend. I think she may be sick of me by now haha

Mareface on a mission. I just look crazed :P

I arrived home Friday afternoon with plenty of time to hit the trails solo for a longer and faster ride. We got in a solid 10 miles using the rail trail I found recently and Quest was booted all around so we flew across the rougher terrain with ease. I've been gradually allowing her to move out on the single track wooded trails if she chooses to do so. It never ceases to amaze me how surefooted she is and I love feeling that power as she surges up hills.

The weekend forecast called for white hot temperatures and high humidity so I decided to hit the barn as early as possible to avoid the heat. Quest and I stayed in the indoor and we finally got to play with baby jumps again! After our first successful foray together, I've been itching to do another jump session but I intentionally held off until we had ample arena space. With summer right around the corner, a lot of boarders have come out of the woodwork for rides and lessons. I don't mind sharing the arena with other people but when I'm trying something new with my horse, I like having just-in-case space for stupid to happen.

Fortunately nothing bad happened and we had a great session in fact!

We started off on the red and white cavaletti set with only one end propped up, essentially making half a crossrail. The plan was to use the entire length of the pole- starting with the lower end and eventually aiming our jump to the higher end to work up to the height of the black and white cavaletti.

Media is screen shots from my GoPro. It's blurry but better than nothing!
I could feel that she was flying but wow, those knees lol  

The setup actually worked out really well. It was a good mental check for Quest to think and not just throw herself over an obstacle and it forced me to be precise in directing us over specific area of the pole to achieve the desired height. Quest definitely balked at first but got over her angst pretty quickly when she figured out the game. I wanted to keep the entire thing as "unexciting" as possible so we stuck with a working trot. If she cantered off, I brought her back to a trot easily.  We also took walk breaks throughout the session and those worked well to keep everything fun.

We thoroughly schooled the red cavaletti in both directions and moved onto the black set at full height. Quest balked again but eventually figured out this was the same thing as before.

Ears up, eyes up

After working that in both directions, it was time to tackle our final goal of the day- stringing together the two jumps at height into a mini course. We did it twice consecutively, alternating the jump order and direction each time. Quest was simply awesome.

That effort. Best mareface <3

Overall I am super pleased with how well the session went. I had my GoPro set up to record the entire thing and reviewing video has been immensely helpful for immediate feedback and things to improve next time.  

Quest's first attempts were definitely disjointed- mostly straight up and over which nearly unseated me lol But from the video, I can see we both settled into a rhythm and that mareface really enjoyed herself too- so much that she started to really lock on and pull me towards the jump. I noticed that we tend to drift a little to the right so I need be mindful and support us more to get us straight down the middle.

As for riding posture...first, I need to SHORTEN MY DARN STIRRUPS. Once again, I forgot to adjust from my regular trail length and I'm sure that attributed to some not so pretty riding.  Also I might be putting myself a too far forward when two-pointing. It's erring on the side of caution so I don't get left behind or yank her mouth but I do sometimes pitch forward when we land. I've found a few exercises that will address that though so that's our assignment whenever next time we get a chance to jump. I'm hoping that as I get more comfortable and confident, the improvement in my position will happen as well as long as I keep the foundations in mind...and remember to shorten my stirrups!

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!