Thursday, December 14, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

On the Up & Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Trail Riding in LA

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

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

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

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

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

Navigating a steep climb and switchback turn

Afternoon sun and all smiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.