Tuesday, April 6, 2021

2021 Foxcatcher Endurance

This past weekend, I finally got to dip my toes in endurance riding after many, many years of trying to get started in the sport. 

Those who have been reading along for awhile may remember that I boarded at an endurance barn about 5 years ago with the intention of getting Quest and me going in the discipline. Unfortunately an injury sidelined us and put a temporary pause to those competitive dreams. The downtime in between was not wasted though. I did a lot of catch riding and trail ride-alongs with different endurance folks across the US from Texas to California. In my travels, I got hands-on exposure to the usual things like conditioning schedules, tack setups, elyting protocols, hydration but also most importantly, I began to really think and piece together what I valued and wanted from the sport because....it is frankly quite expensive and so much goes into even just getting to the ride, let alone completing and finishing in Top 10 or best condition.  

At the end, after all the thinking and despite the numerous heartbreaking setbacks, my determination to give endurance an honest try never waned. My goal is still competing with Quest or another future mount but I recently was given an opportunity to partner up with a little Arabian mare named River for the Foxcatcher Endurance ride and jumped at the chance. 

The week before the ride, my husband and I had a tall order of packing for the trip- not just my tack, but also everything we needed for an overnight stay away from home with Caleb. I did wonder how my little guy would do on the road trip and if this experience would bode badly for future family adventures. However I'm happy to say my little boy was so well-behaved and only badly fussed when he really needed something (namely his meals).  

A completely packed car, hitting the road
Foxcatcher is held at Fair Hill NRMA, which is the same location for the Chesapeake CTRs that I did a catch-ride years ago. It was really nice to revisit the trails again after so much time away. The weather was forecasted to be bright and clear but early morning at the start was wind swept and frigid. I was glad we had hotel accommodations for the night before so that my husband and son had a place to stay out of the cold until the day warmed up. 

All tacked up and waiting for our group to start

I was instructed by River's owner to ride with two of her other horses and to stay together as a group. Asides from our group helping a rider catch her loose horse on trail within 1 minute of the ride start, the first 15 mile loop was uneventful. At the hold, River vetted through fine though had some bad groundwork attitude issues. We were watered, fed, elyted, tack and ready to go in time after the 45 minute hold. Unfortunately the two other horses in our little group with were pulled at vet check so River and I had to ride with a different rider group. Then one of the horses in that new group was dealing with some cold cramp lameness, it eventually resolved with no lasting problems thankfully. When we finally left camp with the group for the second loop, it was nearly 30-45 minutes later than the time on our card allowed, setting back our pace for the last 10 miles. 

River was game to go and we could have easily separated from the pack and moved out on our own to finish within ride time but I had to adhere to the owner's instructions. As a result while River and I technically "completed" the ride, we ended up finishing overtime. It was a bit of a bummer but I had a healthy, sassy horse and did my first ever 25 mile endurance ride 5 months post- pregnancy...not too shabby!

With so many variables and the pandemic still on-going, I'm honestly not sure what the rest of the endurance season this year will look like but I'm going focus on the positive and stay grateful for each ride opportunity as they come and the chance to gain experience for bringing my own horse along for the adventure someday. Here's hopefully to many more competitive miles ahead in 2021! 

Nothing but smiles

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Six Years Later

My fellow horse-loving friends....it's finally happening, one way or another. I can't wait to share the finer details with you all soon!

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Rides In Between

Our area was recently hit with a series of snow storms in quick succession that forced us to hibernate indoors for a couple weeks. Fortunately the weather let up a little the past two weekends so I did two trips out to the barn to get my mareface time in. 

The first ride was with both my husband and Caleb in tow. I saddled Quest up and we hit the indoor arena since the footing outside was gnarly- very icy and slick. I didn't want to risk a slip and fall on a hidden ice patch (no trail ride is ever worth that kind of vet/hospital bill) so we played it safe. 

Apparently most people at the barn had the same idea that day and the arena was packed with lessons and boarders. It was a bit much but Quest did her best to listen and work with me. We had a rough ride though- everything felt a little disjointed, mareface was unfocused and just wanted to get back to her pasture and friends. Before we called it a day, the arena finally quieted down enough that I was able to  hop off and worked Quest on the lunge briefly to get her focus back. Even though we ended the ride on a slightly better note, I left the barn feeling completely exhausted and out of sorts. In hindsight and to be fair, I probably was just as preoccupied, unfocused, and also since I was still rebuilding physical strength after almost a year of not riding- I didn't give Quest the best ride I could. 

The following weekend, I aimed to do better and since W had an online meeting/offered to watch Caleb, it was just me at the barn. I had planned to saddle up again but last minute, I decided to grab the DIY bareback pad and tacked Quest up in that instead. With the trails still slick and icy, we headed into the indoor and it was just as crowded again. I hopped on, feeling a little pensive for a rough ride ahead but I need not have worried. 

Mareface was perfect as we went through our paces at all three gaits. She had a lot of pep in her step but was totally tractable and listened. She must have looked incredibly fancy too because we got compliments all around from the BO and her lesson clients. "She looks like she could be in a parade! She such a cute mover."  "How old is she? Wow, she looks great for 16!" 

The ride was the complete opposite from the previous weekend. We totally clicked and it felt so good. When I hopped (or hobbled) off after an hour, I had a content mare with plenty more to give however I was pretty tired! Nothing like a good bareback session to remind all those riding muscles how to really work again.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Trail Bound

This past weekend Quest and I enjoyed a lovely reunion with the trails we left behind nearly 4 years ago. My husband had a virtual meeting in the morning and was wonderful enough to watch Caleb while I got some sorely needed, undivided barn time. 

For readers with eagle eyes, the bridle and rein setup probably looks quite familiar. Earlier last year, my good friend Nicole was looking to part with some tack she was no longer using. Coincidentally at the time, I had been keeping an eye out for a tack set for my husband. I reached out to Nicole and she gave me not only the tack but also an Orthoflex saddle that her husband had used. I nearly cried happy tears at her incredible generosity towards my family. 

Sadly due to the timing of my pregnancy, hopping on Quest to try out the saddle and tack had to wait a few months longer. The wait was SO hard. I had heard tons of good things about how comfortable Orthoflex saddles are and was impatient to see what the rage was all about. I did have my husband help bring the saddle out to the barn shortly after it arrived so that I could get everything fitted and sized for Quest. 

This past weekend, I finally had the opportunity to get the full setup together and hop aboard. Before we hit the trails though, I wanted to see how Quest fared with the new tack in an arena/somewhat contained space. It had been raining on and off all morning so the small indoor was feeling pretty crowded with a lesson that the BO was doing with a student and a boarder who was riding bareback. Despite the buzz of activity around her, mareface did fine- we did a few laps of walk and trot with no issues at all. The rain was starting to let up just when another boarder showed up to use the indoor, so I decided that it was time for us to head on out. 

Quest was all business from the moment I pointed her towards the pasture path that led to the trail head, asking me to let her trot. The less than ideal weather kept most of the normal trail users at home so as soon as we hit the trails, I let her open up and we flew along at all gaits, unhindered the entire time. True to all the things said about it, the Orthoflex was amazing. It felt secure and we had no issues with slipping. I definitely could feel the rust coming off both of us as I got back to using old riding muscles, remembering to change trot diagonals and cuing for canter on both leads. 

Gliding along the open trails, I was able to take my first deep breaths in what felt like forever. We ended up doing about 4 miles in less than an hour and mareface felt game for more. I really missed her, riding, just everything about this lifestyle so much.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Back in the Saddle

The long awaited moment finally happened this weekend. Quest and I did our first real ride after nearly 10 months and it was the perfect way to start the new year. 

W was wonderful enough to watch C in the car while I did my ride without worrying. He really is the best husband. The extent that he understands how much riding and my ride goals mean makes me so grateful for his complete support <3 

Mareface was foot perfect and awesome. We did about 30-40 minutes of walk-only since I'm still healing from the incision and didn't want to do anything that would set my progress back. I felt great though and it was tough not to keep going or be tempted to do more than just a walk. Quest was definitely feeling good as well and she asked politely to trot at a few points during our little jaunt. 

I guess it was a good thing I didn't do too much since I felt a little sore later that evening- definitely need to build up those riding muscles again haha If the weather stays decent, I'll probably be going out to the barn most weekends and might try to fit in a longer trail ride at some point!