Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Inktober 2015: Art prompts wanted!

So Inktober starts tomorrow and this year I plan to participate for the first time ever. The goal is to create an inked drawing every day for the entire month of October but since I have no idea how this is going to go for me, I’m planning on going the half-marathon route which is producing a drawing every other day.

My personal goal in doing this is to improve my inking skills and try drawing new things- this is where you come in! Feel free to leave me an art prompt or two in the comments and I'll draw as they come. To keep the feed from getting too spam-y, I’ll be posting the finished pieces here in a big post at the end of the challenge though they will be uploaded as they are completed over on my Instagram account- feel free to stop by and see how your prompt turned out. Wish me luck!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Back in the Saddle & Barn Tour

This past weekend was our first ride back since Quest injured her stifle two weeks ago. It was a walk-only jaunt in the pasture-arena but mareface was totally motoring around and moved out happily. She’s obviously still sore and there is some swelling but the wound is healing well thanks to J’s care.

I really missed this view <3

Despite not being ridden for almost three weeks, hopping back on Quest was a total non-event. I did half wonder if being in pasture would make her sour to work or hard to catch but she seemed to enjoy the attention and had a good attitude towards working, though of course she was more than happy to go back to the pasture once her job was done. I also took a few pictures to give those curious a quick visual tour of our new home. I had been meaning to do this sooner but things got crazy after Quest got hurt and I honestly was too stressed to think about anything else after it happened.

Barn, pastures, and hay fields that J leases. The hay fields are on the left across the road. They grow their own hay (which is like candy to Quest, she seriously LOVES that stuff) and everyone has been busy baling and storing for winter. The space in front of the barn is a fenced off paddock area. That's where Quest was until she decided fences were just a nice suggestion. Behind the defunct silo is the two layup stalls attached to the barn and opens up to the run-in sheds. To the right are more pastures.

Acres and acres of pasture. The ground isn't all level either and its a decent workout walking from the upper pasture to lower pastures and back. Plenty of water troughs and there's even a natural creek that runs below the tree line on the right. B jumps a lot with one of her horses so there are always standards, ground poles, and jumps set up in the what I have been calling the "pasture-arena".

Doing an about face, following the road to the left will take you to the trailheads and access to 27 miles of trail through forest, fields, rivers, and bridges. I've probably only seen/done 8-10 miles so far but I have been loving it all.

It's been almost a month since the move and Quest just might have finally figured out how to coexist with other horses. Fingers crossed the stifle wound was the first and last of the lessons she needed to learn. She's finally polishing off all of her meals too which is a very good thing especially with winter coming. I definitely do miss being able to see her more during the week but I can't think of a better place for us right now. A few people at the CTR last weekend actually said the same thing to me which was nice to hear since I still feel like I'm bumbling my way through decisions about my horse most of the time. But as with most things, sometimes you just have to trust your instincts and hope you made the right choice.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Chesapeake Fall CTR 2015

I catch rode and completed in my second CTR this past weekend in Fair Hill, Maryland. It was fun ride with beautiful trails but it was a challenging ride for me overall in a lot of ways.

After Muckleratz, I was originally invited to ride Romeo again at this event but his owner changed her mind and decided not to attend. L provided a glowing recommendation for me though so I was able to find another mount, a handsome dark bay Peruvian Paso named Hombre, about a month before the ride. My experience with gaited horses is extremely limited so I was looking forward to meeting up with Hombre's owner, N to see how he and I did together. Unfortunately N had to cancel our trail ride last minute so my first time on Hombre was the morning of the ride....Not ideal but this seems to be par for the course with my catch rides.

I took a half day off work Friday and made my way south to Maryland, my undergrad college stomping grounds. I arrived at Fair Hill at 4pm and met N in ride camp. I was hoping to go for a spin on Hombre and talk game plan, tack, etc for the ride but the former never happened and the latter...well, let's say it wasn't a totally lucid conversation since N had already gotten started with the drinking. So I did what I could to get to know my horse for the ride- spending time in his stall and doing handgrazing walks. While Hombre is experienced with CTRs and trail rides, I noticed he could get rather pushy so we also did some basic groundwork forward, back, yield hindquarters.

The ride meeting took longer than usual since there were multiple distances happening and there were around 80 riders total between the 100s, 80s, 50s, 30s, and 15s. L and I were the 3rd group out on the 30 mile ride: pink loop then orange loop, pulse 64, 20 min hold, 5-5:30 hours to complete.

After dinner, I still didn't know what tack I was supposed to use for tomorrow nor did I get any specific instructions about what to do at the holds so L and I went to locate N for her help. N decided to use a different saddle than the one she used normally for Hombre and tasked L and me with changing out the billet straps since alcohol and manual dexterity= not a good mix. The saddle uses center fire rigging which is a first for me; that part was no big deal since I'll always first opt to ride in the saddle that the horse normally uses to make as few changes as necessary but I was hesitant about making the last minute tack changes.

Then N started to set up the holds. She was going to be riding her other Peruvian Paso, Polo, in the 30 with her friend A who was doing her first CTR ever with her green horse (that N used to own and actually sold to her). A was busy braiding her horse so I did what I could to help set up holds for three horses. It took little awhile to get everything organized and it was pitch dark when we finally got done. The laissez-faire attitude was different than what I was normally used to but N was an experienced distance rider who knew the drill and knew what her horses needed, plus she was letting me ride her horse completely gratis as well.

The next morning I woke to ride camp swathed in pea soup thick fog. The Fair Hill rides are infamous for rolling grassy hills with trecherous footing during the first loop- it's very picturesque on a clear sunny day but they are a distance rider's worse nightmare early in the morning when the long grass is slick with dew and there is a fresh and excited horse ripping at your arms to move out.

When I went to tack up Hombre, the new billet straps ended up being way too short for the girth so N and I had to scramble to change two straps back to the original ones. Finally tacked up, I walked over to L's trailer and we mounted up. Hombre immediately began dancing and whirling around in the dew-covered grass. N had told me to put him in circles if he acted up but I really did not want to risk a slip and fall so we danced our way to safer footing and walked until he settled down- which actually happened rather quickly. I was very glad with how nicely Hombre quieted down; even when L's horse started to get ansty, we stood quietly to one side while Jack figured things out and waited to get called to the start.

As per plan, L and I walked our horses out of the starting area though Jack definitely raring to go. L asked if we could move out and I gave the okay. Hombre immediately settled into the famous gait unique to Peruvian Pasos, the paso llano. And oh my was SO freaking cool!!! We were moving as fast as a trot but my entire upper body was pretty much motionless. I couldn't stop grinning from ear to ear at how neat the experience was. Here's a good video of the gait being demostrated:

We picked our way very carefully through the misty rolling hills at a walk and gait while I busied myself with figuring how my horse worked. It took a bit of adjusting on my part to figure out how best to stay out of Hombre's way while he moved since the paso llano rocking action is totally different from riding a posting or sitting trot.  A couple miles in, we hit the sweet spot and I was confident enough that Hombre and I were on the same page to do the rest of the ride with one hand on the reins. I found out that he had a very comfortable canter and loved to canter up hills and sometimes on single track trails if wide enough- it was slightly unnerving at first but I couldn't help grinning from exhilaration as Hombre weaved through the trees never missing a step.

The trails were very well marked and took us on a nice tour through Fair Hill- we saw the wide open expanses of field, cross country courses with intimidating jumps, the show jumping stadium, the driving courses, and of course the trails. It was like a theme park for equestrians.
The first 15 miles flew by. Hombre was great for sponging, drank and snacked very well on the trail. We passed the two groups ahead of us and were the first ones into the hold. Sponged, scraped, pulsed down, trotted out, and were cleared to continue. We were just about to leave the hold for the second loop when N arrived in. I informed her Hombre was doing great and had been drinking/eating very well which she was super pleased to hear.

The skies were still overcast when we set out on the second loop but the reprieve didn't last long and sun soon came out in full blazing glory. The heat combined with the humidity was starting to get oppressive and both horses were very unmotivated after about 10 miles in. Hombre still ate and drank, sponged well but his dark bay coat was doing him no favors in cooling down so I slowed our pace and walked as much as possible. Hombre's long flowing heavy mane was tied up in braids at the start of the ride but as the day went on, the braids started to fall out and his mane cascaded down his neck in thick waves; while he looked drop-dead gorgeous, it trapped a ton of heat against his neck so I started to use my free hand to pull his mane away from his neck to try and aid cooling. Since we were walking so much, L and Jack soon left us behind on the trail. My top priority was taking care of Hombre so we were going to ride our own ride. The last 5 miles were rough but we did it and crossed the finish line within time parameters.

Arriving in the hold I noticed that N's Polo was in his stall but N herself was no where to be seen (I found out later that N had rider optioned when the people she was riding with decided to pull). We had 20 minutes before presenting for final P&R so I stripped tack and began sponging and scraping while Hombre dug into his food with gusto. We walked over to get final P&R right before our elasped time was up.

The trot out went without a problem, respiration was fine but pulse was a 70...I felt my stomach drop in shock. Hombre had been eating and drinking very well all day, why was his pulse still so high? CTR rules allow a recheck to achieve the 64 pulse parameter within the 1-hour arrival window so I took him back to the hold area to sponge, scrape and get more food and water into him. N showed up and I filled her in on the situation. When Hombre started showing signs of being uncomfortable, another rider had a syringe of calcium gluconate to see if that would sort him out. Within a couple minutes Hombre was looking much better and we got an offical pulse check. It was a 54 and since it came down within the hour well within parameters, we got our completion.

The completion left a bitter taste in my mouth though and I found out later that despite eating and drinking well all morning, Hombre still had not been drinking enough and was dehydrated. The strange thing was that N did not say anything to me about electrolyting him at the hold nor did she have any e-lytes at the hold. I'm not sure why that happened but it did.

After the hands on evaluation, I still worried about metabolic issues cropping up so I decided to skip dinner and took up watch by Hombre's stall for the rest of the evening. L sat with me and I confided in her that despite the "completion", I felt awful that Hombre had to suffer for something that could have been easily prevented. L told me not to beat myself up over it- I took great care of him on the trail and at the holds, N did not say anything about e-lytes, and Hombre was doing fine. L was right on all accounts but it didn't stop me from feeling bad about it though.
I watched over Hombre for as long as I could (he ate, drank, pooped, and peed so all was well) but I had a 2.5-3 hour drive ahead of me and had to hit the road soon. I had not seen N since getting Hombre settled into his stall and I finally found her sitting in her trailer when I went to say good bye.

All in all Chesapeake was a great ride- the trails were very diverse and I'd love to ride there again. This experience was also lot of firsts for me and certainly taught me a lot of lessons that I will be taking to heart from this point forward. One being to set up holds in advance (and perferably in daylight) with everything you need and more importantly to be proactive with questions and not assume that owners will always tell you everything you need to know to take care of their horse successfully.

Despite the insane whirling and spinning around when I first mounted up and his reputation for being difficult and a grouch at times, Hombre never acted up once on the trail with me and didn't put a foot out of line. He  was a pleasure to ride and gave me his absolute all from start to finish. I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to partner up with him.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Lows and Highs

The past few days have been nothing less than an emotional rollercoaster.

While the barn move itself didn't worry me too much, I was most stressed about how Quest would do in a herd pasture turnout setting since I still know next to nothing about her history before I pulled her from auction.  Quest seemed like she was acclimating quite well though, maybe all my worrying was for nothing...

J called on Friday mid-morning saying that Quest got kicked in the right stifle while out in pasture. Quest was walking okay but there was a deep cut, lots of swelling, and she was lame at the trot. J asked if I wanted the vet out; I didn't need to think about it- I knew enough that stifle injuries are not to be taken lightly. By some stroke of luck, I already had taken the afternoon off of work to attend a local art convention so I was able to be there when the vet arrived for the examination. He poked and prodded the injury and watched her walk and trot. The vet surmised that the kick had landed square in front of the leg. While he doubted that anything was fractured since Quest was moving well despite the extent of the injury, radiographs were recommended to make sure that the patella wasn't cracked.

Since the cut was right on the point of the knee and any stitches would just get ripped out, the vet cleaned out the wound while I held her and J administered the oral antibiotics. The stifle was pretty swollen so the vet suggested if I wanted to get radiographs done to do it after giving it a weekend.  The edema was fortunately isolated at the stifle and Quest was walking around with little issue so I really hoped it was just bruised and something that will mend with time and stall rest. I stayed at the barn until evening and helped get Quest settled into her stall for the night. She wasn't too happy about that but it was vet's orders.

I headed to the art convention, met up with my friends and tried to enjoy myself but I was definitely not emotionally there at all. I got a text from J later that night, apologizing again and offered her horses if I wanted to ride that weekend. While it was a nice gesture that I sincerely appreciated, I honestly wasn’t in the mood....I know it was no one's fault but I was very worried because I didn’t know what any of this would mean for Quest's future.

On Saturday evening J updated me that the swelling was down by 50% and Quest had eaten all of her grain, which I was very relieved to hear. I decided to visit after church on Sunday and arrived right as J and B were tacking up for a training ride.  Quest's stifle was looking SO much better and she was feeling good too, evidenced by the laps she was doing inside of the stall. Despite my still worried mood, I couldn't help but grin at her energy- this mare definitely did not act like a horse that got kicked in the leg two days ago.

The vet came out last night to do radiographs. While I wasn't able to be there because he was scheduled to arrive right when I got out of work, I was told the visit went well and it was good news- Quest got the vet's okay to be turned out tomorrow!!

I'm so relieved right now. Like giddy happy relieved. It'll be a couple weeks before we can get back to riding the trails again but Quest is fine. We'll be fine. I knew the road to our endurance dreams would be a hard one, and this is probably just the first in a long series of challenges. Nothing has stopped us yet though.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Moving Day & First Trail Ride

Quest and I moved to our new barn this weekend and it was uneventful....for the most part! I wanted to keep the move as low key as possible but arrived to a very not-lowkey mare whirling around in her stall since the stable hands put her inside the empty barn first and Quest thought it was the end of the world.

It's been a year since Quest has been on a trailer but she knew something was going on. She was up from being "abandoned" in the stall too so I waited for her to chill out before taking her out. While waiting for the trailer to be prepped, I worked with her on the ground first doing our forward, whoa, back, exercises. That helped dial her brain back on me and when it was time to load up, she hopped up on trailer like an old pro; entire thing from start to finish was less than a minute. Good mare! 

The drive took about an hour and 15 minutes taking mostly local roads. Quest unloaded fine but she was anxious and was drenched in sweat from the trip...probably thought she was going back to auction ): She was turned out in the temporary QT paddock, got hay, water. Despite the travel anxiety, she dried off and settled in super quickly with zero drama. I was totally expecting some fireworks since my friends back at the old barn told me Quest had been extremely worked up the first week she arrived, racing and bucking around in the round pen. None of that happened though- the most exciting thing that happened was a little trotting around and calling when the herd moved out of her sight to the lower pastures.

Checking out the paddock
Meeting some of the future pasture mates
She was stalled at night and then turned out again yesterday morning. When I showed up in the afternoon, I thought I was imagining things when I saw Quest stuck her head over the main pasture fence to greet me as I drove up...She wasn't scheduled to be moved with the rest of the herd until much later in the week.

Well apparently a certain mare thought that gates were a nice suggestion and JUMPED out of her temporary QT paddock and into the main pasture. Fortunately Quest cleared the fence and didn't look worse for the wear from her little adventure asides from a couple bite marks on her rump. Sigh.

They think she jumped the lowest part of the fence on the left. The gate has since been replaced

Quest was hanging by the gate when I arrived and quite eager for attention. While not anxious or worked up, she did look a little forlorn all by her lonesome since the rest of the herd hasn't quite warmed up to her yet. When went to fetch her from the pasture I muttered, "You know you did something very bad today." While grooming, I noticed that Quest's feet have already changed a lot in just a couple days. She hasn't been turned out this much ever so I'm expecting some adjusting to life on the move.

I'm still waiting on a couple of things for my treeless saddle to arrive so I tacked up with the treed saddle for this ride. We headed out on our first trail ride at the new barn with J and her daughter B escorting. We trotted through forests, walked through hay fields, hung out in a big river with 7-8 other horses, crossed a huge bridge (first ever for both of us!), and even led the way for a good section of the ride home. When we got back to the barn, another endurance rider named L had stopped by to visit. I have been friends with L for awhile on FB so it a very nice treat to meet and chat with her in person finally.

I'm happy Quest did as well as I could have ever hoped for being our second day at a totally new-to-us place. She kept up and powered down the trail along with J and B's seasoned endurance horses, behaved politely around them, rode on a loose rein during our walk breaks, tuned her brain back to me with one-rein stops when her anxiety was going up, and I was able to enjoy the ride instead of worrying about antics. I think I'm starting to figure what works and doesn't work for her which I hope will help keep her anxiety to sane levels since rides are going to be a WHOLE different level of excitement. Time will tell what things really need work in order to be truly trail ready but so far, so good.