Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2015 Recap

This year was certainly a year of many firsts for both me and Quest.

12 26 15a

We shared our first winter together and spent a lot of time in the dustbowl. Though I griped about the weather to no end, the winter did us a huge favor in hindsight. The snow and ice forced me to do a lot of groundwork and hand walking on the trail- all things I know that are important in a new horse & owner relationship but easily overlooked. The cold temperatures also kept our rides short but productive. I did a ton of bareback riding and improved my seat so much during those two months- I went from struggling to sit the trot to comfortably cantering bareback with one hand on the reins.

When spring finally arrived, Quest and I spent our evenings on the trail wandering and exploring but eventually we got bored. Our 3-mile jaunts grew into a measly 6-miles as I painstakingly tried to scrape together more mileage for us. It was impossible to do a trail ride without stopping every few yards to cross a street and of course sudden encounters with ATV/motorcross bike riders illegally using the trail were a nightmare. I had a few issues with the BOs as well but I stuck it out at KBTC as long as I could because my barn friends and I still had a lot of fun making memories together while swimming in the river, painting My Little Pony cutie marks, and going for night rides with glow sticks.

Quest also proved to be a fantastic teacher and gave a few of my friends their first riding lessons. This is something that I’m still very proud of to this day. It’s not every day you meet a horse that has the get up and go to boogie down the trail but has the patience to quietly pack beginners around an arena.

I continued to trim Quest's feet myself this year and got more comfortable with handling a rasp. Asides from two trims where I asked R to trim and check on my work in March and then had J’s farrier recently do a trim earlier this December, I’ve been doing Quest’s feet 100% all by myself and not doing too badly. I am very lucky that mareface has pretty solid feet to begin with though. Going forward, I really want to keep her barefoot if possible and use boots at rides. The first LD of the 2016 season will be in sand so they won’t be needed until later. I suspect there will be a very extensive hoof boots tag in my near future as I document my struggle to figure out what works/doesn’t work though. Fingers crossed it’ll be a relatively painless experience…

By far the most exciting things that happened this year were celebrating my first full year of horse ownership and taking the first steps into making endurance riding a reality.

This past summer, I had the pleasure and privilege of catch riding in two CTRs, earning two completions and 55 lifetime rider miles. The rides sealed the deal that distance riding was going to be my discipline. Folks typically suggest volunteering at a ride first to get experience but I guess for me it was go big or go home! I learn more from doing and I certainly learned a lot. The two rides were very different though both very educational. I went from a Reserve Champion in the first ride to a metabolic scare in the second. I know the latter was not my fault but it really goes to show how difficult this sport is. And I have to say while there is the importance of training and knowing your equine partner, there is definitely a measure of luck that comes into play.

Moving Quest to WSS at the end of summer was another major step towards officially beginning our endurance journey. The barn location is both a gift and a curse- I never wanted to be a weekend warrior but it was the price I had to pay. Under the watchful eyes and guidance of J and B, Quest has been thriving and roaming acres of pasture 24/7. On the weekends, we have been enjoying the miles of trails that are within walking distance. Most of our rides have been solo due to schedule differences though we have done a handful of group rides at home. She has been doing very well in group trail rides with new horses, leading, following, though she can get saucy competitive in a neck-to-neck race. In October, we trailered off property for the first time to attend our first hunter pace. It was SO much fun.
I made a few changes to our tack- began using a rope halter/snap-on headstall combo and bought a treeless saddle and Skito pad which has been working out great so far. At J’s suggestion, I started riding with a running martingale and a full cheek snaffle bit, both of which Quest took to just fine. Each trail ride has helped me gain insight into how Quest is progressing and so far, so good! Physically, she seems to never tire. Mentally, she is starting to figure out her job and really enjoys moving out. Granted, there are still moments of looky spooks but for the most part, Quest is nose forward and straight. And she doesn’t seem to mind runners either.

I’m pleased with how far we’ve come in this year and excited for the upcoming ride season. Hope to see you on the trails in 2016!

Monday, December 14, 2015


Last Saturday was the first day this month that I was able to get out to the barn to see Quest…and the month is nearly half over! I only had 3 days in NJ before I was to fly back out to Texas for another week and I was still feeling pretty tired when I woke up Saturday morning. It was very tempting to laze around in bed at home. I’m glad I dragged my exhausted butt out to the barn because the weather was PERFECT for riding (60s in mid-December in Northern NJ!) and Quest gave me an equally perfect ride. 

When I arrived at the barn, I saw my mare going for a thorough roll in the mud- glad to see she’s making good use of that new rain sheet I got her!  Shaking my head with a resigned sigh, I fetched her from pasture and grabbed the treed saddle with intentions of doing a groundpole/cavaletti session in the pasture-arena.

J and B arrived to do the morning feedings while I was grooming. I let Quest eat in peace while I fetched the rest of my tack and got a chance to chat with J. She updated me that Quest was finally putting on some nice weight.

Me likey <3 

After Quest polished off her entire breakfast, I tacked up and we headed out into the pasture arena to set up ground poles while J dropped B off at a friend’s barn. There was a backhoe parked in the corner along the pasture fence line that I knew Quest was going to give the hairy eyeball and dragon snort. Sure enough, we spent the first 10 minutes talking about how the scary backhoe was not going to eat her and giving it a 50 foot passing berth was not necessary. Smart mareface soon figured it out and we settled into a nice working trot and got to business with the ground poles. Things were going well, so I asked for a canter and we chugged steadily along the fence in the arena doing several laps when suddenly Quest went down.

Next thing I realized I was flat on my back on the ground and poor Quest was standing next to me, trembling all over. I gave myself a moment before I stood up. I saw that her right shoulder, legs, and my saddle covered in mud. It was pretty obvious what had happened- Quest slipped, went down on her side and we ate mud. I immediately began checking to make sure she was okay and thankfully, she was.  J had been in the paddock area tacking up Luke for a trail ride when she saw us go down. We walked back to the paddock where she met us and asked if I was okay and if I hit my head.  Once prodded, I recalled landing on my back which took the brunt of the impact, that was confirmed by dirt on my back and lack thereof on my helmet.

I tied Quest back up in the paddock and J helped me clean her up. Poor mare was still trembling slightly, quite aware that something bad had happened but she relaxed when I patted her quietly, reassuring her it wasn’t her fault. If anything it was an error in judgment on my part. 

We were just about done cleaning up when we saw two riders coming up the street. I was introduced to R, a lady who owns a barn down the street and has been asking B to help her put miles on a mare named Lucy who was a great jumper but not so great trail horse. R herself was riding a cute TB gelding named Finale. J and I mounted up and our little group of four set off for the trails. To my surprise, Quest immediately decided to take the lead so we led the first part of the ride. Mareface did SO well. She was still looky but kept her nose pointed forward and power trotted along, I actually had to half-halt to get her to ease back to a pace that Lucy and Finale could keep up with. Throughout the ride we switched around positions in the line so everyone that wanted to had a chance to lead and follow. Quest had no problems with all of that. R and I rode side by side for the most part to talk and get to know each other. She seemed genuinely impressed to hear that I had been riding for only two years and that mareface came from an auction. Yes, I know my horse awesome <3

We did lots of trotting and cantering in sections. No issues there though I can definitely see how Quest could get competitive in a neck-to-neck race. At one point, B and I had our horses cantering side-by-side on the trail and Quest seriously was like BRING IT ON. While heading up to the ridge, J asked if I wanted to race up the hill. I got into my two-point and off we charged! Quest left poor Luke in the dust ;) I slowed her when we crested the hilltop and J and Luke caught up with us. We were both laughing and grinning from ear to ear.

All in all and despite the tumble we took earlier, the morning went as well as I could have dreamed. Quest led bravely, followed politely, and did excellent with unfamiliar horses trotting and cantering next to, in front, and behind her. The best part was she barely broke a sweat, except under the saddle and pad, while the three other horses were lathered at the end of the ride.

When we got back to the barn and parted ways with B and R, J and I talked game plan for endurance rides next season. Let’s just say that after our conversation, I am giddy excited what the future holds for us!

Oh, and a obligatory photo of our first satin. We ended up placing 5th in our first hunter pace last October :)