Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Moments In Between

Hi and hello from Team Mareface! Quest and I are doing well and have been enjoying the quickly fading daylight and frigid evening temperatures. Not.

But really, we have been getting in some great rides despite all that! Earlier this month, I celebrated a milestone birthday and took a couple days off to indulge and self-care. I managed to fit in two trail rides that week and did a long ride out to Hawk Watch.

The trails were really busy as we had several days of rain and the weather finally cleared up for everyone to come out of the woodwork. We had several leashed dogs lunge at us but Quest was totally fine and just moved along.

Autumn held on for quite sometime this year but we finally got our first snow earlier this week. It caused a huge headache and rather dangerous conditions for the homeward commute (my usual 7-minute drive turned into a 2-hour ordeal), however I didn't get into any accidents and am incredibly grateful for that.

The snow stuck around for Quest and me to enjoy it, safely, on the weekend though. I tacked Quest up in the bareback pad and we started in the indoor first before headed out onto the snow-laden trails. Despite the cold, it was a lovely day to be out and riding bareback kept me nice and warm.

Mareface was fantastic and still seems to enjoy being out and about in the snow which is great news for me. I love snow rides so much.

Things like this definitively reassure me that taking this year off to mentally and physically rest was the right choice. Simply being able to enjoy time together has done good things for us and our relationship. The changes aren't super noticeable to most, but for me they speak volumes.

I miss distance riding to be sure and we'll get back to work when life allows. But for now, we're both happy and that's what matters the most.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Gold, Platinum, and A Diamond

A few weekends ago, my sister and nephew T accompanied me on a quick barn visit after work. We couldn't stay out too late since the little guy has an early bedtime but my sister really wanted him to see the horses.

Quest was definitely curious but so gentle with T, letting him close the distance between them. Even when he nearly jabbed her in the eye with an excited outstretched hand, she did nothing more than move her head away.

Because of the time crunch, I opted to tack up and hop on Quest right in pasture. Despite the time between our rides, mareface was totally at ease so much so that my sister handed her kid to me and I took him on a short walk around the pasture. My nephew was fearless and loved the higher vantage point haha

Quest never put a foot out of line the entire time and listened so well. This mare is seriously worth her weight in gold <3

As for those big life updates....! I got engaged :)

W proposed this past weekend and my entire family was in on the surprise. I knew it was happening sometime but the specifics I wasn't as sure about haha

I've chatted with enough fellow equestrian ladies to know how important it is to have an SO who is actually on board with our lifestyle choice. I've seen the other side of that and if you ask me, any person who forces the love of his/her life to make that kind of choice isn't worth it.


I feel very lucky that W gets that Quest means a lot to me. And even though he doesn't ride (...yet lol), he has been very supportive of my distance riding goals which is something I'm immensely grateful for. The next few months are going to be chaotic with wedding planning and other big life things and undoubtedly things will get stressful and overwhelming. But I'm looking forward to it. I'm simply glad and blessed to have a good mare and a good man at my side through it all.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Gotcha Day (belated!)

Last week was Quest's Gotcha Day! Four years since I saw a certain mareface at auction and took a leap of faith. Everything has changed for the better since then <3

With summer drawing to a close, we've been getting some decent breaks in the weather and humidity to get in trail time. Quest continues to do well (sound!) and our solo outings have been a nice escape from the constant insanity that has been my daily existence.

The level of busy isn't a bad thing though. I have some big life and horse-related happenings in the works and I'm very excited for what changes the next stage will bring.

All in all, things are good with us and for that I'm truly grateful and blessed. Taking a season off just to enjoy being with Quest and taking care of myself was really good and so very needed. But it's time to start getting back to work...because maybe, just maybe, endurance will finally be a part of our lives soon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Ever Stronger

Life has been busy busy busy- nothing new there. Work has been keeping me on the road a lot (and giving me a ton of airline mileage lol) but whenever I do find myself back at home, I always make time for a ride. 

To her credit, Quest has been SO good despite the haphazard and sporadic ride schedule. It marvels me to no end that we can get right back to it regardless of the many days, sometimes nearly a week, going by between the last ride and now. Mareface still has her sassy moments obviously but those have been very few and far in between. Most of the time it's simple as tacking up, hopping on, and deciding what trail to explore together. 

Our rides have been 100% solo still (Mel is working through some feet issues and other folks at the barn are hard to coordinate with) but that's fine. Quest is very much okay with being by herself and eats up the trail happily. 

Last weekend I took L, one of the high school girls I mentor, out to the barn to meet and ride Quest. This was something we had planned since last year but due to circumstances (L tragically lost her brother in December and a few months later in May her dad also passed away), we didn't make it out to the barn until this weekend. 

We got an early start to escape the heat and had a great morning at the barn. L was eager to learn and help. After giving her a quick run-through of basic horse care and horse sense, I handed L a brush and she helped groom Quest while I tacked up. 

We headed to the indoor arena and I hopped on Quest first. Since I had been out of town all last week, it was a good mental check (and one that I normally do whenever I have guest riders) but  mareface was completely fine from the start. She was on her absolute best behavior and did so well for L the entire time. It was starting to get really warm in the indoor when we finished the riding lesson so we cooled off with a quick loop walk on the trails before heading back to untack, bathe, and stuff Quest with treats. After the barn, I treated L to lunch and we got ice cream for dessert before I dropped her off at home. L had a great time and it was just so good to see her smiling again. 

There's no denying that horses can do things for people that other humans can't though. In fact, I began riding because I needed something, anything to get me out of the mental state I was in. Even now, I go to the barn on a bad day and just spending time with Quest-the things that burdened me somehow seem to go away, even for a moment and that's sometimes all the reminder I need to make it through another day.  

Those reasons and more are why I realize how truly blessed that I resolved to learn how to ride and followed my gut instinct that day in August four years ago when I bought a certain mare sight unseen at a feedlot auction. I'm grateful that I can share Quest and my love of riding with those who otherwise would have not ever had the chance. Horse ownership is not without its challenges but this is one of the many reasons why I do what I do. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

Hello Summer

Quest turned 14 this past weekend! Unfortunately we haven't been able to properly celebrate yet since I had to attend and help friends at their wedding but you rest assured the mareface will indeed get her traditional horse birthday cake ;) I wouldn't be so cruel to deprive her of those moments of joy in life.

Thanks to the longer summer daylight hours, we've been getting a good number of weekday evening trail rides in. Quest has been so delightfully steady and sane that I've been doing about 50% of those rides bareback. The benefits are plenty from riding without a saddle too.  It doesn't take much time at all to get her groomed and tacked up so we make the most of our time and whenever I find myself getting lazy while riding, nothing cures that instantly like a bareback trail ride. No lack of core, poor posture, or being lazy with your seat here haha

With summer in full swing, my weekends have been filled with too many things to do but on those days that are blissfully unspoken for, I have set aside for longer trail rides. The main goal for those outings has been having a safe, fun time while getting in some quick, cardio-filled miles. It satisfies our need for speed and it makes me so happy to see mareface charge up those hill climbs easily with happy ears up and forward.

Best of all, Quest has been sound sound sound.

Since we aren't actively training for any major events, I've decided to keep mareface barefoot for as long as possible and am watching her feet (especially that pesky clubfoot) like a hawk. The farrier I'm currently using has been amazing with communication. He calls/texts me schedule availability and has even sent me mid-trim pictures of Quest. It's super wonderful and I'm satisfied with his work so far. Most of our trail outings are done barefoot but for rocky rides like the climbs at Hawk Watch, I boot her fronts and that setup has been working out well.

As for events, I had fully intended to do a number of off-site trail adventures and fun hunt paces but with gas prices being such a travesty lately and my truck cost-sharing partner being in bad financial shape, it doesn't feel like a prudent adult decision at the moment. Endurance is still in the books for us, though probably not as soon as I had hoped...but know what? That's fine. The sport will still be around when Quest and I are ready.

Right now, we're just enjoying our time together and that's totally okay :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

As of Late

I think the weather has finally decided that it'll stick with spring. Work business trips and friend weddings have kept me from enjoying the nicer weather lately but Quest and I have gotten in some solid rides still.

A few weeks ago, we did a fantastic 8.5 mile morning solo meander to Hawk Watch one weekend. It was 80 degrees(!) and our trails were unusually crowded with hikers, dog walkers, mountain bikers out enjoying a brief respite from the cold. Despite the high foot and road traffic, mareface handled herself quite well and somehow kept it together when two guys on dirt bikes suddenly came up behind us with engines revving at full tilt :/

We've also explored our rail trails again and worked on hill canter sets when the footing allows. Quest still does her jig-dance from time to time but I've figured out how to deal with that for the most part and she comes back down to earth after a few moments realizing her antics are way too much work than it's worth.

On the art front, I decided to finally upgrade my decade-old, secondhand art tablet and took on few art commission projects to celebrate the new purchase. One of my friends on FB asked me to do a portrait of her thoroughbred mare- I was quite happy to have such a pretty subject to work with!

Hopefully my work travel schedule settles down so Quest and I can get more consistent trail time together. Gotta work to take care of the mare and me though- we'll enjoy each day and each ride as it comes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Riding the Roads

It's not quite spring just yet but we did get the smallest of reprieves from the winter weather this past weekend and it was enough to hit the trails.

The snow has been stubbornly persisting around the barn thanks to the higher elevation so we stuck to the roadways only for this ride. Quest was feeling great and we moved out at a nice trot wherever the footing was nice. We also did a little bit of cantering as well with two quick hill sprints. It was our first one undersaddle since last year and mareface definitely enjoyed as much as I did. It felt so nice to move out at speed again. I had really missed riding her canter <3

The roads were relatively empty for the most part though the slightly warmer temperatures had mountain bikers coming out of the woodwork and we came across several groups during our trail outing. The majority were super courteous and came to a complete stop to let us by. A few riders didn't stop but each time Quest decided she would nicely stand when we crossed paths. That response was perfectly okay with me since she was totally calm and worry-free.

Despite the big breaks in our riding schedule, I was pleased with how sane the mareface was throughout and on the way home, Quest actually stopped by puddles (muddy ones even) on two occasions and drank deeply. I guess she's finally figuring out this trail horse thing!

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Endless Winter

March really did roar in like a lion. The weather has been extremely uncooperative the past few weeks and rides with the mareface have been sporadic at best.

During the arena sessions that I have been able to sneak in, Quest was all over the place movement-wise and it felt like what it looked. To be fair, it has been a quite a few months since we actually tried to do any "real riding" thanks to the weather and time off from the injury. In terms of baseline fitness though, I think we'll be okay. Quest came through the worst of winter with good weight, all rested up, and her feet are doing well. She's still unshod at the moment but I'm planning to get those front shoes back on next month when we'll be hitting the trails in earnest.  As for me, I might be in the best cardio-endurance shape I've been in awhile thanks to the miles I've done at the gym over the past few months. I'm excited to see how I fare running outside- it'll be quite a happy change from the treadmill.

Physically, mareface has proven time and time again that if I train and ride her accordingly as the terrain dictates, she can physically handle whatever is thrown at her. Mentally though, I feel like we are stuck in the never-ending and infamous "two steps forward and one back" dance. There are improvements to be sure but progress just feels painfully slow and when she decides to liven up a mundane trail ride by engaging her jigging hellbeast mode. The latter will be solved by on-trail training with trail partners but most horses at our barn literally can't keep up with Quest. She walks so fast and briskly that we leave everyone in the dust after a few steps. I've found ways of dealing with the behavior though but we need those miles. Once the temperatures and trail conditions improve, we'll be back at it in full force.

Crossing every digit for favorable trail riding weather soon because cabin fever is hitting me hard.

There are moments of good in the arena though. My sister and 8 month old nephew T are in town visiting my family for the entire month (babies are seriously non-stop and they came up to the barn a couple weeks ago to see Quest. I hopped on for a quick bareback ride first and my sister asked to get some pictures of T with the mareface.

We ended up also walking a few circles in the front third of the indoor and Quest was perfect. She was so tolerant and patient the entire time with T; even when he grabbed her nose, she just snorted and gently moved her head out of his reach. No fuss, no drama.

This mare <3

Monday, February 12, 2018

Ridin' and Shootin'

I can't believe we are pretty much halfway through February already, wow.

Things are continuing to go well on the mareface front and we have been getting in rides whenever the weather allows it. My area got hit with snow and then a quick warm-freezing temperature cycle that caused a lot of ice to stay around for several weeks.

It's these instances I'm even more glad that Quest is pasture boarded because she would probably lose her mind being cooped up in a stall for that long. Despite the cold, she's been keeping her weight well though and is still happy and sassy as ever. I've got some exciting plans coming up for us in the spring. Hopefully Quest will stay sound this year for us to actually have some fun.

As for other, somewhat horse-related news...Ever since the mounted archery clinic almost a year ago, I've been looking for a range to practice on my own. It took some digging around but I actually managed to find a place that was local to me and got to shoot this past weekend!

The weather finally warmed up enough (aka it wasn't below freezing lol) so the bf and I loaded up my gear and headed out for a quick session. I finally got to try out the bow I bought and it worked just fine. I do have a feeling I might eventually need something with a bit more power if I want to work shooting at distance though. I started with 10 yards, gradually moving out to 20 yards to finish and really had to draw back for that power.

Despite a year of not shooting though, my accuracy was actually decent from the get go. My form was okay but I do see places for improvement and thanks to photos and video taken by the bf, I know what I need to adjust for next time. Still ever the beginner but I'm excited to finally have a place to practice!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

2017 Recap

This post is a little belated, but better now than never.

2017 was mixed bag in more ways than one. The year started off on a high note as I finally got to try something I dreamed of since I started this horse thing. In February, I participated in a mounted archery clinic and shooting arrows while riding a horse is just as EPIC as it sounds. I have since gotten my own recurve bow, arrows, and a target and intend to practice when opportunity allows. There aren't many places in NJ where it is legal (and convenient) to shoot so I have to redouble my efforts to find a location where I can get some range time.

In April, I hauled my trailer for the first time. It was just a simple practice run to make sure everything hooked up and worked fine before I stuck Quest in it and took us on the road. It was a little nerve-wracking at first but totally manageable. Mareface and I also started playing with baby jumps that month and she took to it really well. Throughout May and June, we added in fun jump sessions as part of our weekly riding schedule for some cross-training and mental breaks. We continued to explore new training trails and I was looking forward to signing us up for our first distance ride of later that year.

All competition plans came crashing down in July when I went to grab Quest out of pasture and she was lame. With the help of the vet and farrier, we traced the issue back to her clubfoot and addressed it accordingly with corrective shoeing. I was bitterly disappointed to face yet another setback but it was what it was. Erring on the side of caution, I decided to let Quest recover and pasture rest for the remainder of the year.

I was not looking forward enduring yet more time out of the saddle and away from the trails but as luck would have had it, I was invited last-minute to catch ride at Muckleratz CTR in August. I had a lot of fun that weekend and it was just what I needed to lift my mood.

In October, I headed out to Los Angeles and spent some time riding endurance horses on the west coast. It was a trip that reoriented my head and heart when I desperately needed to be set back on course. D and I still continue to communicate now and she has been invaluable source of support and advice.

December started off pretty rough emotionally when I found out that Smokey was going to be put down. I was able to visit him at the old barn and gave him a nice long grooming session complete with treats. I still miss him everyday. The days afterward were difficult, but thanks to my good friends I somehow managed to get through. In attempts to end 2017 in a positive way, I took a week-long staycation and got in a wonderful bareback ride with Quest. It was our first ride in months and it felt like it was coming home. Mareface was totally sound and absolutely perfect, not a foot out of line.

I'm not naive enough to believe that Quest and I are done with our share of challenges on this distance riding journey together but we are back in action, and hopefully older and wiser. Bring on 2018.