Monday, September 27, 2021

Goodbye Trailer

After a lot of thinking and internal deliberation, I made the decision to list my trailer for sale last weekend. 

Getting hooked up to the new owners' truck

There must have been a trailer scarcity going on or maybe my timing and price was just right but my message inbox exploded overnight. I think I got around 40-50 offers in less than a week after posting. It was rather overwhelming to field all the messages coming in and decide on which buyer to go with but in the end, I went with my gut instinct and I think I made the right decision. My trailer went home with a young family who will be giving it a complete make-over and a new purpose. I'm excited to see how it turns out. 

I am definitely feeling little sad about selling my little stock trailer but with everything going on in my life at the moment, it was too nice to sit in a field when it still had years of use left in it. I don't regret buying it when I did 5 years ago and it was really nice to have around. But my immediate goals and needs have changed over the past couple years and I'll probably be trailer-less for the next few years since our new barn home (more on that in a little bit) will take care of our needs. The husband has promised me a nicer trailer when the time comes so we'll be mobile again someday whenever that is. 

As for the new was a quick decision that my husband and I made together. Baby C has been an amazing little roadtrip companion for the past 10-11 months and has weathered long drives with little issue. However as he's getting older and more opinionated now, the 2-hour roundtrip drive to the barn on the weekends was exhausting for everyone and I feel very pressed for time when I'm out riding with Quest. To his credit, husband has never made me feel guilty and actually 90% of the time he's the one doing the driving however I want to be cognizant of how he feels (even when he doesn't say it out loud). The current barn was tough to beat in terms of board cost but greater was the inevitable realization that it was time for Quest and me to find a new barn closer to home.  

The smiles! 

From just being a part of the local horse community, I knew full well going into this search that the toughest part would be finding something that would fit my location/drive distance radius AND have ample pasture turnout. But I had to hope- so I posted a causal ISO in the local horse FB group and crossed my fingers. 

I got a ton of responses from folks wanting to help (and solicit business) but nothing really quite fit the bill- until I got a private message from a lady named T who offered to have us visit her farmette located about 30-35 minutes away from home. We chatted extensively through FB and set up a time to stop by later that weekend. My little family came along for the visit - they are a part of this horse adventure as well and it was important to have T get to know my family if she was opening up her home property to us. The farmette has a stall for everyone for feeding 2x a day and semi-private pasture paddock attached and a larger main pasture for turnout. For riding, there is an outdoor arena with jumps, panels for a round pen if needed, and direct access to 5-mile ballast-footing trail in a WMA with lots of other forest trails. T often hauls out for shows and hunter paces so if we ever wanted a ride, she has already made her rig and herself available to us. All in all it seemed like a good set up for our current needs but I still gave myself a couple days to think it over before making the decision. The move will be in a few days time and I'll get some media to share after the dust has settled.   

As for the mareface, Quest is doing well and we have been getting in lovely arena rides when I have the time to fit them in. I've wanted to try other bitless options with her for a very long time and finally got the little-S hackmore set up exactly the way I want. Best mareface took it it in stride in our first arena ride testing it out with no drama or fuss. I'm hoping to do more rides with it, maybe take it out on trail later when we are moved into the new place. It'll be really nice to have Quest closer to home again, I really missed seeing her around.

Forever my happy place <3 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Baby Boy's First Pony Ride

The big moment finally happened. My little guy had his first pony ride this past weekend and absolutely LOVED it. 

As much as I wanted to instantly throw my kid on top of my horse and hit the trails, I made myself wait until Caleb proved he had good core and head control. When I noticed he was hitting the big developmental milestones- being able to sit up unassisted for as long as he wanted to and could completely roll over, I took that for a green light. 

I used a bareback pad for our little ride - I feel a lot more secure riding bareback for some reason and just in case a quick emergency dismount was needed, I didn't want to get tangled up in stirrups. 

But obviously, nothing bad happened. Everyone was all smiles the entire time and Caleb would pet Quest's mane and withers whenever he could reach. Mareface was a complete saint in the outdoor arena and never put a single foot out of line. I was so happy to share my love of horses and riding with my kid. Hopefully this bodes well for future horse adventures as a family.  

Monday, April 19, 2021

DIY Half Pad Cover with Shims

Ever since I did my first 25mi CTR catch ride in a borrowed treeless saddle years ago, I instantly became a huge fan and immediately got one for my distance tack setup. From the start, I've been using a Supracor saddle pad along with it my treeless saddle with zero issues. In fact, I have always gotten perfect sweat marks and never a sore back on every horse I've used my treeless saddle + Supracor pad combo with. 

However I recently heard the pads weren't exactly ideal for treeless riding over time or longer distances (anything longer than 35mi/LD) due to gradual pad structural breakdown with repeated compression. To be honest, I haven't seen any issues occur after the hundreds of trail miles I put in but it felt prudent to maybe try and prevent possible issues from becoming bigger problems in the future.

I was definitely pretty gutted though since I love how easy the Supracor pad was to clean (just rinse and hang dry) and as a first-time mom with a 5mo boy, anything that can save me hours of scrubbing and cleaning is a huge win in my books. Determined to prolong the use of my pads, I started doing my research in all the endurance and trail riding groups and to my immense relief, a lot of seasoned riders provided a similar suggestion that had worked successfully for them- using a Skito Equalizer Half Pad under the saddle to provide extra spine clearance.

Unfortunately after doing some digging, the half pad was providing to be very elusive to find and it was no longer being made by the company. After getting some photos of the product, it definitely looked like something that I could try my hand making though! 

For materials, the only thing I really needed to buy was some canvas fabric. I had all the other materials on hand already from previous projects. 

The materials I used for this project.
The only thing not pictured here is the Velcro

I created the cover pattern using a Skito shim I had and made sure to include a seam allowance and ample room on the side were the Velcro would be sewn in. I made four separate panels using the same template and sewed them all together edge to edge creating a "pocket" with an opening that would be sealed together by the Velcro. 

All four panels now sewn together

Shims inserted with sewn Velcro closures

The final step was sewing the spine with the cover right side out to separate the two shim pockets and keep them from sliding from side to side. With that done, I checked the fit against my Supracor pad and it came out pretty nice! 

I'm planning to give the half pad a test ride with Quest the next time I'm out at the barn and will update with how things go. Hopefully everything works out and I can continue to enjoy using my Supracor pad for many more long distance miles.

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 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'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!