Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bloodlines in Endurance - Just Curiosity

So I was re-reading the December 2008 copy of Endurance News which showed the 2008 award standings for horses and riders in the AERC, both endurance and LD.

I was surprised at the absolute absence of any Varian bred Arabians. I don't believe I saw a single horse listed with a "V" after its name. I could have missed them, but I looked pretty carefully.

My previous experience with horses was geared towards the show ring. It didn't matter western, hunt, country, english, halter - if it was Arabian showing, I was interested. I've mentioned before that one of my childhood (and teenage) goals/dreams was to be an Arabian breeder/trainer and make it big in the show ring. (I'm glad I've come to my senses!!) Anyway, it is my understanding that Arabians with Varian breeding are the ones that are winning, and have been consistently winning in the show ring. I thought it was something like 40-60% of all winners were Varian bred (obviously I'm too lazy to look up the actual statistic, but they do a lot of winning). I had a chance to go to Varian Arabians out in California sometime in high school for the Summer Spectacular, where we saw the breeding stallions, went on a mare walk, saw the performance horses and prospects for sale, and I was very impressed. I have had the opportunity to ride and work with a few Varian bred horses and liked them very much.

So, I was surprised that none of the horses high in the award standings in endurance riding were Varian bred. Does anyone have any insight as to why?? It's not pressing - I am NOT in the market for a horse AT ALL right now, nor will be in the near future, but I am curious.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Teamwork and Partnership - On the Ground to Down the Trail

For the next several months, any work I do with Arabee is going to be done from the ground. At this point, I am not concerned about fitness. Baby's not due until the very end of October, maybe first part of November, and then I'll have another 6-8 weeks before I'll really be ready to get back in the saddle. So, we're looking at not starting riding again until mid-late December. If I make Chicken Chase 2010 my first LD completion goal (which should be sometime in April) I'll have enough time to get her ready for a slow LD even if I don't start riding again until January. I have a much better idea of what it will take to do this now than I did before. I have most of the equipment I need, saddle, pad, saddle pack, hoof boots, rump rug, sheets, etc - I should be good to go to jump back into training mode when the time comes.

I don't want to just sit around this summer though and wait. I'm still scouting out good deals on water tubs, rain gear, horse camping equipment, winter riding wear. I'm really working hard on keeping Arabee's feet perfectly trimmed. We're taking walks around the farm - I have several routes figured out: the hive, the river, to the red barn, down to the Polly field, the mound...each ranging from 1/2 mile to hopefully 2 miles (I have yet to actually measure distance). These are the places I'll be training at for the first couple of months until baby is old enough to be away from me. I won't haul out for any training rides until baby is at least 12 weeks old, and then I don't want to miss more than one feeding, so it's important I set up a good network of riding places around home. So far, these walks have been good for us, and have actually improved bonding somewhat, but I want to do more.

Arabee wears her rope halter, I clip on one of the leather split reins, tie a knot in the end and stick it in my waistband - I am hands-free and she sticks to my side without interference from me whatsoever if she behaves well (which 97% of the time she does). If I turn my shoulders towards her, she stops. If I turn my shoulders to face her, she backs. She keeps her head at my shoulder always, if she lags, I give her a tug on the rope, if she gets too far ahead, we stop abruptly and she has to back several steps. I want to be able to have the same "feel" under saddle - traveling along on a loose rein unless she needs correction, otherwise moving from my body and voice cues. I don't want to have to mess with her head unless she spooks, or decides she doesn't need to listen to my seat and legs.

I put the surcingle and long lines on her a couple of weeks ago, and we did some long-lining around the barn lot. She did well, was very responsive, framed up really fast and stayed that way most of the time. But, basically the whole time the lines were "in contact" - she never got a release unless she rooted down with her head to pull the lines loose - this is not behavior I want to reinforce! Since it's important to me to be able to ride with basically no rein contact, I think I will have to nix long-lining. We don't have a round pen or arena, and I really don't want to just chase her around the paddock since I'm not really concerned with improving fitness at this time. What I really want to do is some sort of ground exercise beyond just going on walks to improve our communication, improve the bond, improve our teamwork so that when I am ready to get back on and ride things go more smoothly.

I'm drawn to the idea of using TTEAM this summer. It pretty much sounds like a low-stress, hands-on way to work with my horse, that could have helpful meaning for vet checks later when the time comes. Has anyone out there used any TTEAM ideas/methods with their horses, or heard of someone else who has??

I'd love to hear your input on not only TTEAM, but if you know of other similar ideas that I could try out this summer, with the focus on building a better partnership with the horse. Thanks in advance!!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Top of the Rock Crewing Story (with pictures!)

As I mentioned on Saturday, I went down to help crew for Michelle Detmer and Laura (and Michelle's horses - Jazz and Stormy) for the LD at Top of the Rock at Clark State Forest. Left a little later than I'd hoped, and had to get gas (and a gas station cappuccino!) but was still there right at 6am. I asked management (Lois) if they had checked in yet, and some other kind person asked if I was looking for anyone in particular, when Lois spotted Michelle's truck, right up close.

They were grooming, working with the hoof boots (Jazz had easyboot epics on front, Stormy was going to wear renegades on front - both bare in back) and we talked - Michelle introduced me to Laura. It's hard to go anywhere without talking about babies (for me, anyway!) so we talked about each other's kids, and also the horses - what a great combination!!! :-) L & M went to check in, while I stayed with the horses. The 50 was to start at 7:00am, and the LD at 7:10, so we had plenty of time to get ready.

So we went up and they vetted in the horses, grazed the horses, and electrolyted the horses, tacked the horses, and other last-minute things, and headed up to the start. Both Stormy and Jazz were quite calm - if Arabee is that calm at the start of a ride jext season I will be VERY happy! I think there were 28 horses (or so) in the LD, Michelle and Laura were BB and AA, the last two rider numbers (letters??) to have checked in. The start was controlled, since they had to follow the road to get to the trail, so they all stayed behind letter "O" until the last horse was off the pavement.

At that point, I just hung around at the start for a while, got my chair and lunch out of the car and brought it back to the trailer, and waited. The first loop was 15 miles, and I was glad I got back to the in-timers when I did, because I was surprised to see the first group of 5 horses coming in! I am not sure of the exact time, but it was somewhere between 1 - 1 1/2 hours for the first loop. Michelle and Laura were in 2nd and 3rd, and Jazz pulsed down in first place, but Stormy took a little longer (I think 3rd or so), but still just fine.

Both mares drank, then they were vetted in, but both needed improved gut sounds, so the main thing we worked on was getting them to eat. They got hay, beet pulp and grain, water, and as much grass as they would eat for the whole hold. It was pretty muddy, so some tack got washed off at the hose, and parts of the horses too. I know I'm forgetting some things, but at the end they headed back to the out-timer a few minutes past time, and had a slower second loop of 10 miles. Michelle said that they were pretty much just running the whole time for the first loop except for they'd trot if there was a "cliff"! Must have been pretty exhilirating! There won't be much chance of me Top 5-ing for a looong time, I like to walk and trot too much!

After M and L left, I saw several other riders coming in. Some 50 milers, some LD riders. I saw Chris E. and her gelding, Toby, and talked with her, and her riding buddy, whose horse's name was Strider, I didn't get her name though! After Toby and Strider left, the first place LD horse had just come in, and I knew it was possible that Michelle and Laura wouldn't be far behind, so I stayed up front with the sponge and a lead rope so I wouldn't miss them. Turned out they were somewhere between 30 and 40 minutes behind the first place horse, Laura in 4th, Michelle in 5th. Only the Top 5 can show for Best Condition judging, and they decided to go for it.

So they took the horses back after a good, long drink at the trough, and untacked, then had to weigh in while the horses ate hay. Then Jazz and Stormy got the mud hosed off, and we offered more grain and beet pulp and hand grazed them. I held one horse or the other so Laura and Michelle took turns eating lunch. Then the 1 hour was up and it was time to vet back in for BC. I'm not sure who actually won BC - I left right when Laura and Michelle did, before the results were in.

So, crewing was a good experience. I felt like I didn't do very much, but both Michelle and Laura were very appreciative! I hope I didn't spoil them for the next ride when they don't have someone to hold a horse or take a jacket back, but it wasn't a very hard job for me, but it was so great to be at the ride and get more experience! It really was just right amount of exertion for me though. It was a lot different than volunteering for the actual ride like I did at Chicken Chase - many more people talked to me at Chicken Chase than this weekend, which made sense, because when I was scribing I came in contact with a lot more people, especially the vets! So, I missed a lot of interaction this time, but it was definitely a very good experience to see a different side of a ride. Big thanks to Michelle for agreeing to let me come down and hang around her and Laura on Saturday!! (and Michelle, if I left anything out that's important, feel free to correct me!!)