Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Good Kind of Busy

I had been going back and forth so much in my mind about whether to compete in our first LD this last weekend, until Thursday night when I finally decided not to try it! Talk about last minute! It was a very good decision.

I'd been getting pretty grumpy here lately because while I LOOOOVE my horse time, and really enjoy riding, it seemed as if I never saw my husband! I was anxious for him to get home from work, not necessarily so I could see him, but so I could run out the door and ride the horse. It seemed like I spent all of his free time on the back of my horse, or trimming feet, or cleaning tack, or detangling mane. We keep a busy schedule, between my husband having a fulltime off farm job that requires him to be reachable by phone 24/7, part time (evenings and weekends) on the farm where we have goats and beef cattle to feed and check on, tractors and equipment to maintain, manure to spread, calving going on, and then maintaining our house and vegetable gardens (we can tomatoes, green beans, freeze corn, dig our own potatoes, and so on - we try to raise enough to last us for the whole year), and then I haven't even yet mentioned our 2 year old and 5 month old children, who keep us very busy in the happiest way.

But, over this winter, with the colder temperatures nicely removing a lot of the outdoor chores, it was easy enough for me to take the time to ride 2 or 3 times each week. We still had enough time to do some things all together as a family. But now that it's warmed up and every spare minute is spent doing necessary things, it's clear that my riding habit has to change until our load lightens up. I'm okay with that. I'm not okay with me spending our only free time on my own with my horse, instead of with my family of 4 getting to enjoy seeing my children play with their daddy and me. To be honest, while I truly loved the time spent riding, during the first part of April I was really starting to crave more family time. My children are only going to be little once. For now during our busy spring planting season, Arabee just will not be the priority. Too many other things that are more important in the grand scheme of things.

And this last weekend, when Chicken Chase was happening, I was disappointed that I didn't get to ride, but on the other hand, I really didn't get the chance to think about it. I had some really fun time spent with my family and extended family. We planted some garden, checked fence and turned the cattle, goats, and horses out to pasture for the first time since Thanksgiving and worked outside with the beautiful sight of grazing animals in the background.

My conditioning Arabee is going to have to wait until our workload lightens up a bit, and I am completely fine with that. First things first.

Monday, April 12, 2010

More Strategic Planning

Okay....so the ride on Saturday didn't go fast enough for me to feel 100% sure I could complete a 30 mile ride in the allotted time. However, I am 100% sure I could complete a 25 mile ride on time! I am flipping back and forth between what to do.

Things I know I'm NOT going to try: the 30 on Friday (distance), or the 25 on Saturday (too many other riders on the trail for our first experience)

I may POSSIBLY do the 25 on Sunday....yes, THIS Sunday! Or I will wait until the end of May.

I am so torn!

Reasons why doing the 25 on Sunday is a good idea:
  • the weather all this week is supposed to be sunny and dry, which means the trails should be as dry as I've ever been on them. Drier trails = less mud!
  • I know that unless something crazy and weird happens that I could finish the 25 mile ride on time.
  • Horse is fit enough to complete, but not so fit that she'll be hyped up the whole time. (I think)
  • I really want to do it!

Reasons why riding on Sunday is NOT such a good idea:

  • It's kind of a last minute thing.....so maybe not thought out quite as well as it needs to be
  • The last 2 times I rode I was dumped. Not too good of a confidence booster!
  • I am not in that great of shape right now, physically, and will be SORE after 25 miles.
  • I'd have to miss church, and also a portion of a fun family get-together with relatives I love and haven't seen in a LONG time, though I'd still get to see them all on Saturday.

On the other hand, this ride this weekend is just the first of many rides in my state. If I choose not to do this one, there's the one at the end of May.

Why I should wait until the end of May:

  • I'll have another month of conditioning and training so that both myself and the horse will be REALLY, really, really READY.
  • ummm, waiting is good at building patience, which is a good thing for everyone to have (yes...I really had to stretch to find more than one good thing about waiting!)

Okay...maybe I need to itemize the things that I'll be working on the next month, whether I ride the LD this weekend or not:

  • Rider fitness: jogging, abdominal strength
  • Horse fitness: continued work on a sustained trot
  • Training: building confidence at the canter (whether or not it's actually used at rides)
  • Horse Health/Soundness: annual vaccinations (next week or 2, always do them in April), clearing up the scratches COMPLETELY although mostly they're all gone except her left hind, getting rid of the thrush that just won't go away due to the sloppy muddy conditions in the winter lot and transitioning to 24/7 pasture turnout, vs "dry" lot wintering.
  • Finding a source for beet pulp w/out molasses
  • other stuff as it comes up

Soo, decisions, decisions. My plan of action for M, T, W of this week is: Hand jogging w/ Arabee and aggressively treating those scratches and thrush (Her frogs are really in good shape, just can't seem to shake it yet this year, but hopefully with treatment this week and the dry weather and pasturing now instead of "dry" lotting she'll have clear hooves by the weekend)

I'll be praying about it and really hope to make a good decision when it comes to when to make our endurance debut.

If anyone has any input, I'm open to hearing your thoughts on the matter!

Saturday, April 10, 2010


Arabee's learning how to be a good camper. She has to finish all the hay in the net and drink the water in the black bucket on the fender before I'll turn her back out. She's not thrilled - fidgeting and keeps looking in the direction of the gate, stomping her feet, and so on; at least she is grabbing mouthfuls of hay every so often. Patience!
I hauled out to Versailles State Park this morning, bought my annual bridle pass, so now I can ride at any Indiana state park without having to buy a day permit. Glad to have that out of the way.
So the plan was to ride 12 miles in 2 hours or less, that's 6 miles per hour. I felt that if I wasn't able to ride that fast then I would not attempt to do the 30 mile ride on Friday. Bottom line: it didn't happen! So the 30 is out for sure. Detailed ride recap to follow:
Pulled up to the day parking area and got a call from Jacke saying she didn't have brakes on her truck, but was going to talk to the mechanic to see if it might still work in time to ride at the park today. Well, it wasn't to be for today, and so I decided to do the A loop, which by the map is 7.5 miles. I'd ridden this trail two other times before, and since Arabee and I were going to go solo, I thought it best to do a trail I'd done before. So we set out.
Arabee was going pretty well, doing what I asked, even if she was looking around a lot. I'd studied the map and thought I had right, right, left, right turns to do in order to get around the whole thing. So I made a right turn, then came upon a T, and made a right turn. Pretty soon I came out on a blacktop road on a right angle curve, and across the road was a trail. So I crossed the road, and headed on the trail.....well, it didn't seem right, so I went back to the T in the trail. I checked the map and it seemed like that was the right way, so I went back to the road crossing. This time I saw a sign that said something to the effect of: 'ripley county horse club members ONLY' and decided this wasn't right, and went back to the T. I stood there for a while and pondered it.....my map had said, right, right, left, right, and I hadn't done 2 rights yet. So I went back to the road crossing a third time, and checked carefully for ANY trail markings....nothing. So I went back to the T and continued on the way, and was very happy when I saw a trail A marker! After this I saw several markers and was never concerned about where I was the whole rest of the ride, but I figure that little adventure was 3/10 of a mile.
So we were trotting along as fast as I could get her to go (she was pretty sticky and slow by herself on the trail) on the flats, uphills, and super slight downhills, walking the mid-pastern deep (at times....sometimes only fetlock deep) mud, and walking the downhills, and also walking whenever Arabee sensed that a deer or some other thing had been across the trail recently (I guess that's what it was....you'll have to ask the mare...I couldn't get her to hardly walk at those times!). I spent a lot of time hollering "go turkeys, go deer, woooo, good girl Arabee!" It was actually a really nice, pleasant pleasure riding trot speed, really easy to ride.
There were some sections of trail that as far as I could see it was mud, and at one of those sections (since we were walking it anyway) I decided to get a drink out of my bottle in my pommel pack. As I put the bottle away, Arabee lept forward (she hates the sound of the bottle going back in the pack) and I rolled right off backwards and hit the ground in the soft, wet mud. Arabee scooted off: finally listening to me and stopping about 75 feet away. So my April ride record isn't too great: two times ridden, two times fell off. Hope that changes soon! The stupid fall was my own fault: I know she hates that noise, and should've halted her while I put the bottle away. Needless to say, we'll be practicing that a LOT soon!
So I got back on right away and we headed back on down the trail, with a jumpier horse and the footing is still terrible and we get to the point in the trail that backs some private property with horses and some really vicious sounding barking dogs. I did my utmost to get Arabee to trot past that place: I couldn't really tell if the dogs were getting closer or not, and reallllllly did not want two viciously barking dogs to run up on me and my horse! It was fine, I think they were confined but it sure worried me!
We go on, and cross the creek/ditch several times, and I had an awful time urging Arabee down a hill and across the little ditch at the bottom of it. Well, it turns out there were a pair of hikers. We stopped and talked with them for quite a while: they had horses but hadn't bought their bridle tags yet and were out hunting for morels. The man guessed Arabee to be 3 years old...I said no, Thirteen! He was surprised and both were very complimentary of her, even though she was JUMPY the entire time we talked w/ them. Any little move they made she about jumped out of her skin. They also said they'd startled up a few deer just a little bit before they saw my horse and I, so I think Arabee knew the deer were nearby.
So we continued on, the rest of the ride was really pretty uneventful, aside from some beautiful wildflowers and blooming red buds along the way. We did startle a pair of ducks out of the creek, but aside from that the rest of the ride went very well. Oh, Arabee was balky going down another hill, I assumed it was deer again this time. Nope! She had to pee, so I whistled along and when she was done we marched along again: trotting when we could, walking when we were down hill or when Arabee couldn't be talked into trotting.
So altogether it was an estimated 7.8 miles, we started at 9:55am and got back to the trailer at 11:35am, for a blazing speed of roughly 4.7mph. Not near fast enough to finish the 30. I could easily consider a 25 mile LD....but I truly think it'd be pushing it too much to try the 30 at our current level of both training and conditioning, both horse and human.
It wasn't all wasted: I think the ride was very good for boosting our confidence in each other. We'd never done a solo trail ride before, other than around home, and it really went very well if you would just forget my stupidity w/ the bottle incident.
More to come later about plans for the future! Things are still very much up in the air. Got to go check that mare to see how she's doing on water.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Strategic Planning

Today is the 7th of April, on a Wednesday. My first shot at an LD this season is one week from Friday. Wow! So close!

If I'm going to attend this ride in April, it's Friday or no day at all - I want the advantage of far fewer riders on the trail for our first competition mileage, and there are family events the other two days as well that makes Friday the better (only) option. The only problem with entering for Friday's LD is that it's 30 miles instead of 25.

But....how to determine if I'm ready?

I've been riding Arabee at least 2, usually 3 times per week for quite some time now. Lately the rides have been in the 2 hour range, trotting at least 50% of the time. I've hauled out to the ride location 2 times now to train on similar trails that we'd be competing on. She's always come in with plenty of energy left, even though I thought she was getting tired while out on the trail. Our longest training ride was between 14 and 15 miles. My horse is (generally) smart and good at traveling.

However, I'm pretty sure none of my training rides have been faster than 4-5 mph pace. That would not complete a 30 mile LD without going overtime. BUT...none of my training rides have been "serious-let's-get-down-the-trail-and-GO" rides, either. Always spending (wasting?) a lot of time at water holes and focusing on training opportunities. Which is fine for training rides, maybe, but won't do for competition, since I want to finish (is to win)!

So here's the plan. Ride w/ Jacke 12 miles in 2 hours or less this weekend. If that is accomplished, we'll be headed down to Chicken Chase, horse included! But if we do it in even 2 hours and 1 minute, I'll see if I can crew, or scribe, or check pulse or something and leave Arabee at home.

To me, if I can't do at least 6mph for 12 miles, I have no hope of doing at least 6mph with Monster Hills for THIRTY miles. Which to me would indicate that more training/conditioning time is needed....and we'll wait for the next ride at the end of May for our LD debut.

Because...I've decided if I'm not confident that we can finish the ride, and enter anyway to try and see, that I won't be happy at all with the results if we end up having to pull at the check and hold. It would leave a bad feeling about the whole endurance thing for me and my horse. So I'll wait until I know for sure we can make it (barring any unseen complications) before we give it a first try.

I am so excited to finally get some miles on the record. Can't wait. I have plans all set up for this ride in less than 2 weeks! BUT....if it isn't the right time for it I won't push it. Got to wait for the right timing.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

We Meet Again...

....the ground and I.

It's been awhile, the last fall I had I believe was Fall 2002 (fall as in, the season that comes after Summer, before Winter....not..."the fall of 2002"). Although, that one was a doozy - a spook over a trail map dumped me off and resulted in a compression fracture in my spine.

This time we were trotting out very nicely, a nice ground eating, yet relaxed trot, and up ahead was a fallen tree. I notice my horse is eyeing said tree, but figure if we give it a nice berth, no problem. Well, that is, until a SPARROW or some other small bird made the bushes nearby rustle. Horse leaps to the right, I come reeling left but I almost pulled it together, and then she did another little leap which put me really off balance, and I try one last valiant time to hitch myself back up to the center, using my right leg...when I [accidentally] kick her (hard) in the rear end in the process of trying to get back on. This puts her into a sprinting gait I've never experienced in the saddle, let alone off to the left of the saddle! I try to holler "whoa!" but it did me no good, and I just decided to bail (or the decision was made for me, it's not exactly clear at this point). Of course, this all happened quickly, maybe 5 or 6 strides; it took way longer to write it and read it than for it to actually take place.

So as I am falling to the ground I decide I'm going to hang on to the reins, so she doesn't run away. Sure....everyone says not to do that because your horse will drag you and it's dangerous....but MY horse is DIFFERENT. ha. So I land on my left hip/back/butt/side area, then am quickly dragged over and ended up with dirt and grass stains all over my back, and right hip. I hung on to the reins for probably 3-4 strides before I realized "she's not stopping" and let go. THANK GOD I did, because as I let go of the reins I turn to look and Arabee had just fallen down as well. In retrospect, I realize she probably fell because as she was dragging me she had to pull pretty hard, then when I suddenly let go, she lost her footing. So essentially, I probably caused my horse to fall, and while at the time I felt somewhat vindicated "haha, I fall, you fall TOO" I quickly realized that she could've fallen ON TOP OF ME....and I felt badly that I likely caused her wreck, even if it was accidentally, which probably just scared her all the more of fallen trees and little birdies that make rustling noises, and she likely didn't learn anything other than that from the episode. But anyway - she quickly stood up and proceeded to gallop off towards the river. Uh oh.

I sit up after somewhat checking myself over (I'd fallen and been dragged across corn stubble....which really isn't the best stuff to get dragged across...although better than pavement!) and holler "Arabee!" and she stops and whinnies. She's confused and scared and lonely....I am her herd!!! So I get on my feet, call for her again, and whistle like I usually do when I'm calling her in from the pasture, and she begins to trot towards me. YAY! So she trots up to where I am and stands still, like she usually does, solid as a rock, almost as if nothing had ever happened. I check her over, no damage apparant...aside from some mud on her right side where she'd landed in the dirt. I put my foot in the stirrup to get on, and she jumped forward....I said whoa, then got back on, she was a little more jumpy than I first realized. And wow...I was stiff, and sore already, this wasn't going to be good!

So, we practiced "whoa" means WHOA, and then walked back home. I had a JUMPY horse! We were probably feeding off of each other, we both were uptight after the incident, she'd jump at a rustly noise, I'd get tense.....and so on. But we made it home. I never did work up the nerve to have her trot much, but we made it back and even in the barn lot she was still jumpy. So I walked her around, and turned and flexed her until she was calm, then got off and headed back to the house.

I'm not injured, at all. Maybe a little embarrassed to tell the story...but I figure it happens to everyone eventually if you ride long enough. I will say that those corn stalks were mighty hard on me....and I am pretty sure I have chunks embedded in my skin to prove it. My right thumb STINGS where the thumbnail was bent backwards, and the rest of my hand where I foolishly tried to hold my horse. And it wasn't really too much fun to ride home with dirt sandwiched between my butt and my breeches.....but no serious harm done. I'm glad I DID ride home instead of lead her in.

The thing of it is.....I'd have had a totally different story for you all had the fall not occurred. It was a GREAT ride (other than that one little blip that ruined the last portion...). I had awaken early to get a daylight ride start. Saddled up in the dark. Had a nice route planned out. Took her across territory she'd NEVER seen before, she braved things that she really, really was unsure about, and until that point I'd have said this was a really really good ride that was a good partnership building thing. Maybe it still was, I just hope that this one fall wasn't enough to shatter my confidence enough to make her lose her confidence in me.

Anyway, yesterday I'd posted about Arabee being off on one trotting diagonal pair. I was very cautious about tacking her up this morning, checking her over carefully. All 4 legs were somewhat stocked up from standing still over night, not hot...just stocked up. That went away after I walked her in her circles before mounting....but something wasn't right still....so I trimmed that little chunk off her frog so there wasn't a pressure point (on her left hind) and that seemed to take the ouchiness away. The route I'd planned had minimal road/gravel - it was mostly dirt riding so I opted against booting since I hadn't had the chance to try them on her yesterday. But I will have her booted at least in front next ride, just to get her used to them if nothing else. Anyway, she showed no signs of that switching diagonal thing from yesterday and didn't seem off at all this morning during the ride, so maybe it was just a weird one-time thing. Anyway, I'm still keeping a close watch on her.

Regardless....I'm sending myself to boot camp, which I'd declared before I even left the house this morning..... It is a TIGHT squeeze to pour myself into these breeches.....here's hoping if I run/jog/walk every day from now until my first LD that I'll be able to comfortably zip my pants, besides the added fitness benefits.

So....I feel it is necessary to recap the most important lesson learned from my ride today:

If you fall, never try to hold onto the reins! No matter how good, loyal, well-trained, devoted, or (insert your adjective here_____) you think your horse is.

I'm just glad no serious damage was done, although it easily could have been!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Yesterday's Photos

This is what Arabee looked like after yesterday's ride:
Do you see a sweaty, dirty, hot mess?? She seemed to very much appreciate the sponging I did after!
Then I went to work on her knotted up mane....it was basically one big tangle. She went to work on the hay I had in the tub for her. It took her a while, she REALLY wanted to go back to the paddock w/ Jack, so kept turning her head in that direction and really wasn't eating until I turned her around to face him.

I know it's hard to see with the wind blowing her mane around....but that curly mess is tangle free now!
On the agenda for today is to refit those hoof boots. I have one pair of renegades, and one pair of easyboot epics. They've not been on her since this time last year. I'm hoping that helps with her mystery trotting diagonal "weirdness". I think I may need to trim her frogs too, she's got a couple of weird overgrown "chunks" that may be putting extra pressure on her foot on the road, but not too badly in the dirt.
What I need to figure out is which diagonal pair of legs hurts: If she doesn't like me rising with the left front and right hind......would that mean that her right front and left hind are the ones causing her discomfort? Or vice verse??

A Little Bit Off

Rode Arabee yesterday.

It was hot, in the 80s, and she still has most of her winter coat.

Even so, we mostly trotted.

On the side of the road saw a crazy, spiky, curled up "thing" - I decided later that it was the skeleton of a snake that the buzzards had picked clean. Yuck. Passed it going away and coming back....and it gave me the creeps both times but then it hadn't sank it just yet what it was. I am so afraid (unrationally) of snakes that I cringe even seeing them on tv.

Anyway we trotted a lot, and it was a big heat workout for Arabee, who sweated a lot. I'm just really thankful for the BIG wind - I think that was what kept her trotting as long as she did because I know she's not used to the heat.

But here's the important part of this post: about halfway into the ride Arabee started to feel OFF. Only at the trot, and it was worse on the road vs. in the fields. What was happening was that I would be posting: rising up with the left front leg, and before I knew it somehow the mare had switched my diagonal FOR me! I could easily post with the right leg, but anytime I tried to post on the left diagonal, 2 or 3 strides later I'd find myself on the other! So.....if she didn't want me to post with the left diagonal....Which set of legs was uncomfortable for her?

It wasn't like she was reluctant to trot...just didn't want me posting on that diagonal. And it disappeared when we were on dirt.

Any ideas?

All in all I rode for about 1 hour and 10 minutes....and this was probably 80% trotting. Had the weather been cooler and this weird gait thing not occurred, I think she'd have been capable of more.