Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Do you hear that buzz in the Air?

Yes, the fly season in Montana has arrived but that is not the buzz I am referring to.

You don’t have to search too far on the internet endurance blog world to feel the buzz. With the Tevis less than a week away, the ultimate in endurance races, lots of riders that are busy preparing to attend are experiencing pre-ride jitters. My heart jumps right along with them as I log on to the Tevis Cup website or Endurance.Net to stay up on the lastest pre ride happenings. There are various ride stories, recent trail updates, news bulletins or past footage of the ride that anyone can log on and read about. No, it's not like being there in person, I am certain, but at least it makes me feel like I am part of the excitement on some very small level. I can’t deny that part of me is wishing I was one of those getting ready to race, but on the other hand, I am not so sure if I have near enough sand to prepare for such a difficult race and I certainly don't think I have the horse for such a race at this point. All of that aside, someday I hope to try.
For now I will have to settle for logging on to the Webcast on August 1st to keep track of a few riders and living vicariously through them. The riders won’t be able to hear my "Echeers" from "Espace " but I hope they know I am riding every mile with them , along with thousands of other “hopefuls” and fans.
It's amazing how much goes into preparing for a ride of this caliber. Not only the years of preparations to get yourself and your horse into a fine tuned machine, but the mental preparedness, the organization to get yourself , your crew and your horse(s)to the race all in one piece. I logged on the Tevis site to see the map of the ride and where the vet checks and holds are. Just orchestrating a crew to get to the key meeting points is enough to makes one's head spin! The people that ride this ride are courageous determined and driven individuals and I hope to someday be so fortunate to be one of them. Good Luck to all of those attending and thanks for the inspiration to keep working at the endurance dream!

I 'll be watching!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Attitudes

What a week this has been. No , its not over yet, but only one more day to go. This was the first full week I have worked since before the 4th of July. I am not whining, I promise, but it was a real a challenge to get back into the thick of things at the office and get my brain back into “analytical” mode. To add to the challenge, there were several celebrations and fund raisers going on in the office, and ofcourse with that... comes food…

Lots of food. Evil food , like biscuits with sausage gravy, and spaghetti with meat sauce. Yes, I walked away from all of it… every last bit! Even the most sinful of them all .. Carrot Cake.

Streamlining my food choices and maintaining will power is an ongoing challenge but I think I am getting the hang of it. Today was The Spaghetti feed school fundraiser. As good as that plate of spaghetti and garlic bread would have tasted, I just kept reminding myself how horribly I would feel after the fact. And..then? I got the HELL out of the building for lunch!! I dashed for the gym for a workout.

…Nothing like the smell of a locker room to make one lose their appetite.

By the time I was done with my workout and had just sweated out what seemed like atleast a gallon of water (do the staff at the gym have something against air conditioning?) there was no way I was going to sabotage that 45 minutes of hard work for a carb and corn syrup overload (Costco canned pasta sauce). Nope, not me…My tuna with fresh veggies would keep me satisfied and I wouldn’t have to forgo the walk of shame later that day. Many thanks to the great resources that Tamara of In the Night Farm has posted on her site, along with many of the helpful comments her followers posted. They have definitely helped me to continue to get a new attitude and stay the course in the face of spaghetti and carrot cake.

Speaking of new attitude’s ,JB has himself a new attitude these days. It has been wonderful to see my special boy transform from a tense, hyper alert Stallion to a loosey goosey , driven by the next meal gelding. His whole body looks more relaxed, almost like someone unstitched a few stitches that were too tight. Initially I I had some reservations about how much change gelding him would make as he is 7 years old but it really has been amazing. I wasn’t that concerned about how he would do with the other horse because up until he was 3, he was turned out regularly with the other horses. Eventually, his herd behavior as a stallion was just too much for the geldings to bear and I had to cease group turnout.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have slowly introduced JB back into the gelding lifestyle/ We began with shared turnout with the older two, Roman and Rebel. The first time was a little surprising. JB literally ran out to them and attacked at full speed, all teeth. He did get a hold of Rebel and poor Rebel lost some hide in the process. I think JB caught both geldings by surprise because they were quietly grazing and didn’t even look up as he approached at a gallop, ears pinned. Roman was the one to take action and promptly laid the law down with a fairly aggressive attack of his own, catching JB a couple of times with both barrels. From the sidelines, the loud “THWACK, THWACK” that could be heard was Romans hind feet catching JB in the chest. JB moved off and went on to graze, certainly feeling the wrath of Roman. Apparently JB got the message and now has the highest respect for him. Ever since then , there has been no trouble. Rebel has decided the safest place for him to be is behind Roman…

JB was turned out with these two for a solid two weeks before I felt it was time to introduce the rest of the herd. For the first few days, he completely ignored the other horses and grazed quietly at the opposite side of the pasture from the rest of the horses. Never even once tried to get in their business, which surprised me a bit. He has now begun to try to find his spot in the herd and so far he is second, Roman being first, then Rebel, then Brego , then Cassidy. Maggie is left out of the mix completely for now until her hormone levels drop off for the year. ( no need to complicate matters). Cassidy tried to challenge JB yesterday but found himself the receiver of JB’s nasty little teeth. Ooooo, that makes me so mad but they have to sort it out. Brego is rather fascinated with JB and it’s really amusing to watch him. When JB approaches or vice versa, Brego does the baby chomping thing with his mouth and the promptly pees all over himself… no joke… I imagine its just a submissive thing but he seems rather embarrassed of himself when this occurs. I can’t help but laugh! Sorry Brego.. I just can't help myself.

I truly enjoy watching the herd and the herd behavior. I have learned a lot about my horses just from watching them from a distance. It’s not uncommon to find me sitting in the pasture from time to time observing.

I would love to hear what some of you have witnessed or learned from your herd of horses? Do you find that certain breeds tend to stick together if you have a mixed breed herd? I know ours do. The Morgans stick together. Does the hierarchy change from time to time, season to season? What happens when you removed the dominant leader of the group? Tell me all about it.

Riding plans for the weekend:

This weekend in the Flathead is buzzing with activity from Heritage days, to State champ swim meets to road rallies for bikers, and since the weather will be hot, plenty of boaters looking for respite from the heat. It’s the perfect storm for brewing up a few traffic jams along with plenty of road ragers out there. As for me, I will try to avoid all of that craziness and sticking mostly close to home, with maybe a quick trip to the lake one afternoon. The weather will be hot and so I will ride early in the day. On Sunday morning, we will be hosting dressage lessons at our outdoor arena but as soon as those are wrapped up, I do plan to attend The Event, a world cup qualifier 3 day Event held at Rebecca Farms. It’s great fun with lots of vendors and an opportunity to see some of the country’s top riders and horses.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Peanut and MM

The last two weeks have been an absolute whirlwind and it's probably high time I gave an update. Believe it or not, I have been riding, in fact, quite a bit. Beginning the 4th of July weekend, I was on "staycation" and had family visiting from the east coast, cousins I haven't seen in over 15 years. We had an absolutely fabulous time . In between the boating, hiking, swimming and sightseeing, I did manage to stay disciplined enough to get up early and get my riding done first thing, leaving me the rest of the day to enjoy family time.

So here is the run down. I purchased a Duett saddle from another endurance rider and blogger and it has worked out to be quite a good fit for JB. Surprisingly enough the saddle also does ok on Maggie Mae (previously known as April), So with the new saddle, I have been putting quite a bit of time on Peanut (JB). As a side note, JB was gelded a little over a month ago now and is enjoying his new life as a gelding, getting to have pasture mates now regularly, although he often chooses to be a loner. Gedlinghood has changed a few things for him in training as well. Suddenly , all the arena work and excercises that I had been working on for the last several months are all coming together. When I ask him to travel long and low and stretch his back at a trot, he no longer fights it, now he welcomes it. His canter transitions are improving in leaps and bounds and he is jumping 2' now with ease and some pretty darn cute form too!

What about endurance you say?

All in good time....

No, I haven't forgotten , nor do I plan to. I decided that , in JB's best interest, we needed to just put endurance on the back burner until next season. I am seeing now that it was definitely the right decision. His hoof issues seem to be resolving. I have had him on Farriers's Formula for 5 months now and it is really helping. I never work him without his Easyboot Epics and pads, even if it's in the roundpen that has absolutely no rocks. He has to have the boots on. Otherwise, he starts short stepping. We think alot of it might be memory from the pain he went through last year with the heel/sole bruises because he hoof tests out just fine. there is no more actual detectable soreness. As long as the boots are on, he seems to finally be able to reach with his front and moves much better. A few weeks ago, we had a minor setback , but realized right away what the problem was. His feet had grown (imagine that!) and the size 0 boots were squeezing his feet just a bit more than he was comfortable with, so we went back into the 1's and now he is moving better again. I am really enjoying our time together and he seems to be much happier as well. Now that he is a gelding there is alot less mental energy exterted in his surroundings. As a stud, every other horse, bug, piece of dust, blade of grass or whatever else happened to fly by his sight was a total distraction for him. As a result, he is "talking "less and listening more. That has allowed our arena time to be much more productive.

As for M&M ( MaggieMae), well , all I can say is, wow, she has been a trip. She is the total opposite of JB. I spent a solid three weeks of round pen work only to establish some sort of relationship and give her some excercise with the added burden of rider. She was quite overweight. The time we spent getting to know each other in the round pen ?? My gosh, she is a quick study. She listens so well and is moving nicely up and down through her gaits with only a slight shift in my body position and a verbal cue. She has lost about a 1oo lbs and is feeling much better as well.

In the beginning, she would get very agitated with the feeling of any pressure at her side and would literally squeel and wheel even if I touched her there while on the ground. I got her to a point where she accepted in on the ground and would step her hind quarters over nicely but while I was in the saddle she hated the feeling of any pressure against her side. I had never experienced that with a horse before. Eventually with more work from the ground and in the saddle, we got past that. However, right about then, she decided to pull out her next trick. We would be trotting along and all of sudden , she would slam on the brakes, literally stop dead . And mover her forward??? forget it. .. She planted her feet and there was no moving her. She would turn and back up and maybe go foward a step or two but then she would pin her ears and kick at your foot in the stirrup when you would encourage her forward with your leg. Each time she would do this, we would go through the same thing. She would throw what appeared to be a temper tantrum and I would pateintly ask forward or ask her to take a step to the side , hoping tounlock her feet . We would do this and each time, she would eventually get out of her snit and then just walk forward like nothing happened. However, each time she did this, I was noticing she was "upping the anty" a bit more. I realized that I had better get an upper hand on the situation, as it seemed to be becoming a bad and dangerous habit because she was beginning to throw her head and offer to rear. About a week ago, I strapped my helmet on extra tight and went to work. As predicted, she did her slam on the brakes maneuver and I thought, well, here we go, not really know how she was going to react to what I would do. When she stopped, I asked her to move forward with my leg, her response was throw her head and kick at my foot in the stirrup. At that moment, I had an extra long rein and I had the extra length ready. When she kicked at my foot, she caught the end of my leather rein on her heiny. She jumped sideways and kicked out again. I offered her to move off my leg forward, again, she kicked at my foot in the stirrup, so again I caught her with the end of the rein. Now she was beginning to realize I might be serious because when I asked a third time with my leg to move forward, she moved forward. Wow, did we move forward. She trotted out a ways and then she tried to stop and kick at my again. This time, when I asked with my leg, she opted to listen to that cue and she moved off, quietly and without kicking at me, throwing her head or any of that other nonsense. I am pleased to say we haven't had an issue since. She moves off leg pressure now and there have been no other temper tantrums. Now that she is a bit lighter and feeling better, she will occasionally kick out as she moves up into a canter but it's not anything to be concerned about. It's almost more of a playful thing from what I can tell. I am seeing that Maggie likes to go and go fast.
Very much unlike JB, my focus with her will be speed control right out of the gate. This weekend we started introducing the half halt and she is picking it up quickly. She will be a tough little mare and I hope to ride her next season in her first limited distance.

So, that's the news with us and the horses these days. I have been busy riding two horses, both at totally different points in their training. This coming week, we begin a big project with putting up a 24x32 haybarn. Yay... I can hardly wait...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

10 Honest Scraps

Ok- I'll bite- a couple of fellow horse bloggers out there passed the Honest Scrap award on to me; Karens Musings and Other Endurance Ride Stuff http://enduranceridestuff.com/blog/ and Confessions of a Struggling Dressage Rider http://dressagerider.wordpress.com/ so I will do my part and pass it on. First line of business however is that there are a few rules with this award.

Recognize your award presenter and link back to their blog in your post List 10 honest things about yourself that others might not know. Present this award to 10 admirable bloggers and link to their blogs. Leave a comment on your recipients’ blogs to let them know to visit your post to retrieve their award.
I will start by saying that I don't really follow too many blogs and unfortunately I can't pass it on to anyone that apparently hasn't already received it...I am sure no one wants it twice so I will spare you but for what it's worth here are my two cents.

Here are 10 honest scraps about me:

1. My undergrad studies were sociology/archeology.
2. I am afraid of large machinery , it might go out of control and attack me, (don't laugh, there are alot of us out there like this!) but wouldn't think twice about galloping a horse at speeds that might be illegal on some streets.
3. I love to garden but hate weeding so I don't garden anymore other than a couple of tomatoes and peppers occasionally.
4. One of my favorite authors is Steinbeck.
5. I just bought a Duett saddle from Mel over at Mels Boots and Saddles.
6. I have always wanted to write a book but I vapor lock when I try to think about what the book would be about.
7. My first horse was an ex barrel horse, a beautiful Palomino Quarter Horse who lived to age 32. My first Pony was a white Shetland pony who was a retired circus pony.
8. I knew I wanted to do endurance the first summer I lived in Montana and started riding the trails with my horse Rebel.
9. I have two brothers and one sister.
10. I hope to see Spain, New Zealand, and Italy some day.