Thursday, May 28, 2015

May Updates

Working from home is awesome on days like we have had lately.  I can work from my back yard while working on my tan. (Damn, my legs are white!) We are having unusually warm , sunny and dry spring. 
 Our typical spring rains seem to be going everywhere but here. Surrounding areas are getting drenched while we have had to start irrigating .  Hay might an issue both in availability and price this year.. alot of hay farmers here don't have irrigation since we typically get enough moisture.. exept on dry years like this year.  I think we are in for one of those hot dry years which also means a bad fire season. We haven't had one for a long while.. guess we are due. 

Lots of things going on around here so I will try to summarize. Most noteably, and most impacting to life in general was my weird back dilemna last week. Last Monday morning,  I woke up, swung my legs out of bed, bent over to give Duncan his customary “good Morning” belly rub , and found myself stuck. I could not straighten up. A sharp twinge in my lower back and I literally could not move. I dropped to my hands and knees and slowly clawed myself into a mostly upright position using the bed. Walking  was nearly impossible, standing up straight was impossible , walking , twisting or bending caused excruciating pain.  I couldn't help but remember the Seinfeld episode , "The Pen" when Elaine slept on the  couch and woke up with her back all messed up..and then took too many pain meds. 

"STELLLAAA" (ok, if you haven't seen the episode, you need to!)

It could have  been me.. easily..
if I kept heavy duty pain meds in the house, it would have been me.
I was that desperate. 

I suffered through two days of hobbling around before finally calling my chiropractor, which I dreaded the thought of , the idea of  being”cracked” was enough to make make me vomit. But , I also knew I couldn't stay like I was,  and he probably wasn't going to create any more pain for me than I was already in..I had nothing to lose..  

 Apparently I had something call "Meniscoid Entrapment” which is a fancy term for the cartilage disc known as meniscoids getting caught between intervetebral spaces. As it turns out , sudden or non-physiological movements, cause these little meniscoids to get caught where they don't belong , causing a spinal blockade and pain. ( I 'll can confirm the pain part) From everything I read, manipulative treatment is the best option. 

Ice, ibuprofen and limited movements that involve twisting was the order . By that night , after the adjustment, I felt about 50% better and could walk mostly normal.  Another 24 hours and I was mucking paddocks again and lifting hay bales without too much pain. 

So, in between all this back stuff happening, my trial saddle arrived. It arrived three days before my back thing but I didn't have time to try it on any of those days so it sat.

On the second day of back misery, (now five days into my trial period and still no idea if I would like it) I decided I better give it a go. Time was ticking.  

Somehow I thought that it might not hurt so much once I actually got in the saddle??

T made several attempts to talk me out of my crazy fooled idea but I wasn't going to listen so he figured he could atleast do damage control  He agreed to help me get in the saddle,  since I couldn't really move my legs  or pretty much do any of the movements needed to actually get on a horse. We should have taken video .. it was pretty hilarious, although I wasn't laughing at the time.. 

As soon as I sat down, I was proved wrong in my theory .

Nonetheless,  since I was up there,  I walked around and tried to do a little posting trot to try to get a feel for it.  It was a major fail all the way around because I was so tense and in so much pain I was riding weird. Brego was pissed because I was so tense.. and it was just not working out . So, slowly and cautiously, I slithered back of the horse with T's help.. and promptly went in the house to get my ice pack again. 

I have ridden in it since the back issue resolved and the verdict is : I love it. I was just going to buy the trial ,even though it was the more expensive leather version  

However, that plan also kind of went sideways. The trial they sent me had a flaw in the panel.
The leather literally had a slice in it on the panel. It's a wool flocked panel.  So even if I wanted to keep that saddle, I couldn't.  It's not even really repairable because of how the panel was shaped as a result of this cut.

The bad part is that to order a new one, it takes 10 weeks (backordered from England) which totally sucks. Considering the situation,  the dealer offered to  let me keep the trial until the new one arrives since they can't sell this one anyways and it's getting returned to the manufacturer as a dud. I thought that was pretty nice. 

So I have a new one on order and I did stick with my original plan and order the saddle that is part leather/part synthetic  (seat, knee and trim are all leather so the riders gets the feel of leather where it matters.) The price difference was just too much for the budget right now. 
Here is my review/ impressions of the saddle. 
  •  The leather is beautiful and obviously good quality.   
  • The brown color is very dark, almost looks black but it’s nice. Not sure what color I want now.   
  • I could easily see being able to do flat work and jumping in it based on the flap position. 
  • I love the multiple billet strap configuration option that the saddle has because it allows adjustment of girth placement for horses of different builds which means better stability. 
  • The extra wide bar that I had the dealer put in the saddle before they shipped it is too wide. Brego actually measured a "regular "wide according to their fitting chart, but I thought given my past experience with his saddle fitting, an extra wide would be better for him. I was wrong. It sinks down just a little too much on him.
  • I felt secure in it but because of my back pain, my posting was weird and I didn’t get a good sense of whether it was tipping me forward or back. I definitely didn’t try to do a sitting trot .   
  • Seat is really nice and cushy. (with the Synthetic version of this saddle, the seat and knee pads are leather just like this one so it should feel the same in that respect)
  •  The saddle was lighter than I thought it would be. 
  • The stirrup bars are more inset than a lot of saddles which is a nice feature because it doesn’t dig into the riders inner thigh. Definitely a plus.

My hubby didn't go to Canada over Memorial day weekend as planned for his Archery competition which meant we got to go fishing in our new little fishing boat!!!. (and by little I mean 12 feet long little) Its for lakes mostly and while  it’s a far cry from my  Dream Pontoon boat, it’s sure to provide some fun summer days on the water. 

We also got a few things done around the place over the long weekend like finally getting my feed room and tack room repainted. They used to be an ugly brown color and for years I have dreamt of little red barns which match the trim on the hay barn..

I finally got them!

The tack room still needs the door scraped, painted , and the white trim repainted.

Tackroom- ugly brown chipping away on door

Feed Room and Dog house

Jump Training-
I lost last week of riding due to my back,  but had a good lesson this week, aside from one little snafu where Brego thought he needed to jump a 2' fence like it was a 4 foot fence and nearly unseated me on the landing. Yikes.. had I not been in my new trial , very supportive saddle, I probably would have come off!  

We are planning to attend my first Mini Event with Brego this weekend. I am just doing one jumpers class.  It's a super casual atmosphere where my trainer can be coaching me through the entire time which is good because I will likely be so nervous I will forget the course.  Luckily it will be super small fences and its really just about trying to see how Brego and I handle the show ring.. Keep you fingers crossed for us!! 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

A Few Firsts

These last few weeks  has been full of activities on many spectrums  but a theme has emerged it seems.

The spring weather has been absolutely unbelievable which meant that Glacier Park was calling me.  It was time to step out for my FIRST Glacier hike of the season,and as always, it never disappoints. 0 Atleast once a year, I hike this hike.It's just a thing most of the locals must do.  It isn't a terribly long trek so a good one to get the season started with. I was suprised at how LITTLE snow there was . It seemed more like July snow rather than April/May levels. Nonetheless, the Glacier lilies and a variety of other wildflowers were putting on a good show.


First hike=> FIRST gear Malfunction

I have never owned a pair of  real "hiking" shoes before, never really saw the need for them. A retired pair of sneakers was always hanging around and always seemed to work in the past, although, I did recall having some issues last summer.  
Given the level of pain I was experiencing this time around,  and considering I plan to do plenty more hikes this season, I figured it was time to throw out the holey, worn out sneakers and  get something that supports my foot more appropriately. I begrudgingly went and found a new pair of actual hiking shoes. My FIRST ever set of bonified hiking shoes.

I opted for these, because they seemed to give the most cushion to my mid foot area (my problem area) and they seemed to have the best arch support.

I will feel so "Official" now out on the trail...I have plans to try them out this weekend.

With the first hike of the season out of the way, it was onto some other horse related firsts (Yay, right?)

Otto's FIRST saddling

We started with a review of last fall's lesson  , in case he forgot..which of course he didn't .

 A simple rope around the barrel to mimic the feel of  a girth.

"yeah, ok.. can I chew on it?"
"why you be pulling on me"?

And then to walk with rope , while having a little upward tension put on the rope while walking..

We moved on to this, which was also a review of last fall. A blanket pad and the rope mock "girth"
not sure about this..

always looking at the camera when he should be paying attention to class

 "I am too sexy for my blanket.. too sexy for me blanket."...
From here we moved onto placing the saddle on and and off several times, with out the girth and just moving him around in the same way, while holding the off side stirrup up so it wouldn't bother him.

Baby steps.. baby steps..

This procession was over the course of a few different sessions.  When it came to the actual saddling session, my hubby decided to do it while I was riding Brego, therefore I have no pics to share... :(
You will have to take my word for it ,  but it went about the same.. at first a little concerned and eventually walking around with his head down..

Jumping firsts

I have had 4 lessons  now with my new trainer.  We had kind of a break through a couple weeks ago. We have jumped our FIRST big REAL fence, a 2'3 Oxer.

As it turns out, Brego only jumps in really cute form when the fences get bigger..
As much as I like my cross rail and small vertical comfort zone , it was time to move on because apparently,  you can make a horse like Brego develop less than desirable jumping  habits if you spend too much time jumping smallish jumping flat= bad

So, my comfort zone is being challenged..  Not only have we taken a  step towards bigger fences but we have CANTERED our FIRST jump.  Brego's  thing is to rush and get "chargey" when we approach from a trot, but to our surprise, he didn't seem to do that in a canter. He  surprised all of us  but time will tell if it was just "beginners" carefulness or if he is going to maintain that way.  That was a great discovery since we have mostly been trotting in , landing in a canter, asking for trot again, and then taking the next fence...

In spite of all this good stuff happening, we have still been fighting with saddle fit for Brego.  You might recall this post about the jumping saddle dilemma?

Remember that borrowed saddle I thought was working out great????.

I LOVE the saddle. Brego.. not so much.

Its comfortable for me. I feel super secure in it and it puts my leg in a really good position. However, it is NOT working for Brego.  He started in with Head tossing, hollowing back, pinning of ears, swishing of tail, and once he even kicked out when I asked him for a canter. The crazy thing is that to look at the fit, it really doesn't appear to be bad fitting. Atleast not bad enough to warrant the big reactions I was seeing in Brego. (and we ruled out all other options like teeth, or soreness somewhere else)  There were no overly obvious signs of bad fitting like too much rocker or too much tightness in the shoulders. The only thing I did notice was the the hair was "scruffed" the wrong way behind his shoulders after a ride and there were slightly drier areas than the rest of the sweat pattern but nothing that screamed. "THIS SADDLE IS HURTING YOUR HORSE".Brego didn't even react if I palpated the area.
 In the long run, we concluded we probably had a "Princess and the Pea "situation here and that it was obviously causing him some discomfort , thus hindering our progression for sure. For now, I am back to riding in my Close contact because I know it fits him. Besides the fact that  I feel like I am going to tip over the front of it, Brego is much happier.. and we can carry for me, I can get by for now.

.....but long term its not the best solution and since we are talking about firsts.. I have this coming......My FIRST All Purpose jumping type saddle.

The saddle is coming as a trial . Historically , I always disliked a deeper seat for jumping but after experiencing the difference with my friends all purpose,  I have come to my senses. Considering  I am also doing a fair amount of flat/dressage work with Brego, it just made the most sense to try going this route.

It's fully adjustable in the gullet and it has this other really cool feature in the panel design that supposedly eliminates the part of the panel that restricts the shoulder movement. I am optimistic this will be a good option for the princess.

This particular saddle brand actually has a sister brand that is what I was originally planning to try, but they had no trial models available. The two models are identical except the sister brand is partial leather and partial synthetic , and offered a lower price point whereas the one I have coming is all leather.  (and a much higher price point) I am sure there is a marketing scheme in here somewhere.

Send out the more expensive leather model , rider will fall in love and just have to have it.. 

The silver lining here is that until I get a more supportive saddle that works for both Brego and I , fear of being launched over a fence head first in this damn saddle has developed one hell of a strong leg position which makes my trainer super happy.

There might be a few more FIRSTS coming our way . Originally,  I wanted to hold off even posting this until I could include those things as well,   but that could be two weeks away before I know for sure.. and it  could all come unraveled between now and then so while I  can't won't give any spoiler alerts as it might jinx things , I can tell you it should be stay tuned.

In the meantime, here is a photo I like to just stare at.. because he is developing so darn nicely..and I don't have barn blindness. nope.. not me..

Friday, May 1, 2015

Endurance Reflections- Closing the Chapter

Sometimes, before you move forward, you have to take a look at where you have been ,  how you got to where you are today and what it all means.

I have to tell you, I previously wrote this long post that reflected on what this Endurance journey has been about for me,  my reasons for not meeting the goals I once set out to meet , the various derailments along the way and  blah blah blah.. but the more I read the draft, the more I thought.. Why does all that crap matter? It's all documented here on this damn blog anyways.  My readers already know. Why rehash this thing? 

So instead, I opted to make this short and sweet as possible.

I haven't been an AERC member since 2012 and that was also the last time I did any competitive rides. (Holy cow, has it really been that long?)  Just that fact alone speaks volumes. 
Since 2008, I have been chasing the sport with little success of ever meeting my goal to ride a 50 or a 100. I was able to complete several LD's all of which were fun, challenging and rewarding, but longer distances have remained just out of reach. Endurance has been like writing that novel that I keep saying 

......................."someday I will finish this thing"

Eight years and still not a single 50 , much less a 100 miler.  Pathetic! 

I know there are other endurance riders out there that have to balance all the same things I do. I know I am not unique. Lots of you have those things called full time jobs, a home and property to maintain, other horses, other interests, family, and everyday life and yet, so many of you seem to  somehow manage to train , attend rides and continue to enjoy  the sport. 
Honestly I don't know how but I would listen if someone wanted to let me on their secret. 

What I kept running into was that the training schedule to condition left NO TIME for anything else because I was too busy catching up on EVERYTHING else that stacked up when I was riding, like errands, laundry, lawn and garden upkeep, housecleaning, etc and when I did get to a point where I thought my horse might be ready.. the closest ride was a full day's drive away.

Logistics alone tell my story.

All the work and time to get ready for a ride that was at the very least a 5 hour  (more  often times an 8-10hr)  trailer ride away, (mucho fuel costs) , then.. 
  • Find someone to stay at the house to farm sit for the weekend, (another $40 per day)
  • Take at least 1 or 2 vacation days just to travel to ride and get home 
  •  Entrance fees to attend the ride 
  • Food expenses 
  • Sometimes a Kennel stay for the dogs depending on the ride , another $35 per day
(*the hubby could stay home, negating the need for a house sitter,  but I don't like to go that far from home hauling horses alone.. Just kind of a thing for me) 

I wondered... Is this really what it takes??? How is this fun?? This feels like a second job that doesn't pay very well. 

 In the end, I realized it was a path I wasn't enjoying. I wasn't able to compete,  much less find enough time to condition to get myself ready to compete. 

I realized that there two things that would  have to change in order to revisit the sport in any seriousness and neither of those are changing at this point.
1. Work- get to where I only work part time (maybe in the next 5 years if I stay on track) 
2. Relocate - find a place that allows more months of riding weather and maybe somewhere that allows me to have more convenient access to trails, like close by home (not dirt roads either). 

So there you have it,  it's time to close the Endurance Chapter.. for now.. 

The only caveat to that is riding someone else's already conditioned horse if they need a rider, then I would be happy to help. I am leaving but I am not leaving the sport mad. 

Forging Ahead

The next chapter is this jumping thing. I have been dabbling in the jumping for a couple of years but only halfheartedly because I didn't really have a horse for it. I bought Otto as a future prospect  and I couldn't afford yet another horse that would allow me to ride now. Not with four of them already in the pasture. 
Finally, I just decided I was going to ride the horse we had that had the best potential, Brego,  and see if I could make it work.  As it turns out, it's working. I am having fun. I can ride 2-3 times a week at home for an hour and get something accomplished and not be running my tail off. If I decide to compete again, there are any number of shows and events close by to keep me occupied. 

I finally found a local trainer that I am clicking with and just locked myself into a committed lesson package for the next 10 weeks. We already started and she has us doing things I never thought we would get done , like jumping our first  2'3 Oxer !!  Our first lesson was hard work and we were both a sweaty mess by the end of it but it was a blast. I am totally hooked.

I don't know where this adventure is taking us but I am enjoying the ride. Better yet,  I am no longer stressing myself out over getting enough ride time or traveling for hours to a competition just to make it feel like my time training was worth something. 

In closing

To my readers , those ones that might still be following along on this blog, Thank you  for your commitment. There are many other blogs out there that are much more interesting and better written than mine will ever be but  I have truly enjoyed getting to meet  you all (virtually) and have enjoyed your comments more than you know.  Going forward, I won't have much to share that has anything to do with Endurance related ride stories. You might see the occasional  trail ride post as I will still be getting out for those . More than likely  I will do a few posts on this jumping thing, or maybe I will just start a whole new Blog about that journey. (Not sure yet.)  Either way, I hope you all continue to check in every so often !  I will continue to live vicariously through all your ride stories until the time comes when I can get back to endurance myself.

Happy Trails!