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NaBloPoMo Day 24: My Best Riding Friend

When we moved to SC in 2013, I knew nobody. Making a new friend as an adult in a new place is difficult. Add to that a toddler, being the employer so can’t make friends with work mates, and not being into things most people like such as drinking and watching TV and it was looking pretty dire. After six months of riding alone, I took to a local FB endurance group asking for someone to ride with and a woman named S responded.

What grew from that is a wonderful friendship that is still going strong 3 years later and has blossomed beyond trail riding together to spending time having lunch dates, going to Grand Prix shows and buying WEG tickets together. When her horse recently coliced, I ran out there in the dark and hand walked her horse while she called her vet and gave her moral support through the ordeal. When my first farm fell through, she was there to listen to me whine.

Her knowledge base is invaluable as well. She knows every trail, endurance ride, manager, vet, farrier and show ground within 6 hours of here. When we found our next farm, she knew the entire history of the place based on previous shows it held there. I don’t know how she does it, but she knows just about everything regarding horses in the southeast.

We don’t always see eye to eye and we haven’t actually ridden together in well over a year now, but no matter what we talk about or how long it has been we always pick up right where we left off like no time has passed at all. I am so glad she responded to my plea.

I don’t post pictures of other people without their permission, so no pictures for you. Believe me, she does actually exist though!

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NaBloPoMo Day 22: The Importance of Riding in My Life

Riding is my sense of self.

All day long I am a mother, a physician and surgeon, a boss and a business owner. My mind is always whirling with decisions to be made that impact the lives of people even if those people are only my family. Financial decisions, medical decisions, raising my son decisions. Always something to do, something to give, something to worry about.

When I ride though I am just me. For that hour I am Sara. Not Doctor, not Boss, not Mommy. Just plain Sara working towards goals and building skills that only impact my own life.

While I am on Gem all the outside worries float away and my focus is on breathing, sitting up straight, moving my leg back. I conquer my own fears, feel myself grow as a person and obtain skills I didn’t have before.

To be 100% honest it is my time to be selfish. I know riding is both a financial and time suck on my family which is why I try to be as frugal with both as possible. I need that time though. It is the only time I am just me fighting my own inadequacies and learning to grow.

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NaBloPoMo Day 21: My favorite Schooling Outfit

Favorite? Or only? 🙂

When you only have two pairs of breeches and no specific riding shirts the options are fairly limited as far as what to wear. Grey or black is the biggest decision I have to make and the decision comes down to one thing: do I have to take my own pictures or will Dusty be there? If I’m on my own (99% of the time) I will wear my grey tights since they have pockets for my phone. Otherwise I will wear my black ones which I like a whole lot better but don’t have pockets for my phone. Simple choice, really.

I prefer to school in my $15 synthetic Saxon paddocks with my Just Chaps half chaps over them versus my tall boots. Throw on any old shirt I feel like putting on, add a helmet and I am good to go.

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NaBloPoMo Day 20: Favorite Horse Show

The first time I read this and prepared to write I was thinking show as in television program. I had nothing to write about because we don’t have cable, Netflix, Hulu, a fire stick or any other such device. Reading it again though perhaps it is talking show as in competition. I’ll go with that.

I’ve been to only two shows since changing disciplines and well neither would be a favorite. However I did go to numerous endurance venues and have a favorite there so I’m going to run with that.

My favorite place for endurance is Biltmore for a lot of reasons although if I go back it won’t be to the large FEI dual sanctioned spring event. Instead I’ll stick with the infinitely more friendly fall AERC only ride

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Cows!

What makes Biltmore so fantastic? For me it has to be the fact that while this is not a point to point ride, there are enough trails that in 100 miles you don’t repeat anything. Each time you go out it is to tackle a new challenge, see new sights and enjoy a change of pace. Having a central ride camp makes self crewing a breeze as well as you can just stroll over to your camp spot for the hold and you are never that far from help should the need arise.

Ride camp

The trails themselves are what make the ride. It is such a great mix of open, flat access roads to make time on and twisting, winding single track in the woods. While there is a ton of gravel (I decided to show Gem for the 100 although we had completed a 25 there barefoot no issue) there are enough places to move over and get off that you could go barefoot if you wanted that hassle.

Winding track through the woods

It is deceiving in it technicality as well. With no single steep climb it is easy to assume that the ride is relatively flat however this assumption has cost a completion to many a rider. The total elevation gain and loss is just shy of that if the Old Dominion ride which is The Beast of the East. Biltmore is no flat race track and has a high number of pulls for tying up compared to other rides. People don’t take those small gains seriously enough. The ride is almost always going up or down a hill.

Always going up or down

The fact that it is at the historic Biltmore estate is the icing on this proverbial cake. The house can be seen on a few different loops and riding it always sends you back in time.

The estate!

Access to Biltmore is getting harder each year. They used to host two hunter paces each season but have pulled out as well as banishing the ride and tie event that was there each fall. Last year they canceled the fall endurance ride and I am not sure if they will allow it back or not. I don’t know if something happened or if they got a new manager who doesn’t want the horse presence there, but it is a real shame to lose access to those trails. You can always purchase a day pass for an obscene amount of money or a $250 year pass but I live just far enough away to make a day trip not viable on a routine basis.

I’m looking forward to getting Gem our to more jumper shows to learn the venues around me in this sport.

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NaBloPoMo Day 19: A Discipline I Haven’t Done, but Want To Do

VAULTING!!

Yes, it is insane. I have zero ability to do any form of tumbling or gymnastics on the ground. Doing it on a horse would be suicidal. But it looks like a lot of fun.

When I decided to get out of endurance and change disciplines, I began to look for lesson programs figuring I would likely just toodle around with Gem and learn something new on a lesson horse. The first thing I did was research vaulting facilities in my area. It is probably a really good thing there weren’t any near enough to me to make going for a weekly lesson viable. Who knows where this blog would have gone had there been one in my town. More than likely it would have ended with a post about me being in a body cast.

As the WEG 2018 tickets became available I knew I wanted to go on a day that had vaulting. Thankfully, that day also had show jumping too and I believe paradressage which is a discipline I am in complete awe over. Here I am barely able to function on a horse with 100% control of all my body parts and yet here is a whole class full of riders with disabilities out there kicking butt and taking names. Those riders deserve way more accolades than they receive.

Someday I would like to take an intro level lesson on a vaulting horse and get a feel for it. I could totally see me adding a draft horse to my herd someday and teach Dusty to lunge so I could practice. Well, until I fell off and broke something important that is.

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NaBloPoMo Day 18: Grooming Routine

Confession: it makes me irrationally angry when I see people riding a horse they barely scraped a saddle sized area of mud off of. This happened all the time in endurance and it drove me crazy.

Grooming to me is about preparing the horse for what is to come. It’s about massaging the muscles, making sure all dirt is removed and running your hands down every inch of their body to make sure nothing is amiss. It doesn’t have to take long, but it should be complete.

My typical pre-ride groom session can take as little as 10 minutes or as long as 30 minutes depending on how much time I have and how long I want to take. The steps remain the same.

  1. Start with the rubber curry and massage from head to tail down one side of her body, return to her head, give her a huge neck hug breathing in deeply with her and then going down the other side. I apply pressure as I curry and watch her response
  2. Next is the stuff bristled brush. Again I start at her head and work my way down one side, return to he head and go down the other. I don’t have a fancy brush, just a cheap one I got years ago when we moved to SC and realized I left all my grooming stuff behind at the barn in WI.
  3. Time to pick her hooves. I run my hand down her entire leg checking for any wounds or areas of swelling/heat. Sometimes my mind likes to make up areas of concern just for fun. Then I pick her hooves and check for any length I need to rasp off and make a note if I think some No Thrush powder should be applied after the ride.
  4. Her mane is then brushed out last. If I have extra time I use the comb in it as well. Her tail though typically gets ignored unless I find myself with a lot of time on my hands.

By doing the above I know every inch of Gem and if something is normal or not.

Post ride is a lot less. She is really low maintenance and our rides aren’t that strenuous. I brush her off with the firm bristled brush, pick her hooves, add No Thrush powder if I feel she could use some. In the summer I either hose her down if I’m at home or the barn or sponge her off if I’m out and about. I don’t ice or poultice her legs at the moment because we just aren’t doing enough to really warrant it.

And that is all. Nothing major but enough to keep her clean and ready to work.