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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.

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NaBloPoMo Day 17: My Equestrian Idol

So…I don’t really have one. I’m not one to idolize much of anything and I’m certainly not a celebrity follower for any reason.

However there are a few people I really admire. One of those is my Trainer. She may not be riding around Rolex but she deserves all the accolades in the world for putting up with Gem and me.

Trainer’s entire philosophy regarding horses and training is rooted in a deep understanding of what a horse actually is and what it is we are trying to ask it to do. Everything she asks me to do is explained not only in regards to the how to do it, but also the why which I find very important in my overall understanding and execution. She never drills and she never pushes past the point of being able to learn.

What I admire the most though is her flexibility. Gem and I aren’t your typical pair and when something isn’t clicking or going well, Trainer always has something else up her sleeve to approach the problem in a different way and yet still get to the same outcome. Sure there have been less than stellar lessons throughout the last year, but all in all we keep steadily making progress towards our own nebulous goals.

Outside of her training methods, her management ideals line up with mine very closely. Her horses get to live outside except for in the worst weather, she doesn’t remove all their whiskers, ear and leg hair, she believes in a forage based diet and her horses show this off by being exceptionally healthy beasts.

Beyond even that, Trainer is the nicest person I have ever met. She has never gotten angry or flustered with Gem’s antics and my lack of ability to deal with it. My scared nature doesn’t annoy her (at least not outwardly) and she handles Wyatt’s lessons well too. When KC went cross country schooling with me and Pilgrim lost his show, Trainer didn’t hesitate to jump in her car and drive over to the h/j show to flag down a random farrier all while our time was whittling away and then she proceeded to still send 2 hours on the course with us and only charged $60 for the entire 3 hour ordeal! I don’t know anyone else who would have gone above and beyond like that for a one time client that she will likely never see again.

Is she my idol? No, but I sure would love to be more like her when I grow up and I am so very glad I met her last year.

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NaBloPoMo Day Day 16: My Favorite Equine Memory

September 1998. My Aunt and Uncle used some sort of magic to convince my mom and dad to let me miss an entire week of school for a trip. I had never been allowed to miss even a singe day unless I was super sick, so I have no clue how on earth they managed it. Regardless, I found myself in the back seat of my Uncle’s F350 dually with the horse trailer and three horses being pulled behind as we headed towards Acadia National Park in Maine.

It was a trip of a lifetime.

18 long hours of hauling later we arrived at the barn where they had rented three stalls for the next 5 days and then we headed to our rental in the woods only a few miles away. The house was massive with 4 stories. I still remember the A frame construction, the kitchen being on the second floor and my own room on the 4th up a winding metal stair case. We were sharing it with a boyfriend/girlfriend couple who brought mountain bikes and a husband/wife team who brought their own horses, both couples were friends with my Aunt and Uncle and we rarely saw them the entire week.

Each morning we would wake up before the sun did and head to the barn. Most days we would not return until the sun had set again. The trails were perfection too. Wide open ancient carriage trails built by the Rockefeller family that wound around pristine lakes the color or turquoise, ran along ridge lines and dipped into valleys. Our rides were a mix of walking, cantering and long racing gallops. I wish now that I had a Garmin back then. I know we had to cover close to 250 miles that week.

A couple of days we either started or ended late. One day was spent up on Cadillac Mountain watching the sun rise. It is the first place the sun touches in the US each morning. The other day we ended early and went into Bar Harbor. Here my Uncle had bought us tickets to ride a glider plane. We barely squeezed inside the tiny cockpit and at first I thought about bailing. However soon we were soaring high tethered to the plane that would eventually let us go. When it did, my heart skipped a beat but our pilot knew his job and soared our engineless plane safely back to the ground after about an hour floating high above.

After that we went to a local seafood restaurant where I experienced my first lobster fresh from the ocean.

The entire trip was like a dream. A great horse under me, beautiful scenery and the love of my Aunt and Uncle. It is a trip I won’t ever forget.

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NaBloPoMo Day 15: If I Could Speak to Any Horse What Would I Say?

Halfway through the month! These have been fun.

I’m going to assume this means that the horse could speak back. Otherwise, I already speak to Gem constantly. I’m sure she’d like to tell me to shut the heck up.

I don’t follow any celebrity type horses. Or people. In fact anyone who attempts to name drop on me, both in my professional and personal life, is often left disappointed as I know nobody and could care less.

That basically means I’d talk to Gem. The first thing I’d ask her is what on earth she enjoys doing because for the life of me I can’t figure it out. She hated being retired for the few months when Wyatt was itty bitty and it was negative a million degrees in WI and I couldn’t get to the barn. Retirement isn’t her thing. Endurance she liked as long as it was at a race, but conditioning was always a chore she made me slightly dread.

Not the face of a happy mare although this was after our maze lesson which she was enjoying thoroughly, so I don’t know

And your guess is as good as mine if she likes her new gig. Some days when she takes a half an hour to catch I think that she hates it. Others she seems happy and Trainer says she looks like she is having fun so who knows.

So yeah. I’d ask Gem what it was she enjoyed doing so I could focus on that.

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Triple Crown Woes

Two years ago Gem and Pete moved to the first barn where I had freedom to pick my own feed. The owner fed a grain I didn’t feel was a good fit for the Dynamic Duo and so I went on an epic research binge reading dozens of articles and speaking with the top nutritionists in the sport of endurance trying to understand what I was looking for in a feed. I wrote a big post about it on my old blog and if anyone is interested I can dig up the link. It is less pertinent to eventing where the demands are different and the horse requires more short term energy versus the long sustained energy of endurance, but the basics still remain true.

After all that research I landed on Triple Crown and began Gem on senior first then switched to complete when the senior just wasn’t giving her enough energy on our long conditioning rides. She is now back on senior due to her reduced work load. Pete has been on Lite since the start.

I love this feed. Or rather I loved this feed, but more on that in a bit. Both horses responded really well to the diet with blossoming shiny coats, strong hoof growth and enough energy for their individual life styles. The only issue I had was access. The only place around here that carries it is a feed store about 10 minutes from that barn which was easy at the time I boarded there. Now it is a 45 minute trip to get there and the only day I can do it is on Saturday. The feed was worth it though and at the amount we feed I can stock up and buy 6 bags total (3 of each) and be good for a long time.

Except….

Triple Crown Senior now sucks.

About a month ago Triple Crown announced that its East Coast mill and distributor, Southern States, would no longer be making it and that Purina bought the recipe. There was a lot of chatter and apparently a lot of people hate Purina, but I didn’t get worked up about it since they promised their fixed ingredients would remain the same.

Well, they lied.

Last weekend I made the trek to get my grain and all seemed ok until I opened the bag at home and out poured a rock hard dried out mess that is basically inedible.

Ok…maybe it was just one bad bag.

Nope. The other is the same and when I took to the internet I saw similar complaints across the board with TC replying that they are aware of the issue and that reps in the field were working on fixing the issue with the local mills. Same recipe and quality my butt. TC hammered the nail into their own coffin when they told people that they have found that getting on your knees on the unopened bag will break up the food.

Um…no thanks. I don’t want a grain that I need to beat up in order to feed my horses.

Of course this now leaves me with what to do. There is a Tractor Supply 1/4 mile from my work and I need to see what all they offer. I know they carry Purina (TC originally stated that the change to Purina would open doors to more suppliers but then yesterday said that they won’t ever be offered at TSC so um??) but I’m not big on jumping to that. There are a ton of endurance riders in the upper levels of the sport that love Purina Ultium and swear by it and there are a few options similar in texture to the TC Senior, but I hate that they don’t post ingredients online.

Southern States is now making a Horse Pro Elite feed that mimics the Triple Crown products they used to make and my feed store gave me a sample. It was moist and pretty much identical to the Senior I used to get. However if I’m going to change I might as well try to change to something only 5 minutes away versus 45 minutes.

Anyway all that to say buyer beware with the new Triple Crown products being made by Purina. The Lite seemed unchanged in texture at least, but both my bags of Senior were awful and that seems to be the new norm for now at least. Back to the drawing board for me regarding feed options.

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NaBloPoMo Day 14: My Dream Farm

Oh…how painful this topic is!!! If you missed the post The Story of a Dream, it was a decent one and really goes into depth my dream of owning my own farm and what that entails. I don’t want to just re-write that here, so I’ll take this a slightly different direction.

If I were to build my dream farm, what would that look like? First and foremost it would be private and peaceful. From any point on my property I would not want to see a single building, person, road, vehicle or animal that I didn’t own. My bubble would be bullet proof.

famr layout
This layout is pretty much what I’d do with land with some modifications. Ignore the bridge to the right, replace the corral/tank/shelter with the barn and add an arena. Done.

All fencing would allow 10-12′ of cleated riding and mowing space to allow for a galloping lane where I could place logs or rail road ties for cross country style jumps. I really like the idea of incorporating coop style fences into the fence line as well. All fencing would be wood.

This style, but wood

The barn itself would be a simple one story design with 8 stalls on one side and a temperature controlled tack room, feed room, hot and cold wash rack and hay storage on the other. All stalls would have dutch style doors looking outside. On the outside it would have an overhang to act as shelter for the horses while the rest would be closed. Nothing too fancy or hard to keep up, but nice and airy.

I found this online and how cool is that? These are for hanging blankets to keep them clean and out of the way when not in use.  

My arena would be another story. It would be large. As big as I could possible make it. Lights are a necessity when you work full time during the day. If we are talking dreams here, might as well put a cover on it. I don’t want a indoor as it would get way too hot all summer, but a cover to keep the rain off would be nice.

I’ll take one of these two please! I like the board fence versus solid wall around the exterior for air flow. 

That’s about it I suppose. Functional but nice. Lots of room, solid mature grass in the pastures and lights to ride by at night. Am I asking too much? Apparently 😦

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Pete Shows Off

By the time I got home Sunday it was pouring down rain and staying around 40F. I’m not one to dress my horses up in the cold, but cold and wet? They deserved to get the blankets on.

While Gem was still in the trailer, I grabbed Pete and put his blanket on him. I’m still not sure if he was really happy to be dry and warm or if he was really pissed off, but as I went to unload Gem I heard thundering hooves and looked out to see this.

He carried on like that for a good while.

At 26 years old he is moving pretty darn good.

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And staying his sassy self

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