Getting Ready

I’ve been packing all day for the ride. There is now a nice mattress in over the gooseneck.  Almost all my stuff is loaded or ready to load. I hope that eventually I’ll have a lot of the stuff that I normally pack permanently stored in the trailer. Little stuff… flashlights, lip balm, sunglasses, pen and paper, logbooks, red tail ribbons, batteries, safety pins, scissors, etc.  And also bigger stuff… a campstove, folding chairs, fencing kit, etc.

Last night I glued King’s front boots on. That was a bit of a trial. It was my first time doing that. There’s not a lot of time before the glue gets tacky, so you have to be fast and accurate. I was neither. And I got frustrated. So King got anxious and started pawing. Which, because I was frustrated, made me yell at him. Strangely, that did not make him calm 🙁 Sometimes I’m not a genius. Sigh.  Oh well, I did get them on after a bit of struggle. They are aligned correctly, and fully seated. I just hope I used enough glue and that I got the heel bulb sealed properly. Next time I will start by applying the glue on the BACK of the foot, not the front. Once you have glue on the front wall, you can’t hold on to the foot anymore, so that was bad planning. The boots are still on (or they were when I last looked a couple of hours ago anyway), and he’s been running around in pretty muddy footing since this morning. I hope that doesn’t compromise the glue. Julie, the local EasyCare dealer, has promised me that it will get easier to glue the boots on as I get more practice. I sure hope so.

Misha and Brooke will be here in the morning to scrub and polish the horses while I’m at work. I’m sure the horses will be very shiny by the time I get home. We should be on the road just after lunch.

Obsessive

So, as usual I’m obsessing madly about everything in the week before a competition. King and I are entered in the Aprilfest 50 mile Endurance on Sunday.

The horse trailer is in getting the annual safety inspection (it needs tires for sure… hopefully nothing else!). The truck also needs it, but since it was inspected in February when it was plated, I am pretty sure it will pass without a problem. It will go in tomorrow or Thursday.

I picked up King, Dressy, and Diego’s coggins (or more correctly ELISA) paperwork this afternoon. We have our OEF, AERC, and OCTRA memberships up to date. So the paperwork is now done.

I also picked up the new Christ saddle pad from Baker’s Tack. Carmen gave me quite a good price on it actually. It always surprises me, but Baker’s often give me really good prices on special orders. I think of Greenhawk as the cheapest source for stuff. But a lot of the time they are just the source of the cheapest stuff. A slight, but important difference!

Anyway, the pad is lovely. It’s the treeless model, so it comes with foam inserts that slide into pockets on either side of the spine. The underside is full sheepskin. Top is heavy quilted cotton. It’s nicely contoured, so that it will not bind over King’s rather high withers. I’m hoping that it will work well with the Aussie saddle. That saddle was custom fitted to his width, but he’s been losing weight like crazy, and I can see the pommel dropping a bit, which is a worry. I hope I will be able to ride in it at least a couple of times before Sunday to see how well it works.

I’m making all kinds of lists of stuff to take to the ride. I don’t know if other people do this, but I always want to take every bit of horse gear I’ve ever owned, just in case. I have a wool quarter sheet that has gone along to nearly every ride he’s ever done. And it’s never been on him in his life. I end up with coolers, fly sheets, blankets, and rain sheets. Girths and reins and martingales. And I never need any of it. There are bottles of sunscreen in the bottom of some of my tubs that have never been opened (probably because I’d never find them in the bottom of a damn tub if I needed them anyway!).

I really hope that with this big trailer, I can get my stuff organized. Misha brought a big shoe organizer thingy that we’ve put up in the tack room for little stuff. I’ve just picked up some of those clips that hold broom handles. I saw a cool gadget on a trailer accessory website that was sort of like a cup holder for flashlights so that it can stay right inside the trailer door. What I don’t have is some sort of saddle rack. It will have to be easy to remove, because it will need to go in the fourth stall – which could, in theory, have a horse in it at some point. Stayed up way too late last night reading articles on organizing trailers, and browsing eBay and trailer websites.

Oh, and just because I don’t have enough other stuff to obsess over, I’m gluing boots on King for the first time at this ride. And it’s going to pour rain all week. Which means his feet will be soggy. Luckily, I poked around and found a heat gun in the farm tool room. Hopefully that will dry them out enough to let the glue set up properly.

If this post seems kind of scattered… well… that’s pretty much what my brain looks like this week!

More Photos of Reno, the Orphan Foal

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Pictures of King from Today

I took a few quick photos of King today. Nothing fancy. But I think he’s starting to look a little less enormous. Maybe all the work is starting to pay off a little bit. Here’s a slideshow of the photos…

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2011-04-24, posted with vodpod

Field Trip to the Vivian Forest

Today was the first time I’ve driven the new (old) truck with the new (old) trailer with the horses loaded up. Dressy loaded like a pro. And King was pretty good too. But Diego had a little bit of a backslide today. He got himself a little wound up and it took some time and work to get him on. But eventually Misha worked through his issues and got it done.

We took the herd over to the Vivian Forest to ride. They all seemed to be very happy to be there, and to explore some different trails. It’s gotten pretty boring to go around and around the same trails at home. King was very boingy (I know… it’s not a real word) for quite a few miles. His trot was springy and he did lots of zigzag spooking at all the logs and rocks beside the trails. No stops hard enough to bend my helmet visor today though (always a good day when he doesn’t break my nose). He felt fast and forward for the entire ride.

Diego was very nervous when we first arrived. And there were a lot of people around, which he doesn’t like. He’s very shy of strangers. Going down the trail with all the families out hiking on Good Friday was funny. King would march up to anyone to say hello. Dressy would follow, especially if it was a small child. Diego would stand behind the other two horses and look distant and unapproachable. He looked fresh the whole ride though, and seems to be quite fit. It looks like he’s quite ready for the 25 mile ride next weekend.

But Dressy was the big star. She hasn’t been ridden very much over the last year or so. Brooke just started riding her at the beginning of January. So I didn’t really think she’d be very fit. But she just seemed to get stronger through the day. We did 16 miles in 3 hours, and Dressy was going faster at the end than at the beginning. No sign of fatigue at all. And she’s as bright eyed as can be this evening. Pleased with herself I think. And Brooke was VERY pleased with herself and with Dressy. She was bubbling with enthusiasm the entire ride, and all the way home in the truck too.

I had sent an entry form for Brooke and Dressy to do the 12 mile intro ride at Aprilfest (on May 1). But so far I haven’t been able to find a sponsor for them (junior riders need an adult sponsor). Today I realized that Dressy was quite capable of doing a slow 25 mile mileage ride. We’ve decided to upgrade Brooke and Dressy to the 25, and send her out with Misha as her sponsor.

I am feeling a lot more confident in King’s ability to finish the upcoming 50. All that work plowing through snowdrifts this winter really seems to have paid off. He’s cruising along very easily. Hills and deep sand are not affecting him much. I will still have to go slow, but he feels really good right now, so I think that as long as we are conservative, he should do just fine.

And the truck/trailer were great. The truck pulls easily. Has a 7.5L engine, and you can feel the power when it tows. The trailer travels well. Tracks very straight, and seems to ride smoothly. Misha rode down the driveway in it to get a sense of the ride, and she said it was very easy to stand in without even having to hold on. I think King and Dressy both liked it. They looked happy enough and ate lots of hay in transit. Diego was a bit more concerned, but he always is. And he didn’t work up a sweat, so that’s actually pretty positive.

Loading Onto the Big Trailer

We just loaded all three horses onto the new trailer. It’s actually not new of course. It’s an older steel four horse head-to-head with a small tack room in front (my luxury accommodations!).

Dressy went first. And like the professional she is, she loaded up with no issues. It was a bit slow to get her backed into the stall. She’s a long tall girl and she wasn’t sure she could fit in that space. But I inched her in and she was quite cooperative, if careful. Unloaded, then reloaded and she was perfect.

Left her on and went for King. That was a bit trickier. King has traveled in his little white trailer for years. He doesn’t like other trailers though. So we yo-yo’d in and out for a while. And then had to let him figure out how to back into the stall too. He was less cooperative than Dressy about that. But he never panicked. Then he got about a zillion cookies as a jackpot reward. He was very happy. And foaming at the mouth with cookie slobber.

Misha went to get Diego, and that also went pretty well. Diego doesn’t have a good trailer loading history. But she’s been working with him a lot over the last year, loading him in this trailer (it’s been in my driveway with no truck to pull it for over a year). But she’s been putting him in the box stall at the back, and we’ve now converted that to two standing stalls so that we could have an area for all the ride gear and still take all three horses. He was a bit uncertain about having to load with the other two horses in there, and then having to back in. But with some cajoling, we managed to get him in and gave him a zillion cookies too.

They looked quite calm and settled by the time they were all loaded up, and the stalls seem to be big enough, even for Dressy. She does tower over the two Arabs though. Another trailer loading session tomorrow, and then a trip to the Vivian Forest to ride on Friday with Brooke and Misha.

Checked all the lights on the trailer too, and wonder of wonders… they ALL worked. It hasn’t been hooked up for over a year, so that’s kind of remarkable.

King’s Progress

King has finally gotten some miles on him in the last week. Which is a big relief. I’ve been riding all winter, but it’s been mostly slow, steady slogging through snow. He really needs to do a bit of sustained trot/canter work to be fit enough for the fifty we are supposed to do on May 1. We are going to have to go slow (not that we would have gone fast… speed is not our forte!). But I must say, he’s looking good. Down to a more reasonable weight and looking fitter.

The vet came today for shots and Coggins tests. So he had a spa day. I brushed him for a long time, getting all the loose hair off. Trimmed his feathers back somewhat (I don’t clip them, because he invariably gets scratches if I do that). Cleaned his sheath (ugh… I guess I’d been avoiding that chore WAY too long… the bean was huge). Washed his tail with whitening shampoo, then combed Cowboy Magic through it.  He was glistening white and sparkly at the end. And quite content with his world.

I have a very expensive Christ saddle pad on order. Should be in within a day or two. The felt pad I’ve been using is just too thin, and it’s sliding around because there are no tabs to attach it to the d-rings. The Christ pad is sheepskin underneath. So he’ll have a sheepskin girth cover and saddle pad. I really hope that will eliminate all the various rubbing possibilities.

He’s an awfully thin skinned horse. Yesterday I tried riding him in the Easyboot Gloves with the old gaiters (the new, “improved” gaiters are on order) and it rubbed the hair off right around the front of both pasterns. Apparently he can’t even go 12 miles in those. How the heck those gaiters ever made it through EasyCare’s R&D process is beyond me.  King can’t be the only thin-skinned endurance horse out there. I sure hope the new gaiters live up to their billing.

Of Blue Horses and Spiked Helmets

Yesterday, King had a very tiny girth rub from our ride the day before. So I elected not to ride him. I’ve pulled out the sheepskin girth cover that we used last year which should help.

Never having used a girth cover before I bought that one, it never occurred to me that there was any reason not to buy black sheepskin. I only used it a couple of times last fall. But here’s a word to the wise… never put a black sheepskin (unless it’s from a black sheep I guess) on a white horse. When the horse gets wet and sweaty, the dye transfers. And it’s permanent dye. He had a charcoal blue stripe around him for the whole winter.

I put it through a bunch of hot water rinses last night. But every change of water is still bluish black. Even this morning after soaking all night. It’s probably going to end up washing out to grey and STILL be transferring dye to King’s hair.

One of King’s spooks on Thursday was a hard stop. He excels at those, stopping so hard it feels like he’s being yanked backwards by his tail. Puts his head down to see what’s scaring him during the spook too. So he not only stops, his front end drops. This tends to catapult the rider right off the front end. A friend of mine calls it “being lawn darted off your horse”. Thus the australian saddle with blocks in front of the thighs. Those blocks are wonderful for keeping me on top of the horse. But with a really hard stop, I stop hard too. Gives me bruises on my thighs. And when he stops hard enough (like this time), I sort of do a face plant in his mane. I’ve learned to get my face turned a bit sideways so I don’t bash my nose (it’s happened!). I think it must give me mild whiplash sometimes. Yesterday, my back was killing me. Just minor muscle wrenching, and much better today. But I was kind of whiney all day at work. Linda was laughing at me and suggested that I should maybe bolt something to the front of my helmet… like a spike. That way King would learn not to stop so hard when I jabbed him with the spike. I suggested that probably it would scare the hikers to have a great big wild-eyed (not to mention blue-striped) grey arab gallop towards them on trail with a spike-helmeted rider yelling rude things like “Stop it! WHOA you rank bastard!”  Linda suggested that more likely it would result in me being fired off my horse at some point and being spiked right into a tree and dangling there for the entertainment of the passersby. Sounds like a scene from Monty Python doesn’t it?

Finally! Trails…

It feels like I’ve been waiting months for my trails to be rideable again. Finally, they are mostly dry enough to move out and trot/canter on reasonably long sections. Today was a beautiful day for a ride. I rode King down the road three miles to the Jefferson Forest.

Years ago, the Jefferson was surrounded by horse farms, and the trails were used by horses regularly. I grew up on the prairies, but when I was a teenager (far back in the mists of time), I used to take lessons at one of them (Sundance Farms) during visits to my horse-loving grandmother in the summer. She was very concerned that I would turn into some kind of cowgirl hooligan if she didn’t civilize me with proper english riding lessons. She tried to instill reverence for dressage into me. Something tells me that she would be quite horrified that I ride endurance on a hooligan Arab. Galloping around the trails in the shadow of those long-dead attempts to subdue my rowdy tendencies.

Those farms are mostly gone. Developed into subdivisions. But the trails are still there, being used by hikers and cyclists mostly. The forest is really beautiful. Very hilly and rather sandy, though the trails are generally damp enough under the forest canopy that the sand is solidly packed footing. There are some open big meadows with deep sand that seem to have been taken over by dirt bikers, so I mostly avoid those. King is not really afraid of dirt bikes, but they do startle him. And then, if given the opportunity to greet the biker politely, he tries to bite the bike. Not so good for the paint job. Or for goodwill between trail-users.

We did a little over 14 miles in around 3 hours today. King was actually tired when we were done. Not exhausted, since he was still spooking and snorting coming up the driveway at the end. But tired enough that he took a long nap after he had a snack. I used the heart rate monitor on him for the first time in a long time. His recoveries were good all day, but I could see that they had slowed just a bit by the time we were done. So at least we finally managed to make him work a bit.

Riding My Horses

Yesterday I rode King for a couple of hours in the afternoon. It was a lovely spring day… sunny and warm. The footing is firming up on the trails, and we were able to move out in some sections. King was very relaxed, and we even cantered on a loose rein, which is something I don’t think I’ve EVER done on him before.

Of course, the relaxed canter likely has something to do with the recent change in bitting. I borrowed a Myler combo bit from Misha. It’s a sort of combination of a bit and a hackamore. The mouthpiece is quite mild, but the hackamore noseband seems to have been a revelation to King. Initially I tried it with the reins snapped to the top ring of the shanks, which gives no leverage on the noseband. But I’ve since dropped it right to the bottom ring. Since then, King is being very circumspect about speed.

I hate to rely on equipment more than training. But really, it’s good to stay alive and aboard. King has speed on the brain and he’s very strong. Once you add the increasing fitness to the attitude, he’s sometimes just more horse than I care to ride. It’s really lovely to be completely under control for a change.

After we got back, Misha arrived to ride her horse. She begged me to ride with her. Since I’d ridden King already, that meant Dressy. I was tired and very hungry, so I told her that she was going to tack up the mare for me while I grabbed something to eat. So when I came back out, my girl was ready to go.

REALLY ready to go as it turned out. She was very snorty when I first got on, and we did some zigging and zagging while she spooked at Misha’s car, a rock, the cell phone tower, and rustling leaves. But she was very willing to go, and trotted right out as soon as I allowed her to. I forget sometimes just how much fun that horse is to ride. With a beginner, she’s quiet and steady. But with me, she’s fast and forward and competitive. Diego, Misha’s horse, is not used to Dressy’s trail trot. No Arab can trot with her when she gets in gear.  And Diego was not at all happy about it. He sulked way behind. To the point that Misha got a bit concerned that something was wrong. But whenever we put Dressy behind, he perked right up. Then of course he’d trot slow, and Dressy would lose patience and we’d cruise past again.

Dressy had a grand time, trotting up a storm. It makes me laugh when she’s like that.