Sep 30, 2009

Run, Forest, Run!

I’m feeling like Forest Gump again. Not the quirky, happy, driven (by what?) Forest, but the haggard and tired Forest after his marathon run. And I’m experiencing how he must have felt when he simply quit running. You might recall he was out there in the middle of nowhere, with his groupies jogging behind him, and he just stopped. He was done. Finished. Over. And he went home.

When I signed up for the Stephen’s Forest CTR, I knew it was the week before Cowgirl Weekend and I would be in the saddle a lot for both rides. I wasn’t worried about it. I ride enough that I no longer get saddle sore. But I did come home with aching hands! What is up with that? Someone stopped in my office yesterday and shook my hand and I about dropped to my knees in pain! I certainly don’t ride with a death grip on the reins, nor do I ride in my horses’ mouths. Although someone hinted that I could be showing signs of arthritis (oh, please – I’m so not in that age group yet), I can only think they ache from tacking up a horse twice a day, throwing bales while camping, and carrying water buckets – all without gloves. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!  But I digress.....

I got home late Sunday afternoon and unloaded the horses.  Unpacked the trailer and even cleaned it. Caught up with what was going on in John and the boys’ lives. Read email, watched a little television with Case and headed to bed. And that was my only break!

I got up Monday morning headed to work before the sunrise, followed by McCain’s football game that evening. It was almost 10 o'clock when we got home. And just like Groundhog Day, same song different verse on Tuesday. Then once again today, out the door at the butt crack of dawn! I have literally not “seen” my horses since Sunday evening!

So back to Forest Gump. I am tired. I am done running. I quit. I just want to be home. In the daylight. I want to see my horses. I want to count my chickens (to see how many Bo may have feasted on while I was gone). I want Case to finish his homework before 9 o’clock at night. I’d like to spend more than 10 minutes with McCain. I’d like to be in bed before 10 o’clock.

Sleep, Forest, sleep.

Sep 28, 2009

Cowgirl Weekend 2009

Almost sixteen hours in the saddle, we covered nearly 45 miles.  Although the t-shirts say “Indian Cave”, destination plans were changed 24 hours from departure. The weather forecast was too unpredictable, with a chance of rain increasing each day. Indian Cave’s long, hilly trails get terribly sloppy when wet. We didn’t want to take the chance. The prairie trails of Rock Creek Station would be much more forgiving. So that is where we went.

Since Windy had just come off a long CTR weekend, I had planned to bring Ginger along to provide her some relief. When Robyn’s horse, Coda, was still having some soundness issues, I offered Ginger to Robyn. Windy had some swelling in her right ankle, but both mares, although no doubt tired, did well.

There were twenty-one women at Cowgirl Weekend between the ages of thirty-something and sixty-something. We rode a lot, laughed often and ate too much. We sat around the campfire under light raindrops the first night and beautiful stars the following two nights, sharing stories from that day’s ride, reminiscing of prior Cowgirl Weekends and catching up on the last 12 months of our lives.

But most of all, we talked about the horse. How they make us feel young again.  And put the wind in our hair.


Sep 23, 2009

It's Cowgirl Weekend Time!

In the dark of the winter months, my friend Kathy cheers me up by sending an invitation to “mark the calendar” and come September, attend her annual Cowgirl Weekend. It always seems so far away at the time. It’s like opening a Christmas present and getting just what you want but not being able to wear it until fall! Well, fall is finally here and I am packed and ready for Cowgirl Weekend 2009!

My first Cowgirl Weekend was in 2003. Blue was my main ride then. I had never pulled the trailer on my own, let alone taken it hours from my home. Prior to the weekend, John showed me how to hook it up. We pulled the trailer to town and I practiced turning corners and stopping. I even got my first lesson in backing! And I did it! I was mobile! There was no turning back!

Top row:  2003 on Blue, 2004 on Ginger, 2005 on Blue
Bottom row on Windy -- 2006, 2008, 2007

In 2004, I had been riding Jo the appaloosa that season and shortly before Cowgirl Weekend, he had a sore back from a prior trip. Blue wasn’t legged up, so I took Ginger that year. I’d always been a bit leery of riding Ginger and it was probably the best thing I could have done was to spend a weekend riding her and getting over that fear! I can still feel the wind on my face as I ran her down the dirt pasture road. 

The following year was Windy’s first summer with me. I was coming off a broken ankle injury and she was just three then and pretty green. I really wanted to take her, but decided on taking both Windy and Blue for the trip. It was good exposure for her but Blue was there for the long days. Windy has been making the trip solo ever since.

Me & Kathy

Cowgirl Weekend was started eleven years ago by Kathy Newberg and the late Joyce Vossler. The intent was for women to become more comfortable traveling with their horse, camping with their horse and caring for their horse away from home.  It is for spending a weekend with other like-minded women. It’s a time to escape our middle aged body and minds. It’s a time to be silly, a time to be free! And most of all, a time to ride!

I’ve grown as a horsewoman since that first Cowgirl Weekend and I thank Kathy for giving me the opportunity to take that first step all those years ago.  Tomorrow I leave once again at the crack of dawn with my horse in tow to meet 19 other women for Cowgirl Weekend 2009!

Sep 21, 2009

The Best of Rides

It was the best of rides; it was the worst of rides….

Stephen’s Forest was beautiful. The temperature was mild and the leaves were just starting to change color. I’d wanted to ride there for a long time and finally got my chance. The horses were unloaded and settled in at their hitching posts and we checked in for the Competitive Trail Ride about mid-afternoon. It looked like there would be about sixteen competitors in my class riding the 36 miles over the next two days. 

I brought Windy over to show for the judges. “They said” both the equine and horsemanship judges were tough. "They" were right. I quickly lost three horsemanship points at check-in for things veteran riders probably do correctly in their sleep. But Windy was sound, had good metabolics and was ready to go. Unfortunately, later that evening, I discovered that I had forgotten to pack her saddle pad. The pad that kept her back safe and sound at the last CTR was in my two horse trailer at home. I’d have to make do with the extra one in my trailer and I didn’t feel good about it.

We rode out around 8:00 the following morning with a small group. Windy was pretty full of herself and we definitely weren’t going to mosey down the trail. A few times I wondered when – and IF – she would come down. And then we happened upon the first obstacle as we were climbing a hill. When it was our turn, we were asked to turn and face a blue ribbon tied to a tree and back between two rocks buried into the surface going off the trail. I took a deep breath as I moved her to the blue ribbon. I looked over each shoulder to clearly see where I had to move her and gently moved my foot back so that her hindquarters would line up. I told her “back, back, back” and gave the leg cue she recognized.  She collected herself and started to back in the direction I gave her.  I heard the judge say “one more step” and Windy took that last step. And the judge said “excellent!” The tone was set for the day! It was going to be an awesome ride.

We rode that first day for almost 7 hours. Our P & R checks were great. The rest of the obstacles and observations were hit and miss, but I felt like I had a good ride. When I untacked her at the end of the ride, I was sickened to find obvious edema from near the O rings. The pad I had to use in a pinch did not do the trick. That, combined with soreness of the loins, I started losing points quickly.

I truly needed a 34” saddle pad. Competitors were willing to help, but most were only 32”. I had another saddle in my trailer… perhaps if I used that; the O rings would not irritate the same area. I decided to take the gamble on it working….

On Sunday, we found ourselves being chased down the trail by a horse fly! Can those things boogie! The GPS said we were galloping about 19 mph and it was staying with us. At the first opportunity, I stopped Windy, jumped off and went to war with the bug. I won. Too bad I wasn’t scored on that maneuver! Later, another request was to trot at any speed down the trail and jump or stride a log which we will come to. I started out at a nice pace, rounded the corner and “the log” certainly seemed “tree sized” to me! I was in a good position and told Windy, “Jump!” She did. We nailed it! What a hoot!

It was the best of rides as Windy and I were in sync more so than at the previous CTR, albeit not good enough to be in the money (Windy was 7th & I was 8th in a class of 14).  It was the worst of rides as our saddle fit issues took away from the things that we were doing together so well.  Even though the different saddle didn't perpetuate the prior soreness, moving it off the sore area caused a girth sore so we lost a few more points at check-out.  I can't help but wonder how my regular tack would have changed the outcome.  I want a “do-over.”

Nonetheless, it was a great last ride. The last CTR for this year anyway. Next year? Who knows? Remember, I never say never….

Sep 17, 2009

She Cleans Up Well

There is nothing I appreciate more than a clean horse.  There is also nothing I hate more than bathing a horse!  It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it. 

Luckily the horses were up at the barn when I got home tonight.  Nothing like adding insult to injury if I would have had to go to the other end of the pasture to bring them up.  I thought briefly about fixing supper first -- another job that's right up there with bathing the horse -- but what the hell - why ruin the evening completely. 

It took over an hour to clean her from toe to head. 

"Did the bot flies have to choose this week to lay their eggs?"
"Where did she get that cut?"
"Why is her hair missing there?"
"Glad I don't get this black crap between MY boobs!"
"Great, a hoof flair!"

Nothing like being up close and personal and finding all the flaws!

"Ritz, go lay down!"

I was pretty happy with the finished product.  Braided her up to try to keep some of it clean.  Put on a blanket and a fly mask (they sure were pesky tonight!) and put her in the round pen that at the moment has more grass than sand. 

It's past my bedtime.  Getting up at o'dark hundred and hope to be heading out before 8:00 AM.  We should avoid most of the Omaha traffic that way. 

"Another tank of gas and back on the road again!"

Sep 16, 2009

On The Road Again

It seems like only yesterday I was planning my first Competitive Trail Ride (CTR) with Windy at Smithville Lake. Can't believe that was way back in May! And here it is September already and once again I am packing for a CTR -- an end of the season ride at Stephen’s Forest in Iowa this coming weekend.  Where has the summer gone?

I have told my friends that this ride is my CTR “farewell ride”. Not because I do not appreciate the sport. I do. What a great opportunity it provides for trail riders like me to ride new trails and do something different on the trails. And what valuable feedback the judging provides.  It truly challenges me to be a stronger rider and Windy and me to be a better team.  And at the last ride, we had so much fun.

So why quit now? "Quit" is probably too strong a word. And I never "say never”. But at this time in my life, not unlike many of you, I find I am trying to balance a lot of things: work, home, and the kids and all their activities. And when I look at the big picture, after this year, there are only five more football seasons.  And five more baseball seasons. And five more basketball seasons. Only five more fall concerts. You get the picture.  Then the kids are done. Graduated. Gone! I'll then find myself looking for something more to do with my time and perhaps CTR will fit better in that new life.  

But for now, the time it takes to truly condition for a CTR outside of normal riding, the expense of entry fees and travel (because only one CTR is relatively close to me), and the time away from home that all of this entails – combined with the time I am away for just recreational riding (which I won’t give up) - seems like a lot. Especially when so much is going on in their young lives right now.

So this coming weekend, I’ll go out with a bang or a fizzle. It doesn’t really matter. What I am expecting is to have two great days on the trail in early fall with my good mare and good friends. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Sep 11, 2009

Catching Up Again

My blogging has been neglected!  Lot's going on, but nothing too notable.  We took the horses to Camp Moses over the long weekend.  Only have a couple pictures as my little saddle bag camera broke.  I was able to fix it after we got home, too little, too late. 
  • We rode 10 hours and around 25 miles.
  • We cleared about 1/2 mile of trail -- which seemed like 4 miles when you are on foot.
  • We ate way too much!
  • McCain camped with us AND rode!
  • Case caught a hoof to his right leg but made a quick recovery.

I just found some shots of the boys in camp on my other camera. You can see how both the boys kept themselves entertained!

By the time we got home, the trailer smelled of stinky boys (mini-men?)  Gave it a good scrubbing on Tuesday and loaded Windy back up on Wednesday for a friend's last ride (with our group, that is).  

Vic & Corie

My friend, Vic, and her family are moving to Texas early next month.  We became friends a few years ago when she leased my gelding, Jo.  We've both since moved on with other horses.  Our paths still cross occasionally and now that she is leaving, I have to say that I wish we made an effort to ride together more often.  Another example of  "I could have been a better friend if I hadn't trusted time."  I"ll miss you, Vic! 

One week until the Competitive Trail Ride at Stephen's Forest.  I don't feel I am as prepared as I was for the ride this spring, but I'm cool with that.  I'm not going to stress about the competition.  This one will be a scenic ride.

Sep 4, 2009

Cool Change

Although I love these unseasonably cool days (can you believe it was 41 degrees the other morning?),  I worry that winter will be here sooner than normal – which in my book is always too soon. I am hopeful when I hear the weather geeks saying that they are predicting a mild winter. Mild and short would be my preference.

Wednesday marked the conclusion of the regularly scheduled Platte River Rides on the Lincoln side. It doesn’t seem that long ago that I displayed the countdown clock marking the first season ride. We’ll have a combined ride with the Omaha group next week and will regrettably be saying goodbye to a friend who is leaving the state. Seasons are changing.

We are planning on camping over the weekend if we can carve it out around McCain’s football games, football practice and job. In some ways, the older my boys get, the easier it is. But yet in other ways, it brings on a whole new set of challenges. McCain isn’t keen on hanging with us all weekend and the 3 years age difference between him and Case is really starting to show. He lacks patience where his little brother is concerned and Case gets frustrated because they no longer do the things they used to do when we were all together. Whenever I hear that song, “You’re Going to Miss This”, one minute I think “No, I’m not!” and the next minute, I know I will.