Oct 31, 2010

Stealing Time

It has been a perfect October in Nebraska. If we were asked what October should be, this is it. Clear, sunny skies and mild temperatures; a perfect harvest from what I hear the farmers say. Oh, we had a few days that were windier than anyone liked, but when you are stuck at work, that’s not a bad thing. The weekends have been kind to us. Every day we get like this is stealing time from winter. And after last year, that bit of thievery is just what we need.

Last weekend, I trailered out a couple times. The first day I took Blue. Oh, my! I think he has put on one hundred pounds since I was riding him in August. He must be getting ready for winter. He was a good boy and Kathy, Julie and I had a nice time on our geldings. The trees lent themselves to some great photo ops, and no, that’s not a dead tree, but some sort of deciduous pine. It sheds its leaves in the winter unlike most other pine trees. I love Kathy’s laugh in this picture. It’s reminiscent of the entire day; lots of smiles, laughter and friendship. Julie and I rode again a few days later. Another eight miles down and back on the Rescue Road.

This past Friday, I met Mary and Sheila at Two Rivers. Sheila was anxious to try out her new English saddle. So in keeping with the theme of the day, I saddled up Windy in my black dressage saddle. None of us remembered to throw in cameras, but did get a crappy cell phone picture. I could spend a lot of time critiquing my riding form from this one picture. Ultimately, I hope it was just a bad shot and I really don’t ride as bad as I look just posing for a picture. We rode for a few hours through the public sections of the park; the wildlife area closed through January for hunting. Despite the lack of leather between myself and my horse, I managed to stay on top.

As much as I wanted to trailer out yesterday, there were more chores to do around here. We had no time to prepare for winter last year, so we have to take a little time now. Last weekend we worked on cleaning the corrals and getting the fences ready when we finally have to bring them in from the pasture. Yesterday we loaded the truck with debris to take to the dump. When John and Case went in to watch the Husker game, I stayed outside for some horse time.

I pulled Butter from the pasture. She has only been ridden on a couple of occasions since we went to Wyoming in July, so she was due. The bad thing about Butter is she is terribly buddy sour. I hoped for a short ride in the pasture, but after I let her run off some steam in the round pen, I thought better of that. Instead, I saddled Ginger and ponied Butter. It went pretty well and I even managed to ride out a pretty big spook by both horses when we flushed up some deer in a neighboring treeline. It's funny how fast your mind works. I truly thought I was a goner and was hoping for a soft landing. I was very glad I wasn’t riding in the English saddle for that little incident.

Case and I went to town last night and saw the movie Secretariat. I had read a lot of online reviews; most saying it was a good movie but that astute horse people could find flaws. I decided not to look for any and to enjoy the movie for what it was and I did.

Oct 28, 2010

All By Myself

My last post about taking a trip alone with just my dog, my horse and me, generated some interesting comments and emails; especially the part about doing it alone.

Now anyone who knows me knows that I am a VERY social person and I enjoy being with others. I would rather ride with friends than ride alone. I enjoy all 100+ women at the Friday Before Mother's Day Ride, socializing with everyone at Expo and look forward every year to Cowgirl Weekend. What intrigues me about the kind of trip I mentioned is that I would not have to answer to anyone. I wouldn't need a schedule or a menu. I could stay longer at one place or if I wanted, leave early. I could stop at a restaurant or eat pizza from a gas station. I could drive 50 miles today or 250 miles. I would just simply do what I wanted to do. There would be no one to consult with on the decisions I make.

But once I got to where I was going, I would hope there would be people in the picture. Since I started Horsetrailriders.com in 2004, I have built quite a network of horse people. Some I know personally, casual acquaintances whom I met along the trail. Others who have visited my website with whom I started email friendships. Still others who have moved out of state and have stayed in touch. Once I started to blog, another world opened up; fellow bloggers who share this horse hobby. All of these are the people whom I would like to meet along the way.

Am I running away? Nope. It's just after 22 years of being a couple, 18 years of marriage and 17 years of motherhood, I kind of forgot what it is like to do things on my own agenda. I left home two weeks after I graduated from high school and never looked back. I have always been independent and never minded being alone. Heck, I didn't marry until I was 32 years old! My kids don't enjoy the horse life and John doesn't really enjoy traveling. I'm still young enough and smart enough and healthy enough to do this. It would be my version of "Calgon, take me away." (Old television commercial reference.) And it would only be a couple weeks out of my life.

Will it happen? I sure hope so. When? Who knows! But what fun is a bucket list if you can't dream... or never get to scratch anything off?

Oct 27, 2010

A Little Vacation

I’ve been suffering from a little bloggers block
There have been high winds and cool temperatures this week
So nothing horse related going on.

On Horsetales, a friend posted her horse related bucket list
And asked what some of the rest of us have on our list.
My usual response…
Ride a 25 or a 50 miler
Ride in some REAL mountains
Own a thoroughbred
(Can’t get that guy out of my mind, it seems)

But then I thought what I would really like to do
Is to take a 2 or 3 week horse trip
With just me and my horse.
And Ritz.
I think that would be so cool
Just load up and head out.
Hit some popular horse camps as I travel state to state.
Stay a couple days
Ride with the locals
And pack up and head to the next place or state.

John probably wouldn’t be too keen on the idea
Not so much having me gone
But being stuck home with the kids.

My sister would be nervous for me.
She would not see the wanderlust in such a trip.
It would scare her to be out in the dark
In the woods
So she’d be scared for me.
And she is shy.
I always had to do the talking.
(Well, until the “wain” episode, but that’s another story.)
She would hate having to strike up a conversation with strangers
But I think she would be fascinated to hear about it.

Yeah, someday.
Just Windy in the trailer and
Ritz with me in a new Ram 2500….
(May as well dream big)
Heading down the road.

Oct 24, 2010

Listen Up!

Horse trail riding in public and private parks is a privilege. There is no law that says they have to let us ride. Horse trail riders have been advocating to keep horse trails and horse camps open and appreciate every one of them. We aren't easy keepers, you know. We come in with big rigs and big animals and poop and hay. And good trail riders try their best to leave no trace. NO TRACE! We put our horse's poop in the designated area and if there is none, we take it home; the same with left over hay. Poop and hay are treated the same as garbage. You don't leave it lying around!

Today I learned from some horse trail riders who were visiting Bader Park that other riders have been less than considerate about their riding privileges and not cleaning up after themselves when visiting Bader. That gives all of us a black eye and puts at risk our riding opportunity at this fine park. It's simple, folks. If you don't know how to clean up after yourself, don't leave the farm. It's not our job to keep apologizing for you, it's not the landowners responsibility to clean up your mess. It is YOUR job to be a good steward of our sport.

It seems every now and then I have to get up on my soapbox and remind those "less informed" about what it means to be a guest. A few years ago I had to out a Pall Mall smoker for polluting a favorite horse camp. Either that person quit smoking or quit riding (hopefully the latter) because I haven't seen their butts since.

I would really like to believe that these uncouth riders are not just lazy bums but perhaps new to the sport and haven't learned the ins and outs or didn't think ahead and forgot the manure fork (trash bag, raker, etc.). So if that's the case, listen up and I'll give you some tips:

  1. Riding in public parks is by invitation of such park. If YOU trash it, WE won't be invited back. And that pisses me off.

  2. Trash includes hay, manure, cigarette butts, cans, and anything else you have brought in with you. If there is no place to dispose of it, take it home with you. It's yours.

  3. Clean out camp stalls thoroughly. Leave no poop or hay. Rake it clean.

  4. If you set up fencing, clean the fenced-in area like you would a stall. Rake it clean.

  5. If you are fencing for more than a day or two days, move your fence so you don't totally kill the grass.

  6. If you simply tied to the trailer to saddle your horse and it pooped by your trailer, spread it or take it home. Don't leave piles.

  7. And for goodness sake, if you don't know – ask!

This may sound nit-picky, but it is a big deal to the parks. So make it a big deal to horse trail riders or we might find ourselves ousted from our favorite place.

Oct 23, 2010

The One That Got Away

I went to the local horse sale today. It is much more of a social event than anything else as it is a place where many horse people gather. I haven't bought a horse since 2005. I do not NEED another horse. WE do not need another horse. I am the only one that rides with any regularity around here and it is hard enough keeping time on my two (Windy & Blue) and Case's Butterscotch. And I do like riding Ginger every now and again.

So I go to the sale, pick up some tack and then went out to walk the pens for a bit. Being that it is a local sale, there are usually people I know that I stop to chat with as I make way down the aisles. I try not to look at the hard luck case horses; skinny, unkempt… just plain unloved. There are just too many to save and with shame, I look away. (If only I could win the lottery… )

They aren't all bad; there are many that are saddled, being ridden by their owners or prospective buyers and you think to yourself that those may just stand a chance.

"Loose stock" is those horses that are dropped at the sale by their owner. Their owner may or may not have left pertinent information about the horse. Many times they are just young horses that have been out to pasture that are being unloaded for the winter. I speculate on why others are dropped off. None of it pretty. As I made my way down that aisle to go back into the sale, one horse in a loose stock pen caught my eye….

I have always been drawn to the long, lean horses. Thoroughbreds, appendix bred quarter horses or quarter horses built like my Windy. I pegged this horse for a thoroughbred and figured it was a mare; it had the prettiest head and face and as I prefer, not a speck of white. As I approached, I checked & was surprised to find a gelding. I slipped into the pen and moved its stable mate aside. I stroked the neck of the tall black-bay gelding, picked up his feet one by one. Looked him over top to bottom. His legs looked clean, good back. When my friend joined me, I turned up his lip to have her look for a tattoo which you will find on a thoroughbred that has been raced, and there was none. I was kind of surprised.

As far as the sale goes, this horse had two big strikes against him. One, he was in the loose stock pen so no one would be presenting him in the ring. As a result, hewould be looked upon less than favorably by those buying as there is no history on this guy. Secondly, he was a thoroughbred. Like it or not, this is quarter horse & paint country. Thoroughbreds around here are seen as throw-away race horses and just don't get the same kind of bids. The gelding was, however, in good condition. He had a couple questionable spots on his hooves where he may have had contusions which blew out or maybe an abscess; nothing that concerned me. I was in lust with this horse, but like I said, I Do Not Need Another Horse. And I left the pen.

A little later, John showed up at the sale. I couldn't stand it and told him about the black bay gelding. He said he sounds too tall for bushwhacking and I laughed and said he was. But I also said he sure seems quiet. Finally, I asked John to come out and see him. This time, I borrowed a halter from a nearby horse and led the gelding out of his pen. His manners were impeccable. I found a flat area and asked him to lunge. With just a tiny lead rope, I could not get big circles but could see he moved nicely and appeared sound. John swung his belly over the geldings back without reaction. A man and a woman stopped to watch & asked me about "my horse." I told them he wasn't mine but I worried he would end up on the "truck". They asked if I was concerned about his hooves and I told him I was not and that I thought he was a nice horse. Another acquaintance stopped by and said he knew that horse. That it was used to pony racehorses at the track and it was "broke, broke, broke". Hmmm. After a short chat with John, I got the green light to "save" him if it looked like his future was "heading south".

Five years have passed since I bought my last horse. I have to admit I was getting the "new horse fever" and even emailed a few friends that I was going to bid on a horse. When he came into the sale ring, the auctioneer asked for a $300 opening bid. I waited. They never get a bid as high as they ask for. Finally, someone opened at around $200. I did not bid. Two other people were and had raised it quickly to $270, $280… and then $290. The couple I had spoken with when lunging the horse had the bid. He wouldn't go to kill. John looked at me questionably wondering if I was going to bid. I didn't raise my hand. The horse was safe from the kill buyers which was my goal. So I let him go.

I have to admit in that hour or so, from the time I saw him until I lost him, I had dreams of taking English riding lessons, dressage, jumping… he would have been the perfect English horse. In reality, he probably bucked like a sonofabitch and it was a good thing he didn't come home with me. (Big sigh….) Yeah, I'll keep telling myself that.

Oct 21, 2010

Tomorrow I Ride

It is definitely time to lighten the mood. I don't know how it is in your part of the country but this last week in Nebraska has been Fall at Its Finest. This is how all autumns should be: sunny, seventies, little or light wind and the colors changing before our eyes. I want to bottle it and come January 23, when the blues have set in, open it up and catch of whiff of this perfection to get me through those short dark, cold days ahead.

Although the above picture is clearly not a good picture, I have kept it in my pictures files because it captures the feeling of fall. The autumn color wheel, the warmth of the sun and the grass bent in the breeze. This was taken several years ago when I was still riding Blue.

Oct 19, 2010

Sad, Sad Situation

Yesterday I had to pick Case up in town after school, so I didn't drive home my normal route. When I got home later that afternoon, the Horsetales list serv mentioned an accident involving a horse trailer near a major intersection on my usual route. Apparently, a trailer came loose from the truck and went into traffic, hitting an oncoming vehicle. The chatter on Horsetales mentioned a horse lying on the side of the road, life flight transporting victims, possibly a child ejected from a vehicle. Yes, just another traffic accident but it hit close to home because so many of us frequently pull our own horse trailers.

The ten o'clock news reported three people were taken to the hospital and one had died. No names were released. Although we live near a major metropolitan area, the horse community is small. I worried that the person driving the rig was someone I knew, a horse I had shared a trail with. I know people who live in the area and prayed they weren't in the wrong place at the wrong time and were the ones who were hit. When the names were released this morning, I found I didn't know either family. But felt their pain.

The driver of the rig, a woman, was uninjured. Her horse severly injured was put down at the scene. I was told it was still there this morning, off the side of the road. The man driving the car that was hit survived; his 9 year-old son was in critical condition and his 10 year-old-daughter died at the hospital. The news reported that none of those injured were wearing seatbelts. The father of those children is, no doubt, going through his own private hell. And I'll leave it at that.

Keeping this horse related, the news reports did not mention if the trailer had safety chains. It's easy to assume there weren't any, but after reading some stories online (http://www.dangeroustrailers.org/ ), it's possible that although chains may be required, it might not be a primary offense, so a person cannot be stopped for this offense alone. This same website also said that some states that require chains, do not specify the weight of the chain, so many trailers are ill equipped. In other words, if you see a trailer behind a truck, you just don't know how safe it really is. (Update: a recent news story quotes the Nebraska State Patrol as saying safety chains were in place on the horse trailer.)

While it is easy to questions the decisions made by all those involved, it is important also to remember that accidents happen. We get hurried, sidetracked and sometimes just plain mess up. I know. It happened to me. You might remember when I had a similar accident. I was pulling two horses in my two-horse straight load steel trailer. It was negligence on my part that my trailer was not secured properly. I was distracted when hooking it up and I didn't check my work. My hitch wasn't locked in place. I hit a railroad track going about 50 mph and the trailer popped off the receiver ball. I felt it first and saw what happened in my rear view mirror and immediately started to slow the truck. When the trailer hit the back of my truck, bounced back and hit the truck again, I knew the chains had caught it and was carrying the estimated 4,500 pound load; keeping my horses, other traffic and me safe. I managed to keep it all together until I could get off the road. After yesterday's incident, I wonder if I shouldn't have them checked again. There was some wear; perhaps they were compromised.

I am sad for all involved. I hope I'm not the only horse person thinking about this and if our trailers are safe for not only our horse, but others on the road. Be safe, everyone.

Oct 15, 2010

We Finished!

I awoke again without the alarm. As I climbed out of the bunk, Windy nickered. With this new trailer, she ties real close to the door to the living quarters and knows when I'm moving around. I tossed her some hay and started my coffee. Trot out was at 7:00 AM. Shari and I wanted to have a little time prior to that to warm our horses up. It was still dark as we rode away from our trailers.

I was pleased to find I still had a lot of horse under me. Windy was moving quickly and without effort down the trail. Before long we came to the first obstacle. There was a line, so we assumed this one would be a bit more difficult. She snacked as we waiting our turn.

Once in front of the judges, we were asked to back our horse between two trees and once there, sidepass to the left to exit. How many times have we practiced backing through trees? Believe it or not, lots. It is one of those CTR obstacles you hear about, so it is one of those things we try for fun when pleasure riding.

I lined Windy up in front of the trees. Before I could cue her, she reached above us and took a mouthful of leaves from the tree. I decided to show patience to the horsemanship judge. I let her tear the leaves off the branch and begin to chew and then cued her for a back. She jerked her head out of my hands and reached up for a second bite. She was getting pissy! There was some name calling going on in my mind, but rather than voice my dissatisfaction, I moved her out from under that branch, repositioned her and asked again. She went a little light in the front before her hind-end kicked in and she backed. I cued her to sidepass and she must have done that okay because my scorecard had a "good" following the sidepass, but we lost a point for the back. (Big sigh.)

Shortly after the "thigh master" hill, we had to stop for a pulse and respiration check (P & R). Once dismounted, volunteers come to your horse and record their vitals. You then wait ten minutes and the horse is rechecked. It is that recheck number that you want to be in the acceptable range. Only once throughout the weekend was I concerned and it worked out okay. This time we had just climbed the highest bluff in the park and I hoped she would recover easily from it and was thrilled when she did.

We continued on to the horsemanship judge. He asked me if I had a knife in my saddle bag and if I did, to cut his twine. I did. He then asked if I had a hoof pick on me. Yesterday I did. Today I did not. I have twenty two hoof picks in the trailer and not a one on my horse. He didn't ask to see it, but I cannot tell a lie… I lost a point there.

As we closed in on the fifth hour, we rode into camp and across the finish line. We went through the same routine as the day before; grooming and presenting our horses to the judge. Windy checked out once more all zeros and a three. I was ecstatic over having such a wonderful two days on my good mare and having her come in fit and sound made it even better. We took care of each other.

The score cards would be handed out after the awards ceremony and I was anxious to see it. I had one honeycrisp apple left and told Shari if I get a higher score than my horse, I get the apple and if Windy's score is higher, the apple is hers. In our three previous rides, Windy has scored higher than I did, so I figured if I didn't come in at 6th place, I didn't place. I was shocked when they announced that I had placed 4th. Now fourth may not be a big deal to all of you, but it is as good as being the winner in my book. I never did sports in school except the required tests. To think that I rode my horse for 11 hours and did it well enough to place, was over the top for me. If I never place again, I'll die happy with my fourth place honor. My friend, Shari, took 2nd place in her class.

After the horsemanship awards, they started through the classes once again to announce the horse placings. When Windy hadn't placed in 6th, 5th or even 4th, like me, I figured her temper tantrum when trying to eat leaves during the obstacle had taken her out of the game. I would get the apple. When they announced the 2nd place horse was Windy, I about died. As a parent, we want for our kids so much – it's a given that we want for them more than ourselves. And the feeling I had for my horse at that point was not unlike that I have with my children; such pride. She did it. No, she didn't win. But she got SECOND PLACE! You'd think she had won the Kentucky Derby. I couldn't have been happier. The honeycrisp apple was hers.

Oct 14, 2010

The First Day Out

I was awake before the alarm went off and could hear the campground was coming to life. While taboo when camping while pleasure riding, generators started buzzing to provide lighting, coffee and other necessary comforts. My trailer is pretty self-contained and most everything I need runs off battery or propane. With that said, I started my propane burner to brew some coffee and threw Windy a few flakes of hay while I started to get dressed.

While at Cowgirl Weekend we had heaters going, this weekend was very mild. I had slept with the windows cracked in the trailer and put on regular breeches rather than fleece. I dressed in layers, slipping on a tank top, a long sleeved shirt and a sweat shirt to keep the morning chill away. I pulled out snacks for my saddle bag: a Special K bar and a couple Oven Ham Sammies I made special for the occasion as they pack very well in my pommel bag.

After saddling Windy and meeting up with Shari, we rode over to where the riders were being timed out. Diane, another Horsetales friend, met us on her Rocky Mountain mare and would ride out with us. Before long, our numbers were called and off we went with Diane in the lead. Windy felt great, albeit pushing it a little more than I would have liked, trying to close the gap between Diane and me. It was obvious the gaited horse was moving faster than my quarter horse and Diane disappeared down the trail. A couple other riders on gaited horses passed us, and before long, it was just Shari and I, followed by the safety riders.

We did a lot of trotting early that morning and were still struggling to beat the clock. And before long, we found ourselves at the first judged obstacle. It was simple, really. Ride your horse up the hill to the judge. Stop your horse and count to five and continue on down the trail. I rode up and whoa'd Windy. I counted. One, two, three, four…. And she tossed her head. Dang! So much for standing quietly. See? These easy obstacles aren't that easy after all! We were later asked to back uphill. Windy showed some resistance, but got the job done.

Later in the morning a couple other women joined us. One woman, Mary, was a seasoned CTR rider on a first time horse while Kelli was a first time CTR rider on a first time horse. Both horses were Arabians and both tucked in quietly behind us, sticking with the pace of our horses.

About two thirds of the way into the ride, we reached an intersection in the trail. The ribbons showed the trail going off to the left, so we went left. Before we got a hundred feet, someone riding up behind us yelled to us, "You are going the wrong way!" We stopped. We looked at our map. We looked at the ribbons. It's possible the ribbons are there for tomorrow's ride. The map is confusing. But Shari said the rider who warned us is not one who makes mistakes. We changed our course and were back on the right track. That wrong trail would have taken us 1.3 miles out of our way and over the dreaded hill known as the "thigh master."

We finished the ride just under six hours, traveling over 21 miles. Once back at camp, we had an hour to get our horse ready to show again to the judge. I mixed Windy up some wetted mash to keep her hydrated, freshened her water bucket and tossed her a flake of hay. As she ate, I filled a bucket with soapy water and starting with her legs, began to clean her up. I removed the saddle and gently sponged her back and neck. I brushed out her tail and braided her mane. My trail horse was now show quality and ready to present to the judge. She checked out with 5 zeros and a 3+. Close enough to perfect for me.

At the ride meeting that night, they told us to be ready to trot out for the judge at 7:00 AM or first light. Since we were starting a little earlier, I returned to the trailer to prepare for the next day. I packed the snacks into my pommel bag and put full water bottles on my saddle. I laid out the clothes I was going to wear the following day. Windy would occasionally stop eating and look up to see what I was doing, most likely to see if I would share any snacks. I put a light weight blanket on her and shut out the lights before 10:00. I fell asleep shortly after I hit the pillow.

(To be continued)

Oct 13, 2010

My Ride

I left for the Indian Cave Competitive Trail Ride last Friday morning. Doing a quick inventory of what I packed, I realized too late that I had forgotten my laptop and had too many miles behind me to warrant going back. I so wanted to post each night about the ride. It's now several days later and I find myself struggling to start this post. It's so much easier when it is fresh in my mind.

There were about forty riders competing. Since they place the first 6 in each class, I was hoping there would be at least 7 in my class. I like to have something to work for and not just a "gimme." There ended up being around 9 or 10 in my class; I'm not 100% as it kept changing right up until ride time.

Shari and I had a brief ride on Friday afternoon. The weather was spectacular and the fall colors inviting. We only climbed a few of the many hills along these trails, testing what kind of horse we had under us but not wanting to push them before the actual competition. Windy felt relaxed and ready; a good place to be. Back at camp, we groomed our horses to get them ready to present to the judge.

When showing to the judge at a CTR, I always have to make the difficult decision if I show with a whip or not. I can get much prettier lunging circles out of Windy when I use a carriage whip or carrot stick, but it is awkward for me to carry. I decided to pass on the whip. She stood nicely for the vet judge and when I circled her, she presented herself willingly, although her transitions from left to right were awful. Fortunately the horsemanship judge did not hold that against me. Her baseline was set at 5 zeros and a 3. The zeros represent her metabolic scores, (gut sounds, hydration, capillary refill, etc.) I was told at zeros they are where they should be. On a scale of 1 to 5, her willingness and attitude was a 3. If that number stayed the same or went up to a 4 or a 5 at the next vet presentation, that would be good. We just didn't want that number to go down.

At the ride meeting that night, we learned we would be riding 21.6 miles the first day. I believe minimum ride time was 5:25 hours with a 5:55 mid-point (don't quote me, I am running off memory here). There would be no lunch break. This concerned us for a few reasons and none had to do with our own stomachs. Mainly, it is October in Nebraska. The temps have been in the 60 – 70's and the horses now have their winter coats. The weekend temperatures were predicted to be in the mid to upper 80's, unseasonably warm. We felt the heat on our newly coated horses, in addition to the long hills on the trail, would be adding a lot of added stress to the horses and they could certainly use some down time mid ride, but in the end, it didn't matter. The horses did remarkably well, despite these conditions.

Shari and I strategized that night about our ride. We would start at the back of the pack. Trot the flats in the early morning so as the day got warmer, we wouldn't need to push them as much. Whichever horse leads out the best, would lead; we would switch as needed. The pace of our horses, Wiley and Windy, were pretty well matched. If another rider joined up with us, we would not change the pace of our ride to that horse.

The ride would begin at 7:30 AM the following morning.

(To be continued….)

Oct 7, 2010

Ready to Roll

The above picture was taken at the Indian Cave Competitive Trail Ride in 2004. (The child and husband are not mine, but my riding buddies for the day). It was the first CTR I entered and I didn't do another one until 2009. The horse I was riding in this picture wasn't mine either. Well, technically, she is John's. The gelding I was riding at this time in my life had a sore back from a previous trip, so I rode Ginger instead. It did not go well.

I had no intention of doing a Competitive Trail Ride this year; for no other reason than scheduling conflicts. After McCain decided not to play football this fall, I found my Friday nights had opened up. It will be another year before Case will suit up for Friday night lights, so I decided to try to make up for lost riding time. This weather has been perfect and I have been horse camping the last two weekends.

On my drive home from Cowgirl Weekend, I reflected on the ride. I didn't think we got to ride our kind of ride; if anything, the bar was lowered. I started thinking about riding the Indian Cave CTR. Windy doesn't have near the time on her this year as last year, but relative to a lot of horses, she has enough miles and is in good enough shape to handle it. I started watching the forecast because the last place I want to be is at Indian Cave if it rains or (God-forbid), snows early again this year. And just to make sure I had all my ducks in a row, I had my vet pull Coggins.

One week out and it looked like the weather was going to hold. I sent in my entry. I woke up at 5:00 AM this morning and remembered I didn't get my Coggins papers in the mail. And totally forgot about health papers. My vet lives just down the road, so I wasn't worried so much about him having time to see her as I was about the Coggins results not being here. Usually they come in a matter of a few days. I called the vet and he had received the bill for the lab, but no papers. So I followed up and had the lab scan and email me the results so the health papers could be completed. The originals arrived in the vet's mail this afternoon. Whew! I can't believe I forgot to follow up and it was this close to ride time.

I tackled my least favorite horse chore this afternoon; bathing Windy. I love to groom her, but hate the bath itself. As she dried, I sat down on a bucket next to her and started the monotonous task of scraping botfly eggs off her legs. I then sprayed her legs with Show Sheen, braided her mane & tail and put her in the round pen for the night. I put Butter in to keep her company. The round pen is full of grass; she'll stay clean for the most part. When John got home, I had him clean up her front hooves a bit. She looks show ready!

I'll head out tomorrow morning, set up camp and ride the trails a bit before checking in for the ride. The CTR begins Saturday morning. My goal is to have a good ride and to have fun. And hope my horse doesn't embarrass me or me embarrass her!

Oct 4, 2010

Monday Monday

(Can't trust that day)

I am getting really tired of Mondays - well, mornings in general.

Driving in to work in the dark is the culprit, I think.

Then when the sun starts peeking thru my office window,

it's like waking up all over again.

My usual one cup of coffee isn't even coming close to helping the situation.

Every other day of the week...

I can't say they are fine, either.


Just broke a cusp of my tooth off eating a "gummie" vitamin

That my doctor so highly recommends someone of "my age" take regularly

(Vitamins, not necessarily gummie)

The day can only get better from here, right?


Oct 2, 2010

The Touch

Last evening, after my youngest son about took me over the deep end, I wondered out to the pasture for a little peace and quiet. The horses were eating along the edge of the pond, Blue on the other side crossed over and stopped beside me. I rubbed the flies off his back and scratched around his eyes where the flies had gathered and then turned to continue my walk.

It wasn't long before I heard their hoof beats behind me. Glancing over my shoulder, they had formed a line of such, following the same path as I just took; none of them in any more of a hurry than I was. When I reached the cottonwood grove, I sat down under one of the trees. The horses stopped and watched. I am sure confused as we usually continue this walk up to the barn.

Ginger was the first to approach me. She stood in front of me and brought her head to mine. She smelled my face, my hair and my neck. I reached up to touch her nose. Being around the horses every day, I sometime think we forget their softness.

Blue hung to the left of my shoulder, his eyes closed and bottom lip hanging low. I reached up and touched his nose, too; again taking in its velvet feel on my fingertips. Baby moved her big self between Ginger and Blue and put her head down by mine. Her huge feet scare me and I picked up a cottonwood twig so that I could move her away if she crowded me too much.

I felt her soft breath over my right shoulder before I saw her. Windy had made her away around the right side of the tree. Like her mama, she smelled my hair, my neck and put her nose to my lips like she often does and I rubbed my face next to hers. I scratched her chin, her neck and the inside of her ears. I reveled at how soft her neck is right now and how brilliant her color is with her winter coat coming in. A few times Baby tried to bully her away, but Windy held her ground.

It wasn't long before something else got their attention and they stopped fussing with me. I got up and went to Butter, who wouldn't approach with the alpha horses nearby. I scratched her neck and ran my fingers down her dorsal stripe, bolder right now with the thickness of her coat. We walked side by side until we reached the rest of the herd.

Moments like this are as important to me as the ride itself. This is why I have horses.