Tuesday, October 27, 2009

When we found out we won

I have been trying to sort through my thoughts to do a Post ride entry in the blog. I guess I should pick up where I had really left off, heading to the awards. Our class, Open Heavyweight is always the last to be announced. And the Horse is last, after the Horsemanship awards. We had started seven in our class, but Don had to pull Sunday AM to take his daughter and her horse, and trailer home after she had a bad weekend. She got broadsided in her truck Thursday near camp, so her truck was totaled, then she and her horse had an accident on the trail, and both were hurt. Thankfully it was not worse, and both will heal and be on the trail again. But, we were down to six in our class, and ribbons are given to 6th place. Just like many horse shows, they announce 6th, then 5th, etc. on up to 1st. So, I am sure I am like many riders who sit there hoping to not hear our names early. As they went through the Horsemanship placings, I was hoping to hear my name for 2nd place, as another rider, James Keene has been trying for a National Horsemanship award. I wanted to see him get 1st, which was just what happened. Then, through all the Novice horse awards, working to our class. As they started on our class, I found myself shaking. I knew Hank had a pretty good ride, but I was not sure how good. James and his mare, Sassy, have won the Presidents Cup twice, and are a VERY nice team. As they announced 3rd, and neither of us had been called yet, I was an emotional wreck. If I won 1st, I would know right then and there that we won the Presidents Cup. Winning 2nd meant I needed to wait for Cheri to call me, and tell me how her ride went in MO. so we could figure points. If she Sweepstaked, we would be tied, and then had to compare who had more 1st places, which we were tied, and then it would go to most 2nd places, which she had more. Anyway, the vet was announcing the awards, and she messed with us some, kind of delaying announcing 2nd. James had a hold of my hand,and I was about to burst. When Hank was announced for 2nd, I had to explain to those who were not aware of what was at stake, why all the fuss. The awards were just wrapped up, when the phone rang from Cheri. I ran outside of the building to answer the call. I was talking way too fast, overly emotional, and not able to take much more. I just wanted to know NOW how she placed. Poor Cheri. I know she was not expecting to get THAT on the other end of the phone. So, when she told me how she placed, and I did not hear the word sweepstakes, I of course started to cry, knowing Hank had won. She kept telling me not to cry. (sob-sob-sniff-sniff) The connection was not terrific, and we cut it fairly short so I could go back in and let those still in the building know. James came out and met me, and I could barely squeak out that we had won. Lots of hugs, congratulations, and a bit of a blur.

As I was walking back to the rig to hug on Hank, I felt this odd feeling come over me. I still can not really put it in words. Kind of a calm release of emotions. The tension was released. From about May, until this ride, I had been constantly thinking about the next ride, then next ride, all aiming towards year end goals. Now it was over. Hank was munching, oblivious to all he accomplished.

I'm happy with how he is looking after those last 6 rides in 7 weeks.

I finished packing, said a few more good-byes, sent Text messages to Hanks fan club, and finally started my drive home. Thankfully that was uneventful, since we had massive thunder and lighting storms all scattered around Texas, and bursts of heavy rain. Got the horses home, put blankets on them as a cold front was coming in, and headed to bed.

Yesterday I spent the day doing very little. It was weird to not be cleaning and repacking the camper and trailer for another ride. Still kind of an odd feeling and emotions. I have still been thinking about the rides we did, re-riding some of the trails in my mind. As I was walking to the barn in the dark, I had a memory of some of the late walks I took Hank on after his surgery to graze him. Still amazed at what he accomplished. Although he is still difficult at times, and very opinionated. I'm sure that will not change, even with another 1000 miles of competition.

Today I went out in the pasture, and snapped some photos of Hank with his pasture mates. He was happy to be grazing, and have some well earned mud on him from a good roll.

Thelma also had a good roll.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

From colic surgery......

......to Presidents Cup winner.

I am numb, and feel this huge emotional termoil lifted off of me. I just can not believe Hank won. I will have more to post when I can gather my thoughts. Right now I need to go kiss his nose again, load him in the trailer, and head home.


Had a great ride today. Hank and I rode by ourselves for most of the day. I found myself thinking of all the rides we attended this year, where we traveled, and the places we rode. He was pretty much as perfect as he can be. Cheerful, listening to me, and careful through the woods, around and over downed trees, and avoiding bogs. Drank well enough, and his metab olics were all pretty good. No alfalfa all weekend, and his gums never did get injected. So, I need to investigate that some more. We had a timing issue, and had to push a bit in to a P&R, trotting maybe a couple miles, and he had no problem with his pulse coming down. So, that too I am wondering if it was something so simple as alfalfa. Until I do some tests with feeding him some, riding, checking metabolics, and then not feeding it, I won't know for sure. But they are always a learning process, and what works for one horse, might not work for the other.

Weather started out a tad chilly, then warmed up. Towards the end of the day, the humidity level had came up, and clouds are starting to form for possible thunder storms. but, that is Texas weather!

We are waiting for score cards to be done, and then awards. I am of course and emotional wreck. I am so blessed t have had this oprotunity to take Hank all over the country to rides this year, and that alone was worth all the work. But as I mentioned before, I am competitive, and am anxious to see the outcome. Even if we do not win the Presidents Cup, am know we did our best, and hopefully encouraged others to reach for some goals they had never dreamed of with their horses. You never know the full ability of you and your horse until you try, and are maybe pushed a bit to go out of a comfort zone and take it to the next level.

I have a happy, sound, fit, and healthy horse after 16 rides, and thousands of miles in the horse trailer. As I look out the camper door at him munching, I can not believe how good he looks.

Ahhhh, the horn sounded for awards...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Only 25 miles to go

We did not have to ride out super early this AM, which was good, as we had some fog in the morning, that would have made seeing the trail markings a tad difficult. But as we headed out, the fog began to lift, and we could tell it was going to be a beautiful day.

The area has a few ponds and lakes, and the fog hung above them as the sun slowly started to shine through.

The ride has a variety of different types of trail, from riding pastures, to through the woods, along beside the lakes, and more open areas along power line easements. After the rains, we had some areas with bogs, but I was lucky to not have any issues with them. A few riders did, and the trail has some adjustments for tomorrows ride. We had one little issue with Hank got his hind legs caught in a stickered bramble vine. He was pretty uptight, and about to explode into a panic, as it had a good hold of him, and poking into him, actually causing him to bleed a little. I told him to WHOA, and he stood as I jumped off, grabbed my knife I keep clipped on my half chap, and quickly cut the vine loose. Remember, if you have to dig in your pack, or can't find your knife, it may not do you much use. Usually, when one is needed, it is quick. And having it on ME, was sure a good thing after I hopped off to get him cut loose.

he was a good boy for what obstacles the judges watched. Backed nice to hank a trail marking ribbon, stopped nice and steady from the trot and stood like a rock when asked for the vet to check him on the trail, and was careful through some rocks for the horsemanship judge. His metabolics were good, and he did NOT have injected gums today, like he has been at some of the past rides. I will feel better if it goes that way tomorrow, and then will mention what small change I did. But right now, I'll just say I was pleased, and home tomorrow goes the same.

He had is good friend Khidd ride along with us today. It was funny when we headed to time out this AM, he had not seen Khidd yet, but when he saw him over across the grass, he marched over next to him, stopped, and then started to eat. Funny how horses can be friends with ones they only see a few times a year. and usually Hank is out front, so it is not like he follows him all day. I never get tired of watching horses interact with each other, and try to figure out how they think about other horses, herd leadership etc.

So tomorrow is to be another beautiful day. We ride the same trail, but the other direction. I am trying to stay relaxed, but focused, and not do anything that will mess Hank up, since he usually has things all figured out. lol At least he THINKS he does.

So, 25 more miles to do for this season, then it is does except for the score cards. Whew, what a season it has been!!!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Rain makes mud. Mud is sticky

I was not in a huge hurry to head the 180+ miles to the ride today. Not that long of a drive. Waited for radar to clear from our area, and in the direction I'd be heading. Put Hank out in the small grass corral for a bit to graze, after spending the night in the stall. All he wanted to do was play, run around, stop ans slide towards the rail, then kick his heels WAAAAYYYY up over his head, rear, spin etc. Of course this brought much worry to me, that he would hurt himself, so back in the stall he went with more feed until time to leave.

Had to stop at the store on my way, and then it was East Texas bound. I realized that most of my rides I did not have much city driving, but this ride took me right through parts of the Dallas area, with more traffic. I used to live in So. CA, so traffic does not get to me much, but it was a reminder that we do live in a small town, and kind of like it that way.

Uneventful drive, got fuel so I would not have to Sunday night, and was just a few miles from camp. My GPS told me to turn, but for some reason it did not look right, so I went up the road a bit more. Then saw she was right, and looked for a place to turn around. Now this truck is like driving a great big boat, and takes a good sized area to do a U turn. I found a spot that looked good, pulled over to the large shoulder, and waited for traffic to clear. I started my turn, and as the front of the truck got to the other shoulder, I saw that we were NOT going to make it, and stay on the pavement. As I got in to the grass, I saw the big puddle in the low area / bar ditch. Uh huh, we were needing MORE room, and before I knew it, the front of the truck hit soft ground, and it was like that puddle grabbed the truck, and sucked it right on down in to it. I was stuck. I jumped out, water above my ankles, and flipped the hubs in to 4 wheel drive. But alas, we were stuck beyond 4x4. A truck stopped, and offered to pull me out if I had a chain. I had better than a chain, we have a large tow strap, that is strong enough to pull the rig, but rolls up nice and neat behind the back seat. As we were attaching it, another truck stopped. Nice young man, who looked like he lived to pull wayward fools out of the mud. So, the other truck had to get some where, and left the latest arrival to help. Got things hooked up, and he pulled me on out, and back on solid ground. The whole thing, from the start of my U turn, to my getting out of the mud maybe took 7 min. Did not even need to call US Rider!

A major DUH! moment for me that could have been worse. The whole rig was at least out of the road way, so not at risk of getting hit, and no damage except to my pride a little. And yes, I remembered to get the camera out, as it was next to me in the cab.

I have had this tow strap with me since we got the truck in 2001. Have only used it a few times, but when needed, it is usually REALLY needed. Hubby does not like chains, because if something happens and the break, then when they fly through the windshield, it can result in serious injury, or worse.

Hopefully that is the most eventful thing to have happen to me this weekend. More later!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Last ride of the season nerves

After going to 5 rides in a row in as many weeks,in 5 different states, we had last weekend "off" from a ride. The weather had been really nice, and hubby and I got to go ride a few times. Just some easy, casual short rides on our local trails. The colors on our trees are just starting to change, as we have not had any super cold weather snaps yet.

Flag really seemed to enjoy getting out on the trails again. He and my hubby really get along great, and I'm so glad we have had this cute pinto come in to our lives.

And I'm glad hubby is getting to enjoy the trails again, and all that we might see while out on a ride.

We have had rain most of the day, and tonight it is coming down a bit stronger. Tomorrow I am heading over to the last ride of the season for us. This ride will be the one to determine if we win the NATRC Presidents Cup or not. The rider who we are so close in points with will be competing in MO. this weekend. We won't know who won the award until we call each other Sunday night after each of our ride awards are announced. We are only 4 points apart for the Presidents Cup, which is given to the horse with the highest number of points in the first 16 rides of competition in a ride season. We are also only 6 points apart for the Jim Menefee award, which is given to the horse and rider with the highest number of points from the horse and horsemanship combined. I am amazed at how close we are going in to the last ride.

I will admit, I am nervous. I have competed with horses since I was a child. I started in 4H, and then moved in to smaller open horse shows, competing in everything from english, western, gymkanas, jumping, trail horse, you name it. I competed in Combined Driving Events with my last Arabian gelding. I started in NATRC when I was a junior rider in the mid 70's. Hank and I have done endurance, and he completed the 100 mile Tevis Cup in 2005. Competing is nothing new to me. But, I will admit, I have been nervous all week. I have been worried the horse might do something stupid in the pasture and hurt himself, or one of the others would kick or bite him. All I need is a big bite under the saddle! With the rain tonight, he is locked up in the stall. I even worried that he could some how hurt himself in the stall. lol

This has been an awesome year. I have ridden in placed I never thought I'd get to see. I have met many wonderful people who love the sport as much as I do, and made new friends. The time, effort, and expense has been worth it to get to see so much of the country from the back of my horse. But, I am competitive, and will freely admit, I really want to win. Many years ago my competitive nature had made me really horrible to be around, and often the competition would mess with my judgement, and I eventually ended up hurting my horse at a ride. Bowed both tendons. It was a very hard lesson learned, and a big slap up side the head that I was forgetting that competing with a horse means that I am in charge of BOTH of us, and that I needed to remember to put my horses needs before anything else. No award is worth hurting your horse. I still see riders who have not learned this, and push their horses beyond their limits. I have said that if my horse and myself are not having fun, and enjoying what ever sport or activity we may chose, then it is time to change things up, so we are having fun again. Competitiveness can often make things not as fun. So this year, I made sure that we were BOTH enjoying ourselves at the rides, even when staying as focused as possible to do well.

So, this weekend, I imagine will be the toughest test on me to enjoy the ride, my horse, and all our friends, while concentrating on doing well. If we don't do well enough to win the Presidents Cup, I am still ecstatic on how well Hank did all year, and the opportunity we were given to travel so much to compete. This will be a year I will never forget.

And thanks again to all of Hanks "fan club" for riding along with us on this adventure. I know that our adventures will not end with this ride, and this season, but it was sure not a direction I ever thought this blog would take!

Hopefully I will again be able to blog from the ride. I will have electric power, so the computer won't have to get its battery recharged, and the coverage map shows I will have 3G for phone/internet.

Now it is time to listen to the rain fall, and worry about what I have forgot to pack. ;-)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Some snapshots from the Nebraska NATRC ride

Fall leaves blanketed some of the trails

The MO river was just behind camp

Views of the MO river from up on the bluff / Ridge looking towards the North into MO

More views towards the river from Friday

The sun was beaming down through the trees when I went for a short ride on Friday

Our camp

Down one of the hills through the woods

I just could not get enough of the Fall colors and leaft blanketed trails

Along the edge of the woods

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Indain Cave, day 2

After Cheri was so kind to help recharge my battery in the camper with her generator before we turned in last night, I was able to fire up the heater and have things warm in the camper as I crawled out of bed. Hard to see what the sky holds for us when it is dark! Morning light showed us a grey sky, cold, but not REALLY cold, and it did not look like any rain (or snow) would fall.

We trotted out a couple circles to check for soundness, and Hank was moving freely, sound, and eager to go. I timed out towards the back of our group again, which still felt strange after riding towards the front of the group at most of the rides. But he was going along so relaxed, at an easy pace, and liked the big horse Mary Anna was riding. We cruised along taking in the lovely fall colors, with their hooves trotting through the fallen leaves. We were very lucky to have dodged the nasty weather, and the trails over all had pretty great footing. After a bit, we had our first obstacle. A muddy spot to ride the horse in to, back up, then as we backed, sort of turn a U turn around a log. Hank walked in perfect, but when I asked him to back, he thought it was a speed event, and rushed out, bumped the log, and his U turn was very wide. We would have survived had it been a real situation, but he was not super pretty or perfect. Then we had a P&R right after that, and we passed with flying colors.

Hank marches up and down the hills without slowing down much. He has a nice walk, and uses it well, even on the hills. We end up passing a few horses who were a tad slower on the hills, and kept a steady pace of walking the hills, trotting the flat, and slight "slopes". A couple areas along the grassy mowed fields, and we loped a bit. His ears were always up, and he seemed in a pretty good mood. I gage if my horses are getting tired my the willingness to move out with little encouragement. When we are walking, I give a quiet cluck, or kiss, and if they move out without any leg aid, I know they have lots of energy left. If it takes my pressing my leg, or heel in to them, I let them walk a bit more, and rest a tad. I have always done this, on both competitive, and endurance rides.

After the second P&R, and the best one all weekend, we had a metabolic check, and an obstacle. Oh, real quick, I had the vet look at Hanks gums before we rode out this AM, and they were still slightly injected, and at the first obstacle, still the same. At this metabolic check, still had slight injection.The rest of the metabolics were fine. This just might indeed be his normal, and I need to start checking his gums at random at home, to see how they are when he is in pasture. Anyway, this obstacle was the horsemanship judges telling us to "impress them", show us what you can do, and mount your horse. We were near the slope we backed down yesterday, so I side passed him in hand, part of the way down the slop, then stopped him, and mounted, using the slope as my mounting block. He was perfect.

Now we were on the home stretch, riding the last 10 or so miles back to camp. We were a tad behind what time I had wanted to be, so we mov ed out a bit quicker on the flats. Since we were heading in on a trail we had already ridden, Hank knew we were heading in, and was more than happy to move out. As we trotted along, I kept thinking about all the rides we had down this year, and that I could not believe this was the 15th ride of the season. We had been to so many different places, and I thought about all the trails we saw, people we met. This really was a lovely trail, and had enough hills for a challenge of fitness, and footing that was easy to move along on. Before we knew it, we were two miles from camp, right on time, and then crossing the meadow in to camp to the timer. The weather had been very kind. Although in the upper 30's to lower 40's, no wind, and nothing fell from the sky today.

I got him un tacked, his blanket on him, and let him eat his mash, some hay, brush off the dirt and minimal sweat marks, and then head over for the final check out. He had checked in and had gotten the high mark of a 5 MAW, and knew that he might not be as enthusiastic at the end, but he proved me wrong, and kept his 5. I always get comments after he checks out on what a nice mover he is, and how pretty he is. His metabolics were fine, with those gums still slightly injected, but not as much as he was yesterday. This is indeed odd, and in his case, I do not think a sign of stress, as everything else is usually close to normal. Over all, I was feeling good about the ride, with the exception of the less than pretty back up out of the mud. But one never knows how the other horses did. I was happy with him, which is the first priority. He can be so much fun to ride, even when he does naughty things once and awhile. I guess I'd be bored if he was always perfect. Can't get mad at him. If I did not like horses who thought for themselves, had opinions, and were often a bit unpredictable with what they decide to do, I'd not ride Arabians. lol

I packed up, so I could head out after awards. Wanted to get some place a little further south, and hopefully a tad warmer. So, I was ready to go when they called for awards.

By now, many know we are chasing points, and going in to this ride, we were 12 points, and 1 ride behind the other horse. "The other horse" is a very cute MO Foxtrotter gelding named Prime Sensation. He and his owner, Cheri Jeffcoat are a super team, and we have been to many of the same rides this year, all over the country. He guy is a steady, more business like personality. He is VERY fit, and Cheri has done an excellent job building that partnership with him, and he can really shine in obstacles. Prime and Hank can be like night and day, but each of us agrees we have found the horse that suits our own personality. And I'm pretty sure she would agree we would not get along with each others horse anywhere close to the relationships we have with our own. We have both found the right partner to share the trails with. Anyway, the first 16 rides in competition count towards the "Presidents Cup". I have not verbalized the name of the award often, and this is the first time I have actually typed it out here. lol Cheri rode for mileage only this weekend, and her last competitive ride of the season with be in 2 weeks. Same weekend as my last ride, but we will be in different states, different regions. I needed to place 1st this weekend to tie her in points. And, Hank did, indeed, win first in his class. But he also got Sweepstakes again, which gave him extra points, and now I am actually 4 points ahead as we go in to the last ride(s) of the year. Anything can happen, and we joked about how it would be pretty funny in a sense if we tied out points after the last ride too. Such different horses, yet after 15 rides this season, all across the nation, we are only 4 points apart.

So tonight I have stopped in Topeka again for the night, and will hit send, and go catch some sleep. My mind is actually a bit numb, as I really don't know where my emotions should be. Back in December, when we headed to the first ride, I had no idea we would be where we are today in points for the organizations highest award. And what ever the out come, I will sure not forget this year f competing, and am honored to be competing against Prime and Cheri.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Indian Cave NATRC ride, Nebraska, Day 1

Friday morning I took Hank out for a quick ride to check out where the 2
mile point was for Saturdays ride, and to let him stretch a bit. The
leaves on the trees were beautiful against the bright, clear blue sky.
Camp is right near the MO river, and the trail I took went up along a
ridge, over looking the river. While a bit cool, the weather was really,
really nice. We all wished it would stay like that for the weekend, but
the forecast was not looking in our favor. Everything from sleet,
freezing rain, to snow and frigid temperatures were being tossed out by
weather-guessers. The ride meeting went quick, as everyone was cold,
and we all quickly rushed for our capers and trailers to figure our
times for the maps, and warm up. Not a lot of social chit chat Friday
night! Heard a few rain drops hit the roof over night, but Saturday
morning dawned with only the smallest little tiny snowflakes dropping by
the time we rode out. I am usually ready early, and one of the first to
time out, but this AM I was just running behind, rushed, and ended up
almost last. But Hank did not seem to know, or care, and walked out of
camp calm and not in a rush to catch anyone.

Right as we leave camp is a horse bridge, that we were told to cross,
and then halt with our horses hind feet still on the bridge. Hank did so
nicely, and we then headed on down the trail. Not long, and I hooked up
with Mary Anna Wood, who owns Elmer Bandit. (Google Elmer Bandit if you
do not know of him). She was riding a borrowed horse for the weekend,
who Hank has ridden with before. They pace well together, and we rode
all day together. Hank likes being in the lead, and Striker is happy to
follow him.

The trails wander up and down through the woods, along ridges, across a
few streams, and around the edges of open fields. Over all, the weather
was kind. Every once and awhile, we would get the small snow flakes
again, but no wind to speak of, and the footing was much better than
anticipated. I had been told if it rained, the trails got really slick.
Most of us were preferring the rain coming down in the frozen form, as
it was not making the trails slick. I could see how some of the hills we
went up and down would be a real challenge if they were slick. This is
a really beautiful park. I will try to get photos tomorrow, as it is not
to rain or snow on us.

The vet does a good balance of metabolic and soundness checks, and
obstacles to show the horses basic skills for doing distance riding,
without being too "horse show" like. We had a metabolic check in hand,
then we had to position the horse, and then do a 180 degree turn on the
forehand, then back them down a grassy slope, position them for a mount
from the slope, and we were done. Because of the limited areas the
judges could get to us, they made this one a multi part. We had to wait
for our turn, and it was the one spot where the wind picked up. Hank was
getting cold, and a little cranky, but he was a good boy. I found it
interesting that I was the only rider I saw who had brought a rump rug
to pull over their horses hind quarters during the P&R's, or while
stopped. I was not going to risk him cramping up from the cold. Later
we had another observation where they did another metabolic check, then
a trot for soundness, and then we had to stop, side pass over to a tree,
and remove or clip on a flagging ribbon. We have marked a lot of trails,
and Hank was a good boy, and did not figure out how to put his own spin
on it. He did not lose any P&R points, but we had to have one recheck.
Just as she took his pulse, the wind kicked up with a big cold gust, a
couple people walked in front of him to go to another horse, and I could
see him get worried about all of it. But on the recheck, all was fine.
He also had his gums show they were "injected" again. Wish we could
figure out whey they do this out of the blue, but I think it is just
going to be something that happens with him. All the other parameters
are always fine.

So, with all judging and P&R's done, we cruised in the last 8 of the 27+
miles. He was very chipper, and feeling good. I can not describe the
feeling of having him trot so willing down the trail, after such a long
season, and this being the 5th weekend in a row for us to be at a ride.
Even with the temps in the 30's, I was feeling pretty warm inside.
After we got back in camp, the vet came by the trailer, and everything
was fine. Still a little injected in the gums, and that tendon that he
had slight issue with earlier in the year had a little bit of fill. But
his back and legs looked great, and he is munching away with his jammies on.

Tomorrow is to be cold, but no wet or frozen stuff is to fall. Hope
that holds true.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

On to Nebraska!

I thought about staying another night at the Expo center, where the horses had stalls out of the weather, but then decided Hank does better with an extra day in camp, so I packed up my buckets, lunged the boys in the covered arena for a bit, the loaded up, and drove the 100 miles on to camp. Silly me, I forgot to fuel up before arriving, so cruised on it with my dash light coming on, telling me I was low on fuel. Duh.... So, after I got the boys settled in, I drove to a truck stop, and got fuel now, instead of waiting until Sunday night.

Camp is a large green meadow, well, field, with a few big trees scattered around. I parked facing the driveway, in case we get a bunch of rain to make things muddy. It is a pretty camp, and the leaves on the trees are changing. I saw a LOT of wild turkeys on the way in to camp, along with a couple flocks of Canadian Geese who had parked themselves in some grassy areas.

We had some light rain in camp, but so far, not bad. It is to be in the upper 30's tonight, but Saturday night is looking less that terrific. But I'll not think about it. Horses have warm blankets, I have warm clothes, sleeping bag, and so far, my campers furnace is working fine.

Oh, I think I forgot to mention, I had my first trailer tire blow out of the year on the way to this ride! Considering how many miles I have towed, I am impressed it took until ride number 15 to finally lose one. I have carried two spares for years, and had one changed out, and back on the road in about 20 min.

My Internet is iffy, so I doubt I can post any photos until I get back to better coverage, but I hope I can post through the weekend.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Hey Toto, you around here?

Heading up to the Indian Cave NATRC ride in Nebraska. Decided to spend the night in Kansas, at the KS Expo center in Topeka. Tomorrow we only have 100 miles to go to get to camp. Horses have box stalls, and are out of the weather if it rains tonight. Now, speaking of the weather, it is not looking good for the weekend. Highs in the 40's during the day, real feel in the 20's to 30's at night, and even a chance of snow, sleet, or Icy mix. Oh joy! I packed all kinds of cold weather gear, warm blankets for horses, and my super warm sleeping bag. Even though the camper has a heater, and thermostat, I prefer to not use it at night, and just flip it on in the AM to warm the camper for me to get up. Hey, maybe the good thing is, if it is really cold, the mud will freeze, and it will not be slick? Just looking fr the bright side.

This is our 15th ride this year. After this weekend, we have a weekend off, and then our final ride of the season. Points are close between us, and the other horse who is also doing 16 rides. He is a nice horse, who is fit, and does obstacles well. Looks like we will be taking it down to our final rides!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Brakes, bites and another ride

Sorry, no photos this week! Local ride, local trails, and I forgot to take some pictures!

While driving back from the farrier on Thursday, my truck brakes went from starting to feel a tad mushy, to going all the way to the floor. Do YOU know how to stop your rig if your truck brakes go out? Your brake controller has a lever on it, that when you slide it over, it will engage the trailer brakes, without your stepping on the trucks brake pedal. KNOW where it is, and how to reach down to use it, without taking your eyes off the road. Because I knew right where it was, I was able to get the truck and trailer home OK. Go for a drive on a quiet road, and practice driving, stopping etc. without ever stepping your foot on the brake pedal. It was interesting how I found myself being MUCH more aware of stopping distance, down-shifting, planning the slow down well ahead for a stop sign etc. I also realized how much I use the brakes, and maybe planning ahead all the time, would be a smoother, safer ride for the horses. Just something to consider.

This weekends ride was just 12 miles from the house. About 8 of those miles are on our dirt country roads, and not much traffic. While I tried to get the truck in to get the brakes fixed Thursday afternoon, that was not to happen, so I carefully drove over to the ride, using the trailer brake controller. This really is not something I would recommend anyone doing. Thankfully we got to and from the ride safe and sound.

I have not arrived at a ride on Friday in a long time, especially in the afternoon. I had volunteered to pick up the vet at the airport, since I am in and out of DFW a bunch when the hubby flys out, and then with the brake issue, it is just how it worked out. So, I arrived, got a good, flat, level camping spot, that I did not need to unhook the truck from the trailer. Took Hank over and got him checked in, and then set up camp. It was a beautiful day, and Saturday was to be much the same. We would not ride out until 8AM, and we were doing about 26 miles, at a 5.25mph pace. I had been looking forward to this particular vet judging a ride, as he is very metabolics minded, and not into any odd, set up type obstacles that would not pertain (in my mind) to a distance horse. So, not far from camp, he did observe us passing through a gate that had a yucky, muddy area right in the middle of it, and Hank stepped through nice. Some horses refused, spun, or worse, jumped through, slamming their rider into the gate as they did so. We had a metabolic check, and Hank was great, with the exception of his capillary Refill which was decreased. This has been something that will happen once and awhile, and it does not seem to mesh with any other signs of fatigue. I have talked to a few vets, including the one this weekend about it, and no one has any idea why it will do this at a ride, when everything else is great. It could be something to do with they surgery (now 13 months ago) that is always going to come up odd once and awhile. Have looked into our electrolyte protocol, doing some different changes, and have not found that it made a difference. Weather etc. has also not seemed to have any correlation. Oh, and when in the ride does not make a difference. He has checking in with it, has gone a full ride with it perfect, and has had it change during a ride, then go back to normal. But, when it changes, he will often lose some points. And, that is just something I will have to live with, as I can't seem to figure how to "fix" it, or if it even really needs fixed for this horse.

Our check out Saturday night was very thorough, with the vet checking all four legs for any soreness, trotting for soundness, checking the back, and all metabolics. Hank checked out great. It started to sprinkle as they were finishing up, and by the time it was time to head to bed, it had started to rain. A steady, soaking rain, that lasted all night long. Often storms will miss us, but this was not the thunderstorm type activity, but pure, simple rain. The kind that makes some types of soil a muddy mess. So Sunday AM, they changed where we were going to go a bit, and used a trail section that has less issues that the one originally planned, and off we went. We had a drizzle for a lot of the day, but it was not cold, and actually kind of nice out there. Except for the sections of red clay that get sloppy. All weekend Hanks P&R's were good, and he was very relaxed, even when we had horses out in front of him. We had the horsemanship judge watch us open and close one of our trail gates, and even though they had a small log across, under the gait, that Hank was suspicious of, as it had never been there before (he never misses changes to the trails he rides all the time), he was very good, and we did the gate in a manner I thought was pretty good.

Now, anyone who says that their horses does not bite or kick, has not been around horses long enough. All, yes ALL horses bite and kick. Just because your horse is sweet as can be for you, never pins an ear, stomps a foot, or looks irritated, does not mean they will not, or can not harm a person, or another horse. I always said to people when asked "does your horse kick or bite", that " This horse never has kicked or bitten anyone, but it does not mean he won't at some point". Well, this happened on Sunday. And I am sharing, just to remind everyone, that even a horse you know really well, around people and other horses that they have never shown any aggression towards, can hurt another.

We came to a spot on the trail where we had to stop and wait for a judging point. I had been riding with Don and Khidd most of the day. Hank likes Khidd. They have gotten along really well. Then we also hooked up with Dolly and Chance. Hank and Chance have spent miles and miles together conditioning, working on trails, trailering out to Tevis together. We can't normally ride together at the rides, because they are a bit bonded to each other. We are standing there talking, and Hank is facing Chance. He makes a little bit of a horse face at Chance, kind of pinning ears for a second, which he has done with many horses. Never goes beyond a sort of unpleasant face, when all of a sudden, he snakes his head out, ears FLAT back, and leaps forward and bites Chance on the neck. Not a little grumpy nip, but this was intent to do harm. I spun him out of there, and gave him some swift reeducation that what he did was never EVER allowed, and then went back to see the quarter sized hole in Chances neck, where he took not just hair, but skim off of him. I am still feeling really bad this happened. But it is a reminder for me, that he is a 900 pound animal, who thinks for himself at times, and can be unpredictable. I have become complacent with him. Even though I have never seen him show this kind of aggression towards another horse while riding, I am now going to have to really watch him. We think it had something to do with riding with Khidd, and then Chance came into the picture on the ride, and some sort of odd horse jealousy took place. Who knows. It happened really, really fast. And thank goodness, he did not grab a hold of Dolly, while aiming for a mouthful of Chance. I always said we tolerate behavior in our own animals, children etc. that we would not tolerate in a strangers. And I have disregarded his grumpy faces as something that is not true aggression. Not anymore. He WILL be reprimanded if he even makes a slight grumpy face at another horse while in my control. What he does in the pasture, while I am not near, is his business.

The obstacle we waited to do was a dismount, pick out the horses left rear foot, re-mount. Judges on the horse standing quiet while we did so, and my ability to get on and off nice, smooth, light and balanced. Hank was a good boy. Of course, he was pretty humble after getting the wrath of "mom" for biting.

At the end of the ride, he checked out great, with the exception of his cap. refill again being a bit odd. He was sound, moving out nice, and had a MAW (movement, attitude and willingness) of a 5 all weekend. I was very pleased, but knew that the cap refill issues, and his little bloody spot in the leg was going to cost some points. I try to remind myself, we just never know until it is over, as we are not aware of how the other horses are really doing all weekend. But, in the end, Hank got 2nd place in the large class. Oh, and much to my surprise, I won my horsemanship class. I have not really been concentrating on my horsemanship at the rides, but one really does go with the other. And the better you ride, usually the better the horse will score, and the more you work on the horse doing well, then the better your horsemanship score can be.

So, next weekend we are in Nebraska for our 2nd to last ride of the season. The truck is in the shop, and I should be able to stop well again. I was amazed how fast the brakes went, when they went. After Nebraska, we have a weekend off, and then our last ride of the year, will be out in East Texas. When I think back over this past year, the places we have seen, people we have met, terrific horses we have shared the trail with, I actually get a bit emotional. (maybe it is just PMS ) My horse was given a second chance, and I have been given the opportunity to travel with him to rides I never thought I would ever attend, and compete for awards I never dreamed of chasing after. And in turn, I have had some many wonderful people who have followed us on this journey through this blog, cheering us on, and actually thanking ME for sharing our adventures. That just leaves me speechless, as it has been the support, thoughts, prayers etc. from YOU that has me thankful.