Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Diesel's Journey

Most people know me now as an endurance rider, although I have always wanted to event after growing up riding at an eventing barn. I met Diesel as a two year old, and for some reason I couldn't get him out of my head. I wasn't even looking for another horse. He wasn't much to look at at the time, he was going through an ugly stage. His head looked too big for his body, partially because his neck was so short which made his back look even longer than it is, but despite that he was put together well. I decided he would be an endurance and or event prospect. Diesel was bred by Erin Heatherstone. His sire is Kuwwat bred by Akhal- Teke EST. His dam is an Arabian, Isabella Islam.

Baby Diesel the first time I met him 

When I brought him home, a barely halter broke long two year old, I noted that he would be a handful, and that at times has been an understatement. Diesel is head strong and opinionated, he is also highly intelligent and does not suffer fools. Training him has been a slow and careful process, he is not the kind of horse you can force or take shortcuts with. Instead you have to persuade him that how you want to do things is the way they should be done, without offending him. There was a time when I felt we were far behind where other horses his age were, but we are exploring areas I have never been and doing things I have never done. I still do not know where our journey will take us, but we are having fun along the way.

 May 12, 2012; I hadn't had him a month yet

I started Diesel as a three year old, very lightly. When he turned four I began his long slow distance work. We slowly built up from 'baby' hill work to summiting Mt. Pisgah. I figured whichever direction we would go, a strong foundation of long slow distance work would build the correct muscle, give him a base level of fitness and strengthen and harden his legs would be the most beneficial. He has done more long slow work throughout his training than anything else. We spent most of his fourth and fifth years doing long slow distance work. We did dabble in dressage shows. I have never done much fast work with him because, to put it lightly, forward isn't a problem for Diesel.

First Intro Event at Inavale!
Photo by Steve Storm Photography

At six years of age I started him over fences. It wasn't because I didn't want to jump him, but rather because I wanted him to be sound into his later years. At three I watched him jump out of a four foot gate, bounce equally as high blackberry bushes and jump out of numerous fences and gates. I knew the talent was there. That year I took him to his first little Horse Trial at Inavale farm and did the intro division. We continued to do local dressage shows and jumper schooling shows. As a six year old we moved up to Beginner Novice and we did our first USEA recognized Horse Trial at Inavale Farm placing 6th.
Photo by Irina Kuzmina, Diesel didn't refuse the water 
at his first Recognized Event!

My goal was to move up to Novice this year, I spent much of the winter working on our dressage work. A fellow trainer encouraged me to try to show at First level in the Spring. Seeing as Diesel dislikes being told where to put his body, dressage is difficult. He also always gets marked down for submission. I do not force him into a headset or frame, that comes from when he is correctly using himself. Multiple people have told me he is difficult after giving us a lesson, not that he doesn't have talent or potential, but unlocking it is more of a challenge than with other horses.Yes he isn't an easy horse but then it wouldn't be as much fun, now would it? Dressage is a long road for us, starting with rhythm, which Diesel lacks naturally. Faster is his response to everything. We also began jumping higher and attending as many jumper schooling shows as we could.

First level test 1! 
Photo by Alise Lamoreaux 
All of our hard work began to show at the end of April. We went to a jumper schooling show, showing in three classes; 2'6'' to 3'/3'3''. Diesel did well in those, putting in solid rounds. Then the next day we went to a dressage schooling show, showing Training 3 and First 1. We improved our scores dramatically from the first outing at First 1. The following weekend I had been asked to accompany my friend on their horse's first 25 mile Limited Distance Endurance ride at one of my favorite rides, the Still Prineville ride. It is a difficult ride, one that I had top 10 finishes on the 50 the last 3 years with my Appaloosa.

 Jumper pony!

I was only able to do two prep rides beforehand. I knew Diesel had been 25 mile fit the end of last year, he had handled a 10 mile fun ride really well late in the season. We hadn't done much trail work while we were focusing on dressage, however he does have an extensive long slow distance base. He handled an 8 mile training ride rather well, and I figured he was closer to a slow 50 mile fit. My friend ended up not being able to come so Diesel and I went alone. Off to his first 25 mile Limited Distance endurance ride at the Still Memorial ride!
As I figured he was rather forward at the beginning of the ride. They had had to move ride camp from the usual spot to out near the vet check, this meant the beginning of the trail was rather flat while the second half was the hills and technical trail. Diesel settled into his stride after a few miles, he had walked out of camp like a good boy, something I feel is very important. Once he was settled, I was able to ride him on a loose rein, using mostly my seat to guide him. We ended up in a group of other riders, leading, following and being the cream filling in between. One of the other riders gave us a huge complement, that Diesel had a nice calm relaxed way of going and that they liked how Diesel rated himself on the trail, also that I was a good rider. For a horse that had struggled with rhythm, this complement was huge. Diesel pulsed down well and went about eating. After our hold we were off again. He handled the hills well, I did hand walk him down the steep, rocky hill. I had a lot of horse left after we climbed the hills, the only issue with him wanting to be a slug as we walked. He had no problem leaving a horse after the finial hill, going out on our own again. We ended up just moments shy of a top ten placing, placing 11th.

 First LD- Still Prineville Ride 25 miles
Photo by Out of Steam Photography

The beginning of June we did our first novice level unrecognized Horse Trial, again at Inavale Farm. (it is the only one in Oregon) I was a bit worried about cross country, since we had an unusually wet winter the cross country course opened late and we only had one schooling. His dressage test was good in the first half and the second half he wasn't cooperating as much, nothing horrible but not as relaxed and using himself. The show jumping was a piece of cake for him. Out on cross country he did stare too long at the jump judge and ended up running out of the second fence because of that. He really settled into his stride and began to lock onto the jumps and jump them without hesitation. It give me a glimpse at what he is capable of once he is a bit less green over large solid fences at speed. We placed 6th in our division.

 Novice unrecognized at Inavale 
Photo by Steve Storm Photography

We did another schooling show, this time at the Oregon Horse Center on their new derby course. In contrast to the one day at Inavale, Diesel really showed just how green he is on cross country with a couple run outs. However these were jumps he had never seen before, and at least he had jumped most of the jumps at Inavale before when we went schooling.
All of our work accumulated at our first recognized Novice Horse Trail once again at Inavale Farm. It was the hottest weekend of he year so far, and surprisingly enough after completing a 25 mile ride I wasn't worried about Diesel's fitness level nor the heat.  My goal for this show was to have a good outing, we were competing in the open division against people who do this all the time.
We had a great dressage test, Diesel was softer in the bridle and steadier in his overall way of going. His canter was much rounder, he was really beginning to stretch into the bridle during our canter circles. We did have some technical issues, our walk transition and halt were a little past their mark and we picked up the wrong lead at first on our left canter circle. While I felt it was a great test for us, the judge was looking for something else. We were last after dressage.

 First Recognized Novice at Inavale
Photo by Steve Storm Photography

Diesel was a bit hot in the warm up for Show Jumping. He did come back nicely and put in a solid round, even if he ran out at the rubber ducky fence. He didn't have an issue with the fence jumping into the sun like a lot of the other riders did. No rails down for us. We moved up two placings.
I was worried about a couple fences on Cross Country, a brush log in the woods and a barn jump that had an added silo to one side. We had actually jumped the barn before but not with the silo. I was excited about the long gallop up hill with good footing, something I am sure many people were not happy about. I am after all an endurance rider, hills are kind of my thing. My goal was to stay balanced and in control, regardless if we made time or not.
Diesel had no problem at the first of the scary fences, luckily the brush log was in the woods and it funneled you into the jump with no place to run out. The barn with the silo however, got us. He gave the next fence the hairy eye, and then gave the water jump a good hard thought but went in like a good boy. There was no hesitation after that. Log to step up, no problem. Coop to ditch, no problem. We were over the last and I was super proud of him.

 Jumping the ditch!
Photo by Steve Storm Photography

We moved up to ninth out of fourteen at the end, a nice jump after being dead last after dressage. I have never shown Novice before this year, and it is only my second recognized event, I was super pleased with how well we did. We do not take regular jumping lessons, only a handful in the beginning of the year. We do take regular dressage lessons, which has helped focus Diesel.
I am not sure exactly where the rest of the year will take us. Perhaps another recognized Horse Trial, or maybe a 50 mile endurance ride. My long term goal is to compete in a classic long format event with him. Combining an endurance phase with eventing sounds right up our alley. Along with some endurance rides.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

An Endurance Rider Does Dressage

Since I broke my collarbone, eventer pony and I have been doing a lot of dressage work. Let's face it, there was no way I wasn't going to ride him and both of us need dressage work. Now Quick does a lot of dressage exercises on the trail, he works from behind, lowering his hunches, articulating his joints and coming up through the wither and telescoping his neck. We do lateral work across the trails, dance around single tracks. If you bring him into the arena he acts like a camel who cannot move. He locks up, the arena is a place of tension for him.

Diesel on the other hand, finds dressage work boring. I cannot tell you how many times we have to bring in poles or small jumps to go over to keep him happy and continuing to work with me. He is not an easy horse.

This was our beginner novice test at a show last year. I thought it was one of his better tests. I got the idea from Biz Stamm to try to move up to first level with Diesel for the Arabian show at the end of April. I may be able to ride and train a horse to do a 100 miles in less than 24 hours, but riding 5 minutes or less in the sandbox and nailing every single corner and stride is really really difficult. Then match it with Diesel, who also finds anything that has to do with you telling him what to do and not letting him do it his way, annoying and well, dressage becomes difficult quickly. We have spent the whole of last year  working on him allowing me to surround him with the aides and be more rhythmic and cooperative in his work. Difficult I know!

So we entered into a schooling show, doing first level test 1.

The venue is a beautiful facility not to far away. However what made it difficult was warming up in the same arena we were showing in. There were breaks for warm up, and then 4-5 tests and then another break for warm up. Diesel warmed up pretty well considering a bunch of horses not liking the far end of the arena by the judge. Then we waited. We did walk around the driveway, but we were the last in the group of tests to go. There was no way I could warm him up enough to bring his mind back into focus for a relaxed test. However he did fairly well. He was tense and a bit um er forward.


Overall I think it went really well. We are going to try our hand at it again this next weekend. My goal is to prepare Diesel for Novice level eventing, and first level is beyond what he needs to do for a novice dressage test. 

It wasn't until I watched the videos of us from two years ago that I really saw the improvement in his way of going. The biggest thing was that he had rhythm. Something that should be so easy wasn't. He likes to rush, and keeping him in a steady tempo used to be difficult. I am really proud of how far he has come. 

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Life is Horses, Horses are Life

Day in and day out I tell myself it will all be worth it. Long days, up early, to bed late, filling my days with work and horses. Somewhere along the line I figured out that horses was what I wanted to do with my life, and it is what my life has become. My student workers and coworkers are always surprised when I tell them "Oh I rode 4 horses this morning." or "Quick and I did a 100 mile ride over the weekend." Sometimes they are surprised at my dedication. I think at times they find it weird. That is okay, I am used to it. I was always that horse crazy kid in school. I tried to be normal for a little bit, then I got my first horse. The whole being normal thing was over then.

Last year was a bad year, for so many reasons. Then to put icing on the cake I broke my collarbone when my horse fell on course. He is fine, and I think I am mostly fine now. I wasn't for a while. Yes I was back to riding as soon as I could put the saddle on him (3 days later) and never stopped working horses or riding. I wasn't able to finish my endurance season on Quick, I actually hardly rode him at all after Santiam. The training business slowed down during the holidays, my truck needed a new fuel injector pump and I had to take time off work because I was in a sling. I battled with depression. I was not myself.

A switch flipped right after my first long slow distance ride on Quick to bring him back into work. I wouldn't let myself worry about how I was going to find the money to take him to the Appaloosa National Championship Endurance Ride in October (Also Arabian Distance Nationals as he is half Arabian!) We were going to get there. I have picked out a 100 mile ride for him to do, my goal last year was to get us both to 1,000 miles. We are so close! So that is the goal for this year. Another 100 miler under our belt and the Distance Championships. If we can squeeze in another ride or two I will. My long term goals for Quick are silver level 100 mile (7 completions), we got our bronze level with 3 100s last year. And I want a decade team award. It is when you complete 10 seasons together. We have 4. We will get there.

While I was recovering from my collarbone, Diesel and I really began to work on our dressage. I decided to shoot for first level in the spring. Next weekend we have a schooling show, our debut at 1st level. I would also like to move up to novice with him, I know he has all the jump in the world, and novice is only 3 inches higher than beginner novice. Slightly more technical on cross country but nothing he cannot handle. Our big issue is we live in Oregon. I see photos of my friends back east schooling cross country on nice dry ground. The field I use as an outdoor arena in the summer is practically under water right now. Now he does need to school water jumps, but not like that. Hopefully we can get a lot of cross country schooling in during the spring. I will save my pennies so we can do the recognized at Inavale again, even if it is just beginner novice. My long term goal for him is a long format novice. (or training level, but novice is an easier target) The only only in the area is at Rebecca Farm in Montana. I have to complete 4 Novice events (or higher) to qualify. As Inavale is the only event in Oregon, I will have to travel to Washington. If I can play my cards I can do 2 recognized this year. If not, then I will save up for next year. It may take me two or three years to qualify for the long format, but that is my goal. Why not combine eventing and endurance into one show? I think it ends up being less than 10 miles total, a walk in the park. However Diesel will need to learn how to jump steeplechase fences at speed. We will work on that later.

In the meantime I am learning more about trimming hooves and looking into learning how to nail on composite shoes. All the while running a small training business. I have been lucky this past year to have had good horses to work with. A number to start, retrain and condition. I still work a full and part time job, along with keeping my own horses fit so I can only take on a limited number of training horses. I am not sure how I manage to do everything, but I find a way.
As Denny Emmerson put it, "Life is horses, horses are life."

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Blog Hop

So I have been horrible about my blogging this year, but I will get on that. In the meantime Aarene started a blog hop so I figured I would join in.

Here we go!

Here's the directions:
  • Answer the questions (below) on your own blog, and leave a link to that post in the comments here.
  • In your post, invite readers to answer the questions on THEIR blogs, and link those blogs to yours AND to here.
  • Let's see how far this can travel!
  • Pictures!  Let's see lots of pictures of people and horses!
*  Introduce yourself!
*  Introduce your horse(s)!
*  What's your favorite horse sport?  Do you cross train in other activities?
*  Who else in your family rides?
*  What's your proudest equestrian accomplishment?
*  What was your lowest moment as a horse owner/rider?
*  What's the most important small thing you ever learned in a lesson?
*  Do you have any riding rituals or superstitions?
*  What are your short term goals for yourself/your horse?
*  Long term goals?
*  If time and money were no object, what is your dream equestrian vacation?
*  What kind of horse activities were you doing 10 years ago?
*  What kind of horse activities do you think you'll be doing 10 years from now?
*  What is the quirk about your horse that you like most?
*  Introduce yourself!
Laura, crazy horse girl, trainer at Riding Journey, photographer
*  Introduce your horse(s)!
The one and only red headed thoroughbred mare! Journey, or Rare Journey the one who started me on my journey to become a better rider. 
Diesel, my  Akhal-teke Sporthorse. My jump all the things pony

 And the infamous Spookaloosa, Quick or Viva Sozar (please do not call him Sozar, everytime someone does he spooks. ) 

*  What's your favorite horse sport?  Do you cross train in other activities?
Endurance of course, and I do really enjoy the challenge of a 100. I do a ton of dressage work with everyone, and event my jumper pony! I always wanted to event since I was little. 

*  Who else in your family rides?
My cousin and that is about it. 

*  What's your proudest equestrian accomplishment?
I have two. Completing Tevis with Quick and getting Diesel to the recognized event at Inavale this year. 

*  What was your lowest moment as a horse owner/rider?
The toughest was when Diesel coliced. It was an all night colic, he wasn't even 3 yet. I hadn't had him a month, and he had just finished a purge worming. The vet believed it was due to a worm die off. I walked him all night, (before and after the vet was out and before the vet came out again in the morning) and finally when he was able to stand without rolling I sat in a chair while he stood with all four legs splayed and we waited for the vet to come again.

 2yr old baby Diesel. He has no neck!

*  What's the most important small thing you ever learned in a lesson?
Breathe. I remember when Trish first told me she did her down transitions on a breath. I was blown away, sure that I could never be that subtle. Up and down on a breath. It is pretty amazing.
7yr old Diesel, working on stretching his neck out. 
*  Do you have any riding rituals or superstitions?
No really. Aside from checking gates, etc like crazy. 

Taking Journey out for a ride after her horrible stress founder. 
 (a story for another day)
*  What are your short term goals for yourself/your horse?
Complete more 100s on Quick. Take Diesel novice next year and show in in 1st level Dressage. Have a nice normal canter on Journey... simple things in life

*  Long term goals?
Show through Training level eventing (or higher, but being realistic here) Compete in International level endurance.

*  If time and money were no object, what is your dream equestrian vacation?

*  What kind of horse activities were you doing 10 years ago?
 I had no idea what endurance was!

*  What kind of horse activities do you think you'll be doing 10 years from now?
Hopefully the same things I am doing now. Maybe making a living off of it, but doubt it. 

*  What is the quirk about your horse that you like most?

Quick likes to untie himself and has an amazing sense of humor. Diesel is highly opinionated, I've given him the motto "here hold my beer, watch this". Journey well, she is super sweet and wants to snuggle.

Monday, May 9, 2016

A Test of Training

I will be honest, there are many times that I find myself wondering if I have done a good job with a horse or is what I am doing with that horse productive, am I good enough to be training horses? Usually these thoughts are when I am falling asleep, or driving somewhere. Or after a bad ride, almost always on one of mine. (hardly ever a bad ride on Quick oddly enough) My inner critic has gotten worse, I used to not worry about that sort of thing. Now that I am upping my game it is happening more often. Sometimes I reach that moment of wanting to quit, then I look a one of the horses and know that I could never do that, that the thought itself is silly.
On Sunday I shut my inner critic up. There was not a bad thought she could pull out. Nothing. Silence.

In a last minute decision I took Foo to Grizzly on Saturday night. It was my first time hauling over the pass in my new truck! Entirely nerve racking until I was actually doing it, then I had to laugh because pulling my aluminum straight load with only one horse in it was so much easier than driving Paula's 3 horse gooseneck with two horses and all of the stuff we needed for ride camp. I love this truck. I am still horrified that my trailer was quite green, I didn't have time to clean it. I got done my lesson, and hooked up and left.

I got there as they were having the ride meeting. Set everything up for Foo, registered and vetted her through. This was not only a huge test of Foo's future as an endurance horse, but also a test of how well I had trained her. Foo loves trail work, compared to the issues I have had in clinics and shows, all of the time spent on the trail has been different. Last year at this time she could barely handle a dressage show, intro- walk trot level. Yet it was in an arena, and she is not an arena horse.

In the few short years I have been in endurance I have come to want a few things in the horse I ride. That does not mean that Quick is there yet, he had a lot of deep emotional and mental issues to work through. Foo did not.

First I want a horse that walks out of camp on a loose rein. One day she might get ot the point of racing with someone, but before that she MUST walk out on a loose rein.

Second, I want a horse that listens, that I can rate with just my seat on a loose rein. I know there are times when you need contact, but generally, loose rein and listening.

Third, I want a steady tempo. Especially with the longer distances the more consistent pace you have the better.

There are more, but that is what you can train into a horse.

Foo camped well. I wasn't sure how she would do completely alone. I braided her and dressed her for the cold evening. She kept asking for more food. Which isn't a bad thing, a good eater is awesome.

"I know you are in there, feed me!"

In the morning Foo was once again asking for more food. She said she knew I was in there and needed to hurry up with her food! She wasn't upset when the neighbor horses left. I watched the time and saddled her up. I planned to start behind everyone. 

We milled around camp, running into people I know. We stopped to talk to Brenda about Badger. I learned more about his sister Bonnie who Brenda had owned. I had to cut out conversation short! I had to leave!
We made our way over to where Anna was taking numbers. It was 7 minutes after 8. Everyone else was pretty much gone on ahead. 

Foo walked out of camp on a loose rein. 

Walked. On. A. Loose. Rein. By herself. 

At the end of the pasture where the trail heads out there is a fenced off circle that you go through with a cattle trough. Now that was terrifying. But we skittered past it giving it a snotty hairy eyeball. Off we went. It took Foo a mile or two to settle into her stride. I could tell when she was getting a little overwhelmed, her head would go up and she would start to bounce at the trot. A little leg and asking her to drop her head and she was better. She did spook a few times, which is very unlike her, but given the situation I felt she was doing really well. They only happened when she was feeling insecure.

She was quite funny when she saw horses ahead of us. Her head went way up and she stopped, as if to say I have never seen horses before!

The only time she got really forward was when we caught the two chestnuts on the first loop. She wanted to take off at a canter to catch them and try to race them. I was able to really sit and keep her slower, even if she did break into a canter. They stopped to let their horses eat and we continued on. Back to the steady pace.


I wondered how she would react to the water crossing. I didn't really want to be like the horse that jumped over it last year, we had done little water crossing but not something big. She was a little snorty at it, but went in with little encouragement.

 As we came back into camp I expected her to try to take off to get back to the other horses. Instead she walked in on a loose rein. She hadn't drank much the whole first loop, she had found those metal cow troughs to be a bit scary. She really tanked up at the regular rubber troughs in camp. She pulsed down right away and vetted through. Back in camp she chowed down her food and kept asking for more. Apparently Quick had told her at rides you get lots of chow.

We left for the second loop the same way we did the first. At a nice walk on a loose rein. Foo acted as if she had done this every day of her life and it was nothing new. I could hear a horse calling to Foo behind us as we went along. As we neared Lone Pine i could see signs of cows. Once we passed the huge Pine and came around the corner there they were! Right in the middle of the trail. Foo's head went up and I could tell she was a little bit upset. The cows were right in the middle of the trail and on both sides. There wasn't really a clear way to get around them. So I asked her to move towards them and then started calling out to the cows to move. I figured they have probably been herded by horses before, Foo was asking if I was crazy but wasn't resisting moving forward. Once the first cow started to move she was surprised, cows would move for her! She started moving forward more confidently then. The horse that was behind us caught up with us at that point and we both went on the way.

After we crossed the road the chestnut went on ahead at a faster pace. I had no problem rating Foo and keeping her where I wanted her. We continued on by ourselves. When we went through the next gate I noticed the gal coming back towards us, she had missed a turn. We rode together the rest of the way. At one point I heard a horse coming up fast behind us. Wait, GALLOPING to catch up. Foo was upset by this and started dancing. I had to tell the gal to SLOW DOWN THIS IS A GREEN HORSE. Even if I am riding to top ten on Quick I still slow down to pass horses, especially if these are horses on the tail end of the LD or 50 (depending on what distance I am doing). The gal apologized saying she didn't know. I mean there was a red ribbon in Foo's tail, mostly because she doesn't like to be crowded, but that doesn't mean much to some people. We were sandwiched in between the two chestnuts, and Foo didn't like it. She was fussy and hard to keep at a steady pace. So I pulled her off to the side and got behind both horses. That was much better. She drank at the water and off we went.

Mile after mile she kept up a steady pace. She averaged 5.3 mph the whole ride. I was quite impressed with how well she did. We ended up 7th out of 14 with a time of 5 hours and 41 minutes. A solid middle of the pack ride. We did show for BC, but because I had to be up for work at 4:30am the next morning, I left before getting her ride card back. So I do not know her vet score.

Overall I was very impressed with how well Foo did. All of the work I have done the past year to keep her calm, thinking and not reacting and consistent has really paid off. In many ways she is an easier ride than Quick is, well for one thing she is very obvious when she is going to spook, unlike the Spookaloosa. Quick still has things he needs to work through, plus I did train him to be a trail monster. I feel Foo is well on her way to being a long distance horse, keeping with the same quite consistency at rides would solidify it. Sadly there was no ride photographer since the two that were there last year (Jala and myself) were riding, so no ride photos!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

It's Not Easy Being.... Green?

When I saw that they were holding a Green Bean Endurance competition I jokingly told Kat that we should join. You needed to have a combined amount of miles- LD and Endurance of under 1,000.  As of the beginning of the year I had a whopping 475 endurance miles and 25 LD miles. Yet within those miles there was a 75, a 100 and a 50 mile win. We ended up being on the Turtle Trotters team. We tried to change the name to Tenacious Trotters which would suit all speeds and distances the team members planned to go but it didn't happen. Oh well. Turtle Trotters it was.

I doubt Jacke Reynolds really expected a Green Bean to go out and do what I set out to do with Quick this year- namely Tevis. Other 100s perhaps but Tevis quite frankly needs no introduction to how difficult it is.

Quick and I rocked this season. We started out with a 50 at Still Memorial, coming in 2nd. Then an 80 at Sunriver. Nothing to write home about on our 3rd place finish. And then the Spookaloosa fought me telling him to go slow all the way to Robinson Flats. We came to an agreement as we left and by the time we reached Lower Quarry he finally agreed to listen to me, begrudgingly. It is still hard to believe we finished 37th. 

My final ride was on Foo at Foothills 25. That is what clinched my 3rd place finish in my division and my 7th place overall finish. I did every distance this year! Not on the same horse. I've only done endurance rides on Quick and LDs on other peoples horses.

I don't have any exciting plans such as Tevis next year. But I only have 755 combined miles so I get to do the Green Bean competition again! And this time I joined the team Appy Inc. More fitting for the Spookaloosa!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Foo: Endurance Horse in Training

I have been working with Foo since April of this year. I am actually one of the people responsible for Paula purchasing her as her next endurance prospect, along with her daughter Kathleen. Foo is not actually her registered name, but as we were leaving after looking at her, none of us could remember her name. And she had a lot of foofy hair. It was shorter then and all over the place, so Paula dubed her the Foo.

She was already well ahead of the game from Quick. She had just returned to her breeder and had been in show reining training for a short period of time. She was safe and had three gaits. Did I ever mention that Quick could not canter? It was more of two drunks in a horse suit, legs everywhere.

Foo had some setbacks, probably a couple bouts of ulcers. She would also get angry, and seemly stuck in this angry state. She also started losing her mind, she was just reacting. All the while she was still really safe, no spook none of the issues that Quick had that made him dangerous. Everything was coming to a head with Foo, it seemed as if this downward spiral was out of control. But I always had the feeling that this was the right horse, I just questioned if I could pull her out of where she was.

At first Foo was really good, we had a couple good rides then out of the blue it went south and I couldn't do anything with her. So much discussing with Paula about her, and lots of thinking on my part. In the end there were two options, she pulls through it and becomes Paula's next endurance mount, or she finds a new home. I took on the challenge. I still had this feeling that Foo was the right horse, she needed a lot of work though. One of the things I pushed was the fact she needed work with a trainer. With Quick, Paula had taken him to our friend Trish couple times a week for ground driving, lessons with me riding him, lessons with Paula riding him etc. There was a lot of time and energy put into him. Well Trish had moved to the coast and life happens. I was pretty sure Foo needed this consistency to get her from where she was to where we wanted her to be. So she came for full training. Journey went to live at Paula's house for the time being.

There was a lot going on with her. She wanted to rush everything, no rhythm, lots of boinging and she would not use herself. She also would not take contact, she would come behind the bit, gape her mouth and never really relax. I tried some different bits and then a sidepull. She was quieter in the side pull, so side pull it was! This helped a lot, yet there was still non of the relaxation and stretching I look for. Many of the horses I work with the foremost thing I work on it allowing them to relax. Think about it, if you are tight and tense you are going to be distracted and anxious. You are not going to focus, we've all been there and know what it is like. But if you can relax, calm yourself down it allows you to focus and learn. The same is true with horses. It took a while to get the full relaxation out of her.

We did a couple things to her diet that helped. We noticed that her bad days coincided with her cycles. So I spoke with Spirit Brooks who makes her own herbal blends for horses. I already had Journey on her, what she called 'psycho' mare blend. Come on, when you have the quintessential chestnut thoroughbred mare that is what you need. Foo's blend is slightly different, because of AERC legal ingredients. We also switched all the horses over to a different form of magnesium, which also made a huge difference.

 Foo went to her first dressage show of the year, and well it could have been worse. We only did the walk trot intro tests because cantering caused more boinging and we were not ready for that. It was the OSU Beaver Piaffe Schooling Show held at Inavale Farms. Warm up was in the indoor and there was just too much going on in there for her. So we got very little warm up. The first test had a rider error, mixed up the 4 tests I had memorized.... but wasn't extremely horrible.  The second test however, went downhill quickly. Our circle at A became a boing, and up and up and boinging. At this point, I knew the movement was shot, I didn't care, and I was doing everything I could to bring her to a trot. Nothing. It was screw the rest of the test or... I yelled at her "Knock it off!" It was enough of a release of tension that we finished the test nicely. Hey it could have been worse. Not everyone has a dressage test that says "Very bad".

We cliniced with Jessica Wisdom and did another little schooling dressage show. This one went much better. I kind of felt bad because both the horses I pretty much swept the dressage classes we were in. I was out for the experience, but doing well it a nice bonus!

Things were going well, Foo was doing much better. I am lucky enough to have Deborah Davies work on my horses. I met her through two friends who used her and highly recommended her. She doesn't live locally so she is only out a few times per year. It is worth it. I asked Paula to have her work on Foo. I really felt that Foo had some issues that needed to be addressed. Not soundness issues mind you, other physical issues. She worked on Foo, and found a lot of cranial and TMJ issues going on. It isn't surprising since Foo was still having difficulties with bits and contact. I think there was something else but I don't remember. I had Journey and Quick worked on at the same time!

After her bodywork, Foo made huge leaps and bounds. She was stretching, she was no longer diving behind the bit, still avoiding it somewhat but nothing as bad as it was. Paula was doing arena rides on her. Everything was looking much better.

We had another dressage show, this time I rode 3 horses and was a scheduling nightmare for the organizers. But they did a wonderful job! This was to be Foo's first canter test. Intro C, a nice easy test. She did one on Saturday and then two tests on Sunday with Sunday being the canter one. She nailed it. Nice and quiet. Rider error caused a wrong lead on the last circle, but the judge had us do it over with the correct lead. The test was beautiful. The only issue was coming down the long side towards our halt and salute there was a deer jumping on the other side of the fence. Foo was very manageable but spooked into a canter. I was glad the deer didn't jump into the arena like it did for Spirit! Overall it was a great test and I was very pleased with how she did.

Right before we were to leave for Tevis there was a schooling hunter jumper show at a local barn. Trish was going to be the judge. We were going to take Foo and do some walk trot canter flat classes. We started off in the walk trot classes and Foo was good. We were competing against a couple kids as well, and we were asked if Foo would be alright. She had this. Now for the canter classes. I know Trish is an old time thoroughbred lover, and she would be looking for a horse that was moving forward as the old time hunters did. The first class was equitation and I kept her in a more collected gait, not sure as to how she would act with 4 other horses cantering around. She was perfect. So, here was the test. Hunter under saddle. I gave her a loose rein and asked for everything. A bigger trot, forward, ground covering. When the call came for an extended trot we were coming out of a corner and she nailed it. And her canter? Loose rein, forward, relaxed. And a second place for the little Arab.

Photos by Charles

We began talking about taking her to a 25 mile ride. There were two candidates, Oregon 100 or Foothills of the Cascades. They are two vastly different rides. OR 100 is a flat desert ride, in which I had had enough of the sagebrush doing the 100 last year. Foothills on the other hand is perhaps one of the toughest rides in the area. It is logging roads, similar to what we train on. And nothing about it is easy. Quick, coming off of the 100 last year, won the 50 there. We lost a shoe coming off of Rag's Mile Hill and were lucky enough to be given an Easyboot and we still beat everyone by 45 minutes. And our time for the 50? 7 hours and 15 minutes. And we won. It gives you a perspective on how tough it is. THere is also a huge chance of torrential downpours, cold, snow and all matter of unhappy weather. Our only problem is the woods were still closed due to fire danger. I really didn't want to put her through seeing horses miles away on the flats at OR 100, even just for 25 miles. It was easy to talk Paula out of it, she loves the sagebrush about as much as I do.

Foo rocked her first couple conditioning rides at Mt. Pisgah. Paula had already done a long slow distance base on her the previous two years. After that first ride I remember Paula looking at Foo and saying, "I want to ride that one. She is the easy horse!" Her grey mare Roz is 19-20 and very set in her ways. The next ride I rode Roz, and Paula rode Foo. Let me tell you, Foo is easier for sure. It was an awesome ride, I think all of us were grinning from ear to ear. The woods opened up not to much later and my schedule changed. So I was taking Foo on solo rides in the mornings and we would ride together on the weekends. In total we did 78.5 miles since the beginning of September. The big test was to take her on the 17 mile loop. It has over 2,300 feet of elevation change. We did it in 3 hours and 30 minutes. Which, considering we walked in the last 3 miles because of young horse not going to go fast going home. She tackled the hills just fine. So the Foo was ready.

It was supposed to be an awful day. I was asked if we were really going to go and I said of course! There was a bit of issue last year at Foothills with some riders being behind others, and not passing these people and finishing way ahead of people. There is an out and back loop that was quite frankly, very confusing last year. You go up a nice hill and come back down a really pretty tunnel of trees (look for Quick's shoe while you are there). Since there was no way to prove whether or not these riders actually did the loop, a few people were determined to make sure all riders did the loop this year.

It was supposed to rain. I mean storm and be all sorts of nasty. I was game. Everyone was trying to weenie out on me. The weather was starting to look better, rain later in the day. And off we went. 

Foo camped well. It was really warm the night before the ride. A deck of cards had been put out in a bucket strung between two water barrels with a deck of cards. You were to bring a card back if you were to complete. 

The 50s left only 15 minutes before us. We wanted to leave at the tail end of the group. Not too far behind because we wouldn't make time, but let majority of the riders get ahead of us. 

My goal with Foo, walk out of camp on a loose rein. Everything else didn't matter. And we did. Everything was going great, we went down a little hill, and then were caught by two gaited horses. I don't know if Foo has seen gaited horses before, and they were shuffling quickly down the hill. I had to stop her and get her to just stand, not as quietly as I would have liked, but enough to let them pass. After we got moving again Foo was jigging. We were going at a slight downhill. Where was a nice long uphill when you needed it? Foo was not happy, and finally I told her to knock it off and she quit for the most part.

Photos by Cassidy Rae

Once we got moving she was great. She settled down to do her job, and was happy about it. We were both convinced that she would make an endurance horse. We were going at a good pace. This is NOT an easy ride, it is not one where you can go slow. We were passing horses with no problems and getting passed with no issues. She was doing more downhill trotting than she had ever done. Everyone question I asked was met with a yes.

We finished the first loop back in camp. Roz will not pee unless tied or in a corral so we walked the horses over, let Roz have her potty break and came back for our pulse. Both girls pulsed down and vetted through. We returned to our camp to let them rest.

Off we went again for the final 15 mile loop. I was able to get my GPS app working so I could see just how tough that hill was! (I was curious after last year) We had some rough trail in the woods. Then onto a logging road. Foo was starting to get a little tired, she would ask to walk down the big downhills. We came across a guy leading his horse. The horse had pulled a shoe. I had been there the year before, cursing my luck that I didn't have a boot. I looked at the horse's hoof, it was tiny, long and very upright. I handed him the boot I had and he was able to get it on. I had to help adjust the cables because it was one I had replaced and the cable is stuck between the wall of the boot and the o ring inside. (I have been meaning to fix it, but, as it is still that way obviously I haven't) It fit and was good to go. We went on ahead. I have obviously learned from last year to ALWAYS carry a boot with me... or two...

Foo hair everywhere!

The trail to the out and back was slightly different this year, they were logging along the beginning of it. Foo had no problem going past a big smelly water truck. We could see the clouds flying by up above, the storm was coming in. The wind had picked up. We came upon a Ride and Tie-er. He was running down the hill. He asked if we had seen his horse and we hadn't. (I had picked up a boot along the way before but it wasn't his horse's) Down we went towards the big climb. We trotted a good deal of the hill. I kid you not, this guy was catching us! He was a BEAST. He just kept chugging along up the hill. We came up on a rider leading his horse, he tried to hop on and have us drag him along but we were moving too fast. 
At the top of the hill the runner was catching us again! 
He caught us for the last time at the water barrels where our 'poker' cards were. I picked out two, one for Paula and one for myself. We found out later that his horse could not catch him going up the hill! No wonder! He was running almost as fast as the horses!

We went down the pretty wooded trail, where Quick lost his shoe last year. By this point Foo was tired, but still game. We continued on, racing the storm in. I vaguely remembered some of the trail, a lot of it last year was spent making sure the boot I had borrowed didn't fly off. Foo led across the stream, no problems with water crossings apparently!

We came to almost the end of the trail before crossing the road, it had been pretty fresh last year, and bad footing. We crossing from the logged area into a grassy area and suddenly Foo went straight up on all four feet. It took me a moment to realize what had happened, bees! (or more likely one of their devilish cousins, wasps, hornets, or yellow jackets) Foo was getting stung, she was listening to me as I was saying wait. I yelled for Paula to go, the footing was awful, deep muddy and rocks. Not footing you could really move in! Foo was being so good, I could tell she was getting stung multiple times. I got stung twice myself. We picked our way through and were soon out of harm's way!
We passed Mary going out to see about the bee problem. Time was ticking and off we went. Foo kept shaking her head as if something was still bothering her. So we made time, trotting off. It wasn't until we were coming into Ride Camp that the wind blew her mane away and we saw IT. A nasty bee like thing had crawled under her mane and was there biting and stinging her. Poor girl! Paula reached over and got it off. Foo was quite relieved.

I was a little worried about both horse's heart rates coming down with getting stung by the bees. That has happened to Roz before. But since everyone had gotten to the bees before us, maybe they lacked super strong venom. Both mares pulsed down nicely and we vetted through. Celena came in on her handsome TB gelding Thunder, in the lead of the 50.

We rugged up the girls just in time for the sky to open up. Usually we wait for a while for the horses to rest, but they were miserable. So we quickly put everything in the trailer and loaded the horses in. Celena rode out into the rain on her last 10 mile loop. I was glad that last year it didn't rain on Quick and I!

So Foo completed her first LD! She is going to be an endurance horse!