Friday, July 2, 2010

Practicing Obstacles

This was the little course I set up in the backyard before the ACTHA Ride. This was our second time through the course. All in all, I thought we did well. We never have side-passed before, but we're getting the hang of it. Eventually, I hope to take some basic dressage lessons, anything to improve our skills.
This was taken before the big spill, of course. I've ridden her twice since that happened, and I've been doing lots on the ground with her during my recovery. Here's the details of the course:
1. Walk up to the mounting block and stand still while mounting.
2. Cross the tarp
3. Cross the plywood
4. Walk over a low 'jump'
5. Go through the gate w/hanging vines
6. Drag a log
7. Side-pass
8. Back through the "L"
9. Step around the star
10. Trot-Stop- Back

Now why hadn't I thought to do all that with a hoola-hoop around her legs!

This post was supposed to include a video, but after waiting half an hour for it to load, I gave up.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Get 'em Hooked

Well, I ruined my camera, so I won't be adding any new pictures, but I still have a few old ones that I could post. It's been two weeks now since I got hurt. I had been doing some groundwork with her throughout the week, but I'd come in afterward limping. Each day I think I feel better, but when I try to do too much I feel it. I thought I would try riding a little just to get over the mental barrier. It was fun and we took it easy, but my hip and pelvis ached worse than it had for days when I was finished. Yesterday, I let my husband, Stephan, ride her. It's his first real ride on her; I led him around on her once several months ago. I gave him his first riding lesson. It was great and they both did well. He and my boys have shown some interest in learning to ride, but this was the first time Stephan has actually ridden my horse! It was exciting for me because there's nothing I would love more than to share this passion with my family. It won't seem like such an addiction if I get them hooked too.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

ACTHA Ride for the Rescues

Okay, so I spent a couple of weeks doing obstacles in the backyard. Calico did great. On Thursday, before the ride, my sister and I loaded her into the trailer and drove an hour away to Sandy Valley where the ride would take place on Sunday. Jenny borrowed a horse and we had a terrific trail ride. Some of the ranch dogs came along with us and chased jackrabbits and even scared up a coyote. Cali was on her best behavior. I marveled at how far we've come since last year.
Sunday morning I got up very early, and made preparations to leave. This was the first time I had pulled the trailer alone, and I was a little nervous, but felt pretty good since Jenny and I had done it during rush hour on Thursday. It was a piece of cake. I went to the check-in desk after I unloaded her and got my number and map. I saw the familiar faces of the volunteers from Shiloh Horse Rescue. It was great to see everyone. I got her tacked up and then went to the pre-ride meeting before warming up a little. I noticed a couple of women with arabians, so I had to go asked if the ever rode endurance. They said they mostly had done the XP rides! I was so excited to meet them. The riders went out in groups, though,initially, I started out on my own because my group was lagging behind. Calico started to get nervous, so I waited for anyone to catch up as I tried turning her and backing her to help her focus. It was the endurance riders, so I just went along with them for a bit; Cali relaxed. We came to a long, I mean 25 foot, metal pipe and Cali got nervous to cross it. She tried to go around but I wouldn't let her. After a few seconds, she rushed over it but now we were a little ways behind our new friends. She rushed to catch up when an old gate on the ground startled her. She bucked a little and sure enough, I came off. I jumped up and went to get her. I hopped right back up and went on. This is the first time I've come off since last September. By now the Shiloh crowd had caught up to us, so I rode with them. Cali was fine when we were just moving along, but every time we had to do an obstacle she blew it. This was stuff we had been practicing, but in a group and a strange place it was like she'd never seen any of it before, 'poles, cones, what?' We weren't racking up any points. I didn't care. I liked the challenge and I was having fun. The third obstacle was a hoola hoop on the ground. I was supposed to show a turn on the forehand by having her step her front hooves into the hoop and yield her hindquarters 180 degrees. We should be able to do this! She stepped in alright, then stepped ON the hoop which then popped up around her legs and that was it. She bolted and I tried to bring her down, but in a moment she bucked hard! I did a full somersault in the air before landing on my back, mostly my sacrum. I was hurt this time, and I knew it. I couldn't breathe for a moment, then I struggled to get up. I made myself get back on my horse. I rode another quarter-mile or so to the next obstacle. We were with our friend Eric, but both horses were acting anxious because we got separated from the rest of our group. At the next obstacle I told the judges, that had fallen and I would pass this one. I walked a few steps then decided I couldn't ride any more. They called for a truck to take me back to base camp, and someone ponied my horse back. I needed help getting into the truck. I couldn't take a step forward or lift my leg in or out. I was grateful the ride had been in Sandy Valley and not rocky valley. My husband had to come pick me up. By that evening I couldn't move at all. We went to Quick Care the next day and nothing was broken, but I think I tore or strained the ligament in my right hip. It's been more than a week now and it's still fairly painful to walk. I went out and bought a hoola-hoop and did some ground work with her today. I can't wait to work on the holes in our communication. I see I still have much to do. I'm grateful I wasn't hurt worse, but I'm frustrated that I'm still limping around. It's hard for me to sit still. The good news is...I've seen every game in the World Cup and I'm getting a lot of knitting done.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

New tack, new rig and new arena.

We reconfigured the back to make an obstacle course. I have a low jump. A "L" to back through, a gate with 'vines' hanging down, a tarp to cross and a log on a long rope to drag. We can add or change obstacles as we progress. I also have tried out my new rig. Calico thinks it's too small, but she'll ride in it. Cali and I have spent this past year trying to gather the right tack. Finally, she is very comfortable in her Annie George saddle, I got it used and love it. She also sporting a zilco halter/bridle combo in turquoise with a full cheek snaffle that we ordered from the John Lyons store.

We have entered the ACTHA Ride for the Rescues/ Ride for the Record. They going for a Guinness World Record; the most trail riders riding simultaneously and the proceeds will benefit local horse charities. The Nevada ride will benefit Shiloh Horse Rescue. It will be a six mile ride with six obstacles and six judges. It should be pretty fun, but we have a lot to do in the next two weeks to get ready.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Little Each Day

Yesterday, I talked about how, for so long now, I've made excuses. I've spent too much time daydreaming about goals and not actually doing them. I decided that if I do a little toward my goal each day, I will surely get there. I went out and did something I've never done. I stood inside the round-pen and Cali was on the outside! I cued her from in there and it was really fun. Pretty soon she was galloping around the outside of the round-pen, having a grand ole time, and I was just laughing. She would turn in and face me when I asked. It was different and fun. Then, I brought her into the round-pen, and rode her bareback. We've never worked with a mounting block before, but I have a tall step for step aerobics. I could cue her to take one step forward and she stood very still while I hopped on. I haven't ridden bareback in a very long time, but I thought it would help me build my balance and I love the connection to my horse. I was fretting before because I don't have a horse trailer yet, so I can't really do any conditioning rides. (Sounds like an excuse!) I just decided that if I do something, anything with her for even just a few minutes, our bond will get stronger and stronger, and then nothing will stop me from making the time, finding a way. No more excuses, let's ride.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Tevis Goals- Reframing

I first became interested in the Tevis Cup as I watched a dear friend began her endurance career. I babysat for Carol, in fact, when she did her first LD. I was so intrigued. Well that was in 1994, but her enthusiasm and encouragement over the years has fueled the flames for me to set my own goals. Carol and I were both raising large families, and I was always amazed at how she MADE time to condition. I, on the other hand, made excuses. Ususally it was something like, I can't ride, I have small kids. I can't afford a horse, I have five (now 6) kids. I can't possibly ride that far, I've had too many kids. I can't get in shape, who will watch the kids. I can't ride more than a few miles, at my age. I can't , I can't , I can't. Guess what? I gave birth to my sixth child, at home, without pain medication at the age of 44. That makes me a bad-ass. I have endured, even at this age. I can because I have six kids! It is what I tell young mothers all the time... giving birth is a rite of passage that can help, not only face the challenges of motherhood, but also, face other challenges in your life. I am looking into my future toward riding across the Sierras, and I am telling myself, I can do this, I have given birth to six kids. That's my new mantra.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Moved Again

I'm pretty sure this will be the last time for a long time. I finally have a home where I can have Calico in my backyard and I am so pleased. It happened rather suddenly, but we found a nice place in the middle of L.V. on a half acre. Calico has her buddy Wishes and a new little friend, a mini named Rusty. I've set up the round pen in the middle and they can move all the way around the outside, at a lope if they like, and find shade under the trees throughout the day. It's the best I can do in terms of 'paddock paradise' on such a small property, but it's much better than standing in a 12 x 16 stall most of the day. Also, the half acre next door is vacant, and the owner said I can ride on it whenever I want to. I'd like to buy it from him, but that will have to come later. We love the new place. I really feel like it was built just for us. It's home.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Twenty Mule Team Ride Story Part 3

As we quickly but carefully crossed the highway, it started to hail. Thanks again to the volunteer that acted as our crossing guard. Cars and trucks are not expecting to see horses on the highway, but especially in that kind of weather. We headed on up the trail for the next 8 mile leg. This part of the trail seemed to have more rocks and deep mud which made for slow going at first. I noticed a horseshoe in the mud and was so grateful Calico was barefoot. Then the rain stopped and we rounded the turn that mark the farthest distance from base-camp. Calico picked up on it right away, and I could feel her energy shift when she sensed we were headed back. We really started trotting and the trail got better and the rain stopped. At one point Robin noticed a rattlesnake, and Cali and I trotted right past it. Cali had been veering up on the shoulder to get to drier footing and I kept trying to steer her back to the trail. We just happened to be down on the trail at that moment; otherwise, we could have easily stepped right on it. Soon we were passing under the train trestle and a man came toward us to ask for our rider numbers. We let the horses drink from the stock tank and gobble hay. Calico decided this was a good place to stay forever. This time, even when Maggie started to walk off, she chose to stay and eat. The nice man said the vet check was just four miles away, so I let her grab a few more bites, then we trotted on and on. Selina had just call me on my cell before our brief stop, so it was very exciting knowing that she and Justin would be waiting for us when we got to the 2nd vet check. Here, the horse would have to meet their pulse criteria, then we would have a thirty minute hold before we were allowed to continue. Or should I say, before we were forced to continue. Just kidding. We walked in the last half mile or so. It took a few minutes for my horse to pulse down again; I just loosened her cinch and walked her around, let her drink and eat. Melissa Ribley DVM, kindly scrounged up some halters for us, so the horses could eat more easily. She also suggested, I might try putting my rider card in a plastic baggie next time. Standing around on a windy hill for half an hour made me realize how wet I was. It was freezing. Selina and Justin brought gatorade, peanut butter and banana sandwiches and dry socks. I had water sloshing around in one shoe, the other was bone dry. I remember that it was very hard to sit down and take my boots off and then get up again. I was aching all over. I let Selina hold my horse while I located the port-a-potty. Sweet relief. Then it was Robin's turn. I didn't notice or care, but she was gone for a while. When she finally returned she was laughing hysterically. Funny, I didn't remember seeing a big, cheap bottle of wine in the john, but something had her going. Oh yeah, she was wearing really tight, soaking wet Wranglers. She couldn't pull them down; and when she finally did, she couldn't pull them up again. She said she nearly screamed for help. 'HELP, I can't get my pants off, and I need to pee like a race-horse.' I was having trouble getting my horse bridled again. She was busy devouring some poor 100 miler's carrot cake; a lovely feed pan filled with grain mash with carrots stuck all over it like candles. I kept trying to pull her away, but she's a little stronger than I am. It was really hard mounting again, and saying goodbye to Selina. I knew she'd be at the finish. Once we started down the trail, I started warming up. I was glad to be off that cold, windy hill, and back on the trail. We crossed the highway again. Now we were trotting and cantering a lot. Calico felt so strong and refreshed. Her mane had completely dried out. It was cleaner than it had been all season, so beautiful. I felt proud of her. Toward the end of the ride, we slowed on the down hills, and I was able to get some video.

I knew we should go faster, but every step downhill was painful on my hips, and my left calf was bruised. When we were about two miles out, some 65 milers started passing us. That really messed with my mind. I started thinking that I had slowed us down so much that we weren't going to make the cut-off time. Calico wanted to do her extended trot and I started fighting with her. I'm not proud of the way I acted. I think so many different emotions were hitting me at once, along with physical pain and exhaustion. As always, Robin coached me through it. We walk the last half mile across the "finish". In endurance, the finish is a funny thing; I guess anti-climatic. My emotional outburst the mile before was my climax. I cry, what can I say. This is what I've been wanting to achieve with this horse since the first time I saw her in March of 2006. I didn't own her, and then I had a baby. When we got to the end, someone said, good job, you're done. This is not a spectator sport, no cheering, no crowds. I didn't even notice that someone else had taken her pulse. I was waiting my turn at the water trough. I loosened her cinch. Then Robin said, you want to ride in, there was still 500 yards to the fairgrounds, "Nope, I'll walk". She just laughed. We still had to go do our final vet check. When we got into the fairgrounds, I looked around for Selina. She and Justin were asleep in their truck. No cheering, no crowds. I got my horse unsaddled. You can see what was left of my rider card. The only printing left was my ride number, 308. We headed for the last vet check and the trot out.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Twenty Mule Team Ride Story Part 2

We called out our numbers as we walked the horses through the gate out of the fairgrounds. Thirty horses started out. We were toward the back of the herd. It was just barely raining now. I had put on every layer of clothing I brought, a tank top, a long-sleeved shirt, a polar fleece jacket, a corduroy vest and a down coat, not water-proof. I wore a neckerchief and a head band that covered my ears. That turned out to be the best piece of gear I had, my ears were toasty all day. I wore spandex breeches and pantyhose and thick socks. Before we left I told Robin we needed to put our rider cards in a ziplock bag before we put them into the saddle bags. She got the baggies out and put her card in it. I got busy saddling my horse. After that, I looked for the baggies but didn't see them, so I just left my rider card in my saddlebag; it was time to go.

The start was about like I expected, the horses were feeding off eachother's energy and were excited. Overall, it was a pretty relaxed start, only one horse in front of us was bucking sideways down the trail, and my horse was just doing her power walk. She'd try to trot sometimes, but I could always bring her down, and soon we let nearly everyone pass. She only bolted forward and took off once when another horse came up on us suddenly. It really made me laugh that she 'spooked' at another horse, but when you think about it, in a herd, when the horse in the back comes up fast, it is because it's being chased and that triggers the horses in front to run faster. No one wants to be last in the herd because they get eaten.

At this point, the weather was perfect, just a light drizzle and the desert smelled like chapparel. When I was a young child, six maybe, my grandmother came to visit us from New Mexico. She had me go out and pick a bunch of chapparel growing next door. Then she made an infusion that she used medicinally. It was my first experience with herbal remedies, which later would become part of my midwifery studies. Rain is so precious when you live in desert, and the smell of chapparel always seems fresh and clean and good to me. It reminded me, too, of my 30th birthday, when my husband and I did a trail ride together. It was a very happy day for me, and now I told Robin I couldn't think of anything better than this.

We picked up the pace and played leap frog with a couple of other newbies. Cali tried to dodge the puddles, but it was all puddles. Throughout the ride, we tried to figure out where our sweet spot was located. She did best, in my opinion, when we were in front of Robin and her horse Maggie. I would get tired and they'd pass us. When we tried to ride abreast, Cali would try to bite Maggie and push her behind again. If they were in front, Cali would get right up on Maggie's tail, I couldn't see what was coming up. It was often very slippery and Cali was constantly jumping the ruts to find the driest spot. We need to work on maintaining a steady pace over any and all terrain; the constant changing was exhausting. I lost my balance over and over. If I slowed her down to rest and Maggie got more than 15 feet ahead, Cali would lope to catch up. Many times we would get into a nice steady pace at a trot or canter, and I would be flooded with endorphins. That was wonderful. I reached into my saddlebag to get a protein bar and noticed it was covered with little bits of soaking-wet green paper, my rider card.

It was raining harder now, then soon we climbed a hill where we headed into fog. Robin said, "We're riding in the clouds!!!" I saw a truck up ahead and thought, please be the vet check. Nope it was the photographer. He said we should pick up the pace. I tried to smile for the picture. Just after that, we saw a guy on a mountain bike coming toward us, I was spooked, but my horse was fine. We were getting closer to the first vet check, we past some old mine shafts, and then it was a long gradual down hill grade. I could see the highway, so I knew we were close, but I was having a very hard time. When we were about 17 miles from the start (2 miles to the vet), I lost it. My body was aching with every step, and Robin, my horse and the photographer told me to go faster. I was so embarrassed about my rider card, and about getting emotional. I had a brief cry and some GU energy paste. I felt much better. Then I saw a tortoise, and he said, 'Remember, slow and steady wins the race', and I was happy again as we came into the vet check. When I told them about my ride card, they said it happened to a lot of people, but they didn't need it there anyway. It took a few minutes for Cali to pulse down, then it started raining hard, freezing rain. I had a little trouble mounting because my foot kept slipping. The shock of a cold wet saddle snapped me out of my stupor as we got ready to cross Hwy 395.

Twenty Mule Team Ride Story Part 1

Okay, the forecast for the ride was rain. I live in the desert, rain in the desert means a little drizzle in winter or a cloudsburst for a couple of minutes then sun. Well, all I can say is Thank God we spent a day working on water crossings.

We left LV at 9am Friday, so we could get in early, vet-in and check out the trail. At this point I still wasn't sure what saddle or stirrups I was going to use. The old Stonewall I got was painful to ride in, but that was what I had been using and I felt pretty secure in it. The other endurance saddle I had was more comfortable, but that's the one I was using when I fell, so I was superstitious. Robin just laughed at me, 'just keep your heels down and you won't fall'. I knew that 's what I was supposed to do, but it was hard making my body do it after not riding for a few years. This became the constant reminder in the ride,"Heels down!". I went with the more comfortable saddle and I'm glad now.

After the ride meeting, Robin decided we needed a bottle of wine. I was checking out lables, but she went for big and cheap. We got a little silly, I guess, because the the sixty-five miler camped next to us kept coming out to see what was bothering her horse. Some horses haven't been desensitized to cackling women, apparently. I don't remember what we thought was so funny; maybe it was the realization that the forecast was rain, and I hadn't packed rain-gear. I live in the desert; I don't own rain-gear. Did I mention, I was nervous? I didn't sleep. Around 2 am, the rain started. I finally dozed off for about an hour. I dreamt I was in the bathtub and the water was spilling onto the floor. I woke up when I heard Robin stir. She said 'I just dreamed of Michael Flatley'; I said, 'You mean River Dance?'. The rain kept on. I got up to watch the 100 milers leave at 6am and the 65 milers followed a half-hour later in the grey light and drizzle, Next, it was our turn.

Preparing for the Ridgecrest ride

I need to back up a little, before I go in to the story of the ride. Calico and I had been working on building my confidence to ride her again by walking, trotting and eventually loping in the arena. Then we did three trail rides out in, what used to be called, The Vegas Wash. Now after all the sewage goes through the water treatment plant and before it heads down the valley to Lake Mead, where the water runs behind Sam Boyd stadium, the water district and other city planners renamed the area Wetlands Park. They built a equestrian trail-head where you can park large trailers; there are hithching post and a round pen and restrooms. It's very nice; the trails are mostly gravel. The first time we went, we worked on mud and water crossings, and this was the first time Cali had gone out with other horses. Robin's daughter came along on her thoroughbred gelding. We also did lots of hills; up and down, up and down. The second ride we found a long gradual grade up into the hills and we did lots of trotting and loping. The third time we tried to cover more distance, and to trot for longer periods. So that was it. That was all the conditioning we did tor the 35 mile ride at Ridgecrest. You could say I was a little nervous. Luckily, we happen to be in the process of buying a house where I'll be able to have Calico in the backyard, so my mounting (no pun intended) fear about the ride was diverted by my excitement about a new home. That's another story.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Twenty Mule Team Ride-Done!

We did it! Thank you, God. Calico Girl and I completed our first Limited Distance ride, in Ridgecrest, CA. As I accept my completion award, I'd just like to thank the folks who supported me; without your encouragement, I'd just be sitting on the couch. Mom, Dad, thanks for having me. I'm so grateful to Tedi, for the gift of Calico. Robin, I can never thank you enough for 'holding my hand' while I took this big step and for pushing me when I needed it. I also want to thank Selina and Justin for the peanut butter and banana sandwich and dry socks at the second vet check, and just for being there; it meant so much. Thank you Robert and Melissa Ribley for putting on a great ride and all the amazing volunteers that endured that freezing rain, and Shawnda for the dry barn, and Stephan for the bottle of Wild Horse merlot and the cozy bed, and Thank you Calico for carrying me to new places; you are the one I've been hoping for all along; my true enduring partner. I'm looking forward to our next adventure. Oh, and thanks to the tortise for reminding me that "slow and steady wins the race" and to my guardian angel (and Robin) for not letting us step on that rattlesnake. I nearly forgot, Thank you soooo much to Brian and Nicole for babysitting Philip while Stephan was working on his Masters program and while Mama was galavanting around the desert. We accomplished all we had set out to do, so now it's time to set some new goals. Robin says the Color Country ride (Utah) in April, but we have to do the 50 miler. I'll need a big push.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Series of Firsts

It seems that every time I post to the blog in the past few months, I start by saying, 'This was the first time Cali .....'. I'm sure there will come a time when I'm sharing ride stories or lessons learned on the trail, but for now everything is a first-time for us. She went in the new arena for the first time. I cantered with her for the first time. (That was huge!) Next week will be doing our first trail ride with another horse, and in less than three weeks, we'll be doing our first Limited Distance (35 miles) in Ridgecrest, CA. It's official; I mailed the ride application today!

Having a goal, a deadline, has been a wonderful incentive to help us progress quickly with our training. I have always heard that goals are just dreams with deadlines.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

More Preparations for Ridgecrest

I got the results of Calico's blood test yesterday; she's negative for Coggins. All my paperwork is in order for the trip now. I've order a new closed-cell foam pad to use with her saddle blanket to give her a little more cushion from my weight. Also, I ordered some Professional's Choice Sport medicine boots for her front legs. I'll have to see if they will work with her hoof boots. I've been making lists of things I want to be sure to bring on the trip; for the rider, for the horse, for the saddle bags, grooming supplies, tools, feed. Selina and Justin are coming along to crew for us. It's nice to have some family support. I've spent a ton of money in the last couple of weeks, but next time I won't have to because it's mostly been on gear. I guess that's the joke, there's always more gear to buy isn't there. I think I'm pretty set for now, though.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Working with the Trainer

I got some nice short clips of one of our training sessions with Robin, working off leg cues, which incidently, are exactly opposite of how I always rode her. Robin uses a right leg cue to push the right shoulder over for a left turn. I always used a right leg cue to yield the right hind-quarters for a steer-from-rear, right turn. I guess what I really want is to be able to control the shoulders because that's what she uses to try and run over me. I'm finally getting it. ( You were right, Jenny) She also worked on having Cali remain still and then worked with the distractions of other horses. Then it was my turn, I rode her at the trot while Robin rode another horse around us. I didn't get any video of that, darn it.

Calico is Six Years Old

Today is Cali's birthday and I kinda forgot to celebrate it. Philip and Sean came out with me today, and when we got there I noticed her eye had a little scratch right in the corner. It had some pus in it. I doctored it and put some erythromycin ointment in it. I wormed her too.

I worked her in the round-pen, then we moved to the arena for our first ride there.

She was really annoyed today. Probably because her eye was bugging her. It may have just gotten some debris in it; it didn't look serious. She has a completely different attitude compared with yesterday which was calm and relaxed. I accomplished my goal though, and that was to ride her in the arena, another confidence-building excercise for me.

New Friends

This was her first time in cross-ties. There's always something new to learn. I was so proud of her the day we moved because she jumped right into a trailer she'd never seen before and settled right in to her new home.
I rode her in the round-pen the next day while Philip made friends with the barn manager's son, Elijah, and a new pony Trigger. We all had a lot of fun. I've met so many really cool folks here; they've made us feel so welcomed.

So cute, Philip always wears cowboy clothes.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Moving Day

I decided that since I can't have Calico in my backyard, I'd try to find a place to board her closer to home. Last week, I found a place that is six miles, one way, from my house instead of the fifteen I've been driving everyday for the past year. I'll start paying board, but that means no more cleaning stalls seven days a week. Today, we will drive Calico from the edge of one mountain range across the valley to the other. I hope this will be a good move for us, and will give me more time to work with her. Our last two training sessions were very successful in helping me to build my confidence, riding her in the arena with other horses. I'm really going to have to spend this month getting my muscles conditioned for the ride. It's the most trotting I've done in more than three years, since I found out I was pregnant with Philip. My body remembers what to do, but I get fatigued quickly. It's just a matter of time in the saddle, which is exactly the best preparation for our first big ride.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Twenty Mule Team Ride

It's settled. Robin and I are planning to enter the 35 mile limited distance ride in Ridgecrest, CA on February 27! This should be a perfect beginner ride for Cali and me. I have a lot of preparations to make, I'm excited to get started. Knowing that I won't be doing it alone certainly makes it easier. We are approaching the entire weekend as a training session, so there's no pressure. It's more of an introduction to the sights and sounds of endurance for Cali. I think the biggest challenge for her will be coping with the distraction of a large group of horses while I'm asking her to focus on my cues. The herd instinct is so strong; it can be hard to keep a horse under control especially at the start of the ride. Maybe because she'll have a buddy, she'll be able to stay relaxed.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday's Session

I spent a little less time in the round-pen today. The weather has been lovely here, not even cold enough to wear a sweater. I timed myself more carefully today to make sure that I spent a full thirty minutes riding. We still just walked, but Calico stood very still as I mounted today. She was relaxed, but still wants to decide which direction we go. It doesn't take to much to convince her that I'm the one giving directions, but she always says, "okay, just checking". I think I mentioned before that there is an ATV parked in the arena with a mechanical roping calf behind it. The first time I took Cali near it she about had a heart attack. She wanted to hide behind me and sniffed and snorted. I kept her off me of course, and we went back and forth past it several times. We were on the outside of the arena that day. Yesterday, when I rode her in there, I led her past it a few more times, so she could see it well. Today, we rode past it, many times and it didn't phase her a bit. That's cool! I think what surprises me most is the amount of anxiety I still feel after falling off. That was months ago! I feel like we've worked through so many issues, yet it seems the only cure is to ride without falling. Stephan thinks I should just practice falling off over and over. He said, "Ya know, bronc riders can't be afraid of falling, they fall nearly every time they ride. They're just good at falling" He might have a point there, but I'd still like to have a nice, well-mannered horse, not a bronc. I like having my ribs intact. I'm really looking forward to my next session with Robin. We'll be riding together soon.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Pre-ride preparations

Each time I take Calico out, I go through a series of excercises to warm-up and prepare for riding. Today Stephan came out with our boy Philip. He was able to get a few new pictures for the blog. I know that as we forge ahead in our journey, the prep times will be shorter and the rides will be longer. Today, I spent about 45 minutes warming up and about 20 in the saddle. The big news is that we moved back to the arena for the first time since my fall. We really had to work on standing still while I mount up. She was much more responsive to the bit yesterday in the round pen, but I think overall we did well. Watch the transformation from wild bronc to relaxed pleasure horse. I have to admit, as I was walking her around I felt nervous and wondered how I was ever going to be ready to get out on the trail. We will do it just like we've done everything else, slow and steady.
This is just before our round penning session. Fresh and Fun.

She is really having fun with the dogs. I think she'd like to kill them.

Here we're doing some basic round-penning. I put a feed bag on the ground in her path that she had to manuever without coming in toward me.

In the last clip, you can see we moved to the arena. Stephan was busy with Philip, so he only got the last few moments of our ride, but I really did have a good time with her today.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

More Confidence Building

Yesterday, I was on my own. I went through all my excercises on the ground with Calico. When I'm not with the trainer, I have to use the small roundpen at the place where Cali is boarded. It's very cramped and it's hard for her to get a real workout. Even though it's small, it still works to prepare her mentally because I can visibly see her mind settle and then she's ready to focus on what I'm asking. I was just about to get on her when the landscaper arrived with the weed-whacker and leaf blower. She was distracted, so I did a few more minutes on the ground with her to see if she would react to the noise, then I mounted up. We just walked today. I feel like a baby, taking baby steps, but each time we end on a good note, I can push a little farther. I was suppose to spend at least thirty minutes in the saddle, I think I spent about 12. I dismounted and remounted again. She did fine and it felt good to be on her again. Next time I think I'll ride in the arena instead of the round pen. She responds to the lightest pressure on the rein and she seems very relaxed. If we just do lots of circles, and serpentines and walk-trot transitions, I think we'll be fine.
I'm thinking about the Twenty Mule Team ride in Ridgecrest, CA. That's near Death Valley not too far from here. It's on February 27th, so I better get to work.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Back in the saddle

Okay, quick review. On Sept. 1st, I got dumped on my tailbone pretty hard, and decided to get some professional help. Calico and I worked together with our trainer Robin to fill in the holes in my training. Cali was a quick learner, but we definitely had some respect issues to hammer out. Over the holidays, I found myself making excuses to just clean stalls and rush home. Nearly a month went by between training sessions and I was wondering if this was ever going to be fun again or if fear would always be there nagging me. I'm sure Robin picked up on my hesitation. She nudged me a little, then dangled some joy in front of me.

Cali saw the horse trailer pull up, and got excited. I put her in the little round pen next to her stall, and she went wild, bucking and kicking up a dust storm. After she settled down a bit I led her out to the street; she jumped right in the trailer. She was ready to work. Robin said, since it had been a while since our last session, she wanted me to work with her first to see if Calico tried any tricks. Her energy was a little high, and a little pissy, but she got right into the old routine quickly, and soon we were waltzing around like Fred and Ginger. After a while, Robin put on Calico's tack and mounted up. She was walking and trotting, bending and stopping. Then it was my turn. I hadn't trotted on her since before my fall. It was so relaxed, loose rein, easy downward transitions to a walk. Robin said, " You plan when you want to do your first limited distance (25 mile) ride and I'll go with you." I'm so excited. I promised I would ride her at least two days a week, and then we're going to start doing some little trail rides around the neighborhood and local trails. Robin has done so much more than train my horse, she's help me to regain my confidence. That's huge. I'm back.....I'm back in the saddle again!