Thursday, July 2, 2020

Stress Relief

With the looming deadline for moving out of our rental having passed, I informed E that I was going to be at the barn on July 1st and to not expect me home after work until well after kid bedtime. I had to work late and finish sample testing so it was a good thing that my originally scheduled 6:30pm dressage lesson had been cancelled due to trainer E's truck breakdown. I arrived just before 6:30, there was a consistent light rain and surprisingly, no one else. 

It was lovely.

This was my work outfit because why not. It's technically lab appropriate attire

I didn't super groom her because she was really wet. I did scrape off what loose hair was remaining from shed. Then I picked through her mane and tail. Her tail REALLY needed it. 
Wet mare who wants cookies

Why should I make happy ears for you? You didn't come out for TWO WEEKS

Okay fine for the small shattered phone device

Quarantine purchases included a LeMieux. I love it.

She was... bouncy... while lunging. Though I think adding in the time off, plus cool weather. Goober was feeling good. I warmed her up and then really focused on getting a good, balanced canter each side out of her. I didn't use side reins this time because I wanted to ride but I might pull them out next time. 

Trainer E's recommendation is that we keep the canter on the lunge line to build strength. I know if I go back in time on this blog I'll see that we have made progress on canter. It used to be she couldn't even do a full canter circle on the lunge line. 

Some mushrooms growing in the manure cart

The ride itself was low key. She had some issues standing still at the mounting block but she also knew that I had cookies in my pocket. She only got the cookie after standing still AND letting me get on though. 
I felt stiff and out of sorts. I really just needed the quiet time on her. I focused on the elements of things I learned in my last dressage lesson to see if I could recreate that feel. By the time I'd decided I was done and should be starting to wrap things up, Gwyn had dried into that soft, fluffy clean feeling that rain brings.
The rest of the barn was being brought in by the time we were done. She apparently REALLY loves this 3 year old the barn owner recently bought. Like, babies him, likes him. 

And for some random work shit: 
Sometimes being a microbiologist means dealing with high pressure steam condensers. I feel badass.

Always wear appropriate PPE for the job. Steam means goggles AND a face shield, COVID-19 means a mouth mask (though I'm not near anyone in this picture so not really necessary)

Blurry because I'm taking a picture through a ziploc bag because I'm in one of the CLEANEST rooms at work. And this is my clean room outfit. Also why I have NO sympathy for mask complainers.

That picture is me in plant clothes, which are single wear, company provided nylon blue pajamas, basically that DO NOT BREATH. Then you put on a clean body suit, also made of nylon/polyester over that that's a giant onesie. Then bootie covers and reglove.

THEN you add a sterile onsie made out of pure plastic (the white) and a sterile hood, sterile mask (and it has plastic on the outside too so it breathes less), sterile bootie covers and two pairs of sterile gloves. That my goggles aren't fogging up is a god damn miracle in that picture.

If I can wear that, AND PUT IT ON WITHOUT CONTAMINATING IT, you can wear your fucking mask. Wear your mask.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

We moved

We spent all of June moving 0.9 miles away into a purchased home (pandemic purchase and all) 

I haven't seen Gwyn and I'm SO feeling the need to get out to the barn.

That's all. 

Well... it's not ALL. I now have a wife. But that was an early quarantine change.

Happy Pride

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Lesson with ED

Due to some comments from Jim that I don't understand, I'm annoyed but just sitting it out. In the meantime, trainer ED comes to the barn weekly and I can hop in on those lesson groupings when there's space. Last night I grabbed an 8pm slot. I love summer light because sunset isn't until after 9pm so we can ride in the outdoor.

Because of moving into our new house and getting it ready, I really haven't had time to do a lot of riding. Still, I thought it prudent to lunge Gwyn before hopping on just to make sure her head was in the game. Glad I did! 

Begging for cookies

She made sure to give me her best Lippizaner impression and when we walked out of the indoor my barn owner made a joke about me signing a second liability waiver before hopping on. Her acrobatics on a lunge line are impressive, I'll grant her that (they could see hind feet above the indoor walls from outside... lol )  but usually once she farts about, I soften her back down and get her doing transitions within the gait and relaxing before I ever get on. 

I got Romfh breeches and pictures to send to Laura Romfh, as she's asking for larger riders to send the company pictures of them wearing the upper size range so that they can see there could be a demand for further range. This is the Isabella breech. I like it!

 She'd just gotten bodywork done on Monday and I noticed that when she was on the wrong lead behind, she tried to change and then would buck. I'm finding this encouraging as it's improvement from when she would either bunny hop in the canter behind or just flat out stay incorrect. More on these thoughts.
Also, thanks to barn owner for taking these photos!
Goddamn elbows need to bend, Amy

I hadn't ridden with ED since mid March, right before things super shut down (and I had a random fever that sent me into quarantine but was thankfully not Covid). She did remember us and remarked that we had improved from the last lesson. I had been implementing a lot of the tools she gave me since and I'm glad it's made a difference. 

Right away, she noticed that I keep my left shoulder raised and this is impeding Gwyn's flexibility going to the left. She suggested that in my turns I rotate my whole upper torso and keep my hands pointing in the direction of my shoulders. With thigh pressure and slightly weighting my inside foot. This will help close my outside rein in the turn and give Gwyn guidance as to the curve that I want from her.

We had amazing corners and circles in this lesson. It's probably the first time that I haven't struggled with feeling like Gwyn was falling in at her shoulder, especially in the trot. I played around a lot with different size circles and seeing how well I could tighten the turn off my seat. I was hardly pulling her mouth and just sitting up and breathing tightened her into a turn on the haunches. I do need to remember to add a bit of outside leg to keep her butt tucked in, but she was so responsive I felt like we were dancing. Yaaassss dressage!

Though check out how well she's stepping under!

I showed ED a bit of Gwyn's canter under saddle and her big suggestion was that I really focus on cantering on the lunge line with side reins, specifically the sliding type (which I have) so that Gwyn can really focus on her balance without a rider but also not be locked into a head position. Our demonstrated canter was quite discombobulated and I think she was getting tired, but it's still something to work on and that could be worthwhile if I don't have a lot of time to spend fully tacking up but still want to make some forward progress during this crazy move month. 

We ended with an exercise to get Gwyn really listening and relaxing. The goal was to trot the short and long sides, and walk in the corners. In the corners, really focus on the turn. I look too soon in my turns. I need to wait and look AT my turn. I'm looking too far ahead, which can be a product of worrying about a spooky horse, but Gwyn really isn't spooky. I can wait and take each movement on its own. I should trust her. 

Once we were good with every corner and Gwyn having a soft trot and being responsive to the downward transition, we would skip a corner so it wasn't predictable. She was so good. And I felt like I had some good revelations and homework to practice on my own.  Gwyn got lots of cookies and face scratches once we were done.

Still the best girl

I grabbed my trailer after the lesson and brought it to the rental. Horse trailers mean you don't have to rent U-Hauls. I managed to park it at the rental FIRST TRY backing it up into the extra parking spot where my truck was sitting. 
Nailed it

I even got my truck tucked up nicely beside the trailer. We'll be ready on the weekend, rather than having to make an hour drive (30 min to the barn then back) to grab the trailer. It's just there, waiting for the large items!

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Black Lives Matter: What are you doing to dismantle white supremacy today?

I don't really use this space for politics. I hardly use it for my personal life (though ask me how well the blog on my personal life is going, hah) 

Just so we're clear on where I stand and what will and won't be tolerated in this space here: Black Lives Matter and the whole police and justice system is trash and needs a massive overhaul. The system is inherently racist. 

Given current events I've seen this now leaking into the horse community, something I'm very thankful for. It needs more attention, especially when you look at a lot of the casual trail riding communities and find abhorrent racism, or at the very least, people who insist that they don't see color and that's satisfactory. Enough so that myself, a very privileged white person, just had to mute it all because trying to speak up meant I was drowned in a sea of voices scorning me. I can't even imagine how a person of color would feel.  (But seriously, don't join Horse Trails and Camping across the USA. Terrible) 

Denny made a post about this (and is getting swarmed with hurt white people who apparently feel attacked), but yesterday I saw a few things that I wanted to share as they are horsey and they are relevant to the present times.

First, Mica Burton (daughter of Levar Burton, and a cosplayer and gamer) recently shared a link to an organization that could use our help. This particular one is a California group that works with kids of color and gets them involved with horses and teaching them to ride.

Consider taking a fee you would have paid to a show that you're not going to because of Covid-19 and donate it to this organization, or find something similar to support. Mica specifically mentioned this:

Edited to add in Viva Carlos as a blogger to get to know. She's amazing and just made a post that has a lot of educational links you can sit with and educate yourself. One VERY important thing to know as you immerse yourself in activism for the black community. They do NOT owe you education. It takes them time and energy that they may not have because of ALLLLLL the white folx who have come before you. Do not demand that. Google is your friend. L. William's links are your friend. Sit with the information presented there and if you feel immediate defensiveness when you read something, don't react but really examine where that emotion is coming from and what implicit biases you might have. It's uncomfortable but necessary.

Additionally, seek out and follow black equestrians on Twitter and Instagram! This fabulous person, Brianna Noble brought her horse TO one of the protests. From perusing her IG, she looks like an amazing trainer and horsewoman. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Saddle Fitting

Feel free to roast me for this, but it's been two years since I last got my saddle fit adjusted for Gwyn. Given that I'm now about a year out from my cross country move, it's somewhat understandable, but regardless, it was time for a recheck. 

With my new job I do have some cash and the ability to save up quickly, for larger purchases like a better fitting saddle. Right now I have an all purpose Thorowgood which has been serving me well for all purposes. I know there are some different schools of thought with those style of saddles and I've been mulling over adding a dressage or specific endurance style saddle or going in another direction. 

Snuggles while we wait for the saddle fitter to finish up on the previous horse

One of my barn mates was having a fitter out a week ago and I hopped on that train SO fast. Though I didn't know it, she used to work for the lady that originally sold me my saddle and was very familiar with the Hastilow/Thorowgood line. Perfect.

First things... the lines on the saddle rack are digging into the leather on my panels. I need to make sure to pad this if my saddle is going to sit on it for any length of time. It would be better to be smooth.

She was pretty knowledgeable though she isn't fitting full time anymore. Now it's just a hobby for her and she's only taking new clients if they're friends of friends. So yay I got in, haha.

Mark up the pony's back in purple livestock crayon

She pulled out the wool flocking from my last fitting, which was a completely different wool and had packed down all wrong. The width is still good, she seems to think Gwyn doesn't need a hoop tree (again, like the last fitter from Michigan advised) Either way, we tossed it on, there was no bridging or pinching and I tacked up and took her for a test ride.

I kind of liked that the fitter also has some knowledge as a riding instructor because she made sure that I was riding effectively to then also judge how the saddle was working. She answered all of my questions. Additionally, she doesn't think I'm going to need a specialized kind of saddle. For my goals, even taking my lofty AEC goal into account, this saddle should serve me well. At most she'd recommend a jump saddle but not dressage or trail unless I really want to get further there. And while I would love to get my bronze one day, I don't need the saddle for that now. 

So what I did have her do was add trail rings to my current saddle. You can see them in the above picture from this past weekend. That should give me a little more utility for endurance. And also if I wanted a little more comfort for endurance, to get a seat saver. All very much economical options compared to getting a completely new saddle.

She also switched up my billet attachments so they're in a slightly different configuration (and she was VERY pleased with how nicely I've taken care of this saddle *preen*  and advised that I get a girth with no elastics (ahhhhh). Since I needed a new girth anyway, I ordered a Pro-Lite one on her recommendation. I'm lucky in that Gwyn has not ever been super picky about her tack. She'll eventually let me know that her saddle fit isn't quite right, but it's always subtle. And she's not a delicate flower about other pieces of tack, bits included. 

The ProLite is all synthetic, always a bonus, and it's anatomical to allow for shoulder room. Plus this one has a center attachment for martingales, which my previous girth did not, so that's an upgrade! Since it's not elastic, I'm slowly tightening up both sides in an alternating pattern, like a good pony clubber. And since it's not elastic, I ordered the same size for her and it's perfect and not up on the last billet holes on both sides.
Despite all that, when I finally rode in my new and improved same saddle, I still had to get off about 20 minutes in and tighten the girth AGAIN when a barn mate told me she could see daylight.  LOL.

Gwyn was a spicy mare too. She was feeling really good and offering lots of canter transitions when all I wanted was an on the bit trot. I had to use a LOT of half halt to keep her focused and eventually just made her canter around the arena twice to get it out of her system. I can still remember when just getting a long side of canter was a challenge!  Kind of regret not lunging... hahaha.
I also opted to torture myself with a posture corrector and ended up pulling a muscle in my back after doing a mostly walk ride. Good going, Amy.

It was a warm day on Sunday so I gave Gwyn a bath too. She promptly rolled.

Waiting for lunch

Monday looking bedraggled and confused that I was picking up the trailer and not her

"Oh! Tiny human!"

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Les Hilde / Harry Osbourne Trail Head 13 miles in about 6 hours

Y'all, this ride was no joke. Check out that elevation mapping.

As I mentioned on Gwyn's birthday post, I had gone out to meet folks for a trail ride at Harry Osborne/Les Hilde. This is DNR land that's open for recreation since it's not built up (i.e. no park service amenities).  There were pit toilets here that I diligently wiped down with lysol wipes before touching surfaces. Otherwise I was operating solely out of my trailer and not really contacting anyone else. 

I need to join Backcountry Horsemen, at least to support them monetarily.
I met Cortney at the trailhead. It was about an hour and 15 minutes north of me, making it equidistant to travel either to Cortney's/Taylor Mountain or come here. That's not too bad. We were meeting up with a bunch of other endurance riders. Two (besides Cortney) I knew, one I didn't. 

I could tell this day was going to well when two of my trail companions broke out their alcohol to sip from as we headed out from the trailhead. The day was warm and promised heat. Lots of people were out soaking in the vitamin D. Thankfully the parking lot was huge so we could distance, and also there's hundreds of miles of trails and we were the least casual group out there. We saw other riders twice, both back to back. And a few people on foot as we returned. Otherwise, we were alone in the woods and it was glorious.

Gwyn settled fairly quickly when we didn't do ANY trotting away from the trailers. She was very quickly working off of my seat half halt and I didn't have to hang on her face to keep her off of other horses.

This trail was SUPER rocky. Watch the video with the sound on for max effect. Gwyn just ate these stones and never had a wrong step. Good girl! 

We popped in and out of dense evergreen forest and some deciduous as we climbed up in elevation. Occasionally we'd come out into recent clear cutting. This place is also used for logging and sometimes trails can be lost as a result. If rider groups work nicely with the loggers, often the loggers do make an effort to preserve the trails that are in place. 

I was hoping, given the clear skies and how far north we were, that we could be treated to stunning views of Mt Baker. Unfortunately, terrain got in the way and we never had northeasterly views. Still stunning though.

That's Mt. Josephine just to the left of the rider ahead.

A beautiful stream where the horses drank their fill. 
Everything was green and lush. We've had decent rain lately (and snow in the higher elevations, good for reducing fire risk) and the spring growth was rampant. We're further along in our spring growth than typical northern states and the forest was filling in well.

We passed a picnic area with tables and a firepit. The trees looked like they would be good for hi tying, but no camping is allowed out here. Soon after this, we started the switchback climb.
Serious switchbacks up the mountain
Gwyn pulled her usual "I'mma take care of myself" on this ride" so I kept her to the back on the bigger climbs as the day progressed. She would pause, catch her breath, and continue on. I do wonder if she's smart enough to do this so there could be some distance and she could power up the hill in a trot without running into the other horses.
At the end of the switchbacks, we hit our lunch spot. It was beautiful. We tied or hobbled the horses and they greedily ate up the grass.
I do find the saturation difference interesting between my cell phone (above) and the go pro (below)

Some of my gear set up.

I tied Gwyn to a sapling and ended up having to tie her to multiple saplings because she was just pulling the lone one over as she grazed. Mare gave no fucks about it though and was content to chomp on grass. I might figure out hobbling. She'd probably like it more.

We had all packed food and lots of water. We took our time here, resting.

After lunch and pee breaks it was onward and more climbing. 
Trails alternated between logging roads and single track. There are no motorized vehicles allowed out here (unless for logging) and we were deep into the trail system at this point. There was no road noise and it was just glorious.
Cortney had brought her dog, Kara, who at one point went bounding after something in the woods. One of my companions, Isabela, thought she saw a bear in the woods and adrenaline started to rush in until it became a little more clear that the bear was actually an elk and that's what Kara was chasing. But phew! 

Some serious climb that I was hoping we wouldn't have to come back down. Ha. Ha. 

The path veered up. It was amazing. And I had a powerful mare who bounded up. Have the video because it was thrilling to ride.

Not long after this we found the trail blocked by some downed trees. This then led to us trying to find the trail... and we did! Isabela and Robin scouted off and up into the woods. Soon after they called down. Isabela had found the trail! So we picked our way through the soft ground and fallen logs to join them. 

Then there was more climbing, most of which was a stream. And finally I think Gwyn just had enough. There was a bigger step, she tripped and went down and I rolled over her shoulder. Because of the steepness, I actually didn't have far to land... But at that point I opted to stay off her for a bit and start walking back down on foot, since it seemed like the trail wasn't actually going to connect anywhere and I was worried about pushing Gwyn too far and getting either of us injured. 

The rest of the group ventured up a little more and found the snow line. Meanwhile, Gwyn and I practiced tailing down the mountain and stepping carefully when the human goes first. As the rest of the group caught up, I got this hilarious picture of Gwyn tilting her head to try and catch the sound of the group above us.

Mom, I swear I'm feeling better.

I eventually reached the part where we had to go off trail and we rested there. Gwyn peed and seemed to immediately relax. I felt good about my decision to hang back.
From there we retraced our steps. Eventually I remounted and we did go down that super steep portion of trail which didn't feel so bad after what we'd been doing, lol.
The views were still incredible and I realized that we were able to see all the way to the Olympic Peninsula. It was hazy, but present. That's near 100 miles of visibility.

As we made our way down further, Reign continued to just have a fit. Cortney was speculating that the crupper was engaging quite a bit given the steep descents we were traversing and she was getting upset. 

So this happened:

Cute little waterfall stream

We traversed the switchbacks down with Gwyn in the lead who suddenly was not tired. She had a ground eating walk as we descended, often leaving the Arabians behind her.

We took a slightly more direct route back to the parking lot, drinking once more at a stream along the way where I tested out my sponge leash and cooled Gwyn's neck a bit. Our rigs were the last in the lot, a striking difference from 6 hours earlier when there was limited socially distant parking left.

I had prepped some alfalfa mash for Gwyn to have as a post ride snack/rehydrator and she dug in greedily. We'd all brought enough water to sponge. I also did a short liniment bath for Gwyn and the warmth of the day was still strong enough that she was dry before I ever loaded her, smelling minty and feeling soft.

I poulticed her legs and loaded her up. We stopped in town for take out burgers. I had an elk burger and it was the most delicious thing ever, though that could be the heat and exertion talking. But seriously, delicious. From there, to the barn to unload, and then home after that. 

Apparently, the next morning when Gwyn was turned out, she walked sedately to her pile of hay, rather than her usual exuberant leaping. It was a good day.