Sunday, April 29, 2012


742 miles
$93 of gas
12+ hours of driving
$200 pre-purchase exam
$300 deposit toward purchase

and I think I have finally found a horse.  (Oh, and that's just THIS weekend, not total on all 14 horses.)

Now I have to find him a ride down here--more $$$ and more time on the road.

This is Trigger.  He'll be 6 years old on May 7th, but does NOT act his age--he is the sanest, quietest, smartest horse I've tried.  He's half Arabian, half Saddlebred, but unless I suck up to the sire's owner, won't be registered as a National Show horse, just as a Half-Arab.  He's about 15.2, and very narrow.  I'm hoping he'll fill out a little more as he matures, plus a little more than that with some nice muscling, but time will tell.  If not, I'll call it the endurance "radiator build" someone explained to me at Grizzly last weekend.

I also need to lose a ton of weight.  Don't worry, this won't be a weight loss blog.

Anyone have a trailer and want to take a road trip to Longview on May 12th, or Maple Valley some other time before or after that?

Friday, April 27, 2012


I drove from my house (Central OR) to my brother's (Western WA, not too far from Seattle) without stopping.  I think that's the first time I've ever driven it straight through.  Five hours, fifteen minutes, for the record.

This is to the woman in the Toyota 4Runner coming down from Government Camp today:

The 55 mph speed limit on all non-freeway highways in Oregon is dumb enough.  I promise you that the speed limit is still 55 when going downhill.  Yes, even on a ever-so-slightly curvy stretch of downhill highway.  They have those handy-dandy yellow signs that warn you if you need to slow down for the curves.  Even when there ARE those signs, if you're driving a standard passenger vehicle, you can still generally go at LEAST 10 mph faster than the signs recommend.  I promise.  So there was absolutely NO need to go 40 mph downhill on gentle curves without warning signs.

And even if it had been necessary, it's not advised to ride your brakes down a long hill like that.  Your car has this thing called a transmission, which usually contains at least four gears.  You can select from among these gears.  Yes, even in an automatic.  Have someone show you--it's not hard.  I promise.  In the future, if you plan to go 40 mph downhill, you should choose a lower gear.  Low enough that you go the speed you desire (even if the rest of us don't) without riding the brakes.  But I would also recommend, if you're going to go 40 mph on a downhill stretch of highway, that you pull WAY over on the shoulder and turn your hazards on, because that is NOT the speed the rest of us want to go.

I'll save my rants about winter/snow driving for another day, since I didn't encounter any on this drive.  :-)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Number 14

I was going to hold off blogging any more about horse number 14 until after I'd met him, so as not to jinx it, or whatever, but hey, I'm not THAT superstitious.  Am I?  And I'm pretty excited about it, and I think my friends are tired of me chattering about it, so...

So yeah, horse #14 is half Arabian, half Saddlebred, technically its own breed (it has its own registry, anyway)--National Show Horse.  Most likely, any horse I buy will never see the inside of a show arena (well, not of a higher caliber than the local "Fat N Fuzzy" show anyway), but what's in a name, anyway, right?

He's six years old, which is quite a bit younger than the age range I'm really looking at, but he seems totally sane.  Like, maybe he's falling asleep while mylar balloons float and glint about him sane.   He wasn't started until he was 4 1/2, and it sounds like he was started slow and easy, which is great for a potential endurance horse--you don't want to strain their legs and joints while they're still growing and solidifying.  It seems like all the quarter horses, in my neck of the woods, anyway, were started at 2 or so.  Many Craigslist ads for three- and four-year-olds brag about how they've been out sorting cattle and leading trail rides and such.

He's on the shorter end of the height range I was considering, but there are benefits to shorter horses when you're trail riding.  Less height to heave yourself up onto when mounting, less height to fall FROM when you have the inevitable parting of the ways, and fewer cobwebs to glue themselves to your face.  (In my ideal world, I would be rich, and would have a horse for nearly every occasion, and one of those occasions would be when I want to feel petite, and I would have a huge GIANT Shire for those occasions.  I LOVE the drafties!  But unfortunately, they're not very practical for endurance.)

The biggest potential "issue," and the reason I really need to go see him in person even though he seems perfect in his videos, is he's pretty narrow.  I have LONG legs, and it's better to have a wider horse to fill out the space between them.  But we'll see how it goes.

He's the one I posted video of earlier, who is up in Washington.  And this weekend, I'm going to go check him out.  The plan is to ride him Saturday, both in the arena and on the trail.  Then I have a vet coming Sunday, but of course if the ride Saturday doesn't go well, I'll call him and cancel.  If all goes well with the ride AND the vet check, I may find myself making plans for horse hauling and figuring out how to work out the financial details when purchasing long-distance.  We'll see.  I'm pretty excited, but I've been excited before...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


While I am fairly well-read on the subject of human childbirth, and have experienced it once, I am NOT an expert on foaling by any stretch, so I'd love to hear opinions from any of my oh-so-many readers.

I'd like to preface this with the fact that when I was pregnant with my son, I was pretty crunchy-granola about the whole thing.  I took Bradley childbirth classes, where I learned that the average pregnancy for a first-time healthy baby was more like 41 and a half weeks than the 40 weeks the doctors gave as your due date, and wasn't TOO worried about it when my son decided to wait until just shy of 42 weeks to arrive.  I gave birth to him at home, under water (in an inflatable wading pool in my bedroom), with two midwives, my mom, and my then-husband present.

I believe in letting nature take its course as long as things are going well, and cringed at shows like A Baby Story (is it even still on?) that just proved that the vast majority of births were over-medicalized--the mother was a minute "overdue," so the doctor wanted to induce, and because neither the doctor nor nurses could be bothered to actually STAY with the laboring mother, she had to be on continuous monitoring, which meant laying on her back, and then labor would stall, they would increase the pitocin, but the doctor was in a hurry to get to his golf game or whatever, so they would tell the mother that the labor had stalled and they had to do an "emergency" C-section, and she would end up with major surgery and SO thankful for all the scientific advances that kept her an her baby safe.  *eyeroll*

Anyway, so my philosophy on foaling is the same as with human birthing.  If you're not an expert yourself, have one nearby and on call at the worst, or in attendance if possible, but otherwise just butt out and let nature take its course until proven that intervention is needed.

(Unrelated to the rant I'm about to go on--it's so funny on various foaling threads I've read online when people say that "horses don't have due dates like people do."  Um, people don't have due DATES, either.  No one can predict to that degree of certainty.  Both humans and horses should be considered to have a "due few-week-period-of-time.")

Anyway, the point of this post is that I watched a mare foal via live webcam, which was pretty cool.  I'd actually had it up on my computer for a couple of days (she'd looked ready to go and the people who posted it and some commenters were all getting excited that it was time, so it was just pure luck that I happened to be at my computer a couple of days later when she finally did foal).  

Once things really got going, the mare had barely a bubble of sac showing, went down on her side, rolled over, and got cast.  They didn’t wait to see if she could flip on her own, but flipped her.  This may have been a good thing—I’m no expert.  But they had the rope in the crook of her knee, not up by her elbow, and it was the leg that was currently on top.  There were two people there, but they only used a rope on the one leg.  Again, I'm not an expert, but I would have tried to get both BOTTOM legs, so you would need less force on each, and the force would be pulling toward her midline instead of yanking her legs out of their sockets.  Anyway, they got her flipped and disappeared from sight of the camera (out of the stall?).  All seemed well…the mare got back up and continued laboring.

Only 5 minutes or so after the bubble of sac first appeared (and it was still disappearing occasionally), the mare went back down.  She seemed to be working hard at labor, and everything seemed fine.  Before long, two people were in the stall, at the mare’s rear end, and began PULLING on the foal.  I know you don’t want to let the mare labor forever, but it had NOT been very long, and labor definitely wasn't stalled.  It’s possible they saw something I didn’t see—baby presenting wrong, etc., but still.

They pulled and pulled, not always with the contractions, and it took 5-10 minutes of them pulling, with more and more people gathering in the stall (6, I think), videoing and photographing.  Finally the foal was born, and rather than step away and let mother and baby bond, they began toweling off the baby.  More people arrived (I think there were at least 10 now), there were two or three people messing with the baby, and the mare hadn’t even had a chance to see or sniff it.

Finally the humans stepped back a bit, and I thought they were going to let the mother and baby bond, but one person started picking at the straw bedding with a manure rake, cleaning the stall, right next to the baby.  Finally the mare stood, and politely circled her baby as if to tell the humans it was HER baby and they needed to leave it alone (but she was very nice about it, no ear pinning or teeth baring, which is what I would have done if I was her).  But like THREE minutes had passed and the baby hadn’t tried to stand (it was probably exhausted from getting pulled out of its mother’s uterus without the help of contractions!), and the humans couldn’t possibly stand around doing NOTHING, so they started yanking on the baby trying to get it to stand.  LEAVE IT ALONE, people!

Now, maybe there was a problem (it had now been 10 minutes or so since the birth, and I don’t think the baby had stood up yet), but the baby’s instincts are probably not in a big hurry to encourage it to stand when it’s surrounded by spectators.  And if there’s any sort of communication possible between mare and foal, she’s probably also telling it not to bother trying until they have some privacy, too.

After around an hour, there was finally "only" one person in there (one person too many, in my opinion), but still constantly messing with both the mare and the foal.  Seriously.  Leave.  Them.  Alone.

Again, I am not an expert, so maybe I'm off base on at least part of my ramblings.  And I KNOW it must be really exciting to watch the mare who has been pregnant for nearly a year finally begin labor.  And it must take all your willpower to just stand back and do nothing.  But in something like 99% of cases, I'm pretty sure that's what is actually the best thing to do--nothing.  Especially once the foal is born and the sac is clear of its nostrils--let its mother take care of the rest.  There is plenty of time for imprinting and bonding, but that should still involve just ONE person, not a herd of people in the foaling stall, and it's my opinion that it shouldn't interfere with the mare's and foal's instincts.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

iPhone vs. Android

I promise this blog will be mostly about horses and my attempt to buy one, and then hopefully SOMEday about my relationship and progress with one.

But I just got an iPhone roughly 24 hours ago (got a promotion at work, which comes with a company phone, which is awesome), and I'm not sure whether I like it or hate it after enjoying my Android for the last two years.


SO much faster!  Not sure if it's because the hardware is faster, the OS is better, or it's just not as full of random apps and stuff.

My Android supposedly had the best resolution of its time, but the iPhone is much clearer...very nice.

I'm looking forward to actually using the camera, because I'm pretty sure (based on other people's iPhone photos I've seen) they'll be a LOT better.  The camera on my old phone SUCKED.

The GPS coverage with my old phone was spotty.  Which wasn't so bad when I was using the street navigation feature and had a general idea of where I was going.  But when it couldn't find a signal in downtown San Francisco when I was trying to find my way somewhere, it was pretty annoying.  And when I try to track my "run" (i.e. horseback ride) and it doesn't get a signal for most of the ride because of the trees, it's really annoying.  I'm pretty sure I wasn't riding 55 mph, and nor did I change elevation by 5,000 feet.  Sheesh!  While I haven't actually tested this, either, I'm pretty sure the iPhone will win, based on friends' experiences.

This isn't the actual phone, but I also switched carriers, and am hoping to have better coverage in random places.  T-Mobile worked just fine for me in town, but the coverage area ended at the city limits, practically.

I also don't know this for a fact, but I'm guessing this phone won't crash as much as my old one.


 I miss my Swype keyboard!  Totally miss it.  I've downloaded an app that is supposed to make the iPhone keyboard Swype-able, but haven't gotten it to work yet.  Soon, I hope.

My old phone was relatively thin, with a rounded profile if you laid it face down.  I had a silicone cover for it with nice "poofy" edges that really protected it.  I dropped that phone a TON of times, and it survived just fine.  I bought what sounded like the most protective cover I could get for the iPhone, but since it's so boxy, it still feels like the edges and corners aren't very protected.  I'm really afraid for the first time I drop it.  I also liked that the old cover was so grippy.  It kept it from slipping out of my pocket, and kept it on my dashboard when using it as a GPS.  Even though I thought the one I bought for my iPhone would be grippy, it's still pretty slippery.  Not a fan.  But I don't want to fork out more money when I JUST bought the one I have now.

Okay, this is totally petty and superficial, but even though I ordered a black iPhone, it still came with white charger, cable, and earbuds.  How dumb is that?  I know white is their signature color and all, but if they offer the PHONE in black, all the accessories that come with it should be black, too, don't you think?

It automatically arranges the apps so that they begin at the top left, and leaves no gaps.  With my Android, if I wanted some icons at the top of the page, a gap, and then some icons at the bottom of the page, I could do that.

My work requires that if I have the company e-mail on my phone (which I do), that I use a passcode.  This is fine.  With my Android, I hit the power button, swiped my "code" (actually a pattern drawn through some of the nine dots), and I was in.  With the iPhone, I hit the power button, have to slide the slider, and only THEN can I enter my PIN.  If I have to enter a PIN, why do I have to slide the slider?  Isn't that redundant?

I really miss the separate home and back buttons on my Android.  I'm constantly tapping the bottom of my phone where the back button should be.  Sure, most apps have a button that takes you back to the previous step, but they're not always in the same place, and not all apps even have them.

Do any of you have experience with both, and can reassure me that I'll come to love the iPhone?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Everything But The Horse

Having been horse-hunting for nearly a year now, I own quite a bit of gear.  I figured I'd inventory it  here.  Is that pathetic?  Don't answer that!

Since I was riding pretty regularly in local riding membership program, I own a helmet, boots, and three riding bras.  (I am blessed/cursed enough to not only not be unable to ride braless, but I can't even ride in my normal everyday bras, either.  Not at a gait bouncier than a slow gentle walk, anyway.)  I usually rode in jeans, but I also own some regular (non-riding) stretch pants that worked fine when I anticipated a longer ride.  I also own an off-brand leatherman-type tool that I've had since I first started riding with my sister-in-law.

When I had the first horse vetted, I naively assumed I would soon own a horse, and bought a bunch of gear, so now I also own brushes, a curry comb, a hoof pick or two, fly spray, various first aid supplies, leather gloves, a lunge line, a tote for those supplies, a pommel bag, and a cantle bag.

Lately, I've decided that even though I'm horseless, I might as well round out my collection of gear, as long as what I buy doesn't depend on the horse for either size or color (yes, I plan to base the color tack I buy on what color my horse is--sue me).  So I am also now the proud owner of two pairs of Kerrits riding tights (purple and charcoal), a Garmin Dakota 20 GPS unit (as well as rubber guard, screen protector, and detailed add-on maps), a heart rate monitor that connects to the GPS, and I bought some half chaps, but they were too tall, so I think I'll just go without and see how it goes.

Still to buy:  Halter & rope, bridle & etc., saddle & etc., saddle pad, and a sheepskin saddle cover.

Other than that, and rounding out my first aid kid (and on-trail tack repair kit), I really think I'm set.

Oh wait, except for the horse.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My First Endurance Ride

This weekend, I attended my first endurance ride.  Not as a rider, unfortunately, but as an observer and a bit of a helper.  I'm not nearly as organized as my friend SweetPea (I'll have to work on that when I DO start riding), so I had a bit of a gear mishap.

I own a new air mattress I'd never used.  I packed it, but forgot to pack the battery operated pumps I own (or any spare batteries for them, which I also usually do).  However, they wouldn't have done me any good anyway, because when I got the tent set up and unpacked the air mattress from the box it came in, I remembered it was a household double-thickness kind that you plug into the wall to blow up.  There aren't a whole lot of outlets in cattle rangeland in the middle of Oregon.  It turns out the exit valve was HUGE and wouldn't have worked to blow it up with the pumps even if I had brought them.

I asked a couple of people with campers if they had outlets I could "borrow," but they didn't work unless the camper was plugged into an electrical source itself, so that didn't work.  I took the air mattress up to the vet check area, where there was a caterer with a giant motor home and a generator.  They generously let me use some of their electricity to blow up my air mattress.  Part way through blowing it up, they said something that reminded me that I actually HAVE an adapter that plugs into my car's cigarette lighter outlet and has a standard household plug.  Woo!  So I left the air mattress only partially inflated, jammed it into my trunk, and headed back to camp with it.  As I was putting the air mattress back into the tent, I realized it was much less full than when I'd left the caterers with it, and realized I had left the exit valve open the entire time.  Man, I'm dumb.

Sealed that up, turned the car on, plugged the adapter in, it hummed to life (it has a little fan to cool it), and plugged the air mattress in.  No luck.  I guess the adapter has died or something.  Luckily, the neighbors camping near us loaned us the Thermarests they weren't going to use.  (The wife of the couple is a friend of SweetPea's, but I've only met her a few times, and had never met her husband.  It was very nice of them to help us out.)

I also forgot to bring the spare battery for my camera, and the battery IN the camera was nearly dead, so I didn't get nearly as many photos as I would have liked.

I did, however, take a picture of the sunset on the eve of experiencing my first endurance ride, and of the camp area.

I also took some photos of Flash, ready to race.

Show horses get braids to look pretty.  Endurance horses get braids to keep cool.  Looking pretty is just a happy coincidence.

We chatted with our campmates a while, but headed to bed early, because we knew we'd be up with the horses in the morning.

The morning dawned with beautiful clear skies.  I did what I could to help SweetPea get ready, but she had a helper already, so I'm afraid I wasn't much help.  I headed down to the start line with her and took a photo of her and Flash, rarin' to go.

Look at that bluebird sky!  Not to mention the good-looking pair who are the focus of the photo.
Then, since I was there to help SweetPea but she wasn't due back for hours, I helped out at the vet check.  There were two vets for the ride, and they had to check each horse before they left (which had all been done at this point--SweetPea was in the next-to-last wave to leave, by only 10 minutes), at every vet check during the race (one per horse for those riding 30 miles, two for those riding 50 miles, and three or four [I forget which] for those riding 75 miles), and every horse after they finished the ride, twice for those in the top ten for their distance.  So there were only a few lulls all day.  There were also three vet students and quite a few other volunteers there, most of which were "pulsing."  The horses may not be considered "in" to the vet check until their pulse reaches 60 beats per minute or lower (normal resting heart rate for a horse is roughly half that, so it's not quite as low as it sounds for a human).  So when a rider first arrives at the vet check, they have to get "pulsed," and once they reach 60 or lower, the pulser calls out the horse's number plus "down," to the timekeeper.  It sounds kind of bad--"120 down!" but it means their pulse is down, not the horse or rider is down.  :-)  Anyway, the timekeeper then responds with the time that horse may leave the vet check (30 or 45 minutes later for this ride, depending which vet check for which distance).  The horse and rider have until that time to complete the vet check (though most do it right away), hose off (though many do that while they're waiting to pulse down, too), eat, drink, potty, and rest (both horse and rider).

I helped scribe for one of the vets for quite a while--it turns out SweetPea didn't really need my help much because she had a helper already, so I helped from 8 until she was done with her final vet check, around 3:30 or 4.  I can't even imagine how tired the vets, vet students, and any other volunteer who helped the entire time must be--they were busy from before 6 a.m. until probably 9 p.m. or so.

The vets have a checklist of things to check each horse for (and yes, they only care about the horses--the riders could come gimping in bruised and bloody, and as long as the horse is fit to continue, they may; in fact, some riders were unable to jog alongside their horses for the trot portion of the vet check, and they were allowed to have others do it--I trotted a couple of horses for riders who couldn't, in fact).  Each criterion gets a grade of A, B, C, or D.  A or B means they can continue.  C means they technically pass, but it's a huge heads-up to the rider that they need to remedy the situation.  D means the horse may not continue.  I'm not sure if they give Fs, but I'm sure if there is such a thing as an F, they're too busy administering care to actually write an F on the card.  They check:
  • Jugular refill--they block the jugular with their thumb or knuckles, and watch how long it takes to plump back up
  • Skin tenting--they pinch the skin on the neck and see how long it takes to lie flat again (it should snap right back)
  • Mucus membranes--they check that the gums are pink and moist, and that the nostrils appear moist, and not bone dry
  • Capillary refill--they press a thumb against the horse's gum to see how long the thumbprint takes to pink back up
  • Back--the vet massages the saddle area to make sure the horse isn't in pain from the saddle
  • Muscle tone--the vet massages the horse's muscles (especially in the rump) to make sure they are not cramping up and don't show pain
  • Anal tone--a horse will normally clamp its tail down if you try to mess with its personal area--if it's TOO relaxed, it shows that it's getting too tired
  • Gut sounds--the vet listens to a few areas of the horse's abdomen to make sure they can hear the sounds of digestion, showing that the horse is eating and drinking on the trail; the normal response to heavy exercise is for the GI system to shut down, so this was the most common criterion for horses to be marked down on, but the riders do their best to keep their horses eating and drinking both on the trail and in the vet checks
  • Tack galls--if the bit is causing sores or cuts in or around the horse's mouth, or if the saddle, cinch, or boots are rubbing on the horse's skin, this item will be marked down
  • Wounds--existing wounds and scars were noted at the vet check prior to the ride, but were still noted at all the subsequent vet checks; new wounds would also be noted, of course, and result in a lower grade
The first four items above are to check for hydration, the last two are obviously checking for wounds that were caused or exacerbated by the riding, the gut sounds check that the horse is eating and drinking properly, and the back, muscle tone, and anal tone check that the horse isn't getting exhausted or cramping up.

Then, the rider must lead the horse away and back toward the vet at a trot, and the vet will evaluate the gait to make sure the horse isn't becoming lame, and also judge the horse's impulsion (literally, how "forward" the horse is--it's a good sign if the horse appears excited to keep going), and the vet also judges the horse's attitude and gives her overall impression of the horse.

A horse can be pulled from the ride by the vet for one or both of two reasons:  lameness or metabolic.  Lameness means the horse is limping or shows other signs of pain in its limbs and shouldn't continue.  Metabolic means the horse appears to be dehydrated, have muscle cramps, or not be digesting its food well (horses, for as robust as they appear, have VERY delicate GI systems), it's basically not medically well enough to continue.

Riders can also choose not to continue, even if the horse passes the vet check.  They know the horse better than the vet does, so they may feel the horse shouldn't continue even if the vet didn't notice something, or the vet may have given a C but the rider feels it would only get worse if they continued, or it may even just be because the RIDER doesn't want to continue (remember, the vets and ride organizers only care about the horse).

Of course I wasn't wishing for anyone to not complete the ride, but throughout the day, I did get to see a few examples of what can cause a horse to be pulled.  There was a horse that was so lame that I noticed its head bobbing (at the trot, its head should be still) from the corner of my eye.  There was a horse panting so bad its whole body moved with every (rapid) breath.  There was also a mare who had "thumps" (her heartbeat could be seen in her flank) and was tied up (muscle cramps).  Not good.  They started an IV to get fluids and calcium into her as quickly as possible.

Again, I wouldn't wish the illness on any horse, but I took the opportunity to watch the vet start the IV, as I'd never seen it done.  They numbed her skin, made a tiny slice with a scalpel blade, then inserted the IV catheter.  Human IV catheters are just barely thicker than the needle used to insert them, and made of very flexible material, and are only about an inch long.  The horse IV catheter was thicker, a little stiffer, and more like SIX inches long.  It was inserted directly into the slice in the skin and slid down the vein quite easily.  The vet then used sutures in the skin to hold the heavier parts of the apparatus (the ports) in place (in a human, they're taped in place, but that doesn't work very well with a horse).  The tubing is coiled so that it's stretchy, and is kept from tugging on the sutures or insertion site by clipping it to the mane with a zip tie.  We did notice that when the horse lowered her head, it kinked off the catheter in her neck and stopped the flow of fluids, but other than having to keep her head up, she didn't seem to mind the procedure at bit, and even napped a bit while she stood there.  Unfortunately, last I heard, she'd taken a turn for the worse (temperature elevated, whereas it had been just barely above normal while she was standing in the sun).  I hope she's okay!  [Gotta love Facebook--I asked how she was doing on the local riders group on Facebook, and someone replied from their drive home that they were following this mare's trailer (they are friends with the owner), and she's doing fine.  Yay!]

Though her owner and handlers were concerned, the horse was clearly not upset at all the goings-on.  She was enjoying her nap in the shade.

Close-up of the IV (insertion site on the left, with the red catheter hub), sutures holding the ports to the skin, zip tie in the mane, and coiled tubing to allow the horse to move around a bit without getting tangled.

Finally, SweetPea and Flash completed their 30-mile ride, and though she'd been thinking she'd be in the middle to later end of the pack, they were in ninth place out of 24 riders!  This meant they qualified for "Best Condition" (one horse out of the first ten in each distance is awarded this distinction).  To be judged for BC, they had to have a vet check at exactly 10 minutes after their finish that included all of the above steps plus a CRI (Cardiac Recovery Index).  For the CRI, the vet takes the horse's heart rate, then the horse must be trotted out a prescribed length (longer than the usual trot-outs), then one minute after the first heart rate (20-30 seconds after returning from the trot-out), the heart rate is taken again.  The idea is that while the heart rate will have elevated during the brief trot, it should also have recovered back to the original heart rate or very close to it, after the brief rest.

The final step of competing for Best Condition is that the horse and rider must return and have a final vet check exactly 60 minutes after completion.  This check is like all the others, except the criteria are given a number grade on a scale of 1-10 instead of the letter grade system.

The rider must also be weighed with all the tack that was on the horse to determine the total weight the horse was carrying.

To determine the Best Condition horse, the scores from that final vet check are tallied and multiplied by ten.  Then the rider with the best time is given a set number of points, and each of the riders who came in later are given less points, depending how far after the winning rider they finished.  In SweetPea's case, the winning rider was riding a horse that often competed in (and won?) hundred-mile races, so she finished the 30-mile ride WAY ahead of the other riders, setting the bar high and getting a HUGE advantage on that section of the BC scorecard.  Lastly, the heaviest rider/tack combo are given a set number of points, and the lighter riders are given a proportionally lower number of points (the idea being that if all other things are equal, the horse that carried more weight and finished feeling just as good as the other horses is in better condition).  These three sections are combined, and the highest score gets Best Condition.  Apparently in the 30-mile ride, the other scores weren't good enough to overcome the advantage of finishing an hour and a half ahead of the rest of the field and/or that horse scored equally well in the other aspects, so the first-place horse also received BC.

My friend K and her friend K both successfully completed 50 miles, and a different friend and her mom each rode horses that weren't suitable for higher mileage in the 10 mile ride and completed successfully as well.  I didn't know any 75-mile riders, and I don't know how long it took them to finish, but they were still vetting and heading out on further legs during the award ceremony at 6:00 p.m., 12 hours after they started.  Most rides also have a 100-mile option, which I can't even imagine.

Here's a photo of SweetPea and Flash after their ride, and after horse and rider had rested, hydrated, and eaten a bit.  Sorry for the glare--my camera's aperture was wide open.  I promise SweetPea isn't that shiny.

Tired and sunburned rider, tired horse, and awesome pink argyle hay bag).
I can't wait to attend another ride.  If I attend as a non-rider again next time, I already know a few things I'll do better.  More sunscreen, more often.  Bring a chair to the vet check area and sit every chance I get (my feet were tired and sore--my horse boots aren't the most comfortable for spending a ton of time on my feet), and bring all the water and snacks I'll want for the whole day, as there likely won't be many good chances to head back to the campsite to get them later.  Though the caterers for this ride were AWESOME, and I really appreciated the sandwich they made me, and especially the citrus drink they made--they muddled slices of citrus fruit and sugar, then added ice and water to make a fresh homemade lemonade-type drink of awesomeness.

But hopefully, I will have a horse before the end of the season so I can experience a ride from the other side of the operation.  :-)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Speaking of Crazy?

So, I've been horse-hunting for at least nine months, if not longer.  Seriously, you can make an entire PERSON from two tiny cells in that amount of time--why can't I find a horse?

I've been thinking, though.  Of the THIRTEEN horses I've looked at, there were only a very few that I wouldn't have bought.  The very first one, I didn't buy only because there wasn't really a way to try her on the trail.  The crow-hopping one I might've still bought (they were tiny little half-hearted hops), but it could've been a behavioral issue that would have escalated with a newbie like me, or worse--an issue of physical pain that a heavy rider like me would have only exacerbated.  The one with his head sky-high that I felt like I couldn't control was probably the biggest turn-off.  A couple were older than I should probably be looking at, but were otherwise fine horses.

But most of them?  I would have bought if the owners had been more cooperative OR they had passed their vet check.  I rule out the REALLY unlikely contenders before I even get there, but I guess I'm just not that picky once I meet a horse.  For as many horses as I rode in the local program with monthly membership, I guess I still don't have a very good sense about what I'm looking for, or not looking for, or I've just been lucky to look at semi-decent horses.

Some of my horsie advisers tell me I need to hold out for "the one," and how when I meet him or her, I'll "just know."  I don't know, but I doubt it.  Part of it is that I'm more analytical than emotional, when it comes to things like this, and part of it is between that membership program and my horse search, I've learned really well how to love on a horse but not fall IN love with it, you know?  I can meet a horse, give it scratches and rubs and tell it how awesome it is, and really really like it, but I just don't get butterflies.  Sorry, horse.  I hope I WILL come to love my own horse, but I'm pretty sure those feelings won't develop until the horse is well and truly mine.

Anyway, I'm rambling.  So, thinking about how I like nearly every horse I try, and there's currently a horse I really like on, electronic media (but I haven't met him in person), I'm wondering if it would be crazy to vet him sight-unseen.  I wouldn't buy him sight-unseen, don't worry--I'm not THAT crazy.  But I'm thinking about at least forking out the money for a vet check based solely on a sales video and conversations with the seller.

Here's his video, you tell me. 

He's a little younger than I originally planned on considering, but seems completely sane.  He was started later than some, which is a good thing, and has experience on trails, which is also a good thing.  The seller says he was meant for her husband, who probably isn't quite as heavy as me, but he IS used to packing a decent amount of weight, at least.  They rode him on a ten-mile ride and he trotted the whole way, and was ready for more.  Again, that's more than I myself can do, but it sounds like he's got a lot in him, for when I am ready to try a real endurance (well, Limited Distance) ride.

The reason I'm considering the sight-unseen proposition at all is that he's a six-hour drive away.  That's a lot of gas money, and a lot of time investment for a horse I will most likely like enough to do a vet check.  So I'm considering either scheduling a vet check for a time when I could go, and trying him out relatively simultaneously, or even scheduling the vet check for a weekday, and then if he passes, going there the following weekend to meet him and try him in person, and possibly buy him on the spot.  Is that crazy?  I don't know what they cost up there, but vet checks here cost $250-300.  That's a pretty big chunk of change to just throw away, but would I really be throwing it away?  I don't really want to have to make TWO trips that far...  Of course, I would also have to fork out money to get him back here if I do buy him, whether that's a round-trip with a friend with a trailer, or buying my share of a one-way trailer ride at someone else's convenience.

Anyway, dear readers, all three of you...WWYD?  Is it just desperation talking, or is this a somewhat sensible plan?

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Crazy Lady is Crazy

So, I was trying to decide between two grey geldings--one a grade QH and the other a registered Arabian.  One of my trusted horsie advisors came out and rode the QH, and while the fat and cresty thing is concerning (has he foundered or had other health issues?), she also detected a bit of lameness, so I’m gonna pass on him.  Now I can focus solely on the Arab.  Yay!

The same horsie friend trailered her horse out to where the Arab is (in cold weather, spitting snow) to see me riding him on the trail for the first time.  He did great.  The owner also seemed to be coming around to a more reasonable stance on things—I would buy the horse BEFORE the training she insisted upon, instead of after, which is what she originally made it sound like, and made me nervous that she could change her mind at the end of it.  So all systems were go.

The seller had asked me earlier in the week to set up a vet check appointment for after the trail ride but as soon as possible after so we could seal the deal.  That appointment was already set up for Saturday afternoon, so I confirmed with the vet that we were still on.  The seller also wanted to see the place I’d be boarding, and approve it, so I set up an appointment with the barn manager for Saturday morning.

Friday morning, I received an e-mail from the seller that Saturday no longer works for her, and can I move the vet appointment to Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon?  SHE was the one who wanted it so soon in the first place, but I didn’t complain about doing it Saturday because hey, the sooner the better for me, plus it was on a weekend so I didn’t have to miss work.   But on a weekday, a vet appointment 30 minutes away means missing half a day of work once all is said and done.  But I have plenty of PTO, and I wanted the horse, so I started re-arranging things.  Sunday worked for the barn tour, for both the seller and the barn manager, so that was settled, but it took some doing to find a vet that didn’t charge twice as much as the one I was originally going to use AND could do it on Tuesday or Wednesday.  Whew.  All settled again.

Saturday morning, I decided to drive around to local tack stores to see if I could try out a certain model of saddle a friend recommended, or any saddle at all, really, to start getting an idea of what I liked.  Didn’t really find much, but it was fun to browse the horse stuff.  (I’d already purchased most of the stuff I would need that can be bought without a horse when the FIRST vet check failed, so I’m good on things like brushes and riding gear for ME, but will still need halter, bridle, and saddle, once I have a horse to fit them to.  And I know, halters are relatively standard, but I don’t want to pick a color until I have a horse.  Red on a chestnut?  Black on a black horse?  No.  I don’t care what I wear, but I don’t want my horse to look silly!)

I arrived home to an e-mail from the seller.  She appears to think that my eventual endurance goals mean that I would hop on the horse, gallop him for 50 miles up steep rock inclines, and break him down, even though I clearly told her that I myself am not in shape for even a 10-mile ride at this point, and hope to work my way up to a 25 by the end of the season.  She claims to have sources (but wouldn’t name them or give details) that state that my goal of a 25-mile ride by the end of the season is going to harm the horse.  Odd, because both AERC and anyone I’ve spoken to about it (friend or stranger) seems to think that nearly any horse that’s fit to ride can do a 25.  Win?  No.  But finish.  Is it the best idea to do one tomorrow with a horse that’s been sitting in the pasture?  Again, no.  But that isn’t what I said I wanted to do, anyway.

Whatever.  So.  Back to square one.  What’s the definition of insanity, again?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Decisions, Decisions...

Let's see, we left off with me having visited and test-ridden TEN horses already.  

The next prospect I visited was with a local lady who trains horses.  She’s also somewhat of a horse trader, taking horses in payment from people who can’t afford to pay for their training and re-selling them, finding homes for clients’ horses, etc.  She advertised an appy on Craigslist, and I went to go see her.  She was a little squirrely in the arena, and also felt VERY small under me, but I tried her out a second time on the trails.  She was great on the trails, still very sensitive to leg, but not nearly as squirrely as in the arena.  I really liked her, but still felt she was TINY.  She and a friend of mine both swore she didn’t look disproportionate with me, and didn’t look like she was straining under my weight, but I just felt like my leg didn’t have any contact with her, and that I could probably touch my toes under her belly if I tried hard enough—just no substance to her barrel. 

This same trainer had a couple other horses that were more my size, but she had JUST gotten them in and hadn’t had time to evaluate them yet.  I asked her to keep me posted, and also replied to an ad on Craigslist for a purebred Arab.  The trainer got back to me saying she had a horse I needed to come see, so I made tentative plans to see them both in the same day.  I don’t like to have two horses in the running at the same time, as I’m horrible at making decisions, and more horrible about making either/or decisions than yes/no decisions, but what can you do, right?

It was really windy when I showed up to see the Arab, so the owner and trainer didn’t want me to ride him, but the trainer lunged and rode him for me.  He didn’t seem perturbed by the wind, but I was fine with waiting to ride him another time.  They lunged him in side reins, and rode him in a German martingale, which was a bit off-putting, but claimed it was just because they were training him to round up, and that he didn’t need them.  Seeing the conditions and how calm he was, I wasn’t too concerned. 

From there, I went to go check out the other trainer’s horse, a grade horse, probably QH.  She let me ride him even though it was now spitting snow pellets, windier than before, and also nearing sundown.  He wasn’t THRILLED about being ridden in that weather, but didn’t act out at all.  He'd had some training, apparently, because he kept offering to lower his head and such.  I'm not sure how well he was actually CARRYING himself under all that blubber--he was very overweight and out of shape.

A few days later, I rode the grade QH on the trails.  He was pretty amped up and ready to go, prancing a little at the outset, and VERY forward and aware.  He never actually spooked or felt out of control, but definitely needed to be actively ridden and not just sat on.  This is a good sign to me, since I’m looking for a horse that can ride 50+ miles in a day once we are BOTH in good shape.

The next day (and sore from the prior day’s ride), I went and rode the Arab on a calm sunny morning.  He was calm as can be, to the point of being lazy.  Which can also be a red flag—maybe the trainer worked him to death the day before.

Now I had some tough decisions to make.  I still hadn’t tried the Arab on the trails, but would need to decide between them soon (the fat QH's seller was pressuring me because she had other parties interested) and schedule a vet check on the one I’m most interested in.

Here were my ramblings in my head as I tried to decide:
They are priced the same.  One is a registered Arab (the best breed for endurance, but any breed can compete at the levels I’ll be at for the next couple of years, and can theoretically even be competitive in the toughest races—obviously it depends on the individual horse, but more Arab individuals are suitable than individuals of other breeds), the other is unregistered, and therefore of undeterminable breed or age.  The Arab is 8, the unregistered one is presumed to be around 12, both suitable ages, but of course younger is better to a certain point, as it has more years left for competing after a couple of years of building up conditioning.  The Arab is ready to go for the rides I myself am in shape for, but the grade QH would need to ramp up a little slower than that.  But it’s appealing to have a “diamond in the rough” situation, and take photos of him all chubby and then later all sleek and fit.  The Arab is better trained, better trained than I am for sure, but then how much training do you need for what will be essentially a trail horse?  The Arab’s owner wants to know how he’ll be kept, and have right of first refusal (at the same purchase price), and otherwise seems to “baby” him.  The grade QH would be sold without any strings attached, and I COULD potentially profit on the sale someday, or could lose a bunch because he’s not registered and we don’t know breed, age, or history.  However, the Arab would probably work out for me longer-term, and not need to be sold, while the grade QH might top out at 25-mile rides while I want to move on to 50s, and I would need to sell and upgrade.
Decisions, decisions…