Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Horse-filled weekend, without much horse time

So, in endurance riding there is a national organization, AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference), and then various regional organizations.  For the northwest, it's PNER (Pacific Northwest Endurance Riders), and the PNER convention was this past weekend, in Portland.  It was my first time attending, but between having a ride (Shar) and sharing a hotel room (with Shar and Kirstin), it was a relatively inexpensive way to get together with a bunch of like-minded (and much more seriously-minded) folks and talk, learn, and shop endurance all weekend.

Shar was going to be representing her company (a printing company, including promotional products), so she needed to head over Thursday night.  I also had the option of riding with Kirstin on Friday morning, but if I was going to miss work anyway, figured I'd head over Thursday night with Shar, especially since we'd be spending that night at her parents' house, and I've met them and their dogs before and liked them all.  :-)

So I packed up Wednesday night, and Thursday morning I loaded up the car, fed and watered the kitties for the next few days, and went to work.  Worked all day, then headed to Shar's.  I beat her there by a few minutes, and it was still a bit light out, and I had a bunch of apples with me, so the horses got one.  :-)  Then when she got home, we loaded up her car and headed out.  It was dark, but luckily the pass was only bare and wet (unlike the next morning, when a lot of Central Oregonians were driving over, from what I heard!).  We stopped at the summit for dinner, and the place was inundated with teens finishing up their day of skiing at Mt. Hood.  Wow.  Were we ever like that?

We finished the rest of the drive uneventfully and pulled up at her parents' house.  They'd already gone to bed, so we quietly did, too.  In the morning, we got to chat with both her parents a bit, and I got to pet the beast Simba (huge, sweet dog with some behavior issues Shar's parents are trying to work through), then we took off for the convention.  Yay!

The traffic was not so "yay" though...
We arrived at the hotel, oriented ourselves to where some of the meetings and tack sale stuff would be, and brought her promo stuff in for the first meeting she was presenting at--the ride managers meeting.  The promotional stuff her company does would make great ride prizes, so she was pitching that to them.  Meanwhile, I checked us in to the hotel, got keys and wifi password, etc.  Kirstin arrived, the meeting ended, and in some order, we had lunch and got settled into our room.

I had told myself (and actually told Shar aloud, as well) that I didn't need any new tack, but boy is it hard to attend an event like that without buying ANYthing.  There was a booth selling custom-sewn items like rump rugs (goes over the rear end of the horse while riding when it's cold out, so their muscles can warm up nicely and cool down more slowly when the horse stops exercising) and fleece helmet covers (like a hat, but large enough and shaped to go over a riding helmet).  Shar bought a helmet cover, and I strongly considered buying a rump rug.  They didn't have a fabric that really spoke to me, but the woman running the booth gave me the link to their fabric supplier so I could check out all the options.  There were some really cute fabrics in colors that aren't "my" color, and some patterns that didn't really speak to me in colors I did like (like owls--cute, but not really my thing, especially for tack), so I ended up going with a print that looks like a photo from the Hubble telescope or something, with purple as a main color.  Kind of abstract, kind of not, with some hints of purple.  Whatever.

The one thing I had given myself permission to buy was new reins.  The ones I currently use are lightweight rope reins (they don't have the heft and feel that some do).  I like them fine, except when I fall off or otherwise have them slipping through my fingers rapidly--I've gotten rope burned from them a couple times.  Plus since they don't have much weight to them, they don't have a lot of "feel."  I rode in Shar's nubby reins once (very rubberized, and they have a LOT of "feel"), and loved the feel of them.  But hers are yellow.  I need purple, of course.  :-)  They had all-purple (no nubbies) reins, and they had nubby reins in a lot of colors, but not purple.  They also had two kinds of nubbies, and one definitely DID not feel like what I wanted.  So I custom ordered some reins with the right nubbies, and purple biothane on the ends (toward the horse's mouth).  So yay!  Two fun packages should be coming for me in the next few weeks!

The ONE other thing I was seriously contemplating purchasing (after I got there, not before) was this beautiful purple jacket I saw.  It was lovely.  And the arms were long enough, even though it was a women's jacket!  (It was made for riding, by Kerrits, a riding clothing brand.)  I was totally in love, but the largest size they had there at the show didn't QUITE fit me, so I asked if it came any larger from the manufacturer, and it didn't.  SO bummed.  I'm not sure I'll ever find a purple jacket (women's or men's) that fits me.  :-(

Anyway, I won't bore you with a play-by-play of the WHOLE weekend, but it was really awesome.  It was fun to hang out with friends, meet people I'd only "met" on Facebook, see folks in street clothes that you usually only see in stretch pants, a helmet, and a coating of dust.  It was also really bizarre, after going to business-related trade shows and/or conferences, to be in a hotel conference room, sitting in a conference room chair, watching a PowerPoint that was not only interesting, but a relatable topic with valuable information to ME.  :-)  And trade show booths full of tempting goodies instead of random corporate software or (once the novelty wears off, no pun intended) literally miles upon miles of candy).  So that was fun, for sure.  We heard talks about nutrition and hydration, and talks about working on training, and it was all very motivating.  Throughout the weekend, I was hoping we'd be home in time to do a bit of riding on Sunday.

One of the vendor demonstrations was a veterinarian and certified (veterinary) chiropractor and acupuncturist, who brought not only her also well-qualified husband, but their miniature horse.  It was the funniest thing--a hotel conference room full of people who all own and ride horses, all GASPED and exclaimed "he's adorable!" "can I pet him?" "what's his name" etc. when this little guy walked in:

Sterling, the well-behave mini

He was TOO stinkin' cute.  And very well-behaved.  And so calm.  Such a cutie-pie!  She demoed stretches and things you can do on your horses, and showed where some acupuncture points are, etc.  

Oh, there was a raffle, too.  I had assumed going in that it was just one raffle, but there were two types of tickets.  The general tickets that went into a big raffle drum and were drawn out nearly constantly, from the looks of things, for various prizes.  Some small trinkets, some big-ticket items, and everything in between.  LOTS of prizes in that pool, but as I perused the table, not anything I really needed to have.  The other tickets were for just certain special prizes, and even with those, there wasn't one big pool, but rather a bucket for each prize, so you had to choose which prize(s) you wanted to win and deposit your tickets accordingly.  I bought four "special" tickets and put two in for a saddle pad, and two in for a set of portable corral panels (to contain your horse at a ride).  All weekend long, a friend of ours, Kristen, kept winning more and more stuff.  It was really getting kind of ridiculous.  However, Kirstin, who had put in a few tickets, I think, never won anything, and the only thing Shar won all weekend was a VERY small jacket she ended up giving to Kirstin's daughter.  I didn't win anything in the general raffle, of course, because I hadn't put tickets into that one.  But it was funny how not only our group, but ALSO some other friends of hers, kept fetching Kristen's stuff off the winners table to bring back to her (she wasn't there).  Crazy.

Saturday night was the banquet, where people who have earned awards throughout the year receive them.  Things like being in the top however-many for miles ridden, achieving decade team (same horse and rider completing at least 50 mile rides for 10 different seasons), etc.  Throughout, they were also doing more raffle drawings for a few more prizes as well as free or half-off fees for rides in the coming season.  None of us won anything, still.  None of us were receiving any awards, either, but it was cool to see friends and acquaintances receive some.  I'm not sure Arya and I will ever achieve any of the awards, since she's not exactly built for endurance, but who knows...I'm just hoping this coming season goes better for us than the last one did.

The dress code for the banquet ranges from stretch pants and maybe a dressier top (me and my friends) to fancy sparkly jeans and a sparkly top, to a really nice dress, to thrift store prom dresses.  So that's fun, to see the variety.  One girl was even dressed as a southern belle, hoop skirts and all.  At the end of the banquet, they drew for the prizes I'd actually entered to win, but unfortunately, neither Kirstin, Shar, nor I won any of them.  However, the corral panels went to a new friend I made this past year, who had her horse in training with Celena over the summer, so that was cool.  Lucky her!!  Jealous, but in a good way.  :-)

After the banquet was dancing.  We three ladies went back up to our room for a bit, and I tried to convince them we should just hang out up there, but they dragged me back downstairs.  They couldn't drag me onto the dance floor, though.  :-)  I watched them, until they'd had enough dancing, and we all headed back to the room and to bed.

Sunday morning, Shar had to present again (she presented more than these two times, but this second one was to the board, so that was important!), so I wandered into a round-table discussion about non-Arabs in endurance (Arabs are the predominant breed and really are genetically suited to it, but plenty of other horses do well at it), then wandered out again when she was about ready to go.  We hit the road, and luckily the pass had mostly melted, and was only icy for a very brief stretch.  We actually caravanned with Kirstin, so we followed her the entire drive back, which was nice for us to know someone would be watching out for us if one of us DID slide off the road, but like I said, the roads were actually pretty good, so it was fine.  :-)

There was still a bit of daylight left when we got home, plus I had to get Arya out AND put the saddle on her in order to measure for the rump rug I'd ordered, so at that point, I might as well ride, right?  Well, unfortunately Shar had work she had to get done, so she couldn't come with me, so I saddled up to do a quick solo ride.  I told myself that if she was pretty well behaved, I'd keep it short so she didn't feel like it was torture.  :-)

As we headed out the driveway (and Arya begged to head to some grazing instead of the driveway), I realized something.  Normally, I have butterflies in my stomach as I'm getting dressed and/or driving to Shar's to go riding.  Today, none.  I often have butterflies when tacking up to go riding.  Today, none.  I sometimes have butterflies when mounting up.  Today, none.  I rarely anymore, but still occasionally get butterflies when heading out on a ride (and a solo ride would be more likely than not to have a few butterflies).  Today, none.  I realized I was probably jinxing myself by noticing this, and would likely GET butterflies just by thinking about it, but nope.  I just sat deep and waited for whatever she was going to throw at me.

She did throw a few shenanigans my way--kept trying to turn for home, then would overcorrect when I'd steer her back on track.  Rather than wait it out as she got more and more sluggish and drunken-sailor-y, I just prompted her into a trot.  Apparently she has a hard time dodging and trotting (lucky for me, as I'd have a lot harder time sticking it!), as that got her onto a straight track.  You're supposed to warm up in the walk before trotting, but whatever.  She's not likely to hurt herself in her pokey little trot, and this definitely helped her brain a LOT.  We walked and trotted our way around the block.  At the second intersection, I made her do a few circles, and when they didn't become super "even" (see prior posts, but I'm looking for her circle to basically look and feel the same all the way around, not pulling toward home), I made her walk in the direction she LEAST preferred.  A circle there, then head back in the direction she did like, another few circles, and they were much more even now.  We proceeded around the block.  When I asked for a trot, she gave me a very energetic trot at first.  I tried not to hold her back out of my own nervousness, and sure enough, she slowed way down to her usual pace rather quickly.  Eventually, we actually need to both become more comfortable with a faster trot if we're ever going to finish an endurance ride in time, but we don't need to push it on one of our first few solo rides back in the game.

The next corner is just a 90-degree turn, no intersection, but we took it wide rather than cutting straight for home.  She was pretty amenable to that, so I didn't ask for a circle that time.  Then, right away, there was an intersection (if you go "straight" on Steelhead, it actually jogs a bit), so I turned her the "wrong" way (away from home).  She was NOT impressed with my decision-making, and tried to make it very clear to me that we were going the wrong way.  I waited until she settled down into a nice (albeit VERY slow) walk in a straight line to circle her then head back the "right" way.  It was here that I remembered that we need to work on some lateral work (hoping to go to a trail course in a couple weeks, and that'll require some precision!), and considered for a brief second adding that in.  Then realized that in "heading for home" mode, she was going to take ANY leg, even just one leg, as a cue to head home, faster, rather than yielding in the direction indicated, so I didn't bother.

We did a few more circles at that same intersection before proceeding toward home.  When we got to the intersection to make the final turn for home (before the driveway), I acted like I was going to go straight.  She leaned VERY hard to the left.  We did more circles.  She actually behaved very well in those circles, and they were nice and even.  She's learning how this works.  :-)  So we got to turn for home.  Once more, I went straight past the driveway instead of turning in, and she was once more NOT impressed.  More circles and passing the driveway by going straight, until she seemed less obstinate about it, and we finally turned in.  Finally, just before hopping off, I asked her to yield laterally while walking (I'm not sure the difference between half pass and leg yield and whatnot), and it felt like her legs actually crossed over--good girl!).  Then we did a sidepass and a haunches yield (turn on the forehand--front legs stay still-ish, while hind legs move around them) from a standstill, and called it a day.  It was still light out, and we hadn't had to venture TOO far off course, so that's a win.  I really would have liked to have ridden longer, but we did what we set out to do, so I wanted to keep it short and sweet for her sake.  

Now maybe a night ride this week, then hopefully a nice long trail ride this weekend...

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