Monday, July 9, 2018

Caja Santa Fe 2018

Man, I have rolled over in my mind A million times about what I wanted to write about this adventure.     This was not my first endurance ride at the Caja Santa Fe.  A few years ago this was my very first 50 mile endurance ride. I got To do this ride On my mentors horse named Buzzy.  That Ride was truly the coldest I have ever been in my entire life, and I used to live in Alaska if that tells you anything.  It rained, sleeted, and snowed. We were wet and freezing. The only way to stay warm was to put my hands under the pad of the horse as I was riding.  I remember trying to figure out what was warmer. Having my hands in my wet gloves or taking them off. Man alive it was miserable ! But you know what I love so much about that ride?   I walked away from it in love with endurance. Endurance is to endure everything, and take care of your horse and to meet the challenge set out before you.

I had hoped to come to Santa Fe this year and try to do a 50 mile ride on Merlin.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had enough time to train so we went with the intention of completing two limited distance rides. To save money on costs my friend MICHELLE and I went together and split cost.  It was easy for us to do because at this ride we couldn’t have our horses at our trailer at the camp.  They would all be stalled there and the rigs parked in particular area away from the stalls.

I’m not going to lie.  I wasn’t a big fan of this idea when I was on my way.  I had debated on even going.  One of my most favorite things about going to rides is camping with my horse.  I love hearing them eat, looking out my trailer window and seeing them rest.  I like to be able to watch how many times they go potty both poop and pee (it’s not weird I promise it’s watching their hydration and metabolic).  However, it actually turned out pretty awesome.

The weather was stellar!! No sleet or snow only sunshine and sunburns, my kind of weekend! People come out of their trailers put their chairs out by the stalls and visited.  I just loved that!!  Im real bad about hiding in my trailer at most ride.  One big reason is I’m kind of shy (I know, go figure... but I truly am) . I’m not confident fully in the endurance arena yet.  I’m still so new I really have no stories to share. And I feel like a creeper just walking up to people or eaves dropping on their conversations. Having the rigs parked the way they were and the horses in the stalls forced people to socialize.  Or at least it forced me to.  It was awesome for me because i got to see all these people I saw as endurance celebrities become normal people. Who would have ever thought they were normal!!!  I got to hear these super star riders worry about all the same things I do.  Then I realized “wait a minute, these pros with thousands of miles freak out too!!!” In my mind i had built up that these people with 1000s of miles of experience, the folks that have gone to Tevis and finished had it all down.  They knew exactly what food to give to make their horses eat. Their horses always are and were immortal. They also had feet made of concrete and never got hurt, these folks never have to worry about their horses acting up at the start. Their horses never ever buck or misbehave because they had secret awesome trainers that taught their horses to be perfect and taught the riders secret passwords to say to their horses just in case the horse forgets to be perfect.  That’s how they got decade team horses  duh!!
Then back to reality.  These people are normal people, with normal concerns, and they are still so excited for accomplishments just like it’s the first time.

It was so cool to see Mary ANN Maynard finish her 50 mile ride on her new horse and be so excited!!! To see Cressy Drumond (my mentor) complete back to back 50s on her baby Saga and to know his next stop is Tevis!!! To meet Christoph Schork and him talk to me like a normal human being (he’s a total celebrity to me),to hear Crockett Dumas crack jokes at the ride meeting and everyone laugh because they were actually funny lol, to see Marcia Hefker (mongol derby winner) and her talk to everyone do down to earth and kind.  Rodger Taylor (endurance hall of fame) help manage and provide advice and assistance and his amazing wife and daughter doing the same.  Watching Courtney Kizer ( mongle derby finisher) worrying about her horse and working so hard to take good care of it.  Meeting and speaking with Kevin Waters (also a complete endurance celebrity), so down to earth and having such passion about the animal welfare in the endurance community.  Marcelle Hughes (another Tevis finisher and local celebrity to me) bringing her older horse and completing LDs with him his new horse (side note: she is also so humble, helpful, and kind if u see her meet her and talk to her:) ) Mike Guy and his wife Evanna taking each of us that we’re interested and showing us how to properly wrap and care for injuries and feet, sharing his stories and experiences of training and respect with horses.  In those few minutes we were able to learn so much!! I could go on and on. I met new people and heard their stories and shared the trail with them.  I hope to do so again!!  I got to see other friends like Melanie Martin and her handsome and sweet Stallion (side note: if I had a mare this would’ve be my mares baby’s daddy no doubt.  I have never ever seen a sweeter, endurance strong, handsome horse)
I met two awesome girls who were my neighbors. Jessica who’s last name is TBD.  I know she’s from Colorado, her horse is bad ass, she got first place in the LDs both days, she’s completed a few 100s, is amazingly fit and is a fellow keto girl who snacks on potted meat lol I hope to run into her again. She was way cool.
My other neighbor was Lisa Boyd who had one of the fanciest trailers I ever seen and her horse is a beautiful dappled gray who is also Russian (like my sweet Merlin). This gal saved my goat charging my gps.
Moral of all of this, is the riders there were fan freakingtastic. And I was so happy to hang with all of them. The vets were amazing and helpful, the volunteers were great.  There were radio guys and water folks out there pointing us in the right direction and keeping track of us for our safety.  

Ok Ok I get it, enough rambling... on to the ride.  The trails were awesomely marked (the first day, second day Someone took down a bunch of flags down and caused folks to get lost.  Yep not fun... being lost is horrible! and I was one of the lost ones on the second day)

 The morning of the first ride Merlin was a dragon, I literally thought any second his wings would pop out and I would be like Denarys on the Game of Thrones riding around on her pet dragon.  He was breathing Fire!!! Snorting and rearing to go.  (not literally rearing but he did literally jump off a hill instead of walk down, and threw a bucking fit at the bottom because he couldnt go to the front... everyone loves those kind of embarrassing tantrums....SAID NO ONE EVER!!!)

this looks just like us at the beginning of the first day... 

The first day was so interesting because there were so many runners on our course.  They were running the same trails "Horse Vs Runner".  They let the runners start 30 min a head of time.   It was a great time!  The horses knew the runners were competition, or at least Merlin did.  It kept him motivated to keep going the entire time.  When he spotted a runner he knew he wanted to be in front of them.  This day flew by because of all the stimulation.  The trail, the runners, all the horses, and I did only 25 miles.  There are so many great pictures of this event on Facebook.  This is the site to the sign up this year that tells you a little bit more about it> 

this was a true athletic event, very awesome riding next to these extreme runners.. got to talk to some of them on trail, and it even motivated me to possibly to an Ultra one day.... maybe..... Got to get through the World Championship Ride and Tie first... then we will see (to be continued)...

Merlin vetted in at the end of the first day like a champ!!! I was going to go home that evening since my riding partner Michelle wasn't going to ride the next day.  However, she talked me in to doing the second day, since Merlin was so rowdy he needed it and she would crew for me (Bonus). 

As I mentioned before second day, wasn't as fun.  However we did finish.  
We did get lost on trail, as did several other folks but we finished but truly by the skin of our teeth.  
The bonus about this day is I met an amazing gal on trail who rode with me the entire time, got lost with me, and kept the spirit of endurance fun, going the entire time!  

The best part about the endurance rides are the people!  This entire event was so fun!  I love meeting new people and seeing people that I have already met.  Each ride is like a family reunion. 
Merlin finished... ate lots of food, took lots of naps, and was happy to be home when we got there.  
chowing down... you would think he did something:)

Nap time for this good looking dude!

It was a challenging but amazing weekend.  
Done! Cant wait to do this again!

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Wood Girls Weekend of Awesomeness!! Indian Springs Ride March 2018

Sometimes its so great to change your plans. 
I had a secret goal to do Tevis in 2019 versus 2020.  I had a training and ride plan developed by my mentor and was moving forward.  Then things happened... I happened.   I had decided to take the month of March off from going to rides and just train.  After Merlin bruised his heel at Wickenburg on the intro ride, i think it bruised my pride as well.  I wanted to just take it easy and take a breather and regroup.  That weekend also changed my plan in goals.  I was sitting at dinner looking at the "Legend", Earle Baxter's Decade Team Jacket and was thinking how cool that was.  How I want that Jacket!  To have a decade team horse, and that horse be Merlin!  Oh how I would love that!   So I went home rolling it all over, and decided, what is the rush?!   Why am I putting this pressure on myself?  No one even knows my goal but me and my mentor.  Stick to the plan of 2020.. if it happens it happens.  It it doesn't that's ok too.  Just take care of Merlin, keep it fun and plan for a Decade horse.  Now that's a relationship!  If Tevis fits in there cool!  I didn't really tell anyone I had thought about any of this... I wasn't ready to tell my mentor yet, I wasn't ready to tell anyone.  So in my mental rut of deciding what to do, my friend Michelle Wood (no relation but I wish we were.:0) ) asked me to complete a Limited Distance Ride with her at Indian Springs.  She was bringing her horse back off an injury, a pretty gnarly one actually.  Wednesday had a fractured bone in her hoof.  Michelle had been bringing her back in training and felt she was ready for her first LD back.   It was a 3 day weekend for me that weekend she wanted me to go, so how could I turn her down.  We could totally do a 25 and its at the same place we did our last 50.   
We had planned to ride together to the ride to save gas and money and then we realized.... oh yeah, how do we carry both of our panels.  Well, no worries, I packed up and that let me bring my pal, Jack!   He loves going on trips with me and I love having my horse outside my window hearing him eating and snuggling with my Jackaroo....  

So Let the Weekend Begin!!!

Michelle and I get there about the same time, we set up camp.... I bet you cant guess which set of panels is mine :)   by the way, my awesome step father made my panels for me and that hella cool sign! :) 

Im not sure how long everyone waits to vet in, but one thing we have learned or at least been taught by our handy dandy mentor, is let them pee!  When they have a full bladder their gut sounds are hard to hear.  So We let Merlin and Wednesday, settle in.  They poop a good few times and finally they both pee.  We are ready to vet in.  They both vet in like champs!  However, the moment I get in line to vet in for the ride i have a stress thing in my gut until the last vet in after the ride.  I call it a stress thing, but in truth it should be called:  "oh my gosh Im so excited, please let us do well, what if something happens, we got to stick to the plan, dont forget to be the brains, pack plenty of electrolytes, did you forget anything at home, does Merlin feel good??, will I sleep tonight, will I wake up in time, does my alarm have batteries, what if we have a bad start, should i start late, dont drink too much so you dont have to pee a ton of times on the ride, oh man did I drink enough for the ride, oh no my stomach hurts am i going to need Imodium? stress thing"  It pretty much progresses as the ride goes on, then when i get through the first vet check it goes down a little until Im almost done with the final loop of the ride if I make it that far and then the final vet check that stress thing is threw the roof! until the vet says Im good.  then I usually nearly black out but no one really knows but me.... 

Ok back to ride story... So we vet in and its All A's for us both.  We get told maps will be handed out at the ride meeting at 630 that evening.  Then we start looking around and I realize there are quite a few people there.  Then someone says its a 100 mile, 75 mile, 50 mile, and 25 mile ride.  Something for everyone, so cool!

After vetting in, we feed the heck out of the horses.  It is a horse buffet, and the neighbor comes out to say hi to us.  Guess who we parked next to and I didnt realize because I was in my own world.  Mike and Evanna Guy and Pam Miller!  Yaaay some of the best people ever!   We were so fortunate to do a training ride with Mike just two weeks prior to this ride, where we did a very hard 21 miles.   I felt I had learned a lot from him just riding with him in that one day.  I know he is so knowledgeable and love to hear pretty much anything he has to say.   He comes over and looks the horses over and compliments them.  That makes me want to walk around with my chest out like a little banny rooster.  Him complimenting our horses is pretty dang cool, considering he wins almost every best condition.  This year hes bringing up two new horses and this will be his horse "V's" second 50.   Keep an eye out for that dude, hes gonna be something.   

Michelle has been having some issues slipping around in her saddle. (in my opinion its her slick pants and new saddle that needs wore in.  Oh yeah and she needs to hold on when riding.  Does she listen to me when I tell her that?  Nope, I told her and she pretty much told me to shut up.  Actually she said nothing but i know that meant shut up.  She then said that she hasnt held on for years...   So I said nothing, but in my heart I said... "um what is the name of my blog?  Do you read it Michelle??" Hello Michelle, if you are reading this, dont forget to hold on!!) Ok Ok back to the story.  

Mike is aware of Michelle's struggle with her saddle and he had us come over and look at his two different types of saddles.  One was a Specialized and the other was something I cant remember the name of but was pretty cool.  It moved with the horse, it even made a clicking noise as it moved with the horse, because it adjusted itself to allow the horse to move freely. He said he got it off of Earle (the guy I mentioned above) a few years ago and he has never had trouble with it.  I really liked it.  It was small, and looked like it would fit any horse.  He was showing us how he had the rolls put on the front of his saddle so he didnt move forward, recommending that if you have trouble staying in there are things you may add to assist with that.  
(Again, I recommend a "oh crap handle" on the front of your saddle.  I think they may be called a bucking strap, but a dog collar works great too.  This allows you to always keep one hand on it for two reason.  It keeps your elbows down and it helps you sit straight, and 2nd even if your walking if your horse spooks to the side you dont move, your right in there... and then you cans say "oh crap.... that was close."  Get it, "oh crap" handle?  Ha ha...ok maybe it was lame but it really works!)

Then in no time it was Ride meeting.  It was quite large.  It was put together very well. There was a dry erase board with the miles of each lap for all distances, the heart rate requirement, and the hold times for all holds.  All riders were then given maps according to their distance.  We got our map and guess what, it was trails Merlin and I had done before.  As a matter of fact the second half was our last loop of the 50 we did a month ago.  I wonder if Merlin will remember it? 

this is Michelle pretending like shes paying attention, ok i think she really is... this time :)

We get back to the trailer, I get to love on my little old Jack baby, feed my Merman, electrolyte him up, set my stuff out for in the morning and hit the sack.  But guess what the cool part was, our ride doesnt start til 9 so we get to sleep until 6'!!!  Normally we are up at 4 getting ready for a ride.  I went to bed and slept wonderful!  It was a quiet evening and we had strategically parked so both our trucks and trailers surrounded our horses.  If a horse got out it in camp it wasn't coming to disturb our guys.

Riders started going out early the next morning because all distances had to start before we did, so i was up earlier than I expected because Merlin was outside my window snorting and make the predator noise he does each time a horse passed by and Wednesday was pacing like a crazy lady.  So up I am, and as soon as I went out to feed Michelle was up too. Perfect, we were ahead of schedule!!  The horses were fed and we were dressed, ready to rock and roll way early  So early we posed for this picture here that we look like complete dorks on their first day of school .  I told Michelle she looks like shes smiling like the Mona Lisa, the horses want to get away from us, and Im there like a frump lightening bug lol 

First loop:  Mounting was quite and adventure because we had to do it on the other side of camp.  The ride manager asked we walk to that section before we get mounted.  Wednesday was pumped and ready to go and threatened all those around her lol.  We got Michelle on, then I loaded up like "hi-ho Silver away", Merlin was taking off without me i had to jump on... 
And we are off!

I liked going this way because we had a water tank pretty quick, around the first mile, but this made the horses kind of mellow out sooner than normal because we make them walk to the water tanks.  They both drank and then we started again.  The first half of the first loop is very rocky.  You have to watch every step closely and you are doing more slow trot and walking to take care of your horse.    Even though we were moving at a very slow pace we ended up passing about 5 people.    

We almost got lost towards the end of the first loop.  We turned where we saw a ribbon, but it wasnt our ribbon color.  We rode down a little bit, and realized we needed to turn around and go back until we found our color again.  when we did this we ended up meeting up with another rider. We talked for a bit and come to find out she was on a Green Bean  team named, MegaSoarAss.... lol Love it!!!  She was from Colorado and just stared Endurance.  She was super nice, and stayed with us until we finished the first loop.   

We vetted in and got all As on everything but skin tinting.. I have never had that marked down but the vet was right.. when she pinched his skin it was not popping back as fast as it should.  You know what that means?  Electrolytes and hydration my friend.  Usually, I wait until right before Im leaving the hold to electrolyte just in case Merlin wants to sulk and not eat.  However, the skin tinting concerned me so I used my Pro-CMC and Electrolytes immediately.  And he did not pout!  he took it like a man, ate and drank and was ready to go on the second loop.

The second loop is the last loop Merlin and I did on our 50 a few weeks before.  I knew we had plenty of time to complete it.  We could walk it if needed and meet our time limit of 6 hours.  I was super thankful for this because as soon as we got to where we had to get on the horses to go, Michelle looks down and sees Wednesday had thrown a shoe, and on the foot that was previously injured.  Noooooooooooo!!!!    Wednesday is a tough mare, and a very fast walker.  Michelle decided to keep going but she was only going to walk it.  So thats fine, and we did or at least I did until Michelle pointed to someone in front of us on the trail. She said, "Keisha, you see that person up there? Thats first place"  Im like What????  Michelle said, "You can have first if you want it.  its right there, you and Merlin can do it.  I have to walk this... you go and get it."   I think i asked her if she was sure about 100 times.  Then i started to take off, then come back and asked if she sure she's sure and that we would still be best friends because I come to the ride for her.  Michelle reminded me of the skin tinting at the last vet check and told me to go get it but watch Merlin's hydration.  She said that if she let me go do this, i better get first and vet in or she would be pissed.  lol   Well, Ok, and we were off.

I wondered if Merlin remembered the trail until this moment.  As soon as I told him we could go, he went!  He knew exactly where we were going.  We caught up to the person in first asked to pass.  Passed and then hit it again.  Next thing I know I dont see anyone behind me.   We get to the highway were last time we road this I got off and jogged it with him.  It seemed to kick his butt.  I expected to do it this time as well..  The answer to that was Heck no I wasnt.  He turned the corner and I was having to convince him to trot, then I would let him canter/trot, then walk a few steps, canter trot... he knew where the end was and he wanted to get there.   We finished the hwy opened the gate and started cantering down the road.  I saw the water trough coming up and knew that the water was the test.  If he didnt drink hes going to fast, and doing too much.  He went straight to that water and sucked it up.  What a relief!!  I jumped off and sponged him, i wanted to make double sure he was hydrated and cool.  The next water trough was not far away and we would do the same when we got there.  

Hes not one for passing normally but like i mentioned before, he knew where camp was.  We passed two individuals riding the 75s.  I listened a little to their conversation, they were talking about Tevis and the mare the gal was riding was pawing at the next water tank.  The gal said her horse was so fired up she did that all the way through Tevis.  I just pretended i wasnt eaves dropping, but in my heart I was thinking "Holy crap!  These people are big deals.  I know i have seen them in endurance news about 4 million times and thats a Tevis horse and not only is it a Tevis horse but it did that and wanted to go at the water tanks all through Tevis... oh my gosh, what a monster"  but on the outside.. "so you guys cool if i walk away while your horses are drinking..."   of course they were.. and I rode on with my little green bean self... As I got closer to camp I decide to get off and jog with Merlin.  This way he could eat grass bites and keep trotting at a slow pace.  That way when we vet in his guts would be good, he would be hydrated, and his heart rate will be down.  
I get to the vet and they ask if Im ready to vet in.  I hand in my card, not able to breathe... then I do the trot out, he gets checked over and guess what!!!! All As!!!! they ask if I want to weigh for Best condition and come back in an hour.  Heck yeah I did, oh and by the way your first!
What!! Im first, Merlin we are first!! Merlin you did it, you drank, you ate, you hauled butt, you took care of your feet, you are first!!!!  I was so excited I didn't even wait til i got back to camp to call Cressy, my mentor, and tell her.. I think i may have been skipping while talking to her I cant remember.   she schooled me over the phone on prepping him for best condition.  I went back called my husband, my mom and dad told them in 5 seconds.. and then started getting Merlin ready.  
here is a picture of him just finished and with his slop face.  I think he may be glaring at the world too just to show them how cool he is. 

As I'm brushing the Merlinator to make him beautiful,  I see 3 people come in and I'm looking for Michelle and thinking, oh please let her make it.  This is such a big deal... Then here she comes walking in.  She comes to camp and says shes 3rd and going to show for BC.  Third??? how?????? I saw 3 people in front of her...    she met the people on trail and they thought she wasn't going to make it... well she told them she probably wasn't because of the shoe.  The vets wanted everyone to untack for the final vet in, they went to their trailers when they come in.  Michelle saw them at their trailers and she walked right up to the vet, through Wednesday's saddle off, vetted in and she was IN!!!!!  

Wednesday and Michelle strutt'n their stuff!

Oh my gosh could the day get better???? Yes yes it could.   We both go show for BC.  Then we find out at Dinner, guess who got BC.  Michelle and Wednesday, not only that they got highest vet score!!!  At that moment I wanted to jump up and down with her like little girls.. We held it together and went and got the score sheets to see how we rated with the others.  Guess who got 2nd in BC... that would be my fantastic Merman!!!!   Michelle and I went back to the trailers beaming...
What a successful weekend for the Wind Riders!!!!   

I can truly say this was one of my most favorite rides, I had so much fun.  I love the people there, I loved having my old man dog to cuddle with.  I loved being there with Michelle and watching her succeed.  I love having a friend that pushed me to do something I would have never normally done.  I love I have a mentor that I can call up even if she isn't with me and walk me through everything like she was there.  I love my mom, dad, husband and kids were so excited to hear our status and cheered on the phone for us.   It was pretty freaking cool.  I cant wait to do it again.  
I could not add the photo of Earle and Mike in helmets... look Boys and Girls, if there is a risk even the pros do it!
The sky over camp our last night there.... stunning.

Oh on another cool note, I told the story via podcast and it will be on episode 2 of the Endurance Horse Podcast.. its on Itunes, google play or Internet.  The lady running it asked I send in a few updates a month so folks can follow the adventures of Merlin and I.... so go do it!! Follow it, and everyone else on there... its way cool.  I loved Episode 1   

 Until Next time friends.... Don't forget to hold on, and that goes especially to you Michelle!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Land Of The Sun, 2018

Wickenburg, AZ--Boyd Ranch.... My favorite kind of weekend. 

 I wanted so badly to attend the Land of the Sun Endurance Ride this year, but it was 550 miles away from my home.  The darn work schedule always gets in my way, lol.  I beg my husband to make more money and be my sugar daddy, so I can just quit and have fun.  It never works out. 😪😩
I was afraid I wasn't going to pull it off. I know I have said it a million times but the Wind Riders have the most amazing mentor on the planet, Cressy.  She volunteered to take my horse a day early so that he was rested when I arrived on Friday.  The plan was to do the intro ride on Saturday and complete a 50 mile ride for Sunday.  
Why would I do an intro ride when he can do 50s....duh.  I was thinking points for the team :) It will be a leg stretcher for the Merman, I get a free dinner, and 12 bonus points for the green bean team! Sweet! 

Sigh.... if only things went as planned.  

I vetted in and Merlin did great as always.  He makes me so proud at the vet in.  He always stands and behaves so well.  His HR was 40.... not worry in the world.  All As on everything else.  We were ready for the intro ride in the morning.  This actually worked out perfectly because Cressy's horse Saga would be doing the 50.  I would be able to help them get off in the morning because they were starting at 7am and intro ride starts at 8.  

Ride Meeting: 
This was my first time going to the Land of the Sun Ride.  I had hear through stories that the previous rides had been quite difficult because it was a new ride.  It seemed everyone was very excited to see how the trails and the ride would go this year.  There was lots of chatter around me, regarding previous times for riders on these trails.
I didn't have much pressure on me for this meeting since I was just doing the intro.   I really got the opportunity to soak everything all in.  This was the most professional ride meetings I have ever been to.  The ride packages provided to the riders had visual examples of the ribbon colors that would be used on trail, trail maps, a typed memo on all the camp processes, vet cards already completed, and food tickets.  The ride managers went over all of the maps via power point. (As an HR girl, I was in love... power point makes my heart sing 💕)  They had made the maps with a Garmin tracker and went over the trail in great detail.  I loved how during the review of the map they provided photos of the water troughs and items that needed to be pointed out on trail.  I also really liked how the managers used a microphone for those that may not be able to hear well because there was a lot of people! 
*Side Note: managers said there were so many people that next year they may limit the amount to reduce the stress.... so if your interested register early.  Oh they are also considering doing a 2 day 100 mile ride, this is not for sure yet, but may be coming.
The dinner was catered by "Hauling Ash Bar B Q", AMAZING was an understatement.   They served so much food people got desert and seconds.  I love to eat so this was one of my favorite parts of the ride :)! 
Intro Ride Day:
When traveling with Cressy ( a retired Chemical Engineer, and particular is an understatement) we follow the checklist, and the checklist for checklist.  It actually is so good for me because I can become quite the chaos queen.  Cressy measures the amounts of food given (weight is measured on a fish scale with a bucket), counts the poops, and pees.  She knows her horse and by doing this she knows when something is wrong.  She tracks it all, and since we were with her I did the same.  I love getting to do this with her because its like a refresher on the importance of it all.  We woke up very early, at 430 to start the boys breakfast.  this gives them plenty of time to eat before we electrolyte them.  Its before anyone else is up so they would not be worried about their neighbors next door and will eat quietly.  This also allows for us not to be rushed.  During that time, we bring the pads in so they are nice and warm when its time to put them on the boys.  This is the time we get to eat our breakfast and get dressed.  One thing I have learned from Cressy that I love, is she is saddled and warming up a half hour before the start.  This gives her lots of time to walk the horse around and get all the pre-ride jitters of of her and the horse.  That way when you start.. the crazy is over.   Well of course they still want to get down the trail but its not like jumping on a horse right before the start and trotting to catch up and take off.  Been there and done that, NOT FUN!  Always be in saddle 30 min prior to ride.  
We see Cressy and Saga off, then Merlin and I get ready to go.  Although it is an intro we did it just like any other ride.  30 min prior to start I was in the saddle just walking around.  
Im not sure how many people were in the ride but when I got to the start it was just me.  I actually was so excited about this.  I planned to pretty much walk the entire thing.  It was just for a warm up and I love the quality time with just Merlin. 
We get on trail and of course, Merlin want's to race but I made him walk.  We only argued a few minutes and it wasn't bad at all.  
This trail was absolutely the prettiest thing ever!!! The creek/river was so clear.  We walked through the water and started down a trail that had tall rock walls on each side that seemed to go on forever.

As we are riding down this trail I just get overwhelmed with its beauty.  Sometimes, I feel this is my "church".  I just cant help but use it as my opportunity to talk to God and sing (I am not good by the way)...of course if no one is around.   Well.... I thought I was alone.  I started screaming.... "Merlin, look at this!!! This is So Amazing!!! God thank you for this, thank you for this moment, thank you for this horse, thank you for this day, thank you for each breath... "  It went on and on.  I was just so thankful and had to proclaim it.  I was so engulfed in the moment I did not realize there was a man and woman right behind me.  I heard the water splash and turned around... Yep.  People.   I turned back around so fast and just walked in silence with my eyes the size of plates.  👀😳😳   I tried to break the awkward silence and said "Ummm, no one is up here.  I was just talking to my horse God."  They didnt say anything.  Then the lady said, "can we just ride in front of you or can you speed up? Im on a new mare and she is not comfortable with other horses."    
Yep, she thinks I'm a freak and I possibly am a freak... ok Im definatly a weirdo, is that the same as a freak?  I could have hid under a rock.  
On a positive note Merlin was so glad to get going down trail and leave them behind.  And guess what, I did it again when I got by myself!   However, just typing this I feel that horrid cringe in my belly i felt then..... yikes.... 
So now that the embarrassing confession/story is over....the intro ride was challenging to me.   I had to do some things I had not trained for.  This trail had some slick large rocks.  I have stepped over rocks, gone through rocks, but never climbed a giant slab.  It was about 3ft high on a steep dirt trail but the side was a drop.  I was actually scared because Merlin wears shoes. In my mind I didnt see how he would ever have grip to get over that rock to the dirt, but I had to.  I took a minute to think and knew about 50 riders did it that morning so of course he could.  I just leaned forward and asked and he went up it just fine. 
There were some very big drops on the trail and I am so scared of heights.  I have come a long way in this fear but I still feel panic in my heart when I look over the edge.  I literally would just close that eye closest to the drop and let my horse just do the trail.  Thankfully, we didn't have a time frame to stick to so I knew I could sit there forever if I needed to muster up the guts.  Also, Merlin was so calm and careful it was not bad.  I was even able to video some of it.  (Video below)

The 12 miles were absolutely awesome.  The flags on the trail were so often it would be almost impossible to get lost.  The volunteers on the trail were so friendly.  The intro was a treat.  We had so much fun, Merlin and I.  

As we were finishing the trail we had to go up a hill and it was steep.  The end of the ride was at the top.  No problem right?..... wrong.   As Im going up the hill a dirt bike zooms behind us and Merlin got off trail and decided to go straight up verses taking the switch back.  It wasn't that big of a squabble but big enough that I had to put him back on trail, he sassed by swinging his head and bopped me in the face...and then guess what?..he started limping.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME???!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   We are at the top, the end, ready to do the trot out and he is lame!!!!! The vet checks everything and cant find what it is, but he was consistent with his head bobbing.  The vet said, not to worry and come back in a bit to vet him in for the 50 if he was no longer doing it.  Decisions, decisions....

Thankfully, a super knowledgeable guy was there at the ride that has been an endurance rider forever and also a ferrier.  I asked him to come look at Merlin.  He located it right off... It was a bruise on the heel bulb.  Merlin wasnt trotting out bad,  but if you put a lot of pressure on that area he made a little noise.  I could tell it bothered him and what good would 50 miles the next day do?  NOTHING GOOD.  So Merlin had a spa weekend, eating everything he could and resting.  
I got to crew for my mentor instead of her always taking care of me.  Oh and when you crew, you get to nap... so Bonus for me.  
It was a great camping trip.  The 12 miles I got to do were just so beautiful! 
Will I be back?  Heck yeah!  I wouldnt miss it.  Heck if all goes well and they do it, I may be able to do the two day 100 by then.  Only time will tell :) 
Here is a little video of the adventure we had :) 

Friday, February 2, 2018

Weekend of First for this Green Bean!

It was our First FEI Ride to Attend (Best vets in the world btw!), Our first camp and Ride on our own, Our First 50 on our own (3rd 50 ever for Merlin). 

Ok so way ahead of myself....Its because its my first Blog too.

Getting ready for an endurance ride so soooo much work.  There are a million reasons why I love our team (Wind Riders) Mentor, Cressy.  Her husband says she puts the "anal" in anal retentive... is that true??? Hmmmm.... maybe a little or a lot!! 😉 lol  Those of you that know her, you get to decide.  She has checklists for checklists and I love it!  Now I have a checklist to prep the entire week of an endurance ride, a checklist for the day we leave, a checklist for the day I arrive, a checklist for the ride day, a checklist for the holds, and a checklist for what to do after the ride and this is all thanks to Team Mom, Cressy :).  Do I follow all the checklist 100%?... does printing them and looking at them over and over count?  I do my best to follow them for sure.  The checklist are always are growing with additional things I need to bring for the next ride.  One important thing to add to checklist for next time, ATM CARD!!!!!!  The night before leaving I got cash for the entrance fee.

Side Note:At this time I pulled enough for two 25 LDs because I hadn't planned on a 50.  Physically we were prepared because I was wanting to attend Tonto Twist the weekend before. I am a government employee and there was a furlough blah blah, but that's a different story for a different time...  

I get loaded up and ready to go, pull in for gas and guess who realizes they do not have their card and left it in the ATM the night before!!! NoOOOOOOO!!!   I run to the bank praying someone brought it in, nope.  I called my husband in a panic and my oldest son heard me.  He said, "Mom I got 40$ you can have just go."  Then Noah my husband pipes in, " this is important, Ill run to the ATM and meet you on the Highway on your way out.  Go.  Ill take care of everything with the card"
My boys are my Heros!!!!


I have been to this ride several times before and have found it super cool but for some reason this time it was so different.  Turning in the Drive with the AERC Sign, I just want to scream Im so excited!!!

I loved this time just being us, I felt like such a grown up (Im almost 40 but still sooo immature and lost in the world).  I brought my two protectors Jack, the Boston that is near the age of 18 and Dusty my handy dandy side kick.

  Just in case some creepo wanted to enter my trailer they would threaten to tear its neck out, and also that way i could sleep with the shade open watching Merlin and if anything got close to the trailer they could threaten to rip its neck out.... (Watch out for my viscous.... OLLLLLLLD Dogs lol ) 

As I'm setting up I let them go potty and I look over and see old man Jack looking at me from inside someone else's trailer and Dusty is sitting out front!  What the heck! I dont know these people and Im so embarrassed. Tie outs 24-7 and tons of apologies in order...Once that is taken care of (and the people were so dang nice btw) i finished camp set up.

Sign Up:

Karen, the ride manager, comes to my trailer and tells me if I'm ready to sign up that her daughter Jessica is now taking registration and payment.  Walking towards her I still plan on doing two 25's however, I'm so disappointed about it.  I wanted to do a 50 and keep Merlin on our plan.  Ms. Maribel Paulson walks up to discuss my plans.

Side Note:  If you ever get the chance to meet anyone at rides Maribel , Earl , Mike , and his wife Evanna... the best people ever!!! Its kinda cheating for me because even though I don't have Cressy with me at the ride, I know each one of them are watching everything to make sure I am on the right path, my horse looks good, and success is in our way....did I say I blessed, if not I am!

Maribel tells me she called ahead and the trail is going to be very nice.  She advised if I am considering a 50 mile ride, this ride couldn't be better.  That's all I needed to hear.  I handed over my money and signed up for the 50.  I went back to tell Merlin, he better eat up its serious business tomorrow. :)  Its like he knew and was ready.    He continued to eat as I braided his tail.  I decided not to braid his mane because it was cool already and I knew the next day would stay pretty cold as well.

I didn't tell my team yet because I feared failure I guess.  I didn't want to tell them, then something happen because I diverted from plan.  I wanted so badly to do this 50 for the Green Bean team points, for my horse, and for me!  It was a huge deal.  A ton of stuff to freak out about in my book :)

Vet In:

I'm sure everyone feels the same way about their horse.  However I love the vet in.  I always feel so proud of Merlin.  He's calm as a cucumber.  I'm always so afraid when I do the trot out his impulse will be marked down because he stands there like he is ready for a nap.

Our Vet introduced himself and he was from Costa Rica!  Then I am super excited because I remember this is a FEI ride.  I get the best vets ever to look over my guy the entire ride!!! (most important is my boy and keeping him happy and healthy.  To finish is to win, right?!)
Merlin pepped up for the trot out, and it went perfect.

As I'm walking away I hear the Vet tell another Vet "man, that's a nice horse".  He was talking about Merlin!! I stopped by to brag about Merlin to Maribel and then almost skipped back to the trailer!

Night Before Prep:

I went over my checklist and got everything ready for in the morning.  I had all Merlin's gear laid out out and ready.  Leg boots connected the trailer with their velcro.  I would Destin them up in the morning.  The Bridle and halter sat out on my table with my bucket of brushes, Destin, and cowboy magic.   I set the saddle in my trailer and the pad so that it will be nice and warm for Merlin in the morning.

I mixed electrolytes for the entire day (before ride, the two holds, after ride, and extra just in case ) .  I added the back up electrolytes and syringe to my saddle in case I felt he needed it while out on trail.
I then gave Merlin his night before dose of  CMC and Electrolytes.   He can be a bit of a pill for this part.  He holds in his mouth and spits it out.  This time, i think I got it down.  I cut my syringe all the way to the end so that it sprays out really well.  I put in his mouth and boom..... down the hatch.  He still pouted until I shared an apple with him.  Then he was ready to get right back to the chow. 

I blanketed him because it was cool.  I fluffed his hay as I was taught... and he likes it.  And let him be.  Although when i get in bed my window faces him and I listen and watch him like a mother with a newborn infant.

Side Note: One thing I have learned over the few rides I have taken him to...what he eats at home is not the case at the ride.  I usually mix his ultium and alfalfa pellets, soak them up and he slops it like a pig.  At a ride i never know.  So I made him wet mix, I made him dry mix, and then I made him buckets with the separate.  I gave him water with oats....This way he felt like he was at Golden Corral and at like it too. 

Time for Bed:

Does anyone sleep the night before a ride? 😔 I was so nervous about doing the 50 verses the 25!

Anxiety to the max!!!   I was so worried, that I may have bit off more than I could chew.  I kept going over the map in my mind worrying about being lost.  I didn't tell my team (well except for one person whose encouragement was sooooo helpful).   I laid in bed and I prayed.
I just gave it all to God or tried.  I prayed that Merlin be strong and successful.  That I would take care of him and he take care of me.  I prayed for his safety and health most of all.  I love this horse and do not want to injure him.

I finally fell asleep about 10 pm.  Then I woke up at 1230 because Merlin was outside making the Predator sound ( thats what my husband and boys call it....remember the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie and the Predator made a creepy noise... Merlin makes that same one!).  I noticed he was staring at the Llamas that had walked up to camp.  (as I said before this wasn't my first time to this ride so I knew there were Llamas out there :) Nob big deal)    My neighbors horse also named Merlin :) was getting upset and she went outside with her Flashlight and they left.  I got to watch it all from my bed because 1. Im lazy and 2. I knew Merlin was fine.  The darn issue was I was awake to worry again!!!!  I guess that was alright...lots of more time for prayer and that is what I did.  I pretty much repeated everything... and fell asleep just in time for the alarm to go off.

Ride Day: 
Loop 1: 25 miles
Loop 2: 15 miles
Loop 3: 10 miles
45 min holds and hr has to be 60

Please God let us Succeed!!

 Ride started at 7 so i got up at 5.  Got to get the boy his breakfast and turn on the heater in the trailer so his pad and saddle are nice and warm.  (Another thing I learned from Cressy).

I saddled him while he ate, put on his rump rug to keep his booty warm.  I knew it would be a cool day and at the vet checks I wanted to keep his butt warm to avoid cramps.

So everything was going perfect!!! I went to start my GPS on my phone and saw I had no battery!!!! Ohhh no what if I get lost....
I had my solar battery on my saddle, that guess what??? Wasn't Charged!!!!!!!

To my rescue... here come Maribel to make sure i was ready and if I had any questions.  She went over the map with me one more time.  I got in saddle and warmed Merlin up.  Calm as a cucumber.... did great... Until the the other horses arrived.  Then he was ready!  So i had to pull him aside and have a talk...if only he understood me.  I think there was only 9 of us in the ride Im not sure though.   The start was controlled and great.

We got about a mile from camp and everyone started going their own pace.  Guess who Merlin wanted to keep up?  Mike Guy and Earle Baxter.  Oh heck no! These guys are always first place and Best Condition. Completely out of my League.
I would hold Merlin back and he'd pretend to be patient.  If I let him have just a little rein, he was snorting like a dragon.  I did my best to negotiate.  We could go fast as long as he slowed and listed to me where I needed him to... rocks, hills, etc. 
Old Hotel you ride by, amazing trail!!!! 

The start was flat for the first few miles and you couldn't keep the horses in front of you out of view.  Even if I couldnt see them I could see their dust and so could Merlin.  I was so worried about him wearing himself out to soon.  I let him canter to avoid a blow up, but would make him take trot breaks.   We did this over and over.   I was super concerned his trot would be too fast so he had to trot with sanity.  That I made him do.  Then we had to go down the canyon and he was still so fired up.  I was worried because it was down hill, and I was afraid he wasnt going to listen.  This part is rocky and the grade is significant enough you need to walk it.
part of the trail... as you can see quite rocky.  Going down has many more rocks

 So Merlin did it but not happily.  He was throwing snot, spit, his head, and shaking all over he wanted to go so bad... but he was walking.  It was an internal battle underneath my saddle. lol
Then we had to go back out of the canyon on the other side... still not ready for any speed because of terrain, I let him trot walk.

I remember the first time I did this ride on my mare the heights scared me and I got off and walked her.  This time I looked at it and it wasn't bad at all.  I really enjoyed myself. 

I was hoping the hills would tire Merlin a little so he would get into his right mind when we got out the canyon.   Ummmm no.  As soon as we come out he spotted Mike and Earl.  He was fighting me so bad to catch up with the guys.  I decided when it was clear enough to get off Merlin and try to distract him a bit.  A great time for me to potty (he usually does when I do, but not this time) but he did eat some grass.  I hung out there a few minutes to give them time to get out of site.

Then  here come Marcelle on Scout.  I was so worried because I knew that was a fast dude...but she was riding slow, Thank God!!! and got off with me and we walked down the Canyon from the other side.

Side Note: I always love chatting with her!  Another person you must meet if you have not... she always shares something super great about horse health and one of her rides.  Here she did both... she talked to me about how walking next to them is great because it give their backs a break and them a chance to regroup.  She also told me some Tevis stories, which I just soak because I want to do it so bad one day! 
this is the canyon your ride to the bottom of and come back out... takes some horse booty!

We got to the bottom of the Canyon and Marcelle went on so I could be just with my dude. 
We were around Mile 19.... and finally!! Sanity!! The last part of the loop was nice footing and I had a nice horse.  At the last water tank I met this amazing Gal: Melanie Martin❤ and her stallion, Titan❤.  We finished the last few miles together.

Vet Check Went beautifully.... All A's for both Merlin and Titan.   I went to feed Merlin and he wanted nothing to do with his food... He was staring at Titan a few trailers over instead of eating!!!!
I moved all his food to the other side of his panels so he could stare and eat like a weirdo psycho stalker.  He just ate a little but didn't drink as Id hoped.  I was freaking out!
We had went way faster than I planned. Thank goodness my GPS wasnt on.  I dont even want to know the speed, but it was fast.  He had A gut sounds at vet check but I was still freaking out because he only has 45 min to get water and food in.  I gave him his electrolytes walked him to the vet and guess what he drank!!!!
Maribel checked on me for loop 2, gave me the run down on trail.  I waited for Melanie since Merlin was in a bro-mance.  We rode the loop together at a perfect pace.  I loved riding with her.   She was doing all the things I do: walk rocks, canter where you can, and trot the rest.  We encouraged and reminded each other of all the things we have learned from the people we had met in this sport.   We had such a great conversation and I was so glad I met her.   Her stallion was a dream!  He was so well behaved.  If he didn't have the yellow ribbon I would have never known he was a stallion. 

2nd Loop was easy and fun... then the vet check.😐   I freak out at every vet check.  I am in knots until they say I can go on.  I stare at the vets face like a weirdo Im sure.  Especially on the trot back.  Im always trying to read them and they give me nothing!!!!!   2nd Loop All  As but a B on guts...

Poop!! Its because he didn't eat!!!   We get back to the trailer and this time he chows.   Yaaay! I clean his legs and rub his butt and give him the best pep talk I can for the last loop.  The 45 min goes by so quickly!!

Off we go on the 3rd Loop... This time Merlin was not as happy as he was at the start.  lol  He was not eager at all.  He trotted down trail with his ears pinned.. He was enjoying his food and I tore him away.  I wish I could explain to him its only 10 miles and they are easish miles! 
I tell Melanie Im bummed because Merlin has lost his motivation.  She was so positive and said, "dont worry, when that happens I just canter them.  It gets their blood pumping and they get excited again."  We do that for just a little strip and it worked just like she said.

Melanie and I have to take the boys back down the canyon with the rocks... We get off and jog it with them.  This actually allows us to make up time because riding we would walk it and this way they get to very slowly jog where they can and have a back break. 
We get to the bottom and head to the road.  We have about 2 miles on Hwy 1, its all up hill by the way.

Melanie and I just jog it.  Of course in spurts or you will have a heart attack, at least I felt like it.  By the time we get to the top, Merlin has figured out we are almost finished.  He's soooo pepped up.  We meet three other gals on trail and we tell them they can pass us.  We just want to finish on a good note.  When Melanie and I hop back in the saddle the boys are ready to finish!  It was such a great ride!

We make it to the Vet and Bam all As again!!! We finished!!! We did our first 50 all by ourselves... well with new friends but I had to make them lol.

I had such a good time.  I look forward to seeing my new friend Melanie again, I'm sure Merlin looks forward to seeing Titan lol .   I gained a lot of confidence this ride.  I left with so much thankfulness.  It was a beautiful trail.  The Vets were Amazing.

Now on to the next ride of 2018!!!