Wednesday, March 16, 2022

WW: Ride Photos!!!


Credit: Becky Pearman Photography, purchased

Credit: Becky Pearman Photography, purchased. Also - look at that darn left stirrup!

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Lizard Run Ride Day


Yeah...I am still this excited. 

The storms predicted overnight didn't hit until around 630 am. Then they hit in force. I was just finishing up giving Hamilton his mash, morning electrolytes and refilling his alfalfa tub when the skies opened. It was raining hard enough that I couldn't see past the front of my truck from the barn. It let up plus stopped the light show right as the 50 milers were getting on to warm up. It was a nasty start for them. Us 25 milers had an hour to wait until our start. By the time I mounted up it was intermittently spitting. 

A wet start for the 50 milers

Typically the trail will be announced as open and you are kinda free to start whenever you want within reason. The clock keeps going, so you short yourself time on the trail but that is your choice. Most people are out quickly with the stragglers gone generally by 10 minutes past. The ride manager made a big stink at the meeting that everyone had to check in with her 15 minutes before the start or you wouldn't be allowed to go. We all took this as having to be mounted and present, so the ride start was pretty jammed. I think in retrospect I could have signed in on foot, then went and got Hammy ready but she had been a bit um...forward...about it and I really didn't want to not get to start so I played it safe. 

Hamilton was pretty chill getting tacked up

Hammy got a long warm up walking around camp. I tried to stay away from everyone as we meandered around while still keeping an eye on the trail head for a good pocket to go. I was a bit worried about being overtime, so while I had no intentions of going out right away I also didn't want to lose too much valuable time pacing around camp. When I saw that most everyone was gone, with nobody left milling around, I pointed him at the trail head and we got started. 

The park had a lot of interesting ecology from lichen covered surfaces to grey sand to rich black soil

Apparently half the riders had the same idea. We were overtaken by a huge group maybe 100 yards down the trail. Unfortunately this was right where the trail was the worst footing of the entire day. It was deep mud with large mud puddles cutting the two lane path to nearly single file. A big group had screeched to a walk backing everything up. We got stuck in the traffic jam, but Hammy was doing alright and I knew it would spread out again soon. Except a new group came up behind us at a brisk trot and flew through the puddles on our left splashing mud everywhere. Hammy started to feel quite tense but there really wasn't much I could do right then to relieve his stress. The final straw was a woman literally ramming her horse into the back of us - his chest hit Hammy's butt. Hammy lost it, striking out with a hard hitting kick that I felt no sorrow for. Never use my horse as your brakes like that. 

Lots of standing water everywhere. I was happy we had spent time working on water crossing or this ride would have been a nightmare

Well, Hamilton was done. He flipped out. We stopped and let everyone go on ahead thinking he'd calm down but he was too far gone. He reared, all 4 feet left the ground like a pogo stick, he flew backwards. No amount of wide, loose reins, a calming voice, clucking, kicking...anything was getting him to move forwards. I made the choice to slide off him and let him chill. We hand walked just a little ways...not even a quarter mile...and he finally took a deep breath. I felt really bad for him. I think he just got really claustrophobic in there.

Right as I was about to get on a mother/adult daughter team came up and asked if I was alright. I explained he had a baby brain moment and I was just about to get back on. They were nice enough to wait a second and then even nicer to let me tag along with them. Hammy tucked between them (I asked them at least 1000 times if that was ok) and honestly I think that saved the ride for us. He was able to calm down. It took until mile 5 or so before he actually looked around at his surroundings again. Poor guy.

More flooding. The center of this came up nearly to his belly. 

The rest of the loop was pretty perfect. We stayed in the middle for a bit then headed to the back and even lead a bit. The two ladies were super nice and the miles started to fly by.  The footing was fantastic - mostly sand, a great mix of wide open flat lanes to canter followed by my favorite twisting forest single track to get them back under control. Hamilton started to loosen up too. horse we rode behind a bunch had a crupper the same color as his body and first I thought he had the world's largest anus. It was hard not to stare. Once you see it you can't unsee it. 

Unfortunately around mile 7 things started falling apart on my end. For some unknown reason my left stirrup wanted to face in toward the girth. Like 90 degrees turned in. My lateral left ankle was screaming at me in agony. I kept losing the stirrup. I tried to 2 point. I tried to sit. I posted differently then I generally do. It was excruciating. I apologized to Hammy a million times for hitting his back harder than I'd like when posting. No matter how many times I twisted the leathers, it went right back. I thought about stopping to fix it but he really needed to be with others right then and I couldn't bring myself to ask them to stop moving for me to adjust my tack. No way was I going to impose to that degree, so for the last 8 miles I tried to have fun while not crying. 

WTH stirrup?!? This was painful. Thank goodness for the huge blocks on that saddle or I'd have eaten dirt and walked the entire 15 miles. 

But you know what? Even with that? I was having fun. Hammy was moving beautifully. We were covering some gorgeous trails. We were making way better time than I imagined. He was offering up gorgeous canters and never ever spooked, balked or refused to go happily forward. His ears were perked and I could tell he was starting to understand the game. 

Not much was around for grazing this early in the season. There was a nice buffet set out where all loops crossed and Hamilton took full advantage of that.

Two funny moments happened on this 15 mile loop. We were going great with nary a disgusted head shake in sight (that is Hammy's go to when I do something that annoys him) when all of a sudden he started trying to stop and turn around. He hadn't been pig headed like that in a long while and I really couldn't understand it. We were 11 miles in - going back was way longer than moving forward. The lady upfront then informed me that we had just passed by the backside of camp but the trees obscured the view. Hammy knew and was sooo frustrated that I wouldn't let him cut through the woods to get back! He shook his head and snorted in disgust at me for a solid 10 minutes with all 3 of us laughing. 

The second happened shortly after that. The trail started to follow the flooded river. We were 3 miles from home at this point. I pulled out my cell phone to get a picture of the swollen river. Hammy tried to take advantage of my lack of attention, turned 90 degrees and rushed to jump in the river!! I stopped him barely in time. I was not happy! There was no way I wanted to go swimming right then. The lades laughed the entire 3 miles back as Hammy kept trying again and again to go swimming. 

He tried to take me swimming in the marsh too. No buddy. 

The ladies I was with were planning to canter all the way in to the hold along the sand road, but I prefer to do a slower trot the last mile then walk the final 1/4 mile so that his heart rate is down when we get in. The temperature was steadily dropping each hour that day so I didn't really want to sponge a lot in case he cramped up. 

Coming in to the hold

They went on ahead without me and we slowly came in behind them. It worked as he was at 52 right off the trail. Tack was allowed to stay on and with the lowering temps, I chose to keep it that way. He had a good vet in then settled into the hold like an old pro. 

His card at the hold

Gem never did well being in the crew area. I always had to take her back to her own pen or she wouldn't eat, drink or relax. Hammy was fine being with everyone, actually I think he did better than had we walked to the barn by ourselves. 

All he cared about at the hold was eating and drinking. 

Thankfully Dusty and Wyatt showed up for me to crew. I had texted him 2 miles out to see if he could find me a spare stirrup somewhere as I planned to throw mine in the fire pit. The tack lady didn't have any and I honestly thought about rider optioning. I would have too had he not been there. But he was and he graciously offered to trot Hammy out then fixed my stirrup for me. It sat 90 degrees facing out (we never could get it to face forward like the right one) but that was better than in. Hamilton downed an entire bucket of water and ate half a pan of soaked alfalfa. He took his electrolytes politely enough. The 40 minutes flew by. 

I was having so much fun 

I managed to struggle back on and we were off again. All loops started the same way then branched from there, so we already knew the first stretch though the memories weren't good ones. We were alone for a while until the ladies from before caught us up - they had left the hold late for their time. They picked up the pace on us though - going 10-12 mph which was a lot faster than I wanted. We had 3 hours to go the 10 miles and while I didn't want to slow down too much from our first loop pace, I also didn't want to rush it either. We let them go on without us. 

Heading out from the hold

From there we met up with a lady on a spotted saddle horse. We stuck with her a bit but she was actually going slower than I wanted. It was so so so so awesome, I can't really even explain to you all, that at this point I could finally ride my own ride fully, letting those go ahead who were too fast and passing others who were too slow. It felt wonderful. 

Riding solo was the best though I also thoroughly enjoyed the company on the first 15 mile loop. 

We ended up riding almost all 10 miles alone keeping up a decent pace around 7-8 mph. There was one section he started to lose it a bit. There were horses in the 50 up ahead of us on a shared section of trail, but I didn't see them. Hammy started revving it up to chase them down. I wanted a polite, dull roar and as long as he kept to 8 mph I was fine, but he started creeping up to 10 so we walked until he quieted back down which didn't take very long. I was really proud of him for listening to me.

Towards the end of the loop 

This loop was my favorite. We cantered probably half of it. His canter is so lovely (even if he wont do it in the arena) and he will keep a nice even pace without speeding up so I let him canter when he chose. As long as we stayed between 7-8 mph I didn't care which gait he chose to use. I think it is important to switch up the muscle groups. 

He really drank well this loop too. He chugged from nearly all the puddles I would let him drink from. He moved freely and happily. There was one nasty section on private land that was like a mini trash dump. There was garbage everywhere. He took a long look at that, but kept his forward momentum going.

He was super thirsty on this loop so we pulled over for him to get a good drink from this puddle. His slurping sounds made my soul happy

It wasn't long before we were back at the end. He vetted in great. I asked the vet to triple check his back as I was worried it may be sore from the 15 miles of poor riding, but he said he was perfect. He also double checked his girth area and no issues there either. At least I know his tack is fine for a 25! 

My favorite picture I took all weekend. He looks like such a derp here. I borrowed Eeyore's cooler which was ridiculously small for Hammy. I guess it is time to buy hm one. 

I put him back in his stall for a few hours to chill, eat and drink while I enjoyed sitting in camp watching others vet in. After a bit we all got cold so we packed everything up (also super easy and quick) then drove home. 

His final vet card

Words can't convey how proud I was of Hamilton. That was a lot to take in. He is only 5 (will be 6 in April) and while I know OTTBs get a lot of exposure at a young age, I...I don't still brings tears to my eye thinking about how amazing he was. I really don't know how I got so lucky to have him in my life. 

This guy reminded me of what makes

Monday, March 14, 2022

Lizard Run Day 1

 EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! that was an amazing weekend. I have so much verbal diarrhea to spew about it all so be prepared. Lets get started.

Thursday night everything, minus all the crap I forgot, got packed into the 3H trailer. Hay, grain, buckets, tack, a mattress, clothes, cooler for food, dry goods, muck bucket, shavings, etc...I hadn't realized how awesome the little bumper pull had been organized over the years. Moving it all to the empty shell of the 3H was a lot of work. Then I decided it was probably a good idea to drive it somewhere before I loaded Hamilton up and drove 2.5 hours on the highway with it, so I took it down the road to get gas in the truck. 

Friday morning all I had to do was load up Hammy and hit the road. The weather forecast was constantly changing from hour to hour. The latest check that morning showed the rain moving in around 1 pm. I wanted to arrive in camp prior to that, so I headed out right around 8 am to arrive somewhere around 1030 am after a completely uneventful drive. 

My spot for the weekend. His stall was to my right taking this picture. It was super easy to take care of him. 

Thankfully I had a stall in the small barn to put Hamilton in. It was a blessing overnight. He unloaded fine, took a look around and then settled into the stall with his pan of soaked alfalfa. I got into the habit of buying compressed alfalfa bales for Gemmie then putting in a feed pan with a lot of water mixed in it since the compressed bales tend to be really dusty. Hamilton didn't drink much at all - maybe 1/2 bucket in the course of 2 days - but he did pound down the soaked alfalfa which absorbed roughly 4 gallons of water per pan and he finished two pans Friday daytime and overnight so I wasn't very worried about his hydration. 

The view out of the gooseneck window from my mattress. His stall is the closest one. The perfect spot. 

Setting up my part of camp was just as easy  - move the hay, grain and shavings into the first stall of the trailer, unfold my little camping table, unfold my camping chair and voila! Done. So much nicer than setting up a tent. 

My home for the weekend suited my needs. 

Registration started at 12, so I had about an hour to read and enjoy the last bit of good weather for the rest of that day. The sun was shining and it was almost 60F. I got registered at 12, then went back to the trailer to take a nap before vetting at 3. Hamilton was so confused as to what on earth we were doing. I took him out to walk over to vetting which was a good 5 minute walk away. He took int he atmosphere of people setting up camp, horses in corral or on high lines, people riding through camp, registration, the grill making lunch, people on ATVs milling about. It was a lot to take in. He did it all in usual Hamilton style though - looked then carried on with his life. 

The vetting line was set up with caution tape creating a queue with small piles of hay placed about. It was the busiest vetting line I can remember being in. He stood a little perplexed as to what was going on, but soon realized there was yummy hay all around. 

Vet line selfie

The vet was happy with him, he had a 40 pulse to start, a body score of 6, and all As down the line. Vetting was pretty funny as everyone, and I mean everyone commented on 1) his mane which is super long and thick 2) his height as we towered over them and 3) his good boy looks. They all gave me gruff about needing a ladder to get on him and remembering to duck on trail. Then the vet had me trot him out and the crowd was quiet. Even the vet remarked on how big his trot is. 

Always good to start with all A’s

The rest of the afternoon was pretty quiet. I checked on Hammy frequently, but he was basically napping or eating the entire time. It started to rain at that time, so I mostly hid inside the trailer wishing we had fixed the electric as the only windows were up in the gooseneck portion making the interior pretty dark. My flashlight wasn't all that great to read by. 

I did remember at one point that I should set up my crew spot. There was so much that I was rusty on. I lugged my saddle stand and some buckets over to the area then realized I forgot a sponge. Thankfully there was a mobile tack store on hand, so I picked one up there. I never actually used it, but at least I had it if I had needed it. 

Either eating or napping. The perfect two tasks the day before the ride. 

I bought a hotdog from the concession stand, then grabbed a cheeseburger later during the ride meeting and basically just wasted time enjoying having absolutely no responsibilities what so ever all day. It was magical folks. Simply magical. I can't remember the last time I was so relaxed. 

The ride meeting was short. They did the one thing I always hated at ride meetings: assumed everyone already knew everything. There was a lot of "just go the way you did last year at the crossing" and "remember the river road from last year - we are doing the same" etc... I get that those who know the area may not want to sit through a full explanation again, but by the time the meeting was over there was a lot of important information that had not been covered such as 1) was vetting at the hold with or without tack  2) where was the timer to come in and leave from the hold 3) where was the actual finish line. I figured it all out by asking those who had been to the ride in the recent past so all was well. 

Camp was so nice. I really want to go back and hike 

The vet talked a long time about horses in camp. The weather was predicted to be nasty overnight with thunderstorms and heavy rain coming down. She warned everyone that horses likely wont respect sagging electric lines with minimal charge once the weather came in and recommended everyone keep the horses in their trailers overnight instead. She was also worried about hydration overnight as stressed horses probably wouldn't drink and warned everyone that they would be extra cautious in the morning with checks. Thankfully, while the weather did turn nasty eventually, overnight it was mostly just wet and cold. 

After that it was a final check on Hammy, a refill of his alfalfa, his soaked mash for dinner and then bedtime for me. I had given him electrolytes following his vetting. I read a little by flashlight then fell asleep quickly. It was the best I ever slept in ride camp. Being in the gooseneck, nice and warm on the mattress so such a step up from tent camping I've always done. I need to make some changes to the set up, but I don't think I could go back to being in the tent ever again. 

 I was proud of how Hamilton took all the fuss that is ride camp: generators going, dogs barking, people coming and going, riders off riding, ATVs running, trailers pulling in at all hours, horses being hand walked around, screaming horses, screaming people. It is a whole lot of atmosphere but he seemed to take it all in stride. 

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Remembering How To Endurance

 Welp, Hammy and I are off to our first endurance event tomorrow. It really snuck up on me. The Hubby renewed my lapsed AERC membership, signed me up for the event, and got me a camping spot along with a stall for Hammy through the Park Service for Christmas this year. The weather forecast is atrocious and honestly I'd bail on the whole thing if it wasn't a gift. My interest level at 39 years of age of sleeping in  metal box when it is 23F and raining is minimal. Yes, I am a proud fair weather competitor.

I've done my best with the time I had and weather we ran into to get him out on the trail to condition. He is underconditioned for what I'd prefer heading in but there isn't anything I can do about that now. Looking back on what I did with Gem, we are ahead of where I was with her first entry, but light years away from her last entry. We will get there.

Gosh guys. Hamilton is looking amazing this spring. 

The biggest issue is remembering how on earth I used to do all this. By the time Gem did her 100 in 2016, everything was down to a science. I had never had the luxury of crew until that event. Everything was locked down to be the easiest, most efficient process for getting camp set up, vetted in, the ride off to a good start, vetting at the hold, finishing the ride, vetting at the end and then relaxing after. Now? I can't even remember where I've stored my camping supplies. 

The best parts of this ride are that a) it is only 2 hours away and b) it offered stalls if you snagged one quick enough as only 10 were available. Hubby got me one so that I wouldn't have to worry about Hammy camping at his first ever event. We can add that part in later once my sea legs are back under me. My old camping set up was flimsy but Gem never tested it. I'm not so sure Hammy will be as easy to contain in camp, so if things go well enough that I want to continue to do this with him I will need to research what to do about that. For now, we have a stall so no worries. 

Last weekend it hit me that I didn't have any electrolytes for him. Then I had to think really hard to remember what electrolytes I even used before. Gemmie was a Quarab who was naturally good at distance riding. Hamilton is an OTTB so his needs will be very different from hers. I've never used elytes when conditioning, so we will see how he takes to them/what his needs are. The weather is awful all weekend, so at least we won't have to worry too much about overheating or dehydration. I did order some syringes to have in addition to my homemade loose elytes that I add to the soupy mash he will get tomorrow through the weekend. Hopefully he eats it. 

Then it hit me that I didn't have my usual bale of compressed alfalfa to offer either. Ugh. Getting back into the swing of things is hard folks. Thankfully TSC has some so I picked up a bale. I like to have that soaking in some water always available once we get to camp. He already gets soaked alfalfa pellets so he may not really even need loose stuff, but it is nice to offer that in addition to his regular grass hay when in camp. 

The original and irreplaceable endurance mare. Hamilton has big hooves to fill.

So...we have figured out housing for him, his elytes, his tack is as good as it can get at the moment, my riding apparel is fine, his food is sorted, he has an up to date coggins. Things were feeling pretty good until I realized something major....

I was planning on taking the 3H slant so I could sleep in the gooseneck instead of in a tent in the cold rain. I bought that in October 2020 with big plans. It has sat exactly where it got dropped off ever since. Oops. Friday I spent the morning at the DMV getting the title switched over and purchasing a permanent plate for it so I could legally drive the darn thing. It still hasn't moved and I have a big confession....I have no idea how to hook it up! And I leave in less than 24 hours. 

I can always take the 2H bumper pull, but I really want to to sleep in the gooseneck. Which needs a mattress still. And has no insulation so it will be cold regardless. Ugh. Maybe once I get back I will move that project up on my list. There have been more important farm projects getting done.

Well...there we have it. Tomorrow morning we leave for ride camp for the first time since May 2016 and Hamilton's first time ever. I'm excited more than anything. A little nervous how he will handle the atmosphere of camp as well as the chaos that can be the start. It is really a coin toss if we will finish. The ride tends towards wet anyway (per the ride manager, I haven't been there before) and it has rained buckets all week with more to come Friday 7 pm- Saturday 8 am, so it will likely be sloppy and slow going. Regardless it will be a really fun learning experience.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Saddle #1

 Probably a boring series but I need to keep track of what I’ve tried, what works and what doesn’t. Plus, I don’t have much else at the moment with Leonard on stall rest. Recall, I'm currently riding in a  Thorowgood T8 which isn't a terrible fit except in wither clearance. Flatwork is barely passable, but I don't think it will be good enough once we jump. Plus my leg position suffers in it. I rode in EN's CWD the last time I rode Leonard and re-fell in love with the brand. 

Grabby hands as soon as the box arrived.

I found a similar CWD online through a consignment store in my budget and with a 5 day trial. Worse case, I'd be out the shipping fees. This was a SE01, 17.5" with 3 C flaps and pro panels with a 710, 205, 505 configuration. The only difference between this and ENs was that hers was a 702, 210, 510 configuration. 

Of course, Leonard hurt himself Saturday and it arrived Monday which meant the trial would be limited anyway. Bad timing, but at the least I could put it on him and see how it fit. 

From this angle it looked pretty good. The panels contour nicely to his back

I was impressed with how supple and grippy the leather was. It is the one major benefit, aside from price, of going used. The break in has already happened. 

The shoulders contour nicely too

So was looking pretty good until I looked at the wither clearance. It was nearly resting on him. Womp. 

Not good

For completeness sake I put a pad and girth on him but I knew it wasn't going to work. Once girthed up, the wither was touching the saddle standing still. Even had I been able to ride him, I wouldn't have. The consigner is a "fitter" as well and tried to convince me a shimmable pad would fix it right up. Maybe. And maybe if it was significantly cheaper I'd do it, but at this price point I want a saddle that fits. Plus, CWD is all over the place used. This was the first saddle I tried on him beyond my T8 so I'd like to shop around a little. Maybe I'll still need a shimmable pad, at least until he is up to full weight and muscles, but again at this price point and this early in the shopping I'm not ready to settle for that yet. 

Onwards to more options I suppose.


Monday, March 7, 2022

Off To The Vet

Saturday February 26th, Leonard came in from the pasture with a bleeding right hind leg. He had been left out by himself while I rode Hammy on the trail which he had done before no issue, so who knows why this time was different. The wound didn't look terrible once cleaned up. Definitely full thickness, but I didn't see any tendon tissue. He remained sound on the leg though there was a good bit of initial edema. I cleaned the wound, wrapped it up, and put him on stall rest for a few days.

He is such a good looking guy even if he is driving me crazy right now

Things looked pretty darn good most of last week. The edema went away, the wound dried up, he remained sound. I didn't push things so I didn't ride him, but I did let him go back outside. 

Then Saturday of this week, the 5th, I was out working on the arena that nestles in his pasture followed by doing some mowing of the taller, denser sections of grass in his pasture to allow the new spring growth to come in nicer. Basically, he was in my vision all day. What did he do? He napped, he grazed, he came over to inspect my work. Nothing majorly athletic. Nothing out of the ordinary. 

I've added soaked alfalfa pellets to his feed as I wasn't happy with his weight. He is also a super messy eater and the water helps to make sure the food stays in his mouth. It will be interesting to see what the dentist says this spring about him

Yet, when I finished mowing and brought him in for his dinner, his back right leg was bleeding again AND he was missing the front right shoe. How??? I don't know. I took him in to clean the wound which showed me that it had done my single most hated thing that wounds do: it sealed the surface but left a pocket under it which filled up with fluid since the body doesn't like air pockets. When I cleaned up the leg, the scab came off along with a decent amount of purulence from under it to reveal a much bigger, deeper wound. 

Bigger, deeper, still no tendon visible which was nice

I immediately called the vet. She was worried that he might have fractured the splint bone creating a sequestrum that got infected. Since he was afebrile, sound and the edema was only at the actual wound they said it could wait until Monday. It made for a very hectic morning as I start seeing patients at 8:30, the earliest drop off was 7:30 and the vet is 45 minutes from my office. Plus there isn't enough room in my parking lot for the trailer so I had to go home to switch vehicles first. Thankfully I showed up only 1 patient behind schedule and got caught up quickly enough. 

They called me right at lunch time to let me know his xrays were clear. No fracture!! They did what debridement they could with him standing (they said he was a good boy and tolerated a fair amount) to get the base healthier. He will be on SMZs for the next week, stall rested, and in a dressing. They said that if in 1 week it is looking like it is healing we can stay the course and it should be fully healed in 2 weeks. If it isn't making good improvement, they'd recommend surgery to clean it up and suture it closed. I hate the idea of anesthesia in a horse, so all crossables are crossed this thing heals up without needing that.  


Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Tuesday Night Lesson Night : Hamilton Addition

Leonard’s leg seems to be healing pretty well. The wound is 95% epithelium, there is no heat, he is no longer reactive to palpation and he isn’t lame. It remains with some edema though, mostly pitting edema superior to the wound.  I decided that it wasn’t worth the potential risks to take him to the lesson, so Hamilton got to go in his place. 

Nearly healed but edema remaining

Now, I gush about Hamilton all the time because he is really amazing at what I love to do with him, however Hamilton can be a raging asshole when he wants to be. We get along well because I avoid doing all the things he hates to do which is basically anything that he views as work instead of play. Really, he is a massive sized toddler, temper tantrums and all. Actually, come to think about it Hamilton is really Gem 2.0 in so many ways. How I managed to get another one of her, I don't know, but at least now I am better educated plus I have Leonard to do those other things with. No need to shove a Hammy shaped peg in the Leonard shaped hole. 

So I was a bit curious as to how taking him to a lesson was going to go. The more I work with EN the more I love her. I really want to write a post on her approach and why it is working for me so well. Maybe I will get to that soon. Anyway....

Hamilton came off the trailer worried. This is the first program I've been in that wants me to get on 15 minutes early to warm up. At first it made me nervous to jump right to the trot work but now I am really liking that the lesson can be focused from the very start. As I walked Hamilton around I could feel his nerves radiating off him. He was worried about the jumps scattered everywhere, the lunge line draped over the rail, the person walking in the parking area, the horses way off in the far pasture eating hay, the trailer that pulled in. Really, everything. It took the full 15 minutes of walking all over the place, circling jumps, stopping to sniff the blue barrel etc...until he took an actual breath. 

Then EN walked in and we got to work in the trot. It was messy. Hamilton's focus was on everything except me, he was Speedy McSpeedster, and well...I reverted to all my old bad habits from my Gem and Eeyore days. This did the exact thing you'd expect it to do...made things no better. It took me all of 2 minutes to mumble the first  "I miss Lenny" that EN would go on to hear at least a dozen times in 45 minutes. 

My friend C came out to hang out and snagged some pictures. 

EN had a lot of great feedback during this period. Mostly that I needed to relax my upper body, allow him to move forward, slow my posting and to look way ahead of my track (she was even awesome enough to put it in trail riding terms of "look down the trail to find the next turn") instead of outside the arena at whatever Hamilton was focused on. All things I heard a million times on Gem and Eeyore.  Doing these helped tremendously and eventually Hamilton breathed out and became softer in my hands. This conversation is one I heard for years and years with Gem and Eeyore, so none of it was particularly new. Will I ever learn?

EN noted right away that Hamilton was a busy body. Whereas I could trot Leonard down the rail a million times and each time he would give me his all, Hamilton gets bored easily. When Hamilton is bored he will find something more interesting for himself to look at or do. It was my job to keep him engaged, so that meant random circles, serpentines and figures.  We rarely went straight. Once he was more focused, we moved to doing ground poles going from walking over a single to eventually trotting over three in a row. 

We both can look just as tense going the other direction too!

After that we had a bit of time left so she asked if I wanted to canter, which I didn't but tried anyway. I think Hammy has some hock issues possibly going on or he just really didn't want to comply. I'm not sure which and EN wasn't convinced it wasn't behavioral versus physical either. Cantering went horribly like it always does in the arena...I sat, put my leg on and he exploded. EN was shocked I stayed on him. Of note, he can canter. In fact that very afternoon when I brought Lenny in to check his leg, there went Hamilton cantering beautifully past us to beat us to the gate. He also canters nicely on the trail. Ask properly in the arena either direction?? Nope. 

She had me hop off so she could lunge him. He threw some very impressive tantrums on the line at the walk then trot. Once he trotted nicely around without attitude, she asked for the canter and got an explosion. One time he picked up the wrong lead, threw his head around in absolute disgust, threw in a gorgeous lead change, gave three beautiful canter strides then had another fit because she didn't let him stop. So...I don't know. 

This is my posture that EN says needs to soft. Which is so much easier on calm Lenny. 

Like I said, he can physically canter nicely both free in the pasture and under saddle on the trail. She thinks it could be that his hocks could use some juice, he is off the track after all, but since I have no plans to make him my next jumper she was a bit like "eh...he trots beautifully and soundly plus canters on the trail. He is your endurance horse and can happily and soundly perform that task. Probably isn't really needed, but something you could look into. Or it could be 100% bad attitude that needs training." Being me, I'd like to know for sure but I am in no hurry either so I plan to wait until his Coggins is due in a couple months to schedule an exam. Unless something changes and he is no longer happily sound in the pasture and on trail in the canter, then I'll make it more of a priority. 

I hopped back on him to finish the lesson. By now he was down right pissed off with this whole lesson gig. He jigged. He threw his head around. He planted his front feet and refused to move. He tried to turn around and go home. Sigh. So that meant more work for Hammy. We trotted with the goal to making it all the way around the arena nicely. Once he did that, we called it quits. Poor guy was angry. After I untacked him, he basically ran into the trailer to go home!

Was it a bad lesson...not really. It was so reminiscent  of my early days with Gem that I had to chuckle. There are a ton of similarities in him and Gem it’s sorta amazing. Basically I left the lesson thanking the Universe that Hamilton loves the trail and that I found my Leonard to do this stuff with. Now to keep Leonard from hurting himself so he never misses a lesson night again!

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Hamilton Regrets Life Choices

 Saturday was gorgeous. Sunny, almost 60F and most importantly - dry. The perfect day for a ride. I wanted to get roughly 10 miles on Hammy with a bit more speed added in, so I chose to hit up Clemson instead of Croft as those trails tend to allow for more speed work. 

Pulling into the trail head, I recognized a group of women already tacked up. We waved to each other as I parked then I walked over to say a quick hello. After a short chat, I headed back to tack up Hammy. I was surprised when T rode up to me right as I finished tightening the girth to ask if I wanted to join them. Of course I did and by the way Hamilton shoved his nose right up her gelding’s butt to follow him away from the trailer, it was clear to all of us that Hamilton wanted to as well. 

Not many pictures as I was having too much fun riding!!

It was an absolutely perfect ride. I seriously missed riding with fellow endurance riders. They just get it, you know? Not knocking anyone else but you just can’t beat an endurance rider’s trail etiquette. I’ve ridden with one of them, T, before. In fact she was my partner in the Ride and Tie Championship Long Course in 2016 on Gemmie. Her sister was borrowing the cutest grey Arab I have ever seen. I threatened to swap him out with Leonard but I think that the owner would notice going from 14 to 17.1H. Boy was he awesome though. The other woman was G, a lady I’ve paralleled a lot but had yet to run across. She was on a bay Arab who was the brother of the grey I fell in love with and owned them both. She also has a crap ton of endurance miles with more experience in her pinky toe than I have in my whole body. It was awesome to chat with her as we rode. 

Hamilton was awesome. We leap frogged a lot with time spent in all places including leading. I do feel bad for Hammy sometimes when we ride with others. His natural pace and stride is so large that when we are behind he tends to trot, get too close, walk a bit, trot….repeat. When we did become the leader we didn’t last long before we outpaced everyone and had to slow down. For reference the Arabs went around 5-6 mph at the trot whereas Hammy sits around 8-9 mph. He learned though that that 5-6 mph goes alllllll day long whereas he can’t maintain the 10 mph. 

In fact, around mile 6 or so he started to question his life choices of riding with a bunch of “crazy” Arabs as they kept trit trotting down the trail while he was wanting to take a nap. I laughed out loud many, many times. 

Also of note, his water phobia is gone. Water crossing used to be a huge ordeal. The last outing I hand walked him over a small creek several times before mounting and making him cross. Then we hit an actual river crossing and I dismounted due to the entrance being one large boulder. He played in the water as if it was his favorite thing ever. Well, this time we came to a narrow but deep creek. I was a bit curious on if he’d follow the others or not. He marched right in. Only issue is that he has now decided all water is play time so it took a bit of effort and a lot of laughter from all of us getting him back out of the water. 

We did just shy of 8 miles at the fastest, most consistent pace to date. He was tired at the end but looked great and had enough energy to gallop off when I let him loose in his pasture so I’m hoping that means he had more to give on the trail. We will see. 

I have the best ability to take the most awkward photos of my animals. I swear he isn't butt high and sway backed! 

I had so much fun riding with others that liked to trot down single track trail in the woods. Hamilton did great over all. He tackled bridges, water, mud, tricky trail, leap frogging in a large group all without batting an eye. His only real issue currently is figuring out his legs and balancing on hills or over tricker terrain but that will come with experience.