Monday, July 21, 2014

2014 Biltmore Challenge II

When I got started in endurance, I very quickly got a hit list of must-do rides. Of course, any of the west coast rides are on my list, mostly because they look so different from anything we have out here. My top three more realistic goal rides were the Vermont Moonlight, Old Dominion, and Biltmore. I got Vermont knocked out with Rayzer in 2011. I was supposed to go again with JJ this year, but opted out for a slew of reasons. As regular readers know, OD was my continuous non-starter event, but I finally got to ride the trail last month with JJ. One of the longer distances for OD is still on my to-do, but I'll take what I can get, given that I don't actually have a horse of my own to compete right now.

That left Biltmore, 600 miles away. My chances of getting there any time soon were pretty slim and I sort of pushed it to the back of my mind, focusing on more local rides this year. Imagine my surprise and delight when the opportunity to do this ride on a horse I know and love fell right into my lap.

I was sitting under the tent at OD, chatting with my friends, Ival and Wendy. I used to ride with them all over the place, but we haven't had a chance to compete together since 2011. I was lamenting my catch riding situation when Wendy threw the idea on the table.

"Well, how would you like to do Biltmore?"
"I would love to. When is it? I'd have to find a horse..."
"It's in a month and you could ride Clover!"

Apparently Wendy has been wanting to do the Biltmore 55 with her young horse, Fleuron, but Ival had family obligations that weekend and wouldn't be able to go. Without a riding partner and travel buddy, Wendy was looking at just staying home. Having me ride Clover would be a win for everyone involved. I would get to go to Biltmore (and be able to excuse myself from Vermont). Wendy would get someone to ride and travel with, and Ival wouldn't have to feel guilty about leaving Wendy for the weekend.

Biltmore would present me with a lot of firsts. It would be my first time riding in North Carolina (I had only been there once before). It would be my first competition in the Southeast region of AERC. In fact, it would be my first ride outside the Northeast region. It would also be my first time competing Clover despite the fact that I trained her back in my SRF days and have put some trail miles on her during conditioning rides over the years. As it turned out, it would also be my first time traveling through Tennessee. There was a lot to look forward to.

Mike, as usual, jumped right on board with the idea, offering to crew, photograph, and day-drink.

Unfortunately, Mike was able to get Friday off, but not Thursday. Since it's a 10.5 hour drive without a horse trailer, Wendy wanted to make sure the horses had as much time to rest before the ride as possible. This meant leaving super early on Friday morning. So, after a 45 surgery day at the clinic and a vet visit for JR, Mike and I had dinner and went to bed at our usual time, setting an alarm for the lovely hour of 2am. We were on the road half an hour later, and had the horses loaded and on the highway long before the sun came up.

The ride down to NC was long, but beautiful. Not surprisingly, Mike and I slept for some of the trip. By now, we've become pretty familiar with interstate 81. We've been on it more times than I can count over the last three years. Virginia is starting to feel like it's right in my back yard.

We spent a lot of time chatting about this and that and catching up on the goings on in each other's lives. We stopped for gas frequently (hauling a three horse slant with LQ will do that), checking the horses often along the way. But mostly I just gawked at the scenery. I get a kick out of watching the landscape, terrain, and plant life change as we travel around the country for these events. For some reason, I was surprised at how gorgeous TN was. I had pictured it to be mostly flat, oddly enough, and was impressed with the 'lumpy mountains' just across the border. I have added Tennessee to my to-ride list.

After nearly 12 hours in the truck, we finally arrived at the Biltmore Estate, where the ride is held. For those not familiar, Biltmore is the largest privately owned house in the United States, located on 8,000 acres (of the original 125,000), which has been open to the public since 1930.

For those of you who are wondering, this is what the Biltmore House looks like:
Image from Wikipedia. This photo gives a better idea of the landscape.
The official Biltmore website warns that visitors are often surprised at the size of the estate, but even with that forewarning, I was blown away. After signing in at the front gate (we had to have special access and have our names on a pre-approved list; it was very VIP) we drove across the grounds to the equestrian center, where ride camp would be. My jaw was hanging open and I kept marveling at "all the plants and rocks and water!"

Riding out of the mist into the first hold.
As we rolled into the horse camping area, we were surprised at how few trailers there were. Despite the fact that I saw a few numbers on hindquarters, this didn't appear to be a good turn out for such a well known ride. It turned out that this was just the day camp section of the equestrian center, however, and ride camp was still further down the road. 

We rounded a turn and suddenly there were many, many horse trailers, tents, and crew areas. "That's more like it!" Mike exclaimed as we pulled in. We stopped for wrist bands and meal tickets, then drove on to find a parking spot.

Camp was at the bottom of the estate, along the French Broad River. There was a ton of grass for the horses to eat, and some of the estate's resident equines dotted the pastures along the back edge. Vetting was next to the fancy outdoor riding arena, and there was a horse scale nearby. I weighed Clover at the beginning of the ride. She weighed 1005lb. By the end, she would drop 50 pounds.

After we got parked and unloaded, we went up to vet. It had been a long day for the horses, and I knew they wouldn't score perfectly at the initial vetting. Clover pulsed in at 40bpm (not bad for a non-Arab!) She was a little dehydrated and her guts were a bit quiet, but she trotted sound and perky, and got a B+ for overall impression. 

She also got scored a 5 on the body condition scale, which I told Ival, who has been worried that she's getting too fat. In fact, the vet noted that she could use some extra groceries if she was going to continue doing 50's. I'm glad I'm not the only one who wants to see her endurance horses a little fat!

Mike's epic photo of Fleuron, and a good 

demonstration of why I want an Asgard.
We had just enough time to finish unpacking and setting up before it was time for awards for the Friday distances (it was a two day event) and ride briefing. What followed the ride meeting was one of the best ride dinners I have ever had, catered by the estate's restaurant, and featuring the world's most delicious desert (blackberry tart, still hot from the oven, and coated in fresh Chantilly cream). In fact, I think this meal comes second only to the lobster we had in Maine. I may have mentioned this before, but I really do join AERC for the food.

After dinner and a few beers, we were off to an early bed time. Mike and I felt like we were living the pampered life, sleeping on the pull out couch in Wendy's living quarters. That may sound like roughing it to some people, but after sleeping in the front seats of my hatchback at the last two rides, it was a major upgrade. My only complaint was the heat. Mike and I are not summer people to begin with. I'm not sure what I was thinking, doing a ride in NC in the middle of July!

We were up at 4:30am for a 6am start. The horses must have known what we were doing, but Clover eyed me suspiciously anyway when I stuck her on the high tie. We were tacked up, electrolyted, and ready to go before I knew it. Our plan was to wait for the rest of the 55's to go out before hitting the trail ourselves. Fleuron has an issue with horses rushing up behind him, especially early in a ride, and we wanted to make this as positive an experience as possible. My only goal for the day was for all of us to complete.

We were mounted and  walking the horses around camp very shortly after that anyway. That's when I realized that I had made a big mistake by not bringing my own saddle. Everyone had told me how comfortable Ival's Big Horn endurance saddle, complete with its wool seat saver, was, and I always like to ride a horse in its own saddle when possible. However, as soon as I swung a leg over, I knew I was in for a rough day. The saddle was hard as a rock, despite the wool, and I could tell that something about the tree was definitely going to rub. Bummer, but not a whole lot I could do about it...

At 6am, the 55's were off. As they disappeared up stream on the blue trail, Mike gave me our traditional pre-ride kiss good luck. "I love you. Have fun, be safe, come back to me." And then we were off too.

It was still dark as we rode out, and I was grateful for my headlamp. It didn't do much in the way of illuminating the trail ahead, but it did give us some visibility in terms of cars passing us as we rode down the estate paths. At this point, there was a heavy fog sitting over the river, and I secretly hoped that it would stay overcast until we were done with our ride. Even though we were still enjoying the morning cool, the humidity was high and I could feel that it was going to be a hot day.

I quickly fell in love with the trails at Biltmore, even though we were on the least scenic of the loops. Everything about this ride was like something straight out of a country song: muddy waters, red dirt roads, tall pines, clay in the soil. It was enough to make me homesick for someplace I've never lived.

The only issue we had on the first loop was that the LD's were right behind us. Apparently racing the LD's is big in the SE, and they were blasting past us for a good chunk of the loop. Fleuron and Wendy were not thrilled, and I tried my best to shield them from the onslaught.

Wendy and I made good time on the first loop, covering twelve miles in just under an hour and forty-five minutes. The great thing about this ride is that we had excellent cell phone service out on trail and in camp. I was able to give Mike a head's up that we were coming in before we actually reached camp. 

This ride is put on by Stagg and Cheryl Newmann, and everything about it is organized and well-planned. I wouldn't expect anything less. One of the many wonderful things that they did was to provide ice for the horses at all the holds. One bag per horse per hold. It was something we would wind up being very grateful for, but after the first loop, we didn't even need our first bags of ice.

We came into the hold at 7:42 and put the heart monitors on the horses. They were both ready to pulse, thanks to the fact that we had walked the last stretch in. Three minutes later, Clover pulsed in at 60, with a CRI of 60/60. She scored A's all across the board, and I was thrilled. 

Once we were vetted, the horses settled down to eat, and Mike made sure I was taking care of myself. I ate bananas and yogurts, and Mike replenished the Gatorade I had been dutifully drinking on trail. I took a moment to enjoy AERC's luxurious 40 minute hold. 

At 8:25 am, we were off again. This time, we were following the black access trail along the base of the estate, then crossing over the French Broad to pick up the yellow trail.The first section of this trail was general use paths. We saw bike riders, joggers, and families walking dogs. We rode across trail where carriage rides and hack horses go out. We also saw signs for the Segway tours, which cracked me right up. 

The bridge over the French Broad was quite a sight, and a lot of horses seemed to have an issue with it. I don't know if it was the concrete footing or the white rails or the sheer size of it, but many riders dismounted and led their horses across. I chuckled because it's something I think Ozzy would have done without a second though, but he freaks out at sewer drains every time.

Once we were across the river, the terrain changed, and it was more like riding in the wilderness (except that it was exceptionally well groomed). 

On this loop, we rode past the estate's farm section, where Clover had an absolute melt down about the food troughs in the cow pasture (but was unfazed by the guard dog who lives with the sheep and was charging the fence line and barking as we rode past). 

After that, we arrived at what was my favorite section of the trails for the day. We emerged from the forest over the vineyards, riding along the crest of a steep foothill. The view all around went for miles. Golden fields dipped across the horizon, and blue mountains rose high in the distance. The trail wound dramatically ahead of us, leading to a valley where a crystal blue lake waited for us. I wow'ed out loud when I saw the view, and my point and shoot photos do not do it justice.

I was thrilled to see that the ride photographer was stationed here. I can only imagine the photos you could get out there. There are no words.
Photo ©Kenneth Martin, Smith's Photography, used with permission.
We did the second loop, 14 miles, in just under two hours. The sun emerged from the haze just as we were heading back to camp, and I groaned, knowing that we had many hot miles still ahead of us. Mike was ready and waiting for us when we arrived, with ice in the water buckets for sponging. We were riding into camp on sunlit paths, and in that kind of heat, it's only productive to walk in the shade, so we came trotting into the hold, at a controlled pace, but trotting nonetheless. After a quick sponging, both Clover and Fleuron were ready to vet right in. Five minutes after our in time, Clover pulsed at 64 on the dot, with a CRI of 64/64. Once again, she had A's all across the board. Once again, we let the horses eat and took care of ourselves.

Much to my dismay, the longest loop for the day, 17.6 miles, was next. At most rides, they get the longest loop done first, but I know ride management was trying to keep us in the shade as much as possible for the later parts of the ride. Still, it was a mental challenge to brace for this loop. I had Mike pack me a second Gatorade in my saddle bags, watering it down since I'd probably be chock full of electrolytes by the time I got to it.

At 11:03, approaching the hottest part of the day, we went back out on the black access trail, looking for the green trail markers on the far side of the river. Not only was this the longest loop of the day, but it also featured the most hills. We climbed up, then down, then up again, seemingly forever. We passed over camp twice, and I sympathized with the horses' frustration. "It's right there. Can't we just swim the river and go home?" I have to say that the difference between a 50 mile ride and a 55 mile ride may not seem like much, but when you're living it, those five miles make a big difference. I would have gladly taken them off that never-ending green loop. 

We weren't the only ones who were struggling on this loop. I think we were riding in dead last place for the first two loops, and at one point, a timer had told us, "You've got nothing but the day ahead of you," but on this loop, we caught several riders. We had taken a woman on a mustang mare out of the second hold with us, but we lost her somewhere on that loop as well. She would eventually end up pulling... RO.

By the time we were heading back in to camp, the horses were visibly tired, Clover more so than Fleuron. We had been out on trail for nearly three hours, and the heat, which was more intense than the heat we get here in Jersey, despite reportedly mild temperatures for the region, was really wearing on us all. Once again, we were coming into camp mostly in the sun. I was very grateful for the tunnel of trees right before the crewing area, and I'm  not sure we would have completed without it. I let Clover walk and walk in the shade, and dismounted and loosened her girth long before we were at the in-timer, but she was panting and sluggish nonetheless.

I had texted ahead to Mike. "We're coming in. Hot. Get ice."

I stripped Clover's tack under our hold tent and sponged her, first with cool water, then with cold. I held my breath as I put the heart monitor on her.



I sponged and scraped and sponged and scraped, but Clover's pulse still hung at 72. If I let her eat, it spiked back to the 80's. I could get her down to hovering at 68, but if I stopped icing her for a second, she would go back up to the 70's. Time ticked by, eating away at the 30 minutes we had to come down to 64, and I was starting to worry. Part of the problem was that Clover had had to pee for the better part of the last 17 miles, but she flat out refused to do it. I parked her in some discarded hay. Nothing. I whistled and begged and kept on sponging and pumping her full of water. She held it still.

The out timers kindly let me park her under their tent so I could keep her in the shade while I waited, then not have to walk far to vet. Mike brought a bucket of ice and kept sponging and scraping with me. I kept checking the heart monitor.

At long last, almost 15 minutes after we arrived, her pulse came down to 64 just long enough for her to meet the criteria, but Clover wasn't herself. Her CRI was 64/68, the worst it had been all day. Her guts were quiet and her skin tenting and jug refill were slow, despite the fact that she'd been drinking at every possible spot on trail. She trotted sound for me, but she wasn't her usual peppy self.

The vet decided to hold my card, despite the fact that there was nothing outwardly wrong with Clover. I am grateful for a vet who cared enough to want to see us again. I've come to expect that in the endurance world, but it's still good to see.

As soon as we got through the vetting, Clover parked out and peed. Immediately, her heart rate came back down. She stuffed herself full of hay and grain, then drank half a tub of water. When it was time for her re-check, her guts sounded good again.

"I'm letting you continue," the vet told me in a stern voice. "Don't you hurt this horse."
"Trust me," I assured him. "I am going to take very good care of this girl. If we have to walk the entire last loop, that's fine by me. We're not racing. I just want a completion and a healthy horse."

The last loop was only ten miles, but I really wasn't sure we would make it. Wendy's out time had been a full fifteen minutes before mine, and she decided to take it, in case Clover wasn't going to go back out. I waited a bit after my own out time to hit the trail again. At first, I was worried that I'd have a hard time convincing Clover to leave camp, especially alone, but she seemed up to the task, trotting slowly, but happily past the horse trailers and out onto the orange trail.

I took my time that last loop, allowing Clover to walk all the flat spots, and shuffle the down hills. At one point, after a particularly long climb, I found her panting and dismounted to lead her in hand for a while. Unfortunately, that just made her slow down even more, not something I thought was possible.

"We don't have to go fast," I told her, "But we do have to make forward progress." It was well after 3pm by that point, and I forgot that the end time for the ride was 7:12pm, not 6pm (hooray extra five miles). I was slightly concerned that we would be over time if we kept going at the rate we were going.

About halfway through the loop, we came upon a water trough next to a servant's quarters. The water was clear and cold, and Clover drank deeply.I sponged her for several minutes, using my hands to scrape the excess water from her neck and shoulders. I let her play in the water and we just stood for ten minutes. It was a shady spot and there was a breeze. If she wanted a break, this would be the place to take one.

Then, very suddenly, Clover threw her head in the air and caught her second wind. She must have known that Fleuron was ahead somewhere, and she gave a mighty whinny that echoed through the empty forest around us. Suddenly, she was trotting boldly forward with no encouragement for me, even offering to canter some of the up hills. I wasn't sure how much go she would have left, and I wasn't about to stop whatever she was going to offer. I grabbed some mane, got up in my half seat, and just enjoyed the ride. We rode endless switchbacks down the mountain, and Clover maintained her speed. Periodically, she would scream into the still, hot air around us. I strained to listen for any sound at all, but no answer ever came.

Just as I was starting to wonder if horses can hallucinate, I heard a familiar neigh from the gully below. Fleuron and Wendy were stopped at a stream just ahead. Wendy swears this was the first and only time that Fleuron called, but Clover must have known he was there. The horses were delighted to see each other, and greeted one another with arched necks and flared nostrils, before heading off side by side with energy renewed. I think Wendy was just as happy to see me as Fleuron was to see Clover, and we fell back into the lead. 

The rest of the loop flew by, even though we were taking frequent walk breaks. Before I knew it, we appeared in a field just below the House. I snapped a ton of photos, knowing that none of them would do justice to the view above us. It was like something out of a story book. 

The trail in the background is like a lot of what we rode that day.
From there, I knew where we were, and I counted down the minutes to the finish line. Wendy and I trotted the horses happily over the finish, whooping and cheering that we had done it.

"Where's everyone else?" a volunteer asked.
"Why, are we dead last?" I asked, thinking I knew the answer. Turtle and Heir Apparent to the Turtle. 
I was stunned when the volunteer replied, "Far from it. You guys are sixth. Would you like to tie?"
"Of course! We rode together all day. It was a team effort!"

Top ten at Biltmore! Now all we had to do was get our completions.

No wonder the vet had been reluctant to let me go back out. He probably thought, "Here's this kid racing this off breed horse in the heat."

The finish line was about two miles away from ride camp, and I wished Clover would walk faster behind me so that I could dismount and loosen the girth, but we just crawled in, eating away at the minutes to our 50 minute required pulse time.

For the last time, I texted Mike. "Heading in. Very slowly. Need all the ice you can get."

At last, we arrived at the crewing area. Mike helped me strip tack from Clover and I poured cold water over all her large muscle groups. It had taken us almost two hours to ride that last ten miles, but it was well worth it when Clover pulsed in at 64, then earned her best CRI of the day... 64/60. She trotted out sound and willing, she was well hydrated, and her guts were rumbling away. Clover finished a long, hot 55 (her first distance over 50) with an overall impression of A- (better than her initial vet in!) and a ride time 8h36m, completely respectable for the terrain.

I was walking on air (and beer) for the rest of the day. Top Ten at the Biltmore 55 was quite a feat.

I was exhausted and starving. I scarfed down what tasted like heavenly hot dogs for dinner, and I think I was asleep before the sun was completely out of the sky.

We were up before the sun on Sunday as well, and Mike made quick work of packing everything away. We were on the road by 6:30am. I slept through a lot more of the drive than I had on the way down, but was thrilled at the greeting we received when we reached the barn. Ival was there with Kris, the girl who has been riding and conditioning Clover every week, and they were cheering when they saw us.

I've had a week and a half to reflect on the ride now, and I have to do my duty to the Endurance Trifecta ;) and talk about what worked:
-Ice at the holds
-Drinking a bottle per loop
-Potty breaks at the holds
-Eating yogurt
-Letting Clover tell me when she wanted to go and when she needed to break
-Sponging on trail
-Walking into the first hold
-Wendy's magic electrolytes
-My own fitness. I am proud to report that I wasn't the least bit muscle sore after this ride, and felt like I could have definitely done another 25 miles.

And what didn't work:
-Tom thumb bit. I hate these anyway. Clover is mostly good and I rode most of the day one-handed on a loose rein, but when she's not listening, I have to wrestle with her in this bit. I am definitely bringing my own next time.
-The saddle. HOLY CRAP. I had an open sore on my butt from it. Never again.
-Yelling at Mike for not doing 1.5million things at once. He threatened to punch me in the head, and I snapped out of it. As always, he's the very best crew/photographer a girl could ever ask for.

All in all this was a very tough, but totally gorgeous ride. I'm glad I got to do it and I would definitely do it again. Also proof positive that standardbreds are awesome.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Introducing: Bucho

I have worked at the clinic for two and a half years. In that time, I have managed to say no to every cat that has come through in need of a home. I have said no to cute kittens, sad seniors, and just about everything in between. Sweet cats, mean cats, sick cats. Most have had safety nets in the form of rescue organizations, but some have not. One in particular had to be euthanized because there was no place for him. It haunted me.

I am not a cat person. I don't dislike cats by any stretch of the imagination. I had three cats at my first apartment in Hopewell. Melissa still has Runty. Having to give up my cats broke my heart, but it also made me realize that I don't have any desire to own a house cat. Of course, I love Bob to pieces, and Mike and I have discussed having friendly barn cats if we ever get a place of our own.

Still, it hasn't been hard to say no to cats. Especially since I worried that if I said yes to one, it would be the start of a vicious cycle and I'd end up with 20.

Last week, a cat named Bebucho came into the clinic. He was from Princeton. He was a well loved cat who belonged to a man named Jose. Unfortunately, Jose got dragged out of his house by federal marshals, and an un-neutered Bucho* wound up homeless.Luckily for Bucho, he's quite a character. He has been an outdoor cat all along, and has really buttered up the neighbors along the way. The whole neighborhood stepped in to take care of the charming little guy. The first thing they decided to do when Jose's girlfriend expressed zero interest in keeping the cat was to get him neutered, vaccinated, and tested.

*Bucho, by the way, was the name of the Mexican drug lord in Desperado. How appropriate.

And so Bucho came into the clinic last week. As he was getting signed in, I petted him in his carrier. He rubbed all over me and chatted my ear off.

I've been joking that I would take the right cat if it came along. It would have to be an adult male. It would have to be a brown tabby, preferably with some white. It had to be friendly, and it had to have no place else to go. It also had to be an outdoor-only cat. Mostly because Mike and I don't want a house cat, but also because I worry that Julio couldn't be trusted.

It was decided that Bucho would be euthanized if he tested positive for either FeLV or FIV. The neighborhood was having a hard enough time placing him. The chances of him testing positive were slim, and the decision was made pretty easily. In fact, that's why we have people make up their minds before we test the cat. It's easier to think straight before emotions are involved.

Imagine my horror when the SNAP test ran and the little blue dot appeared under FIV. My heart sank. Out of the two diseases, FIV is the more manageable and less contagious. It is only spread through mating or biting. A neutered male cat is not likely to do either. Cats can live happily for years with the disease.

Knowing that this cat had a bit of a fan club, I broke protocol and called the woman who had brought him in. I explained the risks of FIV, but also told her how it was different from leukemia. "Are you sure you want to put him down?" I asked. I could tell that she was heartbroken, but with her own indoor cats at home, what options did she have.

Bucho was still sedated and I gave the woman who brought him in a chance to make a few phone calls. Unfortunately, the verdict came back the same.
"We have no choice. He doesn't have a home. Nobody wants him. We have to put him to sleep..."
And then, as if I was having an out of body experience, the following words left my mouth, "O for god's sake... if you foot the bill, I will just take him." Shortly after that, I muttered, "Mike is going to kill me."

So I got him neutered, ear tipped, and vaccinated for everything possible, including FeLV. He woke up after surgery and went right back to being sweet, charming, and talkative.

I called Mike.
"Hi babe. I made a decision and you're going to be mad at me for it, but I want you to remember that I could make up some story about this. Instead, I'm choosing to be honest with you."
"We have a cat, don't we?"

Mike is such a good sport. When I thanked him for taking the news so well, he replied, "I'm not going to be mad at you for saving an animal's life." I love him with all I have.

Just like that, Bucho came home. Our landlord welcomed him onto the property, figuring he could be the barn's mouse-killer, and even offering to house him in his apartment for the first night. We live on a farm with no other cats, and Bucho sticks close by. Of course there are risks to living out here. He could get killed by a fox or hit by a car. He could run off and never come back. He could get grabbed by a neighbor's dog. He could get sick and perish. My thought, however, is that he wouldn't be here at all if we hadn't taken him.

Bucho settled right in. He jumped off the front porch, taunted the horses for a few minutes, ran along the top of the fence, and clambered up the pine tree to our back deck.The pine tree has become his favorite hang out spot, and there's a pretty good chance of seeing him up there at any given moment.

And just like that... I have two horses, a pony, two dogs, and a cat. To be fair, one of the horses is leaving soon... but no spoilers on that!

Friday, July 18, 2014

A Year With Julio

A Team Unruly entry reflecting on our first year with Julio. He currently has his nose plastered to the window fan, smelling all the things at once (in fast forward).

Thursday, July 17, 2014

TBT: Sarah's Photos of Herbie and Julio

So this is sort of cheating since it hasn't been that long, but I'm so far behind on blogging that I never finished the story of Sarah's visit. Since I'm still without photo editing software, it takes me forever to get pictures ready for posting. My computer time is limited as it is, so I'm going to take this moment to share some photos that Sarah got of Herbie and Julio while she was here. That Monday, we took them to the Sourland Reservation, right around the corner from the apartment. Since it's so close and convenient, it's a favorite place of mine to take them.

Julio's favorite thing.

Me and my adventure pups. And yes, I do wear breeches pretty much all the time.

The Year of Never Ending Car Woes

Last year, it was medical issue after medical issue. This year it's vehicle issue after vehicle issue. I guess I should be grateful. The shop keeps dropping the ball on my car repair. After nearly three weeks, it's still not fixed. I'm driving Mike's little truck, which is usually his daily driver. He's driving the '91 Silverado. Two days ago, on the way to work, the serpentine belt shredded. That wouldn't have been so bad except that it chewed through the power steering line in the process. Mike was able to pull it into a school parking lot and leave it there with a note while he got picked up for work. He's been driving a work truck since. The night it happened, we had vicious storms that left us without power well into the following day. Yesterday we spent an hour working on it. We got the belt replaced, but the bolts to the line are inaccessible without a lift. *sigh* Looks like we're having another vehicle towed. Any time the universe would like to give us a break would be fine...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Ozzy and JR

Not much to report on Ozzy and JR lately. They've been living a peaceful, laid back life since I moved them in March.

Ozzy seems to keep himself entertained, as always. The two of them have a pasture to themselves, and their run-in shed features two separate stalls with a hay room in between. Ozzy loves having his own stall, especially since there are doors on either side and he can walk right through it.

Additionally, Ozzy seems to be collecting baby birds. The rafters in his stall are lined with about two dozen nests, full of birds of varying types and ages. He looks at me like, "These are my birds and I love them." What a weirdo.

The farm is in a tough part of the valley, and while there is grass, it's not the same as the rolling pastures I had at Carolyn's. The front fields are green, but the grass is short. The ring has grass, but it's over stone footing. The back pasture that JR and Ozzy have access to has great grass, but gets really swampy when it rains, and it's been raining a lot this year. As a result, I have Ozzy on grain for the first time in years. He doesn't eat much, but I think he's thrilled to be getting the 'good stuff' again.

We've been doing more riding than we have since we stopped doing endurance, and I think Ozzy likes that. We still don't go out as much as I'd like, but that's mostly a scheduling thing on my end. I'm so so busy. Ozzy is sound and happy to work, which is good. He has been fumbling over his feet a bit more than he has in the past, but I'm not really concerned. I suspect that it's a lack of fitness more than anything. I'm sure it doesn't help that I've been riding all these really sure-footed endurance horses lately. I love Ozzy, but he's really kind of a fumbly-bumbly tank.

I love shed.

O! Hey, ma!

I'd like to see more of a topline, but I can't complain about his condition over all. 
JR gave me a bit of a scare last week. He's been trail riding alongside Ozzy whenever someone wants to tag along. I have also been using him to pony four year old Booger on her early trail excursions (more on that coming up).

I took him out on Wednesday with Booger alongside, and he was uncharacteristically naughty. At one point, he flat out refused to move past the golf course. It's pretty bad when the young, green horse is leading the 17 year old, dead broke pony down the hill. After that, he was jigging, frothing, and threatening to bolt. I don't think he has it in him to actually take off, but it was not a ride I expected on my old, reliable man.

While jigging and foaming back to the barn, JR took a bad step. Afterwards, he felt really off in his left hind. He walked out of it and we were almost home. I brought him in, cold hosed him, and put him back out to pasture.

The next day, when I went out to feed, JR looked terrible. He was gimping, toe dragging, and head bobbing. He was also resting the hind leg. Normally, I wouldn't have called the vet for this... at least, not right away... but I was about to leave for Biltmore for three days and he's not technically my horse. I got his owner on the phone and asked permission to have my vet out for an after hours lameness exam.

The exam revealed pretty much what I suspected.

JR was on an oral joint supplement when he came to me. I'm not a fan of feed through stuff for a variety of reasons, and when he got fat, I weaned him off the supplement. He has been off the supplement for a year and a half now, and has done well.

After he fell with Erin last fall, he developed a slight hitch in his right shoulder. If it's cold out or he works really hard, he gets just the slightest bit off in it. In the winter, he starts out a bit stiff, but then warms out of it. We're really using him for mostly walk-trot trail rides, so that was fine. He doesn't give lessons any more. I'm not jumping him. He doesn't have to go far. I just need him to be sane and relatively sound.

JR is slimmer this year than he's been in the past two years. He's still chunky, but he's not obese. The grass situation actually works to his benefit. Still, the extra weight on a 17 year old pony who worked hard in his younger years probably isn't helping.

We already knew JR had arthritis all over. My vet's conclusion is that he just has corruption everywhere and could really benefit from an IM supplement. Personally, I like Adequan and PolyGlyCan. I've been wanting to bring up this subject for a while now, and this was my opportunity. Since JR's owner pays for his medical expenses, it's ultimately her decision what treatment he gets.

I emailed her, worried that I was going to have to persuade her to spend money on a pony she hasn't seen in two years, or that I would have to send him home after all this time. As always, his owner was wonderful. She wrote back, "Of course... let's do whatever is best for him." She uses Pentosan on some of her own horses and suggested we start there. My own vet isn't a big fan of Pentosan, but it's a jumping off point. If he doesn't improve, I'll discuss moving him to something more effective.

So there you have it... updates on the two horses I see every day. Ozzy turned out to be the pleasure horse  I was looking for when I got him seven years ago, and JR is starting to slow down. Dancer... is going to need a whole entry or six to chronicle his saga.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Brookfield 30 (and how a drunk driver hit us on the way home)

I have another ride coming up this weekend, so I should probably suck it up and write about the last one I did!

I had never heard of the Brookfield CTR before I was signed up to ride it this year. This is really a shame because it is an amazing ride, and I would highly highly recommend it to everyone. When Sandy found out I was riding it, she told me that it would be her favorite ride if it wasn't for the fact that the horses have to be kept stalled in camp. Honestly, after Steel's trailer-side antics at Cheshire, I was relieved to have her safely contained. I think Dodie felt the same. This would be Steel's first official CTR, but I felt confident that she would be great.

The nice thing about CTR with Dodie is that I don't have to worry about when I get there. As long as I arrive in time to throw a leg over the horse, things are fine. Since my big lesson days are Fridays and Saturdays, and since it's the peak of cutting season for Mike, my ride schedule is often determined by how many days off we can afford to take (not many). The fact that Mike and I could work a full day on Friday before heading up to NY state was a definite selling point for this ride.

Admittedly, the idea of driving 300 miles to NY after work on Friday, riding 30 miles on Saturday, and returning Saturday night was a bit daunting, but we like to live on the edge. Mike and I worked our long, demanding days, came home for a quick dinner, guzzled a few extra cups of coffee, let the dogs out one more time, and hit the road. The first stretch of the drive took me over familiar roads to the northeast corner of Pennsylvania, where I spent most of my summer in 2010. It was eerie and flashback-y.

Before long, we hit the open highway. There was a surprising amount of cars on the road, but we made good time. In the dead of night, there wasn't much to look at, and we eventually ran out of things to talk at. We killed a good bit of time just reading the funny names off street signs. After that, any time it got quiet, Mike would chant, "Lackawanna, lackawanna, lackawanna..." I also now have the burning desire to name a dog Chenango and a kitten Harpurr.

We cut a full hour off our estimated travel time and arrived in Brookfield around 1am. After driving the local 'highway' through towns that reminded me of my summers in Walton, we made our way down a few dirt roads and arrived at the Madison County Fairgrounds. Thankfully, the gate was merely closed, and not locked.

Mike and I drove quietly through camp, locating Dodie's rig, and finding an out of the way spot to park. We got out of the car long enough to stretch our legs, pee, and take in the unbelievable amount of stars. Then we crawled back inside, kicked off our shoes, threw back the seats, and went to sleep.

Rise and shine at 5am. We quickly spotted Dodie, decked out in yellow for easy identification. I greeted her cheerfully, asked where there was coffee to be had, and figured out where I was in the sign in process. Breakfast was being served in the dining hall. Steel was vetted and ready to go. I still had to sign a release and pay a fee.

I moseyed over to the sign in trailer, where it appeared that nobody was up yet. When the door popped open, it turned out that I knew the ride managers. They were the couple who I rode 80 miles in Maryland with. That was the year we all got stung by bees three miles away from the finish line. I'm glad we're able to laugh about that cringe-worthy experience now...

The ride briefing was the night before. Apparently it was one of the better ride meetings anyone has been to, and I really missed out. Dodie filled me in on the basic details. We would be riding one lollipop loop. The hold was at the far end, and would be pretty much impossible to find without a local. I told Mike that it would be great if he could make it to the hold, but that we would understand if he couldn't get there. Dodie also pointed out a good person to follow.

The rest of the pre-ride passed quickly, but peacefully. There was a distinct lack of that 'hurry up and wait' mentality. We got the horses out of their stalls and cleaned up, then let them graze for a little while before getting them tacked up. Once I had Steel decked out in our matchy-matchy lime green, I swung a leg over and let her wander around camp at her own pace. She was definitely interested in things going on around her, but never put a foot out of place. Good girl.

Dodie and I before the start.
At 7 o'clock on the dot, we were off, with a 5h to 5h30m ride time window. We set off at a lively trot down the road in front of camp, and I was impressed at how much Steel's extended trot has improved. The little girl can really boogie.

A little way down the street, we turned left into the forest. A few moments later, we came to a narrow wooden bridge that then turned into an even narrower wooden bridge. The horses in front of us weren't having anything to do with it, and Daisy needed a little bit of encouragement, but Steel clip clopped right over it like she'd been doing it her whole life. (She hasn't. She was a show horse for the first 14 years!)

As I looked left and right off the bridge, I started to sorely regret not bringing my helmet cam to this ride. It's so hard for me to edit and process video right now, that I end up getting frustrated and letting the footage sit and sit (or go to waste entirely). I opted to leave the helmet cam at home this time and just bring the point and shoot. The views at Brookfield were amazing. From the water crossings to the fairytale-like forest to the magical lighting. The trails were gorgeous, and I never tired of the scenery.

The view from the bridge.
Next thing I knew, we were flying through the forest. Daisy was setting a fast pace, and Steel was keeping right up. I stood up in my stirrups and got out of her way. We were weaving between ancient trees, flying around bends and twists in the trail, and motoring up and down hills. For a moment, I thought, "I wish we were doing endurance, not CTR! We'd rock it!"

After passing a few people, however, Daisy started to get some race brain. Dodie wasn't having any of it, and dismounted to let Daisy remember her manners. Daisy was furious. "Lady, what are you DOING?!?!? Those other horses are passing us. We could be WINNING." Steel just stood there. "Ok, we're stopped now. That's fine..."

Once Daisy settled, Dodie mounted up and we moved off again. From then on, we had a brilliant ride. We rode some country streets and some logging roads, one of which was an active logging site, complete with roaring machinery and piles of tree trunks.

We only had one minor mishap on the first loop. There were a lot of wooden foot bridges in the boggier sections of the trail. The horses went across them without hesitating. At one point, Steel got a little too comfortable and tried to trot across one. She slipped on some wet leaves on the already slippery wooden surface and her feet went out from under her. She went down hard, and I really thought I was going to eat dirt for a second, as her legs splayed out in all directions. But, somehow, Steel managed to regain her footing. She stood up, puffing slightly, and looked over her shoulder at me with a slightly panicked look in her eye.

"Good save, pretty girl," I patted her neck and tried to get my heart rate down.

Towards the second half of the first loop, we started to catch up to people again. Our horses were going pretty fast, and we had to ask to pass a few people. One group seemed irritated by our jingle bells, so we offered to get in front of them and  put some distance between us.

The next to final stretch to the hold was a big up hill climb, unfortunate when you want to start bringing your horses' pulses down. I was grateful that we were in the shade, and was awestruck by the trees and the lighting around us.

We finally reached the access road to the hold, and passed the truck that Dodie has instructed Mike to follow.
"Did a little blue hatchback follow you up here?" I asked the driver.
"I didn't lead anybody up," he answered, and my heart sank. "But other people did..."

As we came trotting up the gravel road to the hold, I spotted Mike standing by the in-timer, camera in hand. I was thrilled. It turns out he had not only found the hold, but helped the ride management set it up. As usual, he was making a good name for himself in camp. I swear, we're like the distance riding power couple. Haha.

Coming into the hold.
I set to taking care of Steel right away. Despite the fact that ride management had set up many beautiful watering sites along the trail, Steel wasn't drinking. The lack of eating and drinking under saddle has been a concern with her since the beginning. It's a habit she retained from her show days. She just waits until the end of the 'show' to gorge herself. That may work at CDR's, but it certainly won't fly in endurance. I reassured Dodie that I suspected she would be a horse that would drink at twenty miles.

Thankfully, she's also a horse who responds really well to sponging, and I had her pulse down in no time at all. We made our way to the vetting area, trotted perky and sound, and got good scores both for hydration and gut sounds. Steel certainly didn't seem any worse for the wear.

With the horses happily chowing down on their mash, I took the time to take care of myself. Thanks to Mike's influence ("Don't make me applesauce you...") I have started to eat and drink during rides instead of waiting until after. In fact, I brought a bottle of Gatorade with me in my saddle bags and actually drank on trail. *gasp* Actually, I drank the entire bottle over the course of the thirty miles! Ride management also provided a ton of food for riders at the hold. I chowed down on a sandwich and shared my snacks with Steel.

Dodie glanced at her watch, did some math, and decided that we were going a little too fast for ideal time, especially since we'd spent a good bit of time waiting for Daisy to grow her brain back. If we went as fast on the second loop, we'd come in before ideal time. We decided to wait an additional ten minutes at the hold, and rode out at 10am for the second half.

The way out of camp was much more technical than the way up, and we rode down a steep stretch where we couldn't go any faster than a walk.

Shortly after that, we emerged at a lake, where several riders were wading their horses to cool them and encourage them to drink.
Dodie and Daisy in the lake.
I was snapping pictures when someone asked, "What's that in the water?"
Suddenly everyone was evacuating the lake. This ride may not have had bees, but it certainly had leeches! Big ones! Some were close to a foot long! I've never seen anything like it...

As if that wasn't enough excitement, Daisy chose exiting the lake as the perfect time to shake her bridle completely off her head! I turned around, and there's Daisy with nothing on her face! Apparently this isn't news, though, and Dodie had it completely under control before I even realized what was going on.

At least it looks peaceful.
By this point in the ride, Dodie and I had found a lot of common ground and were basically laughing all the way. As we rode into a section of trail that is covered in pine needles, which completely mute the sound of hoof falls, Dodie said, "This looks like the type of place where you'd expect to see Sasquatch."
"Well, I do have my camera ready..."
"Shhh! Don't say that out loud or we won't see him."
"Can you imagine? Sasquatch would like to be friends on Facebook. Would you like to accept?"
"Facebook! Too funny..."
"Yeah... Sasquatch sent me a friend request... also a death threat..."

Sasquatch became our running joke for the ride.

Periodically, Dodie would look back to see how I was doing (usually when I got distracted by a bird and ceased my endless bantering). My response was, "Yay! I love trail riding! Weeee! Horsey!"

At one point, we rode through a puddle and a frog hopped out in front of Steel.
"A frog!" I exclaimed. Then, "Two frogs. THREE FROGS!!! FOUR FROGS!!! So many frogggggs! Coffee coffee coffee..."

I provide my own entertainment.

And just as I thought I was cracking up and that nothing was actually as funny as I was making it, we passed this sign:
You should see Mike's impression of a slow-mo goat.
We did not see the slow goat, but we did pass many dogs and cows, and an entire hoarde of fat, white turkeys. They were exceptionally loud.

Shortly before we came into a water stop, Dodie spotted a boot on the ground. I think it was a Renegade. I dismounted, strapped it to my saddle, and rode on. Shortly after that, we ran into a volunteer who was looking for that precise boot. Hooray!

At the water stop, the most exciting moment of the day happened. I dismounted and approached one of the sponging buckets. Without wasting a second, and almost knocking me off my feet in the process, Steel stretched out her neck and drank deeply from the bucket. She drank and drank, and I cheered and cheered. From that moment on, Steel drank from every  trough we passed. She even sipped from a stream at one point! Good girl!

There was a good bit of road riding on the second half of the 30. Thankfully, there was a nice berm on the side of the road, so we weren't on the actual pavement much. We were also in the middle of nowhere with minimal traffic. Also, I'm pretty sure all the cars we saw were crew and ride volunteers. The views were lovely.

By then, it was getting hot. We kept going as fast as we could to keep the horses from baking at a walk on the hot pavement. This is when we caught up to the couple whose boot I had picked up. Apparently, they were having a lot of boot-related issues, and were concerned they weren't going to make their time. At first, they asked permission to pass us because they were in a hurry, but when they realized the pace we were traveling at, they asked permission to have us pull them along. Steel and Daisy were happy to do it. In fact, I think having horses behind her gave Daisy the extra momentum to really go. We cantered most of this part of the ride.

Once we were off the roads, we were doing a lot of hills in the woods. There had been a lot of rain in the week prior to the ride, and with horses traveling them all day, the trails were getting pretty torn up. There were several mucky spots. We were able to trot a lot of them, but some were bad enough that you just had to walk. This stretch of trail was slowing a lot of people down, and it eventually cost our friends with the booting issues their ride. Miraculously, Steel was navigating all of this without so much as a mis-step.

And then, coming down a nice, slight down hill, things fell apart. The footing was soft, but solid. We were cruising along at a canter. Unbeknownst to me, there was a tree root just under the trail surface. Steel and I must have been lucky number 100 for the day. As Steel passed over the root, it sprang up from the footing, catching her front leg. Steel tripped hard, but she's spry and immediately tried to regain her footing. I heard her step on herself and I knew it was bad. I turned to look over my shoulder, pulling the mare to a stop. There, in the freshly churned up trail, her shoe glinted at me.

"Dammit," I muttered.

I dismounted, retrieved the shoe, and looked over Steel's legs and feet. It was a front shoe, but the foot was in tact. She didn't have any fresh marks on her legs either. I re-mounted, tucked the shoe in my saddle bags and cautiously trotted off. Steel felt sound. She's normally barefoot and had been shod specifically for this ride, so I hoped the lost shoe wouldn't cost her the mileage. Steel's attitude seemed to be, "I don't need no stinkin' shoes!"

Unfortunately, I did end up losing the shoe somewhere along the way, and couldn't waste time going back to find it. Thankfully, there was a farrier at camp and he had her exact shoe in his truck. She also has the type of feet that you can nail to pretty much straight out of the box. Good girl.

By then we were on familiar ground, retracing our steps back to camp. The last few miles flew by and the mares still had plenty of go left. Steel led for a little bit to get Daisy's go flowing again, and then we cruised right along, making our way to that final wooden bridge.

We reached the road to camp right on time, and had a beautiful canter in.

Finish line.
We came in right in the middle of our ideal time. I got my in card, ran down to the barns, and stripped the tack off of Steel. We sponged the horses and Steel drank a ton more water while we waited the twenty minutes to pulse.

Unfortunately, the pulse was being done in the stalls. It was hot and stuffy in the barn and Steel pulsed in at 50, low enough to complete, but higher than I want to see.

From there, we were off to trot out and wait for hands on. Steel trotted out great. Our circles were sloppy, but only because we were under an overhang and it was a tight area to trot in.

Even without the shoe, Steel was sound and completed.

We tucked the horses in their stalls and wandered off to get lunch. That's when we found out that a lot of people were coming in over time. Apparently the mud and the technical stretches were really costing people time. It wasn't an easy ride, but I thought there was plenty of time given the conditions, and was surprised to hear how many people were struggling to make it within their window.

After lunch, we went over to hands on. Steel had some interference marks, but otherwise looked great. She was well hydrated with good gut sounds and seemed perky, alert, and ready for more. I really think she's ready to do a 50!

We spent some time grazing the horses, then went back to Dodie's rig to relax. By then, it was really hot and I was pretty sleepy. Surprisingly, I wasn't at all sore from the ride, but my lack of sleep was starting to catch up to me. Mike and I debated going home, but I really wanted to stay for awards, so we drank some beer and had some laughs. Dodie called Mike a fairy (not really) and we told him all about our new friend, Sasquatch.

I'm glad we stayed for awards because both Daisy and Steel did really, really well. Daisy wound up being Reserve Champion for the 30, and Steel and I came in first in my division, with a pretty impressive score of 95.5. We were just trying to match our ribbons to our halters ;)

Since we had already stayed for awards, and dinner was only an hour away, Mike and I decided to stick around for that too. After all, our meals were already paid for. I'm glad we stayed. We wound up sitting with a great group of people and we laughed our way straight through dinner. It turns out the family we were sitting with already had an inside joke about Sasquatch!

At one point, Mike went to the bathroom. When Dodie came back to find his chair empty, she said, "He's invisible!" I chuckled and she threw in, "Fairies can do that, you know." I just about snorted chicken out my nose!

We stuck around for the 50/50 raffle too. Mike had bought some tickets and was going to donate it back to the trail fund if he won. We didn't win, but it was a good effort.

After that, we decided that we really had to hit the road. We still had a long drive home. Dyandra had watched the dogs for us all day, but I really wanted to get back to them, and get to bed so we could enjoy our Sunday together.

The ride back flew by, and we made good time again. We even saw a lovely sunset along the way. It was lining up to be a perfect weekend.

Then, after an uneventful 600 miles of driving and thirty miles on horseback, we got into an accident pulling into our driveway. We pulled onto our street at midnight, with Blake Shelton's Ol' Red playing on the radio. As I turned on my blinker to turn left into our driveway, I briefly noted that a strange looking set of headlights had appeared behind us at the end of the street, seemingly out of nowhere. We had been the only ones on the road for quite some time, and I was puzzled. That's all the thought I gave it though, and I turned into the driveway, glad to be home.

Suddenly, the world was a mess. Mike was yelling, my car was skidding sideways, my head was hitting the dirver's side window, and the sight out my windshield didn't even make sense. There was a man in what looked like a very badly messed up car. He was bouncing around like a basketball, and I really thought I had killed him. There were tree branches everywhere and my windshield wipers were going a million miles an hour. My turn signal still clicked sadly from in front of my steering wheel.

It took me a second to register that we had just been in a car accident, and I had no idea how it had happened.

Mike was already out of the car and screaming at the guy, who was not only alive, but very, very drunk. I was having a moment of panic because my door wouldn't open and I hadn't gotten it together enough to climb out of the passenger side.

It turns out the drunk guy was in a Polaris Rzr, not a car, which is why I thought the vehicle was so badly mangled. It's basically a roll cage on wheels. He was ripping around in the woods for a couple hours, and was on his way home (just down the road from us). He came flying out of the woods and onto our street. He was probably going 60-70mph. He claims he didn't see us, but I think he was just trying to get around us. He tried to pass on the left as I turned into the driveway, and t-boned me, right in the driver's side door. The force of the impact shoved us sideways off the driveway and into a tree. He ended up in front of my car, between my hood and the tree.

When Mike jumped out of the car, the guy tried to get away. He put the gas pedal to the floor, and the engine screamed over the music he was blasting. Thankfully, the whole front end of the machine was destroyed and it didn't move. I really think he would have run Mike over otherwise.

Then he tried to take off on foot, but Mike stopped him.

By then, I was on the phone with 911.
"I've been involved in an accident with a... a... a... WHAT IS THIS DAMN THING ANYWAY?!?!" I was pretty hysterical at this point, and was yelling obscenities and crying because the car's not even paid off yet.

When they asked if we needed an ambulance, I turned to ask the other driver if he was ok, which is when I realized that he was gone.

"This mother fucker left!!" I yelled into the phone.
That'll be on recording forever and ever. *sigh*

The local police arrived pretty quickly, but we had to wait on the state police since the accident technically took place in three different towns. We were in one town, the guy came from another town, and we landed in our driveway, in a third town. Have I mentioned we live RIGHT on the corner of three different places?

The state trooper we got was a very serious guy who I would not want to mess with. He immediately made it his personal mission to nail this guy.

In the meantime, we had found a Gatorade bottle full of vodka, several empty beers, and a whole cooler of booze in the Polaris. No wonder the guy fled the scene.

Our dogs were going nuts on the back deck and a neighbor stopped by to see if everyone was ok, and to report that he'd heard someone running on foot down the street by his house. Six months and we hadn't met any of the neighbors yet. We met several that night.

Our drunk friend then went on to call a buddy of his, who came to pick him up in his own truck. They then DROVE PAST THE SCENE. I recognized him in the passenger seat and tried to alert the police, but by the time they ran the plates on the truck and confirmed it was him, it was too late.

Unfortunately, you can't nail someone for drunk driving unless you catch them while they still have alcohol in their bloodstream. Bummer.

At one point I asked Mike, "Does this thing have a glove box?"
Sure enough, there was one, and the guy's insurance information was in it. That didn't prove who the driver was, but I did some internet stalking and confirmed that it was him.

Our plan of going to bed early was shot to pieces. We stayed up waiting for the Polaris to get towed and filling out information for a police report.

The police didn't catch the drunk driver that night, but they knew where he lived, and they stopped by the house with a photo so I could confirm that's who was driving. Eventually, they managed to track him down. He was given a dozen citations, from illegal passing to leaving the scene. I was told I'll be getting a subpoena for his court date.

The drunk driver also stopped by here during the week. My landlord intercepted him and told him I wasn't home (I was). He took his contact information and told him not to come back. Mike called him that night, and he was very apologetic. He says he made a lot of bad decisions that night and he wanted to make sure we weren't hurt. He also offered to 'make it right' if my insurance doesn't cover something. It certainly doesn't excuse what he did, but I'm glad he's not looking for further trouble. We're just letting insurance and the police handle it.

As for my car... it was towed on Wednesday, before the holiday weekend. I haven't heard anything back yet, and I'm starting to get concerned. I am planning to call my insurance company about it this afternoon. I have gap coverage in case it's totaled, but that would really put us in a bad spot.

Ugh... I just can't do anything without it being a huge ordeal.

Anyway... have more photos from the ride:

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Absorbine Botanicals Review

When Absorbine reached out and offered to let me try a new line of products in exchange for an honest review, I was really excited. I adore Absorbine as a company and use many of their products on a regular basis. The products they sent over were from their new Botanicals line. Enclosed in the gorgeously wrapped basket was a bottle of body rinse and a bottle of massage foam.

I haven't talked about this on the blog yet, but I started riding Booger last month. She is on a three day a week schedule with me, and while I keep our sessions short and sweet, it's still a lot more work than she's been doing, and she is just shy of four. I was excited to try these products out on her. She's a very expressive filly, and I figured she'd give me an honest review if ever there was one.

Today was the day! I went out to the barn and ground drove Booger all over the property for about half an hour. She has been cranky this week, probably due in large part to the miserable heat we've been having. We didn't work for long, but she was pretty sweaty when we were done. I hosed her off, then decided to try the Body Rinse.

I followed the direction. I was a little skeptical of how little the bottle said to use, but I listened. I was surprised at how fragrant the rinse was, and how far just a little bit went. I rinsed Booger's body with the rinse, focusing on her back and large muscle groups. There was very little sudding, but I could feel the cooling effects on my hands as I worked. Booger gave a big sigh and relaxed. She typically behaves for bath time, but I can't say that she ever really enjoys it, but she did seem to appreciate the cooling sensation on a hot day.

Since Booger seemed to be reacting well to the rinse, I decided to also try the massaging foam. I rubbed it into her legs and over her back. I could feel it softening her coat as I worked, and I have no doubt she'll be silky to the touch tomorrow. By the time I was done, Booger's head was by her knees and her lower lip was flapping. Maybe I need to do some aroma therapy BEFORE our session tomorrow!

I took the filly's word on it and tried some of the massage foam on my own bad shoulder. I have to say, it felt pretty good. It also left my barn smelling minty fresh!