Following Me at Tevis

5 days and counting.

2 days until I leave.

I should probably finish packing. :)))

But before I do that, I just wanted to put up some info for how to follow along on Tevis ride day. There’s quite a bit of coverage via the webcast, as well as Facebook.

I’m rider #47. And I do have one of the GPS SPOT trackers (http://trackleaders.com/teviscup18i.php?name=Ashley_Wingert). 

Sharing this from the Tevis Facebook post, since they already did such a good job of laying everything out and explaining it.

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“The Western States Trail Foundation has a loyal group of volunteers that will be working hard to bring you up to date information during the ride weekend. When the ride starts, there will be a link on the main website http://www.teviscup.org/ to the LIVE WEBCAST. That link will allow you to search the progress of a specific rider, information status by checkpoint, current leaders, and a list of pulled riders. New this year, you can even save a list of Favorites to make checking on their progress throughout the day more streamlined!

You can also find updates, live streaming videos and photos during the course of the ride on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TevisCup/ We have webcast photographers and crew at MORE checkpoints than ever this year. We will be doing our best to provide continual coverage, upload pictures and video live during the event. Live streaming was a big hit last year. We plan to have even more if possible this year!

Additionally, this year we have a totally new feature of optional live GPS tracking for riders! For an additional fee, riders can elect to carry a live tracker, which will send pings to update the riders’ status on the trail every 5 minutes. There may be locations on the trail where GPS signal is too weak to successfully send a ping, the unit will try three times before waiting for the next 5 minute interval. You can follow along with those riders who have elected this service here: http://trackleaders.com/teviscup18 Individual riders GPS units should also be linked to their “Where’s My Rider” webcast page.

All of the people helping to man our EIGHTEEN various checkpoints are volunteers, typically working long hours for nothing more than the love of the event and a spiffy Tshirt. They do their best. Several new innovations have been introduced to provide updates as quickly and error-free as possible. Most stops are either direct internet uploading from the check point or through technology called Winlink which enables emails to be sent over short wave radio. These two things allow us to be more accurate than in the past. We will do our best to keep everyone up to date on their rider.

You can imagine how hard it is to not transpose numbers, either verbally when reading/calling them out (especially for tired riders), or while writing them down/typing them in (think of 3-4 people having to hear/write the number for each instance), especially when you’ve been awake 20+ hours. Keep in mind it’s possible to miss a rider # if they all come in in a big group. If your rider shows up pulled or in a strange place – check again later and don’t automatically take it as gospel. There are automated tools to help the webcast volunteers find and correct a mistake at the next update. With the batch uploading process, and some of the remote locations, they may take up to an hour to fully upload.

Also just because your rider stops at a particular location for longer than usual/planned, it’s not necessarily significant. It could be that the spotters missed their number going out, or perhaps they stayed longer than planned to let their horse eat or rest for the upcoming trail segment. There will be volunteers in Foresthill with computers if you need assistance in looking up a rider.

Summary of how to follow us online:

Main Tevis Website:
http://www.teviscup.org/

Official Tevis Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/TevisCup

Event GPS tracking:
http://trackleaders.com/teviscup18

Twitter Account:
https://twitter.com/tevisnews

Flickr Photos:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/teviscup/albums

Instagram:
https://www.instagram.com/tevisfeed/

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Ride Story: Strawberry Fields Ride 2018

With the countdown at less than 10 days til T-Day, and less than a week until D-for-T (Departure-for-Tevis) Day, I figured I’d better get a move on and get this story out before too much time goes by.

The Strawberry Field Forever ride has been on my bucket list since I started distance riding. Back in 2002, when I had been doing about half a season of NATRC, I went to Mimi’s and my last POA show…the POA Worlds, up in Spanish Fork, UT. It was an almost week-long gig, with only so much for someone who is not showing (aka, “one’s show parents”) to do…so my dad took a couple of days to go up to the Strawberry NATRC ride. Originally his plan was to hang out and visit, but he got drafted as ride photographer. Long story short, he fell in love with the area and the amazing scenery, and we talked for years about how we needed to get up there again and do the ride.

So imagine my delight when I found out there was also an endurance ride up there. Ir’s been on my ride radar for forever, so I was quite ecstatic when Troy contacted me to see if I would be interested in riding Flash for a couple of days at Strawberry this year.

Let’s see…ride I’m dying to do? On a horse I love to ride? Yeeesssssssssssss!!!

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I love this smoochable mug

It’s a two-day drive up to Strawberry from the Phoenix area, so we headed out of the Valley Tuesday afternoon, overnighted at the Mt Carmel basecamp, then drove the rest of the way to camp on Wednesday, arriving in the early afternoon with plenty of time to set up camp and take the boys out for a pre-ride.

Flash is a horse who does best on pretty much daily exercise in some form or another, either on the exerciser or being ridden. He’d just been cooped up in the trailer for the past two days, and was happy to express his opinion about that. That opinion amounted to a couple of half-hearted crowhops and some attempts at jigging, but overall, more of a source of eyerolling and bemused chuckles than anything. Opinions…he’s got ’em.

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Just one pre-ride was enough to make me fall in love with the area.

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Riding through aspen groves…I felt like I was in the middle of a fantasy setting.

Friend Dayna was the absolute best Queen Bee and camp mom for the weekend. She had food, drinks, and more food made for us riders whenever we possibly needed it, made dinner every night, and was a lot of fun to hang out with for the weekend. I’ve long-admired her as a rider, her ability to be competitive, but always with her horses’ best interest at the forefront. I got to pick her brain during some of the weekend downtimes, and got some great riding tips and advice, plus other relatable life stories.

The plan on Thursday was to get another pre-ride in…7-8 miles this time, just to take that final edge off. 15 miles later…the edge was sufficiently off. We were on ribbons the whole time, but just had no frame of reference for exactly where said ribbons went, and ended up going a lot further than intended. Oops?

So, yeah, that was fun…the worst part of it was I had anticipated about a 1-1/2-hour ride, not 3+ hours, so was a little short in the water and especially the food department. But a good free object lesson in being more prepared than you think you need to be, even for a “quick little ride.”

The Strawberry Fields ride is part of the XP Rides, aka the “Duck” rides, put on by Dave “The Duck” Nicholson and his wife Annie. They’re all multi-day rides, with many of them taking place on or near locations that were a part of the original Pony Express route. They tend to be more casual, laid-back type of rides, with a certain degree of self-sufficiency. There’s often only one vet check (which isn’t an uncommon thing for rides here in the SW region anyway), and the trails usually go into more remote areas. More info on their website: XP Rides.

This was actually my first XP ride, and I loved it. I also love the frills rides, though, too. I guess rides are still enough of a novelty to me, even after 14 years, that it takes a lot for me to not enjoy a ride. Check-in and vet-in was super quick, and ride meeting was brief. The only snag was a fire in the close vicinity had closed access to some of the usual trails, so they had to do some last-minute scrambling to pull the trails together.

Basecamp was at ~8000′ elevation, so the weather was decidedly cooler than back down in Phoenix. Friday morning was a bit chilly, and I scuttled around in three layers, finally (reluctantly) shedding my puffy jacket just before mounting up. Flash is such an interesting horse at ride starts. He’s really business-like, so no funny games or shenanigans, but he is so eager to get going that he literally quivers in anticipation any time you stop.

We headed out on the same trail we had pre-ridden the past two days, the single-track trail helping to space out the pack, and we were soon in a small bubble of four or five riders, just easily motoring along. There was a definitely a technical element to some of the trails — rocks, or downed aspen “cavaletti” to step over — so it kept both horse and rider paying attention.

It didn’t take too long before we started climbing. Eventually we would top out at 10,000′, but in the meantime, there was still plenty of trail along the way. Up single-track, along forest roads through a campsite, up more single-track, through some boggy stuff, up more single-track, and finally out to the road that would take us up to 10,000′.

For two mostly flatland horses from Yuma, those boys tackled the climb with good humor, and Flash kept offering to show me just how he could trot all the way to the top. (I declined his offer, numerous times.)

We dropped back down off the top of the peak, wound around on some more forest road, through some more single-track, and back up to another 10,000′ point.

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Can’t argue with those views

We had a couple moments at this point where the trail markings got a bit…sketchy…and we made a couple of overshoots/alternate routes before finally getting on the right track.

This first loop was every bit of 30 miles, so we took time along the way to let the boys stop and graze, and there was enough grass along the way that they both got pretty good at the grab-n-go maneuver.

Flash was on fire the entire loop…he just wanted to go, and we had quite a few discussions about keeping the pace to a dull roar. I knew he was strong — at Bumble Bee, it took until about halfway through the first loop for him to really settled into an agreeable pace — but this was 30 miles in and he was still cranking along like a freight train.

The way in and out of camp, at least for this loop, crossed a creek, which made for a nice place to stop and sponge them before walking in to the vet check. Rather unusually, it took several minutes for Flash to pulse down, even after more sponging and eventually pulling tack, but he did get there.

At the Duck rides, he doesn’t want to see you vet in immediately — you’re asked to wait for at least 30 minutes before vetting, the rationale behind it being that adrenaline from just coming off a loop can mask any potential issues, both lameness or metabolic. Although I’ve always preferred to vet right away and have the rest of the hold uninterrupted, I can understand this particular practice.

I got all of my stuff squared away with what I would need for loop 2 — refill my hydration pack and snacks — and settled in for some delicious lunch offerings from Dayna. (Iced cranberry juice is super refreshing. Need to file that one away for future reference.) Taking care of the boys and grabbing lunch pretty much took up the 30 minutes, so we gathered the boys up and went over to vet.

Flash vetted through well initially…appropriately low pulse, good gut sounds and hydration parameters, trotted great…but after we trotted, the vet looked him over again and said he was thumping. Sure enough, you could see the telltale fluttering back on his flank. So that was our day done, though I left the vet with instructions to give him some electrolytes, extra alfalfa and extra calcium (Tums were suggested as a good source), and bring him back in a few hours — if all was cleared up, we could still ride the next day.

So that was a new one for me…I’ve never directly dealt with thumps before, but after dealing with it, I can say that if I have to deal with any sort of metabolic incident, thumps would be the preferable one, because it’s straightforward enough, fairly easy to clear up, and as long as it’s corrected, doesn’t leave any lingering issues. Basically, it’s caused by an electrolyte imbalance that leads to an irregular spasming of the diaphragm. He’d been on a more minimalist electrolyte protocol, but he’s one of those horses who really benefits from a more aggressive electrolyte regimen.

So Troy and Rymoni went out on loop two, and Flash and I got to play battle of the syringes. But I haven’t battled with the pony on this very same issues for years for nothing, and eventually I got a couple doses of crushed Tums down his gullet. It took maybe an hour and half to totally clear up (by which time Flash was thoroughly sick of me hovering, and giving me the disgusted stink-eye “bug off, lady, and leave me alone” look), so after Troy finished, we gathered up both the boys to go over to the vet. Rymoni was good to go, both for his day’s completion as well as to start the next day, and Flash was thoroughly checked over and declared good to go for day two.

Saturday morning rolled around even chillier, with some wind and cloud cover, with more clouds trying to move in. All that meant I actually left my outer layer windbreaker on, since we would be climbing up to 10,000′ again fairly early on, and it was bound to be even chillier at the top.

The plan was to take it really easy on this day — ease Flash into the day, make sure all systems were go, and regularly electrolyte him. He was strong from the start, but much more biddable than day one when it came to requests to ease off or not incessantly tailgate Rymoni. Fortunate, because I definitely had a few protesting muscles, and it took me several miles to settle in. It’s been almost 5 years since I last did back-to-back days, and I was feeling it for a little bit there.

The trail took us through some of the sagebrush flats (watch out for badger holes!) before starting to climb. Up, up, up, into the aspens, making time and trotting where we could, walking all the climbs.

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We were working around and behind those red cliffs

This was our “climb to 10,000′” part of the day, and the views from the top were beyond breathtaking.

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cameras just can’t even come close to doing it justice

I was glad for the jacket — it was definitely chilly as we made our way across the ridgeline for a bit before dropping down into the bowl on the backside and cross-countrying our way down to the drainage/trail.

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we came from up there where those trees are

The next section was about 4 miles of pretty much downhill, hardpack, rocky road. We took it easy and walked a lot of it, with intermittent jog-jog sections when it was decent enough footing for the first couple miles, then in smoothed and leveled out enough to pick up the pace again. We eventually made one big loop, and came out on the sage brush from earlier in the morning.

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more sage brush, more badger holes to avoid

This morning’s loop wasn’t as long as day one — I think it was about 25 miles by the time we got back in to camp. Both boys were down right away (yay! That hanging pulse of Flash’s on day one had been the first red flag), so we repeated the same routine — give them food, sit down and eat our own lunches, go vet. Vet check was an all clear this time, so we headed back to the trailer to wrap up the last few vet-check niceties (bathroom, last bit of food, bridle, and go…).

We were out on loop two right on our out time, and Flash cheerfully took up leading, heading out one more time on the familiar creek-crossing trail in/out of camp. And I had my favorite version of Flash — relaxed and happy, easy trotting in the lead on a loose rein.

On this loop, we would follow part of the first loop from day one, so we were on super-familiar turf. Along the way, we picked up Miriam, who had gotten a bit turned around, and she ended up hanging out with us for the rest of the ride. She was super fun to ride with, and I always enjoy meeting and befriending another person in the sport within my own age bracket.

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up in the “Norwegian Forest” on loop two; one of my favorite sections with singletrack trail looping through the aspens

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Troy & Rymoni; Miriam & Mighty

The “Norwegian Forest” section of this loop basically cut off the whole “climb to 10,000′” part of the previous day, and connected over to the same last 7 or 8 miles in to camp from day one/loop one. As soon as the trail connected, Flash knew exactly where we were, and his homing pigeon radar kicked in. He was more than keen to go, but we just kept to the same strategy we’d been doing all day of a nice steady pace. Plus, there was so much grass along the way, and all three boys were more than happy to stop and graze their way into the finish.

Of course, we couldn’t end the ride without a bit of humor and hilarity. We stopped in the larger creek crossing just a mile or so out from camp for one last sponging…and I managed to lose my hold on the sponge string and send it straight into the water. Water that was over knee-deep on Flash. I’m 5’4″. Flash is 15.3. There was no way I was going to manage the “lean over and retrieve an object” trick, so I was resigned to hopping off into the creek for sponge retrieval. Fortunately Miriam came to my rescue — she’s tall, and adorable Mighty is a tiny little power pony, so she was able to lean over and snag the errant sponge for me. Crisis averted! (And I didn’t have to get my feet wet.)

It was a pleasant surprise to find out when we crossed the finish line we were in 5th/6th/7th…we had really taken it easy through the whole day, and rode the ride that the boys needed, and just stayed consistent. Completion awards for the day were really cool insulated stainless steel water bottles — I can never have too many water bottles.

Sunday morning, we wrapped up camp and hit the road…back down to Mt Carmel for the night again, and then home again Monday. Dad volunteered to drive up to Troy and Claire’s place outside of Prescott to pick me up, so that was fun for him to get to meet Flash in person (since I’ve been talking about this horse since April), and I had someone to rehash the weekend to on the drive back home.

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Flash enjoying one last roll at Mt Carmel before hitting the road again

So, Flash and I both go to Tevis in a little over a week…although not together. Flash will be taking a rider from Australia through, and I will be riding my favorite “summer camp pony,” Roo, who has shown up on this blog numerous times (I’ve crewed for him and Lucy at Tevis twice, ridden him in the Tahoe Rim 50, and pre-ridden parts of the Tevis trail on half a dozen occasions).

I would definitely keep the Strawberry ride on my “must do rides” list…the scenery is amazing, and it’s a good, challenging, true endurance ride. Great pre-Tevis prep, and a great ride to teach a horse to take care of themselves.

And after Tevis? Who knows. The thing about catch riding is I rarely have plans set in stone. I’ve learned to be very flexible, and take opportunities as they come up. But I know I’ll happily ride Flash again any time he’s offered!

Ride Prep, Tevis edition

When I was growing up, I liked watching movies. A lot of Disney movies, to be precise. (Sorry, Mom and Dad. There’re probably still some songs permanently stuck in your heads.) There’s one movie preview/commercial thing I remember watching…two young boys, packing for a trip to Disneyland, all excitement and anticipation. The older one is dispensing wisdom to his younger brother, they get everything packed into the suitcase…and the punchline of the whole thing is when the older one says, “We’ll be leaving in about three weeks.”

I can relate to this, because I was the kid who was usually packed a full week before leaving for any family vacation. (Which was a problem when I packed away things I still needed.)

For the most part, that’s really changed, and my typical packing routine now is to prep ahead of time — use the week before to make sure I’e got everything I need, go shop for whatever, and then pull everything together the day before. (Mostly because my dogs pout and sulk as soon as the suitcase comes out, so I try to spare them the stress and worry until the last minute.)

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must you go anywhere, mommy?

But right now? I feel very much like I could pack everything and twiddle my thumbs for the next two weeks. I may be going in with a “cheerfully realistic” view (I know Roo will give me his best effort, and I’ll do whatever I need to do on my end to manage him and keep him cheerful, and we’ll get as far as we get), but that doesn’t take away from my excitement levels of seeing my name on the sign-up list and just being able to start the ride.

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as seen on http://teviscup.org/2018_tevis_rider_list

Just like Virginia City last year — this is not according to plan. But it’s an opportunity and a chance, which is more than what I would have just sitting around and waiting for life to come together in alignment with what I think it should look like.

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Shared this on Facebook this morning, courtesy of theawkwardyeti.com

With two weeks until I leave, and two and a half weeks until the ride, things are coming together. My dad volunteered to come up and help crew, which means more to me than I can adequately express in a blog post. Riding Tevis together has been our goal for years, and that hasn’t changed…but the fact that he’s willing to come crew me through the attempt is one of the best parts of this whole endeavor. (And he’s crewed for me at several “home” rides in the past, and he’s an A+ crew.)

Of course, I’m now moving into the “second-guess and overthink things” phase, in which I ponder last-minute gear shopping, or what clothing to wear at what point. (Hey, we’re at least gonna look good for photos.) I think I’ve got the critical stuff checked off, so now it’s just “mental fiddling” as I count down the days.

Entry Away

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Entry went into the mail last Thursday. The entry.

Tevis.

18 years since I first read a magazine article about it. 13 years since I first attended it. This will be my 10th year at Tevis, and I can’t think of a better way to spend it than riding.

Back when I won the entry at Convention, Lucy made mention that, if all else failed when it came to finding a horse, I could always take Roo (aka “Plan B”) and at least plan on getting to Robinson Flat. Roo is 0/2 on Tevis, but he’s the best little 50-mile worker bee around, and is smart, sane, and sensible in the tough terrain.

I made some inquires, a few “play it by ear” arrangements here and there…but ultimately, none of the “Plan A” options ended up working out, and Lucy reiterated her offer of Roo. And since the entry is non-transferable, it would have gone to waste, so what the heck.

Roo and I are going to start with no expectations other than to have fun, enjoy the portion of the trail I haven’t seen, and go as far as he’s willing to go.

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The girlies helped me drop the entry in the mail. My moral support crew.

Roo and I have done a 50 together already (Tahoe Rim), and I’ve crewed him at his previous two Tevis attempts. I know his quirks and foibles, and have some ideas for how to manage his weaknesses and capitalize on his strengths. He has actually done the whole Tevis trail in various bits and pieces, and I’ve seen everything from Deadwood to the finish — on his back. He’s been my “summer camp” pony on multiple Tevis visits, and we’ve done at least half a dozen different rides on various parts of the trail.

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We staged this photo for fun on a pre-ride several years ago, with the joking comment made of “What do you think, Roo? Practice for the real thing?”
Who knew it would be prophetic…

The countdown is on, with a little over 4 weeks to go. I’m off to the Strawberry ride this upcoming weekend with a plan to ride a couple of days (on wonder-boy Flash), so that will be a definite boost to my fitness level, and Lucy is getting Roo out and keeping him tuned up.

Obviously being 800 miles away from my intended ride is going to preclude a whole bunch of direct “getting ready for Tevis” type of posts, but I’m sure it’ll be mentioned here and there between now and then…

And we’re still chewing over a team name. We’ve tried #TeamAshROO…which sounds kind of like a sneeze. Right now #TeamIdiotUnicorn is being used tongue-in-cheek after Roo pulled some of his patented spooking maneuvers on Lucy last week. He’s a pretty, pretty princess unicorn pony…but he does have his #moments every so often. But along that same line, I’m also a firm believer in the power of names and labels, and things will live up to their name, for good or for bad, so I should possibly avoid tagging him with the “idiot” moniker.

#TeamTevisUnicorn?

25 Mimi Moments

In honor on Mimi’s 25th birthday this past weekend, I’d like to present, in no particular order:

“25 Mimi Moments: The good, bad, and random (because there’s no ugly about her)”

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Still one of the best days of my life: When this little grey mare came into it. I still get butterflies and chills thinking about it. The annual POA sale is run as an auction format, and my parents and I went back to Iowa with a list of ponies in the sale catalog to look at. Mimi was all of our first choice…and she’s been my #1 ever since.

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Little known fact: My father actually picked Mimi out. She grabbed his attention right from the get-go on our first time even skimming through the sale catalog, and she was the first horse we even crossed paths with at the sale when he saw her out in a warm-up ring being ridden by her owner. He’s got a major soft spot for that little pony, and she’s quite fond of him.

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We have a complicated relationship with jumping. When she was “on” she was a blast to jump, but she was the most dishonest jumper I’ve ever ridden. Because she’s so quick and squirrely, she could bury herself into the base of the jump, and then spin off literally at takeoff. There were multiple occasions that I went over the jump…and she didn’t. Some of it I now know was likely due to saddle fit, and too narrow of a saddle that pinched her shoulders. 

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Her most iconic gymkhana pose. She was an absolute blast to run through games. I really took my time with her, trotting and slow loping the patterns for a couple of years for her to learn them — skill before speed. So by the time I introduced the speed element, she had the precision down, and was an expert at flying around the last pole or barrel and absolutely launching. I’m holding on because otherwise, I very likely would have gone off the back of the saddle.

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She’s really loud. For a small pony, she has an incredible set of lungs, and an eardrum-piercing shriek that she makes full use of, especially in a public environment. Everyone knows when she shows up somewhere.

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She doesn’t find my shenanigans very funny. For years, I’ve tormented her as my personal “My Little Pony” with things like festive hats and costume classes, and her predictable reaction almost every time is, “idiot human.”

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She doesn’t actively like very many horses. She’s very independent out in the herd, and typically hangs out by herself. There are maybe a handful of horses over the years she has truly liked, although she’s a shameless, indiscriminate flirt during certain times of the year. Most of the time she’s either tolerant or indifferent, and then other couple of handfuls of horses she actively dislikes.

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Wiggle lips! She’s super-expressive with her lips, especially when she has itchy spots. Scratch her along her belly-line and it’ll send her into lip-wriggling ecstasy.

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Finishing the Man Against Horse 50 was one of my proudest accomplishments with her. It’s a really tough ride, and she never put a hoof wrong the whole time.

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We went all the way to Oklahoma for the biggest show of our career…and I forgot a class pattern for the first (and only) time, and she dumped me in the warm-up ring.

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My greatest accomplishment in her show career was earning her Supreme Championship. For a POA to get “supreme’d” as it is known, they have to earn a certain number of points in three different divisions: Halter, Non-Timed (performance), and Timed (gymkhana). And a certain percentage of those points had to come from what would be the equivalent of “rated” shows. She came to me with about half of the required Halter points, but she and I got all of the necessary performance class points together.

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Out of everything we’ve done together, endurance riding has been the favorite. She’s the absolutely happiest when she’s going down the trail in the lead, and allowed to comfortably move out. We did a couple of rides by ourselves, but her favorite was with one other horse, preferably behind her. She likes a trail buddy, but she wants to be in the lead.

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On our very last NATRC ride, she was well-behaved enough to earn me a perfect 100 horsemanship score. 

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She’s really well-trained, and incredibly soft in the arena. I can ride her in anything, including bridleless. But out on trail, she thinks snaffles are the best joke ever and gleefully runs through them. Either her s-hackamore, or something with leverage (kimberwick) reminds her she does have brakes installed.

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We didn’t do a ton of endurance rides together — 7 50s, and half a dozen 25s. She was a blast to ride in LDs, and we finished all of them, including a couple of Top Tens. We’re 4/7 on the 50s, but all of our rides together have been memorable. I always worried if 50s were too much for her, but only one pull was for her (a tie-up halfway through). Looking back, I probably didn’t give her enough credit, but I’ve always been overprotective of her, and so afraid of hurting her.

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She’s a desert rat, through and through. Every time we’ve gone up to the mountains, she’s definitely on way higher alert. Stumps and logs are suspicious, and deer and elk are equinivorous.

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As much as I trust her…she can also unnerve me faster than almost any horse out there. To this day, I still don’t enjoy riding her out around the barn neighborhood. She’s still very quick and can be very reactive in that particular setting, and I still have a hard time relaxing and enjoying this kind of riding with her. Give us the actual trails any day.

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She is the best camper. Years of showing gave her experience with standing around and waiting, and standing tied at the trailer. Her worst indiscretion is beating her haybag against the trailer.

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She’s naturally a very alert and attentive horse who notices everything. It was a really big switch going from pretty placid lesson horses to the spicy firecracker that she was — and still is. For years, I assumed that if she “looked” at something, she was going to spook at it, so I tended to be the “death grip, super controlling” rider. She’s a saint for putting up with me. Eventually I learned that just because she looked didn’t mean she was going to spook, so gradually did get more relaxed. Of course, she still had to keep me on my toes — I ate dirt more than once over being too relaxed and complacent, and she would pull a fast spin and teleport maneuver. 

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She’s really smart about drinking when she’s thirsty. Several times at rides, she deliberately stopped and moved off-trail to a hidden water tank — once, quite memorably, in the middle of a canter up a big wash with several other horses.

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She used to be absolutely terrified of cows. Then she learned they run away if you chase them. Cow aversion be gone. Now I have to keep her from trying to chase them down.

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She is sooo picky about her bits, and not shy about telling me her opinion. I’ve narrowed it down to 3 bits that she actually likes. All Myler, of course. Preferably the handmade ones with the sweet-iron mouthpiece. She’s the reason I got into collecting bits.

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Her feet are a constant source of aggravation (and learning experience) for me. They’ve never been great, although they’re now light years better than when I first took her barefoot. But I still have to really stay on top of things, and “self-trimming” is not a concept that exists in Pony World.

 

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She is the most interested, multi-faceted, layered equine I’ve ever been around. She can be a bit mercurial (sometimes sweet and cuddly, sometimes bitchy mare), but she has taught me so much about patience, thinking, listening, partnership, forgiveness, humility, confidence…most of my life lessons have been connected to her. She’s my best friend.