2019 Year-in-Review

Well, 2019 has been kind of a weird year. I didn’t end up doing much by way of endurance rides, although I was still really involved peripherally in the sport. I got Mimi out more this year than I have in the last several years, and we were both all the happier for it. It also seemed like there was an unusual number of horse injuries, people injuries, and/or horse losses among my circle of friends and the periphery. Most of them aren’t my stories to tell…but some very good horses unexpectedly crossed the Rainbow Bridge this year, and my heart still hurts for those friends.

Much of 2019 was more ride-lite for me, although I did manage to get in a couple rides by the end of the year, and involved a few “plans gone awry.” I’ve probably learned more about flexibility, going with the flow, not getting my hopes set too high on something happening, having back-up plans…and then ultimately rolling my eyes, laughing, and doing something else entirely. Such is the nature of horses in general, and even moreso when you’re catch riding and relying on not only your life falling into place, but the lives of other people and other horses.

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This, more than anything, sums up the greatest part of this year. I have some truly amazing friends in my endurance tribe that have become like family to me.

There was quite a bit that didn’t end up getting blogged about this year, for no other reason than “I got lazy and put it on social media but couldn’t be bothered to sit down and write out a whole post about it.” I’ve gotten a little lax with my writing and motivation to blog, although I still managed to continue my “at least one post per month” streak. We’re still a few days out from annual inebriated declarations of good intent (aka “New Years Resolutions”)…which I don’t do anyway…so I won’t make any promises as to that changing in 2020. The “one post a month” bar has been a relatively easy standard for me to maintain without putting too much pressure on myself for something that is supposed to be fun. In the meantime, there’s always social media. My Facebook is ‘friends only’ and run on a slightly more personal level, but my Instagram is public (it’s also over on the sidebar of this blog).

It also seemed like this year went by really fast. Each month, I felt like I was saying, “How is it such-and-such-month already?” And now, at the end of year, I find myself sitting and saying, “How am I looking at 2020 already? Especially when the 90’s was only like 10 years ago?” (One of these years, my brain will eventually stop living a decade+ behind…)

January

I was able to get Mimi out on trail several times, including a ride out at Picket Post. She was really happy to get out on a semi-regular basis again (which we continued to do through the spring), and to that end, I busted out the clippers for the first time in almost a decade and relieved her of some of her excess fluff.

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AZ Cowgirl Photography, Susan Kordish photo

I volunteered at the Tonto Twist ride, working one of the away checkpoints/water stops. That was a fun day, with a great turnout and a really well-run ride that is rapidly becoming one of my favorite rides, either to ride or volunteer. Also nice that it’s in my backyard, being only half an hour away from both home and the barn.

February

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We got quite a bit of rain this month, and the arena started looking like beachfront property, so we did quite a few excursions around the neighborhood on the dry streets (and some inadvertent off-roading through the mud a couple times).

I also hung out with friends at the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show…and completely failed to get any pics…this is why I blog for fun and low expectations.

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My biggest accomplishment was completing the 5-Day Advanced Course towards my  Masterson Method equine bodywork certification. It was a ton of fun and a major positive learning experience. Pretty much everything I’ve done with horses has not come naturally or easily, and I’ve felt like I’ve really had to work at it, second-guessing myself along the way the entire time. So of course I brought that mindset and those inherent self-doubts along with me, and to have my instructor finish the course and my evaluation by saying I had a natural gift and feel for the methodology was an enormous confidence boost.

March

I had a few days of downtime after the Masterson clinic, and then scooted up to Reno for the AERC Convention. That was a really fun weekend spent with good friends, the annual sushi binge, shopping, and one of the few times of the year I wear a dress and high heels (national awards dinner…because every so often it’s fun to wear something other than riding tights or jeans).

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Thanks to the rain earlier, we had a delightful flower season, both in the backyard and on the trails.

April

I got approved to start the fieldwork potion of the Masterson Method certification, and jumped into that.

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Working on Lilly, a Mustang mare. She was fascinating in terms of learning her very subtle releases and body language.

I was glad for having that to keep me fairly occupied, because so far, spring had been very light on the endurance front, and any plans made didn’t seem to ever end up coming together. It was a little bit frustrating, and I took a stab at exploring the multitude of emotions that accompany endurance in my ‘Velocity‘ post. I’m also pretty sure that my spirit animal, at least as far as endurance goes, is a Whack-A-Mole.

May

The month in which I proved just how obsessed I am with a horse aside from my own pony.

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Flash fractured a front P1 (long pastern bone), and the vet clinic where he had his surgery and recovery was only a few miles from my house, so I went down every day to visit him. I haven’t spent that much time hanging out with a horse “just because” since the years that Mimi was boarded 5 minutes away from my house, and it was really special. I spent a lot of time talking to him, scratching all of his itchy spots, and taking a truly obnoxious number of selfies with him. (This is what happens when my own pony loathes selfies, and I had access to a horse that loves them…I make up for it in one condensed period of time. Mimi might love the camera on the trail/in the arena, but I think Flash loves all cameras, all the time. What a ham and show-off.)

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Mimi turned 26, and we did quite a bit of riding, including new-to-us trails at Coon’s Bluff.

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She has also *not* outgrown her Destructo-Pony indiscretions of youth.

Every summer, Mimi tends to get really itchy along her midline, so this year, I experimented with a super lightweight, soft mesh fly sheet. It did the job, and she made it through the summer without the typical itchy, irritated midline, or having to be slathered in some kind of topical goo or ointment. However, that sheet basically had the life expectancy of “one summer of pony use,” and is now in tatters. It did the job, though, and I saved $$$ on fly spray and topical ointments and treatments. It was super light-weight, and never rubbed or heated her up…so that’s an experiment I will likely repeat this upcoming year.

June

I helped launch the Arizona Endurance Riders Club, and the club put on its first event, an Endurance 101 clinic. This year has seen several 101 clinics, some endurance ride potlucks and social time, and some smaller “mini-clinics” covering more in-depth information on a couple of specific topics at a time pertaining to endurance.

I finally rode the Log Corral trail on Stephanie’s horse Ash. Great 18-mile-roundtrip training ride, and with enough water along the way to make it do-able in the summer.

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Smoke from the Woodbury Fire seen from the barn arena

The Woodbury Fire started in the Superstition Mountain Wilderness, and by the time it was all said and done, burned over 123,000 acres and became the 5th-largest wildfire in AZ history.

July

Mimi comes alive during the summer. She absolutely loves the heat, and I ended up hacking her out around the barn quite a bit. I also had my new Hylofit heart rate monitor to play with and make my data-loving little brain quite happy.

August

Crewing Tevis for my decade year of crewing was a big part of this month. There were a lot of people that I know riding this year…some finished, some didn’t. I crewed for my friend Cathy, and she and her mare finished just after 5am…the horse’s first 100.

September

The end of August is my birthday, and it happened to run into Labor Day weekend this year…so I celebrated by heading up to Utah for a visit with my long-time best friend. It was a fun getaway with an overnight trip down to Cedar City for the Shakespeare Festival, and a side trip to the Cedar Breaks National Monument on the way back.

 

I also helped put on another Endurance 101 clinic, mused on heart horses, and finally, wrapped up the month with a training ride in Prescott on Atti in prep for attending Man Against Horse.

September is also Artemis’s birthday — she turned 6 this year!

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October

I finished the 50-miler at Man Against Horse on Atti.

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It’s Sofie’s birthday (8 years old!) and “Gotcha” month (4 years!).

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It’s also Mimi’s “Gotcha” month — 23 years together!

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As I wrote on Facebook: “She never gets any less special, or less significant in my life. She’s the bar and the standard against which I match all other horses. She’s my original schoolmaster and life lesson-giver. My mane to cry in, and spotty nose to smooch. My original heart horse. Happy Gotcha Day, Mimi…23 years of memories, tears, laughter, success. You still delight my heart.

November

Artemis’s Gotcha month (6 years); I wrapped up my first block of Fieldwork for Masterson Method certification with a “coaching day” evaluation down in Sierra Vista (and a visit afterwards to nearby Tombstone); and ended the month with a family trip up to Idaho for Thanksgiving.

December

Project Ridgecrest” starts and Atti comes to stay at the barn where I keep Mimi. The goal is 20 Mule Team 100 in February, with plenty of conditioning, training, and a couple of competitions between now and then, starting with the LD at Dashing Through the Trails.

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The rest of the month has involved some fun Christmas stuff like cookie baking (when your gingerbread cracks or loses limbs, give them icing stitches and call them gingerbread endurance riders) and catching light displays, and some more training rides for Atti.

As we head into 2020, and the start of a new decade (!!!), I don’t know what will be in store. It’s nice to have some early plans and goals to shoot for, but beyond that point, it remains to be seen what will happen and what the year will bring.

 

2018 Year-In-Review

This year, I don’t think I did quite as much blogging about the “in-between” elements of life. Covered the big events, and managed to maintain my “at least one post a month” streak I’ve had going since August 2011. But I think a lot more of the day-to-day stuff ended up on Facebook or Instagram, so some of life’s happenings might briefly get covered for the first time here in my year-in-review.

2018 ended up being a pretty epic year, riding-wise.

  • Number of rides: 7 (technically one falls into the 2019 ride season, but the 2018 calendar year)
  • Number of completions: 4 (215 miles)
  • Number of horses ridden: 4
  • One mileage milestone patch attained (750 endurance miles)

January

Looking back, I have to chuckle at what I said in my first post of the year:

“I’m inclined to do the same approach this year — take things as they come, say “yes” to as many opportunities as is feasible, and stay flexible.

I’m just planning one ride at a time and we’ll see what the season has in store.”

Even after I said that, I never could have predicted that the rest of the season would bring, and the opportunities that would present themselves.

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I managed to do stuff with all three of my girls — two pups, one pony — and spent quite a bit of trail time hiking and trail running this month.

Later in the month, Junior and I attempted the inaugural Tonto Twist 50 ride. We were pulled for a subtle but consistent lameness after the first 30-mile loop, but in spite of that (and getting rained on), I still loved the ride, the scenery, and the trails. It was one of the few times I’ve done a ride on my own, which was kind of a fun and different change of pace and perspective. That said, a big part of endurance for me is the “togetherness” aspect of doing rides either with Dad, or with endurance friends, because this is my major social network.

I wrapped up the month with more trail outings, including taking Rocco out again for an evening training ride. I’ve also had the chance to expand on some more local endurance friendships in my own age group after figuring out that Taylor lives not too far away from me, so that’s been fun to build a closer-in network.

February

I played with other people’s ponies, spent several days up at the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, and finally, traveled down to Florida to the FITS ride at the end of the month for work, where I managed to sneak in a little training ride and experience the Florida trails.

And I can’t let the month go by without recognizing Arizona’s statehood day (Feb 14th) and doing a bit of state love. (That said, I should probably stop doing such a good job of promoting my state and start talking more about the 115* summers. Maybe that will get people to stop moving here.)

March

I had way too much fun at the AERC Convention, with the highlight, of course, of winning the Tevis entry raffle drawing. I love Convention, especially when it’s in Reno, and consider it one of the highlights of my year, and probably my favorite thing for work.

The end of the month also featured running the Renegade booth again at The Mane Event — semi-local, only half an hour away in Scottsdale. I was able to get Dad to help me out again for that, and it also gave me a chance to see some preliminary Masterson Method intro seminars (and go down and participate in one at the very end of the last expo day).

April

The standout highlight for this month was meeting Flash and doing the Bumble Bee ride on him. Remember back in January when I said that my plan was to say “yes” to as many opportunities as possible? Well, saying yes to that initial catch ride offer was one of my better life decisions, and it lead to multiple opportunities over the entire year — and still continues to do so.

I was happy with just breaking my Bumble Bee “curse” and finishing the ride — 3rd place and High Vet Score was an unexpected bonus, as was just how well I got along with Flash, and how much he had stolen my heart by the end of the weekend.

On the canine front, Artemis had to go in for tooth extraction surgery — she had cracked it the previous year, and we had put a temporary patch on it, but that didn’t last and eventually she started having some issues with a localized swelling on her face indicating an abscess was likely forming. (Lower right-hand photo is a post-surgery, still-slightly-stoned puppy.) Sofie also had way too much fun enjoying the spring weather, and rolling in the dead baby birds that would end up in the yard after falling out of their nests. #FarmdogLife

I also counted up and celebrated all of the numbers of ears that I’ve viewed the trail through over the years. (I’ve competed on over a dozen different horses just in endurance alone, and ridden over 80 different ones in my lifetime.)

May

Mimi’s birthday month! She turned 25, and I spent some time musing on random factoids about her. She also got to get out and be a demo pony at another local expo — my live model for hoof trimming and boot fitting.

June

I got Mimi out and around the neighborhood to explore, I completed the first seminar towards certification in the Masterson Method equine massage, my truck’s transmission had to get rebuilt (but 224k miles on the original, so I really can’t complain), and I finalized my Tevis plans and sent in my entry.

I wrapped up the month by doing two days at the Strawberry Fields Forever ride with Flash. This ride has been on my bucket list for years now, and it did not disappoint. Day one brought some good learning experiences when Flash thumped at lunch and we were pulled, thus verifying that Flash really does need a fairly aggressive electrolyte protocol, but he was good to go for day 2, and we finished that 55 miles in fine style.

July

I’m pretty sure things happened this month, but my brain was all about one thing: Tevis.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed to pull at Robinson Flat — in spite of all my “realistic” outlook, there was a tiny part of me that dreamed we might be able to pull off something unexpected. But I was still really glad for the experience, and glad I was at least able to finally start the ride I’ve dreamed of for so many years. And I’m grateful to Lucy sharing Roo with me and making sure I could get to the start line and make use of that raffle entry.

August

No rest for the wicked — I came home from Tevis and kept on rolling, getting in more saddle time on both Mimi as well as friends’ horses. I also had an article I wrote on catch riding appear in this month’s issue of Endurance News, which was pretty awesome. I’ve had a couple of things get put into the online quarterly newsletter, but to have it in the hard copy print main magazine is extra-special.

At the end of the month, I headed up to the Grand Canyon XP ride to ride the first day. “Nene” was a fun ride and I was proud to take her through her very first ride and have her finish so well.

September

Artemis turned 5, and I actually spent a lot of time playing with Mimi this month. I also got convinced to throw my hat into the ring for the AERC Director-At-Large elections that would be taking place in the fall. (Spoiler alert for December: I didn’t get elected…THIS time. But I’m not going away. And next DAL elections will be in 2020.)

October

October is a busy month for me, animals-wise. It’s Sofie’s birthday (she turned 7), Sofie’s Gotcha Day (3 years with me), and Mimi’s Gotcha Day (22 years). We got quite a bit of delayed monsoon activity showing up this month, so it made for some spectacular sunrises/sunsets, and some arena water obstacles for the unamused pony.

I also went to Reno for the Pacific Hoofcare Practitioner’s Conference, which was an excellent networking and learning experience.

I reached a mileage milestone of a combined 1000 miles with the ride completion at Grand Canyon, so did a bit of musing about the journey to get to that point. I also attempted to narrow down my favorite rides.

November

Early in the month, I volunteered at the McDowell ride. It’s been a couple of years since I’ve done any volunteering stints, and I enjoy being able to give back to the sport. It was a really fun way to spend time in camp and actually get to hang out with some of my endurance family, which doesn’t happen as much when I’m out on the trail all day.

It was Artemis’s Gotcha Day (5 years!), time for annual AERC membership renewal, and a hilarious moment of Mimi being absolutely fascinated with watching the water filling up one of the irrigation canals by the barn.

I mused on 100-milers, and how even though I haven’t completed the two I’ve attempted, I’m still hooked on the idea of them. I don’t know when the next chance at one will be, but maybe third time’s a charm?

I spent Thanksgiving weekend up in Utah with my best friend, and we had a really fun girl’s weekend of cooking, seeing Christmas lights, and doing a “Middle Earth marathon” of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings films. It also snowed while I was up there, so I got my annual fix of the fluffy white stuff.

December

I started the month off in the best way I know how — with a ride! I was able to ride Flash in the inaugural Dashing Through the Trails ride at Estrella Mountain Park, and since it is technically the 2019 ride season, our finish there kicked off the new ride season in fine fashion.

Finally, I started off what I’m calling the “four-day Christmas weekend” with a wonderful gift — taking Mimi out on the trails. This year, I did a pretty dismal job of getting her out aside from arena work or around the barn, so it was a special treat for both of us to hit our old familiar San Tan Park stomping grounds. I will forever love her, not because she’s perfect — because she’s definitely not — but rather because of how perfect she’s been for me. She made me laugh so much during the ride because even at 25 years old, she still thinks jigging is a legitimate response…and riding her in a snaffle on trail is still a dumb idea. But in spite of her shenanigans, I still have that invaluable feeling of safety and security on her back. And settling into her saddle is always like coming home.

With that, I’m calling it a wrap on 2018 — Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone! This has been an incredible year, and I can’t issue enough thank yous to all of the friends and endurance family that made this ride season happen for me.

Christmas 2017 and Looking to 2018

Merry Christmas, all! I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday, and didn’t have too bad of an eggnog-hangover this morning. (No hangover, but that 5AM workout was brutal this morning. For all 5 of us that showed up. In a group class that normally has about 25.)

I never ended up with a photo of her wearing the santa hat that wasn’t completely pissy and grumpy. “Christmas cheer” ≠ “make the pony look like an idiot”.

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Bergie’s. Best coffee place ever.

Christmas weekend was quite relaxing and enjoyable. Dad and I did a last-minute Sam’s Club dash (for food, and a side order of last-minute gift inspiration) on Saturday…a stop at Bergie’s Coffee…then I spent a couple hours at the barn giving the pony a diligent Christmas pedicure. The santa hat never made an appearance, and she was so much more cooperative and cheerful than the past two weekends, both of which featured santa hat embarassment.

Lesson learned: No more embarrassing Christmas photos with the pony.

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Christmas Eve dinner was spent with extended family, and Christmas Day was for me, my parents, and the pups. I spent most of the day with my nose in a book, putting a serious dent in our pantry tea selection.

One of my requests for this year was the last couple of required book materials for the Masterson Method equine massage courses. I started dabbling in this earlier this year, and attended one of the short seminars at Horse Expo, so one of the 2018 plans will be a more aggressive pursuit of the certification courses. (It’s not one of those “sit in a class for a couple days and come out with a certification” type of programs. They offer weekend seminars for those who just want to learn the basics to work on their own horse, but for program certification, it requires several separate courses, home study, and field work.)

As far as the rest of 2018, I really have no concrete plans and am just kind of playing things by ear…mainly taking catch rides as they come.

Hope the last few days of everyone’s 2018 are good…catch you all in 2018!

a week in pictures

It’s been one of those weeks where nothing has happened that warrants its own full blog post…just a lot of random little stuff here and there.

The Man Against Horse ride is next weekend and I can’t wait! Liberty and I are going to be doing the 25. It’s been four years since I’ve done this ride and I’ve been on pins and needles for the past month, just wanting the ride weekend to Be Here already.

Gina sent this to me. Liberty went out all by
herself like a big girl and was very good. :)

This amusing face got worked last weekend, her first time since her massage. I could tell a big difference under saddle. She was moving well, and it wasn’t like trying to steer a 2×4.

“Behold me, in my innocence.”

Innocent-face got a sloppy mash…

…which she proceeded to drool all over my
suburban. Which had just gone through the
car wash the day before.

I’ve been doing ride prep for Man Against Horse here and there in the evenings as I think about stuff that needs done. The other night, I made a new fancy red tail ribbon for Liberty to wear, since the first one I made got sacrificed to the manzanita at the Prescott Chaparral ride. Trying not to get too attached to this one, since there is also more manzanita along this trail. Lots of manzanita.

She didn’t end up needing it at the last ride,
but I’m still using it as a precaution. Young
horses are unpredictable.

And somewhere along the way, fall happened:

Running errands mid-morning. Nice.

Display of multi-functionality:

Hoof boot. Water bottle holder.

And finally, it’s the weekend. Let’s make some trail dust.

good life philosophy

massage therapy bliss

Can we say ‘blissed-out pony?’

Back when we were at the height of competing, both NATRC and endurance, I used to have Mimi massaged on a frequent basis. As competitions got fewer and further between, one of the things I dropped were the massage appointments.

As she’s been getting older and crunchier, I’ve been contemplating having a massage session done on her. I’d been hearing great endorsements and testimonials from some endurance friends about a massage therapist who has been at the Arizona endurance rides of late. And then after Mimi got cast in her stall a couple of weeks ago, that sealed it. She had to be somewhat out of whack after that episode.
I contacted Kristy at Freedom in Motion Equine Therapy (or her Facebook page) and scheduled an appointment for this morning.
I cannot even begin to say enough good things about this morning’s appointment.
To start, Mimi is a horse who does not readily warm up to people. It’s not that she dislikes them, she’s just pretty indifferent and can take a while to decide you are worth her time. There are very few people in this world she takes an immediate shine to. Kristy was one of them. At the end of the session, she even gave her one of her special, head-over-your-shoulder Mimi hugs.
It’s really easy to understand why, though. Kristy has a great way with horses. She’s gentle and methodical in her approach and is extremely tuned in to the horse themselves, frequently talking directly to them.
Mimi was definitely knotted up — a cumulative effect, I’m sure, of not only not having any work done on her for the past few years, but of things like stall kicking, running into something (probably a fence) back over the winter, and then the final straw of getting cast a couple of weeks ago.
I was really impressed with how Kristy would approach the really stubbornly knotted up areas — work on it, move to another area, come back to it, move to another area, then check it again. Sometimes the temptation is to dig into a problem area and work it until it goes away, but frequently, problem areas tie together, and you can loosen one really tight area by resolving another area that might not be quite as bad and then going back to the problem area. (Read more on the Freedom in Motion “About” page.)
Mimi did great on giving her releases. Lots of chewing and licking, some sneezes, the passing of gas and manure. She was a bit “shy” about her releases to start — maybe because she was so knotted up, or because she was enjoying it too much to want it to stop? — but once she started loosening up, I don’t think she could help herself and she started with the licking and chewing. She’s very expressive, so after a while, she really started getting into it. Next time, I need to get more photos, because she was flat out hilarious a few times.
I could see a difference in her musculature and stance as Kristy was working, and when she had me move her out afterwards, the difference was immediate and amazing. She was obviously feeling very good, as she trotted in hand after me over to the round pen, and proceeded to give me some great extensions and even slow canters for a few minutes. And when I took her back to her stall, she had her “bouncy walk” back.
I cannot wait to ride her again this weekend and see how she feels under saddle.
And I think we’ll be making massage sessions part of our regular horsekeeping routine again.

If you’re in Arizona, I can’t recommend Kristy enough. She is based out of the East Valley, but if there is a large enough demand, she will travel to other parts of the state as well.

(For any AZ endurance riders who are going to be at either Prescott’s Man Against Horse ride or  McDowell’s Lead-Follow ride, Kristy will be at both rides the Friday before and Saturday of ride day to work on people’s horses. Pre-schedule with her for first priority on getting your horse worked on.)