2021 Year In Review

Another journey around the sun. Questionable is to which year was worse, 2020 or 2021. Personally, my vote is for 2021 when it comes to “everything that’s happening in the world aside from my little equine corner of life.” Because when it comes to my horse life, I have no complaints for either year, and 2021 was actually a pretty dang awesome year when it came to endurance stuff and the ponies. But the rest of life, and watching the world try to constantly one-up its own crazy? That’s getting really old.

Aaaaannnnnneeeeeewwwwwwaaaaayyyyyy……

I once again kept to my at-least-once-a-month blogging routine, occasionally even sneaking in 2 posts a month. I always tell myself I’m going to blog more, but I just don’t know how “interesting” my training ride content would be at this point, or how much interest there is in reading frequent blog content. I really miss the heyday of the blogging era, where there was an endurance blog everywhere you looked. Now, it seems like social media and the immediacy of quick, graphic-intense platforms like Instagram have sort of taken over. Which I’m guilty of as well — most of my content gets quickly posted up on social media rather than put into a detailed narrative, save for my ride stories. I am grateful for the blogging era of the past, though, because it enabled me to form quite a network, one that still carries through to this day. Of course, part of the decline in endurance blogs would probably also be due in part to the attrition of endurance riders — some of those folks who were so actively blogging are no longer riding endurance. But attrition rates and sport longevity are a topic that’s probably worthy of its own post, so moving on once again…

I did my Endurance Season Recap post already, with links to the individual stories of the ride we got to. It was an interesting season, with plenty of things derailing and going “not according to plan” along the way, but calendar year-wise, I got to more rides with my own horse than I think I’ve ever done in a single year. (Wait, I take that back…I there were a couple of years in NATRC that Dad and I got to about half a dozen rides. But that would have been back around 2002/03) We did 5 rides — 4 50s and 1 LD, completed the LD and 2/4 50’s (and technically went all 50 miles of a 3rd but didn’t get the official completion since she vetted out lame at the finish), and the added bonus was never having to travel out of state. When I first started in endurance, and for the first several years, we were lucky to have 3, maybe 4 rides a year in the state. Now, looking at 2022, we have a ride in the state 10 months out of the year. That is mind-boggling.

If I had to sum up this year, it would be “the year of the rocks.” Thanks to some wet weather and an actual summer monsoon, all of our trails across the state were rockier than usual. After a while, it felt like it wasn’t even worth mentioning…just count on things being “way rockier than previous rides.”

I feel like I covered a lot of the year already in my above season recap post…and it’s not like there’s hundreds of posts to try to consolidate. And my day to day shenanigans can be found with a quick skim through my Instagram.

This year was a good year for riding with friends, finding new places, trying new things (2x clinics), and delving ever deeper into the relationship and connection that Liberty and I are forging together.

So rather than doing a full, month-by-month recap, just for funsies, I thought I’d wrap up with something a little different…being that I could also qualify this as “Year of the Gear,” with the whole “starting a new horse in competition and figuring out what works and what doesn’t” element, this is a good time to talk about what I used throughout the year. Not that I’m complaining, since I love shamelessly wearing my Queen of All the Gear hat. (Seriously, I need a hat like that.) Several of these things really deserve their own separate review page, which I plan to do in the upcoming year, but in the meantime, this’ll be the CliffNotes edition.

What I Wore:

Australian riding gear companies earned my business this year. PerformaRide continued to be a go-to favorite, with some pretty new colors in their tights, always-fabulous selection of shirts, and some winter tights added to the stash. (I am overly prepared for another Snowmaggedon ride.)

All decked out in PerformaRide

New on the endurance gear front was Alfa Equestrian — another small business, aimed specifically at creating endurance riding clothing. Their tights are crazy-comfortable (no grips on them, which I don’t necessarily need for riding 95% of the time anyway, which means I tend to wear these tights for daily, non-riding wear as well), and they have some super-innovative shirt designs, like a sun protection shirt with a built in mesh buff and hoodie.

ALFA gear, including the cool buff hoodie shirt

You couldn’t go wrong ordering from either company — they both are owned by friendly, helpful, amazing women that I’m so glad I’ve gotten the chance to know. I can’t “choose between” — I’m not sponsored by anyone, and both companies have been super generous in acknowledging and thanking me for my support and business via some “extras” thrown into orders, which is always an amazing surprise. So I order from both and promote both, and subsequently have a stash of riding gear that means I could probably go a couple weeks without doing laundry and still have tights and shirts to wear.

Exchange rate between the Australian dollar and the US dollar is in our favor right now, so it makes prices super reasonable, and I’ve also found the cost of shipping to be really reasonable (or free, if you order enough from PerformaRide. (I’m not sure how it works that it’s so much more reasonable for them to send stuff to us when it costs a small fortune for us to ship stuff down there???) Both companies also do a number of sales/discounts throughout the year, so they’re worth a follow on social media or a sign-up of the email newsletters to find out when sales are happening.

I went through several different pairs of shoes/boots, finally settling on and alternating between my tried-and-true lace up Ariat Terrains and a pair of Salomon Speedcross trail runners. My Ariat Terrain half chaps are getting a little rough looking but everything’s still holding together, so they live to ride another year.

What My Horse Wore:

The standout highlight of the year was having a PK Saddle sent to me. I am so thrilled with the opportunity to ambassador this saddle — not only has it been an amazingly comfortable saddle to ride that Liberty likes, it’s brought a great network and further friendships into my life. The saddle comes out of Australia, further solidifying this year’s “how much of my gear can come from Australia?” theme. (Hey, if I can’t go there right now, might as well bring what I can here…)

The timing on getting this saddle was perfect, as well, given that shortly before I received it, I noticed Liberty starting to get some white hairs in the areas under the stirrup bars on the Frank Baines saddle, and I suspect she’s slimmed down and gotten way less “roly-poly” along her back/withers as she’s gotten fit, so now that saddle is probably a bit too wide for her, especially for long-distance work. Plus, it is technically a dressage saddle, which really isn’t designed and intended to be an ideal endurance saddle with excellent weight distribution, etc.

I continue to still use and love both of my Australian saddle pads: Archer and D-Lua. Both styles got used as rides throughout the year and they both seem to work equally well. They’ve both held up really well to washing and wear. The D-Lua wool is still the softest, silkiest, more luxurious pad I’ve ever felt. The Archer pads have a really cool aesthetic — I love the quilted top, and all of the color coordination you can do with the top quilt cover and the trim colors. (The D-Lua is pictured in the ALFA gear pic, and the Archer in the above pic, and the PerformaRide gear pic.)

I came back from Tevis with a souvenir this year — Liberty’s very own Taylored Tack halter-bridle and breastcollar set. (And shortly thereafter, a pair of reins as a birthday gift.) So we’ve been rocking that set all through the latter half of the year, and I love it. Never any problems or issues, and the white beta hasn’t been as hard to keep clean as I dreaded it might. I get so many comments and compliments on how the white looks on her and I really love the elegant standout effect.

We’ve also settled on a couple of Bombers bits that she has deemed acceptable. They have one in the works that I think will be the ideal (a combo of both the mouthpiece and material she prefers — as it is now, I’ve got one that’s her preferred mouthpiece, but not favorite material, and one that’s favorite material with a less-preferred mouthpiece) but I can rotate between the two right now and have that be a good option. Bit 1 is McHardy which is the mouthpiece she really likes, but has a tendency to get rubs on her lips from the sweet iron, even with using all sorts of bit butters, rub creams, etc. Bit 2 is the Titanium Control Plate (mine is the plain loose ring, rather than the 2-1/2 ring) which is the material that gives us the best results for a happy mouth and no rubbing. Per Bombers, they do have a titanium McHardy coming soon, but I don’t know exactly when that’ll be available…so until then, bit rotation it is.

Her Renegade Hoof Boots continue to be reliable. I know I work for the company, but I’ve said this before and it bears repeating — I wouldn’t continue to work for a company whose product I didn’t believe in. This year, I experimented a bit with gluing, to mixed results, and ironically, I don’t have as much faith in glue-ons and my ability to apply them as I do the strap boots. We did break one cable at a ride this year — only the second time in the 15 years I’ve been running these boots that I’ve had one break.

Misc:

I still love my little rig. It’s not fancy, but it for me, it’s freedom and flexibility. I’ve got a pretty good system down now for packing and operating out of it, with some ideas for the future and how to possibly improve on it even more.

Slightly less thrilled with the fact my truck handed me 3 big repair bills this year, with 2 of the 3 of them no thanks in part to the horribly rough roads in and out of a couple of ride camps that were the final insult to some of the truck components. Still…it’s cheaper than payments on a new truck.

I did some improvements this fall to my interior sleeping arrangements, swapping my air mattress for a foldable foam mattress, and it’s made a a big difference in terms of temperature comfort — doesn’t get nearly as chilly as the air mattress.

Over the course of the year, I managed to streamline or upgrade/update as much of my camping set-up as possible — smaller cooler, slightly smaller table, smaller cooking gear box, lighter/smaller saddle rack, storage bins for things like blankets and camping gear. Flexible buckets that stack really easily, squish into the truck, and don’t rattle around when I’m driving. New camp stove, after the old one started randomly spurting flames out from parts other than the actual burner. Lots of either battery or solar-powered lights and lanterns that either magnetically attach or easily hang from the truck or trailer.

Okay, so that ended up being sort of a pinballing, rambling year-end wrap-up…which makes it a fairly accurate reflection of the year. And with that…

Catch you all in 2022!

Memes of 2020

I don’t know if I’ll write a full-tilt year-in-review or not this year. It’s 2020. What’s the point? Everyone knows what happened, for better or for worse (mostly for worse) at this point, so I might just hit on a couple of bullet points personally.

The Good:

  • I got to go to Florida and play on the beach
  • I got a new horse
  • We finished our first ride together in over 4 years
  • I got my own trailer

The Bad:

  • My turtle of 28 years (and my longest-running and oldest pet), died
  • My grandmother died
  • Riding plans for the vast majority of the year went completely awry and off the rails (catch-ride Atti went lame, spring/summer ride season was non-existent, late summer/early fall riding was limited due to air quality from all the wildfires, schedule conflicts happened)

I’m kind of surprised I managed to keep at “at least one post a month” blog streak still going over the course of this year, but I did. And of course Facebook and Instagram for some more day-to-day insights.

So, without any further adieu, I present some of my favorite memes of 2020. Some made me laugh, some made me nod in agreement, and others made me go, “huh.” There’s snark, there’s humor, there’s eye-rolling, there are uncomfortable truths. This is just a selection of them that were applicable to my outlook and mental state at some point over the year. At least, the “fit for public consumption” ones.

I’m not naive or idealistic enough to think that the clocks magically clicking over to 2021 will make all the bad currently swirling around go away. But I am optimistic enough to keep clinging to a little bit of hope that it might.

Right now, I don’t really have any goals for 2021…well, I do, but I’m waiting for a little bit to toss them into the ether, because they have the potential to be lofty, so I’m practicing a bit of “holding my counsel” until I have a better idea of if they are realistically attainable.

First up on the slate, though, is something I am super excited about: Liberty and I will be participating in a “Jim and Mark Show” clinic — aka, a Mark Rashid and Jim Masterson collaborative clinic being held in Phoenix in January. I can’t think of a better way to start the year…an “eyes on the ground” riding session with a clinician whom I have long followed, and a bodywork session with the man himself of my bodywork certification program. (Jim also worked with the US Endurance Team for a number of years, so he is familiar with the sport.)

It’s the same weekend as the Tonto Twist ride, but these collab clinics usually only happen a few times a year, and this is the first one to come to Phoenix, so it was an opportunity I absolutely couldn’t miss.

Arizona is shaping up to have a good ride season so far in 2021, with a ride within the state scheduled (or tentatively scheduled) for every month except May-June-July. (And that could change, I’ve not heard if the Flagstaff Monsoon Fever ride will be back this year or not…if it is, that’s usually June.) We’ve even got a 100-miler on the books to wrap up the season at the Lead-Follow @ McDowell ride. (Talk about a great end-of-season goal, and good timing for “structure your ride season to lead up to a 100.” And McDowell is a good move-up ride for anyone looking for that first 100.)

As a founding member and one of the “behind the scenes” planners, I can say that the AZ Endurance Riders Club has some big plans in the works for this year, starting up our clinics and learning events, with something on the calendar every month through June at this point, with more to come.

So this could end up having the potential to be a really good year…especially if the final meme below has any bearing or truth to it…

But maybe, just to be safe…

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.

 

The 2010s Picture Challenge

This is kind of a fun challenge going around blog-land right now…ONE picture per year for the last decade. That’s a cool way to wrap up the decade.

2010

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Mimi’s last competition year…she did her last ride in February of that year.

2011

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A rough year, after Beamer, the trailer, and the truck all went to new homes thanks to a rapidly-crumbling economy.

2012

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The start of my job with Renegade…will be going into year 9 this upcoming January.

2013

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The major start of my catch-riding. 4 different horses ridden this year, and eight rides attended, the most I’d ever done in one year.

2014

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The year I started trail running. I’m currently in a “not running much” stage, mostly because I don’t have the same burning love and drive to make it happen that I have for horses and endurance riding…am pretty much content to do a few miles with my dogs and call it good…but this was a good outlet for getting out on trails and still doing some kind of competition when I wasn’t riding much.

2015

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The year I finally went to the Grand Canyon…and saw it in epic style, via a 3-day backpacking trip to from the South Rim to Phantom Ranch and back.

2016

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Tahoe Rim ride…such a beautiful ride, and a very much needed completion and reminder that I still loved endurance.

2017

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First 100-miler (attempt, at least…)! Might sound weird to call a ride the “best pull ever” but it was truly an epic endeavor and great experience.

2018

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The year of Flash, aka “my favorite horse in the world aside from my own pony.”

2019

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Got Mimi out on trail more this year than I have in probably the last half a dozen years, and it was really nice to see the world between her fluffy little fox ears again.

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.