Liberty’s Gotcha Day

Two years…and what feels like a lifetime.

Two years since a whirlwind day trip of leaving my house before dawn, driving up to Kingman, hanging out and chatting with my boss for several hours, and then relieving her of one marshmallow-fluffy, dreadlocked, out-of-shape mare who hadn’t been ridden in a year…who took a few minutes to be persuaded to hop in a strange trailer, but once was in, traveled without even a peep…then making the drive back down to the east valley and unloading said mare while there was still enough daylight for her to explore her new surroundings, then settling her in a stall for probably one of the first times in her life.

That was only two years ago, but it feels like it’s been forever. I mean, technically I’ve known Liberty for almost a decade — we did our first ride together in 2013. But having her actually be mine? The connection we’ve forged just in the last two years wasn’t something I thought was possible in that relatively short amount of time.

I brought her home with low expectations when it came to endurance. I really just wanted something I could ride, and be able to retire Mimi with dignity and not make her keep schlepping my bum around. Maybe we could dabble in a few LDs again — I suspected that in most of our previous attempts, she hadn’t really been solidly conditioned as well as she could have been, and was too self-preserving to overrun her conditioning — so I was curious to see what she might be able to do given a chance. What she’s done has blown me away. And furthermore, we’ve been having fun. To me, this is everything that I have wanted endurance to be for me…the chance to see some beautiful trails, to challenge myself and my horse, to be able to craft a conditioning plan to be able to meet goals, to have fun with rides, and ultimately, the deep connection and bond that forms when you and a horse have spent so many hours together.

As with all of life, I have no idea what the future will bring…if I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that plans have a way of changing, and nothing is predictable…but to enjoy things as they happen, and to focus on the now, versus getting too hung up on what may come. And the enjoy every ride.

Happy Sweet 16, Liberty!

Happy birthday to my big, beautiful mare! One day shy of being an Independence Day baby…but close enough. Born on one of the hottest days of the 2006 summer, in Lake Havasu City, she got an early introduction to water/hoses, getting frequently sprayed down to help keep her cool. She also didn’t get enough antibodies from her dam’s colostrum, so within the first couple days of her life, was experiencing a rush trip in the trailer to the vet…and during said trip, her dam stepped on one of her hind pasterns. (To date, it’s never seemed to have affected her, other than that hind hoof grows slightly wonky.)

Needless to say, she didn’t have the smoothest start to life…but if anything, it’s made a tough, strong war mare out of her. I’ve never seen her quit…she might slow down, or need to regroup at times…but she never quits. She may be tough, and she may live up to her name and love her freedom…but she’s also the kind of horse that seeks to connect with her people…she’s not just looking to get the job done; she wants to do it together.

I’ve been fortunate enough to know her for almost a decade now, and have watched her grow from a sometimes-silly, still-green, coming-7-year-old (who still had an amazing brain despite her lack of exposure to much of life)…to a solid, mature mare who still has an amazing brain, and who seems to get better every single year.

It’s hard for me to believe she’s 16 — physically, she doesn’t have a lot of miles and wear and tear on her, and Shagyas are notoriously slower-maturing (both physically and mentally), so I feel like being in her teens just might be her prime. I certainly hope that’s the case, because I’m looking forward to many more miles and years left with this special girl.

(Such an amazing brain. When I pulled out the garland and headbands, she looked like a little kid who just got their favorite “dress-up box” handed to them. She loves these photoshoots, and getting festooned with ridiculous get-ups. Also, I’m pretty sure that’s only the second time in her life she’s been ridden bareback. I hopped on her once last summer, and then again this morning to get these pics. She just sidled right up to the fence and let me do my awkward “slither aboard” thing, and didn’t even blink while I got myself all situated. SO out of practice for riding bareback.)

A Couple Months of Fun Rides

I am so far behind on blogging. Irony is when I’m not riding, I have lots of time to write…but very little content. Right now, and the last several months, I’ve been riding a lot and have lots of content…but less time to sit down and write (and more of my writing time is being taken up with work projects and AZERC club projects). The reality is, a quick post on social media is a lot faster…although it tends to lack the space, word count, and audience attention span to spin out a really good story.

I do miss the days of the height of equine (especially endurance) blogging…I sort of feel like “last woman standing” when it comes to actively (semi-actively?) blogging…but that goes along with how I tend to feel some days with endurance. I’ve been in this sport since 2004, and I’m still a “newbie” compared to some…but I look around and marvel at how many people I’ve seen come and go in this sport just in the last 18 years. I guess longevity doesn’t apply just to the horses…

Anyway…I still have 2 ride stories I need to catch up on (Bumble Bee in April and Cinders Trot in May), but in the meantime, I figured on doing a catch-all photo spam round-up of the last couple months, and some of the more interesting things we’ve been up to. I have no idea how it’s already halfway through the year. There’s some days it’s all I can do to get through without feeling like my head is completely spun.

Fortunately, riding has been a good stabilizer and sanity-keeper, and I’ve had the chance to do some exploring on some new trails and new places.

Log Corral

Log Corral is a really fun ride that is an excellent workout — an 18-mile ride round trip, it’s an out-and-back that starts at a trailhead off the Beeline Hwy and goes to Bartlett Lake and back. The first half is climbing up, then descending down to the lake…and then reverse that on the way back.

I was thrilled with how Libby handled this ride…it was her first time out there on that trail, all three of our riding companions are Tevis-bound and she comfortably held her own with them on pacing and recoveries, and best of all, she loved going into the lake! I didn’t let her go in too far…I didn’t want to wade after her and get soggy, since there was still a 9-mile ride back to the trailer (although my saddle would have fared okay). But I was pleased that she seemed to be such a happy little seahorse, since there’s another lake in the NW part of the Valley that is a popular destination for people to take horses to go swim, so I might finally get a chance to go swim with my horse one of these days.

Happy Camp

Also known as “Hewitt Station,” is a portion of the Arizona Trail that runs through the Superstition Mountains; this particular section is north of Picketpost Mountain. It’s a trail ride versus an endurance conditioning ride, but I do love my ponies to be versatile and adaptable, and to be able to rock-n-roll through a fast endurance pace one day, and then mosey through technical trail the next. There’s the remnants of some old stone houses tucked away if you know where to look for them, we were fortunate enough to find one of the seasonal creeks still flowing a bit, and Liberty met train tracks for the first time (the now-defunct Arizona-Magma line that ran cattle and copper down to one of the main rail lines in the Valley).

Happy Jack

An invite to spend a weekend up north with friends at their cabin and property netted a bit more drama than I planned for…of the vehicular variety. My alternator in my truck went out in mid-drive (literally, as I’m cruising down the road, my power cuts out and I’m dead in the water…), but fortunately there was a well-placed pull-out, and although I was in a cell phone dead zone, the pull-out happened to have a young father and his son camping out there. They were amazingly kind and helpful, and drove me (and the dog) into town, where I was able to procure a new battery and contact Susie & Brad to let them know what was going on. Brad promptly drove down in their truck, met me at my pull-off spot, swapped the battery over and determined the alternator was out. My trailer got hitched to his truck, I drove my truck into town, dropped it off at a mechanic that was open (and had time, and had the part, and could turn it around that same day), then headed up to the cabin where all of us were still able to get a lovely afternoon ride. I was able to retrieve the now-repaired truck later that afternoon, and still salvage a lovely evening, enjoy an overnight in fresh, cool mountain air, and still get in another ride the next morning. It was the kind of weekend that made me grateful for good friends, and reminded that the kindness of strangers really does still exist. And both the dog and the horse handled all the upheaval with absolute aplomb and sensibility.

Other Miscellanea and Arizona Life

We’ve been working on our Tevis heat conditioning…albeit a year ahead of time for us. (Well, I’m sure it’ll be beneficial for me for crewing this year.) Right now, my goal is to give Libby a little bit of downtime and R&R — keep her stretched out and lightly worked (doing more arena stuff at the moment), but a chance to have a break after the hard season we put in from Oct-May. And arena stuff means working on things like gate-opening skills, which Liberty is rapidly figuring out.

We’re also in monsoon season, and have started getting some rain…including the skies opening up on us in the middle of riding. Hoping more of that continues and we get a good monsoon season through the summer.

Happy 29, Mimi!

Happy 29th birthday to my original Go Pony!

She is still 100% pony ‘tude and sass, and does not act her age at all, especially as we come into warmer weather. She humored me a couple weeks ago with a short ride (which I giggled my way through, wondering how in the world I used to ride this all the time…) but she’s definitely preferring retirement life these days, and prefers I show up with cookies in hand, rather than any sort of tack. (That’s fine, she has well earned it.)

Just keep doing your pony thing, Mimi, and enjoying life!