Bloghop: Favorites of 2018

This one is courtesy of The $900 Facebook Pony and I thought it was a great way to do a brief, photographic summary of the year while I work on my more detailed year-in-review post.

Only rules on this one are there has to be accompanying media (photo, video, gif, etc) for each category.

Favorite Show Ride Picture

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The ultimate Cougar Rock picture, of course. The photo makes it look so much more dramatic than I felt it was in reality, but that’s the beauty of a good photo…captures more of the moment than what you might have otherwise even realized.

Also, this is just such an iconic photo that is so representative of what endurance is to me. It reminds me of what I’ve worked for over the years, but also that the journey is not a finite point — this is but one goal along the way, with so many more still to come.

Favorite Non-Show Ride Picture

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That’s hard, because so much of my media is taken at rides, so I have virtually nothing of me riding here at home. But I love how this one came out, and it reminds me of probably one of the best “around the barn” rides I’ve had on Mimi.

Favorite Thing You Bought

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My equine-related purchases were actually pretty light this year, so I would have to say spending the $ to attend the first step towards my Masterson Method massage certification would probably qualify. Just learning the basics was really valuable, no matter what, and since this is going towards one of my big life goals, I’d consider it a pretty big deal.

Favorite Moment on Horseback

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Climbing on Flash for the first time. Mounting a horse I’ve never ridden before for the first time is probably one of the scariest moments for me. Between ones that have bronc’d me, or tried to, or the ones you just have to “get in the saddle and go” because they’re a bundle of nerves or energy, I’m always somewhat apprehensive of what I’ll be getting into, and there are only a handful of horses I’ve been able to mount up and feel instantly relaxed. This was one of those times. I was expecting a high-energy, fire-breathing dragon, especially in the face of 40mph wind gusts…and what I got was calm, settled, polite, and the instant feeling of safety and security.

Favorite Moment Out of the Saddle

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Hanging out in camp at the Strawberry ride. Yummy food, good friends, a beautiful setting.

Favorite “Between the Ears” Picture

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This was a hard pick, because I’ve got half a dozen amazing ears photos from this year. But looking out at the Grand Canyon is a hard one to beat.

Favorite Horse Book or Article

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This has been a fun thing for me to dabble with through the year, especially with Mimi. It gives us something “different” to do without being physically taxing for her.

Favorite Horse Ridden (or Groomed/Cared For) Aside From your Own

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Flash. Because that one wasn’t obvious at all.

Favorite Funny Picture of Your Horse

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Perfecting the Epic Opinionated Mare Face.

Favorite Fence That You Jumped or Movement That You Successfully Conquered
(Endurance Alternate: Successful Ride Moment)

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First time showing for Best Condition, and getting High Vet Score.

Favorite Horse Meme or Funny Picture

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Ahem, Mimi. 25 years old and still trying to zoom down the trail.

My Favorite Things: Rides

My Favorite Things: A series of my favorite things of different categories, less formal than a review and more conversational musings. Everything from rides, to tack, to food, to apparel, all following a “Top Three” format. Also, because I’m me, and I’m known for changing my perspective and opinion of such things as favorites from year to year, some of these topics may end up revisited…more than once.

It was hard for me to narrow down my favorite rides, especially limiting myself to the Top Three. I can pretty easily narrow down two…but that third one I just may have to leave as a “rotating space” for now.

Virginia City 100 (Sept 2017)
It’s probably my favorite ride to date, even with not finishing. Yes, that’s how good everything else was to basically negate the Overtime pull. It’ll always be special because it was my first 100-miler attempt. It was a leap of faith, with an uncertain outcome, and I’m still proud of myself for attempting it and taking that chance, even if all the stars didn’t align for a finish.

(FWIW, 100-mile hallucinations are real. I saw land bridges and Easter Island heads.)

VC just has the best atmosphere. Given that it was the 50th anniversary ride when I rode it, it was larger that usual, with over 70 entries…but normal years has entries usually between 40-50 people, which makes for a very laid-back, more intimate type of ride. I love that it’s a 100 only, so everyone in camp to ride is there to do that ride and that distance. Kind of hard to describe, but it gives it a different feeling than other rides.

Yeah, the rocks suck. Coming from Arizona, I’m fairly used to rocks, and many claims of areas being rocky elicit merely an eyebrow raise from me. This one earned the double eyebrows and a few colorful words at opportune moments. That said, I also has the fortune (?) to ride it during “one of the worst footing years to date” thanks to some epic rain/snow earlier in the year that decided to rearrange most of the trail footing and rocks.

But the scenery is gorgeous, and I love how different the Nevada high desert is from my own. The multiple, but not excessive, loop format (50, 26, 24) isn’t as intimidating (or hard to coordinate) as a point-to-point trail, but the loops aren’t so short/frequent that you feel like you’re just doing a merry-go-round of repeat loops around camp. There’s also very little shared trail (and you’re usually in the dark most of the times you’re on it, so does that even count?), and the sections that are shared are the ones you’re happy with because they’re of the “back to camp” variety that makes for happy horses who know where they’re going.

Plus, they feed you well (steak for breakfast, cookies at one of the water stops), and you can get finisher’s buckles. I really want one of those pretty buckles, darn it. One of these years…

Strawberry Fields Forever (June 2018)
Well, Flash, for starters. Hard not to enjoy any ride I’ve done on him. The Strawberry ride had been on my “must do” ride bucket list since I started endurance, so I was super excited to finally get to experience it. The scenery is out of this world amazing. Think “Sound of music” minus the singing nuns. Grass, aspens, an amazing array of micro-climates and vegetation. It’s so different from everything I know that I felt like I was living in a small slice of high elevation, green tree paradise for a few days.

It was also a really good ride experience for me. Flash put me and my horsemanship to the test, since he was feeling very strong and forward on day one. He has his Opinions and doesn’t like to be micro-managed, so he appreciates a certain level of tact and picking one’s battles. I must have done right by him, in his mind at least, since he rewarded me with being sensible and mindful in the technical, tricky stuff.

It was also interesting to experience a pull on day one for thumps, but to be able to work through it, solve the problem, and be cleared to go out again on day two…and then finish that day with a super-strong horse (who probably would have been happy to go day three).

The day two scenery was also gorgeous, and Flash was even more settled, so we had a really enjoyable ride right from the start. He’s also a fun horse to travel with on the road. I also enjoy my road trips, so the scenic, two-day drive up there also doesn’t hurt my feelings. The weekend also involved some of my amazing endurance mentors and friends, and just a ton of fun overall.

The Third Ride
I’m having a tough time narrowing this one down. I look back at my rides and think, “Oh, that one was really fun,” or “That was a major accomplishment,” but I’m not sure one stands out above the rest. Currently in the running are:
Lead-Follow @ Bumble Bee 50 (2018)
Tahoe Rim Ride 50 (2016)
Man Against Horse 50 (2009)
Lead-Follow @ McDowell 75 (2017)

Bumble Bee was excellent because 1) Flash and 2) broke the seeming curse I had in regards to finishing, or even riding, this ride. Had some phenomenal “connected” moments with Flash, and I will never forget how he danced his way up the Black Canyon Trail, with nothing more than a whispered “go get ’em” encouragement to let him know there were horses ahead of us. It was also my first real top ten in a 50, and first time to stand for Best Condition. The only real negative of this ride was figuring out my shoes I was riding in were pretty well shot for padding, and I spent the last 10 miles or so of the ride wanting to cut my feet off at the ankles. But Flash gets a gold star for putting with with several miles of my probably-crappy riding. And the shoes got permanently retired.

Tahoe Rim was a beautiful ride, probably the prettiest I’ve done. It’s also a very challenging ride, so definitely a feather in the cap to finish with a sound, happy horse. It also followed a string of very disappointing pulls at rides, and a badly-needed confidence booster. Roo did really well for me and gave me an excellent ride overall, even if he was being a spooky snot when it came to leading, and we almost parted ways a couple times.

Man Against Horse…probably one of my proudest accomplishments with Mimi. She proved what a tough, game, big-hearted war mare she is when she finished that particular 50. Funny thing is, there were definitely things that didn’t make it an entirely wonderful ride, such as the vet thinking he “might” have seen something in her trot-out at the top of the mountain, and having to re-trot her a couple times. Heart in throat for sure. And my stirrup leathers decide to declare war on my shins, so by the time we were down to the last third of the ride, my shins felt like I had hit knives stabbing into them. But it was one of those “worth any crap along the way” rides in order to get that finisher’s buckle.

McDowell 75 last year was pretty awesome. Not only to be entrusted with a friend’s special horse, but to have it be both his and my first 75, and to finish…and finish well. I fully anticipated needing to take the full time, so to finish mid-pack, with several hours of buffer, was a very pleasant surprise. It was a day that went really smoothly, and I was really pleased with how horse management and pacing went. It was definitely a ride that helped build my own confidence in the “yes, I am a competent endurance rider” department.

So between those four rides, I have a really hard time narrowing it down. I guess I just have to wait for another outstanding ride to come along that tops those four to round out my ultimate Top Three…at least for now.