095.

I haven’t written much namely due to one reason: I’m getting married.

I told myself I was not going to spend my weekends planning a wedding when I could be out riding. One curve ball I did not anticipate is all this rain (spoiler alert: it’s raining again today). With riding moot, I’ve spent these last few months working on our intimate wedding details. What work I’ve done with Nakai in the interim isn’t interesting enough for their own blog posts, to be honest.

I broke down two weeks ago and body clipped Nakai. His rain rot, while not severe, was stubbornly sticking around. I managed not to botch a clip job and having air reach the rot seemed to do the trick. His scabs have flaked off and now we’re in the process of making sure it doesn’t come back.

Additionally, I discovered my fender straps wearing down alarmingly fast on my endurance saddle. I’ve dropped it off at Leid’s for fixing but don’t have an anticipated date it will be finished.. I adore my work saddle, but I can’t wait for the endurance to be back. I’ve forgotten how the pancake seat and wide western stitching makes for a sore butt the next day after 10 miles.

The weather this past weekend looked fantastic for the NACMO ride, and M created an amazing design for our team shirts. I’m in love with how she draws Nakai.

With shirts ready and determined to leave the barn by 7am, our plans were dashed when we awoke to rain. The radar showed it was pouring at the ride location. I don’t like to ride in rain unless I have to. I chafe, and Nakai is freshly clipped. How would I keep him warm in 55 degrees and pouring rain? Thankfully, the rest of the team also nixed rain riding. We were disappointed to miss the ride and made plans to ride at the canal once it cleared.

I accomplished nine miles on the canal and had the opportunity to work far behind the group. The towpath is narrow and based on my other rides with the Thayer’s I did not want to play bumper cars on a narrow trail. I hate it and so does Nakai. Thus, we found a suitable distance behind everyone and spent the ride up refreshing Nakai on rating and his competitiveness. He was lovely! He had a few moments of wanting to motor along to catch up at the canter but otherwise settled into a great working mode. On the way home we found ourselves in the lead and I let him crank out a few miles at a hand gallop. Nakai loved moving out, happily breezing over bridges and ignoring the traffic slowing to catch a glimpse of us from route 611.

When we finally met back up with the rest of the group, he politely ignored Blossom’s temper tantrums and had no issues with Rose flying up and back down the trail past us. The worst part about the entire ride were the annoying gnats that swarmed our heads at the parking lot. It seemed no amount of bug spray or deet would deter them!

I have GoPro video of our ride, but it seems I’ve used up all my free space that wordpress offers. I’m not sure if upgrading my account is worth it…

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094. Nockamixon

Maria and I trailered to Nockamixon early Saturday morning. Maria wanted to stay under 8 miles since Beamer hadn’t been ridden since his hive outbreak. I wondered how I was going to keep Nakai’s brain occupied.

It takes Kai about 8 miles to settle when we trailer out. He strides out as soon as I hit the saddle, ready to work and ready to move. This is not a problem when riding with other endurance horses, but it can make shorter rides frustrating as I do my best to work on his patience.

Beamer was not happy about being behind, and within the first 10 minutes of the ride I demanded Maria lead. I did not want to start the ride tense.

Understanding his fate, Nakai settled the best he could and worked pleasantly behind Beamer for the majority of the ride. I let him rip up our favorite gallop hill and he had a great time cantering through the wooded ravine trail. This trail is my favorite – it runs along the south side of Lake Nockamixon and features a twisty, slightly rocky trail. It always seems to have a pleasant breeze no matter the weather, and on autumn days you can see out to the marina. During summer, sail boats and fishing boats dot the lake, and we were surprised with a gentleman perched on a rock ledge, strumming his guitar and singing softly.

Our mileage was pathetic – a whole whopping 5.3 miles. Truthfully, I was just happy to be out somewhere with my horse.

After untacking we walked down the lake to sponge off and let the horses drink. Unable to help myself, I waded in and Nakai followed. He loves water and will splash as long he’s able (tacked or not, it doesn’t matter). He never lays down, though.

 

093.

We’re nearing the middle of August and Nakai and I are both over this dreadful heat. It comes in waves, accompanied by stifling humidity and deluges of rain. I’ve been battling minor rain rot on Nakai since June – each time I get ahead of it, the humidity comes back and I see pinhead sized scabs starting again. Other owners have been dealing with mysterious hives, and in this case I feel lucky for the rot.

Nakai had his “fall” vet visit last week to finish his vaccines for the year. Although he is ERU flare-up free for over 3 years now, I like to split up vaccines in an effort to keep his immune system from going into overdrive. Some research suggests that multiple vaccines at once can attribute to a flare up as their immune system goes a bit haywire. Whether this is true or not, I’d rather play it safe.

The vet found him in great health. His weight is awesome, fecal came back completely negative, his blind eye is doing well, and his teeth were floated to round out the visit. He’s back on hay cubes and oil in addition to his grain and free choice hay. I’d like him a bit chubby going into winter.

We’ve also been doing our fair share of trailering out lately. With my truck set up to haul and GoPro at the ready, Maria and I have been heading out as often as possible. We’ve been having a blast, and I’m hoping that once autumn arrives we’ll have the opportunity to ride out with others from the barn.

Saturday we had terrible flooding that closed the majority of roads in our area. Sunday was beautiful, and Ben and I trekked out to Lake Tobias to celebrate his nephew’s second birthday.

And now it’s been raining ever since. I half jokingly told Ben I always wanted a seahorse.

Here’s a short video from one of my latest adventures. At this rate, I have no idea when I’ll be riding again.

092. NACMO!

“Does anyone want to try this this with me??” asked Mechele on facebook, posting a screen shot of something called the Spring Spectacular.

Mounted Orinteering?

Huh??

Mechele hoped this would be a new career opportunity for Rose and hinted that this might also fit the bill for Nakai and Beamer. 17 miles through state game lands to find five stations? It sounded like something retired endurance horses could do! Intrigued, I agreed and wondered whether I really knew how to use a compass (spoiler: I did not).

We loaded the horses at 6am and followed the Thayer family up past Cabela’s in Hamburg. The drive on 78 was uneventful and we ended up pulling in just shy of 7am – right behind the ride managers!

After some scrutiny from Jen (“Who are you guys..?”) we declared ourselves the Newbies and unloaded, tacked up, and walked through a mock station that Jen kindly set up for us. I struggled initially, somehow missing the key piece of information being HOW to put the arrow on north after finding my degrees, but with help from the Thayer clan we quickly caught on. Jasper broke his halter and scurried off from the trailer but allowed himself to be collected without incident.

It also rained briefly.

Yay, swampy saddle butt!

-Snerk-

By this time trailer after trailer rolled into the parking lot and we set off. I smashed the map into my saddle bag, determined not the lose it before the first mile. Nakai evidently thought he was at an endurance ride and excitedly marched up the trail, tail flagging and ears perked.

Up the gravel road we went.

Up and up and up and up.

The steady incline provided a great warm up and it wasn’t long after we began trotting that we ran into the identifying markers of the first obstacle. Five of us mulled around while Marina made tack adjustments with Jasper, trying to locate the area where the item would be. We used the three objects (3ft post, sign, tree, etc) and the degrees given to point us in the right direction. Jen said the object could be anywhere – down low, up high, slightly hidden… and she did not disappoint!

I had a phenomenal time and Nakai cantered for miles. He worked beautifully with the group in front and behind with rate changes and lead changes. He seemed just as thrilled as I was to be out working.

We mastered our compasses and after the second obstacles we found the last three with ease. The stopping, orienteering, and quiet meandering also helped to work Nakai’s brain. Having to be patient while I fumbled with maps and compasses was new for him, but he handled it very well. Nakai is not a fan of ambling around – he knows his job and has no time for just wandering around pointlessly. Still, he offered to wait quietly and helped find the second obstacle.

Once we found the fifth and final obstacle we turned back for the trailers. At this point we started running into other riders and my competitive streak turned on. While we all agreed this was a trial run to see if we liked it, I couldn’t help but think “we have to go now! Faster, before we’re beaten!” I verbalized none of this, however, and focused on having a lovely ride back.

Nakai rated perfectly with Theone and rose. We had an awesome stretch of hand galloping where he lengthened and settled. They worked side by side for a mile and came back quietly when we realized we were much farther ahead of everyone. Likewise, I had the opportunity to gallop up an incline and Rose joined us as we passed her. We galloped at a quiet 29 mph and both horses transitioned down and then waited for everyone else to catch up. Nakai and Rose are usually ultra competitive together. I’m not sure if I can put into words how delighted I am with Nakai. It seems the fast, quiet work with friends has paid off.

Back at the trailers, Jen reaches for our maps and we tell her we need to write what we found at each obstacle down. One thing we forgot to stash in our bags were pens!! Argh!!

Turns out that despite being completely new at this we nailed ALL of the obstacles and made time – enough to get fourth! Wow!

The Thayers brought along a gorgeous fruit tray (seriously, I gorged myself on strawberries) and everyone else brought side dishes and desserts. Jen’s husband cooked up delicious black angus burgers. Everyone we met was incredibly friendly.

I was in love!! How did I not know this  existed?!

With a little encouragement from the other rides and an appealing membership fee, we all joined NACMO – Team TBD! Ha! We all had a blast and the horses enjoyed themselves too.

Here’s a short clip from the ride:

ETA – Yes, I roached Nakai’s mane after letting it grow out and get floppy. No, I’m not sorry about it. I love roached manes and big plain heads. I can’t wait till it grows in a bit and he has a spikey mohawk again.

 

091.

Spring is finally in full swing here, and I’ve been putting miles on Nakai to avoid the Empty House. Ben surprised me with a GoPro Hero 5 Black, so I’ve been playing around with it while riding the home trails.

Setting it up was easy (No tears of frustration!) and transferring files over is also pretty quick. I’m still figuring out the app itself, but otherwise I’m totally pleased. I cannot wait to take it out on a ride with friends!

Here’s a short clip from our loop today:

 

090. Goodbye, Khoshekh.

I haven’t written much about Khoshekh save for an introductory post. It’s not that there isn’t much to say about a cat’s life – it just seems too personal to post.

I met Khoshekh (then called Cosmo) at the Upper Bucks SPCA a week after losing Jake. I was still reeling and desperate to hear some purring. Anyone who has lost a pet understands the Empty House. Toward the end of that first week it was affecting me so badly I found myself making excuses not to go home.

Sick, snotty, and a bag of bones, Khoshekh eased into my life with a familiarity the seemed too coincidental. Almost overnight he became my shadow, filling out to a plump 13 pounds and chattering non-stop. He learned to grumble and groan, using these little chirps and trills to greet me when I came home or after waking from a nap. He learned “hurry”, running to the kitchen or to wherever I was calling him from.

He had the largest paws on a cat I’ve ever seen

Wide eyed and wiggling, he chased his tail constantly. He also teased Mulder and used my antique farmhouse table as a personal jungle gym. Later on, those two would spend snow days cuddled up together in front of the wood stove.

The best part about Khoshekh was his absolute love for people. Unlike Jake, who would refuse to look at you and wheeze as if you were sucking his life force, Khoshekh made a habit of stretching himself up my chest, gazing at my face and slow blinking. Occasionally, he would lean forward and head bump, rubbing his face on my nose, cheeks, and chin. He would stay like that for hours. A visitor to our home meant sidling down the hallway exorcist style only to flop dramatically on the floor for belly rubs. It didn’t matter who you are: he was going to meow and rub and you were going to like it.

Saturday morning, his meows changed pitch and he violently vomited his breakfast. As he walked away, I noticed his right hind leg seemed weaker – it wobbled as he walked. He took a few steps before sliding to the floor and resting on his side. When he took a few more steps with the same result, I grabbed him and took off for the vet. The last time I saw hind end weakness like this was Jake’s kidney failure.

We get there and cannot find his femoral pulse. X-rays showed a clean pelvic area and pretty hips and hind legs… but also showed his lungs were full of liquid. I was shocked. His last X-rays less than a year ago were clean. The cardiologist was not in, but it seemed like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy may be the culprit. Worried that he had half a blood clot in his leg, I was given a diuretic to drain the fluid from his lungs, pain medication, and medicine to knock out a blood clot if one was forming. I suspected congestive heart failure.

We made it through one dose of each before he began declining. At first I thought it was the medicine; the pain medication in particular has a bitter taste and he reacted as such, spitting and sticking his tongue out.

By Sunday morning there was no change, and he did not want to eat or drink. Each dose of medicine caused vomiting.

By Sunday afternoon his breath was much more labored, and I became horrified as I counted breaths. He was upwards of 60 breaths per minute – extremely high. We couldn’t wait for the cardiologist, and my poor Khoshekh looked miserable. I made the decision to euthanize.

He’s buried out back by the oak tree. A mound of stones from our home’s foundation covers the spot.

I am heartbroken and heavy with guilt.

If I had elective x-rays done a couple months ago, just because, would that have made a difference? There were no outward signs of heart disease with the exception of increased vomiting over the past couple weeks. With each of those, however, were hairballs, and I naively attributed them to his grooming (and shedding. Sheesh, Khoshekh, hair was everywhere).

He was in my life for a year and 4 months. I have no idea what kind of wild ride he went on the first six years of his life, but I am grateful for him to spend his seventh with me. At the time, I felt Jake had a hand in this. Perhaps he knew Khoshekh needed a soft place to land. Perhaps he knew how badly I needed a cat like Khoshekh.

People say cats pick their owners. I hope I lived up to the expectation, Khoshekh.

See you later, love. Say hi to Jake for me.

089. Mulderoid

Shortly after his 1 year gotcha-versary, something clicked.

Guess who’s now wagging his tail – AT ME!

I should clarify: Mulder loves people. Guests coming into our home is cause for utmost celebration.

Lindsay coming home? Meh.

He used to look at me as if saying “Oh, the warden’s back”. While he would listen, and tried so very hard to do anything I asked, the bonding just wasn’t there. He didn’t seem to care if I was around. Two months ago I could’ve dropped dead and the only one upset would have been Khoshekh.

Now, however, I have a wiggle worm who popcorns around the kitchen, bouncing off of everything, talking and whipping his little tail around like a propeller. He’s so far up my ass his new nickname is Mulderoid.

I spent a whole year boosting his confidence and working to get him to open up. Now, it’s time to dial it back to manageable levels.

He’s learning “Watch Me” and we use it when coming across stressful situations. I use it mostly at the canal where we pass strangers and other dogs in close proximity. He used to be hyper-focused on other dogs, barking and straining on the leash to get to them.  Just this past weekend we passed a property that had a setter harassing us as we walked. Mulder tried so hard to focus on me and never even offered a whimper. We still have a long way to go but I am incredibly proud of how well he is learning to handle such situations.

We work hard on this to reduce to stigma that pit bulls are untrustworthy, vicious dogs. I do my best to ensure Mulder is an advocate for his breed.

He’s so scary, in fact, that he hides from the rain under my truck.

Just an overall terrible creature, see?