The vet came out for spring shots. In addition to the usual coggins and shots, Nakai also received a body examination, mouth exam, and eye exam. There’s a fecal in there somewhere as well, but I do those every year regardless. I’m just waiting for the next person over my house to ask why I have noted to “gather poop balls for Jess” written on the calendar.

I felt the need for a baseline mostly because I don’t know what to expect in old horse aging. Nakai compounds this mystery as up until now he hasn’t had any of the issues that normally plague older horses. He’s very healthy for his age (27), and the vet still can’t believe he’s cushings free.

Shrinky eye is shrinky.

He hasn’t had an ERU flare up for over 2 1/2 years now, and while his eyeball is continually shrinking (and looking more pointy) it’s not causing any issues. He has two ancient splints on the inside of his fronts, but otherwise his legs are clean.

Amazingly, he still has all of his teeth, although some of them are nearly worn down completely. He’s beginning to have a minor issue chewing all of his hay (my BO noticed him dropping some), so I’m now supplementing with soaked alfalfa/timothy cubes.

Body condition as of 3/18/18

The most interesting discovery was that Nakai has a heart murmur! Over the course of our endurance training I thought I heard something odd when listening to his heart, but nobody had confirmed one way or another what it was. It’s never bothered him, and the vet confirmed that it’s not hindering him in any way. Sometimes murmurs show up in older horses and I have no way of knowing if this is something he’s had his entire life or is a later onset.

In summary: Nakai’s old but not broken, and despite wanting to see a little more weight gain the vet told me he looks good for his age.

While I know he’s old, I don’t think of him as “old”, and it’s a bit of a system shock each time someone says it. I automatically get defensive, the Mama-Bear in me wanting to hulk smash the person next person who flippantly comments on his roaning facial hair.

In the same breath, my gallows humor and morbid “what happens after my horse dies” questions are somehow inappropriate. I deal with sucky subjects by way of humor, but I also have to be realistic. Hopefully I won’t have to cross this bridge for years, but knowledge helps me feel more secure. I can plan. Kinda. We all know the Universe is rather whimsical.

And I’d rather a minute too early than a second too late.



Compared to 2016’s equestrian endeavors this past year has been extremely quiet. After completing 50 miles with all A’s at Mustang Memorial, I retired Nakai from endurance riding. He absolutely loves it, but at 26 years old I think it’s too much to ask him to keep doing fifties. Aside from Nakai’s ERU, I’ve been incredibly fortunate not to have any lameness or “old horse” issues. I want to keep him going as long as possible, and I decided that meant no longer competing.

I miss endurance riding.

I still bounce down the trails with friends and Nakai still needs at least 15 miles to really settle. What I really want, though, is to load up my horse and travel the east coast attending rides. Nakai will always have a home with me, and I love him more than life. Life, however, has its limitations and this particular dream isn’t going to manifest itself for a number of years.

The last bit of 2017 came with all kinds of annoyances that, while minor in the long run, left Ben and I stressed and cranky. My family was kind enough to gift us with the plague at Christmas. Three weeks have gone by and we’re finally feeling better. I’ll remember this the next time I come down with a stomach bug.

Then, I messed up my back and somehow managed to lock up the muscles in my lower left side. From doing what, you ask? CLEANING. Well, I told Ben, that’s the last time I’m doing that.

From all of this, Nakai’s basically had the first part of January off. I was able to squeeze in a ride here and there, but this past weekend was the first time I felt decent enough and the footing was safe enough to get some miles in on the trails.  I’m on a completely different schedule than everyone at the barn it seems, so I took the opportunity to tinker with my new vivitar camera. Unfortunately, the battery life is nauseatingly short (30 mins) and I have to practically point it at the ground to see Nakai. I’m hoping to replace it with one of the newer GoPro Hero’s in the near future.

Winter is usually when I pull out my work saddle and go back to basics. We work on softness, flexibility, and patience. I’d like to think one of the reasons I don’t have any body issues or lameness with him is because of the time I spend bending and suppling his body. It improves his responses, flexibility, and balance. This little horse can do lead changes on circles smaller than 20 meters, but that doesn’t mean anything if I don’t keep up with it.

Our ride last night can be summarized by “I should have lunged my horse”. Nakai was great but absolutely on fire. He wanted to do everything at Mach 5. I said “come on, easy, easy, YES soft, that’s right” so many times it might as well be our mantra. It was more frequently followed by “nope, you know that, nope” as I half halted every other stride and asked him to please remember he is an appaloosa and most certainly not a dynamite stick. He tries so hard though, and I feel blessed to have a coming 27 with the motor of a 4 year old.

I can’t wait to see him tomorrow.






080. No-Stirrup November: Bareback Edition

As Halloween decorations are replaced with Thanksgiving decor and the last leaf falls silently from the old oak, there’s a voice of dread whispering on the tail of the cool autumn wind: No-Stirrup November.

It creeps slowly, tentatively feeling its way through. You remember last year’s debacle through a nostalgic filter. It’s not that bad, you reason. Remember all the late nights with friends, playing tag and giggling at each other while trying to master an extended trot bareback? Wasn’t that fun? Wasn’t it??

Nakai says “Well, shit.”

Admittedly, I’m late to the party. The rainy weather combined with adulting made the first week of November barely ride-able, and when Wednesday rolled around I gritted my teeth and ditched the saddle. Nakai felt great and I impressed myself with my stickiness and hip work. We tackled 2 1/2 miles in a half hour with a good portion of that working on trotting. Cantering bareback with Nakai is a dream, but his pony jackhammer trot leaves much to be desired. M grabbed Rose toward the end and we went for a little walk through the fields. I could not resist one last canter up the hill.

Encouraged and energized with how well Wednesday’s bareback ride went, I went for round 2 last night. It started off a bit rocky – Nakai was adamant that he eats before riding, not after, and I witnessed a dazzling display of irritation on the crossties. The poor lad still doesn’t seem to realize that the only thing more stubborn than himself is me. Off we went, working through some initial balkiness. He slipped behind my leg, trying his best to plead his case that it’s dinnertime (not at 3:30pm…). Fortunately said temper tantrum lasted a whopping five minutes and then we were off to the races.

Once we warmed up, Nakai felt wonderfully forward and engaging. My thighs, however, screamed and it was more difficult this ride to half-halt and ask for roundness and softness. I rode another 2 1/2 miles, and now this morning I’m walking like Yosemite Sam. I’m making it a goal to ride bareback at least once a week anyway, but I’m hoping I can do this 2 or 3 times a week over the winter months. Now, if I can convince some of the other barn ladies to do the same…


Finally, dinner. “I’m dying from starvation” – Nakai, dramatically.


075. A Test in Patience

After a week of 80+ degree heat, Saturday’s cool sixties brought a sigh of relief as Maria and I trailered to Green Lane. I could not wait to bounce down the blue trail for the first time in months! With overcast skies and a constant wind, I thought we would have the trails to ourselves.

I started out the ride in a hoodie but quickly skittered back to the truck to dump it. Kai felt like a dynamite stick, ready to work and practically humming underneath me. The red trail was mostly empty, and we warmed up the horses with a working trot. Despite his excitement, Nakai rated well beside Beamer and we weaved our way through cyclists and the odd hiker. A few boats dotted the water as we crossed the bridge, the fishermen bundled up. The grim faces and layered bodies were a stark contrast to my T-shirt and rosy complexion. I love cold weather!

The blue trail barely began before we ran into a bunch of trail riders moseying. Then it was more cyclists. Families hiking. Dogs. So many dogs. We played a perpetual game of leap frog, hardly getting up to speed before having to shut down and share the trail. At one point we actually got stuck behind a gentleman hand walking his horse down the rockiest (and most narrow) section. If nothing else, this ride really tested Nakai’s patience. Beamer carefully picked his way through the trail, oblivious to his friend’s irritation. Though unhappy with the numerous stops, Kai waited calmly while a group of bible toting ladies crossed one of the many technical gullies, kept a fair distance from the hand walking horse, and relaxed after a brief hesitation when I asked him to please take a minute.

What should have been a 2-2 1/2 hour ride turned into 3, and our average speed was only 3.9mph. I cringed when I saw these stats and reminded myself that this was still a training ride (just not the kind I imagined). The plus side of multi-use trails is that our horses are regularly exposed to all sorts of life – sketchy people, bikes, unruly dogs, joggers, and everything else in between – and it shapes them into confident, secure horses who trust their riders to make safe decisions.

You can’t put a price on that.

074. Perk Trail

We trailered out today for the first time since May! The farmer this year has grown nothing but corn, essentially leaving us without the home trails until harvesting time. Nakai is so bored from schooling that when we arrived at Green Lane, it took him about 3 miles to wake up.

With Beamer working on growing more hoof (he is terrible about keeping shoes on) we opted for somewhere flat. Since Maria hadn’t been to the Perkiomen Trail yet, we decided to park at Green lane, hit the connector loop, and do 6 miles down/6 miles back. She was not sure how fit Beamer is and did not want to do too much.

Both of us wondered what kind of monsters we’d ride today and hoped that with the 85 degree weather the trail would be empty. Our wishful thinking paid off – there was minimal foot traffic and the horses were excellent. It wasn’t until we rode past the bottom of Green Lane and started the Perk trail that Nakai woke up. It felt like he just realized where he was and knuckled down to work. He powered down the trail with his ground-eating extended trot, leaving Beamer in the dust. Fortunately, Maria worked on encouraging Beamer to open up, and we had a few nice stretches were Beamer began matching Nakai’s stride.

For the most part, Nakai kept his competitive streak under control. There were a few minutes after we turned around that he tried his usual tricks – wanting to rush home and impatiently dance at the road crossings. I parked him behind Beamer, making him rate and work slowly behind. It was just enough for an attitude adjustment and we had a lovely ride back.

Both horses were already pulsed down when we go back to the trailer and had super upper gut sounds. The lower quadrants weren’t as active, so next time we’ll have to stop more frequently for snack breaks. Despite the summer heat (hey Mother Nature, it’s officially AUTUMN) they drank well and kept their hydration up – so I’ll call that a win.

I’m getting Kev set up the haul and crossing my fingers we’ll get out more often.

072. Catching Up

Whilst starting this post I somehow managed to delete the draft of my 2017 book reads. (Side note: It’s been that kind of disgruntling Wednesday.)

There’s nothing exciting to report on the Nakai front. It’s been the same routine and really, who wants to read about that?

We are currently stuck traversing the barn’s 2 main fields and the wooded trails as the surrounding fields have sprung up corn forests.  We’re corn-locked. It’s painfully boring to do the same loop four or five times to get a measly 4 miles, so rides consist of ring work.

All the ring work.
While Nakai’s been superb, I’ve encountered my own mental roadblocks. Lead changes have always been the best example of this. I focus too much on each stride, Nakai anticipates, and we both end up flustered. The most frustrating part is that I know we can do this! I haven’t successfully nailed changes these last couple weeks, and the other day I decided to ride in a halter and lead, promising myself I would stay out of his way.

Nakai rewarded me all evening with perfect little changes in the pen and out on the trail.

On another night, Ben accompanied me to the barn and I convinced him to hop on for a quick spin. It was only his second time riding Nakai, his fourth time riding altogether. I love how Nakai takes care of his riders. The attitude disappears and he kindly humors them. The horse that will gallop off with a whisper now needs extra encouragement to walk forward. I think Ben would be a natural rider, but alas his preferred horse power comes from vehicles.

We finished off the week with a toddle around the fields with Rose and General. It was the first time he’d been out with Rose in ages, and as we cruised up the fence line I could feel the familiar competitiveness surge through him. We did a nice slow loop working on manners and headed back to the barn to help Diane get General through some initial barn sour stickiness.

Now, it’s three days since and I haven’t ridden for various reasons (adulting being the main one) and I’m desperately pining for autumn.  All I want is my normal riding schedule back.

068. Of Fitness & Fawns

Thrilled that Nakai’s transitioned well over to apartment living and satisfied with his weight gain, we are now back to working on our fitness levels. As much as I loathe summer weather, we ride the most during this season.

I wasn’t sure how quickly Nakai would lose muscle and wind with his vacation time. Time off never seems to make a difference to the Arabs, and some of the Quarter Horses seem to revert nearly overnight. Thankfully, there didn’t appear to be much of a difference with Nakai. I rode conservatively for the first couple weeks and am now increasing his speed and miles.

We’ve also continually worked on removing race brain and the ever constant ‘wait’. Nakai’s doing great in both areas. Last Sunday I had an awesome 8 mile loop with Maria on the home trails. I made Maria trail boss (it’s always me!) and laughed at how easily she still gets turned around. Nakai contentedly worked behind Beamer, rating beautifully and kepping his head on our little gallop strip. He hit 34.8 mph! We rode side by side and I held him back a bit, not sure if I could trust Beamer not to spook (I did not want to be side-swiped). In that aspect, Nakai’s too honest – He will never take the shortcut back home or spook at the deer in the wood line while we gallop. He just loves to run.

Wednesday (I think? I’m losing track of days) I made plans to ride with Marina and Mechele was also available. We hit the trails and I was impressed at how nicely Nakai worked behind Jasper and Rose. I believe this is the first time he’s ridden with Rose since winter, and normally they feed off each other and create little monsters.  It was an excellent ride until we slogged through a muddy patch and I watched Rose’s shoe cast fly through the air toward us. She lost her shoe, too, so M cut her ride short and I finished the loop with Marina.

I’m having a bit of an issue with my ankles again. The numbness starts on the outside of my ankles and works it way up my calves. It burns and then goes numb. Both ankles are afflicted, and I’ve narrowed it down to tight ankles and bunching materials. I’m also chalking it up to having spent the last 6 months riding in my western, but I shouldn’t have this much of an issue switching back to my endurance saddle. I love my wide tread endurance stirrups but am wondering if I need to switch back to narrower ones and see if it helps.

I am a conformational train wreck.

Today’s ride had zero ankle issues (go figure). Maria and I planned to ride early, but she woke up sick so I was on my own. Nakai had a nice warm-up in the ring and we hit the trails. We almost finished a loop of Mechele’s fields when a fawn shot out ahead of us. I whoa’ed Kai and we walked. Out pops another one! Twins! They were older, about lab sized, but still had the bright white spots. Mom obviously left them to go feed, and here I was messing up their hiding spot.

Imagine my surprise when one comes circling back through the hay like a little velociraptor and begins calling to Nakai. The fawn would come close before darting off again. At one point the little babe was brave enough to stand so close I could have reached out and touched them. Nakai flicked his tail, scaring both, and they bounced off into the hay again. I rode away only to look back and see them following me!

They followed us into M’s second hay field and through the wood line into the BJ’s field. Seriously worried that they would follow us on the rest of my 5 mile loop and get lost, I turned Nakai back around and we walked back to the first field. I did end up throwing carrots at them to scare them back into the taller section. I zipped away while they bounced, thankfully without fawns following. Dripping with sweat and losing motivation, I headed back to the barn. What was supposed to be an at least 5 mile loop was 3.

Here’s a couple videos of the little babes: