022. A wrench in the works

Remember my plan for Hector?



Another  project I’ve been working on is Kevin. Kev’s my 2001 F-150. He’s my reliable farm truck, puppy-mobile, and gas guzzler. If stacked right, I can get 42 bales of hay in one load, and perhaps most importantly – he is the only thing left I have from my mom. She died in 2009 and despite (to put it mildly) our tumultuous relationship, Kevin’s both nostalgic and sentimental. And he needs to last at least another 5 years. I do not want a new truck payment yet (I am saving up for a “Gary”).

Ben has helped me replace many items on the truck, most recently being rear shocks, rocker panels, and cab corners. I’m still chasing a noise we think is coming from my CV joint, but otherwise all that’s left is a face lift… and he was scheduled to be painted over Labor Day weekend. Of course, I can only comfortably afford one or the other, so the ride has to wait. I am incredibly bummed, but getting Kev painted will finally cross him off the to-do list and be a big stress reliever.

While the financial aspect was the major deciding factor, there are some other significant considerations. Nakai is in great shape, but I’m trying to add a few more pounds on him since fall (and winter) will be here shortly. Last year he dropped a bit of a weight quite suddenly after Christmas, and (while he picked it back up right away) I want to prevent that from happening again.  I had also learned some disconcerting and alarming information about a friend’s behavior toward her horse. Originally, there was the possibility I may be riding with them at Hector. I am unwilling to put my horse in that kind of stressful situation, nor do I want to gamble possibly wasting my entry money and not be able to finish the ride on time due to the consequences of the poor decisions someone else made.

For now?

School, go on training rides… and enjoy the old man. I’m feeling a bit defeated, but that will pass. The next ride is Oct. 1, Mustang Memorial. I told Ben I was going Jersey no matter what.



Temperatures this past week or so have been excruciating. Almost every day has been in the 90’s with heat indexes near or above 100 ( and high humidity). We are still severely lacking in rain. Rides have consisted of light schooling, refreshing on our lateral movements and hip work. The ground is hard, hooves are cracking, and my allergies have been out of control.

So, when I see the temperatures dropping and with it rain, I feel like a spoiled brat throwing a temper tantrum. But Mother Nature, I wanted to do horsey things!! Your timing sucks, woman.

Since this weekend looks like a washout, I can hopefully spend some quiet time babying him. I took for granted my late teens and early twenties; I used to ride and then spend hours grooming, hanging in his paddock, and playing with him. I would drive to the barn after a fight with a boyfriend and climb on, murmuring to him as he grazed. I was also spoiled enough to board at a private farm as the only boarder. Since moving to actual boarding facilities, I relish the rare day when I’m completely alone. Nakai’s 25, and despite being in the best shape of his life, I don’t know how long I have left with him. It breaks my heart to think this way, and I feel guilty when work or home obligations take precedent.





Nakai had a week off after our training ride, and I took the opportunity to catch up on a few things at home. Our kitchen is almost finished and my reading nook is one step closer, too.

Meanwhile, Kai had his feet done and had a massage scheduled. I put a ride in on one of the babies, and we ponied Blossom a couple times for a bit of confidence boosting. I wish I could feel the energy Kai gives off; he is quite literally the “security blanket” for the majority of the horses he goes out with. Everyone seems to enjoy buddying up with him, and by the end Blossom was ponying confidently off him. We introduced her to the scary, muddy pond and across various obstacles. Working with the babies reminds me just how far he has come (from a nasty little appy I didn’t even like) and how broke Nakai really is. In a whirl of emotions I’m tearfully thankful for my little tugboat.

The weather has been hot. So, so hot. And humid. I think I’m dying.

Kai’s massage found him in great shape, and he got a chance to run around with Beamer and Rose for a few minutes in the ring.  Nakai hates summer almost as much as I do, so he gets a few more days off while I hide inside until the heat subsides.


019. Perk Trail Training Ride

I’m fortunate to live in an equestrian saturated area. Within a 30 minute drive we have multiple parks available, including the canal and the Perk trail. They’re not my favorite (as it’s the same scenery over and over) but they are the best option we have for putting in flat miles and working on average speed. The downside is that the trail is often congested with hoards of slow moving walkers or bicyclists – some of which have no problem whizzing past without warning. Our horses are super broke, but all it takes is one sidestep into the path of someone behind us (who we do not yet know are there) for an accident to happen. We try our best to be courteous.

PSA – In case anyone is unaware, both pedestrians and bicyclists are to yield to horses on multi-use trails.

We loaded up the horses early in the morning, dismayed at the heat and humidity. We are so fortunate that our horses get along well. I sometimes take for granted how well Kai loads and travels. He’ll self load/unload on a straight, and handles the stock trailer perfectly. Mechele recently added a trailer cam, so now I witnessed first hand how he manages to dump half his hay bag on every ride.

We tacked up and started out. Nakai was feeling fresh and ready to work; he wanted to skip over warming up and jump straight into his ground-eating extended trot. I could ride his trot for days; it feels as though I’m floating over the ground. The past year has been a struggle at times to teach him to conserve his energy, especially at the beginning of rides. As a competitive, opinionated horse who is convinced he has places to be and things to do, Nakai used to argue with me over little things and use up unnecessary energy. He’s learning to “pick his battles”, so to speak, and I’m happy to report he is growing more and more consistent with each training ride.

Nakai had extra beet pulp, mash, and his new electrolyte supplement added to his morning feed for additional water intake. All of the horses are back on beet pulp; it’s been so dry here that they’re off the summer pastures until the grass has a chance to catch up. Despite having free choice hay at all time, the horses are convinced they’re being starved and stare wistfully at the back gate, nickering at anyone who walks by in case someone with thumbs can open it. Despite the heat and humidity, Kai drank at every opportunity and kept his hydration level excellent. I’m feeling very thankful he is such an easy horse to manage (and laughing at myself for my anxiety making this into a bigger issue than it is).

We mostly trotted the 15 miles down with stops for snacks and water. Kai was working great! We led the majority of the way, but he was content when Rose and Boy took turns leading. He worked respectfully behind and when they spooked at something suspicious he took the opportunity to scoot past, ignoring the boogeyman and reclaiming the lead position. He felt incredible! The trail is mainly cinders, but there’s areas where it is paved. As we headed down past Graterford, the trail was predominantly paved and sections did not have a grassy area to get off. A mile or two in on the pavement I noticed a bit of head bobbing. It was slight, every couple strides or so. It was confusing because physically he felt great – he didn’t feel off and wanted to keep moving. I pulled up, dismounted, and did a trot out up and back so Mechele and Shelly could check him out. They echoed what I felt: stride looked normal, cadence was fine; they couldn’t see an issue. Mechele commented that he looked due for a reset, and that was true – Kai’s feet tend to flair rather than get long, and during the summer months I usually have him on a 6 week schedule to counter that. He’s right at 6 weeks, so it made sense. They offered that since he has steel shoes (as opposed to Rose who has glue-ons and Boy who wear Renegades) that perhaps the reverberation of the steel on the pavement was starting to bother him. He looked perfect on grass and cinders, so the for the rest of the ride I took it easy on the pavement and moved off when available.

In a pinch, a sponge leash works as a great lead rope (guess who still needs a hold halter…)

When we stopped for lunch, I brought out my stethoscope and we checked everyone’s heart rate and recovery time. We walked the last half mile, so they were all down by the time we stopped. Nakai does not have the recovery time that the Arabians do, so I try to plan accordingly: walk a quarter mile or so if I know a water source is going to be coming up, and walk a half mile (preferably a mile) into the lunch break or hold. It’s giving me plenty of practice with my stethoscope, though, and I was able to practice listening with a noisy background.

The pace was somewhat leisurely on the way down; this was Shelly’s first time doing thirty miles and we wanted to make sure she and her horse were fairing well. They were doing excellent, and on the way home everyone turned their motors on. Rose no longer felt the need to dashboard or snort suspiciously at puddles, so she lead the majority of the way. Nakai was miffed at having to stay behind her, but I was able to get about 12 miles of rating work in! This is easily the hardest aspect for him. Normally, I’ll get a couple miles of quiet canter and then he’ll stick his head up and shake his head, trying to evade the bit and go faster. If that doesn’t work, he’ll tuck behind the vertical, ears back, and scoot forward. He’s always met with a “no, easy”, but that doesn’t stop him from trying. This was no different, but he settled into a great little lope and rated for a couple miles with Boy by his side. He’s also getting the hang of switching leads on his own – and I’m super impressed he’s picking that up. I haven’t consciously worked on it, but after a mile or so on one lead he was dropping down to a trot and immediately switching to the other. Hopefully I can work on keeping him relaxed and ask for flying changes in the next couple months. He does them reliably while schooling, but aside from switching when the trail changes direction we haven’t practice them outside the ring.

The proudest moment was Nakai wanting to continue to walk for a bit despite Rose and Boy trotting off. We had just squeezed our way through a congested point on the trail and were walking for a bit. Rose and Boy decided they were ready to move out again and trotted off down the trail. Nakai kept his relaxed walk, even stopping when I asked him to “grab a bite” of the grass. It doesn’t seem like much (and probably doesn’t make sense to some), but Nakai is taking the bits of what he has learned from each ride and starting to piece it together himself. Just like I am, he is learning to “ride our own ride” and to do what is best for himself rather than what the group is doing. This is especially exciting for me considering his competitive nature.The rest of the miles back to the trailer was uneventful and otherwise perfect. All of the horses looked super, and Shelly and Boy did it! The horses received more mash, and to my delight he continued to drink. At home, after a cold hosing I palped his back pretty hard and noticed the new pad had him slightly back sore. He’s never a fan of liniment, but this time he got a heaping amount on his back to help with his soreness. He immediately started fidgeting in an agitated manner, and I trotted him over to the grass. He practically threw himself down on the lawn (of course partially on the concrete walkway!) and rolled a bunch. Afterward, he laid there stretched out on his side, sighing dramatically and refusing to get him. It scared Mechele (who I don’t think has seen his temper tantrums) and after a minute he sat upright and started grazing from his position on the ground completely ignoring my existence. He’s done this before out in the field (Nakai: “go away, I’m trying to nap, bugger off woman!”) so I just laugh… and honestly, I feel the same way about liniment, so I can’t blame him.

Kai has an appointment with the farrier and a week off. I’m tossing the new pad and trying to schedule a massage in too for him. He’ll get some pampering on his mini-vacation and I’m have the opportunity to ride some babies this week. Mechele says he’s ready for a slow 50, but I’m not sure I am (yet).

018. Of Mashes and Mixes

(and electrolytes too)


I bit the bullet last night and bought a five pound container of Apple-A-Day. My research of electrolytes was helpful, but didn’t highlight the best way to give to Kai (or which brand he will like). Without knowing which method worked best, I figured starting at square one wasn’t a bad place to begin. Kai already gets a bunch of goodies mixed into his feed to control his ERU, so I’m assuming one more odd-tasting supplement won’t be a big deal. Also, for those of you wondering, it didn’t taste half bad. It was a bit of a shocker as I stuck the majority of my tongue into it, but I digress…

I picked a couple syringes up too. The plan is to pack one premade into my saddle bag and dose him halfway through the rides (or whenever I think it’s needed). I may even fill the second one up with applesauce or some other delicious treat so he doesn’t anticipate the paste every time the syringe is brought out.

I also picked up a bag of the Cavalor Mash & Mix. Nakai always looks forward to his yummy  mash after our rides. Between the supplement and the mash, I’m hoping to see a marked improvement in his hydration.  We have a training ride planned tomorrow to ride at least 25 miles (preferably 30), so we shall see.



017. Nockamixon

Nakai hasn’t been off the farm property since April (at Foxcatcher). I missed a handful of training rides due to prior wedding obligations and plans. We mixed up schooling with the 5-8 mile loops at home, but it just isn’t the same. I couldn’t sleep last night from the excitement of finally getting out again. Nockamixon is “home” for me. I spent my childhood and early teen years riding my OTTB mare and various other mounts through the trails. I could do them blind folded! They are the perfect combination of narrowed, wooded tree-bending trails, open fields, wide brush-hogged trails, and has an a stretch of trail that borders the lake cliff. It is perpetually windy by the lake – that combined with the low humidity made this summer day fantastic.

We went out with 4 other barn ladies and got to show the pleasure riders the rest of the trails. Last fall, I trailered here with Maria. I wanted to do a training ride, and she wanted to do her first solo ride on Beamer. As it turned out, she got lost and ended up stuck on a small loop portion of the trail and never got a chance to see the rest! I felt like a terrible friend and promised next time would be better. She reins and pleasure rides with her gelding, and Beamer is starting to get fit enough to keep up with the endurance riders on a fun ride.

Nakai was on fire! He felt wonderful and obviously thrilled to be out. He powered down the trails and ripped up his favorite galloping hill at over 31 mph! Teaching him “up” is easily the best cue I’ve ever taught it. It is quite a thrill to add leg, tell him “Up!!” and have him immediately pick up his feet and float over the mud bogs, rocks, and tree roots that litter the trails. He loves technical footing! I’m occasionally reminded how spoiled I am when I ride a horse who does not know how to pick up their feet. We had a bit of a discussion when I let Rose and Boy Boy lead (Nakai is very competitive and convinced he’s the only one who knows where they’re going) but he settled into a beautiful working trot and canter. We were able to work on rating from behind and “riding our own ride”. His competitive nature sometimes makes it a struggle to keep focused on our individual ride when out with others. It seems ironic, though, because he is naturally a fairly independent horse. He’ll happily take the top trail while the rest take the bottom, or decide to pick his way through a different part of trail rather than follow where everyone else has gone.

Kai’s hydration still needs work. He drinks plenty at home, but I’m having difficulty keeping him drinking when we go out on training rides. Today was no different despite the fun pace, and I’m currently looking at electrolyte options. I’m not sure if a daily feed-in would be best or if I should just dose him before a ride. Normally, once he starts drinking he will continue to do so… it’s just starting that’s the issue. Looking online has given me so many options that it’s been hard to make a decision. He is thankfully a big eater out on the trail and will happily stop for a bite at any time. Between the grass and various carrots, cookies, and treats we had in our bags he was fine… but I would feel much better if he was consistently drinking.

We ended the ride with a couple miles of walk and gave everyone a chance to cool out and relax. I am very glad I clipped Kai again – he stayed cool and enjoyed his post-ride mash! He didn’t have any soreness (I wasn’t expecting any) and he trotted out great when we got home. And despite not having any training ride opportunities since April, I felt great as well. I woke up this morning without a single stiff or sore muscle.


Decisions. . . Decisions. . .


The next tentative ride is scheduled for July 30th at Muckleratz. I was all jazzed to go, and a few of the other barn ladies were also tossing around the idea. How fun would a CTR close to home be with the whole barn crew?!

Then, the hemming and hawing started. My indecisiveness is partly in blame because I normally see 8 sides to every thing. As they say, the devil is in the details… Knowing full well that neither myself or my horse are summer children, would a 30 mile CTR in humid, moist July heat be worth the money spent? Should I save my cash and put it toward Hector instead? Am I fit enough?

With the wedding finished and no other personal obligations pending, I am tossing around the idea of doing training rides for the remainder of summer and heading to Hector in September. Mechele tells me Hector is beautiful, and I’ve never been to the area before. Furthermore, I feel have some additional catching up to do in the fitness department. Nakai is still incredibly fit, but I haven’t had the opportunity to go any long distance rides since Foxcatcher due to conflicting obligations. I’ve changed a few things around with my tack, and I’m not sure how much of a hindrance I’ll be to Nakai if I am not as in shape as I should be at Muckleratz. Ultimately, I’d like to lose another 10-15 pounds, and Hector would give me time to do so.

Squirreling away my savings and conditioning the rest of July and August sounds like the best thing to do… sigh.