014.

Same old shtuff

The last few weeks have been a last ditch effort to create some sense of normalcy before this previous weekend and this upcoming weekend come screaming toward us. On top of prepping for the wedding and ensuring my details were covered, Ben was busy prepping for his car club’s annual show.

Naturally, instead of taking that time to relax, we opted to cram as many activities as possible into a two week period. What little spare time we had after work was spent on ponies, mini-trucks, and continual improvements to our home. We were also lucky enough to have some great days to hike, so we took advantage before the real heat and humidity set in.



There hasn’t been much to update on Nakai, but that’s mostly because it’s been the same routine for the past month now. I’ve had too many weekend obligations preventing us from trailering out anywhere. Once this weekend is over, I’ll be able to look forward to an uninterrupted spree of training rides before Muckleratz.

A couple of the other barn ladies have expressed interest in doing limited distance rides, so I’ve been riding with them quite frequently to help get their horses fit. We were also lucky to squeeze in a ride with M and Rose after their vacation period from Rhode Island. Kai just adores Rose, and they have a terrible (read: fun) habit of feeding off each other on rides. Since their both pathetically competitive, riding at home is always a blast.

Apologies for the ginormous video – I haven’t yet been able to figure out how to upload a small version.

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013.

I haven’t had much ambition to write lately.

I loathe summer. The heat, humidity. . . the chafing, the smells. . .  It’s not for me. For the most part, I’m miserable. Of course, our hectic pace doesn’t cease during the summer. I spend all day running around only to drop on the couch and pass out moments later.

I smell like a mixture of liniment, fly spray, and sunburn.

This week was spent getting more miles on Nakai and trying to acclimate to the humidity. I’m extremely pleased that we’re doing much better than last year.

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Saturday we loaded up the pup and got an early start on our date hike! I love that we both enjoy hiking and adventuring. One of my favorite things to do is to get in the truck and drive somewhere new.

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The Falls trail is a 7 mile loop highlighting the majority of the waterfalls at Ricketts Glen. It was very hot and humid, but the trail is only a few feet from the water pools.  The strangest aspect was some of the people we passed on the trails. Hiking at Ricketts Glen is more technical – there are maaaany rock steps and slippery slopes close to the waterfalls. Some are moss covered and slick. We seemed to be the only people prepared to hike the entire loop. We passed people in bathing suits, sandals, and a couple girls without shoes.

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Despite the growing hoards of people flocking onto the trails from rt. 118 and Lake Jean, it was totally worth it. I can’t wait to see the trails highlighted in autumn colors.

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012.

Saddle Update & Training Rides

After finding the suspicious roaning spots on Nakai, I switched pads and have been watching the spots carefully. They haven’t gotten larger, he still isn’t back sore or otherwise sensitive, and he sweats evenly. His Masseuse assures me he’s fine, so for right now I’m monitoring the situation.

I’m also working on two goals: find Nakai’s most efficient gait and boost my confidence in regards to his fitness level. I rode extremely conservatively at Foxcatcher – I  worried about pushing him too fast and for too many miles. Despite my reservations we finished with plenty of time (and did not turtle!). Ever since, I’ve been working on staying out of Nakai’s way and letting him learn to rate himself. We’re up to 6 1/2 miles of a steady working trot (with the goal to trot 10 miles before needing a break). He’s also making huge improvements to his competitive streak and is losing interest in the other horses “beating him”.

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In other news, I’m back on the search for a brand of bell boots that will hold up to Nakai’s abuse. My latest (and favorite pair… *sob*) of Davis bell boots had velcro ripped off after barely 2 months of use.

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011.

One of the many reasons Nakai is as trusting and bombproof as he is is due to the many things I did to him as a teenager (often without much thought to possible consequences). Over the years, the “training” changed as he no longer needs desensitizing. A moment for a good look at a new obstacle is enough. Now, it’s to encourage him to continue to think independently  and brush up on some older cues (and it’s also just plain fun).

Since going blind in his right eye, it’s been a bit of a challenge to learn how to cue him on his off side. So many things I took for granted (such as my body language and hand signals) are pretty useless now that he can’t see them. He has a tendency to crowd me on that side if he isn’t sure what I’m asking, and finding a cue for him to “send” has been tricky. We also continually work on the cue “up” (I.E – watch your footing / pick up your feet) which has paid off over technical footing and helping him see things.

We practiced a bit last night:

 

There’s only so much I can do with what is available on the farm, so I’ve been researching ideas for unique, easy to build obstacles. When it dries out a bit more (not sure if I live in Pennsylvania or Seattle anymore, to be honest…) I’m planning on using some of the natural topography around the property.

010.

Saddle fitting Conundrum

In January, I was on the hunt for an endurance saddle that could get me through my first season. It needed to be lightweight, with lots of options to tie/attach items, and budget friendly. I ended up settling on the Abetta Endurance saddle. This was a big switch from my bulky (and heavy!) western. My western fit Nakai, but it was just too heavy and a bit too long to work for longer rides.

I’ve been riding in the Abetta with success. Nakai moves freely in it, and he hasn’t been back sore. I thought I had a winner… up until a couple days ago.


See these? The roaning spots just showed up…as in, they weren’t there last week, and now they’re front and center.

(This is a closer view)

 I immediately jumped to poor saddle fit. Nakai has gained quite a bit a weight in the past two weeks. Convinced I was having pressure issue, my barn owner and I played around with my saddle and Nakai’s back. The roaning spots are low, and we both took turn placing our hands on the spots while exerting pressure on the saddle. There wasn’t any pinching or pressure that would suggest an issue. Next, we did the same thing with my built-up pad underneath. There was a very mild change in pressure, but again no pinching, poking, or anything else to suggest it’s from my saddle.

What is most confusing is that Nakai is working the best he ever has. He’s definitely not back sore, the spot themselves elicit no reaction from him when poked, squeezed, or prodded, and he is a genuinely happy horse. The spots also sweat. He moves out willingly, extends his trot for miles at a time, does his lead changes, rollbacks, and other movements without an issue. He’s not compensating anywhere that I can tell, and he receives glowing reports back from his massages… I’m a bit at a loss as to what to do.

The other bizarre aspect is Nakai’s coat pattern (I will never pretend to understand the LP and PATN2 gene of appaloosa color). Over the years, Nakai gets new spots. His coat color changes frequently depending on the time of year, and I’ve discovered spots within spots as well as spots on top of spots when I clip.

After this most recent body clip, I discovered his entire body dotted with white hair that was not previously there before. There are a couple new roaning spots as well, but they are significantly smaller than those pictured above. There is a spot (or two) on the roaning on his right side.

(A small example of new white hair growth – his chestnut used to be solid)

So.

At this point it could be saddle fit or his appy coat. The logical side of me says saddle fit. Because of his recent weight gain, I’m worried that his built-up pad is too thick (potential cause?). I’m immediately switching pads, but otherwise am not sure what course of action to take. If he isn’t sore or showing any other signs of issues, should I worry? I’m also reading conflicting information online about how long it takes white hair from saddle fit to show up. Some report as shortly as 8 hours while others claim it’s from the previous season.

There is also further assertions from a well-known saddle fitter about roaning forming due to there being a history of fluid under the skin:

3) White HAIR OR ROANING OF WHITE IS A PRESSURE PROBLEM?  White roaning is a history of fluid under the skin. Solid white hair is where it was slipped in more serious galling and pressure. Roaning of white is not a pressure problem, 1st it is one of movement, 2nd it is mild pressure. Enough heat from friction and said pressure causes fluid under the skin. That is where you see roaning. This roaning can disappear with  a coat change if you make necessary changes in saddling. Stirrup strap swing can cause white hair if the saddle isn’t constructed properly to protect from friction to the horse in the upper strap area. Narrow straps also add to this problem as do riders that stand the stirrups or swing their legs.  – Len Brown

The only issue I take with this is that Nakai’s never had noticeable swelling in the area where the roaning is. I ride frequently (4 days a week) and spend non-riding days stopping by as well. Neither myself nor my barn owner have noticed fluid..but if it’s minute amounts contributing, that might be a possibility.

009.

Disclaimer: my horse is always good.

Of course, the definition of “good” occasionally varies… but he’s a handy little horse. He’s extremely well broke, bombproof, and has a fantastic sense of humor. He is quick to forgive (but never forgets) and willingly tries anything I ask of him. He trusts me explicitly.

Occasionally, we have days where my 25 year old thinks he’s 2 again.


Riding Nakai is not easy. It’s a constant ebb and flow of discussion. You need to cue him correctly and stay out of his way – micromanage and he throws a tanty. Half of the trouble is his anticipation. Simply put, Nakai is impatient. He forever thinks two steps ahead of me, trying to figure out what I want before I even ask. It’s taken years to feel “it” before it starts and set him up for success. I have to vary our schooling constantly (and it’s part of the reason we’ve dabbled in so many disciplines), but it’s paid off monumentally. He never blinks at a new task, and he makes the perfect babysitter for other horses. We’re the go-to team for obstacle challenges at fun shows. The more complicated and fast a task is, the happier he is to do it.


He also has his own ideas about how some things should go.

Although Nakai knows we never gallop across the church field, as soon as we hit the base he tries. With tail flagged and head dropped behind the vertical, he’ll scoot forward a couple strides, asking “yes..?” If I ask to walk, he will do so politely, sighing and trying to sneak a trot stride in here and there. When we’re out with friends and come to a fork, he’ll choose the top trail instead of their chosen bottom (or vice versa). When out on technical footing, I let him decide the best way to navigate. I know a few acquaintances who disagree with this ( i.e, “he’ll just think he can do what he wants!”) but allowing Nakai the freedom of opinion has created a well rounded partner who knows that not only can he trust me, but that I will also trust his decisions. He’s saved my ass more than a few times over the years, and he spooks only at real danger. If Nakai doesn’t want to go down a trail or past something completely ordinary, we don’t. There’s a reason, and I refuse to ruin years of trust over something small.


Every ride post-Foxcatcher has been incredible.He is so balanced and responsive to the most minute of cues. There are times I’ve barely thought of the next movement and he’s already read my mind. In some ways, he’s almost been too good. He spends his days on 24/7 turnout and when I bring him in for a ride he’s refreshed and ready for whatever I decide to that day.  I don’t think he’s ever seemed so happy. He’s on a huge pasture with free choice hay and grass, and my barn owner works diligently to provide the type of grain, beet pulp, oil, and other goodies Nakai and the other horses receive based on their individual needs. It is a stark contrast from the dirt lot, two flakes of hay, and one size fits all feeding program from previous barns.


I think I’ve finally found what he loves to do.

We’re tentatively planning on Muckleratz in July and then Hector in September. Muckleratz is a 25 CTR and Hector is a 35 LD endurance ride. The goal until then is to work on bettering our hydration methods and figure out what works best for him with electrolytes. I also need to work up to trotting at least 10 miles at a time. I need to lose more fluff.

008.

Confession: I am a book drunkard.

I have an insatiable appetite for books. From Historical Fiction to Sci-Fi and everything in between – if it’s printed, I’ll read it. Before smart phones made the bathroom experience significantly less boring, I was reading air freshener cans and the warning labels off a tube of Crest.

The first book I remember was my mother giving me a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Not the cute, a la Disney style version, either. You know, the one where Cinderella’s step sisters hack off their toes in order to squeeze into the slipper. That always seemed her style – why gently introduce violent, uncomfortable items when she could shove you in head first? Whether intending to give my nightmares or warn of the dangers that befall princesses when associating with men, all she succeeded in doing was opening the floodgates of my imagination.

(My most recent spoils)

The most distressing part of moving in with Ben was consolidating my library. Books were crammed in every accessible area – from bookshelves, totes underneath my bed, the closet, and tubs stacked in a tall entertainment chest. They were in the bathroom, the mudroom, hiding in end tables and on window ledges. Split decisions were made, as pausing for a second longer would have had me in a hoarder-esque meltdown when confronted about having to part with some of my babies.

This is the result:

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They’re homeless until more bookshelves can be built. The shelving in our home is already occupied with a mixture of hardbound encyclopedias, medical books, and a smattering of machining and engineering books. As much as I want to covet such prime real estate, it can wait. I am simply thankful to have someone who wants to build me bookshelves.