Sunday, November 29, 2015

change the plan, never the goal

This pretty much sums things up this fall.

All season, my daughter had the goal of entering her first 50 mile endurance ride at Oktoberfest. Horse injury, kid injury, truck troubles... you name it, it happened.

Was this the universe telling us to stay home? Hell no! 

This was the universe asking us how bad we wanted it. How creative can you be in adjusting the plan while keeping your eye on the prize? 

It's not about the obstacles, but about moving through and around them with grace... and with a little help from our friends :)

And besides, according to my wise daughter, the best part of her first endurance ride was knowing that when things get tough but you keep going, you will feel good about yourself at the end.

On our way to a successful 50 mile completion! photo: Wendy Webb

On the way home, the starter on truck quit at the Trenton On Route. Rob, our Knight in Shining Armour to the rescue !

Luba had a slight right front lameness at Oktoberfest. I gave her a few days off and she seemed fine.  Fine, until she suddenly started quidding when I fed her supper about 10 days after the endurance ride.

Dr. Sleeth of Dundas Veterinary Services came out the next day and found a slab fracture on the inside of the 3rd molar on the bottom right and a razor sharp piece of tooth slicing her tongue. In fact, the tooth already had a slab fracture on the outside, as did the corresponding tooth on the left side. This kind of bi-lateral fracture suggested some kind of developmental abnormality in those teeth.

X-rays confirmed that the root of the tooth on the bottom right was not healthy and the tooth should be pulled before causing more problems. Not to mention that it was more than likely the source of chronic pain and maybe the mystery lameness.

Because the tooth crown already had two slab fractures, there was a chance that it would break during oral extraction, and despite our best efforts, that is what happened. Change the plan, but not the goal of removing the bad tooth. So the tooth was repulsed surgically from the bottom of her jaw on a second visit. 

Equine dentistry is not for the faint of heart. (Read more about it here). But I am grateful that we discovered the troublesome tooth, and grateful to everyone who helped Luba get rid of it.

The vet comes out in a couple of weeks to check on Luba and in the meantime, she is out in the paddock wearing her pyjamas as she convalesces.

An aspiring Olympian was at my daughter's school this week, talking about overcoming an injury in pursuit of her goal to compete for Canada at the next summer games.  My wise daughter told me that I should just think of Luba's tooth extraction as obstacle that we have to overcome, and that there will be other obstacles to challenge us in the future. 

But that this should not get in the way of our ultimate goal of becoming a Decade Team. 

Change the plan, but never the goal.

Charles Schultz's rendering of my life coach, who is currently in grade 6.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Scared is scared of things you like

So I came off Whiskee at the start of the NAETC. Not sure what happened. He went from relaxed to Calgary Stampede bucking bronco in the blink of an eye.

I went off over his right shoulder and landed on my right side. Sprained hand, bruised forearm and shoulder, bruised hip and tailbone. And got the wind knocked out of me.


The next thing I know, I am on my knees looking up at my friend Kim, who had turned her horse around to ask if I was okay.  I told her, "I think I hurt my hand", and said that I was okay, so she should carry on.

Then other people arrived on foot, including Alison, the event's First Aid volunteer. I am grateful for their help in assessing my injuries. Soon I was up and there was Whiskee! Chelsea caught him and brought him back.

He was a bit antsy, so I asked her if he was okay. She said yes. So I got back on, with the help of a young fellow who gave me a leg up. On two.

One, two. I am up in the saddle again.

Was I scared? Sure, I was scared.

But the Scared is scared of things you like.

And I like riding. I am an endurance rider.

I like riding long distances over hill and dale, through the forest, down the canyons, across the field, even down the road.

Nothing beats the view though the horse's ears.

Whiskee was a perfect gentleman for the rest of the day. All 75 miles of it.

So what happened? Maybe he got stung? Another rider got stung at about the same spot on trail. We will never know and it doesn't really matter.

What matters is to remember that the Scared is scared of things you like. Even if the thing you like is what scared you in the first place.

the Scared is scared from Bianca Giaever on Vimeo.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Good Whiskee

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough.”
— Mark Twain

God willin' and the creek don't rise, and thanks to the generosity of Nightwind Arabians, I am set to ride Whiskee in the North American Endurance Team Challenge in Millbrook, Ontario this week. It is a FEI** 120km event. 

I haven't told Luba. She thinks she is going. 

But we had to withdraw her from the competition last week. She somehow managed to aggravate an old splint on her left front leg earlier this month. Dr. Hodge at Russell Equine shock waved it and we were hoping that would do the trick, but it still needs more time.

Extra-corporeal shock wave therapy is a non-invasive treatment done under sedation. It is a pressure wave that passes through the tissue, increasing blood flow and speeding up the healing process. It also reduces pain (analgesic effect), so it cannot be done too close to the date of a competition.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Living the Dream: Don't cross that bridge until you come to it

Just two days until 2015 Tevis!  I am living vicariously through several riders I know who will be on trail Saturday morning. Especially Lancette who was at the Tevis Ed ride too! Ride like the wind, Lancette and Jantar!

Soul Sisters. Foresthill, Tevis Educational Ride 2015.
The theme of today's blog is, "Don't cross that bridge until you come to it".

The earliest recorded use of this expression is in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's The Golden Legend (1851): "Don't cross the bridge till you come to it, is a proverb of old and excellent wit."

Basically, don't worry about things that haven't happened yet. Just deal with them if and when they happen.

Probably my biggest fear about the Tevis trail has always been the Swinging Bridge. I am not scared of heights, but I do get seasick. So the thought of being on a suspended bridge that sways from side to side and up and down is just not my cup of tea!

Thanks to my hosts, Steve and Pat (who let me ride her sweet gelding Chuy!), I got to ride the trail from the finish line across the No Hands Bridge to Lower Quarry and back the day after I arrived. And by serendipity, we ended up riding with Lancette and Steve, as they were camped near the Overlook!

Look Ma, No Hands Bridge!

Don't cross that Swinging Bridge until you come to it

Swinging bridge was on the menu for the first day of the Tevis Ed Ride, after the Last Chance check point.  My mentor, Jennifer, and I did most of the steep downhill on foot, leading the ponies. At the bottom of a hill after umpteen switchbacks, we headed down to the river to cool before heading back up to the bridge.

From the river, we watched a few horses and riders make their way across the Swinging Bridge - some mounted and some leading their horses on foot. The bridge bounced a bit up and down, but to my relief, did not sway too much from side to side with only one horse going over at a time.

When the way was clear, Jennifer announced we were going over mounted, so we headed up to the foot of the bridge and got on the horses. She and Crimson started over and suddenly Scorch started to wig out, dancing on the spot. Jennifer and Crimson were already half way across, so she suggested I get off, which I did asap!

Suddenly, a riderless horse comes barreling down the hill towards the foot of the bridge! I stepped into the trail to block his way waved my hands to get him to stop. Luckily, he had a red lead rope looped around the saddle horn, so I grabbed that. Now I had two excited horses spinning circles around me on a very small space between the hill, the foot of the bride and the narrow trail down to the river!

This is the small space where I caught the loose horse and held on to both horses, while Jennifer and Crimson already on the other side!

I managed to get them settled with both of them facing away from the bridge and up the trail. By this time, Jennifer and Crimson are on the other side and Scorch really wants to be with his buddy over there!  

I call up the trail to say that we have caught the loose horse and soon a horse and rider come down the trail. They were in front of the group that lost the horse, so he must have blown by them on his way down. I was very grateful when she agreed to take the horse with hers down to the river to wait for the rider.

Now it was time to cross that bridge! After all the excitement, I stayed on the ground and led Scorch over. Uneventful and pretty anticlimactic given the recent turn of events. I ditched my half chaps, which were soaked and hanging around my ankles from wading in the river, and we mounted up on the other side to start the steep climb to Devil's Thumb.  Which leads me to my final piece of Tevis advice.....

Leaves of three, let it be! 

And wear chaps or socks that cover the bottom of your breeches. No exposed ankles!

I inadvertently came into contact with poison oak, which is EVERYWHERE on the trail, on my right ankle. Finally healing up 3 weeks later :)

So for all of you who will toe the starting line of Tevis on August 1, 2015, I leave you with the words of Julie Suhr:

Ride your horse well. 
Dare to try. Risk failure. 
Be poetry in motion on that one day of the thousands before and the thousand to come.

From the Tevis Facebook page -  Julie Suhr (considered the Grande Dame of endurance, 22 Tevis Buckles and 3 Haggin Cups): 

I have never regretted a Tevis Cup start. I have been pulled at Robinson Flat, at Michigan Bluff, and Franicscos and Echo Hills. I have been in first place at the Quarry, six miles from the finish and because I was too physically exhausted to go faster, I had two people pass me. The first, the winner, said "we will tie", and I said 'No, you and your horse are a better combination than my horse than I am today, go for it." She did and won. She is one of my best friends to this day.
I have never regretted a start. If I never got further than Emigrant Pass and looked back at Lake Tahoe with the first rays of sunshine glimmering upon it it was worth every minute of training, churning stomachs and sleepless nights. The best Tevis Ride I ever had was on a little grey gelding named Rumadi in about 1969. We did not finish. He still gave me the best Tevis Ride I ever had, even those that resulted in Haggin Cups. I am too old to worry about bragging rights. Rumadi and I simply had it together that day and though trite to say, we were poetry in motion on that one day of the thousands before and the thousand to come. I never rode a horse that well before or since.
So we all go risking failure. Those who successfully finish the ride should realize it took more than their horsemanship, but included finding a depth in a horse and yourself that maybe you did not know existed, and then always, of course, the unknown....Lady Luck.
And now, having spoken my piece, I will wish all who dare to try, a successful journey.
Julie Suhr

Monday, July 20, 2015

You gotta know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em

Knowing when to go big and when to go home is probably one of the hardest things to learn about the sport of endurance riding.

Many of us are riding our pets. We only have one horse and she has a forever home with us.  We err on the side of caution because we don't want to hurt our beloved pet.

On the other hand, we are all capable of extraordinary things. To quote T.S. Eliot, 

"You have to risk going too far to discover just how far you can really go".

I recall my first foray into distance riding on my 15 year old Arab mare, Sera. We entered the 28 mile novice CTR Northwind Challenge in Buckingham, Quebec. I had very little trail riding experience and knew nothing about distance riding. We rode regularly W/T/C to prepare for dressage shows, Arab shows and horse shows at local fairs.  I had no clue about how hilly and rocky the trail was, or even how far 28 miles was! Without even knowing it, I risked going too far. 

We set out with a few other novice horses and riders and the experience forever changed me.

Sera eagerly carried me down the trail, up and down hills, along quiet roads and though bush trails. There had been a lot of rain, and some of the clay trails were quite slick. I was amazed at what she could do! We finished a full hour later than the optimal ride time, but still got a completion, albeit with the maximum amount of time penalties.

We were both tired and muscle sore for a couple of days, but none the worse for wear. 

Thus was born my passion for distance riding. Wow! If we could do that, what else might we be able to do? 

Over the next few years, Sera accumulated over 500 CTR miles with a 100% completion rate. 

As I began doing endurance rides with Sera's fully, Luba, I had to learn how to safely push the envelope, developing a young horse into an endurance athlete. Make haste slowly for sure, but at some point you have to raise the bar and go for it. The first 50. Faster 50s. Harder 50s. The first 75. And the first 100 miler. 

Each time we went out of the comfort zone, to go farther and faster, I was faced with the dilemma of knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. 

One thing was certain: pushing boundaries and reaching the next level was an addictive magical elixir.

There is a fine balance between the desire to complete the ride and the desire to do what is right for you and your horse. 

At the VT 50 this weekend, I had to strike that balance once again. Luba passed the vet check at mile 38 with an A- for gait. She took a couple funny steps on the way out and was scared of the door and the mirrors at the far end of the arena. But she trotted soundly on the way back. We needed a recheck for quiet gut sounds, so I had Denise trot her out again so I could watch. Same result. 

Given the wet sloppy trail conditions and the fact that we would ride the last 12 miles in the dark without a even a moon to light the trail, I decided to rider option. It was a decision made easy only with the experience that comes with wet saddle pads and lots of ride entries. 

I know that the next magical outside-the-comfort-zone experience is only possible if my pet pony is happy and healthy doing her job. 

So we are grateful for 38 miles of beautiful, challenging Vermont trail, breathtaking views, and cheering supporters. 

And we live to ride another day!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Just ride

PLuba is all vetted in, eating, drinking, pooping, peeing like a pro. She is also in heat, as her pen is between two handsome geldings, Misha and Appollo. They are both in the 100 tomorrow, so I will be up early to keep her company when they leave at 5 am. Well, probably up at 4 am when the runners go by.

Denise took Luba out for a little untie ride and I ran along to loosen my legs too. We rode a mile out from the finish line and back.

We scouted out all the vet holds and got extra ice. Lots of pasta and rice for supper and going to sleep to the sound of horses eating hay and light rain pattering on the roof of the camper.

Tomorrow we ride with 20 horses in the 100, 15 in the 75, 30 in the 50, all sharing trail with 327 ultra runners! Only in Vermont.


So you think you are tough?

Denise, Luba and I arrived safe and sound (literally) at Silver Hill around 5pm yesterday. The trip usually tales 6 hours including a stop at the border and a stop for gas. This time it took 7 hours. The line at the border was long but all our paperwork was in order, so we got through fine. We took a wrong turn though and ended up on I87 instead of I89, so we turned around and then stopped for gas at the junction with highway 11. Went in to discover hot pizza! Got some pizza and left without paying for the gas! Realized this about 20 min later so after checking for a cop car in my rear view mirror, I stopped and phoned them to pay before they put out an APB on me LOL.

We are parked in the small rig parking section at the lower end Silver Hill. 

We settled in, had supper and I rode Luba around camp before the sun went down.

We are camped next to Charlie and Anne. They lent us their multi tool and showed me how to use it to open a can (as my can opener grew legs and went on a walkabout.) They used to backpack until that got too painful so Anne says that was the universe telling her to ride her horse instead.

Anne is riding the 100 and Charlie is running the 100. What could be even more impressive than that? 

Charlie ran the Western States Trail Run aka Freaking Tevis trail just 3 weeks ago.

So you think you are tough? Bahahaha you ain't met Charlie yet!