Monday, November 30, 2009

Season Finale Pictures

In my coveralls and coat. It was pretty cold the first day. John said I looked like a little garbage man ready for the first day of work.

Boomer was following John around while he was setting the stakes for the pen and kept nuzzling up to him. He only stopped once John gave him a good scratch. It was really cute. I think that was the first time Boomer has sought out attention from John. He really is different horse lately. Six months ago, none of this would have been possible.

John went for a run and Charley took his chair!

When the 50 milers started to return on the first day Boomer got a little excited and got put on the lunge line for 15 minutes. Being able to compare his fitness to the other 'real' endurance horses around us was cool. I think he is looking good!
No, I'm not nervous at all. Why would you ask?

I'm Ready!

Lets go!

We got to see the sunrise and sunset together!

Coming back from the first loop behind the junior/Boomer sponsor!

Going over with my Vet card at our first hold with my dad who came to visit for a few hours! Yay dad!
Boomer was munching hay.

Dad feeding Charley my leftover tuna from lunch. I tried to eat on the ride, but it was hard.

We did it!!!
Boomer taking a well deserved nap!
Someone got bored on the ride home :)
Sweet mohawk, huh?
Oh, you thought the picture before this one was cool didn't you? Well I hope you learned your lesson. My husband gets cooler and cooler. We may never know how cool he can really get, but this is pretty close.

I want to thank everyone who made this possible for us. Mostly, I owe this to John who has supported me wholly in this process. For the last 16 months, this has been my goal- to complete a 50 mile endurance ride. The realization of this goal has made me so proud. John has supported my goal as if it were his own. I also owe a huge thanks to my dad who has supported my horse habit for the last 17 years. Somehow, I am lucky enough to have people in my life who understand how important horses are to me. Another huge thanks goes out to Kelly Lance, my horse trainer. She helped get Boomer to where he is today. Without her, I would lack the confidence I needed to complete a ride like this. She also had a huge part in getting Boomer fit for a ride like this.

Season Finale Endurance Ride

I didn't want to talk about it before it happened because I didn't want to jinx myself... But I have been scheming and planning to attend the Season Finale 50 Mile Endurance ride in Chandler, OK this weekend!
All day Wednesday, I was busy packing and getting food ready. I was also making a Thanksgiving dinner for John and I. I couldn't handle the thought of going without Thanksgiving food! This is by far my favorite holiday. So, I ruined the turkey, bought a rotisserie cranberry glazed chicken from Target, and everything else was awesome. The chicken was darn good too! We had a grand dinner and packed up the leftovers to take camping with us!

Thursday, John did his traditional Turkey Day 20 miler in the morning, then we packed up and got the horse. Once we were on our way, we just settled in for the 5.5 hour drive. Boomer was a great traveler for the most part. He was moving around a lot for the first hour, so we tied him up and gave him a hay bag. He was much better after that even though he didn't touch the hay. One minor mishap on the drive was a pesky little (HUGE) grasshopper in the truck. He kept flying up between the door and me and scaring the beejesus out of me. I tried opening the window, but he wouldn't leave. He finally perched on my seat to my left, I leaned forward while driving, and John smashed him on the seat behind me. Victory.

Once we arrived we set up camp and I took Boomer for a walk through camp to start getting used to things and also so I could figure out how to enter/get a vet card. Boomer was a totally different horse compared to last time we went camping at Clinton Lake. He didn't pace or call to the other horses at all. He just settled right in and started eating and drinking.

Since I was riding on the second day of the ride, I didn't need to check in and vet through until Friday afternoon. John and I set up camp as quickly as possible before sunset, had dinner and enjoyed a campfire. Because of the cold, we had decided to buy a space heater and rented one of the camp sites with electricity. John and Charley liked that very much! I slept in the backseat of the truck and was plenty warm under a sleeping bag and horse blanket. I woke up in time to see the 50 milers leaving camp. It was really exciting to see them all trotting off! Boomer watched with interest but wasn't over excited! I was very proud of his behavior so far. John and I walked around and watched people vetting through, we were still trying to figure this whole chaotic process out! I think that endurance rides are the definition of 'organized chaos'!
At 3pm, we took Boomer down to the vet area to get checked in. We got our rider card and were given a number. At the vet check Boomer did very well except for trying to kick the vet when she checked his muscle tone in the rump. Because of this tension, he was given a B for Muscle Tone and A's for everything else (for those who don't know, this includes: mucus membrane color, capillary refill time, jugular refill time, skin tenting, gut sounds, anal tone, muscle tone, back/withers, tack sores, wounds, gait, impulsion, attitude, and overall Vet impression). His resting HR was 40.
We went to the ride meeting that night and I headed to bed early! At the ride meeting we were told what the loops would be like. First loop was 17 miles out and back-use a hole punch to tag your card. Come back to camp for a 'trot by' check, head out on an 8 mile loop. Vet check and one hour hold. 17 mile loop again, 30 minute hold, 8 mile loop, and finish!
I woke up at 5:40 and gave Boomer a handful of grain. He had plenty of fresh water and hay the night before. I got all dressed, packed my saddle bags with a hoof boot, hoof pick, chapstick, granola bars, an apple, juice, and my rider/vet card, and tacked up the horse. We walked down to the timer table and checked in. We then walked up to the start area and stood around being nervous. Once everyone started, I mounted up and headed out at a walk.
17 Mile loop #1
Boomer was great at first. He was handling the trail like a champ. He was being his usual self that I had been riding out with Kelly. Until we started getting passed. There were a few late starters who passed us first. The the 25 milers started passing us. I wanted to walk the first part to make sure he had plenty left for the finish. In retrospect, I probably should have just let him go ahead and trot/canter. He wasn't so worried about people passing us going the opposite direction as he was the people who were passing to get ahead of us. It was like he would loose his brain until they got out of sight. Then he was back to him self. It took about 5 minutes for him to calm down after getting passed. Things started getting out of control when we got halfway and headed back. Suddenly he wasn't OK with anyone passing us in either direction. Added to this, we were getting passed more frequently than the 5 minutes he needed to settle down. So, I had to get off a walk a ways. Probably walked about 20-30 minutes, maybe more. I was really mad. Eventually, I caught up with a group of 5 riders, three juniors (top 3 junior LD riders in the nation, by the way) and their two sponsors. They let me fall in behind them and mostly kept it at a walk. We probably were with them for the last 5-6 miles into camp. That was a really good thing for Boomer, I think. We were the last 50 milers back into camp after about 3.75 hours and were OK'ed on our 'trot by' to head out for the 8 mile loop. This was where all of the 25 milers would have their hold time and many of the 50 milers were already done with the 8 mile loop and were on their hour hold.
8 Mile loop #1
We pretty much had the trail to ourselves at this point. The only people passing were headed back to camp. I had talked to the ride manager before this loop and she gave me a little pep talk and encouraged me to just let him go at his own pace until he figured out what we were doing here. So, I sent him off in a trot and only slowed him down for rocks or creek crossings. He powered along at a huge trot and sometimes cantered. It was awesome. I went from being mad at him for being an idiot for 17 miles, to having the most amazing time! He steered around that trail like a sports car and was so responsive. His ears were up the whole time and he was focused on that trail. No spook in him at all! I mostly stood up in 2-point position because he was trotting too fast to post efficiently. I would post when he would slow down and I could sit when he cantered. He was doing a great job. We finished that 8 mile loop in an hour and 10 minutes! We came in to the vet check and it took 3 minutes to pulse down to 60 bpm (the criteria was 64bpm). He vetted through with all A's this time and his CRI was 56/56. I untacked him and let him eat and drink for the hour hold.
17 mile loop #2
For this loop, I knew we wouldn't see much traffic again because of how far behind we were. At least we didn't have the 25 milers to worry about from here on out! Again, Boomer trotted and cantered quite a bit. He remembered the trail and began to speed up when we were nearing the halfway point. When we rounded the corner to the hole punch, he was so proud of himself! He was prancing and tossing his head like he was hot stuff! He seemed to be figuring out the point of this ride! On the way back, we alternated trotting and walking. He hadn't been drinking on the first half of this loop and I made him stop to drink at the water stop on the way back. There was a volunteer at the stop, emptying the buckets and waiting for us (yes, we were that far behind) and she helped me get him to drink by emptying a bucket halfway and bringing it to him since he wouldn't walk up to it. He did drink well, but I was still concerned. I let him walk the rest of the way in and got off to walk him for a few miles just to give him a rest. I let him eat any green grass we could find. He still wouldn't drink out of the lake though. I was concerned about him and wasn't sure he would have much more to give after this. We finally made it into the camp and vetted through right away. We were getting really far behind and it was starting to look like we might not make the cut off time of 7 PM. He pulsed down immediately at 60 bpm. We went through the vet check and he still got all A's except for a B on impulsion. His CRI was 60/60. I didn't untack, but I let him eat and drink all he wanted for the 30 minute hold. John ran down to one of the booths selling tack and bought me a helmet lamp. Best investment ever! We would have about 30 minutes of light after we started the 8 mile loop and I knew it would take us longer than last time because he was getting tired.
8 mile loop #2
This last loop was amazing. I think that people were concerned about me going out into the dark but I couldn't not try because of that. We were doing so well 42 miles in! I let Boomer trot for this whole loop. It was a much slower trot and I posted most of the time, alternating diagonals occasionally. As it started to get dark, we were approaching the halfway point. It took 35 minutes to get to the halfway loop, then 15 minutes to do the lollipop loop, and another 35 to get home. The way home in the dark was awesome. Boomer remembered the trail and took good care of us. He lowered his head to see the trail better and just went after it. I didn't have to urge him on at all. He just trotted along. He would slow for the rocks, and speed up afterwards. I was just along for the ride. Because I couldn't see the trail, I had to trust him. My LED head lamp help keep shadows out of the trail right in front of us, but didn't really help me see where we were going. Once, when he slowed down to a walk, I asked him to pick the trot back up and he ignored me, then I heard his hooves on rock. I knew then to let him take care of us. Another time, I saw a split in the trail, the left looked like it was a low rut and thats where we were headed. I steered him right to the high trail and he listened but had to climb up a rock to get where I had pointed him. I hadn't seen the rock ledge and at once knew that he knew the best way to go in the dark. After those two instances, I just dropped my rein hand onto his neck, held on to the horn and let him go. He was unfazed. Right at dusk, there were a lot of angry birds. I don't know what the deal was but every time we passed a big thick pine tree they would squawk and rustle around, then dive bomb us. Boomer didn't even flinch. I also heard a wild pig which really freaked me out. Boomer didn't flinch. I have never had to put so much trust in a horse before. I was just overwhelmed with how well he was taking care of me. Every once in a while I would see a white ribbon and tell him how amazing he was. I really had no idea if we were on the right track or not. Boomer knew and he got us home in time to finish!
The in timers weren't set up anymore when we got in with 40 minutes to spare. The vet tarted checking us right away and put our in time as 6:16. He was pulsed down at 60. His scored dropped for this check. He got a B for jugular refill, gut sounds, and a B- for impulsion. His CRI was 60/60.
WE FINISHED!!!!!!!!!!
I asked the vet if I should be worried about his gut sounds being a B and she said, "No, just feed him"! I think his B scores were because he was hungry, thirsty, and tired. I feel that is too be expected after 50 miles! In the future, I would like him to drink more and perhaps eat a beet pulp mash half way through the ride. I may also carry carrots to encourage him to eat while on the trail.
Overall, 21 started and 16 finished. I got the turtle award which was, appropriately, a flashlight!
After the ride we spent the night and headed out the next morning. The drive was uneventful and we made plenty of stops to rest and eat carrots.

I will post photos as a separate entry because this one is already long enough to be a novel!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Test Ride

Today was the first day I had Boomer back and I was ready to ride! He was a little antsy tacking up before the ride, but stood for me to get on and was fine after that. He wanted to look at some white plastic rain barrels before we started so I let him snort and touch them. After that, we headed out to the trails and gravel road. He was fine through the trails and went where I pointed him. He was fine with me moving tree branches that were too low to pass under. On the road, I wanted to pass the house that started all of this. I needed to know that he could pass that house without backing up into the ditch, spinning around, and generally losing his mind. As we got on the road, he started drifting to the right, towards the ditch. The drifting became more deliberate and he swung his hips down into the ditch. I kicked him with my spurs and he jumped forward and trotted along the road in a straight line. After that, no more problems. At all. For the rest of the ride. I tied him to the hitching post and left him for about 30 minutes and he was dozing when I came back.
To say I am thrilled would be an understatement at this point.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Home Again!!!

Woo Hoo! Boomer is back home!
John and I went out this morning and rode with Kelly one last time. Boomer did great, we had a blast. John really enjoyed riding a horse that actually responded to his cues instead of being a total dead-head. He also enjoyed the trails because they were much more challenging and he got to do more water crossings and steep hills than ever before!
I really love riding with John, it is just so fun for me.
Boomer loaded right up into the trailer and was tied up for the whole ride home and did great. He was a little excited when we parked and started to unload, but listened well. I turned him out, unloaded his food and then spent an hour grooming him. I really missed that quality time just loving on him. I think he enjoyed it too.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Last visit!

I went this afternoon for my last visit with Boomer before we pick him up on Sunday. I took all of his bridle and tack and wanted to make sure everything was properly adjusted. He did very well on our ride. There were 4 of us and he was a little excited at first. Instead of trying to shut him down, I just let him trot a little and he calmed right down. He really is a trooper and was a strong leader when one of the two colts on the ride were having trouble. He did have two minor panic moments that Kelly really helped us work through. Boomer really feeds off of other horses and one of the colts was having a hard time with crossing anything. He was leaping like crazy, I'm talking 3 feet high. He is a well bred WP horse, but he could make someone a nice CC mount, I swear! Anyhow, he was doing this 'jump down the bank-jump the creek-jump up the bank' nonsense and Boomer just started vibrating. I don't know how else to describe it. He compresses his body, grows taller, then just starts vibrating- you never know when he could blow. So, I sat down deep, told him woah and made him stand. I made him stand until he was relaxed, and THEN we followed across the bank. The second time was the same situation, but we were on a steep incline, one horse was up at the top of the hill and jumping colt was at the bottom of the hill, jumping things. Boomer was in the middle and started his stuff. Kelly noticed, and talked us down. She reassured me he wouldn't rear (it made me feel better to hear it, anyway) and told me to turn him to the left and get him on a flatter area. Then she had me tell him to WOAH, pet him and tell him it was OK, then ask him to stand. Within 30 seconds he went from feeling like a powder keg to having his head down with his leg cocked while I took cell phone video of the jumping colt. I was so impressed that we handled that. In the past, that would have stuck with us for the rest of the ride and made things really tense.
I know things will still come up, he still is tense about being tied up. He will test me at times, especially at home. But now I know that he knows how to be good. I can ask with assurance that he behave and I know he is capable of whatever I ask.
For the first time EVER with this horse, I am feeling trust. A number of times today, I got my phone out of my pocket, fumbled around to find the camera and filmed the ride. I didn't feel like I had to constantly be watching everything around us. I trust Boomer to handle the trail. I also know that he knows not to put me into a tree. That is an awesome thing for a trail horse to be trained to not do. At one point, I just dropped my reins while we were riding and used both hands to put my phone back in my pocket. I can't describe how proud I was when we started going down a steep, muddy hill and he slowed down and took baby steps without me asking him to do anything. I was also equally impressed that over creeks and ditches, no matter the shape or size, he kept all four feet planted- no hopping or scrambling, just solid footwork to get across.
I am very excited to get him back on Sunday. We will go up and ride together (John too!) then bring him home.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More pictures!

Boomer is still improving! I went out to ride him again today and I started the ride on him and Kelly rode a 3 year old. Boomer was great, we went up and down hills, lots of rocks and mud. He was great. He picked his way downhill carefully and was quick to respond if I told him 'easy'. He went through water like it was nothing. We jumped a few logs, which was a blast. He tried to refuse a big one, but about sat his butt down in the dirt before he would pass it. He practically backed himself up to try again. He didn't try to get away with anything. We did more loping, which I have been nervous about. I just wanted to know that I was still in control and that he still listened. He was fine. He doesn't really have a slow canter. It is pretty ground covering and he turns really fast, but he was totally under control. Kelly thinks he would be a fun playday horse. I would love to do that with him!

He was looking around much less today and really didn't seem phased by anything. He seems to have really matured. He is still a fruit-loop at the barn and did try to pull back once after I unsaddled him, it wasn't bad though. He didn't lay down flop on the ground like a fish. Baby steps. He doesn't like the hitching post by the barn (the others that are further from the barn and allow him to look around more, he is fine with and doesn't pull back at) and resists walking up to it so I got to have Kelly on the ground talking me though how to push him right up to it. He was much more responsive than he used to be and he did get up to it and stand still for me to dismount.

Out on the trail, he was awesome. I couldn't ask for more. At the barn, he is still working things out. We talked about that some and Kelly really thinks he will be a different horse in a year or two when he finishes maturing.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Training update with Pictures!!!

I finally got out to ride Boomer! He still looks good, healthy, and in good weight. He is happy and seems calmer and more relaxed. He is still pulling back, but the Be Nice halter seems to be making him think about it.

We went out for a ride and I rode a cute buckskin paint named Bucket and Kelly rode Boomer. We were out for over 2 hours and we switched horses about halfway. One thing she did differently is when he would 'booger' at something, she would make him walk right up to it and touch it or walk over it. She explained to me that he 'avoids' these issues by looking away any ignoring the scary thing in front of him. That is why she makes him touch it with his nose. Because he HAS to look at it to touch it and once he does that he loses his fear and will walk all over whatever it is that used to be scary. Like this rock:

He had never seen this rock before and after spooking at it, she made him touch it, then he voluntarily put his hoof on it and the he just hopped up and crossed it! She had him cross it a few more times so I could get a good picture. She did the same thing with a patch of concrete and a tire he looked at funny. He would avoid and prance around the thing but she kept him moving forward and used the reins to make him look right at the object.

He doesn't look around and worry as much on the trail and Kelly even stopped him to gather and move some fallen branches. She has taught him two new voice commands 'stand' and 'easy'. She uses 'woah' to stop, and 'stand' to cock his leg and wait a while. I was so shocked at how quietly and easily he stands now. We could stop and talk or readjust my stirrups, whatever. He just stands now. She said that at first he would prance around and toss his head, but pretty quickly figured out how much easier it is to just stand. She uses 'easy' and bumps him with the bit when going downhill to make him take baby steps and look where he is going.

I was so impressed that he seems to really pay attention to where he is headed instead of worrying all of the time. She took us on trails that she mostly hadn't taken him on before to show me how to handle him if he got worried, which he didn't, so she talked me through how to handle him once he tests me back home.

We switched horses and it did feel so good to be back on him. I didn't know how much I had missed riding him. He was in a shanked bit (sort of like a tom thumb, but with better shanks that don't pinch) with a curb chain and was not wearing a martingale. He traveled with his head and neck so much lower and relaxed. You can really tell the difference in how he carries himself in this picture:

He was great going up or down hills. He really slows down and picks his way through the downhill and I actually felt safe on him.

This is us going downhill into the creek bed:

We also did a ton of creek crossings and I was so impressed with him. He went right in like it was no problem. Kelly said that they had spent a lot of time in the creek the last few weeks. Here was the highlight of the ride for me:

He went in that deep, not be cause he had to, but because I asked him to! I was so happy, as you can see from the goofy grin on my face!

We rode along the road and went to the neighbors house and saw a new pony and talked to the neighbor. Boomer cocked his leg and stood like a pro. I was so proud of him. I could take my legs out of the stirrups and stretch and he didn't even flinch.

After we rode home, Kelly had me turn around and leave and told me to ride around and come back. So, I left and he didn't even fight. He did keep looking over his shoulder back home so I bumped his mouth to get his head straightened out a few times and kind of growled at him to get along and he was fine after that. We rode for another 15 minutes alone and did a few trails and the came back along the road. He looked at a tree stump, so I made him look at it, touch it, and step on it. The more bossy and aggressive I got, the more serious he got about actually looking at it. We also encountered a cat along the way and he was great for that too. I actually felt in control the whole ride. He went where I pointed, even if it was icky footing or stepping over sticks/rocks. He didn't tug on the reins or try to go his own pace. He wasn't freaking out about everything he saw. He was fun to ride.

Boomer will be at the trainers for another 2 weeks and then we will pick him up. I am really excited about him again. Today was a great day and I am so glad that I was able to get him somewhere where he would get some real training and see some serious improvement.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Boomer update!

I talked to Kelly this morning about Boomer. I'm going to go out on Thursday to ride with her. She said that he is still pulling back. She put a regular halter on him and he tested it, bumping the end of the rope a few times, she got behind him and waved her arms and he stopped pulling. So, she got the Be Nice halter back out for him. He still pulls back some, but she said it mostly seems like he is testing to see what halter he has on.
As far as riding is going, she said that he is being awesome. He goes out alone, in the lead, at the back, through mud, etc. She has him in a tom thumb bit now. I used to use one of those on Windy (my first arab mare). It is a good transition bit from a snaffle (for hunters) to a curb (for WP) and is what I used to use on her for training and lessons. So, I have one already. Kelly said that it is helping him be less high headed and it has also helped him with rushing up and down hills. She said that as soon as she says 'easy' he slows down and takes baby steps up and down the hills. She also said that he is who she picks when she rides out with her friend who has a number of young colts. She said that he does great with them. She can have him halt and wait until the young horses calm down or if the go off trail, he waits calmly until they come back. She said that she will swing his hip over in front of the young horses to give them someone to follow.
He is doing great on the trail and for riding, but he is still having a time of it with tying and pulling back. I feel like he is getting to a place where he will be easier for me to handle. Once I ride with her a few times and see that he IS doing good on trails, I think that I will feel much better about him. I ordered a Be Nice halter and have no problem using it to tie him up to the hitching post when I'm tacking him up, etc.