Saturday, August 29, 2015

saddle success!

Yippeee!  We have a saddle and pad combo that works :)

The winning saddle is a Stonewall Classic with my HAF 8200 pad. We can also use the Matrix sans inserts, but the plan is to search for a good deal on a pure sheepskin pad for future use.  I do need to get a 22" western cinch, or a converter for the rigging to english....  Dang horse has a tiny barrel! that is a pony sized cinch lol

First, I'll back track a little.  Tesla has been out of under saddle work since 8/10 and the findings at his massage session with Sarah.  We have done just lunge work and/or grooming with massage and stretching since then.  The Stonewall was supposed to ship on the 17th, plenty of time for our appointment with the fitter on the 29th that I had scheduled once I knew I was getting a saddle I had high hopes for working for us.  The 21st rolled around with no update on the FedEx tracking so I checked in and FedEx had held it without letting the shipper know because there was a spray adhesive in the box (for the shim kit).  So, it finally left CA on the 25th and arrived about an hour before I needed to leave for the barn today :P  Cutting it close!

Our day started out with me moving 3 saddles and 4 pads to the barn with girths and then wrangling Tesla from the woods.   I was armed with the Stonewall, an OrthoFlex and my Bandos with a wider pommel.  We started with a quick check of his bod, and he is still showing tight and sore at the right side L/S with a major knot near his ribs. sigh. 
So we got the impression pad set up and the Stonewall and headed out the barn.  Something, we have no idea what, spooked or got Tesla as we walked out.  He bucked as I was leading him using his reins down to the arena, then spun around and continued to buck and bolt ripping the reins from my hands.  OMG, now we have a runaway horse with reins hanging.... can you say Oh sh*t?!  fearing the worst could happen and hoping the reins or bridle would snap if so...He took off at a gallop, ran along side the arena and into the woods onto the path that runs behind the house and back to the driveway (that we have done together often), then continued off back towards the 2 fields of his buddies.  Which of course set them all in motion and bucking around...argh.  Once his field buddies stopped at the fence so did he and I was able to catch him and bring him back.  Somehow he also managed to have the impression pad slip out from under the saddle (though everything was tight when leaving the barn!) so I tied him in his stall and went on the hunt for the pad. Found that, Melissa re-rolled it out and back to the assessment we went!  This time we walked out and around the barn and then came back to face the area he freaked out at. Nothing happened to set him off again so we went out to the arena and lunged a few, made a few adjustments to the rigging as the saddle kept wanting to slide forward then On I went for the first time in 3 weeks. Still some head tossing, but generally good ride though he was in a spooky mood and a pipe for a jump and the barn owner coming out to say hi made him stop and spin.  We did our time with the pad and then checked the results - Good!  No major pressure points without any saddle pad :)  No lateral movement, no front to back movement, no hair swirls, good sweat pattern. Then we worked through what pads I owned that would be good... At least I have 2 that will work, but may not be the best for 50-100 mile rides.

We also took a look at my Bandos, and unfortunately the left shoulder was still getting pressure even with the wider pommel.  Then the Orthoflex, which turns out to be too long for his back.  So, I have no backup saddle (again), but at least I have a saddle to ride in now!  I also learned that while he measures a 12" tree for RP that I can look for up to a 13" used that can be modified to him.  Someday maybe I'll get a Heraldic saddle yet...  I am also going to test run the Pandora sometime.

So, not so proud of the run-away horse moment, but learned some lessons there though so hopefully won't happen again!

Now I need to find time to ride again :)

Sorry no pictures yet :(  My mind was a little preoccupied with finding something that works and forgot to snap a shot of him wearing it!

We will continue bi-weekly sessions with Sarah for body work, and I'm waiting on the Chiro to get on the schedule and just dealing with a $200 bill (saving $90 by not doing acupuncture this time) for his adjustment of the S/I area that we think is causing all the muscle tension.

Friday, August 21, 2015

ups and downs of life

So after our last riding weekend and all my reflections Tesla had an appointment with the equine body worker again.  He was showing new areas of issue, even though he did feel really good in the Ortho Flex...Not sure if he got a few muscles tweaked during the big spooks, or we just aren't pinning down what is causing him issue. So decided no more riding until the saddle fitter is out again. 
In other words, no Iron Mountain.  I'm not sure I'm all the bummed about it either...I had reservations about going back there this year, emotionally, but at the same time I wanted to get back there and visit Traveler's final resting spot.  I might have still gone and volunteered (heavily armed with friends and drinks) if it wasn't the only Saturday I could work with the fitter.

Another "downer" for me, we said goodbye to my oldest cat Arial on Friday the 14th. 
She would have been 19 November 7th, and I've had her since she was 3mos old. She was the last our of original 8 pets before kids started adding in (yes, 8! We had 4 dogs, 3 cats and a horse when Asher was born).  Now we have 2 young kids, 2 dogs, a cat and a horse - all of which have come in the last 3 years as we lost our fury gang.

2010 - Fury kids now have all gone over the Rainbow Bridge but not forgotten
On the upside, I bought a used Stonewall that will arrive next week. I have the OrthoFlex borrowed for a bit longer, and I have my treeless with a swapped wide pommel insert to assess fit on all of them the 29th with the fitter again.  Whichever works the best is the direction we will go!  And if none of that works, I don't have a clue... I can't afford a custom Reactor Panel Heraldic saddle.

This weekend marks a year since I lost Traveler.  Not a ride goes by that I don't think of him. I can't look at the trail the same...every branch across the path I skip a beat and pray it won't trip Tesla up.  I get angry too...angry at myself for the "jerk" and "jackass" comments I made to him as he shoved me around that day... I know he was doing it to tell me something, but I was only concerned with keeping him calm and still until we had vet help.  I knew in the back of mind that the situation was very bad from the instant I got off, but couldn't face it.  I regret not being the last thing he saw...I have held every one of our pets as they've passed, but for him I was advised to turn away, go down the path a bit, as I had never been with horse for process before and how he would go down was an unknown with a broken shoulder. My engineering mind wonders if there was a way we could have walked him out that day ... but in my heart I couldn't ask him to spend hours trying to get back to the road, and months in a stall. I didn't care that he could never be ridden again, that he would be a pasture puff IF he made it through the recovery, he would still be with me...but it was the IF, I couldn't put him through. His quality of life would not have been acceptable to him, he would have been depressed and I knew it.  He would have done his damnedest to walk out of there with me, that is just what we had together, but I couldn't ask him to bare that pain for miles and hours.  He was far from perfect, but we had been through the ringer together. Overcoming fear, trust, and training/abuse issues...we had an understanding of each other. I knew when he couldn't handle the situation at hand and he knew when I needed comfort.  He was with me when I had complications with Asher's pregnancy and was visibly worried when I didn't return for week. I spent hours grooming him when I wasn't allowed to ride. I remember the week after I lost Cherokee I went to see him, I found him standing in the pasture funny and not moving to me (not his normal) and I about had a heart attack worried I would lose him too.  Turned out to just be a lazy moment and odd stance but I couldn't bear the thought of what might have been.

Now the commitments of life make it hard to spend the time I really want to with Tesla, and maybe I use that as and excuse as to why we haven't bonded closely yet, or maybe I'm afraid to. When I got Traveler I had Doug, work and the other pets.  I spent nearly every night with him building a relationship for months.  Now I'm lucky to see Tesla 2x a week and I wonder if I am doing him justice some days.  I can't wait till I can move him home...but that is probably a few years away.  Maybe something will work out next year with the land down the street, but it isn't to be this year.  For Saturday my plan is to just groom and do some ground work and stretching.  Hoping he sees the need in me for horse healing.

RIP Traveler...not a day goes by that I don't think of you.
MI Spring 2008
TN Summer 2009

TN Summer 2010

TN Fall 2011

A very pregnant me, TN Aug 2012

3rd Place Trail Challenge TN June 2013

Silly Face VA June 2014

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Enduring the journey

Weekend reflections...
So I've seen and heard it said a thousand times, and I'm living it - Endurance many times is more about getting TO a ride, than actually riding to a finish!

So here I am enduring my journey... and I feel like I've had it rough...Finally got to a ride and am 2 miles from the end when I lose my partner of the last 7years in a freak accident. 
No doubt I was bitten by the bug and searched for my next life long trail partner who I found in Tesla.  I had high hopes of doing 5 rides this year with him and getting to start our decade team status, which have slowly dashed away... The first ride down due to not having the conditioning time we needed because our winter was too icy to train safely.  We made it to the next two to come out with a much more Bucky and harder to handle horse at the OD.  So we dropped out of another ride, the 3rd leg of the OD Triple Crown, to work on our ground work more and relax some. 
We've battled trailer loading issues, which I thought we had worked through, and then he's back tracked on me recently. 
I started down a saddle hunt with a fitter thinking I just needed a 2nd saddle, only to find out my issues since OD are related to saddle fit and now have no saddle to ride in that won't make him sore in some way.  I have found a Stonewall in CA that is my top choice right now.  Though I haven't ridden in one yet - I've been told if I love treeless I will love this saddle too.  We tried out my barn owner's medium for fit this past week as he was too sore to ride and the assessment was that it looked good, just may need a little shimming on the left shoulder (like everything else).
I had thought we'd try our first 50 at Iron Mountain at the end of this month, but with no saddle yet that works, I'm thinking that is that leaves waiting until November for a 50 in NJ.  There are closer ones, but offered on days I can't manage - like Halloween. I can't miss that with the kids!

He also needs a chiro adjustment, but the rates around here are pretty flipping ridiculous!  $250-300 for the appointment, basically per visit give or take $50 savings of the initial "exam fee". At least I've got him on the schedule with our equine body worker for every 2 weeks now to try and work through his back kinks, and I will continue to work on the chiro appointment...

I decided to stay local and easy and go to Pleasant Grove with some friends - meeting 1030.  I got to the barn at 830 and gave myself an hour to load after hooking up, etc. First order after hook up with check Tesla's back. He didn't show any reactivity or soreness so we were going! Now, loading... We were getting somewhere with getting on giving to the pressure, but slowly.  Shawn was just about to head out on his ride so he came up and grabbed my carrot stick (lunge whip) and just barely tapped Tesla and he was on. horrific battle, no kicking out at the person tapping him, I'll take it.

We got to the park, he did pretty well tied up for tacking - calmer once I put his hay bag up.  Today we tried out one of my other mentor's saddles he is thinking of selling...and Ortho Flex Endurance.  It was neat to see the panels/booties moving with Tesla's shoulders through the pommel area.  Once I got the stirrup length and girth figured out we were good to go.  He offered no bucks and my rear and knees were way more comfy than in the Specialized we tried last weekend. I think the seat might be a little big for me, but I need a 15" to compare to!  We had a great 9.5mile ride, with two HUGE spooks that I stayed in the saddle for...granted the second one really got my chest hurting again as I held on for dear life, but I stayed on! lol The rider behind me was surprised as he apparently teleported to the left quite aways and fast :P

Loading to come home, I took some of Shawn's advice. I walked him up, with my carrot stick in hand this time.  Stepped on the trailer myself, then straightened Tesla out using my stick.  Tapped his back end and up he came. Yay!  He even stood nicely for me to latch the slant and hook him up to the tie.  I left the trailer to grab a carrot for him to eat and apparently the slant latch wasn't secure and he backed his way off (panic snap I believe let loose on the tie but didn't hear that happen).  Loose horse!  Riding buddy grabbed him at another trailer as he was saying HI through the window and I repeated the same loading pattern with no issue.  Latches secure and checked 2x, and we were ready to roll!  That will teach me not to do up both bars in the trailer before walking away (the butt bar at the door was down since I was coming back on).  Praying I found the trick to use on him for loading in the future!

But now I'm torn on saddles....I love the idea of the Stonewall and how lightweight it is.  I love how the Ortho Flex fit him so well and stayed put during the ride.  One is about 1/2 the cost than the other, used or new...The ortho flex is quite a bit heavier than the Stonewall.   Anyone want to buy one for me so I can have both?!

Specialized tried out at Graves last weekend.

Stonewall medium tried on for fit check (sitting a little forward here)

OrthoFlex and sporting a new halter. Loving Blue on him :)

Further reflection... we are all on our own endurance journey that has bumps in the road, some bigger than others.  I know several others dealing with sore backs, mystery or known lameness, health issues of themselves or their horses...and lack of time to condition.  I am confident we will hit the trail again, hopefully this year; but if not, we will continue to endure until we are ready and enjoy the journey!

Ride on! :)

Sunday, August 2, 2015

non-triple-crown weekend

So this weekend was Ride Between the Rivers in W.Va, which was the 3rd leg of the Old Dominion Triple Crown. I had decided a few weeks back not to go to due to lack of conditioning distance miles and since we were having issues with bucking.

Instead, we headed about an hour or so into the mountains to ride Devils Backbone in Graves Mountain area for the weekend.

As I posted last weekend, we had a fitter out and discovered some major issues with my Treeless fit to Tesla.  We worked out a couple of options to try first...
This ride I took out the pommel part of my saddle and replaced it with a pool noodle. Something to hold the shape, but not put any pressure on him. I also measured the insert and found it to be the Mid size where his tracings are more like Wide for that brand. Since the noodle didn't work, we will try for a Wide pommel and continue on the saddle hunt.

Friday - left work at lunch to pack up and meet my mentor and friend Roberta.  Trailer loading was difficult again...but I lucked out and my barn owner pulled in the driveway and I asked for a second hand and was on the road on time! Tesla has done well on the trailer, when it comes to riding, doesn't paw or jump around and waited nicely while we made a pit stop to order Roberta a new trailer window :P
How can I be mad at that face for keeping me up?
We set up camp, and were shortly thereafter joined by Carrie and her mare.  Tacked up, and headed out for an evening ride.  We did about 7miles, including Devils Backbone which is our "Cougar Rock" locally (Tevis reference for those not in the know).  We came down some steep inclines which I started noticed more an more uncomfortable-ness out of Tesla.  The saddle now could slide a bit too much it seemed on the steep grades (even with a crupper).  We finished out the ride with only a few bucks, but a sore goosey back when washing him down.

Didn't sleep much Friday night...Tesla was pacing a ton, lots of noises from the road, dogs chasing bears off (barking), lots of lights; not a normal "ride-camp" setting.  About 330am I gave up, took his hay bag off the trailer and dumped it plus gave him another flake.  I finally got a solid 3hr stretch of sleep.  I went out to him about 7am, did breakfast and then groomed and hung out till Roberta decided to make an appearance ;)  We had breakfast ourselves and waited a bit as other riders were meeting us for a 10:00am ride out.  

Roberta let me try her Specialized Saddle Trail Master as it is one of the brands I needed to check out for riding on Saturday.  It still needed a shim on the left side, but we got a pretty fit for him going and I had no bucking on our ride - so it worked better for keeping him happy, but alas, the saddle was not comfortable for me... the hunt continues! 

He was still objecting at riding going down steep hills.  I asked him to push through one, mainly because he wouldn't stand still long enough for me to safely dismount and walk him down.  The next steep grade I did walk him down, and that is where I got hurt :P  He was good, not crowding me coming down, but the sand gave way and I slammed down... Apparently putting my arm out and thus jamming my shoulder/chest (Jerry saw it from behind). I felt that one for sure.  It made me quite sore for trying to get up and out of the saddle.  Pushing/pulling has been difficult since then but feels like major muscle soreness not anything more serious.

Saturday's mileage was about 25miles, and included Devils Backbone climb again. Gotta work the horse's rears! Good cantering, good eating and drinking on the trail.  We had a boot snafu on the back left, I clipped it to my saddle but somehow knocked it off without noticing later :(  Hoping friends that ride that trail will find it this week!  But the other 3 stayed on strong for both days and he did fine with that back hoof barefoot.
4 horse heads of endurance :)

Tesla was a little back sore after Saturday's ride, but was moving around fine today so we didn't have such major wither pinching like what happened in May when I moved the breast collar.

Jerry left me with his Ortho-Flex Endurance Express to try out and see if it is a good fit for us, and tomorrow I'm testing out a Stonewall Classic. Hoping one of these is good for both of us!!

Saturday morning view from trailer. First time I've set him up on the LQ door side.

Moseying down the Rose River Trail - probably where I lost the boot, since I had to scramble around to put away the camera when everyone else took off!  Fortunately Tesla realized I was doing something weird and didn't get upset they were leaving us behind..

So instead of doing 25miles with a possibly bucking bronco, we got over 30miles in at a slower pace and good hill training.  Good mental training too... and pointing to still more work left to do on trailer loading dang it!

Really hoping to get a saddle and things sorted out to be able to do a 50 at Iron Mountain at the end of August, but not banking on it.  We might be waiting till November and Mustang Memorial...

Till the next exciting ride....