Monday, January 31, 2011


This has been a post I've been working on in bits for several months now. I hope this helps anyone else out there that may be going through the same thing.

I ended up in the hospital twice in 2009 as a result of injuries from Diego. Thankfully, while both my injuries (kicked in the face while leading him, and a broken arm as a result of being bucked off) required a trip to the hospital, and a lot of time and rehab, neither one was overly serious or required an overnight stay. However, the bruises and scars I was left with externally, were nothing compared to the rehab and time I would need mentally in order to be able to once again enjoy the love of my life, riding horses.

I went from being a cautious, but not truly fearful rider, to REALLY having to face with and deal with my fear. My past experiences with horses were not without incident. I have come off more times than I can remember, but chalked that up to just being "a part of riding." I do still believe in that sentiment. When riding horses, you ARE going to come off at some point. You may go years and years without issue, you may have a very minor incident that results in no injuries, but you cannot delude yourself into thinking that it will never happen. It's never a matter of "if", but "when". I've had times where I literally landed on my feet, and have also had a few injuries, from bumps and bruises to a fracture here or there that didn't require any sort of medical treatment (i.e. cracked tailbone). In the past, although perhaps a bit anxious, I've always been able to get right back on, or very shortly thereafter, with no lingering effects other than perhaps a bit of nervousness for the first few minutes or while the horse was acting up. However, things were much, much different for me now.

At first, I found I had little desire to get back on a horse, any horse. However, riding is such a huge part of my life, such a huge part of what defines me, that those sentiments did not last for long. I knew that eventually, I would be back in the saddle again. I was able to use my broken arm as an excuse, both to myself and to others, for several months. I truly didn't want to risk riding again while my range of motion and strength in that limb were still so limited.  I need that time to begin to heal mentally as well.  I needed to come to terms with what had happened, and remind myself that what happened (being injured that badly) was more of an exception, not a common occurrence. 

Once I was ready to start riding again, some things that really helped me were riding other "steady eddy" horses, watching someone else successfully work with my horse, and just doing the small things that I could manage. At first, even climbing up on my friend's dead-broke gelding was enough to make my knees shake.  I felt like a first time rider as I insisted we walk for nearly an hour before I felt more comfortable going any faster. I was still prone to random panic attacks (something I've never had to deal with) at just the thought of riding my boy. It was shocking to be sitting at my desk at work on day, and find myself shaking with fear and on the verge of tears at the thought of riding Diego again. 

But, I started doing it, and bit by bit it got better. When I first got back on him, I had him stand next to the panels in the corral at home and I just barely slid a leg over, still keeping one foot and a hand on the fence, and would pull myself off his back onto "safety" at the slightest shift on his part.  Eventually I got where I could sit on him without hanging onto the fence, and then we progressed to teeny bits of walking around the corral.  It was a slow process that took me a couple of weeks to work up to in stages.

When I finally was feeling comfortable at home, I made plans with Bob and Dovie to bring Diego over to their house where they had a round pen.  The plan was to do a nice easy little baby trail ride.  Instead I found that I was so anxious just in the round pen, and Diego was tense and nervous as well, we were just feeding off each other and nothing good was coming of it.  Bob offered to ride Diego for me, which I was very thankful for.  I tried to get on Caramel, a horse belonging to a young girl who Dovie gives lessons to.  I found that I was just getting frustrated and more fearful, since she was a mare used to getting her way and I wasn't up to arguing.  I watched on foot as Bob took Diego out and around the small lot at the end of their street for an easy ride. 

The blessings of having good friends, I was able to leave Diego with Bob and Dovie for about a month, where Bob rode him nearly every day and would send me updates on how things were going.  I made a point of going over there a few times and riding Diego at their house.  I was not at the point where I looked forward to riding him, nor did I ENJOY riding him very much, but it was something I needed to do.  I either needed to come to terms with my fear, or try to sell the horse.  Watching him succeed under another rider was helpful, as well as having a ton of reinforcing emails about how good he was, etc.  As a celebration to the end of training, Diego and I completed in a 10-mile 4-H "Endurance" trail ride.  I had to walk on foot for quite a while to get up the nerve to get on, and also got off and walked periodically during the ride as my nerves needed.  Bob rode one of their horses with me and provided reassurance.  However, we did accomplish our goal of the 10 miles.

From there, things slowly got better.  I found I was able to more successfully manage my fear, and use getting off to walk as an outlet when I needed to.  I tried to put Diego into new situations, riding with various people, doing ground work bomb-proofing, going to a Formation riding clinic, and various despooking and obstacle clinics.  As we successfully completed each of these scenarios, I found myself starting to trust both in my abilities and Diego more and more. 

Perhaps one of the biggest turning points was actually coming off again.  On Friday before the Washoe Valley endurance ride, where Diego and I did 25 miles, I was pre-riding with a friend when a dad and his two children came bombing through the sand-dunes on their horses.  It was a bit too much for Dig to cope with and he spun and set to bucking, and I came off over his shoulder.  I landed in the soft sand and was totally fine, a bit sore, a bit shaken, but overall okay.  Diego galloped laps around us for about 5 minutes before allowing himself to be caught.  The next day we did the ride with no behavioral issues.

This last month, I've discovered something very special:  I LOVE RIDING MY HORSE AGAIN!  He can be a dork, he will still jump and buck, he's still like a coiled spring for the first few minutes when I get on, but I'm okay.  I'm not longer nervous and fearful.  I no longer need to get off and walk after any slight issue.  The more I regain my confidence and reassert myself, the better he does.  Now, his antics are more of an annoyance than a concern; they're a training issue we're working on, not the center of my focus.  Now, instead of dreading the ride, I find myself looking forward to each one, and reveling in the glory of being out with my horse for days afterward.

For this, I am so very truly thankful.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Big Boy Blog Buddy Ride

Whew!  What a ride!!!!  We've been so fortunate in that our glorious "spring like" weather has continued to hold.  Today was forecast to be in the mid-50's.  I've been doing my best to enjoy it, but also to realize that it's not truly Spring yet, so I won't be disappointed when we switch back to more seasonal temperatures.

Today I trailered out to where Zach boards his horses.  It's the exact same ranch where I used to board over 10 years ago, when I was conditioning my first mare to start in endurance.  I also worked a dude string that was based out of here, giving rides to people and lessons for children on the weekends.  Needless to say I'm pretty familiar with the trails in the area.  After debating with myself for quite a bit, I also decided to bring Molly dog, mainly because she was a Cling-on and wouldn't leave my side from the moment I put my "riding clothes" on.  =)  Met Zach out there, got all tacked and booted up.  I've been riding barefoot a lot lately, but since we were planning on a longer ride, over 20 miles, I decided to put regular Easyboots on the fronts and Easyboot Gloves on the rears, mainly because I only have one pair of Gloves right now and Diego will interfere if he has a buckle on a rear boot.  LOVE THE GLOVES!!!  Need to get some more before our true ride season starts.

Since we have to go along a somewhat busy road where people are going 50+ mph, we all started out on foot and I had Molly on a leash as well.  We had no sooner left the gate when there was some shooting up on the hillside behind us.  Very loud and very close!  All of us jumped and turned to look.  There were some kids up there yelling and running around, continuing to shoot off and on.  That got everyone nice and excited, wonderful way to start.  We continued to lead the horses for almost 2 miles, until we got off the main road and the subsequent side dirt roads.  Once in the sandy wash we mounted up and headed out.  The plan was to ride into Lemmon Valley where Funder would meet us and then ride back with us, so that we'd all get a nice long conditioning ride in.  Diego was pretty goosey to start but settled fairly quickly with just some growling and telling him to "knock it off!"  About 2 or 3 miles in, he stopped to drink from a puddle, and kind of slipped in the mud, but recovered just fine and after a quick boot check (all accounted for), we were off and able to start some serious trotting. 

Riding out here is pretty much flat dirt/sandy roads.  Very easy to just put the horses on auto-pilot and churn out some miles.  We did have to stop periodically for quads, dirt bikes, or to pass by people out shooting.  Everyone was very courteous.  After a bit, I looked down and noticed that both Diego's front boots where missing.  =(  We turned around and back-tracked to where he had done some sort of exciting leaping maneuver, but no boots to be seen.  Poor Molly, when we turned around and continued back, I forgot to call her and alert her to the change of direction, and she didn't notice.  After a bit I turned around to check on her and she was hauling ass down the road toward us as fast as she could go, ears back in greyhound mode!  LOL!  She didn't seem any worse for the wear though and continued to run parallel to us hunting for rabbits and checking stuff out.

It was a beautiful day to be out.  Warm with just a long-sleeved t-shirt on and one of my favorite pairs of tights, which are too thick for the summer, but being only thick cotton-blend, too cold for winter temps, so I pretty much only get to wear them in the Spring and Fall.  There were a lot of nice big puddles for the horses and Molly to drink out of.  I had brought a water bottle for her just in case, but as it was there was a ton of water to drink out of.  And pee in.  =P  Molly has to pee in EVERY puddle!!!  She got fairly warm (long black coat) and was laying down in the puddles to cool off as well.  The horses, Bo and Diego, paced really well together.  They were both very relaxed and forward, moving at an easy 7-8 mph trot.  Zach and I were talking about upcoming and past rides.  I'll probably sponsor him on some rides this year, if he's willing to ride slow enough to go with me!  =)  He has been very fortunate to train with and ride with some of the top elite riders in the sport.  Talking about finishing 50 mile rides by noon, he was lamenting about how we'll probably do close to a 10-hour ride for our first 50 this season.  I had to remind him that his eventual goal was 100-milers, so he might as well learn to suck it up and be in the saddle forever!  ;)  I also think that for the horses, if they're mentally used to being ridden for long hours, that when you transition up to the longer distances, it's easier for them as well.  Zach's a great sport and we had a lot of fun.

Eventually we made it over to LV, after calling Funder and letting her know we were getting close and where we'd meet her.  We ran into Dovie and friend Tammy on our way in, and rode over to where the paved road started with them, where we waited for Funder (E) to join us.  Once Dixie joined the little group, it was like the race was on!!!  All three horses were hyper and ready to go!  Two is company, three is a competition.  ;)  It took a bit before everyone's head was on straight again, and once more we were off at a nice steady trot.  We headed back across the valley on slightly different roads (Moonshine Trail this time) and enjoyed less traveled paths.  We rode at a pretty steady consistent pace.  Only stopped off and on at the puddles to see if anyone wanted a drink, etc.  One puddle, Zach and Bo went to ride through and across, and it turns out that it must be a popular mud-bogging puddle because what looked innocuous and only a couple inches deep, ended up going up over Bo's hocks out in the middle!  I think we all were quite surprised.  Molly though they were lovely and laid down so only her head was above water.  =)

A funny thing on the way back, after we had crossed over into Hungry Valley and were headed north toward the cattle corrals, is that E looked over and mentioned that there were 3 or 4 cows hauling ass down the canyon toward us (in a wide wash).  As it was, we had finally rediscovered the first of the lost boots, so I hopped off to retrieve it (for those keeping score, Diego did almost 20 miles bare in front, and we had NO issues what so ever with the Gloves).  Just after I had attached the boot to my saddle, around the corner came the rest of the entire HERD of cattle!  Overall there were probably close to 20 cows or so, all appeared to be a corriente-cross of some sort (the ones with horns like they use for roping).  Zach whipped out his phone real quick and got a picture.
After the horses' got done being bug-eyed, I walked Diego over and started pushing the cows down the canyon ahead of us.  Turns out they were going across and up the trail on the other side, where there's a spring-fed trough.  Molly remembered she has Border Collie roots (somewhere, we're guessing) and helped to herd them along; they didn't take much persuading.  Ironically, this is nearly the exact location where friend Lucy and I felt like the pied-piper as we herded and followed a large group of cattle into the Rides of March vet check in 2007.

Pretty quickly I got back on and we all set off again.  Diego was a bit more excited after that.  I think we were less than a mile or so down the trail when he suddenly did a full on 360 bucking spin.  I thought I was a gonner for a second and then realized that I was still centered, good, and had both legs on firmly.  Got him stopped pretty easily and scolded him quite a bit.  I'm **so thankful** that I FINALLY HAVE MY CONFIDENCE/MOJO BACK!!!!!  It has taken me well over a year to recover from coming off and having my arm broke.  I finally feel like I'm back to where I was, and am full capable and able to deal with any and all shit he wants to dish out, both physically, but *more importantly* mentally as well. 

Around this point, E decided that if she was going to make it home before dark, she needed to get headed back, so she turned around and left.  I was jealous watching Dixie blithely and happily turn around and take off away from her buddies, although E did use the magic word "Home."  =)  Good mare!

As we were nearing the end of the wash, a lady was out with her Border Collie.  The dog was friendly and wanting to play with Molly.  Normally Molly LOVES to play with other dogs, but at this point the horses had done over 20 miles and Molly had probably almost doubled that with her extra running around before we left and during the ride.  Needless to say, she wasn't very interested.  We stopped and talked with the lady, and I asked her if she wanted to grab her dog before we left, and she said "Oh no, she'll come back after just a bit."  Or not.....  she had to finally get in her car and come get the damn dog, not before Diego tried to kick it at least once.  He'll tolerate Molly (and part of why I bring her is for him to get over it), but he's not a dog fan.

We rode the dirt roads this time and only got off to walk along the busy paved road.  What seemed to go by pretty quickly in the morning took FOREVER to walk on foot on the way back.  But all made it back happy, safe, and sound!

Zach's version of the ride can be found here.

Funder's is here.

Final stats per Zach's GPS: 
DATE: 1/22/2011

LOCATION: Big Dog Road to Lemon Valley and back
DETAILS: AVERAGE SPEED=4.7; Average Heart Rate= 95; Ascent=1406 feet; Descent=1397

Pretty darn good.  Our average speed has all the walking on foot we did starting out and coming back (probably 4 miles total) as well as the various stops, waiting, etc.  I left the front boots off for the remainder of the ride, and pulled the Gloves when we were done.  No rubs, no problems, even going in and out of all the puddles, they looked great!  This was a great "endurance pace" overall and I'm SO PROUD of how Diego did!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Pant, Pant

Whew!  What an unseasonably warm ride.  It's the MIDDLE OF JANUARY and we were riding in t-shirts and tank tops today!!!  Highs were easily in the mid-60's and the poor fuzzy horses were certainly feeling it.

S and I took Taz and Dig over to "the gym" today near Fort Churchill.  LOVE winter riding out here.  The gym is a series of long sandy hills.  All the trails intersect and connect together, so it's pretty easy to make as many loops and circles as you may want to get in a killer workout.  There's no water, so you either need to loop back to the trailer (a bit of one-way repeat), or just plan on a shorter ride.  For now, 10 miles is a butt-kicking workout for the boys and we're all pretty much ready to be done after a few hours.

S has a GPS, so here's the link to the ride.  We did 10.8 miles with 2,000 feet elevation change in 2:45.  This is Taz's heart-rate data, since I don't have a GPS.  I *DID* get my HRM batteries all replaced though so Dig was also "wired for sound" as I like to call it.  Overall, his pulses are higher while working, but only by about 10-12 bpm or so.  While riding, we trot (or slow canter) all the uphills, which is HARD WORK for the horses, and then walk the ridgetops and downhills to get back to the next uphill pull.  Sort of long interval boughts.  Our overall average pace would be a bit higher, but we went exploring a bit at the end, and ended up having to get off and walk on foot down a rocky hillside that was too steep to try to ride down.  There was also a bit of standing around to figure out exactly how we were going to get from here-to-there.  ;)

I've ridden out here over 20 times now, this was a favorite spot to bring Sinatra, and I have never seen dirt bikes before.  I've heard some, but never ran across them.  Today we had trail encounters with no less than 10 motorized vehicles.  The first was the worst, along the ridgetop without much room to get off trail, along comes an OLD dirtbike (aluminum fenders/body) ridden by an even older guy, grey beard flying in the wind.  In an effort to be nice, he turned the bike off and was coasting downhill toward us.  This actually probably made the whole thing scarier for the horses, since now it was more or less silent except for some odd whirring noises.  I felt Dig bunch beneath me and asked him to stop, which he graciously did.  After talking a bit, he was able to put his feet down on either side and walk the bike past with no issues.  The next set was a group of 5 that came over a hilltop onto the adjoining trail.  Here we had a nice wide area to sit and wait as they all went by.  After the last one had passed, I asked Dig to "chase" them down the trail.  The next set, we let by and were turning onto the trail to follow when Dig under his own accord spun around and took off trotting after them.  =)  Good boy!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Back in the Saddle, First Ride of 2011

Wow!!!  I cannot believe that it has been since my birthday in the middle of November since Diego and I have been out!  As things happen, we had a bunch of winter weather come in for the end of November and most of December.  Then with all the holidays, shopping, being out of town, etc. time just flew by!  I didn't think to move the trailer down from its regular parking spot next to the barn before the weather hit, so had to wait for most of the ice/snow to disappear, and the mud to freeze, before I could move it down onto the gravel portion of the driveway.  This means I now have to back it around the 90-degree curve from the street into the driveway, and up our funky S-shaped driveway, onto the ledge, avoiding my husband's work truck, whenever I get back from a ride - but it's worth it in order to get the trailer out in the winter without turning the concrete drive into a mud bog from all the mess up near the barn.

This Sunday, the Reno Blogging Buddies, Zach, Funder and I all got together and rode out from the Lemmon Valley arena.  Last weekend (1/2), I was having some personal clumsy spells, including falling while ice skating, and then falling while coming down the stairs in the garage, so I just took Diego over to a local arena to run around and stretch his legs on his own.  Knowing that I haven't ridden in.... um.... 7 WEEKS, I decided to get over to Lemmon Valley a bit early and let Diego run around over there before tacking up.  Instead, the arena was frozen and a bit slick, so Dig just kind of half-heartedly trotted around.  While I was tacking up, a bunch of kids came over and started playing basketball in the court, which is behind a screen of trees so Dig could hear but not really SEE them.  This lead to some additional excitement and I ended up hand-walking him for a bit when we all finally set off down the trail.

After walking for about a mile or so, I mounted up.  I'll give him a bit of the benefit here, since it had been a while, but he always acts like he's never been ridden before for the first few minutes.  All tense and tight.  Did some circles around in the sage and then I (begged) asked that we head up the nearest big hill.  The horses all settled in pretty well while working up the hill.  On the way down back to the valley, we saw a DEAD BODY!!!  Laying right next to the trail!  It was very disconcerting to ride up to a severed torso, arms splayed wide, with the legs dangling off into the trail.  We were all a bit freaked out, understandably, until it was discovered to be a scarecrow-alike "dummy" that some people had created and used for target practice.  Gah!  Talk about random exposure training.  Thankfully all the horses did quite well, other than giving the "body" a fairly wide berth.

Once back down onto the flats, all the horses rediscovered their "go" gear.  I ended up taking Dig off the side of the trail and trotting weaving in and out of the sagebrush while Zach and Funder stayed on the parallel trail.  It was great to help refocus his mind on ME while still giving him the chance to go forward without getting too crazy about it.  We had a couple small temper tantrums, which pretty much were just hopping and a bit of head flinging.  Once we looped back onto the more main roads, we had to alternate walking with trotting due to the mud and ice that was still in abundance.

Overall, we did about 9 miles in 2 hours or so.  A pretty slow ride but most of the walking was all necessary either due to being fresh or the footing.  It was a nice start to the year and hopefully the weather will cooperate so we can get back into the swing of things. 

Monday, January 3, 2011


Not really my thing, but I might as well put some ideas out there.  Perhaps by committing them to writing and the public Blogosphere, I'll be even more likely to stick with them!  Perhaps...  =)
  1. Finish a 50 mile AERC ride on Diego.  Since I didn't meet any of those goals from last year (except managing Moonshine), I refuse to be specific as to which ride - although I have a few already in mind.  ;)  Heck, I already have an entire "ideal 2011 ride schedule" planned in my mind, but I'm refusing to commit THAT to writing lest the gremlins are reading this blog.... which I'm sure they must!
  2. Eat "better."  Not too specific, since I don't like to feel guilty about my food.  I tried the whole primal thing, but was having way too much guilt every time I ate something "non-primal", that the entire thing was just making me depressed.  I have a family that I shop and cook for, neither of my boys, especially my 8 year old son, need nor WANT to eat primal - and personally I just love carbs too much to give them up entirely.  So rather than try to commit to an eating style which will bring me no joy when I "cheat" (and I can't do the whole 80/20 thing, mentally it's cheating and I have guilt), I shall resolve to just make better food choices.  Small steps.  Buy and consume more fresh produce, especially veggies, and watch my portions better.
  3. Track my training miles better.  Thankfully I've been mostly riding with friends who have a GPS and post the stats on Garmin Connect, so I've been able to go back and find most of the 2010 rides and have started an Excel sheet.  I also bought a small two-year calendar with a waterproof cover to keep in the trailer.
  4. Blog more.  This includes taking some time to finish the 20-something posts I have in draft status from last year.  My problem, I'm too wordy.  Start to do more short and to the point, or at least try.
And with that.... I'm done!  =)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

All that needs to be said.  "If Today Was Your Last Day"  by Nickleback (one of my all time favorites)

My best friend gave me the best advice

He said each day's a gift and not a given right
Leave no stone unturned, leave your fears behind
And try to take the path less traveled by
That first step you take is the longest stride

If today was your last day
And tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past
Donate every dime you have?
If today was your last day

Against the grain should be a way of life
What's worth the prize is always worth the fight
Every second counts 'cause there's no second try
So live like you'll never live it twice
Don't take the free ride in your own life

If today was your last day
And tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?
Would you live each moment like your last?
Leave old pictures in the past
Donate every dime you have?
Would you call old friends you never see?
Reminisce of memories
Would you forgive your enemies?
Would you find that one you're dreamin' of?
Swear up and down to God above
That you finally fall in love
If today was your last day

If today was your last day

Would you make your mark by mending a broken heart?
You know it's never too late to shoot for the stars
Regardless of who you are

So do whatever it takes
'Cause you can't rewind a moment in this life
Let nothin' stand in your way
Cause the hands of time are never on your side

If today was your last day
And tomorrow was too late
Could you say goodbye to yesterday?

Would you live each moment like your last?

Leave old pictures in the past

Donate every dime you have?

Would you call old friends you never see?

Reminisce of memories

Would you forgive your enemies?

Would you find that one you're dreamin' of?

Swear up and down to God above

That you finally fall in love

If today was your last day
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