Monday, October 21, 2013

A Beautiful Day

While I grew up in North Dakota and lived in Iowa for 10 years, I really consider Virginia my home now.  One reason is because of October.  It is my favorite month (and not just because of the Halloween candy).  The weather in October can be unpredictable, but it is mostly just fantastic.  Sunday was the most perfect weather day.  Temps in the low 60s and lots of sun, with a gentle breeze that carried a hint of the winter to come.

I took the opportunity to head out to Shenandoah National Park, which had recently reopened after the government shutdown.  My goals were to try out the new stuff I had gotten from Running Bear (BTW, best shipping ever - I ordered on Saturday and the stuff was delivered on Tuesday even though Monday was a holiday) and do another trial with hind boots.  When I put them on last weekend, I ended up with a snapped cable and twisted boot on the right hind.  So I wanted to see if that was a fluke or something I needed to deal with.

The reason I choose the Shenandoah National Park for my ride is because we can do more difficult climbing there and get a longer distance than other places I usually ride.  I planned to go 10 miles, thinking that would be a great distance prior to our 15 mile ride on the 26th.

It took me about an hour to get everything strapped on.  I added d-rings for the front of the saddle (worked like a charm) and a sponge leash/sponge.  Last weekend I had added a bag to carry an extra Easyboot and some tools and hardware for the boots, but I wasn't happy with the way it was moving around so much during my ride.  I basically just attached it over the center part of the pommel pack I already had.  The position worked ok, but it shifted a lot, so I wanted to figure out how to stabilize it.

I would have been great if I had taken a picture of all my crap, but I was so ready to just get on and ride at that point, that you get this picture instead.

Headed up the mountain
This particular trail goes up to the top of a mountain, crosses Skyline Drive, and then heads down a fire road through the park.  The first 2.5 miles are a steady climb.  It's great because there is literally only one 30 foot stretch of level ground.  The rest is all up, with varying degrees of incline.

On our way up, we crossed this stream (not over the bridge, which I think is just for people), and Nimo stopped for a drink.  I'm so proud!


We made it up the mountain just fine until I looked down and realized that I had serious saddle slippage.  I do ride with a breast collar, but I think with Nimo's fitter shape, the saddle is a little wide now.  I decided to hop off at the top, adjust the saddle, tighten the breast collar, and double check the boots.  While I was busy doing that, Nimo's first admirer of the day, a young girl, stopped by with some carrots.  I'm pretty sure now that whenever we see people on the trail, Nimo assumes they are there to feed him.  Anyway, after some chatting and picture-taking, we headed down the mountain.

Of course, I was still on foot, so I was on the lookout for a nice stump or rock to use as a mounting block.  After passing one rock that was too short, and one rock that was too pointy for me to balance on, I spotted this stump that was just right.

And off we went.  We rode to the end of the fire road and I discovered that people actually lived way back yonder.  And I felt a little envious.  I do enjoy living in a town most of the time, but when I see this:


I admit to being tempted to find a way to live out in the country.

Anyway, we rode for a little longer and then turned around when my GPS said we'd gone 5 miles.  Once we got back to the entrance to the park, I decided it was time for a snack break, because who can resist stopping for scenery like this:

Nimo got some Fibregized and an apple, and I got a peanut butter sandwich and some Gatorade.

Then, we were on our way again.  At which point, my normally bright horse was stupid.  To get back on the fire road, we need to go through this:

As the most astute among you will notice, there is a chain between the two posts, but space for a horse to squeeze around to the side.  So I asked Nimo to go around the post and he absolutely refused.  I guess he thought it was stupid to squeeze in between the post and rock when we could just go down the road, because that is what he tried to do against my profound objections.  His knees hit the chain and finally, he realized why I was asking him to go around.  Luckily, he was unhurt and he immediately agreed that going to the side of the post was, in fact, the right thing to do.

And we began our ascent back up the mountain.  Going this direction was still a lot of climbing, but the footing was a lot better - no rocks hidden under fallen leaves - and there was some leveling out periodically because I guess you can't expect fire trucks to just go straight up a mountain.

We came across a stream and you guessed it, my soon-to-be-a-real-endurance horse stopped to take a drink.

Here is where I was absolutely supposed to practice with my sponge-on-a-leash, but I was so busy being impressed that my horse was drinking, that he didn't try to lay down and roll, and that he was happy to just hang out while I took a picture, that I totally forgot.

Then, we encountered some poor souls who needed directions and not knowing me, decided to ask for my help.  I am totally useless with giving people directions, even if I actually know where I'm sending them.  In this case, they were looking for a parking lot that was not the only parking lot I was aware of on the trail.  And they thought they were "south" of said parking lot, as if this information would be useful to me.  I had to assure them that I didn't know of this parking lot they were looking for and to convince them that they were better off on their own anyway.  Meanwhile, my horse wanted to know why no one was feeding him.

As we got closer to the top, we encountered a regular parade of small children, strollers, and parents who thought that Nimo was the attraction they had come to see.  While it is great to be an ambassador for horses everywhere, my next horse is going to be short and ugly...I will say that Nimo was fantastic, especially because I knew the strollers were definitely freaking him out, but he didn't spook a bit and walked past them like they were nothing.  Of course, he did keep eyeballing the small children like they were food...

We managed to cross Skyline Drive successfully a second time (no small feat now that fall color is here and that road may be busier than the Beltway) and we started on the last 2.5 miles.  The hind boots were holding up great, but I figured if there was going to be a problem, it would be here.  I imagine the force that is generated by a giant hoof slipping downhill over leaves and rocks is substantial and I was waiting for a cable to snap.  But none did.  All four boots were super stars!

I did want to report on the new EasyUp buckles I installed on 2 boots.  One of the cables that had snapped the week before belonged to a new buckle, so I was only riding with one boot that had the EasyUp buckle.  I do have extra cables, but they are different than the cables for the EasyUp buckles.  The cable for the regular buckle is longer and only needs one thing-for-which-I-do-not-know-its-name.  It's some kind of copper-looking metal piece that clinches the cable ends together.  Anyway, if I was handy, I probably could figure out how to make the regular cables work for the EasyUp buckles, but, as it turns out, I am not handy.  Despite the cable difficulties, I will say that I LOVE the EasyUp buckles.  They do not require the locking pins to keep them in place, even over rough terrain.  In fact, the design is such that the more pressure there is on the cable, the less likely they are to come undone. They also allow more finite adjustments, and are breathtakingly easy to undo.  So, well worth the $10.  I intend to get more and retro-fit all my boots.

Oh, and I did finally manage to get the shifting Easyboot bag under control.  I'm kind of aggravated, though, that the Easyboot manafacturers of said bag and my pommel pack didn't just make the center pocket of the pommel pack big enough to fit an Easyboot (for a horse of Nimo's size - the pocket that is there would probably fit a smaller boot).

So, all in all, I feel like I'm as prepared as possible for my Intro Ride this coming Saturday.  And it looks like a cold front is coming in, so my big, black behemoth of a horse should be just fine temperature-wise:)


  1. What a beautiful ride! I don't remember if I've mentioned this to you, but I went to Mary Baldwin College for two years and I've still never seen anything like fall in the Shenandoahs. And Nimo was a rockstar!

    Can't wait to hear about Saturday :)

  2. Woohoo, drinking! Sounds like a lovely outing. I may have to come visit you and your sustained climbs...:-p Hope the Intro ride goes well and looking forward to hearing about it!