Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sugarloaf Mountain

Yesterday, I headed up to Maryland to explore the horse trails at Sugarloaf Mountain with Saiph and her husband, Charles.  I'd heard about Sugarloaf Mountain before, but never had the opportunity to go with someone who was familiar with them already.  Luckily, Saiph and Charles had scoped out the trails (and trailer parking), so I was thrilled to have a guide.  Having someone who knew where to park the trailers was especially helpful because, for some reason, the park had decided not to identify the trailer parking lot with a sign labeled, "Horse Trailer Parking."  Instead, the sign said, "Turner Farm: Private Property," which might lead the inexperienced visitor to believe that the area was not part of the park and not available for parking.

It took me about two hours to get there from where I keep Nimo, so it was a bit of a drive.  And I questioned my decision to ride there because my GPS sent me down a one-lane gravel road for the last half-mile or so, and I was convinced that it would be a dead-end or take me into no-man's land and I'd end up having to figure out how to turn around on a narrow road with trees on both sides.  I called Saiph when I turned on to said road and reported my suspicion that I was not in the right place.  However, as it turned out, I was in the right place and drove right past the parking area for the horse trailers because it was not labeled.  (I honestly should know better, having lived in the area for 14 years now.  Having proper signs is just not a priority here and sometimes I speculate that it might be a subtle way of weeding out the weak...)   Anyway, I met up with Saiph and Charles as they were coming into the park from the opposite direction and I managed to just turn the trailer around without scraping the luxury sedan that happened to be parked in an inconvenient location for me and we caravaned to the horse trailer parking area.

We unloaded, got the horses tacked up, and then headed out on to the trail.  Saiph had told me that the horse trail was 7 miles long, so in my head, I sort of contemplated the possibility of doing the trail twice to get a nice 14 mile ride in.  However, the horse flies were plaguing Nimo and despite our best attempts to get an early start and beat the heat, by 10 am, I could tell the day would be warm (although not oppressive).  So we decided to do the 7 mile loop and then decide how many more miles we wanted to do, based on how the horses and their humans felt.  I knew I wanted to get at least 10 miles in, though, and Saiph said she was prepared to do the full loop twice.

Saiph had also said the trail was rocky in some places, but I decided not to boot Nimo.  He'd been doing well without boots, and he'd had some chipping (or possibly big chunks coming off) on his front feet, which told me I hadn't been trimming them short enough.  I'd done a trim the night before, and I wanted to see if I'd gotten it right, so I figured riding over some rocks would be the best way to confirm the trim.  As it turned out, the trail was a little rockier than I expected and about 5 miles in, I could tell Nimo was a little sensitive on his left front.  The remaining trail was partly gravel and partly packed dirt, so he was fine to finish the loop, but I knew I'd need to boot him for additional miles.

The trail did not go up to the summit of the mountain, but there were few level sections, so it was a pretty good workout.  Saiph's and Charles' horses, Lily and Gracie, were super fit and happy to canter up every hill.  Nimo, on the other hand, stood fast in his philosophy that hills are not for cantering, although he did consent to trot quite a bit, even over the rocks, which is a huge improvement in his attitude from when we first started our conditioning work.

On the 7-mile loop the first time
The trail was almost entirely shaded, which was nice, given the heat of the sun.  I even felt an occasional breeze.  However, the horse flies loved Nimo, so I spent quite a bit of time either helping him swish them off or killing them.  And we did see quite a few people and their dogs out on the trail.  Everyone was really good about giving us space, though, and I could tell most of them were thrilled to see horses.  I sometimes forget how beautiful and special horses are, but I am reminded every time I see the sheer joy in people's faces when they see a horse.

After finishing the loop, we decided to do a short "hold" at the trailers and give the horses a quick snack before doing the whole loop again.  I also took the opportunity to boot Nimo's front feet.  Gracie had never experienced going back to the trailers and then having to head back out on the trail, so Saiph was hoping to give her that experience.  I have to admit that it always seems harder for me to get back on the trail than it is for Nimo.  Gracie was definitely thinking the same thing I was about going back out on the trail, and she was uncharacteristically happy to lag behind for a couple of miles.

Once we got through the rockiest section of the trail and started trotting again, Gracie perked up and even tried passing Nimo.  By that point, I think Nimo was feeling a little more confident about the trail, and I noticed that he tried to block her from passing him a couple of times (just by moving over on the trail, though, not by pinning his ears or kicking).  In the first loop, he hadn't cared at all if she cantered past him, so it was interesting to see the change in his attitude. 

And then something really horrible happened.  Saiph and Charles were a ways ahead of us on the trail, and I noticed they stopped for something and then moved on.  I assumed it was a tack adjustment or to communicate something, and then I realized they had stopped to go around a turtle.  But I realized the turtle was directly in our path too late and Nimo absolutely stepped on him.  His shell looked intact, but I don't know how he could have survived such an impact.  It is an unwritten law in the area that everyone stops for turtles crossing the roads.  I have seen police officers temporarily shut down multi-lane highways to rescue turtles, and it is quite common for the average motorist to stop and either allow the turtle to cross before passing or get out and move the turtle to the side of the road.  So to run over a turtle on my horse felt terrible.  I'm sure Nimo just thought the turtle was a rock, but I will feel bad about the incident for awhile, I'm sure.

We kept moving while I fretted about the turtle, and we trotted most of the way through the rest of the loop.  Lily did a great job drinking from the streams we crossed, but Nimo didn't seem interested.  It is typical for him to wait to drink until after about 10 miles, so I was slightly concerned that he didn't drink at all during the entire second loop.  However, I had given him a pretty soupy mash at our "hold," which isn't something that I normally do, so I thought that might be why.  Also, while I was feeling hot, the temperature and humidity were not that bad for this time of year, and I think Nimo is far more acclimated than I am, so I decided to just make sure he drank well when we got back to the trailer.

On the last mile of the trail
Nimo actually took the lead for the last mile or so of the trail.  I think he knew the trailer was close and he was motivated to get back, so he powered up his walk.  If I could only get him to walk like that the rest of the time!  I think he can do at least a 4 mph walk and maybe a bit faster, which would be huge help for maintaining a good pace, but alas, he only gives me that faster walk when he feels like it.

We made it back to the trailers in good shape, although our time was not that impressive.  I think it took us a little less than 4 hours to do what ended up being 15 miles.  The trail was actually fairly challenging with its hills and rocks, but we'll definitely need to up our game for future rides.

Nimo did drink well at the trailer and ate his mash as well as some hay before settling into a post-ride nap.  I wanted to give him a short rest before we headed back home because we had two hours of travel ahead of us.  So I chatted a bit with Saiph and Charles and quizzed Saiph about Nimo's weight.  I've had a couple of people mention that they think he is too thin (yes, a picture would have been good right about now, but I didn't think of it).  He is definitely thinner than he would be if I was just doing dressage or regular trail rides, but as Saiph pointed out, it's difficult to even feel his ribs.  I think the angle of his hips and lack of big muscles on his hindquarters make his hind end look a little thin, but if I get more weight on his hind end, then the rest of him seems a bit overweight to me.  I think it may just be the way he holds weight, but it's possible that I may increase his feed ever so slightly (maybe by a half pound a day).  He's currently getting about 3.5 pounds of Pacemaker's FiberFocus each day, which I think is actually not bad, given his workload and given that last year at this time, I was feeding 10-12 pounds a day of Pennfield's Fibregized.  We were putting in more miles each week last year, but I think the Pacemaker feed has been working much better for Nimo.  I hate feeding large amounts of grain or concentrated feed because I think it is bad for the horse's digestion and metabolism, and even though the FiberFocus doesn't have any grain like oats or corn (except for corn gluten) or barley in it, I still would rather that Nimo get the bulk of his calories from grass and hay.  Also, I just don't like feeding processed food.  I prefer not to eat it myself, and I don't know that it does any favors for horses either, but the reality is that the hay Nimo gets is not that high quality and the field he grazes is poorly maintained, so I have to make up for the poor nutrition somehow.  I also feed a flake of what I  consider to be a good quality alfalfa hay every day, but I may need to re-evaluate how he's fed at some point soon...more on that later, though.

Anyway, soon it was time to get on the road.  I loaded Nimo and we headed down the crazy one-lane gravel road on our way to civilization.  Our trip back to the barn was thankfully uneventful, and after getting Nimo settled in, I headed home for food and a much-needed shower.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Exploring Sky Meadows

I've ridden at Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane, Virginia a couple of times:  once last year with a small group who didn't know the trails and once with a friend a few weeks ago.  The first time, one of the ladies in the group didn't feel comfortable taking her horse up the mountain trail, so the second time, I went with a lady whose horse I knew could do a mountain trail so I could check it out.  (And yes, it's possible that I told her that there was nothing very steep or rocky or challenging just so that she would come with me, because I now have to lie to people to get them to come riding with me...)

My first impression of the park was that it wasn't going to make the cut for trails that I regularly use for conditioning work.  Getting in a lot of miles would be hard without endlessly circling the park and while the trails were marked really well, it seemed like there were about 8,000 of them, all with distances between .43 and 2.2 miles, and it was impossible to know which ones allowed horses without consulting a map, because the markers didn't say.  But because I hadn't been able to check out the mountain trail the first time, I kept the park in the back of my mind in case I had the time and inclination to go back.

Well, fast-forward about a year, and I was experiencing a bit of "meh" about the three or four places that I typically ride at.  And Sky Meadows popped back into my head.  I had a friend whose horse I knew could handle anything even if his rider was not as excited about more challenging terrain, and I knew she was looking to go for a fun ride.  So, ahem, I told her how beautiful Sky Meadows is (that is not a lie - it is gorgeous!), that the trails are in great shape (also true), and that there shouldn't be any terrain that was too difficult (I actually had no idea because I'd never been on the section of trail that I wanted to explore, but it was a mountain trail and listed as a difficult trail on the map).

And so it was that a few weeks ago, I finally got a chance to ride the Lost Mountain trail at Sky Meadows.  It was great!  A little rocky, but with at least a few switchbacks to ease the climb.  Steep enough to really work the horses, but not so long (only a couple of miles) that a reasonably fit horse couldn't handle it.  And SHADY, which is critical during July and August in Virginia to avoid passing out from heat exhaustion.  My friend thought the trail was a little too much for her liking but because the rest of the ride was so beautiful and the trails were in such great shape, she forgave me for my subterfuge:)

However, there was still one more thing I wanted to do at the park.  And that was to explore new horse trails that had been made recently.  Another friend told me they were really nice, but I wasn't sure how to get to them and it looked like crossing a major highway was involved, so I decided not to push it with my friend who had so gamely done the mountain trail with me.

Then, a little over a week ago, I found out that a trail riding club I belong to, USTR, would be doing an organized ride at Sky Meadows.  And part of the ride would be to check out the new horse trails on the other side of the highway.  I was in.

So yesterday, I got up early so I could meet the USTR members at the park at 9:30.  There would be two groups of riders:  one group that would only walk the trails and not do the Lost Mountain trail and another that would walk and trot and do the mountain trail.  After both groups were back at the parking lot, any riders that wanted to would group together, cross the highway, and check out the trails on the other side.

View from the parking lot at Sky Meadows
Nimo and I were in the second group so we could get at least a little conditioning work in, but I knew we wouldn't be going at a ride pace because most of the riders were just regular trail riders and had no desire to see the world while zooming as fast as their horse's legs could carry them.  I was really impressed with Nimo while we were waiting to go.  We were supposed to ride out at 10 and I was all tacked up and ready to go at 9:45.  (I can't believe how much faster I've gotten at getting my horse ready - I used to have to budget over a half hour!)  Nimo happily continued to stuff his face with hay for the next 15 minutes, oblivious to any energy from the 15-20 other horses that were on the ride.  After we mounted, some of the group was still not ready and there was a gentleman who wanted to take some pictures for the website/FB, etc., so there was some standing around while everybody got organized.  Normally, Nimo gets impatient once I get on, but on this ride, he was happy to eat grass while we waited.  Eventually, we got everyone together, pictures taken, and headed out on the trail.

We ended up doing the first probably 3 miles at a sort of walk.  The group leader was riding a 50-mile endurance horse that she was training to ramp up to 100s, so he was a bit full of himself and not happy to be held back to a walk.  Nimo also wanted to go faster, but he wasn't obnoxious about it.  Because the lead horses walked faster than he did, he would trot short segments of the trail periodically to catch up.  I basically let him regulate his own pace, walking when he was close to the group and trotting when he thought he was falling behind.

When we got to the mountain trail, the uphill climb took a toll on a few of the horses in the group (there were 7 of us, I think), and they fell behind sometimes, so the rest of us would wait every so often.  And Nimo did well with that too.  But there were a few sections of trail that the lead horses trotted (and possibly cantered) and so Nimo trotted too.  I could tell there were a couple of times that he thought about cantering to catch up and that was when I had a disconcerting thought.  This was our first organized ride since The Incident In Which My Horse Bucked Me Off While Cantering.  I vaguely wondered how I would fare if I got bucked off on the side of a mountain with lots of trees and rocks, and I figured it probably wouldn't work out as well as it had last time.  However, unlike the ride when Nimo bucked, there were no signs that could later be interpreted as a significant message.  We'd been trotting over logs without incident and there had been no warning crow-hops.  So, I took a deep breath and decided not to worry about it.

Which was a good thing, because shortly after that decision, Nimo absolutely decided to start cantering up a steeper section of trail.  And he did just fine.  No crow-hops, no bucks, not even a misstep.  And then he realized how stupid it is to canter up hills because it wears him out, so he went back to trotting:)

After doing the mountain and ridge trails without incident, we stopped briefly to see if anyone in the group wanted to head back to the trailers.  The main group would be heading to the meadow trails and some horses were tired from the climb.  A few riders did decide to head back, leaving 5 of us.  And then the real fun started.

The rest of the trails were gently-rolling hills and so we trotted them.  All of them.  Without stopping except for a quick break at a creek to see if any of the horses wanted a drink.  It was awesome!  And what was even more awesome was to have a horse who was happy to trot at a pace set by the group leader.  There were a few times when Nimo asked if he could pass the lead horse, but his rider had said he could be pretty competitive, and I didn't want to create a problem, so I kept Nimo just behind the lead or even a horse or two back, which he did very willingly.  I think we probably trotted about 3 miles, which is actually pretty impressive for an organized ride.  We ended up doing about 6 miles in an hour and 20 minutes, which is not blistering by any means, but was a much better pace than I expected.

We only walked the last maybe 5 minutes to the trailers, but I didn't worry about it because I knew we'd be back on the trail again soon, so I walked Nimo another couple of minutes and then tied him to the trailer, gave him a small mash to eat, loosened his girth and sponged him off while we waited for the other group to come in.

Within 10 or 15 minutes, we were underway, and I had a chance to ride with an endurance rider who had been in the walk-only group because she was on her non-endurance horse.  She'd had some issues with her endurance horse, and it was interesting to hear her talk about how they'd come up and some of the problems she'd had to deal with.

Crossing the highway ended up being not that big of a deal.  The park had placed mounting blocks on both sides of the highway for anyone who wanted to dismount to cross, but all of us stayed on our horses.  Traffic can be quite heavy on this highway and it includes semi-trucks and apparently really loud, obnoxious motorcyclists.  (Luckily, the motorcycles didn't come through until AFTER we'd gotten across the road or we might have had some problems.  Sometimes I secretly wish that I could train my horse to attack motorcyclists who misbehave...)  We managed to convince the traffic to stop for us so we could cross and everyone made it OK.

Then we did another 3-3.5 miles of really nice trails.  They were all pretty easy, with a couple of gentle hills.  The one issue was that the trails were conducive to trotting or even cantering, but there were quite a few hikers out, making it more difficult to maintain a constant speed if you wanted to do anything besides walk.  And if you didn't know your way, you would absolutely end up on trails not designated for horses because despite the frequency of trail markings and signs, there is no indication about which trails are for horses and which are only for hikers.  It's exasperating because the fee to ride is $8 plus $2 for each additional horse, so it isn't an inexpensive place to ride where the park could be forgiven for skimping on things like trail markings.  We had a person in our group who was familiar with the trails, but honestly there is no way I could reproduce our ride without sitting down with a map.  (Which I later did...details to follow.)

As we neared the end of our ride, the two riders in front asked if the rest of us could hold our horses for a minute.  We didn't realize what was going on, but I guess they wanted to canter up a hill and figured the rest of the group wouldn't want to.  Well, I absolutely wanted to, and so did the guy next to me, so after the first riders made it to the top, we looked at each other and by virtually silent agreement decided to follow suit.  I hollered to the riders behind us that we were going to go and we took off.  At first Nimo just tried to trot his little heart out, but I asked him to canter.  After thinking about it for a second, he apparently decided it was safe because the other horses were OK, so he cantered the rest of the way up the hill.  No bucking, no crow-hopping, just a nice slow canter.  Yay!

We walked the last mile back to the trailers, crossed the highway without a problem, and I got Nimo sponged off and eating mash while I had a snack with the other riders and we chatted about horse stuff for maybe a half-hour.  Then it was time to head home.

When I got home, I decided to decipher the map to the park so I could plan my rides there in the future.  I think we rode 9-10 miles and that is a perfectly respectable distance for conditioning rides, especially ones that include some climbing.  So I definitely want to work Sky Meadows into my regular riding schedule.

For anyone in the area who might be interested, here is the section of the Sky Meadows park with horse trails.  The horse trails are highlighted in yellow, and actually make a lot more sense now than they did when I was riding on them.  Apparently, all of the connected trails on the east side of the park are OK for horses, which I did not know, so I feel less irritated about the lack of markings indicated on the signs.  And even on the west side, the horse trails are grouped together, so I feel a lot better about being able to make sure I don't get off track.

I'm so glad I went on the USTR ride, not only because I now feel comfortable riding at Sky Meadows but because the other members are such fun people to ride with.  It was a nice way to get through yet another hot conditioning ride as I imagine that fall is coming soon, and with it, cooler weather.

Friday, August 7, 2015

In an instant

I think it is probably a universal experience to have that moment when everything is going just as you planned and life is moving along at its normal pace, and than "BAM!" everything is different.  It can be a car accident, a fall after your horse spooks, dropping a knife on your foot and severing a tendon (that one did not happen to me), or simply walking on smooth concrete in flat-soled shoes 10 feet from your front door and somehow stepping wrong and twisting your foot and ending up in the emergency room and then on crutches for 2 weeks (I wish that one had been someone else...).

But this post isn't about me.  Instead it is about that instant when the life of my friend and fellow blogger, Saiph, went from getting ready for a camping trip to taking her horse to an equine hospital for emergency surgery.  A few weeks ago her horse, Lily, had a terrible injury after a bad spook, and medical bills really started to pile up.  Even though Lily was insured, insurance hasn't covered all the expenses, particularly those associated with post-hospital care.  You can read more about what happened as well as Lily's recovery on Saiph's blog at the following links:

In Which Lily Has Emergency Surgery
Lily Update
She's Home
Lily's Leg: Chapter 1
Lily's Leg: Chapter 2
Lily's Leg: Chapter 3
Lily's Leg: Chapter 4
Lily's Leg: Chapter 5

I know most of us don't have huge disposable incomes every month, but if you do have a few dollars to spare and feel so inclined, fellow bloggers Liz and Karen set up a fund that you can donate to.  The fund will help Saiph cover Lily's medical expenses.  Saiph is also raising money through her Etsy store by drawing animals.  You can send her a picture and she will render an artistic drawing for you.  If you like her work, now is the perfect time to think about ordering a drawing:)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What Does It Mean to Attempt the Impossible?

So my blog description still tells you that I'm on a journey to ride Nimo in the Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Ride.  At the time I wrote that description, I HAD NO IDEA what it really meant to do endurance riding.  I'd read a bunch of books that made endurance riding sound like fun and that almost any horse and rider could do the distances if they just put their minds to it.  But that isn't really true, is it?  If you are in the endurance world, you know that it takes more than a half-way decent horse and a rider who really wants to do endurance.  There is a synergy between horse and rider that must be achieved, there is endless conditioning to do, tons of equipment to fiddle with or replace until it's just right, electrolyting to figure out, rider eating and drinking to plan, and a whole host of other things that can suck the life out of the unknowing rider as she tries to just make it to a ride and God-forbid, get the horse across the finish line in one piece and without needing veterinary care.

Currently, my Facebook newsfeed is jammed with Tevis news, including the story about the older gentleman (in his 70s, I think) who won this year.  And of course, it's hard to learn about endurance riding without hearing the name Julie Suhr, who is an older lady with quite a few miles under her belt.  And there is the half-Friesian who has won a 100-mile ride (maybe even more than one).

But I think those are some special cases.  Which is why they are such big news.  The reality is that it didn't take me long to realize how impossible it is for most experienced endurance riders to even contemplate the idea of riding a purebred Friesian in a 50 mile ride, much less a 100 mile ride, much less a ride as difficult as the OD.  To the best of my knowledge, Friesians are actually unclassified when it comes to hotblood, warmblood, and coldblood status.  They are referred to as Baroque, but they aren't really even that, because few of them have the shoulder and hip angles to be good at dressage and collection.  They are heavy harness horses that are just so damn beautiful with such people-loving temperaments that we can't help ourselves but interact with them.  Yet their unclassified nature makes it hard to know how they'll handle the extreme nature of endurance riding.  And I think that makes endurance folks uncomfortable sometimes.  Especially the ones who typically ride Arabs.  And even the ones who used to ride non-Arabs, but now ride Arabs because they are so much easier.  And I have to admit it makes me uncomfortable sometimes too.  Plus, it means that I don't have many good sources of scientific information when it comes to how I manage my horse, and the weight of the knowledge that I could really screw up my horse if I make a mistake is a tough burden sometimes.

For those of us who dare to ride non-Arabs, we can expect that the information that is out there is mostly going to be about Arab metabolisms and issues.  That means electrolyting protocols are mostly for Arabs (although I know there are those out there like Aarene Storms and Saiph who post about what does and doesn't work for their non-Arabs).  That means conditioning plans and advice are mostly for Arabs.  (I'll never forget the times I've read conditioning plans showing that I could get my reasonably fit horse in shape for a 30-mile ride in 6 weeks.)  That means equipment is typically Arab-sized (and I have to buy custom-made tack for my larger-than-life horse).  That means that hoof boots are Arab-sized (which means fewer options are available for bigger feet).  That means that general health care advice is about managing Arabs, with such advice as how much grass versus hay they should eat and even whether alfalfa is an appropriate choice (which means figuring out what nutrients my horse really needs is a shot in the dark).  That means reading about how to prevent girth and other tack rubs.  (I remember one endurance rider being very concerned that I'd fully bodyclipped Nimo prior to our Foxcatcher 25 ride.  She rode an Arab and that degree of clipping would have contributed to girth rubs and back issues.  Ha!  Nimo was in heaven without all his hair and has never had anything remotely like a girth rub because he has really thick, coarse hair that is very protective even when it's short.)

So what's a person to do?  How about asking questions on the AERC Facebook page?  Not a good idea.  For every question, I can almost guarantee that there will be such a mix of positive and negative answers that the questioner would have been better off continuing to wonder about the answer.  For example, today I saw a question about whether it was possible to condition a 20-year old horse for LDs.  The poster gave a few more details about the horse to help those so inclined answer her question.  I didn't read the responses because they would likely send me into the stratosphere, and also because...IT DOESN'T MATTER.

I see so many potential endurance riders trying to diligently gather as much information as they can about attempting the sport (I did the same thing).  And I see all the experienced (and probably not-so-experienced) riders try to help the best they can by expressing their opinions about whether something can be done.  Can you ride a mule with oddly-shaped feet in Renegade hoof boots over muddy terrain in the Southeast?  Can you do a 50-mile ride in an all-purpose English saddle that seems to fit the horse really well but sometimes causes the rider chafing on the inside left knee?  Can an 8-year old horse that has only done 2 LDs be conditioned to do a 100-mile ride in 6 months?

The answer to all these questions is that NOBODY KNOWS UNTIL SOMEBODY TRIES IT.  All the well-meaning advice in the world can't account for determination and some luck.  No one knows for sure that a horse has the temperament and fitness ability to become a 100-mile horse, until that horse is given the opportunity to try.  I do know that there are stories of unlikely horses and riders.  Horses that a few years ago would have run in terror to the next county at the sight of base camp.  Or riders who have gone through personal tragedy or financial issues or health problems, only to overcome them and complete a ride.  If these horses and riders had listened to the best advice of those that had gone before them, they would never have set foot in a ride camp.  But they choose not to listen and whether they finished one ride or 5,000 miles or failed completely, it doesn't matter.  Because failing at something you wanted to do isn't a sign of weakness or lack of skill.  It just means that it didn't work out.  AND THAT IS OK.

I'm not sure why failure is such a debilitating fear.  When I watch my daughter learning, she fails all the time.  She falls down a lot or bumps her head or spills the beads all over the floor or drops the marker or dumps the milk.  But she rarely gets upset about it.  In fact, failure is almost always a non-event for her.  She just picks herself right back up and tries again and again and again until she gets it right, even if it takes days or even months to get better.  She could probably be a motivational speaker if she was older than 2:)

So to those who think my 13 year old Friesian will never be successful at completing the OD 100, you are probably right.  In fact, everything that I've learned about endurance riding so far indicates that the chances are so small that we will succeed that it isn't even worth trying.  BUT I DON'T CARE.

The thing is, it doesn't really matter if Nimo and I are successful in reaching what is, to be honest, my goal that I came up with before I even knew what I was getting into.  Nimo has not yet communicated to me that he shares the goal.  (In fact, last night, it was apparently almost too much of an imposition to hold his foot up while I trimmed it.  "There is grass out there, dammit!  It must be eaten, and it must be eaten by me!")  But in the process of working toward my goal, I've learned so much, and I know that I have so much more to learn if I just stick with it.  I am a better owner for my horse and I will be a better owner to all my future horses and even other animals because of our journey so far.  As long as my horse's welfare is always my top priority, I don't think it matters whether our target distance is 25 miles or a multi-day 500 (OK, a multi-day 500 is NEVER going to be a goal, but you get my point, I hope).  And so, unless or until Nimo develops a physical issue that just can't be overcome, you will find the two of us plugging away toward reaching our goal and attempting the impossible.  Because no one will ever know if this Friesian can do 100 miles until we try:)