Embarressing ride story!

I’m part of many endurance ride related groups on the old Facebook, and in one I mentioned my twin ride goals for the season of completing my first 50 mile ride and not embarrassing myself in ride camp.

I realized that while I wrote up and shared the story of last year’s sad attempt at Grizzly, I’d never shared it wider than the PNER newsletter. So here it is again in all its glory, or don’t follow the Bad Idea Fairy!

I’ve had better weekends. I’ve had worse weekends. Overall, I’m chalking this year’s attempt at the Grizzly Mountain ride up to the as the ever exciting ‘learning experience’.

I first tried to complete Grizzly for the first time a few years ago, on Nicole Miller’s incomparable Arab Cid (who had given me my first ever endurance completion at Home on the Range earlier that year). I ended up pulling out via rider option at the first vet check, as through nearly 18 miles and a 30 degree temperature change, I hadn’t really drunk any water & ended up with heat stroke.

This year, Nicole had the amazing patience and trust to offer me another of her Arabs, this time Reno, to again attempt the LD at the now first ever EDRA ride. I felt quite a bit better about things this time; I’d been riding almost every weekend for months, including solid rides on a beautiful Appy/Arab cross (many of you may know him; Vicki Nelson’s Jokker is a stand out kinda guy!). I had my Camelbak all packed, my riding clothes dialed in, neither too hot nor too cold, I’ve been biking to work for months so I felt stronger than I had in years, & I was familiar with the rhyme and rhythm of Nicole & Jala’s work, if not Reno himself. I’d even brought two friends along, Adriene & Sarah, lifelong horse people but endurance newbies to volunteer, crew & provide what turned out to be critical emotional support.

So it should come as no surprise that Murphy bit my ass hard, in the form of the valuable maxim “Never do anything new on ride day.” I hopped up on a horse I’d never ridden, in a saddle I’d never seen, to do a nice 30 mile ride in the sunshine with friends.

I should take a moment here to fill a gap: I’m a catch rider. I have no horse of my own currently, so I’ve tried my best to build a solid reputation as a good horse person, a decent rider and a trusted friend. I was two of those three things at Grizzly. It’s only due to the open generosity of the endurance community that I have horses to ride at all! I always try to go the extra mile, from cleaning tack, stalls & trailers to working on any training issues as asked. There’s a delicate balance between my desire to ride endurance, the need to put conditioning miles on an ‘extra’ horse, and not straining friendships.

Back to the ride report that turned out not to be: We blitzed out of camp after Reno nicely bucked me off as his test (failed that one but popped right back on), took a wrong turn, futzed with my stirrups while Nicole’s Dancer lived up to her namesake, then crossed the highway & headed up the road for my one sweet spot of the ride, Reno alternating between a Hackney pony trot & a beautiful canter that I loved. As soon as we left the road I knew I was in trouble. I couldn’t find the sweet spot of the stirrups; either too short & they popped me up with every stride, or so long I couldn’t sink my weight into them. Reno’s saddle had a tree, but I’d been riding almost exclusively treeless all winter. I felt perched above his movement, & coupled with my shiny but comfortable running tights, I had no grip on the saddle & lost my balance with every shift, unable to sink into the saddle & wrap my legs around him as I normally did.

At the first real downhill at the trot, I did the predictable thing & came off again, this time rolling over his shoulder in painful slow motion. After a stunned moment I collected my glasses & left my pride on the trail. Nicole & Cassie headed on & I took my sweet time hiking back to camp, explaining to every rider who passed that I was an idiot & not to worry about us. Of course the first rider to pass was the woman who got me in to this dang sport in the first place, Brenda Casebeer! I will admit, I didn’t feel so bad about leaving the proper place on Reno’s back when I learned Brenda’s up & coming gaited mare, Grace, had also dumped her a little farther up the trail.

I will be honest, even though only Reno saw, I did cry a bit on that hike back to ride camp. I’d never encountered a saddle I just couldn’t suck up & deal with, at least for a few miles. It was just a bad combination, & an expensive lesson to learn. By the time I handed in my ride card, I’d at least accepted I had made the right choice for the horse. We avoided a sore back by not hauling around an unbalanced rider, & not holding up my friend’s ride. My friends back at camp talked me through from sadness & self-guilt to the mentality of ‘lessons learned, you lived to ride again another day, here’s some things to try’ via a trip to Dairy Queen in Madras.

The main lesson I took from Grizzly is I have to control everything I can, so ride day is as smooth as possible. Things I can’t control are always getting a pre-ride in (due to distance between me & the offered horse), or the saddle (which endurance riders are rightly very specific about). I did go out & find a new pair of actual riding tights (slightly sticky seat Kerrits & half chaps on the way from the UK, the only company to make them in my size), find a seat fleece, & pick up dressage lessons again.

To follow up the ride that wasn’t, I had a fantastic ride the following weekend on Vicki’s Jokker. We managed a nice 13 mile ride at a decent clip, in a saddle I love on a horse I adore, only getting hailed on at the end of the ride. Heading up a long gravel road at a just right trot, just me & the big spotted horse in the woods following Vicki on her mare, was one of those sweet spots which remind me why I’m putting in the work to make myself a better rider.

I strive to keep people trusting me with their amazing horses & the open trail, all in pursuit of a completion & a nice t-shirt. I’ve been biking ten miles round trip to work several times a week since January; riding as often as I can; filling in walks around campus & Wii workouts (Dance games & Biggest Looser) during the worst of the winter weather, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, & wearing my Fitbit & tracking what I eat. These actions have helped me drop 30 pounds & turned my calves into rocks, & I’m hoping adding in dressage lessons will get me closer to this season’s goal of my first fifty mile ride.

From my end, the trickiest part of being a catch rider is the relationship building. I’m lucky enough to ride mostly with people I also consider friends, which makes it a little easier to keep the conversation flowing on long rides & the communication open during trickier moments. I always offer to pay full ride fees & half gas & food for any trips or events, & I fully embrace the “take what you need as it works for your current horse, store the rest for later” policy around any advice I give or receive. I take pains to question & learn as quickly as I can how each owner handles their horses, their setup & routines; the goal is to minimize aggravation on both ends & maximize riding time.

Mr. 2Spooky

(Setting the scene: sitting in my beloved Emerald Queen, still at work, waiting for the World’s Best future husband to come rescue me and my non independent woman self from a super flat tire, and a spare tire I can’t get out from under the vehicle cause I’ve never practiced on this truck yet).

After looting the local 4H tack sale with two far fetched friends on Saturday, I put the new to me tack to use on Sunday.

My proudest score of Saturday was a almost brand new Equipedic pad for $100, which is totally worth boasting about and bonus, Ray had no issues with it!

A still relatively new to me riding partner and I headed out for a long slow ride, as we’re aiming to turtle Grizzly together. I have always ridden with others much more experienced than I, both with endurance and the local trails. Yesterday I got to be the ‘senior’ riding partner, and we never once got lost! She mentioned several suggestions I had that I’ve picked up from others (hopping off every 10 miles or so to pee and stretch and adjust tack, letting horses graze for a few minutes every so often, and walking the last bit I to camp/the barn) were super helpful, so thanks to all those who’ve instilled good habits in me!

While it was a good 12 mile ride (no rain!) I was reminded once again that Ray is a different horse than super laid back, goofy Jokker.

Mr. I’m actually a teenager spent a good chunk of the ride just super casually glancing around, going full giraffe at random moments, and not quite fully jumping sideways at Every. Single. Culvert. I rode every moment of the ride, working to not let my emotions rule because Mr. I’m not actually trying to dump you tried to pretend he was a super spooky four year old.

I kept the image of mile 18, trotting easily down trail halfway back to camp and a well earned completion award and roaring bonfire in mind as I again reminded Mr. I go so fast than no, you can’t bolt all the way home, and please don’t tailgate the peeing mare.

Rather than being terrified, I enjoyed the challenge of pushing myself to match the horse, and not get sucked into his attempts to weasel out of work. He did eventually accept the notion and we settled down and enjoyed ourselves (minus the redhead eating culverts).

Lessons learned: definitely going to try a Kimberwick or at least a running martingale next time; he has a habit of sticking his nose straight up when he disagrees with the riders chosen speed. “Neener neener, can’t tell me what to do now!” Shortening my stirrups was both good and bad; my seat was much better, but it tired my right ankle our faster and forced me to constantly reset my bad balance (something I’m hoping Celena can help me with at her clinic in two more weeks!)

My proudest moment was also the scariest; we were cantering back home and I could feel myself tipping forward over his neck, reins not short enough to do any good, and if he’s stumbled or shied I would have been dumped, just like I fell off Reno at Grizzly last year. Fortunately this year I heard some old trainer’s loud ass voice shout ‘Sit on your ASS!’ so I did and we came back to a more controlled canter that I cowgirl whooped my way through cause yeah, super badass enough to correct that mistake this time!

The only thing I really need to work with Mr. Fastest Possible Speed is rating, which I know will be worse the first five miles out of ride camp. My twin goals are dialing in his bit/martingale combo and working on my core strength so I can keep with him for those long miles.

We can do this and we can enjoy doing so, even more when the sun decides to shine! Hows everyone else’s conditioning coming?

Endorphins Are Good

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Pssst Vicki! I know the terrible, awful, no good weather is here to stay, but I need a hit of this view! It’s been too long since I’ve had my Jokker fix!

Running with a dog is incomparably better than shuffling alone. It’s the difference between dancing the Electric Slide in front of your history class cause you got an answer wrong, and a zone of thoughtfulness created by the pant pant pant of the dog coupled with the ‘get your ass moving’ beat of Fall Out Boy.

Which is all to the good, as I need the workout and endorphins pumping more than ever. My new job is tough. All new jobs are tough, but this one was running into a brick wall full speed, Wile E. Coyote style. To say I had no idea what I was getting into is giving me too much credit for knowing I should have had an idea. When I have a patient cursing at me about their money, it makes me miss my sweet and easy to please (read: bribe with candy) safety team. But benefits and paid holidays are wonderful, so I’m trudging ahead and getting my feet underneath me, made easier by the sweet wiggle butt, gap toothed kiddo and endorphins I can burn when I get home. Oh, and the kitchen fairy mentored boyfriend.

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I’ve been using MyFitnessPal off and on for years to try to reach my main goal of ‘lose weight and get fit to ride endurance effectively.’ I’ve never felt I’ve made much progress, due my allergy to anything ending in “-diet” and love of all things bread. And cheese. And off Tom’s Traeger. And Tillamook Salted Caramel Ice Cream bars. As I was syncing up tonight’s super short, 18 minute trudge through the rain tonight, I realized I’ve successfully lost and kept off 25 pounds.

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HOLY CRAP! In my own meandering, unguided, Pinterest addicted, comfy bed loving way, I’ve lost 25 pounds. Who’s counting that it took three years? I’m only 20 pounds away from being classified as a middleweight (with tack!), which opens up more realms of possible horses I can comfortably catch ride. I’m within 35 pounds of the weight I was pre-kid, and 40 pounds of where I was when I was super freaking fit in college, cutting down trees and driving three horse teams. It’s the middle of a typically cold, wet, dark Oregon winter, and I’m running with the dog most every day, and logging everything I eat and not going for the third cookie.

25 pounds. It may not seem like a ton, and I’m certainly not done, but the proof is in the pudding, so the English say. I can do this. I can work myself down in weight and up in strength, juggle my mental health and kid keeping aliveness and boyfriend someday soon to be fiance wellness and smooshy faced dog happiness and pissy ass cat glares.

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I still want to reach the goal of completing a 50 mile endurance ride, hopefully next season if I can wrangle the stars, time off work, finances and horse access. But my goals have shifted slightly, and I find myself longing for me, a good horse and a mountain trail meandering between snow flecked peaks, without the drama and stress that seems to have infiltrated my beloved community this year. If I can wrangle all the above, I’m going to focus on finding a horse to lease and take lessons with and condition in my own way, taking everything I’ve absorbed from all my mentors and seeing what I can do with it. That thought keeps me pounding pavement in the rain, happy Cyrus leading the way with a sharp eye out for slow squirrels.

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How many words for cold?

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Actual mother fucking icicles hanging off my college library roof.

I hate the cold. I spent part of my childhood in the blissful, baking, dry heat of Arizona, just north of Phoenix. I survived five whole stinking cold, snow bound winters in Vermont, and ran back home to more temperate Oregon at the first chance (that hard long winters seemed to have followed me back is a moot point). I remember learning new curse words for the temperatures that froze my nose hairs, made breathing a chore, and turned my eyes Ice King Blue in the middle of February. My muscles still recall hefting a stupid sledgehammer, breaking ice in the cow troughs and carrying buckets of boiling water down to the barn, or freezing to the metal chains used to hook up the draft horses to the forecart. The first time my kid went outside after he was born, we were wrapped in roughly eight layers of wool and silk, and still I was convinced my brand new baby would get frostbite and I’d fail at the whole mothering thing five days in.

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I hate cold, ya’ll. I also hate running. I’m about as graceful and flat footed as a rhino, only without the boner creating horn. I sweat as if I’m sitting in a sauna and I run with my head tilted a little to the side, doing to having a huge glasses lens prescription for my right eye as a little kid. Give me a horse or a bike to ride, hands down.

However, when you add cold and running together, my hate for both cancels each other out. I don’t sweat, there is no-fuckin’-body out to see me juggling my fat butt down the street, and I push myself to keep running (slow as a herd of fucking turtles ya’ll) so I don’t freeze to death. Oh, and the even more secret ingredient to my new goal to run six insane times a week? Cyrus the World’s Best Jogging Partner!

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Thanks to pesky things like work, house chores, commuting, eating food, being a parent kinda sorta, and stupidly being farther away from the sun during these months, Cyrus and I are getting our run in during the coldest, darkest part of the winter night…roughly between 7pm and 9pm. He not only keeps my sad ass pace super easily, he makes me feel better about the whole endeavor because running=more of a dog workout=dog sleeping peacefully on the couch all day while we’re gone and not chewing up the house. I’m such a good dog mom, ya’ll!

As a last thought, endorphins do make it easier to write…since I haven’t even cracked 6000 words of NaNoWriMo 13 days in, time to get cracking! Request: If anyone has some really good names for alien species, toss them my way? I can only rearrange letters into vaguely Swedish sounding names so often….

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This adorableness will never get old!

Shifting skies


Scene set: I’m typing this up on my ‘new’ phone, which in reality is Tom’s old phone, but it’s an iPhone 6 so its one of the newest pieces I’ve had since…my parents were buying my technology probably. I’m at the MAX (Portland’s light rail) station accross from whete my mom now works, under looming grey skies waiting for the train to take me home. 


Plan: Finish this post on the train; finish the drive home in the Emerald Queen (who is in desperate need of a quality detailing), change into workout clothes and put in my second run in months, in my pursuit of my new goal: to ride (to hopefully complete!) a 50 mile endurance ride in 2017. I haven’t even picked a ride yet, but I know it’s the most motivation I have to trick me towards my ultimate goal: regaining the strength & weight of my college days. Or at least much closer than the rounded, easily winded, cubicle dwelling not fit for much beyond a nice Netflix binge version of Jame I currently am. 


Obstacles: The hot water heater is broken (or the breaker is broken) but I have no hot water at home. The piled up dirty dishes will have to be handled the old fashioned way: via boiling water on the stove. How pioneer! It also means hot showers are available at Tom’s sisters house, who thankfully lived three blocks away, but who has a shower which eats Jame’s and makes her fall down and jam her finger. As one does.

Also, all those other things like being a working mother (which carries with it the stress load of work and commute and budgets and mommy guilt), plus I am fatter and slower and the couch is comfy and the boyfriend makes hella good food and I haaaaaate running…but it’s the cheapest way to get fit quickly that I’ve seen, self paced wise.


All I need is a few sets of comfy workout clothes, some decent shoes, my Iphone and an armband and headphones (all of which I have, minus the armband which those nice folks at Amazon are sending me now).


The obstacles which have (mostly) been removed are my prior goals of new house and new job. The house we are mostly settled into (minus minor things like consistant access to hot water) and the job is fantastic, where both my coworkers and my boss are super psyched about me and what I’ve accomplished in my first month. 

Oh, and if I haven’t shouted it across social media enough: TOM IS HOME! 


Bring on the 50, I’ll be ready!….

Now to find a horse…