Year End Reflection and Goals

2015 has been a great year!

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Ink and I enjoyed lots of beautiful trails...

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...and had lots of fun...

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...and enjoyed lots of pretty views

This was my first full season with Ink, and she has proven to be the PERFECT horse for me.  After struggling to really get going in endurance for last couple years, having an unsuitable horse, and just plain bad luck, 2015 was the year to really get serious.  Ink has proven herself as the right partner for the task.  We had a great time together this year and have really formed a strong partnership.  We did four 25-30 mile LD endurance rides to get started, one of which I chose to rider option when Ink developed a muscle cramp in her hindquarter on an extremely muddy ride (it resolved quickly and she’s fine, but I didn’t want to risk making it worse).  The rest of the rides went really well, with Ink getting stronger each time.

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Ink's first endurance LD ride (photo by Unbridled Imagery )

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(photo by Unbridled Imagery)

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Getting ready to start the KY Moonshine night ride... Riding in the dark was so fun and really strengthened our partnership.

We moved up to 50 mile rides in the fall, proudly getting the turtle award on both 50s we attempted.  We finished the season with 100 endurance and 80 LD AERC miles. I’m so proud of Ink!

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Ink after her first 50... eating like a hog, as usual.

We learned a lot this year: we got our electrolyte protocol figured out (for both of us!  I learned that I feel MUCH better taking SaltStick Caps myself), added calcium gluconate with Ink’s electrolytes to help prevent cramps, figured out what we both can/will eat during rides, sorted out our hoof protection dilema (hoof boots caused rubs after the fourth LD, so we tried EasyShoes for both 50s and really liked them), learned a lot about heat management in a heavier built non-Arabian, made significant improvement on Ink’s “race brain” tendencies, and discovered that Ink is not a naturally strong hill horse and very much prefers flat rides.

After our first 50, which was flat and easy with mild weather, Ink and I both felt great and had energy to spare. I realized that doing a 100 mile ride didn’t seem so impossible after all.  I added that goal to my bucket list that day.  It may be a challenge for Ink, who is not an Arabian and is not bred for the sport, but that day I realized that with proper preparation she might be able to do it.  I decided to try a 75 mile ride first as a stepping stone.  I’m hoping to do a couple 50s this spring, then do an easy 75 in the fall.  After our second 50, which was quite hilly and more difficult, Ink was tired.  She was fine, not overly exhausted, but she was happy to be done.  That shook my confidence in moving up to longer distances.  I would never want to jeopardize Ink’s well being, soundness or happiness for my own goals.  I decided that I can’t just ask this amazing horse who would do anything for me to step up her game to make it happen…  I need to step up MY game as well to keep it fair.  So if I’m going to ask Ink to carry me further, I am going to get off and help.  I had already started tailing up long hills (hiking behind the horse, holding the tail to pull you up the hill.  It makes it incredibly easy for the person to climb, barely any more effort than walking on flat ground, but much less effort for the horse than carrying a rider up the hill).  I decided to tail up more hills, not just the steepest and longest hill climbs.  I needed to do more than that to fairly ask Ink to do a 100.  I decided to start running so I could get off and jog with her when she gets tired or needs a break.  This may not sound like a big deal, but I have NEVER ran in my life.  In fact, I HATE running.  Seriously.  It is a form of torture.  I don’t like any kind of aerobic exercise.  The more I thought about it, the more of a hypocrite I felt like.  I regularly ask Ink to do increasingly challenging aerobic exercise, hill work, and heat training.  I haven’t been training nearly as hard as she has, and all of this is to meet MY goals.  So I am inspired by my amazing horse, and I will run.  Maybe I’ll even learn to like it a little bit. I have no grand aspirations of marathons or serious running, but it would be nice to get off and run for a mile or two here and there to give Ink a break. Sounds easy enough. Its not! Sadly, within 2 weeks of starting my own conditioning program, I sustained an IT band injury, causing severe hip and knee pain.  I had to take some time off to heal.  I’ve learned proper stretching and warm ups and am ready to get back to it.  Of course, the weather is less than ideal for outdoor running now, so I’ve arranged to barter farm fresh eggs for a used treadmill so I can run indoors.  Wish me luck!

2015 was a good year for other non-horse related stuff too.  However, I’ll admit that my horse conditioning and competition schedule did take up a lot of time and I did put some other things on the backburner.  I’ll do better in 2016, I promise.  ;)  I would really like to add a dairy goat and hogs to our little homestead, but I’m not sure if that will happen in 2016, as we are expecting Squidy’s foal, which I’m sure will be very time consuming and the main focus of a lot of our spare time for a while.  There are farm projects that need to be done, always.  Hopefully we’ll trim down that list a bit this year.  The garden will be my main homesteading goal this year.  With the early summer flooding in 2015 a lot of our crops didn’t survive.  Between that and struggling with out of control weeds, it was kind of a big gardening fail of a year.  We did pressure can a ridiculous amount of green beans though, which was pretty much the only crop that thrived under water…  We’re eating green beans once a week all year!    I’m hoping 2016 will be the year of gardening successes!

Here’s to a great 2016!

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