Last weekend Mom, Dad, and I went down to Sacramento for the 16th Annual Western States Horse Expo. I was very excited to visit my first Expo… I’d heard good things. The Expo had several different components: the clinics, the shows, the live horses, and the shopping.
I actually liked the clinics best… the first one we attended was Bob Avila who spoke on the different types of bits. He explained why you would use one instead of another and how to tell when your horse was ready for a more advanced bit. We watched a little bit of the Parelli Natural Horsemanship (how to get your horse to listen and respond to touch) as well as Marvin Pierce talk about how to train your dog to not chase livestock when they shouldn’t.
We had planned on making an entire day out of it and staying late to watch the Ultimate Super Horse Finale competition, but after watching a rather disappointing elimination round, we decided to save our $10 and go get Mongolian BBQ instead. I had expected professional level competition and knew we weren’t getting it when one of the riders had to stop and pull out a map because she forgot the pattern.
I was a little bit disappointed with the event as a whole. Yes, there were tons of vendors there. But most of it was stuff that wasn’t entirely useful. I honestly went with an open mind and open checkbook and left with a cowboy hat and a $20 bag of treats.
It’s official… I now have everything that I need to own a horse. Technically. I learned this weekend that there is so much amazing stuff out there… it could be very easy to spend TONS of money on horse gear!
This weekend I bought my very first saddle! My trainer hauled Sue down to the Rancho Murieta Equestrian Center, where a cutting show was being held. I have been riding in one of her saddles that I absolutely love, made by Roohide Saddlery. John, the owner and saddle maker spent lots of time with Sue, trying different trees (that’s the shape/form of the saddle) on him to make sure we got a good fit that allowed his gait to be free. After sitting on what felt like a thousand different saddles (it was actually about 40) and trying a few out (who knew that’s how you picked a saddle), I finally found one I liked. I honestly could not have asked for a better saddle… it’s like he custom made it for me! I absolutely love it – the skirt and gullet have rough out leather, which is basically a roughed up version of the leather on the rest of the saddle. The edges all have barbed wire tooling – nice and manly for my Boy Named Sue! I left it overnight because John wanted to do some customizing on the stirrups (since I have seriously short legs he wanted to change up the length so that I had more holes – ie. could raise them higher if needed). I rode on it this afternoon and it was beyond comfortable!
When I went back today, my parents met up with me to watch some of the cutting competition. Cutting is basically a judged version of separating or “cutting” one cow from the herd and keeping him there. It’s so interesting to see the different techniques and the level of discipline the horses have! My parents were awesome and decided to buy me the last piece of tack I needed – the headstall (when put together with reins and a bit, it becomes the bridle). Since I had my saddle there, we were able to match the leather. I absolutely love it – the tooling is arrows, which goes well with the barbed wire on my saddle!
Here’s the bit I got from my trainer… I love the silver detail on it!
Now it’s time to break it all in… tonight’s project is to sit on my sofa and bend and smush my reins… the softer and more “broken in” the leather is, the better! I am one happy, tired cowgirl!
Yesterday I took the first real step in my journey towards fulfilling my lifelong dream of owning a horse. I took my first riding lesson. During my marathon training I ran past Oak Hill Stables every long run and always thought it was a beautiful place. Yesterday morning mom and I headed out to talk to the owner about boarding and training. I love the owner’s philosophy – it’s all about being in tune with the horse and making sure that horse and rider are well matched. I’m starting off with lessons – each time I’ll ride a different horse so that I can start to get a feel for what I like or don’t like in a horse.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of riding Nike, a 16 hand Appaloosa. The measurement of a horses height is in hands with 1 hand = 4 inches. You measure from hoof to withers (basically the shoulder). That means Nike was 5’4″ tall, which is a big boy. Appaloosas are known for their very smooth gait, and let me tell you, this one was wonderful. He was smooth and easy to ride.
Mom got to ride a pretty little horse named Missy. We both had the best time – the lesson lasted two hours! We were shown how to saddle the horses, then we trailered them and drove to nearby Lake Tabeaud. We rode the whole three-mile loop around the lake and Dana (my trainer) taught me a bunch of the basics. When we were done we took them back to the ranch, unsaddled them, brushed them, and turned them out to the pasture.
By the time we were done, I was utterly exhausted from the excitement of it all. I honestly feel like this is something I was meant to do… I can’t even begin to explain how right it feels for me to be on a horse. I can’t wait to continue my learning experience and to then find the horse that is a perfect fit for me. I loved brushing Nike after we were done (his head got all droopy and he looked sleepy) and can’t wait to have my own horse to bond with. I’m so happy my mom came out to ride with me… I had such a wonderful time spending the day with her and sharing this milestone!
Just like that, marathon #2 is done! This is the marathon that I knew I could do… my final time was 4:42:37, which is over an hour faster than I ran San Diego. While I wouldn’t trade the accomplishment/experience of getting through San Diego (long story short, I had severe “tummy troubles”), this was an entirely different experience. I actually got to enjoy (well, as much as one can enjoy running for 26.2 miles) the course, the people, the music, and the overall experience. It was 22ish degrees at the start and a balmy 40ish degrees at the finish, which besides a little discomfort at the beginning (running with frozen toes anyone?) was actually nice weather to run in. I’ll take cold over hot any day!
The Signs: There were the traditional funny running signs (“Worst Parade Ever” and “Who Needs Toenails Anyway?”) and some new ones I hadn’t seen before (at mile 2: “You’re not almost there!”). One that really touched me read “Someday you won’t be able to do this. Today is not that day”. I don’t know why, but that was really inspiring to me, because it’s so freaking true. Unless you’re that 80 year old guy who passed me at mile 25. Apparently then you can do it for the rest of your life.
The Spectators: My mom was amazing… she was absolutely everywhere! It was so great to see a friendly face among the supporters. I think she ended up making it to four different spots on the course and screamed her lungs out! Kati, Nate, Mike, and Chloe all joined her at the end… it was much-needed support to get me across the line! Kati even made me laugh, which at that point in the race is really hard to do! Poor Dad was home sick, but was proudly posting to Facebook! I can’t believe how many people were out there in the cold cheering all of us runners on. I began to actually think “They must be freezing… at least I get to run to stay warm!”.
The Aftermath: I am seriously considering writing Dr. Seuss to come up with some new running inspired books, such as Oh The Places You’ll Chafe and One Gu, Two Gu, Chocolate Gu, Vanilla Gu. I went home and took a long, hot bath in our jet tub… it was the most amazing thing ever. This time around I am not nearly as in pain as I was with the first one. I am definitely sore and stiff today, but I think that by tomorrow I’ll be the “hurts so good” sore. And, I’m starting to get hungry. I wasn’t really yesterday, and I know that by tomorrow I’ll want to eat everything in sight. Hooray for running!
I am really proud of myself for doing this one. Honestly, this could not have been a better marathon experience. I felt like from the start of training all the way through the day-after pains I was able to actually enjoy the experience. My training runs were beautiful and I took time on the course yesterday to reflect on the whole process. There’s just something about setting your mind to something and actually doing it. Something that you have to push your body to do. More so than your body, your mind.
I think this might have been my last one, but I’ve learned to never say never! 🙂
Happy Mother’s Day to the best mama in the world! We may not always see eye to eye, but sometimes I think that’s because we’re the same person! 🙂 Thank you for all of your love and support! I love you!