Sunday, March 31, 2019 – Short Ride with Brother Jeff

As we start gathering everything together to head home in the next couple of weeks, brother Jeff and I went on what is likely to be our last ride together this season. He wanted to see the 5 mile loop I found out back in Hungryland, so we headed out that way in the early afternoon. It's been a good stay, though not as relaxing as we had hoped because of all the in-center dialysis we had to do, but I'm hoping that next year will be better, with more time in other horse camps around Florida, dialyzing "at home" rather than "in-center," which will give us a lot more time for other, more fun things. Jeff's long-time girlfriend is flying in later this week, so we'll be staying here long enough to look after his critters while they take a short jaunt to a beach hotel along the coast, but we're hoping to be out of here shortly after that. A lot depends on what kind of weather they're expecting at home! But the plan is to spend some time getting up there anyway, to try to relax and get caught up on our sleep and rest time.

Sunday, Mar. 24, 2019 – Ride Day with Hubby

So happy Hubby was feeling well enough for a ride today! Had a nice strawberry and cream breakfast before saddling up the horses, and off we went on a 5-mile loop around Hungryland, so even Lola dog was able to join us today! It was a gorgeous day, mid 70’s, hardly a cloud in the sky, precisely the reason we come to Florida for the winter. Everyone behaved themselves beautifully, no problems whatsoever. Flash and Apollo are getting along fine, and Hubby and I are working out how to ride a quarter horse and a paso together. Trying to get a gait that’s good for both has been interesting, but I’ve always worked on a nice slow jog with Apollo, and that seems to just about be right for Flash’s walk, with the occasional cordo to catch up, which Hubby doesn’t mind at all. Unlike the last time when I took this loop and was knee-high in water for three 100-yard sections, the swamp had dried up and a bit, and we were barely ankle high in just two of those sections. We all had a great time, so glad to be back in the saddle! Arrived back about 90 minutes later, put the horses away, then worked on the Buick for a bit. This past week, it’s been stalling out whenever it went down to idle, so we took a look at what the problem might be, potentially a solenoid, but we found a chewed bit of vacuum line that we thought might be the problem. We temporarily taped it up, hoping that would prove that that might be the problem, which we’ll know for sure tomorrow when we drive it. Spend some time out by the pool playing fetch with Lola before retiring for the evening.

Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019 – Day Three of the OTL Ride

Up before dawn, loaded up Flash (who I thought by now would be reluctant to get in the trailer, but he went in just fine!), and off to Jupiter Farms Park for the start of the 3rd and final day of the OTL ride. Sunday is the day that attracts the most people, and there were a lot more folks there than on the previous two days. Of course, once again they were still trying to round up people for the (now) 9:00 riders meeting, and when someone next to me asked the organizer if they could go, I went right along with them when they got their yes. I headed back out of the park the way I had come in yesterday, in first position, going on trails Flash and I both knew very well, as this was all in the area where we had been training for the last six weeks. We kept a nice pace, though I didn't push him too hard considering he's already got over 45 miles under his belt in the last two days. We stayed in the lead until just as we reached the Cypress Trails parking lot and headed north on the official OTL trail, when I was passed by a couple of tall, long-legged Arabe/Standardbred crosses, once ridden by a guy from Venezuela and the other a woman from Zimbabwe. They blew past me and I thought I would be left in the dust, but Flash decided he wanted company, even if he had to work for it, and he promptly started racing after them! No matter what pace they did, Flash stayed up with them, and if they got ahead, he'd catch up to them when they slowed down again, even after some very long stretches of cantering. Seems Flash was determined to stay with the herd! It turned out that the woman was a retired endurance rider, and she gave me some excellent tips when I told her that it was my plan to condition Flash for that. Once she laughingly joked (with an English-African accent) that Flash looked "like a little puppy following along," and it was true. Too cute! Anyway, we kept on the entire rest of the 19 miles like that, all the time I'm thinking, well, this is great practice if I want to come in 2nd or 3rd in a race, but it won't help me get a first! The last quarter mile or so we all cantered toward the finish, except my companions all pulled up about 100 yards out, but Flash was having none of that! It seems he sensed the end was near, and he wanted to reach it asap, so he kept right on going, passing up those two other long-legged critters, and once again, arriving at the checkpoint first! How's THAT for going out with style! Now THAT'S just exactly the kind of attitude I want in my future endurance horse! Once again, Hubby was waiting for me with the trailer, but as there was a lunch being served for participants, I stuck around and socialized for a while, chatting with the organizers, making a few suggestions for next year, which they were quite open to, and even managed to sell a copy copies of my horse camping book! I was very pleased that we made it, Flash and I, and was able to chalk up the experience. It was great having so much time together, and I'm looking forward to when we are finally back on the road full time and we can plan our travel accordingly. We packed up Flash and headed home, enjoying a nice quiet evening of well-deserved rest for both of us!

Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019 – Day Two of the OTL Ride

Another early start today. With the condition of the road at JW Corbett, it actually took us longer to travel there than to Dupuis, even though it's a much shorter distance as the crow flies. Much more relaxed today, as we have no dialysis to race to, in fact, there's nothing but this to do, so I plan on taking my time and enjoying it more. I left camp with a couple of other ladies who were organizers, and rode along a well-marked (by Corbett) trail for a long way. I finally moved off from them when they stopped to solve a shoe-loss problem (they were nice, but a bit chattier than I am comfortable with for long stretches-no offense!), and rode with just one other girl for a while. Lots of water to cross, lots of wading, then a nice canter as we pulled into the conservation camp, where a lot of people stopped for lunch. I kept going down the canal until we reached the Beeline Highway crossing, and half a dozen of us crossed at once. There wasn't anyone stopping traffic, though there were a couple of folks at the checkpoint there. There were enough gaps to make it through okay. Eventually we got into Loxahatchee Slough, where I caught up with a cowboy and his girlfriend who weren't afraid of moving out, so we did some nice cantering and trotting (for me, cordo and largo), a refreshing change from everyone else who apparently only wanted to walk the entire 21+ miles. As soon as we broke through the forest on to the canal trail on the north side of Loxahatchee Slough, which Flash knew VERY well, I could really tell he suddenly knew where he was, and knew the way home from there (even though that's not where we were going this time), but he picked up his tempo and we did a lot of moving out after that. We finally settled down for the last mile or so through the neighborhood, arriving at our end point of the Jupiter Farms Park near the arena. Hubby had already arrived, tucked away in a corner, and after checking in (I was first in camp again, just like yesterday, where I heard it was nearly an hour before anyone else arrived after me), and once again, trailered home, this time just a short ten minute drive, with a stop at Publix for essentials like ice cream :-). Got home much earlier than last night, thank goodness, and had a relaxing evening, though off to bed early, of course!

Friday, Feb. 22, 2019 – Day One of The Ocean To Lake Ride

Today is the big day! Everything that Flash and I have been working towards for the last two months, it's finally here!! Got up bright and early, had a quick breakfast, then Hubby and I drove out to Dupuis WMA where the ride begins, arriving just after 8:00 as I had planned. Got Flash all saddled up and ready to go, then waited for the 8:30 riders meeting. That time came and went, then I heard it would be 8:45. At 8:50, still nothing. I knew that I was already pushing my luck with a 9:00 departure, so I found a woman who was marking up a map for someone, and explained that I needed to leave right at nine, so she gave me a copy of two separate maps, one of Dupuis and one of JW Corbett, and briefly (and rather vaguely, I thought) ran through the trails with me. In the end, she just said, "Follow the teal trail to the south end of the park," and the rest would be self-explanatory. So right at 9:00, I headed down the main road until I hit the teal trail, then followed that until it came to a dead end. Great. Nothing on the map helped me figure out where I was. I changed directions a couple of times before finally picking up a red trail that I thought was going in the right direction, but that looped back on itself. I ended up going cross country to the east, because I knew the teal trail did cross the entire length somewhere, and I was bound to pick it up. Finally, I did, but by then I'd lost almost an hour and added several miles to an already longer than expected journey. I pushed Flash hard to the south end of the park, where I met up with a couple of other organizers who were supposed to be marking the trail ahead, but apparently they left 20 minutes after everyone else did. Despite their late departure, they were still the first to arrive at the south end of the park that leads to the trail to Corbett, so evidently, I wasn't the only one who gotten lost. Grrrr! It won't matter Saturday or Sunday, but today it was critical to make Hubby's dialysis time. I headed out the trail toward Corbett, now well in the lead, and kept pushing Flash as much as I could to make up for lost time. Now there was only one trail to follow for a long time, so that made it easier. There was one water stop, but there was a cable strung between two posts we had to step over to get to it (no one had a way to remove the lock) Flash walked up on it, then backed away panicky when he struck it. I suggested to the women at the checkpoint that they put a plastic bag or something on it so that people and horses could see it, surprised that no one had already thought to make it somehow. From there it was up one canal and down another, missing another turn because of poor directions (I was told a certain number of electrical poles, but that turned out to be wrong.) I finally saw some pink ribbons, which I had seen along some of the way, and finally figured out that they must be the trail markings for the ride. Would have been nice is someone had mentioned that to me before I left this morning! Still managed to be completely lost in Corbett, again because the trail markers were not good, but fortunately, I managed to stay on trails that, according to the map, would take me to I camp. Many of the trails were under water, so we were wading a lot (thank goodness I had schooled Flash on these earlier this month!) And FINALLY arrived in camp after 2:00. I practically threw Flash in the back of the trailer after I unsaddled him, jumped into the truck, and went as fast as the crappy, pothole-ridden dirt road would let me. It was 3:00 by the time we emerged from Corbett and it's dead cell zone and called the center to let them know we would be late, ran home, dropped off Flash, jumped in the car and finally made it to Hubby's dialysis center at 4:00, an hour late, but they were very gracious about it, thank heavens. Of course, that made it a very long evening, not arriving home until 9:30, and barely had time to grab a bit and crash into bed, with the alarm set for another early morning tomorrow! Whew!

Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 – Another Short Tune-up Ride on Flash

After a morning doctor appointment for Hubby, it was actually too hot to ride in the middle of the day (nothing my northern friends want to hear, I’m sure!), so I waited until around 4:00 before taking Flash on a short 5 mile ride just to keep him limber, and he did great! I think he’s in as good a condition as I could get him in preparation for the upcoming Ocean to Lake Trail ride this weekend. Last week, I might have overdone it, as he wasn’t to excited about taking a ride after a couple of long rides, but by today, he was raring to go, so I think we’re on the right track!

Sunday, Feb. 17, 2019 – Short Tune-up Ride on Flash

Having put so many miles on Flash last week, and because he had a little bit of a swollen ankle, I decided to just take him on a short tune-up ride, a nice 5-mile loop through the Hungryland WMA, beginning by going up the Indiantown Grade about a mile, then north along another grade, waded through some water to another grade, headed east to the Ranch Colony canal, then south back home. A very nice 5 mile ride that will be perfect to do with Hubby next time he’s feeling up to it. I am really enjoying spending all this quality time with Flash, he is getting better and better at everything! He listens well, he’s having no trouble wading through water anymore (we spent a day crossing a shallow canal because I know there’s at least one water crossing on the OTL trail, as we go into the southwest side of Jonathon Dickinson State Park on the last day of the ride, and he soon powered through that new experience), and he’s just fast becoming the perfect trail horse!

Saturday, Feb. 16, 2019 – Just 5 Miles with Brother Jeff-Frost Misbehaves

Brother Jeff was ready for a ride today, so I saddled up Apollo rather than Flash, as he and Jeff’s horse (well, his boarder’s horse) Frost have about the same slow quarter horse walk, and it’s a bit frustrating trying to slow Flash down to Frost’s level. Jeff won’t go any faster than a slow walk, so I figured it would be easier on Apollo. As it turned out, it didn’t really matter, as Frost wasn’t really interested in going on a ride anyway. We went into the neighborhood east for a few blocks, then when we went to turn south on the canal, Frost was having none of it. Apollo, having not been ridden by me in some time, also gave me a bit of trouble, but I managed to separate him and keep going. Jeff wasn’t able to get Frost back in line, so I carried on, figuring we’d meet up again a bit later, and I wasn’t about to let Apollo learn any bad habits from Frost, so we kept going. I took Apollo a couple of miles around the neighborhood before heading home, only to find Jeff hadn’t gotten back yet. I called him and discovered he was on foot, leading Frost back home from a few blocks away, so I went and caught up with him. Evidently, Frost just got too ornery and Jeff felt it safer just to get down, thus the walking. Not quite the ride we were hoping for, but at least we got a little ride in today.

Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 – Another 8.25 Miles on the Indiantown Grade

Decided to just take a relatively short ride today, along the Indiantown Grade to Pratt-Whitney Road and back, which I knew to be just over 8 miles, just to keep up Flash’s conditioning. Another boring ride, but, as I’ve said many times before, no hour on the back of my horse is bad!

Thurs. Feb. 14 2019 – Another 17 Miles Under our Belt

Back on the trail again, Flash and I added another 17+ miles to our workout schedule. While we started on one of our usual treks, out Cypress Creek east to Riverbend and south along the canal, today I decided to explore a different canal, one where there's a pedestrian bridge to a road, then a canal at the back of those houses on that road. That took us a long way west, until we came to a fence that completely blocked the trail along the canal (I didn't think they were allowed to do that, but it had obviously been there a long time), so we had to backtrack a block, then go north until we found another road that would get us farther west. Eventually we made our way to the crossover at the south end of the canal toward home, and made our way north from there. Another great ride, and Flash is getting really fit! Me, too!