Monday, Dec. 21, 2020 – Ride to Collect Markers

Hi Sweetie,
Had a good night sleep, though I woke up a bit early, which gave me a good chance to do all my chores, have breakfast, and still get out on the trail to collect the markers we put out for the ride on Saturday. I took Apollo, since he’s been lazing around for quite awhile, and because he’s much calmer on the trail at slow speeds. Flash hates all the stop/starting necessary to do the markers, but Apollo’s quite happy to stop at any given moment. Thankfully, nothing startled him so much that he spun on me, though there were a couple of instances when he suddenly planted his feet for some unknown reason. We were out by 10:00 and got back just after 2:30, which I thought was pretty good time for him. I did manage to get him to jog occasionally, which took some time off, but so much of my body was aching, I really couldn’t take too much of it. At one point, we had a whole parade of buggies go by us, and both Apollo and Lola were brilliant, just standing off to one side quietly and letting them pass. When we got back to camp, I rinsed him down and put him on the highline, then went about the business of getting all the markers organized. I figured if I did this again next year (or anyone else did), that it would be a lot easier if it were better organized, and I think I accomplished that. I thought I might have to stay an extra day to take down the pink markers (which someone else put up), but after contacting Jo, she said it was taken care of, that she would come by and pick up the markers in a bit. I took that as my cue to start packing up for a departure in the morning, and was able to put pretty much everything away, got the awning in, and even hooked up the truck, since I’m on pretty level ground here. She and her husband stopped and got the markers, and played with Lola for a bit before heading off. I got the horses fed and blanketed just as the sun when down, and settled down for the evening, with the plan to once again get to bed early. It’s going to be a long, five-hour drive tomorrow, so I don’t want to leave it too late getting started in the morning, so early to bed, early to rise, hopefully! So, off I go! Love you, babe! Good night!

Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020 – YooHoo! Sixth Place!!

Hi Darlin!
What a day! Up before dawn, got my chores and breakfast done, saddled up Flash and was heading over to the official start at 7:45, arriving in plenty of time to get off at the start. Only problem was, though he was calm during the lead up to the start, as soon as we crossed the start line, he started to behave like a real numskull! Jumping and jiving and cantering in place, spinning around wanting to be let loose, but it was so crowded I couldn’t just do that, for the safety of all around me, so I pulled him out of the lineup and made him stand quietly for a bit. I had decided to try to stay with the front group, since that had worked so well last year, but by the time he settled down, the horses in front were quite strung out and we were quite a bit behind. When there was finally a long enough gap I moved him back in line, and he kept jumping and jiving for another quarter mile or more, until finally there was a wide open space for him to run, and I let him go. We passed several other riders, but we never caught up with the front group, which was my goal. Turns out that was a fluke that worked in my favor, they missed some markings and got off track and ended up way behind us! Flash and I arrived at the halfway check in point one minute behind the actual leader! I had slowed him a bit to get his heart rate down, but it still took me too much time to cool him off, but we finally did it. I left for the second half one minute behind the same person, and never caught up for some reason, but Flash ran that part of the race pretty well, though he really slowed down on the far corners of the orange trail furthest from home. When we had about six miles to the finish, the group that was first but had gotten lost finally caught up to me (turns out one of the women was part of the same group I ran with during the first half last year!), and Flash immediately picked up his pace. He got so competitive, he was like a different horse! He did NOT want that long-legged critter passing him, and for the next six entire miles he ran, cantered and largoed just to keep up, evening insisting on going first a few times! Well, the end result was that we came in 6th, shaving five minutes off our time from last year, when we came in 12th. Not bad for an amateur, eh? Most, if not all, of the folks in front of me were practically professionals at this, so I was THRILLED that we kept up! If it hadn’t been for Tiffany passing me and setting the pace, though, it probably wouldn’t have happened (not to mention all the extra miles they had to put in because they got lost on the pink trail), so I’m grateful for that. Once again, we really enjoyed ourselves! My knee held up fine until about miles 18, then I put my knee brace on with about five miles to go, and that helped quite a bit. He was still a bit hesitant on all his impulsion exercises, darn it, but only a B, which wasn’t too bad. In addition to top 10 prized, Jo was kind enough to give me a gift certificate for all the volunteer work I’ve been doing, which I really appreciated, then after the awards ceremony, asked me to become the finish line timer for the 50 milers, since the finish line was right at the trailhead where I was parked. Linda trained me up in a few minutes, so after I got everybody settled, I took over that job. All the riders managed to get in before dark, which had been a concern, so I was done just after five, perfect timing to feed the horses and settle down for the evening. Very tired, but very satisfied at the outcome of the day! Sixth in only my third endurance ride is a pretty impressive achievement, if I may say so myself! Anyway, I watched a little TV, but I’m starting to yawn like crazy, so I’m off to a much needed shower and bed! Good night, sweetie! Love you!

Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020 – Finished Marking Trails Before Rain

Hi Darlin’,
A pretty good night sleep, thank goodness, got up fairly early so I could finish marking the trails before the rain came in. Before breakfast, though, I put the spare tire away, though I literally had to let all of the air out of it to get it to fit, so it won’t be of much use until I fill it back up again, though I have the compressor to do it if need be. I also moved all the hay into the back of the trailer, and a couple under the gooseneck, so I should be all set for awhile. I bought enough so that I’ll have a full load when I get to brother Jeff’s next week, since it’s so expensive down there by him. Finally got all that done, had breakfast, then saddled up Flash. At first I thought I would just mark the trails we were sure of and leave the green trail until after the rain, but I really wanted to give Flash two days off before the ride on Saturday, so I decided to do them all today. Fortunately, the forest guy Scottie did a great job of fixing the trail, so I foresee no problems there. I made Flash mostly walk, at least until we had finished the ten miles of trail marking, then when we headed back to camp I let him go for the last couple of miles, and he was ready! This horse is amazing, he just loves to run! And he’s in much better shape and conditioning than last year, so I’m hoping we’ll do pretty well. I tried our impulsion exercise again and he was still reluctant until I showed him the big whip, then I got out my little crop and it worked just as well with that one, so I’m going to keep practicing with the small one, it will be much easier to handle if it comes to that. I don’t know if they’re allowed, but unless he greatly improves on this one little exercise, I’m going to have to carry it so he can see it. That seems to be all it takes! Gave him some extra feed when we got back since he’s been burning so many calories lately. It had started to sprinkle lightly once or twice on the trail, and started more steadily just as I was feeding Flash, and just about the time I got his feed bag off and put away, it started to come down pretty good. My timing was perfect! It’s been a busy few days, so I decided to relax the rest of the afternoon, mostly just watching brainless TV. I’m reading some good books, so I’m heading to bed extra early to do some reading, right after my shower, which is where I’m headed now. Good night, babe! Love you!

Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2020 – Good Ride and Shopping Day

Hey Baby,
Another night where I woke up and had a hard time getting back to sleep, but slept later to make up for it. By the time I got out to feed the horses around 8:30 there were already three trailers here, and within the next hour a bunch more came in. Some were riders, but half a dozen were buggies, really busy! Not surprising really, it was a beautiful day! I got a little delayed leaving because my phone needed some charging, and since my chore today, in addition to conditioning Flash, was to confirm an accurate reading on the length of the northern loop. Flash and I finally left right about 11:00, and he was ready to go! We started out riding to the starting gate at Helen’s, then followed the markers all the rest of the way. I had no problem following them, but there were a few low-hanging branches that I had to duck and still scratched at my helmet, so I guess they didn’t do much overhead clearing when they were cleaning the trails earlier. Anyway, Flash seems to really understand what we’re doing this year, that we’re preparing for this ride on Saturday, because he was giving it his all the entire ride. We averaged better than six miles an hour the entire ride with only a few short breaks, and we completed it just shy of two hours! Fantastic! I think he’s going to do much better this year, he’s in such good shape with all the mountain climbing we did this summer. I brought my stethoscope with me and as soon as we got back to camp, I stripped off his saddle and hosed him down, checking his heartbeat, and it really did come down faster than I expected. I also handled him like I know the vet will during the vet check, and tried to run him up and back like they do for an impulsion score, which we failed miserably last year, and he wasn’t much better this time. So a little training was in order, and I got my long carriage whip out and showed it to him, and that was enough to get him moving a lot better. I’ll have to practice that a lot in the next few days, I have such a hard time running next to him as it is, dragging him is impossible. He got better, but I’d like to get him to do it without the whip in my hand. Once we got that done and I put him on the highline, I gathered up Lola and we headed for town to get some hay, fuel and shopping. I had to meet up with Jo to get some marker supplies, and she happen to be at a Napa service center, so I decided to take my spare in and have them put in a new valve stem, but I had to have them only put half the air in it, it’s the only way it will fit in the spare tire compartment. Looks like the only place I’ll be able to sell that tire is on Marketplace or craigslist or something. I definitely will need to order another tire to match the rest, though. By the time we got back to camp the sun was down and it was getting dark, so I cranked up the generator, put the groceries away, fed the horses and settled down for the evening. Jo stopped by again with some more supplies, so I should be all set to finish marking the trails in the next day or two. They’re calling for rain tomorrow, but I think I’ll be able to get some of it done in the morning, though I think I’ll take Apollo for a change, give Flash a rest. Before I went to town I drove out to see the repairs on the green trail, and it looked much better, but we’re going to wait until after the rain tomorrow just to be sure it settled down okay. Finally settled down for the evening to a movie, now I’m headed to shower and bed! Good night, sweetie! Love you!

Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020 – Good Ride on Flash

Hey Darlin’!
Had a hard time getting to sleep, read till the wee hours, not sure why it is on the days I get up early and work a lot I still have trouble sleeping! Whatever. After chores and breakfast, I planned a route to reconnoiter the latest revision to the 25 mile loop, as well as check out another trail as a possible way to shorten part of the green trail. Since I have now decided to do the run next Saturday, I took a fast pace in order to give Flash a little conditioning, and we did over 14 miles at an average 5-6 miles an hour, really good, all things considered! He was brilliant again! We ran into several armadillos along the way and he barely paid any attention to them, and I saw a nice deer, but I’m not sure Flash saw it. In any event, it was a wonderful ride, and we really were moving out most of the way, with only an occasional break to walk for a bit before kicking back up again. I really enjoyed it, and Flash is in so much better shape this year than last, when we had taken nearly the whole summer off and had only had a few rides before getting down here. With all the riding, hill-climbing and rocky trails, he’s loving long, level stretches of sand and grass! And I think he may be remembering the ride last year, which he really loved, and understands that that’s what we’re preparing for. Last year he didn’t get it because we’d never done an endurance ride before, but this year, I really think he gets it, and is working harder than ever. Anyway, it was a fantastic ride! When we got back, I got out my stethoscope to check his heartbeat, which I had done before we left, and even though we came in pretty fast except the last 100 yards or so, his heart rate was all the way back down to 60 beats per minute, which is brilliant! I’ve never actually been able to hear his heart before, though I’ve tried, but today I heard it loud and clear, though before the ride, it was going so slow I couldn’t even figure out how to count it! After the ride it was right on a beat per second, exactly where it needs to be at the vet check. I’m learning! After doing some map work and sitting around the campfire with the gang for a bit, I headed back in and settled in for the evening, watching a crazy movie with Meryl Streep called Prom, which was a musical, believe it or not. The first part made me laugh out loud because it seemed like these celebrity Broadway stars were actually making fun of themselves as activists, and I thought that they might learn some lessons in small town Indiana where the story takes place, but unfortunately it didn’t turn out that way. I just don’t understand why the people that scream the most about intolerance can’t see that THEY’RE being intolerant of viewpoints they don’t agree with! It would be funny if it weren’t so absurdly hypocritical! Well, enough of that rant. I’m not sure I could have gotten you to watch that movie, but I sure would have loved to hear your take on it! Late now, and I have to get up early, so good night, babe! Love you!

Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020 – A Fabulous Ride Today

Hi Sweetie,
I had a good night sleep, then when I woke up it felt like my knee was locked in a bad place, so I spent an hour stretching and using the hand massager to work on all my sore bits, and by the time I got out of bed, my knee, as well as my shoulder and back, felt fantastic! After breakfast I saddled up Flash and took him for a fabulous 8-mile ride. He behaved beautifully, though I was worried that having not been ridden in so long he would be a bit frisky, but he was brilliant! He did shy at one burnt log that was by the side of the road, but I hung on, then made him stand and look at it for awhile until he settled down again. Another time something bothered him, but this time he just planted his feet and froze, which, to my mind, is exactly the right thing to do! We did a lot of walking, and my knee held up great, and eventually we did a nice mile at his mid-speed cordo of about 8.5 miles an hour, and we did another long stretch at a lovely canter on the way back to the ranch. It was wonderful! We got back in barely 1½ hours, and I had no trouble with my knee at all when I got off, just one or two steps and everything was back to normal. So grateful for that! This is the first day in a while that I actually felt like doing anything, that I had any energy at all. I can only think that maybe I’ve been fighting off a bug or something, after having a sore throat earlier in the week, but it seems to have finally disappeared, and I’m starting to feel normal again. Or it could just be the crash after weeks of what seemed like almost non-stop activity. Anyway, I felt good enough to give Flash a nice bath, I even spent some time getting all the tangles out of his mane and tail, and he looked great for about 30 seconds, then I put him in the paddock and the first thing he did was roll, of course, so he was covered in sand almost immediately. Bathing animals has got to be the biggest waste of time, ever! Well, at least the deep down dirt is gone for the moment. I did some mending, then read for a few hours, then it started to sprinkle at around 4:00 (the forecast said the rain was coming in at 9:00, sigh), so I fed the horses early, putting their rain blankets on, then grilled myself a little steak on the grill that I had put up earlier, then settled down for the evening. I finished watching the depressing mini-series I started yesterday, then looked for a light comedy and ended up with another fairly depressing movie. I really dislike most modern films these days. I am not interested in gratuitous violence, foul language, overt and meaningless sex scenes and rampant drug use. I just don’t see how living through someone else’s angst is the least bit entertaining! I guess that’s why I liked that Hallmark series, even though it was simplistic. Better than the alternative! Well, enough of a rant. I did some laundry and have fresh sheets, so I’m off to shower and bed! Good night, babe! Love you!

Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020 – First Ride Here

Hey Babe,
Another good night sleep, another lazy morning figuring out where I’m going to ride today. Mike took me on a little tour in his truck to show me the trails to the north that will get me up to the Black Prong trails that I’ll be helping to mark in due time, but in the end, I decided to head south, creating a route from a map that Connie was nice enough to have Mike give me. I wanted something easy with no road crossings, since I wanted to take Lola and I wanted to test how my knee would hold up. It was much better this morning, thank goodness, but I didn’t know how it would do on horseback. I saddled up Apollo since I wanted a no fuss ride, and we headed out on what was literally a fire road, and they were actually doing a prescribed burn right along it. It was still smoking when we went by, but that didn’t bother Apollo. Something else bothered him a couple of times, probably the scent of pigs, as there was a lot of pig sign along the trail, where they had obviously been rooting though the sand. Unfortunately, I got dumped twice because of that! It’s funny, with Flash I can always tell when he’s about to do something stupid, he gets all bunched up and I usually have time to react and settle him down. With Apollo, we can just be going along as easy as can be, and one second he’s under me and the next he isn’t! He hasn’t done that to me in a very long time, and today he did it to me twice. Grrr! Fortunately it’s all sand here, so no harm done, but I didn’t really need that extra excitement today. Anyway, other than that it was a nice ride. They’ve really done a lot of clear cutting in this section of the forest though, so most of it wasn’t very pretty. There are a lot of trails out here, and I intend to explore some more, there’s no reason to get back up to Black Prong on trails I’ve already done until it’s actually time to mark them for the endurance ride, which isn’t for several weeks. Beautiful day, though, low 70’s, sunny, just a perfect Florida day. Got back after a couple of hours, then settled down for the rest of the day. My knee was in a bit more pain than when I left, but not too bad. Hopefully another good night sleep will keep it improving tomorrow. Now it’s evening and I’m ready for my usual shower and bed. Good night, darlin’! Love you!

Friday, Nov. 27, 2020 – Long Ride of Flash

Hi Babe!
I had a little trouble sleeping, my knee was aching and Lola was very restless. I ended up having to put earplugs in so I couldn’t hear her moving around so much. She’s not getting enough exercise, but I planned to change that today! After breakfast and chores and a little more trail planning, mostly because I discovered a new map on Mingo’s Facebook page that indicated a couple of trails that were on the old map were now closed, but unfortunately the new map didn’t line up very well, so it took a bit of finagling to get something viable to download onto my GPS. We finally headed out, I got about 100 feet and realized I’d forgotten my hel-hat so I had to go back. Meanwhile, Lola was so excited she was running around in a big circle around the trailer like a mad dog, you know how she gets. Anyway, finally back on the trail, and Flash was ready to move! This is the first place that wasn’t rocky and required boots in a long time, and the footing here is essentially sand, so he really wanted to fly. Unfortunately, though my knee felt somewhat better on the ground this morning, it got a lot worse in the saddle, especially since I was trying to keep him slow, and he wasn’t liking it too much, and I was fighting him a lot of the way. I just didn’t feel secure enough with my sore knee to go faster, so it was a bit of a struggle. It was still an enjoyable ride, though, this place has a lot of interesting sections to it. Some trails are really sandy roads, while others are close and narrow enough to feel like you’re riding through a tunnel of green. There’s also some cultivated pine stands, perfectly straight lines of young evergreens, with all the accompanying sweet smells and soft footing. Though it’s sandy like Florida, there are a few hills here, so that makes for an occasionally interesting change. If I had been more fit, I would have loved to let Flash just go at whatever speed he wanted, but I just didn’t dare today. Near the beginning of the ride we came across a pond, and two mallard ducks went quacking from the shoreline out to the lake, that really got Lola’s attention. Then further along I saw a big wading bird and took a picture, but it never moved as Lola got closer, until I realized it was just a plastic replica! Too funny! We only passed a few other riders, which was amazing considering how many people are here. When I arrived here earlier this week there was only the camp host and a couple of permanent trailers, and as you can see from the pix I took today, the place is PACKED this weekend! So we ended up doing almost 10.5 miles, which pretty much cleared out all the trails here, but I wanted to get it done in case something stopped me from riding Apollo tomorrow, though that’s still the plan. I had to keep my GPS in my hand the whole time, though, because I was weaving in and out of trails like crazy, and I didn’t find that the color of the trails on the map corresponded very well with the markings on the trail. So what else is new? We finally got back to camp in only about 2 hours and 45 minutes, which is pretty good for that distance, and considering I was holding him back so much. I gave him a nice rinse off, than ran out to the Dollar store in Toomsboro because I was running low on dog food, then Jeff and Beth came by to get the grand tour of the trailer and to buy a book. They also helped me get my spare tire back in position, but I had to let most of the air out of it to make it fit. I’ll get out my compressor and fill it up as much as I can tomorrow. After they left, I headed over to the clubhouse to get some leftovers for dinner and to pick up my utensils and containers, which someone had kindly washed. I left the macaroni salad, unfortunately it was in with the deserts and the cover was on tight, so there’s still a lot of it left. I’m moved it to the other refrigeration, hoping that it will be seen more, and maybe someone will take some, otherwise Lola and I will be eating macaroni salad for a week! I heated up dinner and settled down for the evening. Ready for shower and bed now though! And Lola’s been quiet all evening, I hope she stays that way! Good night, darln’! Love you!

Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020 – Last Ride at FDR

Hi Sweetie,
Lola was restless again last night, and by morning she’d completely ripped the seam of her bed, again. Sigh. I don’t know what gets into her, I thought having taken a ride yesterday she would sleep through the night, but not so! Anyway, I did some work on the computer in the morning, then saddled up Flash for our final ride here. I decided to take the trail to the lake, which turned out to be a lot closer than I thought, and there were a couple of guys there that were literally draining the lake. Not sure what that’s about, but we did manage to find a way around it, then followed the trail to the cabins, which is now the group camping area but originally were housing for the CCC workers that built the place. Once in there, though I tried to find a trail, ended up on a utility line and then a gravel road, but knew I was getting way off the reservation so I had to turn back and retrace my steps. Turned out the only way out was down the road, so I headed that way. I ran into three other women riding, and we ended up chatting for a while in the road. I finally headed back out, cutting back into the woods and taking a different route home. There’s not a huge number of trails here, so I knew my way around (well, almost, I headed the wrong way on one trail), and ended up catching up to a group from the stables so I had to hang back for a bit, then took a bypass trail around the barn and back to the driveway and back to camp. The ladies came back a bit later and we ended up chatting some more. It was a lovely ride, a nice day, once again perfect weather, and Flash behaved beautifully, with lots of energy on the trail but quiet when we were stopped. He’s really becoming a fine trail horse, I couldn’t ask for more. Settled down for the evening with a movie and a new series, now I’m headed to shower, bed and book! Good night, darlin’! Love you!

Friday, Nov. 20, 2020 – Another Ride at FDR

Hi Darlin’,
Slept the whole night through again (yay!), got up around 8:00, did chores and breakfast, and eventually went out to do some repairs. The spigot on the side of the trailer had come loose while it was at the trailer shop when I was out west, and today I set out to fix it for good. Of course, it’s never as simple a job as you think it’s going to be. I knew that sometimes there was a water drip from behind the spigot, but even though it was intermittent, I decided to fix it right before I secured it. It had one of those permanent type clamps on it and I couldn’t get it off, so I cut the hose short and had a heck of a time trying to get the clamp off the spigot, but eventually, with the help of a grapefruit knife, I was able to cut the hose back enough to slip it off. Then I had to use a regular water hose clamp to fix it, and that didn’t fit through the hole, so I had to put it all in place behind the metal frame, where I couldn’t see it, had to do everything by feel, so that was a challenge. One of those jobs where you really needed three hands. Eventually I managed it, though, and got it all put back together and secured it really well, so hopefully this is the last time I’ll have a problem with it. Then I tried to fix the one panel that’s bulging and put the trim back on, but it was impossible. Not sure if that’s ever anything that can be fixed without putting a whole new panel on it, but I struggled for a while before seeing it was futile. I also fixed one of the bars that separates the horses’ mangers, that’s been flopping around for awhile. I also noticed that one of my tires has a wide slash in the sidewall. Sigh. These tires have so much tread on them, and I have no idea why they keep getting sidewall slashes. I’m going to have to keep an eye on it, but I really don’t want to put the spare on if I can help it, because it’s a different brand of tire, and it’s totally a different size, even though the numbers match. This could become a big problem on the road, particularly since it’s on the driver’s side and changing it by the side of the road will be hazardous, I’m just not sure what to do with it, I’ll have to look at it again and decide if I should change it before I leave here. Problem is, it’s not just a short drive next time, like I’ve been doing lately, it’s the longest drive I’ve taken in awhile, though it won’t be on the freeway, I’ve got a route for mostly U.S. Highways. I’ll think about it tomorrow. Anyway, after all that, I took a short break, then saddled up Apollo and went out to finish all the rest of the trails on the map, except the Bridal Trail (yes, it’s Bridal, not Bridle), because I keep hearing that no one has cleared it in years and it’s impossible to follow, so I don’t need to invite that kind of annoyance into my life. The trails we took today were actually quite nice, not too rocky, not too hard to follow (with the help of my GPS, otherwise I would have gotten lost), but it’s small enough here where you wouldn’t stay lost for long anyway. The trails are covered in leaves now, not much left on the trees, but with the temps in the 70’s today, it was perfect, exactly what I keep trying to find! Lola and Apollo both seemed to enjoy themselves. I kept coming across these charming little structures attached to trees, and at first I thought they were bird houses or bat houses until I came to a mailbox with the flag up. Curiousity ruled, and I opened the mailbox and discovered it was a geocache station! Turns out all the structures were! There was even one intersection that had one shaped like a little jail! So cute! I read the instructions there, but decided not to join in today, though I already thought about seeing if there’s any horseback orienteering events in Florida, thought I might try to participate in one. Anyway, when I got back to camp there was a truck and horse trailer there, a day rider, who didn’t get back until about 5:00. I met him when I came out to feed the horses and we chatted for a bit. He has a dozen Paso Finos at home, plus the one he was riding today, so it was all about horses. Eventually he left, I got the horses fed, then settled down for the evening, as usual. Watched a good movie, Molly’s Game, now I’m heading to bed. Good night, babe! Love you!