Take One National Seashore and Just Add Horses

Headed through the dunes onto the beach.  Photo by Equine Adventures.

Headed through the dunes onto the beach. Photo by Equine Adventures.

What do you get when you have the unspoiled beauty of one of the United States’ National Seashores and add horses?  You have one bucket list item scratched off your list.  While on vacation last week, I took three of the grandchildren on a beach trail ride with Equine Adventures ( http://www.equineadventures.com/) located on Hatteras Island in North Carolina.

I have heard the stories of sketchy operations with tack held together with bailing twine with horses that should never carry inexperienced riders, but Equine Adventures is not one of those.  This ride was top notch and I would go back in a heart beat.

The rides occur either early in the morning or late afternoon to avoid the heat of the day and the biggest of the coastal bugs with voracious appetites.  Even though there was a great breeze once you were on the beach, you do have to ride through the unspoiled maritime forest to get to that breeze.  That means that you are fair game to any and all hungry mosquitoes and biting flies that call the forest home.  We doused ourselves in 30% DEET and escaped unscathed.  One of our guides missed a shoulder when applying her bug spray and had no less than thirty bites by the time we reached the beach.  Ouch!  I get itchy just thinking about it.

The ride is a great way to see parts of the island that are mostly inaccessible to the normal tourist.  Hearty hikers and mountain bikers might give these trails a try, but your average visitor will never see this part of the seashore.  When your sure-footed horse is winding its way through the trees, you realize that the roots of these trees are what help hold the island together.  You see the native deer who are unafraid of the horses, and the horses are unafraid of them…Ike, take note that there is no need to run like a banshee.

It is thrilling to climb the dunes and emerge on the unspoiled beach.  No rows of houses, no hotels, no tacky souvenir shops.  Just sea turtle nests, piles of dried seaweed, seagulls and the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the distance.  If you are an experienced rider, you get to add the thrill of galloping in the sand with only the sound of the waves and wind in your ears.

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The reason for such a successful ride?  The guides do an excellent job matching horse and rider.  When you make your reservation, they ask each rider’s age and experience so that they can make the best pairings.  The well seasoned trail horses will take care of their inexperienced riders even with the loosest of reins – no worries about unscheduled gallops.  Each horse has its own saddle and bridle.  All the horses are barefoot – if only I could be so lucky.  All the horses were in excellent condition – no small feat considering all the hay and feed have to be brought over to the island.  I learned that obtaining hay can be an all day excursion.

If riding on the beach isn’t already on your bucket list, add it.  You will not regret this incredible experience!

p.s. They are looking for a seasonal guide for the rest of the season…

 

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Stop the Flop

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Ladies, this is a blog post just for you.  Two of my friends and I were chatting a week ago.  One runs middle distances, one runs agility with her Corgi, and I ride.  But, we all have the exact same issue – how do you contain the “girls” and stop the flop.    For one, it is uncomfortable even if you are not well endowed.  Two, we all have seen ourselves on video and have cringed when you see the independent movement of uncontained boobs.  You might have halted, but certain parts are still coming to a stationary position.  That video makes you stop and realize that “I need a better bra.”

My friends and I discussed our experiences both good and bad with finding the perfect “over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder”  ( A nod to Bette Midler for that reference!).

One of the bad experiences is wearing a yoga top while riding, running or doing any high impact activity.  Just an utter failure on my part when I tried it once.  The shelf bra support meant a very uncomfortable ride when I did anything more than a walk.  It is not recommended unless you have something more supportive underneath.

Also not recommended by either my friends or me is the well worn bra that you have owned for over 5 years.  You know the one.  The one with no elasticity left in the straps or the back.  I’m willing to bet that we all have one that should have been retired, but it seems to do its job until you decide to be a bit more active while wearing it.  You even try adjusting the straps to no avail.  Please give it a moment of silence and remove it from the rotation.

We also strongly suggest that you leave the frilly and lacy balconette brassieres for non-athletic endeavors.  These bras are built for different reasons than a good athletic bra.  The materials are usually not sweat friendly and the styling is not very supportive.  How horrifying would it be to “break free” in the middle of your dressage test or marathon?!

What do we recommend?  Heading to your nearest athletic store and finding athletic bras made for runners.  They tend to have the most support and compression and work well for equestrians.  Try on your favorites.  Jump, move, turn and stretch in the contenders.  Comfort is key.  If something is too tight, too loose, or cuts into your underarm while in the dressing room, just say no and move on to the next one.  This is definitely like saddle shopping – one size does not fit all.  Find what works for you.

If you would rather shop from the comfort of home, then head over to the Title Nine website.  They rate their bras and bra tops with barbells.  The more barbells a bra has, the more support you will get.  They even guarantee that DDD cups won’t move in their six barbell bras…now that is some impressive support!

Feel free to share your favorite brands and stores in the comments below.  Now it’s time to head back to the barn – it is a shame that my undergarments can’t help my sit trot…

 

 

 

Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot!

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So it is definitely July in the mid-Atlantic region.  That means green head flies, horse flies, countless house flies, heat and humidity.  Ideally you would ride very early in the morning and avoid the blazing sun.  But since I must work to support my equines in the life style to which they have become accustomed, poor Ike has had to endure rides and lessons in the heat of the afternoon.

Our progress since the start of the season makes me think that there is hope that we will escape First Level.  It might not be this year, but it is a realistic goal for 2015.  Some of our biggest strides have been with Ike’s canter, his lateral work, and my riding skills.  I’m pretty certain that there is a direct correlation to Ike’s improvement with my improved skill set.

Ike’s canter has been a challenge to say the least.  Knowing that our starting point was a “Scooby Do” canter, there really wasn’t anywhere to go but up.  As long as Ike is not spooked and I stay focused, his canter is slower and more rhythmic.  I still need to have better following hands as was pointed out to me by Hilda in the spring and more recently by Ms. C and Debbie Bowman.  I also need to remember to use my outside rein to regulate Ike’s stride rather than keeping my death grip on the reins.  The slower more balanced canter has allowed us to have success with the shallow canter loop while schooling at home.  Time will tell if we have success in a show environment.

Our lateral work is coming along nicely.  With my increased knowledge of proper leg, seat and rein aids, Ike and I can now perform respectable leg yields (still can’t stick the solid 8 leg yield every time), shoulder in, haunches in, and trot half pass.  The ability to break down Ike’s body and move specific body parts is huge for me.  We really want to avoid any more comments about my horse not bending and looking stiff.

I’ve also made great strides with my ability to sit Ike’s trot…one of those key skills necessary to make it to the next level.  I still struggle with maintaining a sitting position during the trot lengthening, and I positively bounce in our canter-to-trot transitions.  I keep reminding myself that this is a journey and that it isn’t going to happen in one day or even in one year.  In the mean time, I’ve upped my abdominal strength with unmounted exercises and will keep building my sit trot time.  It has also helped that Ike now has a stronger topline that can tolerate my bouncing. 🙂

With the hotter temperatures, we are very careful with our schooling – shorter lessons with more focused and quality work.  We take frequent water breaks and Ms. C will hose Ike to help keep him cool.  I’ve discovered Absorbine’s new Botanicals Natural Herbal Liniment Rinse (http://www.absorbine.com/products/muscle-care/absorbine-botanicals-natural-herbal-liniment).  It is a perfect way to cool Ike down and relax his muscles after a challenging lesson.  I’ve asked Ike to swab some on me, but have yet to be successful.  It is tempting to give it a try – the rinse has a refreshing odor that might mask my post workout aroma.

There is a slight reprieve with the sweltering temperatures and we will take full advantage of it for the next few days.

Happy Summer Riding!

 

 

 

 

Body Part of the Weekend? Shoulders

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So I am sitting at my computer trying to think of how to summarize our two lessons this weekend.  Had one with Ms. C on Saturday, and then attended a clinic at a friend’s farm on Sunday.  The only word that truly captured both lessons was shoulders.  Yes, that is correct, shoulders.

This girl still continues to make the rookie mistake with turning her horse: overuse of the inside rein.  I even know better than to do it, but it is like a crutch that I just can’t stop using.  Of course, that inside rein does nothing to help Ike to turn his shoulders so even though we are turning in one direction, Ike’s outside shoulder is headed in the opposite direction.  When I do remember to turn the front end, I usually let Ike’s hind end drift out.  Sheesh, it is hard to be perfect.

So at both lessons, there was a lot of discussion about moving Ike’s shoulders – use the outside rein and leg…stop over pulling with that inside rein…LOOK where you are going.  I often feel bad for those teaching me.  They must get weary of repeating the same things over and over and over again.  Like a record that hit a scratch and you just keep hearing the same line until you move the needle.  I am hopeful that one day it will all sink in and become second nature.

Ms. C had me ride the entire short end thinking as if I was going to turn down centerline.  Ah, that visual clicked with me and I rode a proper short end.  Later in the lesson, poor Ms. C asked me, “How did you ride that last short end?”  I’m pretty sure it was a rhetorical question since I am certain that I rode it incorrectly or she would not have brought it up.  Guess I still need more time for that idea to sink in to my grey matter.

When it comes time to canter, it gets even more difficult to control Ike’s shoulders.  He can be rather bullish and strong.  I grab hold of that inside rein like a SOS strap.  On Sunday, we worked on me letting go of that rein and half halting with the outside rein.  Oh, look at that, our canter improved when I did that.  I could pretend that I am shocked, but no one would believe that.

Ike and I are taking a well deserved day off today.  We will get back to work tomorrow and I will try to remember not to forget about those shoulders.

 

Ike’s New Nemesis

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There is a lot going on right now that has kept me from posting.  My apologies – hope to do a full post later today or tomorrow.  But, in the meantime, check out Ike’s new nemesis…not a vulture, but he still isn’t too keen on this new visitor!  I tried to ride closer to get a better photo, but Ike clearly said, “No, Thank You!!”

Can anyone identify our hawk visitor?  Thanks. 🙂