So. You may have been wondering about the lack of Justice updates. To be completely honest he has had a bit of trouble acclimating to our southern humidity this summer. Heat is one story, humidity is another. Whenever I rode him in very humid weather, his respiration was quite elevated, even at a walk. I was actually concerned that he was beginning to develop heaves, but was advised to give him a year to acclimate before worrying too much. Therefore after moving the boys at the end of May, I gave him most of the summer off, with the occasional trail ride here and there.

At the beginning of August, he was bitten by a copperhead. This is actually not the first time this has happened with one or another of my family’s horses. Copperheads are plentiful in the area, and quite fearless. Fortunately when it comes to animals as large as horses, their venom is seldom fatal. In Justice it resulted in a baseball sized pocket of swelling in his elbow area and some hair loss around the bite wound. There is still a bit of swelling in the area, but in my experience it can take up to 2 months for the body to completely absorb all the venom and for the affected area to return to normal. It has not caused any lameness whatsoever, and he is completely stoic when it comes to my poking and prodding it, so he is obviously not in any pain.

Being that I work at SStables at least 3-4 days a week, Siesta and Pokey tend to get the majority of my time and attention. I have been feeling bad about that and have resolved to spend more time with Justice in the future.

I had taken Friday off after working 10 hr days 4 days straight and on the spur of the moment decided to take J out for a morning trail ride. Pretty much all the trails in the area will be closed (to us anyway) as of September 12th – January 1st for hunting season, so this would be one of my last opportunities to explore them for a while.

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My phone has been giving me pretty poor performance when it comes to battery life. So I wasn’t able to track this ride on any gps apps, which had me a bit po’d. I’m pretty darn sure we rode at least 5 miles (and probably closer to 8), but who knows?

The following Wednesday I managed to make it up to the pasture and took him out again. The goal was to ride for an hour. This time my phone had a wee bit of battery life, so I turned on MyTracks and Endomondo. Because. All gps apps are apparently so fucked up (when it comes to my phone anyway) that I need two to get a sort of ok, somewhat believable reading.

I have been bringing J treats when I go up so that he doesn’t hate me, and doesn’t think that running away from me in a 50 acre pasture is cool. To be fair he has never tried, but I don’t want the idea to even cross his mind. Also, I make sure I have some kind antiseptic with me. Cuz no matter what happens, when I am with that horse one of us always ends up with a boo boo. Last time it was me when I rasped my hand (don’t ask).

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On Wednesday J had a small scrape just above his coronet band that had bled a little. After confirming that it was indeed just a scrape, I squirted some peroxide on it and we were good to go.

This was to be our last time riding the trails until January. Because, hunting season. Sunday used to be a “safe day” when hunting was not allowed but last year they opened Sunday up as well to bow hunters so even that is a big no no now. Even if this weren’t the case I probably would not even hit the trails on Sunday because hunters and land owners are very protective of their space these next few months. In my experience most southerners don’t mind you riding their land if you adhere to the big three;

1) Stay away during hunting season. Hunting isn’t a sport, it’s a way of life around here. Respect that.
2) Don’t ride through crops. And I mean don’t let a hoof land wrong. Seriously.
3) Don’t litter, or tear shit up. You’d think this would be a no brainer. But, yeah. I don’t even break sticks if I think it’ll be noticed. Leave no trace.
4) I know I said 3, but I just thought of #4. And that is; Don’t fish in no one’s pond. Sounds stupid but apparently around here no one asks permission to do anything. If you see a pond in a field, (and there isn’t a “posted” sign on every other tree) by all means, pull off and grab your fishing pole! Same goes for Cousin Jimmy’s stepbrother’s wife’s daddy…he’s got a pond on the other side of the tobacco barn down the dirt road by the old gas station. I mean y’all are related, right?!

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Anyway.

Confession: I almost hadn’t gone riding. It was 92 and humid, and naturally my favorite thing to do after working a stressful 8 hrs at my day job is to go sweat my ass off (actually I know it’s recommended, but I prefer naps;))

However I’m glad I did. The light was beautiful and the temperature dropped quickly.

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We trotted where possible. Justice is barefoot right now and I forgot boots (oopsy) so we had to walk in spots where it was more gravelly.

I have been having some trouble posting on Justice. He trots so rapidly it’s hard to keep up. Additionally I have found myself twisting at the hips while posting, and just feeling completely unbalanced in general. I thought that the problem was my right knee. I tore my meniscis several years ago and elected not to have surgery due to not having health insurance. It has gotten stronger with exercise but is still decidedly weaker on that side.

I am right handed and naturally my right side is stronger, so I usually post on the right diagonal. But today for some reason I decided to try the left. After a couple initial rough moments (again he was trotting waaaaay too fast), all of a sudden things fell into place. I felt balanced, and I was able to post again like a “normal” human being!

We decided to take a new trail that day, not expecting it to go far. The satellite images showed it leading to a clearing and stopping. However to my surprise it picked up again on the other side.

As we were walking through a narrow stretch I heard crashing in the woods off to our left. At first I thought it was a deer but it got closer and closer. Suddenly a large bird burst out of the woods directly into our path! I thought it was a vulture at first, (as it was butt ugly lol) but then realized it was actually a small turkey!

It tried to cross the trail and go into the woods on the other side but as it darted forward flapping it’s wings, it got caught on a vine that was hanging off to the side. The poor bird started floundering around, trying to escape. Justice stopped literally not 2 feet from him and just stared, completely baffled. He wasn’t even afraid! You could see him saying “Ok what’s the deal here??” The turkey was totally tangled at that point and just flailing around on the ground in front of us.

I started wondering if I was going to have to get off and try to cut the vine for him when I thought to grab my phone and get a video. But of coure, right as I hit the camera icon, the bird broke free and went running back down the trail ahead of us, flapping his wings (apparently not having learned his lesson), until he finally achieved flight.

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We continued down the little atv trail. We crossed a creek bed…it was bone dry. We are badly in need of rain. Alamance county is experiencing moderate drought conditions, while Guilford and Caswell counties are classified as “abnormally dry” (impending drought).

As we continued I glimpsed something through the trees. We proceeded with caution. Upon rounding the corner I realized we were looking at an elite hunter’s camp. He had lights rigged to the trees, a heater, a tent on a platform, a target and fire pit.

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We followed the trail in a loop when it ended up behind some houses near the main road. I was actually able to get a clip of us trotting out. Justice is like riding a freight train so it can be hard to get any useable video at times.

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The next day I met up with a new acquaintance – a local endurance rider who had graciously agreed to ride with me at nearby Bryan Park (I may or may not have called out out of work just to do this;) I’d already resolved to bring Justice as he is the endurance horse, right?

What I hadn’t realized was how much time and trouble it would be to pick up the trailer at CS, grab my hoof boots from SStables and then make the 30 minute drive north to Caswell County to pick up J-Man.

And then I forgot my saddle, so we ended up being almost 20 minutes late. I am a very punctual person in general, and so I felt horrible about the whole thing. Fortunately C was very gracious. Her Arabian, Deacon, is only 5 and just beginning his career in endurance, with one LD under his belt. Before that C did LDs with a 16.3h TWH so she was able to give me insight on competing on a non-Arab as well. The funny thing is that Deacon had a very Pokey-ish walk and trot and Fat Justice was nearly 3x as fast at any gait lol. However that means nothing as it was clear that J doesn’t take nearly as good of care of himself. We discussed how to keep him hydrated and I expressed my concerns with his ability to pulse down in our SE region. It was a very hot and humid day, so C was able to see firsthand how the heat affects him, as he again began panting about halfway through. The main thing I took away from the day though was that I NEED to get a heart rate monitor. With as much as I’ve read about endurance there is nothing like actual experience and C impressed upon me that watching your horse’s heart rate while you’re riding is just as important as how quickly they pulse down. She said that if their bpm stays at 145-150 too long you want to give them a break. If it hits 160 you need to be concerned. She even offered to let me try her old heart rate monitor next time we get together and if it works for us, she would be willing to sell it to me. So there’s that!

I didn’t get many photos that day but did snatch a short video clip. We both took turns leading and I have to say I was very very proud of Justice. He was SO good the entire time and just happy to be out! Also we tried the size 1 Epics on him again and although they didn’t fit this spring he did fabulous with them this time around. Apparently I haven’t been doing too bad a job with his feet!

All in all this ride really helped put things in context. Before this I had been thinking about doing Sandhills or Carolina this fall. However there are a couple disadvantages. #1) Even if A goes, I can’t ride with her. The 25 is on Saturday, October 31st and I have a little girl who is counting on me being home for Halloween. The 30 mile LD is on Friday and although I could technically be home in time for Halloween night…
#2) I would have to put a lot of miles in on Justice between now and then, which will be hard because all our trails close with the onset of hunting season. Trailering him out to condition is next to impossible (both because I don’t own a trailer and also because going 30 minutes out of the way just to pick him up SUCKS) and riding the roads is technically doable but unappealing. C recommends a first time rider go with someone they know and I will know no one at the Sandhills 30, or Carolina (C herself isn’t competing again until the Sandhills Spring Fling in April). So right now it’s a stalemate and I’m no closer to a decisive decision than I was before.

But I do need a heart monitor. 😉

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