Uncategorized

Joshua Tree

It’s been one year since I explored this lovely national park. Boy, do I miss it! I’ve also been in a bit of a hiking slump (I think it’s probably the winter weather?), so I thought I would share some pictures of this trip to inspire me, and inspire you to get out and explore!

First off, we went during my spring break vacation. This turned out okay, but it was so crowded that we almost didn’t find a campsite! Next time I go, I’m definitely booking a campsite or staying in backcountry. IMG_1803

Once we found a campsite, we immediately started exploring! I fell in love with the desert landscape. It was weird to me at first, just because I love the forest, but the desert is beautiful in its own way. My favorite part was the sharp contrast of the deep blue sky with the tan rocks. Pictures do not do it justice!

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We were so excited to be done with the six hour drive and hike all around. We could not get over the beautiful views and all of the rocks! This is truly a beautiful park.

There are so many areas to explore in this park. One thing to point out is that is extremely accommodating to all levels of outdoorsy folks — there’s something for everyone! We were surprised to see day trippers in fashionable footwear instead of hiking boots; but then we would see tons of rock climbers and backpackers.

And then it didn’t even matter if you wanted to hike, camp, climb, or just sit around. The views were still incredible.

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Hopefully that got you inspired to go outside!!

From our week camping out in the desert, I wanted to give some helpful hints. Honestly, we barely researched before going and we still made it out alive. So it’s fine if you want to do your own thing because you will still survive, but there’s some things I wish I knew about desert camping.

Joshua Tree had different weather than I was expecting. Because we went in spring, it wasn’t 90 degrees everyday, but it still go up to about 75 or 80. At night, though, it got cold and windy! I definitely didn’t bring enough layers for some nights and ended up freezing. Also, because we went during spring break, we weren’t able to get firewood because it sold out! So I would recommend bringing firewood before you get to the nearest town because there’s a chance it will be sold out.

Now, onto what I learned from this trip.

First off, a no-brainer, but water is your literal friend. Joshua Tree recommends 2 gallons of water per person per day that you’re there. Do not discount this. We probably chugged about 2 gallons of water a day with all of the activities we were doing. Even though it was spring time and not incredibly hot, it was still warm enough. Water is your friend!

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Second, choose a pair of shoes you feel comfortable enough in. We were averaging about 12 miles a day. If I was walking in just athletic shoes, my feet would have been covered in blisters. My hiking boots saved my feet. One thing I didn’t do, and wish I did, is buy a couple of pairs of hiking socks. By the end of the day, my feet were always tired. My friend’s feet, who had hiking socks, did not have the same reaction. Hiking socks sometimes seem overrated, but trust me, they are not. After this trip, I bought a pair of socks, and I will never go back.

Third, leave room for playing on the rocks! For some reason, whenever I see rocks I just want to climb them. Joshua Tree is known for world class rock climbing for a reason. It was honestly so much fun to just see how far I could get up before actually needing gear. No matter how old you are, just climb the damn rocks. You’ll regret it if you don’t. Plus you get amazing views!

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Lastly, go with people you love. The desert has no cell reception, no wifi, and you’re at least 8 miles away from civilization. If you don’t like the people you’re with, you will not be able to escape them. So go with people that you love to talk to and that share similar interests as you.

I went with my best friend from my hometown that I rarely see. So this trip was perfect for catching up. We hiked the whole time, explored everything that we could, and ate like 12 cookies a day. It was the best week.

So, if you have time to go to Joshua Tree, don’t hesitate. Just go!

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Horses

Why I Ride

I don’t ride my horse to be perfect at something. I ride because it’s who I am.

I was 6 years old when I decided that horses must be in my life. I had my mom, my dad, my teachers (basically a lot of people) tell me that I couldn’t do it or that I couldn’t afford it or that I wouldn’t have time for it. I had a lot of people tell me no, so why did I say, actually yes?

Honestly, I don’t really have an answer. Riding horses was always a no-brainer for me. I might not be the best at it, I might not have the money or time to quickly move up in show competitions, but I still persevere. I keep it in my life because the feeling of sitting on a horse is the most liberating feeling. You have control over a 1200 lb. animal with the ability to go anywhere and do anything.

I can also say that horses teach lots. There’s so much you learn about communication, responsibility, perseverance, discipline, and love that you can’t really learn from another sport, animal, or person. My horse taught me so much about interpersonal skills and the importance of humility. She also taught me that I need to be for her every single day, just like she is for me. She taught me that I need to take care of her, just like she takes care of me. We have created a team, and that is probably one of the best feelings ever.

So why do I ride?

I ride because it’s who I am. I feel free, I feel alive, I feel like myself.

Horses

Time for some spring cleaning…of bad habits

It’s that time of year again. The weather is better, horses can stretch their legs, you aren’t in the mud all the time. It’s also when your horse’s energy is sky high and their ground manners could probably use a good brushing up. I wrote a post similar to this (here’s the link), but let’s review the basics so your horse isn’t constantly dragging you to the nearest grassy patch.

Just like riding, horses benefit from assertive handlers. There is no need to be aggressive or try to “man-handle” them, but just emulate Beyonce’s confidence and you’ll be good. A horse with superb ground manners also respects their handler. Along with being assertive, create a give and take relationship. Allowing your horse rewards for their good behavior only leads to better things, so feel free to let up on the pressure, give them a cookie, or give them a pat whenever you think they are listening to you!

Now that you’re as confident as Queen Bey, let’s choose a method of training. While I cannot say enough things about Clinton Anderson’s Method, some horses will do better with other training. Versions you can use include other methods of natural horsemanship or just the good ol’ fashioned stud chain and whip. You can even mix and match these training forms; you don’t need to choose just one! Whatever you choose, allow room for some trial and error, because your horse might suddenly decide she doesn’t like it anymore when you use a carrot stick.

Practicing these methods can sometimes be the worst. I don’t know about you, but I’m almost as impatient for results as a dog waiting for a treat. But this is actually one of the most important parts. Consistency with your training is key. If you don’t practice, you won’t have a responsive horse. This means that you need to take your horse for a walk every single day and you need to make them back up every single time they don’t stop when you stop.

Ok so now we that we have the boring stuff out of the way, time to get into the actual training. No matter the method you choose, the fundamentals behind ground manners stems down to having a responsive horse. Doing different exercises with them using different tools will achieve this result. The bottom line is to keep your horse mentally and physically engaged, aka listening to you, so that they won’t feel like they can do your own thing.

  1. Start with the simplest exercise. When you’re walking your horse, stop and make them halt. The key here is they must stop with you. Don’t let them stop ahead, don’t let them stop when they feel like, don’t let them stop and whip around to eat grass, and especially don’t let them stop with their hindquarters facing you. If they don’t halt at or behind your shoulder, make them back up until they are in the desired location. This implies that they must work when you tell them, and work until they get to the place they are supposed to be in. As soon as they respond and do what they’re asked, give them rest, to signify they did a good job.
  2. Another exercise to do on ground is similar to the first: having them back up. Just making your horse back a few steps when you tell them to shows that you are assertive enough to tell them what you want. This is also a good tool if you feel like they aren’t listening to you. The trick to making this an effective tool relies on you keeping your feet planted, so that you don’t walk with them to back up. This is a serious learning curve, and might involve you breaking this rule to initially teach them to back, but it’s so freakin’ effective. By you planting your feet, and making them back, you’re telling them that you have the only control in this relationship.
  3. A good thing to teach them is your personal space. If they are too close to you, you can get in serious danger if they get scared of something. Make sure they keep about a 2 foot space away from you. You don’t want them giving you flat tires every 5 feet, anyway!

And of course, ask your trainer, read up on methods, or ask me for more information! There’s tons more exercises you can do to improve your ground manners, and your relationship with your horse.

 

 

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Now Raven can even ground tie!

 

Remember to just take everything one stride at a time and you’re golden 🙂

 

Horses, Uncategorized

Interested in 3-Day Eventing?

 

 

Oh my, where to start. This sport has so much to talk about!

Eventing is not for the faint of heart. While eventing is ridiculously fun, it is also takes a ton of discipline and learning. I miss it, and after you’re done reading this post, you’ll understand why everyone is addicted to it as I am.

3 day eventing incorporates 3 phases – dressage, show jumping, and cross country – over a course of 3 days with at least one phase each day. During the show, you are mentally and physically tested, and it’s the most rewarding experience. One of the best parts of eventing is that all equestrians can do it. The energy and people behind eventing is  very inclusive. This is what makes the sport truly enjoyable, the feeling that everyone is connected and spirited about the same thing.

Before I get all kumbaya on you, I wanted to briefly explain each phase.

Dressage is what I always call the building blocks of eventing. If your horse can’t respond to the simplest of commands in dressage, you will not excel in the other two phases. Here, you ride a test, depending on your level, to display the horse’s responsiveness to cues. Don’t worry about the fancy moves — worry more about suppleness, rhythm, and your geometry. The judge will score you on how accurately you do the test, but also these qualities.

Now on to stadium jumping. This was my trainer’s favorite phase, and I never understood why until now. Stadium jumping is very technical because you need all the same qualities as dressage while navigating a course. Your horse must be willing to give you their head, adjust their stride, and pick up their feet! You’re being judged on how quickly you go through the course, so purely time, but you get a better score if you don’t knock any poles or have any refusals. Your course will also have a higher quality ride if you have a responsive horse, like I mentioned, allowing you to have a faster time.

Next is my favorite, cross country. Here is where your horse’s bravery, and your’s, is tested. You are literally galloping and jumping over natural obstacles for about 10 minutes straight. If you are an adrenaline junky, this phase is for you! Anything can happen while out on this course, making it the most dangerous out of all of the phases – and the most controversial. The USEF, USEA, and other organizations are working to make this safer for horses and riders, but don’t let that interfere with your interest for this sport. If you are safe, aware, and responsible when you ride, you should love it!

All three phases make up this beautiful sport, but there is so much more to it! The eventing community is one of the nicest I have ever been a part of. This sport also exposes you to multiple disciplines, allowing you to deviate or move between different areas and try something new.

There are lots of reasons to try eventing. But the best reason of them all is that you develop one of the strongest bonds with your horse. I know Raven will have my back every time we’re on the cross country course. I know she’s going to stay collected and focused through every dressage test. And lastly, I know she’s enjoying her ride as much as I am.

If you have any questions, want to know more about the sport, or just want to talk, feel free to contact me! You can also read more about it on the USEA website, Eventing Nation, or contact some eventing trainers in your area. Now get out there and kick some butt!

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