First of all, apologies to my readers as well as to ANDI for leaving her hanging on a bad training day. She is coming along nicely and I'll get caught up with her posts shortly.

In other news, What a fabulous time we had at the Bluebonnet ride this year. Due to "life" (and such), I hadn't been able to attend an endurance ride in about 14 months, and, as they say, that's too long.

It sure was great to be back in the saddle and back on the trail. GWAIHIR had an excellent ride his last time out (not counting the rider option pull last April due to the weather and his wimpy rider) with a 1st in our division and a 3rd overall on the tough Hill Country trail.

Saturday, he never missed a beat. Other than being a little more overly ambitious than usual, I couldn't tell he'd been out of the game for so long. He ate and drank better than ever and, as always, was eager for the trail. We had a great finish, I haven't seen the official results yet, but I think in the top 20.

If I read the photographers captions correctly, these photos are at about 47 miles. I love having happy horses at that distance.

Courtney rode ELBERTH (Beri), a smarter ride, letting us run, she slowed down for an easy day, just missing turtle by a couple of riders.

Beri finishing another 50 is a real success story for us as she tied up at the Bandera ride last year. We researched all our options and treated and brought her back conservatively.

We looked at everything, exercise, conditioning and fitness level, nutrition and even her heat cycle. I'd changed feeds and so I changed back. Over the course of the next weeks and months, we did a course of selenium and a very slow, structured work schedule, a period of rest and then a repeat of the very gradually increasing work, bringing her up to a regular riding schedule.

And it paid off. She's been doing light trail work and arena work, including winning the AHA OEIP National Mounted Shooting Championship for 2009, but this was her first long distance ride since her tie-up.

I couldn't resist adding this one. We're racing no one for ... I figured 30th place ... turned out to be in the top 20.... but I just love to let them run across the finish line. It feels good to have that much horse left. I didn't know Jim Edmondson (the photographer) was there, but got excited when I saw him get out his camera. I thought I'd get a real good photo of GWAIHIR extended and working, I love those with the nostrils flared and all that going on...

*sigh* It's a fun shot, but the son-of-a-gun doesn't even look like he's breathing hard. I love having that much horse, but he's going to have to work a little harder next time out so I can get one of those dramatic finish line photos that I love.

Reclaiming Andi - day seven

Today, unfortunately, she backslid. She wanted the halter on and would approach me to target it but didn't want me to approach that final step (into the Andi defined comfort zone) to put it on. I just walked around the stall with her until she stopped, and once I was within the zone, she tilted her head toward me and was glad to have it on.

I think what has happened is that over the last couple of days, I've moved too fast and put too much lag time between the halter and the grain. Yes—we'll get to that point, but I see now that while the lesson was well-learned on the surface, the foundation is still shaky.

I'm not going to reduce the lag time, though. I'll simply up the repetitions and gradually continue to increase the lag time, occasionally putting the halter on and off without a grain snack while it's on because eventually she'll be wearing it without a specific reward. Remember at this point, our goal is still to get her to want to have the halter put on and to like wearing the halter.

On Guard

I talk about my horses all the time, but I like to show things as well and this photo very well illustrates a herd instinct that you read about in old westerns, but don't often see.

This is a domestic herd, none of them have been feral for generations. I'm standing in my front yard, they're in a side pasture, the road is just on the other side of the trees.

Yet horsey instinct demands a guard be placed. You can see the backs of the other mares just below the crest of the hill. They're munching on a round bale. Beri is the youngest of the bunch and so she got tapped for guard duty. Even with her hip cocked and resting comfortably, you can see by her ears how alert she is, she's taking her job seriously.

If your hero rides a good mare like this, he's going to be hard to sneak up on, day or night.