One woman. One horse. 48 states for Domestic Violence Awareness

Check back often for the latest updates and stories from Meredith, Apollo, and Hermes as they journey 10,000 miles on a four year ride around the USA.

You’re Invited! To a Centauride Travel Talk

One woman. One horse. 48 states for domestic violence awareness. That’s the mission that I had saddled up to achieve when I set out from Penn Valley on January 1, 2017.  So far, I have travelled over 4,500 miles through 14 states, accompanied only by my horse Apollo and my hitchhiking cat Hermes.  

Now for the first time since the ride began, I will be sharing the highlights of my adventures traveling the western half of the U.S. by horse. Don’t miss this chance to learn about my exciting journey before I climb back in the saddle for another two years of riding! 

Join the adventure (and some official New Mexico state cookies) on Monday March 12, from 5:00 to 6:30 pm in the Community Room of the Madelyn Helling branch of the Nevada County Libraries, at 980 Helling Way, Nevada City CA 95959. This is a FREE event! 

For more information, contact the library, or RSVP on my facebook event page by clicking here!

Another month of fun and learning

Yep, I’m still doing it.  My new year’s resolution to learn 52 hands-on things this year is going strong.  Here’s how my February shaped up.

Week 5 - There was a hip hop dance class at Rhythms Fitness Studio.  Fun, interesting, and way harder than I expected.  Mostly because I stink at remembering choreography.  Life as a professional dancer is not in my future.

Week 6 - I bought a calligraphy pen (not the fancy kind that you dip. The easier felt-pen style), checked out a book from the library, and started playing with lettering.  Also a lot harder than I expected! But it turned out pretty good, don’t you think?

Week 7 - I took another class, this time for Reiki.  For those of you who haven’t heard of it or tried it, it’s an alternative healing technique based on energy work (similar to chakras, chi, etc).  The event I attended was an introduction, not a true class or course.  In it, I was able to experience reiki both as receiver and giver.  It was a wonderful, inspiring, and insightful experience, to say the least.

Week 8 - This one was actually all month: learning another language! This time, German (or as I should say, diesmal deutsche). I reached what the Duolingo app says is 45%.  I’m not sure I could actually carry a conversation beyond four word sentences, but that’s a heckuva lot better than only knowing how to say ja, nein and danke (the extent of my German fluency level before this month!).

Lessons Learned and Gear Improved

Not a month went by on my 2017 ride that I didn’t change some aspect of what I was carrying and how I packed or attached it to the saddle.  Even in the last few days on the road, I was still stripping off unnecessary bits of fabric, examining the effect of how the packs were riding on Apollo’s back, and - most importantly - making notes on what to improve or fix during the winter break.

Here’s some things I learned and a few changes I’m planning to make when I get back at it in April.

Never trust plastic clips or Velcro 

I think I’ve replaced all of the plastic with metal by now, because they break under heavy use and weathering of the material. Velcro seems like a great idea for certain items, but in the end it just gets filled up with horse hair and dirt so it no longer secures well.  Better to switch out Velcro for other kinds of fasteners.

Always carry artificial sinew and a hooked awl

I actually carry a sandwich bag worth of repair items, but these are the most essential.  I’ve used them to fix everything from saddle D-rings to the cat carrier, and basically made Apollo’s second set of ankle bells myself by combining two “ingredients” into one with lots and lots of sinew.

Cats should ride on top

In 2017, Hermes rode in a cat carrier hanging on the left side of the saddle.  That worked okay, but it was hard to keep the weight balanced with the right side.  Also, there was always a risk that he would get smooshed if Apollo spooked sideways into something.  Luckily Apollo doesn’t typically spook, but he’s a horse so the risk is always there.  On top, Hermes will be safer (and can have a more roomy carrier) and Apollo should be more comfortable.  This also gives me even more incentive to cut back on my total packs (and thus weight) because Hermes will be riding where one of my large saddle bags used to go.

Water proof everything.  Sometimes twice.

Whether from rain or sweat, things get wet.  Most items I protect with a simple zip-top bag (sometimes more precious than gold to me), because they are easy to replace in case of damage or when there’s just too much horse dirt to clean.  More water sensitive items get fancy water proof bags. Electronics are double bagged.  Additional benefit of all these bags: it’s quick and easy to pack and unpack every day, because it’s all compartmentalized.

Help and an electrical outlet are never far away.

Many items that I started out carrying in 2017 I didn’t end up needing.  A high line or a ground picket (there was always some kind of fence available, even if that fence was - for one night - a chain-link enclosed basketball court). Basic first aid for Apollo (and myself) are important to carry, but we never were farther than a vet could easily drive to.  I never needed my solar charger, but it was a good idea to carry an external battery for the rare night without an outlet to recharge.

There is never enough energy left to cook dinner.  

Like Sam Gamgee in the Lord of the Rings, I carried my cooking gear nearly to the end.  I used it twice in 10 months of travel.  And both of those times could have been avoided with different, ready to eat foods in my pack.  This year I’m finally ditching the cooking gear.  Yes, it’s super lightweight backpacking stuff. But not carrying it is even lighter. With a little luck, I’ll find lots of friendly people who want to offer me a hot meal. Otherwise, protein bars and other convenience foods, and the occasional meal out,  will suffice. (And when this ride is over, I will never ever touch a protein bar again.)

Slow and steady wins the... whatever it is I’m doing.

My last modification isn’t for gear.  It’s for logistical planning. It’s not like I ran Apollo - ever - during 2017.  The fastest he went the whole time was an extended trot, either because he was nervous or because he was feeling really good. Even that was only a handful of times. But even at a walk, we were often both more tired than was necessary or enjoyable.  Mostly this pace was due to the logistics of where I could arrange a stop, and for how long.  But this year I will try extra hard to make our days shorter, and our rest days more frequent.

So a few more changes and another month of rest, and we’ll be back on the road and headed across the heartland of America! It’s been an interesting ride so far, that’s for sure.

I’ll be sharing more insights and stories from my first year on the road with Apollo and Hermes on Monday, March 12, from 5 to 6:30 pm at the Madelyn Helling library’s community room in Nevada City CA.   It’s free! Hope to see you there. 

The Morning After: A Love Poem

“The Hallmark holiday”
It’s called with a scoff. 
But what’s wrong with a day for love?
We all want a little more. 
We can never have too much. 

A single red rose. 
Two glasses of wine. 
A day for lovers
For Vagina Monologues 
And for One Billion to rise. 

Then comes the morning after:
Chocolate on sale
Rose wilting in a vase. 
Violence again women forgotten. 
Love deprioritized once more. 

For busy lives, humdrum and hectic 
Worker bees in honeycombed cubicles
Road rage and parking lot battles. 
Why are there so many people in line?!

Outside, the birds still sing. 
Daffodils are pushing up new earth. 
A breath of spring brings whispy clouds. 
Mother Nature remembers that love 
Is not just for one day. 

A Modern Dilemma for Horse Travel

Apollo and Meredith in Tigard OR, February 2017. 
Photo courtesy of Wilma Perez-Leon

In Rinker Buck’s excellent memoir about his epic journey along the Oregon Trail by covered wagon, he lamented the modern state of horse equipment for long distance travel.  Though he sought to be historically accurate, even restored equipment from the 1860’s (the peak of Trail use) is often not of practical use for the modern traveler.  This is largely due to lack of demand for “real” use, in favor of decorative purposes and light use for local or heavily supported reenactments.

It is simply a fact that very few people travel by horse any more.  Even the rider who spends more than average time in the saddle, such as endurance riders and outfitters, do not demand gear that can withstand thousands of miles. These riders are the closest that can be compared to long riding in terms of what they require in gear (and for other considerations). But there is a big difference between riding a hundred miles in a weekend and then having a week or two off to repair or replace worn items, and riding a hundred miles slowly over a week - often in wilderness or other places where replacing or repairing gear is burdensome if not downright impossible.

In Buck’s case, he started with the base equipment of a restored covered wagon and pup trailer, as well as quality harness and so forth.  Unlike nearly every other person who has “reenacted” the Oregon Trail, he and his brother actually travelled the entire length of it from Missouri to Oregon without a support crew (no truck and trailer following along).  If they broke down from shoddy craftsmanship of brakes or wheels (which they did), they had to fix it themselves or walk as much as a day’s distance away to find help.  Without a support vehicle, they had to also efficiently carry enough water, food and feed, and other supplies to get through the long still-empty stretches of the American West.

Over the course of their journey, they ended up having to reconstruct the brakes and redesign their pup trailer, because the modern “improved” stuff they started with did not hold up to actual long distance use along today’s roads.  They also had a multitude of other little things that broke or just didn’t work as intended, and which they had to improve, improvise, repair or replace as they went.

For my own travels, I have found similar problems with the gear available.  I started out with a combination of endurance, trail and outfitter equipment.  But even the sturdiest of things available needed modifications to actually carry me and all our stuff, and most of it fell apart in some way within the first 500 miles.

For example, the excellent saddle that has carried me this far had several d-rings to attach my packs, but as I learned by the third day they were only screwed in, and in a way that was not able to withstand the force of a spooked bucking horse.  I had to attach them by sewing them onto the leather with artificial sinew to keep them from coming off again (since the screw-holes got fairly well stripped the first time the rings fell off).  In fact, most of my gear had been repaired or strengthened with artificial sinew by the end of the year, because it is exceptionally tough and the thread, plastic, or metallic fasteners various items were made with have already broke.

Another good example is my packs.  I purchased the best quality canvas packs available, made for seasons of trail use.  But after a few hundred miles, all the plastic (yes, plastic) clips to attach them to the saddle had broken, so now I only use metal clips picked up at hardware stores along the way.  The  canvas, too, wore thin by the end of June (only half a year of use!). I added several layers of artificial leather picked up at a Walmart fabric department to slow down the wearing, and so they now look about as good as they did in June.

For those of you reading this that spend a lot of time outdoors, be it for horse activities, backpacking, or what have you, you’re probably thinking “shoulda used leather!”  Indeed that was the way things were made back when they made things to last on a horse-powered journey (whether on horseback or by wagon).  But if you’ve ever used leather for long stretches of time in all sorts of weather, you’ll know that it has many drawbacks, including molding when wet, cracking when cold, etc.  In the conditions I’ve been in, and the limited ability to properly care for that excellent material, I learned early on that leather was not a good idea for my ride.

That is not to say that all of my equipment has been poor quality.  Apollo’s boots, and mine too, have both held up for longer distances than I would have expected.  The saddle itself (apart from attachment points) still looks great.  I have had no problems at all with the bridle, halter, and some other smaller items.  And very few things will need replaced outright this winter  - although my “repair and improvement list” includes almost every item that I carried.

But by the time spring gets here, I’ll be even better equipped in terms of sturdiness than at any point in 2017, thanks to a winter full of gear modifications! 

52 Weeks of Learning... The Beginning

For my New Year’s resolution this year, I decided I want to develop new skills and try new things.  Last year I had resolved to read more non-fiction, which I did and which I enjoyed.  But reading to learn new facts is not really the same thing as learning by doing.  And that’s what I’m trying to do this year with my “52 Weeks of Hands-On Learning.”

So for the first four weeks of January, I had four new things to learn and try.  I successfully “completed” them all (that is to say, I completed them to some basic proficiency).  And I had fun doing it, too.

Here’s what I did for the first four weeks of my 52 Weeks of Learning:

#1 - I took Spanish lessons, or should I say... Estudio espanol.  I used Duolingo, a free language learning app.  After the first week, I decided that language skills should be spread out daily throughout a whole month to actually make any progress. So now I plan on doing a language a month, with a few short lessons every day.  For January, I was able to learn a bit nearly every day, and the app says I am now 40% fluent!  That seems like a bit of a stretch, but I am definitely quicker at picking up new words and can come up with basic sentences on a variety of topics.


#2 - I experienced the joy of tidying up.  Last year, I had read Marie Kondo’s excellent book on the subject, and I decided that as part of my “trying things” I would put what I read into practice.  This was by far the most time consuming of all four things this month, but ever so satisfying. I don’t own much to begin with, but it was amazing the number of trash bags I filled with old school projects and homework (I don’t know why that was saved in the first place, but it certainly doesn’t bring me any joy now).

  Before: storage jars and containers  

After: Only keeping the containers with matching parts makes a big difference! 

#3 - I solved the Rubik’s Cube.  I have owned one of these since my earliest childhood memories.  It may have been my dad’s even before that, for all I know.  Anyway, it spent decades on my shelf and then in a box (where I found it in Week 2), and though I would occasionally attempt it I never got further than solving one side.  Fortunately for me, there are plenty of tutorials online to teach you have to solve it.  And I did! It took nearly two hours and I had to start over once, but in the end I figured it all out.

#4 - I learned how to knit. For my first project, I made a dishcloth with instructions from my co-worker and knitter extraordinaire Debbie.  It came out pretty good, even with Hermes helping! Actually he was not very interested in my knitting, which surprised me. He checked out the ball of yarn for a moment, chewed the end of the knitting needles, and then went to take another nap. I feel like I’ve mastered the basics well enough to advance to project number two, a scarf that requires a more advanced cabling stitch (and obviously enjoyed knitting enough to do a second project).

I’m looking forward to February and another four weeks of fun new tasks.  First up on the list, my new language lessons... but you’ll have to wait until the end of the month to see what’s on the agenda.

Letters From The Past

I’ve spent the whole last week going through all of my belongings on a tidying up spree, a la the KonMari technique.  If you’ve not read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” get yourself a copy.  It’s beautifully written and wonderful to follow.

The final step of the KonMari technique is to go through all your “sentimental items” such as keepsakes, mementos, souvenirs, childhood items, photos, and old letters.

In going through these things, I came across a shoebox full of letters I’d exchanged with friends in 4th through 12th grade.  Eagerly but tentatively I opened the long forgotten box.  Real letters! Gosh, I feel old just admitting that I grew up in the early days of email when we still also sent real letters too. 

What treasures! (and a whole lot of silly nonsense not worth saving).  An 11th birthday card from my grandparents.  A drawing of a horse from a friend during 6th grade.  The funny notes my best friend and I passed back and forth one day in church in some unknown year during elementary school.  

There were letters from several friends from school who moved away to far off states. Min, Dawn, Jenny (I’d completely forgotten about Jenny!). Also from friends who had never lived close.  Abigail, Rosemary, Laura.  

But then I found the one letter that haunted me for years and years.  When I was 16, and my distant friend was 14, I received this one of so many letters.  We’d been friends for four years, since Girl Scout summer horse camp where she rescued me from spiders and I her from lizards and the scary night sounds of the forest where we spent a week sleeping under the stars.

In those carefree days, we’d bonded over our love of horses and the general goofiness of girlhood.  We would visit each other often, despite the hours of driving that our parents had to cross to treat us to a weekend together. 

But then hard times came for her.  Her father committed suicide. Her torn family moved to a bad neighborhood, where gangs roamed and illegal drugs were as easy to get as a Hershey’s bar (or so it seemed to me, from my own sheltered life).  

In this envelope, there were two letters.  “Read this one first!” And “Read this one second!”  The second one was written first, and as I read them both (in the instructed order of course) I could see the  second was basically a draft for the first.  Although she did not write it with that intention, I could see the thoughts of the first which meant the most were expressed again in the second.  

This sad, sad letter that occupied a place in my mind for so many years... In both versions, she began by imploring my forgiveness and understanding.  That she was not “a bad influence” as she was sure my parents would tell me, and “don’t hate” her for what she did.  Because, as she explained, it was not her choice.  

What was this bad thing that she feared would end our friendship that had lasted a quarter of my whole life thus far?  She had been raped.

She explained to me in the letter that she had lost her “V” as she put it, by a former boyfriend who forced her and then beat her.  They were broken up by the time she wrote. 

I remember being frightened for her when I read it, and I still regret not telling anyone.  Clearly she was worried that if my parents found out they would not let us be friends.  But I knew this was the sort of thing you were supposed to tell your parents about, because they could help.

I never told a soul. But I worried about her for 14 years - while we were still in contact, and for the dozen plus years when we drifted apart, until we reconnected several years ago (when she was the very first to call me after I escaped my abusive husband and help ME see it was not my fault).

Now, reading that letter again, it made me sad in a different way.  That this young girl felt such shame of what had happened to her, and feared she would be blamed for it.  That she thought it was going to make her “a bad influence” and that it might jeapordize our friendship.  

These fears may not have been realistic, but they were not unusual.  This is a reaction I have heard from so many victims of domestic violence and of sexual assault. And it is so very sad that these victims must deal with such fears on top of the other traumas (emotional and physical) of what they have experienced.  I know of no solution except to talk about it.  To express these things so others know that they don’t need to fear these reprocussions.  So they can be assured that we all know it is not their fault. 

Slavery Is Not Just A Thing Of The Past

Slavery did not end in 1868 with the 14th Amendment.

Slavery has been defined with many nuanced words, but it all comes down to one key point: one person exercising complete control over another’s freedom.  The slave is not able to choose the most basic of things for themselves, such as where they’ll live and what they will do for work.  Often, but not always, there is a financial component as well.

Today, though, we do not call slavery by the S-word.  Instead, it is called “human trafficking.”  Don’t be confused - it is one and the same.  It is real. It is common.  And it’s just as bad as the slavery that was abolished following the Civil War.

There are several kinds of human trafficking, and like domestic violence there are many common misconceptions about it.  Human trafficking includes sex trafficking and labor trafficking. This can be further broken down to what we could call a “traditional” kind, where a slaver (in sex trafficking, a pimp) sells strangers for sex or labor (including criminal “work”). There is also familial and intimate partner trafficking which is where a parent, spouse or other family member or partner forces the other into doing some kind of labor then taking all their income, or forcing them to work in a family business for no pay, or forces the victim into prostitution.

Human trafficking is found in every region, big and small towns alike. It’s victims come from every social and ethnic background. They can be of any gender and age. Exact numbers are impossible to come by as many victims are never able to come forward and be counted. While the following may not be perfect, even if you too-conservatively halve the estimates the numbers still indicate a Big Problem.

It is commonly thought that human trafficking victims are almost always women.  However, just a little over half (55-60%) of victims are female.

 It is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people per year are trafficked in the United States, and 20.9 million worldwide.  Some official estimates are even higher, at 36 million worldwide.

About 40% of victims are lured into the trafficking trap in one country and sold in another.

It is estimated that $32 billion is generated by human trafficking activities annually and globally, half of which is from industrialized countries (which account for only around 10% of the total number of victims).

Statistically, about 80% of trafficking is sex, the other 20% labor.  In reality, though, many victims fall into both categories.

Human trafficking perpetrators use similar tactics to abusive partners to lure and then secure their victims. These include intimidation, coercion, threats against the victim or the victim’s children, emotional and physical abuse, financial control, withholding food, sleep or medicine, and forced isolation.

In one study of female victims of human sex trafficking, 70% of them had previously been in a domestic violence relationship.  This is also common with children who are trafficked, because children who run away from an abusive home are at high risk of becoming trafficking victims. 1 in 6 runaways shows clinical signs of sexual abuse.

To report human trafficking, or to get help, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888 or visit their website by clicking here.

To learn more about human trafficking and help end it in your community contact your local nonprofit such as Good Women International and Operation Underground Railroad.

Thin Versus Underweight

Most if not all women have “body issues,” some aspect of their appearance they hate.  My own body issues are for my horse. Throughout this ride, I have been body shamed over my horse again and again.  My primary body issue is with his hips.  But much of the problem is a modern misunderstanding of what a healthy working horse should look like. (Note I will not always use proper equine terms here, to be clearer for the non-equestrian reader).

The New Norm

In these modern times, where horses are most commonly yard ornaments, the idea of what is “normal” is more often overweight and under muscled.  A pretty horse in our eyes is what we are used to seeing – plenty of fat so not a single rib can be seen, there is no definition of muscles or the major joints.  Fit horses, such as those used for racing, endurance, working cattle, etc, may have the muscling but these are not your average horse.

Whether “halter horses” (those bred and raised for professional halter classes, the supermodels of horses) are a cause or a symptom is unclear to me, but are definitely a good example of our modern mindset.  In halter classes, horses are not just judged for good conformation, but also for heavy muscling and a lot of fat deposition.  Basically, like cattle.  But we don’t eat our horses, and they should not be in that kind of condition.  Halter horses are worked hard for brief times – maybe 15 minutes of hand galloping once a day – to build certain muscle patterns (not unlike a body builder, as opposed to a runner), and fed quite a lot to get the right amount of chubby. This is what judges want, this is what wins, this is then what we see in our horse magazines and come to believe is the ideal.  The reality is that these horses are overweight.

Another issue with modern perceptions of what a horse should look like is that most people are used to quarter horse type horses only.  Of course not everyone! But most people, for sure.  For you who are not familiar with breeds, the quarter horse type is your classic American cowboy horse, and the most popular breed in America.  They are built like tanks, especially in recent years with selective breeding: broad chest, really big “apple shaped” butts, a flat back (or if fat, sunken spine).  In dog terms, they resemble a bulldog.

Apollo, The Hot Mess

Now for my body issues.  Apollo is a mustang-Peruvian Paso cross.  His mustang daddy was most likely (from his conformation and the area history) from thoroughbred stock: tall, lanky, angular.  His Peruvian momma had the prominent spine and hips of her breed.  Apollo has ended up with an unfortunate combination as a result: extra long legs (he has to spread them to graze), tall, very lanky, and has prominent bone structure especially in his hips and back.  He also has prominent withers (the part where the neck and back join), is too narrow (his left and right legs are too close together), is slab sided (ribs that are more flat than rounded), and has an ugly prominent vertebrae at the top of his pelvis. 

Basically, he would never ever win a halter class, conformationally he is a hot mess.  But he is strong, healthy, has good bones and feet, and is very smart.  A long ride horse doesn’t have to be built perfectly to succeed.  For all his ugly traits, he does not have any conformational faults that will hinder his work.

In dog terms, he looks more like a greyhound.  And if you only know bulldogs, or think that’s what all dogs should look like, you’d think every greyhound is an underweight, starving, mistreated dog.

Especially if you were used to fat lapdog bulldogs, and not hardworking racing greyhounds.

Body Scoring Basics

A little about horse body scores and the working horse.  And I mean actual work, not weekend pleasure riding.  Horses are scored on a 9 point scale.  A 5 is ideal – the actual ideal, not the common perception of ideal.  A 1 is dangerously thin, a 9 is dangerously fat.  Fatal health conditions develop at the far ends of the scale – note that fat horses are not healthy horses either!  The “halter ideal” is a 6 or 7.  A working horse such as Apollo would be best at a 5, but is more likely to be a 4.  And in fact, that is what Apollo’s score is.  Always.  If he edges towards a 3, I stop as soon as possible and fatten him back up to a good 4.  A 4 is thin, it is not underweight.  People, a score of 4 is NOT dangerous.  Period.

But it’s never enough for those who would judge him by facebook photos and videos.

Importantly, the body scoring system is meant to be done IN PERSON, by touching the horse as well as looking at him.  Touching the horse allows you to feel whether there are fat deposits, and not guess by looking.  Like people, horses may have fat deposited evenly or in pockets, and may look underweight where they are actually just thin.  Compare, for example, a woman whose chocolate indulgence goes to her hips, or her butt, or her tummy, or her arms, but never equally between them all! And consider the woman that looks heavy but is actually big boned, or rail thin but is actually just built lanky.  Horses are very similar when it comes down to it.

My point is, if you are driving past us at 60 miles an hour, you probably cannot judge Apollo’s weight accurately, and especially not while he is under the saddle (this has happened. Animal control then verified he is fine).  And if you see a photo on facebook that shows his hips/spine/lanky build, but cannot examine his other “points” on the body scoring system, or touch him to determine fat deposits, you probably cannot judge his weight accurately.

Apollo's Health Regimen

Apollo works very hard, but not as hard as possible.  I get tired before he does, so that pretty well ensures I don’t overwork him! He walks – and only walks, though he would like to go faster – usually less than 5 hours per day, and most of the time I lead him instead of riding so he only has to carry 70 lbs of packs instead of 200 lbs of packs and rider.  Many days I only walk.  But even when I do ride, consider how much the average rider weighs – 200 lbs is not asking too much of him.

He gets to graze throughout the ride, whenever he wants to (assuming it is safe there).  He gets as much alfalfa, grass hay, or pasture as he can eat for the rest of his day.  In fact, he gets more than four times as much hay as most people feed – they offer a flake or two for the night, and I ask for 6 or 8 instead.  And he will almost finish them.  Plus breakfast hay.   He also gets about 10 lbs of grain per day when I can get it (which is most days), dressed with weight building supplements.  He is not a picky eater, although he does not like peppermint horse treats.

He is dewormed every two months, has his teeth worked on annually, is current on all vaccinations, and gets a vet inspection for his overall health – including weight - about once a month.  He gets at least two days off per week, a week or more off every 6 to 8 weeks and sometimes quicker.  He will be getting the whole winter off this year.  He has never had a digestive or nutritional related health problem (in fact, he has had very few health problems so far, just a respiratory infection from wildfire smoke, and a cut on his leg from playing too hard in a pasture and stepping on himself.  Both of which he was allowed to immediately rest and fully recover before continuing on.)

That he looked less skinny when we started is normal – he was pasture fat and lightly worked then.  He still had prominent bones , a raised spine and huge hips, under the excessive fat.  It took about a month on the road to reach his "fit" condition, and he has maintained approximately the same condition since then.  Now he is a well loved, heavily fed, vet approved, athlete.  A strangely and poorly built, thin but not underweight, happy horse.

A Happy New Year!

2018... It’s hard to believe its here! Last year was a big one for me (and for my four legged friends).  A year ago today I was finishing up my first week of the Centauride.  At that time, I couldn’t imagine how far I’d go or what all I’d see and do, who all I’d meet, or any of the adventures I’d have during the rest of the year.  Looking ahead for the new year, I’m sure I’ll have unexpected experiences and make all sorts of new friends.  

This year I’m not making resolutions in the normal sense of the word - I’m not resolving to lose weight or go to the gym more, eat better or make more money.  Instead, I am resolved to see every day as a new adventure.  As the great Biblo Baggins once said, “adventures are not all pony rides in May sunshine” - but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy the rainy weather too as another kind of adventure.

I also am resolved this year to start my mornings right.  I’m not a morning person, so there is no way I am going to set my alarm earlier than necessary for that day’s plans.  But I can start each day with purpose, intention, and a positive attitude.  This week I’ve resumed the “Miracle Morning” regimine (if you’ve not heard of it, look it up and give it a try, it’s game changing).  The abbreviated 6 minute version works well for me, and I only have to set my alarm 6 minutes earlier! That’s a resolution I can handle.

On a practical note, I am resolved to improve my long riding technique.  I will pack less (lots less). I will be reassessing everything I use to make sure it is maximally comfortable for both Apollo and myself.  I will do better with scheduling ahead for places to stay, giving interviews, etc.  I will be more organized.

Finally, I am resolved to improve myself and have fun while doing it by learning something new every week.  I don’t mean facts and figures, because I pretty much already was doing that.  Each week I will pick a new skill, hobby, activity, language, or other activity to try out.  That’s 52 new things to learn! Of course a week isn’t much time to actually acquire a new skill or talent, but it is sufficient for getting a taste, seeing if its something I’d like to learn more about later, and maybe even learning enough of the basics to use further down the road.  Many of the things on my list I can even learn while on the road: how to tie more knots, for example.

So here’s to a new year.  I hope your 2018 is as great as I intend for mine to be!