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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Haf Pad update

Above is a picture of my living room post-tevis belongings/furniture purging stress activity. As you can see - the futon is on the porch and the apartment looks positively spartan - perfect!
Getting ride of stuff always gives me energy, so I decided to sew back the trim on my Haf pad.

The trim was level with the bottom surface, which means it rubs against the horses's back.

During the 35 mile Tevis pre-ride from Robinson to Forest hill, the trim rubbed Farley's skin (not just hair) off so that it scabbed.

I used heavy duty quilting thread and a simple overhand stitch to pull the trim away from the horse's back.

As you can see, it seems to have worked quite nicely.
In the below picture I've lifted the pad so that you can see the scabs that resulted from the pad trim rubbing her back. These are a month old.

I strongly feel that this pad is superior to the skito and I'm leaning towards trying it on the Tevis, having the skito available at each one hour check to switch out if necessary.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Tevis Stress Management Part II

My tried and true method for managing life's stress is: get rid of all superfluous belongings and rearrange furniture. I think I can explain the purging of belongings - it relates to the backpacking and the "great escape" from life. As long as I feel like I can walk away from "it" at any time - I'm never so "tied" down because of obligations and belongs - I can usually deal with whatever is thrown my way. This is ironic because in reality I'm a very stable, dependable, predictable person, but it's all based on the illusion that I am CHOOSING where I am.

What I failed to mention in my last post was WHY the 3 person dome tent miraculously fit in my living room.....that would be because it now contains the amount of furniture you would expect a 19 year old college student to have after 1 month of living in their new digs. After the furniture purge (and believe me - I am NOT done yet) I attacked my clothing and now a sack of clothing accompanies the furniture on the deck. That's the nice thing about large families - you never have to actually throw away something that might be useful - just re-gift it!

I've been feeling antsy lately. I've been in this "spot" in life for 3 years and I'm ready for something new. There are plans down the road but I need to stick it out here for another two years or so. I just feel so restless. Rearranging the furniture and my great escapes (backpacking and belongings purge) will have to satisfy me for now.

So why is this coming up now? Tevis has been a dream of mine for a long time. Achieving this will mean marking a life goal off my theoretical "list", which means I start thinking about my life and where it is going in general and what my next big goal/project is going to be. Like I alluded to earlier, I have several projects in mind that I will detail after getting through the Tevis. I will be taking a break from endurance until the end of the year. I do plan to ride Death Valley at the end of the year as long as the weather is nice, and in the meantime do some other (horse-related of course) adventures.

Managing Tevis stress

My living room is exactly the size of a 3 person dome tent. "How do you know that?", you say.

I will go on to tell you that not only is my living room the size of some minuscule, over-crowded camping spot, my bedroom floor (bed and dresser not withstanding) is the approximate size of a one person bivy, don't lean over the new camp stove when turning it on (even if you are trying to see the tiny ignition switch - you risk singing your eyebrows off), and above all - if you do insist on making your apartment into a back country campsite, at least have the decency to leave the blinds open - it will give your neighbors something to talk about besides the fact that there seems to be more than the number of allowed cats in that apartment......

The way I deal with stress (apart from sleeping and running) is to imagine getting away from it all. This usually comes in the form of an extended weekend trail ride. Since Farley and I are going to need a break after Tevis, I want to go backpacking - 1 or 2 nights. This form of stress relief doesn't work if I don't have the gear to actually do I figured that it was worth whatever amount of money it took to make it possible for me to go backpacking.

Over the years I've accumulated some gear, but needed to finish up my kit. On my way home from a civil war thingy yesterday, I stopped into Bass Pro (REI would have been fun, but was HOURS out of my way) and bought the remaining items I needed. A LOT of money later and I have a backpack of gear just waiting for me. Even if I use it rarely - every penny is worth the stress relief just having it sit there.

Back to herding cats.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tevis Update

Nope, I haven't dissapeared. Here's an update on all things Tevis.

1. I've had THE busiest week at work in a very long time. As a result I'm time crunched, tired, grumpy, and have a headache.

2. Trying to prepare my Tevis crew is like trying to herd cats. Somewhat entertaining. A lot of patience involved, which I have more of when I'm not time-crunched, tired, grumpy, and have a headache.

3. Farley was suppose to be getting shoes today. Now she is getting shoes next Thursday. TWO DAYS BEFORE THE TEVIS. Found out Tuesday that my farrier has left the state until next week.....There goes my *perfect* 10 day Tevis shoes. I'm mad as a wet cat, but don't want to switch farriers this close to the big race. Instead of leaving Wednesday night or Thursday morning, now I can't leave until Thursday late morning. If it's hot, I'll probably wait until Thursday night because I don't want to trailer her in the heat of the day.

4. I'm very very very stressed right now, trying to get everything done - pack for me and the horse, coordinate a ten person crew, get my stuff out of my trailer and with people that can take it to the checks. Get the shopping done, get the crew instructions done (pretty much done as of an hour ago). I'm putting more on my Mom than I should. I'm getting over my aversion to asking people to do stuff for me. Still on the todo list: buy more buckets and sponges, separate what is going to the vet checks (one pile) and what is going to the start and finish (separate pile), put together a food list for mom to grocery shop, coordinate my sister's travel plans, get the crew t-shirts and hats to my mom for silk screening. Make copies of the crew packet.

5. One thing that has gone right - I got a sponsor for my entry fee! Yep - in exchange for paying my entry fee (including stabling), my crew gets to wear t-shirts and hats. I'm using the money to stock icechests for my crew during the race, pay for their award lunch on Sunday, and buy my completion buckle if I finish. Next year I'll start earlier - I'm hoping to have most of the costs associated with the actual day of the race covered.

6. I've planned my next major horse endeavor after Tevis. No details now because everything goes on hold until after Tevis. But it's exciting I promise!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Southern Eats

Tamera's Night Farm blog, The Barb Wire, is currently discussing a very thought-provoking series on fitness and nutrition, with the endurance rider in mind. While fitness and nutrition can be challenging enough at home, travelling can be very very tough.

As I sit in my hotel room, I thought I would share some tips I've learned while travelling to Demopolis, Alabama for work.

Tip 1 - Eat well and clean when you can. Most of the options here in the south are fried, and you may not have total control over which restaurants the work-meetings are in. So, if the hotel offers food such as instant oatmeal, fresh fruit, and milk, for breakfast, eat that and avoid the Belgian waffle machine. You may have to eat deep-fried catfish with a side of fries and sweet tea for lunch.

Tip 2 & 3- Make a snack run and make sure you consume plenty of water. It's too hard to pack food and drink for a week when flying from CA to AL. It might be possible for you, the reader, but it's completely unrealistic in my life. When I arrive at my destination I go to the nearest food center (in this case its a Walmart) and buy fresh fruit (bananas are my choice) and something in a water bottle, preferably carbonated water (no flavor). I hate buying something I can get out of the tap, but I don't want something sweet and chemically. Carbonated water is my compromise. After drinking the beverage I use the bottles as water bottles for my stay. I don't usually like reusing plastic bottles, but when travelling I make compromises to make sure I consume enough water.

Tip 4 - Seek out a buffet. Against all odds I found a coffee shop (not an easy feat) and had an excellent salad for lunch, complete with grapes, strawberries, almonds, cucumbers etc. While that was fine for a lunch, I can't have the same salad for lunch and dinner for a week. For the rest of my lunch and dinner meals, I've been going to a local, small buffet, which is my preferred way of eating out while travelling, if you can find an appropriate buffet. This is not your average California buffet. Think about your mom cooking dinner or lunch. Now imagine your family is 50 people. That's the atmosphere. There's a huge salad buffet, one or two main dishes, and sides. I don't feel any pressure to eat all I can. Instead I serve myself like I was at home, sit down and eat amongst very friendly people and leave when I'm done, letting them know I'll be back later for my next meal. Perfect.

Tip 4b - How to eat at a buffet: Find a good buffet! "My" buffet in Demopolis has a family-like atmosphere. The food is fresh and the food is eaten and replaced frequently. It's like walking into my kitchen and serving myself. It's clean and the shields are IMPOSSIBLE to get under (yeah!). So how do you keep from over indulging? First I grab the salad bowl. I build a huge salad, complete with fresh tomatoes, grapes, cucumbers, sunflower seeds, hard boiled eggs etc. Then I move to the main dish/sides. I like to sample the regional specialities, so I usually deviate from my normal eating habits and try food like the fried corn (look like hush puppies, but I can't remember the name), some sort of boiled pork steak, the cornbread, etc. That's the nice thing about a buffet - a little of this, a little of that, with no obligation to eat a whole serving. Once at the table I eat the salad first, and then eat the sides/main dishes. I stop when I'm not hungry any more. What about dessert? My favorite southern dessert is banana pudding with Nilla wafers. Since I'm controlling the portion, no problem! A little scoop and then I'm done.

Tip 5 - Adapt your exercise. It takes a bit of creativity to keep up the routine. This week, I've run outside once on some local walking trails (heat + humidity = Tevis heat training). Today I missed the critical window in the South between the oppressive heat of the day and total darkness so I came up with an alternative. I walked at 4mph on the treadmill for 30 minutes at the hotel. Here's where it gets good. At 12% INCLINE. I hate running on treadmills, but walking is acceptable. I still managed to still get an excellent workout on a "hill" (great Tevis training) after missing my preferred workout (outdoor running).

Thought of the Day
Anyone have their own tips?

Honest Scrap Award

Crysta at Go Diego Go, has given me my first blog award. I'll keep this short, sweet, and light-hearted as reading through award posts is often tedious and mind-numbing.

Here's the rules

::Recognize your award presenter and link back to their blog in your post.
::List 10 honest things about yourself that others might not know.
::Present this award to 10 admirable bloggers and link to their blogs.
::Leave a comment on your recipients' blogs to let them know to visit your post to retrieve their award.

First the Nominations. I put this part first, because this is how I found many great blogs - by reading blog award nomination lists. Crysta nominated many of the blogs that I would normally put on this list (but won't because I don't want to duplicate). Please go to Go Diego Go and check out her list. They are not in any particular order. Happy Reading!

A. A Horse and a Half - This is is a highly entertaining, non-endurance blog. Onthebit is a prolific blogger, blogging most days on her experience of owning one horse (permanently retired due to injury) and leasing "half" a horse. Onthebit is unabashedly honest about her feelings and provides a riveting snapshot into her life.

B. Dressage in Jeans - DIJ is trying to make it in the show world by doing something radical - not using any tricks or short cuts to achieve the "look", but rather actually teaching her horse to carry itself correctly. Educational and intriguing.

C. Glenshee Equestrian Center - It's a long wait between posts, but it's worth the wait. Thoughtful posts that do not disappoint.

D. Mugwump Chronicles - My favorite horse training blog. There is a life-time of experiences behind these thoughtful posts. Her stories of her past are incredible and we are trying to convince she's good enough to publish. This blog is one you'll want to read from the beginning via the archives. She does take questions from the "audience", as long as the problem isn't so severe it's going to get you killed - then you really ought to be working with a "hands-on" trainer.

E. Lifeshighway - A lighthearted look at the yard art across America. Either participate by sending in your own pics and rack up the points, or just read and chortle at the misguided efforts to incorporate the garden section in a lawn (right after checking to make sure YOU haven't made the same mistakes in YOUR yard).

F. The Barb Wire - This blog has grown on me. While it wasn't an instant favorite, it has grown on me and now I can't imagine not reading each post as it comes out. Her recent series on her views of exercise and nutrition, specifically with the endurance rider in mind has been amazing.

G. Esther Garvi - A look at a very different sort of life. Gorgeous pictures. She's recently had surprise litter of puppies! She splits her time between "Eden" in Africa, and Sweden, where she was born (I think).

H. Citizen Horse - Another blog that's worth the wait between posts. Always entertaining, always in informative. Another well written, thoughtful blog. I first read her series about the costs of horses, and it was so good I went back and read the archives.

I. It seemed like a good idea at the time.... - I first started reading Funder's blog after Minx's death. Days after her death, Funder also lost a much-loved horse. Funder's blog is a real look at someone trying to deal with life, horses, and fitness.

J. Snippets from a people watcher - I find redgirl's blog hilarious. I may be a bit biased, as she is my younger sister (newsflash - all my siblings are *younger*) but I don't think so. Check it out for yourself. Redgirl, unlike her older sister, did inherent the gift of narrative writing and leaves me in the dust. *sigh*

10 Honest Scraps about Melinda

1. I have a 10 year plan - where I will be and how I'm getting there. It's like rubber - stretchy and compromise-able, but absolutely there. I thought that this was normal and everyone had a rubbery 10 year plan - until talking to a friend and co-worker last night. Apparently the fact I have a long-range plan makes me weird. Actually, she said "exceptional" but we all know what she really meant.

2. This blog is written for the purely selfish reason of improving my narrative writing. Yes it's part of "the plan".

3. I used to wish I had been born a boy. I've since discovered that I have the best of both worlds. I can work hard, be financially successful, support myself and my hobbies, all while dressed in a sharp, professional, and modest style (think slacks, blouses, blazers). A jaunt out to the stables adds the desirable layer of grime and grunginess. And then, in the evening, I get to watch my co-workers jaws drop as I saunter into the office Christmas party in a little cocktail dress.

4. I am OCD. (big surprise....ha!). I've been known to slam my own fingers in a door because I had accidentally slammed one in the door and wanted both hands to hurt equally bad. Water glasses must be set down evenly on tables. If they don't, they are picked up again and set down so the OPPOSITE side plunks down on the table in the EXACT same unevenness as the first side, but OPPOSITE so that everything is "equal". Invariably, I plunk it down too hard and now I have to plunk the ORIGINAL side down equally........Socks that are reused must go back onto the feet they came off of (left to left, right to right). *sigh*

5. I run because it is the only time my brain stops going 100 mph.

6. I love finding exactly the right word that conveys EXACTLY the right meaning. The Thesaurus is my best friend. On a side note, I don't use it for blogging, but for writing work-related memos, appeals, justifications etc. It's gotten so bad that co-workers call me when they can't find the perfect word...

7. My goal in practicing the fiddle is to be able to play, without apologizing about my playing, for people/family/friends who ask me to play them a song.

8. My neighbors report that I have a peeping tom. I plan on sicing Jonah, my huge non-cat-like cat on him. (yes, I've filed a police report)

9. I have better friends than I deserve.

10. I don't really know what I'm doing. I just pretend I do. On a related topic, the older I get, the less patience I have for reading the directions. I just wing it.


Whether we consider ourselves introverts, extroverts, or something in between; I believe that relating to other people is part of the human existence. Activities and hobbies can be instant "portal" to interacting with someone in a meaningful way. I think of horses and music as a universal "language" and I think that they, more than any other hobby, are extremely powerful "portals".

I have two examples:

Example 1: On my June trip to Alabama I was in the Phoenix airport, waiting to board the plane to Birmingham. A women spied my XP sweatshirt and I spied her Tipperary helmet fastened to her carry on. In the 10 minutes it took to board the plan, we knew what brand of saddles we each rode, our horse sports (past and present), breed of horse, future competition plans, other other *important* details. My manager, travelling with me, looked on with shock and amazement. I probably know more about that women than my co-workers that I have worked with for the last 3 years. Horses were an instant, powerful portal into each of our lives.

Example 2: I was practicing my fiddle outside the hotel last night (yes, I'm in Alabama again this week), when I guy ran up and asked if I minded him joining in on the harmonica and jamming with me a bit. After 15 minutes or so of jamming, he put them away, thanking me profusely for the "tremendous blessing" he received of being allowed to play for me. Driving away, he stopped by again and thanked me, saying that he doesn't get to play with others often, but the session had given him confidence that he could jam with others. Again, an instant, powerful connection to another person. Not as much personal information was shared, but playing music is another, very personal, way to share your life with someone.

Thought of the Day
So how about you? Has a hobby, endurance or otherwise, given you an unique opportunity to bond with someone "just passing through"? I've noticed that some of my hobbies such as running, don't give me the same *connection* as horses and music do. Maybe it goes as far as exchanging PR times, number of marathons, or discussing the possibility of an ultra.

What happens to a person that doesn't have a *portal* like horses or music to relate to other people in a meaningful way? Or does everyone find something unique that bonds them to other people? Is that why (getting political here) people get into self-destructive behaviors like illegal drugs, inappropriate sex (insert your definition is here), etc.? To try and relate in a meaningful, powerful way?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A picture view

No laughing! At Mariposa in April (see post here), I took pictures from a spot in camp, 360 degrees, with the intention of trying to "stitch" them together in the computer.

I finally got around to stitching it together today and this is what I came up with:

mmm.....Yes I know it's small and you can't see it well. (click on the picture and it gets clearer)There's a mountain, a horse team in the distance, a picket line with public crowded around, the ambulance, and a cannon.

I didn't overlap enough on the pics. You can see in the beginning that the scenery overlaps well, but the busier camp objects could have benefited from more overlap.

Do any of you do any picture editing? I believe Pony Girl does a lot of photo editing for her blog, but she also gets really nice, interesting shots to begin with. Most of my prints on the blog are as is - no cropping or editing.

Do any of you ever have your pictures formally framed?
I chose to frame this 8x10 picture, taken by Billy Gore at the Mount Diablo ride in 2008:
Of all my pictures, this captured best, the essence of our relationship. I'm in love with the frame I chose, but less than happy with the darkish-geen, textured matte. I console myself that I can have it re matted at anytime (theoretically). Strictly speaking, the matte, frame, and picture work well together. Unfortunately, I think the combo makes me claustrophobic and stressed. The 3" dark matte "hems" in the picture too much and instead of complementing the "wide open" space that is suggested in the picture, I'm sucked in and held there in the center of the picture. I've never had anything framed before and relied heavily on the service person for my color choice etc. I'll know better next time what works for me.
It's weird, framing a picture of myself and putting it in my office. Hopefully the focus (rightly so) will be Minx when people comment.
I've decided a few, carefully selected pieces can be fun to frame and hang on the wall. I'll be keeping an eye out for that "one" shot of Farley that captures her perfectly.
What do you do with your ride pictures? I try to buy one at every ride. I put them in a small photo album and periodically look at them (usually when I'm adding one). It's fun to see what has changed in horses, tack, and clothing as I gain more experience. I don't like having lots of "stuff" around me, so a simple photo album is a great way to keep a memento of each ride, without having clutter.
I'm in a contemplative mood today, thinking about Minx, my photos, and some of my past ride stories. As I went though some of my earlier posts I looked at the quality of writing (back when I actually edited posts before publishing). It really does make a difference in readability. Where did all my free time go to edit? I started this blog in the middle of winter, and now, in the middle of summer I'm too tired to do much more than give my posts a perfunctory look over. Oh well, a time for everything eh? Perhaps the well-written, concise posts will reappear with the falling of the leaves and the coming of winter.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Dealing with difficult people

Speaking of dealing with difficult people, I thought this might be an opportunity to promote my sister's blog. My sister deals with them on a continuous basis and has a different strategy than I. She has recently updated her blog with some real winners. If you would like a bit of a laugh, I recommend checking out her blog here.

Please keep the advice coming in my earlier blog here! I may not use all of it, but if it doesn't help me, it might help someone else.

Continuing on Lessons Learned

So yesterday's post had three lessons learned. Shall we review?

Lesson 1: When riding with a group of people, (not during a ride), discuss what happens if the group breaks up. Ideally the 2 people in the group that know where they are going are not the ones to break off from the group....

Lesson 2: Be as polite as possible and as firm as necessary to ride your own ride (sometimes not practical during conditioning rides, but you can try....)

Lesson 3: Don't try anything new on a ride, test it on a conditioning ride.

Continuing on that theme, here's some other "discoveries/lessons".

Lesson 4: Carry plain water on the trail, plan on eating my electrolytes. I experimented with both Gatorade and propel on the trail on Friday and neither one worked. I did managed to drink the propel but I had to make an effort. The Gatorade (watered down) just tasted chemically to me and I only drank ~8 oz. In contrast, I drank two camalbak bladders of plain water and ate at least four nature valley granola bars. The granola bars are a little salty and I found I could balance my need for fluids and my need for electrolytes better if I consumed separately. The granola bars sat very well in my stomach and never felt like my blood sugar dipped. Tamera over at the Night Farm (see blog on right hand side) has been doing a great series on rider fitness and health (eating) and I've found her advice very helpful. I think that the Nature Valley granola bars are one of the "simpler" bars on the market, made with lots of oats (and sugar unfortunately) and while they aren't ideal, they are working well for me on the trail.

Lesson 5: Carry a baggie of grain on the trail to feed right before the checks. Even Farley, who usually eats well, benefited from being fed a couple of handfuls of grain, prior to stopping. Her appetite surged afterwards. Stimulating her appetite prior to getting to a check could save us precious time at the check because she can immediately start eating.

Thought of the Day
I'd think it would be useful if everyone could share one tip about riding, endurance, 100 milers or Tevis. I'm not talking the generic advice of "ride your own ride", or "pace yourself", or "don't try anything new". I'm talking specific advice about the "little" things that make a huge difference. Here's some tips I've been given so far.

1. Wear wool or wool blend socks from Foresthill onward so that your feet dry out after the water crossing.

2. At Franscico's, stop for 10 minutes and let the horse eat.

Here's my tip for everyone: If it is a hot, sunny day and you're trying to decide where to walk and where to trot on the trail because it's all good footing - trot in the sun and walk in the shade. It seems to keep the horse cooler.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Robinson to Foresthill, Foresthill to Drivers Flat

I must once again apologize regarding sentence construction and “readability” of a post….My brain isn’t working well lately. I know if I don’t get this post finished and published, the event won’t be fresh in my mind, and then the post will be really stale - so bear with me and I’ll try to do more editing in the future.

I spent Friday and Saturday pre-riding Tevis. Kathy introduced me to some local endurance riders and I had a LOT of fun. I rarely get to ride with other endurance riders apart from formal rides. It was very nice to be able to talk about endurance and share advice. Kathy did come off (horse tripped and fell on her) and injured her leg and had to ride 20 miles out in order to get to Michigan Bluff, and wait while some of us got to Foresthill and could bring the trailer to her. That was a LONG day. The cast of characters are: A*, D*, K*, J*, BOAS (she gets her own nickname, which is does stand for something, but I’m NOT going into on this blog, since I try to keep this as PG rated as I can…I may also call her “the phiffer”, which is the probably the wrong spelling of a very cool British word – usually used as a verb - that describes her to a “T”)


I learned some important lessons on Friday.

Lesson 1. Don’t break up the group when you are riding together. Ten minutes after starting to ride out of Robinson, D* and K* stopped to fix a problem and motioned for the rest of us to ride on ahead, they would catch up. We came to a split in the trail shortly after. BOAS was CERTAIN we had to go right, so we went. The other riders did not catch up with us, so we waited on the trail. Maybe they had a serious issue and went back to Robinson (which would be bad because the trailers had already left for Foresthill). We rode back to Robinson, but they weren’t there. J* decided her mule was lame and stayed back. I was (already) starting to get annoyed with BOAS and decided to double check her directions on the trail. Even though she tried her best to sabotage my direction-asking of the very knowledgeable Lucy back at Robinson, I finally got that we were suppose to take a left at the intersection. So now we are on the trail, going like bats out of hell, trying to catch D* and K*, who going like bats out of hell because they are trying to catch US because we USED to be ahead of them….I split off from A* and BOAS because I could go faster, with the intention of catching D* and K* to let them know we were behind. After an hour of hard riding, I finally rode back with A* and BOAS since I hadn’t seen any sign of the others. We continued at a reasonable pace, figuring we would catch them whenever we caught them. At Last Chance (I think?) there is a watering hole. Sitting next to it was D* and K*! K* was injured and couldn’t move well on the ground, but was still able to walk on horse back. There was still at least 20 miles to go to Foresthill, and no good way to get a trailer to pick her up until Michican bluff, 14 miles way. A*, BOAS, and I rode ahead with plans to get to Foresthill ASAP and then drive back to Michigan Bluff to pick up D*, K* and their horses. Whew! It was a long day. Counting the back and forth at the beginning of the trip, the entire trip to Foresthill took 9 hours. It probably would have taken us 7-8 hours if it hadn’t been for a certain person called BOAS….

Lesson 2. Some people don’t take a hint (or a direct order, or anything in between). BOAS insisted on tailing her horse up and down every hill, giving criticisms thinly disguised as advice, and keeping her horse’s nose in Farley’s butt for 9 hours. Farley finally took a swipe at her mare at the very end of the 9 hours. I had warned her over and over she needed to back off. When she finally did strike out, BOAS comment was “well she didn’t try very hard”. Ummm….you just provoked one of the sweetest, easy going mares I know to try and kick….” She insisted on stopping and drinking at Kaput (spelling?) Springs, even after were warned by K* and D* not to. A* and I waited up to the trail so if she fell off the cliff it wouldn’t involve us. We needed to make time so we could go back to pick up K*. The weather was cool and we weren’t pushing the horses at all. Anytime we got above a western jog I would hear her command me to slow down. Finally A* and I took matters in our own hands and set the pace. If she wanted to slow down, fine. If not, she could come with us. BOAS had come in a different trailer, so it wasn’t like she HAD to stay with us. Ever ridden with someone like this?

Lesson 3. It is true – test ALL your equipment before using it on the Tevis…The Haf pad back trim rubbed her back raw in 4 spots on the back right hand side. I loved how the pad performed otherwise, but obviously is not going to work on August 1. Karen suggested 2 ways of keeping the trim up in the comments section of the pad review post, but I don’t have enough time to test it out before the race, so the Skito will be my pad for Tevis. I might alternate my woolback pad in as well. Not sure….

I was EXHAUSTED after the ride, but still managed to drag myself out of bed for Saturday’s ride…


Saturday A* and I did Foresthill to Driver’s Flat. We managed to avoid BOAS’s request for information regarding our plans for Saturday, K* couldn’t ride because of her leg, and D* decided to move our trailer. A* and I went at a good clip (walk/trot) and finished in ~4 hours. This day was a huge confidence booster. Even after going out the day before, Farley was very forward and willing and pulsing down well. We stopped at most waterings and pulsed down to 60-64 before continuing. Farley would be 60-64 upon stopping, and by the time A*’s horse pulsed down, she would be lower 50’s, high 40’s. Good girl! We did ~10 minutes of grazing at Fransico’s.

While trotting the Cal-2 portion of the trail, Farley spooked at a rattlesnake at the side of the trail. One or two feet went to the very edge and kind of off the trail, but fortunately since we were trotting, we were past it before anything else happened.

My impressions of the trail –

Trying to describe a trail is definitely subjective, and the Tevis is no exception. Although this trail is often describe as astonishingly beautiful, I think the beauty of the Wild West rides touches my heart strings a wee more. The Tevis trails were not as narrow, treacherous, or rocky as I had imagined, according to other’s descriptions. Tevis is definitely worthy of respect and caution, but also very doable. One hundred miles is still one hundred miles and a long ways, but after seeing the trail, I’m more optimistic about finishing.

Thought of the Day

Ever had to tell someone they couldn’t ride with you, because after nine or ten hours you were contemplating something violent?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Saddle pads - 7/7/09 update

7-7-09 update - after preriding The 30+ miles from Robinson Flat to Foresthill on the Tevis trail I have revised my haf pad review.

Saddle blankets and pads can either be the biggest headache of your riding OR absolutely out of mind trouble free. When I started in endurance, it appeared that there were several "name brand" pads that people used. While this post is certainly not inclusive, I hope that it will help someone make some informed choices if they are looking for a new pad. If you have tried any of the pads and have an opinion, or love another pad that isn't listed, please post a comment.

If you don't want to read my commentary and want the "dry-bones" of my opinion, scroll to the bottom of the page.

I will update with photos this weekend......

Military issue Wool Blanket
This will be our starting point in evaluating the other blankets/pads. The blanket I use is a reproduction of the same type used with the 1859 McClellan saddles - navy blue with an orange stripe. There is a particular way of folding it, so that you end up with 6 layers of wool between the horse and saddle, and a neat fold in the front (fold lengthwise, then in thirds). I've used this type of blanket for many years in both a civil war reenactment capacity, endurance, and recreational riding.

1. What I love: When you untack you have a cooler for the horse. In an emergency (or not) you have a way to keep warm. The blanket does not distort the fit of the saddle (but doesn't give super duper protection either). During rest stops you can refold the blanket and put a fresh side against the horse. This is possible NINE times. With a surcingle this blanket makes a great bareback pad - not too slippery, protection for both you and the horse. Wool can be a good choice for horses with sensitive skin.

2. What's annoying: The blanket isn't contoured, so if you have a horse with a very "contoured" back, it can be difficult to get the blanket to lie so that there aren't any wrinkles. In any case, no matter what the horse's back looks like, it does take extra effort to get blanket to lay flat on ALL layers. The blanket can look sloppy if the time isn't taken to fold it precisely. Washing the blanket is annoying. Your best bet is to put in a tub and soak it, changing the water periodically. I know some people use commercial washers. Once clean, it takes very little time to dry because unfolded, it's actually comparatively thin.

3. What I HATE: Especially under extremely slick saddles (like rawhide covered McClellan's) this blanket will move back NO MATTER what you do. To be acceptable (ie only getting off every hour or so instead of every 20 minutes) your girth MUST be tight. This drives me batty. It does better under less slick saddles such as the leather underside of a Duett, and best under a rough surface like the synthethic Thorowgoods. It stays in place well enough that I use it as a schooling blanket during the week.

Toklat Woolback
Wool pile blanket, usually shaped to fit the saddle. I bought my used for a reasonable price and have used it as a conditioning pad and during actual endurance rides under a number of different saddles. Toklat makes a similar synthetic pad called a "coolback", but I have not used it. These pads have several options including foam inserts and a wither relief shape. I refer to only the regular profile pad with no inserts.

1. What I Love: Pad seems very durable. I got it used and have used it for over a year with hard riding and the condition has not changed. I like the thought of using 100% wool next to the horse. I have a standard dressage shape (probably oversize) and it's fit most saddles I've put on it. Because of the thickness I felt that it gave moderate protection to the horses back.

2. What's Annoying: The pad is fairly thick and I feel it can distort the saddle fit. That being said, I did not actually experience an issue. The pad is fairly bulky and can get very heavy with sweat. If you have a wide horse, with a wide twist saddle, the extra bulk under the leg is not ideal for close contact. My legs are short and my heels BARELY come down under the edge of the pad. I had to really work to get my leg on the horse. I did have trouble with this pad sliding back with some saddles - namely the synthetic Thorowgood. It would slide ALL the way against the keepers, which would put the saddle right on the edge of the pad. This couldn't be fixed by making the keepers tighter.

3. What I HATE: Unsaddling at out checks was a BEAR. Since the pad is fuzzy all around - top and bottom - it was difficult/impossible to keep dirt and debris off of it, unless there was a fence handy, or I remembered to throw a tarp in my crew bag. Anything that did get on it couldn't be brushed off. It was a PAIN in the A$$ to wash. I think most people use slicker brushes to maintain the pads between washings and only wash occasionally. I didn't find that the slicker brushes did a whole lot, and I didn't wash it very often because there was no good way. I tried hosing it off and putting it in a tub. The bottom line was that it never got really clean and it took 3-4 days to dry. At colder multi day rides that don't have very very dry air, don't expect your pad dry out over night. The not washing pads very often might be OK for people with cleaner horses, but most of the time, mine get a cursory grooming only which makes for dirty saddle blankets.

Skito Equalizer Pad
These pads seem to come in unlimited options and combinations. Synthetic blend or 100% wool bottom choice, custom made for every saddle shape and size, very cool fabrics and patterns for the top, choices of inserts and shims, and a "cool back" option which is some sort of fancy fabric over the top of the pad that is suppose to keep the horse's back cooler during hot weather. I have a very simple pad - 100% wool bottom with a black cordova top, regular set of inserts (1/2" - I think - foam). I purchased this pad new, specifically for my Duett saddle, although it works well (shape wise) with my Solstice.

1. What I Love: Pad is very durable, even with multiple washings. I have washed this pad more often than any other pad I own, because it's so easy to wash and dries so quickly. The pad doesn't create ANY bulk under my leg and is wonderful. It stays put and has good wither clearance. Again, I like the thought of using 100% wool next to the horse. The pad is light and when saddling/unsaddling at away vet checks I don't even think about it. It doesn't gather dirt and debris like the woolback.

2. What's Annoying: Getting the hair off inserts is not easy. My horse's hair is sticking in them like a weird mutant chia doll and without actually individually plucking the hairs out, they stay there. The keepers on the pad are entirely made of velcro (except not the fuzzy kind - it's actually very nice). While this is wonderful when using the pad (no more lining up velcro panels), taking it out of the washer is always interesting since there's no way for me to "isolate" the velcro from itself or the rest of my laundry (hey - I have to pay per load - one little lone saddle pad is NOT getting washed by itself). The foam inserts are very hard when cold. Either sleep with them at warm rides, or put the pad on the horses pad first thing in the morning to warm up. The pad inserts are suppose to absorb something like 90% of the shock to the horse's back. I'm not so sure - the pads seem very thin and they compress. After one 50, the pad stayed compressed for a while with the imprint of my saddle so I got to see just how much it compressed. How does it absorb shock when it stays compressed?

3. What I HATE: Nothing that I really HATE about this pad. Overall I'm very happy with it. I finally bought this one new after not wanting to deal with the woolback and the military blanket at rides anymore. I will say that the pad (especially after you take the inserts out) looks like something I could whip out on the sewing machine for a lot less money, but hey - my time is worth something too.

Haf Pad
This is a recent addition. I was (and still am) very happy with my skito, but after seeing this pad for a great price used, I couldn't resist. I was a little skeptical of the synthetic bottom - I really like using 100% wool, but Karen Chaton (see her blog on the right) seems happy with the pad and has done lots and lots of miles so obviously, it does work with at least some horses. I'm doing most of my tevis preriding in this pad to see if I want to choose it for at least a portion of the Tevis....because as you will see, it has some advantages over the others.

1. What I Love: I can spray this pad off (even with the inserts still in, since my version doesn't have velcro to remove them) and within an hour it's dry. Yep - clean dry pad. The pad is a BRILLIANT color of red. Absolutely gorgeous. The pad is a little bulkier under the leg than the skito, but once in the saddle, I don't notice the difference. This pad has AWESOME wither clearance. When I pull it up into the gullet, it STAYS there. Absolutely NO pressure on Farley's withers. The pad is medium weight and doesn't pick up debris. Farley's back seems cool after riding in this pad. Yes, her back is sweaty, but it seems like a "cooler" sweat than when using one of my wool pads. Hard to explain. The pad absolutely stays put, even with only the girth keepers and no billet keepers. No billet keepers mean that when I'm attaching my cantle bags to the billets, it's one less strap to worry about. Saddle gives the impression of being well made and of quality. Definitely not something I could whip up on my own.

2. What's Annoying: Is this pad machine washable? Even if it is (or isn't) will I even need to wash in a machine/tub? It sprays out so well. The pad inserts are thicker and softer than the skito. They do not retain an impression of my saddle after use. I'm not sure what they do in the cold because I've only used this pad in the summer months. Again I'm skeptical of claims that this foam provides significant impact protection for the horse's back.....but my horse certainly seems happy. The foam inserts are soft enough I don't think they change the fit of the saddle, but the pad does seem "thicker" than the skito. The little "bumps" on the bottom of the pad seem a little flatter where the saddle lies, so perhaps it doesn't shed sweat as well as when it was new - never having a new one, it's hard to say. None of the little "bumps" are missing or damaged so this pad seems to be holding up well.

3. What I HATE: So far nothing has jumped out at me. Give me another couple of hundred miles and I could probably come up with something. Probably the biggest thing with this pad is the price. Wow. I think I'll be shopping used for a while. LOL!
7-7-09 update: After riding the 30+ miles from Robinson Flat to Foresthill last weekend, I found that the trim on the back of the pad rubbed raw spots in Farley's back. Karen has suggested that I sew the trim up with dental floss. I plan on doing that and will retest the pad. With no major conditioning rides between now and the Tevis I think it would be too big of a risk to ride with this pad at the Tevis without giving the pad a good test with the trim sewn. I'm disappointed as I was VERY happy with the heat dissipation and how well put the saddle and pad stayed on the trail.

Conclusion Scoring:

The blankets will be scored in the following categories:
Saddle fit: Preserves the integrity of the saddle fit with no distortion
Washability: Easy to wash and dry. Holds up during multiple washings
Ease of Use: Do you need special folding skills? Does it have to be place JUST so? Or can you slap it on and go?
Longevity: Does it wear like iron?
Stays in place: Does it have a tendency to migrate?
Versatility: Can function as a blanket, cooler etc. , fit's more than one saddle type.
Protection: I don't have any scientific data for this one at all. This is truly just an opinion at how well the blanket will reduce impact to the horses back, protect it from the saddle, etc.

Army blanket:
Preserves integrity of saddle fit: A
Washability: C (but you have 9 clean sides to put against the horse)
Ease of Use: C (have to learn how to fold, be precise, get wrinkles out etc.)
Longevity: A
Stays in place under saddle: D
Versatility: A
Protection: C

Preserves integrity of saddle fit: C
Washability: D
Easy of Use: B (have to plan ahead during multidays for a dry blanket)
Longevity: A
Stays in place under saddle: B
Versatility: B (fit's most english type saddles I've tried on it, including a 1904 McClellan)
Protection: A

Preserves integrity of saddle fit: A
Washability: A
Easy of Use: A
Longevity: A
Stays in place under saddle: A
Versatility: B (So far fits the Duett and Solstice. I've heard that if the shape is too far off, there can be a slipping issue, but no personal experience)
Protection: C/B - not sure if I totally buy the manufacturer's claim.

Haf Pad:
Preserves integrity of saddle fit: B
Washability: A++
Easy of Use: A (***updated: need to watch the trim for evidence of rubbing and correct if necessary)
Longevity: A/B (not sure how the shape of the "bumps" affect the pads performance).
Stays in place under saddle: A
Versatility: A- (shape of pad should fit most endurance shaped, western, and McClellan's without skirts. and english saddles - unless there is a very long dressage flap). The "-" is because I've haven't had the pad long enough to really test the pad out on lots of different saddles.)
Protection: F (update: pad seems more resiliant than the skito pad, although for now the pad gets an "F" for protection since it rubbed spots in Farley's back. If I can correct this through sewing the trim back, this pad will get a "B" protection rating.