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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Comstock Pt. 2

Personal update - I cut my hair yesterday and feel much better. For some reason, when I'm very stressed, cutting my hair really makes a difference. The last time I cut it, it was two days before Tevis 2009.

Re: Crysta's comment on the ride hardness - I too was very suprised how hard I found the ride. I think you're right in that it was the weather, along with some mental factors. I/Farley were fine for the first loop when it was dry and hot, and I/Farley were fine for the third loop when it was breezy and cool. The second loop was the one we both found really difficult - it was no longer a dry heat, I think the weather system had started to move it and the humidity moved up, and I noticed that the sweat was no longer evaporating. This, coupled with the lack of shade, deeper sand, hills, and lack of water on this loop made Farley's motivation very very low....and I really just wanted the loop to be over with too, so the extremely slow, snail-like pace was frusterating. We also had some training issues on the 2nd loop we had to work through so mental it was just tough. So, how "hard" I found this ride probably had more to do with the mental difficulty of the 2nd loop than any geographical factor. By far, this course had the best footing of ANY ride I've ever done.

Riding bareback on a quarter sheet

After the ride was finished I still had to get back to Funder's across a vast expanse of desert (just kidding - was only about 2 miles). It had stopped raining, I had eaten dinner, and Farley let me know she was ready to be back at her trailer. Both of us were mental DONE riding so there was no way I was putting a saddle back on her, so I decided to ride back bareback, on top of the wool quatersheet I had over her rump. An added benefit was how toasty warm I would be - a huge advantage as I was dressed only in tights and a slightly damp polo shirt over a silk undershirt. I convinced Bill Gore (the photographer) to give me a leg up, and with one Funder's spare renegades in one hand headed across the desert. I put the bit back on the bridle because the last thing I needed at the end of 50 miles was to be riding bareback, on top of a blanket, one handed, in the rain, in only a hackamore.

Farley wanted to trot and canter back, which I would have been more than willing to do, except everytime we got above a jog, the quarter sheet started slipping and trying to slide out the back, which made the dynamics of riding bareback....interesting. So we mostly walked.

It was really reasurring to see how well Farley moved out after the ride and I stopped worrying about whether she was going to fall apart (yes I worry too much) after riding back to Funder's.

The warmup

My typical warm up for a ride looks like this - mount in the saddle just as the trail is opened. Take a walking loop around camp, go down the trail behind most of the horses. Walk for the first 10-15 minutes, then pick up a slow trot for the first couple of miles. Then move into our "travelling trot". She's usually hot, but wellbehaved. Pulls more than I would like for the first couple of miles, but does OK. I never ride the day before the ride - it used to be because I was too inept at setting at camp, but now it's more like a superstition.

For this ride, I rode into ridecamp from Funder's the night before to vet it (and back). In the morning, I rode to the race start at a walk/trot. Farley was WONDERFUL, and probably could have started in the hackamore. She also got ridden more than usual the week before the ride. I knew she didn't need ALL her fitness do this particular 50, and I was worried about tying up, so I really wanted to make sure she didn't have any extended down time. I will continue to assess my riding the week prior to the ride, and my warm up the day before and the morning of the ride to minimize any risk of tying up, and so she's relaxed at the start.

Booting success

The renegade boots performed flawlessly. Walk, trot, canter, gallop - they never budged. No rubs from the sand, and Farley moved very well in them. I had many people come up to me and ask about the boots that had never seen them before, which was wonderful. I was actually a bit suprised not to see more barefoot or booted horses at the ride since the footing was so good. But, not being from the area, I may have been missing a dynamic.

And the verdict is....
I got all A's for muscle tone!!!!!! Usually I get a mix of A's and B's, which I considered "normal" for her. After supplementing with selenium and vitamin E for 6 weeks, AND pushing her to go faster than usual on the first and third loops (which would normally grant me B's on muscle tone) she continued to get strong A's. The B's on muscle tone scores had always confused me, since I felt like she was well prepared for the race effort that I was asking for, and after 3 seasons, I had accepted that maybe, that was her "normal". From now on, in a well conditioned horse that continues to get B's for muscle tone after an effort I would not consider strenuous, I will be checking selenium and supplementing if needed. To think that this one management change 3 years ago could have saved me a lot of headache and grief! Farley - you are making the lives of all other endurance horses I own after you better!

Farley always gets good scores for her back, but has exhibited sensitivity after a ride - if I use a technique that my saddle fitter showed me (which is substantially different than how they check for soreness during a ride) to check. I was VERY pleased to see that her back did not show a substantial increase in sensitivity after this ride - I know her saddle fit isn't "perfect", but it looks like it's good enough for now until I can get it in to have the panels reflocked and adjusted this winter.

The only vital I was a bit dissapointed in was Farley's hydration. She recieved A's throughout the day, however *I* could tell that she lost more water from beginning to end than I had expected. I upped her electrolytes for this ride because of the amount of sweat deposits I was seeing on her coat early in the day, and because she was drinking well all day. I think we got behind the hydration curve during the 2nd loop, which had very little water - but from what others were saying, so did everyone else! When I realized that the loop had very little water, I rode conservatively and she was fine, but I think it did take it's toll. Near the end of the ride I backed off on the electrolytes because I wasn't sure if I was making it better or worse - as long as she looks hydrated, I don't mind electrolyting, but if she starts to look a bit drawn up, I worry that by electrolyting I'm pulling water into the gut and away from other vital structures where it's usable. Since she was consumnig plenty of water I chose to be more conservative with the electrolytes near the end.

Multiple loops
This was really really hard for both of us. Farley and I rarely do rides that have 3 loops out of camp. Mentally it was really really tough. I really really really didn't feel like doing that last 10 mile loop. I believe the 100 at the end of the month is multiple loops out of camp.....I actually may ride with an ipod, like I do on training rides - it helps me not obsess mentally.

I debating whether to start riding with a HRM again for the next couple of rides. When Farley totally lost motivation on the second loop at first I was really concerned. I jumped off, checked her heart rate and other vitals, rested and did everything else I could think of to make sure she was OK. I finally figured out it was a training issue, among other things, but because this wasn't typical of her, it would have been nice to have a HRM as another tool to assess her condition during that loop. I don't use one for reasons outlined in an earlier post, however, if she continues to behave "differently" at rides, I think I'll start using one again, just to make sure everything is OK. It could be as simple as, after doing 100's she's finally settling down and conserving energy during rides (she's a lazy horse at heart - when not at a ride!).

Food worked well!!! BRFT, lunch....
To date, this ride was the best I've ever done with food. I packed a big ol' ice chest full of different things, sat down next to it in a chair, and munched through it during a vet check.

In the mornings I discovered the "food" that goes down the best is those fruit drinks in the foil packets - yes it's stretching it to call it a food, however I chose one without cornsyrup, and it IS calories. They don't make me nauseous AT ALL, which is a substantial victory. All I need is something to tide me over for the first 2 or 3 hours of a ride until I can get something more substantial down. I did manage to get a cup of decaf coffee, one of the fruit drinks, a fig newton bar, and a couple chunks of pineapple down before starting to gag.

For lunch, I LOVED my cheese and pickle sandwich (with mayo) on whole wheat "thin bread", fig newtons, half a bag of potato chips, a bottle of gatorade, another fruit drink etc.

Dinner was a delicious bowl of chili (with MEAT), with cheese and onions, and buttered bread.

I'll be looking at what worked during this ride and deciding how I want to set up my food options for Patriots 100 at the end of the month.

In conclusion -
As I travelled down the road, into Nevada, I was reminded how much I love being on the road with horse and trailer. There is no better feeling, except perhaps being on an endurance trail with Farley.


  1. Congrats on another great ride, Mel! Love reading through some of your thoughts...always informative.

    Is there a way to explain the technique your saddle fitter used to assess soreness, or is it something that has to be demonstrated in person?

    Love hearing what works for people in terms of ride food. I'm always experimenting...cheese/pickle actually sounds very good on a sandwich. Do you have a Trader Joe's near you? If so, they have little portable applesauces...these little foil packs with tops that screw on and off. Easy to slurp one-handed while riding, and fits into the category of "easy to swallow and digest."

    So glad the Renegades continue to work well for you. I spent the weekend up in Prescott, helping Kirt and Gina at a ride there...that was a really good behind-the-scenes education and further immersion into the boot world. Got me even more excited about the Renegades than I already was. So it makes me very happy to see that you're still having great success with them.

  2. Mel,

    If you have time to email me off-blog I'm interested in hearing MORE about Farley's lack of motivation at certain points and what that looks like. Having my own either pulling gonna whip everything on the trail horse that has suddenly turned into an ....I think I'm over this horse (very nicely paced though). I'm trying to sort out if she is telling me the job is too much or if she's smarter than the average arab, both, or neither of the above.

    Congrats on another good ride :)


  3. Have you ever tried riding in a Bob Marshall?? (need to have a pad with inserts under it like a skito or toklat woolback). Since you like to ride bareback and mentioned soreness I just thought I'd bring it up. After I rode in someone else's Bob Marshall I sold all my other saddles and will only ride in a BM endurance saddle. I love being able to feel my horse round up his back or not. So much like riding bareback but with security.

    Glad the ride went well!

    Michelle Detmer

  4. Ashley- I will try to post how I test her back. It was really interesting. Farley didn't exhibit soreness in the way that the vets checked her back (which was the same way I was testing). This was before tevis and before u has the flockig adjusted. It's been interesting to see the decrease in senstivity since the flocking adjustment and what seems to affect the sensitivity. I'll post soon.

    Eg-I'll either email you or post my thoughts on the subject

    Michelle - farley's back isn't ideal for a treeless saddle and I haven't seen or ridden in anything on the market that I felt woul work for both of us. I'm also relunctant to change a saddle that has worked for us for almost 1000 competition miles unless I see a sign that it isn't working an can't be adjusted to fit. I DO have saddle obsession though, so don't be supriaed if I buy one just because it was an awesome price and play aroun with it :)


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