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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A post recommendaton

I literally was crying and couldn't breathe because I was laughing so hard at this post here.

If you are looking for something to lighten your day.....check it out.

Pictures of....

Now I'm know the first thing you (oh so sympathetic), dear BB's are going to say upon reading my chipmunk post is.......

We Want Pictures!!!!

Ok - I'm going to pretend that the interest comes from a deep seated need to see in order to fully sympathize.

Yep....just keep nodding those heads. Like you really care.....
You ready?
Take a furry little rodent:

Now add to the cheeks and chin the consitency of this:
(Bonus points if you can visualize the jiggling of such flesh as I walk....)

And lastly, in the jaw region....add a bit of this. Oozing. All the time in great big drips. I can literally feel the new areas of skin bursting open and adding their trail of tears to the waterfall.
(Nope, this isn't a picture of my skin, but it's a damn close resemblance).

Adventures of chipmunk face

Note: This post has been edited for length and brevity from the version I posted last night. It's better this way - trust me.

I am going make a leap of faith here and assume that encountering poisonous plants is adventure that all e-riders will have at some point.

For sure entertainment value, I'll post mine here. We could call it - "Adventure of Chipmunk Face". Of course I could call it (more accurately) "In which Melinda resembles a pus-encrusted chipmunk", but that doesn't have the same ring to it, do you agree?

For the first 20 years of my life I wasn't allergic to poison oak (clinical signs are identical to poison ivy and poison sumac for those of you in other parts of the country). I (smartly) still avoided it like the plague and black death, sure my reprieve would end at any moment.

I had good reason to believemy good fortune was temporary. I am the person, that in grade school had to carry "special" soap to class because I broke out in painful blisters between my fingers to the school soap. I've used the same sunscreen for the last 15 years because I'm afraid of breaking out in hives (tried switching....once). I don't wear makeup except for 1-2x a year for special occasions. I don't use lotion. I use ONE brand of laundry detergent. I use Dove soap. Get the picture? It's a rashy, hivey, itchy picture.

When I was 20, I was exposed one too many times. No body around me knew what it was because it was so inflamed. I had one person suggest chiggers......

At some point (another 3 days) I started finding it on other parts of my body - like on my cheeks. I panicked and to make a long story short I found a ride to a clinic (many hours away) where they patted me on the head and said "here, take this cream....".

My leg made grown men feel light headed to look at. No joke. My mother (NOT a squeamish person) announces that it looks like my leg is going to fall off and to this day reminds me of that fact whenever I bring up the subject. Some friends who were docs and nurses took one look at my leg and agreed that the cream made it look worse. I discontinued it and it was the official turning point...quickly it returned to normal.

With that kind of introduction, I was very careful to stay away from poison oak for the next 3 years.

Then I discovered endurance.

And technu.

I was either very lucky or an expert in technu application because I didn't get it again for 2 more years.

Last year at some endurance race (?) I got it on my face. I either didn't notice it so didn't use technu OR I missed a spot.

It wasn't too bad - some itching, some "liquid draining", and cracked lips so bad I couldn't eat.

I made it to Thursday before giving in and going to the doctor. Of course by then I think I was probably over the worst of it.

The doc looked at my face, clucked a few times and said "oh you poor dear" and was NOT convinced it was poison oak (after all, her exact words were "how do you get it on your FACE", and seem unconvinced by my explanation of endurance....), gave me some cream and said "Good luck!". I told her that the cream seemed to have made it worse in the past, but was was pretty much patted on the head and told to go on my way.....

I used the cream a couple of times and I don't know whether it did anything at all - for worse or better. Everything cleared up in a couple of days and I went back to being able to get a spoon in my mouth (important for eating icecream!)

I tucked away in the back of my memory that having poison oak on the face sucked and moved on with my life.

Which brings us to 2010, and the American River ride.

I rode through huge bushes of it. I was aware of it's presence on the trail. This is why I wear long sleeves and gloves. I have technu staged at vet checks to slather on.

I probably could have been a bit more detail oriented when applying - I only applied it ONCE during the ride (30 miles), yet wore the same set of clothes for the entire ride. I also apparently missed the area in front of my ears, near the jaw line on either side of my face.....

Sunday (24 later)....I noticed some itchy spots. Doesn't look too bad. So far in line with what I had experienced before - right now to it being on my lips/side of mouth.

Monday....itchy, definitely a rash, pus starting, but nothing out of the ordinary. Oh well, this isn't so bad....I find the ointment from last year (not expired!) and start applying. See! Old age brings wisdom - in this case the wisdom of being proactive after not being quite proactive enough with the Technu. Maybe you need to be ancient before learning that lesson?

Tuesday.....I'm flying to Alabama. Pus starts to run down my left cheek. a LOT of runny yellow stuff. By the end of the first flight I'm ready to go to the bathroom and clean up. Imagine my surprise when I finally see myself in the mirror and see....chipmunk half face. Mmmmm.....This is different.....I didn't have swelling last time....By the end of the trip (12 hours in all) I defintly live up to the moniker "pus-encrusted chipmunk face". People are pretending not to notice my deformity. I find that cold washcloth compresses feel WONDERFUL and I go around town and work with a washcloth glued (literally) to my face. I double check the day my ointment prescription was filled last year and find out it was a Thursday. Great, I just need to make it 'til Thursday and everything will be fine since that's the traditional turn around point....

Wednesday.....I walk in the plant and the plant nurse takes one look at me and says "I'm making you an appointment at the doctor's. I just nod - or least try to nod. The swelling has now extended to one side of my neck and it's a bit difficult. What's interesting is that although the rash IS spreading on my face and I HAVE discovered over areas (like my stomach) that it's popping up, the swelling goes far beyond the rash on my face. By the time my afternoon appointment rolls around, my ear canal is busy trying to swell shut and now I look like a pus encrusted chipmunk with a tooth infection.

The doctor's appointment.

Rural Alabama doctor offices are different from California. I'll leave it at that :)

My 75 1/2 year old (he announced....) doctor walked in and asked me how many counties were in California (I guessed 30?), Alabama (5?), and Texas (5? - I was done playing the game). He then informed me that he hadn't seen a case of poison oak that was so...interesting....before.

This, as he was also telling me that he wished he could drop a bomb in the San Adreas fault and just have California float off into the Pacific and no one would cry - no siree - especially him.....

I told him what cream I was using (perscriped last year and the first time I got it) and he immediately poo pooed it as entirely worthless at best for this circumstance and most likely making it worse. He then announced that California docs just didn't see enough of this stuff to properly treat it and promptly told me I would be getting a shot AND a prescription for an ointment in which "usually the dosing is once a day, but in cases like your face that look like THAT (hesitates....) feel free to use it 2-3 times..."

The nurse walked in with the preloaded syringe and let me know that "this is REALLY going to burn". I let her know (as revenge) that since we were being so honest...the last time I got an injection in my hip I had passed out.....

Then off to the one drug store in town that took my insurance and attempted to fill my prescription without my prescription card.....all while looking like a pus encrusted chipmunk with a tooth ache AND a thyroid problem.

The latest....

Now, 7 hours after the injection, the swelling has started to go down. The pus has finally stopped (thanks to the new cream) and I actually felt well enough to sit in a restaurant and eat dinner (I've only been able to manage fast food up until this point - trust me, NO one wanted to look at my face and eat).

Several people (including the doctor) have said that although the pus/etc is obviously a reaction to the poison oak oils, the other secondary reactions such as the swelling look like an allergic reaction in ADDITION to the primary irritation....which means I may be developing (most likely infact.....) a severe allergy to the poison oil, in ADDITION to being sensitive.

Oh goody.

This reaction featured the never before experienced (by me) symptom of swelling. What might the next bring? I think it's time to see if I can track down that poison oak vaccine I was told was available at some point.....

I could always take the docs advice to prevent poison oak (after telling me if I thought Technu worked, he had a bridge for sale....) and soap up my face and arms, then ride, then rinse the soap off afterwards. At least that allergic reaction (from the long-exposure to soap) might not feature swelling......

On the other hand, Doc gave me SEVEN refills on this magical (and no doubt, high toxic cream, which I currently could not care less as long as it allows me to sleep tonight NOT glued to my pillow) cream. That might last me as long as a year with careful rationing....

Monday, April 26, 2010

False alarm!

Written from the lobby of redgirl's hotel!

Please excuse the scatter-brained-ness of this post. It's WAY late, I'm tired, my face itches, and I'm stressed for a myriad of work and personal reasons......Now that I'm done whining - onto the post!

The summary of this wordy tale: Farley is (probably) A-OK!

This morning I iced and surpassed her right leg and called my vet first thing and begged and pleaded for an appointment ASAP.

Dr. S* was nice enough to make time for me during the afternoon, after his long day after regular business hours to see me. I was especially grateful after I learned (several hours later) that I was going to have to fly out to Alabama at 6am on Tuesday morning.

He palapated her leg and got a reaction after getting aggressive. I trotted her out in the round pen for him - both directions at various trot speeds. She looked pretty good - forward and actually sound, if a bit stiff (I expected some stiffness just because of how tough the trail was....not good, but expected).

I explained to him that if ANYTHING was wrong I would NOT be going to Tevis this year and so I REALLY needed to know if something was going on. Because the race was SO TOUGH and she had fallen on cardiac hill.

So we decided to ultrasound. After a long time of comparing the legs and taking measurements and looking at all the different structures, he annouced that in 3 of 4 measurements, the right suspensory was slightly thicker than the left. In his opinion this is relatively minor inflammation and I shouldn't worry about it. That this low level type of inflammation was probably present after most difficult rides, but I was hyper aware due to the obvious strenuous nature of the ride.

The plan is: Normal work. If I notice swelling or heat I am to notify him immediately, but otherwise to continue the way I normally would (1 week off, 1 week easy, then return - gradually - to regular work). Just for "extra caution" he's reccomending a recheck the week before Wild West just to make sure that the inflammation has dissapeared.

Lessons learned
So, this was probably a false alarm. BUT I still think it was money well spent. It gave me peace of mind for the moment (that no damage was done) AND gave me peace of mind for the future - it showed me just how nicely conditioned her tendons and ligaments are - they are bright and WHITE on the ultrasound with excellent fiber patterns - even in the old bow.

Above all - I yet again confirmed that I can trust my gut and I can trust Farley. Yes it was very very minor and not even an isue. No one else probably would have noticed. But I did and I was right. It gives me confidence that if I can pick up on something this minor, I WILL notice if something is not right with my horse.

It also gave me a second look at my motives and reasons for doing what I do. What is too extreme? How much of Farley's well-being am I willing to risk?

Tevis is still on the table. Here's what needs to happen for it to stay that way.
  • This "issue" needs to turn out exactly the way the vet says - no cause for concern and not really an issue at all
  • Wild West needs to go off without a hitch
  • I need to figure out footwear (ie, glueons at Wild West need to go off without a hitch)
  • I need to be in excellent physical shape - ie my knee issue must resolve and I must be able to consitently exercise without injury.

Sorry for all the injury posts - I think I'm hyperaware right now as Farley is worming her way deeper and deeper into my heart....


Update #1: I have poison oak on my face. It's right by my ear, where I imagine I didn't get technu. As I recreate my rubbing technu on my face, it seems to me I miss that spot. Darn it. Did I mention today was picture day at the office? I was hired as part of the college recruitment program at my business and they want pics to present to the board of directors.....

Update #2: My vet is able to get me in this afternoon for an ultrasound! I iced and surpassed Farley's leg today. Feels better, but still ouchy.

Update #3: My boss texted message me Sunday morning to fly to Alabama Monday morning. I got that message approximately 60 minutes ago. Oops. Could NOT have come at a worse time - a friend has offered to do any Farley rehab this week, I have to cancel my PT this week, ignore my laundry, and explain to my trainer why I'm such a flake and I have to postpone my dressage show AGAIN.

This has got to be one of the worst weekends in recent memory. There's a bunch of personal stuff going on too that I'm not going to get into here.

Regarding the trailer story.....On Saturday evening, as my Dad was driving me to Marysville after the ride (thanks Dad!) we noticed my running lights weren't working. We got home before dusk so not a problem, but peculiar as they had worked last time I drove in the dark......which was the end of February.

What ever happened, I didn't have them now.

We replaced the non-working running lights (2) on Sunday afternoon to see if there was a short somewhere. Still didn't work. We checked the plug. Inconclusive results. No idea what's wrong. I'm frusterated because I take my trailer maintenance seriously. I'm not one to drive without lights, I get running lights fixed in a timely manner, get it serviced once a year, etc.


Now it's six o'clock.

I have physical therapy at 7:30am. I can't drive home in the morning, because I would STILL be driving in the dark, and the traffice will be worse in the morning.

The decision is made for me to drive home as fast as possible and try to beat sun down. My flashers, brakes, brake lights, and turn signals work - it's just the running lights and the tail lights that are out.

I know I'm not going to make it. It's a solid 2.5 hour drive which puts me home at 8:30p. It's dark by 8.

I drive as fast as I dare. Yes, I'm speeding.

It gets dark.

I turn on my emergency flashers, pull into the slow lane and start going to the speed limit (55mph). I pray that my flashers still work. I can't pull over to make sure because I will lose more time.

I white knuckle it for 30 more minutes praying that no one hits my trailer and injuries my horse, that I don't get pulled over and given a ticket I can't afford.

I get to my stable and unload my horse.

I find the ouchy spot on her RF.

I put her away.

I jump in my truck and prepare to back my trailer into its spot.

My fuel light goes on.

I hadn't even noticed I was almost out of gas.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

American River 2010

Two good things happened at this ride:

***2 people thought I was a junior (that’s a decade behind me)
***I completed

Everything else was a freakin’ disaster.

Except for the food. That went well too.

I had at LEAST 40 boot failures. One boot was totally lost, one broke. The rest kept coming off and coming off and coming off and coming off…..I didn’t ride more than 20-30 minutes the entire ride without a boot coming off. I rode the 15 of the first 17 miles barefoot on 3 hooves, after losing and replacing the fronts so often I finally attached them to my breast collar (after wearing them as bracelets for a while). I prepared my crew for me getting pulled. She was fine. I put new boots on her and replaced some toe straps. One of the new boots came off not 500 feet after leaving the vet check. And again and again and again. At the 30 mile point I put yet more new toe straps on and adjusted some cables. I had better luck, but still kept losing boots. I started paying close attention to exactly WHY they were coming off and deduced that the slick, clay like mud set up the boot for failure – after going through a muddy section, if Farley went through rocks, trotted fast, leaned into a turn, or just managed to put her foot so it wasn’t perfectly level – then the boot would slide off and hang around her pastern.

I had another type of boot failure too - when I took my spare I was carrying and unvelcroed the toe strap to put it on.....the BRAND NEW toe strap came apart where it's sewn. :( Can anyone say NOT a good boot day?????

She continued to vet in sound. At cool (mile 44) she had a 44 pulse at the vet in, which was the lowest pulse of the day.

I never got frustrated. Fortunately everything else was going well, so replacing boots was just something I did over and over and over. I would make jokes as I got into vet checks about the boots I had attached to my breast collar that they were there “because it was the best way to keep an eye on them”.

The 6 miles from Cool to Auburn was the best leg. I only lost one boot – a hind. I was being extremely careful about how I rode and it was paying off. The hind came off in the weirdest way. We were waiting on a rocky downhill for some horses in front of us to finish drinking. She got impatient and spun a couple of times on the trail. Then I look down to see a bronze renegade rolling down the hill away from us – all straps and the boot perfectly intact. Some how, a rock had torqued the boot ENTIRELY off the foot, even though the pastern strap was adjusted correctly! I still have the boot as it came off the foot. I have no idea how it came off! I was 4 miles from Auburn and was done dealing with the boot. I attached it to the saddle and figured this would be good training for tevis if we lost a shoe/boot at this point.

Off we went. She traveled completely sound, just like she had done all day with or without boots. This was the only point I let her canter during the entire ride – the short section of wide road between no hands bridge and the first set of single track. She knew we were going home and picked a beautiful lope.

We made our way up to Auburn. I kept a close eye on the clock – we were closer to the cut off than usual.

She tried to prance to Auburn, but I kept it to a walk most of the time, knowing I was so close to the finish. We had walked a LOT of the last 20 miles because I was knew I was good on time, and the first 30 miles was so tough.

We got into Auburn 1 hour before the cut off. I was exactly in the middle of the pack, with another ~20 riders behind me.

I got a bunch of comments (including the vet) of how good my horse looked.

We did our last vet check without the boots.

Now for the aftermath.

Even going barefoot though so much of this technical ride, her feet look EXCELLENT. I am very very pleased.

I am less than pleased with the boots. I am a bit mollified knowing that EVERYONE had trouble keeping ANYTHING on their horse’s feet that day. The combination of single track, mud, rocks, and hills was torquing everything – boots, shoes, pads – off of horses. I saw dozens and dozens of shoes with pads and boots littering the trail. I was told the front runner at mile 17 vet check headed straight to the farrier and the front runner at mile 44 came in with 2 gloves on the front and nothing on the backs and the backs were chewed up pretty good with chunks missing (not sure what she started the race with). The farriers had quite a good business.

So, I’m a bit skeptical that even shoes would have stayed on (Farley has never lost a shoe).

There was a couple of other factors too – Farley’s hock injections may have caused her to move differently. I used older boots for the ride since they were adjusted and I trusted them and my new ones hadn’t been adjusted or broken in. BTW it took me 8 boots (7 of which I still have in my possession and 6 of which don’t need repairs) and 12-15 toe straps to get through this ride, and I STILL ended up riding barefoot on at least one hoof a good portion of the ride.

So, considering the conditions and widespread problems, probably not entirely the boots fault. BUT with the problems I had at this ride, I am extremely uncomfortable considering them for Tevis. If I am using boots, I will be using renegade glueons.

But tevis may be a mute point because…..

I think Farley is lame.

She was fine during the ride and I kept a close eye on her legs since the trail was so tough. She went down going up Cardiac hill and had been rushing some technical parts of the trail. I was ready to pull at any time, but she kept trotting out sound and pulsing very low so onward we went.

At the finish – she was fine

At home in my parents pasture on Saturday night– she was fine. When I let her go she trotted away from me (sound) and looked good.

I checked her Sunday morning and…..filling in the RF. No filling in the LF (leg with bow). Crap. I couldn’t find any ouchy spot, so I applied surpass to the area, just in case.

Rechecked 2 hours later – filling is now equal in both legs. I am somewhat relieved as (at least before I started using boots) filling in the fronts was normal for her after rides. Still can’t find any ouchy spots on either leg. As a note – that was one of the first differences I noticed after switching from shoes to boots – her front legs stopped filling after rides.

Loaded up the trailer and drove home Sunday night. (A nightmare drive home BTW but that’s a story for another day).

Rechecked the RF before putting her in the paddock. Both fronts are still equally filled but this time I DID get a reaction to palpation on the RF, on the outside, just below the side of the knee.


I’m thinking suspensory or check ligament?

What ever it is it’s definitely sore.

Why the hell didn’t it show up during or after the ride? Why 24 hours later?

Surpass and ice until I can make a vet appointment (I’ll call tomorrow morning for something ASAP)

This ride lamed Minx and is THE hardest ride I’ve ever done, including Tevis. I thought it might have just seemed hard because it was my first ride, and I had an unprepared horse, but nope, it’s HARD. I’m starting to rethink my decision to enter difficult races. Why should Farley have to do something that hard? Yes, she enjoys it and is actually quite good at navigating single track, technical trails, but is it really worth the risk? Even if this turns out to be nothing – am I willing to chance it again for Tevis? Is the ride really worth it?

I don’t know if I will return to American River Ride. I swore I wouldn’t after the first time I did it, and I’m feeling the same way, even though I completed this time. (I DIDN’T feel this way after Tevis). I understand now why some endurance riders who have perfectly capable horses won’t necessarily enter their “special” horses in really really tough rides like Tevis or the one I just rode. The risk is just really good that something will happen, even with a well conditioned, prepared horse. There’s a variety of reasons NOT to do the American River ride and only 2 good reasons to do it (it’s GORGEOUS and good Tevis training). I wonder how many other people are like me – the horse is sound for completion, but comes up lame a day or a week later?

Was it the fall on cardiac hill?
Did it happen after one of the MULTIPLE boot failures or maybe a sum of all the boot failures?
Did it happen when she rushed one too many technical spots?
***With 9 weeks between the 100 and this ride, combined with her sound trot outs for American river, I’m going on the assumption this is unrelated to the 100 (20MT), especially as she is one to show pain if she is in pain.

I don’t know
. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious and will be only a minor set back.

I usually enter my next ride the day after I complete my last, especially for a ride like Wild West that is popular and has a capped number of riders. But, for obvious reasons I will NOT be sending in my entry yet. My dressage show in 2 weeks is in serious doubt as well. Tevis isn’t even on the table until I figure out what this is, and it goes without saying that unless this is a minor bruise that doesn’t involve tendons/ligaments – than WW and Tevis are off the table.

Sorry this got so lengthy. You might not hear from me for a couple of days until I have a chance to muddle through all of this. With PT 3x a week and having to make some major competition decisions, and facing the financial consequences of 2 major vet bills within 1 month, is going to leave me less than able to post in a comprehensive, witty and non-grouchy manner. As soon as I have any concrete information, I will let you know.

Here’s to hoping the ride that was my first endurance ride isn’t also my last.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Random thoughts and Tips!

A random collection of thoughts and tips - perfect topic as I tend to be a bit scattered brain as I leave for a ride!

A tip for not forgetting anything essential at a ride.....
Yesterday's post ended with the admonishment that everything will go fine as long as nothing essential is forgotten. Easier said than done. Since I live out of my trailer between rides, I'm proud to say (knock on wood...) I've never forgotten something "ride-ending". I've forgotten my champagne (heart breaking), my water bottles (frusterating), my jug of people water (not a diasaster because of the ride I was going to), and oil/butter that I needed to cook my potluck dish (irritating). BUT, before I used a trailer to store my gear in, I used this trick to make sure all my essential gear DID make it in the trailer. At the end of my last "real" conditioning ride (usually 2-3 weeks prior to the race), I put my gear directly into the trailer instead of in the barn/boarder tack room. Then at least, I was guaranteed the gear I used for a conditioning ride, even if I forget something silly like champagne, or butter.

A tip for shedding horses
My farrier showed me this on Thursday. Use the coarse side of a worn out rasp to brush the horse out. Use long strokes and be careful in boney areas like the hips. Works just as well as a pumice stone or a $50 de-shedding brush from the feedstore.

You are a real horse person when....
1. ...the doctor hands you your knee x-rays and tells you "here you can have these", and your first thought is "I wish these were the xrays of my horse's hocks", and your second thought is "where the heck am I going to PUT these", which then leads to the realization that if these WERE hock x-rays, there would be no question of keeping OR storing them.....

2. ...someone hands you the program you just wrote/updated (GMPs in this case) and asks you with a snicker whether we have to follow the program to the letter. And you reply (a bit indignanatly) "YES", because after all people have been complaining about the new program ALL DAY and it isn't really your fault at all - it's that silly audit that's coming up. And then they have the audicity to point out that I have insisted on all "horses" being hung up when not in use....(should have said "hoses"). *sigh*

Ride Binder
Have you checked out Karen Chaton's blog about putting together a ride binder with a section for each ride? No? Go over and check it out! It's a wonderful idea and I've started to put together mine. It will include ride notes, google maps to and from ride camp, whether I can get there on one tank and where to stop for gas if I can't, print outs of map and ride information etc. I found myself recalling little details of the rides even as I was typing their info page up. Stuff like: "only one faucet in whole ridecamp. Park close if you don't want to haul water..." or "ride runs light generators until 11pm at night. Park FAR AWAY from lights if I want any sleep" or "ridecamp is in a gravel pit...may want to put on boots overnight". You know - the little stuff that you usually don't remember when preparing for the ride the next year.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


A trim (and most excellent news)
It's been 12 weeks since I've had my fabulous farrier look at Farley's feet. So, it was with some trepidation that I brought Farley over this morning for him to trim.

I rasp Farley's feet every 2 weeks, making sure my last rasp when he looks at her is 2 weeks prior so he has enough hoof to work with if he needs to make any corrections.

The last time he looked at her (3 months ago) he admonished me for letting the toe run away from me on the RF and the heel get too long of the LF.

I've been a bit....unmotivated to trim ever since he looked at her last....I ran over my hoof stand. (Don't ask). But, I have been diligent about picking up her feet every 2-3 weeks and running a rasp over them, keeping in mind what he pointed out at the last trim, even if I haven't been doing my usual stellar job on the mustang roll. But I've been worried because.....

...they've looked pretty good. Too good - I haven't had to hardly do ANYTHING for 3 months - I was a bit worried I was missing something. After all, when we first started barefoot I had a LOT of work to do every 2 weeks on her hooves. But, everything looked good so I let it be.

Back to the farrier visit today.

He picks up her first hoof - RF.

Takes a couple of swipes with the rasp so he can see and pronounces it good. He looks at me and smiles. I beg him to look at her other feet. I'm weak at being able to notice and correct medial balances and I'm worried I've missed something.

He picks up the RH. Good

He picks up the LF. Good

He picks up the LH. Good

Can it be????????? Have I really been able to maintain my own horse's feet for 3 months????? Hallejuah!

The farrier seems impressed. He refuses my $$ and when I tell him "consider it well spent for your professional expertise" he says he would feel guilty for taking my $$, and so I give up.

I think he's impressed because each time he's given me feedback on my trimming, the next time he checks her, that issue is gone. The advice he gave me today was to leave more heel on the hinds so that the toe doesn't run away and it gives more support. He also took a couple swipes of the rasp on the inside half of each foot, so I know I need to keep an eye on that and perhaps take more off on the inside.

So needless to say I'm very happy. I've been walking on clouds all day. Of course.....there is a downside to all this.....

I had *hoped* that the RF wasn't really now closer to a size 2 renegade instead of a size 1....and was due to some sort of faulty trimming on my part. Now it looks like her fronts really are moving towards size 2 status......The LF has also gotten bigger, but as it has a tendancy to be clubbed, it's not quite as tight in the size 1 as the RF. Something to keep on eye on in the next couple of months. Maybe I'll need to pick up a pair of size 2's... (insert whiney Melinda - but I have tons of size 1s! and 0s! This is SO UNFAIR. :( I should be thrilled that her feet are getting so healthy, but darn it! boots are expensive!!!!!)

Convince Boyfriend to come watch me
Not happening. Not that I held out much hope for it to happen.....The important one is Tevis. It's a formality that I ask for these smaller races, but I DO expect you there the morning after Tevis. Are you listening???????

Load Horse Food
A big, fat YES. :) This was an easy one, but something I *always* put off until the last minute, so it's nice that everything is loaded one day early.

BTW - you may have noticed that no where do I "pack" my trailer. I live out of my trailer on a day-to-day basis because I board....which means I'm *always* packed and ready to go.

All that remains is to load up my horse and fill my truck with gas! And then off we go...and thus concludes this rather boring series of "preparing for a ride"

So what is the point of all these boring, diary-like posts?
I wanted to give everyone a taste of what happens (and what doens't happen) the week leading up to a ride. I usually formulate these detailed plans of when I will do different tasks and have really good intentions of doing a bunch of "extra stuff" - like vaulting practice, hand jogs, extra tack cleaning. And invariably, nothing goes to plan. I don't ride when I think I'll be able to ride, numerous things get cut out of the schedule, and I'm likely to say "Screw it All!" and take a nap instead of what I had originally planned for that day.

And it's OK!!!!

If you don't get EVERYTHING done that you thought you *should* the week before the ride, you are probably still going to be OK. A missed ride or a missed electrolyte dose is NOT going to determine the success or fail of the weekend ride. Reality is, your ride is going to depend on what you did 3-6 weeks before the race, not the last 1-2 weeks. Very little you do in the last week will make a difference as long as you have the essentials covered - plenty of rest for you and the horse, good nutrition, and NOT forgetting something essential.

Dear Mother nature

Dear Rainy Mother Nature,

You have officially over stayed your welcome. You were suppose to be gone by Wednesday morning, and here you are, lingering until Thursday late morning.

Go away.

Houseguests start to smell after 3 days and you positively reek.


Melinda, Farley, Jonah, and Mickey.


Wednesday is where it predictably starts to fall apart. This ride is not an exception....

It was STILL raining on Wednesday. It's a slower moving store than they first predicted so it's hanging around.....very worrisome as I'm really hoping for decent footing this weekend. Footing challenges on Saturday is the LAST thing I need on top of a historical tough ride that is also predicted to be in the mid-70's. (BTW - this ride is KNOWN for having a cold couple of weeks, followed by a race day that is HOT).

The rain cancelled my lesson. I really want her to be able to move around a bit so I decided go jogging with her. Seriously - I WILL NOT MELT IN THE RAIN. Neither will Farley. Am I REALLY going to use rain as an excuse to leave poor Farley cooped up for 2 whole days. Ummm....maybe. I *may* have wimped out and headed for my recliner and taken a nap :). I'm not telling and neither is Farley. After all, Aarene is insisting on me getting plenty of sleep right????

Rescheduled the lesson to Friday, which means we're going to focus on stretching and limbering her up for the ride the next day. I am somehow going to fit this lesson in around my first session of physical therapy, also on Friday....which brings us my next topic:

Sports medicine appointment for knee

Remember the knee I torqued in the wagon spoke when dismounting off the wagon 7 weeks ago? No significant improvement so off I go to the doctor. I have 2 other chronic injuries because I didn't take care of them I wasn't going to make the same mistake.

See!!!???? With age comes wisdom....I think.

Very very good news. I did NOT tear my ACL or meniscus - all of which had a very good chance of happening considering the type of injury I had (torsion and hyper extension). I'm being told I'm very very lucky....Turns out all this pain is due to my IT band, which is inflamed.

So....considering I have very good insurance right now and in 18 months I will have crappy insurance (as a student), we decided to go the route that gives me the best chance of resolving this NOW with no further issues.

2 weeks of PT 3x a week, a recheck in 2 weeks and if necessary - cortisone shots (please please please let everything be ok and I can skip this....) and more PT.

I haven't gotten to the best news....

Remember the 2 "chronic" injuries I mentioned? When I told the doc that I have had chronic IT band problems in my right knee for about 10 years that I ignored/worked through he told me that even after all this time, IT WAS STILL FIXABLE. He added it to the PT work up "IT bilaterally, left worse than right". Whoo hoo!

And then.....I mentioned I had an achilles issue too from being stupid and not taking care of it when it occurred and it actually bothered me on a daily basis more than the IT band.

He said that it's stretching it a bit....but he added it to the PT script and said that it should be totally fixable to!

The achilles is the "chronic" injury that almost prevented me from finish Death Valley ride because it flared up on the last day and on the scale of 1-10 it was a 12 and I thought it was going to rupture. My right foot has much less mobility because of it - it's stiffer. Laying on my stomach to go to sleep, I have to turn this foot to the side because I can lay my foot flat against the bed. It would be WONDERFUL to have this resolved.

So my mother (Carolyn) tells me there is a lesson to be learned in all this.......I let you know when I find it.

I DID get to go to my jam and play my fiddle with my dear music friends. And I even managed to leave before dawn (a nod to AareneX's insistence that I SLEEP) :) And no, I did not indulge in cookies. Going to the doc and getting on their (theoretically) calibrated scale and seeing your blood pressure stats can provide all sorts of motivation......

So am I still on track? Ummm.....sure. At this point as long as I remember to load the horse feed in the trailer on Thursday I think everything else critical is taken care of.

On to Thursday!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010


As of Monday I was on track for ride preparation. Let's dive into Tuesday.

Clean Saddle
  • ummmm....forgot? My defense was it was raining. Really raining. I hate rain. I went to the stable, gave Farley her buckets, and got out. Cleaning/oiling my saddle was the LAST thing on my mind. I do this weekly so I'm thinking I'm going to just skip might happen Friday at ride camp if I'm bored, or Sunday after the ride.

Pack Crew Bag

  • Well....I have a confession. I ALWAYS have good intentions of prepacking my crew bag and saddle bags at home. BUT I never do. Just not motivated. For some reason, I can *only* pack crew bags at ride camp the night before. I confident (well...pretty confident) everything is in my crew box in the trailer because the equipment only goes out of it during rides and then goes back in...and if I need refilling on anything, it gets written on a list. And I don't have a list so I'm thinking I'm OK. I did glance in the box when I was finding my renengades earlier in the *seems* like most of the essentials are there. :)

Start Electrolyting

  • Yep - in a new complete feed mash that I'm going to try. Farley is notorious for not eating at rides that which is perfectly fine at home....she REALLY seems to like this stuff and I'm actually pretty happy with the label ingredient statement. It's called "stable mix" and is produced by a local milling company. I like to start elytes 3 days before I trailer to a ride to make sure she's well hydrated. Once at the ride I give 1/2 dose in the morning and evening the night before, then use the elyte protocol I've described before the day of the ride.

Vaulting practice/schooling

  • Did NOT happen. Remember the rain? I'm not too bummed - I have a lesson today which will get her moving. Any activity I do this week is just to get her moving - no conditioning, no real training - just rest and relaxation.

BTW - one thing I forgot to mention in Monday's update is I switched the hind boots (left to right and vice versa). The wear patterns on the fronts are equal side to side, but I noticed the hinds are wearing on the outside faster. I've switched them so the problem doesn't exacerbate itself over time.

But there's more! Because of the rain, I decided to do my cooking and gear staging on Tuesday! That's one less thing that I have to do on Thursday and even with my lacadaisial (this word is spelled so bad, even my spell checker ain't pickin' it up!) attitude toward crew bag preparation etc., I still count myself on track.

I have finalized my food list - I will be modifying and using this list for upcoming rides. I think the biggest lesson I learned at 20 MT 100 was - it's important to have the right kind of food, not just the right amount of calories. Everything is prepped and made and I just need to exercise self control and not eat it between now and Friday....

Melinda's Food List

  • Pudding (NOT pudding cups. They are gummy. Instant is OK. Put into several small containers and 1-2 larger containers)
  • Jello (cut into bite size squares and put into 2 containers)
  • Pasta salad with protein (for this ride the pasta salad has crab, olives, sunflower seeds. I tend to find fish/seafood based protein more digestable during physical activity or when I'm hot)
  • Egg salad and hard boiled eggs still in shell
  • Box of cold cereal (some put into sandwich sized ziplocks)
  • Jar of pickles
  • Bag of potato chips (lays originial in yellow bag only)
  • Sandwhich - sub style (cut into slices that are ~2 bites big)
  • Nature valley granola bars and quaker chewy granola bars

For camp I have some additional items:

  • Coffee
  • Can of soup
  • Can of fruit (pineapple chunks perferable)
  • packets of instant hot cereal
  • Easy mac packets
  • Tuna no-drain packets

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Monday and pic catch up

Yesterday I shared the plan for preparing for my 50 this weekend. My plan is to go through each item this week so everyone can see how I plan for a 50 in the prior week. If there's a reason I do something on a certain day before the ride, I try to share it.
So how did did Monday go?

Boots - fit and replace straps
  • I pulled all my competition worthy boots out and decided to use my burgandy fronts and black hinds. I was able to put all new toe straps on those 4, AND have barely used/new toe straps on 6 spares. I don't usually replace pastern straps, but I made a point of doing so on the boots that saw 20MT as the wet sand wrecked havoc on them. I cannabilized various spares and was able to put good pastern straps on the 4 primaries AND still have good pastern straps on the 6 spares. I'm golden! (3 boots of the 10 saw action at 20 MT)

  • I put the fronts on the Farley (I know the hinds are adjusted). They look good! But......Her right front is *almost* a size 2!!!! That may change after the farrier visit on Thursday, but for now, I can barely squeeze a size 1 on her. This is both good and bad news.....oh well. The left front is still definatly a size 1 (this is the clubbed foot), but even that one is filling out the boot better.

Discontinue Oil

  • Yep - this was the one thing on the list that was super easy and convient. I discontinue adding oil to her diet one week prior to races based on the advice of Dr. Susan Garlinghouse. I don't understand all the technical details, but her website/articles are google-able and I would encourage people to check it out.
School in the Arena
  • Had a really good schooling session. Good thing because it's POURING today and we are probably not going to ride. Approximately 30 minutes of mostly walk and trot with a little cantering.
  • I picked up a project horse for a friend at the stable. I think it's going to work out well. Once I get to Farley, I'm more mellow, less demanding, and more likely to "let things be".

Test out saddle bags

  • Didn't happen. Not sure if it is going to happen period. Maybe Thursday? I'm not too worried - I'll have a crew and if I hate them, I'll switch out the new ones at the first vet check. They are so similar to my other saddle bag (instead now I'll have one on each side instead of just on one side) I'm not anticipating any problems....

So, as of yesterday, I'm on track.

Since I can now post posts using blogger, I can post pictures again!

First, some eye candy from this weekend, courtesy of my mom (and commentor, and blogger) Carolyn:

This pretty girl is "Gringo", one of the CHAS horses. We decided to bring a cart to this event and it was FUN. Dennis (on the seat next to me) and I have much more experience driving 2 horses than 1 and our conversations centered around "so just how fast can you turn this little thing?", "how fast can you go down hill?"

We had so much fun in it, we are going to try and bring it to every event. It's so useful for carrying water and people. Often the various reenactment camps at an event are scattered and it's a pain to walk everywhere, or saddle up a horse.

Here's a shot of me in my ambulance driver garb. I still need to put green stripes on my sack coat. I have no idea what I was doing or looking at. Ignore the uniform. It puts on 20 pounds at least. I swear....

For those of you that were asking for pics of the packs I made - here's a few, including one that shows the size difference of my pack versus a hoof boot bag from easy care:

A half finished water bottle holder from the water bottle holder I cut off the side of the pack. The yellow strip is a piece of fabric I sewed.

pack and water bottle underflap. You can see the tie and clip on the water bottle holder that holds it in place and keeps it from bouncing. The fanny pack strap of the pack holds the pack in place to the billets and keep it from bouncing.

Here's a pic of the pack off the saddle. This particular pack has a space in the back of the pack that the strap tucks into. The buckle for the fanny strap is actually hidden in this padded compartment.

Not so great picture showing the compartment that the strap tucks into.

Pack set up on horse. I may need a compression strap on the middle of that water bottle that hooks to the billets....

By request of Heather, here's a pack size comparision. Then because the angle of the camera doesn't give justice to the fact that these two packs are really the same size....

...Here's another angle.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Getting ready for AR 50

It's Monday and I'm strangely apathetic about preparing for American River this weekend.

Which is BAD. I'm super excited about it, but haven't yet managed to hoist myself off the couch and actually lift a finger to help myself prepare.

To be perfectly fair, it's not like I haven't done ANYTHING... It's just been non-endurance related.

American River Sabotage #1

Last week I had a body and mind numbing audit that had me COUNTING the days until vet school. Or at least devising alternate plans such as maternity leave (if I got pregnant RIGHT now, the timing would be perfect), a coma (not likely as Farley's mane priority seems to be to keep herself between me and the ground, even when I do something stupid like do a barrel pattern at a gallop, bareback - more on that later), or get me a sugar daddy that eliminates my need to work for 6 months and can support my horse habit, my show schedule AND pay for my dream of going to vet school.

American River Sabotage #2:

Last weekend was a civil war reenactment. I was planning on taking Farley, but after the 2 day audit at work I was in NO condition to drive a trailer or deal with an inordinate amount of stress (which is what you have when you are introducing a horse to cannon fire for the first time). Not to mention it's not exactly the smartest thing to do something insane with a horse the weekend before the toughest 50 I'll do this year. Good thing because my stable Sergent for the unit seemed intent on killing me this weekend.

Killing Melinda off idea #1:

  • My boots are rather old and delapated and as a result, leak. Fortunately this is not usually a problem as I insist on riding everywhere. Except now I'm a teamster and that involves ground driving. Lots of it. Which unfortunately gets done in the morning when the dew is heavy on the ground. My feet stayed wet in my period correct civil war Calvary boots for 48 hours. Can anyone say "ouch"?

KOMI #2:

  • The need/idea (insane) that with 2 teamsters we needed THREE different vehicles with SIX horses. A one horse cart, a 2 horse ambulance, a 4 horse wagon. One of the horses doubled as the cart horse which meant tacking and untacking a dozen times as I coaxed various people to come for rides and then later, as people finally "got" that they could use the wagons for a gazillion different tasks I was pressed into service hauling water and people. I delivered people for social calls, hauled drunk people over to embarrass the Headquarters, and hauled victims of a shooting squad over hill and dale.

KOMI #3:

  • Since everyone knows that sleep is optional for those tough individuals that call themselves teamsters, let's require them them to sleep with their charges (also called "pretend we are being nice by letting them sleep in the wagons with the horses tied to them"....). Then, just for fun, convince them to play period black jack with 10 cent minimum bets ($1 max) until 10:30pm. Since (of course) period cards are used (WITHOUT the helpful numbers that make the addition EASY), their minds will be so befuddled with trying to count to 21, when the sorry teamster finally prepares his bed in the wagon at midnight, they will do so with their head towards the BACK. This error will become immediately apparent when around 3pm a certain wagon horse named Buttercup, will realized he is very bored. To his amusement, he discovers that reaching into the wagon and dragging blankets off a certain lump will elicit a very entertaining response - an incoherent scream of "BUTTERCUP", and a grab for the blankets. Rinse and repeat every 20 minutes or so.

Needless to say, after ordering a chili cheese fries and milk shake to keep me awake on the drive home on Sunday, I crawled into bed in my nasty, sweaty, horse hair laded woolen uniform at 6pm and was dead to the world until 7am, when Jonah the cat finally insisted that a shower was in order.

Now that I have gotten my whiny excuses out of the's reality.

What I have prepared:
  • Grocery Bags of food are staged in my kitchen, full of things like pudding and jello and salads and imitation crab. At some point the jello and pudding and pasta salads need to be COOKED and placed into CONTAINERS. Maybe Thursday?
  • I have boots! Never mind the boots I wanted to use are not fitted or have actually been on Farley's feet. It's getting to the point where I'm thinking I should just use my old ones instead of trusting I can adjust and break in new ones properly in less than a week. Which means I have some serious strap replacement to do, as 100 miles in the wet sand and mud doesn't seem to give the straps extra "holding" power (just the opposite in fact), and boots that I had deemed retired will be pressed into service.
  • I am on good terms with Farley. We had a crappy ride on Thursday that was mostly my fault, so on Friday I decided we would play. I hopped on bareback and we played and cantered for 30 minutes or so. No muss, no fuss, no bucking, perfectly balanced, and no miscommunication. Ever since I started lessons, every time I ride bareback it just gets better and better. (Hurrah for dressage!). As someone that loves bareback, but never thought Farley could be my bareback pony for a variety of reasons, I would have paid DOUBLE what I have so far on lessons, just to be able to have the ride I did on Friday. All 4 gaits perfectly in control and balanced and perfectly comfortable - even when doing something silly like doing a barrel pattern or poles.
  • A decent weather report. Rain this week, but clear over the weekend, in the low 70's. HOWEVER - even if it's an INSANE 85 degrees I'm prepared. I had decent heat training this weekend (80 degrees in a woolen uniform does wonders) AND Farley has graciously gone completely bald, as for some strange reason, every year, she drops her winter coat before the summer coat overcomes it's shyness and peeks through.

What needs to be done:

  • Monday (today) - Figure out the boots. Either replace straps or fit the new ones. If using the ones from 20MT make DARN SURE all the sand is cleaned off the cables so they don't get more worn. School in the arena and either do a canal run or a canal ride. Either way put new saddle bags and water bottle holders on LOADED and do a test run. Discontinue oil.
  • Tuesday - Rain predicted. Pack my crew bag (ie - find all the parts that SHOULD be in the crew bag, make sure none of them are MOLDING from 20MT). Clean/oil my saddle. Start electrolyting in the "new" mash I'm trying. School in the arena if possible. Practice vaulting on bareback or saddle without stirrups.
  • Wednesday - See Doctor about knee. It's been 8 weeks since injury...Still hurts like a SOB *sometimes*. ie - can walk without a problem but do something like ride/drive rattling carriages and jump off wagon seats 45 gazillion feet in the air and it doesn't feel good.....Appointment scheduled with sports medicine specialist, complete with x-rays. Do dressage lesson, go to fiddle jam. Do NOT gorge on cookies.
  • Thursday - Cook all my ride food and prepare my salads. Load horse food up in trailer. Stage my gear in my apartment living room. Have farrier double check my trimming. Convince boyfriend to come watch me at the ride.
  • Friday - Leave work as early as humanly possible without taking a vacation day. Noon????

My resolutions for this ride:

Ride very conservatively and finish. (a nod to 2007 ride)

Be fair to Farley. She has pointed out recently that I need to improve in the area of patience. I hear and I obey.

If training hill is part of the course (where I crashed and burned in 2007) I will get off and walk it, no matter how long it takes. (a nod to 2007 ride)

Be nice to my crew.

Do not get eaten by a bear or cougar.

Do not panic when I get to an area where ribbon vandals have removed ribbons (a nod to the 2007 ride)

Be especially courteous and nice to other riders (this ride can be a bit stressful and you have to go in with the mind set that NO MATTER WHAT you will smile and nod. Again, this resolution is a nod to 2007).

If this ride goes to pieces, do not mentally "lose it". As long as she's sound and happy, we are still probably OK to go to Wild West and Tevis. I am convinced this ride is out to get me.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Misdirected Anger

It is POURING right now. (at least on Monday, while I was writing this's actually kind of sunny right now....) The kind of rain that makes you open the blinds all the way so you can watch through the patio glass doors. The parking lot on one side of my apartment is covered by a metal roof and (unfortunately) drowns out any romantic sounds of rain drops, but does provide some indication of the sheer fury of this spring storm.

When I was a child, I LOVED rain – especially spring storms such as this one. There’s something exciting about this force of nature that makes my boyfriend, even into his late twenties, say with excitement, “There’s a storm!”, as he cracks open a beer, opens the curtains and sits on the arm of the couch peering out the window.

I can still appreciate that feeling but for the most part it’s drowned out by frustration and even anger. The arena that just became rideable, is now not. The spring ride season promises to be a rainy one with this early April storm. I don’t WANT to ride in the rain and mud. I am sick and TIRED of pushing off my dressage shows because I can’t school. My cats are driving me crazy (even now the “one who must be on my lap” is busy trying to sabatoge this post) and the thought of spending one more evening at home after spending an ENTIRE weekend at home just may cause the last vestiges of sanity right out the window.

I’m mature enough to realize that most of this anger towards Mother Nature is due to stress and fear in other parts of my life. Fear for Farley. Is Farley really sound right now? Fear about how I’m going to pay for vet school and sadness of giving up endurance for it. Uncertainty of perhaps giving up my independent life and having to commute. Worried about my knee – both worried that it won’t be healed by next week when I have an appointment and its something serious, AND worried it WILL be healed and I’ll look like an idiot. Frustration as I continue to gain weight. Frustration as I continue to be unmotivated and work and get nothing done. It’s a WONDERFUL job that I should love and be grateful for, but instead I sit at my desk and have an enormous about of inertia that prevents me from doing anything, except in short bursts of intense energy. And I’m starting to feel a wee bit guilty.

And so, as I drove down the highway today in my silly little rental, in the rain, trying to find the headlights and the windshield wipers, while navigating the bay area without a GPS (yet another thing left in the truck), Mother Nature was a likely target.

I know that I can’t control the weather
I know that inclement weather is good because it gives Farley time off
I know that “this too shall pass”
I know there are all sorts of admirable things I can get done during this time like housework, letter writing, and cat grooming.
I know I sounds like a whiney, complaining little kid who can’t imagine life in 2 weeks because they only live in the NOW.

But I want to play with my pony.

Now off to sulk.

And finish off my Pity Bread (otherwise known as “Molasses Beer Bread” – recipe given in an earlier post. I should mention it toasts quite nicely because all the sugar in it caramelizes into yummy goodness!).

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What if I wasn’t a horse person?

Or rather: “The consequences of driving a small car”

I’ve blogged before about how we can sometimes be distracted away from our horses (for example – by inclement weather) and for a time discover all those hobbies and interests that might actually turn into something if it wasn’t for our horses. Then the situation passes and we turn back to our great love – horses.

While driving my small rental car (truck is still in the shop) this week I had another variation of that thought, which was:

“What would my life look like without horses?”

The thought wasn’t malicious or born in response to a particular horrible event. It was seriously considered only in the way that a Mother might think “how would my life be different without children?”.

I would drive a small car, like the one I am renting.

I would live in those fancy new apartments across the way. The ones in the gated community with a hot tub, game room and lounge, with a DVD lending library all included in rent.

I would take private fiddle lessons and practice every day.

I would be a serious runner and perhaps qualify for the Boston marathon.

I wouldn’t have a wardrobe composed entirely of second hand clothing and I would have more than one pair of office shoes and they would be newer than 4 years old.

I would shave my legs and join the Masters Swim club.

I would cry less, but probably would laugh less too.

I would travel to see friends in other parts of the country and I’d be better at keeping up with friends too.

I would actually make it to bible study and church more than once a month.

I would have internet at home but I probably wouldn’t have a blog and wouldn’t have learned to love other people.

I would probably be a much shallower, less caring person.

I think, in general, horse people are different. We are a little less naive, a little more accustomed to heartache and loss, but are also full of optimism and hope. We are keenly aware of the tradeoffs and costs and benefits since no matter what your income, the horses will swallow it whole. We are little more forgiving, and a little more tired then our non-horsey counterpart. A little more able to appreciate the “small things in life”. A little more likely to lend a helping hand. A little more likely to look past the grime of life and see truth. A little more likely to learn a bit of humility and the folly of pride. I think horse people are a little more likely to care.

Are you the same person if we took away your horses?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A miracle?

So....I discovered something very interesting today.

I can access my blog (and other people's blogs!) at work. After MONTHS of not being able to....magically I can again!

Maybe they figure everyone has broken the habit of wasting time?

Maybe it's a malfunction of the firewall?

Whatever it is I am NOT looking this gift horse in the mouth.


Now the question - will this make me more or less productive? And even more importantly - is this new found hole in the firewall going to last?

Ironically this comes at a time where I will be out of commission on the blog for a few days preparing for a HUGE audit. Next couple of days are scheduled posts.

New Technology

As fellow BB's I'm absolutely positive that you'all are all up to date on all the fancy ways of learning/exploring/obsessing about/and keeping in touch with the newest developments of the horse industry.


And because I know ALL of US have a GAZILLION hours a day to devote to all things horsey….I present even more ways to spend even more time immersed in all things horsey. 


Blogs – I'm assuming we all know about blogs.  Because you are reading one….great.  Shall we move on?


E-mail lists

  • Ridecamp – by far the most prolific of the e-mail lists I belong to.  My advice – definitely go with the digest version unless you have a gazillion hours to go through all the e-mails.  The new version that John Teeter has switched to is great.  It sorts the topics so all e-mails pertaining to the same topic are together, making for a much better reading experience.  Feathers are easily ruffled here it helps to have a sense of humor if you post.  Lots of dissenting views, but overall a good-hearted group even if we go stir crazy every winter.  I've learned many many new tricks and as a newbie, this was a very useful resource.
  • New 100 milers yahoo group.  This is my favorite e-mail list.  If you are only going to join one, join this one!  Good advice and very friendly.  It has experienced 100 milers on it and people who have never done a 100, but hope to some day.  Very friendly people who give good, useful advice.
  • Barefoot horse yahoo group.  This is a mixed group of e-riders and recreational trail riders.  It's a good e-mail list to have on the roster if you have a barefoot horse and are considering boots.  There's a lot of feedback on different types of boots, and if you are having problems, lots of ideas for trouble shooting and solving the problem. 
  • Hoof Boot exchange yahoo group.  This groups is set up much like a freecycle group, but for selling hoof boots.  It's fairly new, but already has lots and lots of members.  I love the concept an it's a great forum to get connected to other boot users and either get rid of a boot that isn't working for you, or to pick up another set of boots at an affordable price.  If you are selling your boots, it's also a nice place to see what other people are getting for their boots. 



You don't have to have an ipod to enjoy a podcast.  Set up like recorded radio shows, podcasts are a great way of learning about different topics for free!  Here's a few of my favorites.  (Sorry I don't have links to the podcasts.  All of them are available through iTunes, and most of them have their own websites that should be Google-able)

  • Horse radio network.  This network publishes several weekly podcasts, as well as a daily podcast.  Their flagship for the network is "The Stable Scoop" which is very entertaining and very informative.  I've listened to its inception and while it has gotten more professional-sounding, it's still a fun listen because it's obvious these are people who are doing this for the love of the industry and their passion for the subject – not because they are making $$ off of this thing…If you only have time for one, listen to "The Stable Scoop".  If you can't get enough, then add the Eventing Radio Show, Dressage Radio Show, Horse Tip Daily, and the Jumping Radio Show.  Whew.  Don't you wish you had a longer commute so you could listen to all this?
  • Horse Girl TV.  HGTV has a few different shows but they overlap to some extent.  While these are classified as "podcasts" they are different.  Each are 10 minutes long (or shorter!) and pack a lot information into a beautifully produced miniature tv show!  Angela Walkup has won an award(s) for the production of these fabulous tidbits.  Definitely worth checking out.
  • Non-horse related podcasts.  I listen to a few other pod casts, that while non-horsey, deserve a mention because they are so gosh darn entertaining.
    • Vital Signs
    • WNYC's radiolab
    • This American Life
    • The Naked Scientist
    • Stuff you Missed in History Class
    • NPR: Car Talk
    • Dan Carlin's Hardcore Hisotry
    • A Byzantine history podcast whose name can't remember (darn it!).  The series ended a few years ago, but it's absolutely wonderful.  Google "Byzantine" in itunes and it should pop up as one of the high rated shows.  If you click on it and it isn't entertaining….than that isn't the one!
  • Anyone else have any favorite podcasts that deserve a mention?


Industry Magazines/newletters (e-mail)

I only have one in this category –  I recommend going to the website and signing up for their newsletters.  Every single one.  They are sent weekly and every week I click on almost every one of their article links.  It is informative and cutting edge.  This is a good way of doing a survey of what's happening in the horse industry every week.



Forums can be a bit difficult.  The information is sketchy and definitely to be taken with a grain of salt….Posters mean well, but I swear if I hear one more person say that MTG is the miracle stuff that will cause your horses hair to drag the ground….I will probably scream (scaring the 2 kitty cats currently nestled around me in my recliner).  Still, there is some good information and it is a way to reach out to other people just starting out in endurance.  Often people trying to find out more about endurance start at forums and don't know where to go next.  It's a great opportunity to direct them to more comprehensive sites and mentors.  Here's the two I frequent most often (plus a newbie).  In all my user name is "AHorseOffCourse":

  • Horse Grooming Supplies Forums
  • Chronicle of the Horse forums
  • Endurance Riding Forums.  
    • This is a newbie – just started this week!  I've gone over and registered, but haven't really perused it yet.  I'm thinking positively that it will be a place where good information will be exchanged so I include it here.


Any more suggestions?  Anyone's favorite lists that I have left out?  Someone I forgot to mention?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Heart Rate Monitors

After waxing eloquently in previous posts and comments about the advantages of using available technology to improve and give relief to our hard-working horses, I come to the topic of heart rate monitors (HRM) and promptly contradict myself.


I hate contradictions.


It comes very close to being a hypocrite. 


When it comes to HRM, I believe there are two camps of people.


Camp #1 doesn't use HRM and believes people who do aren't in tune enough with their horses.


Camp #2 uses HRM and believes people who don't are old fogies stuck in the dark ages.


I am, of course, exaggerating for comedic effect but you get the idea. 


I used to use a HRM, but now I don't. 


HRM, in theory, give you another training tool to monitor a horse's fitness progress through a conditioning program.  Along with other information, it can help you determine correct pacing.  It is an essential tool if you choose to do certain workouts such as precisely calculated intervals.  It also can help identify problems due to fatigue or micro injuries if you are astute enough to realize that the heart rate is higher during a certain workload than usual.  


"This sounds great!", you say.  "I don't see how this isn't a good thing!". 


Hold your horses!  Whoa nelly! 


As a former user of a HRM, I'm going to go through each of the assumed benefits and explain why, after I accidentally lost the heart rate monitor at the vet check of Farley's first LD, I didn't bother replacing it. 


Idea #1:  Pacing and monitoring horse's fitness

Practically:  I bought a HRM when I had Minx, and then also used it on Farley when I got her.  The most interesting thing was realizing that all around, Farley had a much lower heart rate than Minx, even though Minx had the benefit of almost a year of conditioning.  Farley ambled around on the trail in the 40's, while Minx would be in the 60's doing the same work.  That was the ONLY "new" thing I learned while using the HRM.  Other things that the HRM told me were……

  • When the heart rate increased to a certain high level, my horses wanted to walk. So if we were trotting a hill and they wanted to walk than…..the HRM confirmed that they should walk.  If we were cantering along and my horse wanted to slow down….the HRM confirmed that yes, it was time to slow down.
  • When they walked for a while and then my horses wanted to trot……my HRM confirmed that the heart rate had dropped enough that my horses should trot.


So, in reality, my HRM told me that I had very honest horses and I should listen to them. 


My alternative:  As a better gauge of fitness I like to do pulse down on the trails.  I'll get to my turn around point, or I'll get to a good grazing/watering hole and get off.  Then, I will count the minutes that it takes for the horse to pulse down below 60.  I find this is a much better gauge of how much work the horse is performing than the HRM, which half the time showed me faulty readings or didn't work at all. 


I would go back to a HRM if:  ….I had a horse that had a problem pulsing down, or if I had a horse that wasn't honest about how hard they were working.  Metabolic issues would be another indicator to me that at least in the short term, I needed to use a HRM to try and figure out what was going on.  Neither one of my horses had/has a problem pulsing down.  I can actually trot or canter into a vet check with Farley and by the time I dismount and get my ride card out, she's under sixty.  She has never taken more than 60-90 seconds off the trail to pulse down to criteria, even during Tevis.  Both of my horses are very honest about their fatigue and effort level.  When Farley and I have our speed discussions, it's not because she can't go faster and be perfectly fine…'s because I'm trying to minimize wear and tear on her body by going a reasonable speed.   I don't have lazy horses.  If they want to walk, it's because they need to walk.


Idea #2:  Using it to generate targeted workouts

Practically:  Since I'm not looking to get every ounce of performance out of my horse, I feel like we do "good enough" by focusing on LSD with some random Fartlek work outs here and there.  Having preplanned workouts with heart rates and precise distance/time calculations would drive my OCD into the realm of insanity.  I would worry more about hitting my workouts than just having fun with my horse and using common sense in my training. 


My Alternative:  I know that walk/trot will get the job done and I throw a canter in here and there just for fun.  It works.


I would go back to the HRM if:I had a string of horses that I was trying to into shape all at the same time in the least amount of time possible.  Having HRM data means that each horse would have targeted training and there would be no "wasted" work outs.  If I had a business of conditioning endurance horses, both my own and other peoples.  If I was consulting on the topic of endurance horse conditioning.  In these cases, HRM data would be an extra layer of protection against not noticing a problem that gets buried under having many horses and many riders.  If I was serious about competing in endurance and campaigning myself.  If I had a horse that I felt had gone through an extensive conditioning problem, yet his performance wasn't up to par.  In the underlined scenarios I would give careful consideration to using a HRM.


Idea #3:  Identifying fatigue and micro injuries

Practically:  I don't put a lot of faith in heart rate for identifying injuries or illness any more.  When Minx was fatally colicking, her heart rate was in the 30's.  When she colicked the first time (non fatal) her heart rate was in the 30's.  When I rider optioned during a ride because midway through the vet check she had no gut sounds and wasn't eating, she had pulsed in within 30 seconds of leaving the trail and had passed the vet check with flying colors.  With double bowed tendons in both front legs, she was still trotting into vet checks and pulsing down immediately (and passing the CRIs).  When I pulled Farley for fatigue (and minor lameness) at Tevis, her heart rate recoveries were excellent.  While I think that heart rate is a useful tool, I find that it's a small part of the whole picture.   If something goes wrong, in most cases it will NOT just be the heart rate that goes haywire – there wil be other signs too.  In most cases when the HRM was giving me a weird reading- it was just that – a weird reading.  It didn't work well enough ALL the time to pick up any small subtleties that might have indicated fatigue or injury.


My alternative:  Observe the horse.  Don't rely on any one physical indicator, instead evaluate the whole picture.  Using just the heart rate can lull you into a false sense of security. 


I would go back to the HRM if:…I don't have a good answer for this one.  Although I would return to using a HRM for a variety of reasons, to identify fatigue and injuries would not be a reason.  One possibility is if I had a horse that wasn't honest about letting me know it was tired – then I might consider it (as described in the first section of this post).


Conclusion:  Overall I decided that a HRM for me, right now, with this horse was not necessary.  It was an additional piece of equipment I had to prep, worry about, and make sure it was not rubbing my horse.  Instead of enjoying the scenery and listening to my horse, I was looking at my HRM, tapping the receiving, wondering whether the reading on the receiver was "real", and generally annoying my horse.  Maybe it was Farley that took matters into her own hooves and "lost" the monitor at the vet check?  All I can say is that so far, both of us are better without this bit of technology. 


As always, would LOVE to hear your opinions in the comments.