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Friday, September 30, 2011


What if....

I had a personal assistant? 

What would I choose to "contract" out of my life?  

This one is easy.  Phone calls and listening to messages.  And handwashing dishes.  And washing my vehicles.

But let's face it - that's a boring way to look at a rather fanciful question.  

"What do I want to accomplish that I am not accomplishing?"

Before school, it seemed straightforward - what I needed was a housekeeper to do my housework and laundry, and to cook and to make up my lunches.  Then I could continue to ride and run, but have a dwelling that wasn't embarrassing-ly dirty and unsanitary.

It seemed like a darn fine idea to have a personal assistant tie up the loose ends of my life.  

Now in school, I have more time than I while working - but somehow I'm getting less done.

Here's the sad thing - having a personal assistant wouldn't do a darn thing.

The same old things that I detest are still present - talking on the phone, listening to message, returning phone calls - but I've realized the time I spend doing those things is minimal and having someone else do them wouldn't gain me more than 10 minutes a week.   I still do a minimum of housework, but with a dishwasher and another person around it's more than reasonable.  I'm enjoying my school work too much to even consider having someone else study for me - even if that was possible in some magic universe.  If I wanted to ride, I have the time.  If I wanted to run or get in better shape, I have the time.  I have the time to play with Tess and do as much training as we can both handle.  I have the time to blog.  I have the time to commute an average of 2 1/2 hours a day.

In reality, I'm accomplishing a fraction of what I want and as gaining more time in the day does me absolutely no good; the premise that having a personal assistant would help me accomplish more  is rather depressing. 

So let's throw reality out the window.


Let's take a different approach to the question.  A much less practical way of looking at the questions.

And infinitely more fun.

"How could I make my life more fabulous by having someone else do stuff for me?"

I like this question much better.

Instead of fantasizing what more I could ACCOMPLISH with the personal assistant (and implied extra time), now we are talking about standard of living change....

For example-

Someone to bring me hot drinks on command.  This definitely tops the list.

Someone to coordinate my social life and my calendar.  And to tell people "no" when I'm invited to an event that threatens to "overbook" my calendar.

Someone to decide what the menu will look like for the week and to draw up shopping lists.

Someone to prepackage little salads for me, on demand.

Someone who would keep my tackroom/trailer in impeccible order.

Someone to beautifully groom Tess.

Someone that will do Farley's feet for me, every 2 weeks, that will let me watch and ask a million questions and do it when I'm available - weekends and evenings.

Someone to ride my horse 5 days a week on a strict rehab program, for the next 6 months.  Exactly the way I want it done. And except for the days I actually feel like riding.

Someone that could ultrasound my horses leg after every ride and tell me exactly how whether I'm making progress or not. 

Someone that could take showers for me

We can all dream right? 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

In which I compare Farley to vehicle maintenance

As you will shortly find out, I really have nothing to talk about - blah blah blah blah.  But since this sounds very much like my current lecturing professor, I'm going to make a valiant effort. 

Oh - and BTW, most of the posts for this blog are scheduled now.  It's in an effort to make the posts a little more consistent and help me manage my time between school, writing, Farley, and self-care easier.  You may even notice a certain pattern here - Mon, Wed, Fri anyone?  Of course, that assumes that I don't screw up and just post, or if I write an awesome post and can't WAIT to share it. 

Thus "yesterday" and "today" are figurative, not literal terms. Deal with it.  I'm about to whip out the "but I'm a vet student..." card and nobody wants that right? 

Yesterday I did the weekly maintenance on my car - I checked the oil and the tire pressure, found that (probably due to recent weather changed) that my tires were ~5 pounds too low and dragged out the air compressor.  The low tire pressure corresponded with a drop in gas mileage I had observed during the week - which was a relief - tire pressure was the simple answer.

The car gets a lot of use - I fill up my car ~3x a week, each time checking the gas mileage,  and travel almost 900 miles a week in my commute. 

Competing an endurance horse, specifically a 100 mile endurance horse, is a lot like my routine car maintenance.  I keep close tabs on it, do the weekly mileage, and keep an eye on anything that might signal that I have a problem starting.  Sometimes a problem is as simple as changing a management practice.  Catching a problem early while its still fixable (or manageable) prevents getting stranded on the side of the road, late to a midterm and (just guessing here) on the edge of hysterics, since that WILL be the day that you wore heels and a skirt and were supposed to do a million errands after an 8a-5p day at school. 

We can contrast that to my truck.  I never check my oil.  Tires may get checked before a long trip that involves a horse trailer.  I'm not an entirely irresponsible vehicle owner - the periodic maintenance (oil changes, transmission fluid etc.) is all performed.  The difference lies in how often, and to what detail I monitor the small details.  I could maintain my truck the same as my car - but it doesn't make sense from a time management point of view - the truck gets very few miles on in relative to the car, is less likely to have an issue considering the age, mileage and use.  Sure, if I had unlimited time and energy I could do it - but we are talking about reality, not lalalala land.

Of course, if the truck ever became my main commuter, then my management practices would change.

Let's talk about Farley.  A year ago she was a well oiled machine, in fact, a Tevis machine.  I carefully managed every aspect of her care - from monitoring selenium levels, stuffing vit E capsules down her gullet, and coordinating a complex schedule of conditioning rides, lessons, dressage, jumping, and off days.  Nowadays, her routine looks a little more like my truck.  She sits, fat and happy in her pasture 90% of the time.  When I tear myself away from studying and the puppy, we go on a walk.  She's fat, so we go out bareback.  Sometimes, because I'm mean, I make her trot for 10 yards or so before we take it back down to a walk, both of us sweaty and out of breath.

Now, I could rack myself with guilt on how much she is ignored and force myself through the routine I've kept up over the last couple of years - but what's the point?  If I'm not asking much from the horse, any gain I might receive from such a routine would be minimal - and not a good use of my time (or $$, although right now, time is more precious than my dollars).  She's a generally healthy animal, and if I'm not doing 100's or 50's, why bother?  If I DID have to intensively manage her now, I would be SERIOUSLY reconsidering her ability to be a successful endurance horse.  In my experience, the "management committment" goes up as mileage goes up and if you START with a hard to manage ain't pretty when you get to 100, or even 50 miles.  Can anyone spell M-I-N-X?  (Bless her heart.....).

So, for now, Farley is a GMC (in more than size....), not a Corolla.

Other School Update Stuff

I'm toying with the idea of a new blog for vet stories called "Chick n' Boots", but until I have REAL stories that don't consist of "today I sat in a lecture and...." or "today I took a test and...." it will be kept in reserve and I'll continue to post little updates here.  (and yes, I already have the name reserved.  I've learned that if I have an idea for a blog, it might come in useful in the future so I take it)

School is going GREAT.  I totally rocked the exam last Friday (grades yet to be posted - but trust me on this) and I opened up the take home (open book) pharmacology exam and realized that the open book was a moot point because, I tell you, I GOT this!

Yeah, I may be getting a little cocky.

But seriously - I have no job except to play with my puppy, study, and sit in class and after experiencing the world of salaried management, I can tell you that I do NOT take this for granted.

90% of the "trick" of vet school (if there is such a thing) is to figure out how to learn the material.  I'll save my suggestions for a more vet school-oriented forum, unless someone comments that they want to know more.  It took me through the first test to orient myself, but now I have a routine that works, and still leaves me time to play.

At least theoretically.  Who knew puppies could be so much fun?   Me and Farley will be a matching pair soon (in the "shape" category) unless I can get my act together.

Although, I think I'm coming to the conclusion that life is too short to spend it in any other way than having fun.  So assuming my fun is NOT doing awful, unhealthy things (horses excluded of course - don't look at the statistics!!!!!) I can barely bring myself to care too much.

Oh and by the way - one of your fellow bloggers broke the ice and asked me a vet related question for one of her animals.  And guess what?  It was fun.  So if you have a vet med, animal, or biology related question and want a not-so-professional, not-too-serious, heavily-based-in-conjuncture answer, ask away!!!!!!!!

OK.  I'm done.  I swear.  Back to learning about artifacts in ultrasound.  After all, it seems like I'll be a vet someday. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

100 mile completion rates

Every so often on the 'net, someone asks why 100 mile rides have completion rates that are so much lower than 50's.

I think in general it's common sense .  I do think the specific factors are different for each horse/rider team.  I've listed my top 3 reasons my completion rates for 100's are lower than 50's (specifically, with Farley), and I think it might actually be interesting to hear from you folks of what you think is YOUR reason you don't complete the same amount of 100's as 50's.  Or, the same amount of 50's as LD's. 

With Farley I have 3/5 100 completions, and 100% 50 mile (with a 65 and 55's and multi days thrown in) completions.

Here's the top 3 reasons I think my 100 mile completion rate is worse....

1.  Sheer distance.  At each 100 that I was pulled in, I finished more than 50 miles (65 miles at one, 92 at the other), thus if they had been standard 50 mile endurance rides, I would have finished.

2.  I'm more likely to take a horse to a 100 that doesn't work out perfectly weather or timing wise, because there's not as many of them.  For example, a 100 in the middle of July/beginning of August in California?  Insane!!!!!!  Riding 100 miles in the rain because your next chance isn't until July?  Insane!!!!!!!  In both of those cases, I probably wouldn't have done the ride if it was a 50 - there's too many of them to risk my horse in crappy weather or footing.  But a 100.....I have maybe 3 chances a year to ride a 100, IF my horse doesn't manage to kill herself before the next one. (But in my new philosophy of "I want to ride endurance until I'm 80", I would be more likely to give the ride - even a 100 - a pass, as a "fair weather rider").

3.  I think the 2 factors above are my major ones.  If I had to put a third, I would probably cite fatigue on the riders (my) part.  I've been having a tough time physically at the end of 100's, which just doesn't happen at a 50. There's not a good way of training for that, unless perhaps I was a medical resident in the ER, military stuff or something (hey!!!  maybe vet school will be excellent 100's trainig!!!  GREAT - $200K for 100's training!) like that.  I think that definitely takes the toll on the horse, whether it's how I'm riding, that fact I'm NOT getting off to run, or the things that I forgot to do for my horse during the last hold.  (one reason a crew is super importatnt for me at a 100).  I continue to figure out better ways to care for myself, just as I continue to figure out better ways to manage my horse, so I expect this to be less and less of a negative factor for my 100 mile rides. 

I know that other factors such as can impact 100 mile completions -  your tack has to fit even better, little things add up after 100 miles that were never a concern at 50, etc.  What's YOUR reason?

Update - for those of you not following me in Twitter, has an article on endurance horse pulls at rides here.  It's VERY general, but could be interesting to keep an eye on.  

Sunday, September 25, 2011

New Trail Reviews and Maps - Website update

A new website update published today.

I added another California trail review.

Additionally, I have added google maps of all trailheads, and linked to pdf trail maps for all the California trails that were authored by me!

Please check out the trail reviews and submit your own review for your favorite trail riding in your area. It's difficult to find trails that are suitable for endurance conditioning and it's my goal to provide a comprehensive resource to endurance riders all over the country. Reviews can be as detailed (or not) as you would like. You will be given credit for the review!

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Much like the realstate agent that harps "location, location, location", I would argue that endurance is a product of foundation, foundation, foundation.

Here is what I want in my "finished" product. 

  • I don’t want to have to continually “talk” Farley through a behavior step by step. 
  • I want her to choose correctly in a novel circumstance
  • I want her to be mentally happy - ie she is in a happy place because she is doing what her “nature” is in a constructive way
  • I want her to practice self restraint - in the absence of me talking or physically holding her in place.  I consider this a subcategory of "making good choices".  
  • I want a willing partner - which is the culmination of all the behavior above - offering choices, having her chose the "right" choice, having her in a happy mental place.  

Here's what's interesting - It wasn't by contemplating endurance that I was able to articulate these goals. As I sat down and begin to formulate the kind of agility dog I wanted, I realize it very closely matched what I want in an endurance horse.

Foundation work is foundation work and strikingly similar whether I'm doing endurance or agility. 

Currently I'm in a "foundation" block at school.  Yes, that's actually what it's called.  :) .  I was taken aback for the first couple of weeks.  For some reason, foundation = easy or simple in my mind.   I sat in dismay during my first week as classes, as I thought the expectation was that I had previously learned these concepts - when in fact I have never taken a cell biology class, and had studiously avoided molecular biology.  I felt lost until I realized the foundations block wasn't intended as a review of the material that I had as an undergraduate, or as a "easy start" into school.  The block is intended to impart a HUGE amount of information that encompasses a WIDE range of subjects that will provide the foundation for the next 4 years, and for my career as a veterinarian.  Whether I learn the intricacies of oncology or the canine eye is less important than that I understand the material being presented right now, in foundations.

Although I love biology and medicine and thus I AM enjoying the material I'm learning, I will confess that foundation material is rarely sexy or exciting....much like laying the foundation of an endurance horse or an agility dog.  Foundation work is not done during an endurance ride or while on a course.  And while we are on the subject, I want to make clear - "Foundation" is not the conditioning miles you put on your endurance horse.  Foundation is everything you do with your endurance horse EXCEPT actually physically conditioning it for the trail.  

Here's the thing about foundations - they follow you wherever you go.  Lack of attention or dedication to proper foundations is the reason why failure follows people who "sport hop".  A common thread in their continuing frustration of not being able to accomplish their goals is often related to a lack of foundation.

Here's where my thought process gets complicated.

Nature versus nurture.  I used to think that nurture made up a LARGE part of how an animal "turned out".  However, after working with horses and trainers and dogs and purebreds....I'm not so sure anymore.  Nature matters.  A lot.  Pedigrees, something I held in disdain ("that's nice if you are breeding or selling...") actually matter to me now and I think can say something about the innate tendencies of the horse.  But the whole philosophy of training is that we can mold and shape behavior into something useful and positive.

This is where I stand now on the issue - my comments below relate to those animals that are being used for a purpose that they are suited for.  The trainer doesn't get all the credit for the success, for if they have chosen wisely, then they have set themselves up for success.  Farley is really nice endurance horse.  She excels because she is suited to the sport, but there is also a part of that success that I can claim credit to as well.  I think the trick is not to over or under estimate the impact you can have an animal and try to always have perspective.

So, assuming that I am talking about that piece that the trainer can take credit for.....

In general, an unwanted behavior, is a missing foundation piece.  There are exceptions (like were discussed above), but my horse or dog, is a product of ME.  I think this is more true of dogs than horses, since horses have usually been handled by more people and seem to act more on conditioned response while the dog seems to have a greater ability to "think through" something, but it's important for me to remember that even thought there is ingrained response or conditioned response, how I respond to the behavior will determine how the behavior will proceed in the future.

When I evaluate my horse or dog's behavior I remind myself -

"Do not be the victim.  It’s unlikely that MY dog or horse, (especially if the behavior is a pattern in ALL my animals) defies all the normal modes of learning that everyone else’s dog/horse seems to be able to learn by.  I may not have been able to overcome the natural tendency of an animal to do something - but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be done.  It means I didn’t have the tools or time to do so."

It’s OK to admit that.  It’s OK to not have a perfectly behaved animal, but i think it’s a mistake to say that it’s impossible to fix....and if I can look at my shortcomings and critically evaluate them, it makes me a stronger trainer.  (and it's important to remember that every interaction with a dog or a horse is a training lesson!).  If I have to explain and make excuses for the behavior, then I am playing victim.  The biggest success story is getting compliments on how well behaved the animal is - and then dragging out the story of what a little terror it was and how far we've come - not the other way around. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thursday question post

Check out Many Muddy Paws blog and join me in a Thursday Question post. 

A benefit of being a vet student is that I can pull the “but I was really busy and stressed and that’s why...” card and everyone seems to nod in understanding. might notice that not only is it NOT Thursday, but it’s been a while Many Muddy Paws even published the post.  Ummm...yeah....Totally pulling the “vet student” card....

This week in questions:

1. What is the biggest thing that grossed you out over the past week?
Pus really disgusts me.  In pathology I had to stare at a picture of a cow liver with an abscess that was leaking runny yellow pus all over the liver.  Gross.  Didn’t make me feel any better knowing that pus is “liquafactive necrosis” and that’s it’s liquified tissue.  Ew.  However, pus is definitely preferable to the biosecurity presentation that we had to watch in the class a few weeks ago.  It was based in human medicine and had all sorts of pictures of human wounds and nastiness.  We all agreed that animals are much perferrable to human patients and that humans smell funny. 

2. What do you feed your dogs? (And horses)

Tess gets the fish formula of Taste of the Wild.  She does really well on it.   Her diet is supplemented with the occasional dog appropriate human food - egg, vegetables, whole chicken cut up left overs and giblets, etc.

Farley is getting orchard grass.  It has a wee bit of Alfalfa in it - which is fine with me.  She’s no longer free feeding since she’s decided to take on a blimp shape.  Still supplementing with vitamin E and selenium (from Platinum Performance) in a WEE bit of Elk Groves Stable Mix Senior (less than 1/2 pound - ~1 cup).  She looks great and I’m comfortable with the amount of sugar in her diet. 

3. If you could move anywhere where would you live?
It’s hard to beat California weather.  And living in the heart of endurance country doesn’t hurt either.  If I could live there in the summer only, I like Wyoming.  If I could be guaranteed year ‘round riding and an indoor arena, Colorado would be incredible.  It’s hard to beat Nevada for wide open spaces to ride right out your back door.  At this point it would be nice to live closer to school (1 hour 10 minute commute currently), but not at the sacrifice of having to put Farley in a paddock or being further away than I am now (20 minutes from Farley).

4. What is the funniest thought that occurred to you (or thing that happened to you) this week?
Joy?  Happiness? Laughter?  Those things don’t happen to vet students who are over worked, over stressed and generally miserable.  :)  What?  you don’t believe me?  I wouldn’t either.  It wasn’t FUNNY, but one of the things that put a smile on my face was watching Tess swim in a ditch at the bluegrass festival I attended this weekend.  It was over her head and she was chasing butterflies through weeds 3x her height, taking flying leaps across the ditch, and paddling her way through the water.  What could be more enjoyable to watch, as I contemplate how her PNS and CNS are working together to make sure that cellular signaling occurs using a variety of pathways utilizing GABAergic and cholinergic receptors among others make her function and if she ever gets seizures I would have to put her on phenobarbital and how scary would THAT be considering the liver disease, and when she did that belly flop was that ventrally or dorsally? 

5. If you couldn't have your breed of choice what would be next on your list?
I definitely see another Standardbred on my list.  I’m not sure if Arab is my breed of choice, and if they aren’t than what is on the top of my list.  The different breeds all have their strengths and weaknesses and it totally depends on what I’m using the horse for.  I think that both arabs and standardbreds are good “all ‘round” horses.  My childhood dream horse is a chestnut fox trottin’ mare with a flaxen mane and tail.  I’m not sure if that will ever be a reality, but it’s always in the back of my mind. 

Life update (things that you may be interested in, but that are too "life journal-like" to be a real post) -

Checked the Farrier's work last night.  He doesn't take off as much hoof as my other farrier, but I'd rather him be conservative than too go crazy.  He left a lot of sole - which I like - and took down the heels to the seat of the corn.  My only complaint about my previous farrier was that he tended to take a wee bit more sole and frog than I would have ideally wanted, and sometimes on the hinds didn't take the heels as far down as they needed.  I did see some issues with this trim.  The new farrier doesn't do ANY roll, and I felt like he left the toe on the RF WAY too long - it really needs to be backed up.  In summary, it looks more like a foot that has been prepped for a shoe than a barefoot trim.  However - Since he's leaving sole, balancing the foot well, and leaving me enough hoof to work with, I'll just do the rolling and the backing up that RF after his trims.  At some point (probably when I start serious conditioning again) I will probably have to find a different farrier who's trimming style compliments a barefoot performance better, but for now I think I'll be fine.

Almost passed out during my sheep handling lab yesterday.  It was really hot - which I'm usually fine with.  I made sure I ate (something that's been a problem lately), but for some reason, sometimes when I have to stand in one place without moving I get very dizzy.  It's happened in cold and hot environments.  I have low blood pressure, so thinking that is was because I wasn't moving around I started fidgeting and moving around (while trying not to be rude).  I drank some water, took off the undershirt I was wearing underneath my scrub top to try and cool down.  I was fine once they stopped lecturing and I was able to move around and handling my sheep.  I've never been able to conclusively link this to anything specific.  Probably happens every 2 years or so?  Never the same situation twice, but always involving me standing in one place for a while.  This was the first food animal handling lab (which is what I want to do) and my first time meeting some of the professors I hoped to work with in the future, so I was desperately trying not to do anything silly like pass out or flash anyone (remember having to remove my undershirt??????....).   I got through it OK, but it was a close thing.  I'm learning some REALLY interesting things in Pharmacology that have a direct impact on endurance - as soon as I get my head wrapped around it I'll put down some of my thoughts here regarding bioavailability, generics, loading doses, and species differences. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

How Endurance will look different pt. 4

This is the end of my musings on how endurance is going to look different for Team Faubel.

Thank goodness.

There’s nothing like getting in the car for the morning commute and looking at the full moon and feeling a sudden impulse to whip through the pre-dawn streets without headlights to let you know that there’s been too much TALKING about endurance and not enough RIDING. 

Driving through the darkness in a little Corolla, with a fiendish look over my face as I hunch over the steering wheel, is the closest I’ll be to riding a 100 for quite some time.  Considering that “endurance” is currently ...30 minutes at a walk on good footing on level ground.  I admit that I did urge my fat lazy pony into a little western jog near the end of our ride the other day.  Evidently anything over a 0.000001mph trot is beyond her imagination at this point.  A year ago we were Tevis material.  Now, I’m explaining to passerby’s that yes, this IS an arab - even though her ears are too big, her eyes too soft, her head held too low, and her belly too fat.  Maybe it would be more believable to call her a Welsh Pony?  I don’t even try to explain that this is my Tevis pony.  THAT would be more than what any reasonable person would be expected to believe. 

Last year I had a Tevis Buckle.  This year I have “Perspective”, which could be defined as putting your itty-bitty puppy into the one-person tent, and after they stop richotetching around and lay down, realize that they may actually be getting they seem to be taking up quite a large proportion of the (very) limited foot print.

5.  Longer and slower conditioning rides.  Rarely did I do over 15 miles or so during a conditioning ride.  Occasionally I did a 20-23 mile ride a couple times a year.  Most of my mileage was made up in shorter rides more often.  Because I’ll be riding less days a week, I can ride more mileage when I do ride, and not feel like I’m taking my horse too close to the edge of “fit or broke”. The mileage I do will count and I’ll do one or 2 slow 30’s (or LD’s) before asking for a ride effort.  It’s shocking how little real conditioning I did for endurance rides.  I do believe that some of the biggest problems in endurance come from over conditioning and I was always conscious of how much time I was putting in the saddle - however, now I’ll be making that time count better.  She’s on pasture and doesn’t have to get out every day in order to keep moving. 

6.  Fair weather only.  I’m done doing rides in crappy weather just to prove how tough me and my horse are.  It’s not fun for me, it’s rarely fun for the horse, an it heightens the risk of injury for horse and rider to a level that’s unacceptable for me right now.  I have an IT band issue an an achilles injury that REALLY doesn’t like cold weather and Farley has issues with getting a bit tight in the hind end and it becomes difficult to manage in cold rainy weather.  I’m doing this sport because it’s FUN, and I want to take care of me and my horse so we are still doing this in 10 years.  There’s always another ride. 

7.  Chose rides carefully - stay away from the ones that have a reputation for being “too hard”.  There are a couple rides in my region that are extremely difficult.  One that makes no secret of that is the American River ride.  Truly, finishing the 50 at American River was harder than finishing any of my 100’s, including Tevis.  Yes it was beautiful, and yes, I feel like it was a significant accomplishment to just finish.  However, my overwhelming feeling after finishing was disgust.  Disgust that I had the guts to ask that much from my horse and put her at risk for a career ending injury.  I realize that every time we ask for an endurance effort we are asking a lot and accepting a level of risk, but in my opinion, there are some rides that are “over the top” and I still can’t look back at finishing American River without feeling foolish for it. 

8.  More time off more often.   There is an ‘oft spoken truth that you can either give the horse time off voluntarily, or you can wait and give that time off after they get injured.  Active rest is still an important part of the recovery process, however I will give Farley more prolonged blocks of time off - in terms of months rather than a week here and there - going forward.  It was hard to balance the need of rest and time off with not being able to keep her on pasture.  That’s one thing that’s nice about major life changes - sometimes it’s easier to make the other changes beyond the specific scope of a career change or location change!

And that concludes how my picture-perfect-next-endurance season is going to go.  30 minutes walking is awfully close to an endurance ride, right?  At least that’s what I’m told by trail riders who assure me that their horse is Tevis material since they’ve finished 30 minutes looking so “fresh”. 

IF everything goes well, I’m shooting for an LD during my spring break, if I can find a suitable one in the March/April time frame.  Farley is seeing a new farrier on today - the first time since I moved, and I admit I’m apprehensive.  I can’t be there during the trim so I’m having a sister stand in for me (a horsey one).  I just have to remember that if I get home and her feet look (*&*&%^&$&*)(* awful that they WILL grow back and she CAN go barefoot and I’m NOT totally incompetent when it comes to evaluating trims. 

A quick school update -

I passed my first midterm - barely.  The Rabies vaccination series made preparing for the exam difficult.  This first block is pass/fail so I’m not worried - if zero studying = a passing grade than I’ll be fine for the exams that I’m able to prepare for.  I’m loving school - I’m living, dreaming, breathing medicine and biology.  When I wake up suddenly, there’s always a thought of annoyed “where was I” because I was going through some physicological process.  Yes, I love animals and that is part of what makes a good veterinarian, however  I can’t imagine that my love of animals would get me through school.  If you are considering being a vet, I think it’s more important to love science, biology, and the process of medicine.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Endurance - a different look pt. 3

Continuing from where we left off - more ways that endurance season 2012 and beyond will look different.  Tess is being a terrorist this morning and I slept in, in a desprete attempt to make some physical issues go away (didn't work).  If you thought eating salad as finger food was difficult - just try typing a blog post with a ricocheting puppy who is brining you toys to throw (which I am doing because it took me MONTHS to foster her retrieval instincts), who completely "gets" when she has your full attention or not - and would much prefer to HAVE your full attention. 

3.  I will be more consistent and will riding MY ride.  It isn't necessarily other people that get me in trouble - it's Farley.  She'll want to go a little bit faster through a section and I'll go "OK" because it would be a lot of work to school her through half halts and insist that we do things exactly my way.  I probably compromised more than I should have.  I've always had the philosophy of not micro managing an endurance horse on the trail, and I believe fighting a horse for 50 miles makes for a worse ride than if I compromised on some points.  Now - I'm not talking about compromising to the point where we were riding faster than we conditioned, or doing something at a speed or gait that was unsafe.  It was smaller and more subtle than that.  Farley would offer something and I would shrug and go "why not"?  That's OK to do some of the time - but I did it too often and I think the accumulation of letting her go through the rocky sections a bit faster than I would like (She's amazingly "catty" and just floats through the most technical sections), or we trotted down one too many hills (again - she just floats downhill so it's hard to resist).  Those little things add up over the seasons, and if I want her to stay sound and healthy through the next seasons, and retire a sound and healthy horse at the end of her career, I need to be better about riding MY ride and being consistent.  Twenty Mule Team 2010 is an example of a ride where I thought I did an excellent job at riding MY ride - but not the point where I compromised Farley being able to do her job.  

4.  More listening to my gut.  I did several rides with Farley that in my gut I was uncertain about - but I plowed ahead.  In fact, I stated as much at the beginning of my 2009 Tevis video.  Twenty mule team was no exception.  I couldn't put my finger on it, but I was a little apprehensive about it.  I did things like replace the tires on my truck at the last minute because they needed replacing and unconsciously I was probably trying to erase some nagging doubt that something was going to happen.  When I talked to people about the upcoming ride, I talked about how statistically it was time for a pull, considering how many 100's Farley and I had done successfully.  I kept looking for a clear sign that I should pull, or that I was asking too much.  In the dressage lesson ~ 2 weeks prior to the ride, Farley took a couple of "funny" steps.  It wasn't real obvious, and it wasn't repeated during the remainder of the lesson (~30 minutes).  I did a couple more rides on her (short hacks on the canal bank) and couldn't find anything.  I trailered to the ride knowing that I would probably pull because of the weather, but the morning dawned cold but clear.  There was no reason not to ride. 

My point is, that in the future, instead of looking for clear reasons NOT to go, I will be looking for clear signs that I SHOULD go.  I've never regretted not riding a ride. 

Stay tuned for pt. 4.  It's 8:15 and I'm off to school.  Today's topics?  Channelopathies, radiology positioning and a histo lab concerning nerve tissue! 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Endurance - a different look pt.2

Wanna know a fabulous idea? 

White puppy + black marker = An anatomy lesson I'll probably retain.  Tess will "retain" it too!  Probably a lot longer than I would care to explain it....

I believe we were discussing how endurance this time around be ever more fabulous than my other restarts?

Now that we've gotten mental aspects and long term goals out of the way, now we can focus on the fun stuff!

"Why Melinda can look forward to the endurance 2012 season and beyond"

1.  Less multitasking, more focusing and living in the moment.

It is extraordinarily difficult NOT to multitask.  For so many years, that is *how* I got things accomplished.  I threw 3 or 4 plates in the air, kept half an eye on all of them, three quarters of an eye on another one, switching as needed between priorities.  I'm GOOD at multi-tasking, but....multi-tasking is not good for me.  I've noticed that I have a LOT more stress in my life the more multi-tasking I do.  Nothing gets done well, and I'm always vaguely anxious that the plates will come crashing down.  Multitasking is a useful skill - but so is the ability to focus.  I'm unable to focus for even 50 minutes on one thing - which became readily apparent as I started to sit through lectures.  It was impossible for me not to fiddle with emails, write posts, check my calendar, and glance at the clock.  If I don't focus in lecture, I end up having to spend LOADS of time learning it on my own, so the efficient thing is the FOCUS.  Unlearning unconcious multitasking is as hard as learning how to juggle all those plates in the first place. 

Of course this relates to endurance - I spent so much time multitasking in all aspects of endurance - including the day of the ride, I didn't enjoy it half as much I as should have.  Only on my last ride, which I thought every mile I rode might be my last, was I able to quiet myself and live in the moment.  If I have to ride LD's to achieve this "zen", then that's where I will stay until I can do it for 100 miles. 

2.  Less days per week of riding - pasture for Farley at all costs (or no endurance competitions)

The situation pre-school (did you notice?  There was life BEFORE vet school, and there's life IN vet school....) was less than ideal for an endurance horse - boarded in a paddock with no other turn out or exercise than what I personally gave her.  No hills, and a trailer ride every weekend.  I made it work and I learned a lot and I'm glad I did it....however, in the future I will either find pasture or I will not ask my horse to do 100 - or possibly even 50 - miles.  To decrease my chances of injury and pulls, riding less days per week is critical.  Unfortunately, without room for the horse to "self exercise", it's hard to get the horse fit enough, AND working "hard" 2-3 days a week....and letting them sit in a paddock the rest of the week is a recipe for DISASTER....

I also won't chose to compete more than one sport with a horse, if I'm trying to do something over LD's.  Dressage schooling will still have its place during the routine on a regular basis, however the number of riding days needed to prepare a dressage-competition-ready horse, show improvement in a weekly lesson, and condition for a 100 miler, requires too many hours on horse back.  Better to integrate an occasional lesson (1-2 month max), or ride a school horse than risk burning myself or my endurance horse out. 

Gotta run - this wasn't originally intended as a series, but in my commitment to focus with less multi-tasking, I just don't have big time blocks I can dedicate to writing posts.  Check back soon for pt.3!

Friday, September 9, 2011

I'll be back shortly....

Yesterday, driving to school in my truck, I was dismayed to find I had less than a quarter tank of gas.  To my amazement, as I drove throughout the day, my gauge readjusted itself so that I had MORE gas.  What the heck is going on?  It was parked on a slope - maybe that was the issue?  Although, after driving for 2+ hours I didn't think it should still be readjusting....

This morning I moved vehicles around so the truck was in the driveway.  I hopped in, and sure enough, the gauge still showed half a tank!  Then I realized the problem.

All day, for my 1+ hour commute each way and the trip to get the hay....I had failed to notice that I was transposing the "E" and the "F" on the fuel gauge.  And didn't have a clue.  Nada.  I went to bed wondering why I ended up with more gas at the end of the day than I started with.  I complained to the boyfriend that in addition to smashing my drivers side mirror to little bits that day, now my gas gauge was freakin' broke too!

I had started with almost a full tank. 

The boyfriend was unamused when I called this morning and told him everything was fine. 

The gauge that is.  Not the mirror. 

He admitted that he didn't think even *I* could be that silly...

So, I have concluded that my second rabies vaccine kicked my a$$.  It is making me TIRED and although I managed to pass my first midterm this morning (I think....), I'm in no shape to much else, including sit through this cell pathology lecture that doesn't involve a pillow. 

And yes - this counts as one of my three posts for the week.  :) 

Now go amuse yourself with some of these links:

Did you hear?  Mugs bought Fugs and posted a great post here

A video.  If you aren't an anatomy student, you probably won't get it.  But I thought it was funny.  

A good reference article on Electrolytes.  Give yourself a primer.  You can't ignore elytes - eventually it will come around and bite you the a$$.  Much like a rabies series.  (did I mention I have one more to go?)

I think most of you saw this when I posted it on Twitter/Facebook...but just in case you didn't, find out about the bear that will most likely eat you - it isn't mother+cubs.

A good (but not necessarily happy) article about some of the difficult desisions that await most of us at the end of our pet's life.

Karen Chaton's article (a reprint) of why it's awesome to be an endurance rider. 

Karen's dressage blog (different Karen than the one above) is starting a trailering series that looks promising. 

A different look at how one endurance rider takes care of herself on the trail.  Which I need to revisit for myself - all the issues that show up during a 100 are starting to show up in vet school, now 4 weeks in.  :(  Same gastro/nausea, hypersensitive to foods.  I may have mentioned...(who am I kidding, of COURSE I have mentioned....) how well endurance prepared me for vet school, and it looks like in addition to the preparation, there are some very similar demands physically/emotionally/mentally.  It's a rather interesting correlation. 

And now, I really must go.  There are pictures of enlarged dog prostates on the powerpoint and how could I possibly miss that?  After my nap of course....I could decide "better living through chemistry" and reach for those caffeine pills.  Have I mentioned there's one more rabies shot in my series.  Maybe THAT one won't be the same week as a midterm....

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Endurance - a different look Pt. 1

Re-starting Endurance after an injury that has been in rehab for 5 months, and will likely continue to be in rehab for the next 18 months, is just that - a restart.  A start from the beginning. 

The fact that Farley has almost a 1000 competition miles (not counting LD's) and has finished Tevis and 2 other 100's doesn't count any more.  The base line of how much mileage she can handle and the speed that we can navigate terrain, and our pacing for LD's, 50's, and 100's has all changed. 

Yes, it's wonderful we both have past experience in doing endurance - and the learning curve in developing/continuing our partnership will certainly be improved as compared to starting a totally new horse - but I think relying on the past to dictate our endurance future would be a mistake. 

The same questions have to be asked of the post-injury Farley as I would ask any new horse that comes into my possession.  How much mileage can the new tendon handle?  How fast?  Over what time period will I increase work?  What will be my "checkpoints" in the process?

Endurance News (publication by AERC) has recently published several good articles are starting an endurance horse - including a recent one by our very own blogger - AareneX.  The emphasis in the articles has been the importance of first developing the MIND of an endurance horse.  Only after the MIND has been properly conditioned should you work on cardio/muscles/bone/tendons and all those other "physios" of endurance riding. 

In deciding how endurance will look different, an assessment of Farley's "mind" condition is more important than what our conditioning program looks like.  Especially considering that improper "mind" conditioning is harder to undo, than being consistent from the beginning - and as I am starting a new chapter of endurance, now is a good time for "new starts" - even on those things I may have been lax about in the past.

Mental Conditioning

I think that Farley actually has a decent base of "mind" conditioning.  In 7 out of 10 starts she would start on a loose rein with no fuss.  Obviously, that can be improved - however, in general I am satisfied with her "rate-ability" during rides and the way we start our rides. 

However....there's this nagging issue that I'm totally going to fix on this go'round of the "new" endurance phase of Farley's career.  Standing when I say "stand".  As in, don't move your feet when I say stand.  Even if there really is a cougar in the bush.  And every horse in the ride is going to pass you.  And you are sure you are going to die.  Even then, you get to "stand".   

Especially now that most of the "big" attitude things have been fixed - not standing 100% of the time when I say "stand" has emerged as the "big issue". 

Consistent with the new plan of mental conditioning first, this issue will be fixed by the time Farley and I cross an official start line of a endurance ride again. 

Long Term Goals

Before starting on the physical conditioning plan, it's important to identify what my long-term goals are.

I read a lot of blogs. Every single blog on my side bar, plus more. My subscription count in Google reader is currently ridiculous, and on any given morning that translates into ~75 posts a day.

Each blog is a snapshot into some one's life and their activities and - whether they realize it or not - usually reveals the driving force or overall goal/expectation for their life. It's interesting to analyze how their daily actions or their explicit short term (1-2 years or less) goals either agree with or conflict with their unstated long term goals (5+ years).

I get frustrated when a blogger is contradicting their apparent long term goals with their present day actions! Do they realize what they are doing? Do they realize they are sacrificing their long term goals for instant gratification? Do they really want to achieve those long term goals or are they just for show? Am I unconsciously doing the same sabotage in my life? Are my short term goals consistent with what I want eventually? Or do they contradict each other?

Now is the time to explicitly state my long term goals, to make sure that my actions in the short term are consistent with them:

1.  Decade Team
2.  Platinum level 100 miler for Farley (requires at least 15 completed 100-milers)
3.  5000 mile medallion for Farley (short term goal is a 1000 miles of course!)

Although it would be neat to win a race, get a BC, compete in the national championships, win a mileage or points jacket at the end of the year etc. - realistically it won't happen, and in many cases would be contridictory to my long term goals. I won't push my horse hard enough to win (if I ever do, it will be a fluke - just like getting a year end points award in 2009) and I can't see when I'll have the time/money to ride the number of races to be competitive in the year end awards. (especially as a student).

Nope, my enjoyment in endurance comes from plugging along and sharing that experience with a horse - and if I'm NOT getting enjoyment from that, I need to do some serious self-evaluation.  Much like I'm doing now - because to do anything else is a complete contradiction of my long term goals.  I admit that I DID lose that "joy" that comes from just being able to complete rides and ride my horse in the last year or so.  Identifying why and what I can do to find satisfaction again will be paramount. 

Much to my dismay - my all too short lunch is now over (which is even more tragic as I'm skipping the "food" part of lunch to compose this), so like a good little vet student, I am now going to class.  I will continue this post in part 2, and will muse on some of the changes that will be giving endurance a "new look" for Farley and I. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Equine Medicine

Yesterday I mentioned that I would not be going into Equine Medicine. 

Before I started vet school, my response to the often asked question (was less of a question and more of a statement) "so you will be doing equine medicine of course" was based on the assumptions that I wanted to keep my hobbies and my job separate. 

I always wondered whether I was making the right decision - I'm so passionate about horses and have been my entire life.  In fact, my passion for horses FAR exceeds my passion for medicine and really anything else in life.  I am never happier than when I'm doing something with my horses.

And that's the key.  "...MY horses."

I like meeting other people's horses.  I like meeting other people's dogs (if they are nice).  But my overwhelming interest in both of those species is how it relates to MY animals and MY interests, and want *I* am doing with them. 

Cats are a different story.  I like cats.  All cats.  I tend to squeal (softly, as not to frighten the poor things) and instantly melt in the presence of cats.  Not just my own. 

I would probably make a good cat vet.  But I digress. 

Working in the equine medicine rotation confirmed that yes, I am making the right decision by going into food animal. 

Here's a couple of my observations -

1.  Ignorance is bliss.  I don't want to see horrible things in horses.  I don't want to see the worst, or how the simple can go terribly wrong.  I sat through a wound care class for equines in the morning and it was very difficult for me to distance myself from the thought that it could happen to Farley. Every patient I saw, I had the thought "this could be Farley".  From the cellutitis, to the skin cancer, to the kidney failure. 

2.  I'm too close, too immersed in the horse world.  I can't put the right kind of distance between me and the patient to protect myself from burnout.  I can identify with the owner WAY too much to be the professional I need to be.

3.  I get frustrated with the average horse owner.  Endurance owners aren't average.  In general, if you have participated in a sport, you aren't average.  I can't relate to the typical backyard owner and their lack of drive to understand the minutiae of the horse sport, riding, and their animal.  I can't relate and it isn't fair of me to expect them to conform to some nonexistent standard, and then be frustrated when they don't.  Dealing with these kind of feelings is a recipe for burnout and dissatisfaction with my job.  Better that I do medicine in a field that I still find important and interesting, but that I'm not so vested in.

4.  We (vets) are expected to treat all horses like civilized beasts, when let's face it - they aren't.  Some horses are angels.  Most are decent critters.  Some are down right uncivilized and the owners recognize it - but more likely the owner can't understand why the vet is wary of a 4-hoofed animal with teeth that doesn't have any respect for space.  "He's really just a sweetie...".  It makes me wonder whether this contributes to the high injury risk among equine vets?  At least with a food animal, for the most part you don't have to pretend that you are just fine with a 1000 pound beast trying to kill you and the owner doesn't get in a huff when you say you would prefer to put them in the chute....

5.  The last thing I wanted to do after my rotation was to see my horse.  That does not bode well.

6.  I don't want to let go of my "horse owner" self to the degree I must, in order to be the vet I need to be. 

So there you have it.  It's nice to know that my suspicions were correct and I'm not having to deal with the trauma of discovering that I don't want to do equine, if that's what I had gone to vet school to do. 

I would like to point out that I got in my 3 posts this week :) 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Massive update

This is a fast and furious post update as I chow down on a salad (pretending it's finger food since it doesn't have dressing), type, keep up on facebook (there's a UCD vetmed group, which is how me and my classmates all communicate about school-related stuff), and de-compress from a particularly harsh biochem/cell bio lecture this morning.  I have 30 minutes.....


First rotation at the teaching hospital yesterday - Equine medicine. 

Very's confirmed.

I DO NOT WANT TO GO INTO EQUINE MEDICINE.  Absolutely, no way, you-would-have-to-drag-me-and-heavily-drug-me, under no circumstances, in fact I *might* consider small animal first. 

Reasons to be discussed later.  Because let's face it - much like the (horrendous) lectures this morning - I have 5 posts worth of information and time to do less than one.....

Other lessons learned at the teaching hospital (VMTH)

1.  There is a difference between the experience that YOU as a CLIENT will get at an appointment at a teaching hospital versus a traditional vet hospital (assuming a higher end respected establishment).  Some good things, some bad things. Be prepared, know what you are getting into.  I had heard stories from friends before I was a vet student about their experiences in the VMTH (both good and negative), and after watching appointments and procedures yesterday, I totally get it. 

2.  The same problems exist everywhere in big companies or corporations, whether you are in food processing, or vet med, or any other industry.  I'm a first year student.  The lowest of the low.  No say or input whatsoever.  What I DO have control over is what kind of vet *I* want to be, and that's what I will focus on.  Me.  It may be my anal-retentive QC background coming out, but I'm a stickler for doing what we say we are going to do - ie, following protocols.  There is a time and place to deviate - and it's important to recognize gray areas so you know where you have lee-way, but there are certain areas/topics/protocols that are black and white and need to be treated as such.  And yes, I HAVE been in the real world, and I KNOW it's a challenge to keep behavior in line with protocols....BUT it can be done, and it's important.  If it's not important, than change your protocols. 

I am a wimp, and a bit of encouragement

After 20 minutes of riding AT A WALK on Monday, I got back into the saddle on Tuesday to repeat the adventure....and found that was sore.  REALLY sore.  You'all that say you can't imagine what it's like to ride 24 hours because you are sore after an hour?  I completely understand.  I was more sore after those 20 minutes than I am after a 50 miler.  So trust me - from someone that has been there and been recently reminded of the physiology of that whole area.....your endurance in the saddle RAPIDLY increases.  Don't worry about how sore you are after 10 minutes or an hour - get in a couple more rides and you will be amazed how quickly the bum gets used to the whole idea....

For those of you familiar with the yahoo group, new100milers, you may have seen Paul's comment on riding 100's:

This may offer hope to those who have tried 100's or have done one and decided it hurt too much to try another. 

I am not sure if doing 100's is getting easier, or if my nerve ending have just died. But this year, after doing zero 100's since 2008, I decided to go all in and try as many as I could. The first one wore me out, and during the 2nd one I had nausua and vertigo issues. But after that, the last four 100's this year have each gotten easier. 

At the AERC National Championship 100 mile ride last weekend, I made it through the ride on 4 Advil. Even better, 30 hours later we did the 55 on zero pain meds.

My thinking is that like with any new activity, lifting weights, running, hauling hay bales, etc, it hurts at first until you learn to adjust and be more efficient. Then it gets easier.

So if you have tried a 100, or completed a 100 and decided the pain was not worth the reward, think about doing more instead of less :-)

I love 100's, so when I see encouragement like this, I like to share it.  Don't count out doing a 100 just because right now you can't imagine being in the saddle for that length of time - just like you shouldn't base your ability to do an LD (25 miler) after the first time you ride for an hour.  It's not about being tough - it's about increasing your body's endurance, which it will do in marvalous ways and it's not always through copious amounts of pain. 

Saddle is sold
The Solstice saddle has sold!  I'm sad to see it go.  I'm sad to see ANY of my saddles sell.  I really care about having "good homes" for them.  I sold it for all the right reasons, but the memories it represented were good ones.  Lots of good ones.  I remember all the saddles I've owned as if they were friends.  It's kind of like bits - I can look at bits and it reminds me of all sorts of things.  Saddles and bits seem to be unique - I don't have this kind of attachment to other pieces of tack - headstalls, blankets, pads, girths.....none of those have personality to them.  Please tell me other people have friends that happen to be tack?  and that they are normal people, not locked away somewhere?

Even considering the Seasonal affective disorder and some of my anxiety issues, I spend most of my time as an adult extraordinarly happy.  I'm an optimist.  The last 2 or 3 years in particular have been wonderful - doing what I love (endurance and horses) and feeling like I was living life to the fullest.  It's hard to describe, but most days I woke up giddy with excitement of the day, and I went to sleep with a smile on my face.  I was very fortunate to be living what I considered my dream life. 

If I'm being particularly honest, the transitions this year have been hard.  It's been almost a year since I felt truly content.  Sure I was happy with where my life-path was going - but I missed that giddy feeling in the pit of my stomach that filled me with excitement and makes me almost a little twitchy.  This week it returned.  Tuesday I drove to work and realized it was back.  That giddy feeling that I have the most wonderful life possible, that I'm EXACTLY where I want to be, doing EXACTLY what I want to do, and even though the future is unknown, whatever it is, it will be an ADVENTURE.  And that's what matters.

Melinda is back.

Is it a coincidence that I *returned* the day after my first "real ride" on Farley in 5 months?

I don't think so either.