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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

What's 4 Lunch post


Hopefully you have had a chance to read the introduction to this post series!

Jumping right in to the food. mmmmm....yummy food.....

This lunch was packed when I knew I would have access to a microwave. It contained:

-cinnamon applesauce

-white rice with shredded cheese

-half a peeled cucumber

-string cheese

-Zucchini, mint, and ricotta frittata


The cucumber and applesauce can be eaten as snacks, the frittata and rice heated up as lunch, and the cheese as an afternoon snack (because it contains fat, it's likely to curb any afternoon milk shake cravings and keep me until dinner).

Ride food? Maybe. I love eggs and don't mind eating them cold. If you are pickier, maybe save this one for a trip that involves microwaves.

Introduction to: What's for lunch?

An introduction to a series of posts that you will see over time. (Yes, this is endurance ride relevant - think of packing food for endurance rides like packing a series of lunches)

This question has vexed me most of my life - at least since my mom stopped packing a paper bag lunch with a marker picture on it, sometime in high school.

I'm notorious about "forgetting" to pack a lunch. I'm not hungry, actually borderline nauseous, most mornings and I'm not sure what miracle I expect to occur once lunch time rolls around and I'm at work or school. That since I'm not hungry in the morning I won't be at noon? That somehow the random banana and other carby thing that I did throw in the backpack will take me until 6p? That manna from the sky will rain down at an opportune moment full of nutritious goodness?

Needless to say, I end up VERY hungry, read to consume whatever happens to come across my path whether it's pizza at a lunch meeting, fast food milkshakes and fries on the way home, or cookies out of the vending machine. It costs me money, it costs my nutrition, and it costs me my health. Not to mention that eating junk and/or not eating at all during the day caused me to overeat during dinner.

Switching to a mainly protein and vegetable based diet and eliminating most non-fruit or lactose based carbs just complicated the issue. Some people can pack a salad and eat it for lunch, but the idea repulsives me --> salad for dinner yes, salad for lunch no. It's amazing how hard a lunch is to pack without the use of bread, processed food, that doesn't lean too heavily on any one food group (too much fruit, or too much cheese etc.).

Starting vet school a year ago didn't help and contributed to the issue. I'm less active, have less money, less time, and less energy to devote to my nutritional needs and packing a lunch that works.

Last year, my first year in vet school, was an experiment in lunch failure. I tried brining left overs each day. I tried bringing a whole bag of groceries and just keeping food at school. For various reasons, none of these options worked and I ended the year heavier than I had ever been.

Over the summer my cousin posted a link on facebook that completely changed how I looked packing lunches and packing meals in general. It was a smug mug album of lunches packed in divided containers. A light bulb went on! This would really work!

I've employed this system over the summer while commuting and working full time. It's worked like a charm. In the last 2 months I've lost over 9 pounds. I've managed to bring a lunch every single day, and my nutrition is more balanced and consistent than it has ever been.

Here's why I think this system works for me:

-Packing a predetermined container makes sure I bring the right amount of food. The container holds 500-700 calories generally - enough to keep me full from breakfast to dinner.

-Having all my food layed out and easily seen. It's impossible for me to only pack fruit because it's easy for me to see visually that I'm missing a main dish or protein. This is especially important for me to remember as I'm packing for an endurance ride.

-It makes it easy for me to bring food that comforms to my "dietary rules" and avoid the more processed food and carbs.

-I actually eat everything I bring instead of eating my favorite parts and ignoring the squished, slightly warm celery sticks at the bottom of of the lunch sack.

-This system makes it very easy for me to pack several lunches at a time, saving time.

This isn't just for lunches!!!!!

This works for ANY event that is going to require you to bring meals. Endurance rides? Easily package meals this way and throw in the ice chest. Having a variety of food that is easily accessible during vet checks is the only way I can consume enough calories. Bluegrass festivals? Travelling and odn't want to be at the mercy of fast food? Packaging your meals like this will make sure you bring enough food, and make it easily accessible without thinking - you preplanned that the amount of kinds of food when you were sane and not overcome with tiredness, fatigue, and hunger.

My hope is that by regularly posting some examples of some of my lunches, I can inspire someone to move on from the boring sandwich/salad/apple meals on the go. Save some money, eat how you really want, and eliminate the hassels of trying to feed yourself during events. This is the longest post since I wanted to provide some background. Important concepts to keep in mind as we explore the world of the reformed lunch are:

-Calories in my lunch box meals are typically 500-800 calories or so. This works perfectly with my average breakfast and dinner meals, but you may want to adjust accordingly

-The composition of my meals is typically wheat and yeast free and lower in carbs, higher in fat. Again, this are just suggestions so you should adjust to your preferences!

-If you have an especially inspiring lunch, especially if it works for ride food, please send a picture!


This is a example of the type of container that I use (was able to find it at Target) except mine is a ziploc brand:




Monday, July 30, 2012

Vetmed? Lettuce?

Another good indication that it's summer: This morning I woke up and decided to spend the first hour of my day laying in bed and catching up on my blog reading. Why did I want to go to vet school? Why not just spend my days relaxing at home and becoming the quinsessential housewife? Of course, there is that little problem that my standards of house cleanliness may disqualifying for that job, as does my general distaste for anything to do with floors, vacumns, and mops.

Funder asked a very good question. What the heck am I doing in a lettuce field? And the unasked question is: What does any of this have to do with vetmed?

The lettuce study is focused on answering some of the questions that arose from the salmonella/ecoli outbreaks in leafy greens. How is the contamination occuring? What animals that are depositing feces in the field are responsible? Is there a particular sex, age, or species more likely to be infected with the pathogen? If feces are found in a field just prior too and during harvest, how much lettuce needs to be discarded around the pile of poo? If there is feces are the ground, what factors are important in determining whether there will be contamination on the surrounding lettuce? What field management and irrigation techniques lead to an increased risk of contamination?

A public health veterinarian is a career that works with the overall picture of animal factors/health and the effect on humans. It could be a disease process such as West Nile Virus that is being carried my mosquitos, birds, livestock and causes human illness. It could be food bourne such as Ecoli outbreaks in the food chain. Almost all Ecoli O157:H7 outbreaks are animal in origin. Public Health veterinarians fit animal health into the larger picture, of how it affects humans, our communities, and our collective health.

In the lettuce problem, animal activity is contaminating the lettuce. The problem will only be managed by looking at all aspects - the animals that are coming into the field, the irrigation and other management practices, harvesting practices, processing practices, public education etc. Think of public health vets as dedicated to improving human health through the management of animals, whether they be pets, livestock, or wildlife. No, I'm not likely to work in a clinic, but I think it will still be a lot of fun nevertheless (and I plan on doing "fun" vet things on a part time basis, like vetting endurance rides, working weekend clinics etc.).

And that's what I'm doing in a lettuce field this summer.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

You Just Know

I've been catching up on my blog reading, and saw Endurance Granny's post on her new hydration pack. It reminded me that for ride and tie, my mentor and partner told me that I will need to carry at least one water bottle with me off the horse, in case something happens and we get seperated. Unlike Endurance, in ride and tie you seperate from your horse on PURPOSE. Something that still seems crazy to me. Hand the horse off to someone else so you can run along on foot, in order to find it tied to a tree somewhere in the wilderness? Yeah, I'm pretty sure ride and tie people are even crazier than endurance people.

Anyways. Hydration bottle. I was also reminded yesterday that 2 hours of running in July, even in the early "cool" hours is way too long to go without a drink of water, especially if you are trying to down 200-250 calories every hour.

Because of my marathon training, I have lots of experience with different hydration packs and what I do and don't like. I've never found a pack I was truly happy with, but my camelbak came surprisingly close, much to my amazement. Still, in addition to the fact that I think camelbaks look stupid on people doing road running (which is most of my running) and only feel good AFTER a couple of miles of getting used to the various straps and things bouncing and joustling, I sold it, deciding that I would never run far enough to need a hydration pack again, and the best place for my water for endurance is on my horse (not necessarily the best place for SAFETY, but the best place for my comfort and sanity. At the end of a 100 miles I don't give a damn whether I'm dead on the trail somewhere because I got dumped and the water is on the horse, but I do care that my sanity is intact at the end by not have a water bottle bumping me in an imperfect pack).

Tess and I had a discussion in which she told me that she was NOT going to carry my water and food for me on long runs if it meant missing out on her several-times-per-run-swim-in-the-irrigation-ditch. So, now with 2 reasons to have to carry water on me --> ride and tie, and my grand experiment into long distance racing while training in a completely differently way than "normal", I decided to peruse my choices in the running hydration department.

I started with Amazon. I had in mind something like Endurance Granny ended up with --> a one bottle "angled" system with a little pocket that would hold applesauces, peanut butter and the like. I had a couple on my wish list (how I keep track of items I want to compare) when I saw it.


I didn't know I was looking for THE ONE.

I didn't know that THE ONE even existed.

But I knew it was THE ONE when I saw it.


Maybe I'll even like it enough to ride an endurance ride in it and substantially reduce my chances of blowing away like a desiccated potato chip when Farley decides that her best survival strategy in facing a large carnivore is to ditch me as a distraction while she runs for her life.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

A fire and lessons learned

I've been out of town on a field trial for a few days with sketchy internet connection, so haven't gotten posts up as timely as I would like. To make it up to you, my dear Reader, I've posted TWO full length posts. Go on over to Tess's Blog at and check it out the merits of nicknames and double spacing. It's both dog and horse related, but since Tess's blog has been sadly neglected over the last couple of months, I showed it some love this morning.

These posts will go up at Starbucks this morning - this is one of the more comfy field work jobs I've had!!!!! (update - this so didnt happen.....its now thursday morning). I've yet to be cold, wet, or muddy and I get to go to Starbucks for coffee and breakfast. Ah yes. The hard life of being a researcher. Although I think the insomnia has resolved itself (not my facebook friend? I didn't sleep for approximately 2 weeks) for some reason I'm still waking up around 4:30 or so and I've decided that if my body wants to be up then, it's close enough to 5am to be civilized and a great time for writing blog posts. And I bet that after 12 hours in the field and a 4 hour drive home I WILL go to sleep tonight.

A couple of days ago (Friday to be exact) there was a "small" grass fire where my parents live, the result of the levee controlled burn being not so controlled. The word "small" is in quotes, because although it did NOT feature raging walls of flame racing across the landscape at 60+mph, ANY uncontrolled fire moving across fields of dry, mostly short (thank goodness) grass towards animals and homes is a significant fire in my mind.

After seeing a fire truck race down the private, gravel, mostly unmarked, deadend road that my parents and 3 other people live on, my mom, dad, and I raced to the back corner of the property to see what was going on.

Most of the parcels in the area are 5 acre lots, with wire fencing. There's various horses and goats and chickens, and an old, picturesque barn. We watched as more and more fire trucks arrived, a water truck, and various cops, Cal state fire, and other official vehicles. I was worried about the 2 horses and 2 goats that were in adjoining pastures, both of which were steadily burning at the back, sometimes flaring up as it hit various weeds that hadn't been mowed. The animals weren't in any immediate danger since the front area they were in was mostly bare dirt, and the dried pasture was short. However, none of the owners seemed to be home.

Lesson #1: Do your weed control, it buys you and your animals time.

Lesson #2: The Disaster that puts your horses and other animals in danger can happen when you are not home, and won't necessarily be reported on the news.

My dad advised waiting to act since the horses weren't in immediate danger and didn't appear to be overtly stressed.

Then a fire truck arrived from the other side and cut through a wire fence, took out a T-post, and proceeded to a in-line gate between two pastures, and left the gate open as they drove across the field.

Lesson: Emergency crews will go through a gate if they can on a fence line. Not a bad idea if you don't want your fence cut. ( I can't keep track of my numbering so no more numbering the lessons!)

That was the last straw for me. Leaving the gate open left the horse in that pasture with direct access to the near by busy high way (could leave through the gate into the next pasture, through the cut fence and then onto the road) was too big of a risk, and I kept thinking what I would want if that was Farley in that pasture. I jumped my parents fence and headed over to the open gate to stand guard. (Didn't close it because I didn't know whether the fire vehicles needed continued, quick access to that exit.

Then I watched as the firemen cut another wire fence in order to get direct access to the fire, that allowed the 2 pastures with 2 horses access to each other.

Great - just what we needed. Two unfamiliar horses with varying degrees of unknown catchability now getting acquainted with one another and getting even MORE worked up.

Lesson: The responders to the fire will not necessarily be concerned with your animals and their safety. They will not necessarily be familiar with large animals and their potential to cause havoc on road ways. Fences will not necessarily stay intact.

The big draft cross wearing a halter tried to run me over and I decided to go check out the other horse.

Lesson: the kind strangers that will try to help are going to go to the friendly, respectful horses first....

She was a sweet mare that was a little nervous about all the commotion but leg me slip my arms around her neck with a little sweet talk and seemed amiable to being led.

Lesson: Pony club was right. Always wear a belt.

So I asked Dad for his. To his credit he gave me just one unreadable look and then gave it to me and went around hitching his shorts up with one hand.

The mare led into the other horse's pasture and I put her into the roundpen, Since there was nothing to tie her to in her pasture, or a paddock to put her into.

Lesson: Always have secondary containment that the horse can be put into if the fence is cut.

The two horses in relative safety, the fire mostly under control, and still no owner in sight, I started looking for leadropes.

I know it's controversial to keep halters and leadropes near pastured horses because of theft etc, but in this case, the pasture was in the back of the property with no direct access to the road. Don't count on friendly strangers having leadropes, twine (or a belt). The the horse was wearing a halter, and with some poking around in the hay barn that was near the pasture (all while praying the so-far-not-to-be-seen neighbor's dogs didn't come around the corner, see me, and eat me) I found 2 leadropes, a bucket, and a barrel of some sort of grain. Jackpot!!!!!!

Dad took control of Mr. Run-Me-Over-Gelding and I hung the second lead rope around my neck in case we needed to lead the mare out of this pasture as well.

Lesson: Even if you don't want to risk having halters around, try to keep leadropes or something in a place that makes sense with a little poking around, in case someone has to rescue your horse when you aren't there.

Now with the most important animals taken care of I turned my attention to the goats (sorry goat people....). I shook the bucket of grain, and I'm not sure they could have cared less. I shrugged my shoulders and figured they would stay with the horses.

Lesson: Considering that I also tried the grain bucket trick with the pigs when they got out, it's probably a safe bet to assume that a semi-knowledgable stranger is going to grab a grain bucket to try and lure your animals to safety. Even if you don't grain your animals, do they know what a grain bucket is? It's a super easy way to make sure your animals can be moved from one place to another.

The fire is over, the trucks have gone, and we are left with 2 horses, 3 goats, and a cut fence with coils of barbed wire on the ground.

We wired the fence back together as best we could, left the mare in the roundpen, the gelding and goats in the pasture figuring that they would stick close to the mare in the roundpen and not go exploring the fence.

Lesson: Gates between adjoining pastures along a long fence isn't a bad idea. Lock them if need be for security, but it solves the problem of trying to put humptey dumptey back together again after something like this.

In the end everything was OK - the fire was controlled quickly, the animals relatively easy to handle and didn't get burnt into horsey potato chips.

So why am I going through the incidence in painstaking detail and boring you, my dear Reader, with this? Because learning from close calls are what saves you when the real thing happens. Because although I have thought about what I would do with Farley and the animals if I was home and disaster struck, the people that save your animals are sometimes strangers, not family and friends. The need for security and protection of theft always has to be weighed against the need to have equipment like halters and leadropes accessible to others during an emergency, but I think common sense can provide a happy median.

A stranger is probably going to try and do the right thing by your horses if they can, increase your chances of that happening by considering some of the lessons I learned above.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

This is a Test. This is only a test. :)

This is a test of the emergency boots and saddles system :). My mom found an app to post from the iPad which will solve my "I wrote a post at 4am in the hotel and can't post it because blogger does something weird with my line spacing" problem that I've been having.

I think I like this! Mobile posting where ever I am so that I can waste even more time blogging about inane things? What's not to like?

Especially because we all know that my VERY important topics that are discussed here, like "are nicknames good" are not going to be relevant at all if posted days after I write them.....

Here's my latest excuse for non-timely posts - a field project in salinas, ca with a romaine lettuce field. It doesn't look like much, but it took us 2 full days to flag and measure these plots and I had the time of my life! It's nice to get paid for something you would still find cool if it was volunteer work.


Monday, July 23, 2012

What summer is all about

Got up at 6am, ran, took a shower and looked at the bed. Decided I wasn't ready to start my day yet. Got back into bed and slept for another hour.

And that is the very definition of summer fun.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

What beat do you march to?

I usually listen to podcasts while I drive, ride and do my more boring activities.  However, I decided to put my ipod on shuffle and listen to my music while I rode on the trail the other day.  The music is an eclectic collection of music, mostly random music I don't have hard copies of, so it remains on my computer.  A little bit of medieval harp music, random country hits, rock, fiddle tunes etc. 

It was interesting to listen to the music, which has a beat, and be riding a horse, which has a beat of it's own.  It was also surprising how often the song that would come up randomly would match the mood and/or beat that Farley and I were doing!  Walking along away from home, a civil war brass band marching song came on.  It was in PERFECT tempo to Farley's walk!  I know that the tempo for a march is a specific beat, because the songs were designed for troops marching - is it possible that because of the long history of the war horse, that this "march tempo" also came about because of the pace of the average walking horse?  I wouldn't be surprised. 

Going home over a rather technical single track, complete with soft spots, scary bushes, and a horse intent on tearing towards home, the song "Girls Gone Wild Came On".  It was PERFECT.  I had the biggest smile on my face as we tore down that trail and that song captured the mood, excitement, drive, and us "girls" perfectly (for those of you new here, Farley is a mare, stuck with a boy's name because I'm obsessed with the black stallion). 

Lots of money is spent on developing Freestyles in the dressage and matching the music with the tempo, mood, and style of the horse.  What songs fit your horses walk?  trot?  canter?  Which songs capture the style of your horse and rider partnership best?

Saturday, July 21, 2012


A special warning to my blog reader and friend Funder: this post is going to freak you out. 

Growing up in a semi rural area, with parents that arbitrarily demanded that the woodpile be moved several times a year, I know the golden rule of never ever putting your hands where you can't see them, what a black widow web feels and looks like (and have developed an excellent split second reaction that yanks whatever body part involved away) and wearing gloves whenever I remember when engaging in "high risk" activities (like randomly moving the wood pile).....

I even make an exception in my "don't squish insects because they are crunchy" policy  for black widows.  I have ZERO problem squishing their shiny black bodies and spilling out their yellow green guts out their split abdomens. 

But last night, something special happened. 

There was a black widow ON ME.  I was feeding at dusk, and just happened to be wearing a long sleeved white shirt (a riding shirt that is fairly form fitting, especially on the arms), pants, and boots.  APPROPRIATE attire for feeding unlike tank top, shorts, and crocs.  Which has never happened I swear......

I looked down at my arm and there was one CRAWLING ON MY ARM.  I flicked it hard with my opposite hand but I didn't quite get it square on, but I couldn't see it any more, so I hoped it had fallen off. 

But then, a couple minutes later I looked down and THERE IT STILL WAS.  This time I flicked and distinctly saw it hit the ground so I knew it was off of me. 

I zipped my shirt ALL the way up so my neck was covered and was very careful the rest of the night.

It must have been on the end of a hay bale, or on a fence post or something I brushed up against.  It was really weird and a little unnerving.  Yes, you may see them during the day, usually tucked up in their little corners, but I know during the night they definitely are more in the open (knowledge gained through going on nightime "widow" hunts with my mom, jars, and a flashlight.....I think I may have had a weird childhood.....Please someone else tell me that this brings back memories of their childhood so I can feel normal again!). 

Getting bit wouldn't have been likely to kill me, I would have had time to get to the urgent care for treatment, but it definitely would have been painful and unpleasant and NOT how I want to spend the remainder of my summer!!!!!!  I'm suprised the black widow bites to humans and animals aren't more common in this area, knowing how many widows are in the average home/yard/garage/barn, but unlike a lot of other poisonous spiders, widows retreat when they can and aren't especially aggressive. 

Even to myself it seems silly to go on and on and on in a post about getting a spider on me, but I'm still really disturbed and a picture of the black spider against my white clothed arm is seared into my memory.  LOL.  One of the closer calls with poisonous wildlife (although coming very close to getting struck by the biggest rattler I've ever seen in the back country of a solo backpacking trip certainly takes first place.....).

I'm preparing a post on a grass fire that occurred at my parents yesterday that involved asking a man to take off his belt in order to secure the neighbors horses, which sounds very sexy and forward until you consider that the man happened to be my father.  There were tons of lessons learned in the horse and livestock category, some of which I had never considered.  It should be an interesting post (and I have pictures!).  So, while that post is percolating, I want to do a quick catchup of what I've been doing. 

Farley has been ridden 3-4 times a week, mostly on the trail with a dressage ride thrown in here and there.  She feels great, sound, and by some miracle is managing to stay in season the entire freakin' summer.  Our rides are about 1.5 hours each and usually consist of some walking, trotting, and a little cantering if we are in the mood.  I'm not pushing, I'm not timing, and I'm not even logging or recording our rides.  I'm listening to my horse, having fun, and not putting too much pressure on either of us.  That being said, I don't see why I couldn't get her to an LD by the end of the season.  That would mean that Farley and I have attended at least one ride every season together, since I got her.  That would be nice.  She came off this last week a bit sore in the hindquarters, so I've backed off for a couple of days, but I think most of it is her tendency to be a lazy beast and stand in her pen and take long naps.  I think she had secretly hoped that vet school had consumed me and her life would consist of naps, carrots, hay, a friend, and an occasional walk down the trail.  Sorry girl.  You are only 13 and way too much fun to ride....

The researcher I work for is another endurance rider and ride and tie person!  We talked yesterday and it looks like we would be well matched as a ride and tie team.  Her horse is older, but hasn't had any soundness issues at all.  He likes to sprint and has done some ride and ties so is experienced.  We are going to start working with Farley a bit.  I'm going to have to be careful because I don't want her to think that all her rides are going to be fast sprints, but she's a smart horse and the atmosphere will be different enough at a ride and tie, and think she'll still know when we are going out for 50-100 miles.  I don't typically tie her to trees and run away during a 100......The tentative plan is to do a 14 mile ride and tie this fall.  I think we will probably end up using her horse, but I'm going to have Farley ready as well just so there is options.  I'll keep you guys posted!  I think it's going to be a lot of fun (I first typed "a lot of run", which is actually kinda true in a way.....)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guilty Confessions

Aren't all confessions guilty?  I will ponder that at a later time. 

I never ever groom my horse.  I make sure the tack areas aren't grungy, scrub with my fingers a bit on any accumulated grime on her back, and do a quick feel in the girth area.  Sometimes I pick up her feet.  That's it.  After our ride she gets a rinse down, without soap, again focusing on tack areas.

Sometimes I feel slightly guilty about this.

Most of the time I think we do all right. 

Before a 100 I usually give her a good scrubbing so accumulated dirt etc doesn't cause any issues (since I have a sensitive, thin skinned arab).

What's your dirty little secret?

Farley and the Pigs

I've learned several things this week.

Whip on my super-special-once-in-a-while-Starbucks-drink doubles the calories of the beverage.

It takes a year to put the pieces of your life back together after a major life transition.

Farley is seriously freaked out by pigs.

I've already set up the scenerio, so if you haven't read my previous post, please go back and review. 

I believe that I was mounted, the pigs were lurching towards me in an ungainly way (have you ever seen a market hog gallop?) and Farley was looking like the cover of a Black Stallion novel. 

An important thing to realize as I go through this scenario is I have a 13 year old been there, done that horse.  She's not a green horse.  How does this affect the situation?  She's not a spooker or a looker.  Where with a green horse, depending on the personality and where we were in the training I might encourage some curiosity, or insist that the horse ignore the distraction.  At 13 and many many miles under her belt (girth), I give Farley some "rein" and some trust.  Meaning that if she insists something is worth looking at, I will let her contemplate it before asking her to move on.  It's never a good idea to totally put your wellbeing in the hooves of a flight animal, BUT she has saved my skin more than once, has shown good judgement and has earned the right to check out a situation if she wants, and it is safe.  If something weird happened and I fell off or had to let go of her, we were in an extremely safe environment. 

The second thing to keep in mind is that she is an ENDURANCE horse.  She has a job.  Her job is not to explore new things and play games.  I don't want to create a situation where My horse sees something novel and insists on going through the charade of "I'm scared" because it gets a predictable response: ie, work stopping, a game that comes with treats.  Again, this isn't a green horse that needs to learn that the world is safe and I'm the leader.  There are many circumstances on the endurance trail that the horse will encounter something unexpected and scary and MUST ignore it and carry on with the minimum of fuss and time. 

Based on my goals for an endurance horse (ignore distractions, but not experience internal stress for doing so, and think past obstacles with a minimum of direction from me) I handle situations like the pigs that will increase the likelihood of getting the end behavior at rides --> which means that we practice how we play. 

Why would I pounce on the opportunity to play with pigs, something that I had an inkling would provoke the biggest fear response in Farley that I've seen in 5 years?  Because she's an endurance horse.  Just like my comment months ago about the importance of being able to go home at speed because if you can't canter to the barn at HOME in control, how are you going to control your horse at the start of the ride, if you can't deal with a novel, scary situation at home, how are you going to deal with it on the endurance trail?  And you will have to.  I've seen and done the weirdest things at endurance ride, including cantering next to railroad tracks in the desert and having to pass a freight train yard with locomotives blowing and moving and we even raced a train at one point.  Farley had never seen a train before.  

The first question was:  Stay mounted or dismount?

Normally the answer is stay mounted.  Know thy horse.  Farley is a spooker in place, not a bolter.  HOWEVER, she was seriously freaked AND it had been awhile since I had ridden her, AND these pigs were very used to horses and were likely to run up to her and go under her belly or sniff noses.  Getting off was a perfect opportunity to.......Review whether I still had Respect on the Ground.

Horses that invade my personal space piss me off.  I can confidently say that any of the horses I have owned would willingly jump on a cliff if there was a cougar chasing them, than invade my personal bubble.  Invading my space results in an IMMEDIATE, rememberable reprimand that makes clear in no uncertain terms that it is NOT OK to come into my space uninvited.  I tend to not touch my horses reassuringly when I'm on the ground and they are spooky because I don't want them to recognize being close physically to me as an appropriate response if they are scared.  I use my voice when necessary, and I do use a firm hand on the neck or shoulder of the horse to use as a buffer that can help push me out of the way if they unthinkable happens and they do try to go over the top of me.  I was trail riding with my aunt early in Farley's career and she wasn't very thrilled to go over a creek.  I got off and asked her to cross.  My aunt said in amazement that Farley actually seemed to change direction in mid-air to avoid interfering in my space. 

Dismounting during the pig situation was the perfect situation to review whether Farley had forgotten the lessons of "thy shall not squish Melinda, no matter what's chasing you". 

Now what? 

Like one of my readers commented in the previous post, I tend to talk to the object instead of the horse.  Again, I want to reward the horse for switching over to a calm thinking, working brain and tend to completely ignore the horse when it's snorty and doing an arab impression.  Horses that lower their heads, start chewing, or start paying attention to me and sighing get attention.  Horses that are behaving like idiots do not.  Especially if they are seasoned 13 year olds. 

I like following scary objects.  It's how we started working calves in that reining clinic I went to and I tried doing the same thing to pigs.  Except the pigs kept running up to us to say hello.  LOL.  We walked in circles and long lines away from and towards the pigs.  Mostly ignoring them, but I just "happened" to make sure that they were a central feature in our "random" figures.

I was feeling quite proud of myself.  Farley started looking relaxed and I was about to hop back on and then......the pigs got out of the gate. 


I'm not a pig person.  To say the least.  During showmanship round robins I always gritted my teeth during the pig portion, picked the small brown breed and prodded it around the arena in front of the judge hoping hoping hoping my pig didn't get in a fight and needed to have the stewards rush over with the plastic boards to break it up. 

"Here piggy piggy piggy.   Here piggy piggy piggy."

It didn't work. 

I walked Farley out of the arena and attempted to herd pigs.

Which is a lot like herding cats.

I yelled and shouted and flapped my arms and ran at the pigs, Farley trailing behind me.  When the pigs looked at me with their squinty eyes and decided to herd me instead, Farley and I retreated to the safety of the drive way and studied the oinking ham and bacon and legs and got the girl whom they belonged too. She picked up a a crop that was next to the arena and expertly directed them back into the arena (a technique I was able to copy when the piggies attempted the same great escape when I exited the arena after my session). 

It was nice that the pigs naturally provided me an opportunity to do something that I consider important after the neutral interactions where all parties involved are calm.  Now, I act like a maniac, not acting calm at all and usually whatever critter is in front me, whether cow, calf, sheep, or pig is bouncing and dashing around --> all while IGNORING Farley completely.  Farley knows that if not given instructions, than no matter what I'm doing, even if it looks completely insane than she is to do.....nothing.  Thus, if my back is too her and I'm choosing to chase scary things and yell like a banshee with aggressive body language but I'm ignoring her....she is not to react.  Again, this is behavior that is built over years and many different situations.  And I use all sorts of novel situations to present themselves to reinforce it. 

I tend to use NATURAL situations that present themselves, rather than artificially set up situations.  If the pigs hadn't gotten out, would I have run around yelling and darting around in the tight space they had gotten into with Farley trailing?  Probably not.  Would I have let the pigs out on purpose to play with them?  Probably not.....but would have made a point to ride past the pen.  On the other hand, I try not to overface my horse with a situation that I know they don't have a foundation to be successful in.  Thus, if a huge, rumbling, piece of farm equipment pulling a rattlely, tipsy, swaying trailer is coming down the road and I know that we've just worked through "normal vehicle" issues, than I might chose to turn off the road and make a non-issue of it by taking a grazing break or choosing an alternative route where my horse doesn't have to deal with a situation she's unready for.  Is that horse ready for an endurance ride?  Perhaps not.  I like to see my horses handle novel, strange situations with a minimum of fuss 80% of the time before taking them to a competition.  Does it mean that my horse never has a melt down?  Of course not.  But what it means is that TYPICALLY my horse reacts in a way to novel situations that does not put me, her, or the riders around us in danger. 

I mounted back up.

It was time to go back to work.  My goal before mounting was 20-25 minutes of walk trot dressage.  Now, considering the time spent on the pigs, and the fact that I feel like horses go through self control fatigue, just like humans and dogs (see Tess's blog a few months back for more discussion on that topic), my goal was a few laps of good, relaxed walking on the bit. 

There was of course was one more big spook, as the pigs moved around and I gently insisted that we focus on working. 

Everyone handles difficult situations a little different, depending on what they do with their horse, their comfort as a rider, and the individual horse.  There is certainly more than one "right" way to handle this situation.  Would my approach work with every horse?  Probably not.  I tend to chose confident horses that aren't drama queens, even if they are spooky.  Even Minx, who spooked, spun, bolted, and dumped me all the freakin' time was basically a confident horse that was just reactive --> I just never could get my neurons to fire as fast as hers.  If I had to reassure an unconfident horse through every little thing on the trail I would probably give up endurance and decide to do 100 miles on foot instead :).  So, this approach seems to work well with the horses I get along with, which is probably a certain personality in the first place!  However, I hope there might be a tidbit in here that helps you work through a situation, even if how you apply it is different. 

Does anyone have different thoughts?  Do you disagree on any of the points above or have an alternative to one of my decisions that has worked well for you?  What sort of weird situations have you gleefully put your endurance horse through because you knew it would come in handy some day?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Inquiring minds want to know....

I'm finishing up a story that I'm titling "Farley and the Pigs" and I want to know, what would YOU do if faced with this scenerio?  Post in the comments or post on your blog (but put a link on the comments here so we can all go and read it!). 

You have just saddled up your horse, whom you haven't ridden in 2 months (or at least, you can't remember the last time you rode it).  You are in a dressage saddle, jeans, and don't have a halter on under the bridle.  It's a rather windy day.  Your plan is to go into the arena and do some walk/trot dressage, 20m circles etc.  You know there are 2 market pigs in a pen on the end of the arena (hidden by the arena's solid walls) that are sometimes let into the arena for exercise.  You mount up and notice that your horse is a wee bit skittish.  You do a lap and realize that the pig pen gate is open and 2 largish pigs (whom you have met and know are friendly and not a menace) are lurching towards you and your horse.  Your horse freezes and snorts.  What do you do next?  How do you handle the situation?  How do you conclude the session? 

I'll return with "the rest of the story" and how this situation is perfect for conditioning the endurance horse soon!  Please comment on how you would have approached this --> inquiring minds want to know!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Things you should NOT say

I love medicine.  Diseases that used to really concern me as a private owner, aren't as big a deal know because I either understand the etiology of the disease or know that they can be managed fairly successfully, or compared to the million other things that can go wrong, a particular, highly publicized disease just really isn't as big a deal comparatively.

Last week Reed (Matt's Golden Retriever) was diagnosed with hip dysplasia.  It's not an especially mild case, but it isn't so severe that he shouldn't, with pain management live and enjoy  most of his usual daily activities.  He's 2, both parents were "certified" although now I understand that hip dysplasia is a disease of many different influences, some known and some not, and genetics are just one part of the equation.  We did our best at the time.  He is guaranteed against genetic defects such as this, but the guarantee is another puppy, something this house DOESN'T need, and Matt and I love this dog --> he's the dog that all the children's story books describe. 

So how did I try and make my boyfriend feel better, as he was understandably upset that is wonderful companion had just been diagnosed with a disease that he has been obsessed about ever since he got his first dog (a German Shepherd)?

I said the following:

You know, being a Golden Retriever, this is probably not what ends up killing him, it will probably be something like cancer or someother disease, so this isn't really a disaster......

You can imagine how that went over.  Yet one more piece of evidence that I'm much more suited for something like research, or public health, or really anything that doesn't require me to try and make people feel better......

Know thyself

Today I finally checked an item off my todo list that has been postponed and postponed and postponed yet again for at least a month.

Wash my sleeping bag.

Let me put it a different way.

Wash the sleeping bag that Tess has peed on three times, that I've climbed into after innumberable endurance rides and civil war reenactments caked with sweat and dirt and manure, that has endured a combined total of WEEKS of backpacking nights, that covered an injuried stranger who had fallen off the cliffs onto the beach....

You get the picture.  The bag was used and abused and although it was holding on strong as ever, that "strong" was starting to refer to it's odor rather than its function. 

Lovely eh? 

How does this have anything to do with horses and endurance riding you might ask? 

But of course, you wouldn't, my readership being FAR too polite to question the direction this post is going.  Right?

Do you know why I have a Marmot synthetic sleeping bag instead of the down sleeping bag I coveted?  It wasn't cost --> this was a gift from my boyfriend and he was fully prepared to buy me a zero degree down bag. 

It was the "know thyself" clause. 

As much as I wanted the that down bag, I wasn't sure that I could be counted on to not store it tightly packed in a compression sack.  I'm horrible at doing routine stuff like washing it.  I tend to skimp on weight in my pack which means the chances it would stay dry in a downpour in my pack in a waterproof container was nonexistent.  In short, I knew, even though the down bag would be superiorly warm for my ever cold ass (and yes, when your ass has as much "padding" as mine it is icy cold.....), I knew that it would be unsuitable based on the reality of my personality.   Let's face it.  Even with pee on it, it sat in my truck for a MONTH before I took 45 minutes and $3.50 out of my day and sat in the laundromat. 

Buying horse tack and equipment, ESPECIALLY for the endurance rider is very similar.  We have wonderful products at our disposal.  Horse have a mental check list of what is theoretically "best" for the horse.  And then there is what we will REALISTICALLY do. 

Let's take saddle pads.  Theoretically real, sheepskin fleece is fabulous for the horse.   there's always a few outliers who do well in anything, or who have a fleece phobia for some reason, but if I have a horse that I know nothing about and I'm going to slap a pad and saddle on and go 50 miles on it (yeah right, but let's use our imaginations), fleece is my first choice. 

I own, like, zero fleece pads.  That's not true, I actually own a wool felt one and a fleece one, but they are for special circumstances and since their use is not ever day and limited, you'll get my point.  Read on.....

Why do I not ride the majority of my miles in something I know will probably be my best bet for problem-free conditioning? 

Know thyself.

The probability of maintaining a fleece pad by washing it, removing stickers, fluffing it with a slicker brush, pulling foxtails out of it, keeping it off the ground etc. is absolutely NILL.  On the flip side, expecting my horse to be clean enough that it doesn't GET dirty is also........nill. 

So I use a Haf pad with those little nubblies thingys on the back for the majority of my conditioning rides.  I save the wool felt pad for 100's, when I think it really matters.  And I keep my old Toklat Woolback pad because I can't bear to get rid of it, and the new ones really suck.  The Haf pad rinses off between uses, and doesn't attrack stickers.  It's always clean, always dry, and always ready to go. 

Let's talk about bridles, breast collars, stirrup leathers.  I'm not so good at maintaining my leather goods.  I have the stuff, I know how to use it, I've tried to establish good habits by being diligent for long periods of time, but let's face it.  I have way too much to do than to worry about oiling and cleaning leather.  I think most endurance riders already have this figured out.  Biothane,  Beyond inspecting it for damage and wear, it gets cleaned approximately every 1-2 years.  In the dishwasher.  Same for my bits.  For stirrup leathers, which are so very very very important for safety, girths etc. it would be folly to expect myself to actually maintain leather ones - "know thyself".  For saddles I tried really really really hard to maintain my leather saddles, knowing I wouldn't be able to afford to replace it if the leather cracked or failed.  However, it still didn't get done every ride, or even every week, and you can't imagine how relieved I was when I got my Wintec and didn't have to feel guilty over the amount of tie I was NOT spending cleaning it.  (I'm better with other people's tack - I'm borrowing a saddle right now that is leather and that gets better maintained than any of my own leather goods!). 

I don't blanket my horse for a variety of reasons, but one of them is I would be far too lazy to actually wash the blanket. 

I tend to inspect the horse with my hands and brush tack areas off before riding, and rinse afterwards, but actually bathe my horse?  HA!

It's not all negative.  Take wormings and vaccines.  I'm meticulous about it.  I don't need reminders to come in the mail to remind me that it's west nile time, or remind me to rotate my wormers.  So I do all my own health care management (as much as I legally can).  My horse is barefoot in part because I'm meticulous about looking at and noting changes in her feet.  I know her feet better than my own hands. 

I think all of us have our own style of horsemanship and there are many shades of "doing right" --> especially in a sport of endurance riding where stepping outside of those shades often results in a pull and (should) a reevaluation of horse management.  If your system is working for you and your horse, meaning --> you aren't gritting your teeth at the frustration and annoyance of a bunch of tasks you find time consuming and never ending, and your horse seems happy, then stick with it!  Don't switch to fleece when synthetic is working, just because someone says you "should" and it's "best".  Don't take the shoes off your horse if you know that you'll never find the time to evaluate the feet and without the pressure of shoes on the horse, never schedule the farrier appointment.  Don't switch to a girth that must be washed and cleaned regularly, if a synthetic girth is working for your horse and you can easily hose it off. 

Remember that you can make compromises too.  Let's say that you find out that you really do need to use a wool or fleece pad for 50's and 100's, but your horse is perfectly fine with your synthetic up to 35 miles.  Condition in the synthetic, and then use the high maintenance equipment the day of the ride. 

As long as your equipment and management "shortcuts" aren't compromising the safety and health of you or your horse (and in the case of my lack of maintenance of real stirrup leathers, it WAS a potential issue!), then I say try it.  And remember to come back to that if you start seeing issues at a certain distance or under certain conditions (like season). 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

More "clearing the pipes"

Occasionally I like to count calories in one of my fitness apps just so I can see how appropriate my caloric intake is and take a quick look at the nutrition and see if there's anything glaringly absent.   I compare it to how I manage my horse's nutrition.  Do I weigh her hay every day?  Or weigh the beet pulp and stable mix?  Or even the oil?  No.  But, on a regular basis I like to put a weight tape on her, test her selenium levels, weigh her food stuffs and see whether my estimations of weight and volume have migrated, or if there needs to be an adjustment to the program.  Tracking the data too often will make me compulsively crazy --> and studies have shown that the body is remarkably good at maintaining equilibrium and weight.  Especially us pesky humans. So, Farley gets a nutrition and health "check up" every so often (once a week I remeasure my volume of feedstuffs other than hay, once a month I weigh hay, 1-2x a year I measure selenium), and I do the same for myself.  I drag myself over to my parents and jump on the scale (I've weighed the same, +/- 3 pounds or so since the beginning of high school), track my food intake in an app, and run a 1 mile test on the track.  FYI the mile test is the best indicator of ANY of this crap of where I am health-wise.  The times and effort required absolutely follow my fitness and health better than any other parameter, including blood pressure, weight, cholestrol, or the amount of calories I'm taking in. 

As you might expect, today's post is yet more ramblings on the atrociously named book mentioned in my previous post, "The first 20 minutes".  (And yes, Funder is absolutely correct in pointing out how fluffy this title is - see my previous post for the FULL, fluffy title).  I will warn you now that this isn't a particular "light" read.  The book covers SCORES of studies, often with contridictory results, woven into the authors tongue in cheek commentary.  In a way it reminds me of my blogging style --> discussion of the evidence and different theories, not all of it fitting into a nice little package, and then the authors "bottom line" summaries at the end of each chapter, suggesting what changes she recommends for diet and exercise based on the discussion during the chapter.  It's effective, and I feel like I am permitted to actually use my brain and critically evaluate the evidence and either agree or not agree --> but not necessarily being lead down the yellow brick road by an author who pats you on the head and tells you not worry your pretty little head about the details. 

For the last 3 or 4 days I have painstakingly recorded my meals and exercise into an app that calculates the nutritional data and presents it in fancy pie charts and data tables.  And, I must admit I giggle each time I see my stats compared to the "recommended intakes".  Most of these programs assume you are trying to follow the government recommendations/American Healthy Heart Whatever guidelines.  Apparently, I should be limiting my sugars to 33 grams per day.  What's to laugh about?  I exceeded that today at breakfast.  For my post workout meal I had a glass of milk and 1/2 a cup of unsweetened applesauce.  More carbs than I would typically like, especially in the morning, but I'm trying to be conscious of the 2:1 refueling ratio. That particular meal contained 34 grams of sugar.  A red, bold, flashing alert blinks at me from my screen.  I have similar results blinking on all my previous days --> what's hilarious is that all sugars are still being treated the same.  The lactose sugar in milk products.  The fructose in fruit.  I consume none to very few foods a day that have added sugar, yet every day I am double the recommended amount of sugar grams (but very low in overall carbohydrates).  I laugh because the guidelines don't GET it.  Not all sugar is created equal.  Not all carbs are created equal.  The ONLY numbers I trust when it comes to my nutrition are the protein and fat amounts.  I feel like all the numbers related to carbs and sugar are at best misleading, and at worst a deception that forces dieting people every where to reach for those highly processed foods full of artificial sweeteners, added fibers, and processed flours.  Overall calorie consumption matters --> but what matters just as much is where those calories come from. 

This next statement is so important that I'm giving it its very own paragraph, and bolding it. 

Why do we have nutritional guidelines that cannot be met by consuming unprocessed foods?  In order to meet the guidelines as stated, much of my diet HAS to be processed.  And I think that is the greatest disservice human nutritional science has done to date. 

Let's contrast that to the horse nutrition field, where more and more we are recognizing that horses, both pasture ornaments and performance equines, function and perform the best on diets that are as close to an unprocessed and natural diet as possible.  Anytime you process the food (dried hays as opposed to fresh pasture), you have to make up for it (in this case, often with vitamin E supplementation that is lost in the drying process).  Yes, those high performance animals need additional nutritional support.  But lets be honest with ourselves --> who among us are elite marathoners?  Planning on running an ultramarathon in the next month?  The average human has much more in common with the pasture ornament than the Derby contenders, or the 100 mile endurance horse. 

When I look at my nutritional profile I look at overall calorie consumption, fat grams, protein grams, and the amount of calcium.  I have added a vitamin D and Calcium supplement to my diet daily since a close family member has been diagnosed with osteoporosis and I am at risk.  I consider vit D and Calcium low risk supplements and because of my demonstrated risk, and my concern that I don't get enough of either, I've decided to supplement. 

I ran today and I felt strong, and able, and powerful.  My problem all these years in my running is I've never really pushed.  I've always focused on exercising below a level that would hurt, or that I would be really tired, or winded.  Gradual increases in distance, and long slow runs have been the mainstay of my running since I was 16 years old.  Speed training was for advanced runners, increased your chances of injury, and not needed for the recreational runner happy with a 4 hour marathon PR.  However, I'm happily discovering the joy of letting myself go, instead of plodding along, knowing that I will never feel or look like that gazelle (at least now I can feel like one even while Tess bounds ahead of me giving me the perfect visual example of what I don't look like.  LOL).  I find that by varying my speed (1 min sprints followed by 75 seconds of walking or slow jogging/running) my muscles and joints don't feel as tired.  It's like by keeping up the same shuffling pace over hours and double digit miles, only certain parts of my physique were used and abused. 

And yes, I'm still running BAREFOOT.  In the last year I have run in shoes once.  I ran with a friend at school and forgot my run-a-mocs and running in town over sidewalks with broken glass makes me cringe, so I set out in my running shoes.  I didn't make it even 1/2 a mile before I was exhausted and my feet hurt.  I have not been injured since running barefoot.  A word of caution --> I also transitioned into the shoes over many many months.  If you switch to barefoot and expect to go out for your normal run in a week or even a month, you will probably be sorely (from injury...) disappointed.    I can't even hike in regular shoes any more.  I did the 4 day Point Reyes Hike in May/June in a combination of run-a-mocs and crocs and my feet never felt better.  I no longer wear "true" barefoot shoes during my normal daily activities, since I can't afford to buy a new pair every 6 months or so (I'm hard on shoes), however my normal shoes are chosen for an absolutely neutral heel to toe angle, and the ability for my foot to flex normally, and although they aren't as comfortable as going truly barefoot (measured as the amount of time it takes me to kick them off once I'm inside or sitting down), they haven't set me back in terms of being able to do my athletic activities truly barefoot, so it's an acceptable compromise between my checkbook and my health.

One more caveat to the book --> the information presented in "the first 20 minutes" is specific to humans.  Although in some general concepts can be applied to horses, the specifics can NOT.  Use it for your human self, and if it serves as a jumping off point for further research on how to condition your endurance horse --> good.  But please please please don't think that because it's good for the human, it's good for the horse.  Generally, animals respond in specific adaptive ways to exercise, but the horse is a whole 'nother animal :).  Even if you adamantly believe, like I do, that I'm secretly all horse inside. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Clearing the pipes

It's been a while and every time I try to write a post, I get stuck on the long list of little things that i need to write about before I can get into anything good. It seems silly, but it seems like other bloggers go through the same thing --> due to life circumstances, they take a little break from blogging and then, instead of being able to pick up where they left off, you have to do a "pipe cleaning" post that blows all the junk out of the pipes so you can dive back into the creative process of blogging without being distracted.

 So here we go. Hold on folks, because it's been a fast and furious ride since I posted last.

During the last couple months of school, I signed up for semi-private agility lessons with a local (Davis) agility training, with Tess. After 2 lessons, it became apparent that even though at over a year old, and the foundation training Tess SHOULD be ready for formal instruction, AND even though we had some of the more advanced mechanics down, like weaving 12 poles and a contact behavior, Tess was not mentally mature enough for the stress that comes with lessons. I'm quite proud of myself. I have a history of being impatient, trying to stick to arbitrary timelines, even when there isn't anything but an internal pressure to do so, and then paying the consequences of pushing too hard. I don't want to ruin/burn out my first dog like I did my first endurance horse. And after doing some some reflective thinking I wrote an email to the instructor, thanking her for her time and explained that Tess needed a bit more time to be a puppy. And then I stopped training. For months. She's been getting all her kibble in her food dish - I haven't been using it for training. Any praise and reward for a job well done has been my excitement and joy and body language. Individuals mature at different rates, and I think Tess's breeding tends to be slow maturers (especially considering that at a year + she still hadn't had her first heat cycle and her brothers and sisters and mom were similar) and although she may have been physically ready for the demands of agility, she was showing classic stress behaviors that showed me that she was not.

There's going to be a trend in the next couple of posts, and that is BOOKS. Now that I'm on break from school, I've been reading a lot more and it feels GOOD. I need to give a shout out to the book "Control Unleashed", specifically the "puppy program edition". During the second agility lesson the instructor recommended that I look into getting the DVD called "Really Reliable Recall" and use that to reinforce Tess's recall. While I was on, I saw that they offered Control Unleashed as an ebook, a book that I had seen a lot of discussion about on some email lists I belong too. I buy very few books, but from the discussion on the lists, I felt like it was a book I needed to read. It has COMPLETELY changed my way of looking and interacting with Tess. It was like the author had me and my dog in mind when she wrote the book. Ever since reading and putting the CU principles into practice, it's like Tess has breathed a huge sigh and relief and amazement that I can finally speak her language. The biggest change in our interaction has been looking at the environment as a source of reward for Tess that I can give her, instead of a training challenge where Tess can only be successful if she ignores it. Working on the CU tasks, which are much more about mental readiness and stress management, is what we've been doing during our months off, and I saw immediate improvements in my relationship with Tess. Now with her at 16 months, she's finally starting to really mature, and she has some coping skills for managing stress (and I have a much bigger dose of patience) I think we MIGHT be ready to start reintroducing some formal training concepts very slowly, in low stress situations. The biggest thing I've learned over the last couple of months is to enjoy Tess as a DOG and for who she is, and realize that she's bonded to me and likes me and wants to be with me, even if don't have treats or I'm not being especially fun and exciting. She loves me for who I am.

Speaking of patting myself on the back for a new found patience and a "there's a right time for everything" attitude, there were two MORE situations in the past couple weeks that highlight how well I've learned this lesson. When I got back from AZ, my intention was to restart Farley's conditioning program. However, when I got to the stable, I found out that she had been getting 50% of her ration in the form of oat hay. As most of you, grain hays are very high in sugar. Bad. For a horse that is doing aerobic work, who is an arab mare, who has had a prior tye up. I probably would have been OK to start her --> she wasn't super fit coming off of a hard race. We would have started slow anyways etc etc. But why take the risk? Why not give her another week or so on 100% grass and not risk a potential problem? Because of my silly arbitrary schedule? So, I walked away and let her sit for another week or two. In the past I probably would have pushed it, and although I might have been OK, there's a really good chance it would have bitten me in the ass. Just because I'm anxious to get on my horse and ride (Tevis coming up, all the chatter as my friends finish 50's is KILLING ME!!!!!!!) doesn't mean there's any reason to push. I've started 5 100's. Finished 3, including Tevis. I have a great horse who's healthy and blast a ride. What do I have to prove?

And then there was my other plan that was to start as soon as I got home --> marathon training. Or at least, "regular running that would lead to 1/2 marathons in the fall". I had all my runs mapped out and they led to a certain race the beginning of November. Obviously it was imperative to follow the schedule or I wouldn't achieve my (all-too-important-and-the-only-reason-I-exist) goals. And then I tried waterskiing for the first time at AZ, and took a weird fall, and made my achilles (the one with the chronic overuse injury) rather grumpy. Considering that I was in pain when walking, it would have been foolish to try running. Trust me, that hasn't stopped me before. How do you think I ended up with that damn chronic injury in the first place? In a remarkable display of maturity and self control I walked for a week and a half. And didn't obsess over my running schedule, or even redo it a million times for when I "thought" this injury "should" be ready for running. My new "there is a season turn turn turn" philosophy seems to be working. This morning, I felt like it was ready for a run and turned in a rather speeding interval work out and it feels GREAT. Goodness knows I've been through enough soft tissue rehab periods with horses that you would have thought I would have got it before now --> hand walking only, even longer than you think necessary, and THEN, SLOWLY return to regular work. Right. Check. I think I've got it now........

Speaking of running....let me introduce you to another life-changing book that I'm in the middle of reading. "The first 20 minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Longer". It's like all the reading I've done about exercise physiology over the years has been condensed into a solid, one stop, book. I'm less than 1/2 way through the book and here's how it already changed my work out, as evidenced by this morning's run.
-I exercised in the morning (rather than the afternoon)
-I warmed up slowly for 3 minutes (before: what warm up?)
-I did some dynamic stretching: skipping forward and backwards, butt kicks, and toy soldiers (before: stretching?)
-I did some high intensity intervals
- 1 minute at 85-90% max, 75 seconds walk/jog at perceived effort of ~3. Repeat 6 times, will eventually work up to 12 reps. (before: 3 minutes of running at ~60%, 1 minute of walking, repeat for 30-60 minutes)
-I had a glass of milk and square of dark chocolate (before: I KNOW about the 2:1 carb: protein refueling, but it's always difficult for me to remember exactly what food have that natural ratio and I'm not hungry after exercise anyways, and I probably ate right before the run anyways.....)

 Some of the concepts, even though based in solid science are going to be hard for people to swallow. I pride myself as an endurance rider, for being able to evaluate the evidence and be able to kick out beloved concepts that do not hold up to scrutiny and integrate new concepts that do, while evaluating how these concepts work together for ME, the individual. That's what all of us as endurance riders do, and I think it's one of the most important foundations of our sport. We've tested and evaluated protocols for our horses for years, now it's time to do it for ourselves, the riders. This is the book to get, as a starting point. Some of the information was new to me, some was old hat, and some was stuff I had suspected based on my experiment of one, but didn't have any evidence before.

To give you some tidbits......
-chocolate milk is the best post-work out refuel drink that naturally has the ratio of carbs to protein that is ideal for the physiologic state your muscles are in after exercise. -20 min a day of exercise (brisk walking) is what you need. You can split the 20 minutes any way you want and it counts. Don't have the equivalent 20 minutes a day? 30 minutes 3 times a week of high intensity interval training is equivalent.
 -exercise is a very inefficient way to lose weight. It's about diet. However, exercise will help your body to accept it's new "weight point" and stop sneeking compensatory measures your body WILL take try reach it's old, heavier set point. This only works if you aren't exercising to the point where you are contributing significantly to the negative balance of calories from your diet....BTW, another way to significantly burn more calories during the day is to stand. Remarkably, even though you are in a negative energy balance because of the calories burned, calories burned because of standing don't activate the body's "compensatory" mechanisms like running or dieting.
-If you are going to eat low carb, high fat diet, EXERCISE. You'll have the same parameters as those high carb people when it comes to heart health. I believe in the low carb, high protein and fat diet, but I'm also active and exercise. From my opinion and not the book: If you plan on remaining sendentary, perhaps the more carb heavy diet is more appropriate.....but since you SHOULD be exercising anyways, IMO this is not an excuse to say that low carb doesn't work....
-stretching isn't all it's cracked up to be. If you are going to stretch, than do dynamic stretching, like I did in my run today. Stretching can be detrimental to athletic performance and the key is to do dynamic stretching that activates muscles and joints within the range of motion that you will be doing for that activity. FYI, this is one my boyfriend absolutely balks at. I don't see him changing his "reach for the toes" routine before runs anytime soon.
-Nothing solves the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). Not NSAIDs, not ice baths, not massages. And BTW, that ibuprofen we take before exercise to stave off soreness? Not only does it not work, it's actually hindering our body to be able to adapt to exercise. Same with any vitamin antioxidants we may be pouring down our gullets. I think this is enough for now. Coming up: My new job, more books, and why I have a smart phone.
-Thirst IS a good indicator of when and how much you should drink.