Having crewed and been crewed for in the last 2 weeks, not to mention spending most of today putting together my Tevis crew binder....Today’s topic is crewing!
Bottom line: If you are crewing, I would emphasize how VERY important it is for you to take care of yourself.
At least at a ride with a lot of out ride checks, I found crewing as hard as riding the distance. At each point that Funder came in at Sunriver, I did a mental self check and decided that yep, at “x” mileage I would feel exactly like I did in that moment.
Some of the same issues cropped up while crewing that also crop up in my riding. Starting in the late afternoon I started to get a really bad headache. A migraine. Oh no......What the heck is going on? It wasn’t altitude - this was day 3 at the camp. It wasn’t hydration. It wasn’t the heat, although I had been slightly sunburnt in spite of putting on sunscreen. Maybe it was electrolytes?
Funder uses the same electrolytes as I do, so I took some capsules, drank a bottle of vitalyte, took some ibprofen, ate some of the best salty nut clusters EVER, and miracles and miracles, about an hour later I felt fine.
For some reason when I start feeling crappy my instinct is to conclude that because I’m over hydrated (which is actually a real issue for me) I should stop drinking. And grit my teeth and just start shutting down and plowing through it. Instead of, you know, correcting the electrolytes and continuing to hydrate.
Gritting my teeth and shutting down has (surprise surprise surprise!) never ever worked unless there is a nap in my immediate future. At Tevis, or any other ride, if I start to feel crappy I need to start downing elytes immediately, very aggressively. At wild west, I got serious about my elytes and switched to water only in the saddle with vitalyte at the vet checks and 1-2 elyte caps every hour in the saddle along with food. And.....tada!!!!! no hydration or elyte issues. I know I know.....absolutely shocking that if you actually identify a problem and a solution and put it into practice.......
As a complete side note, this is why I have issues with overhydration and elytes. I was running marathons back before they recognized the dangers of over hydration and when the recommendation was to drink at every water station, even if you weren’t thirsty, and even if you were a turtle at the back of the pack.
So for years I essentially overrode my thirst mechanism and I can’t trust it any more. If there’s a bottle of water in front of me, I’ll finish it the same whether it’s my 5th or 50th of the day. Nowadays they say that thirst is actually a very good indicator of when it’s time to drink and in normal everyday life I’ve managed to put this into practice. However at ride it’s better for me to rely on having a goal of specific quantities of water at certain times, along with elytes when I invariably over drink or aren’t eating food with enough salt in it. At wild west I found out that saving elyte drinks for vet checks only and drinking pure water in the saddle actually helped me maintain an appropriate thirst mechanism!
What about taking care of the horse and rider?
It depends on the horse and rider. Know thy horse and rider.
Funder and Dixie? Dixie likes having her food held for her and didn’t want to be fussed over. Funder whines like a 3 year old about food, and food that was declared to be banned for the rest of the ride, will then be requested at the next check. Adult beverages were a necessity starting at mile 60. Food is unappealing and a chore but Funder will eat!
Melinda and Farley? If you sponge her back and rump you will get Farley pulled. Melinda is usually nauseous and puking starting before she even gets on a horse in the morning. Melinda doesn’t want to be asked any questions that require anything more than a yes or no question, and asking her to smile for a picture will likely result in bloodshed. On the plus side Farley takes care of herself and is an easy horse to get through a 100 if you can get her rider through it......
Different riders and horses are going to need different strategies. Try to get your rider to write down as much of their instructions as possible. Follow their instructions to the letter, even if they don’t make sense to you. The time to talk about the whys and the alternatives are the day before the ride or earlier - NOT the day of the ride. Ultimately the decisions made regarding the ride and the horse are the RIDER’S. Your job as the crew is to help the rider ride THEIR ride and to affirm their decisions.
There is an exception to the “do not disagree” with your rider policy....and that is when you ask whether something should be done, that was already agreed upon before the ride. For example - very nice crew member asks the rider at the end of the ride “shall I take the hoof boots off now?”. It is entirely possible that the rider will say no, due to sheer exhaustion EVEN THOUGH THAT WAS THE PLAN and YES THE BOOTS SHOULD COME OFF.
If you KNOW that was something that they wanted done, and they are saying “no” purely because it’s late, they are tired, and it’s one more thing on top of a whole pile of things that ought be done.....then it’s OK to offer again “I know you are tired and I’m perfectly happy and wiling to do this if it’s something that you want done”.
This REMINDS the rider that they have a CREW and that they aren’t the ones that are going to have to get out of the chair and do it, and they CAN make the right decision for the horse AND STILL GO TO BED and not have to lift a finger.
Trust me. Your rider may need this kind of reminder near the end of the ride.
The rider is exhausted and they know they have not appreciated the crew during the day nearly enough and may have even engaged in a bit of crew abuse and whining. So when it’s all said and done, the rider feels a bit guilty - after all these are their friends and family that are doing this out of FUN and SUPPORT. So.....the rider tries to be nice by saying “that’s ok. That really doesn’t need to be done....”
My friends. At this point your rider isn’t just acting like a 3 year old. They really do have the mental capacity of a 3 year old.
My advice is to not ask questions at the end of the ride. Instead, stick to the agreed upon script of the post ride plan. Imagine if you were hospitalized. Does the nurse say “Do you want your catheter flushed now?” NO! They say “I’m going to flush your catheter now” *smile*.
Here are some examples:
NOT “do you want your horse boots off now?” INSTEAD “I’m going to take (insert horse name)’s boots off now and put there here”.
NOT “What do you want in her mash?” INSTEAD “ I prepared a mash with stable mix and beet pulp. I’m going to give it to her now”.
NOT “what time do you want to be waken up?” INSTEAD “the awards are at 8. I will make sure you are up by 7:30 so you won’t miss them”.
See the difference?
Besides (mostly) listening to your rider, your other job as a crew is to do whatever is necessary to get your rider back on to their horse.
Bribery, threatening and cajoling.... are all acceptable.
Prepare their bed, but lock the doors on the truck so they can’t get to it. Listen to their whining, nod sympathetically, and then remind them they have 10 minutes left in their hold time. Promise them an adult beverage if they just.make.it.to.the.next.check.
Some riders want to be told what to do, to be micro managed. Others do better with a disapproving look if their water bottle was too full when they got to the next check, but don’t want to be mommied.
A good crew is a tremendous asset and can make the difference between a completion and a pull, or the difference between a rider that can keep their head in the game and one that is marginal out there on the trail.
That being said....recently I’ve seen piss poor crews and it’s worse than no crew at all, IMO.
How do you avoid being a bad crew? Avoid doing these very simple things.
1. Miss all the checks and rely on strangers to take care of your rider
2. Don’t make sure your rider is eating or drinking in checks or on the trail
3. Do exactly what the rider said NOT to do with their horse
4. Expect the rider to do anything, or coordinate anything beyond their ride and horse on ride day or the night before ride day.
5. Get easily offended
6. Piss off ride management
7. Eating the last of ANYTHING. Even if your rider hated it all day. THAT is the thing they have been craving the entire last loop. You know, the thing you just ATE.
Now, I’m sure you are saying to yourself - “ I’ve got this! Feed the rider, feed the horse, take naps while they go out and do their 2am loop!” Not so fast.....in addition to the sponging, mash preparation, watering, tacking, massaging, and placating....here’s some additional crew duties you may not have thought of.
1. Keep track of their ride card. It is totally your fault if it is lost or mangled. After all we JUST went through the fact your rider is a 3 year old. Which means if you don’t take care of it, they probably shoved it down their pants.
2. Defend their right to ride turtle. Even though it means that you don’t go to bed until 4:30am. (Remember - you are doing this because you thought it would be FUN)
3.Sacrifice your pants because your riders tights have split all the way up........
4. Assure your rider that it’s perfectly normal to eat noodles which have fallen on the ground and insist that of COURSE you will eat them too....why would you want to waste perfectly good noodles?
5. Find your rider’s thumb when it gets yanked off by the reins coming into the vet check. Hopefully you have thought ahead and have ice to put it on....(you don’t want to be a bad crew right?)
Are you ready yet?
My best advice for crewing I have saved for last. Don’t volunteer to crew for someone unless you really really care.
It’s a lot of work, a lot of dirt, and a lot of effort. And it didn't matter, because being there for Funder at her first 100 was better than riding it myself. I would have been happier to see her finish that ride (although watching her come safely out of the dark at 80 miles was a close second.....) than I will be in July when (hopefully) I finish Tevis for the second time.
Being someone’s crew is more than just going to a ride and being
someone’s cheerleader, or keeping them company. You can encourage and
support someone without being their crew (and going to a ride to
cheerleader your friends is a GOOD THING!).
Crewing means you are going
to work just as hard for them to finish the ride, as they are going to
work in the saddle. And it is incredibly fulfilling and absolutely worth it.
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