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Friday, July 26, 2013

Tevis - Details II (things gone wrong)

Just in case you think everything went well and my Dear Reader is under the impression that I have this sport figured out....I’ve dedicated this post to things that did NOT go well. 

But first, as always - an update!

I stopped into the VMTH barns on my way to work and spoke to one of the vets I knew from classes.  Based on what I had told him about what I thought happened and the time frame in which she looked normal again, he suspects a soft tissue tweak in that RH.  I had originally gone in to see if I could convince a clinician to see Farley and do radiographs without a full lameness workup, and while he agreed that  she didn’t need a full lameness workup, didn’t feel like she needed any additional diagnostics like radiographs either.  His advice was to give her the next 8 weeks off/hand walk/light work as if it was a minor soft tissue bruise or strain, and then return her back to work over a couple of months.  I had specifically told him that I was thinking about doing Tevis on this mare the next year, and was worried that there was some sort of structural issue with the old injury on the RH, especially now that I actually had a lameness....but he wasn’t worried and thought my plan to do some 50’s next spring and try again was a good one.  So that’s that.  He saved me some money and taking it easy until winter/spring was the plan anyways, so I guess we can move on :).

I think I tend to freak out about these sort of things because my first injury experiences with horses were NEVER inconsequential lamenesses.  I got injuries injuries that were subtle but bad and required intensive rehab and finger crossing that I’d ever get to do endurance again.  But that last 3 lamenesses I’ve had over the past 2 years (ie since I started doing a lot less miles) have been the sort of knocks and bumps that happen, but don’t have long lasting effects - thrush in one foot, splints (from kicking a pipe corral panel I think), and now this.  I’m getting better and better at taking a deep breath, evaluating, and not spending money I don’t have to if it’s likely minor and will resolve.  I’m grateful I had some bad lamenesses up front, since I think I’m less likely to miss something that is major.  Even when I saw RH issue for the first time at Fransico’s, and then the morning after, I just had a feeling it wasn’t something serious enough to make a vet appointment right away.  Looks like that gut feeling might continue to be true!!!!!!! 

Can you tell I’m cautiously optimistic?  I don’t want to celebrate yet.....but I think everything is going to be ok :). So, unless something exciting happens, this should be the last “how is Farley and Mel doing post-Tevis?” update.  No news is good news.

And now on to our scheduled programing - the ways in which Mel was a complete failure during Tevis.

I am a complete failure at visualizing the finish of a ride before I actually finish.  It’s like I’m afraid to take it more than one step at a time.  I can’t prep my crew bags or saddle bags before I’ve vetted in.  I can’t start planning for exactly what should go where at the finish until I’ve actually done my final vet in. 

This is not good. 

My poor crew did their best.  I had a specific list of things that I wanted done - my reluctance to jump too far ahead in in equipment prep only, not in the making of lists and plans, but of course I didn’t actually have my finish stuff ORGANIZED for them.

Again I reiterate - my poor crew.

I have a duffel full of my leg care stuff.  I was pretty kinda sure had no idea whether both my ice boots were in there, but didn’t check.  .  Apparently there was only one.  So I made the decision to only ice the fronts, which is my normal MO when I don’t have a crew.  Of course, as we all know the injury was in the HIND so wouldn’t it have been nice to ice the hinds? 

But with one boot, and no one on the crew who knew how to wrap (I can sometimes improvise with a polo wrap to create an ice boot, but it takes some knowledge of wrapping and horse legs) and my request that icing be done for 20 min per leg......40 min for both fronts seemed reasonable, keeping my crew up for 80 min didn’t. 

And then there was the issue of ice.  I provided neither ice, ziplocks or packs.  What I SHOULD have done was buy some cheap “insta-cold” packs.  Well worth the money for the few rides I do a year, don’t have to mess with trying to keep ice frozen on a hot day until the end of a 100. 

I also didn’t make sure I had a full, accessible tube of desitin and other miscellaneous supplies.  In the future I will organize things into a plastic tubs or totes that are labeled by vet check and one for “finish”.  And I will buy duplicates of stuff that is needed at more than one time during the ride so that my crew never needs to go looking through various containers for different check points.  Since I won’t be overwhelmed by the complicated logistics of what needs to go where, and what needs to be transferred to the next check but what doesn’t - I will be more likely to actually organize it and less likely to throw all my gear in a wheelbarrow and say “most of this needs to go to most of the checks”.

No joke.  This is how awful I am to my crew.  I don’t even know why my friends were crewed for me are still on speaking terms......oh yeah - at least for one of them, she intends to torture me at her next 100 :).  And it will be totally fair payback, I assure you. 

Of course, actually organizing will make sure that important equipment isn’t left behind.  Like, oh say, the GIRTH to my backup saddle.  I had the option of switching to the Aussie after dark, and by Robinson Flat I knew I was going to make that switch.  My knees really hurt and I made it into Foresthill knowing I didn’t have to ride another mile in the Wintec.

As I told my crew at Robinson I definitely wanted to switch saddles at Foreshill, I had a little niggling thought in my brain that the girth hadn’t made it with the crew stuff and was back in the trailer at the fairgrounds.  But, not wanting yet another thing for my crew to stress about decided I would figure out something if that ended up being true.  Of course the only thing to “figure out” was that I would be continuing in the wintec, but it’s one of those things you don’t actually admit to yourself because that reality is far to painful to face until it actually happens.

Ah yes.  Pain. I really really really wanted the Wintec to work for me.  Irish Horse kindly lent me hers to see if it would.  I can actually afford a used wintec, it was very secure,  put me in a decent position and works well with Farley’s back. I had knee pain (like IT band stuff) at Wild West in it.  But wasn’t sure if it was due to something else (like what I’m not sure.....) and decided that it would be fine for Tevis.

It was not fine.  Starting at mile 3 I had severe, teeth gritting pain that never really let up  until I stopped at mile 85.  When I would hop off and run my knees were 100% OK.  Something about the shape of the flap and twist put my leg in such a position that it irritated my IT bands and nothing - not half chaps, shortening or lengthening stirrups or anything else I could devise eliminated.

I would come into a vet check 100% sure I couldn’t ride another mile, dismount and vet through and the pain would become a memory.  So I would mount up again and off we would go. 

When I think back on all the possible reasons why I would be so exhausted even before midnight, I think the most likely possibility was the pain.  It’s really unusual for me to start having issues with my mental game so early (started around mile 60) and not be able to snap out of it. 

Part of me thinks that with some exercises and training I would be fine in the Wintec.  Don’t ask me what kind of exercises and training....I don’t have a clue, other than it’s another excuse for really really really wanting this cheap saddle to work for me. Another part of me says “don’t be silly!”.  The last year or so has been the best ever for my IT band issues, so it’s not likely a training issue.  And I remind myself that my Solstice saddle, which I did all my previous 100’s in, including 2 Tevis attempts (with 1 completion) never ever bothered my knees, even when everything else did. 

So, I’m going to try and stay strong and not succumb to the lure and affordability of the Wintec, and accept that the shape of my hips/lower body is just not compatible. 

Oh, and while we are on the subject of unworthy equipment, apparently my cheap $5 Walmart chair that I bought for my first endurance ride in April 2007 broke.  Geez.  :)

On to my next failure!  Farley’s skin.  Farley has really thin, sensitive skin with a very thin hair coat.  I chalk this characteristic up to the reason she can cool SO FAST.  She’s absolutely freakin’ amazing and efficient at dissipating heat.  Unfortunately......having thin sensitive skin isn’t all good news.  Farley is really susceptible to friction rubs.  I don’t know how else to explain it, because they aren’t really “rubs”.  Ie there isn’t any hair loss, or oozing or anything like that.  However, starting about 36-48 post ride like Tevis (Tevis is by far the worst, it’s minor or not noticeable at other hot rides) chunks of her pigmented skin layer and hair come off, exposing pink non-oozing bare patches of skin.  That then pigment and grow hair back good as new.  In addition to that, she will also get “scurff” which is more like dandruff and flaky skin than chunks of hair/skin pulling off in areas under the tack. 

Over the years I’ve figured out how to control the scurff - adding a crupper to the saddle to minimize the shifting of the tack back and forth, applying showsheen liberally in her armpits and making sure her mohair string girth is meticulously clean throughout the ride and in that sweet spot between too tight and too loose. NOT bathing her the week before the ride, but making sure her coat is curried and brushed free of any loose hair, dirt, and sweat. NOT brushing or currying her during or after a ride (only sponging), and then a full hosing the day after the ride with no soap. 

Voila!  Follow the above procedure and there is no scurff on Farley post Tevis!  (and you still think arabs are the only breed perfectly suited to this sport?  It might be harder to get that non arab through the ride on ride day, but I swear I never had to even consider skin maintenance on my standardbred.....)

But this post is focusing on areas I dropped the what about the other skin issue I have - those “friction” rubs? If I can predict where they are going to show up, I can put a high percentage zinc oxide cream on those areas during the ride and minimize them.  I also chose my tack and equipment really carefully and try not to ride with anything I don’t absolutely need - which is why I rode without a crupper for so long. Unfortunately, I don’t see “friction rubs” except at Tevis, and since I haven’t done Tevis in a while I ended up with more of these rubbed areas than I should have. 

- On the sides of her neck where the reins touched (about half way).  I ride with round smooth rope reins and did a lot of one handed riding, so the reins touched her neck as we trotted and moved across her skin, even though the reins were loose.  I’m not losing hair, but the black skin is coming off.

- On the sides of her fetlock/pastern where the velcro and captivator meet on my strap on boots.  Mostly on the fronts.  I had the straps tighter than usual for this ride and so I should have used zinc oxide around this area to eliminate this possibility.  But, I’ve never had ANY sort of rubbing or irritation from the boots so it didn’t cross my mind.  (interestingly, the back of her pasterns, even though they are still a little scurfy, looked better than previous years than when I was in steel, or in glueons.  I think the captivator provided protection from the dust and rocks.). Again, it wasn’t a rub that you could see on ride day, but starting yesterday I’m noticing the skin and hair coming off in these areas.

- On the bottom of her chin where the curb chain was.  Even though it was adjusted correctly AND she rode on a loose rein 99% of the ride.  Grrrrrr........

- In front of the girth area, on her chest between her legs.  Wrinkles of skin that got dirty and sweaty and rubbed together as she moved? 

So, now my horse looks like a scrawny pinto because white desitin smeared all over her. 

Moving on to the next screw up.

I should have ridden the CA loop again in the daylight before this ride.  The only part of the ride I felt Farley was unsure about was the section.  She’s seen it twice - once in the daylight 4 years ago, and once in the dark 3 years ago.  I didn’t remember it at all - just small sections here and there.  She knew where Fransico’s was and the major parts of the trail, but had trouble navigating the trail where it crossed creeks and did weird things, so I think she didn’t remember the details of it any better than I did.

It didn’t help that I led 98% of that trail and most of the day as well so we were both a bit brain fatigued from not having a chance to draft off anyone all day. Before I knew she was lame, but after the vet told me he was NOT going to let me RO because she looked great (pre trot out....) I decided that I was going to draft off someone all the way to the finish. And if they went too fast, I was going to sit on the side of the trail until someone else came along. I was DONE riding by myself (never thought I would be complaining about that during Tevis), I was DONE leading other riders, I was DONE trying to decide the best pace for the trail in front of me I couldn’t see and couldn’t remember.  I wanted to tuck myself behind someone and not have to *think* for just a few minutes.

Of course, my Dear Reader knows that instead I got to take a 2 hour nap (interrupted by Farley yanking me over to the water trough between eating and power napping) before being trailered out as a pull. 

And yet another screwup....

I toyed with the idea of putting a rump rug on the saddle after foresthill, since I had decided not to carry a myler blanket in my saddle bags.  On the new100milers yahoo list (a wonderful list if you are trying to do your first 100!!!!!) someone had asked what you should have in your saddle bags for the Big Horn 100.  The Big Horn is a much different ride from Tevis - much more out-in-the-middle-of-no-where-wilderness - which is why I didn’t stuff my saddle bags with emergency-I-might-have-to-spend-the-night-in-a-blizzard-by-myself-overnight stuff, but did get some useful tips and added a few items to my Tevis saddle bags that I don’t usually carry.  I had a feeling when I got to Fransico’s, especially dealing with so much equipment that previously tested on Tevis, I might need to do some “improvising” to address rubs and bruises.  One comment about the rump rug was that you should bring one, because even if your horse doesn’t need it, you might. 

But I didn’t bring it.  And I wish I had.  Because when I was curled up in a ball on the ground at Fransico’s completely exhausted and trying to sleep, it FINALLY cooled down at 1am enough that I was shivery on the ground.  I was arranging my undone half chaps over my legs to try and get some extra insulation so I could sleep.  I would have been really really really happy to have that rump rug.  And if something had happened on the trail and I was non ambulatory and I had to lay on that cold uninsulated ground for a couple hours, I would have really really really liked a rump rug.  So I’ll be putting a rump rug on my saddle for my after-dark loops, along with the rest of my “darkness” equipment like a headlamp and glowsticks.

One more mistake - a relatively harmless one in the scope of things

I missed a boot issue vetting in at Robinson.  The right hind boot side wall was folded underneath the sole of the foot on one side.  When I trotted out at Robinson, the vet gave me a B for gaits and said that it wasn’t consistent and not bad enough for a recheck, but she thought there might be something brewing on that LF. 

mmmm......??????  Considering the history with the LF I was not happy (but also not freaked out).  I pulled the LF boot and the boot and foot looked PERFECT.  Nothing reactive in the tendon. 

I didn’t even notice the RH boot until almost all the way through the check.  When I saw it, it totally made sense and I knew I had probably solved the mystery.  Especially in slight, inconsistent lameness it can be really hard to tell whether it’s a front or hind on a certain diagonal on an endurance trot out, which is very short and only on a straight line.    A RH can look like a LF and vice versa because they are on the same diagonal. I fixed the boot, told the vets at the next check what I had found, and sure enough, I was back to A’s for gaits.  I was able to trot out for the same vet I had at Robinson later in the day at Chicken Hawk and she confirmed that what she saw was gone. 

I’m glad it ended up as a relatively “harmless” mistake, but it would have been better if I had done a good visual boot check before heading over to the vets.


  1. Oh - and I didn't bring enough mash and my crew was really stressed about possibly running out, AND I lost my sunglasses going up the first canyon. Sigh. I'd only had them for 2 weeks. :(

  2. Wowzie! I had big knee issues with both of my dressage saddles (for my Tevis horse & my current mare in training for next year's Tevis). I was cranky and in pain within 7 miles on conditioning rides and finally decided to try something new. The Reactor Panel Saddle was recommended and I was pretty pissed when the saddle was the right choice for me (and my mare) because it wasn't cheap. I have virtually no knee pain and only a little if Aura wants to go too fast and I have to hold her back, but it's a great saddle and can be adjusted to her weight loss (gain). It was worth going in a little debt. I also got the Endurance model with prominent knee rolls as I was getting tossed more than I cared for. Too bad we didn't see you laying on the ground at Francisco's because they had a large box there with blankets that you could of had. So sorry!! I was very anal-retentive about my crew, having separate boxes for my 1 hr holds and even had a meeting a few days prior with one crew member. Still she decided to bring her sister along who knew nothing about horses and put my saddle on the alfalfa to take back to our spot. It was filled with hay on the underside of my pad and I pretty much lost it. It was cleaned the best she could but Ali'i had a "B" on Gall/Wounds at the finish as there was an odd rub spot on his side under the pad. (He never gets stuff like that.) So, you do the best you can and I'm sure your crew loves you tons. (I'm sure this sister does not love me tons though!) Have a great year training for next year's Tevis and I hope to see you there!!

  3. I know exactly the saddle that would work because I used to own it. 1k used, 3k new. Its the solstice and unfortunately totally out of the question until I'm done with school, my retirement :-). Sigh.

  4. Oh, and I think someone took pity on me because by the end of my nap I did have a blanket so someone must have known!

  5. And that situation with the hay? wowzee. That would have been tough for me to blood pressure is raised just thinking about it.

    1. Yeah, I was so pissed. It's been nearly a year and I may be able to see her in person without feeling ill-will but I doubt it....I should have listened to my trainer/mentor as I crewed for her for 2009 and she put me in charge of ONLY feeding her & her riders. I was slightly hurt, as I didn't think I was that incompetent, but I look back on it now and she was VERY specific on who did what. I will now say ANYONE who I haven't talked to can only take photos or hand me something to drink. And sadly, in all reality she thought she was helping, but Tevis is sorta like weddings and funerals....sometimes the best does not come out of people (me). It's intense.


    At a ride like Tevis, there is really no reason at all for you to provide extra ice / instant ice packs. I literally drove past a 7-11 when I was parking the truck, darted in, and bought ice. A ride in the boonies? Yeah, it'd be cool to have extra ice for the horse.

    You hardly yelled at us at all; you were a fine rider. ;)

    I would carry a silver space blanket over a rump rug strictly because it's SO lightweight and it's waterproof. (And it would cover you better while you nap!)

    I pack a lot of gear in gallon ziplocks, but I think I'll magnet a few more to the inside of the tack room wall, just to have them on hand. They're nice "trailer gear"!

    Squishy, I would totally cry if somebody set my saddle pad on alfalfa :(

    1. Mel, funny to hear you hardly yelled at your crew. I think we all need to tell people we probably WILL yell at them and hope they still want to help. Or come back the next year.

  7. Sonny ended up with some weird skin issues this time too, in places that have never had a problem at previous Tevis or any other rides. Hope to see you on the trail next year.

  8. A useful emergency ice wrap that we used to do for eventers/show jumpers was a disposable diaper that had been soaked in an ice slurry then opened up at one end (top end when you put it on the leg) and filled with the ice chips.

  9. Glad Farley I doing better! I am going to check out that yahoo group you mentioned.

  10. Why/when did you stop using the Solstice?

    That is interesting about the skin -- I've (knock wood!) never had a rub on a horse and always been kind of puzzled that people seemed to end up with 'em even while obsessing over the fit of their gear, but had figured it was just due to friction over miles rather than something inherent to the horses. Huh.

    re: pre-riding segments, do you think not having a chance to do this is a major problem for an out-of-area rider? I had always thought people shipped to Tevis from other areas of the country...although judging from the entry list this year, maybe that's less true that I had believed?

  11. I sold my solstice for two reasons. I didn't think I would do another endurance.ride until I was out of, much.less.tevis. A leather saddle doesn't sit well for four years without being used and because I wasn't sure how and where I would be living and am not good at maintaining leather especially if I'm not using it regularly. The second reason was because I had to buy a commuter car for school and that saddle represented $1000 that I needed for that purpose. I didn't know at the time that I had just been really lucky and all the saddles I rode in were nice to my knees. In hindsight I wish I hadn't sold it, but who would have imagined that two years in vet school and post tendon rehab we would be doing tevis.

    More on the rest of your question when I'm not on my phone tiny keyboard.

    1. Ahhh, understandable. I am in the middle of selling my dressage saddle (fingers crossed) on the theory that I won't be eventing again any time soon...but being wrong about that sort of thing is, at least, a good problem to have!


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