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Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Another post in which I should be studying

I'm convinced that you, My Dear Reader, have all the answers to the very difficult questions that come up in my life.

For example - What topic should I write my Ride and Tie Scholarship on? 
--> My winning submission was the DIRECT result of a reader question, and a series of posts.

Or, should I do Tevis or Ride and Tie Champanionships next year?
--> the answer is so OBVIOUS to me know that of COURSE I should do championships. But it wasn't until you'all pointed out the obvious....

So now I'm coming to you with another great question....What topic should my "historical essay contest" article be about?  I was going to enter this contest this year (2013) but the deadline sort of slipped away from me, probably because I didn't find a topic that REALLY held my attention. I have another chance and the 2014 essay is due in April. 

Here's a link to the contest website:

The topic I was thinking about this spring was about Cyclops lambs and the associated prolonged gestation....which led researchers to connect it to a different disease in dairy cattle which also had prolonged gestation and voila! the connection between the role of the pituitary in the fetus initiating parturition was discovered. (if the fetus doesn't have a pituitary, you get prolonged pregnancies, because one important factor in initiating labor is the a signal that the fetus's pituitary gives out. No pituitary, no labor). There's a LOT we don't know about the initiation of labor (especially in horses) so these sorts of discoveries are quite exciting - plus, any story involving a cyclops is interesting right? 

After looking over past topics, I definiately do NOT want to do EIA/Coggins, rabies, anything to do with vetmed in rome, rinderpest, westnile or any of the other recently emerged "trendy" diseases, or zoo medicine.

An list of past topics is here

There's not a lot of horse performance subjects.

What about the history of doping in horse performance? Or evolution of drug testing?

Or historical treatment/perception of tendon injuries?

Or...the range of topical antiseptics that horse people cling to? such as the blue spray, scarlet oil, corona and the like?

Or melanoma in grey horses?

Or the history of equine dentistry?

What do you guys think - is there a certain topic in vetmed that you are interested in that you find interesting? Any particular piece of equipment?

Monday, September 23, 2013

I am...."Worst Crew Ever"

Editorial note: apparently I'm scaring people. Rest assured this is a post that is written tongue in cheek.  Me and Funder both agreed that worst crew every is the know - in that "worst sort of way", and I had a lot of fun, and was very caffeine deprived (forgot to drink caffeine because I was so tired), tired (apparently sleeping in the back of a corolla isn't as restful as it could be), and in school when writing this (laminitis is so boring....), which is NEVER a good thing.  So please, read this in the light hearted fashion (but yes, every word of it is true and un-exaggerated) it was written. 

First some praise for Virgina City 100. What a fantastic, organized, fun ride. I'm convinced that this is a ride I definitely I want to go for before trying Tevis again. It's been on my bucket list from the very beginning, but for some reason I never made the time for it. There's so many reasons to go to this ride!!!!

Team Fixie (Funder + Dixie) tried another 100 last weekend and invited me to come crew.  I'll leave the story to Funder to re-tell on her blog, it seemed like a good idea at the time.... and focus on why it's absolutely insane that I keep get invited to crew.

Admitting that you are "Worst Crew Ever" (WCE) takes much of the pressure off you, as the crew the perform.  After all, you are WCE, a fact that was fully disclosed to your rider.

1. Start the day off right - have your rider wake you up as they head to the start.  Fortunately you slept in your clothes and just have to slip into shoes and then jog the 2 miles to the start, and redeem yourself by tightening their girth right before they take off.

2. Go back to bed. The whole "jog 2 miles at 4:15am" was a bit much.  Decide to be at the first vet check around 8:00 am or so. On the way to the vet check, see the trot by side of rode and realize you could be BEST CREW EVER by showing up at a check you weren't expected. Pull in and check the in timers sheet.  Either misremember/mis-see (or numbers weren't written down correctly?  Or someone said the wrong number?) your riders number and realize you missed them by TEN FREAKIN' minutes.  Crap - what were they doing going that fast???????????  Of course, later in the day, you will be told you actually missed them by 20 minutes - after you left and you regain your status as WCE.

3. Decide to get coffee at the gas station next to vet check 1. After much debate (I promise!) decide NOT to buy your rider coffee. It's crappy gas station coffee, and while I can force myself to drink it, I can't in good faith hand a cup of crappy cold coffee to my rider. Best for them to go without.  Realize you are WCE when someone ELSE from a DIFFERENT CREW hands your rider a cup of starbucks.  Starbucks?  What starbucks?  Worst crew EVER.

4. Arrive early at the second vet check.  After discussing pacing with the rider, AND soliciting three other people's opinions of how long it will take it will take to do the next section of the trail, you hadd 30 minutes as a buffer and settle down to study/eat/visit.  Someone else has to tell you your rider is in because they are AN HOUR EARLY!!!!!! Even with the 30 min buffer.  WCE. At least you peeled hard boiled eggs for your rider.  That still doesn't make you BCE - you are still WCE because you only brought half a dozen eggs and you needed more like a dozen.

5. Head over to camp to prepare for the lunch check. Rider has told you they want a hot lunch.  Best crew ever would have braved 60 mph winds and rain to get food from BBQ place in town.  WCE goes up to the food vendor and orders up hamburger and hot dog.

6. Plan on meeting rider at an unofficial crew point at the highway crossing. My phone is dead and so couldn't get the text messages from my rider requesting the rescue trailer - she had to text some one ELSE.  So I was dumped at the side of the high way with food, water, hot chocolate, chair, horse blankets, human blanket, mash, hay, while the Best Crew Ever (not me) went to get the trailer and I sat on the side of the high way, where WCE could do the least amount of damage.

7. Even the WCE can adequately set up the horse and rider for the night.  But you know you are still WCE when rider asks you to put socks on the horse and your response is "ummm......where are the socks?...." And the riders response is "never mind".

8. WCE really tries to redeem themselves the next morning.  The problem is I'm so tired. But Rider has cracked ribs and really needs help and I can at least bend over.  In the course of my redemption I dump previously pristine DVD's on the asphalt, practically cry when I realize the bale of hay has to be put into the bale bag, spill coffee on my foot etc. Tess is forgotten and tied to an ice chest for hours because you are also in the running for worst dog owner ever. 

9. Other notable achievements by WCE was forgetting all gluing supplies in case rider needed a boot replaced, not bringing rider extra clothing when it was obvious from the text message sent prior to leaving that she was not prepared for cold weather, not bidding on rider (at VC100 you get to bet on which riders will be in the top of their weight division upon finishing) because someone else started the bidding above your maximum, forgetting the rider chair for the vet checks, etc etc etc.

*sigh*  So tired. Trying to learn about laminitis and stay awake and pretend I'm not hungry because a missed breakfast is what happens when you drag yourself out of bed at minus 10 minutes from when you should have left for school.

So. Very. Tired.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Art Project

Part of my curriculum this semester is a comparative medicine class that consists of mostly group work 2x a week on various subjects.  There is usually a quiz, and then discussions.  We are required to individually write a "portfolio" entry every week that is either reflective, discusses clinical relevance of the subject, do further research on the subject etc. I thought I would share with you (a modified) version of my portfoio entry this week, since it's been a while since I could post here (moving + surgery+ tests will do that to you). 

Last week I participated in what I affectionately called “The Art Project”. Having been given my two structures to research (vagus nerve, peroneal nerve), I combined my knowledge of their origins, insertions, functions and more, with the assigned structures of the rest of my group.

And then......we applied this knowledge to a real "live" skeleton, with ART SUPPLIES!!!!!!!

And something magical happened.

Creating the structures from yarn, foam, and balloons made nerves and blood vessels relevant to me for the first time and I actually LEARNED the the pathways and functions of various nerves and blood vessels.  No exam or “worth points” assignment for this session fostered an environment that let me indulge my creativity and learn without a stress response being triggered. 

In fact, it was so effective for my comprehension I plan to do a similar “art project” this week to make sure I thoroughly understand the flexors, extensors, and innervation of the large animal lower limb. 

A few days after The Art Project I was introduced to a new way of categorizing graduate student “learners” by a professor and it helped me to understand why The Art Project was so effective for me. 

According to the model there are three types of learners - the Deep Learner, the Strategic Learner, and the Selfish Learner. 

The Deep learner tries to learn all of it and will research details “just because” and they learn because they have a joy of learning EVERYTHING and diving into the details.  One of my best friends in school is a deep learner and it is SO good to study with her because she asks questions and looks up stuff that wouldn't occur to me.

The Strategic Learning prioritizes their learning and will learn information that is important and relevant either because it has a personal connection, or they think they might be tested on it.  Exploring the deeper meanings of things and making broader connections as an “extra bonus” is not the strong suit of the Strategic Learner. If it’s relevant they will learn it VERY well, but if it’s not......they will either decide to stuff it into short term memory before a test or not learn it at all because the actually amount of points or consequences of not knowing it is very small.

The Selfish Learner is the student that is super concerned about the tests and all their learning is directed towards passing and doing well on tests.  I'm thinking that whoever came up with this "model of learning" did not categorize themselves as a selfish learner since beyond getting good grades, there wasn't a lot of "good" to this style. Honestly, much of the time I feel this is the predominant learning style in vet school and every time I have to hear a classmate ask an instructor for them to post question examples of how information will be asked on the test it makes me want to do violence to myself.

I’m definitely a strategic learner.  I will learn information because it’s immediately useful and relevant, or because I have a specific interest in THAT subject - which is usually a very narrow aspect of the subject that I’m applying in some way in my life. For example, I have a specific interest in equine exercise physiology, which I apply to endurance.  Equine medicine doesn’t particularly interest me. Preserving, maintaining, and optimizing health and performance interests me.  Mechanisms of physiology is fascinating, but in general, disease and treatment of disease is not. One reason I chose Food Animal Medicine/Herd Health is because of the emphasis of preventative medicine concepts and applied epidemiology.

Tests aren’t a great way to make information that doesn’t fit into one of the above categories relevant to me - I find it hard to memorize and learn information just because it’s going to be on a test. I've tried motivating myself with money ($100 extra spending money for an "A"!) which only works marginally better than the threat of an upcoming test.

Being a strategic learner, I'll pick details to learn that will certainly be on a test and then spend the rest of my time researching my "pet subjects". Unfortunately blood and nerves have never been worth enough points on a exam to make them important enough to me, and knowing specific nerves and blood vessels hasn’t been important to a deeper understanding of my “pet subjects”. So, I never learned about specific blood vessels and nerves except to have a general sense that they were there.

However, being required to tie strings of yarn on a skeleton was just different enough from previous attempts to stuff blood vessel/nerve information into my brain, that it worked!!!!!

Now when I’m trying to understand how to fit random pieces of anatomy into my understanding I just think “if I was going to create this out of a piece of yarn, where would I tie it?  What would I have to weave it through?”.  This makes it just interesting enough that it prioritizes that knowledge in my “strategic learner” brain. 

It’s not that I didn’t care, its just I didn’t care enough compared to the other things.  A skeleton, some art supplies, and 2 hours devoted to The Art Project with no expectation of points subtracted or added to a final grade was enough to shut down that “prioritize and strategize” portion of my brain and let my natural curiosity and the wonder in the beauty of the biological system take over.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Very important question!!!!!

I'm currently scheduling my life through May 2015....that's right - this month I'm picking my clinical rotations and scheduling externships through my GRADUATION from vet school.

Even though I'll get a total of 5 weeks vacation between April 2014 and May 2015, only one of those weeks will be "guaranteed" - ie only one is available for me to schedule. The rest will be used by the people who put together the clinical rotation schedule to make the schedule "work".

That one week is to be used for "getting married", "being in a wedding", "going to a bar mistvah".

Of course you know exactly what my first thought was.......


Here's the problem.  There are 2 really cool horsey things I could do next summer.

1. Tevis

2. Ride and tie Championships.

The events are a month apart and while I *might* be able to do some scheduling that gives me a shot at doing both.....I'll only be guarenteed one.

So, which one should I do?

Ride and Tie Championships PROS
- I'll get a buckle for finishing the long course
- I stand a really good chance of finishing
- There's enough people I know that can run and ride, that even if my regular partner has to back out, or there's a horse issue, I have a back up horse (Farley) and lots of backup partners. Thus my chances of making it to the start line is high
- I've never done it before - NEW EXPERIENCE!!!!!
- It's less of a time and money commitment compared to Tevis.

RnT Championship CONS
- it's not Tevis

Tevis PROS
- I love the trail, I love the ride

What do my readers think?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

I'm a better blogger than vet student.....

I was lamenting in an email for being behind on my blogging posts and was reminded that blogging is suppose to be fun.  And really, that’s the problem - it’s not that I love blogging so little - it’s that I love it too much!  I’m pretty good at putting off my riding (or even my running) if I need to get school stuff accomplished in a crunch time (and I’ve gotten pretty good at putting it back into my life once crunch time is done!).  But blogging?  It’s almost physically painful for me to get a great blog topic, write it down on the list with the other great blog topics I have, and then get my school work done. 

Sometimes I manage to trick myself - I’m not writing a blog post I’m writing a response to a comment!!!!!

And that is how this post came to be written last night, when I should have been working on a neuro case write up that was eminently due.

Don’t worry Gail - I’m not singling you out because it was bad!!!!  It’s because your question/comment was so much more intriguing and because I’m a much better blogger than vet please take this as a compliment :)

I believe that the cavalry comment was directed more at the “how to ride 25 miles” than longer distances beyond that.  The cavalry pace and distance expected of their horses seems to be similar to the expectations of a modern day LD. If I’m remembering my history right, even the pony express only rode 10-15 (sometimes as many as 25) miles before switching horses.  Doing a 100 miles in a day just isn’t something I can find that was done historically as a matter of fact. If someone has different history - please let me know - but I think the whole training for and doing100 mile races (even a couple a year) with the goal of being able to do it over and over on the same horse is a modern phenomenon. So while I think that it is interesting (and reassuring!) that the cavalry had similar pace and mileage goals as some of today’s endurance events, taking the historical reference too far has it’s limitations.

Using slow, long rides to get to this 25 mile distance is sort of like getting to the 20-26.2 mile distance in humans.  You can actually go the race distance in training, although some plans only take you up to 20 miles max for a marathon program. I haven’t run an ultramarathon, although I’ve done some research since it was my intention to a couple of years ago.  What I found is that at some point you stop doing training runs as long as your goal race. You worry more about time on your feet (“conditioning” your feet) and staying injury free.  To do a 50 miler, you might do a marathon or 50K. To do a 100 miler, you do a couple of 50’s, maybe a 70. 

Having not actually done an ultramarathon, this is pure speculation of course.......but from what I’ve read it all seems very mysterious.  You work your way up to a marathon distance and just sort of make some fantastic jumps in mileage that you just sort of keep running through and you figure out your nutrition and hydration and your mental game and if you have a bit of luck, some training, and pick the right race you complete that ultramarathon. 

Completely reminds me of getting a horse to a 100 miles. It’s easy to systematically take a horse from 0 to LD.  A little more “take it on faith and close your eyes” to take a horse to 50, and pure magic to get to a 100. 

And in that no mans land between LD and a 100 I think there’s a huge chance that HIIT could be one of those “cornerstones” that has been ignored for a long time.

It’s true that horses are “designed” to move slowly over long distances and as was mentioned cover mileage in the double digits if left to their own devices. slow, that means a walk.  Not the trot and pacing we use to cover 50 or 100 miles in a day.  Sure, they trot in the wild, but most of their movement is to slowly walk and forage, with infrequent spurts of activity. BTW - based on what I’ve read lately, humans are designed to walk too.  Not run or jog over long distances.   Sure, we can do it, but what I’ve read is now they think that early humans, not being fast enough to actually run after their prey, basically stalked it by walking after it hour after hour after hour - and could keep moving at a walk far longer than the prey they sought.

So, in some ways, we are “designed” more like our horses than I used to think!

However, you are spot on about the differences between human and equine physiology and its something I harp on over and over and over. You canNOT make direct correlations between what works for humans and what works for equines.

It’s impossible for me to actually know what my horse is feeling during our rides and I’m not doing truly HIIT workouts with Farley.  We do intervals of extended/faster trotting and canter and she is still aerobic.  Our “interval” ends when she starts to slow - I then bring her to a walk for a 30-60 seconds, and then ask her to go back to the faster pace. Then repeat.  I’m not brave enough to try actual HIIT with my horse where I’m working very close to the max.  I didn’t set out to do “interval” training with Farley - I didn’t realize that was what I was doing until about a year into it. I’m less trying to apply a human exercise concept to my horse, and more trying to explain the phenomenon I’ve seen in the last 2 years with Farley.  Maybe something else is going on and it has nothing to do with my “accidental” interval training. But right now, it’s the best explanation I have.

I just don’t know. 

In the short term it gave me a sounder horse that had better performance.

In the long term I don’t know - We spend a lot less time “pounding the pavement” (to use a human term). She gets a lot more rest and time off. Does this mitigate any increase risk from increasing speed and intensity for short bouts? 

I know that from a human side, I really respected the advice that was circulating when I was in high school/college that it was incredibly easy to get hurt and injuried from speed training and unless I was actually after trying to “race”, I should avoid it.

However, according to the 20 min book, 20 min of HIIT 3x week = 30 min of non-interval exercise 5x week. 60 minutes versus 150 minutes.  I’m spending a LOT less time pounding the pavement. And if you consider in that 20 min of HIIT, I’m only sprinting a MAX of 12 minutes per workout - the rest is recovery, it makes the difference even more significant. And from this wee bitty amount of cardio a week, I can run 10 miles - without a problem and even PR it.

The caveat is like I read for my ultramarathoning prep - it’s not necessarily the mileage that is hard - its the time spent on your feet.

How long can you stand and walk around before you think to yourself “my feet are killing me!  I need to sit down....”?.  Because I’m only “on my feet” for 20 minutes and I’m not doing those 2 and 3 hour long runs on the weekends, I consciously stand and walk as much as possible during the day. Back to that concept of what we were “designed” to do, I truly think that this model of spending most of my time on my feet moving slowly (walking) with just a few minutes of “mad dashing” is probably really close to the truth.

It’s worth pointing out that both me and Farley had what could be considered a “good base”, even if it was several years old.  Neither one of us were truly beginners.  And while (according to what I’ve read so far) muscles do NOT regain their conditioning for months and years after starting exercise - there is evidence that “historical” exercise (highschool/college for humans, yearlings for horses) will in part determine how much athletic capacity or fitness levels in future years. Farley being sent to the track as a youngster and me running in junior high, high school and beyond definitely fits that description, even if both of us were “failures” (Farley was deemed too immature to race and was used as a broodmare, and the only chance I’ve ever had for an age group award was if there was 3 or less people in my age group.....).

I’ve never suffered classical “concussion” injuries and I have REALLY good, normal biomechanics. In the past I’ve suffered from nerve injuries on the bottom of my foot, an achilles issue, planar fasciatis, and IT band issues (at the knee). The fasciatis and nerve pain disappeared when I switched to primarily barefoot running. About a year later I started interval training and the achilles and IT band issues have gone away (except for riding in a Wintec saddle apparently....). I’m not sure how my study would have differed if I had shin splints, or knee arthritis, or other joint dysplasia, or flat feet, had been running in motion control shoes etc.

I’m not even sure whether the HIIT I’m doing is aerobic or anearobic - it’s such a short duration and 75 seconds seems to be plenty of time to recovery.  I may be anearobic for the intervals later on in the session, but I’m not sure.

I hope you (my Dear Reader) read this commentary and realize I’m just another person that’s trying to figure it all out, and trying to decide how best to apply knowledge, research, and personal experience to myself and my pony.  A one rat study proof does not make :). I just know that I’m approaching 30 with over 10 years of running under my belt and numerous chronic injuries and now I’m faster and injury free since making the change to HIIT. Farley is in the same boat - she’s a middle aged pony now with several soft tissue injuries and yet....more sound, stronger, looks better. There’s something to all the buzz on the exercise and health networks, even if we don’t don’t know the particulars.

Gail - I know you ride a Fresian (mix?) and so that’s where this/my one rat study REALLY breaks down.  I have no idea how you apply this knowledge to a heavier horse breed. I dont know if speed training in a heavier breed carriers with it greater risk or greater rewards than a light breed. I know I never would have “chosen” to do interval training as a way of getting Farley to a 50 or a 100 - and I’m only here talking about this in retrospect because I did it on accident. :).

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mel's running

On Sunday I ran the Buffalo Stampede 10 mile race for the 4th or 5th time and a friend on facebook asked me to describe my training program.

The first thing to establish here. I’m not a good runner who is looking to be elite. I’ve always been slow, but steady distance runner.  Using interval training I moved myself from the bottom 30% to the top 50%. My goals are to stay un-injuried and run for as long as I can and break some personal records (PRs) on the way. 

I think the best way to explain how different my training has been in the last 2 years, is to briefly tell you what I used to do.

I’ve been running for over 10 years, focusing on distances greater than 10 miles. Starting out I followed Jeff Galloway’s training and did run/walk intervals for most of my runs - always for “long runs”, variable for the shorter “easy” runs during the week..  That program was based on 2-3 runs M-F that were 20-30 min at steady pace (“easy” runs). The weekends had a long run, eventually a long run every other weekend as the runs exceeded 12 miles, working my way up to marathon distance (26.2 miles). 

After a couple of years of doing Galloway, I started following the programs that can be found on Go to their site, type in the distance you are training for (26.2 miles) and your “level” (I usually used beginner or intermediate).  The increase of mileage on the weekends as long runs is very similar to the Galloway program.  The runs during the week are increased to 3-4, with one run done a little faster than the other runs (tempo or speedwork) with the rest of the M-F runs being the same easy runs.

Both of these programs relied on mileage and slow steady runs to build base. There was usually a 3-2 week taper of reduced mileage before a race.

I dealt with a lot of injuries, even when increasing my mileage by the recommended 10% a week. A couple of them are chronic and constantly flare up.  I always got sick the first week of training, and the week after a race. I always arrived at the race start trying to mitigate a new or chronic injury, even though I dutifully changed out my shoes, took time off. After each marathon it took me 6 months before I was ready to run again.  I took a lot of ibrophen before, during, after runs, sat in a lot of ice baths post-run.

2 years ago I read the 20 minute book and it completely changed how I thought of exercise and running.

So here’s my program now.  It’s given me 2 10 mile PR’s, multiple 1 mile PR’s, ZERO injuries, resolution of the three most chronic running injuries I’ve been dealing with over the years, made running FUN again, and I haven’t been sick from training reasons.

On a practical level it also takes a lot less time and I’ve never been more fit.

So here it is.

2-3x a week I go out for an interval run.  After a 5 min warm up, I alternate between running 1 minute as hard as I possibly can, and 1 min 15 seconds of recovery - either walking or slow jogging.  Repeat 8-12 times.  It should take 20 minutes or less. The first time I did this work out, I managed 5 reps.

When I mean “hard as I possibly can” - I mean this: for 1 minute run as close to maximum capacity as you can possibly stand, without regard to the fact you have to do it again in another 75 seconds.

Usually I do interval runs 2x a week and then I do something else for that 3rd workout - a hike, a trail run, a long run, a race, a 1 mile test etc. 

Long runs - I try to get in a run that lasts over 1 hour once a month. I still do my walk run intervals. 

1 mile test - once a month I run a mile to see how fast I can go - According to the 20 mintue book the 1 mile run is an excellent test of how fit someone is.

The only “rules” beyond my goal of 2 interval runs a week are:
1. Do not run through soreness. It doesn’t work to reduce DOMS, and if you are sore more than a day or 2 post work out it means you need to take extra time off anyways.  Soreness is the body healing itself and getting stronger.

2. When in doubt, rest more - didn’t get enough sleep? Really stressed, just not feeling the bounce? Don’t do an interval run that day.  Do something else - racket ball, a walk, a ride, or a bowl of ice cream. Get half way through the interval run and feel a twinge?  Stop the run, walk back home. You just saved yourself a long injury rehab. And run that wasn’t going to be any fun anyways. Go out again day after tomorrow.

3. Walk every day - whether that's parking on the far side of the lot or taking the stairs in front of the elevator, or taking a walk on my lunch hour.  Only training 2-3 days a week doesn't mean I'm sedentary the rest of the week - I think walking is a cornerstone of any active life

4. Stand as much as I can, minimize sitting

5. Try to "lift something heavy" 1-2x a week - whether that's moving heavy boxes, a pylometric workout, traditional weights etc.

It’s amazing how much time/days I have to do other important stuff - like weight training.  - that just weren’t possible when I was trying to run 4-6 days a week. And instead of trudging through runs, I’m having FUN!!!!!  Do you know how exhilerating it is to run at top speed without regard for pace or timing or anything but the sheer joy of being a kid and running just because? *BTW - you can do the interval training described here on a stationary bike too.

And there I go again, trying to convince you.  It’s something you just have to try. 

And by try, I don’t mean “I’ll add 2 interval runs a week to my already jam packed run schedule”. Intervals only work if you are resting sufficiently between them.  If you do 3 interval runs as described here, you are DONE FOR THE WEEK.

You may have seen the most current buzz coming from places like the New York Times - properly done, less is more.

If you are a running coming back from a break, do a week or two of slow 20 minute runs 2-3x a week and then start doing intervals .  Work up to 10 or 12, but start with 4 or 5.

If you are already running regularly and looking for a change, take a week off, and then try doing intervals. 

Give it 2 or 3 weeks.

We can debate whether intervals got Farley through some of the best endurance rides we’ve had this season- without significant training beyond those intervals. HOWEVER, I can point to my 10 mile race PR’s and how easy those PRs were, even though I did no significant training beyond the interval training. And of course the lack of injuries. 

I’m not even sore 1 or 2 days after my 10 mile race this year. The evening after the race my hip flexors were sore - but by the next morning it was gone.  Tight hip flexors are more a function of how much I sit, not the amount of training I have.

The bottoms of my feet were the sorest part of my body - I ran the entire thing in my mocs, and unfortunately I’ve not quite been utilizing my walking desk and standing desk as much as I should and my feet aren’t conditioned for the time on them. 

If any of you do decide to experiment with intervals, please let me know how it goes.  You might just start looking at your horse and endurance training differently too :).

I’ve put far too many words in this post - Really wish I had the self control to trim all these words, present the program, and let the results speak for themselves....but that ain’t my style :).

BTW - this whole "less is more" concept I've been applying to my eating/diet as well with very good results.  By being really strict and controlling of my diet 2 days a week, and following more relaxed "general guidelines" the other 5 days, it naturally prevents "brain fatigue", and I'm getting a "flow over effect" from fasting on my non fasting days which is helping stabilize my blood sugar and minimize destructive routines, and removing the "guilt" factor. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It's a riding day

It's been that kind of day. 

The kind of day that by 6am I knew I HAD to get into the saddle for my mental health, because 2 days post 10-miler PR (personal record) I was NOT going for a run. 

Do you know how you don't want your day to start? 

By finding 5 emails in your inbox from the night before from your instructor telling you to submit your case assignments by midnight or you are going to get a zero, because he doesn't have the cases.

The cases you turned in ON TIME by 9am that morning.  Hard copy (as requested) which means no electronic proof that they got turned in at all.

That have now mysteriously disappeared. 

Sounds like a riding day to me!!!!!!!!

Needless to say with this sort of pre-dawn drama I do NOT have a post for you.  However, I do have a recommendation if you need horsey stuff to read!

Check out the ride and tie association newsletter archive

The latest newsletter is from May.  It has a good article by Melissa Ribley, DVM on post ride recovery, and a short blurb about the most current recommendations for rider/tack weight as a %age of horse body weight.

The second subject (rider weight) comes up on a regular basis on the groups and lists I'm a part of - especially from people who aren't necessarily riders and horse people, but are "horse care professionals", so it's good to educate yourself on the subject. 

BTW - the reason I was in the archive in the first place was because I was looking for the newest newsletter!!!!!!!  Which is where my article (from RnT scholarship essay) will be published!!!!!  It hasn't come out yet, and I'll be sure to announce it here when I see it :).

Monday, September 9, 2013

How to change a tire

Still working through some back posts and don't have time to compose a new post with all the current "happenings" today, but if your curiosity just can't wait - here's the short story:
  • Saddle update: it works - there's more to the story, stay tuned
  • Interval training post and thoughts - I PR'ed my 10 mile race again this year, which was yesterday. There's been a request for me to go over my running training - so look for a post on that coming up soon.
And now I present......

Melinda's guide to changing a tire

1. Consider whether to call AAA or change it yourself. 

Doing it myself pros:
-it's Friday evening and still light and it will take FOREVER for a tow truck to come.
-having JUST had a flat...I know the donut tire is aired up.
-It's super hot, and I have a dog in the car, AND my cell phone is not charged. And I don't want to leave the car running until the tow truck comes. 

- I'm in shorts (but not a skirt!)
- I don't have gloves with me
-I've already had to call AAA 2-3x this year, and I don't have a plan that is unlimited. 

2. Find jack, tire, nut thingy in trunk. 

3. Pat myself on the back that I remember to take the hub cap off.  The first time I tried to change a tire (many years ago....) my hub cap plate had fake bolts in it and my boyfriend found me on the side of the road attempting to "unscrew" the "lug nuts" on the hub cap.........

4. Congratulate myself on having such a self explanatory car - the jack has a PICTURE on it for where to place under the car, AND the frame of the car has PICTURE on it for where the jack should go.

5. Continue to self-congratulate when I remember to loosen lug bolts prior to jacking up the car in the air.

6. Go and sit in the car and pout when you realize the nut wrench thingy is too small for the lug bolts.

7. Try and call boyfriend. Get no answer

8. Continue to pout and feel sorry for myself

9. Get annoyed and realize that the right sized wrench HAS to be in the trunk somewhere.

10. Find the second wrench that fits hiding in trunk.

11. Happily loosen bolts and start jacking car up.

12. The first passerbys come up and ask if they can help. Happily inform them that as of 30 seconds ago, you are GOOD.

13. Finish changing tire ALL BY YOURSELF.

14. Climb into the car completely covered with brake dust and road dirt. :(.

15. Call boyfriend back and brag that not only did you jump a vehicle all by yourself  this week. You also changed a tire all by yourself. On a Friday afternoon. In shorts.

16. Drive home at 60 mph

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Almost-the-Last-part Acid Base Balance: Potassium, Acid/Base, Elyte supplementation

Moving onto Potassium.

Recall that for most of the sodium discussion we were talking about ECC.  This is because the majority of Sodium is outside the cells. 

Do you remember where the majority of Potassium is stored?  Inside the cells (ICC). 

Recall that we can only measure what is in the plasma, which is part of the ECC.  Also recall that the divider between the ICC and the ECC does not allow potassium or sodium to freely flow go between the compartments.

When we “measure” potassium, we are measuring the potassium that is in the plasma, which is a relatively small proportion of the body’s potassium. Based on how we know stuff moves between the different body compartments (or doesn’t) allows us to make assumptions of what’s happening in the entire body, even though we only have a plasma measurement.

Important point: Small changes in potassium plasma has HUGE consequences, so the body regulates it within a very narrow range - much more narrow than sodium.

Potassium = electrical signals

Your heart runs off of electrical signals.  It’s very important that potassium levels remain in their very small range.

Because control of potassium is so important, it turns out that potassium is rather boring from an exercise physiology perspective, because the body has developed to be really good at maintaining it within it’s range, because the consequences of NOT doing that are catastrophic.  (DEATH!!!!!!!).

In fact, you already know one of the mechanisms the body uses to control potassium.

Remember ALDO?  At decreased plasma volume ALDO tells the kidney’s to retain sodium (which helped move water into the plasma space to increase plasma volume).  At the same time, it increases the elimination of potassium from the plasma. 

There are actually two signals that tell ALDO that it needs to increase sodium retention and get rid of more potassium.

1. The first signal is the loss of water and sodium in sweat that reduces the volume of plasma.

The second signal is an increase of potassium in the plasma.  As water and sodium leave the plasma as sweat, potassium is left behind. As a result, even though the total number of potassium molecules haven’t changed, the concentration of potassium is increasing because there is less and less water in the plasma. 

The body needs to get rid of potassium, and preserve sodium and ALDO fits that description perfectly. 

Except for one problem.  ALDO is a long term mechanism in the kidney, and because small changes of potassium in the plasma can be deadly, the body needs a short term immediate solution! 

Buffering in the intracellular compartment (ICC) is a much much faster way of minimizing changes of potassium concentration in the plasma.

pH = number of hydrogen (H+ or “H”) ions floating around. 

Depending on the pH, potassium is either moved in or out of cells.

 Acidosis = increased number of H ions in the plasma.  In this state potassium is moved out of cells and into the plasma.  If you measured potassium levels they would be relatively high (remember when you are “measuring” something - you are measuring plasma).

Alkalosis = decreased number H ions in the plasma.  The cells take up potassium from the plasma and the amount of potassium measurable in the plasm decreases.

You aren’t likely to have too little potassium in the body because it turns out that getting enough potassium through the diet is really easy.  Most foods have more than enough potassium. So, it’s not an electrolyte I’m necessarily concerned about during an endurance ride - it’s not being lost in huge quantities (minimal loss in sweat), and it’s fairly easy to replace in the normal diet, even if you (or the horse) aren’t eating that much.

Bottom line: potassium levels seem to take care of themselves for the sake of our endurance horse discussion. Potassium levels in the plasma are linked to the pH and acid base status.  Acid base status and pH are linked not only to potassium but a HUGE wide range of critical cell functions.

While potassium is rather boring, acid base status during exercise is much more interesting!  So my vote is that we move on from potassium, to the broader and more exciting world of acid base.


First, realize I am NOT giving you an entire acid-base discussion - instead I am picking and choosing what aspects and disorders are relevant to our discussion about the endurance horse.  There’s a ton of acid-base balance considerations and disorders if your horse has crappy kidneys, or if your horse has some sort of endocrine disorder.......but let’s just focus on the concepts relative to the healthy endurance horse for now.

To recap:
Acidosis = increased hydrogen ions
Alkalosis = decreased hydrogen ions

Technically there are additional terms I should be using like “acidemia” and “alkalemia” but since the differences between these terms and the ones above I consider subtle and not important for understanding the concepts, just ignore me if I start using them interchangeably.......

We’ve used the term “buffer” so let’s define it.

Buffer = a hydrogen ion sponge.

When hydrogen ions are increased, buffers bind hydrogen.

When hydrogen ions decrease, buffers releases hydrogen that was previously bound to it.

When an hydrogen ion is bound, it no longer contributes to the pH.  So, having a buffer present minimizes the changes in pH caused by and increase or decrease in hydrogen ions. The buffer may not be able to totally eliminate the pH change caused by the change in hydrogen ions, but the pH change is less than it would have been other wise.

For example, pretend we dump 20 hydrogen ions into a solution that does not contain any buffers.  All 20 H+’s would cause a pH change.

Now pretend our solution contained buffers that were capable of binding to 10 H+’s.  When you dump those extra 20 H’s in, 10 of them would be bound, and only 10 H+’s would be acting to cause a pH change - a much smaller pH change than when all 20 H+’s were causing a change.

Now pretend our solution contained enough buffer that it was capable of binding 20 (or even more! 30 or 40!) hydrogen ions.  Now when you add 20 hydrogen ions, all of them are bound and the pH doesn’t change at all.

The body can use lots of different things as buffers, but one of the most important involves bicarb and CO2.

Bicarbonate is the “hydrogen” sponge or buffer.  When there’s an increase in hydrogen ions, bicarb binds to the hydrogen, and turns into water and CO2. 

Binding the hydrogen ion makes it “disappear” from the body’s “pH calculator” and it doesn’t cause pH to go up or down.

Body pH depends on the ratio between bicarb and CO2.  I like to remember the equation A = B/C to help me remember what happens to the pH under different circumstances.  B = bicarb, C = CO2.  A = body pH.  The ratio between B and C must remain constant. If one goes up, the other must go down in order to maintain pH at a constant level.  If B or C gets out of balance, pH changes.

If the amount of hydrogen ions decreases, less bicarb will bind to hydrogen and turn into CO2. The amount of bicarb increases and the amount of CO2 decreases.  Considering the equation A= B/C ==> A (pH) increases in this situation, meaning that you now have ALKALOSIS. 

If the amount of hydrogen ions increases, more bicarb will be “used” up binding to it and turn into CO2. Thus you have less bicarb and more CO2.  Using the same equation, A now decreases meaning that you now have ACIDOSIS.

Acid-Base Disorders

In general there are four different scenarios or problems that can occur in the balance between CO2 and bicarb.

In the picture below, the BLUE arrows represent what initially caused the pH change.  The red arrows represent how the body tries to compensate to bring the bicarb:CO2 ratio back to normal (and thus pH back to normal).

 Fortunately for us, only ONE of these scenarios is likely to occur in our endurance horses in an endurance race.

Metabolic alkalosis (top right hand corner)

In our normal healthy endurance horses with nice normal healthy lungs, CO2 doesn’t build up because the lungs are very efficient at “blowing off” CO2 as fast as the body can produce it (getting rid of increased bicarb takes the kidneys a little bit longer).  So, respiratory acidosis is not likely to occur.  Respiratory alkalosis is also unlikely to occur in our healthy lung/healthy athlete horse scenario.

At slower speeds and shorter distances, there is no significant acid-base disorders.

However, as the sweat loss of water and elytes occurs at elevated rates, a slowly progressing metabolic alkalosis occurs, especially in dehydrated endurance horses - as a direct result of sweating.

The way of thinking about acid-base that we’ve discussed up to this point is helpful to understand how and why the horse is compensating. Referring to our chart for metabolic alkalosis, I see that bicarb must be rising, which would cause the pH to rise (become alkalotic).  The lungs are going to compensate for this by blowing off less CO2 than normal to try to and return the pH to normal. Lungs compensation occurs quickly, kidney compensation occurs more slowly.

What might be less clear is how sweating (loss of water, sodium, and chloride) is making bicarb increase in the first place.

One “fact” I was given in school during clin path discussions is that in “primary metabolic alkalosis” (which is what we have in endurance horses), bicarb is increasing in response to the loss of chloride.

The horse is losing chloride in it’s sweat, decreasing both concentration and total content, and the bicarb is being retained in it’s place.

Increase in bicarb is an increase in the “base” in the blood. pH rises, and “alkalotic”.

As you can turns out acid base is not nearly as simple as these equations that I was forced to memorize and dutifully regurgitate on tests, and that I’ve presented here to you. 

Hinchcliff tried its best to convince me that instead of this “traditional” view of acid base that “is limiting and simplified”, I should instead use a “physiobiochem” something-or-other-system to evaluate and discuss acid base.

Considering I STILL don’t get this “new fangled” approach and I’ve been over it 3x with a giant white board......I’m not sure I’m the best person to try and explain it.  But there’s an interesting phenomenon that occurs during this alkalonizing effect due to  Cl/Bicarb.

Instead of looking at Bicarb, CO2, and pH and their ratios and effects on one another, Hinchcliff says I should care about “SID”.

*SID = strong ion difference = anions-cations = (Na+K) - (Cl + lactate)
==> amounts of these free ions (which just like the hydrogen ions in the other method, can contribute to pH because they aren’t bound).
==> remember that this equation refers to the concentrations of these ions in the plasma - which is the only place they can be measured!

*Anions = postitively charged ions like sodium and potassium. Cations = negatively charged ions. The SID equation starts off more complicated and then they went on and on and on about how you could justify ignoring a bunch of the different things (like magnesium and calcium and...) so I just skipped to the end and am giving you their “working” equation ==> which consisted of these 4 ions.

We’ve already established that when endurance horses sweat they are losing a lot of chloride. While Na is being lost in the sweat at roughly equal concentrations to plasma levels, Cl concentration in the sweat is higher than plasma (because Cl is attracted to the Na, has to do with total “charges” being lost in the sweat and electroneutrality).  Remember that Na concentrations in plasma, even after lots of sweating is relatively unchanged even though total Na content of the body has decreased. However Cl concentration in the plasma AND total content has decreased.

Horses can lose 30L or more of sweat with minimal changes in plasma sodium concentration.  Potassium is mostly stored inside cells, and the body is quick to correct any abnormalities because of K’s tie to electrical activity. So, we can assume that the first part of the SID equation (the anion part) is the same as before the sweat loss. And, turns out that lactate (portion of the second part of the equation) does not accumulate in low-intensity endurance exercise.

Thus we are left with Cl as the ion that has the biggest influence on the SID equation after sweat loss.

Turns out that the loss of lots and lots of negatively charge chloride causes alkalosis, because of the retention of bicarb.  (I know I already said this, but repetition on these concepts helps!)

BUT, It turns out that the metabolic alkalosis is not as severe (ie the pH doesn’t rise as much) as predicted by the amount of chloride ions (and thus bicarb being retained)

That’s because as water and chloride leave, there’s a counteracting “acid” effect from other things that aren’t included in the SID equation.

As water leaves the plasma as sweat, the plasma proteins and cells (like redblood cells) are left behind.  These cells and proteins are some of the very few things that cannot pass between the barrier that separates the ECC into “plasma” and “other space outside of cells”. Here’s a reminder of the compartments.

Because the plasma proteins and cells in the plasma cannot redistribute, as water leaves the ECC they become more and more concentrated in the plasma.

Because of their molecular composition they act as “acids” , and lower the pH slightly from what would be expected from the chloride loss.

To put it another way, the loss of chloride is acting as increasing the “B” in the A= B/C equation.  The plasma proteins and cells in the plasma are acting like the “C”.  A little increase in C offsets the big increase in B just a bit, with the net result being a pH that is a little closer to normal, than if there was no change in C.

Here’s what I find REALLY interesting.  

One of the adaptations of training is to increase plasma proteins.  Another training adaptation in sweaty, hot conditions is to sweat more efficiently, with a decrease in chloride lost in sweat (decrease in sodium loss, decrease in overall sweat loss).

Losing less chloride would minimize alkalosis. Increasing plasma protein could theoretically increase the acidotic effect......with the net effect being an even smaller degree of alkalosis.

Hinchcliff mentions that in one study “properly electrolyted endurance horses” did not develop this slowly progressing metabolic alkalosis characteristic of slow-intensity endurance exercise. However, it doesn’t seem to be clear to anyone what “properly electrolyted” actually entails on a practical and useful level, except that the net result was no metabolic alkalosis at the end of the ride in this study.

I wonder whether the effects of conditioning (decreased chloride loss, increased plasma protein) could have a similar effect of making the metabolic alkalosis go away? 

Diet or eating could be a factor too.

It turns out that the balance of cations/anions in the horse’s food can impact their acid base balance.  For some reason when we are talking about cation/anion balance inside the horse it’s called “SID” and when we are talking about their food it’s called “DCAD”.


DCAD = balance of cations/anions

There can be low and high DCAD diets, meaning that the relative amounts of cations is higher than anions or vice versa.  Some of the studies are interesting.....but they aren’t totally in agreement and there is a lot of “inconclusive” data, especially when the diets on a long-term basis - some studies show that by feeding a diet that isn’t balanced DCAD, you can actually cause chronic systemic alkalosis or acidosis in horses.

What was MORE interesting to me was this little factoid:

Feeding a mixed hay forage + grain results in rapid (1-3 hours post consumption) changes in plasma electrolytes and acid base.  There is actually a systemic plasma acidosis!!!!!!!

Time for a little recap.

1. Endurance exercise causes a slowly progressing metabolic alkalosis

2. Studies have shown that “properly electrolyting” endurance horses can eliminate metabolic alkalosis

3. Some of the adaptations to training seem to mitigate the alkalosis

4. Eating causes an acid base balance effect that is opposite of what occurs during endurance exercise.

==>I could not find a study that looked at how eating affected the acid base balance of an endurance horse.

==>How training adaptations affect acid base balance in endurance horses has not been well studied.

I think these 2 points are critical to understanding the how best to support endurance horses - specifically in the realm of acid base balance - through endurance rides.

So far on this blog (and in this series) we’ve talked about a lot of physiological parameters - plasma volume, sodium concentrations and total sodium, electrolyte availability, hydrogen, heat training, sweating......But what does this actually mean in the BIG PICTURE of moving down the trail 50 or a 100 miles at a time?  

Depending on what sport you are asking your horse to compete in, why horses get tired and fatigued and what limits horse performance differs.

According to Hinchcliff, 3 day eventing horses are limited by their capacity to thermoregulate.  Draft horses are limited by the strength of muscles, Standardbred/Thoroughbred racing horses are limited by oxygen transport.

Seems reasonable.

What about endurance horses?

Ummm.....not quite as straightforward.  Here is what Hinchcliff (which has chapters written by different authors) managed to say at various points, some of it sorta contradictory.

1. Endurance horses are limited in their performance by their capacity to maintain fluid and elyte homeostasis (balance).

2. There is no marked accumulation of lactate and “acidification” is NOT a major cause of fatigue in endurance horses.

3. Shortage of fuel and glycogen stores might play a role in endurance horse fatigue. Low blood glucose concentrations would limit the amount of glucose available to central nervous system and among other things, contribute to “Central Fatigue” rather than fatigue associated with muscle work overload etc.

4. Factors NOT related to substrate supply (like fuel and glycogen stores....) are more important in fatigue development, such as the loss of elytes in sweat.

So, what I got out of that is that we aren’t sure why endurance horses get tired.

It might be because they get dehydrated, or their elytes levels get screwed up.  It’s probably NOT because of lactic acid build up in the muscles, or because of a lack of muscle strength.  It might be because they get “low blood sugar” (or it might absolutely NOT be that....).

Good to know. (there was a bit of sarcasm there....)

In the previous post of the series I touched on some of my reservations of electrolyte supplementation, and I won’t repeat that here. What I would like to end with is what information I was able to find on electrolyte supplementation for endurance horses.

Electrolyte loss in training

I think we briefly touched on this during our sodium discussion but let’s expand that a bit.

Known fact: horses lose LARGE amounts of key electrolytes in their sweat (remember - their sweat composition is different from ours)

How much do they lose: Ummmmm.........
- Old studies had questionable figures because older methodologies were used that overestimate losses.
- Newer studies still confirm sweat is hypertonic to plasma and “substantial losses” occur during endurance exercise.
- Exact amounts lost “depend on activity and duration”.  Nice a specific eh?  :).  While the older studies seem to delight in conjuring up visions of glasses and piles of salt, the newer ones seem a bit more “hedgy”.
- Primarily Sodium and Chloride are lost
- Chloride loss is what is primarily responsible for the slowly progressing metabolic alkalosis.

Do you need to supplement? How do you supplement?

Hinchcliff, usually eager to provide recommendations at the end of each chapter on training and injury prevention is curiously silent on the subject of electrolyte supplementation except to say that with “effective electrolyte supplementation strategies” the metabolic alkalosis doesnt occur, and “without replacement there are substantial deficits during endurance activities”.

In summary, specific electrolyte supplementation advice is vague.

-Effects of training on electrolytes or acid base balance aren’t understood.
-Electrolytes and sweat between horses and humans are different and make studies not easily interchangeble.

It’s important to consider the individual.  According to a lot of the human literature, because I’m not losing potassium in my sweat and as a human my sweat is very hypotonic, I shouldn’t need to supplement with electrolytes as much as I do in order to perform athletically.  But I do need them.  *shrug*. Like we discussed in the previous posts, biochemistry adapts with training just like the rest of the body systems and there may be those individuals that don’t adapt as well as the rest, or an individual that may need more “support” during a transition to a longer distance.

Keep in mind that on the human side there was a lot that we thought intuitively made sense that would help or support athletic effort that did NOT.

The horse gut is a powerful reserve that we humans don’t have.

Considering having a salt source for the horse at the end of the ride. I saw a comment that horses can potentially rehydrate too fast at the end of an endurance ride - such as a 100 - ahead of replacing the sodium lost during a ride and can end up with sodium levels that are too low (hyponatremic). This is definitely not so good for the horse’s brain.  And while the brain of the horse is microscopically tiny, apparently they need it to live because messing with the brain makes the horse rather unhappy (can you tell that it is almost 1am and I’m still writing? I started this thing at 8:30p or so). I have no idea if this is a real concern and has really happened..... or a made up concern by someone in a lab, but throwing everything I have at you guys....

Based on the effects of eating and the post-feeding acidosis, consider your “elecrolyte program” to include more than just the powder you throw in your horses feed dish, or into an oral syringe.

There are 3 situations that were specifically cited as problematic for electrolytes and you may want to consider supplementing:

1. Larger than normal fluid or elyte losses because of exercise in hot or humid conditions.  After reading through this concept it looks like they are more concerned with maintianing hydration which is the key to thermoregulation than any actual deficits or imbalances with elytes

2. Competition following long periods of training without water available. I would hope that most endurance people would trailer in the night before.  If a horse can rehydrate after a 100 mile ride like Tevis over night (per my professors, who do a bunch of the Tevis research every year), I’m pretty sure it can perform a similar miracle if I show up the afternoon before the ride.

3. Limited recovery time between phases of 3 days competitions or multiple event competitive events.  Multi-days came to mind. Perhaps the hydration considerations on multiday rides are different than one day rides or 100’s. Although, I suspect that in general, multiday horses have time to rehydrate overnight.

I got Farley’s blood results from Tevis Robinson’s Flat (36 miles into the ride) and in the next post, I’ll talk about the results in the context of what we have been discussing.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Good afternoon

Went to Auburn this morning to the Used Saddle Connection and took a look at the Solstice that was there.  It's marked as a "N", but the gullet looks like a medium.  They let me take it home with me and I'll put it on Farley to see how it looks.  It's an excellent price ($850), and the leather is in very good condition.  It doesn't have wool serge panels like my last one, but the leather is in better condition.  I'm very hopeful that it works.  OK.  To be honest, I'm completely ecstatic I found one in such good condition for such a good price and I cannot WAIT to take a spin in it, and fully expect to be all teary eyed and emotional the entire time for that first ride.  And if it doesn't work, a friend found another local one on craigslist for just slightly more money so either way, *MY* saddle is waiting for me in the eminent future. 

I had a trim appointment this morning and took pics of hooves post-trim to post, but I just can't bring myself to.  I'm happy with her feet and my trimmer, and I feel like posting pics only opens the floor to criticism that I don't necessarily need or want right now, so what's the point? 

So, instead I'm posting a body condition photo.  I'm super happy with her weight.  We are 6 weeks or so post Tevis.  The Barn owner is really really good about about monitoring her weight and is constantly adjusting her feed up or down depending on work.  She's been too skinny in the past so this 5.5/9 BCS makes me really really happy.  She still doesn't have the muscling, especially in her rump, that she had when in regular work, but overall very happy.

(So yes, I'm totally editing this post after it posted the first time :).  Realized I forgot 2 thoughts...)

Forgotten thought #1: How do you like her mane?  It's half grown out and I'm trying to decide whether to roach again or let it grow out?

Forgotten thought #2: My first solstice I found for a really good price probably was still for sale when I found it because it was mislabeled in the ad. The seller had (incorrectly) measured and reported the seat size as a 16".....but the picture she posted had the info stamped into the flap that clearly showed it was a 17".  16" seats are a lot less popular than 17" :).  My gain.  This solstice is stamped as a N, but it really looks like the actual gullet size is a medium (M). It's a possibility that this saddle started out as a narrow (which I can't find that they ever manufactured a narrow, but hey - not everything is on google right?) and was adjusted to a medium.  In the world of fat broad-backed, big barrel arabs, mediums (and wides) are a lot more popular than narrows. Again, I find a "mislabeled" saddle whose price is a good deal. My point is, if you are trying to find a certain saddle and barely have the funds for what they seem to be "going for", it may pay to closely look at the ads and see if a good deal that isn't the right size, may actually be the correct saddle for you!

Thursday, September 5, 2013


I might have found THE saddle!!!!!!!!

Not saying where because it's a super good deal on it, well under $1000.  Right seat size, but the gullet isn't stamped on it.  So I'm headed up there tomorrow morning between my trim appointment and my first class at school, and as long as it isn't too banged up and it's the right gullet, I'll have my saddle back!!!!!!!!!!!!! But better, because this one has a bigger seat for my rather large posterior. 

I can't even describe how exciting this is.  I probably won't sleep tonight :).  It's a good enough price I can even get the flocking adjusted if needed :).

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

RnT practice

I don't have time for a real post, but here's a little something for a number of my readers that are contemplating ride and tie. 

My partner Michele (and her gloriously fun horse Stashi) and I went out for a practice on Saturday.
I handed my phone to a bystander in the parking lot and asked him to snap a picture of us. 

There were several things that worked really well at this practice.

Lesson 1: Have a way to mark trail. 

See those ribbons on clothespins on my waist pack? 

It can be hard to have a productive practice if you and your partner aren't familiar with the trails and (more importantly) be able to accurately verbalize the plan of which trails we are going to do. 

A lot of previous practices were spent with the person in front waiting at intersections for the person in back to catch up, so that a consensus could be reached on which direction we were going.  It absolutely won't do to have members of the team take one turn off, and the other half of the team take another turn off! 

I carried some ribbons on me, Michele had some on her, and Stashi carried a few on his breast collar.  I knew what trails I wanted to do, but as extra insurance, every time I came to a turn off I would hang a ribbon a shoulder or higher height so that Michele would know which way I had gone.  Sometimes on a long stretch of trail I would hang a "confidence ribbon" just to reassure Michele that she was on the right trail and I *was* up ahead of her. 

When Michele encountered a ribbon, she would pluck it off the branch.  I would refill my waist band from Stashi's breast collar when I ran low.

As it worked out, I got to do most of the ribbon marking since I was in front everytime there was a choice to be made (or I was close enough behind her to call out which direction to go, and then followed).  However, this system would work even if both partners needed to hang ribbons.

Lesson #2: Warn other riders

As a casual trail rider, it's not every weekend that you share a trail with a ride and tie partnership practice. When we pulled into the trail head I noticed a LOT of western type casual trail riders and not very many endurance types.  I had already picked a trail route that would keep us off the technical single track so I wasn't worry about a tied horse blocking trail, but I made a note to watch out for green horses and riders as I ran down hills or galloped up them.  There was also someone in uniform that was volunteer trail patrol.  I tracked down the volunteer before we left and explained that if she say a grey arab tied to a tree that EVERYTHING WAS OK.  LOL - I didn't want to get to my tied horse only to find they weren't there!  I also explained our ribbon marking system.  Because the back person would be picking up the ribbons as they passed, there would only be one or 2 at a time in a quarter mile distance, but in case the patrol came across the ribbons, I wanted them to know they were being removed and picked up and what was going on. 

Lesson #3: Sometimes you don't practice how you compete

During an actual event, Michele and I do alternating "ties" and "hand offs".  ie - Michele ties Stashi to a tree.  I untie, mount Stashi and ride until I catch up to Michele.  I then hand Stashi off to Michele on trail without tying. She rides up ahead, ties, and runs off.  Tying and untying takes time and Michele and I are faster and more efficient with this combo tie-handoff method.

However, this method wasn't working well in practice - neither one of us rides Stashi as aggressively during practice, and especially if there's a lot of down hill it's hard for Michele to get far enough in front of me on Stashi to keep me from catching up on foot as she's tying. 

At this practice we tried doing 2 tyes instead - Michelle got ahead of me and tied as usual, but then when I rode up to her, instead of handing off, I rode past her and tied.  This seemed to to do a MUCH better job of working the riders/runners equally during practice, and since tying is the hardest/most technical part of RnT, both of us got the practice.  It didn't matter if I caught up to Michele as she was tying Stashi since I was going to ride out in front of her a quarter mile before tying instead of handing off.

For events I suspect we will keep our Combo tye-handoff method, but modifying it to ties only for practice made practice go so much more smoothly. 

Hope some of these tips help you and your partner when you go off and do your first practice!!!!! 

Off to study and do some packing (we got the house and I'll be moving in mid-September).