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Monday, November 30, 2009

Revelation # ?

OK - I am officially sick. As in call-into-work-sleep-until-noon sick. And of course ride the pony. Because let's face it, unless I'm on my death bed, paralyzed from the waist down, I AM going to go see the pony.

Which led to yet another (lost count of which # this is....) Revelation.

#??. Reins pull AND push.

So in my post here I mentioned that I was suppose to work on pushing Farley into the connection as my homework.

Today I played with that connection and it was amazing. I can pull on the reins....and I can "push" with the reins. "Pushing" is different from the horse pulling.

Within a very short amount of time Farley was going "long and low" around the arena. I experimented with how far she could stretch down over the bit.

Playing with the connection for 50 minutes was probably the most fun I've had in the arena for a while.

Which is ironic - because to someone watching it looked like I was *just* wandering around for 50 minutes.

In reality - I was communicating with my horse on a level that we've never communicated at before.


Because I was sick, the session went like this. Work for 15-20 minutes. Walk past the rail where hot tea was waiting. Walk around arena on loose rein while Melinda sips tea. Put tea back on rail and continue working. I liked it so well I think I will incorporate tea breaks into all of my sessions.....

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Desert Gold 2009 ride

Desert Gold Day 1 2009 - another 55 miles under my belt and under Farley's girth. I end the 2009 season with 475 miles.

Some of you may remember my mother's (Carolyn) comment on an earlier post about my old blog layout resembling a comfortable pair of jeans that are ready to be thrown out....I decided to wear *those* jeans to the ride. The entire seat of the pants ripped out when I stepped into the truck for the last time. Oops. Apparently the 2010 season will start with a new blog look AND a new pair of pants. Upon arriving to ridecamp I discovered the ever so pleasant fact that apparently I had not forseen the need to pack anything but riding tights. I am not overly modest, but even considering the fact that ripped jeans are in, for me the whole cheek hanging out for everyone to see was a bit much. On went the riding tights for the entire weekend.

Not totally socially inept
I spent Thursday night talking to Jaime and eating her homemade apple and blackberry cobbler. It was the best pre-ride night I've ever had. If Jaime has decided not to do endurance for the time being (see her latest blog entry) I definately need to step outside my comfort zone and meet someone at ridecamp to talk to and have fun with. It really does make a difference in how much I enjoy a ride.

It might not be as hard to meet new people as I think. As I was standing around the campfire, a women said hi to me that I did not turns out she reads my blog and recognized me. This is the first time I've had someone whom I did not know previously introduce themselves based on the blog. We talked briefly about the risks of posting on the internet. I'm really careful about what I post - I try to be entirely truthful (I really dislike hypocrites) without being hurtful to anyone. I try not to post anything I wouldn't say to someone in person. I'm under no illusions how nasty something can get by just one mis-worded post.

Boot report
I'm really really REALLY glad I have 2 drastic different colors for her front (yellow) and back (black) boots. No guessing which ones go where in the dark! I didn't have a single problem with the boots. I made two changes to the boots at this ride.
1. I tightened the cable on the left front (the one that comes off). I kept the toe strap tension the same, but I had less "tail".
2. I left more growth on her hooves.

It's also possible that I didn't have any boot malfuntions because the boots have finally "broken in". She also wasn't stepping on her front boot as much with her left hind (possibly because of the growth I left on the hoof?). I can tell because of how the velcro gets "folded up" on the bottom (I have pics, will post tomorrow). After this ride, the velcro on the hind was only slightly folded. After Oroville LOVE ride the velcro was folded up ~halfway.

The boots performed very very well. There was less deep sand this year, but there were still some patches of deep footing. There was more pavement this year and I was very glad I was wearing boots, especially because she was being a bit "jiggy". I am 100% satisfied with the boots and highly reccomended them to people that asked. I strongly feel that the reason for the boot malfunctions so far have been a function of break-in period and just really odd circumstances (thrashing around in the cut bank).

Hackamore.....or not?
Farley is getting very professional at rides. The sweet, cute pony dissapears and is replaced by a all-business, focused horse. She drinks and eats at the trailer, marches to the water tank, strides over the vet check, and waits patiently for pulses with the left front leg slightly ahead to give the vet better access. When tacking in the morning she stands rock still.

I had lots and lots and LOTS of horse. Controllable horse, but lots of horse. Switching back to the french-link baucher for the ride really helped. She still pulled more than she should have. I learned that instead of giving her constant pressure when I asked for slower, working the bit in her mouth back and forth really improved her response. She couldn't get tense and pull against me. I sang, and hummed, and lalala'ed almost the entire ride. It kept me from clenching my jaw when I pulled on her and kept me more relaxed. As a result, even though we was extremely strong 'til the end, I never actually lost it and got frustrated, and didnt' get as sore and actually rode well until the end.

Farley did not go into the hackamore because she was so strong. We finished the race WAY too fast....55 miles in 7:15. I'm glad she has 2 months to recover before our next ride. She looked great after the ride, but I worry about cumulative stress on her delicate little legs. I'm still hopefully that in a 100 I can switch her to the hackamore about half way through. I'm 85% sure I could have ridden her in a hackamore if we had continued on after the 55 miles......

An Aha! moment
Diagonals. They are important. I'm really good at picking up the correct diagonal in the arena. I'm really good at switching diagonals throughout the ride. I've never, on purpose, changed diagonals to match the turns on a ride, such as when riding singletrack. It had never occurred to me. On the first loop (35 miles) she was pulling hard near camp and I noticed that she wasn't balancing around turns, instead motorcycling in and putting a lot of stress on her forelegs. I starting switching diagonals for ever turn, sometimes it was every 2 - 3 strides on the winding trail. It made a huge difference in her balance and coordination. Aha!

Rain - what to wear?
I have been planning a post focused on riding in the rain and keeping comfortable. In 2008 I rode one day at Wild West in pouring, cold rain. It did not go well. I FROZE and could not ride effectively. I was so -ill prepared. I swore I would never be that miserable again and have gradually been collecting rain-riding gear in case it happened again.

It rained/misted/sprinkled (depends on where you are from and what you call "rain"!) the last half of the ride. I was absolutely comfortable the ENTIRE way. I was wearing a full set of silk underware, regular weight tights, and a dry quick long sleeve shirt. Gloves and wool-blend socks completed the ensemble. I cannot stress enough about having a decent base layer. It made the difference and it didnt' matter that I was damp, I was still warm.

Last year, because of the high humidity on the coast, I had a very difficult time getting Farley dry after the race. She ended up with rain rot because of the extended time wet, and me trying to curry off sweat while she was still damp. The trick is to have lots and lots of coolers and to replace them when they get damp. She was much more comfortable this year because of the blanket and cooler options I had to chose from this year.

The best moment of the ride? Returning to camp and finding that my neighbor and good Samaritan had put most of my equipment out of the rain, into the back of my horse trailer.

Because of the wind, my allergies are absolutely killing me and this may not be as cognizant as I think it is.... :) In summary, it was a fabulous ride and I'm overall very happy with Farley. With Dressage comes great rides, as well as fabulous muscles and better relationship! I know I harp and harp and harp on this.....but if you've never had lessons, even if you ride well, consider dressage lessons for a better endurance experience!

EDITED(~5:30pm): I'm definitely sick and it comes with overall crappy feeling and achiness.....I don't think this is allergies......Please excuse the quality of this post - wanted to get the ride story posted.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A lesson and musings Part 2

I was very entertained at my lesson today.

My instructor rode Farley.

Let me revise that.

My very tall instructor rode Farley.

Who sticks at 14.2 ONLY because she has super high withers. Is more like an honest 14.1 or 14.0.


Today we worked on connection and stretching that connection. My instructor hopped on because she was trying to show me something specific. She rode her around and then did things like shoulder in etc. I got to hear her say such nice things to Farley like "good girl!" "such a smart mare!". The best thing was to watch her being ridden - no one else has ridden Farley is ~2 years. What a difference! She's all "muscle-ly" now, tracking up and through at the trot etc. We are definitely on the right track.

My trainer said that she had to keep reminding herself that Farley is an intro horse, because she's riding a lot more broke than that. :) *self-preening*

So how did we stretch the connection? Farley is (finally!) accepting contact at the walk and trot consistently. Today we focused on softening the connection when she takes it and asking her to really stretch over the top. It goes something like this: (this isn't a revelation yet because I haven't had an aha! moment. Give me some time...).
  1. I ask for flexion and drive her into the bit.
  2. She takes contact
  3. I push my hands forward and ask her to stretch (basically as far as she wants right now as long as she's seeking contact and still giving me an honest forward).
  4. If she goes off the contact I drive her forward into the bit and repeat.

I'm excited. I'm on the cusp of realizing something fundamental, but I just haven't internalized it completely yet. Expect a major aha! moment soon.

A lesson and more musings Part 1

Karen has a GREAT post up today, talking about your horses biggest bad habits. Definitely check it out. I'm sure there will be an interesting and entertaining discussion over there...

I am SERIOUSLY considering riding Farley in a hackamore for the second half of the Desert Gold ride, her attitude permitting. She's been doing SO well - usually after the first vet check I can ride on a totally loose rein for the rest of the ride. I will still throw the bit into the saddle bags just in case, but I think she's ready.

I've mentioned this is the comments, but I can only giggle at the thought of me in boots AND a hackamore. One or the other, but not BOTH! When I first started in endurance I looked upon the people doing the barefoot/bitless thing as truly dedicated endurance riders who were also perhaps a bit manic in their dedication.....Now it seems I join the ranks! I haven't even reached my first 1000 mile mark and I've discovered that riding in boots seems to make a HUGE difference in the health and condition of her legs. I absolutely need the control of a bit right now in the beginning, but why not take it out when she stops needing it?

Of course, this comes on the heels of buying the most expensive bit I have EVER purchased. I wanted my french-link baucher back for endurance, so I needed another bit for the dressage work. I have searched the internet and knew generally what I was looking for, but nothing is like holding prospective bits in my hand to judge balance, weight etc. so I headed to the only tack store in the area. Farley is very picky and I want her to be comfortable and happy. I walked out of the tack store with an $80 bit......Made by Stubben, it's a egg butt snaffle with a copper "lozenge" in the middle. The center is a bit thicker and rounder than the traditional french link. There was similar one for half the price by Korsteel, but the bars were shaped a bit different and it was a bit thicker. I agonized and debated for an hour before going with the Stubben. I just knew she would like it better. And you know what? She loves it. She takes contact with out fear and is really soft. Worth every penny to have her happy.

Who would have thought my first 1000 miles would be so exciting? :) I alternate between really REALLY wanting that 1000 mile patch because it means I'm not *such* a newbie, and wanting to go slow and savor these miles that will probably teach me more faster than any other set of future 1000 miles.

Two horses, boots, considering bitless, dressage lessons, starting a blog, and a Tevis attempt. Wow!

This is getting a bit long so the lesson will go to part 2.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Desert Gold Prep!

First things first.

Gundivvvvaaaa.......where are yoooouuuuuu? The cuteness that is to be yours will not arrive without an in physical address of your home! Or work. or PO box. Or neighbors house if you have decided I cannot be trusted. :) The e-mail to send it to is

I leave for Desert Gold on Thursday. Instead of leaving everything for the last minute, I have a PLAN! Yeah, like you didn't see that coming. Me? Have a plan? Nah......

I use the same basic time lines and guidelines when preparing for all my rides:

Monday: Change the toe straps on the renegades.
  • So now I have a bag full of perfectly decent toe straps, that were changed only because I wanted new straps for the ride. I guess I'll just keep them?


  • Start Electrolyting in her daily mash. Yes, I know that they don't store up electrolytes, but I do want to make sure she is nice and hydrated before loading her in that trailer.
  • Make sure the pad and girth I want to use is clean.
  • Confirm I have the essentials in my ride box (which is kept in my trailer) - spare stirrups, saddle cover, crew bag, crew bag contents etc.
  • My trailer also functions as my every day tack room so I don't have to worry about packing my tack.


  • Clean Farley's pen
  • Load up the trailer with feed (hay and beet pulp) and electrolyte supplies (syringes, caps, etc.)
  • Do dishes
  • Take out trash
  • Vacuum and sweep (it's so nice to come home to a clean and organized house!)
  • Pack clothes
  • Pack camping stuff
  • Confirm I have batteries for camera and GPS

Thursday: Leave for the ride (don't forget horse)

I'm excited! I did this ride for the first time last year and it was a great ride. I did break a stirrup half way through with no spare in the crew bag....

Work is extremely busy so my next post will probably be a report on the fun and wonderful time I had, how well my boots performed, what an incredible pony I have, and how sore I am from the ride because I have chosen to sleep in for the past 2 weeks instead of getting up and walking/running/anything physical.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Henry Coe and Internet People

In which I check out a new riding place, meet a fellow blogger, score a pair of sunglasses, have another boot malfunction (and deduce the cause), and finish another bunny.

BTW - the first person to comment on this post gets the bunny.... :) It's not quite finished yet - it has temporary stuffing and it drying, but I promise cuteness when it is done!

Jaime and I have been trying to get together and ride since the beginning of the year, since we first met on the horse grooming forums.

So, on Saturday, off I went to ride with someone that I had never actually talked to. I kept reassuring people that she couldn't be a green 2-headed monster because we both had a HUGE internet trail.

Henry Coe park is absolutely amazing. There's a little bit of everything (except rocks). Flats, jeep roads, single tracks, single tracks on ridges with incredible views, water crossings, horse overnight camps with bathrooms. If you are an endurance rider (or a pleasure trail rider) and you are within 2 hours of the park, it is worth your while to go check it out. I will add it as a place to condition on my side bar.

DO follow the directions to get to the park. Do NOT decide that your GPS knows best, and it will be faster to follow an "alternative" route. I navigating through the narrowest road to ever sport a center line. Beautiful and historic, but absolutely white knuckle induced driving (and I don't say that lightly). I did manage to NOT hit a flock of turkeys in the middle of the road, but I think a squirrel sacrificed its existence.

Jamie has owned "Ocean" for exactly one week. This is one, very nice horse. He does have some quirks that Jaime is doing an admirable job of retraining....such as not trotting. He prefers to canter. He may be the only arab I know that doesn't jig - instead he canters in place with flying lead changes. Jaime has the patience of a saint and a seat to match!

I did warn Jaime that my conditioning rides NEVER go the way planned. I never do the time or mileage planned. I usually end up just doing whatever "feels" right for the day. Here were the beforehand agreed "rules".

1. It was going to be an "easy" ride since both of us are riding Desert Gold next weekend.
2. No trotting up hills
3. Between 2-3 hours, closer to 2 hours
4. Back home before dark.

What actually happened:

1. It was an easy ride - we did a lot of walking, we dismounted for periods of time to walk downhill, let them graze etc. The trotting we did was very slow.
2. Ummmm......technically we did not trot up hills. We galloped. Once or twice. The horses wanted to. It was fun. I have no other defense except those 2 reasons.
3. 3 hours and 11 miles
4. Absolutely! Goal accomplished.

I think we were both happy with the way the ride went.

It was SO NICE to ride with another endurance rider who is also independent and just rides. We didn't micro manage each other's ride to have a good ride for ourselves. It was WONDERFUL not to have to worry about the other person getting over their head and getting hurt. The only time I asked her to stop was when I had a boot malfunction on a single track along a ridge.......

We were on a single track much like the one in the above picture. We alternated walk and slow trot (because Ocean was trubo walking). All of a sudden Farley's LF book was off and around her pastern. She reacted by walking faster, but none of that silly bolting, spooking stuff. So I think we are over that particular reaction?

So I'm almost positive that her boot is coming off because the hind is pulling it off. Her LF is her club foot so it may not fit into the boot the same way as her RF (which has never come off). I'm going to try tightening the cables on her LF boot and see if that helps, the straps seem kind of long. The LF is also the only boot that I have cut back because the length of that foot is less.

What's very very odd is that there seems to be no pattern of the boot coming off. It also never happens more than once per ride, which is very "deal-able."

  • The first set of malfunctions came during a huge spook in a cut bank and was the RH hind (almost positive that the other hind pulled it). The second set of malfunctions came during the first hour of a ride, during a HUGE extended trot, with some rocks in the path. This malfunction occurred on a smooth single track at a walk and slow trot.

As long as it happens fairly infrequently, I will probably just shorten the cables and take a "wait and see" approach. I think she is still transitioning. Even though she isn't uncomfortable barefoot, there's still a transition going on where the shape of her foot is changing, the white line is getting tighter etc. This problem may go away on it's own, as the transition continues and her foot changes.

This was the first ride that I felt she really moved well in the boots. I no longer feel like we are going down the trail in galoshes.

About halfway through the ride I spied a pair of sunglasses in the dirt. I shouted in glee as Jaime looked at me as if I had sprouted a second head (maybe there is something to the whole "met on the internet" thing after all). I haven't had sunglasses in since Oroville LOVE ride when they broke on the plane. The sunglasses in the dirt were literally a God send and well worth a dismount. They had been there long enough that I didn't feel guilty not putting them on the trail head with a note saying "found".

I've also "donated" enough sunglasses to various local trails, that I feel like the trail is paying me back finally! :)

The absolute coolest thing about this weekend was meeting Jaime in person. I don't think I've every met someone so much like me! :) She's the same age I was when I started endurance. We are both OCD, data-mining affectionados, independent, over-analyzers. We even got into blogging for the same reason. We both carry on full, out-loud conversations with our horses. We have a very similar horse training philosophy. There aren't that many people my age doing endurance. They are all too busy being in school, getting married, or having kids. The fact we are both in our 20's doing this crazy sport is very very cool. :)

Watching Jaime deal with Ocean's over-exuberance made me realize what the best part of endurance is - the relationship that you develop with your horse. In my opinion, nothing can match the the relationship that develops over 50 or 100 miles.
  • Is it a particular feature of the endurance sport, that we think it's funny when a horse has the attention span of a bunny rabbit and the enthusiasm of a chickadee when going down the trail? Is there anything better than watching that enthusiastic relationship develop into a deep trust between partners?
Watch out for Jaime and Ocean - I think they are a great match and going to do great things together.

BTW - this was a much more entertaining post last night, but in order for my boyfriend to feel valued, I have agreed no e-mail or blogging the night I arrive at his house.....*sigh*. The sacrifices we make....

Friday, November 20, 2009

What I do at Work

Currently I'm sitting in a meeting and supposedly thinking about things like "certifying bodies", "accreditation" bodies", "scope of certification", etc.

So what topic could possibly take away from the fascination of implementing a British Retail Consortium system? I am of course, thinking about what I usually think about during work - horses, endurance, and how I can get better with both.

I'm also thinking about a chocolate cupcake - masquerading as a muffin - that was sitting in front of me. It (of course) won the battle and only the crumbs remain to chortle in glee at the lack of my willpower.

So, under the guise of "taking notes", here I am tap tap tappiting on the computer. Really, is this much different then those who are scrolling away on their blackberries? Like all that scrolling and intense "mmm...'s" are really work related.

So what AM I doing?
Last night I received a wonderful thing - a copy of my Tevis vet card and a data spreadsheet of all in/out times and pulses of all riders. How wonderful!

Here are some of my observations.
  1. Confirmed that she was a grade 1 at Foresthill on the RF (intermittent lameness)
  2. At Deadwood, where the lameness was identified, was also the first place she started getting B's. I did much of the trail on foot between Deadwood and the next check. It made a difference at the next check.
  3. She almost certainly bruised her leg during the first canyon. Even though at the time she seemed very strong in and out of the canyons, next year, I will ride this section of the trail more cautiously.

Specific pace and time data

If you are considering riding Tevis, this might be useful.

  1. I calculated the pace from check to check and tried to correlate that to the pulse downs at each check. There is no correlation. This is probably due to the fact that the pulse down times entirely depended on the length of the line....I would arrive at a check and immediately get into line. The vets would take the pulse at the same time as doing the vet check. Since it's a gate and GO, there's no advantage of getting your pulse taken the minute you arrive, versus waiting until you are ready to leave. Do it the way that makes sense logically for the check, let's your horse relax and eat and drink, and gets you out in a timely manner. If I had a choice, I did my pulse and vet-in at the same time - I think that was faster way than waiting for a pulse taker, recording the pulse drop, and then getting into line.
  2. I spent a total of 47 minutes in gate and holds not accounted for in the official one hour holds. I lost 1 minutes pulsing down for the one hour hold at Robinson flat and 2 minutes leaving. My "official" pace at Tevis was 5.1mph overall. When you take out this additional hold time, my average "real" pace on the trail was 5.6mph. I looked at the time spent at each gate and go, and my time management and none of the times looked excessive to me. As I was not "riding the clock" during the race, I feel my pace and time spent at holds was reasonable.
  3. I plotted my Tevis overall pace, along with the pace for each separate section, against the overall pace for all other endurance races. The good news is that my pace for each Tevis section matched very well to my preparation races. At no point did a Tevis section pace exceed a pace that I had been able to complete a 50 mile race in. For example, the faster Tevis sections were done slightly over 7mph. Farley has completed a strong 50 at this pace. I think that this will be a good rule of thumb for developing my plan for next year - the average pace of Tevis will be slower than my othe races, but the individual, faster sections should not be completed in a faster pace than a known 50 mile pace for that horse. What do you think?

My manager, sitting beside me is now frowning and looking suspicious, so I must contain my data-mining urges for now. Back to the fascinating world of regulation, 3rd party audits, and office politics.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Since my trainer was out with the flu yesterday, it's up to me to find a revelation in life and horses without the help of her lesson this week.

"It's an interesting phenomenon where horses lose body weight as fast as humans (ie "me") gain it. Also vastly unfair is the related phenomenon of how long it takes, and how consistent you have to be to put weight back ON a horse, and OFF a human (again, ie "me")".

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A little bit

Barbs etc. made me contemplate today the concept of asking for a little, and then being happy with, "good enough". She also makes an excellent point in that you may have to ask for something a different way. Think of the horse as a painting of your riding. If you don't like the painting, change your riding. I had an interesting ride this afternoon where I explored this concept.

I swing between 2 extremes. I will either:

1. Never ask for excellence and always be contented with a mediocre try, (addressed in this post) or,

2. Demand excellence and then drill it to death. (the most recent example being this)

I'm talkn' horses today, but it applies to everything else in my life too - music, relationships, and knitted socks (actually slippers currently, but I digress).

Let's take the canter.

Some of its her, some of its me.

The "demand a decent transition and keep asking until it happened" approach did not work. Both of us were so stressed over the transition that by the time the canter DID happen, it was tight, rushed, and stressed. In short - completely un-salvageable.

A different approach was called for. Here was was transpired today and over the weekend.


This weekend I did not ask Farley to do anything on the bit above the trot. Any cantering or galloping and the transitions for those gaits were done on a loose rein, with plenty of time for her to "self organize" into and out of those gaits. What I wanted was relaxation. That was the only goal in those gaits. Farley started out tense and stressed when I asked for the canter, but by the end of the weekend, she was giving me some beautiful, relaxed canters.

Today, I wanted to keep the relaxation of the weekend, while building on that and have her do a "couple" of strides of canter on the bit.

I decided "screw the transition". Right now asking for a pretty transition causes her to be stressed and stiff. Instead, I asked for a nice relaxed canter on a loose rein.

Gradually, while encouraging her to be forward, I pushed her into my hand into light contact. For a few moments she became very soft and flexed. There was my 1% improvement and I stopped. I didn't try and repeat the miracle, I didn't say - "good lets do that again to make sure you 'have it'". I stopped. I praised her. And then I asked for the same thing on the other side.

Nope - my transition didn't improve at all today. But my canter did. And Farley and I are still on speaking terms.

Someday, after our canter is solid, I'll ask for that trot/canter transition. And just maybe - because I've put aside a battle I can't win today, she'll offer it to me in a distant tomorrow willingly.

So much of being successful with horses is being able to judge what we can ask of the horse in that day, that session, that moment. And not asking what they can't offer. Not asking enough devalues the horse, asking too much devalues the relationship.

Enough of wordy, contemplative posts!!!!! I'm swamped at work for the next couple of days so it will be quiet. This weekend I'll be riding with Jaime of Lullabelle's Managerie (see blog on right) and her new endurance horse, "Ocean". Then it's off to the Desert Gold 55 miler and then, before you know it, I'll be popping balloons off of Farley with a pistol at the next cav practice day. As you can see, I should have fodder for some excellent blogging coming up!

Monday, November 16, 2009

In which Farley proves herself

The title is a nod to AareneX who received the little sheep today as her prize and has decided to write him into her NaNoWriMo.

Farley proved herself in the following ways this weekend:

1. She demonstrated that she does not, in fact hate me, and is actually quite bonded to me

2. She can relax and have fun - not everything has to be about getting up and doing 50+ miles at an ung*dly speed too early in the morning

3. She can relax enough to give me quality dressage work in an unknown place.

4. She can gallop at top speed in wide open spaces and not get "hot". (and alternate this with quality dressage work!)

5. Sword target practice is no big deal

6. Battle scenarios including sword work and close-combat situations are no big deal.

So yes - all is well with my little pony and I have such a glow of satisfaction of a weekend gone well that I can barely stand it!

Here's the details (warning - this gets more and more gushy about my wonderful pony as the post goes on....):

Farley and I packed up this weekend and headed to Salinas.

(Can you see Farley in this pic - she's at the far side, coming closer at top speed)

Once there, the owner of the ranch gave me the option of letting Farley run in a pasture, while we got some work done (CHAS was having a work party to winterize some of our equipment).

So, Farley got to run in a HUGE pasture all day on Saturday. I was going to ride on Saturday, but she got quite a work out all by herself so instead I just let her run.

It was exactly what we needed after those dark nights in the arena - a change of scenery and some bonding time.

It was so cute - I would walk into the pasture and she would quit her self imposed exercise and come over to hang out. She would walk and run beside me. We played for a couple of minutes. I would dash at top speed and she would chase me. I'd stop suddenly and change directions. I would chase her as she pivoted to try and keep up with me.

I've never had a horse so bonded to me. Minx, in her own way loved me, but I think that her past kept her from having that same total trust without reservations that Farley has. Abuse leaves its mark.

While Farley was cavorting, I set upon my task for the work party - reassembling harness.

Above is a picture of the completed work. Two teams of tack was inspected for wear and repair, and for completeness.

Out of huge piles of leather on floors and tables, I and one other person was able to assemble a third, almost complete set of harness (one set of harness is for 6 horses).

Above is a saddle (a drive, non-wheel) complete and ready to be assigned to a team.

I love this sort of work.....Little strips of leather an buckles....what can it be? A valise strap? A throat latch? A cheek strap for a bridle? Is it artillery or cavalry?

(above - another shot of a completed saddle)

(Terri deciding whether that piece of leather is a Mcclellen stirrup leather, a back strap for an artillery saddle....or...something else...)

(More pieces of leather and parts to fit together into something recognizable)

I admit, I love this work and the day flew by.

That night the three people staying over and riding the next day - Alan, Terri, and myself went out to dinner. We washed the harness blankets and ate Chinese food and created grandiose ideas for events next year. Whether it was the influence of good Chinese food, or the intoxicating effects of green tea, I found myself agreeing to write an event proposal for 2011 AND to retake the photos of the CHAS horses for the website (for those of you that have gone and looked at the horses on www., I have this to say - truly we have beautiful, well-kept animals. Unfortunately, late winter photos of hairy ponies in muddy pastures does not exactly showcase this).
All of us decided to sleep in our respective vehicles. All of us froze. All of us did not sleep (yes I know this is bad grammar). Farley was probably the most comfortable of us all. For the night I put her back on her spring tie at the trailer. She seems to be getting accustomed to the concept of "home" while at the trailer and immediately relaxed and drank, and ate.
Farley woke up at 5am wondering where I was and "shouldn't I be tacking and getting going already????". (She rarely spends a night on the trailer unless we are at an endurance ride.) Once she realized I was NOT getting up until at LEAST 7am, she relaxed and settled.
The plan was to set up a course and practice cavalry horse skills, with an eye towards the national and (hopefully) regional competitions.
Pictured are the 2 noble steeds.....

Here is the course. Yes, I know it looks like a jumbled up mixture of cones and PVC pipes. In actuality, there is a 20x40m dressage court, with 20 and 10 meter circles laid out in one half. Additionally there are 4 trotting poles set up outside on edge of the court, and on the other side, 7 bending poles with flags on the top. The back area of the pasture was left open. The footing was almost perfect!

Terri schooled 2 different horses in the round pen and me and Alan played for 2 hours on the course. It couldn't have gone better.
(Warning - gushy part ahead and lots of self-patting-on-the-back about how I ended up with such a wonderful pony)
We practiced patterns and circles and corners in the court. Farley felt so free and happy. We alternating our time with on-the-bit work at trot, walk, and schooled transitions then we would take breaks by cantering and galloping in the back part of the pasture. Then back to on the bit work in the court. I would canter her in great big, lazy circles, then ask for a full speed gallop from end of the pasture to the other, then back to a gentle canter. She never once bucked, never once got hot-headed. Even at a full gallop with me shouting and yelling she stayed perfectly level headed and calm. And was able to go back to quality dressage stuff. Wow!
Then we got out the swords. Nice, light, wooden swords, which I think are a good 2 inches longer than the real thing. :) This is the second time I've asked Farley to do sword work, and she responded exactly the same way as she did the first time - no hesitation, no shying away, no jumpiness. I hit targets at a walk, trot and canter and she was absolutely solid. And remember - to wield a sword, I'm controlling her one-handed. And she doesn't neck rein. What she's really listening to is my seat and leg. Pretty amazing.
Alan and I decided to do a little melee on horse back. I asked Farley to charge into Alan, jousting style and there was no hesitation. For 10 minutes we wheeled and spun, charging each other, ramming horses together and whacking each other with swords. We moved into close combat circling around, getting in hits all the while. Farley never hesitated, never baulked, never bucked, never objected at the other horse being in her space during the sword play. At one point I "cut off her ears" with my wooden sabre and she never flinched. (Sorry). If I didn't know her history I would conclude that she's done this before...somewhere....somehow....
Our practice went so well, we are going to stage monthly practices. Next month, Alan I agreed to focus on pistols. I'm thinking I won't have a problem. So far she's taken everything I've asked in stride. I'm thinking pistols won't be that big of a deal and she'll have another feather in her cap.
So yes, all is forgiven. She gets the day off today, since we've ridden or travelled for 10 straight days.

Dear Farley Part 2

November 16, 2009
Dear Farley,
I take back everything I said about you - you are the best horse ever.
Your rider

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Notes on Style

I think my mom is giving me a hint.

As I left my parent's house she shoved the classic "Elements of Style" into my hands. I casually placed it on the table where obstinately I "wouldn't forget it" and attempted to sidle out the door, sans book. I was intercepted and the book was firmly placed into my hands "so I wouldn't forget it".

In the future this blog will be concise, well-worded, and use a minimum of colloquial expressions (not to mention completely made-up words). It will resemble less of a stream of consciousness approach, and instead be well thought-out posts that have actually gone through an editing process....


Ha Ha!

I can't help it. There's good posts and bad posts. It's not my fault! I never gave any guarantees regarding quality! :) I attempt to be entertaining, inspiring, and I love to take elements of style from other blogs I admire and incorporate them here. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't! I have a fondness for exclamation points and random periods.

I WILL be looking at style and editing for my ride stories. They are getting more and more boring as they get less and less eventful. There has got to be a way to make them interesting, or at least good to read....Editing and revision - here I come!

Hope you are having a happy weekend doing whatever your little heart desires. I have a cavalry practice with Farley. Maybe I'll start pistol work? The trick isn't shooting off her back the first time, the trick is staying on and being able to repeat that feat.

Friday, November 13, 2009


November 13, 2009
Dear Farley,
I would like you to know that you narrowly missed being dead last night. If looks and thoughts could kill (which fortunately they can't), you would be dead as a door nail and this letter would be an obituary. In case your little walnut-sized brain has already forgotten the last night's incident, I will remind you of the facts:
You had warmed up beautifully at the trot and canter - loose rein - and your desire to work, seemed to be back (you were a little grumpy after the LOVE ride so we took it easy for a couple of days). For 20 minutes you gave me decent work at the walk and trot, on the bit, with some decent transitions (thank you). You were the very epitome of obedience.
I would like to break off the story here and remind you that - as an arab - you are automatically going to be marked down when we hit the dressage court. You are a short coupled, efficient mover which will not garner you high points. As a result you must be MORE round, MORE obedient than the competition. But I digress, because being a smart mare, you already know this.
As we started the canter, it was obvious that the earlier obedience was a sham. You bucked, bolted, resisted, and was VERY disobedient. You do realize that such behavior will only make the session last longer? Because if you escalate the disobedience after the customary 45 minutes mark has passed, you are going to be out there for and 90 MINUTES. And don't give me that "I'm just a poor little mare" face. You are not young, you are not green, and you are not out of shape. If you can trot and Canter and fight me for 2-3 hours on the trail, you are fit enough to give me quality work for an hour in the arena, especially with all the breaks I give you.
I'm don't know what your problem is in the arena, but you need to snap out of it. Your canter and canter transitions are acceptable on the trail, but are horrendous in the arena. Flinging your head in the hair, resisting the bit and attempting to buck me off obviously means you need more work at the canter. Because of last night, I'm throwing all my other carefully planned goals out the window and am focusing on one and only one thing in the next year - you will have a decent canter with transitions. So get over it.
Your Very PO'ed Rider (who is going to practice deep breathing at work today at an attempt to clear her mind and start tonight's session fresh and with a smile)
Foot note: She really was a bad bad bad girl last night. She's very good at pretending to be very obedient, but if I push and dig a bit, I will come upon these cess pools of disobedience. These festering pools of disobedience is what results in the random fights at rides (20 MT, LOVE), and the behavior that "seems to come out of nowhere". In reality, she's NOT being obedient and until the cantering in the arena problem is solved, I'm going to come across these huge blocks of resistance. It's the same old story of the white elephant in the room. I've avoided the cantering issue until recently and now I'm having to deal with it in a huge way. I tried the - "focus on other things and it will resolve itself" and that did NOT work. So now I just have to do it. GRrrrrr....

Iver's Book Review: Part 4 Capabilities, Icing, Conclusion

Iver's Book Review Part 4 and end!

I especially appreciated ti's stance on the capabilities of a horse. Rather than waiting for that one brilliant horse that has such a mass of raw talent that they are going to succeed dispite the training technique, ti takes the stance that any (mediocre) horse can be developed and trained to perform at a superior level than most other horses on the track, if you condition correctly, because most do NOT optimally condition for performance. The entire book is devoted to developing this mediocre horse to be a winner, rather than how to recognize brilliance. My Endurance take: A properly conditioned mount could be a better 100 miler horse than a horse that shows promise through raw talent that is exploited and overridden early on. Don’t be too quick to jump to conclusions if your prospect isn’t brilliant early on.

There is a fascinating section on icing and cooling the legs post workout, including data that shows that ice continues to cool the interior temperature of a leg long after the ice is removed and the leg feels warm again. Icing is so important to preventing damage, second only to good conditioning. My Endurance take: Renewed focus on cooling the legs after endurance rides with ice, soaked polo wraps, etc. I may experiement with adding rubbing alcohol to ice water (which is colder than ice) and soaking polos. Yes, it’s more work than my ice boots, but I have renewed faith in the importance of a good leg cooling.

I must thank my aunt Sharlene (and fellow endurance rider) for lending me this book (as well as countless others). She jokes that I read the books for her since she doesn’t have the time. Hopefully by me doing reviews, she gets as much enjoyment out of her books as I do!

Although the book is a bit repetitive, it is overall entertaining as he frequently makes disparaging comments about the state of racing and horse exercise physiology in general. I especially enjoyed his "Dictionary" near the end of the book. I will leave with a few of my favorites:

Auction Sale: A place where things aren't quite on the up and up but you can't figure it out how. Until it's too late.

Bar Shoe: A shoe with the rear portions connected by a bar of metal usually used in correcting the idicies of the previous farrier. Supports a foot with no heel.

Bolt. v. to bolt.: Horse decides to ignore rider and head for greener pastures at maximum speed. Like an automobile with the pedal to the floor, no brakes and no steering. Integral part of the color and pageantry of thoroughbred horse racing.

Castration: Another tranquilizing technique used with whole colts with exhibit behavior embarrassing to the inept trainer. Breeding ptoential severely compromised.

Clocker: Fellow who records thoroughbred workout times in the morning, sometimes by actually timing the horse, sometimes by timing another horse and posting that time to your horse, somtimes by taking the trainer's estimate of the breezing time, and sometimes by thinking up the time all by himself.

Prepurchase Examination: A ritual dance performed by veterinatrians designed to please all parties, at least for the time being.

Standardbred: Once was any horse that could trot or pace a mile in 2:15 or better. Now a horse registered with the United States Trotting Association. The other way was better.

Stewards: Three racetrack officials with myopic vision, impaired hearing, and known for never making a decision that could possibly have a shadow of a negative impact on the mythical image of horseracing. Slow as molasses in January.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Iver's Book Review: Part 3 Training & Nutrition

Part 3 of the book review

ti's (I found out that this is how he preferred to be referenced as) interval training revolves around the goal of performing race distances at race times before actually racing. He also notes that the horse’s body is “super adapted” to race even faster 48 hours after a maximal effort. Trainers take advantage of this and will “race” their horses to better performance, after doing the interval training so that the horse will stay sound while doing this. My Endurance take: Although it was interesting to see how he constructed his programs with the various endurance, speed, and interval stages, this is where I eyes started to glaze over. After all, I’m not going to go out and do interval training for 50 or 100 miles. Or am I? This is why most recommendations are not to race a horse for the first year of competition. We are supposed to be using the first year of endurance races as part of the interval conditioning process! Yep, a horse will hold up for a while if you race 50’s after conditioning 30-40 miles in practice – but sooner or later that horse will break down because you have not done proper interval training to complete 50 or 100 miles at that speed. Just like a Thoroughbred that has been conditioning using a “conventional” training that values the develop of speed over distance, they may win races in the beginning, but be eventually be beset by injuries – unless they are that remarkable individual with iron legs – than just think of what they might have been able to do with proper training! What ti reinforces in his book is that distance precedes speed. Go longer, than faster, than slower and longer, than faster. None of this information was necessarily new to me, but it’s something that I need reinforced over and over.

Related to the concept above is that a horse will follow your set program for a max of 2 weeks. It’s like an unwritten rule. After that two weeks, someone better be paying attention and adjusting the program because something is going to happen. My Endurance take: Yep – that sounds about right to me…..

ti stresses again and again that you must feed the horse if it is to perform well. A horse may come into training looking a bit round, but during training he should not lose that weight. Instead, that weight should start to redistribute to other parts of the horses body. For example, a horse with a bit of a belly might lose that belly and gain it in the shoulder or hindquarters. It is true that a horse that it in peak condition may look a bit lean to folks accustomed to the rolly polly recreational stock horse look that is common (at least it is in my area), but overall the horse should not give the impression that it is skinny. My Endurance take: I think that the endurance sport has figured out that horses in good condition (5-5.5) tend to do better than the greyhound look. This still varies by the individual as I think Minx did better on the thinner side when she was fit, ~4-4.5 BC. I REALLY REALLY REALLY wish I had access to a scale for Farley. The scale can be an important training tool. You can track how a horse performs in relation to weight to determine it’s optimal performance weight, you can track a horse’s recovery after a hard workout (based on weight). If you have a fancy scale that has separate panels for the front and back legs, you can track how the horse is carrying itself. If you are even MORE privileged you can have a scale with 4 panels, one for each foot. You can catch subtle sore muscles and preemptive lameness. I think that’s a bit overkill, even for me the ultimate is OCD. I’ve decided I would be happy with a 2 panel scale….which is a mute point because I don’t have ANY scale. An no, weight tapes are not sensitive enough to take these types of measurements. :)

Newer is better

A new look for the upcoming new season!

I almost moved my blog to wordpress, but got frusterated with my lack of customization options. I'm very picky about the "look" of my blog and don't want to use a pre-made template.

Honestly I'm not sure why I bother - if you are like me, you are reading blogs in Google's "Reader" anyway and don't visit blogs except to leave comments....

If anyone is experiencing any readibility issues with the new look, please let me know!

BTW - here was the "runner up" for the blog header. It was close...but a header must represent the whole blog and the current, scenery header does a better job of describing my life of "between horse ears". This one only says "focus", and "endurance".

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Arithmetic...a forgotten skill

I just returned from my lesson with my trainer.

She looked at my tests
She discovered a very important error.
My test had been added up wrong.

  • Test Intro A was actually a 60% score, NOT a 51%

That moved me from last place to first place in my class.

This makes so much more sense. I was confused how my intro B test could go worse, BUT get a better score than my intro A test? The answer - it didn't.

I was confused by my lack of feel for the ride - my A test felt like a 60%, my B test felt like a low to mid 50%.

All is explained and all is well in the world. Especially because my trainer gave me a blue ribbon from one of her shows. My (incorrect) low score for my test A DID make me take a very hard look at how we were training and reiterate the basics, like driving the horse from behind into soft hands, rhythm, and consistency of the connection. All good things. It also made me very humble for about a week. Also a good thing. :)

Post-race update

After the 50 miler last Saturday, Farley looked the best she has ever looked after a race. That has continued into the post-race recovery.

Farley has always filled on the fronts after a race, especially on her left front (old bow). This was the FIRST race that there was ZERO filling afterwards. Amazing! This was not an easy race with all the rocks and the trotting downhill - I would have expected filling based on her past history. The only thing I did differently at this race in boots.

Riding more regularly because of dressage also could have contributed, but I think the major factor was the boots. (Based on conditioning graphs of previous races versus this one - really you don't want to know how much of my day is spent number crunching - I'm addicted).

A true experiment would be to put shoes back on her for a similar race, remove them for the next one, etc and try to establish a pattern, but honestly, I'm not interested. If she continues to have zero filling after races when being rode in boots, the proof will be enough for me.

I just wanted to share because this is a major victory for me - If she continues to have zero filling after races in boots, I probably do everything possible to stay in boots, as this will be enough proof for me that her legs appreciate the boots.

Karen Chaton (see her blog on the right) reminded me to continue to check for any cracks or scabs on the pasterns for a couple of days post-race. It's possible that the heel captivators on the renegades could contribute to scratches. So far everything is clear.

I've decided to do only one day at Desert Gold. Looking at the conditioning graphs, I've decided that doing 2 days would be too much and it would mimic a trend that happened the beginning of this season that resulted in her being slightly off afterwards....I want to avoid that! So she'll get another easy 50, before I look for 2 days of 50's in one weekend.

BTW - I forgot to mention. A side "benefit" of dressage has been improved athletism at the beginning of the race....did I mention that Farley was canteing in place? She has NEVER been capable of this particular "feat" before dressage......Highly inappropriate for race start, but cute nevertheless.

Ivers Book Review: Part 2 Confirmation & Tying up

This is part 2 of the review.

Apparently a crooked legged horse (as long as it isn’t too the extreme) should not be discriminated against when looking for a performance animal. This surprised me, but makes sense. There is a principle called "Wolff's Law” which states that the stress placed upon the crooked leg bone will remodel that bone so that it ends up as strong as if it was straight! My Endurance take: Now, everything being equal, I wouldn’t choose a crooked legged horse, but since no horse is ideal (and putting in your horse for sale ad that your horse has “perfect confirmation” makes you look like an idiot) and compromises are made, knowing this (and doing more research on this principle first!), I wouldn’t let a slight crookedness bother me if looking for a performance horse.

Ivers addreses tying up in the performance horse throughout the book. The typical culprit is a filly that is a bit high strung, that is working 5-6 days a week. His recommendation is that the horse be given some work every day – even the day after a race. He also stresses that workouts must be based on the horses performance in the previous workout and their attitude. A bit sluggish, not recovery as quickly? IMMEDIATELY make the next work out easy, or give the horse an easy day. Even if he seems fine the next day. You may have just headed off a injury. My Endurance take: Since starting endurance I have felt very strongly that the biggest factor in any good conditioning plan is rest. As a result my plans have always been to ride 3-4 days a week (with some groundwork/bonding the other days) with one longer ride per week, and at least 1-2 weeks off after a race, depending on distance. I want to share what I’ve been contemplating based on Ivers book – I haven’t made any concrete decisions but I’m going to try something a little different this year. First of all, I think one reason that it would be important for a Thoroughbred in training to get out every day is because on their off day they are going to be in a stall with limited turnout and movement. This is a classic formula for tying up on the next work day. Probably, Endurance horses do well with limited days of work per week because they are managed differently. *Most* (I’ve never seen an actual statistic about the management of endurance horses, so this is mostly conjuncture) endurance horses are kept on pasture, or in large areas where they can move around. So what about my own situation? While Farley is not in a stall, she isn’t in a pasture either. The size of her dry lot does not encourage movement throughout the day, although she is fairly active (I can see the little paths she carves in the dirt), it’s not the same as being in a pasture. So I’ve decided that I will ride her every single day I can – which works out to 6-7 days a week. On the days we normally would have rested, we are now going on one hour walking canal rides. This shouldn’t cause any more wear and tear than an off day and I think it’s helping her stay healthier mentally and physically. I’m also going to take to heart Ivers advice on doing an easy workout the day after race. Instead of standing in her dry lot, I will either handwalk her for 30-60 minutes or ride at a walk. I won’t demand anything of her (ie we will be going down a canal bank on a loose rein at a walk) but movement is good for a horse. I will be thinking in terms of active rest this year.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The trouble of it all

AareneX commented about the trouble of boots versus shoes on my LOVE ride recap post. I started to respond, but realized that it was much too lengthy. So here's my take on the trouble of boots, versus the trouble of shoes.

I think the trouble and time I take with the boots and shoes is equal. Here's why:

With shoes I really worried about angles. She was shod every 6 weeks, but her feet grow FAST. I wasn't comfortable cantering, or even speed trotting by the 5th week because of how long her feet were. Boots Win.

I ride a lot of pavement and the AERC rides I do always seem to have pavement in them. Last year in May, Farely actually went down on pavement, even though I was hand walking her. Very scary. The boots seem to have a much better grip. Boots win.

If I wanted to pad for a ride, I had to use pads that stayed in for 6 weeks under the shoes (yes, I could use pour in, but there's a whole story behind what I would have to go through to get it....). Even though no apparent ill effects came of padding her for Tevis, I just didn't like the fact that I couldn't see her soles for 6 weeks. And there was something "off" about her when they were pulled. Nothing I could put my finger on, but my gut told me that it wasn't a great idea. Boots win.


I have missed rides that I wanted to go on because my horse wasn't shod. Unless I have a ride coming up, Farley is barefoot. She doesn't need shoes for riding or conditioning, but most rides require hoof protection, and there are very few rides I would ride a horse 50 miles the entire way without protection. So if my schedule changes and at the last minute I CAN make a ride....there's a good chance Farley won't have shoes on and I won't be able to do it. The farrier comes out to the stable every 3 weeks and it is difficult/impossible to get her shod between these scheduled visits. Boots win.

Lost Shoe or Boot

I have lost a shoe at a ride (first ride - AR 50 - on Minx) and had to have it replaced. It was a pain. It took a while. There happen to be a farrier at the lunch check and I happened to have cash. We didn't get to spend the check relaxing. It took longer to replace that shoe, than it took me to redo the boots on the trail last weekend. The trouble involved in a lost shoe or boot is about equal. So far the score is 1:1. One lost shoe at my first ride, one instance of boot malfunction at my first booted ride. If it continues to happen, I may have to reevaluate the cost/benefit of boots. Time will tell. Equal.


Boots and shoes are about equal in cost, depending on how I often I trim and whether I do it or my farrier does it, how long the boots last, how many rides I do in a year, and how often I would have plain shod her or padded her. I won't know for sure until I get at least 1-2 years of cost analysis of using boots. Status: Unknown


I've broken bones because of shod horses, and I've had unshod horses run over the top of me at the gallop. If I can work around unshod horses, that is my preference. Boots win.


I never even considered boots before I saw the renegades. Easy boots were the only other viable option and they did not look easy. The trouble involved in wrapping, rubbing, gaiters, foaming, and still losing them wasn't worth it. Renegades is what has made this experiment possible.

So far, the "trouble factor" of shoes and boots compare favorably to each other, with several advantages going to boots (and specifically - renegade boots).

Even if the "trouble" factor ends up rising with the boots (if I lose them at a higher rate than shoes, if they end up costing more) there are other factors that still haven't been fully explored that might tip it in favor of boots, even with a higher "trouble" factor:
  • Health of the horse
  • Health of the hoof
  • Soundness of the horse
  • Availability of a good farrier once I move from this area (I have a great farrier - I know not everyone in all areas is so lucky).

The Bottom Line

That being said, if serious boot malfunctions occur at rides and cost me completion after completion the trouble factor will be high enough to cause me to reconsider. However, by then there might be another viable option - competition is making the boot market better and better! I'll do what I can to keep her barefoot, but at least at this point I'm not absolutely committed to keeping her barefoot at all costs.

Please weigh in! Why do you do, what you do?

Ivers Book Review: Part 1 Breeding

This book review will be published over several posts since it grew exponentially once I started (could have something to do with a 5 ½ hour plane flight and extreme boredom. 11,000 feet and passing over Nevada). This is Part 1 of 4.

If you've read this blog long enough (silly me, still assuming I have readers!) you've probably noticed I over-think and analyze EVERYTHING. Endurance and dressage are thinking sports.

It was with this is mind that I picked up Tom Ivers's book, "The Racehorse Owner's Survival Manual".

Ivers (almost called him “Tom”, but heard my high school English teacher screeching at me, as I once wrote an entire essay examining the poem Kubla Khan and referred to the poet by first name, so I can’t. Good literary technique must extend even to blogging) writes mostly for the conventional race horse owner of Thoroughbred, Standardbred, and Quarter horse tracks. Arab racing may be mentioned in passing. However, several times throughout the book he does mention endurance conditioning as it contrasts with the (comparative) sprints of track horses.

I will admit that my eyes glazed over when the nitty-gritty of interval training was introduced, however several training concepts warrant further reflection and research. Here is what I have gleaned from the book and am taking under consideration for my own use.

I’ll be the first to raise my hand and admit I know nothing about breeding. It seems like such a crap shoot to get what you want from a breeding, which is why I believe that I have no business doing it. The people that should be breeding have an exact goal in mind and are developing their breeding to achieve that vision. Each breeding is carefully planned, and pedigrees are studied to get an exact product (or at least the best chance of that product!). There is a difference between breeding stock and performance stock. This was something I had read before, but it didn’t hurt to read it again. The best performance stock usually comes of outbreeding from 2 different lines. However, these horses don’t make the best breeding stock because they don’t produce “true” as reliably. This is why breeding the best performers to the best performers rarely works. Ivers (almost called him Tom again) discusses this briefly, but well. All I can say is Kudos to the breeders who are taking the time to doing this right. My Endurance take: I used to be very disparaging about a horses lineage and breeding. I once said to an acquaintance who had just bought a horse “that’s WONDERFUL if you are going to breed or sell her!” when she was gushing about her horse’s (non-spectacular) papers. (My statement was said with an innocent smile and wide open eyes. I’m pretty sure she missed my point). When buying Farely I didn’t even glance at her papers. However, the longer I work with purebred horses and talk to knowledgeable people, the more I’m convinced that genetics does pay a huge role in the personality and capabilities of a horse. Yes, you can get lucky with some, and you can train “it” into others, but a horses pedigree and the breeding program that produced it will play in role in future horses I purchase.

Monday, November 9, 2009

LOVE ride recap

I'll start off with the pics that I know everyone wants to see. AareneX - if you don't want a spoiler of what your adorable prize looks like, close your eyes now!

I present.........

Because it's representing the LOVE even gets a collar with hearts!!!!! :)

Below, Jonah stalks the poor critter. Which is why the little lamb got to go to work with me today - Jonah would NOT leave it alone. It spent the night in my coffee cup cupboard....No lion laying down with the lamb here!

Onto the story!

I tried some new things on this ride. Some of it worked, some of it didn't.

Pictured: Ridecamp the morning of the ride

New Bit:
To separate our dressage from an endurance race, I switched from my trusty french link baucher, to a myler type mouth piece D-ring. She hates palate pressure so I thought this might be a good compromise. In the beginning of the ride she was quite strong. I'm not sure if was the bit, or the fact that I hadn't ridden her in a week. She never bucked, but there were a couple of times it took me a lot longer to slow down than I would have liked. She didn't toss her head in it, and after the first 17 miles was super soft and responsive in it, so I think I will give it one more try at Desert Gold before deciding that I need to go to a Kimberwick with a similar mouthpiece (which means Myler, which means 100 bucks).

Pictured: Tacking in the dark

In addition to not riding her for a week, I misjudged the amount of time it would take me to get to the start line and I ended up milling around - not good. My calm, relaxed pony immediately became a tense pogo stick. As the race started, I waited a couple minutes and then set out. She was very very very tense. We were going my speed, but it was a battle. She wasn't out of control - when I had 2 boot malfunctions in the first hour (more on this later) and she let me stop and replace them no problem at the side of the trail with other horses passing. Normally when we get into our "bubble" (and I find one at every ride!) she relaxes and gets into the zone. Not at this ride. She continued to be very very tense, even when I got her to walk. After she refused water at the 3rd water stop I made a decision. She was going to walk relaxed until she was interested in eating or drinking, and if it made me pull overtime, so be it.

There was only one other ride that she acted like this - 20 mule team 65 miler. At that ride I managed her speed only and didn't insist that she relax. As a result I fought her for the entire 65 miles and she came up sore at the end (still completed, but it was a failure in my book). I know better now.

After a couple of miles I got off and walked her. People passed us and soon we were at the back of the pack. One guy tried to insist that I get back on my horse and that we would "go slow". I appreciated his concern, but after politely refusing and letting him know that I was schooling her, and I had no problem taking the time I needed to get the behavior I wanted, his insistence became rude and I had to let him know that he needed to move on.

I pulsed into the 17 mile vet check and a 15 minute hold and that was the end of the demon exorcism. She was a perfect pony the rest of the ride. I made the right decision, even though I had to boogie later on to make a cut off.....

Pictured: Once my pony grew a brain....I started taking pictures!

I decided to load my electrolyte syringes with the electrolytes only, no filler. At stops I would fill with water from the water troughs....nice concept, too bad I didn't get to test it! All my syringes fell out in the first 17 miles of "schooling". Oh well. I did do one in the morning and the method worked well. I'll try again on my next ride. I also lost a water bottle on the trail, which resulted in me getting dehydrated. A lot of "little things" happened during this ride - I broke my sunglasses, lost electrolytes, lost water bottle....

This was my first ride using the boots. Overall I'm very very pleased. The parking lot we were camping in was completely covered in gravel. No dirt in sight.....So I made the decision that she would wear the boots overnight. She probably would have been fine, but I didn't want to take a chance.
I do not, as a rule, pad for rides. The only ride I would recommend pads for is Tevis. Add LOVE to that list. This was NOT an easy trail and I was SO GLAD I had boots on.
In the first hour I had 2 boot malfunctions at the same time - a left front and a left hind (#2 and #3 malfunction overall since starting to use these boots). What's interesting is that a person who was riding with me, had a boot malfunction at the same time - at the same place. The trail was dirt, wide, easy. We couldn't figure out what caused the boots to come off? They survived in place cantering and yet came off on an open trail at a moderate speed? The straps were intact, the boots were around the fetlocks. Mmm....mystery. I put them back on and didn't touch them for the rest of the ride.

The cut off for the one hour hold (at 30 miles) was not announced at the ride meeting. While walking to the start we had a volunteer yell at us that the cut off for lunch was 11:00am. OK - most cut offs are designed with the AERC finish time in mind - 12 hour finish. It didn't even occur to me that the cut off would require a 8+ mph average pace. There was a 15 minute hold before lunch, that because of the availability of the vets was actually a 30 minute hold. I checked with the volunteers throughout the ride, after the 15 minute hold (Farley had grown a brain by this point...) how we were doing on time? I was told the cut off was actually 11:30 and I had plenty of time to make it to camp. We were power trotting at 10-12 mph, but walking in steeper terrain and over walks. There was a lot of people behind me at this point. I was riding with my GPS and started to become concerned as 11:00 approached and I was still several miles from the check. At 11:10, I was on repeat trail and I knew where I was. It was going to be tight.
I asked and I got it. Top trot speed up and down hills, around hair pin turns, across rocks. She had it. I cantered into camp, jumped off and offered water. She pulsed down in 20 seconds. I made the cut off by 3 minutes. She had it. And if the boots hadn't come off during that particular excursion, they weren't going to come off!

At this point, I was pissed. Yeah, she did it, but I didn't want to have to ask it of her. I had finally gotten around to calculating the cut off and realized that they wanted us to ride 30 miles in 4.5 hours to make the cut off (and assumed you got out of the 15 minute check on time). That's much faster than the pace required to complete the ride.
People started to come in after us. They were pissed too. Several people had young horses that were doing their first ride.
They extended the cut off.
I'm glad they did, but that pissed me off too! I wouldn't have had to come in as fast if I had known they would extend it......All around it was not a good situation.
I explained to the vet that I had really pushed her to get in on time. Her response "She doesn't seem any worse for wear!". :) I was proud of my girl, but decided we would take it very easy the rest of the ride.

Post note - In the past, if something like this situation had come up, my horse probably would have been so borderline conditioned for 50 miles, I wouldn't have/couldn't have pushed and asked for the effort. I *finally* have a solid 50 mile conditioned mount and the difference is amazing. I knew she could do it, and still finish the ride fresh.
I do want to assure everyone that if my horse had shown even a slight hesitation at the pace we set to get to the check on time, I would have slowed and come in overtime - absolutely no question about that!
Situations like this are all part of endurance. Yes, I was upset about the cut off, but I wasn't angry - it was ride management's decision and it's their ride. Now that I know the cards, I'll be able to make an informed choice in the future about whether I want to do this ride. There were other, little things, about this ride that are different from other rides I do, and those too will be taken into consideration on whether I do this ride again.

Pictured: back boots at lunch.

Pictured: Front boots at lunch

With only 20 miles to go and 5.5 hours to do it...I knew I had plenty of time. Farley and I mozied along, alternating power trotting, and walking while picture taking.

At one point I got so caught up in my picture taking I got off course.....

Pictured: At this point I was lost, I just didn't realize it....

Pictured: Still lost, but still oblivious!

Pictured: Yep, lost here too.

Pictured: Yep, still lost. *sigh*

The ride was absolutely gorgeous.

We continued across pavement, up cowtrails in soft footing, rocks, single track, across dams, leapt over roots, went cross country. The boots stayed on, the horse stayed happy.

At the end of the ride, I got the best compliment of all from the finish line vet "Soundest horse I've seen at the finish....."
And that's really what the ride is all about. I saw lots of old friends, met some new ones (Charma, if you are reading this - hi!), and finished with a happy horse. Success!
Pictured: Hind boots at finish

Pictured: Front boots at finish

Pictured: Boots after removal, before wash down

Pictured: Hooves after 24 hours of boots and a very very tough trail.

After doing this ride, I think I'm ready to tackle American River again. That was my first ride and it didn't end well.
Even though 370 (now 420!) competition endurance miles (doesn't count LD) doesn't seem like a lot, it was enough experience that I was able to make very different decisions than in earlier rides. It was almost like history was repeating itself at this ride and asking "do you learn from your mistakes? can you recognize this situation and do the right thing this time?" I successfully managed several issues (boots, rating issues, and time management of cut offs) and finished the ride with a sound, happy horse. Yeah!