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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!


  1. Sounds like an awesome ride! I am so glad that you are confident in Farleys condition! I don't have much input, but very glad that you guys did well!

  2. Congrats on a great ride, Mel. Sounds like some good learning experiences along the way. Curious about the Renegades coming off like that...if it had just been the front, I might suspect that she overreached, but with both boots on the same side, that's probably less likely. Did she spook at any point shortly before they came off, or trip, or any kind of situation where she might have trod on herself/her feet? Just some idle speculation on the boots...overall, it sounds like they did very well, though.

  3. There were some embedded rocks in the trail and it happened just after that. Who knows - maybe the boot was borderline from all the hopping around earlier? Since I had zero issues the rest of the ride in worse terrain, I'm pretty confident and I'll treat the earlier losses as a fluke? So far no consistency in loss. I've had a LF, LH, RH come off! It really wasn't that big a deal though. Not like I thought it would be.

    Maybe I need to put more tension in the toe strap? Mmm...I'll definately be thinking on it.

  4. Well, since it seems like the boots are a keeper....I just ordered a spare front and back, with extra toe straps. They aren't any more expensive to buy in singles, which is nice. So for Desert Gold I'll have extras! The footing is so forgiving I probably won't carry any with me - I'll put them in my crew bag.

  5. The lamb is about as adorable as it can be.

  6. Much better in the post-felted form eh?

  7. That is fantastic!! I think it is great that not only did you get another distance patch (and no, I don't know what that really means) but you made good choices and finished strong!

  8. Congratulations! Loved the pictures, too - that really is a love-ly ride.

  9. That lamb is SOOOO cute. Let me just kill my cat now, so I won't have to do it later, when he attacks the little lamb pie!

    Great ride report, too. Although I keep thinking that I would love to keep Fiddle barefoot, she has made it Abundantly Clear to me that she doesn't like being barefooted at speed on trail (even with footing slightly rougher than the arena!) and boots aren't good enough for Her Grace either. She's just plain not comfortable with bare feet or boots, and she is comfortable with shoes. >shrug<

    And...although it looks like you've got your "boot thing" sorted out, it still seems like a pain.

    I'll be riding with boots this winter (winter = less work = bare feet) so maybe I will change my mind...or more importantly, perhaps Fiddle will change her mind.

    But I wouldn't bet the sheep on it!

  10. AareneX -

    Hey - a horse knows best right? :) Especially the mares. Farley doesn't seem to care whether is boots, shoes, or barefoot, but her fussy thing is bits. It's has to be perfect! LOL

    At this point I would say that the boots are equal to the trouble shoes are. Since Farley does so well in shoes (although she might do even better in boots, I'll just have to wait and see) I wasn't willing to switch to something that didn't work as well and was more trouble.

    I'm going to do a post on the trouble of shoes versus boots because your question made me really think and it's much too long to post here!


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