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Thursday, February 25, 2010

The adventure continues

Ah yes - the joys and challenges of a 100 mile race.....and I haven't arrived at ride camp. 
I took my truck in to have the cruise control looked at today.  It stopped working Monday and this was the earliest appointment they had.  Considering my warranty is up is ~1000 miles, I really wanted to get it in before this weekend. 
Fast forward to this morning.  In addition to the cruise going out, I mentioned sometimes it stucks in 4th gear when accelerating onto the freeway with a loaded horse trailer (~ 20-30% of the time).  I got the proverbial pat on the head of when a man is telling a young (short) blonde girl that she really doesn't know what she's talking about and it's shifting just fine.  "Did I know that it revs up higher with a load?"  Grrrrrrrr........
Noon and then 1pm and I haven't heard anything.....I call them.  They call me back.  The looked at my transmission and there's a bunch of "really weird" codes in there and because they can't find the problem with the cruise control they think it's related AND NOW they believe me that it's been shifting funny.  And yes, there is a real problem with the transmission.
They would like to keep it for a couple of days to try and figure out what's wrong.  They need to take the transmission apart.
They offer me a courtesy car. 
I laugh hysterically.
I tell them my situation.
They talk to the tech.
They agree to put it back to together well enough I can drive to Ridgecrest for the 20 MT 100 and then I can take it back to them next week. 
Soooo..........With this much trouble actually getting to the 100.....the actual race itself should go off without a hitch right? 

Mostly about passing

I sent off the last post and realized I hadn't responded to comments.  Drat!  So here's a bonus post for the day.
Comment Follow up
So far my favorite response to a difficult person is Karen's camera approach.  Perfect! 
I really appreciate the heads up about the 65 milers.  Even though I rode the 65 last year I hadn't internalized the fact that the 65 top runners are going to be passing me.  Oh Dear.  I usually start near the back and work my way to mid pack because Farley does better with passing than being passed.  Time to formulate a Plan! 
I HATE agreeing to ride with someone because of exactly the reasons Karen posted.  I'm a very A-type personality and even though I'm mid pack to turtle placing, I still get out of the checks on time and I HATE stopping on the trail.  Forward movement please!  As a result I'm very commitment-evasive anytime someone asks me if I want to start with them.  I'm always very clear that we can start together, but I will do whatever my horse needs for the day.  Most people are on the same page, but I've been burned enough times by a person who has tried to dictate my ride that I still feel like I need to make myself very clear when talking to someone. 
Heather - regarding passing....I usually pass at a trot or (very rarely) a canter.  It's very difficult to pass at a walk,  If someone tells me they have a young horse or are obviously having problems, I will usually pass at a very slow trot, as far away from them as I can.  I must admit that when I've seen someone having REAL problems (not dangerous ones, just have their hands full) I have just wanted to GET PAST THEM and OUT OF THEIR way, and they usually feel the same way, and I pass FAST (usually fast trot) just to get away from the situation (in those cases, I'm not escalating the situation as much as they have their hands full and do NOT want to be caught up in it). 
I have found that most people (including myself) would rather if someone wanted to pass to just get on with it and get out of sight and not draw out a process that usually amps my horse up. 
I think it's polite to yell out if you are going to pass.  Unless it's a wide jeep road, I usually ask if it's ok to pass.  Most of the time they say yes.  If they want to wait and pull over while I pass that's fine, I hang back and when they find a space that's safe, I pass them at slow trot.  I usually don't have a problem with a person yielding the trail (except Tevis which is a little different), but if I do, I start pointing out places that they could pull over (politely) so I could get on with my ride.  If all else fails, I find a spot in the trail that I think *I* can get around and I go off to the side of the trail, usually at a fast trot and dart in front of them.  There's a point if the person is being unreasonable, as long as it's safe for both parties, you have to take matters in your own hands.  I'm not going to sacrifice my ride because someone refuses to give up trail in a courteous and timely manner.  Sorry, but I'm not going to babysit your horse because you don't feel safe letting me pass where it's entirely reasonable that I should be able to. 
I think it's rude to blow past a person at top speed, but a trot or controlled canter wouldn't be necessarily rude in my opinion as long as due warning was given and the speed was safe for the trail and you are complying with reasonable requests of the person you are passing. 

Random little things

This is likely to be my last post before heading to 20 MT (unless I get inspired and this turns into a too-many-posts day) so it's likely to be slightly random.  You have been forewarned.
Thought #1
My whiny post about my endurance pet peeves got picked up my!  It's only the second one since blog inception (the other post was about a year ago, I think it was titled "Pull Musings".  Now, I know this isn't a HUGE deal - not at all like getting "Blog of Note" - however I'm still excited about the possibility of new people reading my musings.  The unfortunate part is that being at work, I'm not able to edit posts and there were some GLARING errors and awkward sentences in that particular post.  Oh well.  Maybe the title of my blog should be Melinda: Unedited
Thought #2
100's take more stuff.  Or maybe, trying a new distance takes more stuff.  Looking at the pile of stuff on my living room floor last night was vaguely reminiscent of my first 50 - I took everything but the kitchen sink to that ride.  Gradually over the years I've whittled it down to a streamline and highly efficient system where packing literally takes me minutes.  The other reason I'm taking more stuff is that it's winter (comforter, extra jackets, extra clothes, extra food etc.).  And it's going to be COLD.  I hate being cold.  Here's some stuff I'm taking to this ride, that normally I wouldn't take to a 50:
  • Daily contacts.  Since I have to wear them for 24 hours and there's a lot of dirt and grime, for 100's I wear the type of contacts you discard at the end of every day (normally I wear contacts that last 3 months or so).  These are thinner so less likely to irritate my eyes, and are truly disposable.  I learned at Tevis to bring extras!  I tore one in half in the morning and all my extras were in the box for Foresthill.  Fortunately my mom was able to put it in the Robinson crew box at the last minute, but I rode 30+ miles of the trail with only one contact.  Fun fun fun....
  • No-Doze.  I can ride a 50, sleep well (or not well) and be fine to drive home the next day.  Cheery even.  I'm a bit worried about the drive home on Sunday.  I do have plans to pull over and nap if necessary and take my time, but I remember how tired and incoherent I was after my first 50 (race did not allow you to stay over Saturday night so I HAD to drive home) and at Tevis.  In both cases it was only a 30-60 minute drive and I barely made it.  This ride is the furthest drive for me - 5-6 hours minimum - so I want to make sure I can stay alert if I have to for a couple hours until I can find a good place to pull off and get some rest. 
  • Extras of stuff - extra light sources, batteries, clothes, crew bags, food, etc.  It really adds up!
Thought #3
Ice boots.  I have a set of Ice Horse Iceboots that use flexible ice packs in a holder that velcros around the horses lower leg.  They work "OK".  I'm going to experiment with something new.  Idea #1:  Use a product that looks like Ice cubes in a flexible sheet instead of the ice packs.  Idea #2: Use old tube socks with the toes cut off.  Pull one cut-off tube up around leg.  Pull second cut-off tube sock up on top of first sock.  Put the afore mentioned sheet of ice cubes between the socks and fold edges of socks down.  Wet if necessary.  I think this is a cheaper, better way to ice leg!  I'm tired of dealing with the ice packs, which have gotten old and sticky and are going to cost me $8 /piece to replace (=8x4=$32 to continue current system).
Thought #4
Warrants its own blog post because it's too long to post here....
Thought #5
I think too much
Thought #6
Also needs its own blog post.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fall Apart and Annoyed

As you can guess, Day 4 is all about my carefully laid plans falling apart.
Allergy meds made me stupid and groggy.  I anticipated that, which is why I started Monday.  However they also made me sleep through my alarm, which means my trailer will NOT be going into the shop to get the DOT lights fixed this week, since this morning was the ONLY morning I had available. 
And have I mentioned yet that it's raining here?  Which means my fabulously planned week of ground work is NOT going to happen.  And my plans of running have turned into walking.  I'll be trying out my rain outfit (pants included) which is a GOOD thing because the forecast has moved from "rain unlikely" to "definitely rain" for Saturday.
I'm contemplating doing the whole drive on Friday instead of leaving Thursday evening.  That's one less day she has to stand in the rain.....
Now since I promised you no more whiny posts, I have to pretend that the post below was the real reason for this post.  In reality, I just wanted to whine. 
On one of the boards I follow and post, someone asked the question of what annoys you the most when new people show horses.  Along with the more predictable responses of "I'm annoyed when the veterans aren't nice to use newbies!", there were a lot of complains about newbie turnout and horse cleanliness. 
Now - before you get all hot and bothered, I will admit that there is a LOT veteran riders can do to make a newbie's experience enjoyable.  HOWEVER, I remember as a newbie being very concerned about being a "nuisance" and really wanting to do the right thing....if I just knew what was expected.  Lists like this one really helped me ride courteously at my first ride and as a result, people were more likely to stick around and help me out and explain stuff. 
Here are my top 10 pet peeves in the endurance world (no matter if it's a veteran OR a newbie:
First my list of caveats:  Sometimes "stuff" happens.  I totally understand.  We are all human.  An apology and a quick smile goes a long way.  I don't expect any horse to be perfectly behaved and I've been horrified at behavior that has NEVER happened at home.  I think we've all been surprised......however how the offending rider handles such a situation in recognizing and rectifying it counts for a LOT.  So please don't' assume if some poor innocent person accidentally does one of these, I automatically roar and singe the whiskers off the horses face in rage!
  • Using my horse as "brakes" because you are in a hackamore, have no brakes, and somehow it's OK because it's "their first ride".  BS.  Control your horse or take it home.  You are putting my and my horse's safety on the line. 


  • People who ride up my tail.  Never appropriate.  Just don't do it.  I usually tell the person behind me that "she's in season, can you please give us some space?" as a polite way of saying "DO NOT PUT YOUR HORSE'S NOSE IN MY HORSE'S A$$ PLEASE!!!!"  She's sweet and doesn't kick, but doesn't concentrate as well on a technical trail if some is RIGHT THERE.  I then I'm ultra careful I don't do this to anyone else.  :)


  • Flashing your car lights into the tent and setting off the alarm CONSTANTLY throughout the night. 


  • People who talk to me in the early morning of a ride (before dawn) with their headlamps on. 


  • People who don't listen to the ride managers instructions so we can ALL have a good ride - such as sponging or scooping out of water troughs when it has been expressly forbid so that the WHOLE ride will have horse water, not just you, in the middle of the ride.  And guess what?  Your horse may LOVE sweaty, salty sponge water, but maybe mine doesn't?


  • Pushing my horse off the water trough when crowded when she's still drinking because your horse is thirsty.  They all are.  but since you stopped my horse from drinking, now she won't drink as much.  Please be polite and wait your turn. 


  • Letting your horse say "hello" to mine by touching noses.  She's hear to drink, not flirt and you are distracting her, not to mention possibly spreading disease.  AND even though you think it's "KWOOT" when horses touch noses and squeal and strike (apparently, because why would you let 2 strange horses do that unless that is what you are looking for?) please dont because my horse has a job to do and I'm also interested in all of us (horse and human) getting to the end of this ride alive and in one piece, ready to ride another day. 
So for most of these offenses I have cute little phrases I have pre-formulated so that no one's feelings get hurt, but so we can both have a good ride.  Of course I'm also totally guilty about a snappish, witchy person too....but the frequency decreases when I have a throught out response to most of my pet peeves.  Here's some of mine....
  • "I don't let my horse say hello.  Thanks!"
  • "She's in season and being a bit difficult.  Do you mind giving us some space?"
  • "Please no touchy noses!" (said in a high-pitch "cutie" voice to the other person's horse, therefore alerting them to the fact their horse is trying to blow it's snot up my horse's nose)
  • "My the water is getting low!  Do you think the turtles will have any when they come by?"  (to the sponger and scooper from water trough that was expressly forbidden...)
  • "Is this your first ride?"
  • "I'm sorry but my eyes are very sensitive to light this early, do you mind turning your headlamp off while we talk?"

What are some of yours?

Monday, February 22, 2010


Five days before a big race - such as a 100 - I start thinking of all those things I should have done to prepare, now that it's too late.  It will be interesting to look at this post-100 next week to see what really mattered....
Things I wish I had been able to do....
  1. Put 30-50 more pounds on Farley.  She looks good, but I really wanted a solid 5.5 on her before a 100.  She has good rib cover and overall condition, however I would like her look a bit more "fleshy".  I think floating the teeth would have had a HUGE impact if I had done it 6-8 weeks ago, instead of 1-2 weeks ago.  The rain and cold weather also had an impact.  She looks good, but 100 miles needs more reserves than a 50. 
    1. Short term plan - continue beet pulp and unlimited hay this week (oil has been discontinued until after the race).  Keep a close eye on perceived effort in the race and give her an extra week to recover (I was planning on 2-3 weeks of light work) if necessary for her to gain condition back.
  2. Lose 10 pounds, run more regularly.  I always gain ~5 during the winter, and this winter was especially bad.  Doing an early season race means I am just not as fit.  Period.  However, I could have gotten serious about nutrition and running 2 months ago.  I tried, but with the dark, rainy weeks we had it was tough.  I'm actually very worried about this.  Fitness makes a HUGE difference of how I perform during a race and how I feel afterwards.  After 65 miles at 20 MT last year (in approximately the same condition, perhaps a bit better) I was in PAIN.  Enough pain that it jump started my wellness program again and I was on track for the rest of the season.  After 68 miles of Tevis I felt WONDERFUL and was barely sore the next day.  My IT band (right knee) and my back have really been bothering me, sure signs that I've lost a substantial amount of muscle and gained weight.  Cardio-wise I can run 5 miles easy, but I have no muscle strength to back it my runs end up going verrryyyy slllowwwlllyyy.  I feel dumb because I'm not even out of breath.
    1. Short term plan - get in 2-3 short runs this week before I leave for 20 MT.  Do Pilates at least twice to try and loosen up my IT band and make it happier until some of this weight comes off.  Sart eating well now (never too late to start!).  I've downloaded an app for my ipod that should help me to reorient my eating habits.  I eat well, but eat too much. 
  3. Do a ride either late December or mid January.  It's a bit scary to have my last 50 be THREE months ago. 
    1. Short term plan - be more conservative, carry lots of extras of everything. 
  4. Do a night ride.  The last night ride I did was last summer.  Most of those nights were spent with Minx.  I only did one night with Farley and it was at a walk.  She did awesome and it was a technical trail in spots.  I'm not really worried about us riding at night - I enjoy it so I'm not nervous.  BUT - I've heard from several people who did this ride last year that the last 35 mile loop (all new trail) isn't exactly overmarked with glow sticks, and there's only a quarter moon so it's DARK and it's easy to be on the right trail, but be worried because you haven't seen a glowbar for a very. long. time. 
    1. Short term plan - experiment the night before with the battery glowstick to see the best way to hook to breast collar so I can easily switch it on and off, gives me light without being annoying if it is on, AND doesn't interfere with her vision.  I know, picky.  Most of the time it's going to be off. 
    2. Short term plan - ride the last couple miles of the last loop on Friday if I can.
Things that I'm smug about because I'm ultra prepared!
  1. Sleep - I know from my marathoning days that as long as I get good sleep Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I don't have to worry about being too tired because I was too excited to sleep Thursday and Friday. 
  2. Rain - doing the rain pant dance!  "put your right foot in, pull your right zipper up and shake it all the hokey pokey because everything's good....and that's what it's all a-bout!"
  3. Allergies - since I moved to a new area about 4 years ago, they haven't been bad enough for me to take regular medication......except when I go camping.  I've actually remembered to start medicating myself NOW so the meds are at their maximum ethicacy for Friday-Saturday.  Whoohoo!
  4. The trailer/the truck - The bearings got packed and the brakes checked last week.  Tomorrow it goes into a (different) shop to get the DOT lights all working (the joys of a decade old trailer).  Thursday the truck will get the cruise control fixed (under warranty).  What could possibly go wrong????!!!  Wait, don't answer that....
What I haven't figured out....
How I'm going to celebrate my first 100 mile completion.
  • Everyone I know well that was going to this ride, has had to bow out for one reason or another.  So there won't be anyone waiting up for me, and no one to celebrate my big achievement.  In way it's fitting, endurance is a personal journey....and although Farley may not be speaking to me afterwards, it may be fitting that it's just the two of us.  On the other hand......
  • It's a bloody shame because a wonderful bottle of wine is meant to be shared with friends and I'm certainly not going to waste my precious bottle of old vine Zinfandel (red) on myself.  I wonder if Bailey's and coffee is an acceptable solo-drink?  
  • Yes, Yes, Yes, I know - the endurance community is one big group of friends.  I get that, I really do - (insert whiny tone) but it's not the same as having people you already know there!  
  • Don't worry - I'm not that upset.  I'm just being whiny.  I always manage to meet new people at rides and truthfully I'll probably fix myself a hot cup of tea and call it a night.   
I PROMISE this is my last obsessed 100-prep post going up this week.  All you veteran 100 mile riders are probably rolling your eyes, and are going to tell me that the most painful part is done - turning in the entry.  That may be true.  However, how many things in life can you really make a big deal and get EXCITED about?  I think 100 miles qualifies and I'm going to let myself get EXCITED and obsessed because that's part of the fun.  I'm just not going to burden my poor BB readers with it!

Friday, February 19, 2010


You have GOT to be KIDDING!!!!!!
This week has been a glorious orgy of spring weather - sunny, warm, trees a'bloomin' and ponies a'shedding
Imagine my dismay when I woke up and the ground outside the weather looked especially damp, as if it had RAINED.  Imagine my HORROR when I looked at the sky and saw that nope, it wasn't the sprinkler system that had drenched the ground.  It was raining.  OK - to be perfectly honest those of you living in the swamplands of Washington would probably consider it heavy wet fog, or even misting.  But I tell ya - here in my part of CA if you have to turn on the windshield wipers to wipe away "fog", it's raining. 
Can you guess where my mind leapt next?
That's right
My 100 mile race.  In 7 short days. 
I finally worked up the nerve to look up the weather forecast for the race.
60% chance of showers the day of the race.  30% the day before.
The funny thing is?  I'm not even upset.  Just a funny cross between on-the-verge-hysterical and resigned. 
I tell 'ya my dear little BB's - I had a premonition.  That's right a premonition that this was going to be the year of wet endurance rides, and even though it's been ridiculously spring-like I tracked down a pair of insulated, waterproof riding pants on sale on the Internet in my size.  And bought them.  They came yesterday and I felt ridiculous.  After all, it had been practically in the 70's all week.
I no longer feel ridiculous. 
I feel vindicated.
Take that you nasty little weather demons!  Ha!
Now, I'm immensely hopeful that the storm changes its mind.  Desert showers are notorious for arriving late to dinner or too early to be polite.  But if it doesn't, Farley and I will still be out there, and we will be prepared!
BTW - the pants I bought are EOUS "Snowdonia" pants.  Healthy as a Horse carries them. (I bought them from an online vendor who now longer stocks them - Horse Studio)  I rode in them last night and they are WONDEFUL and have many of the features of the more expensive brands such as Mountain Horse, for half the price. 
I highly recommend Healthy as a Horse as a vendor.  They were especially helpful when I ordered my Haf pad from them recently and made sure I would get it in time for 20 MT.  John personally called me several times to make sure I knew when it was shipping, address verification (UPS wasn't recognizing my addy) etc.  The level of customer service was SUPERB and their shipping costs very reasonable. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Jekyll and Hyde

Is this why people own geldings?  Because they get to ride the same horse every day?
Farley was (unpredictably) a complete witch yesterday about arena work.  Maybe she was a bit sore from our work on Monday.  Maybe the footing wasn't exactly to her liking (it was compacted, but better than the regular arena that was DEEP with CLODS).  Maybe she was confused about her job yesterday - after all she was in an old Haf pad instead of a regular dressage schooling pads - never mind the fact we had a DRESSAGE bridle on, and a DRESSAGE bit, and we were in an ARENA.  Or just maybe.....she was being a mare.
I love mares.  I've always bonded with them better and all my long term relationships have been with mares.  I'm sure that this is an irrational preference, just like my color preference (no greys or colored horses please), and my general dislike of colored padded dressage bridles. 
However, it is absolutely true that they have personality.  and opinions.  Even a mare like Farley who is fairly even-tempered, has days where our agendas do NOT match.  Upon realizing that this is "one of those day", the best solution is to find a tactical position within the lesson where both of us can retreat without too much damage to the opposing party. 
I'm getting better about staying neutral in such arguments.  While she throws a conniption fit over whatever simple task I have asked her to do for the day, I  observe her toddler like behavior without getting emotionally involved and taking it personally.  I must admit that once we are done and I slip out of the saddle, I might mutter "what a @#$*((*&@" in a low voice, but it's (kinda) affectionate and accompanied with a pat on the neck.  That's perfectly acceptable way of demonstrating my displeasure right?
Or maybe, just maybe, Farley has decided that since I'm keeping her, she can finally be perfectly honest with me.  You see, we had the "talk" the other day.  Where I explained to her that I will never ever sell her as long as she wants to stay with me.  I will stop commenting on what a nice junior or 4-Her horse she will make for someone "someday".  I will stop justifying the expense I putting into her training by talking about how her versatility will insure marketability and a good home, and instead spend the money on the training because we both enjoy it and it enriches are life. 
Minx was my forever horse.  Farley was going to be sold when I went back to vet school.  After Minx died, that all changed and I wasn't sure what to do with Farley.  Now, a year after Minx's death, I realized that Farley wiggled her way into my heart.  I've had an offer from a endurance friend to board and feed her if I run out of $$ in vet school to care for her so there isn't any reason I should have to sell. 
I don't make forever commitments to animals lightly or automatically, but Farley is mine to keep.  Her behavior yesterday not withstanding. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Conditioning ride!

It's a sad state indeed when non-horsey people see a dismounted rider and assume something is wrong. 
Riders - I implore you to dismount and work on your own fitness!  It should not be a shocking sight to witness someone dismounted on the trail tailing up an ascent.  Panic should not cross the poor bicyclist face as you jog downhill with your horse.  Especially if the rider is in spandex and running shoes, but just happens to be wearing a helmet and leading a horse.
At less than 2 weeks from a 100 mile ride, it is not my usual protocol to go on a strenuous ride.  But I had a difficult conundrum - our last "real" conditioning ride was at the beginning of January.  We have had a couple of good technical rides, and have done quite a bit of dressage - but no rides where she really moved out and stretched her legs.  I really needed to get a good ride on her to test both of our readiness for the upcoming ride.  So I compromised - we would do a ride on Monday that was challenging (but well below maximal effort), but shorter than usual - 10-15 miles max - to test our fitness and readiness.
The plan and execution
I wanted to be as tired and sweaty looking as my horse by the end of the ride.  I also wanted Farley to have FUN.  We have an understanding - she has to be obedient and submissive during dressage.  So, during our trail work, I let her have as much freedom as practical.  I still have ultimate control over pace, but try not to micro manage her too much. 
It went well. Overall our pace was 5mph....but we did a little bit of everything from grazing in the shade to galloping full tilt up hills.  The terrain fluctuates a LOT and within a 1/2 mile I might -
  • tail up a steep section
  • canter/hand gallop a flat
  • jump off and jog down a slight incline
  • get back on and power trot over a flat and a decline
  • gallop up a slight incline, jump off (while she grabs a bite of grass) and jog a flat section
  • walk slowly up a hill (mounted). 

I probably mounted and dismounted 20 times in a 3.5 hour period. 

Within that, intersperse bikers, joggers, hikers, and mom's with strollers.  For each one, Farley and I would transition to a walk and be good ambassadors.  I would be especially friendly to the women and Farley would be especially adorable and pony-like to the children.  How awesome is it that I have a horse that can go from a full gallop to immediately standing still for children?
It was a warmer day and she sweated a LOT but didn't seem to be in any distress.  If it's hot for 20 MT her recoveries are going to be a bit slower, but I think we are going to be OK. 
Hackamore thoughts
I decided to do this ride in a hackamore.  Because of doing so much dressage, I feel like it's even more important to stay out of her mouth if I can for endurance.  I think working in a hackamore works well if the horse and rider are on the same page about 90% of the time.  I've done all my trail work since the beginning of the year in the hackamore and I feel very comfortable.  I have finally stopped thinking about the fact I'm riding in a hackamore and I just ride.  About 10 months ago I first tried a hackamore with Farley, and after about 3 rides went back to the bit.  It just goes to show that just because something didn't work the first time, with some time, behavior can change.  I was pleasantly surprised that even at a full gallop I don't have any loss of control.  We still won't be starting a race with a hackamore, and I'm not sure when I'll be able to switch over, but for right now it's enough that I can do our conditioning rides in one. 
I hadn't ridden in my renegades since Desert Gold (end of November), but used them for this ride.  Her feet are doing so very well I haven't felt like I needed them.  During our very muddy technical ride, there was a section of HUGE sharp gravel rocks.  She pranced over them barefoot with me mounted like they weren't even there, and her feet look GREAT (round with heels that are amazingly WIDE).  However, I needed to verify that they still worked with any changes her feet have undergone etc.  I continue to be VERY impressed with these boots.  After almost 3 months of not using them, they went on perfectly with no modifications and stayed on through some challenging transitions and hill work.  The gravelly jeep roads at Livermore where I do most of my conditioning is wearing down the tread on the fronts significantly, but they are still fine for now.  I couldn't be HAPPIER with these boots.  They continue to be trouble free. 
Conclusion and Thoughts
Everything went FABULOUSLY.  I've lost some fitness since Tevis, but not as much as I feared.  Farley seemed to be happy and responsive.  As long as her legs stay cool and tight today and I think we are both ready.  We will be taking it slow for the 100 miler on the 27th - no galloping or fast cantering allowed (!) but it was nice to let her have a little fun after all the rain and mud we've had.  My plan is to take her jogging with me and continue to ride her in the arena this week and next.  Then it's off to 20 Mule Team!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Writing Discipline

Lately, I've had that feeling I imagine any blogger has had, if they've blogged long enough.
  • There must be a finite amount of ideas to write about in my particular subject.....when am I going to run out of new stuff to say?  Will it be today? tomorrow?  next week?
  • There can't be that much to say on this subject.  Surely I posted on this last year?  The horror of horrors - what if what I just posted was a repost of something I already did????????
And....insert mini panic attack.
Because I really really really enjoy blogging.  But if I run out of things to write about, that will be The. End.  And that would be terrible. 
Well, my fellow BB's, I am here to reassure you that for the foreseeable future (meaning all of next week), I still have things to write about!  Amazing!
Blogging has instilled in me a writing "discipline" that will be very handy if I ever write regularly as a career.  As I have never considered myself a writer, this is a very novel (pardon the pun) idea.
I carry a writing notebook or my ipod around with me constantly.  Three to four times a day I have a fabulous idea for a post and I write down a one sentence synopsis of what I want to write about.  This is what my list currently looks like:
  • Mugwumps
  • Thirty minute criteria thoughts
  • Book reviews - ti, black stallion, feet first
  • First love, horses and the conscious decision every day to stick with something even with it's unpleasant.  Making the choice daily.  How horses aren't really my escape anymore - they are too much a part of who I am.  Music right now provides an escape from who I am - horse person, runner, supervisor etc.  The honeymoon period resisting the temptation to move onto the new thing.
  • Writing discipline
  • Preparing for a hundred
  • Sword work
  • Essential rain endurance equipment
  • Alternative horse media
  • Crew bag
  • What to expect at your first ride (why it will be different from a training ride)
  • Never selling a horse
This is typically the amount of posts in the "queue" to write.  Items are added at about the same rate as they are removed (ie written and posted).  
Invariably when I sit down to write a post, none of the items on the list are good ideas anymore.  In fact, they are all AWFUL ideas.  But I resolutely sit down, pick one of the ideas and run with it, because it is a good idea, I just need to recapture the mood of what inspired it.  And you know what?  It usually turns into a GREAT topic that I have a LOT of fun with.  This has happened so many times, I have a rule - once I put a post on the list, it gets written.  It may take 6 months - but it gets written.  In reality, it's not the idea that has to be good, it's the writing and structure. 
Thanks to blogging, I have more patience writing on topics that are (currently) uninspiring, which will make me a better writer.  (and to be perfectly honest, as this is my THIRD post today, how could I even be worried that I'm going to run out of topics?).

You get what you pay for - sometimes

Two things happened yesterday
1.  My trainer told me it's time to start working on our stretchy trot!  Whoohoo!  More than anything I feel like this signifies that I have moved up a level in dressage.  Not only do I have 3 decent gaits (and a canter transition that is *almost* there), I get to start working on movements within the gaits. 
2.  While at Panera tapping away on my ipod, responding to comments from my beloved BB's, I had a thought.  "I'm going to ride a 100 mile race in boots".  This, of course, immediately set up a panic reaction that had me reaching for my paper bag and while focused on taking deep breathes, I thought "This is all their fault.  If  I had never started reading and writing blogs, I would have blissfully gone on my way doing what I have always done instead of trying to do something crazy like ride a 100 in boots when I don't even have ONE completion at this distance yet!!!!!".  Seriously.  This is crazy.  It's one thing to say "Oh yeah, I'm doing it in boots", and another to really internalize that I'm going to ride 100 miles in boots. 
Today I would like to talk about purchases where it worked out really well to buy as cheaply as possible.....and other purchases that didn't work out so well.  I'd love to hear about your experiences as well.  What did you buy cheap that you will never again? 
Be a Scrooge and Save your $$!!
  • Blankets - with a bit of research you can find a mid weight turn out for under $50.  If you are like me, you only blanket at rides so chances are the horse is not going to shred and destroy.  Both my turnouts are Saxon brand, bought on sale for under $50 and they ARE waterproof. 
  • Schooling bridles.  I have a couple of brown, cheap schooling bridles that were either free or I got in trades.  I keep a close eye on the leather and the stitching, but so far have had ZERO problems with them. 
  • Saddle pads - this is in both categories.  Either buy cheap or buy expensive, but don't mess around with the mid-priced pads.  I have a whole bunch of really cheap pads that I use for schooling and short rides.  Most of them are used dressage pads that are faded or look funky so people were selling cheap.  They are perfectly functional and I'm only invested at ~$5 a pad.
  • Helmets.  If the $25 one fits you and you are comfy, you don't need a $75 one. 
  • TIghts.  Buy used.  You are just going to destroy them on the trails.
  • Sponges.  They are all the same.  Really.  And if you buy and expensive one, the trail will rip is off your saddle without you noticing. 
  • Sunglasses.  It's not worth riding endurance in expensive ones.  First of all they are going to roll around in your saddle pack.  Then you are going to drop them when you take them out to put them on.  If they are only $10 sunglasses you will make the right decision of whether to ride on, or stop to pick them up.  Assuming you DO dismount and pick them up, expect them to become scratched by branches and brush that you can't see because of the ridiculously wide brim you have velcroed to your helmet. 
  • Leadropes.  I make my own from cotton rope and a clasp of my choice.  It has lasted longer than any store bought leadrope I've ever owned.  My preference is a cotton one made out of marine rope, but only Parelli makes them with the right rope and clasp and I refuse to pay his prices. 
  • Ice boots.  I have a pair of ice horse boots and they are "OK".  By being a bit inventive you can come up with something equally as good. 
  • Fancy water bottles.  They are just going to get lost on the trail anyways.  Better to buy cheap and have lots and lots extras in your crew bag. 
Take a deep breath and plunk down your cold, hard, cash.  There's no way around it.
  • Reins.  Just. Don't. Be. Cheap.  I'm serious.  I bought 3 pairs of feedstore reins that I was *sure* that would they broke one by one.  That's $100 in reins.  Just buy the right ones from the start.  And if no one carries them in your area - order them.  Really.  It's no more trouble to order them than to have your cheap set break in the middle of the ride.  Trust me on this. 
  • Bits.  There IS a difference between a 20 dollar bit and an 80 dollar bit.  I know they look the same hanging on the wall and the SHOULD function the same way, but they don't.  Now, Farley is the type of horse that is fussy about her bit.  It has to be PERFECT and it can't squeak in any annoying ways.  So maybe you can get away with the $15 D ring snaffle in your feed store.  Lucky you.  I have a whole pile of cheap bits that Farley refuses to be good in. 
  • Saddle pads.  In both categories.  A good pad will cost you $100 and will be worth every penny if you are doing endurance.  In my (not so humble) opinion If you can't get away with a cheap pad, then you need a $100 pad.  It is extremely doubtful you will find something in the $50 range that will work. 
  • Stirrups.  Buy good stirrups for distance rides and do not try to "substitute" parts on your nice stirrups.  I bought a pair of easy ride stirrups used and someone had tried to save $8 by replacing the top bar and bolts with something they had at home that "looked" right.  Their "fix" left me stranded in the middle of a 55 mile race with a non-functioning stirrup. 
  • Winter gloves.  Buy something suitable for riding, even if it's going to cost you $30 or more.  I have a CLOSET full of unsuitable thick gloves.
  • Standing wraps and quilts.  There is a difference - the cheaper ones are stretchier (standing wraps) and thinner (quilts).  Do not skimp on this. 
The verdict is out - I'm not sure if it matters or not....
  • Girths.  I've had mixed experiences with cheap girths (I use cord or string girths exclusively), but I'm not convinced my $50 mohair is THAT much better than my $15 nylon...however it's DEFINATELY better than my $17 "mohair" girth I just got. 
  • Saddle.  As long as it fits you and the horse, does it matter what the saddle cost?  My Arabian solstice is certainly the most comfy saddle I've ever ridden in and I LOVE it, however I liked my cheaper saddles much better than the used Specialized I bought (and then resold). 
  • Regular weight riding gloves.  My SSG all weather gloves (~$25) have lasted 3 seasons so they were obviously a good investment.  But is there something cheaper that would have done it just as well?  Maybe.
  • Biothane tack.  I've used Zilco and Hought tack.  Hought is ~2x as much as zilco.  I like my Hought tack better and after using my zilco pieces for a season or two, have gradually gone back to my Hought pieces.  There isn't anything I can put my finger on, my the "feel" of the Hought stuff is very pleasing. 
  • Leg protection boots.  I use Griffin boots and I've been very happy.  But since I haven't tried the more expensive boots, or the cheaper boots, it's hard to say.  I don't like SMB boots and adore polos for arena work, but that probably has more to do with my background than which one is a better value. 
  • Electrolytes.  I use the cheap ones from the feedstore, and you can also make them cheaply.  Are the expensive ones that much better?  Not sure. 
Alright my dear BB's.  It's your turn.

Revelation #??

Revelation:  Different horse sports are useful as metaphors for different aspects of life.  I realized yesterday that for me, Dressage represents religion and is useful for me to understand and accept the various aspects of religion.
I feel this needs additional explanation!  I have a feeling this is going to be one of those posts where a reader will comment in one succinct sentence, something that took me an entire post to explain!  Warning - this will be a religion focused post. 
In my dressage lessons, it's mostly me exerting great effort trying to keep it together, with brief moments of absolutely BRILLANT performances on Farley's part.  Two weeks ago, riding at a trot on the 20 meter circle I had a "moment" where we were working together is perfect harmony - it wasn't a flash of brilliance, but rather a communicating and riding and modifying every stride.  It was so quiet and it was so beautiful - I finally realized what riding "every stride" actually meant.  There was true peace in the moment as me and Farley listened to each other on a level I've never experienced before.
In dressage, there is not a moment where you can say "ha!  I've got it by George!" and throw it all away.  There's constant adjustment from horse and rider as they as a team re commitment and communicate every stride
But at the same time, eventually some aspects, with time, become second nature and I don't have to concentrate on them.  For example, riding a round circle with the proper amount of flexion used to take my ENTIRE concentration.  Now I can make those little corrections automatically and focus on something else - like supporting the circle with my outside rein! (which at this point makes my bain hurt). 
I get frustrated with God and my religion sometimes because I feel like there should be a AHA! moment and I should be able to relax and move to the next thing.  In reality, it's like dressage - a constant re commitment to the purpose and eventually some stuff becomes second nature and I don't have to concentrate so hard on them.  Just like dressage, it's important to have a good grasp of the basics and fundamentals before trying to understand some of the more complicated theology.  Just like dressage, the relationship between me and God should look something like Farley and I on the 20 meter circle where we are so connected there are small little adjustments and communication every step of the way. 
Endurance is also useful as a metaphor for life, but I think it's doesn't resonate so strongly because it plays to my strengths - be prepared, over come your fears etc etc.  Dressage runs contrary to my nature - I''m NOT a details person and I tend to grow impatient with an activity that is process oriented rather than goal oriented. So although I get very EXCITED about endurance, it doesn't cause me to think the way dressage does. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Could it be??????

It's Spring!!!!!  It's spring it's spring it's SPRING.
*ducking to avoid the snowballs hurled at me by more unfortunatly located BB's (BlogBuddies)*
Now, I KNOW next year when I start moping about the awfulness of winter, I'm going to zero sympathy, but I just can't help myself.  What a wonderful day! 
Driving to my stable, past the multitude of orchards.....I saw.....white buds!  The trees are starting to bud out! 
Just maybe there would finally be enough daylight after work to do what I've been waiting all these long, dark, rainy months to do (I mean "month" as singular of course) - go for a run with my precious little pony. 
There was!  I got the loveliest 3 mile run with Farley, our first of the year, right before sunset.  She was a bit....animated, but I obviously LOVED getting out with me on the trail, trudging along beside her.  She seemed a little confused about how slow I've gotten, but it will only get better from here. 
Afterwards we split our apple, as is our ritual. 
Just last night I was laying on my livingroom floor, lamenting to my boyfriend over the phone that I was so unmotivated.  That I seemed to have lost the ability to feel insanely happy about a new day, because a new day means fresh starts and new beginnings.  Instead, all days were blurring into each other as pointless, with no hope for a better tomorrow.  This is so unlike me!  I never lose hope that tomorrow will be absolutely fabulous!  I was really worried about my more!  Spring has come and I am down right hysterical with relief. 


The How, What, Why, When, Where of Sponging.
What:  Sponging or scooping water onto the horse.  I prefer sponging to scooping.  I fell like I can get more water on the horse and really scrub to get the grime and sweat off.  It also encourages me to be very hands on the horse, which increases the likely hood of finding an ouchy spot or an area that doesn't seem quite right. 
Why:  To cool the horse's core temperature (and thus aiding cardio and respiratory recovery), to get caked grime and salt off the horse's coat. 
Where:  I sponge where a horse is typically trace clipped, including head, neck and shoulders.  In general, this means from the point of the stifle down, the girth area, the entire shoulder and quadriceps muscle, the legs, inside of the thighs, the neck, and the head.  I avoid the large rump muscles and the back.  Even when a horse cools down a bit, I'm still nervous about sponging those areas, especially if only cold water is available.  No matter how cool the horse is, pouring water on those areas always makes Farley tighten her back and rump as if sponging there makes her uncomfortable.  She seems to prefer to be rubbed down on her back and saddle area, and a good currying on her rump. 
How:  When a very wet sponge, squeeze and press the sponge into the horses coat, sliding down with the movement of the coat.  Use copious amounts of water.  I usually start at the shoulder and neck and move my way to the back of the horse.  Slick the water out of the coat as you go.  Once she is cooled down, then I start using the sponge and my fingers in a circular motion to get sweat and grime off.  Monitor the horse closely - even in very warm weather you may need to use a cooler or a rump rug to keep the horse or rump warm - I think it's the same phenomenon as running a marathon:  no matter how hot the weather, once you stop running at the finish you get chilled very easily. 
When:  In general, I sponge at vet checks and water stops that have specified sponging water.  It is RUDE to sponge out of a drinking trough.  Please don't do it!  Yes, some horses may prefer the salty water, but not all of them!  It's also a concern if the ride manager has spent a lot of time, money, and effort hauling water to a remote location.  Just because there may be plenty of water right now....doesn't mean there will be when the last turtles ride through, especially if the water spot is at a junction that you will ride past several times.  I don't usually stop at water crossings to sponge.  I will if Farley seems to want to take a break, but most of the time she wants to drink and then get on with business.  As she doesn't have a problem with over heating, I just monitor and only stop and sponge on the trail if I think it's necessary for the weather conditions.  I don't have an exact "cut-off" temp for sponging or not sponging because it depends on wind and humidity.  If it's cool, I will do a bit of judicious sponging on her legs and where grime has built up and monitor her closely for chill.  I always carry a rump rug or cooler in my crewbag to help. 
Wow - I didn't know I had so much to say on the subject of sponging! 

Essential Equipment - Part 2

All of you had really great comments for part 1 of this series and Nicole had great questions I will get to in very near-future post!   
A slight diversion....if you have time today, please check out this post here.  It has some great thoughts on blogging, obscurity, and fame, and how that affects the posts we write.  It also coins a phrase that I absolutely adore:  "BlogBuds".  So y'all are officially my BB's!  
On to regularly scheduled programming....
My level numbering system has nothing to do with the riding skill the endurance rider has, or the number of miles or years that a rider has been riding endurance.  Instead, I'm using the numbers as a guide to help a person decide how committed (in terms of gear and that $$ that gear costs) they need to be in the beginning and as they progress.  It's entirely possible to stay a level 1 rider, doing a few rides a year for the sure enjoyment of getting out on a new trail, for your entire endurance career!  However, most of us, once deciding endurance is our siren call, move on up to a level 2 rider....
A level 2 rider (in my humble opinion) is a person who has transitioned from riding some endurance rides, to an endurance rider.  They are starting to obsess over their horses comfort and their own comfort.  It's not enough to finish, they want to finish well.  By well I am not referring to speed - I'm referring to the ability to jump off your horse at the end of a ride bushytailed and bright eyed, sighing in enjoyment, "wasn't that fun", while your horse prances along ready for another lap, and the level 1 riders stare in amazement. 
Level 2
  • Crew bag - it's time to upgrade to a "real" crewbag.  Chances are you have thoroughly investigated your cheap "alternative" crew bag options and no one thing fulfills everything you need in a crew bag.  A "real" crewbag is pricey, but so is anything that is going to do the job as well.  So you have a choice - spend the money on a crew bag, or spend the money on your Ideal alternative solution - but you are mostly likely going to spend the money.  And let me tell you - it will be worth every penny to have a crew bag that works perfectly for your needs - no more wasting time at a vet check because you are disorganized, cursing zippers and the fact that your hay has permeated your clothes and food. 


  • Select pieces of biothane equipment - Now is the time to take a careful look at your tack.  On your first few rides you may have discovered that some of your tack has started to rub or chafe during the miles, or has started to fall apart.  My recommendation is to replace tack as you need to with biothane or other synthetic.  My earliest biothane investment was a breast collar, just because of the amount of sweat and dirt that occurs in that area.  No need to go out and replace everything with fancy coordinated biothane sets unless you have some $$ you want to spend, but select pieces will make your life a lot easier.


  • Fancy saddle pad/Saddle evaluation - is your saddle and pad combination still working?  A good pad can make your life easier, although you can be successful with a simple "low-tech" pad for the rest of your endurance career.  There are many good pad considerations if you do decide to upgrade - all of them with their advantages and disadvantages.  My advice is to try to buy used so you can see "kinda" how they will work, before deciding to spend the money on new.  My haf pad was mostly worn out when I bought it, but I got to use it enough to decide I loved it and bought new.  I bought my woolback used and didn't like how thick it was (didn't have a close contact "feel"), so although I've used it for many many conditioning rides, I haven't bought a new one to use during rides (the used one has some hard spots).  I bought my skito pad, and although I like it OK, if I had bought used, I would have realized that I needed to continue to look at other options, as I'm not in love with it.  (Saddle pad reviews can be found in other posts on this blog.  Search this blog using the word "saddle pad review", or by typing in the name of specific pad and it should come up). 


  • Cart for hauling gear and water in camp - I resisted this one for a long time.  Three things changed my mind:  1.  I became conscious of how important it is for me to save me back.  The longer my back stays in good shape, the longer I can ride.  2.  I used someones cart to haul my crew bag from the vet check and back.  WOW.  3.  My tevis crew threatened to mutiny in 2010 unless I bought them a fancy cart to move all my crap to and from vehicles.  I have 3 suggestions for a cart.  The most expensive option is to buy a folding aluminum marine cart.  The other 2 options are:  A folding game cart (used for hauling dead game out of the back country - less than $80 - ideal for hauling feed or lazy crew members), or a folding gardening cart ($90 - better for tack and hauling water). 


  • Pen or hitie - You have probably figured out the impossibility of tying your horse the trailer in a manner they can safely lay down.  Now you have to decide whether a pen or a hitie is right for you.  Disadvantages and advantages to both!  Do you research and talk to a LOT of people.  Most will have a strong opinion one way or the other (I prefer hities - specifically the "spring tie" brand). 


  • "Real" saddle bags - You have probably been using non-endurance saddle bags.  By now you should have enough experience to know whether you want to carry food etc on your back, or if you prefer to use a backback.  I found out I HATED  using a camelbak because no matter what I did, my back got wet and cold.  I prefer to put everything in a rear saddle pack during rides, and a front saddle pack during conditioning rides.  I *should* carry a fanny pack, but I don't.  Endurance specific bags don't bounce, and unless you are handy with a heavy duty machine or have a friend who is, I suggest investing in endurance saddle bags.


  • Rump rug - Depending on where you live, this can be a necessity - or not - for rides.  It also depends on how much of a weather wimp you are!  If you didn't invest or make one at level 1, this is the time to get one.


  • Inclement weather gear for rider - at level one you may have stayed home during inclement weather, but as your zeal increases, so does the chance of riding a ride in less than ideal weather.  Do yourself a favor and pick up some quality wet weather gear for yourself.  Watch the sales closely and you should be able to get something that doesn't break the bank.  Once I have thoroughly tested my gear I will post separately on rider rain gear, but my suggestion for now is a quality goretex jacket and waterproof, insulated winter boots - I'm in love with my ariat winter boots.


  • Heart rate monitor - You may try and decide it's not for you, or you may swear never to ride without one.  Either way, it's useful to try it out and experiment with it.  It doesn't have to be fancy.  I used a human one I got on sale for $50 and it worked well!  I used it for ~a year and then lost it and decided not to replace it.  It did give me useful information I could use to hone my observational skills. 


  • Icepacks and wraps - if you haven't done so - learn out to properly wrap legs or make a friend with someone that knows how.  There's lots of expensive and inexpensive ways to ice a horse's leg down.  Experiment. 


  • Start looking and investigating diet - as an obsessive level 2 person, start to obsess about diet.  You've learned the basics about endurance so you can safely get into nutrition without it overwhelming you.  You don't necessarily have to follow anyone else's program.  My rule of thumb is that I should be able to fully explain WHY I'm feeding any given forage or grain - and that reason needs to make sense for an endurance horse.  Additionally I read everything I can get my hands on and I'm constantly evaluating it against my current knowledge and feeding program.  If changes need to be made, be able to explain WHY, do it gradually, document when you did it, and then reevaluate in an appropriate amount of time.


  • Start looking at different shoeing and boot options - Similar to nutrition, now that you aren't so overwhelmed by all the details of endurance riding, this is an area where it makes sense to start to experiment if you aren't totally happy with how your horses feet and legs look after races.  Even if shoes have worked for you, it's worth dabbling with boots and barefoot to see if it will work for you.  I'm going barefoot for my horse's benefit AND mine.  I've found that going barefoot allows me to meet more people and have conversions!  It's the easiest thing in the world to strike up a conversation on the trail with another person using boots because you have something to talk about!!!!!


  • Evaluate human fitness program - By now you should have realized that endurance is easier if the rider is in shape.  Do something about it. 


  • Fleece cover - Even if you don't use one regularly, it's worth picking up one used and throwing it in your kit.  It was a life saver for me at the 4th day of Death Valley one year.  I don't usually ride with one, but by day 4 my Achilles hurt so bad I thought it was going to rupture.  By riding with the cover on the 4th and final day, it changed the angle of my leg just enough that I got through that final day in a bearable amount of pain.  (on another subject, I am NOT suggesting you follow my example, but that you seek appropriate and timely medical attention!  Of course!  Ha!.....)


  • Coolers and additional blankets - Multiple coolers are very useful for cooling a horse out in humid and cool weather.  The option of several different weights of blankets is useful, as is at least one extra waterproof blanket, in case it POURS for the entire ride and your waterproof gets damp underneath.

I don't have much to say about level 3, which is why it's stuck here at the bottom of the level 2 post.  I consider 100 mile, 5 day multiday riders, and riders who are consistently riding to win or top 10 as "level 3's".  They have it figured out (mostly), and have started to add elements that require fine tuning and precision.  I'm a level 2, transitioning to a level 3 and this is what I've figured out so far....

Level 3
  • Endurance headstall - in most cases I consider this a real luxury.  If you have schooling bridles that are working for endurance rides, there is really no logical reason to go and spend money on this, except......that they are pretty, come in a zillion different colors, and help minimize the amount of "stuff" on a horse's face.  This is one expense I can't justify as anything beyond the pure joy of giving my horse a gift. 
  • Glow bars etc. - If you have a 100 miler in your sights, start trying out different night light options for the trail and see what works best for you - nothing (with a backup), snap glowbars, battery glowbars etc.  There's a lot of options and a lot of colors.  Find out what works BEFORE you wander off into the great darkness on your first 100. 
  • Speed - If you are riding for the win or top 10, this is when to start incorporating speed - after you have some experience and are consistently finishing rides and finishing well.  There are some exceptions, but MOST riders have no business doing speed rides at level 1 and possibly into level 2.
  • Riding lessons - Even if your horse looks great and you feel great at the end of the ride.  Even if you look good in your ride pictures.  Even if there's no obvious problems with your's still worth taking some lessons.  I GAURENTEE you will learn something and become a better rider.  Your horse will be a better horse and if something happens that ends it's career as an endurance horse, it will have another skill to fall back on. 
Well my fellow BB's!  That's all I have.  So what did I forget?  What I am WAY off base with and just plain wrong about?  What can you not live without that I forgot to mention?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Essential Equipment - Level 1

When I start a new sport I usually have lists and lists and MORE lists of equipment I need.  I'm convinced that's part of the fun for an OCD person starting a new sport - lists. 
There are lots of lists for riders starting endurance, but they are usually so detailed the poor person throws up their hands and gives up, or the list is not clearly prioritized with what equipment is needed NOW, and what equipment you don't need to worry about until you are doing 100's. 
This is not a comprehensive list - for example I don't cover personal items such as first aid kits, camp gear, or what exactly to carry on the trail.  Instad, I'm trying to give a rider an idea of what it takes to get into the sport (level 1) and then what items you will probably want to invest in as you go further into the sport (levels 2 and 3). 
Level 1 equipment is what I consider basic equipment that is needed before starting your first endurance race.  You may be able to condition without many of these items, but (and this is an important fact to remember) an endurance ride is different from a conditioning ride.  It just is.  Everyone I have talked to admits dealing with the same feelings during their first race - that it was different from what they thought it would be.  It can be different in a good way, or different in a way that makes the rider evaluate their suitability for the sport.  By having the right equipment during your first ride, you can maximize your chances of an enjoyable experience!
(BTW - I'm sure that many of you are going to disagree with some of my opinions and that's GREAT.  Please post in the comments. ) 
Level 1
  • Saddle that fits - this is applicable to ALL levels.  Plan on dealing with this one your entire endurance career!  Although I do not advocate riding in a saddle that doesn't fit, it is possible to be successful in the beginning at the LD level, or even a 50 miler if you are light, a good rider, and the saddle fits "well enough".  So at this level, it is probably not necessary to go out and purchase a 5K saddle for your first ride, as long as your current saddle fits "well enough". 


  • Appropriate footwear for horse - For your first race, I would recommend sticking with whatever has worked in your riding for the last couple of years.  Now is NOT the time to experiment with boots if you have been using shoes.  If you have been riding barefoot without shoes OR boots it can be a hard decision.  Most west region rides require hoof protection and the ride managers are usually warranted in requiring it.  In my opinion, it would be better to nail a pair of shoes on for your first ride if you don't have prior boot experience. 


  • Basic saddle pad - Nothing fancy the saddle, when you are starting out, assuming a saddle that fits well enough, an appropriate sized rider, and decent riding skills, you shouldn't need a fancy pad to start in your first LD or 50 miler. 


  • Basic tack appropriate to horse - bridle, bit/hackamore, breastcollar/crupper.  Use what you have as long as it fits well and you aren't having any rubbing or chafing issues. 


  • Waterproof horse blanket - Most rides I do are in the mountains, and it can get very chilly at night, even in the middle of summer.  If you don't have a blanket, you can get away with a large wool blanket (army style, can also be used as a saddle blanket) draped like a cooler, with a surcingle around the middle (this is what I did for my first ride).  A mid weight waterproof turnout can be bought for ~$50 if you look around.  Because the horse will be standing at a trailer, there is no need to get a fancy super duper resilient one - just get one that will be appropriate for the temperature and will keep the rain off for a night if it rains.  Even if your horse is not normally blanketed and has a hair, it can still be necessary to blanket during the cool nights because if they get cold, they can't move around to warm themselves.


  • Good reins - Although I generally recommend using the tack you have, take a close look at your reins.  I've had 2 pairs of (brand new) reins either break or disintegrate in the rain during an endurance ride my first year.  This is one area that I would recommend investing in new tack right away.  Choose a synthetic that you like (there are many options - weight, feel, style) with clips on the end (my preference).


  • Riding tights or other appropriate ride wear - If you do insist on doing your first ride in jeans, do yourself a favor and wear nylons, silks or something between the jeans and your skin. 


  • Gloves - Useful for pushing branches/brush out of your face while trotting. Especially necessary where there is poison oak - better to get it on your gloves and wash/discard them then to get it on your bare skin.  Gloves also prevent you from getting blisters from your nice new synthetic reins.  Yes, we would all like to think our horses are well behaved enough that we wouldn't pull on each other enough to even worry about blisters.  But trust me on this - for at least your first 1-3 rides - better be able to pull and control speed at the moment, then to let your horse run a-muck, promising everyone you slam into that your horse will be trained better by the next ride!


  • Small feedpan - Small enough to mix up a bit of beetpulp or whatever your horse likes at a vet check. 


  • Electrolytes and a way to administer - You may decide you don't want to electrolyte, and you might assume you don't need them for the easy LD or 50 mile race you have planned.  You may be right.  However, things happen since they are small and don't take up space - it is better to have and not need, than to wish you had them.  Even if you don't use them, you might become a hero to a fellow-endurance rider who has lost theirs on the trail.


  • Gallon bags of feed - each type of feed into a gallon sized bag for vet checks.  Even if you normally mix the feed together at home, horses seem to get pickier at rides and may only want one feed at checks.  A gallon sized bag seems to hold the appropriate amount of feed - the horse eats as much as they want, but you aren't stuck hauling 10 pounds of feed in your crew bag.


  • Spare parts - I suggest an extra stirrup, stirrup leather, reins, and girth. 


  • Makeshift crew bag - no need to go out and buy a fancy one at this stage of the game.  I'm sure there are plenty of duffel bags laying around that you could use!


  • Headlamp - you won't need it during the ride, but they come in handy when tacking in the morning, making restroom visits in the middle of the night etc.  After using a headlamp around my horse, I won't go back to using a flashlight.  The headlamps are that much better.  If you don't want to make a huge investment, go to Walmart and pick one up - they even have one that includes a red bulb in it for less than $15.


  • Buckets and hay feeder for camp - bring enough containers that you can give your horse a home away from home - hay feeder, water bucket, beet pulp bucket, salt bucket etc.  You will probably want an extra bucket to use for sponging too.


  • A way to carry water and snacks - Carry water on the trail!  Even if later on in your endurance career you make the decision that you don't need to - find a way for your first ride.  Camelbaks can work if you don't have anything else.  You might be able to rig a way to carry a water bottle on your saddle without it bouncing. 


  • Sponge or scoop - I prefer a sponge.  Tie a string around the middle, attach a carabiner and hang off your saddle. 


  • Evaluate your riding foot wear and stirrup capability - I have 3-4 different stirrup-boot combinations that I will use depending on the ride, how much I plan on getting off and running, if I'm having problems with my feet etc.  I believe strongly that unless you are riding with a booted shoe, you should have a covered stirrup.


  • Stethoscope - I consider this optional. I don't use one, I've always been able to feel the heart beat better than listening for it.  This isn't something I would carry on the trail, but if I used one I'd put it in the crew bag.


  • Bands for braiding - If you horses mane is long or thick, it does make a difference.  It's also helpful with keeping the mane out of your fingers when you are trying to use the reins.  I usually find a 12 year old to braid for me, or braid early the day before.  It's not my favorite task.  Working braids stay in the best, but I have done a french braid before for a one day 50 and it stayed in (Farley has a long mane).


  • Endurance appropriate leg protection for horses that need it - if you are going to use leg protection on a horse (preferably only if your horse needs it, make sure it is appropriate for endurance - won't soak up water, won't attract stickers and burrs, cool as possible, doesn't rub and chafe, is easily removable (you will probably have to remove at each vet check), easily cleanable.
Next up:  Level 2 - you have some rides under your belt and you have decided that this is the sport for you!  What's next?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Dental care

Today I had Farley's teeth floated.
I mentioned to Dr. S that it's hard to get her body score to stay where I want it - 5.5, but it could be the work load since I had her teeth floated a year ago.....Last year when I had them floated, Dr. R told me that although she might not need to be floated in a year, I should still sedate her to check since they had really needed to be done and she wasn't comfortable correcting all that was wrong with Farley's mouth at once. 
Dr. S sedated her and popped open her mouth.  Wow!  They REALLY needed to be done....after only one year.  There was even some small ulcers forming in the back of her cheeks.
Now before anyone blasts the job that Dr. R did as totally inferior, let me say this: she let me feel before and after and she DID take off the points and there was a HUGE difference in the before and after.  Dr. R said there was a significant wave that she corrected - mostly.....which is one reason she recommended a very good recheck in 12 months.  Her front incisor bite was also.....interesting. 
I have no idea what dental care Farley had before I got her, but I get the feeling it wasn't a lot. 
I've been reading a lot lately (sorry - no references....bad Melinda!) that yearly teeth checks may not be enough for some horses.
While Dr. S was working on her today, he mentioned that he didn't think her jaw was totally symmetrical and younger horses' (Farley is 11) teeth are softer than older horses, which may contribute to the formation of points. 
My poor little horsey! 
Dr. S said that a recheck in 12 months should be sufficient, but I should plan on her needing a float. 
If, in 12 months, she has ulcers again, her next recheck will be in 6 months, rather than 12 (this is me talking, not the vet).  Ulcers (in my opinion) means that I've waiting too long to float the teeth. 
Apparently her mouth looked better this time, compared to last time, but this is little consolation if Farley was in pain when we rode for the last couple of months.  :(
Here's my lesson learned:  Unless a dental exam or float was performed less than 6 months ago, do not rule out dental pain if encountering resistance or reluctance to pick up contact. 
On a side note, my vet convinced me to give Platinum Performance another try.  I've decided to use it only in the 4 weeks before a 100 mile race and in the 2 weeks after.  When I used it before, I did not see any change, so after a year I discontinued using it.  However, my vet really believes in it, so, in the 2-3 times/year I do a 100 mile race, I'll give it another try.
AND - because I KNOW that someone is going to ask in the comments - my vet uses a combination of power and manual tools to do the floats.

Rainy Day Lessons

Last weekend I took a 3 day and learned how to camp and ride in the rain without ending up a pitiful cold, drowning rat-like animal.
How to Camp in the rain:
I've used my one person backpacking tent exactly twice - once at Tevis (I forgot the stakes, used screw drivers instead.  Cursed it everytime I had to crawl into it on my hands and knees and had a sharp sticker get me) and once on a backpacking trip (was very tired, kept knocking it down every time I tried to stumble in it) and discovered that it is actually a very nice tent to use when you aren't tired and grouchy.  I set it up in my horse trailer, threw a thermarest, a sleeping bag, and down comforter inside and slept as snug as a bug for 3 nights, even though it POURED.  I had all my fixings to make coffee within easy reach of my tent for the cold mornings, a light to read by at night, and a propane heater in the corner in case I got chilly.  Everything stayed dry and I stayed happy. 
Proper clothing makes a difference - Part 1
On Friday my aunt and I rode.  It was RAINING.  I was amazed at how much a "non issue" the rain was with my Gortex jacket.  If I'm not wet and cold, the rain isn't that bad!  My Serius gloves worked ok....since the seams are not sealed, they are water resistant only.  My hands got damp, but they weren't cold - although they weren't toasty warm either.  What I'm lacking is a pair of waterproof pants....which I need.  I can stay warm for a while in wet tights, but after 2 hours I start to get cold and stiff.  I tested out this theory again on Saturday, when I the rain and snow....Again, I was fine until my pants got soaked and I got cold.  (which nessitated me stripping out of them as soon as I got back to the vehicle, which prompted certain relatives who were accompanying me to do the same thing, which would have caused certain questions by any nice officers if we had gotten pulled over....but as we are not talking about it, I leave it to your imaginations). 
Proper clothing makes a difference - Part 2 of clothing
For riding I used my Ariat winter boots, which were FABULOUS.  I wasn't quite that lucky when I went hiking.  I thought my ariat terrains went into the truck.  It turns out I was wrong.  I was left with the option of hiking in my knock-off Uggs OR my almost-worn-out-no-tread-left Muck boots.  I chose the Uggs.  As they have ZERO support, I'm counting the hike as my barefoot run of the week.  They were suprisingly comfy, and gripped the trail nicely.  Too bad they aren't waterproof.  And one is a size 8 and one is a size 9.  And for a $5 thrift store finds I think that this trip was the "end of the trail" for them.....
The Blanket Dance
The pen I was keeping Farley in didn't have a shelter, but fortunately I have a wide selection of (second-hand) blankets to make her comfy....and thus started the blanket dance.  Sheet on, mid weight on, everything off, cooler and sheet back on...and back off.  Do her ears feel cold?  Mid weight back on.....and off.  You get the idea.  I don't blanket on a regular basis so it was nice to be able to discover exactly what Farley needs in inclement weather. 
The Ride
 We got to ride exactly once on Friday.  It was muddy!  I haven't ridden Farley in a lot of mud, so I wanted to see how she handled herself.  It was a technical ride with lots of creek crossing, banks with soft footing, TONS of cows, and mud-mud-MUD.  It went well.  It was only a 5 mile ride but it took us 2 hours to complete it.  At one point she was floundering in soft footing going up a bank and I was sure she was going down.  Rather than planning her line of attack on the hill, she had been distracted by half-grown calves on the the other side of the fence.  She's incredible athletic, and by the grace of God leaped her way out with such grace my aunt decided to follow me (even as I turned around to say "I don't think that was a good place to go....").  Her ride up the bank was a wee bit more exciting than mine and included an emergency dismount and me yelling a very naughty word, coupled with "DISMOUNT". 
I'm a little nervous about my lack of long rides since the beginning of January, but it is what it is.  I'm going to try and do a 10-15 mile ride next Monday (a holiday) which should be enough to maintain fitness without risking our 100 mile ride on the 27th.  I have a tendancy to override and over prepare for a race - which will DEFINATLY NOT be the case for 20 Mule team.   Should be interesting......
So overall a very nice weekend for learning how to deal with the rain and still have fun.  I have a feeling that most of my spring rides will be rainy, so I just need to come prepared.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Having it her way

I own a three horse slant trailer. I try to keep in mind that the horse is, as a result, not square. Although I have no proof to back it up, I believe that asking a horse to travel long distances with one diagnol taking the brunt of acclerations And deacclereations is not necessarily the best thing. Ideally I want the horse to have the freedom to change position for comfort and muscle fatigue relief, be able to use the trailer and dividers for support when needed, AND provide a safe trailer for me to pull by not making the trailer shift too much when she moves.

It's a lot to ask.

I think I have found the method that works for me.

Farley has finally gotten to the point where she's absolutely solid in the trailer. I don't have to worry about her pulling back or trying to escape from the trailer. As a result, I feel comfortable getting in with her in the middle of a trip to "rearrange" her.

On the portions of the trip that are mostly flat, smooth, straight highway I'm letting her ride in the trailer with no divider. (she rides in the second stall to maximize my weight distribution, so I'm describing the divider that seperates the second and the last stalls). Then, when it's time to drive in he moutains or in town, I'll swing the divider back over so she has something to lean on.

I am taking a risk but I think it is a small one compared to the benefit over a long trip. Obviously, if there isn't a good place for me to pull over and adjust the divider I won't.

Farley seems to like to ride straight but also seems to like the dividers in the mountains (moves around less) so this seems like a good compromise.

I could buy a new trailer, but that's the difference between fantasy and reality!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPod

Lights, camera, action!

Tip time from Melinda!

How to tell when your DOT lights need replacing:

Upon noticing that a previously working dot light does not work, hit light firmly with palm of hand. When the plastic lens shatters underneath your palm, you can be assured that although the light now works, it is still time to replace it.

At this point all my DOT lights are either dead or working intermettintly EXCEPT the two or three I replaced 2 years ago. Time to go through and replace the rest, even if the *happen* to be working at that moment.

The trailer is ten years old and those cheap little dot lights do have a shelf life.

In a stroke of irony I tend to lose the lens covers on the lights that DO work, while the ones summcoming to corrosion stubbornly retain theirs...tommorrow I'll rearrange covers as to have the maximum number of lights possible. Fortunately my yearly trailer maintenance appointment is next week!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPod

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A thought, a Rev, and a ?


Here's the easiest way to find out if your horse needs those extra groceries.  Feed her the "extras" diligently every day.  For months.  Then, accidentally run out of beet pulp for a week.  Then get the beetpulp and realize you don't have a knife to cut open the bag.  Since the prospect of tearing into the [censored] nylon strand bag with your bare hands or the truck keys doesn't appeal, instead decide it can wait a couple of days until you DO remember to bring the knife.  Now give your wonderful girl a good night massage. Realize that you can almost see rib and there's definitely less fat cover.  Say "[censored]" and "[deleted]" because you spent the all of 2009 fattening her up to a BC of 5.5 and you are back down to a 5, and almost in 4.5 territory. 


Her teeth get looked at Monday (shouldn't need to be done, but I don't want to take chances with this hard working girl). 


Obviously, even though she's not working as hard as usual right now, winter nights require fuel! 


Revelation # ?(who knows or cares!)

I blame my inability to refer to Farley's "feet" as "hooves" on the word "Barefoot".  How can I possibly be expected to refer to my barefoot horse's hooves?


The Question

Long billets or short billets?  I will ride in a saddle with one or the other, convince my self that whatever my current set up is the best and I couldn't possibly be happy with the other setup….until my saddle situation changes again and fall in love with the other one.  I'll probably need to send my saddle in for reflocking this year and might change the billets… let's hear it!  What is your preference and why?
and lastly.....
As usual my desire for conciseness is overrun by my desire to respond to comments.
Heather - With my fear of dogs I feel the same way that people are judging me - it wasn't until I got older that I was comfortable enough to say "who the heck cares if they know I'm scared!" and would ask the owner to do whatever was necessary to make me feel comfortable - whether it is asking a hiker to please recall their dog NOW, or quizzing someone on the phone about their dog situation.  So yeah....I know what you mean about the 2 trains of throught.  In someways my internal fears are more manageable than the "what are other people thinking!!!!!" (also, as I write that statement it seems rather silly).
Reins are almost as personnal as bits for a horse, in my opinion.  So....I tried the biothane reins.  I bought nice hought ones to go with my hought breast collar.  This was AFTER having 2 sets of $30 reins disinigrate on 2 consecutive rides.  I was determined that was NOT going to happen again.  Unfortunately, I HATED them.  I rode a couple of conditioning rides with them, then rode one endurance ride with them.  They were heavy, they bounced as the horse moved AND (here was the deal breaker) they slipped down if I loosened my grip at all.  They would slip very fast and before I knew it my reins would be on the ground.  I had a couple of near misses with them as I scrambled to get the reins back before Minx stepped in them.  Then, at the start of the endurance race, it happened again, but unfortunately she stepped through them before I could get them back.  So, we are at the start of the race with horses milling around and Minx is spinning around and around with the reins caught around her front legs and and TRYING to get off, which is harder than it sounds when it's a 16 hand horse that's leaping and spinning in circles.  Alls well that ends well (I guess), but I sold the reins after that ride for a deeply discounted price to just get them out of my tack room. 
I've had really good luck with various thicknesses and shapes of rope reins.  Depending on which gloves I want to wear and what kind of riding (if it's going to be mostly one handed or two) I'll be doing on the trail, I have 2 or 3 different reins to chose from.  They are durable.  My only complaint is that they get stiff and icky with age, and I dislike the nylon because of the risk of rope burn, but they also launder well and I'm willing to replace them as they age. 
Those of you who DO use biothane or beta reins, what do you use?  Is it just the straight biothane, or does having that grippy stuff on them help?  Do you get used to the weight?  Is there a type that doesn't bounce as you trot?  I'd be willing to get another set to try if I thought they would work. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A splurge, or not a splurge?

At the end of last year I examined my beloved haf pad (and I say "loved" because I haven't used another pad at an endurance ride since getting it!) and found that the little magical sympanova bumps on the underside of the saddle area were flat! 
Not good news!
How good the sympanova work it's magic, cooling the horse's back if the little bumps are flat????
The answer is, it can't of course.
To confirm this bit of miserable news I called Action Rider Tack, and they confirmed that I needed a new one for anything longer than a training ride. 
I moaned and whined.
Surprisingly, it didn't change the fact my pad was worn out. 
I decided in the spirit of a new, financially prudent Melinda, (vet school is close enough now it's REAL and I need to start squirreling the money away if I have a HOPE of keeping Farley while I'm in school) that I would save up for the pad - put away a certain amount of $$ each month that was designated for tack, and at the end of ~6 months I could buy the pad.
Here's the problem:
Fact #1:  The tack budget is just the right size to accommodate those pesky little items as they come up - a new sized girth for a new sized Farley, for instance.  It is NOT a generously sized budget that will allow me to have a haf pad in a reasonable amount of time.
Fact #2:  I have a 100 coming up in exactly 25 days.  With the haf pad out of commission that leaves me with a older woolback and a skito pad.   I was ADAMENT that I was going to make it work.  But here's the issues: 
  • Woolback: I've never used the woolback for longer than an LD.  It's bulky.  It's HUGE, and there's always a lot of sweat underneath (not a huge deal for a ride in February but still...).  It's not new and fluffy - it's old and compacted.
  • Skito:  New.....but I never felt like it gave much protection.  It compresses too much.  I've used it for a multiday (2 days, 50 miles each) and a 65 miler.  It was using this pad that I first noticed the heat bumps and I've never had them as bad as when I used the skito.  Do I trust it for a 100?  I'm not sure. 
Here's the bottom line:  I know the haf pad works over a long distance (did Tevis training AND 68 miles of Tevis in it, with no problems once I sewed the trim.  Then did 2 50's at the end of the season).  I know the that heat bumps are minimized/non-existent when using this pad.  I trust this pad.  I'm invested in this 100 mile ride - besides the entry fee, this is the longest drive I will do for a ride all year (5-6 hours of driving).  A lot of time and energy. 
When I look at it objectively, the haf pad is less than my 100 mile entry fee.  And it could make the difference in my horse's comfort and probability of finishing. 
I decided it was worth it to "splurge" for the pad and ordered one from "Healthy of the Horse" this afternoon.
I'm contesting it's not a splurge - it's the cost of riding a 100 miler. 
I like wool on a saddle pad, and I know I could probably get a longer life out of a similarly priced woolback, however, I strongly feel that using the sympanova keeps her back cooler, which I'm willing to pay for, including buying pads more often - especially now that I know that keeping her back as cool as possible AND slowing cooling back is key to keeping the heat bumps to a minimum. 
Here's my question:  Make me feel better!  Please describe something that most might consider a splurge, that you contest is a necessary part of your riding!
Here's the list of items that I'm not willing to cut corners on, that I feel or integrel to my partnership with my horse - even with my vet school $$ saving lifestyle:
  • Saddle pad
  • Bit (she must be happy in it - no tossing head.  Must also have brakes throughout entire ride - which is why I have 3 or 4 bits that I like to transition throughout the ride)
  • Girth (must be a natural fiber - wool - cord girth).  Farley galls easily.