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Sunday, April 25, 2010

American River 2010

Two good things happened at this ride:

***2 people thought I was a junior (that’s a decade behind me)
***I completed

Everything else was a freakin’ disaster.

Except for the food. That went well too.

I had at LEAST 40 boot failures. One boot was totally lost, one broke. The rest kept coming off and coming off and coming off and coming off…..I didn’t ride more than 20-30 minutes the entire ride without a boot coming off. I rode the 15 of the first 17 miles barefoot on 3 hooves, after losing and replacing the fronts so often I finally attached them to my breast collar (after wearing them as bracelets for a while). I prepared my crew for me getting pulled. She was fine. I put new boots on her and replaced some toe straps. One of the new boots came off not 500 feet after leaving the vet check. And again and again and again. At the 30 mile point I put yet more new toe straps on and adjusted some cables. I had better luck, but still kept losing boots. I started paying close attention to exactly WHY they were coming off and deduced that the slick, clay like mud set up the boot for failure – after going through a muddy section, if Farley went through rocks, trotted fast, leaned into a turn, or just managed to put her foot so it wasn’t perfectly level – then the boot would slide off and hang around her pastern.

I had another type of boot failure too - when I took my spare I was carrying and unvelcroed the toe strap to put it on.....the BRAND NEW toe strap came apart where it's sewn. :( Can anyone say NOT a good boot day?????

She continued to vet in sound. At cool (mile 44) she had a 44 pulse at the vet in, which was the lowest pulse of the day.

I never got frustrated. Fortunately everything else was going well, so replacing boots was just something I did over and over and over. I would make jokes as I got into vet checks about the boots I had attached to my breast collar that they were there “because it was the best way to keep an eye on them”.

The 6 miles from Cool to Auburn was the best leg. I only lost one boot – a hind. I was being extremely careful about how I rode and it was paying off. The hind came off in the weirdest way. We were waiting on a rocky downhill for some horses in front of us to finish drinking. She got impatient and spun a couple of times on the trail. Then I look down to see a bronze renegade rolling down the hill away from us – all straps and the boot perfectly intact. Some how, a rock had torqued the boot ENTIRELY off the foot, even though the pastern strap was adjusted correctly! I still have the boot as it came off the foot. I have no idea how it came off! I was 4 miles from Auburn and was done dealing with the boot. I attached it to the saddle and figured this would be good training for tevis if we lost a shoe/boot at this point.

Off we went. She traveled completely sound, just like she had done all day with or without boots. This was the only point I let her canter during the entire ride – the short section of wide road between no hands bridge and the first set of single track. She knew we were going home and picked a beautiful lope.

We made our way up to Auburn. I kept a close eye on the clock – we were closer to the cut off than usual.

She tried to prance to Auburn, but I kept it to a walk most of the time, knowing I was so close to the finish. We had walked a LOT of the last 20 miles because I was knew I was good on time, and the first 30 miles was so tough.

We got into Auburn 1 hour before the cut off. I was exactly in the middle of the pack, with another ~20 riders behind me.

I got a bunch of comments (including the vet) of how good my horse looked.

We did our last vet check without the boots.

Now for the aftermath.

Even going barefoot though so much of this technical ride, her feet look EXCELLENT. I am very very pleased.

I am less than pleased with the boots. I am a bit mollified knowing that EVERYONE had trouble keeping ANYTHING on their horse’s feet that day. The combination of single track, mud, rocks, and hills was torquing everything – boots, shoes, pads – off of horses. I saw dozens and dozens of shoes with pads and boots littering the trail. I was told the front runner at mile 17 vet check headed straight to the farrier and the front runner at mile 44 came in with 2 gloves on the front and nothing on the backs and the backs were chewed up pretty good with chunks missing (not sure what she started the race with). The farriers had quite a good business.

So, I’m a bit skeptical that even shoes would have stayed on (Farley has never lost a shoe).

There was a couple of other factors too – Farley’s hock injections may have caused her to move differently. I used older boots for the ride since they were adjusted and I trusted them and my new ones hadn’t been adjusted or broken in. BTW it took me 8 boots (7 of which I still have in my possession and 6 of which don’t need repairs) and 12-15 toe straps to get through this ride, and I STILL ended up riding barefoot on at least one hoof a good portion of the ride.

So, considering the conditions and widespread problems, probably not entirely the boots fault. BUT with the problems I had at this ride, I am extremely uncomfortable considering them for Tevis. If I am using boots, I will be using renegade glueons.

But tevis may be a mute point because…..

I think Farley is lame.

She was fine during the ride and I kept a close eye on her legs since the trail was so tough. She went down going up Cardiac hill and had been rushing some technical parts of the trail. I was ready to pull at any time, but she kept trotting out sound and pulsing very low so onward we went.

At the finish – she was fine

At home in my parents pasture on Saturday night– she was fine. When I let her go she trotted away from me (sound) and looked good.

I checked her Sunday morning and…..filling in the RF. No filling in the LF (leg with bow). Crap. I couldn’t find any ouchy spot, so I applied surpass to the area, just in case.

Rechecked 2 hours later – filling is now equal in both legs. I am somewhat relieved as (at least before I started using boots) filling in the fronts was normal for her after rides. Still can’t find any ouchy spots on either leg. As a note – that was one of the first differences I noticed after switching from shoes to boots – her front legs stopped filling after rides.

Loaded up the trailer and drove home Sunday night. (A nightmare drive home BTW but that’s a story for another day).

Rechecked the RF before putting her in the paddock. Both fronts are still equally filled but this time I DID get a reaction to palpation on the RF, on the outside, just below the side of the knee.


I’m thinking suspensory or check ligament?

What ever it is it’s definitely sore.

Why the hell didn’t it show up during or after the ride? Why 24 hours later?

Surpass and ice until I can make a vet appointment (I’ll call tomorrow morning for something ASAP)

This ride lamed Minx and is THE hardest ride I’ve ever done, including Tevis. I thought it might have just seemed hard because it was my first ride, and I had an unprepared horse, but nope, it’s HARD. I’m starting to rethink my decision to enter difficult races. Why should Farley have to do something that hard? Yes, she enjoys it and is actually quite good at navigating single track, technical trails, but is it really worth the risk? Even if this turns out to be nothing – am I willing to chance it again for Tevis? Is the ride really worth it?

I don’t know if I will return to American River Ride. I swore I wouldn’t after the first time I did it, and I’m feeling the same way, even though I completed this time. (I DIDN’T feel this way after Tevis). I understand now why some endurance riders who have perfectly capable horses won’t necessarily enter their “special” horses in really really tough rides like Tevis or the one I just rode. The risk is just really good that something will happen, even with a well conditioned, prepared horse. There’s a variety of reasons NOT to do the American River ride and only 2 good reasons to do it (it’s GORGEOUS and good Tevis training). I wonder how many other people are like me – the horse is sound for completion, but comes up lame a day or a week later?

Was it the fall on cardiac hill?
Did it happen after one of the MULTIPLE boot failures or maybe a sum of all the boot failures?
Did it happen when she rushed one too many technical spots?
***With 9 weeks between the 100 and this ride, combined with her sound trot outs for American river, I’m going on the assumption this is unrelated to the 100 (20MT), especially as she is one to show pain if she is in pain.

I don’t know
. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious and will be only a minor set back.

I usually enter my next ride the day after I complete my last, especially for a ride like Wild West that is popular and has a capped number of riders. But, for obvious reasons I will NOT be sending in my entry yet. My dressage show in 2 weeks is in serious doubt as well. Tevis isn’t even on the table until I figure out what this is, and it goes without saying that unless this is a minor bruise that doesn’t involve tendons/ligaments – than WW and Tevis are off the table.

Sorry this got so lengthy. You might not hear from me for a couple of days until I have a chance to muddle through all of this. With PT 3x a week and having to make some major competition decisions, and facing the financial consequences of 2 major vet bills within 1 month, is going to leave me less than able to post in a comprehensive, witty and non-grouchy manner. As soon as I have any concrete information, I will let you know.

Here’s to hoping the ride that was my first endurance ride isn’t also my last.


  1. oh dang. I am totally feeling your pain, gal.

    As to all of your questions, of course I know MY answers to them, but obviously only YOU will have the correct answers for your life. Sorry, I know that's not helpful.

    Meanwhile, I'll keep you and Farley in my "good thoughts" file until you can get an update from the vet!

  2. Since you were getting on and of a bunch during the ride, have you checked her withers again, to see if she is sore? A curiosity I guess on my part.

    Sorry you had boot issues.

  3. Nope, her back is fine. I was worried about that too....

    I guess I should be grateful that the only real issues I had were boot issues. Everything else went very very well. So maybe I should stop thinking it as a diaster.....

    I'm actually suprised I didn't get frusterated. I found it funny. I would look at my watch and make a bet of how many minutes would go by until another failure would occur.....and I was making jokes all day about it.

    I just kept waiting to get to the point where I would pull, but she just kept moving so well. I checked her feet today, intending on running a rasp over them, but the chipping is so minimal, I didn't bother. I'm so proud of her.

  4. Awwww, Mel, that sucks! I'm so sorry about Farley. I wouldn't blame you for not doing ARR again. Sending good icy thoughts her way!

  5. I'll be thinking of you and Farley, and hoping this is just a minor setback that goes away quickly!
    I did go back to shoeing Dazzby because she just couldn't get the traction she needed on some of the muddy Washington trails I ride with the boots and they kept torquing around on her back feet. Very frustrating, although I would definately prefer to use them and keep her barefoot, her TB feet just didn't seem to be able to handle much total barefoot riding so it was boots all the time, or shoes.
    So many things to worry over when it comes to horses!
    Karen W.

  6. This is the HARDEST ride i have done as well. By far!!! Now that i am Zero for 3 (made it to 18 miles, 42 miles with a bit of a sore back, and 42 miles this year being OT) I don't think i will be going back to it. Yes, i am defeated.

    Sassy and i are both fine, thank god, but after all the mishaps that day we just couldnt seem to recover. We wasted away nearly 4 hours dealing with "crap"

    I may go to Washoe 50 this weekend but we will have to see.

    I tore 4(!!!!) BRAND NEW Gators and lost 1 boot (went over the side of cardiac hill, while i was running it) At Auburn i so wanted to have shoes put on her after all the frustrations i had.

    I hope Farley is okay!!

  7. OK Zach - I totally feel like a wimp - your problems were SO WORSE than mine!

    Yes it is a tough ride. I had no intention of doing it again after I did it the FIRST time, but it's just how things worked out......I don't blame you a bit, I don't think I'll be returning on purpose either - even with Farley turning out ot be fine.


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