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Monday, August 30, 2010

Final, Unexciting Update

Farley went to the vet's today and we did a recheck on her muscle enzymes.

It's been 2 weeks and.....

...the muscle enzymes are totally normal. 137 to be exact.

She looks great - the vet can't believe how much weight she has gained in just 1 1/2 weeks of being on free choice grass. If this keeps up, I'll cut her beetpulp and oil back again!

Over this week and next week I'll bring her back up to regular work - we should be good to go on the Comstock 50 and Patriot's 100!

Another exciting update is that today, after doing a round of fastrack (a physillium based product), the vet could not hear any sand in her gut. He could hear a significant amount of sand 2 weeks ago so this is very very good news. My changes in feeding management should reduce the amount of sand she picks up, which is good - I don't want to have to do fastrack again as the label shows it containing mollassas.

Shall we move on to the Melinda update?

Melinda is also doing fabulously. Although she is sick (again), going on a romantic camping trip with fabulous boyfriend (who is also sick) can't help but put Melinda in a fabulous mood. Even if her vet personal statement isn't done. A fact that should NOT be brought up in her hearing as she just. might. snap. your. head. off.

Seriously though - I've been accused lately of having too much drama in my life. I assure you it is NOT self created. We can use this weekend's trip as an example.

The plan was to take time off together and go camping with another (related through family) couple. Sounds simple right?

Let's review the weekend events.

  • Fortunately Matt and Melinda both got Friday off.
  • Unfornately, the night before leaving they found out that campground they were going to had closed for the season due to repairs on the dam.
  • Fortunately they found a campground that still had openings and made a reservation the same morning they had to leave.
  • Unfortunately, after getting completely set up at the camp and relaxing for 2 hours, some IDIOT started a wild fire 1/2 mile from the campground.
  • Fortunately only Melinda had been drinking (2 glasses of wine) and Matt was able to drive.
  • Unfortunately the other couple we were camping with had not arrived and do not own cell phones.
  • F... the other couple was very inventive and begged a phone call from a stranger and we agreed to meet somewhere and decided to check out yet another camp ground (#3 for those of you keeping count)
  • U...although there was an open spot, the campground was very proud of their camping sites and charge up the yin yang for them
  • F... it had a beautiful lake and Melinda got Matt to (uncharacteristically) go for a walk around the beautiful lake. And Melinda got to learn how to skip rocks.
  • U... Matt AND Melinda were sick with colds the entire time
  • F.... we had stocked up on multiple drugs before leaving town
  • U.... Matt would not allow Melinda to take the said drugs after having a couple of drinks, so Melinda kept Matt up all night coughing.
  • F....Melinda and other camping partners did NOT die in a wildfire, nor did they get eaten by a bear. Or even mauled by a chipmunk. Although squirrels did knock over the cheetos and knaw up a couple of hot "chocolate" packets.
Which brings us to another point about the weekend - guys cook different from gals while camping.

Would you like to know the menu for this weekend? (of course you would....):

  • Bacon
  • Pancakes fried in....bacon grease
  • Potatoes wrapped in...bacon
  • Chicken cooked in....bacon
  • cut up pototoes fried in....bacon grease
  • Hamburgers with...bacon
  • Cheetos
  • Coffee
  • Vodka/Dr. Pepper/Wine/Rum/various beer

I volunteered to make a pie next time. Maybe 2 pies. At least we can introduce an unknown food group - fruit - to the weekend. No guesses on how much weight I gained this weekend please. We'll assume that the calories were walked off on the hike and shivered off at night (it was rather chilly). I'll hop on the scale in....a month or two. If Farley is gaining weight I'm allowed to....or rather, that's the theory anyways.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Million Dollar Question

Matt, my boyfriend, understandably is a bit upset Farley tying up. He doesn't like seeing me unhappy, especially about something he can't "fix". He asked me whether it would be better to purchase a horse that was bred on both sides for endurance, and perfectly suited for endurance in order to avoid "all these problems" and retire Farley for recreational riding. I should assume that cost was no object, AND the horse was not pre-conditioned because "I don't think you wouldn't like endurance unless it was hard".

It's a really good question.

I don't think it's fair to say that Farley has had lots of problems and is unsuitable for endurance. This is the first serious issue she's had, or the second if you count the minor bow early into our relationship. Minx was definitely unsuitable and I had "lots of problems" but I also learned a lot.

I learn more with each horse and I don't repeat (at least not often) mistakes of the past. I shudder to think what I might have done to a really really nice horse early in my endurance "career". Farley is talented, but she's also very forgiving which makes her a perfect "starter" endurance horse.

Given the choice, my next endurance horse will preferably come from a well known breeder and trainer with strong endurance connections.

But that's no guarantee that "stuff" won't happen.

I guess I've accepted that some vet bills and emergencies are inevitable when it comes to horses, no matter how perfect the horse. I'll make mistakes

I think that's the bottom line for me - I believe that God gives me the right horse at the right time. Minx taught me the dangers of pushing a horse too far, how to handle disappointment and take responsibility for my actions, and the joy of just being on the trail with no other motive than just to enjoy the trail. I no longer take my completions for granted. Farley is teaching me how to trust, to be grateful, and how to have fun. She's showing me that little things DO matter because they add up to something - either something wonderful like finishing 100 miles barefoot, or something not-so-wonderful (like a tye up).

Someday I'll have another endurance horse, and it might be bred up the wazoo. Or it might not. But I do know one thing - it will benefit from the lessons learned from Minx and Farley.

Truthfully, it takes the "bad" times to appreciate the good. I'm eagerly awaiting my Tevis buckle. It means more to me now than ever.

An update

Farley continues to do very well.

  • As of yesterday she has finally stopped sulking about the lack of alfalfa in the mornings, so naturally I have now removed her other pride and joy from her diet - Stable Mix. She'll get it before and at rides, but not on a regular basis. I don't think it was a problem, but it will remove one more variable.

  • Unbeknownst to her, her remaining pride and joy, physillium (she LOVES it) finishes its course tomorrow, and that too will go away. What an unhappy pony she will be! (and hopefully a sand free one!)

  • I rode her, at a walk, per vet instructions, yesterday. It went well. I hopped on bareback and warmed up on a loose rein for 5 minutes, did long and low and encouraging stretch for 10 minutes, and then loose rein for another 5 minutes. She'll continue to do 20-30 minutes walking either bareback or hand walking until the recheck next week.

I know Farley very well. I know her body like the back of my hand. I can close my eyes and know exactly what she's thinking. I trust her to bring me safely out of the darkness on little, ridiculously narrow trails and can pick her particular nicker or whinny out of a whole ridecamp of screaming horses. In short, I know this horse as only thousands miles can let you know a horse.


As I take over her primary care, I'm learning even MORE about her, and that in itself is worth the time and $$ sacrifice for doing it.

  • She drinks 4x as much water during the day, than the night.

  • When fed grass freechoice, she will eat 25-27 pounds a day. She prefers to eat in the hours of 9pm-4am, and 9am-3pm.

  • She will pretend to look at the rinsed beetpulp with distain, but it will be gone the next time I check.

  • There will be 7 piles of poop in the morning, and even more in the evening.

I'm noticing changes already resulting from the free choice feeding - she's less frantic about getting to grass, more relaxed, and not looking for bites to eat all the time. She seems less stressed. There's added benefits for me as well. I can ride anytime I want, whether it's early in the morning, or at 4pm in the winter (I had a hard time riding in the winter because feeding time was 4:30 and by the time that was done, it was too dark to go out on the canals).

Edited - forgot to delete the second part of this post when I decided to split it!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Melinda's Bio

Would you like to see what happens when Melinda is asked to write a bio for the VP of the company? Especially when she knows, that the VP knows, (and the manager knows) there's not a snowball's chance in hell for a promotion because of The Vet School Plan in 9 months. reason to play nice right? May as well get it all out there in the open and have some fun, right?

Without further ado.....I give you: Melinda's Bio.

Requirements for bio (and yes, this was the only guidance given - what did they THINK I was going to do with this?????) - write something about yourself - eductaion, hobbies, interests, experience etc.

*clears throat*

"Melinda graduated from UC Davis in 2006 with a B.S. Degree in Avian Science. She avoided poultry like a plague in college and had only taken one food science class (food microbiology) before accepting position with (Company Name Edited, which is by definition a POULTRY and FOOD PROCESSING company). Consequently, once she accepted the position in her senior year, she begged her advisor to cram her schedule full of poultry and food science classes the last quarter, with the hope of having some knowledge of her future career before meeting her potential manager.

Melinda quickly learned that most of the coursework was useless and it was her prior job experience in vaccine development/quality control, dairy production, hatcheries, and guiding 3rd graders through the intricacies of learning the violin, that benefited her the most.

Melinda spends most of her time thinking, dreaming, and planning 100 mile competitions on her arab mare, Farley. In Melinda's "spare" time, she tries to keep up appearances that she *really does* practice her fiddle, attends various music events, and writes for several blogs and publications. Melinda is writing a novel as well - based on past progress, it may be finished some 100 years after her death."

My Manager, upon recieving this bio, said I was DIFFERENT. (the caps are his.....)

Work can be so much fun if you aren't climbing the corporate ladder.

Which reminds me - I need to, at some point not-so-distant-in-the-future need to FINISH my vet personal statement. ASAP. As in RIGHT NOW. Totally. Not. Motivated.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

what to do....what to do....

I can count on one hand the number of weekends I had to stay home without an event. What to do what to do?

I've dedicated this weekend to "things I should have done a long time ago and didn't"
  • Get Farley on a program where she gets unlimited hay - 24 hours a day (did it last night and it's fabulous. My "system" isn't working so I'm looking forward to the plastic fruit bin my friend is getting me. But for now I'm going out twice a day anyways, so no big deal.)
  • Read "Flicka" - completed last night! What a "different" book. Different in a good way. I loved how the book is mostly narrated through thoughts and was extremely atypical for horse books about the time period it covered (extremely short). The horse didn't grow up and get trained and do something spactacular, the adventure was in the relationship and family conflict. I suppose I should see the movie now?
  • Read "National Velvet" - LOVED the movie (I saw ~12 months ago). I remember trying to read the book as a 4th grader and couldn't get into it. Maybe as an adult it will be better?
  • Watch "The Young Black Stallion" - how could I reach adulthood (although that's debatable....) without watching a black stallion movie?
  • Read "King of the Wind" - completed. Review will be on the newbery blog (
  • do dishes
  • do laundry
  • vaccum
  • Re-shave the cat
  • Finish the vet school personal statement.....*sigh*

A suprisingly horsey weekend for someone with a rehabbing horse! (notice how low the housework is on the list....)

Farley Update: Muscles are totally soft, but the muscle that was very tight is still slightly enlarged as of this morning. I'm taking it as a good sign that 72 hours after the tye up event that she is very close to normal (apparence, I KNOW she's not ready for regular work!). Hopefully the recheck next week will show decreased muscle enzymes and we'll be able to put this incident behind us.

I'm never happy when something bad happens to my horse, but I am always grateful for an incident that makes me reconsider my management practices and whether they could be even better within the circumstances. I've learned a lot through this, which in the long run will make my Farley's life even better and happier. I feel like the first time something bad happens, it's a learning experience - the second time it happens it's time to self examine for a failure on my part from preventing it from occuring again. So, I haven't been spending a lot of time with regrets or kicking myself for things I could have done differently - I'm moving forward and learning. How will she does in the future will depend on how well I've learned and studied from this!

Investigation Conclusions and Plan

Based on your feedback and also what I learned while researching, these are the management changes that I will be making to prevent a future episode.

Investigation #1 - Feed/Exercise
  • Be more consistent with the beet pulp and oil/fat, even feeding it on the days off.
  • If I have to be gone for 5 days, especially after a race, I will ask (and pay if necessary) someone to monitor and give her what she needs to recover - ie electrolytes, handwalking, etc. I will not depend on her to self regulate
  • Hopefully with the hay changes (see investigation #3) I will be able to keep weight on her with nothing beyond beet pulp and oil, and will be able to save the stable mix for rides, which will eliminate one more variable in the diet.
  • If she is up for it, follow an exercise/time off program more like 20 MT where the time off is interspersed with easy days. If she gets more than 2 consecutive days off, go very easy the first day back.
  • Focus on warm up and cool down. Extend the walking warm up from 5 minutes to 10 or more.

Investigation #2 - Selenium

  • Start supplementing with Selenium (I'm using the organic - yeast - based Platinum Performance product)
  • Start feeding Vit. E (I started supplementing with 2000 units on Thursday - anyone have any opinions on whether I should do more?) Update - a little research shows that during this recovery period I should increase to ~4000 IU and then feed 2000 IU when she's in regular work. It's also important that the Vit E is fed with a little fat for better absorbtion. Any comments?
  • Pull blood samples every 6 months, or before a multi-day or 100 miler.

Investigation #3 - Hay

  • Have the boarding stables grass and alfalfa tested. Test the grass hay I'm switching to, and test the stable mix for good measure.
  • Start feeding my own grass hay free choice.
  • Retest the grass hay before a multi day or a 100 to verify sugar content, since this is an "at risk" time.
  • Supplement with alfalfa as needed (prep for rides etc.) if boarding stable's numbers come back good.
  • If only feeding grass, a ration balancer for protein and minerals, etc. may be needed.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Finally good news

Are you ready for some good news? I sure am! Excuse the iPod fumble
fingers. I wanted to update you'all tonight!

This morning when I went out to the stable I thought, for the first
time there might be softening in the muscle. When I went out tonight,
90% of the hardness and swelling was gone, leading me to believe we
have finally turned a corner.

I have never been so happy to see farley's pointy rump! (the swelling
made her look like she had a "full apple" rump, and hid the little
"hunter bump" looking thing she has).

And there's even more good news. I spoke with the barn owner and all
my fears were for naught. Once I explained how it wouldn't be any more
trouble for them and I would take responsibility, there was no problem
at all, and even an offer to let them know if they could do anything,
like turning farley out while I'm gone if that was important after a
race. Part of me wishes I has done this before, but I think I wasn't
ready to handle the responsibility for being solely responsible for
getting the hay and feeding - I wasn't motivated enough, so now is a
good time.

As I mentioned in the comments of previous posts, my vet has agreed to
work with me on the selenium supplement issue. He also is going to use
his contact with Purina and gave someone COME out and do my hay
analysis for me to make sure it's accurate, even though I don't use
purina products.

The lesson learned is honesty is the best policy. Yes, confrontation
makes me uncomfortable, but honest, open dialog is so important with
the people in Farley's life.

Wish me and farley continued healing this weekend!

Check out my blog - Boots and Saddles!

Investigation #3 - Hay

The Farley update - for the first time, I think the hard muscles on top of her rump are starting to relax and not be as swollen. WHOO HOO! Attitude remains really really good. I saw her pee last night and it was clear.

The hay is tricky.

Very tricky.

I board. The boarding stable has worked out well for me so far, and although I'm not perfectly happy, I assume that anywhere I go, I would have some issues, so I've happily dealt with the ones at this location.

There are some downsides. They feed hay. Only hay. I can't depend on them to give her any kind of regular supplements or "extras", so if I'm not there to do it, it doesn't happen.

Even though they would recognize a horse that's down or obviously not eating, I doubt that they would catch a more minor problem, like a horse that looks slightly dehydrated, or one that has minor lamintis from stress (which is my current fear with Farley), so relying on them to let me know how my horse is recovering from a stressful race while I'm out of town, is not something I'm comfortable with.

In short - I'm a picky person. No location would match how *I* want my horses managed. I understand that. So I go out of my way to only ask for changes that *really* matter to me and that I can't manage around.

For example. My horses (this was an issue back when I had Minx too) finished all their hay within an hour, and they looked skinny. I brought up the issue and asked if they could increase the hay ration, I would pay whatever I needed for the privilege etc etc. Their response was "do you know how much we are feeding them??!!!! We are giving them a LOT". I was very kind and pointed out that they other 30 horses on the premises looked fat and shiny so I was sure they fed well, but that my girls needed more hay because of their work load, and should get all they could eat. And then, when I needed to switch them to 50% grass because of a thumps issue with Minx I got told that they have fed alfalfa for 20 years with no issues.....but I was firm had my vet's backing.

It's gotten better. Farley has hay for 3-4 hours after a feeding. I still don't feel like it's sufficient. I throw her more when I can get away with it. I feel like I wouldn't have to feed so much beet pulp, oil etc if she had free choice. I feel like I wouldn't have the problem with sand in her gut if she was free choice. I feel like she would actually be a good weight on free choice, or at least fed ~3% of her BW (which is NOT happening right now).

But here's the problem - boarders are actively discouraged from bringing in their own hay. It's more "trouble". I understand - truly I do. Which is why I have a plan.

A plan that will bring any inconvience on ME, not them.

Would you like to hear my plan?

Here is my plan
  • Buy my own hay and feed free choice. Probably orchard grass hay. Have it tested for NSC.
  • Test the alfalfa at the boarding stable. If it tests low, then feed as needed. The boarding stable gets their alfalfa in huge loads so it should be consistent for months at a time. Repeat testing as needed to verify (probably 3-4x a year).
  • Test the grass hay at the boarding stable. I'll be testing just to see if it was especially high in NSC and therefore the culprit. I won't feed it because they constantly get it from different sources, different kinds of grass etc. and it's in very small batches which means it changes often.
  • Since I will be buying in small quantities, I will not be able to feed hay that has always been tested. BUT - it will be from the same grower, same fields etc. I will retest the hay anytime I feel like there is a siginficant risk - for example before a 100 mile ride so I can make sure that she is eating hay low in NSC in the recovery period.
  • Keep the hay in my trailer. it's a 3 horse and I have 1 horse. I should be able to make it work.
  • I will feed enough hay that she will have hay for 3-5 days and I have a system in mind to keep the hay IN the feeder.
  • My vet is suppose to call me back today - I'll discuss the plan with him and explain my reasoning. Because he thinks the hay is the main culprit, he will probably support this, which will come in handy.....
My plan will do the following things for me?
  • leave me in total control of what she's eating, when, and how much
  • She'll finally be freechoice
  • I can be consistent with with the hay

What do you think?

I still won't know for sure what the simple sugar content of the hay is all the time, but I think I'm minimizing the risk. I'll know what it is during the high risk times (hard rides and recovery). I can't find anyone who tests their hay in this area. My other option is if some private horse owner has the same problem I do, and DOES have their hay tested and has a large quantity and was willing to sell me a couple bales every month.......that would work. But until that time, I have to figure out something. She doesn't have access to pasture. If the stable owners refuse to accomodate this, I will have to start looking for other arrangements, but that is my last resort.

Any other ideas out there?

Update: I wanted to be clear, in case anyone isn't familiar with the whole carb and hay thing.....a lot can influence the sugar levels in hay. In general, sugar levels will increase when the hay is "stressed", so different cuttings from the same field may have very different levels of sugar depending on how hot or cold, water availability etc. The best case senerio is to test hay EACH time you switch to a different cutting. For someone buying in small batches (like me), the cutting likely changes each time I buy hay at the feedstore.

Investigation #2: Selenium

Just to be clear, my vet and I believe we are dealing with the condition of Sporadic Exertional Rhabdomyolysis, not chronic...of course that could change if we have more episodes! (God stress levels and checkbook can't take too much of this...)

Yesterday I posted what her recovery plan looked like at Tevis versus the other rides and got some hints on how that might improve that part of my management strategy. Today is a look at culprit #2: Selenium levels.

By pure luck I had blood drawn for Selenium testing last week, 5 days prior to the tye up. Results came in the day of the tye up at.....0.20ppm.

My vet feels that she is within the normal range (.008-.5ppm) and since the toxicity levels of Selenium can cause some very nasty things, that this level is healthy and recommends no supplementing.

However, I've been hearing more and more about endurance horses needing to be in the top range of the "normal" range, ideally between .25 and .3, as levels below .25 *can* be a factor/risk for tying up.

So what do I do?

Here's what I've decided. I will supplement with Selenium. every 6 months I will pull blood samples to make sure I'm not over supplementing, and I will strive to keep Farley in the .25-.30 range. It's still in the "healthy" range, and far enough below the *max* of .5 to keep me out of trouble, and I cover my a$$ if this IS a factor in the tye up.

And I'm not going to tell my vet.

Do I feel a bit guilty? Yes. I'm generally an honest person. But I think this is a battle that doesn't have to be fought. I have another guideline for Selenium from another vet and I agree with her logic. I don't want to argue with my vet about this and it's pointless - the only risk is that I *might* get over that .5 limit (which is why I'll monitor regularly) AND by getting her to the .25-.30 range, it eliminates another suspected tying up risk factor.

*sigh* sounds like justification to me. I HATE confrontation!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Investigation #1 - Feed/Exercise

I am looking for feedback!!!!!!! If you notice any trends, please let me know. This is exactly why I keep detailed records - if I have a problem like this I can go back and know exactly how and when I did what.

Anyone see any significant differences? (observations are at the end)

Recovery schedule - Tevis
  • 7 days off (only hay fed)
  • 4 days of light riding (20 min walk/trot arena or 30 min walking hack). Fed a combo of stable mix and dried fat.
  • 5 days off (only hay fed, except for 2 days when she got beetpulp and fat).
  • 2 days riding (first time she felt perfectly normal, ready to go, since tevis). Fed combo of beetpulp, stable mix, and fat.
  • 4 days off (just hay)
  • Tye up

Recovery schedule - Wild West (no problems with tying up)

  • 3 days off (fed LMF gold and beetpulp)
  • 2 days light riding (fed LMF gold and beetpulp)
  • 2 days off (just hay)
  • 1 day ride (LMF gold and beetpulp)
  • 5 days off (just hay)
  • 1 day ride (stable mix, beetpulp, LMF gold)
  • 1 day off (hay only)
  • 4 days ride (LMF gold)
  • 4 days off (got some stable mix on day 4)
  • 5 days ride (stable mix)
  • 2 days off (beet pulp only)

Recovery - 20 MT (no problems with tying up)

  • 8 days off (first four days beetpulp and fat, after that just hay)
  • For the following days, beetpulp and fat were fed every day:
  • 1 day light ride
  • 1 day off
  • 2 day light ride
  • 1 day off
  • 2 day light ride
  • 1 day off
  • 2 day ride
  • 1 day off
  • 2 day ride

What I see:

  • I am more likely now to NOT feed anything during her days off. I no longer feed LMF gold on a regular basis. This is obviously the right direction, so continue this trend. I think beetpulp and oil would be OK, but nothing else, no matter how low I know the sugar is.
  • During the Tevis recovery she got longer periods of time off. Maybe the key will be to do something that looks more like the 20 MT schedule - give her a week off, but then limit any further time off to no more than ~2 days at a time for the next 4-6 weeks.
  • I know for sure that the grass hay being fed at each of these 3 time periods was different, and the alfalfa may have been too (one load of alfalfa lasts 3-4 months). Will be looking at the hay as a seperate investigation.

Farley Update

Farley got to come home from the vet last night. Six liters of fluid throughout the day, and a blood test confirmed that muscle enzymes are still elevated, but she is now hydrated.

Ate and drank well while she was there - if fact the vet exclaimed "she ate ALL day!". That's my pony.......Peed several times and it was clear.

When I picked her up I pointed to her swollen hard muscles on top of her rump and expressed concern, so he gave me some muscle relaxants (for the horse, not me!) in addition to bute and I am to update him every day or so with her progress.

Plan is to hand walk her daily (5-10 minutes) until the muscle looks normal, then stop the bute, retest and recheck, then start riding. She's a pacer that moves on her own in the pen, so the 5-10 minutes isn't contributing anything significant beyond letting me keep an eye on how she's moving and to spend time with her.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

In which not doing so good.....

About a week ago I begin doing a very naughty thing.

I started telling people that this was the year of the "Broke Melinda and the Sound Horse".

I begin patting myself on the back for my 1000 mile stone, only 2 rides away.

In fact, I begin to contemplate the possibility of having to end this blog and say good bye to all you nice folks because I was OUT of things to write about.....My "Endurance Horse For Sale" was a last ditch effort to actually WRITE something that wasn't a simple update me and Farley.

Last night Farley tyed up. Lovely eh? Let me set the stage for you'all:

Farley has been off for 4 days due to me not feeling well/on antibiotics etc etc. Last night I decide to do an easy 20 minute ssession in the arena walk/trot/canter.

I warm her up for ~5 minutes on a loose rein at a walk and ask for a little trot. Something doesn't feel right so I jump off. No rocks, no filling, no heat. I get back on. Something still doesn't feel right. Put her in the round pen and ask for trot and canter both directions. She gives it willingly and looks fine so I decide that she's being a bit balky (not usual with 3-4 days off) and mount back on.

For the next 15 minutes she's very very obstinate. I am not happy. In fact, as I dismount, I exclaim "that is the worse ride in 3 YEARS I've had on this horse!". Of course, once I'm on the ground and go to lead her forward, I can IMMEDIATELY that she's tied up. Very painful. She's also a LOT more sweaty and foamy than I would expect from a little 15-20 minute work out.

I lead her to the tie rack (~20 feet) and call the vet.

She's alert, more than willing to graze, good vitals, great attitude etc.

The vet comes and confirms that yes, it she has tyed up. We pull blood, give pain meds and a muscle relaxer and wait for the blood results. At midnight, after getting results we discuss the options. The blood sample confirms the tye up and also tells us that her kidneys etc. are functioning fine. Her electrolyte levels are fine. But, she's slightly dehydrated. We decide to leave her at the stable and see if she drinks overnight.

This morning she was moving well, attitude continues to be good.....BUT had only drank ~2 gallons overnight.

So, with the blessing of the vet I brought her into the clinic today and they started IV fluids and will be repeating the blood test at noon today.

The Investigation

Farley isn't the typical candidate for a tye up, but even so I've always kept it in the back of my mind as a possibility and have tried to manage her as if she was at signficant risk. I can't control that she's a mare, an arab, and fit. Other risks, I can control.....
  • Selinium levels - by a stroke of luck I actually had her selinium checked last week, 5 days before the tye up. She's 0.2, which is the high end of normal. I don't think this is an issue, but I'll be doing more research on selinium levels in endurance horses.
  • Activity level - I'm very careful to not let her sit for a long period of time without some sort of hand walking/lunging/jogging etc. After 10 days of rest, I start to worry. For the last 3 weeks since Tevis, she's been lightly worked, but never more than 3-4 days of just being in her pen. This time period has never been an issue (less than a week), but possibly need to shorten that interval to 2-3.
  • Past history - no past history of any metabolic issues what so ever
  • Body type - is not heavily muscled, not the typical "shape" associated with tye ups.
  • Diet (excluding Hay) - I've been very very careful about keeping the simple sugars/carbs out of her diet. No carrots, or apples (very occasionally during a ride or run...). No feeds containing mollassas. Soaking and rinsing beetpulp to be very very sure. High fat diet with oil. I will be checking with Elk Grove Milling to see if they have a detailed analysis of the Stable Mix feed, but a label check (which I did prior to feeding it) showed it to be similar to other feeds recommended for a low sugar diet......I also don't feed anything (except hay) if she's off. For the 4 days prior to the tye up that she was off, she didn't get anything but hay.
  • Hay - This is what my vet feels in the most likely culprit. I've ignored the hay because, being at a bording stable, I have very limited control over the hay. The alfalfa is bought in very large loads, but the grass is bought by the pickup load. She gets a 50/50 mix of the 2 hays. I'm going to have them tested, hopefully to rule the hay out......but if it does come back high than I'm going to have to figure something out.......

So in conclusion, my vet feels that at this point it is diet related, and the likely culprit is the hay, considering the timing of the tye up. It's unfortunate that this is the one thing that I have the least amount of control over....

Lesson Learned

Any horse can tye up, even one that does not fit the "typical" profile, or that is being managed to minimize the risk. Every horse owner should know what tying up looks like and know how to respond. The only reason I knew what was going on was because I educated myself on it and had seen it happen at endurance rides to other people's horses. I was amazed that no one at the boarding stable knew what it was, and the barn owner had only seen it once in all her years. Hopefully by showing people what it looked like and explaining that you do NOT want to walk the horse in this situation and that it IS serious, I have helped someone/some horse some day.


As a bonus, when the vet was checking her over he heard "a lot" of sand in her colon so I'll be starting a regimene to deal with that - BEFORE she colics. Thank goodness.

Where to now?

I will keep you guys updated. For now, she's at the vets for the day getting fluids and being observed. I should be able to take her home this afternoon. She'll slowly be put back to work over the next 2 weeks or so. I'll be busy testing hay. I've obviously withdrawn from the cavalry competition in Reno on August 26-29. At this point I'm assuming she will make a full recovery and be able to do the rides I have planned later in the season, but as always - Farley's welfare is paramount and I'm waiting to make any final decisions as soon as I see how she responds to the rehab.

The Bottom Line

"They" say that the steepest learning curve is in the first 1000 competition miles. Amen. I think I've seen a bit of everything now between my two horses. Except bullet wounds. Or horrible, gashed open fence pole injuries. Or broken bones. Or horrible, incurable diseases.

I need to stop now or I will start to give Farley ideas! LOL. Seriously though - I wish it hadn't happened, but now that it has, I will learn as much as I can and apply it for the rest of my life. I've just been so careful (diet, exercise etc.) so I never thought it would happen to Farley...*sigh*

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Endurance Horse for Sale! - Part 1

Sorry Folks, Farley isn't for sale.

I think it's very interesting the perception of what a good endurance prospect acts like according to a non-endurance person, versus the skills actually necessary for a good endurance horse.

After perusing ads, I've discovered that the following characteristics make a Good Endurance Prospect:
  • Just wants to go and go and go
  • Never seems to get tired
  • Lots and lots of energy
  • Competitive, wants to be first
  • Loves the trail
  • Fast


Endurance is a neat sport because so many different types of horses can do it. However, there are skills that endurance horses do possess! I swear it's not about just pointing the horse down the trail and saying "go get'em!" :)

Since I have two soap boxes to stand on, loosely related, we shall call these posts:


Part 1 - Endurance Horse Ads - Make the buyer happy!

Part 2 - Just what skills does endurance require anyways?

Part 3 - Pointed Questions


Yes, being an endurance horse requires skill.....

Having a well written ad that lists the specific skills of an endurance horse (hint hint does not involve a horse that runs and runs and runs.....and runs until it kills itself) will help sell the horse and will generate much less eye-rolling on the part of someone actually looking for an endurance horse!!!!!

This of course, isn't limited to the endurance world. I see ads all the time describing a 6 month old colt as a "fabulous eventer/jumper prospect" because it has "jumped out of every corral we own!". Which is roughly equivalent in endurance terms to the phrase: "runs really fast all the time and doesn't get tired!"

A well-written ad doesn't equal a good horse, but I wish it did! So make my life easy and follow the rules please?

Of course, irony seems to control horses and life in general.....a well written ad doesn't necessary correspond to an equally nice horse, and vice-versa. So, even when I see an ad that causes a *head to desk* moment, I a fabulous endurance horse behind this ad?

Farley's ad wasn't all that descriptive:

  • bay, arab mare. 7 years old. 14.3 hands. Good horse, does everything, endurance etc.. $1800 (This was November 2007, before the horse market truly fell apart here in central California. I swear - this was the entirety of the ad!)

Yet, she's worked out wonderfully.

Here's another ad. It's well written, describes the personality requirements that will probably make a good endurance horse. (I've deleted all of the info that could possibly identify the specific horse, you will see why in a minute) -

  • Athletic Al Marah bred endurance prospect $3500, Mare, Grey, Age: 5, 14.1H, 900 lbs, , Al Marah bred, sweet Arab mare. Very friendly, loves attention and loves people. Perfect trail/endurance horse for teenage girl or lady. Greenbroke. 90 days with a trainer and loves going down the trail. Not spooky, playful, clips, bathes, ties. Huge, hard feet, good bone, has never had shoes. Never even got ouchy going over rocky trail. Has been up and down hills, through manzanita, over logs, on the road. Not bothered by bicycles or cars. $3500 OBO, (FYI this is also a November 2007 ad)
I actually DID check out this horse, a week or two before I met Farley. During conversations prior to looking at the horse, I confirmed that it loaded, among other non-negotiable criteria. was a wasted trip. Here is an excerpt from an e-mail describing the visit to my aunt, soon after the visit:
  • "mmm....where do I start. She hadn't been ridden in a year, which was fine. Lady put the saddle on and climbed up. Got her into a very little trot, that lasted less than 30 seconds and then stopped. Lady asked (very nicely) for a trot again, and again and again and again and the horse did a tiny rear. Lady stopped. I got on. I walked her around. Then asked for a trot. Got one. very slow. She tried to stop. I asked again. She said yeah right. I demanded. she reared. I demanded again, she reared higher etc ect etc. Finally lady comes in and says "here let me lead you around...." and that was it for me....Getting a trot was a fight and a canter out of the question. This little horse had probably not been made to do anything in her entire life which is a shame because she was very nice. Did not load well. So there were a couple of reasons I rejected her: Wrong personality and would require too much retraining for the money"
In the first ad, if the seller had been more descriptive about the horse's specific skills, Farley may have gotten more lookers (not that I'm complaining). Even though she was all that was promised, not everyone has the time to follow up on slim leads! No information is given to give the buyer confidence that the seller even knows what is required of the horse during endurance! The only reason I even went to look at Farley was because she was the right gender, size, and breed. Nowadays I would be much more picky about specific criteria because I don't have the time to follow up on every single likely candidate. I would argue that this ad is STILL better than an ad that lists such qualifications as "runs really fast all the time and doesn't get tired"; as the ad with no info gives the seller the benefit of the doubt.....where as the latter confirms a lack of knowledge.

The second ad is an example of a well written ad....If I was looking for a horse today, I would probably skip over Farley's ad and instead check out an ad like this one. Even if the horse that this specific ad was for didn't exactly work out, it was still a well written ad that highlights the characteristics that make this a good endurance prospect.

Of course....there was a small problem with honesty with the second ad......Be honest! Dishonesty through omission only hurts the seller. I was absolutely disgusted after leaving. A lot of time and effort was made to see this horse and it could have been easily avoided through honest assessment of the animal (I will give the seller the benefit of the doubt and assume she was unaware of the reality of the horse's behavior). I don't expect a full disclosure of the past history of the horse, but I think all communications between seller and buyer should be honest. If I ask a pointed question, I expect an honest answer, especially if it's something I'm going to find out about anyways when I come see the horse! Although a well written ad might get the buyers foot in the will quickly slam shut if the horse is remarkably different.

Accepting Applications!

I like to think of the for sale ad as a resume and cover letter - it lets potential buyers know if the horse conforms to their basic requirements. A well written ad should be detailed enough to let the buyer know if it roughly conforms to their basic criteria, but not so detailed a potential buyer is turned off because of a detail that really is insignificant to the overall picture. The for sale ad is the first step in the conversation between seller and buyer. A well written for sale ad saves time and energy - the buyer doesn't want to waste their time with a totally unsuitable horse, and the seller doesn't want to waste time communicating with a buyer looking for a totally different kind of animal.

Farley's for sale ad might include the following:
  • Eats and drinks well at rides
  • Barefoot
  • Great recoveries - is able to trot (mounted) into gate and goes at Tevis and reach criteria in less than 1 minute
  • Does well in hot weather
  • Showing training level dressage, schooling first level
  • Calm and sweet, suitable for a beginner in the arena, confident beginner on the trail. Recommend intermediate rider for competitive endurance rides because she is forward with a big trot, but a confident beginning who is comfortable at a trot would be fine.
  • Conditioning rides done in a hackamore
  • Proven endurance record
  • Very gentle on the ground, good manners, easy on fences.
  • Learning to jump (18"-2'). Very honest.
  • Doesn't need a long warm up - is easy to ride, even if she's been off for a while.
  • Sensible

During the phone conversation, I would share additional details with the buyer such as:

  • Occasionally pulls back when tied when startled and when hits the end of the rope.
  • Healed minor bow. No problems with it, sucessful endurance career after bow, recent ultrasounds showing normal fiber patterns
  • Healed front splints
  • Has a big wither (plus and minuses....)
  • Is not crupper trained
  • Is not efficient at the canter - dressage is helping tremendously but it's still a work in progress.
  • Occasionally bucks. It's small and very manageable, but it does happen.....
  • Most of the time she starts competitive rides on a loose rein.....but occasionally (~2 starts a year) she's fairly hot.
  • Lazy in the arena
  • I have fired a pistol off of her, but she still needs work if going to be used in pistol competitions.
  • Probably best for a feather or light weight rider, although a medium weight would do fine if they rode and weren't just a passenger....

During the actual physical visit, if asked I would provide additional information such as:

  • the wire cut on the foot occured prior to my ownership and has not caused any issues since I have owned her.
  • Teeth need to be floated regularly (at least once a year at this point).
  • A hard keeper since starting in 100's, but easy keeper if out of work.
  • Loads fine in my 3 horse trailer, however was inconcsistent in my 2 horse straight load. As I have not tried loading her in anything by a slant since selling the 2 horse, I'm not sure how she would load in a straight load today.
  • Any other questions the buyer might have! (part 3 of the series will be on good questions to ask a seller...)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Out Sick

No new posts for awhile (a week or so??). I’m battling an infection that put me in the ER last night, rather to my surprise as I was a perfectly healthy individual only 12 hours before (I think). (BTW – I can highly recommend Corvallis as a potential place of residence. Not only does it have 2 wonderful tack stores to recommend it, the ER was incredible – although not making a habit of frequenting ER’s, this opinion is certainly suspect.) Honestly, the drugs I’m taking aren’t making me feel a whole lot better, although I must admit the pain and general “malaise” (I think that’s the right word) is gone, replaced by a rather woozy, scatterbrained, slightly nauseous Melinda, who feels vaguely ill rather than violently sick/in pain so I suppose it’s an improvement.

I’m sure there is a funny, witty story that could come out of this, but for the life of me, I cannot find it right now, as all I really want to do is go home, go to sleep, and quite possibly call in sick for a week (NOT happening – although I think I’ve come to an acceptable compromise: I stay home and sleep and pull myself together long enough to sit in crucial meetings until I’m feeling better).

I suppose one funny, horse related anecdote to this entire experience is…..upon being admitted to the ER I was asked what my pain level was on a scale of 1-10. This is a tough one. I’ve been through enough procedures described as “one of the most painful things you will experience” that really were quite manageable, so I have concluded that I have a fairly high pain tolerance. So therefore, though I was in pain, I could objectively think of situations that could be worse such as: Shattering my femur, falling down the cliffs of Tevis, tangled in my saddle as my horse rolled on top of me, and quite possibly having my finger nails pulled out one by one. Since I was coherent and not screaming or passing out, it certainly wasn’t a 10 or a 9. I was pretty sure that most people might rate this as a possible 8, but as a horse person with a vivid imagination, I decided it was a 4 when considering the realm of possibilities, possibly even lower. But I was afraid to say that number because I knew I needed attention rather soon (ie WHY I was in the ER at 9pm instead of at Urgent care at 8am the next morning…..), so perhaps I better go with the number that would provide a better diagnosis, instead of the amount of pain was I actually in? I compromised and gave it a 6.

See you guys in a week or so.

PS – Farley is doing fine and I come home from Corvallis bearing her gifts from the awesome tack consignment shop I found in Corvallis (Equine Exchange). For another time, is the highly entertaining story of how, while shopping I *forgot* that my purchases would have to fit in my briefcase and tiny overnight suitcase for the flight home. (I’m blaming the drugs) How I managed to fit 2 garbage bags of cool tack stuff on my flight home is an experience we could all learn from! (and yes it did happen – where there is a will there is a way.) I could title it – “why I should have bought that very cute, itsy bitsy packable duffle bag the size of a deck of cards that expands to swallow a large dog (or at least a new horse blanket, various saddle pads, and more than a few pieces of tack) at REI last weekend instead of a very cool mess kit.” Lesson learned. Just because I’m only going to Oregon overnight doesn’t mean I can skimp on luggage!!!!!!!!!

PSS - Current plan is to skip VC100 this year, do Comstock the beginning of October (the 50 miler) and then do the Patriots 100 4 weeks later. Assuming I finish both rides, I will reach the milestone of 1000 endurance miles!

Monday, August 9, 2010

"How to" guide for the Tevis

I am far from an expert on riding the Tevis.

With one completion and two attempts, if you want real advice there are many many more suitable sources. Therefore the list below should be considered as "for entertainment" purposes only!

My aunt is considering on riding the Tevis next year, and if she does, it will be a fulfillment of a near life-long dream for her. She's been preparing for this ride before I even knew what Tevis was. If we were having a heart to heart over a good, hot cup of tea, here's what I would say.

Lots of good advice is given such as "ride your own ride", and "don't hurry, don't tarry" and I would agree, but sometimes it's hard to see how this applies to the actual ride. Here are some of the specifics of how I applied these concepts.

  • Ride, really ride, the vet checks and the gate and goes. Spend just as much time planning your strategy for the g&g and vet checks, as you do for the trail. How you ride through these checks (and the welfare areas that are not checks) can significantly impact your ride. My strategy is to try and not get caught up in big lines or checks. Either vet in ahead of a big crowd (my preference) or spend extra time and let them get ahead of you. Know exactly what you want to accomplish during a check and keep it simple. Food, drink, electrolyte for the horse. Food, bathroom for rider. Volunteer to refill water bottle. All my other needs are scheduled for the one hour holds. A related concept is: Don't waste time doing unnecessary things. For example, I didn't bother with courtesy pulse checks and I didn't bother dismounting into vet checks. Neither was needed and by getting into the check faster, she was able to eat and drink sooner. I didn't strip tack to pulse down. Strip your routine down to the very basics of what is actually needed for you and your horse. My priorities were eating and drinking for us both. I saved all the other "niceties" for the one hour holds. Because at Tevis....Every moment is important - At a "normal" ride that doesn't require me to ride so close to the cut offs, I do all sorts of things Farley doesn't NEED, but I do anyways because they are nice to do for her. At Tevis I'm focused on one thing - how to get through the vet checks as soon as possible and spend no time in lines so that Farley and I are either riding and making forward progress OR relaxing. Standing in line, standing for multiple pulse checks, and fiddling with equipment is wasted time.
  • Expect to ride close to the cut off times and don't worry about it (but still have them with you) - My first year I didn't carry the cut off times with me. My philosophy was that it didn't matter what the cut offs were because I was going to ride my ride so matter what. But then I got stressed because someone told me we were close to a cut off (we weren't) and I pushed her harder than I should have. And I didn't have a guideline for how fast I was going - it would have been a red flag to realize that I came in 1/2 hour behind the guideline pace, only to be several hours ahead of the guideline several checks down the trail. This year I carried the cut off sheet, which included the guideline pace. I also had my 2009 pace times listed. I used my 2009 times in 2 ways. #1 - I wanted to ride the second third of the race slower. By evaluating the 2009 times, I was able to establish times for each check that I DID not want to go faster than. #2 - for references purposes I could see how long it took me to travel from check to check. So, even though I might be 2 hours behind my '09 pace, I could judge how long it would take me to the next check, based on the previous year. I would advice against just writing your predicted pace on your arm, marathon style, or just carrying your goals for each check. Because the ride changes as you ride, it was important to me to have all the pieces of information with me so I could adjust pace and times as I went along. To do that I needed - each check with mileage (both mileage from the previous check, to the next check, AND the overall total mileage from the beginning), my '09 times into each check, my '09 time between each check, and what I *thought* I would be riding in '10.
  • Have a detailed plan for the one hour holds for your crew. Divide the tasks into several priorities so if you are short on time you can quickly decide what can wait. I tend to drop details during the ride that seems "too much of a bother". Therefore I assign those tasks specifically to crew members and do NOT rely on myself to do them. The priorities of the different tasks are going to vary for you and your horse. For example, Farley isn't prone to scratches. I apply desitin as a preventative, but if for some reason it doesn't happen, I won't waste time to get it done. Farley DOES get boot rubs if the proper procedure isn't followed (boots completely scrubbed clean, show sheen applied to her legs prior to application) so if I need 5 more minutes at a check to get it accomplished, I will take the time.
  • Do what it takes to make sure that you, as the rider, is in a good mental state. I'm not a person that regularly thinks to take OTC medication. Medicine makes me vaguely uneasy and most of the time it just doesn't occur me that I need it. Probably, my need for medication to get through a 100 speaks to my unprepared-ness of a rider. I'm willing to accept that and while I work on that, this is what I need: Ibprophen and caffeine pills.
  • Be ready to leave your riding buddy at an instant. If you agree to start Tevis with a friend, hopefully you have both agreed that you will continue "as long as it works". Think long and hard about this, and be prepared to actually leave when the time is right. Both years I started, I rode with a friend, and both years I ended up leaving them behind far sooner than I had thought. Both years, my friends finished. In 2009, D* got delayed at the Robinson exit CRI and I had to make the decision to go after waiting for 5-10 minutes after my out time. This year, Kathy's horse uncharactertiscally took 30 minutes to pulse down at Redstar, early in the race. Farley was down almost immediately, and after waiting ~10-12 minutes, I decided I needed to leave. In both cases my friends encouraged me to go on, and I would have done the same for them. I cannot stress that enough - be prepared to ride this race alone if necessary. When I ride in boots I usually ask Kathy if, in the event of a boot failure, would she mind stopping while I resolve it ONCE? If I have another malfunction then I'm on my own! A problematic boot can take a lot of time when stopping multiple times, and I don't think it's fair to my riding partner.
  • What rides will really help me to prepare for Tevis? The Tevis (at least in 2010) requires 300 endurance miles for the rider. Let's assume you start Tevis with the minimum required miles.....not all miles are created equal. At least for this rider/horse team, 300 miles of duck miles would not have been enough to prepare me. I think it's important to do an evaluation of the rider/horse weaknesses and chose prep rides that focus on those weaknesses, along with rides that will be similar in terrain to the Tevis. Flat, sandy, desert rides with great footing are fun.....but aren't necessarily good "specificity training". The 2 types of races I found most helpful were multi days over similar terrain, and "easy" rides of distances longer than 50/55 miles. To that goal, I did 2 days at wild west, and a 65 miler at 20 Mule team (an "easy" desert ride). I continued that trend in 2010 but stepped it up a notch - 3 days at wild west (similar terrain), 100 miles at 20MT (long distance over easier terrain).
  • Lastly - beware of overtraining and bringing a tired horse to the ride. The horse you have 4 weeks before the ride is the horse you can expect to ride at Tevis, fitness-wise. Nothing you do in those 4 weeks will matter, except perhaps make them more tired. Those 4 weeks are best spent on behavior, having fun, and spending time in a non-stressful way.

So there's the advice I would have given myself when I was first dreaming of riding the Tevis 10 years ago. Any one have anything else they would like to add?~

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tevis and hardness of ride

It's officially been 2 weeks since Tevis and I feel the familiar threads of self doubt.

How much is too much to ask of my horse?

Sometimes the decision is obvious. I knew after American River this year that unless something drastically changes, I will not be returning to that ride. It's too much to ask of my horse - for 50 miles the ride is suprisingly difficult, and in my opinion even tougher than the Tevis. It is not worth the risk to Farley's wellbeing and I spent too much time worrying, rather than both of us having fun. I decided before even completing the American River ride this year, that this would be the last one for me and Farley.

Tevis is more subtle. For one week I was elated - I had finished, my horse was sound and I felt like we had both done a good job of taking care of one another on the trail. Then reality set in. Farley had just completed an incredible race that required an incredible about of mental and physical prowess. How in the world could this small, diminutive, pony-sized horse have achieved something this incredible? I must be mistaken - any day I would arrive at the stable to find Farley belly up with a leg detatched and laying in the paddock somewhere. At any moment, when I ask her to trot, she's going to collapse and I'll get to off to find her legs snapped off at the knee. Even more insidious - I'll arrive to my next ride, only to find that mentally, she's totally done with endurance.

And really - after such an incredible performance at Tevis (and I consider a "finish" incredible) do I really have any right to ask for another 100 miler a mere 7 weeks later?

I think that's one reason I'm doing the Cavalry competition at the end of this month. We can compete without having to put any significant schooling in, physically it will be low stress, and it will give me an opportunity to evaluate Farley for any "offness" or bad "gut feelings". For now, I have to keep reminding myself of the facts -
  • Last year Farley finished Tevis even more tired. By the time VC100 rolled around I was shocked to realize that she was totally fit and recovered and could have done the VC100 that year.
  • Farley remains in good spirits - happy to see me, and although I freaked about her weight last week, in reality she looks about the same as before Tevis.
  • Farley is sound and physically came of out Tevis looking great - minimal filling in legs, good on her back. The biggest concern I had was some girth sensitivity, which has resolved and I think I can prevent by being more careful with girth cleanliness and some of the other suggestions I've been given.
  • Farley's wellbeing (physically and mentally) continues to be more important to me, every day, every ride. I have my priorities straight and that isn't going to change. I may start VC100, but if I decide that was the wrong decision, I WILL pull.
The question remains - how hard is too hard? How soon is too soon to ask for a repeat performance? The answer is a very personal one, but I've been trying to establish some boundaries for Farley and I.
  • If finish a ride pissed off and mad at myself for asking Farley to take such a risk, than I need to serious evaluate my reasons for doing that particular ride.
  • When looking back at a ride, if all I can remember is being stressed and worried for my horse, than maybe that's not the right ride for Farley and me.
  • If Farley takes more longer than usual to look 100% after a ride than I need to reevaluate my fitness plan. If, due to the circumstances of how I board her etc I can't improve in this area, than for now, it might not be the right ride for us.
So how does Tevis measure up? I actually find Tevis very doable (even more than American River). Yes, there are lots of technical sections, but there are also lots of very nice sections to make up time if necessary. Tevis plays to Farley's and my strengths - single track, rocks, down hill, heat, and switch backs. I enjoyed almost every single moment, and Farley stayed motivated throughout the race. She more tired at the end than I would have liked, but I'm also not sure how much of that was physical and how much was mental. If mental, based on her past performance, she should stay very very strong throughout our next 100. She has recovered well, so at this point, I would say that the Tevis is not "too hard" for us, and we will try again next year.

Is VC100 too soon to ask for a repeat? I'm not sure about this one. Part of me wants to try another 100 as soon as possible in order to condition her mentally that when we go out, we are likely going to be doing 100 miles. Another part of me worries about burn out. This may be one of those situations where I won't know until I try. Right now, all I have is past performance to guide me - 7 weeks after my first 100 we did American River and she was INCREDIBLY fit. Eight weeks after finishing 3 days of 50's at Wild West we did Tevis and she was NOT a tired horse. Last year, after Tevis, mid-September arrived and I realized that it would have been doable to do VC100. So although right now it seems unfathomable that I do another 100, I'm depending on the past to let me know what might be possible in the future.

Farley is a giving horse and I must be careful to not ask beyond what she freely gives.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

When is it time to go back to work?

As most of you probably remember from my discussions after 20MT, I don't have any hard and fast rules about how much time Farley MUST take off after a ride. My philosophy hasn't changed since February, but I thought it might be worth going through my thinking again, to see if any of my premises need re-evaluation.

I'm a huge believer in active rest. Farley isn't in a situation where she can do "active rest" on her own, therefore it's up to me to provide a level of appropriate activity after an event.

I am uncomfortable giving Farley more than 10 days of true "rest" days - the risk of tying up in a very fit arab mare, even though I watch the sugar and carbs carefully, is still very real.

The active rest and slowly bringing back to normal work levels generally looks something like this:
  • 10 days of hand walking, light lunging, some true rest days, maybe some hand jogging, and maybe some riding on the canal banks, doing some light hacking. Near the end of the 10 day period, some dressage (long and low with lots of stretch) at the walk and trot.
  • Gradually, return to normal work, but no intense workouts (for example - a true conditioning trail ride) for 4-6 weeks. I would expect her to be back to normal work (walk/trot/canter dressage in the arena 3-4 days a week with a walk/trot/canter canal ride 1-2x week) within 2-3 weeks of the event, depending on how hard an event it was.
  • At all times listen to the horse, and error on the side of more easy work/rest.

After 20 MT, a relatively easy 100, she was more than willing to start building the work load at 10 days, and within 2 weeks was more than happy to putter around the arena doing our assigned dressage homework.

Tevis Recovery

She's definitely taking longer to recover from Tevis, which I would expect - it's a harder ride - so we've been taking it easy. She's being ridden lightly this week at the walk and trot, and although I might ask for a canter next week, I won't be comfortable schooling the canter or doing any other "real work" until probably the end of next week (3 weeks post Tevis). At this point, just shy of 2 weeks post Tevis, her attitude is good and we are focusing on having fun and enjoying each other's company.

I do not plan to do any conditioning rides between now and Virginia City 100, which is 7 weeks post Tevis. Just dressage, a fun trail ride over Labor Day weekend with family and friends, and...a cavalry event (see below)! I've learned over the last year that Farley keeps her conditioning very well from ride to ride, and it takes very little to maintain it from event to event, if the events are ~6-8 weeks apart. Dressage and the occasional hack seem to be more than enough.

Cavalry Event and a little fun.....

Four weeks post-Tevis I have a cavalry event planned. More details to come, but I think it will be a good change of pace for us both. It's strictly for fun, no pressure to do well, and I'm more than willing to scratch from a class if either of us aren't particularly keen on a certain event. At 4 weeks post Tevis and 3 weeks pre VC100 the timing is perfect. Farley is a horse that seems to enjoy doing different kinds of things, and I think doing this event is a perfect way to break up the time between Tevis and VC100.

And then what? Plans for the season post-VC100

My intention is to give Farley and I both ~2-3 months off this winter. During that time we will only ride when we feel like it. For one of those months, I'm going to suspend the dressage lessons and schooling. I have a couple of choices of WHEN exactly to take the break, but right now, this is what I'm tentatively planning.

  • For 10 weeks after VC100, I will be doing what seems "fun and easy" - ie I'll still try to ride 2-3 days a week, but nothing serious and if I want to play hookey and see a movie or stay home and eat popcorn and read books, I will. If the dressage is going well, then we might do a dressage show in late October or in November. If it's not going well, I might take a month off from lessons during this time period and get my saddle reflocked.
  • Do an unspecified amount of days at the Desert Gold Thanksgiving ride.
  • In the 13 weeks between Desert Gold and 20 MT, take one month off from dressage lessons, send saddle for reflocking if it wasn't done in the fall. Interact with Farley daily, but no pressure to ride for at least 2 months (one of those months to include the no-lessons month). Do a conditioning ride in the month of January and decide whether I want to do 20MT or if I want more time off.

December/January/February are historically the hardest months of the year for me emotionally and physically so I'm preparing myself for those months by giving myself permission to either ride or not ride, depending on how I feel, without guilt (which only adds to the mental problems this time of year). I think this schedule give both of us enough downtime, with at least 1 month of guaranteed very-little-riding because my saddle will be out for reflocking, and I won't have lessons. My riding will be severely curtailed when I start school next September (2011), so even if I do decide to do 20MT 2011, than it will only be a 5 month ride season, as opposed to the 7 month season I had this year.

No matter what occurs at VC100, we have had an awesome, incredible season. Providing that we finish VC100, I will be one 50 mile ride shy of my 1000 miles and Farley will be 150 miles behind me. Farley will have reached her "bronze" level in the 100 mile incentive program, and there's a chance we will be in both the 100 mile national standings (not likely) and the regional weight division standings (more likely).

Dressage Show Pictures

Here's some pictures from my last 2 dressage shows. They took place in the same location - Mar Val in Lodi, CA so they look very similiar. All picture credits go to Megan Fontes.

7/18/10 show - Training 2
Actually a very nice picture. My eyes are up. Too much left flexion/positioning, but I'm also not sure exactly what movement this is. I really like that all 4 feet are off the ground and the beautiful line of her legs.

7/18/10 Training 2
I liked this shot. Both of us are concentrating so hard. This was near the end of the test, we had actually picked up both canter leads and we were going in for the final trot down center line! You can see a slight smile on my face - it's almost done! That's Ashley in the background reading my test.

5/23/10 Intro A or B?
I love her tail in this pic, and her quiet eye. Don't ask my why my head refuses to line up with my body, or why my button is undone. And what the heck my hands and toes are doing.

5/23/10 Intro A or B?
Very pretty flowers.

5/23/10 Intro A or B?
Change of rein down the long diaganol. She really went for it and I started to enjoy myself. Would have liked her more through, but for the first time during the test she was truly forward and it was good enough for my first 7 score on a movement at a recognized test.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tevis Evaluation

We are reaching the end of my planned "Tevis" posts! I hope that the posts have been enjoyable and maybe even given you ideas for your own ride.

Because Tevis is such a challenging ride emotionally and physically, I think it's a perfect opportunity to access some of the strengths and weaknesses of me as a rider, and Farley as an endurance horse. I am a huge propenant of contemplating, as honestly as possible, the "reality" of myself and my horse in endurance. As I prepare my crew notes for next year, I think this exercise is especially helpful, as hopefully my crew can make up for some of my shortcomings.

Let's start with Farley

  • Pulsing down. I can ride into a check at a trot, or sometimes even a canter and she'll be down to pulse criteria as soon as I dismount - no sponging or pulling tack required
  • An efficient trot. She's like an energizer bunny.......the downside is that sometimes we can be travelling quite fast and it's kinda "sneaked" up on me because after all....we are still at a trot right?
  • She will eat and drink as needed and will take care of herself
  • She's very efficient downhills and if there's lots of up and down, we can make good time on the downs so we can take it easy on the "ups".
  • Great feet and comfortable completely barefoot if necessary.
  • Very very sure footed.
  • Not spooky, very brave, sensible and will use her head if she gets in a tight situation.
  • Not herd bound. Travels well anywhere in a pack, or all by herself.


  • Unethusiastic trot outs. Can be marked down for attitude and impulsion because she's not quite "into" the whole trot out thing.
  • We don't live in the "hill country" and I'm relying on my conditioning base and dressage to get me through rides. Therefore I must be conservative going up and down hills.
  • Extremely sensitive skin, need to be on the look out for any rubbing, especially in girth area and on legs underneath leg boots.
  • Very ineffecient canter. Better to vary the speed of the trot and allow to walk to work different muscles.
  • tends to get cold and "shivery" easily. Always have a cooler available at checks.
  • Will snap reins and leadrops if she steps on them
  • Although usually starts on a loose rein, totally calm, occasionally (~1 out of 5 starts) is a complete maniac for no reason (at least, not that I've been able to discover).
  • Tends to do something stupid in front of the photographer which makes it very difficult to get pretty trail pictures. :(

Now let's talk about Melinda


  • Is very focused and is good about riding on target times (if possible with the horse on that day).
  • Good sense about miles travelled
  • Doesn't usually get lost
  • Fairly fit, could hike out if necessary
  • Is very good about rider on top, horse on bottom
  • Encourages others to ride their own ride around her and tries not to affect the ride of others around her.
  • always carries a spare EVERYTHING in the crew bag.
  • Obsesses about her horse insissently
  • Organization
  • Data collection, comparison, and trends
  • Loves her horse more with every passing day and is more determined than ever to place FARLEY'S WELFARE FIRST.


  • Not as likely to unbridle for every check - need to get Farley going at rides in a hackamore ASAP. Minx was hard to bridle so I think this is a hold over from that. Either ride in a hackamore or take the bridle off at every check! (see comment above about horse welfare...)
  • Does not eat at night in the saddle - need to keep snacks in bra or front pocket of shirt for last loop of a 100.
  • Tends to not do "extra stuff" that seems like "too much trouble" such as......applying technu, packing extra caffeine pills, carrying a GPS.
  • Has a hard time eating during rides and is very picky. Often doesn't feel hungry at rides, just sick.
  • Has a hard time getting enough electrolytes or calories down during a ride (although it's getting better as I find stuff that agrees with me...)
  • Not good at cleaning girth throughout ride - need to have a spare so I can just swap out.
  • Has a hard time at keeping track of vet cards
  • Will COMPLETELY stress out over an off hand comment that a vet makes until the next vet check, where Farley is completely fine.
  • Has a hard time saying no to people and doesn't want to hurt feelings. I'm working on this and everyone should consider themselves warned - my crew is going to undergo a radical change this year and please be understanding! It was too big and disorganized this year at Tevis and while it's been fun, I'll be doing things a bit differently in 2011.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tevis Issues

It’s now 10 days post-Tevis and (in my opinion, which since it’s my blog, only makes sense…..) the perfect time to talk about whether I need to do any problem solving before our next 100 in 5 weeks.

I’ve noticed it takes a week or so before more minor issues can appear, and sometimes I really don’t know how I really felt about something until I have some time to think, so I try to hold off doing this type of post until 10-14 days after a major ride.

Items I need help with!!!! Please give me some advice!

Issue #1
After 100’s or multidays I’m starting to notice “scruffiness” or dark “sticky” dandruff in the saddle area and girth area. It seems to be a symptom of either something rubbing or a combination of pressure and rubbing. It appears ~3-5 days after a ride, and is gone by 14 days. This is probably the 3rd time I’ve seen it. It appears with both types of saddle pads (equipedic and Haf) and is more of a “gummy” dandruff than a “dry” one. Any ideas?

Issue #2
I’m currently using a 100% mohair wool string girth. I do ride with a fairly loose girth (the advantages of having a huge-withered horse) and I’m wondering if that’s doing more harm than good. In addition to the scruffiness mentioned above, in the girth area from bottom of saddle pad to armpit had edema under the skin right after I finished the race. It wasn’t there when I left Foresthill, and it was gone within 24-48 hours after completing. I’ve gotten some good input from the wonderful yahoo group, new100milers on this issue but wanted to throw it out here to see if anyone else had an opinion. So far I’m thinking that I may need to: ride with a tight girth, change to a clean, dry girth at vet checks if I can’t clean the girth in-use well enough, ride with an elastic type girth (with a fuzzy fluffy cover????) to get it tighter. What does everyone use for a girth here? Do you ride with a loose or tight girth? Someone also mentioned that the edge of my pad could be the culprit too so I’ll make sure that is clean and not sweat encrusted as well and apply lube there if necessary. I’m leery about making any huge changes for a one time issue (so far) since my “system” has worked for so long, but would love to see if there’s something obvious I’m missing. I was careful to clean my girth last year at Tevis, but not this year so that may be the culprit… anyone??????

Issue #3 I have GOT to get some more weight on that horse!!!!! Right after the race I couldn’t see any significant weight loss, but now, a week later she seems skinnier to me. I want MORE RESERVES. I screwed up and went to Alabama the week after without making arrangements for her to get her daily mash, and as a result only had hay the week after. It was unlimited hay, but I know from experience that she NEEDS extras at this point. I’ve been really good about not obsessing over her weight the last couple months and I’ve gotten compliments on how good she looks, but now, I need her to gain some weight before I’m comfortable asking her to do Virgina city in mid September. She’s back on her beet pulp/stable mix/dried fat/ration balancer routine so I’ll reevaluate in a week or two or three and make sure she’s gaining nicely. My plan is to have her teeth checked again in late September after VC100. That will be ~8 months since her last float. I waited 12 months last year and she REALLY needed to be done again, so I want to catch it earlier this year. This was less of a “ask for advice” issue, and more of a “let me rant”. Sorry.

Overall, I’m very pleased. I felt like Tevis would bring out any weaknesses in my “system” but so far I haven’t noticed anything that would prevent me from trying VC100 on September 18th.

In case you are interested, here are some things that I felt went really really well:

If one is very wise (which I do not claim to be….) one does NOT DO ANYTHING NEW ON THE EVE OF A 100!!!!!! That being said, I did make some minor changes to my routine that I felt really helped and I want to share some of those items:

1. I showsheen-ed her legs before applying the front and hind leg boots. Farley has very thin skin and has a tendancy to rub in boots unless they are meticulously clean. In the winter time I don’t have issues because her thicker winter coat protects her skin, but by July she has nice, soft, silky, insubstantial hair. She always has hind boots on during a ride, but on 100’s I add the protection of front boots. At the one hour holds the boots are scrubbed and allowed to dry before reapplying, but because of the dust and dirt I was afraid that she would still rub, so I applied showsheen to her lower legs and voila! Zero rubs.

2. Saddle bags!!!!! I finally found an arrangement I’m totally happy with. I’ve struggled with saddle bags since I started this sport and have tried most options out there and been unhappy with all for some reason. At Tevis I rode with 2 boot bags (Renegade bags made by Snug pax I think?), a converted fanny pack, and a modified water bottle holder. I know it looks unconventional, but it works for me and Farley. For the first time, I stayed very hydrated all day and night, and actually ATE on the trail most of the time (except during the California loop, but I have a plan for that…..). Farley did not get sore and did not have rubs from them, and I had access to everything I needed, when I needed it.

3. Battery operated glow bars, and a red headlamp – I confirmed at Tevis I absolutely hate riding with glow bars – that being said I loved that I had the option of turning them on or off as I felt necessary. If I was riding on a trail where horses were traveling both directions I would have definitely reached down and turned on a glow bar for safety. I rode with 2 different colors – a blue and a green – depending on what “brightness” I wanted. A third, unsnapped traditional glow bar was also on the collar in case I felt like I needed that option. What I found was that in most circumstances the red headlamp setting was sufficient when I needed extra light to read my cut off times or check out something weird on the trail.

4. Having the stirrups moved back during my saddle fitting – absolutely no rub marks on the back on my legs! Unlike the scars I still have from 20 MT, the only marks this year are 2 little scabs on the inside of my right knee, letting me know I’m STILL gripping. It’s amazing how one little change can really help rider position.

5. Using my bra as a sunglasses holder – perfect! Especially with that LONG zipper my FITS shirt had in front for easy access.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Happy Tevis to me.....

Side note: I'm extremely touched by all the support I got before, during, and after Tevis in the form of e-mails, text messages, and voice messages wishing me luck and offering congratulations. I also appreciate the e-mails from those of you led to offer me advice on my equipment and ride etc. It has gotten to the point where it's impossible for me to reply to every response - work is out of control and I'm still physically recovering from the ride (which is taking a long time because of work demands). Please don't be offended if you don't recieve a reply, and if you have a question for me that hasn't gotten a response, e-mail it to me again in a couple of weeks. THANK YOU EVERYONE. It meant a lot to me to have so many people wishing me well down the trail and it made a HUGE difference in my ride.

Happy Tevis to me…..happy Tevis to me!.....HAAAAPPPPPPYYYYYY TEVIS TO MELINDA…….happy Tevis to me! (sang to the tune of “Happy birthday”).

Really – how long can I draw this Tevis thing out? I’ve already decided I must stop randomly inserting it into conversations. “Last weekend I finished the Tevis” seems acceptable while “2 weeks ago I finished…” does not.

I have a whole post on how it feels to finish Tevis that I probably won’t post, but one thing I do want to mention is that out of all the personal goals I have achieved in my very short lifetime, Tevis is the only one that hasn’t had a “let down” of some sort. I’m more excited NOW about finishing than I was prior to, or during the race. I’m so excited about next year I can barely breathe and I have the attention span of a gnat in all non-tevis topics.

In the name of Tevis, redgirl and I managed to finish off an entire bottle of tonic, and nearly matched that in gin on Friday night.

I’ve fantasized all week about changing my veterinary study program from commercial food animal, to a program that will allow me to do research on the horse hoof and everything related from physics, movement, nutrition, modification, barefoot, boots and the like.

And now I’ve done it again – justified buying myself a present - new farrier tools - in the name of celebrating Tevis.

It started with a new “hoop” hoof knife. I saw Kirt use one to trim Farley’s bars after Tevis and immediately fell in LOVE with it. Got to have one.

Then I found out that all this time I was using a lefty hoof knife. The feedstore a year ago accidentally sold me a lefty and me, being a complete newbie didn’t know the difference. My friend and I were evaluating the feet of her two year old and she mentioned that I used the hoof knife in a very weird way. Sure enough, when I went into the feedstore today and looked at knives, I’ve been using a lefty and developed a style that allowed me to use it in my right hand. So…..add a righty knife to that shopping cart.

I trimmed Farley’s feet yesterday and after watching the sweat from my forehead pool on the ground underneath me, decided I needed a new rasp…..The feedstore was out of Save Edges, so I added a Diamond rasp to the pile.

$120 poorer I leave the feedstore. I’ve learned that I have no tolerance for poor quality farrier tools, especially being of the “weaker” sex. The horse’s foot is going to be a subject of life-long fascination for me and every vet should have a set of quality hoof tools right????????

Go ahead – tell me I’m crazy but I probably won’t hear you. I’m too busy looking at my pretty knives and dreaming of next year’s July full moon.