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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Interesting Article

I thought this was a very interesting description of endurance, from a non-endurance spectator. Yes, it's international competition, so very different, but interesting never-the-less.

Article here


Yesterday I decided to trim Farley in preparation for the ride this weekend. I started digging with my hoof knife and hoof pick and discovered loose, dead sole. A LOT of loose, dead sole. So much sole fell away under my hoof pick that the foot was begging me to take off ~1/4” of heel from the high/clubby LF foot! (the "true" seat of the corn or whatever now exposed....) The hinds did the same thing, to a lesser degree. Once I took the heels down to the newly exposed sole, like magic the frogs appeared in their rightful spots, the bars stood up straight and behaved themselves, and a tight white line emerged from underneath all that retained sole. The angles of the fronts are much closer now and the right front doesn’t look so “weird” to me anymore.

Invariably, after a long period of Farley’s hooves not changing in any visible way, I start to think – “who am I, that I’m messing around with Farley’s hooves????” The angles look all wrong, there’s dirt in the white line, and I’m left wondering what I’m screwing up.

Then, ALWAYS, something magical happens. Her hooves will DO something. And it re-validates everything I’m doing with her hooves.

A week ago the farrier was a no-show and so I had to pull on my big girl panties and trim Farley’s hooves – something I do not like doing if I’ve left them for more than a couple of weeks. I’d much rather have a farrier trim her, and then maintain the trim weekly, than to try and trim her after letting it go for 3 or 4 weeks. I was VERY pleased to see big chunks of sole coming out of her hinds and a tight white line emerging. Her frogs were in the process of shedding, which made me nervous because instead of a nice, developed frog, now it looked like a tiny little frog down in the depths of her foot……..

After the trim yesterday the frogs look just fine – there was so much retained sole that the FROGS were at the proper depth, not the sole/wall, but I couldn’t fix that until the sole decided to release.

I’ve been trimming Farley for a little over a year and it is so gratifying. I still lean on professional farriers, but in general I take responsibility for the health and condition of Farley’s hooves.

I’m learning that Farley’s hooves change with the season, which is very interesting.

I’ve learned not the rush the hoof – the sole will eventually be released when it is time, the frogs will shed when they need to – I just need to tidy up as necessary.

By sticking to some basic principles, even when I’m frustrated that nothing SEEMS to be happening, sooner or later it seems to work out.
  • Movement – keeping Farley moving daily over a variety of surfaces, at a variety of speeds keeps the foot in good working order.
  • Nutrition – continue to focus on reducing sugars where ever I can.
  • Address flares – Keep on eye on the quarters during the summer time.
  • Take down the heels – Take down the heels as the foot lets me. I usually go down as far as I can flake sole out. Then all go out a day or two later and see if any more sole has flaked out, allowing me to take them down even more.....I'm a wimp going down to the true seat of the corn or whatever it's called, if I can't get to it by flaking sole away easily which is why I have a farrier :)
  • Roll – don’t over do the mustang roll. I do a roll, but I don’t go crazy with it.
  • Trim – often. Every 1-2 weeks if she’s in work – work = hoof growth.
  • Balance – use the sole as my guide and listen to my farrier to identify my tendencies (right now, it’s to the leave the right side inside high).
  • Tidy up – Trim the bars to the sole, cut away flaps of frog, break away any flaking sole. This is my favorite part of the trim!

I wish that Farley’s hooves had waiting another week to undergo the latest development in the barefoot transition (is she still in transition????) as I have a RIDE this weekend, BUT the hoof decided it was time, so who am I to argue?

As always - I welcome suggestions and comments. I can ALWAYS use advice when it comes to trimming!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I have a ride THIS weekend????

Did you know I had a ride this upcoming weekend?

Me neither.

I mean I DID know. Since, you know, I was the one that filled out the application, wrote the check, mailed the envelope, and somehow found the time to schedule a Health Cert appointment.

But there is knowing, and then there is KNOWING.

Work continues to be insane. My health is improving (thank goodness). Matt got a new puppy, which I got to spend the weekend playing with. My vet application got done a mere 6 days before the deadline (3 months after starting it….). Amid all this hustle and bustle, I just sort of….didn’t INTERNALIZE that I had a ride THIS weekend, even though I even mentioned it on the blog.

I have a ride FOUR days from now.

It should be fun. Funder has graciously offered to put me up, I have plans to stop into Cabelas, Sierra trading post, and see some Nevada landscape (which I love BTW).

Even though we haven’t been doing any specific ride or conditioning training, Farley remains in excellent shape. We’ve done a couple of longer trail rides (10-15 miles) and she remains in a regular dressage and hacking out schedule. We are 10 weeks post Tevis, almost 7 weeks post tye-up, and she is feeling GOOD. In fact, I’m a bit nervous about her fitness/energy level. She’s gained a bunch of weight (in a good weight), and that, combined with a change in the weather has made her a bit high energy. And knowing her track record in regards to desert ride (naughty) this should be rather…..”interesting”. I’m really hoping there’s a really big hill to point her at early on!

Plan is to get her out every day Monday-Friday this week, either for a 30-50 minute arena/dressage schooling, or a trot/canter canal session (40-60 minutes). Last night (Monday) we had a beautiful bareback arena session – the swingest walk EVER, the best stretchy trot EVER, and then some beautiful walk-canter transitions. Life is good.

Plan is to do the ride in strap on renegades (of course), possibly shorts for me (if the weather is good), and switch to a hackamore half way through (if she’s really really really really good….).

It’s my first time crossing state lines with livestock so I’ll report on any lessons learned!

I’m hoping for a fun, uneventful ride. If we complete, it will be a personal accomplishment – the first ride after a 100 is still a big deal to me, and especially since we had a tye up in the interm.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Vet application...

Is done! And submitted! And paid for!

The transcripts are in, the tests are taken and submitted. My evaluators managed to find time to complete my online evaluation. The only thing left is my supplemental letter of explanation that I'll mail directly to Davis, and with that stamped and by the door, I don't see what could POSSIBLY go wrong between here and the mail box....

It took 3 months to fill out that sucker......I know I said it before, but I'll say it again. If you do not have a current CRV, do it NOW!!!!!!!!

Off to go celebrate - a run, a glass of wine, and ?

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Farley’s neighbor is a thief.

And so is my left hand.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I like Jeff. He’s a BIG quarter horse with a cute face. I feel a bit sorry for him – the stable owners are trying to put weight on him – and he enjoys/needs/wants the constant buffet that Farley seems to enjoy. (I’m becoming a believer in “skinny horse wants hay? Give them hay…” but have had great practice at keeping my mouth shut, having boarded for 4 years). However, feeling sorry for Jeff does NOT translate into me subsidizing whatever feeding program he is on. So when my 880 pound horse appears to be eating a bale of hay every two days…’s time for action.

Jeff is big enough the he can merrily reach over the divider of the shelter and pilfer food from Farley’s fruit bin that I use as a feeder.

Mel’s counter: buy a 99 cent tomato cage, make it flat, and block off the access above the fruit bin.

Jeff’s counter: get on his knees and pilfer from the ground, underneath the shelter divider, where a substantial amount of the hay falls.

Mel’s counter: Move the “old” feeder (oval metal tank) to block where the hay was falling by the edge of the shelter. This serves double duty as to “catch” the hay that falls out of the fruit bin!

Jeff’s counter: Reaching his abnormally long neck around my tomato cage and waiting until Farley tosses her hay….then catches it.

Mel’s counter: Use a truck bed cargo net to block off the REST of the shelter so that Jeff can no longer even get his HEAD over to Farley’s side (there’s plenty of room for socialization over the fence at the other end of the paddock – I’m just blocking the area between the shelters where I feed the hay.

Jeff’s counter: eat the net

Mel’s counter: Yell at Jeff (even though she still thinks he is cute)

Jeff’s counter: sulk and stand in the sun at the perfect angle to show his (there, but not hugely visible) ribs.

It will be interesting to see how long a bale lasts now that there’s no opportunity for thievery.

Alas! If only my left hand was as easily controlled through cargo nets and tomato cages…..

I have a left hand that grabs, snatches, and holds against my permission. At my last lesson, while cantering right, I did NOT pull with my left hand. AT ALL. Farley tempted me to. Dared me to. Double-D-Dared me with a cherry on top. But I didn’t…..and the result was a wonderfully soft, forward, straight canter.

I’m off to make my thieving left hand write, 100 times: “You do NOT get a horse on the outside rein by pulling on the outside rein!!!!!”

And when it’s done with that, it can write “I shall not hold my inside rein, I shall NOT hold my inside rein”.

But while I’m at it, I have an issue to address with the right! “Dear Right hand – do not play the victim, Left may taunt you and be overbearing, but you have a job too!”.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Having lived in California by entire life, I have probably learned more about how to dress for the outdoors since starting endurance 4 years ago, than in the previous 20+ years of my life! Lessons that everyone else in the REST of the country learned in their toddler years….

So here it is – my layering lessons learned, my preferences, and my “system”. I welcome comments and suggestions….my system is geared towards endurance riding, backpacking, and also the general versatility of the pieces I’m using.

Under layers/Base layer
  • Silks
  • Silks are my absolute favorite piece of clothing. If I ever mention my “silk” underwear, I am NOT referring to any sort of lingerie item, instead I’m talking “long johns”. Although they do keep you “warm”, I find that more importantly, they moderates temperature changes. I’m never too hot or too cold in my silks.
  • Silks are extremely lightweight, thin, and easily layerable. I’ve never been “bugged” by them, and can even wear the silk bottoms under tight jeans.
  • An added bonus of wearing a base layer…. if you have to change in the middle of a vet check, or at base camp while hiking, you aren’t naked!!!!
  • I have silk bottoms and 2 different tops – a tank/camisole and a long sleeve “V”. I’ll wear the tank top if I know I’ll be adding another base layer on top, OR if I know it will be a warmer day. On the bottoms, I typically won’t wear more than one base layer, thus I won’t usually wear a silk bottoms if I know I’ll also be wearing a fleece bottom layer.
  • I always wear my silks next to the skin, regardless of any other base layers I’m wearing.


  • I’m very picky. A fleece/polartec base layer must be seamless/flat seams, with a minimum of a waistband, and be very thin without a lot of pile.
  • Have not found a set that is currently sold that I’m a fan of – I have a pair of old REI fleece bottoms that I love, but was not able to find in stores.

I do not like the nylon. The wool (ie “smart wool” branded stuff) base layers seem wonderful, but I’m not a fan of the price….Would definitely pick up a pair to try if I found on clearance.

Moving on to the “real” clothing

I have 2 shirts I love.

Convertible shirt – can have long or short sleeves depending on what I zip on or off!

  • This is my favorite for colder/moderate rides as it is easily layerable.
  • I love to pair this shirt with silks, as it doesn’t moderate temperatures well by itself.
    The shift has lots of options – however some adjustments (like taking or putting on sleeves) are not easily done on the trail, so plan accordingly….

Technical shirt – My FITS shirt

  • I wore my FITS shirts during Tevis. I think these are absolutely fabulous shirt and LOVE them. I have written a previous review on it…Search the blog and it should come up.
    I think the shirts will be best for hot weather, but have not had a chance to do a colder ride with it, so they may surprise me.
  • I think they are the best choice if I choose not to wear a base layer (such as my silks), because the shirt itself does a good job of moderating temperature.


  • I prefer summer weight tights because I can then micro manage my layers on top of and underneath the tights. The silks are so thin you really can fit them under the tightest of tights! I swear.
  • Tropical riders are my present favorite (although do not wear like iron….as one year into use they have a small hole in the thigh….)
  • I layer underneath with my choice of warmth, or over the top with a waterproof layer as necessary.

Outer layers
Vest – core warmth

  • I have a down vest I LOVE, however, my mom uses a vest that is the same as the jacket I describe below. Down can be more of a pain to use – you have to wash it separately, it doesn’t like getting wet etc. BUT I think for light weight comfort and warmth, it can’t be beat.

Jacket – windblocker

  • The jacket is my windblocker layer. It’s thin and fleecy. It’s water-resistent, which means that for a sudden, light, short showers it’s going to be just fine. The material dries quickly.
    A full front zip means that I can moderate temperature fairly well with it, and it’s easy to take on and off from the saddle. When back packing, I won’t have to take my back pack off if I need to be a bit cooler – I can unzip it.
  • I think the windblocker is especially important for riding. For back packing, if I was concerned about weight, I would use my waterproof Gortex jacket as a windblocker layer.

Gortex – waterproof

  • Ideally I would have a top and bottoms. Invest in good stuff! You get what you pay for….I prefer the jacket that is NOT lined so it is light and packable. See below for my reasoning of buying layers separately….
  • As a warning….when riding, “manage” the hood! Otherwise it will be quite possible to dump cold water down your back…..

Other Notes
Generally I prefer zippers and snaps. Zippers are good for one handed operation as you zip and down….snaps are nice for versatility – if you want the middle closed and the top and bottom open you can! With some practice, snaps can be one handed. Buttons have some of the same advantages of snaps, however I find they don’t do the one handed thing as well, and tend to fail more often than snaps. Of course, the upside is that it’s easier to replace a button versus a snap!

In my opinion, layers work better than a single piece that inherently contains lots of layers. For example – I have a pair of insulated, “waterproof” riding pants. They are warm, kind of waterproof. But they aren’t as versatile as a pair of silks under riding tights, with a gortex pants over the top.

So where do I get all this cool stuff???? If you are extremely lucky, you can find it at a thrift store, however I find that I’m having to buy my key components new. Ugggggg……it can be kind of pricey, but I’m learning to be patient and to haunt the clearance racks for something suitable. For good quality gear at decent prices (especially in their bargin sections…) keep an eye on these stores – Cabelas, REI, and Sierra trading post.

Happy riding!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Part 3 - Bonus Footage

Apparently I already had a draft of Part 3.......that I forgot about.

When I started part 3, I had a slightly different focus in mind. Because this might be useful for someone else, or myself in the future, I'm going to post it. Don't have time to edit it right now, so please excuse the roughness of the prose!

Starting version 1 of Part 3!
Below are some questions I try to answer for myself when I see a horse. After getting to know the horse, I'll deliberately put the horse into a situation to see if I can get a reaction to try and get to know the personality a bit better. I might also ask the seller some of these questions, but I find it better if I can answer these for myself.

Conformation - I focus on the feet and work my way up. Generally speaking the lower structures carry more "weight" with me. Thus with Farley I started at her feet (absolutely amazing, big, strong, WONDERFUL feet), moved up to the legs (suprisingly straight, with good bone for such a little horse), so the middle of the body (weak hindquarters, stands underneath her self, HUGE wither, slightly dippy back, pointy bump on hindquarters, but exceptional heart girth), and then the head and neck (great neck with a pretty head). I don't need a perfect looking horse, so I focus on functional confo, including movement. If it's acceptable, I move on to the next step.

I try to find out what kind of "spook" they have - is it an in place freezing, or a bolt, or a drop the shoulder and spin? (Farley is an in place spooker)

Are they more likely to freeze or move their feet in an uncertain situation? (I prefer a horse that moves it's feet, Farley is a freezer)

Do they thrive on new experiences? Can they not wait to see what's around the next bend of the trail? Do they argue with me when I change my mind and do something out of routine?

Do they generally have a quiet demeanor or do they have a "high energy" aura that surrounds them?

Are the comfortable just hanging out with you or are they always on the move trying to check something out?

What kind of upbringing have they had? Have they been mostly stalled? by themselves? in a herd? Were they raced or at least brought to fairs as a racing potential? (I prefer race trained horses who were lightly or never raced) When were they broke to ride (I prefer a later broke horse)?

Do they like arena work and trail work equally or do they have a strong opinion about one or ther other?

Last Day of Summer

Apparently the company computer system underwent yet another upgrade over the past day and now, although I can access blogger, I can't actually access my blog, which is needed to respond to comments!!!!!!! Grrr....although the situation is better than LAST time they started blocking stuff, as I couldn't even get to blogger!

Endurance Granny - I think your question on part 3 "For Sale!" warrents its very own post, so I'll get that up soon.

And now on to the the topic......Did you know yesterday was the last day of summer? Of course here in California "last" day of summer is relative as it's 90 degrees today and will continue to be dry, sunny, and warm for at least another month or two.

To celebrate the start of fall.....yesterday I put on my helmet and ipod. Shimmied out of my jeans into a pair of light weight shorts and got Farley out of the paddock. Humming to my favorite old time tune playing on the ipod, I stepped up to the mounting block, shed my sandels and hopped on bareback. After admiring my very striking red/orange toe nail polish while walking around to warm up, I cantered around the arena on a loose rein, singing at the top of my lungs to whatever song was playing and enjoyed the feeling of Farley's back and sides against my bare legs and heels.

And that is how I celebrated summer - in a way I never could have a year ago. The entire situation was only possible through the leaps and bounds Farley and I have made in our partnership over the last year.

What did you do?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Part 3 - Pointed Questions

This is part 3 (and the last!) in a series on buying and advertising an endurance horse, which was born out of my frusteration with endurance horse ad....I don't claim to be an expert, and if you read far enough down you will see not even I follow my own advice! This is meant to be an entertaining series designed to provoke some questions about these wonderful athletes that do endurance and recognize that they have skillz!

So let’s assume you have managed to find an ad that was written slightly above Neanderthal-level, by a person that seems to have a clue that an endurance horse has skills, and through some phone question and answer, you have decided to see the horse.

Now what?

At this point, I have gotten the basics out of the way over the phone – height, color, age, breeding history, ride and competition history etc. After seeing the horse I can start to judge whether I’m interested enough to take my time (and the sellers time) to ask detailed, pointed questions.

Based on any conformational defects I will ask whether the horse has ever been lame in THAT hoof, or THAT leg.

If height is important to you – bring your own tape/stick. Do NOT stand there and argue with the seller on advertised height versus what you *think* it is, no matter how good you think your eye is. Depending on build, horses can be VERY deceiving.

If I see white hairs on the back, I’ll ask what kind of tack was used that caused it, and what changes were made based on the appearance of the white hairs.

Depending on the asking price, I will ask BEFORE the appointment to have vet records available, with the understanding that I will be following up with the vet personally afterwards.

I’ll let the seller talk….and talk and talk and talk. Working at a food processing plant, I’ve been audited a LOT. I’ve also audited co-packers a LOT. Use these strategies –

  • Ask questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no question
  • When the seller answers in general terms – “we” – or makes general statements – “I think he would be good at (why?)”, or “He doesn’t like….(how do you know?)” – dig deeper and try to get specifics
  • If there are other people around, get their opinions and “feel them out”.

Ask to see the horse’s bridle. Ask if there’s multiple bridles depending on the situation (arena work, rides, conditioning etc.). If so, ask to see them all. If a horse is being advertised as having a “dressage foundation” I would expect to see a dressage legal bit in the mix somewhere.

Ask the rider to FULLY describe their ride set up – martingales, breast plates or collars, cruppers, saddle bags – and ask WHY. If they use a breast plate instead of a collar – WHY? If they don’t use ANY back saddle bags – WHY (is the horse goosey? Can’t be trusted while you mess with them?). It could be totally innocent/personal preference of the rider, but it could also give you insight into the horse’s temperament.

Take notes. (or don’t). If you are just trying to get the seller to talk – don’t take notes. This will generally make them feel more comfortable and they will talk more. If you are trying to pin them down on an important point – take out your note pad and write it down as you ask questions.

Be very polite and friendly and smile a lot. Make sure you aren’t unconsciously passing judgment on them or their practices. You are there to evaluate and perhaps buy a horse. However you personally feel about their operation, in my opinion, this is not the time to address it. Chances are, you are going to be the nosiest buyer they’ve ever had. Make it a point to be the friendliest one too.

Competition History
As I write on this subject, remember that I’m a mid-pack endurance rider who enjoys the one-on-one relationship that occurs when I ride one horse for the majority of my events. I’m not looking for a top 10 horse, or a BC horse. I’m looking for a horse that will enjoy it’s job for many many years, that is versatile, and with training will be consistent horse I can trust on the trail and is a pleasure to ride.

If the horse has any endurance RIDE history I will ask very detailed questions. I will have brought an AERC print out. The scenarios that worry me the most are:

  • A horse that has top 10’ed at its first ride. Even if it’s accompanied by a BC
  • A horse that has done several fast LD rides.
  • A horse that is advertised as “conditioned and ready to go to it’s first ride!”

I want a horse that has been brought up slowly over the past year and has 2-3 50’s (with perhaps some LD’s mixed in) with finishes in the mid pack near the end of the year. OR I want a horse that has just started their conditioning.

In my experience, one of the biggest risk for injury in a potential endurance horse is during the first year of rides, especially between the end of the primary conditioning period and into the first 1-2 rides (admittedly I don’t have tons of experience, but this has been my experience and from talking to others, their experience as well). I either want the horse safely through that period (a year of slow and steady rides), OR far enough away from it (ie just starting conditioning) that I feel like the that period is under my control.

If I did buy a horse that was near the end of their conditioning cycle, advertised as “ready to go”, I would “redo” the conditioning program from the beginning, but in an accelerated fashion, looking for any “holes” or inconsistencies. Where I might take 7-12 months to bring a horse to it’s first ride without any previous endurance conditioning, the “acclerated” program might be as short as 3-4 months.

Of course – all the above information changes if I’m buying from a breeder/trainer/friend that I trust. I’m assuming that the horse is coming from a stranger, or a person you know only casually.

Sometimes there’s a really good reasons a horse shows some very high placings or fast times in an LD. Take a look at Farley’s record her first year…..A first place 30 mile finish, a top 10 in her next LD. Than a 55, followed by 4 more LD’s at an INSANELY fast speed. In that case I could justify her record by presenting the following facts:

  • In her first LD, placings were not recognized, therefore no reason to race. I happened to be first, but if you calculate my pace, you will see that it’s a very moderate pace that would have put me mid-pack in most rides.
  • In her second LD, again placings were not recognized, the pace is generally appropriate, but I do agree it was a little fast. I was preparing her for her first 50, so I wanted something a bit faster to let me know if she was ready to move up. I stayed longer at the hold than required for the LD’s (I followed the 50’s requirement) toward the goal of preparing for the 50. And truthfully – we did go faster than I would have liked – she was a bit of a *&(*^%( that ride….
  • In the 4 day death valley ride, there were very few riders each day so placings can be ignored….There were so few LD’s that we were piggy backing on the shoulders of the 50’s and thus the distances, and total hold times that are accounted for are a bit suspect…..I have GPS data that shows a reasonable pace.
  • The strong mid-pack finish in the 55 before the death valley ride, and the 65 afterwards should alleviate any lingering concerns, as well as the rest of my record that shows a consistent mid-pack finisher.

I’ll finish my soap box on training with a quick note on dressage: Ideally, I want a horse with no dressage training at all, OR correct training that is heavily based in the foundations of dressage. I would rather see a horse that is taking contact and relaxed, than a horse curling behind the bit but “looks pretty”. I strongly feel that dressage is a life-long journey for the horse and I’m in no hurry to see it move up the levels. One of the final deciding factors of my decision to take dressage lessons was learning that Elmer, the “wonder” horse of the competitive trail world, still did near-daily dressage to keep him fit and limber between rides.

To barter or not to barter
Personally, I HATE bargaining. Either the animal is worth the asking price or it’s not. I buy my vehicles the same way. I am honest. If I don’t think that the animal is worth the asking price (but I would be willing pay a price fairly close to the asking), I will let the buyer know that it is a nice animal, however I feel that based upon my evaluation, the asking price is too much for me right now. At that point if the buyer would like to revise the price – great, but I’m not going to go back and forth about it. But again, this is a personal preference and dislike of bargaining.

And then there’s the caveat….
Of course, you might follow up on an ad that is exactly two sentences long, talk to a guy on the phone who gives no real information and is difficult to understand because of an accent, THEN go SEE the horse, only to realize the facility is chockfull of barbed wire, the only bridles available are a wire snaffle and a tom thumb (thank goodness you brought your own saddle…..). And then decide for some crazy reason to BUY the horse at the ASKING price, in cash. And then realize that the paperwork/registration states the horse is older than originally represented. And end up with a Tevis horse.

And that’s life.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The absent Melinda

I'm so close to finishing my vet school application I can taste it. Literally - if it isn't done by this evening I may start eating my draft copies.

The Tevis figures prominently in my personal statement (of course) and I may post it here after the deadline (don't want any naughty applicants plagiarizing right????) for application passes.

To the random person that added as a follower of this blog over the weekend - Welcome! I'm not sure, based on the quality of my posts in the last 3 weeks or so, why ANYONE would book mark this pitiful excuse for a blog....but I'm not asking too many questions! LOL.

I have some great posts coming up, including the conclusion to the "For Sale!" series. Just be patient while I finish up this (*&(^#)(*)($)(*(*%^&^^%^%$ application.

If you simply MUST have more "Melinda" on this Monday afternoon, check out my Welcome column at the CBA website. Check this link: and scroll down to September 18th. If it's not there anymore, than it's in the Welcome Column archives.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Feet Pictures

It's been awhile since I posted hoof pictures!!!! Cameras always make the angles look weird. As always, I'm a complete novice at this so I appreciate any and all feedback. If any one wants to use these pics as an example of something in their own blog, go ahead. These pics were taken on Wednesday, I last trimmed (rasped) on Monday. I'm considering having the farrier trim her today (Thursday).....due to the fact I think the toe on the RF is getting too long, but I don't know what to do about it.

Right Front

I feel like that this hoof has a tendancy to grow out on the toe and have a short heel....but by looking at the pics, it looks like the heel could even go down further!!!!!! But I'm a'scair'ed to do so because the toe looks so long when the hoof is on the ground.....I have trouble with the quarters flaring, but it's better than a month ago. I have a feeling once the sole starts shedding again, that I'm going to find I can take down the hoof wall a lot more and some of that dirt in the white line will resolve it's self???? That's what happened with the hind - once the sole started shedding out I realized I didn't have a stretched white line as much as I had retained sole and a high hoof wall......any opinions?

Left Front

Likes to grow a lot of heel, but looking at the bottom, not sure I'm comfortable taking any more heel off? What do you guys think? The toe on this hoof tends to have flare, (as opposed to the RF having flare at the quarters), which seems to be getting better as I address it each tme I rasp. If I'm not careful, this foot tends to want to break over any place EXCEPT over the middle of the toe - so I always go back a few days after trimming to make sure the breakover is over the middle and adjust as necessary. The sole plane is level - ignore the black line that makes it look like the right side (in the picture) of the heel is higher.....I think that line is sole that is about to shed (whoo hoo!) but it's level for now.

The hinds.....

She's standing under herself here, but it gives you a general idea.

Right hind. Nice chunks of sole are coming out, leaving a very nice concave hoof. You can see a retained chunk of sole on the right side of the picture.

And finally the left hind.
Also seeing some nice chunks of sole coming off of this foot as well.

Comments? Suggestions? Reassurance? Lambasting?

Ariat Chap Review

I will not do something, just because everyone else is doing it. Especially when it comes to expensive items. Sometimes this is justified – there is a cheaper or more effective alternative that can be found with a little work. All my life I’ve been used to “making do” and while I’m more comfortable now than I’ve ever been (or will be for a long time in the future, as immediate poverty looms in my near future as a graduate student) it still goes against my nature to buy something because it’s the popular thing.

So it was with the ariat terrain chaps.

My first pair of chaps were a pair of suade Velcro ones. They served me faithfully for a couple of years, even if they weren’t exactly quality – the elastic understrap broke, the stitching come apart and under the right circumstances they encourage my tights to ride up.

Then came cut-up tail wraps acting as stirrup leather covers, paired with knee high socks.

Then came the Span Am Cavalry canvas chaps with laces. These were great! They were not as easy to put on or take off and while they were light weight, cool, and great for running – I admit that they’ve never quite recovered from the rainy, muddy 100 I did last February.

Ariat Terrain chaps were too trendy and too expensive – I wasn’t interested. But then I discovered a little tack store in Corvallis OR called “The tack box”. They had a pair of the chaps, in my size, in brown. I decided on a whim to try them on. To my surprise I actually liked them.

Then I did something stupid. I decided to put them back and make a decision later.

One week before Tevis I decided that I MUST have a pair of those ariat terrain half chaps.

You guessed it – NO one in my area carries them. NO vendor at Tevis stocked them. And although I would have willing paid up to a 100 bucks to have them, they were not to be found. I kept picturing that pair of half chaps hanging in that tack store, for less than $85, in a state that doesn’t charge sales tax.

2 weeks after Tevis I flew back to Corvallis on business.

And you guessed it.

Bought myself a pair of those half chaps.

I love them. I even forget I’m wearing them. I was a little worried at first because they were a bit tight around the top, and I had trouble getting them zipped all the way to the bottom because they were a bit tall as well. However, after ~a week the leather has completely molded to my leg for a custom fit and they are so comfy I forget I have them on and regularly wear them home. When trying them on, don’t worry if they are a bit snug – they do stretch and I’m very pleased with how they have broken in and they are not restricting in the least, even though there was some “tightness” in some areas during the first couple of rides.

I was a little disappointed that the Elastic straps that snap at the bottom were such crappy quality. In the second use, one of the snap halves came out. My trainer told me that was her typical experience as well, and now she just cuts off the elastic side snap strap anyways because it tends to interfere with where the spur rests. I took her advice and I like them better that way – the zipper still stays put, but they are easier to take on and off and it does make the spur rest better without the extra bulk.

I wish I had the black option, but I wasn’t about to run the risk of not being able to find them again! And really, to find them for a reasonable price without having to pay tax or shipping was worth the sacrifice in color.

Overall, the best chap option I’ve tried. They are cool, light, don’t rub, stay in place, and keep my shoes tied. I think I could even run in them! Consider investing in a pair!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

By the Numbers

I must admit when I noticed Farley’s slick shiny summer coat starting to shed…I stuck my fingers in my ears, closed my eyes and said “lalalalalalalalalala”.

I could swear her nice short summer coat had JUST come in. Is it just me or do horses spend their time more furry than less?

But now, mid-September, I must face the facts. Summer is officially ending in the next week or so, the days are getting noticeably shorter, and even if it isn’t sweatshirt weather, I’ve started throwing one in the truck for the mornings and evenings “just in case”.

Farley definitely has a “spring” in her step….the late summer lethargy has disappeared and my sweet, precious pony, while not totally replaced by a fire breathing dragon, has at least progressed to a “prove to Melinda how athletic I am!” pony. Fall agrees with her and our pleasant mid-day canter on the canal quickly turned into airs above ground at a gallop……

Has it really been almost 8 weeks since Tevis 2010? I’m anxiously awaiting my buckle in the mail (any day!) but received something almost as good the other day – my official numbers!

I’ll be updating the conditioning data in my pages/tabs on the top of the blog to reflect this year’s Tevis, and through our current conditioning, but here’s a short blurb on interesting facts I took from the number sheet.

In 2010 I spent almost the exact same amount of time in the gate-and-goes (~45 minutes) as 2009. (through Foresthill)

In 2010…

  • I was much faster from Redstar to Robinson
  • Slower to from Robinson to Last chance
  • EXACTLY the same to Deadwood
  • Slower to Foresthill from chicken Hawk
  • All the other segments were paced relatively the same in 2009 vs 2010. (except of course the race stopped at Foresthill for me in 2009).

In 2010, I spent a total of 82 minutes in gate and goes OR late from checks (late 4 minutes out of Robinson). This means I spent almost as much time in vet checks/gate and goes in the last 35 miles, as I did in the first 65 miles.

The official time spent at gate-and-gos may not be entirely accurate, because for G&Gs prior to Foresthill I would often vet through right away and then spend time after I had been clocked “out” letting Farley eat. I probably spent 10-15 minutes per check prior to Foresthill, regardless of what my official in/out times were. After Foresthill I spent 15-20 minutes at each gate and go. I had planned on 15 mintues at Fransico’s but Farley had different ideas (stayed ~20 minutes). I actually had no idea I spent so long at Lower Quarry (20 minutes) but didn’t feel well at that point so who knows how my brain was functioning.

Walking the ENTIRE way from the last check to the finish took me 1.6 hours (4 miles)

I didn’t always pulse in when Farley first came down – it depended on whether there were lines or, if I was letting her eat before or after the vet check.

Final P/R was 52. (pulsed right off the trail)

Scores were all A’s/B’s except for one C for gut sounds at one of the checks near the canyons. In that case, I had a HUGE crowd in front of me and vetted her in immediately off the trail, knowing she would eat AFTER the gate and go at the out timer.

  • Overall “real” pace: 4.95 (takes into account time spent in checks. Because I spent more time in G&G’s than recorded, my overall actual pace was probably closer to 5mph)
  • Pace based on official ride time: 4.82
  • Start to Foresthill 2009: 5.60
  • Start to Foresthill 2010: 5.63

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

When life gives you lemons...

If you own performance horses for long enough, there is only one guarantee – at some point you will experience the disappointment of forced downtime, likely at a point where you thought you were finally accomplishing something.

There’s the obvious – learn from the situation, re-evaluate your management strategies yada yada yada.

However, there’s another gift that is given with the sentence of enforced downtime – the gift of starting over and starting slowly.

I’m naturally an optimistic person. I tend to make the best out of a bad situation. I can ALWAYS see the bright side and nothing gets me down for long. When Farley needed to be hand walked for 2 weeks for her minor bow a few years ago, I taught her to long line. Why handwalk a horse when I could teach it a skill? Later, when I asked her to tail up a hill, it went remarkably smoothly. So after the tye up, when the vet recommended working up to 20 minutes of walking, and then start riding at a walk, my ears perked up. I had noticed Farley “faking” contact lately in dressage – she would look like she was on the bit, but I didn’t have nearly enough horse in my hand. After ok’ing it with the vet (who thought the stretching of walking dressage would be GREAT rehab) I dedicated the 2 weeks of walking post-tyeup to re-establishing the concept of contact, long and low, and stretching over the bit.

By being forced to stay at a walk, I couldn’t use speed to my advantage. Because I was bareback, I could really feel when her back was up, whether I was pumping with my seat, or clinging/nagging with my leg. I had a limited time to work each day so I wasn’t tempted to drill a concept. In summary – it forced me to do the things I should have been doing all along.

After 2 weeks, with confirmation that her muscle enzymes were back to normal, we were cleared for normal work.

I found to my surprise that not only did I have a completely different horse in my hand for dressage, I had a better relationship too.

At my lesson last week – the first since the tye up – I got some jaw dropping trots. And canters. And down transitions. And halts. All because I took the opportunity to go back to the basics. The most suprising thing was I got all this from just doing quality work at a walk.

Here’s what I learned (and hopefully I remember them without having to go through another “incident”!)

  • If there’s an issue, make it really really really simple for 2 weeks. And easy. Really easy.
    Ride without stirrups for the first 5 minutes of any ride in the saddle. I found my hips and leg stayed relaxed once I picked up the stirrups. I had less trouble with pumping, clinging, and my knee moving up.
  • Relationship first. If you haven’t had some good rides in a while (and I was there with Farley…) and you think you need to take about 3 steps back, take 5 instead.
  • Be a cheerleader. I found out that Farley really likes the sound of me praising her with my voice. No, I won’t do it during a dressage test, but if I’m trying to let her know that YES THAT’S a GOOD girl for stretching over the bit and I can be encouraging while she’s figuring out, than that’s what I should do. It keeps me relaxed and happy too.
  • Do whatever it takes to take the frustration out of the rider/horse relationship. Ride with an ipod and sing out loud for 2 weeks. Ride bareback for two weeks. Go on pointless hacks where you saunter along for 20-30 minutes. Swear off using the whip as an aid until you can use it without feeling frustration.
  • Sometimes, when horses feel like a lot of work and motivation is low, it helps to ride every day for a short, relaxed ride, if you usually ride harder fewer days a week.

I think it says something about any relationship where it comes out of hardship even stronger. I feel like my relationship with Farley has never been better. She’s never looked better, never been stronger, and has never felt this good. Onward down the trail!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Life gets in the way

As you can guess from my lack of updates, things in my life are not exactly going well.

To reassure you all…..Farley is doing tremendously good!

My department recently underwent a management “reorganization”. The first thing my new manager did was to call HR, “concerned” about my cough. This was AFTER I explained that I had been cleared by the doctor as “non-contagious”, but was having someone else do the tour of the processing floor with her, as I felt that I, as quality control, should be an example and therefore it was not appropriate to cough on the processing floor, not something I could guarantee.

I would love to call in sick, even go on LOA for a couple of weeks. Because that’s how long this is going to take to clear up. I thought I had done the responsible thing – stayed home until made sure I was not contagious (through a doctor), excuse myself when I have to cough, and try to minimize any PERCEPTION of risk, even where there is none. So go ahead, recommend I take “the time” to make sure I’m fully recovered. Since I’m not contagious, I will take my LOA time as an opportunity to travel, ride endurance rides, and visit family, since I will continue to be paid. The only reason I thought I should be at work is because there is not risk of getting anyone sick and I’m capable of performing my job – which by the way, if I’m on LOA for the next 4-6 weeks I will neatly get out of preparing certain plant locations for a particularly horrendous audit that is scheduled in that time period. So go for it.

So as you can imagine, the one bright spot in my life right now is my horse. Over the weekend I went to Auburn and rode the finish to the waterfall and back. I always lose boots at the waterfall and wanted to see if some changes I’ve made to the boots made a difference. I let Matt drive me and the horse, as he wasn’t comfortable with me making the trip alone since I was still getting used to meds. He did a GREAT job driving my trailer. For 11 years he’s been telling me he can drive a trailer and I guess he was telling the truth!

Then, last night, after realizing how much I wish I was ALREADY in vet school because of my not-so-fun-job, Farley gave me an absolutely GORGEOUS lesson in dressage. I’ll be discussing in a future post of how I made “lemonade after being given lemons” during the tye up episode, but the result is a beautifully through horse that is truly on the bit, and is happier than ever doing her dressage job.

As with everything, I’m trying to focus on the positives. I have a boyfriend that can drive a trailer. I have a happy, healthy horse. My job is just one part of my life, and it’s not permanent. After next week, my vet school application will be done. No one close to me has recently died, I’m still able to pay my bills. Overall, life is good. A few bumps, but nothing that in the long run that is going to devastate me….I hope.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Part 2 - Just what skills does endurance require anyways?

Did I really write part 1 of this series back on August 17th? Wow! Time flies when you are having fun or.....not.... But I digress.....We are talking about those skilled athletes we call "our" endurance horses.

In part 1 I mentioned that endurance horses have skill and broadly hinted that those skills do not involve running itself to death or going down the trail with it's little nose in the air.

What skills are required? What skills does a horse need to have "naturally" to make a suitable prospect, and what other skills need to be "trained" into the horse once it does start moving down the trail?

Obviously no horse will have all these traits. Some are more important than others, depending on what whether you are seeking top 10's, turtle, or BC awards. Exceptional endurance horses certainly break these "rules" all the time, so we are speaking in generalities here......

I have never bought a "ready made" endurance horse. Some of the biggest rewards for me in endurance are in bringing an experienced horse along to it's first ride, it's first 50, and it's first 100. I'm speaking as a "middle of the pack" rider, who if I top 10 is totally by accident! When I look at a prospect, I'm looking for innate abilities that I think will translate into a safe, sane, sound, happy, 100 mile endurance horse.

Innate Ability/Traits

  • Calm in every day situations and when presented new situations within an every day routine.
  • Approaches new situation with curiosity or indifference rather than fear.
  • Heartrate - some people put a great deal of emphasis on this, but I must admit I don't particularly care. But I mention it hear for the sake of mentioning it.
  • GREAT feet and legs
  • Back Confo that isn't IMPOSSIBLE to fit with an affordable saddle
  • A desire to have a job
  • As personal preference I also look for a horse that isn't herd bound, and not excessively dominant or submissive.

Just like any prospect in any discipline, innate ability will only get you so far....endurance horses require a set of skills. Those sets of skills may very slightly from team to team. Sometimes I don't think we realize just how important the set of skills IS until you ride a green horse WITHOUT those skills. I remember riding the 4 days at Death Valley on Farley in her first season and finally saying - "look - I'm going to stop telling you where the rocks are - that's YOUR job".

Trained Behavior, learned skills

  • How to follow trail - the rider may be focused on a ribbon several curves down a single track, or taking off a jacket, or be turned around messing with saddle bags - the horse needs to focus on following the trail no matter what's going on around them.
  • How to pick the best footing - I will point the horse in the general direction, but they need to learn it's generally up to them to pick the best footing down that trail.
  • Adjust gaits as necessary for the trail. If we are moving at a trot in the dark, and there's a section that needs to be walked, that's Farley's job to pick an appropriate gait.
  • How to go cross country NOT on a trail if necessary
  • Immediately relax (bring heart rate down) and stand still upon entering a vet check for P & R's.
  • Eat and drink when offered. Farley knows that even if she's not thirsty, she has to acknowledge the water is there by dipping her nose in it.
  • Unfazed by the "stress" of a ride - riderless horses blasting by, bucking/rearing horses at the beginning of rides - but continues to focus on the trail and rider.
  • Able to go down the trail at a steady pace and gait on a loose rein *most* of the time without pulling or fighting rider, with the minimum of training aids.
  • Not unduly concerned with "space". Riders should *not* be riding up the tail of the horse in front, but it does happen. Horse should be able to deal with it on a intermittent basis.
  • Stand still when asked
  • Move through a variety of trail without undue stress - mud, hills, rocks, snow, single track.
  • Cross water. And logs. And banks. And eroded hills. And shimmy down insanely steep, soft single track.
  • Forgive less than perfect riding on the behalf of the rider, as the rider gets more tired and more tired and more tired.......
  • Ride out of the darkness into blinding, blazing lights
  • Know how to pivot turn on single track is necessary in an emergency.
  • Be a good "camper" in ride camp and trustworthy enough for the rider to leave for ride meetings etc.
  • Graciously accepts whatever pokes and prods tickle the fancy of the ride vet.
  • Not have vices that endanger the volunteers other other rides/horses around. Malicious, targeted kicking, biting, lack of respect for personal space, uncontrollable bucking/rearing that is severe enough to hurt others around you.
  • Other skills that I've heard about being trained into endurance horses is - peeing on command, laying down so the rider can mount.

What do you think? Did I miss something? Am I way off base? Please let me know in the comments!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Melinda is sick again...

....and has an appointment with the doctor at 2pm to day to confirm whether this IS or ISN'T whooping cough.

Lovely eh?

If this is whooping cough, I would like to personally scream at every single parent in this STUPID state who has refused to vaccinate their children against major childhood diseases, thus starting an epidemic in California. I would not be sick and have GONE TO WORK for TWO weeks getting other people sick if you had gotten your damn children vaccinated. Who knows how many people I have exposed to this virus - it's not going to kill me, but it would be TERRIBLE if someone young, old, or immunocompromised DIED.

I have major allergies, some trouble with asthma, AND was exposed to smoke to a wild fire. I thought it was one of those things, but after 2 weeks, plenty of OTC medication and denial, it's time to go into the doctor's office NOW instead of waiting over the holiday weekend, in which I end up in the ER coughing so hard I can't breathe and I'm gagging and retching.

The most frusterting thing is that I feel FINE. I don't FEEL sick until I try to go to bed and spend 1 1/2-2 hours sounding like a emphazema patient being tortured to death.

In other news.....Farley is doing well! And isn't that what really matters?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Hay results are back!

Deb from the very-helpful-folks at Elk Grove Milling ( has once again shown me the benefits of dealing locally. This morning I took 3 hay samples for analysis:
  • Alfalfa hay fed before/during tye up
  • Grass hay fed before/during tye up
  • Grass hay that is currently being fed

The results were very interesting! They were done with the NIR method, which can a bit less accurate than a wet lab test for carbs, but I think as a comparative test between the 3 hays, it was very insightful.

Below is an edited e-mail to my veterinarian on the results:


"I thought you might be interested in a summary of the results - I'll bring the full copies of the reports when I see you next month. Below is my interpretation of the data, but if you have a different insight, than I welcome it, as *most* of my nutrition in college was avian based!

The alfalfa she was fed before/during the tye up had a simple sugar level of 6.75 and starch of 10.36 for a combined value of 17.11. The grass hay she was fed before/during the tye up had a simple sugar level of 6.64 and a starch of 14.8 for a combined value of 21.11 (purchased from Wheeler) The grass hay I'm purchasing from Turlock feed has a simple sugar level of 8.49 and a starch of 7.80 for a combined value of 16.29.

I know these aren't the only numbers to be taken into consideration, however I think the differences in sugar was a significant factor. The NFC (calculated) value is higher in "my" grass than the [stable] hays, however as this contains NDSF values as well, it doesn't concern me. The NDF value of "my" hay is slightly lower, indicating a better digestibility. The "Sol_carbo" (soluble carbohydrates I assume....) is much higher in "my" hay (12.20 versus 7.83 in the grass hay fed by the stable), however I'm not sure whether it is a water soluble or ethanol soluble measure, so I'm assuming this measurement is less useful for now than the other carb numbers I have. "


I also took the opportunity to look at the minerals in the hays (comparing only the 2 grass hays). The profiles were very similar with the manganese being a bit higher than ideal, but the amounts/ratios of the other minerals were very good. Calcium/phosphorus ratio is almost a 1:1 with the Ca being slightly higher (good).


Protein in "my" grass hay is fairly good (18), however lower than the stable grass hay (20) and the alfalfa that was being fed at the stable (~19-20).


Although I will not be able to test every batch of hay I purchase, this gives me a the peace of mind that at least for now - I'm doing the right thing. The sugars may not be "ideally" low, but it's lower than what was being fed, so that will have to do for now. The feedstore that I'm purchasing from doesn't go through their grass hay superfast, so at least for the next couple of months, I will be feeding the cutting that was tested.

One interesting comparison was the mineral content of the hays - the 2 grass hays are locally grown, but the alfalfa is not - it's purchased from a broker and (*I think*) comes from Nevada. The mineral profiles are very different - the manganese levels in the alfalfa is much lower (and closer to the "ideal" ratio between zinc/copper etc.), sodium is much lower, and the phosphorus is significantly different.

Applying Knowledge

Another management change I'll be doing, based on these results is discontinuing the ration balancer I'm using - the mineral profile looks very good and is consistent if I stay with locally grown hays (based on an admittedly small sample!), so that's one less variable in her diet I need to worry about!