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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Lake Almanor 100 Results

I finished! Farley looked GREAT after the ride. My crew and friend, I* did all of her trot outs for me and she looked good all day. No problem with 6 loops out of camp - Farley was ready to go each time. We did miles 50-85 all by our lonesome and she was very forward the entire time - it was a great "check" for both of us.

For LD's and 50's and 65's, Farley "learned" the distance after completing the distance 3x, and that seems to be true with the 100's. She truly seemed to "get" it at this ride, and actually seemed to be looking forward to a 7th loop, if that was the plan.

More later. I'm off to take a nap!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Wednesday Post

So it's official - I've bought the domain and a hosting service. I've muddled my way through setting up the hosting and in approximately 24 hours I'll be able to upload......a "under construction" page at that will announce to people they can return in November 2010 and see a plethora of information related to Endurance.

What is this plethora of info I talk of?????? Well, it will include.....
  • The 2009 Tevis video
  • The 2010 Tevis movie (assuming my brother completes it soon!)
  • A humorous (of course) movie short on how to crew for endurance
  • Links to sites and articles I deem worthy
  • Renegade boot sales
  • Full ride reports and pictures
  • GPS track uploads of conditioning locations and rides (with a full disclaimer that if you follow my track and manager to kill yourself it is NOT MY FAULT!!!!! and I won't be posting anything that's on private land...)
  • Product reviews
  • Book reviews
I feel strongly about mentoring and providing educational resources for others in the endurance sport. This is the way I can do that for now. Obviously I'm not an expert and I'll be providing links to a lot of other resources so that people can learn and make their own decisions. Hopefully through boot sales and clickable ads the site can cover it's own costs, with maybe some left overs for a ride or two.

Now that I've formally announced my intention to do this, I officially am NOT allowed to get frustrated and quit after I've attempted to muddle through this whole process without success.

Programming a website is not fun when you are PICKY about design and you don't know anything about html coding. Or hosting. Or anything else for that matter.

Believe me - I'm learning fast. I may have to use a template for a while but trust me - that will NOT last.

I'll make a formal announcement when I launch the site, sometime mid-November!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Picture for Today

I can't upload Pics to Blogger!  I'm SURE it has something to do with work....
Anyways, this is a test to see if I can E-MAIL a pic to the blog and have it post.  :)  There's always a work around. 
If there's no picture, than it didn't work and I will be reposting this from the library tonight. 
If there IS a picture - what you are seeing is the 3 objects that will go into the shadow box - the buckle, my tevis angel, and Minx's bit.  It was her favorite bit and I can't imagine using it on another horse - and there's no reason to because it was a cheap enough bit I can just buy another one if I needed it. 
I went running with Farley last night - it was a perfect fall day.  On the way out I led, and on the way back she surged ahead and led.  She wasn't pulling so  I ran behind her like I was driving a cart, practicing our whoas, trot, walk, and turns.  I think a cart may be her 4th career in the future.  Having her in front of me, or in front and slightly to one side is great because I can watch her feet and gait closely.  Is she landing heel first?  Is there any unevenness?  How straight is she carrying herself?  How do the muscles in her body change depending on how she holds her head and neck?  When we slow down or speed up, how is she using her body?
I'm a bit stressed about the weekend - now they are predicting rain and snow showers.  The forecast is gradually warming up, but I'm worried with a 2WD truck I may have problems getting into and out of basecamp. 
Off to pack the trailer for the ride and work on the website!

Monday, October 25, 2010


As I’m sure all of you spent your weekend anxiously awaiting news of Farley, considering the terrible storm moving through northern California.

I would like to put all your fears to rest.

Although she is a bit muddy, and grumpy, she is a warm-fuzzy-none shivery pony.

There. Now we can move onto lesser things don’t you agree?

Like who won the “what should I do with my buckle” contest.
Monstersgroom of course….but not because she offered to make me the display – no, not at all. In all seriousness, once we started to e-mail back and forth she has some great, creative ideas that just are going to be wonderful and are going to incorporate some elements that are important to me. I’m excited and I’ll share it with you once everything is done :). Monstersgroom – you get as your prize…..a cute fuzzy bunny!!!!!!! (Or a sheep. I'm not sure yet). I know….no body saw that coming!

And what the heck am I going to do if it rains this Saturday?
I am more prepared than EVER about rain. This will be my SECOND 100 this year in the rain. And I learned a lot. Like…..don’t ever get wet and cold. Better to be sweating and have to pee a lot because I’m drinking too much water, than to let my large muscle groups get cold, stiff, and build up lactic acid. I have silks, and fleece and gortex pants (and jacket), and winter weight tights, and insulated boots, and water proof boots, and multiple versions of each of the item below.

And I think we all agree that horses in general do better when the weather is cooler, so if it’s raining, I probably have a better chance of finishing the ride. Especially considering it sounds like most of the trail is nice wide jeep roads. Which ordinarily I would be cursing – but if it rains will be a Godsend (literally – you have no idea how much praying has gone into this event).

The bigger problem is how am I going to prepare Farley for the race this Saturday in the rain and mud? Sitting still for a week will increase the chances of a tie up so we’ll be creative – lots of canal rides and walks, and maybe even a jog or two. I’ll be focusing on getting LOTS of sleep and keeping stress to the minimum.

And lastly – how am I going to celebrate my 1,000 miles WHEN I complete this Saturday?
I’m thinking cupcakes with the word “1000” on the top? Any other bright (bright = cheap, easy, not time consuming) ideas? Sorry – no adorable fuzzy animal for this one – just my everlasting gratitude!

Friday, October 22, 2010

A New Connection

My focus today was riding Farley forward to the connection. How much of her (very little) forward have I been inhibiting by thinking "pull" rather than "push"? The elastic, seeking connection is wonderful and mind boggling difficult to describe. When I'm riding with the correct connection, I feel as if I have an immense responsibility - Farley is giving me a gift by going forward to the connection. It is my job (nay, privilege) to keep that connection kind, soft, and steady. A difficult task indeed for this training level rider who is still coordinating aids, position, rhythm, and balance amid a myriad of other tasks.....

Even though I continue to love and adore my Solstice for trail and endurance work, I found myself choosing to practice dressage bareback more and more. Unconsciously I was fighting to maintain a good position in it for dressage. A couple of weeks ago I decided to start looking for an inexpensive saddle we could use for dressage, and would be a good back up saddle (I only had one saddle for Farley, and if it needed repairs or a reflocking I would be without one). I'm not a fan of Wintecs, however I had ridden in the Isabell that my trainer owned and it was a decent fit for us both and put me in a good position. It's possible to find a good deal on these with a bit of patience and effort. I found one local and made arrangements to pick it up 2 weeks ago.

So far I'm very happy. I wouldn't have paid for a new one, but used it is worth what I paid for it. The seller was kind enough to send it along with two sets of leathers and a girth (and a cup of hot cider!) which sweetened the deal even more. I wouldn't use it as a primary endurance saddle, but is definitely comfy enough to do a fairly flat and less technical ride.

I like having 2 saddles to rotate through. The Solstice is not a perfect fit for her, but is perfectly acceptable for now - especially if I can ride in a different saddle for the dressage to avoid have pressure in the same points every day.

It's hard to review and recommend saddles because everyone's personal preferences are so different. However, if you are looking for a relatively cheap, low maintenance saddle to do your dressage in, I would recommend you consider a used Isabell. I've heard that the other Wintec dressage models ride very differently. They are also discontinuing the current version of the Isabell and updating it. As with running shoes, an update can be good or bad.....and since I knew the "old" version would be sufficient, that was one more motivation for me to try and find one now, versus waiting a few years.

Does any here rotate through 2 or more saddles regularly? I remember when I had Minx, I rotated through a Thorowgood dressage saddle, and a 1860's McClellan.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

It's about time!

I've been decidedly good lately. And it has nothing do to with horses.

*waits as approximately 3/4 of her readers leave, suddenly disinterested*

I backed up my computer. For the first time EVER. In my life.

My lap top was purchased in 2005. That's positively ancient in computer years. I've NEVER had a problem with it. It just keeps plugging away. It's a Mac, that originally had the Panther OSX on it, that I upgraded to Tiger shortly after I purchased (Thank goodness, as most programs still run on Tiger and NOTHING runs on Panther anymore.....). Even now, with the feet missing underneath, the rubber stoppers at the top of the screen gone, the mechincal fasterner broken, and a funky tilted look to the screen because the hinge has gone still works like a charm.

But lately I've been thinking - would it work faster if I got all the pictures etc from past years off the computer? How devastated would I be if I lost all my pictures? How about my portfolio and application materials? The wise thing would be to backup my computer.

So, I got myself an external hard drive. It was easy, it wasn't nearly as expensive as I thought it would be. I plugged it in. It backed up my ENTIRE computer. I then dragged all the files I wanted to delete off onto the hard drive a second time, in a different folder. Then I burned all those files to a disk to back up the external hard drive. Then I deleted them. Five years worth of pictures, documents, and movies (ok - so there was only like three movies, but you get my point).

My computer now has 4 GB of free space!!!!!! Whoo hoo! My external hard drive has like 250GB of free space....mmmm......I'm thinking this was an AWESOME idea.

Now I'm busy exporting the blog to my computer in preparation for moving the blog to a new location (don't worry - I'll keep you all updated).

All in all, backing up my computer, backing up the files I wanted to delete a second time, burning the CD's of secondary back ups, and deleting the files took me.....4 hours. In the future, I think by taking 1 hour several times during the year, I can streamline the process.

So as a fellow blogger and endurance rider (who likes to keep pics of her rides for ever and ever) I want to ask you'all a question - when was the last time you backed up YOUR system?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Watch and Learn....

As I mentioned after the Comstock ride report, Farley sometimes trots out funny. And by “funny”, I mean “looks lame”. [10/21/10 update: A better word to use here is "uneven". It's very subtle. Tevis is the only ride I've gotten a request to re-trot out because of it (at Robinson) - it's a tougher vet out than most rides, especially in the first half of the ride. Most other vets that catch it give me a B on gait and tell me to watch it. ]

I know there are “ways” to get your slightly unsound horse through a vet check. I’m not interested and that’s not what I’m talking about. Farley is not unsound. After 3 years of inconsistent trot outs (good and bad), a couple of "re"-trot outs (Tevis this year when I had to trot out THREE times at Robinson), vet evaluations, and observations – my vet and I have come to the conclusion that the whole problem is a lack of forward and straightness.

The theory is - when she’s trotting very very very slow and looking for an excuse to walk during trot outs, she’s pushing off stronger with her strong diagonal (LF, RH), and weaker with the weaker diagonal (RF, LH), making her look uneven.

Just like I’m learning in dressage, FORWARD FIRST, then straightness (and then when she’s traveling straight, than the unevenness disappears).

One diagonal is stronger than the other, which is especially evident at certain speeds at a trot – such as very slow (looking for an excuse to walk) or very fast (asking to canter). She also doesn’t travel straight (likes to be bent to the left) which is probably also related to the relative strength of the diagonals (Dressage is helping this BTW…).

Most of you have mentioned here, that most endurance vets, if they see the same horse over and over, get used to a particular horse’s quirks. That’s certainly true, but I don’t think letting her trot out in such a way she looks lame, especially when it’s from a lack of response on her part when I say FORWARD, is a good idea. For the most part, this mare is easy going and gives her rider the benefit of the doubt. However, there are a few quirks that if I let her get away with them, quickly translate to a naughty pony. The lack of forward when asked and standing on command are two issues I cannot ignore, or they quickly blow up to bigger problems. Another consideration is this: it’s important to me to get a consistent trot out so that when there IS a problem, the vet can actually see it and the trot out “picture” isn’t complicated by this behavior.

A normal/good trot out for Farley is her nose at my shoulder at a medium pace, on a loose line. This is the trot out I get at the vet in before rides, and usually at the end of rides.

A not-forward/irritated trot-out is Farley following behind me, almost but not quite pulling back on the lead, going just fast enough that it IS a trot. She’s not openly defying me, but there’s definitely resistance and reluctance to play the game. This is when she looks uneven. This is the trot out I get during the vet holds when she’s totally chillin’ at the hold before going back out (which I totally get, but it’s still annoying).

If I’m asked to trot out again and I FOCUS on the trot out and insist that she trots out at a reasonable speed, it disappears, and more than one vet has shrugged and said “I could have sworn that she was 3-legged lame….”.

At Tevis, someone was videoing my trot outs at Robinson and caught this behavior on video. The vet made me trot out three times. What was interesting was how the trot out LOOKED versus how it FELT when I was trotting her out. In all three trot outs, she LOOKS forward and “springy”. There’s no visible difference between her first and third trot outs besides the disappearance of the unevenness, even though, the FEEL of the trot outs between #1 and #3 was drastically different. By the third time we trotted out, I was much more focused on the trot out, and Farley got the idea that we WERE GOING TO CONTINUE this until she put a bit of effort into it…and it was close to an ideal trot out.

What I learned about trot outs
Who would have known there was so much to something so simple! Watching a video of what the vet sees was very enlightening. I made what felt like HUGE changes in the trot out, but visually the only difference was a disappearance of the unevenness. No wonder the vets are skeptical when I try to explain what’s happening!

1. It’s very important to trot the horse out at the “ideal” speed for that horse. Too fast or too slow can make it look off, even when it’s not.

2. I need to be more focused during trot outs. I tend to be very relaxed and nonchalant about it, which only feeds the problem. I don’t have to worry about HR and CRI on this horse so it’s OK if

3. I insist she comes out of her vet-ride-hold lethargy long enough to give a decent trot.

4. Practice makes perfect. After every ride, I’ve started trotting Farley out 2-3 times. With a dressage whip. And when I say “Ready *kiss* TROT” I expect a trot. A trot where her shoulder is even with mine, on a loose lead.

5. I may need to “pre-trot” her out before a vet check trot out so she is reminded what I expect from her

Hopefully with these changes she will give me less stress attacks during a ride. And just maybe, I’ll show for BC one day. Currently I don’t even consider it because her trot outs are unpredictable and until she has the trot out “skill” it’s not worth it.

Her lack of forward still surprises me. In dressage, I must reinforce getting in front of my leg often. It’s one thing I haven’t liked about her since the very beginning, but it’s also what makes her a decent beginner horse, and probably why I’ve never come off of her. She’ll stop or slow down if she feels the rider become unbalanced and I can’t think of one instance in the 3 or 4 years I’ve owned her that she’s bolted (although she got a bit “quick” the first time I fired a pistol off her!). She’s generally very laid back. She’s very strong during rides, but she’s also a completely different horse at rides (I was told her sire was very similar – very laidback, but turned it “on” during races). When not at a ride, she takes time to “rev” up. If I give her a couple of days off, she likes to gradually go back to work. If I stop in the middle of an arena session and we were cantering, when I start the session back up, she’s happier if I walk/trot before going back to cantering. During endurance rides, she likes to walk for the first 5 minutes out of a check. Then, spontaneously she will start trotting and I know she’s ready to go back to work

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Guess what I got yesterday!!!!!

I think most of my readers are also fans of AareneX's blog, but if not, you should run over there are read this post. Excellent reading.

Now, on to more exciting news. Guess what I got in the mail yesterday.....

*Melinda doing the happy dance while spinning in circles*

My Tevis buckle!!!!!!!!! It CAME!!!!!!!

It's so pretty. I don't want to wear it on a regular basis - I want it in front of me where I can see it (like near my desk at home). BUT I also want it available to wear on special occasions, so however it's displayed, it needs to still be removable.

So here's my challenge to my readers - if you can come up with an idea that won't break the bank that has the following criteria, AND I chose your idea among all the others, I will send you a little prize. A nifty, highly desirable prize. Here's the criteria:
  • Fairly cheap - I'm willing to put some labor into it, but it can't cost over $60-70
  • Attractive display that I can see the buckle on a daily basis. It can either be wall mounted or set on a bookcase/table top etc.
  • Doesn't ruin the integrity of the buckle - can still be worn as a buckle for special occasions - and the buckle can be removed occasionally.......

I can't upload pics right now (stupid blogger!) so if you need a pic of the buckle, go to the Tevis website.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Vet school update....

And here it is....the reason I started this blog almost 2 years ago - a decent vet school admissions statement.

It goes without saying that if you are reading this, and are planning on copying it and using it as your own in some future admissions process, that I WILL track you down and use you as a kabob in my next barbecue. Normally I wouldn't publish something like this, but as you guys have been part of my "discovery" process of learning to write, I feel you should see the end product!

As a warning - if an agency or someone writes and says that by doing this I endanger my application, I will pull it, and make it available some other way.

*Drum roll please* Tada!!!!!!!!! Now may I present.....Why You Should Let Melinda Into Vet School (besides the fact I would be really really good at it):


Thirteen years ago I made two decisions-I would ride the Tevis and I would study at Davis to become a veterinarian.

Both goals were impossibly farsighted at 12 years of age-not only did I not own a horse, I didn't even know how to ride. I could count on one hand the number of times I had even met a veterinarian outside of the James Herriot books. Yet I was announcing I would ride the hardest 100 mile race in the world, and I would be a veterinarian.

I quickly learned the last thing any adult takes seriously is a young girl pronouncing their love of horses, and their intention of going to vet school. Besides, explaining the details became complicated-yes, I would ride the Tevis though I didn't have a horse or know how to ride. Yes, I would be a veterinarian, but it wasn't going to be in a typical private clinic setting. I was much more interested in public health and the food animal industry. After a number of condescending remarks and wry smiles at my pronouncements, I decided in the future, I would discuss my three year plan, since it was more believable to others than my 10 year plan.

I've always been a long-range planner. At the age of nine I decided I would attend UC Davis for my undergraduate work, and exactly one decade later I was the proud owner of my very own UCD ID card. I never know exactly how I will achieve my long term dreams, but the goal is always there, guiding my life choices in the interim.

My first steps towards completing the Tevis started in an unconventional way. While in high school I joined the California Historical Artillery Association (CHAS), a Civil War reenacting organization that uses Standardbreds off the harness-racing track, utilizing mounted riders. Thus, I learned to ride amid cannons, swords, and pistols. A member gifted me a very talented and challenging mare when I graduated from UC Davis. Though she was not ideally suited to endurance, I made a three month plan to qualify for Tevis with the mare "Minx". Three years later, after many miles of heartache and tears, lameness and rehab, successful rides and pulls, a colic and a death, and an unsuccessful Tevis attempt the year before, I earned my first buckle on an a different, but equally special mare, "Farley". My Tevis journey was not what I had imagined it would be thirteen years ago, but was incredibly rewarding. I learned I am tougher than I think, sacrifice is worth the reward, and there is always room for optimism, even when situations seem impossible.

Similar to my Tevis journey, my path to school was full of opportunities and experiences beyond what I could have imagined over a decade ago. Instead of applying and attending UC Davis my freshman year, I chose to attend a junior college closer to home and take advantage of job opportunities there. This included working in a small animal clinic, preserving the college cadavers, and accepting an internship at a wild horse sanctuary. As a result, when I transferred to Davis my junior year, I knew exactly what interested me. I wanted to study biology and physiology of animals and decided I would take advantage of anything even remotely related. I quickly learned avian science was a better fit than animal science, as I could take advantage of the major's flexible upper division work and create a focus in what interested me-biology, physiology, nutrition, and research. Some of my job choices may seem odd-laboratory work analyzing dairy air, intertidal research of mussels and seaweed at Bodega bay-but in some way, every opportunity taught me a valuable skill or expanded my subject knowledge of animal biology.

Many times I was told that accepting the job opportunity at [company name deleted] was a mistake if my plan was to attend graduate school. I would get sucked into the money, the power, and the freedom that making a good living salary creates. I looked at the opportunity differently. Five years supervising a department within a critical area of food safety and quality would focus my interest within the veterinary field, provide contacts within the industry, and give me a level of maturity that only comes from working in the field. Similar to the other unconventional opportunities in my past, accepting the quality control management position was rewarding in other ways I did not foresee. I learned I love mentoring young graduates and helping them develop as they start their careers. I learned how to compromise without losing my integrity and implement real world solutions to major problems that matter in the real world. Importantly, I confirmed that public health and food safety is my field of choice for my veterinary career.

As I take the next step in my career, the anticipation of fulfilling my 13 year old dream is exhilerating. I sought out and accepted many unconventional opportunities in the journey to become a veterinarian. Along the way, I've learned to stay flexible and make my own opportunities, making me a more mature and better qualified applicant.


BTW - I am right AT the character limit for the essay. Hope you enjoyed - I will of course keep you'all posted on the outcome of my application

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Renegade Boot Dealer

This week I became a Renegade Hoof Boot Dealer!

I've never imagined becoming a seller for any product, but again - I never imagined I would be so happy with a product, that it's a privilege, not a burden to sell.

For the past year I've been late out of vet checks and dawdled on the trail, because I'm busy explaining to interested people why I absolutely LOVE these boots. I have not gained financially from doing so, I do it because I love the product.

My choice to sell the boots stems from a desire to make the boots more available to interested riders that aren't ready to order them online, unseen. I want to be a local source for replacements parts such as cables, captivators, tension straps, and pastern straps, for riders already using the boots.

I'm certainly no boot expert - Lander Industries will continue to monitor what I do through pictures and other correspondence and provide feedback - however, I can provide new users with in-person help, whether it's with fitting the initial boots, replacing cables, or other issues. Lander Industries will continue to provide their stellar customer service directly as well. When I first starting using the boots in Spring 2009 (with Minx), I contacted several other users online to verify I had the straps the right tension etc. It would be have been VERY nice to have someone local who would have been willing to come over and look things over!

As the goal of this enterprise is to be a local source for boots and parts, and increase the availability of Renegade Hoof Boots, I plan to keep prices very comparable to ordering directly from Lander industries online (+shipping).

If you are located in Northern or Central California and are interested in Renegade products (strapons or glueons), please let me know.

I will keep my upcoming events page updated - let me know if you would like me to bring any specific boot sizes/colors or replacement parts to a ride I have planned!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Farley The "Wonder Horse"

Farley is becoming quite well known in this small community. On Saturday, when I rode up to have the vet check her teeth, she exclaimed, “it’s Farley the Wonder Horse!”

Now mind you, this is not my regular vet, although she works in the clinic where I take Farley for her wellness and general health stuff.

My stable owners regularly comment on how sweet she is, how she’s kind she is to fences and gates. How she lets me ride all over hill and dale, bareback and yodeling at the top of my lungs on a loose rein. The theme of the conversation is how “atypical” she is for an arab.

And then, at the dressage clinic on Sunday, a women came up to me afterwards and said with surprise “this horse did Tevis?” I responded “yes”, and then was asked whether I had tailed her up all the hills. I didn’t, explaining that I had been battling knee problems all year, as she continued to look at Farley with even more amazement since she had obviously had to carry me the entire way! I suppose that Farley does look pretty scrawny compared to the big thoroughbreds and warmbloods usually found at the dressage events.

Do I think Farley is a very special horse? Absolutely. But I don’t think she’s necessarily exceptional in any of the ways I think most of her “fans” think she is.
  • I think Farley is good on fences and gates because she has a job and doesn’t have the time to be bored.
  • I think that short horses are more studier for more miles and harder miles, and therefore 14.1 hands is the perfect size for a Tevis horse, or an endurance horse (especially when the rider is only 5’1!)
  • I think with a bit of luck, a rider that has a willingness to learn and a stubborn streak, coupled with an “average” willing horse – almost any duo can do the miles required in endurance.
  • I think any horse, (even arabs….) become calm and trustworthy when handled consistently and are given a job that they understand and enjoy.

How is Farley exceptional? Farley is exceptional to ME because she takes care of me when I can’t take care of myself, whether emotionally or physically.

What brings tears to my eyes when I think of Farley is not the many many many hours and miles we have together. Nor is it her accomplishments over the last 3 years which are many.

  • It’s how she got me through my first 100 mile completion, even as I was passing out, sick, and so tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
  • It’s how she lets me hop on bareback and wander around when I’m having a bad day.
  • It’s how she took matters in her own hands/hooves at the end of Tevis to make sure we both got through safely.
  • It’s how she lets me cuddle with her two or three times a day as work continues in a down spiral.
  • It’s how she puts a smile on my face E.V.E.R.Y. time I climb on her back, no matter how bad my day is.
  • Its how she helps me go to sleep at night – lately my eyes and brain won’t shut off, until I focus on the rhythm on her canter when I ride bareback.

This is why she is my special, exceptional, one-of-a kind horse. Do you have an exceptional horse?

I’ve made a decision at work and followed through with it. Now it remains to be seen whether this will help or hurt, but at least it was something. And at this point, something was better than nothing. Time will tell, and in the meantime the 2/3 of my life that constitutes horse, family, friends, and boyfriend is going splendidly, so that's what I am focusing on.

Friday, October 8, 2010

From my Buzz

For those of you that don't follow me in Buzz, I wanted to share this article:

I think it's a very good look at "risk" activities. It certaintly describes me, even though I'm not in the typical group (male). It explains a lot about my life, both past and present. I was often bored in school, but fortunatly did not turn to drugs etc as I was lucky enough to find other thrills that risked life and limb.

As endurance riders, aren't we all managing a level of risk? As *most* endurance riders are female, and I *think* (or at least my impression is!) in their 40's-60's, we wouldn't fit into the typical profile outlined in the article. Very interesting.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Is the back sore?

Before Tevis, I had Susan (and David) from come and adjust the flocking in my saddle.

A full review of my experience is posted on the blog in an earlier post, however I'm going to attempt to better explain the technique that I was shown to determine how sensitive or sore my horse's back is....

Before Susan came out, I was familiar with 2 ways of checking Farley's back for soreness:

1. The first method is how I observed endurance vets check the back during checks - by applying pressure downwards over the length of the back and observing whether there were any "ouchy spots" that the horse moved away from.

2. The second method is what is shown in Rooney's Hind Lameness Series, which also covers back soreness. There is a normal physiological reaction that a horse will exhibit if you apply pressure with a finger or pen on the horse's back, from wither to loin. The horse's back will dip. This is NORMAL and not a sign of test for soreness, you do the same thing a SECOND time - if the horse's back dips the same as the first time, than not sore....if the horse tenses his muscles in his back OR resists the movement downward and tries to NOT dip his back, than it can be a sign of soreness.

Both methods have their draw backs. With the first method, horses can quickly learn that if they react, you quit poking! The second method is complicated AND I've found that a thin skinned and sensitive horse, like Farley, doesn't particular enjoy me causing the that physicological reaction, even if her back isn't sore. The response to it can also be variable depending on her mood, how reactive she's feeling that day etc.

The method I've been using is (and yes this would be better with pictures, but with my life right now, I'm just grateful to still find the time to write!) is as follows. I'm certainly no expert, so as always, check with your saddle fitter. When I have my saddle reflocked this winter, I will be having Susan check my technique to make sure I haven't "mutated" it over time.
  • Stand at the horses side
  • Raise the arm closest to the horse so that the wrist to the elbow is parallel above the horse's back.
  • Place the 3 middle fingers onto the horses back, stiff, just behind where the saddle fits. I like to stabilize the fingers with my thumb behind the fingers. Most of the pressure is on the middle finger, supported on either side by the index and ring finger.
  • Move the fingers up the back towards the wither in a straight line.
  • I do the test in 2 spots on each side of the back, with 3 different pressures.
  • The first spot is right below the back bone, where the top edge of the panels would sit on the horse's back.
  • I start with very light pressure. I don't go really really fast, but I don't dawdle either - I move my fingers along to the wither very business like.
  • Then I do to a normal, comfortable pressure - as hard as I can without exerting any effort to push down.
  • Then I push down very firmly and repeat.
  • I then move my fingers down the side of the horse, to where the bottom edge of the panels of the saddle would rest and repeat.
  • Then I move to the other side of the horse and repeat the same process.

I think the keys to the process is that the pressure is coming from back to front, which is a bit unusual for the horse and as a result that don't react from expectation.

I try to do this while the horse is relaxed - in her paddock, while eating etc. If I do it while she's tied to the hitching rail, or right before I saddle, she's more reactive and anticipates me, and I get more "false" readings.

I look for any signs of muscle tension or tensing in response to the pressure. Also look to see if the skin "shivers.

It's surprisingly easy to see exactly the spot that the back is sore, and track "how" sore the area is, and whether there is improvement over time. At least for me and Farley, this way of monitoring her back has yeilding more consistent results than anything else i have tried.

Farley has always gotten good scores (A's) at rides, although after hard rides (100's) and multi days I felt like her back was more sensitive than usual - but I could never pinpoint any soreness. When I got her hocks injected in the spring, the vet pointed out some areas that he thought were a bit sensitive and told me to watch them. It was hard though - she wasn't real reactive or consistent. That is when I decided to bring a professional out to evaluate my saddle fit.

Before the flocking readjustment, Susan showed me her technique, and Farley showed some signs of soreness in the middle of her back, on the test closer to the back bone, under medium pressure. It was worse on the left side than the right. There was also some sensitivity (skin shivers) up near the side of the withers.

After the flocking adjustment, I monitored her back daily and saw some improvement in the 4 weeks leading up to Tevis. She still reacted to medium pressure, but the reaction was less pronounced, and she was moving much better under saddle.

It was really tough to tell, after Tevis, if her back was sensitive. She had edema from the saddle pad and girth and honestly seemed a bit sensitive EVERY where.

As of right now, she doesn't react to any level of pressure either high or low on the back. After the 50 last weekend, that didn't change - which was reassuring. The saddle fit still needs to be adjusted to remove some of the rock, but overall the fit remains close enough that I don't anticipate any problems at the 100 at the end of this month. Although truthfully, even if she does start getting sore or sensitive, from past history, I don't think the vet is going to pick up on it during the check.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Comstock Pt. 2

Personal update - I cut my hair yesterday and feel much better. For some reason, when I'm very stressed, cutting my hair really makes a difference. The last time I cut it, it was two days before Tevis 2009.

Re: Crysta's comment on the ride hardness - I too was very suprised how hard I found the ride. I think you're right in that it was the weather, along with some mental factors. I/Farley were fine for the first loop when it was dry and hot, and I/Farley were fine for the third loop when it was breezy and cool. The second loop was the one we both found really difficult - it was no longer a dry heat, I think the weather system had started to move it and the humidity moved up, and I noticed that the sweat was no longer evaporating. This, coupled with the lack of shade, deeper sand, hills, and lack of water on this loop made Farley's motivation very very low....and I really just wanted the loop to be over with too, so the extremely slow, snail-like pace was frusterating. We also had some training issues on the 2nd loop we had to work through so mental it was just tough. So, how "hard" I found this ride probably had more to do with the mental difficulty of the 2nd loop than any geographical factor. By far, this course had the best footing of ANY ride I've ever done.

Riding bareback on a quarter sheet

After the ride was finished I still had to get back to Funder's across a vast expanse of desert (just kidding - was only about 2 miles). It had stopped raining, I had eaten dinner, and Farley let me know she was ready to be back at her trailer. Both of us were mental DONE riding so there was no way I was putting a saddle back on her, so I decided to ride back bareback, on top of the wool quatersheet I had over her rump. An added benefit was how toasty warm I would be - a huge advantage as I was dressed only in tights and a slightly damp polo shirt over a silk undershirt. I convinced Bill Gore (the photographer) to give me a leg up, and with one Funder's spare renegades in one hand headed across the desert. I put the bit back on the bridle because the last thing I needed at the end of 50 miles was to be riding bareback, on top of a blanket, one handed, in the rain, in only a hackamore.

Farley wanted to trot and canter back, which I would have been more than willing to do, except everytime we got above a jog, the quarter sheet started slipping and trying to slide out the back, which made the dynamics of riding bareback....interesting. So we mostly walked.

It was really reasurring to see how well Farley moved out after the ride and I stopped worrying about whether she was going to fall apart (yes I worry too much) after riding back to Funder's.

The warmup

My typical warm up for a ride looks like this - mount in the saddle just as the trail is opened. Take a walking loop around camp, go down the trail behind most of the horses. Walk for the first 10-15 minutes, then pick up a slow trot for the first couple of miles. Then move into our "travelling trot". She's usually hot, but wellbehaved. Pulls more than I would like for the first couple of miles, but does OK. I never ride the day before the ride - it used to be because I was too inept at setting at camp, but now it's more like a superstition.

For this ride, I rode into ridecamp from Funder's the night before to vet it (and back). In the morning, I rode to the race start at a walk/trot. Farley was WONDERFUL, and probably could have started in the hackamore. She also got ridden more than usual the week before the ride. I knew she didn't need ALL her fitness do this particular 50, and I was worried about tying up, so I really wanted to make sure she didn't have any extended down time. I will continue to assess my riding the week prior to the ride, and my warm up the day before and the morning of the ride to minimize any risk of tying up, and so she's relaxed at the start.

Booting success

The renegade boots performed flawlessly. Walk, trot, canter, gallop - they never budged. No rubs from the sand, and Farley moved very well in them. I had many people come up to me and ask about the boots that had never seen them before, which was wonderful. I was actually a bit suprised not to see more barefoot or booted horses at the ride since the footing was so good. But, not being from the area, I may have been missing a dynamic.

And the verdict is....
I got all A's for muscle tone!!!!!! Usually I get a mix of A's and B's, which I considered "normal" for her. After supplementing with selenium and vitamin E for 6 weeks, AND pushing her to go faster than usual on the first and third loops (which would normally grant me B's on muscle tone) she continued to get strong A's. The B's on muscle tone scores had always confused me, since I felt like she was well prepared for the race effort that I was asking for, and after 3 seasons, I had accepted that maybe, that was her "normal". From now on, in a well conditioned horse that continues to get B's for muscle tone after an effort I would not consider strenuous, I will be checking selenium and supplementing if needed. To think that this one management change 3 years ago could have saved me a lot of headache and grief! Farley - you are making the lives of all other endurance horses I own after you better!

Farley always gets good scores for her back, but has exhibited sensitivity after a ride - if I use a technique that my saddle fitter showed me (which is substantially different than how they check for soreness during a ride) to check. I was VERY pleased to see that her back did not show a substantial increase in sensitivity after this ride - I know her saddle fit isn't "perfect", but it looks like it's good enough for now until I can get it in to have the panels reflocked and adjusted this winter.

The only vital I was a bit dissapointed in was Farley's hydration. She recieved A's throughout the day, however *I* could tell that she lost more water from beginning to end than I had expected. I upped her electrolytes for this ride because of the amount of sweat deposits I was seeing on her coat early in the day, and because she was drinking well all day. I think we got behind the hydration curve during the 2nd loop, which had very little water - but from what others were saying, so did everyone else! When I realized that the loop had very little water, I rode conservatively and she was fine, but I think it did take it's toll. Near the end of the ride I backed off on the electrolytes because I wasn't sure if I was making it better or worse - as long as she looks hydrated, I don't mind electrolyting, but if she starts to look a bit drawn up, I worry that by electrolyting I'm pulling water into the gut and away from other vital structures where it's usable. Since she was consumnig plenty of water I chose to be more conservative with the electrolytes near the end.

Multiple loops
This was really really hard for both of us. Farley and I rarely do rides that have 3 loops out of camp. Mentally it was really really tough. I really really really didn't feel like doing that last 10 mile loop. I believe the 100 at the end of the month is multiple loops out of camp.....I actually may ride with an ipod, like I do on training rides - it helps me not obsess mentally.

I debating whether to start riding with a HRM again for the next couple of rides. When Farley totally lost motivation on the second loop at first I was really concerned. I jumped off, checked her heart rate and other vitals, rested and did everything else I could think of to make sure she was OK. I finally figured out it was a training issue, among other things, but because this wasn't typical of her, it would have been nice to have a HRM as another tool to assess her condition during that loop. I don't use one for reasons outlined in an earlier post, however, if she continues to behave "differently" at rides, I think I'll start using one again, just to make sure everything is OK. It could be as simple as, after doing 100's she's finally settling down and conserving energy during rides (she's a lazy horse at heart - when not at a ride!).

Food worked well!!! BRFT, lunch....
To date, this ride was the best I've ever done with food. I packed a big ol' ice chest full of different things, sat down next to it in a chair, and munched through it during a vet check.

In the mornings I discovered the "food" that goes down the best is those fruit drinks in the foil packets - yes it's stretching it to call it a food, however I chose one without cornsyrup, and it IS calories. They don't make me nauseous AT ALL, which is a substantial victory. All I need is something to tide me over for the first 2 or 3 hours of a ride until I can get something more substantial down. I did manage to get a cup of decaf coffee, one of the fruit drinks, a fig newton bar, and a couple chunks of pineapple down before starting to gag.

For lunch, I LOVED my cheese and pickle sandwich (with mayo) on whole wheat "thin bread", fig newtons, half a bag of potato chips, a bottle of gatorade, another fruit drink etc.

Dinner was a delicious bowl of chili (with MEAT), with cheese and onions, and buttered bread.

I'll be looking at what worked during this ride and deciding how I want to set up my food options for Patriots 100 at the end of the month.

In conclusion -
As I travelled down the road, into Nevada, I was reminded how much I love being on the road with horse and trailer. There is no better feeling, except perhaps being on an endurance trail with Farley.

Monday, October 4, 2010

More Comstock

BTW - if you actually want to read a STORY about Comstock, check out Funder's entertaining post here.

Comstock Pt.1

The Comstock ride was GREAT. I had a wonderful time. Work continues to be a complete and utter h*ll and this was the perfect getaway.

On a side note - Fortunately, work only makes up ~1/3 of my life (family/friends/boyfriend are another 1/3, and the horse/endurance is another 1/3) and the other 2/3 of my life are absolutely WONDERFUL right now....Endurance is SUCH an AMAZING sport and really a much healtheir way of manageing stress than begging on bended knee for a stress LOA. Not that I would do that.....I swear...I AM tired of not being able to string words together into comprehensive sentences - either while talking or writing posts.

Anyways - this is less of a story and more of short blurbs on various aspects of the ride. My brain is too fried to do anything else :) I have a lot of comments, so this will probably be a multi-part post.

Trot outs
Once again, at the 1 hour hold check, Farley got the note on her vet card for a B on gait, watch the RF. I've finally figured out this comes for half-assed trot outs. ie - unless I'm focused and adament that she WILL trot out, she does this lazy thing that makes her look lame. She's done it for 3 years. I've had her thoroughly checked out by two lameness vets. It doesn't appear on the trail. If I actually make her trot out at a reasnonably speed, the vet can no longer see it. The issue is probably related to her having one diagonal that is much stronger than the other. I'm sympathetic to the fact that she's resting and "shuts down" during vet holds, but from now on I'm not letting her get away with crappy trot outs. The observation usually comes during the first vet hold - which then prompts me to actually make her trot out decently for subsequent checks, and the vet never sees it again.

Do something new!
Even though Nevada is technically in the west region, I considered going to a Nevada ride as moving out my my normal "zone". I had a wonderful time. The people were great, the trails (once I figured out the system) were exceptionally well marked, and the scenery was beautiful. I've gotten stuck in the rut of doing the same rides year after year. It was very motivating to get out of my normal routine and go some place totally new.

Rain Gear
This region of Nevada hasn't had rain since May. Rain was not predicted. Rain was not on the forecast. I packed rain gear anyways. Too bad it didn't actually make it OUT of my trailer and into the ridecamp/vet checks! (The trailer was parked at Funder's house, a couple miles away). Fortunately I always have a rump rug in my crew tub so when it started POURING after the ride I had something to put on her, and I never got around to taking off my silk undershirt from the morning so I was reasonably warm. Lesson learned - the rain gear and rain sheet goes in the crew bag every single time. No exceptions.

I would also like to mention that it has rained at EVERY SINGLE ride this year (starting with Desert Gold 2009), except Tevis. It technically didn't rain at American River but because the trail was a MESS from rain the day/couple days before, I'm counting that in the "rainy" category. It's been a very very weird weather year.

Has anyone else noticed the irony of how much more clean up there is to do on the gear after a rainy ride? The WATER makes stuff dirtier, so I have to use MORE water to clean up everything.....

It's called Endurance
Even after doing 100's, 50's are still hard and still deserve respect. This ride was a TRUE 50 miler. And it was hard. And I was tired. And my horse was tired (although not so tired that she didn't buck over the finish line, OR run home to Funder's after the ride was done!). Fifty miles is still 50 miles no matter what.

A Gallop to the finish!
After finishing a hellacious 2nd loop, Farley and I were feeling sort of done. A "stick a fork into me, I'm done", sort of done. Mostly mental. We had done the second 15 mile loop all by ourselves, it was hard, water was scarce, and we had a major "discussion" over her wants and my needs.

Farley has done very few rides that are multiple loops out of camp and was throwing a hissy fit about leaving a 3rd time. I had no idea where I was in the pack, except that I had started last, had passed 8 people on the trail, and there were approximately 30 riders. Another woman had also done the 2nd loop by herself with similiar results and so we decided to ride the 3rd loop together.

After almost being hit by lightening we decided to high tail it off the mountain. It had cooled off substantially and a breeze had picked up. Magically, the two "nags" got a second wind and looked like the Tevis horses they were, and off we went.

On the final stretch we pushed them into the canter to beat the weather and before I knew it we were in a gallop. We eased up for a short section of single track and then with a wide open road ahead of us to the finish - we let them rip (kinda - I was in a controlled hand gallop). Farley was having fun, and I was happy because she was happy.

Kathy (?) wisely decided to go AROUND the finish line. I decided that I was GOING ACROSS THE FINISH LINE. Farley galloped straight towards it, and then decided at the last minute that it wasn't the jump/ground pole she thought it was and BUCKED across it, as not to get any white powder on her feet. (I think she got confused - she realized it wasn't a jump so wasn't sure if she was suppose to jump so at the last minute decided to just kind of "bound" over it). I was in 10th place.

I stayed at Funder's house and it was GREAT. I got to see her house in person, her chickens, and Dixie. Crysta, Funder, and I stayed up WAY too late talking the first night. I don't have the words to express how nice it was to sit down with similiarly minded people and listen and talk and get to know them better.

Skipping ahead to the end...So what's next?
As long as Farly continues to look good, I'll do the 100 at the end of the month. That will probably be the end of the season for us, but I'm keeping the option open for one day at Desert Gold in November.