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Monday, November 29, 2010

Website Preview

The next major update to my website is going to be a resource list for endurance riders on potential conditioning locations.

I will write up reports on all the locations I regular condition at (mostly central California), and I'm open to accepting writeups from other riders in other states.

Before I get too far into this, I thought I would post a sample write up of a location I do most of my endurance conditioning at - Del Valle Lake in Livermore CA. If any of my readers have time, I would love some feedback. Too much information? What else would you like to see included? Would information like this make you more likely to check out a new trail? On the website, the boot ratings would be actual pictures.

Conditioning Locations
Please note that the pros/cons are my personal opinions only, and are written from an endurance conditioning/riding perspective. Many of the cons can be pros and vice versa. For example – a heavily used trail with other recreational users may be listed as a con, but could be seen as a positive attribute since it means that trail management has an incentive to continue trail maintenance. The pros/cons are intended to be “considerations” rather than judgments on the suitability for of the trail for YOUR conditioning.
Rating System

Trail attributes for each location are rated in “boots”.
“Wilderness Experience”
  • 1 boot – A heavily used public use area with little to no natural beauty. Wonderful place to be if there’s a chance of a unplanned dismount and you want paramedics called, less wonderful if you are looking to “get away from it all”.
  • 4 boots – Limited use with spectacular views. Probably not a great location if you are trying out a new, green horse as we might find your remains only after a long search with the help of a SAR dog...

“Boot Recommendation”

  • 1 boot – Good for bare hooves. Typically sand or dirt with no significant rocks or gravel.
  • 2 boots – Some rock or gravel that might be a challenge to a sensitive barefoot horse, or a long stretch of asphalt. Carry a set of boots on your saddle just in case.
  • 3 boots – I’ll probably chose to boot the front hooves, especially if I’m doing the ride at “endurance speed” of mostly trot. Gravel and/or rocks on a majority of the trails.
  • 4 boots – I’m likely to boot all four hooves especially at endurance conditioning speeds. Significant gravels or rocks or other challenging footing conditions

“Trail Difficulty”

  • 1 boot – Practically a flat canal bank. These trails, depending on use and visibility, may be good trails to do speed work or go out for a light hack on an unconditioned horse
  • 4 boots – are you conditioning for the Tevis? Trying to teach a horse to be a good navigator and keeper of their feet? These trails have single track, drop offs, boulders, low branches, and stream crossings – possibly all at the same time.


  • 1 boot – Nothing. No toilet, no hitching post.
  • 4 boots – Home away from home….kinda

“Value for Cost”

  • 1 boot – Why did you come here?
  • 4 boots – Incredible trail for practically free.


  • 1 boot – generally unsuitable for endurance conditioning rides
  • 4 boots – an incredible resource for conditioning for endurance rides.

Central California

Del Valle Livermore


Location: Livermore, CA

Website/Contact: East Bay Regional Parks

GPS tracks available?: Yes

Terrain Type: Hills

Footing Type: Majority hard packed jeep roads with some gravel. Some dirt single track.

Best endurance uses: Long training rides (20-30 miles), de-spooking, ponying a second horse, hill training, heat training (summer), winter conditioning.

Wilderness Experience: 3 boots

  • Depending on the season, day of the week, and what trails you chose your wilderness experience will vary between 1 and 3 boots. As I’ve never felt like I couldn’t get away from the majority of users if I wanted, I feel the 3 boot rating is fair, especially considering some of the magnificent views from the trails of the lake. I have encountered wildlife such as bobcats here when riding in the early morning before most of the trail users.

Booting: 2 boots (recreational pace)/3 boots (endurance pace)

  • If you know the trails, you can easily bring a barefoot horse here and stay on the softer dirt trails. But, because so much of the trail is hard packed road with some gravel and with significant up and down grades, I usually chose to boot the front hooves, especially when planning on a significant amount of trot and canter.

Trail Difficulty: 2 boots (jeep roads)/3 boots (single track)

  • Most trails in the park are wide trails with no other hazards beyond the incessant hills. Some of the single tracks can get technical, so be careful and make sure you are on a marked trail and not someone’s improvised wilderness excursion.
  • I haven’t found the maps that are provided to be especially helpful, except to let me know the locations of main trail heads.

Amenities: 3 boots

  • Depending on the staging area you use, you will have picnic tables, water troughs, flush toilets, and hitching posts.

Value: 3 boots

  • A good overall value, especially if using the day-use staging area.

Overall: 3 boots

  • For endurance conditioning, it doesn’t get much better than this. Just be aware that at peak use times this is a very popular running/biking/hiking/walking-the-dog spot. If you are looking to add hills into your repertoire, this is the place for you.

Pros: Mostly graded jeep roads that drain well, you can condition here all year long. There are some single track options that are very pretty, but use caution when using them after a storm – they are easily destroyed by hooves when they are wet. The roads are great for hill training and are wide enough with good footing to trot and canter, provided your horse is conditioned for hills. Visibility is good on most of the roads, but use caution going around corners, especially at speed, as these roads are multiple use and it’s very likely you could meet a bike coming the other direction! There are miles and miles of trails here and lots of options for multiple loops or a longer single loop combined with a lollipop. It’s very easy to do a 20-25 mile training ride here. Most roads are suitable for taking along a pony horse. Cost is reasonable if using the day use staging area. The scenery is beautiful and you can get some really interesting landscape photos. The header on the blog section of the website is a photo from a December ride at Del Valle.

Cons: It’s all hills – not many level sections to do speed work. Multi-use trail with a lot of non-equestrian users. There are some sections of trail that can get VERY steep. These are easily avoided once you are familiar with the trails. I usually dismount and walk these sections. Depending on the length of drive and your comfort level driving in traffic, it may only be practical to condition here on a monthly basis due to its bay area location. It’s expensive to pay the use fee at the main gate on a regular basis. It’s much more affordable to use the day use staging area (area 3 below), or if you are a resident in the east bay, to buy a season pass. Like most central California trails in midsummer, it can be hot Hot HOT – which is great if you are conditioning for Tevis. Some parts of the trail are more shaded than others.
Other Users: Expect to see bikes, cows, and dogs. Some trails that are away from the lake are used less and are a better option if you want to get away from the crowds.

There are 3 staging areas. Two are accessible from the main gate. The area numbers are mine and do not reflect any official designation. All staging areas connect through the trail network.

  • Area 1: The one on the opposite side of the lake from check in, next to the horse camping area is the most secluded and the best bet with a larger rig. It’s more primitive than the other staging areas, but with picnic tables and nice shade trees. The trails are not immediately obvious but there are more options for multiple loops and scenic trails. If you are riding on the Oholone wilderness trail, stage out of this area.
  • Area 2: Also assessable from the main gate, this area is located on the same side of the river as the check in station, near the boat launch. A nice tidy dirt staging areas complete with hitching posts. Several jeep roads lead out of this staging area.
  • Area 3: This is on the opposite end of the lake, in the day use area. The gravel parking lot is easily assessable, but not exactly easy to find, even with the directions provided by the park. My advice is to use a combination of written directions provided by the park and GPS coordinates. This area is day use only and requires cash to self pay. There’s only one trail out of the area and it starts off with a nice BIG hill – great if you have a fresh horse. There is a single track that you can ride on that follows the lake shoreline shortly after ascending the hill, however if you are a first time visitor, it is best to follow the main road. After a couple of miles several roads branch off and you can chose to go up in the hills away from the main traffic, or stick closer to the shore line.

Water: Water is available at each staging area and on the trail. The lake is not usually accessible on the trail so utilize the troughs when you find them.

Gates: There are periodic gates on the trails. The majority can be opened on horseback with a bit of patience, but I usually dismount.

Favorite Trail: Stage out of area one. Go through family camp, or (in low water) wade upstream and use the back trail to go around family camp (look for a trail on the left side of the stream/river). Then stay as close to the lake as possible until the wide jeep trail ends and follow trail through the gate on your right. When you are finished, either come back the way you came, or take one of the many trails back away from the lake and make a loop.

Lessons remembered and learned

It’s amazing how many disasters can be averted if I learn from past mistakes. Xmas 2008 Minx colicked for the first time. It was a cold snap, she had been out of work for a couple of days, and voila! - I had a bill for treatment of an impaction colic. Over the Thanksgiving holiday I was given a chance to prove I had learned from that lesson.

I probably could have avoided Minx’s colic if I had kept her moving and in regular or even reduced work to stimulate appetite and thirst (horses are meant to move and standing around whatever our winter/holiday excuses has an impact on their digestive system) during the cold snap, made sure her gut was full of as much hay as she wanted, and kept an eye on her water consumption.

Ever since then, I’ve become more attuned to the weather and more conscious about mitigating risk factors. Heated troughs are nice and an aid in this situation, but not a necessity in this part of California – therefore many pastures and boarding facilities are not set up for them. With this not an option for me, I had to control the risk in other ways.

Lately we’ve been having a cold snap. I haven’t been worried – Farley has been kept in regular work and eating as much hay as she wants. As a result she’s been sucking down the water normally. However, over Thanksgiving I was planning on visiting family and not riding. I decided to bring Farley with me so I could monitor her and she could run around in a pasture for 4 days. Being out on pasture and being able to move around would reduce her chances of tying up when I put her back to work after the holiday, and keep her digestive system healthy and (hopefully) colic-free.

After 24 hours still Farley wasn’t drinking her normal amount of water. She was eating hay normally, going on regular gallops around the pasture but not drinking out of the trough.

Farley is used to her water being changed out every day or so and the tub scrubbed. She will drink out of troughs with leaves etc during a training ride, but as I looked at my parents huge troughs with leaves and fish in it, I had a revelation that perhaps she would prefer clean, fresh water. I filled up a bucket and set it next to the trough. When I came to check, the bucket was empty. For the rest of the holiday, as long as the bucket of clean water was available, she drank normally.

It’s hard to say definitely that I averted a colic disaster – however all the risk factors were there: a decrease in physical activity, a cold weather pattern, and reduced water intake. By being attentive to my horse’s needs, even though it meant a bit of good natured teasing from friends and family over the amount of pampering my horse gets, I made sure she stayed healthy.

She’s never refused to drink out of that trough before. I might have been because when she’s at my parents house, it’s usually because we are riding, or it’s in the middle of summer and it’s hot – both situations would trigger enough thirst for her to drink out of the trough regardless if it was her “preferred” choice.

In the course of remembering a lesson learned, I learned an additional lesson – when travelling or boarding, even if there’s water provided, I will be giving her a water option out of one of her personal buckets. Who knows what grief this lesson learned now will save me later?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Anniversary and in which Mel (kinda) falls off

Yesterday was a very special day for me and Farley - our anniversary date.

Three years ago, on the day before Thanksgiving I drove a trailer into the bay area to pick up a fuzzy little brown horse as my backup endurance horse, and my arena plaything.

I hadn't spent nearly as much money as I had budgeted and I wasn't convinced that she was going to be a very good arena horse, but I couldn't deny she was something special on the trail. Of course, I didn't discover how special until Minx died and I actually started regularly riding her for the first time in 1-1/2 years.

A lot has happened in 3 years - the fuzzy unknown horse used as a brood mare much of her life became a Tevis horse, a proven 100 miler horse, a solid-trustworthy endurance horse 120 miles shy of 1,000. She's training solidly at training level dressage and starting her lateral and 15 meter circle work. Yesterday she jumped beautifully and we are on target to squish 2 years of jump instruction into 7 months.

I'm constantly amazed by her attitude - she's solid performance horse who is a pleasure to be around on a day to day basis. She's even-tempered and isn't phased by long hours in the trailer, new places, or new activities.

She's also stayed suprisingly sound, considering I'm still figuring out the process of how to leg up a horse and keep them fit. There's been a couple of blips here and there, but in retrospect, very minor (compared to what they felt like at the time!). My vet says that all indications are she's going to continue to be a sound and useful horse for many years to come.

Shall we discuss how Farley decided to celebrate our anniversary yesterday? She bucked me off.

Willful, disobedient little fuzzy pony.

Although it's debatable whether it's actually considered a fall.....

She had bucked a couple of times post-jump in the lesson and I had gotten on to her for well as I could with trying to keep MY balance and position and still be effective. Then, after one particularly "fun" vertical (Farley thinks jumping is VERY fun) I got unbalanced enough that when she bucked I was catapulted out of the saddle.

The buck wasn't any worse than anything she had done before - I was just out of position.

Apparently, I decided in midair that I would do an emergency dismount - although, I don't remember anything between being in the air and landing on my feet beside her on the right side, reins and crop in hand - but that's what muscle memory and fitness will do for you - your body will do the right thing even if you don't make a conscious decision!

Landing on my feet still in control of my horse was very useful. I immediately ran towards her very aggressively moving her out of my space, similar to what I would have done if she had bit or tried to kick me.

It wouldn't have worked except the time between the bucking and the discipline was almost instantaneous (I didn't have to waste time getting up, catching her etc.). I was able to much more effectively prove my point on the ground than in the saddle.

I think she got the message. She didn't buck again and gave me 2 very nice, clean rounds without even a hint of bucking. Just nice balanced cantering before and after the jumps. The kind of round that we quit the lesson on and I couldn't wipe the smile off my face afterwards.

So it finally happened - but it happened in a way that was probably the best possible outcome. Maybe I was able to effectively demonstrate how unhappy I was enough that she knocks it off? Possibly. I'll keep you posted. It better have worked because I very much doubt I'll be able to pull off that particular gymnastic stunt in the future!

Happy 3 year anniversary Farley!

Happy Turkey Day Everyone!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Made in America! Response

As I don’t have commenting ability here at work, here is the continuation of the Made in America! Post in response to comments.

First off – I want to make this clear: I am NOT doing this to prove a point about any humanitarian conditions. Period. To be honest, I don’t care enough about that aspect to be motivating to do something hard and difficult. Not to mention that buying American made goods to protest humanitarian conditions in other countries is making judgments that I feel I am neither knowledgeable or educated enough to do. Finally – to protest humanitarian conditions in other countries, and to be consistent in doing so means that the entire supply chain is in question. It’s also not about supporting the American economy – otherwise buying foreign isn’t a problem – foreign goods still help American businesses. It’s about something more intangible that I’m having a problem defining right now.

Of course – this is where I am now. At the end of the year, I may look at the issue very differently – which is why my first post on the subject is very general and non-specific. Until I’ve lived it, I’m not going to understand the issue thoroughly enough to have a real opinion.

I’m so happy everyone took the time to comment! What that means is I get to explore some questions that I’m curious about, but I didn’t want to make judgments on right away in my first post on the subject. Such as:
  • How do I feel about buying used? Ie – can I buy a jacket in a thrift store that isn’t made in America if I can buy an American made jacket new?
  • What exactly, in today’s “global economy” (I hate this phrase and will be using a different one as soon as I can think of one!), does “Made in America” or any other country actually MEAN? Is it the manufacturing process that’s the most important, or origin of ingredients? Clothes come to mind specifically – most fabrics will come from overseas – but most other raw materials like biothane.
  • Buying something foreign still supports American companies. Is it right/consistent to exclude those companies? What about buying a made-in-America good that is manufactured by an American Company that also manufactures and sells good in the US that are manufactured overseas? Or what about a foreign company that manufactures their products here in the US and sells them here (Toyota is a good example)
  • Why should I support my country to the exclusion of others? Is this a fair view that is consistent with the other areas of my life?
  • If I do decide that buying American as much as possible is important to me – WHY is it important to me? If it isn’t humanitarian-based or economics, why is it important at all?

Those of you that brought up those very issues and described the whole idea as “complicated” are absolutely right! It IS complicated. I currently work for a manufacturing company whose emphasis is on local and quality. I shrugged off the importance of local (and really, buying American goods is an expansion of local) and quality until working here for 5 years. Now I’m not so sure the bottom line is my best guiding factor as a buying consumer. Working through some of the bulleted issues outlined above will be interesting, no matter what decisions I make in the end.

Consistency is very important in my life.

  • I may decide there is no way to be consistent in this and it doesn't really matter to me - and I will go back to deciding that the bottom line is my best decision maker when I purchase something.
  • I may discover that this issue really does matter to me and continue to do the “best I can” and be the most educated consumer that I can be.

I think I answered most of the concerns/comments here. One additional note to the anonymous commenter regarding vegetables – I’m very lucky to live in California which makes eating local/US veggies extremely easy. I already make a point to only eat US vegetables, as I work in the food industry and have come to mistrust veggies etc. that are coming out of places like Mexico.

I will not achieve total consistency even if what/where I buy DOES become very important to me – the global community “web” is too complicated. However, I feel it is best to have a few guiding principles and then really consider WHY there is an exception to the rule, rather than to not have thought about it at all.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Made in America!

I think I’m going to try an experiment for the next year. I think I’m going to try to buy only made in America. In the past the most important thing has been my bottom line, but now I’m realizing that maybe the most important thing is not necessarily to save every penny I can. I understand the global community is important for knowledge and development – but I think it’s important for me to evaluate whether I’m dismissing American goods that are comparable to the popular foreign good that I’m buying, without even a giving the American product a chance. By making the commitment to buy American wherever possible for the next year, it will force me to evaluate my choices and decide whether I am indeed making the best choices as a consumer. Maybe nothing will change, but just maybe I’ll be more educated about my choices and options.

I expect to learn a lot.

I think it’s going to be fun.

I think it’s going to be hard work.

I think I may decide that some stuff isn’t important enough for me to buy foreign when I find out there’s isn’t an American alternative.

After some research, I’ll probably make the decision to continue to buy some non-made in American goods. As a result, I’ll appreciate that product even more because I chose it based the knowledge that it’s a superior product in regards to innovation/workmanship/quality and it has no equal here in the States. I’m not buying it purely because of price point. It’s not fair for me to say “but there’s no quality (fill in the blank) made in America!” when I haven’t really even looked!

This is where I am right now: “I wonder how it would be to try and buy American for the next year”. These are my guesses as I sit in my chair, rolling this thought around – stream of consciousness style! (and yes, I’ll do a periodic update and let you know how it’s going once the project begins)
  • Clothes are going to be hard to find. On the other hand – thank goodness I recently updated my work wardrobe. I may not be to buy clothes for an entire year! Mmmm…I’ll save $$ there which is good since I’m probably going to pay more for everything else. Isn’t Kerrits American based?
  • Horse equipment is going to be hard. Do American made quality leather goods even EXIST????????? I wonder where my Stubben bit I love is made? My Toklet bit? What about the other brands I love – SSG, FITS, Tropical Rider, Ariat? Mmmm…..this is not looking good.
  • Thank Goodness I don’t have to replace my running shoes for a while! Do running shoes made in the US even exist?????????
  • I went to the tack store to pick up some items the other day. The score? Dressage pad – made in India, Irons – made in Korea, Shirt – made in Thailand, Girth – unknown. Mmm…

Friday, November 19, 2010


As I start approaching jumping seriously, I’m reminded why I LOVE learning new things – it gives me all sorts of insight into things I already do! Not to mention that if as a self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, learning to jump fulfills that “rush need” in my life, than it’s a rather healthy way to do it eh?

Revelation # (who the heck cares about what Rev # this is anyways!)
Most likely you are worried about the wrong thing.

The Jump Scenario: I’m looking at the fence instead of riding my flat work. Want to guess how that worked out? Ummm….actually way worse than even that….
The endurance scenario: You are worried about the drop off that is RIGHT THERE instead of riding your horse evenly, and forward, and relaxed. Chances you are AREN’T going to fall off the cliff. Chances are you WILL have a sore horse by the end of a 100 miles because you weren’t riding.

Revelation #
It went wrong WAY before you thought it went wrong.

The Jump Scenario: Why did you almost get bucked off after that fence and hit the dirt? Ummm….because I half halted at the base of the fence and she was rushing and then I sort of tried to grab mane and I left my eye on the fence…..No! It was because by the second stride off the fence before that one she was bouncing off your leg from side to side like a ping pong ball! Oh….
The endurance scenario: “I tried to slow down in the second half of the race – she stopped eating and drinking at mile 25.” Actually, you were in trouble at mile 10 when she took 20 minutes to come to pulse instead of her normal 5 for those conditions.

On the topic of jumping, let me just say I’m not sure I’m going to survive the experience of learning to jump on Farley! She certainly is giving this her all. The pony is jumping rather well….the rider…not so much.

It would be nice if she didn’t have quite so much….enthusiasm for the task. Oh yes! She enjoys the new game of what amounts to legal airs above ground! She actually JUMPED during this lesson – tucked her little legs and bounded over the bars like a little bunny. None of that sissy half-assed (which I rather liked) pop over the poles like she’s been doing at previous lessons!

It doesn’t help that she’s a bucker – this isn’t a new thing – it tends to pop up when she gets to try something new she particular likes. I know from experience if I ignore it, it will resolve and stop on its own fairly quickly. If I make a big deal out of it, it will just get worse. The trick is to stay on top while she works it out. They are happy bucks and when I get off balance, she (usually) stops. Thank goodness. At one point during the lesson my trainer thinks I stayed in the saddle today out of an unusually strong sense of preservation but actually, Farley stopped bucking and let me extract myself from her mane and screw my head on straight.

And to be perfectly honest – the only time she bucks is when I do something wrong. Once I fix it, she never bucks in that circumstance again. For example – when I was learning to canter - if I learned forward in the transition she would buck. If I kept my weight back, she gave me the transition. Now, it would be highly unusual if she offered to buck during a transition.

Currently she is trying to teach me:
  • Stop slamming my butt into the saddle during the landing
  • Stop sitting in the air and getting left behind the motion during the jump
  • Stop looking at the ground and leaning forward in the landing!

As long as I minded my p’s and q’s she behaved quite marvelously (for example – our last line of 2 jumps was actually quite pretty, all because I focused on keeping my eyes and butt up!). For our first serious jump lesson I thought it went well.

In summary – thank goodness I’m learning this particular skill at 25 instead of 52!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Writing for a different audience

Every 3rd Saturday I write for a different audience - Californian's that love bluegrass and old-time as much as I do. My article got published early, so it got posted today (Thursday).

If you are interested in a change of topic, head on over to the CBA website (mine should be posted today).

2011 Goals

For 2011 my focus is changing – some sort of schooling is in my future and as a result my income and the way my single life is set up is going to radically change. Change isn’t bad…..but it will….well…change things, including the type of goals I have for me and Farley.

In case you think this post comes a bit early….the ride season for most of the organizations I belong too ends in November, so I tend to think of my “horse year” as November to November!

My endurance goals are simple –
  • Go to rides I’ve never been to before and have fun
  • Farley is 120 miles from her 1,000 mile mark – get her there happy and sound
  • Complete all 3 of the Nevada “Triple Crown” Endurance rides – The Nevada Derby 50, NASTR 75, Virginia City 100. I’ve never been to any of the 3 rides, and the total mileage exceeds 120, so this fulfills my first 2 goals.

I won’t go to as many rides this year. Tevis is not in the plan – I had so much fun at the Patriot’s 100, I’ll return there in July and give Farley, myself, and my crew a break. I’m sure I’ll miss the Tevis – there’s something magical about that ride – in fact I miss it already. Farley had a busy year and we will both be enjoying more down time.

Dressage, Jumping, & Eventing
The first 6 months of 2011 will potentially be the last time I will take regular lessons for a long time. Lessons are a commitment in time and money, two commodities that might look very different for the next 5-6 years.

  • I have made some sacrifices and moved items around to allow for 2 lessons a week – a dressage lesson, and a jump lesson – through at least April.
  • I firmly believe dressage is the secret to longevity in the horse, through both work done on horse and rider. By the time I enter school, I want to be firmly schooling at first level and have enough “tools in the tool box” to continue reinforcing correct work in Farley, and if I get another horse, start basic correct dressage with the new one. The focus will be less on showing dressage this year, which will leave more $$ for lessons and learning.
  • Continuing in my promise to Farley to do something “new and fun” for the next couple of months, I’ve committed to an extra lesson a week, jumping. Farley enjoys it and it’s a skill we should both have. You should see her ears perk up when she realizes we are going to jump instead of do dressage on lesson days! We won’t be stellar in 6 months, but hopefully proficient.
  • Do a 3 day event. Besides a few local schooling “fun” shows, this 3 day event will probably be one of the few “real” shows I do this year. The focus will be on having fun, being technically correct, and expanding my knowledge base about horses, conditioning, and biomechanics.

Overall Horse Goals
  • Stay barefoot. I have had tremendous success this year and in part it was due to being barefoot. Not necessarily because she wasn’t wearing steel, but because having a barefoot performance horse forced me to be extra attentive to those small details – which in turn made a large difference in overall performance.
  • Invest in knowledge. Meaning, spend my $$ this year in lessons and clinics and other activities that will help me advance my knowledge base. Spend less on tack, saddles, gadgets, and “stuff”. Realistically, I have everything I need to ride and enjoy my horse. Try to make do (where I can safely) rather than buy new.
  • Expand my website,, into an endurance resource that is useful for the new rider, and provides continuing education for the more experienced rider.

What does 2011 look like for you? Any radical changes expected? Are you picking up a new sport? Starting a new horse? Doing something completely different?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Recent events in my personal life have confirmed how important security and privacy are. I think we all know what we *should* be doing to stay safe, even if we chose not to follow the guidelines all the time.

However, when it comes to our horses, I’ve noticed is that even the most security conscious among us don’t apply some basic, common sense security measures! We may have a loud barking dog in our yard, or carry our car keys as daggers on the way to the truck, or lock our front door EVERY time, but leave our barns and paddocks wide open….

One of the best things about boarding at a privately owned stable is the opportunity to learn from other’s mistakes. To date, nothing serious involving the actual horses has ever happened. However, a string of more minor incidents - halters stolen off of fences, buckets stolen from paddocks, hotwire boxes removed (a $200 value!) – has opened my eyes to what could happen.

It’s not wise to detail all your security measures online – Let’s share information and suggestions but please don’t share particulars!

Halters on fences – most security measures have tradeoffs, and where you keep your halters is no exception. The pros of keeping a halter on a fence or gate? - every day convenience, and insurance in the case of an emergency. The cons? – stolen halters and convenience for horse thieves. My compromise is to stash halters in places like my truck, horse trailer, tack room, and in a feed barrel that is located close to the main house and removed from the horse area. In an emergency evacuation it may cost me precious minutes to grab a halter, but at least I’m not inviting thieves to lead my horse away.

Too much information – Sure, you want to brag on your special mount and your accomplishments together, but I’m not sure posting your ribbons etc. on the horse’s paddock is wise. Why point out that your horse is the most special horse in the barn? If thieves ever come through my stable, I hoping they skip right past the unadorned paddock with the small brown horse and grab the flashy paint with the personalized sign and blue ribbons hanging from the gate! I don’t post my name or my horse’s name on the paddock – I would consider posting “Owner’s cell: xxx-xxx-xxxx” but don’t currently. That way if someone is specifically targeting me or my horses – they better have d*mn good information. There are a lot of brown arabs that are boarded around Farley and I’m not going to point them in the right direction.

Fencing – Giving horse’s access to the edge of the property is a risk, depending on what is on the other side of your fence line. If I was in a rural area, with fences not easily cut or breached, I wouldn’t worry about it. But, I’m not, and I have to consider that if Farley is in certain pens, one or more of her paddock fences is also the property fence. Aside from the security risk – consider the health risk to your horse. I see people stopping all the time on the side of the road and hopping out to get a closer look at the horses. What might they potentially be feeding to your horse? Ideally I like the idea of a 10 foot (or more) buffer zone between my horses and perimeter fencing if I’m in a not-so-rural area. With maybe some loud barking dogs in that buffer zone.

Fencing part 2 – while we are on the subject of fencing, let’s talk about fencing integrity. Some types of fencing are going to hold up better than others to tampering. No climb wire fencing with board reinforcements? Not such an easy target. Electric tape fencing? Easy to breach and create a gate anywhere along it. Not to mention when someone steals your electrical box you may have a free-roaming horse disaster!

Gates – another security tradeoff. You can lock your gates and risk you or emergency personnel not having access when needed. You can minimize gates leading out of the property and risk getting stuck in an emergency inside the property. I think a good compromise is to have one main gate and several (number to depend on the amount of horses on the property and how the property is situated) back up gates. All gates should have sufficient lighting and be free of trees and any other “concealment”. Another strategy would be to “camoflauge” the gate, but I like the idea of visibility better). Heavy chains and locks would complete ensemble. I might even consider something high-tech like a motion detector for the gates that would set off an alarm in the house if I was in a “problem” area and didn’t have a good dog.

Other considerations – there are many other things you can do to secure your horse property – motion lights, solar lights (so you don’t spend $$ on lighting), dogs, cameras, and signs notifying potential thieves of some of the measures you’ve taken (area is monitored by camera) or that your horse’s are permanently ID’ed. At a recent incident, I had a 5 gallon bucket stolen that I kept by the paddock that I used to soak feed. The bucket was probably taken to carry the “goods” taken from people around me – expensive supplements, halters, and feed pans.

My ideal property – assuming that my (future) property is not ideally located and I need to take precautions, I think this is what I would do (in general, and assuming I had the $$).
  • My barns and paddocks would be located centrally on the property.
  • Any pastures that were on the property would have a 10 foot buffer between the pasture and perimeter fencing.
  • The area around the barns and paddocks would be as open as possible.
  • I would have large barking dogs
  • Any auxiliary gates would be chained, padlocked, and be sturdy. No bushes or trees, and lighted if possible.
  • Perimeter fencing to be tall, no climb type, with board reinforcements. Removed or non visible pastures to have “permanent” type fencing.
  • Halters not left out.
  • Large signs that say things like “all horses on this property permanently ID’ed”.
  • Grain locked away (should be done in case a horse gets out anyways….but again, one less tool available for unsavory characters).
  • Large buckets and carts put away so that they are not in plain sight.

Most people will probably never have a security issue with their horses. Hopefully, most of you live in an area where you don’t have to worry about it. Unfortunately in California it’s becoming more and more difficult to find affordable horse property that is protected by virtue of location. I refuse to live my life in daily fear, but that doesn’t mean I can’t take simple precautions to protect my horse – if a casual habit increases my risk, why not do things differently? The truth is that is someone wants to hurt you or your horse bad enough, they will find a way, however we can easily limit temptation to the casual criminal.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Last Show and 2010 Recap

And so the Season ended as it began....

In endurance, the season began with a successful 100 and ended with a successful 100.

In dressage, the season began with me ignoring my reader, and ended with me being a complete space cadet and ignoring my reader AGAIN!

The show was fun. It was a combined show with a dressage portion and a stadium jump portion.

I decided to do the Intro B Walk/Trot dressage, which was paired with a cross bar (18") jump course - something I thought we were capable of doing! In dressage, Farley was wonderfully forward and stretching down to the bit. In fact, I was so absorbed by how good she felt I just sort of got confused between left and right.....My reader looked at me in disbelief as I merrily trotted down center line and turned....right. A bell to signal that I was off course, a sigh, and then a few laughs.

Even with the error, I was still in first place after the dressage portion! All I had to do was jump clean.....

I entered the poles class to give Farley and I a look at the course prior to our "real" class. Farley was very good - nary a buck! We were READY.

Farley and I have had 3 or 4 jump lessons....over the course of a year. One of those was Wednesday when I jumped a course for the first time. She alternated the entire lesson between:
  • Trying to buck me off
  • Refusing and ducking out
  • Grabbing the bit and galloping around like an idiot
As a result, I didn't expect great things and had even promised the audience an entertaining run!

Ready-set-WHISTLE and we were off.

Fence 1 went well, then fence 2 - hey we were cantering! Fence 3 came and went and I made a deep corner for fence 4 with my eye already on fence 5. And then....she stopped at fence 5. I kicked and made encouraging noises and we got over it from a standstill. The rest of the course (9 fences altogether) went well enough to not be an embarrassment to my trainer. I was so proud of my girl!

My trainer came up to me afterwards and explained that the stop would have to be counted as a refusal because she took a tiny step sideways and broke "the plane of her body". There went our first place! Oh well - Some of the fault was mine (I let my eye linger on the fence, probably didn't correct her fast enough when she got behind my leg coming up the fence), and some of it was just that she's a really green jumper. We had a good run nevertheless and I think we'll jump more in the next year!

And that's it folks! The last show or ride of the 2011 season....which means it's time for the yearly recap!

Original 2011 goal post can be found here.

Let's start with the "realistic" goals
  • Complete first 100 mile ride - Whoo hoo! I did THREE!!!!!!
  • Start competing training level at recognized shows - did so twice, with disappointing results. The judges I drew had a LOT to do with it, but I'm taking it as a lesson in humility: I'm sure there will be times I get higher scores than I deserve!
  • Earn my 750 mile patch - completed, received, and in the pic album
  • Farley to 500 Endurance AERC miles - yep, there and beyond
  • Complete a 3 day 155 mile ride - yep, no problems there!
  • Compete at a recognized show - yep....
  • Don't go off course - Well....I had this one in the bag...and then did a silly right turn in a recent schooling show. Maybe I need to wear two colors of gloves? Red for the right, white for the left? :)
  • Don't get lost on a ride - due to a not so cool competing event, me and my friend Kathy actually got lost/on the wrong trail at TEVIS. So technically I did get lost!
  • Mark trail or take down ribbons - this didn't happen.
Unrealistic goals!
  • 1000 mile patch - did it by the skin of my chinny-chin-chin. Patriots was 1000 miles!
  • Regional amature champs - ummm...not even close.
  • Schooling first level dressage - I started my lateral work this summer so I'm counting this as completed!
  • Barefoot all year - success, Success, SUCCESS
  • Finish Tevis - Whoo hoo!
  • Farley to the Bronze level in the 100 mile AERC incentive program - Oh Yeah! 3 completions in the 100's this year!
So in conclusion - a really really really good year. In fact, a better year than I have a right to deserve ever again.

Thank you Farley! Thank you blog readers and endurance e-mail list people. Thank you to my friends, family, and boyfriend that have been so tolerant this past year! Last but not least, I would like to thank God for keeping me and Farley safe this year. Horse riding is so dangerous - let's not ever kid ourselves. Every ride we dismount whole and healthy is a good ride. The fact I've ridden thousands of miles without a serious injury just means that sooner or later it will happen - just not this season.

Friday, November 12, 2010

And yet there's more!

Head on over to ~C's blog for a continuation of "you might be an endurance rider is...."!

Blog is here!

Another post recommendation!

Yet another post recommendation - here.

I'm obviously catching up on my blog reading!

Free choice hay

Here's a light hearted post on feeding free choice hay.

Farley is doing very very well on free choice grass hay. I would count my decision to go to free choice on the grass among one of the most important horse-management decisions I've made. Now that the weather is getting colder, I think I need to up her beetpulp and perhaps add 3-5 pounds of alfalfa a day - staying ahead of a weight problem is so much easier than trying to put significant weight on a horse!

You might be an endurance rider....

What sets endurance riders apart from the other horse disciplines? I know that when I found endurance and went to my first ride, my first reaction was “here’s where all the horse people like ME were hiding!” How you know that you are an endurance rider? Here’s a simple list that will help YOU decide.

  • When faced with a long stretch of muddy unimproved road, in a 2WD truck, pulling a trailer – you yell “hang on” to your horse, close your eyes, and hit the gas. And secretly, you enjoy it.
  • You hear the word “strap-on” and think “boot”, not….er...well….we won’t go there…
  • You think a fine use of your remote key is to check your trailer lights.
  • Horse blankets are viewed as extra insurance on a cold night – for yourself. In fact, when your parents and crew forget their sleeping bags, you offer them the choice of a wool cooler, or medium weight size 78 blanket.
  • Your idea of cleaning tack is spraying everything off with a power washer once a year.
  • You’re confused when you can’t find your “clip” in the popular magazines. Doesn’t everyone clip for maximum cooling and sponging efficiency?
  • Your trainer refers to your horse as a goat, and then you realize that she’s talking about the hairs under your horse’s chin, not her uncanny ability to navigate difficult terrain.

I’m sure you guys can add more!

I’m showing in a super casual combined show this weekend. Should be interesting….Somehow Farley and I will navigate an 18” cross bar course without embarrassing ourselves. Although I’m not reassured by my most recent lesson. Have you ever seen the cartoons of little kids on fat ponies when jumping? How there’s a ‘whole lot of sky between their bottoms and the saddle? And their feet sticking out to the side? And the rather startled look on both the rider and horse’s face?

Last Wednesday, Farley was a bit full of herself – my point and shoot pony of previous jump lessons was gone, replaced by a wild thing that alternated trying to duck out of jumps, and then take 2 jumps in a line at a full gallop (half halt, half halt, HALF HALT, OH CRAP WE ARE GOING LONG!). It’s never a good sign when your instructor yells “keep going! That buck is entertainment value for the crowd!”. Then tries to convince me that there will be “plenty” of people at this show that have never jumped before this week doing the cross bars.

In attempt to not look like a complete idiot during the show, during my canal ride yesterday, I rode in my half seat and 2-point, trying to hold the position and look pretty and balanced. Half way through the ride I dropped my stirrups back into dressage length and it was amazing – my legs were like noodles and my leg/heel/foot wanted nothing more than to drape elegantly around Farley’s barrel. Apparently the secret to a “drapey” leg is to hold a half seat or two point at trot/canter for 25 minutes. Did I mention I can barely walk today? *sigh* It doesn't help that Farley has decided bounding over jumps like a gazelle is perferable to jumping with any sort of scope what-so-ever! There will NOT be vidoes of this weekend!

BTW - thanks for all of you that commented on my 100 mile eating post. Your ideas are really going to help! I can't comment directly because of my work internet access, but I got every single one of your comments!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mel's first ride

Thought you guys might enjoy some pictures I came across - my very first endurance ride.
My my how far we've come!  This is for everyone who's just starting out, who may be getting discouraged because it seems like I have my act together.
Folks - I'm here to tell you that I STILL don't have it together, I'm just better at hiding it nowadays!  A post coming soon on what I've had to let go in order to keep my sanity and ride 100's. 
(many thanks to my aunt Sharlene from "an unknown Tevis rider" blog who attended my first ride and took these pics!"
PS - if you think the pics are bad - I really should tell you the entire story.  At one point my aunt dumped horse electrolytes on a piece of bread and told me to eat up.....LOL.

Food for thought

I've had several thoughts rattling in my head lately about trot vs canter vs walk, which ones are biomechanically related and how that relates to conditioning, endurance, preceived effort, and general "wear and tear" on the horse. Related to this, are variations in terrain, up hill vs down hill and what gaits to travel when, not to mention the idiocyncracies of individual horses! There's a LOT of factors that play into this, which is why I'm holding off on posting anything on the subject. I've had a couple of really good discussions in person with some of you and I'm gradually collecting my thoughts on the matter.

In the meantime, Terri Rashid posted a very well written, thoughtful e-mail to ridecamp. I've gotten permission to republish it here. The paragraph breaks are mine - the copy/paste thing is being idiotic and since this e-mail is in a different user account than my blogger account, it's not cooperating at this point.

This post was in response to an article about whether extended trots for endurance horses is
condusive to soundly competing over the long-term.

"I have a mare that has a really great trot, and can also put horses we’re riding with into a canter when she’s trotting large. I have been learning a lot from various people over the years, and while I don’t have any scientific studies to back it up, I would like to pass along other experienced rider’s comments to me just so that newer people on ridecamp have a chance to hear and decide for themselves.

I have had several top level endurance riders tell me that a large extended trot puts the horse more at risk for suspensory tendon injuries. Especially when going uphill. I don’t know personally, but when that many good riders tell me that, I listen. I wanted to highlight that because I always thought of uphill as being pretty safe to train at speed because my main concern was concussion. But do be aware of the loading forces on the tendons if you’re asking for a long extended trot *and* you’re headed uphill. Just because your horse CAN trot large, doesn’t mean that it’s good for them over long distances. (Now note that this is NOT saying anything against a nice medium trot over long distances. ☺) [Most of the rest of this has to do with riding at a flatter / rolling ride with good footing. For really up and down rides or rocky footing I’ve seen so many different choices among good riders that I can’t provide any useful generalizations.]

The other point, which I have definitely seen in my own mare as we’ve picked up the pace doing FEI rides, is that a large trot is not as efficient for her. Now I know people will say that some horses are more efficient at the trot than at the canter for some given speed, and that may be true, but if you’re checking on your own horse then to be fair you need to have spent time conditioning well in BOTH gaits before you decide which is easier on the horse. (Depending on your terrain and your horse you might still spend more time conditioning at the trot, but you need to have done some good conditioning at the canter before you decide that your horse is more efficient at the trot.) My horse’s HRs are about 10 beats per minute higher when trotting 12 mph than when cantering 12 mph. Over the last year I’ve been cantering more in training and she’s getting very efficient at the canter. As a large trotting horse I have had to teach her to switch to the canter at a slower speed. Don’t assume that your horse will switch to the canter when the trot is becoming inefficient for them. Teach them to switch. And also teach them to canter in a relaxed fashion. If they are always only cantering when the speed is higher (whatever constitutes “high” for your training) then, if they are like my mare, they are less likely to be relaxed at the canter. While I am sure each horse is different, most folks I talk to around here definitely seem to want the horse cantering by 12 mph. From watching my mare’s HRs I am starting to think that 11 mph is not a great trotting speed for her but I also have not yet taught her to hold a relaxed canter at that speed. (We’re working on it.) So that’s a speed I try not to go for a sustained period at this point in our training. I’d rather slow to a 9-10 mph trot, or let her get up to a 12 mph canter.

I know this is all really specific, and so therefor probably wrong for some horses, and it’s also probably why the really great riders aren’t posting specific things like this. ☺ But I am trying to give some general ideas for newer riders. I know when I was new and people would say that I had to “feel” and “judge” what was right for my horse I felt a bit adrift. Now I can better follow that advice for my own horses, but I wanted to set out some rough numbers for others who might just want a starting point. If you don’t have a GPS and can’t judge speed without one, then the “feel” part is to notice when you’re starting to get more motion in the back at the trot. When they *really* extend the trot you’ll probably be able to feel more of a side-to-side motion of the saddle as their pelvis and shoulders pivot slightly trying to extend the reach. The general consensus around here is that THAT motion is not efficient, and the horse should either be slowed down, or asked to switch gaits.

So I don’t have studies, and thankfully I don’t have personal experience with suspensories, but I am learning from some AWESOME riders and just wanted to put some of that out here so that other people who might not live as close to experienced endurance riders can also hear these things. As usual, your mileage may vary. And don’t suddenly switch what your horse is doing if what you’re currently doing is going well. Introduce change gradually and watch to see how it works for your horse. The variables in our horses, in the footing we ride on, in the terrain we go over, and the weather we experience is all part of what makes it so difficult to set specific guidelines for pacing – both in training and at a ride.

I’m probably an idiot for writing this up, but the above information has really helped me in my training, and I am hopeful that it can help someone else. My mare is 9 years old, and fairly athletic, and I’ve been bringing her along in endurance since she was 5. (And prior to that she was a racehorse, so had already been under saddle for a few years.) We have slowly introduced more cantering at rides and she has a great base to build from. If you have a horse that’s been going for a while, with a good base and you’ve mostly been trotting, then you might play with the above to see how it works for you. If you’re just legging up a horse I would not worry about going faster for extended periods as you need to build a base on them first. Even with my 9 year old horse we spent a great deal of time this summer just walking up and down mountains in Montana. We did some trotting and cantering where the terrain was flatter, but a lot of the terrain was too steep or rocky for moving out. We came back to California at the end of the summer and I was shocked to find that she was in better shape from our summer of riding – and able to hold a faster pace for longer. So see if your horse is more efficient at the canter, but make sure they have a good base to work from if you want to canter for long stretches on a ride.

I just started FEI riding this year, and I am really enjoying it. I know some people have no interest in riding faster, and that’s great too – when I ride with my husband and sons (ages 10 & 11) we ride more easily and that’s a lot of fun. But I would love to see more people who have an interest in learning to ride faster and possibly compete in FEI have that opportunity. The more interested FEI competitors we have, and the more good mentoring they can obtain, the better our international teams can be. And success in international competition tends to really catch the eye of the public, which will create more interest in the sport of endurance. With more riders our rides become financially viable for ride managers, we have more people to help voice an interest in keeping trails open, and more mentors in more locations to help new people start into the sport. So if you want to try FEI, don’t be intimidated. With a lot of help and instruction (and a good horse) I just completed my second 100 miler in a ride time of 8:46! (Good course, great cool overcast weather, great mentors & crew, etc.) It’s FUN to ride that fast when your horse is ready for it. And I would love to see more people learn to do those faster times on appropriate courses in a safe manner. Good mentoring is key. Riding FEI does NOT preclude riding in rough mountainous terrain and enjoying just being out on your horse for the fun of it – which I think is what got most of us into this sport. I spent the whole SUMMER doing that kind of riding. I still love doing a challenging mountain ride – I just plan my pacing quite a bit differently. ;>"

Terry - I don't think you are an idiot for writing this up! LOL. Thanks for giving me another couple of ideas to mull around.

100 mile eats

With 3-100 mile completions under my non-existent belt (with hips like these, you don’t need a belt!) this year, you would think that I would finally have the secret to eating and feeling OK at the end of a ride.

Yet, after Patriots in October, I was still celebrating my 100 mile accomplishments by vomiting – at least it would have been vomiting if I had actually managed to get anything down in the first place.

It actually surprises me that I haven’t figured this out yet – after all, I got most of my other endurance related issues licked by approaching them in a systematic, scientific way. I think hampering my problem solving skill is a disbelief this is actually happening to me! I’ve done 3 marathons eating whatever I wanted (except gummy bears), drinking whatever was available, and sailing merrily past my fellow runners who were sprinting to the bushes for one reason or another.

After the 20 MT debacle, I called in my Mother to help. After all, that’s what I usually do when it’s my health and welfare are in dire straits.

Anyways – this is what I’ve learned about eating for a 100. I haven’t gotten it all figured out, but I’m getting closer. Each 100 is like peeling an onion – I get one more clue that I can implement at the next ride, which reveals the next weakest link.

20MT – was a spectacular failure in rider management. Pain management and real food is the first layer of the onion.
• Pain management is important! I didn’t start taking drugs to manage stiffness and pain until too late in the ride, and then didn’t continue them appropriately.

• Eating is important. REAL food is important – having it conveniently available is a neccessity.

• I wasn’t actually sick on this ride, probably because while I was conscious, I was managing a horrendous amount of pain (I still have scars…).

Tevis – revealed the second layer: electrolytes and the importance of following up on any NSAIDS etc. once started
• Pain was managed through ibprofen, which I started taking at the first hint I was starting to get stiff. I also took a caffeine pill starting around 7pm.

  • My mistake was not taking any with me on the trail when I had 8 hours until I saw my crew again. I felt great until both wore off – then I felt sick, stiff, and tired.

• I ate great all day! I had taken special care to prepare a proven menu and eating real food really paid off.

  • What I was missing – any formal electrolytes. I tried relying on food to provide me what I needed and it was obvious the next day that I did not succeed because…
  • …I was very sick after finishing, and was still so sick and dizzy the day after, I had to have a family member drive me and the trailer home. I was confused – why was I sick if I had eaten during the ride? Mom pointed out that my symptoms could perfectly explained by an imbalance of electrolytes.

Patriots – revealed the third layer: continuing to support physically activity with calories is very important – in plain terms: eating into the night is essential.

  • After discovering at Comstock I can easily get down fruit juice in the morning, I was able to begin getting calories down earlier than ever before, and continued through dinner. I was also proactive about making sure I didn’t get stiff, taking OTC when needed, and made sure that I was getting appropriate electrolytes. All was glorious....and then I fell off the wagon.
  • After I ate dinner, in the evening I wasn’t hungry so I didn’t eat. Because I didn’t eat, my body decided to be nauseous. Which made me want to eat less and less, which made me sicker and sicker. And when I stopped eating, I also stopped taking NSAIDS (those on an empty stomach is asking for trouble). This of course culminated into me going slower and slower, and getting stiffer and more sore, and then more tired and more sick – until it culminated into a 3am finish and then me not being able to go bed because I was busy trying to eat crackers and keep them down because laying down made me way dizzy.
  • Unlike Tevis, by the time I got up on the morning, I felt fine.
  • Mom pointed out that I didn’t have anything substantial since 6pm. Just because I’m not hungry late into the night, doesn’t mean that I don’t need the calories. Nine hours without a meal is a long time….
  • Solution and plan for the next 100: After dinner, go back to “morning mode”. My stomach is very picky the mornings and very particular of what I can and can’t eat – after dinner I need to go back to those foods and not pay attention to whether I’m hungry or not.

Part 1 of the solution is peeling back the layers and finding the balance between eating, electrolytes, fluids, managing inflammation (especially important when it’s cold and raining), and the timing. I have confidence that eventually I’ll figure out the specifics.

But then there’s part 2….and part 2 is what worries me. Part 2 is actually finding stuff that I can get down and keep down. It doesn’t matter if I get part 1 completely figured out if I can’t get the actually calories down during the ride. Anyone on my crew will tell you that it’s a real problem for me to get ANYTHING down. I’m not being a drama queen about it, I’m not trying to be difficult. I’m usually grumpy and a bit snappish because trying to deal with the nausea well enough to keep eating is not easy and requires a lot of my energy.

What works and what doesn’t

  • No - Anything that has any hint of bitter. Which is odd because in my everyday life I crave bitter.
  • Yes - Apple juice in the mornings. Again, very odd because I usually hate how sweet fruit juice is and I avoid it in my everyday life.
  • Yes - Pasta salad- no matter what the weather, this always goes down nicely. One of the only foods that is consistently good at every ride.
  • No - milk. Soy substitutes seem to be ok for puddings etc. Cheese and yogurt seem to be fine, depending on my mood. Not consistent and can’t be counted on.
  • Tea/Coffee – only work in the middle of the day. Too bitter to drink the morning or after dinner. I’m obsessive about drinking hot stuff, so if I can’t have tea or coffee because of bitter, I want apple cider or hot chocolate.
  • Chili – works as a dinner, onions and cheese OK!
  • Hot ride menu items – jello, puddings, potato chips. If it’s raining or cold I won’t eat any of this.
  • Cold ride menu items – Instant miso soup, cut up sandwiches, hot apple juice, ramen or undon.
  • No-vegetables of any kind. I actually start physically gagging if the conversation turns to the mere mention of any kind of leafy greens
  • Yes-Hardboiled eggs seem to go down well no matter what.
  • Yes-specific fruits. The best ones are bananas and canned peaches.
  • No-anything thing with cornsyrup in it seems to hit my stomach funny. All fruit juices need to be 100% juice if possible, and the jellos and puddings homemade so that they use table sugar.

Hopefully this helps someone else. In my regular, everyday life I’m not nearly this bad, although there are hints. In the mornings I have a really strong gag reflex and if there is cat vomit on the carpet, it stays there until I get home in the afternoon. If I let myself get very very hungry, then I do get nauseous and sick – especially if I’m moving, like in a vehicle. In my real life I try to stick with a low-carb diet of mostly natural foods with simple ingredients. I’ve tried to apply those principles to eating at rides and it’s ended in disaster, so my new policy for rides is that if it goes down and stays down than it works!

If anyone has suggestions, please comment! Some of the foods that work the best for me were suggested by my readers….The one area I’m really struggling with right now eating after about 8pm. I’m just not hungry…..

P.S. It’s not an option for me to give up 100’s. I love the distance too much and my horse is good at it. I will figure this out, even if it means going to a sport nutritionist!

Monday, November 8, 2010

How to produce a website

With my vast experience in partially producing a single website – that isn’t completed yet – I present to you “Melinda’s 10-ish step guide to creating a website”!

1. Decide you want to produce a website. Mull it over for a couple of months. Decide that it really can’t be harder than creating a power point presentation.

2. Ask around and find people that have done something similar. Realize that there is this thing called “hosting” and you will probably need it. Ignore the feeling that this is WAY OVER YOUR HEAD and actually BUY hosting and a domain name. Be optimistic and buy 2 years of service.

3. Start creating the website. This is where the real fun starts! Open up a word documents “as a web page” and realize that there is this thing called “html” and it’s a requirement for building a webpage from scratch in word. Mmmm…..decide to buy a program that really does make web site building as easy as power point.

After doing some research, realize you don’t want something that makes it TOO easy because it will produce a website that produces messy code, and maybe in the future when you really do know what you are doing, you won’t be able to alter the code to produce EXACTLY what you want and you will forever be stuck with a not-so-fantastic-template. Instead BUY a program (and if you are like me, it’s likely the first piece of software you‘ve actually bought – not a free demo, not a trial version, not a borrowed program….) that’s more complicated than drop and click, but you don’t have to actually know code to produce a half-way-decent website.

4. Decide you have HAD it with your *&*&^&*% old computer and the &&*%%^&* development program.

5. Look up a basic tutorial online for html coding, get a few basics, take a deep breath. Decide that the website can be produced in stages. Stage one will be a website good enough that you don’t have to apologize for it. The finished product once you figure out the *^&%(()^%$^ html programming needed to change templates, will be utterly fantastic and actually match your initial conception. Because let’s face it – you are WAY too picky to be content with a template!

6. Dive down into some of the underlying program of the web page development and realize that you’ve picked up enough coding information to actually know what you are looking at! Start with something basic like inserting a customized pic instead of the stock banner. It works! This is actually kind of fun…..Tweak the aspects that are super important for the initial roll out, but leave the rest alone – with your luck you’ll save something as a jpeg instead of a png file and it will completely screw everything up and you will have NO IDEA what you did. And you will have to start over…..

7. Throw some content into the pages. Anything will do. Try to avoid glaring spelling errors. Throw in some pictures to dazzle the reader and distract them from the grammer and formatting mistakes.

8. Hit publish and go have a drink. You’ll need it for the next part.

9. Review your website. Find glaring errors. Fix errors. Re-upload your site. Ignore the boyfriend in the corner that’s glaring at you. After all – he was warned this was “website weekend”.

10. Review website. All your images are gone. Realize it’s because you accidentally deleted files off your sever during the update. Try and figure out how the h*ll to get your fancy software to upload the ENTIRE site again instead of just the updates. Have another drink. Swear at the computer for freezing for the &*&&*^*)*(&^%^th time in an hour. Upload site.

11. Review site. Find formatting errors – the font doesn’t match and neither does the size. Boyfriend is now actively trying to distract you – asking you about inconsequential things like “when are you going to start dinner”, and “are you changing out of your pajamas soon?”. Decide that the idea of having phases or “multiple roll outs” is an absolutely genius idea. Decide that phase 1 does NOT include fixing all the formatting errors. Post an announcement about your new site and pretend that all is going according to plan.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Website is launched! Introducing Phase 1

Phase 1 of the website is completed!

Goals of Phase 1 were:
*Get SOMETHING up there that is the basic skeleton of the site
*Make it possible for people to start ordering boots
*Get some information on the site about the boots so that people I'm talking to and referring to the site have a place to go.

I'm hoping to be completely done by the end of the month, however if you are interested in seeing what's up so far, head on over to

I'm (of course) not entirely happy with the look, but as this is currently my part-time project I don't have the time to make it exactly how I want.

It's been a great learning project - I've never done anything with the web besides this blog, and that's a far cry from building a website. I would encourage everyone to do a website at least once in their lives - it certainly gave me a better appreciation of the beautiful websites I visit every day.

The blog address will remain the same for now. You will notice that this blog is linked from the title page of the site. Blogger fits my blogging needs better than anything else I could come up with right now.

I welcome feedback on the site! I've already found some grammer/clarity issues I will be correcting with phase 2, as well as some "housekeeping" (naming the sites so they don't load as "page03" etc.).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I have an Excuse!

Now I’m sure all of you were wondering why I didn’t post the other day. We will ignore the fact that my posts have not been as predicatable lately as in the past and I will pretend you’all were on the edge of your seats wondering WHY I didn’t have an enlightening, or at the bare minimum, self-depricating post up!

Many of you probably assumed I was working on my website.

You would have been wrong. (although I am diligently working to have my site up and running at least partially by Saturday….)

As a matter of fact, I had sat down to write a post. As I recall it was a rather banal post on how you should NEVER buy vehicle or trailer from an endurance rider, because when you ask us how much it was used, we will get this far away look in our eyes – which you will wrongly assume to mean we can’t remember the last time we pulled it out of the drive way. Actually, we are recalling the time at Patriots 100, in October of 2010 when we had to pull it over an unimproved road with a 2WD truck and the only option was to close our eyes and hit the gas when ever we hit a particular bad mud section. In fact, if you looked closely at the trailer, you might still see the mud splatter where I couldn’t quite reach up the side of the trailer….

I had sat down in my recliner, probably picked my nose, gave a big sigh, and opened up a blank word document. When I looked up.

And there he was!

My stalker!

I’ve had a stalker, per my neighbors for ~2 years. The police have been called, notes have been left on my truck, and neighbors have knocked on my door. However, I had never seen him. I had a general description so when I saw a guy, leaning on the railing looking directly into the apartment livingroom I froze. This was HIM! I couldn’t see his face but he matched the description.

I very casually walked over the kitchen and grabbed my phone. And ran into the bathroom.

And called 9-1-1 for the first time in my life.

And promptly forgot my address.

Then wandered casually into the kitchen and swept – because if the cops actually CAME in, how horrible would it be to have an unswept floor?

I kept an eye on the guy on the railing. Approximately 15 minutes after making the report he wasn’t there.

I ran over to the sliding glass door and saw him exiting the complex on the ground floor (I do not live on the ground floor). I got a good look at his back in the light, and stifled the urge to run out and follow him.

The cops missed him by 3 minutes.

The cops asked me amusing questions – when I return from running do I wear my running clothes around the house? Now mind you, I’m answering their questions in my riding tights, tall boots, and a tank top. The female cop is asking me to live with my blinds closed and to not run in the dark. The male cop is looking me up and down and remarking I could probably out run the guy, whom I estimate to be at least 300 pounds. He nods approvingly when I mention self defense training and I have a feeling he’s already looked me up in the computer and knows my status as a armed citizen. The female cop is frowning at him and asking if I live alone.

Today and tomorrow are dedicated to working on the website!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Everyone has an opinion and it stinks!

Ines graciously offered to trot out Farley for all the vet checks during my 100. This gave me the opportunity to observe Farley during her trot outs and see the vet checks from the perspective of the vet, rather than the person on the end of the lead rope.

I learned 2 things

#1 – “It’s not the speed”, or rather “I may be the lowest common denominator in the trot out”

Farley has a huge stride for a little horse. Ines has very long legs and the two of them travelled over the ground quite nicely together. Farley looked absolutely sound and very even for the entire ride, I think partially because Farley wasn’t having to compensate for ME by shortening her stride. I think it isn’t the speed of the trot that’s the issue – it’s how confined Farley feels at a certain speed that causes her to shorten her natural stride causing her to look funny.

#2 – “Everyone has an opinion and it stinks” or “Know thy horse”

There were a lot of vets at this ride – as a result, Farley saw lots of different vets throughout the ride. I learned something very interesting. Vets aren’t very consistent in the letter grades they assign. Farley could trot out after loop 5 and get an A for attitude, impulsion and gait. Farley could trot out BETTER after loop 6 for a different vet and get B-‘s for the same attributes! Farley could get a B for muscle tone after one loop, and then with a different vet get an A for muscle – even though according to my evaluation she was exactly the same.
What I saw at this ride validates what I have done over the last couple of years – take responsibility for my horse and don’t worry about exactly what letter grade I receive during the vetting - as long as I don’t a receive a score that’s completely out of the ordinary (such as a C for hydration parameters after a single loop).

From what I saw at this ride, I think unless you see the same vets over and over it’s really difficult to say “her hydration is better now because she got B’s last loop and she got A’s this time”. Or “I got a A’s on my card and you got B’s, therefore my horse was better prepared”.
I used to let a less than optimal score stress me out for the next part of the trail. Then, invariably I would get a different vet for the next loop and he would shrug and say “looks fine to me”. I think the most important thing is to know my horse, know when a score is completely out of place (for example, I would not expect to see a C for hydration parameters at any point during the ride and a C for muscle tone would be of concern and if I decided to continue, would do so very conservatively depending on the trail) and go and enjoy the ride if everything is normal.

My first reaction, after contemplating this, was to say “exams should be pass/fail!”, but then common sense took over. Have a “sliding” scale for attributes can be very valuable, especially for riders new to the sport, and can help a new rider establish what is “normal” for the horse. However, the line between an A and B is so thin, and (at least in my experience) interchangeable depending on the vet, I don’t feel like those scores are very useful. Either score is a Green light and I’m not going to spend a lot of time worrying about it. In my opinion a C is cause for concern – a sort of “yellow” light, proceed with caution.

I think more useful than the vets evaluation is a periodic ride evaluation that you, the rider, do. After all, the consistent factor throughout the race is YOU. Score your horse YOURSELF. Regardless of how the horse scored at the vets, are their muscles tighter? Is their hydration better or worse, based on the parameters of jug refill, skin tent (which is not a reliable indicator of hydration…..from what I’ve read), membranes etc.? Have someone trot out your horse – I’ve learned it’s deceptive what you feel, it’s better to see – does the horse have more or less spring to its step? Take an honest look at your values throughout the ride and decide what to be worried about. Decide whether a ride strategy or home management procedure needs to be changed. Understand that the difference between an A and a B can be very subjective.

Even though the vets scored Farley’s parameters as A’s or B’s inconsistently throughout the ride, according to MY evaluations throughout the ride, Farley actually remained very consistent.
  • Her trot out after the 6th and last loop looked almost exactly the same as the trot out after the 1st loop. (despite one receiving A’s and one receiving a B-)
  • Her rump muscles had the same tone before, during, and after the ride
  • She finished slightly more dehydrated than she started, despite receiving A’s at the finish. Her hydration improved after the midway point, when I started electrolyting. Will probably need to be more aggressive in the first half of the race if it’s very cool.

Based on these observations I feel that Farley is well prepared for the distance and I do not have any concerns.

Anyone else have opinions on the system used to score horses during rides? Do you work really hard to make sure you receive A’s, or are you more likely to rely on yourself to evaluate the horse?

At Comstock and deliberately set a pace that would normally get me tight rump muscles (and a B score). I got all A's from the vet (same vet all ride), which agreed with my self evaluation so my initial thought was that the selenium/vit E addition was responsible. Now I'm not so sure - Before the tye up I didn't reliably do my own self evaluations of muscle tone, so perhaps the inconsistent A/B's I received at rides before the supplementation versus the A after supplementation don't mean as much as I thought. Especially considering I got "mixed" scores at this ride and upon my verification, I felt she was very consistent.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lake Almanor in pics Pt.2

More pictures because saying "these are the pics from loop 1 - repeat 6x" really isn't sufficient to share the wonders of Farley's THIRD 100 this year, and my ONE THOUSAND MILES with my readers!

Heading out to loop 2. I had hoped to remove rain gear at SOME point....but obviously it was not to be....

Alas, THREE layers of pants (silks, winter breeches, rain pants) was a bit....awkward to mount in. Do you know what that guy on the right hand side of the pic is thinking? "it's only the 2nd loop..."

Coming back in from the second loop (50 mils total). That's Patty and Sam behind me - they were wonderful company for the loop and Sam needed a bit of....motivation. It worked out perfectly as I got to chat and meet another endurance rider!

Farley is wondering whether the application of ice boots means she's done.....

As the cooler is removed Farley is contemplating the fact that just maybe there's another (3rd) loop in her future....

Oh yes there is! Another 25 mile loop in fact. I* puts on a hackamore while Melinda supervises. Farley is not amused.

Off for the third loop (which is yet another 25 mile loop)

OK - so after that it got quite rainy and dark. Imagine another 10 mile loop, another 5 mile loop and then another 10 mile loop.....I decided to walk in with the 2 riders behind me for the last 2 loops. Farley felt good, but I got too cold on the 5 mile loop and didn't feel like trotting because I was starting to get stiff. Why risk a 1000 mile completion with poor riding? Coming into the finish Farley would have really like to pass our 2 companions but I had such a pleasant 15 miles I wanted to finish together.

We all finished together (I think I even crossed the finish line last technically) and vetted together, but for some reason they put me first which put me 8th overall. I guess it doesn't matter - we all finished top 10 and I think I was the only featherweight.

Me accepting the awards. Yes I'm a featheweight! It's the coat! and the hat! and the 2 pairs of pants! Stop looking at my butt....

My aunt's dog wearing a rain coat. Too cute...

The boots after being removed. I didn't touch them the entire race, and this is exactly how they looked after I removed them - no touchups.

Me and Farley the morning after. Farley looked great. How is it that she looks better after a 100 than after a 50?

BTW - this is her new blanket I got in Oregon for her. I sold Minx's so now Farley officially has her own mid-weight in her own ride colors - which is yellow OR a red shade. Yes, the price tags are still hanging off of it.

Another pic of the boots

I think that's going to be it for my ride story! I have a couple of topics to discuss individually - I've figured out why I'm getting sick and I've figured out my food for 100s! I discovered a great deal about staying comfortable in the rain and felt better during and after this 100 than any to date. Farley looked better after the race than midway through, which I'm starting to think is typical for her (and one reason she makes a better 100 miler than 50 miler), and I came to some conclusions about ride vets, Tevis 2011, and the letter scoring system on vet cards. All great topics to discuss over the next couple of weeks.

However, for now I'm walking around with a huge smile on my face. What a way to end the season! I have a 1000 mile patch and Farley is only 150 miles behind me. She has her 100 mile "bronze" award. I should be in the regional point standings for featherweights and I've decided NOT to do 1 more 50 at the end of the month for "insurance". If someone beats me out, than that's the way it is.

A huge thank you to I*, my parents, and my aunt Sharlene. My mom gave me 1000 pieces of Candy corn to celebrate my 1000 mile completion (which is a LOT of candy corn - really makes me appreciate how many 1000 really is) that she hand counted, my aunt gave me a book with a personal message inscribed in it, and my sister (redgirl) sent me an endearing card in which we wishes me a "Happy Halloween" and a "Happy Possible 1000 mile Completion". I*- you were great. Let me know if you need a crew, a trailer ride, or even a horse to ride someday!

Lake Almanor in Pictures Pt.1

I haven't decided how to present the Lake Almanor story, so in the meantime, enjoy the pictures! My crew and friend, I* is a private person, and to respect that privacy I am not posting pictures that show her if there seems to be this person that is in ALL the pics but you never see her, you are right!

I really should let redgirl do the commentary - she is rather good at it (which you know if you follow us in gmail's "Buzz"). However, she is at school right now and unavailable so I'll have to do my best and see what she posts in Buzz! ( if any of you are interested).

Trail shot of beautiful lake. Too bad it was rainy and the light was bad....

The "typical" trail for this ride

Self portrait. Where did all those wrinkles come from?

OK - enough of boring trail photos. Back to the beginning!

Discussing crewing strategies. Very important with six loops....

Critically evaluating Farley's trot outs (or lack of them...)

Me trotting her out for the vet in. She was a bit hot....

Farley beginning to be naughty during the vet pretending not to notice.

A number writer looking at her work with pride....

...and then in disgust when told that I had mistakenly told her the wrong number....

I* trotting Farley out after the first loop.

I* and Father taking care of Farley after the first loop.

Melinda eating after the first loop.....

One of my favorite pictures from the ride!

So now, take all these pics from the first loop and repeat 6 times!!!!!!!

Part 2 coming up!