This blog has MOVED!

Please visit for the most updated content. All these posts and more can be found over at the new URL.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Farley update (I saw a vet)

I've been quiet on the subject of Farley's injury because I wasn't sure whether I was seeing some pathologic changes or not.  I really really didn't want the end of Farley's career to come from something as benign as kicking at a fly and slamming her leg into a pipe corral. 

After the filling went down, what I found was 2 hard bumps that were very low on the leg above the fetlock, one on the outside and one on the inside of the leg. 

After 2 weeks and having the leg not be normal, I decided to make a vet appointment, even though she wasn't unsound on the lunge. 

It was the best and worst of vet visits.  The kind that is good because everything is going to be OK, and it was relatively cheap, and the worst of vet visits because you feel like an idiot. 

It seems like there is quite a bit of individual variation in regards to length of the splint bone.  When she kicked the fence, Farley broke off the end of her medial (inside) splint bone.  I considered a splint but it seemed WAY too distal (low on the leg), but I guess not!

The bump on the outside of the leg was a bit of fibrous tissue on top of the suspensory.  I expressed concern about it's the vet put an ultrasound on it and pronounced it fine. 

"Don't do a fifty tomorrow" was his comment.  "What about the end of November?", I asked.  Apparently that should be absolutely fine.


Huge relief. 

Normally I wouldn't bother bringing a sound horse into the vet for an injury that is getting better, even with the changes I felt in the leg.  However, my belief is that if a horse is being asked to give a performance type effort (like endurance), it is my responsibility to do "due diligence" in situations like this --> that I'm not absolutely sure what is going on, and at least get some diagnostics so I can make an informed decision about the direction of her career.

Not being able to afford to do basic diagnostics is one red flag that I have no business doing endurance, so was happy to realize that I can still do this for my pony. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Buffalo run report

There are 2 ways to start a race.

1. Get to the race location, stroll over to the check in table and pick up number and goodies. Wander back to the car, pin the number on your shirt, attach the chip to your shoe, and post on Facebook that you are about to start the 10 mile Buffalo run!

2. Go to bed at 11pm after moving all day, a BBQ party with alcohol. Going to "bed" is a misnomer because you are in the middle of moving and what you really have is a sheet on the carpet (Berber with no pad). Get up on time only because you never actually managed to sleep for more than an hour at any point during the night. Don't bother looking up the location or directions because you are pretty sure it's at Rio Linda High School. Realize once you get off the freeway that it doesn't look familiar.....Pull over, check the email annoucement and realize it's at the Rio Americano high school. Thank God (literally) for GPS's and plug the new location into it. Thank God that it's 6am and there's no traffic so you can tear down Watt avenue and neighhood streets at an unspecified rate of speed. Park the car. Run to the table (this counts as your warm up). Cut in front of line. Pant out your last name. Run to the start line as they fire the gun. Join the stragglers of the pack and run the first mile with your number in your teeth as you struggle to stuff cliff shots and Honey stinger waffles into the back of your running skirt. Pin on your number without sticking yourself with safety pins. Thank God (again) that the first 1.5 miles loops past the start so that you can make a porta potty stop. Thank God (yet again) that there is an empty porta potty. Continue on your race and run a PR (personal best) for that distance and race.

Oh do you think I ran Sunday's race? Considering there was no facebook update for those of you that were my face book friends.

I guess that answers whether my new lower mileage running program based on interval training is working! (old program = foundation is low, slow, easy runs; new program = foundation is shorter, faster interval workouts)

(click photo above to see my race times for past years at this race)

Friday, September 21, 2012

To answer a question: Does vaccination routinely cause hoof sensitivity?

After vaccinating Farley this year, I noticed she was much more tender over gravel. After talking with a fellow blogger and friend about the issue, I decided to see whether anything had been published in the scientific literature.

I am often amazed after talking with dog owners at dog parks or other horse owners how largely ignorant the "average" owner is. While it is not fair to brand a population with too-large of a brush, I think it is fair to say (especially in the horse world) management practices rooted in "old wives tales" tend to abound despite sometimes overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

I try to avoid being one of those average owners that takes information on faith because of a personal anecdote, or because I like/dislike the person sharing the information.

I like to make a distinction between different categories of information.

1. Information/practices proven in the scientific literature and there seems to be general consensus that "this is the way it is". (example: horses do better if fed to mimic their natural state --> ie small meals throughout the day. )

2. Those practices/information that there is some controversy about and there is a growing body of evidence that it might be true, but objectively no one can say for sure yet (example: horses should be barefoot when they can be - as simple as pulling shoes in the winter if you aren't riding, not necessarily the great performance barefoot horse debate).

3. Practices that there has been some research on, and is either inconclusive, mixed, or only looked at in non-horse models. (Example: Do endurance horses REALLY need higher selenium levels? How much vitamin E should be supplemented? What is the "best" way to condition for 100 miles?" What is the perfect electrolyte schedule?)

4. Practices in long use, but haven't actually be scientifically tested (examples: treeless versus treed saddles, does feeding a specific supplement really work? don't let a horse drink while hot, wool is the best pad, a synthetic vented pad is the best pad).

When I talk to people or write articles here, I try to be clear on which category the information I'm sharing falls into. If I believe very strongly in something, but there's no clear evidence, or there's some valid controversy in the literature, I try to communicate that.

Before I start talking about vaccination making my horse tenderfooted, I need to find out what kind of evidence there is. It's a very different thing to say that I've noticed a trend with MY horse after vaccination, and then to say that "vaccinating can make horses hoofsore". Or even imply that my personal circumstance *might* be true for others, without first looking to see whether there is ANY evidence that this could be true. I want EVERYONE that reads this blog to be a critical thinker, and hopefully by sharing a bit about what I learned on this topic you'll be inspired to do a bit of your own research :).

First step
I went to Mendeley's online library and searched using various keywords that included "horse, hoof, vaccine, vaccination, sensitivity, sore, adverse reaction etc."
Result: I came up with one reference:

Tj√§lve, H. (2004). Adverse reactions to veterinary drugs reported in Sweden during 1991-1995. Svensk Veterinartidning, 20(2), 105–10. Retrieved from

This isn't a promising paper. Horses are mentioned in passing and I doubt I'll find any good evidence either way. However it was finding this article that made me add "adverse reaction" to my search term list.

I decided that I needed to cast a wider net and I did similar searches on Google Scholar. Still nothing.

Conclusion: no obvious answer to my question in the readily available scientific literature

Second step - Find a starting point by getting more specificI googled my question "Does vaccination make horses hooves sore?" and had a bunch of unreviewed/unscientific sites pop up, mostly barefoot and laminitis related. PERFECT. I went to one that didn't look TOO "out there" and found a page that had question/answer articles that were by veterinarians.

From this website I read this:
October 24, 2004

There have been lots of examples over the past few seasons of laminitis in horses given the West Nile Vaccine. Though any vaccine can potentially cause disturbance and reaction enough in horses to lead to laminitis, the West Nile vaccine seems to have caused more than its share of problems in this regard--this may just be a statistically predictable situation due to increasing numbers of people vaccinating their horses with this vaccine. Some trimmers have reported orange-colored soles and separation of the entire white line...even the white line along the edges of the bars. This is indicative of metabolic and toxic insult rather than mechanical disruption of laminae leading to laminitis. Horses vaccinated in the neck muscle have been more severely affected than ones vaccinated in the rear leg.

Now I have some more specific questions that I can go back to the literature and search for. This vet doesn't give any references and it's impossible for me to tell whether he's speaking from personal experience, studies, published literature etc.

-What is published on the adverse affects of west nile vaccine? How does it compare to the tetanus or "4 way" that is commonly given?

-Does the location of the vaccine matter for the incidence of hoof related adverse reactions?
I still won't be able to generalize from the answers to these questions whether ALL vaccines make horses sore, but I DID give Farley a west nile, and that could explain the hoof tenderness, if what Dr. Tom says is true.

paper added to journal club - adult horse play and its link to stress

I have the lucky job of coordinating my school's Behavior Medicine Club's journal club activity!  This month I've picked a horse based behavior article, and added it to the Mendeley journal club (found in the right hand side bar of the blog).

This research was covered in Equus magazine a couple of months ago, and going through the study and it's conclusions with a Board- certified behaviorist and veterinarian should be really interesting.

The full text of this article can be found on the web and so should be available to you (in English).  Do you agree with the study?  I'd love to hear your input!

Hausberger, M., Fureix, C., Bourjade, M., Wessel-Robert, S., & Richard-Yris, M.-A. (2012). On the significance of adult play: what does social play tell us about adult horse welfare? Die Naturwissenschaften, 99(4), 291-302. doi:10.1007/s00114-012-0902-8

Here's the abstract to get you started (bolded phrase is my emphasis):

Play remains a mystery and adult play even more so. More typical of young stages in healthy individuals, it occurs rarely at adult stages but then more often in captive/domestic animals, which can imply spatial, social and/or feeding deprivations or restrictions that are challenging to welfare, than in animals living in natural conditions. Here, we tested the hypothesis that adult play may reflect altered welfare states and chronic stress in horses, in which, as in several species, play rarely occurs at adult stages in natural conditions. We observed the behaviour (in particular, social play) of riding school horses during occasional outings in a paddock and measured several stress indicators when these horses were in their individual home boxes. Our results revealed that (1) the number of horses and rates of adult play appeared very high compared to field report data and (2) most stress indicators measured differed between 'players' and 'non-players', revealing that most 'playful' animals were suffering from more chronic stress than 'non-playful' horses. Frequency of play behaviour correlated with a score of chronic stress. This first discovery of a relationship between adult play and altered welfare opens new lines of research that certainly deserves comparative studies in a variety of species.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

What do you think of this idea?

During my last rotation through the vmth in livestock services I learned that one effective way to get a significant amount of salt into a goat's diet is to create a saturated solution of water and salt, and spray it on their hay.

Much like gradually increasing the amount of salt/electrolytes present in the mash, more and more salt could be sprayed on the hay, increasing the amount of elyte intake during a ride (and thus stimulating the thirst reflex).

Farley is up to one and a half doses of electrolytes per pound of dry feed (works out to one table spoon of salt per cup of dry feed)! An enormous amount that she doesn't even blink at whether at home or at a ride. I typically feed between 2 to 3 pounds per mash per "serving" in a ride setting, which means that she would be consuming up to almost 5 doses!! Not that I would necessarily put the max amount of elytes I could into the mashes, but not having to syringe the elytes and having her consume them on her own is something I really care about.

My experiment with Farley's mashes tells me that it would certaintly be possible to get a horse used to saltier hay. Now the question this a good idea worth perusing.


Footnote 1

Male goats castrated young have a smaller diameter urethra because of the absence of tester one. Yet another blow against their already too long and small urethra in the first place. Thus male goats casturated young are at increase for stones or being "blocked". It is generally recognized as a primary metabolic disorder with other components such as genetics, but the prevention is primarily nutritional, including significant salt increase, reduction of alfalfa etc. Really people, I havent found one good solid argument for young castrations and spayings for animals that are intended to live to the end of their natural life span (ie not production animals).


Footnote 2

Remember that in giving an endurance horse electrolytes at a ride you are not trying to replace the entire amount of elytes lost. That is a ridiculous amount. Instead, you are trying to influence the thirst receptor, which in the horse is less sensitive and lags behind the hydration curve compared to humans. But making the blood saltier, the thirst response kicks in and the horse will drink more. See my notes regarding Garlinghouse's AERC convention presentation on elytes and the dehydrated horse for more information.


The end is approaching

Just a bit less than 6 hours to go now.  I've studied, I've slept, and I've tried to keep some semblance of physical activity in my life on a daily basis.  In short, I've done everything I possibly can do to prepare for this final. 

I'll miss cardioresp with all of it's simplicity through equations and graphs, and the fact that most days we got out of class at noon.....

Wish me luck. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More procrastination

These pictures were taken a couple of days ago.

They illustrate why it is so it's important to know what's normal for your horses legs and feel them every day that you see your horse.

Just looking at Farley it would be hard to tell something was wrong. Not lame, BAR (bright alert responsive), eating well.

However, upon closer examination, it's easy to see and feel the difference between the right and left hind legs.


What I hear all the time from people when I talk about feeling your horses legs and finding what is normal for their horse is "I don't know what I"m looking for". Don't worry about it. It's amazing how much memory your hands, fingers, and sense of touch have. One day, you'll be doing your checking and you WILL notice if something is different.

In this case, it wasn't even about trying to find something subtle that was different on the leg --> just a quick of comparison of the right to left legs should tell you something is very wrong.

If you never check, you will never find. I got her out of her paddock, saddled her up, and rode for 20 minutes before I noticed something was wrong.

Quick Farley update & other study procrastination

Yesterday Farley continued to be nonreactive to palpation of her fetlock/swollen area and was trotting sound....but still had quite a bit of edmea/effusion/filling so I saddled up and went for a walking trail ride around the orchard. Because she's lazy and tends to stand around all day, I had a feeling that by getting her moving the filling might go down enough I could assess it better.

Used my new saddle with my fleece pad (in shorts and keens with an EQUESTRIAN APPROVED helmet) and headed out.

She felt GREAT. Forward, swinging back, interested, focused. On the way home she broke into a short trot or two and the steps felt sound, even though it was VERY brief.

After the ride the filling had almost completely dissapeared and I was able to evaluate it much better. It's still not completely normal, there's some little bumps and things that weren't there, but it's early to tell whether there's any permanent changes. The body's inflammatory response is a glorious, scary thing and it will take a couple of weeks before I can conclude that any of the various "new" things I'm feeling are there for good. It's nothing major and could be anything from thickenings of the skin where a bump is healing itself to an irritated area, to the soft tissue responding to the inflammatory response that's been in that area.

I think my strategy for the next week or 2 will be to ride her at a walk on our "ride days" (every other day) and monitor for the return of filling. Once the filling doesn't come back, AND she remains negative to palpation, AND remains sound on the trot out and lunge --> we'll start some slow short trot sessions. After a week of that, if everything remains good, we will return to regular work, with close monitoring for anything different on that leg. I figure that by my next ride in the beginning of November I'll be out of the woods and can declare her my perfect pony once again.

New Saddle --> felt really really good on the trail. The fleece cover worked great. Trying to decide what girth I want to use, and need to "twist" the fenders so it puts less stress on my ankles and knees holding the stirrups in the forward position. Even with the fleece pad on the saddle, it seems like it has a very narrow twist, that's super comfortable. Still playing with the details of the set up --> after yesterday's ride I want to attach my saddle pad to the front of my saddle (my saddle pad has loops for this purpose) so I can slide the pad further back without worrying that I"ll lose it. The more forward position that the company suggested for placing the saddle works very well and doesn't seem to interfere with her shoulder movement like I thought it would. Something about the more western style panels versus the flocked english panels. Still concerned about the wither clearance, BUT I'm going to leave it to the company for their opinion, and I've decided that since there isn't contact between her wither and the saddle now, I'll just monitor. It's a problem for almost all the saddles I've tried on Farley, and as her back changes with her return to condition, chances are I would have to switch saddles no matter what I started with. I have a back up saddle right now that fits her, so if it does happen at a ride (like what happened at the end of Wild West one year) I can switch out the saddle if necessary. I also might be able to do something with the pad.

-It feels really nice to have a saddle that I'm doing little things to --> puttering around so to speak. Nothing that is requiring a large amount of time or brain power, but keeping me busy enough that my brain stays happy.

I have a MAJOR final (end of the block) on Thursday, and really should not be blogging. So I won't even take the time to edit this one, post it, and swear to have more self control over the next couple of days and NOT BLOG!!!!!!!! Just like my self control for *not* eating the entire carton of icecream last night or *not* buying a chocolate croissant this morning. Right. No blogging until after Thursday!!!!

(comment about the food in the above paragraph - I'm at my ideal weight right now, and was going to try and lose 2 or 3 more pounds so it would be an even 15 pounds and not a funky 12 or 13 (saying "I lost 15 pounds" or some other round number sounds so reasonable. Saying "I lost 12 pounds" sounds like you are obssessing....but if I say "I lost 10 pounds" I'm not giving myself credit for those important pounds which make a big difference on my 5'1" frame!). However, I know from experience that once I get under 125, my body goes crazy craving sweets. It likes 125-127, but NOT 123-125. I think I'm being reminded of this right now and should accept my inveitable fate of maybe being a couple pounds heavier than I would like, BUT able to eat according to my beliefs of what healthy eating is, without wanting the junk food).

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Make your own seat saver

Hark!  What is this I hear?

A clamor?  From my readers?  Demanding a post before tomorrow, which starts a black out that will only end after my final on Thursday?

And the dear readers want the post to be both educational, useful, AND entertaining?

I have just the thing!

We shall title this......"How I made my own seat saver with an old woolback"

The fleece covers for my leathers have wonderful....but I need my aussie to feel a little cozier than my english saddle. 

After reviewing my options for seat covers, I kept coming back to the fact that I HAD a very nice full seat cover and I hated it.  Never used it.  Managed to sell it for the same 40 bucks that I paid for it (yes, I got a good deal, and passed that good deal along!) and have never looked back. Chances are, if I bought one I would hate it.

The never fit as well as you hope, my legs always feel trapped because the stirrup leathers/fenders are underneath it, they slide and bunch because the fasterns are elastic, and because I tend to grip with my knees and/or calves, it stretches, moves, and rumples up and down the flap in the most annoying way.

I started wondering whether I might be able to make my own......I had an older woolback pad that I bought a while ago for 30 bucks, not realizing that it won't fit under any saddle bigger than a 16", or a kids saddle.  I couldn't hardly give it away when I was selling my tack, and I was unwilling to just trash it - those old woolbacks are like gold.

I didn't have anything to lose, having stored this pad for years and years and never used it, so spent my evening and afternoon "creatively".

First I decided that the full pad thickness was too much, and have evaluating it, I realized that I could cut apart the layers. Let me tell you.  The saying is that these old woolbacks wear like iron and they DO.  It was all I could do to find something that would initally cut into this fabric so that my sissors could finish the job.

Once that was complete, I cut holes for the poleys.

I eliminated the trim under my leg since it added bulk and a lump.
(can you tell that I went to dinner and it's now dark?)

Then I started figuring out how I wanted it to attach to the saddle.

I'm moving, and mostly packed, so my options were limited.  Fortunately my boot supplies are NOT packed and so I had little tiny zipties at my disposal.

I can replace them in the future with something else, but in the meantime, they would be as permanant as I wanted them to be.

I attached the pad to the seat of the saddle by using the over girth and the last strap folded back on its self that wasn't cut off during the modification process.

Here and else where, I made sure the that pointy ends of the zipties would neither mark the leather nor my hide.

Then, I attached the pad to the front of the saddle using a set of D rings.

At first I attached a panel of fleece to the flap, behind the fenders, but later removed it.  I can always fasten it back on for the rare ride (like a ride and tie) where I'll be wearing shorts.  Placing it UNDER the fender lets the fender swing freely and reduces the chances that the cover will be pulled in a wierd way from my leg.
(what was left after making the seat portion)

I attached a long piece of fleece to the outside of the stirrup fender, starting at the level of the end of the seat pad, and secured it at the bottom by wrapping the fleece up.  The bottom is secured with zipties, the top is secured with a combination of zipties and an o-ring that provides some tension and compliance --> it should stay in place, but I can move it if I need to.

By only having the fleece on the OUTSIDE of the fender (which is the only part my leg will be touching) have have eliminated some of the bulk of having a "tube" around the leather, which will be especially important if I do ride with the "flap panel" at some point.

Lasting I attached the back of the seat panel to the saddle by using a free float system utilizing a cotton stretch rotissouri truss tye and an o-ring as an anchor.  Hopefully this will keep the pad from being kicked off the back of the cantle as I swing my leg over it, but provide a enough flexibility in the system to move as needed (since the zipties are static).

There are several advantages of this cover, including providing with full protection while still being able to cross the stirrups over the seat for easy transport, AND being able to access under the flaps and every where else I might need to for switching out leathers etc without having to take the cover off.

There wasn't much left of the pad.

I'm quite proud of my self.


Quick Farley update:
Leg looks a little less swollen than yesterday, not painful to touch at all, trots freely after me when I have a bucket of grain and doesn't look lame.  Got on her to do some more saddle fitting stuff and walked around the arena.  Encouraged her to trot, but she's still a bit reluctant so I didn't push it --> she felt even and sound from the saddle with the steps she did take.  I think we are on the right track, and things are taking a turn for the better --> probably ride her lightly at a walk later this week and see how it goes.  Talked to R* at the barn and she mentioned that the polo ponies sometimes do the same thing and it's usually them hitting the pipe while kicking at flies.  I think that sounds like the most logical theory so far and likely what happened.

BTW - this was me "riding" Farley today --> as you might see, I had nothing serious planned, just wanted to see how the gullet/wither clearance was with my mounted.

This is NOT how I dressed for my ride and tie practice today.

No....for that I wore a bike helmet :)  (and shorts, and my barefoot, closed toe shoes (do the Keens in the above picture count as closed toed?).

(Stasi says "get on with it people!  I need to roll ASAP")

Keep your children away from endurance riders!!!!!!  We teach them all sorts of naughty things including cutting up expensive pads for an "experiment", letting the horse drink while hot, and that a little color is just fine. 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Farley update

Hi everyone -

Thought everyone would like a quick Farley update (while I sit in a pathology lecture of course - but I AM taking notes and paying attention at the same time).

Yesterday the leg was much the same, except that I could tell that she was reacting to touch/palapation more on the outside of the leg than the inside aspect, supporting the hypothesis that she wacked it on something.

Today, I *think* there is just the slightest change for the better. My first impression both visually and by touch was that it was a tad less swollen. And she seemed less reactive to touch. Still walking soundly on it.

I started to SORTA panic last night/this morning at the fact it isn't drastically better, since my plan was to call a vet if it wasn't better by the end of the week which is rapidly approaching, BUT I reminded myself I didn't see it until Tuesday morning, so realistically it has only been 48 hours. :). Still plenty of time for it to resolve itself with no lasting effects and without expensive vet bills. Probably will continue to watch over the weekend.

Updates on me? Well, I had clinics yesterday. Finally the first clinic I actually, truly enjoyed. It was, of course, in the livestock barns. I played with goats, did some anethesia monitoring on a pig, and observed a little calf getting cleaned up after being found in pasture all by itself. The vets were great, the clients were great - for the most part, they are *my* type of people. I could probably be happy doing livestock and herd medicine if I did need to practice clinical medicine for a while. I was also introduced to the concept of "fish" as a food animal. I had completely forgotten that part of the food industry! I think small ruminants, fish, and poultry would be my best bet for minimizing injury, and at least in the poultry and fish industries --> there's a lot of work in public health because of their impact on the enviornment, how moble they are, and how their diseases impact human helath and the health of the environment/pathogen control etc.

This block (cardiacrespiratory) ends next Thursday with a final so if I'm a bit quiet, I busy studying in order to get a good enough grade that I can qualify for research funding this summer.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fortunately.....but unfortunately.....

Today is a 3 part-er. Brought to you by (or at least temporally at the same time) as "Respiratory Defense Mechanisms and bronchopneumonia", a lecture that is just not doing it for me this morning.

In the "fortunately....but unfortunately..." story that seems to mimic both real life and endurance, this morning was the "best of times" and the "worst of times".

I got my new saddle.....but something happened in the paddock over night or yesterday and Farley is lame.

Yep - my very first non-endurance related horse injury. *sigh*.

Part 1 - My new saddle

It's big. It's heavy. BUT - it's comfortable, and secure, and I really like the weight distribution on Farley's back. I like the more western "underside", it puts me so close to her back and her movement.

Like most saddles, wither clearance is an issue. With my equipedic pad, wither clearance is fine. However without a pad, the saddle is touching the withers. With a thinner pad (my Haf pad that doesn't have thick inserts) I can't tell whether the clearance is OK, which means that it isn't. I've emailed pictures to the company to see what their opinion is. Chances are, I'll probably keep the saddle and use it for as long as the wither clearance is fine with a pad, just like I did with the Duett. At some point I will probably have to sell and move to a different saddle, but for the price, chances are getting my money back out of this saddle won't be an issue.

When trotting the seat puts me in an almost dressage position which is really nice - I'm going to try and construct a seat saver out of an old woolback pad I have (made to fit a very small, like under 16" english seat) to give it a little more cush. Other plans include switching out the irons for my synthetic, lighter irons, and deciding whether I want to stick with these wider leathers, and whether I'll then need to get fleece covers for them, like what I have for my english leathers. I'm also considering whether to get a different overgirth that will switch it to english so that I can use my mohair girths for rides etc.

So, some things I need to tweak and adjust on the saddle. But I'll have plenty of time because.....

Part 2 - Farley is injured

After waking up at 6 am and leaving for the stable at 6:30a in order to try out my new saddle before school, I have to admit I didn't do the best job checking legs. I checked the front legs because I always check the fronts (I'd be a fool not to after Farley's history), tacked up, and took off. The plan was a light walk/trot hack around the orchards. Farley was very forward at the walk, but relunctant to trot after the warm up. Not altogether unusual if she thinks she's missing breakfast back at the stable, but after urging her forward a couple of times and not getting a sustained trot for more than 25 yards or so, I got off and starting feet and legs. Fronts are OK, LH OK.......crap, all I had to do was touch the RH and I could feel it was totally blown up.

Crap crap crap.

Walked home of course (as in, MY feet were on the ground walking). Farley was sound at a walk, ameable to jig and trot when she pretended to spook at some bushes etc., so I don't think it's serious, but hard to tell with the effusion/edema and the fact I have no clue what happened. She's in a pipe corral so it's possible she got a leg caught and banged it up, no obvious wound or break in the skin. Seems to be more sensitive around the top of her fetlock.

So, did some cold hosing, and applied surpass. Then, keep an eye on it. If it doesn't resolve by the end of the week then consider getting a vet out. Assuming it does resolve, then all next week will be light walking around the orchards, and then keeping an eagle eye on it as we return to regular work.

The timing is lucky - we just finished a ride and don't have another planned until November. Assuming that it completely heals up and isn't anything serious, another LD at the beginning of November isn't out of the question. I have finals next week so it's not like I have a lot of time to ride anyways......

It's my first horse injury not related to riding, so a little apprehensive, especially because I don't know what happened. I don't think that I'm being too conservative by deciding to watch it a couple of days.

Part 3 - What's for lunch

Got out the habit of bringing my lunch in a box and what do you think happened? Yep, tried throwing some items in a bag and ended up eating out, overeating in the evenings, craving all sorts of things, and went on a one week ice cream binge. It was fun, I gained a pound which was probably worth it considering how good the ice cream was, BUT obviously not sustainable. Back to boxes!

This lunch has:

-a chunk of homemade banana bread that Matt's mom baked for me

-slices of cucumber

-redleaf lettuce with a lemon wedge with boneless chicken wings from chili's (left overs from Matt's dinner over the weekend)

-string cheese (not pictured)

Annnnnddd....for those of you that have no time, I present a pictoral summary of this post.


Monday, September 10, 2012

Definition of Torture

My new saddle was just delivered to my front porch, 1 hour and 10 minutes away.

I am standing in class take notes on the comparative anatomy of lizards and snakes.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Rider Fitness - for real this time!

There should be a special term that is used for that moment, 30 minutes into lecture, when you realize that you cannot possibly make it through the last 20 minutes without a hot cup of coffee and a chocolate croissant.

I'm not sure what to call that moment, but I know what to do after returning to lecture with said cup of coffee and croissant - blog!

Most (OK - like ALL) of the tips about my rider fitness program come from that 20 minute fitness book. (amazon link:

And like I *might* have mentioned before, I'm quite fond of bulleted lists, especially when my brain is preoccupied with the physics and calculations associated with respiration (so full of cardiorespiratory physics in fact, that I"m not sure where this post is coming from. Probably that primal reptile part of my brain, based purely on instinct, that somehow understands that for me to be sane, I must blog!).

However, in contrast to a simple ride story....this list will have far more than 10 bullet points. I think. Haven't quite thought it through all the way.

First, a quick summary of my work outs. I'll go through the details, probably over several posts, so this will be helpful if you get lost in the details.

-Run about 3-4 times a week, approximately everyother day (alternating days are riding days)

-Typical run is a high intensity interval run that lasts about 30 minutes

-I do a 1 mile timed test about once a month

-I do about 1 long run a month - of about 10 miles or so

-If I miss a run in the morning, I swim in the afternoons

-runs (except long runs and 1 mile tests) are followed by strength training session

- pay careful attention to my body and do not work through soreness or any kind of pain

-I sacrifice workouts if I can't get 8 hours of sleep - for example, I don't get up early to run if I went to bed late at night and can't get up early enough to get in a run before leaving for school and get enough sleep. Sleep is a priority.

-I exercise for my health, I eat for my weight. I do not exercise to lose weight, or to "pay" for a treat. There are many many good reasons to exercise and very few of those reasons have anything to do with weight and everything to do with mental health, stress reduction, ageing gracefully, and staying sharp cognitively.

By following the guidelines above, I've lost over 10 pounds since June, feel better than I have in a couple of years, and have worked out more regularly and had more fun doing so than I have for a long time. Let's get to the specifics!

1. I don't exercise through soreness. If I'm sore, I take the day off from whatever activity. If I'm sore from riding, I do something else with my horse, like lunge work. If I'm sore from running, I don't run that day. I also don't "make up" for not running on my designated run day by running before my next scheduled run (usually run every other day). Same with strength training. What was especially enlightening about DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) research is how ineffective all our "cures" and "remedies" are for it. Taking NSAIDs prophylactically doesn't work. Ice baths don't work. Massage doesn't work. Exercising through it doesn't work. Therefore, I'm choosing to listen to my body, and if it's sore from a workout, it means it is still recovering. Therefore, I'm choosing not to work through the discomfort and perhaps get injuired while doing so, since soreness is my body repairing and getting stronger from the last work out!

***Note - my chosen cardio activity that I enjoy is running. Feel free to sub something else like biking, swimming, running, etc for the running mentioned here!

2. I keep my workout schedule flexible. There are a couple of reasons that might mean me missing a morning pre-breakfast run - not being able to get 8 hours of sleep and get up early enough to run before going to school, having class very early, bad weather. On those days, my "make up" is going to the school pool at 5pm and swimming laps. This happens about once a week that a swim gets substituted for a run. It's important for a routine to have built in flexibility for it to work long term. If for some reason I miss a run/swim day entirely, I don't make it up the next day --> I go see Farley as planned.

3. I run before breakfast. This has a couple of benefits - since running is paired with both getting up AND breakfast, it makes it very likely to happen, since both getting up and breakfast are guarennteed to happen. In addition, the book said that there is *some evidence that running after a fast (like what happens when you don't eat while sleeping for 8 hours or so) that it helps train your body to use stored fuel, rather than energy floating around in your blood stream from your last meal. I've had some problem with nausea with my runs, however for the most part I've gotten used to it, and it helps me learn techniques to keep going through nausea - breathing techniques etc. This will come in handy since the nausea in the mornings during hard runs is EXACTLY the kind of nausea I have at the end of 100's. If I can find out how to deal with during runs (and whether food is in my stomach is only a small part of the equation), I'll have a head start on dealing with it during my next 100. The other benefit of running first thing in the morning is mental. Exercise stabilizes my appetite and makes me actually eat better. If I exercise in the afternoon, I only get that benefit during the end of the day. I also tend to not eat as well in the morning, knowing that I'm running in the afternoon to "make up for it". If I am in a snacky mood in the late evening, I tend to choose more "healthy" snacks because I know it is the last thing I'm going to be able to eat before my fast (sleep).....and that's what is going to be fueling my run.

4. I run harder, less often. The book stated that I could run for 20 minutes daily (or some combination of days/times that would average to 20 minutes daily), OR I could do hard intervals 30min 3x/week for the same effect. Being the time starved vet student, I chose the hard intervals. I've never ever ever trained fast. The base of my running pyramid has ALWAYS been slow, steady runs. I've been able to compare the effects of training more time slower, versus intervals because I'm doing a routine/plan that I've done every other year or so since I was 17. First, get totally out of shape. Then, in July/August start training for a December marathon. Do a 10 mile race in September, a half marathon in October, a 20 mile race in November, in preperation for the December marathon. Immediately take an extended break from running after the marathon until I get so fat, out and shape, and guilt filled that I start running again. Repeat. This year I won't be doing the marathon (too much money, too close to finals, too much planning/logistics). Compared to previous years, here's what I've noticed about putting intervals as my base run instead of slow easy runs.

***Note: High intensity intervals = 1 min of running as hard as I can, followed by 75 seconds of jogging (in the beginning it was walking) recovery. Repeat 8-12 times (in the beginning I managed only 5 repeats...). Lasts approximately 30 minutes

a. I'm getting fitter faster. Without injury. Not even a twinge of anything, including my injuries that were caused by running and are chronic. I'm doing 1 mile tests in times faster than I've seen since I was a teenager. However, I can easily go out and do a 10 mile long run without a problem too. I'm not sure whether the decrease in injury is because I'm mixing up the speed and therefore not subjecting joints/muscles to the same, continuous strain, or if its' the reduced time on my feet? I hadn't done a 10 mile run in a LONG time, and after only doing 3 interval works a week for a couple of weeks, I went out and did a 10 mile run with zero issues. Really impressive.

b. I haven't gotten sick. Invariably a week or two into starting a new running/work out program I get a cold or the flu. I have yet to get sick!!!

c. There's something very empowering about running hard, fast, flying above the ground. Speed workouts were always reserved for "advanced runners" or "racers". To be "allowed" to go fast and feel strong and sexy while pounding down the pavement, Tess in full race mode in front of me is the PERFECT way to start the day.

5. Sometimes I go out and time myself doing 1 mile. The 20 minute book talked a lot about the importance of the 1 mile test in predicting all sorts of health related things. I think the 1 mile test is a good touch point for me - no matter how much or how little I've been running, I try to do this at least once a month. I'm motivated to do this workout, because the days I do a 1 mile test, I only have to run for about 8 minutes, AND I don't have to do any additional work like weight training afterwards!

6. Sometimes I run long and slow. Usually on a Saturday or Sunday 1-2x a month I go out for a double digit run, or a run that lasts at least an hour.

7. I refuel. 1 cup of chocolate milk after every run, 200-300 calories of easily digestable energy for runs lasting longer than 1 hour. Remember me stating that exercise is not for weight loss? By replacing most of the calories burned during the run right after the run, I'm doing 2 things. First, your muscles are uniquely able to take up carbs and proteins in a window of time after the run. I'm taking advantage of that with the chocolate milk (which contains the ideal ratio of protein to carbs) and thus preparing my body for my next run, even as I finish my next run. Secondly by replacing most of the calories burned, I prevent my body from doing a reflex response that says "OH CRAP - we are really calorie deficient and must make up for it!!!!!!!!" and thus have a tendancy to over eat......This is why exercise is not an efficient way to lose weight. Your body is very tuned to make up for calorie deficits, especially those that come from exercise. Better for me to have a daily calorie goal that is set up for me to lose about 1 pound a week and then replace any additional calorie deficits that occur because of exercise so that I still make that daily calorie goal.

8. After a "typical run" (ie - not a 1 mile test or a long run), I do a strength training workout. If there was one weakness over the years with my work outs, it's the lack of strength training. The 20 minute book does a good job of explaining why it's important to include strength training (yes, pilates and yoga counts), and some suggestions for setting up a routine, including doing at least 10 reps of the chosen weight, importance of continually challenging your body, and doing exercises that utilize your body weight.

I've taken weight training classes and the traditional formulas and calculations were overwelming and complicated. The thought that high reps for endurance and low reps for building strength meant that I was always doing really high reps with realitively low weight. Now we know that women especially are not going to build bulk, even if are are doing relatively high weight and low reps. In fact, to increase performance we WANT that strength. Thank goodness. One thing I couldn't stand about weight training was the boredom and prolonged discomfort that came with doing 3x40 reps of whatever exercise was mandated by the teacher. In a nutshell, weight training increases the coordination and recruitment of muscle fibers that are "commandeered" for a specific purpose. At least 10 reps of whatever weight/exercise are being performed are suggested to experience this benefit. In a study cited in the book, two groups of cyclists were monitored, each with identical cycling routines, with one group adding a strength training workout after their cycling workout. The ones that included the strength training work out didn't have a decrease in performance/endurance/cardio etc., but WERE able to generate a lot more power, that therotically translated to better performance.

I can get behind that! Increased coordination and recruitment of muscle bundles? Minimum of 10 reps? Lift something heavy and not have to struggle through the boredom and high reps? Count me in! Since the most effective exercises mentioned were those that integrated body weight, I chose squats (activates most lower body muscles) and pushups (activates most arm/chest/upper body muscles) as the 2 exercises that I could stick with. Here's my guidelines for my strength work out:

Chose a weight or pushup position that I can do at least 10 reps at, but not more than 20.

Complete 3 sets of 10 reps each. On the third set, max out. The number that you max out on becomes your number of reps for the next work out.

Once you can do 3 sets of 20 reps, and max out on the last set above 20, then it's time to increase the weight or difficulty of the exercise.

Example: I do squats with a 30 pound weight and do 3 sets of 12 reps. On my last set, I'm able to do 15 reps! (12 reps, 12 reps, 15 reps). On my next work out, I repeat the 30 pound weight and do 3 sets of 15 reps, maxing out the last set at 20 reps (15, 15, 20). On the next work out my number of reps is now 20. If I can exceed 20 reps on the last set, I increase the weight I use and return to 10 reps per set and repeat the process.

Your body adapts very quickly to exercise and one of my top issues is not increasing the challenge to my body in an incremental and appropriate way. The system I use for the weight training makes sure that I'm continually challenging my body to get stronger.

9. Stretching. When I talk about my work out routine, this is the subject that meets the most resistance. Read the chapter in the book. It explains what stretching does and does not do, and what flexibility of the body really means. I've never been real good at stretching for exercise. However, I've always been flexible and passed the "flexibility tests" with ease. I'm glad I listened to my body all these years because the most current research is that being super flexible, or following the "traditional" stretching programs do not necessarily improve performance. Also, flexibility does not make you a better athlete, and actually may decrease performance in certain sports like running. Stretching and what's appropriate or not seems to has a "cult" like following that no amount of research or data can change. My feeling is that most people will read this chapter and either reject it based on it not matching up to what their belief of streching does, or like me, reinforce an opinion that they already had.

What I have done based on what I read in the book is incorporate "dynamic" stretching into my running routine. I run slowly for 5-10 minutes and then spend about 5 minutes skipping forward and backwards, doing "toy soldier" walking, and butt kicking sprints. I feel that this routine of stretching is useful and actually does my running some good, which is in contrast to other stretching routines I've done in the past.

10. Listen to your body. Suprise to suprise. You don't need fancy little gadgets and formulas to gauge your heart rate, effort, whether the weight your lifting is enough, or whether you need a rest day instead of your scheduled run. This is incredibly freeing --> you are the expert on your body, and if you listen to it, you will be able to accomplish 90% of what you need to accomplish for your fitness. Run your intervals with "percieved effort" instead of a heart rate monitor. Don't bother calculating your max lift weight and sets and reps based on it. Pick a weight that you can do at least 10 reps of, but not more than 20. Listen to your thirst and drink when you are thirsty. If you are sore, take a day off. If you are having a hard time getting up for your morning run, sleep in and get another hour of sleep (and then go to bed an hour earlier....). If your workout schedule can't accomodate this kind of flexibility, then I think that's sad :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Here's a post I wrote last week before my LD ride that I never posted because it took me a bit to get the video and pics off my phone. Enjoy a look back to last week, before I knew that Farley and I were going to be just fine going 30 miles :)

The naughty puppy (not Tess, another similar naughty puppy :)) Stole a boot and led me on a merry chase around the barn for 5 or 10 minutes. After getting the boot back, the puppy sat next to Farley and tried to figure out how to get the boot away from Farley.

Shiny, new, ORANGE florescent boots from Renegade.

Now, some of you may be saying, "you are a dealer. You see new boots all the time. What's the big deal?". The big deal is that these are MY boots. I haven't had a new set of boots since summer of 2010. I've been using the same old ones, with over 500 miles on them. In fact, because I'm really bad about maintaining boots, AND because I figured that Farley's feet hadn't changed THAT much (just figured out she's a FULL size BIGGER on the fronts and the backs now), I figured it was my own fault that I could only get the boots half way on. It was OK because then if I got on a trotted a mile or two, everything would shift into place, I'd hop off and fasten the straps, and then continue on my ride.....

This my friends, is NOT the recommended nor proper care and use of the Renegade Hoof Boot. It is a however, a testament to the old saying about the cobbler's children.....

Anyways, I pulled the new boots out of the box and put them on Farley --> not bothering to adjust the cables or anything. Would I let a client wander into the wild blue yonder with straps flapping? Absolutely not. It looks tacky. Apparently I'm a tacky person.

Then I took a little video, assuming I'd get some pretty arab-y floating trot in new orange boots to show you folks. And I would be far enough away not to have to explain the tacky flapping strap tails....

Instead I got this: Pony on the Rampage

I eyed the boots after that little tirade and was pleased to see that not a hair was out of place. OK. I was more than pleased. I was infuriatingly smug about the whole thing. And a little disbelieving. It STILL seems like magic to me that I can take these boots out of the box, apply in less than in a minute, and have them survive that sort of abuse. Thus, I decided to take a picture of Farley's magic boots. I was also a bit relieved......I haven't used boots much in the last year or so and the fact that they are still magic is one less thing that I have to worry about this weekend.

I should show this video to all the people that ask me if these boots really stay on

pic is post rampage

Went out for a ride - our last major one before the LD this weekend (7 miles in an hour), finished after dark under the moonlight.
Boots stayed on, even up steep hills - a situation that I've had some hind boot losses on in the last couple years. Apparently when you have a boot that is a size too small it can cause issues --> seriously, do I even listen to the advice I give my clients and friends?

I think one reason that I'm TOTALLY excited about the boots is that it represents the reality of me getting back into endurance. This is for REAL. I have a ride THIS weekend. Farley is sound, and this is really happening.....