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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A camp far west story

After two days you think I would be recovered enough to tell the story of camp far west. And you would be well. Not even two pints of ice cream has cured what ails me - mainly the aches of pains of a rider who will be sticking with ld's for the foreseeable future - at least until spending 4.5 hours in the saddle doesn't render me incapable of doing the simplest things, like rolling over in bed during the night.

As most of you know, my mind works in bullet points. So, here's CFW LD in 10 bullet points (because every good list has 10 bullet points).

1. Electrolytes

Ever since the AERC convention in early spring, I've followed Dr. Garlinghouse's recommendation of consistently and gradually increasing the amount of electrolytes in Farley's mashes that I provide at home. Adding salt/elytes to the water bucket hasn't worked so well, (not as consistent, and not riding hard enough/hot enough for her to be motivated to drink the first bucket she sees). However, at home Farley will eat a mash that contains 1 tablespoon of elytes per 1 cup of pellets (feeding stable mix by EGM) without blinking an eye. In fact, it's probably time to increase the amount. The real test was going to be CFW --> while Farley has eaten elytes in her mashes at home (although I've never been able to add as much as I do now), in the past she would turn her nose up at ride mashes containing elytes.

Both the night before the ride and the day of the ride, Farley sucked down mashes spiked with elytes. SUCCESS!!!!! I probably should have packed elytes on the saddle and elyted on the trail, however I was so scattered brain just trying to prepare for this ride on a basic level, thinking about adding one more factor was too much for my pea-sized brain to handle. So, the elytes she got in her mashes pre, during, and post ride were the only elytes she got.

Now that I can rely on her eating 2-3 doses of elytes during the vetchecks in a mash (and in water if I can acclimate her) I can be more conservative giving them via syringe. Yeah!

2. My food

This was the BEST I've ever done on food for the rider. As I shared in a previous post, my saddle food was grouped into ziplock baggies that each contained a form of electrolytes, carbs, and protein. I would finish one ziplock baggie before going onto the next, so that I wouldn't just eat my favorite stuff and I continued to consume appropriate nutrients throughout the ride. I knew how many calories were in each baggie and my goal was to eat 200-300 calories per hour in the saddle, based on the 20 minute book's recommendation for refueling during exercise. Post ride I calculated out the number of calories I consumed and it came to EXACTLY 300 calories per hour. PERFECT.

I kept the ziplocks in a saddle bag near my right thigh. Anytime I thought about food, or I took a walk break I would reach down and grab something out of whatever ziplock baggie I was working out of. Most items I was able to eat one handed, and quickly, although some required me to use 2 hands to open the package. During a walk break, I usually had time to eat 2 different things out of the bag. Here's some of my favorites from each category that I'll make sure are included next time:

Electrolytes: SCaps are still a fabulous source. I found that the electrolyte "blocks" work better than Gu's for me. I like the "Honey Zinger" brand better than Gu or cliffshot brand --> they are less sweet and and don't stick in my teeth as badly.

Carbs: The applesauce packets with the twist off lids were a clear winner. If I hadn't had everything portioned out in baggies I would have eaten all my applesauce in the first hour. Honey Zinger's "waffles" were quite good - chocolate was the best - when I wanted something that kind of felt like a real food desert. Wasn't impressed with the non-chocolate varieties. My favorite close-to-real-food fav was something called "Simple Squares". The rosemary one was absolutely incredible. They are dense calories and were included in baggies for longer loops.

Protein: I packed almond butter packets and jerky as my protein sources. The almond butter was much more palatable on the trail. I sorta choked the jerky down.

The prepared boxes for lunch and post ride also worked out well. They were full of fruits and veggies like bananas and avacodos, and a hard boiled egg. It went down well and was a nice compliment to my saddle bag goodies. I could visit with the box on my lap and mindless consume my food without thinking about it.

3. A break is a chance to simplify everything

I realized at this ride that taking a break from something allows you to simplify when coming back. My horse set up was the same --> mash pan, low pan that holds at least 5 gallons of water, muck bucket with hay, small bucket for a water topper, sponge bucket (5 gallon). However, my camping set up was drastically reduced. I slept in my truck cab with Tess. I brought an ice chest full of food that required zero prep, 3 gallons of drinking water, and a chair. Next time I will remember to bring a sleeping pad, and perhaps plan on heating some water for coffee. However, it was good to get back to the basics.


4. Blue moon so bright I didn't sleep

I did this ride "under a blue moon" and that moon was so bright through the windshield of my truck I didn't sleep. Ugh. Not to mention that Tess was throughly invigorated by all that moon-shiny-brightness AND felt like she wasn't being given her fair share of the bench seat in the truck (there was not a share to give her!). Fortunately the ride didn't start until 8:30 so it wasn't like I couldn't catch up on some sleep post-dawn.....or I would have been able to, if it hadn't been opening day of quail season! I can happily say that Farley hasn't forgotten her gun fire training and Tess, living up to her gun dog nature, couldn't have cared less about the caucaphony that we were greeted with at dawn.

5. Changed saddles half way through

I rode the first 20 miles in a saddle that I borrowed from a friend, that we have done the majority of our training in. By the end of 20 miles my knees were KILLING me, probably a function of the knee rolls. Although I've ridden a lot of miles in knee-roll-containing-saddles, I think that my future miles in them are limited. It puts too much strain on my poor abused IT bands. So, I switched to a borrowed aussie (from my dad). I had done exactly 2 rides in this saddle over the previous week and knew the following:

- It's totally secure and would probably take me falling unconscious to fall out of this saddle

-The seat is hard as a rock and after riding for an hour in it during a ride last week, I wasn't able to sit down the next day AND had visible saddle sores.

-It fit Farley's back at least as well as, if not better, than the english saddle I was borrowing.

Riding the last 10 miles in it didn't change my opinion that it needs a sheepskin cushion! But it solidified my decision that for my endurance saddle I am going to move away from an english saddle for the longer rides and into an aussie style saddle.

This was the announcement that I was sure I was going to be ridiculed for. After all, if I can do endurance in a lighter saddle why wouldn't I? I have a horse that I trust, that isn't going to through me to the ground just for the fun of it, so why worry about the extra security?

Near the end of a hard ride, especially near the end of 100's, I have a hard time staying in the center of motion if Farley is changing gaits or adjusting for a technical trail. I fall forward, I fall backward --> each time forcing Farley to compensate for me. She's tired, I'm tired, and the least I can do is make her job easier, not harder by staying in rhythm and balance with her. The aussie saddle will make that easier.

I think one of the reasons that it's difficult to stay hydrated and full of calories on the trail is the complicated-ness of attaching saddle bags to an english saddle so that they don't bounce, shift, rub against the horse, or annoy me. Snug pax, Stowaways etc I've tried and do not like. My preference is the "boot bag" draw string type, and a water bottle holder. I can get them on my english saddle by hooking to various rings, tying to the girth etc. It's amazingly easy to put the same saddle bag set up onto an aussie saddle and have them not bounce, rub and do all those other acrobats that annoy me and sometimes leaves my gear all over the trail without me knowing it.

The aussie saddle was a compromise between me wanting more "saddle" underneath me that made being on the endurance trail easy, and still being able to maintain a realtively good "dressage" seat.

I'm not totally giving up the english style saddle for trails. I'll still use one for shorter conditioning rides or rides that I'm not carrying much stuff for. A light uncomplicated saddle that I can just throw on and not feel so confined in. However, I just don't want to work as hard at the end of a 100 to keep a good position, and I want a saddle that doesn't tempt me to do without because I'm too lazy to find a way not to make it bounce or rub.

So what was the verdict? Unfortunately this saddle that I borrowed from my Dad isn't going to work for Farley. There isn't enough wither clearance for her (a reoccuring theme when I've had to go on a saddle search), but I already have some interested buyers for this saddle, and a line on a few other saddles that are priced low enough I can afford them. I'll keep you posted.

6. #5 was long enough that is should count as 2 bullet points.

7. Compliments from the vet

The vet was a little aprehensive when I told her this was Farley's first ride after reinjuring a bow 18 months ago, so when she told me, very seriously, at the end of the ride that Farley looked EXCELLENT, REALLY GOOD, and that I had done a good job --> it made the compliment even sweeter. She also told me that Farley had the best recoveries she had seen in the day so far. We did our completion exam with a CRI of 44/44.

I didn't even know that me and my partner had come in 3rd and 4th until the awards ceremony. No wonder everyone kept complimenting us on how good our horses looked! We had cantered/galloped in part way to camp, not realizing they could see us on the road coming in :).

8. Tess the endurance dog

First endurance ride for Tess and she did great! See pictures in the previous post to see some of the skills she is perfecting! She takes everything in a stride and just acts so darn happy all the time. Except, she wasn't too happy I camped in a field of star thistle and insisted on a sacrifice of my chair and Woolback pad in order to restore her good mood, because she couldn't POSSIBLY be asked to put rest and relax in the midst of such hardship.

9. I hurt so good

I didn't walk for 2 days. 'Nough said. My calves still hurt from protecting my right IT band. Farley on the other hand looks great......

10. Future plans

I'm 55 miles away from an LD patch - which would be my first. I definitely need to do at least one more LD, and hurt LESS afterwards before I consider moving back up to 50 miles or more. Farley definitely had the thought of "Oh crap, what if I have 70 more miles to go?" half way through the second loop, so doing another LD or 2 shouldn't blow her mind for the longer distances. She was hot during the start, but not bad - no bucking, some spooks (just to prove to everyone that she hadn't been out in a while), and just a head toss or two to show me that she still was more than capable of handling the endurance trail and didn't need my meddling (I still meddled....) Farley loves her job and is happy to be back - If anything, she was perkier after the 30 mile finish, than at the 20 mile vet check! She was all business, but also didn't seem to take it TOO seriously, although she was miffed that I kept ignoring her signal to get off and climb up the big hill on her tail instead of in the saddle.

So what are my future plans?

-I'll do another LD or two and if everything goes well.....

-I'll do a 50 or two and earn her 1000 mile medallion.

-And then? We'll take them as they come :) For now I have dreams that might pop like a bubble if I shout them too loud, so I'm keeping them close until Farley can show me what she can do.

In the meantime I have a 10 mile road race the end of September, a 14 mile ride and tie mid-October, and a 20K road race in November. Plenty to keep me busy and fit for whatever comes my way.



  1. What a good story to read while I eat my Wild Planet troll and pole caught wild albocore tuna and tomato at work!

  2. Great story, as always. I'm so happy for you!

  3. I'm so glad you're back!

    Totally agree, almond butter > jerky on the trail. Your nutrition stuff is really interesting, as always - I am still experimenting with my personal nutrition, but right now it seems like I'm better off eating fats and protein or nothing at all. I love the idea of fruit, but it just doesn't work out so far.

    What shoes/stirrups did you choose? How'd you like them?

  4. I used the Merril (or how ever you spell it) orange barefoot shoes, and my synthetic/composite fillis style light weight stirrups with no pad. The combination worked really really really well, except for when my shoes were wet. Then there was absolutely no traction and if I didn't keep my heels down, the shoe would scoot forward in the stirrup at an alarming rate.

    I could easily do a ride on nothing but fruit, but then feel awful afterwards (goes for every day eating too) so that's why it's important for me to proportion everything out - to force me to eat something besides just fruit.

  5. Its so good to hear that Farley is healed! And interesting that she will finally eat her mash at rides with electrolytes in it because Sonny has finally done that for the first time ever at both WW and T. He'd never eat anything before at rides that I added water to, and wouldn't eat it dry either if I added electrolytes.

  6. It's interesting how even with an "experienced" endurance horse you can still see changes in what they will and won't do at rides. Sonny has been doing it long enough that it's interesting that he's FINALLY decided that mashes are OK. Which is why I keep trying to do stuff with Farley, even if she hasn't done it in the past - who knows, *this* time she might drink the elyte water!


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