July 31, 2014

In Which I Didn't Die

I got Gemmie out on the barn trails again Tuesday night. The last time she was a complete nut job, so my expectations weren't so high this time. It usually will take her about a month or so to calm down at a new barn even though she seems nice and content in her pasture. I have to remind myself sometimes where we came from (like taking 45 minutes to walk down the lane which was maybe 0.2 miles long) and not be so surprised when new things like this pop up.

Anyway...

It was another perfect evening down here. I really am the most content here than any other place we have lived. The scenery, the people, the weather. Just perfect.

I tend to groom her next to the trailer outside since all my grooming supplies are nicely hung on the trailer door. I don't feel like moving them, so she gets her body care out there and then taken inside for tacking up. She actually went into the barn without a temper tantrum and only snorted at the wild beasts rabbits in their cage and she stood nicely in the cross ties. The BO was there and Gem even propped up a hoof and took a snooze while we chatted!

I decided to head up the pond hill again to give her something to focus on. It took a little bit to convince her that turning around to charge back up to her pasture wasn't going to happen, but once we got through that she actually walked up the hill. It was a little rushy and tense, but it was a walk so I was very happy. We also managed to go down the back side without crashing through the trees as badly. Progress.

The Garmin read 0.47 miles back at the barn. Not the greatest hill, but definitely a decent one to do hill sets on if I was ever inclined to do so.

We then made our way behind the barn through the arena and into the hay field. I pointed her to the woods and up the next hill to end up in front of her pasture. She recognized this part and decided to gallop up the hill. It was one of only 2 moments where the panic began to rise in me. Not too shabby. I slowed her down before we got to the large, flat, slick rock that crosses the entire path about half way up and then we plopped back out into the field on top of the hill. She decided we were finished, but we weren't so I forced her back down the hill.

Garmin read just over 1 mile.

Back out of the woods we made our way down the outer perimeter of the hay field to the trial in the back right corner and took this to the road, down the road a titch and back along a parallel trail to the field again. We then followed the field back up, over to the arena and to the barn.

Garmin rad 2.16 miles in 36 minutes.

I was a tad disappointed that the trails were longer and with how short each segment is, it is difficult to pick up and maintain any speed. But it is better than riding in a circle during the week, so I will make the best of it. I still need to find the power lines which are said to run for many miles. If that is the case and it is safely passable, that may be our best bet.

All in all I was pleased with the mare. She only protested a few times and I was even able to have her on a lose rein for some of it. Speed will come eventually, but she has settled in better here than places in the past.

I forgot to bring the boots with me and the new size 13 for the fronts wont get here until Saturday, so no report on how they continue to do. I had plans to ride with S this weekend to try out all 4 and she is interested in what they are and how they perform, but a storm has blown in and chances of rain are high until Wed of next week. I admit to being a fair weather rider. I don't mind heat or cold and ride my best rides in the winter (I would ride down to -5 up north without a second thought, but lower than that and I didn't bother), but rain? Nope. Been there, done that and it was unpleasant.

July 30, 2014

Boots and Saddles Blog Hop: 5 Questions

One of my all time favorite bloggers (Mel over at Boots and Saddles) posted her first blog hop and I am very game to join in (well...actually she posted 5 Q&As on her blog and I commented that she should make it a blog hop because I enjoy them a lot).

Here it is!

Name: Sara

Age: 32

Location: South Carolina

Family Situation: Hubby, 2 year old son, 2 horses (the Dynamic Duo), 3 cats and 2 dogs

1) How long have you been riding? Endurance?

I've been riding since I can remember. My aunt had a farm and horses and my mom let me go spend time there during the summers since I was itty bitty. I started just hanging around and then got ponied around and eventually was graduated to riding. My time spent there was magical and my aunt and uncle took me on literally thousands of miles of trails. We went to Gettysburg to ride on the battle fields, WV mountains, Acadia Maine and so many local trails. I was hooked and give thanks to them for showing me the way!

I started endurance in 2011 with Gem and rode 2 rides that season (not as an AERC member since they were in October and the season was over so it was cheaper to pay the $15 fee than sign up) followed by a Ride and Tie the next spring. I had terrible experiences in ride camp at both, so I gave it up until moving to the South and now have done my first ride here in July.

2) What does a normal training week look like for you?

Sporadic at best. What I would love to do is get 3 rides in a week with two 5-7 mile rides on weeknights and a 10+ mile ride on the weekend. This has happened a hand full of times. What happens in reality is either a hand jog of around 2 miles or a shorter 3-4 mile ride once a week on the weeknight and then a 6-10 mile ride on the weekend. That's just my reality working full time with a toddler.

If an event is looming in the near future, I like to do a 15ish mile ride about 2 weeks out, but don't see the point in pushing her much farther.

I used to run as well about 2-3 nights a week, but then it got really hot and humid and I got really lazy so that stopped. I hope to do that again. Usually 2 miles.

3) Any advice for endurance spouses?

I'm a bit spoiled with this. The hubby is an ultra runner and I have been up at the crack of dawn to crew for him and take pics and such so he fully understands what is needed. But my advice would be to try to get involved somehow. Whether it is helping to crew, take pictures or just being there to hear the same ride story for the umpteenth time and still pretend to find it interesting. Think of your own hobby that your spouse doesn't do and how much you appreciate their small involvement.

4) Where will this sport be in 10 years?

I see it going one of two ways:

a) AERC dissolves and it goes back to local clubs running local events with more old school rules and regulations. Why? Due to internal fighting and elitism which doesn't allow the sport to grow and instead causes the rise of costs and the decline of participants.

OR

b) More and more divisions of distances. 100 still remains that gold standard, but in an attempt to grow the membership more "intro" type rides of 10-15 miles pop up and become more popular. I think this is a good thing and you can see this happening every day in the running world. Runs are becoming more family friendly and offering 1 mile fun runs, 5ks etc...which don't detract from the 50 milers, but instead allows more people to enjoy it.

I also see the use of better maps for trails including GPS markers, more criteria added to the riders card for vetting and lots and lots of miles of trails to be enjoyed.

Personally I would love to see the addition of more "man versus horse" type rides like the Vermont 100 and Prescott AZ.

5) What was your best race and why?

I've only done 3 endurance rides and two RnTs, so my choices are limited, but I'd still say my first was my best. I was so nervous and ill prepared, but the feeling of elation of completing has never been matched to date at another ride. I think having no clue made it al the sweeter. I learned a ton in just one ride and my riders high lasted for over a week afterward.

My 2nd ride was cold, rainy and miserable and the attitude of the fellow riders was so terrible it scared me off.

My last ride I just did was fun and a great re-introduction but I didn't "ride my own ride" and it caused added stress to the entire thing making it not as much fun as it should have been.

Bonus Question: What is you favorite beer?

Sorry, but I don't actually drink beer. The few times I have I found Alaskan Amber to be the least displeasing. If I'm going to drink, you will find a vodka martini of some sort in my hand.

July 29, 2014

Fusion Jogging Boots: The Ride

Ok...I'm going to assume you either read the details on the boots or don't care, so this will focus mostly on the trial.

I had two concerns going in:

1) Fit: they seemed way too large for her feet
2) Stickability: would they stay on?

Sunday morning I headed out to the barn with the intention of trying them on her and if they fit well enough going to Clemson to try them out. I had permission to ride on two separate one hour long trail rides to check form and function. I wanted it to be on familiar territory to rule out her tripping or being weird because of the new location versus the new boots.

I cleaned her feet super well and then reached for her front left. I opened the boot all the way up and slid her foot into it, but it was pretty tight. I tried to close it up, but I couldn't get the Velcro sides even half way together and when I tried to snug it up it just wouldn't budge. So I left it in place and moved to the right front, but had a similar situation. Hmmm...perhaps if I walk her around they will settle in place? So I did and they didn't. I took them back off and looked inside at her foot print. It was off the back of the boot. Hmmm..

I then took the dampening pad out and held it against her sole and low and behold the monster, massive boot was too small!!


When aligned with the toe, her entire heel is off the back. Way too small.


 I have no clue what I was smoking when I measured her, but apparently I measured an entire size too small. No wonder they wouldn't go on and tighten up. Darn.

I moved to her rear and held up the pad to check the fit. Going in I was worried about the width being too much for her narrow hoof, so I paid extra close attention to this. There is about a 1/4" overhang of pad on each hoof, but that didn't seem too bad to me.
Back left. A much better fit.
Looking snazzy in her boots
 Knowing these would at least go on, I loaded her up and made our way to the trail head.

The hubby met us there to hike and I started the process of getting her hind boots on. I wanted a boot that wouldn't require either a mallet or messing with a ton of cables to get on and these definitely fit that bill. Even being the first time I tried, I was able to easily slip her hoof into the boot. It opens up very wide and is simple to do. I pulled upward on it to make sure the toe was well seated and then let her put the hoof down on the ground.

Once there I fiddled with the back strap, pulling that as tight as I could and then went to the front. All in all is took me maybe 5 minutes to get them on. I figure after a while it will only take 2-3 minutes. It was that easy!




Everything seemed to fit nice and snug except there was a fingers width gap in the back. I'm not sure if this is and issue or not. I have tried to email the owner about it and even posted the picture and question to their facebook page without a response. I made a mental note to check this area well afterward for rubbing, but the more I thought about the function of the hoof and lower leg, the leg must rock back to push off so maybe a little room to move isn't so bad. Time will tell on that.

Up close look at her running shoes





 I hand walked her to the trail head to see how she moved and look for any obvious looseness or issues. She took some very high, odd steps but quickly got used to them. They are super light weight so I wasn't too concerned about them.

Once on the trail I decided to go out 30 minutes and turn around. I know she hates out and back rides, but I didn't want to go over the limit and I had no where to hold them if I wanted to go out longer and just take them off. This also gave me some ability to perhaps find one on the way back if it came off on the way out.

During the ride I tried to maintain as much trotting as possible. Unfortunately, without the fronts being on I couldn't push it too much on gravel. We did cross two creeks, go through deep sticky mud, slick mud over some trees and down the gravel access road. She moved out just fine and was forward and happy the whole time. Now this probably isn't due to having boots in the back, but at least they were not causing any issues.



Unfortunately, what I didn't do is take after shots, but that was because there was nothing to see. No rubs, no twists, no nothing. They stayed right on through it all and came off in 30 seconds. The sole showed no signs of wear even after all the gravel work and her feet looked perfect.

I was very, very pleased with them. I need to return the fronts and get the next size up and then I can try all 4 to see how she does. If the fronts fit as well as the back, then we are in business!

I know they are a completely different concept and not everyone will like them, but I can really stand behind the logic of the boot and Gem rode great in them.

July 28, 2014

Fusion Horse Jogging Boots: The Facts

Warning!!! This post may be very dry and boring. There is a method to my madness though. I have received my order for Gem's new foot gear and I have tried in vain to write up the experience I had with them out on the trail, but without explaining what the boots are and why I chose them the story of the use makes no sense. If I add all that information in one post, it gets bogged down and absurdly long. So...on my 4th attempt to write this post I am giving you all the gory details up front. Tomorrow will be about the actual use with pictures, so feel free to wait until then to read. Otherwise, hang on tight and be prepared to fall asleep!

Gemmie needs hoof protection for the rides down here and yet I was slow to pull the trigger. For starters her hoof shape doesn't really match well with either the Renegade/Viper or Easy lines. For seconds: the boots make no sense to me. I am going to briefly step up on my pedestal here:

I love her being barefoot and I am a big proponent that the less we monkey with the better. If you need shoes or boots or whatever that is fine and a personal choice. Who knows? I may someday put shoes back on her or have a horse that needs them.  But....I am very proud of her incredibly tough hooves and ability to crunch over rocky terrain without an issue. When you go putting a super rigid, thick hunk of plastic all around your horse's hooves you are no longer riding anything anywhere near barefoot and quit claiming you do! The plastic boots completely take away any natural function of the hoof, do not stimulate the hoof at all and are basically just a temporary way to shoe your horse minus the nails. So when people who boot for every single ride they ever take look down on those who shoe, I want to poke my eyes out with my pencil. You are doing the same thing!

Ok....back down now.

So...I was hesitant to purchase boots. I finally ruled out both versions due to trying them and the fit being suboptimal given her hoof structure. My last resort was glue on shoes, but man what a pain in the butt they seem to be. The gluing on seems like only half the battle since getting them off is even more annoying. I would do it if I had to, but I fervently hoped I wouldn't.

In a last ditch hail mary attempt to find something I could live with I googled one final time. And found the Fusion Jogging boot. This boot is completely different in every way, shape (well...maybe not shape it is still going on the same hoof) and form. And I was thrilled.

How is this so different??

FLEXIBILITY!

The whole entire concept of this boot is to allow the hoof to still function as if barefoot while providing some protection from rocks and some shock absorption. The entire boot is so flexible you can (supposedly) roll it into a ball. Nothing rigid, nothing static. As the hoof hits the ground, the heels are allowed to expand, the ground comes into contact with the hoof sole thus providing stimulation and then glory of all things...the boot flexes in the toe to allow the break over to occur at any time and along any point of the hoof. No more forced break over points where the boot is trimmed down.

Think about it like this:

You hurt yourself in the foot and are put into a stiff soled boot (or if you can't picture that think of walking in wooden soled shoes). You lose all proprioception with the ground. The sole of the shoe/boot is rigid and therefore when you step on a rock or root the entire thing must tilt around it putting more stresses on your ankle joint. But you also lose any sharpness from rocks or roots etc...

But walk around in your tennis shoes and while you can now still feel all the lumps and bumps, you are still able to get some support while the entire shoe flexes and bends along with the terrain.

That is what these do. The sole is rubber and concave like a hoof and therefore when you step on a rock it will still put pressure into the sole of the hoof thus creating stimulus for growth and function, but the sharpness and potential for a bruise is limited. The hoof can move and break over at any region thus allowing the whole extremity to function normally.

I was sold.

They are made in Norway and the website has some fantastic graphs and pictures and the physics behind fulcrums and strains and stresses along tendons to prove the point. I will let you check it out here if interested. It is really worth a look and even the most skeptical should come away from all the information scratching their heads a little bit. They are used a lot as everyday turnout boots, trail riding, and I see plenty of pictures of jumping and dressage.

There are some other great features including how easy it is supposed to be to put them on (unlike other boots that either require a mallet or large rock to force it on or playing with cables and wires and pulleys) and they are completely machine washable. Throw them in the washer and dryer and they come out good as new.

There are three models and I was confused as to the purpose of each. From what I could gather the Ultras were first (I think) and then improved on in the Performance with a sturdier upper material and stronger tread. Then the Ultimates came out with different uppers and lost the straps for just Velcro closer, but kept the same sole as the Performance.

I really wanted the Ultras because they are red and black, but given the high mileage and terrain the Performance were recommended. They also suggest the dampening pads to increase the life of the boot.

They come in sizes per length of hoof and after measuring Gem like 20 times I got size 12 all around. The only hiccup was the fact that her rear feet are so narrow. The company was concerned that she was too narrow and the boots would spin. So I ordered 2 pairs of size 12 Performance boots and hoped for the best, but entered into it a little worried about those hind feet of hers.

There are a few things I am concerned about:

1) Durability. The plastic boots are pretty darn durable. The other companies claim upwards of 500+ miles out of a boot. And that makes sense. It is a rigid plastic so you'd have to go pretty hard on pretty rough terrain to wear that down. But this is rubber. A specially formulated tough rubber, but rubber nonetheless. I asked the company this and they came back with 300-600 miles depending on terrain. Since I am only planning on using these to get her used to them and then for the longer races we do, I think I am ok with this. If I can't get at least 400 miles out of them, they won't be worth the price tag.

2) Stickability. Yup, that's now a word :) Everyone who uses boots loses boots. Its a given. The question is how often, in what terrain and what happens to the boot when you lose it? I like the way it attaches because in my mind if it does come off it is coming off in one unit. There isn't anything for it to get stuck on her leg and flop around freaking her.

That's about it. I know I am losing some things by going with these versus the normal plastic boots such as complete protection. The rubber, flexible sole allows pressure to still occur which is the entire point, but that still allows pressure to occur which may be harmful in the end at 50+ miles. We will just have to wait and see.

The company sent me the boots and gave me the ability to ride in them on two 1 hour long trail rides with a full money back guarantee if they don't work out.


July 26, 2014

Welcoming Einstein to the Hoarde

Last fall a puppy ended up on our doorstep. Actually, she ended up on our neighbor's doorstep but they didn't want to take her inside and we couldn't leave her out, so we took her in. Hero was still in good form back then and W was just trying to take some steps so the timing was horrible and we found her a great home.
 
It did get us thinking about what we would want in a dog if we got a new dog at some point. We both wanted similar things: a dog who could stay at home during the week without going crazy, tolerant of the baby, and yet active enough to go horseback riding with me and running with the hubs on top of our usual hikes.
 
We debated and debated and I came up with a Basset Hound and the Hubby countered with a Boykin Spaniel (the state dog of SC).  Actually, I really wanted an adult dog who was already housebroken and didn't nip or chew and could go from day 1, but the hubby was adamant about getting a puppy. So when we caught word of a litter of Boykin pups ready to go home we went out and looked. The hubby wanted a male, so we chose the best of the three and then waited two weeks to go get him.
 
Last weekend was two weeks and in the drizzly rain Saturday morning we went and got him. The litter was raised completely outside and he was underweight, smelled bad and had some skin funk going on. A medicated shampoo, a bath with W and some good food later and he is looking much, much better.
 
He is adorable. He weighed in at 6 1/4 pounds which makes the big Bones look like a monster. He is a rich, chocolate brown with curly ears that flop down and golden eyes. He should grow up into a generally curly coat with wild spikey hair on his forehead (hence the name Einstein). A lot of the older ones get golden tips to the curls too from the sun which looks nice. Apparently, he should also grow into a dog who loves sitting on the couch snuggling, but is up and ready for activity at the drop of the hat.
 
 
 
Playing with the hubs
Time for a puppy nap!



Currently, he chews. And chews and chews and chews. On everything. Hands, toes, pants, shoes, remote controls, cords, the carpet, the cats, toys, everything. I was spoiled with my man Hero. Even as a pup he never chewed, never destroyed anything at all. Einstein? He chews.




Chewing. He chews on everything.
But he also loves W a ton. He follows him around everywhere and is always ready for hugs and kisses. In fact, he is way more tolerant than either Hero or Bones ever were, even as puppies. Wyatt picks him up and carries him around and even threw him across the room once (yes, we told him that wasn't so good) and the puppy just keeps coming back for more. They should grow into best buds as long as W doesn't squash him first. 
 

W leading Einstein around the house on his leash
 He also cuddles. He is a supreme grade A cuddler. Mostly on top of you, but sometimes beside you and always touching you. He goes into full on crazy puppy mode for 10 minutes and then falls asleep. He does sleep with us at night, much to the hubby's annoyance. He would prefer him in his kennel, but he loves snuggling so much and it is easier to tell when he has to pee when he wakes you up licking your face. Otherwise we would need to set the alarm which could potentially wake up W.

Wednesday night, though, I think he ran out of his good fortune on the bed thing. At about 2:30 in the morning we heard a loud thump and then Einstein started screaming. He fell off the bed. He wasn't hurt, but he was scared. The hubby checked him out and put him back on the bed and he ran straight up to me, climbed on the pillow and wrapped his body around my head. He stayed there until 5:30am. Poor little guy. The hubby said it would be the crate from then on. We will see.

I like him. I'm not madly in love with him mainly because his puppy-ness is driving me crazy. He isn't house trained and won't be for a while. He nips a ton. He barks at everything. And he is generally always under foot and a big pain in the rear. I wanted an older dog to avoid this stage. But...hopefully he will grow into a fine dog. He is such a little tyke and is only 7 weeks old, so I am giving him space to grow. I do believe though that our next dog will be older.



July 25, 2014

First Ride at Serenity Haven

Ahhh...a lovely evening in late July in the South. A beautiful setting with big fluffy white clouds dotting the bright blue sky and a just beginning to set sun. A peaceful farm nestled in the hills with no road in sight and no sounds of civilization to be heard. Horses happily grazing in their fields. The whole place is energizing, refreshing and yet calming to the soul at the same time. I am anxious to get on my beautiful and athletic mare and explore the trails together as the summer sun sets behind us. Having just finished 25 miles together, the bond has obviously grown between us and we are now of one and the same mind.

I park the van and hike up the hill from the barn to gather my big bay mare out of her new pasture and begin the stress reducing ritual that is grooming and tacking her up. She walks serenely up to me saying hello. We walk back to the trailer parked outside the barn to groom and she calmly looks around her taking in the beauty that is a summer evening.

We walk, side by side breathing as one entity, into the barn with thoughts of the wondrous adventure ahead of us dancing through both our brains. And then we spy the cage of pet rabbits off to the right of the barn aisle. I see them as cute, slightly smelly, fluffy creatures chillaxing in front of their specially placed fan. Gem sees them as blood crazed ware rabbits snarling and gunning for her jugular and jumps out of her skin slamming on the brakes and trying to spin as fast as she can to get the heck out of there. Huh... Interesting...

We finally make our way past that death defying cage and I snap her into the cross ties. I pat her lovingly and walk to the tack room to get her gear. She flips out, rears, throws her head and tries to lunge forward only to hit the end of the ropes and flip out again as she flies backwards. Huh...Interesting...

Finally able to tack her up all thoughts of a lovely and serene ride on new trails as the sun sets begin to fade way and are replaced by the remembrance of how much of a tool she gets when riding at a new barn. Trailer her out to the middle of nowhere? No problem. Ride her out of the barn on familiar territory or even God forbid in a fenced in and completely safe arena on property? Total melt down.

As I throw my leg up over her back, she prances, neck arched and tense, back hollow, chewing on the bit and ready for any excuse to speed off. My brain has now completely destroyed any thoughts of even a barely passably decent trail ride and is now in "don't die, don't die, don't die" mode which it has gotten pretty good at over the last 5 years with Gem. Hmmm.....where to go? Off to the right is a fishing pond and then a big, steep hill. Sounds like a good idea and a way to slow her down a bit.

We head off over the pond and hit the uphill trail. Gem takes off in a brisk trot dodging tree limbs and basically not paying any attention to anything but her own skin. There goes that wonderful bond and thinking the same. We make it to the top in one piece and then head back down the other side. The trail is narrow, twisting and turning around trees and the limbs desperately need trimming as my head bounces off of them as we go spinning down the hill in a barely contained trot. We slam back into the main trail again and Gem decides to go right. Which goes back up the same hill. Fine. Run yourself up and down that hill all night for all I care. Up we go again and about half way up the light bulb in her brain flickers on and she realizes what she did. I manage to get her back to a better trot until we hit the downhill side again when she picks up a huge canter and flies down between the trees. Thankfully my knees are still attached to my legs.

We make it out of there alive and this time I go left back to the barn to avoid another near collision with the trees. We head past the barn and up the hill toward her pasture where another set of trails begin. Gem thinks we are going back to the pasture, so she isn't too pleased when I ask her to go left and into the woods away from Pete. She eventually defers to my wishes and we head into the woods.

She finally is going at a reasonable pace and I let my breath go. Then we come across the inconceivable: a flat rock across the trail! Oh my!! What are we going to do? I know!! Walk across it like the big girls we are. Nope. Instead we slam on the breaks, duck down and spin like the best cow pony in the world and try to gallop back out of the woods. Good try mare, but not going to happen. Eventually we cross the rock of death and head deeper in the woods. We hit a T and since things have been going...well... not good but at least a little less badly I head left to get to the big 20 acre hay field. I know there is a trail in the back right corner that goes to a big creek, but the sun is setting, my brain needs a break from panic mode, and Gem is dripping with sweat so I follow the upper portion of the field to the arena and back to the barn.

Back at the barn, I hop off glad to feel solid ground under me again and glare at my stupid pony who just acted like she had never been on a trail ride ever in her life before even though we spent the last year  trailering out to different places and going on hunter paces and an endurance ride. Or the last 4 years preceding those out trail riding.

I lead her back to the barn, but those darn ware rabbits were still there trying to entice her closer and closer so they could infect her with their diseases. Once we manage to slither past them, we are back in the cross ties and acting like a complete moron. Spinning, rearing, pawing, snorting. Oh come on now! You are 15 years old and have been exposed to trails, arenas, jumping, cross country, dressage, hunter paces, endurance, camping. Why are you such an idiot?!?!

I do forgive her just enough to take her out and sponge her down before going back to pasture. I let her go and head back to clean up our mess and put things away.

On the positive side, even with not doing the 20 acre pasture and the trails off of it and going at a break neck speed that I wouldn't choose to ever do again, we managed to be out for 20 minutes. Not much, I know, but...if you add in going down the field and those two trails, even at that pace we would have been out for probably close to or just over 30 minutes. Slow it down and it would definitely be 30 minutes if not 35 or 40, but lets keep 30. Do the loop twice (which wouldn't make me slowly want to die inside. Anything over twice and I get antsy) and that would be an hour long trail ride with hills without having to trailer anywhere. Plus...there are still the power lines to explore. That's a heck of a lot better than going in a circle in an arena and better than the nothing I was doing at FS Farms, so that made me happy.




July 24, 2014

Dynamic Duo Gets New Digs

I swear I put way more thought and research into finding my horses a new home than I have ever done with finding us a new one. If only they gave a crap  :)

My list is simple:

 - Pasture board with this amazing thing called grass and not just dirt and weeds
 - Ability to keep the Dynamic Duo together
 - An arena with lights for weeknight night riding
 - Trails would be great
 - Good quality hay, water and grain
 - Trailer parking
 - In my price range which is admittedly limited

After searching for months and months (since April) we finally found a place that had the majority of those things and decided to give it a try. I wanted to wait until after Biltmore to move them, so last weekend we packed the horses up in the trailer and amidst intermittent pouring rain we moved them over to their new digs...lets call it Serenity Haven (not its real name, but pretty nifty and so far accurate).

Lets see how it stacks up to my list:

- Pasture board with grass....check! The pasture they are in is mostly grass. The recent drought has taken its toll on it, but fortunately it hasn't had any horses in it so while the grass wasn't growing, it wasn't getting trampled and eaten down to nothing either.
Looking up the hill to their pasture
 

 - Ability to keep the Dynamic Duo together....check! They are in their own 4 acre pasture with some woods and 3 nice next door neighbors. It is on top of a hill
House and barn are behind me, they are up the hill
 and that is the drive way to the right

Looking down the driveway


They are behind me and that is the barn







so the drainage even in all this rain we have been getting is awesome. Hopefully no thrushy feet.

- An arena with lights...nope :( They have an arena of sorts...basically a flattened section of the back hay field, but no lights and it isn't fenced in or anything like an official arena. But...

- Trails would be great...check! I'm always a little cautious when a BO tells me there are trails on property since most of the time it ends up just being the pasture you can ride in or a 5 minute walk around the property. But the hubby and I took W and Bones out for a hike on Sunday and we logged about 3-4 miles of actual real trails with some pretty nice hills in there and mixed footing. Plus the BO said you can ride the power lines from the end of the driveway for miles. I haven't been on those yet to see if the footing is decent or if it is all straight up and down and rocks. So the trails aren't extensive or varied enough to get all my conditioning done, but it does allow for me to not ride in a circle a hundred times. The downside is obviously there are no lights (although that would be impressive) so in the winter I won't get any riding in during the week, but in reality last winter when it was dark before I even got out of work I wasn't going to ride anyway.

Gem throwing a hissy fit in the airy barn
- Good quality hay, water and grain....mostly check! The hay looks about as nice as hay around here gets. I still miss the hay up north which was much nicer over all, but this hay looks pretty good. My only concern is quantity, but I am going to watch closely and see before I jump to conclusions. Water is clean and fresh. Grain we supply, so it can be of whatever quality we choose.

- Trailer parking....check!

- In my price range....check!


Gem in the cross ties
So all in all it is looking pretty good. In addition to the above, there is a fishing pond and we can bring our dogs out to trail ride with us whenever we want which is extremely hard to find. The BO is amazingly nice and really wants to learn about endurance and start going. Who knows? Maybe we can ride together and get to be pretty good friends. There is another boarder there who is also interested in endurance as well. I might get some nice riding friends out of this.

I really only have 2 current concerns:

1) Quantity of hay as mentioned above. They were getting about 3/4 of a bale for the two of them a day at FS Farms with grass and grain. Here they don't appear to be getting anywhere near that much. I am going to wait and see if she starts to look too lean and then ask for it to be increased. Hopefully that won't be an issue.

2) Distance. It is 30 minutes from our house which is a bit too far by 10-15 minutes. But if it limits my need to trailer out and gives me decent mileage during the week, it will be worth it. We will see what the winter brings.

So far I am pretty happy with it. They are a small place with eager and happy trail riders. Bones and Einstein can come along and ride with me which is awesome. The whole barn atmosphere is calm and the scenery is breath taking. Lets hope it works for the long term!

Looking down toward the barn
Gems big butt blocking some of the view

July 23, 2014

Catching Up

Sometimes in life things are slow and boring and others it pours down on you. I have been in pouring down on me mode since the Biltmore ride. I love it though and wouldn't have it any other way.

Things to catch you up on:

1) We moved the Dynamic Duo into their new digs. I even got out last night for my first ride there. That is definitely a story worthy of a post and I even remembered to take pictures. Unfortunately, they are all on my phone and my phone is currently MIA so this will have to wait another day.

2) Einstein joined our family over the weekend and is both totally adorable and driving me nuts. I now remember why I didn't want a puppy in the first place. He just may be our last puppy. Older dog adoptions from here on out! Pics of him are on the phone as well...so you will have to wait for this too.

3) I ordered hoof boots finally. Very interesting ones that I am really excited and hopeful about.

4) Future plans are being made...changed...made again...and changed once again. I need to make a decision soon about the next ride or I will miss the deadline for registration.

I think I will talk more about my plans today since that requires no photos at all.

It used to be so simple. Check the ride calendar, make sure I wasn't on call that weekend and choose a ride within 3-4 hours (of which there were usually 2-3 to pick from), pack up and head out. Now there are so few rides that are within driving distance, I have a business to run, a baby to love and take care of, a puppy addition and the hubby's own race schedule to take into account. When did life get so complicated? I know...just wait until W is older and has his own sport things and school activated to plan around as well.

The one downfall to living down here in the Land of Sunshine is the lack of rides in what I consider a reasonable driving range (3-4 hours). I was spoiled in the Arctic North with 2-3 rides every single weekend to choose from. Now I have maybe one a month if I'm lucky. Which isn't so bad in reality, since that's about all I could get to anyway, but having choices is nice.

So....looking at the ride calendar and keeping in mind that September 20th is our 50 mile debut, there is only one option between now and then...Iron Mountain in Ivanhoe VA at the end of August. There are pluses and minuses to this ride: it is 4 weeks out so a great time to put in some hot and heavy miles, mountain trails to really work her butt and make a flatter 50 seem easier and truth be told I'm kinda a little tired of riding at Biltmore, but on the downside it is very rocky, hoof protection is required and I'm not so sure she is all that ready for a  mountain ride having not ever conditioned her in the mountains.

I really, really want to do two days there: 30 miles on Friday and then a 15 or 30 mile Ride and Tie Saturday. Apparently, I am the only insane person who thinks running half the ride in the mountains is a good idea, because everyone has backed out on me. I could post a plea on the wonderful Facebook or email the director, but the thought of putting someone brand new to me up on Gem and running away from them just gives me the heebie jeebies. Now I just need to decide which day I want to ride: 30 miles on Friday or 25 miles Saturday, if I'm going to ride at all. This all hinges on those fancy new hoof boots fitting her and being worth their weight in gold. That is to be determined once they show up sometime this week or early next. If those don't pan out then the ride is out all together, but assuming they do ok I think Saturday is more feasible although there was some reason I wanted to do Friday. I think the completion prizes are different for each day with one being a ride t-shirt (which I really really want) and the other being a ride photo (which I also want but could purchase) but I can't remember which day was which.

Assuming the ride occurs that gives us 4 weeks to maintain our condition and improve slightly before Biltmore 2.0 (cuz its our second time there:) in September.

Then I believe that calls it quits for the 2014 season. Unless.....

Biltmore 2.0 doesn't pan out due to either not getting to even start the thing or getting pulled/over time/rider optioning out.

If that were to happen I have a plan B...Broxton Bridge in November. But this isn't so simple either because it is only 2 weeks out from Biltmore 2.0 so the reason we didn't complete would have to be simple enough to change/over come in 2 weeks time. If that is possible, then we will re route to Broxton to attempt our 50 mile completion.

Then I believe that calls it quits for the 2014 season. For real. Because even if we don't get to start or complete Broxton there are no more rides doable for us until I think like March.

So there it all is in a nutshell. My plans for the finish of the 2014 season here in the SE.

July 22, 2014

VC Blog Hop: Chock Full of Advice

The Blog Hop this time asks for the best and worst advice ever received from a trainer or fellow rider.

This is a great question namely because horse people are oh so fond of giving advice even when it is neither wanted nor asked for. I ran into this a ton at Crabby Acres last year. The BO would corner me every time I showed up to "school" me in my errors and offer up sagely advice that I didn't want.

1) Best Advice: This is going to seem oh so simple, but the best thing I ever learned was:

Horse + Rider = 10

Always.

I keep this in mind pretty much all the time when I ride Gem and it has really made the biggest impact on our relationship.

What it says is that if your horse is slow and sluggish and would be rated at a 2 on the scale, you better come into it at an 8 to make it equal 10. So come with energy, focus and bring that horse back up!

If on the other hand you are at the start of an endurance ride and find yourself astride a fire breathing monster that sorta, kinda resembles your mare and she is rated at a 9, well you better sit there nice and calm at a 1.

It works every time to help me either calm or amp myself up and I really notice the difference in Gem.

2) Worst Advice: This goes hands down to Crabby Acres BO last fall. Gem was running a bit amok in the arena and there were people milling all over the place, so I circled her tightly to avoid plowing into them. My usual technique for slowing her down and it works very well. Well, BO had to come over and suggest her own technique for not letting a horse get too fast on you (for the record she wasn't bolting or anything and was in complete control, she was just enjoying cantering in the arena and the people were milling about cutting us off) which included burying your left hand into her mane and not moving it at all while pulling back as hard as you can with the right rein and settling that on the mane as well. This causes an unfortunate amount of torque on her mouth and as the BO pointed out has been known to causes horses to rear to the point of flipping over "until they get used to it" Um...no thanks.


July 18, 2014

Keeping the Demo Saddle

First I just want to thank the Vanderbilt family. Thank you for immigrating to the US. Thank you for establishing the ferry to Manhattan thereby starting the huge accumulation of money that still runs through the veins of your descendants. Thank you for being so pretentious that you purchased half of NC and built the Biltmore estate. And thank you even more for keeping it around and not selling it as a subdivision and allowing rides to take place on your property.  Without you, Vanderbilts, I wouldn't have made this decision and gotten a huge monkey off my back. In return for your part in this, I will allow one of your beautiful, nice, smart and funny female descendants to marry W when he is older thus establishing a link between our two families. If only....

Anyway...

I received the demo Advantage saddle back in mid December. 7 months ago. The owner has been super nice in letting me keep it all this time without paying a rental fee or anything. I had placed an order for a shiny new one back before Christmas and have been mostly patiently waiting for it ever since. The fact that I've been able to use this one has lessened the annoyance of it taking so dang long to get mine.

I ordered pretty much the same thing as the demo with some minor changes:

Smaller seat size (from 16" to 15") - the larger sized demo felt huge when I first got it and I felt not properly balanced in it.

Less loin lift (1/4" flatter saddle from front to back) - when I first got the demo it seemed to sit off her back in the rear a lot and so I wanted a little less tilt. Also the tree she had available in the width needed was 1/4" flatter so we went with this by default

Sheepskin skirting (versus foam)

Wool pad (versus whatever the Reinsman pad is which I think is wool inside and a sticky material outside)

Then some cosmetic stuff like cushier foam in the seat, chocolate brown leather and a custom tooling design.

I waited for it to arrive. And waited. And waited. All that time I rode in the demo saddle for every conditioning ride since December. And then slowly thoughts and concerns began to pop up into my head. This all came to a head after we completed Biltmore with flying colors, a perfectly even sweat pattern on her back and no sore spots or rubs.

The dam broke on my own personal river of stress: what if all the little changes add up to a saddle that doesn't fit and now I am out $2200 on a brand new, custom saddle that doesn't work?!?!?

A smaller seat with extra foam cushion could make me feel confined and crammed and also will change the weight distribution on her back.

Less loin lift could create rubbing on her hindquarters

The sheepskin skirting could allow pressure points that the foam eliminated

What if the wool pad isn't as good at shock absorption?

AHHH!

The hubby still has his head screwed on straight (and loves saving money where he can) and suggested I contact Katee and ask if I could just buy the demo. Since she still hadn't even started making mine yet, she was more than agreeable to this. $1200 would get me the saddle (used but still mostly in great condition), Reinsman pad, mohair cinch and EZ ride stirrups. A great deal.

The hubby saw the -$1000 and started doing a jig. But....this is me we are talking about I have diligently saved all my Christmas and birthday money, plus sold the WISE (although all that money went towards paying off stuff for the new business darnnit) and my Wintec saddle and kept that money aside as well for this saddle fund. I'm not going to use it on groceries now.

So...I ordered two things I really wanted to get but couldn't afford with the new saddle price tag:

A full sheepskin saddle cover......wait for it (can anyone tell I've been binge watching How I Met Your Mother? All I need is to throw in some "awesomes)....in red!! This is actually a really good buy. Why? For one it will help make the 16" feel a little more snug without changing the weight distribution for Gem and second it will allow me to ditch my chaps at a minimum and potentially wear shorts for the next ride and tie. Plus it is red!

A full wool saddle pad. I need a second saddle pad anyway since it is always a good idea to have a back up and my original saddle order included this.

That's it. Oh wait...plus one add on that wasn't necessary but I really wanted. A red mohair girth as a back up (or primary since it is red).

But even with these additions I am still coming in $700 under the purchase price of the new saddle order. Katee also offered for me to ship the saddle back over the winter when we aren't riding much and she will do a facelift on it - put new chocolate brown leather with tooling and put new foam skirts on. I may or may not have her do this. I do want new foam underneath so that is a must, but depending on the cost of the leather I may opt out of that. If I keep the cover on it most of the time, it won't need new leather.

I'm very excited for this decision to be made. I am no longer stressed about saddle fit (for now until her back changes a ton and this one no longer fits either) and by purchasing used I can add on the fun items and still save some money.

July 17, 2014

How I Saved the Hubby $1300 By Going to a Ride

This is how my mind works. Scary, I know.

I had three big ticket items on my wish list pre-Biltmore. A S-hackamore,  boots of some sort, and my new Advantage saddle.

The S-Hackamore costs roughly $200 for the set up I wanted. Part one begins with my last ride with S when I tried one on Gem and couldn't make it fit for the life of me. It was huge on her. But there was a smaller version available on line as well and my heart was still set on getting the bit out of Gem's mouth.

But after this ride, I threw that idea out the window. Some claim a hackamore has more stopping power than a snaffle, but given her mind set of galloping the entire thing I would not be comfortable or feel safe without that bit. So given the size issue and the training issues, the hackamore idea has been tossed out the window. Maybe we will revisit it later on down the road, but why fix something that isn't really broken?

-$200


Boots for Gemmie have been on my brain for the last year. Up north she didn't need them, but there are enough rocky and gravel roads during rides down here that I think they would be a benefit. I still want her bare out in pasture and for all conditioning rides, so shoes are not an option. Anyway....  Renengades were my favorite and they cost roughly $400 for a complete set. EZ boot gloves or epics were a close second. Having no idea how to choose I put out a plea on Facebook for anyone going to Biltmore who would be willing to swing by my camp and look at Gem. A wonderful lady (who rides Mustangs by the way :) stopped by Friday night and brought along both Renegades and Easyboot gloves. Long story short....they don't fit. At all. The shape of her hoof does not match the shape of the boot and even using her wide boots her toe does not reach the end of the boot. Her feet are too vertical. I probably could shove her foot into the boot and hope they stay on, but I am not shelling out that much money just to lose them on the trail.

- $400

Advantage saddle. So this requires an entire post on its own. But....the end of the story is why re invent the wheel? The demo saddle that I have been riding in for the last 7 months has performed beautifully, so why not just buy it and scrap the new saddle idea?

- $700

See...doing endurance is not expensive. In fact it saves you money!!!

:)

July 16, 2014

Biltmore 25 Mile LD Ride 7/12/14: Gear

I'm pretty sure this will be my last post on the subject. Maybe. Unless I can think up something else. Here is what we used this weekend and some notes:

New Items:

None of these were truly brand new for a ride, but were new to this distance.

Advantage saddle, Reinsman wool saddle pad and mohair girth: performed very well. Equal sweat pattern all around and no sore spots to prodding. Saddle stayed put even at the faster pace and with hills. My right knee was a little touchy out of the saddle at both the hold and the end, but I think this will go away with lengthening the stirrup a bit. She had no girth galls or rubs, but the vet noted a slight twitch when she rubbed the area at the end. She made note of it in a FYI fashion. I will keep an eye on it. I'm loving the saddle and can't wait until I someday get my own.

Just Chaps Half Chaps: comfortable and not overly hot. They stayed put without twisting around like my leather ones started to do near the end. No wear noted at the end of the ride, so maybe they will stand the test of time after all.

EZ UP Saddle Caddy: Oh, the color is a god awful Pepto-Bismol pink. But it held my saddle and stuff just fine. The hubby wheeled it back to camp at the end for me and it pulled just fine. It still tends to want to collapse on itself. There is one bar at the very front the is needed for balance once it is at rest, but it doesn't stay when in motion. It is serviceable and I will continue to use now that I own it, but would not buy it again. I think the more expensive ones may pull a little easier.

E-Lytes: She didn't eat, so any powder form on her food is useless. I was very glad I thought ahead and grabbed the applesauce and syringe. She tanked up which is either because a) she is awesome like that or b) the elytes made her thirsty. I'm not willing to experiment with none at a ride to check which is true. I like giving her the supplement because I know it is easy on her stomach and it gives her more than just sodium and potassium. It is loaded with good things, so I think I will stick to it and make sure I have something to mix it in for the hold.

Camelbak: It workd in regards to hydration. I was able to drink the entire ride and while it was a bit warm towards the end, it was so nice to drink throughout. I wasn't dehydrated. it didn't bounce at all and even with 2L of water and some stuff stashed in the back, it wasn't overly heavy. But...it chafed the left side of y neck badly. The hubby suggested I get one made for running, but I just got this one and would like to monkey with it a bit. I think wrapping the straps in fleece may help a good bit.

Old Items That Continue To Work:

Halter/Bridle Combo

French Link Full Cheek Snaffle Bit: questionable with regards to the beginning of the ride, but I doubt anything would work that well when she gets that worked up. She didn't bolt and take off on me so it did keep her in check to a degree

Irideon riding tights

Brooks running shoes

Bare hooves

All in all most things worked out really well. I'm not planning on making any major changes to anything at this time.

Items to Purchase Prior To Next Ride:

Buckets. Lots of buckets for sponge water at the hold.

Large sponges

That's about it!!

July 15, 2014

Biltmore 25 mile LD 7/12/14: Review

First, sorry for the complete lack of pictures. I took my cell phone with me, but I wasn't able to let go of my death grip for the entire beginning and then I just plum forgot.

I'm just going to list through some things that went really well and some things that didn't. My next post will be all gear related. This is just some general observations and things to continue doing and some to improve upon.

The Good

Hydration- this has always been a bad spot for me. I just am not someone who always has a drink in hand. But I knew I always get dehydrated on rides so I forced a liter of water in me on the drive up and another 3L Friday afternoon before bed plus some sweet tea. It did a world of good and I will make sure to do this in the future. I also rode with the Camelbak and while I didn't drink as much as I should have, I drank about 1.5L during the ride plus some coconut water at the hold and was never headachy or tired due to lack of hydration.

Gem also did well hydrating. She tanked up overnight and while she didn't drink the first loop I wasn't surprised. It wasn't hot out and she usually doesn't start drinking until mile 10 more so. She drank a half bucket at the hold and drank every chance she got on trail even from a mud puddle. Her hydrations scores and gut sounds improved from the hold to the end as well.

Having crew - oh wow what an awesome thing this was. To have endurance folks crew for you is such a blessing. I was able to come into the hold and end with ice water ready and people grabbing my mare ready to pull tack, hold her, sponge, scrape etc...I'm still unsure how on earth you do it all alone.

Going Back To Camp - Gem had never been in this type of crewing situation before and she was too concerned about everything to relax. T made the comment that she had to take her gelding back to camp the day before for his holds (they completed the 55 mile ride) and that solidified my decision. Gem did great at camp and drank and took a nap. Depending on where camp is situated from vet in at other rides, this will happen again.

Gem - for 90% of the ride she was a star. She went past hikers, bikes, segways, kayakers, under bridges etc... without an issue. She was in good spirits and had a willing attitude the entire ride. I never once felt her give up or want to stop. She drank like a champ when needed as well.

Gear - pretty much everything worked great with a few minor things I will mention below. The Advantage saddle continues to rock and she had equal sweat marks and no sore spots anywhere. The Camelbak was great to have (see above) and she was bare on all 4 without any missteps, slides or soreness.

Camping - this was my first experience having friends at camp and it was so much more enjoyable. Having people to talk to and share with was great.

E-Lytes - I'm glad I had all scenarios planned for. Gem didn't eat at the hold and I wanted a half dose of e-lytes in her before we headed out. I grabbed the applesauce and the hubs syringed it into her while I munched on some nachos. Had I not planned for her not eating, I would have gone without which would not have been a wise decision. I went with the supplement she usually gets and it worked great.

The Not So Good/Bad

Nutrition - Gem didn't eat. She never eats. She ate her breakfast and ate through 1/2 a large bale of hay the day before. But she didn't touch her food or hay at all at the hold. She drank and took a nap, but that's it. Once back to the crew area she munched on a bit of Alfalfa and she did manage to eat some alfalfa cubes and carrots. I'm not sure if I should worry about this or not. Some say she just isn't going far enough. We will see.

Trotting Out - Ugh. Gem is going to get herself eliminated at a hold one of these days due to a poor trot out. I go jogging with her regularly. I have taught her that when I say "Ready, Trot!" she trots immediately beside me. But get her at a hold and she goes so slow that it makes her look lame. Thankfully she trotted fine back toward the vet so she was cleared, but man would I have been angry had we been pulled!

The Start - I have done 2 other LDs with Gem and neither time was she anywhere near as much of a basket case as she was the first few miles this weekend. So something had to be different. There were a few things that lined up to make this happen:

 1) it was a controlled start so there wasn't any letting others go that much ahead of us
 2) it started out on a flat double wide track with horses in front and behind us and she was in full race mode
3) we walked. A lot and very slowly. S was leading her mare on foot. Gem got more and more worked up the longer we kept that slow pace up and eventually she was going to explode.

I'll have to keep an eye on this in the future and see how she goes out the next time. I don't want to teach her race brain at all and have no interest in getting caught up with the front runners, but trying to keep her back at a walk and fighting her is no good either. She will get just as sour with me pulling on her mouth as she would running herself into the ground. There will have to be a happy medium somewhere.

In the end everything worked out great. We completed sound and in good form. She made me so proud and I even had a well known rider come up to me at the end and tell me that Gem looked like a really fun horse to ride. It was an amazing compliment. I can control my riding but I can't make her eat and that is my biggest concern with her right now. Her gut sounds checked in fine, so maybe she just isn't hungry enough?





July 14, 2014

Biltmore 25 Mile LD Ride 7/12/14: Ride Story

BEEP BEEP BEEP! Your eyes meander open and you notice it is still very much dark outside. Your sleep muddled brain wonders why on earth you are waking up this early, but soon the synapses fire and you remember: it is ride day!! You throw the blanket back, call out a way too chipper good morning to your fellow riders and get dressed in a hurry. Time to get ready!

As you step out of the trailer, the cool crisp mountain morning air hits you. Crap, you forgot a light jacket, but never mind once you get moving you know you will warm up quickly. There is much to do this morning and only an hour to get it all done. First up: feed Gemmie. You mix up some grain, sweet feed and supplements with a pinch of salt added and hold the bucket while she eats. She knows something is up. The air is filled with sleepy people and excitement from the horses as the camp begins to wake up and get moving. She eats most of it, but leaves some behind. You remember to throw her an extra flake of hay and are happy to note one empty water bucket and one half full one from overnight. She is tanked up and ready to go today. You manage to shove a banana down your own gullet and drink more water to start the day.

She is a little amped up while tacking, but you get it done and mount on up to walk slowly to the start line. Your riding partners, M and S, mount up as well and you head off to the start line. S needs to adjust some tack, so she hops off and hand walks the rest of the way. Gemmie is all business underneath you and power walks to the start. Once there the energy of all those horses milling around waiting for the controlled start is just amazing. Gem is pacing up and down and so you head off to the back corner to get a little space. Once the trail is opened up, you head out and trot past the control judges/vets to make sure all is looking well and head down the first section of trail.

This first loop is 11.9 miles all on the blue trail. It begins by going alongside camp by the river and is a double wide part gravel part dirt road. S is hand walking her mare out of camp and M's mare is so well behaved - she is just a steady mare. A little ways down the road and Gem is getting really annoyed at the slow pace. She is pulling your arms out of their sockets and you begin to feel bad that you are ripping off her face. Eventually you yell back to S that either you have to move on without her or she needs to mount up and get going. She decides to mount up and Gem takes this to mean she can finally go!

The first 3 miles fly by in a blur. The pace is maddeningly fast and you worry that Gem won't last 25 miles doing it this way. She is still tugging at you badly and you are having to circle and fight her a lot. At mile 3 you remark again to your friends that if she doesn't settle in soon, you will have to go on ahead alone. Mile 4 brings a big steep uphill on single track and this finally calms Gem down. There are no horses up ahead visible anymore and she takes a spot behind S.

The blue loop is through a lot of forested trails mostly single track which is Gem's favorite. The morning continues to be overcast and cooler although you note that the humidity in the trees is climbing. There is a water trough up ahead, but nobody drinks. You know Gem well enough to know she won't bypass water when she is thirsty, so you don't worry about her at this point.

Thankfully, the trails are beautifully marked and there is little concern about getting lost on this loop. The trails become very muddy and there are huge puddles everywhere that make the going slower than you'd like. It gives Gem a chance to collect her thoughts though and things settle in nicely. You alternate between trotting and some walk breaks where the footing isn't so great. Everyone is having a good time and the miles fly by uneventfully.

The loop crosses its tracks again and you are back on the double wide gravel/dirt trail heading into camp. 3 miles to go and the horses know where they are heading. S's mare picks up a break neck trot pace and Gem begins to have a hard time keeping up. You look at your watch and it registers 4:30 min/mile pace. Gem is cantering to keep up, but isn't asking to slow or breathing all that hard. You ask S to walk the last 0.5 or 1 mile into camp to let her heart rate slow and she agrees. Once you are close to camp, the trail makes a hard right turn and runs into the backside of the starting area. The horses are not happy to turn away from camp when they are oh so close!

Just up ahead are the in timers, ready to take your number. Thankfully T and a new friend A are standing by ready to help out all they can. You jump of Gem and see the hubs and W waiting for you with a big grin. You yell a grand hello and march Gem over to your crew area to strip tack and sponge. That break neck entry into camp worked up a hardy sweat. T is amazing and helps sponge Gem down with ice water and scrape it off. You check her pulse and it is already down in the mid 40s (criteria is 64 bpm) so off to the vet you go. She vets in with a pulse of 40 and is a stubborn mule for the trot out away from the vet, but trots back on fire. He remarks that she almost looked lame going out she was trotting so badly, but made up for it on her return trip back. Darn mare! She gets mostly a's on her report card although her hydration status gets B+ and her gut sounds get a B. Not surprising since she didn't eat or drink the entire loop. The vet remarks that you aren't riding her hard enough and you should have come in way sooner on that loop. You just smile and nod and thank him for the compliment. You have 40 minutes until loop 2.

Back at the crewing area, M states that her mare's heart rate was really high coming in and she is 3 minutes behind you in out time. You are okay waiting 3 minutes, but the only thing you really care about is leaving on time. Gem is too concerned with everything going on around her in the crewing region and isn't eating or drinking so you make the decision to walk her back to camp and put her in her pen. It will eat up 14 minutes total of the hold there and back, but the decision is worth it in the end. She still doesn't eat much (just a few mouthfuls of hay) but you get her e-lytes in her and she downs an entire bucket of water plus takes a 10 minute nap. Perfect! Having her in her pen also gives you the ability to eat some nachos, drink some coconut water and go to the bathroom.

40 minutes flies by and you are soon trekking back to the crew area. Once there you tell your partners there are 5 minutes remaining and begin to tack back up. But then M heads off toward the bathroom and you are dismayed to leave the hold nearly 10 minutes late.

This second loop is 14 miles long and begins and ends on a black access road to cross the river and picks up a large yellow loop. Off down gravel road again we go, but Gem is more sensible this time. She is eager and willing, but not pulling finally. S is having some issues with wanting to leave camp, but finally everyone's horses get their head on straight and off we go. The first loop took about a half hour longer than you wanted plus you lost 10 minutes at the hold, so this loop needs a good pace. M is worried about her mare coming in too hot again, but you are sure if you avoid the break neck speeds and just go a steady pace she would be fine.

The footing isn't so great and you end up coming up on some highly people populated sections of trails that demand a walk. The time is ticking by and you have a long way to go yet. The sun has also decided to make an appearance now as well so you know this loop is going to get hot. Fortunately, there is a lot of water offered up for the horses and Gem doesn't miss a single one. She guzzles down at each and you are feeling better about her.

You eventually make your way over a cement bridge and back onto single track forest trails, some of which you recall from the hunter pace you did here. You see a plate marking 5 miles down and glance at your watch. It is getting late.

Gem is doing amazing under you and by mile 18 she begins to tune you out. The going is slow and sporadic. S's mare is getting foot sore and she is hugging the shoulder of the trail, but this region isn't maintained so she is having to avoid ditches, rocks and logs and such. Gem begins to get really ticked off with the start/stop pacing and just wants to go! Around this time you remark to S that Gem is really unhappy with the pacing. Either it needs to steady out or you need to depart.

The footing then improves some and off everyone goes. Gem keeps rushing to the front and is feeling strong and willing. M's horse is beginning to lag behind and tire and S's mare is hugging the rim again. You decide to stick with the group and finish together.

Finally you cross the cement bridge, leave the yellow loop behind and get back on the access trail with 3 miles and an hour to go. You keep nervously glancing at the watch to make sure you will complete in time. There is no way you are going this far with this much horse under you and not making the time!

Eventually camp comes into view and you make it back to the in timers with 30 minutes to spare. You dump tack and immediately vet in. Gem isn't even sweaty at all so you know she will be under pulse (60 bpm required). She vets in at 54 bpm, almost all A's with improved gut sounds and trots out sound. You get a completion!!!!

You head straight back to camp to put her in her pen. She stretches, drinks and munches some hay and is looking amazing. The hubby congratulates you and eventually everyone makes it back to camp with 3 completions. :)

You are so happy, a little tired, and very proud of your mare. She looks ready to go out for another loop and you know she has a 50 in her. Everyone eats lunch together and then you pack up camp to go home.

Your first thought: When can we do this again?!


July 11, 2014

Electroylte Plan

It is Tuesday as I write this (Thursday as it is posted) and I have a half formulated electrolyte plan.

I fudged my way through electrolyting the last two rides. I had none on the first ride and a very generous and nice person offered up some of her paste at the hold for Gemmie. That was all she got: a full dose at the lunch hold at 13 miles. She did fine. The next ride I went better prepared and had tubes of Finish Line paste with me. By happenstance, they had no bicarb in it so that was great, and she got a full dose the night before and a half dose morning and at the hold. She did fine. So what does she actually need??

To add more confusion - those rides were in October in the arctic north. She was sweaty but not excessively so. Biltmore in July is a while other ball game.

In general, I like the idea of a full dose with dinner the night before. She will have all night with full access to water to drink away and it just may encourage her to tank up a bit before the next morning's ride.

I think a full dose the morning of or at all during is excessive and puts her at risk of an ulcer since she won't have full access to water. She will only get to drink sporadically when it becomes available. This is unlike human runners who take elytes at regular intervals throughout and also have immediate access to water at all time. I think a half dose before and at the hold is more than plenty and may even be too much.

Going into it I do plan on a full dose Friday night and then a half dose Saturday morning and at the hold. If she is doing well and drinking awesome I may forgo lunch. If she seems dehydrated and cranky I may do a 3/4 or full dose at lunch and/or some at the end.

The question now is how? I have two plans: P and A

PLAN P

As in "powder".

Saturday I grabbed the last remaining Finish Line tube and compared it to Gem's regular supplement. And to my surprise the supplement has a crap ton more of everything in it. I wasn't surprised it had more ingredients because the elytes are just potassium, sodium, zinc and magnesium whereas her supplement has every nutrient under the sun in it (and is still legal for competition :) But I was surprised that the quantity was massively higher.

This got me thinking. If I feed her this with her meals, she shouldn't really need anything in addition to it in a paste form. Wouldn't it be overkill to give her even more?

The only thing this lacks is sodium. The supplement has none. But I can remedy that easily by adding a teaspoon of table salt to the mix. I just hope she eats it if it is salty.

This is my primary plan and as long as she eats fine before and during the ride it should be just fine. Lots of people prefer to add the elytes to the food for ease of use.

But historically she hasn't eaten very well during the ride. The night before she is generally good, breakfast is iffy and the hold a no go. So then what?

PLAN A

As in "applesauce".

Gem loves applesauce. Since I waited too long to get any Finish Line ordered in and I can't find it locally (actually I can't find any paste locally - just powder) I need to make my own as a back up.

If Gemmie decides to be pouty and won't eat well at the hold, I will have my back up applesauce. I can mix in the salt and powder with some of that and syringe it into her mouth.

I think the above is a pretty solid plan and should work well. I know she likes the supplement just fine and should eat it up. She generally gets 2 scoops a day and since I only go out once she gets them both. I can easily give her two scoops with dinner Friday then one scoop with breakfast Saturday and another at the hold.



July 10, 2014

AHHHH!

I had a lovely (albeit slightly boring) post all about my electrolyte plans for the weekend all typed up and ready to be posted today. But then I woke up this morning with my stomach in a knot and butterflies flying and all sorts of nervousness going on. So...you can read the boring post tomorrow when I am in camp and not writing.

I have so much to do before I leave for the barn tomorrow morning at 0630. This includes:

Packing Clothes
Packing Truck
Packing Gear
Panicking
Purchasing of Food
Making of Pot Luck Item
Purchasing of Last Minute Items I Didn't Even Think Of
Panicking
Charging Phone
Finding Camera and Charger and Charging It
Panicking

I have from 7pm when W goes to bed until 630 tomorrow morning to do all the above. The annoying part is that this little thing called "work" is taking up much of my day today.

I did cancel Gem's massage appointment for this evening. I was looking forward to it, but two things stopped me:

1) I've not used this lady before and while she comes highly recommended, I don't want to risk Gem getting sore from it and then not passing the initial vet inspection tomorrow afternoon. She will get one next week as a recovery massage instead.

2) Time. If I kept the appointment for 6:30 tonight that would take up all my time for the above list leaving me doing it in a rush at midnight. I can guarantee I will forget things, but if I pushed it back that far I would forget just about everything.

With all that in mind my plan is to work super hard to get everything done before bed tonight, get up at 6 tomorrow morning and head out by 6:30am. That will give me enough time to hook up the trailer, grab Gem, load up and hit the road to S's farm and then head to Biltmore.

See you all on Monday!!

July 9, 2014

Packing List

My high school had an outdoor cub: hiking, backpacking, cross country skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking, and canoeing were all offered. Canoeing seemed like the best choice out of the group and so I convinced a friend to sign up with me in 9th grade. Little did I know that that was the best choice I could have ever made. Joining the club brought me so many friends, experiences and memories that could never be replaced. It also involved lots and lots and lots of camping. I became a pretty darn good camper knowing what was essential to bring and what could be left behind. Especially since I weighed in at 90 pounds soaking wet and couldn't carry as much as some others.

Because of this I am very bare bones basic when it comes to camping. There was a recent post on the endurance forum about what you need for "primitive" camping and I laughed until I cried when I saw the responses. To me primitive camping means you need food and water for you and your horse, a safe place to contain your horse and somewhere to sleep (sleeping bag, tent, your truck, a hammock). That's it. The responses this poor person got included everything from a generator to a shower to who knows what. I'm not against having amenities (although I am against you calling it camping when you bring a hotel on wheels with you), but that's not primitive and it isn't essential to have.

Anyway....this all brings us to my packing list for the weekend. What all will I be bringing to the ride? Be careful: this is very basic and no frills, but it is only for 1 night and seriously I just don't like all the fuss of bringing my entire house with me.

GEM:
Saddle
Saddle pad x 2
Bridle x 2
Halter and lead rope
Portable corral
Grooming equipment
Grain: her regular 10% feed plus a bag of sweet feed (kept in a cleaned out plastic kitty litter tub so 40 lbs of each)
Hay: 2 bales of her regular coastal
Mineral supplement
Elytes in some form or another (need to solidify this)
2 buckets for water
2 buckets for grain
2 hay bags
Muck bucket
Saddle caddy/rack
Applesauce
Carrots
14 gallons of water (S has 100 gallons in her truck that I will have access to as well)
Fleece cooler
Coggins paperwork
Bug spray and belly balm


I think that is it. Pretty low key stuff. All of that is basically already in my trailer for our day to day rides except the portable corral, grain, hay, applesauce and carrots.

I'm still up in the air on electrolytes. I will write a new post on that to avoid cluttering this.

ME:
Clothes to wear there and back again (probably the same outfit, but will bring a second just in case)
Riding tights and matching shirt
A cooler of beverages (water, pepsi, Gatorade)
A cooler of food
Cell phone
Camera
Camelbak
Nalgene bottle
Garmin watch
Sunglasses
Helmet
Chaps
Sunscreen
Running shoes to ride in
Camp shoes
Hat
Sleeping bag
Chair

S offered up her trailer to sleep in and I will make that a spur of the moment choice. It will be her and her junior and there isn't much room. I may just sleep in the truck or in the back of the trailer which I've done before. I don't feel like setting up the tent for one night.

And that's it. Nothing fancy. I probably really should work on putting together a small horse first aid kit. I think that will be my next project before the ride in August.


July 8, 2014

Biltmore Gear Preparation

Being a member of ridecamp (email based endurance forum) and the endurance pages on Facebook, I am aware that there are cultural differences in the various regions. Each ride has its own flavor and the amount of excess amenities is dependent on the hard work of the ride manager, but overall each region has its own baseline. In the MW it was fairly basic. Water for horses was available in camp and at some point on the trail. Usually there was a potluck one night for dinner. The rides I went to had the vet in area right smack in the middle of camp. I don't know if it was a real, hard and fast rule or just the culture, but nobody put anything in the vet area. Your camp was just a short walk away and so you would come off the trail, ditch tack and present the horse and then wander to your trailer to stuff your face and allow your horse to binge and nap until it was time to go back out. It worked out super well especially for those without a crew.

I was concerned about how things flowed down here and so I picked S's brain while we rode together last. I am very glad I did!

There is one major differences that I was very happy to know of now and not when I showed up.

  • Vet in is a hefty walk from camp and everyone sets up tents and tables and saddle stands and all their gear at a prime spot at the vet in area and only return to the camp at the end.

Good to know since I have neither a tent nor a saddle stand nor am I prepared for this at all.

S has all those things and so the plan is to dump it al into the back of one of our trucks and head over to get a spot. She will set up her tent and allow me to stash what little gear I have under it. My main concern is my saddle and pad. I can make do with placing my groom gear and such on the ground. I have two hay bags I can stuff full for Gem at the hold and four buckets to use for water and grain. But I don't want to put my saddle and pad on the ground in fear that it may break or get hay on it or something.

I slightly panicked, but then did some research and found a great wooden saddle caddy someone made. I begged the hubby to make me one and he said he would, but I knew it wouldn't be in time. Our garage is still full of boxes so he wouldn't even have a work area to build it in. I went online and found numerous sadly racks and caddys and the such. Most were very expensive or incredibly cheap and I didn't want to spend a fortune or waste my money on a stand that looked like it would break. Eventually I found what I was looking for that would serve the purpose.

And then, because I am an advertisers dream, I noticed that if I spent just a tad bit more money I could get free shipping. Never mind that the thing was already costing me oversized surcharges and that I was only paying $10 for shipping. If I spent just $8 more I could get free shipping. Whoever came up with that whole thing is a genius, by the way. I get caught by it every single time.

I looked around the website for anything I could convince myself and the hubby was essential and found another item to add to the cart. Of course it was way more than $8, so instead of saving $2 I spent a crap ton more. I told you, that person is a genius.

I came home last Thursday to find this on my doorstep :)

 
 
 
The top box is my add on item: a trailer jack. T had a flat the first day I rode with her and she used an item similar to this. It allows you to change a flat on your trailer without unhooking it or taking the horses out. All you do is drive the good tire up on it and it lifts the bad tire enough to allow it to  be changed. She had a fancier model, but this will work just fine.
 
 
W trying to figure out how he can play with it
 
The bottom box had my saddle caddy/rack thing. Its not as nice as the pictures made it out to be, but is anything ever? It will serve its purpose.

Front view
Can I play with this, Mom?




Side view
 
The wheels turn well enough. The top bar is to hold the saddle and pad. I will shove my grooming supplies and anything else I might need in the basket. The pink color is god awful. If I find the time between now and Friday morning, I may be tempted to paint it red and black instead.
 
It folds up for storage and is ok to push. It tends to want to collapse on itself for no reason, but maybe that will go away once it is loaded down. I will write a review on it once I get back from using it.
 
 
Other than that I think I am pretty close to being good to go. I need to figure out my electrolytes for Gemmie. I have a plan half formulated. She is getting her massage Thursday. Apparently there will be a farrier, horse massage therapist and human massage therapist on site. I was tempted to use the onsite one for Gem, but I don't want her done right before in case she is sore and I know after I've done my half marathons I was too sore to want anyone touching me.