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.
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?