My biggest concern for Gem was her hydration. At Barefoot I watched in dismay as each vet check reported worsening parameters. Her pulse and CRI stayed great throughout so nobody seemed overly concerned and we completed just fine, but still it was sub optimal and I wanted to be proactive about it. So what did I do differently? A lot really and it showed in her solid a's for every hydration parameter at every hold, even following a tough 25 mile first loop with no water available (besides the deep flooded creeks which I wasn't stopping at to allow drinking) until 14 miles in.
- During the drive I stopped to offer her a wet mash. I hadn't thought to do this before and she has historically never drank during trailering. The drive was just about 6 hours and I didn't want her going that long without drinking. I poured grain into her bucket and topped it off with water to just over the grain line. No time for it to really even soak, so she had to drink to get the grain. It worked and she emptied the entire bucket.
- Different electrolytes in paste form in a syringe so I knew she was getting it even if she didn't eat well at the hold
- Wet mashes at each hold. She gobbled it down at the first hold, ate half at the second and barely touched it at the end. She did finish the bucket over night.
- Stopped at every single opportunity on trail and let her drink until she stopped, but didn't let her play with the water. Drink or move on. (I've always done this, but it is worth noting as it is part of my strategy)
- Also gave her a feeding pan of soaked alfalfa which I keep filled and wet with about 3 inches of water at the bottom from the moment we got in camp. She emptied that thing several times and even drank the flavored water at the bottom. I only had access to a compressed bale and it was super dusty, but after soaking it I think it worked to my advantage. She loved the stuff and the smashed particles from the compression collected in the water at the bottom making it very, very tasty water.
- Carrots. Lots and lots of very wet baby carrots. Loads of natural electrolytes, water and she loves them. I hand fed her a third of a bag at each hold.
- Gem was offered her typical grain from our barn, It isn't the best and is locally milled. Too much molasses for my likings, but I don't have a choice here unless I want to pay for stall board and buy my own grain. Until a problem arises to make it a necessity, I can't really justify the added expense each month. Once the grass starts to grow again, she won't be getting any grain at all. Anyway...so each hold she got her usually grain.
- I offered her a bucket of wet mash at each hold.
- She also got a bucket of the dry grain. I've been told that the saliva from chewing is needed to prevent ulcers, so I wanted to give her the choice to crunch away which she did the second loop and at the finish.
- Carrots. See above.
- Soaked alfalfa from a compressed bale. I will be buying compressed alfalfa for all my rides if I can find it. She loved it and it worked really well. She only ever gets alfalfa during a ride, but I start giving her GrandVite the week leading up to the ride. I've always mixed the powder in with some broken up alfalfa cubes and a little water to make it stick. It is a nice treat and she loves. It also lets her get used to alfalfa in small quantities.
- Coastal hay. She barely touched it at all this time. It didn't look that great to be honest. We took it from the hay loft at the barn and its the first thing I've been disappointed with at this barn.
- My biggest goal was a completion (yay!!), but my second one was to ride my own ride. I've always been so timid out there that I get caught up with others and lose this part. I tried this at the beginning by starting after the first wave, but that didn't work. Once we fell I was alone in my own bubble for many miles it is was perfect. Granted we were on sandy open roads so she didn't have all the bare wood (sticks, logs, trees) to spook at as is her norm, but still I was able to rate her pretty well after those first 10 miles and felt really, really good about it.
- We covered it with an average 6.8 mph pace per my garmin which was only a bit off from reality. I think we did a little over 7 mph in real life which is exactly where I want to be right now. I let her open it up and we spent a lot of our moving time hovering around 9-10 mph, but took breaks to walk, eat and drink so it lowered to around 7. While the winner finished in 4 hours 29 minutes, I think this pace is perfect for us right now and maybe for forever.
- She started and finished in her advantage saddle with a mohair cinch, Thinline Endurance pad, and typical halter bridle. No rubs, no sore spots, and a perfectly even sweat pattern.
- The Thinline does something weird. Maybe it is stiff to start our heats up and molds to her back I dont' know, but each ride it starts off looking fine then slips by around mile 2-3. Once I get off and fix it, it doesn't move again. Something I need to remind myself of.
- Barefoot. This is interesting. She has gone over tons of rocky trails and did the last 50 bare on loads of rocks. Not a single chip. This was 39 miles of sandy roads and she did great as always hoof wise. However, when I looked closely at them the following day she had really worn them down. They are nearly squared off at her break over point and look odd for her. If more sand is in our future I may need to do some serious thinking. I don't think her bare tootsies would hold up well for a barefoot 100 in the sand. I think they would wear down too much. Will have to think on this one...
- Gloves. Wow did I love my new gloves. I've actually never ridden with gloves before and I was worried, but when it was only 16 degrees in the morning I was ready to risk it. Not only were my hands warm and toasty, but I had an excellent grip on those reins. Even with holding her back just like at Barefoot, I didn't have a single sore spot on my fingers and no blistering. I won't ever ride without them again or at least not for the first loop.
- Camelbak. This keeps working out super well. I drank all 2L between the first two loops and stay very well hydrated without the need for a bottle or pack. I even used the back pack portion to shove my store covers in at the trot by.
- Running shoes. I continue to prefer these over typical riding boots/shoes and really wish I could have run some for Gem's sake. I will get into why I didn't in a bit. I probably should have worn my winter waterproof boots to being with and that would have save me a lot of problems down the line, but I didn't think of it.
- Stirrup Covers. I know. Nothing new on race day, but I didn't think adding comfy fleecy covers to the leathers would be an issue. Boy was I wrong. Either I did something wrong putting them on or I need to get used to them, but something was definitely off with my legs until I removed them. I felt trapped and my ankles were in a wonky position that made them scream in agony by mile 4. By then end my perennials were shot and I could barely walk. A week out and my left leg still isn't working normally. I used them to avoid getting rubs (which I ever had anyway)and ended up with a nasty friction burn to my right leg just below my knee.
All in all I am super happy with the ride and how Gem performed. My performance was not so great. I think it had a lot to do with how frozen I was to begin the ride, My feet were block of ice for 14 miles and I am pretty sure I held them in a weird place for that entire time. Couple that with new covers and a shorter stirrup (nothing new on race day, nothing new on race day) and I was just off.