Saturday, March 21, 2009
The best thing was, today she felt the smoothest she's been in about four or five years. Her walk has changed from the "slam the toes down first" pony march to a heel-first-landing, gliding walk. We walked most of the 10 miles we did today, and my knees weren't crunchy from trying to shock-absorb.
My conclusion? The hocks are fused, and she's once again balanced and moving out evenly.
I'm sure it also helps her energy levels in that it's spring, and she really likes springtime. Ah, raging mare hormones. She was very talkative today, including sneaking up behind Dad and Beamer and letting out an infamous, eardrum-shattering pony screech-whinny. I'm not sure who jumped more -- Dad or Beamer. I almost fell off from laughing so hard. She had a very smug look on her face, so I know it was intentional. For being the smallest horse at the barn, she sure is the loudest! No wonder she has good P&Rs...talk about lung capacity!
The funniest moment of the day was when Dad needed to adjust something with his saddle pad and used Mimi as a saddle rack, placing his saddle on top of mine. She was not amused. She stood there with this pouty scowl on her face, glaring at Dad the entire time he was fixing his pad. Why the pony saddle rack? Because we have all sorts of drying-out, nasty weeds right now, and Dad didn't want to spend the rest of the evening picking dead weeds out of the fleece underside of his saddle.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
All girths are used, in good to excellent condition.
46" Wintec Elastic English girth. Barely used. Does not have D-rings for breastcollar attachment. $30.
Monday, March 16, 2009
They were both pretty full of themselves over the weekend, and as such, we rode fairly slowly both days. It wouldn't have taken much encouragement for a working trot to turn into a hand gallop, and Beamer had his competitive "race brain" trying to take over. Hand-walking for a bit dissuaded him. And Mimi has embrace her springtime "3 weeks in, 1 week out" heat cycle. Someone remind me of this next time I fall in love with a feisty, opinionated, sometimes flat-out bitchy mare.
And the horsepeople are obviously feeling it, too. The parking lot was crammed with trailers yesterday, and from the sounds of it, a riotous good time was being had by all. Why do people feel the need to consume beer at 8:00 in the morning, just before you're about to climb on a horse? And the various and sundry horse-related email lists I'm on are obviously feeling the need to get out and gallop for 10 miles or so. Sniping and ruffled feathers abound.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Slightly more cheerful. I think the wind stopped blowing for a microsecond.
Riding partner for the weekend, Cathy Gemperline and horse Diamond, who Mimi tolerated, since we were moving at at a pace fast enough to deter her from pulling too many ugly mare faces.
Sunday, March 8, 2009
It was a shorter ride, only about 7-8 miles, a nice moderate mix of walking and trotting. They keep making "improvements" to the San Tan trails, and I've mixed feelings about this. The endurance rider in me is thrilled -- smoother trails mean more trotting; the inner trail rider in me is screaming about the lack of challenge and technical trails. However, I think I've come to a happy compromise: we spend most of our time at the San Tans training for endurance. It's easier to have that, and trailer out father to more challenging trails when we want to trail ride, versus trying to endurance train on really tough, technical trails all the time.
The weather was absolutely perfect yesterday, too. High 60s, moderately breezy, a few scattered clouds, and just this light, fresh feeling in the air that spring is definitely on its way.
I really don't understand Mimi and her lack of drinking at rides. Yesterday, for a short little ride like that, she drained her entire 5-gallon bucket, between drinking before we went out and drinking when we got back. And she does this on a regular basis for training rides. And yet, she goes all night Friday night at McDowell without drinking. ???
I'm going to try Karen Chaton's suggestion of two buckets of water, one plain and one salty. I offered her a small bucket of salted water yesterday after the ride and she was quite intrigued, enough so that she drained most of the bucket. Odd pony.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Me and Mimi. This is about 3/4 of the way through the first loop. *dutifully ignores the crusty-looking crud on the white pony*
Dad and Beamer, Me and Mimi. 2 miles into the ride.
Dad and Beamer. 3/4 of the way through the first loop. How come *his* white horse is so much cleaner than mine?
And finally, a short video from the ride. A warning...it was taken from the back of the eggbeater-trot pony, so it's a little shaky in parts. Those prone to motion-scikness may need to avert their eyes. This was taken about halfway through the first loop, on part of the trail that was a straight out-and-back section, which meant we got to ride through this gorgeous part of the trail twice.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
What Didn’t Work/What I’d Do Different
This was our first true warm weather ride for that distance. I’ve done other warmer rides, but they’ve been shorter distances, where you can get away with a lot more. I think I need to be more aggressive in e’lyting protocol. They each only got the one dose at lunch, and with that heat, I should have given them smaller doses more frequently. I think that might have contributed to Mimi’s cramping -- basically, almost a minor tie-up due to dehydration and an e’lyte imbalance.
I’m not used to only one vet stop for that distance. I like that it makes the ride seem shorter, and breaks it up less. But you definitely have to make the time along the trail to stop and let your horse graze, if there’s any food, or carry something for them. I packed carrots along on the second loop, and then stopped and munched on those a couple times.
I need to carry more food for myself when there’s only one check. I survived out there on energy gels, a couple energy bars, water, a sports drink, people e’lytes, Motrin, and Overdrive. It’s definitely not enough, as I have been starving all day today. Fortunately, I drank pretty well.
Something is giving me quasi-shin splints, and I don’t know if it’s my tights or my half chaps. This is the second 50 miler in a row that has happened, and it’s the same tights/chaps combination. This is my second pair of these chaps, and I don’t remember having this problem at my first 50 with the chaps of the same design.
I miss my padded riding tights and need to get another pair of them. I had two pairs of Saddle Bums before I wore them out, and I still have a pair of Carousels that are still in one piece, but not very pretty anymore, and not really nice enough to take to rides anymore. (Hey, if you can’t ride fast, you have to ride pretty…)
My Vasque trail running shoes are better than my Columbias. The Columbias made my feet go numb after trotting for a while, particularly downhill. The Vasques absorb concussion better, I think, and they have slightly better arch support.
Rope reins in the morning, when she’s more likely to pull? She didn’t pull very long at this ride, but it was enough that I did get a couple blisters from the beta reins. Or maybe it’s just a function of pulling pony, and everything will give blisters to a degree. See, this is why I need to get to more rides, so I can experiment with this sort of thing.
More experimentation with the saddle pad. There must be a way to balance it without tipping it back too much. Maybe cutting back more of the extra foam insert, and shaving it down thinner?
Things That Worked
I ate really well at lunch. Fresh ‘n Easy makes good applewood smoked turkey already sliced, and Sunflower Market makes a good cold spaghetti salad. Mint-flavored waters are very refreshing.
Clean socks and a fresh shirt at lunch make you feel almost-clean. Although I would have liked to keep my Day-Glo mango-colored shirt on for the whole day versus just the morning …it’s a very distinct color.
Wearing my Camelbak in the afternoon was a very good idea. I would have been so dehydrated without it, because two water bottles on the front of my saddle would not have been enough. It was really warm for a few hours in the afternoon, and I drained all 70 oz. of the pack, plus one additional water bottle and half of a vitamin water.
I loosened Mimi’s crupper a notch from where I had it adjusted, and I didn’t have problems with the buckle rubbing, or with the back of my pad starting to scrub her loins. The saddle slid forward a bit going downhill, but it moved back as soon as the trail leveled out or when uphill.
Beamer is really growing up. I’m really proud of how well he and Dad are doing together. He handle the start of the ride beautifully, and only offered one tiny crowhop within the first three miles. He also lead most of the way for the first loop, and he stayed a lot perkier and cheerful throughout the whole ride. He never really hit a mopey, “must stop and eat or I will commence sulking” moment. We let them graze a couple times throughout the second loop, as well as giving them the carrots I was carrying in my saddle., and I think that really helped. And he really liked his hackamore on the second loop.
I felt really good during and after the ride. I felt really good about the fact I was able to manage myself on a limited regimen of Motrin, just due to some careful attention to a vitamin balance, and healthier eating. In the past, I’ve relied on sugar and Motrin to get me through, and this time, I only took a few Motrin for the entire ride, and very limited junk food - a handful of kettle-cooked potato chips, and half of a mango gel I split with Dad (sort of an upscale, lower sugar Jell-O from Fresh ‘n Easy). I’ve got some sore calves today, but I think that’s more a function of posting a trot for 45 of 50 miles, and I don’t feel any more sore than after the Wickenburg 25 in January.
Overall, the Renegades did fantastic. I had a minor problem with Mimi interfering with her front boots trotting in the deep sand wash, but that was due to a sizing error on my part, and Kirt Lander was able to fix everything for me during the lunch break, and I never touched the boots for the entire second half. Look for a separate post to follow on my very positive experience with using Renegades and working with Kirt and Gina Lander.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Sometimes I wonder if I wasn't too hasty in making my Tevis ultimatum last fall, and pinning all of my future plans on the successful completion of one ride, a notoriously difficult ride at that. I recognize I was in somewhat of a depressive state last fall, and maybe declaring that "we finish Man Against Horse or Tevis is off" might have been extreme. The stars aren't always in alignment for every ride, and one unsuccessful ride doesn't mean the end of a career. Who knows what would have happened at MaH if the weather had been better, or we had done better on time?
On the flip side, a grand total of 2 50-mile completions doesn't mean we can finish Tevis. But I still want to try. If it was closer, and I had my qualification miles, I would do it, just to say my pony and I tried. The 2 day, 800-something miles, $300 in gas trip makes me a little more hesitant. Not to mention I still need 200 more qualifying miles. There's enough rides between now and then...unfortunately, they're all out of state.
I've got Tevis fever, bad. And the couple months break was good for me. I've come back much more refreshed and optimistic again. Pony's bright eyes and cheerful whinny yesterday were also a good sign.
Part of me doesn't even want to go there, not even take the risk...but then there's a part of my that says, "You don't know until you try. Have faith." There's no day like today, and I don't know where I'll be at with my life come next summer, or how long it'll take me to get established in my career and start acting like an actual grown-up, and when I'll have another horse in that kind of condition. The next few years are going to be hectic as I finish school, move out on my own, and settle into my life and career. I'll be lucky enough to have time to breathe, let alone get an endurance horse in condition for Tevis.
I promise there will be more to come on this subject as I spend the next several weeks hashing out the pros and cons, potential ride plans, etc. And come up with some fast access to money.
After getting pulled at 40 miles for being overtime at Man Against Horse, combined with her movement being “off” without being discernibly lame, we took a few months off. I was very busy with school, and a bit frustrated at not having completed two 50s in a row (a RO pull at Devil Dog in June, then the OT pull at MaH), and a bit ready for a break. Mimi needed a break, too.
Time off until the first of the year was what we both needed, and we hit the conditioning trail again. I wasn’t sure of her fitness and soundness levels enough to take her to Wickenburg -- I hadn’t done enough hard training rides on her to have a fair assessment. But a month later, her antics and good spirits told me she was ready -- and for more than a 25. Horses really do retain a good portion of their conditioning, even during time off, as long as they have enough turnout. We were going to sign up for the 50 at Valley of the Sun.
The week leading up to the ride was typically busy for me, and I ended up cramming the majority of my packing for the ride into Thursday, with the exception of a couple of hours in the morning for school. The weather report had been steadily warming up over the past weeks, and the ponies both had large amounts of winter fluff on them, despite gradually shedding. That meant they both got a fast clip job on their necks and flanks, then a bath.
Mimi hadn’t had a bath since October (I don’t like the cold water any more than she does) and was rather colorful. Her white flanks are still a striking, day-glow yellow color from her preference for sleeping where she goes to the bathroom. *long-suffering sigh from the white pony owner*
Thursday night was a late night getting to bed, trying to get everything packed up, and then an even earlier morning Friday morning in order to be up to McDowell Mountain Park by 8a.m. to help ribbon some of the trail. We got the ponies set up at the trailer, and they spent the morning stuffing their faces while Dad and I ribboned part of the trail off bikes. I’m not the bravest biker, and the section I ribboned wasn’t the most bike-friendly, which meant I walked a lot of it.
After ribboning, we went out for a short pre-ride, and to finish ribboning the two miles of sand wash that lead in and out of camp, a section I certainly wasn’t going to try to bike through. We flushed an owl out of the bushes near the top of the wash, less then 10 feet in front of Beamer’s nose. I wish I would have had my camera out, but as it was, my hands were full of ribbons.
Thanks to an early briefing, I was able to get to bed very early, and actually slept very well for a pre-ride night. The ponies got their breakfast -- alfalfa and carrots were the preferred options, but both deigned to nibble on about half of their beet pulp. The time seemed to really fly between waking and ride start, and before I knew it, we were walking up to the start and down into the wash for the first 25-mile loop. The ride would be two loops of 25 miles in length, with a one-hour vet check at camp between the two loops.
We walked for about 10 minutes, then picked up an easy trot. The sand wash lead up to one of the wide single-track trails that we turned south on and followed across the valley and gradually made our way up to one of the low ridges of the mountains -- the Pemberton Trail. The trail turned into a lovely single track that followed along the top of the ridge for a while, then dropped down onto a service road that took us to the first water stop of the morning.
Both ponies drank at the stop, then we went back out the same way until we hit the Pemberton Trail again. We followed the Pemberton for a while, then got off on another trail that lead to the next checkpoint and water stop. From there, it was maybe another five miles back to camp (two miles being the sand wash that was the only way in and out of camp) for our vet check and lunch.
Both ponies pulsed down to the required 60 within a minute of coming in, including time for taking a drink. We vetted them through -- all A’s for both -- then hustled back to the trailer for lunch. It was starting to warm up -- temperatures for the day were predicted to be in the mid 80’s -- and the shade, cool food, and the chance to sit were very welcome.
Lunch flew by, and we actually ended up leaving about 40 minutes late, as I had to do some emergency fiddling with my front Renegades. Fortunately, Kirt and Gina Lander were attending the ride, and Kirt was on hand to be able to do a quick refit. The Landers have been so wonderful to work with, and I love using the Renegades. They’ve been very low maintenance, and they are so easy to use. And I can’t stress enough how great Kirt and Gina are to work with. They’ve been on hand at nearly every ride I’ve been to in the past year, sizing and fitting boots, and checking on boots at vet stops. Their level of personal customer service is unparalleled, and is just one of the reasons I hold their product in such high regard.
The extra time was nice for the ponies, though, and gave them an extra chance to snooze. Mimi had a minor meltdown panic attack when I went to electrolyte her -- mental note: Make sure she’s not tied off in any way while e’lyting. No harm done, just a little bit of minor mental trauma on the part of the syringe-paranoid one. She’s very unimpressed with the whole applesauce-e’lyte mix, so I think I’m better off using the concentrated paste e’lytes in small doses. She doesn’t seem to take as much offense to those smaller syringes as she does the larger, clear ones for the applesauce mixes.
Then we were out on trail, up the wash…again. Both ponies kind of trudged out this time. I think they were both sulky about the wash, as this was the fifth time they had been through it -- out and back ribboning, and out and back for the first loop. We trudged about halfway up, letting them warm up, then starting trotting as soon as it got more shallow. They both perked up again once we hit the Pemberton Trail, although we turned the other way this time and headed north to the turnoff for the Scenic Trail, a single-track trail that climbed up the side of a mountain and traveled along the top of a ridge for several miles before dropping back down and reconnecting to the Pemberton Trail.
There was another water stop a little ways after, at the intersection of the Pemberton Trail and one of the park roads. Both ponies drank well, which was a relief as the afternoon had been steadily warming up. I made it through the first loop with two water bottles, and that was sufficient, but I put my Camelbak water pack on for the second loop, and I was certainly glad for it.
We continued on the Pemberton Trail for a while, and part of the section was a service road with footing good enough to canter, which was a nice break. Fortunately, this section of the park has a few more trees, so there were more shade patches along this trail. It was easy to get into a nice rhythm on this trail of trotting, broken up by short breaks of walking to give the ponies a breather, and to give our various protesting body parts a chance to rest.
About halfway through this section of the Pemberton, we came across one of the herds of loose horses that live in the park. Some are wild mustangs, some are loose ranch horses that have been turned out. It was really cool to see them grazing out there, although I didn’t get any pictures. Mimi was a little too interested in wanting to make friends, so we hustled through that area.
The Pemberton Trail turned down a wash that we followed for a few miles before coming out to the same second water stop as on the first loop. Both ponies really sulked when we turned and had to backtrack to pick up another trail -- one that headed away from camp. Both were sure we riders had lost our minds, and sulked down the trail for the next four miles or so.
I think this was the proverbial “wall” they hit, which I don’t think was bad at all. It resulted in a slouchy walk from Mimi (who earlier had been walking out at 5mph) and an incessant urge to stop and graze alongside the trail. The latter request we indulged in whenever we could find decent grass versus toxic weeds. Rule of thumb: If it grows well in the desert, it’s probably toxic. We got some good practice in the “trot when you can” principle -- I could coax about 50-100 feet of trot on smooth trail out of her, then we’d walk as soon as we hit a slight downhill grade or any rocks.
Fortunately, we soon turned onto the trail that would take us home -- a very gradual downhill, winding single track that was smooth and well groomed, meaning we could trot the majority of it, save for when my lower back, unimpressed with the idea of downhill trotting on an already downhill-built pony, needed a couple minute break. I hadn’t remembered riding this trail when we had trained at McDowell in the past, but Dad did, and so did Mimi. As soon as we turned onto it, she perked right up, and was happily trotting along.
She had one hilarious spook that involved her getting in touch with her quarter horse breeding and trying to bury her butt in the trail when she caught sight of a barrel cactus 10 feet off the trail and stopped fast. Fortunately, all she did was stop and do her best “bug-eyed, arch-necked Arabian” impression, which meant I didn’t end up with a mouthful of pony mane. It does make me feel good when they throw in playful spooks like that at the end of a ride, because it means they still have the energy to pay attention to their surroundings, and to bother to spook at something.
We connected back up with the Pemberton Trail (which makes one big loop around the entire park, and much of the trail involved riding from one section of it to another) and back up to the wash for the final time, down the last two miles of sand wash, and across the finish line. I think we finished around 5:30, and our goal had just been to finish before dark.
We took the ponies back to the trailer and untacked them, then vetted them out. Mimi got all A’s on everything except gait, where she got a B…the vet said it looked like she was slightly crampy in her right hind. I’m not sure whether it was that, or the fact she’s 16, and we’ve been battling fusing hocks for the last two years. I’m more inclined to believe the vet’s theory, though, as Dad had been travelling behind us for most of the second loop and said she was moving beautifully, and completely normal for her. Which is to say, she still has an eggbeater trot. Floaty, elastic Arabian we are not. But the sun was rapidly dropping, a breeze had picked up, and despite her fleece blanket, I’m guessing she got a little crampy and chilled.
Completion awards were chapsticks donated by Susan Favro from Healthy as a Horse, and our ride photographs. The photographer got a great action shot of Dad and Beamer in the morning, a good one of the two greys together in the morning, and a cute one of me and Mimi in the late morning. Dad and Beamer’s late morning one is amusing, as Beamer is giving the photographer the “evil eye.”
Given that McDowell is only an hour away from the barn, we chose to pack up and leave that evening. It takes us a couple hours to pack everything up, so the ponies got a chance to relax and eat. I was a little worried at this point, as Mimi hadn’t peed at all on the second loop. She finally peed once she got in the trailer, and it was darker yellow than I like to see it.
Continuing the saga, when we got back to the barn and turned them out in the arena to roll, Mimi rolled, but then got up, paced around a few minutes, then laid down on her side, back legs really stiff and looking very uncomfortable. She stayed that way for about 30 seconds, then got up. I lead her back to her stall, and walked her slowly around in her stall for a couple minutes. She looked stiff in her hind end, and very mopey. For such a tough pony on trail, she is very obvious, and kind of a wimp when it comes to discomforts.
After about 30 minutes, she seemed to relax, started whiffling up hay bits, then slurped up the rice bran water I poured over her grass hay, making sneering ugly-mare faces at Beamer all the while. This afternoon, she seemed totally back to normal, giving me one of her loud, high-pitched pony screeches as I walked (okay, lurched…my calves hate me right now) up the driveway. She’s definitely in better shape than I am.
Both of their legs look really good, and I’m especially impressed with how Mimi’s looked. She’s got permanent windpuffs from years of use, but I figured there would be a lot more fill and swelling after all of yesterday’s trotting. I was pleasantly surprised to see she had no more fill than after one of our moderate training rides. Beamer’s back was perfect, and Mimi’s was good except for some pressure around the stirrup bars. I’d been playing with some extra foam inserts in the front of my saddle to try to compensate for her downhill built and make it slightly more level for me, but I suspect that it might tip the saddle back a bit too much and put too much pressure on the stirrup bars and back half.
They both got e’lyted, and a pan of wet beet pulp, then I left them alone. I figured they would be sick of seeing us, but they were both cheerful and in good spirits. Me, I’m seriously crunchy feeling, and as I finish this off (Monday morning), I’m even more sore, and feel somewhat wiped out. First thought: How do people ride 100s? Second thought: Can we go down to Sonoita next weekend? :)