Thursday, October 4, 2007

We're off to see the...mountain?

Mingus Mountain, to be exact, for the Man Against Horse endurance ride! Woohoo! Just a quick post, because there's no way I could catch up on everything that's happened since August. Let's just say life has been nuts. Thank goodness for well-conditioned horses that can stand to miss a couple days here and there.

Naturally, we had to have some nail-biting tension 2 weeks before the ride when Pony went lame. Turned out she jsut had some muscular stuff that was off. Darla Vanni with A Midas Touch Equine Massage worked her magic and returned my pony to good as new, and we're ready to roll!

The trailer is packed (except for my duffel bag and saddle), the horses came flyingin from pasture this afternoon for their baths. They're ready to go, Go, GO! We're planning to pull out of the barn by 8:30 tomorrow morning and get up to camp nice and early so we can preride and let Beamer get his heebie-jeebies out, since this is going to be his first endurance ride! He's got 3 NATRC rides under his cinch now, and a brain in his head, so we're hoping this'll go off without a hitch. This ride is old hat for Mimi...this will be our 3rd year doing it. And this ride is always special to me, since it was my first AERC ride. We're only doing the 25 this time, for Beamer's sake. And because life hasn't given me the time I would like to have them ideally conditioned for a 50. But now that the weather is breaking, we're on the path to a 50 once more!

Friday, August 24, 2007

A fun night ride!

San Tan Mtn Park
"The big loop" - main road to Fox Wash to the 4 lane highway to west hills down to backside wash up the trotting road across to the big rock wash and double track road home.

Went out for my first night ride at the San Tans last Saturday...what a blast! There were a group of 4 of us that met up and rode for about 3 hours...myself, Stephanie Palmer-DuRoss, her husband Pete, and friend Denise Martin.

Amazingly, all 4 of us were riding mares, and not a single hoof or tooth flew during the entire ride! We went for the big loop that runs out to the backside of the park and along the back wash. The park has made that into an official trail now! The downside is that means more traffic on it when the weather gets nicer...ick...but at least they're giving us more trails again! Yay! And parts of that trail really could do with some more improvement. Now they need to fix the north hill climb other than just posting a sign that says "dangerous trail ahead."

But this was my first time riding down at the park at night, and only Mimi's second night ride. She did so amazingly well! I'm so proud of her...she had a blast. Stephanie and I took turns switching off leading, and when I wasn't leading, I relegated the pony to the back of the pack, and she actually did so well back there. I think the fact that we did so much trotting really helped make her happy.

The one downside was my Easyboot Bares were giving me fits...her front ones are a little big, and one of them got so filled with sand that the gaiter ripped off and I lost one of the boots. Well, I retrieved it, but that still left her bootless in the front, so I yanked off her back boots. They're old enough now that they are flexible enough to cram on her front feet, so that's what I did for her fronts, and we went barefot in the back for the last half of the ride. Fortunately, the second half of the loop involves a lot of sand wash.

It was so awesome coming back through the sand wash with the big horse-eating rocks. She tiptoed by the rocks, then we lead the way back through the sand wash. She was going at her big pony trot, not spooking at anything, on a loose rein. I just did my best "well-balanced bump on a log" impression and she went flying down the wash. Didn't even use any glowsticks or anything...I had them on my breastcollar, but never used them...those suckers are expensive, and I didn't want to waste the money when we were out in full darkness for less than an hour. But I felt like I didn't even need them, which is awesome.

It's amazing what being on a well-trained horse you're accustomed to can do for a confidence booster. I've got a really good feeling about the night portion of Tevis now...Mimi was less trippy and spooky in the dark than in daylight!

We pissed off a big-ass rattlesnake around dusk. We were all trotting down the wash, came around a curve, and sprayed a snake that was huddled int he corner with a bunch of sand...he was so mad! I was at the back of hte pack, and by the time I reached him, he was hissing and rattling! I don't know how big he was...I just got a glimpse of him, but he looked big. And mad. Mimi cantered by him. :)

Seriously, though, it was a lot of fun, and I think I'll be riding at night more often now.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Pony Power!

From the USET:


Pony power wins for the USA!

Theodore "Teddy" O'Connor led the U.S. Eventing team to both team and individual Gold at the Pan American Games in Rio this past weekend. In addition, Miranda Caldwell drove her ponies to individual Gold in the Pairs division at the Combined World Pony Driving Championships in Dorthealyst, Denmark. It was quite a showing all around.

At the Pan American Games the Eventing team seized the lead from the very beginning and never let go. The team earned the Gold medal with a combined score of 162.80, far outstripping the Silver medal Canadian team at 211.10 and the host Brazilian team at 235.60. Teddy, the 14.1 hand Thoroughbred/Arabian/Shetland cross, ridden by owner Karen O'Connor, placed third in dressage, led through the difficult cross country phase, and finished with a clear round in stadium jumping. Phillip Dutton, riding Truluck (owned by Ann Jones and Shannon Stimson), was extremely close to O'Connor's score, finishing only 1.1 point behind. Completing the victorious team were Gina Miles on McKinlaigh (owned by Thomas Schultz and Laura Coats) and Stephen Bradley on Charlotte Harris' From.

The U.S. team also swept the first four places in the individual standings with Karen O'Connor (Teddy), Gold; Phillip Dutton (Truluck), Silver; Gina Miles (McKinlaigh), Bronze; and Darren Chiacchia on Better I Do It (owned by Adrienne Iorio), fourth. Stephen Bradley finished 13th overall and Mara Dean retired her mount, Nicki Henley, during the cross country phase.

Meanwhile, in Denmark, the USA's Miranda Caldwell and her ponies took the individual Gold medal in the Pairs division by a slim 0.73 points over Germany's Steffen Abicht. In the team competition, the U.S. finished with a Bronze medal behind Germany and the Netherlands. The team consisted of Rochelle Temple and Suzy Stafford (Singles), Miranda Caldwell and Tracey Morgan (Pairs) and Allison Stroud and Laurie Astegiano (Four-In-Hand).

A marvelous weekend all around for U.S. teams!

Up next is Show Jumping at the Pan American Games, with team and individual competition starting on Thursday.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tevis Musings

After coming to the conclusion that I am a sad, obsessive person, I accepted that fact, then went back to organizing my new "Tevis Notebook."

I am officially 364 days away from my goal now. Which means every opportunity to train must be taken advantage of. Not that it wasn't I said, I train a lot more than I actually compete. We've probably been ready for 50s for the last couple years, but I tend to be a bit on the cautious side, and that in this partnership, I'm the one likely to be categorized as "The Weakest Link." And I don't even like that show!

I started putting together a list of things I need before The Big Day. A few little things, here and there, that I'd need anyway, but my 3 big purchases: sheepskin cover for the saddle, crew cart, and DryBack Skito pad. Well, ideally, a new truck as well... *grin* aren't we the optimist...then I can berate Dad to drive carefully with "my" rig...;) Kidding, Dad, if you're reading this! *big grin* He's the better driver than me, anyway, so likely the roles would be reversed...

Is it sad that I already have a travel plan in place? And am scouting out hotels? I'm trying to figure out how much time I want to give myself beforethe ride. I've come to the conclusion that, as much as I would like to go up for the Educational Ride, if they repeat that next year, I think I'd just be pushing it. It's just a little too close to the ride for my comfort, especially with the distance involved in travel. I think my preriding will be limited to the week before the ride, and I'll probably just ride past No Hands and back. Maybe to the Quarry, but even that's pushing it further than I want to do right before the ride.

I'm going into the ride at a disadvantage - Mimi may be the Go Pony, but she's a little small (don't tell her that - she thinks she's 16 hands...proof that maybe half of it is just in your mental perspective) and has small feet. I don't know. I haven't even gotten to a 50 yet, so all of this might be for naught, and I could be counting my chickens before they hatch, but I need a goal to works towards. Besides, you never know until you try, right?

The odds are against me finishing. But the odds are against anyone finishing. I'm not sure that I'm any further behind in that regard than anyone else is - taken from the same perspective, that being a first time rider that doesn't have regular access to the trail, or a horse that is a natural competitor. Well, take that last part back - Mimi is a natural competitor, at least mentally. But she requires more management, physically, than a standard Arab that can be pulled out of the pasture, conditioned for several months, then taken to an LD. We've definitely had more than the recommended 2 years of LSD training - closer to 5, truth be told!

So, the countdown towards my "moment of truth" we have what it takes to become a Tevis Team?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Hitting the ground oozing...

No, I'm not dead. I was just busy, busy, busy. Graduation hit, and my life went crazy. I'm still real job hunting, working, and riding.

It's way too hot to ride right now, but for some crazy reason, I'm still out there. My CoolMedics vest is saving my life. Except now it's humid, so the vest doesn't help. I hate monsoon season.

It's been pretty quiet on the ride front, although I'm the sad, obsessive person that has my ride schedule planned out through summer of next year, where I hope to go to Tevis! Last ride was over Memorial Day weekend...Descanso NATRC. Did both days, finished, although that was the slowest timed ride I have ever been at. Honestly, I'm not even sure if the overall speed was within NATRC-legal limits. And for an oprganization that is so gung-ho about its rules and regulations...

Needless to say, Mimi was pissed, having to go so slow. I'm not going to do a whole write-up of the ride, just because 1) that was almost 2 months ago and 2) it really wasn't my favorite ride, and I just don't feel like putting the energy into it. The highlights:

  • Cuyamaca State Park is beautiful. I hadn't been there in about 4 years, so the last time I saw it was pre-fire. It was sad to see all the damage that the fire caused, but amazing to see how fast things were regenerating, and how tough some of those old oak trees are to withstand the flames. Sunday morning, part of the trail went through the area of the park that hadn't burned - wow! It was beautiful, but I was so glad I have a horse that is agile, pays attention to her feet, and is small. Parts of the trail were quite overgrown, so I'm thinking that in a sense, the fire might have been a good thing, as it cleared off a lot of the invasive underbrush from the other trails.
  • Got to see and ride with Kaity again, for the first time in about a year and half. Mimi and Sonny took turns being Bad Pony on Saturday.
  • I was really happy with the horsemanship performance Mimi allowed me to put in. She was so well behaved for the obstacles, which included, in true CP fashion, an off-side mount, opening and closing a gate, a sidepass, and a downhill back, to name a few. I actually got 2nd place in horsemanship.
  • We need to work on the whole "impulsion without losing out mind" at check in/out. Mimi starts being lazy and she gets marked off for lameness that isn't actually there. But if I get her too animated, she starts bouncing around, thus losing me points for "lack of control." Pfffft. AERC, here we come. They just want to see forward movement, and prefer to see the horse dragging its rider along. :)

Ride pics:

Me and Mimi Sunday morning. This was just after you spent some time weaving through the unburned part of the forest, where some of the grass was as high as my head! Granted, short horse + short rider doesn't make that quite as impressive, but meh. The trail ended up on the top of a slight plateau, where there were these field of purple flowers carpeting the hills. We went on a fire road for a while, then all the way back down to the bottom of the hill. Gotta test out those cruppers, y'know. ;)

Dad and Beamer, Saturday morning. Beamer's 3rd NATRC ride, and it's safe to say we have a competition horse. He really rearranged his brain in the 6 weeks between First of Spring and Descanso and he really has his head together now. HE only put in a couple little crowhops within the first 5 miles of the ride, when we were doing some power trotting on the fire road. Dad said it was fun. :) Crazy man.

So what's next for us? Still plugging away, even in the heat. Dad's getting a new saddle, so after that happens, we'll be able to pick up the training in earnest again. We'll probably hit up Prescott and the Groom Creek area, where Michael and Julia Elias of Horses Dacor live. They've invited us to come up and ride with them some time. Precott = higher elevation = cooler temps. I'm in! Plus, I never pass up a chance to ride with experience endurance riders. Helps give me a better sense of speed and timing as well.

I'm planning a 3 day overnight camping trip over Labor Day weekend up to Flagstaff and Little Elden Springs Horse Camp, one of AZ's premier horse camps. Better call and make reservations now. There are over 200 miles of trails that base out of that camp, so I think it's safe to say that will be a good training weekend.

Man vs. Horse in October is our next ride, and we're probably just going to do the 25. Had to put Bryce Canyon on hold, unfortunately. Maybe next year... But I love M v. H! It was my first AERC ride, and it's a total blast! Not to mention, the runner stations are very generous and let you pig out on junk food they supply for the runners. After that, who knows? I'd ideally like to hit up Paso Del Norte and do the 50's 3 weeks after M v. H.

I'd love to do Death Valley this year, too! Dad probably won't join me on that adventure...I don't think I've managed to corrupt him into being that extreme yet. So I either need to have my own hauling vehicle by then, or bum a ride from someone. My goal is to have my 300 Tevis qualifying miles ideally by March.

Some of my thoughts about Tevis, and why I truly do think I can do it with only a year of 50s under my belt. Despite what Indiana Jones says, in this case it is the years, not the miles. I've owned Mimi for going on 11 years. She and I have done everything together, short of carting and 3 day eventing. While I don't have that many competition miles, I have been training, conditioning and competing for the last 6 years. I condition a lot more than I compete.

Before we started doing distance work, Mimi already ahad a good base on her from our showing days. POA shows were all day affairs, starting with lunging the tar (and the bucks) out of them at 6 in the morning, to finish up doing 18 second gymkhana barrel runs at 9:00 at night. Those ponies had to have some stamina to be able to handle all that we asked them to do. Flat classes, jumping classes, high speed reining classes...

Naturally, the idea of doing Tevis revolves around the ability to complete 50s, since we haven't yet managed to get on one of those...*grin*. But Mimi's not called the go-pony for nothing, so Tevis 2008, here we come!

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Windy Riding!

San Tan Mtn Park
San Tan Trail-Fox Wash-rocky road-Goldmine trail-rocky hill
probably ~10 miles...someone forgot to turn her GPS on...:) but it was all walking, so I'm guessing ~3mph average?

Weeheee...Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas least, that's what it felt like today! It was win-dy! Wow! I have no idea how strong the wind was blowing, but I do know Mimi's mane was blowing all over the place - and that's even in braids!

What is this, practice for Death Valley? With the way the wind has been blowing, I'll be really experienced with picking sand and grit out of my teeth...

Today was a really good ride, though, especially considering the wind. The saddle just gets more and more comfortable, and Mimi is still loving it. Hardly anyone was out riding, and we didn't run into any hikers or bikers. Yay! I'm guessing half the distance rider contingent that rides down there was at a ride somewhere this weekend...I know Mt. Carmel is going on up in Utah. *jealous*

Got some good "slithering down rocky trails" practice today...walked probably a mile and half on the really rocky road and down the big rocky hill. Rumor has it the park people are looking to fix the road that runs to the top of the mountain - and dead ends. Really fun trail to go up...noy so good to get back down. I call it our Arizona Cougar Rock, and it really is - at least from the pics I've seen of Cougar Rock - but it's not fun trying to ride back down it. So that would be the one trail that I would beg them to get their kicks and "trail fixing" giggles out on.

And so we enter into the week of chaos. I'm graduating Thursday, so I have family coming in Monday and Wednesday. We're refinishing the satillo tile in the house and repainting bathrooms. I have 2 tests left and 2 papers still to write. And Descanso NATRC coming up in 3 weeks. Funfun...

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

For Us Crazy Distance Riders

For All of Us “Crazy Distance Riders”

This is for the riders in spandex tights and helmets
For the riders who skip family events to attend a ride
For the riders who can still trot their horse out for the final vet check, even after being stepped
on, bitten, slimed, concussed and broken
For the riders who can park a their rig in the middle of the night – after ridecamp is already full

This is for the riders who know exactly how their horse is doing just by looking in their eyes
For the riders who know exactly how valuable a roll of BodyGlide is
And who can still smile despite needed to use an entire roll of BodyGlide
For the riders who can find a cell phone signal in the middle of a remote ridecamp

This is for the riders who know that “To Finish Is To Win”

This is for the passion we hold, the drive we share, and the will to win.

We know what it feels like to close your eyes at night and still feel that you’re on the back of your horse…oh, wait, that’s because it’s mile 90 of a hundred miler, and you still are on your horse!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Weekend Wrapup

San Tan Mtn Park
East fenceline - San Tan Trail - over Saddle Mtn - trotting road - San Tan Trail - Goldmine Trail - rocky hill road
8 miles, 3.4mph average moving

Hooray for Epics working for Beamer! About time we didn't loose any boots. And we did a lot of trotting today, and rode the rockier trail in the park, the one we like to call the "Easyboot Eating" trail because invariably, someone would usually loose a boot. Not today! We did have to compromise and just tape plain Easyboots on his hind feet, cause the gaiters were rubbing at the area where he scraped himself at First of Spring. But they stayed on! And no rubbing on the front Epics.

Here's Beamer being a sweetie to Dad. He is such a touchy-feely horse. Whenever he gets scared, all you have to do is touch him on the neck and he calms down. It's been a rocky start, but I think we're finally getting somewhere. He's done 2 NATRC rides this far, with a 3rd one planned for a month from now. We're planning his first 50 mile endurance ride for this summer, either hte Devil Dog 50 in Williams in July, or one of the days of the Bryce Canyon XP in September.

It was a really nice weekend to be out, overall. It's starting to get warm - mid 90's yesterday and today. But it's still cooling down at night and is really nice early in the morning. The heat conditioning is important for the horses, and us, as well. A lot of the desert plants are blooming right now - hedgehog cactus, the last of the ocotillo, greasewood. Those are pretty, but par for the course. What I love about right now is the saguaros and ironwoods are starting to bloom!

Mimi was really, really good today, too. She was such a pill yesterday, that today was a nice chance. She was kind of goofy early on when I hopped off to lead down the hill that goes over the saddle. It's a nice single track that goes down, does a switchback, then goes down some more. Well, she decides that instead of walking down the trail, she's going to climb on the pile of granite next to the trail. :) That really didn't work so well, and she almost face-planted, something I haven't seen her do in a while. Hopefully she learned her lesson about staying on the trail.

I finally remembered to get a picture of my new mascot:
This little fellow has been living with me since the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. He was my companion at Arizona Girls State, one week of sheer political hell and way too much estrogen in enlosed spaces. You know you've gone crazy when you start talking to a stuffed animal.
So on a whim, I stuffed him into my bag to go to First of Spring. I had been closet cleaning and found him. Well, he's been living in my pommel bag ever since. He doesn't have a name yet, but as is readily apparent, he's a long way off from the African safari!
I like to think this is also a way of honoring Merri Melde's Raven, who is MIA somewhere in Brisbane, Australia right now. While I've never had to opportunity to meet the Raven (or Merri for that matter...maybe when she gets back from all her traveling!), I follow their blog adventures. Merri, may you someday get your traveling companion back!
Ride countdown: 4 weeks until Descanso, aka the NATRC Region 2 Cuyamaca Benefit Ride. This is my idea of how to spend a holiday weekend!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Saturday ride + Dust storm

San Tan Mtn Park
Scary Rock wash - up Cliff wash - back down Cliff wash - trotting road - San Tan trail
8 miles, 3.2 mph average moving

Oh, what fun...a PMSy horse and PMSy poor father. He had to listen to us bitch back and forth at each other all day. Well, actually it was rather one sided, since pony doesn't really say anything...

Did a lot of wash work today, mostly trotting in them. Would have been a mostly good ride except for Beamer lost an Easyboot down in the big sand wash near the cliffs, and we didn't discover it until about a mile later...whoops.

So we walked. And walked. Got my exercise in! This would be in a rather deep sand wash, of course. Found the boot. Have to say, it was getting a little warm by this time. That's 2 rides in a row now, same boot each time. Tomorrow, Epics. Beamer's heels will just have to get over it.

By the time we got back to the barn, there was quite a thunderhead forming out to the southeast, and by the time we unhitched the trailer, cleaned and waterers out, and played with Kelly, there was a huge dust storm heading our way. Scrambled and brought Mimi and Beamer in from the pasture, quite literally just in time. Mimi and I were jogging into the barn at the same time the first wave of dust hit...

It's still blowing outside. There's been a few spittles of rain, but not enough to even get the ground wet. Hopefully those clouds do more than just blow some dust around...we need the rain to cool things off!

EDIT: Forgot to add...found the saddle pad that works! Plain Woolback, nothing on top of it or anything. I think the problem with the others was they were too thick, and this saddle doesn't need a thick's very well cushioned and has a nice wool felt flocking in the panels.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Distance by the Numbers

So I started playing with some numbers today (yes, I was bored) while waiting for my best friend to get out of class.

I've been doing distance riding now for 6 years since 2001. In that time, I've competed on 3 different horses - 1 I have owned, 2 have been borrowed. I've only ever finished rides on the horse I've owned.

I personally have an 80% completion rate. I've competed in a total of 25 rides, with pulls in 5 of them:

5/5 Limited Distance rides
0/1 Endurance rides
15/19 NATRC rides

Conclusion? I'm a neurotic wimp, as 4 of the 5 pulls have been rider-optioned. The 1 pull that was not my choice was my first NATRC ride, when the horse I was riding (borrowed), did not pulse down in time. Pulled 2 miles from the finish. What an intro to distance riding.

3 of the pulls have been because I chose to save my horse, all on Mimi. Could she have continued on? Maybe. I chose not to risk it, though - 2 of those pulls were at the end of the first day of 2 day NATRC rides. One time I didn't like how she looked, movement-wise at checkout. There had been a lot of grassy hills that day, and she was slipping a lot on her half-round shoes (this is prior to me going barefoot and booted). The second time, she acted like she was colicky, and had spent the entire ride ADR (Ain't Doin' Right).

Third time was less than 7 miles into a ride (NATRC) and there had been a lot of deep sandwash, and I didn't have a chance to adequately warm her up for the cold, rainy conditions, and I felt she was trying to tie up a the vet check, so I pulled. I hate to admit this, but I was almost glad for the pull - it was cold and windy, with freezing cold rain, and I didn't have waterproof rain gear. And I'm supposed to be an endurance rider?

Finally, my endurance pull was a true rider option - I hate to say I wimped out, but the fact is, I did. Yeah, my ankle was hurt, and yeah, I literally couldn't support my own weight in the saddle, but I should have duct taped it, swallowed half a bottle of Motrin, and kept going! Okay, so I probably sound extremely off the deep end there, but that had to have been one of the most disappointing moments in my life, knowing that the horse was fine, but I wasn't. Made me feel really bad because it wasn't even my horse, but an experienced endurance horse offered to me by a friend so I could get some endurance experience. I still feel awful about that, and 1) have a score to settle with that trail and 2) still have to try and make it up to Cindy. :) So far, I'm failing miserably as an endurance rider, I haven't even been able to complete one 50!

I'm not quite sure what these numbers say about me, other than I'm conscientious to the point of being neurotic and quite possibly overprotective, and that I haven't yet learned the fine art of endurance "toughing it out", even when you're about to fall off the horse from being broken...

Now onto Mimi, who, I have to admit, makes me look the "the weakest link" in our little game show...

Mimi has an 87% completion rate. She's competed in 23 rides, with pulls in 3 of them:

5/5 Limited Distance rides
0/0 Endurance rides (we haven't yet managed to get to own little comedy of errors story)
15/18 NATRC rides

Her pulls have all been initiated by me - she wanted to keep going. She's had pulls for pretty much all of the reasons - lameness, colic, and metabolic. Hind-end muscle soreness, mild colic, and a mild tie up. None of them enough to keep her off for more than a week. We've had to miss rides because of some interesting reasons...bad shoeing, getting into a fight with the fence gate - and losing, saddle issues, bites on the back from (former) pasturemates...but those were all in advance.

Ironically enough, her pulls have all been in NATRC rides, most at a level that I consider to be "easier" than LD rides. Her first 2 pulls were at the Novice level -a slower pace, and at the end of the first day of 2 day rides. And you wonder why I thought she couldn't do higher level NATRC, let alone endurance?

I've since come to the conclusion that I can pin exactly what caused each pull, which takes a lot of weight off my mind (but not off my shoulders, since I'm to blame).

1) Chino Hills NATRC - hind-end lameness. This ride had a lot of big hills and climbing. Many of the climbs were on some slippery grass. She was shod, at the time, in half round shoes on her fronts, regular old flat shoes on the back. The half rounds gave her no traction, so she was compensating by using her hind end to balance herself a lot more than she was used to having to do. We also missed one of the turns, due to markers being tampered with, and went about 2 miles out of the way, which tacked on an extra 4 miles to the ride. Our mistake? Trying to make up for all of our lost time right away. There were a lot of hills, and we were trotting and cantering jup a lot of them.

The "Hindsight is 20/20" Lesson Learned: Use Easyboots on slippery terrain (not a problem now, since that's all I use!). Don't try to make up your lost time right away. Spread it out over the ride, and take a chance at getting time penalties, rather than pushing your horse. When a ride is called Chino HILLS, the Hills in the name is probably there for a reason. Try to train in what you plan to compete in.

2) River Romp NATRC - mild colic. I'm not going to get into the long story of this ride, which culminated in a veterinarian error and me almost having a dead horse. This happened almost 4 years ago, and I still shudder at the memory of it. Short story: It's almost a 12 hour drive out to Santa Ynez for us, so we go out a day ahead of time and stay at a ranch that's nearby basecamp. At that point, Mimi just wasn't quite "right" - ignoring her food, essentially, and looking kind of droopy. That alone should have been enough, but I was focused on the thought of "we just drove for 12 hours to do this ride, I'm going to do it."

She was ADR for the whole ride...nothing I could pinpoint, but something was off. It was really humid and foggy most of hte ride, and she was sweating, a lot, and not drinking normally. The ride was also timed super-fast, much faster than what we were used to. By the time we got to the two mile point, we were behind on time, and cantered them the last mile in. We made time, with no penalties. See lesson from above, and the "take the time penalties." Clearly I'm a slow learner. When we got back to the trailer, she decided to make up for her lack of drinking by nearly draining an entire 8 (I think?) gallon muck bucket that was her water bucket. Didn't think much of it at the time. She checked out great at the vet out. Got back to the trailer, and started acting a little uncomfortable, pawing and looking like she wanted to roll.
Mind you, I'm super-paranoid at this point, because we were camping with friends of ours who had to deal with a colic earlier at one of the spring rides.

Scrable for one of the vets, who says she has "diminished gut sounds", and he can give her some Banamine and make her more comfortable. Mind you, she's a wimp when it comes to discomfort. I mean, get her Comfort Pads in her EasyBares out of alignment, and we're talking heart rate spike! Never mind that she probably just drank too much and is uncomfortable from that, but acting like she's dying (note: this joke will not seem funny in a moment). So I okay the vet to give her Banamine...long and short of it, he injects her in the wrong place. Instead of taking the time to put the needle in her neck first, then attach the syringe, he just stick it in, misses the vein, and gets her artery. Needless to say, Banamine+Horse Brains=Bad, and the idiot could have killed Mimi is I hadn't yelled at him to stop what he was doing. Fortunately, he only got about half the syringe in before Mimi started staggering around and trying to fall over. I had no idea how my father, who is only about 160lbs himself, held her up, but he did, which probably saved her life. All I know is, I was screaming, quite hysterically, at this vet, and it took two of my friends I was camping with the hold me back from beating the living shit out of that guy. <:\ <- my best effort at a raised eyebrow "Hindsight Lesson": Take the timing penalties versus pushing the horse at the end. When your horse "Ain't Doin' Right", don't ride. I should have left her at the trailer, let Dad ride, and spent the day at the P&Rs. There's always another ride, unless you don't have a horse to ride. Don't let strange vets you don't know and aren't familiar with do IV injections. Insist on intra-muscular. Unless it's a life or death thing (which this almost was...ah, me and my sardonic, dark humor) you have time to wait for an IM injection to kick in. I've unfortunately been left with a distrust of anyone with needles after this experience, and the only person that can do anything IV with my horse now is our personal vet. I've since learned they make Banamine paste. I also never intended to go into this story. I've tried to push it to the back, dark little recesses of my mind. Clearly, it wanted out. Fortunately for all involved, I don't know the name of that vet, which is probably just as well. Mistakes happen, but when they are made at the expense of me or my horse, I tend to be rather unforgiving. I don't even want to go into a checklist of how many things were done wrong at that instance.

3) Desert Forest NATRC - tie up. My fault, 100%. I take full responsibility for this screw-up, and again, feel really bad that my mistake could have hurt my horse. This ride had the weirdest weather...threatening to rain all Friday afternoon, then cleared up by evening, still clear early Saturday morning, but right about the time it started to get light out, it started raining. Not downpouring, but a persistent, freezing cold rain that saturated everything. Gotta love the fine art of tacking up under a horse blanket.
My mistake here was that I was waiting for Dad to finish getting ready, when I should have been on my horse, at least walking her around on my side of the trailer. I hesitated to do so because I knew it would probably get Dad's mare Kelly worked up. The problem was by the time we were mounted, we had about 2 minutes until our out time, so not much time to warm up.
I also wrapped her rump rug up at this point because I didn't want her to get too heated up. Ah, cold weather riding naivete... We start out, and Kelly is fired up because of the cold weather, so she's walking fast. Mind you, she's a gaited horse, so she knows how to do this when she's motivated. Mimi has to scramble to keep up. There's maybe a 1/4 mile of smooth road, then the trail picks up with a lot of up and down, steep climbs before you drop down into a deep sand wash.
In an effort to not have this story be a long-winded repeat of the above, let me just say, we had a long trot into the P&R in deep sand wash on a horse not properly warmed up. What's this a recipe for? If you guessed tie up, you'd be 100% right. My first tie-up, oh goody.
Mimi didn't even truly tie up - I pulled before that could happen. She just didn't come down to her typical, low pulse of about 10 (40bpm) at the first check, she was hanging around 18 (72 bpm), so I knew something was wrong. She peed at the check, and it was a bit darker than usual, so I pulled her.
The vet was another one of questionable competence, at least in this case...he didn't even have a stethescope with him, he had to get someone to hunt one down for him. *eye roll* So needless to say, my gut instinct was telling me something other than what the vet was saying, so I opted to pull. And my inner wimp was happy to get out of that cold rain, and cold, soaking wet clothing. I heard some of the riders got snowed on later in the day. "Hingsight Lesson": WARMUP WARMUP WARMUP. No matter what, you always have time to giveyour horse a proper warmup. You can stand to go out a few minutes late. Rump rugs on in cold, rainy weather. Get waterproof rain gear (I have a beautiful Goretex packable jacket and pants now, gotta love Cabelas). No matter how many layers you have on, they will all get wet without this remarkable invention called Goretex. My pony stayed dry, cause she's had a nice Goretex blanket for the last 2 years. Teach your horses to back out of trailers. We had a hell of a time with Kelly, because she didn't want to get out of the trailer back at camp. Dad's always pulled when I've pulled...I tried to force him to keep going, but Kelly said "no way." I think she wanted out of the rain. :)

So what have I accomplished with this incredibly long (and long winded!) post, other than managing to depress myself?
- For being at this for 6 years, I have been to surprisingly few rides. I know people that do 25 rides in one year!
- I coddle my horse. She's a tough little bugger and I need to start loosening the kid gloves. She's done better with the faster speeds of LD endurance than poking along at Novice NATRC.
- NATRC is a good place to start, both horse and rider. It gives you the experience in a more controlled environment, so you learn to pick up on the subtle signs of oncoming problems, such as a tie up, in a setting that won't have you pushing your horse quite as hard as endurance requires.
- You always keep learning. It doesn't matter how many times I've been to a ride, or ridden the same trail, something is always different. For example, I've done the First of Spring NATRC ride for the last 5 years. 4 of those years have been at the Warner Springs location, on the same trail every year. Yet something always changes. This year was the first time Mimi has ever "lead the pack" at a ride, and I found out she's a lot more spooky when she has to clear out all the animals from the underbrush.
- I'm a crazy distance rider! Even with having some speed bumps along the way, I'm still hopelessly addicted to this sport. What am I doing right now? Planning out my ride schedule through July 2008. (In case anyone's curious, the culminating ride on my schedule, July 2008, is TEVIS! [Yeah, Tevis after I just spent the majority of my entry talking about how me and my horse have messed up at rides.])
- Don't keep making the same mistakes. I appear to be a slow learner in this regard, as far as timing goes...I've gotten better at it, though. This year's Desert Forest NATRC was a good example...I was behind on timing both days from technical difficulties with Easyboots, but I did manage to make up time, without pushing the horses too hard or too fast. I've also learned the joy of "claiming time" in me, every minute does count when you're held up at an obstacle or vet check.
- Half the challenge is just getting to the ride. Julie Suhr says Tevis is 1/3 rider, 1/3 horse, and 1/3 luck - I propose that this can be extended to all of distance riding, not just Tevis! I swear, half my battle is just reaching ridecamp. If not for my compedy of errors, I would have another 5 (I think?) rides added to my list. No promises of having completed them, but there would be more on this rate, I'll have a family before I have my first mileage milestone. (Actually, not true, because at Desert Forest, Mimi earned her 250 mile patch for NATRC...well, technically we both did, but she did the majority of the work!)

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday ride

San Tan Mtn Park
East Fenceline - Saddle wash - San Tan Trail - Moonlight Trail - Grey Fox wash - hill climb - main road
8 miles, 3.1mph average moving

We have our trails back! They cleared the debris out of the washes, pulled the "Area Closed" signs, got ride of the "Service Road" signs, and in general are letting ride wherever the heck we want again! Yay!

We promptly celebrated by riding one of our favorite not-yet-marked trails that parallels the east fenceline of the park, looped back down and took the "Moonlight Trail", aka the one that runs parallel to the big mountains in the middle of the park. Had to "educate" a few bikers that were under the misguided impression that they were on what they thought was a "bike exclusive" trail. Um, no. Try hell no. Multi-use trails. Which means you move for us.

One of our favorite sand washes, a nice little single track where we actually saw a grey fox once, has been reopened! Yay! We took that down, then climbed the big hill. Need to work on the hill trail - people haven't been riding it, and the rocks have been trying to reclaim it! I love my new saddle - my legs didn't swing back and hit Mimi in the stifles for once!

Took the main service road back, but when we reached the trailer, Dad discovered Beamer lost an Easyboot (again), so I hopped back on Mimi and we took off at a fast trot down the service road again. She was so happy - I let her fast trot and canter until we found the boot (about 3/4 of a mile back down the road), then we trotted all the way back to the trailer. I wanted to see how fast it took her to come back down to pulse-down parameters after fast speed work like that.

I'm pleased to say that after trotting and cantering anywhere between 10-12mph for 1 1/2 miles, she came into the parking lot with a pulse of 104, and pulsed down to 60 in less than 4 minutes. Granted, she only had done 6 1/2 miles prior to that, but I think it's a good place to start.

The Woolback worked much better today versus the Supracor. I think the Supracor rubs and grabs too much for her to be comfortable. She wasn't sore at all today with the Woolback, an today was a much tougher ride than Sunday. I do want to get the shaped A/P pad with billet straps, though, because this one was trying to migrate a bit, especially after my fast speed work.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

First of Spring ride story

Mid-afternoon dental appoinments really cut into the schedule and working with the horses time. Had enough time today to dash in, dab more goop on Beamer's dings, check to see that none of the horses got too enthusiastic with each other, then zip home, shower, change, and go see my novacaine-happy dentist. But I thought I would post my very long ride story from the First of Spring NATRC ride, April 14th.

First of Spring NATRC
April 2007
Warner Springs, CA

First things first: this is pretty long and wordy…I think I recounted almost every step of the ride! And I edited this from the original version!

First of Spring is always an interesting ride…for the majority of Region 2, it’s their first ride of the year. Many people chose to make this their first ride for various reasons: it’s fairly centrally located, it’s overall what I consider an easy ride, with smooth trail and essentially no hills. Historically though, FoS tends to be “one of those rides”, the kind where Murphy’s Law sets up permanent residence, and if it can go wrong, at least one person in camp will probably have it go wrong somewhere along the way.

This year was no exception. A record number of riders got dumped (my father included…more on that later), riders had major issues with crossing the multitudes of horse gates on the trail, people were way behind on their timing, and we were inundated with masses of bovines along the trail!

I think I set a new record in having stuff ready…the truck and trailer were both packed by 11:30 Thursday morning! With every ride, I just leave more and more stuff in the trailer, so I have to pack less each time. :) The ponies got their baths Thursday afternoon…it stayed nice and warm for Beamer’s bath, fortunately, but the wind picked up and some clouds started coming in about halfway through Mimi’s bath, necessitating a “shiver reaction” from the drama queen…culminated by some truly impressive slides, bucks and spins on the lunge line as I was trying to slow lunge her to dry her out. The neighbors had a new dump truck parked next to the round pen that was going to eat her…

And you thought bathtubs were just were for people... I prove that it's just as useful for tack cleaning! :)

Friday morning rolled around way too fast, despite getting to bed at 8:30. 2:30 in the morning is an inhumane time to be up. Packed the coolers, loaded them into the truck, then it was grab a piece of toast (and coffee!) and head down to the barn to pick up the ponies.

First stop was Gila Bend, a little less than 2 hours away. Breakfast at McDonald’s, and who should come rolling up but Patrick Cook, our farrier, who was also going to the ride. We just thought he was going to be leaving about 5 hours before us…turns out it was raining in the middle of the night, so he went back to bed. Dad turned the keys over to me at this point, and I got to experience driving our new truck (Chevy Silverado ¾ ton Duramax) on it’s first long-distance hauling trip! I’m still getting used to the ease of driving a diesel, and it just skimmed up the hills like it was on the ground. Going 70 mph on some of the hills between Gila Bend and Yuma at 2000 rpms…nice!

Pulled into El Centro (note: need to find a better gas station, or better yet, just stop in Yuma) around 10:30, stopped for gas and to give the horses some water and sloppy beet pulp. Ate a couple large handfuls of B.P. each, but didn’t drink much. Ate a carrot and apple each.

Gave the keys back to Dad at this point, because partway to the ride, there are a lot of hills coming out of Ocotillo Wells, something I’m not experienced with. It’s a narrow, 2 lane highway through twisty, curvy mountain roads, with oncoming traffic (often RVs) whipping around blind corners. I tried to nap, but the area around Anza Borrego is so pretty, in the dry, arid desert way. :)

Got into ridecamp about 12:45, 8 hours after we left home. Despite what MapQuest says, it is not 6 hours and 15 minutes away…especially in a 30+ mph headwind! Found our favorite parking spot was still open – close to check in, briefing, and porta-potties.

Now the fun begins, as we had Easyboots to glue on still. It’s been somewhat of a nightmare trying to get this boot thing to work. Last year, I lost 3 boots at this ride, 2 of them permanently – one over a cliff, and one into a stream at the bottom of a steep bank. There’s $80 gone…

At Wickenburg last month, 3 of my 4 boots came off the second day. We eventually came to the conclusion that I hadn’t been using enough foam, and I wasn’t mixing it enough and let it set up enough before cramming their feet in the boots. Well, they worked this time…larger stir cups and more foam are the keys to successful Easybooting. It didn’t even take me that long to pull them off.

Check-in was a non-event, which was a relief. Our judges, Dale Lake and Leroy Burnham, DVM, are a great team with a fine sense of humor and a lot of experience. Dale sat on the Tevis board and was ride director for 3 years. Mimi put in a really good performance during check-in…stood stock still for the vet’s examination, then trotted out beautifully.

Now, Mimi being her Mimi-ish self somehow managed to bang her head (again!) on something in her stall, so she had a fresh, 2 inch long gash right across her forehead, right where the browband lays. It’s always something…wrapped her browband in moleskin where it might rub across the cut, and never had any problems with it the whole ride. Figures this would be the one time I don’t bring the back-up bridle that doesn’t have the browband. :)

Briefing was relatively, well, brief. Finished in about an hour…I’ve done this ride for 5 years now, 4 of those years on this same trail. The only thing that changes from year to year is the timing.

Took the horses out for a walk around ridecamp, let them drink out of the “different” troughs (since those are so much better than their buckets :)), then it was back to the trailer for their evening supplements and sloppy beet pulp slurry mixes.

It was sort of a restless night for me…got a good, solid 4 hours of sleep before I was woken up by trotting hoofbeats. Someone’s horse got loose…again. This happens at every ride…ironically enough, I find out the next morning it was Beamer that got loose! Whoops…I actually got out of bed and checked on them, too…Mimi was still attached to her hi-tie, peered around the side of the trailer and saw Beamer’s butt…little did I know, he wasn’t attached to the trailer at that point! A nice lady, Tamara, that was camping next to us caught him and returned him…apparently the snap on his leadrope had come undone. Something else to now check at every ride…urk.

4:15 rolled around way to early…and it was COLD! My little thermometer in the dressing room registered 24*. I have double sleeping bags, which is nice…until you have to get out of them. Note to self: buy a little portable heater! I’m also trying to figure out how to insulate the dressing room myself…Home Depot, here I come!

Go to make breakfast only to find out we were out of propane! :( Fortunately, Patrick was nice enough to let us use his stove in his LQ trailer (I want one of those…) so I could boil water for coffee and oatmeal.

Had to try and thaw out my Skito pad before I could tack up, so I stuck in on Mimi’s back and pulled her blanket back over it. Works pretty well, and it thawed out in about 10 minutes, during which time I was messing with attaching extra packs to my saddle. Got her tacked up fast…she’s so good for that – thanks to all the years of showing and tack changes.

Headed out on the trail at 7:30, the first CP riders out of camp. Mimi is so much calmer at ride starts with Beamer compared to with Kelly! We actually walked out of camp, across Hwy 79, and onto the California Riding and Hiking Trail. Did a very slow trot down to the wash that runs under Hwy 79, then walked up the wash and under the bridge, where we were observed by a couple judges right off! Mimi yanked her head as we stepped down the bank, and was able to get some extra rein, which I lost a point on. :( Bad pony. She did that last year, too.

Need to get grippier reins, methinks. Maybe beta biothane. I like the round nylon reins, because they double as a good lead rope for when I hop off and lead, but maybe for NATRC competition, when I don’t need to lead, I need something I can get a better grip on. We’re usually moving fast enough in endurance that she doesn’t feel the need to yank the reins. :)

Got through the bridge and into the campground, where Beamer tried Round One of the buck-fest. Didn’t really work, as he learned that he doesn’t get to go faster when he bucks. Picked up the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) at this point. Crossed the first horse gate – I was able to stay on Mimi and open it, hold it open, and close it again from her back. Good pony. Making up for the rein grab.

After that, it was about a mile of rolling plains to the next Hwy 79 crossing, and our first checkpoint. We were running about 7 minutes ahead of mid-time at this point, right about where we like to be. By running about 10 minutes ahead of time, we give ourselves a comfortable buffer to deal with things like tack adjustments and unscheduled dismounts, both which occurred on this ride.

Crossed the highway and headed off under the trees, the single track trail winding its way along a stream, and under a canopy of oak trees. Beamer decided that he was going to embrace the Young, Bad Horse aspect of his personality. His first offense was bouncing into a springy trot as Dad was passing under a very low tree branch…thank goodness for helmets, as that was one pointy oak branch! I should know, as I made contact with it on the way back…

The name-calling he got obviously didn’t sink in, because about 2 minutes later, he starts bucking when he wants to catch up to the horse that was in front of us. Dad disengaged him – or tried to. Beamer got very resistant, and decided he didn’t want to give, so he stiffened his neck and locked his jaw, wiggling his hind end all over the narrow trail. Well, at some point, he forgot how many feet he has, and got the back ones slightly tangled…

Tangled back feet hitting dead logs on the side of the trail usually don’t mix, and this case was no exception…Beamer went down, Dad flew off and landed about 10’ away in a think, cushy pile of leaves. Beamer flipped over into a pile of dead sticks and logs, scrambled around a bit, managed to extract himself, shook himself off, and went merrily trotting down the trail after the Fox Trotter in front of us!

The gal in front of us caught him about the same time we caught up to him, Dad readjusted his saddle, which had slid halfway down his side (thank goodness for cruppers and breastcollars!), and hopped back on. After this, Beamer was perfectly behaved. Neither of them were hurt, although Beamer had some scrapes on him.

This ride takes place on the beautiful Warner Springs Ranch, which the PCT winds its way through. Normally we see a couple cows throughout the ride, usually at a distance away. This year, we were up close and personal. We ran into a herd of Holsteins in the middle of the open plains, a few of them less than 2 feet off the trail. Beamer isn’t crazy about cows, so Mimi got to demonstrate her skills as a cow pony! We’d walk up to one, she’d lower her head, pin her ears, and glare at that cow! This typically resulted in the cow wilting in fear, and moving away.

Started down one of the few climbs on this ride…down a series of switchbacks to the stream below. I call this area from the stream to lunch my “Tevis training trail” - this first part is pretty narrow single-track that switches back and forth down to the stream below.

About part of the way down the switchbacks, we hear a crashing sound. There’s another herd of cows down below us, and about half a dozen of them are running down from upstream, crashing through the brush and hopping around. Horses just froze, eyes really big. We managed to get down the trail, one step at a time (and really tight reins!), until we cleared the trail and made it down to the stream, where there were still a few stragglers hanging around. Mimi stared down the one cow that was still drinking, got a drink herself (good girl!), then crossed the stream.

There were still about half a dozen cows on the other side of the stream, walking down our trail! I didn’t know the PCT stood for the Pacific Cow Trail! Mimi actually moved them down the trail for 100 yards or so, but then they got tired of that and jumped down the bank, across the stream, and down the other side of the stream. That cleared us of the cows for the rest of the ride, until we came back to the stream after lunch…

About a mile after the stream, we climbed the one hill in the ride…more “Tevis” trail…narrow, wind-y single track that slowly makes its way up the hill, plateaus for a while, then gradually descends again. It’s really fun, and I actually trotted on quite a bit of it. There’s quite a few sharp, blind turns, and dropoffs on the trail…not sheer drops, but V-slants, enough height to make it interesting! I don’t really like trails with dropoffs that much if I’m just walking along, which gives me way too much time to look at how far I’m going to fall if Mimi slips. So I prefer to actually trot narrow trails. The horses pay more attention, too.

Came into the P&R - Mimi was at the acceptable "go" rate coming in - 16 in 15 sec. (64). The ponies had great P&Rs. Mimi came in at 10/3 after the 10 minute wait, and Beamer was 9/5 (I think). We had a judged mount, which I aced, one of my few I’ve managed (I love my new saddle!), then it was across Hwy 79 again to Barrel Springs, our lunch stop. Bob and Margie Insko had their motorhome there, ready to serve lunch!

Bob had chili for us, as well as Margie’s homemade cornbread muffins, fresh green grapes (my favorites!), and a chocolate chip cookie. Ate rather quickly – I was hungry! I like to be waiting at the out timer 5 minutes before my out time, only because I’ve lost track of time before, and ended up going out almost 10 minutes late. :(

Adjusted my pad again – this was only the second time I used this pad with this saddle, and apparently Skito means it when they say don’t use the Cordura topped pad on slicker bottomed saddles. The pad migrated about 4 times throughout the ride…so we’ll be ordering a grippier, DryBack pad from Skito. Had to adjust my right stirrup to a hole shorter than my left…I think I must be out chiropractically, probably in my right hip. Dad noticed I was leaning to the right a lot. Shortening my stirrup helped, but I don’t want to do that because it means I’m riding off balance.

We headed out after lunch, back across Hwy 79, and back the same way we had come out. This was Mimi’s first time leading out and being the first horse along the trail, so she was actually a little spookier than I’m used to. Got to test the security of my new saddle on several occasions, and I’m happy to report it is very secure, especially for an English saddle! It’s a Duett (, specifically designed for wide, flat-backed horses. I got the Companion Trail model, which has a lot of D rings, a padded seat, and longer and wider panels.

After we got back to the stream, more cows were waiting for us. About a dozen this time, below the trail, on the trail, and on the bank above the trail. The horses were concerned about that, so we stopped and waited for them to move off, crashing through the stream and up the other side. They did, except for one stubborn cow on the hillside, and I just knew if I went past her, she’d choose that moment to run behind Mimi, which would be a very bad situation. So Mimi and I scrambled up the bank, moved the cow down onto the trail, then down into the steam. Got to the stream crossing, the horses drank again, and we went back up the same switchbacks we had come down that morning.

Going through the shady oaks next to the stream was fun…we were first through the area, and we were scaring quite a few critters out of the dry, dead underbrush…squirrels make a lot of noise when they scramble through dead leaves and twigs! So Mimi was doing a lot of little spooks, most of which were kind of fun, as long as we weren’t too close to the edge of the trail. I wasn’t keen about the idea of landing in the stream.

Got into the 2nd P&R, was 8/3 after the 10 minute wait. Beamer was 12/5, but part of that was probably due in part to the P&R was right next to Hwy 79, and Beamer hasn’t been exposed to that much traffic yet. And we did a lot more trotting than what he’s used to. The P&R was actually at the 2 mile point, which meant forward motion from this point on. Made it into camp within our 15 minute on each side window around our midtime.

We cleaned the horses up – the day ended up being very pleasant, and the horses were barely sweaty, so they cleaned up very easy. We were waiting in line, being the first 2 back in camp, by the time Dale and Leroy made it back. Mimi checked out beautifully, for the most part. Her trot-out was gorgeous – one of the best she’s ever done! She actually checked out with a higher score on her trot-out than she checked in with.

One thing I was very happy with was that her back checked out perfectly! I think the new saddle is working…and that’s with the saddle pad going all wonky half the ride!

Poulticed and wrapped Mimi’s legs and pried off the Easyboots after we checked out…it only took me about half an hour to get all of them off, and that’s with taking breaks in between to let them soak in water. I’m pleased to say that I’ve pretty much figured out the trick to getting them to stay on…I wasn’t mixing the foam enough or letting it set up long enough before sticking the boot on the hoof, and I was using too little foam. Probably used too much foam this time, but it beat losing any boots! We’ll keep tweaking it, but for now, my faith has been restored in Easyfoam.

Dinner was served about half an hour before the schedule said, but I was okay with that, even if I didn’t have a chance to change. First time that’s happened, still being in my riding clothes for dinner and awards. My half chaps kept my legs warm when it started getting chilly, though.

Dinner was grilled tri-tip and salad…yum! Had a great dinner in our little “Arizona circle”. Beni DeMattei, Debbie Zinkl, Rochelle Gribler, Ellen Stewart and myself all set up our chairs in a circle and gabbed about the ride. I lost my father somewhere at this point...I believe he, Patrick and Jim Monroe were spending some time chatting. It's been a year since we'd seen Jim, so there was some catching up to do. Apparently Jim has a new horse, so we're looking forward to seeing him back in action at the next rides!

Awards got started after we had a chance to eat and gab. Neither Dad or I placed, but CP was a very tough class at this ride – 16 entries, and the scores were very high, separated only by +’s and -’s. Got to crash into bed about 10:30 after taking the horses for a walk and refilling their hay bags for the night. Got woken up at about 3:30, this time by raindrops! It wouldn’t be a First of Spring without getting rained on at some point! Heard the horses shuffling around unhappily, but that’s what waterproof Goretex blankets are for, and I wasn’t going out there to comfort them.

Woke up about 6:00, the rain had stopped, although there were still a lot of clouds hanging around. Started packing up, and about half an hour before we were ready to leave, it started sprinkling again. Had a moment of panic when I couldn’t find my keys, but didn’t really have time to look for them. Dad found them back home when he was cleaning out the trailer…they fell into one of my storage crates. Must have fallen out of my pocket while I was packing.

The rain stopped when we pulled out of camp, which was nice. Hwy 79 and S2 are not fun to drive in the rain. Stopped briefly in El Centro to water the horses and for a bathroom break. The next stop was Yuma, where we stopped at the state line to present paperwork (the guy at the counter didn’t even know where to stamp our health certificates!) and get gas. Note: Love’s stations are good places to stop! Their pumps are really fast, and their stores and bathrooms are usually really clean. I got Subway for us for lunch on the go, and Dad handed the keys over to me at this point.

It was still really windy, but it was a straight tail wind, so driving it wasn’t a problem. Got my first experience trailering down a hill with Maxie (the truck) and the Allison transmission. That is one smart, sweet transmission! I drove the same hill last year with the Suburban, and I was riding the brake the whole way down.

Made it back to the barn in a little over 7 hours. Turned the ponies out, and they both took off, Mimi at her fast “pony-trot”, Beamer cantering along behind her. They both looked really good.

Overall, I’m very pleased with how this ride went. Mimi was the best behaved she’s ever been at this particular ride. The new saddle appears to be working, especially once I switch out the stirrup leathers for myself. I was getting some pressure bruising on my thighs from the stirrup buckles, so I may try some Wintec Webbers, which aren’t as bulky. The Easyboot experiment went smoother this time, and I loved using the new UpBuckles!

Now it's time to send in our entries for the Region 2 Benefit ride at Descanso, CA, over Memorial Day weekend.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Weekend Riding

Saturday, April 21

It’s RAINING! Guess I probably won’t be riding much today…:(

Did go to the barn and do some arena riding, though, much to the joy of the ponies. Of course it turned into a beautiful day without rain after this morning’s downpour. Probably would have had time to hitch up and go down to the park, but the arena was good for all involved.

Dad and Beamer both hate the arena, so doing some work in there is good for them. Beamer likes to really dog it, so it’s good for Dad and learning the trotting thing in a new light.

Mimi got reminded that she does know what things like “collection” and “giving” are…amazing what 15 minutes in a D ring snaffle can do to refresh the memory.

She also got to do wind sprints today – took off her bit and clipped the reins to her halter, and let her sprint around the arena a couple times, reminiscent of our gaming days. That’s practice for our 100 yard dash to the finish at a 50…right…I’ll just be happy to still be alive after 50 miles, let alone having cause to sprint! :)

Still having problems with pad slippage. Tried the ¾” Skito foam with a separate Dixie-Midnight, loopy type of pad on top of it, sort of my own nod to the Skito DryBack, just with an extra payer of pad between. I think the Cordura top on the Skito is the biggest problem, because the loopy pad didn’t move from under the saddle, the saddle didn’t move, but the Skito kept slithering out from under both of them.

Try the Supracor tomorrow. Not my favorite pad, but it’ll hopefully tell me if the skinner, ½” thick pads will work. I’m looking at getting the ½” foam Skito Dryback for this saddle, cut in an English shape with billet straps…no more migrating pads that way, hopefully.


Sunday, April 22

San Tan Mtn Park
San Tan Trail - Cliff Wash - over Saddle Mtn – East Perimeter Wash
7 miles, 3mph average moving, 2 hrs moving, 4 hrs total

First real ride after competition, all just walking. Went “illegal”, ie off marked trails, for about ¾ of the ride…much more fun that way. Horses were really relaxed and moving out well. They enjoy our old trails much more than the new "highway" the bureaucrats sliced into the side of the hill. Grrr. Let's put all the trail users on a 7 mile loop. Nuh huh. Sorry. Give me 35-40 miles of marked trails, and I'll stay on them. But not on one 7 mile loop that I have to avoid hikers and bikers every 2 minutes. Until the situation improves, and I get real trails again, I'm riding where I darn well want to!

Turned towards the trailer, and Beamer thought now would be a good time to experiment with what he can do during competition – trot back towards the trailer. Um, no. *grin* He started throwing a hissy fit, so we got off and hand-walked. He learned throwing hissy fits over not trotting gets him where he’s going even *slower*. Once Dad got back on after about 15 minutes, he was an angel. The horse is a fast learner.

I don’t think the Supracor is the pad for me. Mimi actually had a bit of loin soreness – I think that pad rubs and scrubs harder than any of the wool fleece ones. And it still migrated a bit, so that’s obviously not the answer. I think the scrubbing irritated her skin more than made her sore, cause she was acting like she was ticklish irritated, not flat out saddle sore. And she didn’t come up sore at all after the almost 25 miles at FoS. The Supracor just doesn't smoosh down as far as any of the foam pads, so I wonder too if it didn't let it settle as much around her shoulders.

Back to dealing with the migrating Skito and Woolback, at least until I can order a new Skito.

What's all this about?

So I decided that since I've started putting a lot more thought into writing down ride stories, I'd make a place to colelctively share them, as well as my training logs and, dare I say it, exploits on the trail towards our first 50.

To start off, we've been distance riding for about 6 years now, NATRC for 5, AERC for 2. Only done LDs so far, and Novice and Competitive Pleasure level in NATRC. This year, the goal has been a 50, but it's been a comedy of errors in trying to get to one. I've had to scratch out of both rides I was signed up for, both rather last minute.

The short version of the story: bite on the back, right where the saddle goes, from the (former) pasture-mate, the night before Land of the Sun. Next ride: McDowell Mtn. Saddle issues. The BBH (Bastardized Big Horn) I've been riding in all of a sudden started to not work. This is my former gaming saddle I sawed the horn off, changed the stirrups, added new breastcollar rings, a crupper bar, and in general made in look like a distance saddle.

Now we're looking ahead to July, for the Devil Dog endurance ride, where hopefully Dad and his young (well, 8 yr old...but sometimes still young mentally) Shagya Arabian gelding Beamer will be joining us on our quest for a 50!