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!