Sunday, July 27, 2008

More heat...

Is summer over yet? We've been lazy of late, and only rode today instead of both days of the weekend. I went ballroom dancing Friday night (I feel all graceful now! And yay, my foot held up!) and got home really late, and it was supposed to be miserable, weather-wise, on Saturday (it was) so we only went out today.

I don't think the ponies were thrilled with the idea. Mimi decided that tripping and threatening to fall off the edge of the trail twice (not drop-offs, but still...downward slope...) was a good way to express her displeasure. Hmmm...not. And her back Renegades are completely smooth and tread-bare, so she was slipping quite a bit on downhills.

But I just need to hold out until the first weekend of October, which is Man vs Horse weekend. I already talked to Gina and she and Kirt and going to custom-fit Mimi's boots at the ride. I've got 5 size 0 boots for her fronts, and the 2 back 00s, so I should have enough to get me through, even through 4 of the 5 front ones are loosing chunks from the toes.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dysfunctional Slinkies R Us

Lesson learned of last Sunday's: our horses don't like being left to sit for a week. Due to simply ghastly weather Saturday, we wimped out of riding...and the ponies let us know how very displeased they were with us on Snday. It was very strange weather...very monsoony and humid, but only about a high of 85* when we were out there. A light breeze, and very, very overcast. So between the slight "coolness" in the air, and a bit of a breeze, Mimi was definitely in airy-fairy mode today. She was very much "between my hands and legs", spending more time bouncing up climbs than actually walking them. Apparently Beamer wasn't much better, judging by the mutters of Dad that I heard behind me. They were acting like a couple of dysfunctional slinkies - speed up, slow down, go down the hill with your front feet on one track of trail, your hind feet on the other track, bounce a few times, trip, almost fall on your face...*sigh*

In other news, I finally scanned a bunch of the professional pics I have from rides, both NATRC and AERC, and I've slowly been trying to "recreate the past" and work up some of my old ride stories. I have a fiarly photographic memory for things like this, so I'm having relatively good success. I'll post them as I complete them.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

How to survive riding an AZ summer...

1) Ride early.

You seriously don't want to ask me waht my wakeup time is on weekends. Here's a hint: around the time the last 1/3 of Tevis riders cross the finish in somewhere around 4:00. Urk. Sick and wrong when sunrise hasn't even started yet and I'm awake. Coffee helps.

Mind you, some of my earliness comes from the necessity of having to drive 40 minutes to the barn, hitch up the trailer, load the ponies, and then drive 15 minutes to the park.

2) Ride short.

The less time you're out in the heat, the better. Doing shorter loops helps, too...going out for a 6-7 mile loop, get a drink back at the trailer, then go for another loop.

3) Make your own breeze!

Trotting is *good* when it creates artificial air ciculation. Course, this doesn't work too well when it's hot and the ponies say "Trot? You must be joking. It's too hot to be out here, let alone trot, so I will continue to plod at a snail's pace." *sigh*

4) You *can* sponge in the desert!

Well, you can if you have a water spigot at the trailhead that can be turned on from the saddle. Hold sponge under running water, loose sponge when pony leaps to the side to marvel at the sudden gush of water, retrieve sponge, sponge pony from ground to show that it is not the Killer Attack Sponge, but rather an instrument of comfort, remount, attempt to shuck sponge at running water, watch pony flail and leap because the sponge come Out Of Nowhere, slop barely damp sponge against neck, incite further leaping until pony realizes that This Feels Good, lather rinse repeat. *grin* Can you tell we haven't been sponged from the saddle much? She's actually not that overly dramatic, it just makes for an amusing story. And that was only the first tiem I tried that trick. Now, she's an old pro.

5) Cotton. Cotton breathes.

Lightweight cotton t-shirts are good. So are long-sleeved lightweight cotton sunshirts over lightweight cotton tank tops. Now I need to invest in cotton tights, versus my nylon/lyrca numbers, even though they'll get shredded on our Shrubberies of Doom and Steel Branches out here.

6) Camelbak.

My lifesaver. Because yes, you can go through 70 oz of water on a 10 mile training ride.

That being said, we braved te heat and monsoon humidity for a short ride today. It absolutely poured on Thursday night, so the ponies have been stalled up. Urgh.

The first sign that it really rained hard at the park was the fact that part of the entrance road to the park was now dirt road. The normally paved road had been covered over for about 1/4 mile with sand and dirt. Oh.

There was much redistribution of real estate at the park from the storm...some trails that were formerly beautiful footing had been worn down to the bedrock granite layer. And some of the shallow, super rocky washes were now 2' deep with sand.

All of this meant a slow ride today because a) we needed to see how badly washed out some of our trails were and, in necessary, reblaze them, and b) we didn't know how much some of them had chaged, especially the washes. They can be very unpredictable after a rain, and last week's perfect trotting wash may now be soft snad up to their fetlocks. Also, c) the fact that saguaros most often fall after a storm, and the horses hate coming up on those suddenly. The fact that they're moist and decaying makes them smell very dead and very bad. That and the sight of a fifty foot fall cactus laying on the ground with weird angles does funny things to horse imaginations...

All in all...nice, humid, but there was a little breeze for most of the time, which was nice.

Still sulking about Tevis, and how all of my contingency plans to make up for not crewing at Tevis keep falling through. Grrr.

However, I'm happy to report my foot doesn't hurt at all riding! A little sore still sometimes walking around, or if I sit and poke at certain spots I can make it hurt, but riding was perfectly fine. And I even managed a little in-hand trot-out back at the barn today. :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

No Tevis this year...:(((

Well, I just got word that Tevis has been cancelled this year due to increasing fire danger and poor air quality. *sniff, sniff*

Major bummer, as I was looking forward to going up to crew (and spend way too much money). This was going to be my last shot at scoping it out again, since riding it next year is my goal. Guess I'll have to rely on what I remember from crewing in '04 and '05.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Just a few pictures

So Williams wasn't an entire wash...I did get some good pictures. It's rare to get pics of muself, since I'm usually the one holding the camera. And I bought a shiny new sponge from Horses Dacor. (For all the sponging I can do out in the desert, yeah?)

Friday afternoon, before she went into grumpy!pony mode.
photo courtesy of Patrick Cook...aka my farrier, endurance recruit, and camp neighbor

Mimi and I, Saturday morning, before heading over to the start.
photo courtesy of Ken Danley

Dad and Beamer, Me and Mimi
photo courtesy of Ken Danley

Dad & Beamer, Patty & Shelley, Dana & Hawkeye and Me & Mimi
photo courtesy of Ken Danley

The pony, happily installed in front of her hay...before the bugs started biting. :(
photo by me...I didn't actually take that many this weekend...too much stuff on my mind and plate.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Williams/Devil Dog

Here's the deal: I've been trying for a week to write up this ride story, and it just isn't going to happen. The short story is, we had an off weekend, a very off weekend that resulting in pulling at the first VC, 13 (or so...) miles into the ride.

Things that contributed:

- Friday morning, I fell out of the back of the trailer. I stepped down into a hole, my foot landed on a rock, and I sprained/bruised my foot and ankle. A week later, I'm still hobbling. Ironically enough, I could still ride, although ceaseless walking started to create something of a gnawing pain in my foot. Trotting was good, though. I could still trot, and post.

- The bugs at the ride were horrid. Nasty litte spawn-of-Satan no-see-ums that greatly enjoyed feasting on my pony, whose threshold tolerance for bugs is notoriously low. She was miserable, and it really threw her off, to the point where she wasn't eating very enthusiastically, and wasn't drinking at all Froday night. Very worrisome.

- The one and only time I've ever had a problem with my Renegades. About 3 miles into the ride, the cables broke on the side of the boot. A very odd, normally protected place, so I can't figure out what happened. And as these were my first pair of 00 boots, I didn't have any backups. I had a backup 0 I was carrying with me, but Mimi was jumping around so badly due to the bugs, that neither Dad nor myself could safely wrestle her into submission long enough to put the boot on.

We decided to keep going, walk the rough stuff and trot the smooth. Unfortunately, there wasn't much smooth to trot, and we kept getting further and further behind on time. The 50 miler was to be a repeat loop...a 25 mile loop with an out vetcheck halfway, come back into camp for another vetcheck, then lather-rinse-repeat for the second loop. Well, the more we saw of the loop, the less impressed we were about the idea of repeating it.

The final straw was the several miles of "Dustbowl" old logging road covered in ~8" of fine, silty dust that hid large rocks or soft depressions in the ground. Mimi almost going to her knees 5 times in 5 minutes had me throwing my hands up and proclaiming that I was done. She wasn't focused, the bugs were making her miserable, and her tripping and lack of focus was starting to scare me at that point.

So we straggled into the vet check and pulled. Gah, that was depressing.

Only slightly more cheer-making was when a good portion of the 50s pulled halfway, opting for LD completion credit, rather than heading out for round two of that trail. The majority of people didn't want to subejct their horses - or themselves - to that again.

I understand that quite a few people got lost and off trail after the vet check. Is it a good thing when people tell you, "be glad you pulled when you did"? Or when you're told that this ride made the notoriously-difficult Man vs. Horse 50 look easy? Well, in that case, we should be all set for the fall then. Urgh.

So on one hand, I'm very bummed, and still very pissed at myself for how I handled the weekend. I wasn't in the best frame of mind, and I really let it get to me, unfortunately. Maybe if I had been 100%, and Mimi had been 100%, we might have been fine. Maybe I pull too easy from rides. All I know is, I'm already working at a disadvantage when it comes to the horse I have available to me for distance. Mimi isn't the best candidate, physically, but her mental toughness has already overcome a host of issues. But even tough little go-ponies have off days. Unfortunately, last weekend was one of them. :( But I keep working with her, because I can't afford another horse, and I refuse to give her up. Heck, with the exception of my best friend, I've had Mimi for longer than I've known my friends. After 12 years, we're family.

The weather was lovely, though...a nice break from the 110*+ oven. Low to mid 80s during the day, high 40s at night...lovely!

And it was wonderful seeing endurance friends again...there's always new goodies to be had from Michael and Julia Elias with Horses Dacor (love the new sponge, guys, thanks!)...meeting Patty Danley's new mare Shelley and starting the ride with them...she's a lovely mare,'ve got yourself another good one!

All in all, even though the ride pretty much sucked, it felt good to get away for a few days. Even if I did spend half of them in tears. Apologies to anyone that might have seen me acting somewhat out-of-character. My horse wasn't at the top of her game, but apparently I wasn't either. :

Now it's back to the oven...did a short ride this morning, and the ponies were happy to get out!