Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cliffnotes on McDowell

I'm way behind on all things blog-related, mostly due to 1) my laptop crashing again and 2) life is insane.  The cliffnotes version of the last 2 weeks is:  I fell off Mimi for the first time in a couple years, the Sunday before going to McDowell.  Not how to go into a ride.  However, we went to McDowell.  Dad and Beamer also went, as Beamer's sore shoulder cleared up a week and half or so before the ride.  We all finished, and in fine form.  Tough ride, and despite being the same trail as February, it seemed harder this time, but the ponies looked better at the end.

Details will follow in a later post, as I was writing the ride story when the computer crashed.  Photos will be up later, as mine were on my computer, but not backed up when it crashed.  Granted, I only took about 10 pictures throughout the day.  The photographer got some beautiful pictures of us, and as soon as the digital copies go up online, I'll post those.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Going Solo

Circumstances are such that it looks as though I will be going to the upcoming McDowell Mountain Turkey Trot by myself.  Beamer has been marginally off in the right shoulder for the past three weeks, and it's only this week that he's no longer showing signs of discomfort when the area is being massaged, and Dad isn't entirely comfortable with taking him to a ride that involves a lot of hardpack trail and gradual downhill trotting so soon after having the last three weeks off.

I totally respect and admire his decision.  It's not easy saying 'no' to a ride, especially one in our own backyard.  And I'll definitely miss my trail partner out there, and I'm pretty sure Mimi will miss her "brother."  Maybe.

But seeing as Beamer was on hiatus, and Mimi needed exercise, our last two rides have been hitting the trails by ourselves...something we haven't done for quite some time.  Dad came along and hiked while I rode, and we met up at one point along the trail, where he was able to snap a few shots of us.

She did fabulous by herself, zooming through 13 miles in two hours on Sunday.  It was definitely a good cardio workout, which she will need for McDowell.

I was so proud of how brave she was.  She starts out slow, offering up her little 5-6mph trot, and then gradually warms up into her 7-8mph trot that is her mainstay.  I'm actually pleased to see this, as it gives her a chance to properly warm up before blasting off at full tilt.

She's also showing quite a bit of maturity and responsibility out there by herself.  She's much more aware of her surroundings, but actually less spooky.  On several occasions, she would slow down from a trot to a walk, and moments later, there would be hikers or a biker coming in the opposite direction. 

She also showed some amazingly good judgement when it came to negotiating around some blind turns.  We'd trot nearly to the turn, then she would slow to a walk, wait for me to look around the corner, and once I told her it was okay, she would start trotting again.  She also would stop and walk down steeper inclines on her own, and while she was very forward and eager to go, anytime I would ask she her to come back down, she willingly would.

I'm looking forward to seeing how she does on her own for 50 miles.  Chances are we'll have a riding buddy, but it won't be a horse she's familiar with, so essentially, it'll be her and me out there.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Man Against Horse Official Results

20 L 10:27 Wingert, Ashley on Skip Me Gold 55/50
21 M 10:27 Wingert, G. Vern on Brahma PFF 125/50

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Afterthoughts: Man Against Horse 2009

So, I've only been cogitating on this for a month, post-ride. before finally deciding there wasn't much to add to it, and that I should just post it already.

A Combination of What Didn’t Work/ What I’d Do Different/What Worked:

- The worst part of the ride was the fact I had an agonizing pressure point on my right shin from the stirrup leather. I don’t know if it was caused from all the downhill trotting, or it I have too much padding (ski sock, tights, half chaps), or if my stirrup leathers are too short. My stirrups have been making a slow, downward migration in the two and a half years since I’ve had this saddle, and it might be time for another change. I had to stop trotting a few times and walk for a few moments, just to let the pain ease before continuing.  (A Month Later: I dropped my stirrups about half an inch, and it's really comfortable.  The true test will be the next 50, of course, but they feel better already, and I feel like it's easier to relax with them a touch longer.)

I also had some pressure on the inside of my thighs from the top buckles, but just about any stirrup leathers I try will do that – one of the compromises I have to make in riding Mimi in an English saddle. In order for stirrup bars not to put pressure on her flat back, they can’t be recessed at all, hence the buckles will out pressure on my legs instead. I’ve tried the Wintec Webbers, but they’re so thin, they feel flimsy, like I don’t have as much leg support.
- Still working on the saddle packs arrangement. I like the larger front packs, with very little on the back end of the saddle. However, I still think I’m going to make a separate little bag, long and narrow, to carry electrolyte syringes in that will tuck behind my leg or something.  (A Month Later: Am contemplating seeing if I can get a custom Snugpax front pommel bags, with the larger camera bag added to the top of the same style packs as I already have, which are the packs, with the water bottle holders.  Haven't gotten anywhere with designing and making an e'lyte-holding bag.)

- This is one of the first times she’s come up with a slightly sore back at the end of the ride, and I don’t know if it’s just because it’s such a difficult ride, or what. I know at VC2, I had to adjust my pad where it had slipped back under the saddle too far, and instead of properly loosening everything, lifting the saddle and pad, and sliding everything back into place, I just loosened the girth, yanked the front edges of the pad forward, and re-girthed her. It’s possible this rubbed against the grain of the hair and could have set up a sore spot, I suppose. I’d really like to get another pad, one that’s shaped to the saddle and has either front ties or billet straps.  (A Month Later: I'm also starting to poke around the treeless saddle department, so all new purchases are temporarily on hold until I decide what I want to do and what I can afford.)

- I maybe could have done better in the food department. I ate decently, and felt really good all day, so maybe I didn’t do as bad as I thought. I just didn’t think I ate very much out on trail. Looking back, maybe it was pretty good. Food count (that I can remember):

Friday dinner: chicken/cheese ravioli w/ marinara sauce, Caesar salad
Breakfast: hard-boiled egg, slice of peanut butter toast, orange juice, coffee
Between camp and VC1: two slices dried fruit leather
VC1: peanut butter sandwich
Between VC1 and VC2: half a Luna bar, grapes
VC2: chicken lunchmeat slices, half a banana, half a PB sandwich
Between VC2 and camp: energy gel
Dinner: (YUM!) ribs, brisket, coleslaw, beans, peach cobbler, white wine
- What helped is that I drank well – I drained my 44 oz. Camelbak twice during the ride, and a bottle and half of the Succeed Amino sports drink throughout the ride. I took one OverDrive, three Motrin, and several electrolytes.
- This was definitely Mimi’s and my best ride yet. We didn’t have a single moment of disagreement or argument the entire ride, and neither one of us hit a mental wall. We both did a great job of staying chipper and perky the entire ride, and during the long section of road around the mountain, we maintained our cheer through song. (All: “She sings?” Yes, I do. Badly.)

- My rump rug irritated the hell out of me during the ride, because it kept blowing off Mimi's butt and would dangle uselessly at her flank as we'd trot along, and I had to nearly dislocate ribs several time trying to turn around, straighten it out, hold it in place, and keep trotting.  (A Month Later: New rump rug made last night, my own custom design.  We'll see how it works...it was too hot today to try it without melting the pony.  80* is not rump rug-appropriate weather.)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Two weeks post-Man Against Horse, and the ponies are feeling fabulous! We took them out for an easy stretch today, all walking, about 6-7 miles. One nice hill to climb to stretch out those muscles that really got used at the ride.
They were both very forward and happy to be out. Both also went barefoot in the back and scampered over the rocks like there was nothing there. Mimi's come such an amazingly long way from the pony with foundered hooves, paper-thin walls, and such tender soles that just stepping on gravel barefoot would render her lame. Now, she trots and canters barefoot over gravel without a misstep.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Ride Story: Man Against Horse 2009

The 26th Annual Man Against Horse Race in Prescott, Arizona, marks the 5th anniversary of my foray into the world of AERC and endurance riding. This was the first AERC 25-mile LD ride I competed – and completed. As such, this is a ride that has always held a lot of sentiment to me, and it’s a ride I’ve been able to go to every year since.
The previous year, 2008, my father and I had tried the 50-miler for the first time, but were pulled at 38 miles for being overtime. We were somewhat dismayed and disheartened that year, both from the OT pull and the shock factor: we had known the ride was going to be difficult, but we were still in for a surprise, made all the more difficult by the addition of some horrendous rain and wind that made for downright treacherous trails in a couple spots. Afterwards, I believe I said something to the effect of, “I will never ask Mimi to do that ride again.”

This year, circumstances were conspiring in such a way that it looked like we would end up missing this special ride. Part of me was feeling all right about this after last year’s attempt, as I wasn’t sure I wanted to face that mountain again. The other part of me wanted a grudge match and to redeem myself, despite my insistence that I wouldn’t.

At the last minute, life pointed us in a different direction and said, “You’re going.” It was very last minute – we made the decision to go the Thursday before the ride, about noontime. The rest of the afternoon was spent trying to fit all of our ride prep into one afternoon: clean out the horse trailer that hasn’t been used for an overnight trip since June, repack the trailer, bathe ponies, load hay/water, fetch the trail home to finish packing, and pack people stuff. I’m happy to report we managed to get everything done in about eight hours, and I was still able to fall into bed at a respectable time.

The nice thing about fairly local rides (just under a 3-hour drive from the barn) means that I don’t have to be up at oh-dark-thirty a.m., and can mess with fetching ice and packing up the food cooler in the morning. Dad and I are early-birds when it comes to getting to rides, even those fairly close by in our own state, and we pulled out of our driveway at 7:15, were at the barn by 8:00, and on the road again, ponies in tow, by 8:20.

The trip up was the best kind – uneventful, with nothing to report. We pulled in to ride camp just after 11:00, and practically had our pick of camping spots. Camp is a large cow pasture on Fain Ranch, and part of the fun of this ride is watching the cows meander along the outskirts of where all the rigs are parked and down by the vetting area.

Some history of the ride:

The first Man Against Horse race took place in 1983 and was conceived by Prescott, AZ residents Gheral Brownlow and Steve Rafters. Gheral was a runner and owned a store in town. Steve was a cowboy who worked for the Prescott Police Department and enjoyed riding horses. Rumor has it that they decided to put on the race while at one of the taverns on Whiskey Row in Prescott.

Ron Barrett, a local runner and endurance rider, became ride manager in 1988 and moved the ride from its original location at Whitehorse Lake to its current location at the base of Mingus Mountain in Prescott Valley, AZ. All proceeds and donations from the event go to support food banks in the area. Over the years, more than $100,000 has been given to feed the hungry.

Thanks to Kevin Myers for the summary of the ride’s history.

Man Against Horse is a very unique ride in that riders and runners compete alongside each other over the same courses. As far as I know, it’s the only event like it in the southwest. The horses really seem to enjoy sharing the trail with the runners, and quickly catch on to the idea of “chasing” after the runners. And it’s great desensitization and training for those who end up doing a lot of riding on multi-use trails.

Once in ride camp, we fell into our setup routine, which went like clockwork, despite not having done a ride since February. Guess we’ve got the hang of getting our “cowboy condo” (thanks, Dad!) set up by now. We took the ponies for a walk around ride camp, and I was super-pleased to see how well they handled the rocky ground with their bare hooves. Camp set-up was interspersed with some socialization time, and getting caught up with many people I hadn’t seen in quite a few months. One of the things I really miss when I’m not doing rides is the people – I’ve made so many wonderful friends in the five years I’ve been involved in this sport.

We’ve been experimenting with doing our own trimming for the past three months now, and from my completely unbiased perspective, I think their feet look really good. Every year I’ve done this ride I’ve been in boots of some sort, and every year up until now, I’ve had to have Mimi booted to even walk around camp. It was very gratifying to see her marching over the rocks without a single flinch or misstep.

After camp was set up, we had enough time to go take our pre-ride, and registration and vetting hadn’t yet started, so we saddled up and headed out for an easy, couple mile stretch out from the finish line and back. This section of the trail is open cow pasture, and by taking a peek at it the previous day, I get a heads up as to any new gopher holes that might have cropped up and would be disastrous to ride over.

Both ponies were really good, although Mimi wanted to keep wandering off the trail and go exploring in some of the side washes where the cows like to hang out. (Cow Pony R’ Us) After determining all their legs were still properly attached, and their brains appeared to be settled between their ears, we headed back to the trailer, socialized a bit along the way, then untacked the ponies. While they were munching, I scurried over and got us registered, and after quickly brushing the brown Prescott dust from their legs (an exercise in futility), we headed over to the vet line.

We vetted through without incident, although her trot-out set what would be the continuing trend for the weekend. Mimi is called the “eggbeater” for a reason when she trots. She is 16, and has fused hocks. Her trot always looks a little bit stiff, because it is. She lacks a lot of the flexion in her hocks that would produce a smooth, floating trot, and that makes the vets look twice at her. Both in the past as well as this weekend, I’ve been very fortunate to have vets that were willing to hear out my explanation for why she moved that way, instead of arbitrarily pulling me for “funky” movement, and for that, I thank them.

After vetting, it was time to go over to Kirt and Gina Lander’s trailer and pick up our new pairs of Renegade Hoof Boots. This ride also marks the fourth year of us using Renegades, and of meeting Kirt and Gina along the trail at the first water stop, and realizing they were the ones responsible for those cool new boots our vet had directed us to.

At this point, I would like to pause and thank Kirt and Gina – their boots were one of the key factors in getting us through this ride. The Renegades offered fabulous protection from the rocky trails, and we were able to trot over parts of the trail we would have otherwise been forced to walk. They offered fantastic grip during the grueling climb up Mingus Mountain, including the parts that involved scrambling over large boulders in the trail.

We put the boots on Saturday morning, and never once had to touch them for the rest of the ride until Saturday night after vetting out. Their feet looked fantastic – no rubs or bruising anywhere! The boots stayed in place perfectly and didn’t move or spin at all.

Thank you to Kirt for taking the time to look at their hooves and give them a rasping touchup before fitting the boots. Mimi’s custom-fitted, Equithane-molded hind boots did fantastic, allowing a tiny, almost 000-sized hoof to fit securely into a 00 boot. Her feet have grown since we switched to Renegades…where she had been a 000 on her front feet as well, she is now a 00. Dad’s horse Beamer also moved up in boot size on his front hooves at this ride, from a 1 to a 2.

After getting our boots, it was time for ride briefing, which was fast and informative, and we were able to get back to the trailer in good time and make a fast dinner of ravioli and Caesar salad. While dinner was cooking, I was multi-tasking, mixing electrolytes for the next day and gathering up the last of the essentials to go in the crew box. This was another new experiment: the crew box.

Up to this point, we had been using first one, then two, crew bags, and I wanted to find a way to consolidate, and make things easier to carry, as invariably, one crew bag would end up being streamlined but heavy, and the other would be filled with the lighter but bulky items. In short, the box was fabulous! I could fit everything I needed in it, save for the hay, which went in a bag that got strapped on top of the box. Unfortunately, the bungee cords went on walkabout some time during transport, but not too many people tie their hay bags together with lime green shoelaces, so I was able to easily identify it. Next time, I’ll look for more of a buckle-type strap to go around the whole box.

After dinner, a final stroll to the large water tanks around ride camp with the ponies, and topping off their hay bags, it was time for bed: yet another night of getting to bed at a respectable time. Not that it made much of a difference – I had a very restless night, waking up at least once every hour, drifting off only to wake up again, tossing and turning. Needless to say, I was very glad when the alarm went off at 3:15 Saturday morning.

Yes, I’m an insanely early riser on ride mornings, mostly because there’s a lot of stuff I can’t do until the morning. I typically pack the crew box cooler Saturday morning, as I have a hard time thinking of what I’ll want to eat during the ride until that day. There are also the ride-only things that end up going on my saddle: extra Renegades, small pack for carrots, camera, e’lyte syringes, rain jacket, and rump rug. All of that ends up being easier to put on after Mimi is saddled, since it’s less weight to heave up over her back.

Ride start was at 6:30, with a 6:15 check-in. Both Dad and I were mounted by 6:10, checked-in, and then had the rest of the time to use as a warm-up before the start. The start is situated on a double-track dirt road that dips through a small wash, climbs a slight incline, then drops down to the wash that makes up the first five miles of trail.

Come 6:30, the trail opened, and we found ourselves being whisked along in the middle of the pack – right where we wanted to be. We’ve found that Beamer especially does best when allowed to start along with all the horses, versus being held back. Starting with the pack give him something to focus on – namely, the other horses – and he thinks move about moving forward than moving upward. It was one of our smoothest ride starts, despite Mimi tossing in an uncharacteristic leap of protest at being held back as we crossed through the wash at the start.

The first five miles of trail are mostly in a sand wash that is great for trotting. There were a couple of sections of rocky areas to walk through, but it seems like the wash gets shallower and more trottable every year. This part seemed to zoom by this year, despite having a few moments of “how am I supposed to go 50 miles” when, at around mile 3 or 4, my lower back started whining, my feet went numb, and my legs started wondering how long they could keep up posting. The feeling passed pretty quickly though, and my body settled back into ride mode in short order.

This ride has a lot of checkpoints, courtesy of the county Sheriff’s Jeep Posse. They man the runner’s aid station and take numbers as you pass. They also generously share runner goodies with the riders, a very welcome treat. The first of these many checkpoints is at the 5-mile mark, where we stopped very briefly, split a bottle of water (that was really nice, being able to get a lot of water along the way without having to carry a ton of it on either my person or saddle), and continued on. From here, the trail climbs out of the wash and onto double-track dirt road that winds across rolling meadows at the foothills of the mountains.

Next checkpoint was 7 miles in, and the first horse water available. Neither pony wanted to drink, although Beamer tried to sample the algae growing in the trough. Euw. That was just fine, as there was another trough at the next checkpoint, 2 miles up the trail.

At mile 9, both ponies drank, both riders got off for a quick stretch, and then it was back on trail – the start of what is called the “Grapevine,” a single-track trail that winds up through a canyon and eventually deposits you onto logging roads that take you into the first vet check. This section is one of my favorites. It’s a lot of technical single-track that tunnels through huge stands of scrub oak and Manzanita bushes. Definitely a good section to be wearing half chaps.

Up to this point, Beamer had done the majority of leading, but now it was Mimi’s turn. She’s aces when it comes to hills, especially the kind that involve a lot of twisting, turning, and smart footwork. Her small size and compact build really come in handy on a trail like this.

It’s a 7-mile climb up to VC1, but most of it is slow and gradual, so we were able to trot most of the way to the vet check. We hopped off right at the VC, walked them over to the trough and let them drink, and by the time Beamer was finished drinking, his pulse was down, and Mimi followed suit a minute later (parameters were 64 all day, I think Beamer was at 48, Mimi 60). We were probably in the check a total of three minutes by the time they pulsed down.

It was here I gave up on my heart rate monitor. I haven’t been riding with it of late – my belt for it broke, I’ve yet to get another one put together. and didn’t have time before the ride to remedy that – so I carried the transmitter with me and wore the watch, thinking I could just hold it on her side at the VCs and see when she was down. I attempted this idea at VC1, and gave up when I got a reading of 90 to the pulse-taker’s 60.

VC1 was a hold time of 30 minutes. After pulsing in, we immediately went over to vet in. Both vetted through great, and we found a nice, half-sunny spot to settle in for our remaining…15 minutes. Where does the time go? Dad held the ponies while I grabbed the crew box, draped fleece blankets over their rumps, and laid out pans of sloppy goodie mix, carrots, and hay. I shouldn’t have bothered with their exotic goodie mix concoctions (beet pulp, flax, probiotics) at this ride, as they only wanted hay and carrots. I also used this time for a potty break – ooo, Porta-Potty, very civilized – then traded off pony-holding duties.

Dad and I each ate a peanut butter sandwich, and I amused those around me by multitasking, sandwich still stuffed in my mouth. I believe in eating on the go. The rest of the time was spent refilling water bottles, carrots in the saddle pack, and on-the-trail munchies, then all too soon, it was time to pack up the box, tighten the girths, find a mounting block, and head out…right on the dot at 9:42.

The section after the VC is an old logging-type road that climbs up and down, and up and down, and up and down, drops down onto a gorgeous section of single-track that runs next to a dry streambed, then reaches the next big checkpoint at mile 20. There’s water here for the horses, and they drank again. Shortly after the VC, we met up with Bobbie Jo Lieberman and her Morgan mare, Excalibur Annakate, and they would remain our riding partners for the rest of the day. All three horses paced well together, and got along with each other. There were a couple of dirty looks passed between the two mares a few times, but I consider that par for the course with mares, especially mine.

The next nine miles after the checkpoint at mile 20 is a wide, forest service/logging-type road that winds around Mingus Mountain. It is a mix of being rocky, hard-packed, and pleasant. The first several miles (an approximate guess, since I don’t have a GPS) are rocky, but trottable, especially if you’re wearing hoof boots. The middle three miles are the most unpleasant – large swaths of loose rock, slabs of rock, or a combination of both. It is also out in full sun, making it the warmest part of the ride. However, with highs in the low 70s, even this wasn’t unpleasant.

The view from the road is incredible, though, and in a way, it’s kind of nice to have to walk part of the way, as it allows you to take in the view. At one point, it’s possible to see all the way out to the Sedona red rock canyons, and the whole of the Verde Valley is laid out before you. The camera can’t even begin to capture the panoramic magnificence of the view.

The last three miles or so of the road are really nice. The rocks seem to disappear, comparatively, and you can really fly through this last section. There are sporadically placed culvert alongside the road, though, which makes for some interesting duck-and-weave maneuvers as you go trotting past. Metal culverts = Mimi’s mortal enemy.

At the end of the road awaits what most consider the toughest part of the ride: a three-mile climb up Mingus Mountain, with an elevation gain of about 1800’. (Did the little voices just start chanting, “Tevis training, Tevis training, Tevis training?”) At this point, the trail turns from road into single track, and starts moving upward.

This was our lowest point last year, when, partway through the climb, Mimi slipped on a very tricky, technical section of the trail and we nearly wiped out. All of that was not helped by the fact it was really wet, muddy, and slick last year. This year, the weather was on our side, and the trail seemed to be in great shape. However, remembering last year, I hopped off Mimi in advance of the tough area, which involves a steep climb, sharp switchback, and immediate step up/jump (depending on your horse’s height and leg length) over a rocky ledge.

She clearly remembered last year’s episode, and kindly stopped before the jump up the ledge to let me scramble ahead, then gamely jumped up after me. Good girl. We took a five minute break here in order for me to relearn how to breathe (I don’t do well at elevations) and when Mimi started pulling me down the trail again, I hopped back on to ride her the rest of the way.

Partway up the mountain, we happened upon an unexpected trail occupant: a Green Mojave rattlesnake. Bobbie had been leading the way, with us about a hundred feet behind her. She called back to say she heard something that sounded like rattling behind her, and just about that time, the trail in front of us exploded in a hissing and rattling storm. Beamer slammed to a stop and backed up several yards until he ran into the immovable barrier that was the pony, and we watched as a large snake slithered across the trail and draped itself over a rock about five feet off the trail. After standing there for a couple minutes, trying to determine if the snake was going to keep going, or if he was settled in for the duration, we quickly scurried past him. As if climbing the hill wasn’t enough to get the heart rate going.

The rest of the climb up the mountain is fairly slow-going in most places. There are a few places where you can pick up a trot and make some time, only to slow down within a couple hundred yards to pick through more rocks. It’s the climb that keeps on going – when they say you’re going to the top of the mountain, they mean the very top. Near the top, there’s one final section that involves some deft maneuvering over and through some boulders in the middle of the trail, but Mimi-the-mountain-goat scampered right through it without a hitch. Her little feet come in handy sometimes – she can use tiny crevices and spaces in between rocks as footholds, and pick her way through a tricky section, versus having to leap over a large boulder in one go.

After reaching the top, it’s another mile of blissfully flat forest service road into the vet check at 33 miles . We walked this road as a chance to let the ponies cool off and stretch out after the hard climb. I was ultra-conservative and ultra-paranoid at this ride, as Mimi has had some problems in the past with muscle cramping, so I rode with a rump rug, and religiously whipped it out every time we stopped for more than thirty seconds. That, combined with a more aggressive electrolyting protocol, must have helped, because there weren’t any signs of some of the problems we’ve had in the past.

The vetting portion of VC2 was a repeat of our check-in that involved the vets looking at her cross-eyed as we trotted out, and my heart just sank when I heard the dreaded words, “Trot her out again.” Oh, no. No, no, no. Don’t tell me we just climbed all the way up that %#*^ mountain only to get pulled.

So we trotted again. My legs weren’t being the most cooperative, and the trot-out area was in a small mountain meadow covered in grass that hid a lot of dips and ruts – hard terrain to move out in, which meant we were trotting pretty slow, and the slower she trots, the funkier Mimi looks.

She didn’t look any worse the second time, and even after a very thorough check up and down her legs, she wasn’t showing any signs of pain or soreness, and her heart rate was all of about 48 at this point, the vets ultimately left the decision up to me as to whether I wanted to continue.

There was no doubt in my mind at this point: Absolutely! I know my pony, I know how she moves. She was moving totally normal for her, she was bright-eyed, and her metabolics were great. When she’s uncomfortable, her pulse is sky-high, or it hangs in the mid-range, and she won’t eat. Well, her pulse was down, and she was starving. I often think I over-pack the amount of feed for VCs, but this time, I barely brought enough. They decimated a flake of alfalfa between the two of them at VC1, and at VC2, they each polished off half a flake of alfalfa, half a flake of Bermuda, a couple carrots, and a few scraps of someone’s oat/grain mix leftovers.

Oddly enough, neither of them touched their carefully prepared goodie mixes. And I even left the electrolytes out. VC2 was a longer hold – 45 minutes – and I used the time to feed myself and Dad, refill water bottles and my Camelbak, restock on carrots, and stuff more snacks in the saddles.

All too soon, it was time to go…where does the time go at these vet checks? I don’t know how people manage to sit down and take a break at them – my only break seems to be when I pause to go take a bathroom break. Maybe it gets easier and more streamlined as you go along. Or maybe I need to start trying to wrangle people into coming to crew for me.

We headed out, right on time (yeah!), and moseyed down the trail until they were warmed up, then set off again at a nice trot. At this point, the trail starts heading down the mountain, and was a mix of forest roads and single-track. And rocks. A lot of rocks in this section, and I was so glad for the Renegades. All three of us were riding with Renegades, so were able to move out over the terrain.

Five miles after the vet check, we were back at the same checkpoint as mile 20. Last year, this was where we got pulled. This year, we paused to let the ponies drink, then continued up the road at a brisk trot. This section was fun – a couple miles of forest service dirt road, and we really moved out, even letting the ponies “race” at a canter for a few minutes.

At mile 40, we turned off the road onto what is my new favorite section of the ride: a 3-mile stretch of single-track trail that slowly winds down the mountain, trottable 95% of the way. Mimi led through this section, and we a had a blast! These are her favorite kind of trails, and she just zooms her way through the trees and up and down the hills. This was the section of the ride we missed last year, so I was really excited to be able to make it this year, and Mimi picked up on my excitement, since she practically bounded through here, and before we knew it, we were at VC3 – a gate-and-go style check at mile 43. At this point, the trail meets up with where the 25-milers came through after their hold at VC1, and leads home. All of our ponies had done the 25 before at this ride (Mimi three times) so they knew the way home.

We vetted through quickly, then were off again. At this point, it’s seven miles to the finish. The first two miles are somewhat narrow single-track that switchbacks down the mountain. Mimi wanted to really zip through this section, but begrudgingly acquiesced to my more delicate sensibilities (“No, don’t go racing through here, there’s no catch vegetation!”) most of the way down. It is entirely trottable if you have nerves of steel and need to make up time, but we were still doing okay, time-wise, so we walked part of it and trotted part of it. (Tevis training, right? Actually, truth be told, after riding part of the Tevis canyons over the summer, I found this to be a bit scarier – it’s more open than the canyons, despite a lot of Manzanita catch-vegetation.)

At the bottom of the mountain, it’s a mile of mostly-smooth, double-track dirt road, and we made up a lot of time here, although I had to stop a couple times to accommodate and give my right shin a break, since the pressure from the stirrup leather was reaching the knife-burning sensation level. Another mile on the “power line road,” a wide, hard-packed road that leads back to residential areas, and then camp was in sight.

Two miles across a wide-open field, following a cow path, and we were DONE! We slow-trotted the last mile or so, then walked the last 100 yards to the finish line. Mimi had her “pony march” going, and was out-walking the “big horses” to cross the line first in our group. In her mind, she won.

I know it’s not official until the vet-out, but I knew we had done it. We finished what I would consider to be one of the toughest 50s in the Southwest Region. People were still waiting at the finish line for us to come in, and as soon as I heard their applause, I couldn’t hold back the tears – of joy, of amazement, of absolute pride and wonder for my little Go Pony. She was still bright-eyed and marching, 11 hours and 45 minutes after our start, and after I dismounted, she dragged me over to the water trough to drink.

I whipped the rump rug out, pulled off her leg wraps one final time, and took her over to vet out right then and there. She vetted through great, and the adrenaline from the success of finishing the trail and crossing that line was enough to motivate me to run as fast as I could for the trot-out. That trot-out score was her best of the entire ride.

They were sufficiently cooled-out enough to be able to take them back to the trailer, untack them, blanket them, and leave them to large amounts of grass hay to munch. Last year, we came in so late, we didn’t get dinner. This year, we were still in time to get more than enough of the fabulous barbeque dinner: ribs, melt-in-your-mouth brisket, coleslaw, beans, and peach cobbler. And wine. A finish like this deserves celebration.

The awards for the 50 milers include the coveted silver buckle for finishers…the start of my ride buckle collection! We also got hats, and the t-shirts that all participants get. After dinner, we took the ponies for a walk around camp, let them drink from the troughs, and then left them to sleep, stockpiled with a large amount of food to munch overnight.

A phone call and a few text messages later to spread the word, a “sponge bath” with baby wipes, and it was time for bed. During the night, a storm front started moving in, and despite being exhausted, I kept waking up every couple hours to howling wind outside. At 3 a.m., I finally woke up, in need of Motrin…which was in the truck. I pathetically crawled out of bed and out of the dressing room, but I was glad I went outside when I did. Both ponies had eaten nearly all of their hay, so I gave them a refill, grabbed my Motrin, and went back to bed again, this time until about 6:30.

When I woke up the second time, it was light enough for me to see the formation of storm clouds in the mountains, which was enough to get me out of bed and moving – I had no desire to pack up camp in the rain. Dad woke up shortly thereafter, and in between packing, we took the ponies for another stroll around camp. Mimi was moving much better than I was, which is to say, she was striding out energetically, eyes still sparkling, moving from water trough to trough, and sampling leftover hay left behind vacated camps, while I pathetically lurched alongside. (Don’t I get any credit for sparkling eyes, too? My muscles might have been screeching obscenities at me, but that didn’t diminish the joy I felt over our finish.)

By 8:00, we were packed up and pulling out of camp, just as a few rain splatters started coming down. Good timing! The drive home was just as uneventful as the trip up, and we unloaded two very happy ponies back at the barn. We turned them out in their pasture to roll and drink before bringing them back in for a quick bath. Fortunately, the weather was still warm enough down in the Valley to be able to hose off the sweat and dirt from the weekend. Then they got to roll again. Life is good. :)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Superpony Rides Again

Mimi earned a new nickname courtesy of Kirt Lander of Renegade Hoof Boots this weekend: Superpony. And Superpony and I completed the 50 at Man Against Horse on Saturday!

Longer ride story up in the next couple of days, but the short version is both Dad and I finished, with 15 minutes to spare, with sound, happy ponies that still looked like they were ready for more. I, on the other hand, would like the next week to recover.

It was definitely the rockiest, toughest ride I have ever done, so I'm so incredibly proud of my pony. She is all heart, and one tough little mare.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Yikes, where've I been? Almost a month since my last post? Shameful. Life's been busy, what with school, and there hasn't been much new to report on the horse front. However...

We're bound for Man Against Horse this weekend! And it was a last-minute decision, made around noon today, which means a flurry of activity to get everything ready.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Quiet Happenings

So the blog has been quiet of late because not much has been happening. Weather has cut into our riding time...it's been so hot and humid of late that we've not been very motivated to get the ponies out, and as such, have lost a lot of conditioning time. When it's 110*, plus 40-50% humidity, there's no sane time to ride. Even at night, temps have stayed in the high 80s/low 90s.

That, combined with rather tight finances (no thanks to school raising tuition...) means we're skipping Man Against Horse this year. I'm sad about it, but it's such a difficult ride that I'd feel guilty putting Mimi into it with the amount of riding we've been doing over the summer, especially since we haven't done a ride since February. If she was 50-mile-over-the-summer fit, then having the last month of spotty conditioning probably wouldn't be so bad, but that's my paranoid ride making itself known.

Still working on my Tevis crewing story...

I did get a couple new pairs of tights in from Evelyn at Just For Horsin-Around. I've been a good girl and basically worn my current tights to pieces, so it was time for new ones. (I was down to one pair of publically acceptable tights for rides, and one semi-acceptable...the other are in various stages of disrepair and sheerness.) I got on pair of nice, sedate, plain purple cotton/lycra, which should be good for hot summers. The other pair, I just told Evelyn I wanted a nylon/lycra pattern with lots of purple and black in it.

I LOVE them!!!
I'll be hard to miss at rides now...as if the rather memorable little white pony wasn't enough, I'll be sporting these wild numbers come ride day. I don't think I'll have to worry about running into myself out on trail. I just might have to worry about spooking my pony...
And I just got new insoles or my Terrains again, so we'll see if I can make them work. They're my favorite shoes, overall. My hiking sneakers are great for hiking, and good for riding, but can be narrow in the toes for riding and make my feet go numb after too long a period of time, especially downhill trotting. My Ariat Endurance (meshy, lighter-weight version of the Terrains, kind of) are great for riding, but my little toes jam into the sides in a weird fashion if I hike for more than half a mile in them. Overall, I've found the Terrains to be the best for riding and hiking, even if I think they could sometimes use a little more traction...observe as I slither rapidly down the loose granite hills and try not to fall on my bum...
Of course, looking at the underside of the Terrains, I cam to the realization that they are about seven years old...no wonder they're a bit worn.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Coping Methods

Just reading through Merri Melde's account of her Tevis ride -- and finish! -- I had to smile as she mentioned singing as a way of getting through the seemingly endless California Loop...apparently her music of choice is from "The Sound of Music."

I smiled because singing has always been my coping method of choice for those endless stretches of trail, or when I get uptight on squeak-inducing sections of trail (areas of Man Against Horse in Prescott). My current selection comes from "Phantom of the Opera" and particularly the new movie version of it...they have a couple of songs that are exclusive to the movie (end credits) and for some reason, "Child of the Wilderness" stuck in my head and it's easy to sing softly, even if I keep forgetting the exact order of the verses.

Mimi seems to like my singing, even though I'm pretty much tone-deaf. It cheers her up, and I've learned that as you're singing, you have to breathe, so it's pretty much impossible to stay tense and uptight in the saddle.

Anybody have any other music suggestions? I'm very eclectic in my music tastes, but not all of it translates over well to being sung going down the endurance trail. Something cheerful or melodic is good, or happy, bouncy, and a little bit silly. I've also been known to spout Disney music while trotting down the trail (is this scaring anybody off from wanting to ride with me?) from my favorite Disney offerings: "The Lion King," "Beauty and the Beast," and "Robin Hood." "Anastasia" and "The Swan Princess" have given me a few good ideas, too. Sensing a trend here that I like animated movies? :)

(Just a hint: Chanting, "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date" ["Alice in Wonderland"] while trying to make time can or cannot be taken as humorous by one's riding partner, depending on the circumstances.)

Just plain musicals are good, too..."Phantom" as aforementioned, and "Wicked" are the two that I know really well. Mind you, I seem to have issues remembering the entire song, so I tend to string together a couple verses here and there from various songs. I'm a one-woman variety show. :)

I will learn all the lyrics to "Modern Major General" from "Pirates of Penzance." It has a certain bouncy rhythm that would go well with the eggbeater's trot, although that same quality can sometimes make it grate on other's nerves. I try to sing quietly, and only when it's my father and I, but I fear even he can only take so much. "It's A Small World" is strictly forbidden.

What "coping methods" do others have out there?

Crewing Tevis: The Brief Cliffnotes

I'm working on a very detailed, extensive write-up of my experience crewing at Tevis 2009 and the week-long vacation that was centered around it. My computer and I are at odds, though, and it thought it was funny to eat it. Thank goodness for MSWord Document Recovery, but the thought of having lost the three pages already written took the wind out of my sails, and I need to start back up again.

The short version: I had a grand time crewing for Lucy Trumbull and her pone Roo. She was a wonderful rider to crew for, providing very clear directions and a flexible approach (her words: "This is what I would like to happen, but am not really too particular if it doesn't") and Roo was an angel to take care of...cheerfully eating and drinking and not standing on us.

They did get pulled at Chicken Hawk, 64 miles in, when Roo cramped in the hind end. :(

Lucy was still very happy with how they did for their first Tevis, and Roo looked none the worse for the wear. By the next morning, he was cantering around his paddock, eyes sparkling, bossing the other pones around. You'd never know he had just done 64 miles on some of the toughest trail in the country.

Lucy is already talking Tevis 2010. :)

I got a chance to ride the trail from Foresthill to El Dorado Creek (the middle canyon) and back. Pics will be posted in the comprehensive post, but just briefly: I was pleasantly surprised. I'd read the stories and seen the pictures, and was fully expecting the trail to be a lot worse and a lot scarier. I understand that I saw the "easier" parts of the canyons, but I had expected worse. Granted, my perspective was one of a fresh rider and horse, not one who had already gone 46 miles before starting the descent into the canyons, but knowing what the last two climbs are like is encouraging.

I'll keep chipping away at my crewing story, so look for it appearing in the next several days, most likely over several installments, complete with pictures.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


In about 5 hours, I will be leaving for the airport, whre I will fly up to Sacramento for...


Crewing Tevis, to be more precise. My rider is Lucy Trumbull, #170.

I should have Internet before and after the ride, although I won't be bringing my computer with me to the actual ride. Something about a battery that only lasts for 15 minutes...

The ride's live webcast can be followed here: http://www.teviscup.org/webcast/main.html. Rider upates will be posted regularly, and there is a feature called 'Where's My Rider?' that allows you to type in a specific number and find out the last update on that rider (what time they came in to which vetcheck, if they were pulled, so on). Photos should also be posted.

Good luck to everyone riding Tevis this year!!!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Honest Scrap Award

Thank you Crysta at Go Diego Go and Danielle at If the Trees Had Ears for both bestowing upon this blog its first award ever, the Honest Scrap Award. Both are fellow endurance riders whose blogs I've been following for a while now, and I will have the opportunity in a few weeks to meet Crysta in person while crewing at Tevis.

When you receive The Honest Scrap award you must stick to some rules:

- Recognize your award presenter and link back to their blog in your post.
- List 10 honest things about yourself that others might not know.
- Present this award to 10 admirable bloggers and link to their blogs.
- Leave a comment on your recipients' blogs to let them know to visit your post to retrieve their award.

My honest scraps:

1. I think I'm destined to be a professional student for the rest of my life. After grumbling my way through high school and ranting my way through my bachelor's degree at Arizona State, I went back to school yet again for the (seemingly endless) task for getting my certification in court reporting. It's a long process, but for the most part, I enjoy it.

2. I've been very blessed to have my "once in a lifetime horse" as my first horse. I can't imagine having another horse that I'll have this kind of close, bonded relationship with again. I was so fortunate to have been able to spend so much time together when we were both growing up, especially since our partnership of green rider + green horse was an equation that never should have worked.

3. I'm a slightly OCD control freak. Lists and post-it notes dominate my life. The upside of this is it means I can have my horse trailer packed and ready to go to a ride within a couple hours. The downside of this is everything has its place, and only I know where that place is. My patient father has learned to just pull down the heavy stuff and hand it to me to do with what I will. Beware, anyone that volunteers to crew for me at Tevis...there will be pages of instructions.

4. I'm a very eclectic person with lots of various interests besides horses to try keep my mind occupied and prevent OCD fixation on any one topic (it doesn't work). These include writing, photography, reading, jewelry making, sewing, and travel.

5. I'm a former show person who used to be scared to ride outside of the comfort of the arena, since Mimi was "so bad" any time I'd ride off my trainer's property. (In the mind of a very cautious [read: chicken$#!*] twelve year old, outwalking the other ponies and "looking" at the garbage cans was cause for great concern on my part.) Now, I hate riding in an arena unless I absolutely have to, and have a goal of doing Tevis on this same pony. :) How far we've come. I think my former trainer's jaw hits the ground every time I email her one of my ride stories.

6. My biggest goal and obsession of endurance is Tevis. It's probably so cliched by now, and I'm hardly the first person to come up with this goal, but it piqued my attention when I first started in distance riding, and grabbed hold of me after my first year crewing at there in 2004. Not to jinx best-laid plans and all that, but if the stars align and the distance gods are feeling gracious, my goal is to make it to Tevis 2010.

7. I'm an Arizona native, which means I can theoretically handle heat well. I do, but not without complaint. However, I die in anything over 15% humidity. There is a reason I want to move to San Diego, where it is 70* year-round.

8. I'm an only child, and still live at home. This works out very well in several ways: I work for my parents, out of the comfort of our home; Dad and I ride together; I can concentrate on school an not have to be a Real Adult yet.

9. As mentioned above, Dad and I ride together. Mom and I are what my Dad calls the "creative geniuses" of the family -- we both have creative, artistic endeavors that we do together. Riding is Dad's and my thing. We've been "returning the favor" back and forth for years -- I was the first one to get into horses...Dad followed suit. He wasn't interested in the show ring, though, and started trail riding, which turned into competitive trail (NATRC). He got me out of the show ring and onto the trail. After a couple years of NATRC, I turned my sights on endurance, at which point, Dad bought a new, endurance-suitable horse. Now, we're both focused on Tevis, although I'm far more obsessed about it.

10. I'm a self-admitted geek in the sense that I love sci-fi/fantasy, computer stuff (although I'm bad at it), reading, writing, the works.

The ten bloggers list is going to be difficult, mostly because a lot of people in my immediate blog vicinity have already received the award. The problem with running in a small group of people, we all follow each others blogs, and I was slow on the draw to get working on this.

- Horse Stories Illustrated. Cristy Cumberworth is a friend, fellow distance rider, and amazing photographer. She was the photographer at my very first NATRC ride eight years ago, and she very graciously allowed me to be her photo assistant the following year. Her talents as a photographer are beyond amazing...check out her blog and see if you don't agree!

- Here, There & Everywhere. Christine is working toward her first distance ride with her Standardbred Bling and done-a-bit-of-everything mule, TAZ.

- Between Golden Ears. Lei and her Halfinger pony Mitch are both fans of trail riding, and working towards the possibility of competitive trail. Mitch is one of the cutest ponies ever!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Steps in the right direction

Success! Today, for the first time ever, we were able to do a proper training ride going barefoot in the back! 9 miles, walking and trotting, only having to slow down over the worst of the rocky sections. Apparently the combination of using Renegades and doing my own trimming in between farrier visits is working.

In the past, the most I've managed is a couple miles before Mimi started acting flinchy. Today, she didn't flinch once, and did a great job of maneuvering around the rocky sections of trail. If I can start going bare in the back for rides at the San Tans, that'll really extend the life of my boots even more.

It was also trimming day after riding, so Mimi's feet are nice and pretty again. She only got one tiny chip on her hind feet from going bare today, which was excellent.

It was hot, hot, hot both days this weekend, which was excellent for heat conditioning. Fortunately, there was a very nice breeze yesterday. Today was warmer, but I wore the CoolMedics vest and that made it a lot more bearable. Yesterday was an excellent ride. We did the 14 mile big training loop in just over 2 hours, doing a nice trot for a good part of the way. Some of the time, Mimi was happy to do her relaxed, 6.5-7mph "100-miler trot" and then other times she was much more eager to move out at her 9-10mph "power trot." She's feeling so good right now, which is encouraging and motivating enough to really keep up a religious training schedule during the brutal summer temperatures.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Because I'm Not Insane Enough

For your consideration and considerable amusement, I present to you the following Facebook conversation:

A: Perfect weather for a morning run...pony fitness is good, so time to work on the rider.

K: Ahhhhhhhh!!!! Ashley's running!!!!!! YES! I'm already thinking of the San Diego rideNtie possibilities. Can't help it, it's what I do.... ;)

A: That would be awesome! And Mimi's the perfect RnT height...easy to get on! We'd have to do something about the vastly different stirrup lengths...

K: No big - are you riding in an english or endurance right now? How's mimiers at being tied to a bush and left as other horses ride by?

A: English saddle -- Duett. I have no idea how she'll do, I've never tried it. The idea would be to try to find a RnT practice session and/or mentor before signing up for a race. Errr...you do know you'll have to be the stronger runner of the two of us, right?

K: Consider it COVERED woman! i'm training for the calico 30k this jan and the goal is to eventually be THAT PERSON who people remember at rides because she runs WITH her horse. ;) If it's english and I'm not spending more than a couple miles in the saddle at one time it shouldn't need adjusting. Just a fleece cover :) Your legs will love you for it. I'm thinking about the Manzanita and Descanso RnT's that concurrently happen with the endurance ride...but later, when you're in SD and don't have to pay for coggins/HT's. ;)

A: Already got the full sheepskin cover after Descanso NATRC in 07...can't imagine riding without it now!

K: For sure - i love those things though i rarely use mine due to the cholla and creosote that seem to be magnetically attracted to it!

A is, obviously, me. K is friend Kaity. We've sort of grown up together, despite living in two different states. We both used to show in POA, showed against each other for years (and we're still best friends), both started riding NATRC, then both switched over to endurance.

She used to ride a POA gelding, Sonny. He and Mimi are cousins, same grandsire on their POA half -- he's POA/Morgan cross, Mimi is POA/QH cross. Sonny is 21 now, I believe, and retired from competition, and Kaity is starting a new horse - a 5 year old (I think...4 or 5 now) Arabian/Appaloosa gelding named Kody.

Kaity and Sonny at Descanso NATRC 2007. We rode together all day, with Dad and Beamer happily sandwiched between the two Bad Ponies.

Kaity loves runing, and is fortunate enough to live right up against trails she can run and ride on. As evidenced from the above conversation, this translates into a want to try Ride N Tie, and I have to admit, her enthusiasm is contagious. I've wanted to try RnT, but have lacked a willing partner...Dad is having trouble generating any sort of interest in the sport, as he really hates running. Also, the complete lack of any RnT activity in AZ makes it all sort of a moot point.

I'm not that great at running, but I enjoy the feeling I get afterwards. Yesterday, I got a couple-mile run in...which consisted of "run about a 1/4 mile, then walk pathetically for a bit, then run a bit, then walk a bit." The idea behind this is to get fit enough to get off and keep up with Mimi for short periods of time while jogging, thus giving her a break while still making time.

And I think Mimi's got a solid enough brain to handle being tied off while others pass. I think. The advantage of using her is, she is short. The disadvantage -- her saddle rolls when you mount, so you have to tie off next to a bank or rock or some elevated surface with which to swring from. Also, Kaity is about 5'9" or so. I am (barely) 5'5". She can vault onto a pony no problem, probably without stirrups. I tend to pathetically slither and scramble on.

So maybe Mimi will have an endurance and RnT career, or maybe she gets shuffled down to the RnT horse after I can afford to keep a second horse (right...looking at San Diego prices for horsekeeping...I'm going to have to produce a lot of transcripts...). But that's still a ways away.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Brownie Points

Instead of riding on Sunday, I got to spend 15+ hours helping my aunt pack up her house and load the moving van, as she rather spontaneously decided to move...back to her home town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, after living on the West Coast (CA and AZ) for the last 32 years.

Lots of familial brownie points were earned in the hefting of boxes, and my ability to pack fragile things and make boxes for pictures. Never knew those years of working in the packing/shipping/mailbox center would come in so handy. This ought to get me off the hook for family obligations for a bit.

Equally spontaneous was my father's decision to jump in the moving truck with his brother, who is helping their sister (my aunt) with the move. Coincident to this is my grandparents will be moving out of their house and into a retirement community the same week their kids (my dad, aunt, and uncle) are going to be back there. Well, maybe not so coincident, as that was the hope that was how it would all play out, but very handy to have my aunt's house and grandparents' house sell at essentially the same time and to be able to time the move in such a way that they can all help each other out.

Mind you, Dad made the decision to go with them this morning. They're leaving this afternoon. So much for careful trip planning. The entire morning has been spent running around helping Dad get stuff together, clearing and reuploading music to my iPod shuffle for him to borrow, ironing, and getting the last of the newly-inherited items out of my suburban. That's why I don't mind helping people move, since I tend to acquire new things. Among the new toys accumulated: a scanner (score! don't have to go buy my own once I move), little bureau-top mirror and jewelry drawer, two picture boards (I adore these...they're the fabric kind, with ribbons stretched across to slide pictures under...I have one that is hopelessly full already). and a rusty iron display shelf. Might not be able to use a lot of stuff right away, but I'm slowly gathering it all for my own eventual move.

Fortunately, we had a good ride on Saturday. I think I have a hot-weather pony, because she has been unnaturally cheerful for the past couple months. Either she loves the weather, or she's feeling so good because her hocks aren't bothering her anymore. That in mind, I had no idea they had been bothering her for that long, if that's the case. She acts like she just turned six, not sixteen. She's power-trotting up hills and through sand washes, playfully spooking at Pony Eating Birds, asking for more speed (um, no. we're not trotting at 10mph through the sand wash) and in general, acting like a very cheerful, mischievous pony.

I can't even get aggravated about her antics, because I'm just so happy to see her feeling so good and acting so happy. Makes me believe we might actually have an enurance career that spans beyond a handful of rides. She's pretty good at telling me when she's happy or not, and I figure, as long as she's happy, sound, and healthy, we're going to keep going until she says "enough." Half of our time together has been littered with the echos of the phrase, "you can't do x." But that's a whole other topic that deserves its own post. :)

Saturday was hot, Hot, HOT. 95* by the time we were pulling out of the trailhead after the ride. Still experimenting with packs and various and sundry. This time it was trying to find a way to carry loaded elyte syringes, and if I had a little bag long and narrow enough to carry them seperately (I don't.) I have visions of applesauce/elyte-loaded syringes exploding all over my saddle packs...I might be able to put together something, but I don't know if my mom's sewing machine is strong enough to handle tough, cordura-type of material.

The other thing I was experimenting with was carrying my Camelbak waist pack. Apparently I'm a Camelbak collector and am determined to find something that works, sinceI have three of them -- two of the backpack-style, and the waist pack. The smaller backpack I'm not too fond of, as it's more of a nuissance than it's worth for the amount of water it carries. Plus, it grabs at t-shirts and pulls them up underneath it. The larger backpack carries more water, but that makes it heavier, and it doesn't shuffle around as much.

The waist pack carries about 45oz of water -- two bottles worth, essentially, and doesn't seem too heavy. It interferes a tiny bit with the cantle on downhills, until I figured out if I shifted around a bit, it rests against the cantle and I can lean back on it like a back rest going down hills. Trotting, it doesn't seem to interfere, but I have to keep tightening it as I drain the water out of it. I like that I can carry more stuff in the pack, like more food for myself, and a mini first-aid kit. And with Mimi feeling so good lately, she's been a little more "looky" and spooky...bad time of year to get dumped in the desert without water on your person.

My lower back is sore today, but I don't know if that's a function of the Camelbak, or of spending all day yesterday moving boxes. I noticed a tiny bit of muscle soreness Saturday night, but that could be just needing to acclimate my back and ab muscles to carrying more weight. All in all, definitely worth experimenting with, even if to only use it for the hot part of rides. I do drink more than if I have to fish around for bottles.

Friday, May 29, 2009

McDowell Results

Valley of the Sun (McDowell) results are up...apparently I came in 26th, with a 9:42 ride time. I guess it was a slower ride for me than I thought. Keep in mind that 40 of those minutes were "extra time" spent at the vet check, getting my Renegades straightened out, but I thought for sure I was going faster than that. A little disconcerting to be trot-trot-trotting everywhere and have a 5.5 mph average speed.

EDIT: Forgot to add...36/36 people finished the 50.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Memorial Day & Mimi's "Birthday" Ride

Well, it wasn't quite like last year's unseasonable Memorial Day, but the weekend temps did dip to the high 80s and low 90s, which made for a pleasant riding weekend. We didn't ride Saturday, as the truck battery died overnight...waht a thing to discover at 5:30 in the morning. Morning was spent getting that fixed, and by the time that was done, the clouds and rain from the previous day had left behind a blanket of humidity, combined with bright sun...not my kind of riding weather.

Sunday helped make up for it -- warm, but not unbearable, and much lower humidity. We spent some time exploring around the San Tans -- rode to the south park entrance and then rode out of the park and around some of the dirt roads and surrounding houses. The ponies really liked getting out into new turf. Mimi was very cheerful, and after patiently trailing behind Beamer for the first half of the ride, she took advantage of the very wide dirt roa and outwalked him into the lead, and lead through the rest of the explorations.

Monday -- Memorial Day -- was more of the same warm-but-functional temps. We did the big loop at the San Tans, and leapfrogged with friend Donna, a local trail rider who lives next to the park and is the one responsible for 98% of the trails there. We rode with her for a bit out of the trailhead, then moved out ahead of her, then she took a different trail and got in front of us, then veered off to do some trail blazing, so we got in front of her and "blitzed" (yeah, 8-9mph...speed demons, us) through the back sand wash. She caught us after we got through the wash and stated one our way back, and then rode with us the rest of the way back to the trailers.

It was a great ride -- Mimi hates Donna's mare Nackatee (I know I spelled that wrong...) so we put her up front, Beamer in the middle, and Nackatee in the back. Mimi was happy as a clam with this arrangement, and really hustled, lest the hated mare creep up too close to her. It was really nice to get her 4.5mph ride walk on a training ride.

We did the 14 mile loop in 2 hours, 45 minutes, and that includes two stops of about 15 minutes each time to give-ponies-a-breather and for Dad to fix his rear Renegade straps -- the Velcro is beyond dead on them, but we were trying to get as much wear out of them as possible. Not bad, considering they're still from McDowell, and Beamer drags his back toes, especially in the sand.

Some of the new trails they've put in at the San Tans are really conducive for uphill trotting, especially the one that leads out of the back sand wash. It's probably about 3/4 of a mile of gradual uphill (my GPS died on me a couple months ago, so don't have any concrete data as to elevation change), with a few twists and turns. Mimi led up that section and trotted the whole thing. She's a little trotting metronome when it comes to that kind of trail. She just motors up, a nice steady little trot the entire way. I think her heart rate peaked at the top of the hill at 110, then dropped to 60 within three or four minutes.

We've been doing a lot more hill trotting, and the ponies are loving it. Beamer is learning to be more consistent in going at speed uphill. He likes to walk up at 2 mph, but then he can zoom down and walk out at 4-5mph on the downhill. The plan, should we ever manage to make it to Tevis, is to send him down the canyons first, since Mimi will hustle to keep up with him, and then send Mimi up the canyons first since she just chugs up hills, and Beamer stops to mope as soon as his heart rate goes over 80. Good combination...she's a bit too careful on downhills sometimes (is that possible?) and needs another horse in front of her to speed her up, otherwise she'll waste time carefully examining every millimeter of trail she's going to put her hoof down on.

I was quite thrilled with how Mimi felt on Monday's ride -- very light, collected, and forward. She handled some very slight downhill trotting really well, without me having to do anything. She's built slightly downhill, so downhill trotting, even very slight downhill grades, often results in her being very heavy on the forehand, and me having to really hold her together. She did so well this time, though, carrying herself really well in her back, and really using her hind end. And because she was balanced and even, it was really easy for me to stay balanced myself.

School started back up again for me this week, so we're confined to the weekend thing now for the rest of the summer, but at least I have Fridays off, so we're going to go horse camping at least once.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mimi!

My wonderful pony turns 16 today! I've been so blessed to have had twelve and half wonderful years with her, and God willing, am looking forward to many more!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Blue Point

Dad and I took the ponies to the Salt River today and rode around Bulldog Canyon at the Blue Point Recreation Area. It was hot out there, even with getting an early start, so the ponies greatly enjoyed the chance to play in the river. Both went in up to their knees, and would have gone further had we let them.

I got the chance to harass Mimi with a sponge; her snorts of indignation were hilarious when I dropped the sponge in the river and started pulling it along, and then had the nerve to touch her with it. Can you tell we don't get much of a chance for sponging practice in the desert?

We didn't do a super-long ride, maybe ten miles, and went pretty slow. A lot of the trails around there are either really hard-packed old jeep and 4-wheeler roads, or deep sand wash. There are better trails if you ride west from the trailhead, but we wanted to stick close to the river where it was a little bit cooler and let the ponies play in the water.

The most excitement was generated by the large trees that served as a nesting spot for several dozen blue herons. Mimi took great offense every time one took off and would fly within her range of vision, especially behind her. She just knew one of them was going to use her butt as a landing platform. :)

And we saw a rather large rattlesnake, less than half a mile out from the trailhead. He was laying across the road sunning himself and looking very comfortable. He didn't see the need to move, so we detoured around him.

Photo album of shots taken during the ride, including some amusing ones down at the river, can be found here: http://s20.photobucket.com/albums/b210/goldash/Blue%20Point-Bulldog%20Canyon%20May%202009/. I also put the same one on Facebook.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Things Ashley is Not Allowed to do at Tevis

I'm theoretically on a two-week break from school right now, although it's been anything but a break. My computer once again crashed on Tuesday night, for reason still unbeknownst, other than the vague, "bad hard drive." So much for warranty work.

Fortunately, I was able to get it fixed with overnight service Wednesday, and one new hard drive later, I got my computer back this morning. But by yesterday evening, I was drained from all the stress and trauma associated with yet another computer crash (at least I managed to keep about 85% of my data this time). Dinner was an interesting affair, with me chattering on and on (I babble when I'm tired), and this time, the topic was the impending crewing at Tevis this summer. My long-suffering parents humor me with listening ears and bemused grins. My father, too, wants to ride Tevis, but he doesn't have the same depth of obsession that I possess.

All of those elements combined to produce, in good humor, the following list:

Things Ashley is Not Allowed to do at Tevis This Summer Whilst Crewing:

- Max out credit cards on tack and gear.
- Bring back more suitcases than I left with.
- Buy a horse.
- Enter the ride last minute. (Like this would happen, since I don't have my qualifying mileage.)
- Move to Auburn.
- Buy anything too large to fit in my suitcase and thus have to ship it home.
- Buy a new saddle.

In my mother's words, "Are you there to crew or shop?"

All of this was in good humor, but it is true. I'm somewhat prone to impulse buys as it is, and tend to get caught up in the excitement of Tevis fever. To give myself credit, the largest impulse purchase during the two times I've been up there was an aluminum S-hack. Besides, that what shopping lists are for, right? Just stick to the list...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Odds 'n Ends

Not a whole lot of new happenings to report around here...I'm down to the last week and half of school before a three-week break between spring and summer session, so that's kept me busy. Short rides last weekend, as the ponies were a bit sore from trimming. *growl* I rasp Mimi for six weeks and she's perfect, my farrier comes and trims her, and she's sore. Wonder what it would take for me to get good enough at rasping to not have to bring the farrier out.

Vet was out today for spring shots, and to get Beamer's teeth done. For once in my life, I escaped with the lowest vet bill of the whole barn. *happy dance* Mimi, miraculously, only needed 4-Way and West Nile shots. So they'll probably get another weekend of taking it easy coming up, since I want to give their bodies time to get the shot toxins out of their systems before working too hard in the heat.

Shoring up details for the summer...looks like I'll be going out to help crew for friend Lucy at Tevis...I'm to be Roo's Official Boot Person, since apparently I've got the most experience using Renegades. Time to make the list of things I need to stock up on from Tevis vendors. Need: new Zilco halter, collapsible water bucket, and riding tights. Want: Lots of frivolous things that I can't afford. Just keep telling myself that I have to be able to pack all this stuff in my suitcase to take home. I did tell Dad I'd find him one of the nice scrubby sponges and bring that home for him.

Aside from that, the non-horsey part of summer includes at least one San Diego trip (my journey in escapism and regaining my sanity after weeks of schooling) in which I accomplish little, save for a lot of beach time, come back red as a lobster, fade to a suntan for about three days, then go back to ghost-white. Of course, that last part can also apply to crewing at Tevis when I inevitably forget my sunscreen.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Snakes on a Trail

Sunday was our first big snake sighting of the year. We had just finished a lovely ride, and were about 200 yards from the trailhead when Mimi stops suddenly. Naturally, I had chosen this time to ride on a loose (read: practically none) rein, lightly held in between a couple fingers as I faffed around with my watch and figured out our ride time and average speed.

As soon as she clammed on the brakes, I glanced down to see the tail end of a snake slowly slithering away, about six inches from Mimi's front hoof. First thoughts were very colorful, until I realized the tail didn't have rattles...*whew* Took another look and saw the rest of the snake attached to said tail -- an almost five-foot long king snake, slowly curling up under a scrubby bush before slithering into a hole.

Mimi was more curious than anything -- I think her reaction was something akin to, "Mom, the stick is moving." She's definitely snake trained, although if that had been a rattler, she would have stopped way further back, since the scent or sound of a rattler causes a violent and abrupt stop out of her, and lots of urgent, worried looks and snorts in the direction of the scaled offender.

Of course, my head was in the clouds to to notice that large of a snake laying partway across the trail. I blame it on the fact that it got very warm, our first really warm training ride of the year, and we had ridden pretty fast in order to beat the beat and create our own breeze. We did slightly over 10 miles, in just over two hours, with time for a potty break and some handwalking. On top of that, we did a longer, slightly slower ride on Saturday, which was also warm, so by Sunday late morning, my brain was insisting that it had enough of the heat and was sufficiently cooked. Desert rat wimps 'r us.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Goodbye, Spring

We had a great ride yesterday...our first warm training ride of the season. The temps were flirting with 90* by yesterday afternoon, so I'm glad we rode early. We beat a lot of the traffic, and as such, only had to contend with one large group of hikers (Beamer had fun chasing them down the trail and making them scatter off to the sides...reminded him of Man Against Horse) and a mountain biker.

We did the standard big loop again. What's nice is, the more we ride that loop, the more of it we're able to trot. Both ponies were exceptionally good yesterday, especially for not being ridden for a week. I've been petsitting at a friend's place this week, which has left me little to no time during the week to go ride.

Now it's off to go do a repeat of yesterday...this time with even warmer temps, oh goody.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Keeping Busy

The "conflicted cactus" out in the San Tans...it looks how I feel right about now!

Whew. I feel like my life's been a little bit of crazy for the past week and a half. My mother's been out of town, so I've been taking care of everything she normally does, as well as my usual routine, and still managing to sneak out and ride. On top of everything, spring allergies make me want to curl up and sleep every time I get a spare second to sit down.

I've still been getting some good rides in...the ponies got a good workout last weekend, especially Sunday -- 15 miles in 3 hours, which is *blazing* speed for us during training. :) And that includes a potty/tack adjustment break. The previous day, Saturday, was a bit slower, and I brought my camera out, so I used to time to get caught up on some picture-taking.

And we rode again yesterday, with wind gusting up to 40mph. Yes, we really are crazy. But the ponies did so well, I was very proud of them.
In other news...Karen Chaton started a group on Facebook for Renegade users and people interested in Renegades...she and I are both administrators for it. Check it out here if you're interested! I'm also on Facebook, listed under one of the group admins, so feel free to friend me!

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Yup, spring is here. Mimi zoomed her way through our mostly-walking ride today. I wish my GPS wasn't on the blink, because I would have loved to have been able to track her speed. Dad thought at one point, she was walking out about 5mph.

The best thing was, today she felt the smoothest she's been in about four or five years. Her walk has changed from the "slam the toes down first" pony march to a heel-first-landing, gliding walk. We walked most of the 10 miles we did today, and my knees weren't crunchy from trying to shock-absorb.

My conclusion? The hocks are fused, and she's once again balanced and moving out evenly.

I'm sure it also helps her energy levels in that it's spring, and she really likes springtime. Ah, raging mare hormones. She was very talkative today, including sneaking up behind Dad and Beamer and letting out an infamous, eardrum-shattering pony screech-whinny. I'm not sure who jumped more -- Dad or Beamer. I almost fell off from laughing so hard. She had a very smug look on her face, so I know it was intentional. For being the smallest horse at the barn, she sure is the loudest! No wonder she has good P&Rs...talk about lung capacity!

The funniest moment of the day was when Dad needed to adjust something with his saddle pad and used Mimi as a saddle rack, placing his saddle on top of mine. She was not amused. She stood there with this pouty scowl on her face, glaring at Dad the entire time he was fixing his pad. Why the pony saddle rack? Because we have all sorts of drying-out, nasty weeds right now, and Dad didn't want to spend the rest of the evening picking dead weeds out of the fleece underside of his saddle.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring Cleaning Tack Sale

Well, I did some spring cleaning of some of my gear and have some stuff for sale - a Supracor Endurance pad and several English girths, as well as my Stubben A/P English saddle...my former show and jumping saddle that no longer even remotely fits Mimi.

Supracor Endurance Long Saddle Pad. Black Coolgrip honeycomb material. 3/4" thick. 28"L x 38"W. Bottom flap 16"W. Cantle width 23"W. Pad has been used less than a dozen times, and is still in great condition. $145.

All girths are used, in good to excellent condition.

46" Wintec Elastic English girth. Barely used. Does not have D-rings for breastcollar attachment. $30.

44" Toklat Woolback English girth. Good condition. $25.

38" Toklat Wookback English girth. Good condition. $25.
38" Professional's Choice Neoprene English girth. Very good condition. Does not have D-rings for breastcollar attachment. $25.

And the saddle...
Stubben A/P English saddle. 17 1/2" seat, Medium-wide (32cm) tree. This is a great equitation saddle with enough security for jumping. Close contact knee rolls and flatter seat. Comes with stirrup leathers and irons, 44" leather girth, Toklat Medallion saddle pad, and matching English bridle and reins. It's been stored inside my house for the last seven years, and has always been regularly cleaned and maintained. It's still in great condition, with just a few darker spots on the outer flaps from tall boot and stirrup lather rubs. Brand new, this saddle sells for $1600. Asking $995.
Buyer pays shipping. PayPal preferred. Contact Ashley at echorider@msn.com or 480-695-3656. Located in Arizona.