Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!!!

Love from me and the still-a-firecracker pony for a bright and fulfilling 2013!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


I know, I know. It's that quiet around here of late.

I'd admit that I'm kind of a horrible, inconsistent blogger. But y'all knew that anyway.

I've been a combination of busy and not-busy. Busy with things like work, and the holidays. Not so busy with things like actually riding my horse.

And truth be told, I can only make endless circles in the arena sound exciting so many times. So this weekend, we took a walk around the neighborhood. I think the pony enjoys seeing me hoof it next to her sometimes versus toting my butt around all the time.

The neighbors across the street had a new addition to the front of their property: Goats!

The Pony Who Stares At Goats
Mimi would like a goat. Her best friend at one of the boarding stables was Trixie the pygmy goat. Trixie would, when she was allowed out of her pen, hang out in Mimi's stall and shared the pony's hay.

Four-legged weed whacker
Then we came back to the barn and ate grass next to the driveway for about .5 seconds. (It's non-existent in the pasture right now, so I'm paranoid about her level of exposure to too much green stuff. )

Fortunately my work life is keeping me busy. There's some days I scratch my head and wonder how in the world I got so lucky as to be one of those people who actually gets their dream job?! Seriously, I love what I do. I enjoy talking with people, especially hearing their stories about their horses.

Two weekends ago, I went up to the McDowell ride. My purpose there was two-fold: Friday, I was working, available as a Renegade representative for anyone who had questions or needed help. Saturday, I was volunteering as one of the in-timers, the same job I did at the ride last year.

It was so awesome to be a part of the endurance community again. My goal for this upcoming year is to attend all of the in-state rides that I can as a company rep. Until I'm actually competing again, this will serve as second-best, and it's still keeping me involved and social.

Saturday morning ride start. 75s out on trail, waiting for the
50s to start checking in.
(One perk of not riding: I was up at 5:30 instead of the 3:30
wakeup I would have gotten had I been riding and had to
get ready.)

Color-coordinated. And cold.
The ride went really well, as far as I could tell. The weather was perfect. It was downright cold up until about 11 in the morning, at least for me sitting at the timing table. Around 2:00, the clouds blew out and it warmed up enough to where I was comfortable in a t-shirt...which meant I was sufficiently re-heated to be able to handle the oncoming cool evening.

The last of the 75s were in at 11, which was awesome. I barely had time to break out the hot water, ramen noodles, and cocoa.
Despite what the photo shows, it's actually a
lovely matte cocoa color. I added the custom
Renegade orange racing stripes.
And my one impulse buy at the ride was actually useful: new helmet. I looked at my old one and realized it was about two years past its "best by" date (which is approximately 5 years past the date of manufacture). That's not ideal...

Of all the things out there to purchase, this is one of the more justifiable ones. I've yet to test it out -- it's so pretty and I don't want to mess it up! -- but it's the same as what I already have, the Tipperary Sportage 8500...just about 6 years newer and a different color.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

the click

I felt it 16 years ago when I sat on Mimi for the first time.

The 'click.'

That moment when you absolutely know that you and this horse are right for each other.

There's no rhyme or reason to it, no rational explanation for it or anything you can do to make it happen. It either will or it won't. I've ridden a number of horses that I've gotten along just fine with -- but there was no special connection, no sense of mutual enjoyment. I was the rider, they were the horse. Either I know what I was doing enough to get them to perform, or they were well-trained enough to do the job, no matter who was on their back.

And then there's been a handful of horses over the years that have given me that magic 'click.' Mimi, for one. Looking back, a rational person would claim our partnership never should have worked. A green 3-year-old with 60 days under saddle, and an 11-year-old who had ridden nothing but experienced lesson horses.

What happened instead was a first-ride experience that was nothing short of angels trumpeting a 'Hallelujah' chorus. Five minutes in the saddle, and we were cantering around an outdoor arena filled with dozens of other ponies and riders, weaving around those traveling slower than us. It was the first time I had ever been filled with such confidence on a horse.
1998-ish...this looks like my junior high-era; an afternoon
bumming around the barnyard after school.
16 years later, I still remember the feeling of that ride.

The feeling of that ride was what got me through the couple of years of young-horse-hell that followed the month-long honeymoon of First Pony ownership. That ride had showed us what we were capable of achieving.
2002 POA World Show, Spanish Fork, UT
Our last show; we got the last points needed
for her Supreme Champion Award.
I suppose I'm beyond spoiled, having gotten so lucky with my first horse. I don't know how many people get their once-in-a-lifetime heart horse right from the start, but I did. And it's set an extremely high bar for those that will follow.

But I've experienced that same click with several other horses over the years, so I know it is possible to achieve that same kind of relationship and level of connection. And my heart will always have room for more horses.
2006 Wickenburg Land of the Sun ride;
our 2nd LD ride.
But no one will ever take the place of my first, special Heart Horse.

This month marks 16 years together for me and Mimi. It's been a whirlwind of highs and lows, and I wouldn't trade our experiences together for anything. I'm proud of everything she has taught me -- and still keeps teaching me.

So thank you, Mimi, for all of these years, and God willing, many more.

Monday, October 22, 2012

a tights review; part one

L-R: Black with 'Sunrise' Racing Stripe; 'Paisley';
'Orange Tie-Dye'
Part One of a product review: The Initial Impression. Part two will come when I actually ride in them.

Crazy Legs Tights is run by owner-operator-designer Diane Stevens, a fellow endurance rider.

I got them in the mail today; I've already got one pair on. So far, I'm really, really impressed with them. The attention to detail is superb with smooth, even stitching and no bothersome seams. I like the wide elastic waistband -- I've been sitting in them and no problems with the waistband rolling. The ankles have gripper elastic on the inside, which is an awesome little detail to keep them from riding up. The leg length is more than sufficient -- plenty of fabric to keep my ankles covered all the way down to my feet.

The fabric options are endless -- I had a hard time pinning down my final selections. I'm so pleased with the choices I made; they're absolutely gorgeous. And I will definitely be noticed going down the trail. :)

Part Two of the review will come after I actually climb in the saddle and ride in them, but just based on how I already feel about them, I'm sure they'll be awesome!

Friday, October 12, 2012

since when did goals become bad?

"Live, learn & pursue the good life without unpleasant entanglements like long-term goals."

This was a tagline of a contest advertisement by a sportwear company that I just saw on FaceBook.

I can't even begin to say how many problems I have with this sentiment.

Since when are long-term goals a bad thing?

Maybe this is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, an amusing twist of irony?

If it is, they don't do a great job of communicating that sense.

When I see that, sarcasm and irony or not, the sense I get is promoting the idea of entitlement, instant gratification, and getting things handed to you without putting in the blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice.

Long-term goals are what separate out the boys from the men, so to speak. How willing are you to commit to something wholeheartedly? How much does it matter to you? What are you willing to sacrifice in order to get to that point?

To me, endurance is all about long-term goals. It accommodates short term goals: "I will finish this ride." "I will get up early and do that training ride in miserable weather." "I will learn to maintain my barefoot horse's trim."

But to me, having big-picture, long-term goals is what defines endurance. Per Webster, endurance is: the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; esp. the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.

Endurance is what keeps people coming back to a ride like Tevis, year after year: they made a goal to finish that ride.

Endurance is what makes people keep on working with a difficult horse, because they know once they have a breakthrough, the payoff will be more than worth it.

Endurance is when people sacrifice other things in their lives -- a teeming social life, frequent dinners and movies out, a new house, a vacation to the Bahamas -- in order to follow their passion and goals, be it ending up in the year end points, racking up a certain amount of miles, or committing to spending as much time as possible discovering and sharing beautiful trails with a beloved equine partner.

To me, having a long-term goal is what gives us the fire to make it through the challenges, the rough patches, and the times when it would just be easier to quit.

Tevis is my long-term goal. One of many, really, but that's my shining beacon that I keep clinging to and dreaming about, the thing that has me writing out full crew instructions for a ride I don't yet have a horse for, the thing that gets me out of bed early every morning to exercise, because when I have my next competition horse, I will be in shape to jump back into it. (It's also the thing that makes me say no to an extra scoop of Trader Joe's Pumpkin Ice Cream, since every extra pound is just one more pound I might have to drag out of those canyons.)

Instant gratification has its place (such as being paid right away for a job), but when it comes to big picture, long-term goals, I'll take the satisfaction and reward that comes with working for and earning that goal.

Riders coming in to the Robinson Flat
vet check at the 2012 Tevis Cup ride.
photo by Ashley Wingert

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Renegade Hoof Boots, Oct 2012

Disclaimer: I work for Renegade Hoof Boots as of January 2012. My original review of Renegades was written in August 2008 and can be found here. Everything I wrote then still stands today. Four years later, I'm offering some updated tidbits and feedback garnered from putting thousands of miles in with these boots, as well as a few "things I've learned" both in using the boots for an extended period of time as well as working for the company.

Moving well for 19: Despite her fused hocks, Mimi still moves
well. Letting her go barefoot and booting to ride has allowed her
to stay sound. An easy-to-use, worry-free boot means booting
for just about every ride is no big deal.
I personally started using Renegades five years ago: "sometime" in the summer of 2007, after watching Dad use them for about a year (and waiting for him to wear through enough boots that I could snag a pair of the worn ones to test out).

IIRC, I think I tested them for about a month or so, then ordered my own pair...the same week as the upcoming ride I intended to use them at.

Blind faith, sheer stupidity, or desperation?

Nah...more like a way-too-intimate understanding of all the things that can go wrong using boots, and a rather fatalistic "How much worse could it be?" perspective, based on using and losing boots for the past four years of Mimi being barefoot.

I was a paranoid bundle of nerves at that ride, prone to either  calling to Dad or leaning over to check whether my boots were still on every time we:
-Went up a hill
-Went down a hill
-Went through rocks
-Went through sand

which meant I was doing a boot check every 5-10 minutes. Probably good we were doing the LD. But I finished the ride very impressed...and doing a 50-miler 3 months later with absolutely no problems sealed the deal.

In the course of five years, I've had very few problems with the boots. The few issues I've had have been related to user error, and with a better understanding of the mechanics of the boot and better trimming, I've had absolutely no problems for the last two-and-half years.

It's taken a bit of experimenting, but I've finally found Mimi's ideal sizes and I'm really happy with how they're fitting her.

In no particular order, things I love about the Renegades:

- The design on the heel captivator and the way it moves with the horse means no rubbing or interference: the horse's pasterns are allowed to flex and move comfortably. I've not encountered any kind of rubbing or pressure spots, even with riding in all the sand around here, plus some wet, rainy rides.

- The tread design provides great traction (excellent peace of mind for the times I ride the paved streets around the barn). As mentioned, I've done several rides that have involved wet stuff falling from the sky. Not all of them were in the fast-draining desert, either. One involved slick, slimy mud, wet leaves, narrow, technical trail, and an uphill climb. On that particular occasion, I credit the boots for keeping a minor slip from turning into a major wipeout.

- I also feel that the tread design is such that it provides excellent protection over rocks and rough terrain. Mimi is very surefooted and doesn't take "ouchy" steps in her boots.
- The colors! Maybe that makes me a shallow airhead...but I've always said if I can't ride fast, I gotta ride pretty. I'm particularly attached to the orange: It's bright, it's visible, and it's instantly recognizable. The copper is also very pretty (matches surprisingly well with a multitude of colors), and black is always a classic for a reason.
- Still super easy to apply and remove. I can boot my pony in two minutes. Removing them is even faster.

- Made in the USA. Support small business, independence, and entrepreneurial minds. Buying within the US supports a local economy as well as our national economy. Every part of the Renegade is made and assembled here in the USA. Doing so enables the company to provide closely-monitored quality control, catch and resolve any potential problems very quickly, provide local jobs, and give fast, reliable service. 

To address some of the previously-mentioned potential 'cons':

- "The velcro is the weak spot" It was: until the material was updated as of the spring of 2012. The hook-and-loop (Velcro) material is much stronger and grippier, and has been holding up well to mud, water, and sand.

- "Attaching to the saddle is more difficult" This can still be true...factory recommendation is to not leave them clipped off to the saddle, as the bouncing can stress the cables. Instead, check out the boot bags that SnugPax has made specifically to fit the Renegades. The bags easily attach to the saddle, and unless your boots are huge and take up the whole bag, I can fit a boot + stuff like horse snacks and e'lyte syringes in there as well.

- "Cost" No, at first blush, they're not the least expensive option out there. But sit down for a moment and price out all of the other options out there, both shoes and other boots. How often will you have to bring a farrier out? Do you do your own trimming, or do you have to bring a trimmer out? How frequently? Are there any other add-ons to contribute to the base price? Can you replace parts if they break or wear out? What do they cost? Renegades are $169/pair. Each part is individually replaceable.

Four years later, I am even more excited about these boots. I can't even begin to describe how thrilled I am to be working for the company, doing something I love, being able to share the passion I have for these boots, and I'm eagerly looking forward to things to come!

If you're curious, or would like to discuss boots with me, leave a comment or email me at 






Tuesday, October 2, 2012

time with friends is always too short

Bodie and I outside of Macey's coffee shop in Flagstaff, AZ;
road trip up to Idaho, September 2009.

Last week, we said good-bye to our sweet Bodie girl.

She was 14; an incredible age for a large dog, and our longest-lasting yet.

The above photo is probably my favorite one of her that I have, because just looking at it, you can tell the kind of dog she was: sweet, kind, cheerful, enthusiastic, bright-eyed. Bonded with all of us as a superb family dog.

For the first time since I was 2 years old, I'm without a dog. It's a very strange feeling. I keep looking around for her, waiting for her to appear for her various daily routines.

I am so fortunate to have had such a special dog in my life.

She is loved and very much missed.

Monday, September 24, 2012

a bit unexpected

Or, alternately, "pony knows best."

This weekend, I decided to, on a whim, check out a consignment tack store not too far away from me in Phoenix.

I hit the jackpot in the bit department. A truly excellent deal on a Myler bit -- which, as anyone who has read this blog for any length of time knows, is a major weakness of mine. Bit Hoarders R Us.

I was quite excited when I found this bit, since I thought it was a Level 2-3 mouthpiece I'd been contemplating as one I thought might work pretty well for Princess Fussy Mouth. Plus, it was a kimberwick, which is my preferred bit for distance riding.

Bought it...used it the next day...

She LOVES it.

She mouthed at it a couple of times while I was messing with the adjustment (no matter if it looks like the same height as the previous will inevitably require adjusting of the bridle), and then that was it. Once it was comfortably seated in her mouth, she didn't seem to give it a second thought.

No weird jaw-crossing or mouth gaping, no tongue sticking out, and most amazingly, no leaning on the bit. At all. Walk-trot-canter-circles-stop. All light, soft, and responsive.

"Okay," I thought. "Guess I was right that this would be a good bit for her."

And then I started doing some research this morning. Turns out it wasn't quite the mouthpiece I thought it was. Very similar...but it's actually a Level 3 mouthpiece.

Which, in a twisted way makes sense: it's designed for finished horses who work well off of leg, seat and hands. Which is Mimi.

I just always figured a Level 3 would be "too much" for her and that her small mouth and (presumed) low palate wouldn't like having the higher port, which was why I always tried to stick with the lower level bits, figuring a lack of high port would be "kinder."

Turns out all my pony wanted was tongue relief -- which is why she leaned-leaned-leaned on any of the lower-level bits that would lay across her tongue, and she softened more when I put her in a Level 2-3 with more tongue relief.

This mouthpiece (MB33) has the most tongue relief of any of their mouthpieces, and she is one happy little girl.

Granted, we only used it in the arena and I haven't tried it out on trail, but for her, I still prefer the s-hack for going "out" and saving the bit for the arena schooling stuff.

So, go figure. I think the lesson here is that horses are always teaching us stuff if we're willing to listen to them. (And even after 16 years, my pony still has something to say to me.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thoughts on Ride Food, part one (of many)

One of the more difficult parts of distance riding for me has been learning to take care of myself at rides and on the trail. My first priority has always been making sure the horses are taken care of, camp is set up, the crew box packed, et cetera. Let's face it: If we don't take care of ourselves, we can't do a good job of taking care of our horses, and we probably won't ride as effectively.

But unfortunately, based on my own experiences as well as talking the a number of other friends, finding food and drinks that appeal in the middle of a ride -- hard physical effort, sometimes coupled with bad weather in either extreme -- can become a challenge.

For me, the couple days before the ride is when I start making sure I'm very well-hydrated. If I manage to eat and drink really well on Thursday and Friday before the ride, I tend to do much better...although that still doesn't mean I can get away with ignoring myself on ride day.

I envy those riders who either ride fast enough or can get away with getting everything they need at vet checks. Me? Not so much. I'm the "must stay regularly hydrated and regularly munch on sustenance" type. Which is why I have enough saddle packs to do a great pack-mule-alike impression. I don't fall over from dehydration and I don't bite anyone's head off from low-blood-sugar-induced crankiness.

I intend this to be an ongoing thing that I'll add new parts to as I continue to experiment with food and have experiences with what works and what doesn't. Also, I love to cook and spend a lot of time messing around in the kitchen, so a good portion of what I bring is pre-made at home versus pre-packaged. I'm not a fussy eater -- almost everything appeals to me on a daily basis -- but that doesn't mean it ends up then being a good idea on the endurance trail.

I do best with "real" food and staying away from "junk" food, especially lots of sugar that buzzes me too much and then I end of crashing.

I've also spent some time this past year and half or so out in the field with my father helping him on some carpet cleaning jobs. An all-day job has a lot of parallels to doing an endurance ride (actually, riding is easier), so I've tested some of my food ideas and experimentation during those jobs.

Okay, so that's enough background. Onto the food. Divided into suggestions on things that have worked for me by mealtime.

Friday afternoon lunch

This is one of those "essential" meals for me, that some kind of good food consumption happens sometime in the early afternoon, typically between getting camp set up and preferably before checking in, vetting in, and pre-riding, since if I don't eat before all of that happens, I forget/run out of of time to eat. And then I get cranky, and no one, including my horse, likes dealing with me.

As noted, time is short during this period: Whatever I eat here has to be quick and on-the-go, as I'm usually still setting up the last vestiges of camp as I munch.

It's pretty much all the same stuff that I will eat during vet checks, so look further down for that list.

Friday Dinner
If dinner is being served post-ride (my preference), then I do pre-make dinner at home and bring it ready to reheat. My specialty is spaghetti with meat sauce, and it tends to get rave reviews. And there's always a ton of leftovers to snack on or be reheated if need be.
I usually make a simple salad as well -- lettuce, cucumber, tomato, with a homemade vinaigrette dressing.
If the ride does dinner Friday, then this same thing applies to post-ride.
My father loves dark chocolate, so we always have a bar of the good stuff in our supplies...little piece for an after-lunch or after-dinner dessert/palate-cleanser.

Saturday Ride Morning Breakfast
This should earn its own post. This would be my one "quirk" when it comes to food. I love breakfast food...but I hate eating early. I don't have a sensitive stomach by any stretch of the imagination, but something about trying to cram food down too early becomes a race between me and my gag reflex. Taking tiny bites in between doing stuff seems to help...I'm busy thinking about what I'm doing, whether it be finishing packing the crew box or putting last-minute stuff in my saddle packs...or my favorite, bites of food in between putting on Renegades...that keeps my mind off the fact I'm eating and subdues the gag reflex.

TMI for many of you, I'm sure.

You're welcome.

All that said, whatever I do eat has to be able to be consumed in small bites, be able to be carried around either in one hand or stuffed in my mouth, and able to be set aside temporarily. Bonus points if it doesn't appeal to the bottomless-pit pony. (The point is for me to be eating, not sharing all of it with her.)

It also has to have some level of protein to be able to get me through at least the first hour or so of the ride until things settle down to the point I can rummage through my packs for food.

What's Been Working For Me:

-Coffee -- an absolute must-have, or I will have a lack-of-caffeine headache all day. I'm up early enough that I have plenty of time to process and offload said coffee before hopping in the saddle. I don't care how many studies are out there about caffeine being bad for hydration and other blah-blah-blah...they can try riding with me if I don't have my caffeine hit. My concession is not drinking as many cups as a typical morning.
-Peanut butter bread -- peanut butter (I use the no-sugar-added, all-natural good stuff) spread over some kind of good bread...fiber, carbs, protein. Alternate has been to use crackers or mini-bagels, which aren't as intimidating to eat as a whole slice of bread.
-Banana -- easy to eat not too strong, tends to go down well at any time.
-Soft cheese -- some kind of mild soft cheese is acceptable...a few bites, at least. I've done cottage cheese and that's worked well.
-Hard-boiled eggs -- these are kind of a 'blegh' thing. I force myself to eat them because of the protein and other good eggy-health benefits, but my stomach really hates eggs early in the morning and I have to alternate it with bites of other stuff and sips of juice and coffee.

***I keep meaning to experiment with some kind of homemade muffin recipe to see if I can make some kind of moist, appealing "breakfast muffin" of sorts.

Vet Checks
If vet checks are away, I have a small cooler loaded with stuff that's in the crew box. If it's back at camp, I just raid the cooler. At away checks, I don't have quite the selection

-Peanut butter sandwiches/wraps -- these are handy for those really annoyingly fast vet checks where you need something to stuff in your mouth as you run around tending to the pony's needs.
-Lunch meat -- roasted chicken is the preference here
-Chicken/Cheese/Pickle Wraps -- sounds weird, I know, and I haven't tried them at an actual ride, but I've been living on these as lunchtime thoroughfare all summer and they're delicious.
-Cheese -- mozzarella or cheddar sticks, smoked gouda slices, cheese curds, Laughing Cow cheese triangles
-Chips -- Lays, Pringles, or pita
-Bananas -- too bad they smush. I need to get those plastic banana carriers made for lunch boxes and such.
-Applesauce (Trader Joe’s Applesauce or Apple-banana sauce Crushers -- other mainstream applesauce companies are making these now, too -- they're little packets of applesauce with a twist-top on them that can be resealed. Super easy to slurp-n-go.)
-Apples -- although, honestly, it's usually to bite off chunks to feed the pony, and I might manage a piece or two for myself.
-Pasta salad -- I used to buy these pre-made, then started making my own with an oil-based dressing so it's not as slimy and can add in whatever I feel like.
-Lentil/bean salad -- this is a great, multi-layered salad with tons of stuff added to it, recipe given to me by a friend. Not good for away checks, but great to munch of a bowl of back at camp.
-Other soft fruits -- melon is always delicious.
-Tuna-in-a-pouch -- one of those things I still need to try, but think it sounds like a good idea. Marinated tuna steaks, so they're not dry, but don't involve too much slimy mayo. (This from the girl who loves mayo...but not when it's hot and I'm working hard.)
-Tapioca pudding -- very yummy back at camp.
-Hummus -- gotta have something to stick the pita chips in. Not for on-the-go, but great for snacking around camp.
-Ramen/instant noodles -- as much as I love to cook, parts of my taste buds never graduated beyond the level that says "Ramen is yummy." Really hits the spot on cold rides. Solved the "I don't wanna wait for water to boil" problem by pouring some of my boiling water from the morning's coffee into a Thermos. Still hot enough to cook the noodles the couple of times I've tried it.

 In-the-Saddle Snacks
I have to eat while riding. If I rely just on food at vet checks, it's not a pretty picture. Eating keeps me from getting too grumpy and whiny, plus it gives me something to do on less-than-interesting parts of rides.

-Jerky -- I get the softer, chewier "cubes" of jerky...bite-sized and don't take an hour to chew.
-Energy gels -- not a mainstay, but great for a fast pick-me-up. I don't rely on them enough to have a "favorite" other than to say stay with milder flavors. Hard to go wrong with vanilla.
-Walnuts -- easier than trail mix, since they're in large pieces. Can be grabbed with fingertips versus licked out of filthy palms.
-Energy blocks -- less messy than gels. Easier to eat one at a time. Sub-category that also works well are the "sport jelly beans" although I wouldn't trot and munch those at the same time.
-Cheese sticks -- supposedly you can leave these un-refrigerated in a pack for a few hours and not die if you eat them...I remain skeptical. That, or it's not real cheese. I think I'll leave the dairy products in the cooler.
- Fruit leather -- these are yummy. I like to balance them out with some walnuts to prevent too much of a sugar high.
-Nature Valley granola bars -- the green-wrapper, crunchy standby. I also like the chewy peanut variety, although they're messy. I think all horses like the Oats-n-Honey green-wrapper kind. A little more sugar than I ideally like to see...but they're fast and convenient. Sometimes we just don't have time to do homemade energy bars (my dad has a great recipe he's made for us for rides...I'll snag it from him and post it). I'm not a fan of commercially-made energy bars: too much sugar and soy.
-afore-mentioned applesauce packets (TJ’s Applesauce or Apple-banana sauce Crushers)
-electrolytes -- my pony isn't the only one who gets e'lyted. I use the Succeed S!caps and they're fantastic. I try to stay on a one/hour schedule.

I like a lot of drink options. I tend to hit the liquid refreshments as a fast way to cool down and to stay hydrated, aside from just plain water. I go for the "few sips of this, few sips of that" approach. Most of these don't get carried on the saddle -- that's water/e'lyte drinks -- but are available in the cooler either at a check or back in camp.

-Green tea with agave -- my homemade nod to "Arizona Iced Tea," made with fresh, sun-brewed green tea with agave nectar in place of the honey or sugar. Very refreshing...not tried it in the saddle (too hard to keep really chilled), but great for camp and vet checks.
-Succeed e’lyte drinks -- same place that does the electrolytes; these are fabulous sports drinks that aren't overly sweet or sugary. Some of the options even have some proteins added to them. Really mild orange flavor, so don't taste horrid when they inevitably get warm in the saddle.
-Gatorade -- Succeed is my favorite e'lyte drink, but sometimes Gatorade is kind of refreshing, but it has to be cut w/ water; I prefer orange or blue flavors.
-Chocolate milk -- again, not carrying this one on the saddle, but it is pretty refreshing and apparently has a ton of good stuff for post-hard work in it. I make my own: whole milk with homemade chocolate syrup out of agave nectar and unsweetened cocoa powder.
-Emergen-C -- another good e'lyte drink option; I like being able to just keep a couple packets in my packs to use as back-ups.
-Coffee/Iced coffee -- you saw my "need morning coffee" rant. Turns out iced coffee is pretty refreshing, too.
-V8 Fusion juices/smoothies -- very, very yummy. Not a huge fan of straight V8 (although I love plain tomato juice), but mixing the fruits in gives it some good variety.

Okay, so it probably seems like I pack half the grocery store along with me to rides. And yes, I probably do. But I like food, for one, and I believe that keeping myself fueled and hydrated is important to making sure I'm holding up my end of the partnership bargain. Put another way: If I'm fueled and hydrated and not a pathetic floppy mess, I will probably be more inclined to get off my horse and walk with them for a while.

I'll probably keep re-visiting this topic as I find stuff that works or doesn't work. I haven't had any major "Wow, never doing this for ride food again" moments that I can recall, which means nothing went spectacularly wrong.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Tevis video

Video of the Renegade-booted riders at the Highway 89 crossing in the morning.

I was at the crossing bright and early -- maybe 5:30ish, from what I remember? -- and I think the first riders came through around 6.

This footage has been edited down for my Renegade purposes, but I do have (currently unedited) footage of all of the riders coming through the crossing that I'd like to hone my video editing skills on and eventually post in its entirety.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

fashion plate

My pony has new clothes. :)

We be official, all decked out in Renegade orange. And it looks surprisingly good on her. I think she likes her new get-up...she was positively preening as I was messing with adjustments.

And we look a bit more put together now than the color-clash fashion disaster we had been turning into.

Still working on my Tevis write-up.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Remember how I said I love music?

I take a lot of my inspiration from music I hear. This one is a really good example of that.

Different subject matter -- music, versus horses/endurance -- but same message.

"Keep on dreaming, even if it breaks your heart."

My dream is Tevis. I will get there, and until that day, I will keep dreaming about it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012


I was out the door at a quarter til six this morning, at the airport in plenty of time to stand in the long security line, snag a window seat on the airplane, and have smooth-sailing up to Sacramento.

The rental car company clearly likes me, since I got a brand-new Chevy SUV in a shiny cherry red. The drive up to Auburn was easy...I fit right in with CA drivers, since I habitually have a lead foot at home.

And then I promptly got myself all mixed up and turned around getting to the Fairgrounds. I made it to the Fairgrounds area fine, I just couldn't find the right turnoff to get to the area where I needed to be. *sigh* My GPS app on my phone is fired.

I'm hanging out in the Starbucks in Auburn at the moment, getting caffeinated, hugging the air conditioning, and getting all my computer work that needs an internet connection done.

I'll try to blog as much as I can over this whole Tevis experience, dependent on internet connection and time.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Tevis info article

An article I just wrote for the Renegade Hoof Boot news page and am now publishing here as well. It's designed as a basic introduction to Tevis, for someone who might be curious about "that ride I always go on and on about."

It is just over one week away from the “Western States Trail Ride,” most commonly referred to as the “Tevis Cup Ride,” or simply, “the Tevis.”  The Tevis is the world’s oldest modern endurance ride, first held in 1955, and is also considered “the world’s best-known and most difficult equestrian endurance ride.”  The Tevis is officially sanctioned by the AERC (American Endurance Ride Conference.)

Riders have 24 hours to travel the 100-mile course: from the starting point near the shores of Lake Tahoe, just outside of Truckee, CA, across the rugged Sierra Nevadas, to the finishing point in Auburn, CA.  Riders must finish with a horse that is deemed “fit to continue” by a team of veterinarians.

Horses must also pass a number of thorough vet-checks held at multiple locations along the trail, some of which also include mandatory rest periods, before being allowed to continue.  They are checked for their pulse and respiration, metabolics including hydration and gut function, and a trot-out to evaluate attitude, way of going, and to check for any unsoundness.

The trail can take its toll: historically, only about 50% of those who start the ride will cross the finish line.  Horses and riders both have to contend with the mountain trail that is both physically and mentally demanding.  The trail itself is rugged, traversing the magnificent Sierra Nevada mountain range.  The footing is often extremely rocky, with parts of the trail going through sections of granite rock wilderness.  Other parts of the trail travel along hard-packed forest service roads, and even on paved streets through the small towns of Michigan Bluff and Foresthill.

In the last number of years, anywhere from 175-200 horses have started the ride each year: both horse and rider have to be able to contend with the excitement and chaos of that many horses at the start.  The ride is held in July or August, as close to the full moon as possible.  Summer temperatures soar as the ride descends towards lower elevations, and it is not uncommon for temperatures to reach triple digits within the canyons in the middle of the day.

Riders who cross the finish line with a horse that is deemed “fit to continue” (just as it sounds: the horse should be metabolically and physically sound and able to continue on; a horse who is lame at the finish or is presenting a metabolic issue will not be awarded a completion) are awarded one of the coveted silver completion buckles.

In addition, several other awards are presented:

The Tevis Cup is awarded to the first-place finisher who finished with the fastest time and a horse still “fit to continue.”

The Haggin Cup is the “Best Condition” awarded to the horse finishing in the Top Ten placings who is judged by a team of veterinarians to be “in the most superior physical condition.”

The Josephine Stedem Scripps Foundation Cup recognizes all of the junior riders who complete each year.

More historical background and information about the ride can be found at

Renegade® Hoof Boots were first used at Tevis 2009.  Linda Morelli and Falling Leaf finished in 20th place, wearing the same four Sport Orange strap-on Renegades that they started with.

Riders have also finished the Tevis in 2010 and 2011 wearing Renegade® Pro-Comp Glue-Ons, and this year, both Renegade® strap-ons and Renegade® Pro-Comp Glue-Ons will be worn by riders ready to face the challenges of the Tevis trail.

The 2012 Tevis will start at 5:15AM PST on August 4th.

On Ride Day, the main website ( will have a link to the webcast , where you’ll be able to follow the ride online, including searching for a specific rider, checkpoint information, and a list of riders who have been pulled.

The official Facebook page for Tevis will also have up-to-date information: Tevis Cup (Official) - 100 Mile One Day Western States Trail Ride

The official Twitter account for Tevis is @TevisNews.  Tweets pertaining to the ride will be tagged as #Tevis100.

We are looking forward to another great year at this exciting ride!  Good luck to all of the riders who will be riding…we will see you in Auburn! 

PS: See my twitter widget on the right-hand column on this page? Check in with it on ride day...I'll probably be periodically tweeting as I get a chance.

5 days and counting until I'm Auburn-bound!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Tevis Fever: Crew Edition

With the official countdown nearing the two-week mark, it's time to start getting really excited about Tevis.  Preparations are in order, stuff is getting organized, I have plane tickets and am crafting packing lists.

Apparently, crewing Tevis is supposed to be harder (to some) than riding it.

I never got that memo until after I'd crewed it three different times.

Ignorance is bliss?

Because I never found crewing it that hard.  A bit stressful at times, maybe a little nerve-wracking...definitely deficient in the sleep department when it's all said and done.  But I actually love it.

I guess that's proof that I have Tevis Fever really bad and love anything having to do with the ride.

I crewed at the 2004, 2005, and 2009 rides.  I think part of the reason crewing hasn't made me pull my hair out is the fact I've always been part of a fairly large crew team, which definitely helps take some of the pressure off.  There's still the unavoidable, slight stress inducer of "The Great Trailer Race" out of Robie Park and down to Foresthill.  But crewing has been a great chance for me to really hone my own eventual ride plan and strategy.  (I might have one of those 2"-thick three-ring binders floating around that's been dedicated to this purpose...*innocent whistle*)

Robinson Flat, Tevis 2009
Crewing for Lucy Trumbull and AM Ruwala Land -- "Roo"
That's me making sure Roo eats his carefully prepared snacks.
This year will be a little different.  I'm not crewing for any one person in particular.  Instead, Renegade is sending me up in a work-related capacity to help with booting before the ride, be on-hand as needed during the ride, and take lots and lot of pictures.

I'm planning to be at the Highway 89 crossing first thing in the morning to get video footage.  It's a popular area for filming and I'm hoping I can get some good shots here.  Then I'll be up at Robinson Flat, the first big one-hour vet check @ 36 miles into the ride.  This is the first place that the crews can meet their riders.

I think I'll be up at Robinson the whole time riders are there, since I won't have to be back down to Foresthill (next one-hour check, 68 miles into the ride) until mid-afternoon.  I poked at the logistics of trying to be someplace like Michigan Bluff (~60 miles), but can't figure out how to make the timing work without ending up missing riders at both locations.  So I settled on Foresthill (at least for this year...) and will take as many pictures as I can before I loose the light.

And then I'll head down to the Finish.  I want to stay up at least until all of our riders come in, so I can get (probably crappy, depending on light) photos at the finish line.  I'm planning on just camping there at the Fairgrounds, since I'll just be back to watch Haggin Cup judging anyway.  Time driving = less time sleeping.  Plus, Auburn is closer to the Starbucks.  :)

Fingers crossed and looking ahead, doing the anti-gremlin dance, and counting down the days until Tevis 2012!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Fun With Boots

Destructo-Pony. Or, "Hoof Boot Crash Test Dummy"
Don't let the sweet face fool you.  This innocent-looking little pony has been responsible for more personal property damage than multiple horses put together.  And by "personal property" I mean:

- fly masks
- lead ropes
- tail bags
- hoof boots

In her younger years, she was extremely oral.  The ends of lead ropes were her favorite victims of her chewing fetish, and the local tack shops loved me because I predictably was in to buy cheap nylon lead ropes every couple of months.  When I wasn't buying lead ropes, I was buying fly masks or tail bags to replace the ones she had shredded beyond repair.

Fortunately, she eventually outgrew the chewing habit, I stopped using tail bags, and flymasks usually last at least a year+ these days.

But she is really hard on hoof boots.  I pulled her last set of shoes in the fall of 2004 and started using boots.    And she promptly started destroying them.  I tried everything that was on the market at that time available in her size.  With each boot I'd try, or boot modification/fix made, she'd find a new way to wreck it.  If there was a part that moved or was somehow attached, she'd find a way to either break it or detach it.

I went for a period of time there were just about every week, I was getting a box in the mail with either a new boot or spare parts, and I tip my hat to the truly patient customer service people at, what was at the time, Sportack.

I'm not sure what it is about this pony that makes her so hard on boots.  Her movement is very low to the ground... half the time, she just can't be bothered to pick her feet up if the footing is good.

Fast forward through a couple of years of Interesting Times and Expanded Vocabulary to the summer of 2007, when I first started using Renegades on her.  That's five years now that I've been using them and they've withstood the most pony abuse, even through the different trial-and-error sessions of figuring out what size works best for her.

In five years, she's ripped one boot shell and broken one cable.  Worn out countless boot shells and Velcro straps, yes...but that's only after 500-or-so miles of training and competing.

But even after five years, she's been a head-scratching exasperation to size, especially her front hooves.  She's gone back and forth between a size 00 and 0.  When freshly trimmed, her measurements were a classic size 00.  But the shape of the boot didn't match her hoof quite right, so she always had a gap on the front, and I had to remain diligent in keeping her hoof constantly maintained.

So I'd try a size 0.  The boot shape was perfect...but they were big on her.  Not sloppy, but not ideal either. So going back and forth between sizes has been the story of my booting life with her...until recently.  Y'see, I forgot to take my own advice when it came to boot sizing: Their feet grow and change.

I've gotten so used to her "tiny" feet that I've been determined to keep them that way...not taking into account that, no, she's not "getting long" but that her feet might naturally be getting larger.  I've been, in essence, "over-trimming" her and doing a major no-no in trimming the hoof to fit the boot, instead of evaluating the hoof for itself and then fitting the boot to match.

So Mimi got a break from my zealous over-trimming, and after letting her grow out for a month or so, I had more of a clean slate hoof to work with.  A minor trim later, I re-sized her for boots, and she's moved up almost an entire size.

Her fronts now fit into a size 0-Narrow with a Cutback on the length, and her hinds fit into a 00 with a cutback.  And then we got to the fun part: the box of shiny new boots with her name (okay, mine, since that's what's on the mailbox...) on it.

Every girl loves to get new shoes boots
And yesterday, we had some fun putting them to the test in the roundpen.  Her outlook on the roundpen is a somewhat haphazard, no-holds-barred, cage-match type of game.  Which usually involves bucking, spinning, sliding stops, fast starts, sudden sprints...all the things that make me cringe and wait for her to go crashing into one of the panels.

In short, things that will test whether a pair of boots will stay on or not.

And I actually got pictures.  (Testing my camera to make sure it's all systems go before Tevis.)

She starts off all slow and innocuous.
So I love the bright orange boots.  They look so good on her and they're so noticeable.  The yellow looked good, but I love these even more!

Pausing to show off just how pretty she is. Once a show pony...
She's actually good about giving herself a slow warm-up on her own.  Ambling along, checking out the scenery, until...

THIS happens. Something made noise next door and that was
all it took to set her off.
Once she's going, she stays going.  Most of the time, she sticks to a trot.  And what a trot she has...still.  There's a reason that she can keep up with 15+ hand Arabs that are cantering while she's still trotting.  And while I rarely allow the big trot (cringing at the thought of tendon/ligament damage), it is pretty to look at.

All four off the ground!
I would have loved to GPS her.  Based on GPSing while riding, I know she's capable of hitting 13-14mph at the trot.  She can make those little legs GO.

And go some more. Her roundpen canter is fast, and usually
involves one of her shotgun, drop-and-dig gymkhana starts.
Her canter isn't the greatest anymore...fused hocks tend to make an already- rough canter even worse.  So she usually prefers to trot, and under saddle, I have to really hold her in a frame to encourage a good canter.  But in the roundpen, she really digs in and lets fly.

With all of her sliding stops, spins, and crowhops, I was kind
of glad not to be on her back.  Really, she's 19...
I think she enjoys playing in the roundpen.  I've always kept it low-pressure, choosing to go for more of the fun, "let's dance" route, versus the "drive you around in fast circles until your little eyes are bugging out and you're begging to stop" approach.  So consequently, it's more of a game for her.  She would do some laps, then she'd slow down and come into the center where I was.  She'd pause, I'd scratch her head, then she'd send herself back out and pick up the speed again.  I generally let her pick her pace and change directions on her terms, stepping in once and a while to make sure she ends up going both ways an approximately equal amount of time.

She really likes her boots. I get the best movement out of her
when has them on. She's capable of going bare, but at this point,
she still prefers her boots. We're working on it.
She had quite a little 'tude going a good way.  Lots of changes of direction that involved her skidding to a stop, spinning around, crowhopping and kicking up a few times, leaping, half stepping on herself, then sprinting off.

Pony + Mare 'tude
All maneuvers that are pretty hard on boots.  She put a lot of torque on them, and the roundpen is all sand.  When we were done, there was a collective teaspoon or so of dirt/sand in the boots.  I'm sure stuff was getting in the boots as she was can see how much sand she's kicking up in some of the above pics.  But the open-back design of the Renegades allows most of the sand and dirt to filter out.

And the best part was that after her workout, her boots hadn't budged.  The pic of her displaying her new boots in the barn aisle was actually taken after her workout, and they hadn't shifted or re-adjusted at all, which is a really good sign that I've got the fit down and they didn't shuffle to a "better fitting" position.

The roundpen is a good start for testing, but now I can't wait to get out on trail and really see how they do!

So today's take-away lesson?  Horse's hooves can change, even ones that have been barefoot for a while.  Periodically check and reassess boot fit and sizing. 

Oh, yeah, and I love my Renegades.

So does my pony.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


I had a minor panic moment this morning when I thought it was only two weeks until I left for Tevis.


Turns out it's actually three weeks.

Whew.  I can breathe again.

However, I still can't remember what today it is today, and keep waffling back and forth on whether it's Tuesday or Wednesday.

And that's after three cups of coffee.

Everything is coming together, and I know everything that needs to get done will get done.  I think most of the "big stuff" is taken care of and it's about getting the details now...making sure I have enough camera batteries, picking up a couple more memory cards, figuring out which Renegade t-shirts are too well-loved to make the trip and which are still fit for public consumption.

This got added to my wardrobe:

Very nice collared, v-neck, tech-material polo that looks professional, is super-comfortable, and is the first thing going in my suitcase.  I already have my packing list started, just to write down those weird little things that I think about once -- like camera chargers -- and then promptly forget.  Fortunately I will have several days before the ride in which I will have access to civilization to figure out exactly what I forgot.

Blog buddies -- If we've talked about meeting up while I'm in Auburn, email me or Facebook me.  I have a pretty good idea of what my schedule will be like, so can make further plans and give you contact info.

I am getting SO excited.  Tevis's catching even if you're not riding.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

some days...

"Pony" is said as a term of endearment.

Some days, it's a four-letter word.

Today was kind of the latter, at least for part of the time.

I took advantage of getting up early and forced myself to get. out. the. door. in a decent time fashion, versus frittering away the time on the computer.  It paid was 86* driving down to the barn.  Windows down weather!

And it stayed somewhat overcast and not unbearable right up until I was ready to depart the barn.  We even got misted-dripped-dribbled on for about two minutes while riding.  Hard to call it rain, since I think it evaporated before it even hit the ground.  But it was enough "wet" to piss off the pony.  I sort of wish I had a picture of it...we're cantering along, I'm grinning like a loon because it feels good, and she has her ears pinned and the pissiest look on her face, since she is getting wet.

Think "Princess and the Pea" only with water instead of hard little vegetables.

Never mind that 30 minutes later, she was absolutely loving her bath.

She also wasn't thrilled about doing arena work today.  Just for kicks, I turned on one of the GPD apps I have and tracked our time and speed, and to see just what all those circles amounted to.

One hour of riding, walk/trot/canter, 3.7 miles, with approximately the same average speed.  And it's a sand arena...guess those years of circles actually have been good for something.

And she did the whole thing barefoot...without being gimpy.  Which is quite good, for her.  I think I'm finally getting it on her trimming.

It's a sand arena, yes...but it's not necessarily a "clean" sand arena...there's random rocks and deeper spots and harder-packed shallow spots.  Arena, yes...perfectly groomed show arena, nope.  Which makes it a good workout and a good test on the hooves.

And when I say we rode for an hour, we rode.  Circles, gait changes, more circles, stop-go show background is never far removed from the surface.  Oh, yeah, and I made her really work at carrying herself in a frame, since she wanted to keep being lazy.  When she's lazy, she really embraces her daisy-clipper movement, which is a polite way for saying she doesn't pick up her feet.

Which means she then trips on one of those aforementioned rocks, or a deeper patch of sand.  Since I'm not a fan of the whole -trip-fall-squish thing, I made her work and actually pick up those little legs.

And then I made it up to her at the end.

Pony swilling Gatorade...her second-favorite
flavor, "Cool Blue"
I kinda love how she's giving me the hairy
eyeball as she grabs for it
Her Gatorade habit started back in my show days, before I had a clue what electrolytes were all about...all of us kids tended to do the "bite for me, bite for my pony" approach to food, and our ponies usually partook on whatever we were munching.  Only Mimi really loved Gatorade, especially the orange flavor.  Her preferred method of getting it was licking it right out of Mom's hand...much better than out of a bucket.

It's actually been years since I've given her any Gatorade, but I had gotten some for me last week during the worst of the heat wave, and brought the last of it down to the barn this morning.  And just for old times' sake, I shared.

Yes, she got the last of it; No, I didn't drink from that bottle afterwards.

Gatorade + a very refreshing bath and Pony Spa session made up for whatever ills she might have been feeling towards me.  Summer itchies + bugs + sweat + layers of fly spray mean that a bath is pretty much a weekly necessity from June-September.  She was lovely and clean when I left, although I'm sure an hour later, she wandered back into the arena and rolled in the sand.  And rolled.  And rolled.

Because she's not happy unless she resembles a pigpen.