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 http://www.teviscup.org.

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 (http://www.teviscup.org) 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 yesterday...in 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 going...you 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 fever...it'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 off...it 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 transitions...my 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.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Whirlwind; or, Catch-Up, Redux

Even after 5 years of blogging, I still have some issues with consistency.  I don't blog for a bit, say due to life circumstances and lack of time.  So I get out of the habit.  And I don't blog.  And I don't blog.  And suddenly, I've got all this stuff that's happened, and I feel overwhelmed trying to catch up on everything...so I figure, I just won't.

And then I can't figure out what to blog about.


I haven't really been up to anything monumentally exciting.  This is Arizona hibernation weather, the time of year where the pony thanks me for not riding her.  The closest national forest trailheads -- and 20* cooler weather -- are currently closed (at least as of last week) due to the extreme fire danger, and probably won't open again until we get some more rain, so that put the kibosh on the vague "let's go ride in the mountains" plans we had floating around at the barn.

I did have to go out of town a couple of weeks ago.  My grandmother passed away, and we all went back to Pennsylvania for her funeral.  Was not impressed with East Coast humidity.  My hat's off to all endurance riders back there who successfully cope with it.

Work continues on...in short, I LOVE IT.  Finalizing Tevis plans for next month.  Rough schedule is I'll be in Auburn Tuesday/Wednesday, then up to Robie Park Thursday/Friday for booting.  Ride Day Saturday, the plan is to be at the Hwy 89 crossing in the morning to shoot some video, then up to Robinson Flat, then back down to Foresthill, then to the Finish.  Yeah, I'm going to try to be a die-hard and stay up til the wee hours of the morning.  I just might be a bit crazy.  Massive quantities of caffeine will be involved.

Plans to try to meet up with several blog buddies...definitely looking forward to that!  One of my favorite things about endurance has been all of the great people I've met and friends I've made...that alone has been a major motivating factor to still keep my foot in the door of the sport, even during my competition-hiatus period -- I would really hate to lose contact with so many of the great people I've met.

I'm also starting to put together a blog list that I'll be putting on the Renegade news page -- a list of "affiliates" of sorts, such as distributors or riders who use the boots that keep a blog and talk about the boots.  If you're interested in having your blog or web page put on the list, let me know!

Tevis is a month away...let the countdown begin.

I still need to do an updated hoof post...will get photos this weekend when I'm down at the barn.