Friday, April 26, 2013

bring on the weekend

I'm ready for a couple of days of pony therapy + kitchen therapy.

Most weeks, my reaction is, "Oh, weekend. Okay."

This week, my reaction is a little closer to, "Oh, weekend. Weekend! Ohmigoshwherehaveyoubeenallmylife?!?"

With daytime temperatures pegging close enough to be called "near-summer," I think a proper bath for the filthy pony is in order. That'll strip off the last hangers-on of her winter coat, and take care of some of the stains that have been on there

And I've found a couple of recipes I want to try this weekend...hand-kneading some bread dough sounds like a really good idea right now.

Gooey chick-flick that requires no brain-power is on the agenda for more thoughts about vehicles, mechanics, and all the other various and sundry of the week.

Hi. My turn for fun and games this weekend?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Lessons Learned: Prescott Edition

Some rides are easier than others. At Sonoita, for whatever reason, everything went really smooth and I found myself wrapped up for the evening by 8PM and with time to even watch TV on Steph's portable DVD player. Prescott, not so much, as I found myself back to my "standard operating procedure" of feeling like I had way too much stuff to do and not enough time in an evening to get it all done before the next day, then finally crawling into bed around 10PM.

No idea what the difference was, other than maybe more socialization at Prescott? Hey, if it means a slightly later be it. Rides are my social life, so I'm going to enjoy that time.

I touched on it before, but the theme of this weekend was "flexibility." So many plans ends up changing along the way, and so for a self-admitted control freak who prides herself on her planning and preparation, it was a real exercise in relaxing and going with it, especially since it was mostly stuff I had absolutely no control over anyway. This ride season has been really good in getting me to lighten up and not be quite as intense about rides. I'm still my detail-oriented self (love my lists and Post-It notes), but I'm learning it's not necessarily the end of the world if some minor thing gets forgotten or doesn't get done.

As with every ride, some things worked and some things didn't. Between Sonoita and Prescott, I changed around some major elements of my saddle set-up: the seat cover and the stirrups.

First, I switched my full sheepskin cover out for a Supracor seat cover. What I liked about it: Not having the full sheepskin on the sides of the saddle made it just a little narrower and that much easier for me to put my leg on the horse; the stiffer Supracor material "filled in" some of the extra seat space and made the rise seem less steep; that Supracor is cushy.

Unfortunately, it ended up not working for 50 miles. There was just too much of an edge where the seat cover ended on the sides, and it was definitely turning into somewhat of a chaffing spot. Also, having the sides of my saddle uncovered meant that my knee patches of my tights rubbed against the leather knee blocks of my saddle, and for whatever reason, they squeaked. I hate squeaky noises like that, so that was highly annoying. Plus, my full sheepskin kept my saddle really clean and scratch-free.

Fortunately, I brought all of my "originals" of the things I'd changed out with me, so it was a fairly simple matter of switching out the seat covers between days one and two.

The other thing I changed was my stirrups. I'd been looking at the Cloud Stirrups for a while -- my father used to use them, and I could never get over how big and clunky they were -- but after exhausting several other options, they looked like my best shot, especially when I found a set of them advertised on the classifieds for a great deal.

I love them. Yes, they're heavier than I'm used to...but it seems like they balance out the weight of my saddle. And they look less clunky in black. But looks and weight aside, they're comfortable. I'm still kind of playing with stirrup leather length -- because they're heavier and more stable, they stay in place better and I don't have to rely on a shorter leg position for stability -- but I'm really happy with them.

I must be a real endurance rider now: I got my first actual clothing/tack rub and finally had an actual need for BodyGlide. The intersection between the stitching across the knee patches on one pair of tights + half chaps + stirrup leather was just the wrong combination and I ended up with a rub on the inside bend of my left knee, and could feel another rub starting on the same place on my right knee. Fortunately, this happened on day one when the vet hold was back in camp, so I was able to slather with BodyGlide (lazy endurance rider couldn't be bothered to remove her half chaps and boots to change tights) and it didn't really get much worse the rest of the day. As part of my planning, I'd brought three completely different brands of tights with me, so the tights I wore on day two didn't have stitching in the same location. I also had my full sheepskin cover back on, and riding a completely different horse with different movement and positioning in the saddle.

irish horse had asked about the logistics of riding what was originally going to be three different horses, and how my tack set-up would change. Surprisingly, not that much. I'd tried my saddle on all but Liberty and it worked; including the same saddle pad. Rocco and Kasha both wear the same bit and their bridles are adjusted the same. Liberty wears an s-hackamore, which is the same set-up I use on Mimi, so all I have to do there is adjust size settings. Ditto on the breastcollar -- just adjust settings. So far, they all like my mohair girth and it fits all of them. Liberty is the one horse my saddle ultimately won't work on -- it's a little bit too narrow and she was slightly sore back on her loins by the time we finished. (She's a tank, at least as wide as Mimi.)

I wish I would have had time to braid Liberty's mane. I don't think it made a huge difference in her cooling down, but it's long and fine, and kept getting caught under the breastcollar/saddle pad/saddle packs/reins. I even spent the last 15 minutes at the vet check rummaging through my crew bag looking for something to use as a hair tie. (The only thing I found that might have worked was shoelaces. I figured we'd gotten that far and were still okay, so just left it. I now have a pack of braiding bands and a mane comb stuck in the crew bag.)

I did pretty good in the food department. Ride meals were outstanding, provided by a mobile catering company. Dinner Saturday night was BBQ ribs or chicken (ribs for me!), and Sunday was beef burgandy on pasta. The chocolate cupcakes with almond butter whipped cream were so good. I made my homemade meat sauce marinara with spaghetti for Friday night -- always a hit -- and had leftovers of that for Saturday lunch. Breakfast we discussed already, with the conclusion that "cottage cheese is good." I still love the Succeed! electrolytes and the Clip2 energy drink: I went through three of those over the weekend. All things vanilla or orange-flavored work the best for me. Lemon-flavored GU Chomps tasted good going down, but lemon-flavored burps aren't all that much fun later.

And the biggest thing for me in finishing a ride still feeling good? Riding good horses who don't thrash me to bits or give me ulcer-causing worries. Thank Liberty, Rocco, Gina, and Stephanie for a great weekend and two great rides!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ride Story: Prescott Chaparral: Day Two and A New Horse

We wrapped Day One with another successful 50 for me and Rocco, and after he was fed, watered, and wrapped, it was on to prepping for Day Two.

Gina had gotten her truck straightened out and had shown up in camp sometime while Steph and I were out on our second loop. She had in tow with her Uno, her Kiger Mustang gelding with a handful of endurance rides and a unique personality, and Liberty, a half-Shagya/half-Arab mare who would be my ride. Gina had been telling stories on this mare to me for some time now, including her propensity for escaping and apparently being immune to hot-tape fences.

Hmmm...this could be one tough mare.

But you know what? I love tough mares. I've spent the last 16 years around one, haven't I? And yes, they might be more complicated, sometimes more frustrating, and definitely more of a challenge...but I get them. They're not for everyone...but I love my mares.

Anyways, I was prepared for the fact she could be pushy and dominant, and our first meeting had me giving her a very clear definition of "personal space" when she attempted to body block me.

I've spent 16 years being pushed around by a pony. Do these horses honestly think they can be much worse???

With that settled, she vetted in beautifully, checking in with a pulse of 40 even with horses milling around the area, bawling cows behind her, strong wind blowing things over and around...oh, and did I mention this was only her second ride and the last ride she had done was this same one two years ago? Oh, yeah, and she's really still just a baby, especially by slow-maturing Shagya standards...she's only 7.

Unfortunately we didn't have time to pre-ride, but I felt pretty comfortable with the idea of getting on her the next day. Some horses just give you good vibes, y'know, and I'd been reassured by multiple sources who know the horse that she doesn't buck or rear, and really doesn't spook at much.

That afternoon and evening, I managed to:

  • fit Liberty for boots (she had excellent hooves and has been barefoot her whole life but paranoid me was more comfortable being fully-booted) 
  • try my saddle on her (she's a tank) 
  • get dinner (ribs! excellent!!!) 
  • go to the ride meeting (23rd place on Rocco on Day One and a t-shirt for completion)  
  • pack the crew bag 
  • try to poison Liberty (according to her) with electrolytes (really, another one who hates syringes???)
  • shower (yay for friends [Gina] with living quarters)
Morning (5AM...ugh) rolled around way too fast, and I started with Battle of the Breakfast, Day Two. I did a bit better this morning when I discovered cottage cheese went down quite well, plus another yogurt smoothie, a banana-applesauce, and coffee.

I was quite pleased with Liberty's lack of young-horse-wiggliness when tacking up -- I didn't even bother to properly tie her (she was on her hi-tie) until after she was tacked up.

Liberty is definitely a Pretty Girl.
Doesn't she look good in the orange?
That mane!!! I thought about braiding it, but kind of ran out of time. Fortunately, although it's long, it's silky and not really thick. And she's also pretty much shed out except for a little bit on her back and belly.

Liberty and Uno sharing a hay net.
Getting on a brand-new horse for the first time is always a bit this case, it went off without a hitch. She stood politely next to the mounting block (a necessity: she's a true 15.1 with no withers) and stood quietly while I got myself sorted out, then proceeded to still stand quietly while Uno did his Uno thing (circle-circle-circle-circle around the mounting block) before eventually deciding to cooperate. (He's a Kiger Mustang. He does everything on his own time in his own mind.)

The start was another controlled start, but both the 50s and the LDs started at the same time. We split off onto separate trails within half a mile, but there were still probably 60+ horses all starting at the same time. We drifted out towards the back of the pack, but it was definitely a slow start.

Remember that part back on Day One where I mentioned that seeing the "scary" stuff the day before really benefited? Well, these two could have used the same benefit. :) It probably took us about 10 minutes to get past the camp vicinity, since we had to gawp at:
  • large rocks
  • tree full of fluttering ride ribbons
  • dead farm shack
  • dead farm equipment
  • other horses freaking out
I also wanted a slower start to give Liberty a chance to get used to me...and me to her. I could already tell she was going to be a smooth ride; her slow dance-mini prance past the (scary, already-creaking-and-groaning) windmill had shown me that much. We finally got out to the main road and picked up a trot.

Oooooh, this mare is a nice mover.

She's smooth, light in the face, doesn't pull, and actually responds to requests like, "Let's not trot downhill on the hard-pack-topped-with-loose-DG [decomposed granite]-road." I really like her trot: enough loft and elasticity that she's easy to post and two-point, but doesn't beat you up.

Camera out within the first few miles.
Liking this ear view.
She's also really, really solid, especially for a baby. She was perfectly happy to lead, and although she peeked at thing (big rocks, dead logs, lurking cows), she rarely stopped, preferring to veer around and keep trotting. She also didn't quite get "follow the trail" at first, and I had to actively ride her through the narrow, twisty single-track...for about the first quarter of the ride, after which point, she had it figured out.

The way the trail was run, the 30s and 50s shared some trail, then the 50s would break off and do a loop, then come back on shared trail...all throughout the day. Which meant as tail-end 30s, we were getting passed by the front-running 50s, pretty much most of the day. And she handled it so well. She is a dominant  mare, which means she has a space bubble...and one heck of a bitch-mare face...but she never acted on it. 

She also hit the first water trough at roughly 3.5 miles into the ride and started drinking. Yes!!!

Liberty and I lead for pretty much the first 9 miles, through single-track, open roads, across cow pastures, more road, then down into a large wash that made a long, slow uphill climb that kept going deeper and deeper into an ever-narrowing canyon. And finally, her baby-horse brain said, "Enough, I need a break." So we put Uno in front and she was more than happy to follow him.

Still leading.
Smiling Gina and Uno.
Miles 10-12 were a bit of a "wall" for them...a large, wide-open road that lead to a gravel pit mine of some sorts, totally exposed to the sun and getting a bit warm. Talk about "death trudge." I didn't know two horses of their sizes (Uno is every bit of 15hh) could actually walk that slow. And then I pulled up the GPS track when I got home and realized it was also part of the section of trail that ended up climbing almost 1000' in roughly four miles.

Death trudge excused.

We also met the terrifying photographer and had to be coaxed by much for high-action shots. :)

The next few miles of trail into the vet check was a ton of fun...technical single-track that went up, down, around, and every which way, and it was there Liberty displayed one of the most hilarious quirks I've seen a horse pull: a temper tantrum when she trips. Seriously. She would take a minor misstep/trip, then shake her head and thrown in this bouncy hop-thing...I can't even call it a crowhop because it involves more front hooves than hinds, but it's like she's stomping up and down on the ground that dared to get in her way.

We walked the road down into the vet check and she was already down by the time we pulsed in. (And ravenous. The alfalfa at our feet didn't stand a chance.) I was happy with how she vetted: Mostly As, with a couple of Bs, but still very bright-eyed, perky, and happy to trot out.

She and Uno demolished a flake of alfalfa, grazed on whatever was growing underfoot, and nibbled on some bermuda grass before settling in to snooze for the rest of the hour hold.

Vet check snooze-fest!
You know I've got it together when I'm actually saying, "I wish the check had been shorter." Really. I didn't spend half of it trying to get my horse to stay in one place (either I or Gina held her for about the first 15 minutes, then I dropped my reins on top of the crew bag and there she stayed), so could actually dig in the crew bag, hit the porta-potty, replace water bottles, and eat.

Food tally: Peanut butter and jelly sandwich, tapioca pudding. I'd also downed two water bottles and a sports drink by the time we got to the check, plus a granola bar. My shoulders appreciated not wearing the Camelbak like I did on Day One. And on the way back to camp, I slurped another banana-applesauce, plus another bottle of water and sports drink.

The trail out from the vet check was awesome. It was a technical, twisting, little-up-but-mostly-down ATV track and boy did we make time on it. I was seriously impressed with Liberty's ability to handle herself on technical trail while moving at a good trot. Waaay fun. She was still happy to let Uno lead at this point, and he is one handy little Mustang, especially on technical going, and I was even more impressed that even with him in front, she was still paying attention to the trail and slowing down when necessary versus fighting to tailgate. 

There was no wasting time, especially on this last 12-mile stretch home. They drank at all of the water tanks/troughs, and we gave them a couple of grazing breaks, but we were very aware of the clock and had to make time when we could. Liberty was also willing to lead again, so we were trading off sections, breaking them down into smaller mileage so as not to overwhelm the baby-horse brain.

We pretty much trotted into camp, then hand-walked the short section through camp to where they were pulsing  and by the time they drank, she was down to 56...and we finished with a whole 14 minutes to spare! Which is pretty much how I wanted it: No racing, not pushing the young horse too hard, and still having bright eyes and good vet scores at the end...which she did.

And then we went back to the trailer where she proceeded to continue work on her excavation project:

Does it make me a bad horsey-mommy that I had to take a
photo before disciplining her?
Oh, the attitude! Note the tongue sticking out.
And as pretty as she is, this is such an unflattering photo.
She looks so much prettier in person.
That was the work of Saturday night and Sunday afternoon-evening. Exhausted, that one. Not.

Suspect she was: 1) not pleased with confinement (she does bust out of hot tape corrals); 2) wanting her buddy next to her, not on the other side of the trailer; 3) wanting attention.

Still, digging to China was her worst indiscretion all weekend.

I can see why someone coined LD the "Luxury Distance." It was kind of nice to finish up mid-afternoon and have a chance to get another shower (!), sort everything out for the next day (still anticipating riding Day Three at this point), grab dinner, and go to the ride meeting. (15th place; mesh mangers for completion awards...too cool!)

However, the plans changed one final time. After unwrapping Hadji's legs, Steph noticed he had a puffy front leg, and while the swelling went down after doing a few walking laps, it was decided he wasn't going to go out on Day Three. I had the option of taking Rocco out, but I declined. I had two awesome rides and was perfectly fine with calling it good at that point. It had only been Rocco's second 50, and while he probably  could have handled it, especially if we went slow, I didn't feel like pushing it, especially on someone else's horse. So we packed up and headed home Monday morning.

Even with all of the changes of plans, I had an awesome weekend! Two great rides on two great horses, a chance to see and socialize with friends, beautiful trails, and an excellently managed ride. This was the third year for the Prescott Chaparral ride, and the first year I managed to make it to the ride...and you can bet I'll be back for next year!!!

That wraps up our in-state rides until the fall, so I have no clue what's next on the schedule. We shall see...

Ride Story: Prescott Chaparral: Be Flexible and Have FUN!!!

"Flexibility" was the catch-phrase of the weekend and I have to admit, I am getting so much better about learning how to be flexible and go with the flow. What started out as a plan to do three days on three horses ended up being two days on two different horses, with a lot of changes in between. And you know what? I had an awesome weekend.

The original plan had Gina (my boss at Renegade) driving down with two of her horses for us to ride in the LD on Saturday, then I would ride Stephanie's mare Kasha in her first 50 on Sunday, and finish the weekend on Stephanie's Rocco on Monday's 50.

You know what they say about "best-laid plans."

Here's what actually happened:

I drove over to Steph's place on Friday morning, loaded all of my stuff (So. Much. Stuff.) in her rig, and we were on the road by noon, texting progress reports and expected ETAs, since I was attempting to coordinate multiple rigs parking together and saving each other spaces. Unfortunately, Gina had some truck problems and ended up turning around, which would delay her arrival by a day.

Plan Rearrangement One: Steph and I would ride together on Day One, her on Hadji and me on Rocco, and then she would ride Kash on Day Two while I rode with Gina, and then we would ride the boys again on Day Three.

Ultimately, the first two elements of that plan went off perfectly and it worked out for all involved....but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Camp was located at the L Bell Ranch in Skull Valley, just southwest of Prescott and a gorgeous area. We parked in a beautifully flat cow pasture with tons of room to spread out and plenty of space around rigs. The only bad thing was the abundance of "goathead" weeds -- those hard, dry, extremely sharp little round balls of obnoxiousness that stick in the soles of your shoes then get dragged into your trailer where you then step on them with your bare feet.

Like I said, gorgeous.
Day One 50, Loop One
But when that's the worst of it, that's saying a lot.

When we pulled into camp, my friend Kaity had beaten us there by an hour or so and had saved us parking spots, and we were able to get camp set up and go check in. (God bless the ride secretary as she had to deal with me and my "change this, scratch that" alterations of horses and distances. Ride management at this ride can't be beat. They did an awesome job.)

Steph and I had enough time after vetting in to take the horses out for a half-hour shakedown ride...a very good thing, it turns out, as we went out the same way we'd be heading out in the morning, and thus encountered all of the obstacles that made up the terrifying "gauntlet of horsey death" stretch, including: large amounts of ribbons, large boulders, flapping signs, old dead farm shacks, old dead farm equipment, rustling leaves, sprinklers, cows, more large rocks, and a cattle guard. (This was a very good -- or bad, depending -- ride for the uninitiated horse when it came to stuff to gawp at. If they had a good brain, they were pretty much over it by the end of the weekend.)

And did I mention the windmill? The very large, very functional windmill that creaked and groaned most enthusiastically under the slightest of windy conditions? That just happened to be placed right next to the trail in/out of camp each day?

Yeah, that was a fun one. Going out for a pre-ride, no problem. Wind hadn't picked up yet. But by the time we came back, it was somewhat breezy, and going back past the windmill, Rocco took me halfway across the open field at a lovely, sidepassing trot. Dressage potential, that one. But by the time we passed it for the final time Saturday afternoon coming into camp for the finish, he was over it.

The nice thing about doing rides this time of year is that you don't completely freeze overnight, and that when you come crawling out of the trailer at 5:30 in the morning, the sun is starting to come up and there's really no need for a headlamp. (Or five layers of clothing.)

I engaged in my customary ride morning battle to eat breakfast and managed: a croissant, a yogurt smoothie, and half a cup of coffee before calling it good enough. I had a teeny bit of excitement upon mounting up when Rocco took a couple of steps away from the trailer and all of a sudden did one of those "downward dog" stretches. I admit, I yelped, pretty sure the only way this was going to end was with him doing an  upward leap of naughtiness.

In reality, he was just stretching...which is possibly a really good reason to give them a morning walk around camp to stretch out ahead of time. Or not...this was pretty efficient. (As long as you're expecting it.)

The ride had a controlled start, which is really nice. This was where pre-riding and letting them see all the scary stuff really came in handy -- all the things that were worth snorting and gawping at the previous afternoon were now a non-issue. (Remember this for later.)

Saturday's 50 was split into 2 loops, 27 and 23 miles each, with an hour-long vet hold between the two. Water was pretty plentiful (for the high desert) on this ride, especially the first loop, and I got to experience the hoof boot triple threat of water + hills + speed. For the most part, it went well, but I've been testing a new prototype Renegade for the last couple of months and such is the nature with tests and why we do them: Things don't always work perfectly, and I did have a couple of boots come off during the course of the  weekend. It was definitely a challenging ride and terrain for boots, with a lot of rocks, water, sand, hills, and technical trail.

And speaking of water crossings...Rocco isn't a huge fan. He does it, especially after his buddy Hadji has already bravely waded in...but they have to be sizable water crossings. When presented with a narrow stream crossing, he displayed his back-up career choice: Event horse. He's really a smooth and lovely jumper.

The Sycamore Creek part of loop one was definitely my favorite: lots of technical single-track and really, really pretty. And then there were the stretches of Forest Service and/or ranch roads that help break up the demands of technical single-track...but I was always happy to get off the roads and back on to trail.

Call it a "road" if you will.
Rocco was down by the time we walked into the vet check back at camp, and that hour hold went by really fast. Leftover cold spaghetti from the previous night tasted delicious and was the perfect balance of carbs and proteins that I needed. Out of the check right on time and out on loop two, which was the flatter and less technical of the two loops.

Rocco sez, "Food?!?"
Loop two came with an unexpected obstacle, however. A fairly major train track runs right down through the Skull Valley area, and is not exactly what one would call "lightly used." I'm pretty sure it's part of a main shipping line, and large freight trains go through the area several times a day...even on weekends. Because it's a completely wide open, rural area, trains don't have to sound their whistles the way they do in an urban area with street crossings. (Trust me, I know this: I live 300 feet off a major rail line, in between two major street crossings. I don't even hear train whistles 98% of the time anymore.)

You see where this is going?

Of course we met the train. We'd just crossed under one of the trestles and through the other side, where Steph was off of Hadji, closing the gate. She'd just moved Hadji away from the gate when I heard the rails start humming. Uh-oh. So there we were, 100 feet away from the tracks, watching this giant freight train monster come racing by. Gold stars to both Hadji and Rocco for holding it together and not freaking out.

There were some really fun parts on the second loop as well, with some great sections of single-track (including a bit through a section of large rocks I got so enamored with we completely missed the turnoff and dead-ended a short while later at quite the drop-off over some of those rocks going, "I don't think we're supposed to go this way").

We alternately trotted/death-trudged the road back to camp, and then we were done. 4:03pm...Steph's excellent pacing and timing had put us exactly at the 8-hour 50 we were aiming for. We vetted through right away, and with that, Rocco had completed his 2nd 50!

One day down...and Day Two still to come...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Prescott prep

Three days + three different horses = a ton of stuff.

At least, that's the way it seems as I find myself adding to my ride packing checklist instead of crossing things off. And of course all three horses don't go in the exact same tack-saddle pad-boot set-up...that would be way too easy.

Thus far, I've managed to:
- Clean tack
- Clean boots (still need to sort boots and figure out which ones I need to bring)
- Wash saddle pads (and forget they're still sitting in the washer wait until the weather cleared to stick them outside to dry)
- Make a grocery list

Still to do:
- Just about everything

Really excited about doing three days...the 30 on Saturday, 55 Sunday, and 50 on Monday.

The weather is wrecking havoc on my plans right now...freak wind/rain storm came in yesterday and dropped the temps by almost 20*...and now I don't know what it'll do over the weekend, whether I believe the predicted highs in the low-to-mid 70s, or if it's going to stay cold and potentially dump certain four-letter words of precipitation on us. This should make packing interesting.

Right now, three different weather sites are saying 70+, which is pretty much perfect.

Trying to decide if I have enough motivation to go wrangle the sewing machine and stitch together a fleece blanket, or if I just raid my current stack of fleeces to toss in the crew bag. (The latter is sounding like the more appealing option at the moment.)

Monday, April 8, 2013

one happy pony

Really, this pic and the title says it all.
I made the Pony Girl's day yesterday went we finally got to go out on trail again. She was absolutely thrilled to be out again, and there's nothing quite like the view between my favorite pony ears in the whole world.

clear trail and happy ears
A group of five of us from the barn went out and rode up at Usery Mountain Park. It was the first trail outing for barn "baby" Ava, and Mimi is the perfect babysitter horse for accompanying the greenies out on trail. As fussy as she can be about her (very large) personal space bubble, when it comes to guiding the youngsters and keeping track of the herd, she is amazingly tolerant and attentive. So, so proud of my girl. 

And she was so happy, getting to be out in front and leading the whole ride. We didn't go too far -- maybe a touch over 4 miles -- but it was more than enough for 5 horses, three of who are young, one who is in her prime but very out of shape, and one who physically older and crunchier than she'd like to mentally admit. 

leading the wagon train of:
Ava - bay warmblood; Silver - white grey Arab;
 Legend - dapple grey Thoroughbred; Gypsy - black paint

It was a great mental workout, too. Usery is a very busy park, especially on weekends, so there's all kinds of exposure to things like mountain bikers, hikers, strollers, dogs, kids on playground swings right next to the trail, benches plopped randomly along the trail for "rest" the natural obstacles of cactus, dead logs, dead cactus, lizards, and exploding quail.

And apparently the snakes are out, although we didn't see any.

Superstition Mountains in the distance
The cactus and wildflowers were in full bloom, since we've had a decent amount of winter/early spring rain.

bright pink hedgehog cactus
As fun as it is to ride other people's horses, there is nothing like my own pony. Especially one who is trustworthy enough to allow me to drop the reins and spend half the ride taking pictures.

transitioned over to the orange/black theme
(that's Renegade orange, not Halloween, thank you)
She also taste-tested the new Purina ElectroEase electrolytes I got and deemed them delicious, to the point where she grabbed at the syringe for more, and wasn't put off from continuing to eat her hay after dosing.

She also discovered the perk of the barn owner's trailer: the mangers make a perfect head rest. She climbed in the trailer, placed her muzzle in the manger, and snoozed for the drive back to the barn.

And a good time was had by all horses and riders involved.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Lessons Learned, Old Pueblo edition

Presenting the ever-popular "what worked/what didn't" post-game evaluation for Old Pueblo.

  • Wearing a Camelbak = much better personal hydration levels.
    • Wearing a Camelbak = more-sore shoulder area. I have enough that that department that no matter how good/expensive of a sports bra I'm wearing, the strap pressure will eventually catch up to me. The extra weight of the Camelbak does not help.
    • But better hydration means the rest of me isn't as sore. Trade-off?
  • Stirrup leather pressure caught up to me on day two with the combination of lots of downhills + forward, pulling horse + bracing against horse and hills + smushed-flat sheepskin covers = bruised shins.
    • I don't train much at all for the downhill-at-speed factor. If I'm bracing against a horse who is leaning against the bit and pulling me out of position, it goes that much worse. (I ran into this problem with Mimi. Already naturally built downhill, she didn't self-rate very well and I had to hold her together, which translated to bracing myself in the saddle in an attempt to not get pulled out of position.)
      • I'm not quite sure what the solution to this is, whether I just need to try to ride horses with a natural self-carriage who balance themselves downhill (Yeah, I don't ask for much...), or evaluate my own riding and saddle fit. I know my saddle is too big for me now, so doesn't put me in as ideal of a position...which brings me to my next point...
  • I have such excellent luck with this saddle fitting multiple horses. But it's a little too big for me now. (Good problem to have.) So I end up fighting for an ideal position sometimes.
    • Steps have been taken to make the saddle fit a little smaller, including replacing my full sheepskin cover with a Supracor seat cushion. Preliminary tests are feeling pretty good...the upcoming Prescott Chaparral ride will be the ultimate acid test. 
  • Food: I did pretty okay, food-wise, especially Saturday, with multiple loops back into camp and plenty of chances for me to stuff my face.
    • Pop-Tarts: Good. Especially with breakfast.
    • Forgetting the peanut butter and under-cooking the hard-boiled eggs: Not so good.
    • Pastrami sandwich: Bad. I finally found something that my stomach said, "Eh, maybe not the best idea" to at a vet check. Don't know if it was the pastrami, the mustard, or the pickles, but I left the VC on Sunday's ride with my stomach at maybe 95% as opposed to its typical, "Mmm, that was delicious" feeling I usually get after leaving a vet check. (And I joke about the horses riding from VC to VC to eat?)
    • Homemade pasta salad with a bit of everything: Very good. Elbow macaroni with pepperoni, cheddar cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, bell peppers, black olives, spicy pickles, artichoke hearts, all in an olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing. Yum
    • Tart Cherry Juice: Delicious and refreshing at the end of the ride. I've got the "Rebuild" that has whey protein.
    • Saturday ride offerings from the grill: Good. Very good. That hamburger with green chilies and cheese really hit the spot between loops 3 and 4, and the grilled bratwurst for dinner was delicious.
    • Never underestimate the tastiness of ramen noodles.
  • This was the first time I actually felt more relaxed and made less of a Big Production out of having everything Just So. I think being around very experienced endurance riders who can look at a 50 the way I can look at training rides is probably going to be a good influence and example for me.
    • Riding very endurance-capable horses probably has something to do with this. It's definitely more relaxing to ride a horse you know is made for the sport and has an easier time doing it. (Well, I guess it was Rocco's first ride, so we didn't really know how he'd do...but he took everything so well, it was pretty easy to relax and not stress too much.)
    • However, I am so glad I started endurance on Mimi. Getting her through rides and managing her was the best learning experience I could ask for. 
  • Two 50s back-to-back: I've felt worse after a one-day 50. Multi-days are fun, and I like the multiple-rides-for-one-drive-expense concept. I feel fortunate to live in the land of multi-days..
  • New Terrains made a huge difference in foot comfort. I finally retired my 10-year-old Terrains for a new pair...oh, that's what the footbed support system is supposed to feel like.
  • I need to get off and walk more. Especially downhills. This might be part of why I get crunchy on too many downhills...because I insist on riding them. But I don't go down fast enough on my own two feet to satisfy an impatient horse who travels faster than me. And I was also unsure about the availability of conveniently-placed re-mounting objects.
    • That said...I basically flat-mounted 15.2hh. Too bad it took me until 40 miles into day two to realize I don't actually suck at mounting as much as I thought, and that Mimi really is the only horse I will actually roll that saddle on. 
One of my shorter "lessons learned" after a ride, I suppose...but overall, it was a smooth-sailing ride. With good prep -- and the same bit of luck -- the Prescott Chaparral ride in two weeks will go just as well!