Saturday, July 27, 2013

trial and error

The trial: A Sensation Hybrid that I dragged home with me from Tevis, on loan from a friend to "see how I like it." (More accurately: To see how the pony likes it.)

After a half-hour workout, in which she kept getting happier
and happier. Workout shortened due to extremely nasty heat
and humidity...and the fact I still had to trim her feet in said
nasty weather.
The error: Oops. Apparently I'm going to need a new saddle, since after about five minutes, the resounding opinion was, "This is delightful." Just putting this out there for people: Just because your horse is 20 years old, doesn't mean they don't stop growing/changing/driving you nuts on saddle fit. And just because we're not competing anymore doesn't mean she doesn't still deserve to be just as comfortable when we do ride.

"I can haz new saddle?!?"
Over the past couple of months, I've been noticing a decrease in forward enthusiasm and an increase in bitchy mare face when initially asked for a trot. I've seen this before, and it usually involved the need for a new saddle. This time, I kept hoping maybe it was just related to her getting older and crunchier. Apparently not, since she even wanted to canter again today, something she's been increasingly reluctant to do.

And so begins the great saddle hunt, scouring the internet for a good deal on a used saddle. My preference is for a Sensation, since they're really well-made saddles, I love the weight-distributing stirrup hang options, and they seem to have quite a bit of "structure" for a treeless. Personally, I would really like either the english trail or dressage trail model.

It looks good on her: Somewhat proportional, versus being
swamped by saddle flaps. (Love my Duett, but the flaps
could be smaller.)
I'll test the one on loan for a few more weeks, just to make sure we both really like it (although based on Opinionated Pony and how strongly she lets me know whether she likes something or not, I'm thinking she likes this one), and hopefully will be able to find something that fits what I'm looking for.

Because, really, how can you say no to this face?
Thank you for this brief interruption...we will now return to our regularly scheduled Tevis programming, at least for the next few posts.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tevis 2013: pre-Ride

Or, Part One of this year's Epic Crewing Adventure.

My Tevis experience lasted a full week this time. The fun started last Tuesday when I flew up to Sacremento. Fellow crew member, friend, and rider-I've-crewed-in-the-past Lucy picked me up at the airport and we made our way back to "Tevis Low Camp" -- aka Lucy's place. It was the gathering place of the week, with, at various points, up to seven people (plus a dog and a parrot) all crammed under one roof.

Wednesday was the start of some good fun, as Kaity wanted to do one last ride from the Finish to No Hands Bridge and back. I borrowed Lucy's pone Roo, and we trailered him and Kaity's Kody over to Auburn. We'd gotten a late morning start, so it was a bit warm, but a lot of the trail is under shade trees, so it was never really too bad, temperature-wise.

I'd hiked the last 1/2-miler or so of the trail from the Fairgrounds before, and hiked from the Hwy 49 crossing to just past the waterfalls and back, so I'd seen parts of the trail, but never the full 49-to-Finish section. (All part of my long-term plan to see as much of the trail and experience as much of The Ride as possible before riding it myself.)

Heading out from the Auburn Overlook
I'd also, for curiosity and education's sake, booted Roo in a full complement of Renegades. Not only has he been notoriously hard on boots in the past (he really torques with his hind hooves when he goes up hills), this section of trail has some "boot-eating" areas of water crossing + mud + uphill climb over rough terrain. It was very educational and I got to experience firsthand some of the challenges of why boots can come off it this type of terrain. (As I'm half-hanging off Roo's side as he climbed up out of the Black Hole, watching his hind boots twist a little bit more with each step.) Finally experiencing the terrain firsthand gave me some great insight into the boot-hoof-trail relationship and have some ideas on how to work through some of these challenges in subsequent years.

We remembered the helmet...and forgot the bridle.
The pre-ride (8 miles or so?) was tons of fun. Roo, true to form, had to gawp suspiciously at all culverts, chalks lines, and large rocks, but he only gave one truly spectacular sideways Arab-teleport-maneuver spook, and he chose a nice, wide, safe area to do so.

Back in to the Overlook. A bit hot, sweaty,
muddy, and hungry. 

I love little grey Arabians of the Al-Marah variety
(Roo is AM Ruwala Land)

Look, Ma, no hands!
Riding across No Hands was a blast. On the way out, I did a staged "no hands" photo op, and then we trotted across the bridge on the way back. (Even more fun!)

After the ride, we hustled the ponies back to Lucy's, got cleaned up, then zipped back down to Auburn for the Tevis BBQ and standard perusal of the horses staying in the barns at the Fairgrounds. Not too many in the barns ahead of time this year -- fewer out of state riders? Or more riders going directly up to Robie Park?

Thursday was prep day: Grocery shop, clean stuff, pack trailer, wash pone, and we managed to get everything done by a reasonable hour so that we could sit back and enjoy pizza.

That's about it for part one (unless you want a play-by-play of rig packing), so it's on to part two -- The Ride!

Friday, July 12, 2013

random musings on crewing Tevis

This is by no means a hard-and-fast rulebook of how crewing must be done, but instead more of a look back at my crewing experiences, since I have managed to properly blog about absolutely none of them. I've not been in the position (yet) to have to write crew instructions, but this is coming from the perspective of one who has been the crew, and what is helpful and useful and what riders can potentially do ahead of time to make for a very happy crew.

I've been very fortunate to crew for friends and fun people. I've not had the experience of grumpy riders, or demanding riders, but instead riders who have been conscientious about things like providing water/snacks for their crew, and being gracious, grateful, and generous in how they've treated me before, during, and after the ride. (This is why I like crewing: It's been a positive experience for me.)

Crew instructions are good. Cherish the rider who hands you a multi-page stack of instructions that spell out their routine and expectations of what they would like to see happen. Whether all of this actually happens is another story. Ask questions. Don't be afraid to clarify what something means.

Take care of yourself! Know how it's important to take care of yourself while riding? Same goes for crewing. Blessed be the rider who provides for their crew with extra water/snacks, but don't assume that will always be the case. Check with them ahead of time on whether you need to provide for yourself or not. Making sure you as the crew stays hydrated and fed means you won't pass out partway through the day, thus being completely useless. (People electrolytes are good, too.)

Sunscreen! You're going to be out in the sun all day, and very likely wearing fewer clothes than when you're riding. (Unless you're crewing at a cold, windy, winter ride, in which case, you're probably wearing more layers. But since I'm coming at this from a mainly-Tevis perspective, odds are good attire will be of the shorts-and-tank-tops variety, thus, sunscreen.)

Crewing is so glamorous. If you're lucky enough to be assigned position of "food intake monitor," be prepared to get slopped on. Degree of mess will depend on exactly what your rider chooses to feed their Muggins, and what Muggins deigns to consume at any given point. Rule of thumb: The more rice bran, the messier the slop. Some horses are, in theory, delicate and neat eaters. I've yet to come across one. Roo, in 2009, was probably the neatest eater, and even he managed to dribble on my shoes. You will also, at various points, be sneezed on, used as an itching post, and guaranteed to come home with electrolytes in your hair. And the dirt just goes without saying.

Be a Learning Sponge. I have learned so much about Tevis, and endurance in general, by crewing. I spend a lot of time at this ride just quietly taking in everything around me and watching the very experienced riders.

Cooling gear is not just for riders. Those cooling vests and neck scarf things feel really good in the late afternoon hanging around Foresthill.

Hurry up and wait. The modes of Tevis: frantic, anxious, impatient, relieved, ecstatic. Frantic comes in when you're racing the morning clock and traffic, trying to get the rig from Robie Park to Foresthill, then the crew packed up and to Robinson Flat before your rider comes in. Anxious is after you've set everything up and the waiting starts. "Is that them?" "What number were they?" "Is the pull list updated?" "When are they going to get in?" "What's the time cutoff?" Impatient is sitting around Foresthill in the middle of the afternoon, feeling utterly useless for several hours. Relieved is when the familiar bay/grey/chestnut/whatever comes into sight, decked out in their color scheme du jour. And finally, ecstatic is when you get to see your beaming rider cross the finish line under the bright lights of the stadium. (That's the late hour making your vision blurry, not happy tears, really...)

Be a cheerful, smiling presence. Don't volunteer to crew unless you really want to be there. The rider has enough to deal with without a grumpy, whiny crewperson. You don't have to be a Brilliant Endurance Rider to be a good crew. Knowing the front end of the horse (food goes here) from the back (don't get kicked by) is a great start, and the ability to schlep heavy objects will make you invaluable to the other crew members.

Say good-bye to sleep patterns. Part of the fun of Tevis is being up for all hours. Last year was a new record, when I stayed up for 26 hours straight. Caffeine is your friend. I try to "bank" sleep in the week leading up to Tevis weekend and have found this actually does help. For the past week, I've been really good about sticking with a regular sleeping/waking pattern, and getting a full 8 hours.

You might get the bug. Or you might not. To some people, they don't "get" Tevis and it's just another ride. To others, it's the ride of a lifetime. For me, crewing was enough to ignite "the bug" that's been biting at me ever since that first crewing experience nine years ago.

Now that I've probably managed to scare everyone off...don't worry! I didn't know a thing about endurance before my first crewing experience. NATRC, yes, which helped, but Tevis was literally the very first endurance ride I ever attended. Talk about your trial by fire. But it got me hooked, and two years back-to-back of crewing gave me the nudge I needed to start down the endurance path.

I'm sure there is stuff I have missed along the way (memory usually winds up a little fuzzy by the time Tevis week/weekend is over) and I'm sure I'll come up with other stuff to address after this year's ride, but for now...

8 days and counting!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

counting down to Tevis 2013

It's 9 days and counting until Tevis 2013. I'm on pins and needles and particularly excited about this year, as I will be crewing for one of my best friends on her and her horse's first go at Tevis.

Kaity and Kody at the San Tans, Sept 2010.
They came over from southern CA for a fun-
filled weekend in my playground.

Kaity and Kody, Day 2 of the Fire Mountain Ride, Jan 2013
Some history, for the curious: Kaity and I have known each other since...errr...'97 or '98? We used to both show our POAs, her in southern CA, me in AZ, and would see each other at larger regional shows. (Incidentally, her Sonny [now sadly deceased] and my Mimi are actually cousins.) She got into distance riding, first NATRC, then AERC, about a year or so before I did, and the same trend continued of usually getting to see each other once or twice a year at different rides.

Kaity is also the one to blame for my Tevis fever, after she oh-so-innocently asked me in 2004 if I might be interested in helping crew for a mutual friend at Tevis (I'd been doing NATRC for about three years by then, so I was well aware of what Tevis was as a ride). 

Fast-forward to 2013, and I am super-excited that this year, it'll be Kaity that I'm crewing for! She's had her horse Kody (an Arab x Appaloosa cross) since he was a fuzzy not-quite-yearling, and it's been so much fun watching him grow up and see the endurance team they've turned into. I crewed for them at 20 Mule Team earlier this year as a "dry run" to establish the crewing routine. Our crew team is set, instructions have been written, details discussed ad nauseum, rider and horse have both received threats of being wrapped in bubble wrap...and now we wait.

I fly out on Tuesday. I have nothing packed. (Of course.) That will be my weekend project.

Same as last year, I will also be up there to represent Renegade and provide support for our riders. Looking forward to another great year, and as always, seeing old friends and making new ones!

More Tevis-related blogs to follow over the next few days, I'm sure!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

the pony approval process

Step One: Visual Inspection

Step Two: Olfactory Inspection

Step Three: Oral Inspection
Yes, Mimi, they're yours. No, they're no a chew toy. (In light of the pony's attempted antics, I may have to re-write our Renegade captivator warranty policy to include "if your dog or horse chews on it...")