Friday, June 27, 2014

Cost of the Horse Critters

Alright, Lauren, you've inspired me to suck it up and think about this and post my own.

Griffin and Q, telling & showing you how it is.

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The Basics
Board: $100/month/horse - this is 24/7 turnout on anywhere from 20 to 40 acres; stalls are available as is a small round pen and a paddock area. This cost includes winter hay, as well. ($200/month, $2400/year)
Hoof care: free - I do it myself
Vet care: $200/year for annual vaccines and check up etc. per horse. Now, factor in if something else happens - let's tack on an additional $400 just because (~$800 a year if nothing CRAZY happens)
Grain: ~$20/bag and I go through one every month and a half or so (~$40/three months, ~$160/year)
Training: I have no trainer. I take no lessons. Should I? Yes. But the travel that would be associated to GET to someone to gain a lesson from would be triple the lesson price - at a minimum. Training and time spent with my horses is all done by moi.
Basics Total for the Year: $3,360 (if non-crazy year with vet then $2,960)

The "Extras"
Tack: I'd estimate I drop ~$400 a year on basic things (boots, reins, etc.) Barring out purchasing a saddle or a new saddle pad, that's about all the more I'll spend. However, because I so recently purchased both a new saddle and pad, I'll add those costs $900 & $125. (typical year ~$400; big year ~$1425)
Supplements: a new edition to life. ~$30/month, $360/year
Treats: $7/2 months, $42/year
Insurance: Q is the only one insured currently because she's the only one in full work $350/year
Events: each endurance ride entry is ~$100 with the OD being $150. With only one horse in competition my costs are currently - for the event entry only - $450. Next year with two horses it will be more like $900. As is, Griffin may do up to two events this year. So for this year our total will be roughly $650
Gas: For events. For play. For traveling to and from the barn on a weekly basis. It's a huge factor when you sit and think about it. Weekly to and from the barn: ~$27 ($324/year). Add in the current events: ~$85/event ($340/year). Now add those other local-ish rides that cost me no entry but do cost gas: average ~$35/event if I stay in state ($140/year). And the couple out of state: ~$120/event ($240/year). Gas sum for year: $1044
"Extras" Total for Year: $3,871 (if not buying extra big ticket tack items $2,846)

Total cost spent on horses per year:  $7,231
(if there weren't big vet calls or tack purchases: $5,806)

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And THAT is doing it CHEAP. Roughly $7,250 a year right now for me to own and play pretty hard with two horses?! I'm only competing Q right now, but even with Griffin in competition next year my total yearly cost will be roughly $8,000. Seriously not bad all things considered. I am incredibly fortunate. 

Yes, eventually I will purchase a truck and trailer and costs will go up. And with harder play comes more risk for injury and vet costs - but that is why I insure my beasts. So if the unfortunate occurs, I don't have to worry so much about money to fix up my equine partner. I can do what is right without fretting about whether or not I'll have money to eat and live.

But money is only HALF of the equation in horse ownership. TIME is the other half.

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I have inquiring new horse owners ask me what I paid for my horses often. Q was $600. Griffin was free. I've then had numerous people say to me, "Oh. Great! I hope we can find a good horse that cheap and be as lucky as you were."
I did not "get lucky" with my horses. I "got dedicated" if you have to put a label on it. I spend money (above) and time (below) and lots of sweat to have good horses. I'm flattered people think they're so good, and I'm flattered folks think I "got lucky" with them. But the truth of the matter is that luck is FAR outweighed by dedication, diligence, time, and patience.

Based on items included above in the money estimates, here is a rough estimation of my TIME spent with horses/doing horse-related things:
Hoof care: I spend about 30 minutes/horse every 2 weeks. (26 hours/year)
Vet care: Because you're present when the vet is there, not to mention you need to catch the horses and then inevitably WAIT on said vet to arrive which is always so hard to predict when they're super busy. With the frequency that I have used the vet the past two years with two horses the total is  ~8 hours/year
Errands to pick up food etc.: 35 minutes/month (7 hours/year)
Training: I'm out at the barn a minimum of 4 days a week year round. Less in the winter, but sometimes more in the summer, so saying 4 days/week/year makes it even out pretty well. The length of visits varies, but an average per week I'd say is about 7 hours. (364 hours/year)
Research on tack, supplements, training, etc.: Because you should be knowledgeable! Probably about 45 hours/year. (Wow. Thinking about how much time I do that and calculating it is kind of astounding. I think it may be higher, but I'd rather under estimate at this point.)
Travel: 40 minutes round trip to see the horses. x4 days/week. (2h:40m/week, 138h:40m/year) Travel to events this year is going to be 35 hours/year. So average total for travel is 173 hours/year.
Events: I'm currently attending 4 endurance rides/year and about 6 other "fun" rides. Time spent at these events (both riding and non) is somewhere around 332 hours/year.
 Total time spent with my horses or horse-related activities per year: 947 hours! or about 39½ DAYS nonstop.

So, you know someone who wants a horse who has spent little to no time around them? Do you think they truly understand the costs related with a horse? My approach is one of the cheapest money-wise (if you're going to actually RIDE and take your horse to fun events) and probably about average time-wise.

HORSES ARE MORE THAN "JUST" A HOBBY. Few people spend nigh on 950 hours a year on a hobby. HORSES ARE A LIFESTYLE.

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 It closes on July 4th!

Thursday, June 26, 2014


Alright animal lovers, I know the largest following of folks to this blog is horse folk, but with horses comes a menagerie of other animals into our lives, too. This giveaway is focused around our best and loyal animal friend when we are away from the barn: our dogs!

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I'm really excited to introduce y'all to Dublin Dog, a new[er] company who is providing some really kickass products for our canine companions.

Their products are handcrafted in the USA, and their line of no stink collar is unlike any I've found before! Endurance riders, you know the importance of biothane tack and how terrific it is in our active lifestyle with our horses - it rinses easily, is durable, and doesn't hold stench - well, these collars are the same kind of thing for dogs! Additionally, if you peruse the All Style No Stink, you'll notice they've really added some flair to the collars. Things that really will match up with your dog's personality - or your own.

Y'all have seen Kenai sporting his Dublin Dog Reflx orange with reflector stripe collar on the blog already. His collar is just one of many that they offer!

Brook trout design on a collar!
Aurora, your fishing husband will love these fish collars!

I absolutely adore their line of fish collars; they're modeled after the scale patterns on both freshwater natives and saltwater fish species. These collars, like many of their others, are also no stink! Huzzah!

But wait! Collars aren't the only part of the Dublin Dog line, they also carry leashes, toys, beds, and gear like travel bowls and their Buddy Beacon that snaps onto your dog's collar for those nighttime adventures so you can keep track of where your friend is exploring.

Kenai's Nomad Pad has been featured on the blog some, too. I absolutely LOVE this thing.

I was so close to trying to sew a ghetto version of this from some blankets and a tarp when I noticed that Dublin Dog had basically come up with a pro version of my piddly idea! The Nomad pad has a fleece topper, some polyfill to provide cushion, and the bottom is a rubberized polymer to provide waterproofing and some protection against wear and tear of a tougher surface. Oh, and the kicker? The whole thing rolls up and velcros easily into a bed roll complete with a handle for carrying or providing easy attachability to a backpack!

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THREE  lucky winners will get the choice of the following prizes:
ANY collar + leash combo
-  a T-Shirt
-  a pint glass with the Dublin Dog logo

I'll let the winners - in the order that they are drawn - choose which of the above prizes they would like. The second winner will get to choose from the remaining two, and the final winner will get the remainder. Fortunately, all of the prizes are pretty kickass, so no one will be missing out on some awesome!

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This giveaway will be managed through rafflecopter. I'm certain most are familiar with this, but in case you aren't: read the directions below for what to do/how to enter. When you have *completed* your method of entry, visit here:


This will keep track of who has entered and will be what I use to choose random winners at the end.

Mandatory entry:

+1  -  Visit and leave a comment on this post sharing a product or products that you would love to try

Additional entries (x1 for each) can be obtained by doing the following:

+1  -  "Like" Dublin Dog on Facebook
+1  -  Follow Dublin Dog on Instagram (@dublindogco) or Twitter (DublinDogCo)
+1  -  Share this giveaway on some form of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)

That's it! And yes, you read correctly, you have an opportunity to enter four times!

So, once more:


The giveaway ends on July 4th and I'll announce the winners that weekend!  

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A stellar ride on G-man

I had an absolutely stellar ride on Griffin on Sunday.

I'd originally hoped to get in around 7 miles with him on Sunday, but I wasn't feeling great. I almost didn't go to the barn at all. Knowing Q needed her supplements at a minimum though, I mustered up some strength and sucked up being a wuss and headed out.

I brought both horses (who both trotted up to me in the field!) to the barn and fed them. I applied Q's scratches medication (omg summer scratches are so worse than winter scratches!) which she was well behaved for, and toyed around with her saddle/saddle fit/testing back soreness (because the post I'd written and my conversation with Karen was fresh in my mind). She wasn't responsive to a single poke or prod that I did along her back. I even went so far as to see if she would be cinchy about it if I tacked her up as she sometimes gets cranky with me. However, per the norm if I am a calm and not rushing, she stood with floppy lip and ears lazily swiveling around her. Still not ruling it out completely, but definitely putting that potential pain trigger behind other options. (All will be assessed with vet on Monday.)

I loosed Q into the field after this and turned to look at Griffin who had been patiently waiting tied this whole time. "Alright little man, time for you to go to work at your job." *ear flick*

I tacked Griffin up in the Ansur setup + breastplate and crupper, dialed into a Decemberists album on my ipod/earphones and we headed out.

I wasn't really certain how far I'd go. We'll just see what feels good.

Griffin set off at a nice little trot, both hesitant to leave and eager to see what was around the next bend. Once we were into the woods, he focused in on working a bit more. (Just like Q does. Woods = work. Back field = potential to still go back home in their minds.)

He trotted the whole way, walking through slick muddy areas when I requested, cantering as much as we could. Up, up, up through the woods, avoiding the haul road trail due to its full-sun exposure and rockier terrain. (Griffin's feet were a bit more tender following a rain event.)

We leveled off along the first ridgeline, trotting the good bits and walking the tricky ones. We galloped full out up a short 100' long stretch of hill, leveling out again for a time. Griffin showed me his expertise with this trail and his interest in his job by going along on autopilot and choosing to make the tricky 90° turn on his own accord without encouragement from me. Good boy!

We walked through a muddy downhill section, and Griffin picked up the trot on his own as soon as we reached dry, level footing. We trotted and cantered all the way up the next mountain with gusto. Griffin's eager ears leading the charge.

At the top of the mountain, finally into mature forest with clear understory and beautiful trails, we trotted more. Griffin decided in this section that he was tired and thought it was time to go home. He tried to stop (slowly not rudely) and turn for home a few times, but I made him go onward. I respected his decision to want to be done, but made him go a bit further until such a time the decision to turn could be all my idea, not his.

He gave up his "go home" requests and focused on power walking the last STEEP climb to the apex of the mountain. I turned him around for home half way up. He seemed surprised at first, but then settled into his homeward trot once we'd leveled off of the mountain.

I don't advocate "running home", but if we've been trotting/cantering most of a ride, then maintaining that gait in the homeward direction is completely acceptable. Griffin definitely has a bit more spunk to him when he knows we are going home (different from Q who just maintains no matter what direction we're going once we're *away from the barn*).

For a youngster, Griffin handles himself EXCEPTIONALLY well on downhills. Never once has he pulled the move I see so many youngsters doing, serpentining the downhills, confused at how to best navigate the terrain with a rider. Griffin just strikes out, strong and steady in a straight line.

We walked the steepest bits and the muddy bits, and trotted the rest, breaking into a canter for a few strides here and there where it was best. We backtracked our trail through the woods exactly as we came on the way back. Griffin demonstrating his knowledge of the trail time and time again on the way home, choosing to make the turns before I guided him toward them. He picked his pace well nearly the whole time, too. Such a good boy!

At the last major downhill before the homestretch, I dismounted. I ran down the hill (hello rider fitness) and let Griffin trot fast behind me. He got overeager and sped a little too far forward outside of His Box a few times, but with a "WHOA" from me, he checked his speed and went back to His Box.

At the base of the hill, I mounted back up and we went the last little bit through the woods, circling wide around the property to add a little novelty to the end of the ride. When we finally re-entered the back field, we hand galloped across it - a first. Griffin was completely content, happy ears, and in control during this hand gallop. I was so impressed.

Crossing the creek, he chose to go right into a 2½ foot deep section, ducking his nose for a few sips as he powered through.

We trotted right up and into the barnyard on a loose rein, halting perfectly under the barn awning where I gave him lots of pats for being such a good boy.

5.73 miles with a 5.77 mph average pace.

We came in hot to the barn because I wanted to see where his heartrate was and how fast he'd drop. Almost immediately after dismounting, with girth loose, but saddle still on, he was at 88. I untacked him the rest of the way, sponged and scraped for 7 or 8 minutes and checked him again. He was hanging right around 68-70.  Not too bad for a horse who really doesn't have a huge fitness base right now. It was good to gain that baseline, and I look forward to watching it (hopefully) improve in coming months.

I had so much fun riding him. His gait is so different from Q's lofty gait, which was odd for me to adjust to riding after my recent 50. Griffin has a much shorter stride. Much smoother. His super fast trot isn't hard to sit at all. His canter needs the most work.

But more than his gait and the fun I had adjusting to it, I loved his work ethic. His eagerness to move forward down the trail with minimal guidance on my part. I bumped him a little to the left and a little to the right to help guide him through areas of tricky footing, but beyond that, it was all him. He was eager to try to please my requests every step of the way.

I was able to kind of "check out" mentally as we went along after 2 miles or so. My music took over my thoughts, and my muscle memory and subconscious took over my actions guiding Griffin as I needed. I let my right brain do the work for once, pushing my worrisome left brain out of the picture. OH, how I wish I could do that on every ride! Just RIDE and let myself do what I know I can do instead of thinking so much about every tiny thing. It was great to have a ride where I was able to do that; hopefully with time and miles I'll be able to do more of it -with both horses. =)

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Husky Aquatic

Several weeks back, my dad set out to teach me the ins and outs of boat operation/maintenance. We've got a motor boat whose engine was repaired last year, and now we are determined to use it more.

In preparation, I spent pieces of free time during the spring going through the WV Boater's Safety certificate process to get licensed to operate watercraft in the state. With certificate in hand, dad and I planned a trip to the closest lake - Mt. Storm - for a training session. We chose this lake not only because of its proximity, but also because it is the warmest lake in the state due to the power plant that sits along its shore that uses lake water circulating through pipes to cool its operations.

So on a beautiful Saturday, my dad, my friend T, Kenai and I all loaded up and headed for the lake so I could learn how to operate the boat a bit more intimately than I had as a kid.

Kenai had been in a motorboat briefly several summers ago at Summersville lake, but that was after a long day of climbing and riding around in a whitewater raft. Additionally, Kenai has been in a shredder (small whitewater craft) on the Youghigheny river through whitewater before. I wasn't greatly concerned about how he'd handle this experience, but I was excited to see how he would take it.

At the put in, I decided to go ahead and lift Kenai into the boat prior to launching it into the water. I wasn't certain how he'd handle being lifted into a boat once it was launched and in the water! I set Kenai and his Dublin Dog Nomad Pad into the boat. He settled on the pad pretty quickly, knowing that to be "his spot" through this time of uncertainty.

Kenai awaiting the put in.
Sitting on his Nomad pad.
Also wearing Dublin Dog Reflx Collar
and his NRS dog PFD

Dad backed the boat into the water with T, Kenai and I aboard. I backed it off the trailer and out into a very choppy lake (wow, wind!) while dad parked the truck and trailer.

I had a bit of a time driving the boat (first time in this boat in YEARS) and dealing with the wind/choppy water conditions. After shrieking and fretting a little bit, I did manage to successfully navigate the boat to the dock where we could pick my dad up.

I was surprised when Kenai jumped right out of the boat when we reached the dock! He took off for a grassy area despite my calls. I realized immediately when he ignored me that he just had to use the bathroom and didn't want to do so on the boat! Good boy.

Kenai finished his business quickly and sprinted back across the gravel lot, darted across the dock, and leaped right back into the boat, happy as a clam!

Investigating the water

In no time, we were all loaded into the boat and headed out to explore the lake!

Kenai very quickly showed interest in wanting to ride in the very extreme bow area of the boat. I was concerned that the porpoising motion of the craft over the water would toss him out for an unexpected swim though, so I tied him up so he couldn't reach the bow while we were moving.

During the quieter, slower parts of our outing, Kenai wandered the boat untied, standing on the bow mostly. He served as a great compass for wherever the closest point of land was the whole time, though he never stress panted or whined in a manner to show distress over being in the boat.

A happy husky!

When T and I jumped into swim in the lake (an impressive 79°F for a late day in May in high elevation WV!) Kenai got quite concerned for my well-being. He yipped and yodeled and whined and barked, eying my every move from the boat.

I laughed at him and goaded him into the water, first from the stern where he used a small platform to gain access to the water, and then from the bow on his second go where he launched into the water like a dog dock - albeit with less grace.

Once waterlogged, Kenai would swim to me, and then I'd guide him back to the boat where dad would help him in.

For our final ride to the dock, Kenai got to sit in the bow area with me holding him a safe distance from the edge. He loved being in the front with his face in the wind for that final trip!

It was a great outing for my water husky. He was so well behaved all day, and I think he really enjoyed the change of scenery and activity. Good boy, Kenai!

Always pointing out the closest piece of land.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Loch Ness Horse

Since spring when Mike and I began our creek shenanigans with the horses I've wanted to explore how deep one of the holes was. The water had lacked clarity to tell with the eye though, and the weather hadn't been warm enough to merit an actual dip.

Saturday evening though, the circumstances were in my favor.

Mike and I had hiked up to the top field to fetch Q and Griffin; it was my first time hiking up the hill via the horse trails and not the human one...and wow. STEEP. No wonder my critters don't mind hill climbs!

When we crested the hill the horses spooked, not expecting to see humans. They galloped circles around us for a time before settling and coming to investigate. Mike haltered and hopped on Qbee while I haltered and led Griffin over to the gate. Once through the gate, I hopped up on Griffin and the four of us with Kenai headed down the hill (via the road which isn't so steep!)

We'd considered doing a rail trail ride, but with storm clouds barring the view of the windmills already, I nixed that idea.

When we reached the creek, we rode up it. If it was going to rain, what was a little extra water gonna hurt?

Griffin led with Q and Mike following.

When we reached the area of the "mystery" hole, I was surprised that the water was clear enough (with the aid of my polarized glasses) to see the bottom! I estimated it to be no more than 5' deep. Nice gravel/cobble bottom. Good footing. The right descending bank into the water did have a steep cut into it, so it would be best to stay either in the trough area or on the bank above. The left descending bank is composed of trees/rootballs.

I turned around to Mike to convey the information about the underwater cut in the bank, and then guided Griffin right down into the deep part of the creek, giggling all the while.

I took him through it several more times, and Mike got Q to tackle it once, though she was visibly less amused than Griffin - such a serious little girl!

Mike filmed Griffin and I during two of our goes.

Hope to find a river area for more thorough swimming with the horses later this summer =)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A New Approach

Or maybe a new hypothesis. Or a new experiment. Or a new theory.

Either way, I'm going to try a new approach to tackling Q and her spookiness on trail and other interactions.

My problem with this horse, and let's face it, my human problem with any aspect of life is letting my emotions rule. In fact, I've been beating myself up internally about this issue for months. I've been fretting about how I just can't seem to get along with this little mare as I did that first year with her. I worry and I fret, and now I need to just DO something about it for good. Giving up is the easy way out; I don't like giving up and Q deserves for me to give all I can.

Photo by Dom
But, I'm only human. I feel that much of our lives are spent tackling the challenge that is controlling our emotions in situations that revoke a "fight" or "flight" response. And while situations with Q that frustrate me don't often elevate so high on that scale of "fight" or "flight", the repetition associated with some of the behaviors is increasing my level of frustration to such a level that I cannot keep it hidden. And she knows that. Damn horses, they know our emotions better than we do!

In my new approach, I'm going to strive even harder to stay calm and check my emotions at the door when I work with Q. I need to dial back my tendency to fly into agitation and re-form it to be encouragement.

This mare loves praise. She thrives off a calm atmosphere with a lot of praise. My error has been thinking that 2 years into owning her and working with her, she would have moved onward and be able to handle things without SO MUCH praise and SUCH a calm atmosphere. She hasn't moved on. In fact, as things seem to happen so often in life, we've taken a couple steps backwards.

I need to break down everything I ask this mare to do down into smaller steps. I need to praise the smallest efforts constantly. I need to bolster her confidence in herself and my confidence in her abilities. The trouble is being certain to recognize all of the small steps in all of our daily routines. I know I need to break things into smaller steps and work from there, but I'm not great at being able to recognize the small steps.

Despite that difficulty, I need to try. Practice makes perfect. Break down the small steps. Praise. Praise. Praise. It's not fair of me to be so hard on my animals all the time. (Where hard is a relative term as I'm not very hard compared to many.) I need to appreciate their every tiny try to do what I am requesting and I need to praise for it. Q just needs this MORE than the others if I'm to get anywhere with her.

If I can train myself to do this, to be calmer and to recognize and praise all the small things, my relationship with this little mare will improve. Additionally, the results of our rides and exercise sessions together will improve. We won't be arguing over the small, petty things. One tiny step at a time, we'll build into more confidence. Or at least that is my hope.

And, as all behavioral challenges with my horses result, I'm certain that this practice of staying calm and finding smaller steps to tackle and praise will help my relationships/interactions with people, will improve results in my endeavors, and will improve future implications in many realms of my non-horse life.

To supplement all of this behavioral change in my training pursuits with this mare, I'm also going to alter how we train. For the next several weeks, out goes the jumping cross training. Out go other riding pursuits. All of it gone in favor of time on the trail. Miles upon miles and hours upon hours on the trail. We'll go fast. We'll go slow. We may only go out for one mile or two before we're done. But we're going out on the trail.

She's going to get to see the trees and the rocks and the grass and the sun's rays dancing off of all of it. Again and again and again and again. Her small efforts will be praised. Praised and praised. And hopefully, with time and miles, she's going to approach the "monsters" with less spooking. Hopefully we'll get back to where she gives things the stink eye, slows her gait a bit, and a provides slightly excessive wide berth around the offending object. No more horizontal teleportation and slamming on the brakes. least, that is the hope.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

OD 50: Thoughts, Review, Future Plans

Thoughts on the Ride
-  This was hands down the rockiest of the OD rides. All three rides (Triple Crown for the east) require hoof protection, but beyond a couple sections here and there, the rides weren't very sustained and rocky. This one though? This one was. This one sucked. Hard.

-  My experience on the trails in the Smoky Mountains two summers ago prepared me well for this trail though. It was rough, but not nearly as treacherous as trail I rode in the Smokies - or even some of the trails I've ridden in the WV backcountry. There were very few, if any, areas of this trail that had huge consequences if a footfall or two weren't perfect (unlike the Smokies).

Mountain tops aren't as bald as the Smokies, but they're similarly rugged here!
-  It was steep, yes. It was rocky, yes. BUT, there was plenty of room to stop and turn the horse slightly or all the way to reverse direction or to rest. There were no areas that you really needed the horse to move forward or else (unlike the Smokies and a few sections of WV backcountry trail I've been on).

-  For Q, the magnitude of rocky area was the most difficult part of this ride. Q can pay mind to rocks and be very good - we've done it on some super sketchy trails in WV - but this ride (and lately in all riding) Q was more concerned with what was AROUND her instead of being cautious about her footfalls. Her movement over the rocky areas on the second ridgeline trail became sloppy and careless as a result, which was highly frustrating.

-  The sustained incline/climbing sections up the mountain on this ride surprised me from a trail building/maintenance standpoint. These trails are so unfriendly for any travel because they lack switch backs. Additionally, this kind of design leads them to serve as areas for washouts during high precipitation events, which harms the integrity and condition of the trail over time.

-  Downhill inclines at speed are a huge issue for Q and I. I am cautious with these in training and had no choice but to make time on them during this ride. This is no bueno. I need to strive to build rider fitness in this area; I need to train myself to be better at running downhills so I can still do them with speed without the increased stress on Q. As it is now, running downhills makes me incredibly sore. I cannot do it and walk the few days after a ride. These OD rides leave few opportunities to make time up for the areas you HAVE to walk if you don't take advantage of these downhill areas on FS roads. Q had a bit of inflammation and swelling in her forelegs after this ride that I suspect is in large part due to taking these downhills at speed. Additionally, I cannot physically get off and walk her UP any hills to help through those areas if a ride is > 60 degrees. I am too prone to heat illness to be able to do this and remain healthy and sound myself! So downhill training it is!

Queen Q and her flop lip.
-  B's on Q's vet card through the checks at this ride were sporadic and seemed to be subjective based on the vet I had. Vets at the beginning and final two checks who had seen my horse in the past and have been ride vets for longer were much better (IMHO) than the newer vet I had for the middle checks. I can only hope that that vet learned a bit from the experience and can take that information to be better later. All the same, it was really frustrating to deal with at the time. I think that vet took what I said about Q's scratches and her movement to be me arguing and making excuses more than me trying to inform. I need to come up with a different way to present this kind of thing in the future just in case that was the issue. (I'm always wont to blame my own communication skills first before presuming the worst of someone else; I'm not perfect and have much to improve on!)

-  Q's score of B for anal tone at the second-to-last check was really telling for me. This ride we spent nearly 2 hours longer on the trail than our other 50s. That was a lot, and it showed.

Q taking a pause from drinking.
-  Q ate and drank well all day. This was great. I am really pleased with her drinking which I'm pretty certain can be attributed to the electrolyting we've done these past two rides.

-  As much as it pains me to say this - I think Easyboot gloves on the hinds is what works best for this mare right now. I had ZERO issues with these this ride. The failed Renegades on the hinds during the beginning was really frustrating. It may be that Vipers on her hinds will work just as well as they do on her fronts (we only had one very minor moment where the toe strap came undone in the second loop on a downhill and her foot came out as a result of the SLICK clay/silt/mud in the boot to deal with for the Vipers). So one day, when I can afford Vipers for her hinds, maybe we'll try those, but right now, Vipers on the front and gloves behind is working...even though it pains me to deal with getting those gloves on! Renegades behind in this terrain is just difficult though. The kind of soil we have creates such SLICK mud. And we have a LOT of water crossings on trails over here in the east. I'm never overly surprised when I lose a boot after a stream crossing - as that is when it almost always occurs! That slick mud coupled with fast movement uphill makes it difficult for most things to stay on horse and human alike thinking back on times I've kicked off my own shoes on accident, haha.

-  This was the longest Q has been on trail for a 50. It was her toughest, yes, but also the longest. The fact that she was STILL spooking - and being worse about it even - at the end was SO FRUSTRATING. I think I definitely need to pus her harder in the future to make her more tired (like she was at No Frills) so she can't spook on that last loop. Ding bat.
-  There is a fine balance I need to discover with hills and speed for this horse. She is the Lance Armstrong of hills/mountains. She's so much rather take them at speed than dally around at a walk. We train on mountains and hills at home ALWAYS taking them at a minimum of a trot. No walking until we get to the top. Gotta build that ass! So few people we encounter at rides have the training terrain available to them that I do. Q has a huge advantage here. So I need to figure out HOW tired it will make her to go fast up all of these hills. If we trot them all - as much as possible anyway - at rides, will it make her too tired to do more later? Or if I run all the downhills dismounted and she trots the uphills will we balance out to do better? Trade-offs...time will tell?

Positive and Negatives on Gear, Etc.

-  Electrolytes really seem to be working well for Q. She's drinking much better than she did last year with the addition of electrolytes. I'm please and will keep her on this until it isn't working as well - at which point I will reassess. Currently her mixture is half Perform N Win, half Enduramax. These are mixed with a solution of molasses and applesauce to make it tasty. Having actually tasted it myself, I can honestly say its not too bad! Salty, obviously, but not bad otherwise.

Bizz-oots! Vipers on the fore, Gloves behind.
Q was doing her big trot here, evident in how her hind end
tracks outside of her fore as she strikes forward.
Basically, she moves like she's got a huge pair of nuts.
-  Vipers in the front are AMAZING. I've never had so little issue with boots. Each ride we've had with them we've only encountered one issue per ride. Both minor. Both on inclines after a mud/water crossing. At No Frills it was speed on an uphill coupled with a very jagged trail and rocks that tilted her feet at odd angles; at Old Dominion, it was trotting downhill after a crossing. When I fixed the boot at the OD, I was honestly surprised it hadn't come off sooner or been worse than it had! There was a layer of silty, slick mud spread throughout. Silt is basically the finest soil you're going to find and it will permeate anything and everything. It's natures equivalent to WD-40. That we only had the minor issue of the toe strap coming undone and her toe slipping out of the boot a tiny bit as our only problem is a miracle in itself!

-  Begrudgingly, I have to admit that the Easyboot gloves on Q's hinds do beautifully. We completed the second half of Fort Valley and No Frills with them. I have to vet wrap her hinds prior to putting the boots on, but once on, they don't budge. The failures with Rennies on the hinds has only occurred due to cable issues where the cables break or tear out. In past rides with Rennies on Q's hinds, I've had little to NO trouble with them. I think the Vipers will be a much better fit and have fewer issues, but until there is a time I can afford to get them, I will be using the gloves.

-  For me, a half gatorade (the light blue kind!) and half water is heaven's elixir. I guzzled this down each loop from my bottles. I was SO hydrated all day. It was awesome. Additionally, Mike MADE me eat and drink at each check, before, and after the ride. I was really well taken care of!

-  Saddle bags...I set out both this and the No Frills ride with TWO saddle bags: pommel and cantle. All I really keep in the cantle are my water bottles and spare boots/vet wrap. Nothing else. I'd really like to eliminate that cantle bag completely for future rides. I'm just a bit hesitant about wearing a Camelbak again for my water as it made my shoulders sore before. I guess we will see...

Training Changes for the Future

- Rider fitness on downhills: I plan to start running all the downhills when I do trail rides with both horses. Downhills tend to make me really sore currently, so I obviously need to start working on them! Hopefully, by my next ride, I'll be in better shape and be able to gain time on the downhills without trading the health and fitness of Q's legs.

I chowed down so hard at this ride. NO training needed to
continue this.
- More hill sprints: My little mare is the Lance Armstrong of hills and mountains. I have a HUGE advantage over most people I compete against because I have mountains and hills accessible FROM MY BARN while others have to haul long distances to find similar training grounds. I need to use this to my advantage and do more of it. Power Q up those steeps, let her rest some while I run down them on foot with her following.

-  More hill/mountain work on sustained inclines: I've got at least four sustained (between a 0.5-1.0 mile long) climbs. I need to hit these up more and really work them. Back to the previous point, I need to take advantage of the training grounds I have and use it to our advantage!

- More time on the trail: I really need to get Q out onto the trail and increase her miles out there. Not because she needs more miles and more trail fitness, but because she needs to see more of the things that seem to scare her so much. "Desensitizing" an animal can only work if they see the stimuli that triggers them in a "normal" setting. Doing work with her around the barn and barnyard to help her get over these issues won't help her when we're on the trail. Only trail work will help that. I'm hoping that with increased time on the trail, her degree of spookiness will lower. I'm not naive enough to think it will go away completely, but if I could get her back to just balking and not launching herself away from "monsters" I would be a lot happier. With a plan of jogging the down steeps and powering the up steeps, the flats are the only areas I need to be concerned with her spooking. She'll be unconcerned on downhills if following me on foot, and uphills make her work too hard to have time/effort to spook. Sadly, the flats are where we need to make time, and the flats are where I'm scared to make time because her spooks are a million times worse when done from a canter than from a trot. :-(  I have to help her to overcome this if we're to further our riding career together. I just have to.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Old Dominion 50: An Epic

Picture of a picture by Becky Pearman Photography

Time to curl up with your coffee, tea, or a beer if its evening. This story's gonna be a long one!

I've been traveling for work on and off for three weeks. As I write this, I'm in my third and final week away.

I was gone three days of the week of the OD. Upon arriving home, I had less than 48 hours to pack all my shit for the weekend. It wasn't too bad, as traveling for endurance rides is becoming a bit more "normal", but it was still a stress and a challenge.

Additionally, I wasn't sure until the very last minute whether or not Mike would be going with me. He's been working 3 jobs since warm weather began. His schedule has been crazy to the point that I haven't had a whole day to spend with him in over a month. He works ALL the time. So we weren't certain how his schedule would end up. And on top of that, I wasn't certain if I would stay until Sunday or not; I needed to travel 3.5 hours for work Sunday evening, so traveling home from the ride + driving more for work didn't sound ideal.

The way it played out though was like this: Mike was offered a fourth job Wednesday morning. He quit one of his current jobs that day so he could take the new (better) job that he would report to all day Thursday. This suddenly freed him for the entire weekend! Score! This helped me make up my mind about Sunday, too, because I knew I could count on him to drive when I would be tired on Sunday which would help me out for my second drive later that evening.

Wednesday and Thursday after work were a whirlwind for me. I had to haul a friend's horse Wednesday, so I didn't do much around my barn to prep. Thursday I did it all. Sorted and prepped food and water and their associated containers. Sorted and packed the trailer. Cleaned the horse area of the trailer. Cleaned and packed a lot of the car. Did laundry. Prepped human food and drink. Packed human clothing and accoutrements.

And then I went to dinner with my coworker T and her family and THEN went to the bar for an hour with T and her sister and Mike.

Q in trailer; Kenai in car.
The Drive
Friday dawned early. Mike and I had little left to do with packing the car aside from stuffing ourselves and Kenai into it. We set off for the barn a little later than planned, but that was okay. Late seemed to be the theme of the day as Saiph's fretful texts to me told - the folks hauling Lily to the ride were late as well.

Mike and I pulled into the barn about 45 minutes behind where I'd planned, but it wasn't a big deal. I hooked up the trailer while he fetched Q from the field. Once she was in, he held her while I did a touch up trim on her feet, then we wrapped her legs, loaded her without issue (funny how it works SO well with two people), and were off by 9:30ish.

Part way through our drive, Saiph sent a text alerting me that I-81 was partially closed and VERY backed up due to a tractor trailer wreck. Ugh. So I rummaged around in the VERY packed car for my Gazetteer and plotted out an alternate route for us to take (Mike was driving).

This route was far better than the original one I'd planned as it kept us from having to drive on 81 at all (very busy truck route) and prevented us from having to go over a final mountain! Big score for me as I like to be as kind to my vehicle as I can when hauling.

The new route only added about 15 minutes (maybe less) to our original plan, and it was a lot less busy. The haul still took right around 3.5 hours.

Ride Camp
We pulled into ride camp to see Saiph running over to us right away. She told us how the parking situation was going and helped us to find the volunteer in charge of assigning spaces.

The volunteer originally wanted to put us way down the road in a spot that bigger rigs wouldn't be able to fit in, but Saiph requested that we be nearer to where her ride was parked as she'd planned to keep Lily in the corral with Q and still wanted to be close to her stuff so she didn't have to haul as much back and forth. The volunteer wasn't thrilled with this idea, but with a bit of an exasperated sigh, she let us score the spot I'd been eying up that had some shade along the backside and a creek nearby.

Mike backed the trailer into our area, and Charles, Saiph and I made quick work getting the electric corral setup.

We weren't certain about putting the girls in one big area or together at first, but when geometry skills failed us, we just decided to throw them in together. This proved to work just fine; the mares got along great and I think I only heard one minor squeal/grunt from Q the whole time.

With the girls setup in their corral, it was time to get human camp setup.

Saiph and Charles setup their tent as Mike and I setup ours. We were farting around with my new 10'x10' canopy tent when one of our neighbors came back and not-so-politely informed us that we couldn't set up the canopy where we were. We hadn't exactly settled on a place yet and were happy to alter our plan, but it was a shame that they had to be so damn rude about it. The guy offered to help us, to seemingly make up for his rudeness, but Mike politely declined.

With the area sorted out and things setup, Saiph and Charles and I headed over to registration while Mike stayed with Kenai at our little camp compound to keep an eye on the girls.

Registration took about an hour total with the walk to and from; the computer programs they were using were being difficult, so it was quite a fight to get everything figured and paid for, but we got 'er done.

We returned to camp where we farted around replacing cables in Q's hind Renegades for a long while prior to our vet in. With the boots fixed, we vetted in (no issues here beyond noting on the card that Q has scratches. UGH. I got her ALL THE WAY THROUGH WINTER without scratches this year only to have them crop up in the past 2ish weeks. GRRR.).

As I walked back to the trailer with Q and Mike, I saw Jen and her daughter who invited us to pre ride a little bit of the trail with them. I accepted their offer and Saiph and I tacked the girls up when we returned to the trailer.

The ride was nice and short - down the gravel road and up into the woods for a bit. We decided to turn around after the cable in one of Q's hind boots tore out and sent pieces (primarily the little circle at the toe of the boot with the screws that hold it all together) flying. Well, fuck. I took the rest of the boot off, retrieved the bottom part, and removed her other hind Renegade.

I decided right then and there that I didn't even want to deal with them the following day. I'd just put Easyboot gloves on her hinds and call it good and hope I didn't need a back up (as the gloves were my backups). The screws really need replaced in both boots, so I just figured I'd order replacement parts when I got home and deal with all of that later. It was just too much stress at that point in time!

The weather threatened to storm as we rode back to camp, though no significant precipitation ever fell. We battened down the hatches at camp anyway before heading to dinner and the ride briefing.

Right as we were starting to walk over for dinner, I saw Dom's poof pull up and park in our camp spot. YAY! Dom and Mike (her Mike, haha) had made it! She greeted Saiph as if they'd known each other in real life far longer than just seconds, and then I greeted her with a hug, too, and we both noted that it had been too long. We made introductions amongst the menfolk, and then all six of us headed off to dinner/briefing.

Nothing exciting to report from the ride meeting beyond the #s of starters: 46 in the LD, 64 in the 50, and 35 in the 100 (3 of these would be calvary riders - aka riders with no crews or help; they carry all they need with them and are only allowed water at the holds/checks). This would be the largest field of competitors I'd been in at a ride yet! Aside from my home ride (Ride Between the Rivers), every other endurance ride I've been in has been a ride that is held over two days with both the LD and 50 being run on the same course both days so a rider can either pick which day they'd like to ride, or have the option to do a multi day ride.

With dinner complete and the briefing over, Saiph and I sat around camp prepping saddle bags and things for the guys to take to the away check we'd be at for our first and third holds. I quickly discovered I had packed rather shittily in my haste and confusion about being gone so much lately, as I couldn't find anything on the first try.

Eventually though, we got things sorted and packed and were able to head to bed. Saiph and I had planned to be up at 2a for the first feeding for the girls.

Morning Preparation
I slept like a freaking rock. A first for me the night before a ride. I think this can be attributed to the fact that Mike was there and that we slept on a big queen air mattress - oh, and the fact that my tent wasn't flipped over on me in the middle of the night! HA.

The 2a feeding went well, lit by the light of the full moon complete with a soundtrack of whippoorwills and a performance of a hundred thousand lightning bugs dancing and blinking out their love songs. Saiph and I tossed both mares their grain mashes, and I collapsed right back into bed for a time.

Helping Q finish her meal because she eats best when
someone babies her like this. Kenai...ever hopeful.
3:30a Revelry over the loud speaker for the 100s to wake up and start prepping was met with cursing from me. I'd been dead asleep leading up to the first feeding, and had managed to fall dead asleep until that damn commotion as well. Fortunately, I fell dead asleep a THIRD time for another hour or so until my alarm went off. (In hindsight now, I wonder if this was Daniel's doing, Karen? I know Saiph dreamt with him all evening and didn't have as restful a sleep as I did. Perhaps Daniel made sure I was well rested for our long day so I could help boost Saiph through some of the trying moments we experienced...?)

Awake begrudgingly, I dressed and roused Mike. We and Saiph headed over to eat at the continental breakfast. We grabbed caffeine and food, and mosied over to the starting line to watch the 100s depart.

As we walked, my red-light headlamp caught the reflection from the eyes of something in the road. I thought it was a toad or frog at first, but imagine my surprised when it flew up, flitted about, and landed on a fence line on the uphill side of the road! I realized quickly that my "toad" was in fact a whippoorwill! I'd never seen one in person before - and never had I dreamed I'd see one so closely! The perched bird let me get within a foot or two of him before he took flight again. I couldn't help but smile, convinced this was a good omen of things to come. (We in the conservation field have worried for years about the decline of these birds, fortunately, they seem to be bouncing back for whatever reason. I can't help but smile when I hear them at night. And seeing one? What a treat.)

After the whippoorwill, we continued over to the starting line, weaving around 100 milers as they awaited the start. We stood with others, watching as the 100 milers took off, cheering them on, and then walked back down to camp to start getting the girls ready.

Q bobbing her head in anticipation while I give Mike the thumbs up!
We had an hour and a half to get the horses prepped; I enjoyed having that time to slowly go about getting ready. I was already dressed myself. I put everything onto Q, except her bridle, and left the girth loose and then gave her some food to munch while I sat around with Dom, Mike, Charles, Saiph, and Mike. I'd planned to strike out of camp after the chaos of the "pelaton" had left, so I wasn't really concerned with the riders bustling about camp getting ready and warming up.

I was enjoying lazing around so much, in fact, that when the trail was opened to the 50s, I was a little taken by surprise. I'd already put Q's bridle on moments before, but got distracted between that time and the start! I threw on my helmet, tightened her girth, and mounted up, calling to Saiph to hurry! as I did so. I gave Mike a quick kiss, then turned to watch for Saiph to mount up so we could go.

As soon as Saiph's butt hit the saddle, Lily jigged off. Fortunately, Saiph got her under control, and we headed for the starting line!

The Ride
Aaannnd we're off!
With the realization that Lily was probably a bit too jazzed up to think logically for that first while, I had Q lead us through basecamp and around to the starter. She spooked at a bucket, a portajohn and a truck on the way out, much to the amusement of onlookers.

As we crested the little driveway onto the main road in front of basecamp,  I turned to see Saiph and Lily a good hundred yards behind. I slowed Q to a walk and let them catch up, Lily jigging/trotting all the while. When they'd caught up, I let Q trot again, and called our numbers out to the out-timer as I passed, "537 and 525," about 10 minutes after the official start at this point. Lily and Saiph caught up to us shortly after the out timer, and we continued down the road together.

As we trotted further from basecamp and onto the first loop, Saiph and Lily took the lead. Something I appreciated due to Q's tendency to be a spooky witch. Lily helped get us the first several miles down the trail before Q and I took the lead again. I was both surprised and proud when Q ended up leading the bulk of the rest of the first loop. She was looky over a lot of things, but relatively under control. I kept contact with the kimberwicke the whole time, which seems to help reassure her that I'm there. The combination of that ported kimberwicke with the running martingale to prevent her evasions to the bit really seems to work for this horse, she's so much more willing to be on the bit than she previously was. She's far from perfect in the dressage aspect, but she is SO improved for her - and that's what counts.

The first loop involved a lot of winding single track through the woods, some ATV trails and fire roads, included a big climb up the mountain to the WV-VA state line, a traverse along the ridge, and finally dropped back down to the first vet check with about 4 miles of gravel FS road.

In the winding trails with moderate ups and downs before the big climb, Lily had issues with 2 of her boots. Both resulted due to the cables coming completely out of the Rennies. I was able to backtrack and find the bottom half of the first boot, and the second was obvious right when it occurred. Fortunately, Saiph had backup Easyboots to put on both feet.

Mmm cobble rock!
Incline not well-represented here...
The climb was steep, but doable for Q. It was steeper, more cobble/gravel, and more sustained than work she has done, but we did it at a walk, which made it a lot easier for her as the mountain we have at home I make her do a minimum of a trot up - sustained all the way to the top!

I knew Saiph and Lily didn't have terrain anywhere near this mountain to deal with though, so I didn't even try to trot much of it - though Q did ask a couple times if we could. This horse is the Lance Armstrong of hill/mountain climbs - she would much rather zip up them and recover later than suffer slowly.

The ridgeline wasn't as rocky as the ridgeline section of No Frills (no ankle rolling cobble/boulder areas, only sporadic rock), so I was pretty thrilled. Q led much of this section with Lily and Saiph trailing along behind us, yo yo-ing near and far as we plodded along. Towards the end of the ridgeline section, some RnT folks were catching up to us...

Holy shit those folks are NUTS. The runners were BOOKING it. I was astounded. Three groups of them passed us around the end of the ridgeline/beginning of the long downhill FS road section. Husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend teams. The men ran FAST. They paced just ahead of our trotting horses down the hill. INSANE. And the women, when they caught up and passed us all were cantering those horses down that relatively steep grade! Eegads. Cantering on that kind of incline?! Um, yeah, I'd need some work at that! INSANE.

Receiving my "in time" card. Yet another piece of paper
to have to keep track of while at the hold. Eep!
The loop terminated at the first vet check shortly after the long downhill road section. The photographer was stationed right at the base, along with Dom's Mike who also scored some kickass photos.

The first loop read as 14.46 miles from my GPS, nearly 1.5 miles shorter than what the ride information had quoted. All the same, it still took us a solid 3 hours or so.

Mike helped me untack Q and had all of her food setup in buffet fashion as we came into our little vet area. (Both men did an AMAZING job of getting all of our things setup. I was so proud of Mike especially because he'd never been to a ride before to even know what things were supposed to be like. He was going purely on what I'd described to him in conversations.) Mike and I got Q untacked and I sponged the mud from her legs. Charles and Saiph did the same for Lily.

The PR check area was a bit problemmatic. Mary (whose horse Siena I rode twice last year) was there and I chatted with her while the volunteers tried to use the handheld to get Q's pulse...from her right side. I didn't pay too much mind at first, chatting it up with Mary, but when Lily pulsed through before us I started to get a little miffed at the volunteers. They were still fumbling around and not getting anywhere with the device. I told Mary, "That horse I'm riding with just pulsed through. She's a TB. If she has pulsed through I KNOW my Arabian is DOWN." Mary took over and got Q's pulse for me, taking over from the other volunteers. 52.

Q swingin' dem woman hips at her trot out.
The vet through went well. The vet I had ignored both me and her scribe about the whole "scratches all 4" note on my sheet and gave us a B for wounds. The scabs had come off her front legs that made the areas look TONS better to me, but they also looked fresher as a result. I tried to explain that they'd been covered in vaseline under her front boots and the scabs had just softened and fallen away, but she didn't care. Grumble. Additionally, she was convinced Q didn't look right in her movement and had to have a second vet look at her. I tried to explain that the mare has a lot of action behind and that's what was going on, but the vet insisted she was swinging too much through the hips. The second vet said she was fine though, so we continued.

Mike took care of Q, getting her to eat well and then helping to tack her up while I stuffed my face with some food and prepared for the next 30 miles that would come between then and when I'd get to see this check area again.

As we were finishing up, a volunteer came over to ask if we were leaving...apparently the drag riders were waiting on us! Yipes! We ended up leaving about 10 minutes after our out time.

Saiph and Lily helped power us through the first several miles of the second loop, which I was thankful for. By the time we reached the second huge climb of the ride (back up the same mountain but in a different area) Q had to take over; she would remain in the lead for the remainder of the loop.

I don't even know if this was the 1st or 2nd
mountain climb. Either way, it was a bitch.
This second climb seemed longer than the first, and the ridgeline when we reached it seemed to go on FOREVER. This ridgeline was rougher than the first; it began with a mountain laurel thicket, then transitioned into forested areas with lots of rocks. Still not quite as horrible as the worst section of No Frills, but a bitch all the same. Our morale on this section dropped lower and lower and lower; we began cursing the trail with every step.

The ridgeline was tough going. You couldn't trot safely, Lily seemed to be in a bit of shock and didn't want to lead, and Q was in a state of SUPER SLOW WALKING or trotting. No in between. Additionally, Q was increasingly concerned with her surroundings and potential monsters that could be lurking instead of watching the trail and planning her footfalls. She was slipping and tripping left and right. I finally reached a point where I'd had ENOUGH of her tripping and her fear about what could be around her. I dismounted and led her down the rest of the section, jogging so she'd walk fast and trot some, too. Saiph stayed mounted behind us, her ankle bothering her from a misstep she took while fixing Lily's boots on the first loop.

The goddamn ridgeline trail that went FOREVER.
The footing was such that you couldn't risk trotting.
Thankfully, the ridgeline terminated. We watered the horses at troughs, then continued down the FS road to the second away vet check, which still couldn't come soon enough for us. We were so DONE with that loop. Gail greeted us when we arrived, and we were so grateful to see a familiar face, yet still so put out with the loop we'd just completed (which was thankfully a mile shorter per my GPS than what they'd stated; we'd completed 30 miles at this point).

This check was where we were met with more trouble than we'd bargained for. Both horses' cards were held by the vets. Q had the same vet as the first check, and she still thought Q looked off behind. The head vet, who knew me, was there and presented me with a loaded question after my trot out, "How're you doing? Have you noticed any stumbles? Falls? Off anywhere?" I told him that yes, she'd had one bad stumble, but I wasn't even on her when it had occurred (leading) and she walked off just fine from it. He nodded and noted that he didn't want to step on the toes of the vet doing our assessment, but he thought they might hold us or pull us. A scribe trotted Q out for me to see what they were seeing...I saw nothing. She swings her hips! Its just how she moves! The vet was convinced she was giving an occasional head bob, too. Umm, you're having us trot out on a slight hill...?! Its probably due to that. She's tired. She's mad at me. She wants to eat. She's moving normal for her. She bobbles her head around a lot when she's relaxed. It's her way of going. She's weird. They held our card (and we got another B for the scratches; the vet once again seemed to act like they were new injuries). The head vet told me to tack up though and told me we'd probably be fine, so to plan for that and trot her out on the flat road, tacked up, before we left. Good...but nerve wracking!

I wandered back to the area where we'd been, and waited on Saiph. She wandered over a few minutes later and told me that Lily had a heart murmur. WHAT?! I was in shock. She was in shock. We didn't say much. My mind was churning with thoughts, as I'm certain hers was. They'd also held her card and wanted her to come back for a recheck. We were both silent for a time, then I started asking questions about the murmur, I don't know much about them. Saiph filled me in. When she shared that they can sometimes occur due to dehydration, and that the vets had mentioned that maybe this was what had happened, I perked up. Lily had been drinking really well while we'd been talking. And eating well. She was taking good care of herself (Q, too). So I told Saiph, "You know, if they let her go, if its better, we could take the loop easy. We could walk and trot. Try to keep a sustained trot as much as possible, and walk as much as time will allow us. We'll make sure they drink lots. We know this loop is easier. No more climbs. Then you can dismount and walk into the check so she pulses down quicker. You'd be surprised how fast they come down if you dismount, loosen you girth, and walk them in the last quarter mile or so." Saiph perked up a little at this idea, too, and took Lily back for a recheck.

Saiph, Gail and I right before we left the second hold; right after I'd found out
Q and I could continue.
I waited with bated breath (and a visit to the porta john) while she got her recheck, taking time to make the decision to leave the open front boots off her forelegs for the rest of the day, worried that they were agitating her scratches more than helping. She came back grinning - the murmur was gone! They could continue! Yessss! Now, I just needed to pass my recheck!!

Before our outtime/my recheck occurred though, some other riders, some of the only few behind us, came over and asked if they could have Q's grain. They'd not been able to send any out to this check and their horses really needed something. Q was more interested in hay at this point, so I told the lady to yes, please, take it all! Saiph even donated Lily's extra as well. Those other riders were SO thankful. I was just really happy to help their horses out.

...and then it was time for our recheck. My stomach was cramping something AWFUL at this point, impending bowel movement from hell threatening me after I'd chugged two bottles of water at this check, something that always happens during vet checks at hot rides for me. Fortunately though, my stomach eased a little as I started jogging Q down the road. They passed us to go on, with instruction to switch diagonals lots and canter some to stretch her back. Yes, yes, I will.

And I did.

Q and I led most of this 13 mile loop that went predominantly along gravel FS road. Lily and Saiph trailed behind us, yo yo-ing near and far, almost out of sight. Lily wasn't overly motivated to go unless she was out of sight of Q, so I just let that be and focused on keeping pace.

What Mike and Kenai and Charles were doing at about the
time Saiph and I were suffering through the third loop.
We were REALLY hurting for time at this point. Racing the clock now, not other riders. I was DETERMINED to get Lily and Saiph through their first endurance ride within time. I didn't want them to complete all those miles and not be recognized for them!!

A lot of this loop was in the sun, so I told Saiph that we'd trot the sun bits and walk the shade bits until it was solely one or the other. This worked well. Both horses were deep into the afternoon doldrums of NOT wanting to go anywhere. I had to ask Q pretty insistently to get her to trot for the first while. With time, she did perk up and was very slow to walk at my requests, picking up the trot on her own, surging forward.

However, there reached a point about halfway through when the girls REALLY needed some water. There had been no stream crossings that weren't culverted with steep access along this route so far. I had been eyeing the access to these culverted areas for awhile now. Finally, I found one with a little bit less of a dangerous approach. I guided Q over and down through the woods off the trail. She carefully picked her way, Lily and Saiph catching us as we dropped down into the stream. They followed.

Lily had a bit of a tie up in a small sapling, getting it caught trickily between her forelegs as she refused to step around it for whatever reason. I held it still as best I could, trying to prevent something really bad from happening, and told Saiph to dismount now. She did, and she got Lily to lift her leg up so we could maneuver the sapling away.

Both horses drank long and hard at this stream. They were in dire need of that water. We took nearly 10 minutes to let them guzzle down water here. It was time well-spent. Both mares were much perkier after.

The tail end of this loop was doubled back on familiar terrain that both girls recognized. They perked up considerably and moved forward a lot better. Q was still in the lead. Despite covering ~40 miles at this point, Q offered me two spooks. The first one was big, and it ticked me off a lot, but the second one was HUGE and I got REALLY PISSED at her for it; I overreacted a bit, but the way she goes about spooking like this HAS TO STOP. Saiph noted how dirty both of these spooks were even - so I'm not crazy.

Most of the time, Q is looky. She'll give wide berths to things, and give them the stink eye, but she doesn't always balk from them. These spooks though? The ones that piss me off? These spooks occur when she sees something FAR ahead that is barely visible (white rocks today, small white rocks). She goes from moving forward to SLAMMING her front legs into the ground and balks HARD to the left (like a cutting horse might do to halt and change rapid direction when sorting a cow out). What she's trying to do is turn around and run. Stop. Lunge. Whirl. Except, she doesn't typically get that whirl in because I'm reacting. They SUCK to ride. And they suck more when she's doing them with increasing frequency. They suck even MORE when I cannot find a single thing that caused them, and I'm a PRO at figuring out really trivial things that cause these spooks.

Lily and Saiph led us for a time for the remainder of this loop - two other pairs of riders passing us toward the tail end that allowed Q to surge forward in front of Lily and still have something else to focus on that wasn't the trail (helping to prevent the occurrence of spooks).

The end of this loop also marked the end of our legs for downhill riding. Saiph and I were both in worlds of pain when we had to move at any gait above a walk downhill. Hurt. So bad.

We both dismounted about a quarter mile out from our final vet check, walking the girls in. We were greeted with the following upon giving our rider numbers to the in-timer, "You have 15 minutes to pulse down and get to the vet. No more."


Mike took care of Q and I all day. Really couldn't have
made it through the weekend without him. <3
We rushed over and stripped tack FAST. We and the men began sponging with a vengeance. I knew Q would come down, but I was worried about Lily. We sponged and sponged and scraped and scraped. We sprayed her with rubbing alcohol/water mixture to help cool her faster. We went into the shade for all of this. She was pissed she couldn't have her mash, but I'd cautioned Saiph that some horses HR's become elevated when they eat, and it could be risky to let her eat when time was so critical.

With time running out, we headed over to the PR folks. Q was fine. Lily hung for a bit, but did reach the 64 criteria.

I had Mike trot Q out for this vet check. She likes him more, and I knew she'd move better for him. In her mind, I was the evil redheaded bitch making her go over some evil trail right now.

We had a different vet at this point. As Mike trotted Q out (his first time ever trotting her out! once again going off verbal direction only, no demonstration), the vet said aloud as he watched Q trot back toward him, "La dee dah. Dum dee dah." Which matched perfectly with my little mare's swinging go-lucky gait and loose body motion. I couldn't help but laugh. This vet got it. Thank god. She had A's or A-'s on most things at this point with a B for anal tone. Understandable. She was tired!

We walked over to the other vet and Lily at this point. Her CRI was 64/72. They kept her card and said to keep her in the shade and let her eat and drink; we'd see if she could come down more before our out time and then determine what would happen.

Mike tacked Q up for me while I rearranged some things with my saddle bags for our final 6 miles so that I could take the cantle bag only. It was CRUCIAL that we make our out time. We were REALLY racing the clock now!!

Lily's trot recheck was a 60/68 CRI. The vet doing her check was slightly concerned, but comfortable letting her do the final 6 miles since she'd been eating and drinking so well. The vet who did Q's vet through agreed.

And so we tacked Lily up FAST and we were off. We had an hour an fifteen minutes to complete 6 miles before we went over time. YIKES.

We trotted all the flats and the ups - which were mild to moderate. We walked all the slight downhill inclines, our legs refusing to withstand riding them. Q spooked dirty a time or three more, and became increasingly tense and spooky about EVERYTHING around us. We plowed on though. We had no choice. We HAD TO MAKE TIME! I was determined.

Finally, we reached a stretch of familiar trail. The trail we'd pre-rode the day before. I knew we were close. No more than 2 miles out. We had 20 minutes. We trotted. We even cantered some. Lily and Saiph took the lead for the tail section.

And then we could see ride camp. It was right there. We kept trotting.

We tried to cross the finish line hand in hand, but Lily would have none of this. She deigned things in ride camp to be scary and refused to trot suddenly. I urged Q forward and we crossed a horse length in front of Saiph and Lily at the finish.....with one minute to spare. We'd done it.

We dismounted and walked the girls down to the crew area, getting them untacked, cleaned up, and fed. We (Charles, Saiph, Dom, Mike, me, Mike) headed down for our final vet through, making it there RIGHT at our 30 minute cut-off for vetting.

Moseying back to camp after the final vet through
Mike trotted Q again, and Art gave her all As and A-'s; he was the only vet all day to note that YES she DID have scratches before the ride. Finally, haha!! And just like that, Q had completed her 3rd and hardest 50 to date! I'd completed my 6th and hardest.

We turned then, bated breath, watching and waiting on Lily's vet to reach a conclusion on her.


SHE PASSED! Hugs. Congratulations. All around.

Their first endurance competition ever. Their first completion. STELLAR.

Photo by Mike Turner

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The Aftermath
We took the mares back to the trailer. Got them fed, poulticed, Q's scratches medicine on, and settled in for the night.

Charles had to head home because he had to work tomorrow, so we all bid him a sad adieu.

After his departure, Dom, Mike, Mike, Saiph, and I all headed into town for dinner - our neighbor at camp would keep a watchful eye on the girls in their corral.

Dinner was home cooking. Slow, but we understood the small town wasn't used to so many people - the place was packed. We had fun joking around while we waited on our food. No great concern for the long wait.

After dinner, Mike took Saiph and I to the place he'd been directed we could get showers. It was dark and deserted, a camp counselor-type guy stationed nearby worried Mike, so he stood guard outside while Saiph and I snagged quick, hot, rejuvenating showers.

With full bellies and clean bodies, we headed back to camp to go sit up on the road and await the first 100 milers to finish. Dom and Mike, me and my Mike, and Saiph sat drinking and joking around to an obscene level while we waited. We weren't even DRUNK at this point (well, Saiph and I weren't)! Drunk on lack of sleep perhaps, but not alcohol.

Some of the very best people - and to think, I wouldn't know these people at all if it weren't for the blogging world!
L to R: Mike, Dom, me, Mike, Charles, Saiph

We joked and cajoled. Every person or car that appeared at the end of the lighted runway for the 100s was greeted first with bated breath, "oh! oh! oh!" -ing, and then an "Ooohhhhhh," of disappointment when it wasn't a person on a horse.

All the same though, we bounced back from these obvious non-completions and cheered and whooped obnoxiously drawling out a very southern, "Woo! You completed 100 miles! How do you feel?!" to the pseudo-racers.

The volunteers sitting at the finish were highly amused with our antics, a plus because I'm pretty certain we'd have otherwise been viewed as highly obnoxious!!

We laughed and laughed and talked and talked.

And then the first horse - for true! - appeared at the end of the runway.

His rider was Bryna, a 14 year old, the youngest person to ever complete the OD 100. A really incredible sight to behold.

We congratulated her in kind, waited to see if anyone else would come, and ended up turning in. Exhausted from our long day. (The other 100s would be 1hr. 15min. behind her we would learn the following morning.)

: : : : :

Laughter. (Photo obviously by Saiph since I was driving lol)
The next morning we all woke slowly and broke camp slowly. By 11a, the awards brunch, we'd
broken down all of camp except the girls' corral. I drove my 4Runner with Saiph in the passenger seat and Mike, Dom, and Mike on the tailgate as we drove over for the brunch (I really didn't want to walk at this point).

We ate, I bought a surcingle from the OD yardsale, chatted with the owner of Asgard Arabians about his studs (for a friend), bought my photo from the photographer, and received my completion shirt and belt buckle as did Saiph. Saiph also scored the turtle award, a hand-painted rock from the trail that was made to look like a turtle.

Because I had to get home to meet Father's Day obligations & turn around to be gone all this week for work away from home, we left right after we got our awards and went to complete camp breakdown. 

Not too bad for the day after her hardest 50!
We bit our adieus to friends, and were on the road by 12:30p. I was able to meet up with my dad, do a shotty packing job, and make it to my destination for work by 10:45p that evening. (WHEW!)

Tomorrow, I'll post my summary thoughts on the ride, what worked/didn't work, and what I plan to do differently with training for the future.