Monday, October 27, 2014

2014 Fort Valley 50

The Short: 

Amazing ride. Loved the trails (again). Q was pretty stellar all day as long as she wasn't leading. Pulled at the finish due to a cramp in her rear end. She was fine within a few hours - body sore, but fine.

The Long:


The weather at home had been a steady mist - not rain or fog but mist - for days. It had been cold and froggy, too, the kind of weather that makes you want to do nothing more than sit indoors curled up doing nothing. The kind of weather that makes it hard to do anything on time out-of-doors. As such,  I was running a bit behind my scheduled departure time.

I made it to the barn about 30 minutes later than planned. Fortunately, the trailer was packed because I'd done that on a whim on Monday night. All I needed to do was bring the mare in, dust off most of the mud, hook up the trailer, put her on the trailer, check all tires on the way out of the driveway (garage with air compressor is on my way out), and be off!

So much easier said than done...

- Hooked up the trailer on the first attempt. See evidence below:

- Fetched horse from field and dusted off most of the mud with relative success. No evidence to show.

- Because I was without help to load the horse, I tried to get her to self-load. I had half-success with this. No evidence to show.

- As you know, you cannot close the trailer door and take your horse anywhere with half-success. So I walked her on as I'd do if someone was there to close the door behind us, hooked her to the pre-existing lead rope that is always tied in the trailer, stepped out the escape door, and held my breath.

You see, Q will lead on and load like a dream if someone is there to close the door behind her. Her vice is that she makes attempts to back immediately off if no one is there to guarantee otherwise. And on this day I had no one to close said door. So I relied on the rope halter and lead to keep her efforts to leave at bay and prayed she didn't hurt herself in the process.

So I stood, bated breath, and watched and waited while my mare made a scrabbling attempt to unload herself from the trailer after I'd hooked her up and stepped out. She backed up, hit the end of the line, and proceeded to have a 5 second knock-down-drag-out tug-o-war fight with the lead and her head. I thought to myself, Welp, I'll either have a horse to take to this ride or I won't. Here's hoping... and just stood by.

She settled after a few moments, and I closed the door. And we were off.

- I stopped at the garage to check air on all tires, knowing I had my one tire on the vehicle that would need air as it has had a pesky slow leak for more than a month now. And so I filled all tires that needed it - including that pesky tire. Except when I filled that tire this time, I could hear the air whizzing out from somewhere. Well shit.

- I trucked upstairs to get BO's hubby to help me with my dilemma. Long story short, we ended up pulling out a 3" wire/nail that was boogered into my tire pretty good. We then put a plug in the tire. However, uncertain about the plug, I then set off for the tire place to see what they thought after marking the shit out of my tire with the same livestock marker I use to put a # on Q's rear for rides. They were very busy with a reputed 2 hour wait, but the owner took pity on me (what with my trailer hooked up and horse inside and all), and took the tire off immediately to take it inside and check things out. Evidence pictured:

Note the green mark...


- He pronounced it right as rain with no air leaking anywhere he could tell. And so, nearly 2 hours after my desired departure time, I was off! (And so ends the bulleted list of things that should have been easy to accomplish but was not.)

A friend's fingers crossed after my request for
luck and crossing of all things that the tire
would make it.

About 30 minutes out of town I was halted again at the base of the only mountain I needed to traverse with the trailer on a 2-lane highway. Pilot vehicles were flagging people down to wait while they offloaded two 22' wide equipment loads on flatbed trucks from the mountain. I was halted right at the beginning of what we call a "Come to Jesus" turn - a 20 mph switchback on an otherwise 55 mph road that comes off a big mountain called Backbone. The equipment had been in operation on a stretch of highway under construction in the direction I was headed and was being decommissioned from one site to be brought to another.

And so I waited:

It's an equipment parade!

Kind of...

Once that hurdle was accomplished, I continued to plug my way up the mountain. One of the pilot cars had warned it was very foggy up there. I'd nodded to him, figuring Great, just another obstacle for my day. HA.

You know the dashed lines down the center of roads? Yeah? Okay, well the fog was SO DENSE that I could only see TWO of those at a time. That's like 25'-30'. Now, add in some *surprise* 25 mph, 30 mph, and 35 mph turns on that mostly 55 mph road with shitty visibility, and presto! you get what I was dealing with. Except, oh wait, added degree of difficulty! I'm hauling my precious horse in the trailer and really don't want to toss her around too much.

I amped up my music to distract my increasingly freaking-out mind and drove on. Slow but steady at an average 30 mph. And surprisingly? The GIANT line of cars behind me disappeared except for 1 guy. Usually through fog banks like that you want a leader, be they slow or otherwise. Having those red tail lights to follow is a big help. But for whatever reason the 20+ vehicles behind me disappeared and it ended up just being me and a white sedan. I decided at the time that the fog monsters must have eaten the rest of them.

Good news at this point? I wasn't worried about the tire anymore! HA.

The fog plagued me for awhile longer until I reached a point (after *surprise* NEW detours on the stretch of highway under construction that contained TWO 15 mph turns) where I dropped off the high elevation plateau into the lower farmlands. As I descended the highway below the edge of the plateau I was able to observe the wall of the fog bank held behind an imaginary line along the ridge. Have to admit, I was happy to see it gone and welcome the sun and blue skies which had been absent in my world for 3 days!

To the left: all fog. To the right? Blue skies, sun, and some fluffy clouds.

Fortunately, the remainder of the drive was uneventful and I pulled into ridecamp about 3.5 hours after I departed home.

I found Nicole and Carlos nearly immediately upon pulling into ridecamp thanks to their red trailer (hurrah bright colors!). Sadly, the location was far from the vet check, but there was plenty of room to set the corral up for the girls.

The three of us made quick work of the electric corral and overall camp setup before strolling over to registration. After registration, we vetted in.

Q pulsed in at 36 or something (shame on me, but I just don't remember because...) and received a B on gait. The vet was the same vet from the Old Dominion who has never liked Q's gait. I even noted, as cheerily as I could, "She's got a swinging gait through her hind end. It's normal for her," as my vet had instructed when I'd discussed the issue with her. Yet still this vet said Q was striding short on her right hind she thought, and that there was a subtle head bob. Both Nicole and I were astounded. Nicole has a GREAT eye for seeing subtle off-ness in a horse, and she couldn't see it. She said Q looked the same she always did. (Something I would check in with her often about over the next two days to always receive the response of, "She's moving the way she always moves!" from Nicole.)

 After the vet in the day proceeded rather par for the course:

  • Nicole and I did a 3.5 mile tune-up ride along a short section of trail
  • We indulged in dinner
  • The ride meeting noted of only a few minor changes in trail from the previous year

After dinner, I set to replacing cables in 3 Vipers. 2 of mine and 1 of Nicole's.

Other Renegade folks, how often are you getting frayed cables in the below manner?

I've never had cables fray like this before. It seems odd to me that they would fray here? These boots were only used twice: at the Old Dominion 50 and the Ride Between the Rivers 50. I had very minimal issue with the boots at these rides and they were soaked and washed after. I didn't even notice the fraying until arriving at Fort Valley and almost wonder if it was something that happened while they sat idle?! So bizarre and beyond frustrating!!!

Once I had all of the boots fixed, I quickly packed my saddle bags for the following day and changed into my clothing for the morning so that I wouldn't have to be nearly naked in the freezing morning temperatures.

I was sleeping in my car for this ride, so I settled happily into my sleeping bag and was asleep fast. Snug as a bug in a rug.

Unfortunately, my stomach has been on the fritz lately. This night was one of the unlucky ones; it seemed something at dinner was Not Okay and I woke with that horrible gut pain indicative to my GI tract vehemently rejecting something I'd consumed. This story is more and more common in my life lately, and it is to the point where I'm forced to assume a limited diet to try to alleviate the pain, much to my chagrin. The last week alone afforded me with no fewer than 3 incidents, one of which was by and large the worst I've ever encountered that caused me to nearly pass out from the pain - I'd put it on a solid 8 out of 10 on the pain scale and I'm not one to poo-poo that scale as I often underestimate my pain vs. over estimate it.

Fortunately, the GI Tract Gods smiled down on me this evening and I escaped relatively unscathed after only an hour or so of hell. I even fell fast asleep again after. So fast and deep asleep that when my alarm went off the next morning I had to press snooze twice. *grumble grumble*


I pulled Q from the pen and fed her a huge wet mash to start her day off right. She really loves these sloppy mashes lately, and I love them, too, for the fact that they trick her into consuming a solid gallon and a half of water at a minimum (often two gallons). To start the day with that much water before heading out on the first 18 mile loop was fabulous.

Now, to summarize the ride I'll continue the rest of this post with bullets because my own memory is fleeting at best so far as each of the loops go. Memorable moments exist, which I will note, but it is hard for me to narrate each moment.

Loop 1 (18 miles)

  • The start was controlled due to the short stretch of pavement we had to traverse to reach the gravel road that would then lead to the trail. We walked most of this and had no issues. Hurrah for booted feet instead of slippery steel shoes!
  • Within the first half mile, Q's front left viper came apart. I clearly hadn't tightened the cables as much as I thought I had the night before. *sadness* I pulled a size 1 Rennie off her hind and slapped it on that front and wrapped her bare hind with Mueller tape and slapped an EasyBoot on. We wouldn't have any more boot trouble during this ride.
  • I dismounted to lead Q down the first tricky rocky section for both of our benefits. She's sloppy with her footing when she's got boots on and makes me nervous over very tricky terrain; it's partly PTSD from No Frills 2013 where she tripped and had that freak accident getting cut. It's easy to just dismount and both of us choose our own path.
  • As we descended the mountain the drag riders appeared behind us informing us to "pick it up". Can I just say how much it infuriates me to be pushed along like this? At the START of a ride?! I knew for a fact that we would have PLENTY of time to keep moving out during this ride. The slow pace we kept to traverse the first tricky few miles would be long forgotten. There was NO NEED to feel rushed that soon!
  • We made GREAT time and even caught and passed several people as soon as we got off the tricky section of trail. Never saw those drag riders again, in fact!
  • Dismounted for the mini stallion who terrorized us last year. I was REALLY happy I could anticipate him this year. All the same, Q FREAKED OUT and Nicole and I had a VERY SCARY MOMENT where we nearly lost both mares due to the freaking out. That mini is a holy terror and I hate him to the strongest sense of the word. He grunts like a pig and hustles along in a manner than is both comical and terrifying. Q didn't come off her Seeing Red bit for a long time afterward.
  • Only one opportunity for water on this loop which both mares refused.
  • Q led for a few miles during our mountain climb and the subsequent section along the ridgeline. Some horses were somewhat distant in front of us which gave her something more to focus on than impending monsters and doom around her. All the same, she still shied and spooked at multiple things. The most obnoxious of which was a log...which we trotted the full length of...and she was okay with until the end which she spooked at. -_-
  • Overall, a really, really awesome loop that I really enjoyed riding with Nicole. Lily led a lot of it which was really awesome for my Q-mare who just IS NOT a leader.

The Shenandoah River in the valley below; we rode along it for many miles

Typical OD trail

Note the drop to the right of the photo; pretty stellar trail design

First Check/Hold

  • Q wouldn't drink or eat much at this hold
  • We left tack on (optional all day) for the vetting
  • Her CRI was great at 56/52; she got a B on capillary refill, which was to be expected because she didn't drink at all.
  • She DID pee near the end of the hold which was awesome.

Second Loop (16 miles)

  • Q did NOT want to go out on this loop; between her lack of interest in food at the check, lack of drinking, and lack of forward movement down the trail I was REALLY worried.
  • Nicole and I both dismounted to walk down the first tricky section of rock. We ended up hiking the bulk of the downhill on foot.
  • Lily led again for the bulk of this loop; great because Q just can't handle it. I tried to get Q to lead a couple times, but after one particularly large spook that nearly put me on the ground I called it quits for the day. Just NOT worth the fight that ensues between me and the horse (aka - I lose my shit and scream a lot and wheel her back to the offending object until she stands by it). I was really good through the first loop when Q led for a mile or two about not getting upset about her spooks. She was being more honest about them then and I could slightly anticipate them and give her more urging to just Keep Moving Down The Trail, but the second loop? Very sporadic dishonest spooking. And HARD EVIL spooking. She legitimately SEEKS out things around her to spook at; on our tune-up ride the day before her head was on a swivel as she looked far and deep into the forest around her and got worried about things that were way far off. She is SO looky and ACTIVELY searching for things that may be dangerous. It is beyond irritating. And even Nicole noted during the ride at one point that really doesn't seem to be a pain thing. The mare just SEARCHES for danger and then REACTS without warning. And when she's predictably worried about something she might spook over you can feel her ball up under you (especially in the treeless saddle) and get tenser and tenser and her trot will get loftier and loftier and then - provided you're able to push her on by without her slamming on the breaks - she IMMEDIATELY and dramatically will relax underneath you RIGHT as she passes the thing that was worrying her. It's like she's "PANIC PANIC PANIC, oh, that's not so bad!" and then moves on like it was nothing. Someone PLEASE tell me you had a horse like this and it got better? Maybe?
  • Bottom line: Lily is a really awesome leader and without her we wouldn't have gotten through the ride - especially this loop. Gack.
  • I had to dismount and fix the saddle pad twice on this loop. It was all over the place for the first time ever. Presumably because I didn't tighten the girth enough? I don't quite know. Maybe it was the terrain? Either way, it was the first time I'd had this problem and it was odd. I'd keep an eye to see if it happens again in the future...except that I just got a Skito pad and after 1 ride with it I'm not sure I'll ever go back to the Woolback! Haha.
  • At the first mud puddle (Q's favorite) that we encountered, Q took 53 swallows of water (I counted). This helped me to calm down a considerable amount with my worrying about her.

Second Check/Hold

  • Q immediately walked to the first bucket of water she could find in the crewing area and downed it (not our bucket lol). She then walked to the first one of our buckets and finished it, as well. YAY DRINKING HORSE.
  • She also wandered to someone else's hay and started downing it, too. I let her do all of these things because frankly, if someone else's horse came in and did it to my stuff I'd be okay with that. Mary's horses always did things like this when I was riding with her and she was never too upset about it, so I'm taking a page out of her book of learning and doing the same. (A lady approached us later in the check when Q was eating yet someone else's hay and asked if I wanted her to leave it for Q because they didn't need it anymore. She double and triple checked with me that I was certain I didn't need it even when I told her no because we were going back to the trailer.)
  • I forget what Q's CRI was, but I think it was very similar to the first check. I know it wasn't in the 60s because she stayed in the 50s all day. She did get a B on gait though, presumably from a rub on her right front from the boots. Gut sounds were positive in 2 quadrants and negative in 2 - I can't remember if she got an A or B due to this.

Third loop (15 miles)

  • This loop was AMAZING. No more giant mountains to climb. Much more varied terrain that included a lot of field area to gallop and have fun on. Nicole and I, along with the mares, had SO MUCH FUN. 
  • Q perked up and was super eager and forward and happy.
  • We even rode with a group for most of this loop.
  • Our finish was picture perfect, hand in hand, horses trotting side by side as we cheered for ourselves. No one was there to witness it except Mary and one of her friends who were doing a tune up on Mary's horses for the following day's ride. Nicole and I tied for 30th across the finish.

A sign.
(If this video doesn't play, someone please let me know.)

Final Check

  • At the previous checks I had breezed Q through the vetting immediately. The first time I did it, I'd forgotten completely that Lily would be attached to Q and not come down fast as a result. The second time I waited a little while but then just deigned to get through and wait for Lily by the vets. The third time I decided I'd just wait for her.
  • And so we waited and waited and waited. We waited until Art King - who was getting cold - urged us over.
  • Q was very UP during our waiting time. She'd seen a monster somewhere and was spazzing about it for a short time. Drgh.
  • All of her parameters were great. CRI was awesome again. 50/50 (2 +'s, 2 -'s) for gut sounds. Hydration parameters were back up in the As. But then at the trot out she was OFF. The vet had a second vet watch, too. Definitely OFF. They had me have the farrier check her feet for tenderness - nothing. They decided it must be a cramp in her rear end, yet they couldn't agree on where. They told me I had 30 minutes to resolve it so off I went to find Mary who's been pulled a LOT at the finish for this exact problem.
  • Catherine and Mary ended up helping Q while Gail helped me by bringing me warm clothing, bringing Q a spare cooler (haha, Nimo's clothes are SO BIG on Q), and then feeding Q to keep her calm while Mary and Catherine massaged her rear end. Mary said she couldn't find any tightness though and Q didn't react at all to any of the massaging. Mary noted that they usually react and let you know what is sore which is why it is so important to keep them calm and happy, so you can see the tiniest sign of discomfort in their body language when it arises. Still, nothing.
  • So I meandered Q back to the check, stopping and backing her every so many steps to keep her hind end warm.
  • And yet...still off at the trot. Now two of the vets were pretty certain she had a cramp in her left rear area, they showed me, but I could feel NOTHING.
  • Pulled at the finish. =( No completion. No Triple Crown.
  • Still very, very proud of my little mare.
  • LOVE HER. Even despite her dirty, dirty, evil spooking habits. 


After the pull, Dr. Bob gave me some calcium gluconate to give orally to Q. One dose that night, one dose in the morning. She also got a gram of bute to ease the soreness she'd likely feel. He talked to me about some other future ride plans and training goals prior to those rides, too, which was a nice escape for my head and the impending sadness/anger/frustration/depression/fatigue that would settle upon me until I found refuge in sleep and the inevitable reset button that results from a good night's rest.

My headspace was really shitty the rest of the evening. I needed time alone and ended up getting it fortunately. I just didn't want to be around anyone or talk about anything.

Checks on Q later revealed that she was still sweaty along her flanks, but dry everywhere else. I toweled her off to the best of my abilities along her flanks and received some really angry faces and ears from her. Poor mare was really sore. =( Prodding over the rest of her body afforded the same response, especially at one point on her back and all areas around the girth. She was SO sore. =(

I took her to the vet to double-check, but she wasn't greatly worried about her because all of her other stats were normal and good and she was eating, drinking, peeing, pooping. Knowing she was okay, but just sore, I put her to bed and then put myself to bed, once again falling fast asleep.


I woke, my head in a fog on Saturday morning to the loudspeaker calling, "RIDE TIME IS SEVEN TWENTY!" and realized, Oh, ugh. drgh, I should be up. I should really be up. Gail. Gail and Nimo. Awake. Drgh.  And I mustered up the strength to drag myself from my warm bed and stumble over to Gail and Nimo, "How can I help?"

I held her reins while she finished getting ready.  Nicole showed up at some point, too. We did what we could to help Gail before bidding her adieu at the starting line as she and Nimo set out on their first LD.

With Gail and Nimo successfully on trail, Nicole and I fumbled back to camp where we had many failed conversations and other failed interactions as our minds simply wouldn't cooperate. It was highly comical actually.

We did eventually get things accomplished that we needed to do, but damn did it take awhile! Poor tired, addled brains and bodies!

Q was significantly improved re: body soreness by morning. She was still pissy about her girth area (I clearly should have tightened it up more instead of trying to "be nice"; lesson learned), but the other areas were greatly improved: she reacted not at all to palpation and rubbing of her flanks and it took significant pressure to gain a response from her at the point on her back that had been tender. YAY. I mean, not yay that she had to be sore, but yay that it resolved so soon. I was body sore in certain areas the night before that I wasn't the morning after, too, so I'll chalk it up to both of us just being banged up from the mileage.

I also had a moment of clarity at some point during my assessment of the mare this morning when I realized, Oh, you know, if I'd vetted STRAIGHT away last night Q might have passed because she wouldn't have cooled down and that cramp wouldn't have been so bad? I mean, yay that I know something happened so I can prepare against it in the future, but boo about getting pulled. Hmm. Noted for future. Vet straight through! It merits more thought, but it's something. And honestly, don't know for sure if it was a cramp the night before. Everyone was so hit or miss about telling me what it really was. The final "call" on getting pulled was "There was a definite head bob!" Okay? But please tell me more about what is going on so I can help her? And yes, two of them insisted there was soreness and tightness in her left butt area, but the others wouldn't volunteer any confirmation of this and the facial expressions on several just made me really concerned for some reason. They all seemed rather split on the decision? I don't know. I understand it can be hard to diagnose, but the inconsistency and uncertainty worried me a lot more than the actual getting pulled part; I wanted to help my little girl and I wanted to do it right. I'm still mulling over things in my head even now. Bottom line, however is that I will prepare her better for the future!

Team Nimo!
Gail came back into camp right around when she told us she would. We were able to meet her and pull Nimo's tack and walk with them into the check. I won't spoil that story for you though, so check her blog.

We did continue to help her after the vetting though. I was really happy to be able to be there for her after she was such a great morale booster for me earlier this year at No Frills and Old Dominion. =)

After helping Gail, Nicole and Carlos and I finished packing up. We loaded our horses, said our goodbyes and got on the road.

I, fortunately, had a very uneventful drive home.

Q managed to wiggle out of her halter on the way home, and I just left her naked as she unloaded herself and continued to prance across the barnyard to "her" boys. She teased them over the fence for a time, then rolled and rolled and got all muddy, then pranced and teased the boys some more, and then settled into grazing around the barnyard (better grass) while I unloaded the trailer.

I think she wasn't too bad for the wear all things considered!

Overall, I had a really great weekend. I loved seeing my blogging/endurance friends. I loved riding so many miles with Nicole and Lily. I loved the trail even despite the EVIL MINI and getting pulled at the end.

I don't know what my ride schedule for next year will entail just yet, but I'm excited at the prospect.

In the mean time, Q will be getting some well-deserved time off followed by a lot of dressage work before we fall back into a conditioning schedule.

Thanks for carrying my ass so many miles this season, Little Girl. I appreciate it.

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