Friday, April 29, 2011

Injured reserve

Dixie has been on the IR list. I rode Wednesday, to vast (but not unexpected) amounts of drama, and she whacked her front right heel bulb pretty good. Discretion > valor and all that, so I elected to lay her off for a while. I think perhaps it's unnecessary.

Wednesday was a lovely day, so I went out to do some hills. Dixie was forward and moderately obedient going away from home, but as soon as we turned toward home (whether we were actually going home or not) she got really hot and wanted to zoom home as fast as possible. I was riding in the snaffle and part of me deeply regretted it, but mostly I realized it was a good teachable moment, and she can't just run through the snaffle. (And I do realize I bring this on myself, letting her canter home some of the time. I absolutely deserve the horse I ride.)

I let her make her mistakes - for HALF A MILE, every time she'd break above a walk I one rein stopped her, had her walk away from home, did circles, etc. It did no good at all. Finally we got back to this one road that goes up a hill for about a half a mile before it goes private. So we did hill sets. HARD hill sets.

We cantered (then racked, then halfass trotted) to the top of the hill. We turned and walked partway down, then she broke to a pace and wouldn't slow back to a walk, so I wheeled her dumb ass around and cantered her back up the hill. Rinse and repeat at least ten times. She's not the kind of horse who ever hunts the woah, but I tried. I got some really snappy canter departs, halts, walks up the hill toward the end of our fight, and I did, eventually, get her to walk home on a loose rein. It was a very snappy animated speedy running walk, but by god it was a four-beat head-nodding walk.

Anyway, in the midst of all the wheeling around, she slammed her right heel bulb with a back hoof and split it open. Not a bad injury, but I thought I should let it heal and watch her for a couple of days.

Thursday was trim day. We've been using the same absolutely amazing saint of a trimmer for nineteen months now, and Dixie has gone from being a horrible yanking falling-over stomping bitch to, finally, on Thursday, yawning a lot and nodding off. Must be time to leave, move to California, and find a new trimmer for her to yank stomp and be a bitch to, now that she's finally used to Jim. :)

In between horse stuff, I've been demolishing where the pool used to be and painting the Dr. Seuss room. The room is tan now; it just needs one more coat cutting in and it'll be finished. The pool area is almost transformed - I posted a "free" ad on CL and a guy should be coming tomorrow to get the materials I ripped off of the upper deck.

So here is a video of my poor injured pony. The heel is not swollen, not hot, and clearly not bothering her, so I think after the guy clears out the deck boards tomorrow I should ride her. A long way. A really long way.

video

What set this off? Banders, mighty hunter, snuck up on the chickens and they eventually noticed him and started squawking. Yes. Chickens squawking caused this fine display of wild mustang behavior.

Note: I'm trying out uploading the video straight to Blogger instead of posting it on Vimeo. Vimeo takes forever to process, so we'll see how awful the Blogger quality is...

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

An American Man takes a stand against the vicissitudes of time

Lo all these many years ago, way back in the early part of this century or perhaps the tail end of the last, there lived a man. He was a respectable man, with a house and a wife and a very small dog.* He went to his government job five days a week, and he collected junk the other two. He began to feel the cold tentacles of mortality wrapping silently around his body - he wasn't as spry as he used to be, and he'd put on some weight, and as it turns out he wasn't very smart or rich or satisfied with his family. This pressure built up inside him like a seething Chihuahua until finally he snapped.

"Wife!" he announced. "We shall install a pool for our (grand)children! Then everyone will know that we are respectable middle-class homeowners. We will stand beside it, holding hands and laughing, while our (grand)children splash merrily in it. Why, if only photographers for glossy homeowner magazines knew about us, our backyard would be published in Happy Backyard Families!"

The wife replied, "But we live in the desert, and you never finish what you start, and you're going to make me clean the damn pool."

"No, no," he said, "this time it will be perfect. And of course I'll clean it myself."

The wife grumbled and shook her head, but the man was not to be dissuaded. He bought a pool - not one of those fancy gunite pools, no, he was a modest civil servant, not some rich fat-cat. He bought an above-ground pool kit and installed it.

He consulted his hoarded lovingly stockpiled back issues of Pools Today and Deck the Yards and Practical Deckbuilding magazines. He planned out a nice circular split-level deck. Because this pool was his Stand Against Mortality and Decay and Everything Wrong With America Today, he spared (almost) no expense. He planned for a pier every five feet. He used 3" deck screws, not nails. He bought redwood 2x6's, plus some of that redwood stain wood sealer, so those private-plane fellows always zooming overhead would know that his deck was redwood.

His marriage fell apart. They probably fought over who had to clean the pool. The tiny dog vanished. His surefire guaranteed pension government job began to look less and less surefire. He got older, fatter, and greyer. It took seven years to sell the house - seven years of listening to his ex complain about the pool! But by god, the deck was there to stay. At least there was that.

...

And then I came along and ripped it out in two hours this afternoon. Our Hero didn't bother with treated joists. Oh, he bought the right joists - the whole deck sat on 4"x6" joists - but they weren't treated, and they weren't watersealed, and they were so rotted that the 3" screws yanked out as easily as nails.

Something about the combination of deck screws and untreated 4x6 joists really pissed me off. The stupid deck was built to last... except for that one huge corner he cut, skipping the treated joists. Did he think they'd never get wet? Beside a pool??

I'm all about building stuff that'll last exactly as long as you want it to. If you want a pool for your Norman Rockwell children to frolic in, great! But that stupid above-ground pool isn't going to last forever, so why overbuild the deck? Why the hell would you use screws? Just use nails!

*I found a very small dog collar under the deck. There is no other evidence of a dog of any size living here before us.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Well, I still think it *looks* pretty

I got Dixie out for a ride this morning. We did the short 6 mile loop around the sand pit. I wanted to take Cersei and have a fun ride, no deliberate training. Also, I put her back in the snaffle for the first time since, I think, February.

Speaking of bits, I bought my own curb! I'd been using DiJ's Myler curb, and I was very happy with it in general but wanted slightly shorter shanks. I think everybody feels guilty for not being "as good" as other individuals / disciplines, and I'm no exception - I feel guilty (among other reasons) for doing endurance with a bit. The hackamore/halter/bitless people are somewhat smug about how their horses are free to eat and drink on the trail. Oh well, Dixie and I are not the ideal team to go bitless, and she stuffs her face without seeming to care about the bit. Still, I noticed that the shanks whacked into water tanks. Yesterday I bought the same mouthpiece, same shanks, just 2" shorter shanks. I think I'll have about the same control and she'll be able to eat and drink a bit better.

Anyway, I'd rather ride in a snaffle. It was surprisingly cold and windy - the sun was shining and it looked like it was warmer than it was. We briskly headed out and when we hit the magic corner and turned for home I let her loose and we absolutely hauled ass coming home.

Dixie's not a fast horse - or at least I haven't had the nerve to let her go really fast. I need something like the Bonneville Salt Flats, some place perfectly smooth with good footing, cause I just get all wigged out about the tiny margin of error when you're really galloping. None of our trails are really smooth enough for my overactive imagination. Random boulders and ditches and wooped-out areas.

So we weren't going that fast, just 10-12 mph, but she went 10-12 mph for two solid miles and felt awesome doing it. She slowed down where I asked (going down into little gullies, coming up to trail intersections) and stayed balanced and solid the whole time. We passed some scary stuff - a lady getting into her SUV after letting her dog play in the hills, a big yellow road grader thing grading a private road, and lots of dirt bikes.

And because we were going pretty fast and it was pretty windy, her mane kept blowing all over the place and getting tangled in my hands. It's astonishing how distracting that is! I'm still not going to cut it. I guess I need to improve my braiding skills and learn to do a real fast running braid down her neck.

5.9 miles, 52 minutes, 6.7 mph. Next: I want to get her out early next week after work and do some deliberate hill work for an hour or so - maybe Tuesday, definitely Wednesday.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Needs riding!

So it's been raining, yuck! I woke up at 4 am Friday morning to a very strange sound and it took me a little while to figure it out - rain, on my roof! It rained off and on all day Friday and today. I should've sucked it up and rode, but (whine!) it was cold and my horse was exceptionally filthy from getting rained on and rolling in the sand. So instead I washed clothes and caught up on my shows. I am now up to date on Justified, Glee, and Doctor Who.

Dr. Who paragraph: OMG, the Who writers are consistently the best at coming up with utterly terrifying monsters. Rory has really grown on me and I am glad he appears to be a real Companion now, and I've always stubbornly liked River Song. Of course Amy's awesome, that goes without saying! I don't want to spoiler it for anyone who hasn't had a chance to see the new episode yet, but feel free to spoiler in the comments.

Justified: Why don't yall watch this show? It's amazing! The characters in it are fabulously three-dimensional. And some of them are really hot. And they talk right, i.e. like me. It's just really well written and acted.

Anyway, back to the Dixie horse. She is, more than ever, like a ball of controlled energy. She seems very alive and alert and focused on me. I can't describe it without sounding all gooshy and touchy-feely, but it is true: we have a deeper connection with each other.

I went out for an armful of wood around dusk and heard snorting and thundering hooves. I walked over to the fence and videoed her acting like an Arab. I think this clearly indicates that she needs to be ridden! I know you English people hate the long manes, but surely you have to admit it's utterly gorgeous at liberty.

Dixie needs riding from Funder on Vimeo.


After I ended that video, she came prancing around the corner of the run-in and started begging for carrots:

Dixie needs carrots from Funder on Vimeo.


I took pity on her and got her some carrots. After she ate them she licked my hand for a while



then hung out by the gate.

I think she is roaning out a little more every year. That little white spot on her jawbone is growing. Her sire is another roan paint, but he's SO roan he looks grey. It'd be pretty cool if she ended up like that.

Anyway, she was clearly giving off "scratch me" vibes so I scratched her neck for a bit and she licked my hand. Then I slipped inside the paddock and scratched her for about 15 minutes, all over, in places she's never wanted scratched before. Not just her crest and withers, but all down her neck and shoulder and up by her poll. She's been such a tough nut to crack, but there really is a sweetie under there. :)

White Horse Pilgrim asked why I avoid feeding grain. I think it's just something endurance riders take for granted, and non-endurance riders don't consider unless they have a problem with sugar-sensitive (feet or brain) horses. In between riding and cooking duck confit tomorrow, I'll see if I can't hack together a post about why I avoid grain.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Midweek update

I don't have a really coherent post yet, but I've got a few things.

I think it was Terry who asked about the new Camelbak liner. It's a Platypus. I poked around a couple parts of REI til I found it in the camping gear, and grabbed it and moved on to the powdered elytes. Because I didn't hunt down an associate and ask, I didn't realize that they have two styles - I got the "hoser," which you fill from the small nozzle where the hose screws on, instead of the "big zip" that has an opening at the top. I'd probably get the zip one instead, but I'm quite happy with the one I got. It didn't drip a bit, and it consistently delivered water til it was totally empty. A+++ would buy again.

My knees didn't hurt while I was riding. Last year I couldn't ride two hours without aching knees. Yeah, I took some Motrin at the ride, but not enough to make that much of a difference. Maybe my form has improved. I have a super minimalist efficient post now, really moving from my core and letting my feet barely weight the stirrups, and Dixie's trot and pace are both very smooth and unbouncy. But I suspect it's the almost complete lack of grain in my diet. The big Primal reason for avoiding grain is that it has a lot of inflammatory effects on the body, especially gluten. I ate quite a lot of carbs last weekend, but no gluten - Clif Builder bars and potatoes. This isn't a scientific result, but I thought it was interesting.

With that said, I'm still pretty puffy. I gained about 5 lbs by the time I bothered to get on a scale again, Sunday or Monday, and it's slowly coming off. I'm not surprised - it was a huge physical exertion, plus the sunburn. I feel fine though!

Miss Thing looks absolutely amazing. Monday she was back to normal - bossing the goat around, doing one-stride lead changes as she made the rounds to glare at the neighbors, making pretty faces at me in the hopes of getting more carrots. Today I got home right as another freakin' storm rolled in from the Sierras, and she was UP! She did laps in the pasture while I stuffed the feeder full of hay - then she very politely waited at the gate while I got her ration balancer ready, stuck her head in her halter, and led perfectly to the bucket.

She's got one little sore spot on her lip. Probably from the alfalfa, but the deal is "you carry me 50 miles, you can eat anything your heart desires." She's back on grass, carrots, and RB, so it should heal right up.

Back to the ride - my endurance friends are totally unsurprised at an 11+ hour first 50. I get the feeling that the rest of yall are a little appalled about it. Think of it this way: it's barrel patterning. It's walking the XC course. It's all the work you do on the movements of the test, before you go ride the test. Because of the extreme physiological component of endurance, there's no way to get a horse really ready to go 50 miles without just going out and going 50 miles, and the safest way to do it is to do it really slow. Based on the way Dixie looks and acts, she's totally recovered, which means we didn't overdo it. If anything, we underdid it, which is exactly what I wanted. Mentally and physically, she'll be much more ready to go do a faster (but not racing!) 50 next time.

This is all very new to me, so I can't make any predictions for my next ride time, but it'll probably be quite a bit faster. Her first LD was 6:21 and she was so tired after. Her second LD was 4:31, and she was pretty perky and looked great after.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

High Desert post-ride

Like EG said, this is the first ride where I really felt like I belonged. Not because I finished a 50, just because I've finally been to enough rides that I'm not a stranger in a sea of people who all know each other. When we did finish, it was even better, of course - people were so happy for us.

Loot: I got a brush with a cool hair-on leather handhold with the ride logo stamped on it. It's in a box. When I open the boxes I'll get a picture of it :)

I ate a ton - some of the quiche (it was too cold!), a couple of Clif Bars, all the potato salad and steak at lunch, and BBQ tri-tip and bratwurst at dinner. I drank FIVE LITERS of electrolyted water. I must really be an endurance rider because I'd stop and pee behind a foot-high sagebrush whenever I needed to.

Dixie ate and drank adequately. I'd love to see her pig out even harder, but I really think she's getting the hang of it now. She has gotten very adept at spitting out elyted applesauce, but I got enough in her.

Her Renegades stayed on once they were on right. After I stuck the front left back on, I didn't have a boot so much as twist. She stumbled over rocks a couple of times in the last five miles, but she was pretty tired and just wasn't picking her feet up high enough to clear them. After two stumbles, she put her game face back on and started watching her feet again.

No tack galls, no sore back. I still can't quite believe that my $300 saddle still works but it does. I mean, yall, I bought that saddle before I even bought Dixie. When I decided to buy her, I sorta eyeballed her back and thought my saddle would fit ok, but that was the extent of it.

Dixie's tired but fine today. Her legs look exactly like they always look, not even a bit of fill. She's napping and eating, and she's not mad at me. After our first 30, she was very tired for a few days then rebounded to a previously unheard of level of fitness, so I'm hoping that happens again. :)

I can't believe how much we've both changed. I was completely cool about so many things that would've been impossible 18 months ago and would've worried me silly a year ago. Like when the boot fell off - ok, I'll ride back and get it then hop off and stick it back on then get on and go again. That all sounds very simple, but it would've been completely impossible in 2009. She did the (very pleasant) gaited horse jigging pulling thing for three miles at the start, and all I thought was "I hope she's this fresh for the whole ride." It didn't even occur to me that she'd win the fight or that I'd overstress her little brain and send her into a meltdown. Just check her to a walk, let her try again, feel her gather up and start to go too fast, repeat.

I didn't even really worry about me. When I got back on after lunch and realized how bruised my thighs were, I did worry a bit that I'd ride poorly and sore her back. But Dixie's trot and pace are so gentle and daisy-cutter that it takes just the tiniest effort to post, so I just ignored the pain and forced myself to go with her.

My thighs are bruised and everything between my knees and neck is a little sore today, but it's not very bad. I managed to injure myself after the final vet check - I was using Dixie's reins as a lead rope and I somehow smacked myself in the lip with the scissor snap on the end of it, and that still hurts! I am, of course, woefully sunburned. Lots of people at the ride got totally burned - we were all so excited to see the sun again.

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to take 2 minutes and put on CLEAN DRY SOCKS at lunch. Endurance is one of those things that makes everything else feel so fucking amazing - when you stop to eat, eating is so wonderful! When you sit down post ride, sitting is magical! When you collapse into your own bed again, it's the best bed in the universe! Clean socks at lunch are just as important as anything else.

I need a new overall plan. I've been so focused on Completing a Fifty that I have no idea what to do now. I will hopefully go back for the next two High Desert rides in October and get a cool horse blanket - but I am not sure how to get there from here. I have read literally everything online about how to get started in endurance - but I never bothered to read any further than the "your first 50" section. How do I keep conditioning her? How much time off between rides is optimal? I don't even know what kind of conditioning rides to do - it's been years of "a little faster or a little longer but not both at once."


You know what's the most disappointing thing about this weekend? No ride photographer. There were so few entries it wouldn't have been worth his time to come.

High Desert Classic April 2011

We did it. I can hardly believe it, but we did it. Dixie and I both seem so ill-suited to anything like endurance, but we've done it. She is an absolutely outstanding horse.

So! ~C and I had been planning to go together to HD, but Dig was a little back sore after a training ride last weekend. ~C lent me her trailer, assured me that we were ready and we could do it, and sent me off alone. Packing was easier - I'm finally getting the hang of it. Dixie was easier, too! I came home with the trailer, loaded everything, went to buy ice, then came back for the horse. When I pulled up and parked on the road, Dixie walked halfway to the gate, stopped to pee, then met me at the gate. I was so touched - she never gets in the trailer for something easy, like a trip to a green pasture. It's always "hey let's get in the scary box of death and go camp and ride a trillion miles," and here she is meeting me at the gate. Awwww :)

I learned something new on the way - Dixie only gets mad and starts thumping the trailer for unnecessary delays, like stop signs. When I parked and ran in at a gas station, she stood very calmly and watched the people in the parking lot around her. As soon as I got back in and started up the truck, she started shifting around again - let's GO.

Camp was about 100 miles away, on the edge of Stillwater Wildlife Refuge in the Lahontan Valley. The trail goes up in those mountains east of the valley, with a view over into Dixie Valley. (Great name!)

Camp was lovely and flat and green! (Please try not to laugh, non desert dwellers.)
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It's really hard to take pictures of white horses, as some of you well know. I was pleased with this one. This is after an hour of braiding and de-hairing - note the gobs of hair in the grass.
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Sadly, the ride wasn't very well attended. Just over 30 riders total. A lot of people cancelled because their horses weren't ready - we've had a really snowy spring. Hearing that was my first clue that perhaps this wasn't the easiest ride I could have chosen.

The trail was pretty simple - 15 miles up into the hills, 15 minute hold at an away check, then 20 miles in a loop around the check, then an hour for lunch, then 15 miles back down to camp. All the ribbons were pink, and there was only a mile or so of overlapping trail! Glory hallelujah. The more colors there are, the more confused my poor overloaded brain gets.

I saw people I'd seen before, but nobody I'd ever talked to before. I made a concerted effort to be outgoing and talk to people. Of course I forgot most of their names, because I'm really terrible with names. Dixie ate well as soon as we got there, and I got her braided up and ate dinner and socialized for a while. There was a considerable amount of drinking going on, but I thought tying one on the night before my first 50 was not in my best interest, so I headed to bed pretty early.

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I woke up at 5:15 and had oodles of time to get myself and Dixie ready. She was quite calm about everything, even though I had to adjust the pastern strap on one of her front boots. I ziptied it on, though. Got her elyted, got my crew box ready and dropped off, then walked her around and let her graze. On the way I heard that the start was delayed a couple minutes - the RM had gone to get a horse for Dave Rabe to ride and was hauling ass back as fast as possible. I waited a few more minutes before I mounted up and started warming up at the walk.

Eventually, we started. I let the frontrunners go, got sucked into mid-pack, and pulled off and let people pass me for a while. We jigged for a mile or so with me wondering what strange sounding but even gait my horse was doing before someone passed me and pointed out that I was missing a boot. We headed most of the way back before we met someone who'd stopped to pick it up - he tossed it to me and kept going. I looped the reins over my shoulder, cut off the ziptie, got the boot seated properly, and amazingly the pastern strap fit exactly like usual. Pro tip: If you're doing something different to one boot all of a sudden, you probably didn't put it on right. Sigh.

Back up and we jigged on away. Dixie fought me like a fish on a line for three and a half miles before she settled in to a nice working walk. Dave Rabe appeared out of nowhere behind me, but he wasn't going much faster than me so we settled in with him. I gave him the Condensed Version of Our Endurance History, and he told me that the horse he was on was out of shape so he was going to ride super slow too.

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That poor mare. Her humans had loaded up the trailers and left her behind on Friday - she was off the hook again! Time to graze and nap in the sun and pin her ears at the other horses. Then Saturday morning, before she even had time to eat breakfast, her human showed back up, shoved her on a trailer, zipped her off to camp, and slapped a human on her back. She was having a Very Bad Day. Her name is Fena, which I only remember because I thought if I bought a Fena I'd rename her Xena.

We trotted up into the foothills. The leading LD's caught us embarrassingly fast.
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It was a good ride for boots. The footing looked like this for a lot of the ride...
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... except for where it was worse.
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We plodded along, up and up and up endlessly. About a mile from the check, we came up to some LD's who were having a Bad Boot Day - one of the horses had gotten cut or rubbed bloody by the screws on one of his easyboots. I tossed her my multitool to get the other front boot off and we hung out til they got ready to walk in to the check. We got in to the check at 10:42 and out at 10:57. Painfully slow - but my horse was eating, drinking, and not too tired.

The second loop was where the utter despair overtook me. We had to climb this epic peak - I think we ended up on the right one in this pic.
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Here's Dixie Valley!
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Baby death-defying trails. Dixie seemed to like to stay in the outside wheel track, so I got to practice breathing, staying centered, and not looking down as we made the switchbacks. It's not like we'd DIE if we tumbled over the edge, we'd just break something.
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On the far side of the peak, we found the ruins of historic La Plata, Nevada. After about 150 years, this is all that's left: a mystery building.
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Dave kept us all moving along as fast as we could (not very). Fena was spectacularly uninspired about the whole ride, and Dixie was going absolutely as fast as she could without overtiring herself. I was just following him to keep him company, because I was pretty sure at that point that we'd go overtime. I mean, we were crawling. We hadn't even done 25 miles and it'd taken like 7 hours. There was just no way we could finish. I couldn't decide whether I should RO and get the Trailer Ride of Shame at lunch, or if I should tough it out and walk my horse in hours overtime in the cold dark stormy night. Eventually, I decided that honor dictated that I do whatever Dave did - he was obviously not going to run my horse into the ground, and he hadn't ditched me even though he almost certainly could've, so the least I could do was not ditch him. Fortunately I hadn't whined any of this out loud, and he said he doesn't even have a computer, so he'll only get a second-hand account of what a pussy I was. :)

He was pretty confident all day that if we kept trotting where we could and walking where we had to that we'd complete. Fena was pitifully starved - you can see from her pictures, rolleyes - and she stopped and snacked often and showed Dixie how it's done.

Both horses drank ok all day, but not quite as eagerly as we hoped. At one point, Dixie drank pretty well at one cattle tank, then couldn't bring herself to drink at the next - it was (gasp!) attached to a working windmill! The next two tanks we found were dry - one was bone-dry, and one was about 4' deep in the ground with a couple inches of scummy water waaaaay down in the bottom. We humans knew that there was a horse trough full of fresh clean water just another mile down the road, but Dixie didn't know that. My heart absolutely broke for her - she was very thirsty, she wanted that little bit of water, and nobody could give it to her. I had to drag her away and kick her to get her moving down the road again. I really hope that experience made an impression on her and she'll drink whatever water she comes across whenever she comes across it now! And yes, when we slogged on down the road to the next tank, she drank very very well.

We got to lunch at three twenty five. Both horses got A's and B's and settled in to eating and drinking like hogs. I will say, the nice thing about being turtle is that you can let your horse eat all the leftovers without a trace of guilt. Dixie disdained her grain, a banana, and an apple, but she ate like half a quart of soaked beet pulp, all the carrots she could find, and a bunch of very fine grass hay. (Normally she hates beet pulp.)

She was clearly not going anywhere, so I just left her parked in a haypile and concentrated on eating my food as fast as I could.
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And socks! I had totally forgotten that I'd packed dry socks - they were absolutely amazing! No pics of my grungy feet, but I did make a face and take a picture of me for yall.
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Fena had her own haypile and she wasn't going anywhere either.
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The last of the volunteers and the last pulled rider headed out as we finished our hold. Dave reassured me that we only had a couple miles of uphill left, then it would be all downhill and we'd absolutely make it in time. Climbing back in the saddle was the physically hardest thing I've done in a long time - my poor butt. Sadly there was nobody left at the check to offer me Vicodin or liquor, so I had some Motrin and some lemon-lime electrolytes and worked through it.

Through the mountains for a couple of miles:
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Then down the valleys:
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One was particularly majestic. I pushed "enhance" on most of these pictures, because the iPhone just doesn't do well with bright skies and dark ground. This one I really played with the levels to bring out the cliff wall - we rode down into the canyon at the base of that cliff. Amazingly beautiful.
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At the last water stop, both mares drank pretty well. You could see camp, the Stillwater lakes, and 20 miles across the valley floor to the mountains by I-80. Sadly, camp doesn't show up on the picture.
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We trotted steadily down out of the hills and onto the valley floor. The trail used to head toward camp, then zigzag away from it down a gully, then head back in. This seems like a cruel and unusual trick to me, and apparently management came to their senses and changed it - the trail still comes off the road, but the gully it goes down now pretty much parallels the road. We popped back on to the road a mile from camp with plenty of time to spare, so we hopped off and walked in.

Both horses were pulsed down at the finish. I very seriously begged Dixie to not limp or flinch and we headed off to get vetted... and we passed! A's and B's. Completion in 11:30 or so. GPS data here.

I started crying while leading Dixie back to the trailer, thinking about what we'd done and what an absolutely amazing mare she is. This is her "I'm done" pose. Standing as far as she can from the trailer, sleeping instead of eating.
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Post-ride and analysis in a separate post - this one is way too long :)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thank you Dixie and Dave Rabe

They got me through our first 50. Dave turtled on an out-of-shape mare with us - he kept us plugging along at just-fast-enough, and he was so convinced that we'd all finish in time that I never quite gave up hope. Dixie just gave me everything she had. She is all heart. I am in tears thinking about what an amazing mare she is!

Thank you to ~C for being a wonderful mentor and getting me to most of these rides, and my infinitely patient husband for being 100% supportive of this utterly incomprehensible obsession. And thank you to all the rest of yall - I could go on like an Oscar winner listing off different categories of friends and why you're awesome, but nobody likes those things (unless Kanye is involved) so I'll cut it short: you all rock.

This is the hardest and most rewarding thing I have ever done.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Off to High Desert

I'm almost ready to leave for High Desert Classic. We're signed up for the 50, and I have a New Detailed Plan for Great Success.

50s start at 7 am, so I'm going to shoot for getting to the 30 mile lunch stop between 1-2 pm. That should give me plenty of time to get back to camp by the 7 pm cutoff - and hopefully, I'll have a lot of horse left and we can get back well before time. ~C says the trail is mostly uphill to lunch, then downhill back to camp, which should work out well for us.

I have packed Desitin and irresistibly delicious alfalfa for my sunburny picky mare. I think I'll give her a half dose of electrolytes shortly after we arrive, as long as she's eating. We'll get there early so she can dig an enormous hole so she'll have lots of time to get used to the excitement of being in camp. I've also got her normal grass hay, bananas, apples, and carrots.

I'm not sure how to bring electrolytes for the 15 mile hold. Right now I'm thinking I'll mix them in a ziplock and carry a syringe. I think carrying a loaded syringe is a recipe for hilarious disaster - does anybody know where to buy empty large-bore syringes with the locking ring, like Bute and dewormer syringes have??

I'm going to sleep in the truck again. I slept ok at the Derby (nightmares notwithstanding) and I don't think I'll be very interested in taking the truck tent down after turtling this ride. (Don't change anything before a ride!) I have lots of people food - cold sliced steak, potato salad, cheese, quiche, Clif Bars, and a chocolate bar. I have new hopefully delicious lemon-lime people electrolytes, and a new liner for the Camelbak. (Yes, I know, that's changing stuff, but the other two liners were broke, so if this one's broke too I'm no worse off.)

The weather should be beautiful - low in the 40s, high in the 70s. I did not pack long underwear! I have a folding chair and a flask of Maker's Mark, so hopefully I won't pace and gnaw my fingernails off tonight.

So: Ride slow. We will both eat and drink. We will finish, hopefully, and get Year One of our very distant Decade Team in the bag.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hay, house, horse

I got a ton of grass hay delivered today. Same stuff I've been feeding, from the same farmer. I traded back four of my five bales of alfalfa mix, too - I'm saving one bale for rides, but there's just no way I'll ever feed up five bales of alfalfa in a year! Much less in three months.

The farmer was perfectly happy to take it back and gave me full credit for it. He's got a real love/hate reputation in the horse community - I've met several people who can't stand him and swear they'll never use him again, but I've had nothing but good experiences with him and his hay. There's one moldy flake about every 10 bales, which seems like a fine ratio to me.

I still had this fall's receipt laying in the barn. My hay went up $.25/bale (100 lb bales) over the winter. Seems fair - if I'd had the money to buy a full year's worth (and wanted to take up that much space in the barn) I'd have saved a little money; as it is he kept it barn-stored all winter and I paid an extra $5. (I'm pretty sure the delivery charge went up, but that's to be expected with $4/gallon gas.)

I also had a realtor/property manager come look at the house. We should be able to rent it out for a tiny profit or a tiny loss, which is ok either way. There aren't a lot of small rental horse properties in Reno, which will help. I need to finish what I'm working on and do a few things I hadn't thought of, but nothing enormous. I'm painting the Dr. Seuss room, and I've primed the trim in the cat room. I need to replace the broken double gates with some new fence, and do something about the deck above where the pool used to be - which will lead to repairing/replacing a section of very rickety fence by that corner of the deck. Right before I vacate, I'll get some carpet cleaner guys in here - they can clean the carpets, stretch the lumpy den carpet, and patch the little hole by the door in the blue bedroom. Of course I have to get the bent garage door panel replaced. And the PM said, gasp, that I should replace the closet doors in the master bedroom!

When we bought the house we were appalled at the 8' sliding mirrored closet doors. We immediately referred to them as the Porn Doors and I had those things down and out before we even moved in. (Redneck admission: they are still leaning up against the side of the house. Keep forgetting to offer them for free on CL or take them to the dump.) I know I took the tracks to the metal recycling place, so there's really no way to reinstall the Original Porn Doors. What a pity. :rolleyes: I will measure the gap and price out sliders or folders at HD and install whatever sounds easiest in a couple months.

So what do you prefer? It's a wide shallow closet, not a full walk-in or a deep narrow closet. Mirrored doors, plain doors, folding doors, no doors - what would you do? We prefer having no doors at all, but maybe that's unusual!


Horse: Dixie is fine fine fine. She is getting curious about why I'm ignoring her. I haven't told her that we're going to try the 50 at High Desert this weekend! She's mostly shed out, and I have a Ride Slow Electrolyte Heavy plan. HD has an away vet check, which might help us - the 50s ride out for 30 miles, eat lunch and vet, then ride back for 20. I think that might work better psychologically for her than riding quite far enough thank you, coming back to camp, and then being expected to leave again. I'm going to keep an eye on my lap speed on the GPS and try to stay around 5.5 average and shoot to get to the lunch check no earlier than 1 pm - there's a shorter hold at 15 miles but I'm not sure for how long.

Since it's all away from camp, Cersei gets to stay home. It would be a very very long boring day for her - she might as well be bored on the couch. M will come by and feed her and check on the rest of the critters.

I have an equine nutrition video to review, but I just haven't had time. If it's cool I'll do a giveaway. I will probably be in the perfect mood to watch it on Sunday!

I have gone back to glamorous work to fuel my extravagant lifestyle of e-rides and broken shit around the house. Yesterday I folded 432 sheets of paper in a very precise fashion. (I didn't actually count, but I was so bored that I did the math to figure it out.) Tomorrow I get to fold more paper! Then a month long paralegal temp thing which I somehow landed even though I refused to work on Friday. Look, money's nice and all, but I have priorities.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Haters gonna hate

I TOTALLY FIXED IT! It was wired right, it's just when I shoved the whole thing in the box some of the wires broke. All the wires from the power side - the ones I twisted, screwed down, unscrewed, then re-screwed. Copper's malleable, but not THAT malleable.

Anyway, I very carefully re-stripped and attached the wires, taped everything down, and gingerly screwed it back together and it totally works. Dixie (who doesn't seem to care whether the fence is off or on) is contained. Her water is iceproof. And I even have a switch so I can saw in the barn without walking out back and unplugging the fence. Booyah!

Why do I do this to myself?

The fence is not back on. As I was whining about the latest string of disappointments to G on IM, he tried to console me by saying he'd still be standing in the living room wondering what to do. I pointed out that he'd be standing in the living room, putting his wallet back up, about $200 poorer, and the fence would be working. I am not a happy camper.

After I showed yall the melted plug, I went to the hardware store and got a new outlet. (Trip 1.)

Well. Here's some pics for Aarene and Jim.

I tied my makeshift fish tape (mason's string) to the cord and pulled it out. Unhooked the cord, hooked up the Romex, pulled really hard for a little while, and realized I'd be totally screwed if the string broke. Headed to Home Depot (2) and purchased a real fish tape and some wire lube (which I totally would've overlooked if Aarene hadn't told me it exists.)

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My inner 12 year old boy was deeply amused by it. Heh heh, heh heh. You said... lube. Heh heh, heh heh.

It was cold today so I put on my TOTALLY AWESOME NEW PURPLE HAT! G got it for me at the Sierra Trading Post outlet and I hadn't had a chance to wear it yet! Have you ever seen anybody so happy to be wearing purple Carhartt?

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Then I lubed up my stiff wire (heh heh, stiff) and pulled it pretty easily through the pipe (heh heh, pipe).

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That was my last great victory and I should've quit for the day right then.

Got the outlet wired up, correctly I think - it's hard to screw them up - then headed in the barn. 100' of extension cord had worked just fine, so I bought 100' of romex. But the extension cord was laying on the ground by the wall, and I tacked the romex up properly in the rafters, so I ran short. I thought I'd be clever and end the 100' piece in another outlet, cause you can't have too many, so back to HD (3) for another 25' of romex, a box, another outlet, and - even more cleverness! a switch.

See, with the Extension Cord Solution, I discovered that I had to unplug the fence to use the saw in the barn. It was mildly annoying. I wanted a switch to switch the fence outlet off and on - plug in the saw, flip the fence switch off, saw stuff, flip the switch back on. It's totally doable. That's why switches exist.

I looked up how to wire it all up on like 5 different sites, and they all agreed, so I wired it up. Ground from the "power" line to the switch ground. A pigtail ground from the switch to the receptacle. Ground from the "fence" line to the receptacle ground.

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Black goes through the brass screws on the switch and over to the brass screws on the receptacle. White from the power line skips the switch and goes to the silver screws on the receptacle. White from the fence line goes to the silver receptacle.

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Black from the switch and black from the fence line on the brass screws.
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I'm pretty sure that's right. It makes sense.

After I took those pictures, I taped both fixtures and went to shove the whole mess in the box. That's when I realized I'd hooked up the power line without bothering to run it through the box. Unscrewed everything. Ran the wire through the box. Hooked everything back up. Breathe deep.

Then I killed the power in the barn, doublechecked it was really truly off at the outlet, and hooked up the "power" line to the last existing outlet. When I turned the power back on, I was delighted to see that the last outlet still worked! I was less delighted to see that the new outlet did not work!

I also realized that the teeny weeny headache I've been rocking for two days is a sinus headache. I decided to quit for the day. Left the barn power off and came in the house. The cable modem was not working.

I figured it was mad because I'd turned off ALL the power while figuring out which fuse controls the barn outlets. Tried all the normal rebooting tricks. Nothing. Stopped to think about it for a minute, then strolled back out to the fuse panel - the barn fuse panel, not the house panel - and calmly flipped the fuse for the barn outlets back on. By the time I made it back in the house, the cable modem was working fine and the internet was back. Nothing surprises me about this house anymore.

I am going to eat dinner then go back out and disassemble the switch thingie and just fucking wire nut the two pieces of romex together in the damn box and call it good. Who cares if you can't use power tools without walking 100' to the fence and unplugging it.

Mystery solved

Here's why the fence is off!





Gotta go get a new plug - for some reason it never occurred to me that the plug might have melted. Rewire it with Romex like I should've done in the first place and I should be good to go.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hot or not?

When I went out to feed this morning, there was ice in the trough. Yeah, it's kinda cold - wait what?!

The deicer was clearly not working. The fence wasn't clicking either, but I'm not stupid enough to touch it to check (and fortunately the critters are also not stupid / pretty content where they are.) The only thing I could think to do pre-coffee was check the fuses. None of them were blown, but I went ahead and flipped them all off and on. No dice.

At least both electrical devices are clearly not working. That means it's something with the outlet by the gate, the (electrical cord) line, or the outlet in the barn. I guess after I drink more coffee and get dressed, I'll check the outlets, and if the outlet in the barn is still functioning, I'll buy some Romex and wire that line in properly. I learned how to pull cable when I put in the line, I've got a voltage tester thingie, and there's lots of lines for me to tie in to.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I forgot about this!

You know how your inbox gets full of crap that you already answered and forgot to archive, or stuff you meant to do, or things that you don't even know why they're still there? No? It's just me? Oh. Well.

I've been paring down the crap in my inbox and when it all fit on one page again I found this Shazam link I made G send me when we were in SF at the Korean BBQ chicken place. The thing about Korean BBQ chicken, it's really fantastic chicken with a really strange sauce and you get all these little pickled veggies but the most important thing you get is SOJU. It tastes like fruit punch but it gets you very oddly drunk very fast. Like sake if sake tasted like watermelon juice.

So I'm slurping down the soju and eating pickled I have no idea what and waiting for my indescribably awesome chicken to come out when the big TV over the bar switches from Starcraft tournaments to some kind of Korean MTV. I'm halfway watching it, talking to G, when THIS VIDEO STARTS and I just stop eating and drinking and talking in mid-syllable to stare.



It's unbelievably weird! It's totally catchy! It's Lady Gaga-esque and we all know how much I love her. (Maybe we don't all know that, but now you know.)

An easy riddle

Terry got it first
Now it's found me too
(Why didn't I write a haiku?)
I hope hers was worst
It seems like such a snafu


(Man I'm an awful poet.)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Another one bites the dust

So last week I got the new section of fence put up. Looks pretty good! I got totally sunburned because it was a totally awesome spring day, too. :) It is my Rite of Spring where I make up for all the vitamin D I didn't get all winter or something.

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I had some materials left, so I returned them. I held back one sack of cement because I had a sinking feeling I was going to need it. I was right - the next day one of the gateposts on the other side of the yard shattered. It looks like it just freakin exploded.

Poor gate :(

You might have to click to embiggen, but all the pinkish-red? That's the inside of the damn post. Totally jacked up. But then Zach popped up on Facebook and was like "hey wanna go to the Derby" and that completely distracted me from my not really fenced backyard.

Today I painted some inside the house and figured out what to do about that gate. There's two other ways to the other part of the property, only a few yards away, but it's a convenient gate so I decided to save the other half of the gate. But then it got windy. I went out to check the mail and FFFFFFFFFFFF THE OTHER GATE IS BROKEN. So I guess that's easy enough - I am not rebuilding gates there, so I'll just go back to Lowes and re-buy fencing materials that I just returned and throw a fence up where the gate used to be.

And check out my awesome redneck cowgirl belt buckle!


I won the buckle at the convention - it's California poppies, from the CSHA. I spent weeks dithering about which belt to buy to go with it, and finally settled on one and got it in the mail earlier this week. It's no Tevis buckle, but it'll do for now. ;)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Derby postmortem

  • The boots were great! I didn't really realize it til I was talking to EG in the comments on her latest boot post.

I've pretty much always had barefoot horses. My first horse, Champ, came to me with shoes on, and I actually tried heavier shoes ("lite shod") the first time I had him reshod. I didn't like it. He didn't magically move better like everyone swore he would. He was clumsy as a drunk sailor, and he slipped on pavement - and to get anywhere, we had to get across a four lane divided highway and a couple hundred feet down a quiet road. So I had his shoes pulled, watched the (not particularly good) farrier nip and rasp, read absolutely everything on the internet, and started trimming his feet myself. One horse turned into four, and I had all their shoes pulled when I got them. They all quit tripping, quit slipping in the mud, and quit sliding around on asphalt. They were all a bit footy on gravel, but fine on dirt where we did 99% of our riding.

Dixie was the only one left when I moved to Reno. She was slightly hesitant on gravel, but she had a mediocre farrier working on her in Ohio. I got with my current Best Trimmer In The World and after a hoof cycle she got really extraordinarily sound on rocks. Eventually, after hundreds of miles of riding on sand and gravel at whatever speed she was comfortable at, I decided I was wearing her feet to nubs and tried out a few styles of boots. I ended up going with Renegades, because they work well for her hoof shape and they're Not Made In China. But I never really liked them. Because I'd started without boots, with a horse not adapted to mountain life, I let her make the decision to slow down on iffy footing. We did so many miles that way that I really started to trust her about that, before I ever trusted her about anything else. She didn't have a good chance to get used to moving in boots because she was so astonishingly sound without them, so she never moved as well in boots as she did bare.

I was bound and determined to boot for the Derby, and I did. I very patiently got all four Renegades on her and off we went. She moved out pretty well in them early on (I guess she's finally getting used to them) so I quit thinking and worrying about them, and she was just fine. She scrambled up and down some pretty steep slopes on the first loop, including that puckering descent down the smooth gravel boulders. No rubs, no gait changes, and only an incidental amount of sand in the boots when I took them off.

  • I did ok taking care of myself. Not stellar like at Rides of March, but I knew I was only going 25 miles. (Yes, it still seems weird to me that I can say "only 25 miles" with a perfectly straight face.)

I used my Camelbak liner, and again it frustrated me to no end. I alternate between the Camelbak liner and the knockoff Wal-mart liner, and they both make me mad and neither one works worth a damn. The knockoff sometimes quits working for no reason at all (like at ROM), and the Camelbak has a pinhole or something and you suck half air half water. Gulp burp gulp burp. I guess it takes your mind off of the miles when you're constantly annoyed at and fiddling with your water, but I'd love to switch to something easy. Not water bottles, I'm bad at those - I'm just going to buy a new Camelbak liner or a different knockoff brand.

I used my same weird hippie human electrolytes. I was really hardcore primal when I found these ("no sugar at all under any circumstances!") and I've gotten used to the strange taste. Now I'm less hardcore and I keep meaning to try other brands, but it's kind of easier to stick with what works.

I cheated on saddlebag food and just brought two of the bars I like. Again, I found them when I was in a "no unnatural foods under any circumstances!!" phase, but now I'm used to them. They are legitimately tasty - but on a really cold ride, they're quite hard to eat. Usually I try to bring some more normal food, but again, ehhhh it was only 25 miles.

I remembered to slather on the anti chafing goo and I think it did work. My thighs were noticeably less irritated and puffy. My calves never get irritated because I have the good sense to ride in a saddle with cordura fenders, not those silly leathers yall all like so much. ;)

  • I really need to buy my very own Myler curb bit. I've been using one I borrowed from Dressage in Jeans for like a month now and OMG I loffs it so much!

I know. I used to be such a snaffle purist. I feel like a dirty cheater slapping a curb in my horse's mouth to rate her. But there's so much less pulling! She can feel when I raise my hand vertically off the pommel, and most of the time she'll rate off of that. If she's particularly determined to forge ahead faster, I can just vibrate the reins and she instantly slows down! It's a competition (even if I'm not competing), not a schooling session. Maybe as we both get more experienced, I can start subsequent loops in a snaffle and do some lateral work on the wider bits of trail... but for now, lateral snaffle work is strictly an at-home thing and I'm delighted to have a loose rein horse going the speed I say.

  • Speaking of going at the speed I say, I am finally starting to get a tentative feel for rating my horse. I did the first loop of the Derby faster than I should've - but that's in retrospect. I did the first loop at the speed I felt was right, not the speed we just happened to go. And the second mini-loop, I decided on a pace before I remounted and by god we went that pace.

  • Screw the sunburn, I'm bringing alfalfa next time. I think she's perhaps starting to get the hang of eating and drinking. I will baby her and cater to her every whim. If she wants to eat Honeycrisp apples and leafy green alfalfa at vet checks, then that's what she'll get. I'll bring even more kinds of hay and different fruits next time. And Desitin. And maybe I'll order some Horse Quencher.

  • Dixie's certainly not sleek yet, but she's mostly shed out. I'm not quite so worried about the heat at this point.




I think we're in pretty good shape. I'm sure I learned some more lessons, but that's all I can think of tonight. Maybe there'll be a Postmortem Part 2 if I think of anything else worth adding!

And here we go, life's waiting to begin



Here's the other big news: I'm moving to California. G asked me to come out, so I am, sometime this summer. I'll pack up the stuff, the dog & cats, and the horse, and we'll all traipse off to rent a house in Dublin or Pittsburg, some place at the end of a BART line. I'm selling the lil mini goats now, before I get any more attached to them. The chickens will go shortly before I move, and I'll give Billy back to his former owner.

We'll rent out the house here. The sales market is utterly dismal, but it should rent well. We'll move back in 5 years or so, and either move back in here or (hopefully!) buy something a little further out, maybe in Palomino Valley now that I've ridden out there and fallen in love. ;)

There. Now that I've told you, you'll understand if I get maudlin about my beautiful high desert in some posts, or if I get sick of the stupid wind and sand in other posts.

Dixie news: She was sleepy and tired on Sunday, pretty perky on Monday, and completely back to her old self yesterday. I feel ok about asking her to do a 50 next weekend. God I hope it's warm enough to give her a quick bath the Friday before the ride! Right now I'm leaning toward NOT taking Cersei - the vet check (for the 30 and the 50) is out of camp, so Cers would be all alone ALL DAY.

Nevada Derby

We went, we saw, we ... well, ok, all we did was finish. No grand ass-kicking involved. But I'm delighted!

The ride is just 20 miles north of Reno, near Palomino Valley. It's only about 15 miles from my house as the horse trots, but a good 30 miles by paved road. Dixie's never quite been all the way to Winnemucca Ranch Road, so thankfully she wasn't sure where "home" was and didn't try to convince me to "let's just go home now."

We'd planned on staying for two days, but ended up coming home Saturday. The Sunday 15 mile ride was cancelled, the weather turned iffy, and Zach's horse Bo got pulled with a cramp halfway through his ride. Huge bummer for him (and trust me, I know exactly how heartbreaking it is!) but at least Bo bounced right back and is a happy camper again.

Dawn at camp

WRR is in a really lush green valley, at least compared to my blasted wasteland to the south. There was a stream! We crossed it several times and rode beside it for miles. Ridecamp is in someone's pasture, I can't remember their names but they're awesome people to let HORDES of trailers park there. It was covered in the strangest green stuff, not brown stuff or thorny stuff or sand. Is that really what "grass" looks like?

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Cersei was extremely annoying. I carefully loaded the truck, inside and out, got Cers' new harness and old collar on, and left her tied to the outside of the truck til Zach and His Mom got there. Dixie loaded quite well in their 3h, and I loaded the dog and followed them out to where Bo is boarded for the winter, just a couple miles from ridecamp. We pulled in and I jumped out to see if I could help load Bo. Bo does not approve of riding in the rear slot. We ended up unloading Dixie and loading Bo in the second slot, then loading Dixie in the third slot. Then we jumped back in the vehicles to roll the last couple miles to camp.

That's when I discovered that Cersei had dived over the seats into the back, crashed into the tray of chocolate cupcakes I'd bought for the potluck, eaten one, and dived calmly back into the front seat. She might have gotten away with her perfidy for a few more minutes, except she smeared chocolate frosting absolutely everywhere. Frosting on my sleeping bag bag, on the comforter, on my pillow, on my box of tangerines, on all the front seats, all the way up to where the backseats were folded up.... arrrrggggh. I was rather short tempered with her all weekend for that. At least it made a good story as I wandered around camp talking to various officials looking for a trash can!

Dixie vetted in fine. A lot of the gaited riders I know from the gaited lists spend a lot of time worrying about vets, bitching about vets, and stressing about the "trot" part of trot-out. I am pretty sure that West is the Best because the vets here have never given me any grief about Dixie's gaits at trot-outs. Last year when we were really new, they'd look a little befuddled if I forgot to tell them she's a TWH, but now they vaguely remember us. (Being a distinctive Holstein of a horse pays off, I guess.) Dr. McCartney doesn't even ask us to trot out, she just say "ok go do your thing."

If you've done the Derby before, the route this year was different. We got a lot of snow this winter and the runoff left the usual trail a pretty muddy mess. This year's trail went through the foothills parallel to Winnemucca Ranch Road, turned around near the ranch, and came back down the road to camp. The 50 milers' second loop went around a mountain (where it's gone before in the past), and the third/second loop was just 5 miles on dirt roads in a short loop around camp.

I knew a few more people at this ride, and I'd pretty randomly camped right next to Meredith and John Mayeroff, who help out/RM at Rides of March and at NEDA rides. They were glad to see me trying again. I rearranged my stuff in case it rained overnight, tied Dixie to the truck, and headed to chocolatey bed with my most beloved wonderful puppy. At least she did her job well and kept the inside of the truck noticeably warmer overnight. I slept rather poorly - I had not one but two vivid nightmares about Dixie being horribly maimed. I was really glad to wake up at 5:40, even though it was way earlier than I needed to be up.

Overnight, Dixie drank a little water and made a huge mess of her hay. I had plenty of time to very slowly and patiently tack up, braid her mane, dose her up with electrolytes, and even get all four boots on. I started on time and settled in with some medium-pace riders - a pair of ladies from Loomis, a lady on a bitchy black mare, and a guy on a superbly behaved stallion belonging to Tinker Hart. He told us the horse was a stallion about 6 miles into the first loop, and none of us had any idea, before or after, that the horse was a stud based on its behavior.

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The first half of the loop had pretty much all the climbing there was for the LD. My schizophrenic GPS says it was somewhere between 1500-2000' of rise, depending on which program I use to look at its actual data. Who knows! Not very hilly for Nevada, anyway.

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The five of us leapfrogged along pretty companionably for the whole first loop. There was one "oh god I'm really going to die" moment, but it was over too fast for me to get really scared (or get a picture!) The guy and I were walking up to the top of a hill, a little ways behind the ladies from Loomis. One of them got off to lead her horse for some reason, and the other disappeared over the hill mounted, so we didn't get off. We crested this little hill and there was a ridiculously steep rock slope straight down about 30'. Seriously, it was a 45-50 degree slope. It looked like there was a path in the sandy dirt between the suitcase-sized rounded granite boulders. The stud started down, and Dixie looked at it and felt confident about it, so I waited a horse-length, told her to be careful, and let her pick her way down. Halfway down the slope, we ran out of dirt and the horses had to step onto a huge slanted boulder to keep going down. I realized if I was going to die, at least it'd been fun, and there was absolutely no way out of it, so I just groaned and leaned back a bit and before I knew it she was safely across it and down. The three mounted riders agreed that the girl who'd gotten off was clearly the sensible one.

The 25s turned around a couple miles before the 50s did. We had water and hay at a pleasant spot where the stream crossed under the road. There was an acute shortage of Saturday volunteers, so they'd left us a clipboard and a watch and asked us to sign in for a 10 minute hold. The five of us signed in and tried to get our horses to eat and drink. One of the other horses drank pretty well, but most of them were like Dixie and insisted they were neither hungry nor thirsty. Two guys on mules arrived about 7 minutes in to our hold.

The first half of the ride back was just lovely. The little creek burbled alongside the road, and there was green everywhere and big puffy clouds. I let Dixie stretch out and do her thing - she'd do her smooth fast trot, she'd rack, and she'd pace.
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See the little ranch up ahead in this picture? I want this place. I need to win the lottery so I can convince the owners to sell it to me. And it had the biggest cottonwoods - no, actually, the biggest trees, period, I've ever seen in my life. They were six feet across if they were an inch. They were mostly dead and only about 20' tall, but my god they were massive. I seriously could've hidden my horse in them if they were hollow. I was too busy gaping to get a picture, sorry!

Look at the little creek!

We came down out of the end of the valley only to discover that they'd moved ridecamp. We saw a tiny speck of white on the horizon and decided that must be camp and our GPS's must be lying, but as we slooooowly got closer we realized it was a different ranch. Then we passed that ranch and rode for miles and miles through a bunch of road we were sure we'd never seen before. Finally, hours and hours (ok, fine, minutes and minutes) later we really did see ridecamp and our hateful lying GPS's were proven to be right all along. That incredibly long stretch was the only really awful boring part of the ride, honestly.

My friends from Loomis zoomed off ahead, and the mules came out of nowhere and passed us all. I'd slowed Dixie down quite a bit - maybe I shouldn't have let her zip off after the turnaround, ooops. Stallion guy stayed near me most of the time, and we came up on Meredith and I rode with her for a bit. Eventually we rolled on into camp for our 50 minute lunch.

Dixie looks like a hobo's yak in this picture. I swear, endurance is the sport of tying as much random crap on a dirty horse as possible, then riding til you chafe your thighs raw.
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Dixie vetted ok, with a few B's reflecting her lack of eating and drinking. Then back to the trailer where I spent 45 minutes trying to convince her to eat or drink anything, with absolutely no success. She didn't want dry grain, wet grain, bananas, tangerines, hay, or very many carrots. She was super pissed when I electrolyted her again, and even more pissed when I rinsed her mouth out with water. I scarfed down some real food, curried a little of the dried sweat mud crap off of her, and we headed out again for the last 5 miles.

I admit, I didn't think she was going to drink. I thought this was a repeat of our dismal ROM showing. But I also thought that 5 more easy flat miles wouldn't hurt anything, and dammit at least we could complete a stupid LD. We headed off on the easy final loop, where I cruelly made her move out at a decent pace instead of letting her wander along at 2.5 mph screaming at the horses in the distance.

~22 miles, ears still up!

She felt pretty good. Tired but not exhausted. I knew we could/should do the last loop in about an hour, so that's what we did. The gentle breezes had picked up and giant clouds were rolling across the valley - both in the air, making big shadows, and dust clouds on the valley floor.

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We caught back up to the Loomis riders along the last leg of the loop, and a guy I hadn't seen before joined us. Not sure if he was a 50 or a 25. He was an "about to complete", either way, so we all walked in. We saw burros, and some people in a big chuckwagon with a four Clydesdale hitch, and some wicked devil cows.

We didn't stop at the truck, just headed straight to the P&R people to pulse in for our final time. We did all stop at the water tank, and she drank! She drank like drinking water was her job! Then we wandered over to P&R, got our finish time, and headed back to the truck to untack for the last vet check. Zach had to chase us, and I called her a cow, but she did some kind of intermediate speed soundly and vetted ok.

Dixie found some delicious oat hay on the way back to the truck, so I handed her off to Zach's Mom and stowed all my gear and petted my almost-forgiven dog. We all stood around and talked and let her eat for a while, then we loaded her up and headed home.

Other People's Hay is always better

Next ride: High Desert Classic, two weeks. Gonna try a VERY SLOW 50 with LOTS OF ELECTROLYTES.

Friday, April 1, 2011

The comments thing

I turned on comment moderation because I am apparently enough of an internet celebrity to attract the attention of internet casinos and incomprehensible Russian comment spammers. To make up for it I turned off the word verification. :) Now, if I can only figure out how to publish comments from my phone, we'll be set.

Should I bring mint juleps?

We're going to the Derby! No, not the one back east, the Nevada Derby. Zach and his mom are coming to pick up Dixie this afternoon, and I'll follow them in my truck. Zach is planning on vetting in, then taking Bo back to his boarding place a couple miles away and going home for the night. I am going to make this a teaching & camping opportunity for all three of us.

Three, you say? Yeah, I'm gonna bring Cersei. I'd love for her to be a good camping buddy so she might as well start getting used to it. She's good about being tied to the truck for hours, and she's very warm, and everybody loves a little dog.

Dixie and I will do the 25 on Saturday, then maybe the 15 on Sunday or maybe we'll just trail ride. I'm not sure if it's worth the extra $25 to do a second (short) formal ride.

Of course the weather is turning awful for Saturday and Sunday. I spent this week demolishing and hauling away the pool, then rebuilding the fence that blew down, and it was so lovely out that I actually got sunburned! But no, of course there's snow forecast for Saturday night, ffffffffff! (Ok, fine, it's "snow showers" forecast, but still. I don't think they meant "April snowshowers bring May flowers.")

C and I are planning on a 50 at the High Desert Classic in two weeks, so I think 2 days of easy riding this weekend will be good for Dixie. And drinking. Two days of drinking.

I am so far behind on yall's blogs I have no idea how I'll ever catch up, but when I get home Sunday I'll try. And I have more Stuff to Tell You but 1) it's April Fools so you should be rightfully skeptical of anything you read and 2) I need to finish laundry, finish cleaning the house*, go to lunch, and try to clean my horse.

*I have discovered that the secret of camping/e-riding when you're the only occupant of the house is to make the house as clean and full of food as possible before you leave. It's really quite nice to come home and beg your SO to bring you something to eat while you lay on the couch, but if that's not an option, the next best thing is to have a well stocked fridge and clean laundry.