Thursday, March 21, 2013

Free book!

If you haven't gotten a copy yet, Laura Crum's second book is free on Amazon til Friday! It's a great read, with Real Horses and a smart vet heroine.

And if you don't have a Kindle, no worries - you can read it on the computer or on your smartphone. Click while the clicking is good!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Rides of March 2013: Curses, Foiled Again

We came, we saw, a virus kicked my ass.

I started feeling a little off on Thursday and I wondered if I was getting sick. But there wasn't much point in canceling - I was already out the money for the ride entry, plus the health cert and Coggins. And the weather was going to be perfect for once!

Friday I woke up a little snotty and congested, but I headed out anyway. Dixie and I pulled in to ridecamp about 3 and I got camp set up pretty quickly. By the time the sun dipped behind the ridge of mountains to the west, I felt terrible. I checked with ride management - no changes from last year's trail - and skipped the meeting to go to bed early.

Saturday morning I felt utterly wretched. The low had dipped to freezing overnight and there was a skin of ice on all the water buckets, and the last thing I wanted to do was get on a horse. Especially a really hot fit tall horse. I told myself I'd ride the first loop - twenty miles - then pull, and I found a mounting block and clambered up on the Princess.

Since this is the first ride of the season, my endurance habits are pretty rusty. Somehow, I forgot the crupper entirely. And while I'd remembered to turn on the GPS (which lives strapped to the saddle) before I got on, it wasn't til I was up on Dixie that I realized it had "blue screened." Instead of the usual screen, it was displaying about ten lines of impossibly tiny text. My horse was so hot that I couldn't take a hand off the reins long enough to reboot it for ten miles.

I rode out with L, a guy I've seen a lot at NEDA rides, but never deliberately ridden with before. He was on a shaggy grey grade gelding who was just as fired up as Dixie. We kept the horses at a dull roar through the first few miles (down the hills and through the cow trail beside the road), and about halfway across the flats, they finally started to settle down.


The sun came up and I managed to get a hand off the reins long enough to take a few pics. Things were less awful. We went up into the lower parts of these hills, then cut northwest (left) along the hills, then back down into the flat again. I got off and jogged the one long downhill stretch and got back on easily enough.

Dixie was pulling hard for about fifteen miles. At the water at Five Mile she finally drank a bit and settled in to work with me. We came roaring back into camp at just after 10 am. We'd done 20 miles in three hours: faster than I usually ride, and faster than she can sustain forever, but not dangerously fast.


Dixie was almost down immediately. She must've been at 62 or something - the P&R guy stayed glued to her barrel while I sternly instructed her to slow her heart down and she came down within a minute. The first vet check was tack-on and she got B's for mouth stuff (capillary/mucous) and A's for everything else. I had a 20 minute hold, which isn't time enough to do anything but pee and put a crupper on.

I still felt pretty good when we headed out for the second loop. The second loop is, I think, the hardest - it's fifteen miles with a lot of climbing, a lot of descending, and a lot of views. It goes past the tanker, which always scares horses who haven't seen it before.

But Dixie's pretty blase about it now.

And here's where I ran out of juice and decided I'd probably have to pull.

We'd worked our way along that road in the side of the hill and come to a cow tank. It was dry, but I wanted to check Dixie's saddle and it was a good remounting block, so I slithered off. I yanked her saddle loose, poked her withers a bit, tied the saddle back down, and almost cried when I had to climb up on the edge of the cow tank. My knees hurt so badly! Hell, my everything hurt. I flung myself back on my poor horse and we trudged on. We were halfway through with the loop, so I might as well finish it out and see if I perked up after lunch.

After you work your way along the side of the hills, you follow a canyon down to the little residential community, then (immediately! cruelly! "why did I go down this damn hill if you're just going to make me go back up it!") go back up to the plateau where you started. I usually get off and lead down the long canyon, but I knew there's no good rocks or stumps or even ditches at the bottom. Saturday, I knew if I got off my horse, I wouldn't be able to get back on. I had to ride endlessly down the canyon, then endlessly up the next canyon over.

All the dolomite had funny messages for Dave Rabe. He's a hosebag, if you were wondering.

Dixie didn't do a stellar job of taking care of herself, but I sure wasn't able to help her. She eventually started drinking, but she didn't want to eat in camp, and she thrashed her head like an angry metal fan all morning.

I was pretty sure the saddle was bothering her, and I knew that riding poorly down steep hills wasn't helping the saddle thing. When we finally made it back to camp, I told L I was probably going to pull. Dixie pulsed down right away and I staggered back to my camp to pull her tack. I sat down to catch my breath, but ten minutes of staring at nothing didn't make me feel any better. The lights were on, but I wasn't home.

I led Dixie to the vet and told her I thought Dixie was ok but I was done for, and to please check Dixie's back because I thought the saddle didn't fit anymore. Karen vetted Dixie out ok (B's for mouth stuff, I think, and B for muscles) and agreed with me. I thought she'd be sore behind her withers, where that huge bulgy new muscle is, but Dixie was actually only reactive further back. Right where a great clumsy oaf's weight rests. Poor horse.

We headed back to the truck. I took care of Dixie - god knows how long it took me to do fifteen minutes worth of horse tasks, but eventually she was set up to my satisfaction. I flopped down in the warm truck and soaked up the sun like a lizard. I checked in with my husband, checked on Dixie a few times, and pretty much tried not to move for the rest of the day.

Gotta give a shout-out to L for being such good company! He did finish the ride (and came to check on me Saturday night and Sunday morning). Hopefully we'll do it again at Washoe and both get our completions!

When I woke up Sunday, I felt quite a bit better. We rolled slowly back over the Sierras. I think she looks quite good after a lovely 35 mile training ride.

The funny thing is that I'm not mad or upset. I tried as hard as I could, within the circumstances. I absolutely gave it my all. My husband thinks that I'm a perfectionist, but I'm not a ~results-oriented~ perfectionist. More of an ~effort-based~ perfectionist. Did I prepare and try to the fullest extent possible? Then I've done enough.

Now my poor husband is sick. I have bounced back almost completely - I'm still coughing a bit, but I feel great. My woah-dammit muscles were very sore on Sunday, and my quads were still a little creaky Monday, but as soon as I quit coughing I'm going to resume exercising. Hopefully I can get a different saddle very soon and start logging some miles in it, and we'll go onwards toward Washoe Valley in May!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

2013 AERC convention

I'm back home from the convention!

First things first: on Wednesday I decided I just couldn't go to Reno with stupid brown hair, so I went blonde. Except... it ended up pretty orange.
Accidental orange

I almost said fuck it and bought purple dye, but my husband (who was a big fan of the purple idea) said the orange didn't look half bad at all so I rocked that.

So I drove to Reno. The weather was overcast, but there was no snow til most of the way up Donner Pass, and then it was just light flurries. I made it over safely and met up with Ashley, Aarene, and the American Trail Gals. We all piled into the truck and headed into downtown Reno for Basque food.

(Side note: How Nevada is it of me to admit that I never ate Basque when I lived there, but I *did* have Picon Punch at an endurance event two years ago?)

The vendors had to go back to work, but Aarene and I played hooky and I showed her a little bit of south Reno - we drove down the new 580 thing to the Bowers Mansion exit, then looped back up old 395. It's very much the opposite of her Swamp, but I think she saw what appeals to me about it! ;)

There's new weird public art.
New art at McCarran and Virginia

And we went to the Sierra Trading Post outlet and I found a mis-sized deeply discounted VERY PURPLE ski coat. I bought it as Rides of March insurance - just in case the weather went south!
Purple parka!

Convention hotels are great places to people-watch. This is a pretty bad cell-phone-thru-windshield pic, but I must share it with you. Yes, the one girl is wearing pink ribbons on her thighs and black furry legwarmers.

I have to admit that in general, I did a horrible job of photodocumenting things, so most of the rest of this entry is just words.

I really wanted Reno sushi, which is quite good. (And that's coming from someone who lives and eats in San Francisco!) Lucy, Mel, Merri, Sanne, Ashley, Aarene, and four other non-bloggers joined us in an absolute feast. It was wonderful.

Then the sensible people went to bed, and I started drinking with two of the non-bloggers, because sometimes I must live up to the title of my blog. We put away a lot of beer (and one mixed drink) while talking about our horses until THREE AM. Then I staggered off to bed until almost 7.

So Friday I wasn't the sharpest tack in the box. I went to the Rider Biomechanics talk with Donna Snyder-Smith, but as always happens with those kind of things, it just left me sort of depressed and fatalistic. Things like that start with all the ways I'm damaging my horse by riding poorly, then a bunch of things not to do, with very little advice on what to do. To ride properly, one shouldn't put weight in the stirrups, or grip with the legs, or sit too heavily, and I'm not sure how the hell to sit without doing any of those things! But she did give us a bunch of moves to help open up the pelvis and increase balance, and they all reminded me of yoga poses, so I'm just going to do more yoga.

Then I participated in the Endurance 101 seminar. Merri and I took turns doing trot-outs with stick horses. I was the good horse and she was the good trotter-outer and we pranced lightly in front of everyone, then we switched. I was the bad trotter-outer and she was a terrible no-good horse - I looked at her, popped the reins, lost control, all the mistakes you usually make learning to trot out. It was tons of fun!

I spent a lot of time hanging out at the American Trail Gear / Endurance 101 booth. I meant to go do more stuff, but people I knew kept wandering by. I think I helped talk a few people into buying the book. Yes, it's for new riders (and there were a good handful of hopeful endurance riders at the convention), but it's a good loaner book too. If you have your thousand miles, you probably don't need it - but it's that book you loan out to that friend who thinks she might want to try endurance.

Mainly, I had so much fun hanging out with new and old friends. I am pretty quiet about my horse and endurance in my normal life - I will tell people I ride endurance, and I'll show off cell phone pics of my princess, but it's just not the same with non-horse people. We stayed up way too late talking about the ridiculous ways we've acquired horses, and the stupid things we've done with horses, and who's available to crew for what rides.

I bought exactly what I intended to buy: tights, a breastcollar, a crupper, and some bits and pieces. The tights are black with sparkly silver racing stripes down the sides, and you will see them in the ROM pics next week.

The breastcollar and crupper are a truly fabulous blue, and even more importantly, they have stainless steel rings - no more green marks from sweat + brass.
New tack!

They look great with my purple bridle and halter.
Pile o' tack

That's a real store-bought sponge on a string - no more ghetto homemade sponge! I also got a couple of new elyte syringes, a new squeeze bottle, and some strips of fleece to braid in Dixie's mane. They should soak up more water and help keep her neck wet and cool. I almost pulled the trigger on some ice boots, but I wanted to stay on budget. I'll get ice boots (and new Gloves, and maybe possibly a new saddle) in April.

I sat in both kinds of Specialized Saddles at the trade show, and they feel about the same to me. They sit very similar to my current saddle, so I think it'll be about as comfortable for me, and I can change the shims to make it fit Dixie better as she gains (and, inevitably, loses) muscle. So I think that's what I'll shoot for, but I wasn't ready to buy that weekend.

I've got a ride plan for the season, but I'm oddly hesitant to write it down for the world to see, so we'll just start with Rides of March and see how it goes from there. I think Dixie will do okay. When I got home from the convention, I put all her new gear on and took her for a short ride to make sure it fits ok, and she was fit and feisty.

The Reno weather looks outstanding for this weekend: low in the upper 30s on Friday night, then highs near 70 on Saturday. The ride is officially full! Red Rocks is one of my favorite areas and I'm really excited to get back out there. All I have to do is gather up a thousand bits and pieces of horse and human gear and get them packed away today and tomorrow. Ugh, the first ride of the season takes so much packing!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

My new year starts in March

Hey, yall. I feel like I haven't had anything to say, so I haven't said anything lately. But the long dreary winter of my discontent is finally fading away and life's about to be fun again.

Dixie and I have been climbing hills. (My new iPhone is awesome at most things but dear god it really sucks at taking motion shots.)

We go up a hill, then I hop off and we run down together, then I clamber back on and ride back up. Repeat, over and over again. Doing all those hills - combined with the awesome barn guys actually feeding my horse - has improved her conditioning somewhat.

October of last year:

Early February - filling out, but still very fuzzy:
Feb 8 '13

Early March:
March 1 '13
March 1 '13

With endurance, as with all things horse, it's just one damn thing after another. Dixie and I have worked hard to do all those hills, and it's obviously paid off - except that now her saddle doesn't fit so great anymore. She's filled out a lot and it's not quite wide/flared enough in the shoulders anymore. Our first ride is in less than two weeks, so there's no changing saddles now, even if finances allowed.

The AERC convention is next weekend, so I'll be doing a lot of window shopping there. I am leaning toward a Specialized, just so I can shim it to fit her properly - I just need to figure out what size/type *I* like. They're not terribly hard to find used, and they hold value well enough that I wouldn't really mind buying one new if I had to.

In other shameful news, I finally picked up a rasp. I hadn't trimmed Dixie since last year. Awful, I know, but she wasn't growing a ton of wall and we were doing all our miles barefoot. But I finally decided to cram her feet in her boots, and I had to whack off some toe and heel to make it happen. The boots still fit! I think I will order a Fit Kit before I buy new boots, just to test out 0's and 1's too, but I think she's still a 0.5 all around.

One more conditioning ride tomorrow and I'm done. I don't know if Dixie's ready for a 50, but I'm out of time so it'll have to do. There's rain coming in on Tuesday, then I leave for Reno on Thursday. We'll just do some light work next week, then I'll pack the trailer and haul back for Rides of March on the 16th!

Hoof pics, if you care to see them. Reminder: her heels are always contracted, no matter what, from the shoes and stacks when she was a yearling. When I say her frogs and heels look good for Dixie, I know they look awful in comparison to normal horses, but it is what it is with her. :)

No, I didn't take any after I trimmed. I just took her heels down level with her frogs and knocked her toes way back to the white line and called it good enough for now.