Monday, June 3, 2013

2013 Tevis Educational Ride, The Talks

So Friday I loaded up the usual assortment of junk and headed up to Foresthill for the Tevis Educational Ride.  I learned so much and I cannot recommend it more highly.  Yes, it's expensive - $300 for two days, and you don't even get AERC miles.  But it's absolutely worth it.

Just in case you're reading this, but you're not an endurance person - Tevis is the original endurance ride.  It goes from Lake Tahoe to Auburn, CA, down through the western Sierras.  It's one hundred miles, and you have 24 hours to complete it.  It's brutal and epic and a life goal for a surprising number of people.  Year to year, only about 50% of the starters complete the ride successfully.

I have volunteered/crewed Tevis every year (thanks, C, for dragging me to them!) since we moved to the area, so I had some idea what to expect, but I'd never ridden a mile of the trail before.  The Ed Ride breaks down the last two-thirds of the trail into two days:  one day to ride from Robinson Flat to Foresthill, and one day to ride from Foresthill into Auburn.

I camped and rode with my friend Wayne (featured in Washoe, Red Rocks, and a NEDA ride the year before that), and he befriended the RM and got us a gaited mentor.  Not just any gaited mentor, either; we got Becky Lange.  She's attempted Tevis four times and completed it three times on her amazing little KMSH, Mocha Jack - always finishing quite well, in 11th place in 2011!  But she's not a racer; she usually does multidays on him.  A perfect mentor for our goals!

I'm gonna break this post up into The Talks and The Ride:

There were speakers both nights, and honestly, I was kinda of whatever about listening to speakers.  I'm a visual learner; I've read tons of articles and ride stories about Tevis; and I only showed up to let my horse learn the trail.  But the speakers were absolutely the added value that made the weekend more than worth the price!

I left the ride packet in the trailer, so I know I'm going to forget something, but here's my best guess at remembering what I learned from the speakers:

Kevin Myers was there from Easycare.  He talked about boots and said the same thing I tell people:  boots work great if you're physically and mentally able to commit to them.  You have to be able to touch up the trim yourself, even if you have a great trimmer coming every six weeks.  It's not that hard if you're able-bodied, but I could see how if you have arthritis, for example, you'd just use shoes.

A successful racer talked about how to maximize your placing, but once I figured out he was a racer I kinda quit listening, to be totally honest.  A lot of the advice that applies to people trying to top-ten will only hurt people who are just trying to complete.

Rob Lydon, a local vet/RM, talked about the four most common pulls they see at Tevis and what we the riders can do to try to prevent them.  In no particular order:

  1. Wounds.  Just hope your horse doesn't trip on a rock.
  2. Colic.  Keep them eating to keep the guts active, make sure they calm down at vet checks.  Horses, like all mammals, divert blood flow from the innards to the run-fast muscles when they get amped up on adrenaline, and if they run in a state of anxiety for too long their guts shut down and they colic.  They need to move calmly down the trail, eating snacks, and they must eat pretty much the whole time at the vet checks.  
  3. Thumps (synchronous diaphragmatic flutter).  When horses get hot, they sweat.  Sweating depletes electrolytes in the body, and if the horse gets too depleted, ~something I don't understand~ happens with the nerves by the heart and it triggers the diaphragm to contract.  You can see the flank twitch; apparently it's very distinctive once you've seen it before.  Make sure the horse is conditioned for the exercise and heat and give the right amount of electrolytes.
  4. Tying up (exertional rhabdomyolysis).  Another too-hot too-much-exercise problem.  This is another one where I don't think I'm qualified to explain what's happening inside the horse, but what the rider will see is a bitchy horse that doesn't want to move, is obviously in pain, and has hard cramping muscles instead of jello-soft squishy muscles.  And it's another one that can be prevented (sometimes) with adequate conditioning and the right amount of electrolytes.
The bitch of it is that the right amount varies from horse to horse and from day to day, and there's no way on the trail to be sure that you're giving enough electrolytes, but not too much and not the wrong balance of sodium and potassium.  And that's why we have vet checks, and why there are so many vet checks at Tevis - none of these problems (other than massive wounds, of course) are particularly terrible if they're caught early and treated with fluids promptly.  But they'll kill your horse dead if you keep cowboying down the trail.  

And a woman whose name I didn't write down talked about massage.  I was really not interested in the massage talk; I figured it'd be another of those you're a horrible person if you don't get your horse regular massages from a certified massage therapist lectures.  I already know I'm a horrible person for not getting my horse regular massages, chiropractic sessions, TENS treatments, and aquatherapy; additionally, I'm a horrible person for not keeping her in regular dressage training and supplementing her feed with various herbs and drugs.  I get it.  I'm awful.

But that's not what she said.  She told us one little anecdote about how she saved her ride with massage - back in the 90s, she finished the ROC and got rained on waiting to vet out.  The horse cramped and showed as grade 3 lame.  The vet said you've got 45 minutes to try to work out this cramp, come back before then.  She went in a barn out of the rain, massaged her horse for 20 minutes and loosened him up, and went back out to vet through and get her completion.  Then she showed us exactly what she did, and told us the book to buy.  She also said T-touch is helpful, so I'm going to look into that even though it seemed a little woo-woo when I first read about it.

(Did anybody write down the name of the book?  OF COURSE I didn't get that either, d'oh.)

So I headed back over to Dixie and tried the first two massage techniques on her.  She gave me her usual why the hell are you touching me attitude at first, then some really surprised ears, then she sighed and started licking and chewing.  I am absolutely going to massage her every single time I see her from now on - it's not even physically hard to do.  I can't possibly describe it but I'll make someone video me or find a good video for you.  

That's the talks - coming up next is the trail, and the few pics I took, and why I did one day and not two!  Feel free to correct my horrible layman's descriptions of vet problems in the comments :)


  1. I know I love my massages so I can't imagine why my horse wouldn't. He LOVES his massages, even if its just after an easy dressage lesson. I think he looks for to the stretches and the massages and gets a wee bit pissy if I skip over that bit after our rides. I don't have chiropractic work done on him though, I firmly believe massage is better.

    The massage book I have is just called Equine's got a lot of great photos, descriptions, anatomy lessons, etc. and what I like most about it is it's spiral bound, which makes laying it out flat to follow a description super easy.

    1. Is it tan? And it's spiral bound and published in the 90s or maybe 80s? WHAT'S THE NAME??

  2. Thank you for the part for those of us who don't do endurance (yet)

  3. I'm surprised lameness wasn't one of the top four pull-reasons. I do know that the thumping and tying up issue seems to occur at Red Star VC - wondering if it's too much, too fast? Stick to C's schedule and you won't get there too early or too late.

  4. I'm with Jenn, I know how much I benefit from massage so I get my horses worked too. BUT I'd love to see a vid and get the name of that book, it sure would help to do some of it myself :)


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