Monday, September 30, 2013

VC post-ride

I've got two main thoughts that have emerged from our try at VC:  I'm getting closer to getting it figured out, and I don't think Dixie has peaked yet.

I was right about one thing, earlier this year when I started planning my season:  Virginia City is way, way harder than Sunriver.  I had such an unfortunate experience in Oregon, but I'm glad I went - the trip was super fun with my Worst Crew and Special Auxiliary Worst Crew, and Dixie made such a good* show of it.

* By West "to finish is to win" standards, which is all I've ever cared about.  Racing is awesome if you can do it, but there's plenty of good company wandering along at the back of the pack.

Endurance has really been an amazing journey for me.  I just can't think of a way to talk about it that doesn't sound cheesy as hell - blah blah personal growth - but it really is.  I had to learn to be brave to get started, and I had to learn to be a badass to push through 50s, and now I am learning humility as I try hundreds.  It's hard.

It's such a deceptively easy concept:  get your horse really fit, make sure your tack fits, and ride well for hours.  Nothing to do once you cross the starting line except watch the clouds and make sure you stay balanced, right?  But really, you're thinking very hard about a million things from the time you get to ridecamp til the time you unload the horse at home.  As soon as you get the physical mostly nailed down, you switch to the mental part of the game.

And my horse just keeps bouncing back stronger.  Dixie felt great, great, triple-word-score GREAT all day at VC.  I'm pretty sure I could've asked her for more and kept riding and maybe squeaked out a last-minute finish, but you know... I've rehabbed a tendon.  I want to never rehab a tendon again. She's an honest mare, and if she says she's tired I'm not going to push her.  She didn't choose this life, and she's not out to prove anything to anybody, and I'd rather live to fight another day.

Anyway, you're here for tack and stuff.

~*~ Tack and Stuff ~*~
Fortunately Lucy got a pre-start picture of us; unfortunately we're just blurry ghosts with glowing eyes.

I'm still loving the Specialized saddle.  Dixie's so comfortable with it that she trots about 10% of the time, instead of the 80% she was trotting with the evil old saddle.  I kind of wish I'd sprung for the full seat cover instead of seat + leathers covers, and I may pick up a used full seat cover at the convention next spring to try it out.  I get (painless!) bruises on my thighs, just below the seat and above the stirrup leathers - not a big deal, but not ideal.  A full seat cover would prevent that, I think, but sometimes a full cover makes the twist too wide and causes its own set of problems. I'm willing to try a used full fleece, but not really willing to shell out $$$ for a brand new one.

We're still rocking the discount pad and girth.  I often think about buying Dixie a really nice pad, like a Supracor or a Haf pad or something, but her back isn't the slightest bit sore so I'm not going to change what's working.  (Nothing says love like how much money you can spend on - wait, horses do not care about that.  Horses want food, companions, and fun.  They don't want status-symbol gear, unless that's the gear that's most comfortable for them.)

Most of my biothane is American Trail Gear at this point.  Somehow I'm still using the same Zilco headstall I've used since I gave up leather, lo those long years ago.  When I'm spending imaginary money, after I get a fancy pad I get a blue/purple halter bridle with stainless hardware, but again, the rope halter + snap-on bridle works well enough.  Dixie gets sweaty and itchy with just that minimal amount of hardware, and I don't want to strap even more itchy bits of plastic to her head if what we're doing now works.

I'm getting the hang of the extra-long rope reins + running martingale.  I really like it, but reins / tailing ropes are very idiosyncratic so you might hate climbing rope reins.

I don't usually ride with a cantle bag - I sored a horse with one once and I'm pretty paranoid about letting it touch the horse's back, and if you've got it strapped on tight enough to not touch the back it's almost impossible to get shit out while you're riding.  But it's great for hundreds/night rides, to hold all your emergency gear and the spare boots you probably won't need but can't go without.

I still love/hate my Griffin's pommel bags.  They're so big and floppy, ugh, but they're so big!  They hold literally everything I could ever want.  I can shove like two pounds of carrots in one side and still have room for my food, my camera, my vet card, the fly mask, etc. in the other.  And they have velcro pouches to hold vet cards and powerbar wrappers and crap.

I'm pretty happy with the diabeetus socks, too.  We were too tired to sock her directly after we pulled, and she got a tiny, tiny bit of fill in all four legs overnight.  We socked her Sunday morning and I left them on til Tuesday morning with no problems.  The front socks could be a bit smaller and they sank about an inch, but they're not so tight that they caused any problems.

I was really sore Tuesday, and I wussed out and asked Orlando at the barn to pull them, and he had no problem yanking them off.  They really are easy to use.
Dixie is in small front / XS rears, which are the smallest sizes they offer right now.  Somebody told me they're thinking about making even smaller socks, and for $40 a pair I might get a pair of XS fronts when they're available.

~*~ Me ~*~
I've got my outfit pretty nailed down.  Running gear for my top half - a sports bra that clamps the girls in place, some technical running shirts, and however many more layers I need to stay warm in the Inevitable Snowstorm.  Butt Butt'r, Tights Lady tights, good wool socks, and that one pair of shoes that has never done me wrong.  No underwear.  Death to underwear.

I added gaiters at Virginia City.  Dirty Girl Gaiters is a little shop that makes custom ultrarunning gaiters - these are not the clunky things that keep out goatsheads and rattlesnake bites, these are super thin and come in patterns designed to soothe the soul of endurance riders.  They hook on to your shoelaces at the front, and attach to the heel of the shoe with velcro at the back.  After I put them on, I literally never noticed them again til I was trying to get undressed the next evening.  And instead of picking up a rock every time I got off to run, I got one tiny bit of gravel in one shoe the whole day.

I got way, way behind on hydration.  I had the water, I knew I should be drinking the water, but it was so pleasantly cool all day that I just didn't drink it.  Every time I saw Mel she was like "you're not drinking enough" and I was like "yeah yeah I'm on it this next loop dude" and I was so not on it.  I paid the price, too, with the worst DOMS I've ever had.  I know what wikipedia says, but for me, DOMS is very strongly correlated with dehydration.  If I drink vast amounts of water and take my electrolyte pills, I'm just a little sore; if I badass on through without enough water, I'm crippled.

I did eat pretty well.  Mel says I should have eaten even more, and I could've, so I will next time - but it felt like I was eating a lot, anyway.  One of the nicest things about having crew is that you can spend virtually the entire hold eating without worrying about anything else, and Mel was constantly shoving tasty food at me.  Except once when she shoved the nastiest Totino's-looking pepperoni at me, and I got the bag open before I realized it was the most disgusting thing I'd ever seen, LOL.

Things I ate:

  • Almond Goo - this time I went with crunchy fresh-ground almond butter about 4:1 with nutella and salt to taste.  Crunchy was interesting; I usually use smooth.  
  • Powerbars - Cliff Builder bars, chocolate peanut butter.  They're AWFUL.  They're vile.  I hate them so much, but they go down and stay down and that's as good as it gets.
  • Nuts - I think I had some nuts too.  I hate nuts, but again they go down and stay down.
  • Hard boiled eggs - shit yeah, as long as somebody's willing to peel them for me when I get too stupid to operate them.
  • Freeze-dried strawberries.  Unexpectedly delicious.  Didn't realize the packet contained bananas too til I'd eaten most of it - I kept wondering why some of the strawberries were so UGLY, but I ate them anyway.
  • Chocolate covered espresso beans - smart crew pours a handful in the rider's hand every time they head to the out timer.  Rrrrrr nothing fires you up for the sleety SOBs like a handful of espresso beans!
  • Hot food - when you've done your 50 miles and you think you can't possibly go on, eat something hot and get back on the horse.  
  • Mini Babybel cheeses - they're pretty tasty, and like hardboiled eggs, they are individually wrapped so they don't get too manky in camp.  Pro:  they are easier to open than eggs. Con:  I bet they're reprehensible if they get hot.
Things I didn't do:
  • For all of my threatening and whining and complaining, I did not drink anything alcoholic the whole day.  Nothing hurt so badly I wanted to take the edge off, and I didn't want to lose what few wits I had left.  Like I said at the beginning, it's a really thinky sport at the longer distances.  I was too busy thinking about Dixie to drink - was I pacing right, was she comfortable, how long can we stand here and eat/drink before she starts to cool down and stiffen up, etc.  I reserve the right to drink the water-trough beers on 50s, however.
One of the things They Warn You About when you start talking about hundreds is how you just can't keep eating all night.  It's true.  At a certain point your stomach phones your brain and says "Excuse me?  We're closing for the night, you may want to finish your business with me."  It's weird and I can't describe it any better than that - I just knew that at some point soon I wouldn't be able to eat any more, so I started shoveling the food in even faster.  

Everybody does what works for their own physiology, so YMMV, but I can't run on carbs.  I hate the sugar rush / crash, and I crash harder than other people, so I try to eat balanced food - lots of protein and fat to fill out the carbs.  Maybe you can negotiate a deal with your stomach where you keep eating those pure sugar gels, like the Honey Stingers, all night, but I can't manage it.  Anyway, eat a lot all day, cause you probably can't eat much in the dark.

~*~ Boot Talk Time ~*~
So I went with Easycare Glue-Ons for VC.  Glueing boots is a leap of faith - "never do anything new at a ride," but who wants to go to the trouble and expense of glueing boots for anything other than a hundred/multiday?  At some point you just have to leap and hope the net is there, yknow?

Tami kindly glued for me.  I was busy hand-feeding Dixie tiny bits of hay to keep her mind off of whatever weird shit was happening to her feet, so I didn't get any pictures.  Both Easycare (pdf) and Renegade have really good articles about how to apply glue-ons, so if you're interested in the nitty gritty, check their sites.  The tl;dr version follows:

Start with freshly trimmed hooves.  Clean them up, make any last-minute tweaks, and rasp the outside of the hoof wall.  Roughing up the hoof wall gives the glue something extra to stick to.  Put squishy rubber stuff in the sole of the boot and hard-setting epoxy stuff in the walls and slap the pre-sized boot shell on the hoof.  Run an extra bead of epoxy around the top of the boot wall to help seal it.  Hold up another foot and distract the horse, so she won't wiggle and torque the boot sideways as it cures. Repeat three more times, and voila!  Glued.

Glue-ons fall off unpredictably.  It has something to do with the age of the epoxy, or the quality control on that batch of epoxy, or the moisture content of the hoof, or the horse's way of going, or the alignment of the stars; no one's really sure how all those variables come together.  It sounds like bullshit, but I've seen some real bullshit with shoes, too - the first ride I ever volunteered, somebody (hi L!) had to walk like five miles back to camp when her horse half-pulled a shoe.  It got stuck half-on half-off out on the trail - she couldn't even pull it to boot him.  Sometimes shit just happens.

Easyboot glue-ons come in boxes of four and they're about a hundred bucks (or less) per box.  You also need two kinds of epoxy and two kinds of epoxy glue guns.  It adds up to probably what you'd pay to shoe for the ride - but again, it's not the kind of money I want to spend to try them out at an easy 50.  The Renegade glue-ons are less expensive, but they're very much one-shot deals.  

I'd heard a lot of horror stories about trying to pry off the damn glue-ons a week after the ride, and after I fell I really wasn't looking forward to boot removal.  I actually called the farrier, yall, but when Thursday rolled around and he still hadn't happened to come by my barn, I pulled the boots myself. With Easyboots, it's not that hard.  (And again, I'm so glad I'm free from the tyranny of farriers.)

Get your mallet and the widest flat head screwdriver you can find.  Put tasty food in front of the horse and explain to her that she is only required to stand still.  Start tapping the screwdriver down between the boot and hoof and prying.  This is where the Easyboots really shine - the Renegade glue-ons are solid "plastic" and Easyboots are flexible "rubber."  (They're both high-tech composites, not plastic and rubber, but you know what I mean.)  You can pry the hell out of the Easyboots and they won't tear or distort too badly.
 After you pry the glue loose all the way around, jam the screwdriver down to the sole and pick the foot up and pry the whole thing off.  If the glue's loose all the way around it will pop off magically.
The rubbery stuff will still be packed in around the frog.  Pry that shit out.  It's stanky.
PRO TIP:  if you didn't fall off your horse earlier that week, this is the ideal time to trim.  Everything is stinky and mushy and you've got a lot of new growth.  If you fell off your horse you can skip this step and go have a lie-down.
I was really, really pleased with the glue-ons.  You're not supposed to re-use them - it's hard to get them clean enough for the glue to stick to the boot again - but you can turn them into Gloves, which is my plan.  

The shells are the exact same shells used for the Gloves, so all you need to do is buy gaiters and drill a couple holes and you can re-use them.  I happen to own seven 0.5's that no longer fit and two 0's that do, so I am really happy to have four shells that I can turn into 0 Gloves.  

Renegade glue-ons are slightly different.  They're harder material, so they don't flex.  This means the glue seal at the top doesn't break as easily, and depending on all the other factors (see above re: epoxy, stars, etc) they might stay on longer.  But removing them is more like removing glue-on shoes, with a lot more destruction and cursing and yanking.  There's no way to reuse them, FWIW.

I was really, really happy with how Dixie's legs looked after VC.  She's pretty badass and she's used to long miles on shitty rocky trail, but I think the cushioning effect of the squishy glue in the boots really helped a lot.  

I feel much improved from this time last week.  I will still go to great lengths to avoid sneezing or coughing, but I've got full range of motion with minimal soreness.  I'm not quite ready to trim, but hopefully later this week I'll be able to get started on all that new growth!

Maybe there's something big I forgot to talk about, but I can't think of anything else right now.  Hit me up if you've got questions.  I'm working on a big post about How To Trim, since I've had a few questions about how I learned to trim, but it's not ready yet.  


  1. Yea for a post on trimming! :) Well done!

  2. "I get (painless!) bruises on my thighs, just below the seat and above the stirrup leathers" - possible to resolve by moving the stirrup leather covers higher up? I had to chop a few inches off the top of mine when it was TOO bulky there since the leather covers went allll the way to the top of the leathers, as high as they could possibly go.

    Also: it's incredibly reassuring to hear (read?) your tales of not-finishing. Everyone writes about their successes at various rides, not so much about how X Y Z and J didn't go right. It makes me hopeful that the pony and I will get this 'endurance' thing figured out someday!

    1. Yup, that's exactly what I'm kinda worried about - that it'll be too much bulk, and instead of bruising I'll get rubs or knee pains or something. My thighs look awful but they feel fine and I'm not in a hurry to experiment further.

      Thanks! Yeah, I read all the ride stories I can, but I feel like I don't learn much from "everything went according to plan and we finished on time." The ones where things went wrong - whether or not the rider fixed it and finished - are the ones where I really learn stuff. You'll get there!

  3. Woot! Love all the details. I too didn't have any trouble removing Easyboot glue ones thoguh I did have pressure point soreness issues with them but that's more in the trim I think and I wasn't educated/trimming myself at the time. Looking forward to the trimming post!

    1. Yeah, if the hard epoxy drips down into the sole you can get pressure points, or if the trim's not quite right, or if there's a lump of retained sole, or or or ARGH feet are hard!

      Renegades work great for a lot of people and I recommend them all the time, but I think the Easyboot glue-ons are SO much easier to remove - I'm sold on easyboots for glueons.

  4. I really love reading the LD and Endurance posts. I get to learn something and live vicariously through them.

    Because I will never, NEVER ride one. Ever.


    1. You and me both, Bill. Love to read the posts--don't ever want to do that (!)

  5. Thems some janky post-boot feet. LOL'd at the whole "if you fell off" vs "if you didn't fall off" commentary. Very key. Hahaha.

  6. I've already said that you rock. But where are the photos?


    Interesting about glue-on...and I am so glad that this doesn't apply to me. :-)

  7. I had no idea any of the glue-ons could be reused in any form -- that is really cool!

  8. AGH just wrote a lovely long "aren't you brilliant" comment and lost it. Grr.
    Loved the VC reports. Hard luck on not completing

  9. Great informative post Funder! I loved the glue-on's for rocky rides & they really do seem to cushion the impact too - I bought a set of wood chisels to get them off!

  10. Odd thought, but do you think using a frosting spreader would work to split the epoxy from the boot? Like this guy: They have that bend which would probably make it easier to wedge it down without hitting the coronet band, and is flatter than a screwdriver, plus a bit of flex to them. They'd be no good for the actual prying part though.

    1. You know, I just cleaned the boots up today. I went at them with a screwdriver for about 30 minutes, talking to the ladies at the barn, then I went and spent $10 on wire brushes for my drill, and THAT is the only way to fly. about 10 minutes with the wire brush and all four are quite clean.

      I don't think the frosting spreader would work - it's a good idea, but the insides of the shells are not smooth, they're roughed up, and the glue really bonds to the rubbery stuff.

      Also, power tools are fun :D

    2. Oh hell yeah power tools ftw! And I had been picturing the insides as smooth, so you're quite right the spreader would be a fail in that case.

  11. I really appreciate your summary of where Dixie is right now. You did have an aggressive goal and I think you both did exceptional. Now you know what you need to complete and no doubt will see you get there. Good luck!


Feel free to comment!