Monday, June 24, 2013

Lizster (now with bonus Divster!)

Haven't seen this one in a couple of years, but it's Liebster going around again :) Liz tagged me in it, but as a senior citizen of the blog world (I started this thing in '08 which makes it seven thousand Internet years old) I don't play by the rules anymore. Here's my rules: if you want to play, repost this with your own answers, and link me to it in my comments. Love to see what yall have to say!

Edit:  now I've had this in draft so long that GunDiva's sent it to me too.  Oh dear...

How to Accept the Award
The Liebster Blog Award is a way to recognize blogs that have less than 200 followers. Liebster is a word in German that means beloved and valued. Here are the rules for accepting the award:

Thank the person that nominated you and include a link back to their blog.
List 11 random facts about yourself.
Answer the 11 questions given to you.
Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or fewer followers to nominate and include links back to their blogs.
Go to each blogger's page and let them know you have nominated them.
11 Random Facts:

  1. I am really bad at these.
  2. See #1.

11 Questions from Liz:

1. Who is your favorite horse? (Either real or fictional) Why?
The Red Stallion. I dreamed of finding an island, braving the maze of tunnels, and then discovering a secret horse herd just like in the book.
2. What is the most exotic/unusual pet you've ever owned? I have owned Madagascar hissing cockroaches (the huge cockroaches they use in all the movies, think Men In Black) and I have owned an albino hedgehog.
3. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? I wanted to be a horse trainer. And then when people told me I'd always be poor and not be able to have a ton of horses I wanted to be a vet. And then I realized what I covered above and decided to do something within natural resources.
4. If you ended up being something else, what made you change your mind? See above.
5. What are your long-term riding career goals? Compete in a 100 mile endurance ride. Maybe compete in some sort of XC event or fox hunt.
6. What is your greatest riding achievement? As far as awards go, I was High Point Champion at a show years and years and years ago. Beyond that, I think starting Griffin and doing all of his training on my own is a pretty big deal.
7. What is your greatest regret? Not being able to buy Stanley and have him as my own. ...there may still be time one day for that though.
8. What is your favorite movie? Why? Ack, I hate this question. I have way too many favorite movies in way too many genres.
9. Have you ever read a book that moved you so much that it changed your life? Which book? I don't know that any one book changed me super radically. Certain books I've read at certain points in my life have definitely had an impact on me (i.e., Eat, Pray, Love when I was going through a really hard break-up).
10. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? What would your house be like? I love WV, but I've been here forever. I really covet the west and hope to live there for a part of my life. West or high elevation WV - Canaan or Spruce area. Either location I'd have a cabin-esque home. Something homely and rustic, yet with a modern twist to some of the interior features.
11. If you could have any saddle, which one would it be? I haven't ridden in one to know for certain if it would work for me, but I'm lusting hard after a Specialized Endurolite. We shall see...

11 Questions from Liz:
1. Do you remember when your love of horses began?
Oh, when I was a kid. I always wanted a fairytale horse, something that would carry me far, far away on epic adventures.
2. What horse-related thing do you hope to accomplish before you die?
Well, I'd love to finish the Tevis ;)
3. What is a non-horse thing you hope to accomplish before you die?
I'd like to write a novel, or series, that's so good that it sticks with readers for years. (When faced with adversity, I often think to myself, "What would Bobby Shaftoe do?" I wonder what happened to Aerin-sol between The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword. And what's going to happen to Harry Dresden?)
4. Did your parents support your horse-habit growing up, or was it something you pursued on your own?
We briefly had a pony, but none of us had a clue how to take care of him, and we gave him to some people a couple miles down the road. (I saw him in their pasture until he died in his 30s, so a good end.) They had no horse knowledge and no desire to learn, and we didn't have the money for lessons. I got my first real horse when I was 28.
5. Unicorns or pegasus?
Unicorns. They can stab your enemies.
6. If you had the opportunity to go to the Olympics in any sport, equine or non, what would it be and why?
Ugh, crowds, no thanks. I'd go to some utterly fringe sport, like curling.
7. Most amazing vacation destination you've ever been to? A place you haven't been to yet but hope to one day visit?
Lake Tahoe area is the prettiest place I've ever been, and I am fortunate beyond words to be able to ride and play there pretty often. I'd really like to ride in Montana or Wyoming.
8. Shoes, boots, or bare? Why?
Bare when I can, cause I'm lazy. Boots when the horse needs the protection - going fast for a long way on gravel, or just going a long way.
9. Best birthday ever: what did you do and why was it so awesome?
They're usually either terrible debacles (New Orleans, I am looking directly at you) or pleasantly low-key events, but two years ago I rode Dixie in a parade the day after my birthday. She had just really turned the corner from "untrustworthy psycho" to "really steady partner" so that was huge and wonderful.
10. Blogosphere friendships, do you know/have you met any of your blog friends IRL?
Tons of them! And hopefully tons more in the future. Yall know who you are, even if you're on hiatus or have quit blogging. Las Vegas, the AERC conventions, and most rides I've been to were blogging-inspired.
11. Seriously, guys, which came first, the chicken or the egg?
The velociraptor!

And here's 11 questions from GunDiva, to make up for my abysmal performance with the rest of the meme:

1.  What is your passion?
Uh.  Endurance?  Controlled adrenaline rush sport with my horse!
2.  If you could do anything you wanted for the rest of your life, without having to think about money, what would it be?
Write urban fantasy and sci-fi novels.
3.  What is your guilty pleasure?
4. Favorite book ever?
The Hero and the Crown.  Or Cryptonomicon.  I can't choose between them and they're vastly different.
5.  Favorite movie ever?
Die Hard.  Or Ghostbusters.  (I don't follow directions well at all.)
6.  Have you ever met anyone famous?

Oh, you wanted more?  It depends on your definition of famous, I suppose.  I've met internet-famous people, and famous writers, and famous musicians, but maybe you've not heard of them.  I've met famous endurance riders and probably fangirled the hardest over them, but either you already know who I mean or you've definitely never heard of them!
And one time I shared an elevator with Kristi Yamaguchi, but me being me, I didn't realize it til we were all in the lobby and the people I was with were like "omg that was Kristi Yamaguchi!"  I think that anecdote neatly summarizes my life, actually.
7.  Who would you like to meet (living or dead, real or fictional) and why?
Ten.  Duh!  He's seen everything and he'll take me away for a visit to the rest of the universe and get me back home safely when my arc is complete.
8.  Biggest pet peeve?
People who don't zip properly.  Not like that, ewww, I mean people who try to skip in line when two lanes are merging.  You go, then I go, then you go, BUT NOT YOU, ASSHOLE, YOU WAIT YOUR TURN.  Don't you dare play chicken with my truck.
9.  If you won the PowerBall or Lotto and wanted to donate a chunk to a charity, which charity would it be and why?
There's a charity - I don't know if it ever got off the ground - but it was buying up debt from debt collectors and forgiving it.  I'd fucking love to be part of that, buy somebody's insurmountable medical/CC debt and erase it off their credit record.
10.  Favorite place you've visited?
Tahoe :)
11. Where to you want to visit that you haven't been able to?
Antarctica.  Wyoming.  Australia.  Mongolia.  Siberia.  (Perhaps I like empty places.)

OMG, I have to keep writing?  I have to do 11 of my own?  Somebody please answer these and link me back!
1.  Where are you from?
2.  Where have you been?
3.  What scares you the most (and I don't mean "spiders")?
4.  What's your favorite food?
5.  What's your biggest regret, or do you not believe in regrets?
6.  Favorite band (with links!)
7.  What's the first name you ever gave?  (I named my first cat Butterfly.  I was three.  I have no explanation.)
8.  Is there a name you're saving?  For a girl child, or a homebred horse, or a funny cat name?
9.  Biggest personal accomplishment, present or future?
10.  What's your favorite book?  (reusing this, but I always love to hear the answers.)
11.  What do you want for your epitaph?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Sunriver analysis

:taps mic: Hi, yall.

The Sunriver ride story got a lot more hits than usual, and I hope my NW visitors don't think I'm hatin' on their region.  But I don't want my blog to sound like a paid advertisement for AERC, or Easyboot Gloves, or Tennessee Walking Horses, or whatever.  I just talk about what happens, good and bad, and keep plugging along.

And I know that even the best run rides can turn into nightmares for individual riders.  My last ride of the season in 2012 was Red Rock Rumble, and it was one of the most fun rides I've ever had.  It was also an area where I've competed a lot and done a lot of conditioning, so I was entirely familiar with the trail, the way the trail was marked, the ride management, etc.  I had a BLAST.  Three new riders behind me got lost (down in the river bottom past Lynn Lloyd's where the cows always eat the ribbons - see, I knew the area) and I'm sure they had a super-shitty time crawling up the canyon to get back to camp in the dark.  If they had blogs, they'd have posted drastically different stories from mine.  Sometimes shit happens!

So I don't hate the NW or the ride management or anything.  I had Issues, and hopefully the meta-issues will be discussed among all the ride managers who run hundreds, but I'm certainly not dissuaded from doing another hundred or riding the NW.

(I do have a secret fear that when I fly up to Renegade next weekend, someone is going to tilt the brim of his or her helmet back, slowly look me up and down, and drawl "You've got a lotta nerve showing your face around here, missy.")

Now, on to my usual analysis.

I have been more sore after 50s than I was after that 80 miles.  I stayed sharp mentally, too.  Again - this is my new soapbox that I will hammer home time and again til you're totally sick of it - it's because I took care of my body.  I ate and drank all day.  Every hour, I pulled a little baggie with a hundred calories of food out of my pack and ate it, with an electrolyte pill, and I drank my whole Camelbak between each loop.  My crew took care of my horse as soon as I'd vetted her at each hold, and they made me eat the whole time I was in the check.

I'm not gonna lie, I hated it.  The only good thing I ate was some potato chips, and I made a lot of toddler yucky-faces as my crew waved different things under my nose, but I just kept picking the least-gross option and putting it in my mouth.   I don't know if I could've kept eating all night, but I think I had enough fuel in the tank to make it the rest of the way - when it got dark, I didn't get queasy exactly, but I felt like I was full and there was no more room to insert food items.

I should have carried an oh-shit bag of nighttime gear the whole ride.  I'd taped my glowsticks to my breastcollar the night before the ride, but I didn't bother to put my cantle bag on Saturday morning - I was planning on putting it on at the last hold in camp, but I suck at math and it got dark before I got back.

Things I am never again doing an unfamiliar ride without:  a backup headlamp, with a mini-roll of duct tape to stick it on my helmet.  An emergency blanket (I did have one, actually, but it'll move to the cantle bag).  A maxi pad and a roll of vet wrap, in case someone trips on a rock and needs to be bandaged.  A pack of handwarmers.  And maybe a good GPS with spare batteries - I have a wristwatch GPS, but the battery only lasts 11 hours and it won't show you how to get anywhere, just how fast you're getting lost.

Any other oh-shit suggestions?

Dixie looked phenomenal.  I knew it would be tough for her mentally, and it was - she was so surprised and angry that we were still riding well after our usual no-more-than-12-hours, but there's just no way to prepare the horse for that.  I am really glad that my mentors prodded me into making the jump up, and I encourage my other new endurance buddies to do it too.  If you want to ride 50s, quit dinking around in LDs and get up to 50s.  If you want to do longer distances, rest your horse and pick what you think will be your best shot and do a 75 or a 100.  It's ... less fair to the horse, I think, to let it do years and years of single-day 12 hour rides and then suddenly "change the rules" on it and do multis or longer rides.

Oddly, Dixie's front boots rubbed.  She's got the hide of an ox and nothing ever rubs her, so I wasn't watching as closely as I should have been.  I couldn't get the neoprene of the gaiters on her front boots to line up, and where the fuzzy velcro bridged the gap between the neoprene I got rubs.  It just took all the hair off, no bloody wounds at least, but I feel like such an asshole for not checking more often and letting that happen to her.

I am not sure if it's just the longer distance that caused it, or if there's some other issue at play - her heels are a little too high, and the boots were new and a half-size smaller.  I'm going to try wrapping her ankles with a thin strip of neoprene, if I can't get the gaiters to stretch or her heels down enough for them to fit perfectly.

The advice to "not do anything new at a ride" is always sound, but it's the peril of moving up - everything you do at your first hundred is basically new, because you've just never gone that far before.

The boots never even budged.  It was a long ride, but not really an Extreme Test of Booting - no water crossings, no steep climbs, no bogs or deep sand.  I think they'd have stayed put though.

I think Dixie's back might have been a little tender.  I don't really know for sure.  She wanted to be left alone to eat and drink that night, and she pinned her ears and thrashed her tail whenever she thought I might possibly touch her, but I'm sure she was also worried that I'd put that damn saddle back on her.  And in the morning she was not reactive, not so I could really be sure anything hurt.

Her legs had a little bit of filling.  At this point I'm blaming the rubs on her ankles for causing inflammation that spread up her legs, and I don't think it's unexpected to get a little fill after 80 miles.

Monday she had a tiny bit of rubbed flaky skin between her front legs and on either side of her mouth.  I am not at all surprised about her mouth because I was D: hauling on the reins to try to keep her below a gallop for the first TEN MILES of the ride.  I am never, ever letting this horse do an LD again; she will be instantly convinced that she can race anything, and she just can't.

Aarene's fleece seat saver made my butt so very happy.  I think I will get those fleece socks for my stirrup leathers and try to ride without half-chaps - they are hot and heavy when I get off to jog, and god knows I don't need anything slowing me down further.  (At my slowest jog Dixie just flatwalks behind me, that's how pitiful I am, but I keep steady forward motion dammit!)

At every vet check I slathered on more Butt Butt'r and that's the other thing that kept me from getting rubs.  There's plenty of products that work, but I'm still on my original jar of Butt Butt'r so that's what I'm using.

I didn't use any heat gear - I have a helmet liner, a helmet neck cover thingie, a neck sausage, and a vest, all of which have those crystals so when you get them wet they stay cool for hours.  But we were at 5000', which is the perfect altitude for Funder, and it wasn't humid, so I was fine.  I rode and jogged throughout the heat of the day and didn't get too hot.

I wore my new sports tank top (thanks again C!) and that blue running shirt I've been wearing for four years now, and I stayed cool in the hot of the day.  A hoodie in the morning and evening was enough to keep me warm.

I had an entire clean set of clothes and shoes to change into at camp, but they weren't needed ;)

My right hip got really sore toward the end and wanted to cramp up.  I really, really wanted to walk the last few miles in, but I couldn't see the ground to walk, and I knew I couldn't get back on without a rock or stump and I couldn't see to find a safe one, so I stayed on.  And Dixie never quit on me and never took a bad step!  Next week I'm going to get another spot with Becky Hart and work on my position again, and I'll probably go back to the chiropractor this week and apologize for undoing all his hard work last week!

Shit that just doesn't matter on 25s matters on 50s.  Shit that doesn't matter on 50s matters on hundreds. The hardest long-term mental lesson I'm learning this year is to take care of the small stuff before it gets out of control and wrecks my ride, or worse, my horse.

That's all I've got for now, I think.  Comments are always welcome!

Monday, June 17, 2013

2013 Sunriver 100: Babes in the woods

This is long even for me.  tl;dr:  Another RO, no lameness or metabolic problems, horse looked very good at 80 miles.

I'd heard from several people that Sunriver was a good first hundred-mile ride:  experienced ride management, great footing, and a relatively easy ride (compared to Tevis or Virginia City, at least!).  So I'd kind of built this season around attempting my first hundred at Sunriver.  In retrospect, what a shitty idea.

When Dixie finished both days at Washoe in such good shape, I started planning my trip to Bend, Oregon, and lining up my crew.  Yes, crew!  My incomparable friends Mel and Amanda agreed to go to Sunriver - it was Mel's first time crewing, and Amanda's first time even seeing an endurance ride.

We made the 12-hour trip north on Thursday.  We stopped several times for the pretty princess to eat and stretch her legs, and we amused ourselves along the way by pointing out all the Supernatural-type motels, gas stations, and possible haunting sites.  Dixie came off and on the trailer like a rockstar, and when we finally interpreted the cryptic directions to ridecamp, she unloaded for the last time looking like she hadn't been anywhere.

I appear to attract snow.  Since it's June, and we were really tight on space, I elected to leave the Buddy Heater and my purple parka at home.  Another idea that was stupid in retrospect:  I found a snowstorm, and for a while I thought we were actually going to drive into the snow.

Thursday night was unbelievably cold for one week before the summer solstice.  The water froze, and Amanda almost froze in her big roomy 4-person tent, but luckily she came in the truck and warmed up with me.  My little nest in the backseat of the truck is cramped, yet very warm, and there's room for at least one more in the front seats.

Friday was quiet and peaceful, watching camp slowly fill up around us.  I was nervous, of course, but my horse looked SO good!  The trails looked nice and the weather was perfect.  Mel and Amanda had some stupid theory about making me pre-eat and they kept feeding me.  They took the truck and went into Bend and found some of the best BBQ smoked chicken and brisket I've ever had.  I drank several Deschutes Brewery Twilight Summer Ales, in honor of the Deschutes River around there somewhere.  (hint: I found it on Saturday!)

By Friday afternoon, Dixie looked about as good as she's ever looked.
Yall know that ~I do what I want~ and I am a rebel and a rule-breaker, so instead of following the standard advice of not trying anything new, I went ahead and crammed a new pair of size 0 Gloves on Dixie's front feet - that's a half-size smaller than her usual 0.5 Gloves.  But I've been pulling her toe back pretty sharply and her feet look really good and tight, and the 0's fit textbook perfectly.

The ride meeting was low key and laid back and I was having such a good time!  There were 29 entries that night - maybe one more on ride day?  I was so pleased that they had such a good turnout.  I met Ruth, saw Diana and Bud from ATG, saw Becky and Judith, met this cool lady M who was also trying her first 100 on her spotted TWH mare, and I'd like to apologize at this point if I talked to you and forgot to mention it!

There were no maps.  That just made me a little sad on Friday night, but at this point... I think that's a red flag for me.  If I don't get a map in the future I should pack up my toys and go home.

Dixie was a hot hot hot firebreathing mess the next morning.  I got tacked up and mounted, somehow, then headed over to the start.  We milled around a big group of fresh hot hundred-mile horses for what felt like a long time, and eventually someone went and woke up the outgoing number-taker and she got our numbers and we were off around 5:10.

Dixie yanked and fought as hard as she could for about ten miles.  She was so bad I had to one-rein-stop her a couple times, which I haven't had to do in a very long time.  I think she wanted to try to win a fifty, but she didn't realize we'd signed up for twice that distance.  Eventually, we fell in with M and Dazzle and the rest of the pack pulled away from us.  We let the horses zip through the first loop at 6 mph, then 5 mph for the second loop, and we were back in ridecamp for the first longer hold.

After hold #2, the day started to get warm.  We headed back out to repeat the first leg of the trail, back to the river check for the lunch hold, and then off to the last away check at a different location.  It was hot, but the ride's at about 5000' and the air is lovely and thin, so I didn't really have any heat problems. I mean, I was hot and I'm not good with hot, but it was easy for me to keep myself cool enough.

This is the Beer River.

The middle part of a ride always sucks for me, and I grumbled my way through the afternoon, but everyone I know who rides hundreds says it doesn't get fun and wonderful til the day cools off and it starts to get dark.  I was so excited to get to ride in the dark, letting my smart girl watch the trail and riding from glowstick to glowstick in a dark forest.

I had no illusions that I'd finish fast or even mid-pack, but I really thought Dixie and I could finish that ride within the allotted 24 hours.  At the ride meeting, Lois the RM talked about how she loves hundreds and she wants to boost attendance at them, and I know she's been running this ride for quite a while.  There weren't any cutoff times, and I thought we'd get a fair shot at finishing.

Mel and Amanda kept both me and Dixie eating good all day.  I never pushed D too hard and she didn't ever get that sad, tired, discouraged look in her eyes.  She pulsed down fast and she ate at every opportunity and I was really proud of her and how I managed her.  I was pretty proud that I kept eating, too.  And now I understand just how punchy and stupid you get by the dinner check, and how easy it is to sound like a mentally challenged three year old when offered food.

At one point they offered me a hard-boiled egg, and I thought it sounded ok, but I couldn't get it peeled.  (In my defense it was a pretty fresh egg.)  I ended up ripping it in half and gnawing the middle out like it was a tiny ovine fruit or something.  At the next check, Amanda offered me another egg, and I was like "I can't make it do, Amanda, open it for me."  She did something magical with her fingers and offered me this egg and it was the purest, cleanest, whitest thing I've ever seen.  The ride was unbelievably dusty, and everything I breathed, looked at, touched, and tasted was covered in silt - except for that egg.  That egg was like a shining white beacon of purity.

It was hard to eat that entire egg but I did.  Everything I ate was a struggle and so worthwhile.  That is my new advice to wannabe endurance riders:  you have got to learn to eat, more than anything.

Anyway so we headed out of the last away check at 6:30.  They said it was fifteen miles to camp.  My crew took my GPS from me to charge it - it wouldn't have lasted that loop, much less the whole ride.  They offered my headlamp but the day was still warm and I thought I wanted to dunk my helmet at the next water so I didn't take it.  It was only a fifteen mile loop and we'd get in to camp in plenty of time.

So away we went.  Dazzle was getting pretty tired, and Dixie was all pissed off that we were clearly riding more than twelve hours.  (This is why they say you need to get to the distance you want to ride as fast as possible, and it's why when I decided I wanted to try a hundred I just went for it immediately.)    Anyway the frontrunners started meeting us going the other way - the trail back to camp was common trail with the last loop.  Does that make sense?  We'd go back to camp down this road, have a hold, then turn around and head back out on the same trail.

The trail got pretty shitty as it started to get dark.  Not the shittiest trail I've ever ridden - I love you, Nevada, but I'm looking at you when I talk about shitty rocky trail - but not the kind of thing I'd let a horse trot down in the dark.  Gradual hills, but the trails had those foot-deep foot-wide erosion ditches winding down them, and there were random rocks scattered on it.

The RM and her assistant appeared ahead of us on a quad.  They were out hanging glowsticks for the last loop, and they were very surprised to see us.  They did not know we were still out there, and they had been pulling our ribbons to head back to camp.  And obviously not hanging extra glowsticks for us.

We soldiered on because there was nothing else to do.  And honestly at that point we were still both committed to finish.  I mean you always kind of think "well if my horse isn't ready to go on it'll be a bit of a relief to get pulled," but if our horses were doing well, we were going to finish the damn thing.

The sunset was beautiful.

I had taken a light hoodie, just in case it got chilly at dusk.

We kept meeting the other riders, and they were cool and encouraging.  Eight miles to camp.  Five miles to camp.  "When you get to the gravel pit, you're only a half mile from camp."  Twilight fell but we started to realize that there weren't very many glowsticks.

My understanding was that you ride from glowstick to glowstick at night, so when you're at a glowstick you can see the next one far ahead of you in the distance.  We couldn't see the next glowstick.  In the hour where it started to get really dark, we probably saw five glowsticks?  Nothing to do but keep going.

At some point I started taking stock of what was happening, instead of just riding and walking and watching the scenery.  I had three glowsticks and a flashlight app on my cell phone.  About 80% charge, but no reception (I left it in airplane mode so it wasn't sucking battery looking for a signal, but the flashlight app drains the battery fast so it was my emergency light.)  I checked with Melinda and her phone was dead, but she had a little flashlight on her pack.  Neither of us had headlamps, she had no glowsticks for her horse, it was cloudy with a quarter moon thinking about rising, and we had no map.  M had not had crew force-feeding her all day and she was almost as tired as her horse.

Finally, as it got absolutely really dark, we found the gravel pit.  Not a pit?  Like one of those gravel depots where the forest service stores equipment and gravel to repair their roads?  Anyway it was on the paved road, Century Drive, and we could see cars whizzing by.  Camp had to be to the right along that road but we knew better than to try to ride along it.  There were no glowsticks in sight.

I decided that we'd ride down the trail for fifteen minutes.  If we didn't see a glowstick then, we'd turn around and go back to the gravel pit.  M could hold my girl and I'd take a glowstick and a flashlight and stand by the side of the road and wave somebody down and make them call the sheriff or something.  M could turn on her light periodically and check for side roads off the main road we were on and see if there were ribbons anywhere.  I told The Plan to M and we got down to it.

There is no way in hell it was a half mile from the gravel to the camp.  I found them both on Google Earth and it was a hair under two miles.  But we stuck with the plan and eventually we could hear the cheering from the camp as the winners came in on the other side of camp.  We yelled some but I guess they couldn't hear us, or they thought we were finishers, because nobody looked for us.

Anyway we kept slowly finding glowsticks and every time we did, I checked my watch and reset my internal oh-shit timer.  I don't know if the glowsticks on Dixie's breastcollar helped her or not, but it was almost too dark for a horse to see, so I think maybe it did.  But I couldn't see to walk in and I had to ride, even though D clearly wanted me to get the hell off and do my share.

Mel had just gotten fed up with it and was about to head out and check the first/last few glowsticks when we stumbled around the corner into camp.  I gave Melinda a huge hug, cause we really did something tough even if we didn't do what we hoped to, and we went to pull RO.  Dazzle was too tired to go on, and I think Dixie had the miles left in her but I didn't have the heart to walk her down that shitty, underlit trail all alone.  I just didn't think anybody cared that we were still out there, and I thought that if I didn't turn up, nobody would come looking for us until Mel and Amanda called the sheriff the next day, and fuck everything I was done.

I don't think it's supposed to go like that.

Anyway, everybody mid-pack had already gotten pulled, so they got to shut down their hundred super early that night!  Yay for them!

Dixie vetted out just fine.  She trotted out (paced out) with a solid B for impulsion, no lameness, no hanging pulse, eating and drinking like a champ.  I'm so proud of her.  She could've finished a shitty-ass twenty-hour turtle ride.

We got her tack stripped and blanketed her, but we didn't pull her boots.  Her legs were filling just a bit so Mel wrapped them for me.  Amanda made me the best hot chocolate I've ever had in my life and I slept like a dead thing that night.

More in a while; I need to go get the trailer unloaded and go check on my badass girl.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Continuing Ed

Yesterday Dixie and I went down to San Jose and took a Centered Riding lesson with Becky Hart.

Becky Hart is a name I've known for a long time.  She's one of the top ten US endurance riders, and one of the top international riders - I don't even pretend to follow FEI so I have no idea how well she's ranked overseas.  But she was the Chef d'Equipe for the US endurance team at the last WEG - she is the real deal.  (And don't even get me started on her horses - Rio was possibly the best endurance horse ever, with 10k miles and a ton of first-place finishes.)

And I'm a redneck from Mississippi with four months of dressage lessons four years ago, on a horse I've made, for better or worse, entirely on my own.  I was a little nervous, really.  But it's gotten to the point where I have to recognize that Dixie is a serious athlete, and she deserves a better partner, and I needed to go find out what I can do to improve myself and make her job easier.

SJ is only 60 miles away, but anything involving vehicles in the Bay Area takes far longer than you can comprehend, you lucky flyover state readers*, so I left the house at 10 to get to Becky's farm at 1, and I left there at 3 to get home at 6:30.  Dixie was a hot mess when I pulled her out of her pen, screaming and pawing like a completely unhandled filly, but I paid her no mind.  I rinsed her off (must scrub her with soap, that Foresthill red dirt is NOT coming out) and loaded her up and she snapped into grownup endurance horse mode.  She rode well and ate hay perfectly calmly while I tacked her up.  I started to think my lesson might not be a debacle.

Becky didn't laugh in my face at my goals:  Sunriver 100, 20 Mule Team 100 in February, Tevis '14, Decade Team.  (And the Nevada Triple Crown some year, but that's even harder than Tevis.  It's the Derby 50, NASTR 75, and Virginia City 100 all in the same year - but the trails aren't unfamiliar and at least it's not humid, so it's not out of the question...)  There's still so much that can go wrong, but it's not unattainable.

I could try to tell you all the stuff we talked about, but you know how lessons are - you learn a lot, but it's not something you can explain to someone later.  But somehow Dixie and I rode around that arena like a centaur, not like a monkey clinging to a horse's back.  We didn't do a single thing with my hands - all I had to do was sit back and shift my weight and she curved nicely around cones and stopped and started when I thought about it.

I finally learned how it feels when the horse lifts her back under me, and how to ask for it.  I learned how I'm crooked - I collapse my left ribs and wrap my left leg nicely around the horse, while my right ribs are braced up and my right leg is twisted funny.  It'll take some work to retrain my muscle memory to sit properly and cue properly, but that's the benefit of endurance:  I'll get those hours of practice hella fast.  I'm planning on going back for another lesson a week or two after Sunriver to see how we're coming along.

My mouth is often disconnected from my brain, and at one point Becky said she used to show TWH in the 70s, and I just up and blurted out "I'm sorry!"  Because I'm a huge asshole.  :headdesk:  She gave me this look like "did you just say that?!" and I explained that Dixie was a padded, sored show horse, and showing in Tennessee is barbaric, and I just hate the whole sport.  She agreed that she showed clean and had a hard time beating people who tuned up their horses, and we just left it at that and thankfully she didn't seem too offended.  D:

Dixie did me proud.  I just can't say this too often:  she has a great mind.  She really does.  She's hard to condition because she's so laid back, but she's so easy to ride when she's in shape.  I can't even believe I just typed those words - she was such a bundle of nerves for years.  Who knew that there was a relaxed, confident horse under all that panicked energy?  And I did this; I kept at it with her and brought out her good traits.  :)

And I got Dixie a massage on Tuesday.  There's a massage therapist at the barn who's an "endurance ally" - she does trails and dressage on her lovely Friesian, but she's crewed Tevis for her friends and she understands the sport.  She said she didn't do a lot of work yet, because she wants to keep the experience positive for her, but that Dixie seemed to enjoy what she did.  She'll work on her again after Sunriver.

*you know I'm not dissing the flyover states; I'm from them and I love them. But I assume that eastern seaboarders like Dom also understand how a hundred-mile round trip can take longer in a car than on a fast horse.  ;)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

TevEd Gear Review

Before I say a word about gear I have to tell yall that I feel great.  I mean, really great.  I've never felt this good after any ride longer than 10 miles, ever.  And you know what I did?

I ate.

I hate eating before/during rides.  It's awful.  I don't get nauseous, thankfully, but I am completely uninterested in food.  I can go 30 miles on a powerbar without bonking.  I can do a 50 on two powerbars and survive.

But I feel like shit for several days afterwards.  I am wracked by starvation-level hunger pangs for several days.  I always get DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness, that horrible pain you feel two days after you go to the gym for the first time in a month).

And during the ride, my seat gets worse and worse.  That's the whole reason I made a vow to myself to eat at TevEd - because my horse deserves better.

Several of my friends told me to just make eating on the trail a chore - something I have to do, whether I like it or not.  So I made up 8 little packets of food for each day.  Each little packet was about 100 calories, and most of them contained some fat, protein, and carbs.  A lot of e-riders swear by stuff like applesauce packets, but I personally know that eating just carbs will crash my energy fast, so I must have some fat and protein too.  Your mileage will vary.

I checked my watch when we left Foresthill and every single hour on the hour I pulled out a packet and ate it.  I had: hard cheese, half-powerbars, beef jerky, nut clusters, and 2:1 almond butter and nutella.  Everything went down ok, and there wasn't so much food in any given packet that I got bored - eating a whole powerbar is just too much chewing when I'm thinking about riding.  But five little nut squares, or a finger-sized piece of cheese, that much I can do.

And I have had no DOMS and no famine-victim hunger pangs.  You really must eat and drink on the trail if you want to be a good partner.  You must at least try it.


Other gear:

Aarene loaned me a sheepskin seat saver.  It tied on to my saddle a lot more securely than I thought it would, and it never slipped or bunched up under my girlie bits.  I am ordering a full fleece but I don't think it'll show up before Sunriver.  Really looking forward to ditching the half-chaps - they look awesome but they hot me up when I'm running.

I tied my pommel bags so they hung completely forward, on Dixie's shoulders and off of the saddle.  That, plus the sheepskin, plus paying a lot of attention to my seat, let me ride the miles and miles of downhill without bruising myself.

So I officially love my Specialized saddle now.  I wanted to love it before, but it did me so wrong at Washoe -  I slipped forward and banged into the pommel and pommel bag seams and I got so bruised I looked like a DV victim.

I mentioned hooves already, but I gotta say the Easyboot Gloves just keep working for me.  My usual caveats apply:  they're not for everyone, they don't stay on some horses' way of going, and there are better boots (Renegades, Back Countries) if you can't/won't touch up your horse's trim.  But Gloves work shockingly well for Miss D.  I'd love to test-ride some of the new Renegade Vipers at some point, but I know Gloves stay on well enough for the next ride.

In general, I try not to tie on stuff I don't need, because it's just increasing your weight, heat load, and risk of rubs.  But I added a cantle bag, an old-school Griffin's model that looks like a tiny duffel bag.  I threw two old spare Gloves in it, and I actually used one - I lost one rear Glove entirely in the first couple miles of the trail.

My Kolorful Cages worked great; they didn't pinch or rub my toes at all.

In one of Mel's Cache Creek posts, she talked about how wonderful her "helmet skirt" was in the heat.  In the jumble of moving, I found a cooling helmet skirt I bought last year and never used, so I took that to TevEd and it was absolutely amazing.  When it was hydrated, it kept me quite comfortable - but when it dried out, it just trapped heat and contributed to my heat exhaustion.  I must remember to re-wet it at every vet check.  That particular model has four velcro loops, and I attached it to my helmet by punching holes in that mesh that covers the helmet vents.

I had my GPS, but as usual I hit the wrong button several times and the results aren't useful.  I don't know how much longer I'll keep carrying it.  I've gotten a decent sense of how fast we're moving, so I don't need it for that, and I've started wearing a watch.  I can check Dixie's pulse (one beat per second means the horse is down), keep track of when I should eat, and keep track of my overall pace pretty well.  I guessed we'd do the ride in seven hours, and we did it in 7:15.  When we left LQ, I looked at my watch and thought we'd make the finish at 1:45, and that's exactly when we came in.  :smug:

Sometime in April I lost my little crop.  I keep thinking it'll turn up in the garage or at the barn but perhaps it's gone for good.  I did Washoe and TevEd without needing it, so I guess it's off the usual roster.

Mel reports that her spackle recipe doesn't work in GoToobs, but my nutella/almond butter stuff works perfectly in them.  I, er, haven't actually cleaned them out yet so I don't know how awful that's gonna be, but it's definitely worth it.

Everything else was pretty much unchanged - Merrell Lithe Gloves on my feet, Butt Butt'r on my butt, a 1.5 liter Camelback that I drained between every vet check, Hammer Endurolyte pills with my mandatory food (probably should package the pills with the individual food packets, and up it to 2 per hour in the heat), a long-sleeved runner's shirt and gloves to keep me from getting too toasted.  C recommended me a new shelf-bra runner's tank top that worked wonderfully, but I bought the last size L in existence and that model is discontinued, so I won't taunt yall with a glowing description.

And no panties.  Death to panties.

Monday, June 3, 2013

2013 Tevis Educational Ride, Foresthill to Auburn

...or, Only One Day?  You Wuss!

Apparently they tweak the Ed Ride a little bit every year.  This year, there was a bike race on the upper part of the trail on Saturday, so we were scheduled to ride the trail out of order.  Saturday was Foresthill (60some miles) to Auburn (100 miles), and Sunday was Robinson Flat (30some) to Foresthill (60some).

It's pretty crucial to preride FH to Auburn.  Yes, Tevis is held during the full moon, but it's black as tar under the trees.  You have to believe that your horse knows the trail and trust her to move down it fast enough to finish, and your horse deserves to know where the end is.

The logistics of Tevis are mindblowing, but the logistics of the Ed Ride are even more amazing to me.  You must have crew for Tevis, and your crew moves your rig from point to point to meet you.  You don't have to have crew for the Ed Ride - the outstanding volunteers will move your rig for you.  I'd signed up to have ~someone~ move my trailer, but Wayne talked his friend into coming and we ended up having Dean move my trailer to haul both horses around.

So here's D the day before.  She's just a tiny bit thinner than I'd like, but not too bad.

This year, they did a staggered start.  Mentor-rider teams left every five minutes, so we wouldn't get caught up in that "fresh horse racing with the pack"thing.  The three of us left at 6:30 on the dot.

We rode through the tiny town of Foresthill, which was oddly deserted - on race day, everyone in town brings lawn chairs and coolers and sits by the trail/road, cheering the riders along.  Bill Gore was there taking pics, and of course he got some beautiful shots of Dixie.

About a mile outside of town the first disaster started to unfold.  My Pretty Princess started slinging her head.  That was the fourth time she's done that - once at Washoe '12, when the flies came out by the lake. Once at Rides of March '13, when the old saddle was pinching and I was sick and riding like shit.  Once at Washoe '13, when the sleet came in sideways.  And once at TevEd, and I didn't know why.  I wasn't riding like shit!  The saddle and tack fit perfectly at Washoe a month previously!  I couldn't see any flies!  What the hell, horse!

And she wasn't just flipping her nose up and down.  When she does this shit, she will drop her head between her knees and toss her head so hard the reins will go over her ears.  She'll thrash her head back to my toes.  She is paying no attention to her feet when she's doing this, and I knew if she tripped we'd go over the damn cliff and it'd be a bad scene.  I got off at one point and tightened up her girth and crupper - maybe the saddle was sliding forward and hurting her shoulders?  Obviously I took no pics at all, but trust me, it's a gorgeous trail.  Just wide enough for one horse to comfortably trot, lots of natural water and small rock pools, very nicely maintained trail.  Lots of gentle up and down but nothing too killer.  Dixie started drinking at 12 miles, maybe, and kept drinking great all day.

I just chocked up the reins as short as I could and booted her forward every time she tried to toss her head and toughed it out.  By the time (10 am) we got to the first vet check at Francisco's, I was ready to pull.  I came in and the volunteers asked how my ride was going and I blurted out my woes.  A volunteer immediately knew what was wrong.

"Oh, it's flies!  I live out here and my gelding does the same thing.  There are hordes of teeny tiny biting gnats out right now.  Slather on some fly spray and see if that helps."

So I did.  I got her pulsed down and vetted, borrowed some fly spray, and just coated her head in it.  If you're one of the four people who's been reading this thing all along, you'll remember that back in '09 the spray bottle was our biggest nemesis.  Dixie used to absolutely panic if you went anywhere near her with a spray bottle - like galloping around the round pen til she was completely lathered.  Well, it's 2013 and she's learned to tolerate all kinds of previously-intolerable bullshit from me, so I just yanked her head down and squirted her all over with fly spray and she was a big girl about it.

She'd rolled in the red dust at FH the day before and she was just manky with it.

And she did not toss her head again.  Lesson learned #1.

So we headed out again.  The river crossing was lovely and not too deep.  There's a dam higher up the American River, and on Tevis Day they hold the water back so the flow is very low.  But they won't hold it for the Ed Ride, and the river gets pretty high after 1:30.  We got there well before and the water was only up to the horses' bellies.  I knew I shouldn't, but when the water touched my feet it felt so good and cool that I let my feet get wet and it felt amazing.  Bill was there again, taking more gorgeous pics of my gorgeous girl.


The climb up after the river.  Don't we just look like we know what we're doing?  ;)

The second section wound along above the American River, and we started to see other trail users.  Two guys had fishing poles and those floating chairs, and Dixie was like, oh that's NBD and walked right past them.  She has the best brain :)  The river was just gorgeous below us.  The day was starting to heat up, but I was drinking and eating and I felt fine.  The last section of road into the Lower Quarry was pretty hot and rocky, and the horses were all hot coming into the second check, but they made it.

"I hate you, human.  Are we ever going to turn around?"

Dixie took a little while to pulse down, but once she did she stayed near 50.  A lot of hot-and-tired B's on her card, but she was eating and drinking and we only had six miles to go.  We headed out along the river again.  We worked up the canyon, away from the big Hwy 49 Foresthill bridge (it's like 700+ feet high above the river) and popped out at No Hands Bridge, which is much lower and shorter and used to be a railroad bridge.  It's not infinitely wide, but it's easily wide enough for a car and it's got some little guard rails and well it's called No Hands Bridge so when I saw the photographer I had to do it.

Just beautiful.

A selfie.

 Look, Mom, no hands!

And then the evaporative cooler on the back of my helmet dried out.  I got hot.  I went from "huh I'm kinda hot" to crushing heat headache & making bad decisions in about 20 minutes.  I was out of water for Dixie, I was almost out of water for me, it was blindingly hot, and Dixie was huffing along at about 100 breaths per minute.  I got off and started walking her and that just got me hotter, but I'll be damned if I hurt my horse when I can possibly spare her.  I walked uphill in the heat, which isn't something I can do, but Dixie was so hot and we were only two miles from the finish and I was just terrified that I'd colic/thump/tie-up her.  Finally Wayne and Becky convinced me to get back on - I probably looked half-dead - and we dragged ass into the fairgrounds.  I took my helmet off because it was SO HOT and I didn't care if I fell off and died.  

There's a big rock tank of cool water just at the border of the fairgrounds.  I yanked D's bridle off and she went in up to her nostrils and drank, and I soaked my helmet and stuck it back on and the cold water running down my back was better than drugs, dude, it felt SO GOOD.  I yanked all of Dixie's tack, hung it on the fence, and walked her up to the hoses.  She was probably at 120 when we came in. I sprayed her down for a few minutes - somebody was talking to me so I don't really know how long it was, less than five minutes - and checked her pulse.  She was down.  I took her over to Melissa Ribley and she vetted out perfectly.  We did the thirty-whatever miles in 7:15, a completely respectable pace.

It was Dixie's first point-to-point ride, and I think she just lost heart toward the end.  She can be directionally challenged, but she knew that we were nowhere near the trailer and she couldn't understand why we hadn't turned around yet.  But when I yanked the saddle at the fairgrounds she knew we were done, before she even saw her trailer.

Here she is back at Foresthill.  I really think she looks almost exactly as good as she did the day before. I know it's not the same angle but I was doing real good to take a post-ride pic, period.

I fought that crushing headache til after 6, but I did manage to do one extremely smart and productive thing:  I trimmed her hooves.

Friday night I'd gotten Kevin and the Easyboot people to come look at Dixie's horrible feet and ridiculous boots - everybody who looks at the way her Gloves fit double-takes, because there's just no way they should stay on.  But they do!  Oddly, I lost two back boots on Saturday, but the fronts stayed on.  You can kind of see how abysmal they look in the Lower Quarry pic, if you're a boot nerd :)

Anyway, Kevin said take off a lot more toe, at the very least go back to the white line.  It's the kind of thing I know, and if I was looking at someone else's hoof pics I'd say "well duh, pull the toe back," but that's why you need outside eyes sometimes.  Dixie has incredibly thick hard feet, and I was dreading working on them.

After the ride, I thought "I should pull those wet boots off and let her feet dry out."  I sat there for a moment in the shade, and then I thought, "... and I really should trim them while they're soft and wet."  It was so hard to force myself to trim - I had to do one foot, then stagger back to the shade and drink another bottle of elyted water, then do another foot, etc.  But I got it done, and soggy feet are so much easier to trim.  I think in the future on trim days I'm going to boot her, hose her legs, ride for an hour, then pull the boots and trim her soggy feet.  It was that much easier.

And ~oddly enough~, the boot fit looked much better after the trim.  :rolleyes:

Then I decided not to ride Sunday.  It wasn't for points or miles.  I want to do Sunriver 100 in two weeks, and I really didn't want to override her and injure her.  I live close enough, and I have wonderful friends in the area, and I can come back and ride the canyons some other weekend before we try Tevis next year.  And the consequences of getting heatstroke in the canyons are very high - there is no easy way out, if I heatstroked out down there.  I do not know if I could walk out if my horse couldn't haul me out, and it just wasn't worth it overall.

I was so close to doing everything perfectly, too.  I know that if I get conditioned for the heat, if I keep my neck cooler wet, and if I eat and drink regularly, I can do this.  But I wasn't conditioned, and I really didn't want to injure myself, so I pulled.  Partly I feel like shit for not being Tough Enough and Badass Enough, but I think that's just pride talking and I made a good decision.  :-/

So I played trailer driver on Sunday!  We all got up at 4 am, loaded Vader and Mocha Jack in my trailer at 5:15, and headed up to Robinson Flat.  Wayne's friend and I waved them off at 7 and headed back down at 7:30.  I packed up my camp and loaded Miss D and got on the road for home at 9.

Next: the usual post-ride gear/training stuff.

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 :)