Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hummingbird pics

This is the best my poor little consumer camera can do. She likes to perch on the feeder opposite the patio, but sometimes she'll light on one of the side feeders. She's definitely a she; all the males that come through Nevada have more color on their necks.


Greenish body? Tan head? White on the neck? I looked at bird guides for a while but I just don't know. Back home in Mississippi we only really saw Ruby-Throated but there are a bunch of different species that migrate through Reno.


Anyway, she comes frequently every morning and evening, but I don't often see her in the middle of the day.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Frenchman Creek 3 - Sunday on the Arab

There was no cell reception anywhere near the lake, so I had no idea if my friend A was going to show up Sunday, or even what horse she'd bring for me. Ahhh well, I am an international woman of mystery and I lead an exciting life.

I had a rough night Saturday night. I did put the rain fly up (and it did drizzle again) but it was slightly colder and I about froze. I've camped comfortably in colder weather, but I've done it on my eggcrate mattress. For this ride I used my Coleman air mattress, in deference to my bruised up back. I was a little worried about it on Friday night, because I know how cold an air mattress can be, but that night was fine, even in the rain. Saturday night was just a few degrees colder (low of 42) and it made a huge difference. I slept pretty poorly and laid in bed shivering til the sun came up at 5:30. Then I pried myself out of bed, dragged the sleeping bag into the truck, turned on the truck, and shivered til blessed hot air started pouring out of the vents. I didn't get out of the truck til 6:30. I kept telling myself that it was hot yesterday and it'd be hot again today and I should appreciate the coolness, but mind did not conquer matter.

I got Dixie fed and got dressed to ride, then wandered over and ate breakfast with my new riding buddy R and her friend. She has a cabover camper with proper cookware and served up a real breakfast of champions, scrambled eggs with applewood ham and yogurt with berries. Right as we finished, A appeared and I headed off to do it all over again.

A had brought the grey mare for me to ride. I really want to like the grey mare. She's smart, she's actually well trained, she's got tons of heart, she never quits, and she's got phenomenal recoveries. But she trips. I started riding her because A thought maybe it was just her riding that was unbalancing the mare and making her trip, but she trips for me too. If she's just been shod, she trips less, but if she's two weeks into a trim cycle she trips a lot. Like multiple times per mile. Flat ground, rocky ground, it doesn't matter, she just trips.

I told A and Other A about the trail and difficulty while we saddled up. A was on her lazy but capable bay mare, and Other A was on her hyper bay gelding. I emphasized that they'd definitely get their money's worth if we only did 20 miles! We picked up our ride cards and headed out.

Grey Mare tripped enormously before we even got to the photographer, a mile down the trail. I wasn't clinging to the reins for dear life and she fell on her knees and face. I lost a stirrup and ended up on her neck, but by-god I did not come off. Thank you western saddle with your lovely huge pommel. After that I got the reins properly bridged and gripped and we had no more almost falling down episodes.

Still, she tripped a lot. And she had a cough that we spent the whole ride wondering about. She's one of those horses that needs to be bubble wrapped, and she'd gotten kicked in the neck earlier that week. Was she coughing because her trachea was irritated from the kick? Or maybe she had a bit of hay or beet pulp stuck in her throat and she was mildly choking - but she hadn't coughed the night before. So maybe it was the dust on the trail - but she coughed sometimes when there was no dust, and didn't cough at all in the dust sometimes. It was a mystery, and a terrifying one at that. When she coughed she needed to stretch her neck out, and I had to let the reins out to let her cough, but if the reins were that far out there was no way I could catch her if she tripped.

I am not a big believer in "catching the horse when she trips" with the reins. It runs contrary to most of my beliefs. But this horse has tripped and fallen on her face at least twice with A and twice with me, and it really does seem to help if I can hold her head up when she trips.

I was sore from all those hills on Saturday, plus my back still hurt from the fall last week. My Dad asked why hills are so hard - you use different muscles to stay balanced in the saddle. Miles of conditioning at the trot / gait / canter builds up certain muscles in your core - I could ride 50 miles on the flat and only be moderately sore the next day. But trotting (or walking, or cantering) uphill uses different muscles. Going downhill uses another set. I was worn out from all those hills on Saturday, and every time the grey mare tripped (multiple times per mile) it was a yank of agony to keep her from falling down.

There's a reason they call it endurance, and I endured. We went slower on the downhills, because I felt really unsure about my continued good health if she coughed and tripped while we were trotting downhill! We got to the turnaround at the river and chilled out for a few minutes. The grey mare hates walking in water, so I offered her a bucket and sponged her instead of trying to force her into the river. She didn't drink, which isn't unusual.

About halfway back, I decided the mare and I were going to pull. I was absolutely in agony and the grey mare was uncharacteristically tired. She kept petering out on the hills while the two bays just charged up them like energizer bunnies. Of course the A's waited for us to slog on up and recover, but I kinda think the grey mare was just NQR. I gave the A's a good description of the 10 mile second loop, but they also thought that the 20 mile loop was a hell of a good workout and they pulled at camp too. Our ride time for the 20 miles was 3:36, almost exactly what I did with my fat Walker. (I'm so proud of her!)

I stopped at my trailer and pulled my saddle, and the grey was down when we moseyed on over to the pulsetakers / water stop. I don't quite know her well enough to know if her pulse was a little high... but I couldn't do another 10 miles of coughing tripping hanging on. Honestly, I felt like I'd wussed out, right until I got home and downloaded the GPS info and saw exactly how many hills we'd done. It was an amazingly good training ride!

I've got info on both loops, because of how I rode the two days. The whole 30 miles was 8200' of climb (and another 8200 feet of descent). The first 20 miles was only 4000' of climb. That second 10 mile loop, with the horrible hill of rock that I walked up and down, added another 4200' of climb!

I never know whether to completely trust my GPS. If I look at the track in the Garmin program, I get one number for elevation. If I load the track into a different program, I get another number. A third program gives me another number. They're always within 15% of each other, but they do vary. I can't swear in court that we climbed 8000' on Saturday, but I can swear that we climbed more on Saturday than we did at NASTR in June.

I was pretty sore on Sunday, especially in my quads. I crashed hard that night and felt quite a bit better Monday. My knees feel ok, my muscles aren't too sore, and even my bruised rib isn't bothering me anymore. I'm not in tiptop shape, but I'm not as bad off as I feared. :)

It was an outstandingly good ride. I hope it's scheduled a couple weeks earlier next year, so I can use it as a warmup for the Tahoe Rim ride. If you ever get the chance to ride at Frenchman Lake, do it!


NEDA stands for National Endurance Driving Association. Sadly, it's much more of a regional thing right now. Hopefully one day someone will expand it, but for now you have to come to Nevada or California to see a NEDA ride. They offer a 10 mile fun ride or a 20-30 mile endurance ride.

Yes, it's endurance driving. It's set up for carts - a few people bring Clydes or Percherons and big chuckwagons, but a lot of the drivers have little homemade... well... chariots. Little stand-up chariots, made out of metal, pulled by one light horse. It looks utterly terrifying and like a ton of fun. They go barreling across the desert like some modern-day Ben Hur reenactment.

The carts alone make it a fabulous training experience for green horses. Yes, horses generally come completely unglued the first time they see a cart, but, you know, once you work through that you've got a way better mount.

NEDA rides have no time limits and no vet checks - just a pulse and go between the two loops. You can pulse in and turn right around for the next loop, or take a lunch break, whatever suits your style that day. I usually sponge my horse, make sure she's drinking and gets a bite to eat, grab some human food, and go back out. A lot of local AERC riders use NEDA rides as training, and that's basically what I do too.

AERC is the (multi)national endurance riding association. Some areas also have regional endurance associations - the Southeast's SERA is particularly active. Most of the time if there is a 50 mile or longer ride being held in the US or Canada, it's sanctioned by AERC (and, optionally, FEI or a regional group). AERC rides offer: sometimes a 10-15 mile fun ride, a 25-35 mile limited distance, a 50-65 mile endurance ride, and sometimes a 75 or 100 mile ride.

AERC rides cost a lot more than NEDA rides - I did two days at Frenchman, plus the corral rental, for less than a one day AERC ride. In large part that's because AERC rides have vet checks, plus higher overhead for an active national organization. At an AERC ride, your horse has to get a passing grade from a vet before the ride, several times during the ride, and shortly after you finish the ride.

I'm fully in favor of all the AERC vet checks - but I also don't worry too much about not having a staff vet at a NEDA ride. There's a lot of evidence showing that horses face serious metabolic stress after about 40-45 miles of riding, but a 20 or 30 mile ride just isn't inherently dangerous. I wouldn't want to do a 50 mile ride without a vet check, but a 30 mile ride isn't that hard on a horse. You're still assuming some risk when you ride 30 miles - but you're assuming risk any time you un bubble wrap your horse. :)

NEDA rides are fun. There's a pretty laid back attitude, even among the racers. And yes, there are racers - NEDA has quite good year-end points awards. I'd love to get a blanket one year!

The AERC fun rides are a good way to check out the crazy endurance thing in your area. Here's the AERC ride calendar. They don't list fun rides in the regional listings, but if you click on the ride flyer it'll say if there's a fun ride. They're inexpensive, about $25-35 in the West. (I am too lazy to look at other regions.) AERC does stagger start times, so if you go to a fun ride you will not have to start with the serious racers. You will see them on the trail, but you don't have to deal with the starting line stampede! They're designed specifically for people curious about our sport, so feel free to wear your cowboy boots or ride in your Passier. The riders are usually stressed out, but I've never met a rude volunteer (at least in the West!)

ETA the NEDA website. Thanks, C!

Frenchman 2.5 - gear review

I love reading other peoples' gear reviews, so I like to mention mine whenever I test it.

Horse gear

Pro choice saddle pad: Passed with flying colors. It did not shift, even after all those hills. Dixie had minimal hair movement under it and very nice sweat patterns. It's quite a bit heavier than the Woolback, but we're talking maybe two extra pounds. It's not dirty enough for me to clean yet, so I can't tell you how easy or hard that is.

Renegade hoof boots: Still awesome. If they fit right, they stay put, even when you're due for a trim. Some of the shod horse riders were bitching about how they'd have shod with pads or booted over the shoes if they'd known how rocky it would be, but I was not at all worried about stone bruises. And she gaited very nicely in them - finally! The ride pics show her beautiful stepping pace. As soon as I dig them out of the trailer I'll post one for you.

I still love my Griffin's pommel bags. I had to use some string to get them situated exactly where I want on my saddle, but the zippers are amazing and each bag will hold a liter of water. There's a little pouch in the middle where you can stash your map or ride card, and side velcro pockets for your hoof pick, multitool, etc. They are a million times better than the comparable Stowaway product. Also he has a very nice shade of purple.

Camping gear

Cheap black-bag solar shower: Absolutely marvelous. Mel mentioned hers a while back and it sounded lovely, so I got one too. I set out the shower in the morning, then after the ride I hang it in the horse trailer. I stand in a muck bucket and scrub down with a rag and some of that biodegradable soap, and it is the best. Like clean socks at lunch, it's one of those things that feels utterly amazing and totally changes your attitude about everything. A 2.5 gallon solar shower has more than enough hot water.

Truck tent: The mesh roof gives great views of the stars, but leaks like a sieve, can you believe it? The rain fly is a little hard to get on, but it effectively keeps the rain out. Do not trust the National Weather Service.

35 degree Sierra Trading Post sleeping bag plus Coleman air mattress: Keeps you toasty to 50 degrees, even in the drizzle. Miserably cold at 45. The air mattress is much nicer than just the eggcrate, but next ride I will try air mattress, eggcrate, busted zipper sleeping bag, and 35 degree bag. Thank god I don't try to pack out; I'd need a string of mules to haul all my crap.

Camelbak with Vitalyte electrolytes: I attribute all my success to this. Yes, it makes my back sweaty, but everything else gets sweaty anyway. Yes, it changes your balance a little, but once you get used to it you won't notice. And just think, if you fall on your back it's like a back airbag! Two liters of fluids is barely enough for a 20 mile loop, but it definitely saved me from heatstroking out.

Square blocks of ice last way longer than the same weight in bagged ice. This is common sense physics, but it actually holds true in the real world too.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Frenchman Creek part 2

The Frenchman Lake area is stunningly beautiful. Well, honestly, I haven't seen a lake in the Sierras that isn't breathtaking, but this one is breathtaking and relatively deserted. Ridecamp was on private property just a couple miles from the lake, at a former eventing center. There was horse water pumped out of the creek and a surprisingly nice little outhouse, with potluck BBQ's both nights. Surprisingly good turnout, considering it's not a cart-friendly ride.

I camped beside the creek, looking out over the cross country field into the mountains.

I got Dixie set up in a pretty good sized corral, maybe 15x15, for $10 a night. Well worth it! She traveled well and set in to eating as soon as I turned her out. Smart girl. I got my camp set up, then saddled her up and took Cers on a short ride to see how rocky the trail was.

I'd washed her right before I loaded her, so she was very white and shiny. Rocking the viking war braids, of course.

We meandered about a mile up the trail, just far enough for me to decide that I'd definitely boot the next day. The ride flyer said the trails were good with "some rocks", but that was wishful thinking. The trails were that fine Sierra dust with many fist sized and larger rocks, and many stretches were all rock.
Rocky and steep

I felt pretty shy the first night, so I sat by my rig and read a book (Glen Cook's Garrett PI series) til dinner time, then crashed out shortly after that. I did stay up long enough to catch a gorgeous sunset!

About 11 I had a vivid dream where suddenly it started to rain. Some higher level of my brain began sounding alarm bells and I went from dead asleep to wide awake in about two seconds flat. Yep. Raining. Raining right through my tent. I decided that since it wasn't supposed to rain, it couldn't possibly keep raining, so I shoved my cell phone and kindle deep inside my duffel bag and went back to sleep. Getting the rain fly on the tent seemed like more trouble than it was worth.

I woke up to more rain twice more. I did get to hear coyotes yipping every time I woke up, at least.

About 6 I decided it was really about light and I might as well get up and make coffee. I ate a Clif Bar for breakfast. It is not the breakfast of champions, just the breakfast of lazy Funders who are sick of burned scrambled eggs on a camp stove. It sufficed.

NEDA rides start at 9, so eventually I got Cersei set up for a day at the truck and saddled Dixie. Her hooves were a bit long and I was worried that the boots wouldn't fit quite right, but they seemed to go on well. The ride meeting had super nice color laser topographical maps, which were really handy. The trail was two loops with a lot of lollipops, but they promised it was well marked.

I was planning on riding with John and we hung out at the start. But a couple headed out just before us over the start line and HOLY SHIT A HORSE EATING CART WAS HIDING BEHIND A BUSH! The guy's mare went sideways and over and he came off. No harm done to anyone, but I saw an opening to get around the mess and took off just ahead of John, just to get clear of the wreck.

We gaited along briskly and passed a couple of obvious pleasure riders. Hmm, lemme explain that.

NEDA rides, like most AERC rides, have a short distance fun ride too. AERC staggers start times so all the 50s start together, all the LDs start together, etc. NEDA just has one start time, so the NEDA racers and laid back pleasure types all head out together. Usually people in jeans are just doing the 10 mile ride, and usually people in gaudy endurance gear are doing the longer distance.

So I passed an older gentleman in jeans and a cowboy hat, then caught up to a guy in tights and a helmet. We zipped past, got past the photographer (who got one of the best pictures I've ever seen of me and Dixie). I told him that Dixie is not a good fearless lead horse and he should feel free to pass me, and he did pretty soon. We slogged on a bit further and caught up with two more riders, and I stayed with them for most of the rest of the loop. They were all very friendly and I've seen them before. Another woman on a big racing Arab hung with us for a while. That horse had a bigger butt than Dixie and top 10s 50s regularly.

It was exactly the kind of ride I like. Outstanding scenery, very technical trails. The trail had a lot of potential to be very confusing but it was extremely well marked.

The first 10 miles went by VERY fast, probably 6 mph. Dixie felt strong and I thought it was the kind of trail where you should go as fast as you can when you can, and I was right. We went up over a mountain - you could see the whole Chilcoot/Vinton/Loyalton valley from the top.

Then down a huge switchback to a river, then back along the river for a couple miles to a spot where we could ride the horses in. They'd warned us about it - there was a 6-8" dropoff, but the footing once you got down into the water was very firm. Dixie scrambled right in after one of her new buddies and ate some grass, but didn't drink. Sigh. I patiently explained that there was no more water on the way back, but she didn't listen.

We headed back up the hill, over common trail part of the way and new trail part of the way. It was rugged and beautiful and HARD on my fat Walker. She hung in there with the Arabs for about 18 miles, but when she started to get tired I let them motor off ahead of us.

Close to camp we hooked back up with the woman on the racing Arab. Her BF was the guy who got dumped at the start, and he was doing the 10 mile ride. She waited for him at the common trail for both loops, and the three of us ended up riding in together. We agreed to ride the second loop together. (She was, obviously, not racing this ride.)

When we got back to the creek crossing right outside of camp, Dixie drank really deeply and I used up the rest of my horse water on her neck. I've started carrying about 1.5 liters of water in my bags, just to squirt on her neck, and it definitely helps her. I stopped at the trailer and sponged her pretty heavily, then took her over to the pulse check and she was down to 60. She ate some oats and carrots and quite a bit of hay while I loved on Cersei and scarfed down some leftover steak. Cold steak is the lunch of champions, let me tell you. I'd drank all my water so I mixed up two more liters of electrolytes and refilled my camelbak, then we were ready to go.

We did the first 20 miles in about 3:30.

R and I headed out on the second loop. Her horse was 100% go, of course, and Dixie felt pretty good to me. We climbed a big ass hill, scrambled down the other side, and passed two ladies on beautiful palomino mustangs. We started along some rather nice road curving along a hillside when R's horse stepped on a rock funny and started gimping. She double checked with me, and I saw a bit of head bob too, so she immediately turned around. We were at 23.4 miles. If I'd headed back, we'd have done about 28 miles, but I thought Dixie could keep going alone, so I pressed on.
Looking out at Vinton CA

Dixie was, of course, not very happy about being all alone. Then a pair of deer sized us up for dinner - we came around a curve and there they were. Two little this-year's mule deer, about 15' up the slope. They bounded another 10' away and watched us. Tiny things, couldn't have weighed more than 150 lbs, and super curious. No fear at all. I talked to Dixie while she quivered and stared and they just stood there, staring back at us. Eventually I had to gently urge Dixie to just get past them (i.e. kick in the ribs and cuss) and they still didn't run!

The trail wound around to a cattle guard with a wire gate, then kept going on the other side. I missed the turn for the water stop/turnaround, but only went about a half a mile before I decided there just weren't enough hoofprints for me to be going the right way. There was a lovely cattle tank when I doubled back. I dumped the rest of my horse water on Dixie and filled her bottles back up while she tanked up.

On the way back we saw a dead redtailed hawk in the road. I don't know how I missed it the first time! When we got back to the wire gate I noticed that one of Dixie's boots was un-velcroed at the toe. Completely. Nothing at all was holding it on. Renegades are great boots if they fit your horse's hooves, yall - that boot could've been undone for a mile and it never budged. I got it back on and rode up the hill away from the gate, and then Dixie was done.

She just gave up. Gonna die, out in the woods, all alone. I knew we weren't the last people on the trail, because my vet was out there riding turtle, but I figured we were next to last. We were past 25 miles so there was no point in turning around. I parked Dixie in the shade, watered her neck, and let her cool down. Then I got off and started dragging her up this monster hill, up this thing that even a mountain biker might not consider to be a trail. It was slippery shale with a tiny bit of mountain dust on top, and the area had burned a couple years back so there was no shade, and I got hot. It was at least 90 with a disgusting amount of humidity - remember, I've been living in the desert for two years now. I cussed that horse and dragged her up the hill, then I cussed that horse and dragged her down the backside of that hill. The backside had a bit more shade, but in one place the trail was just a 45 degree waterfall of small boulders.

Eventually we made it back on the normally rocky jeep road and I got back on. Dixie perked up a bit when we hit the common trail and managed a nice slow trot across the XC field to get back to camp. I was feeling slightly more charitable by the time we got back to camp, but I was absolutely shocked when the in timer said we'd finished 6th. My GPS said 31.9 miles in 7:15 - subtract out about 15 minutes at lunch and you're still looking at three and a half hours for the 10 (11 with a detour) mile loop. I was still trying to process that 10 minutes later, when John came in. Behind me. I'd started just ahead of him, but I was sure I'd just missed him at lunch or when I took my little detour at the end of the second loop. Honestly, we were both shocked that I finished ahead of him.

Again, Dixie had a big drink at the creek, some oats and carrots, and started chowing down on the hay. Her legs looked and felt identical, and she was totally sound. She was tired - but that's what I wanted. I wanted to push her on the 30, to see if she'd hold up to a challenge. She definitely did!

A lot of people quit after the first loop. The guy in the cart quit - I don't know if there's any way he could've done the 10 mile loop. Those of us who finished got a super nice crew bag at dinner. I watched another beautiful sunset, hung out with R and her friend, talked to a lot more people, and put the rain fly up before I crashed about 10. After all, I had a different horse to ride on Sunday - I needed to rest!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

We rocked a hard ride: Frenchman Creek, part 1

Bringing Dixie back to endurance has been so scary that I hardly ever think about it all at once. She had a legitimate (thankfully minor) tendon injury in June, and those things can be career or life ending so easily. Instead of constantly worrying about her, I've only really thought about our next move a couple times so far. The last time I really thought about it was August 1, when I got an email notice of a new NEDA ride. That was two months after Dixie's injury, and everything had gone textbook-perfect so far. I decided that if we had a couple of good rides in August, we'd go do the 30 mile NEDA ride on the 27th. And after that, I didn't deeply consider the matter again - I sent in my entry, told my friend I'd ride one of hers on the second day of the ride, and didn't worry about it again.

We had one good ride in August. Well, good until we crashed, and no serious harm done to either of us post-crash. Dixie carrot-stretches as eagerly as ever, and she prances around the pasture and rolls energetically. I think I bruised a rib, but motrin and rest is fixing that. I kind of wanted to scratch because I didn't feel 100%, but I felt good enough to ride competently and the timing of the Frenchman ride sure works well, so I packed my crap and loaded my horse.

NEDA rides are usually cart-friendly, so they're flat and fast and short - 20 or 25 miles, usually. This one was listed as 30 miles and not recommended for carts. I decided if Dixie could do a 30 mile hard ride, she'd be good to do a 50 in October or November. If not, we'd just pick up LDs in the spring - she could probably be a competitive LD horse in regional points. Still - I was terrified to try the ride.

I'm too tired to give more than the bare stats tonight. We finished in 6th place (out of maybe 10-12 completions - no big win). 31.9 miles, after about a mile of me misinterpreting a ribbon. 7:15 ride time, which sounds pretty awful til you account for the 8200' of elevation gain - that's HUGE. The very steep NASTR 50 had 7300!

It was an extremely technical yet breathtakingly beautiful trail. We trotted or gaited everywhere we could and walked the rest. Our ride buddy turned back at 23 miles (minorly lame) and somehow we slogged through the last 8 miles (and a couple thousand feet of hills) all alone. We waded in a river, drank from a creek, and confronted two fearless young mule deer. Dixie never took a bad step. It was hot as hell for us (which is not hot at all for you, dear reader, but just remember my horse isn't used to humidity anymore) but she pulsed down as soon as we stopped moving. I am so proud of her.

Pix and stuff tomorrow, plus Sunday's ride on the stumbly grey Arab!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Please come back!

I was drinking coffee this morning when I noticed a hummingbird checking out my rose. (The rose bush is absolutely thriving - it put out a bunch of new growth then decided to bloom again.)

I dashed off to Home Depot and bought a feeder and a post. Please come back, little guy! Tell your friends!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Trailer cabinets finished & etc.

Well, probably. I reserve the right to stencil purple flames on there or something. But it's painted and has Real Art hung on it.

The horse silhouette was made by a cool metalworker friend of mine who lives in Jackson, MS. If you live in the South, you should try to check out her work - she does a lot of craft festivals.

In other news, I am vaguely toying with the idea of buying hosting and moving my blog. I was cool with having all my eggs in Google's basket til they started locking people out of Google services for obscure violations of the Google Plus TOS. I like to think that I am a zen minimalist who could live without whatever possessions I have, but it would be a major blow to get locked out of my gmail account and my blog. Does anyone have experience moving 600+ posts with approximately a gazillion pictures to Wordpress on private hosting? This might be such a nightmare that it never even happens.

I've half-written a little essay about why I love endurance. EG thinks I should send it to Endurance News, but I almost feel like it'd be preaching to the choir. (Also I feel like I have nothing of interest to say to Real Endurance Riders.) Aren't all the subscribers of EN at least seriously contemplating endurance already? Right now it's kind of written for the non endurance horse person who can't figure out why anybody would ride 50 or more miles through rain and sleet and gloom of night. Anyway, I might just throw it up here, but if anyone has an idea for alternative publication, let me know.

I've got an LD coming up soonest! Gonna get out and ride tomorrow and make sure the new pad doesn't cause major immediate problems, then we'll see how we do. Fingers crossed to avert tendons hurting / crashing / backsoreness!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Toklat Woolback final review

tl;dr: Doesn't work for Dixie.

Just over a year ago, I ordered the Woolback and was initially delighted with it. I still want to love it - it's super lightweight, Dixie gets good back scores, and it's easy to clean. (Unless you get caught with it in the brand-new clothes washer. Spouses do not like that shit.) But it wads up under the saddle, and that's totally unacceptable.

I can't flat-out blame the Woolback, because it only seems to bunch up when we're going downhill. Dixie paces downhills. That side-to-side motion, plus the braced hollow/neutral back position, just works the pad forward. There's no stiffness to the Woolback to hold it in place. :(

But getting off and untacking and straightening the pad after every set of downhills is totally unacceptable. Bottom line: Don't buy a Woolback if you have a pacey horse and a western-type saddle.

I'm trying out a Reinsman next; I'll review it when I get some saddle time again. :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I've been gone forever, I know! I'm sorry yall :) I had nothing much happening, then I got horribly sick. Like so sick I actually went to the doctor because I thought I had strep. It was actually a wicked sinus infection and a z-pac fixed me right up.

Then G came home for a week of vacation! That's awesome and I'm really enjoying cohabitating but he hijacked my computer for a couple of days - he set up a new Drobo and got everything to communicate with it, then upgraded my laptop to the newest version of OSX.

Today I woke up feeling awesome for once and headed out to ride. Dixie and I climbed up the hills behind the house (reverse of a Comstock loop), then went down the back of the hills into Hungry Valley. About 3/4 of the way down to the valley, we paced around a corner and spooked a herd of antelope. So cool! That is only the second time I've ever seen antelope.

We had a long discussion about continuing on. Dixie was totally convinced that antelope are equinivorous. With the greatest of reluctance she slowly hesitantly made it around two more turns of the road, when we turned up the damn antelope again! The second time they bounded off far far away - thank god because I don't think Dixie's nerves could've taken a third encounter. If she was a human she'd have needed a stiff shot of medicinal brandy and a liedown on the couch with a cold cloth.

Eventually, I got her moving again. When we got to the valley floor we took off for home.

Dixie rolled along at a rack and canter really strongly for 3.5 miles and all of a sudden on flat ground tripped and fell down. I crashed too, of course - I got launched, hit on my left shoulder, then bounced my head off the ground. A little road rash on my arm, my hip, and my finger. I hopped up immediately and Dixie was trotting to a halt about 20' away, shaking her head. She didn't run away (my worst fear), just let me catch her and inspect her. She was skinned behind her right ear and on her nose, with a little hair missing from behind the left ear too. I'm not missing any time and the saddle has no (new) scuffs, so I don't think she flipped. I think she tripped and skidded on her nose, folding her neck under to the right. I suspect the little line of missing hair on her left ear is rein-burn.

We were, I thought, about a mile from home (turns out it was more like 1.5 miles). I started out to walk Dixie home, but after about 10 minutes of politely following me she started trying to barge ahead and I decided she was ok to ride. I put the bridle back on (oooh sorry about that ear) and hopped up. She walked and trotted soundly home and even offered to canter. Oddly, I wasn't scared to canter again, I just thought it was a bad idea, so we eased home w/t.

I hosed Dixie off and checked all over for more wounds or sore spots, but she was fine. I put some ointment on the right ear, checked her legs one more time, and turned her out to roll and eat hay. She's stiff, but perfectly sound.

I'm quite sure I'm just bruised. I have full range of motion and no "weird" pains. I already ordered a new helmet. Once we both recover, we'll head back out.

8.40 miles, 1046' elevation gain, 1:36.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Trailer tack room cabinet

I've been thinking about how to maximize my tack room space, and last weekend I decided I needed a cabinet on the back wall. So I made one!


The front is 1x4s dowelled together. I didn't have big enough clamps, so I wedged it in between nails while the glue dried.

I cut out for the steel studs, propped the front in place, and very laboriously put in a mini stud wall behind the front. The angles were extremely hard for me to figure out.

I will need to vent for the battery and get a new spare rack mounted. Small price to pay.

The doors were easy; they're just 1/2" plywood.

The top was amazingly hard. I ended up buying a small piece of 1/4" MDF and eyeballing the curved wall. Then I started pasting cardboard on top til I had the whole thing filled in.

Carefully transferred to the rest of the sheet of 1/2" plywood...

And it fit! Really well.

I put eyebolts into the steel studs and used a bungee to hold the bucket collection in place.

Huh, I forgot to take a picture of what's IN the cabinet. It's got shipping boots, the first aid kit, my crew bag, and the compression sack of horse blankets. I got heavy-duty magnetic latches to hold the doors closed - and if I need to, I can tie the handles together or run a barrel bolt across both doors.

While I was fussing around in there, I vacuumed the carpet. I think the whole thing looks very nice. Things I rarely use are easy enough to get to, but out of the way. There's a ton of room inside now - that's good, because I use the (not as hot) trailer to store the ice chest.

I'm quite happy.

Edited to add: Here's the horrible "before" picture.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Now *this* is cross-training

Aarene recently posted about her dutiful efforts to cross-train Fiddle via dressage. It's an admirable pursuit, but there's just not enough cantering and too much faffing around in the arena. I think I shall take up horse boarding instead. You gotta click over and see the video at the link!

(HT to TYWKIWDBI, who always has the best random stuff.)