Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Finally, a topical hot-button post.

First, cause I know yall care deeply about my wellbeing, it's just a cold and hopefully I'll sleep it off tonight.

I've been watching my horse related social media all day, and here's what I think (cause I know yall care deeply about my not very humble opinions):

Horse slaughter and consumption of horse meat are two separate issues that get conflated in almost everything I've read.

I am deeply opposed to inhumane horse slaughter, just like I'm deeply opposed to the inhumane death of any other living thing. I am also opposed to eating horsemeat - that shit ain't safe, yall. But I wouldn't mind a well-designed and run horse slaughter plant. (I think we should ship the humanely-slaughtered, bute and dewormer laden horse meat to China.)

If those rednecks in Wyoming or wherever actually build and run a truly humane slaughterhouse for horses, fine. If they don't, I'll rail against the deplorable conditions there, just like I rail against the deplorable conditions in Mexico, where all the unwanted horses get shipped today. (I am not sure if the conditions in Canadian slaughterhouses are deplorable, but I think the double-decker rides to get there are probably pretty hellish, so I don't like our northern friends' plants either.)

I still think you're an asshole if you take a horse to auction, especially if it's older, unsound, or not dead broke. I know that shit happens and sometimes you can't keep your animals, but if you can't find your horse a decent home, euthanize it. That's what credit cards are for: vet bills.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Retrospective numbers

This is something I always wished I could've seen when I started endurance training. How do you actually develop a consistent trot, starting from a horse that isn't fit and can't mentally handle trotting down a trail? Well, I still can't explain it, but I can show you my results.

Here's our first 20 mile NEDA ride in February of '10. All the stuff I mentioned in the comments of my last post were very scary indeed - attack mini horses, scary yard art, dangerous people lurking in their yards. I think that ride even went past the ultimate nightmare of any horse: the alpaca.

The points just below the 5 mph marker were her walk speed - under 4 mph, about 3.8. The pointy bits were her surging into a trot or a rack (I really can't remember if she gaited or not) at 7.5 or so.

Here's our first AERC LD, at Rides of March '10.

She was very excited for the first 10 miles, staying mostly in a 10 mph rack. At about 11 miles I finally got her to slow the hell down and we headed into the check (just about the middle of the graph). She came out of the hold really strong, but tired - you can see the peaks get further and further apart as she walks more and racks less. At 21 miles, about 2/3 of the way along, she got really tired and the whole thing became a slog for us. I didn't want to spend three more hours out there so I started literally kicking her into a trot for a minute, then walking for a minute. Her "oh god I'm soooo tired" trot was between 5-8 mph, depending on the incline and whether or not she could see another horse in the distance.

Here's Nevada Moonshine '10.

The vet check was at 20 miles, about 2/3 of the way along the graph. I was really pretty happy with her performance. It was DARK up in the hills, and the full moon didn't help as much as you'd think - it was behind the hills for an hour, then it was so low that it made crazy shadows and didn't help much. She still wasn't very consistent - she'd leap into a trot then slow on down til she needed to walk again.

After Moonshine, we bought the house. I don't think I managed another distance ride, either NEDA or AERC, til ROM '11.

It was a debacle. I let Dixie try to keep up with a horse that was going just a bit faster than she could manage. ("Ride your own ride" is so hard!) The weather was atrocious, blowing snow for the first part of the morning then warming up quite a bit. She wouldn't drink (I didn't electrolyte) and she was very hairy indeed. She got really tired about 10 miles in and we walked into the first check at the halfway point. The second loop was even worse - she didn't recover at the hold because she wasn't drinking, so she kept trying to lunge into a trot, but she was too tired to keep it going and fell back to a walk. Bad management on my part, but this is how you learn how to manage. We got pulled at the second check - not that I would've asked her to continue in her state.

At the beginning of April we did the Derby.

This was a good ride. I electrolyted Dixie before, during, and after the ride. She still did not drink til the vet check at 20 miles, but by god once she started drinking she tanked up. It was a much easier flatter ride, and you can see that we were finally pacing well. The jagged bits at the 1/3 mark were when we climbed the Big Hill she evened back out. Her TCB trot/gait was about 8 mph, and her recovery walk was 4.5-5 mph. The check was at 20 miles, so about 3/4 of the way along the graph.

The ride after that was our first 50, at High Desert. I'm not going to post the graph because it's too compressed - it's 50 miles squeezed into the same horizontal space as these 20-30 mile rides, so it's much more jagged. It was hilly and hard, and Dave Rabe babysat us through it and he is a saint of a human.

Here's another NEDA ride in May. Silver Springs again - look at how much she's improved over (basically) the same course in 15 months!

9 mph trot, 4-4.5 walk. Much more trotting than walking. The right amount of electrolytes, and a weather-appropriate coat. ;)

In June I went out and broke my horse at NASTR, which pretty much torpedoed the rest of the year. Here's the last chart, for yesterday's ride:

Scroll up and compare it to the very first graph. She's become really consistent - she's way stronger, she's learned that she has to keep moving steadily forward past the abandoned couches and evil minis, and I'm way better at holding her to a certain sustainable speed. She gets tired and starts "surging" around 15 miles - but damn, we've done no real training for about three months!

I don't know if further (flat) rides of less than 15 miles will do her much good. I think climbing hills on short rides will still help, but I suspect a flat 15 mile ride won't really do much to condition her. It's pretty damn boring to ride north to Palomino Valley and back down to the house, but that's what I'm going to have to do. Maybe one long ride every two weeks, weather permitting, and I'll reevaluate in February. And I'll try to get out and climb the hill behind our house once a week.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What a wonderful day: NEDA Turkey Trot

G was home for a whole week, which was thoroughly awesome. I took him to the airport on Saturday, and I knew today would be quiet and sucky if I didn't do something - so I went to Silver Springs for a 20 mile NEDA ride. It was the perfect antidote to a very quiet house.

Today was one of those days that makes you really love Nevada - it's the end of November, sunny, light breezes, and almost 60. I started out with three layers on, but I finished the ride in a tank top. A tank top. In November. It's really hard to beat that. It's the kind of day that really cements my belief that distance riding is the best sport ever invented.

Miss Thing hauled like a pro and ate like a pig and even let me prettify her mane.
Ready to go!

We started a couple minutes behind the frontrunners, and I held her to a running walk for a half mile or so before I let her move out a bit. We fell in with Dyke, who I've ridden with before, and actually stuck with him for most of the ride. He was riding a very hairy 4000+ mile horse - usually Dixie cannot hang with the high-mileage horses, but he was in no hurry and we paced well together.

Jackie caught up to us near the end of the first loop. She was riding a 19 year old energizer bunny of an Arab - at 19, with god knows how many miles, he was still spooking at random stuff and bucking when he got mad. Super cute. We all rolled into the check together. Dixie pulsed in immediately, despite being dripping wet, so I gave her some more electrolytes and headed back out.

She was tired but still quite ready to go. I was just delighted with her attitude - I've had to kick her out of camp a couple times, and it always makes me feel like I'm Making A Terrible Mistake with this sport. But she'd just ripped through 9 miles and was quite happy to head back out, yay!

At 18 miles Dixie ran out of steam. It was the end of the long boring second loop, down yet another interminable gravel road, and she was clearly lost. Fortunately Meredith caught up and happily walked on in with us. The weather had gotten so warm that I took off my jacket and finished the ride in just a tank top. (A tank top! In November!)

I love that horse, even when she's covered in mudsweat.

This is the best horse sport. If you're a little intimidated by the thought of riding for a whole day, you should think about doing an LD. Dixie and I did 20.25 miles in just under 3:30 - an AERC 25 mile LD could easily take less than 5 hours in the saddle going much slower than we did. Also I got a coffee cup, a big one, with horses on it! And deep fried turkey. Life is good.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It is time for eggnog

As an overly cautious law school grad, I cannot possibly tell yall to risk life and limb by eating raw eggs. I'm just gonna tell you what I do this time every year!

In the Funder Haus, I make eggnog around Thanksgiving. I mean real eggnog - the kind with raw eggs, sugar, cream, and liquor. I use this recipe. Perhaps you are not as brave/adventurous/foolish as me, and you have questions!

Seriously? Yep, I let it age at least three weeks. I've heard of people drinking it after a year in the fridge, but I never have any left after New Years.

Taste? It doesn't taste like raw eggs. It tastes indescribably rich, alcoholic, and yummy. It's something to sip and savor.

No, G did not approve of this idea three years ago. He was sure I was going to die when I drank three-week-old egg drink. I wouldn't shut up about how amazingly good it was and as soon as he got brave and tried it he became a convert too.

Ingredients? Mid range stuff: Makers' Mark, Bacardi, and some XO Cognac. My eggs, because I have chickens, dammit.

Technique? Yes, you need a funnel. No, I don't have a gallon sized mixing bowl - I whip the egg yolks and sugar, whip in the cream and milk, then funnel that mix into an empty gallon jug. Add the liquor into the jug and gently shake to mix everything. Stick it in the fridge til Christmas.

Finishing? I actually don't care for egg whites in the finished drink. I whip a little more cream and blob that on top with some nutmeg. It's stupendous served straight up, too.

No matter what kind of diet you are on, this will be cheating.  It's worth it.  I'll spend all month passing up cookies and bread in order to sip eggnog.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Oh, Reno.

So the west side of Reno burned yesterday. Our local paper has extensive coverage of the fire. It got uncomfortably close to a friend's house, and my heart goes out to all the people who lost their homes or had to evacuate, but thankfully I'm totally fine. It was 20 miles south of me, on the other side of Peavine. It's been a really hard year for the region - the worst unemployment in the nation, horrible housing market, crazy IHOP shooter, air race crash, and now a huge fire in one of the nicer parts of town.

But up here in my scrubby little neighborhood, all was well. I did not even know there was a fire til I saw it on Facebook - no smoke was visible up here. We just had to deal with the insane wind. Winds of 30-40 mph from the south, with gusts up to 60-70. (The fire was so bad because they couldn't get any aircraft up to help fight it.)

You know those shrink-wrap window film insulation things? I put those on all the windows a couple weeks ago and they worked great. The whole house was much easier to keep warm. Yesterday they blew in :( Tons of dirt came in too. I packing taped the window film back down because I am one classy broad.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tiny little retrospective for a tiny little dog

I think I got Cersei four years ago. I know it was mid-November, but it was before I started blogging so the exact date is lost in the mists of time. Today is as good a day as any for a Tiny Puppy Photo Show!

I was living in a house in the hood with no heat. Long story, lying landlord, etc - but the point is it was very cold and unusual alliances were made in the name of staying warm. Tiny fluffy kitten Bambers (then called Curtis - he evolves into a new name at least once a year) would sleep ON tiny puppy Cersei.

Tiny puppy Cers appreciated blankets and hoodies.

She even curled up with my other dog, the phenomenally dumb Jaime.

This is possibly the one and only time Bambers ever curled up on a human in his life. He's just weird.

Anyway! Back to Cers, who is much more adorable. She was so small that I got her a belled cat collar so I could keep track of her. She'd get tired halfway through doing chores for my four horses and sit down in the barn aisle and cry. We'd go in the little house at the barn and she'd sleep on my lap while I hung out with people.

She had blue eyes!

When she outgrew the cat collar, I got her the first of her tough hunting dog safety orange collars. Cause, you know, she's a rough and tough duck dog.
Cersei, looking grown up

Eventually she got too big to ride in my lap in the truck and was banished to the passenger seat. Life is hard!
Cersei looking big and cute

Her first snow was fantastically exciting!
My new desktop

Summer of '08 I moved the horses to Como. There was a big cow pond in their 40 acre pasture and Cersei didn't even need me to throw things - she'd just swim around in happy circles in it.

This was my desktop picture for years. I think she was chasing butterflies or crickets.
Goin' somewhere

G insists that she is not, in fact, a tiny little dog. He points to pictures like this, where the curled-up Cersei occupies exactly half of a loveseat, as proof. I refuse to be reasonable. She is still a tiny little dog to me.

She's such a good buddy. She's always been game to do whatever, and now that she's mature she's also game to just sleep on her couch all day. Labs are the best if you can just survive the first three years.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Carpe-ing the diem

I got enough stuff done around the house so I felt ok about going for a quick ride. Dixie was extremely skeptical of this plan.

I took Cersei and we went ripping around the flat part of the valley between the two subdivisions - maybe a 3-4 mile ride. Dixie spooked hard and even tossed in a buck (!!) at a flattened snow pole in a ditch, of all things, but after that she was a fine steed. I kept her in her nice slow gaits for most of the way, probably 7-9 mph - a good speed, but not as fast as a flying pace or a speed rack. When we got back near the house I had her walk home down a different road and she was nicely calm yet forward.

The death tinsel is getting closer and closer to her.

Remember how I said I was going to tinsel her up for Halloween, but she utterly freaked out about it? I tied the scary death tinsel to the fence where she eats dinner. The first day it was tied to the top rail starting a good 4' away from her bucket and it caused her great consternation. She snorted and stood at the end of her lead and glared at it for a good five minutes (while I calmly did other chores) before she decided it was ok to stick her nose in her bucket and eat. I left it there for a week and now I've been gradually moving it closer and tying it looser. It was flapping in the wind when we got back and I looped it over the post to give her a little break. :)

I don't know if you can tell, but from her stance, she's ready to leap backwards if it makes a move on her.

She needs a trim again but I'm pretty happy with her feet, especially her central sulcus.

Trimming is on the agenda for tomorrow and I'll get more pics.

Poor mistreated animal. I made her sweat, then I tied her up by mortal danger and didn't even let her roll for minutes and minutes.


Straight over.

Itchy face.

So itchy it needed to be ground into the dirt.

She always sits up like a dog then stands up. Weirdo.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Coffee snobbery

It's official. I am undeniably a coffee connoisseur.

Since I went French press, I've started really paying attention to coffee. My morning cup of joe is hedonistically good. The first time I went to SF, last year, I realized that I had perhaps visited coffee nirvana - I still have not had a bad coffee drink there. But this trip really pushed it over the edge.

I went up to the Ferry Building for a Christmas present and stopped at the Blue Bottle kiosk for a macchiato. It was amazing. I'm not a very good connoisseur, because I don't have the right words to describe how amazing it was - it was bitter and rich and full-bodied and almost chocolatey, just the way I like my coffee. I could've licked the cup if I wasn't trying really hard to be cool about it.

The next day, we went to the Mission to Four Barrel. Yes, it's just as astonishingly hipster as you'd think from the website. :)

They played records. Remember those? Big black things, go round and round on a turntable?
Vinyl records!

I got a stunningly beautiful breve latte, which is my usual go-to drink. I immediately noticed it tasted different - almost thin, kind of acidic. I wasn't sure if it was the cream-to-espresso ratio or the actual espresso, so I watched the guy roasting coffee for an hour.
Breve latte

Then I went back for a macchiato. It, too, was too bright and acidic. G loved it - he got a macchiato too on the second go-round and he thought it was excellent. We went to late lunch with some friends, and they were also split on the Four Barrels espresso - she prefers it, he likes Blue Bottle.


I think it was just too light for me. I don't like dark roasts, in general, because it's too easy to hide bad beans by just burning the hell out of them (Starbucks, I am looking directly at you), but I'm definitely coming around to a proper espresso roast.

I can't decide if this is a terrible new development or not. I have certainly cut down my Starbucks spending because the coffee I make at home is so much better. I live like 20 miles from any independent coffeeshops that might have great macchiatos, and I live 220 miles from known amazing coffeeshops. I can't macchiato us into the poorhouse, and I get a great deal of pleasure every single day from the coffee I make at home.

Still. I'm one of those people now. An annoying coffee snob.

Monday, November 14, 2011

I'm pointing a finger at my own face

I'm back! I went to SF last week for my belated (and BEST EVER!) birthday present - They Might Be Giants at the Fillmore. I know I've got a couple of TMBG friends so the rest of yall can just skip this one. Unless you wish to improve your ears and minds and even lives by joining us. It was just a really excellent concert. I've seen them four times now and this was a great performance.

I am no longer young and hip so I'd never heard of the opening dude, Jonathan Coulton, but he put on a good act. Cute nerdy rock; I'll probably get some of his stuff.

TMBG opened with Can't Keep Johnny Down, which is definitely one of my favorite songs already.
Some dude hitting golf balls on the moon / bathroom in his pants / and he thinks he's better than me!

 They've got a full band for this tour. John F is a fine guitarist, but the new guitarist dude - omg, he did a badass instrumental Spanish acoustic guitar version of Istanbul then the whole band rocked it out again.

 Two sock puppets made an appearance on the screen behind the stage and performed Spoiler Alert. They also complained about living in a suitcase, poor sock puppets :(

 After the sock puppets were cruelly stuffed away again, the band did Fingertips live - that's the My Little Pony video I posted last week. (I remember my first CD copy of Apollo 18 had each snippet of Fingertips as a separate track, which made the whole thing just awesome to listen to on that high-tech new shuffle feature.)

 They did about half of the new album and about half of my favorite old songs. Of course they played Birdhouse! I think I killed my first set of car speakers blasting Birdhouse as loud as possible. It's a wonder I never set off the airbag pounding on the steering wheel.

And the very last song - third encore - was Dead. The world needs more songs about the French Revolution.

G asked one of his friends if he was going to the show, and the friend (you know who you are) said he'd seen TMBG. Here's the thing: these guys have been singing Birdhouse in Your Soul for twenty years, and they're not sick of it and they're not just phoning it in. All the songs had the right lyrics, but they were all totally different versions. They're still playing with the songs, not just playing them. It was excellent live music and well worth the price of the trip.

Friday, November 4, 2011

They Might Be Ponies

NEXT WEEKEND I am going to see They Might Be Giants, and of course last weekend I MLP'd my sweet horse, so this seems appropriate.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Looking ahead

I'm almost certainly through with AERC rides for the year. Lake Sonoma is too far to drive for a 25. With any luck at all I'll get to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with my husband, instead of doing Desert Gold and Death Valley Encounter. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to do both those rides, but not this year. :)

(I might still do the Turkey Trot NEDA ride - I don't think G would mind if I went off for the day and came back that night, and I'm not worried about doing LD distances on Dixie.)

But hopefully 2012 will be our triumphant and injury-free return to 50s. I really enjoyed both Rides of March and the Nevada Derby, so I'm thinking of doing the ROM 30 on March 17 and the Derby 50 on the 31st. They're both super-local: I will ride farther than I will haul. I don't think a moderately challenging (great footing, some medium-size-Nevada hills) 30 two weeks before a 50 is asking too much. I will probably do most of my winter training rides at Red Rocks or in my backyard toward Palomino Valley, so it'll all be totally familiar to Dixie. And last but not least, I want to support both of them. California friends, SASO is a nice ride, but Nevada rides go on rain or snow regardless! No last minute cancellations here.

I feel like I should quantify my goals for next year. I think if we can do a mid/back of pack 50, with a perky horse and a moderately fit to continue rider, I'll look at doing back to back 50s for the ride after that. But it's hard in the West - there are some rides where a 9 hour finish is shameful and some rides where it's pretty respectable. So I think I'm going to have to rely more heavily on how the horse feels at the end of the ride than on numerical criteria.

Thoughts on my plan? What are your plans for early 2012? I know, winter is coming, but spring will be here before we know it.