Monday, March 3, 2014

Packing up and moving to our very own domain

I'm not 100% settled in to my new home, but I think it's readable enough and it's got all my posts/comments, so I'll let yall take a look at

A few questions I'm anticipating:
  • is prohibitively expensive, because people who fund things can spend a lot of money on URLs. :-/ Stupid venture capitalists.
  • Yep, it's Wordpress. I don't like the backend as much as Blogger's, but Blogger is so irritatingly buggy and WP is much more customizable. I'm bored with the devil I know and I'm trying a new one.
  • I think you don't have to make an account or anything to comment, just username/email address. Let me know if it's broken.
  • The header images are random, so you'll see something different on each individual blog entry. (Hopefully.) They're all cropped out of photos I took on rides, because this is the best sport ever and you see the best scenery
  • I am still fighting with the sidebars, so one day soon I'll get all of your blogs lined up over there and get the calendar/categories thing under control. 
  • Yes, you can just paste in your RSS reader. (If you haven't found a replacement for Google Reader, go try out -- it's pretty much the same as Reader was but better.)
Anyway, there's a new post up over there. Go check it out. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Food, gear, etc

Everybody’s favorite question is “what do you eat?” Even the experienced people are looking for new ideas, so here’s what I managed, roughly in order. (Remember, I can’t eat gluten, so there’s entire categories of food I don’t dare touch.)

  • A red bull
  • Powerbars
  • Coffee
  • A banana
  • Salami and cheese and “crackers”
  • Cold steak (it was so good I almost ate it all and then I remembered: never eat the last of the rider’s food, even if you’re the rider)
  • Ham and cheese
  • Chicharrones
  • Pasta, sausage, and rice noodles

Saturday early:
  • 1/2 red bull
  • 2 powerbars
  • Some pecans

Saturday midday:
  • Two eggs
  • GF snickerdoodles
  • Grande mocha
  • Potato chips
  • Cold steak
  • A mango drink
  • Cheese and crackers and salami
  • String cheese
  • More cookies
  • Pineapple
  • Chocolate pudding (where we’re going, we don’t need spoons)

Saturday dinner and beyond:
  • The rest of the steak (I’m so glad I saved it)
  • Chicharrones (not very good for the first time in my life)
  • Rum and coke
  • Dark chocolate m&ms
  • Hot chocolate 
  • Rum and diet coke (FUCK NO)
  • Peppermints
  • Kaity’s energy chews - what were they?
  • Dark chocolate espresso beans (maybe never again; I don’t think they made me queasy but I ate them right before I got queasy, and URK)

Everything tasted great or at least passable, except as noted. I didn’t eat ~enough~ out of my saddlebags, but I swear to god having great crew means you have enough time to eat enough at the checks. I cannot thank Kaity’s family enough. 

I drank 80-90% of my camelback between every hold, and I took two Hammer Elite electrolyte pills whenever I’d think about it. 

Dixie actually wanted wet mash, which is a little unusual for her. If she’s well-hydrated, I usually offer her a dry mix of LMF Gold (high-fat high-protein grain) and Elk Grove Stable Mix (low NSC but very palatable hay pellets). If she’s not interested in eating it dry, I pour in enough water to make it a milkshake. At this ride, she scarfed down the milkshakes. I usually crumble up a Nature’s Valley granola bar on top and offer any carrots or apples I can find, and she gets to eat whatever hay strikes her fancy. 
The best way to get her to stop eating, I’ve found, is to offer beet pulp. To hell with you and your beet pulp, human.
Between Kaity and I, we had some very fine stemmed alfalfa, some boring grass, some other boring grass, and some three-grain, and both horses went for all the hay according to their tastes. 
I electrolyted her the way I’ve been doing for the past year: half a scoop of Enduramax, half a tub of applesauce, fill it the rest of the way with water and dose her right before we leave the check. I’m going to switch to my friend’s (hi G!) secret sauce, which includes ProCMC, but I didn’t want to change it up at a big ride like this. 
One side of my saddlebags has people food, ride card, etc, and the other side has nothing but carrots. I can cram about 3 lbs in there, and when we get discouraged or she hasn’t eaten recently, I “insert carrots for more time.” Carrots are perfect food for desert rides:  they’re really easy to transport and feed from the saddle, and they’ve got a little water in them. And they can take more abuse than apples!


I mentioned that Tami and Dave glued boots for me again, and I really need to give them another shout-out for the amazing job they did. Virginia City was the first time I’d (had her) glued, and she fit pretty perfectly in 0’s all around. This time? 0.5’s on the fronts, 1’s on the back. 
I thought her feet looked exactly the same. It’s really hard for me to see changes because I see them so regularly. But Tami said her feet looked better, and they’re certainly not bigger because they’re flared, so:  cool. The front right boot looked very wonky to me, but Dixie moved out perfectly in it and they weren’t even close to failing when I went to pry them off. 
It just looks so bulge-y at the toe!

And no filling in her legs. The footing is better than Virginia City (but really, VC is unbelievably rocky; y’all just don’t know if you haven’t been to Nevada), but it’s not easy terrain. I think the squishy Goober Glue in the soles of the glue-ons makes a tremendous difference in their comfort level. I know from my own barefoot-shoe running that an extra 2mm of sole makes me far more comfortable, and the squishy support in the frogs probably helps stimulate them. If you don’t glue for long rocky rides, you should consider some pour-in pads, perhaps? 

I took a lot of (somewhat random) pictures of Dixie’s Easyboot glue-ons and Kody’s Renegade glue-ons, to show you the difference in them. I am really happy with how she goes in the Easyboots, but I think I’m starting to see the reasons you’d pick one brand over the other. I’m not really ready to sort and describe and post the pics, but that’s in the pipeline. You can do a little more tweaking of the hard-shelled Renegades, especially if you have an overreacher. 

I know that I’ve spent a lot of time squee-ing about how wonderful my Specialized saddle is, but I’ve found the Big Problem with it: cantle bags. 
I had a purple Stowaway that I bought at some ride last year and never really used. I don’t usually ride with a cantle bag — one of the few times I’ve come off Dixie was when I was twisted around trying to get something out of one, and she shied from a rabbit (really?!) and I ate dirt. But they’re really a good idea for the longer distances, so I strapped it down on the saddle Friday night.
I ran the straps through the stirrup leathers, but the buckle looked like a world of hurt.

And I didn’t like how it looked. It was too far back, hanging off behind the pad, but worse, it looked like the buckles were going to be directly under the back of my thigh. I wanted to just set-and-forget the cantle bag and not try to strap it on at dinner, and I didn’t think I could do a hundred miles with something poking my thighs. 
So I muttered shit, took it off, and carried it over to Henry Griffin’s tack trailer. He had an English style that might have worked, so I stole temporarily borrowed one and tried it on my saddle. The pocket didn’t quite fit over the back of the seat, but worse, the velcro straps that go around the billets are about 4” too short. 
Double shit.
I returned the stolen bag and went digging in my trailer. Surely I had something I could make do with! In one of my early fits of “I need one of everything,” I’d bought the last old-style cantle bag Henry had. It’s a tiny duffle bag, with a big metal zipper and a bunch of D-rings. (And it’s so old it still has Henry’s Montana address on it, if that helps date it!) 
It fit, and if I strapped it down it wouldn’t bounce and it wouldn’t rub, so it would have to do. 
Wire from D to D, with bungees going from saddle D's to the center D on the bag.
One more shot, post ride. I'd threaded the bridle underneath the yellow bungees, with a carabiner for insurance, but the whole thing stayed very tight all day/night.

I feel totally, totally justified in all my hoarding tendencies. I will buy anything I see in a checkout line that looks like it might work on an endurance ride one day, and at some point I’d picked up these adorable tiny bungees from REI. And I had some wire that I’d saved from changing out a fluorescent ballast. Between the wire and the bungees, I got that bag down tight

Inside the bag, I had two spare Gloves, two of the biggest space emergency blankets I could find, an extra flashlight, an extra multitool, some wire and baling twine, some toilet paper in a ziplock, and a tiny roll of duct tape. Garbage bags work almost as well as emergency blankets, and I wanted two because if we got stranded and I got cold, Dixie would get cold too. 

So, if you’ve got a Specialized, what works for you on the cantle? If you haven’t tried a cantle bag yet, I think you could do some minor surgery on an English-style Stowaway (fix the pocket size, replace the velcro straps with longer ones), but to be honest, I’m not thrilled with the idea of straps under the billets. If I didn’t have that one rare and wonderful Griffin’s pommel bag, I’d try to mod a tiny camping duffel from REI and strap it down, but right now I don’t know of an off-the-shelf solution.

Anyway, getting that straightened out took hours, and I had no time to hang out with Evelyn The Tights Lady! But she gave me a big cheer on our way out of camp at 65 miles — thanks, babe! 

I started fully tacked up: halter, bridle, bit, and running martingale. Dixie knows that she can’t properly express her feelings about the pace I choose when she’s in the running martingale, and she has to content herself with angry little head-shakes instead of wildly flinging her head around in the hopes I’ll let her run. She hates it, precious, but I hate having the reins flipped over her head more! The martingale came off and went in my saddlebags at the first check, and it never ended up going back on. I didn’t start with a crop, but I did grab it when we headed out at 65 miles, when I knew she would be extremely unmotivated. Took some whacking to get her to the top of the ridge in the dark, but once we quit climbing, she got with the program and moved out with just an “ok trot” or a bit of leg for the rest of the night. 

I tied Mel’s Lucky First Hundred Rump Rug to my pommel when we set off after 65 miles, and the luck clearly rubbed off. I didn’t want to try to attach it to the maze of bungees on the cantle unless I was going to use it.

Things I need to change: 

Dude, I am so done with that one headlamp. I've got three: a really heavy complicated one, an extremely reliable middleweight one with no red light setting, and a nice new-ish ultralight headlamp with a red light. Twice now I've yanked the newest one out to find it's dead — last time I got batteries from Lucy and thought it was a fluke, but this time it was dead again so it's dead to me. I don't know if it really sucks battery that fast from disuse, or if the switch is just in a bad spot and it gets turned on accidentally, but it's unreliable. Ended up starting with the white light, but I couldn't turn it on without blinding everybody, and at 91 miles I swapped with Brenna for a red light. (Also I need to store spare batteries in the trailer, or at least in my camping duffle.)

I told y’all that I rode half the distance in just a rope halter. I didn’t use my favorite halter, the blue-and-purple paracord one from Mrs. Mom, because it doesn’t have rings. I pulled out my backup rope halter (hoarding: justified again), made of yacht rope with sidepull rings, and rolled all day in that. It worked; she went fine without a bit and seemed to appreciate the freedom, but it won’t do long-term. It’s got those “control knots”, and it’s fairly rough rope, and I just don’t want it yanking on her facial nerves. Also, it’s not sized right for a TWH head, and at the finish I noticed she couldn’t quite open her mouth wide enough to yawn — I had to re-tie it a little looser (and lower on her nose) for her to get a proper yawn. 
So I need something custom, and I think I’m going to get ATG to make me a biothane halter fitted precisely to her head, with bit hangers or a snap-on headstall. I need to get with them and get the measurements I need to take, but I actually have plenty of time before the Derby (or even NASTR).

And I need new stirrup leather covers. I bought the velcro kind, because the tube kind are so horrendously hard to fiddle with, but the velcro is rubbing. When I was scratching Dixie all over on Monday, I noticed two little rucked-up patches of hair on her ribs. So Tuesday I apologized, promised I wasn’t really going to ride, and threw the saddle on. Yep, the hard plastic velcro backing was rubbing her. No heat, swelling, or tenderness, but it’s one of those things that will only get worse.

More on boots later when I feel inspired to write again!