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!


  1. I would love headlamp brand suggestions - either to definitely try or to definitely avoid. We occasionally head out at sunset and I'd like to have something I can put on me, rather than just a white light that goes on the breastcollar. Extra bonus points if it can 1. live in my pommel bags until I need it and/or 2. go on over a helmet cover.

    I have non-velcro leather covers. They were absolutely horrendously miserable to put on, but I found that since I have the buckle at the bottom, I just have to squish the covers up enough to get to the buckle when I want to fiddle with things. I also chopped off excess length/fluff when that caused issues initially, which gave me just a little bit more room to fiddle them up and down as needed.

    1. Pezi or black diamond are my recommendation. I use my head lamps hard and these 2 brands have consistently given me good performance.

  2. I wrote a comment to the other post and promptly lost it. How I hate blogger and it's stupid little comment window which doesn't work at all on the iPhone and isn't much better on a real computer. I'm typing *this* in notepad to cut and paste when it's safe to do so.

    The comment basically said how proud I was of you guys, how much fun it was stalking you vicariously, and how bummed I was not to make it. Of course there were many more witty interjections, but I can't remember any of them.

    * * *

    Re. this post:

    * G's secret sauce is the bomb! I started using it on horses that formerly gave stink eye if you went anywhere near them with elytes, and it was like they didn't even notice it had gone in. When I managed to get Small Thing to ingest it with almost no reaction, I knew it was a Good Thing.

    * I give you a gold star on human hydration and elyting, but you get a fail on fud. Better than nothing at all, but you need to find something more nutritious (this from the person who a) doesn't eat well at rides and b) tries to subsist on chocolate if at all possible). Potato chips, snickerdoodles, M&Ms, cookies and sugar do not represent "ride foods that will cause you to feel great during a ride". Friday's fare sounded quite good... but it deteriorated from there.

    * Wonder if Dixie enjoyed the milkshakes because of the heat?

    * Think the suggestion about adding GG to boots even if you don't glue on rocky/hard packed rides is a good one. Remind me of that next time since I know I won't do it because I'll forget.

    * Re the cantle bag - have you tried a banana bag? It might work very similar to your duffle, only it's longer. I have one I can loan you to try out if you'd like. Of course it's not even close to Dixie's colour, being green, but it'll give you an idea if it'll work. (I can't use them because I get a cramp turning around to get stuff out. At Tevis I went with a lil' baggie thing similar to yours (only about half the size) and had "will only need in emergency" type items in it.)

    * It's funny you mentioning how unmotivated you were going out on the night loop going up to the ridge - you guys made *amazing time there. I couldn't believe how quickly you got up there.

    * Re. the rope halter - tie your own? That way you can make it perfect for her head. REI has the rope (or I have a mail order place bookmarked that has every colour you could imagine) and I have instructions I can point you to. There is one horrendously difficult knot (the one under the chin - the fiador) that you sit on the floor, follow the instructions to the letter by looking at the diagram and about 4 out of 5 times it doesn't work. On the 5th time it does and looks really cool and you can congratulate yourself on your skill, all the while having absolutely no idea what you did. After that you just have to know how to tie a knot like what you learned when you were six. You can make it fit perfectly to her handsome face.

    1. Nah, respectfully, I did great on food. I ate tons of protein/fat (all that steak/ham etc) and Brenna inserted candy in me as I hopped back on every time. And the gluten thing is SUCH A PAIN IN THE ASS - what else *could* I eat? I can't have a nice filling sandwich, or mac and cheese, or cold pizza, or a croissant (how I envy your ride croissants!)

      I don't know what a banana bag is, but I'd love to take a look at yours!

      Kody was quite happy to trot away, and Asali was in the lead, and I just kept whacking Dixie to keep them in sight, and eventually she went "oh hell I guess we'll just go with them then"!

      I don't know if rope will be kinder to her face than biothane would be? We don't need brakes - if she doesn't rate nice I one-rein-stop her and she magically remembers her manners. I just need a way to catch her if she stumbles, with the least amount of trauma.

    2. I would expect biothane to be kinder - I know Confetti politely ignores pulls on her beta headstall, but generally remembers to listen in her standard rope halter.

    3. Roo wears a zilco biothane halter because of his delicate flower rubbing tendencies. All the others wear rope halters ( which I tied myself, with the exception of Fergus who still wears the rope halter he was wearing when he arrived from Canada as a 2-3 (?) year old [/digression]).

      Roo's biothane one is much easier to put on, and yes, gentle on the face. It has a really annoying strap under the chin though, that I'm constantly having to put back in place, despite adding the obligatory attractive electrical tape. He's had his since 2007 and it is beginning to de-laminate on the inside of the noseband so may need replacing in the next year or so.

      I've had to reshape the brass ring that goes under his chin on several occasions after he had a pulling back hissy (and I don't really think of him as being a horse that pulls back that much), which is another reason I prefer rope halters - they discourage such stupidities.

    4. Urk... bugger... hadn't finished editing that last one, putting in the < > around digression. I hate blogger.

  3. ATG makes a cantle bag for the screws on! I don't have one. Yet.

    And of course, I ADORE the biothane sidepull w/bithangers that ATG made for me last year. Perfect fit. (and perfect bling, too!)

    1. ATG makes a cantle bag for the screws on! I don't have one. Yet.


  4. And you're the third person this week to have blogger eat their comments, and I have a perfectly nice dot-com that needs about 15 minutes of hard work to get it fully functional. I have to resist the lure of House of Cards and get this thing ported over TONIGHT.

    1. I have a perfectly functional dot org, don't particularly like blogger, but lost my good Windows FrontPage software when they idiotically decided to discontinue it and haven't found anything else that I like, so have flip-flopped back and forth with what to use.

      Tell what you are going to use on to make blogs?

  5. Did you add food that you ate in the saddle bag? did you not eat goop? I went to REI today and noticed that they are carrying something called "pocket fuel" which is bascially our almond butter stuff but more interesting. It's way expensive (about $1.25 an ounce) but might add some variety when you (and I) are sick of chocolate. I bought some small packs of different flavors and I'm going to do some experimenting. If I do end up likeing it and using their packets, it's packaged more like applesauce with a screw off lid in a foil pack instead of the god-awful foil tear open things that justin's uses. Justin's is messy and the packets cut the sides of my mouth as I try to suck everything out. The pocketfuel looks promising and I'll let you know.

    Its ironic that I'm actually getting ready to do a food post too! Nver hurts to revisit it often. Was looking over your list to see if youfound the perfect gluten free thingy that would be my magic bullet for eating issues, but alas I don't think it exists yet. :(

    1. I tried Justin's packets last fall and wow, what a horrible horrible mess I made of myself trying to get the goop out and into my mouth and then of the insides of my saddlebags trying to get them put away.

  6. Just to let you know- ATG made me an awesome rope halter sidepull. The rein attaches lower down than on most rope halters- about 1/2 way between the loop that you attach the leadrope to and the knots on either side of the nose band if that makes any sense. My horse hates extra stuff on her face so I got them to make it without metal rings, just rope loops and I love it.

  7. Huh, it would never have occurred to me to use a little duffel as a cantle bag! Interesting. Thank you for all the pictures! I think I have a potentially winning strategy for converting my English-style cantle bag to Specialized-friendliness. I'll get pics if I can make it work.


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