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Some of you may have noticed that my blog and profile no longer reflect Renegade Hoof Boot Dealer status. That is a choice that I have recently made when faced with news from Renegade that despite my years of enthusiastic and honest representation my recent use of a competitor’s product on Kenny, my wonky built pony that I’ve spent two years trying to dial in for endurance comfort, made me ineligible to work an Expo event as a Renegade Representative as previously arranged. It’s incredibly disappointing that seeking answers for the performance happiness of a challenging conformed horse and sharing my results honestly evoked such a response from a company that I have believed in for years. As a consumer, I find someone who has run the gamut of options and still strongly prefers one product over others to be most persuasive, however it seem that sentiment is unshared here.
Renegades are a valuable (and my preferred) tool in a barefooter’s arsenal, but my allegiance always lies first and foremost with my horses, and the truth. No one product will work for every single horse. May we always be so lucky as to have so many options out there available!

Please redirect any further Renegade inquiries to the company: support@renegadehoofboots.com

Rides of March 50 2017: Kenny Chronicles

In November of 2015 I traded a pair of Renegade Hoof Boots for a crooked legged 14.1 hh Chestnut gelding named Kenny. He was 11ish years old and is a Morgan/Welsh Pony we think. It’s not entirely known, as he was bought literally off of the slaughter truck some years and a few homes ago; what’s undeniable is the magnitude of attitude packed into his little red frame, the smoothness of his gaits, and the high quantity of laughs that he has brought to my life nearly every day since.

We’ve changed bits and saddles, been through steel and various trim, boot, and vet incarnations, been on Ulcer meds, and ridden a lot of miles both snarking at and enjoying each other.

Last April we completed an LD at the Whiskeytown Chaser and this March we tackled our first 50 at Rides of March in Nevada. I had never been to the ride and was still half convinced Kenny’s wonky front legs were going to fall off partway through, but if you aren’t a little nervous you aren’t doing something awesome, right?!

The final step in little Kenny’s prep for his endurance debut was a smashing clip job done last weekend by his former owner and our great buddy (and my trailer host for this ride!), T. We had clipped Kenny last spring and it seemed to help him a lot, as he’s heavily muscled despite his short stature and has excessive yak Morgan hair. The weather for this ride turned out to be quite interesting overall, but on both Arab and Morgan we were happy that we had clipped as it allowed them to dry quickly from both their and the skies exertions.

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Kenny before and after Clip (Yes, that’s a strut, he started fighting his gelding fence line buddy by the next morning, undeniably smug about his personal couture

T picked us up Friday morning and we were all in good spirits, the horses looked good–and we went all of ten miles before an intermittent ominous WHOMPWHOMP noise started to cut off our conversation and cause nervous smiles and half hearted dismissals.

Maybe there’s mud in the tires/undercarriage from recent 4 wheeling…

yeah, sounds good!

If you caught my story of my first 100 Mile attempt from last month, you may be empathetic to the amount of NO EFFING WAY a DTN (Disturbing Truck Noise) this soon into this trip caused me. We did in fact pull over, peer under the truck, pronounce it a Truck with Intact Tires and Bits We Think, and continued on our way feeling worse and worse–until I glanced over my shoulder while under way and saw the grooming tote  in the truck bed heaving itself up and around in an intermittent mini vortex behind the gooseneck hitch. WHOMPWHOMP.

Thank you horsey jesus 

From there, smooth sailing and possibly a year or two returned to my life span! After two recent long hauls, the border crossing jaunt to the Red Rock Road area north of Reno felt gloriously brief and we had arranged ourselves in ride camp by early afternoon.

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My kit/My ride/the drive/ride camp spotted and set up in/Epic Saddle Posing

One of the major perks of my snarky little pony is the ease of being with him, hauling with him, camping with him. Sure he lets you know his opinions, flips over unsecured (and sometimes secured) containers, and has put me through it dialing in his comfort for endurance just so, but he loads right up  every time, eats in the trailer, eats as soon as his rope hits the side of the trailer, takes care of his bodily functions unashamedly, and loves to drink. He’s also kind of cuddly despite himself on the ground and always pops right up into his Trot outs. If you don’t intensely value all of these characteristics, you haven’t ridden/owned a problem child yet.

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Steeds settled in with a view/Spying on Kenny/T does Hoof Armor/bareback spin from camp/Derping with my buddy

One really nice feature of this ride was how friendly the ride management, volunteers, and vets were. They were all accessible and encouraging, information was clear, and the atmosphere was great throughout the weekend, despite the challenges that inevitably arise. Vetting in and the ride meeting on Friday evening were uneventful and time seemed to have flown by as usual as we finalized our saddle pack contents and made warm mashes for the steeds past sunset by T’s sweet rig lights.

Things have been going too smoothly right? Ready for a rookie mistake curve ball? Good. As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, I’ve been through it sorting out foot wear for Kenny, as his narrow fronted, toed out conformation and over-striding way of going made my usual strap-on Renegade answer not quite adequate, though he did quite well in Renegade Glue-ons. Not wanting to have to glue for every event, I recently sucked it up and went back to the dreaded Easyboot Glove with some friends’ help and after a successful high speed, deep mud, hilly test ride I had brought the 4 power-strapped  Gloves to ROM as his preferred foot wear. The literal fact that they are essentially thin rubber gloves give him some protection without bulk, and since he has Yak skin I don’t have to worry about gaiter rubs like I have in the past. Of course, I didn’t actually try wedging these cursed things onto Kenny myself after our final test ride where my Easyboot saavy friends had applied them, as time was too short to get another ride in and I’ve used Gloves in the past and can be over confident at inconvenient times. If you heard excessive profanity involving the name “Kenny,” accompanied by the hollow Thwack of a clog hitting absurdly tight boots on Saturday morning in ride camp, I apologize. With much sweat and disbelief I did manage to wedge his 0.5 Gloves on the front, with the LF taped as in the experiment–but there was absolutely no way I could get the hind Gloves on. My buddies had done it, but it wasn’t happening for T or I that morning and not certain just how good the promised good footing really was, I threw T’s conveniently correctly sized Renegades onto his hind hooves and off we went…

Another fun feature of this ride was my former project horse Apache attending his own first 50 miler with his momma E, my trailer host for December’s Death Valley Adventures. Unfortunately she had an adventurous arrival to camp this time and then got the full effect of Apache’s flank sensitivity on ride morning when a split girth he wasn’t used to caused a bucking episode. Tough bird that she is, she was already back in the saddle grinning about it when she reported it near the start, and we ended up leap frogging with them throughout the day.

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Use what works (but practice first)/lovely sunrise/on trail with Apache and co/lovely views

Kenny and T’s mare Niki rated well together last year at the LD and we regularly train together, so it was a lot of comfortable fun setting out down the endurance trail together again. Our steeds were entirely reasonable in the early miles, with me once again thanking E, this time for the ported Pelham bit that she had lent me recently that has been the breakthrough for Kenny and I on being able to communicate lightly. I got Kenny as an adult Morgan pony cross and one that had been through green riders’ hands at times at that, so in the wrong head gear he’ll happily pull/take death spirals to stop. The Pelham allows me to ride with mostly no contact, and a light sponge at the reins is all it takes when needed.

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decent weather to start/lovely views/pics  of us by T and E

The trail was all sand all day, great footing as promised. We had snacks for humans and horses and we partook of them along the way, with the horses drinking well at each of the plentiful water stops. We only missed one turn the entire ride, early on when we hadn’t realized their more gradual spread of three ribbons indicating a turn versus the tight cluster we were accustomed to. Once we had that clear, the trail was very easy to follow! A trail note, before grandly proclaiming how great your tack works, i.e. Man I love how my Saddle/pad stay in place without an Excessively tight girth–look down at your self and make sure that your saddle pad isn’t making a bid for freedom out the back of the saddle because you never actually did re-check your girth. 🙂

We cruised back into Camp for Vet Check 1 after 20 miles with happy steeds, both pulsing right through after our quarter mile or so walk in. Kenny had one C on one gut quadrant but otherwise all A’s and his pulse was lower yet after his trot out. So far so good!

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Vet check line/Good ponies scarfing on 30 minute hold/Heading back out                                 (vet check pics by Mallory Weiller)

I’m still not great at getting out of holds on time, and it’s something that I always aim to be better at. Still, T and I had inhaled some stellar burritos my husband had made and sent, shed trash/repacked carrots and waters in our packs, electrolyted humans and horses, and were back on trail for the 15 mile second loop in what seemed like no time. While there had been intermittent wind in ride camp/on trail, it wasn’t until midway through the second loop that the weather took a literally darker turn, with some ominous clouds gathering overhead.

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sun/wind/rain/cool rocks/found snow on the ground

About halfway through the second loop I was leaning towards taking off Kenny’s hind boots. The footing had been nearly flawless throughout and he usually conditions completely barefoot–something I both had and hadn’t accounted for when making my last minute decision to throw on Renegades that morning. IF I had a boot issue, he’d be fine barefoot; but also, while they aren’t excessively heavy, they certainly add weight to each hoof, and extrapolated over 50 miles plus the non stop sand, there’s clearly room for extra/over muscle use. I can’t claim my thought process was actually that linear while on trail, more of a gut notion, Hey I should Take those Unnecessary Hind Boots Off, and I mentally decided I would at the next hold. Kenny, being a smart alec, promptly flipped his left hind boot off, prompting me to pull over and remove them both there and then.

We were traveling in a small group with some other riders around that time when the rain began in earnest, despite my skipping Make It Rain on my Pandora every time it had tried to play that day. Out came jackets and it was a rather grim faced TrotTrot on out of the valley crossing and back up towards mutual trail and camp. The steeds had chomped through all their carrots again at that point and were ready for something more substantial;  T and I were looking forward to our hour hold for some good grub (and dry gloves) as well.

The 35 mile one hour hold went quite smoothly as well! We pulsed right in again, vetted through with even better pulses and grades, and both horses tucked into their hay back at the trailer. T and I swapped out our outer layers and gloves, restocked packs, and grazed steadily out of the coolers (i.e. PBJ, salami, cheese, bananas,oranges,nuts,etc) while the ponies stole a nap.

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Leaving ride camp for the third time on the final loop Kenny felt a little stiff in the hind end; with the cold wind/rain and after he took a lovely clear pee just outside ride camp, it seemed most likely that he needed to warm up again, and we strode back out into the desert behind T’s lovely mare in pink. In a mile or less Kenny felt loose and cheerful again, and we cruised along until a cutoff led us to a very long and deep sanded descent, which we humans hoofed alongside our horses, popping hay cubes and treats into their mouths every once in a while. We felt like we were the only ones out there at this point which is always a uniquely titillating endurance experience–and I was glad that I glanced over my shoulder at the bottom of the hill before enacting a plan of dropping trou for a pee, as a group of riders were suddenly right behind and then passing us.

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Having a blast in some beautiful desert country

We had a great time cantering along a short repeat flat section with great footing; Kenny travels fabulously with great hind end impulsion, especially at the canter, a gait that we have conditioned in. Since removing his hind boots about 30 miles in he felt extra powerful and I never had to lay a leg on him, which is saying something for what started as a very ornery pony. It took Kenny a solid calendar year to believe anything I said, and ever since and the farther we ride, the more we connect and work together as a unit instead of fighting each other. He’s a very challenging and rewarding little critter!

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With daylight in the sky and over an hour on the ride clock we claimed our beer from the troughs a mile out from ride camp and enjoyed our brews and tunes and great horses all the way to the Finish line. We may in fact have been too leisurely about it, as when we vetted in and trotted out T’s mare went flawlessly but I heard the vet mention a hitch in Kenny’s gait, Left hind, and he even trotted Kenny out for me so that I could see–which I could. It wasn’t major and we were given our completion; I was shell shocked to see anything as he’d felt so good on trail. All other parameters were great and Kenny cheerfully tucked into his hay and mash back at the trailer with his first 50 Mile Completion while I had a mini pity party for myself and contemplated what may have gone wrong.

There were a few things to add up: his apparent stiffness leaving the hour hold that he worked out of, and likely back into as we had our leisurely walk to the Finish, caused by both moving out in pure sand for 50 miles with no sand training, and adding Hoof boot weight to his hinds when he wasn’t accustomed to it. Feeling his tight hamstrings and the two knots on his left side haunch particularly, paired with his cool tight legs, great looking hooves, and otherwise cheerful attitude, we figured that he had muscle soreness that he’d likely work out of in a day or two. Should I have tried on/figured out the hind Gloves myself beforehand? For sure. Should I have stripped the heavier Renegades sooner? Probably. Learn by doing, errr, screwing up, I suppose!

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Steeds the morning after ❤

Both horses consumed and expelled most expediently overnight and enjoyed their walk in the morning, drinking deeply at the cow trough we passed on our stroll. We had an uneventful (and paperwork checked) journey home over the border back to CA and despite my conviction that Kenny would get out of the trailer looking stiff and terrible, he trotted out into his pasture, rolled vigorously, and looked quite sound. A faint step here or there, but already working out of it. I pulled him again to give him another Sore No More slathered haunch massage and much to my surprise he trotted right to me to be caught! Kenny can’t be accused of that on an average trail ride day. I do think he enjoyed himself! Doesn’t he look smug? 🙂

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pro ride photo by Baylor/Gore Photography

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Kenny the 50 miler pony and Miss Piggy the escaped pot belly: Equally smug

I think that we have some more miles and dialing in to do (glaring at you, Gloves) but I also think that my unlikely little crook legged pony and I have some more endurance ahead of us,too! 😀

 

The Answer to All of Your Horse Questions

is….

It Depends 😀

The longer that I am fortunate enough to be owned by a varied herd of equines, and ride and board others,’ the more certain I am that there is no one straight recipe for success with horses. Okay, yes, they all benefit from movement, good forage, basic healthcare. But beyond that, bigger picture, in the epic minefield that are the “What is the best…” Questions, I can only say: It depends on the horse.

Case in point: Kenny, Sir Kenneth of Crookshanks, my Little Red Flyer, a Morgan/Welsh Pony cross who in the year and a half that he has been in my life has had me turn my routines and suppositions and skills upside down. He sounds like such a simple thing (if you don’t know Morgan/Ponies): now-12ish, just over 14 hands, a gelding who will pack kids and husbands, technically. Ah, but little Kenny is so much more. He’s toed out in front quite epically, has a particularly crooked right front hoof, and a very strong opinion on pretty much everything.

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Wut, Human

Once home, booting him in Renegades for conditioning was immediately a challenge; while the oval profile and forgiving Captivator shape of the Classics could accommodate his upright Morgan style hooves, I couldn’t seem to cut them back short enough to prevent him from forging with his massive over-stride. With his knock kneed and toed out front conformation and therefore in-swung movement (which is actually incredibly smooth and a pleasure to ride), the bulk of the Renegades clearly bothered him.

Viewing his crooked hoof capsule and “tall” hooves when I brought him home, I had quickly resolved to “even out and normalize” his angles. I fussed with his hooves almost weekly, and was excited as they started to look more as I thought they should.

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Kenny early 2016, deep into “fixing and normalizing” his hooves

We completed the Whiskeytown Chaser LD in April 2016 in Renegade Glue on boots with plenty of pony to spare–and when we next rode, Kenny was lame on his wonky RF that I’d been busily “bringing down to normal.” I immediately took him to a local well known and respected veterinary clinic, worked with a podiatrist/lameness veterinarian, x-rayed, and on his recommendation and by his farrier had one of my horses steel shod for the first time in years. Then watched Kenny stand more crookedly than ever and rip off his right front shoe in one day, and then the reset in a day and a half, despite wearing the recommended bell boots 24/7.  As that was clearly a fail, I pulled Kenny’s one remaining shoe and left him in the pasture for a  few months, no trims, just horse time.

And then after some months of being a horse in pasture, he was sound. And cranky as ever. With a dental and chiro done and constant attention to saddle fit (he muscled out of his semi QH bar Big Horn before long and I have had to adjust shims in the Specialized Trailmaster now on him 3 times already), I decided to try Gastroguard for the first time ever in my horsey career to see if any of Kenny’s attitude was ulcer related. While it was err, enjoyable? dosing a snarky pony every morning for 14 days, I saw zero difference in him and on vet’s recommendation didn’t pursue the entire (pricey) 28 dosage.

Ever seeking to do better and suspecting it was my own trimming and angle tampering that had lamed Kenny early on, I had a local trimmer with barefoot training trim him a couple times in mid/late 2016. Things seemed fine but with trimming skills myself, I can’t legitimize paying outside professionals for long unless absolutely necessary. And so I kept riding Kenny, and letting his hooves grow as they wished, conditioning entirely barefoot on rocky trails from Oroville to Redding throughout the winter and into this year. Every time I went to trim his feet there just wasn’t much to be done, feeling and seeing that Kenny was sounder and moving better than ever with the angles that he was rocking on his own.

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Kenny 2017

With a year and a half of LSD, one successful LD in rough terrain under our belts, and a sounder and stronger pony than ever in the early months of this year, I began to pick out Kenny’s first 50 miler. He does well in the cold and with friends egging us on that it’s a good First 50, we have set our sights on the upcoming Rides of March in Nevada, and/or good ole Whiskeytown Chaser closer to home (April). Conditioning barefoot is a lovely thing, but I’m simply too paranoid to attempt 50 miles+ barefoot, so the inevitable What Will He Wear question came roaring back to the forefront once I had settled on potential events. I had of course proven that Renegade Glue-ons work for Kenny, but I think we can all agree that it would be lovely to have a strap-on option for our horses and not have to rely on gluing for every event, especially for relatively good footing.

And so this latest blasphemy was born:

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For the first time since giving up on Easyboots in disgust in 2012, the pony gets an EB pit crew–thanks friends!

To backtrack briefly, I first took my horses barefoot in 2011 when I could not secure a reliable and skilled farrier. An Easyboot trimmer and dealer took over my horse’s hooves, and was kind enough to teach me my early trimming skills as well. I even bought my mare, GE Blazun Haatdesire, from Global Endurance, some of the top Easyboot users and dealers in the nation–and could not keep Easyboots on her for anything. Or if I did, they rubbed her raw. Taping and whacking them on with a mallet, then controlling my mare’s gait so she wouldn’t lose boots, the various incarnations of anti-rub attempts(baby powder, desitin, stockings anyone?) if she did retain boots, Oh, it was an aggravating journey, culminating in using 10 Easyboots and 12 hours to complete Cache Creek 50 2012, a notorious water+hills boot eating ride. And then I found Renegades. They seemed to magically stay on despite not needing to be tight, they didn’t rub, and they came in pretty colors. Sold. I became a Renegade rep not long after, and have used them successfully on so many horses and client horses that I have lost track.

all pro photos by Baylor/Gore

And then there was Kenny.

SO, back in current-times, a couple EB buddies and I conducted a boot test with water and hills last week that was entirely laughable. The boots were old and didn’t have power straps, and Kenny shed all 4 in under 2 miles. I can’t tell you how little I ever wanted to hear that rubbery WhompWhomp of an Easyboot hanging off it’s gaiter like an anklet again, but as it wasn’t a fair test due to the boots’ condition, we headed back out a few days later in new Gloves with powerstraps.

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And oh how we romped, through sucking mud up over the boots, across countless streams, and then ZOOOM, up hills, trotting and cantering with ease and endless “Do I have boots?!” questions, as the wind roared, drowning out potential WhompWhomp sounds. Yes, You’re good, You’ve got 4 tires, I was reassured continuously, and 13 brisk, muddy, and speedy miles later, we had 4 Gloves, a frisky pony, and a Renegade Rep ready to buy her horse some Gloves. Because it just depends on the animal, and if you aren’t willing to step outside the comfort zone of what you know or like best (coz let’s be clear, this works for Kenny–me?  I’m whining all the way to the mallet and athletic tape sections), you might never have that beautiful AHA moment (on that same ride, the +/- 10th bit that I’ve tried on Kenny gave me another AHA moment: Ported Pelham wins!).

Go forth and experiment my friends. May we all have deep toolboxes!

20 Mule Team 100 2017: Endurance, All Ways, All Days

I’m freshly back from my first 100 mile attempt at the 2017 20 Mule Team Ride based out of Ridgecrest, California and I couldn’t be more amazed at both human and animal perseverance–and my desire to sign up for another 100 miler as soon as possible. If that has you wondering about possibly smooth travels and a successful ride completion I must immediately burst your bubble and instead urge you to settle into a comfortable chair with some popcorn and prepare to read a winding tale of Things Gone Wrong, Everywhere, that still ended with big smiles, hugs, and the desire for more.

Thursday 2/23/17, The Getting There

In mid January my friend W asked me if I’d like to ride her 19 year old Arabian stallion Aur Aquavit in his first 100 mile attempt at 20 Mule Team on February 25th, with her crewing for us. I had never ridden Aqua before, or any stallion, and had never done a 100 miler either, but was fresh off a successful 4 day multi-day catch riding at Death Valley and while not high mileage in any way (655 endurance, 505 LD), I have quite a number of catch riding completions on different breeds and temperaments and thrive in the cold, so felt that I could give 100 miles on a new horse in the Southern California desert in February a good shot.

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First Ride on Aqua

The weeks leading up to leaving for our entire team’s first 100 were anything but smooth. W’s truck was getting worked on (Hahahaha, the irony!!!), the Oroville Dam Spillway in our town was crumbling (I live above and some miles from the dam, fortunately, while W was on the edge of evacuation), and I had a raging cold and pinkeye. Auspicious beginnings, no?

Still, we were packed and on the road Thursday morning of ride week still decently in the early a.m.’s. We being W, her 6 year old daughter, and myself, in the single cab bench seat ’97 Ford dual tank diesel, towing a giant LQ full of our junk, with Aqua the stallion waaay back in his quarters. Spirits were high, as were nerves. One of the many hilarious ironies in this story is that I myself drive a ’97 Ford dual tank diesel, and as drivers of old vehicles, we exist in a territory of paranoia about break down, with generally sharp ears and highly attuned noses for the possible scent of our next Oh Shit moment. Fair enough, as we made it all of 30 miles from home before I sniffed up the first whiffs of a horrible burning rubber/metallic smell, and we quickly unanimously decided to pull over on the side of Hwy 70 and investigate. As we stopped we could now hear a undeniably unhappy clanking to the idle, and the first SOS calls went out. While W wrestled with AAA dispatchers I got in touch with fellow locals also headed to the same ride, and fortunately (for us, not them..) still behind us. E and her extra handy military husband, B, pulled up behind us and for the first but absolutely not last time got to sorting things out. B quickly discovered that an arm of our AC compressor had broken off and was causing grinding, sparks, and a charming smell. With it somewhat addressed, we limped the rig the short way off the main road and between B and some of W’s local friends, the conclusion was made to bend the piece out of the way and run it, as it solved the idle problem, the belt was intact, and the compressor hadn’t seized (yet). And of course our back-up gooseneck-hitched vehicle was my own ’97 Ford diesel that has recently developed a penchant for randomly turning itself off. 😀

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To prevent this story from being endless, let’s just say that while the A/C compressor jerry rigging worked, the Ford also decided to play games about switching between it’s fuel tanks, and there were a few more quite tense moments before we finally pulled into Ridgecrest Fairgrounds ride camp in the dark, some 12 hours after we had started the 7 hour drive, and with no real clue if we’d have a functioning truck to get us home. Aquavit, like the amazing animal he is, had handled it all calmly and quietly, nonchalantly eating every time I anxiously checked on him.

2/24/17, This Just Got Real

What I learned from my successful decision to set aside some horse injury-related PTSD and ride unknown horses at Death Valley 4 days straight while sleeping in the back of a friend’s trailer is that you just can’t think about these things too hard. To be clear, you absolutely obsess over them, pack and re pack over and over in your head, and just generally never stop thinking about it–but without actually *Really* acknowledging and wallowing in the details of the facts that are signing up to do something that halfway terrifies you. You just do it. Winging it, while as overprepared as possible, I would call it. Because the Actual Reality of it might stop you from doing something awesome and missing something amazing in this very short thing called mortal life.

Friday morning found us successfully installed in Ride Camp with a very calm and collected Arabian stallion who ate, drank, pooped and peed his way through this entire epic tale. I will probably say this a million times, in this post and for the rest of my life, but Aur Aquavit is an amazing horse, and just as importantly, W has done amazing training and homework with him to make him an absolute pleasure to be around and ride. W got Aqua as a 14 year old pasture breeding stallion, completely unbroke, and did all of his training herself. I am the first person to ride now-19 year old Aqua besides W herself, and in my last couple of years riding alongside them on our home trails on every conceivable equine companion, I have been nothing but impressed by Aqua and eager to ride him. To her I must say again, Thank you for Sharing an amazing animal.

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Just being epic, Friday at ride camp

Friday’s pre-ride was a very important thing to do for a variety of reasons, the main one for me being to reassure myself and Aqua that we were going to be on the same page for this whole endurance ride thing, where a horse is often at it’s friskiest and most competitive. I also wanted to be sure we had the Boz saddle correctly re-rigged after cleaning as necessary, as I was not familiar with it at all, it being my ohhh, maybe third time aboard Aqua or in a Boz ever (I’m not a fan of how the saddle rides by the way, but it’s great on Aqua’s back and that’s what mattered). I saw two other endurance buddies saddling up for a pre-ride in camp late morning Friday, one of whom, Lucy, has finished the 100 multiple times, so I hustled to get mounted and headed out with them for whatever trail insight I could glean. Aqua did some jigging and I did some quiet swearing, and I quickly resolved to continue on alone after the other gals turned back, as we HAD to establish some sort of good behavior guidelines then and there or ride morning was sure to be worse. That’s a commentary on all horses, by the way, the need to recognize an issue when it’s an issue, and address it in a timely manner, before they use their clever successes against you. In all  of his freshness Aqua wasn’t even a fraction as terrible as my own mare used to be, and in fact the moment my buddies had turned back on the pre ride Aqua picked up a businesslike power walk and assured me that we were kosher, showing no desire to turn back with them. Turning around to head back to camp, however, turned into another jiggy head tossing session so we did some turn around around and backtracks (so what?),turn around and back towards camps (Yeah, whatever lady, now I jig), and finally resolved on drunken steering side to side going forward as the One Thing that irked him into politely walking instead of jigging and getting swerved. As a catch rider I feel it’s incredibly important to establish early on with a new short term mount that you are both firm, but very fair. Power walk your heart out pal, just don’t jig. Okay, says Aqua, and I immediately felt better about the 100 miles facing us. Lots of brain and heart and good training there, no doubt.

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More truck tinkering, and Vetted in with great scores and a sexy beast stallion!

2/25/17, Ride Day

One of the perks of ride camp being at a fairgrounds was the super hot shower I got to take at 4:30 am Saturday morning, with W feeding up the steed, and on track to tack up and head out timely but after the front runners. Here on ride morning, a couple of rookie mistakes almost bit me in the butt. First, I almost rode in only-worn-once new shoes, the same model as my old riding/hiking shoes, but not THE ones I’d been wearing. I was smart enough to try the newbies in camp Friday and concluded that despite them being the same shoe, they just weren’t as comfortable yet, and were fired. That was a good call, but then I almost mounted up to leave for the 100 miler still in my comfortable morning Muck Boots!  No rookie nerves here, nope! 😉 Shoes corrected, I was on the steed and heading out on trail at a brisk power walk in no time it felt like. My actually fully committed rookie mistake was not leaving ride camp with a rump rug on Aqua. I also think I should have been on him sooner and walking around warming up, as I only completed a circuit or two of the immediate fairgrounds before seeing Lucy heading off and thinking that it was as fine a time as any to get on trail. And finally, I believe that despite advised discussions and conscious decisions, we should in fact have pre-loaded Aqua with syringed electrolytes, not just done salty mashes. Sometimes you just don’t know until you try!

Our first 17 miles to vet check 1 felt pretty darn good for a rider on a 100 mile fit Arabian stallion that she’d barely ridden, in a saddle that she didn’t love! Sponging at the reins and keeping up a running dialogue with Aqua as his momma did when he got jiggy got me a quite reliable 7-8.5 mph trot and after waiting for a rider to mount early on who turned out to be the guy that had marked the trail, I felt pretty calm and optimistic about the endeavor, even as we encountered trail marking sabotage within the first 10 miles (!).  Aqua drank at the 10 mile water stop and tore into the multiple alfalfa bales we encountered in those early miles, and just overall felt like a totally reasonable customer as we cruised into the first vet check.

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Vet Check 1 to Vet Check 2

Aqua pulsed right in and we coolered him up and settled him in front of food as I hustled around to pee and get some food myself, then the first Really Exciting Moment occurred when a buddy’s horse being crewed next to us spooked, ripped free of containment, and proceeded to gallop at reckless speeds through the heavily occupied vet check, eventually breaking her companion horse’s reins by galloping through them so that they both ended up zooming around for a minute. Aqua stood at his hay pile throughout all of this, I believe he may have stopped chewing, but that was it. Eventually the two horses stopped back by their humans (and both of them went on to completions looking fabulous by the way) and with my heart rate barely recovered we took Aqua over to vet in. All was going well until the vet intoned, “feel his rump,” and I felt the tight muscles where things should be soft. The vet cautioned to keep an eye on his muscles while not thinking a recheck was necessary, so Aqua went back to hoovering hay while we immediately covered his rump with another rug, commenced massaging, and I stayed about 15 minutes extra on my hold continuing this process and seriously talking over with W whether we should continue. We agreed that I would carry on, with a rump rug, and walk for as long as I felt necessary, imagining that our friends who had come in a bit behind us might take some time to catch us on trail and then we could trot on with them if ready. And so Aqua and I set off, already behind our Out time, rump rugged and walking, and I proceeded to go through every conceivable emotion in the 18 or so miles to Vet Check 2. Our friends caught and passed us only a mile or less after leaving Vet Check 1 after my late departure, and neither Aqua nor I felt that was the appropriate pace for our ride in the moment, so on we walked at a brisk, ears up pace but still a walk, already in last place or darn near.

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riding the highs and lows of your first 100 on a good horse

I resolved somewhere in those first miles out of vet check 1  as I questioned what in the bloody hell I was doing that I was going to start giving Aqua small doses of the Enduramax syringe I was carrying, but only after he drank well again (he had already taken multiple 30-swallow drinks to that point, starting at 10 miles). Years ago at the hot and challenging Cache Creek 50 my mare that I had only been using salty mashes on for electrolyting had a hind muscle cramping issue right at the base of their biggest hill of the ride, more than halfway through and miles from help; a passing rider who was also a vet gave me a tiny dose of enduramax and told me to just go slow–so I dosed my mare and hand walked up the entire hill. At the top of the hill the mare drank, pooped, peed, and despite my previous resolution to RO at the next check, dragged me down the other side of the hill, around the vet check where she never stopped eating, and on to bright eyed completion. It was on this and the recent Death Valley XP experience where we only electrolyted after good drinks, that I based my decision to introduce small doses of a powerful syringed electrolyte into his system after his drinks, something that I don’t take lightly. God bless that stallion, he took my messy syringing and even sadder attempts at rinsing his mouth out with a water bottle in stride, only covering one of my arms in spat electrolytes, and not getting harder to dose each time as some are wont. As I was syringing these powerful salts in I noticed that he had a small rub from his snaffle at the corner of his mouth and it struck me as a terribly uncomfortable combination, so after my mouth washing efforts on him I took his bridle off, swiped at his mouth with some more rinsing, and rode/hiked him the rest of the way to vet check 2 in his halter, as I’d seen W do many times on our home trails. This horse you guys, this horse ❤

17078420_10100123865135346_85847532_nAs we hiked down the long hill together toward Vet Check 2 at 35ish miles and after two big drinks and 2 small electrolyte doses, still in his rump rug and with the muscles feeling looser, Aqua began to pick up more and more speed and I could tell his A game was entirely back, though at that point he wasn’t deigning to accept carrots after electrolyting, because Eww my Mouth!  We trotted nearly into Vet check 2 in his halter and had the place to ourselves, being both the last 100 riders on course but also still the earliest Last they had had through the check in years. That was one of the odd parts of the experience, being certainly not fast, but definitely last, alone, and yet not actually pushing cut offs like it felt I must be. Our vet through was better than ever, the few Bs on guts improved to As and solid trot out. He drank and ate the entire hour hold, as did I, and I rolled out of Vet Check 2 feeling like we might actually get this thing done.

Vet Check 2 to Vet Check 3

Thanks to some Facebook consultations by W, I had saved some great How To Get This Done overviews into my phone from a couple of experienced riders, including Mel and Lucy. It was really helpful to open my notes in my phone throughout the day and reassure myself that I was following the general advice (“then ride the boring trot section, then climb the hill, then go down the other side, then ride to the trestle, then ride to the next check”). I also had music playing quietly on my phone in my saddle bag, and those two things were vastly soothing during this Doing My First 100 Solo thing, as that’s essentially what it became, not seeing a rider most of the time from Vet check 1 to vet check 2 and then not at all until Vet check 3 at 55 miles.

I can’t say enough good things about Aqua. As we climbed the big hill 40-something miles in we had started to mind meld. I thought about how I had to pee badly, and he immediately stopped and stood quietly as I obediently bailed off, peed, handed him a carrot (he now gave no shits about chomping a carrot directly after his electrolytes after drinking or any other time that I offered), and mounted again, he waiting to resume his power walk uphill until I was comfortably seated. We kept snacking, and drinking, and climbing, and life was good.

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We spotted the first lit glowstick on a bush at 5:37 pm somewhere in the 40 mile section, and I was pretty darn excited to have gotten to glowsticks before dark. I eagerly sent the news on to my crew (it was very VERY nice to have cell service almost the entire ride), then encountered deep sand that slowed us down yet again. At about 50 miles we were practicing our first trotting by glowsticks in near-dark together and it felt pretty good if slightly terrifying. I was feeling confident as I rode toward a truck with lights and a human with a clipboard, thinking I had finally gotten to the 55 mile check, so I bailed off cheerily with vet card in hand–only to discover that it was just a number taking volunteer, and a newly arrived and confused one at that, who told me both “Oh they’ve been looking for you!” (what? I thought I was in contact and kosher?!) and “I can’t find you on the list” (UHHH?!) and then reassured me that he didn’t know where the next vet check was either. With my carefully gathered calm starting to disintegrate, Aqua tore into the hay bales at what I now recognized as the common trail we had started on earlier in the morning, I mounted from a bale, and we trotted on after the glowsticks, starting to eyeball all the various lights sprinkled around the gathering dark and wondering which, if any, were this promised vet check.

I was riding towards the lights of the highway at that point which gave me some hope but it’s quite deceptive to follow glowsticks through the dark too, as things never seemed to get closer. I couldn’t figure out how to turn up the light on my GPS to look at mileage but was on track with glowsticks so I just kept trucking until I saw a large black figure moving along in front of me and wondered if this was my first hallucination that all the experienced 100 milers had warned me about (it’s too early for such things, my brain argued). It took two calls forward to get a response back that this was a rider, and not just any rider but Mark the Mustang guy, who I had ridden for at Death Valley. And who had been near the front all day?? My brain clicked over furiously trying to make sense of this until he said he was approaching his last check, so essentially lapping me as he came into 90 miles and I came into 55. We rode into the 55 mile check not long after and I confess to bleating “Just do something!” at my crew as I hurried to the porta potty. While I’ve certainly finished 50s in the dark before, and as recently as Death Valley Xp, I had never been at 55 miles in the dark and not done before. Aqua vetted through great and set to eating as enthusiastically as ever while I gulped down a mercifully hot and salty cup of noodles W had provided and tried to remain calm about the fact that my headlamp and glowsticks hadn’t made it to this stop. Overhearing this, Mark, who had a headlamp on but was interested in still getting his Top 5 (in fact, No. 3) place Finish, offered to wait the few extra minutes for my hold to be up and take me along for the 10 miles back to the Fairgrounds for the Finish/Next Check. It was an act of mercy for a team of Newbies and it was much, much appreciated. I had some of the most fun I had had all day in those ten miles in the dark, trading wry remarks with Mark, a nip of Fireball from his flask, and then hurtling along both on hoof and by foot to keep up with his impressive pace. Aqua felt amazing, doing some sort of fleet footed trot-canter-gait behind Mark’s Mustang, and only taking a little convincing that yes we were going to “jog” in hand down the black hill behind Mark’s bobbing beam–I say “jog” because Mark apparently has wings on his shoes as well as his horses, and zipped his way on foot down the hillside while I Jesus Take the Wheel’ed my way along behind him praying that nobody tripped and that I didn’t drop my vest that contained my vet card but that I had to strip off in a sweaty panic as I ran. It was everything hilarious and slightly mad that this endurance game is to me, and the fresh fresh horse under/beside me made it even better.

I left Mark to enjoy his successes at the Finish line about a mile out from camp and made my way easily by glowstick into my 65 mile Vet check and hour hold, garnering so many “Wait you’re ONLY at mile 65?” remarks at the vet check that Facebook friends days later told me that they’d heard it from afar. At this point I still wasn’t pushing cut offs, but apparently they were used to a brisker pace 😛 Aqua vetted through looking great and power walked back to the trailer to eat his way through his hour hold, as I did the same inside the LQ. I had thought I would shower at this hold but instead felt that I had sweated all my gear into place and I didn’t want to peel it off and reveal potential rubs that would feel worse once unmasked and might get worse in different clothing. I also couldn’t fathom taking a nap as some had suggested, since I felt I needed to keep my energy and optimism rolling or else. We had rather another comedy of errors in the LQ after I ate, when I almost taped on my finally located headlamp without checking if it had batteries (it didn’t!) then didn’t *have* new batteries, so in yet another Jesus Take the Wheel moment I prayed the used batteries that I harvested from a clock would last as I needed, said Nahhh I don’t think I need a Jacket in the Desert at Night in February (good coz they were still out in another crew’s vehicle and not at the fairgrounds) and headed out into the pitch black alone. What, can you smell the Greenness from there?? 😀

We went about 2 miles successfully navigating by headlamp beam and glowsticks before I couldn’t spot the next glowstick, panicked, and back tracked a half mile to the last big intersection, where riders coming in to their 100 mile finish assured me that yes, I had to take that left turn and head back the way I’d already been going. Turning a willing Aqua back that way, we jogged on and immediately spotted the glowstick farther on ahead that I hadn’t seen the first time. Okay, phew, on track, and we continued on another mile and a half or so until the glowsticks Just Ended. I did large looping circles from the last glowsticks I could see trying to locate the next, then decided to just keep navigating into the night with my headlamp, map, following hoof prints and poop, and seeing a chalk marker or ribbon just about the time I was convinced I must have finally gone wrong. I saw an arrow that said “100’s Out” that was quite encouraging…and then I just saw nothing but hoofprints for a while, and the headlights way ahead of me on the hill had petered out and I suddenly realized I was riding away into total darkness with no lights ahead and no glowsticks anywhere nearby.

The first “I think I’m Lost” message went out to my crew at 10:48 pm, nearly 5 miles out from leaving the 65 mile ride camp hold. I’d gone almost 70 miles deep, had a good, willing, sound, forward horse under me, was feeling physically fine myself–and I knew then that I wouldn’t get it done. With 6 endurance ride distances happening the same day plus a running event that all used the same style of daytime marking (chalk, ribbons) I simply couldn’t navigate correctly without glowstick confirmation that I was on the right trail and not some other distances’ trail with poop and chalk and ribbons. I was the last rider on course so no one would be coming along. It was up to me to backtrack and get my horse back safe to those city lights and it was getting colder.

Because it’s completely hilarious and encapsulates the experience of being new at this and lost at this, here’s a screen cap from that night between my crew and I, who are both just continuing to do our best in a highly stressful situation (you can thank my phone for editing my colorful talk to text 😀 ):

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You may imagine my incredulous face at “Get to walmart,” which was merely the latest thing relayed to my crew from the ride authorities who knew that I was lost. There was no getting to Walmart to be done (apparently a past pick up point for lost riders), but I did manage to find the last glowsticks I had seen a few miles back and was pretty sure that I was on track to successfully save myself, while W and a new friend decided to off road the gal’s quite nice car in an attempt to find us. As we traded “can you see me now” inquiries and I anxiously trekked along a road that I swear had had double the glowsticks when I had come out it that it now had, and I passed various vehicles off roading in the night that weren’t W, we had a hail mary “tap your brake lights” moment and suddenly off to my right I saw tapping brake lights, at the same moment that I found the big intersection I had backtracked to in my first turn-around earlier, common trail I had traveled many times at that point, and then I knew that I was alright. The relief I felt was immeasurable, and though my logical brain poo-poohed the idea that they need escort me in the last mile by their lights, as I knew now I was on trail, the OMG I was Just Lost In the Desert At Night part of my brain jumped in and said Actually Yes, Don’t Leave Me, Thanks!

We cruised back into the fairgrounds at a power walk after about 75 miles of ground covered and rustled up a vet for a Rider Option vet out around midnight, and I’d like to thank vet Melissa Ribley, former manager of this ride, for being so calm and gracious and comforting in the moment. We tucked Aqua in with his hay bag and mush after another long drink, I took a gloriously hot shower, and that, my friends, was that.

2/26/17, The Day After and Drive Home

Aqua looked and moved fabulously the morning after his impromptu 75 miler and I am happy to report that I too felt great, despite riding in the Boz saddle that I don’t relish the riding position of. All of my time on foot and changing diagonals throughout the day definitely helped, as well as remembering to ride Long, Straight and Strong with lowered shoulders and uncurled toes (a chant I use as I ride),  K-Taping my ankles the night before the ride, and taking Redmond Salt Capsules throughout the event, ala my Death valley XP strategies.

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Aqua the morning after ❤

As this ride story has already been epically long, let me just sum up the drive home by saying that it took us 12 hours again, we broke down again, and it all ended in the dark again, with Aqua being picked up by another trailer and a AAA big rig towing the truck and trailer unit home. Aqua took it all in stride and is now happily home and enjoying his well earned rest, while I feverishly look at the AERC calendar and wonder what my next Extra Nuts Dirty Unparalleled Really Awesome Night-Involved Crazy Extravaganza will be!

Congratulations to all the folks giving it their all at 20 Mule Team last weekend, and thank you to all the organizers, volunteers, and Vets that made it happen. See you on the trail!

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20 Mule Team 100 2017, photo by Gore/Baylor

A New Fella, a Big Goal, and Lots of Riding

It’s been a month or so since the last blog and as usual, grass isn’t growing under my feet! I’ve been zipping from Valley to Coast and back again, north to south and repeat: fitting boots, seeing family, and riding my butt off. There have been some exciting developments, too.

Kenny:

Everyone’s favorite snarky Morgan/Welsh pony is getting quite fit and has his name on an upcoming 50 miler entry! He’s been climbing hills, fording creeks, jumping logs, carrying friends, and most recently, night riding. After last years rebalancing attempt/shoeing fiasco, I’ve essentially stopped trimming his hooves, and he’s sounder and landing more evenly than ever, maintaining his own wonky angles as he likes them and conditioning barefoot like a BAMF. He is consistently Kenny, that is, slow to warm up like a diesel engine, but 5 or 6 miles in when he decides this is happening, a really fun, smooth ride who just gets better as the miles go by. He’ll be getting a trace clip again when the wild weather cooperates and I’m really looking forward to his first 50!

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Sheza/Blaze:

In their roles as the youngest and eldest of my herd, these two get the most Being a Horse in Pasture time, while still enjoying quality time with me here and there. An ideal life I like to think.

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The New Guy:

In late December I received an email from a Facebook friend regarding my Next Step Program and a 14 year old gelding looking for placement. I was just heading out for Death Valley XP at the time and had a boarder arriving when I got back, so we agreed that we’d discuss it more in January when things had settled down a bit. Death Valley was amazing, Mel‘s mare arrived for boarding, and suddenly it was late January and I was driving out to a beautiful area I’d never been to to meet the gelding, Oh Yours Truly (a pedigree worth looking at!), barn name Scout. His kind eye caught my attention immediately, putting me in mind of my dear Blaze, a gently snarky fellow with a heart of gold. Let me tell you that after two rides on him and bringing Scout home, I feel that my initial impression is right on! We’ve had a few discussions already (Yes, you WILL cross the big stream in the lead, Yes you will Load into a new trailer without your Buddy, No you will Not unload Yourself At Your own Whim), but he has been entirely reasonable and shown a quality brain to go with his stellar pedigree and substantial body (15.1 hh stick and level, BIG bones). He came with hives and some hair loss but the hives have already dissipated and the hairless areas are less irritated; I still plan to do a round of Ivermectin on him, as well as having a dental and chiro check on him next week. Once he settles in we’ll be working on conditioning miles and hopefully have some fun at a ride camp by the end of the year 🙂16787965_10100119846897926_557925096_n.jpg

A Big Goal

Not long after crossing off one big goal, namely riding all 4 days of a Multiday, another huge opportunity came my way. While out on the trail one day, my good friend W asked if I would like to ride her stellar Arabian stallion Aur Aquavit in his upcoming first 100 miler at the 20 Mule Team ride. I’ve harbored both a 100 mile goal and a desire to ride a stallion in endurance for years now, and coupled with the fantastic fellow that Aqua is, I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity! I had leaped off Kenny and was handing W his reins and adjusting up Aqua’s stirrups to my length almost before her mouth had closed from the offer, so needless to say that was a YES, and we’re now just a week away from leaving! There is much time and many “vet checks” to get through before we even reach the start line yet, so please send us good juju on this hugely exciting endeavor. 😀

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Phew! I think that’s all the news for now, and that’s without regaling you with tales of the Crumbling Oroville Dam Spillway in my town, or the horrendous case of Pinkeye I came down with while retrieving Scout. The road rolls ever on and on, Keep your wits about you and keep on trotting, folks!

Death Valley XP 2016: What I did Right

For every list of things that you might want/need at an endurance ride, there’s a crusty old timer who rides 100s with no water bottles, a bandanna, and the saddle they were given as a kid. I like to fall somewhere in between, acknowledging that not “all the things” are necessary, but at last fully aware of my own struggles in staying healthy at/through rides, and therefore I’ll persist in sharing what works for me, in the hopes that others can pick up something that might work for them.

Basically, I’m a pale skinned redhead who can overheat in 30 degrees (yes Fahrenheit), gets dehydration migraines, has a squicky nervous stomach at events, and has a rebuilt metal right ankle (I work,walk, run, and ride in hiking boots with ankle support). I spent my first few *seasons* of endurance sick as a dog after every ride, no matter the weather: headaches, endless dry heaving, the whole 9. It’s been a journey of pinpointing problems, running experiments on myself, and harvesting ideas from others, but after being on the road at Death Valley XP recently from early Monday to late the next Sunday in someone else’s rig, sleeping in the back of a horse trailer, caring for 6-8 horses, taking zero showers, AND riding 4 days in a row at 175 miles total for the first time ever–I felt great and like I could ride another day. I’ll never call them Must Haves for anyone but me and it’s not a complete packing list, but below are some highlight items that really made a difference.

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the kit

Delicate Flower Survival List, December Desert Edition 😉

  • Granola Bars in Your Pack: Possibly the single biggest revelation for me regarding sporting self care came last November while crewing a 100 mile run for Ultra beast Mel, who had a timer going on her watch throughout the event to remind her to eat on trail as appropriate. To be clear, I wasn’t that organized, and I’ve always carried snacks in my saddle bags, BUT–for the first time, on this event I forced myself to eat something as soon as I started to feel off at all, whether that was 20 minutes into the day or just after lunch. In the past I would acknowledge feeling crappy, think about food and feel crappier, and the downward spiral began. This time, I opened my saddle bag and crammed a granola bar down my gullet before I could think about it. TADAHHH, my stomach instantly felt better. And it worked, over and over, each day (day 4 pre lunch was a stomach low, but I queasily ate a carrot, didn’t barf, and resumed granola bars after a good salty lunch). I carried Chocolate chip Quaker bars and Strawberry Nutrigrains and both stayed palatable all week and were approved by my other buddies who got hungry one of the days (bonus:easy to cram shareable amounts in a small saddle bag)
  • Drink Water: I drank 6 1 pint bottles a day at least. And Very minimal alcohol. Your amounts and tolerance will vary, but everyone needs to drink some water okay.
  • Baby Wipes (=shower): One of the biggest things on my mind was the potential for chafes. I rode 4 different horses in different gear, none of which was mine, and I’d never ridden 4 days in a row before nor am much of a runner, so my anti chafe game isn’t strong. I never did use any lubricants, but I was sure to clean delicate areas (bra line too!) and feet twice a day and had no bra/feet chafe issues, despite finding a few little toe blisters throughout the week that I ignored.
  • Pocket knife: Besides the obvious, you can trim your nails, use it as tiny pry bar–and you can also cut off your underwear in 2 swipes. I have not yet figured out the underwear thing and I’ve also sworn I’d never ride commando as many do–well, ride 4 days in a row and you just might try it too.
  • Sudafed & Ibuprofen: Sinus pressure turns into nasty headaches for me and ibuprofen is god, no big explanation needed there.
  • Redmond Relyte Cramp Eliminator: I’ve had these salt capsules around for a while and have never managed to reliably use them through a ride til DVE. In a bid for survival of this saga, I started tossing them down about as often as I changed diagonals trotting, which really boils down to when it occurred to me. I did use them throughout each ride each day, and aside from the Day 3 LD on the bounciest Arabian ever born, my body amazingly never felt sore or crampy
  • K-Tape ProMy buddy E taped my right (metal) ankle for Day 1 50 and after walking through ankle turning rocks and down a mountain, I suddenly realized my right ankle felt amazing and my left supposedly good ankle felt a bit wobbly and tired. Cue K tape for the left side too, leaving it on both for the entire ride, and the strongest, unrolled, non sore ankles I’ve ever had 175 miles later. We double checked application methods on google, so this was  by no means scientific but entirely magically successfully. GET SOME
  • Caffeine/B Vitamins: I don’t drink Coffee, I know, shocking. I was raised on black tea and still often enjoy a cuppa in the morning, and definitely did while in the desert in December. Since that does appreciably nothing caffeine-effect wise, I take 5 hour energies when I’m dragging.  I won’t pretend they’re technically good for you, but a happy side effect that I discovered is that they’re full of B Vitamins, something women (especially on their periods) can be deficient in and the deficiency of which can cause nasty headaches. I am still SO STOKED I didn’t have a single headache during or after this trip! 
  • Neck Cozy/Buffs: Once I pilfered a neck cozy from and made by E, I pretty much never took it off again, morning or night. It’s shaped appropriately to fall comfortably whether extended up under your helmet strap for maximum warmth or tugged down loose when you’re running hot. Comfortable for riding or bedtime, affordable, and made in fun fabrics, I am absolutely adding a few more to my wardrobe. As for Buffs, my helmet doesn’t even fit correctly without one on, as I always wear a Buff and almost always dunk it in cold water to assist in cooling (yes, even in the desert in December). You can also whip off these items for impromptu wound care if needed.
  • Tiny packs of tissues/Chapstick: Noses run in the desert, and I get cold sores. These two little items were GOLDEN and I sprinkled them throughout my gear.
  • Skin Moisturizer: Nope, not even close to a necessity, but when you’re in the desert for a week and showering with baby wipes, your skin will thank you
  • Emergen-C and Cough drops: Even if you don’t end up needing them, likely someone else will, and if you start to feel crappy it’s sure nice to have an option
  • Lens Wipes: When you’re filthy, wear athletic fabrics, and use glasses and phone screens, these handy little wipes will clear your windshields while your buddy is still trying to find some clean cotton somewhere to wipe theirs on. Sharing is caring!

Having fun at DVE

Other Smart Decisions that I made:

Choose Your Bedroll Spot Wisely: This goes back to knowing thyself. If you get cold a lot, by all means pack tons of layers and blankets and choose the warmest possible spot. Personally I’m such an overheater that I only wore an actual real jacket for about 2 miles one day of the entire week (vests rock!). I was also offered a bunk spot in a very warm wood-heated tent, and as tempting as it was on a chilly afternoon when offered, my number one challenge is keeping myself and my core cool enough. I build up an immense amount of heat when I sleep and would have been miserable in that cozy tent; I was entirely warm enough and happy with my sleeping bag and a blanket on a cot in the back of E’s uninsulated horse trailer. People think I’m weird, but it works for me.

Follow Your Gut:  This should probably be in large letters at the top of this post, but it fits nicely here and will hopefully still have some impact at this position. As I mentioned, I was in a friend’s rig riding borrowed and relatively unknown horses, as in we hadn’t sorted out horses or saddles going out each day until the night before. It was exciting, and a little scary, and it’s easy to lose oneself amongst the pressure and excitement and wanting to do well for everyone. In our pre-ride day in camp, we took out two rounds of horses and on the second go I rode one of the Mustangs that I hadn’t yet been on but was supposed to ride one of the days. Briefly, my afore mentioned metal ankle was achieved 8 years ago by getting spectacularly dumped at high speeds, after mounting a newly bought horse–and resulted in a life flight and surgery. I’ve been in pursuit of lost immortality ever since, and have real fear issues about the mounting, settling, and moving off moments with a new horse. The mustang that day at DVE barely let me mount, then started reversing at high speeds in the tight camping area. My mind screamed to bail off this death ride while E calmly told me to flip him around and back him my way. E was entirely correct, I survived a short ride, and I also resolved to NOT ride that horse in an event, no matter the cost to pride or reputation. E cowboyed up and rode that horse on Day 3, and he didn’t give her a lick of trouble until the 28th mile when he suddenly and unpredictably launched her into mercifully soft sand. She jumped up to ride not only him but another unknown green Mustang the next day–all my respect, truly. Me? I’m still proud of myself for saying No.

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DAY 4, with E and Jo, photo by Steve Bradley

So there it is, to be laughed off or learned from. I had an incredible time at this ride and a big part of the enjoyment was feeling as good as I did! Happy trails out there!