Thoughts on “Endurance Prospects”

I can’t tell you how to win, BC, or even rack up a whopping lot of competition miles at this point. I am not the first, last, most or least impressive. I’m just someone who’s spent 6+ years and a lot of time, money, research, and heartache on trying to succeed at endurance and if I can leave you with only one message let it be:

Do this for the bond. Do it with a horse that fills you with joy from first glimpse in the field to last mile on the trail. Realistically, you will struggle, strive, and have to work at improvement and growth with your horse, but if you aren’t starting with a deep Like, let’s hope Love, of your horse, just don’t bother. The papers won’t make it, the competition records won’t make it, the right color, height, build, or saddle won’t make it.

I’ve tried to do it all ways, starting early on with non-Arabian Craigslist specials who didn’t like the training mileage (+the many misrepresented CL specials I saw/rode/never bought–wow). They showed me that not every decently built horse out of the field wants to/can do an LD+. Next I bought a high end, well bred, middle aged Arabian mare that I liked that had an AERC start and the bloodlines: she gave me filly Sheza and she showed me the joy of Going and riding a rocket ship–and was retired with arthritis/hock issues after one season. With Desire retired in my field and Sheza growing up, I next tried a calmer, easier going, more proven ride in a 100 mile Rushcreek gelding. He had the bloodlines, the bone, the level head, the record, the everything–except the desire to do endurance or much interest in me, for that matter. Boy does 50 miles feel long that way.

Recently I listed my other filly, Rushcreek Aurora, for sale. Big, well bred, well built, a steady disposition, a legacy of performance at her back. Heads are turned, then scratched, by my claims of wanting to do endurance but my behavior of selling a great prospect in favor of recently arrived Kenny–a 14 hh, toed out, crooked legged Morgan cross plucked from the slaughter truck  a few years ago. All I can say is, with full acknowledgement of continued risk and effort, I want to endure this life, this world, this sport, with people and critters that bring smiles and evoke a feeling of brotherhood. In my world, Kenny brings me a ridiculous smile and effusive glow when I see, handle, or ride him–and Rory is a Fabulous Endurance Prospect on paper.

As Melinda said: “Step one of endurance. Find a horse that you actually enjoy being with for 50 or hundred miles.”

What a notion.

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Merry Christmas from RHE

My favorite part of the holidays? Memorable times with those you love.

A Surprise hike with the husband & my 14 hh boy wonders, Apache &Kenny

A Coastal Visit to family

Knowing the herd is getting along and well watched by the husband

 

A  safe drive home, a lake hike with the husband and dogs between winter storms

A cozy Christmas eve morning, horses well rugged and fed in the storm outside 

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Wishing you all a safe and merry holiday, wherever you are and however you celebrate it.

Thank you as ever for reading and have a wonderful New Year!

Another One??

This weekend I brought home a horse.

It’s okay, don’t worry–you, me, my mom, and the guy down the street all just thought the same thing:

Another One?

For me, that question immediately flips open the personal Rolodex of Failures.  Or, erm, let’s say The Book of Learning. It’s a bit of novelette at this point.

Briefly?

Introduced to endurance as a barely-teen. College. Life. Non Arabs who simply didn’t want to go the distance. Human injury and recovery. An Arab who’s  happy with LDs. An Arab who wanted to go the distance but their body wasn’t sure it did. An Arab who didn’t want to go the distance and his body was undecided too.

And here we are. My last great notion, a proven 100 miler Rushcreek, leaves today to be a beloved light use trail horse, and I am happy for him.  I am happy and grateful to have the opportunity to have a little pool of Hopefuls. And I will be very happy if this all pans out, someday.

Morgan/Welsh Kenny tries some Rennys before coming home on Lease 

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Crewing Tevis 2015: It Ain’t Over til It’s Over

This was my fourth year crewing Tevis and as ever there was much to see, plenty to learn, and lots of strategic waiting to do. The weather also threw a nice curveball, as Tevis is always hot but this year it was literally raining en route to Robie, as well at Robinson Flat on Tevis morning. Eventually the sun came out and upped the humidity factor nicely, too. If it wasn’t a big tasty bowl of challenges it wouldn’t be Tevis, right!

raindrops into Robie–found my rider, “chasing” her to camp 😉

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the mighty Rushcreek Seth, attending to his vittles 

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Looking good team

1-11721937_873974596016_1719258177_nThis year there were 10 Rushcreeks vetted into Tevis on Friday, here’s a fun group picture. Also interesting to note, 50% completed, in accordance with overall Tevis completion average.

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I did my usual gathering of crew bags (including Dr. Lydon’s this year), dialing in of rider wishes (what do you want specifically met with, tack/clothes changes, highlighting small details not to be overlooked), and met my crew buddy. It was still impressively cool and grey as I headed back down to Auburn to my old friend Motel 6–aaand promptly proceeded to lock my keys in the truck while shuffling gear. Fortunately I’d just devoured a #2 Animal Style from In n Out so I was chuckling instead of raging when I called AAA. That was sorted out easily enough and before I knew it the alarm was pinging in the wee hours and it was time to head for Robinson Flat!

cool unsettled weather & Blue moon over RF, Sat am

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I’m always in the first fleet through ..

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..so we get a nice shady near the road and bathrooms

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guestimating off last year’s time, we were ready with the cart. time card and in!

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always good to check full protocols if you’re a meeting skipper like me..they needed a Pass or Recheck blood draw card as well as time card

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Seth is a typical Rushcreek trot-outter: “why human, this is stupid”

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And a fabulous RC eater, of course

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after a panicked “we need what sort of extra card to leave?!” (blood draw) sprint

Laura heads merrily out of RF at 11:55

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Finishing up at RF means cleaning up your mess including hay, and it’s a good idea to bring your own trash bags as they can (and did) run out.  We piled gear in the wonderful cart–every Tevis rider should have a crew cart, really, and I say that having crewed a buckle entirely solo with no cart— and we headed out, picking up someone else’s abandoned crew member along the way.

Foresthill parking lot was crowded, sunny, hot, humid–pretty well true to form, and I blessed my bright orange truck again as a crawl around the parking lot looking for a parking spot/sliver of shade resulted in truck recognition and being taken in under a boot client/friend’s awning and sweet trailer set up. Thanks again, W!

Bath road was busy as ever with the community and crews cheering the riders in

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grey skies again as Laura rolls in around 730 pm

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  Seth needed to pee so he took a minute or two to pulse down but once he peed BOOM did that pulse drop

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Foresthill trot out, Seth says “this is still stupid..”

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Seth continued to eat and drink nonstop through the Foresthill hold while our rider rested and freshened up, then about 8:40 it was go time again.

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This was the latest I (or my rider) had left Foresthill but all was in good order. After giving another buddy a ride I headed over to the Stadium and spent about 930 pm til 4 am switching between refreshing the Tevis webcast, chatting, and napping in the bleachers under a horse blanket. I made sure Seth’s stall was freshened up with vittles and poo removed, then closer to time brought the cart down to the Finish crewing area with hay and a mash pan and blanket ready.

In a bit of delirium and with the stadium announcer tiring I didn’t even hear or see Laura come in and do her victory lap, for all that. There is video (trying to add it) and he looks great trotting loosely around the stadium and under the banner. In the crewing area, Laura hollered at me where I was apparently sleeping with my eyes open and I snapped to it and whipped off tack and we headed in to vet.

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…and then Seth looked a little funny and we needed to recheck.

You could have knocked me over with a feather and I was doing my best imitation of a guppy fish at that point. We’re a low key team especially based off our success together last year, so I didn’t even have a cooler of ice to hand to get ice on his legs (lesson learned!!), but fortunately Laura has many friends and some ice wraps popped up pretty quickly. Begging pardons and with pleases I reestablished how much time we had left to recheck and she went for it–and sure enough Seth was slightly off on the right front and they were pulled at the Finish. While he did look good trotting in, once adrenaline wears off sometimes things are revealed, and that was that.

So now you know why the title makes sense. I think Laura said it best, classy and realistic to the end, so I’ll leave you with her message:

“For everyone who thinks I finished Tevis…I actually didn’t. Even after crossing the finish line after hundred miles, horses are required to be sound at a trot to receive a completion – and Seth was off on his right front. There’s a video that Jen Smith has that shows him trotting his victory lap and he’s not unsound at all. Sometimes things like that happen. It really sucks, but you know, if this were easy, everyone would do it. Thanks for all your support and best wishes.”

P.S. Seth is looking and moving great, picture by L as of the a.m., vacuuming up his vittles and bright eyed for the next adventure. Safe travels East, my friends

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Miscellaneous Gear Review

It’s been a while since I did a gear review, and I’ve accumulated a few Yays and Nays that I think are worth sharing.

Rider Apparel

UndeRider: I am one of those that sometimes wears 2 bras to ride. I recently purchased the Anita Extreme Control wireless sports bra after a fitting at the UndeRider booth at Wild Wild West ride. I’m a spasmodic shopper who has lost a significant amount of weight in the last few years and the size bra I had been buying wasn’t accurate, FYI, so a fitting can be worth doing. I liked the bra the few times I wore it working and then I really put it to the test on Gold Country 50 this past Saturday. Each time I put it on I briefly go “this is too tight around the ribs”–and then I completely forget about it and the girls til it’s time to change. Which for me is exactly what I want to happen with a bra! Winning. Already ordered another.

Kerrits Ice-Fil: I love the long sleeve tech shirts, literally wearing one right now. The Ice-Fil tights,linked in the brand name heading I have 2 pairs of because the pair I bought in what I thought were my size were way too large, sizing is a bit odd. The material feels as warm as if not warmer than my Irideon basic tights,and they’re quite stretchy to that point I question durability. Now that I’ve talked crap, I’ll add that I can’t stop wearing them and it’s purely because of the thigh pockets for my cell phone and goodies. In search of more favored thigh pocket britches..

Rackers Tights: I bought these because of the above mentioned search. They have a pocket, but it’s on the front of the leg which is awkward. I also found the fit awkward, and the material feels like a tarp. They are not in my britches rotation.

Horse/Tack:

Tailing Rope: I bought one of these nifty doodads from the lovely ladies of American Trail Gear at AERC Convention this year. Spark recently enthusiastically broke the snap while tied to a hitching rail–so I threw on some other clip I had in my tack trunk and it’s still awesome. Apparently it’s so new it’s not on their website yet but here it is on saddle, coiled, it’s the thin blue rope and has a 2 ended beta keeper that snaps onto a D Ring on the saddle on one side and holds the coiled rope in a snap on the other:

11695006_867951466416_4710677968419846990_nn I just pop open the snap when I bail off and away we lead, without having to undo reins or martingale. Here it is deployed:

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Rein Keeper: this is another easy to make yourself or Look Distance Depot has one! doodad that is so handy. Coupled with the ATG tailing rope above, I just snap the carabiner on the reins as I am bailing with said tailing rope (as seen in eating pic above, that’s why the red reins are staying up) and again no need to watch or undo reins.

Snazzy Fleece Coolers :  Hooves N Whiskers is a fun source of dog and horse goodies, from my favorite buckets, TubTrugs, to gorgeous handmade mohair girths and unique coolers. Spark borrowed Sheza’s at gold Country and this picture does it no justice, it’s got lovely black borders and everything..

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That’s all for now!

Gold Country 50 2015: The Sparky Files

I felt quite a bit less of a mess leaving for this ride. No doubt a combination of having now been through a multiday with Spark so I had some clue what to expect, and the weather being gloriously cool, instead of endlessly 105 like before Wild West. In fact the weather felt so glorious it decided to dump very real rain on Sparky and I as we prepped to leaved leave. Cue shivering horse! We can fix that..

11748581_869335632536_916460847_nIt’s a now very familiar route, out past Auburn and Cool to Georgetown and we arrived in cool skies early enough to score a swanky corral. We were settled in with our rider packet by 2:30.

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sweet digs!

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Friends started to arrive, then as I was tacking up for a pre ride I heard sirens and it was soon reported that a man driving while on a cell phone had hit and flipped a horse trailer nearby. The horse was taken to the vet and all ended up being okay, But wow. Could be any of us, at any moment.

pre-ride stroll

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Sparky vetted in with all As and a 40s pulse. He had about a dime sized patch of hair that rubbed off under his saddle pad on our last shake out ride (where he was moving like a cheeky rocket fueled 3 legged camel), but had not been sore or perturbed by it at all, so I had resolved to nurse it through with slicking/powdering agents, making sure the vet noted it ahead of time. Spark was in pro mode for that bit, eating and drinking everything around and settling in next to a corral neighbor.

settled in, I discovered Sheza’s new cooler is the only thing big enough for him

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If nothing else went quite according to plan in this ride, let me say that the camping part definitely did. Pulled in, had a corral, gave the horse hay and water and that was that. No tent? no tarps? I still can’t get over it, and with the cozy pre-made gooseneck bed and Sparky stashed in a corral overnight– the 5 am alarm was actually needed, shocking!

ride morning gelding derp!

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You may notice this post is slightly short on fabulous photos, and that can be attributed to one: shady camp lighting and two: riding a rocket pony. Getting a bit caught up in the last of the pack leaving camp early on, this is all I saw of the first 12 miles:

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The morning loop was out to the airport for a 12 mile check, 30 minute hold, then back to camp. That first 24 miles had some pretty legitimate challenges, from a downhill start to plenty of gradual climbs but also some short but VERY steep ups or downs, so much so that I was clinging up like a monkey then had to reposition my saddle  a few times, ever worried about that little hairless spot. Still, we zoomed into a humid feeling 12 mile check pouring sweat, with Spark at 72 bpm. Except in another minute he was 54 and then his CRI was 44/46 and all As. He wouldn’t drink yet but he ate the entire hold.

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Some borrowed baby powder assuaged my concern on the hairless spot, some kindly provided delicious fruit calmed me down a bit, and off we went back for camp, briefly joining another rider but getting left in the dust by that mare’s crazy uphill talent. I don’t ride to hold Sparky back but my compromise is always travel in such a way that we both stay vertical and okay. I didn’t entirely win that bit in the end, but mostly..

a brief moment of walking..

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Spark started drinking at about 18 miles and never stopped from there on. He vetted through great again at the 24 mile mark, with the hairless spot not at all irritated and grades groovy.By this point I was a bit sore in the neck and shoulders from the nonstop, errr,  enthusiastic way of going, so here’s a quick shout out for Icy Hot Pain Relieving Cream. I don’t remember buying it but clearly I did, and it’s great stuff. (By the way, looking for something to link to there, I saw there’s No Mess Applicator options, which might be good. Since I live doused in sunscreen it just another sort of goo to be covered in.)

24 mile check, As, 40 pulses, already ate a mash and on to hay

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About half of the 2nd 25 mile loop I called Aurora’s Glorious Revenge. This was where the horse who jammed through 2 LDs recently and had just jammed through 24 miles–thought he was done. And wasn’t. And had to leave camp again. Through the scary trees. Alone. BUAHAHAHAHAHA. I admit to savoring it a little.

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 We did some good flying on the easier parts of that second loop, had to do a fair bit of walking on narrow trail or awkward bits (you just can’t pilot a 15.1 hand spooky dork through narrow trails quite as handily). The ride photographer was out there literally hiding in the trees, so he may have gotten some exciting shots of us spooking intensely. Eventually, we got to the 40 mile vet check. By that point, somehow, we were 2nd to last again (that’s where we finished both days at WW). I can only conclude that leaving late, being a few minute late to leave stops, and not wanting to die=turtle finish, because that’s all I seem to manage despite it seeming like we were flying where appropriate. Not to suggest I don’t like being a turtle, but I do feel like it’s a looong time to be out there. We’ll get out vet cards back but I figure it took us at least 9 hours.

Anyhoo, by management mile 40, I was properly tired, as you can see by lack of photos. He vetted through still in the 40s CRIs,  one B on gut sounds but otherwise As. He was enthusiastically scarfing mash and hay the whole time I sat there contemplating things. Like bed.   Finally, our 30 minute hold was up and we headed out for the final miles back to camp.

We swung along at exactly the same extremely enthusiastic power trot he’d had that morning, or so it felt. I was really tired of the management side of riding him but I was pretty sure that i was finishing on a very strong and good to go horse which is a nice feeling, especially on a friend’s horse that hasn’t done a 50 in a few years.

Then, a mile from the finish, as we power trotted uphill and around a bend–there was a rider on foot, barely moving. Sparky went from 12 mph uphill drive to 0 in an instant, and his grandly high set giraffe neck went directly up and into my face. Hard.  I remember swearing, crying, and and swearing some more as Sparky slammed on the brakes a half mile from the finish at the photographer sitting silently on the ground.@#($&!!!!!!!!!!!!  My memory of the finish is barely seeing straight to get a time card, stumbling back to my trailer, then eventually standing there in a daze holding my cards and horse lead rope but unsure I could actually jog without passing out. Fortunately Diane and John Stevens swooped him up and vetted him out for me, THANK YOU GUYS. Spark vetted out great with good grades, I do think he earned a B on impulsion but god help us, I know he left his A game on the trail, and my face.

He ate, I napped a bit with a bag of ice on my face. Then, after feeling better post vomiting, and  contemplating the daylight left I couldn’t take it how close I was to home and asked a friend to back my rig out as my bell was still properly rung, loaded up a willing Sparky, and made it home just after dark.

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So, we got it done. He looks great this morning and is clearly an endurance beast. I’m…tired.