Friday, November 12, 2010

You might be an Endurance Rider if...

Mel over at Boots and Saddles did a post on signs you might be an Endurance Rider that made me remember a similar topic on Ridecamp of the same thread several years ago. Complied here for your enjoyment:

You might be an Endurance Rider if...

Crysta Turnage
• You buy bottles at the store based upon if the empty will make a good scoop or not.
• You have a low maintenance hairstyle that allows you to go six months between $12 trims at Supercuts but you don't bat an eye when you have to spend $80 with the farrier every six weeks.
• You cringe to spend over $30 on a pair of your own shoes, but can't pass up one Easyboot at that price.
• Your spouse has stopped even trying to keep track of your horse related expenses, and now does their best to not notice them.
• Your horse has been to school/daycare because you were out riding until the very last minute before you had to pick your child up.
• The meals you make for your family at home in the crock-pot on "riding days" somewhat resemble the mash you feed your horse at a vet check, but both are just as eagerly eaten.
• You've gleefully left a path of mud, horse hair, and other assorted debris through a public setting.
• You've met someone from your "normal" life while wearing tights in public (Oops, I was just going to run in REAL quick!), and only been slightly embarrassed.
• You're reading this list, laughing, and nodding your head yes!

Cindy Stafford
• You can list 10 different colors to describe your horse's pee
• You know more about your horse's nutrition than your own
• You know your horse's resting and working heart rate, but dang it if you can think of the last time you had your blood pressure taken
• You think nothing of preparing a dozen different ingredients for your horse's mash, but a 3 course meal for you consists of a banana, a snack bar and a Gatorade.

Chrystal Woodhouse
• You ask for a GPS (yes you already have one but they have a NEW wristwatch model!!:-)) or heart rate monitor for Christmas

Jamie Ward
• Most your wardrobe consists of ride t-shirts.
• Your shoe's have holes in them but ALL you horses have a brand new pair

Heidi Larson
• When it's near Christmas and you're considering a new horse so you can have a back-up!!
• When the tack vendor has a sale and you "have" to get something new, just because your horse "must" be tired of his current colors!

Maryanne Gabbani
• Your "good" shoes are a clean pair of Ariats

Dawn Carrie
• You've driven to work with the horse trailer hooked up to your truck because you plan to take off work early to ride, and having the trailer already hooked up will save you 5 minutes once you get home.
• You walk into a restaurant for lunch or dinner after a training ride wearing your tights and grungy t-shirt and sporting "helmet hair" and don't think twice about it. And, your husband, who is with you, is wearing the same outfit.
• You've browsed the "hair accessories" section at Wal-Mart, looking for neat-colored hair elastics (for braiding your horse's mane) that will match your biothane tack.
• Your husband hangs up from a phone call with his parents and says, "They want to have a family get-together this spring. I said I'd get back to them with dates we can make it. What's the ride schedule?" And you immediately rattle off the ride names and dates for the next 6 months.

Carla Richardson
• You're so used to having the trailer hooked to your truck that when you're NOT pulling it, it feels strange and you keep glancing back expecting to see it there.
• You wake up early in the morning and the first thing you do is look out to see what the weather is doing, is it going to be a ride day or cleaning the tack day. (Notice I didn't say clean the house day!)

• When your husband is driving a full-sized truck, you repeatedly reprimand him for taking corners "too fast"; only to have him exasperatedly say (again), "We are not hauling horses!"

• You go out of your way to this ONE supermarket, three times as far as your usual one, because they sell Ajax floor cleaner in bottles which are perfect for sloshing AND match your tack (orange in my case)
• The one time a year you dress normally, you get stopped by the police driving thru the woods on your way home, because they don't recognize you
• You quickly scan the racks of any tack shop or trade stand and if they don't have anything plastic in flashy colors you're not interested
• You spend long winter nights in front of the fire debating which color tack would suit your new horse best
• The garden shed is filled with crates, slosh bottles and various jerry cans, all clean and marked with your name, to the roof - the lawn mower and other expensive equipment are filthy, rusty and sleep outside
• When you meet other riders in the forest they gape at you and forget to say good morning
• The best discussions you have with friends involve electrolytes and HR monitors
• Before the vets comes you spend three hours scraping the mud off your horses
• You've perfected the art of buying the perfect polo shirt which is long enough to cover your diaper bum but not so wide as to get stuck on branches when travelling at speed thru forest
• When you get up at three in the morning and make the mistake of putting on the lights in the house you can hear the horses calling for breakfast, thinking they are going to a RIDE
• And of course, permanent helmet head, electrolyte stains on your shirts, flies on your teeth, and when out with normal friends you're the only one comfortable sitting on a rock because your bottom is so calloused ( or because you're wearing your tights)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Eating for endurance: What, when and why

Another good article, but I would caution against all the sugary and processed foods they seem to recommend. I've found I feel and perform much better consuming REAL FOOD instead of gels and sugary drinks. Some carbs are good, but you need proteins and fats in order to get through a full day out on the trail.

I find it a bit contradictory that they recommend "consuming sports drinks, gels, bananas, hard candies, peppermint patties and other carb-based foods during exercise" in one sentence, and then caution that "if you consume too much sugar (>250 calories/hour), the high dose might slow the rate at which fluids leave your stomach, causing sloshing, discomfort" just a few paragraphs later. Watch the sugar, especially fructose found in many sports drinks. It can be the perfect recipe to feeling very nauseaous later I've discovered. I always dilute any sports drinks and find I get less sick on those with a higher potassium to sodium ratio.

Eating for endurance: What, when and why

Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D.

Some athletes consider food their reward at the end of the day; they save up their appetite for a huge feast at dinnertime. Wiser athletes treat food as fuel; they knowledgeably fuel before, during and after exercise. They get more out of their workouts and prevent needless fatigue. If that is your goal, keep reading!

What to eat before you exercise

Contrary to popular belief, pre-exercise food does NOT simply sit in the stomach and hinder athletic performance. Rather, it enhances stamina and endurance. The following study confirms this point:

On two occasions, athletes exercised moderately hard until they were exhausted. In one trial, they ate a 400-calorie breakfast three hours before exercising. In the second trial, they simply had a dinner the night before. When they exercised "on empty," they biked for only 109 minutes, as compared to 136 minutes with the breakfast. That's almost half an hour longer! Exercising without fuel left them lagging. (Med Sci Sports Exerc 31(3):464, 1999)

Even if you eat five minutes before exercise, you'll digest the snack and burn it during exercise, assuming you will be exercising at a pace you can maintain for more than 30 minutes. This means, you can enjoy a granola bar and banana on the way to the gym to fuel your workout. Research suggests this pre-exercise snack can help you perform 10 percent harder in the last 10 minutes of a one-hour workout. Go for it!

Your goal is to target 0.5 grams carbohydrate per pound of body weight within the hour before you exercise. This means, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should target about 300 calories. This is far more than most athletes consume.

Obviously, the amount will depend on your stomach's tolerance to pre-exercise fuel. If you have a finicky stomach, liquids or semi-solids (Boost, yogurt, applesauce, pudding) might empty from the stomach quicker than oatmeal, bagels, bananas, animal crackers or graham crackers. The trick is to teach your intestinal track to tolerate the pre-exercise food so you can enjoy higher energy but avoid undesired pit stops.

Eating during exercise

If you are exercising longer than an hour, plan to consume carbs and fluids during exercise to maintain energy and prevent dehydration and needless fatigue. Depending on your body size, intensity of exercise and intestinal tolerance, you'll want to target about 100 to 250 calories of carbohydrates per hour after the first hour of a two- or three-hour event.

If necessary, set your watch to beep every 15 to 20 minutes as a reminder to consume eight ounces of a sports drink, a Tootsie Roll or part of an energy bar and water. If you are doing an Ironman or ultra-distance event, you'll need to consume even more (400 to 500 calories/hour).

During a moderate to hard endurance workout, carbohydrates in muscle glycogen and blood glucose supply about half of the energy. As you deplete muscle glycogen, you increasingly rely on glucose (sugar) in your blood for energy. By consuming sports drinks, gels, bananas, hard candies, peppermint patties and other carb-based foods during exercise, you will fuel your muscles, maintain normal blood sugar and prevent the dreaded bonk.

Your brain relies on the glucose in your blood for energy; keeping your brain fed helps you think clearly, concentrate well, remain focused -- and perform better. Do NOT "hold off" until after your workout to eat. Rather, fuel during workouts. For example, cyclists should eat while on the bike. Coaches should give teams a snack break during long (over two hours) practices.

Your body doesn't care if you ingest solid or liquid carbohydrates -- both are equally effective forms of fuel. You just have to learn which sports snacks settle best for your body -- gels, gummy bears, dried figs, sugar wafers, tea with honey, sports drinks, or perhaps defizzed cola. If you get your energy from concentrated calories, as opposed to sports drinks, be sure to drink additional fluids. That is, athletes who eat energy bars (or gels) during exercise can too easily under-hydrate.

Despite popular belief, sugar (as in sports drinks, jelly beans, licorice) can be a positive snack during exercise and is unlikely to cause you to "crash" (experience hypoglycemia). That's because sugar taken during exercise results in only small increases in both insulin and blood glucose. Yet, if you consume too much sugar (>250 calories/hour), the high dose might slow the rate at which fluids leave your stomach, causing sloshing, discomfort. (If you experience GI distress, slow down and work at an easier pace.)

Post-exercise food

If you will not be exercising again for a day or two, you need not worry about rapid refueling. But if you work out hard twice a day, you should consume post-exercise carbohydrates as soon as tolerable -- ideally 0.5 grams carbohydrate per pound body weight every hour, for four to five hours (300 calories per hour, if you weigh 150 pounds). Consuming some protein along with the carbs stimulates faster glycogen replacement and optimizes muscular repair and growth.

Some commercial recovery foods tout the benefits of whey protein. Current research indicates no advantage of whey over casein in terms of muscle growth. (Tipton, Med Sci Sports 36(12)2073, 2004) Yes, you can buy commercial recovery foods that contain protein, but you can just as effectively enjoy cereal with milk, a bagel with peanut butter or pasta with meat sauce. These foods offer carbs with an accompaniment of protein (a ratio of 40 gm carb, 10 gm pro).

If you prefer liquids for recovery foods, choose Instant Breakfast, chocolate milk, Boost, yogurt or fruit smoothies; they are tasty sources of carbs, fluids and a little protein. The trick is to plan ahead and have the right foods and fluids readily available.

Post-exercise fluids

Preventing dehydration during exercise is preferable to treating dehydration post-exercise. But if you failed to drink adequately (as indicated by scanty, dark urine), you may need 24 to 48 hours to totally replace this loss. Fruit juices, smoothies and watery fruits are better than plain water because they offer carbs, protein, vitamins and other nutrients that optimize recovery and invest in good health.

If beer is your preference, be sure to first quench your thirst with orange juice, soft drinks or sports drinks and eat some carbs (pretzels, thick-crust pizza) so you get carbo-loaded, not just "loaded!" Or think again. Would you be wiser to simply enjoy the natural high of exercise?

Copyright Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., Feb. 2005

Sports Nutritionist Nancy Clark, M.S., R.D., counsels casual and competitive athletes at her private practice in Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill, MA (617-383-6100). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook ($23) and Food Guide for Marathoners ($20) offer abundant fueling tips. To order: send check to PO Box 650124, W. Newton MA 02465, or go to

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Best Laid Plans

What's that saying, "If you wanna hear God laugh, just tell Him your plans?"

Last Tuesday (9/21) I took Diego over to a local arena and let him run around and really stretch his legs. He loves to do this and I enjoy watching him clearly having a very good time. Even though it was dark (7:30 pm), I saddled him up when he was done and rode around for about 30 minutes or so. He did excellent and felt really good, very forward and wanting to go, but soft and listening. He did a few little boingities, but nothing much, which I was glad for since I've been riding in my Solstice (an english saddle) lately. Made firm plans to ride with Funder on Saturday (9/25) and do the 25 mile ride out in Red Rock, to check everything and make sure we were good to go for our first 50-miler at Comstock this coming Saturday, 10/2.

Well... so much for plans. Saturday I got Diego all booted up and ready to go, loaded into the trailer, picked up Funder and Dixie, and when we got to Red Rock, Diego came off the trailer lame. =( Pretty obvious consistent head bob on the left front, especially on a circle to the left. He felt good, and still wanted to "go", but I wasn't going to ride with him like that obviously, so instead he got to hang out in the convienently located cow corrals and I did P&R's. As it worked out, Dixie got a bit unmotivated as well, so Funder cut her ride short and didn't do the full 25. I have withdrawn my entry to Comstock.

While Diego looked better as the day wore on, and has continued to improve, I'm certainly not going to stress him with a long ride this weekend. As for now, I'm hand-walking him daily and will probably do a short ride on Thursday if he continues to look good. I'm thinking about maybe entering a ride later this month, but want to take him out for a ~20-miler at some point first in order to judge his continued soundness. We'll just take things easy for now and see how stuff develops. No more firm plans...

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Riding or Racing

Adapted from a different source. Perhaps the most eloquent way to put it that I have seen:

There are many endurance RIDERS, but only a few endurance RACERS. Many of us do these things to test ourselves and our horses. We do it for the love of the sport. Our only competitors are ourselves, the course, and the conditions. There have been many times when I was "racing", and no one else was aware of it.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Diego's Hooves 9/14/10

Photos are here as Blogger is a pain for uploading and formatting this many:
Diego's Hooves 091410

Looking for comments and suggestions. I just picked his hooves and then took him out and lunged him on the asphalt for about 5 minutes so you can see where he's striking the ground with his hoof. He does appear to have a nice even toe first landing on all four feet. He recently sloughed his frogs on the front feet; I'm waiting for the rears to follow suit... ? His feet are really dirty cause he walks into his manure pile every time to go poop. =P Even when I've just cleaned the corral, they'll look like this after a day or so.

We're three weeks out from the last trim. THESE ARE ALL PRE-TRIM, so I can take the suggestions into consideration when I trim him in the next day or two. Things I see that need work are:
  1. Continue bringing back his toes on the front hooves. Needs an update to his mustang roll all around.
  2. Continue to manage the flare on the fronts. I've been rasping out the sidewall in this area to alleviate any pressure and gradually working on rasping down from the outside of the hoof to eliminate this bulk.
  3. I think I can take his entire front hoof shorter all the way around? Last time I rasped to be even with the heel of his frog, but in looking at these pics, I think I can take everything shorter still... ?
  4. His bars are always a point on concern. They just continue to grow out at a faster rate than the rest of his hoof. I trimmed them back pretty heavily several months ago, they were very long and overlaid. Trimmed them down to below the level of the sole. Now they're not overlaid, but they continue to really grow. When I trimmed 3 weeks ago, I took them down to the level of his sole, you can see how much they've grown since then. Looks like I really need to take down the rears again. Why do they continue to grow like this and should I continue to take them down? I've read conflicting information on this. He seemed a bit sore when I first really pared them out.

Other thoughts or suggestions?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Happy 6th Birthday to Diego

Today is Diego's 6th Birthday! Happy Birthday Diego!

As a yearling in Arizona

Watermelon "present" this morning. MMmm.... nom, nom, nom

He's looking a bit "well covered" right now. =) Excuse the filth, I was on my way to work this morning and didn't have time to brush off the night-time sleepy mess.
Diego says thank you. Happy Birthday Digs!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

5 Tips to Speed Up Your Metabolism |

Some good tips in here. Not quite sure why you should drink your water ice cold, and your green tea hot... ;)

5 Tips to Speed Up Your Metabolism

5 Tips to Speed Up Your Metabolism

By Jen Ator
Women's Health

Here's a secret: slaving away inside your body — right this minute — is your very own personal trainer working tirelessly to help you burn calories and shed fat. It's called your metabolism, and it's the sum of everything your body does. Each time you eat, enzymes in your body's cells break down the food and turn it into energy that keeps your heart beating, your mind thinking, and your legs churning during a grueling workout. The faster your metabolism runs, the more calories you burn. The more you burn, the easier it is to drop pounds. And get this — you can make your metabolism work harder, a lot harder, 24 hours a day.

To some degree, our bodies hum along at a preset speed determined by gender and genetics, but there's still plenty of wiggle room. "You have a huge amount of control over your metabolic rate," says John Berardi, Ph.D., C.S.C.S., author of The Metabolism Advantage. "You can't affect how many calories it takes to keep your heart beating, but you can burn an extra 500 to 600 calories a day by exercising properly and eating right." And by making a few changes to your routine.

To make those changes simpler, we enlisted the help of leading experts and came up with a round-the-clock, turn-up-the-burn plan complete with new moves that will throw your metabolism into overdrive.

1. When You Roll Out Of Bed
Eat (a good) breakfast Every. Single. Day. If you don't, your body goes into starvation mode (it's paranoid like that), so your metabolism slows to a crawl to conserve energy, Berardi says. And the heartier your first meal is, the better. In one study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, volunteers who got 22 to 55 percent of their total calories at breakfast gained only 1.7 pounds on average over four years. Those who ate zero to 11 percent of their calories in the morning gained nearly three pounds. In another study published in the same journal, volunteers who reported regularly skipping breakfast had 4.5 times the risk of obesity as those who took the time to eat.

What should you be having? Morning munchies that are slow to digest and leave you feeling fuller longer. Try a mix of lean protein with complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, like this power breakfast, recommended by Berardi: an omelet made from one egg and two egg whites and a half cup of mixed peppers and onions, plus a half cup of cooked steel-cut oats mixed with a quarter cup of frozen berries and a teaspoon of omega-3-loaded fish oil.

Sip java: Sisterhood of the traveling spill-proof mugs, rejoice! A study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior found that the average metabolic rate of people who drank caffeinated coffee increased 16 percent over that of those who drank decaf. Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system by increasing your heart rate and breathing, says Robert Kenefick, Ph.D., a research physiologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine. Honestly, could there be a more perfect beverage?

Guzzle your water cold: Chase your morning joe with an ice-cold glass of H2O. Researchers at the University of Utah found that volunteers who drank eight to 12 eight-ounce glasses of water per day had higher metabolic rates than those who quaffed only four glasses. Your body may burn a few calories heating the cold water to your core temperature, says Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., founder and director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Weight Management Center. Though the extra calories you burn drinking a single glass doesn't amount to much, making it a habit can add up to pounds lost with essentially zero additional effort.

2. When You're At Work
Pick protein for lunch: Cramming protein into every meal helps build and maintain lean muscle mass. Muscle burns more calories than fat does, even at rest, says Donald Layman, Ph.D., professor of nutrition at the University of Illinois. Aim for about 30 grams of protein — the equivalent of about one cup of low-fat cottage cheese or a four-ounce boneless chicken breast — at each meal.

Brew up some green tea: "It's the closest thing to a metabolism potion," says Tammy Lakatos Shames, R.D., author of Fire Up Your Metabolism: 9 Proven Principles for Burning Fat and Losing Weight Forever. The brew contains a plant compound called ECGC, which promotes fat burning. In one study, people who consumed the equivalent of three to five cups a day for 12 weeks decreased their body weight by 4.6 percent. According to other studies, consuming two to four cups of green tea per day may torch an extra 50 calories. That translates into about five pounds per year. Not bad for a few bags of leaves, eh? For maximum effect, let your tea steep for three minutes and drink it while it's still hot.

Undo damage with dairy: Hey, it happens. There are days when no salad on earth can possibly overcome the seductive power of French fries. But you can make up for it with a calcium-rich afternoon snack, like eight ounces of milk or six ounces of low-fat yogurt. Calcium helps your body metabolize fat more efficiently by increasing the rate at which it gets rid of fat as waste (yes, that kind), reports a study from the University of Copenhagen. Sorry, supplements don't have the same effect.

3. When You Go Food Shopping
Choose organic produce: You wouldn't fill your car engine with pesticides, right? Hell, no. Researchers in Canada found that dieters with the most organochlorides (chemicals found in pesticides) stored in their fat cells were the most susceptible to disruptions in mitochondrial activity and thyroid function. Translation: Their metabolism stalled. Can't afford a full organic swap? Go to for the most (and the least) contaminated foods, then adjust your shopping list accordingly.

Seek heat: It turns out capsaicin, the compound that gives chili peppers their mouth-searing quality, can also fire up your metabolism. Eating about one tablespoon of chopped red or green chilies boosts your body's production of heat and the activity of your sympathetic nervous system (responsible for our fight-or-flight response), according to a study published in the Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology. The result: a temporary metabolism spike of about 23 percent. Stock up on chilies to add to salsas, and keep a jar of red pepper flakes on hand for topping pizzas, pastas, and stir-fries.

Grab some metal: Women lose iron during their period every month. That can throw a wrench into your metabolic machine, because iron helps carry oxygen to your muscles. If your levels run low, muscles don't get enough O2, your energy tanks, and your metabolism sputters, Shames says. Stock up on iron — fortified cereals, beans, and dark leafy greens like spinach, bok choy, and broccoli.

4. When You Work Out
Mix things up with intervals: You're always looking for a way to shorten your workout, right? Well, step up your intensity and you'll burn the same number of calories or more in less time. In one Australian study, female volunteers either rode a stationary bike for 40 minutes at a steady pace or for 20 minutes of intervals, alternating eight seconds of sprints and 12 seconds of easy pedaling. After 15 weeks, those who incorporated the sprints into their cardio workouts had lost three times as much body fat — including thigh and core flab — compared with those who exercised at a steady pace. Bursts of speed may stimulate a fat-burning response within the muscles, says lead researcher Ethlyn Gail Trapp, Ph.D. Whether you ride, run, or row, try ramping things up to rev your burn: Start by doing three eight-second all-out, can't-talk sprints with 12 seconds at an easy pace between each effort. Work your way up until you can do 10 sprints over 20 minutes.

Take it slow: This isn't easy, but when you strength train, count to 3 as you lower the weight back to the start position. Slowing things down increases the breakdown of muscle tissue — yeah, it sounds bad, but all that damage you're incurring is actually a good thing. The repair process pumps up your metabolism for as long as 72 hours after your session, according to researchers at Wayne State University. But pass on those featherweight dumbbells — you need to use weights that are heavy enough that you struggle to complete the final few reps.

Pop pills: Combining regular exercise with fish-oil supplements increases the activity of your fat-burning enzymes, reports a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Volunteers took six grams of fish oil daily and worked out three times a week. After 12 weeks, they'd lost an average of 3.4 pounds, while those who exercised exclusively saw minimal shrinkage. Look for brands containing at least 300 milligrams of the fatty acid EPA and 200 milligrams of the fatty acid DHA per capsule. Pop two of these two hours before your workout.

5. When You Get Home
Eat Nemo's pals: Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines are loaded with hunger-quashing omega-3 fatty acids. These healthy fats help trigger the rapid transfer of "I'm full" signals to your brain, according to the National Institutes of Health. Bonus: A 3.5-ounce serving of salmon nets you 90 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin D, which will help preserve your precious calorie-craving, metabolism-stoking muscle tissue.

Skip the second mojito: Another reason not to overimbibe — knocking back the equivalent of just two mixed drinks (or two glasses of wine or two bottles of beer) puts the brakes on fat burning by a whopping 73 percent. That's because your liver converts the alcohol into acetate and starts using that as fuel instead of your fat stores, report researchers from the University of California, Berkeley.

Hit the sack — early: When you sleep less than you should, you throw off the amounts of leptin and ghrelin — hormones that help regulate energy use and appetite — that your body produces. Researchers at Stanford University found that people who snoozed fewer than 7.5 hours per night experienced an increase in their body mass index. So make sure you get at least eight hours of rest.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bomb-proofing Clinic, Year 2

This Sunday, Diego and I again attended the bomb proofing clinic hosted at the Wild Horse and Burro Expo. KBR Horse Training hosts these clinics free of charge, which is such an awesome service. Although being an Arabian, Diego isn't really the target audience for this location, I really appreciated their help last year. Attending that clinic was a turning point in our relationship, one where we both gained a lot of trust and respect for each other.

This year I attended with the goal being to actually RIDE through all of the obstacles. They had a different course laid out this year, with a few of the same obstacles and several new ones. I saddled Diego up in the parking lot and then headed over to the arena. We did ground work over all the obstacles first. Unlike a couple of weeks ago, this time Diego pretty much went right over or through what I was pointing him at, with maybe just a bit of a hesitation to smell and check it out first. Unknowingly, this would be one of the biggest disasters, and highlights of my day. One of the obstacles was a frame of PVC pipe that had five foam pool noodles dangling straight down from the cross-bar, a horse "car wash" if you will. I stepped through and then was using my stick to drive Diego through the obstacle from the ground. But as he went to come through, he stepped too close to the side frame, and caught the pole under the stirrup of the saddle. The entire obstacle started to tip forward and collapse on him! Diego bolted forward a few steps, but I was able to get him turned and was telling him "Easy, whoa" and after a 180, he stopped. The people who build the course know how to do it safely, and the poles pulled loose from the buckets they were set in by design. The top cross-bar was also not glued into place, so one of the "legs" had come off as well. Diego stopped with the remaining L-shape balanced across his withers, with the pool noodles dangling around his legs, and stood there while we were able to extricate him. The female clinician came over with high praise for both of us on handling the situation so well. After a few more confidence builders, I was able to take Diego back over and go through that obstacle successfully.

After getting through all the obstacles on the ground, I decided to mount up and tackle them under saddle. There were about four other horses sharing the arena with us, one of which was a newly adopted prison trained mustang who was being taught to load into a trailer. Several of the other horses were also BLM mustangs, I was the only one that was riding, everyone else was doing ground work.

Diego ended up being a Rockstar! He did so well with everything! We went over, under, or through every obstacle on the course. He was a bit hesitant to go through both of the noodle obstacles, the earlier car wash one and another where the noodles were sticking straight out and you had to ride through them, 3 on each side. He rushed a few times through that, and several times would stop and balk at it, but with persistence I could get him through again and again.

One of the scarier incidents for me came when we were navigating a flagged alleyway with a tarp to cross in the middle. We had already ridden through several times, but the mustang they were attempting to load was being worked with the trailer not to far from the end of this obstacle. Suddenly, the horse came flying back out of the trailer and got away from the handlers. I froze with Diego, hoping the now loose horse wouldn't come our direction. I was trying to figure out if I should do an emergency dismount, or just wait it out. It could have been a big wreck, but Diego and I just stood there and they caught the horse pretty quickly.

One of the last things we did was to load into the stock trailer they had parked in the arena. Dig loads very well into my 2H slant load, I generally just stand at the back and he walks himself in to the front stall and waits while I close the divider. So I sent him into the 4H stock trailer, and he walked in and stood in the middle. After about 15 seconds, still standing at the rear of the trailer, not touching him at all, I told him to "Back, back" and he proceeded to calmly back all the way out of the trailer. A lady who was standing there spectating commented, "Nice job." He really did just perfect with that .

Attending the clinic this year, Diego and I received a ton of compliments. Again this was a huge bonding experience for us. We really have become a team and we're placing our trust in each other. The relationship that's starting to develop is very special, made even more so by all the challenges we have overcome. I can't wait to see what adventures lie ahead!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Riding, Riding, Riding!

Whew! Nothing like making up for lost time! My friend S and I have made a weekly date for the most part and have been riding every Thursday after work. This week, when I was hooking up the trailer at lunch time (living close to where I work is SUCH an advantage), Diego was **so excited** to be going somewhere! He was running around in his corral, doing slide stops and 180 roll-backs that would make any reiner jealous. That was until he tried to do a slide, spin, accelerate a bit too quickly, and ended up falling over on his ass instead! LOL! I had to text S and let her know that Diego was so excited to go, that he fell over. Dork.

We went out to Washoe Lake and had a great 6-mile ride. We headed to the beach first. Diego was so relaxed in the parking lot, he could hardly bother to trot on the lunge, so I figured he was fine and we headed out. This meant that I ended up getting off and having to lead him down to the beach, and then eventually got off and lunged him ON the beach (in the deep sand, with my reins - certainly not ideal) because he was becoming wound tighter and tighter. After he got to get some bucks and running out of his system, I got back on and he settled quickly and we had a very nice rest of the ride. We walk/jogged down most of the length of the beach (about 2 miles) and then cut over and took one of my favorite trails, a twisty single-track through the sage, back to the parking area. We ended up trotting nearly that entire section, about 3 miles total. That was probably the longest sustained trot that Diego had done to date. I didn't have my HRM on and tried to check his heart rate back at the trailer, but was thwarted by extremely loud gut sounds and the sound of him rubbing his face on the trailer, so I gave up after hearing about 5 seconds and realizing he was somewhere below 60. =)

Then on Saturday, Funder and I had a most awesome ride out in Lemmon Valley. Here's a link to our ride. Funder and Dixie rode over and met us at the arena, so Diego and I ended up doing about 20 miles instead of 23, but it was most excellent. We did a modified version of the original Rides of March trail, before they moved out to the Red Rock area. It has been since 2007 that I tried to ride that loop, so my navigational skills were okay, but a bit rusty. We also knowingly took the less rocky/slightly easier route a couple of times. We saw the same two guys on dirt bikes no less than four times, and Diego was well behaved each time, although as it worked out I was either dismounted or they saw us and took a slightly different trail. We went across the valley to one of the spring-fed cow troughs and the horses got to enjoy a bunch of fresh green grass, certainly a luxury in these parts.

I'm not quite happy with how Diego moves in his Easyboots. For now, I'm still using the old style boots with the buckles and no gaiters. Mainly because I have a bunch of these and haven't made the investment to purchase a set of 4 Gloves yet. As it is, I think because he's wacked himself a couple of times with the hardware, he tends to move somewhat short strided, or dog trots with his hind legs not tracking straight with his fronts. However, the boots did stay on well the entire time, including some deep mud at the water stop. He unbuckles his rear boots on occasion, but I haven't lost one yet (knock on wood), even when unbuckled. However, on the way back, after a rocky off-trail stretch, he started limping occasionally on his left front. I got off and pulled all 4 boots, and while he was better, he would still occasionally bobble. After I got home, and all the mud and filth was gone , I noticed that he had a very small fingernail sized rock (which I couldn't see on the trail) wedged in his heel on that hoof, so hopefully nothing major and an easy fix.

Overall, it was a perfect conditioning ride. The weather couldn't have been better, although it got a bit windy at the end, it was fun and kept us all nice and cool. We did see one lightening strike, which made for a good excuse to hurry back. Both Funder and I have our sights set on a first 50 at Comstock. It will be a first for everyone except me, but I'm really looking forward to it. Both horses should be able to handle the distance just fine, especially with another month or so of conditioning.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The New Rules of Hydration |

Great article about guidelines for personal hydration:

The New Rules of Hydration

Remember when the only guideline for staying hydrated during exercise was to drink--and drink often? And plain water took the podium as the perfect sports drink? Thanks to new insights on how our bodies process fluids and other nutrients while we're working up a sweat, the conventional wisdom on when and what to drink is evolving. And although the rules may have changed, the objective remains the same: improved performance and optimal health.

Here's a look at the old and new views on hydration.

Old: Drink ahead of your thirst.
New: Drink according to your thirst.

For years, sports nutrition experts advised athletes to drink "ahead of thirst," that is, to drink before getting thirsty and more frequently than what thirst dictated during exercise. Experts warned that by the time you feel thirsty, you've already become dehydrated. However, recent studies show that being in this state of slight dehydration has no negative impact on performance or health.

For example, in a study from the Sports Science Institute of South Africa, runners did three two-hour workouts while drinking a sports drink at three different rates: by thirst (roughly 13 oz. per hour), at a moderate rate (about four oz. every 15 to 20 minutes), and at a high rate (about 10 oz. every 15 to 20 minutes).

The study found no significant differences in core body temperature (rising body temperature hastens dehydration) or finishing times among the three trials. However, during the high-rate trial two of the eight runners suffered severe stomach distress and couldn't finish the workout, suggesting that drinking too much too often can cause problems.

"The idea that thirst comes too late is a marketing ploy of the sports-drink industry," says Tim Noakes, M.D., a professor of sport and exercise science at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. While thirst is not a perfect indicator of hydration status, it does appear to be a good indicator of the optimal drinking rate during exercise, according to Noakes. "The answer is just drink as your thirst dictates."

Old: Aim to completely prevent dehydration.
New: Aim to slow dehydration.

You've probably been told to drink enough fluid during exercise to completely make up for what you lose through sweat. In other words, the goal is to weigh the same before and after your workout. But the latest research has revealed three problems with this advice.

First, when athletes drink according to thirst, they usually replace only 60 to 70 percent of the fluid they lose, but studies have shown that this state of slight dehydration does not harm performance or health.

Second, the recommendation to drink enough fluid to prevent weight-loss is based on the false assumption that all the weight lost is from body fluid evaporating as sweat. However, recent studies show that a significant amount (as much as 60 percent) is actually due to the loss of water stored with fat and carbohydrate molecules, which is released from the muscles when these stores are converted to energy. Although it contributes to sweat and weight loss during exercise, this kind of fluid loss has no dehydrating effect because it doesn't reduce blood volume.

Third, the problem with drinking to completely prevent dehydration is that it tends to dilute the concentration of sodium and other electrolytes in the blood, especially during prolonged exercise of more than two hours. Electrolytes are dissolved minerals that regulate your body's fluids, helping create the electrical impulses essential to physical activity. When you sweat, you release more sodium than any other electrolyte. Since even the most electrolyte-packed sports drink has a lower sodium concentration than sweat, when you replace sweat with a sports drink you essentially water down your blood. In extreme cases, blood sodium dilution leads to hyponatremia, a potentially fatal condition where fluid balance is thrown off to the point where cells literally become waterlogged, causing the brain to swell.

Therefore, instead of drinking to completely replace the fluid you sweat out during exercise, aim for keeping thirst at bay. Respond to your thirst right away with small amounts of sports drink, but don't allow your thirst to build to the point that you're forced to guzzle down a full bottle at one time. Taking a few sips about every 10 to 12 minutes will help you stay hydrated and avoid stomach upset.

Old: Use either a sports drink or water for hydration.
New: Use a sports drink instead of water.

Prior to 2003, USA Track & Field's hydration guidelines for runners suggested that water and sports drinks were equally good choices for hydration during intense physical activity. But, based on new research concerning the risks of blood sodium dilution, the USATF revised its hydration guidelines stating, "A sports drink with sodium and other electrolytes is preferred." Athletes in other sports are now following these guidelines as well.

In short, sports drinks simply hydrate better than water does. Your body absorbs fluids through the gut and into the bloodstream faster when their osmolality, the concentration of dissolved particles in a fluid, more closely matches the osmolality of body fluids such as blood. Because a sports drink contains dissolved minerals (key electrolytes such as sodium, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphate) and carbohydrates, it's absorbed into the bloodstream more quickly than water, which has fewer or no dissolved particles.

Moreover, electrolytes and other nutrients play important roles in regulating fluid in the body. They help determine how much fluid enters muscle fibers and cells, and how much remains in the blood. That's why sports drinks do a better job than water of helping the body maintain an optimal fluid balance.

Water is fine for short (less than an hour) workouts of easy to moderate intensity in which you don't sweat a lot. But in any workout where sweat losses are substantial, and especially in warm weather, use a sports drink.

Old: Protein exacerbates dehydration.
New: Protein enhances hydration.

The first generation of sports drinks contained no protein because it was believed to slow the absorption of fluid into the bloodstream from the stomach and intestine. But new evidence suggests that a small amount of protein actually enhances both fluid absorption and retention in athletes.

A recent study from the Universidad Catolica San Antonio in Spain found that a carb-protein sports drink actually entered the bloodstream significantly faster than a carb-only sports drink when used by cyclists pedaling at a moderately high intensity level.

In another study from St. Cloud State University in Minnesota, athletes retained a carb-protein sports drink 15 percent better than a carb-only drink, meaning 15 percent less of it was wasted in the bladder. "A small amount of protein in a sports drink may enhance absorption and retention by increasing osmolality," says Robert Portman, Ph.D., and CEO of PacificHealth Labs, manufacturer of the protein-powered Accelerade sports drink.

"Small" is the operative word. Packing your water bottle with protein powder is not the secret to peak performance. Too much protein slows absorption and hampers hydration. Research shows that sports drinks containing only about five grams of protein per 12 oz. not only re-hydrate better, but also reduce muscle damage and increase endurance compared to drinks without protein. Recently, the International Society of Sports Nutrition recommended the use of protein-added sports drinks by both competitive athletes and daily exercisers.

Old: Caffeine exacerbates dehydration.
New: Caffeine does not affect dehydration.

Caffeine is a known diuretic, which means it increases urine production and has a dehydrating effect. But research has also shown that during exercise, the body is able to circumvent the diuretic influence of caffeine, which can boost athletic performance by stimulating the nervous system and reducing perceived effort.

A new study conducted at the University of Birmingham in England found that caffeine increases the rate at which supplemental carbohydrates (those consumed during the workout as opposed to those already stored in the body) are burned during exercise. In the study, cyclists received either a 6 percent glucose solution or a six percent glucose solution plus caffeine during a two-hour indoor cycling test.

Researchers found that the rate at which the supplemental carbs were burned was 26 percent higher in the cyclists receiving carbs with caffeine, concluding that the caffeine may have increased the rate of glucose absorption in the intestine. By providing fuel to working muscles at an accelerated rate, caffeine helps athletes work harder for longer periods of time.

But don't overuse it. Reserve caffeine consumption for races and occasional high-intensity workouts. "The best use of caffeine as an ergogenic aid [energy booster] is prior to competition," says Jose Antonio, Ph.D, author of Supplements for Endurance Athletes. "The beneficial effects of caffeine on athletic performance are reduced with habituation, so the more often you rely on it, the less it will do for you."

Although no major sports drink brand contains caffeine, some flavors of sports gels do, such as Gu Chocolate Outrage, Strawberry Clif Shot, and Chocolate Accel Gel.

The Cardinal Rule

One principle of proper hydration hasn't changed: Practice makes perfect. Experiment with various hydration strategies to learn what works best for you. Try different sports drinks in varying amounts, and hydrate at different times during your workout to discover the optimal mix.

Matt Fitzgerald is a runner, triathlete, coach and author of several books on fitness and nutrition, including Performance Nutrition for Runners (Rodale, 2005).

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Prepping for the first 50, Eating

As noted in yesterday's post - eating and drinking are a necessity in order to keep ourselves going down the trail. As riders, we often concoct very elaborate and well thought-out mixes and mashes for our horses, with a sprinkle of this, and a dash of that - ensuring that everything is to Shnoopykins desire - and then scrounge around for that 3 year old granola bar that's been riding around in our saddle packs as an afterthought for ourselves. While it may be entirely possible to get through a 6 hour LD on nothing but fluids, you are going to feel and perform much better with some fuel on board. This will just prove more true over longer distances.

There are some simple characteristics that foods must meet before I personally will consider them for rides. I have a sensitive stomach, and getting stuff down is sometimes a challenge.
  1. Some people are able to happily eat anything during a ride; I am NOT one of those people. So I have some guidelines that foods must meet for me:
    Must be easy to eat with one hand, generally without utensils. I'm lucky to even take the time to wash my hands during a ride, the idea of dragging out a fork and knife to consume anything is not that likely. If for some reason I DO eat these kinds of foods, such as during a 100 when I have crew, I'll most likely still be seen sitting or wandering around near my horse doing stuff with one hand and shoveling food in with the other. Much easier to have food that I can just hold in one hand and eat.
  2. Must be moist. No cakes, cookies, chips, or crackers for this girl. I want something that's got a lot of natural moisture, or enough sauce and/or condiments to get down without a lot of additional assistance from chewing and saliva production.
  3. Along those lines, must be easy to chew and get down. Nothing that requires a lot of mastication before it's ready to be swallowed - save the steaks for after the ride.
  4. Not too sweet. I have a sensitive stomach during rides and too much sugar doesn't go over well. I generally prefer more salty and/or savory choices.

With that in mind, lets move on to what I actually like to eat, these are my own personal recommendations, as well as suggestions from several friends. For food to eat ON THE TRAIL:

  1. Perhaps the most important thing we need to consider is not eating, but drinking. Staying hydrated is the first key to success. Nothing is going to function as well if you are dehydrated, so keeping those fluids coming in is key. A formula that seems to work for me, is to drink at least one of my 20 oz bottles for every 10 miles of trail. This will of course fluctuate depending upon the weather, but it's a good place to start. I've found that personally, I need to avoid Gatorade-brand drinks, but I do okay with a diluted mixture of Powerade (maybe less sugars, or the higher potassium to sodium ratio) or water. If you're drinking just plain water, don't forget to add some electrolytes - whether through eating salty foods, drinking something such as V8 at the checks, or through a capsule, such as these S-Caps which I've had a lot of success with: . I also really like their Clip2 sports drink, which contains some proteins and fats not found on commercial drinks at the local supermarket: This has a very mild raspberry flavor, not sweet at all. Another concern with plain water is to ensure you are consuming adequate carbohydrates. The brain is the most glucose-hungry organ in the body, be sure you are keeping it fueled. That's why I prefer a diluted sports drink (or even juice), I know that I'll be consuming some carbs with my fluid intake.,
  2. For food, you need to find something you can stomach and EAT it (don't just carry it all day - classic mistake). Avoid high fructose as this can cause a queasy stomach, although some people can eat anything. Suggestions: fruit (I love the little plastic fruit cups, I can pop the top a bit and slurp them out while trotting), cheeses (string cheese or the little circle Babybel cheeses, even cut up cheese cubes in a baggie), jerky or lunch meat (roll the slices and then put them in a baggie, easy to grab a "tube" and eat quickly), nuts, granola or other "bars" (I really like the ones that have a lot of fruit and nuts, can rinse these down pretty easily), croissant, "gummies" like gummy worms, bears, or fruit snacks. While some of these are obviously going to fair better in hot weather, you can easily get at least two hours out of them without needing to be in a cooler. Just keep that in mind and eat those items first - and make sure to throw them out AFTER the ride if you didn't! =)

  3. Make sure you keep several packs of Gu or some such in your saddle packs. These work great as a quick emergency pick-me-up if you're starting to fade. When you start to feel punky, that means you should have had one about 30 minutes ago. ;) I do much better with REAL foods, and often don't need them at all, but these are great for when you realize you've already gone past the "should have ate something" stage and need something quick. They're also fairly easy to force down, although it's a bit like slurping warm snot out of a package. I tend to prefer the "lighter" flavors like vanilla or some of the fruit ones, but I know people that swear the chocolate is like eating frosting.

The key to the vet checks, is to have food easily available (ie READY TO EAT with no prep) in *smaller sized portions*.

  1. 1. Have some sort of nutritious drink at EVERY vet check. I prefer the lactose-free meal replacement type drinks or a V8 (either the classic or a fruit blend). The yogurt drinks come recommended as well, but I can't do too much dairy personally. These are quick and easy calories to get down and the V8s are packed full of natural elytes. On a cold ride, these do okay in the saddle bags as well. This is a quick easy way to get some calories down.

  2. My new favorite is to buy a sub sandwich the day before and have them cut it into 2" sections, makes it easy to grab a section and nibble. Egg salad or tuna are good choices as well. Some people really like peanut butter (with jelly or fruit), but I've found it to be to "sticky" as a ride food for me.

  3. Other favorites I've heard: fruit (especially cubed melon), pasta or potato salads, chips, candy bars, hot dogs or hamburgers (these are generally too heavy for me, can't do it), soups (excellent for cold rides), pickles (good source of elytes as well), cooked chicken, cold pizza, etc.

Okay, seriously, while looking for some pictures to liven this up (all are from her site), I stumbled across this blog, Another Lunch, which is all about "bento" lunches, or little containers that house the entire meal. It looks like she's got some really great ideas on here... and those lunchboxes are awesome!

Do you have any favorite ride foods? What are some of your saddle bag stand-bys? What's been the best vet check food you've had?

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Prepping for the first 50, Runner's Advice - Training

While technically Diego and I entered his first 50-miler in May (story is still in draft mode, I need to get working on it), I wasn't that optimistic about our finishing, and truly did the ride in order to 1) ride with companions I knew I could trust, who were going slow and 2) just see how far we could get while everyone was still happy. As things worked out, Diego performed brilliantly for me for 25 very tough miles, and then was a little off at the vet check. The vet thought it was first one leg, then changed her mind to the other after a one-hour recheck (so very minor), and although we were cleared to go on, I chose to pull him rather than risk 5 year old unseasoned legs on something iffy.

BUT... now it's late summer, and the fall rides are coming up. And I find myself joyously free of the restrictions and commitment of school. So I have my eye set on getting to a 50-miler or two before the seasons turn for the worse and the snow starts to fly again. With that mindset, I turn back to one of my most favorite resources, Ultra RUNNERS. These are the men and women who, like us equestrians, aren't satisfied with the marathon distance and complete races of 25 - 100 miles (or more in some cases), on foot. If anyone knows how to train and prepare for distance events, its this crowd.

Some caveats, many runners are putting in much higher mileage, on much less rest, than I would use for my horses. Equines in general need more rest/light days, but, are also able to go farther a bit easier. After doing all the stuff I did with Sinatra, I have a hard time conditioning myself mentally to doing shorter rides. To me, pretty much anything under 10 miles is wasted time/effort (aka "junk miles"). I always preferred to get out and go longer (even if it was slower). I guess because that's what worked with my schedule, and what I thought was best for the type of riding I was going to eventually ask my horse to do. I need to change my mindset a bit while I'm still building Diego's base and realize that even if we didn't really GO anywhere, the fact that I got him out and rode for an hour (or 3-4, even if it is in circles in the arena, or very slow down the trail) is all still beneficial to him. However, I don't believe that is the type of riding that is going to be MOST beneficial to us in completing our first 50. On to the training advice:

Karl King:
If you took a survey of how list members trained prior to their first 50 miler, you'd probably find a wide range of training plans. Which says that there is no one sure-fire way, but many ways to prepare. So, don't agonize over details.

Most runners come to this sport with a metabolism trained for speed: I.E. burn lots of carbohydrate fast. What you need for ultras is a metabolism trained for endurance: I.E. be stingy on carbo burning and burn fat instead. Any damn fool can run fast for 20 miles. To run well for 50 requires a specific type of response from the endocrine system. You can train your body to deliver that, but only if you run long enough to get tired and hungry. For most runners that implies doing 3 or 4 runs in the range of 25-30 miles.
The same holds true for our horses, we need to condition their systems to the longer distance.

At the same time as you are training your endocrine system to respond to stress, you need to train your mind to get an endurance attitude. Those same 25-30 mile long runs will do that. One needs to experience the fatigue, and develop the resolve to run on in spite of it, learning that by relaxing and concentrating on form, you can keep moving forward when any sensible person would have stopped.

When my longest run was 13 miles, a marathon seemed nearly impossible.
When my longest run was 26 miles, 50 miles seemed nearly impossible.
When my longest run was 50 miles, 100 miles seemed nearly impossible.
When my longest run was 100 miles, 50 miles seemed like a nice, long training run.
Don't let the distance scare you; run from aid station to aid station
(or vet check to vet check, or even water stop to water stop) and the distance will take care of itself.

Andy Mac:
Practice eating and drinking and carrying water. Very important.

Just keep moving. Depending on the cutoff, you don't have to move very fast to finish a 50 miler. At Ice Age, the required pace was just under 15 minutes/mile. You could hike that fast, although it might be hard to keep it up for 8 hours. But you don't have to run most of it or run too fast to finish; the key is to just keep going.

Eric Robinson:
I am faster when using a walk mix. Beyond the standard stuff (walk the significant uphills), I have a very simple rule: never run more than ten minutes in a row! My walk break might be 30 seconds or 10 minutes; I generally walk until I feel a palpable recovery (which in the middle stages of an ultra takes maybe 2-3 minutes). The ten minutes of running is not a "goal", but a maximum. If I've been running for 7 minutes but there is a slight incline ahead (one that I might otherwise be tempted to run), I will probably take my walk break immediately and then mentally reset the clock to zero.

The 1 hour run 10 minute walk that you describe (i.e. 60/10) would be way too long of a run for me; by the time I got around to walking, the hour of running would have done its damage.

It takes your body about three weeks to adapt to a long run. But you can do other things that respond to training much more quickly. E.g. practice walking technique, strengthening, maybe some faster running (speed work).

Quotes from:

Monday, August 9, 2010

Minden Trail Obstacle Clinic

I took Diego to a trail obstacle "clinic" this weekend, which was pretty much I paid $30 to have access to some established obstacles and get some lunch. =) Not much coaching going on, although the lady coordinating seemed very knowledgeable and helpful, but was certainly willing to just let each of us go at our own pace. There were only 4 other riders, so it was a nice small group.

The obstacles provided:
- Big log (20 ft long by about 12" high)
- Large heavy duty tarp with a pallet-type platform and several poles laid out for step-overs
- Deflated soft-side swimming pool
- 10 x 10 square filled with plastic bottles (like empty soda bottles) to step on
- Many criss-crossing small logs
- 5 tractor tires to step into, hard interior parts removed so it was just the edges
- Large tractor tire with a wooden platform mounted on the top
- Pallet between two 55 gallon drums (a more narrow opening step up)
- Big dirt pile/mound, eventually they're hoping to create "stairs"
- Muddy water crossing, about 8" deep or so at deepest
- Wooden platform teeter totter
- Log drag, a 8' or so 4" log on a rope
- Wooden ladder-type obstacle (2x4"s in a long ladder on the ground)

We did ground work over all the obstacles first. I decided to start him with the nice easy log step-over first, just a big ole 12" log lying on the ground. Diego said, "Nope, not gonna do it. I can't. It's too hard." After much eye rolling and cussing on my behalf (and getting smacked with a soft cotton rope), he realized that indeed, he could step over the stupid log. We repeated the process on the tarp, an old dead deflated soft side pool, and then - heaven forbid - a water crossing. This horse LOVES water, but the soft squishy dirt/mud leading into the water was a horse eater for sure. By this point I had a training stick along and after some enthusiastic circles, Dig decided that maybe going in the water would be easier. Of course, once he was in there he drank, splashed, and thought about wallowing around, which was discouraged since I had my saddle on him. After that, all the other obstacles were easy - Mom had established I was **IN CHARGE** and he wasn't going to get away with crap.

After we did everything in hand, I got on and rode him through, over, and across everything. He didn't even blink - total Rockstar!!! He was awesome, we even did a log drag, although me getting handed the rope was fairly traumatic for him. One of the scariest obstacles, not mentioned above, for him was the person sitting in a lawn chair, oh horrors! Until he talked and Diego realized it wasn't a troll. After we had all played around for about an hour or so, we rode down the easement and went across a real bridge, with no sides, just a bunch of rail road ties all bolted together over a small ditch, about 10 feet long. Diego went across with no hesitation. Harder than that, was trying to get him into the ditch along the side of the road. I had to get off and drive him again on the ground, and he did eventually go down and across, only to turn around and LEAP back to the other side. I was glad I had 30 ft of rope to play out to him as he jumped across from embankment to embankment, nearly at the height of my head. Decided to not try that one under saddle. ;)

At the end of the day, after I had already pulled my saddle and hosed him off, they had the (small, fairly tame) cows turned out in the arena. We went in there on foot and OH BOY!!! Diego was having SO MUCH FUN! =) He was arching his neck and just chasing after them, I was running around laughing my head off trying to keep up. He got the hang of it pretty quick and we even "cut" a cow along the fence line for a few seconds. I definitely want to do some more of that with him, you could practically see him smiling once he realized he could chase them away.

I need to get him out and just do some nice, steady, long trotting miles one of these times. I've been doing a lot of slow, confidence-building stuff with him lately. He's really become a horse I'm looking forward to riding more and more every time. I've started to really be able to trust him.

Monday, August 2, 2010

New Old Riding Buddies

On Sunday I had the chance to go riding with a good friend of mine, who I hadn't ridden with in about 3 or 4 years. S and her horse Taz were new riders looking to get started in the sport back in 2006. She and I conditioned a lot together that winter/spring, with me on my good seasoned horse Sinatra. I rode with her while she did her first LD and 50, and then we ended up having different rides and goals for the rest of the season and didn't compete together again. Life came along, and between getting some issues worked out with Taz, S and her husband had fraternal twin boys so riding took a back seat for a while. We've remained in touch, but hadn't had the opportunity to ride together. S came and volunteered at Moonshine for me, and we made plans then to definitely get the horse boys out together soon.

To be honest, I was a bit leery about taking Diego over and riding with S. When we were riding several years ago, Taz was a hot blooded youngster. S has put a lot of training on him, but he's still very competitive and likes to go. One of those amazing natural athletes that trots out at 10-12-14 mph with zero effort. I knew that Taz had a lot of time off while S was pregnant and home with young boys, and wasn't exactly sure how things were going to go with a green horse (Diego) plus a hot horse (Taz). I found it a bit ironic that now *I* was the one with the young, green horse, and that Taz was being slated to act as the babysitter. Taz and Diego are exactly (almost to the day) 5 years apart (5 and 10). As it worked out, things went just fine.

I trailered over to S's house in the morning. She offered to let Diego run around in Taz's corral, since it had been a couple of weeks since he's got to stretch his legs and GO (walks around the neighborhood and lunging at home don't cut it). I told her it would probably be fine to put Taz in there as well, Dig is very submissive and the corral is sufficiently large that it shouldn't be an issue. They both had a good time and flew around. The corral is cut into a hillside, and has a pretty steep portion. Watching Diego try to negotiate that at speed revealed how young he is, he appeared to just throw his legs around everywhere, not quite sure how to collect himself up and still gallop down. Both horses are very similar in size, color, and build. It was fun watching the "twins" run around.

After blowing off some steam we saddled up. Leaving S's house, we go straight up a fairly steep and rocky hill. I hand walked Diego up the first bit past the last neighbor's house, and then got on in a somewhat flat and wide area. Did a few circles in the sagebrush, a couple of bends in each direction, check the brakes and steering and then we headed up the hill. The steep and technical footing made both horses concentrate on where they were going. Once we reached the top, we took a slightly rocky single-lane dirt road along the edge of the hillside. It was a bit dicey for a bit. Both horses were feeling good; Diego was a bit tense but was listening. I was kind of worried because if anything were to happen, we only had the width of the road to negotiate issues on. Taz was in the lead, but would periodically stop and then back up. For the most part I was able to either be far enough back that it wasn't an issue, or I could back Diego or turn him around to get out of the way. Dig wasn't quite sure what to think the first time that happened. Then, once when we started trotting, Taz put his head down and started bucking a bit. Diego did one or two bucks as well before I got his head and then jumped off and held him. S stayed on and I got back on pretty quickly.

Other than some bobbles at things, and that one instance of bucking, for the most part we just rode along at a nice walk and chatted. We came out to a small valley, and chose the much more unused road on the east side since there were people shooting off to the west. I think this was the old wagon road I've heard about in this area. We had to watch the footing on this stretch since there were periodic large holes. We ended up putting Diego in front, since he was being braver and wouldn't back up at scary looking rocks. He would give them a funny look, or stop to check them out, but for the most part went past like a pro. Just about the time I was thinking of cutting across the valley to the more well used trail on the other side, I recognized the hillside in front of us. We weren't far from an intersection in Washoe I had been telling S about, it was much closer than I had realized. We continued on, and I pointed out where the trail intersected the different directions to go to get to other trails and different types of conditioning (sand hills, rocks, the lake, etc). S hadn't ridden out this far by herself yet. We completed the turn and headed back. At one point, Taz was getting tired of all the walking so I told S to go ahead and let him run up the nice long hill in front of us. I jumped off to walk Diego, but it turns out I probably could have stayed on with no issues. I got out the carrots as she was leaving and Dig was more interested in food than his friend (he's really becoming bonded to ME, not other horses, which I love). I ended up getting back on and Dig walked very nicely to go catch up; S had turned around at the top and was walking back toward us.

Other than one other small issue with a blind corner, where no one wanted to go first , we got back without incident. I did have to laugh when S was kicking Taz to try to get him to go, and I could feel Diego flinching under me. And he got in trouble a bit when I reached back to tap him on the butt with my hand, and he... can't even call it a buck... hopped up with his back feet in protest. S laughed and said it was like he said, "Don't touch me *there!*" We rode the 7.5 mile loop in about an hour and a half, lots of walking interspersed with some trotting. It was a good first ride with the two boys and some good scouting to see how nicely the trail ties in to the rest of the system that I know. Really, if we stick to the main trail that we came back on, the footing gets really good pretty quickly. There's a lot of great loops and conditioning we can do from there, even getting down to the little lake if we want to. Water is the only concern, as there's no natural water on many of the loops at all.

S and I are going to try to get a regular weekday evening ride planned. We both have plans to get these horses going to some rides in the fall and its fun to have my "new" old riding partner back again. =)


Well as of Friday, I should be officially done with school. It took me ten years to get my "four" year degree, a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, with an Accounting major, but I'm finally done. Took my last final on Friday and submitted my essay. Assuming I didn't totally bomb both, then I should have passed my final class. It hasn't quite sunk in yet...

I've obviously disappeared off the blogging realm for the past few months. Getting through this last semester has been difficult and very time consuming. Taking classes of the summer is always a struggle, both due to the condensed nature of the courses (i.e. covering a 16-week course in 5 weeks) as well as having a lot of extra-curricular activities, such as BBQs, camping trips, and Tevis - where I helped with the webcast. Riding has taken a back-burner as well, with Diego only getting out about once a month. I'll try to post some updates soon and hopefully will be able to keep things more up to date from now on. =)

Yay!!! I'm done with school!!! !!! !!! I still can't quite believe it!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Formation Riding Clinic

Well Diego and I did something TOTALLY different today and went to a Formation Riding Clinic, think Drill Team stuff. I got there early enough to let him run around loose in the arena and get all his ya-yas out. He was still pretty jumpy when I first went to mount up, and then we got put in the direct middle of the group of 13 at the first line up; all I could think at first was how big of a wreck that could be. Thankfully Dig does "whoa" and stand very well.
The instructor was a retired mounted police officer, and just did a REALLY great job and kept everything very slow for a while and then we built up skills from there. By the end of the day, we were walking and trotting in colums of 1, 2, 4 & 8 and could put ourselves into and out of the columns at the walk and trot. We also did several different turns and ways to line up and reverse. We all had a chance to be at the front, middle, and back, and rotated the partners we were with throughout the day. We had a GREAT time and Diego was so good. I think we both had a lot of fun!

Oh, and at first I was a bit hesitant to go, not knowing the group that was hosting it, High Desert Horsemen. I wasn't sure if it was going to be all QH's with jeans and cowboys hats or what, but actually it was a really fun low-key group. I think there was one other Arab, several mustangs, some QH, some jeans, some cowboy hats, but also a lot of helmets and aussie and endurance saddles and I wasn't the only one in tights. =) Although I think I was the only one with bright blue tack. ;) I'm looking forward to doing more with this group. They have a big two-day despooking clinic in Oct or Nov that I can hardly wait to do. Just fun, fun all around!!!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Ride Preparation Checklist

Wow! Time is flying and the Washoe ride is already this weekend! Only a few more days left to get stuff packed and ready to go. I thought I'd share my normal pre-ride checklist of things to do. I'm a bit of an obsessive list maker, since I'm not the best at remembering everything if it's not written down. This list is mainly the tasks I need to accomplish before I'm ready to leave for a ride, and the general time frame I like to accomplish them (although I have been known to be running around Friday afternoon cursing and throwing random crap in the trailer):

Two Days Before Leaving
Shop for people food and drinks
Purchase any necessary items for rider, camper, rig or horse
Collect tack and items to be washed
- Saddle pad(s)
- Pommel and/or cantle packs
- Bridle and bit
- Halter, leadrope & reins
- Half chaps
- Horse blankets/coolers/rump rug
- Splint boots
- Girth(s)
- Water bottles
- Elyte Syringes
Most of this goes straight in the washer and air dries. The bit, bottles and syringes go in the dishwasher (often the bottles and syringes are already washed, ready to go from prior use). Biothane tack can go in either.

Inventory crew box and saddle packs, resupply as necessary (post coming on this)

Give a wet mash with electrolytes or additional salt added, this is to help get the horse drinking additional fluids so he's pre-loaded as much as possible on his hydration. The extra salts aren't going to still be in his system by ride time, but they're going to encourage drinking for now.

If my horse was on a more restricted diet, I would also increase the hay ration for the next several days, making sure he had free choice hay available. As it is, he has free choice hay daily.

One Day Prior to Leaving
Do any cooking or assembly necessary for rider food
Prepare ziploc baggies with horse's dry grain/mash ingredients, load into trailer
Stuff hay in bale bag, wrestle into trailer
Clip horse as necessary
Pack rider clothes and other gear, load into camper
Repack washed tack items into appropriate locations
Give wet mash with added salts

Before Leaving for Ride
DRINK FLUIDS - historically, I get busy doing "stuff" and end this day dehydrated. If I make it a point to drink plenty in advance, then I start AND finish my ride the next day in much better shape.

Preload elyte syringes if you do that kind of thing. Each horse is different and you need to find what works best for you. With Sinatra, he preferred to eat his in with his mash - he HATED being syringed and giving them with a "filler" just made it worse. Just plain elytes with water and then a good rinse worked best for him. I'm going to have to see what works best for Diego. I prefer to give them in their feed **IF** they'll eat it.

Give horse a bath if weather permits (I've also done this in advance and then used a light sheet to help keep him clean, really it's about when the best forecast is since I don't have hot running water).

Pre-fill water bottles for ride
Pack all food items
Ensure all critical items are in trailer and/or camper - saddle, girth, bridle, pad, helmet, clothes, shoes, horse and human food. Half that you could borrow in a pinch if needed and the rest is really just fluff (but it's fluff I LIKE to have, don't get me wrong).
Make sure I have necessary paperwork and/or directions to the ride
Don't forget to load the horse...

At the Ride Site
DRINK - my goal is to make sure I drank *at least* 64 oz of fluids before bed tonight...
Unload and set up camp
Get checked and vetted in
Re-attach pommel and/or cantle packs
Go for a brief ride if time allows
Determine if crew box will be needed, add any last minute items if so (i.e. ziploc baggie of grain for horse, people lunch, additional drinks, etc) - drop crew box in designated spot
Give wet mash with electrolytes in the evening
Eat a good dinner
Set out my clothes for in the morning
Try to get to bed at a decent time

Do you have a special pre-ride routine that you use? What about any key items of preparation that you just can't do without?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Moonshine Loop from Lemmon Valley

Funder and I had a GREAT ride out in Lemmon Valley on Sunday (4/18). She brought her GPS and was able to map the route. Her total route shows 19.5 miles, but she rode over and met us at the arena, and rode back when done, so Diego and I probably did around 17 or so. This is one of my favorite loops to do, and thus why I use it on the endurance ride I manage, the Nevada Moonshine Night Ride. It's probably been at least two years since I did the loop, if not three, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I remembered all the turns and which way we needed to go without any issues at all. It was also a great scouting trip to see what kind of condition the trail was in for our upcoming ride in June (6/26/2010).

Getting over to the arena in the morning was probably the hardest part of my day! I've just been so stressed and overwhelmed with work and school lately, and now have been battling a head/chest cold on top of everything else, so it didn't take much to ruin my morning. Having the truck die and refuse to start (older battery which has now been replaced) and needing to call hubby to come rescue me was just about the final straw. I had a momentary debate with myself on if I still wanted to go riding, or just go curl up in bed, and after a call to Funder where it was determined that she WAS willing to wait an extra hour or so for me to get all my crap situated (BLESS HER), I decided to still go.

And am I GLAD I did!!! Once we started riding, it was just an absolutely gorgeous day to be out! The desert is about as green as it gets right now. Riding past all the interesting rock formations, on a beautiful sandy dirt road, with the blue-blue sky above, the snowy mountains in front, and the warm sun shining down... Aaahhh!! JUST what I needed! To top off all the happiness and sunshine, I had the BEST ride on Diego that I've ever had yet! He really was just a super-star all day long. At one point, Dixie really spooked about a funky looking tree stump that was off the trail. I've been wondering how Dig would react to another horse spooking at something. Turns out his response was to look at what Dixie was looking at, go "Huh? Wha..? Hhmm, nothing" and then continue to mosey on down the trail. =)

We then had our first encounter with dirt bikes, and the rider was SO NICE, it could not have gone better. I had dismounted as soon as I heard the bike, but probably didn't even need to. He shut off his bike from a little ways back and coasted to a stop, then the first thing he did was start talking (asked us a question about directions). Immediately the horses were able to identify this weird creature as at least "somewhat human". We walked over and talked with him for a little while, then he asked us if he could start the bike. He started it back up (it was a quieter street legal version) and rode off nice and slow. Neither horse seemed to mind or care at all. Just a great first experience for Dig to have (outside of seeing AJ and Taren ride around up near his corral). Later, he got to see several other bikes and quads going by at a distance, and ride over to a group of guys relaxing with their bikes after their ride.

Another good encounter was when another rider and a very forward Arab mare caught up to us and then jigged/trotted off down the road, and Diego calmly watched them go. Funder had to put her mare behind Diego for a bit since Dixie thought she should go catch that other horse. ;) Two horses was fine, but three was a race! Dig was just in "chill" mode today and nothing seemed to phase him.

Speaking of "race", Diego and I got to do a bit more cantering yesterday as well. Previously, we've only cantered maybe three strides here or there in a few random rides. Things were going so well yesterday that I let him pick up the canter and encouraged him to keep going with it a few different times. He's getting the hang of it. Often, he would only go a few strides, and then transition back to a trot on his own. Once, I had to bring him back down when, as we cantered past a pipeline marker laying on the ground, he got a bit more UP than forward with it, but all in all we were doing very well learning our new "gear".

The only downside to the ride was that we had a few boot issues. For now, I planning on keeping Diego barefoot, which means we'll be using hoof boots for rides. Since Easycare is coming out with a newer style Glove, which has an improved gaiter and thicker toe, I've been reluctant to invest in new boots until this new style is available. This means I've been making due with Sinatra's older, original style Easyboots, which are a size 1, and of which I have COPIOUS amounts (like 10+, really). Last weekend's ride at Peoria Flats with my mom clearly revealed that Diego needs an 0 rather than a 1 on his rears, so this weekend I left his rears bare and just booted his fronts. Except, that meant that he just wasn't moving right today. He felt like a girl trying to run in high heels, shorter choppy strides. I'm not sure if it's a function of those boots being too big as well (a possibility), or if it was because his hinds got sore on the harder packed roads after several miles. He did move out better on the softer footing, but still not quite like normal. The new and improved Gloves are now available in the size that I need for Dig, so I'm hoping to invest in a full set come next paycheck.

Overall, it was a really great day and I had a really great time. Just what I needed to do. When I woke up Monday morning to go to work, I actually felt like I had taken a mini-vacation, rather than spending half my weekend slaving away on a term paper. I told Funder, "You know, I think I'm really at that I LOVE MY PONY stage now!" =)
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