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!" =)

Going to Washoe

Diego shall be making his official AERC debut at the Washoe Valley Endurance Rides on May 1st and 2nd. At this time, we've signed up to ride both days of LD (25-mile) rides. I know that he can easily handle the 25-mile distance, it's just the pace I'm a bit worried about. We'll be planning on taking most of the allowable time each day. Hopefully we'll finish strong the first day and have no qualms about going out the second. As of the 21st, they had 21 people signed up for the LD on Saturday and 7 for the LD on Sunday (pre-entries closed yesterday, so this number will probably go up a bit more). Whoo hoo! Funder is planning on joining us as well. We'll probably end up riding together, but Dixie is a bit faster paced than Diego, so while Funder has been willing to slow down to ride with us for the most part, perhaps we'll find someone else going equally as slow and she and Dixie can ride at their own prefered pace.

As of last night, the camper is now loaded on the truck. We're going out of town this weekend for a dirt bike race for hubby. I'm a bit undecided as to the hoof protection we're going to be using. The older size 1 easyboots I currently own seem to be just a bit too big for Diego. I think I'm going to end up foaming on some 0's all the way around. One less thing to worry about. I really want to get him going in some Gloves, but am leary to try using a gaitered boot during an actual ride when I haven't even been able to play around with them on a shorter training ride yet. For now, we'll go with what we know at least somewhat works.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Decisions, Decisions

I've got a bunch of posts in draft status, some of which are pathetically only a title with a date and maybe a few brief notes. School and work have been keeping me swamped and I just haven't had time to write on my blog. But thankfully I pretty much HAVE been riding! Diego and I are both doing better and better and continuing to make improvements.

As ride season is getting underway, I find myself torn between wanting to get out there and get our first few AERC rides under our belts, and waffling on if I feel that we are ready or not. Diego and I haven't done a longer ride (over 10 miles) at anything resembling a ride pace since a 20-miler in February. We have done a pretty quick 10-miler, where he was JUST feeling "settled" and ready to keep going, about the time we were done and back in camp. We've also done a few harder, longer - but pretty much walk-only slower, rides that have varied between 10-15 miles and he never felt tired at all on any of those. But I'm still not sure he's ready for a 50...

Back in December I had posted a tentative ride schedule. Here's where we currently stand with that:

Rides of March - probably the 30-mile LD, this will be our first official AERC ride and the LD is sufficiently difficult that it should be a value-added experience for Diego.
Hubby and I ended up going to San Diego for a business conference this week and I wasn't in town. No ride.

High Desert (mid-April-ish) - Diego's first 50.
I just don't think he's going to be ready for his first 50 this weekend. I've also decided that I'd rather do my LD-distance training rides either at home or at a NEDA ride (which costs around $40) rather than pay AERC fees. We're planning on skipping it.

Washoe in May - probably only one day, these are good tough rides.
Was going to maybe do his first 50 here. Now I'm thinking about doing back-to-back LD rides instead. I won a free entry to one day, which means the AERC rate would equal about what I'm willing to pay to ride that shorter distance over two days... Also, with my previous horse, I had found that doing back-to-back shorter distance rides to be an excellent indicator on if we were ready to move up in distance. Thoughts???

Considering maybe an earlier June 50 - Cooley Ranch, NASTR?

Manage the Nevada Moonshine Night Ride June 26-27th

Tour de Washoo (July 3rd) - This ride was Sinatra and I's first 50. Would really like to ride the 50, maybe do some camping and such in the early summer to get Dig legged up and ready for his first 50 here as well. Not an overly difficult ride, but can be pretty tough due to the heat. We'll pencil this one in...

Bridgeport in August - this one I've wanted to do for YEARS but it has never worked out with my schedule. Hopefully this will be the year. I've marked trail on the first 20-mile loop before and it's just a beautiful ride in the Twin Lakes area of California. Lots of good friends usually attend this ride as well.
Still on the schedule.

High Desert in October (mid-Oct-ish) - Final two days to get the blankie, 50/50 each day
Still would like to do one and/or both days of this ride.
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