Monday, April 11, 2016

Camping with just a cooler

Ride food and what to eat.... one of the more difficult issues I've had to face during my endurance career.  While on a normal day to day basis, I'm pretty much blessed with an iron stomach and a love for a variety of foods and spices, during a ride I have to be careful.  My digestive tract gets easily offended and quite picky about what 1) looks appealing and 2) is allowed to enter without repercussions.  I'm allergic/sensitive to onions, such a common ingredient that makes it nearly impossible for me to eat the meals prepared by management on site.  They hide in marinades, sauces, dressings, etc. and are difficult to avoid, so I plan to bring ALL my meals.  Also, I'm generally solo and want to eat something with minimal fuss and effort involved.  While I may occasionally drag out my Coleman camp stove, I would very much prefer not to.  Thus, for me, I have perfected how to eat out of a cooler for the entire weekend with good REAL food that's both nutritious and easy.  Just bring some paper plates, napkins, and assorted flatware.  Here's what I did this past weekend:

  • Breakfast 
    • Greek yogurt with walnuts and fresh blueberries, prepared at home in small container with resealable lid
    • Iced coffee - creamy and a little sweet is how I take mine.  I actually really like cold coffee and drink it during the warmer months of the year, so don't mind having it on ride mornings as well.  I prefer to make at home but will drink some of the store-bought brands as well.
    • Protein drink/shake - one of those high protein meal replacement type drinks.  I like a non-dairy option.  My current go-to brand has been Muscle Milk (ironically non-dairy) with 20 grams of protein.  This is a MUST for me in the morning and the one thing I make sure to finish before I start.
  • Lunch / During Ride - sent out in a small cooler with an ice pack to the vet check if needed, I KNOW I won't eat all of this, but I like having options of "what looks good now" to pick from
    • Waldorf-style chicken salad (prepared at home) and then put on bread morning of ride. Can also eat with crackers or a more hearty chip if desired.  I really like mine with diced celery, apples, dried cranberries, a touch of spicy honey mustard and a dash of curry powder.  Something about this blend just sits well with my stomach and I'm craving it by the time I get there.  In the past I've done a sub-sandwich prepared the day before and those went down really well too. Personally I don't have luck with PB&J - it's too sweet for my stomach and hard for me to chew and swallow.
    • V8 juice drink or some sort - Full of good electrolytes and I love both the original tomato version or the fruit blends they have.  I've been crushing on the V8 Energy peach mango lately.  Goes down super well and gives me a little boost of caffeine.  
    • Hard boiled egg - Pre-peel and throw it in a baggie with some salt and pepper
    • Antipasto assortment - fancy way of saying assorted baggies with some pickles, olives, cheeses, meats, etc.  I keep things separate and then grab and mix what appeals at the time.  
    • Iced tea - if I have time, I'll make up some mint tea at home before the ride.  It's so refreshing for some reason, almost like brushing your teeth!  ;)  And mint can help settle an upset stomach.  If not mint, I'm not picky about other types.  Just something to break up the water / sport drink that I have on the saddle.  I don't drink much caffeine during the day normally, just a coffee in the morning, so between the V8 and tea definitely provide a perk.
  • Dinner and Other Assorted Snacks
    • Rotisserie chicken - I'll buy a pre-cooked one at the store and then cut it up at home into serving sizes (legs, thighs, breast, etc) and put them all in a large ziploc bag.  Cold chicken is another of those things that some people might not like, but seems totally "normal" to me.  If you like yours warmed, it's typically not difficult to find a trailer with a running generator and beg to use the microwave for a minute.
    • Store-bought fresh veggie assortment - even comes with ranch to dip; or a green salad of some sort
    • Store-bought fruit and cheese assortment - look for ones designed as a single-serving for kids' lunches or similar.  Could prepare at home as well if you wanted but these are pretty inexpensive.
    • Hummus dip with pretzel chips
    • Some sort of crunchy chip and/or cracker
    • Whatever I didn't eat a lunch
If you can, bring two coolers, one for drinks and one for food and keep the food cooler "dry" by using ice blocks (large frozen water containers).  It helps keep things from getting soggy and since you won't be in/out of it as much, the items should stay cold.  Make sure to pack plenty of water, some sports drinks, a few adult beverages ;) and you should be set!  Do you have any ride food staples you just can't do without?

Friday, February 26, 2016

Endurance Conditioning for the Working Person (schedule by Laura Peck)

Laura Peck shared this "real-life" conditioning schedule with the North American Green Beans Endurance Group on Facebook.  I really like it a lot and it's very similar to what I try to do with my own horses when legging up for the season, or when starting a new mount.  Let's face it, work and life happens and clearing time in your schedule can be a challenge.  YES! You can successfully condition your horse to complete not only Limited Distance rides, but even 50's and 100's on this type of schedule.  Even non-Arabs.  Been there, was able to do that, even have the Tevis Buckle to say so.  ;)  Please note, I personally wouldn't recommend RACING on this type of schedule.  Rather, you need to be able to rate your horse, neither of you get "race brain", and have a sensible finish somewhere in the back 1/2 of the pack.

Here's Laura's schedule:

Weeks 1-4: Start doing 8 mile loop in 1.5 hours.  Each Sunday cut the time down until by the 4th week I'm near 1 hour.

Weeks 5-6:  Add 4 miles.  Now up to 12 each Sunday.  Do it in 2 hours or so.

Weeks 7-8:  Up it by another 4.  Now at 16 miles.  Have a VC (vet check) break in between the 8 mile loops.  Begin checking recovery HR (heart rate) time (magic number is 60 for me) adjust pace accordingly.  Faster if they come in at 60, slower if it takes them over 10 minutes to hit 60.  This is prior to any cool down.

Weeks 9-11:  If all if going well - I add a third 8 mile loop.  So for these three weeks, I'm doing a practice LD (Limited Distance) every Sunday.  I'm checking recovery times at the two trailer breaks, making sure they eat/drink well, and adjusting pace/electrolytes accordingly.  Also finding out what snacks and clothes work for me as well.

Week 12-on:  I back off.  Do 20+ mile training ride 2-3 times each month, with a short one thrown in - or skip one.  At this point, if you just do a 20+ mile ride every other week - they'll stay in shape.

My own personal adaptations of this would probably be to do less of the longer rides (24 miles) but add more difficulty (sand, hills) or a faster pace to the ~16 mile rides.  I find I'm happiest conditioning around 15-20 miles.  To me, that distance just feels like "enough" where the horse was stressed enough to either gain or maintain current fitness.  Once you have reached Weeks 9-11, I would give the horse an easy weekend, and then they should be in shape to easily accomplish a back-of-the-pack LD ride.  Then do 1-2 rides of that distance a month (either in competition, or another ~20 mile training ride).  Once you've been able to stick to that for 3 months or so, you both should be ready for a slow 50.  With an already legged up horse coming back from the off season - I'll pretty much follow the schedule above for weeks 1-8, maybe mix in a longer ride around 20 miles once or twice, and then go do a slow 50.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

More Sorting

This was at Rancharrah back in May.  I'm horribly behind on blogging and not sure if I really want to keep it up since I'm friends with most of you all on Facebook anyways and I post more regularly there.  But we had our first PERFECT 10 run this day (5/19/13), and to make it even better it was with my great bestest friend who I started this whole mess with last Fall.  :)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Endurance riding is not for all horses

Posting things here on occassion with a picture so I can add to my Endurance - The Ride of a Lifetime Pinterest board, which is where I'm also compiling some Endurance 101 Clinic ideas.  Original article source will be linked.

Endurance riding is not for all horses 
By Kim Fuess

"You come to the table with such hopes and goals. You are taught to persevere, which makes it much more difficult to know when it is time to stop -- when to give up. It seems like everyone around you is happily going to rides with little to no problem, racking up those miles. What people don't tend to tell you about on public forums such as Ridecamp is failure. You never get told about horses that "didn't" work out. You only hear about success stories." -Lucy, AERC Members Forum (December 2007)

This month's education column is about not reaching the goals we set in endurance riding. I am going to touch on the subject of giving up on your endurance prospect.

This is not an easy subject to talk about or to write about. Endurance riding is all about perseverance. It is about being able to successfully complete a ride that usually includes negotiating many natural obstacles found in the back country and riding in inclement weather. Endurance riding is not supposed to be easy. It is not uncommon to hear riders proudly telling ride stories about how they were able to successfully finish a ride in a blinding snowstorm or how their horses looked great after climbing out of canyons where the temperature reached 115¡. As endurance riders, we are immersed in a culture that places a high value on not giving up. Endurance riders are not supposed to give up out on the trail or give up on their horse when the going gets tough.

It is not uncommon in our sport to hear about a horse rescued at the "killer" auction that goes on to become a great 100-mile horse. It is also not uncommon to go to a ride and see horses that have such poor conformation it is hard to imagine they can even complete five miles, much less go on to complete 50 miles. On the Internet discussion lists, we read about horses that can be taken out of pasture with little or no conditioning and complete 25- or 50-mile rides with ease.

It is easy to understand why some endurance riders may feel like failures if they are not able to complete rides with a horse that was carefully chosen for endurance and patiently conditioned for endurance. In this sport, we rarely hear about the horses that just are not cut out for distance riding.

Distance riding is an extreme sport which includes many different distances and levels in which to compete. Because of this, many riders are able to successfully attain goals that match their horse's ability. But the fact remains that distance riding, even at the shortest distance, is not something that all horses can do. Not every horse is capable of successfully competing in endurance type events regardless of the quality of the conditioning, training, care, and attention to detail given to that horse by a dedicated owner/rider.

I have competed in distance riding events since the late 1980s. I have owned three horses that were just not cut out for distance riding. Coming to this conclusion with each of these horses was an expensive and painful process. Each of these horses had a different issue that kept him/her from becoming a "successful" endurance horse.

The dilemma for me was this: Each was talented and more than capable of competing successfully if I could just resolve what seemed like one small problem. Being an endurance rider, I thought if I would just stick with it, keep trying, and find a solution to the issue, I would eventually be successful with that horse.

The first horse competed for more than two years and had completed Tevis. During this time she developed an intermittent, slight lameness at around 35 miles that would be obvious at some rides and not noticeable at others.

I consulted with the most knowledgeable professionals to help resolve the issue. After several extensive lameness exams, X-rays, ultrasounds, and even a nuclear scan (which was quite new in the early 1990s), the overall conclusion by all I consulted was that a small corn on the left front hoof was causing the lameness. I followed all the advice given by those I consulted. Like clockwork, every four weeks, I even hauled my horse three hours one way so she could be shod by one of the most respected farriers on the West Coast.

But, even after all of my efforts, this mare could not consistently finish 50-mile rides sound. She was retired to light work and to live life as a brood mare.

I came away from that experience feeling that I was the only one around who couldn't get her horse through a ride. It seemed it was so easy for everyone else to consistently complete ride after ride. Nobody ever seemed like they were having these kinds of issues with their horses. It never crossed my mind that perhaps this mare was not really suitable as an endurance horse and there was nothing I could do to make her one.

Lameness is only one issue that can keep an otherwise "perfect" endurance prospect from becoming an endurance horse. Some horses that may have correct conformation and physically be well-suited for endurance may lack the drive and desire to "go the distance." I invested four years of conditioning to try to make an endurance horse out of a "perfect" prospect that hated leaving the barn and working out on the trail. She wanted to be a pampered pet. I found the perfect home for her with a woman who treated her like a princess and did a little pleasure riding every once in while.

I ran into the opposite problem with the third horse. This horse had the talent and desire to do distance work but did not take care of himself out on trail. After several seasons of trying to find ways to make endurance riding less stressful for this horse, I finally concluded that he would probably be much better off doing another job. I could not continue to compete on a horse that refused to eat or drink at vet checks regardless of how many different ways I tried to manage him.

It wasn't easy giving up on any of these horses.

In conclusion, there really are no set rules, time lines, or answers on when to "give up" on an endurance prospect. When the chronic issues that keep a horse from being successful are subtle or seem extremely minor, the decision on when to move on can be very difficult. When faced with this decision, it is important to realize that some horses are not capable of competing in endurance. If you are not able to reach the goal you have set for your horse, it does not mean you have failed. Not every horse is able to successfully work cattle, compete in the show ring, or jump fences regardless of how much they train or practice. The same holds true for distance riding.

Most AERC members participate in endurance events as a hobby. We compete to have fun and enjoy beautiful trails with our horses and other like-minded riders. We also take great pride in bringing along endurance prospects and working through the highs and lows of making a prospect into a successful endurance horse. But, when feelings like disappointment and frustration take the place of the enjoyment we feel when we endurance ride, it may be time to evaluate if our equine partner is really suited to distance work. Our failure would not be finding a more appropriate career for that horse but to continue trying to mold this horse into something he is not capable of being.

Friday, December 21, 2012

What we've been up to...

... besides not blogging. 

Went to our first actual sorting event.  After staring at the cows for over an hour, Dig remember that he wasn't afraid of them.

What we actually did most of the day...  Sortings are mostly a waiting game.

Did the Nevada Day Parade - which is to celebrate Nevada's acceptance into the Union on October 31st.  The parade is held the last Saturday in October.  We rode with Susan McCartney's group, "Parading Arabians".  I was very impressed with how well Diego handled everything.

Riding through downtown Carson.
Did another sorting in early November.  This was his first time being ridden in a bosal, just put it on that morning.  Since he still goes in a sidepull 99% of the time, he did great.  He's definitely starting to get the hang of it and really go after the cows.  He tries to bite them if they're not moving fast enough. :)

Watching that cow.

He looks SSSOOOO "Arab" here!  Cracks me up.  Pretty much all the other horses are Quarter Horses or QH-cross.
BITE that cow!  Getting ready anyways.
Haven't been doing much riding lately.  Life has been pretty busy and we've been working on projects or out of town most weekends.  I'm ready for the days to start getting longer again and looking forward to Daylight Savings Time.  New adventures and some exciting changes are on the way.  Can't wait!

Monday, September 10, 2012


Post title is in tribute to such wonderful Quarter Horse names like ImaLilLena and HesSmartCutter and such.  This past weekend we had two big milestones:  For Diego's 8th Birthday he got to go play cow horse.  :)  And it was LOVE!

Ronda and I, and Ronda's sister in law Chris, all woke up at o'dark thirty on Saturday morning and went down to the Cow Horse 101 Clinic in Granite Bay, CA held at the Roberts' Ranch.  It was a wonderful way to introduce horses and/or riders to the basics of working cows.  At the beginning of the clinic, after everyone had warmed up, Kathy went over the basics of how cows see, think, and move - i.e. they go where they're heads are pointed, but watch their eyes for where they may be thinking of going next.  Move them like a horse in the round-pen in regards to drive lines and how to push, turn, and stop.  She explained about how some horses exude more "pressure" than others, so you may need to stay farther back on those horses, and how some cows are more sensitive than others, etc.  Really a lot of it is just about becoming familiar and comfortable with the various signs and how to read and interpret those.  I had a bit of an advantage, having competed in Team Sorting and a bit of Team Penning in my Junior High and early High School years.  Ronda was also very familiar with working cows in the past.  It was a TON of fun and something that I wouldn't mind getting back into again.

The cows enter the arena, Digs is intriqued

They then brought the 10 cows, all numbered with a neck banner, into the arena and had us take turns riding quietly at a walk in groups of three in and around the cows.  First was between the cows and the fence in one direction, then the other, then to make an easy path between the cows so the cows were on both sides and maybe moving around a bit.  Diego was very interested in the cows from the beginning, watching them intently but not afraid.  He gave them helicopter ears a few times when the cows would move around close to him, but he held his line and continued on nicely. 

Next we split into teams of four and took turns moving the herd through various obstacles that had been placed around the arena.  For example, between two cones, around the barrel, along the poles, between the last poles, and then back between the cones.  Obstacles that would simulate moving a herd between a gate, along a fenceline, around trees, through a wash, etc.  We rotated around and worked as several different teams, taking turns being partners with various people and working the cattle through various courses.  Our last team was Ronda, Chris, and I with a Sacramento Mounted Police Officer named Mike, and we NAILED our run!  Such fun!  The hardest part was exactly as Kathy described, getting the herd together and moving in a single direction to start.

Lastly, they put the cattle into two interconnected round-pens to allow us to practice sorting the cattle, like some of the local ranch sorting competitions.  A good example of how that works is here:

The cows are numbered zero through nine, in a competition, you have a limited amount of time to sort them numerically from the herd, in an order determined by draw when you start.  In other words, they'll call number seven and you need to move seven from one pen to the next, then eight, then nine, and on down the line.  When we started, we all just picked the easiest cows first, disregarding their numbers.  We kept everything pretty slow, to a walk or trot mostly.  It was nearly noon and getting hot and the cows were getting tired.  Everyone rotated through with a partner and then went again if they wanted.  By this time, Diego had figured out that he LOVED working cattle and had started to pin his ears and attempt to bite them on the butt if they weren't moving fast enough for his liking.  :)  I went once with Ronda, then with Chris, then Ronda and I went again and worked the cows in numerical order this time.  We had one sneak through out of order, which would be a "No Time" and disqualification in competition, but it was great fun and good practice.

Diego says he would most definitely like to do this or some sorting competitions/practice in the future.  He had a BALL and can't wait to go back and get some more cows!

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