Tuesday, October 30, 2007

100 mile preparation

Last week I did the Spook Run 50 on Friday. Tanna did very well. At the end, he was very energetic and ready for more. A very good feeling when I'm trying to get him ready for our first 100 in a few months.

My personal goal at Spook Run and Yellowhammer a few weeks before was to take care of myself. To eat at the vet checks. I drink water fairly well on trail, so don't need help there. Just before Yellowhammer, I discovered mustard potato salad in 3 oz single serving containers. For some reason, this hits the spot with me at a hold. I also drank 8 oz of a protein drink (Bolthouse Farms). Throw in some chips and some hot chocolate and I was ready for the next loop.

I hope this all works at the 100! I plan to have some other choices at FITS. Crackers and cheese, frosted poptarts, veggie hot dogs. I'm also toying with the idea of using my lunch hold to make a grilled cheese sandwich (or have my crew make me one...).

Our planned 100 is the Fun In The Sun (FITS) ride in FL in March 2008. We are planning to go down to Powwow a month before FITS for a primer 50. Between now and Powwow, I plan to get several conditioning rides in, including some night rides on the local trails.

My biggest concern for FITS is the deep sand. Flat doesn't concern me. Pacing (after the first loop) doesn't concern me. Riding alone is not an issue. Riding at night sounds more like an adventure than a worry. But I still worry about the deep sand. My plan is canter the deep sand unless it goes on forever, in which case, I'll mix up the gaits to use different muscles. Another worry is that my horse will just quit on me after x miles, but I'll not know that until I actually take him to that point.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Spook Run 2007

This was the first year I've made it to Spook Run. I have gone to Chicken Chase for several years and love the trail, the camp, the vets, and the general atmosphere, but never made it for the fall ride. This fall I was unable to ride as many rides as I wanted, so I was eager to get one last ride in this season. Despite the dismal forecast (rain, chill, overcast), Daniel and I headed to Spook Run mid-day on Wednesday, October 24, 2007.

When we pulled into camp, three other rigs were there. We parked in our customary parking space and Daniel set up the corral panels for Tanna. I had planned to get in a training night ride after we arrived, but the sky looked threatening and I didn't want to get my gear all wet. There will be plenty of opportunity after the time changes to get some dark rides in this winter.

After visiting with Bill Wilson (who allows endurance riders to invade his pasture 3 times a year) and Marcella, Daniel and I returned to our camper for some hot chocolate and supper.

Thursday morning dawned grey, drizzly and chilly. I was unprepared for such yucky weather. I should have brought more warm clothes! I slipped on some riding tights under my jeans and layered my shirts until I was somewhat comfortable.

I then took Tanna and joined Daniel for a walk down the trail to remove a couple of trees that had fallen across the trail about a mile from the start of the ride. Bill and another early rider were headed the same direction on horseback to mark trail. Tanna decided he really should be joining the other horses and began to make a pain of himself. He's normally very good in hand. I snarled at him which usually results in instant good behavior, but Tanna was ignoring me. When we headed back to camp, he fell into line better.

Back at camp, I prepped my stuff for our ride and the vet check. After I was done, I opted for laziness and crawled back into bed. I watched some DVDs I'd brought along and dozed. Finally, I decided it was time to stop being lazy and go check in. The weather was still not very nice, but at least it wasn't pouring.

I chatted with Sue Keith while she registered me for the Friday 50. Then I retrieved Tanna from his pen, removed his blanket, and presented him to Dr. Mike for his pre-ride check. Tanna bounced right along and was declared ready to start. I stood around talking with Dr. Mike, the vet secretary, Tom Keith and my husband until I decided Tanna needed his blanket back.

After supper, Daniel and I joined the other riders for the pre-ride meeting. 30 riders in the 50 mile division, 20 in the 25 mile division. Pulse criteria at the vet checks would be 64 beats per minute. Holds would be 50 minutes after meeting pulse criteria. The 50 milers had 3 loops. Yellow - 20 miles; Orange - 20 miles; and Pink (my favorite loop!) - 10 miles. The 50 milers would start at 8 AM Eastern time. LD riders would go an hour later at 9 AM.

Back at our camper, I slipped on my riding tights to sleep in. I normally don't do this, but I was cold, needed something to wear at night anyway and figured why be cold while trying to get dressed in the morning!

Friday morning dawned overcast and drizzly, but not quite as cold as it had been. I went about my pre-ride routine and was mounted at 7:45. I went up and gave my number to the timer and returned to my truck to replace the battery in Tanna's heart rate monitor. Daniel showed up and helped me with the battery and remounting. Tanna was behaving himself.

Back at the starting line with 2 minutes to wait, I parked Tanna at a water trough in case he wanted a last minute drink. He stood unconcerned with a low heart rate. Even after the ride was started and all the horses followed Bill Wilson for the controlled start down the pavement, Tanna was fine and not being stupid. I headed him after the horses near the back of the pack. He walked calmly down the pavement.

We picked up a trot when we reached the gravel and he began to turn on the turbo. I let him trot as long as he was being safe. We passed several riders during the 2 mile stretch to the next pavement. When we reached the pavement, we went around another small group and Tanna power trotted down the pavement. He is quite sure-footed and works well on pavement, so I let him do his thing as long as he was safe. We got into a small pocket. No riders in sight in front or behind. Tanna was happy, energetic and controllable. I was pleased.

All too soon we caught up with several riders and I tucked in behind them. I was startled to find myself in the company of Amy Whelan, Bill Wilson, Connie Caudill, Paul Sidio, Ron Chapman and Kyla McAfee. Clearly, I was in the wrong place. Also known as the front of the pack. Amy glanced over her shoulder and gave me the weirdest look. I said, "I KNOW; don't look at me like that!" We were in good footing, Tanna's heart rate was low and controlled the 130s and I knew there were hills coming up in the ride that would slow our overall average down. So for the time being, I hung with the crowd. Tanna and I were thoroughly enjoying ourselves.

As a group, we walked down the first good hill. Climbing back out the other side, though, resulted in Tanna reaching over 160 for his HR. I had a goal to keep his HR under 155, so began to think about backing off. The other riders began walking, though, and Tanna's HR dropped, so I stayed with everybody for a few minutes longer.

Finally, though, I paused at a creek and let the others go on. Tanna pitched a fit and a half, but I was firm. He is not a mountain horse and I didn't want him blowing himself out in the first loop. We walked out of the valley back onto the ridge, trotting the more level places, with me keeping a sharp eye on the heart rate monitor. When we reached the ridge-top, I allowed some controlled cantering, pulling him back to a power trot when he started to get out of control. As I came up to a gate where we were to turn right and descend down into another valley, we came on the other riders paused at a truck that was offering water to the horses. I brought Tanna to a walk and watched until the other riders disappeared. At that point, Patricia and Dixie caught up with me. I let them go on as well as Tanna pitched yet another fit.

Half-way down the hill, I paused and electrolyted Tanna from the saddle, allowing Dixie and Patricia to get further on down the trail before we got going again. Tanna was not impressed that I asked him to let the other horses go and was hard to control. When we came out on gravel, I allowed some cantering, but again, pulled him back to a trot when he got too forward.

When we came to a very low, very large tree smack across the trail, I pulled him up and looked for a way around. I saw no good way around. The best way was to go under. I eyed the clearance and promptly dismounted. I led Tanna under and was glad I'd dismounted. My saddle cleared the tree, but not by much and I would not have liked being in the saddle. He spun around me a couple times and I remounted on the other side.

I tried to convince him to eat some bites of grass, but he was being really irritating and wanted to continue on and catch the other horses. I saw another horse coming up to the downed tree and decided to just move on down the trail. I paused again a little while further in a futile attempt to get Tanna to settle and eat. The rider caught up with me and I let them go on. Tanna pitched another temper tantrum, but I was still being firm.

Finally, I was tired of being on a powder keg. I said fine, run for a bit. He took off running so fast. I could not get him to come back. I yelled at him, pulling back, and trying to get him back to a reasonable speed. I knew pavement was coming up in a little bit and I did not want him running full out when he hit the pavement. I did not want to turn him. At that speed, we'd both end up in a heap. So I kept pulling back and hollering at him. Finally, something penetrated and he slowed just a hair. Soon I had him stopped just shy of the pavement. We were both shaking. I slid off.

I figured he'd do better if I jogged beside him down the pavement. He's usually very good in hand. We started down the road and Tanna promptly ran over me. I snarled at him and he did it again. I elbowed him in the chest to make him back off and he ran past me. I spun him back around, told him to behave and started again. Again he ran over me, past me, ignoring me. I was very unhappy with him. Several riders passed me and I asked if anybody carried a gun so I could just walk back to camp. Nobody had one. I was asked how much for the horse.

I paused by a guard rail where there was some good grass and asked him to lower his head. Don't know why I thought he'd grab a bite. I've taught him to grab bites along the trail, but I'd also taught him to not run over me or run off with me, and that wasn't going so well either. We stood there in a battle of wills. He would run over me, I'd spin him back into position and we'd do it all over. I was very frustrated with him. Finally, I kept going down the road and after a few hundred feet decided to remount. Walking wasn't helping, we'd might as well make some time. I moved him to the side of the road where I could get on an incline to remount. I had to reposition him. I held the reins quite tightly in my left hand and swung into the saddle. He immediately tried to take off. On pavement. I growled at him and he stood for a split second. Long enough for me to get my right foot into my stirrup. Then we trotted off.

We got onto the gravel and I told Tanna he could trot, not canter. So much for that. He did trot most of the time, but about 1/2 mile from camp, he took off running again. This time I was able to get him back much sooner. I dismounted at the pavement and walked him into the timer. Still frustrated with my horse, I waited a couple minutes for his HR to drop to 64 and went to the pulse takers and directly to the vet.

We spent our hold time back at the trailer. Tanna ate some grain and picked at his hay. About normal for him after the first loop. With 7 minutes till time for me to get back on trail, I tightened up the girth, replaced the crupper and breast collar and headed back to the timer. I made it with 20 seconds to spare.

Off we went trotting down the trail for the second 20 mile loop. Tanna was still energetic, but much more controllable. I was still riding to his heart rate. Not letting his heart rate get above 155 for very long at a single time. We hit the first switchback and I hopped off and walked down. Tanna followed right behind me. At the bottom, I remounted and we trotted the short stretch to the next switchback, this time up. Done with the switchbacks, we cantered and trotted where appropriate, dropping to a walk for some of the hills. We caught up with and passed several riders on this loop. The same riders that had passed us while I was attempting to gain control of my horse on the first loop.

The second loop was an out and back loop. Just before the turn-around, Guy Worthington caught up with us and we rode together for awhile. I decided Tanna needed to pee, so turned off the trail and attempted to get him to relax. No go, but that was enough time for Guy to get quite ahead of me and for a group of 3 riders to pass me.

Back at camp, Tanna pulsed down right away. This time, instead of going directly to the vets, I went back to the trailer and let Tanna eat a little while I took his saddle off and replaced it with a cooler. Back up to the vets where Dr. Kevin checked Tanna out. He asked me to trot Tanna out a second time. He thought he saw something, but it was likely just Tanna not picking his feet up and stumbling a little over the rough ground. He did mention the left hind hamstring was a bit tight. Everything else was a-ok.

Back to the trailer for the rest of our hold. Tanna ate and drank and seemed generally normal. Ten minutes before we were to leave, I saddled Tanna back up and checked him all over. His hamstring was no longer tight, but I found a swollen lump in his left front armpit in front of the girth. I put some green salve on the spot and headed out. I was 4 minutes late going out on our last 10 mile loop. We took off at a controlled canter.

We were descending the first short hill and I was in my own little world when David Monroe caught up with us and I let him go on. We played leap frog until the gravel. Tanna decided it was time to take off and trotted and cantered to the road crossing, leaving David and his horse. We crossed the road and headed down the trail for the last mile and a half. About 1/2 mile from the finish line, we caught up with and passed Dixie and her horse. Tanna never looked back and cantered energetically across the finish line just shy of 4 PM for a ride time of 6 hours 18 minutes.

After stopping at the timer for the last time, I took Tanna back to the trailer for some food and to clean him up before presenting him to the vet. He came through with great grades. He was still fairly energetic and was ready to go again. Which is the goal, after all. With the exception of the behavior issues during the first loop, I was quite pleased with my horse and his performance.

Thanks to Lois and Bob McAfee for putting on this ride. I really enjoy the trails. Bill is a very accommodating host. Drs. Mike Habel and Kevin Sloan were wonderful. Thanks to all the other volunteers. I had a great time. A very good end to our season.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Serts @ Percy Warner

This morning, I took Serts out for a good ride at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, TN. I arrived early, around 7:45 AM, to find the place hopping. Apparently, there was a big horse show going on and I could hear the announcers already going. Wow. Fortunately, I was able to get parked in the gravel lot.

I unloaded Serts and proceeded to saddle him up in my Abetta endurance saddle that I normally use for Tanna. (Serts danced all around trying to see and talk to all the other horses!) My saddle appears to fit Serts as well. Last week at Yellowhammer, I purchased a new blue breast collar for him from Teddy of Running Bear. I used a halter/bridle combination (also from Running Bear).

Serts has an issue with throwing his head up and running too high-headed and hollow-backed. I don't like this posture, so instead of using a Little S hackamore, like with Tanna, I had Serts in a simple low port curb bit. He already knows the head down cue (pull and release the reins to get the horse to lower his head), but I needed something that would help him remember for longer. With a hack, Serts will bob his head instead of leaving it down. Once he learns to go with his back rounded instead of hollow, I hope to outfit him in a Little S hack.

We went a little over 12 miles over the trails, repeating some of the loop to get in all the miles. Serts did great. I adopted a trot for 7-8 minutes and walk for 2-3 pattern. It wasn't totally rigid, but a guideline to help keep him moving without neglecting some walking breaks. I also threw in a canter or two for variety. We also took an 8 minute (or so) break for me to have a pit stop and adjust Serts' tack a little. And when Daniel called while I was on trail, we walked for an additional 8 minutes or so.

Serts did an excellent job at going with a rounded back. I didn't ask him to lower his head too far, just not to have it up too high. I was very pleased and plan to keep him in this curb bit during his training period.

All in all, it was a very successful ride. We went just at 12.5 miles which is 1/2 of an LD ride at an overall average of 5.4 mph, which is also back of the pack speed. I have my eye on getting Serts in shape to do some LD (Limited Distance: 25 - 35 mile rides) rides next season if presented with the opportunity for such. He has great recoveries and seems to trot out (in hand; necessary for vet checks) better than Tanna. I just have to get his muscles in shape.

I'm having so much fun riding Serts, which is honestly a bit of a surprise to me. I attempted to ride him a few years ago, but we were always at odds somehow. But the last few rides with him this fall have been just lovely. Looks like the "old man" (at 18 years old) now has a new job.

Here is our ride over at MotionBased.com:

1000 AERC Endurance Miles!

Last week at the Alabama Yellowhammer Endurance ride, Tanna and I together reached over 1000 endurance miles in AERC-sanctioned events! His easyboot sores were were dried up and though I kept an eye on them throughout the Thursday 55 mile ride, he never took an off step and never had an issue with that. Whoo-hooo!

We are now qualified for the AERC National Championships to be held next October in Henryville, IN, the site of my favorite endurance ride, Chicken Chase. In the AERC, if you and your horse have 1000 miles of competition together, you are qualified to ride either the 50 or the 100 mile Championship ride. We are hoping to ride the 100 mile ride next year.