Thursday, March 26, 2015

In which Raindrops are falling on our...feet... (and also on the Dragon)

Springtime in the Swampland is usually a pretty soggy thing, 

It has been raining here, but we had a beautiful day today!

True Swamplanders just pull up our hoods, lace up our boots, and carry on.  But the wet days are good times to learn stuff, and sometimes we do.

Betsey knows stuff, and she's willing to teach us.

Lately, Betsey has been teaching us about the use of essential oils.

Because we always do things this way, we gathered at Haiku Farm, with a dog for every human, ready to learn.

We started with a warm foot bath of epsom salts, lavender and peppermint.  Relaxation and rejuvenation!

"Epsom salt baths have a laxative effect on dogs who
drink them, Ripley.  Why don't you go sit by Luna, please?"
Then came the foot therapy.

vegetable oil + essential oil + Connor Connor Photobomber
 We started with Valor, which Betsey introduced to me after my hip surgery.  The website says that Valor is good for increasing feelings of strength, courage, and self-esteem in the face of adversity, and I've gotta say, it really works for that.

Valor first, for balancing
 Betsey did Patty's poor toes, while Monica and I did each other.

Ripley helped. Also Connor.

After all the people (and some of the dogs) were relaxed and feeling energized, we went down to the barn to try a Raindrop treatment on the Dragon.

Jim was working in the barn aisle, hiding his power tools from the rain.
That's okay:  there's plenty of room for all the people (and the dogs, and the Dragon)
Roo offered to help if we had any hamburger-flavored oils.
Betsey let Fiddle sniff each of the oils before she put any on.  If there was a strong negative reaction to anything (she didn't like marjoram, for example) we wouldn't use it at all.

Whuffle.  Whuffle.  Whuffle.  This is not cookie-flavor...?

If there was a strong positive reaction,  we knew that she would derive benefit from the oil.

Peppermint!  It smells like SANTA!  I love that stuff!

After the Dragon approved each oil, Betsey would put some on her body.

Valor isn't a "hot" (reactive) oil, so it can be put directly
on the heel bulbs.  

***I checked the "prohibited substances" portion of the AERC rulebook online to see if any of the substances we were using are prohibited in competition.  Some things like lavender are not permitted.  The ingredients of Valor appear to be okay, but I would not use it within two days of a competition, just in case.

Some oils got rubbed into the coronet band of each foot.

Valor on the poll.  Fiddle didn't want to let anybody touch her head. I disagreed.
Our compromise:  anybody can touch her head.  
There were no obviously sore or tender spots, but a few that were more sensitive than others.

Some oils were applied to her back and then "connected" by Betsey's hands.

Relaxed Dragon will let Betsey put stuff anywhere she wants.

Finishing touch:
Warm towel to keep the back warm and relaxed for a few extra minutes.
Did I see any changes in myself or the Dragon post-treatment?

Well, Monday and Tuesday, my lower back was extremely sore--I have a chiro appointment, but can't get in until next week.  However, despite the pain, I had increased mobility in both hips--the artificial and the organic side.

I also noticed that my side-to-side balance was improved.

Fiddle didn't report any changes.  She has Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday as days off, since those are my busy days at work.  When I rode today (Thursday) she seemed strong and ready to go.

So, there ya go.

And today, the sun came out.


Friday, March 20, 2015

In which we explore what's different about preparing for longer rides

I've signed up for the 75-miler at our first ride of our regional season.

Fiddle and I were ready to kick up from 50-milers to 75's and 100's in early 2013 when I got suddenly sidelined by extreme pain in my arthritic left hip.

To my astonishment, we went from easily completing 50-milers in late Spring to barely able to leave the parking lot in early Summer.  Recovery hasn't been easy, although it has perhaps seemed quick to those who haven't had to live through it.

Now, it's nearly Spring again.  I'm a tiny bit smarter, and two years older (with the exception of my left hip, which is 50 years younger than the rest of me).  My horse will be 13 years old in April.

It's time.

Blessed by an unusually warmish, dryish winter here in the Swamp, we've spent a lot of time on the trails since the end of the ride season last fall.

We've kept up a steady schedule all winter:  one or two days of trails per week,
usually 8-12 miles for each session--no change from legging up for 50-milers.

I've blogged a lot about our training rides over the years, and I usually log the speed and distance using an app like ViewRanger .

The app shows that we are consistent: we trot most of each session, and walk when we must--either because of terrain or because of equine knuckle-headedness.  Our speed is pretty steady at 5.5 to 6 mph when Fiddle and I go out with the Usual Suspects.

So, what am I doing differently to prepare for the longer distance?
Surprisingly, not much.

I might (or might not) spend an extra day on trails each week this spring.

That depends more on weather and my work schedule, more than anything else.  When we do take an extra day, it's usually a solo ride so Fiddle and I can practice going faster (between 6.5 and 7mph when we are solo). or going longer (14-20 miles, or 4 hours, whichever happens first).  

Riding lessons are more critical right now.
Consistent arena time has built up flexibility...and communication skills

When I was broken and while I was healing, Fee had to change her listening skills to ignore the random "cues" my seat and legs would deliver as a result of not functioning very well.

In-saddle stretching:  she still has to ignore me when I do this.
These days, we are re-refining my cues and her responses.

Of course, there's still our Cantering Problem, which is vastly improved but not completely fixed yet.

In addition to the basic "dressage curriculum," is our "fire eradication efforts" with the Dragon.

Notice in the video (above) that she is cantering in an arena full of horses, and when she finally throws a bit of a wobbly, she waits to get past everybody before starting her tantrum.  That's a big change.

Here's another:
Auntie Patty gives COOKIE! 
We couldn't have done this last year
Fiddle now accepts other horses in closer proximity.  This is enormous for her.

We still warn people with unfamiliar horses to keep a safe distance, and I will never completely trust her not to kick, but we have spent a lot of time getting the Dragon comfortable with other horses in the arena and on the trail, and we continually practice passing and being passed by other horses without fussing.

Also on the trail:

Rider fitness:  we hop off the last half-mile of each ride
and jog back to the trailer.  This is still kind of painful
for me, but important.
What about prep for the actual ride?

Well, I've made farrier appointments through the end of October to accommodate the ride schedule.

I've said it before:  there are some aspects of care that allow corner-cutting in endurance, but hoof care is not one of them.

I had to pull her right rear shoe last week because the
nail heads were completely worn off and she was likely to
trot right out of it!
I have a new(ish) farrier this year, and she is a vast improvement over the fellow I had doing the Dragon's feet last year.

Kelsey puts a lot of thought and research into the hardware she uses on Fiddle, experiments with different sole packing substances, and even tries to ensure that she is using the best possible horseshoe nails for the job.

Attention to detail:  Kelsey has it.
This photo almost doesn't show that the toe of her shoe is paper-thin,
and the remainder of the shoe is also very worn down.
 I've examined my tack, and repaired and replaced bits that are showing wear.

We have actually started to wear out a piece of biothane (!!amazing!!) on her breastcollar (after 10 years of using that particular item on several horses), so I ordered a new breastcollar from American Trail Gear.

ATG makes a "Night Rider" breastcollar with loops to
hold glowsticks securely in place.
Fiddle's will be purple, of course.
I've started ordering supplies, like a fresh bucket of electrolyte powder

I use this stuff

and a bunch of this stuff.

I have used this sporadically in my electrolyte mixes for 50-milers;
I think it's much more important for longer distances where she
will be receiving a LOT more electrolyte doses.
I've also (after listening to Doctor Garlinghouse speak on the topic) increased the amount of hay Fee gets daily.  She now has pretty much free-choice hay in a Porta-Grazer  during the day

The commercial Porta-Grazer is weather proof, so I can throw it out in the pasture
when the grass is dormant.  In summer, she will get hay at night in her stall,
and graze the pasture grass during the day.

or slow-feeding net in her stall at night.

And really, that's about it:  Food.  Tack.  Training.


Thursday, March 12, 2015

In which there is a MONSTER at the end of this blog post (no, really)

When my brother and I were very young, our favorite book was
The Monster at the End of This Book 
starring lovable furry old Grover.

If you've never read The Monster at the End of This Book, you can read the
whole thing HERE.  The page turns are at the bottom of each page.
 It's very short.  You will laugh.  Go there now.  We'll wait.
 I thought of that book this morning as I texted the Suspects:

Be prepared to park creatively, tree felling at trailhead.

The tree workers were very kind and shut down the motors while we mounted and headed out.  But I will warn you in advance:  there really are monsters at the end of this post.

It was a great day for a ride.

We all practiced leading, following, 

and working side-by-side

Yes, even the Dragon.  But it's hard to take a photo of somebody who
is right on my elbow, so this is the side-by-side photo we got.

Almost done!  But first, it's snack time.

The grass is coming in!

Back at the trailhead, the tree guys were having lunch and the machines were quiet.

This looks like a MONSTER to Hana
 In other words:  training opportunity time!

But...touch the monster machine, get a cookie, right?

Draconic dubiousity

Touch this monster machine, get another cookie

Monster?  Cookie?

Good girl!

I think we should have held out for more cookies.

I told you there was nothing to be afraid of, Hana!

Monsters and cookies.  Two great things that go great together.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

In which we take another whirlwind tour of convention in Reno

We sailed away on a bright and sunny day

Diana helps to hitch up the SS Barbara Lee

out of Washington State

The Merry Pranksters

through Oregon

Highway 58, up over the mountains

in and 

out of California

and through the night.
Darkness over Klamath Lake

We all drove the SS Barbara Lee


And we all took turns talking

Becky and Sherri

And finally: Nevada!

That sn*w seems perilously close to the rig, but our roads were clear and dry.

They were expecting us.

We off-loaded in record time

We could easily quit our day jobs and be roadies

and moved a ton of stuff

An excellent location: between the raffle and the Tevis booth.  LOTS of traffic!

un-wrapped,  unboxed, and

Boxes of awesome

 hung up
Diana fluffs up the merch

everything all bright and shiny.

Sherri makes everything pretty

Photo by Merri Melde

Next door to American Trail Gear, we hosted the first-ever

Merri Melde and Henry Griffin

 AERC Book Barn!

Everyone we talked to owns about half of the books on the table.
Which books do YOU have already?

We made friends with Devin, she rocks.

Of course, we didn't just sell stuff.

There was also the FOOD.

Just because I haven't seen these ladies in two years didn't mean we couldn't
smash seafood together promptly

Lucy was only temporarily boggled by the shells


Gail's big award

So proud

And more FOOD.

Endurance riders are good at eating.

Then, back to selling stuff.

ATG Day Two:  much stuff already sold!

Book Barn, Day 2:  the stacks of books are getting smaller

We almost ran out of copies of Endurance 101

And always, the paperwork.

We are a low-tech group

All-too-soon:  time to pack it up and

Again with the boxes

head back out.



A stop in Shasta City--this is the view from the Black Bear Diner window

 And when I got home, I went riding.
Of course.

Next year, maybe we'll see you there!