Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Shot in the Dark: Achievement

May 2009 be the year in which you make your dreams come true.

To achieve great things, two things are needed:
A plan, and not quite enough time.

~ Leonard Bernstein


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Applied Physics

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rider Resource: Endurance Conditioning Log

I'd venture a guess that most endurance riders keep track of their conditioning efforts by one means or another. Some hang large calendars in their garages and record distances, weather, and recoveries in the spaces. Others keep notebooks or planners in their tack rooms.

Personally, I use Excel spreadsheets to not only to record actual workouts, but also to map in advance my entire year's conditioning and training schedules for eight horses. This method enables me to progress through an intentional series of workouts designed to train and condition each horse at an appropriate pace.

Thanks to my Endurance Conditioning Log, I know today exactly how far and fast I'll be riding Consolation on August 22nd next -- 20 miles at 7.5 mph, thank you very much. (Yes, I'm sure Sigmund Freud would have had a field day with me. Why do you ask?) Obviously, a plan is only that. The beauty of an electronic log is that it can be easily updated to accommodate a horse's changing needs or a rider's shifting schedule.

Several individuals have contacted me of late requesting a copy of my spreadsheets, so I've decided to make them available to you all. To download a copy of my 2009 Endurance Conditioning Log, follow the link to and log in as follows:

Email: TBWReaders [at] gmail [dot] com
Password: TBWReaders

Under the My Files tab, you'll find a folder labeled Endurance Riding Tools. In the folder, you'll find the Endurance Conditioning Log, as well as my Endurance Conversions Chart.

When you open your newly downloaded 2009 Endurance Conditioning Log, you'll find an Introduction tab at the bottom left side of your screen; click there for instructions on how to use the Log. If you aren't an Excel expert, never fear; the worksheets are protected so you can't possibly screw up the formulas. If you are an Excel expert (unlike me), feel free to unlock the cells and go to town. I'd be pleased to hear your ideas for improving the Log.

In addition to a blank template, the 2009 Endurance Conditioning Log includes sample data -- my conditioning plans for Aaruba and Consolation. Thanks to our winter weather, you'll need to scroll down to view these plans, which won't spring into action until March. Of course, you're welcome to overwrite the sample data with plans for your own horses.

Related Posts
Rider Resources: Endurance Conversions Chart
How to Condition a Horse for Endurance: A Collection of Resources
Log On: Sample Endurance Horse Conditioning Schedules
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Blessings

It is, perhaps, the surest proof of God's wisdom,
that He chose to be born in a stable.

~ Tamara Baysinger


Many Christmas blessings to you and yours, from the whole herd at In the Night Farm.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

You Better Watch Out...

I spent a few minutes this morning preparing the horses for Santa's arrival. Acey was a bit suspicious...

...but Ripple took it in stride.

I think I'll send her out to greet the reindeer. Santa might be inspired to leave extra presents for the ponies!


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Sunday, December 21, 2008

On the Wings of a Storm

I paid less than $400 for Aaruba. His breeder wanted quiet Arabians and Pintabians, and Aaruba wasn't. No, Aaruba was the plain gray, high-headed, wide-eyed, last straw that sent his sire to the vet for gelding.

I first saw him on the kind of windy, muddy day that whipped his mind to wildness. Still a leggy four-year-old, he flashed about the makeshift corral as if the storm were inside him, no buck but plenty of air, a whirl flat knees, good hooves, and that indefinable something that trumpets, "I'm the one!"

We made the deal.

Aaruba came home friendly but troubled, ravaged by a sea of emotions, in desperate need of a captain. Together we navigated the straits of training -- he the ship and I the sail -- to open waters and sunny days.

Nearly three years later, I can sometimes offer a bit of the captaincy to him. Yesterday, fresh from two weeks of bad weather and little work, he seemed nevertheless in a mental state to chart our course. And so, I settled into my new Stonewall and handed him the wheel.

He ran.

For most of sixteen miles, he ran, and a winter storm gave chase. A frozen landscape streamed past, pulled tears from my eyes and sweat from his neck. We cantered free as water, free as wind, our bodies long and loose as the reins between us.

I scarcely touched his face or sides but listened instead to his language pure as breathing. Our path looped wide, spun at last on a gust toward home. Winter nipped his flying heels. Naked tree limbs shuddered and the bellies of the clouds grew pregnant with snow.

And I? I clung astride that plain gray, high-headed, wild-eyed, will-o-the-wisp whose size and strength far outstripped my own, a creature more emotion than logic, more motion than matter, more worth than gold, and I was not afraid.


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Glory in Motion: Riding at the Speed of Delight

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Rider Resource: Endurance Conversions Chart

I already opened my big Christmas box. Now, it's your turn. I've left a gift for you at Just follow the link, then log in as follows:

Email: TBWReaders [at] gmail [dot] com
Password: TBWReaders

Under the My Files tab, you'll find a folder labeled Endurance Riding Tools. In the folder, you'll find a little Christmas present from my farm to yours.

It's [drumroll, please!]...a spreadsheet!


Okay, okay. I'm a nerd. But hear me out. I created this little tool to help me pace Aaruba during rides. I keep a copy posted in my horse trailer and another copy in my saddlebag, where it can spare me those simple mathematical conversions that seem to grow more difficult under conditions of stress and exhaustion.

The Endurance Conversions spreadsheet consists of four mini-charts:
  1. Speed/Pace Conversions -- This chart simply converts minutes per mile (which is what you'll get if you time your ride using a regular wristwatch) to miles per hour (which I find more useful for comparisons to other people's conditioning programs and such).
  2. Average Speed Conversions -- This chart works in conjunction with the Speed/Pace Conversions chart to tell you how long a particular distance (in miles) will take (in minutes) at a given speed (miles per hour) or pace (minutes per mile).
  3. Pulse Conversions -- This chart converts beats per minute to beats per 10 seconds, making it easier for a brain-dead rider to take a quick pulse using a stethoscope.
  4. Time Conversions -- This chart simply converts time in minutes to time in hours. I find it useful on those occasions when I feel too weary to mentally convert 380 minutes to 6 hours, 20 minutes. The reverse conversion will make the Average Speed Conversions chart easier to read.

You'll see that some lines on the chart are highlighted in yellow; others in blue. The yellow indicates my ideal ranges for the last 50-miler I rode on Aaruba; the blue indicates what I deemed to be an acceptable margin. The grey areas mean "I don't want to be in this range."

The spreadsheet is not locked, so feel free to make any changes suitable to your personal use. If you have ideas for its improvement, let me know and I'll be happy to consider them.


Related Posts
Log On: Sample Endurace Horse Conditioning Schedules
How to Condition a Horse for Endurance: A Collection of Resources
Rider Resource: Endurance Conditioning Log


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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Comes Early: My Stonewall Sponsorship Saddle has Arrived!

Here it is! The Stonewall Saddles logo...

...on my new sponsorship saddle, complete with unique water bottle holders, saddle bags, and wool pad...

...custom-built for Aaruba, with the help of the Dennis Lane equine back measuring system...

...beautiful and comfortable enough to coax me out for a ride despite the windy, 15 degree weather. The saddle fit Aaruba as though molded to his back (which is, after all, exactly what the conformal foam lining the custom tree is designed to do) and felt perfectly secure and familiar to me as we cruised across the frozen countryside.

I haven't had a new saddle since I was fourteen years old. It was an all-purpose Wintec, the best I could afford on my stall-cleaning wages. Sixteen years later, I still have it. I can see myself riding in a Stonewall even longer.

Dear Jackie, owner of Stonewall, Aaruba says "thank you."

And so do I.

Related Posts
Upward in the Night
It's Here!: Dennis Lane Equine Back Profiling System
Speed and Special Delivery: Stonewall Saddle Pads are Here!
Back in the Fitting Room: Endurance Tack and Rider Gear

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What's in the Box?

The dogs couldn't guess. Can you? I'll tell you tomorrow. ;-)

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Christmas Comes Early

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Shot in the Dark: Vigilance

The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone.
It is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.

~ Patrick Henry

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Shot in the Dark: The Mutual Pledge
Shot in the Dark: Liberty

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bringing it Home: Equine Gastric Ulcer Management at In the Night Farm

I started this series on Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome in an effort to help my ulcer-prone endurance horse.

Diagnosed over the summer with multiple, bleeding ulcers (probably the result of an impaction colic that kept him off feed for several days last fall, combined with his highly emotional nature), Aaruba has benefited from two, 30-day courses of GastroGard and the attentions of a team of excellent vets who are very experienced not only with regard to internal medicine, but in the sport of endurance as well.

Four months after diagnosis, Aaruba's condition is dramatically improved. He has put on weight and cleans up an astonishing quantity of feed. He has plenty of energy, a healthy coat, and a gleam in his eye. His bare feet are healthier than ever, his post-workout recoveries excellent, and our endurance goals for 2009 look achievable indeed.

All the same, I'm not about to let down my guard. Gastric ulcers have no respect for the thousands of dollars horse owners pour into Merial's pockets. GastroGard may allow ulcers to heal, but it doesn't prevent them from recurring...unless you can continue to administer a small, daily, $8.00 dose. Considering that the effect of long-term omeprazole use is unknown, and that omeprazole is listed by the AERC as a banned substance, endless GastroGard treatment isn't a practical option in Aaruba's case, price tag notwithstanding.

I've explored my options and settled upon the following routines for preventing EGUS here at In the Night Farm:

  • I keep feed in front of the horses as much as possible. Constant access to feed appears to be the single, most important factor for prevention of EGUS.
  • All horses receive some alfalfa in their diet, as it is believed that alfalfa's calcium content has a buffering effect on gastric acid.
  • Horses are never worked on an empty stomach. If the horse I plan to ride hasn't finished a meal recently, I offer half a flake of alfalfa to munch while grooming and tacking up. There was a time when I would never have considered doing this, fearing it would encourage poor manners. However, there is an undeniable advantage to making endurance prospects comfortable with eating during saddling -- and expectation of imminent snacks makes the horses even happier about being caught than they were before.
Having proved himself prone to EGUS, Aaruba enjoys some additional, preventative measures:

  • He has grass hay in front of him 100% of the time, except during workouts that total approximately 5-6 hours per week.
  • He receives daily probiotics to promote general intestinal health. Right now, I'm using GUT, which is sold as an ulcer preventative containing probiotics. When the GUT runs out, however, I'll be switching to Fastrack because it contains a broader spectrum of pre- and probiotics.
  • About 40 minutes before tacking up for a workout, I give Aaruba a large flake of alfalfa. 10 minutes before tacking up, he receives a pound of beet pulp (soaked) mixed with an ounce of U-Guard, a powdered antacid product. This ensures that his stomach is full and buffered when we begin work.
  • Every hour during workouts, I dismount to administer a 1-ounce dose of Pro CMC, a liquid antacid, to keep Aaruba's stomach buffered.
  • During long rides, we pause halfway for five or ten minutes of grazing, as a full stomach is less likely to be damaged by sloshing acid.
  • To deal with the high-strung mentality that contributes to Aaruba's tendency to develop ulcers, I also have him on a maintenance dose of a product called Focus Equine. Neither drug nor herb, this powder is a vitamin/mineral blend that simply quiets Aaruba's emotions without tranquilizing or dulling him. I know, I know. It sounds like snake oil...but it works, and the company is fantastic to work with. Talking to the owner is like calling an old horsey friend. I haven't encountered such personal service in years. (By the way, if you check it out and decide to try Focus Equine, be sure to say I sent you. After buying all that GastroGard, I could really use the referral discount!)
So, is my ulcer prevention routine working?

Mostly. Though Aaruba's appetite and energy level have returned to normal, he does sometimes show reluctance to canter and a tendency to shy at objects that normally wouldn't faze him -- both possible ulcer symptoms on which I'm keeping a careful eye.

I have a stock of high-quality aloe and human-grade MSM on hand, too, should I determine Aaruba needs some extra support to fend of ulcer recurrance. Yes, it's an alternative therapy...but if 60 days of GastroGard didn't fully resolve the ulcers, I'm ready to try something else.

I also have my eye on Stomach Soother, a papaya puree reputed to have great benefit in relieving EGUS symptoms. Because traditional antacids usually contain AERC banned substances and have some undesirable side effects when used long-term, I will try replacing Aaruba's U-Guard and Pro CMC with Stomach Soother in the near future.

EGUS prevention is a long-term chore requiring careful observation, ongoing research, and experimentation to determine what works for each, individual horse. I'm certainly not done tweaking my routines -- but my hopes are high that when the 2009 endurance season rolls around, Aaruba's stomach will be ready for it.

Related Posts

Introduction: Equine Gastric Ulcer Series

Strategies for Prevention of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome
Pharmaceutical and Alternative Treatment Options for EGUS
Equine Ulcer Supplement Options
EGUS, Endurance, and the AERC
A Fair Question: Equine Athletes, Equine Ulcers
Sheer Brilliance: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for EGUS
Q & A: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for EGUS
The Good Bad News: Gastric Ulcers in Equines


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Monday, December 8, 2008

Butterflies in December

A new award has alighted on The Barb Wire. My humble thanks to Lori, who posts many striking photos of her own at The Skoog Farm Journal.

I'm delighted to send the Butterfly Award winging along to one of the coolest blogs I know. Equine Ink offers an array of well-written posts on all things equine. I particularly enjoyed the video in this recent post.

Along with the award go these instructions:

  • Add the award logo to your blog, as well as a link to the person who bequeathed it to you.

  • Nominate at least one other blog for the award, explain why you like the blog(s), and provide link(s).

  • Leave a comment notifying your nominee(s) that the butterfly has landed.

Thanks again, Lori -- I don't know whether I deserve it, but I really appreciate it! _________________________________________________________

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wii Fit for Riding? "Mii"thinks Maybe So.

It all started on Thanksgiving Day.

Travis and I arrived at my mom's house to find a pack of relatives clustered around the flat-screen TV, cheering and groaning as they took turns playing with the latest in video game technology.

The Wii and Wii Fit were an early Christmas gift to my mom (!) from my grandparents (!!). Just as Nintendo marketers envisioned, it provided us all with an afternoon of uproarious entertainment.

It also got me thinking.

The Wii uses a gyroscope controller to translate a player's physical movements into activities of an on-screen "Mii." The Wii Fit game goes even further by adding a Balance Board, which is rather like an miniature step aerobics bench equipped with sensors that enable the board to register the shifting balance of a player standing on the board. Wii Fit offers a set of aerobic and strength exercises, as well as yoga instruction and a series of balance mini-games.

I'm not much of a gamer, myself. I prefer the real world to a digital environment and count most time spent in front of a computer as wasted, unless I'm using the machine to either learn or teach. All the same, as I sweated off a slice of pumpkin pie on the Wii Fit, struggling to balance despite the hilarity of my family's endless commentary, I couldn't help but wonder...

What if Wii Fit really does improve balance and strengthen a person's core? Could this machine possibly offer a fun, social, effective means of bolstering my riding ability, even during the bitter winter months?

After several hours of practice on the Wii Balance Board, I concluded that the answer was likely to be yes. Core strength and precise body control are keystones of good riding, after all. It makes sense that efforts to hone these via Wii Fit balance games could, in fact, pay off in the saddle.

Travis, who is an enthusiastic gamer (and not the biggest fan of rote exercise) was all for it. Although Wii Fit exercises reportedly burn only about half as many calories as do their real-world counterparts, you must admit that some physical activity, even if its benefit is muted by the fact that it is done in place, is far better than sitting around tapping a keyboard to exterminate digital aliens.

So it was that Travis and I drove to the local Game Crazy and forked over the cash for a Wii and Wii Fit. The system got a good workout yesterday...and so did we. My own two hours of shadow boxing, step aerobics, jogging, hula hooping, yoga, and balance games resulted in some minor sore muscles and, surprisingly, the kind of post-workout satisfaction that compares favorably with a glass of nice wine.

Of course, nothing can improve your riding better than actually riding. So, after 45 minutes of buffing up my Mii this morning, I did 20 miles of that, too.

And now, if you'll excuse Mii, I'm due in digital yoga.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Shot in the Dark: Kindness

One kind word
can warm
three winter months.

~ Japanese Proverb

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Monday, December 1, 2008

Dirty Dancing

I spent Thanksgiving week absorbed with cooking, cleaning, and company. Meanwhile, Aaruba stood in his paddock, gathering dust. Literally. He missed two workouts, and by Saturday afternoon he was pacing the fence line in obvious frustration. So, my houseful of relatives flooded out to the round corral to watch while Aaruba and I burned off steam.

First, I tried to clean him up for the various cameras in the vicinity. The difference was almost detectable at close range.

Then, we danced.

And he was lovely. (Grime notwithstanding.)

It was an unseasonably warm, if cloudy, day. Twenty minutes of tango had both of us dripping sweat. We settled down to walk and talk in the kind of silence only friends can hear. And the relatives scuttled back to the cozy house.

Methinks Aaruba and I got the best end of the deal -- dirt and all.
Related Posts
Shot in the Dark: Friendship
Shall We Dance?
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