Saturday, August 30, 2008

Off to the Races

Yesterday morning, en route to the office, I spotted a truck towing a horse trailer down the freeway. I slowed to check it out:

Washington plates. Camper in the truck bed. Portable corral panels. Husband asleep in the passenger seat. Gray Arabian muzzle poking through the trailer window. Blue bumper sticker proclaiming: To Finish is to Win!

Definitely endurance riders on their way to Old Selam. Excitement stirred as I thought, for the millionth time, I want to do that!

...and this time, I get to!

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Related Posts
Countdown to Old Selam
Once Upon a Horse: The Story of Old Selam
It's Official: We Do Endurance!
The First of Many! 50 Miles at Old Selam
Shot in the Dark: Friendship
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Friday, August 29, 2008

Once Upon a Horse: The Story of Old Selam

On the outskirts of Boise, its forbidding walls juxtaposed against a botanical garden overflowing with roses and herbs, crouches the Old Idaho State Penetentiary. Its construction began in 1870, just ten years after Idaho became a U.S. territory. Over the years, hundreds of convicts labored in the sandstone foothills, hewing out blocks to build the walls and cells within which many of them would perish.

As you might expect of a prison built by its inmates, the Old Pen has a long history of escaped prisoners. Some 500 escape attempts are on record, 90 of them successful. Two of these escape attempts occurred in late December, 1901, with the help of an horse called Selam.

Selam is reputed to have been an unusually good riding and driving horse in his day, but by 1901, he was growing old and had been assigned to the Old Pen as a cart horse. On December 24, prisoner Bob Meeks -- the only member of Butch Cassidy's gang to be arrested for the Montpelier bank robbery -- cut Selam loose from his wagon and headed for the hills. Unfortunately for Meeks, trackers caught up with him the next day and both prisoner and horse were returned to the penitentiary. Merry Christmas.

Just five days later, on December 30, prisoner Samuel Bruner disappeared from his privileged post in one of the Old Pen's power plant duty stations. Convicted of grand larceny in 1899, Bruner had apparently slipped away astride old Selam. Neither horse nor prisoner was ever found.

In 1976, three years after the Old Pen was retired as a correctional institution, the Southwest Idaho Trail and Distance Riders group established an annual endurance ride that attempted to retrace the two convicts' possible escape routes. Originally, ridecamp was set up right at the reportedly haunted penitentiary, but trail restrictions have since forced several relocations. Nevertheless, the Old Selam Endurance Ride remains Idaho's oldest endurance ride to have been held every year since its inception.

Nobody knows what became of Sam Bruner and old Selam. Perhaps they did pass through the area near Idaho City, where this year's ride will take place. Maybe, just maybe, Aaruba and I will retrace their footsteps to freedom, or else kick up the dust of their long-forgotten bones.
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Related Posts
Countdown to Old Selam
Off to the Races
It's Official: We Do Endurance!
The First of Many! 50 Miles at Old Selam
Shot in the Dark: Friendship
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Countdown to Old Selam

Tick...tick...tick...

It's coming too fast, yet not fast enough, this first 50-mile race.


The summer's Limited Distance races have been a thrill, but for years I've looked forward to the real deal:

Endurance...50 miles or more in 12 hours or less. We're going to give it a go at the 2008 Old Selam Endurance Ride on August 31.

Aaruba and I enjoyed our final conditioning ride last Sunday -- 15.5 miles at 7 mph, which is within my intended speed range for Old Selam. Twelve days into his treatment for gastric ulcers, Aaruba demonstrated marked improvement in attitude and energy. Full of enthusiasm, he bounded along the roadside, enjoying a couple long hand gallops before looping back toward home. Remedial training on the return journey slowed our overall time, but he clearly remembered my expectations and responded readily to correction. This may come in handy early in Sunday's race, though we will take care to start several minutes after the trail opens.

Between now and Sunday, I'll keep Aaruba loose and sane with a some brief workouts in the round corral. I had originally planned on two short, easy rides this week, but one of Aaruba's hind heels seemed a bit bruised last weekend, so we're taking it easy and staying on soft ground. No matter; no conditioning benefit can be gained between now and the race, and rest is far more important.

Our plan is to drive the 80 miles to ridecamp outside Idaho City on Saturday morning, arriving around noon. Travis will help me set up, then head back to In the Night Farm to hold down the fort while I stay to compete (or rather, complete, if all goes well). I was a bit nervous about the prospect of crewing myself at my first 50 until a good friend stepped forward to offer her assistance.

Jennifer will drop by ridecamp Saturday afternoon to get a feel for the layout, equipment, and tasks involved with crewing. She'll go back to Boise to be mom to her one-year-old daughter, then return early Sunday with camera in hand. She's quite a good portrait photographer -- you check out some of her work on her blog (scroll down to see my favorites from Mother's Day and Easter) -- and Old Selam will offer a smorgasbord of fresh victims...er, subjects.

I'll spend the rest of Saturday vetting in, taking Aaruba for a short ride to check out the trails, laying out everything I'll need Sunday morning so I don't waste time on desperate searches for hoofpicks and breastcollars in the pre-dawn darkness, and attending the ride meeting.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. There's still a great deal of packing and preparation to be done before we can load the horse and head for the hills. One of the biggest jobs is already finished: in an effort to make Aaruba more comfortable with his travel arrangements, Travis removed the solid window cover at the front of the trailer and welded in some steel bars instead. Hopefully, the view will help Aaruba, who isn't the world's best hauler, relax a bit en route.

Last night, I washed Aaruba's saddle pad, interference boots, and Easyboot Bares. (I think we'll be doing this ride with boots in front and bare hooves behind, but I won't know for sure until after the ride meeting.) I've re-read the AERC rules so I'm clear on the differences between LD and endurance, printed driving directions, double-checked the contents of my vet kit, laundered my favorite riding clothes, kept an eye on the weather forecast (partly sunny, breezy, and 65 degrees), and crushed Tums to add to Aaruba's electrolytes so they're less likely to exacerbate his ulcers.

Speaking of ulcers, my heart sank when I checked AERC's banned substances list and discovered that it includes omeprezol, that is, GastroGard! I called Aaruba's vet immediately to ask about my options. Thankfully, she said he'd do fine switching to sucralfate, which AERC specifically lists as a permitted substance, for the duration of the ride. I'll just need to be sure that at least 24 hours go by between Aaruba's last dose of GastroGard and our pre-ride vetting on Saturday.

Tonight, I'll pack my camping gear and Aaruba's tack and feed. Friday evening, I'll enlist Travis' help to load the truck, then prepare meals to fill the ice chest. As usual, I'm surrounded by piles of nerdy spreadsheets and lists. With luck, I won't forget anything...
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Related Posts
Once Upon a Horse: The Story of Old Selam
Off to the Races
It's Official: We Do Endurance!
The First of Many! 50 Miles at Old Selam
Shot in the Dark: Friendship
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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Today's Most Useful Tool

A few days ago, Lynn at Laf'n Bear Studio wrote a post called Today's Most Useful Tool. In Lynn's case, the tool was a nail file. (Who'd have guessed?) My most useful tool today -- and many days -- is Google Earth.

If you haven't downloaded this free software yet, you are missing out. I employ it regularly to plan routes for conditioning rides. Using the "path" option on the "ruler" tool, I can zoom in on the roads near In the Night Farm and click my way to the exact number of miles Aaruba and I are due to ride. On the rare occasion we leave without a route in mind, I can trace our path later to ensure the accuracy of our conditioning log.

Bonus Tip: You can also use Google Earth for a cheap date. Just grab your sweetie, pop some corn, and snuggle in front of the computer for a tour of the world. Visit the summit of Mount Everest. Zoom in on the Taj Mahal. Compare the Great Pyramid to Chichen Itza.

Just don't expect to see Olympians in Bejing -- most of Google Earth's photos are several years old; those of In the Night Farm certainly predate our arrival. Too bad, really. Wouldn't it be fun to spy on the in-laws?
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Related Posts
Log On: Sample Endurace Horse Conditioning Schedules
How to Condition a Horse for Endurance: A Collection of Resources
Rider Resource: Endurance Conversions Chart
Rider Resource: Endurance Conditioning Log
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Things I Carry

Have you ever noticed that, wherever you go, people ask you the same kinds of questions?

When I'm talking of writing instead of riding, people want to know where I get my ideas (usually from a "what if?" based on a scrap of real life), how long it takes to finish a novel (a really long time, when I'm trying to train horses too), and whether I write romance (um, no).

Among horsemen, there seems to be a preoccupation with what endurance riders carry down the trail. And so, for those who are curious, here's what's in my saddle bag:

1) Water, obviously.

2) A ziploc for my vet card. This lives in my saddle bag full time, so I can't forget it when I go to a ride.

3) My cell phone. I used to use a neoprene leg holster, but it stretched out so much that I can't keep it secured around my calf anymore. Naturally, having a phone in my saddlebag won't do me any good if Aaruba and I part company, but at least I have some of the bases covered.

4) Sunscreen. I'm mildly allergic to sunlight (I know, I know!) so I carry a few sample-size packets, just in case.

5) Hoof pick.

6) A few sheets of Kleenex. Multi purpose!

7) Stethoscope. When I jump off at a vet hold, I like to listen to Aaruba's heart rate before asking for an official pulse check.

8) Map or route reminder.

9) Lip balm, in case I meet someone worth kissing.

That's it for the regulars. I suppose that, in an ideal world, I'd remember some baling twine and a knife, maybe a little duct tape, my epi-pen, a bottle of aspirin, granola bars, a mylar blanket, chlorine tablets, emergency flares...

Nah. I'll risk it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Twenty Minutes in Photos: Trust-Based Training at Work

Back in May, I wrote about the beginning stages of gentling Sandstorm, who arrived at In the Night Farm as a completely unhandled bundle of nerves. I haven't been able to put nearly as much time into her this summer as I hoped to, but we've spent about fifteen sessions laying a foundation of trust in anticipation of future work. Here's a series of photos taken last Saturday during a twenty-minute lesson on the cusp between gentling and training:

I started by moving Sandstorm around the round corral a few times in each direction, allowing her to check out any changes in the surroundings and prepare to focus on me.

When her inside ear was on me and she showed interest in stopping, I shifted from a driving posture to an not-threatening pose, inviting her to turn inward. I approached her at a medium walking pace, gaze and shoulders dropped. Her body language demonstrated that she was quite unconcerned. This represents major progress since the early days, when I had to creep toward her, inch by inch, while she trembled on the verge of panic.

Sandstorm is distinctly right-eyed. She's doing much better, but sometimes still goes to great lengths to avoid watching me with her left eye. Here, she was thinking about twisting her head around to look at me over her withers. It was this behavior that led me to put a halter on her, though I had to put her in a squeeze chute to do it. She was learning that she could avoid me by turning waaaay away, so I spent a few sessions teaching her to give to halter pressure so I could gently bring her head back around when necessary.

As usual, I touched from poll to tailhead, under her belly and down her legs. My hand on her withers provided a mental anchor, enabling her to better sense my movements, and giving me warning if she was about to leap away.

Notice, too, that I stood with my body touching hers. For humans, this takes some getting used to because it feels unsafe, but to the horse, it is a great comfort.

I've spent hours working on getting Sandstorm to allow me to touch her face, particularly from the near side. It's been a painstaking, inch-by-inch process, but she's finally begun looking forward to getting some rubs on her itchy spots.

Incidentally, I can also touch both ears, inside and out, without the slightest reaction. It's amazing what you can do when you take the time to develop trust instead of forcing a horse into something for which it isn't prepared.

That goes for training a horse to pick up its feet, too. This mare can't be haltered without restraint, barely leads, and is far from being ridden, but she lets me handle her feet better than many a seasoned show horse. Why? Simply because I gave her time to choose to stay. She could run away, but she knows she doesn't need to.

This was only the second time I'd picked up her hind hoof. Notice that I stood well forward, with my right knee soft. If she'd panicked and kicked my leg, she'd probably have knocked me down, but hopefully my knee would have escaped serious damage.

I only held this foot up for a second or two before releasing it. This was critical, because I was asking her to compromise her most basic defense -- the ability to run. She needed to be released before she felt trapped.

Next, I brought out a soft, cotton rope. I rubbed her all over with it, just as I had with my hands at the beginning of the lesson.

At this point, we moved beyond review into mostly new territory. I touched Sandstorm with with the just end of the rope, allowing her to get a good look at the way it stretched, snakelike, between us.

I worked on each step from both sides of the horse, spending more time on her weaker, near side. However, because it was Sandstorm's first time having a rope tied around her neck, I tied the knot (a bowline, which won't tighten under pressure) while standing on her right.

She took a nervous, sideways step when she realized the rope was attached. I let her move but followed, keeping the distance between us the same. You can see by the angle of her ear that she was nervous about the rope, not about me.

If she had chosen to turn tail and run, I'd have not only let her go, but moved her around the round corral, dangling rope and all, until she settled down with her attention back on me. Then, I'd have proceeded calmly as if nothing had happened.

I put light tension on the rope to ask for a "give" in my direction. Sandstorm responded immediately with several, tentative steps. Not all horses will move their feet when first asked to lead, but Sandstorm had the advantage of some earlier "give to halter pressure" lessons performed at the end of a lunge line several weeks ago.

After a few minutes of leading practice, I laid the rope over Sandstorm's neck and picked up her off-side hooves. She stood calmly even when I slapped the bottom of her front hoof with my palm.

When handling her hind hoof, I didn't bring it behind her as I will eventually for cleaning and trimming. That step, which puts me in a potentially dangerous position, is better reserved for when I have a handler at her head.

So, there's the update. It doesn't seem like much...until I recall the days, not so long ago, when this horse shook if anyone so much as eyed her from a distance of twenty feet. When I look at it that way, Saturday's lesson seems just shy of a miracle.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Tack Test: Indian Bosal

I love my mail carrier. Today, she brought a package from Crazy Ropes containing my new bridle. This is a bitless option known as an Indian bosal. Here it is, modeled by Consolation.


Designed for direct reining, an Indian bosal operates very much like a rope halter, with the use of familiar pressure via the knots around the horse's muzzle. However, it offers more control due to the straps that cross beneath the horse's jaw and tighten when the rider takes up the reins.





I think this will make a great endurance bridle, as it doesn't limit the horse's ability to eat as does the Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle I use on Aaruba. The rope halter is built right in, so I'll never have to lead by the reins, and it the soft rope appears very comfortable indeed.

Consolation looks happy about it, too, wouldn't you say?

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Want to try an Indian bosal? Enter the Best of the Barb Wire Contest before November 10, 2008, to win a free, custom Halter Bosal Combo from Crazy Ropes!


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Where's the Fire?

In my opinion, one of the most irritating habits a horse can have is that of rushing home at the end of a ride. Unfortunately, it's a very common habit. Even more unfortunately, it's a habit into which Aaruba has recently fallen. He'll be perfectly controllable during the first half of a ride, but the minute we head for home, watch out! His head and tail go up, his back lifts, and his legs churn in a frenzy of enthusiasm. He's even offered to buck.

What to do? I could throw up my hands, declare that going bitless won't work for Aaruba after all, and slap a tom thumb bit in his mouth instead. I guarantee that would slow him down...for a while...until he figured out how to evade it. Knowing Aaruba, he'd probably take the head-tossing route, and I'd have an even bigger problem on my hands.

No, this tendency to rush home isn't an equipment problem. It's a training problem. Furthermore, it's not Aaruba's problem, but mine. As Robert Painter told me many times, "If there's a problem with the horse, look to the trainer."

I'm usually pretty sensitive to brewing trouble, able to predict and short-circuit a training issue before it really develops. So how did this one get by me? I think a lot of it has to do with the nature of endurance conditioning. When Aaruba and I hit the road, I know how far we need to go and how fast we ought to cover the miles. We won't make 8 miles in an hour if we walk the return journey. So we trot both ways, maybe canter a little to push his aerobic limits.

There's nothing wrong with that, in and of itself, but when timing becomes more important than training...well, look what I got: a young and excitable horse that's fit enough to blast home in less time than it takes to let fly a string of curses.

Yesterday, I decided to solve the problem. Aaruba and I headed out for a ride at our usual trot. When it came time to head home, however, I asked him to walk. As expected, he slipped into an impatient jig. I immediately took hold of the right rein, pulled his nose around to my toe, and anchored the rein behind my hip. He circled six or eight times before stopping. The moment he stopped, I released all pressure on the rein and petted his neck.

We tried walking again. He broke into a trot, and I pulled him around in more tight, uncomfortable circles, this time to the left. As before, I released the rein only when he finally decided to stop. After one more encore, Aaruba decided that trotting when I'd asked for a walk was way more trouble than it was worth.

That lesson accomplished, I proceeded to ask Aaruba for a trot -- just a few steps, then back to a walk. He responded, but tried to trot again and was rewarded with more circling. I noticed that he stopped much sooner this time.

Walk, trot, walk, trot again, walk again, trot longer, walk shorter, trot some more. Every time Aaruba resisted my request to walk, broke gait, or trotted faster than I asked, we circled. I never lost my temper, yanked a rein, slapped a shoulder, or bruised a rib with my heel. The circling was not intended as punishment for misbehavior, but rather as a means of making disobedience more work than obedience.

Success! Within twenty minutes we'd settled into a medium trot on a loose rein, headed home in a civilized manner. I imagine a few reminders will be in order during our next several rides, and you'll likely see slower times in Aaruba's training log. The training benefit will be worth every second.

Another of Robert Painter's favorite lines surfaced in my mind as Aaruba and I trotted peaceably up the last hill toward home. "Never forget: You aren't training the horse's body. You're training his mind."

Never a truer word, friends. Never a truer word.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Filling the Feedbag

With Old Selam just a week away, it's time to start meal planning for the one day and two nights I'll spend in the woods outside Idaho City.

Anyone who has tried it can tell you distance riding is much more than lounging around in a saddle for most of a day. It's an athletic endeavor that demands plenty of fuel for the rider, as well as the horse. Some endurance riders swear by PowerBars, Gatorade, and miscellaneous other chemical concoctions marketed as superfoods for athletes. Personally, I'd rather eat superfoods that are actually, you know, foods.

As an expedition whitewater rafter, I'm no stranger to the camp kitchen. I can whip up anything from a gourmet pasta dish with scallops and avocados in a Swiss cheese sauce to Dutch oven cinnamon rolls with nothing more than a propane stove, some charcoal, and the roar of rapids in my ears.

I've learned, however, that my level of intense focus at an endurance ride puts me in no mood to cook. Sometimes, it's all I can do just to settle down and eat. Even after the competition, when Aaruba is safely back in his pen, I'm simply not interested in heating up a bowl of five-pepper chili. I am interested, however, in sticking with my preferred flegan diet while filling up on something tasty, nutritious, and highly portable.

My travel itinerary for Old Selam involves driving the three hours or so to ride camp next Saturday morning, riding 50 miles on Sunday, then returning home Monday morning. Sunday dinner will be a potluck rather than a catered meal provided by ride management. All in all, I'll need 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 1 solo dinner, and 1 potluck dish. Here's what I have in mind:

Saturday late lunch/early dinner: Lentil Salad with Feta Cheese I haven't tried this particular recipe, but I eat a lot of bean, lentil, and grain salads and this looks like a good one.

Breakfasts: Morning Glory Muffins (if I have time to make them ahead of time) or whole grain bagels with peanut butter (if I don't), a banana, and chocolate-covered espresso beans (so I needn't bother with making coffee).

Sunday lunch: Barley "Pasta" Salad. My friend Jennifer, who will be crewing me at Old Selam, is also interested in healthful food and has approved this choice. The dish travels well, but I do recommend packing the spinach separately and stirring it in immediately before serving.

Potluck dish: Corn and Black Bean Salad I've taken this dish to rides before. It's nutritious, filling, quick, easy, flavorful, inexpensive, and holds up well to the rigors of life in a cooler.

Snacks: Raw nuts, grapes, dark chocolate

Beverages: Plenty of water, possibly coffee, some beer, and a decent merlot

Meanwhile, Aaruba will enjoy a smorgasbord of grass-alfalfa mix, pure alfalfa (he doesn't get this at home because too much alfalfa can predispose a horse to azoturia due to nutritional imbalances, but it's a surefire way to get him to eat when he's excited before a ride), soaked beet pulp, and Equine Senior.

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back in the Fitting Room: Endurance Tack and Rider Gear

Several months and 465 miles ago, I wrote this post about endurance tack. Since then, I've made several additions and adjustments to Aaruba's and my gear. Here we are, all decked out for last Sunday's 16.5 mile conditioning ride.


As you can see, Aaruba is tricked out with more doodads than he was wearing back in April. Let's go through the items, head to hoof.

Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle: Despite his obnoxiously sales-pitchy website, Dr. Cook has designed a bridle that continues to work well for Aaruba. The beta shows no sign of wear despite many hours of exposure to sweat and sun, and once you become accustomed to the bridle's unusual configuration of straps, it's quite easy to use. When I catch Aaruba up for a ride, I usually bridle him straight away instead of haltering him first for grooming; that way, I can simply tighten the noseband and mount up without having to change his headgear.

The Bitless Bridle seems to give Aaruba clear signals both laterally (for turning/bending) and vertically (for stopping/collecting). I particularly like how it is designed to put pressure on his poll when I tighten both reins, as he is prone to high-headed nervousness and I have trained him to lower his head in response to poll pressure. Unfortunately, the straps that cross beneath Aaruba's jaw sometimes rub a bit when I have to hold him in for long periods, such as when he wants to rush during a race. However, this is more a training problem (we're working on it) than a tack problem, and at its worst, it's by no means severe; it may rub off some hair, but it's never broken the skin.

A definite downside to the Bitless Bridle is that it relies on a very tight noseband for maximum effectiveness. Tighter than a typical, English cavesson, the noseband doesn't interfere with Aaruba's breathing, but it does limit his ability to chew -- obviously less than ideal for an endurance situation, where a little trail side grazing is desirable. The good news is that after fifteen miles or so, Aaruba generally settles down enough that I can loosen the noseband a notch, sacrificing a bit of control in favor of his comfort and ability to eat.

Cotton Rope Rein: This is the second 8-foot, cotton rope rein I've purchased from my local tack shop; the first one needed replaced after a couple hundred miles, when the splice pulled out on one side and the rein came loose of the clip. I prefer a loop rein to split reins because I typically ride with very light hands and I don't want to risk losing a rein if it slips from my grip. The soft, lightweight, round rope is comfortable most of the time, but I need to buy some summer weight riding gloves because the rope has been known to rub my knuckles raw in tight-rein situations.

Lead Rope: I like to keep a lead rope clipped to a side ring on Aaruba's bridle so I can dismount and lead him with something other than the reins. I've had this 6-foot lead since I was a kid. Its snap is one you'd normally see on a dog's leash rather than a lead rope, and the round nylon rope is only a half-inch in diameter. This makes for a lightweight combination that doesn't tug on Aaruba's face. While riding, I keep it looped around my saddle's pommel in such a fashion that it won't loosen with Aaruba's movement, but it will pull free if he or I tangle in it.

Breastcollar: This is a standard, nylon breastcollar in the Y-style that won't restrict Aaruba's breathing. Though I've had no trouble with rubs, I'd still like to find some fleece covers for it. Where do they sell those things, anyway?

Snugpax Pommel Bags: I chose the Slimline Western Deluxe style because it offers two water bottle holders, a small pocket ideal for my rider card, and two pockets large enough for such items as a lightweight jacket or camera. The bag is of good quality, its fleece backing seems comfortable for Aaruba, and its attachment straps work well with my Stonewall saddle.

However, the lower pair of attachment straps that are made to be tied on are slippery and sometimes come untied, even when double- or triple-knotted. This leads to either wasted time during a race, or several awkward moments of attempting to guide an excitable horse while posting and leaning over to re-tie straps in the region of my knee -- not my favorite activity. I'm considering tying on some kind of clip that can then be snapped to the saddle rigging in an attempt to alleviate this problem.

I'm also considering switching to cantle bags because my loop reins tend to get caught on the pommel bags, which is annoying at best and potentially dangerous at worst. This is the reason I only bring the bags along for rides of 15 miles or more; otherwise, I'll go without water just so I don't have to deal with snagged reins. The good news is that my sponsorship saddle from Stonewall will come with rear-mounted water bottle holders similar to those you'd use on a bicycle, so I'll be able to carry water on every ride without any hassle.

Stonewall Lightweight Endurance Saddle: Back in April, I was concerned that Aaruba's head-tossing behavior was related to improper saddle fit. I'm happy to report, however, that we've long-since resolved the behavior issue, and the saddle had nothing to do with it...thank goodness, because I love all 12 pounds of this saddle, from its centerfire rigging that reduces probability of girth rubs to its deep, comfortable seat and minimalist design.

5-Star Wool Saddle Pad: After 600 miles and many washes, this wool felt pad is just starting to show its age. That's just as well, because although I've appreciated its contoured design and quality, its 1-inch thickness is less than ideal for use with my saddle. Stonewall Saddle Company recommends a 3/8 inch, wool pad and offers one designed specifically for their saddles, so I'll be switching to Stonewall pads shortly. It'll also be nice to reduce the surface area of Aaruba's back that is covered by the pad, particularly during summer weather when his ability to radiate heat is critical.

Incidentally, Jackie Fenaroli at Stonewall informs me that a 1-inch change in pad thickness changes the pitch of the saddle from front to back by 1 degree. This is because a saddle pad lifts the saddle more near the horse's shoulder than near his loin; the thicker the pad, the steeper the angle from pommel to cantle. An endurance rider might increase his horse's comfort during a long ride by adding or removing a thin pad at the midway point, thereby slightly altering the pressure on the horse's back.

Cool Tack Western/Endurance Seat Cover: This merino wool seat cover fits nicely on my Stonewall and has certainly contributed to my comfort over the miles. Not only is it cushy, but it adds a bit of friction between my seat and the saddle's, which comes in handy during those dramatic Arab-style spooks. A word of caution about wool seat pads, though: I hear that they can absorb a tremendous amount of water during a rainstorm. I haven't had opportunity to experience this issue personally, but I imagine it would render the seat cover very uncomfortable, not to mention heavy!

Neoprene cinch: If I had a better memory, I'd tell you what brand my cinch is. Instead, I'll tell you that I appreciate its generous width (5 inches) and roller on the near-side buckle, which eliminates bunching problems while cinching up. Its also nice to simply hose the cinch off after a sweaty ride.

E-Z Ride Stirrups: I use the caged, nylon style. Padded, shock-absorbent, and 4 inches wide, these stirrups are worth every strange look I get from passing cowboys. Call me a coward, but I relish the security of the cages that allows me to rest my foot deep in the stirrup without fear of slipping through. Over many miles of posting, the bottoms of my feet sometimes grow numb, possibly because I am in denial regarding my need for bunion surgery. The easy fix is to hop off and jog a hundred yards or so, which I'm sure feels nice to Aaruba as well.

Interference boots: I introduced Aaruba's interference boots in this post, when they were brand new. I've been using them ever since and sure enough, they've eliminated the interference injuries and seem to be holding up well. Last Sunday, though, the off front interference boot joined forces with an Easyboot gaiter to rub the inside of Aaruba's fetlock. I think the bottom edge of the interference boot slipped under the gaiter, so a minor adjustment will likely prevent that particular rub from recurring.

Easyboot Bares: If you've been reading The Barb Wire blog for long, you know I'm committed to keeping Aaruba barefoot if at all possible. His feet are in very good condition and perfectly capable of going long distances without protection, as he proved on Day 2 of the Pink Flamingo Classic. However, most of our training miles are run on the gravel shoulders of paved roads, so boots are necessary to prevent over-wearing of his hoof walls.

Thus far, I've been happy with the Bares, particularly since they loosen up after a few rides and become much easier to put on. I do have my eye on the new Renegade Hoof Boots, which are reportedly very easy to use, but at $169 per pair, they're more than twice the price of the Bares in EasyCare's bargain bin (they come with the old-style gaiter but are otherwise up-to-date). I've lost one boot at each of our two competitions thus far in 2008, so keeping costs down is a good thing. On the other hand, I've not lost a single Bare during hours upon hours of conditioning, and not until last Sunday's ride did Aaruba finally wear one through at the toe.

Gaiter rubs are an occasional problem with the Bares. I've had better luck fastening the gaiters more loosely than recommended by EasyCare, but rubs do sometimes occur on long rides, particularly on Aaruba's forelegs. I suppose the Renegades would eliminate that issue...but mightn't they cause rubs elsewhere?

That's it for Aaruba's tack. Most of my own gear is a bit lower-tech; for example, my riding tights are from the "activewear" section at Target, and this time of year, I've sacrificed fashion to the comfort of a loose-fitting, 3/4 sleeve, cotton blouse. My watch, left over from my distance running days, has a handy "chrono" feature that enables me to track both segmented and overall times during a ride. On rare occasions that I have cash leftover after purchasing tack for Aaruba, I have picked up a few goodies for myself.

Ariat Terrain Riding Boots: Quite popular among endurance riders, these are hands-down the most comfortable boots I've ever purchased. I wear them every evening and all day on weekends, for everything from groundwork and riding to feeding and fence repair.

Half Chaps: Aside from a semi-defective zipper on one chap, I've been very pleased with the fit, comfort, and quality of the Just Chaps, Ltd. half chaps available from Running Bear.

Tipperary Sportage Helmet: I've said it before...If I'm going to ride a 900-pound prey animal at high speeds through unfamiliar terrain, the least I can do is put an extra layer of padding between my brain and the nearest boulder.

'Nuff said.
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Related Posts

The Fitting Room: Endurance Tack

The Stocking Trick (Or, Aaruba Dresses in Drag)


Tack Test: Indian Bosal

New Duds: Interference Boots for a Barefoot Endurance Horse

Upward in the Night

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Shot in the Dark: Mystery


The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious...
He to whom this emotion is a stranger,
who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe,
is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.

~ Albert Einstein

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Good Bad News: Gastric Ulcers in Equines


"We have our answer," Aaruba's vet announced when I answered the phone. "He has ulcers."



I sighed in relief. "Good!"



Ummm...Why am I so pleased that my beloved horse has lesions in the lining of his stomach?



Well, the bad news is good news because it answers a lot of questions: Why has Aaruba suffered recurrent, mild colics? Why do I have such difficulty keeping weight on him, though he has access to hay 24/7? Why is he brilliant some days and lethargic others? Why does he sometimes fail to clean up his feed? Now we know.



It's also good news because ulcers are curable. Not cheap, but curable. This is a huge relief, as another possibility suggested was that of permanent parasite damage left over from Aaruba's youth.



You can't live among performance horses for long and not encounter one with gastric ulcers. Many sources claim that about 60% of equine athletes suffer from ulcers. The percentage of affected horses tends to rise with increased training and competition; at an estimated 90%, racehorses top the list for ulcer risk.



In equines, gastric ulcers are caused by excessive acidity in the stomach. A horse's stomach produces about 1.5 litres of acidic fluid per hour. Ideally, this acid is neutralized by the alkalinity of a horse's saliva. However, saliva is only produced when the horse eats.



Do you see where this is going? Horses that don't have constant access to forage are unable to follow their natural eating pattern of consuming small amounts of food at frequent intervals. Long periods without forage result in inadequate saliva production, which results in highly acidic gastric PH levels, which can result in gastric ulcers.



So, will offering your horse free-choice hay or pasture eliminate the possibility of ulcers? Unfortunately, no -- just ask Aaruba, who enjoys a free-choice, 60/40 grass/alfalfa mix. While constant or frequent access to forage dramatically decreases ulcer risk, other factors are also at play:



1) Stress. Whether the result of buddy-sourness, competition, travel, training, or other causes, stress increases gastric ulcer risk in horses, just as it does in humans. Some horses (Aaruba among them) are more prone to stress than others. Performance horses will, obviously, face stressors as an unavoidable part of their jobs.



2) Exercise. Research demonstrates that increased exercise equals increased ulcer risk in equines. The reason for this are unclear, though some suggest it is a combination of elevated stress levels and extended periods with limited feed intake.



3) Feed concentrates. Grains and other concentrated feeds stimulate increased stomach acid production. Obviously, this problem is exacerbated if the horse cannot follow his grain consumption with plenty of forage.



As you can see, the lives of many equine athletes are perfect recipes for the development of gastric ulcers. The problem is often overlooked, however, because the symptoms can be quite subtle. Here's what to look for:



1) Acute or recurrent colic symptoms, often mild and responsive to Banamine. This was a major tip-off in Aaruba's case.



2) Weight loss or persistent poor condition. This was Aaruba's other significant symptom -- despite access to abundant feed, he struggled to attain the fat layer appropriate for an endurance athlete. Some horses also show decreased hair coat quality.



3) Decreased appetite or a tendency to walk away from a half-finished meal.



4) Compromised performance. In hindsight, I believe many of Aaruba's less energetic workouts could be attributed to his ulcers.



5) Reduced manure output or, less commonly, diarrhea.



6) Attitude and behavior changes such as increased nervousness, irritability, or biting/mouthiness.



If these symptoms sound familiar, what should you do? Aaruba's vet offered two courses of action -- either have the horse scoped to determine conclusively whether ulcers are present, or simply medicate the horse and rely on the cessation of symptoms to give us an answer.



Easy choice, right? Not really. Scoping costs around $250 or $300, but the drug of choice, GastroGard, runs at least $28 per tube (I've heard of prices up to $75 per tube!) -- and the dosage for most horses is one full tube per day for 30 days. That's a lot to pay for medication you aren't sure your horse needs. It's true that horses may show signs of improvement after just a few days on GastroGard, but this is inconclusive as ulcer symptoms often come and go even in the absence of medication.



GastroGard can be purchased online for lower prices than you're likely to find at your local vet, but it does require a prescription. Non-prescription UlcerGard is the same drug (Omeprazole) labeled as a preventative medication rather than a cure. At first glance, UlcerGard appears less expensive than GastroGard; however, this is because the recommended dosage (for prevention) is 1/4 the dosage required to actually resolve existing ulcers. Using enough UlcerGard to cure ulcers costs about the same as using GastroGard, so I'm sticking with my vet's recommendation to order the name brand.



What about recurrence? Gastric ulcers can certainly recur after treatment, but preventative measures can be taken to keep an ulcer-prone horse like Aaruba healthy even during the stress of continued athletic endeavors. In addition to employing our usual management strategies to keep him as calm as possible, we'll keep Aaruba on preventative medication and remove all grain from his diet, replacing it with Purina Equine Senior.



Keep an eye on your horses, friends, and don't be afraid to delve into possible causes of that niggling concern. You might just get some good bad news of your own.
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Related Posts

Introduction: Equine Gastric Ulcer Series

Strategies for Prevention of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome
Pharmaceutical and Alternative Treatment Options for Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome
Equine Ulcer Supplement Options
EGUS, Endurance, and the AERC
A Fair Question: Equine Athletes, Equine Ulcers
Bringing it Home: EGUS Prevention at In the Night Farm
Sheer Brilliance: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for EGUS
Q & A: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for EGUS

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The photo accompanying this post is by equine sculptor Lynn Fraley. Be sure to take A Virtual Visit to Laf'n Bear Studio!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Dennis Lane Equine Back Profiling System, Take Two

Whew! I spent all weekend measuring horses, examining photos, and documenting results. The Dennis Lane system proved consistent and user-friendly, so after practicing on the Barbs, I felt prepared for the real deal: Aaruba.

Measuring Aaruba was serious business. He's the one getting the custom Stonewall endurance saddle, so I needed to get it right. Travis and I squared him up on the driveway and started through the now-familiar process.

First, I located the rear edge of Aaruba's scapula and drew a vertical line to mark the spot, known as "A". Next, Travis and I each made independent judgements regarding the lowest point of Aaruba's back. We discovered that there was about an inch-long section of spine, any part of which could be considered the lowest point. Fortunately, the Dennis Lane system can accommodate an inch of error on this particular measurement. We settled on the forward end of the inch in question and drew another vertical line, known as "B." Finally, we measured for a third vertical line, "C," eight inches behind "B."

We then used the profiling cards to determine ideal tree width at A, B, and C. Each profiling card has four, graduated sizes; all Aaruba's measurements fit within the narrowest set. Here, you can see how the S5 slot on the A card fits Aaruba's A mark. At B, Aaruba measured S6; and at C, S7.

At first, I was concerned because the S5 card didn't fit neatly over Aaruba's withers. However, Jackie Fenaroli of Stonewall Saddle Company explained that the saddle's generous gullet will easily accommodate such variations; the important thing is that contact between horse and card be equal on both sides of the short, black line on the wing of the card, because that line indicates where the horizontal center of the tree will rest on Aaruba's back. The horizontal lines you see crossing the vertical lines on Aaruba's back in the photo above correspond to the short lines on the cards.

Next, we needed to measure "rock." As you can see, the R card must line up with the horizontal marks along Aaruba's back. R6 is the flattest of the three "rock" cards, and Aaruba is on the verge of being even flatter.

Following instructions from Stonewall, I took photos of Aaruba from the side, and from above and behind. We also measured his height (15 hands) and recorded other pieces of information such as his age (6), gender (gelding), and use (endurance).

Finally, Travis and I used soldering wire to make a tracing of Aaruba's back. The lines on this graph paper represent the shape of Aaruba's back at three-inch intervals from withers to flank.

While I did paperwork, Travis and Aaruba tried on hats.

I've sent photos and measurements off the Stonewall so Jackie can check me for accuracy and advise me regarding anything I should re-do or double-check. Meanwhile, Aaruba is spending the day at Idaho Equine Hospital being scoped for gastric ulcers. Though he seems perfectly healthy 98% of the time, subtle symptoms and occasional, mild colics have us searching for an explanation. Cross your fingers for him!

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Related Posts

Upward in the Night

It's Here!: Dennis Lane Equine Back Profiling System

The Measure of a Horse: Dennis Lane Equine Back Profiling System, Take One

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Saturday, August 9, 2008

The Measure of a Horse: Dennis Lane Equine Back Profiling System, Take One

Meet Ripple Effect.

This 2006 Jack Slade granddaughter by Jack's Legacy out of Alternating Current (aka Acey) is 25 months old, so she's a couple years away from needing her first Stonewall saddle. All the same, I wanted data on her back so I can observe how it changes over time; also, the information may be valuable to those who are compiling details about how Spanish Colonial horses' conformation compares to that of other breeds.


Ripple stood nicely for measuring and photos. I'm new to the Dennis Lane system, so I appreciated her patience while I drew chalk lines on her back, experimented with notched cards, re-read directions, mopped my forehead, started again.

Here are the results:

A: S4 (This means that if I were to order a custom saddle for Ripple today, the tree would, at the withers, match the narrowest profile in the Dennis Lane system.)

B: S7 (Again, a fairly narrow measurement at the lowest point of Ripple's back, the base of her withers. However, after talking with Fenaroli of Stonewall Saddle Company this evening about how to use the profiling cards properly, I wonder if this ought to be an even narrower S6. I'll have to double-check.)

C: S5 (This, too, is a narrow measurement near the 13th and 14th vertebrae, where the back of the saddle would rest.)

R: Flatter than R6 (The Dennis Lane system measures "rock" with a set of cards designed to determine the shape of the sides of the horse's back, horizontally, where the saddle's bars will rest. As a maturing horse, Ripple's back is flatter than the card with the least "rock."

S: 8 inches. (This is the distance between the lowest point of Ripple's back and the rearmost edge of her scapula.)

If the above makes no sense to you, but you're curious, visit the Dennis Lane website and scan the instructions. Or, just stay tuned to The Barb Wire blog for more profiling photos and results.

Sculptor Lynn Fraley of Laf'n Bear Studio will return to In the Night Farm later this morning to take more photos and video of the Barbs. A dedicated student of equine anatomy, she'll also join me in profiling at least one Barb's back.

By the way, I'm considering making Ripple Effect available for sale to the right person. If you're interested in this sweet filly, feel free to contact me via the email address in the sidebar at right.

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Related Posts

Upward in the Night

It's Here!: Dennis Lane Equine Back Profiling System

Dennis Lane Equine Back Profiling System, Take Two

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It's Here!: Dennis Lane Equine Back Profiling System

The Dennis Lane Equine Back Profiling System has arrived from Stonewall Saddle Company! The cards came in a large, flat box via insured mail. The post office first attempted to deliver while I was at work, but thankfully, they tried again on Saturday. Our delivery lady was most amused by my enthusiasm.

Inside the box, I found the Dennis Lane profiling cards and everything I'll need to use them, from data sheets for all our horses to an equine measuring stick. Jackie Fenaroli, owner of Stonewall Saddle Company, even included chalk, a sharpened pencil, and a sample of the conformal foam that lines the tree of a Stonewall endurance saddle.


Note the presence of my furry assistant. I guess nobody told Souffle what curiosity did to the cat.

Jackie also included soldering wire, tape, pen and large sheets of graph paper so I can make tracings of Aaruba's back. Stonewall will use both sets of measurements to customize Aaruba's sponsorship saddle. I love this box of stuff -- how nice not to have to run around the house gathering incidentals!

In a few minutes, Travis and I will head outside to start measuring horses. Never having used the Dennis Lane System before, we'll practice on a horse other than Aaruba. Jackie invited me to measure all our horses while we have the cards -- even the two year old Barbs, so we can record how their backs change as they mature. Methinks Ripple Effect will be an excellent guinea pig for Take 1.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Making Lemonade

Oops.

After feeding the horses Tuesday evening, I accidentally left the hose running in Consolation and Acey's water tub. All. Night. Long.

By morning, the east side of my round corral -- conveniently located just downhill of Consolation and Acey's pen -- was flooded. This fact did nothing to improve my attitude Wednesday morning.

By Wednesday evening, the water had receded several feet, but four-inch deep puddles remained. That's when I remembered the old saying: When you do something stupid, make lemonade. Or something of that sort.

I took advantage of the oppor- tunity, rare in our high desert summer, to see how Consolation would react when asked to walk through water. As she grew up in a 200 acre pasture with a creek running through the middle, I didn't anticipate any drama. Sure enough, she walked right through. As you experienced trainers know, this was probably, at least in part, because I didn't expect any drama.

Consolation and I have been struggling in our relationship lately. We both want to be in charge, and we haven't quite found the route to that perfect 50/50 yet. So, we moved on to some team problem-solving exercises.

I built a tiny obstacle course of poles. We walked through forward several times in each direction, then backed through. I was pleased to find that all our lateral work paid off with several flawless runs.

Next, I upped the ante by putting a tarp in the path. Having worked over tarps before, Consolation walked through with only the slightest hesitation. Backing through, however, presented a bit more of a challenge. She didn't listen as well to my cues, eager as she was to hurry over that tarp. It took us a good eight tries to make a clean pass. By then, I felt she'd earned a few minutes of hand grazing out by the garden, so we called it quits.

Sometime soon, we’ll try all this again, under saddle...and without the flooded corral!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Shot in the Dark: Gentleness


The power of gentleness is irresistible.

~ Henry Martyn

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Tickled Pink: 2008 Pink Flamingo Classic, Day Two

Want to read about Day One first? Click here.
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I woke to the horn blast at 5:00 a.m. Dawn lay cold and murky over ride camp. Condensation beaded on the tent walls, threatening to rain down upon me as I struggled to pull on riding tights and fleece while still in the warm confines of my sleeping bag.

On this second day of the ride, both horses and riders were more subdued. Fewer neighs rang through the meadow. Riders clutched coffee mugs, waved the 50-milers off with good luck wishes, carried on with the munching of bagels and saddling of horses as sunlight spilled down the hillside.

Aaruba stood alert but calm in his pen. Tacking took only a few minutes, as we'd decided to forego his Easyboots on Day 2. The earthen trails rendered boots quite unnecessary, and a gaiter rub from Day 1 was all the encouragement I needed to try this LD completely barefoot.

At the starting line, horses milled up and down, warming up, waiting for 7:30. Aaruba and I walked, then trotted amid the field of what seemed to be about 20 horses; not until that evening did I learn there were actually 45 horses in the race.

Aaruba was so mellow that we started down the trail almost as soon as it opened. Ten or twelve horses trotted ahead of us, led by a gaited stallion that wasn't actually entered in the race. This was the horse that had colicked Friday evening, and he was hotter than snot after spending Saturday pent up while his buddies raced. Apparently due to a misunderstanding of the vet's instructions to go ahead and ride 10 or 12 miles on Sunday, the rider took her horse along on the first loop of the LD instead of out with the trail riders.

The stallion set a raging pace along a rutted track that wound up the forested mountainside. Warmed up, full of air, charged by excitement and the still-cool air, Aaruba charged along among the close herd. Riders worked to settle into positions according to pace and preference, horses arched their necks and begged to run, some pairs passed while others fell back. I was impressed by the manners of this group, all of whom seemed to care for the safety of other horses and riders, but I was still glad to see the front runners disappear over a rise as the group strung out along the trail.

Having let Aaruba work out a little of his early energy, I asked him for a slower pace as we continued to climb. He fought a bit but complied, though at one point we were passed by a faster horse and I chose to dismount and lead Aaruba until he shut off his race brain and deigned to listen to me again. Back astride, I guided him through a cross-country section of trail, picking through stumps and forest litter at the head of a short line of riders also content to walk the tricky stuff.

When we reached better footing, we trotted again, still uphill, and caught up with the crowd clustered around the mile 5 water stop. (Mile 5 already?) Waiting for a turn at the tanks, I shed my fleece jacket and sponged Aaruba's neck and shoulders. Thankfully, he drank despite mild indignation upon being left behind as the front runners continued along the trail. We carried on alone, in a kind of bubble between groups of other riders, which is my favorite place to be.

At the mile 10 water stop, we caught up with a pair of riders who'd elected to give their mounts a grazing break. Aaruba still felt strong and full of air, so after a quick drink, we moved on. Soon, the trail turned downhill for the 5 mile journey into the hold. I've said before that Aaruba is a great downhill horse. We don't practice much during conditioning, as it's hard on the joints, but this was a perfect time to let Aaruba cruise along at a smooth but enormous trot, eating up trail at what must have been about 14 mph.

When ride camp came into view, I dismounted just as the horse in front of me spooked, dumping his rider over his shoulder. Thankfully, the rider was unhurt and we all walked in together. Aaruba pulsed down immediately, vetted through with all A's, and bounced happily down the trail at the end of our 1-hour hold. Little did he know that were were headed straight into the Pasture of Doom.

Our fluttering line of orange and white ribbons led us across a grassy meadow and into a cluster of scrubby trees. A pair of gaited horses passed us on a narrow section of trail, just as a small group of spotted calves came into view. Concentrating on steering, especially since one of the other horses had a red "kicker" flag in its tail, I failed to notice that the calves stood on the fringes of an entire herd of Carniverous Cows from Planet Horseflesh.

Aaruba's head flung skyward. His eyes bulged. His shoulder dropped in the frantic sidepass that precedes a bolt. I pulled one rein to my hip and dug a heel into Aaruba's ribs, disengaging his hindquarters long enough for me to jump off and avert a panicked charge across a field pockmarked by ground squirrel burrows. Whew!

Leading Aaruba past the cattle was not unlike rolling a keg of dynamite through a burning building, but we made it. As an added bonus, the gaited horses had disappeared up the trail, leaving us alone again. Aaruba's frayed nerves knit themselves back together as we left the cattle behind, and we set a brisk but controlled pace along the relatively level trail.

We caught the gaiters again at the water stop, which consisted of a wide creek with firm footing. Little did I know that said creek would later contribute to the Bad Day award, earned by another rider whose mount would spill her into the water! Aaruba waded in above his knees to splash and drink before lighting out again for the second half of the loop. The gaiters had gone on ahead, but we glimpsed them frequently as we jogged along a section of trail made treacherous by holes hidden in deep grass.

I still had plenty of horse -- so much, in fact, that I had to dismount and tighten the noseband of Aaruba's bitless bridle for extra control in the slow sections. Knowing were were near the end, we picked up a fast trot soon as we arrived on safe footing, catching up with the gaiters to finish the race in a group.

Aaruba headed straight for the water and drank so much he hiccuped, but he pulsed down within a minute to secure 8th place. Surprise! Like at the Owyhee Fandango, I'd top tenned without realizing it, simply by choosing the pace that felt right for my horse. This time, however, Aaruba had a lot more gas left in the tank. He breezed through his CRI and seemed to perform well when we showed for Best Condition an hour later, though the vet made no comment.

Then began the part of endurance riding you don't hear much about: waiting. With a ride time of 2:55, we were done by lunch time and had the entire afternoon to kill before dinner and awards. Travis and I carried our chairs into the shady horse trailer during the heat of the afternoon. We read novels, snacked on granola and grapes, took Aaruba and Wyrsa for periodic walks, packed our camping gear for the drive home, and chatted with other riders as they came in.

Finally, it was time to gather for a dinner of enormous pizzas from a restaurant in Cascade, then settle in for the awards. I must say it was nice to hear my name called for a completion award -- a handy three-legged, folding stool from Cabelas. We didn't get the 2-day completion fleece vest I was hoping for, so I guess we'll have to try again next year (oh, darn).

When the time came to award Best Condition, which this ride offers through third place, I settled back in my chair to clap for the winners. Having come in 8th and tacked out at just 146 pounds, I supposed that, as good as Aaruba looked, we weren't in the running. Wrong again!

You guessed it: Third place BC! Aaruba's score of 651.5 won a nice grooming tote embroidered with the PFC logo. It'll be handy at home for organizing farrier tools, and we'll add brushes and the like to take to future rides.

Best of all, we redeemed ourselves from Day 1's foolishness. As the ride manager said, "training ride one day, BC the next!" It could be worse, my friends, it could be worse.

Ride on!

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Related Posts
The Flamingo Approaches
Turning Pink: 2008 Pink Flamingo Classic, Day One
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