Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wednesday's Ride

In the last post , I misstated what day we were headed back out for another rideThe plan was to head back out on Wednesday, not Monday. My brain is clearly on overload these days! So yesterday was Wednesday and I had the good fortune to ride with my a good friend, “J” . She is an amazing artist, one of the most capable all around horsewomen I know of, and has some unbelievable horse stories to tell from her years of training and riding in the wilderness on various pack trips and hunting excursions. She even got herself published in sharing some of those stories. I consider myself fortunate to have her as a friend and riding companion.

We met early afternoon and she brought along her big, red horse, aptly named “Red”. Red is sired by “J”’s amazing Arabian stud and oddly enough, the damn was a run of the mill paint mare. Red is young, was sold to some other folks that did some bad things apparently and “J” ended up taking him back. As a result, Red has some issues that “J” has been working through.  She hadn’t really been riding him much lately but she really wanted to get him out and let him move…find his legs , very long legs at that, if you will. You see, Red is one of those horses that doesn’t seem to have a bottom … atleast not that “J” has found. She is thinking that if she ever attempts Tevis, this is going to be the horse. He’s a big tall lanky character.. built more like a Thoroughbred. Since he is still a youngster, he doesn’t always quite get all legs going together in sync but when he does, wow… he can move. He has that big lofty movement that I dream of having in Maggie but never will!

So , it was going to be another hill workout ride. Maggie started out in her usual… gotta go, gotta go… until the brain told her lungs she had better slow up.. Red , who has been on pasture for 3 weeks and not ridden, kept right up with her. Seriously??? (damn arabs)

The sun had come out , after a lot of rain , and it got muggy for what is typical for us. Maggie was winded and sweaty in short order with the steady climbing.  I didn’t bother electrolyting on this ride. I can’t decide if I do more harm than good considering she won’t drink anyways…

We spent the next several miles trotting as long as we could and walking or stopping all together when Maggie was blowing too hard and needed to catch her breath. She’s getting smart about things.. she is starting to slow up and pace herself on hills… instead of rushing like a crazed lunatic.
Long hills that never seem to end….it’s amazing how it will change a horse’s attitude.

Hill work has never been Maggie’s strong area. She powers up them without a problem. It’s her respiration that gets her. Red , on the other hand, kinda floats like a butterfly up those hills. He was breathing hard too , but not nearly as hard as Maggie and he always recovered his respiration rate a lot faster than her. I guess that is the difference between an Arabian /TB body style and a heavier built horse like a Morgan. It’s just the facts of horse life.

We finally made it to the top of the mountain and we took a well deserved break. The horses were doing well. We had just completed 8-9 miles of steady gradual climbing with a few steep climbs in between. I knew I was pushing Maggie a bit beyond her fitness level  but she was willingly going. I felt that as long as I was giving her  time to recover  as we went,  it was probably  okay to do a little pushing  just like interval training in the human athlete. In order to get through a plateau, sometimes you have to push a bit harder. When we stopped for a rest, I loosened her girth and let Maggie graze.  She dove into the lush green grass. That was a good sign. Even though she was tired, she was willing to eat!! There was  a time not too long ago, she would have even refused the green grass if she was tired.  “J” and I checked out all the wildflowers that were in bloom.  We apparently missed the glacier lilies by about a week or two , but the Indian Paintbrush, Balsamroot, wild clematis (? ), Arnica, and all kinds of other little violets were in full bloom. Everything is so green and lush. It such a magical time of year in the Rocky Mountains, except for the riding in the rain part.

We gave the horses about a 10 minute break and headed back. I thought Maggie was going to be more tired but to my delight, she perked right up. She was ready to go again. Luckily we didn’t have any more climbing . It was level or downhill the rest of the way. I let Maggie choose her pace on some of the flatter areas. Red struggled to keep up with her trot and “J” had to let him canter. He’s capable of a fast trot, he just doesn't know it yet but he had a few good moments. When I rated Maggie back , Red was able to pace nicely with her at about 9 MPH.

We finally made it back to the trailer and by then it was 5:00 pm. We had been gone since 2:00. Maggie wasn’t interested in her beet pulp/ alfalfa pellets mush. No surprise there. She also wasn’t interested in water. Even less of a surprise. Clearly I still haven’t gotten her thirsty enough, even with all the hill climbing and sweating she did. She was however diving into the knee deep green grass. I let her graze on that for 10 minutes . At least there was some moisture content in it.

Total Miles- 12.6

Max Speed 13.9 mph

Moving time 2 hrs 36 mins

Moving average speed 4.8

Stopped time 20 mins (approx)

Overall average 4.2

Ofcourse, she tanked up as soon as I put her in her pen at home. The good news ? drumroll please…….

.She used the bucket..

YES, she drank out of the beautiful blue bucket that I have placed right next to her water trough…

So what?? Right??

Given Maggie’s continued refusal to drink in anything but a water trough at home, no matter how thirsty I think she might be, I wanted to test out my theory. I thought the refusal to drink was the bucket itself, since she drinks like a champ once she gets home to her beloved water trough. So, in an attempt to be smarter than my horse and teach her to drink after a conditioning ride, out of a dreadful bucket,  I have placed two water buckets next to the stock tank in her corral. Eventually , my plan is then remove the water tank all together, leaving only the buckets.

Sounds logical to me…. surely it will work...

So, yesterday, when we got home and she dove into the bucket and took three large gulps before switching to the water trough. I was thrilled. I had won... atleast I thought I did for a  very brief moment.. Until it dawned on me what this meant..

She proved my theory wrong.

Its not about the bucket.

It’s just about drinking away from home ….

Maybe it’s time to go the Horse Quencher route..

Monday, May 28, 2012

Hill Smokin...

Today I ventured over to Herron Park. It's hill territiry.. No matter which way you point, you have to go up. It levels off in spots, only to go up some more. We got a late start. The hubby came along today after getting home 6:00 a.m. from Canada , slept for four hours and decided he wanted to get Brego out. I was glad to have the company along.

Maggie was pretty fresh and we hit the first hill and she wanted to go, go ,go. I don't know where she was going , but she wasn't going to  be late... I let her kill her self. I knew it wouldn't be long... I didn't have my HRM on, it probably would have just scared the crap out of me if  I did. Brego and Tom  stayed with us for only a llittle while and we left them behind. Brego is still on the soft side. I yelled back that I would wait at the top for them. I wanted Maggie to work through her fit and realize that this was going to be hard work. and choose to reevaluate her decision, (if a horse can rationalize).  The hill is about over a 1/4  mile long. I offered to let her slow several times. No go. Ok, fine... We made it to within about 500 feet of the top, and Maggie realized she had left her buddy in the dust, glanced back over her shoulder at me, it seemed anyways,  and it was almost as if she said to herself  " well, what the hell am I doing??" .. and she walked. She was huffing pretty good

We set about the next 5 miles , of hills and mostly walked with a few spurts of jogging and since it was getting so late we made a loop and headed back. It wasn't much of a ride but lots of climbing in a short distance. Maggie did not appear tired at all by the time we made it back to the trailer, which was good to see.

For now, the plan is to head back Monday and cover a longer distance... with HRM attached...

Saturday, May 26, 2012

How Do You Know?

So todays ride turned out to be longer and less wet than expected. I was on the trail by 9:30 am. Not another soul to be found . Squirrels , birds , wild flowers and a large Sand Hill Crane were our trail companions today until our way out. We met several bikers, and one set of hikers, a coworker of my husbands, of who's dog grabbed Maggie's tail , of who got lucky that Maggie missed (or did she) when she kicked out.. hmmm, that could have been bad as maggie didn't kick gently at all!  The weather held out and we even saw the sunshine several times . I was over dressed and ended up taking layers off half way through.Maggie did not want to settle in to any specific postable , easy to ride trot until we hit about 10 miles.
 Good grief, she can have the bounciest hardest to ride trot ever!  Today was one of those days when I begin thinking that Maggie is not a good fit for the sport because she is so incredibly hard to ride when she trots out. I am a pretty fit and  relatively strong legged, secure rider ,but miles of Maggie's trotting takes it out of me like no other horse I have experienced. My lower back and inner thighs just ache after riding her on days like today. It takes so much strength to not let myself slam into the saddle on the down stride,  and even more strength to keep from getting launched out of the saddle too high on the up stride. So, I stay off her back in two  point when we are on long flat stretches as she moves out. It's the best I know to do!
 As we were were making our second loop around Bowser Lake (mud hole really)  , we were at about the 10 mile point and her trot was becoming much nicer to ride, thankfully. I began to wonder, as fast as she likes to go, is she really enjoying this? Is her speed anxiety or just a desire to get down the trail, see the next place we are going?

I hear and read endurance riders comments about how their horse just loves to go down the trail. But, how do you know?

How do know they are enjoying it as much as you think they are? What is it that tells a rider that their horse is enjoying their job? After all, a horse's genetic make up is based on conserving energy (as a prey animal) , so that if a predator does show up , they can burst into speed and get away... these are ofcourse in relatively short distances. Asking a horse to go at speed mile after mile flies in the face of everything these beings were put on earth for.

Maggie is always alert, ears pricked as we go down the trail. She never pins her ears unless I am asking her to rate. She always willingly goes, but is that a sign that she is truly enjoying it? I don't really know.
So how do you know your horse is enjoying his/her job? As we clicked mile after mile on the GPS today, I coulnd't get this thought out of my head.

With all the recent rain,  we had several large  mud puddles to cross. If we were at a walk, she gladly walked through the puddles and normally at a trot , she will gladly plod through most of them as well, unless she can go around. Today, any time we met a puddle she wanted to jump it.. and  not just a hop over it. She was literally launching herself like she would to get over a jump. Normally, this isn't desirable trail behavior for a trail horse,  I know... but I will tell you, it was such a blast., I just let her. Besides, in thinking about keeping things interesting, maybe this would be a nice change for her. Endurance with a bit of trail jumping!!  So the three puddles we came across at a trot, I went with whatever she wanted to do, jump or not. She jumped all of them. Maybe I will start training her over fences..kinda got me thinking the jumping bug might have bitten....

I didn't have the HRM on her again. I was in such a rush to get out , assuming it was going to rain, that I left without it. I thought we did alot of trotting but looking at the time /distance specs, it doesn't seem like much of a pace to me. I thought we were alot faster ..guess not. .It's possible the Garmin is a bit off on but I would rather track mileage on the conservative side.

Here is what we did for todays' ride:( had a few long hard hills climbs today)

Overall Mileage: 15.5
Max speed 14.7 ( she cantered for a spell)
Moving time: 2 hrs , 47 mins
Moving average speed: 5.5
Stopped Time 9 mins, 21 sec
Overall  average speed: 5.3

Intrepid or stupid?

It's going to rain today, 40% chance..that means there is a 60% chance that it won't. Atleast that is what I will choose to tell myself!  Maggie and I will head out for a long ride with the plan to stay out as long as we can, that is,  ride until we are either too wet and miserable to continue,  or we hit a decent mileage for the day. Shooting for 10-15 but mother nature will most likely play a part in our time out there. It will get worse as the day progresses so we'll head out soon. I will pack the rain gear and something warm to greet us back at the trailer when done.

47 days until City of Rocks, which actually means there is only about 40 more days of actual condition time.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Toklat Test Drive

The beautiful blue, almost too pretty to use,  Toklat Coolback pad went for it's maiden voyage tonight for a spin around the arena. The weather is rather dreadful here, cloudy, 46 degrees and windy. I got off work a couple hours early for the holiday weekend and teetered with the idea of loading Maggie up and heading out for a fast 5-10 miles but opted against it. I just stayed home and did the arena , neighbors pasture ride.

I put the pad on and at first , the darn thing looked absolutely enormous on her but I threw the Specialized on over the top just to see. I was pleasantly surprised , it fits pretty good. It had some extra pad out the back but I don't think it's going to cause an issue. Then I threw it under the Duett. Even more surprised, it didn't look half bad. In fact, it fit the Duett almost as nice. So, I left it on and decided to just go ahead and get the new off and ride in it.

My first impression under the saddle other than it was quite pretty, was that it was downright slippery. I understand this lessens with some wear on it.. I sure hope so. I thought I had the girth tight enough but as I was riding around, I was feeling somwhat unsecure up there. I checked the girth and it was completely loose.Well no wonder..Once I tightened things up, it felt much more secure. 

Maggie was a little edgy with the wind tonight, so it was hard to tell if her reactiveness to cues tonight was the weather or the feeling of the pad.  I will have to keep an eye on this and see.

I had some problem with keeping the pad forward. It kept sliding back on her. I may have to go check out Karen Chaton's website. I think she had posted about how to modify pads and put a clip in the front of them to hold them in place. Too badToklat just doesn't put billet straps like alot of english pads use. That usually does the trick. 

Over all impressions of the pad :
It appears to be well made  for it's price
Hoping the color won't run or fade , it's pretty brightly colored.
Padding/Protection level- typically with a synthetic material, after some use, the material mats down and does not provide enough protection for the horses. Wool is generally the best choice to keep this from happening  because it retains it's loft. Will see how this pad stands up after a few rides.
More economical in  comparison to alot of other pads I have tried (and often hated) in the past.
Dislike the fact that it's sliding backwards.
Dislike it doesn't have billet straps
Machine Washable- so it says...

Tomorrow, assuming it's not raining too terribly hard, I will take it for a longer ride and see how it feels on the trail.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Domino Effect.

I started off my week with a migraine on Monday. They happen occasionally from an old Whiplash car injury , (and stress at work never helps). That set things into what has felt like a downward spiral. This whole week has been out of sync ever since in seems.  Things are work are always messed up,, expecially end of month when tons of reporting has to be submitted, so that's expected but one unscheduled day out of the office and I am in catch up mode which caused me to miss being able to take Wednesdays off through the summer months.

The other half is getting ready to head to Canada for his first Horsback Archery Compettion for the season. Hope he doesn't need much for clean laundry , cuz it hasn't been done!! (rode all last weekend..oops)

And, it's been raining, acutally we get sun, wind, torrential downpour, wind, sun, torrential downpour. Makes it hard to get anything done in the riding department. Better yet, my Toklat Coolback Saddle pad that I ordered 3 weeks  ago but had to wait as my blue color choice was on back order FINALLY arrived. That was my highlight of the week, only to come to the realization that I can't even really try it out because the Specialized saddle is out of commission until I get it refitted, in two weeks. So it sits on the back of my couch... for the cat to sleep on...Atleast I can admire it..

I might try to use it under my Duett.. It might just work but it's seems awfully big for that saddle. Only one way to find out I guess. It might work , but just look really dumb...

Last night, Maggie appeared to be responding to the chill in the air  and was  bouncing around in her corral like a ping pong ball. It didn't help that we took her friend Brego and put him out in the pasture for some grazing I suppose..She is totally in love with him. (Hmmm... I might have to rethink bringing him along on the trip to Idaho for the ride in July.)...The rain  let up and I thought I better take advantage of it. I quickly changed into riding clothes and went out to get Maggie, passing the hubby on the way in. His only response , was "your riding that thing?"   By now , Maggie was doing a pretty good rendition of a rodeo bronc.

"uhhmmm... why yes I suppose I am"...

She settled down just fine and I stayed mostly dry on our arena session . In fact, Maggie did beautifully last night, one of the better arena sessions we have had since before the saddle really started to bug her (when I didn't realize it was bugging her). She seems to be  much happier in my Duett.. Go figure..She has stopped being so rushy in the arena and I can only assume it was because of poor saddle fit. So at this point, I am going to keep her in my Duett and most likely compete in that for the July multi day. Even if I get the Specialized working better, I don't want to take a chance at changing things around once again.

The weather is supposed to be crummy all weekend, so hopefully I can get one longer ride in at some point over the course of three days...

Or , if not,.. there is always laundry to do..

Monday, May 21, 2012

Conditioning Styles- Preparing for a Pioneer Ride

In preparation for a pioneer ride I am planning to attend the seond week in July, I am trying to put in as many miles as possible , while working full time and balancing all the other work that comes with owning property to maintain (mowing, fixing fence, added garden space, chicken coop improvements, and hopfully begin construction of a green house). Thank god I don't have kids to add into the mix!

I have been at this sport for a few years now, but have only ever  completed 1 endurance ride and 1 CTR. Basically,  I am still sorting out the best approach to preparing for a ride such as the one coming up. It's a pioneer ride. I have never attempted one of these before.  My goal is to ride an LD the first day, rest the next day and then ride 2 LD's back to back for the 3rd and 4th day of the event. It's a 10-11 hour trailer ride so it would be nice to ride 3 of the 4 days to get the most out of the trip, but ofcourse it will all depend on how Maggie is handling it and recovering. The terrain will be challenging. It is high elevation and fair amount of climbing based on what I have read.

Determining the best way to be as ready as possible has me wondering. In my mind, Maggie is still putting on a base of conditioning because we didn't do any mileage last year.  I have been riding her fairly consistently since February and began riding for mileage in March. We have done a couple of longer rides , one 14 mile day and one 17 mile day. We have also done back to back shorter rides.

But what is enough to be ready for a Pioneer?

I have 2 days a week that my schedule allows me to put on longer rides. That leaves me 1-2 days a week that I should still be putting mileage on but shorter distance mixed with speed/hill training.  Traditionally, I think this type of schedule is probably the norm;   4-5 days of training a week. At the same time,  a huge time committment that is hard for me to sustain week after week.

I am wondering instead  if the same , or maybe better,  condition readiness  can come from doing shorter, more intense training sessions?  1 long day 15-20 miles per week combined with 2 days of 8-10 miles at speed or 8-10 miles of muiltiple hard hill climbs?  Ofcourse, I realize each horse is different. Maggie seems to be  handling 12-15 mile rides pretty well right now. I  often taken her for a short arena session after a ride like that to assess her "tiredness" the next day. She has never felt sluggish or given any indicators that I would expect to see if she were overly tired (HR recovery slow or stumbly , etc) that next day.

So the question is what is enough? If I were preparing for a one day LD, I would say Maggie would be more than ready in about 2 more weeks of training. But in this case, it's multiple days of challenging terrain. Has anyone played with the interval training concept for a multiple day ride? I would be interested to know the outcomes you have had.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Specialized Saddle Fitting Findings... So Far..

Well it seems that this saddle fitting adjustment process for Maggie is proving no easier to fix than starting from the beginning of finding a saddle to fit in the first place.

This past week my local (3 hours distance drive)saddle rep  and I  have been exchanging lots of pictures and discussions via emails and texts to try to get this thing resolved. The issue is that Maggie is much thinner now and more fit than she was last summer/fall. My Specialized was set up at that time with just the ½ “ pads. During last year’s fitting process, we found that Maggie’s right shoulder is larger than her left and we attempted to shim things up for that but everything made it worse because of how wide she was, so the best fit we could come to was just leave the ½ “ pads with no shims. I rode her all last fall , this winter and now into spring with what seemed like no issues. My longer rides last week proved something was terribly wrong when she got very sore backed in the back part of the bars. They say hindsight is 20/20 and it seems now that I was missing the signs that Maggie was not getting a good fit. I will come back to that in a minute.

The spot on Maggie’s left side (where the back of the saddle bar would hit) had taken the worst of the issue. She had developed some scabby skin flaky funk stuff that is now coming off. It seems that it was created from a pressure point and too much heat. The hair did not come out, but I am wondering if she will develop a white spot there. I really hope not.

The saddle fit problem: (we think)

The Pads seems to be set too wide for Maggie ‘s back now that she had thinned up . In essence, the saddle is sinking down on her too much. So the saddle gullet needs to look more A shaped as opposed to an upside down wide U shape like it is now. Based on her soreness, the saddle is most likely bridging causing more pressure on the shoulders and seat areas of the bars. However, I can’t completely say this is a problem because the sweat patterns don’t indicate this. At this point, this is just an assumption based on where she is sore areas. Typically with high pressure spots, you most often see dry spots. Maggie has had uniform sweat patterns all along. No dry spots whatsoever. In addition, when you look down the gullet of the saddle, the saddle also appears to making good contact along the entire length of the bars. So, as you can see , there are some contradictions we are dealing with but we had a plan. You have to start somewhere, right?

This past Tuesday night, I gathered my phone (with pictures), my written instructions on how to place shims and pads, grabbed Maggie and went to work. I will try to break it out step by step and my observations of each.

The fix.

Step 1: Narrow up the saddle: this means bring the main ½ “ pads closer together , start with moving them toward the center or closer together by a ½” and check to see that they are making good contact along the bars the entire way.

What happened: The bars made very little contact. Tried moving pads only a ¼” closer together. This seemed a little better but now the center of the bars were not making what I would consider good contact.

Hoping that this would resolve itself with the shims, I continued with the instructions just to see where I would end up.Maybe something magical would come together...

Step 2:Place the larger wedge shims on each side in the back, halfway down the bar lengthwise.

Back wedge shims for placement view
 The result: I thought the purpose of this was going to be to help get the pressure off the back of the saddle and tip it more forward, however, once I got these on and placed the saddle on her back, it didn’t really make a lot of sense. From what I could see, it was making the pressure in the problem area more pronounced. I sat in the saddle at this point and while the saddle was sinking less, the pressure was still too much in the back of the saddle. She was reacting.

Step 3: Shim the left shoulder to help even out things for the right shoulder. (larger shoulder)

left shoulder shim for placement view

The result: seemed to help fill the gap on the space between the left shoulder and the pad but the right shoulder was still too tight when I sat in the saddle. Not really making much of a difference and the area behind her shoulders really didn't seem to be bothering her.

When all done, this is what my new padding/shim configuration looked like. For clarification, I wanted to show that the final product would not have the shims on top of the main pads  as pictured above, but will actually go underneath the main pads.

Final set up.
Sadly enough after all this, I still was not getting good results.  I reconfigured the shims and pads probably 10 different ways to Sunday after these first three steps to see if I could get a better fit. Here is what I ran into each time : (sorry no photos of the following)

-Move pads in to get saddle to sit higher on her back: Created lack of bar contact.

-If Pads moved to where good contact with bars was achieved, the saddle would sink and hit her in the sore spot again, which is too low. Back to original issue we are trying to fix.

-Shimmed the center of the bar to get pressure off the back of the saddle and get better bar contact throughout: This created to much rocker.

-Shimmed just the back of the saddle : Saddle still sinking too much and the pressure on the back was worse.

-Shimmed just the front,: same result of above but now with rocker added!!

After over an hour of velcroing, un-velcroing , shimming and unshimming, throwing the saddle on , pulling the saddle off… I finally realized that I was not going to fix this with what I had in place. The purpose of purchasing this saddle was to allow for easy adjustments as my horses back changed. It didn’t seem to be proving that way here.

Furstration ??? you could say so.
I emailed my saddle rep with my findings. At this point we have a new plan. She thinks I need to try the thicker pads, either ¾ inch or 1 inch. We will have to try both to see which is going to work better.

Only one problem. Since she lives over 3 hours away , arranging for a saddle consult isn’t easy or economical. She offered to come up this weekend, but it’s a bit of a charge by the time mileage is figured in. I am tempted to just spend the money and get it done because obviously what I am doing on my own isn’t getting it fixed and secondly, I am not really into delayed gratification. As it turns out, the husband is planning a trip to the town where the rep lives for one of the husbands archery competitions in June anyways, so I could coordinate to have it refitted at that time. I wasn’t initially planning to go or have Maggie hauled there, but I suppose it might be an option. The downside? It’s 3 weeks away. The upside? The fee would be considerably less and with a large hay purchase and travel plans to the City of Rocks ride in July, ( a 10-11 trailer ride) the budget doesn’t have much wiggle room for the summer.

…. And.. it’s not like I don’t have a back up saddle and have to stop riding Maggie for those three weeks. My Duett fits Maggie well and I completed her first 35 miler in that saddle 2 years ago with absolutely no issues. I have ridden Maggie in the Duett twice this week and she seems happy in it. I just prefer riding in my Specialized for endurance. I love my Duett for arena work but now that I have ridden in the Specialized, I really like the support of that saddle for the trail.

The only other option is to have the rep mail me the thicker pads and let me try to get the fit right on my own however, I am not feeling like confident enough to get it right at this point and I can’t afford to sore Maggie up again.

Looks like I will probably wait , ride the Duett to continue to prepare for the July ride and coordinate with the June trip to get this saddle fitting done.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

BUH-BYE..Hasta La Vista

Unfortunately, I only had recently set things up for comments to appears in my gmail account..and since I deleted all those there are GONE... completely..can't even copy and paste...

I am over it , mostly, because frankly there isn't much I can do about it at this point. Lesson learned..Time to move on...

Hope you all keep coming back and checking in once in a while...

Getting ready for the next post, which will be about my REFITTING of the Specialized...I plan to tackle that little chore this evening..

Monday, May 14, 2012

I hate Google Blogger- SORRY EVERYONE!!

Sorry everyone, I jsut realized that I inadvertantly deleted all of the comments off all the posts somehow...

Not sure if I can recapture them somehow and put them back but it wasn't intentional!!

Please bear with me while I work out my technical difficulties!

Twenty minutes later....

*** Well, I found the answer....

"Once a comment has been deleted, it cannot be restored"..

 So there you have it folks.. I have lost all of your wonderful comments that I look so farwrard to reading.

I realize now what I did. I went in to delete them from the "list" of comment in my settings in an effort to clean things up. Little did I know that it was actually deleting them from the post themselves..

This is the dumbest technical goof I may have ever made ... I cannot believe I did this...!!

Please excuse me while I go get sick...

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Another good ride.. but a new issue arises.

Yesterday,the horrible cold winds finally let up and the day was going to be in the 50's and sunny. I was still on my min-vacation from work so we hit the trails again. Maggie was using her time off to rest since her 14 miles two days earlier so a pre ride bit of beet pulp was served up to the princess so as not to disturb her nap. She gladly complied.

A spoiled horse?????

I decided we would try the electrolyte thing today so when she finished, I dosed her with a half dose of electrolytes. She didn't even get up for that. I was beginning to wonder if I should even go if she was that tired. I decided to get her up and just see how she behaved. I decided quickly that she was just fine , as she trotted back and forth horse playing with Brego across the fence. She was also in heat.. great...

I finished loading all the stuff into the horse trailer while she pranced around . I was hoping she would take a big gulp of water after her electrolytes before I had to load her up. Ever have those days where it takes FOREVER to get yourself organized?? I was having one of those mornings. I kept forgetting something  and had to keep back tracking or go back into the house. I finally got everything thrown into a bag , tossed it into the truck, grabbed Maggie and hit the road.

Ready to go..
I even hooked up the HRM for this ride to see how her recoveries were with hills. We ended up riding an uneventful 11.8 miles before making it back to the trailer. Maggie felt very really good still coming out. She recovered to 60 bpm within 4 minutes and I imagine it may have been quicker but I let her dive into her beet pulp when she was at 72 bpm. If it were race day that would have been the wrong move to make but I am trying to encourage her to eat and drink. If she is willing, I am going to let her at this point... we weren't in competition. And she wasn't overly tired...

She finished most of her sloppy beat pulp . She refused water... again.. I decided to give her another half dose of electrolyte and head back out for another 4-5 miles. 

This was the first time in quite a while I had her at the trailer and then took her back out again. She was NOT expecting that move and as we left the trailer, she kept trying to get us turned back around,

Surely mom had lost her marbles....

We made it a total of 17.5 miles by the time we finishe. Maggie felt strong the entire time but she was starting to stumble a little on the way back in so she was probably a little on the tired side. It's hard to tell with her sometimes.  She recovered with only a couple minutes back to 60 when we finished our ride.

I was pleased with our ride and how she felt and looked. Ofcourse, she still didn't want to drink at the end. She got a little more sloppy beet pulp and some green grass while I unsaddled and got everything packed up. Everything about the days' ride was perfect, exept one thing.

When I pulled the saddle off to brush her she reacted like she had a sore back. It was at the back of the bars, right under where I sit.  I could see that there was definitely more of an impression of the bars right there, clearly two round areas from pressure points. However, the sweat patterns were even  and looked really good. That is unusual if there are pressure points.

I got her home, prepared a bucket of warm linimented water and rubbed her down. She really reacted and did not want me even touching her there.  I felt horrible. Not once during the ride did she indicate any discomfort but she was pretty sore.

I checked my saddle and saddle pad and got my husbands second opinion. We both came to the conclusion that judging from the saddle pad , the saddle is bridging on her. It's the only explanation. 

I ride in a Specialized Eurolight saddle and have had no issues in it but to be fair, this is the hardest I have ridden Maggie in this saddle thus far since getting it last year. Maggie is thinner and more fit than she has ever been so obviously the fit needs to be changed.

The good news is that the Specialized is designed to give fitting options as the horses back changes with the padding system they come with. I hope we can get this one figured out..

Maggie will get some well deserved rest and pampering. She should have bucked me off for as sore as she was. That is the bad side of riding a horse that is tough. They never complain , and just keep going..

I hate saddle fitting issues....

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Drink horse, drink...

Today's ride ended up looking alot different than what I was thinking it would. I had hoped to do a fast 10 miles , high tail it to the trailer for rest and reload, then head back out for another 5-10 miles and be done in 4-5 hours. Maggie spent the first 6 miles fighting me. She wanted to go.  I checked the GPS and we set a top speed of 12.5 mph, pulling two long hills. I had to walk  her in several areas after this point as the trail conditions get windy , narrow and technical. Maggie was feeling pretty strong so we trotted where we could and walked when we had to. She wanted to canter alot of the time, so I kept checking her back to keep her in the trot.

We made our way around various trails and  before I knew it, I hit the nine and a half mile mark. The only problem was that  we were still 2.5  miles from where the trail was that I needed in order to head back in the direction of the trailer.Once I got onto that trail it was approximately another mile to get to the trailer.

We came upon a nice area of fresh long green grass so we stopped so she could graze.  I dug a couple of carrots out of my packs and she gladly accepted them. It was warm today. This was the first ride in any temps above 60 degrees and she was pretty sweaty. After a few minutes, we headed back down the trail at a trot and  she was managing to give me a slower trot. The trail we were on would crosssect to another short cut trail which would get us headed back to the trailer.  Maggie stumbled a couple of times at a walk and generally started feeling on the tired side. I suspected that after the first 6 miles of her rushing caught up with her combined with the heat. She still has part of her winter coat!

As we trotted along,  I must have been daydreaming because before I realized it, we were on a totally different trail that would still get us out, but just the long way around. Shoot.. I did not want to prolong this ride  but by the time I realized were were off track,  I was too far to turn back. It would have been longer.  It was still another mile and half or so. Poor Maggie would have to pull one more hard long hill this way. We made our way slowly up the hill. I considered getting off but she seemed to be doing fine.  We hit the top, and the rest of the ride out was a long gavely two two track.. and she recognized it right away. There were two mountain bikers just ahead and she decided they needed to be caught. She got her second wind and we caught up to them right about the time they were turning off to another trail. We passed our earlier max speed and hit  13.3 mph. We kept going straight and finally made it back to the trailer.
The first thing I did was pull out water and dumped it into a bucket  before I offered her food, hoping that she might take a drink . She didn't.  I left just the water in front of her for several minutes while I loosened her girth and unlocked the truck. She just stood there. She looked pretty tired. She wasn't going to drink. I put together her beet pulp with a few carrots thrown in and added extra water to make it extra sloppy. If she wasn't going to drink, she would atleast get some water out of the beet pulp.  She picked at that  for what seemed like forever but did manage to finish most of it, although she left behind the carrots.

 She is so tempermental about eating when she is tired, which is not an ideal trait in a horse that competes in a distance sport!! I pulled out her hay bag and she half heartedly picked at that. I took her over to munch on some green grass which she was much happier about. I finished half of my apple and threw the rest of it into her water bucket, hoping it might entice her to take a gulp.. but she just mouthed it and went back to her hay bag , although she only nibbled at it. She had a big breakfast so I wasn't overly concerned about the food. I was more concerned about her electrolytes.  

I left her tied to the trailer for another 20 minutes with her hay bag trying to decide if I should take her back out and ride another 3-4 miles, come back and offer her water again or just call it a day. She had not passed manure since the beginning of the ride and she still hadn't peed. I had forgotten to take my HRM or my stethoscope but I suspect she was not recovering like she should have been and most likely dehydrated.

It was pretty obvious that heading back out again, even for a few more miles would have been the wrong decision. I am pretty sure she still would not have drank. Our ride for the day was over.

I was happy with our pace . It took us a little over 2 hrs to cover 14 miles,  taking into consideration several tough hills and about 10 minutes of stopped time to graze. Not setting the world on fire but a good challenging ride. We are still building our base condition. I have to remind myself of that from time to time.

As soon as we got home, she dove into the water tank and drank and drank. I think I am going to pull the water trough out of her paddock and replace it with 5 gallon buckets to teach her to drink out of them. Still trying to figure this mare and all of her quirks out. I might have to consider trying that Horse quencher but I don't want her getting into the habit  of that taste.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Endurance Season Crosshairs

So here's the deal... my BIG ride of the season is going to be the ride called City of Rocks in Almo, Idaho, July 11-14th. It's a new ride with a great management team and it  should be incredible. Its 4 days of riding, which will make the 11 hour trailer ride worth the trip.  It comes not only with scenery but some historical treasure.Hundreds of years ago, emigrants traveled parts of the trail we will be riding along. It should be a great ride. I can hardly wait.  Tom is even thinking of bringing Brego and maybe , just maybe doing a 25 mile ride one day. We might actually do a ride together. That would super excellent! My plan is to ride two 25 miles, then maybe, just maybe a 50 at the end.. or just another 25.

There's only one teeny weeny little problem.

 Basecamp is at 5700 feet elevation. Riders ride on upward to over 7000 feet elevation. Yes, I live in the Rocky Mountains, however, we have snow at those levels. Usually until late June, even into July. I can't access trails over 4500 feet right now without hitting lots of snow... Snow on steep terrain can be ... well... down right dangerous.

Yet, I know riding at those altitudes will have a signifigant impact on recovery rates for Maggie. My only experience riding at those elevations has been hunting camp. I know this much. The horses struggle at a walk. I can't imagine what it would do at speeds.

Generally I ride at elevations in the 3000-4000. That's a far cry from where I need to be training.

So, the plan??

Do as many high elevation and hill climbing as possible between now and then. There is a trail known at Columbia Mountain,  not too far from my place It's a heck of a climb..and the trail condition isn't the best but it might just end up having to be my new training ground. It's elevation is about 6800-7000 and it's one of the few close by mountains that is snow free at that elevation right now..

In the meantime, we are still building mileage right now. I took the rest of the week off to catch up on a few things at home and get some solid riding time in.  Tomorrow will be one of the harder training days I have asked of Maggie thus far this season.

Here is the plan:
12 miles with some hills. Ride it for time. 2-3 hours. I wil be riding alone so this should be doable.
Go back to the trailer- give Maggie some beet pulp, hay, and a 30-45 minute rest.
Head back out for another 8-10  miles.

Beats the hell out of a day at the office anyways..

If anyone has any other suggestions on training for altitude, please , please pass the Grey Poupon..

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Maintenance

It’s Monday, and I woke up to frost, 25 degrees out. I had to scrape my car windows. Good thing I covered the herb garden last night because I transplanted all of my indoor starts yesterday. Would have been a waste of all the time and effort, only to lose them less than 12 hours later of them getting put in the ground. It’s May and its Montana and I know it stays cold up until July most years, but I am growing quite tired of it . I know there isn’t much I can do about it but it just confirms in my mind how ready I am to make a move to a warmer location. Can’t do it now, but it’s one of those long term 3-5 year plans looming out there.something to look forward to when I am riding in 4 layers in June, just to stay this side of freezing my ass off.

That said, I may as well focus on something I can control.

A few of you may have noticed that I have officially become a follower on some of your blogs. Crazy as it may sound, I was physically having to go onto each of your blogs in order to see any updates… I know.. how old school… right? It was just one of those things that I never got around to doing and quite honestly, I kind of enjoyed going onto each site individually to see updates . Unfortunately, time is a hard to come by commodity for me and I want to do a better job of staying current on the latest blog updates. So, in an effort to become more efficient with my blog addiction, it was time to do something about it. If I haven’t gotten to your blog yet, don’t worry, its just that I am making my way down the list, in no particular order , as I get a few extra minutes.

I also had to update my main page with a couple of additional photos of some of the other “kids” on the place and adjusted some different verbage in some of my other page elements and I added a follow by email option because I really like that on some of the others blogs out there. Makes it soooo much easier!

This week, I actually am taking a few days off from work. The weather I already have my days scheduled to the max with to-do’s. Riding is number one on the list, but I promised myself that at some point, I would do some concerted house cleaning/organizing instead of the quick cursory cleaning I do most weekends.

Two work days… I can do this..

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Head is " In the Bucket"

I did this post  a couple months back about changing up Maggie's bit, but at the time had not determined yet what I was going to change to, even if I was going to change.  I decided to start out the season just riding in the same old Myler snaffle I had started her in 3 years ago but it wasn't too many rides and  I started realizing I was not communicating effectively with her in the snaffle. She was fighting it, running through it, and generally ignoring it. I was having to really get  into her mouth in order to get a response, and even at that it wasn't much of a response. It was obvious that I was just creating more resistance in her.

In my work towards the goal of someday having a finished "bridle" horse in Maggie , I was losing ground in the lightness category. It was clearly time to do something different.


I wanted to make the right decision but the tricky part about changing bits in horses can often be as confusing and frustrating as finding a well fitting saddle. In the end, I knew I would just have to try something and see if it works.

I had a couple of issues to address;
1)Overly forward horse- needed to have the ability to rate without pulling on her mouth
2) Needed something that would allow me to communicate clearly for correct training response

Training skills I had in place with Maggie from the snaffle were:
1) Lateral flexion
2) Soft feel- break at poll
3) beginnings of longitudinal flexion
4) Response to leg and seat aids

For the sake of brevity here, I opted (after of lot of jaw knashing and discussions with a respected trainer) to move her up to the Myler Forward Tilt Ported Barrel with the short shank.  It's considered a level 1-2 in Myler's scaling system, but I have seen it also listed as a Level 2 , depending on what site you reference.

It had been years since I worked a horse in shank bit and quite frankly, it made more more nervous than long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs . Shank bits can be bad in the wrong hands and I was afraid that my hands had become a little too careless after using a snaffle for all these years.. Comparitively, a rider can get away with a lot in a snaffle bit. I chose to attach the bit to a set of reins that had rein chains, for added feel and clarity.

The first two sessions we walked around in the arena and I didn't ask anything, just let her get used to the feel of it .  She seemed to be quite comfortable in it. Her mouth was quiet and she moved forward without any issues. On the third session I started asking for some turns. She was a little unsure at first but it became obvious to me very quickly that I barely had to pick up those reins for a response. When I asked for a stopped, I barely got the slack out and she was stopping with her front end lifted and her hind end under her.  I don't care who you are, that is an awesome feeling.  I found that when she dropped the inside shoulder on a circle, I could easily get her to pick up by a slight up squeeze on the inside rein and there was no resistance there like there had been in the snaffle.

We have since ridden on the trail with it and yesterday's ride confirmed for me that I had made the right choice.

She had her head "in the bucket" on a loose rein with only a slight squeeze on the reins. (Longitudinal flexion) She had lipstick (green foam on her lips) through out the entire ride and she was  dribbling drool bubbled... Yes, that is a good thing. It's indicative of a soft mouth.

At a trot, behind another horse, she was controllable again, and I was able to rate her when she was out front to a nice 8-9 mph trot. A pace easily maintained over many miles.

She still bobs her head up and down a bit as she has to learn where to position her head, as well as to develop the musculature to hold her head in the bucket ,  but what a positive change I have seen within such a short amount of time.

Less fighting, less resistance, a softer  more responsive horse... looks like we are back on the right track..

*Disclaimer- I am not recommending this product and I am not a professional trainer offering training advice. Please seek professional advice from a qualified trainer. This was simply an over view of my experience and what worked for me and my horses level of training. J. Kelner

( pathetic but apparently necessary these days)

Saturday, May 5, 2012

13.5 Cold Wet Miles

The weather man claimed that it would be rainy this morning and clearing off this afternoon , so we decided to take the morning, pick up trailer tires and do a few errands and ride in the afternoon. As the morning went on, the clouds didn't seem to be clearing at all, in fact they were getting lower and the temp was dropping. We got home around noon, got the new tires on the trailer, threw the heavy oilskins in the truck and reluctantly headed out. By then it was already 2:00 and it was raining..and cold. 

We made the best of it. Not another soul was out and on the trail and there is something very surreal about a dark, quiet, wet forest to ride in.. We were all in a mood to just take it easy today and for the first several miles, didn't do anything but walk. We did alot of climbing hills and made our way  towards Pete's Ridge but when we hit the trail turn off to the ridge trail, we decided to go straight instead of taking a right up to the ridge. Eventually, the trail turned  into a two track trail . We ran across a group of Paintball guru's before hitting a  gate to a forest service road. We decided to turn around and head back and make our way up Pete's Ridge, only what we thought was a right to the Pete's Ridge trail , was the wrong right turn. We rode for about 3 miles , stopped for a while and had our "lunch/dinner" we had packed in the saddle bags, chicken, cheese sticks and water. Carrots for horses. We had one little mishap here. I went to give Brego a piece of carrot he had dropped and somehow, he managed to catch the tip of my middle finger in his front teeth and clamped down pretty hard. Good  Grief that hurt!! Luckily I jerked away quickly (reaction) and got my finger back in one piece, although I will admit I was afraid to look at first for fear of seeing just a bloody stump. Instead, I  just have a really big bruise on my finger nail and it hurts like you cannot believe..I will probably lose it.. .gross...
We rode for a ways longer and checked the GPS. Despite the rain, we were having such a great ride.  The horses were being perfect and frankly we lost track of time. Tom checked his watch and it was already almost 6:00 p.m. OOPS.. The trail we were on was sending us too far south so given the late time, we decided to back track and make our way out. I would have liked to see where the trail took us but maybe next time.

The temperature was dropping quickly and despite my 4 layers (in MAY no less) , gloves, neck gaiter and ear fleece,  I was beginning to get pretty cold . It didn't help that  I was also  wearing a heavy , now water laden oilskin. That takes a toll on the shoulders and back but I was thankful to have had it for today's ride because it kept me mostly dry. I will take a little discomfort of riding in layers over being cold any day.

We made it back to the truck, unsaddled, blanketed both horses, let them graze for a few minutes and got the heck on the road to get  home. Heat seaters turned on high. It was heaven.. nearly fell asleep!The truck read that the outside temperature was 36 degrees...

Today was one of those days that I could have easily bagged going riding. Honestly, riding was the last thing I  wanted to be doing but once we got out there, it was great. Despite, the very low snow levels...

Its MAY!! This should not be happening !!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The diagnosis

So the good news is that Xena did REALLY well with the people at the vet clinic.  I have only had her there once jsut to do a quick meet and greet not too long after I got her home. Yesterday was her first time as a "patient" there and she only thought about being aggresive once and it was briefly. The vet techs and the vets did a really good job just keeping it as low key as possible so that her experience was a positive one. That being said, she tolerated being pet by lots of strangers and didn't growl once, even let the vet pet her belly.. I was thrilled about that..
Ofcourse she was pretty stressed but that was understandable.

The vet was able to get a stool sample from Xena's gift on the lawn of the vet clinic, which worked out great, elimnatiing the need for the vet to have to manually take a sample, which probably would have set Xena back even further. The ran the test and it indicated alot of bacterial overgrowth in the gut..aka, COLITIS, or simply put, Inflamation of the colon. That was actually good news because it can dealt with easily. There was no indication of a blockage, malabsorption and no parasites.

The first thing that comes to mind is that she got into something bad and ate it. Or she had a diet change. Neither of those seemed to be a good explanation. There has been no diet change, no over indulgence in treats and no recent kitchen garbage raids. Getting into something, like a dead animal also isn't likely as she is never loose, except for her escape over a week ago. The  vet did not think the timing of her symptoms was jiving with that explanation.  Instead, the vet leaned more towards stess causing all of this. Dogs often get Colitis while kenneled due to stress. Well, she has certainly been stressed ever since trauma of the escape. Just like us, our gut flora can get out of sync with too much stress.. Makes sense to me.
So we were sent home, no harm no foul with an Immodium type medication as well as Metronidazole which is an antiinflammatory as well as kill certain harmful organisms such as Clostridia. She is also on that really expensive prescription gastro health canned food from thet vet for a few days. Xena was already feeling better by last night and the screamin mimi's have stopped. She thinks the canned food is like a slice of heaven. Getting the pills down her is quite a task but she gets so excited about the canned food, I just smash it into her dish and she doesn't know it's in there. (unlike most of my horses who would never fall for such a rookie trick)  I am sure I will have fun reintroducing her to her regular food..

So we are treating the symptoms and trying to get Xena back to some sort of normal  butI need to figure out how to manage her stress level so we don't have recurrences of this. Ofcourse, I can got the route of Prozac for Puppies- but I would rather avoid that. I am hoping to try a few homeopthic remedies and see if anything will help. The first one that comes to mind is Rescue Remedy . I have heard good and bad but the only thing I can do is try and see if it works.

If all else fails, I can use it...!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

More Dog Issues...

Okay,so this week the plan was two fold; 1) get back into my weekly workout routine after taking two weeks off to decide if I was going to decide whether I was going to continue with the running thing and do a 10K and 2) Get a 22 mile week in for Maggie..yes 22 .. that has a fail safe built in because if I didn't make 22, 20 would still be "OK"..

So I have decided that the running thing is done for now, exept for maybe a little trail running just to mix it up. Otherwise, my fitness routine for the summer months will go back to interval workouts twice a week and a day of weights, and the rest will be farm and garden work. So far this week, I got one workout in.. Tonight is another workout night.. we will have to see what happens because after last night, things have the potential to be totally screwed up for the remaining week or what's left of it. Maggie getting in those 20  miles is likely out of the question... 

The German Shepherd, Xena, has gone off the deep end. Last Monday she ran away. She managed to scale the 6 foot kennel and high tailed it to god knows where. Tom looked for 3 hours for her. Luckily, she came home, on her own, once I showed up... after traveling like a banshee to get through a 4 hour drive just to get home from a day of CMS auditors... I made it home in 2.5 hours.. record time , but as soon as I got home, Xena showed up when I called her. It turns out , she is deathly afraid of lawn equipment. The neighbor had been mowing and it sent her over the top of the kennel. Ok, so plan B was to put wire of some sort on top of the Kennel.

I am doing this post in reverse so bear with me. I am working on about 4 hours of sleep for the past two nights.

Reverse the clock to Sunday. Xena developed diarrhea. It hasn't stopped, even though I have tried to feed her rice and taken her off everything else.. Sunday night, in an effort to try to keep her "contained" I put her in the mud room and shut the bottom half of the Dutch door that accesses the kitchen. I walked away for just a minute to find something, and she climbed over the door. After clearing a 6 foot fence, a 3.5 foot door was nothing I guess. Well, I scolded her and then she was  anxious all night. Would NOT settle down. The diarhea continued but seemed to get better over night.

Monday morning: Work day..
So,  since there is still no top on the outdoor kennel, so we can't leave her out there... so I have been keeping her in the garage and come home at lunch to let her out. I got home finding the expected accident (s) on the floor , which wasn't a big deal, however, I also found  that she had climbed up onto the new kitchen farm table that Tom built for me. He just brought it home Saturday morning and it is not quite finished . It's really a work of art  and it WAS ready for it's first coat of sealer.
Yeah, well, she scratched it to hell.  I wanted to kill her...I really did...  Why would she climb on top of the table???  Seems the Kennel escape has set her into a tail spin of sorts. I cleaned up the mess, covered the tale, put a bunch of obstacles on top of the table to deter her from climbing up there again, and left back to work.

The good news is that when I got home last night,  she had not climbed on it again and the scratches were salvageable with an iron and wet cloth (wood trade secret I guess). 
Last night, we put chicken wire and boards on the top of the kennel. Once that was done, the weather broke and the lawn really needed to be mowed.

Fine, Opportunity for counter conditioning moment with the mower.  I kept Xena on a leash and walked her up to it , let her sniff it before it got started and made it a big deal when she went up to it. Told her she was a good girl and rubbed her belly. She seemed okay with it at that point. Then when Tom started it, we stayed at what seemed like a safe  distance away. We were in the back yard and the mower was in the front yard. She could hear it and see it but it was well away to what seeme like a "safe" distance.  I tried to distract her with a toy while the mowing was going on , hoping that she would cue off me not being worried about it.. No go.. she just wanted to run away. She got really scared so I finally just brought her in the house  and put her in her inside crate. She finally calmed down. 

Ofcourse, with the diaharea, I had to keep taking her out every half hour so I had to keep exposing her to the noise of the   "death machine" over and over. .  At about  7:00 p.m I noticed that the small amount of stool she was still passing at that  point (not much in her stomach) had blood in it. I thought, Uh Oh...Even with all this, she doesn't seem to act sick in any way, other than she has mentally gone off the rocker...

So, this morning, as soon as it hits 8:00 a.m, I am headed to the vet with her... which will be a whole new trauma for her... she has fear aggression with strangers...

Not sure where this disaster of a dog story is going to end at this point but what I do know is that having a dog should not cause me this much stress...